Posts Tagged ‘politics’

1.10 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

November 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Philosophy day again, and late at night again, anyways, though, Hegel, another interesting philosopher.
Hegel was one of the first people since ancient Greece to take the study of history seriously, up until his time it had just been a vague idea of some things that once happened, and of people that once lived, and left mostly at that. Hegel, though, dedicated quite a bit of effort to the subject, trying to understand how cultures and traditons and systems of governance had been different in the past, and then moved in the even more interesting direction of trying to see patterns in the subject, to see where things were going and thus what was going to happen next.
From this, he developed theories loosely based on those of Kant, in which the universe became a thing known as the Geist (as in Zeitgeist) a general consciousness that was moving ever forwards towards some vague aim. Change was inherent in all things, always striving towards this future, but unlike with Schopenhauer’s ‘Will’, there was purpose and intent to this movement, and that intent was self realisation, understanding and the development of perfection.
Meanwhile, he was also working on a similar theory, the idea of the synthesis. Linking this back to the concept of change and development, he declared the ideas of ‘being’ and ‘not being’ two opposing realities, which could be merged into a synthesis, that of becoming, of changing and moving forwards with the Geist. This synthesis was soon extended outwards, all of existance was a series of ideas and facts, each of which was opposed, thesis to antitheis, and all of which could be then merged into a synthesis, a compomise of the two opposing positions, which would then become the new thesis, and move one step further along in its development.
This was of particular interest in the field of politics, where opposing ideologies held opposing ideas, which could in theory be merged to create new political theories, and thus bring society one step closer to perfection. From this came the Hegelian theory of political development, though, whilst Hegel himself never chose a side, his supporters were soon divided into opposing camps. The Right Hegelians believed that society as they lived in was approaching perfection and needed only a little refining to smooth out the bugs. The Left Hegelians, though, thought that the whole of society was wrong, outdated, and that a whole new one was needed, in fact many amongst them attempted to design the perfect society right there and then, rather than waiting for it to develop step by step. these opposing factions would later form the basis of the Fascist and Socialist movements that would shape much of the history of the 20th century. Meanwhile, the same idea of development towards perfection was to prove a great inspiration to the ongoing efforts to explain evolution, alongside Schopenhauer’s ideas of the brutality and competitiveness of nature.
Hegel, though, argued that each of us was a part of the time in which we lived, that noone could be outside of the world as tey knew it then, noone could live or think as though they were in a past age or a future one, however much they tried. Those that tried to bring the future in right then were doomed to failure, everything had to be undertaken in its own time, step by step. Meanwhile, though, something was always left behind, as he saw it, some remnant of past civilizations, old traditions, and also reminders of each individual’s past as they change through their lives.

So that is old philosophers in ages past thinking and trying to understand how we see the world, how we understand what goes on around us, how the universe works. From there they influenced generations of scientists and philosophers. Perhaps one day I will go on to discuss science of the era, but next week, political and moral theories developed out of these ideas, the suppression of the working class, revolution and change, the welfare state, and Marxism.

13.9 economy rambling

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve gotten bored of those posts where I just go on and on about how I haven’t done much since last time, so I am sure everyone else must have as well. Instead then, how about more of the comments on random things that I’ve found out about?

I mentioned a while back, though chances are noone actually read it, that I have been trying to write a series of books on world history. It is going reasonably well so far, two written out, first draft at least, just need to go back, make sure I haven’t missed anything, trim down those parts where I go on and on about stuff noone cares about, try and make it actually worth reading, and then illustrate them and try to find a publisher.
Anyways, point is I have been researching something called the South Sea Bubble, and I thought it was interestingly relevant to recent news stories. The South Sea Company was a trading company formed after the war of the Spanish Succession, back in 1715. Originally the Company was to trade with Spanish American colonies, as part of the peace agreement, but the British government of the time came up with a plan, they would sell a large portion of the national debt to the company, which would then sell it on to investors as shares in the Company, and recieve an annual income equal to 6% interest on the debt, which apparently made some economic sense at the time.
Anyway, with the promise of profitable American trade and this garuanteed income from the government itself, the South Sea Company share price started to rise, interesting a number of new investors, and here the company directors saw an opportunity. They started advertising just how profitable the company would be, trying to induce the price to rise even higher, leant money for people that wanted to buy shares but couldn’t afford them, and then sold effectively virtual shares to senior politicians, with the agreement that when the share price rose, they could sell the shares back to the company for a profit. The result of this, of course, was that the politicians put a lot of effort into ensuring that the price did rise.
Seeing this, other businessmen started forming their own companies with vague aims and wild promises of great profits in an attempt to gain investors. And of course, with so many people seeing the success of the South Sea Company, many were willing to invest in other business ventures as well. So came a frenzy of share buying and of borrowing money to buy more, and of wild price rises, until the value of a single share of South Sea Company stock was ten times what it had been two years before.
Then, the results of the first year’s trading were due to be announced, and with the share price so high, many investors decided that was just the time to get out and grab their profits. Vast numbers of shares were sold then, causing their value to plummet, leaving many other investors in serious debt, including many influential politicians. Meanwhile, of course, the annual profits of the company were nowhere near what had been predicted, barely enough for them to stay in business at all. at the same time, whilst investors, businessmen, banks and other money lenders were finding themselves suddenly in serious debt, similar schemes were falling apart elsewhere in Europe, causing a widespread banking and money lending crisis.
It was not over yet, though, the interesting part is just begining. Over the following months, investigations were undertaken into the fraud and corruption that had allowed this whole mess to continue, and particularly the role played by various trusted politicians. as a result of these trials, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, John Aislabie, was arrested and imprisoned, whilst many other ministers were forced to resign.
With these sudden vacancies, one Robert Walpole managed to rise quickly through the ranks, becoming rather suddenly both Chancellor and also First Lord of the Treasury, as well as attaining a position from which he could insist on all the other government minsiters following his advice, gaining him so much authority he was granted the appellation ‘prime minister’ by journalists and the opposition party. He then started trying to fix the mess caused by the collapse of the bubble company, and to restore confidence in the government and banks. Numerous schemes for this were proposed over the following weeks, most infamously amongst them the motion raised that the directors responsible be tied into sacks with snakes and thrown in the river. Unfortunately this did not go ahead, and neither did most of the other similar suggestions, but Walpole did forcibly confiscate the assets of the directors and redistribute them amongst those that had lost the most money, which helped rather a lot.

Anyway, I just thought it interesting, and something other people around the internet might be interested in reading about. Meanwhile, just so you know, my work is not going very well, I am struggling to get anywhere near as much written as I am used to, I am disappointed with how badly I am writing and with many of my old ideas, whilst my new ideas are not yet detailed enough for me to start work on what I really want to do, and meanwhile I am repeatedly putting off working on redrafting and editing anything, so everything I did before is still not very good either.

10.9 Empiricism

November 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Philosophy day, part two, a little late, but it has been a rather busy day.

Anyway, last time, a quick introduction to Rationalism, to the idea that nothing can be trusted outside of our own minds, and that all has to be deduced logically. the Empiricists, the name being related to the study of how knowledge and understanding works, directly opposed that. Their theory was that though there was no evidence that the information from our senses was accurate, given that we have nothing to back up that one source, they are really all we have to understand the world, and we might as well work to consider the world as it seems to us, rather than wasting time reminding ourselves that reality might be different to what we think it is.
From this, they developed theories regarding the importance of senses, and also regarding how the mind works. As well as leading to the developing importance of such things as gardening, creating aesthetically pleasing and sensorially exciting scenes of trees and rivers and waterfalls and birds and so on, they also revolutionised our ideas of what people were.

If, as they suggested, everything we knew of the world came from our senses, and where else might it come from? then surely everything we knew must come to us during our lives, rather than before. That is, everyone is born with no knowledge, and all they learn is picked up through experience. If that is the case, then, why are children treated differently based on who their parents are? why is it that the children of wealthy and successful parents get to go to good schools and get taught, whilst the children of less well off families get sent to work at a young age? In fact, if all people are equal other than the experiences live throws at them and that their parents can buy for them, why should any one person be considered any more important than any other, outside of their own personal achievements and abilities?
This proved to be one of the most radical and influential ideas of the 18th century, revolutionising both education and politics. It was this more than anything else that started the new trend towards republicanism in the Americas, Corsica, France, and elsewhere, and towards liberal politics in other, less radical countries.

The major part of this theory was put forwards by John Locke, who also proposed that everything had to be worked out through study and obersavtion, rather than just thought out entirely in the mind, and that, following Rationalism’s view on the unreliablility of senses, that there could be no absolute certainty that what we saw was real, and thus that what we thought was true, and that therefore we should always be ready to listen to new arguments and to change our mind if they seemed more right, indeed, the more different arguments we allow ourselves to be exposed to, the closer we can come to understanding the real truth.
He was followed by such men as David Hume, who studied the ideas of cause and effect, how do we know that one thing causes another, when we can see no physical connection between them. Sure, one always happens after another, so far, but how can we know what will happen next time? Science, another keen interest of the Empiricists, can never prove anything, indeed, the only certainty with science is that it will be proven wrong by some later theory, (as may have happened recently with this faster than light stuff). The human mind creates patterns from what we see around us, even without absolute proof that these things are connected, whilst at the same time, any rational thoughts we might have are overpowered by instinct and emotion, which are what control most of our actions, as in the famous phrase, ‘Reason is a slave to passion’.
Finally, meanwhile, Edmund Burke, working at the time of the American and French revolutions, looked at these Empiricist theories, and at the Rationalist, Utopian ideals of the revolutionaries and came up with an argument against such action. The unimaginable complexity of society, he claimed, was something that no single mind could replace, that a full revolution to remove all of the past and start again could never work in practice. All of society has had to build up layer on layer over thousands of years, an evolutionary rather than revolutionary system, where common sense prevails over logic and nothing can ever be absolutely perfect. He argued, then, that what really mattered was each person making their own slight difference in their turn, and that people should listen to each other and consider all opinions and arguments, whilst ignoring anyone that claimed to be absolutely right, to never absolutely believe any ideologies, dogma, theories, or other supposed experts.

In this, Burke may have slightly foreshadowed the later theories of Hegel, but first, a major problem appears in philosophy, there are two directly opposing theories, both of which seem in many ways to be right, but which are mutually exclusive, so how can they possibly be reconciled? Can a world exist in which both Rationalism and Empiricism are right, as they seem to be to those that follow their separate arguments?