Τετάρτη, 28 Οκτωβρίου 2009

The assignment that follows has been written by, and is entirely the work of, "Dimitrios Antoniou", for his final exams in Philosophy in Oxford  University College

“Can Plato’s argument against democracy be answered?”

The essential (intrinsic value) of Plato`s political institution is the philosopher`s (king`s) self-determined, unquenstionable, absolute truth of justice (realism), which as such should be the ruler over the uneducated demos. His institution is thus intrinsically valued on its intrinsic metaphysical truth and justice, which entails a deeply class-divided society (king vs demos), a centrally judged and allocated distribution of rights and duties and thus a complete lack of individual freedom. Justice is equality in the restriction of individual freedom. Plato`s state treats people as members of groups (that of “demos”) rather than as individuals. Modern democracy, expressive and constitutive of liberal individuality, overturns Plato`s model and proposes a political institution in the form of a self-governed demos and which is instrinsically valued on its intrinsic values of individual freedom and equality in freedom for all, both constituting the notion of democratic justice, which implies that the distribution of rights and duties are ther result of legitimate, fair and free actions of the individuals.The defence of the liberal pragmatic democracy against Plato`s institution is modeled in two forms, one negative and one positive. In the negative form democracy argues that its comparison with Plato`s political-philosophic theory is inappropriately arisen, because each belongs to disconnected classes (categories) and therefore the latter should not be neither construed regulatively nor consitutively for yielding grounds for practical decision-making policies. The disjunctive relations of the two theories comes from the fact that Plato`s philosophic theory uses pro-mind, ahistoric, self-determined, time-less and space-less metaphysical ontological premises, whereas the pragmatic democracy uses (and creates) current ontic historic premises-moments in its decision-making policy. In conclusion, pragmatic democracy does not need philosophy in its political making decisions. Liberal pragmatic modern democracy will also object negatively –and for the same reason as above- its past Enlightenment liberal individualistic form (Locke, Dworkin), which replaced Plato`s “philosophical truth” by the “rationally justified truth” as the intrinsic goal of democracy, which is thus again intrinsically valued, that is, aiming for achieving no other goals than its intrinsic values of individualistic rationalism, freedom and equality. In this kind of democracy the politically right (true) is founded on man`s “natural rights”, which are a priori true, universal and transcultural political realities. “Natural rights” are “divinely” (metaphysically) given to man and are not the result of man`s free actions. This is a Kantian aspect of the political identification of the self. We then continue with the positive defence of modern pragmatic democracy against Plato`s political institution and its past rational form. Modern ethic (pragmatic) democracy is calling for a dissociation of rationality and political truth, or even for the irrelevance of truth in its political decision-making considerations. “Natural rights” and other a priori criteria are rejected from being necessary foundations of its correct decision-making policies, whereas all political rights are the result of the individual free actions (contract theory). The politically right is the better suited and feasible to the current historic conditions of the particular state, regardless of its objective truth, permitting thus even for the non-rational to be regarded as politically rightful. In pragmatic democracy the question of whether the justifiability of the community entails objective truth is irrelevant. The non-rational element of liberal democracy broadens its domain far beyond of its duties to construct abstract and general-but nevertheless historically adapted- laws of justice and requires the latter to incorporate principles outside of its strict philosophical domain of definition, such as welfare policies, affirmative actions, group and case-to-case examined moral considerations (care). But all the above policies to be decided and applied independently from the general social (public) morality and cultural historic traditions of the particular state. This is an enriched and “expanded notion of justice” constitutive of a highly tolerating democracy, in which a quasi-Hegelian identification of the political self is established, a self which is not a mere product of social history, but it is also the cause and origin of the latter. Because care and morality treat unjust inequalities and therefore enhance freedom, the former both constitute an integral part of the intrinsic values of pragmatic democracy. Therefore this model of democracy is justified mainly in terms of its intrinsic values of freedom, equality (in its notion as “just inequality”), morality, affection and care, albeit maintaining a trivial element for its instrumental use for merely informing the free elected governors of the needs of the free people. Democracy-in this view- is an exercise of experimental ethos and its justice policy is exercised on individual, or group ethical grounds. This is the democracy advocated by J. Dewey and J. Rawls and should be compared to its extreme liberal form-advocated by R. Nozick- in which “justice posses the first priority over all other virtues of the democratic state”. Pragmatic democracy is thus experimental, totally free and independent from the state`s past history and traditions and from the cultural-moral consensus of that particular society as totality perceived. It is also free of any Kantian transcultural and ahistorical moral and political elements. Pragmatic democracy should be questioning all the established ideas and respecting only the ever present historic social conditions. The only “theoretical back up” of this kind of democracy is the “common sense” (Th. Reid, Aristotle). The intrinsic valued character of democracy consists of two interrelated and reciprocally fulfilled elements: The first formulates the proper free democratic arena of conceiving, elaborating, and settling better the social conflicts and interests of free individuals and in which the social conflicts are treated as the subject of the social inquiry. The second implies that democracy is a requirement of individuality, which is fully expressed only by the individual free participation in the democratic process, since the social inquiry is a constitutive part of the individuality and its good. The above individualist liberal, intrinsically value ethical model of democracy is the historic development of the old classical non-liberal individualistic model of utilitarianism, which uses democracy exclusively instrumentally for achieving “general happiness”, not for justice. The former should also be compared with communitarianism, a non-individualistic democratic model, in which the community (state) is constitutive of the individual and which adopts a theory of the individual self that incorporates Hegel`s and Heidegger`s sense of traditional self-historicity. For communitarianism justice is not its first consideration, whereas it depends its decision-making policies strongly on the state`s past history, cultural traditions and public morality, the latter incorporating, possibly, in its domain ahistorical and universals moral truths too (Hegel, Heidegger, Al. MacIntyre, Taylor, Adorno, Horkheimer). Conclusion: Would philosophers (or even gods) decide to form a political constitution, this would, in any case, be historic, ethical pragmatic, individualistic liberal democractic, embodied with the expanded ideas of justice.

Dimitris

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