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LETTERS FROM QUBEC: A Philosophy for Peace and Justice Howard Richards

LETTERS FROM QUBEC: A Philosophy for Peace and Justice Howard Richards International Scholars Publications San Francisco London Bethesda 1996 PREFACE There are people who write in order to make a living. I live to write. The explanation of my unusual purpose in life is, I think, that I hate unnecessary suffering and believe there is a chance that by writing I can help to reduce it. Some people become hospital volunteers for the reason that leads me to write. Something is wrong with our world. Very wrong. Fundamentally wrong. That it is extremely difficult to think out and put into words exactly what it is that is so fundamentally wrong is part and parcel of the problem. It is, however, necessary to make the effort and to put it into words. Otherwise our efforts to help will be blind. vi VOLUME ONE: Philosophy for Peace and Justice Tell all the truth but tell it slant success in circuit lies Emily Dickinson I am dreaming an economy made of fibers of light light upon light a world where law bends into the fabric of being Michael Fitzgerald vii viii CONTENTS Introduction to Volume I ................................................. ix

Letter 1 Think Globally, Act Locally......................................... l Letter 2 Claudels Hope ................................................... 9 Letter 3 The Love of Wisdom ............................................. 15 Letter 4 Rationality ..................................................... 21 Letter 5 Please Do Not Understand Me Too Quickly .......................... 27 Letter 6 Hunger ........................................................ 29 Letter 7 The Abatement of the Little Mother. ................................ 39 Letter 8 Friedmans Guillotine............................................. 45 Letter 9 Irrational Rationality ............................................. 53 Letter 10 The Night Walker, the Blue Lady, the Frog Stone, the Chicken in the Road ................................................ 59 Letter 11 A Dialogue on Metaphysics with Veronica ........................... 71 Letter 12 Plato as a Creator of Culture ...................................... 83 Letter 13 Plato as Ecologist............................................... 89 Letter 14 Plato as cologiste ............................................... 97 Letter 15 Aristotle and Matthew Miller on Friendship ........................ 101 Letter 16 The Bronze Shape.............................................. 109 Letter 17 Hello Aristotle ................................................ 119 Letter 18 The Spiritual Life ............................................. 129 Letter 19 Dancing With Tears in My Eyes .................................. 139 Letter 20 The Heavenly Interpretation of Desire. ............................ 147 Letter 21 Perpetua et Constans ............................................ 155 Letter 22 To Each Her Own ............................................. 159 Letter 23 Ray Ortegas Philosophy ........................................ 165 Letter 24 Some Contributions of Philosophy to the Construction of the Metaphysics of Economic Society ....................... 175 Letter 25 The Mystical Kernel in the Rational Shell ........................ 187 ix x Introduction to Volume I INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME l The many-faceted Restless pattern of things that has a name. I call it The power of a name To take all the pieces and call them one Even if its a pretence


Once there was a woman whose name was Name. That was the name her parents gave her. When people asked her, What is your name? she would answer, Name. Often the people did not believe her answer, even though it was true. They were not ready to understand the unusual way her parents had used language when they chose Name as her name. I mention the woman named Name because in this book I will sometimes use language in unusual

ways. Please remember that what I say may be true even when the way I use language is surprising. Our daughter Shelley is the author of the poem above. When she was eleven she was a member of a gang composed of herself and three other professors kids. When her mother asked what the gang did, Shelley said they sat under a tree on campus and talked about The Point. When her mother and I asked why they talked about The Point, she said they talked about it because the gang could not do anything else until they decided what The Point was. We lived and worked in Chile for many years, and in the course of my work I got to know a young man named Eduardo, who, when he was 11 years old, worked all day sitting under a tree sewing together strings of tobacco leaves so that they could be hung up to dry. He knew what The Point was: it was survival. Eduardo was not a backward peasant boy living in a remote part of the world where people grow for themselves the food they eat. He was integrated into the global economy as a supplier of tobacco to a cigarette company operating under a license agreement with a multinational corporation. Shelley was also integrated into the global economy, as the daughter of a professor at a well-endowed private college, many of whose assets are held as stocks of multinational corporations. Situated as they are in different positions with respect to the world economic system, which is at once our mother and our master, the source of the food that nourishes us and the source of the competition that disciplines us, is there any way Shelley and Eduardo can understand each other? There is. I call it philosophy. The name of this book begins with Letters... The word letter is from the Latin littera and the French lettre. Letter originally signified an individually written character, such as the letter a. Then its meaning was expanded to include anything written, and after that its meaning was contracted to signify only something written to a particular person or persons; with its new xi LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I meaning letter gradually replaced the older words missive and epistle. I use the word because I want my philosophy to be thought of as written by a particular person and addressed to particular persons. The labor organizer Cesar Chavez, for whom I did some work as a lawyer before Caroline and I moved to Chile, was once asked how he organized the farm workers union. He replied, First I organized one person, and then another person, and then another person, and then another person, and then another person,... and so on. That is how I think of my readers: first one person, then another person, then another person.... I hope people will read slowly, taking time to relate what they find here to other things they are reading and to what is happening in their lives. Letters from Qubec is divided into 52 parts, 50 letters and two introductions (one for the first volume and one for the second volume); a person who reads one letter or introduction per week will finish in a year. The letters are named from Qubec because that is where they were written for the most part. I have at one time or another written letters from many places, most notably California where I grew up, Connecticut where I went to college, Chile, England where I did graduate work, and Indiana. When I became a tenured professor at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, I asked myself, What is tenure for? Then I answered, The institution of tenure is justified, if at all, because it enables people who have a purpose to go ahead and try to achieve their purpose, without worrying about money or prestige. I remembered that in the last two generations no man and only one

woman in my family had ever succeeded in getting a steady job, much less tenure, and I knew I wanted to do something for people like the people I grew up with, white hearing in mind that in most of the world being poor is worse than being poor in the United States, and also hearing in mind that poverty is only one of several tightly interrelated problems that the human species must solve. I gave myself a scholarship to spend part of every year in Qubec; we all moved there for part of each year and our two daughters, Shelley and Laura, enrolled in local schools to learn French. I wrote philosophical letters at the Caf Krieghof on the Rue Carrier. I am reluctant to say that my philosophy is about love, but I suppose that eventually I will have to say that it is, because it is. My philosophical work is oriented by the conviction that love requires us to try to understand our non-loving society in order to change it. But love is such an abused word that I am reluctant to say it. If there were a law against word abuse, love would be taken from its parents and put in a foster home. However, as Roland Barthes has pointed out, in modern society no word escapes abuse; no, not one. There is no privileged language outside ideology. We seek in vain a firm ground for our statements in the pure meanings of untainted words; we seek in vain a pure platform on which to stand while denouncing the corruption of society. The vocabulary of our denunciation comes from one of societys institutions, language, which is infected at least as much by lack of truth and lack of caring as societys other institutions. So, Love, old friend; poor, abused, corrupted, cheated, deceived, and prostituted word, your corruption is no more nor less than that of the other words. And I cannot abandon you or them. I love the phrase, a path with heart. I ran across it in a novel by Carlos Castaneda. Who said it to whom, when, I dont remember. I dont remember anything about the book except a path with heart. That is enough. Ive taken to making decisions by asking myself the question, Is this a path with heart? If someone says to me, How about going to a movie? I say to myself, Is this a path with heart? If I were going to be dragged into the movie without really wanting to go, or if I would be drifting into the movie for lack of anything else to do, then I say no. If all of me wants to do it, body and soul, then it is a path with heart and I answer, Lets go! xii Introduction to Volume I The phrase path with heart says that there is more to getting from here to there than following the shortest or fastest or cheapest route. If there were no more to moving through life than going from here to there by starting at the beginning and arriving at the end, then the rational choice would be to die soon after birth a short, quick, cheap trip from sperm to worm. Most people wisely prefer a more circuitous route toward a more multifaceted objective, a path out of the cradle endlessly rocking, through singing the body electric, listening to the word whispered by the waves, reaching hands across the water, adoring long lovely undulating death. I want the reader to move through this book body and soul; to engage these letters personally; to test them in the light of her or his experience; to discuss them with friends; to question them, fight them, accept, reject, use, lose, gain, assimilate, accommodate, reorganize, transform, synthesize. This is raw material. We are the work. xiii xiv Letter 1

THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY The organizing of human action requires communication. Communication, in turn, requires a common code, i.e., a shared system of symbols used in sending messages from one person to another. In the absence of a common code attempts at communication will fail, and the desired cooperative action will not develop. It is not in general sufficient that the sharing of a common code consist merely of all speakers using a single language, such as English. The level of communication needed for effective organizing requires a harmony of vocabulary, thought, and feeling, which is often lacking even among those who speak the same language. The lack of a common code can also be called, following Antonio Gramsci, fragmentation. Because of fragmentation it is a struggle to find or create shared meanings. Philosophy, conceived as a method for creating shared meanings, can improve communication and in that way help to build the harmony of mind and will that is needed to organize concerted action. The right word is always a power, and communicates its definiteness to our actions. George Eliot As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to do good. Given this feature of my character, it is not surprising that once in my life I fell in with a coterie of soup-kitchen organizers. We decided that during the last part of each month there should be community meals for people living on welfare. We chose the phrase community meals because we wanted the hungry themselves to participate in organizing them, in ways that would build self-respect and dignity, overcome apathy, and empower the people to move forward together. We knew there were hungry people in our small midwestern town, which spreads out for several miles among the cornfields behind the thicket of neon announcing our home to the casual traveler who whizzes past us on the interstate highway. On the first day of each month the public welfare office gives out stamps which can be exchanged for food at grocery stores. Since the stamps are allotted according to fixed eligibility rules, the amount of stamps received is not finely proportioned to the needs of individuals. Some people get more food stamps than they need, which gives rise to complaints from taxpayers that public funds are being wasted. Others get fewer stamps than they need. We knew that several hundred people were running low on food at the end of each month. Marjorie Loomis, the woman who is in charge of food stamp distribution, told us that approximately 2,000 people (about 5 percent of the population of our town) stood in line outside her office on the first of January, in the cold of midwinter. She reasoned that since they took the trouble to stand in line they must have been out of stamps; otherwise they would have come a few days later and gotten their January stamps without waiting. About 300 people return to the welfare office toward the end of each month to ask for 1 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I more help, even though they know, or should know, that the welfare office can do nothing more for them. The considerations just mentioned partially explain why I am sitting here today, the 28th of January of the year of our Lord 1986, at 8:23 p.m., in the main (and only) room of Christ Tabernacle at Third and Pearl, watching first Raymond, then Ruth, and now Roger munch macaroni and meat loaf. A few minutes ago I walked over to the line of serving tables stretched

along one wall of the tabernacle and served myself some wilted lettuce soaked in vinegar. Sitting here without eating would have made me more conspicuous than I already was, so I put some lettuce on my plate. I am embarrassed to be associated with a project that is having little success. We have served only 31 people so far today, and, what is worse, we are inching very slowly toward empowering the poor, if we are moving in that direction at all. Our community meals are run by us for them, even though our professed intention is to help organize meals run by the poor for the poor. We said we wanted to facilitate networking among public assistance clients, but no networking is happening. Roger is staring at his plate while he eats, pretending that he does not know I am here; opposite us and about six feet away sit nine middle-class volunteers on a bench behind a row of tables laden with food that well-wishers thought welfare clients might like to eat. Oh well. I may as well go get myself some chocolate pie and try to see this situation in a positive light. Maybe faithful persistence is what is most important in the long run. Maybe justice and peace and ecological balance are only apparently brought closer in the great moments when it is obvious that something is being accomplished, like the day when a million people gathered in Washington to protest the Vietnam War, or the hazy evening in Managua when the dictator was finally compelled to sneak out of his bunker and fly to asylum in Paraguay, or the morning when the Greenpeace fleet of small inflatable boats intervened between the whaling ships and the whales off the Iceland coast, or the moment when Bull Connor surrendered to the nonviolent black schoolchildren of Birmingham, Alabama. Maybe the real reason why the world holds together and creeps slowly forward is to be found in thousands of little meetings where practically nobody shows up, and in countless little projects carried out more-or-less badly by people who are moreor-less well intentioned, more-or-less incompetent, more-or-less inspired, and very persistent. It is not difficult to discover the problems that limit our community dinner here at Christ Tabernacle to being only a small step forward. One problem is that we middle-class do-gooders find it difficult to get in touch with the agenda of the welfare clients. When we try to find out what they want by talking with them, we find that our vocabularies and outlooks do not match theirs, and we suspect that they do not trust us or like us. Another problem is that they do not communicate well with each other. Each is proud and angry in her or his own way, most are discouraged, some are mendacious, some lascivious; their individual personalities do not easily combine to form a united group. However, although it is not difficult to discover the problems, it is difficult to solve them. It is hard to organize grass-roots networks. It is hard to do anything that requires communication. It is even difficult to begin at a very basic level to establish communication between one person and another. For example, I have been sitting next to Roger for half an hour, eating first macaroni, then wilted lettuce, and now pie, but we have not gotten past exchanging names. I know what the problem is, but I do not know how to solve it. In my relationship to Roger, I have been avoiding playing the role of cheery, talkative, take-charge organizer, because I know from experience the pitfalls of that approach, but now, even though I still have confidence that eventually the bond between us will grow, I am going through a phase when I feel like a useless blob. 2 Letter 1 If Roger and I are going to cooperate, we are going to have to communicate. In order to communicate we must, so to speak, tune in on the same wavelength. One could also say that Roger and I need to share a common code, borrowing the word code from the field of semiotics, the

general theory of signs pioneered by the American philosopher C. S. Peirce (born 1839, died 1914). A code is a system of symbols used in sending messages. Roger cant send me a message unless we share a code; he cant send me a good message unless we share a good code. Roger and I need to share a good code so we can get some good messages going back and forth from Roger to me and from me to Roger. I prefer to think that the lack of a good code to facilitate communication between Roger and me is neither my fault nor his. I prefer to blame society. Ive blamed myself so much lately that my conscience is exhausted, and anyway in a certain sense it really is societys fault. If the general atmosphere provided by the surrounding society had given us appropriate meanings to work with, then Roger and I would be rapping and grooving at Third and Pearl over Jell-O and pie. Thats what would happen if we could improve society by putting into circulation more patterns of meaning, more common codes. One way to look at philosophy is to say that during its long history it has provided society with some of the codes people use when they communicate and organize. Philosophy has been and is a meaning-making activity. Without putting too much emphasis on the word code, I suggest that there are four important similarities among three apparently disparate activities. The three apparently disparate activities are: 1. A simple case of code-making, such as Samuel F. B. Morse composing the Morse Code by matching the letters of the alphabet with short and long sound signals, so that, for example, three short sounds mean the letter S. 2. The making of systems of ideas by philosophers, so that, for example, rational, just, wise, courageous, temperate, and virtuous are established as words with related meanings. 3. Roger and I attempting to get the two of us into one frame of reference, so that we can converse and cooperate. The four important similarities among these three apparently disparate activities are: 1. Somebody, or some group, has to establish the conventions that constitute the code. 2. Once the code is made, it can be used to send messages. 3. Characteristics of the code determine and limit the kinds of messages that can be sent. 4. The code is formed by an ensemble of words or other symbols interrelated so that every part is what it is by virtue of its place in the whole. Philosophy is pertinent to organizing soup kitchens, partly because the context of a soup kitchen is a larger society whose symbols have been given meaning by philosophers as well as by other makers of culture, and partly because both guests and servers need to do philosophy on the soup kitchen floor in order to build human bonds and (eventually) to link the bonds to form networks. Contexts differ, but in important ways the process of meaning-making is the same. It is my belief that as he stares at his Jell-O Roger is implicitly asking me, Who are you and what are you doing here? and it is my further belief that his question is similar to the question, Who are we and what are we doing here? which the ancient Hebrews, the Africans, the Greeks, the Chinese, the Hindus, and the rest of humanity have always asked with reference to the place of our bewildered species in this starry cosmos. 3 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I My reflections are interrupted by a hymn. In a corner of the room two large women and one large man with a guitar are singing: Weve got the power In the name of Jesus Weve got the power

In the name of the Lord The church of Jesus Is still alive. The spectacle of three amateur musicians in a black church in Indiana singing Weve got the power strikes me as pathetic. I wish they had the power to lift up the poor and bring justice to the land, and perhaps spiritually they do, hut materially they evidently do not. One of the members of the organizing committee, Harry Perkins, views the singers differently: as offensive. Harry is convinced that there are hungry people out on the streets who stay on the streets instead of coming in for a free meal because they would rather be hungry than proselytized. He thinks we are not reaching the needy because we are holding the meal in a church, and because we are letting the entertainers sing so loudly that they can be heard a block away. Meanwhile, Marjorie Loomis (the person who disburses food stamps at the welfare office) has joined Roger and me at our table, and has begun to tell us about Charles Darwin (English biologist, author of The Origin of Species, 1809-1882). Marjorie comes from a large Tennessee family, in which the father made it a practice to assemble his family every Sunday in order to lecture them on Darwin. One of the things she learned from her father was that if human genes are damaged, it takes them seven generations to recover. The moral of Marjories story is that people should use their food stamps wisely, in order to avoid damaging the genes of their children. Fragmented consciousness is a concept that describes the minds of the people here at the tabernacle. The idea of fragmented consciousness comes from the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937). Consciousness is fragmented in the sense that we lack unifying ideas in our relationships to each other, and also in the sense that each of our minds is internally fragmented. The singers want the church of Jesus to be alive, while Harry Perkins wishes it were dead. Harry and the singers do not share a conception of the world; because their thoughts are incongruent, their wills cannot be united. Marjorie learned from her father an odd (and false) theory about genes; her beliefs on that subject are a fragment of folklore disconnected from the main body of her own beliefs, and also disconnected from the main body of scientifically verified information that our society collectively possesses. According to Gramsci (and I agree with him), part of the explanation of the extraordinary fragmentation of consciousness found even in a small group of ordinary people like us here at Christ Tabernacle, is that ordinary people have for the most part not been deeply involved in the production of knowledge and ideology. Another, closely related, part of the explanation of our fragmentation is that the prevailing ideas do not describe the life experience of the lower classes, because the prevailing ideas were produced by the upper classes, mainly for themselves and for their own purposes. The minds of the subordinate classes contain an incoherent collection of ideas, which have come to them for diverse and somewhat accidental reasons. Their minds live like scavenger fish at the bottom of the ocean who feed on scraps thrown overboard from passing ships. The ships have routes and destinations, but the scrap-eaters do not know them. For example, Charles Darwin produced a coherent theory of evolution, which has since been modified by other biologists, but his theory became incoherent in the process of arriving at Third and Pearl. Marjories version is a misunderstood scrap. Gramsci calls the process through which frag4 Letter 1 ments of the coherent thought of elites enter the minds of the masses sedimentation. Sediments are formed from bits and pieces of the thinking of the powerful, which drift downward and enter in distorted form into the minds of the powerless. The thoughts of the mighty are often produced as

weapons designed to advance their interests, which are opposed to the interests of other mighty people, whose armories also include intellectual weapons. The powerless may pick up intellectual scraps without ever learning what the fight is about or was about, since yesterdays ideological battles are often the sources of the scraps which fill their (perhaps I should say our) minds. I have not emphasized that an effect of a coherent ideology promoted by members of a powerful class may be to legitimize the status quo, and thereby to keep the lower classes in their place. Gramsci does emphasize the role that certain coherent sets of ideas (such as laissez-faire economics) play in keeping the poor poor, but I have downplayed it because I want to emphasize that fragmentation in itself lack of coherence as distinct from the prevalence of a particular kind of coherence is a source of powerlessness. I say to myself, silently, imagining I am talking to Roger but really speaking from myself to myself in the backward corners of my brain, Roger, dear Roger, please start a conversation. Please break the ice. I want to help the hungry to feed themselves; I want to empower the downtrodden. Do you understand me? I am afraid you do not. Do I understand you? No. Is it your fault? No. Is it my fault? No. Lack of communication is a problem bigger than both of us. Having finished my imaginary conversation with Roger in the dark backward corners of my brain, I feel impelled to address a few more words to you, the reader of this letter. I am offering this homely story of a small frustrating experience because it illustrates two great facts. It illustrates the fact that the mending of our broken world is to be done, if at all, by tiny unspectacular steps, thread by thread. And it illustrates the fragmentation of our culture. I have used a concept from semiotics, code, and two concepts from Gramsci, fragments and sedimentation, to shed light on my embarrassment, and on our common predicament. (By the way, fragments in Italian is frammenti. I mention this because I like the way frammenti sounds; it reminds me of lasagna.) I am trying to show that what appear to be personal failings are often social failings; our culture does not support us when we need support. We please, God, dont let me get too preachy about this psychologize our problems too much. We ask, What is wrong with me? when we should ask, What is wrong with the culture? Asking the right question, we get the right answer: the right answer is that what is wrong with the culture (any culture, but I will pay special attention to modernity, i.e., to certain cultural patterns manifest at Third and Pearl which characterize the modern age and the global system) needs more software, i.e., more codes and other communicative resources, to facilitate more cooperation. I am, in general, convinced, despite my disappointment with the way things are going here at the community meal, that by studying the meaning-making activity called philosophy, we can make the pursuit of peace and justice more effective. Everyone can participate in the intellectual and moral reform Gramsci called for when he proposed to combine the virtues of elite thinking, namely coherence and command of the products of scientific research, with virtues that can only be possessed by a democratic philosophy, namely accessibility to the majority and usefulness in serving the interests of every person. The result will be a new rationality coherent, scientific, accessible, and solidary. P.S. (8:55 p.m.) Roger and I finally have made a good start toward building communication. Family. We are talking about sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, children, mothers, and fathers. Family themes are leading naturally into health themes, as we share our thoughts and feelings about relatives diseases. Roger is sad because his mother suffers from arthritis and he cannot do anything to help her. 5 6

7 8 Letter 2 CLAUDELS HOPE Having just told you a story about the role of philosophy in facilitating cooperation by constructing resources for communication, I hasten to reply to a complaint that I often hear when I tell such stories. The complaint is about me as much as it is about philosophy, and it is that we (philosophy and I) are too rational. Although I do not want to tell you about my love life, and anyway you probably do not want to know about it, I do want to insist from the beginning that I regard myself as a great sensualist. I do not mean to say that if the Olympic Games included an event called Fun Having I would necessarily be a gold medalist; I might not even make the team; nevertheless, in my own minor league way, and regardless of what others may think about me, I manage to find creative ways to enjoy life as it goes by. I am not complaining. Those of us who have chosen to identify with pain (the pain of the homeless; the pain of the polluted earth; the pain of cancer victims...) are not incapable of pleasure. I believe that what I have just said is generally true, but I am confessing that in my own case I insist on it partly for personal and unworthy motives, because one of the minor irritations I have had to put up with in life has been people who think I need to be taught how to enjoy it. I believe that I enjoy it well enough without their instruction. I will now explain my beliefs and my attitude, but I must warn you that I will digress, or seem to digress. Here is my motto; it is from the French poet Paul Claudel (1868-1955): There is something better than being fou; it is to seek first the Kingdom of God and its justice. (See Matt. 6:33.) I leave the word fou untranslated; its meaning is roughly that of the English word crazy. Fou comes from the same Latin root as our English words foolish, fool, phooey, and folly. Fou is spelled fou if a vowel follows, and folle if the vowel following starts a word feminine in gender. A French dictionary, the Petit Larousse, defines fou as: 1. said of one who has lost reason, or 2. whose behavior is extravagant, or 3. who is beside him or her self; or, 4. contrary to reason. Fou is an integral part of certain indispensable French idiomatic expressions, including the following: fou rire an uncontrollable laugh fou de joie beside oneself with joy fou de douleur beside oneself with pain une folle passion a mad passion folle dpense outrageous expense succs fou prodigious success herbes folles weeds 9 LETTERS EROM QUBEC: Vol. I According to my motto from Claudel, there is something better than being fou. It is hard to believe there could be something better than fou, because fou is so much fun. Claudel says what is better is the kingdom of God and its justice, and that must include a reference to reason. Since fou is contrary to reason, reason must be contrary to fou. The way Claudel structured his sentence, God

and justice ended up allied with the anti-fou, or at least with the non-fou, since they cannot be better than it without at least being different from it. Reason is, on this view, apparently in trouble, since if what we today call rational behavior aims to compete with being fou for the allegiance of human hearts, it will surely lose. Faced with a choice between modern calculating rationality and mad passion, who would hesitate? Reason would be forever a wallflower. Reasons plight is, however, less desperate than at first appears, for what Claudel had in mind was to make her beautiful and to restore her to her ancient office as guide of life. I support Reason and take a critical view of the irrational passions which the people of today seek as they flee from the decrepit modern reason which has given us so much death and so much boredom. In what follows I will briefly take a critical view of only one irrational passion. It is not the first passion that spontaneously comes to mind when one is asked to name an example of a passion; it is, however, sufficiently representative of the genus. It is a passion by which I and many others are tempted, and one to whose temptations I intend discerningly to succumb, and by which I hope others will allow themselves consciously to be borne away. I mean the passion to do good. Let us consider the negative of Claudels proposition. Resolved: there is nothing better than being fou. Corollary: if doing good is our passion, then there is nothing better than doing good follement. (Follement is the adverbial form of fou.) I am almost persuaded to endorse the negative when I read critiques of modern rationality. The choice is this: to renovate rationality to make it perform again the office of Reason, of Holy Wisdom, guide to life. Or to abandon the idea of Reason altogether, regarding her as sick beyond cure. Normally I choose the first of these alternatives; when I read certain authors I am tempted to endorse the second. The very difficulty of our position, writes Thomas Merton (BritishAmerican Catholic monk and poet, 1915-1968), comes from the fact that every definite program is now a deception, every precise plan is a trap, every easy solution is intellectual suicide. Every definite program is now a deception. With respect to humanitys principal problems in the twentieth century, I must agree with Merton. When I read in the newspapers about a new plan for ending hunger, or achieving national security, or saving the environment, I am skeptical. When I hear that the Defense Department has developed another rational plan to deter war, I shudder and wonder whether I will live long enough to die of natural causes. When a government agency or private think tank completes a comprehensive study of poverty in the USA and proposes a rational plan for eliminating poverty at an affordable price, I say, Hold on to your coat, sister; its going to be a cold winter. But while agreeing with Merton, I find that I need reason. I am a fragmented soul, the product of a fragmented culture. I am not one of those people, of whom I have known some, who are confident that all will turn out well if they follow the guidance of their feelings; they have enormous confidence in their instincts, in their gut reactions, in their parents, in their moral formation, in their upbringing generally. They say, If it feels right, it is right. It is as if they were well-tuned violins, which never sound a false note. How such people come into existence in our chaotic twentieth century I do not know; I do not believe they are the majority. As for myself, I am perhaps not in the majority either, but part of a minority at the other extreme. I say, If it feels right, it is likely to be wrong. I imagine myself to be like an inaccurate clock, which frequently needs to be corrected by comparison with a standard that keeps better time. 10 Letter 2 Many feelings are about rejection. I cannot count the times people have come to me upset because

they were dropped by a friend, dumped by a lover, divorced by a spouse, dismissed from a job, or denigrated in the student evaluations of their classes. People get upset when they are treated like nobody, treated like trash, or told to move on by the police. Some of the saddest grown-ups were children whose parents did not want them, and nobody has ever wanted them since. So what do I do when people come to me with low self-esteem and upset feelings? Do I tell the rejected they can be cured by expressing their depression and rage? No. I say we need to think about the structure of a society that makes the rejection of people a central part of its institutions. But that is not all I say. I also say, Why not be happy? You are indulging in your feelings of rejection because you are making demands on people. You are being sad in order to demand that somebody do something you want. But all you are achieving with your negative feelings is your own misery. This, too, is part of my advice to victims. Suppose that the following describes our plight: we need reasons for our actions, but the very rationality that is at the core of our culture is diseased. The irrationality of the current rationality, which we desperately need to overcome, is deeply embedded in our way of life; the rationality that governs our daily tasks is on the whole influenced more by money than by science. Suppose that Reason no longer speaks for our passions, forcing us to embrace mad passions if we are to have passion in our lives at all. Suppose that the passion to do good can only be effective if we have what Martin Luther King, Jr. called a tough mind and a tender heart, and that, furthermore, complicating but not contradicting the point made by King, what passes in our world for tough-mindedness is often disastrously misleading. The very difficulty of our position comes from the fact that every definite program is now a deception, every precise plan is a trap, every easy solution is intellectual suicide. If the foregoing describes the way things are, then it will be difficult to find ways to get some perspective on our modern rationality to see it from a distance, so that we can reflect on it and renovate it. It will be hard to find ways to reason about Reason, to criticize Reason, to improve and transform rationality in the name of something better than fou. Reforming rationality will be like braiding tangled yarn. Progress will be irregular. Progress will be interrupted by periods spent trying to figure out how we got into the tangle we are in, so we can unravel the yarn we must reweave. For Reason. Doing philosophy, Ludwig Wittgenstein (Austrian philosopher, 1889-1951) suggested, is like trying to show a fly the way out of a bottle. The predicament of the fly in the bottle is that a direct flight does not lead to freedom. Just when the fly is attempting to fly out, it is trapping itself in. Similarly, rationality sometimes deceives us. It sometimes appears self-evident that whatever the problem may be, the way to advance toward a solution is to undertake a study of the problem, and later to devise a plan for solving the problem based on the conclusions of the study. Like the fly in the bottle, we do not suspect that the apparent way out may be trapping us in. When Wittgenstein implied that philosophy serves to show people the way out of conceptual mazes, as if they were flies in a bottle, he referred to his own way of doing philosophy. His method did not consist of making moves in straightforward logical arguments as much as it consisted of providing context. He helped his readers to inspect bits of apparently logical reasoning by, so to speak, looking at them carefully as they functioned in the midst of real-life situations. In addition to looking at context, as Wittgenstein did, I want to go back to Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Hobbes, Descartes, Kant, Marx, and Heidegger, whom I admire as great builders of Reason. What a few philosophers have done in the past, namely, create shared meanings, all humanity women, men, black, brown, yellow, white, and red can learn how to do now. We can learn from the architects of the Western tradition, a tradition that has in 11

LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I many ways turned out badly; and, especially, we can learn how to do what they did: how to recode a culture. I have been encouraged by finding that when I study the history of philosophy my conclusions are similar, although opposite, to the conclusions of Professor Jacques Derrida, who holds the history of philosophy chair at the University of Paris. Derrida finds that philosophers have erroneously affirmed the existence of unity, where in fact there is difference. My view is that most major philosophers have constructively created concepts which affirm the existence of unity, and in so doing have created social unity. A better rationality, of the kind we need, would be, precisely, a logic of unity, which would help humanity to work together to cope with its urgent problems. The inverse similarity of Derridas conclusions to mine is comforting. I feel like a student of algebra who gets 37.6142 as the answer to a problem, and finds that the correct answer given in the back of the book is -37.6142.1 feel that I got everything right but the minus sign. And that all I need is a convincing reason for saying that both the negative and the positive answer are correct, as in the problem of finding the square root of four, where the correct answer is both +2 and -2. Derrida calls his philosophy deconstruction. I follow John Dewey (American philosopher, 18591952), in choosing to speak of reconstruction. Derridas books are written at an advanced level for sophisticated readers if you do not believe me, pick one of them up and look at it. His style and audience are suitable for his purpose, since in order to deconstruct illusions created by the philosophers of the past, it is necessary to reach the people who are likely to have been misled by the illusions, i.e., those who have read the philosophers of the past. The democratic reconstruction of ideas and institutions, on the other hand, calls for mass participation not just explaining to the public the results philosophy has reached, but mass participation in doing philosophy, in places like soup kitchens and factories, as well as in schools. Consequently, although I do not expect to achieve complete clarity, I am trying to write in a way that ordinary people can understand and relate to. For Reason. I propose a next step, which I trust you will find plausible. In Letter 3 I will write about ancient Greece, about Greece in the times when philosophers began their work of modifying human culture. (I regard human culture itself as a modification of biologically-based behavior-guiding mechanisms.) We will examine the meaning of the word wisdom, through n consideration of its origins, and therefore we will examine the origin of the word philosophy, which in Greek means love of wisdom. To some extent we will also examine the meanings of words like rational, rationality, and reason, although a more complete consideration of the latter will be undertaken a little later, in Letter 4. Onward, upward, and forward! 12 13 14 Letter 3 THE LOVE OF WISDOM Philosophy can be defined as the love of wisdom. Wisdom, according to Plato, is that knowledge which serves as the guiding principle of just, even-tempered, and courageous actions. Otherwise put, wisdom is the rule of the rational. Since to show some tendency toward guidance by wisdom is part of what it means to be human, all normal humans are philosophers. If we want to form a correct judgment of the influence that language exerts over thought, we

ought to bear in mind that our European languages as found at the present time have been moulded to a great extent by the abstract thought of philosophers. (Franz Boas, Handbook of American Indian Languages.) This letter is about wisdom. I will begin with a minor detail which most people do not learn In their history classes. It expresses a lesson very important for the future, if any, of life. On one of the holidays that was celebrated in ancient Athens, there was a ceremony in which maidens carried secret gifts from the temple of Athena, goddess of wisdom and protectress of the city, to the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of erotic love. The maidens returned hearing secret gifts from Aphrodite to Athena. I mention this detail for its symbolic value, because even though there are people who mistakenly confuse the rule of wisdom with the rule of cold rationality, in human history wisdom has only succeeded in ruling, to the small extent that she has succeeded, when she has allied herself, however secretly, with passion. Next I will discuss the original (and still best) definition of philosophy. The word philosophy comes from the ancient Greek philosophia, which in turn comes from two Greek words, philia and sophia. Philia means friendly or brotherly love, affection, or fondness, and is an ancestor of such English words as Philadelphia, which means City of Brotherly Love, and philanthropist, which means lover of humanity. Sophia means wisdom, and is an ancestor of such English words as sophisticated. The beautiful domed basilica that still stands today in the city of Istanbul, Turkey, having been built many centuries ago when the city was named Constantinople and its rulers spoke Greek, is called Hagia Sophia, the Temple of Holy Wisdom. A philosopher, therefore, according to the original meanings of the Greek roots from which the word philosophy is composed, is a lover of wisdom. Pythagoras (Greek, sixth century BC) is said to have been the first to call himself a philosophos. He was one of many people who either called themselves philosophers or were so called by others before the time of Plato (Greek philosopher, 428-348 or 347 BC). Nevertheless, I count philosophy conceived as a practical guide to life coupled with a doctrine justifying that guide to life, as beginning with Plato and with his teacher Socrates (Greek philosopher, 470-399 BC). Socrates doctrines were preserved and elaborated by Plato, and adopted by Plato as part of Platos own philosophy. What has remained of the works of the earlier philosophers is so fragmentary that it fails to provide readers with comprehensive discussions of what wisdom is. Now I want to share some of my whimsical fantasies about wisdom. I find that I am rarely able to get through a letter with a straight face. Thoughts come to me which make my mind wander off into comical daydreams, like the thought that I, a college professor, am one of the 15 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I inheritors of the proud, too proud, title philosopher. I do enjoy thinking of myself as a lover of wisdom, and I like to encourage other people to think of me as one. I have prepared a bumper sticker to advertise my passion, which says, Honk if you love wisdom. Although I do not now own an automobile, I have imagined buying one and putting the sticker on its bumper. I have also daydreamed other ways to get publicity. For example, I might request a listing in the commercial pages of the telephone book; under the letter between Pet Shops and Physicians & Surgeons there would be the brief notation: Philosophers See Lovers of Wisdom. And under L, after Laundries and before Lubricants, there would be a listing of Lovers of Wisdom. The listing would include all local residents with telephones whose souls were aflame with the desire to

pursue truth and to change their lives by putting the truth into practice. About three-quarters of the way down the list would appear my name and telephone number. However, probably I will not act out my fantasies. Although in principle one should not be ashamed, but honored, to be known as a lover of wisdom, in practice the effect on ones reputation of declaring in public ones sentiments toward wisdom would be adverse. Other people would be offended if one advertised oneself in a way suggesting that one loved wisdom more than they did; they would want to know why ones name was in the telephone book and theirs was not. They would say that they loved wisdom too, that they were and had been from the moment of their birth fully qualified members of a species biologically classified as homo sapiens. homo sapiens is the one and only extant species of the genus homo, which is specifically distinguished from the other (extinct) members of the genus by the possession of wisdom. That is what sapiens means; it is an adjectival form of the Latin noun sapientia, which means wisdom. If one counts the secret philosophers, those who are philosophers at heart while pretending to be something else; and if one counts not only those whose souls burn with desire for wisdom but also those who quietly respect her; and if one counts those who go out every night on hot dates with Silliness and only flirt on an occasional Saturday afternoon with Wisdom; then the number of philosophers is very large. The philosophers are more numerous than the bourgeoisie, more numerous than the proletariat, more numerous than the peasantry; they outnumber India and China combined. If there were membership cards for members of the human race, and if my card were about to expire, and if I were filling out an application for a new card, and if I were asked to state on the application form what personal qualities I had which made me eligible to renew my membership, I would write on the form, I am not entirely indifferent to wisdom. Seriously now; since some degree of interest in wisdom, however slight, is a defining feature of what it means to be human, it follows that a creature that showed no signs of a tendency to govern its conduct rationally would not ordinarily be considered human. We might make exceptions for such cases as people who have been in comas for years on life-support systems, newborns, and certain kinds of insane people, all of whom we would call human in spite of their temporary or even permanent lack of capacity for wisdom, but, on the whole, except for certain special cases for which we make special exceptions, all humans to some degree seek and love wisdom, and therefore all humans are philosophers. In this respect, I note with approval the work of the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980). Piaget shows that the minds of children are best understood when children are thought of as little philosophers. Children, like grown-ups, have a desire to make sense of life. For example, when I was very young, I was introduced to one of my grandmothers, whom I learned to call Grandma. Later, I was introduced to my other grandmother, whom I decided to call, More Grandma. Just as Piaget said, I acted like a little philosopher, making sense. Everyone should know something about the classic original source of the idea of wisdom in Western philosophy: Plato. For me, the following brief discussion of Plato and his definition 16 Letter 3 of wisdom is, besides a basic introduction to this classic original source, a means to bring together several points I am developing. They are: 1. Philosophy is an activity which constructs codes. 2. Philosophy constructs, in particular, the meanings of words like rationality, and therefore philosophy can help us to create the new rationality we need.

3. Philosophy is the love of wisdom. 4. Our common understanding of what philosophy means, what it is and isnt, comes largely from Plato. 5. All normal humans are philosophers. A careful examination of the five statements above will show that they do not contradict each other. Nevertheless, it might seem that the five statements above lead in rather different directions, insofar as they suggest different images of what the activity called philosophy does. The following analysis of what Plato meant by the word wisdom will carry us forward in our efforts to determine what wisdom is and what an appropriate form of wisdom for todays world would be, and at the same time it will show some of my reasons for believing all five of the statements above to be simultaneously true. True and moving in the same direction toward hope. Plato was one of the first to formulate the meaning of wisdom (i.e., in Greek, of sophia). More of Platos writings survive than those of any other of the earliest definers of wisdom. He was the one who founded the most enduring school, the Academy. Platos ideas influenced his pupil Aristotle, the apostle Paul, the writer or writers of the Gospel according to St. John, and many other thinkers. The meaning of the Greek word for wisdom was carried over into its Latin equivalent (sapientia), and from there to its French equivalent (sagesse). By the time of Geoffrey Chaucer (English poet, 1342 or 1343-1400), the English word wisdom was being used to stand for the meanings expressed by the older words from Greece and Rome, both in translations of the Bible into English and in secular texts. Phonetically, the English word is Anglo-Saxon, being a cousin of the German word Weisheit. The common ancestor of wisdom and Weisheit seems to have been the old German word weistum, which referred to a legal sentence or precedent. In Book IV of his long dialogue, The Republic, Plato discusses the nature of wisdom. The context of the discussion is an attempt by the participants in the dialogue to design a good society. The explicit purpose of Book IV is to define justice; thus the definition of wisdom emerges as a byproduct of broader inquiries whose stated aims are to discover what justice is, and to design justice into the structure of a good society. Plato takes for granted certain ideas accepted in the culture of Greece in the fourth century before Christ, notably the idea that a good society, like a good person, possesses four virtues, namely, courage, wisdom, even-temperedness, and justice. That these ideas about virtue were accepted does not mean, of course, that the Greeks behaved virtuously; on the contrary, the Greeks were rowdies. Their appreciation of macho bravery was on the whole greater than their appreciation of quieter virtues like justice and even-temperedness. So when Plato picked out and used old sayings about the four virtues he was not telling the Greeks to behave exactly as they always had; he was picking out a recognized theme in the existing culture in order to strengthen it and refine it, and thus to improve peoples behavior. Platos plan in Book IV is to approach the definition of justice by first defining the other three virtues: courage, wisdom, and even-temperedness. It is as if he were a hunter trying to 17 LETTERS FROM QUBEC Vol. l isolate his quarry, justice, by making it stand alone, separate from its companions. Wisdoms part in carrying out Platos plan begins early. The good society that the characters in Platos dialogue are in the process of planning is affirmed to be wise because 11 possesses good judgment. That is to say, a good society must be able to deliberate well so that its decisions lead to good choices (in Greek, euboulia). Clearly, then, Plato goes on, this source of good choices must be some special sort of knowledge or craftpersons skill (episteme), since it is by episteme, not

ignorance, that people judge well. Sophia is the required special sort of knowledge. Wisdom is not the special attribute of anybody at all who knows how to make good judgments about anything; it is not, for example, the episteme of carpenters who know how to make good judgments about carpentry. Wisdom belongs rather to those who deliberate and make decisions about the city as a whole. This ruling minority has a special knowledge (i.e., in Greek, a special episteme), which is a true wisdom (an onti sophen), which permits good decisions (euboulon). Plato returns to wisdom a few pages later when he comes to the grand finale of Book IV, where justice, or, to speak more accurately, the just person in the just society, is isolated and defined. The just person, Plato says, is self-controlled. The just person lives harmoniously, a friend to self rather than self-tormented. Every action is guided by wisdom in business transactions, in the care of the body, and in public life. Wisdom is the guiding principle of just and beautiful action. It is also, Plato shows, essential to courage, since knowledge is required to distinguish the brave act from the foolhardy act; and to even-temperedness, since wise counsel leads a person to shun excessive passions. Wisdom is, in brief, practice-guiding knowledge (in Greek praxei epistemen). Unjust actions, on the contrary, are foreign to wisdom. Ignorance, which is the opposite of wisdom, is the mental condition that oversees injustice. In other dialogues, and in other passages of The Republic, Plato portrays wisdom as the rule of the rational. Regarding wisdom as a form of rule is perhaps implicit in the passages already discussed, since those who make decisions for the society are the rulers. Elsewhere Plato draws a parallel between the society and the individual soul; just as those with responsibility for the whole use wisdom in making social decisions, so within the soul the rational part (logistiche psyche) guides the other parts of the soul, and, of course, the body. Both a person and a society display courage, even-temperedness, and justice when action is governed by wisdom. Let me pause now for a moment to look at the kinds of things Plato is doing in terms of the five claims about philosophy listed above. 1. He is establishing a set of meanings, a code, which will permit those who come after him in the Western tradition to communicate about wisdom and other virtues. He draws on what exists, reinforcing the code by using it to send messages, and he modifies what exists as he organizes the text in his own way. 2. He is constructing the meaning of wisdom, and hence the meaning of love of wisdom, i.e., of philosophy. 3. He is constructing a doctrine about rationality and its use in the guidance of life. (In the texts discussed, the relevant Greek ancestors of our English word rationality are episteme, sophia, and logistiche, a form of logos.) 4. He, Plato, is carrying out his own characteristic activity, which we call philosophy. He is becoming a paradigm of what future ages will mean when they call someone n philosopher. 5. He is doing, in an especially intense and concentrated way, what every human does, namely, trying to make sense of the world, deliberating about how to live, and modifying the language by using words in his own characteristic ways. 18 Letter 3 Since wisdom is the rule of rationality, it is pertinent to ask what Plato had in mind when he spoke of rationality. We find some clues in the words he used. The rational part of the soul, whose rule is wisdom, is the logistiche psuche, that is to say, the part of the soul that has logos. Logos is

famously translated as rule, principle, reason, etc., but its simplest and most basic translation is word. (Thus it is translated in the Authorized Version of the Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1: In the beginning was the word.) The idea that wisdom consists of rule by reasoning that has words echoes the religious concept that wisdom consists in obeying the divine word. It anticipates a number of modern concepts, among them the theory of the Soviet psycholinguists which holds that language is the main medium through which the individuals behavior comes under social control. When Plato says wisdom is a kind of knowledge, the word translated as knowledge is episteme. episteme is a word originally used for craft-knowledge, as in the knowledge of how to cobble shoes that is passed down from father to son in a family of cobblers. Athena, by the way, is the goddess of craft-knowledge, especially the craft-knowledge handed down from mother to daughter. Wisdom is the craft-knowledge supporting the skill of those who practice the greatest of the crafts, the craft of government. Many crimes have been committed in the name of reason. One example is enough: Hitler commanded the burning of Jews in ovens as the rational solution to the Jewish problem. But there is still hope for homo sapiens in spite of all the crimes the species has committed under the guidance of the possession which defines it, its wisdom. The glory of the human being as a rational animal does not lie in any particular application of rationality or any particular concept of rationality. It lies in the possibility of correcting the mistakes of the past. Wisdom is never final; it is constantly under construction, as Plato, to his lasting credit, recognized by leaving his dialogues open-ended. Rationality, having been constructed by human beings, can be reconstructed by human beings. Philosophy is a hopeful activity because its conclusions are in principle always subject lo criticism and waiting to be improved. The love of wisdom will not pass away until the last human is dead, because philosophy is not a particular cultural construction; it is the process of making certain types of cultural constructions, notably those that define what it is to act according to reason. This process creates the codes that improve communication and organization. Before I close I want to discuss another story about the rule of wisdom, which is the rule of rationality, another story featuring Athena, wisdoms goddess, one which is told by the Greek poet Aeschylus (525-456 BC). Aeschylus gives at the end of his Oresteiad a version of an ancient myth about the origin of law courts. There was a murder. The murder was avenged by a second murder. Will there be a third to avenge the second, a fourth to avenge the third, on and on? Athena, goddess of wisdom and protectress of the city, has a better idea: a trial. The trial will lead to only one more murder (i.e., to capital punishment) if the murderer is convicted; to zero more murders if he is acquitted. A jury of 12 is chosen; testimony is heard; closing arguments are made; a verdict is handed down: innocent. I want to make two points. Neither concerns whether the verdict or the reasons for it were right or wrong. My first point is that the story represents the rule of rationality, which is, whatever the verdict, better than the alternative of indefinitely continued violence. My second point concerns the angry accusers of the second murderer. The accusers were avenging deities known as Furies, the gloomy children of the night. Athenas great invention, the inauguration of the rule of law, almost failed because the Furies threatened to disregard the verdict and to take bloody revenge in spite of it. Athena saved legality from stillbirth by persuading the Furies to give up revenge in exchange for the right to come and live in the lower rooms of her temple underground, seated on thrones in subterranean chambers. 19

LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Here is another ancient lesson about the rule of wisdom: not only loving passions, but also hating passions, need to be incorporated into the structure of her power. In my next letter I will pursue wisdom by asking: If wisdom is the rule of rationality, then what is rationality? And in particular, What is rationality now in the twentieth century? 20 Letter 4 RATIONALITY In our society, rationality performs functions similar to those Plato wanted wisdom to perform. The rule of reason is an ideal, or, rather, a set of ideals, for the guidance of actions. When a person in our society acts in a way which deviates from the norms that reason prescribes, she or he is appropriately criticized as irrational. But rationality has several definitions, and the difficulty of limiting the definitions to a manageable few makes us question the whole process of looking for definitions, spurring us to seek a different approach to philosophy. With these letters I am leading you deeper and deeper into philosophy. With purposes. Philosophy is not a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer her own solitude; philosophy is a conversation, which while it moves and softens explains whence and why. The why of these letters can be stated in three words: peace and justice. Their thesis is that to build the sustainable future these short, pregnant words evoke, humanity must deconstruct and reconstruct the cultural foundations of the global system. This letter begins my attempt to approach and uncover one of those foundations: rationality. However, I hesitate at the outset because of self-doubt. I want to write something helpful about rationality, something that will do some good. At least I think I do. I think I want to be helpful. But how can I prove that I want to be helpful? I search my heart for evidence of my sincerity. I want to know my real motives for writing this. Since I have a modern mind, I suspect that my conscious motives are not my real motives. Karl Marx (German economist and philosopher, 1818-1883) exposed the phenomenon of false consciousness, which leads the conscious minds of privileged people to screen out the exploitation upon which their privileges depend. Sigmund Freud (Viennese doctor, 1856-1939, founder of psychoanalysis) showed that what humans really want is often not what they think they want. Men who write, Freud suggested, may think they are contributing to culture or performing a public service when in fact what they want is money, honor, glory, and the love of women. More recently, feminists and others have developed the theory of standpoints, which holds that a persons capacity to see the truth about the world is limited by the standpoint, i.e., perspective, of the class, gender, race, or social group to which she or he belongs. I am white, male, straight, working-class (by origin), American, Catholic. I consciously believe that I want to help the world. However, a reader who is, for example, black, female, bisexual, upper-class, Brazilian, and unchurched might well think that because of the differences in our standpoints my views will be biased against her interests. She may also resent the idea that a person with my perspective should presume that he could help someone with her perspective. She might well say to me, if we should ever meet, If we are going to have a relationship in which one of us is going to be defined as a person-who-needs-to-be-helped, I would prefer that it be you. Now, concerning the difficulty that I have in believing in my own sincerity, I would like to tell a story about myself, which may at first seem irrelevant. An unusual habit of mine, in which I occasionally indulge, is to wash and dry dishes to the tune of

a tango, like Fernandos Hideaway, or Dont Cry for Me, Argentina. In my minds 21 LETTERS EROM QUBEC: Vol. I eye I emulate Charlie Chaplin, when he played the part of a barber who did haircuts to Liszts Hungarian rhapsodies in the film The Great Dictator, although my performances are not so polished. For nearly a decade I believed that my motive in washing the dishes was to be helpful to my family; I thought that applying the dish towel to a soup bowl during a medio corte and then deftly placing the dry plate on its shelf with a flare promenade and an Ol! was an innocent amusement which made the task lighter, although perhaps also somewhat longer. The truth did not occur to me until my seven year old niece Hallie suggested that I wash the dishes to Kiss of Eire, while my family was visiting my brothers family during the Christmas season of 1985, at their house among murmuring pines near Santa Fe, New Mexico. As I stood holding a wet glass in my hand, what had happened came back to me. In my early twenties I had taken dancing lessons at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, in Santa Barbara, California. My dancing teacher was tall, dark-eyed, and shapely. She was the kind of person of whom it is said, She can be described only with the hands. Of all the steps she taught me I liked the tango the best; she saved it until last, and when she exclaimed Tango! I knew that in order to do the dance properly I would be required, and therefore invited, to hold her very tightly. One day as we were dancing to Kiss of Fire, she asked me if I would be too busy to give her a ride home after my lesson. She had to go home then, and she had no means of transportation. I said that I could spare the time, and a few minutes later we were both in my car and I was driving her home. When we got to her house she opened the car door, let herself out, thanked me, and said good-bye. I had forgotten the incident until my niece Hallie accidentally reminded me in December of 1985. Then I knew: my real motive for dancing the tango while washing the dishes was lust. Worse: since I was married to someone else by then, it was illicit lust. As I said, this story about the tango may at first seem to be irrelevant. However, it does have a point. The point is: a persons unconscious motives dont necessarily have to be an issue. After all, I was getting the dishes done, having a good time, and amusing, among others, Hallie. My unconscious sexual fantasies were not doing anybody any harm. I was being too hard on myself when I called my unconscious sentiments illicit lust. The story about the tango also leads into one of the reasons why I want to defend rationality. Rationality, if we can get it to work properly, will save us from giving undue attention to possible bidden, impure motives. What I mean, in more detail, is this: If we are trying to live according to wisdom, and if wisdom is the rule of the rational, and if we can determine that a certain action is rational, then the action is right. It is the wise, and therefore also the good, thing to do. Even if it is done for strange motives, it is nonetheless what should be done. Similarly, if I want to write something helpful, and if I carry out my conscious desire successfully by writing something that really is helpful, then my bidden motives, if any, will not change the help to harm. Similarly, if starting out with all the limitations of the perspective on life of a person who is white, male, straight, working-class (by origin), American, and Catholic, I nevertheless succeed in saying something true, then, if it is true, it will remain true no matter who says it and therefore the fact that I said it does not make it false. The rational proof is like the dishes, washed and dried, rightly placed on their proper shelves. I have, then, more than one objective in continuing to investigate rationality. Reason holds out the promise of the moral unity of humanity. If there is a reasonable solution to a problem, then in its reasonableness it will deserve the assent of all humans, of

whatever color, gender, life-style, class, nation, religion, or ethnic background. The dusky depths of the human psyche, where there lurk so many questionable motives and repressed fantasies, could then be plumbed by whoever wishes to plumb them but the pursuit of a deep understanding of motives would not always lead to a paralysis of 22 Letter 4 analysis (to use Martin Luther King, Jr.s well-wrought phrase), because we would know that by acting rationally we were acting rightly. I want my method for investigating rationality to be as objective as possible. What I will do is simply notice what it is that the people around me call rational. I will also look at a few Influential books, particularly textbooks used in schools. Then I will organize my observations In a list of the definitions of rationality that I have discovered in my environment. This method has the advantage that you (the reader) can check the validity of my results by performing the same kind of investigation. You can then compare your list with mine. If several people independently arrive at a similar list of meanings for rationality then we will have objective grounds for concluding that we have accurately identified rationality in the society or societies studied. Here is my list. As you read it you may wish to ask yourself whether you behave rationally according to these definitions. 1. Rationality is the pursuit of known ends by means which are likely to achieve them. To be rational one must be clear about what objectives one is pursuing, and one must have good reasons for believing that what one is doing will lead to the achievement of the objectives. 2. Rationality is the scientific method. There is a great deal of dispute about what exactly the scientific method consists of, but most of our contemporaries would agree that important parts of it are testing hypotheses in the light of evidence and the use of control groups. 3. An action is irrational if the reason for the action is a belief for which there is no evidence, such as the unsubstantiated belief that an assassin lurks under ones bed. 4. Rationality is the agreement of ones principles with ones actions. If a person says one thing and does another, then the person is (if not dishonest) irrational. If principle and practice conflict, then to achieve rationality one or the other must change until the two agree. Nevertheless, even if principle and action are in harmony, one could still correctly call an action irrational if the principle it follows is irrational. 5. Believing that people will behave normally is rational. For example, if you count on people living up to obligations they have assumed, where you have no special reason to suppose that they will not, then you are considered rational in relying on your legitimate expectations, and they are considered at fault if they disappoint you. (Reasonable expectations are important in lawsuits where the judge or jury must determine whether what the defendant did was what a rational person would have done under the circumstances.) 6. Rationality is the ability to see a situation as it would be seen by an outsider. If you are in a dispute, you are able to be rational to the extent that you can see yourself as an impartial outsider would see you. 7. Rationality is the ability to take many points of view into consideration. If you see a situation only from your own point of view, your rationality is limited. The more you expand your viewpoint by taking into consideration different ways of seeing the situation, the more your judgment about it is rational. 8. Rationality is maximizing the payoffs. The problem of making a rational choice can be

represented in a diagram such as the following one: where: A1 = Action 1 A2 = Action 2 23 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

the small ps beside the lines = the probability of the payoff indicated at the end of the line. the large Ps at the ends of the lines = size of payoff; for example, a number of dollars. In this case, the rational action is A2, since its probable payoff is 2 (a 50% chance to get a l, and a 50% chance to get a 3), while the probable payoff of A1 is 7/4. This definition of rationality can be expressed succinctly as follows: among several courses of action, the rational one is the one with the highest expected value. 9. The rational action is the safest course. Imagine the worst thing that can happen, and prepare for it. Such a criterion for rationality is sometimes called MAXIMIN because you maximize the minimum payoff, i.e. you choose the best result on the supposition that everything goes wrong. 10. Rationality is effectiveness. First you define your objective. Then you measure the costs of several alternative actions leading to the achievement of the objective. The rational action is the one which achieves the objective to the highest degree, assuming that all actions cost the same. Or else it is the one that achieves the objective at the least cost. 11. Rationality is normality. If a persons actions do not make sense to other people, they are irrational. 12. Rationality is the use of certain logical operations. According to the Piagetian school of psychology, people in Western cultures normally master these operations between the ages of 7 and 16. The operations have been catalogued and formally defined. An example is the transitivity of asymmetric relations, as in: a<b b<c Hence: a < c 13. Rationality is pursuing the natural purposes and exercising the natural functions of the kind of being we are. God or history or evolution has made us in such a way that some actions are natural and some actions are unnatural. It is irrational to be unnatural. For example, it is sometimes said that it is irrational not to seek sexual fulfillment, because humans naturally seek sexual fulfillment. 14. Rationality is restraint. It is moderation in all things. Nothing in excess. Irrationality is impulsive. 24 Letter 4 15. To be rational is to be realistic. It is irrational to engage in wishful thinking, mistaking what

you want to be true for what is true. 16. Rationality is maximizing long-term interests. This definition is not quite the same as maximizing the payoffs (number 8 above), because it explicitly calls for considering the effect of the proposed action on power to achieve future (perhaps unspecified) payoffs. For example, the owners of a company might offer the workers high wages on condition that they dissolve their union. The workers acceptance of the offer might be rational from the point of view of maximizing the payoffs, but irrational from the point of view of long-term interests. 17. Rationality is being consistent. When you contradict yourself you are being irrational. That is my list. You may check it against your own experience, and against definitions of rationality found in books. I hope that my list will be found to be a reasonably accurate report on what people count as rational action nowadays in America and in similar societies. I will use the list in the course of arguing that the defects of rationality as currently practiced are grave. However, the very fact that the list of definitions of rationality is so long creates an initial difficulty that we must confront before going on to expose the damage done by rationalitys grave flaws. The length of the list suggests that it is not worthwhile to pursue philosophical understanding exclusively by looking for the correct definitions of words, since to proceed in that way invites endless complications. We could, fanatically pursuing correct definitions, make a list of each of the words employed in each of my 17 definitions of rationality, and then look for definitions of all the words on that list. We could, but we wont. Until now the argument of this book has maintained a certain forward motion through all its twists and turns. The forward motion has been roughly as follows: First, philosophy was recommended as an activity which has a role to play in building peace and justice; then philosophy was defined as the love of wisdom; then wisdom was defined as the rule of the rational; now an attempt has been made to define the rational. At this point, however, the forward motion halts. The multiplicity of plausible definitions of rationality is sufficient to show that success will not be achieved by defining terms alone. Here is a further consideration which leads to the same conclusion: If one looks up the definition of a word in a dictionary, and then looks up the definitions of all the words used to define that first word, and so on successively, one will go in circles. The words used will repeat themselves so that eventually the dictionary search will lead back to the same words over and over again. I want to say, and hope to earn the right to say, that philosophy does not consist entirely of more or less successful efforts to define terms and concepts. Its truths may not depend on what people in America or anywhere else regard as the correct use of a word; there may be a way out of the circle of language; there may be philosophical truths that are not social conventions. In the following letter, we will make a fresh start by considering where we might go from here, now that our way forward has become impossible to follow, because it branches into seventeen ways, like seventeen sets of rabbit tracks in the snow leading off toward shadowy trees in seventeen snowy directions. 25 26 Letter 5 PLEASE DO NOT UNDERSTAND ME TOO QUICKLY This letter abandons an approach centered on questions like, What is philosophy? What II wisdom? and What is rationality? It turns to a focus on practical problems. The problem

selected to be examined first is hunger. I will not surrender to chaos, or to unreasoning anger. There are, as the previous letter says, many kinds of rationality, but this does not mean that there is no road to survival. It means only that we will not find the road to survival through seeking the one correct definition of rationality. But we will find it. Survival. To survive as a person I need something to hold onto. Let that something bring me sweet serenity; let it bring me self-confidence, trust, smiling days, true friends, somebody maybe God who appreciates my effort and my work. Perhaps I am writing too much about my personal feelings. I told you, or meant to tell you, that my mind wanders. I have melancholy dreams. I am just a soul whose intentions are good, struggling not to be misunderstood. There are so many of us these days. Let me try to say over (gain what I just said, in a way that is less about what I feel and more about all kinds of survival: personal, social, ecological. Here goes: We should accept or invent the forms of rationality that function effectively to serve life. Serve life. I hope you will find these two words to be appealing as a standard for telling the difference between healthy and pathological rationality. Appealing enough that you will bear with me while I flesh out the details of the point of view they represent. I will try to be coherent. I want to say that at this point we can and should shift away from questions about the definitions of terms. The definitions of words will fall into place when we know what functions we want the words to perform in solving problems. Life requires, if nothing else, food. I will take up the question, Why do the hungry have no food? (This is quite similar to the questions, Why do the homeless have no homes? and Why is there poverty?) Later I will come back to the theme of rationality, after I have established a context where it makes a practical difference which definition of rationality is chosen. I am taking the idea of shifting to a problem-centered approach, after writing the first few letters mainly on the meanings of words, from a book by H. L. A. Hart, called The Concept of Law). He centered the first pages of his book on certain recurrent issues which come together in the question, What is law? Such a question, Hart points out, is a request for a definition. Definitions help people to distinguish one kind of thing from another kind of thing which language marks off with a separate word. Definitions are not solely a matter of words, since they also provide instruction concerning the things to which the words apply; thus when a triangle is defined as a three-sided rectilinear figure, the definition teaches something about triangles. Nevertheless, providing definitions may do little to resolve the underlying difficulties and doubts which motivated a question like What is law? in the first place. The answer an expert 27 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I gives to the question What is law? is, so to speak, the tip of an iceberg; below the tip there lies a whole system of thought. For example, when a legal expert states, Law is what the courts will do, the deep underwater-lying berg of thought about law, of which this definition is the tip, remains for the most part unrevealed. Hart used a discussion of definitions of law as a first step in the argument of his book, but then shifted his focus to look at the general theories of law in which the theorists ways of using particular words were embedded. He began the second step of his argument by selecting one particular theory of law to examine first. I will select to examine first what may fairly be called the first problem for homo sapiens, or for any species. First: humans must eat. The bawling baby, fresh from its mothers womb, understands the need to eat very well, although it cannot speak, much less define rationality.

Rationality can eventually be understood as a way to get food and other necessities. But please do not understand me too quickly because, as will soon appear, the realistic approach on which I am now inviting you to embark with me leads to questions to which there are no short answers. 28 Letter 6 HUNGER Hunger is caused by human beings, not by nature. The reorganizing of human conduct which is needed to end hunger requires forms of rationality different from and supplementary to the methods of analysis now employed by the best and brightest students of the subject. In certain families and nations, it is a common practice to ingest substances containing digestible carbohydrates, proteins, and certain other nutritive elements. This activity is known as eating, and it is more frequently done by some people than by others. Those who do it less are not necessarily on diets. We who believe that human speech and practice, and all of the artifacts of culture, are and ought to be judged by nature, must recognize the wisdom of those social norms which prescribe caring. If eating is not done, then neither carbohydrate molecules, nor molecules of fatty and amino acids, nor essential liquids or fibers are available to build and operate the cells of which human bodies are composed. Such an absence of the right kinds of molecules at the right locations would be only a bit of cold information for a cosmic spectator charting the path through space and time of every molecule in the universe, but whoever loves human life must see shortages of the materials required for life as evils to be combatted with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our strength. For our species, homo sapiens, as well as for all other species, sustaining life by eating has always been a basic need. Thus Plato wrote, ...the true creator is necessity, who is the mother of invention. And, Now the first and greatest of necessities is food, which is the condition of life and existence. When you know how a given society solves, or fails to solve, the problem of getting enough food to eat, then you have an important clue to everything else the society does. The earliest humans are known as hunters and gatherers because hunting and gathering provided their food supply and therefore to a great extent ruled their lives. The agricultural revolution, which used irrigation and other techniques to grow crops, produced quantities of food sufficient to support classes of people who did not themselves hunt, gather, or farm, thus creating the possibility of civilization. The fact that anthropologists have found it convenient to classify cultures according to the sources of their food supplies gives additional weight to Platos assertion that food is the first and greatest of necessities. A review of anthropological studies done of 186 so-called primitive societies during the period 1800 through 1965 classified human groups according to their food sources as follows: 13 tribes lived primarily by gathering wild plant food, 14 lived primarily by hunting, 17 lived mainly by fishing, 15 lived by pastoralism (keeping domestic animals for meat, milk, or both), 51 lived by simple cultivation (slash and burn, shifting from site to site), 19 by horticulture (gardening or orcharding), 56 by advanced agriculture (using irrigation, fertilization, etc.) and 1 by exchange. In each case, knowing the cultures solution to the food problem provided basic insights into everything else the culture did. The last-mentioned case, the 1 of 186, the case of living by exchange, is similar to our own. What must have in former times been an exception, is the rule in our globally integrated economy. Most

people in most places now live by exchange, and by a peculiar kind of exchange: 29 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I the exchange of money. Money is the intermediary between the cells which need carbohydrates, fatty acids, amino acids, and essential liquids, and the environment which provides them or fails to provide them. If contemporary humans produce food directly at all, they usually exchange all or most of what they produce for money, and exchange money for the food they eat. Large numbers of the inhabitants of the planet Earth at the present time sell their services as employees, and buy food with wages. In modern society money talks, and the millions without money are voiceless at the dinner table, unable to say, pass the bread.The facts have been amply documented by Frances Moore Lapp and Joseph Collins in their excellent book Food First. My analysis of the hunger problem will follow theirs. I believe they are the best and brightest students of the subject, and they are also, it is important to note, not on the payroll of anybody in the food business. Their organization, the Institute for Food and Development Policy, in San Francisco, California, gets its money from private donors and some church groups, and from the sale of publications. The basic lesson Food First teaches is this: the world does not have to be the way it is. There is nothing inevitable about hunger; hunger has been created by humans; and a world where everyone has sufficient food to eat can be created by humans. It can be done now, with the resources presently available. Food First is devoted mainly to the refutation of what the authors call myths. The myths are the blinders which prevent many members of the public from seeing the real causes of hunger. As I will explain later, I have some reservations about their use of the word myth, because what they call myths are always destructive, while I think the word can be used in ways which emphasize the constructive roles myths have played and can still play. The myths the book refutes are: 1. There are too many people in the world. 2. Some countries, such as Bangladesh, cannot possibly feed themselves. 3. To make more food we need to poison the environment. 4. Poor people have too many children because they are ignorant. 5. Colonialism is a thing of the past. 6. Famines are inevitable. 7. Hunger is due to ignorance of modern production techniques. 8. New crop varieties can solve the problem. 9. The Third World needs American corporate know-how. 10. Small farmers are inefficient. 11. The more international trade there is, the better off everyone will be. 12. The export income of a country helps its hungry people. 13. The world needs American food exports. 14. Food power can save the U.S. economy. 15. The Third World needs American machinery. 16. The people of host countries benefit from American agribusiness abroad. 17. Americans benefit from American agribusiness abroad. 18. Traditional diets, such as beans and rice, are too starchy and less nutritious than modern diets. 19. Commercial infant formulas are better than mothers milk.

20. The United States has been the most generous country in the world. 21. Loans of foreign money are the poor countries only source of capital. The book is organized as a series of arguments, supported by facts, designed to prove the falsity of each of the statements above. If the reader is convinced by Lapp and Collins, then 30 Letter 6 she or he will come to believe more than the basic point that the obstacles to solving the hunger problem are found in the ways human cultures are organized, not in nature. Food First teaches, in addition to the basic lesson that culture is the cause of hunger, some lessons concerning what exactly is wrong with culture. However, readers may not be convinced by Lapp and Collins at all. Readers may judge their book generally unworthy of credence I know some people who have read and rejected part of it, and have then refused either to read on or to consider the possibility that the part they had already read might be true. One reason why some readers I know have summarily rejected the book is that they find it to be anti-business, anti-American, and anti-establishment to the point where the authors could not be trusted to state the facts impartially. An executive of an American agribusiness corporation working in Mexico was offended to find no mention of the fact that plants run by American multinationals often have wages and working conditions superior to those in locally-owned plants; nor of the contributions of agribusiness to scholarships, hospitals, scientific research, art, and music. It is true that Lapp and Collins do not go out of their way to list the contributions to human welfare made by American agribusiness abroad and the American government. However, their analysis of why hunger exists is compatible with the belief that business and government have in many cases done good things. It is also compatible with the belief that many people working in the business, government, and academic sectors of the agribusiness establishment sincerely regard themselves as in the front line of the struggle against hunger raising yield per acre, finding new ways to stop the ever-new varieties of wheat rust (which, like AIDS, mutates rapidly, so that the worlds wheat-producing technology must change constantly to keep ahead of the rust), and so on. All these things could be true, and it could also be true as Lapp and Collins claim that there are no natural or technical obstacles to adequate nutrition for all only social obstacles. Other people I know are reluctant to believe Lapp and Collins because they have always been taught the myths Lapp and Collins unmask. In particular, they have always been taught that there are too many people, and they cannot regard as credible authors who say there are not too many people. They feel that if everyone they have ever known, and everything they have ever read, asserts what Lapp and Collins deny, then Lapp and Collins are probably wrong, since everyone else, taken collectively, is more likely to be right than two strangers who have suddenly entered their lives via a book which makes unusual and disconcerting assertions. I must admit that I myself find it hard to believe that it is false that there are too many people in the world. However, a moments anthropological reflection is enough to convince me that it is quite possible for two outsiders to be telling the truth and for the establishment to be mistaken. Nobody is surprised when studying an exotic culture to find that the prevailing mythology helps the dominant group to continue to dominate. Everyone expects when studying a culture other than our own, that if a certain group controls the land, the water, the labor force, and the technology, the same group will control the stories. Our own culture is not likely to be an exception. Lapp and Collins note in their book that they themselves while growing up in America learned to believe the very myths they are now refuting. It is not at all unbelievable that two studious

individuals, with the assistance of several dozen others, should go beyond the common beliefs which everyone in the culture including themselves has learned, and find that the common beliefs are mistaken. Nevertheless, I have reservations about the claim that there are not too many people. My reservations have to do with the future as well as the present; I am convinced by the forecasters who find that even if the existing population of the earth could be fed, the rate of population increase is such that humans will, if they have not already, exceed the carrying capacity of the 31 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Earth. However, a careful reading of Lapp and Collins shows that even though the title of the first myth they dedicate themselves to is Standing Room Only? Too Many People? what they really want to say is better expressed in a line from the dust jacket of the book: The cause of hunger is NOT too many people. Two points in favor of the proposition The cause of hunger is NOT too many people should be granted at the outset: (1) Keeping people poor does not reduce the population; on the contrary, poor people usually choose to have more children because they need sons and daughters to take care of them when they are old. The evidence shows that as nations develop and become more prosperous there occurs what is called a demographic transition, consisting of falling birthrates. People may not recognize this truth because they are misled by a false analogy with other species: it is supposed that because the population of wolves, for example, will decrease when rabbits and other prey become scarce, human population also decreases when food is scarce. (2) Reducing population will not in itself solve the hunger problem. There are many examples of small, hungry populations; and many examples of large, dense, well-fed populations. The more difficult questions concern what the balance should be among measures which focus directly on population reduction while indirectly reducing poverty, such as penalizing families for having more than one child (as in China); measures which focus directly on poverty, such as shifting production from luxury exports to basic grains; and measures which focus equally on reducing population and on reducing poverty, such as raising the status of women so that they have more to say in whether they get pregnant or not. The problem of war is also tightly connected with the food problem and the population problem, since nations often promote fecundity in order to have large enough armies to defend themselves against feared attacks. In general I think we can say that the same measures often serve several good purposes, and I think we can agree in general with a point made by the Australian philosopher Peter Singer: If you believe that one of the main causes of hunger is too many people, then you should work on measures to reduce the number of children born. Your belief does not excuse you from your obligation to do what you reasonably can to solve the hunger problem; it only implies that your judgment concerning exactly what needs to be done to solve the problem will differ slightly from that of Lapp and Collins. Assuming now that Lapp and Collins have not generally disqualified themselves from being authors to be taken seriously, let us consider how they prove what I take to be their main point: there is nothing in the soil, nothing in the water supply, nothing in the weather, and nothing in the state of technology which makes hunger inevitable; hunger is a phenomenon firmly under human control. To prove this point, they rely to a considerable extent on the evidence presented in Diet For a Small Planet, an earlier book by one of the authors, Frances Moore Lapp. She pointed out there that the world could be fed if people ate more grains, instead of feeding the grains to livestock and eating the meat. Properly balanced grain diets such as those of traditional people who combine rice and beans, or corn and beans, or lentils and wheat provide proteins with the

right kinds of amino acids. It takes 21.4 pounds of protein in the form of grain to produce one pound of protein in the form of beef or veal. It takes 8.3 pounds of grain protein to make one pound of pork protein. Excluding the production of protein by dairy cows, the average protein conversion ratio by livestock in the United States is about 10 to l. Applying this figure to the 20 million tons of protein fed to livestock in the USA in 1968, Lapp drew the conclusion that Americans were consuming2 million tons of protein as meat, having produced 20 million and lost 18 million by running the protein through animals. This 18 million tons of protein lost in the United States alone was equivalent to the amount consumed directly by humans in the poor two-thirds of the world so a shift of grain from first-world animals to Third World people could double the grain available to people, thus 32 Letter 6 solving the hunger problem. Consequently, the reasons why the problem remains unsolved are social: they are the habit of eating meat instead of eating well-balanced grains, and the economy. One of the ways that Food First carries forward the argument begun in Diet For a Small Planet is by showing that so-called basket case countries could be self-sufficient in food. Not only does the world as a whole have enough basic grains, but many countries singled out as places where population has overwhelmed resources are technically capable of feeding themselves. The archetype of so-called basket cases is Bangladesh. Lapp and Collins researched Bangladesh in libraries and went there to see for themselves. They found that Bangladesh has twice the cultivated area per person of Taiwan, which is a relatively well-fed nation. It has an ideal climate and water supply for year-round cultivation, capable of yielding three harvests of rice annually. Its inland fishery resources are among the richest in the world. But: as much as one-third of the grain harvested in Bangladesh is hoarded and smuggled across the border to be sold in India, where grain prices are twice as high. The rich in Bangladesh consume twice the protein and 30% more calories than the poor. The poor do not eat no matter how much food there is: after the 1974 floods, many starved even though there were four million tons of rice put into storage, because the vast majority did not have the money to buy it. Lapp and Collins conclusions can be reinforced by citing a factor they do not mention: novel food technologies. One of the scientists who studied and developed such technologies was N. W. Bill Pirie, the head of the biochemistry department at Rothamstead Experimental Station in England. I mention Pirie only as an example; many others have done similar research. During World War II he was one of the scientists who studied how Great Britain might feed herself under blockade conditions. Approaching the problem rationally as a biochemist, he and others both during and after the war found many ways to convert what the environment offered into what human bodies need. Some examples: cultivation of the Wundunggul, a yam from New Guinea rich in protein; exploiting the protein possibilities of leafy vegetables; aquatic farming both in fresh water and in sea water; extraction and concentration of the protein found in the leaves of trees. After the war, however, interest in their ideas died in England, and only flickered in the Third World. The people who had money were not hungry; the hungry people had no money. Bill Pirie died a disappointed man. He had solved the problem of world hunger so he thought but his solution had been ignored. Of course, he had not really solved it, because hunger is not a problem in biochemistry. Since hunger is a cultural problem, let me say something about the significance of the word culture, of which I have been making so much use. In her dictionary of semiotics, Josette ReyDebove (a contemporary French scholar) defines culture as non-hereditary information which is

gathered, conserved, and transmitted by human societies. Culture is what makes it possible for humans to communicate with each other, hence to organize and to cooperate. It includes ideology, which Rey-Debove defines as the ensemble of ideas (judgments or beliefs) characterizing a society at a given moment in its history. Turning now to Gramsci, we can say that ...the task of the intellectuals is that of determining and organizing, moral and intellectual reform that is, of adjusting culture to the practical function... My vision of the task of philosophy is Gramscian: to facilitate the social construction of meanings for rationality and other key terms, as a contribution toward empowering culture to meet human needs. In other words, to adjust culture to the practical function. Empowering culture is empowering people, because culture is who we are. homo sapiens, as Clifford and Hilda Geertz (contemporary American anthropologists) say, is the animal which adapts to its ecological niche through culture. What then, exactly, is wrong with human culture, according to Lapp and Collins? They never pose the question in precisely the way I am posing it, but nonetheless from what they say about various aspects of the hunger problem an answer to my question can be deduced. What 33 LETTERS FROM QUBEC Vol. l is needed, say Lapp and Collins, is a redistribution of social power (p. 179). The poor must overcome their powerlessness (p. 33). We must come to grips with the inequalities in power at the root of the problem (p. 94). The obstacle to food for all in Bangladesh is the power of a few (p. 23). We must all gain a sense of personal power (p. 7). The real block to the solution of the hunger problem is the sense of powerlessness we are made to feel (p. 9). There must be redistribution of control of the land with participation by all in political and economic power (p. 463). Briefly stated, what is wrong is that the poor lack power. They lack food because they lack power. The solution is for everyone to share in the control of resources land, water, seeds... all kinds of resources. Democratic control will ensure democratic results. But this answer which is implicit on every page of Food First and explicit on many of them is not adequate. It would not be adequate even if it were fully elaborated. To define and to solve humanitys crucial problems, of which hunger is one, some types of thinking are needed the theme and focus of which is not power. I say this without disagreeing with Lapp and Collins and without expecting them to disagree with me my purpose is to add, not subtract. Let me tell a story in order to hint at what I have in mind without shouldering the responsibility of making definitive statements I am not yet in a position to defend. Imagine an extraterrestrial visitor, who has specialized in Earth studies at one of the reputable universities on her planet, but who is for the first time actually seeing us. The interplanetary visitors home planet, located in a distant galaxy, is physically similar to ours, hut so different culturally that the problem of hunger was solved long, long ago. It is not richer in resources that our planet; and it is actually more difficult to supply the humanoids there with nutrients than to supply us here, because each of them must regularly feed not only herself or himself but also a constantly flowering bush which each humanoid wears atop the head. The bushes are more demanding than African violets, yet they must be constantly nourished and tended, because if they die the humanoid host dies also. This unusual form of cooperation between a member of the plant kingdom and a member of the animal kingdom goes back to a time centuries ago when the planet lost its ozone layer through the careless use of fluorocarbons. The humanoids, a cancer-prone species, narrowly escaped extinction by learning to keep certain special flowers between themselves and the rays of the local star which is their sun. They have adapted so well that they cannot execute intricate movements without injuring the plants or stepping out of their shade.

These extraterrestrials have surmounted many technical obstacles, as this example shows; it is a credit to their culture that they have been able to face their technical problems together, with care to preserve each humanoids basic trust that she or he belongs on the planet and is loved there, but without losing respect for each ones precious uniqueness. Although their cultural forms are everchanging and many, two main patterns predominate. Most of the others are variations of them. One is the whiligo, in which everything is done to a rhythm similar to what we would call samba, and the other the dumamyama, in which kneading bread, weeding gardens, and cleaning floors is done to a beat more like what we would call polka. The brains of the humanoids on the interplanetary visitors home planet are located in the center of the body, rather than in the head as is the case with us, and as a result everything they do is musical. Even athletics is musical. They love change and constantly invent new recipes, songs, and sports; it is not unusual for a whole new sport, complete with coaches, uniforms, referees, and cheers, to spring up, attract players, draw spectators, fade away from lack of interest, and, disappearing, be replaced by a still newer sport, in a single season. And yet, while nearly everything about their ways of life varies, there are certain constants: everybody works, and everyone is cared for. Not a single infant ever goes to its flower-shaded bed without a warm bottle of milk and someone to rock it to sleep. Having just arrived from a planet where the practices just described are normal, the interplanetary visitor naturally finds the behavior of earthlings abnormal. She notices the many who do not regularly put food in the 34 Letter 6 mouth, chew it, and swallow it, and she understands that the rarity of their participation in meals is not due in most cases to anorexia, nor asceticism, nor passive aggressive neurosis, nor to suicide attempts, nor to the cult of the thin body, nor to eating being regarded by the elite as banal. She sees the involuntary separation of human bodies from the carbohydrate and amino acid molecules required to sustain metabolic processes; and she sees the movement of trillions of those molecules firstly into grain-fed beef cattle, secondly into red beef as steaks and burgers, thirdly into millions of openings in the heads of featherless two-legged animals wearing garments in the pockets of which there is money, and fourthly (in a modified form) across the blood-brain border to finally appear in the brain as millions of worries. The interplanetary visitor, who is able to see many things at once and to listen to thoughts, sees all the millions with money in their pockets and beef in their mouths and hears them worrying to themselves, But what if we had no money? What then? And she hears the ones without money in their pockets thinking What now? Her first explanation of the bizarre phenomena she observes is that all earthlings are sado-masochists, since not one of them really thinks its fun to live the way they do. Seeking a better explanation, the interplanetary visitor reads Food First. She learns that colonialism destroyed the traditional moral system, replacing traditional obligations with money-based ties (p. 114). The traditional earthly way strikes her as similar to the way the humanoids on her home planet feel obligations to one another; governing food production and distribution through money-based ties strikes her as immoral. She remembers a point emphasized by one of her professors in a graduate seminar in Earth studies: that when human economies expanded (as happened, for example, when most of the Third World was forced to join colonial empires), humans never learned how to expand their moral systems. Morals continued to function mainly in families, in small and medium-sized institutions, and in personal relationships, while economies without morals governed the planet as a whole. She wonders what to make of this thing

called power, which Lapp and Collins regard as so important. In one of its meanings, dictionaries and social scientists say, power is the ability to influence other people to do ones will something the hungry people of the world do not have. And they cannot easily get it, since by definition when there is a contest of wills between the powerful and the powerless, the powerful win. Surely Lapp and Collins do not mean that the poor should simply attempt to take control of resources, because if they were able to do that they would not be powerless. The principal difficulty lies in finding ways to nurture the strength of the weak, to create power where there is little or none. Hence the principal question must be how to empower? although some of the time the question may be, as the earthling Paulo Freire says, to find the untested feasibility. That is to say, to find something you have the power to do even though you have not yet tried it. The untested feasibility shows that you are not completely powerless. The issues are complicated because the specific kind of power in question is often economic power. Lapp and Collins indicate that the hungry lack food because they lack money, and also that they lack food because they lack power which suggests that having money, or, more generally, having economic resources, is a particular kind of power. Learning how to deal with the peculiarities of this specific kind of power will require special lessons. In another of its meanings a focus on power connotes the amoral contest of interests pitted against each other which is called power politics. Surely power politics is not what Lapp and Collins propose. Power politics always leads to war, as was stated several decades ago by the earthling physicist Albert Einstein, who was not very bright by intergalactic standards but nevertheless not so foolish as to believe that humanity could survive in the nuclear age by defining its problems in terms limited to power vs. power. 35 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I And what is the democratic control that Food First advocates? The dictionary says that the word control comes from the Old French contrerole, which meant an additional roll or register kept to check the figures submitted by tax collectors. Still today one of the meanings of control is to check or verify. Hence the word control by itself refers ambiguously to (l) checking to be sure the rules are followed, and (2) deciding what the rules will be. If one emphasizes the first, then one tends to see the control needed to put an end to hunger as democratic inspection of government officials, moneylenders, grain hoarders, and speculators to prevent them from cheating. If, on the other hand, like earthling social scientist Karl Marx, one emphasizes that under free market capitalism the poor remain poor even when the rules are scrupulously adhered to, then it is clearly not enough to set up a contrerole to catch cheaters; democratic control will solve the hunger problem only if it means making new rules which, if followed, will assure that everyone is cared for. The interplanetary visitor finds the atmosphere on Earth to be tense, and since she is not used to tension and does not like it, she prepares to depart not by means of rocket technology, which by her standards is as crude as the earthlings attempts to solve their problems by putting pressure on lawmakers, but with a simple hand-held location-switcher. Before leaving she makes one last remark: Lapp and Collins, she says, her eyes flowing with tears, have corrected the earthlings information, but not their programming. Lapp and Collins are trying to send solidarity messages in a code designed to communicate mistrust. The noise in the channel is deafening. Having said this, she tries to smile and types in a homing command which causes her to be

transported to her own galaxy and to her own planet, where the cultures are coded for glad cooperation and for sustainable relationships with the environment. This story about the interplanetary visitor vaguely sketched several aspects of the general idea that solving the hunger problem requires thinking the theme and focus of which is not power, at least not power as commonly understood. Her opinions hint that it is no ordinary power that makes it possible for rules strengthening the weak to come into existence and to be obeyed. Her hints and suggestions are previews of coming attractions, snippets of pictures to be shown at a later date. The next step is to demonstrate in detail a particular way in which Lapp and Collins analysis of hunger is, although true, incomplete. True because the world does not have to be the way it is. I deliberately state the lesson of Food First in these broad terms because neither hunger nor other forms of poverty, nor war, nor sexism, nor racism, nor the quiet desperation of the unloved, needs to be all for the same reason: because these evils are produced by people, not by nature; because the existing human cultures have in the course of time been constructed, and consequently they can be reconstructed. The analysis of hunger in Food First is incomplete in this particular way: the logic of Food First does not persuade everyone. It would not have persuaded, for example, Leon, who was my roommate in my first year at college. When I went to college I was not prepared for Leon. I was prepared for first year college calculus, but not for Leon. I need to speak of my upbringing in order to explain this unpreparedness. In telling about my upbringing, especially in telling about the influence on me of my grandmother Gertrude, I will continue to keep my promise to bring into the open my biases so that in their light you may examine my reasoning. 36 37 38 Letter 7 THE ABATEMENT OF THE LITTLE MOTHER My grandmother taught me love. My first year college roommate taught me that reason contradicted my grandmother, according to the prevailing standards of rationality. My grandmother Gertrude was slightly under five feet tall. She once described herself, in one of the few moments when she talked about herself, as a banty hen taking care of her banty baby chicks. The word banty is a diminutive form of bantam. If you have not previously had occasion to learn about the existence and nature of the bantam chicken, you may be surprised to know that there really is a race of small chickens called bantam. They are neatly tufted with feathers thicker than those of other chickens. The feathers are thicker partly because the bantam chickens behavioral repertoire does not include the disgusting habit common among other chickens of pecking each others behinds until they are bald and raw. Bantams are quiet, decorous, and polite. Bantam chickens do not cackle when they lay eggs, and bantam roosters crow only to announce the arrival of the sun; they do not mix up their lives and the lives of their audiences by crowing at 2 a.m. I know there are bantam chickens because when I was a child I saw them in my grandmothers yard and called them by name. When my grandmother told me she was a banty hen she spoke of creatures she and I knew. They had the run of the place, but they did not abuse their privileges. They roamed at will among the gardens of a small region of the earth enclosed by neighbors walls, garages, hedges, and the sidewalk, at my grandmothers house in Pasadena, where it never snows,

where flowers bloom at all seasons of the year; and the bantams never soiled the dark green ivy that girdled the palm trees, and they never ran out into the street. I lived with the bantam chicks, the boarders, the dog, the grandfather, the cats, and my grandmother from 7:30 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening when I was two, three, and four years old, and at sundry times thereafter. My mother typed letters at the Los Angeles office of Texaco, Inc., and my father drove trucks for a series of cement companies and pavement contractors. My soft-voiced grandmother never got mad at me, although she was cross and troubled the time, the only time, I pulled the tail of the dog. The dogs name was Dainty Dinty; she was a huge, lame, senescent mongrel, given to turning over in her sleep, sniffing repeatedly as if she could not believe what she smelled, and drinking lots of water in long, slow gulps. Far from repeating the offense of pulling the dogs tail, I generalized the lesson to the defense of flowers, so that once when my father started to pick a flower I objected, Leave it where it wants to grow. Among the boarders whom the Good Lord had entrusted to my grandmothers care was Mr. Worrell, who had a pension because he was over 65 and blind; sometimes he sat in his room and sometimes he sat in a wicker chair enjoying the sun or the shade of a spreading camphor tree, always elegantly dressed; my grandmother saw to it that he was well-dressed, with a clean suit, a matching necktie, and a gold-plated watch held by a chain and kept in a watch pocket. Another boarder was Sweet Little Alice, who lived in a separate cottage beside the garage, who could not work because she was feeble-minded, who was always frightened when anyone 39 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I appeared at her door, who was always reassured and thankful to learn that it was only us. In the room beside Mr. Worrels lived Nola Bartel, a retired cleaning lady from Boston, who chortled with glee as she read the Bible; she thought it was a wonderful book and she gave me several copies of it. I felt the texture of the black covers of copies of King James Authorized Version of the Bible, and treasured the volumes as the sources of Nolas mirth and as evidence of her affection for me long before I learned to read. My Swedish grandfather Harry loved my grandmother and did house painting when he could find work and when his arthritis permitted. In Pasadena as you walked on the sidewalks you sometimes found yourself walking briefly on iron gratings beside large buildings that needed air-flow space below ground, and into these gratings there sometimes fell quarters; my grandfather Harry taught me how to get the quarters out with a broomstick handle by attaching a piece of chewing gum to the end. We would have been happy to return the quarters to the people who had lost them, but since the owners could not be found we were happy to keep them. On New Years Days, when I was older, Harry and I went with bags to the Rose Bowl, where a major football game was played, every year on that day; we were allowed into the stadium at the beginning of the fourth quarter, when the gatekeepers allow admittance to those without tickets, and then after the game was over we walked in great circles around the stands gathering up the sandwiches which the football fans had purchased but in their excitement had forgotten. Stray cats accumulated at my grandmothers house. Some people said the cats came for food, but my grandmother said they came for something else. The something else was a spiritual communion that the cats and my grandmother shared, basking in each others presence as they basked in the sun together. In my memory, colored with love, my grandmother speaks the languages of the animals, she understands their thoughts and needs; the daisies are rose-scented, and the moss is golden around the roots of her flowering lemon tree. The bantam chickens were safe in the midst of three times as many cats because the cats knew my grandmother did not want any misbehavior at her house. When a fly would land on a chocolate

cake, my grandmother would open a window and say to the fly, If this were your house, I wouldnt come and land on your chocolate cake. The fly would go out the window ashamed. Good morning Charlotte, my grandmother would say as a gray cat spotted with black arrived to drink from one of several saucers of milk glistening white in the sunshine. Where is your friend Green Eyes today? Lorelei and Penny were sister cats; Raymond and Tiny were brothers. The biggest hen was Matilda and the smallest baby chick was Little Humphrey. It was the cats who were the cause of my grandmothers abatement. Abatement is a legal term, stemming from the old English chanceries where it first became the custom to speak of abating a nuisance. When some neighbors complained about the cats, the Pasadena City Health Department determined that my grandmothers hospitality was a nuisance which had to be abated. A pickup truck with a wire cage built onto the back came with two men who captured the cats with nets similar to those used to catch butterflies. They put the cats in the cage and drove them away. There was nothing to be said; it was all too undignified. Dainty Dinty had bad dreams for weeks afterward we knew why she was having bad dreams, but could not bring ourselves to discuss the cause of her problem. Even before the abatement, my grandmother had formed the belief that most people are too pushy and not nice enough. She really belonged in old Connecticut, but since old Connecticut no longer existed she did not belong anywhere. Her ancestors had lived there since the seventeenth century, but in recent years the pushy people had taken over Connecticut, and she and Harry had moved to Pasadena, hoping to find in California a sunnier New England where people would act more like the way people used to act, and since most of the people she came to know in Pasadena were, like herself, over 60 and from New England, she was not 40 Letter 7 entirely disappointed by her new environment. She preserved the old New England in her heart, and while the flowers bloomed outside her windows the walls inside were decorated with snow scenes of birch forests in whiter. Every week the postman brought the Sunday edition of the Litchfield County Leader, which enabled her to keep up with events in Winsted, so that she would be ready to move back when and if she could get out of debt and when and if the people who are not nice enough should decide to leave Connecticut, returning it to its rightful inhabitants. From my grandmother I learned unlimited kindness in a limited environment. And a certain stubbornness in sticking to my values whatever other people think or dont think. The lessons I learned from my mother and father were similar. My father, who never held a steady job, subscribed to and believed in a now defunct magazine called Country Gentleman, When I was still young he and my mother made a down payment on a half-acre in El Monte, now a suburb of Los Angeles, then country. There they built a house themselves and developed the land while my father tried to continue with truck-driving for a cash income; they wanted a lifestyle with the fun of farming but without the worries. For my little brother and me it was an educational environment: we learned from and about fruit trees; ducks; chickens; a goat; plantings of corn, tomatoes, green beans, onions, beets, squash, and Swiss chard. My role in life was to help. If there was nothing to do in the house or in the workshop, I would give greens to the chickens, tether the goat in a new place, lead a flock of ducks into the iris beds so they could eat the snails, string black twine around the branches of the plum tree to keep the birds away from the fruit, or pull weeds among the bean blossoms. Thus my parents brought me up to believe that I was supposed to be a useful person. They quietly communicated the message that it was a good thing to be useful, and the more useful the better. When Jesus came into my heart an

event which happened by total immersion at the First Baptist Church of Redlands, California (we had moved again) when I was 11 it was my definite impression that His views on the desirability of being useful were the same as those of my parents. When I was a teenager some of us used to talk about religion. I was in love with a girl whose lips I never kissed, although I did have fantasies concerning their deliciousness. When I saw her, the stars swirled, exploded, and fell in bright fragments; however, I usually managed to maintain my composure, feigning unawareness of the unusual behavior of the heavenly bodies. In retrospect, I am glad we never kissed, since she did not love me, and in any case we did not agree about religion. She used to say it was important to make a distinction between being saved and being the Savior. Jesus was the Savior and we were the saved. It followed that we should not be running around helping people who were having hard times, or working for peace and justice, or improving society since people who act like that think they are Saviors, confusing themselves with the Almighty, thereby falling into the sins of sacrilege and pride. We should remember who we are, and be grateful for what He has done for us. In reply to the girl I never kissed I used to quote the 25th chapter of Matthew, the epistle of James, Mark 10:42-45, Luke 10:30-37, Matthew 7:21, Luke 14:33, Matthew 22:37-39, Matthew 5:3-10, and Revelations 22:10. When I entered college I was prepared to debate with anybody who deduced conservative social and political conclusions from Christian premises. But I was not prepared for Leon. It is not easy to define Leons philosophy, partly because he applied it to many different subjects which seemed to have little in common. I, his first year college roommate, found refuting him even harder than defining him. I thought for a while that Leon was irrational because he contradicted himself, but as I came to know him I found that when I thought he was contradicting himself, he was only contradicting what I expected reasonable people to say. It often seemed to me that he had the facts wrong, and we had many fights about facts. The fights were not settled by looking them up in a standard reference work, such as the United Nations 41 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Statistical Yearbook, since after we found out what the book said we continued to argue about whether the people who wrote the book could be trusted. In any case, the problem was not that he had the facts wrong; it did not matter whether he had them right or wrong, since no facts would make him change his mind. When Leon considered unlikely something which I considered to be factual, it was extremely difficult to convince him with evidence. He had an enormous capacity for skepticism. On the rare occasions when he could be persuaded that an event he considered unlikely had happened, he treated the event in question as one unusual case of little importance compared to the millions of events which (according to him) had also happened. He thought he had millions of facts on his side, for his way of seeing the world was such that everything he saw in it confirmed what he believed about it. He thought of himself as realistic and rational. The arguments of Lapp and Collins in Food First would not convince Leon at all. Food First is an appeal to reason, but Leon also appealed to reason. The world as it is presently organized is irrational, from a scientific point of view, because the available food is not used to satisfy the nutritional needs of the worlds population say Lapp and Collins. The system is irrational (see Definition 10 of rationality in Letter Four) because at an enormous cost the degree of success in meeting the objective is low. Leon used to reply to such arguments by saying that they assume that the objective is to feed everybody in the world. He did not have that objective, and was opposed on principle to people

who did have it. Lapp and Collins are, on this view, irrational because they are trying to achieve a false objective. (See Definition 1 of rationality in Letter Four.) They are irrational, too, because they are unnatural (Definition 13). From a scientific point of view yes, Leon claimed to be scientific inequality is the natural outcome of competition. Biology teaches that living beings have always contended with each other for the control of scarce resources. The natural, and therefore rational, course of action is to do all you can to win in the competition. The true objectives of life are strength and control over resources (Definition 16). Leon did not take food for everyone as an objective, and, as I said, he did not approve of people who did. Since he saw the world in terms of competing forces, and saw himself as on the side of the successful competitors, he saw the people who identify with the poor as on the opposing side. Furthermore, since his interests were connected with those of his nation, he opposed whatever appeared to weaken his nation, and indeed he tended to describe many movements that describe themselves as having the good of the poor at heart as fundamentally disloyal, because they intentionally or unintentionally weakened the USA and strengthened the enemy. More likely intentionally since the professed motive, helping the poor, is unnatural and therefore not likely to be the real motive. Leon saw the world in terms of conflict between opposing forces. He considered his view to be realistic, not wishful thinking (Definition 15). One of his favorite phrases was Russian provocation. By this he meant a probe by the Russians with the dual purpose of increasing their power at our expense and testing us to see how much they could get away with. Many of the same things that Lapp and Collins call liberation, Leon called Russian provocation. For example, Leon and I might disagree on whether there are Cuban troops in Mozambique. The facts had only a secondary importance, because even if we could agree on whether there were Cuban soldiers there; when they came, if they came; how many they were, if any; and what if anything they were doing there, Leon would still say that what is happening in Mozambique is Russian provocation, and I would still agree with Lapp and Collins that what is happening in Mozambique is liberation. I have called Leons way of thinking a philosophy, and by recalling how Leon and I thought differently in the face of the same evidence I have been showing that philosophy matters. Comparing the human mind to a computer, one could say that software matters. Different 42 Letter 7 software: different results. Even with the same data. The importance of philosophy (software) is especially great when one tries to think globally, or to think about Mozambique or some other faraway place one knows little about. To the extent that the facts are unknown, or too numerous to assimilate, ones image of the world is drawn from ones thinking. Leon is not unusual. Everybody is programmed to believe some things more easily than others. I am myself, like Leon, easier to convince of some truths than of others for example, it would take much evidence to convince me of the truth, if it is a truth, that some criminals cannot be rehabilitated. Everybody has her or his approach to life, just as everybody has, or had, a grandmother. Everyone has responded to influences and events by developing a mind, and consequently everyone has a set of characteristic mental traits, a philosophy. In having a grandmother and in having a philosophy Leon and I are like everyone else. The particular philosophy Leon has although it is not universal is not uncommon. He was my introduction to a type of thinking I have seen a lot of since; I had no doubt encountered many people with minds more or less like Leons even before my first year of college, but since the structure of their minds had not forced itself on my attention I passed it by without recognizing it

or noticing it. I will not try now to define or summarize the type, but I will give it a label the power is reality approach to life. It has many versions: some blatant, others refined; some selfish, others generous as is the approach Lapp and Collins take, as they dedicate themselves to unmasking the realities of power which, according to their way of thinking, cause hunger. There have been power theorists more sophisticated than Leon, among whom one of the most famous was Thomas Hobbes (English philosopher, 1588-1679), whose ideas I will interpret in Letter 24. Hobbes was one of the first to analyze humans as if they were machines; he applied to psychology and politics the method of Galileo (Italian mathematician, astronomer, and physicist, 1564-1642). I dwell on Leon, obscure as he is compared to Hobbes, relatively unsophisticated as he is, because he represents something more important than fame and sophistication he is a sample of the mass mind, the mind that both reflects and supports modern culture. One reason why I think he is a representative sample is that most people I tell about Leon recognize him immediately. They find his personality and views familiar, as if they had been dealing with Leons all their lives as indeed they have. Leon displays recognizable (even though admittedly exaggerated, in the way a caricaturist makes a nose recognizable by exaggerating its size) features of the everyday thinking of ordinary people that immense unwritten book, on which all written books are parasitic, and on whose pages the influence of all written books is measured. To end hunger it is more important to understand Leon than to understand Hobbes. Leon himself never doubted that he was normal, and to a large extent he really was normal by the standards of our society. He almost convinced me that I was abnormal. From Leons point of view all the playing of social roles he observed around him represented the efforts of the individuals playing the roles to succeed in life. It was as if each person were a force in conflict and in competition with other persons. He regarded himself as normal because he saw himself as doing what he saw everyone else as doing. Leon had no frame of reference for the sort of roommate who believed that the true measure of success in life was whether the people closest to you felt that they were loved; who was likely to invite a hobo to lunch, or visit prisoners, or donate money to the Namibian Liberation Movement. He viewed such conduct as bizarre to say the least, and because bizarre, irrational (Definition 11). He did not mind saying that the roommate in question was neurotic; driven by irrational forces of guilt, fear, and repressed sexuality; lost in a strange world of fantasy where dreams were real and reality was evaded. My conversations with Leon made me feel defrauded. I learned that right and wrong, reason and unreason, were not generally recognized to be what I had been brought up to believe 43 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I they were. Leon held outrageous opinions, from my point of view, but society did not take my side against his. Societys accepted standards of rationality were at least as much on his side as on mine; if one of us was an oddball, it was 1.1 hope that you see now why I agree with Thomas Merton that the defects of rationality as currently practiced are severe. Peace and justice require the mending of reason. P.S. Now, in later life, I still sometimes return to Pasadena in my dreams; for, as Sigmund Freud has shown, in the subconscious depths of our minds which lose their inhibitions when we sleep, there is no time; so we are still every age we ever were. We are most especially 1,2, 3,4, and 5 years old. So often at night even now, when sleeping soundly in Qubec while the cold blast off the frozen St. Lawrence River beats against my window, I am a four-year-old wanderer among cats and chickens; nasturtiums, daisies, zinnias, petunias; camphor, lemon, eucalyptus, green walnut, sycamore, orange, and ivy-girdled palms, in a sunswept California garden. The fragrances of the

trees remind me that I have gone nowhere and am still home. 44 Letter 8 8 FRIEDMANS GUILLOTINE Friedman decapitated most of my proposals for helping the poor to help themselves, by proving rationally that the proposals would not work. But the conclusion I draw is not that poverty is inevitable; it is that structural change is needed. To indicate some of the complexities that make me wish I were a dog, and to introduce the next story, I will now pull together some main points: 1. The nature/culture distinction is fundamental. It marks a natural boundary: inherited traits and tendencies are natural, upbringing and learning are cultural. 2. The nature/culture distinction supports the basic lesson of Food Pint: the world does not have to be the way it is. Whatever is cultural can be changed. 3. Lapp and Collins have given us much data supporting a remarkably simple conclusion: one of the main changes needed is to replace the power of a few with the democratic control of resources. This conclusion states a worthy goal. It needs qualifications and additions. 4. A difficulty impeding the construction of an economically democratic global culture is that some people, including my first year college roommate, oppose the realization of any such goal, because they think it is nonsense and because they see it as inimical to their interests. 5. Following the principle explicit in 2, that whatever comes from learning and upbringing can be changed, we can respond to 4 by seeing better education and better parenting as ways to change the world by rearing fewer people similar to my first-year college roommate and more people who understand why cooperation and caring are needed. 6. Against 5 it can be argued that people cannot in general be taught to act against their interests, and can only to a limited extent be deceived concerning what their interests are. So if people like Leon are correct in seeing the empowerment of the needy as inimical to their interests, then education can change their attitudes very little. 7. It can also be objected against 5 that even if there were more love in the world, it would do little good. Worse: by encouraging a naivet that seeks solutions in personal charity instead of in structural change, it would do harm. The following letter relates to point 7.1 take the position that 7 is true if modified to read that bringing people up to be more cooperative and caring will do little good unless it is accompanied by structural change. Although consideration of point 6 will come in later letters, some arguments begun in this letter relate to it indirectly in the following way: Suppose it is true that the privileged cannot in general be taught to cooperate with the empowerment of the weak. Nevertheless, there is already a certain amount of goodwill in existence, at all levels of society. The abolition of poverty is often, if not usually, thought to be in the enlightened self-interest of the non-poor. But even the goodwill that exists, paltry as it may be, unlikely to increase as it may be, is frustrated by the inflexibility of modern social structures and this 45 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I frustration is to some extent unnecessary, because a better philosophy can show how to use the existing constructive attitudes to move toward structural change. Eventually beginning but not finishing in this coming letter I will have to explain what I mean by structure, and by modern social structures. I will have to say how structures can be

improved, and what, concretely, an individual can do to help. So, you see, you have a lot to look forward to. To talk of structure here I am already taking a first step toward explaining how I use the word is to speak of a pattern of tightly connected parts. You cannot move one without moving the others. Ferdinand de Saussure (Swiss linguist, 1857-1913) explained the concept of structure using the image of the planets in their orbits around the sun. If one planet should change its orbit, then all the other planets would have to change their orbits too. The planets and the sun (and, Saussure said, words related to each other in a linguistic structure) form a system, such that each part works in tandem with the other parts. This letter will take up a typically philosophic aspect of modern social structure, namely one of its typical forms of rationality; but rationality works in tandem with all the other parts of the structure (or, some say, with all the other parts of the formation): economics, politics, agriculture, sex roles, schools, churches.... One could begin an examination of a modern social structure anywhere, and by pursuing the relations of the point first studied to other elements of the system, lead into a study of those other elements, and thus carry on the inquiry until it encompassed all aspects. I do not mean to imply that the modern world is static and well-organized; I do mean to imply that in its very chaos its parts affect each other. I would like to call attention to a happy consequence of believing that a word like structure tells it like it is. Since the structure fits together, a change at one point will provoke adjustments everywhere else. It follows that if you have been persuaded that you cant fight the system so you may as well sit on your duff until you die, you have been misled. If an individual can find ways to identify and perform small structure-changing acts, her or his acts will cause the whole system to be touched by reverberations, even though most of the distant results may be unknown. Please notice that I am insisting on choosing which meanings of the word structure I want to develop. Usually I work with words as I find them instead of giving them my own definitions. In the case of structure, I am being selective in borrowing ideas from thinkers known as structuralists. I fear the attacks of the anti-structuralists and I prefer to be attacked for my own errors rather than for those of structuralism, post-structuralism, or structural this or that. I fear also the scorn of those who despise the very word, and cry for expunging structure from science and philosophy on the charge that it serves only to rename ideas that already have better names or to cloak fallacies in confusion. To advance my multifaceted program for showing the fly the way out of the bottle, I will now tell another story about my youth. It is a story with many merits: it is true, it will help save those who understand it from squandering their goodwill on foolishness, it sheds light on minimum wage laws arid other significant reforms, it makes fun of economists, it provides the company misery loves because it speaks to the condition of all who have studied economics and found it dismal, it reveals as in a mirror the pride of false reason, it begins to identify some peculiarities of economic power which distinguish it from power in general, it makes additional necessary amendments to the anti-hunger program of Food First, it explains part of the significance of calling certain changes structural. Friedman was the nickname some of us gave to our first year economics professor. He was not the famous professor at the University of Chicago; moreover, he thought of himself as one of the academic critics of that noted adviser to conservative governments. Our Friedman thought of himself as moderate, of Chicagos Milton Friedman as right wing. He used 46 Letter 8

essentially the same research methodology as the more famous Friedman but tried to make it produce conclusions a hair or two more to the left. Friedman, unlike my roommate Leon, accepted my objectives, but frustrated me anyway because he demonstrated that my objectives were unattainable. Friedman had a line of argument which devastated young dreamers full of kind sentiments: (1) First he asked them to specify what actions they proposed. Dont just cry about the problem, he said, Tell me what to do about it. (2) Then he stated his guillotine principle: to act responsibly, you must look at past experience to learn the probable consequences of the action you propose. (3) Then he showed, or we ourselves showed by doing library research under his supervision, that frequently, indeed usually, actions of the kinds proposed have done more harm than good. In particular, many actions intended to benefit the poor have hurt the poor. Not everybody called him Friedman. Some students referred to him as the Jolly Green Giant. Why they called him that I have no idea, since he was neither jolly, nor green, nor gigantic; but on the contrary dour, ruddy, and small. Calling him Friedman had a point, but calling him Jolly Green Giant was only one of those senseless quirks one sometimes encounters in life. Friedmans outstanding characteristic was to have a good reply to every question. He was reason incarnate. He never showed a bias for or against anybody; he had no prejudice against any race, class, gender, nation, or idea; and he had no favorites. He pursued the truth because he was convinced that by pursuing truth he would in the long run contribute to the greatest possible human happiness. His mind appeared to itself and to its audience to be, as the Victorian mind of nineteenth century England had appeared to itself and to its audience to be, the culmination of the mental evolution of the species, the long-pursued and finally attained synthesis of pure goodwill and pure reason. Friedman always had the best of intentions because his intention was always to find out what would work; he was always rational because his opinion was always, Lets look at the facts. And looking at the facts is by definition rational isnt it? That was what unhinged me. He was never wrong. I was perhaps not always wrong, but very nearly always wrong. I do not mind disagreeing with another person where each of us agrees to respect the others opinions. But it is a different sort of experience to interact with someone who wins all the arguments. It would have been easier to bear if Friedman had been a narrow-minded person with a domineering personality, who disparaged me while I knew in my secret heart that my opinion was the truth. Friedman was never narrow-minded, never domineering. He was, like Socrates, modest and obedient. He was obedient to logic. When Friedman was unable to give a direct yes or no answer, then he was open-minded, waiting for more evidence to come in. He used the scientific method generally accepted in our culture (Number 2 of the definitions of rationality in Letter 4) and not just generally accepted but accepted by me. He followed the steps for hypothesis testing that Miss Charlotte Taylor taught me in 8th grade general science, and which Mrs. Lucie Adams repeated to me in 11th grade chemistry. And Friedmans objectives (unlike Leons) were similar to my own: he wanted freedom and prosperity for everyone. Armed with the ideas of hypothesis testing and the use of control groups that I had learned from Miss Taylor and Mrs. Adams, Friedman ran an impeccable classroom. The hypotheses were usually quantified as propositions about the impact of some X on some Y, and therefore X and Y were constantly on the blackboard. If one were of a mind to cavil about minor inefficiency, one might complain that chalk and human energy were wasted every evening when the janitor erased the X axis and the Y axis, because shortly after 9a.m. the following morning the professor would invariably draw them again.

Students were free to propose any explanation of anything. The only requirement was that the factors (the Xs) that were proposed as explanations of the phenomena (the Ys) had to be 47 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I clearly defined. Then the student had to do her or his homework, by searching the literature for data that would confirm or deny the hypothesis. There was no penalty for coming up with an hypothesis that turned out to be flatly contradicted by the evidence because the class was designed to be a learning experience in the use of the scientific method, not the indoctrination of the students in a world view. Friedmans approach agreed with the real Milton Friedman of Chicago, who wrote in his book Essays in Positive Economics that the task of economic science to provide a system of generalizations that can be used to make correct predictions about the consequences of any change.... Any policy conclusion necessarily rests on a prediction about the consequences of doing one thing rather than another, a prediction that must be based implicitly or explicitly on positive economics.... The ultimate goal of positive science is the development of a theory or hypothesis that yields valid and meaningful (i.e., not truistic) predictions about phenomena not yet observed... a hypothesis or theory consists of an assertion that certain forces are, and by implication others are not, important for a particular class of phenomena and a specification of the manner of action of the force it asserts to be important. The classroom proceedings were Friedmans public performances. In order to get a glimpse of Friedmans Friedman, in order to step backstage to gain access to Friedmans personal opinion of the significance of his performance, it was necessary to have a drink with Milton, as we used to say. He invited new students, in groups of five, in alphabetical order, for drinks at the Elizabethan Club at four in the afternoon, and he mentioned to each group in the course of the conversation that those who felt so inclined might drop in again some other day. Youll usually find me here in the afternoons, he would say. As a result, he was surrounded most afternoons by an amiable coterie of students, some beginning, some advanced; The latter were known as the experts, because Professor Friedman introduced them to newcomers as experts on the topics they had recently written term papers on. Over Bloody Marys and glasses of Spanish sherry we learned that Professor Friedmans mission in life was to save the world from nonsense. Among the buzzwords he used to designate nonsense were ideological, theological, metaphysical, and teutonic. Whenever he used one of those words, we knew he was referring to the enemy, to those who make science too easy by spinning great theories, which seemed to be, as he put it, important if true, but which, unfortunately, could not be called either true or false because they were so nebulous that no specific evidence could prove them either right or wrong. My professor included in the scientific method the rule that no hypothesis is legitimate unless it is testable. This rule served to separate the real scientists from ideologues, theologians, metaphysicians, and teutons, who did not state their propositions in hypothetical forms that enabled looks at facts to test them. In terms of his own beliefs, Friedman was not biased. He saw himself as in favor of truth and against both falsehood and mystification. When I tried to turn my progressive sentiments into testable hypotheses, accepting my professors apparently reasonable demand to state the justifications of my proposed actions in a form specific enough to be tested, I came up with statements like these: 1. Raising taxes to pay for better schools will not discourage industry from locating in the area taxed. 2. Income and wealth could be redistributed in favor of the poor without slowing down

economic activity. 3. Self-help housing projects do not take business away from the construction industry. 4. Organizing the homeless to occupy and renovate old, unused buildings is not bad for the building business. 5. Regulating toxic substances in foods will not reduce agribusiness profits, nor the food industrys incentive to make new investments. 48 Letter 8 6. Requiring corporations to cleanup rivers they pollute does not discourage investment. 7. Free medical care for the aged is not inflationary. 8. Minimum wage laws do not cause youth and minority unemployment. 9. Strong labor unions do not drive business to other countries. 10. Curbing violence on television would not reduce viewership, advertising, or sales of the products advertised. 11. Restricting luxury consumption would not mean fewer jobs for the poor. 12. High wages do not cause unemployment. 13. Government health and safety regulations, which reduce profits, do not drive business to invest in other states and countries, with fewer or less costly regulations. 14. The United States could let the nations of the Third World go their own ways, communist, socialist, aggressively nationalist, or whatever the case may be, without damaging its own economy. These are samples of the sorts of question we used to discuss in Friedmans class. As stated above they are not yet in the precise, testable form that he wanted; they are perhaps half-way between simply advocating that something be done to respond caringly to human needs, and putting the principle of an action into a form that can be confirmed or disconfirmed by data. Nevertheless, they show in outline how Friedman wanted us to learn to think, and in any case it is not the perfection of the technique that I want to stress but the tendency of the results. There was some variation in the results; there was usually some evidence one way and some evidence another, some to and some fro; there was always room for doubt because no study ever produced conclusive proof, and indeed most of the studies we read included implicit or explicit pleas for more funds for research in order to reach more definite conclusions. Nevertheless, in the data there was a marked tendency, like the tide which dominates the overall movement of the sea even though at any given moment one can see the waves both coming in and going out; it was that all the hypotheses listed above, and others like them, tended to be false. I wanted them to be true. I will examine in slightly greater detail hypothesis 8, that minimum wage laws do not cause youth and minority unemployment. The minimum wage law is intended to improve the standard of living of wage-earners by increasing their incomes. One can study the impact of such laws with a close approximation to an ideal scientific method: as test cases one can study jurisdictions where there are minimum wage laws (or where the minimum wage is increased), and as a control group one can consider jurisdictions where there are no such laws (or where the minimum wage is left low). Youth and minority unemployment can be measured both in the test and in the control areas using official statistics, and using supplemental additional statistics if necessary, The importance of the issue is a guarantee that there will be numerous studies, funded by different agencies with varying interests in getting results which prove either that minimum wages (or high minimum wages) are beneficial or that they are not. Nevertheless, there is a tendency in the results: young people and minorities are disadvantaged. Employers do tend to hire fewer people when they

have to pay them more; just as they tend to put people on part time when full-time employees cost more because of the fringe benefits they receive. Young people and minorities tend to bear the brunt of these effects, since they tend to be the last hired anyway. Most of the research is more concerned with how large these effects are, or under what circumstances they can be mitigated, than with denying that the effects exist. With the benefit of hindsight, and having had several decades to mull over my disconcerting experiences in first-year economics, I have drawn the conclusion that the falsity of the greater part of the hypotheses I wanted to be true reveals problems that are structural. 49 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I In calling them structural, I have several things in mind. First, I have in mind the inflexibility of the system; it tends to resist improvement. International development economists sometimes speak of the law of perversity, which, briefly summarized, is, nothing works. This putative law is an exaggeration, but as a description of the frustrations of economic planners in developing countries it is uncomfortably close to true. For example, if the government of India tries to lower the price of grain to consumers, very likely the supply of grain will diminish. Although I do not want to limit the meaning of structure to inflexible, I do consider structure to be an especially appropriate word when the speaker wants to point out that there is something about the system that has a resistance of its own; so it is especially appropriate to blame structure when plans go awry not so much because of any people who foiled them as because of the way a system works. I have had no end of trouble explaining the point I tried to make in the last paragraph. I have published a fair number of articles in respectable academic books and periodicals, but every time I have written a piece with some variant of the point above, it has been rejected by the editor with no explanation, or an explanation which convinced me that the editor or referee had not understood me. It seems to me that I sometimes make the point about structure and inflexibility 1,000 times during a term to a class of 3 0 students, and if I am lucky one of them understands it. It is a mystery to me why this particular thought should prove to be so hard to comprehend, but experience indicates that it is, and for that reason I will now explain it two more times with the help of examples. On the city bus the other day I happened to sit next to a long-haired young man dressed in jeans who was as obviously a manual worker as I was obviously an absentminded professor. He was wearing a black baseball-type cap, on which was written in red and yellow letters, Screaming for vengeance. He seemed to be on drugs because he talked on and on in the way some people do when they are high. Among the many topics he covered was the minimum wage law. Im afraid of whats happening in May, he said. They say the minimum wage is going up. His fear was that it would be harder to find work. The intellectuals think its a good thing, he said. They dont know. I tried to explain: The problem is not that when the minimum wage goes up it is harder to find work. The problem is that the structure of the system is such that when the minimum wage goes up it is harder to find work. I do not think he understood me, but at least the incident gave me an opportunity to express my feelings, as wearing his cap gave him an opportunity to express his. Here is example pertinent to hypothesis 9 above (Strong labor unions do not drive business to other countries): in the years 1963 through 1965 I spent a great deal of time working with Cesar Chavez and others to organize the workers who harvested tomatoes in California. Our organization did little good, because when the workers were organized the growers moved the greater part of their tomato production operations to Mexico. The problem was not that strong labor unions drive

business to other countries. It was that the structure of the system is such that strong labor unions drive business to other countries. Here is a statement by one of the few students who has understood the point I am trying to make: What you are saying, Howard, is that liberal policies subject the economy to stress. The economy is stressed by taxes and regulations and generally by doing anything that adds to the cost of doing business. When the economy is under stress, it does not perform well. Then along comes the conservative and looks at the evidence and proves that the economy is not performing well, and in some cases it is performing so badly that it is hurting the people the liberals are trying to help like the minority youths protected by minimum wages who end up unemployed. So what you want is that instead of doing nothing about the problems and instead of subjecting the economy to stress, we should develop a stress-resistant economy. But 50 Letter 8 this requires a change in our way of thinking. We are used to thinking, Should we vote for the minimum wage or against it? We need to think, How does the whole system work? Your philosophy is like holistic medicine. Instead of taking this or that pill for this or that disease, you develop a healthy body. I will come back to this point because I think it needs to be repeated regularly and ramified extensively, but now let me go on to a second reason for using the word structure. I use it to say that the problem is in the culture, not in individuals. I do not blame my mother for my problems; I do not blame my father; I do not blame either of my grandmothers or grandfathers; I do not blame the rich; I do not blame the politicians; I do not blame the money-dealers on Wall Street; I do not blame the chiefs of the Pentagon or the CIA agents; I do not blame the network news anchor people; I do not blame the publishers of comic books; I do not blame the executive officers of multinational agribusiness corporations; I do not blame the officer corps; I do not blame all white males except myself; I do not blame myself; I do not blame the Pope; I do not blame Elvis or Elviss ghost. I blame the system. The concept of structure implies that over and above the personal failings of each of us there is a system which needs improvement. Consequently a structural view implies that whenever Lapp and Collins criticize the power of a few, or something of the sort, we should read such statements as shorthand for something like, cultural structures which unduly privilege a few and make it too hard to satisfy the needs of the many. A third implication of a structural view is that the good comes with the bad and the bad with the good. Both are part of the same structure, as it is the same backbone that holds the human body erect and produces the human proneness to slipped discs and backaches: You cant solve the back pain problem by breeding a race of humans without backs. Lapp and Collins have justly asserted that in the modern world money ties have replaced moral ties, with the result that as a general rule those without money lack access to the necessities of life. Nevertheless, the pursuit of money is the key to the spirit of enterprise, and the spirit of enterprise inspires the production of immense quantities of goods, services, and courtesy. Business for profit is as motivating as athletics. It fires as much enthusiasm as basketball, baseball, and football, with the added advantage, compared to these sports, that business, like tennis and golf, is a competitive, activity suitable for players who are no longer young. How many people get up early, shave (if men), shine their shoes, put on clean clothes, march briskly out the door, stay upbeat and cheerful all day, are polite to people they hate, make wise use of their time, and strive to acquire a reputation for doing whatever they do well all for the sake of success in business? The score on the scoreboard is written in money, although one can, as in sports, sometimes be respected for being a good player independently of winning or losing. Take the institution of money away and people will sleep late; wear scruffy shoes; omit

shaving; let their hair tangle; dress sloppily; loiter on the way to work; tell customers what they really think; and sink into muddle, dawdle, and sloth. Fourthly, I use the word structure to say that there are more alternatives than two. If you think of an isolated part, then you can say, either it is or it isnt. An isolated statement can be true or false, like a bit of information on a floppy disk; that tiny spot is magnetically charged or not, as, in an earlier computer technology, the hole in the punch card was punched or not. But if you think of a structure, then you recognize that everything relates to everything else. The possible permutations are many, and it is misleading to say, for example, either you have high wages or you dont. The significance of any such remark depends on elements of the context, such as the price level, fringe benefits, whether housing is free, vacation time, job security, human relations.... I do not ask, Should I be for or against X? Instead I ask, How can this structure be restructured? One of the ideas that has been hovering in the background during this letter, which has 51 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I never quite flown into the foreground and gotten said, is that there is a complicity between Friedmans results and his rationality. On the one hand, it is a fact that if you examine one by one a number of liberal schemes for improving society, the data show that they work badly or not at all. On the other hand, Friedmans version of science tells us that the way to study society is to decompose social understanding into precise hypotheses and examine them one by one. It is, consequently, a form of rationality with a bias. A bias that stems from the very way it pretends to eschew bias. This idea will be explored more in the following letter, which will ask what, exactly, are the defects of Friedmans rationality. Before going on, however, I want to dwell for a moment on the importance of renovating progressive thought through engagement with contemporary conservative thought, which I am doing in a small way by treating Friedmans rationality as a sample and symbol of contemporary conservatism. I believe there is a great difference between the pre-Friedman progressive and the post-Friedman progressive. The first has not yet encountered Friedman; the second has encountered him, has worked through the difficulties posed by his ideology, and has come out on the other side. Both kinds of progressive want to achieve economic democracy. Both see some form or other of world government as necessary for world peace. Both oppose racism, sexism, and homophobia. Both recognize that if we human beings do not learn to live in harmony with the ecosystem, then neither we nor the greater life of which we are a part will survive. The difference is in the method. The pre-Friedman progressive tends to emphasize raising consciousness, building coalitions, and changing individual behavior. For example, making the non-poor aware of what it is like to be homeless. For example, negotiating agreements to coordinate peace, womens, Third World, ecology, minority, gay and lesbian, labor, and inner-city neighborhood organizations. For example, persuading individuals to boycott grapes produced in dictatorships that violate human rights. The post-Friedman progressive has grasped the full significance of Friedmans guillotine. She or he attributes much of the worldwide conservative trend to the failure of progressives to appreciate the merits of right-wing arguments, and to the failure to develop viable alternative programs. For her or him the aim is not so much to raise awareness of problems as it is to nurture the strength of the weak, to empower them. The aim is not so much to organize coalitions as it is to restructure consciousness. The aim is not so much to change individual behavior as to change cultural norms. For examples of the strength of the weak, of restructuring consciousness, and of changing cultural norms, read on.

52 Letter 9 9 IRRATIONAL RATIONALITY In order to make connections, we must learn to think connections. Our currently dominant rationality impedes making the connections we need because it is irrational in two ways: it is consciousness-lowering, and it is a logic of disunity. We live in times when major modifications of our institutions are necessary. Few people can sincerely say that they believe no major changes are needed. Let me put some questions to a hypothetical optimist who considers herself or himself perhaps capable of believing that the status quo is acceptable. Can you believe that the survival of the human species is possible without lasting peace? Remember that the hydrogen bomb is just one instance of a general principle the principle of scientific research continually applied to increasing the deadliness of weapons. Next, can you believe that lasting peace is possible without some kind of world government? Even if you hold your breath and hit your head, you will find it hard to force yourself to believe that lasting peace can come any other way. And is a world government possible without substantial agreement on what kind of legal system should be employed to resolve conflicts? Can you believe that an effective world legal system can be instituted without a sense of community and common interest among the greater part of the earths peoples? Are there ways to achieve community which bypass the requirements stated by Aristotle (Greek philosopher, 384322 BC): namely, friendship (filia) and agreement on principles of justice? Can we get the required friendship and agreement on principles while the worlds economic structure is fundamentally that of a marketplace where many have-nots meet a few haves? Now let us consider the need for structural change from an ecological viewpoint. Try to believe that no structural changes are needed because changes in attitude will be sufficient to save the environment. Imagine that all the attitude changes advocated by deep ecologists have taken place: humans now adore nature, we feel natures presence as that of a good mother, we never desire to rape her or to dominate her. But even with these changes in attitude, humans continue to farm in the usual way, applying the techniques developed by the agricultural sciences in order to achieve the objectives set by the economic sciences. They farm in the usual way because otherwise they do not eat. The structure of our modern world-system is such that most food is produced by agriculture-governed-by-economics or else not produced. As this set of questions and remarks suggests, I believe that most people who reflect on the situation of homo sapiens on the planet Earth as the year 2000 AD approaches will conclude that structural changes are necessary. Nevertheless, a question remains whether the needed major changes are possible. In principle, any social structure can change, because social structures are part of culture, not part of nature. Whatever is a cultural construction can be reconstructed. However, people are often inclined to despair of the feasibility of structural change because they are impressed by the cumulative weight of the obstacles impeding it, such as the ones on the following list: 1. Structural change is associated with radicalism, and radicalism with violence. 2. Local changes do not seem to sum to global changes. On the contrary, the modern 53 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

world-system tends to stifle local change. How many times have I heard it said: We must do it this way (the old rational way, not the innovative ecologically sustainable human way) in order to maintain our competitive position in the global marketplace? 3. Public opinion polls and psychological studies show that most people are conventional and conservative. They do not want structural change. In particular, poor people, those who suffer most from the system, usually do not want structural change. What they want is successful integration into the existing system. 4. Those who protest against the status quo are often interested in changing one aspect of it, but not in justice for all members of the Earth community. For example, some blacks are interested in fighting racism but not in fighting homophobia, while some gays and lesbians are motivated to assert the rights of sexual minorities, but indifferent to the rights of trees. 5. A government which attempts to carry out structural change is likely to be voted out of office or ousted by a military coup. 6. Some governments succeed in carrying out structural change and remain in power, but become so repressive that they are plausibly accused of doing more harm than good. 7. Nationalized industries are often inefficient, producing goods and services of low quality at high cost. 8. The basic needs of the disadvantaged housing, food, employment, medical care are usually most successfully met in the short run by cooperating with whomever has power and with whatever system exists. 9. Subsidies and price controls (examples: subsidies to bakers, control of the price of bread) aid the poor at the cost of distorting market mechanisms, which leads to inefficiency and illegality (example: a black market on which bread is secretly sold above the control price). 10. Individuals usually reckon that they are more likely to succeed in life by cooperating with the existing power structure. They see little or no advantage to themselves in opposing the system. 11. Radicals are often perceived to be illogical, half-baked, sentimental, disrespectful, surly, delinquent, unwashed, and/or unfocussed. 12. It is alleged that concern with structural change is misguided because most of the worlds tyranny is the petty tyranny found in small-scale interpersonal relations. Peace activists are accused of promoting world order while forgetting the needs of their friends, lovers, work associates, and families. 13. Structural change is resisted because it is associated with imitating foreign models. 14. Restructuring human institutions is impeded by the tendency of human beings to think in terms of polar opposites: either we win or they win, either p or not-p, a statement is either true or false, an ideal right or wrong. The tendency to divide reality in two is found in all cultures; it may be rooted in the physiology of the brain. 15. The existing set of global institutions, people like Leon argue, is natural, because it is based mainly on competitive individualism, which is shown by biology to be normal for humans. A world-system with a different structure is alleged to be unnatural and therefore unworkable. Notice that the obstacles to change just listed do riot prove that structural changes are unnecessary. If the combined force of these obstacles were shown to be so strong that necessary changes could not happen, then the conclusion to be drawn would be that we are living on a doomed planet. But that is a conclusion I for one am not ready to accept. I have reluctantly resigned myself to my own death, but I am not resigned to the death of my species and my

54 Letter 9 habitat. I am not ready to stand by and watch while humans turn this lovely Earth into a cinder orbiting silently around the medium-sized star we call sun, but which would no longer be called sun if there were no people left to celebrate Spring by lying out in the sun, or to sing silly songs while walking on the sunny side of the street, or to shade their babies to keep them from getting too much sun, or to drink hot coffee at a wilderness campsite at sunrise, or to feel nostalgia while gazing at a sunset, or to wear sunglasses at a rock concert. I am committed to this sentimental foolishness called human life, and I am not prepared to believe that its extinction is inevitable. My contribution to avoiding extinction is to promote a philosophical method for social change: cultural action.. Cultural action consists, in briefest summary, of starting with the existing social institutions, whatever they may be, taking a thematic inventory of what exists, locating growth points which are tending toward a viable and beautiful future for humanity, nurturing the growth points, restructuring meanings, and rechanneling energy to empower reconstructed discourses and practices. This particular cultural action project called Letters from Qubec starts with my experiences in places I have been, and does an inventory centering on rationality. It is looking for growth points tending toward rational solidarity, and it will find them in womens voices, in Marxism, in the symbols of tribal peoples, in religion, in non-Western philosophies, in the survival strategies of ethnic minorities, in contemporary philosophy; and especially in the history of the Hebrew-Greek-Christian-European civilization which transformed itself and expanded to become the modern world-system. The study of history can discover half-forgotten seeds of wisdom, dormant but still viable. They are gifts offered by the past to the future. If ones purpose in life is to change the world, as mine is, working to change what humans count as rational and irrational is a good place to start, because the lands of rationality I want to encourage are keys that open doors. One key is to think in ways that rely less on mechanical metaphors, attuning oneself to understanding cultures in their ecological contexts; such thinking does not in itself dispel violence, but it does highlight the importance of cultural software in guiding human life, and therefore favors methods like Gandhis, which rely on software instead of hardware. A more rational rationality would focus on understanding wholes composed of interdependent parts, and for that reason it would help activists to evaluate local changes in the light of their capacity to contribute to global changes. Another feature of a more rational rationality is the acceptance of the fact that most people are conventional and conservative; therefore, we should concentrate on building a world with good conventions, so that the instinctive energies which impel humans toward conservatism would work to cement justice. The adoption of a holistic rationality would be a step toward ending the marginalization of the poor because people would think,of the poor as part of the whole, not as separate. If it became common to think in terms of cultural structures, this very habit of thought would lead people active on one issue to see their issues connections with other issues. A philosophy which sees rationality as one of the products humans make in their vocation as creators of culture would help to make it clear that popular education and popular culture can play crucial roles in keeping social change processes afloat and non-repressive. To the extent that rationality itself is reconceived so that it becomes part and parcel of social solidarity, rationality will become part of the solution instead of part of the problem in those times that try mens souls during a societys process of reconstruction when material incentives falter and moral incentives must supplement them. (Let us hear no talk of eliminating

material incentives and replacing them with moral. Let no one underestimate the power of competition to stimulate work. Speak rather of adding moral to material, augmenting the total motivation.) 55 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Structural thinking will make it seem unnatural to pose the stark alternatives: laissez-faire or nationalization or industry. It will form the habit of seeing problems in their full context, so that short-term goals and long-term goals mesh so that immediate needs are met in ways which contribute to empowerment, as we intended but did not accomplish with our soup kitchen at Third Street and Pearl. The game of beat-the-system played by black marketeers would be less fun and more shameful if people conceived themselves as contributing to the construction of a truly rational system, which by definition would be a caring system, since its rationality would be a tool for attending to and responding to the needs of each person. If a caring rationality were sufficiently well-established to be generally known, then people who choose private success over public service would at least find it harder to be complacent, because they would know that there are reasons for considering their choice irrational. Being radical would be logical because it would mean, in the original sense of the word radical (from the Latin radix, root), dealing with the roots of problems, not only with their fronds and branches. It would be obvious that personal problems require social solutions, and that the required social solutions need both to flow naturally from what is happening here and now in this local society, and to promote fairness in international transactions. Fairness is often best achieved, by the way, through what Johan Gaining (contemporary Norwegian peace researcher) calls decoupling good fences make good neighbors. A better rationality will seek due proportion in all things; it will not seek either to maximize or to minimize any function. It will not define rationality as a maximum of global interdependence. Much less will it assert that so-called economic reality, i.e., the status quo, is what nature intended. If the characteristics of a more adequate rationality can be called keys, some characteristics of a prevalent form of the now-current rationality can be called brakes. The irrational rationality represented by Friedman tends to bring structural change to a stop. It is a rationality designed to determine what works, given that the structure of society is as it is. It is not a rationality designed to change structures, and since we live in times when major modifications of our institutions are necessary, it is not a functional rationality. It does not function by doing what reason is for; it does not increase the probability of survival by guiding conduct in the light of accurate representations of reality. That is why the inadequacy of Friedmans rationality is so severe that one can correctly call it irrational rationality. It acts as a brake against the transformations which are needed to prevent the extinction of the species. One can summarize this prevalent form of rationality (combining definitions one, two, eight, nine, ten, and fifteen of Letter Four) by saying that it calls an action rational when: a) The objective pursued is clearly defined, and b) There is good evidence that the means selected to achieve the objective will in fact achieve it. One of the inadequacies of such a view of rationality, at least as it is commonly applied, is that it conceals the fact that whether the means achieves the end frequently depends on who has power. Let me illustrate this point by relating an incident which occurred when I was dean of an exclusive girls school in Santiago, Chile. The new director of the school, a Methodist pastor from Illinois, proposed to admit to study there

the daughters of the schools maids, porters, housekeepers, and gardeners. Most students and parents were adamantly against the new directors proposal. When a delegation of young ladies called on me as dean to express their opposition, one said, The poor children will not be happy here, because we will reject them. In a sense her statement implied that the director was not being rational. He had an objective, which included making some poor girls happy, but there was good evidence that the means he had selected to achieve his objective 56 Letter 9 would not achieve it. What this superficially rational argument concealed was that the probable failure of the means to achieve the objective was due to the social position the rich girls held, and their determination to use the power their position gave them. What is blatant in the case of the rich girls who predicted the unhappiness of the poor girls they planned to torment, manifests itself in other cases more subtly. Raising taxes to pay for better social services will, other things being equal, discourage industry from locating in the area taxed. Redistributing income and wealth in favor of the poor tends to slow down economic activity. Requiring corporations to clean up the rivers they pollute tends to increase the cost of doing business, and hence to discourage investment and job creation in the areas where those requirements are imposed. And so on. In each of these cases there is an element of structural constraint such that predicting what will happen rationally reflects the existence of social positions which give certain people power to make decisions where to locate a factory, whether to invest, whether to employ people.... The people with power to make such decisions are not, however, free to decide arbitrarily. They can locate factories, invest, hire people... only in a rational way. A firm cannot decide to put other values ahead of profits; it is compelled by the market to act rationally. No one is free. No one can do what conscience dictates. No consensus on values can be implemented. The subtlety is dual: it is true but not obvious that power provided by social position is among the causes of major economic phenomena like inflation; and it is true but not obvious that those who are powerful are not free because even they must do what must be done to make the system work. I call our irrational rationality consciousness-lowering because it confuses social facts with natural facts. One of the features of consciousness raising (in Portuguese concientizo), as Paulo Freire defines it, is improving the capacity to distinguish nature from culture. Nature sends the rain. Culture prints the dollars. A rationality which encourages people to think, for example, that the trade-off between job creation and environmental protection is a dilemma imposed on humans by nature is consciousness-lowering. (I said at the end of the last letter, and perhaps should repeat here, that I think consciousness raising, while not in general a bad idea, can be overdone if it is not connected with a restructuring of consciousness leading toward constructive solutions.) Another useful idea from Freire is focalismo. The focalista, i.e., the person who practices focalismo, focusses on one aspect of a problem, not on the complete context. But experience shows that attention to the complete context is frequently needed. For example, to improve life in a poor village in Brazil it is usually necessary to work on improving the self-images of the people, on strengthening community organizations, on fighting alcoholism, on vaccinating children, on raising the status of women, on nutrition, on literacy, on dances and entertainment, on drinking water, land tenancy, cooperative marketing, political and economic consciousness, baby care... and so on. Focalista development projects which try to work on one factor at a time are bound to fail. My

professor Friedman was a focalista, inasmuch as he defined all problems narrowly so that an hypothesis could be tested. He did not use the word focalista, and if he had used it he probably would have denied that this pejorative label applied to him, but in my view he not only was one but was proud of being one he considered anyone who was not a focalista to be unscientific and unclear. A revealing question to be asked about a doctrine which defines rationality in terms of selecting effective means for achieving objectives is, Whose objectives? The usual answer in modern Western societies is, ones own objectives. The glory of being called rational is awarded to people who effectively pursue their own personal advancement. Thus we practice a logic of disunity. 57 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I This is our condition: the thinking of the homeless, that of the unemployed, of the dopers, of the mental cases, of the welfare clients, of the lower classes of people generally, is, as Gramsci said, fragmented. The thinking of the middle classes and the managerial elite which I have represented by what I was taught in school, especially in first year economics in college is much more coherent and scientific. But it is irrational in the ways I have mentioned, and in other ways I have not mentioned yet but will mention later, and in some additional ways I do not plan to mention explicitly which have been pointed out by other writers, notably the critical theorists, the feminists, the ecologists, the theologians. I hope I have not given the impression that because developing a caring and holistic rationality provides keys to the change we want to see, and because the widespread prevalence of irrational rationality is a brake, that society can be changed simply by inventing a better rationality. Not so. In philosophy and ideology it is not true that if you build a better mousetrap the world will beat a path to your door. Many a fair philosophy has been born to blush unseen, wasting its sweetness on the desert air. There is a reason why we practice a logic of disunity: it is that we are not united. There is a reason why economists study what works and doesnt work in the system we have: it is that since we have the system we have, what works in it is what works, and what does not work in it does not work. What in the USA and similar countries is called rational is in these and many other ways tightly connected with many other aspects of the overall way of life. Neither the rationality nor the other essential features of a social structure can change independently. I do not preach pessimism: every feature of the system is a potential lever for moving the whole system. Nor optimism: no essential part of the system moves easily, since the weight of the whole system keeps it in place. Let me borrow again Saussures image of the solar system, in order to depict how it is that each key element of a social formation can be a key and a lever, while being also a brake and a weight. If Saturn should change its orbit, Saussure pointed out, then Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto would have to change their orbits too. Let us say that Saturn is rationality and give to the other planets some names which suggest other key dimensions of the interrelated whole that constitutes our social life. Mercury is human rights; Venus is desire; Earth is what it means to be a person; Mars is duty and obligation; Jupiter is property; Uranus dignity and sense of self-worth; Neptune freedom; Pluto shame. One cannot change course without the others, but if one changes course, the others must. I will not go into more detail now about the irrationality of modern western cultures so-called rationality because I find the subject depressing. I no longer read books which chart the collision course humanity is on, so why should I write one? I would rather read a seed catalogue, full of

pictures of yellow squash, red cherries, and white-purple sweet alyssum to plant for borders. I would rather write a seed catalogue. The irrational rationality of the nuclear arms race is too obvious to require further comment, as are our rational but mindless prisons and schools. Without further diagnosis of the problems at this point, I will turn to solutions. I want to imagine a peaceful world, haystacks drooping in the western sun, corn fields, pastures, white cottages, and in the distance far clouds of feathery purple. To lay the foundation of a method for transforming this world into a better one, I will devote the following letter to explaining what is meant by the concept cultural structure. 58 Letter 10 10 THE NIGHT WALKER, THE BLUE LADY, THE FROG STONE, THE CHICKEN IN THE ROAD Social problems are always cultural problems, because they have to do with the worlds that we construct in living together.... Humberto Maturana The way to think connections is to think in terms of cultural structures. The global economy, an immense and cumbersome abstract machine, has no face, eyes, or hands; yet it does its work. Effectively, although indirectly, by means of minted levers governing many intermediary mechanisms, it grinds minds and bodies. In order to analyze its character, and to plan its reform, I need to use an abstract concept: cultural structure. The same abstract concept will, after I give here an elaboration of its meaning, permit me to return in Letter 12 to the issue of rationality better equipped to discuss how rationality has been socially constructed. Having dedicated the last three letters to general social problems, I shall now work on cultural structure with the aid of a focus on the problems of a particular representative individual, Jacques, who is known in our quartier as the night-walker. When the dusk settles on the roofs of the city, and the neon begins to outshine the sun, Jacques feels the emptiness in his heart and goes out to walk. He has confessed to me during our long conversations that he does not know what he is looking for. He walks the streets with nowhere to go. His sexual fantasies explore variations: with women, with men, with swingers, with animals, with children, oral, anal, normal, up, down, over, around, in, under; he yearns toward dimly felt unknown pleasures, which he cannot name, which draw him onward from unknown back rooms behind mysterious oriental and Swedish cocktail lounges on side streets he has not yet discovered. He watches the cars, half hoping to see them crash and burst into flames. He strains to discern in the dark shadows of buildings the forms of men and women he could encounter and embrace, laugh with, get drunk with. On the boulevards he goes from store to store, window to window, looking at merchandise he has no money to buy, imagining ninjas in combat. It is not unusual for the moon in the night sky to lead Jacques to my table at the Caf Krieghof where I am writing Letters from Qubec, especially on Fridays when Josee is waiting on the tables in the back room. She is a Laval University history student, for whom Jacques has developed a fascination; whether she feels herself to be in danger I do not know. He does not speak to her or stare at her, but once in half an hour he will look at her gravely for five seconds, absorbed, and then seized by fear of the tendency of his thoughts turn away. Jacques has been arrested for rape twice: once the charges were dropped; once he served time in prison and time on parole.

Besides Josee, he finds me at the Krieghof, always ready to buy him a cup of coffee and to engage him in conversation. He lands on the extra chair at my table as if it were a safe island in a stormy sea. 59 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I I tell Jacques, my always-willing interlocutor, that I am working on the concept of cultural structure, and that I would be grateful if he would listen to me and comment, in order to help me make my thoughts on the subject clear. Jacques tells me that he always enjoys our conversations, that he needs someone who will take time to talk to him, someone to turn to, someone to share his problems with, that I can count on him, that any time I need someone to help me with my philosophy he is available. Because we are friends, arent we? I say that first I will explain why I need a concept of cultural structure. Jacques says, Allez-y, mon cher, which, freely translated, means, Go for it, baby. Everybody needs food, I state as my first premise. Right on! says Jacques. Now youre talkin. Say, for example, a sandwich. Yes, a sandwich, or a pizza. Jose comes to ask us if we want something. Jacques flushes. Her presence heats his body. He orders a coffee and a sandwich and a slice of pizza and a slice of poppyseed cake later with a second coffee, at my expense of course or, to be more precise, at the expense of the profits of the Lilly Pharmaceutical Company, which is the principal source of the endowment income of Earlham College, a fund to which I have access through my salary. Continuing my chain of reasoning, I say, If you need food, then you need money. Therefore, everybody needs money. It could not be otherwise, professor, says Jacques, imitating the way Glaucon answers Socrates in Platos Republic (which Jacques read at school). If you do not have money, then they tell you to get a job. (We speak loosely of the actions and attitudes of an unknown they. The real subject is, as will appear below, the cultural structure.) They treat me terrible on the street, Jacques volunteers. People look at me like Im trash. Women see me coming and they cross the street to run away. He made a disgusted face, as if it were ridiculous for a woman to be afraid of him. Or if you have a job that does not pay enough, they tell you to get a better job. It comes to the same thing, Jacques agrees. In order to apply for the job you need an education, I go on. I already have an education, says Jacques. Twice as much school as my grandfather had. As time goes by, they require more and more qualifications for employment. Now Jacques asks me a question. Do you think Im stupid? No. They talk about balancing the government budget. But they cant balance the budget, because that would cause a depression. Am I stupid? No. And they say you need to know more today because technology is complex. False. My grandpappy on the farm knew a lot more than I will ever know, I mean for his work: how to make cheese and butter, how to build a barn, when to cut the hay, how to doctor a sick horse, which weeds are poison for cows.... The last time I had a job I was a fries cook at McDonalds. It was boring. Most jobs are boring. Am I stupid? Youre making my point, I say. Everyone needs money and respect. Therefore, we need to reorganize the economy. Im with you, says Jacques. How are we going to do it? They tell us that in order to answer your question, How? you need to go to the university and

take classes in economics and political science. Thats what they want us to believe, says Jacques. 60 Letter 10 And learn about rationality. The free market. Or socialist planning. Or some combination of the two. So what is your alternative to rationality? Before we can propose a reform of rationality, we have to learn how to think about it. We have to be able to say what kind of thing rationality is, to trace how it has evolved, to project how it might evolve. What kind of thing is rationality? It is a cultural structure. You need a concept of cultural structure, says Jacques. I am so pleased to hear him say, You need a concept of cultural structure, that I throw my hands in the air for whoopee and then grasp one of his dirty hands and kiss it. Hey, back off! Whats the game? says Jacques. I am your friend, but I am not gay. These people will laugh at us. Sorry. I got carried away. I was so glad you told me I needed a concept of cultural structure. Now I will give you some definitions. 1. Cultural structures are those mechanisms that guide human behavior that are not biological structures. Biological structures are inherited; cultural structures are learned. 2. Cultural structures are typically made of symbols, such as words, images, numbers, money, diagrams, colors, sounds; for this reason they are sometimes called symbolic structures. 3. Cultural structures are the main source of the strength of the weak. The strong, by definition, have physical force. The weak must rely on the authority of cultural symbols. (There are, however, some biological sources of the strength of the weak, such as the bonding of the parent with the baby.) 4. Cultural structures are rgulations hermneutiques, to use a phrase invented by my friend Jean-Marie Debunne, who works in the Ministry of Education of Qubec. That is to say, they are ways to regulate behavior with meanings. It may also help to provide some definitions of structure. 1. Structure is how the whole relates to the parts and the parts relate to the whole. 2. Structure is the organizing pattern. (Thus, to use a biological example, we sometimes say that the structure, the organizing pattern, of the human body, is given by the bones, which set the framework within which the flesh and blood function. Alternatively, we can also say that the structure of the human body is given by the DNA codes which prescribe the pattern the body will follow as it grows.) 3. This one is an experiment: take two identical empty milk cartons, and tear one of them apart. They are still the same substance (inked waxed cardboard), except for one difference: the structure. One has the organizing pattern of a milk carton; the other is a heap of scraps. I will not attempt to give definitions of culture. There are many good, often lengthy, discussions of the concept in anthropology textbooks and in social science reference works. I especially like the definitions which identify culture with the way of life of a people, as when we speak of the Hopi culture. And the ones which identify culture with upbringing, as when we say that a baby born in Japan will be brought up according to the norms of Japanese culture. Culture is similar to agriculture because culture pertains to the raising of human beings, agriculture to the raising of

crops. 61 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I There are other concepts which do work similar to the work I want cultural structure to do. Some of them are: way of life, civilization, social formation, ideology, mythology, world view, discourse-with-practice, society, frame of reference, paradigm, problematique, Weltanschauung, ethos, world, approach, mentality, mantra de ser, symbol system, language-game, discourse, text, story, social text, webs of meaning. I have chosen cultural structure instead of one of the other concepts for three reasons: (1) I find structure to be a healing idea for reasons partly given in Letter Eight, partly to be given later. (2) Cultural contrasts nicely with biological. What is learned is cultural, what is inherited without being learned is biological; cultural coding contrasts with genetic coding. (3) Since cultural structure says that humans are self-regulating through language and imagination, when I come to discuss an economic concept (such as what Immanuel Wallerstein [American social scientist 1930] calls the governing logic of the modern world-system) the analysis of the economic concept as a cultural structure will already suggest its humanistic reform. As I have already implied by my approach to definitions, I do not in general think that philosophy should compose sets of interlocked definitions of terms, as if it were mathematics. Philosophy should work with words as they are, blending its love of wisdom with the way words live in the life of a people, and only occasionally engage in redefinition. The important question about the phrase cultural structure is not How do I define it? but whether attractive features of its alreadyexisting meaning can be brought out. A philosopher should give a concept a facelift, not a complete makeover. Jacques says it would help if I gave an example. Let me tell you about the blue lady, I reply. The Blue Lady I first learned about the blue lady from Bishop Landa, the second bishop of Yucatan, who wrote a book about the culture of the Mayan peoples before the Spanish conquest. The Mayans built immense ceremonial centers, such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, where they sacrificed people by throwing them off the tops of pyramids and by carving out their hearts. In one particularly gruesome type of sacrifice a virgin was isolated for several weeks to make her ritually pure, then injured in her sex organs by the high priest and painted blue. The holy men, the initiated ones who alone could participate in the sacred rite, prepared themselves with many rituals and by drinking pulque, which when it is made the old-fashioned way contains mescaline, a hallucinogenic drug. Then they danced with the blue lady to the rhythm of ceremonial drums in an area charged with incense. After dancing with her they tied her to a post and danced around her. At a certain point in the dance each man swayed up to her and aimed a dart at her heart. The precise location of the heart had been marked previously on her body by the high priest. How did she feel? It is said (and who am I to doubt it?) that among the Aztecs athletes competed strenuously to take first place in the sacred games, in order to win the honor of being sacrificed to the gods. Among the Mayans an incident is related of a victim who refused to cooperate, an old man who threatened to use his influence in the spirit world if he were sacrificed to send more drought instead of the desired rain. Due to his uncooperative attitude the ceremony had to be cancelled until a new victim was selected which suggests that normally victims were willing. I

might mention that when we visited Uxmal with a group of college students, a 19-year-old woman from New York City spent almost an hour lying face up on top of the pyramid, imagining she was a sacrificial victim, hypnotized by her fantasy. 62 Letter 10 On the other hand, the blue lady may have been simply terrified. There are a number of anthropological accounts from different places reporting ceremonies more or less intentionally designed to intimidate women, and the intimidation of women as a gender-class may have been the point and purpose, or part of the point and purpose, of the blue lady ceremony. As to the feelings of the men, any behavioral biologist should be able to make a good guess concerning which hormones were circulating in their blood, and at what levels, as they danced with the blue lady and killed her with darts. None of us should be surprised, rudimentary as our knowledge of adrenalin (C9H3NO3) and the male hormone testosterone (C19H28O2) may be, that archaic peoples could find as much pleasure in sadistic eroticism as our contemporaries do. Biological structures stay the same from age to age, changing very slowly as the gene pool changes; among the many possible biologically given potentials some will be brought out more than others by a given cultural structure, but it is in no way surprising to find that the ancient Mayans wove into their ceremonies underlying biological codings that are tapped by contemporary pornography. But why paint the sacrificial victim a particular color? The answer is that the world of the Mayans was color-coded. The primal energies their culture triggered and channeled took on social identities in a colored world of meanings. The following poem, which is carved on the wall at the Museum of Anthropology at Merida, Yucatan, shows how color-coding is interwoven with other aspects of Mayan cultural structure: The sacred red stone, his stone The red being hidden in the earth The red ceiba tree, primeval The principal attribute of the orient The red tree of the mountain His tree, The red beans His beans His red birds with yellow crests, The red toasted corn. The sacred white stone, his stone The stone of the north The white ceiba tree, primeval His principal attribute The white being hidden in the earth The white birds The white beans The white corn, his corn. The sacred black stone, his stone

The stone of the west The black ceiba tree, primeval His principal attribute The black corn, his corn The black yam, his yam The black birds, his birds His house, the dark night The black bean, his bean 63 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I The sacred yellow stone, his stone The yellow ceiba tree, primeval His principal attribute The yellow tree, on the mountain His tree. His yellow yam, The yellow birds, his birds, His yellow beans, his beans. This poem is tided Cosmovision of Chulam Bayal. Anthropologists sometimes say that all early cosmovisions are religious, in the sense that the way early peoples put their worlds together has elements typical of what we call religion. For example, in this poem power, ownership, and obedience are combined in a way that can be called religious: the god has power over the objects that belong to him, and presumably we, as mortals, act with respect toward the sacred objects and obey the god. Obedience is especially exaggerated in ritual, where it often seems to be an end in itself. Obedience to the minute details of ritual is practice in the habit of being obedient. The ritual fits the myth, the myth fits the ritual. Josette Rey-Debove in her semiotic dictionary suggests that language took on its early articulations through the repeating of myths, and a myth, Northrop Frye (Canadian literary critic 1912-1991) says, is a story about a God. The rituals and myths were not, however, or at least not only, arbitrary ceremonials and stories people made up for fun; on the contrary, they served to organize social roles and agricultural labor, as can be seen, for example, in the Works and Days of the ancient Greek poet Hesiod (thought to have lived about 700 or 800 BC), in which the rhythm of the peasants work year is marked by festivals whose cultural meaning is given by ritual and story. Myth. Language. The primal energies of the body. Ritual. Practice. Labor. Livelihood. Cosmovision. All these are woven together an a traditional cultural structure, such as that of the Mayans. Jacques said he found it hard to believe that color-coding was as important to the Mayans as money-coding is to us. I said maybe not, but that in any case the total pattern of their lives, which included among other things a system of color-symbols, governed the basic functions, including access to food. We can, I went on, distinguish the more important, or basic, cultural structures as the ones which govern the means of survival; so far in human history, I am sorry to say, basic structures have been exploitative. It is common among tribal peoples to find that the culture defines the women as the ones who gather, tend gardens, and care for children, and the men as hunters and warriors. This is an exploitative structure because the women do more work than the men and get

less benefit, especially when hunting is infrequent and brings in only a small part of the food, and especially because the adult males monopoly on violence is used not only to intimidate enemy tribes but also to intimidate the women and children in their own tribe, often with the help of ceremonies and belief-systems which reinforce symbolically the patterns imposed by physical violence. Patriarchy is in this way a basic cultural structure, as are staple despotism (the system where the ruling class controls the granaries and compels the rest of the population to starve in the winter or submit), hydraulic despotism (where the ruling class controls the irrigation system), capitalism, and socialism. You mean that basic cultural structures control access to resources and the division of labor, so far in history mostly in an exploitative way. Yes. Now, says Jacques, some people are going to be confused by asking themselves how many cultural structures there are, like are there three, or six, or six hundred? I am not confused, 64 Letter 10 but like you said Im not stupid, and like I said I do have an education. I look like a wild man; Im nervous; I feel left out. I will tell you the truth: when my marriage went bad I gave up on myself. But I am not confused by asking how many cultural structures there are. Why not? When I was in school, at the Ecole Anne Hebert, they gave us little plastic triangles, circles, squares, and rectangles. They were red, yellow, and blue. One structure, one way the parts related to the whole, was to group them by shape; then there were four kinds: triangles, circles, squares, rectangles. Am I right? Right! See, I remember this stuff. The other structure was color-coded: red, yellow, blue. Then we could make a third structure: columns by shape, rows by color. All the triangles in one column, all the reds in one row. I was good at that. The teacher said, See how many stories you can make up. So I, little genius that I was, said different pieces could belong to different people: these are Chantals, these are Rodrigues, Chantals triangles, Rodrigues yellow squares.... Get it? I get it, I say. Its like, How many stories are there? There is The Wizard of Oz, but inside the story there is the story of Dorothy, and the story of the Cowardly Lion, the story of the Scarecrow, the story of the Tin Woodman, the story of Toto, the story of the Flying Monkeys, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, the story of Aunt Em, the story of the Good Witch of the North, and then in the story of the Tin Woodman the Tin Woodman tells a story, so there is a story in a story in a story; and I wrote a story about witches where I took one witch out of the Wizard of Oz and other witches from other books, making a new story out of pieces from stories. So how many stories are there? The same as the number of cultural structures. In other words, as many as people decide to say there are. Of course if you get the wrong answer on the test, its still wrong. If you say there are fifteen provinces in Canada, it is wrong, even though a province is a cultural structure, and if people had wanted to do it they could have made Canada into three, or six, or six hundred provinces. OK. So thats the kind of creature this homo sapiens is. It makes up cultural structures, it decides to code its world with colors, it decides to exchange goods with prices expressed in money, it decides to divide a territory into provinces.... Not everything works: many tribes are extinct, their cultures along with them; many attempts to organize communities along novel lines have failed.

But everything cultural, whether it works or not, bears the stamp of imagination; consequently, humans do not find out how many cultural structures there are by going out to look at physical objects produced by nature and counting them; we decide what to construct, and how to look at what we have constructed, and in deciding how to look we choose whether for our purposes at the moment it would be convenient to call them three, or six, or six hundred. The peculiar absurdity of human inhumanity is that humans destroy themselves and each other with creations of the imagination, in which they are trapped. As Cornell West (contemporary black American philosopher) has noted, the situation of a person trapped in poverty in inner-city Brooklyn is absurd. Poor in the richest country in the world. Hungry when there are enormous food surpluses. Lacking space when endless miles of Montana, Wyoming, and Nevada are empty. Unemployed or underemployed while able to work. Sleeping five to a room when thousands of buildings across the nation are vacant. The physical, tangible, world offers no obstacles to prosperity, and yet the social obstacles do not move; the trap is absurd but tenacious. It will be tenacious, offers Jacques, until enough people read your Letters from Qubec and learn from it how to reconstruct cultural structures. 65 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I The Frog Stone I decide that our conversation is making the problems involved in changing cultural structures seem too easy. We are talking as though human beings voluntarily decide which stories to tell. To bring out the true dimensions of our predicaments I need to insist that there is a sense in which our stories tell us. To see the power of culture, to see that we depend on it and not it on us, is to see that the task is hard, any one persons contribution small. To try to make this point visible I will give another example of cultural structure, one which illustrates how stories are needed in order to be human at all; if this next example works, it will serve to temper optimism with reverence, indignation with gratitude. My example is the frog stone. The source of the idea, although I have adapted it to fit my purpose, is the work of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), who wrote an essay on the very earliest, and therefore presumably in some sense very most basic, forms of human social organization, drawing his evidence mainly from accounts of the Australian bush people, who were reputed at the time to be the most primitive people to be found on the planet, although he also supported his arguments with evidence drawn from North American Indian tribes. Every culture, he argued, generalizing from those he was examining, sets some things apart and regards them as sacred. Edmund Leach (contemporary British anthropologist) has named some things cultures are particularly likely to regard as sacred in Durkheims sense: fire, royalty, the abnormal, the special, the otherworldly. Durkheim found that tribal peoples often selected a totem as their sacred object: the totem might be a bird or other animal, a tree or other plant, a cloud formation, or a river. The general consciousness of society (what Durkheim called the conscience collective) weaves its world view around the sacred objects. Let us suppose, to illustrate the concept, that we are the frog people. The frog is our totem. We say, We are frogs. The frog is our symbol of kinship. The frog is sacred to us; we are the members of a clan called frogs, the wigwam we live in is called frog house, we dance the frog dance, we wear frog ornaments. We are defenders of frogs. Of course we will not kill a frog, because a frog is kin. We are defended by frogs-when we are in trouble we call Frogs to the rescue! and the frogs come hopping. And if someone kills us, the vengeance our murderers should fear is frog-

vengeance. That is why when in frog territory I carry a frog-stone. It is a rock with an image of a frog chipped into it. Being an imaginative creature I may exaggerate its real power to protect me; and being a fearful creature I may need some imaginative exaggerations to give me courage. It has at least some powers that are not just imagination: it is an identification that when shown to a fellow frog proves that I am friend, not foe or prey, not to be killed in battle as an enemy or slaughtered to be eaten as meat. When shown to a non-frog it inspires a certain amount of respect: it says I have a gang. Conversely, it is unsafe to be outside the cultural structure. Kinship is society, as anthropologists sometimes say of early peoples, and to be out of the kin system is, in my example, to be outside frog protection. It is to be an animal that may be hunted down and killed like any other. Early cultural structures sometimes produce rules that we with our cultural structures find strange. Humans (i.e., what we call humans) sometimes count as so much dirt, while a beaver or a hawk (the sacred totem) is treated with great respect. A tree in the forest may be regarded as kin, as a member of the family. Rules about what to eat and what not to eat, about what is clean and what is unclean, seem to us to have no rhyme nor reason-but they are for other cultures the very essence of rhyme and reason. The dietary rules and the rules governing purity and impurity are perfectly logical. Everything has a reason within the complex set of symbols which organizes their lives. 66 Letter 10 So it is your opinion that everything has a reason? Jacques asks. Only in a cultural structure. Without a culture you and I are only sand blowing through space. The frog-stone illustrates what Durkheim found to be the elementary form of human life: no humanity without respect, no respect without a sense of the sacred. Did you hear about Claude-Antoine? Claude-Antoine Who? Claude-Antoine Duchesne. Its in the paper. He killed his parents for no reason. He came home from college with a knife, one oclock in the morning. He found his mother on the couch in the front room, where she had fallen asleep watching TV; stabbed her six times. Then he went to the bedroom where his father was sleeping, stabbed him eight times. He was a model child. No motive. When the detectives ask him about the crime all he says is, Yes, sir; No, sir; I dont know, sir; I did it for no reason, sir. I dont know whether Jacques actually knows Claude-Antoine personally, or just spoke of him on a first name basis as one might speak of Elizabeth Taylor as Liz, because she is a celebrity, without pretending to be a friend of hers. I have a knife too, says Jacques. He taps the handle under his belt and grins for what seems like a long time, maybe 60 seconds. I try to read the emotions in his baby blue eyes. I see Pride. Resentment. Lust for Thrills. Rage. Bitterness. Depression. I see Pride again, Pride more than anything, Pride that he too is dangerous, volatile. He too could suddenly kill somebody for no reason. I wont kill you, Jacques says reassuringly. You treat me like a person. There is a hint of a tear in his eye as he says I treat him like a person. I think would pick a stranger. A complete stranger. . We blame ourselves too much, I say, trying to reassure him. I think my father blamed himself too much. I didnt say I was blaming myself.

I didnt say you did. I was talking about my father. He could not keep a job, or a woman. They told him he was a mental case. He believed it. He was convinced there was something wrong with him. He gave up on himself, as you said you did. You, on the other hand, blame the cultural structures, Jacques deduces. Exactly. It was reflecting about my fathers problems which started me thinking along these lines. I saw the role models society offered him, what he admired and tried to imitate, the demands he could not meet, what he became. His case is far from unique; there are epidemics of psychological problems because there are social problems. The economy grinds people up; the psychologists try to pick up the pieces. You are certainly in the minority, says Jacques. Ninety-nine percent of the people believe that what happens to the individual is the individuals fault. They also believe that any change must start with the individual. In fact, they believe that only individuals exist. An abstract concept like cultural structure is warm air in the clouds. Now you are getting metaphysical, I comment. When the world view implicit in a cultural structure becomes explicit in a very general remark like, Only individuals exist, that is metaphysics, something philosophers have done a lot with over the centuries, Anyway, says Jacques, isnt it unlikely that you and the one percent who agree with you are getting the picture and telling it like it is, while everyone else isnt getting it and, is telling it like it isnt? How do you explain so many people being mistaken? Guess. Cultural structure. Ninety-nine percent of the people think the way they do, because everybodys thinking is influenced by the prevailing culture. 67 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Right. Since the mind of the modern age reflects the cultural structures of the modern age, it is natural that majority thinking accepts individualism, which is the modern pattern. Now I will give you another example of cultural structure, but instead of showing the mind of the ancient Mayans or the Australian bush people, it will show the mind of which we are a part. The Chicken In the Road My third example is about a chicken in the road in twentieth century California. I saw the chicken in the road on Interstate Highway 10 near Golton, California in December of 1980.1 was driving my mother and my daughter Laura, who was 4, to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. The chicken had fallen off the back of a truck full of chickens. It was lying on the cement roadway in the middle of the inside lane, with its feet tied so that it could not walk. I wanted to stop the car and move the chicken to safety. I dont know why I did not do it. Maybe I should have. Since I have a tendency to spend more time thinking of reasons why whatever I did was right than I spend thinking of reasons why what I did was wrong, and since as it turned out I drove on and left the chicken lying in the road, I have, in thinking about the problem, composed mainly reasons why leaving the chicken there lying in the roadway was the right thing to do. Since I am likely to confuse the justifications I compose after the fact with the motives I had at the time, in my memory it seems to me that a split second after I saw the chicken I realized that my four-year-old daughter had not seen the chicken, and I drove on so that she would not know. As Plato said, it is important for little children to believe that the world is good, so that in later life when they find out that the world is not as it should be, they will feel that reality is wrong and try to change it.

My memory is unreliable because in my imagination I compose stories to justify myself, and afterwards I have no way to distinguish my story from my memory. However, I am quite sure that the chicken was in the wrong place. And even if there was never really any chicken in the road at all, I know that if there had been a chicken there, it would have been in the wrong place. The chickens were on their way to be slaughtered anyway, probably destined to end up fried in secret-recipe batter in a plastic bucket at a fast-food restaurant. But chickens are not supposed to die in the wrong place in the wrong way at the wrong time. Similarly, even if you could prove to me by chemical tests that the water in a certain toilet bowl has fewer poisons than the water in a certain drinking glass, I would still drink the water in the glass, because a drinking glass is the right place for drinking water. A toilet bowl is the wrong place. It is a place for dirty things. It is a place to put dirty things in order to flush them down the drain and forget about them. To return to the chicken: a fried-in-batter drumstick in a plastic bucket and a bloody mess on the road are two forms of dead chicken; the first is clean, the second is dirty; the first is in the right place, the second is in the wrong place. But what upsets me most about the chicken, and what makes me feel that after all I should have stopped the car and taken it off the roadway, is not, after all, its death, or the place of its death, but the indignity of its death. I am haunted by the image of the eye of the chicken, the eye staring upward when the chicken is squashed by the wheels of a passenger car. At least I could have taken off its footbinders and turned it loose to run around in the wrecked auto dump beside the highway; if later it were attacked and killed by a stray dog it would die in a more dignified way. Being clean or dirty is rather like being pure or impure which is rather like being sacred (like the frog-stone) or being profane. Being in the right place or in the wrong place for a chicken is comparable to the organization of space according to colors and deities achieved by 68 Letter 10 the Mayans. In our own society, however, the sacred has to a large extent become identified with the ideal of respect for persons, so that whatever reminds us of a violation of the ideal of respect for the individual, such as, for example, a chicken lying helpless on the highway unable to move, we experience as disgusting. If instead of being a more or less normal member of our society I were a certain kind of sicko, I would take a special delight in flaunting the image of the helpless chicken I would deliberately torture animals in Satanic ceremonies because by symbolically violating our societys ideal of respect for individuals I could take symbolic revenge. Jacques drank both his cups of coffee, but he did not finish his slice of pizza or his poppyseed cake. He wrapped them in a napkin, put the package thus formed into a pocket of his jacket, walked out the door and away down the street, and disappeared into a sullen mist. To say that there are cultural structures is to say that culture structures, which is to say that culture organizes. Cultural structures are not the only organizations found on this and other planets: molecules form structures too; cells have structures organized by DNA. Crystals are organized, and the pattern of ecological succession from grassland to forest passes through a series of organized patterns of interaction. Dolphins use acoustic signals to structure their travelling formations (squares, circles, or single file) with dominant individuals in the lead and the young in the middle, where they are protected. It is typical of us humans that we make structures out of meanings; we make and follow rgulations hermneutiques. 69 70

Letter 11 11 A DIALOGUE ON METAPHYSICS WITH VERONICA When the person is in tune with the whole, the hands begin to move and the feet begin to dance. Mencius (Chinese philosopher, flourished 372-289 BC) In dealing with relationships I assume that the other persons involved and I are emotional basket cases. When we try to establish meaningful friendships we disappoint each other. The wounds life has inflicted on us are such that we want more from others than others can possibly give us. We have unmet needs too many and too deep whether we had happy childhoods or sad ones. Those who had happy childhoods never get used to the fact that the grown-up world does not love them as their parents did. Those who had sad childhoods never recover from the lack of love they never had. I realize that these rather pessimistic statements about human relationships in our society are not always true, but they are nevertheless my default assumptions about any particular relationship to be believed true until proven false. I have a fear that if I get to know people I will discover their basic insecurity and inadequacy, and they will discover mine, and we will fail each other. As a result I refrain from getting to know some of the people I most admire and most would like to know. Sometimes I admire people to the point that I adore them, but I do not say so. Whether they guess that they are being adored I do not know. My feeling is like a teenage emotional crush, but not necessarily erotic, and applicable to same sex or other sex, same age or any age. One of the people I have secretly admired is Veronica. She impressed me because she was good, not because she was a woman, even though the way in which she was good is sometimes considered typical of women. I have known men who were somewhat like her. Veronica and I and five others lived together in a two-storey white house with heavy brown hardwood floors and bannisters, a mile south of the Berkeley campus of the University of California. It was a solid house built by a prosperous family in the 1920s, which had been left behind by changing fashions, rented to students and allowed to run down. On the second storey of the house there was an old-fashioned bathtub standing on iron legs that ended in iron feet shaped like the claws of baby lions. The old bathtub had been recently modified by adding a shower nozzle, a yellow shower curtain, a pink elliptical plastic hoop to hang the yellow curtain from, and metal rods to attach the pink elliptical plastic hoop to the unreasonably high ceiling. There were, I am sorry to say, some among us who used this makeshift shower carelessly, wetting the floor. One morning if I remember rightly it was shortly after the people with 9a.m. classes had left Veronica padded into the upstairs bathroom in the fuzzy sky-blue slippers she used to wear, and found that the bottoms of her feet were cooler than usual. The lower quarter-inch of her slippers was no longer sky-blue and fuzzy. It was purple and sagging. I noticed what was happening because I was shaving and my feet were also wet, although bare. My attitude toward the situation was, obviously, nonchalant. 71 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I On the other hand, two of our housemates, Alice and Roy, hated it when people did not clean up after themselves. Wet bathrooms upset them, and when they were upset they expressed their feelings.

Veronicas response I am telling about it because it was typical of her was to take off her slippers, wipe her feet with a towel, go downstairs to get a bucket and mop, and dry the linoleum. Then she put the bucket and mop away, and pinned her slippers with clothespins on the pink elliptical plastic hoop to dry. To those who would consider Veronicas action inexcusably servile, she appears to be a victim. But she was happy. She carried the mop and bucket up the stairs eagerly, with quick short steps, as if she were rushing to catch her favorite TV program, her feet and leg muscles energized by anticipated pleasure. I admire Veronica because she is one of the people I have known, some women and some men, whose way of living seems to connect with a taproot of joy. She loved to cook and to help with dishes, to braid her girlfriends hair, to plant tomatoes and to make tomato sauce for winter, to refinish furniture, to paint houses, and to graft apricot branches onto quince tree trunks. My aim is not to praise her for doing more than her share of the work, and I should say that Veronica was capable of confronting people when they tried to take advantage of her. My aim is to locate the source of her energy. Some years later, during a period when I had lost touch with Veronica, I read the anthropologist Dorothy Lees account of the Tikopians, one of the peoples of the Trobriand Islands. Her account included a report about herself: she wrote that she feels great joy when sewing clothes for her children. It is as if an exciting pulse uniting their lives and hers flows through her fingers, through the needle, through the thread, and through the cloth. Nel Noddings, in her book Caring, reports finding a similar joy in domestic labor. Dorothy Lee hypothesizes that among the Tikopians the energy she feels while sewing flows frequently. That is why they are able to cook, fish, wash, sew, till, harvest, and celebrate together without ever doing what we would call work. In his book, The Rise of Economic Society, Robert Heilbroner contends that there are only three ways to organize the production and distribution of the necessities of life: by tradition, by command, and by market. Although history shows a pattern of change from ancient arrangements based mainly on tradition, to market economies, to command economies, to the convergence of the latter two (command economies becoming more market-oriented and market economies becoming more plan-oriented), a complex modern society organizes its work to some extent in all three ways: some tasks are done because they are traditional, some are done because the workers are obliged to obey commands, and some tasks are done because of market incentives. Veronica, Lee, Noddings, and the Tikopians convince me that something has been left out of Heilbroners trichotomy, although I dont know what the right name of it is. It is, I think, significant, that in our language we do not have a ready name for the kind of joy Veronica felt mopping the floor and Dorothy Lee felt sewing clothes. Let me give it the label, being in love. Because we are willing to accept the proposition that competition is necessary that without it people would be lazy and unproductive does not require us to accept the proposition that in a competitive world there is no room for love. We do not have to choose between selfish motives and higher motives, anymore than we must choose in our personal lives either to have a family or to have a job. We do not need to try to replace competition with love. Instead we can add love to competition; in this way we can get more motivation instead of less. Modifying Heilbroners trichotomy: the work of the world gets done partly because of tradition, partly because of people obeying commands, partly due to market incentives, and partly because people are in love. Lets hear it for a judicious alloy of all four! 72 Letter 11 Over the years Veronica has come to stand in my mind for the propositions: (1) Not everybody is

an emotional basket case, and (2) It is not necessary that those of us who are messed up be the way we are. We could have turned out differently; perhaps we can still change. As Frances Moore Lapp and Joseph Collins main message for me was, The world does not have to be the way it is, because they proved that hunger and poverty are not necessary, so Veronica proved to me that People dont have to be the way most people are. It is possible for people to enjoy one anothers company, to be supportive of each other, and to enjoy sharing the basic tasks that keep life going. For 27 years I have not seen Veronica. Whether she remembers me I do not know. I did not find out until two years after the event that she had married a graduate school classmate of mine, who was teaching philosophy at California State University, Fullerton campus. When I learned of her marriage my first thought was that he was not good enough for her. That is always my opinion when people I adore marry. But what do I want them to do? Stay single all their lives? Sometimes I have fantasies in which Veronica and I meet to discuss my philosophy of cultural action and the role she plays in it as the paradigm of being in love. We meet for lunch at Hardees in Fullerton, a 24-hour restaurant featuring a bottomless cup of coffee, hanging ivy and fern brass pots, and fries. (I like 24-hour restaurants even when it is midday, because they give me the feeling that there is always food.) Veronica is with her husband and four children, I with my wife Caroline and two daughters. The younger children have bacon cheeseburgers and Big Deluxes, except for Veronicas youngest, seven, who gets a Fun Meal. The grownups and older children order Mushroom n Swiss and garden salad because we are vegetarians. I begin by saying that philosophy is centrally and most importantly metaphysics. In order to explain my meaning I go into part of the history of the words philosophy and metaphysics. In early modern Europe there were three kinds of philosophy: Natural Philosophy, Civil Philosophy, and First Philosophy. The last was also called metaphysicks. Its leading characteristic was that it provided the fundamental categories which were common to and united natural and civil philosophy. The field called natural philosophy has been renamed, rethought, and reorganized, and is now what we call natural science. The field once called civil philosophy is given other names today, and has for the most part become what we call social science. That which is called philosophy in our times is what used to be called first philosophy, and its leading task continues to be to establish the unifying concepts which integrate the several spheres of culture. My view is compatible with those who see logic as the central activity of philosophy, since logic aspires to be a discipline of great generality, prescribing rules which apply to all statements. (And indeed the early moderns sometimes spoke of metaphysick and logick in the same breath, as if they had similar or overlapping functions.) My view of the nature of philosophy is also compatible with seeing fundamental ontology as central to philosophy, as Heidegger does in his early work. I call fundamental ontology a form of metaphysics, although it is hot a form of metaphysics I wholly recommend. Somewhat like Heidegger, I consider what he calls fundamental ontology and what I call metaphysics to have important influences on the answers people get when they ask questions in ethics, logic, scientific method, esthetics, political philosophy, epistemology, history of philosophy, and the other sub-disciplines which philosophy is frequently said to include. Is that what you really want to say? Veronica asks. I mean, after 27 years, I think you have chosen an unusual way to begin catching up. I am an unusual person, I admit. But I am trying as hard as I can to make myself understood. What I really want to say since you asked is, Shalom! Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. But I cant say that at least, I cant say just that. It sounds divisive and anti-scientific. I want a language that brings humanity together to 73

LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I cooperate in solving common objective problems, like the problem posed by the physical fact that we are poised to destroy life. That is why we need metaphysics shared meanings that facilitate cooperation by facilitating communication. Veronica nods pensively, as if she appreciates the depth of my desire to communicate. I knew I could count on her. You will have to work hard to make yourself understood, she says. In the first place, in earlier letters from Qubec you have already defined philosophy several times. You said that philosophy constructs codes, you said that philosophy is the love of wisdom, you said that philosophy is cultural action, and lately you seem to be putting more emphasis on the idea of cultural structure than on the idea of code. I suppose you think you are developing the same ideas more and more adequately, but it is not easy to tell whether you are adding to what you have already said, or taking it back and saying something else. In the second place, many modern philosophers would agree with you that metaphysics is an attempt to say what cannot be said, but they would draw a different conclusion abandon metaphysics, root it out, destroy the sophistry and illusion that is the only possible result of trying to say the unsayable. You, on the other hand, take the limits of what can be said to hamper cooperation, and you want to do philosophy in a way that extends the possibilities of communication, and therefore those of collective problem-solving. In the third place, metaphysics has traditionally been, as you recognize, part of the ideological arsenal of elites who have used it to defend elite privileges, and for this reason more than one philosopher has associated the end of oppression with the end of metaphysics. And in the fourth place, you sometimes say that you do not aim to create the philosophy of the future, but only to contribute to the process through which the millions of people throughout the world who are trying to cope with the problems of life, and who are gradually realizing that the species can only cope through greater cooperation, will through the forges and winnows of struggle find the language that works. That will be the new philosophy. What do you mean? I suspect that you are not unacquainted with the wish to say things which seem to be unsayable, I replied. I remember quite well that when we lived in a house together at Berkeley, you were the one who talked the least, but I have come to think that you had the most to say if only what you had to say could be said. We had many heavy discussions in our student commune about how to live, sex, science, politics, drugs, religion, war, and money. You were thought of as a person who had little to contribute, and for that reason devoted herself mainly to listening. But you seemed to know more than anyone else about how each of us was feeling, and about our personal problems. If I was feeling disgruntled and was playing the martyr, hoping secretly that somebody would notice my discontent, it was invariably you who were aware of how I felt. I suspect that there was something in what you thought and felt that was hard to say in the existing language, which explains why you spoke little when we talked about how to live, even though of all of us you were the best person to share happiness with and the most supportive comforter in times of misery. Do you want to say, asked Veronica, that if philosophy could produce a Veronica-metaphysic, and if through whatever historical processes lead to the adoption of one metaphysic rather than another, society should adopt a Veronica-metaphysic, then what a person like myself feels could be more persuasively expressed, and would seem more relevant and be more relevant to the great issues of economics, politics, how to live, and how to die? If that is what you want to say, she added, then you will have two kinds of problems: you will have to respond to those who need reasons why they should adopt a Veronica-metaphysic, and you will need to respond to those who need reasons why there should be any metaphysic at all.

It is what I want to say, I replied. And instead of discussing these issues in the abstract, let me propose a sample metaphysical statement: it is natural for human beings to be in love. 74 Letter 11 I take this to be a succinct principle of Veronica metaphysics. This sample of metaphysics can then be examined by subjecting it to some of the typical criticisms that twentieth century philosophers might make, both those who are likely to object to love as a metaphysical principle, and those who take it to be a worthy aim to abolish metaphysics altogether. This will also give me a chance to reply to each of the four objections you raised a minute ago, namely (1) that it is hard to see how philosophy is centrally metaphysics is consistent with the other things I say about philosophy, (2) that good reasons are often advanced for concluding that metaphysics is nonsense, (3) that metaphysics is elitist, and (4) that I need to make up my mind what the role of the organic intellectual is in the social change process. Perhaps with this point (4) I put words in your mouth you did not intend but I will explain them. Roy, Veronicas husband, had been helping their youngest to blow up the balloon she had gotten with her Fun Meal, while listening to our conversation with one ear. I will be the twentieth century philosophers, he said. At least a few of them. There have been so many that I cant be all of them. He proceeded to make himself some toy hats out of napkins: one labelled logical positivist, one labelled ordinary language philosopher, one labelled dialectical materialist, and one labelled phenomenologist. I was beginning to like Roy better, and to take a more generous position on the question whether he was good enough for her. Roy put on his logical positivist hat first, but I made no special allowances for the doctrine he represented and continued talking as if he were an ordinary listener. First I will say something about my motives: why I choose to say, It is natural for humans to be in love. Then I will explain the problem: why some of the truths this statement tries to express tend to lack effective expression in the modern world. And then I will explain why the problem can be called metaphysical. The human species evolved, beginning perhaps two million years ago (the time when, it now seems, the members of our species first became efficient hunters) as hunters and gatherers living in tribes. During this time the human being developed the capacity for a range of emotions which under the usual circumstances of life must have been on the whole functional. On its positive, constructive, pleasant, cooperative side I call the fulfillment of this capacity, being in love. That with equal naturalness human emotions can take negative forms like fear and rage I do not doubt. Hate and love are both natural; which of them prevails depends on what we do with what we are. And think about this, please one constructive thing we can do with what we are is to tell ourselves that being in love is natural. During the past few centuries, modern European civilization has dominated the globe; its market economy, its forms of holding property, its science, its bureaucracy, have obliged humans to become more rational, partly by forcing them to subordinate passion to calculated interest or else lose lifes race. In this world that commodity exchange built, love appears to be unreal. Our dominant cultural structures program us to be inclined to say, Force is reality; love is nonfunctional. The opposite is true: our economies, our personal relationships, our global commerce, our efforts to resolve conflicts and live in peace together are nonfunctional for lack of capacity to tap the deep springs of human motivation. They collapse in vandalism, lethargy, apathy, embitterment, sado-masochistic hostility. The problem and its cure are in a certain respect metaphysical which is not to say that ideas alone change history, but rather to say that discourse and practice change together. We inhabitants

of the twentieth century, struggling to make our species viable, are constrained in our struggle to envision and create a caring global community partly because the legacy of capitalism is a mechanistic metaphysics. Be careful, said the logical positivist (who was really Roy), I fear that your talk is too loose and too fast. He then took a moment to inflate a second balloon which Lucie had found in her Fun Meal. Then he bogged down in trying to tie the balloon to a toy of the same 75 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I provenance without letting the air escape. A logical positivist is a person who practices a kind of philosophy called logical positivism. That kind of philosophy arose in Vienna, Austria, during the 1920s and 1930s. It had followers and sympathizers throughout Europe and North America, some of them hard-core, others agreeing with some key logical positivist doctrines while disagreeing with others. All agreed that they were trying to develop a Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung, that is to say, in English, a scientific view of the world. Their characteristic doctrine concerning what a scientific world view consists of had been stated succinctly two centuries earlier, in the eighteenth century, by the Scottish philosopher David Hume, in these classic words: When we run over libraries, persuaded of these principles, what havoc must we make? If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance, let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion. These words from Hume, although written two hundred years before the logical positivists flourished in Vienna, are typical of logical positivism. Hume sets up certain standards which purport to distinguish the meaningful from the meaningless; talk that does not conform to those standards is not to be deemed admissible in a scientific view of the world. The distinctive feature of the logical positivist attack on metaphysics is that (on the basis of reasoning similar to Humes), it is said that metaphysics is contrary to what you might expect not false. It is not false because before a statement can be judged either true or false it must first be meaningful. Metaphysics is not meaningful; it is nonsense. The claim that metaphysics is nonsense can be illustrated by summarizing the analysis of the word God given by Rudolf Carnap, a leading logical positivist, in his 193 2 paper, The Elimination of Metaphysics through the Logical Analysis of Language. Carnap distinguishes mythological, metaphysical, and theological uses of the word God. When the word God is used mythologically, it means that there are physical beings like the Greek gods enthroned on Mount Olympus, or at least one or more spiritual beings which manifest themselves in concrete effects which can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted. In its mythological use, the word God is used to make statements the falsity of which can be scientifically proven, and therefore the statements are meaningful (but false). In its metaphysical use, the word God does not refer to anything that can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted; God is put beyond any possible scientific investigation. Hence metaphysical pseudo-statements containing the word God are not statements; they are meaningless. The theological use of the word waffles back and forth between the mythological and the metaphysical. Some theological talk about God is meaningful and false for this reason the theologian retreats to metaphysics, but loss of meaning is the price he or she pays to avoid falsity. The logical positivist (Roy) has succeeded in using a straw to attach Lucies second balloon to a tiny plastic rabbit on a tiny skateboard, and the rabbit is now skating up and down the table holding her balloon, with help from Lucie and Roy. I should say, Roy demurs while pushing the rabbit, that I am not a hard-core logical positivist.

Logical positivism has now been amended in response to criticism so much amended that in 1990 there are no hard-core logical positivists left, only sympathizers like me who still endorse some of the main aims of the movement. Your words, it is natural for humans to be in love, are the kind of unscientific overgeneralization that we positivists seek to eliminate. What conceivable scientific procedure could determine whether what you are saying is true or false? What basic facts that humans can see, hear, touch, smell, taste, and measure can you refer to for the purpose of verifying that what you are saying is either true or false but not meaningless? 76 Letter 11 Veronica suggests a compromise. It seems that Howard is in favor of metaphysics, while the logical positivist is against metaphysics. But you may be using the same word to stand for two different things. Im not so sure, I say. I want to say, It is natural for humans to be in love, not just because it is poetry designed to bring out the best in people, but also because it has a real basis in the structure of the human body. Nevertheless, it is a generalization above and beyond anything that could be specifically proven. So I think that on the whole the logical positivists and I mean the same thing by metaphysics. Further, if you look at Carnaps list of words he wants to eliminate because they are metaphysical, you will find, besides God, several others that I want to rehabilitate and understand in context, such as principle of being (Aristotles arch) and the being of being (Heideggers Sein des Seindes). Then what do you think? asks Veronica. How do you reply to the logical positivist? Do you want to know what I think or what I really think? What you really think. I really think that in history philosophies are more the effects than the causes of basic cultural structures, even though sometimes philosophy plays a creative role. Philosophies are, on the whole, ideologies. Logical positivism is a sophisticated scientistic ideology the immediate beneficiaries of which are the scientists themselves, and the broader political implications of which are on the whole centrist. Logical positivism extends certain cultural themes (notably the extension of the theme function from mathematics to logic) that are prominent in the Denkform (thought-form) characteristic of the core societies of the modern European world system. I find your remarks obscure, Veronica replies. Perhaps they will become less obscure when you fill in more historical background. For the moment it might be better if you would give up on trying to say what you really think, and just say what you think. I assume, I say, that the logical positivist who happens to be at Hardees in Fullerton on a Saturday afternoon, who perhaps just wants a straightforward logical answer and not a disquisition on the role of logic in history, agrees with Carnap, who wrote, Metaphysics does indeed have a context; only it is not a theoretical context. The (pseudo) statements of metaphysics do serve for the expression of the general attitude of a person toward life. Very well. Here I can answer the logical positivist by agreeing with him. It is natural for humans to be in love expresses my general attitude toward life. Its relationship to science is dual: (1) On the one hand it is a synthesis of much that I have learned from reading the works of anthropologists and other scientists. (2) On the other hand, it is too broad a generalization to be provable. It is chosen both for its beneficial effect as a slogan and for its correspondence with facts. The Ordinary Language Philosopher

Roy puts on the hat made of napkins which is labelled Ordinary Language Philosopher. I also, he says with the hat on, eliminate metaphysics. My hero, Ludwig Wittgenstein, once said: The right method of philosophy would be this. To say nothing except what can be said, i. e. the propositions of natural science, i. e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy: and then always, when someone wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the other he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy but it would be the only strictly correct method. Wittgenstein wrote this in his youth; when he grew older he tended to emphasize ordinary language more than natural science as the domain of what can be said. By straying out of the domain of what can be said we wander into the unsayable no-place called metaphysics. 77 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Ordinarily we would say, continued the ordinary language philosopher, that sex is more natural than love. Wouldnt we? Just as we would ordinarily say that tea with milk is jolly good stuff, unless we were American. Americans ordinarily say Coca-Cola is the real thing, dont they? Roys older daughter Millie obligingly went to fetch tea and milk for her father, since he was impersonating an English ordinary language philosopher. I very much doubt that any good will come of using the word natural oddly, Roy goes on. It is odd to say, love is natural, and therefore it is wrong. Its an abuse of the language, isnt it? Natural is jolly well what people ordinarily say is natural. Therefore, if a chap says love is natural, hes not talking English, is he? Love is a bloody miracle, thats what we ordinarily say, bloody unlikely. Supernatural, thats what it is. I am easily amused. I laugh so hard at Roys British bit that I choke on a gulp of water. Veronica puts me face down on the floor and beats on my neck until the water falls out of my windpipe. Caroline turns six shades of pink. I sit up and try to act respectable, hoping that the other people in the restaurant will stop looking at us, and that Caroline and Roy are not too embarrassed. I once said, I say, that philosophy makes codes. Philosophy is not as much concerned with sending messages in the existing codes as with establishing possibilities of communication. Later I stopped saying code so much and talked more about cultural structures. The cultural structure concept is more comprehensive than the code concept. It is true to say that philosophy makes codes, but the codes that facilitate social transformation are not just new signs for the old objects in the old context; instead, they function in new systems of meaning. Moral and intellectual reform was not at the top of the agenda of the philosophical movement centered at Oxford in the 1950s and 1960s, known as ordinary language philosophy. Nevertheless, OLP doctrines do allow a modest role for cultural action. One can try to set oneself up as a linguistic legislator, one who makes new rules, and if one has the good fortune to be generally followed, ones pretensions will not be false. What I combat, the ordinary language philosopher agrees, is not novelty but blundering. I oppose coining new words and changing the meanings of existing words without knowledge of the language as it is. And I oppose the empty talk that sometimes pretends to convey extraordinary messages. When a chap uses words outside the range of ordinarily accepted meanings, the message that chap communicates is nought. Zero, as you say in America. He is trying to talk a private language, but he fails because there is no such thing as a private language. Do not underestimate the importance of basing philosophy on ordinary language instead of basing

it on the artificial languages of computers, mathematics, and symbolic logic. It amounts to putting common sense above science. I reply, Some things worth saying fall outside the message-carrying capacity of ordinary English prose, such as: ...emotion deeper than the voices of all roses, or It is to be enough for us that we are together. But such efforts to extend the boundaries of the sayable are often for a good cause; frequently rock lyrics, for example, are where the bleeding heart, the artist, takes a stand for a good cause. If there is novelty in saving love is natural, it is not blundering; it is a good-faith attempt to contribute to building a better world. Saying it will do us no end of good. It is one of the best things we could possibly tell our children. Looked at in a long historical perspective, however, it is the opposite of novel as will appear in later letters about ancient and medieval philosophy. It is returning to our roots. 78 Letter 11 The Dialectical Materialist Dialectical materialism, which is sometimes called DIAMAT, has followers everywhere; it is the official philosophy of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. I have heard rumors that there are millions of schoolchildren there who are bored by it and wish they did not have to study it. Whether the rumors are true I do not know. If the Russians are really bored by DIAMAT and hate it, then they will renounce it at their first opportunity, and if their first opportunity comes soon, there will be one less reason for believing that the metaphysics of the future must be compatible with DIAMAT. Nevertheless, like logical positivism and like ordinary language philosophy, DIAMAT has intellectual merits which deserve to be considered independently of whether its number of adherents waxes or wanes. Lucie climbs onto her fathers shoulders, almost choking him with her fat legs around his neck, grasping his hair with fingers damp from ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. She insists on riding across the room mounted on him, and on dropping her unfinished milk shake from above into a trash can. She misses. We clean up. Now she wants to ride on Roy while carrying a plastic tray, and to place the plastic tray, by herself, without anybodys help, on the top of a stack of used trays. Finally she and Roy go out the door for a walk around the block, tall horse, giggly rider, followed by most of the kids. Roys dialectical materialist hat remains unworn on the table among discarded sandwich wrappings and uneaten french-fried potatoes. Lacking a dialectical materialist to talk to, I continue my thoughts as a monologue. If you say everything is equally material, and that which is not material does not exist in any sense, then doesnt the word material lose all meaning? Material as opposed to what? To say everything is material is then no different than saying everything is everything. No information is conveyed. But what embarrasses me when I talk with dialectical materialists is that I cannot quite convince myself that they are sincere when they refrain from telling me that I am on the wrong side in the class struggle. I suspect them of just being polite. I suspect that they think my philosophy is idealism; that any philosophy which uses the word love is idealism, and therefore my philosophy must be idealism; that idealism is the philosophy of the bourgeoisie, that materialism is the philosophy of the working class, and therefore I am on the bourgeois side, which is the wrong side. It is sometimes said that a materialist viewpoint sees the main human motives to be acquiring the basic goods and services needed for survival, while idealists exaggerate the extent to which

peoples motives are religious, patriotic, maternal, sexual, ceremonial, principled.... If this is the difference between materialism and idealism then the idealists are by definition mistaken, because they exaggerate, and the materialists must be right because it follows from biology that humans, like any other species, must acquire the necessities of life; if they do not, then they cannot do anything else. Concerning class conflict, the metaphysical statement, It is natural for humans to be in love is more a proletarian slogan than a bourgeois slogan. Rephrased in Marxist language, when a human being lacks the loving relationships that are the natural desiderata of human life, the person is alienated; when they are not lacking, the person realizes the human species-being (in Marxs German, Gattungswesen). Of course, class conflict is not simple, but in a simple situation where the interests of those who work for a living are opposed to the interests of those who live by appropriating the fruits of other peoples labor, the idea of building a better tomorrow where people are not alienated from each other can be, if it is not misused, an idea that works for the workers. 79 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I The Phenomenologlst When Roy puffs back into Hardees still carrying Lucie, Veronica explains that I said my piece on dialectical materialism without him, and suggests that since the kids are restless, we could adjourn to a park and push them in swings while discussing phenomenology. Caroline leaves a five-dollar tip, explaining that the money will help the waitress to find her soul and to achieve cosmic consciousness. At the park we fill five swings with little bundles of vitality and joy-potential, assigning to push them into happiness the oldest child and the four adults, one of whom (Veronica) is the phenomenologist. Phenomenology is for the most part a continental European philosophical movement; it started at the end of the nineteenth century and it has not stopped yet. Its Founder with a capital F was Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), who taught at several German universities and at Paris. The phenomenologist first makes a remark apropos of the word natural in the sentence, It is natural for human beings to be in love. For most people, she says, to call something natural is to call it good; nature is as highly thought of as motherhood, apple pie, Disneyland, and true love. But just as there are working women who are questioning whether they really want motherhood, and calorie counters who avoid apple pie, and snobs who despise theme parks, and playboys who prefer playmates to true love, there has to be somebody who would say that the natural point of view is the wrong point of view for philosophy. That somebody is me, the phenomenologist. (The phenomenologist had to do her duty by entering a formal objection to my use of the word natural because you cannot be a card-carrying phenomenologist if you do not bracket the natural standpoint. But what she really wanted to do and the reason why Veronica wanted to be the phenomenologist was mostly to point out ways phenomenology gives love encouragement. Unlike the other three, who mostly wanted to argue that the kind of thing I wanted to say was not, properly and/or scientifically, sayable.) From the natural standpoint, as our founder Husserl describes it, the world is made up of things that are for me, the subject, simply there. The things continue in time. They are located in space. Animal beings too are simply there, including humans. I lookup and see them, I hear them coming

towards me; in the case of humans, I shake hands with them. Speaking with them, I understand immediately what they are sensing and thinking, the feelings that stir them, what they wish and will. But this natural standpoint, comfortable and normal as it is, is not a suitable starting point of philosophy. Philosophy ought to stand back from everyday natural assumptions. Phenomenology begins with a special technique invented by Husserl called bracketing the natural standpoint. That means the philosopher deliberately disconnects from the natural standpoint; she or he stops making all the hidden assumptions it carries with it; she or he puts the natural way of experiencing things in parentheses. As phenomenologists, we neither affirm nor deny anything about it; instead we exercise our freedom to suspend judgment. One of the benefits of performing this mental operation called bracketing the natural standpoint is that we thus gain access to pure consciousness which we can then study systematically. Perhaps contrary to what one might expect, the technique of bracketing has led, not so much in Husserls own work as in that of his followers, to a closer examination of the ways people experience the world; i.e., to the world-as-lived, or lived-world, or life-world, or being-in-theworld. Bracketing helps philosophers to study the close-at-hand more exactly, because it helps them to reflect on things previously unnoticed because taken for granted. 80 Letter 11 Husserls student and teaching assistant, Martin Heidegger, became the most famous, but not the most faithful, of his followers. Heideggers version of phenomenology differs from his teachers, although it also rejects the natural standpoint. Two of Heideggers findings tend to support your statement that it is natural for humans to be in love. 1. A person (Dasein, in Heideggers technical language) is always in a mood: if not in one mood, then in some other mood. Before Heidegger, philosophy had ignored moods, but Heidegger pointed out that whatever else you may say about moods, you must grant that they are not nothing. I interrupt the phenomenologist to say that not only is a mood not nothing, it is an interpersonal attitude. If I walk around the streets grouchy, or happy, or bored, then there is something about my interpersonal relationships, conscious or unconscious, that in combination with my blood sugar level, hormone flow, and general health or sickness makes my mood what it is. That we have been formed by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to be social is shown by the phenomenon of mood. We are born to harmonize, and being in a good or bad mood is like being in or out of tune. The phenomenologist continues with her second point. 2. Besides mood, another key word in Heideggers philosophy is care (Sorge). In attempting to say what a person (Dasein, to be more exact) is, Heidegger finds no word more useful than Sorge, which means care, or concern, or even worry. He says Dasein ist Sorge, which you may wish to take as collateral evidence, arriving at a similar result using a different approach, supporting the proposition that to be a person is to care, and hence that it is natural to be in love. By which you do not mean, I assume, that everyone should get married and have children I know a nun who does not have even a cat or a rose bush, but I would call her in love in the sense I think you mean. Then she adds, I would also like to share with you this quotation from the Preface to The Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty. You may find it pertinent because love is a mystery. Phenomenology is... as Husserl says, a dialogue or an infinite meditation, and to the extent that it remains true to its intentions, it will never know where it is going. The unfinished and

unformed quality of phenomenology is not a sign of failure; it is inevitable because the task of phenomenology is to reveal the mystery of the world and the mystery of reason. I do not think it important to decide whether I agree or disagree with the assertions of the phenomenologists, even though I value them and find them helpful, partly because, rather like the logical positivist, I doubt that claims so general and so vague can be classified as true or false, and partly because my aims are more practical than academic. What matters is the survival and happiness of life, and that will be made possible if it is not already too late for it to be possible by the collective reconstruction of culture. For the purposes of cultural reconstruction, the themes of philosophy are not so much candidates for verification as candidates for building material. I thank Veronica for her kind thoughts and suggest to her, to Roy, and to Caroline, that on another day we continue to speak of Merleau-Ponty, of Husserl, and of Heidegger, at another restaurant or in another park. I would like to extend the fragment-of-metaphysic It is natural for humans to be in love to make it a true cultural structure and not just a sample sentence, some other day in some other restaurant or at some other park; in the meantime, I hope Veronica finds herself in my budding love metaphysic. She is a junction where nature and culture meet in a way different from the usual way, where the fuel and fire of nature 81 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I are transformed into the romance and ritual of culture according to a different pattern. People like her are inspirations for an alternative world view. I do not have the right to name the alternative world view, but I have a great desire to contribute to creating it. I have tentatively named it a love metaphysic, but I hope it is clear that this name is only a label that happens to make sense to one person; it is not necessarily what the alternative world view will be called in the future when it becomes generally accepted. I assume that some such alternative world view will be accepted in the future, under some name or other, because I am convinced that, if not, there will be no future. The new philosophy needs to be of the people, and it needs to be made by the people, and that is why anything I may say is only a suggestion. Although I do not like to criticize other peoples countries, especially when they have not invited me to do so, I cannot repress voicing a suspicion that one of the difficulties in Russia, which is undergoing a restructuring (in Russian, perestroika), is that people power cannot be built with elite-philosophy; it needs a philosophy the masses participate in making, which connects with their language and experience; people power needs to be a development from within, as Jose Marti (Cuban poet and revolutionary, 1853-1895) said. The structures of culture grow in ways science is beginning to understand; the new scientific understandings come mainly through advances in anthropology, psychology, linguistics, and what might be called world-system history; but there is also, parallel to the efforts of science to understand the deep structures of human thought and institutions, a movement to promote mass participation in the building of cultural structures. This movement is sometimes called popular education (in Spanish, education popular), and it is associated especially with the names of Freire and Gramsci. It is this movement which takes up the tradition of metaphysics, standing it on its head (so to speak) because the great efforts to build comprehensive shared understandings have in the past been elite activities; popular education is making them into mass activities. That is why Veronica comes before Plato. I want to establish the principle that philosophizing begins with our own lives and only secondarily appropriates the resources we inherit from the past. There comes a time, nevertheless, for Plato, because the democratic continuation of the process of culture-building needs to expropriate and socialize the techniques developed by the great culture-makers of the past.

Plato is considered in the following letters. Note: The reader whose appetite has been whetted by the tiny doses of four schools of twentieth century philosophy provided in this letter may learn more by consulting, for example: A. J. Ayer (ed.), Logical Positivism. Richard Rorty, The Linguistic Turn. Gustav Wetter, Dialectical Materialism. Herbert Spiegelberg, The Phenomenological Movement. 82 Letter 12 12 PLATO AS A CREATOR OF CULTURE Although I do not wish to create the impression that I am the sort of person who is in the habit of complaining that his irresponsible actions are caused by unfair circumstances of which he has been the victim, there is a major circumstance which has consistently prevented me from carrying out my good intentions and achieving my potential, which ought to be taken into consideration in judging my case as well as in passing judgment on other human beings, and also in forming an accurate opinion concerning what is to be expected from humans and human institutions. The circumstance is that I have a body with feelings. Since it is admittedly not your fault that my feelings prevent me from carrying out my plans and keeping my promises, you have no reason to feel guilty if I tell you that life has been unfair to me in the sense that it has given me feelings which I find myself unable to control or govern. For that matter you do not nave any obligation to talk to me at all if I happen to pick you as a person with whom I wish to converse about feelings. While having, as I admit, no obligation to talk to me, you might nevertheless listen and respond for pitys sake. But I would have certain regrets if you were to listen to me out of pity, and certain reservations about any relationship in which you would play the role of helper and I would play the role of person-who-needs-to-be-helped. If one of us is going to play the role of person-who-needsto-be-helped, I would prefer that it be you. In any case it would be more dignified, for me and for you, to engage in a philosophical dialogue of the kind practiced by Socrates and Plato, an earnest mutual consultation whose premise is that we become wiser and better by talking to each other about our feelings and our actions. Plato lists hunger, thirst, and sexual desire as three unruly feelings. Any contemporary biologist will tell us why these feelings well up within us; without a feeling driving us to eat our organisms would eventually cease to function; we would perish even sooner without the capacity to feel thirst. These feelings can be regarded as distant early warning systems, which impel the body to act before supplies of nutrients and water become so low that the body cannot move or replace dead cells; the hunger feeling, which is triggered by a fall in the percentage of sugar in the bloodstream, is a good example. Nevertheless, those of us who have tried to stick to diets can testify that hunger, albeit a necessary function, can be hard to control and govern. Similarly, hot, wild, rousing delight is an adaptive response to an ecological imperative which necessarily requires every chromosomic code to provide for the reproduction of its species; nevertheless, hot, wild, rousing delight With somebody who is married to someone else is unruly. Plato also discusses at considerable length somewhat different sets of feelings, which are also roughly functional from the bullheaded point of and view of a DNA molecule blindly bent on reproducing itself and also unruly from the point of view of a conscientious citizen. Crime and war,

Plato thinks, are caused by feelings run amok, mainly the corrupt desire to possess more objects than one needs or has a right to. The feeling of fear, he notes, is often a cause of military defeat, as, for instance, when a citys soldiers abandon their shields and spears and take flight; in such cases allowing behavior to be governed by limbic structures of the older, reptilian, part of the brain might lead to the extinction of the city or the tribe. 83 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Aggressiveness plays a special role in Platos philosophy; he recognizes that anger causes no end of trouble, but nonetheless thinks that the part of the soul capable of anger, properly guided by wisdom, can play a key role in the government of human conduct. I think Plato is telling me how to put some motive power behind my pride. If wisdom is allied with anger-reinforced pride, then my other emotions wont blow me away. Thanks for the advice, Plato. (Plato talks to me in my dreams. I wish I had a quarter for every bus Ive missed in my dreams. Please pardon this irrelevant remark it is neither here nor there. Sometimes my mind wanders.) Getting back to Plato, in his proposed laws for an ideal society he devotes many pages to alcohol abuse. He argues that it is not a good thing to grow up too innocent; if you know nothing of drunkenness, sexual excitement, or stupefying drugs, then if you suddenly get turned onto Big Pleasure, your previous moral training may suddenly become a Fat Zero. Plato proposes a supervised introduction to alcohol for young men. They are to attend drinking parties directed by a Master of the Feast, who will determine, among other things, when a person is at the point where it would be best to cease to imbibe, and when jovial horseplay ceases to be jovial and becomes disorderly conduct. While the biological function of our inbuilt capacity to turn off the cerebral cortex by the oral administration of ethyl alcohol is less self-evident than the biological function of the hungry feeling, a clue to its function may be found in the Japanese saying, Drinking makes everyone friends. (This saying does not apply, by the way, to my ex-roommate Leon, who, when he was drunk, would put his head between his knees and stare at the floor.) Humans in general are genetically coded to be culturally coded, as is evident from the brain structures that give us language. The traditional Japanese saki party, to take the argument a step further, might be regarded as a cultural code which weaves something beautiful from the chromosomic threads. Whether in general the chemically-induced turn-on is an accident of evolution, like our appendix which is a structure without a function or the crazy way some of our arteries meander around our bodies for no reason except that we happened to evolve that way, or whether the turn-on capacity is the biological side of a mixed biological-cultural adaptation, which gives human groups a competitive edge, as the Japanese auto industry now has a competitive edge partly because of its work-together-drink-together tightly knit very cooperative production teams, I dont know, but my offhand opinion is that the chemical turn-ons leading to drug and alcohol abuse are partly one and partly the other, partly a cosmic accident, partly a thrill-potential which strengthens any human group able to learn to employ it wisely. Plato provides a list of the means society can use to achieve the wise government of the feelings. They are: 1. Fear 2. Fear of God 3. Law 4. The Muses, by which he means music, dance, poetry, drama, and especially the kind of Homeric storytelling (suitably censored) which would foster a desire to emulate virtuous

heroes. 5. Athletics 6. Awarding of honors and distinctions 7. The development of a passion for spiritual beauty 8. True discourse The main contribution of philosophy to the solving of human problems is evidently item 8, true discourse, although it plays a supporting role to law and all the other items on the list. Plato would agree with Robert Redfield that there comes a certain point in the history of civilization when specialists in philosophy are-needed, a point where the somewhat more 84 Letter 12 spontaneous, somewhat less self-conscious Religionischestadtanstatungengefhlsregierung (cityorganization-and-government-of-the-feelings-by-religion) becomes inadequate. Plato poses the problem to be solved in a picturesque way, by telling the following pretty story. ...According to received tradition, in that age of bliss, all life needs was provided in abundance and unsought, and the reason, we are told, was this. Cronus was of course aware that, as we have explained, no human being is competent to wield an irresponsible control over mankind without becoming swollen with arrogance and selfish injustice. Being aware of this he gave our communities as their kings and magistrates not men but spirits, beings of a divine and superior kind, just as we still do the same with our flocks of sheep and herds of other domesticated animals: we do not set oxen to manage oxen, or goats to manage goats; we, their betters in kind, act as their masters ourselves. Well, the god, in his kindness to man, did the same; he set over us this superior race of spirits who took charge of us with ease to themselves and convenience to us, providing us with peace and mercy, sound law and justice, and endowing the families of mankind with internal concord and justice. So the story teaches us today, and teaches us truly, that when a community is not ruled by God but by man, its members have no refuge from evil and misery; we should do our utmost this is the moral to reproduce the life of the age of Cronus, and therefore should order our private households and our public societies alike in obedience to the immortal element within us, giving the name of law to the rule of reason. Plato also tells us why he personally devoted himself to philosophy. He had originally intended to be a political activist. However, he came to the sad conclusion that the people of his place and time, Athens in the 4th century B.C., were so fundamentally misguided and corrupt that political activism was useless. He devoted himself to philosophy because he saw it as the best way to further, indirectly and eventually, his political aims. The love of wisdom, the rule of the rational over the irrational, had to be pursued among small groups of philosophers until the day and the hour, the month and the year, when people with political power would cooperate in inaugurating the rule of reason. Philosophy came into existence, in the classical and many-sided form we owe to Socrates and Plato, as the search for a principle of legitimate authority at a time when such a principle was needed, or at least the philosophers thought it was needed, and indeed as the nomination of a candidate for the role of ruling principle, namely rationality, variously known as logos, nous, episteme. Rationality did not, however, exist; it had to be invented or, if you prefer, it had to be found, or, if you prefer, it had to be differentiated from religion. Those of us who agree with Emile Durkheim that...the fundamental categories of thought... have religious origins, need to explain how philosophy, or any department of human culture, detached itself from religion and became somewhat independent of the earth-mother-womb of all symbolic structures.

I explain it this way. Every society has, indeed must have, two distinguishable sets of symbolic structures, even though one can blur the distinction by calling both of them religious when speaking of early times. They are a command structure and a technostructure; the former, with which religion in a limited sense is mainly concerned, governs relations among persons (among persons both human and divine); the technostructure governs interaction with the earth, that is to say, with things, including the human body, insofar as it is regarded as a material system. If early peoples do not appear to make such a distinction, it is because for them the earth with its living forms, and the heavenly bodies above, are persons; we say their thought is entirely religious because it is entirely personal, everything is spirit. Sooner or later, however, a new kind of thinking takes shape within the womb of the old, as various crafts become established which require specialized technical knowledge. Plato invented our western concept of wisdom by working with the materials at hand, with the Greek language and the social practices in which language-using behavior was embedded, to try to solve the problem at hand. The problem was, as he tells us, government, the government of the feelings in the soul, the government of the masses in the city. The solution 85 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I was to bring technology to the rescue of religion. The technostructure reinforced the command structure by lending the prestige of craft-knowledge to Platos proposal to recognize social authority in experts in Platos proposed craft of government. Let me sketch an outline of how Plato did this. When Plato establishes the ideal of wisdom as a rational ideal distinct from religion, he appeals to the authority of craft-knowledge, i.e. to technology, i.e. to the technostructure. When Socrates embarrasses the citizens of Athens by asking them, Is it right because the gods say so, or do the gods say so because it is right? it seems that the latter is the more plausible answer, and in the crafts we have many examples of experts who are right because they know what they are doing, who are not obliged, like discredited gods or parents at their wits end, to fall back on the dubious assertion that it is right because they say so. We recognize the authority of the pilot of the ship in a storm at sea because the pilot has craft-knowledge (episteme) needed to avoid rocks and to position the ship to cope with shifting winds. The architect has authority over the carpenters and bricklayers because he knows how to design a building. The trainer has a certain sort of wisdom, which authorizes him to give rational instructions to the athlete concerning nutrition and exercise programs. The medical doctor is an expert on a certain sort of physical system, the human body, who for that reason is authorized to give commands which those who seek health should follow. Consequently, Plato argues, if we could educate people in the craft-knowledge of expert rulers, making them, so to speak, incarnations of reason, voices of wisdom, then they should be the rulers of the city. Platos ideal city is a city ruled by rationality. Plato works with meaningful themes in his culture to produce a symbolic structure which solves his problem, or at any rate in his opinion would solve his problem if somebody with power would take it as a guide to action and put it into effect. Platos symbolic structure is a set of words with interlocking meanings, taken from ordinary Greek and built into a system by Platos philosophic work. The main words are the following ones.* techne episteme craft, technique, art, technology. Platos greatest work, The Republic, is about the highest techne, the technique or art of government, of ruling, knowledge, originally the knowledge handed down from parent to child of various





crafts. The Republic is about the highest episteme, the special knowledge needed to be a good ruler. means good. Every techne uses an episteme and aims to achieve some agathon. The craft of shoemaking (a techne) uses the special knowledge possessed by shoemakers (their episteme) to produce shoes for people to wear (an agathon). means justice. The ruler (archon) aims at achieving dikaiosyne in the city (polis). dikaiosyne consists of each person playing his proper social role in a well-ordered whole. is the Greek city-state. The literal translation of the title of the book we call Platos Republic (peri politea) is About the polis. The meaning of polis for Plato is, I think, expressed in these translations of some thoughts of Platos pupil, Aristotle: A polis is a group of people who live under a common conception of dikaiosyne. Man is an animal whose characteristic it is to live in a polis. sometimes translated as philosopher-king, is the name Plato gives to the rulers of his ideal polis. Their techne is the art of government; their agathon is dikaiosyne.

* Of course Plato, like everyone else, developed and modified his ideas throughout his life. These notes represent a still snapshot of his thought taken when he was about halfway through writing The Republic. 86 Letter 12 although sometimes Plato sees dikaiosyne as a means to an end revealed in a vision of the greatest and best agathon, a vision sometimes described in English as revealing the Good with a capital G. And sometimes Plato refers to virtue (arete) as the agathon of the archons techne. (The word archon is related to arch, which means principle; hence archon is well chosen to suggest that the archons have authority because they are principle incarnate.) which means word, can also mean principle or reason. The rule of the archons in the polis is hence the rule of logos (or episteme, or nous, which means mind, understanding, reason.) means soul. Plato divides the human psuche into three parts: the feelings, the part which gets angry (or afraid), and the rational part (the part with logos). is wisdom. It is the special knowledge, the episteme, which produces the rule of the rational over the irrational. In the psuche (soul), sofia produces the government of the feelings by the logistiche psuche (the rational part of the soul), aided by the part capable of anger. is a general term including the four virtues, (i) sofia (ii) courage, which consists of the government of the fight-and-flight related part of the soul by the logistiche psuche (the rational part of the soul). I say fight-andflight related because Plato seems to consider the part which gets angry and fights to be also the part which when afraid takes flight, (iii) sophrosune (moderation or temperance), which is the virtue of harmonious feelings, which willingly cooperate with the wise government administered by the


psuche sofia


rational part of the soul. (iv) dikaiosune, which in a sense is the same thing as arete, because it is each part playing its proper role. A soul with dikaiosune is an ordered soul (kosmia psuche). arete in the polis is parallel to arete in the psuche In the polis (city-state) the archons (rulers) govern as the logistiche psuche governs the soul. In the polis the soldiers help the archons to govern. Most of the people are to be governed by the archons (for their own good of course, and for the good of the whole), as the feelings in the soul are to be governed by reason. It remains to assess this special episteme of the archons, Platos wisdom, this highest knowledge needed to enable the highest of all technes to pursue its agathon, this sofia, this ideal the love of which makes one a philosopher. Whatever it is, it had better be capable of performing miracles, because in the absence of miracles the archons (when they find themselves securely in possession of absolute power) will hearken to the cry of the hormones in the blood (which would lead, if J. J. Rousseau* and the lovers of all things natural were right, to happy people rising in love to tribal bliss), which will lead (since Plato and the sociobiologists are in this respect right) to hunger, thirst, sex, anger, and fear (not to mention sadistic thrills) throwing humans into conflict with one another. The archons would soon learn that there are two ways to get work done, (i) working, and (ii) making other people work, and since they would be in power they would (in the absence of a miracle) choose the second way. It is true that Platos book prescribes that the archons will live in voluntary poverty and work hard at their special tasks, but * Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) French essayist. 87 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I a miracle is still needed to prevent them from ignoring the book and doing what they want. Platos proposed education for archons culminates in the learning of an episteme which is supposed to perform the required miracle. The educational plan presupposes a myth, the myth of the metals, which makes Platos task easier; the myth says some children are born with souls of iron, some with souls of brass, some with souls of gold. The infants with golden souls, whether their homes be poor or rich, and regardless of the metal of the parents souls, have the precious potential to be faithful, well-behaved archons, If, like Lapp and Collins, the authors of Food First, you are inclined to want to save the world from nonsense by unmasking myths and telling everybody the true facts, you may think Plato is simply cheating by telling us a story that is not true. However, we should consider, among other things, how much children benefit from certain stories. Infants who are regarded by their parents as if they were persons from the moment they are born, turn out to be socially competent when they grow up; infants brought up to believe they are good are likely to turn out to be good. To what extent it is a fact that babies are persons, or a fact that children are good, is beside the point the point is that the belief produces the result. If I were approached by a myth-unmasker, who had come to question herself and was ready to listen to philosophical advice, and if she invited me to make a suggestion for improvement, I would suggest that she tell all children they have golden souls. Back to Plato, the golden children are to learn dancing and singing. Plato observed that while children like to run around and make noise, they also have a sense of rhythm, which can be trained

to bring order to their movements and sounds. They should learn stories about heroes they can admire and copy, do gymnastics, and later practice athletics and mathematics to discipline their bodies and their minds. Finally, after 30 years of preparation, the future archons are to learn the highest episteme, through dialectics, the highest form of philosophy. The aim of the episteme of the ruler is unity. Platos ideal polis is to be a true community, where the citizens act all for one and one for all, the voice of concord and harmony ever prevailing in their speech and their action. To supervise a community which is to be, as Plato says, most utterly one, rulers are needed who strive to see the one in the many and to take it as their guide, to see and emulate the one true beauty beyond the multiple appearances of beauty, the one true justice beyond the multiple opinions about justice. These lovers of unity Plato calls philosophers. The logic of unity. It is rational to do what serves the whole, under the guidance of logos, nous, episteme. Our bodies divide us; language unite us. The function of rationality in Platos ideal polis is to unite the community, to guarantee that its rulers, and everyone else, will take a social point of view and pursue the good of the whole. In this respect rationality at the beginning of our tradition, in its first many-sided and well-worked-out explicit form, is the opposite of contemporary irrational rationality. P.S. Think of a time when your feelings caused problems for you and of a time when they helped you. Are you usually grateful for your feelings (a strange question, perhaps, since gratitude itself may be an emotion), or do you usually wish they would leave you alone? How do you regulate them? P.P.S. In the last sentence of the above question, who is you? P.P.P.S. If, like Plato, you thought people were so corrupt that political activism wasnt going to do any good, and you decided instead to take the meaningful themes of todays American culture and to weave them into a symbolic structure which would solve our problems, what themes would you pick? The next letter continues the discussion of the founding of western philosophy and of western rationality by Plato. 88 Letter 13 13 PLATO AS ECOLOGIST The archons, says Plato, should not be the only ones taking a social point of view; the common good should be the end which all of us seek. But Plato has a problem. His problem is that not everyone agrees with him. In Gorgias and in The Republic, Plato is challenged by Callicles, who believes that pleasure is the aim of life, and by Thrasymachus, who thinks that we were all put on this earth for the purpose of making money. Plato responds to Callicles by arguing that we do not really seek pleasure, but virtue, and he tells Thrasymachus that our purpose is not to make money but to fill social roles. It turns out that these two ends (being virtuous and filling social roles) are really one and the same, for when we achieve virtue by allowing ourselves to be governed by our souls, we serve the needs of the polis, which consequently becomes capable of surviving in its ecological niche. An ecologist is a scientist who puts together the findings of physics, chemistry, biology and geology. She or he envisions the natural world as a system in which the parts interact upon one another. About any particular living species let us take homo sapiens as our example, since it is an endangered species which we wish to preserve (although after having been jilted by ones lover

one may feel strongly that the planet would be prettier if homo sapiens were extinct) the ecologist asks how it manages to occupy a niche in the ecosystem, acquiring enough energy to stoke the fires of its metabolic processes while fending off predators and parasites which compete for the same energy sources. homo sapiens must eat and avoid being eaten. Food and defense are two basic needs. Plato is a good ecologist inasmuch as he proposes a plan for cooperative human action suitable for achieving successful occupation of an environmental niche. He tells us that the real creators of his ideal polis (city-state) are human needs, and the first need is food. The second need, he implies, is to avoid being eaten, i.e. defense. The city is designed to survive among enemies, partly because it will not have wealth and therefore will not be worth conquering (Plato remarks that the motive for war is to acquire wealth); and partly because its soldiers will be strong, skilled, courageous, and perfectly disciplined. The cost of conquering Platos polis would be high and-the benefits low. A smart ecological strategy. The wild rose with its woody flesh and thorns, and the porcupine, a small morsel in a large mass of sharp quills, avoid being eaten in the same way. Plato is frequently concerned, too, to promote the physical health of the citizens (defense against parasites); he praises the technae of the physician and the trainer, gymnastics, and athletics, self-restraint at meals, a simple healthy diet, moderation in drinking Everything happens as if Plato had asked himself the question, How can creatures of this species most successfully occupy their ecological niche? and answered the question by saying, By perfect self-discipline and perfect social discipline, intelligently ordered toward that end. Although Plato says speaking to each individual that we should seek virtue rather than survival, his precepts admirably serve the goal of survival of the polis. There is, however, a major difficulty standing in the way of this interpretation of Plato. And there is also a major difficulty, assuming that Plato intended to design an efficient society of the 89 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I kind I have described, which stood in Platos way as he attempted to persuade people to live in the way he recommended. Against my interpretation, it is a strong argument that Plato sometimes denies the intention I claim he had, or at least acted as if he had. For example, the Athenian, who is Platos spokesperson in the dialogue called The Laws, criticizes his companions from Crete and Sparta for taking military success to be the aim of the polis and the purpose to be served in designing its institutions. The city-state must be designed for peace, not war, says Platos Athenian; the aim is virtue, not victory. Nevertheless, it seems to me that when Plato says, Seek virtue! it is equivalent to saying, Do those things which effect the survival of yourself and your community in your ecological niche, through assuring the food supply and defense against predators and parasites! Similarly in The Republic, where virtue is pursued under the slightly different name, justice, Plato remarks that every animal has a characteristic function and is excellent insofar as it performs its function well; the function of a horse is to run or to pull the plough and its excellence is to; run fast or to pull the plough efficiently; the good person is the just person; justice is the excellence of the functional human.? It remains to be explained, however, why Plato permits himself a certain degree of circumlocution, or, to put the question in more precise terms, why, in performing his philosophical labor upon the Greek words arete (virtue or excellence) and dike (justice), he developed them in a way which sought to persuade human beings to adopt as their conscious end-in-view virtue or justice, instead of directly telling them to do those things conducive to survival.

The answer can be found by considering the second of the two major difficulties mentioned above, Platos difficulty in persuading his interlocutors to follow his philosophy. There are characteristic differences between behavior guided by biological mechanisms and behavior guided by symbolic structures (culture), and further characteristic differences identifying philosophy as a specific form of culture. The philosopher engages his interlocutors in rational discourse, in the shared discipline of logos, the word; philosophys success, in the first place, depends on whether anybody believes it is true. The success of a genetic variation in the human behavioral repertoire is tested by whether the genes carrying it survive in the natural environment and in combat. A religion will survive if it becomes incorporated in the practices and heartfelt feelings of a group, and if the group survives. A philosophy must move the mind by argument. The decisive difficulty arises when the interests of self and community do not coincide. It is virtuous, Plato assumes, to risk ones life to defend the polis against enemy attack. It is just to abide by the norms, even when one might amass wealth and power by cunning trickery. What Plato needs to prove, in the terms in which he states the problem, is that it is rational to be just (or, more broadly, to be virtuous). He has his work cut out for him. On the face of it nothing is more dull and less fun than being rational, unless it be being both rational and just. Plato needs to prove that the two go together, and to make the argument so attractive that his readers will want to live that way, (Plato brilliantly succeeds in making his arguments attractive, even though he insists that only poets and rhetoricians try to charm readers, the philosophers concern being exclusively with truth.) In a dialogue called Phaedo Plato recounts the last hours of his hero Socrates. Socrates had been convicted by the Assembly of the Athenian people on charges of introducing new gods and corrupting the young. He was sentenced to drink a cup of hemlock, a deadly poison. Phaedo is the record of a philosophical discussion Socrates holds with his friends as he waits for the jailer 90 Letter 13 to prepare the poison and, later, after drinking the poison, waits for it to take effect. At the end, Phaedo, the narrator, for whom the dialogue is named, declares Socrates to have been the most just (dikaios), most impressive (kalos) and most wise (sophos) man he ever knew. It is easy to prove Socrates was just; he was so just that when his friend Crito made arrangements for Socrates to escape from jail, Socrates insisted on staying in jail and dying, because he believed a good citizen should respect the law. That he was impressive (kalos) is harder to prove; most people would not be impressed by an ugly little guy with an awkward gait I who blunders into trouble and then refuses to do anything to get himself out. To prove Socrates was wise, it is necessary to argue that self-sacrifice for the good of the community is rational. In the Phaedo, the dialogue set in Socrates death cell, the required proof is given, or, rather, the argument is recast and reorganized so that the required conclusion follows. Philosophy is not, after all, a matter of writing straightforward proofs of the kind composed by 10th grade geometry students; a philosopher is not, either, a middlewing extremist* who works within symbolic structures; he is, rather, a creative artist who remodels and refurbishes them. The Phaedo is in form mostly a series of arguments trying to prove the immortality of the soul; in substance it is an attempt to shift our frame of reference in order to mold our conduct. Near the beginning of the dialogue Plato congratulates himself on having a compelling dramatic setting for the presentation of his arguments by having Socrates say, one who heard me now, even if he were a comic poet, would say that I am an idle talker about things which do not concern me. Plato also has his characters specify that the conversation is among philosophers, which

excludes people who care about the pleasures of eating, drinking, sexual passion, or fine clothes. If I had been there I would have lied. In truth I cannot resist chocolate cake, but I would have been so eager to hear the rest of the conversation that I would have pretended to be a philosopher. The proofs of the immortality of the soul consist mainly of statements about what the soul is and is like, which lead to the conclusion that a thing which is the sort of thing the soul is, is, by definition, always and necessarily living, hence untouched by bodily death. The soul is what is able to perceive the timeless truths of geometry. She is what sees perfect things, such as the perfect equality of the same number with itself, which humans conceive and talk about even though no two physical objects are ever perfectly equal. She sees absolute norms, good, beauty, justice, holiness. She is akin to whatever is pure, and to what naturally rules and has authority, as distinct from the mortal body which is by nature a slave. She is like a logical definition, which is unchangingly true (as a definition) even when the physical world changes she is unlike an empirical statement, which may change from true to false when the facts to which it refers become different. Plato thus constructs a concept of soul (not from scratch, for he draws on several soulbuilding traditions) with roots in several lands of social practice mathematics, norm-following, purification rituals, the exercise of authority, Greek science. Also, in two revealing passages, Plato has Socrates tell us what the soul means to him personally in his dramatic situation. His muscles and bones, Socrates says, would long ago have accepted Critos offer and escaped from prison, had I (i.e. Socrates soul) not thought it better and more honorable to accept the sentence imposed by the law. The soul is, then, that which commands the body, against the bodys inclinations, to do what is good and honorable. At the very end Socrates says to his friends that I (i.e. Socrates soul) am the Socrates who has been conversing and arranging his arguments in order, not the body which will soon be buried. The soul is, then, that which talks. It is, moreover, the true identity of the person. * Middlewing extremist: a phrase I use to refer to people whose form of revolt against society is to carry to an extreme the ideals of the society they are revolting against. 91 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Translating Plato into the terminology of contemporary linguistics, the soul belongs to the world of synchronic* meanings. It stands for cultural discipline and the symbolic structures through which it is organized, over against the brute body. The required conclusion follows. When Socrates is about to go to another room to bathe before taking the poison (to save the women the trouble ofwashing my dead body) Crito asks Socrates for his last instructions concerning what his friends can do for him. Take care of your own selves, answers Socrates, and you will serve me and mine. The answer is impeccable within the symbolic structure Plato has constructed, for the self is the soul, its good is to practice virtue; the body is for the sake of the soul, and material goods are for the sake of the health of the body. However, it appears that neither the Greeks nor Plato himself were fully satisfied by Platos arguments, for he returns to the problem again and again throughout his career, launching new arguments to prove what had supposedly already been proved. In a dialogue named Gorgias, Socrates (having been brought back to life to represent the voice of wisdom in Platos dialogues) confronts a doubter named Callicles and his friends Polus and Gorgias. They believe pleasure is the aim of life and that an impressive man is one who lets nothing stand in the way of getting as much pleasure as he can. Certainly he does not let justice stand in the way.

In answering Callicles, Socrates is concerned in the first place to prove that it is mistaken to say that pleasure is the aim of life. As he often does, Socrates compares pleasure unfavorably with health. Pleasure is one thing; health is another. He compares the beauty parlor operator; unfavorably with the gymnastics instructor. The beautician will fix you up with cosmetics and fancy clothes and an expensive hairdo, and then you will seem to be pretty. But to be really pretty you need to be healthy; in a sense the beautician is dishonest and she encourages you to be dishonest, while the gym teacher, the nutritionist, or whoever makes you healthy is giving you genuine beauty instead of an imitation. Furthermore, Socrates points out, the general public is not the best judge of health; it takes a specialist, someone who has the right episteme, to distinguish the healthy from the unhealthy. Similarly, even if the crowd worships success, the philosopher, who judges in the light of reason, may judge with a different standard, one based on the correct episteme. Socrates employs the example of a group of children who are asked to choose between the pastry cook who gives them cake and the doctor who gives them medicine. The children in their ignorance will say that the pastry cook is just, impressive, and wise,while the one who gives them awful-tasting medicine they will describe with the worst adjectives in their vocabularies. Platos distinction between pleasure and health illustrates the way rationality, which is to say the logos (the word), compensates for the inadequacy of our hormonal guidance system. Evolution has given us desires for food, drink, sex, highs, thrills, and turn-ons such that pleasure is often a poor pilot to guide us; it has also given us the cerebral cortex and society has given us norms, so that we have, as Pavlov says, a second signaling system, a mind, which compensates for some of the false signals we get from the glands and tie bloodstream. Health is the aim of a certain episteme, medical knowledge, and it is an example of the benefits of the rule of the rational part of the soul over the fight-flight responses and the feelings. The harmony of the whole, where reason rules, is, by Platos definition, justice. Justice is therefore associated with true, healthy happiness, in contrast with momentary pleasure. * Synchronic: existing at the same time. The linguist Saussure and his followers proposed to study the ensemble of words in a language outside time, so to speak, i.e. as the words relate to one another at a given moment in time, i.e. to study language synchronically. 92 Letter 13 Notice that Plato locates the question in a frame of reference different from the one behavioral biologists employ when they ask whether there are genetic codings conducive to altruism. (In one sense, of course, the answer to this question is clearly affirmative, because we are genetically coded to be culturally coded, in our brain structures, in our linguistic capabilities, in our capacity for many refinements and transformations of feeling, and philosophers like Plato are among those who create the cultural codings. But even given that in this broad sense we are biologically constituted so that we are culturally codable to a wide range of behaviors, one might, thinking in an ecological frame of reference, expect Plato simply to advocate altruism. Or to argue that happiness, which is a name for what people want, is found serving others.) Plato defines the question so that instead of asking whether being good will make you happy, he proves that being just will make you healthy. One of the reasons why he formulates the question in this way is that he can argue that being just is very similar to being healthy it is not so much that justice makes health, but rather justice is a kind of health. We moderns would call it mental health. Platos argument might be put in modern terms as follows: We assume that whoever is rational seeks what she or he really wants.

Everybody wants to be healthy. Mental health is a kind of health. A mentally healthy person will play some appropriate and constructive role in society. Consequently, anyone who is rational will seek to play some appropriate and constructive role in society (i.e., be just, as Plato would say). Plato does not neglect happiness, eudaimonia. The point is rather that since Plato holds that pleasure is not happiness, and that happiness is something which can be won only through selfdiscipline (i.e. through the wise government of the body by the soul), happiness itself begins to look very much like health, or a product of health. The argument can be represented as having two phases: first true happiness is distinguished from mere pleasure; second, true happiness is shown to be very much like what we would call mental health. (One of the definitions of neurosis is that it is inner conflict, a person divided against herself. That is precisely Platos definition of the unjust soul. Injustice in the individual soul will make the person incapable of accomplishing anything because of inner faction and lack of self-agreement, and thus an enemy to himself....) Now let us make still another examination of Platos attempt to resolve his core difficulty, as Plato himself does in The Republic, a dialogue written after Gorgias, in which another doubter, Thrasymachus, takes up the argument where Callicles left off. As the scene opens, we see Socrates performing his usual routine; he is arguing that every techne has its corresponding episteme and its corresponding agathon; every technology has its corresponding specialized knowledge and a good at which it aims. In particular, as a rational practitioner of the techne of ruling, the true ruler aims at the good of the polis, i.e. the good of all. (Similarly, the rational part of the individual soul does not simply squash the feelings in a fit of masochistic asceticism, but rather, guides the harmonious development of the whole person.) Thrasymachus, the doubter, throws this by-now-familiar scene into confusion by objecting that Socrates obviously does not know anything about real life. Does he suppose that a shepherd, who rules a flock of sheep, is interested in the good of the sheep? According to Thrasymachus, the shepherd considers his own good, not that of the sheep; sheep to him are just so much mutton or wool, which are worth so much money. The techniques of the ruler, like those of the shepherd, and any other craftsman, are designed to benefit the person who uses the techniques, not anyone else. In a sense there is, according to Thrasymachus, only one techne, that of making money, or of advancing ones interests, which the various crafts all serve. 93 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Socrates answers Thrasymachus as follows: To be a shepherd is, strictly speaking, to be someone who takes care of sheep, using the special knowledge through which the shepherd knows how to take care of sheep, as a pilot is one who knows how to save a ship from shipwreck, and a medical doctor one who knows how to care for the human body. It would not be correct to say that all the technai are simply parts of the art of money-making; rather, each techne has a function, which is to aim at some good different from money-making, and although the people who practice the techne do make money, they do it indirectly, by aiming at some good distinct from money. Similarly, a ruler, properly so-called, practices a techne whose aim is the good of the polis. Most people think that Thrasymachus wins this argument because Socrates is unable to show that a ruler, to be a ruler properly so called, is a just one, who practices the skills and uses the knowledge which will bring proper order to the city. I think Socrates wins, but that it is a little bit difficult to see why he wins. I think what Plato wants us to do is to shift our frame of reference so that we take a social point of view; after the shift we see that any technology and any body of knowledge are social creations and social property; they have been passed down to us by earlier generations, and

we will pass them on to future generations. Viewing society as a set of roles, which continue as individuals are born and die (similarly the genetic code persists through many individuals), then the techne and the episteme appear as structures which perform certain functions. Plato has strict logic on his side; it is true that a shepherd is one who takes care of sheep. That is what we mean and what the Greeks meant by shepherd. Plato is logically right because his account expresses the exact meaning of the word. But there is an underlying point of view which explains why the logical point is not trivial namely the vision of the words in a language acquiring their meanings over many generations, and tending to express the permanent concerns of the society. The science of medicine exists to serve, the social function of restoring the sick and injured to health that is what the word medicine means. The information that John Jones goes to medical school because he wants to make money tells us what Jones motive is, but it does not tell us what medicine is, or what it means to be a medical doctor. Socrates point is therefore both correct and important, but it is difficult to see because it requires us to shift our frame of reference, to change our identity, so to speak, so that we identify not with a biological individual, but with the timeless concerns of a society and its culture. Plato also appears to consider that Socrates refutation of Thrasymachus, although correct, is a little bit difficult to see, for farther on Plato writes: This investigation we are undertaking is not easy, I think, but requires keen eyesight. As we are not very clever, I said, I think we should adopt a method like this: if men who did not have keen eyesight were told to read small letters from a distance, and then someone noticed that these same letters were to be found somewhere else on a larger scale and on a larger object, it would, I think, be considered a piece of luck that they could read these first and then examine the smaller letters to see if they are the same. That is certainly true, said Adeimantus, but what relevance do you see in it to our present search for justice? I will tell you, I said. There is, we say, the justice of one man, and also the justice of a whole city? Certainly. And a city is larger than one man? It is. Perhaps there is more justice in the larger unit, and it may be easier to grasp. So, if you are willing, let us first investigate what justice is in cities, and afterwards let us look for it in the individual, observing the similarities of the larger to the smaller. 94 Letter 13 These words introduce Platos most elaborate attempt to show the rationality of justice, his construction of an ideal state, in which justice is writ large, in great letters, for all to see. In other words, Plato asks us to identify with the good of society. Instead of asking the question, Justice? Whats in it for me? he changes the question; instead you ask, Suppose I were setting up a society. How would I set it up? It should surprise no one that if that is the question you ask, the only rational answer you can give is that in an ideal society people would treat each other fairly. You and Plato might disagree on the plan for the polis and on what rules of justice should be adopted but one thing is sure because it is assumed: you are planning a polis. As long as you are engaged in that activity, you are taking a social point of view; you are identifying with the social good because your role as polis-planner requires it. You are thinking like an ecologist who asks how a human group can function successfully in its environment. The answer to the strong argument against my interpretation of Plato as an ecologist mentioned above, viz. that Plato denies he has material objectives, is that Plato serves them by denying them. By proposing virtue rather than survival as a conscious end-in-view Plato is able to move the

minds of his interlocutors by arguments which, if they are believed, will lead to conduct which will help the community to survive. In the Apology of Socrates, a short book written by Plato more or less according to what Plato remembered hearing Socrates say in his own defense when he was on trial, Plato has Socrates say that the road to the good of the community (polis) leads by way of asking each person to focus on virtue, the good of the soul. Thus Socrates says:... no greater good has ever happened in the polis than my service to the God. For I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but first and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person. But if anyone says that this is not my teaching, he is speaking an untruth. P.S. Do you often find yourself adapting to new circumstances? What kind of changes do you make? Is an individual adapting to a society like a society adapting to its environment? P.P.S. According to Plato, what is the relationship between body and soul? Between health and virtue? Between the doctor and the archon? Do you find that there is a relationship between health and virtue in your life? P.P.P.S. Pretend that you are Socrates and your friend is Callicles (or vice versa). Callicles takes the position that pleasure is the aim of life, and Socrates tries to convince him that the is wrong. In your discussion use examples from your life, so that no one will be able to accuse you of being an idle talker about things which do not concern you. The next letter continues the discussion of Platos contributions to the construction of western civilization, and comments on some ways in which his contributions have been both helpful and harmful. 95 96 Letter 14 14 PLATO AS COLOGISTE Plato was concerned with building a polis which would fit into it ecological niche, but he did not like trees very much. He would never be able to understand why an Earlham student would want to spend a month on a wilderness program. Yet despite his lack of a sense of camaraderie with nature, he thought that the natural world should be respected; he argued that nature contains a soul. He realized that such things are rather hard to prove, but he considered the world-soul to be a most useful idea, since if people believe that the world contains a soul, participating in immortal and immutable natural laws, they can easily be persuaded that a rational human culture will be based on the same immortal and immutable laws. They will therefore respect their culture so much that the idea of questioning it would never even occur to them. Such an arrangement is good for Platos polis, but destructive of consciousness. An ecologist, if she were an cologiste, would, if she were planning a society, do more than fit the society to succeed in its niche. She would respect the interdependence of living forms, honor the natural limits, cherish the earth with its diversity of plants, fish, birds, insects, land-dwelling animals, and sea-dwelling plankton. The transition from the English word to the French word, from ecologist to cologiste, marks a shift of loyalties; the ecologist is a scientist who tells us what a species must do to survive in its environment; the cologiste aims to preserve the environment

itself. She does not merely aim to cope with the environment for the purpose of assuring the safety of a particular endangered species, such as the species homo sapiens on whom we have concentrated our attention. Respecting the earth, as distinct from using it, is a theme of ancient Chinese philosophy and the philosophies of the Sioux, Ojibway, and other American native peoples. They conceive and feel the earth as a great spirit, a great soul, a mother, a sacred place where sacred beings dwell. The cologiste may regard these ancient metaphors of ancient peoples as funny-talk; she may regard cologisme as a logical consequence of ecology, the facts as sufficient without poetic embellishment. Fact: there is no security for any species without a secure ecosystem. Consequence: if we are to be secure, respect for the security of the ecosystem must become our end-in-view. The point, nevertheless, is the same, whether one employs the old or the new metaphors, or suffers under the illusion that one can speak without metaphor, or does not speak at all but simply stands in front of an enlarged photograph of an ocean and feels a warm identification with immense waters, or feeds peanuts to the elephant at the zoo, or like Pope John Paul II stands at sunset on a mountain peak in Poland and says, woo, woo, woo. A spirit is something you respect, so is a soul, so is a mother, so is a sacred being. Respect unembellished trees if you wish, but do not on that account consider yourself to be a more careful reasoner than Lao Tse, Mencius, the Sioux, the Ojibway or John Paul II. However much spontaneous love of nature Plato may have had and we have reason to believe that he did not have much, for when Phaedrus in the dialogue called Phaedrus invites Socrates to sit down beside a cool brook in the shade of the plane trees, Socrates complains that he can learn nothing from trees and asks to be taken back to the city nevertheless in the end 97 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Plato maintains that the world has a soul. His reasoning is pragmatic. In The Laws, a rough draft written late in Platos life which he did not live to polish, where Plato gives a more detailed and slightly modified plan for the ideal polis which he had proposed in The Republic, a hypothetical objector makes almost the same objection raised against leading the philosophic life already discussed and answered in Phaedo. One might have thought that after all the labor he had devoted to replying to doubters, at the end of his life Plato would consider the doubters to be silenced, but in fact he considers yet another objection, similar to the ones previously entertained, and provides yet another reply. Your ideal city will not work, says the doubter, because it requires the citizens to live virtuously for the sake of their souls, but many people do not believe there are souls. They think soul is a social convention, not a fact of nature. No no says Plato. No no and no. I deny the question! I deny the concept! I deny the frame of reference! People who make such objections should be condemned for misuse of language. It is wrong to speak as if nature (phusis) existed first, and then soul were added on later; it is a misuse of the word nature. What we should say is that soul came first; as Plato phrases it, soul is elderborn. (The concept elder-born, like so much of early thought, uses categories drawn from kinship structures.) Body depends on soul for its existence, not the other way around. Plato makes up several stories in The Laws and in other dialogues, about the world-soul, the soul that came before nature and underlies it, and about the origins and characteristics of the great universe in which the Mediterranean world known to the Greeks, where they lived like frogs and ants around a marsh, was, Plato recognized, only a small part. He tells us with charming candor that he makes up the stories in order to draw the morals. Do not expect the details of my creation myths and my cosmologies to be true, he says; my point is that something of the sort must be true. The point of

the point is that soul is not added to nature as an afterthought, rather nature is soul-saturated from the beginning; and the point of the point of the point is that humans are souls, not soulless bodies. Contemporary anthropology tells us a creation story which provides a sense in which something of Platos sort is true. If the soul is human social being, if the body is human physical being, then contemporary anthropology tells us that it is true that the soul came before (or at least with) the body. Our social relations are not added on to our bodies as an afterthought; our being, even our physical being, became human in a social process; hominization did not indeed when you think about it you will realize that it could not first produce a human body and then add a soul to it. Many of our physical features (e.g. the language areas of the brain) only make sense, only provide an evolutionary edge, on the assumption that humans live in groups. Very long ago we gradually became we by speaking; by making child care longer and longer; by prolonging estrus (heat) so that the human is sexually attracted to other humans virtually all the time, instead of, as is the case with less social animals, only during short mating periods; by the division of labor. We became we by becoming unable to exist alone either physically or emotionally.* In this sense Plato was correct to say soul is elder-born, especially since he wisely granted posterity the right to amend his meanings by admitting that he himself had only a vague idea that he was somehow on the right track. In this sense, however, the story about the world-soul loses one of its functions, because the moral to be drawn from the contemporary story (that we are right to find our identity in our social relations) can be drawn without attributing any soul to the trees in the forests, the mists in the valleys, the fish in the seas, or the birds in the skies. The world-soul story has, anyway, other functions, which Plato, in spite of Socrates cranky remark about the plane trees, broadly supports. Plato had a passion for respecting; he says we should respect the gods, we are their property; we should respect the land, it is our mother. He * See for example the book On Becoming Human by the anthropologist Nancy Tanner. 98 Letter 14 had a passion for asserting the priority of the whole over the part. The cologiste wants nothing more and nothing other than respect for the whole. But Plato had yet another moral to draw from the world-soul, which it is necessary to discuss. He was, we must say, excessively confident that he had discovered the best laws for governing a city, and he desperately wanted the citizens to respect the laws he was drawing up. The philosopherkings, the incarnations of reason installed in the central fortress, were authorized to tell the citizenry outrageous stories, composed by Plato himself, to foster obedience. Even detailed regulations, such as that the number of citizens should be 5040, were to be declared rational, divine, immutable, eternal. Plato had constructed his word soul in such a way that it referred to human social nature in a special way, promoting an identification with the synchronic structures of meaning which organize cooperative action, in away that emphasized the unchanging, such as mathematical truth (the equal is always equal, odd numbers are never even), logical truth (the hot and the cold are forever different), and pure ideas (absolute beauty, justice, good). The citizenry were supposed to believe they were living in a city ruled by eternal ideas, as the feelings live in a body ruled by a soul. The world-soul made the very stones of the hills accomplices to the fraud. The distinction between culture and nature is obliterated in a way that awards to particular human laws the authority of natural law. According to one version of the story (in the Timaeus) the world is made of triangles (after all, solids are made of planes, planes can be divided into polygons, and all polygons can be

broken up into triangles) and hence students who learn the Pythagorean theorem are on their way to learning the eternal ideas which govern everything. A philosophy which installs its principles in the interstices of the world soul, in the veins of the earth and the depths of the waters, from where said principles emerge in eternal majestic processions to glorify the status quo, might never have done much damage if it had been confined to Plato, because it is hard to believe a doctrine which proclaims the validity everywhere and always of institutions which have never existed anywhere ever. However, people do believe easily, too easily, that whatever is familiar to them is natural; their inclination to consider whatever institutions they happen to have to be rational, divine, and immutable is like a constant force of gravity, which consciousness-raisers must continually struggle to overcome; when it is combined with arguments purporting to show that it is really true that the familiar is endorsed by nature, put forth by people who have a real status quo to defend instead of Platos imaginary one, social inertia can become hard and heavy like the Rock of Gibraltar. That is what happened. The arguments Plato gives to prove the soul to be elder-born were developed further by Aristotle and St. Thomas; they became in the course of the history of western civilization standard weapons in the arsenals of the heavy consciousness-lowerers. Plato is guilty on the charge Sir Karl Popper brings against him in The Open Society and Its Enemies. He is, as Popper says, the great source for the philosophic defense of the closed society, where reason comes to the aid of social norms not to improve them by constant reexamination and deliberate reform, but to preserve them by constant flattery. That he is also, on the contrary, the great source for the philosophic defense of untrammeled inquiry, and of much else we are inclined to praise, can be argued to mitigate the sentence but not to reverse the conviction. Platos rationality is different from contemporary irrational rationality because it is a logic of unity. It is the same as contemporary irrational rationality in the respect that it is consciousness-lowering. 99 100 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I P.S. How does the kind of consciousness-lowering inherent in Platos philosophy compare with the kind of consciousness-lowering discussed in Letter 9? P.P.S. Do you consider yourself an cologiste? Discuss whether or not adhering to cologisme because it is a logical consequence of ecology is essentially the same as doing so because one thinks the earth is her mother. P.P.P.S. Is soul a meaningless word? P.P.P.P.S. An exercise in cologisme: hug a tree. The next letter continues the study of philosophys contributions to the construction of the foundations of the western tradition by examining some of the work done by Platos pupil and successor, Aristotle. Letter 15 15 ARISTOTLE AND MATTHEW MILLER ON FRIENDSHIP

The moral of this chapter is that communication is to friendship as sunlight is to flowers. ...the wish to be friends grows quickly, but friendship does not. Aristotle I confess that I find Aristotle interesting. I have not yet decided whether I should also confess that I accept his model of rational human action and reject our modern homo economics assumptions. One should not confess too much without taking great precautions to ensure that one will be understood. Aristotle made an interesting remark about boring people when he wrote, You could not endure even the Absolute Good, if it bored you. This strikes me as a very interesting observation. I find it interesting because it explains why I have no friends. One of my habits is to fall silent and say nothing for a week while I meditate on some unforgivable insult I have suffered. People who might otherwise regard me as a friendLETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I candidate probably find this habit of mine boring and cross me off their lists of people to invite to parties. Another reason why I have no friends is that I am gloomy. Aristotle wrote, Gloomy and elderly people rarely make friends, as they are inclined to be hard to get along with, they do not seek each others society nor enjoy it, and enjoying each others company is the chief mark of friendship. Here Aristotle brings up another reason why I am not a good friend: I do not enjoy other peoples company. What would I do with a friend if I had one? Or what would the friend do with me? As Aristotle says, to be somebodys friend you have to have some lovable qualities, like being fun to be with. To be exact, Aristotle says three things are necessary for friendship: (1) to wish good things (tagatha) for one another; (2) to be aware of each others goodwill (it docs not count as friendship if you care about each other but neither of you knows it); and (3) the cause of the goodwill you have for each other must be some lovable quality you have. You need all three for friendship: goodwill, awareness of mutual goodwill, and lovable qualities that cause the goodwill. There are three kinds of lovable qualities: you can be useful, pleasant, or good. He identifies three kinds of friendship, according to what lovable quality each is based on. The first kind of friendship, friendship based on usefulness, occurs among people seeking profit and success. Friendship for mutual advantage, (here I quote Aristotle) seems to occur most frequently among the old, as in old age men do not pursue pleasure but profit...and between those young people whose object in life is success. Friends of this kind do not frequent each others company much, for in some cases they are not even pleasing to each other, and therefore they have no use for spending time together unless it is mutually profitable; since their pleasure in each other goes no further than their

expectations of advantage. The second type of friendship is based on pleasure and is commonly found among the young. With the young on the other hand the motive of friendship appears to be pleasure, since the young guide their lives by emotion...the young do desire to pass their time in their friends company, for that is how they get the enjoyment of their friendship. Aristotle mentions two ways to be pleasant you can be either beautiful or witty. I used to spend time looking at myself in a mirror trying to decide whether I was good looking, but I finally gave it up and decided to try to qualify as a pleasant person by being witty. Now, witty people, according to Aristotle, make friends best with other witty people, so if I am going to try to make it on wit I must find someone else who is also trying to make it on wit, so we can admire each other and confirm each others worth. In general, there needs to be what he calls equality in friendship, which means that the friends enjoy doing the same things, and admire each others strong points. If I were good at dancing, then I should be friends with a good dancer, because not only would we enjoy the same activity, but we would also be able to agree with each other that dancing is wondrous, and we could consider ourselves superior to people who are clumsy and have no sense of rhythm. You can hardly deny that Aristotle has an interesting point here. You must have noticed that people who are intelligent and read books all the time tend to rate other people according to how intelligent they are and how many books they read. People with beautiful bodies tend to rate other people on their bodies. Other people pride themselves on their ancestors, or their nice things, or their houses. Take my Uncle Alf for example. Alf is a born loser. But, remarkably enough, Alf has a friend, and just as Aristotle said, they enjoy each others company, Alf and Ralph, because they enjoy doing something together, and what they do is, they work on their cars. And what they talk about, just as Aristotle said, is other peoples cars. Alf says things like, Say, Ralph, do you remember ol whats his name, the one used to drive a 68 Olds? Ralph says, 68 Olds sure I remember him. With a big ol crack in the left rear window; some people aint got no pride or nothin, aint that right Alf? 102 Letter 15 Yeah Ralph, says Alf. Do you know what he did? He traded it in on a 81 Volare. Volare, says Ralph, thats ridiculous! Thats what I say, says Alf, thats ridiculous. Thats the most ridiculous thing ever come out of Detroit. The perfect form of friendship this is the third type of friendship, and Im quoting Aristotle again is that between the good, and those who resemble each other in excellence it is those who wish the good of their friends for their friends sake who are friends in the fullest sense, since they love each other for themselves and not accidentally. Part of the point here is that we can distinguish between the substance of a thing, what it is, and its accidents, its temporary qualities. For example, being a person is part of your substance, being located at the place where you are now is one of your accidents. The friendship of the good is based on substance, what you really are, while the friendships of utility and pleasure are based on accidents, on your temporary qualities. Furthermore, it takes a long time to become friends. I quote Aristotle again: People who enter into friendly relations quickly have the wish to be friends, but cannot really be friends without being worthy of friendship, and also knowing each other to be worthy of friendship; the wish to be friends grows quickly, but friendship does not.

It follows that a person cannot have very many true friends. Here is Aristotle again: It is not possible to have many friends in the full meaning of the word friendship, any more than it is possible to be in love with many people at once (love indeed seems to be an excessive state of emotion such as is naturally felt towards one person only); and it is not easy for the same person to be friends with a number of people at once, and it is perhaps impossible to find good people in large numbers. Also for perfect friendship you must get to know a person thoroughly, and become intimate with him, which is a very difficult thing to do. But it is possible to like a number of persons for their utility and pleasantness; for useful and pleasant people are easy to find, and the benefits they confer can be enjoyed immediately. This shows another reason why I dont have any friends. It is because of an excessive state of emotion or one person I love; we spend so much time with each other that we dont have time to get to know anyone else. Aristotle differs from Plato as a great student differs from a great teacher. He was Platos student for years, and when he philosophized on his own he stood on the shoulders of his mentor and predecessor, even though his attempts to put philosophy on a firm footing often led him to deny some of Platos fanciful doctrines, such as the doctrine that there is a Good. Plato expressed his fanciful doctrine of the Good in this passage, for example: And we also assert that there is a fair itself, a good itself, and so on for all the things that we set down as many. Now again, we refer them to one idea of each as though the idea were one; and we address it as that which really is. (The Republic, 507b) Aristotle, on the other hand, declined to engage in such flights of fancy and did not need them for his purposes. Platos writings focus, on the whole, on a single set of problems, namely how to achieve social discipline and personal self-discipline, together with the difficulties raised by the methods Plato proposes for achieving discipline. Aristotles works, on the other hand, are an attempt to produce an encyclopedic knowledge of everything. Plato had to argue for the rule of the rational over the irrational, and hence for the importance of knowledge, episteme, as a guide in the conduct of life. Aristotle, his pupil, could take the importance of knowledge for granted, and he set out to acquire knowledge of everything. Although many of Aristotles books have been lost, those which remain to us, which are mainly notes taken on his lectures by his students, include besides his theory of friendship, which is included in his books on ethics, four books on logic and scientific method, one on the meanings of words, a book on logical fallacies, a book on coming to be and passing away, eight books on physics, four on astronomy, four called 103 104 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I meteorology; three on the soul, where he discusses, among other things, memory, dreams, sleep, and respiration, twenty-one books on biology, including classifications of the plants and the animals; works on color, sound, mechanics, miracles, winds, how to give speeches, economics, metaphysics, nineteen books on ethics, a book on the Constitution of Athens, eight books on politics, and several commentaries on Greek drama and poetry. It is true that some of the books are short and some of the lecture notes are repetitious but it is also true that Aristotle expresses himself concisely, almost telegraphically. His work appears to be that of a person who was highly motivated to pursue intellectual achievement, and he tells us in one of his books on ethics that perfect happiness is an activity which exercises the mind. To use the mind is to participate in divinity, is the activity of the intellect that constitutes complete human happiness... Such a life as this however will be higher than the human level: not in virtue

of his or her humanity will a person achieve it, but in virtue of something within oneself which is divine If then the intellect is something divine in comparison with man, so is the life of the intellect divine in comparison with human life... we ought so far as possible to achieve immortality, and to do all that a person may do to live in accordance with the highest thing in us. My friends, if I had any friends, would probably forgive me for finding Aristotle interesting; they would probably take the position that everyone is entitled to a hobby, such as collecting first editions of L. Frank Baums Wizard of Oz books, or becoming an expert on the private lives of Hollywood celebrities or the British royal family, or reading Aristotle. If I find a quotable line here and there which helps me to think about my personal problems as I read what Dorothy said to the witch or what Liz Taylor said to Richard Burton, or what Prince Charles said to Lady Di, or what Aristotle said to his students, that too is, within limits, permissible, as long as I do not forget that Aristotle belongs to a distant past which, thanks to God and science, we have put behind us. But if I were, heaven forbid, science forbid, to agree with Aristotelian principles, then I would quickly be reminded that the scientific study of humans and other animals has come a long way since Aristotle began biology by collecting specimens for the museums attached to his lyceum (that was the name of his school) and morally we have come a long way too because Aristotle and Plato also for that matter supported hierarchy, patriarchy, slavery, mind-body dualism, and (some say) an arid intellectualism, and, moreover, they were not above telling stories with the aim of arrogating divine attributes for themselves and their class, such as the story quoted at the end of the preceding paragraph. That is the sort of thing the sort of friends I would probably have, if I had any, would say to anybody suspected of admiring Aristotle. : Now a friend, according to an Earlham student named Matthew Miller, is a person who understands why you do what you do. This is an insightful comment on friendship because normally we expect friends to communicate in such a way that they understand each others motives. An outsider can observer what a person does, so that the outsider knows, for example, that Melvin dropped chemistry or that Karen broke up with her fianc, but a friend knows why Melvin dropped chemistry and why Karen and her fianc no longer send roses to each other. So, following Miller, if I were going to behave in a friendly way toward my friend, if I had one, I would have to explain why this philosophical treatise portrays Aristotle in a rather favorable light, even though it endorses the minimization of hierarchy, the abolition of patriarchy, the elimination of the new as well as the old forms of slavery and dualism, and even though it does not endorse either arid intellectualism or fraud. As I said at the beginning, I confess that I find Aristotle interesting, but I have not yet decided whether to confess that I admire his concept of rational human action. It depends on whether I can find a way to avoid being misunderstood. Now suppose that my friend, if I had one, were to say to me, Communicate to me just exactly why you are describing Aristotles philosophy in a somewhat favorable way. I want to 104 Letter 15 (know why you are doing what you are doing because understanding human action is part of what friends are for. If my friend (if I had a friend) were to make such a request, I would probably be intimidated. I am always intimidated when people say, Communicate to me just exactly why.... Unable to answer, I would probably stall for time by telling a story. That reminds me, I would say, of a beggar who approached me as I was enjoying a bowl of

cream of asparagus soup at a small caf in the city of San Jose, Costa Rica. The pordiosero (beggar) walked in the door and came up to my table carrying a branch cut from a tree. Who made this branch? he asked. God, I answered, seeking to establish communication by participating in symbolic structures meaningful in the great western tradition the two of us presumably shared. He smiled. What is this branch made of? Wood, I answered. Who made man? he asked. God, I answered again. What is a man made of? Muscle and blood, I said. A man, he said, is made of a little bread and a little soup. I invited him to sit down and bought him some bread and some soup. My friend (if I had one) would probably wonder why I told the story, and, not knowing that I told it to stall for time, she would probably suppose the story to have a deep meaning not apparent on the surface, and I, since I am pretentious and enjoy being thought profound, would probably not admit that the only reason I told the story was that I could not think of anything else to say, which would create a communication barrier between us, due to my failure to be open with her about my motives, which would not be good for our friendship. Eventually she would remind me that I had not answered her question. What question? I would ask, pretending to have forgotten. Why do you accept Aristotles model of rational human action and reject our modern homo economicus* assumptions? I would begin my approach to an answer by saying, Aristotle describes the institution of friendship as it was practiced in the Greek cities where he lived in the 4di century B.C. That much is obvious. His method of description is constructive. It changes the realities it describes. What do you mean? I mean his description is not like an image in a mirror. It is made of words and it is creative. Please tell me what you mean. lam trying to understand you, but I find what you are saying to be obscure. Suppose there were a mirror in the agora, reflecting the movements of the Athenians as they made friends. What the mirror would reflect would be a series of two-dimensional images of Athenian bodies. That is different from Aristotle because the product of Aristotles philosophizing is a series of words. Yes, I would say, you are understanding me. I would cross myself gratefully and say a Glory Be. The friend: The mirror does not decide what to reflect, but Aristotle does, so his verbal image is creative. * homo economicus: Latin for economic man. It refers to the modern assumption that human behavior is by nature economic, i.e. devoted to maximizing the satisfaction of an individuals preferences or desires. Rationality is maximizing the payoffs. (Def. 6) 105 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Myself: An infinite number of grammatically correct verbal descriptions are available for

constructing a verbal image of friendship. Aristotle generates and selects a valid description (by valid here I mean not contrary to the facts) from among infinitely many valid possibilities. The friend: His philosophical generalizations about friendship will change the conduct of the Athenians because after they listen to him, or read notes on his lectures, they will in their own minds talk to themselves about friendship, and in conversations talk to others about friendship, in slightly different ways. That is why you say his describing changes the realities it describes. Quite so, I say. Aristotle himself tells us that his ethics will be useful to those who live kata logon, according to the word, but useless for those who are alogon, those who do not live according to words but rather according to impulse. He also contrasts those who have a false idea of philosophy, who merely accumulate knowledge and go on living the same as before, with the true philosophers, whose conduct comes under the control of the logos. What does Aristotle mean by logos? At one point Aristotle says the appetites and desires in a sense participate in logos being amenable and obedient to logos in the sense in which we speak of listening to logos when a person pays attention to the counsel of father and friends not in the sense of the term logos in mathematics. However, at another point, when speaking of virtue and justice, Aristotle does rely on the sense of the term logos in mathematics; that is to say, on the idea that virtue, like a rational number (a number which, as we moderns would say, can be expressed as a ratio of two integers p/q) is measurable and measured. Logos means ratio in mathematics, and it also means principle, rule, reason, definition, argument... You will find a lengthy discussion of the ways logos and its variations such as logoi, logon, are translated into English in W.K.C. Guthries History of Greek Philosophy. My friend (if I had one) would probably say, Aristotle apparently blurs and runs together some ideas we moderns are inclined to distinguish and to separate, and vice-versa. However, it is in any case reasonable to expect a product which consists of words to influence the conduct of people who live according to words, that is to say, people whose motor behavior is under social control through the mediation of the cerebral cortex. Myself: Some of us prefer to say cultural co-control instead of social control because by participating in cooperative action people create, change, and maintain culture we dont just submit to it. As we become more aware that we are all creators of culture, we respect each other more and we are empowered to change the logoi and the non-linguistic symbolic structures that guide us. The friend: You are finding in Aristotle an ancient root of some contemporary ideas. Myself: Aristotles model of rational human action, conduct guided by language, is supported by recent research in psycholinguistics and in a host of fields associated with semiotics, and by the philosophy of human action. Learned opinion is returning to views similar to Aristotles, and rejecting the homo economics assumptions made, for example, by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) when he wrote, In deliberation, the last appetite [i.e. force pulling toward HR] or aversion [i.e. force pushing away HR] immediately adhering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is what we call the will...* What is the traditional (pre-economic society) definition of will? The classic medieval definition of will is a rational appetite, a phrase which derives from Aristotles phrase energeia kata logon, activity according to the word. Aristotle conceived of will as internalized command, one part of the soul commanding another within a single person. Thus the logos, the instrument used to effect rational human action (in Plato the logistiche psuche,

* Leviathan, Ch. 6 106 Letter 15 the rational part of the soul), gives form to a personal will coordinated with extra-personal authority. At its best, the extra-personal authority expresses the larger will of a beloved cosmic community. (Thus Dante felt himself lifted out of himself and his will governed by the will that moves the heavens and all the other stars.) The Friend: Thomas Hobbes definition of will as force and the Latin phrase homo economicus both remind me of Leon and of irrational rationality. No doubt you will say more about them when you discuss the philosophies of economic society. For the present, however, please stick to Aristotle. I will be able to form a clearer idea of why you are doing what you are doing if you discuss philosophy in chronological order: first Plato, then Aristotle, then Christian philosophy and the middle ages, then the rise of the symbolic structures of economic society, then contemporary attempts to build a posteconomic socialist culture. If dealing with philosophy somewhat in historical order is what my friend (if I had one) would advise, then I would not decline to follow her advice, even though it implies a further postponement of my decision whether or not to confess my admiration for Aristotle, since I am afraid to confess without taking great precautions to avoid being misunderstood, and at the moment I cannot make myself understood because I cannot make clear the difference between Aristotles model of rational human action (i.e. action guided by logos) and the homo economicus assumptions. One might, however, even at this early point in the argument, make the observation that there is a similarity which links Aristotles theory of friendship with Matthew Millers theory of friendship. According to Aristotle, friends (a) have good will for one another, (b) are aware of each others good will, and (c) have lovable qualities which each appreciates in the other. According to Matthew Miller, a friend is a person who knows why you do what you do. The similarity is that in both cases a harmony of wills depends on communication and mutual understanding. P.S. A criticism people from other cultures often make of the United States is that Americans have many superficial friendships instead of a few true friendships, ignoring Aristotles observation that it is not possible to have many friends in the full meaning of the word. Do you think this is true? P.P.S. Consider Jesus words No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15). P.P.P.S. A person might know why you do what you do but a) not have enough goodwill to care about your welfare, or b) not approve of your motives, and if either a or b is the case one might consider that there is an absence of harmony of will and therefore no friendship. On the whole, however, I think that these are not valid objections to the Miller thesis. Because a) Anybody who takes the trouble to listen to you with enough care to discern why you do what you do probably cares about you the listener has already contributed to your welfare by giving you the Basic Gift, the gift of being a person in someone elses eyes. And b) the reasons people give for doing what they do are usually reasons other people approve of, the reprehensible motive being usually not disclosed to ones friends or even to oneself. This is why Albert Camus is able to describe as a generous psychology that psychology which ascribes to a person the same motives she ascribes to herself. The next letter will provide more detail concerning a topic already mentioned several times, namely metaphysics, the construction of metaphysical statements, and Aristotles role in

constructing the classic version of what metaphysics is. 107 108 Letter 16 NOTE: Many readers get bogged down in this letter. If you find it too difficult, not interesting enough, or both, skip ahead to Letter 17. 16 THE BRONZE SHAPE STUDENT NAME: Aristotle DATE: 2600 years before I was born COURSE: Philosophy for Everyone GRADE: A+ A+ A+ and extra credit too COMMENTS: Friends may know the causes of each others actions, but Aristotle sought to know the aitai (explanation) and the arch (ruling principle) of everything. To be wise, according to Aristotle, is to know not only why Karen broke up with her boyfriend, but why a flower is a flower, and why a statue is a statue, and why a household is a household, and why an anything is an anything. He began with the assumption that there is being; there must be being, he said to the skeptics, because there is language, and if being didnt exist we would have nothing to talk about. Further investigation led him to the conclusion that amorphous, unorganized being becomes a what it is, a this-something, when it is shaped and unified by a particular form. His symbolic structure, which describes beings as products of matter and form, deserves three A+s and extra credit too since it implies that we, as human beings, should shape up; we should allow ourselves to be formed. It would be somewhat surprising to me if you were to remember what I have said about metaphysics since I am a poor listener with a poor memory. You may remember that I said some people consider the word metaphysics to be equivalent to nonsense, while I, on the other hand, believe metaphysics performs important social function even though it goes beyond the facts. There is no good reason for me to be surprised if you remember what I said; my surprise is due rather to a bad reason, which is that if you had said what I said and I had been the listener, I would think you had used the words fetamysics or physametics to refer to the germination of seeds in artificial fogs or to the measurement of muscle strength in small mammals, such as rabbits. You may find it hard to believe I am surprised when I find that other people are not like me, when what would really be more surprising would be to find a restaurant or a bus in which carbon copies of myself were seated in all the seats. Nevertheless, it is true, 109 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I The use of the word metaphysics has a long and eventful history, in which my speaking the word and your listening, if your mind was not wandering, and remembering, if you have a better memory than mine, constitute a small recent episode of local interest. As is rarely the case in the histories of the uses of words, scholars have been able to determine the approximate date when from the mouth of a person there first came forth the sound meta phphusika, a sound which became in the course of the regular procession of standard translations our English word metaphysics. It happened on a dark night in Rhodes in 70-60 B.C., some 260 years after the death of Aristotle. A

gentleman named Andronicus was poring over his collection of parchment manuscripts of Aristotles works by candle light. (I should admit that it is not known whether Andronicus used a candle or an oil lamp or whether he worked by daylight; I imagine the parts I don t know.) Andronicus was putting together a large tome, trying to unite many of Aristotles books into a single volume. The particular book he placed after the ten treatises on physical science and before the two treatises on political science had no name, and consequently whenever Andronicus or the readers of his collection wanted to discuss it they had no choice but to refer each other to ta meta ta phusika, the book which comes after Aristotles books on physics. As it turned out the collection edited by Andronicus became a standard edition of Aristotles works, and the word metaphysics became associated with the study of the subjects which Aristotle studies in the book which bears the name metaphysics. You may allow yourself a considerable latitude in choosing among the many meanings the word has enjoyed; you may, within limits, choose to mean by metaphysics whatever most helps you to say what you want to say with the help of the word. However, one choice you may not make is to choose to say that Aristotles book which received that name is not a book about metaphysics. It is the classic case, it is where the word began, it is metaphysics if anything is. Notice that it follows as a logical consequence that the logical positivist must say Aristotles book is nonsense, and I must say that Aristotles book performs important social functions even though it goes beyond the facts. The book begins by saying that all men by nature desire to acquire knowledge. If Aristotle had gone to my high school, the book would have begun differently. It would have begun by discussing Alice Leach, Conrad Miziumski, and two or three others who desired to acquire knowledge, and it would have inquired into the causes (that is to say, the aitai, or the arch) of their peculiar behavior. Aristotle would have paid particular attention to Conrad because Conrad seemed to want to know everything just for the sake of knowing; Conrad wanted to get to the bottom of everything, to know its aitai (its explanation) and its arch (its ruling principle) even when the knowledge he might acquire by his speculations and investigations brought him no benefit. Of all the students in our school Conrad was the most peculiar. He read books by himself in the library and stayed after school to do experiments in the laboratories. He had the complete string quartets of Beethoven on tape. Obviously a freak. Aristotle believed that the common opinion about people like Conrad is that they are wise. Aristotle would not lie to us; the explanation for his weird belief must be that among the people Aristotle knew it was the common opinion that people who pursue knowledge for its own sake are wise. Evidently we need to know what school Aristotle went to, and more about the one I went to, in order to understand the context of what he says and the context of what I say, since that seems weird to me seemed like common sense to him. At our school all boys by nature desired to fight. Although lam sure it is true that if Aristotle had gone to my high school he would have had an adjustment problem; there are reasons for saying that my school was more normal than his, because the tendency of young males to fight can be observed in dogs, cats, apes, monkeys, and other mammals, as well as in humans, and 110 Letter 16 because the male hormone testosterone, which the glands begin to secrete in large amounts at the beginning of adolescence, has a demonstrated tendency to produce aggressive behavior. Even Conrad Miziumski sometimes turned red and clenched his fists, and, furthermore, due to certain personal insights which I have achieved by introspection, I have come to suspect that when Conrad walked around the campus listening to Beethoven on his earphones, he felt a keen satisfaction in

enjoying a pleasure not accessible to the musically illiterate, who happened to be the same people as those who had a disagreeable tendency to attack Conrad whenever their attention was drawn in his direction; thus, I suspect, Conrad channeled his hostility; he sublimated it as Freud* would say; he made it sublime like sublimated sulfur, a delicate yellow powder which does not look at all like sulfur rock even though it is chemically identical to it; instead of being a creature without hostility, he was a refined creature, for it would in any case have been impossible for him to be a creature without hostility, since, as we know from behavioral biology, no human being lacks aggressive responses. The principal of our school was named R. Garn Haycock. R. Garn, as we used to call him, had methods for making 700 unruly boys and a slightly smaller number of somewhat less unruly girls respect legitimate authority, such as, for example, himself. In the first place R. Garn followed the precedent of the first Olympic Games, recounted by Homer in The Iliad; he transformed combat into ritual governed by rules, through sports programs. In sports you can be aggressive, but it is a point of honor to play fair and serious injuries are infrequent. Secondly and this was the special genius of R. Garn Haycock he ran a wrestling tournament in which every boy in the school was required to participate. R. Garn maintained that one way to stop bullies is to show them that someone is tougher than they are, so that if you go around starting fights sooner or later you will lose. The wrestling tournament takes the old mustard out of them, R. Garn used to say. Already in the first round 3 50 boys lost and dropped out. Then 175 more learned their lesson. In the end there was only one undefeated boy in the school; everyone thought it would be Mark OBrien because OBrien had the best physique; he spent his free periods in the art room posing so the art students could draw him. To everyones surprise, not OBrien but Jack Peck, who looked like a large avocado, proved to be numero uno. With the wrestling tournament R. Garn succeeded in intimidating most of the boys, indeed all except one. It was not possible for Aristotle to attend the same high school I attended because at the time when he lived, which was more than 2261 years before I was born, my high school did not exist. It was not possible and it did not happen; it is a general fact that what is impossible never happens, it is a particular fact that Aristotle did not go to my high school. His school was called The Academy; I will not mention the name of mine. The founder, director, and main teacher in Aristotles school was Plato. I do not believe it is relevant to mention that Plato was a wrestler. The reason why I mention it, even though it is my belief that it is irrelevant to mention it, is that I have a hard time keeping things straight in my mind, so that when I remember that Plato was a wrestler and that R. Garn ran a wrestling tournament I associate the two memories even though there is no logical connection between them. It may be, on the other hand, that there is a slight logical connection (that is to say, a logos which is also an aitai and an arch) because since the principal of Aristotles school was an athlete and a wrestler, it may have been easy for him to get the respect of the students, which may have helped Plato to move on to teaching them to live according to the dictates of wisdom. This speculation is, however, rather far-fetched, and I mention it only because although I believe it is irrelevant that Plato was a wrestler, it would be dishonest to say I am sure it is irrelevant. * Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the Viennese founder of psychoanalysis, author of The Interpretation of Dreams, etc. 111 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

We must assume in any case that the chemical composition of the students in Aristotles school was similar to the chemical composition of human bodies wherever they are found, and consequently that testosterone flowed in their blood just as the same or similar fluids flow in the bloods of dogs, rats, cats, orangutans, and wild boars. From ecology we can deduce also that aggressive behavior serves in general some competitive function in the struggle for access to scarce resources, in order to achieve the survival of the genotype which a given phenotype represents. We know that the chemical similarity of my high school classmates to Aristotles is not an accident, but the product of 14 million years of mammalian evolution. It could not be otherwise. In spite of the physical similarity of the students at the two schools there were differences. Aristotle would have had an adjustment problem at our school, and some of us would have felt out of place at Platos Academy, Jack Peck, for example, would have felt out of place at the Academy because his family background was unlike that of most of the students there. His mother, in the early days of her marriage, made great efforts to be respectable, to have the things and to do the things that normal families have and do in America; when it became evident to her that it was impossible to be respectable because Mr. Peck was unemployed or underemployed most of the time, she shifted her still great effort to proving that the familys abnormality was not her fault; life had deceived her; life had told her it would be as advertised and instead it was as a nightmare; when Mrs. Pecks mind dwelled on lifes lies and deceptions it dwelled on Mr. Peck. Mr. Peck himself knew in his heart of hearts that she was right, it was his fault; so he complained loudly about trivia, a dirty dish, a misplaced toy, the woman late getting his breakfast... seeking by the loudness of his complaints to silence the fundamental accusation which he knew he could not refute. To assert his authority he hit people and took uncompromising stands on brand-name issues: he was passionately loyal to Chesterfield cigarettes and hostile to Camel smokers; he hated Chevrolets and regarded every Chevrolet on the road as a personal affront; he loved every Ford, every box of Cheerios sold, every Gulf service station. Aristotles classmates at the Academy came from families different from Jacks. They had no worries about being respectable or about working; what they did have occasion to worry about was the possibility that the slaves, the servants, or the urban mob might become unruly. They came to the Academy voluntarily to hear Platos message that reason should rule and to become wise themselves. There is no law higher than knowledge (episteme) said Plato. All men by nature desire to acquire knowledge (eidenai) said Aristotle. In its context Aristotles statement makes perfect sense. It amounts to saying that everybody wants to acquire legitimate authority; it is a general statement consistent with the observed facts and functional relationships in the milieu. Platos wisdom is the rule of the rational over the irrational; Aristotles wisdom is the possession of the supreme rationality, i.e. of the knowledge of fundamental aitai and arch, which, he adds, confers upon the possessor the right to rule. Among the facts Aristotle cites to support his statement is that people like to explore and to see new sights just for fun, even when they have no immediate practical use for the knowledge they thereby acquire. As the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget would say (following Karl Groos, a German student of animal behavior), we have a Funktionslust* in perception and in the symbolic functions; somewhat similarly Roland Barthes** says of language that its emergence is not motivated by any particular purpose, but simply is a natural human activity. Aristotles * Funktionslust: pleasure in exercising a natural function. Kittens enjoy funktionslust in play fighting with balls of yarn. ** Roland Barthes (1915-1980) French expert in semiotics. Semiotics is the general theory of

signs, languages, symbols. 112 Letter 16 statement has good evidence behind it, even though he would not have said it if he had gone to my high school, even though it is an element in a pattern of discourse which goes far beyond the facts, and even though its social functions go far beyond gathering interesting information. As a philosopher Aristotle deserved an A+. In later life Aristotle founded his own school, the Lyceum, where he became the director and main teacher. The Metaphysics as we have it as a compilation made from students notes on Aristotles lectures. After the discussion of the opening statement All men by nature want to know, there is an historical review of what prior thinkers thought the basic explanations and ruling principles were. Thales, Aristotle tells us, thought the basis of everything was water, while Empedocles thought two principles, love and conflict, governed everything. In telling the story of the history of the field in this way, Aristotle in effect puts us in the story. Thales, Empedocles, and the others were the pioneers who went before us, who advanced naive theories; we who come after carry on the same sort of enterprise, but we will do it right; we will really get to the bottom of things and discover the true basic causes and ruling principles. After these introductions, in Book Beta Aristotle gives a sort of outline of the course. It is an outline of a proposed science, the science now known as metaphysics. The proposed science serves the needs of people like Conrad Miziumski who want to know the aitai and arch of everything; it also serves a need of all of us, because all of us, we have been told, desire to know, Given that the student is motivated to join the quest for fundamental wisdom, Book Beta proposes studies which will deal with the main problems this ambitious intellectual effort encounters. Among them, there is a problem which Aristotle declares in Beta to be the most difficult in theory and most necessary in truth. It is the problem of being and unity. The average student at my high school would not lose any sleep over the problem of being and unity; certainly she would not term it the most difficult and the most necessary. She might lose sleep over her boyfriend, or over money, or because she was suspended from the cheerleading team for popping pills, or over whether dad would let her use his car, or because her enemy knocked her down in the lunch room and kicked her and tore her clothes, but not over being and unity. Suppose, on the other hand, that youand I were old school buddies of Aristotle at Platos Academy. Then we might very well lie awake at night worrying about being, because being (true being) is, according to Plato, just what we are learning about in the Academy, the knowledge of which will set us apart from the masses, who know only mere becoming or mere appearance, as contrasted with being. Reason rules, says Plato, and, assuming that we as his students are more normal and less sophisticated than our great teacher, we might translate his affirmation bluntly as we rule, where it is our possession of reason which gives us the right to rule, and its access to being which makes the reason we possess superior. Unity is, on my interpretation, the main point of Platos ideal city-state; the great ideas which alone are true being serve the social function of producing everywhere concord and harmony, so that the citizens will act one for all and all for one. Unfortunately for Plato and for us as his followers, inspired as we are supposing ourselves to be by his rather beautiful poetic vision (inspired and at the same time honored because the beautiful poetic vision assigns to us a noble place in the scheme of things), Platos doctrine that true being is found in disembodied abstract ideas is absurd, as Aristotle points out in the course of Books Alpha

and Beta. What is needed is a more sophisticated approach, which asks more subtle questions about being and unity and gives more defensible answers, which provides the same enchantment without exposing us to ridicule. The next book, Book Gamma, assures us thatthere is a science of being and unity; it is the very same science as the one which stems from our innate natural curiosity, the one which seeks fundamental aitai and arch, the one which confers upon its possessor the wisdom suitable for 113 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I rulers, the one which has come to bear the controversial title metaphysics. The last three sections of Gamma deal with the skeptic, the inevitable skeptic, the one who is sure to turn up to doubt whatever the philosopher is doing. Aristotle had to cope with skeptics as R. Garn at my school had to cope with hoodlums; in an environment where it is commonly agreed that reason should rule it is the skeptic who is the trouble-maker, the one who raises his hand in the back of the room and says, As you say, sir, we should listen to reason. If you want to be really rational, sir, then you must admit, sir, that you cannot, strictly speaking, prove anything, or else you can prove everything and also prove the opposite. So rationally speaking nobody knows anything. Isnt that right sir? Aristotles case against the skeptic is of the same general kind as Platos. Plato had used the knowledge (episteme) of the craft specialists to show the legitimacy of the rule of reason, as we are legitimately ruled by a medical doctor when we are ill or by a pilot when we are on a ship in a storm; then Plato used the knowledge (eidenai) of the mathematicians to show that some knowledge is indubitable, as theorems about congruence of triangles are indubitable. Aristotle answers the skeptic with indubitable logical verities, such as the logical truth that two statements, one of which is the denial of the other, cannot both be true. If the skeptic is thereby convinced that somebody knows something, she may be receptive to being convinced that Aristotle knows being. Notice that if Aristotle could give a crushing answer to the question, What is being? lie could trump all skeptics. A definition of being is not worth anythingas collateral for a bank loan, but if your business happens to be trumping skeptics, then a powerful category of subject, i.e. ousia, i.e. being, is worth more than gold. Being is trumps because whatever anybody says about anything, he necessarily makes some assumptions about being in the process of saying it. Every sentence has a subject, and whatever else you say of a subject you must say or imply that it has being, i.e. that it is, since to be and to have being are the same thing! You are in a position to refute your opponent because you are an expert on something your opponent necessarily assumes, namely being. (You may wish to quarrel with the claim that you cant speak without making assertions about being; you may wish to say that some sentences have no subjects, not even implied ones, or that some speech is not in sentences; or that it is possible to speak of nothing, or to say that some subject has no being, without making reference to being. Even so, you would have to admit that subjects of sentences are important in languages and that the practice of claiming that something is, i.e. has being, is commonly found in human speech.) If there is such a thing as a general theory of subjects and being, then it is a theory about everything. Whoever controls it controls the central platform, so to speak, from which sentences are launched. If Aristotle were to construct a symbolic structure where the basic knowledge we all crave is knowledge of the being which people necessarily refer to whenever they say anything is; and if this basic knowledge were to lead to the conclusion that we should all shape up and behave properly, then he would surely deserve another A+. And extra credit too. To show why I think Aristotle deserves two A plusses and extra credit I will quote at length several

longish passages from the middle and end of his Metaphysics and comment on their significance in their contexts. These chunks of Aristotelian discourse will serve as samples from which the composition of the whole can be assayed, or, if you would be so kind as to permit me to mix metaphors, as windows opening onto my interpretation of Aristotles mind. From Book Zeta, part 3. (Aristotle distinguishes several meanings of primary being (ousia) and concludes that among them the fourth, which says that being is a subject, deserves priority attention.) Now, a subject of discourse is that about which anything is said and which 114 Letter 16 is itself never said of anything else. Hence we should begin by making this fourth meaning clear (dioritsein) (1) for to be a subject seems really to be the first meaning of primary being. This principal way of being is attributed in one way to the material; in another way to the form; and in a third, to their product. By the material I mean, for example, bronze; by the form, the shape or figure; and by their product, the statue, their union as a single whole (2). Consequently, if the shape be prior to the material, and more strictly speaking a being, it will also for the same reason (logos) (3) be prior to the product of both (4). Comments: 1. When Aristotle wants to make a meaning clear what he does is dioritsein (in Greek) or determinare (in Latin). That is to say he determines the meaning, makes it definite, singles it out. Similarly in Spanish una cosa determinada is a definite, single, specific thing. 2. The form determines, makes definite, singles out, specifies something from out of the relatively undifferentiated, indeterminate, indefinite, amorphous material (hyle). Thus unity (union as a single whole) makes the formless into a particular being. (Here is the technical question Aristotle asks about unity and being, namely: How does an item achieve union as a single whole, and thus come to be a particular thing? Above I said (in a somewhat playful way) that for Aristotle being and unity are major social issues.) 3. Here as often logos (word) is rendered in English as reason. It is translated as ratio in Latin, making whence we derive our English words rational and rationality. The original meaning of rationality is word. 4. It should surprise no one that in the passages following the one here quoted Aristotle does indeed conclude that the shape is prior to the material. It was implicit in his method from the first that being is form, since when he set out to look for being he set out to look for that which determines, makes definite, singles out, specifies. I would not wish to make the assertions that everything Aristotle says about being is unambiguous, or that each of his statements on being is consistent with each of his other statements on being, of that his doctrine (or doctrines) on being is (or are) easily summarized, or to deny that the passages I am quoting from Zeta are mere prologues to the discussion of potency and act in Eta and Theta, or to make the assertion that Aristotle maintained the same doctrines on beiag during every period of his life, or during any given year, or month, or day, or hour thereof. On the other hand, I would wish to make the assertion that for Aristotle form is more truly being than is matter. That is a safe, timid, banal assertion, suitable for being made by a middle-aged person who likes to drink milk.

From Book Zeta, part 4. ...a definition indicates a particular kind of object. It defines anything that is a unity, not by continuity (like the Iliad) nor by connection (as some things are linked together) but in one of the principal ways in which a thing is one. What I have in mind is that one like being, implies primarily a this-something,... Comment: I think this rather obscure passage supports what I said in Comment (2) above about the link between being and unity. 115 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I From Book Zeta, part 6. It is clear then that in the case of being primarily and essentially the being is and the same with its what or intelligible constitution. Comment: This is one of many tidbits that can be found in the text to support the interpretation given in Comments (1) through (4) above. From Book Zeta, parts 7 and 9. (somewhat rearranged) Now the health of a patient comes to be in this way: health being a state of bodily equilibrium, it is necessary, if health is to be the patients that this condition must belong to him; and if this equilibrium is to be his, he must have warmth, and so forth. And so the physician continues to think until he arrives at something which he himself can produce... Hence it follows that in a way health comes to be out of health, and a house out of a house, that is the material being out of the immaterial; for in medical science is to be found the form of health, and in architecture the form of a house. And here by primary immaterial being I mean the what it is to be of anything. Natural growths (2) follow this same pattern. For the seed is productive in a manner analogous to art, since it has the form potentially; and that from which the seed comes is somehow like its offspring. Hence all things begin in their primary being, as syllogisms (i.e. logical arguments) begin by stating what a thing is; so from being come all becomings.(l) Comments: 1. By treating being in a way which emphasizes form, Aristotle rescues Platos distinction between being and becoming, assigning to the former honor, glory, rank. Since forms explain how plants, animals, and the products of human crafts are produced, they satisfy the need to know the aitai (causes) and the arch (ruling principles). I suppose the reason why I repeat these two Greek words incessantly is that Aristotle treats them together, sometimes interchangeably; and they are what he sets out to know whenhe sets out to seek wisdom; and when he finds wisdom he finds form, which is, to be sure ousia (being), but which is also aitai and arch. The pair aitai-arch seems to me to express the spirit of Aristotle because on the one hand it describes an earnest effort to get to the bottom of things, and on the other hand it describes a thoroughgoing confusion of what we in the 20th century could call scientific explanation with a pre-democratic obsession

with rank, with what rules, is prior, is first, most honorable, most divine, and so on. 2. The word translated as growths in natural growths is sunistasthai; the phrase might also be translated as natural unities, or natural order. There is something logical about the patterns followed in growing in this respect Aristotle anticipates the contemporary idea that we grow according to designs stored in the information transmitted by genetic codes. 116 Letter 16 From Book Lambda, part 10 We must also inquire in which way the nature of the whole enjoys its good or highest good: whether as something separate and by itself, or as its own order, or in both ways, as does an army. For an armys good lies both in its order and in its commander; more especially the latter, for he is not the result of the order, but it results from him. All things are somehow ordered together, but not all in the same way: fishes, birds, and plants are different orders. (3) The world is not such that a thing is unrelated to another, but it is always a definite something. (1) For all things are ordered together around a common center, as in a household, where the free men are the least free to do as they please, (2) but all or most of their activities are determined by the household; whereas the slaves and animals do only a little in view of the common good, but for the most part act as separate beings. This is the sort of principle that governs the nature of anything. (2)1 mean that all things must at least be resolved at last into their elements (1), and so there are others ways in which all participate and contribute to a whole. (3) Comments: 1. It may seem odd to connect being a definite something with being related. And it may seem odd to connect being an element with contributing to a whole. These connections make sense in the context of Aristotles discourse, because it is form that defines the element, and also form that creates an order in which each element plays a part in this respect Aristotle anticipates contemporary structuralism. 2. It is a paradox to say that the free men (i.e. those who are not slaves, servants, animals, children, or women) are the least free members of the household. It is a greater paradox to say the same principle governs everything. The explanation, to adopt a chemical metaphor, is that being is found in higher concentrations toward the top of the social hierarchy; those above are more formed, more shaped, gebildeter, more ordered more created, more rational, more socialized, more governed by the logos. Those below, like Sancho Panza* when compared to Don Quixote, are more material and less formal, more unformed bronze and less shape; their lives are to a lesser degree a function of the social order. 3. In St. Thomas Aquinas exposition of the Metaphysics of Aristotle, the comment on Lambda 10 says, ... omnia quae sunt in universo, sunt aliquo modo ordinate.,. (All things that are in the universe are in some way ordered.) It follows that our natural curiosity, the logic of the sentences anybody uses to say anything at all, respect for legitimate authority, and the way we understand the fishes, birds, plants and other natural forms who share the earth with us,are all united in a comprehensive symbolic structure, a cosmic harmony of words! A+ A+ A+. And extra credit too.

NOTE The quotations from Aristotle are from Richard Hopes translation. Aristotle, Metaphysics (tr. by Richard Hope), Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960. * Sancho Panza is the servant of the idealistic knight Quixote in Miguel de Cervantes novel Don Quixote. 117 118 Letter 17 17 HELLO ARISTOTLE Hello, Aristotle. We dearly miss you, both here in the North and in the Latin part of America. We miss the way you formed the world with words, because today the world is being deformed by force, and the M-16s built by the fathers in the North are killing the children in the South. I try to talk with the people in the North. Stop the war, I try to say, the just govern for the good of the whole. But I cant communicate anything I end up talking to walls. The language is too weak. The language is no longer about subjects with being, but about forces that impact each other. I need a way to say we should be guided by the word. Hello, Aristotle. Hello and bienvenido. It is two oclock in the morning and I am still awake, worrying about the terrible crimes my country is committing in Central America. Yesterday a letter came from a friend, a professor of philosophy in Honduras, saying the situation is desperate, a nightmare. He did not give details in the letter because he knows, and I know, that the mail is read by the secret police. My worrying is not going to help him; a human body composed of several trillion cells, sweating in a bed three thousand kilometers to the north of him will not do anything to stop the bullets, the bombs, the torture, the terror, the lies. He knows whose fault it is; I know whose fault it is. Since I am an American citizen I cannot help feeling it is my fault. I feel that I am up against a stone wall which will not speak or move or open; on it are painted faces of people laughing, but there is no sound; in front of me and hemming me in are voiceless beasts; they attacLeach other and eat each other, all the while smiling silently and insincerely. The stone wall and the beasts symbolize my inability to communicate what I know about Latin America; they are Chicago, Peoria, and Richmond, Indiana; they are the American establishment supported by the bulk of public opinion and public ignorance, they are the millions who do not know what American business and government are doing in Latin America, the millions who have a vague general idea of what is going on but like the Germans who were slightly aware that Hitler was solving the Jewish problem would rather not know the details, the millions who are concerned about what the Russians are doing in Eastern Europe who reason that the U.S. is probably doing only what is necessary to save Latin America from the Russians. The millions who, lacking a frame of reference for making sense of public events, choose to evade reality by ignoring as much of it as they can. At 2:30 a.m. I think I should do something to change American foreign policy. To do something I would have to say something which somebody else would pay attention to. By myself I would not have any effect; it takes more than one person to change a foreign policy, more than two or three. At times like this I remember something I have often learned, forgotten, relearned, and forgotten again: that I must communicate. Communicate, share the meaning, establish rapport. Yes, thats it. Tonight I will start by establishing communication with the wall. Wall, what would you like for

breakfast? Wall, how are things in Peoria? My spontaneous approach to walls has always been to engage them in pleasantries with the intention gradually to lead the conversation toward a critique of irrational rationality. However, my spontaneous approach to establishing communication with walls has never succeeded. 119 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I At 2:43 a.m. my mind drifts back twenty years to a white mansion with white pillars in a eucalyptus grove atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean just south of Santa Barbara. The white mansion on the hill by the sea was the national headquarters for Robert Hutchins and his friends. I was a junior member of the Hutchins group then, and I am sorry it no longer exists because the Hutchins people talked to walls better than anybody. That is to say (to interpret my symbolism), it is not just the attitude of the U.S. public toward Central America, toward Latin America, toward foreign policy, which keeps me awake at night; I cant sleep because the whole mentality of the nation, and of other nations, needs to be enriched and transformed. The radical Aristotelians around Hutchins, who were active in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s made a more systematic and successful effort to improve the mind of the nation than anyone else. I first became interested in the Hutchins group when I heard they liked Aristotle. I had been brought up to believe that the first principle of right and true thinking was to reject Aristotle. My chemistry text began with a chapter on the scientific method which said the scientific method rejects Aristotle. My biology and physics texts had similar chapters. In history we learned that the wonderful progress of the modern world began when humans stopped living according to what Aristotle had written and began to think for themselves. At church I learned that Greek is out and Hebrew is in; the Greeks, meaning Aristotle, were too intellectual, or so we were told by the earnest young minister who advised our B. Y.E (Baptist Youth Fellowship). I was brought up to believe the modern world was built on the rejection of Aristotle. Since I thought the modern world was the pits, I drew the conclusion that anyone who liked Aristotle must be smart. Hutchins vision was to reorganize our minds and therefore our national institutions through what he called great ideas. He organized a foundation which set up adult education courses throughout the USA where so-called great books containing the great ideas were taught. He persuaded his friend Bill Benton, the owner of the Encyclopedia Britannica, to publish a series of Great Books complete with an index which tells where to find each of 102 Great Ideas (and many more Great sub-ideas) in the Great Books. Salespeople knocked on every door in America selling Great Books. Then Hutchins persuaded Benton to have the encyclopedia itself rewritten, organizing it around great ideas. The great ideas were on the radio and on TV; university curricula were changed to teach a common core of great books to all students in what came to be known as humanities courses. When I worked for Hutchins from 1961 to 1965 we used to invite movie stars from Hollywood and other celebrities to come up to Santa Barbara to sit around a big table in the white house on the hill by the sea and talk about great ideas; then we made pamphlets from the transcripts of the discussions. The phrase great ideas is a piece of 20th century salesmanship. To understand the substance behind the slogan you have to know Aristotle and to know what Hutchins and his friends got out of Aristotle. A university, Hutchins used to say, is a great place because a university is a great idea. The students are terrible, the professors are terrible, the trustees are terrible, the laboratories and the libraries are terrible, but a university is a great place because a university is a great idea. In other words, form has more being than matter. All the terrible matter that composes the inputs of a university is redeemed because the organizing principle, the arch, the form, the guiding word is

a great one. Admittedly Aristotle went too far in claiming that the entire universe, with all its stars and seas, is organized like a language, that is to say, according to the form of human thought. But the moderns have gone too far in another direction; they think society is organized like a machine, that is to say, in the terms my ex-roommate Leon would use, according to variables that impact on other variables. The result, Hutchins used to say, is that the social sciences have little to offer to solve any of our major social problems. 120 Letter 17 It is the form of our institutions which needs to be studied, the guiding words which have shaped them over time, the new ideas which can shape them. A community (polis) Aristotle says, is a group of men who agree to be governed by common rules of justice, that is to say, in Hutchins terms, to be guided by certain great ideas. In this frame of reference it is perfecdy clear to me, as it would have been to Aristotle and was to Hutchins, how to achieve peace in Central America or anywhere else: to get peace you build community, and to build community you find common rules of justice which people can agree to be governed by. Benito Juarez, Mexicos greatest president, put it simply, Respect for the rights of others is peace. It is true, on the other hand, that in another place Aristotle says it is friendship which holds a community together, which might be taken as evidence that he never made up his mind, or as evidence that he saw a need for both justice (i.e. rules) and friendship (i.e. mutual good will). Justice is a great idea if anything is. The Aristotelian story is that people come together in communities to live according to justice; with justice life is worth living, without justice it is not. For this reason people say justice is more beautiful than the evening or the morning star. Aristotle produced a reasoned summary of the meanings of justice, based mainly on the common opinions which circulated in his milieu. He recognized two broad categories of it, which he called general justice and particular justice. General justice is simply another name for the habits of good behavior (virtue, arete); justice is a name which has the advantage of making it visible that good behavior is measured. The image of justice is the measure, the straight measuring stick held by Maat the ancient Egyptian goddess of justice, the scales held by blindfolded Dike the Greek goddess of justice. The goddesses are clues to the femininity of justice which Aristotle for some reason chose to overlook; today we can see that justice requires the pheronymes (the sex glands) which give the orderly female the power to tame the unruly male, bringing the aggressive macho into the orbit of home and family responsibilities. (I could tell you any number of stories of rough characters who shaped up and improved their behavior when they fell in love with a woman who made them toe the line.) In any case Aristotle was aware that the person on good behavior measures his conduct according to the word (logos), he listens to reason as we say, and he measures his conduct according to the customary norms of right conduct at his time and place (noTnos). Support for the Aristotelian view is found in contemporary psychological studies which show that the level of moral judgment of the majority of adults is conventional; we tend to call it just (or right or fair) when people discipline themselves according to the accepted standards. The unjust person is unmeasured and by the same token anti-social. (For the sake of brevity I omit Aristotles discussion of the vicious person, confirmed in bad habits and proud of it, who is possessed by a measured, conscious evil.) The connection between injustice as lack of measure or discipline, and injustice as anti-social behavior or selfishness is brought out in the Politics where Aristotle discusses the types of government. There are three possible lands of government, which are government by one person, government by a few people, and government by many people.

Each of the three lands is divided into two types, a just type and an unjust type. In the just type the ruler is self-disciplined; the same norms by which he imposes moderation on himself enjoin him to serve the community. In the unjust type the governor is controlled by his appetites and the whole polis is the victim of the governors greed. The just govern for the good of the whole. The unjust govern for their own selfish satisfaction. Just government by one person is called a monarchy; unjust government by one person is called a tyranny. Just government by a few is called aristocracy; unjust government by a few is called oligarchy. Just government by the many is constitutional government; unjust government by the many happens when the demos, the common people, rule for their own good instead of for the good of the whole. 121 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol.

Just by One by Few by Many Monarchy Aristocracy

Unjust Tyranny Oligarchy

Constitutional Selfish rule Government by the demos

Aristotles Types of Government Besides general justice, which is the same thing as virtue, the habit of good behavior, there is particular justice, which is justice strictly so-called. Particular justice is one virtue among others; it is the virtue of distributing goods correctly. Particular justice is itself divided into two categories, distributive and corrective. Distributive justice is the more fundamental of the two, since without right distribution in the first place corrective justice cannot correct. Corrective justice is supposed to restore a just social order after a crime has been committed against it. First we need to know what the just social order is, which corrective justice is supposed to restore. Distributive justice is the distribution of goods ta adzion, which is usually translated according to merit, but which might be translated according to measure, or according to proper measure. Aristotle noted a difficulty here: although people agree that justice distributes according to merit, there are different versions of what constitutes merit. I believe that the version favored by the American Aristotelians can be summarized conveniently in a formula used by Norman Thomas, a Presbyterian minister who ran for president on the socialist ticket every four years during the 1930s and 1940s. Thomas used to say that we distribute goods in America according to Deed, Need, Greed, and Breed. According to deed refers to the value of the work you do. According to need refers to basic human necessities, i.e. food, shelter, water, medical care. According to greed refers to how cleverly you can figure out how to get things you dont need for work you dont do. According to breed refers to the race or social class or gender you were born into. Distributive justice, on this account, means distribution according to deed and need, not according to greed and breed. The deed and need concept shows Thomas to be a pretty good Aristotelian, and both Thomas and Aristotle to be excellent ecologists, inasmuch as meeting basic human needs assures

the continuation of the metabolic processes of life, which can only be done in a living ecosystem, and inasmuch as rewards for deeds motivate people to do the work which enables the community to survive. Corrective justice has two lands depending on whether the victim of the injustice to be corrected was ripped off with her consent or without consent. Correction of voluntary injustice is called for when a business transaction is unjust. For example, if you sell something for more than it is worth you are unjust even though the buyer agreed to the sale; corrective justice requires you to compensate the buyer. Involuntary justice is robbery; one says that justice is done when the stolen goods are returned to the owner also perhaps when other measures are taken to correct the damage and prevent the reoccurrence of similar crimes. I will mention a few more concepts of justice in Aristotle and then I will go to sleep. What has come to be called social justice (more accurately translated as legal justice) is a guide to practice in given circumstances. It has a trivial meaning and an important meaning. The trivial 122 Letter 17 meaning is that an arbitrary rule, such as stop at red lights go at green lights, is a just rule which should be obeyed even though it would have been equally legitimate to say, for example, stop at green lights go at red lights. The important meaning is that in struggling for justice one it should not seek perfection, but only for some degree of amelioration of injustice which is unachievable under the circumstances. One more great idea: equity. Equity refers to the impossibility of writing universal rules justice to cover all cases. The judge (or whoever is distributing goods) uses equity when she breaks the rules to do what ought to be done in an unusual case. Good night. Now it is morning and I am sitting at a table in the kitchen, writing more notes, crossing them out, writing new ones. Outside the rain is falling. Last night I left some gaps in my account of Aristotles discussion of justice. Ill come back to the subject in later letters, in connection with what later philosophers and economists have had to say about Aristotelian themes. I went to sleep at 3 a.m. and dreamed of white houses on hills by the sea. The morning news says more than 200 U.S. marines were killed in Lebanon by a suicide bombing; a bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the compound where the marines were living. Now I am sorry to be so critical of the United States. Whenever the vulnerability of my country becomes apparent, I want to mute my objections to its policies, lest excessive criticism undermine our sense of self-worth and our confidence in what we can do together as a nation. I remind myself that peace is not built by identifying any particular group of people as the chief perpetrators of injustice, but by strengthening justice itself; when injustice reigns even the strongest are vulnerable, they as well as the weak will be victims sooner or later when their turn comes. If I am depressed for months on end by the lawless conduct of my country/ it is not because I believe the United States national behavior is worse than the average ofthe worlds peoples most of the time. I stress American misconduct because when the/U.S. government and U.S. citizens commit atrocities I feel horrified and guilty. When another country commits an atrocity I feel horrified but not guilty. There is a reason which justifies my feeling of horror (and sometimes guilt) when I read the newspaper or watch the news on TV. I admit that the statement, Richards feels nauseous when he reads the newspaper is a statement about Richards, not about world events, but it is not simply a matter of me feeling a pain in my head, dizziness in my hands, and cramps in my legs.

The reason which justifies my sentiments is that what is going on in the world is senseless; the actions of human beings are not shaped and guided by any constructive philosophy. It may be hard to explain what I mean when I say the world is senseless, and harder still to determine whether it is true or false to say the world is senseless, but at least it is a statement about the world, not about my private feelings. What I mean is that this violence is not leading anywhere. There is no comprehensive vision which says, If we do this, and this, and this, then the result will be peace. (Although here we means the U.S. government and people, I believe the argument can be extended to apply to contemporary peoples generally. There do exist so called reasons for our actions; we send marines to Lebanon because X, we send marines to Grenada because Y, we send marines to El Salvador because Z, and so on, but the reasons are here today and gone tomorrow; today we have forgotten yesterdays reasons and it is therefore likely that tomorrow we will forget todays. There is no coherent pattern to the reasons given for actions; there is no feasible and desirable objective which we systematically pursue by credible means. I believe these points can be 123 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I verified by studying back issues of newspapers over the last 50 years, and by studying the specialized literature on foreign and military policy, such as the articles in Foreign Affairs and Air Force Review. Robert Hutchins and the American Aristotelians had a constructive philosophy. I believe we (I say we because I was one of them were the only significant group in America in recent years that has had a constructive philosophy. The peace movement does not; we (I say we again because in my own way I am part of the peace movement) protest every new weapons system, we terrify the public with gruesome movies of nuclear war, but in my judgment we have no credible constructive vision. Hutchins did. He believed peace is brought about by establishing legal institutions to settle disputes; law is possible where there is community; community is built by justice and friendship. Law, community, justice and friendship when regarded as words on a piece of paper these are powerless scribbles when compared, for example, to the power of the explosives which destroyed the U.S. marine compound in Beirut. When regarded from the vantage point of the intellectual heritage of our civilization they are powerful ideas. Form has more being than matter. Not all futures are possible. When we act as we do we are senseless because our actions, guided by an irrational rationality, have no coherence and lead to no future. Great organizing ideas are proposals for futures. Many years after the time when I worked for Robert Hutchins at the white mansion on Eucalyptus Hill near Santa Barbara, I had occasion to read an essay by a Bolivian intellectual named Luis Ramirez Beltran. The essay was named Farewell to Aristotle. The title struck me as inappropriate. Aristotle never arrived. You cant say farewell before you say hello. Associating Aristotle as I did with the American Aristotelians, I thought of him not as an ancient Greek philosopher but as the mentor of an unsuccessful rebellion. The attempt of the Aristotelians to reshape the American mind had failed. In their heyday when they were able to rewrite the encyclopedia and to challenge the established premises of education and government, the rightwing perceived them as socialists in disguise and attacked them mercilessly; in the 1930s for example when Hutchins was president of the University of Chicago the Chicago Tribune would attack him almost daily for weeks at a time. The leftwing perceived the Aristotelians as elitist corporation lawyers and did not support them. The solvency and coherence of the movement depended on the personal charm of Robert Maynard

Hutchins him self; although he was born in Brooklyn (a fact he found embarrassing) he looked like a Greek God and acted like Aristotles magnificent man; Aristotle says the magnificent man stands tall, speaks with a deep voice, walks with a long and even tread. He spends money in the right amount at the right time in the right way. Hutchins stood tall, spoke with a deep voice, walked with a long and even tread, and spent money as Aristotle recommended. In his presence one felt miraculously transported to Mount Olympus. When he was in his prime so was the movement; it waned as he waned and disintegrated at his death. When you grow up as a Catholic in Bolivia, your perspective on Aristotle is not the same as it would have been if, instead, you had happened to be a California Baptist sorting Robert Hutchins mail. Ramirez Beltran heard weekly homilies from priests whose minds were steeped in the thinking of the great Aristotelian, St. Thomas Aquinas, while we heard weekly echoes of Martin Luthers castigations of the iustitialistas, i.e. of people who read the Bible under the influence of Aristotles Ethics, i.e. against St. Thomas Aquinas. For Ramirez Beltran, Aristotle is the establishment; he represents vertical hierarchies, authority from the top down, the domination of women by men, the domination of Inca and Aymara and Quechua by Spaniard, the domination of everybody by money. Students do not express their opinions in traditional 124 Letter 17 (Schools in Bolivia; they just memorize what the teacher tells them, for it is written in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas that the lower angels cannot teach anything to the higher angels because the higher has more wisdom than the lower. Ramirez Beltran did not forget either that in the time of the Spanish Empire when the protector of the Indians Bartolom de las Casas, Bishop of Oaxaca, debated the theologian Seplveda at the royal court in Spain on the question whether Indians deserve to be treated as people, Seplveda relied on Aristotle, arguing that some people are naturally slaves; they are people in a sense, but with more unshaped matter and s less form, a dilute solution of being, not as fully human as the Spanish. When I compare Richards American Aristotle with Ramirez Bolivian Aristotle, I find it hard to believe both are related to the same ancient Greek philosopher. When I read Ramirez article Farewell to Aristotle I find to my surprise that I agree with what it says. It turns out to be an article about communication. Ramirez thesis is that true communication occurs among equals, where each party is transmitting messages as well as receiving messages. He calls it horizontal communication, grassroots to grassroots communication; the example that occurs to me is a small town radio talk show where anybody can call in and be on the air. What Ramirez himself particularly has in mind is the use of radio, puppetry, dance, local talent shows and inexpensive print media in Bo livia to enable the poor to communicate with each other, creating and extending their own symbolic structures instead of passively receiving messages beamed at them by commercial or state mass media. False communication, communication improperly so called, Ramirez calls vertical; a single transmitter sends messages to receivers who cannot respond. In the worst case the passive receivers are the impoverished masses silenced by lack of access to an appropriate communications technology, silenced also by traditionally submissive social roles, silenced by fear. Aristotle (I mean the ancient Greek) did not set out to create a class society where social relationships are predominantly of the kind Ramirez calls vertical. I am assuming here something lam sure is true that Ramirez wants horizontal relationships and opposes vertical relationships across the board, not just in the specific area of communications. It appears that classless (i.e. horizontal) societies prevailed only during the hunting and gathering epoch of human social history

we suppose that they prevailed then mainly because extant hunting and gathering tribes, such as the IKung of southwest Africa, are pretty egalitarian. Ever since the agricultural revolution, long before Aristotle, and ever since the great civilizations of the Ni the Tigris-Euphrates, the Ganges, China, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Southeast Asia and other places the main human societies have been class societies; they have been hydraulic despotisms in the cases where the priests and warriors controlled the irrigation canals; staple despotisms where the upper classes ruled by exercising a monopolistic control of the storehouse where rice, wheat and other staples were kept; slave-based societies like ancient Greece; feudal societies with inherited military rank blending into societies dominated by an aristocratic landowning class; capitalist societies, bureaucratic socialist societies, and national security states, domi-. nated, respectively, by the owners of the means of production, technocratic managers, and military officers. All this could happen in 4,000 years a short period compared to hundreds of thousands of years of hunting and gathering only through the explosive growth of symbolic structures, a series of quantum leaps of the rgulations hermneutiques. As far as behavioral biology is concerned the mechanisms governing human behavior were for the most part fixed in the hunting and gathering period and in the preceding millions of years of reptilian, mammalian, pre-hominid evolution; nobody thinks our strictly biological behavioral repertory has changed much in the past few thousand years although, of course, since we are biologically coded to be culturally coded, we can, if we wish, choose to regard cultural systems as subsystems of biological systems, which in turn are integral parts of ecosystems. 125 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Why the large human societies made possible by increased food supplies required the cultural equivalent of a mutation is not hard to see. If your food supply depends on hunting, hunger will motivate you to hunt when the body needs food (indeed before the body needs food, since the hunger mechanism functions as an early warning system to motivate eating before the metabolic processes actually require sustenance). If, on the other hand, you save seed from one year to plant the next, if you plant in the spring, irrigate in the summer, harvest in fall, thresh and store for winter, then you need a calendar and a timed series of rituals as, for example, even today in a remote part of Peru the peasants hold a festival in favor of their ancient although now somewhat Christianized goddess Dinea at just the time when the canal needs to be cleaned. The Priests begin the Festival with a ceremony which signals that the moment has come. Then all the men of the village dance all the way from the beginning of the aqueduct to the end, cleaning it as they go. When they arrive at the reservoir, the terminus of the aqueduct, they enjoy a feast prepared by the women and children; everyone sings, dances, and gets happily drunk in honor of their goddess. The festival occurs just before the annual rainy season begins, putting the canal in condition to carry water to the storage reservoir. In all large highly-organized early societies there were priestly castes directing the rituals which synchronized labor and seasons, works and days; the special craft of the priests was the construction of calendars together with the making of the astronomical observations and mathematical calculations needed to make the calenars accurate. When Aristotle remarks in the Metaphysics that of all the sciences astronomy and mathematics are closest to philosophy, he shows an awareness that the love of sofia, the goddess wisdom, is a transformation and continuation of the ancient priestly traditions. Hierarchy and reason began together when more complex forms of social organization arose, requiring more elaborate cultural complementation of biological behavioral tendencies. Hierarchy

and reason do not need to stay together. On the contrary. Ramirez Beltrans social program (which I support) has no chance unless they separate. To get their share of yummy beans and rice, the disinherited masses need to get their share of yummy logos, yummy wisdom, yummy justice, yummy information, communication, and organization. And they need to communicate directly with the soil and the cells, the inorganic and organic context of human life, instead of leaving the management of societys vital interaction with nature to elite intermediaries. (The elite intermediaries of our time are in any case incompetent, since with their irrational rationality they will destroy the ecosystem and us with it. Hutchins used to say, In a democracy every person must learn to govern. Being must descend. I agree with everything Ramirez Beltran says in his essay Farewell to Aristotle, except for the title, since I believe the disinherited would be better advised to claim their inheritance and make it their own than to reject it, I would add that the reasons for the senseless silence of the modern world are deeper than the ones to which he alludes. It is, of course, true that due to intimidation and lack of access to resources the weak have little or no voice in society. However, something more fundamental is also true: the language which speaks through us when and if we are allowed to speak (for language speaks through us at least as much as we speak through it) is itself weak. If you try to say to people, Justice is suffering in Central America, you will find that the words are not strong enough to communicate the idea. They fall short in pitiful silence; the war goes on, senselessly. If you say that our security is in the strength of the law, not in our arsenals, most people will not understand you. Their lack of understanding of justice and law is partly a blindness concerning how words work, concerning how they organize conduct. Most people today do not have a frame of reference for understanding that when Aristotle called humans the rational animals (zoon logon echon), he meant we are the animals who have the guiding word. 126 Letter 17 Aristotle constructed some great guiding words; he made a code suitable for guiding his civilization. His philosophy is in important ways unsuitable for guiding the 20th century world, but we can learn from the way he went about his work. He established communication by processing the existing meanings found in everyday speech and in the work of his predecessors, to produce metaphysical generalizations more intelligible and useful than the meanings that were there when he began his work. We can be builders too.

General Justice (i.e the habit of good behavior, i.e. virtue)

Particular Justice (i.e the particular virtue of distributing goods rightly)

Distributive Justice (distribution according to merit)

Corrective Justice

Correction of voluntary transactions Social Justice: a practical approximation of true justice. Equity: making exceptions to general rules for good reasons Aristotle on justice

Correction of involuntary transactions (i.e. theft)

The next letter considers generally the word and breath of the spirit, and it considers particularly how metaphysical statements have been blended with spirituality by philosophical laborers like Saint Augustine. Since this letter was about Aristotle, who lived before Christ, and the next letter will be about Saint Augustine, who lived after Christ, now is a good time to read (or to reread) something about Christ. The Gospel according to Saint John is especially relevant because in it themes from Greek philosophy are especially prominent. 127 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

1 28 Letter 18 18 THE SPIRITUAL LIFE When my wife Caroline and I visit her relatives at Fort-Morgan-on-the-Prairie in northeastern Colorado, her cousin Audrey, who is rich, sometimes introduces us to local celebrities and takes us to supper at the Elks Club. As you may know, the Elks clubs have been criticized for having few members of races other than the Caucasian. Around the country Elks have taken steps to improve their images and the Gateway to Northeastern Colorado and Southwestern Nebraska Lodge has recently enrolled a black man, one Saint Augustine, who after many years in heaven has opted to participate in a special program through which selected eternally blessed persons may choose to

suffer a second incarnation, and who is currently employed as a maintenance man at the Great Western sugar beet refinery in Fort Morgan. We believe that our daughter Laura is a participant in the same program, but we have not yet discovered which saint she is. My cousin-in-law proudly introduces me to the clubs new member. I know who you are, I say. You were the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa from 396 A.D. Until your death in 430 AD. You were the first western theologian. You gave Christian doctrine a philosophical basis. You are an architect of the tradition in which even today we in western societies live and move and have our being. Nice to met you, says Saint Augustine. Audreys other guests include my sister-in-law Margaret, who teaches English at Fort Morgan High School; Evelyn Dorch, the town librarian, Alice Richards (no relation), a busy person who besides working as a loan officer at Farmers State Bank has at one time or another headed up the local Legion of Mary, the St. Helenas Church Altar Society, and the board of trustees of The Peace of the Evening, an interfaith convalescent home for seniors; Millard Smith, an accountant who is famous not only in Morgan County but also in adjoining Weld County because he says the Bible is not true; and my brother-in-law Jim, a photographer Ms. Dorch proposes that in honor of the distinguished new Elk we not have another discussion about the falling levels of underground water on the Great Plains, but instead share partial apprehensions of the agencies of the invisible world, by asking ourselves the question, Does God exist? My brother-in-law Jim says he has his doubts about the value of the question proposed; he once stayed up until 3 a.m. with two fraternity brothers in a bar in Omaha discussing whether God exists without coming to any definite conclusion. He suggests that we decide the question the American way, by voting. You cant be serious! I say. You cant decide whether God exists by voting. Maybe Im not serious, he replies. But voting would at least give us an answer. Let me make another suggestion, I say. People sometimes are unable to come to any conclusions because they have not decided what the words they are using mean. First we should define God. Then, if God means something that exists, then God exists. If God means something that does not exist, then God does not exist. Although my suggestion meets with general approval, we vote anyway. The result is seven to four, in favor of God. The losers are unmoved. The majority has been wrong before, one of them says. Another says that it is up to those of us who voted in favor of God to define the term. 129 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Alices Story I am about to take up the challenge for the believers by offering my definition of God when; Alice beats me to it. She says she will tell a story from her own experience which will show what? God means. As some of you know, Alice begins, I am a single parent, with just one child, my Judy, who is thirteen. There are mornings when Judy responds to the ring of her alarm clock by pressing the button marked Snooze, which gives her ten more minutes to sleep, and, then, after ten minutes have gone by, when the alarm rings again, she turns it off, rolls over, closes her eyes. I coax her half-awake to remind her that she is late, yesterday she was late, the last three mornings she was late. She will miss breakfast, she will miss the school bus. She mumbles justaminute, and rejects consciousness, pretending to be in a coma. When I come back upstairs after my morning coffee

another ten minutes later, Judy is still playing statue. I know she is awake enough to know what time of day it is, but not motivated enough to care. Should I fuss, fume, and nag? No, that would only make her parent-deaf. It would be better to let her oversleep, miss the school bus, and be late to school. Then she will be embarrassed I hope. That will teach her that paying attention to reality is not merely an unreasonable demand imposed by mothers. Running a little late myself, I step into the bathroom and start making myself presentable, meanwhile asking myself whose fault it will be if my Judy turns out to be an incompetent adult. Not mine. I am trying as hard as I can. Then, lo and behold, she appears, seventeen minutes and thirty-eight seconds before she needs to be on the school bus. She wanders silently into the bathroom, looks at herself in the mirror, brushes her hair. My only remark is that it is eight minutes after seven. I censor the rest. Im styling my own hair when my spray can of styling mousse goes empty, PFFFTTT, and I step outside the bathroom a second to look for a new can of mousse in a closet. Judy pushes the door shut, locking me out. At this point I feel like banging on the door and screaming. However, I dont, because a higher power melts my heart. That is God. I couldnt agree with you more, I tell Alice. I define God as the love-source who keeps the world going in spite of all the lovesinks where goodwill exhausts itself in bottomless pits of indifference, cruelty, pain, rage, and exasperation. I calculate that 16 billion times each day somebody somewhere becomes so upset that were it not for the soothing influence of the Holy Spirit, which is, as John Bunyan says in Pilgrims Progress, like water settling dust, there would be murder and mayhem. In addition, the world runs an annual deficit of 3 000 billion hugs; 85 72 billion kisses; 1253 billion backrubs; 13 billion birthday presents; 47,280 billion acts of kindness; and 125,753 billion acts of spiritual and corporal mercy. The world keeps going in spite of these deficits only because God creates the earth to hold us up, the wind to caress our faces, the sun to give us warmth, and the waters to wash us clean. She gives the love-energy that prevents social collapse, and without her the human species would long since have destroyed itself. When I finish speaking I am disappointed to find that Alice does not relish having me as an ally. She objects that my statistics on the love deficit are fictitious, which gives the impression that my whole theology is fictitious. She has, moreover, another objection, which is that God should not be defined. It is illogical to define God, says Alice, because the very idea of God implies that God is beyond the grasp of the human intellect. God defines us; He gives us our true identity; we do not define Him. As Mahatma Gandhi said, God is the richest word in human language, and a lifetime scarcely suffices to begin to plumb the depths of its meaning. A God who could be defined as love-source, or as anything, would be reduced to the dimensions of human understanding, and therefore would not be God. 130 Letter 18 I find you inconsistent, I say. You yourself defined God as the higher power who melts your anger. Its not the same, she answers. I gave a testimony from my own experience, witnessing one of the many ways God has acted and revealed Himself in my life. I used a name for God knowing that He has many names. The Bible uses several. It says that God is Love (I John 4:8). It also says that God is Spirit (John 4:24). God himself says in Exodus 3:14, I am that I am, which Saint Thomas took to mean that God is Being. When I gave God a name I spoke out of my religious experience, as the inspired writers of the Bible did. So did I, I reply. I am appalled by human misery, appalled too by the destruction of the other

forms of life who share the planet with us, and I am grateful for the miracle that there is still joy, still forgiveness, still selfless giving against all rationally1 calculated odds. I tried to express my wonder and gratitude in names of praise. I am sorry if it sounded as though I meant God to be a word like any other. From now on I will speak no more of definition, but only as you speak, of names. Alice is not convinced by my retraction. I still cannot believe, she says, that you have a personal relationship with a real God. When God helps me to get through a difficult day, or through a painful night when my lower back is giving me trouble again, I feel a great source of care and encouragement buoying me up. God says to everyone, You are a unique and precious individual. You will always be cared for. You will never be abandoned. I feel that I am never alone and I do believe that you feel the same in similar circumstances. However, I also believe that my strength comes from a spiritual being who is eternal, immaterial, and omnipotent and I do not believe that you believe that; so I do not believe that your God is the real one. Augustines Story Oh dear, says Saint Augustine, choosing to intervene in our conversation at this point. I am afraid that I am to blame for all this confusion, and I feel I must confess to thee my brothers and sisters, and to Thee, O Fountain of Life, that I have muddled egregiously thy names, Lord, Father of the fatherless, and therefore Thy existence. Augustine is speaking to God, as he does in his famous book, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, a book whose readers are put in the position of someone who overhears someone else at prayer. However, he turns back a moment to address a few words to Audrey and her guests. I will tell you, if you have time to listen, how the confusion started. It happened in my too-influential book, The Confessions of Saint Augustine; my confessions are, if I may say so myself, a key piece of the picture-puzzle which, when rightly put together, shows how the western mind, and therefore your minds in particular, my friends, came to identify God with eternal ideas. Directing his discourse once more heavenward, Augustine continues, Thou madest me, God of mercies, in the womb of Saint Monica, a chaste and sober woman, frequent in almsdeeds, full of duty and service to Thy saints, no day omitting to pray at Thine altar, morning and evening. But I, wretched as I was, crying for no reason even as I sucked the milk Thou hadst stored for me in my mothers breasts, foaming like a troubled sea, flinging about at random my little limbs and voice, when I was not instantly obeyed avenged myself on those who served me with wicked tears and rage. . My wifes cousin Roger interrupts to tell Saint Augustine that there is a town in California named Santa Monica after his mother, in case he didnt know. Roger once went there and roller-skated in a skating rink on a pier overlooking the sea. Augustine tells Roger hes glad he enjoyed roller-skating in a town named after his mother, and continues his public prayer. My babyhood, O Judge of my conscience, soon departed, but 131 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I my wickedness did not. Theft is punished by Thy law, O God of our fathers, who is to be praised and exalted above all for ever. Yet I lusted to thieve, and did it, compelled by no hunger, no poverty, for I stole that of which I had enough, and much better. Nor cared I to enjoy what I stole, but joyed in the theft and sin itself. A pear tree there was near our vineyard, laden with fruit, tempting neither for color nor taste. To shake and rob this, some lewd young fellows of us went,

late one night, and took huge loads, not for our eating, but to fling to the very hogs, having only tasted them. And only to do what we liked, only because it was forbidden. Behold my heart, AllExcellent and Inmost Physician, my heart which Thou hadst pity upon in the bottom of the bottomless pit. Now behold, let my heart tell Thee what it sought there, that I should be gratuitously evil, having no temptation to evil but evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it; I loved to perish, I loved my own iniquity. Foul soul, falling from thy creation to utter destruction, seeking nothing through the shame but shame itself! What then did wretched I so love in my theft, my deed of darkness, in that sixteenth year of my age? Lovely it was not, because it was theft. Fair were the pears we stole, because they were Thy creation, Thou fairest of all, Beauty of all things beautiful, Creator of all, Sovereign Good and my true good. Fair were those pears but not them did my wretched soul desire; for I had store of better at home, and these I gathered only that I might steal, my only feast being my own sin, which it pleased me to enjoy. And now, O Lord my God, I enquire what in that theft delighted me; and behold it hath no loveliness; I mean not such loveliness as in justice and wisdom; nor such as in the mind and memory, and senses, and animal life of the body; nor yet as the stars are beautiful and glorious in their orbs; or the earth or the sea, full of growing life, replacing by birth that which decays. What then was this feeling? It was the sport, which tickled our hearts. Why then was my delight of this sort, that I did it not alone? Because nobody ordinarily laughs alone? Behold, Thou who art Righteousness and Innocence, behold, before Thee, the vivid remembrance of my soul; alone I would have never committed that theft. O friendship too unfriendly! Greediness to do mischief out of mirth and wantonness, thirst for others loss. When it is said, Lets go, lets do it, we are ashamed not to be shameless. But why do I will evil if God made me? That, Eternal Father, was the question that tormented by soul and mind, morning and evening, night and day, and, even more, another question, even more decisive for my fate: How can I cleanse myself? Thou, Physician, Thou Lord of Thy field my heart, answer me. How can the terrible diseases of the human will be cured? The question of evil, O Fountain of Life, and more especially my own evil, and more especially still the evil of my inmost essence, yea that of my very will itself, the evil of that very point where thought becomes action, the evil of that which I call I, that was the question that drove me from my 19th to my 36th year, from teacher to teacher, from doctrine to doctrine, from book to book. I learned from the reading of a book by Aristotle that for Thee, God, to be, thou hadst to be a substance, which is to say, a being, which in Greek is ousia. But what kind of substance? To suppose that Thou, O Life of Souls, art but a material substance leads only to perplexities and absurdities. But if only I could suppose, so I thought then, that Thou, O Inner Light of Healing, art a spiritual substance, spiritual as are the eternal ideas, then my doubts, my uncertainties, my; sleepless nights and restless days, could come to an end, for my questions about evil could be answered. Thou art not the creator of evil. Because evil is uncreated; evil is nothing but an absence of good. True being is in the eternal ideas, those perfect forms of things, and all that is fallen away here below has less being, because farther from the ideal; the good is, the evil is not. Thou, who most truly are Being, art on high with the eternal forms of things, thence downward stream the grades of temporal things, each with its due measure of being, each less 132 Letter 18 perfect, farther from thyself who art Essence and Life. The sin of man is to choose the lesser over

the greater good, for all created things are good, insofar as they are created and tend towards their true form; all sin leads downward into the deep dark abyss of uncreated chaos. Concerning that even more important question, the arbiter of my destiny, the cleansing of my foul soul, the soul of I who from the depths yearn for thy Mercy, I who need thy Strength, show me, O Teacher of my Heart, the way to break free from the chains of lust! And yet I so often found that my sin, my very lust itself, was disorganization. I procrastinated, Lord; I did not do my homework I wasted my days in dissipation, scattering myself, emptying myself into numberless nowheres; finding in no place my center, no solidity, no substance; I did not have that being that Aristotle the Greek called ousia. I interrupt Saint Augustine to say that because I have the same problem I can really get behind where his head is coming from. I could be saved, so I thought, continues Augustine, by a spiritual substance that is God because I am myself a spiritual substance that is my mind. What do I miss when I miss Thee, O Thou who art Beauty, so old and yet so fair? I miss my true self; to wander far from Thee is to wander lost from my own being, from my center, my soul, that solid spiritual substance, akin and like and made of the same stuff as eternal ideas. Like calls to like. Loosening the bonds of flesh, I fly to Thee who art my Home, Thou Mind of Minds, Soul of Souls. I become myself when I know Thee, who art the Joy of the Upright in Heart, who art the Spirit which lulls the frenzy of the wayward will. Having thus conceived the question of evil and its answer, years before entering Thy church by baptism, before knowing Jesus Christ as the Mediator between creature and Creator, I still had no answer but only questions, because I could not conceive a spiritual substance. No. Not yet. If I could convince myself of the reality of spiritual substance I could be saved. But if not, not. And all I saw, all I could convince myself of through the study of the books of the learned, and by questioning the teachers and those reputed wise, all, all I found in this world was matter; masses of matter, things and the void. I had not yet learned to see with the eye of the mind which sees number and measure, form and idea; nor Beauty itself, without which there can be no beautiful things; nor Wisdom itself. It was then that Thou didst guide me, Thou who art Truth, to some books by followers of Plato; Thou knowest, my Lord; Thou knowest that there I found the light of reason, not yet the divine Reason of the Word become Flesh, but the light of human reason, which showed me the eternal ideas, which are spiritual substance. And then, Lord, having read the Platonists I went back and read once more the Holy Scripture, above all the Epistles of Saint Paul the Apostle, and the Gospel according to Saint John, and there I found the selfsame eternal ideas, which I was now prepared to find because the Platonists had opened my eyes through wisdom, for with Thee is Wisdom, and the love of Wisdom is in Greek called philosophy, and so philosophy became the handmaiden of theology, in the fourth century after Christ, in my thirty-sixth year, very much as, nineteen centuries later, one V. I. Lenin, whom I had occasion to observe while gazing on the earth from the heavens, reread Capital by Karl Marx after studying the philosophy of Hegel, and found in it new meanings; and for some similar reasons, for as Marx had drunk deep of Hegel before composing Capital, so, in the earlier time when I first walked the earth, O Beauty of all things beautiful, Saint Paul and Saint John had absorbed platonic ideas before they wrote out the works that Thou, Who art the Word and with the Word, inspired in them. I was ready for Baptism. Thou knowest, God of the Poor, Thou whose only begotten divides the sheep from the goats, Thou Husband of the Widow, Mother of the Orphan, House of Welcome for the Stranger, Thou knowest that my doctrines have taken bread from the mouths of the hungry, forasmuch as some

have said, What profiteth it a man to eat when the soul is greater than the body? Thou knowest, Mother of God and God who art Mother, Star of the Sea, Lady of 133 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Sorrows, Androgynous Ideal, thou knowest that my doctrine has pressed down upon the brow of woman crowns of thorns, forasmuch as some have said, How can a woman be spiritual, when to be a woman is to be flesh, when to be a man is to be set above woman, as the spirit is above the flesh. Thou knowest, Creator, that the soil, the air, the water, the sunlight, the plants, and the animals, yea and also the ozone layer, have been violated by my followers; I confess unto Thee who art the Life of Nature, that by the doctrine that the human is above all creatures in the hierarchy of being because it has a mind with a metaphysical eye trained on the pure eternal ideas, by my fault, by my most grievous fault, the birds have lost the forests where they nest and the fish the waters where they swim. Thou knowest, Thou who art Innocence, that young lovers have been taught to be ashamed of sex because some readers of my books have taught that whatever is physical is low because the body is a material substance. And who knows anymore whether Thou Existeth, O Strength of the Weak, O Hope of the Faithful? If Thou art an eternal idea, omnipotent because not material because idea, then Thou canst only be a mathematical entity as is pi or the square root of two, for in the twentieth century science recognizes no other eternal ideas. And if Thou existeth not, because I in my foolishness have defined Thee as something that does not exist, then, O Great Comforter, how will the world be comforted? I would that I had never been born, or never written, or that my books had never been read; had I not lived, perhaps, then all could worship Thee, my Lord, who art Truth and True Joy, as do the American Indian tribes for whom healing and religion are not two things but one only, who never read Aristotle, nor Plato, who never ask the question, Does God exist? because it is a question they do not need, growing out of a tradition which they, fortunately for them, do not have. And with all due respect, my friends, you might better spend your time talking about the fall of the water levels on the Great Plains. Done with talking, Augustine takes a half-smoked cigarette out of his pocket, lights it, and smokes it slowly, staring out the window with the distant gaze of the defeated. Then my sister-in-law Margaret says she is not as smart anymore as she was when she was younger and she is going to go over the main points to be sure she understood them. Augustine helped to create a synthesis of Judeo-Christian and Greek elements in the western tradition. His central problem was to cure the human will of its love of evil. His solution was to reorganize the human personality around the love of God; which he associated with the regulation of life by eternal ideals, and which inspired enthusiasm because emotional energy was transferred from the lusts of the body to reinvestment in a personal relationship with divinity. The spiritual life purified the corrupt material human will, and brought it under the guidance of ideal spiritual divine Spirit. Unfortunately, western culture, designed and built by Augustine and Co., lends itself to ignoring the material needs of the poor, to the subjection of women, the rape of nature, the chilling of joy, and the breakdown of social order this last because the philosophy relied on to integrate the human personality with the cosmic context fails when, under the impact of science, it becomes unbelievable. As Margaret speaks, Augustine begins to cry. Besides being rich my cousin Audrey is one of those mentally healthy people who delight in flaunting their sanity for the purpose of exciting the envy of their neurotic friends. Now she expresses her unrepressed feelings by complaining (without mentioning either Augustine orMargaret by name) that the conversation is too gloomy. She wants somebody to think of,

something cheerful to say before the evening is ruined. This is the most expensive place to eat in Fort Morgan, and Audrey has no intention of spending several hundred dollars to take her friends out to dinner just to watch them cry in their beer. I take her words to be a threat that if we dont cheer up we will have to pay. Its up to Millard. It is agreed that in view of the lateness of the hour there should be just one more speech, with no rebuttal, and that the honor of giving it belongs to Millard Smith, the premier local exponent of the atheist cause. His assignment is to answer the question asked by proving that God does not exist. And to placate Audrey by cheering us up. Both at once. 134 Letter 18 Millards Story Millard begins by ordering a second beer. He explains that his great-grandfather always had two drinks while he was waiting for the elders. Then realizing that his explanation needs an explanation he explains further that great-grandfather Smith attended the University of Nebraska in its early days, where he studied Charles Darwins The Origin of Species, from which he learned that the earth is older than the Bible says, that the forms of animals and plants are hot eternal, that even the planet itself has changed in form over time. Therefore, the things we see around us are not manifestations of eternal ideas. As a consequence, Millards grandfather left his church. Darwin had deconstructed the cultural structure that Augustine and Co. had constructed. The churchs elders, unwilling to accept the loss of a good soul, used to call on Millards greatgrandfather regularly once a year to try to bring him back into the flock. Great-grandfather anticipated their visits with gusto. He treasured the little library in his little house on the prairie, his Darwin, his Marx, his Nietzsche, his Herbert Spencer, his John Stuart Mill, and the big concordance he used to find the Bibles contradictions. He reread his books and reviewed his notes in preparation for the elders coming; he always offered them drinks and cigars, which they always refused; and they always saddled up their horses and rode away early in the morning, after hours of heated argument, feeling that they had wrestled with the devil and lost. After downing half his second beer, Millard asks us to pardon him if he is dull and does not understand, but what he thinks he is hearing boils down to the following: There are ordinary people like Alice and like Augustines mother Monica who practice living a spiritual life. Ordinary spiritual people have certain ways of talking that are part of their relationship with god. They are likely to say, for example: a) I believe in a personal God who loves me. b) All is gift. c) The joy of the indwelling Spirit is our Strength. d) Praise the Lord! e) (to Mary) Pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death, Amen. It is not always easy to give a coherent account of religious ways of talking. Spiritual people are likely to contradict themselves, each other, and science. For this reason there is work to do for theologians and philosophers of religion, like our friend Gus here, who was the first great theologian in the Roman tradition of the Christian West. Now what Gus is telling us is that as a theologian he would make a good plumber. He bungled his work. He and others identified God with Platos eternal ideas, and western civilization has had no end of trouble ever since. Nevertheless, Gus continues to pray (in public at the Elks Club no less) and in general to act in every way like a believer, just as if his whole supporting philosophical

basis had not collapsed. Our new member would admit correct me if I am wrong that the traditional proofs for the existence of God are wrong. But he doesnt care. Because they were trying to prove the existence of a Supreme Being, who is eternal, omnipotent, and non-material, the sort of God associated with Platos philosophy, and with Aristotles. Sorry, my mistake, says Gus, we proved the existence of the wrong God; the proofs are invalid, but the real God goes on living just the same. It was just an unfortunate historical accident that for us in the western tradition the concept of God became defined by Greek philosophy. To put the point in language borrowed from biology: Augustine helped build a cultural structure in order to serve certain vital functions. But the structure does not serve the functions at one time it promoted the vital interests of white,* male, straight, upper-class *Even though Augustine himself was from Africa and quite likely black. 135 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Europeans, but now it has become unbelievable and does not serve anybodys vital interests. Nevertheless, Gus thinks there are still vital spiritual functions which need to be served so now there is more work for the theologians. Theology can start over again, this time using a philosophy better than Platos. The new theologians can speak for the victims of the old order; so we can have feminist theology, ecological theology, minority, third-world, gay and lesbian, native peoples theologies. Now as an atheist I could argue that if God as defined by Greek philosophy does not exist, then God does not exist. However, I will not make that argument because I do not consider it valid. There are good reasons for saying that it is not the God of the philosophers who is the real one, but the God who is alive in the experience of the believer. I should really make that plural; the Gods who are alive in the experiences of believing communities are the real Gods. Another argument I might make but will not make is that God-talk, as in the examples I gave [(a) to (e)] is just empty air. I wont say that. I am not a logical positivist, and I do not think it is useful to apply to a whole sector of human language the adjective meaningless. I do not think poetry is meaningless, and I do not fault God for being poetry. I do fault Him for being bad poetry. Repentant theologians, such as our friend here, confess that the cultural structures they have built are not functional, but they propose to build other cultural structures in order to give a rational account of religious practices, and thus to help religion to perform its legitimate functions. I hold that religion has no legitimate functions. I want to eliminate the religious practices of ordinary people, and therefore not only their traditional philosophical rationalizations, but also any new ones new theologians may cook up. The situation is complicated because the new theologians admit in fact they declare that the religiosity of ordinary people can be pathological for example in the mass adoration of fraudulent television evangelists. They find themselves in opposition to many people who are selfidentified as religious. My position is that religion is by nature pathological. All religion. That is to say, it is wrong and oppressive. I cannot prove that religion has no legitimate function at all, and is in every instance pathological, by reviewing every function religion conceivably might have. That would be an endless argument. So I shall choose a principal function, one that I trust everyone will agree is essential to religion. If there were such a thing as a function still remaining for religion, even now in modern post-

industrial society, it would be, I think we can agree, the one our friend Gus here dwelled on in his Confessions, the function of providing spiritual discipline. His main concern was the terrible diseases of the human will. The problem was will, the solution Spirit. Rebirth in the Spirit was conversion, the casting off of the old self which had to be saved from itself; the taking on of the reborn self, the true self God intended, which joys in being the good person that you in your heart of hearts always wanted to be, but could not be because your own will betrayed you. Guss ancient superstitions still exist among some people today: for example, if you are an alcoholic and join Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the first things you must do is admit that you have lost control of your life. Surrender. Your will-to-drink will be overcome by a Higher Power, not by your weak self. Let God run your life. It is an insult to human dignity and a violation of freedom that so many people refuse to take charge of their own lives. This is my second beer, and I am going to say no to a third because I know it is not good for me to drink three beers. Stopping at two is going to be my decision. Not Gods. Letting God run your life for you is not only undignified and unfree; it is also irresponsible. In many wars both sides claim to have God on their side. No one takes personal moral 136 Letter 18 responsibility for the atrocities because they say, God told us to do it. Another example: in American society many women do not have abortions because they will not take moral responsibility for choosing to end life. They would rather let God decide to bring an unwanted child into the world than make a choice themselves and be responsible for the consequences. There are other societies where newborn female infants are left on the ground to die; their Gods tell them that certain babies (and sometimes too old people) are to be abandoned. Either way is immoral. The basis of morality is freedom, and to renounce your freedom of choice by claiming that you are acting on instructions from God, whether God is supposedly telling you to keep the baby or supposedly telling you to abandon it, is to give up your autonomy as a responsible moral agent. Without autonomy morality is not even possible. The spiritual life is therefore wrong because it is undignified, unfree, and irresponsible. It is also oppressive, for a reason I will now give, adapting the terminology of some philosophers from the city of Frankfurt, West Germany. Oppression is surplus repression. The gist of the concept is that a certain amount of repression of natural impulses is necessary in any society. Certain work must be done to cope with reality whether it is fun or not. Only that amount of work (and, more generally, only that amount of stifling of natural impulse) is justified. The rest is surplus repression. The spiritual life is by nature oppressive because its premise is that the will is in principle in need of salvation. That is why religion usually glorifies sacrifice. Not the necessary sacrifice demanded by reality, but capricious sacrifice, apparently done for no particular reason, but in fact done to keep the oppressed down. I admit that religion is in principle separable from keeping down a particular class, but nonetheless its very essence is to oppress the believer by stifling the believers natural impulses. A theology of liberation is a contradiction in terms. Liberation is by definition the freeing of the natural impulses. Theology is by definition a rationale for spiritual discipline. Religion is therefore by nature pathological because it is wrong and oppressive. It is wrong for three reasons: it is an insult to human dignity, it is a violation of liberty, and it is morally irresponsible. It is oppressive because spiritual discipline is surplus repression. It follows that human beings should not engage in religious practices, and, for the same reasons, the characteristic

forms of speech used in religion should be deleted from language. My reasons constitute a justification for concluding God does not exist, or, if you prefer, never bringing up the question whether He exists or not. We should be happy about this conclusion, because to bring God back into existence would be to retreat to miseries from which in the last few centuries the majority of the human species has to its great good fortune escaped. In the modern world most decisions are made with no spiritual discipline whatever, and the modern world is surviving. As Millard finishes his speech people move their buttocks forward to the from edges of their chairs; they are poised to stand up. On the contrary, I shout, the modern world is collapsing all around us for lack of spiritual discipline! My voice can hardly be heard over the noise of chairs scraping against the floor as people get up from the table. As people bid each other farewell, I think to myself that Millard is being narrowminded. He is insisting on pushing to a logical extreme the ideal of personal independence, which is one of the ideals of modern western culture. It seems to me that at any time, anywhere, in any culture the I, the inmost sense of self, needs the support and guidance of higher powers. 137 138 Letter 19 19 DANCING WITH TEARS IN MY EYES I have been writing these letters in an attempt to facilitate the social construction of new realities. Let me retrace their steps. On the first page of the Introduction the story about Shelley and Eduardo introduced the context: the global economy, also known as the modern world-system. We live in it; it is the source of our food not just of our bananas, which obviously come from the world economy if we eat them in cold places, but also of our yogurt, which, although it is produced in the laiteries of the St. Lawrence Valley, is regulated in its quantity and quality and even in the details of its production process by the demands of the international market. The Introduction spoke too of paths with heart. Letter One began with a rare and precious passion, the passion to do good. It is a passion often frustrated. In Letter One, as frequently happens, it was frustrated by lack of communication. The remedy: reconstruction of communication. Letter 2 was on a particular part of reconstructing communication: the reconstruction of reason. Letter 3: how wisdom came to be defined as the rule of the rational. Letter 4: reason today. Letter 5: This whole series of human symbolic activities we have been discussing (building communication, reasoning, guiding action by the rational word...) ought to be related to meeting vital needs. Question: Does making sense make sense? Answer: Only if it helps to meet a vital need. Letter 6 looked at the roles of some prevailing ways of making sense in maintaining the unequal access to control of resources which produces hunger, which is one kind of unmet need. In Letter 71 tried to begin to explain my discontent with the thinking of todays best and brightest; I do not know whether I explained myself well; it had something to do with my grandmother; it was about something that reminded me of yellow roses and of fresh cinnamon rolls. In Letter 8 my discontent with rationality was expressed more precisely: minimum wage laws, environmental regulation, and other government actions aimed at worthy goals, tend to slow down investment in the place where the government sets standards, and to send investors to places where, for examples, the same quantity and quality of labor power can be purchased at a lower price, or nature can be raped less expensively. Fewer investments means fewer jobs, lower quantities of goods and services produced, a smaller tax base. Thus many well-intentioned actions are irrational because they do not achieve their goals, or

because they have unwanted side effects. This characteristic of our world-system shows, as Letter 9 further elaborates, a connection between rationality and cultural structure. What is rational is what works. What works is what works given the cultural structure that is in place. Letter 10 tries to portray how cultural structure emerges from biological structure, the two being in borderline cases indistinguishable from each other, as in the practices of baboons, ducks, and dolphins when they travel in formations whose structures stem from genetically-given inclination developed by group learning; each troop or flock or school creates its own distinctive order for ambling, waddling, or cruising. Letter 11 justified a practice called metaphysics which consciously produces or ratifies a cultures most basic and most general ways of using symbols; to do metaphysics is to make ideology coherent. Letters 12,13, and 14 returned to Plato. The rule of the rational. Then in Letters 15, 16, and 17 Aristotle. He advanced knowledge and crowned it with a metaphysical principle: form has more being than matter. Aristotle and Plato 139 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I laid the basis for a wonderful way to think of doing good: when you do good you strengthen great civilizing ideals. Martin Luther King, Jr. relied on Plato and Aristotles gifts to humanity when he said to his supporters after one of his nonviolent victories, this is not a victory for us, this is a victory for justice. For right form. The traditional ideological structure of European culture which transformed itself and expanded (later in centuries 15 through 19) become the global economy, was not, however, just Greek; it was Greek-Judeo-Christian; the story of its formation passes through an encounter with the person Jesus, who is not an idea: Jesus on the Cross: wood, iron, flesh, blood. It was people like Augustine (Letter 18) who put the two main founts of traditional western ideals together. Augustine taught that material goods exist for the sake of a healthy body. A healthy body should serve the mind. The mind and through it everything else, should be dedicated to God. Beauty. Harmony. Hierarchy. Order. Early theologians like Augustine deserve the credit and the blame for creating western culture by bringing together its rational and its religious elements. The augustinian foundations of the civilization which eventually produced the global economy are now hard to see; they are obscured by the newer constructions which have been built over them. Augustines work has become an almost forgotten deep level of the Wests collective mind. Nevertheless, we should make an effort to see them, because we need to unravel the tangle that produced global economic society, in order to be able to reweave the web of life. I want to claim for spirituality, which Augustine brightened and tarnished, a constructive role in the rebuilding of culture. We need it because it is one of the ways the human will converts to love and responsibility. Although we can know there are holes in the ozone layer, we can know deforestation raises the CO2 content of the atmosphere, we can know the poor are poorer, the weapons deadlier, we cannot effectively do anything to change our destructive cultural structures without the conversion of wills. We need to disentangle spiritualitys constructive roles from its long and frequent associations with the domination of nature, male supremacy, inter-ethnic violence, and racism. In this letter number 19, I want to bring out three encouraging perspectives provided by philosophy as we begin the 21st century. After this letter on the present moment, the letters will return to the past in numbers 20, 21, 22, and 23, searching through the medieval synthesis of reason and religion achieved by Saint Thomas Aquinas, looking for tools we can use to fix our broken world. Letter 24 will outline some of philosophys contributions to the great transformation which produced modern society; Letter 25 is another summary; Volume Two (Letters 26-50) is on methods for transforming the modern world.

1. Speech-as-action To explain the speech-as-action perspective, I want to use a drawing from the second part of the Philosophical Investigations of the 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The drawing shows a form shift because if you look at it one way it has the form of a duck, while if you look at it another way it shifts and takes on the form of a rabbit. Psychologists usually say gestalt shift using the German word Gestalt, which means form.

What I want to say with the help of the drawing is that my way of perceiving language underwent a shift from one gestalt to another, from making-statements-of-fact to speech-as140 Letter 19 action, similar to the shift of the gestalt from duck to rabbit. I used to think speech consisted of making statements. Aristotle apparently thought so too because he believed that before you could say anything you had to have a subject, ousia, a being or substance, about which to make a statement. Being is an important idea in Aristotles philosophy partly because he thinks you need to refer to being in order to say anything about anything; his implicit assumption seems to be that what people do with language is mostly to say something about something, i.e. to make statements. Augustine seemed to have a similar thought in mind when he wrote that he learned how to speak by watching his parents point to things and say their names; his thought seems to be that once you can name a thing you can use the name as a subject in a sentence; you can then finish the sentence with verbs and adjectives, thus making a statement about the thing named. This is the duck: speech as making statements. My gestalt shift began when I read The Language of Morals by the Oxford philosopher R. M. Hare. I was interested in the book because I used to ask questions like What is good? What is bad? What is right? What is wrong? Hare suggests that part of peoples difficulty answering such questions is that we have a rigid mindset which perceives speech as making statements. We want our parents to point to the thing the word good is the name of. Or like Aristotle we think of speech as statements starting with a being, and then predicating something of the being such as that it is good; with such a rigid mindset we want to answer the question What is good? by specifying what quality we ascribe to a being when we call it good. In general, we think that what grammarians call a declarative sentence, the typical statement, is what language is all about, and we overlook imperatives. The language of morals, however, is actually more like imperatives than like declaratives; if we say, x is morally right, what we say is like the imperative, Do x! and

not like the statements right is the thing x is, or x has the quality of rightness. If we say, kindness is good, we mean Be kind! and if we say Torture is wrong we mean Do not torture! Hares theory which is much more subtle than my simple presentation of it moved me away from speech-as-making-statements-of-fact by emphasizing a whole class of sentences, imperatives, which are not statements at all, which have been neglected in our tradition because most grammarians and philosophers have devoted their attention to declaratives. I was budged another notch toward shifting my gestalt by the theory of performatives of another Oxford philosopher, John Austin. Performative speech does something with words; it is part of a socially defined ceremony which constitutes an act. For example, if you say, I do, in appropriate circumstances you perform an act; I do is not a comment on marriage, it is the act of getting married. When you say to the baker, two dozen blueberry muffins, you do not make a statement about muffins, you perform the act of buying muffins. A signature/on a paper can sell a controlling interest in United States Steel Corporation to an Arab investor; tomorrow at 5:30 in the coffee shop is sufficient to perform the act of promising to be in a certain place at a certain time. A promise is a performance, and according to John Maynard Keynes in his Treatise on Money money is a promise; if Keynes is right the study of money, the language of commerce, should follow the logic of performatives instead of the logic of statements. Austin expanded his theory by classifying ways locutions do things. The word locution just means a conventional set of words people may use. Austin designated two aspects of locutions: perlocutions and illocutions, also known as perlocutionary acts and illocutionary acts. The perlocution is what you do by speaking. For example, if you say Close the door please, what you accomplish if you succeed is getting the door closed. If you plead with your ex-boyfriend to take you back, then what you do, if you succeed, is reconciliation; if you fail it 141 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I is aggravation or humiliation the perlocution depends on the result, which is sometimes difficult to predict; it is what you get done by speaking. The illocution is more conventional; it is what you do in speaking. If you say Close the door please, then whatever else happens, whether the door gets closed or not, it cannot be denied that you performed the act of making a request. You did something in speaking, namely, requesting. One can also make threats, promises, offers, suggestions, jokes, and apologies all if of these are illocutions just because in speaking one does something, even though if one is like me the perlocutions are negligible because nobody fears my threats, trusts my promises, accepts my offers, takes my suggestions, laughs at my jokes, or forgives me when I apologize. The problem is that my illocutionary acts lack perlocutionary consequences. The gestalt shift which my encounter with Hare and Austin had initiated was brought to completion by my encounter with John Searle. John Searle wrote a book called Speech Acts which starts from the premise that every instance of speech is an act; speaking is always somebody doing something. Making statements is only one particular kind of speech act, among many. When I read Searle the duck shifted to a rabbit. The point of calling such a conversion from one viewpoint to another a gestalt shift is that I did not merely make a list of the items I had learned from Hare, Austin, and Searle. Instead my entire way of seeing speech and language shifted its form, so that whenever I read or hear anything the question I ask about it is What is it doing? I am pleased by my new way of seeing things. Not least among the sources of my new pleasures is

a greater access to the wisdom of traditional peoples, who almost invariably are found by anthropologists to enjoy communing with spirits, and to talk about them in terms reminiscent of our own Bible, where it is written, God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24, King James Version, first published 1611.) If I ask about a spirit, What does it do? I get satisfactory answers. Spirits comfort, bring joy, inspire, keep families together, win football games, carry patients through illnesses, move the hardhearted to forgiveness, unite friends, put charity fundraising campaigns over the top, give courage to the weak, bring life to parties, energy to concerts, success to business enterprises, and do a million and one other things, even though a spirit is not a thing, and if one were obliged to answer the question, What exactly is it? one would have to answer, in all honesty, Nothing. But having to answer, Nothing, no-thing, no longer bothers me. I am past the point where I expect every word to refer to a thing. In our western tradition, the ancient Hebrews and Greeks understood spirit as wind (ruach in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek both meaning wind, breath, air, spirit). The word spirit itself comes from the Latin spiritus, a noun form of the verb spirare, which means to blow or to breathe; and indeed the wind is an excellent image, or rather non-image, of invisible power. The wind is not anything, but the vague sighings of the wind at evening melt our hearts; the keen frost-wind of November quickens our steps; soft and pausing winds awaken kindly passions and pure desires; the odorous winds of wakening spring renew our vitality; and when the night wind sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits, and then suddenly stops, then its very absence makes us one with the tender and growing stillness. So when I think of speech-as-action I think of the wind; it loves me, and I love it. 2. Natural Science as the Background for Philosophy A second encouraging perspective comes from the later work of the previously mentioned 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, although if Brother Ludwig were, to awaken from the dead and hear the conclusion I draw from reading his Philosophische Untersuchungen the latter might surprise him as much as the former. 142 Letter 19 The later Wittgensteins reputation in philosophy is that of a genius who said something important, although it has not yet been decided what it was he said. My opinion is that what Wittgenstein said was that all meaning depends on context, and, furthermore, on the social practices which customarily interpret the context. Consequently you cannot look at plain facts. There are no plain facts. Every so-called fact is a fact as seen by some person, as described in some language, as interpreted in some context according to some communitys system of interpretation. Wittgensteins work refutes those who think it is possible to make sure that our knowledge is correct by rebuilding it from the ground up, so to speak, starting with plain elementary facts. The elementary plain facts, if there were any, would be the data from simple observations. But Wittgenstein showed that we cannot use the data from simple observations to check whether our knowledge is correct, because the data do not mean anything without context, without a system of interpretation, and there is no way to guarantee that a system of interpretation is the right one, or the best one, or truest one, or the one that corresponds to reality. The conclusion Wittgenstein drew is that we must simply accept a form of life. This means we just accept that we live among people who say certain things are true, and count certain things as evidence which proves they are

true; we must simply accept their social practices and act appropriately. There is an appropriate time and place for saying this is true and this is false, and we must go ahead and say the appropriate thing at the appropriate time the same as everyone else does. This does not mean we accuse our culture of arbitrarily making up the facts of nature surely objects do not change their relative sizes suddenly and irregularly, or disappear every five minutes to reappear after a pause of 30 seconds such elementary physical facts must be accepted as part of the form of life too, although we are in no position to draw a neat line separating social practice from physical context. To ask about something people appropriately call true, But is it really true? in a serious tone of voice does not make any sense. (Here I must retract what I said before, for a reason which is one of the reasons why Wittgenstein is hard to interpret. I have to say Yes, there are plain facts. It is a plain fact, for example, that there is a chicken in the refrigerator. At least I have to say this if plain fact is accepted speech in the community in whose form of life I am participating, and there is a chicken in the refrigerator.) Although I think Wittgenstein is right it seems to me that if he had lived longer he would have recognized that the form of life we have in the 20th century is a scientific one. We do not really believe very much the truths of everyday common sense; the story we accept as true is the one told by the natural sciences. (One might fear that Wittgensteins conclusions would condemn us to accept irrational rationality because, after all, it is the strongest ideology in our culture; I do not think they do. Our deep faith in the natural sciences is even stronger; science gives us a capability for self-criticism.) 1 When chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, and geology are synthesized so that the results of the several natural sciences are combined and systematically viewed in interaction with each other, the resulting superscience has a name: ecology. To say that ecology provides the context for doing philosophy is equivalent to saying we must accept our form of life, I find ecology encouraging from a spiritual point of view because for the first time in history the conversion of wills can be set in the context of a cosmic story common to all humanity, a story taught in science classes everywhere, namely: the story of the earth. One mother. One family. One home. 143 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I 3. A Time for Joy As we enter the 21st century we have so much rage, depression, and despair that we do not need any more. We cannot forget that life is precarious and society a tissue of lies. Philosophy has already done enough to cleanse us of our tendency to be dishonest (inauthentic) by pretending life is wonderful when it is not. We should be grateful that philosophy has shown that honesty is still possible, but honesty is not enough. Now what is needed is a fun philosophy that will help us to laugh together and will give us energy to transform the world. One could make a short list of causes for despair in the 20th century with only one item: the bomb. To understand our despair and to understand the sources of transforming joy still available to us, it is helpful to make a longer list because the ultimate disaster will be a result of systemic breakdown to which many causes contribute, because they are destructive or because they fail to be constructive. You may wish to make your own list of causes for rage, depression, and despair at the end of the 20th century since each one of us experiences the times we live in differently; sexual abuse, family breakdown, poverty, war, or drug addiction may be part of your experience, or of an experience you identify with. Persistent unemployment is near the top of my list because my father was

unemployed most of his life. Multinational corporations are near the top of my list because after doing some farm labor as a student I participated as a lawyer in Cesar Chavezs movement to organize farm workers, and when our union achieved some success in raising wages the multinationals moved their tomato and vegetable growing operations to Mexico. At the top of my list, my number one cause for rage, depression and despair is the dictatorship in Chile. When you work seven years in education and social reform, and then barbarism triumphs by sheer force in one day, you do not forget it, nor do you forget the suffering of your friends and neighbors who are fired, blacklisted, arrested arbitrarily, beaten, tortured, killed, or who suddenly disappear. You do not forget seeing the air force attack the presidential palace, a helicopter gunship firing on workers in a factory, gunfire in the night, busloads of prisoners being taken who-knows-where, etc. etc. What I saw was not the revolution that was supposed to happen according to one of the writings of the philosophical mentor of Chiles socialist president. According to Capital, volume one, chapter 3 2, the workers were going to become the overwhelming majority of the population; the working class would be well organized because the workers would be concentrated in factories where they would see each other every day; they would have strengthened their organizations in previous decades through their struggles to improve wages and working conditions. Small businesses were going to fail and their ex-owners would join the proletariat, while the magnates in whose hands wealth would be concentrated would be more and more useless, since the factories would be able to run perfectly well without them. What I saw was different; instead of the mass of organized workers taking power from a few useless rich people, I saw a legally elected president, supported by unarmed workers and by an unarmed marginal class poorer than the workers, attacked by a well-equipped modern army. The best organized workers (the ones who had achieved the best wages and working conditions) were on the wrong side; they (the copper miners) had joined the bourgeoisie in inviting the armed forces to oust the president. The bourgeoisie was also supported by the American CIA; by a large middle class including many owners of tracks, buses, and taxis; by newspapers and TV stations which interpreted the news in a way designed to divide the workers among themselves and to cement their separation from the middle class. According to volume one, chapter 32, the strength of the weak is not a great problem; the strength of justice is not a problem at all. The workers will be strong enough to take power; their cause is just; society through the revolutionary action of the workers will cast off its old cultural structure as a snake sheds a skin it has outgrown. Consciousness-raising on this view 144 Letter 19 is mainly a matter of making the oppressed aware of their true situation when they become aware that the system of property rights puts the means of production under someone elses control, forcing them to work for wages if they are lucky enough to get jobs at all, they realize that they can and must take control of the means of production. When you watch the strong beat the weak on the head with the butts of their rifles, when they shoot them and throw their bodies in rivers, when they do it over and over again, day after day, year after year, then you see the need for a less simple conception of the wellsprings of human behavior. The new philosophy is constructive. It finds the sources of joy and nurtures them. It draws from sources of joy the solidarity and strength we need in our times. Nel Noddings, in her recent book Caring, expressed the point I want to make beautifully when she wrote, The philosopher who begins with a supremely free consciousness an aloneness and emptiness at the heart of existence identifies anguish as the basic human affect.* But our view, rooted as it is in relation, identifies Joy as a basic human affect. When I look at my child even one of my grown children and

recognize the fundamental relation in which we are each defined, I often experience a deep and overwhelming joy. It is the recognition of and longing for relatedness that form the foundation of our ethic, and the joy that accompanies fulfillment of our caring enhances our commitment to the ethical ideal that sustains us as one-caring.** The next letters consider some of the philosophical constructions which contributed to the great medieval synthesis of religion, thought, and practice, best expressed in the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas. * Heidegger, Martin, Kant and das Problem der Metaphysik, p. 214. ** Noddings, Nel, Caring. Berkeley, CA.: Univ. of California Press, 1984, p. 6. A similar point is made by Gabriel Marcel in several of his works. 145 146 Letter 20 20 THE HEAVENLY INTERPRETATION OF DESIRE If I were to wake up tomorrow morning the discover that I had suddenly returned to the Middle Ages, I would walk to the nearest church and slip inside the door of a large wooden box. Into the darkness I would whisper, Bless me Father, for I have sinned; its been five chapters since my last confession. I would go on to explain that 60 pages ago I had confessed to admiring Aristotle, and that now I must confess to admiring Thomas Aquinas. This can be regarded as an error because it can result in ones being interpreted as a supporter of the class structures that currently stratify society. I do not approve of these class structures, and I think the hierarchical principles contained in Thomistic philosophy are a fatal flaw. But we should not let this flaw blind us to the fact that Thomas is the classical summary of the symbolic structures which developed in the Middle Ages to build a viable culture under difficult conditions. The priest who would patiently listen to my confession would assume that I had realized that I had been misinterpreting my emotions and was now ready to let grace fill me with the divine will. He would forgive my past errors, and tell me to recite 10 Our Fathers and pray 5 rosaries, which I would obediently do. The fall of the Roman Empire seems small when compared with the calamities we expect now, but in its time it was considered a great disaster. Although the Romans had participated in their own downfall by practicing extensive commercial agriculture without the recycling of organic material to such an extent that the soils of the Mediterranean region have never since been as fertile as they were in pre-Roman times, they did not drench the earth with poisons. The climate and the atmosphere were not affected by the collapse of the Empire, since neither the barbaric invaders nor the decadent defenders possessed industrial systems or advanced weapons technologies capable of changing the physical parameters of the habitat; they were unable to create an environment unsuitable for mammals and birds, an environment hospitable only to fast-breeding radiation-resistant species, such as cockroaches and gnats. Small as the incident was by our standards, the educated people of the time lamented the destruction of the only social organization they knew; they suffered the usual consequences of chaos hunger, slaughter, rape, plunder, beatings. In the eyes of people with a Graeco-Roman education, Europe had come under the misrule of unreason. They asked themselves what had gone

wrong to make such a disaster possible. They answered by pointing to the inroads of a new religion called Christianity, or on the other hand to the errors of the ancient/pagan religions that Christianity and other new religions were displacing, to the decline of morals, the degeneracy of the unemployed masses, disorderly popular entertainment, the political ambitions of generals, the irresponsibility of the rich, the misery of the poor, the division of society into haves and have-nots, lack of respect for tradition. St. Augustine was born before the Fall of Rome and he died after it. He spent his youth in a relatively peaceful, fairly well-administered Roman province in North Africa, and he lived to see the plundering of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 A.D. Late in his life he wrote De Civitate Dei (The City of God), which for centuries was even more widely read than his Confessions. The message of this 22-book treatise, succinctly stated, was that the new religion from Palestine 147 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I (which had become the official religion of all the empire under Constantine in 325) was not after all to blame for the disaster; on the contrary, the new symbolism had demonstrated a remarkable capacity for improving the behavior of the barbarian conquerors. Its doctrines offered an antidote to the major cause of the disaster, namely the insatiable desire for worldly power and wealth. The Christian God was the sure refuge of those who sought to live with peace of mind amid the ruins, and also the firm foundation for the reconstruction of a sober, decent social organization. St. Augustines skillful rhetoric deftly balanced withdrawal from the world to find sources of spiritual strength and action in the world to make it better; his doctrines carefully elude outright selfcontradiction, while they provide quite different mottos, suitable for quite different occasions Augustines way is similar to the creative back-and-forth between other-worldliness and thisworldliness in the Bhagavad Gita and the sayings of Lao Tse in the Hindu and Chinese traditions respectively, and also similar to the periodic withdrawal of the shamans to speak to the spirits in the wilderness, held in balance with the shamans social role as prophet. The withdrawal and return of the shaman* other-worldliness successfully coupled with this-worldliness, has been noted by anthropologists among many tribal peoples. St. Augustines philosophical work was a great success. One of the new religions from the East became the cultural code which guided the long slow process of the reconstruction of civilization. It was a remarkably comprehensive cultural code, as elaborate as the sophisticated symbolic structures of the classic Hindu and Chinese civilizations; it embraced most of the means by which culture supplements the biologically given behavioral repertory; it was law, it was economics, it was psychology, morality, and social science; it was the guiding spirit of art, music, architecture, and most of storytelling. In the medieval world religion made hierarchy legitimate. Although it did not completely dominate the feudal definition of the rights and duties of emperors, kings, earls, dukes, barons, lords, yeomen, thanes, sokemen, villeins, cotters, and serfs, the language of feudalism and the language of theology were complementary in their common premise that the higher persons command and the lower persons obey. What I want to give you is a summary of the most important text by the most important medieval philosopher, the Summa Theologiae by St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote seven centuries after Augustine; Thomas gives us an encyclopedic and systematic account of the thinking of his time in the form of answers to questions. He begins each article of his Summa by stating a question of the sort debated by the learned people of his time, the 13th century A.D., giving arguments on several aspects of the question supported by quotations from texts which were respected as sources of authority, such as the Bible, the works of Aristotle, and the writings of St. Augustine. Then St.

Thomas gives his own answer to the question posed. For example Thomas asks whether giving aid to the poor is a duty of justice, i.e. obligatory, or a duty of charity, i.e. voluntary. After canvassing various arguments for regarding aid to the poor as voluntary, he answers that it is obligatory. My perspective on Thomas, my focus, so to speak, my way of seeing a gestalt in the welter of detail, is to see his work as the culmination of the process Augustine advocated seven centuries earlier. By the 13th century Europe has recovered from the barbarian invasions, a new culture has been built, and it guides a new civilization. St. Thomas is the author of its synoptic text; the text displays the mechanisms through which the culture was reconstructed arid was reproduced to some extent still is reproduced generation after generation. My interest in portraying a process of social reconstruction by means of a commentary on a text exposes me to some dangerous misunderstandings, especially since St. Thomas is a highly controversial philosopher and the medieval period a highly controversial part of European history. By way of an example to illustrate how controversial my subject is, let me reminisce briefly about a conversation with one of my tutors at Oxford. We were discussing Hares theory of ethical language when without warning as if he were suddenly overcome by an impulse to speak frankly, my tutor said, I suppose it doesnt really matter what you think about ethical language, as long as youre not a Marxist or a Thomist. For a second example, consider The 148 Letter 20 Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, a book full of heated debates about the medieval period of European history conducted on mountain trails in swirling snow by patients at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Switzerland. There are two main contenders. One is Settembrini, an Italian professor who is the alter ego of Thomas Mann himself. He personifies modern European liberalism. Settembrini is a lover of rational improvements, modest, well-mannered, judicious, hesitant to generalize, Settembrini is the prolongation into the capitalist epoch of the best traditions of classical antiquity. His opponent is the Jesuit Naptha, who personifies Thomas Manns favorite opinion, which is that socialists are reactionaries who yearn for a return to medieval collectivism. Settembrini and Naptha haggle for 300 pages about what really happened in the middle ages and what it really meant; in the end Naptha challenges Settembrini to a duel with pistols. Settembrini, a gentleman to the end, deliberately misses Naptha and offers himself as a target for Naptha to shoot if he wishes. Instead of shooting Settembrini, Naptha commits suicide. It is not clear why Naptha commits suicide. My personal opinion is that either Mann wanted to get rid of one of his characters so it would be easier to bring an already overly long novel to an end, or else Mann wanted to leave the reader with the impression that Naptha had a twisted mind. Or both. Since nobody who expresses an opinion about St. Thomas escapes unscathed, I will try to give my enemies the pleasure of pillorying me for what I mean instead of for what I do not mean by trying to mention two of the main things I do not mean. I need not mention everything I do not mean for example I need not mention that I do not mean to deny that the so-called barbarians had cultures of their own, that in respect of equality and the rights of women they were superior to the Romans and to St. Thomas, etc. One need not mention everything, however, I must say that I do not mean to claim that St. Thomas accurately describes medieval practice, much less that other people in the middle ages read the books the philosophers wrote and then followed the instructions contained therein. It would be dangerous for me to allow; people to think either (1) I am indiscriminately praising the middle ages, or (2) I am confusing the ideal pattern of life found in its classic texts with the real life of the serfs. The Summa of St. Thomas is an educational project; it is also a comprehensive account of the

medieval educational project. At first glance you may regard the preceding statements as someones personal opinion, namely mine, which I state without any proof because I am hoping you will assume that I am confiding to you the generally accepted opinion of experts, or else because I am hoping to catch you in a moment when you are so sleepy that you are making it a policy to believe everything you hear, to avoid the effort of thinking critically. A moments reflection will show that the trick which is being played on you is more subtle. According to the premises I have laid down, my assertions are necessary truths. The Summa of St. Thomas could not be anything but an educational project. Given that human behavior is governed in the first instance by biologic mechanisms. Given that the human adaptation, the ecological niche of homo sapiens, is culture, in other words the guidance of behavior by symbolic structures. Given that culture is created, and recreated in every generation, by educational (as distinct from genetic) processes. Given that the Summa of St. Thomas is an encyclopedic and systematic account of the cultural code of his times. Then what I said has to be true; it cannot be false. This is philosophy. It is what Plato does; it is what St. Thomas does. It produces self-evident truths, i.e. truths which are self-evident as long as you are willing to see the world through the glasses the philosopher is asking you to put on. It goes beyond the evidence to make generalizations which while they are obscure enough, especially for people not accustomed to philosophy, are simplifications when compared to the infinite complication of listing all the particular facts. Through simplifying, philosophy is able to construct organizing principles. Nobody could organize anything on the basis of total complication, which is what sticking to the facts amounts to. 149 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I My next step toward trying to convince you that the 20th century pair of glasses I am peddling is realistic, comprehensive, beneficial, beautifying, generally meritorious, will be to use them to take a closer look at St. Thomas educational project, to show in it the mechanisms through which the new culture was constructed and reproduced. However, before using a commentary on the text itself to show some of the mechanisms of social reconstruction, I need to put into place a basic concept which is one of the keys to understanding the process, and also one of the reasons for believing that the empowerment of the weak is not an inherently hopeless task. I believe that the medieval ideology made the weak stronger in the process of building organizations that were more stable and more militarily defensible than the competing social systems which lacked the benefit of the ideology. For example, a bit before the time of St. Thomas, during the Merovingian period in what is now France, the bishops adopted the practice of bestowing the title Defender of the Faith on certain of the constantly warring princes who competed for power in the area; over time it turned out that the princes so blessed tended to win more battles than they lost until the entire area now known as France came to be governed by princes with Christian commitments and I think the widow, the stranger, the orphan, all those whom Yahweh makes it his special mission to protect (see Deuteronomy 24: 17-71) derived some benefit from this priestly collaboration with the warriors, through the dear might of Him who walked the waves, through the dear might. Those who take a jaundiced view of the middle ages may claim that as a matter of fact the religion of love never did anything to make the powerful less antisocial, but they may nevertheless take an interest in the method of cultural reinterpretation of physiological arousal states which is according to me one of the principles which explains the success of the cultural code St. Thomas Summa gives us a glimpse of. They might consider cultural reinterpretation to be a promising means for empowering the disinherited even though according to them I view medieval Christianity through

rose-tinted lenses. I of course consider the fact that our charitable institutions, such as hospitals, began during the historical period in question to be irrefutable proof that the doctrines favoring the weak, evident enough in the texts, were to some extent actually practiced. If they reply that the hospitals wore a grudging concession to the poor, a sop to keep them from getting so angry that they would rebel, then I reply that it was not necessary to invent hospitals to prevent revolts by the sick and the crippled, because infirm rebels could have been easily and cheaply subdued. Every culture, every individual, must do something with physiological arousal states, such as acceleration of the heartbeat, high adrenaline concentrations, body heat, the release of behaviorgoverning hormones, erections, cramps in the stomach, sweat, shivering, chattering of the teeth, tears in the eyes, tightness of the muscles at the back of the neck, and so on. I will again postpone looking directly at the text of St. Thomas Summa in order to present the idea of reinterpretation of such states, which, as I said, is one of the general principles of his success, and in any case an interesting idea. For example, I have airplane phobia. When I board an airplane my heart beats faster, the concentration of adrenaline in my blood goes up, the muscles in my stomach tighten, the back of my neck becomes stiff. I interpret my physiological arousal states as fear and my mind fills with unpleasant speculations about whether the pilot is drunk, whether a wing might come off in midair, or what happens if the pilot forgets to put the wheels down before bringing the plane in for a landing. Since I have to fly sometimes anyway, I have invested in a cassette tape recording by Captain T. W. Cummins, a retired airline pilot who helps people to overcome their fears of flying. Captain Cummins reinterprets my physiological arousal state by telling me what fun it is to fly: my heart beats faster, how exciting, flying is like your first date. The muscles tighten, its the challenge of flight, flying is like trying to do one more chin-up when you work out in the gym. What I need to do is re-name my feelings; now I name them excitement, and then I fill my mind with the new world of meanings the new name unlocks as a key opens a door; I loose the surly bonds of earth and soar above the clouds to new adventures. 150 Letter 20 The conclusions I draw from my experience with Captain T. W. Cummins (i.e. that our actions are partly determined by how we interpret our physiological states) are supported by Schachters famous study* which showed that overweight people interpret contractions in their stomachs as hunger, while other people might interpret the same little pangs differently lets say as an itch to get out and jog, sleepiness, a nicotine fit, or the urge to get on the phone and have a nice long talk with some understanding person. Similarly, the physiological similarity of sexual attraction and anger has often been noted, not only in humans but in other species as well, not only by scientists but by my ex-roommate Leons ex-girlfriend who used to tell him, I want you or hate you but I cant tell which. Here again the name one assigns to the emotion, the meaning-context in which it is interpreted, interpersonal agreement about what to call it and what it is, help to determine what action the emotion will produce. Now let us imagine, if you will allow me to draw a caricature for you, in the way that caricaturists make sketches with only a few lines, calling attention to a larger than average nose by drawing an enormous nose, making small ears tiny and thin people pencil-thin, that you are face down on the floor of a burning building in some recently pillaged part of the ex-Roman Empire; a person whom you regard as a barbarian has broken your skull with a club and left you for dead, but you are remarkably resilient and manage to remain conscious for seven centuries. Having a graeco-roman education you are accustomed to thinking of the logos as playing an important role in human life. The logos rules the mind and the mind rules the body rat least when all goes well, you mutter

to yourself with your mouth full of smoke and ashes. Then, I suggest, even though you do not know about Captain Cummins or Schachters study of overweight people, you would be likely, in the course of seven centuries, to come up with an educational project suitable for reprogramming the physiological arousal states of the person who clubbed you on the head, which might well be similar, in its general outlines, to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, an immense labor of the lamp as St. Thomas himself called it, using the image of the lamp not to refer to divine illumination but simply to call attention to the many nights he stayed up late working by lamplight in order to give the world the benefit of his thoughts, an immense work which in its standard English translation, with the Latin original on facing pages, runs to 60 volumes, which I shall now finally attempt to summarize for you. The Summa begins by calling on divine revelation to assist reason in leading humans to salvation (what salvation is will be made clear later). In the following articles, the ones on God, Thomas weaves scripture and philosophy together in a way which continues throughout the three parts of the Summa. Here we meet Being again Being the source of rational higher authority in Plato and in Aristotle in the form of the infinitely perfect being who is also, of course, Father. Being completes the union of three languages, the languages of religion, kinship relations, and rational philosophy, since God is also Father, is also Being. The son (another kinship term), as we learn in the part on the Most Holy Trinity, is the Word (logos, verbum), while the Holy Spirit is the divine will. Within every human there is the image of the Trinity since every human is a being, possesses the gift of language, and has a will (indeed if salvation works a loving will). Following the Hebrew tradition in contrast to the religions of the tribes surrounding the Hebrews, who told creation stories where humans were created out of water, mud, the wrecked carcass of a monster goddess, or some other sort of material, St. Thomas insists that God created everything from nothing by pure command; the first principle of beings is consequently wholly, uncompromisingly, spiritual. Nor was creation distinguished (St. Thomas tends to run together creating, naming, and distinguishing things from one another) by contrasting good with bad thus from the first, in his elaboration of the creation myths of Genesis, St. Thomas rejects the Manichean dualism, the partition of the universe into good and bad principles, which ensnared St. Augustine in his youth and which ensnares us still today * S. Schachter in Advances in Experimental Psychology (L. Berkowitz, ed.), New York: Academic Press, 1967, pp. 49ff. 151 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I whenever the structure of our perceptions is us against them, Gods will against the devils disciples, good Americans against evil Russians, or good Russians against evil Americans, the City of Gandor vs. the Black Lord, Asian against the white witch. St. Thomas structures creation differently, not as good and bad, but as angels, the spiritual beings, and the work of the six days, the material beings; and then, at their junction, the human beings a little lower than the angels, a little higher than the work of the first six days of creation, creatures who are at the same time spiritual and physical, of whom Thomas treats in the section called Of man, especially the soul. This is not the same as a good v. bad creation story; it is an onward and upward leadership style, where there are no bads, only less good and more good, the former the less created and the latter the more created, where the entelechy and the telos (Aristotles terms for guiding tendency and purpose) are pointed in the direction of bringing into action the potential of the human to be like an angel; humans are made with a supernatural purpose, their desire is aimed toward heaven. The

supernatural destiny of the human implies an inbuilt sensitivity to the call of the divine, which has consequences for the divine government of creation, which is treated in the next article of the Summa.. God rules his creation not only through laws, but also through the ministerings of angels; the movements of physical bodies speak with Gods voice, human action is itself a part of the overall pattern of divine movement toward glory. Those electrons changing energy levels in the movement of muscle tissue do not move aimlessly as they dance they sing in tune with angelic choirs. The divine government concludes the first part of the Summa. The second part begins by specifying that God, who is the beginning (the arch and aitai) of human existence, is also the goal. My soul will find no rest until it rest in Thee, Augustine had said, and Thomas, not content to allow the movement of the soul toward God to proceed by poetic inspiration, fashions a rational system by which creatures made in the image of the divine, endowed with intellect and will, can systematically achieve their final goal. It is here that Aristotles Ethics becomes a great resource, and in the process of being used as a resource becomes transformed into a Christian psychology. Aristotle had written that the test of a good education is whether the person enjoys being good: he recognized that we do what we enjoy and avoid what we dislike, and advocated taking pleasure in virtue. The human act, Aristotle had said, is the voluntary act, hence the good human actor is the one who voluntarily chooses to do good. St. Thomas, the angelic doctor, knew more about passion than Aristotle, and he interprets our physiological arousal states in such a way that our natural passions, when not distorted, are leading us toward our glorious heavenly destiny. Our natural reason, of course, must guide the passions of our soul. The word guides the energy (in harmony, as Plato would say). However the point I wish to underline is that whenever I want some base sensual gratification such as, for example, a hot night in bed with a prostitute, the true interpretation of my arousal state, according to St. Thomas, is not that what I want differs from Gods opinion about what I should want; it is that I am mistaken about my truest and deepest desires. The true rationality is Gods rationality, it is using humans only according to the makers instructions, so that when God reaches my heart, instead of conquering my will he is showing me what my will is. God is teacher and guide because the form of any thing is first in Gods mind, then in the thing itself, then in the intellect of the person who adequately conceives it (ante rem, in rem, post rem). Apart from the interpretation of the passions, the key to the educational project, again in good Aristotelian fashion, is to form good habits. People form habits by making choices; every time I choose virtue and reject vice my good habit becomes stronger. Although the devil is not coequal with God as in the Manichean vision, he is clever enough to use our pride as a handle for turning us around toward vice. The devils devilish labors are offset by the work of grace, which in exciting us to virtue turns us back around toward the Father who always loves us. The second part of the second part tells about the virtues in more detail. Virtues are the good habits which we form through making wise choices, through listening to the voice of God 152 Letter 20 and his laws, and through divine help which makes us more virtuous than we could ever be relying on our own unaided efforts. There are seven cardinal virtues; three of them are called infinite or theological because they pass all human understanding; they are the three listed by St. Paul faith, hope, and love. The other four come from Plato: wisdom, justice, courage, moderation. Justice is especially important, so much so that St. Thomas includes religion as a subheading under justice. There are also certain so-called states of perfection. These are more than virtue, a participation in the divine will so complete that the ordinary rules do not

apply. The third part of the Summa is about Jesus Christ. It begins with a long treatise on the incarnation, which explains that God, wishing to facilitate our salvation, that is to say, our movement toward God described in the second part, has opened for us an easy way to Himself by giving us Christ, who is the incarnate Lord. Christ in turn, in order to unite us to Himself, has established the seven sacraments, so that through Christ and the sacraments we may arrive at our true heavenly goal, which is to be united with the Father in eternal glory. The remainder of Part Three gives some details concerning the eternal life of the saved and concerning each of the seven sacraments, namely the baptism of the child at birth, confirmation of baptism when the child has reached the age of reason, holy communion, confession and forgiveness of sins, ordination into the religious communities, marriage, and the last rites administered to the faithful just before death. St. Thomas is more patriarchal than the mainstream of medieval symbolism when he limits himself to the Father and the Son. The most powerful medieval images were often feminine. Many of the medieval cathedrals were built in adoration of Mary the Queen of Heaven. To judge by the works of art they left behind them, the medieval people also spent a good deal of time adoring motherand-child figures portraying Mary the Mother of God holding baby Jesus in her arms. The most widely read medieval poem is The Divine Comedy, a long account of Dante Alighieris visit to heaven, purgatory, and hell, where he witnessed the condition of the just and the unjust after death, each enjoying an appropriate reward for virtue or an appropriate punishment for vice. Dante wrote to a friend that his poem was an allegory of distributive justice: it illustrates at length Aristotles principle of reward according to merit. But the power that moved the soul of Dante as he traveled through the underworld was the vision of the face of Beatrice it is, of course, no index of cultural achievement that a man should admire a womans face (a tendency to do so is probably genetically coded), but it is significant to find a cultural landmark one of the central texts we use to try to enter into the spirit of the time and place wherein a man looks at a womans face and encounters therein the divine. The heavenly interpretation of desire whose most systematic statement is provided by St. Thomas Aquinas is, I think, a description of very many social practices, of which those included in the Summa Theologiae, immense as it is, are only a small sample; in the larger world for which St. Thomas is serving as our recording secretary, in the world of knights and ladies as well as in the world of monasteries and cloisters existing at the same place at the same time, the feelings of women and the feelings of men about women must have played a much greater role than they play in St. Thomas philosophy. I suspect that the masculine vocabulary of St. Thomas conceals a cultural code to which in its day-to-day operation women contributed more than men. The stars move for love of God, according to medieval philosophy, and God inspires in us by love the desire to spend eternity with Him. It seems unlikely to me that anybody would have thought of attributing such behavior to the cosmos and to the deity if women had not loved first.* The story does not have a happy ending. During a good part of the eight centuries since its authors death, Thomas in fact has been the philosophy of orthodox and conservative Catholicism and the doctrine associated with inquisitions and other forms of repression. One might argue that it is not St. Thomas fault that many of his followers have been intolerant and * See in this connection the study of feminine religious imagery in the middle ages by Caroline Walker Bynum, Jesus as Mother (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1982). 153 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

violent although it is true that he explicitly authorizes the persecution of heretics, one might argue that this particular doctrine could have been excised from the text with a pair of scissors, leaving St. Thomas constructive contributions intact, if only St. Thomas had had the good luck to have had more discriminating interpreters. One might even argue that dangerous fanatics who think they can ignore ordinary human decency because they are inspired by Gods will would be sobered by reading the 60 volumes of rather careful reasoning contained in the Summa Theologiae. Unfortunately, there is a structural reason why medieval philosophy is reactionary. That is to say, the basic pattern of the code lends itself to right-wing authoritarianism, because of the functions it served at the time when it was constructed. The basic pattern is unity with hierarchy. Jesus might have saved western philosophy, in the medieval stage of its development, from fusion with feudal respect for social rank, for Jesus was, after all, Being descended to live among us as a common man. He was Being born in a barn among the farm animals, the Word doing manual labor at a carpenters bench. He answered to simple physical needs with loaves of bread, fishes, and cures for ailments, and died like a thief. In medieval philosophy, however, the Lord rose to become the overlord of the feudal system; a society based on inherited military rank enthroned the cosmos in its own image, as a great vertical chain of command, a great hierarchy starting with the uncreated void at the very bottom, followed by formless matter, then working continuously upward from rocks to plants to animals, then to the serfs, the yeomen, the knights, the princes, then to his highest highness on earth who was either the Emperor or the Pope (leading philosophers spilled much ink disputing the precise relation between the two highest earthly highnesses); then the chain continued upward among the various ranks of angels, culminating in the seraphim whose high office was to spend eternity adoring Gods essence then another disputed philosophical issue, the precise status of Mary Mother of God, Star of the Sea, Queen of the Heaven and then finally at the very top Jesus, the carpenter, incongruously garbed in royal purple with gold braid. Whether Jesus himself was outranked by God the Father or by the Holy Spirit was a question answered by the mystery of the Holy Trinity which made the three mysteriously indistinguishable from each other, three persons in one substance. As a cultural construction suitable for contributing to bringing order out o chaos, medieval philosophy was a great series of inventions. Philosophy was the handmaiden of theology, and theology interpreted the physiological arousal states, defined identity and social role, told people what they should do. The instructions for what to do are excellent. According to St. Thomas, the seven corporal duties of the Christian are the following: 1. Feed the hungry 2. Give drink to the thirsty 3. Clothe the naked 4. Provide hospitality for the homeless 5. Attend to the sick 6. Ransom the captives 7. Bury the dead A fatal flaw in this beautiful and loving system, and it is a structural flaw, one which cannot be corrected without transforming the entire symbolic structure, is that inequality is the principle of order. The great achievements of the system carried this fatal flaw from birth. In several Christian countries today the doctrines of St. Thomas and his followers form part of the ideology of armed elites who impose inequality while talking about preserving the core values of occidental Christian civilization. The labors of a medieval monk who worked alone by lamplight late into the night cast long shadows over eight centuries, reaching as far as the torture chambers of

the 20th Century, passing on their way the cells of many prisoners. 154 Letter 21 21 PERPETUA ET CONSTANS Imagine what the world would be like if the genetic codes of all the plants and animals, and the molecular structures of all the solids, liquids, and gases, changed every Thursday. Come, grow on my bank, the pond would say to the violets. I will nourish you with my sweet, clear water. No, thank you, the violets would reply. Tomorrow you might turn into a desert. We dont have to imagine very long to realize that nature would not exist if it were not held together by lasting and constant biological, physical, and chemical structures. Constancy is needed in culturally governed systems, too. Harmony and beauty require stability in relationships. If a culture permits, encourages, or prescribes too much instability, or prescribes it as do the symbolic structures of irrational rationality, then it will not be beautiful or viable. The word of the Lord is peace Psalm 85 Thomas Aquinas definition of justice is perpetua et constans voluntas jus suum unicuique tribuendi. The lasting and constant will to respect the moral and legal rights of everyone. Justice is more beautiful than Hesperus, the star of the morning; it is preeminent among the moral virtues. Justice is a lasting and constant will, perpetua et constans voluntas. This first part of Aquinas definition, the lasting and constant will, is the key to peace. Let me explain why I say perpetua et constans is the key to peace in terms of nuclear war. In discussions of nuclear strategy (for example in the book Strategy and Conscience by the mathematician Anatol Rapoport) it becomes clear that the basic problem of nuclear war is that nations do not trust each other. The problem of lack of trust is not new; it is not confined to relationships clouded by nuclear threats. Building trust among creatures aggressive by nature, who are always vulnerable to each others attacks (whatever the state of weapons technology may be) is one of the prerequisites to achieving any kind of human social organization. We make a mistake when we consider establishing trust or confidence-building measures in part 18, paragraph b, section (vii) of our peace plans, when in fact trust is the whole essence of peace. It would have been funny if it were not so sad, when Anwar Sadat, the former president of Egypt, explained that the dispute between the Arabs and the Israelis is a psychological problem, namely that the two sides do not trust each other. The reason why it would be funny if it were not sad is that Sadats remark made it sound as though there were a new kind of problem, a problem no older than the young science called psychology, which could easily be solved by applying techniques provided by that young science. But the problem of building trust is neither new nor easily solved. The gospel says that whoever trusts Jesus will have eternal life, which one might interpret as meaning whoever lives as Jesus recommends identifies with undying rgulations hermneutiques. This passage, John 3:16, is often poorly translated, pisteuo being rendered as believeth in when the better meaning is trusts. The earliest use of pisteuo (trust or believe) of which I am 155 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I aware occurs in Xenophons history of the Greek wars with Persia at a point where the Greeks and the Persians call a truce in the war to allow both sides to bury their dead. The problem is lack of trust; there is no pisteuo neither side trusts the other to refrain from making a surprise attack

during the truce. The solution is to make sacrifices to the gods, using the ceremonies of sacrifice to persuade the gods to police the truce as independent neutrals. The ceremonies give form to the unstable human will; they give it substance, being. The ceremonies identify will with divinities and with formal structures, which are perpetua and constans. Aristotle long ago recognized that the building of trust is difficult and time consuming when he said that true friendships are not formed quickly; the friend-candidates need time to form a grounded belief that each wishes the good of the other. They need to find out whether the good will of the potential friend is perpetua and constans or temporary and unreliable. Reflection on the ancient and necessary need to build pisteuo, when applied to nuclear strategy, shows that ancient wisdom is a better guide to survival (or would be if it were available to us today) than our irrational rationality. Such reflection shows that trust is needed unfortunately, however, people are not ready to hear that trust is needed. The Hawks are not ready to hear it, and for the most part the Doves are not ready to hear It either. You cant trust the Russians! the Hawks declare. We agree! the Doves reply, and then they add, We have found a clever way to build peace without trust; we call it GRIT, we call it bargaining skill, we call it institution-building, we call it mutual, gradual, inspected, verifiable arms control. The Hawks win the argument initially because the Doves concede their point; the Hawks win finally because the Dove plans for building peace without trust are not rationally defensible. The Hawks are on firm ground in making their initial claim because it follows from rationality itself that you cannot trust anybody because any rational actor will violate an agreement or cease to comply with just norms whenever the benefits of violation exceed the benefits of compliance (Definitions 6 and 7). Since, given irrational rationality, it is a necessary truth that you cant trust anybody, it follows a fortiori that you cant trust the Russians. Realizing that they cannot win on the trust issue, the Doves concede defeat, and then counterattack with any number of schemes for making it to the interest of both sides to disarm, win-win scenarios where both sides gain from peace, arguing that rational actors will (Definition 14) choose peace because it is to their long-run best interest. The counterattack of the Doves is ineffective and the Hawks win as long as the rules of irrational rationality govern the debate. The fatal flaw in the Doves middle-wing extremism (i.e. their effort to solve a social problem without challenging fundamental norms) can be illustrated, as the mathematician Anatol Rapoport does in Strategy and Conscience, by telling a story about a prisoner trying to make a rational decision (Definition 7) whether to turn states evidence by testifying against another prisoner, who was her accomplice. The accomplice was arrested at the same time and both prisoners are held incommunicado in separate cells. It would be to the interest of both prisoners to cooperate, but rationally they cannot cooperate because rationally they cannot trust each other. (The analogy with nuclear war is that it would be to the interest of the USA and the USSR to cooperate, but they cannot because they do not trust each other.) The situation can be represented as in the diagram below. The diagram is drawn showing the payoffs to Prisoner One. A similar diagram could be drawn showing the payoffs to Prisoner Two. One tries to make a rational choice on the assumption that Two is also going to make a rational choice. 156 Letter 21 Prisoners Twos Choices

Prisoner Ones Choices Turn States Evidence Refuse to Testify Against Accomplice

Turn States Evidence

Refuse to Testify Against Accomplice

Ones Payoff: 15-year sentence

Ones Payoff: Goes Free

Ones Payoff: Life Imprisonment

Ones Payoff: 1-year sentence

In this situation Prisoner One, being a rational actor and assuming that Prisoner Two is also a rational actor, will turn states evidence. Similarly, Rapoport shows, the USA and the USSR will pursue policies of deterrence instead of policies of disarmament because each assumes that the other, being rational, will not run the risk of being caught disarmed when the enemy is armed. Each side believes that the other side will sooner or later more likely sooner than later come to a point in time when the payoffs of cheating will exceed the payoffs of abiding by an agreement or an ideal. Since deterrence is inherently unstable Power politics sooner or later leads to war, said Albert Einstein our irrational rationality programs our civilization to self-destruct. Irrational rationality. The logic of disunity. St. Thomas Aquinas was among those who have perceived that social organization requires a trustworthy will, perpetua et constans voluntas. A lasting and constant will. A rationality which implies that rational actors honor agreements and obey norms. The human will is notoriously unlasting and inconstant even when the culture does not conspire to make infidelity a precept of reason but there is a way to make it reliable. perpetua et constans. In a good education the will is shaped, character is formed, through deliberate actions leading to good habits. perpetua et constans. In a good education the restless passions are interpreted as a deep yearning for the divine, which finds rest only in Thee. The habits and the interpreted passions are the dwelling places of right reason, ratio recta (in Greek orthon logon). What you learn in a good education is to accept the guidance of right reason; for this reason, J. S. Bach wrote that he composed music for only one purpose, to prepare the soul for the entrance of right reason. To be guided by right reason means, Thomas says, to act according to the ratio praeexistende by the word found in the soul, the word that was already there, is always there. Today we say: according to a pattern of meanings, a symbolic order, a structure, according to language in its synchronic aspect. St. Thomas writes: ...acts are good inasmuch as they reach the measure of reason (regulam rationis) which is the norm of their Rightness. And: The shaping principle or form of a moral virtue consists in observing a mean determined by reason (secundem rationem). That is to say, kata logon; which is to say, according to the word. The voluntas is perpetua et constans because it is under the guidance because an educational project has brought it under the guidance of cultural forms which are syntactically, as a matter of grammar so to speak, outside of time. When right reason guides human conduct trust is in principle rational because people are in principle trustworthy. Rationality then means to follow a certain predictable pattern in ones actions, the pattern prescribed by the eternal word. This may seem a small gain since, of course,

157 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I people may not act in practice as they should in principle, but compared to our 20th century principled self-destruction it is a major improvement. Even though the previous discussion is written for the most part in terms of persons instead of in terms of those mythic personalities we call nation-states, it applies perfectly well to the elites who direct nations. It is not an insuperable problem to make the cadres who conduct the high-level business of a society conform to norms. Usually the people who rise to the top in organizations are the ones whose minds and hearts are most thoroughly imbued with the organizations culture. They are more reliable, not less reliable, than the average person as extensive psychological testing has shown. The problem at the present time is that they reliably follow bad norms. World War HI will be conducted, both in Washington and in Moscow, mainly by boy-scout types, who would, if they had a chance, reliably follow the norms of a functional culture. Ay Perpetua! Ay Constans! How we miss you today! You have been gone so long. You were the eternal principles who stabilized the wills of humans trained to adore you. P.S.I hope your will has not been too warped by our culture. Do you find that it is generally stable, constant, and predictable, or does it tend to wander all over the place on you? What lands of things contribute to its stability or instability? 158 Letter 22 22 TO EACH HER OWN Some writers think that perpetua et constans means constant and everlasting conservatism. They want to keep the economic structures as they are, and transform the souls of the elite. If only the wills of the powerful were loving and pure, they seem to think, our problems would be over. Unfortunately, a world where elites had the best of intentions while property and market institutions were the same as now, would be only slightly better than the one we presently live in. Where there is competition among capitals, it is the requirements of competition, not ethics, which determine what people must do to survive in business. And they will do it, or else drop out of the elite. When you understand what St. Thomas meant by the second part of his definition of justice, jus suum unicuique tribuendi,* you sense a whiff of chaos in the air, the brow farrows, an awkward clump of ideological knots presents itself for disentanglement, for it appears that the conservatives who admire the Middle Ages have made a great error, which ladies and gentlemen of their acumen and sensibility would not make, could not make. It seems that it cannot be true that they admire the classic Christian ideals of the mainstream of our tradition as much as they profess to admire them, while it is also hard to believe that persons gifted with insight in so many ways could be naive or insincere. The persons of whom I speak include Fredrich Leopold von Hardenberg, a poet known by his pen name Novalis, famous for his hymns to the night of death and for the image of the blue flower; he was by day an aristocratic young manager in German salt mines. Novalis dreamed of a holy restoration after Napoleons defeat; his essay Christenheit oder Europa** proposed a future which would recover and enrich the original Christian values of the early Middle Ages, the values of Belief and Love, values in his time (1799) sadly lost in a world which had devoted itself to Knowledge and Possession. C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), a British professor of medieval literature, author of The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. et al., used the Summa of St.

Thomas as a sort of dictionary of medieval belief, while he turned out books for adults and children at an astonishing rate, filling the minds of the former with orthodox theology and the hearts of the latter with medieval fantasies. Paul Claudel was a French Ambassador to Japan and to the United States, a diplomat specializing in economic and financial questions; he acquired a literary reputation through the poems and plays which he doggedly worked on for one hour each day in the midst of his official duties. In his youth it is said, he read the Summa all the way through; in his old age, elected to the Academie Franaise (1946), living in retirement at his chateau in the French countryside, he acquired a political reputation as one of the most reactionary of right wing French Catholics. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), an American who became a British subject in 1927, conceived of himself as living in a time of social and literary disorder, in a wasteland of rocks with no water. * Usually translated justice is to give to each his own. ** Christendom or Europe 159 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I In one of his books he argues that part of the cure for the disorder of our times is to respect hereditary rank, because culture itself, he suggests, cannot exist without a leisure class which inherits wealth and power. Another great poet, Eliots friend Ezra Pound (1885-1972), shared Eliots admiration for order and for Dante. Pound admired order, holiness, and heroism so much that when Duce Benito Mussolini II became dictator of Italy, promising to restore them to a nation threatened by revolution, the American poet (who was then residing in Italy) wrote propaganda for the Italian dictator. All of the writers mentioned above are widely and rightly regarded as conservatives, defenders of established authority and private property; yet they are professed lovers of things medieval, they are aware that St. Thomas is among the writers of the period the most established of the authorities, aware too that justice occupies the bulk of the part of the Summa on moral virtue; they must be aware that injustice is a mortal sin, because, says the angelic doctor, a mortal sin is one which kills the soul, injustice violates the rights of others, intentionally to violate the rights of others kills our love for them, love is the life of the soul, ergo* injustice kills love, ergo injustice is a mortal sin. Injustice is wanting more than our share of goods, or shouldering less than our share of burdens. The condemnation of possessions beyond ones needs kept for ones private use could not be more peremptory. St. Thomas quotes several times with approval Augustines great teacher, St. Ambrose the Bishop of Milan, who once said, You are not making a gift of your possessions to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his. For what has been given in common for the use of all, you have arrogated to yourself. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich. The brow furrows. St. Thomas construction of justice follows Aristotle and transforms Aristotle. A superficial reading of the Summa on justice reveals nothing but Aristotle translated into Latin; a careful reading reveals that Aristotle has been transformed by immersion. For Aquinas justice is, as for Aristotle, that particular virtue which distributes property and other goods, but while Aristotle did not make clear the size of the pie to be divided by distributive justice, saying only that distributive justice applies to koinonia (community owned goods), for Aquinas it is clear that all Gods gifts are to be proportionally shared. For this reason it is not a sin to steal bread when in need, for although the jus positivus (the human made law) defines property rights for purposes of convenience, the jus naturaliter (the God-made law) allots to each person a share of the earths

resources sufficient to meet her needs. The transformation of koinonia makes the community the steward of One Owner, it makes each person a beneficiary of One Owners Love. When Aquinas changes the name of Aristotles corrective justice to commutative justice (justitia commutativa) he copies the substance of the doctrine, which is equality in exchange, and then transforms its meaning completely by observing that since God has given us everything and we can give nothing equal in exchange, we should give our very lives, our all we have and are and ever hope to be, to God and His purposes. It is for this reason that religion comes under the heading of Justice in the Summa; religion is our lasting and constant will to give God his own. To give to each, his own is a common translation of jus suum unicuique tribuendi. I translated it previously as to respect the moral and legal rights of every person because I think the ancient Latin term jus is a three letter giant, rich in meaning, which embraces everything we now mean by moral and legal rights, and because I think tribuendi implies more respect than is expressed by the English verb to give. The precise choice of English words for translating a Latin phrase does not, however, determine whether the reader enters the cosmic context of St. Thomas. The phrase suum unicuique shifts its meaning, however it is translated, when the stars change their meaning; when the stars change meaning community and personal identity change meaning. St. Thomas draws on the relationship between cosmic * ergo: Latin for therefore 160 Letter 22 context and identity when he explains why distributive justice gives a person her own, Everything depends on who the person is. Regarded as a member of a community, St. Thomas says, each person is a part owner of the communitys goods. Human identity is found primarily and essentially in community relationships, and goods primarily and essentially belong to all the human family. If we ask why, then we are led back to cosmic context. St. Thomas is not, of course, the first or the only interpreter of sacred stories to draw practical conclusions from the cosmic context provided by the stories. It is characteristic of human cultures generally, in every tribe and nation, to conceive of themselves in contexts provided by their creation myths. In St. Thomas interpretation of our Judeo-Christian heritage, we are stewards in a world which belongs to God. This is all very mysterious. It seems that St. Thomas literary admirers completely ignore what St. Thomas says. Perhaps the solution to the mystery is this: they want to defend property by defending the right of property others to possess property, which St. Thomas endorses. They are willing, according to this solution of the mystery, to go along with St. Thomas doctrine that one must use ones property to serve others, but the part of St. Thomas that really interests them is the angelic doctors defense of the wisdom of arrangements for private possession. But Novalis, Lewis, Claudel, Eliot, Pound etc. et al. cannot have had as their primary intentions the defense of the possession of property by property owners, because if that had been their intention they could have served it better by choosing a more modern creation story, such as the one advanced by John Locke (1632-1704), etc. et al. which runs as follows: In the beginning was the individual, complete with the right to acquire property, which he proceeded to do in a state of nature; thereafter he entered with other individuals into a social contract for the purpose, mainly, of defending property, and that accomplished, he turned his attention to nature, which he studied scientifically in his own image, beginning with individual bits of information, known as sense impressions or data, gradually verifying hypotheses and constructing theories. In this more modern cosmic context the erstwhile lovers of things medieval could much more easily have drawn (as

Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, and others did draw) the conclusion that to give to each her own means primarily and essentially the defense of private property. It may be that a sociologist or a psychoanalyst could show that literary and theological medievalism function objectively to divide and confuse the proletariat, even though the conscious intentions of the medievalists are toward unity and order and even though, as the preceding paragraph points out, they overlook, in fact they deliberately reject, the social contract theories which would be the usual and obvious way to carry out an anti-proletarian intention if they had one, and even though the social doctrine of St. Thomas is closer to socialism than to capitalism. Philosophy, however, is not sociology or psychoanalysis, and one of its traditional ideals is to take everybodys arguments seriously at their face value as if everyone were sincere and as if there were an important connection between human actions and the self-conscious choices taking place in human minds. The philosopher is by vocation committed to human dignity. A naive vocation. A vocation which represents a deep human aspiration, which even the great unmaskers or our pretensions to autonomy and of our self-deception Marx, Freud, Nietzsche, Mannheim, Pareto, the sociobiologists implicitly respect because they want their unmasking to lead to more and better self-conscious choices the proletariat must become the subject instead of the object of history, said Marx. Where id is, let ego be, said Freud. Thus even the unmaskers aspire to augment, not destroy, the philosophical vocation. We need to consider, therefore, the possibility that the medievalists objective is what they say it is, a world of love and caring. We need to consider whether it might 161 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I be true that it is feasible to advance the ideal of justice set forth by St. Thomas Aquinas by writing poetry, childrens stories, and Christian apologetics. The argument that just stewardship of the earths resources might be performed by the people who now for the most part own and control them must be it can only be an argument from noblesse oblige.* As C. S. Lewis once wrote, of the capitalist exploiter: ...since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. Another puzzle for the furrowed brow: ordinarily we identify as conservative a person who takes a dim view of human nature, a person who would rather decapitate the hardened criminal than attempt to rehabilitate her or him at public expense, a person more prone to notice the welfare cheat who makes a down payment on a Mercedes Benz with the proceeds of the illegal sale of fraudulently obtained food stamps than to notice the beleaguered sister with four hungry children who regularly runs out of food stamps before the end of each month, more aware of the lazy employed than of the eager-to-work unemployed. But when we climb the culture ladder from the plain conservative-chatting-on-the-street to the elegant voices of sophisticated conservatism we find their position coherent only on the assumption that members of the human species are capable of diligent generosity. They say, in effect, that under 20th century capitalism the medieval ideal can be realized. The Christian conservatives want to do in our world what St. Thomas did in his, namely to civilize the powerful, indeed to civilize everybody. Their ideal is ultimately Gandhis. If owners were Gandhians, they would, like Gandhis disciples among the industrialists of India, declare themselves trustees of their wealth, then the wealthy would live in voluntary poverty, or at least in decent modesty; they would direct the use of their possessions to feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, providing hospitality to the homeless, attending the sick, ransoming the captives, and burying the dead. The apparent paradox is deepened because people who advocate changing hearts without changing structures presumably know that there already are people with vast wealth who have changed their

hearts. In the United States there are many businesses which deliberately practice principles of business ethics, and which make ethical conduct part of the operating philosophy of the business. In India many of the wealthy people are Gandhians, and they have declared themselves trustees of their wealth for the benefit of the poor. And yet the poor stay poor. The sister does not get her own. Mother Earth does not get her own either. How can the literary conservatives be optimists about achieving justice through the good will of the owners of property, when optimism is contradicted both by their own view of human nature and by experience? And yet the paradox is only apparent because Eliot and Company are consistent pessimists, as the guarded language of C. S. Lewis quoted above suggests. They appear to be optimists only because their dim view of the wealthy and powerful is relatively brighter than the somber shadows of their even more pessimistic views of the meritocracy, the academics, the scientific planners, the revolutionary cadres, the successors to the revolutionary cadres who manage established socialism, the middle classes, the clerks and shopkeepers, the lower middle classes, the workers, the peasantry, and the disinherited, unemployed, broken family, poorly educated, TV-watching, rockmusic listening, street-wise heroin addicts. Any change at all (as the conservative British philosopher Edmund Burke [1729-1797] taught) tampers dangerously with uncharted details of custom which are constantly staving off an unbridled violence that is, human nature being what it is, a constant threat. Any change taking power out of the hands of those who by tradition and upbringing expect to wield power is a change for the worse because, as another member of Eliots Company, the Irish poet W. B. Yeats (1865-1939) wrote, Where * noblesse oblige: French expression meaning nobility obliges, or with rank goes the responsibility to serve. 162 Letter 22 but in custom and in ceremony/are innocence and beauty born? Rule by those whose family traditions make it possible for them to understand innocence and beauty is the best possible rule, i.e. the least evil among an array of evils. Ours is not the best of conceivable worlds worse still, sober assessments of the prognosis for mother and children show that it is not for long even a possible world but, nonetheless, according to the counsel of the classical literary conservatives, all of the alternatives are worse. To construct better alternatives is the task of cultural action. That there is a decisive flaw in the position of the neo-medievalists decisive as distinct from the puzzling but not decisive apparent paradoxes which it has been the task of this letter to unravel has already been demonstrated by a 19th century philosopher-economist whom the literary elite has chosen to ignore, as if the ideas of Karl Marx were simply an extreme form of 18th and 19th century optimism, as if Marxism could be refuted by refuting materialism in general, as if it were not necessary to mention socialism because socialism is only an extreme case within a class of social philosophies all of which are demonstrably false, as if socialism were a terminal illness which attacks societies already debilitated by chronic liberalism and rationalism. The decisive flaw is that even if poetry and spiritual exercise were to succeed in converting the owners of property to an ethical way of life, still, owners of the means of production acting alone, cannot give her own either to sister or to mother. The system has a logic of its own, and even a person who inherits great wealth and power can do little to change it by purifying his own heart. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, for example, inherited great wealth, and he gave it away, using some of it to subsidize poetry and other worthy causes but his personal ethical purity

caused not a ripple in the structure of European capitalism. The poor stayed poor. Letters 34, 35, 36, and 37, on Marx, will give more details on the way the system has a logic of its own, which resists being changed by the purification of individual hearts. However, one of the main reasons love and caring are not enough can be stated briefly here: the rules of the economic game prescribe that capitalists compete with other capitalists, nations compete commercially with other nations, workers compete with other workers. In this competition, those who put religious justice ahead of economic rationality when the two clash lose. At least they lose now. If the rules of the game were changed to reward cooperation, then we would all win. We would have, as Paulo Freire says, a world where it would be easier to love. Although Marx is the most important of the critics and analysts of capitalism, he was not its founder, and not among the philosophers who articulated the typical world-views which organize and justify capitalist society. Long before Marx, at the time when the modern world first assumed its form (i.e. when the main cultural structures which guide human conduct in it were put into place), the features which make the modern social formation one which has a logic of its own which individual ethical action cannot change were established. Some contributions of philosophy to the construction of this modern world of ours will be considered in the next two letters. In the next letter we begin to consider the rise of the modern social formation, also known as capitalism, more broadly known as economic society. We also take time to wonder whether perhaps we are going too far in our admiration of the ethics of love, and we speculate a bit on what sort of synthesis might enable us to enjoy both love and freedom, both community solidarity and authentic individuality. 163 164 Letter 23 23 RAY ORTEGAS PHILOSOPHY Dear Howard, I have been staying up late at night, reading your book. I like it very much; it has given me a new and refreshing perspective on philosophy, language, and the problems of our culture. But I have a few questions, especially with regard to letter 22. Quite frankly, I cant understand why you took the time to write it. You didnt need to prove that the medieval version of the love ethic will not solve our problems; nobody really believes that it will. Nobody talks about love anymore today everybody is concerned with controlling, dominating, and manipulating everybody else. The reason I am writing to you is that I have a vacation coming up, and I was wondering if I could possibly come to visit you so that we could discuss these issues in greater depth. But please dont go out of your way to accommodate me; I dont want to be an imposition on you and your family. Sincerely yours, The Kind Reader Dear Kind Reader, Thank you for your kind note. You are always welcome here. If you come tomorrow, you will find me in my past, in one of the Smiley Estate olive groves, to be exact, talking about philosophy with five of my friends whom I think you will like very much. Maybe you can help us clarify the point that in our society the primary locus of control and domination is not the individual who seeks to manipulate others, but the structures of our economy. Our economy has been disembedded from social relations, and it governs us rather than vice versa. We have made freedom our central

value and often consider social obligations, responsibilities, and norms to be violations of our autonomy. We would have been wiser had we put economics back into social relations, such that it once again would become possible to govern our lives with ecologically viable rgulations hermneutiques, with Ray Ortegas philosophy. Oh, I forgot. You dont know who Ray Ortega is. That settles it you must come to visit us tomorrow. We shall be waiting for you in the olive grove. Yours truly, H. When we were high school students we used to discuss philosophy in an olive grove on the crest of the ridge that overlooks San Timoteo Canyon. It was a land of oranges and snow; orange groves a thousand feet below us on the narrow floor of the canyon, orange trees behind us on the broad floor of the San Bernardino Valley, snow on the heights of the distant mountains, Mt. San Gregorio and Mt. San Antonio behind us, Mt. San Jacinto far away across 165 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I several lines of hills which lay beyond the canyon. We sat on old-fashioned curbs made of pieces of stone held together by hand-mixed cement, some of it now decayed and crumbling, along the road which followed the top of the ridge to the mansion built by A. K. Smiley, one of several Chicago millionaires who had established winter homes in California in the early 20th century, shortly after the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railway had been completed, allowing a comfortable journey from Chicago to California every November and from California to Chicago every April. Nobody minded that technically speaking we were trespassers, sitting on the stone curb under an olive tree on the grounds of the Smiley Estate, discussing philosophy next door to the precious orange grove that produced the Smiley familys prize-winning navel oranges; we lived, so to speak, in the shadow of the Smileys, enjoying their indulgent generosity. We did our homework in the A. K. Smiley Public Library, pausing sometimes between algebra problems to browse in the oriental religion and art collection which Mr. Smiley senior had bequeathed at his death to the library he had donated to the city during his life. The Spanish saints surrounding us Timoteo, Bernardino, Antonio, Gregorio, Jacinto reminded us that this land of oranges and snow where we lived in the Smileys shadow had been Spanish earth for 300 years, before that Indian earth; scarcely 100 years separated us from its conquest by English-speaking people in the war of 1848. The laborers who built the curbstones we sat on had spoken Chinese; after the completion of the railways the coolie laborers brought over from China to lay track had scattered and formed the areas first general labor force; they were followed by Japanese, Filipinos, Hindus, Armenians, Jamaicans, Germans from Wisconsin, Slavs from Eastern Europe, Hillbillies, Okies, Arkies, Blacks, the unemployed from the South, the Middle West, the Northeast my own family came from New England in the 1930s and more recently by Mexican Wetbacks, Cubans, Vietnamese, Salvadoran refugees. Every time another labor force was required and every time another people was uprooted more people moved to California. So there we were Conrad Miziumski, Ray Ortega, Willie Legate, Arthur Eric Gregory III, the girl I never kissed and I, sitting on a stone curb on San Timoteo ridge. I want to imagine that the six of us have agreed on almost the same philosophy some sort of wish fulfillment of mine no doubt and that while we are celebrating our consensus on all but a few unimportant points, the Kind Reader appears sauntering down the road that winds along the ridge, carrying a camera held by a thin leather strap around her neck, and wearing comfortable walking shoes. After taking our picture so she can show her people back home what a typical

group of California high school students looks like, she engages us in conversation in order to prepare herself to give her people a report on the structures of our symbolisms. After questioning us for several hours, and sharing with us several kinds of liquid refreshments as well as some of the produce of the region, she inquires how we can possibly mean to say that the reason why medieval ideals cannot be practiced in the modern world is that the modern world cannot be governed by an ethic. Fortunately, she said, my dear husband insisted that I take a vacation by myself and volunteered to take care of the children alone, so now I have a bit of free time to visit California and to engage in philosophical conversations with new friends. Ordinarily, however, Im going going going all day between taking care of two children and a full time job. Besides I need to relax now and then I think I owe it to myself. It is not possible for me to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, provide hospitality for the homeless, attend to the sick, free the captives, and bury the dead. Moreover, I very much doubt that even in the Middle Ages anybody but a cloistered monk or nun could live according to the ethic which you suppose governed society then. The love ethic is unworkable, it was then and it is now. You do not need a philosophical analysis to explain why it did govern then and does not govern now, because for obvious reasons it never governed anywhere at any time. St. Thomas anticipated your objection, says Conrad Miziumski, opening the A.K. Smiley Public Librarys copy of volume II of the Summa and reading from it. Love binds us, 166 Letter 23 although not actually doing good to someone, to be prepared in mind to do good to anyone if we have time to spare. He must mean, Conrad glosses, that since one person cannot do everything, being occupied attending to some needs of some people is a sufficient excuse for not helping a particular person who is in need. Love binds us, broke in Ray Ortega. It is sweet music to my ears. I need no other philosophy. He reads the Latin, ...caritas requirit... At home my mother taught me to love my brothers and sisters, to share. No seas egoista she always said. (Dont be an egoist.) At school they made us to work by ourselves and to compete. I remember the first day of kindergarten, the teacher always saying, keep your hands to yourselves, keep your hands to yourselves. At home we learned to hug and kiss. Why cant all human beings be one big loving family? I dont see why the Anglos need a more complicated philosophy. Memories of her previous vacation in Mexico flicker through the Kind Readers mind. All things considered, she decides, she prefers to live in the United States, Canada, or Western Europe. You misunderstand us, says Willy Legate, speaking as if he had read her mind, if you think we believe people in industrial democracies are on the whole less generous or less happy than tribal peoples, or than people who live in cultures where families and clans are stronger than they are here. We do believe that human emotional needs were importantly shaped by many thousands of years of hunting and gathering in small face-to-face groups; we do believe that there is much to learn from other cultures and much to recover from the Hebrew, Greek and medieval past of the West. However it is also true that right in the heart of an industrial city you can find people who do not need tribes because they have strong families, support groups, networks, base communities, political cells, therapy, music, churches, clubs, fantasies. (The Kind Reader wonders whether Hells Angels do not need a tribe because they are one.) If we seem to be nostalgic for less modern ways of life it is not because they are better; it is because they are simpler. How so simpler? asks the Kind Reader. No doubt you mean to say they are simpler because

they can be governed by an ethic. And if the ethic is not powerful enough, then at least there is a simple judgment to make the person deviated from the norm, was bad. No doubt you are going to argue that there is something peculiar about the modern social formation, something that sets it apart from all other human societies, something which makes our societies ungovernable; unmanageable, complicated, in a way that is unique in the history of human societies. A normal human group, said Arthur Eric Gregory III, one that is typical of the societies known to history and to anthropology, hence normal in a way that we are abnormal, is highly conformist. The cultural governance of behavior which overlays the biological governance of behavior prescribes what a person should do; a bad person is one who does not conform, as for example among the people of Kabylia in Algeria described by Pierre Bourdieu: Doing ones duty as a man means conforming to the social order, and this is fundamentally a question of respecting rhythms, keeping pace, not falling out of line. Dont we all eat the same wheatcake (or the same barley)? Dont we all get up at the same time? These various ways of reasserting solidarity contain an implicit definition -, of the fundamental virtue of conformity, the opposite of which is the desire to stand apart from others. Working while the others are resting, staying in the house while the others are working in the fields, traveling on deserted roads, wandering round the streets of the village while the others are asleep or at the market these are all suspicious forms of behavior. The eccentric who does everything differently from 167 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I other people is called amkhalef (from khalef, to stand out, to transgress) and there is often a play on words to the effect that amkhalef is also the man who arrives late (from khellef, to leave behind). Thus, as we have seen, a worthy man, conscious of his responsibilities, must get up early. The man who does not settle his business early in the morning will never settle it. Its the morning that gives the hunters their game; bad luck for late sleepers! and again, The suq is in the morning; The man who sleeps until the middle of azal will find the market empty (sebah, to be present in the morning, also means to be fitting, becoming). But getting up early is not a virtue in itself; if they are ill-used, wasted, the first hours are no more than time taken from the night, an offense against the principle that there is a time for everything, and that everything should be done in its time (kul waqth salwaqth-is everything in its time). What is the use of a mans getting up at the muezzins call if he is not going to say the morning prayer? There is only mockery for the man who, despite getting up under the stars or when dawn has not taken shape (alam) has achieved little. Respect for collective rhythm implies respect for the rhythm that is appropriate to each action, neither excessive haste nor sluggishness. It is simply a question of being in the proper place at the proper time. A man must walk with a measured pace (ikthal uqudmis) neither lagging behind nor running like a dancer, a shallow, frivolous way to behave, unworthy of a man of honor. So there is mockery too for the man who hurries without thinking, who runs to catch up with someone else, who works so hastily that he is likely to maltreat the earth, forgetting the teachings of wisdom: It is useless to pursue the world, No one will ever overtake it. You who rush along, Stay and be rebuked; Daily bread comes from God,

It is not for you to concern yourself. The over-eager peasant moves ahead of the collective rhythms which assign each act its particular moment in the space of the day, the year, or human life; his race with time threatens to drag the whole group into the escalation of diabolic ambition, thahraymith, and thus to turn circular time into linear time, simple reproduction into indefinite accumulation. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, or Thomas could function reasonably well in a normal society, like the Kabylia Bourdieu describes. Their philosophical work consists mainly of prescribing norms for people to follow, mainly indeed of buttressing the norms their societies already have. At this point the Kind Reader remarks, But a modern philosopher could not endure it. What you are saying is that modernity is peculiar because its central value is freedom. Aristotle said in the Ethics that the law commands every virtue and forbids every vice hence in principle the law (nomos, sometimes also translated custom, custom being also sometimes a synonym for ethics) tells everyone what to do and what not to do. The 18th century French philosophes, on the contrary, when they define their cardinal value, la libert, define it as the principle that whatever the law does not explicitly forbid is permitted. Laissez faire, laissez passer. The protestant reformer Zwingli contradicted Aristotle in almost exactly the same words as those the philosophes used to define freedom. 168 Letter 23 It is odd, says the girl I never kissed, to speak of freedom as a value or a norm. It should be called an anti-value or an anti-norm, a drgulation hermneutique, a cultural unstructuring. A value or norm is some sort of standard; it is a pattern of ideal conduct with which to compare real conduct to see if it measures up. Freedom is the opposite; it allows you to set your own standards, it exempts you from conformity to the pattern, it denies that anyone is authorized to measure your conduct and to judge it by comparing it to an ideal. At this point the Kind Reader feels that she needs ask us to forgive her for having read so many books. With ordinary modern people, she points out, she could take it for granted that she is within her rights in choosing to spend her free time however she wishes; however, one does not know what to expect from young philosophers who profess to admire the customs of ancient peoples. She wishes to know whether we consider it morally permissible to lie in bed at night after the children are asleep reading just for fun. You are making fun of us, says the girl I never kissed. If we live life as a prayer in constant communion with each other and the cosmos, she went on, you are not for that reason authorized to deduce from our devotion that we will censure you because you read in bed. I do not mean to make fun of you, says the Kind Reader. My fear is that you are silently disapproving of me. I am not a cruel person, and I do not believe you consider me cruel, but I do, on the other hand, allow myself a bit of laughter and leisure, I am a shallow, frivolous dancer. Your love ethic is too serious; it is a threat to my autonomy no matter how vehemently you deny that you intend to criticize me. You find it odd, she went on, to regard freedom as a value; perhaps you have a logical point, since ordinarily a value prescribes a norm for conduct, while freedom exempts conduct from norms. But I find your point, logical though it may be, to be dangerous. And I find it quite odd, very odd, that the tendency of your thought is so out of step with contemporary advanced thinking. Lately I have been reading I have already confessed that I have been reading and what I am learning is that the troubles of contemporary life began when humans started thinking they could control everything. Control. Govern. Manipulate. Technology. Science. Patriarchy. A maniacal

urge to dominate that is our illness. It is the Meaning of the Modern World. When it began is disputed some say it began with Sir Francis Bacons Novum Organum* (1620). Martin Heidegger** thinks it began before Plato; some feminists think it is as old as the domination of the male. You people are out of step, continues the kind Reader. You think the problem of the modern social formation is that it is ungovernable. Everyone else thinks it is governed too much. You think it is unmanageable. Everyone else thinks we have too much management, too little poetry. I can see where your philosophy is going. I can see already what you are going to say about the role of modern philosophy in modern society. First you will tell us a simple story about the rise of modern society it has to be a simple story because it will be an account of the activities of millions of people all over the globe in the 400 years from 1450 to 1850, plus an interpretation of certain preparatory events prior to 1450. Obviously you will simplify there is no way to record everything that happened and the way you choose to simplify will reflect your prejudices and purposes. If your bias were that of Sir Henry Maine, author of Ancient Law, you would describe the rise of the modern world as progress from status to contract, from an old-fashioned statuscentered society, to a society where individuals choose their employment, choose what to buy and what to sell, governing their relations with one another through * Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) Lord Chancellor of England, philosopher, early advocate of scientific research ** Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) German existentialist philosopher 169 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I contracts freely agreed to by both sides. Maines story is a paean of praise to the autonomous modern person, governed only by her own decisions. Or else instead you could tell the story of the beginning of the modern world as Louis Dumont does in his book Gense et Epanouissement de lIdologie conomique; you could describe the same events as a regress from person to thing, you could relate how a world defined by networks of personal relationships became transformed into a world defined by the impact of things on things a nostalgic story about the loss of warmth and meaning. Or you could tell a prosaic, factual tale like Maurice Dobb in Studies in the Development of Capitalism a story about how much land was taken from yeomen in which year to be used to produce wool for export, where and when the first factories were built, how many yards of cloth were shipped from Flanders to Austria in what year and at what price. Like Lynn White Jr. you could minimize the differences between medieval and modern culture, treating human progress mainly as a story of technical improvements, a constant homo economicus using variable and always improving tools. Or like Jakob Burckhardt in Der Kultur der Renaissance in Italien you could depict the birth of modern times as a reawakening of great creative humanism manifested in a many-faceted genius like Leonardo da Vinci, following upon the long medieval night of mediocre mystical collectivism tinged, however, with pessimism, since Burckhardt, like his Basel colleague Friedrich Nietzsche, feared that in the end it would not be the creative individual who would dominate modern times but rather the faceless masses, the nonentities, das Man, the herd. Modern times conceived as a brief surge of greatness to be followed by the triumph of the herd was carried farther by Oswald Spengler in Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Or you could follow G. de Lagarde in La Naissance de IEsprit Laique by seeing the modern world as the lay world, in contrast to the previous religiously-dominated world, which would not be very different from the account of history given by G.W.F. Hegel in various works, where the modern period is

characterized as that of civil society (i.e. economic society) where, as Adam Smith (to whom Hegel refers) said, civil life functions autonomously, under the guidance of an invisible hand, and is conceived as a lay and private order, which does not ordinarily need to be directed either by religion or by government. Or else you could write a synopsis of the dawn of the age we live in with a military emphasis like Leopold von Ranke or R. R. Palmer you could describe the beginning of our age as the creation of the great European nation-states, able to mobilize resources on a scale never before seen, and therefore capable of conquering the rest of the world, Europeanizing the planet. The Latin American dependency theorists tell the same story in terms of metropolis and periphery; the rise of the modern world consisted of the construction of the global economy, dominated by metropolitan countries at the center, who systematically pauperised and exploited the peripheral regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Or you could follow Gibson Winter and Jeremy Rifkin, who see the transition from feudalism to capitalism as a shift of root metaphors human understanding became less organic and more mechanical; here the great figure in the transition to modernity is Sir Isaac Newton, whose discoveries in physics and astronomy explained everything on earth and in heaven mechanically Newton was followed by Adam Smith, who developed the application of mechanical metaphors to political economy. On the other hand, you could tell a story like that of Marcelino Menendez Pelayo, whose book Historia de las Ideas Estticas en Espaa describes the transition to modernity as secularization, the fall of God, the rise of man. For Max Weber, on the other hand, modernity began with the protestant reformation, and continued with the triumph of rational, bureaucratic thinking, Zweckrationalitat (goal-oriented thinking, def. 1), instrumental rationality. Science, industry, the military, the civilian civil service converge in working an Entzauberung (demystification), which makes us instrumentally rational, hence modern. Herbert Butterfield and others focus on the rise of scientific theories, which affect everything else through the application of science in all fields of human endeavor; hence their stories focus on Galileo and Copernicus, on the 170 Letter 23 gradual extension of pre-scientific concepts already present in the Middle Ages. I believe, the Kind Reader continued, that you will offer a brief account of the work of a few of the main philosophers of the modern period, Ren Descartes (1596-1650), Thomas Hobbes (15881679), John Locke (1632-1704), David Hume (1711-76), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Karl Marx (1818-83). Later you will discuss 20th century philosophy. To set the stage for your account you will tell some sort of story about the historical context of their philosophical labors. I know what kind of story you are going to tell. I know because I have already heard what you think of prehistoric times, tribal religions, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas. Your whole purpose, after all, is peace and justice in the late 20th century. Since I know your purpose and I know how you have pursued it so far, I can predict how it will continue. You will be tempted, she says, to follow Robert Heilbroners story in The Making of Economic Society, since you do characterize the modern period as, above all, the period of economics. And you think economic society was made, not born. You will also be tempted to use Claude LeviStrauss distinction between hot and cold societies, since you want to contrast the modern restless, rootless, fast-moving, ever-changing hot society with the normal, conformist, ordinary type of human society exemplified in Bourdieus description of Kabylia. However, you will resist these temptations. The account of early modern history you will choose to employ will be Karl Polanyis. According to Polanyi, what makes our hot economic societies different from the rest is that Instead of

economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in an economic system. In a typical human society seedtime and harvest, distribution and consumption, take place in a culturally governed context. The social mutation that began in Europe in about the 15th century, which was celebrated as the triumph of freedom, which later expanded to cover the globe, was a society where the economy became disembedded from its cultural context; the market came to govern instead of being governed. The economy became a power which cannot be governed by ethics. You will choose Polanyi as the historian who will provide the context for understanding modern philosophy because in the end you will endorse a double re-embedding first the re-embedding of the economy in culture, and second the re-embedding of culture in the ecosystem. You will discuss the construction of the ideological defenses of modernity by modern philosophers namely Hobbes, the rationalists, the empiricists, the positivists indeed you will claim it was they who invented irrational rationality. Then you will discuss the pivotal role of Karl Marx in showing how and why economic society is necessarily led into disastrous contradictions. Last you will show the contributions of recent phenomenologists, existentialists, Marxists, and ordinary language philosophers to the recovery of a full range of meanings for reason, to the destruction of the ideological defenses of the modern social formation, and consequently to re-embedding the economy in culture and culture in nature. You think re-embedding is the only way to build peace and justice you could not think anything else, since you conceive of peace and justice as the wise and harmonious government of human conduct by ecologically viable rgulations hermneutiques. We sit quietly for several minutes after the Kind Reader finishes speaking, rejoicing in the soft wind from the West, the sunshine, and each others company. Finally it is Arthur Eric Gregory III who speaks for all of us to express our gratitude for her insightful participation in our conversation. A dizzying performance, says Arthur Eric. In a few hours a tourist understood our position better than we understand it ourselves, and then extrapolated, drawing a trend line, so to speak, extending the line in the direction where our philosophy is going far beyond the point we ourselves have reached, leading us rapidly from the 13th to the 22nd century. You have an admirable capacity for speed learning and instant trend projection, and 171 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I I am eager to see whether we ourselves, when we consider the philosophical texts more slowly and in more detail, will reach results resembling your forecast. You walk in the footsteps of the greatest philosophers, Arthur Eric continued, following the logos even when it refuses to follow you, examining arguments contrary to your preconceptions and inclinations. You summarized our position accurately even though you find it distasteful. Like Reinhold Niebuhr you fear the demonic potential of solidarity. Your inclinations impel you to flee from whatever threatens to send you on a guilt trip. In the face of any suggestion that someone may be authorized to interfere with your personal autonomy you bristle and cringe. Nevertheless, you respect the tradition which holds that philosophy is not a matter of feelings; your distaste, your fear, your flight from guilt, your bristling and cringing, may in the light of eco-philosophical examination, prove to be non-functional feelings. It might have been better for all concerned if your feelings had been educated to respond differently. All of us tend in the beginning, when we first become aware of ourselves, to be middle-wing extremists. If the principles of our society promise rights for all and equality for all, then we initially respond to muckraking with outrage; we think something should be done to enforce the

existing ethics. You have moved beyond middle-wing extremists because you are aware that outrage is useless without a working understanding of the historical processes which make ethics ineffective. And also because you are willing to consider a philosophical position which argues that survival dictates an ethic you dont have and dont like, one less centered on rights and autonomy, more centered on solidarity and service. I would like to be able to reassure you that your fears are groundless when you suspect that the quest of people like us for a functional ethics will fuel a maniacal compulsion to dominate. I confess that I seek control. I am appalled by an arms race of control, by a global economy out of control, an assault on the environment out of control, crime and violence out of control, torture and arbitrary repression out of control. And the six of us had just agreed before you arrived on principles from which you deduced, with your uncanny ability to see the final conclusion when supplied only with the first premises, that it will be necessary to modify 18th century ideals of liberty and property rights in order to bring to human conduct a tolerable degree of order and harmony. Nevertheless, I cannot believe that the final solution is total control. An image from Immanuel Kants Tugendlehre appeals to me: as the planets are kept in their orbits by centripetal forces pulling them toward the sun and centrifugal forces pulling them away from the sun, so human relationships will be harmonious when we are pulled toward each other by love and kept a proper distance apart by respect. I want to believe that respect for each persons individuality will flourish when we live in sisterhood and brotherhood. I want to believe freedom will grow when conflicts are less desperate because basic needs are met. I want to believe that better cultural software will diminish the use of military hardware and diminish all despotic and violent forms of human interaction. There is some empirical evidence which tends to show, in a small way, that our hopes are more likely to be realized than your fears. We hope solidarity and freedom are compatible; you fear they are not. Studies of human moral development by Jean Piaget and others show quite convincingly that when children reach what Piaget calls the stage of mutual respect they are both more concerned with the welfare of others and more respectful of the uniqueness of each individual. Hence serving others and respect for others freedom go together. Insofar as Burckhardt, Nietzsche, Spengler, Kierkegaard, Ortega y Gassett, Heidegger, Orwell, Niebuhr, Huxley, etc., et al. fear that a love ethic will degenerate into a herd ethic, there is good evidence that they are unduly alarmed. However, this is not the sum total of their fears; nor does it represent the sum total of our hopes we hope not only to change hearts and minds, but to change social structures so that ethics will have more influence on what really happens. 172 Letter 23 Speaking more generally, I really cannot say whether our hopes are better grounded than your fears. When I try to predict whether what I want to believe will come true I lose confidence in my mind and am reminded of its limitations. My mind is like everyone elses mind, clouded by passions I do not understand, disciplined, it at all, by logics and methods with historically determined biases, liable to confuse the opinions of the people I listen to with the mood of all the humans on the planet, warped by idiosyncratic, not to say traumatic, experiences, occasionally short-circuited when a synapse misfires in one of its neural circuits, constantly losing its grasp of what it used to know as millions of brain cells die every day, then learning something new which reorients my attitude toward life and refocuses what I used to believe. Our minds are a process within a process within a process, a conversation in a culturally given code in a surrounding environment; we are talking animals sitting on a minor ridge of a small planet in the solar system

of a medium-sized star in an out-of-the-way galaxy. In front of us across the canyon we are looking at some brown hills. In December a little rain will come in short, hard showers during the night. Then for a few weeks grass will grow on both sides of San Timoteo Canyon and on the surrounding hills. We are like the grass that grows for a while until the water runs out. The hills are the land, where the peoples come and go, talking of their philosophies. Unable to reassure you, I still want we all want to thank you for your company and your conversation, and also to thank your husband for minding the children so you could come visit us. Give all your people our greetings, and say the land sends it greetings too, and the dry grass and flower seeds in the ground, waiting for the rain. The next letter considers some main features of early modern philosophy, noticing some contributions of philosophers to articulating the symbolic structures of modern society, i.e. of economic society. 173 174 Letter 24 24 SOME CONTRIBUTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY TO THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE METAPHYSICS OF ECONOMIC SOCIETY Once upon a time (or upon three times, to be more exact) there was a tribal society, polis society, and medieval society. We existed in the tribal consciousness, in the polis, or in a world ordered by and for God. To be was to be in relationship. We were frogs in frog clans, shepherds filling social roles in a polis, or servants in the Kingdom of God. But today, to be is to be independent. Our myths tell us we are individuals who enter into relationships only when it is in our rational selfinterest to do so; individuals trade, they make deals, they sign contracts. This is economic society. If you come with me back to the mists of origin we will visit some of the philosophers whose metaphysics contributed to its construction. We will study the symbolic structures they created, symbolic structures that discredited some of the webs of meaning that tried to hold us together (not always successfully or benignly, of course) in the past and established individuals as the only beings which really exist. If we wander backwards in time, into the mists of origins, seeking to find the beginnings of the modern mind, when we reach the first part of the 14th century our search will lead us to the medieval University of Oxford, where (in an academic cloister on a low gravel ridge between the foggy courses of the Thames and its tributary the Cherwell, two streams which flow in the vicinity of the university along meandering courses with many branches and backwaters, among flat meadows and well-wooded hills which rise sometimes rather abruptly, though the hills are of only slight elevation) we will meet a philosopher already renowned for his erudition, although he is only in his mid-thirties. His name is William of Ockham. Nunquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitates, says William. The remark with which William greets us is the most celebrated line in his famous lectures on the Sentences of Peter the Lombard. It is variously translated: we should never employ a plurality of entities without necessity, or it is needless to recur to many entities when we can get along with fewer ones. Known in the 20th century as Ockhams law of parsimony, Ockhams principle is now widely considered to be one of the foundations of the scientific method. Today scientists in all fields when they find the work of a colleague defective because it erects too large a theory on a base of too few facts, criticize the work of a colleague as

unparsimonious, invoking the authority of the ghost of the 14th century Magister Theologiae* The unfortunate colleague is expected to be duly ashamed of himself for violating the timehonored and universally approved precept of scientific method which says, Eliminate all concepts not necessary to describe the facts. In other words, Apply Ockhams razor. 175 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Of course William knows nothing of the 20th century. He lives before the disembedding, as Karl Polanyi calls it, that created economic society, and for that reason he does not know about our most characteristic ideas and institutions: science, capitalism, socialism, modern legal codes, democracy, our declarations of human rights, the freedom of the individual, romantic love, the equal dignity of every human being, nation-states, and Protestantism are all beyond the horizon for Ockham, nonexistent and inconceivable, and Ockham is quite surprised to learn for we travelers in time are the first to tell him that his razor is now the first principle of orthodoxy in the scientific establishment. He is surprised because he did not get on well with the 14th century establishment, and to be cast as he is now in the role of intellectual champion of orthodoxy is an unexpected role for him. Although Ockham was an eminent Magister Theologiae he never became a Magister actu regens, a professor occupying an official chair of theology. His enemy Lutterell was for a time Chancellor of Oxford, and when the majority of the members of the university succeeded in persuading the Bishop to remove Lutterell from the chancellorship, Lutterell carried his fight against Ockham to the pope, to whom he presented 56 articles accusing Ockham of teaching heresy. Ockham spent most of the rest of his life in intellectual combat with (or at) the papacy defending himself against Lutterells charges before a papal commission, defending the peculiar traditions of his own order (the Franciscans) against the pretensions of the papacy to exercise a plenitudo potestatis (full power) which could dictate to the Franciscans their internal rules; and defending the Holy Roman Emperor, Ludwig of Bavaria, against the popes pretension to hold worldly as well as spiritual authority. William of Ockham was a forerunner of all those who would in later centuries challenge popes, emperors, monarchs, and dictators; of those who challenge those who claim authority to rule absolutely (with plenitudo potestatis); and although, as noted above, he knew nothing of the fully developed modern ideas of the 20th century, we find scattered in his various writings a veritable arsenal of primitive versions of the ideological weapons the rising bourgeoisie was later to employ in its struggle to limit the powers of governments and those of established churches, including early versions of the doctrine of checks and balances, the identification of Gods law with freedom, the separation of church and state, the legitimation of government by the consent of the governed, individual liberty, recognition of the legal rights of infidels, property rights coming directly from God without human mediation, the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith, and the social contract. Williams doctrine Nunquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate was made to order to help him win his many arguments because it banished the traditional metaphysics with one fell stroke, as Alexander cut the Gordian knot with one fell stroke** The traditional metaphysics was, as we have seen, a support of the traditional social order, and it consisted of generalizations going beyond the facts, which besides their descriptive functions told a story about the human place in the cosmos, guided conduct, and authorized authority. Dont generalize; just describe individual facts as simply as possible! said Ockham, in effect, and with a single logical trump card he defeated the apologists of the establishment or, to be more precise, he defeated (in the eyes of those who could see the ultimate consequences of Ockhams razor) all of those who are willing (or could be

persuaded, or obliged) to play the game by Ockhams rules, namely rule (1) only individual facts exist, and rule (2) it is the business of the scholar to describe them as 1 simply as possible. William says, Every science begins with individuals. From sensation, which gives only singular things, arises memory, from memory experience, and through experience we obtain the universal which is the basis of art and science. As all our knowledge derives from the senses, every science, too, originates from individual objects....* * Gordian knot: a famous knot in antiquity, which nobody could untie. The emperor Alexander solved the problem by slashing it with his sword. 176 Letter 24 Wait a minute! you say as we stand in the mud and mist in the courtyard of Magdalen College, Oxford. You turn away for the moment from our medieval interlocutor and address your words to me, your fellow time-traveler. You have been telling me that philosophers are among the people who build cultural structures, and in particular they are the ones who construct metaphysical generalizations. But here we stand before a philosopher whose genius is skepticism, demolition, conceptual austerity. The mist slightly augments its intensity, threatening to become a drizzle; we repair to the common room to continue our conversation, where we find a place to talk; not too far from the fire and not too crowded. I worry that I will not adequately bring into focus the issues you have just raised, which I consider to be of the highest importance since they bear on the origin and nature of irrational rationality, and consequently on the method to be employed to overcome it and consequently they bear on our species survival. The adverse circumstances, the noise and the chill, the haste, the difficulty of philosophizing in a century to which one is not accustomed, are not the explanation of my incapacity, because even if I could work at a leisurely pace in a warm dry quiet modern library, I still would be unable to muster all the clarity and coherence an adequate answer to your question demands. I am simply not able, even under the best of circumstances, to answer as well as I should. Ockham creates a metaphysic, I hesitantly begin. It is the metaphysics of individualism. To say every science begins with individuals is to construct a metaphysical generalization, far beyond the facts in its universal scope, fraught with social implications for humans tend to conceive society and nature as mirrors of each other, so that they see nature in terms of their social categories, and society in terms of their natural categories; a mere principle of logic, such as only individuals are real is potent because it purports to apply to all categories whatever. I pause for breath and continue. The rise of the modern metaphysic has its demolition phase, and its reconstruction phase although in modern times philosophers often declare Begone all metaphysics! and would have us believe that their constructions are not metaphysics, or that they do not construct anything. It is important to see through this pretense, because then we will see that our own basic cultural code, our irrational rationality, like the codes of the Trobriand Islanders, the Inuit, the Navajos, the Greeks, and the medievals, has been constructed and can be reconstructed, which means although it will take some time to spell out why and how it means it that reembedding is feasible. Culture need not be subordinate to economics; we can build a human economy, where humans run the economy instead of the other way around. Immediately I regret not having stuck closer to the question asked, which was how a man like Ockham whose main contribution is negative can be called a philosopher if philosophy is defined as a construction of cultural structures. I was carried away by a desire to announce the immense

significance of an apparently technical point, and I tried to say too much too quickly. William, meanwhile, lost interest in our conversation and drifted off to discuss the holy eucharist with a group of students in another corner of the common room, which was only to be expected, since William of Ockham is quite naturally little concerned with the problems of people who, from his point of view, will not be born, for 600 years. His silent departure saves us the trouble of bidding him adieu as we continue our magic time travel, disappearing and moving instantly to the Parisian bedroom of Ren Descartes, who is sound asleep although it is 11 oclock in the morning. The year is 1637. Out of deference to the sleeper we refrain from materializing, assuming a ghostly form which permits us to see without being seen. There lies before us on top of a pillow underneath a stocking cap and a skull, a remarkable brain. The invention of analytic geometry happened in its neural circuits. *Ockham, William, Exposaurea Praedicab De specie. Translated by Stephen Tornay in Ockham: Studies and Selections, La Salle, Illinois, Open Court Publishing Co., 1938, p. 119. 177 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Rene Descartes analytic geometry proved to be an immensely influential cultural coding It meant that spatial figures could be represented in numbers, and vice-versa. For example the following is the graph (i.e. drawing) of a simple spatial figure, to wit: a straight line

This straight line is tilted rather steeply. In numbers it is expressed as the function y = 2x In general we can draw a spatial figure to represent a function, and for a spatial figure we can write a function (composed of numbers, signs such as =, and letters like x and y which are variables holding places for numbers). Similarly we can represent 3 dimensional objects (adding a z axis perpendicular to x and y) and n-dimensional objects (with linear algebra). My first year economics professor would have been lost without Ren Descartes invention. Every morning at 9 a.m. he began his class by turning his blackboard into a Cartesian plane, a magical transformation which he accomplished by drawing one vertical line from top to bottom to represent the dependent variable y, and one horizontal line from side to side to represent the independent variable x.

A Cartesian Plane (so named after Ren Descartes, 1596-1650) Thus equipped, Milton Friedman (as we called him) was ready to talk about the impact of wages on prices, of investment on wages, of prices on investment, of budget deficits on interest rates, and, in general, the impact of any x on any y. 178 Letter 24 Bertrand Russell struck the keynote of the beginning of an exciting century (the 20th) in the philosophy of science, by claiming that the goal of all science was to describe phenomena in the language of mathematics, that is to say as functions, which is to say, in its simplest form y = f(x) Evidently Lord Russell would also have been lost without Descartes work 3 centuries earlier since the claim that all science is about functions would lose much of its appeal without Descartes method for drawing pictures (graphs) of functions. (Descartes generalized the work of Galileo, who had shown that the distance a freely falling body has fallen [let the distance fallen be y] is a function of time [let time be x] and a gravitational constant [let it be g] as follows: y = 1/2 gx 2. In order to regard Galileos discovery as an instance of the general principle y = f (x) we can view as standing for whatever is to be done to x [in this case square it and multiply it by 1/2 g]. In Descartes times the advance of mathematical functions and formulae was considered (in general) to be a retreat of souls and spirits. Thus, for example, the astronomer Johannes Kepler sought to give a quantitative definition of force that would replace St. Thomas conception of force as a soul animating the celestial bodies and directing their proper motions. To show that a mathematical function describes something was taken to be equivalent to showing it to be physical, not spiritual, as is evident in the following lines from Keplers Mysterium Cosmographicum of 1621: Formerly I believed that the cause of the planetary motion is a soul... But when I realized that these motive causes attenuate with the distance from the sun, I came to the conclusion that this force is something physical... * Using Ockhams razor, if the divine spirit was not needed for description, it was to be eliminated. The relation between destruction and construction, which is clear enough in the case of William of Ockham, is even clearer in the case of Ren Descartes. Descartes set out systematically to destroy all previous philosophy and to reconstruct all knowledge (Note that it was knowledge and not [i.e.

not mainly] authority which he wanted to reconstruct.) Descartes is the first of all the philosophers we have considered who was not a schoolteacher (he was an independent scientist and writer). Hence he was a person who could sleep past 1 1 a.m. instead of spending the last hour of the morning, as schoolteachers often do, fending off chaos until the spirits of the students are soothed by lunch, a fact which partly explains his relative indifference to the problem of maintaining social discipline. Descartes systematic destruction consists of withering doubt. In his celebrated Metaphysical Meditations he depicts himself as comfortably seated before a fireplace in his study, resolved that the time has come to make an inventory of everything he believes and to stop believing everything he can possibly doubt. He decides to consider all his beliefs that might possibly be false, just as if he knew they were false, in an effort to discover what, if anything, he knows to be true. Although the doubting bout by the fireside is a private activity it becomes public because Descartes publishes a book about it. In effect he invites all Europe to doubt everything it has previously believed, and to accept only what it knows. * Cited by Max Jammer in Concepts of Force. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1957. p. 90, n.26. See Jammers account for further information about the shift away from mystical physics. . 179 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Descartes does not really know, it turns out, that he is seated comfortably beside the fireplace making an inventory of his beliefs, because after all he might be dreaming. His habit of sleeping until noon probably helped him to think of this particular argument. It turns out, too, that the sequence of the doubts determines the subsequent reconstruction of knowledge because although in the end Descartes succeeds in doubting, almost everything (everything except the solitary existence of his own mind, which is doing the doubting and therefore must exist if the doubting exists) some things are harder to doubt than others. The beliefs hardest to doubt are doubted last, and when the tide turns and the reconstruction of knowledge commences (this time supposedly on firm foundations) the items hardest to doubt tend to be believed first, and with the greatest certainty. An accountant would say Descartes method resembles a LOFI System, last out first in. The most certain knowledge of all is the certain existence of the solitary individual, abstracted from the material and social conditions of existence, without class, gender, or ethnicity. Descartes knows that. Next in Descartes reconstruction of knowledge comes a proof for the existence of God. It should be no surprise that Descartes proved Gods existence, since in the 17th Century any philosopher with a normal instinct for self-preservation would; what is interesting to us denizens of the 20th Century, as we seek among the mists of origins the foundations of the metaphysics of economic society, is to notice what kind of God Descartes proved the existence of. His God is the kind who guarantees the certainty of knowledge, in particular the certainty of those ideas Descartes found it hardest to doubt (LOFI at work), the ones he called clear and distinct ideas, which turn out to be just the ones which make analytic geometry a privileged method for grasping the essence of reality. Enter being. Being turns out to be matter. It is matter of a peculiar kind matter conceived as pure figure in space, pure measurable extension, pure the-sort-of-things-which-cari-be-representedas-a-graph-on-a-Cartesian-plane, pure data for the (then) new science of mechanics. Being is also mind, which according to Descartes exists alongside matter, related to it in a way neither Descartes nor his followers ever succeeded in explaining. Gilbert Ryle** has aptly expressed Descartes image of human nature as a ghost in a machine, the ghost being the mind and the machine the

body. Disregarding the ghost (which perhaps we should, since the whole point of being a ghost is to be inconspicuous) we can agree with Martin Heideggers account of Descartes construction of being: What is in general (i.e. according to Descartes) a Substance as such, which makes its Substantiality conceivable?... Substances are knowable through their attributes, and each substance has its outstanding attribute, which shows the essence of its Substantiality as a definite Substance. What is the outstanding attribute of physical matter (res corporea)? Precisely extensio in length, width and depth constitutes the physical substance of nature. Extension in space, namely length, breadth, and depth, makes the essential Being of the physical Substance, which we call the world.* We linger at Descartes bedside without disturbing him, since it is, after all, the 20th century we want to awaken, not the 17th, and we speed quickly through time to the year 1660, back to England, the country destined to be the principal seedbed of capitalism and its ideologies, where we enter the closet of King Charles II at Buckingham Palace, and find his * Heidegger, Martin, Sein und Zeit. Tubingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1979, p. 99. Part of my quote from Heidegger is actually Heidegger quoting Descartes. I kept the capitals for Substance and Being to call attention to the terms. * Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) 20th century British philosopher. See his book The Concept of Mind. 180 Letter. 24 majesty admiring a picture hung on the closet wall, a portrait of his favorite philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1586-1679). When Charles was a young prince, Hobbes was for a time his tutor, and Hobbes was a philosophical partisan of royal (as opposed to parliamentary) supremacy. The stated aim of Hobbes philosophy was to find the secret of peace. He had this to say about philosophy: ...The utility of moral and civil philosophy is to be estimated, not so much by the commodities we have by knowing these sciences, as by the calamities we receive from not knowing them. Now, all such calamities arise chiefly from civil war; for from this proceed slaughter, solitude, and the want of all things. The means for achieving peace is to apply the scientific method to the study of human conduct. He borrows his method quite consciously from physics, applying to the study of humans the resolutocompositive method of Galileo. You analyze the thing you are trying to understand into its individual parts that is resolute and then you show how the parts interact that is compositive. Hobbes discovered by this method that a human being is a kind of machine. He could not make any other discovery, since if you assume that a human is made of individual parts in interaction with each other, you have assumed that a human is a machine, and if you first look for the simple individual parts, and then for the interactions, you should not be surprised to find that what you find is a machine. Hobbes supposed the human machine to have the characteristic of wanting to persist in being somewhat as Newtons first law of motion, the law of inertia, would later state that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. In order to control the resources they need to persist in being, all humans in a state of nature seek power. A state of nature is a hypothetical time when there was no society a state of nature prior to society was posited not only by Hobbes but by the other main social contract theorists, John Locke, Benedict Spinoza, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Everyone in a Hobbesian state of nature seeks power to protect oneself from everyone else. Some people might be inclined to be peaceful

Hobbes calls such people the moderates; but the moderates have to seek power too, for otherwise they will be invaded and conquered by those who want to live more comfortably by enslaving others or taking their property. Life in a state of nature is, therefore, in Hobbes famous words, ...solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. There is only one solution: the people must agree to be governed by a king. The only way to keep independent forces from invading each other, is to make them subordinate to one great force, namely the kings army, Which will overawe them all. Once the true science of human nature is understood, and Hobbes thought it was his mission to teach the world the true science of human nature, then rational self-interest would be enough to persuade people to turn over their weapons to a king and to promise to obey him. However, rational selfinterest was not enough to guarantee that people would keep their promise to obey the king rational self-interest might indeed lead people to revolt, as it had done in the English civil war, of which Hobbes wrote a history. Therefore, the king had to rely on force to keep the peace. Hobbes was not, of course, the first to make the observation that humans can make life impossible for each other. He was the first to develop a philosophy designed to prove that the only solution is force. For Hobbes force had to be the answer, because the other answers which had been proposed were not answers acceptable to Hobbes. First why not religion? In traditional societies people obey mysterious symbols, and in some cases rarely resort to force to settle interpersonal conflicts. But for Hobbes this was no answer he had resolved to base his answer on the methods of 17th century physics, and to 181 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I avoid relying on the superstitious ideas which he associated with religion. Second why not friendship or love, the filia which Aristotle once said was the bond of men in states, or the caritas of St. Thomas? Well, for starters, the commandment Love-one-another-as-I-have-loved-you is a divine command, and therefore it is not science. But there is another, deeper reason why it was useless for Hobbes to try to bring about peace through love. Hobbes lived at a time when England was already a competitive, market society, a capitalist society. There is a reason why it would have been useless for Hobbes to preach love to a 17th century capitalist, while it was not useless for St. Thomas to preach love to a 13th century baron or duke. The reason is that the baron is somebody who, so to speak, has it made; he is the landlord of a giant self-sufficient farm. The baron can keep enough food for himself, and share all the rest of the food with his knights, vassals, and serfs, and with wandering beggars; he does not lose his land that way; his crops will grow again next year just as they did last year. The average businessman, on the other hand, does not have it made. He may look secure to an outsider, but he knows that he needs to keep running to keep ahead of the competition. If he tried to give away profits on the scale that people who have it made can afford to give things away, he would find that his more selfish competitors were accumulating capital faster, and therefore were able in the long run to build bigger factories, use newer production techniques, and therefore to make a better mousetrap cheaper. (Hobbes understood something that Gandhi did not understand: namely that people who are competing with each other in a market economy cannot be expected to love each other. Gandhi proposes a love ethic according to which property owners should consider themselves trustees of wealth for the benefit of the poor. Gandhis proposal is exactly that of St. Thomas, and it is perhaps suitable for a feudal society. What has happened in India is that the rich have accepted Gandhis theory of trusteeship but then have pointed out that it is economically impossible to do anything much different from what they are already doing. Hobbes, although he was not religious, spoke warmly of the new religions which did not expect the rich to make unrealistic sacrifices. Hobbes wrote in his history of the civil war

that one of the new religions, the Presbyterian, was well received because it did not inveigh against the lucrative vices of men of trade... which was a great ease to the generality of citizens and the inhabitants of market towns.) Hobbes had a view of human nature such that love was not likely to bring about peace, and although he probably underestimated the human capacity for love, he was probably right about humans in the situations he observed. What about justice? Aristotle had also declared justice to be the bond of man in states. Hobbes held that the views of Aristotle and Aquinas on justice were simply wrong, and he based his argument on the practices of his own 17th century capitalist society. Who would complain, he asked, about getting more than his share? Therefore, getting more than ones share is not unjust. Justice means, for Hobbes, sale and purchase at whatever price seller and purchaser agree on there is no other standard. Hobbes wrote of a society where people obey the law because they are forced to obey, and of a society where the only way to tell whether a bargain is fair is to ask whether the parties agreed to it. He redefines law: for Aquinas law was an ordering principle for the common good of the community, for Hobbes the commands ...of all the powerful in respect of them who cannot resist, may be termed their laws.* He redefines justice: for Hobbes justice is doing what you have contracted to do, and injustice is breaking a contract. He does not expect people to be just, in this sense, voluntarily, and he considers the enforcement of contracts to be one of the chief functions of the sovereign. Hobbes worldview rules out the usual alternatives to force as a means of bringing about peace namely rational self-interest, religion, friendship, love, morally sanctioned law, and * Hobbes, Thomas, De Cive or The Citizen. N.Y.: Appleton-century-Crofts, 1949, Ch. XIV; p. 155 (first published 1651). 182 Letter 24 justice. Hobbes has used Galileos method of resolution and composition to analyze humans as power-seeking machines, and when he composes the single elements to form a whole society, he finds that only power can stop power. (It should be noted that there must be something wrong with Hobbes arguments. If Hobbes were right, then the only peaceful human societies would be absolute monarchies. But history and anthropology show that there are some peaceful societies that are not absolute monarchies. Furthermore, if Hobbes were right, absolute monarchies would rule by force. But in fact monarchies usually sustain themselves with religion, legal systems, concepts of justice, pomp and ceremony; ...among our rude forefathers the ideas of divinity and royalty coalesced. ** However, whether or not Hobbes is right, his conclusions follow from his assumptions. Furthermore, certain assumptions his method implies or presupposed, namely that power is reality and that competitive capitalist society is natural, are assumptions which are typical of the modern mind.) The philosopher whose portrait Charles II admires is the progenitor of some of our contemporary republican principles. Minds accustomed to thinking of social power as preeminently political will be puzzled when they find in the works of an ardent royalist the source of principles often called democratic, but those who call our civilization economic society, recognizing a common underlying pattern in its royal, republican, and repressive political manifestations, will not be puzzled or surprised. One such principle is that all people are free. Hobbes means that everyone was free in the state of nature. Everybody had a right to everything until there was a contract to form society. This means simply that before there was a social

contract, everybody was free to take whatever he could manage to hold on to. It follows, on Hobbes reasoning, that we are still free and still have rights, except for those rights and freedoms that were given up in the social contract: ...where no covenant has preceded there has no right been transferred, and every man has right to everything. Americans owe to Hobbes the proposition that all men are created equal, which is found in our Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, who got the words from Locke who got them from Hobbes, perhaps meant something profound when he said that all men are created equal, but for Hobbes it was a simple fact. In a state of nature as Hobbes conceived it we would all be equal because anybody could murder anybody. Charles H is surprised when his rapt admiration of his portrait of Thomas Hobbes is interrupted by two oddly dressed visitors who materialize in his closet. We (the visitors) bow respectfully and proceed briskly to measure the portrait, meanwhile addressing gracious words to his majesty, declaring by our behavior that our arrival was expected, thus obliging him to assume that if he were to interrupt us he would thereby breach decorum, which the parliamentary party would cite as evidence that during his exile Charles n had forgotten how to play the role of Ring. Presenting to his highness two small line drawings, as if we were tailors presenting two bolts of cloth for his consideration, we deferentially suggest carving on the lower panel of the frame of Hobbes portrait a design like this:

* Frazer, Sir James G., The Golden Bough. N.Y.: Macmillan, 1958, abridged edition, p. 112. 183 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Letter 24 The diagram represents a medieval view of how things are and should be. The dots represent people, and the sun represents God in His capacity as final cause, that is to say, in His capacity as end and aim of our existence. The arrows represent the proper direction of our lives that is to say, the feet that we are ordered to an end. We are ordered to an end in the sense that we are created with the purpose of loving and serving God. Everything in heaven or on earth is ordered to some end or ends, the ends being the purposes for which the thing was created. Love is the force that moves us, and everything else. The line connecting the dots represents the real relations among people, or it could just as well represent the real relations among a things. The line signifies that we truly exist only in relationship, as members of a community, or as members of that spiritual body which is His church. The diagram as a whole shows a pre-Hobbesian world. For the top panel of the frame of Hobbes portrait, our other small line drawing outlines a carving with this design:

This second design shows the new worldview Hobbes did so much to formulate and to promote. The dots in the second design can be interpreted in several ways. In terms of scientific method, the dots can be thought of as factors, variables, or bodies in motion. In other words, they are individual things, subject to what Aristotle would call efficient causality. The dotted arrows represent the fact that the things may be going in any direction we need observation to tell us what directions they are going. And they may have any magnitude again we need observation to tell us what magnitude they have. In other words, the world consists of things with force. Power is reality. The lack of a line connecting the individual things indicates that nothing has any necessary relation to anything else. Our purpose is well, every person is free to find a purpose for herself, if she can. The diagram may also be interpreted in terms of ethics and politics. It is not surprising that in our culture similar ideas should appear in different places, since anthropologists find this to be the case with other cultures.. A society tends to project its image of itself outward onto nature, and to project its image of nature inward onto itself. The diagram may be taken to represent individuals, each of whom is free and independent. The dotted arrows indicate that a person has a right to do whatever he wishes, as long as he does not interfere with the equal right of others. The fact that all the dots are on the same level, rather than some higher and others lower as in the medieval diagram, indicates that all persons are equal. Thus the diagram represents a society of free, equal, and independent individuals. A person is free to do what she or he wants. The same diagram can be used to represent another modern institution the nation-state. A nation-state, as Kant observed, is a kind of artificial person. International law of the modern kind holds that each nation is, in principle, free, equal, and independent. The dots represent sovereign nations, each independent of the other, and the dotted arrows represent the right of each nation to do what it chooses to do within its own territory. His majesty comments that our designs throw into relief the significance of Hobbes philosophy as an early synthesis of some basic structures of the modern mind in a manner that is too explicit. Hobbes is not a popular philosopher. England is after all a Christian nation, and people still flatter themselves that they are not machines. People still think monarchs rule by right, not by force, that England is governed by rational laws and by legitimate magistrates. Hobbes philosophy is logical, but it is not popular. Consequently, if one is going to be a 184 Hobbesian at all in the 17th (or even the 20th) century, it is best to be one circumspectly avoiding excesses of clarity, to admire the portrait of the revered philosopher alone in a private closet rather than in a public hall, or, like Edward Gibbon in the 18th century to adopt a split-level writing style which retains the courtesies of civilization on a surface level while revealing to the discerning reader the Hobbesian motives of the persons whose actions are portrayed on a second, slightly camouflaged, level. Charles II therefore rejects our proposed adornment of Hobbes portrait on the ground that its meaning is insufficiently obscure. At this point the Lord Chamberlain and his retinue appear at the closet door. We bid farewell to his

majesty, step behind a rack of royal robes, and to materialize; swiftly returning to the smogshrouded 20th. century, carrying with us more understanding of the contribution of philosophy to the construction of the metaphysics of economic society than we had when we began our journey into the mists of origins. What we are beginning to understand is that our culture has been constructed, which implies that it can be reconstructed. We are beginning to see that the turn-ofthe-century German sociologist Max Weber misled us when he described the transition from traditional to modern society in such terms as Entzauberung, i.e. removal of magic (from Ent, a prefix indicating removal, and Zaubert magic). Of course Weber realized that traditional societies, closer than we are to tribal forms, possess additional characteristic attributes besides a belief in magic. And of course we realize more than Weber did because of the evidence that has accumulated since his death that what is remarkable about traditional society is not so much the typical pattern (belief in magic, ritual, animism, extended kinship systems....) as it is the bewildering variety of patterns, a variety which gives us hope that there are infinitely many cultural forms which have not been created yet, among which very many are more functional and more beautiful than the rather drab economic society into which it has been our lot to have been born. The main point of saying Webers Entzauberung is misleading is not that Zauber is too small a word to name traditional human cultural structures; it is that Ent is too small a word to name the construction of the metaphysics of economic society. Weber and his ilk (he has a lot of ilk) probably do mean this is why I criticize them that when you take away the magic etc. of close-to-tribal humanity, you are left with plain, dull, prosaic, thing-like facts. (An austere ontology, Willard Van Orman Quine would say.) No no no. Modernitys individual is magic. Capitalism has its spirituality it is Einsamkeit (aloneness, loneliness). Analytic geometry is an enchantress; minds she has bewitched do not easily break her spell. Property and person are myths, composed by processes not essentially different from the composition processes of stories more ancient and more profound. Rights, variables, and mechanical metaphors belong to cultural codings with historical beginnings, and as we build our culture better they will have historical Aufhebungen. (Aufhebung plural Aufhebungen is a German word used by G. W. F. Hegel to express a surpassing of a partial truth by a more adequate truth.) P.S. Consider whether the river Thames, or the river Cherwell, is an individual; or, better yet, consider these words of an old widow: Yo no soy nadie. Tengo mas de noventa aos y mis amigos todos se han muerto ya hace tiempo. Sin ser persona para mas amigos no soy persona. Existo como existen las piedras, no como existen los seres humanos. I do not exist. I am more than 90 years old and all my friends died a long time ago. When I am not a person in their eyes, I am not a person at all. I am like the rocks, not like a human being. 185 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I

186 Letter 25 25 THE MYSTICAL KERNEL IN THE RATIONAL SHELL One of the characteristics of economic society is that people who have little money often have to meet with people who have lots of money to request a portion of their fortunes. Poor farmers in the third world go to banks asking for loans, and often get caught in circles of debt; poor intellectuals in the first world go-to foundations asking for grants and often get turned down. I hope I dont get turned down. I really need to finish this book; there are still 25 more letters to go. I have very much enjoyed our imaginary friendship, and I hope that it can continue. There are more ideas I think you should think about, and more people I think you should meet. The truth, my friends, is that I love you very much, although I love you more in small hotels than in big hotels, for a reason I shall immediately explain. In big hotels one encounters the frequent goose-in-a-suit, the occasional Miss America, either or both of them strutting the carpeted corridors trying to prove an answer to the question, Quien es el primer limn? Who? Who? Who is the number one sourpuss? I shall translate the foreign expression for you, in order to make the meaning clear, Who is the first lemon? Here is a better translation: Who is the number one lemon? That is the question they ask in big hotels, Good morning sir! Yes of course sir! Are you the number one lemon? Thank you, Mr. Lemon! You are of course the number one lemon, arent you? Arent you? It is all very demanding and it gets on ones nerves.

Now the small hotel I am speaking of a nice small hotel is a cozy place, a peach of a place, a sweet peach in summer, a warm peach cider by the fireside in winter. That is the kind of place it is. Now you understand why I love my friends more in small hotels. In big hotels I am false to myself, I get sucked into games I do not want to play, I fear discovery and betrayal; really I never wanted to be a lemon, I never trusted a goose-in-a-suit or a Miss America. Take me to a small hotel, put me in an easy chair, take my hand, tell me a story, serve me a drink. Do not threaten me, I am susceptible to fits of anxiety. The truth my friends is that because you are my comforters you are my friends, that is what I mean by friends and I am past the point where I ask for more than comfort. I must tell you more of the truth, I have a lizard-level mind, it is at the top of my spine; I would not lie to you, not to you my dear comforters, my paracletes, my fresh cotton sheets, my jars of marmalade, my rose curtains staining the morning light, dear mirror, dear ferns, dear potted begonias living here beside me. Now you will understand how glad I was to be informed that my interview was to be at the Windsor Arms, a small hotel as comfortable as an old shoe. I love it. I sauntered into the foyer in a good mood, anticipating the scent of butter and coffee, the shell-like lampshades, the amber shadows, brown wood, creamy polished surfaces. Then I met my competitors, a half-dozen 187 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I run-down intellectuals, deep in sofas. I loved that too. It is good to be among ones own kind... among the kind who write halves of books and mail the unfinished manuscripts in brown paper envelopes from suburban post offices of middle-sized cities, addressing the envelopes to charitable foundations, enclosing in them requests for monies; we are the kind of charming middle-aged orphans who sit deep in sofas, who brim with fascinating thoughts, who hope the mother fund will adopt us, who seek the bubble reputation with its cash emoluments; we persuade ourselves of our infinite tenderness on Mondays and Thursdays, hang it up on Tuesdays and Fridays, repent on Wednesdays and Saturdays, rest on Sundays. It is Monday and we are persuaded. Kindness was shown to me by the lady at the desk, la matresse de lhtel, a black lady, 45 if a day, a true comforter wearing large clear glasses, a green comb in her frizzy black hair. She did not take offense at my odd remark, No thanks I prefer to smell, which was what I said when my lizard mind was fascinated by her white sweater and green-and-white jacket with a clean collar, and she said to me, Coffee while youre waiting? and I inhaled the divine fragrance. She did not take offense. She brought me a glass of water with ice in it. I fell in love with her at once. It was the clean collar that got me, green and white, like white waves on a green tropical sea; we could enjoy the tropical storms together, the swift rising of the wind, the sudden power of warm green water, skies falling in thunderous layers of water, water on water, she drenched me with her clean collar. La matresse approached the sofa area with measured steps and spoke. Listening to her voice was like eating a honeydew melon. She did not speak to me. Mr. ORourke will see you now, she said, not to me but to another. I found her statement exquisite; it was precisely the appropriate thing to say on the occasion, and moreover it was delivered in precisely the right tone of voice, not too loud or too quiet, inviting yet respectful. The timing, the rhythm, the pitch, were perfect; no one could have done it better. I wondered whether she could tell that I was in love with her. As she approached now one, now another, of my competitors, always with the same appropriate message carried by the same delicious voice, I sent her silent lovegrams by heart telepathy, Can you see that I alone, among all the men in this room, adore you truly? The others may love you for a day, but I will love you eternally and forever, I will run your green comb through your frizzy hair until

the stars fall from the sky. She said ORourke six times, until I was the only sailor sunk in a sofa, alone in my sea of green tropical waters adoring a chocolate-hued goddess who disappeared from view and then appeared again as the waves sent me plunging into their green depths and then slowly let me rise again to the surface where I floated comfortably on a green-and-white life buoy, the shape and color of her clean collar. The name ORourke was familiar to me, for I had known several ORourkes in life. When it came to be my turn to receive from the melon voice its impeccable message, and to enter the presence of the gentleman who had received my application for a foundation grant, who would now interview me, I left the matresse de lhtel with the resignation of a condemned prisoner on the way to his hanging who regards himself already as a-living corpse. I sent the matresse one last telepathic message as she picked up my empty water glass with plump, apparently boneless, fingers, The feeling I had for you was purer and deeper than any feeling mortals have ever had, or ever will. Howie! Good to see you again! said Leon ORourke, rising from his chair. What a surprise to find my old roomies name on an application, and to read your... er... interesting manuscript. Dont sit down. I deliberately scheduled you last so we could step over to the dining room for lunch and talk about philosophy. My body sort of turned itself around, it sort of did, it sort of ambled off with Leon to a sort of delightful little table in a corner, and it sort of fed itself a bowl of clam chowder. It ate a cracker. That is where it was and what it was doing when Leon began to talk at it. 188 Letter 25 Leon sampled a sprig of celery with cream cheese and told me I was a reductionist. You reduce philosophy to historical explanations of why one or the other philosopher maintained one or the other doctrine. The philosopher is treated as a functioning part of a cultural process, which itself is an adaptation of a particular species, homo sapiens, to an ecological niche. It was clever of Leon to call me a reductionist, turning the tables on me, so to speak. I had been regarding him as a reductionist, inasmuch as his leitmotif, force is reality, reduces everything to mechanical metaphors even when he talks about freedom and rights; he follows in the footsteps of John Lockes modifications of Thomas Hobbes, which were analyzed by C. B. MacPherson, from whom I have learned a great deal. Even freedom and rights are expressed by Locke and Leon in mechanical terms, inasmuch as they are just the opposite of being governed by force. I tried to think of a helpful reply, one that would make Leon see my point of view. I am a participationist, not a reductionist, I said. I facilitate peoples participation in the construction of meanings. You do not understand, said Leon, as he tasted a spoonful of vichyssoise. You say, for example, that William of Ockham constructed a frame of reference such that only individuals exist, because it suited the interest groups he represented to declare that only individuals exist. What you are doing is historical explanation, or sociology, perhaps anthropology. Not philosophy. The philosophical question, which a philosopher, insofar as he is a philosopher and not some other thing, ought to ask, is Is it true that only individuals exist? I assumed, I said, that the statement only individuals exist is so patently absurd that nowadays nobody would regard it as true. Consider, for example, the word Thames, a proper noun which undoubtedly refers to something which exists: I quoted from my letter 24: ...the Thames and its tributary the Cherwell, two streams which flow in the vicinity of the university along meandering courses with many branches and backwaters, among flat meadows

and well-wooded hills... The Thames flows into the English Channel, which merges with the Atlantic and thereby with all seas. As it is with rivers, so it is with radio waves, historical periods, gravitational fields, soils, and many other things. Often things exist as elements of structures or systems; the designation of one or another item as an individual is to some extent arbitrary. As it is with only individuals exist, so it is with other metaphysical generalizations. They are not true in the straightforward sense of describing facts although some of them are obviously contrary to facts as only individuals exist is. Their social functions are not those of statements of fact. The helpful question for the lover of wisdom to ask about them is What do they do? Leon tried a bit of gefilte fish with some smoked oyster and herring. I am puzzled by your attitude toward metaphysical generalizations, he began. You accept the logical positivists claim that they are cognitively meaningless, and nevertheless go on studying metaphysics and doing metaphysics as if it were an art form. You seem to have learned something from the post-positivist analytic philosophers and the phenomenologists, although you have not made it clear what you have learned, or where you stand in terms of the contemporary state of the art. My own view, he went on, is that whatever school of philosophy may be in vogue at the moment, it is important to keep philosophy going. We need to continue to support philosophical work of high quality, and I am confident that the core values of our open society, freedom, voluntary association, a belief in human perfectibility, will be enhanced by the disinterested search for truth that philosophy stands for. The recent literature on ethics, for example, shows a trend toward a deontological paradigm and away from utilitarianism, but the core values are intact. Its just a little different way of looking at them. Am I right? Now what worried me about your er approach is that there seems to be no place for values. Whatever else philosophy 189 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I does, it ought to justify our values, but you extrapolate the natural sciences into some rather questionable views on anthropology and sociology without ever really justifying values. On your approach philosophy as such is impossible because as David Hume said you cant deduce an ought from an is. Your approach is about what exists, but it is a rule of logic that from premises about what exists you cannot draw conclusions about what ought to exist. Apparently Leon had mellowed since his college years, and he had read a lot of books. He had come to realize that social structures whose rgulations hermneutiques were closely associated with mechanical metaphors in the 17th and 18th centuries could now be supported by rhetoric drawn from a variety of sources. A sophomoric objection, I heard myself saying. The pride and hostility expressed in my remark surprised me since (it being Monday) I was persuaded of my infinite tenderness. Logical rules about what can and cannot be deduced (and there are plenty of rules in our culture and others which authorize the deduction of oughts from iss, for example, from Xs blood pressure is 190/120, it follows that X ought to have medical advice) are themselves judged by physical facts. A nonfunctional culture becomes extinct, and its logic dies with it. Our luncheon was accompanied by soft piano music. Chopin, Liszt... a black-tied waiter served Leon artichoke hearts with hearts of palm. I couldnt remember which was which, Leon explained, so I ordered both. He continued: You were never able to refute me when we used to argue in college, because I was right according to the logic I and many others use. So now, since you cannot refute me logically, you call down the wrath of ecology upon my logic. You claim that a culture of people trained to think and feel as I do, will destroy its environment, either slowly through chemical pollution, or

rapidly through nuclear holocaust. O.K., I said. But I claim more. Your metaphysics is neither consistent with the facts nor helpful. The cultural codings for the ecological age, which I am trying to help construct, will be both. How can you say that? Leon demanded as he put curls of butter on his bread sticks with a fork instead of a knife. In the first place I have no metaphysics. My worldview is scientific, scientific and rational. Just name one fact that I deny. Well, I said, you used to say force is reality, a metaphysical generalization with which you supported such disparate hoaxes as Friedmans specious measuring of economic variables (market forces) and the geopolitics (power) of national security doctrine, and you used to chortle when you learned about predator-prey relationships in nature because you thought they confirmed your metaphysic. A closer look at how hominids secured their place in the food chain shows, on the contrary, that cooperation learned through acculturation is the chief human form of adaptation; it is social cooperation which has permitted us to survive so far; it is our principal human reality. As Leon dipped a fresh shrimp in aoli sauce he counterattacked by saying that my effort to overthrow the characteristic philosophies of economic society with the aid of ecology was doomed to failure because ecology itself is nothing but economic theory applied to nature. The techniques of ecological research are forms of economic analysis genetic strains survive by adopting competitive strategies just as firms do; cells are little factories with inputs and outputs; costeffectiveness is efficiency in ecology as in economics, and so on and on. A strategy can be effective or efficient, I said, either from an individual point of view or from a social point of view. If you are a philosopher, you will take a social point of view and try to do what is effective for the good of the wider community, the community of living beings who share your habitat. What Plato and I advocate is a solidary and functional view in an ecological context, functional virtue. Leon ate a small Italian sausage. I do not have a social point of view, he said. Your philosophy amounts to instructing me to have feelings I do not have. When he used the word 190 Letter 25 feelings I knew he had chosen to disregard my allusion to the traditional interpretations of physiological arousal states, to disregard classical logos and sophia and to put his case in contemporary lingo. O.K., I said to myself, Ill try to relate to getting behind where your head is at The pianist was playing Schubert. I remained quiet and tilted my head as if I were trying to sort out the melody from the hum of conversations; in reality I was imagining different music. I heard the Cuban song Guantanamera con los pobres de la tierra, mi suerte la quiero echar and the Spanish Civil War refrain, Si me quieres escribir, ya sabes mi paradero/En el frente de Teruel. primera lnea de fuego.** I was wondering what it would be like to listen to those songs with Leon. It would be a lonely experience, a lack of communication, a code not shared. Life would be better, I said, if some of us had feelings that some of us dont have. While putting a strawberry in his mouth, Leon asked me please not to tell him about my feelings. Having been requested to spare my luncheon partner the pain of insight into my inner states, I spent a moment thinking about what I would have told him about my feelings if he had not warned me that he did not want to hear about them. My feelings, I would have said, are on the whole unstable and pathetic, mostly anxieties and ineffectual surges of teary joy. Part of the explanation of their unfortunate state is that my body is inhabited by crowds of my simian and reptilian ancestors, the flow of whose vital juices has been turned on and off somewhat haphazardly by

8,676,432,114 thirty second spot announcements, each of them deliberately designed to motivate me to buy something. The fiber of their nerves has been burned by 271,466,511,198 lies. Be that as it may, I thought, continuing my private meditation, it is nevertheless true that whenever my feelings move me to action which serves the good of the wider community, then the good of the wider community is served by my feelings. I would venture to make this modest assertion not because I understand myself, which I do not, and not because I know with apodictic certainty which actions do and which do not serve the wider community, which I do not either, but because the assertion is a tautology which must be true in the same way that A = A or bachelors are unmarried males must be true, and moreover it is in many ways an illuminating and helpful tautology; it is a constructive tautology, which a person who wants to be constructive might safely invite to stay for tea in the innermost parlor of her cerebral cortex. As I thought these thoughts I imagined vast reeling rainbow ribbons of DNA molecules, vast northland pine forests, myriad creatures of the layered jungles of the wet tropics and I remembered how much all of these are threatened now by what is going on in the cerebral cortexes of certain relatives of the monkey family, and by the consequences of our shattered feelings. Then Leon broke the silence by resuming our conversation where it had left off. It depends whose life you want to make better, said Leon as he selected some brie, some portsalut, and some Roquefort from a plate of assorted cheeses. Your ecological imperative will not justify your love ethic because it is quite possible for societies to survive for centuries while practicing exploitation and cruelty. Your position is an historical wager, a bet on the survivability of a society with solidary structures; you wager that a culture which honors the strength of the weak internally will itself be strong externally. Since human cultures are fast becoming a global mosaic, your bet amounts to saying that the global society which can live * Translation: with the poor people of the world, I wish to join my fate. ** Translation: If you want to write me a letter, you know my address./On the Teruel front, first line of fire. 191 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I without destroying itself or the environment will possess rational structures allied with compassion. Wishful thinking thats what it is. You are believing what you want to be true. The ecological imperative, I said, is not simply survival. By ecology I mean what Ernst Haeckel,* one of the people who first used the word, meant by it, simply the sum total of the findings of the natural sciences. We know, for example, as natural facts that we humans need food and companionship, that we avoid stress; we need beauty natural scientists dont often use that word, but the discoveries of behavioral biology and brain physiology, among others, imply that our need for what the word names is fundamental. However, I went on, let us not spoil our lunch by quibbling about the meaning of ecology. What you say about my historical wager expresses my meaning accurately, although I would have used a more traditional vocabulary. I would have said, By death and resurrection, the Cross has set us free, or something of the sort. I might have put on my saffron robe and chanted the Diamond Sutra for you. I might remind you of ways we can appropriate our Greek and medieval inheritances for the people. Philosophy affirms unity as the professor of the history of philosophy at the Sorbonne said in another context. Leon ate one leaf of a spinach salad and pushed the rest away. Sentiment is a poor foundation for social order and morality, he said. As Immanuel Kant writes in his Foundations of the

Metaphysics Of Morals, those who cannot think expect help from feeling. I claim, contrary to your assertion that human survival prospects would be enhanced by bringing up young people to be sentimental, that what we need is plain duty, responsibility. Since Kant is quoted by idealists more often than he is quoted by cynics, I was mildly surprised to find that Kant had become part of Leons repertoire. Immediately I understood why. It is because Kants insistence on plain duty decreed by pure reason, when coupled with a short list of plain duties like respecting property rights and paying debts, can be used to protect the interests of the Leons. Morality and reasoning should not be separated from love, I said. As Makarenko** says, we need rational solidarity. But even if you could build a morality on pure reason, much depends on what rational duties you consider rationally plain. Some middle-wing extremists focalize on irresponsible neglect of so-called plain duties because they believe that if people would live up to plain duties as defined by the ideals of our society, then our problems would be solved. The cultural activist, on the other hand, sees that the recognized duties are themselves inadequate. For example, the duty to live in harmony with the natural processes of the ecosystem which sustains us is not even an ideal of the dominant elites of contemporary societies yet it is the only possible future. What you mean to say, said Leon as he ate half a hard-boiled egg with garlic mayonnaise, is that the middle-wing extremist sees nothing wrong with irrational rationality. She thinks we need to be true to our values, and to pursue them by choosing means that are likely to succeed in making our values effective. My own position is the same, except that my values are fewer and more realistic than those of middle-wing extremists. You attack us by claiming that rationality (using means likely to achieve the ends) is itself irrational. You say our rationality is nonfunctional, and therefore should be changed, and you say it is the product of an historical process, and therefore can be changed by further historical processes. You say that when we overcome focalism and think globally we see that our so-called rationality serves neither the old ideals, nor the new ones we need. But, Leon continued, rejecting and setting aside a dish of taco chips with jalapeo bean dip, the two parts of your argument do not fit together. In Letter 9 you say that what is * Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) German biologist and philosopher. ** Makarenko, A.S. (1888-1939) Soviet educator. 192 Letter 25 irrational about our rationality is (a) it is a logic of disunity, and (b) it is consciousness-lowering. Then in Letter 24 you omit (a) and (b) when you depict the construction of economic society. I sighed and breathed deeply, staring at the rejected taco chips. A Salvadoran peasant appeared on one of the chips as if it were a TV screen. Es tan poco la que queremos! she said, Cantidades suficientes de arroz y frijol, asistencia medica caso de necesidad, fiestas de vez en cuando, vivir tranquilo rodeado de los seres queridos, querer la tierra, los vientos, las aguas puras, morir en la paz de la amistad divina. Por que nos trahan a cada paso?* I said I didnt know everything about the cultural structures which had been utilized by homo sapiens in Europe from the 14th to the 17th centuries, but that I was sufficiently acquainted with their variety and complexity to know that to interpret the process is to make a creative philosophical construction. In Letter 9, I continued, I tried to make some helpful generalizations about the dominant

managerial rationality of the 20th century, stressing its selfishness and its lack of anthropological imagination, while mentioning also in the 9th and other letters some of its other characteristic features such as the root metaphor of force. In the 24th letter I discussed some philosophical aspects of the early development of the kind of society economic society where irrational rationality reigns, but I got only as far as 1660. In any case, I went on, the tendency toward a low level of consciousness, in the sense of viewing local institutions as natural and universal, probably exists everywhere. It does not in itself require an historical explanation of its origins, although we do have a peculiar way of manifesting this tendency, calling ourselves rational, and scientific. Leon decided not to try the couscous royale, and requested instead a few large black Greek olives and a small slice of feta cheese. Since you yourself admit that creative philosophical constructions go beyond the facts, why do you make them? he asked. Why not be like the British empiricists John Locke (1632-1704) and David Hume (1711-1776) who contented themselves with being underlaborers for the sciences, clearing away the metaphysical brambles instead of making more brambles, clearing the ground for the discoveries of the geniuses who really advanced human knowledge, such as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) in the natural sciences and David Humes friend Adam Smith (1725-1790) in the social sciences? England was the first economic society, I replied. Its leading 17th and 18th century philosophers devoted themselves to attacking the metaphysics of other societies while defending their own (soi-disant** anti-metaphysical) metaphysics. Their doctrines were skeptical, in the sense, among others, that they provided few criteria for making decisions. Precisely because they were skeptical they encouraged leaving private decisions to individual choices and public decisions to markets. They created a metaphysics of individuality, but to put the point differently, they created a series of philosophies which reinforced the pattern of their culture. Their philosophies were an effect of their times. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.*** Leon looked at the menu again and chose a dish of marinated lamb. You do not achieve what you set out to achieve, he said. You claim to have told us the story of the contribution of philosophy to the construction of the metaphysics of economic society. What you actually did was to write a few sentences each on Ockham, Descartes, and Hobbes, each of whom wrote many volumes. You wrote nothing at all about Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, Roger Bacon, or Francis Bacon, and almost nothing about the social context in which philosophy was practiced * What we want is so little! Enough rice and beans, medical attention when necessary, fiestas every once in a while, to live quietly with our loved ones, to love the earth, the winds, the pure waters, to die in the peace of divine friendship. Why do they put obstacles in our way at every step? ** Soi-disant: French expression meaning so-called or self-styled. *** George Orwell, Politics and the English Language. 193 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I in Europe in the 14th through 17th centuries. You make rash generalizations from arbitrarily selected and fragmentary evidence. If Leon had conceived thinking more as an adaptive function and less as the production of verified knowledge, he would have criticized my 24th letter less self-righteously. However, since he was a link above me in the food chain, he could hardly be expected to contemplate epistemology from a

rabbits point of view. He was the hound. I, the rabbit, took refuge in a basket of bread, hoping the hound would not be attracted by plain bread among so many tasty dishes, and that my white fur would be a camouflage among the white slices. When Leon unexpectedly reached for the bread, I quickly grabbed the rabbit and put it in my pocket. Why are you putting a piece of bread in your pocket? Leon asked as he used his bread to make a neat mousaka sandwich. Mousaka is an eggplant casserole with a creamy custard top. Excuse me, I said, Ill be right back. I went to the mens washroom, where I managed to pry open an outside window and to thrust the piece of bread out through the grating. Run away little rabbit, I said, Ill talk to the hound about philosophy while you make your escape. Keeping my promise to the rabbit, I asked Leon to make a distinction. I do not claim to have told the story of the contribution of philosophy to the construction of the metaphysics of economic society. I do claim to have illustrated what kind of story it is. It is a story of talking a world into existence.* The existence of any society, including ours, hangs by the breath of human conversation; it is a socially constructed reality, a shared project. The so-called disembedding of economics from society is actually the construction on of the basic symbolic patterns of a particular kind of society. The so-called re-embedding looks a whole lot easier in this light, because we see that economics never freed itself from culture ever. Leon asked me how I could claim to be an orthodox Marxist while attributing social change to human creativity, and he recommended the fetuccini alfredo, which he said was excellent because at the Windsor Arms they use real spinach noodles. Say rather, I replied, that I appreciate the role of behavior guided by symbolic structures in social change, as well as the role of competition for the control of scarce resources. The supposed contradiction between creativity and science only worries people whose worldview is limited by a mechanical root metaphor which makes a sharp distinction between law-governed behavior and free behavior a point to be developed in Letters 29-33 (on Kant). Leon ordered eggs florentine and tasted a spoonful of it. He told me I am an elitist because my philosophy is Eurocentric, unlike his foundation which has in the past year made grants to African art, to native American philosophy, to Chinese music, and to Inca religion. I told him military repression and world commerce destroy more cultural diversity in a day than his foundation can support in a century, that our highest priority must be to stop the industrial-military processes which took shape in Europe, began in Europe, dominated the world starting from Europe, and now threaten the destruction of all traditional ideals everywhere. I added, however, that it was right decent of Leon to make grants. Leon pronounced himself satisfied with his Swiss enchilada. Its hard to get a good Swiss enchilada in Canada, he said, You need to use cream not more than a day old. He was not satisfied with my philosophy, which he said was bad poetry, poetry because it is confessedly fictitious, and bad because it stirs up ressentiment [which translated into English means jealousy], particularly the envy the embittered masses feel toward the educated classes. Leons low opinion of my poetry reminded me of a true story, which I told him while he ate fresh salmon with dill sauce. Once I had a student from the educated classes her father was * See John D. Groppe, Reality as Enchantment a Theory of Repetition, Rhetoric Review, vol. 2 no. 2, January 1984, pp. 165-174. 194 Letter 25

Ivy League and her mother FFV (First Families of Virginia), two status symbols without importance outside the U.S.A. but important inside the U.S.A. Due to personal tragedies best not mentioned, she felt a call to help the chronically poor in her hometown. You see this is not a story about the envious class rising up in bitter hatred; it is a story about the property-owning class reaching down in sweet loving kindness. She helped by running a pedagogically sophisticated preschool she called it The Evening Club for toddlers from homes where the parents were chronically unemployed or chronically underpaid. One day she had a crisis of conscience. She realized that if her preschool were to raise the ability of the toddlers enough, then the result would be that they, unlike their parents, would get good jobs. Consequently, someone else would lose the jobs they would have had if The Evening School had not existed. Some new people would become downwardly mobile, becoming chronically unemployed or underpaid, replacing the people made upwardly mobile by The Evening School. She was caught in a structural trap. When she became aware of the structural trap, she realized that where 7 to 12% unemployment is a permanent feature of a system, the system needs to be transformed. She was frustrated because although she knew how to help her toddler friends, she did not know how to help transform the society. The happy ending to the story is that she read my philosophy, and it helped her to see what she could do to transform the system. Which made me feel that my poetry is not so bad after all. Leon said, although he may not have been sincere, that he was glad I had a good feeling about my bad poetry, but he for his part felt yucky because even though he was trying to lose weight and for that reason had taken only a few bites from each dish he had ordered, still the cumulative effect of the luncheon had been to convince him that philosophy was not good for his digestion, for which reason he would have only a tiny piece of baklava for dessert, and would not inquire what my student had found in my philosophy which helped her see what she could do to transform economic society, since in any case the practical advice the student had found helpful would probably be provided for the reader in subsequent letters and in any case he, Leon, did not want to know how to nurture the strength of the weak, which was presumably what I had in mind, but rather how to preserve the strength of the strong since he considered himself to be among the strong, and among the rational, and among the righteous, although not, as he had implied before, among the sentimental, but still he, Leon, could not help wondering why I think the system can and will be transformed, and why I see my philosophy as a contribution to its transformation, since as far as he can see the system is, fortunately, well entrenched and heavily fortified, and will not change, and my philosophy is just a lot of dithering about words. I tried to explain to Leon, since he had asked why society will improve and how my philosophy will contribute to its improvement, that the mystical kernel will burst its rational shell, which was not easy to explain because in the proposition whose grounds I attempted to make plain the meanings of mystical kernel and rational shell must be made clear because they are not on first appearance at all clear to the average reader, or for that matter to any reader, for which reason one might inquire, as Leon did inquire while eating a piece of chocolate mousse cake, disregarding his previously expressed intention to have just a tiny piece of baklava, apparently because he now felt less yucky, why one chooses to use the phrases mystical kernel and rational shell whose meanings are not clear if ones purpose is to make oneself understood, to which inquiry one might respond, as I did respond to Leon while daydreaming about sunsets in the Rocky Mountains, that the image of the kernel and the shell is striking, so that even though it may cost the reader some pains to understand the point at first, and the writer no less pains to explain it, still, due to the novelty of the image, the point expressed by

195 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I the image, once understood, is likely to be remembered, and furthermore the phrase parallels two remarks by Karl Marx, with the first of which it can helpfully be contrasted and with the second of which it can helpfully be compared, the first being Marxs remark in the preface to Capital where he says he has extracted the rational kernel from the mystical shell of the dialectic philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel, and the second being in appearance only a small parallel, since the similarity of language is found only in the one word bursts, although the similarity of meaning is great, where in the 32nd chapter of Capital Marx says production will burst its integument (cf. Letter 19 of this work, not Marxs), by which he (Marx) means that use values will burst the bonds imposed by exchange values a meaning which is admittedly extremely obscure here, whose clarification I shall, with your kind permission I trust, defer to subsequent letters on Marx, because the pressing task at this moment is to explain what mystical kernel and rational shell meant when I answered Leon by saying, The mystical kernel will burst the rational shell! The kernel is the heart of the matter, the essential part. In many fields today, people are expressing what is essential in terms like interconnectedness, building wholeness and community, being guided by the spirit as opposed to self-assertion. In management, company culture, including the companys stories and ideals, is perceived as essential, as is closeness to the customers. (See for example Peters and Waterman, In Search of Excellence.) In therapy, the reintegration of the isolated individual into a caring community is essential. (See for example, Jerome Frank, Persuasion and Healing.) In teaching, the successful methods are the ones that provide greater rapport with the mind of the child. (See for example David Weikart, The Cognitive Curriculum.) In agriculture the leading scientists recognize that a sustainable future requires a sense of community with the biosphere. (See for example the reports of the Rodale Cornucopia Project.) In physics and the natural sciences generally, wholistic approaches prove fruitful. In sociology, anthropology, and social work the successful approaches establish rapport with human subjects, or see the human group in its ecological context, or both. In conflict resolution trust, credibility, legitimacy, and community building are in the kernel of successful negotiation. (See for example the reports of the Harvard negotiation studies.) ...One could mention almost any field. The kernel is called mystical because not many years ago the new ideas which are now accepted by the leading minds (because they work) were scoffed at as mystical; and because the traditional mysteries, the water of baptism, the bread and wine of communion, express interconnectedness and wholeness; and because community requires what Paul Ricoeur* calls a deuxime naivet,** a second tribal consciousness recovered at many levels by post-tribal peoples; and because there is mystery in creative lizardry. The rational shell is irrational rationality. It still governs the economic, legal, and military frameworks of life, which form the hard shell of the social structure. Increasingly the incompetence of the shell is becoming evident to everybody, because anybody who can really do anything or understand anything is using the new ideas (which are, of course, in many cases ancient). The new consciousness reaches a critical mass; the mystical kernel bursts the rational shell. Whoopee! said Leon as he ate a gteau Louis XV. The gteau is a marbled chocolate and orange cake with strawberry jam between layers. You overlook the most essential part, he

* Paul Ricoeur (1913-): French philosopher. ** deuxime naivet: French expression meaning second innocence. 196 Letter 25 went on. The kernel of the matter is that we have the power, and we will keep it. Bring on your new ideas, shift paradigms, change root metaphors, surpass the old consciousness, hob the metaphysics of economic society auf... write whatever philosophy you wish. We are not dumb. We keep up with the latest intellectual trends, we ransack the past for ancient wisdom... and we use it all to exploit you. Now you understand the significance of the conversation with Roger in Letter One, I said. The new ideas must be the peoples ideas; they must grow from their consciousness and their organization. Or, if I achieve my highest aspiration to facilitate the appropriation of science and tradition by the people without ceasing to be one of them we may say our consciousness and our organization. Du bist auch ein gewhnlicher Mensch! exclaimed Leon. (You are also an ordinary man.) You are a power-seeker like the others. An Irish coffee now will be just the thing to settle the old tum. And a glass of port with almonds and raisins. You believe power is reality, dont you? Dont you? The proof is that the final aim of your philosophy is to organize the masses to take power. You threaten us. We threaten you. Thats Realpolitik. Yesterday, today, and forever. It would be constructive, I suggested, to distinguish Realpolitik from empowerment. Realpolitik is the brute power of mechanical force. It is when one factor impacts another. It is when a subject acts on an object. It is when the person who knows everything crams it into the head of the person who knows nothing. It is when the machine stamps shapes out of raw material. It is noise. It is what the free market does to the price of bananas in Costa Rica. It is when the eastern and western hemispheres become so polarized that the straining earth cracks down the middle. Empowerment is the growth of the strength of the weak; it is organization, communication. It is better codes, equipped to carry more functional messages. It is when we have one will; it is spirit. It is when we affirm our relationships and love binds us; it is form. It is when our culture is in harmony with the environment. It is when reason distributes goods rightly. It is when our horizons merge and we realize we are all one people. It is the rule of the (truly) rational over the irrational. Hagia sophia! I concluded. (That means holy wisdom, in Greek.) When I got the check for the clam chowder, I wrote Hagia sophia on it. Look me up next time youre in New York, said Leon. We must continue this conversation. Evidently my account of empowerment had not moved him. I slinked out of the small hotel less happy than I had been when I sauntered into it. I left feeling like an intruder at my own funeral. Who invited you? the crowd demanded to know. Who invited you to the funeral? I tried to explain that since my body was the corpse of the deceased, my presence was permissible at a social gathering of this nature, but in spite of my explanation which seemed to me so convincing that I did not understand why the crowd did not accept it, I was forcibly removed from the chapel amid boos and hisses and sternly reminded that federal law prohibits breathing. As I walked away I suddenly realized with horror that I was breathing. My first thought was to conceal the evidence by turning my body inside out, so that the interior of my lungs would be indistinguishable from the surrounding atmosphere. While attempting to carry out this difficult feat, I hurried down the street as inconspicuously as possible, pretending to be water vapour carried

by the wind. My disguise evidently did not work, for at the very first corner a young lady accused me of staring at her. I must tell this one to the police, I said to myself, they wont believe it. I dialed the police from a pay telephone. Say listen to this, I said. You wont believe this one. My friends are rejecting me and I suffer from lack of money. I am crying in a telephone booth. 197 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. I Apart from the incidents just mentioned my journey from the Windsor Arms to Queens Park was uneventful. I traveled on foot and kept my right hand in my pocket, tightly clutching my passport for fear that among the rush of automobiles, trucks, buses, delivery vans, and other vehicles I could lose my identity. Among the entities I have cathected when depressed and dejected are animals and plan) especially plants. On this occasion, when I arrived at the park I sat upon a bench facing a bowl of gardenias, columbines, trilliums, and Iceland poppies. Tell me, dear ones, I said, You who are so young, so fresh, with petals so soft, and breath. so sweet, do you understand why our culture fails us? Do you know why this modern culture of ours fails over and over again, generation after generation, to bring out the good potential, available in the genes and bodies of animals of our species? Why are human institutions not designed to make us cooperative and affectionate? Why not? Why not? No, said the flowers. We do not understand. We do not understand at all. And why, I continued, is irrational rationality so proud of itself? Why is it so confident that is has an answer to every question? When will the mystical kernel finally burst the rational shell? We do not know, said the gardenias, the columbines, the trilliums, and the Iceland poppies. We do not know why and we do not know when. Do you understand why the hungry have no food? That we do understand, said the flowers, and so do you. We wish the story were prettier. Do you understand why the homeless have no homes? We understand that too, said the flowers, sighing in the wind. And do you understand, I went on, why the police take fathers and mothers away from their children in the middle of the night, and torture them until they are dead, and throw their bodies into rivers? And why snipers with guns shoot people at random for no reason? And why men rape women? And why it goes on and on, year after year, century after century? No, you do not understand, I said, and dont tell me that you do. It is past understanding; it is unreal, my dear ones, incomprehensible, unacceptable, unbearable... Then it was their turn to speak to me. Listen to the wind as it blows, said the flowers. The wind speaks in the branches of brother tree as the waves speak from the sea. It is the heartbeat of our ancient mother earth. She is all of life, the skies and every sea. Speak to us flowers, we are her messengers, we the gardenias, the columbines, the trilliums, the Iceland poppies, we bring you kisses from your mother. Oh thank you, thank you, I said to the flowers. That was just what I needed to hear. Sometimes I have trouble pulling myself together that is why I am grateful when my friends are kind to me. 198 VOLUME TWO:

Methods for Transforming the Structures of the Modern World All, all of a piece throughout: Thy chase had a beast in view; Thy wars brought nothing about; Thy lovers were all untrue. Tis well an old age is out, And time to begin a new. Dryden, from Secular Masque CONTENTS Introduction to Volume II: Social Being...................................... xix Letter 26 Lets Pretend Were Real......................................... 199 Letter 27 Kants Context................................................. 211 Letter 28 The Murmuring Pines .......................................... 221 Letter 29 Mach Dich Mein Herze Rein (Make Thee My Heart Pure)............... 233 Letter 30 The Intimate Dinosaur .......................................... 241 Letter 31 Certain Difficulties of One of Many Anonymous Persons Concerning the Payment of His Rent, Together With Sundry Other Matters Which May Be Regarded Partly As Causes, Partly As Consequences, of Difficulties With Rents .............................................. 245 Letter 32 Womanpower ................................................. 251 Letter 33 A Feasible Peace Plan or The Servant of the Word At the Discotheque or A Mothers Kiss.................................................... 261 Letter 34 Charlies Angels Were Henrietta And Heinrich....................... 271 Letter 35 Love Believes All Things......................................... 277 Letter 36 The Making of a Counter Culture ................................. 285 Letter 37 The Forest Creatures Hear a Confession............................ 293 Letter 38 Leaves From Grandfather Lunas Notebook ......................... 307 Letter 39 And Now: Your Instructor In The Magical Arts Will Be The Prince of Darkness ............................................... 315 Letter 40 Phenomenology and Community.................................. 323 Letter 41 The Road To Emmaus .......................................... 335 Letter 42 Heideggers Way ............................................... 345 Letter 43 The Same Subject Continued or The View From The Back Seat......... 353 Letter 44 The General Form of the Problem of Peace (and How We Can Work for Peace) ...................................... 361 Letter 45 Messages or a Morning Walk ..................................... 371 Letter 46 The Great Mirror in the Inner, Inner, Inner Circle .................... 383 Letter 47 Ginetta and Angeletti ........................................... 397 Letter 48 Who Will Be the Last Metaphysician? .............................. 407 Letter 49 The Beloved Community ........................................ 415 Letter 50 Nameless ..................................................... 423 Introduction to Volume II INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME II: Social Being

Rom Harr says in his book called Social Being that if women come to interpret marriage as a form of slavery, instead of interpreting it as a haven from loneliness and as an ideal way to live, then marriage will change. Harrs point is that marriage itself will change, not that the attitude of women will change. Marriage will be different because, since it will be differently regarded, it will have different consequences. The example Harr gives illustrates a general principle. If men come to interpret marriage as the enslavement of men, then again a change in interpretation will produce a change in the institution, although in a different way and with different results. If freedom (that is to say, the permissions to do as we choose commonly regarded as freedom), were interpreted as a vile form of corruption, then freedom would change. Freedom, like marriage would change if it were seen differently, because (in Harrs terminology) its causal powers would change. The institutions in question (in these examples marriage and freedom) would do different things, and since they would do different things they would be different things. Social institutions are similar to natural entities such as trees and molecules in the respect that what they do determines what they are, if not wholly then at least partly. Trees photosynthesize, and if a putative tree does not, then it is not a tree. If an acid molecule combines with copper to form copper sulfate, while simultaneously releasing hydrogen gas, then it is a molecule of sulfuric acid. Similarly, schools educate, and a putative school which teaches nothing is not a school. The causal powers of schools, however, or of monies, or of parliaments, are unlike those of natural entities in the respect that they change when people see them differently. When it is understood that re-interpretation can change causal powers, an important dimension of the last of Karl Marxs Theses on Feuerbach is thrown into relief. Marx wrote, The philosophers have only differently interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it. A different interpretation, which, although it may begin among a few people, spreads, gains adherents, mobilizes energy, and organizes action is a change. Re-interpreting our symbolic structures is the way philosophers change the world, particularly with respect to the typical concerns of philosophy such as the establishment of criteria for regarding judgments as rational or irrational, and the re-interpretation of key words (or, it you prefer, great ideas) like truth, beauty, freedom, justice, scientific, rights, law, love, life, cause and effect, I, thou, person, revolution, peace, development, God, democracy, experience, security, health, cost/effective, data, meaning, structure, system, responsibility, probable... That philosophy is a way to change the world is good news, especially when it is coupled with the news that philosophy can become a mass activity, directed toward the co-operative reinterpretation of the ides-forces which move us. then philosophy is seen as part of the reinterpretation of words and actions (one should also mention images) at every level, grassroots to elite; when it-is not sharply distinguishable from community organizing, political activism, teaching, consciousness-raising, art, counselling, and therapy, then we can call it cultural action. It is action which changes the culture, by interpreting it. xix LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II Marx knew, and so do we, that a mere interpretation is not enough. Anew message without a new power is like a turn of the rudder when there is no wind in the sails. Marx contrasted the interpretations of philosophers with his own scientific and literary work because he, unlike the philosophers to whom he referred, had in mind a source of energy for change namely the proletariat, the motive power of history.

History has, however, more motive powers than one. History is the sum of all human action, and human action draws, in the last analysis, on the energy provided by the oxidation of simple sugars in muscle cells, triggered by nerves and hormones. Actions are guided (in the cases of typical human action, as distinct from automatic responses) by symbolic structures, and therefore the names of motives refer to their interpretations in their cultural settings, not to their chemistry. We say, for example, that a person acted from jealousy; not that she or he acted from adrenalin. To make a re-interpretation issue in action, cultural action requires energy. This concept is wider than Marxian theory. Marxian theories, in all their bewildering variety, are parts of cultural action, but they are not the whole of it. Cultural action is a broad concept which includes all methods of reconstructing social reality. The concept provides a focus for studying how societies have transformed themselves in the past, and it provides a useful perspective on the methods now used by those of us who call ourselves activists. An advantage of cultural action as a concept is that it is so broad that it does not exclude from consideration any change in the symbolic structures (also known as forms of life, practices with their discourses, traditions, frames of meaning, hermeneutic regulations of action)* with which we humans organize ourselves to function in the niches we inhabit in social systems and ecosystems. Changes in language, gestures, property rights, money, kinship structures, visions of the cosmos, gender roles, technologies, fashions, schools... are all included. Nothing human is excluded. Another advantage of using such an inclusive concept is that its inclusiveness facilitates seeing the patterns which link one aspect of a culture with another. Since a culture, like an organism, is an open system whose parts cohere with the whole (although the coherence is clumsy, constantly being renegotiated, and conflict-pervaded) a change in one part is likely to require changes in all the others. The ripple effect of change is a reason why activists should try to understand the patterns in cultures. It is also a good reason for being suspicious of anyone who has a plan for replacing war with peace (for example) while leaving everything else the same. The concept of cultural action also has the advantage of compatibility with any source of energy. The motive force for moving from one social practice to another can be anger, calculated selfinterest, pride, fear, love, shame... etc. Here the etc. refers to continuing the list of simple names of motives, but we need not exclude (for example) the complex process through which, according to Jean-Paul Sartres Critique of Dialectical Reason, people become committed revolutionaries. On the other hand, neither need we consider Sartres account (or Fanons, or Audre Lordes, or Ted Robert Gurrs, or Freires, or anyone elses) to be the only true story about how the energy needed to effect social change gets mobilized. The phrase symbolic structure is also used by Habermas. The phrase with overlapping meaning form of life comes from Wittgenstein; practices with their discourses comes from the Foucault school and the praxis schools; traditions comes from Gadamer; frames of meaning is a phrase used by Anthony Giddens; hermeneutic regulations of action is adopted from Piaget, as is discussed in Letter 10. A distinction between meaning explanations and energy explanations is found in Anthony Wildens System, and Structure. xx Introduction to Volume II The advantage of conceiving the reconstruction of social reality so generally is, in summary, that nothing is excluded, so that in principle one works for every desirable change and uses every available source of motivation. The corresponding disadvantage is that such a general concept provides no direction; it does not identify the main problems and the main obstacles to solving

them; it provides no way to distinguish the mere amelioration of a local problem from a step toward restructuring the global system; nor does it even for that matter distinguish progress from reaction. By itself, without further elaboration, it condemns people of goodwill to a role in life consisting of an endless series of directionless acts of kindness, which would not be the worst or the most despicable role to play in life, which would be perhaps a source of comfort for those who are pained by the impurity of their hearts and even an antidote to the dangers inherent in the brutal service of an overarching grand design, but which is less than the survival of the human species requires. A source of direction can be provided, and will be provided in the following letters, by a concept of basic structure. If you know which structure is basic, then you know that the main problem is to change it; its defenses are the main obstacles; ameliorating a local problem is simultaneously a step toward global transformation when it contributes to a viable and lovable transformation of the systems basic structure. A change is not progressive if its result is to cement the worst features of the basic structure into place. A concept of basic structure, which will necessarily have to be shown and elaborated before it can be helpfully named and defined, gives meaning to the proposition that although the concept of cultural action, change by re-Interpretation, is comprehensively catholic, not every change is equally valuable. Some changes strike at the roots of our problems; others at the branches, or the leaves. I do not believe, either, that all sources of human energy are equally eligible to be mobilized as power for good, even though in its comprehensive catholicity the general concept of cultural action considers all motives. I continue to believe in the twentieth century, especially because of what has happened in the twentieth century, that la douceur est la seul vraie force. (Softness is the only true force.) The reconstruction of social reality is the reconstruction of software, and there are reasons why it can best be done softly. The following letters begin with a complex and quite essential series of conversations in which the main speakers are, apart from my slightly fictionalized self, Jrgen Habermas, Hannah Arendt, Immanuel Kant, and a fictitious feminist named Maria Luna. The topics discussed are power, capitalism, love, how to live, science, morals, and how to build world peace. The general theme is the philosophy of Kant, since although by the end of Volume One I had introduced some key structures of modern philosophy and society, I had not yet set out the classic synthesis of modernity, the work of Kant. Kants work shows us our basic structure, and its basic-ness is confirmed as we encounter again and again the same structure in our discussions of power, capitalism, love, how to live, science, morals, and how to build world peace. Kant is the horizon of Habermas and Luna; that is to say, Kants philosophy (slightly modified) is the line of hills beyond which they cannot see. In the course of the Kant conversations, which occupy letters 26 through 33, the basic structure of our global society becomes visible, and it becomes clear at the same time that Kant is as much its product as its producer. Given that the structures were in place, even though they had not yet in the late 18th century become fully global, it was almost inevitable that someone would integrate their principal symbolisms into a coherent system. As it turned out, Kant is preeminent among those who were called to perform that philosophical labor. xxi LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II The subsequent letters, 34 through 38, deal with Karl Marx, who formulated the classic critique of the modern social formation. In an important sense it makes no difference whether we take Kant or

Marx as our cantus firmus. Both show the sane basic symbolic structure. For Kant the structure is immutable and right (indeed in provides the standard of lightness, as well as the eternal form of any possible human experience). For Marx it is one of several social structures which for a time come to occupy the center of historys stage, have their day, and then pass away and are forgotten by all except lovers of ancient lore. Our basic structure is, for Marx, at the same time good inasmuch as it has raised technology and the appreciation of the human personality to unprecedented levels, which need to be preserved in the next and higher stage of civilization, and also bad inasmuch as it alienates us from our true social being. But the most important lessons to be learned from reflecting on Marxs work are not those about what is wrong with capitalism a topic on which most people are already well-informed by personal experience but the lessons about how to change it. The remaining letters, 3 9 through 50, deal with some of post-Marxian western philosophys main contributions to transforming our social reality. If these fairly diverse commentaries have a general thesis, it is that several landmark texts of twentieth century philosophy have in common the questioning of modern western cultures rationality. They question it from standpoints which although different have some overlapping themes, these being mainly a shift from mechanical to linguistic models, and an appreciation of everyday truths as distinct from scientific laws. PostMarxian philosophers have had a variety of motives for engaging in critiques of one or another aspect of our cultures basic symbolic structures, but in spite of the variety of their motivations each of those to be discussed provides tools for constructing a transformed and improved civilization. One can derive from recent philosophy even some fairly detailed practical suggestions for community organizing and economic planning. Moreover, by becoming aware of some central and seminal texts (the classic statements of ideas which have had countless copies and echoes) we put activism in touch with the main currents of thought in our western-dominated global system. We will turn often to sources outside the western intellectual establishment to build alternatives to Asia, to Africa, to indigenous peoples, to the thinking of oppressed groups, to the discourses that arise from transformative practices but we need to know also the resources for transformation which grow from the self-criticism of the high culture of the modern west. The movements and philosophers whose relationships to our global societys basic structure are discussed in letters 39 through 50 are romantic existentialism (i.e. Heidegger), cultural Marxism (i.e. Gramsci), fascism, liberal positivist philosophys critique of itself (i.e. Wittgenstein), fascism, evangelical liberalism (i.e. Martin Luther King, Jr.), some versions of feminism which praise inclusive caring relationships and both/and solutions to problems (i.e. Gilligan and Noddings; one could have chosen others), and deconstruction as a step toward reconstruction (i.e. Derrida). xxii Letter 26 26 LETS PRETEND WERE REAL Consider, dear God, that we do not understand ourselves, that we do not know what we want, and that we distance ourselves infinitely from what we desire. St. Teresa of Avila Even now, even during this late epoch of the modern structure, when the plague and the pestilence of its chronic loneliness have sapped the strength of its images; when its words are not bread; when its dreams of romance wilt, wither, and shrivel like plants without water; even now there lives in Germany, in the smog-shrouded city of Frankfurt, a wonderful professor of philosophy who, when

he speaks English, pronounces world as if it were whirl. I cannot imagine, under the circumstances, a more endearing characteristic, and I recommend that everyone think of the world as a whirl, that is to say, as an unstable process. Whirl! Whirl! I shall try to give this whirl the appearance of stability for a moment by adjusting my lens to focus on the title of this letter. About my title, Lets Pretend Were Real, one might say, if one were motivated to comment on a title, that it is self-contradictory. One might argue that to be real is something we cannot pretend. We are real. To be is to be real. So one might say. Hence, one might continue, from the moment that the premise is granted that we are, it follows necessarily that we are real. And if we are real so one might continue the argument then we cannot pretend to be real. A person can only pretend one might claim something that is not true, and since it is true that we are real we cannot pretend it. What I will try to show, nevertheless, in this and the succeeding letters, is that Jrgen Habermas has pretended to be real, and has done so in a most disastrous way, a way which when considered together with the millions of similar errors made by less sophisticated persons can be regarded as the undoing of the New Left, of many feminists, and of many other middlewing extremists who are struggling enthusiastically but incompetently to change the world or should I say whirl? No, lets leave world in this context, since one of my aims is to show how to see beyond the limitations of the world as seen by the New Left, so that you will be empowered to change the whirl with more flexibility and imagination than they have been able to muster. The New Left is failing to transform the whirl with its critical theories, and with its rather harsh and strident practical discourse, just because its conception of the world is rigid. In order to find an opening to express and to make clear some of the limitations of the thinking of the wonderful professor Habermas, who, unfortunately, is not wonderful enough, I want to pursue the implications of a misunderstanding concerning the concept of power between him and his late friend Hannah Arendt. The pursuit of these implications will eventually show how it is possible to pretend to be real and be dangerously mistaken. However, I want even more even more than that to tell you something about prayer, and in order to satisfy this more vehement desire to communicate which I am feeling I will first lead you on a detour concerning pain and pleasure, which will lead back to the conversation between Habermas and Arendt about power in ten minutes (or fewer if you are a fast reader). 199 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II I suppose that one reason I need to write about prayer first is that I pray to survive, and even though I want to transform the structures of the modern world, I really do, I need to pull together the will to survive before I can contribute to the cause of global structural transformation or be of any use to anyone. As the scene opens, I am lying in bed. So here I am lying in bed with my body. Or, I should say, being my body, since a person is not so much with her or his own body as in the body or as the body. Anyway, here I am. My body is pain and tension. There are words running through my head. I think of my skull as a word-box. Under the skull the outer part of the brain, the cerebral cortex, continuously flashes sounds of words and traces of images, like a little theater in a box. A box of little dramas. My objective as I lie here is to relax. That relaxation is my aim in life at this point in time can be explained by the Pleasure Principle theory of Sigmund Freud. The logical form of the explanation

is the bringing of a particular case, me now as a body in a bed, under a general law, which can be stated: everybody always wants to relax. The concept behind this general law is that evolution has provided for the survival of the human species by endowing us with a sympathetic nervous system; the function of this nervous system is to be irritated by needs and alarms; it sends insistent jangling messages until it is quieted. So the best message to the brain from the nerves is: all clear, nothing to report. Total relaxation, total bliss. The Pleasure Principle explains why people enjoy orgasms, beer, lying in the sun, narcotics, steam baths, mild poisons such as tobacco, the satiation of hunger, vacations, escapist fantasies, defecation, and the quenching of thirst. An obvious objection to the theory is that people also enjoy excitement; as in skiing, basketball games, scary movies, rock concerts, and being turned on sexually or with drugs. This objection can be answered without abandoning the Pleasure Principle by postulating that strong emotions surge over and drown out the nagging irritations and alarms of everyday life, giving us relaxation by flooding the channels. Thus one can say, I felt so good when I hit the S.O.B. Or, I cried and cried it was a wonderful movie. Freud knew, of course, that more than two thousand years earlier Aristotle had spoken, in reference to Greek drama, of strong emotions as having a cleansing, purgative effect. One can, I conclude, be cleansed of lifes boring and bothersome tensions, one can wash them out of ones nerves, by a good cry, a passionate lust, a hot rage, an exciting ball game, or a war. So here I am inhabiting my uncomfortable body while Freuds theory of the Pleasure Principle is running through the theater of my mind, and I am saying to myself that it is a fine theory not (as Freud himself recognized) a complete and adequate theory, but, nevertheless, illuminating. My current purpose in life, which is to relax, becomes, in the light of the theory, natures purpose. My nerves were made to bother me, and I to quiet them. Nevertheless reciting the words of the theory to myself does not do anything to ease my pain. Even the reflection that my aim coincides with natures brings no relief. Freuds and other scientific theories can guide my steps toward health, insofar as I consciously make decisions in the light of knowledge of how my body works, but they cannot bathe me in light, clothe me in comfort, take me in their arms, sing me a lullaby, and put me to sleep. So I turn to prayer. First I recite the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ). Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me; Blood of Christ, inebriate me; Water from the side of Christ, wash me; Passion of Christ, strengthen me: O good Jesus, hear me; within they sacred sounds, hide me; Permit me not to be separated from thee; from the malignant enemy, defend me; In the hour of my death call me; And bid me come to thee, that with the saints I may praise thee. Forever and ever. Amen. Then a Hail Mary! Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blest is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary. Mother of God. Pray for 200 Letter 26 us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. I close with two lines from my favorite movie, Stop Making Sense, by The Talking Heads: Take me to the river/Drop me in the water. It is, unfortunately, the prevailing opinion in the modern world that it is irrational for a person to cultivate a personal relationship with Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, Mother of God, Star of the Sea, Queen of Heaven; or to want to be dropped in the water, drenched with love, as Thomas Kelley used to say. I hope you do not agree with the prevailing opinion. I hope you are one of those who remembers that rational comes from the Latin root ratio, which translates the Greek logos, which means word. Platos rational part of the soul is the part that has the word. And what word could

be more rational, more word-al, than the comforting voice of Our Blessed Lady? Well, I admit that the words of the Diamond Sutra would do it better for a Buddhist, and that the soft and tender call of Jesus would be sweeter for a Protestant, but these admissions do not damage my argument, because I am seeking a voice to comfort my body, since I am my body, here and now, and not some other body somewhere else. However, my argument is damaged by another admission which I must also make: We are a minority, those of us who remember what words are for. The prevailing opinion is therefore correct it is irrational to find comfort in spiritual companionship because irrational means what accepted usage says it means, not what we, who have better memories, say it should mean. Our point of view but really I should not be using the first person plural, since I do not know that you agree with me, so let me say instead my point of view is that I need to be comforted. To the extent that the cultures definition of rationality makes it impossible to fill ones aching mind with beautiful images, to reassure one another and to lift each other up, rationality should change. My argument for change is this: as our culture is, it is not working. This is the end of the detour. I had to tell you this story about a person in pain who said a prayer for... so many reasons. Because it is true. Because we do what we need to do to survive: we look for friends and we hang out with them even if they are bad company; we turn to crime; we turn to drugs; we turn to prayer and we are born again. Because the poor the real poor, not the ones in theories and statistics are in pain. If you walk down a street in the ghetto you can see in their faces their jangling nerves. Because, pace Habermas, real communication is born in constraint, necessity. Because we are the majority. We, the wounded. Because when philosophy adopts serenity as its style, as it usually has, it is pretending to be real. (This is not the full development of my notion of pretending to be real. That will come in later letters. This is just a hint.) Because I need to put Habermas in context, and since he, like all great philosophers, has written a comprehensive system which appears to provide a place for everything, it is necessary to go rather far afield to find a framework even wider than his extremely comprehensive framework, so as to have a context for his text. Because his philosophy is (as I will try to show) an expression of the spirit of our century, so that to see beyond his horizon is to see beyond the horizon of the spirit of our time, which requires an attempt to hear again the voices of previous times (such as the ancient meanings of ratio and logos). And to hear the voices of the human body; the body is beyond the horizon of the spirit of our century, for the time passed since its signals were encoded is measured in thousands, millions, of years. Call this detour a brief attempt, with some help from Sigmund Freud and an assist from Aristotle, to learn what the body wants. Our opening into the thoughts of the wonderful German professor will be an essay he wrote in 1976 called Hannah Arendts Begriff der Macht (Hannah Arendts Concept of Power). This essay was for some reason (or for all I know for no reason) omitted when the rest of 201 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II Habermas 1976 essays were published in English translation as Communication and the Evolution of Society (Boston: Beacon Press,). Macht. Power. You will remember from Lapps and Collins Food First* that the problem of hunger is a problem of power. If the poor had power they would not be poor. They are poor because they lack power. How many people have tried to learn the secret of power in order to get some! Peace among nations will become a reality when a global institution, such as the United Nations, has the power to enforce international law. To work for justice is to do those things which empower the powerless. Power. Hannah Arendts

thinking on power is the topic on which the essay which will be our point of entry into Habermas thought is a commentary. Arendts discussion of the subject was itself provoked by the mindless abuse of the concept of power in academic social science, in some of the student ideologies of the 1960s, by some spokespersons for Black Power, by Frantz Fanon in his book The Wretched of the Earth, and by Jean-Paul Sartre, in his introduction to Fanons book, where Sartre wrote, among other things, irrepressible violence... is man recreating himself, it is through mad fury that the wretched of the earth can become men. And, To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone... there remain a dead man and a free man.** It was in response to academic pseudo-science and the reckless glorification of mindless chaos that Arendt tried to articulate a valid and reasonable concept of power. First I will quote some of Arendts words and paraphrase others, taking advantage of the occasion to add two points of my own. Then I will discuss two doubts Habermas raises about her concept of power. Then I will claim that Habermas misperception of Arendt provides a clue to a mystery, a mystery whose solution requires further investigation of this modern mind this modern mind which holds us captive because we are in it, we think with it, it is in us, it thinks in us. Finally I will come back to my reflections on Freuds Pleasure Principle. Arendt writes, It is, I think, a rather sad reflection on the present state of political science that our terminology does not distinguish among such key words as power, strength, force, authority, and, finally, violence all of which refer to distinct, different phenomena and would hardly exist unless they did. (In the words of dEntreves, might, power, authority: these are all words to whose exact implications no great weight is attached in current speech; even the greatest thinkers sometimes use them at random. Yet it is fair to presume that they refer to different properties, and their meaning should therefore be carefully assessed and examined... The correct use of these words is a question not only of logical grammar, but of historical perspective.) To use them as synonyms not only indicates a certain deafness to linguistic meanings, which would be serious enough, but it has also resulted in a kind of blindness to the realities they correspond to. In such a situation it is always tempting to introduce new definitions, but though I shall briefly yield to temptation what is involved is not simply a matter of careless speech, behind the apparent confusion is a firm conviction in whose light all distinctions would be, at best, of minor importance: the conviction that the most crucial political issue is, and always has been, the question of who rules whom? Power, strength, force, authority, violence these are but words to indicate the means by which man rules over man; they are held to be synonyms because they have the same function. It is only after one ceases to reduce public affairs to the business of dominion that the original data in the realm of human affairs will appear, or, rather, reappear, in their authentic diversity. * Letters 6 and 7. ** Sartre, J.-P., as quoted by Hannah Arendt. On Violence. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969, pp.12-13. On Violence, pp. 43-44. 202 Letter 26 I agree with this passage except insofar as it may mean that some one meaning of each key words, such as power or violence, is its single correct meaning. That is to say, I agree that there are important distinctions to be made (as well as important similarities to notice) although lam willing to let differing writers use words in the ways they prefer for their purposes without calling any of

them wrong. However, there are two points I need to add. The first is that the excessive running together of different meanings, which Arendt rightly protests, is abetted by pseudo-scientific methods in the social sciences, which Arendt also rightly protests. Social pseudo-science is mostly the product of physics envy; it consists of measuring variables and simulating the logic of the controlled experiment. A variable can also be called a factor, a force, an effect, or a power, and in the design of experiments the independent variable can be called a treatment, factor, or force. Indeed, in the extreme, any common noun or noun phrase can be operationally defined by a procedure for measuring it, and then treated as a variable. Then it matters little what words are used to name the entities studied because their sum and substance is given by the operations that measure them, and by the mathematics and logic used in the analysis. Thus pseudo-science is a cause as well as a result of a careless use of words which disregards the histories of their meanings and the diversity of their functions. It is just one step from the logic of forces used in quantitative science and pseudo-science to the logic of domination. To see human relations in terms of the dominant and the dominated meshes well with studying politics as if it were a matter of discovering the equations which predict the impact of one variable on another. A variable is a force. The dominant are those who have force and the dominated are those who lack it. My second point is that the blindness to authentic diversity which Arendt protests is also abetted by the common sense of our culture. We are a business civilization in which everything has a common measure, its price. Calculating revenues, costs, and budget lines is part of our common sense, which is strongly influenced by our main activity, which is business. The managers who study cost impact and the engineers who study technical impacts communicate in a common language it could not be otherwise; they need a common language because the managers process data to make decisions, and the engineers supply the necessary technical data for the decisions. Variable is a key word in that common language; it meshes with our other key words both for functional reasons and because of the history of the language. Our culture, like other cultures, has a pattern, and the pattern runs through its means of livelihood, its technology, its decision-making processes, its everyday common sense, and, inevitably, its way of picturing human relations. Who dominates whom? and the means by which man rules over man, strike us as the question to ask and the facts to discover through research not just because they have fascinated our theorists and scientists, but also because they mesh with the common sense of the modern mind. Arendt goes on to offer a better concept of power. Power is, on her view, distinct from strength, force, authority, and violence. Power is the human ability not just to act but to act in concert. Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to a group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together.* The little word act means a lot in the phrase to act in concert. Arendt is speaking out of a classical tradition according to which a human act is always partly a mental act. There is thinking and choice, deliberation concerning the means and the end; otherwise it is not really an act, although it may be something like an act, such as, for example, an involuntary arm movement, or on automatic reflex response of the eyelids. * On Violence, p. 44. 203 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II The mental (or symbolic) aspect of human action properly so called, as seen from Arendts

classical (and, I think, correct) perspective, justifies the use of the word mindless in describing the pseudo-sciences which study human action as if its mechanism were adequately depicted by equations showing the coefficients relating variables to other variables. This classical perspective also sheds further light on the complicity between the mindless research done in universities and those mindless forms of activism which consist of generating pressure in order to push or shove political leaders to do this or that. Habermas in his commentary rightly calls Arendts approach a consensus theory of power. There is power because there is consensus, i.e. (going back to the Latin roots of the word consensus) with-meaning. People have power when they think in concert; their thoughts and actions are coordinated by shared meanings. They have power because they can act as if of one mind. Arendt reviews the works of several leading modern and contemporary thinkers in order to show that they have misunderstood power. Power, said the 18th century French philosopher Voltaire, consists in making others act as I choose.* Max Weber, Bertrand de Jouvenal, Bertrand Russell, and the mainstreams of academic sociology and political science echo, with slight variations, this individualistic and mechanistic definition. Voltaires formula, making others act as I choose, is a verbal artifact which exemplifies the main pattern of modern culture. Our distorted concept of power is our egoistic psyche writ large; it reflects the calculating self-centeredness of homo economicus. Our culture is not, however, composed of a single simple pattern, and Arendt rescues herself from having to say that the way everyone uses the word power is wrong (which would be like saying, what everyone calls a rabbit is really a hare, and what everyone calls a hare is really a rabbit) by showing that her way of talking about power stands in a venerable tradition, which is not lost to us, not even now, not even in the corrupt denouement of western civilization which we witness in our times. Many thinkers in our tradition have recognized that even the monarch especially the monarch, for in a single-person government the ruler is most outnumbered can only play her or his role as long as opinion supports it, as long as the institution of monarchy exists in the minds of the subjects. There are Greek, Roman, medieval, and recent precedents for seeing power as belonging to groups, and as consisting of the ability of humans to coordinate their actions. About Arendts theory Habermas expresses two major doubts. The first concerns to what extent it describes anything real. Habermas is inclined to see the consensus theory as an ideal which states what power ought to be, and to question how much it describes what is. In some passages it is clear that Arendt means her theory to describe what is. She writes, for example, Where commands are no longer obeyed, the means of violence are of no use; and the question of obedience is not decided by the command-obedience relation but by opinion, and, of course, by the number of those who share it. Everything depends on the power behind the violence. The sudden dramatic breakdown in power that ushers in revolutions reveals in a flash how civil obedience to laws, to rulers, to institutions is but the outward manifestation of support and consent.** Other passages, however, are more ambiguous, for example, she asserts that even if violence wins, it cannot create power. Here it seems that the justification for the assertion may lie in the definitions she has given of power and of violence, rather than in any matter of fact. * On Violence, p. 36.1 have added Bertrand Russell to Arendts list, and the reference to homo economicus to her analysis. ** On Violence, p. 49. Habermas commentary, by the way, refers directly not to On Violence, but

to Macht und Gewalt, a similar essay by Arendt written in German. 204 Letter 26 Also, where she speaks of power as granted to their representatives by the citizens, she might perhaps be read as identifying real power with legitimately acquired power. In such cases one might (although one need not) interpret Arendt as arguing from a formal definition and from a norm, without resting her case on facts. Whatever Arendts exact meaning may be, I believe that an open-minded reader of Habermas commentary will see that he finds the most plausible and central parts of her theory to be those that see power as resting on the consent of the governed. Consensus, when viewed through Habermas lenses, tends to mean consent. And it is true that Arendt sometimes writes as though the only or the main constituent of power were the disposition of the citizens to support a government because they have freely consented to it. However, to the extent that she says this she weakens her case. It is easier to believe that a number of shared meanings enable a human group to be powerful because it is cohesive than it is to believe that there is only one such shared meaning and it is freely given consent. Habermas bias in favor of construing Arendts power-as-consensus to be a theory about an ideal is of a piece with the concept that consent is the legitimate justification of government. This latter concept is our bias too yours and mine. It is typical of us denizens of the modern social structure. Already in the 18th century Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the harbingers of modern ideas, said that there is a moral order only where there is free consent. No social contract, no morals. We tend to identify the legitimate with the agreed, with the contract. The message of the Bible is nearly the opposite: the moral, the legitimate, is following the prescribed pattern, obeying. In some other cultures people would neither agree nor disagree if someone should tell them that legitimate authority derives from the consent of the governed. They would be baffled; the proposition would have no meaning in their language and yet, on Arendts broader account, such peoples have some power, because they have some ability to act cohesively as if of one mind. There is a corollary to our modern bias in favor of construing consensus as consent. Consent is what we want to see in consensus because free agreement is our norm. Then, having defined free consent in human relationships as the ideal, we draw the corollary conclusion that it is not real. Its very status as an ideal makes suspect the claim that it is effective in practice. As Kant put it (here I anticipate), the free realm of pure reason is in principle distinct from the unfree realm of nature. This tendency to see the ideal and the real as two separate realms makes it difficult to see Arendts theory of power as a theory about how the world really works. The second of the two doubts of Habermas about Arendt that I wish to mention concerns economic power.* He points out, quite rightly, that Arendt deals almost entirely with political power. (She actually holds the conservative view that using politics to work for the socio-economic goal of a classless society can only lead to grief.) When you couple the point that Arendt ignores economics with an interpretation of her theory of power that sees first and foremost the ideal of consent, you are, I believe, likely, if you are a typical reader, to come to focus on the following Picture One: a. Arendt says power is based on consent. b. Her view is more an ideal than a reality. c. Her view has, however, some degree of reality as long as attention is confined to politics, especially in countries where there are free elections. Indeed elections lend credence to the illusion that our institutions are validated by consent.

d. But when economic and social power are brought into consideration, Arendts ideal corresponds to reality even less. di. * The phrase Habermas uses is structural violence. I believe that economic power expresses the main meaning of structural violence and expresses it better. 205 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II There is, however, another way to view Arendts theory, namely the following Picture Two: a. Arendts consensus theory of power shows that institutions depend for their existence on opinion. b. However, in reality, institutions are maintained both by software and by hardware, i.e. by power and by violence, so that one does not see pure cases of institutions maintained solely by power, or solely by violence. c. Even the most despotic regime needs power, i.e. some degree of willing support among some sector of the population. d. Although Arendts theory is about politics narrowly conceived, her theory can be extended to economics. Economic institutions (like property) and social institutions (like marriage) also depend on opinion. The mystery is: why does Habermas not see Picture Two? Why does he not seize on the consensus theory of power to show how cultural action can be used to transform economics? Arendts concept of power shows opportunities to do what Habermas and all people of good will want to do, namely, to transform the structures of the modern world, but Habermas does not rush to accept the opportunities she offers. De te fabula narratur. (The story is about you.) We are all, I believe, like Habermas, to a considerable extent mental captives of the basic structure of the modern world. Even when we catch a glimpse beyond it, as in Arendt, as in Wittgenstein, as in Marx, as in the writings of Arendts friend Martin Heidegger, as in Habermas at his best, we still slip back into seeing economics as if it were a natural science, into seeing economic realities as quasi-physical, into. seeing dominance and subordination in human relationships through the lenses of mechanical metaphors, into seeing the free as the essence of the moral, and hence we are all inclined to read Arendt according to Picture One. A clue to the solution of the mystery lies in the connection between the two doubts. Habermas first doubt about Arendt depended on identifying the moral and the free. (He wondered how close to reality Arendt was, because he tended to see her as advocating something like what Habermas himself advocates, an ideal of communication not distorted by force, i.e. an ideal of free consent.) His second doubt depended on seeing the economy as we moderns are prone to do, as a quasimachine. (In Habermas terminology the quasi-machine is clothed in the garb of instrumental rationality, so that the use of mechanical metaphors is hidden as technical calculation concerning how to achieve a given objective.)* The two doubts come together in the conclusion that Arendt does not recognize how much we are dominated because she ignores economic domination a conclusion which is true enough, but not perceptive enough. What we need to study more thoroughly, then, is this relationship between freedom and science, where freedom is the moral norm, and where the paradigm of science is Newtons classical mechanics, the paradigm of social science being free market economics, modelled morally on the ideal of freedom and modelled scientifically on the ideal of Newtons physics. This relationship constitutes the main pattern of the modern mind. We (or rather, our ancestors) made it. It made us.

We do not easily transcend it. The classic articulation of the basic structure of modernity is found in the philosophy of Kant. To Kant we will go for the next seven letters, letter 2 7, following this one, introduces the 18th century world whose symbolic structures Kant synthesized. Eighteenth century Europe * See letters 8 and 9. Note also that Habermas in his discussion of Peirce in Knowledge and Human Action does not question the substance of the then standard scientific procedures, but only seeks their justification, which he finds in a technical interest in control. 206 Letter 26 was the wellspring of modernity, the conqueror of Africa and Asia, the progenitor of our senseless and shameful 20th century. I will try to sketch briefly the main problems which philosophers were called upon to solve in the 18th Century. Kant did solve them. Preeminently. Kants solution to the problems of the middle class in his day is an obstacle obstructing the solutions of the problems of all people in our day. And yet we can only solve our problems by going through Kant; there is no way around him. We still inhabit his worldview when we try to build consensus around alternative power structures. We use his words: freedom, person, dignity, and their contraries, totalitarian, victim, humiliation. We cannot go anywhere until we know better where we are, and when eventually we do develop a feasible plan for going somewhere else, we will find that all possible roads to there start from here. From Kant. From the worldview (classically articulated by Kant) which sees freedom as the essence of the person and of morals, and which sees science (and therefore, by extension, social science) as a mathematical prcis of the laws of nature. The beginning of this letter included a detour about pleasure. Now, at the end, we could move straight ahead and take the next step in studying the relationship between Kant and Habermas (a relationship which is, in miniature, that between the basic structure of our civilization laid down in the 18th century and our 20th century good-but-not-good-enough efforts to transform the world our foreparents made). The next step would be to examine Kants context. Or else we could do another detour about pleasure, perhaps even God willing a pleasant detour. The detour at the beginning of this letter had among its many motives seeking to sketch a broader perspective by raising the whole question of the relation of the human body (i.e. of you and me) to the environment and to words. This broad perspective was to be a setting in which the conversation about power could be placed, as a cookstove is the wider setting where one places a pot of water to boil. This concluding detour, on the other hand, will be a flash-forward, an anticipation. We take a glance around the stove-top, so to speak, now that the water is boiling, and we have a few onions cooking away in it, and we notice what other dishes are en marche, and we take a peek in the oven too, and then after all these anticipatory glances we let our mind dwell for a moment on the dessert. We are skipping steps. There is a next step, and a step after that and, on the other hand, there is the tease. This is the tease. You do not deserve this. You will not understand it. You will misunderstand it. You have not worked through the arguments that lead up to it. I, for my part, have no right to state conclusions which lack premises, nor to use forms of speech whose meanings have not been developed. 1 am like a cook who interrupts the shelling of the peas to taste in his imagination an apple crisp which he wont even start until he finishes the sauce for the fish, when he has not yet begun the fish, much less the sauce. However, given our mutual impatience, we will no doubt do this detour anyway. As the scene opens we are walking down a country lane near an old English village, one of those

that has thatched roofs, hedgerows, bed and breakfast for 2.50 (including a grilled tomato), and sleek black and white Holstein cows, which belong to a neighboring dairy, which has machines that milk sixteen of them at once. I am saying to you that we will not be effective as activists until we learn to make the discourses and the social practices that we are creating into sources of pleasure. The enjoyment of pleasure, excitement and blissful relaxation, is the natural and normal activity of human beings. The signals that guide us are electric, the firings of neurons; pleasure is their bent. 207 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II Life is a series of strange and unusual sensual encounters, through which we gradually learn what the body wants. Most of them are imaginary. Some of them are with chocolates. They have strangeness (ostrananie in Russian, a word used by people who claim that the function of art is to show the familiar in an unfamiliar light) because in us lives an infinite past, which never succeeds in becoming accustomed to the tiny, always passing, stretch of time we call the present moment. This one, here, is with a wild rose beside the lane. Our encounter with the blossom, through colors, shapes, textures and odors, decodes for us the cambrian, the pre-cambrian, the paleolithic and the neolithic, all the ages of the cells within us, all that has passed since life emerged from the sea, carrying the sea-water that still circulates in our blood, as well as our more recent histories, in the womb, at mothers breast, the beating on the playground in primary school, our love life, auto accidents, thin mountain air, sickness... Every petal, every street filled with passing automobiles, every human face, every dip into icy water encounters in us our past. What we are accustomed to calling the voice is only one of many voices speaking through us. There are voices in the hands. There is a voice in each muscle. There are voices of forgotten personalities, great grandparents we never knew and sultry kindergarten chums we did know, which echo and re-echo every time we take a breath or a sip of coffee. We are connections. The human body finds itself by finding its connections, not always or usually through the cerebral cortex, but through every fiber. Through the heart, as we say. It seeks itself with the electronic homing mechanism we call the nerves, by finding what moves it and what gives it release from tension. It finds itself singing a gospel hymn like Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling. It finds itself kissing and hugging. It finds itself giving a saucer of milk to a kitten or pulling weeds in a garden. It finds itself watching its favorite television program, eating pizza, swimming, playing basketball, giggling together.... It finds its connections. Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas, the great architects of the pre-modern period of western civilization, were faithful to the erotic principle. Platonic love, as described in the Phaedrus and the Symposium, extends sensual desire to philosophy.* The care of the true lover is to help the beloved to grow in wisdom. Aristotle tells us that the well-educated person is one who takes pleasure in virtue. The badly educated person takes pleasure in vice. The legislator and educator (for Aristotle the legislator is an educator, and the educator is a legislator) has the task of organizing the community so that the citizens find pleasure in doing justice (justice, following right measure in all actions, being, in its wide sense, synonymous with virtue). Augustine, who called God the teacher of the heart,** sang, following Plato and inspiring Aquinas, Late have I loved thee, O thou Beauty, so old and yet so fair. The divine is the greatest and only fully satisfying Beauty, compared with which the lesser pleasures are, by definition, sin, since for Augustine (as for Aquinas) to sin is to choose the lesser good over the greater good. The human was created to love and to serve lovingly, and to spend eternity in the full joy of divine friendship, compared with which all other pleasures are weary, flat, profitless, and stale. The public life of religious and

political ceremony extends the electrically-guided life of the cell through the life of the imagination, which is, in the first instance, dream life. I have a dream is, as it turns out, the most famous phrase of Americas greatest public leader. He was a great phrase-maker, and no one could have known in advance whether it would be the paralysis of analysis, or the world house, or call me a drum major for justice, or I have a dream that would prove to be his most memorable phrase. In retrospect we can see that the * Bishop Nygrens book Eros and Agape analyzes the erotic character of the pursuit of the intellectual virtues in Plato. ** See Letter 18. See letter 20. 208 Letter 26 word dream speaks to everybody because dreams are typically wish fulfillments. Dreams give us access to desires. Dreams can also be nightmares and express anxiety but these dimensions of the words meaning were obviously not what Dr. King meant in the context of his I have a dream speech. His genius was in raising the Pleasure Principle to the level of a set of shared public objectives. We need to share dreams because dreams become goals. And to share goals is part of developing the capacity to work together to realize our goals, and that as we have learned from Hannah Arendt is power. The dream drives the action. I find this phrase especially significant because its author* is a cultural historian, fluent in oriental languages, who offers it as a conclusion from his studies of ancient China, of North American and other shamanistic tribal cultures, of India, and of medieval Europe, as well as of the culture of the United States. The best dreams are the ones that fulfill every childs wish to be cared-for and caring, not to be abandoned, to be treated fairly and to be fair, and to live in a world which as a matter of fact reliably works. The ethos which socially fulfills the dream is a love ethic. A love ethic, however, is not only eros; it is also filia** and agape. And because of the importance of the Pleasure Principle we need to consider its limitations, those discovered by Freud and those noted by others. Freud himself was obliged to modify the Pleasure Principle when he analyzed little Hans, a three year old child who obsessively repeated a painful fantasy which symbolized his mother going away. Fort! said little Hans, which means (in German) Away! Later he would say Da! which means, in this context, Here! Hans re-enacted over and over again the drama of abandonment and return. Freud concluded that Hans chose pain because he needed control. In his fantasy he could control his mothers coming and going, while in reality he could do nothing but wail. From cases such as that of Hans we can deduce an amendment of the Pleasure Principle: sometimes people prefer control to pleasure. You know, of course, that quite apart from little Hans and his need to control his environment by replacing his mother with a fantasy, pleasure is not everything in life. That is why you have been looking at me as I talk with wide-open eyes, as if to say, Really? and listening in bemused silence while I present all these ideas while we walk down a country lane in old England. You are not the sort of person who draws premature and one-sided conclusions, who takes half-truths for truths, who is unaware of many other aspects of love and pleasure already discussed in this and other books. Nor do you feel any obligation at all to comment on what I have been saying, since you do not believe that every event in life requires a comment from each participant. If, however, you should make a comment and, as I have implied, it is by no means necessary

that you make one I hope your comment will not misinterpret my thoughts as advocating gross sensuality. As Freud says, the spiritual treasures of civilization depend on the sublimation of eras, on making it sublime. To point out that bread is made with flour and with water is not to advocate that people eat flour-and-water paste. What I hope is that your comment if you make one at this point will draw some tentative conclusions, in your own words and according to your own experience of life, which would say something like: (i) The whirl we humans live in is not in any way a changeless world, and (ii) We need to retrace the steps which have led modern culture away from the traditional spiritual interpretations of sensuality, into a set of problems which have no solutions in the terms in which they are posed, and * Dr. Thomas Berry. He says this annually at the July symposium sponsored by Holy Cross Centre, Port Burwell, Ontario. ** Letter 15 is about filia. 209 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II (iii) Social change activists can and should tap physical energies that can generate good forms of power, and (iv) The global system, whose economic and political and military structures come from 18th century Europe is not as real as it pretends to be; its version of human nature is a boring myth, not the human body as it really is, and, (v) If we could unravel our cultures basic myths, those classically stated by Kant, then we could re-imagine ourselves, so that our fun would be more fun, our suffering more shared and more meaningful, our institutions more geared to meeting human needs. 210 Letter 27 27 KANTS CONTEXT The beginning in time of the constellation of institutions we call modern society can be (ascribed to any number of dates because history is a continuous series of transformations in which no institution is so totally new as to be without prior germ or precedent. The place where the modern world began can be more easily and definitely determined, provided that one is content to name a region without trying to pinpoint the beginning of the process. The place was Europe; somewhat more specifically it was northern Europe, because in that part of the planet modern society emerged in painful birth, took form in a series of painful struggles, grew strong in technology and in organization; and from there it marched forth (or sailed forth) to conquer the earth. To return now to the problem of ascribing a beginning in time to the modern world, October 31, 1517 is a date less arbitrary than many others that might be chosen, because choosing it brings into focus the protestant reformation. Hallows Eve (later known as Halloween), the day before All Saints Day, of 1517, was the day when Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to a church door at Wittenberg. By dating the beginning of modernity by reference to a set of doctrines, Protestantism, we focus our historical inquiry on the words that circulate from mouth to mouth and the images displayed on the inner theater screens of brains and in public places such as churches, not because facts less symbolic and more brute such as the coming of gunpowder, the Black Plague, or the growth of towns lack relevance to the understanding of historical processes, but because the

particular purpose of these letters is to facilitate the transformation of cultural structures, for which purpose it is useful to make a plausible, although by no means uniquely valid, sketch of a transformation of symbolic structures which occurred in the past, to draw, so to speak, the emerging outline of the cultural structures we now have. (The last sentence was rather long, and I feel a need to pause for breath... Perhaps if I were in better physical shape I would not be exhausted by long sentences.) One reason why it is legitimate to conceive Protestantism as the beginning of modern cultural structures is that it declared itself to be different from medieval Catholicism, which was, everyone will agree, not modern. A reason why it is convenient for me to cite the 95 Theses as a key text for the transformation from not-modern to modern is that I number myself among those persons who find it illuminating to designate our modern society as economic society, our epoch as the age of economics, and it cannot escape the attention of any reader of Luthers theses that they were mainly about money. One could, however, say instead applying the principle that anything can be correctly described in several different ways that Luthers theses were mainly about the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. Interpreting the theses as about corruption does not contradict the claim that they were mainly about money, because the corruption which Luther denounced consisted largely of selling forgiveness for sins (indulgences) and of other ways of mulcting the faithful of their property in order to use the loot to finance the base gratifications of the so-called lords spiritual. If we endeavor in our minds eyes to take an ecological overview of early 16th century Europe, we may be able to form a vision of energy flows which will set Luthers complaints in a context of intraspecific competition for scarce resources. Imagine a flow from 211 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II north to south of resources whose production required high energy inputs, especially of energy in the form of human muscle-power. Think, for example, of wagons moving south over the Alps carrying foodstuffs and leather goods. It is a small flow compared to the energy delivered by the total sunlight falling on Europe, small even when compared to the portion of that total captured photosynthetically by plants to make primary sugars, small even in terms of the flow of energy-rich resources from primary sugars to plant tissues to cattle feed to cattle to consumption by talkative creatures, but nonetheless a flow of special concern to those members of the talkative species whose labor (or whose laborers) contributed to the production of the goods in question, but who did not wear the garments, eat the food, or otherwise use the energy-rich resources shipped from north to south, from Germany to Rome; and if an ecologist charting the energy flows could also overhear the discourse of the northerners deprived of the fruits of their labor, he would have heard, as Martin Luther put it in his 95 Theses, die sehr spitzen Argumenten des Legen (the very pointed arguments of the lay people). The implicit threat in Luthers reference to lay arguments is: if you are smart you will keep this dispute on a theological level, because otherwise you will hear from the masses and they will tell it to you straight. They are being bilked. (The institutional explanation of the north-south transfer of goods lies, of course, in prior flows of money; the cash derived from such transactions as sales of indulgences explains why, for example, edible items such as cattle moved south. Money being physically small, although symbolically large low in energy content, high in information content it is here assumed that flows of it would elude detection by the instruments of an ecologist.) It is reasonable to assume that whenever there is a felt need to change a culture, there will be a flurry of attempts to change it, and that the ultimately successful version of the change will I be a more-effective-than average innovation an idea that distinguishes itself by doing the same

cultural work many new ideas are trying to do, but doing it better. A trump card, so to speak. There was a felt need in northern Europe in 1517 to adjust the symbolic structures to delete from them the norm that Germans should obey (and hence feed) the Roman hierarchy (hence also its minions and legions), and there were in the 15th and 16th centuries many movements using diverse doctrinal claims, all tending to resist exploitation. Luthers most brilliant doctrine, his trump so to speak, declared a bit after 1517, was salvation by faith a stroke of genius comparable to Marx trumping the dispute over how much profit owners deserve in return for their contributions to production by asserting with the labor theory of value that owners make no contribution at all to production, comparable to empiricists and positivists devastating the bastions of idealism without exposing themselves to the charge of materialism by declaring that all metaphysics (whether idealist or materialist) cannot possibly be anything but sophistry and illusion. A bold doctrinal stroke was needed because protests against the corruption of the church imply only that the church should cease to be corrupt; they leave the Roman bishops the option of replying, OK, we repent and henceforth we will be good; now just keep handing property over to us and we will henceforth use it to care for the sick and poor, as we are supposed to do. Suppose now that one introduces the premise, Faith, not works, brings salvation. Immediately the context of the argument is changed what the bishops do with worldly property is a secondary question at most; the primary question is faith. Disagreements on articles of faith are then reasons for starting new churches and new societies (remember that in 1517 the national state was not yet invented, and Christendom, like Islam, was in principle a theocracy) new churches and societies not in principle subject to the authority of the old hierarchies. The Catholic scholar Erasmus was able to make fun of Luther by writing in an open letter to him that some protestants reply when it is pointed out to them that they are leading wicked lives that it does not matter, because we are saved by faith, not by works. But Luther was not 212 Letter 27 a fair target for Erasmus joke because Luther was not unaware of the importance of good works, nor were Catholics unaware of the importance of faith. Several centuries of theological debate over what exactly separates the two traditions teachings about the relationship of works to faith have finally in the late 20th century arrived at the conclusion that nothing separates them, except an unfortunate history during which each side has sometimes failed to understand what the other side believed. In the 16th century, however, the doctrine of faith alone was admirably suited to serve as a rationale for changing the command structure of Europe. It was a trump card. What I am supposing must have happened given my general suppositions about the ecological functions of culture is that the doctrine of salvation by faith (or, to be more exact, the ensemble of characteristic protestant doctrines) served to separate northern Europe from a church which was sapping its strength. The reformation might have separated northern Europe from Rome by rejecting Christ; instead it proclaimed the purification of the old religion; it was formally a revival. It humbled man before God more, not less; it rejected the authority of those who claimed to represent divinity by appealing over their heads to the sacred text, the Bible. It used certain texts of St. Paul to emphasize the total depravity of human nature, our utter dependence on God for salvation a move which glorified God (by emphasizing His superiority and otherness), nurtured the emotion of gratitude (since we are infinitely grateful when we appreciate that amazing grace has saved wretches like us), underlined the futility of justifying the Roman church by pointing to the good works it was supposed to do (since God would not be moved to save us by any act mere humans

might do in the vain hope of pleasing Him by works), justified severe punishments (since the unsaved remain depraved, governable only by threats and force), and cast doubt on all organized hierarchies (since the high officers of organizations are humans too). When Luther published The Freedom of a Christian in 1520, freedom was launched on its way to becoming the name of the major ideals of modern civilization. The word free had been used before the 16th century in special contexts such as when one has occasion to contrast people out of captivity with those in it, or to name special privileges (i.e. the liberties of the English Magna Carta of 1215), or to refer to the family members of households as distinct from slaves and bound servants. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the 16th century nobody could have predicted that by the 19th century freedom would have in Europe the sacred status celebrated by the Norwegian poet Johan Nordhal Grieg when he wrote: In us is born the conviction That freedom is lifes first law And our faith is as pure and as simple As the very breath we draw. Luther said, The Christian is a perfectly free master of all, subject to none, and at the same time, a perfectly obedient servant of all. Luther thus performed a transformation on the idea of master and servant, equalizing everybody by making them masters and servants at the same time (i.e. equalizing all Christians, which in Germany at that time meant almost everybody). Freedom as equalization was also a corollary of the priesthood of all believers. The priesthood of all believers was a transformation of the ideas of priest and believer, similar to Luthers parallel transformation of master and servant. Similarly, somewhat later, the modern idea of dignity of the person was born by taking the old word dignity, which referred to the ranks of people with high social standing, and transforming its meaning to say, every person has dignity. A less momentous example of a 213 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II similar process is that still later the French expression, Mon Sieur, which vassals used to express deference to their lords, was transformed in to Monsieur, a title awarded to every adult male. Although I think it is in the obscure texts of 16th and 17th century North European theologians that many of the origins of modern symbolic structures, later classically articulated by Kant, must be sought, I am communicating an exaggerated confidence in my own ability to discern the main threads linking confusing masses of detail if I am giving the impression that I think I know all the protestant reformation did or exactly why it came to pass. All I can really say is that it seems to me that something of the general sort I have sketched happened in the 16th century in northern Europe. It is in any case clear that by the 18th century, which was Kants century, theology was no longer the principal arena of ideas in conflict; by then the main cultural innovations and struggles transformed civil, not religious, strands of tradition, notably) law, economics (which was previously had not existed), and science (which as then called natural philosophy). The 18th century lawyers, the clergy of capitalism as Alexis de Tocqueville called them, contributed another concept of freedom, classically formulated by Denis Diderot in the Encyclopedia (the first encyclopedia) in his article on La Libert. Freedom, he wrote (expressing not a personal opinion but a gestalt shift of European cultural structures) means that whatever the law does not expressly forbid is permitted. Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics had said nearly the opposite: the law (nomos) commands every virtue and forbids every vice. 18th century thought explicitly rejects the principle that it is a function of law to mold human

conduct to make it conform to ideals of virtue. It employs redefinitions of justice (Aristotle had regarded general justice as a summary of all virtue) in ways that regard justice as a minimum compliance with basic rules. Justice, so defined, is enforceable in a court of law. The rest of virtue is not the business of law and is not enforceable. The trend of thought represented by Diderots definition of freedom constituted another brilliant series of moves. If the newly powerful social classes feared that the old doctrines, in both their Catholic and their protestant versions, were likely to impose on them disciplines of stewardship and discipleship contrary to their interests which they did fear, then instead of proposing new values to live by, they could propose something else, a different kind of value, in a sense an antivalue, to be named freedom. Freedom is logically different from other values because it does not prescribe rules for human conduct, or ideals toward which people should strive; it prescribes instead an absence of rules, a sphere for choosing ones own ideals. Trumps. Freedom became the key doctrine of what Robert Bellah calls civil religion, and the legal system built around it provided the structure for what Hegel called civil society, which I often call economic society. Legal freedom was the juridical side of a coin whose other side was the economic doctrine, laissez faire, classically expressed in The Wealth of Nations, where Adam Smith argues that we are better off when instead of government or church or tradition deciding what people in general should do, millions of individuals each make their own decisions separately. The best general policy is to have no general policy: that government is best which governs least, as Thomas Jefferson wrote. Stated and justified as in the preceding paragraph, laissez faire has an obvious limitation. The doctrine holds that a nation will be better off when decisions are made by individual choice, but to state that the better result will happen when a laissez faire policy is adopted is to predict a matter of fact. The facts sometimes will and sometimes will not confirm the prediction. Sometimes collective decisions made by government, church, family or tradition, or by scientific expertise, turn out to be better than individual choices made in free markets, insofar as the results of the decision for human welfare can be measured. (Notice that the problem here 214 Letter 21 is a logical one that no policy argument whose validity rests on a factual claim is safe from refutation in case the factual claim turns out to be false. It is not the same as a problem to which economists have devoted many books: namely, how while remaining within economic theory to make a proper list of exceptions to the general rule, assigning government certain specific tasks, such as protecting private property from thieves, making war, etc.) Over-enthusiastic partisans of laissez faire can, however, shield their policies from refutation by sometimes recalcitrant facts. They can, on the one hand, advance moral principles which hold that individuals ought to make choices, or that they have a right to make choices. What people ought to do can be held to be known independently of what the results of their actions are, and rights, by definition, are not lost when the people who have the rights use them unwisely. Anyone who advances facts to criticize laissez faire policies can then be dismissed as a vulgar person whose moral development is insufficient to permit her or him to realize that thoughts and rights are made of higher stuff than mere material welfare. If individual choices made in free markets lead, for example, to too many automobiles, too much traffic, air pollution, death on the highways, and the exhaustion of fossil fuel reserves, then from this point of view these bad material results are a price we are morally obliged to pay in order to honor the principle of freedom. On the other hand, a different line of reasoning leads to a similar result. Suppose that economics is a science, which describes how people behave, and suppose that at the times and places studied

there are markets where decisions are made through the choices of individuals and firms acting like individuals. Then suppose it is meaningless to make value judgments about whether society should be as it is. Laissez faire, insofar as it is part of the status quo, then wins with another trump card: the card which decrees descriptions to be respectable science and justifications to be nonsense. This line of reasoning is, of course, incompatible with the one mentioned in the previous paragraph, it being hypo-moral and the former hypermoral, but it is often functionally equivalent; the foundations for both were laid when Kant published his major works in the period 1780-1800. It is characteristic of Kants context, which is modernity, and which is to a large extent our context too, that the mainstream of thought shifts its focus away from providing means to make people good, such as Platos plans for education, Aristotles legislator who is above all an educator in virtue, Augustines God who is the teacher of the heart, St. Thomas universe ordered systematically to lead each soul toward glory; the focus shifts toward recognizing evil and harnessing it. Recognition of evil is a theme of Protestantism (Martin Luther: Most men, baptized or not, are bad.), of scientific atheism (for example, Hobbes application of Galileos physics to the study of human conduct, which led to conceiving the natural state as a war of all against all), and of the invisible hand of the economists which produces the transubstantiation of individual selfishness into the greatest happiness of the greatest number. The situation was neatly analyzed by Mandeville in his The Fable of the Bees, or Private Vices Publick Benefits (1714) where it is argued that traditional vices of self-indulgence and vanity create employment and progress. Kant himself only echoed the common sense of his age when he wrote: Without these in themselves unamiable characteristics of unsociability from whence opposition springs characteristics each man must find in his own selfish pretensions all talents would remain hidden, unborn in an Arcadian shepherds life, with all its concord, contentment, and mutual affection. Men, goodnatured as the sheep they herd, would hardly reach a higher worth than their beasts; they would not fill the empty place in creation by achieving their end, which is rational nature. Thanks be to Nature, then, for the incompatibility, for the heartless competitive vanity, for the insatiable desire to possess and to rule! Without them, all the excellent natural capacities of humanity would forever sleep undeveloped. The story of Dr. Faustus expressed the spirit of the age allegorically: Europe had made a pact with 215 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II the devil. From an economic and legal point of view, the problem of harnessing evil human nature for good is solved mainly with contracts; contracts are so important that Sir Henry Maine in his book Ancient Law was able to organize a comprehensive account of the evolution of legal systems with this single principle: while traditional societies are organized by social status, each status having its prescribed duties (e.g. the duties of king, duke, baron, yeoman, serf...), modern societies are organized by individuals freely contracting with each other to buy, to sell, to lease, to work, to lend, to borrow, to pay wages, to pay rent, etc. Contract is the general word and concept for the many meetings of minds which specify the conditions of transactions in economic society. From traditional to modern, says Sir Henry Maine, means from status to contract. Although freedom is the label of modernity, contract is its functioning mechanism. The great social thinkers of early modern times, Grotius, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Spinoza... could hardly imagine any origin and foundation for society other than contract. Perhaps they thought they were doing science. Today their stories about individuals living in a state of nature prior to the existence of society, who then agree to the terms and conditions of the contract under

which they will agree to live together in societies, seem so ludicrous when regarded as history or as anthropology that it is hard to believe that anybody much less the great minds of an age ever thought society really started with a contract, but in the 17th and 18th centuries philosophers may have honestly thought that by providing a secular alternative to Biblical stories about human origins they were doing a sort of science, extrapolating backwards from the society they saw around them to make a rational inference about how society must have begun. In using a rational and secular method they perhaps thought they were replacing myth with a sort of fact. From a 20th century viewpoint, however, we must regard early economic societys story about its origin in a great contract in the same way we regard a pastoral societys myths about the Great Shepherd or the fishy cosmologies of tribes who live by fishing. In many ways science is the centerpiece of the new constellation of institutions that religious, legal, and economic thought helped to create. Karl Marxs classic critique of economic society criticizes it in the name of science and presents itself as a contribution to science; Marx thus uses the common notion that science is more fundamental than other forms of thought, more able to grasp reality as it is and therefore to provide the context in which other forms of thought are to be evaluated and changed. He accepts in this respect the view of his erstwhile enemy, P.-J. Proudhon, who had written that the partisans of capitalism and of socialism (this was in the 19th century) agreed in spite of their differences that the questions at issue were scientific questions, to be resolved by scientific methods. But I am getting ahead of myself; what I should be discussing is not what science became in the 19th and 20th centuries, but the beginnings of modern science in the centuries immediately preceding the life and times of one Immanuel Kant, Professor of Metaphysics in Konigsberg, East Prussia (1722-1804). Modern science in its beginnings has been aptly characterized as the offspring of the marriage of technology and metaphysics. From technology, its mother, came the material of which it was composed, the many useful mechanical and optical inventions which proliferated increasingly starting in the 15th and 16th centuries; from metaphysics, its father, came the passion for generalization, the desire to reduce the understanding of the new machines to a few universal principles. The marriage image is apt provided that one also considers the contributions to science of another series of processes call it a midwife or a godmother, or call it the elder sister which already combined the spirits of technology and metaphysics the prolongation of the ancient tradition of the calendar-making priests, the astronomers, sometimes hardly distinguished 216 Letter 27 from mathematicians, whose technological functions were to refine ever more precisely the calculation of years, months, days, and hours, and to improve the calculations of navigators who guided ships by sighting stars; and whose metaphysical function was to place humanity in its cosmic context. Already in 1543 the Polish astronomer Copernicus had facilitated the gestalt shift of occidental symbolic structures by demonstrating that the earth turns on its axis and revolves around the sun, which made the older theories concerning the revolution of the heavens above the earth untenable; to the considerable consternation of over-enthusiastic followers of Dante Alighieri and St. Thomas Aquinas, who had given a convenient geographical interpretation to the metaphysical conception of a universe ordered toward spiritual glory by supposing that God and his angels awaited the just departing from this life in the heavens up beyond the clouds, while the torments of hell and purgatory were located beneath the surface of the earth; but to the considerable relief of the forces vivants of the enlightened, progressive classes, who were happy to see the shackles of superstition

loosened, and who were increasingly willing to subsidize research. Although Galileo (1534-1642) was the first great systematizer of the principles of mechanical technology, it was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, one Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who gave science its classic form. Nature and Natures Laws lay hid in night God said Let Newton be and all was light. epitaph for Newton proposed by Alexander Pope Newton began his Principia Mathematica (1685) (which is actually, according to the way we divide subjects now, as much about physics and astronomy as it is about mathematics) by stating some definitions and (remarkably) only three laws. They were: Law I: Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right (i.e. straight HR) line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it. (Law of inertia.) Law II: The change of motion is proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed. (Often taken to imply that F=MA, force equals mass times acceleration). Law III: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction; or, the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. (Often expressed as: for every reaction there is a reaction, which is equal in force and opposite in direction.) After stating his three laws, Newton proceeded to deduce corollaries and theorems. The first of the corollaries concern the composition of forces, neatly expressed as the parallelogram principle. Newton drew this diagram 217 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II

Suppose that a force would move a body from A to B in some given time, say 10 seconds. Suppose that another force would move the same body from A. to C in the same time, 10 seconds in this example. Now, the principle of composition of forces states that the two forces AB and AC acting together on the same body will move it from A to D in the same time (here 10 seconds). (An example not Newtons: think of AB as the force supplied by an airplane engine moving the airplane forward, and think of AC as the force of a crosswind.) In other words, knowing what each force would do separately, we can calculate geometrically or algebraically what the two forces will do together, i.e. which direction the body will move in and how far it will go. Similar principles will apply to cases of 3 or more forces acting simultaneously, and to many analogous situations. And

the calculations will prove to be correct when we perform the relevant experiments and measure the results. Newton did not have to do any experiments to confirm the parallelogram rule for composition of forces because the principle was already, as he notes, abundantly confirmed from mechanics. What was original in Newtons work was that he showed it and other principles well known from technology and previous systematizing to be corollaries and theorems derived from a remarkably small number of generalizations. Thus he married technology and metaphysics. Newtons work was amazing in its cosmic scope. He showed the same principles of composition of forces (deduced from his laws) to govern pendulums and fluids, the micro-machinery inside a pocket-watch, the balance of attraction and repulsion that keeps the planets in their orbits, the phases of the moon, the heights of the tides, and the periodic appearances of comets in the skies. Calculation and observation supported each other throughout his system, the observations providing information which could be expressed in mathematical form, and the calculations correctly predicting the magnitudes of subsequent observations. The extension of the scope of the methods of physics to use them to understand social institutions (and implicitly or explicitly to prescribe what human institutions ought to be) was already well advanced in Europe before Newtons Principia, due partly to Hobbes use of Galileos earlier version of the principle of composition of forces to describe human institutions as a clash of force on force. Hobbes definition of will* quoted in Letter 15, above (Vol. I) is essentially the application of the parallelogram rule to psychology thus the inner workings of the human psyche are described in terms of force metaphors, at the same time as similar mechanical metaphors govern the discourse which describes social interaction. Newtons successes in mechanics stimulated a boom in mental and social physics, that is to say, in thinking about the mind and society in the ways Newton had so successfully thought * In Deliberation, the last appetite (i.e., force pulling toward HR) or aversion (i.e. force pushing away HR) immediately adhering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that we call the will... (Leviathan, Ch. 6) The will thus appears as the resultant of a composition of forces. Compare Aquinas, Intellectus movet voluntatem ut finis; voluntas autem recipiens bonum in communi movet intellectum effective {the intellect moves the will, because the good understood is the object of the will, and moves it as an end}. Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 82, article IV. 218 Letter 27 about machines and planets. (Some familiar examples, the factors [i.e. forces] that determine IQ, market equilibrium, the law of supply and demand.) Newtons friend and admirer the philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) started a trend in philosophy by conceiving the task of the philosopher to be that of an underlaborer who clears away nonsense to make the work easier for the great thinkers in other fields who do the real work of advancing knowledge. In introducing his essays on human understanding to the reader Locke wrote, an age that produces such masters as the great Huygenius and the incomparable Mr. Newton, with some others of that strain, it is ambition enough to be employed as an underlaborer in clearing the ground a little, and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge... Lockes project is not unlike Descartes earlier methodical doubt followed by reconstruction of knowledge on a sound footing, but whereas Descartes attempted to unite the task of demolition and the task of reconstruction in his own powerful brain, Locke adopted the principle of division of labor (to which Adam Smith attributed

most of human progress) by specializing in demolition, leaving reconstruction to the great scientists and Newton was the Great Scientist, the paradigm to which one referred whenever it was necessary to define what science is. When David Hume (1711-1776) tried to improve on Locke by carrying out the same sort of ground-clearing project Locke and others of the age had carried out with insufficient rigor and consistency, Hume called his efforts an attempt to introduce the experimental method of reasoning into moral subjects, in a conscious effort to emulate Newton. (Newton considered himself, and was considered by others, to be an experimental reasoner, in spite of the fact that he used mathematical principles whose validity was not experimentally proven. Newtons dependence on principles of mathematics not derived from experience was to be given a transcendental significance by Kant.) When at the beginning of this letter I confessed to believing that the wagon loads of goods rolling south over the Alps provide an important clue to the context of competition for scarce resources in which Luthers doctrine of salvation by faith was welcomed by northern audiences, I hope I did not give the impression either (1) that for the emergence of each characteristically modern idea I can provide an account of the ecological incentives which provided the background for its success in terms of intraspecific competition (humans vs. humans) or interspecific competition (humans vs. the rest of nature) or fruitful cooperation (with other humans or with nature), or (2) that I believe that once you know who is in conflict with whom over what, the resulting transformations of symbolic structures are inevitable and can be predicted. On the other hand, in certain ways there is an obvious ecological explanation for modernity, not so much for how the new ideas started as for why their influence spread and persisted. It is that the ensemble of innovations religious, legal, economic, technological, scientific worked. Europe became more prosperous, the needs of its inhabitants were on the whole better met (although large sections of the working classes probably suffered more than the medieval yeoman), and the military superiority of Europe became so great that by 1900 Europeans had conquered almost the entire globe and had compelled the peoples of the remaining unconquered areas, such as Japan and China, to participate in a modern global commercial system. Successful as it was, or rather, successful as it was beginning to be, the new cultural forms were messy. Taken one by one, each of the characteristically modern ways of operating with symbols (symbols such as words, numbers, crucifixes...) contributed to the construction of modernity. Taken all together, the various strands of the culture of economic society appear to lack coherence and integrity. It is not easy to believe in moralistic Protestantism, in laissez faire economics, that society is in some sense based on contract, in the legal principles that order freedom in a commercial society, and in mechanistic science all at once without contradicting yourself. 219 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II Robert Redfield has speculated that when Mayan civilization reached a certain degree of complexity it must have had philosophers, since it had a mythology, a literature, a technology, and a changing social order, which must have produced contradictions, which must have required a special class of artisans devoted to producing coherence. Whether there really were Mayan philosophers we do not yet know. We do know that Immanuel Kant provided philosophical services for economic society similar to those Redfield believed Mayan society needed and must have had. 220 Letter 28

28 THE MURMURING PINES From many a hill I can see civilization and the abodes of man afar....I am pleased to see how little space they occupy in the landscape. Henry David Thoreau My cousin Malcolm and I spend a lot of time talking to each other about our troubles. Our troubles usually stem from the fact that the human being is a social animal who has to live with other people. If I hurry, for example, to avoid offending those people who become anxious when I am late, then I disturb those people who dont like to be around me when I am in a hurry. People take offense. They get upset. They misunderstand. People are, on the whole, hard to get along with. Malcolm lives in a city about two hours away, and we occasionally get together on weekends to go camping. The motive of our expeditions is not hunting, it is not fishing, it is not curiosity about the world around us. We do not camp for the sake of exercise or sport, nor are we interested in admiring the colors and the forms found in the hills and in the forests, although we do seek companionship and solace among our brother trees and sister lakes. Our primary motive, however, is to get away from people. If for some reason we are forced to camp so close to other campers that we can hear them and see their fires, the weekend is regarded as a total failure; if there are other hikers on the trails the weekend is a moderate failure. If between Friday evening when we leave and Sunday evening when we return we see other campers or hikers only once or twice, and if we see them only briefly and do not exchange any words, the trip is a success. If we see nobody at all and few signs of human existence, then we go back to our respective homes with a sense of triumph. One Saturday afternoon in October Malcolm and I were having a good day. We had followed a creek far back into the hills, where there was no trail, forcing our way through the underbrush, and we had not seen any people or any signs of human existence since ten in the morning. We decided it was safe to begin to look for a campsite. We are choosy about campsites. We always taste the water in the area and if it carries even the slightest trace of contamination, we move on. We seek purity. The trees and the bushes and everything about the setting have to be perfect. We had almost found the perfect place when Malcolm made a pointing gesture and uttered a profane monosyllable. There was a beer can stranded in the middle of the creek. The rushing waters sailed angrily over it, desiring to wash it away but unable to loosen it from the mesh of fallen logs and underbrush within which it was caught. Tears formed in our eyes as we resumed our march with an attitude of glum hostility, not saying a word to each other, sympathizing silently with the resentment of the pines, whom we imagined to be stewing with shame and anger inside their trunks and branches because of the dishonor they had suffered at the hands of the person who had tossed the beer can into the water. Three kilometers farther on we found another imperfect place; the beeches and birches were scrawny, and the sweet little spruces were not yet old enough to be boon companions at a campsite. Imperfect as it was, however, we had 221 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II to stop there, because it would soon be too dark to gather firewood. As the evening sky turned* to red and then to purple, we gathered logs and branches and started our fire. The flames danced spiritedly at first, but when they had lowered a bit and the kindling had burned, we put two roughskinned potatoes into the ashes and heated up a can of beans. It was dark by the time we; sat down

next to our fire and began to talk about philosophy. When I looked at her closed eyelids while she was asleep, Malcolm said, I had a feeling of comfort, as though it were true that I could trust her. As he spoke he stared into the fire, while millions of stars stared down at us through the thin foliage (it was fall, and all the trees except the evergreens were baring their branches). I did not mind being stared at by the stars, although if anyone else had stared at us I would have considered it an invasion of our privacy. The starlight was comforting, perhaps because the stars were so far away, so calm, and so unlikely to do us harm, but more likely because I have always felt that the stars understood my good intentions. When humans misunderstand me I appeal to the stars because I trust them and I feel that they trust me. I should explain what Malcolm meant by his remark because in our family there are several people who cannot be understood by an outsider unless someone provides the outsider with an explanation, and Malcolm is one of those people. There are many families which are similar to ours in this respect; you need to know life histories and the peculiar significance which certain words and phrases have in order to interpret the remarks that people make, such as, for example, the remark Malcolm made beside our campfire that October evening. Those of us who are in Malcolms family are used to hearing him make announcements about the sad condition of his heart. Malcolm discusses his relationships with women with the candidness of a movie magazine. Unlike the movie magazines, however, which have new headlines each week, Malcolm always tells the same story. The woman to whom he refers is one he lived with for several months arid considered marrying. She proposed to him, but she did not succeed in persuading him that she was really ready to commit herself to him until death did them part. She insisted that Malcolm could trust her, and when she was asleep he could almost believe that she was telling him the truth. But most of the time he suspected that she was not. He finally left her, although he was and is convinced that at the time he left her she was about to leave him evidence to support this belief he sometimes points out that shortly after he left her she married someone else, whom, by the way, she later divorced. I nudged a potato with a stick, pushing it deeper into the warm ashes. When she slept, Malcolm went on, she seemed so innocent, so incapable of deceiving me; it was as if she had abandoned her body entirely to me, as if our attachment would never end. I would listen to her breathing at night, and when she was awake I tried to notice whether her breath had that same innocence. I wanted to know whether she was only pretending to be happy with me, whether I should believe her words. Sooner or later, I thought, she will want to be free. Sooner or later she will not be able to bear the burden of having to respond to me with constant smiles and constant words of reassurance. Malcolm, I said to myself, you must not threaten her by being too dependent. You must not drive her away by making too many demands, wanting too much care. She must relax with you; she must feel free to express her true feelings. (I knew she wasnt expressing her true feelings.) I adore you, she said, Youre my angel, my prince, my movie star, my favorite singer, my best dancing partner. When I prepared breakfast for her she would tenderly declare that I make the most delicious coffee and eggs she had ever eaten. She even told me that she loved to smell my hair, even when it was dirty how could she expect me to believe that? Basically, Howard, she made me very suspicious. Real love is always expressed indirectly it is only people who dont really care very much who can afford to say that they adore someone, because only people who dont care can risk having their uninterested would-be lovers laugh in their faces. I could tell from her gestures and from some 222

Letter 28 of the things she said when she was talking to other people that for her I was only a good friend, someone with an income that she could have fun with. She wanted a marriage just so she could get a divorce and start collecting alimony. She was using me. I, on the other hand, loved her latterly; I would have died for her. My only desire was to live with her always. But what was I supposed to do? The situation was quite tedious. I knew that once we were married she would leave me, so I tried to put off the marriage by pretending that I too had some doubts about our relationship. Just stay with me another week, another month, I said, and then if you want to leave we can separate by mutual agreement and remain friends. We wont have to make an unpleasant scene. Basically, I wanted to put off the decision about marriage. I told her that we should live together longer, and when she insisted on marriage, I said goodbye. I was not sure about her, and as it turned out I was right to be dubious, wasnt I? I did not answer his question. The beans were bubbling and were beginning to stick to the sides of the can, which I had placed directly in the flames. I removed the can from the fire with a pair of tongs and poured some beans into Malcolms sierra cup and some into mine. By the time I sat down Malcolm himself was questioning whether the fact that his lover had married someone else soon after he left her proved that he was right to suppose she had not cared about him. I wasnt listening very closely. My attention was diverted by the empty bean can, its tin blackened on the outside with ashes and on the inside with burnt beans. When it was cool I would have to put it in my pack and carry it back to the impure world that it had come from. I would have to put it in an impure garbage can so it could be tossed in an impure landfill or dumped into an increasinglyimpure ocean. Malcolm, I said, I wish there were such a thing as a biodegradable bean can. Love is like war, Malcolm answered. If you believe the enemy will eventually attack, it is better to take the initiative and attack yourself. If you believe that your lover will leave you, then you should try to beat her to it. You should always give the impression that you have nothing to lose. Basically, thats your best strategy. If the enemy believes you are strong, she will not try to trick you. So I did the right thing. I guess. If I could have known that she would have been loyal to me forever, I would have married her, but according to all my predictions it was only logical that in the future there would come a time when she would want to be free. We sat in silence for awhile, eating our beans and watching the red and yellow fire glowing in the logs and dancing on the twigs. The light illuminated Malcolms face. I hate to tell you this, Malcolm, I eventually said, as gently as possible, because it will probably just make you feel worse. But there are reasons for believing that the problems which you experience from the inside, so to speak, as you live your life and as you find yourself in frustrating relationships with women, are not personal problems in the sense that you are the only one who has them, but are the consequence of the cultural codes which prescribe the rules of irrational rationality. Your inability to share mutual trust with your lover is due to your use, and hers, of the myths about human nature which dominate economic society. According to the norms which these myths prescribe, each one of us has a right to be free, indeed, a duty to be free, since to renounce our freedom is to violate the ideal of dignity which is also established by our myths. We have established social spaces in which one is more or less free to do whatever one chooses. And within these social spaces the rules of rational conduct prescribe mat one do whatever happens to be in ones best interest. Everyone thus assumes that everyone else is freely pursuing their own interests, and (not surprisingly) wars and broken hearts result. The rational calculations of each side lead to ungovernable conflicts. In the absence of Holy Wisdom, an old tradition which was painfully and slowly constructed, and in the absence of a new wisdom not yet born which would

perform its ancient functions, the logic of homo economicus governs thought and action. The environment is gutted as each individual person and individual firm make rational profit-making decisions, capitalism and socialism are both 223 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II rendered incapable of meeting human needs, and family life is ruined by unstable romances, as you have discovered. We are sensitive leaves blown by an eternal wind, dear cousin Malcolm. Our charming colloquies with our lovers are just sub-routines of a larger program, a program of personalities in cultures, cultures in ecosystems, ecosystems in the cosmos, or cosmoi, I should say, because we do not know how many cosmoi there are, nor how many billions of years it took to produce the closed eyelids and rhythmic breathing of your sleeping lady, nor do we know how much longer it will take the earth processes to work out the kinks in irrational rationality. Hopefully, blown leaves like ourselves will be part of the process, as co-creators of culture who may play a small part in achieving the happy adjustment of subjectivity to reality. On a souvent besoin de quelque chose plus que soi, sighed Malcolm, which, freely translated, means Life is a chancy thing. It makes a person watchful, and sometimes a little bit lonely. Perhaps you are beginning to see, I went on, why I have an at first-acquaintance-rather-bizarreappearing (erstesanschaunngenscheinlichetwasseltsames) penchant for blaming all the worlds troubles on Immanuel Kant, who was born in 1722 and who died in 1804, and why I consider one of the major problems with the critical theory of the Frankfurt School to be their failure to overcome the limitations of the symbolic structures of this greatest of all German philosophers. Kant makes it impossible for us to be co-creators of culture, to help the earth work out the kinks. He conceives the human being as a composite of inclination and will, our inclinations being determined by the mechanical laws of nature, and our wills being subject only to the laws of freedom which are equally acultural. Kants laws of freedom are eternal, just as Newtons laws are eternal, and they define all the moral and legal structures which Kant deems necessary. The neverending creation of ever more beautiful cultural subsystems of the ecosystem is neither possible nor necessary, except as the gradual narrowing of the gap between reality and the ideals defined by the eternal laws of freedom. Somewhat similarly, Habermas of the Frankfurt School proposes a universal pragmatics which is supposed to establish for us an inventory of certain basic minimum necessary features of every culture everywhere, while what we need, on the contrary, is the cultural analogue of an abundant gene pool; we need the preservation and recovery and creation of the symbolic analogues of living germ plasms, from which the hybrids of the future can be born, so that there will be, among other things, abundant cultural resources supporting the creativity of future pairs of lovers who create a world for two. Youre right, said Malcolm, picking up a twig from the ground and breaking it in two. I am? I asked, surprised. Malcolm usually doesnt agree with me. Yes, Malcolm said unhappily, You said you would make me feel worse and you did. A man loses the woman he loves and instead of trying to console him you tell him that he doesnt have an isolated case of heartbrokenness but that the whole world is messed up and there are three zillion other broken relationships out there. Malcolm, I began, The.... I know, I know, sighed Malcolm, interrupting me. This business about overcoming the limitations of the Kantian cultural structures was supposed to encourage me. Were supposed to create a more beautiful culture. Thats what you always say. Basically, Howard, your argument is getting tedious. I would be especially upset if I were Immanuel Kant or Jrgen Habermas. Suppose they were seated on the ground beyond yon bush, just outside the circle of our firelight, and

suppose they overheard your irreverent comments on the fruits of their labors. I suspect they would think that homo sapiens is an ungrateful and irresponsible species. Kant wrote books full of proofs, you know, and basically I dont think you can just throw all his proofs out the window, even though he did call philosophy a science of the boundaries of human thought, and even though his proofs are hardly of the sort that one would expect to find in my high school geometry textbook. 224 Letter 28 It has been a tradition in philosophy at least since Socrates, I answered patiently, a tradition so strong that one might say that without it philosophy would lack its spirit and would not be philosophy, that all proofs must be examined on their merits, regardless of who advances them and regardless of the motives behind advancing them. All fallacies must be distinguished from all correct deductions. It has been, on the other hand, a new tradition, so important that without it one might say that we will probably not survive, that all proofs must be examined on the basis of their contribution to the reembedding of human culture in the ecosystem. All creative and beautiful ideas must be distinguished from all destructive and unhelpful ones. Kant might cry foul and insist that the rules of the game forbid us to treat a philosopher like himself as a laborer like the one in Socrates argument with Thrasymachus who produces goods useful to society goods often especially useful, one might add, to its dominant elements and then to criticize him on the grounds that his goods are not useful enough. Habermas would be even less happy with us than Kant. Since Habermas has few of Kants 18th century ethnocentric illusions, and since we are saying nothing Habermas has not already said, he would insist that we should simply give him credit for already having said the true parts of what we say, instead of objecting that we feel frustrated when we read his essays because although he is not exactly wrong he is not exactly right either, his deviation from exact tightness consisting in an emphasis more critical and formal and less constructive and imaginative than the emphasis we think is needed. Malcolm uttered two profane monosyllables. He hadnt really wanted to hear how I could justify my irreverence for Kant and Habermas. What he really wanted was to be back together with the women he had left. Dont bother me with speculations about six million philosophers, he said. (Malcolm frequently exaggerates by several orders of magnitude.) As Henri Bergson once said, if you will just put what you think is true in your book (Malcolm knew I was trying to write a philosophy book), then the reader can compare your book with other books, and make up her mind for herself what to believe, without having to listen to tedious quarrels and speculations about what you think of the six million other philosophers and what they might think of you. [Malcolm calls things he does not like tedious.] What I need is wisdom I can use in my life. I am interested in Kant and Habermas only to the extent that they have the True Answer. (Malcolm is not to be taken seriously when he says things like that; he frequently mocks himself by making statements open to obvious objections indeed he considers self-depreciation to be a form of courtesy, a way to assure his listeners that anything they may find acceptable in what he says they will accept because they themselves deliberately make it their own thought, not because he forces his opinions on them.) Recently, I said, I have become acquainted with a woman who often seems to me to have the True Answer. When talking with Maria Luna I often find no way to escape the conclusion that her philosophy is completely right and my philosophy completely wrong. Even when I am not compelled to agree with her, I find that my own ideas become clearer when I consider how, if at all, I can justify a way of life different from the one she practices and recommends. How did you meet her? Malcolm asked.

Its a long story, I said. I like long stories, said Malcolm. Its late, I protested. Thats O.K., said Malcolm. Im not tired. Tell me about Maria Luna. Well, all right. If you insist. I met her at Century Center. You know I have been spending time at the CC. Cousin Malcolm replied that he did not know that I had been spending time at the CC, nor did he have reason to know, since I had never told him. He also denied ever having been to the CC and he denied knowing what it was or what people did there. 225 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II My feelings were hurt by Malcolms attitude because I am proud of our town (although I am not sure there is a good reason why one should be proud of the town in which one happens to reside); It was disconcerting to hear my own cousin, who lives in the same state, deny knowledge of our latest and greatest development. In our town we think the CC puts us on the map. The CC is a large, entirely indoor shopping mall. It has a news stand, a travel agency, a mens hair styling salon, a ladies hair styling salon, a shoe repair, a loan company, a pharmacy, a motion picture theater, a photofinisher, a florist, two booksellers, a pantorama (which sells pants), a post office, two banks, an optometrist, and a health spa that features a gymnasium and an indoor track. There are three large department stores where one can buy almost anything, as well as a large major national discount house, where one can buy almost anything at a low price. Anything which cannot be found in these large stores which sell almost anything can be purchased in specialty stores featuring sporting goods, television sets, designer jeans, tobacco, curtains, phonograph records, electronic equipment, household adornments, musical instruments, fine chocolates, cameras, paper flowers, sheets and bedroom accessories, cheese, china and fine dishware, ceramic objects, rare coffees, leather purses and belts, undergarments for women in their early teen years, and wallpaper. In the corridors inside the building there are 25 live trees, beneath each of which are polished wooden benches where one may sit and above each of which are special lamps which permit the trees to photosynthesize. There is also a statue of a tree by a local sculptor. The title of the statue is Tree. There are 30 boutiques selling ladies ready-to-wear clothing, 3 selling garments for children, 4 boutiques for men, 8 shoe stores, 4 jewelers, 5 restaurants one of the restaurants set among shrubs and ferns even though it is entirely indoors 4 public toilets, 28 pay telephones, underground parking for 1680 cars and outdoor parking for 1650, a delicatessen, 5 snack bars, a pizza counter, and a major grocer. The corridor where four of the snack bars and the pizza counter are located is widened to make space for 63 round orange plastic tables (tables like mushrooms with flat tops) and 189 brown plastic stools. Above one of the banks a seven story office tower rises. On the roof of the tower there is a discotheque in a glass bubble. The discotheque is named Star Place. I like to go to Century Center shopping mall because it is a place where people leave me alone. At the mall I am free of complaints and insane demands because nobody talks to me, or at least nobody used to until I met Maria Luna there. I sit on a brown stool at an orange plastic mushroom drinking a cup of coffee. Pairs of people and an occasional threesome walk by, chattering and looking at merchandise. They do not talk to me; I do not talk to them. It is as if I were protected by an invisible glass wall. Sometimes I buy something, like another cup of coffee or a phonograph record, and even then the people whom I am forced to talk to in order to make the purchase, the waitresses and sales people, do not attack me; they have to be polite because pleasing the

customers is what they are paid for. As long as I have money in my pocket I am safe. There are many loners like me walking around the mall by themselves and I wonder whether their thoughts are like my thoughts. If one spends a lot of time in a shopping mall, one gradually begins to notice the types of fauna with whom one shares the habitat. There is the obese and unbalanced elderly gentleman with a crew cut, in tennis shoes and a sweatshirt too small for him, stumbling forward with bulging paunch; the stick-legged little girl with her arm in a cast covered with hearts and signatures; the well-dressed blonde who inspects merchandise with an air of authority the executives wife type; a younger tousled blonde, thin body in baggy clothes, reading a book as she walks; Humphrey Bogart in a raincoat, smoking a cigarette; femme fatale in black leather; dark tigress in fur and black stockings; slight male body with head like whiskered egg, peering intently at the floor; prim suit and high heels, thin and elderly, small eyes looking straight ahead; bearded young man with leather jacket and glasses, pacing slowly as if looking for a connection. The first time I noticed Maria Luna I imagined she was an Italian actress on holiday in the 226 Letter 28 American midwest, traveling incognito in black loafers with white socks, ankle-length faded blue jeans, hip-level belt, white sweater, and frizzy hair. Later when I saw her seated at a plastic mushroom reading the New York Review of Books over a cup of tea I revised my opinion, because I had not heard of any Italian actress reading that publication. As I continued to observe her, what most impressed me was that she had so many friends. Although I have no friends myself, I am jealous of people who do. Maria was frequently the center of a happy party of electric bodies like the ones Walt Whitman described in his poem, I Sing the Body Electric: To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough, To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea. Maria saunters through the interior spaces of Century Center like a magnet on patrol. Spotting a friend, she opens wide her hands and eyes, her face explodes in a smile; then she bows a little with her knees, flexing them downward and wheeling to the left or right to position herself for a straight line rush into the friends arms, laughing and exclaiming (for example), Oh Caroline! What have you done to your hair?!?! as she and friend embrace and express. Several weeks after the first time I noticed her I happened to be ambling past a shop specializing in sheets and bedroom accessories when I suddenly saw her come out of the doorway of one selling imported lamps and lampshades. To myself I muttered under my breath, What the heck? and Why not?; I opened my eyes and hands wide, smiled, flexed my knees, wheeled in her direction, and rushed into her arms. Although she had never spoken to me, nor I to her, and perhaps she had not even noticed me before, she obligingly returned my embrace, whispering in my ear as she gently hung her arm around my shoulder, What do you want? How about a pizza and a long conversation about Kant? I suggested. Its a deal, she said, I believe in giving people what they want. We agreed to meet at an orange mushroom at two the following afternoon, and when we were comfortably seated on brown stools munching pizza and green salad, I offered to share with her my summary of the 1787 edition of the Critique of Pure Reason. Tell me your name first, she said. I did. Then she told me her name, explaining that although it sounds Spanish it is really Ukrainian. Her grandfather changed his name from Lunacarskij to Luna

when he immigrated to the USA in 1933. Then I said that Kant begins the book by remarking that human reason has the peculiar fate (besondere Schicksal) that it is concerned with questions it cannot answer, such as, for example, Does space come to an end somewhere? and Did time have a beginning? One of the topics of the book is why such questions cannot be answered, even though it is part of the nature of reason itself to ask them. The Critique of Pure Reason is about the difference between pure knowledge and empirical knowledge, where it turns out that pure knowledge is formal and empirical knowledge mechanical that is to say, empirical knowledge (i.e. knowledge based on experience) is assumed to be, as the scholars of the 18th century in general thought it was, modelled on the paradigm of Newtonian science. The remarkable fact, however, is not the existence of empirical knowledge, but the fact that humans possess knowledge not based on experience that is why the book is called a Critique of Pure Reason; it is a book about the pure, formal knowledge derived from pure reason, not from experience. That pure knowledge exists Kant has no doubt all of mathematics he considers to be pure knowledge, and Newton himself, who claimed to be an experimenter, would have gotten nowhere without mathematics. Space affords us more examples of pure knowledge: for example the proposition that there is only one space, not two or three, and all of us are in it. This proposition is known with 227 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II certainty. Its certainty, absolute certainty, shows it to be a truth of pure reason, because any knowledge based on experience is less than absolutely certain since any generalization from past experience may be contradicted by future experience. Similarly there is only one time, and it always goes forward, out of the past and through the present towards the future never backward into the past. Experience, far from being the source of all knowledge, presupposes pure reason. For example, experiential knowledge, i.e. empirical knowledge, is justified by what we nowadays call data (which Kant called intuition, his predecessor Hume called impressions, some people call sense impressions, others atomic facts, and others simply experience ignoring the subtleties which distinguish these similar terms from each other), but data always come in bits of data, and every datum is located at same place at some time. As Kant puts it, all possible intuitions come under the forms of space and time. Thus in a sense the whole is present in every part, e.g. identifying a particular second of a particular minute of a particular hour of a particular day implicitly refers to the whole calendar and to the whole sweep of time from the infinitely past to the infinitely future. Furthermore, experience must comply not only with the pure forms of space and time but also with the pure forms of logic, of which the most important is the law of causality: all changes happen according to the law of connection between cause and effect. (Alle veranderungen qeschehen nach dem Gesetze der Verknupfunq der Ursache und Wirkung.) Kant further claims that Newtons laws (inertia, force = mass X acceleration, action-reaction, the parallelogram rule) are consequences of general pure formal principles which must be true in any possible experience. (In other books Kant extends his method to show how pure reason guarantees the absolute validity of the basic principles of morals and law. The latter turn out to be, of course, the basic principles of contract and property which govern economic society.) Having discussed what must be true in any possible experience, as a condition of there being any experience at all, Kant goes on to consider those strange questions reason compels us to ask but

prevents us from answering. Did the world have a beginning in time? You can prove it must have had, because if it had no beginning it must have been going on for an infinite period of time up till now which is impossible, because if it took an infinite time to get up to now, now would never be reached and we would not be eating pizza and salad. However, you can also prove the world could not have had a beginning in time, because if the world had a beginning, then there must have been what Kant calls empty time (eine leere Zeit) but out of such a before-the-existence-ofanything empty time, no world could have arisen, since there would have been no cause (Ursache, or Bedingung, condition) operating to produce such an effect. Similarly, one can both prove and disprove that space is finite; and both prove and disprove that there are simple parts (Einfaches) of which all the compound things (zusammengsetztes) in the world are composed. Further, one can prove there is no freedom, since everything in the world happens necessarily according to laws of nature. However, the contrary thesis, that it is necessary to assume the existence of freedom, can also be proven. From such considerations, Kant deduces that it is hopeless to try to apply reason to answer questions beyond the reach of any possible experience. Such speculations Kant condemns as beyond the bounds of anything reason can cope with. One might think that from the conclusion that the peculiar questions it is the peculiar fate of human reason to ask lead only to hopelessly contradictory speculations, nothing would follow except that if you ask a silly question you get a silly answer. But for Kant important conclusions follow. Freedom is saved from the juggernaut of mechanistic science because since it is impossible to know whether we are free or not free, and since the moral law requires that we are free, the conclusion that we are free must be accepted. The traditional metaphysics which had claimed to know ultimate reality, with its proofs of the existence of God and of other 228 Letter 28 religious verities, goes out the window all of traditional metaphysics is invalid because it leads reason into the never-never land of perpetual contradiction. Since freedom is apparently the leading norm of the new (i.e. new in the 18th century) society, or at least its leading publicly stated norm; and since traditional metaphysics provided coherence for the old society that was on its way out in the 18th century, these conclusions are of the greatest practical importance. We are left then with a triple result: 1) On the one hand pure reason guarantees the absolute certainty of certain principles of mathematics, logic, physics, morals, and law these must be true. They are, so to speak, thoughts contribution to knowledge (to practice, in the case of morals and law). They are presupposed by thought (or practice) regardless of the particular material dealt with. 2) Freedom, the leading stated norm of the new social order, is guaranteed. 3) On the other hand, pure reason, which applies to every experience, cannot possibly apply to anything outside experience; it cannot apply to the not-experienced thing-in-itself (Dingan-sich). All attempts to reason beyond the bounds of experience are necessarily fallacious. When I had finished speaking, Maria folded her paper napkin into a square, placed it on the table beside her empty salad plate, and placed her glass of water on the napkin, neatly centering the glass on the paper. Delightful she exclaimed, turning her face to me and biting her thumbnail. Now before you tell me anything else, tell me why you care. Human beings have never been able to survive as individuals with their constructed-according-togenetic-coding physical equipment, I said. They have always required imaginative inventions to

construct the group cohesion required for survival and for happiness. How do you know these things? asked Maria. I usually make it a point not to believe sentences with words like never and always in them. They are conclusions from the study of anthropology, archaeology, and history. Your conclusions, she said. OK, my conclusions. At present we humans have constructed a world which needs more cohesion than it has. The world we have constructed consists to a great extent of buildings, streets, and vehicles on the streets. Buildings and vehicles are physical constructions. You are supposed to be talking about imaginative inventions. Cultures have patterns, I replied. The physical artifacts correspond to imaginative inventions, symbolic structures, which prescribe norms for conduct and logic for thinking. In our society the norm is that the only place you are allowed to be is the street (and a few other public places like the corridors of malls); anyplace else you have to pay. But you cant live on the street; it is made of asphalt and cement of no nutritional value and impossible to digest. Speak for yourself, said Maria. The only people with security are those with guaranteed flows of sufficient sums of money. Even owning a house with land does not give you a secure place to be, because you cant keep it up or pay the taxes without cash. Consequently, almost everybody is anxious, and a considerable number are down-and-out losers, politely called marginal populations. Sick, said Maria. You live in a fantasy where you walk alone down a long street; everyone tells you you are free and shuts doors in your face; people rush by in cars, taxis, and buses you are not allowed to ride. You see the world as a series of closed doors because you are a creep. 229 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II I pretended not to have heard her say I was a creep (I know its true) and continued to try to comply with her request to tell why I care about Kant, raising the level of the conversation from the personal to the political. In the Americas in the last 30 years we have lived through the failures of attempts to change the structures that hold us prisoners, I said, mainly under the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Christian social doctrine in Latin America and of the New Left under the influence of the Frankfurt School in North America. Nobody believes in Marxism or the New Left anymore, she said, Progressive thinking has moved far beyond them. On the contrary, I said. The reason why the progressive movements are intellectually defenseless against the New Right is that they still have not moved beyond Kant. For a free lunch, said Maria, I will listen to almost anything. She leaned back and opened her arms as if praying for rain. But if I have to listen to preposterous remarks without a shred of evidence to back them up, then I am going to have to raise the price. The claim is not preposterous. It is not an assertion about Kant as an individual who happened by accident to think certain thoughts, but one about Kant as the product of and spokesperson for the emerging economic society. It is not preposterous to believe that if those who are working to change society still use premises originally developed for the purpose of keeping it the same, then they will he intellectually defenseless, fighting, so to speak, with weapons designed by the opponent and suitable mainly for achieving the opponents ends. Perhaps, said Maria, pursing her lips, but you have shown neither that Kants purpose was to

defend economic society, nor that contemporary progressives still use his premises. Consider Jrgen Habermas, the most widely read living progressive thinker. He correctly perceives that it is not enough to pile fact on fact to show how polluted the water is, how many people are hungry, how much damage nuclear blasts produce, how many people walking the streets ought to be in mental hospitals, how many prisoners are tortured unless at the same time we reform the rationality our culture uses to process facts. homo sapiens is the rational animal, whose wisdom consists of taking action according to conclusions reached by operating on the evidence with logic. Wrong, said Maria. Ignoring her demurral for the moment, I tried to explain how Habermas classifies three types of rationality operating in the contemporary world. 1. Instrumental rationality (Max Webers Zweckrationalitat). This is the technical rationality which discovers and uses Newtonian-Kantian relations of cause and effect, to find the most efficient means to achieve a given objective. It dominates modern society; it laughs at us and holds us prisoner even while philosophers heap proof upon proof to demonstrate its inadequacy. 2. The rationality of praxis (Max Webers Verstehen). This rationality enables you to stand in someone elses shoes, to understand the others meanings, norms, languages... and to understand oneself also as a participant in social relations. Habermas calls it practical understanding because it enables us to interact with others and to cooperate. 3. Emancipatory rationality. This is not so much a description of an existing rationality as it is the Frankfurt Schools proposal for the creation of a new one. The aim is liberation. As the preceding two rationalities were governed by their aims, in the first case technical manipulation and in the second practical understanding, so the new emancipatory rationality will govern research and action which is deliberately aimed at promoting the freedom and dignity of each person. 230 Letter 28 Now suppose, I continued, just suppose here I admit I am not offering you proofs that liberation is not a fitting name for the objective requirements of survival, nor for the beautiful life; suppose it is a word whose popularity comes from its roles on the banners of yesterdays revolutions and its universal acceptance as an emotionally charged glory-word used by all presentday factions left, right, and center; suppose that what we really need is more akin to the transformation of the second of Habermas three kinds of rationality, suppose we need the creative reconstruction of symbolic systems guiding, practice; suppose instrumental rationality is misleading (i.e. a consciousness-lowering logic of disunity Letter 9) even in areas where Weber and Habermas concede its competence; suppose that to conservatives talk about emancipatory rationality is so much twaddle when as is obvious to them what is needed is discipline to accomplish socially necessary tasks, such as producing high-quality export goods to compete in the international marketplace, i.e. what is needed is the effective application of Habermas first kind of rationality, and suppose everything happens in such a way as to convince the public and the military brass that the conservative viewpoint fits the facts because, among other things, the projects of progressives turn into demonstrations of how to be undisciplined and ineffective. One would then have to conclude that something went wrong somewhere in Habermas analysis, that what he did not see clearly was his first category, instrumental rationality, that what he overvalued was his third category, emancipatory rationality, and one would also have to conclude that

something in the formative processes which formed the minds of Habermas and his vast audience produced a theory not suitable for present-day realities, and if one follows Gramsci one will look for the clouding of the mind which obscures present-day realities among the sediments from the past, the bits and pieces of yesterdays ideas that still shape thought and language. But yesterdays ideology is precisely the culture of economic society, its greatest exponent is precisely Kant; and Kants conclusions asserted precisely (1) the absolute certainty of Newtonian cause-and-effect mechanical rationality (akin to Habermas first type of rationality), and (2) the reduction of morality to formal laws of freedom this will be discussed further in the next chapter. (Freedom is the value endorsed by Habermas third type of rationality) and (3) the absolute falsity of the imaginative processes previous metaphysicians had used in inventing symbolic structures (thus cutting off traditional sources of group cohesion). If such suppositions are correct and I think that although they are not completely correct, they are as correct as any brief simplification is likely to be then the ghost of Kant is walking the corridors of the shopping mall. The social structures whose legitimating ideas Kant synthesized keep merchandise at the center of attention; they support the levels of anxiety which create a market for the industry which makes designer jeans for people who feel a need to have a famous name on their rears; Kant is the lonely man staring at the floor, the teenager looking for a tribe. The absolute certainty which won its spurs in geometry, algebra, logic, and physics, then endorsed 18th century moral and legal principles which still underwrite the flow of rent from the boutiques to those who hold ownership rights in the mall. Kant is the distant invisible supplier of the rhetoric of the girl who tells her mother she is mature enough to make her own decisions you will observe her in the mall wearing clothes she likes, not clothes her mother likes; freedom is on her lips, and on those of the businessperson who complains of government interference with her activities, and on those of the druggie who feels persecuted because society tries to deny him the right to blow his mind. 231 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II

232 Letter 29 29 MACH DICH MEIN HERZE REIN* The first time I read the first part of Kants Foundations of the Metaphysics Of Morals I shuddered with fear because Kant seemed to be praising the morals of Sammy Martins father. Sammy was a boy in my sixth grade class who came to school with black, blue, and red scars because his father had beaten him for masturbating. Mr. Martin recognized that he had little formal instruction, but, he said, I knows right from wrong. Kant says, ...the knowledge of what everyone is obliged to do, is within the reach of everyone, even the most ordinary man. Philosophy should limit itself to making more scientific, more complete and comprehensible the moral rules already found in the happy simplicity of the common understanding. On studying Kant farther I discovered that what his philosophy supports is not really Mr. Martins racism, sexism, xenophobia, puritanism, and chauvinism, but other notions of the common understanding concerning which a complacent ethnocentricity is even more dangerous: namely promise-keeping, freedom, property, and human dignity. When Kant was dean of Konigsberg University, so it is said, he would lead the graduating students in their baccalaureate processions as far as the door of the church, and would then respectfully stand aside while they filed in. Kants reservations about established religion, which according to legend he expressed in this dramatic way, no doubt stemmed in part as do mine about Mr. Martins morals from miserable experiences in sixth grade. Kants mother sent him to a pietist school where the children were expected to burst into spontaneous prayer to express their religious sentiments passionately and. publicly. One suspects too that even when he was reluctant to say so Kant did not believe the prevailing popular theologies, since, as a convinced Newtonian, Kant

believed nature was governed not by the Holy Spirit but by quantitative rigors such as the famous diagonal of the parallelogram. Kant wrote in a letter to his friend Mendelssohn, Although I am absolutely convinced of many things I shall never have the courage to say, I shall never say anything I do not believe. (Kant to Mendelssohn Ap.8,1776) Nevertheless, the text of the first section of the Foundations of the Metaphysics Of Morals shows Kant to be a protestant manqu, the product of a time and place where fundamental doctrines of the reformation had entered into the warp and woof of daily social communication and could be taken for granted, while others (such as Luthers prohibition against lending money at interest) were still in the process of being shucked off by the expanding economic society. Kants doctrine that common human reason, equipped with the compass of pure respect for law, knows well how to distinguish what is good, what is bad, and what is consistent or inconsistent with duty (p.40, Akademie ed.) presupposes Luthers doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and in general the democratization achieved by the open Bible, the freedom of the Christian, the appeal to inner light, the competition of sects for the adherence of believers.... Kant is able to take as a premise in the late eighteenth century a faith in common human reason which would not have been regarded as a plausible premise five centuries earlier, in the thirteenth. St. Thomas had denied that the lower angels can teach anything to the higher angels, and the 13th century European mind would similarly have denied if anybody had the *Make thee my heart pure. 233 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II audacity to affirm that common human reason can distinguish what is good, what is bad, what is consistent or inconsistent with duty, without the aid of the father confessor, the magisterium of the church, the spiritual exercises which guide the heart toward a knowledge of its true end and resting place.... Even more than his democratic respect for the common man, and even more than his holding certain basic self-evident moral truths (parallel to the basic arithmetic, geometric, logical and physical truths of the Critique of Pure Reason), Kants assumptions concerning what basic truths the common man holds show Kant to be a product of his times. The common man. Kant tells us, seeks the decisive criterion of right and wrong in the innere Wert der Person (the inner value of the person). This inner value is found in acting contrary to ones desires and needs, nicht aus Neigung sondern aus Pflicht (not on the basis of desire and need, but on the basis of duty). And Pflicht (duty) is action based on reine Achtung pure respect. But reine respect for what? Respect for pure command, for pure principle, otherwise known as respect for pure reason, pure law. It is evident that Kant captured the spirit of his times with his emphases on the value of being rein and on the commands of Pflicht. Rein is translated into English as clean, or as pure, and the word is also used figuratively to mean chaste or innocent. Kants incessant repetition of the word he uses it at least once on almost every page is reminiscent of the splendid aria in the St. Matthew Passion where, at the point when Jesus has saved us from sin by dying on the cross, the soloist sings mach dich mein Herze rein (Make thee my heart pure). Kant did his philosophical work in a civilization which honored Pflicht und Arbeit (duty and work). Pflicht is for Kant a brake rather than a motor; it commands us to limit our Neigungen (i.e. our desires, the satisfaction of our needs, the aspirations summed up as the pursuit of happiness). It is evident that Kants milieu is different from the earlier and more southerly context where Augustine and Thomas conceived God as the teacher of the heart who guides us to know our true Neigungen, the infinite and sacred need

to rest always in divine love and adoration, the infinite desire to become what we really are and always have been by attuning our minds and souls to the indwelling essences of creation and creator. What is likely to pass unnoticed in the first part of the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals is the narrowing of the scope of morality. For Aristotle morals was simply mores, moeurs, custom, social practice. What Aristotle deals with in his Ethics and Politics, and in some supporting passages in other works, is the whole process of cultural guidance of behavior through symbolic structures, the education (the character formation) of the zoon politikon (the animal whose nature it is to live in a polis) who is also the zoon logos echon (the animal who has the word). For Kant, on the other hand, to have value (Wert) is not the same thing as to have true moral value (wahren sittlichen Wert), or sittliche Gehalt (moral import). To have true moral value an action must be done nicht aus Neigung sondern aus Pflicht. (Not from inclination but from duty). Duty (Pflicht) constitutes the oberster Bedingung (supreme condition) which limits what men may do in pursuit of Privatabsicht (private purposes). What is likely to pass unnoticed here, as a void in the text, a space inhabited but not defined, is that there is a sphere of private purposes with which morals has nothing to do. Yet it is just here that economic society receives its charter. Of course economic society existed before philosophers amended symbolic structures to legitimate it; here Kant ratifies more than he creates. The charter of the new society is given by a sweeping and perhaps not wholly conscious assumption that there is a great sphere of human action where people legitimately pursue happiness according their Neigungen, which can be studied scientifically in the same way the material world in general is studied, i.e. by seeking laws like those discovered by Newton. Thus the greater part of the study of human rational deliberation is relinquished to economics, and the moralist is relegated to the role of supervisor of the boundary conditions which define the 234 Letter 29 symbolic space within which the economic sphere functions. Morals for Kant concerns only the oberster Bedingung which limit Privatabsicht, as if it were an especially high honor to be a moral question, so that merely being a question about human conduct is not a sufficient distinction to make a question worthy to be regarded as having sittliche Gehalt. It is worthwhile to dwell for a while on the relationship between the oberster Bedingung (the highest, commanding, requirement) and the Privatabsicht (the private purpose). If one spends a day or a week thinking about that relationship, using it, so to speak, as a pair of glasses through whose lenses everything can be seen, one will come to understand, among other things, the failure of the New Left. The oberster Bedingung is the command of reason. Stripped of Kants Newtonian mythology, it is the command of society. Of a particular kind of society. Our kind. Most of life, however, takes place in the vast regions of Privatabsicht, which are governed (according to Kants mythology, which is still the dominant mythology) by the laws of mechanics, and by other laws created in their image. Habermas proposal for an emancipatory rationality operates within Kants worldview. Interpreting Freud, Habermas sees the commands of society as the superego writ large, imposing social order on the impulses (the Antrieben) as an authoritative parent disciplines an unruly child. Interpreting Marx, Habermas sees much of the discipline as unnecessary. It is a discipline imposed to maintain the privileges of the bourgeoisie, which is not objectively needed if one measures what is needed by what humans must do to satisfy their needs, given the physical environment and the laws of technology. Social emancipation is conceived on the model of the personal emancipation achieved through psychoanalysis. In one case

as in the other reason brings freedom by unmasking nonfunctional restrictions on impulse, and by organizing functional ones. But what are the impulses, the Antrieben? They are psychological forces imagined on the model of Newtons physical impulses. That is the usual way to read Antrieben, given our cultural coding. Hence we are led to, or at least not led away from, a discipline vs. impulse way of thinking that is all too natural for people in our society. The New Left becomes the party of what its conservative opponents pejoratively but correctly label permissiveness, i.e. more impulse, less discipline. There is no way out of the discipline vs. impulse way of seeing the problem (a way of seeing the problem that can only lead to bad solutions of it) without getting out of Kants articulation of morality as the Bedingung imposed on the Privatabsicht. And in spite of the protests of the New Left against the technocracy, their recognition of a sphere of Privatabsicht governed by laws analogous to Newtons (they call it the sphere of instrumental rationality) leads to entrusting the achievement of social purposes to a technocratic bureaucracy. It could not lead anywhere else on a Kantian view, since human inclinations are part of nature, which is governed throughout by laws, and which can therefore be understood and manipulated by those who have discovered and studied the relevant laws. Kant and Habermas view themselves as liberators because they stress that not everything in human nature is governed by laws, since there is pure reason too (or, in Habermas, communication and emancipatory reason), which makes it too easy to overlook the crucial concession, which is that almost everything is. In practice, society is run by economists, the experts on the study of behavior organized by Privatabsicht, while the critical theorists of the New Left are the loyal opposition, loyal because they criticize modern society from within its own 18th century worldview. Kant may have been innocent of the conscious intention of ratifying the separation of economics and morals, but it is hard to believe he did not intend the first sentence of the first section of the Foundations of the Metaphysics Of Morals as a salvo against Aristotle. Nothing in the world... can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will, wrote Kant. The good is that toward which all things aim, Aristotle had said, and that toward which all things aim was eudaimonia, happiness, or blessedness, or being well (eu) in spirit (daimon). Now if it be granted that ethics is about the good, then it is evident that 235 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II morals (Im using ethics and morals as synonyms) is on Aristotles principles about the whole human project of satisfying needs and achieving aspirations, while for Kant ethics is only about the condition for having a good will, which is to act aus Pflicht, which is to act from reine Achtung, which is only relevant to certain situations, and which only happens some of the time, if indeed action from respect for pure reason is not, as Hume was led to declare, something that never happens at all, so that Kants beloved rational Pflicht would have to be considered at most as a formal ideal which we are in some sense commanded to obey while in material fact we can never obey it because in our every act we remain prisoners of the flesh. Kant begins the second part of the Foundations of the Metaphysics Of Morals by insisting at considerable length that Pflicht (duty) is not an Erfahrungsbergriff (a concept based on experience). It is so far from being a concept based on experience that it is doubtful whether anyone has ever observed single instance of a person acting from duty; it is indeed more than doubtful, since to act from duty is to have the moral worth stemming from pure obedience to *S the strict commands of Pflicht, and since the command to be obeyed is an inner principle and since the obedience required is an inner obedience. Whether or not a person is acting from duty is invisible to an observer.

Kant is happy with the conclusion that Pflicht must be wholly inner and formal, because if there were anything material about Pflicht it would lack purity, certainty, and universality. (For Kant the material, the based-on-experience, and the nature-subject-to-Newtonian-sorts-of-mechanical-typelaws are three names for the same thing.) Nevertheless, a problem arises: to do ones duty, one must act from the pure motive of obeying formal law, but humans appear to be part of nature, and the human will appears to be like the rest of nature, hence the will appears to be governed by/the mechanical law of cause and effect. However much Kant insists that action from duty is rare and unobservable, he must still dispute with Hume; he must find a way to say it is possible to act aus Pflicht; otherwise the common human reason which says humans are commanded to act aus Pflicht would make no sense. As Kant puts the problem: the formal must be practical. The problem is of course not just Kants personal problem. It is a reflection of contradictory elements in his societys ideology. Since the guiding symbolic structures of the emerging economic society came from diverse sources some of them arising from technology, others from law, religion or some other source theres no reason to expect them to harmonize with each other. And the problems cultures run into when they try to organize human action using symbolic structures which contradict each other are the reasons why philosophers are needed in the first place. It is at this point that Kant makes his master stroke. Ein jedes Ding der Natur wirkt nach Gesetzen. Nur ein Vernunftiges Wesen hat das Vermogen nach der Vorstellung der Gesetze, d.i, nach Prinzipien zu handeln, oder einen Willen. (Everything in nature works according to laws. Only a rational being has the capacity to conduct himself according to the conception of laws, i.e. according to principles, i.e. has a will.) The relationship between working according to the laws of cause and effect (nach Gesetzen) and working according to the conception of laws (nach Prinzipien) is the key to Kants contribution to the ideological coherence of economic society. a) The scientific worldview which organizes the guiding ideas of the cultures technology is ratified because ein jedes Ding der Natur wirkt nach Gesetzen. b) The democratic tendencies of the reformation and of the revolts against the feudal nobility are endorsed because any vernunftiges Wesen (rational being) has a special capacity to act from principle. c) The sensuously rich subjectivity of the individual, which had been threatened with demotion to the status of illusion or at best the status of a third-rate reality by 236 Letter 29 philosophers like Hobbes and the French materialists who conceived reality as mechanical forces working according to Galilean-Newtonian laws, is rescued as follows: Kant shows that any conception of things following laws of nature presupposes a subject to stell it vor, to conceive it. Kant thus drives a wedge of subjectivity into the armor of vulgar materialism, through which droves of 19th and 20th century philosophers, theologians, and artists have pressed their attacks. d) Regression to the traditional worlds composed of personal relationships which would have stunted (and indeed in many parts of the world still today does stunt) the growth of the impersonal market relationships of capitalism is avoided because man owes obedience to Prinzipien, not to divinities, kings, masters, or persons of any kind. (Kant is careful to add when he says we must respect persons that we must respect them as instances of principles.) e) The principles every rational being is morally obliged to obey are only those which are

implicit in the Vorstellung der Gesetze. Strictly speaking, there is only one such principle, of which all the others are reformulations, applications, or derivatives. It is: Act only according to that maxim which you can at the same time will that it should be a universal law. The anti-value of freedom is preserved, since no matter how the one principle is interpreted it will not yield the detailed norms and ideals governing and inspiring every aspect of life which many cultures (such as, for example, Confucian China and the European middle ages) have sought to achieve. The moral rules will be strict but few. f) The axe of science, which was being successfully used by sectors of the rising bourgeoisie to demolish by ridicule the religious ideologies of the aristocrats who claimed to rule by divine right and those of the enthusiastic worker and peasant rebels who claimed to have a divine right to share the wealth, is prevented from demolishing social order altogether. The moral imperatives implicit in the Vorstellung der Gesetze are perfectly consistent with Natur, indeed they are presupposed by Natur, since Natur is a system of Gesetze, and they are sufficient to legitimate the requirements of order. g) The Vorstellung der Gesetze (conception of laws) distinguishes human society from nature, because society is constructed by vernunftigen Wesen who follow Prinzipien (i.e. the Vorstellung) while nature is governed by plain old (laws ). Newtonian Gesetze (laws). At the same time, the way is opened to conceive society in terms of mechanical metaphors, since the capacity for Vorstellung which sets humans apart from nature is after all a capacity for Vorstellung der Gesetze; nature is thus the model, and human laws are analogies to it the notion of Prinzipien is derived from the notion of Gesetze by the transformation laws undergo when the perspective is shifted to the point of view of the rational subject who is doing the conceiving of the laws. But the form is still mechanical; hence institutions are conceived as having laws analogous to natural laws, such as the basic laws protecting property and forbidding crime (discussed by Kant in other books under the heading of metaphysical elements of justice). By further extension the habit of thinking of social laws as quasi-mechanical entities makes it seem natural to talk of the law of supply and demand, the balance of power, checks and balances in constitutional systems, pressure groups in politics these latter are not specifically Kantian ideas, but they are ideas which come naturally to the modern frame of mind to which Kant added legitimacy, from the materialist juggernaut. Kant thus rescues from the materialist juggernaut the Aristotelian notion of praxis (i.e. Or humans acting kata logon, according to the word, after deliberation) but it is only a partial rescue, since the capacity to act from Vorstellung is qualified by calling it Vorstellung der Gesetze. 237 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II h) We get from Kant a definition of person. A person is a rational will. And a definition! of will: will is nothing else than practical reason, which in turn is nothing else than the! capacity to act nach der Vorstellung der Gesetze. The ancient definitions of the human as homo sapiens, as the creature made in the image of God, as the heart of the universe (this third one is from China) are thus subtly reformulated. Now the human person is that which makes rational decisions and acts on them. i) It follows that persons should never be regarded merely as means to someone elses ends, because the person is by definition an end-chooser, a goal-decider, a purpose-haver (the word translated end is Zweck, which might also have been translated as goal or purpose), a selecting-of-ends reasoner, an end-maker. Making a person merely a Mittel

(means, instrument, tool) therefore violates what a person essentially is. It remains for Kant to give examples of practical maxims for conduct which can be derived from the Vorstellung der Gesetze Initially he gives four examples, one in each of four categories, and one of the examples is actually a repetition of the case he cited in the first section when the basic principle was pulled out (gezogen) from common rational knowledge of morals. The four categories are: (1) strict duties which must be obeyed, which we owe to ourselves, (2) strict duties which must be obeyed, which we owe to others, (3) meritorious duties, which it is praiseworthy but not absolutely necessary to obey, and which we owe to ourselves, and (4) meritorious duties which it is praiseworthy but not absolutely necessary to obey, which we owe to others. What I am most interested in is (2), strict duties to others. The example of strict duty is, moreover, the one which repeats and elaborates the case already considered in section one. It is as follows: 2. Another man finds himself forced by need to borrow money. He well knows that he will not be able to repay it, but he also sees that nothing will be loaned him if he does not firmly promise to repay it at a certain time. He desires to make such a promise, but he has enough conscience to ask himself whether it is not improper and opposed to duty to relieve his distress in such a way. Now, assuming he does decide to do so, the maxim of his action would be as follows: When I believe myself to be in need of money, I will borrow money and promise to repay it, although I know I shall never do so. Now this principle of self-love or of his own benefit may very well be compatible with his whole future welfare, but the question is whether it is right. He changes the pretension of self-love into a universal law and then puts the quotation: How would it be if my maxim became a universal law? He immediately see that it could never hold as a universal law of nature and be consistent with itself; rather it must necessarily contradict itself. For the universality of a law which says that anyone who believes himself to be in need could promise what he pleased with the intention of not fulfilling it would make the promise itself and the end to be accomplished by it impossible; no one would believe what was promised to him but would only laugh at any such assertion as vain pretense. Kant further develops the same example when he elaborates on the point that humanity should never be treated merely as means, as follows: Second, as concerns necessary or obligatory duties to others, he who intends a deceitful promise to others sees immediately that he intends to use another man merely as a means, without the latter containing the end in himself at the same time. For he whom I want to use for my own purposes by means of such a promise cannot 238 Letter29 possibly assent to my mode of acting against him and cannot contain the end of this action in himself. This conflict against the principle of other men is even clearer if we cite examples of attacks on their freedom and property. For then it is clear that he who transgresses the rights of men intends to make use of the persons of others merely as a means, without considering that, as rational beings, they must always be esteemed at the same time as ends, i.e., only as beings who must be able to contain in themselves the end of the very same action. Maria Luna is a busy person and in any case she permits herself pizza for breakfast only once a week. (The 2 p.m. meal is breakfast for her.) Consequently, it was not until a week after outlining the Critique of Pure Reason for her that I was able to present her with the preceding interpretations and comments concerning (mainly) the Foundations of the Metaphysics Of Morals. I concluded my

remarks by telling her that Kants work consists of several books full of German sentences, which taken all together bring into harmonious accord the main symbolic structures employed by advanced minds in late 18th century Europe. A person who accepts Kants philosophy can maintain moral rules as strict as those of Luther or Calvin, and accept laissez-faire principles of freedom and property, and be a liberty-loving law-loving democrat, and regard promise-keeping as in some sense the origin and basis of society, and see human rights and human dignity as sacred (beyond price), and believe in the worldview produced by generalizing the discoveries of 18th century physics all at once without contradicting herself. Maria had some criticisms to make. She regarded what I had said as unfair to Kant in some ways, as an exaggeration of his achievement in other ways, and in still other ways as a failure to notice what is most important about Kant. Rather than make her criticisms immediately, she preferred to check some sources first in the public library, where she sometimes reads books in the wee hours of the morning when she is through dancing at Star Place. Her friend the janitor lets her in to read books while he mops the floor. We agreed to meet at an orange mushroom a week later. Since I believed that her capacity to criticize my interpretation of Kant would be enhanced by acquaintance with its context, I provided her with two copies of letters 1 through 28, one for her and one for the janitor. 239 240 30 THE INTIMATE DINOSAUR Sometimes I have a mystical experience when I watch the infinite waves on the sea, stretching forever and ever beyond the farthest horizon, or when I watch the cars going by on Chester Boulevard, more cars than I can count going back and forth forever and ever carrying people I dont know, who are all going some place or other, God knows where. I was having one at Century Center watching the passing people in the corridor, an endlessly self-renewing stream of fellow creatures, living lives somehow like mine, and yet somehow beyond my comprehension, when Maria arrived and sat down next to me on a brown plastic toadstool beside an orange mushroom. She was stunning in a recently laundered white sweater. The soft background music was oldfashioned big band swing. I was pleased by the low price of the pizza and by her willingness to talk to me at no charge except for me paying for her breakfast. However I was not pleased by what she said. She said she does not agree with my philosophy, she wanted to make it abundantly clear that she did not agree with my philosophy. Nevertheless, she has enough faith in the philosophical process of interchange of ideas and critical discussion that she wants to see all ideas, even the worst ones, even mine, presented clearly and effectively so they will be considered and discussed. She said she was dismayed to see how badly I presented my ideas. She said I had presented my philosophy in a form everyone would reject and no one would take seriously. Who, for example, is going to listen to someone who calls freedom an anti-value? It is acceptable to come out in favor of world peace or some other impeccably worthy goal, and if you should write a pamphlet on how to prevent world War III, you could probably succeed in getting a dozen people to read it in a city of 100,000, and if you took a door-to-door census in the same city asking the citizens whether they are upset that more than half the worlds population is malnourished you would get a respectable number who would agree with you that it is a problem and something should be done. When you move beyond endorsing worthy aims and start assigning blame to the people whose behavior is the cause

of the problem then you lose respectability and make enemies, but at least you have a chance to become famous because when a person makes a controversial, combative accusation then the public likes to read about it and to see it on TV. But when you start criticizing freedom nobody will listen to you, nobody at all. It is as if you tried to talk to a dinosaur, who had noticed that the days were tending to get cooler, some warmer, some cooler, but on the whole tending toward the cool side, and the dinosaur had noticed that on some days it was hard to find enough food, some days not so bad, some days hungry, but on the whole the food supply tending toward the scarce side, and you tried to tell the dinosaur that something in the basic code governing the growth of its physical structure made it a creature headed toward extinction. The dinosaur would say to you, I dont like your attitude, and that would be the extent of its interest in your opinions. Dont think you will get any farther when you criticize the central themes of contemporary cultural coding, and dont expect, in particular, any sympathy from the Communists; remember that they consider themselves the advocates of freedom and they consider Americans to be unfree. Frei Deutsche Jungen (Free German Youth) is the name of the Communist youth movement in Germany, not the name of a pro-American movement. Cuba calls itself territorio libre de America, the free 241 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II territory of the Americas. Dont expect help from Catholics; it is enough to remember that a leading Roman Catholic treatise on moral theology is called Free and Faithful in Christ. The rightwing dictators of the third world will not help you either; it will be fruitless to apply for asylum in Paraguay or Chile when you are driven out of everyplace else; the word freedom is never far from the lips of General Stroessner and General Pinochet. They regard themselves! as heroes of the Free World. Habermas is smarter than you are. He calls his proposed new rationality a logic of emancipation, of freedom for all. According to Habermas the goal of social emancipation and emancipatory rationality is communication free of domination and a general and unforced consensus. (J. Habermas, Toward A Rational Society, London: Heinemann, 1971) He makes his task easier, as you would too if you were not perverse, so that instead of asking people to question freedom, all he needs to do is to persuade people that what he calls domination (the opposite of freedom) really is domination even though some people call it freedom, and that what he calls freedom is real freedom or true freedom or positive freedom as distinct from the unreal, false, and negative notions which some people mistakenly call freedom. You, on the other hand, propose a critique of modern ideals in a form nobody will consider, and if you persist you will be put in jail, in any country in the world, and there you will learn the value of freedom by bitter experience, because you will have lost it, and there you will regret having called freedom an anti-value. I noticed a young man wearing cowboy boots walk by smoking a cigarette. He seemed to be looking for a Great Pleasure. I also noticed the passage of a dolly loaded high with cardboard cartons full of shoes. She said my offbeat sense of humor did not appeal to her, and in any case a comical style, by its very nature, is incompatible with philosophy, since philosophy in its very essence is a pursuit of answers to grave and elevated questions. Falstaff can play at philosophizing as Lears fool can play at being king, but Falstaff cannot be a philosopher any more than a clown can be a king. Philosophys social identity is inseparable from sermo gravis, the high style used to depict the acts and speech of important, significant, powerful, and noble people; philosophy cannot without ceasing to be itself employ sermo humilis, the low style used to depict the rabble, the grotesque, the marginal, the comic. I noticed a pretty woman three mushrooms away who was wearing heavy eye shadow. She touched

her knees now and then as she chattered, as if maybe she needed to pull down her skirt to cover them. Maria said I had further isolated myself from any possible audience by my disregard for the boundary between truth and fiction, since the reader wants facts, not confusion, and since on the whole philosophy prides itself, justifies itself, by its bimillenarian tradition of relentless pursuit of truth come what may. You tell us a story about your grandmother in Pasadena who talked to animals (Letter 7) and we are willing to believe you really had such a grandmother, but then the stories get stranger and stranger until the poppies are talking to you in a public park in Toronto (Letter 25) and sometimes you tell us things like when your mother conceived you in Spanish Fork, Utah, there was one nitrogen atom missing in each of two of her molecules which you could not possibly know even if it were true. You seem to think the human world is composed of imagination as much as it is composed of facts, and to think reality is best portrayed in moving images which come momentarily into focus and then fade into the context, and to think the philosophers task is demythologizing as much as remythologizing, and to prefer openly to compose stories, woven of strands of fact, strands of imagination, now that contemporary logical analysis has exposed the ruses philosophers used to employ as cement for their metaphysical constructions, and to see your own role not as that of a chercheur who tries to find a new truth to add to the accumulating mountains of knowledge stored in libraries, but as a participant in a conversation among persons, partly real persons, partly fictitious persons, 242 Letter 30 human nature being an identity constructed at the junction of reality and fiction, a conversation I in many voices through which the cultural code adapts to the ecosystem. My eyes could not avoid a chubby balding man with mustache and dark glasses, stirring I with a plastic spoon a coffee in a paper cup. She said I am afraid of freedom, a buffoon to the point of masochism, mystical, a game-player, repressed, out of touch with my feelings, rigid, ashamed of my body, not able to express anger, inappropriate in my responses because I dont acknowledge my emotions, limited in my capacity to relate to others sexually, inhibited, immature, incapable of sharing love because I dont love myself, and frightened of intimacy. She said Erich Fromm (a member of the Frankfurt School) demonstrated in his book Escape from Freedom that self-denying personalities like mine produced the mass support for National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s, while another book by the same Fromm of Frankfurt, The Sane Society, shows that self-affirming personalities like hers (Marias) are needed to produce the good socialist society of the future; and in still another book, The Dogma of Christ, the same author denounces the damage Jesus has done by providing a model of selfdenial. Theodor Adorno (another member of the Frankfurt School) and others show in The Authoritarian Personality how rigid personalities like mine, more concerned with enforcing social norms than with allowing individuals to express their autonomy, have political attitudes characteristic of the extreme right and the extreme left. She said people like me formed the cadres of Hitlers rightists and Stalins leftists. I do not take criticism well. When Maria finished I stood up and said to her, Perhaps we can discuss your criticisms of my interpretation of Kant some other time, and I walked out of the shopping center. 243 244

Letter 31 31 CERTAIN DIFFICULTIES OF ONE OF MANY ANONYMOUS PERSONS Concerning the Payment of his Rent, Together with Sundry Other Matters which may be Regarded Partly as Causes, Partly as Consequences, of Difficulties with Rents. After Maria Luna told me I had an authoritarian personality I decided to look into alcoholism. I called up Alcoholics Anonymous to find out the time and place of a meeting, explaining that although I was not an alcoholic at the present time I was considering becoming one, because I had had a kind grandmother, and now that I was becoming aware that people like her are the exceptions rather than the rule, I could not cope. Also I recently met a woman who damaged my selfconfidence. The meetings were held at the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital, next door to the church of the same name, in the basement of the section of the hospital devoted to treating alcohol and drug abuse. The contents of the elevator car, which had come down from a higher story, and in which I journeyed from the first floor to the basement, were, besides myself, two silent orderlies and a gray box of a size and shape suitable for holding a dead body, which was unnerving. The meeting was to be held in the last room on the left at the end of the hall. It was a plain staff room with greenish walls and ceiling, a dark green linoleum floor. Its contents were, besides myself, two coffee machines, one candy machine, four long tables arranged in a square, six ashtrays on the tables, and 36 chairs around the tables. While I was waiting for the meeting to begin, I thought about how to reply to Maria. Now Maria, I would say, this has all been a terrible misunderstanding. Believe me, I am not against freedom. I want to create the condition of its possibility: namely, a world where conflict is regulated by civilized norms. The point of calling freedom an anti-value is not to say freedom is bad. It is to call attention to a logical distinction between freedom and many other values. Instead of prescribing a pattern conduct is required to follow, freedom establishes a zone of autonomy where the free person makes her own decisions. There are other anti-values too; none of them are dishonorable. Forgiveness (which Hegel considered the most adequate ethic) is an anti-value insofar as it does not prescribe a pattern or ideal for conduct to follow. Forgiveness tells you that even though you failed to behave properly, you are still accepted. Rights is another honorable concept which frequently acts as an anti-value, as in the analysis of Benthams concept of rights provided by H.L.A. Hart where it is pointed out that a right often establishes a symbolic perimeter around an individual, so that within the perimeter the individual may do as he pleases. For example, if she has the property rights of an owner of a salad (to use N. Wesley Hohfelds example) she may eat the salad, give the salad away, throw it away, store it, ignore it, or liquefy it. Within wide limits she may do as she pleases with the salad and still be, as we say, within her rights, which is why it is illuminating to describe rights as establishing symbolic perimeters. The civilization of Sung dynasty China had fewer anti-values than ours and made better use of poetry. The mandarins were connoisseurs of fine images, painted and poetic, and their 245 LETTERS FROM QUBEC: Vol. II moral expertise, their qualification for guiding the conduct of others, consisted in an exquisite capacity to discern the proper pattern to follow, for example in eating a salad, holding a chopstick, choosing which bean sprout to serve to whom and when. This is not to say that ancient Chinese civilization, governed by standards of good taste which filled in the details of the socially prescribed norms for conduct, was good, and that economic society, governed by laws of freedom,

is bad. The anti-value is just a peculiar sort of value, which happens to be especially prominent in the particular cultural structures we happen to inhabit... I went on and on in a similar vein talking to Maria in my imagination. I had come early since the meeting was in a part of town I do not habitually frequent, and I had anticipated delays due to false steps. No one else had arrived yet. Gradually I came to realize that I was not being fully honest with her. I was pretending to be a freedom-lover like everyone else, differing from everyone else only in proposing a slightly novel logical analysis of the concept. But actually I agreed with Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he said in a commencement address at Harvard that American civilization is defective because it encourages the idea that anything not illegal is permissible conduct an idea which is similar to Diderots 18th century definition of freedom in the Encyclopedia. Actually I think the Kantian dichotomy mechanical-laws-of-nature/laws-of-freedom is a source of our contemporary tendency to focus on the dichotomy oppressed/free, a tendency which hinders the creation of subtle (simultaneously tight and loose) cultural guidance systems. And since I think Kants unhelpful dichotomy is built into our institutions and thought, I actually think there is something amiss with the anti-value which inspires our institutions and fascinates our thought. Im sorry, Maria, I said to myself. Please let me start over. A trouble with Habermas, Marcuse, Fromm, and many other Frankfurters and non-Frankfurters, is that they mistakenly believe they can do moral jiu-jitsu by using economic societys own ideas against it, in order to transform it. They want to transform the structures of the modern world, but part of their method consists of appealing to an ideal of freedom that is an element of the structures so closely tied to the other elements (property, individualism, mechanical rationality, manipulation of nature...) that you cant change the other elements without changing freedom too, and, furthermore, as long as the ideal of freedom remains in place, certain automatic defense mechanisms (the structural traps) remain in place too, obstructing and bamboozling the project of transforming the modern world. Let me give you an example of the difficulty of trying to change the culture by using its own premises to criticize it without an ecological or broad anthropological frame of reference. John Rawls, a liberal professor of philosophy at Harvard, author of A Theory of Justice, takes his stand foursquare inside the frame of reference of the Anglo-American philosophy of the past few centuries and within contemporary Anglo-American culture. His criterion for distinguishing n good theory of justice from a bad theory of justice is this: if the theory states general principles which coincide with what we decide is just in particular cases, then the theory is a good one. He then advocates a theory which would require a considerable transfer of property from the rich to the poor, according to the principle that inequality in the possession of property is just only to the extent that the poor benefit from it. (Maria might wonder why the poor benefit from inequality at all. It is because total equality would hurt everybody, including the poor, since people would then be lazy and unproductive. Therefore, up to a point inequality helps even those who have least, and inequality up to that point, and not past it, is, according to Rawls, just.) A difficulty with Rawls theory is that one of his intellectual enemies, Robert Nozick, a conservative philosopher at the same university, is able to refute it. In his book Anarchy State and Utopia Nozick shows that Rawls principle does not coincide with what we decide is just in particular cases. He can show this because we live in a culture where freedom is the central value, and what we actually ask when we need to decide whether it is just that a certain person have certain property is whether she is entitled to it, that is: whether she bought it with her own money, or made it herself, or somebody gave it to her of his or her own free will. The anti-value 246

Letter 31 If freedom allows humans to act without following any particular socially prescribed pattern, and it is in conflict with any theory of justice which says we should follow some particular pattern in distributing property; and in particular it is in conflict with the principle which calls for enough inequality to benefit the poor and no more. Thus Rawls is refuted by his own criterion. (Another difficulty with Rawls is that he is taken in by irrational rationality. He takes over from the writings of some prominent economists a generalization which he and they suppose to be an established fact: that by increasing inequality you can increase the total production of goods and services, and thus have, as the economists say, a larger pie to slice. In taking over this principle Rawls does not clearly distinguish between (a) increased size of pie due to greater incentives to work, and (b) increased size of pie due to increased incentives to invest. The failure to make this distinction is consciousness-lowering insofar as it obscures the role of cultural structures in designating certain persons as property owners, who have the privilege of investing or not investing, while others, lacking wealth, have only the choice of working or not working.) Furthermore, I went on, talking to an invisible audience, at this point in human history, when we are becoming aware that the word freedom is an adorable but neurotic hunk (or, if you prefer to use a feminine image here, a beautiful but complicated woman) in whose irresistible arms one can easily become so entangled that one cannot function properly, we should also reexamine the charms of the word person. The discriminating awareness of the subtleties of the word freedom, which humans in general and readers of this book in particular are acquiring, empowers us to resist seduction by person also, or by the individual, which is a two-word phrase sometimes used as a synonym for the word person. We must ask our dear friends Martin Luther King Jr., the Polish philosopher Karyl Wojtyla (who subsequently became Pope John Paul II), Emmanuel Mounier, et al., just exactly what they mean by calling themselves personalists and making the word person the centerpiece of their philosophies. Insofar as they mean, as King put it, that every person needs to feel loved, that a person who does not feel loved does not feel that she or he is really a person, the personalists are talking true poetry, poetry whose truth is confirmed, for example, by the best research on the needs of children, such as that of Mary Ainsworth. If the personalists mean to propose as a goal meeting all the needs of persons, for love, for food, for security, for clean drinking water, pure air, recreation, medical attention, dental services, heat, shelter, clothing... then they propose a natural goal a goal which can only be reached through more solidarity and intelligence than nature provides without the special subsystem of nature known as culture, but a natural goal nonetheless. If the personalists mean that in a cold, lifeless, dreary, uncommunicative, somewhat mechanically determined universe, the acting human person introduces elements of warmth, life, joy, communication, and choice, then they are surely correct from a human point of view, although if forests and lakes could talk they would just as surely darken the picture by making the complaint that acting human persons have, on the whole, done forests and lakes more harm than good. If personalists mean that persons deserve respect not only as beings-whose-needs-should-be-met but also as active agents who can participate with others in gathering information, analyzing problems, making choices, setting goals, implementing plans, and evaluating the work done, then King and other personalists are stewards of the sunny side of the Kantian legacy, the side which makes it a sacred duty to regard humanity as end-choosing and never as a means only. If personalists mean that rocks and trees are persons, or that the twinkling of the stars expresses the benevolence of the Great Mother in the sky, or that in some mysterious way, deep calling to deep, the idea of person expresses the essence of all-that-is, so that our human journey is accompanied by what King calls a loving presence, then personalists ar