CIVICS AND METAPHYSICS

twerk

Illustrating the importance of metaphysics to politics, F. W. J. Schelling imagines a society governed by the following creed:

For if it were possible that a doctrine was to gain the upper hand, according to which the best and wisest things for humans should be leftover food, drink, and other goods of this type, a doctrine according to which everything metaphysical should be completely removed from human conviction…then of course the government could do nothing other than more or less look with folded arms, in impassive resignation at its downfall (The Grounding of Positive Philosophy: The Berlin Lectures, 106-107).

If an ideology became predominant according to which all respect for metaphysical ideals were lost and the prevailing philosophy became a form of extreme epicureanism, civic virtue would erode. It isn’t enough that people act according to the law; we should do so because we have respect for it. We should not only defend our country, but do it for the love of our country.

If one could extract all that is metaphysical from the state and public life, then they too would fall apart…True metaphysics is honor, it is virtue; true metaphysics is not only religion, but also respect for the law and love of one’s land…What would be the outcome and result of a philosophy such as the one described above (if one can call something of this type philosophy)? Answer: the moral of Falstaff in the well-known monologue before the start of battle…The true understanding of the world is provided by precisely the right metaphysics, which for this very reason has from time immemorial been called the royal science.

As an example of what would happen if metaphysics were lost, Schelling quotes Falstaff’s monologue from Henry IV:

Honor pricks me on. Yea, but how if honor price me off when I come on? How then? Can honor set to a leg? No. Or to an arm? No. Or take away the grief of a wound? No. Honor hath no skill in surgery, then? What is honor? A word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? Air; a trim reckoning! Who hath it? He that died o’Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it? T’is insensible, then? Yea, to the dead. But will it not live with the living? No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore I’ll none of it. Honor is a mere scutcheon: and so ends my catechism.

Thinking and acting are related. Metaphysical ideals are important both to set people going on correct reasoning and, based on the conclusions they draw from that reasoning, to guide their behavior. Because Falstaff doesn’t think honorably, he doesn’t act so. His sole concern is for his body. To that end, only practical as opposed to metaphysical knowledge counts. Honor hath no skill in surgery? Answering in the negative, Falstaff concludes that honor is therefore worthless, a mere emblem. This is the kind of thinking and acting that result when one loses all sense of principle.

I have to say, I’m struck by how much Schelling’s example of a bad social doctrine — “the best and wisest things for humans should be leftover food, drink, and other goods of this type” — resembles a certain trend today. foodallThis might be an indication that the process is already under way. It almost seems like the more knowledge of and mastery over the world humanity acquires, the more decadent it becomes — at least if pop culture is anything to judge by. Where do we go after twerking?

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8 responses to “CIVICS AND METAPHYSICS

  1. And yet metaphysics was born from the first attempts at scientific thinking, and science will eventually lead us back to a scientific a priori. Metaphysics is all about understanding the purpose of creation and a real indisputable knowledge of that can only come through scientific investigation.

    • The word has an interesting history. Editors of Aristotle gave the Metaphysics its name, by which they simply meant what comes after the Physics. The book is a study of basic principles, things that never change in contrast to the study of change and motion found in the Physics. Aristotle thought that God never changes, so metaphysics is very close to theology. Over time, the word metaphysics grew to mean what transcends the physical in general. In Heidegger, for example, “nothing” phenomenon becomes a metaphysical concept. In my post, we find Schelling using it to refer to ideals such honor, love of country and respect for the rule of law.

  2. Hello,
    You detail here a very prevalent and, yet, characteristically obscure trend (?) of our generation. To even realize that a deeper meaning exists, that there is an underlying ideology to our actions requires a level of awareness that is not practiced nor encouraged. As long as most people’s carnal needs are daily met, they stay here; fat, happy, and ignorant, their minds unburdened by any responsibility in the way their lives have turned out. For most people, it is difficult to genuinely value anything or anyone that does not directly benefit themselves or their intentions.

    Really enjoyed this, you write brilliantly.
    – Jess

  3. “… It isn’t enough that people act according to the law; we should do so because we have respect for it. We should not only defend our country, but do it for the love of our country….”

    History’s worst atrocities were the result of people respecting the law. There is nothing inherently moral (or immoral) about a law. To resect a law because it is moral is moral. But to respect a law just because ‘it is the law’ is not moral, it is irresponsible and extremely dangerous.

    Evil tyrants have always whipped up patriotism followed by outside threats (overhyped, invented or manufactured) as a strategy to get the general population to abandon morality, embrace racism and support and facilitate the tyrant’s own evil agenda.

    “…. It almost seems like the more knowledge of and mastery over the world humanity acquires, the more decadent it becomes — at least if pop culture is anything to judge by. Where do we go after twerking?…”

    Increases in knowledge of and mastery over the world have led to huge increases in productivity and wealth. This ‘excess’ wealth has fuelled the rapid expansion of governments (ie the violent rule of a small ruling elite).

    The dumbing down that we see all around us is a result of government taking over education and controlling it by force. Government’s monopoly on legalised violence and theft is also what creates and protects corporations.

    Miley Cyrus is not a ‘singer’ or ‘artist’ in an conventional sense. She is a vehicle of propaganda controlled by the corporate entertainment and media industries which now effectively controls what comes out of the box installed in the corner of everyone’s living room.

    Hollywood and the music biz is (at that level) little more than an abusive, exploitative, incestuous, occult-obsessed, mind controlling cult which is intimately linked to the government/ military industrial complex which is waging a full scale psychological warfare attack on the general population to erode morality, demoralise, dumb down, distract and generally propagandise the population.

    There is no such thing as ‘entertainment’ at that level. As with advertising (another form of propaganda) the entertainment is simply a vehicle or container for the sophisticated, multi layered messages being conveyed.

    Advertisements are loaded with messages telling us how to think, how to behave and how to view reality. We all understand this.

    Do you think the corporations who run the ‘entertainment’ industries would not also put those same messages into their movies and pop videos?!

    Movies and pop videos are even more effective than adverts because they last longer than 30 seconds and they are presented to us as if they were ‘real’….. which is to say, not merely adverts trying to influence our thoughts and behaviour.

    Most people actually believe celebs like Miley Cyrus are ‘real’… most people believe she controls her own image, writes her own material, invents her own stage shows, controls her own pop videos, decides what to say in interviews etc. Nothing could be further from the truth. You might as well believe Ronald MacDonald is real, rather than being some random guy hired to put on a clown costume.

    More in the links below…

    Miley Cyrus Invokes Kali VMA 2013

    http://vigilantcitizen.com/category/musicbusiness/

    • Right. But this is why it goes both ways. Respect for the rule of law implies that the law deserves to be respected. Laws in, say, North Korea don’t deserve respect any more than the North Korean government does. That’s where the United States excels, in my opinion, because we have a constitution worthy of respect, worth fighting for, even if it isn’t always implemented perfectly.

      • “..Right. But this is why it goes both ways. Respect for the rule of law implies that the law deserves to be respected. ..”

        But that’s precisely the attitude I was criticising.

        People should never respect the law. They should instead respect MORAL VIRTUE. If any law happens to reflect, conform with and enforce moral virtue then it can be respected… but if a law is at odds with moral virtue and actually enforces IMMORAL behaviour then it should not be respected at all.

        Why is this concept so hard to understand?

        The literal answer to that question is: because we are all subjected to 12+ years of daily propaganda via state education which trains us to place laws ABOVE morality.

        All western education is based on the Prussian System… he same system which led to Nazi Germany. The ONLY reason why Nazi Germany came into being was that ordinary people were trained to place laws ABOVE morality.

        EVERY nation in history believed its own government’s immoral laws (laws legalising murder, genocide, torture, theft, persecution, empire building etc) were somehow except from basic moral standards that applied to every other nation, and o ordinary day to day living.

        The US is no exception. Propaganda WORKS. It is a science as well established as aerodynamics. A wing subjected to airflow will produce lift. A population subjected to propaganda will support immoral laws.

  4. I’m not saying laws should be placed above morality. Now in the Ten Commandments you sort of have both rolled into one. I don’t see the parallel with Germany under the Nazis. Freedom is something we treasure in the US. The rule of law didn’t matter to Hitler and neither did freedom.

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