[lit-ideas] Re: Philosophers of Empire

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 2 May 2014 20:46:23 +0200

Not mentioning that I am still waiting for the Wittgenstein exegetists to
provide a few examples of statements that "show, but do not say." Another
poorly formulated question, I am sure.

O.K. (as such)


On Fri, May 2, 2014 at 6:02 PM, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> I would think that a good philosopher begins answering every question by
> pointing out that the question is poorly formulated. (More often than not,
> she ends her answer there, as well. :)
>
> O.K.
>
>
> On Fri, May 2, 2014 at 5:54 PM, Walter C. Okshevsky <wokshevs@xxxxxx>wrote:
>
>>
>> Quoting dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx:
>>
>> > What is a philosophical analysis of the concept of 'empire'?
>>
>> I would think that the first aim of such a philosophical analysis is to
>> show
>> that the question as rendered is woefully(very poorly) formulated and as
>> such
>> does not admit of a cogent or even intelligible answer.
>>
>> Interesting:
>>
>> Q: So what is the point of learning philosophy anyway?
>>
>> A: Apart from other things, philosophy teaches us how to ask clear and
>> cogent
>> questions and to *only* ask clear and cogent questions. And this across
>> disciplinary and professional lines.
>>
>> This pedagogical ideal, with its corresponding subjective maxim, of
>> course only
>> holds for communication and argumentation in the space of what Kant calls
>> "public reason" in differentiation from "private reason."
>>
>> How you go about asking and answering questions in the "privacy" of your
>> church
>> or military organization is your own affair.
>>
>> Walter O
>> MUN
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> >
>> > L. Helm's position seems to agree with that of Hanson, as cited in
>> >
>> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_imperialism
>> >
>> > "Classics professor and war historian Victor Davis Hanson dismisses the
>> > notion of an American empire altogether, mockingly comparing it to other
>> > empires: "We do not send out proconsuls to reside over client states,
>> which
>> > in
>> > turn impose taxes on coerced subjects to pay for the legions. Instead,
>> > American  bases are predicated on contractual obligations — costly to us
>> > and
>> > profitable to  their hosts. We do not see any profits in Korea, but
>> instead
>> > accept the risk of  losing almost 40,000 of our youth to ensure that
>> Kias can
>> >
>> > flood our shores and  that shaggy students can protest outside our
>> embassy in
>> >
>> > Seoul.""
>> >
>> > Philosophy of Empire.
>> >
>> > L. Helm raises an interesting topic or point -- how to define 'empire'
>> and
>> > how to make sense of allegations such as "The United States of America
>> > is/was an  Empire'.
>> >
>> > What interests me about L. Helm's stance on the topic is methodological,
>> > and McEvoy should feel free to add his view on 'stipulative
>> definitions'.
>> > Rather, I should take a 'Griceian' account. After all, Grice repeatedly
>> said
>> >
>> > that philosophers are into 'conceptual analysis' -- never mind the
>> concept
>> > of  what. And what they do is to provide definitions which display
>> necessary
>> >
>> > and  sufficient conditions for the analysis of the concept chosen for
>> > philosophical  inquiry.
>> >
>> > Here they keyword is indeed POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, but the addition of
>> > "United States of America" brings historicity into an otherwise
>> theoretical
>> > or
>> > abstract question. So let's revise.
>> >
>> > In a message dated 5/1/2014 4:22:37  P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
>> > lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx writes:
>> > Various  “assertions” have been made alleging that the U.S. is an
>> empire,
>> >
>> > but I’ve seen  no “arguments” in the sense that you produce evidence
>> > and
>> > then draw a conclusion  from the evidence that comprises the end point
>> of an
>> >
>> > argument; ergo the U.S. is  an empire.   I think of Niall Ferguson
>> asserting
>> >
>> > that the U.S. is an  empire, just not a very good one since it doesn't
>> do
>> > any of the things that  earlier empires did allows him to get away with
>> a
>> > very
>> > soft definition,  something along the lines of “the U.S. is the most
>> > powerful nation in the world  therefore it is an empire.”"
>> >
>> > I like the idea of some definitions of  'empire' being soft. This has
>> > various sides to it. For one, 'empire' WAS the  keyword in mainstream
>> > political
>> > philosophy. I read from
>> >
>> > "Political Theory of Empire and Imperialism"
>> >
>> > in the Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 13: 211-235 -- available
>> > online:
>> >
>> > "The study of empire," the author writes, is
>> >
>> > "a theme in the history of political thought" and was
>> >
>> > "pioneered by a few scholars working with a broadly Cambridge-school
>> > approach, most prominently Anthony Pagden, James Tully, J.G.A. Pocock,
>> > Richard
>> > Tuck, and more recently David Armitage."
>> >
>> > "Pagden's early, seminal studies explored debates over the legitimation
>> of
>> > Spanish rule in the New World, debates conducted in language borrowed
>> from
>> > Aristotelian psychology (natural slave and child) and Roman legal and
>> > political  thought (imperium, dominium, orbis terrarum)."
>> >
>> > "In illustrating how empires generated new states and political forms,
>> and
>> > shaped modern political ideologies such as democratic republicanism,
>> Pagden
>> > made  a powerful case for the centrality of empire to political theory.
>> His
>> > most  recent books, written for more popular audiences, stress the
>> possibly
>> >  “insuperable future dilemmas” facing the polities created in the wake
>> of
>> >
>> > formal  empires (Pagden 2001, p. 160) and, controversially, the
>> “perpetual
>> >
>> > enmity”  between Europe and Asia (Pagden 2008)."
>> >
>> > "Tully placed questions connected to empire at the heart of both LOCKE's
>> > thought and modern constitutionalism, as I discuss further below. Pocock
>> > (2005,  ch. 2 [1973]) insisted, from a professedly “antipodean”
>> > perspective,
>> > that  British history and political thought must be understood in
>> imperial
>> > and
>> > global  terms. More recently, his magisterial volumes exploring
>> > Enlightenment thought by  way of a study of the contexts of Gibbon's
>> Decline
>> > and Fall
>> > of the Roman Empire  have emphasized the global orientation of the
>> > enlightened histories that were so  prominent a feature of the
>> intellectual
>> > landscape
>> > (Pocock 1999–2005). Pocock  explores the wide range of meanings of
>> > “empire”
>> > at the time, as well as what he  calls the era's “crisis of the seaborne
>> > empires” (Pocock 1999, Vol. 4, p. 227)  and the anxieties on the part
>> of so
>> >
>> > many political and social thinkers of the  time about the disorders of
>> the
>> > global commerce that was supposed to succeed the  age of conquests. As
>> Tuck
>> > (1999) has argued, early-modern theorists of  subjective rights
>> conceived the
>> >
>> > sovereign individual in terms of the sovereign  state and vice versa.
>> They
>> > worked out their theories, with “often brutal  implications” for
>> > indigenous
>> > and non-European peoples, partly in response to two  key practical
>> problems
>> > arising from European commercial and imperial expansion:  struggles over
>> > freedom and control of trade and navigation in Asia, and states'
>>  efforts to
>> >
>> > legitimate their settlement colonies in the New World (Tuck 1999, p.
>>  108)."
>> >
>> > It seems that after Locke, Mill figured large in justifying empire. We
>> are
>> > then talking about mainstream political philosophers concerned with a
>> > crucial  concept, and no doubt struggling with a conceptual definition
>> of it.
>> >
>> >
>> > It should be granted that Locke and Mill are notably British rather than
>> > American, even if the study, within political philosophy, or analysis
>> of the
>> >
>> > concept of 'empire' may have been practiced by American political
>> > philosophers  as well.
>> >
>> > The centrality of the task DEFINING 'empire' I also found,
>>  especifically,
>> > at
>> >
>> > http://www.protevi.com/john/Empire.pdf
>> >
>> > who cares to refer to this set of 'necessary and sufficient conditions'
>> > which may relate to L. Helm's idea of some definitions of 'empire' being
>> > 'soft',  while what we need is a 'hard' one that does rely on some sort
>> of
>> > 'reductive' if  not 'reductionist' analysis of 'empire' to its basics.
>> >
>> > The author writes:
>> >
>> > "Is the United States on the verge of becoming an  empire?"
>> >
>> > "There is no finite set of characteristics for, say, “empire”  that
>> serve
>> >
>> > as necessary
>> > and sufficient conditions for membership in that  category."
>> >
>> > What we need is what Grice would call a "CONCEPTUAL" analysis  (vide his
>> > "Conceptual analysis and the province of philosophy", in "Studies in
>>  the Way
>> >
>> > of Words" -- this essay is particularly apt, since Grice sees the role
>>  of
>> > the philosopher as that of providing conceptual analysis not
>> necessarily for
>> >
>> > his own clarification. A philosopher can engage in philosophical
>> analysis
>> > for  the sake of helping others. He grants that his main motivation has
>> to do
>> >
>> > with  questions of defining concepts HE finds troubles with).
>> >
>> > The author of the above link goes on:
>> >
>> > "To start, the concept of empire belongs to a group of other concepts
>>  for
>> > ancient systems of geo-sociopolitical order, including nomadic warrior
>> bands
>> >
>> >  (with a leader who is first among equals -- primus inter
>> > pares -- and who  divvies up the booty they plunder from other groups);
>> > central place cities (with  large
>> > scale slave-based agriculture and tending to mixed regimes w/
>>  monarchial
>> > elements); and gateway cities
>> > (tending to commercial republic;  expansionist democracy; forming
>> leagues
>> > and allies)."
>> >
>> > "These cities  tended to have interludes of tyranny – one-man absolute
>> rule
>> >
>> > – on their way from  aristocracy to
>> > democracy or mixed regimes."
>> >
>> > "Finally, there is an important concept, developed in the ancient
>>  world,
>> > for inter-state relations,
>> > “hegemony”, which is leadership by one unit  of other units formally
>> > equal
>> > in “rights” but materially
>> > unequal in  power."
>> >
>> > "When we talk about the concept of "empire" we must at first
>>  distinguish
>> > the geopolitical and civic political
>> > senses of the  term."
>> >
>> > "Geopolitically, empire is the domination by one group of a large
>>  number
>> > of other
>> > groups spread over a large territory. In civic political  terms, we talk
>> > about imperial rule as absolute
>> > monarchy, large bureaucracy,  elaborate regulatory codes: “big gummit”
>> in
>> >
>> > other words. On the side of
>> > the  people, an empire tends to be composed of a few influential rich
>> > families and a  mass of isolated and
>> > relatively powerless “citizens.”"
>> >
>> > The author is concerned with what after Locke we may term 'nominal'
>> versus
>> > 'real' definitions. A real definition, however, has the risk of relying
>> on
>> > an  obscure idea of 'essence'. But it seems that any reference to a
>> > condition being  both NECESSARY and sufficient may always be criticised
>> as
>> > 'essentialist' if not  'stipulative'.
>> >
>> > The author goes on:
>> >
>> > "(Now if you insist that I answer the essentialist question at this
>>  point,
>> > I would have to say the US for the
>> > most part works hegemonically  rather than imperially – the threats are
>> > enough to so constrain other
>> > states’  options in both domestic and foreign policy that we exert
>> > effective control over  large parts of the
>> > world – but to show we mean business, an invasion is  sometimes
>> necessary,
>> >
>> > in which case we shift to
>> > imperial action. The long  history of our control of Central and South
>> > America shows this: was
>> > fomenting  the Pinochet takeover in Chile – that other September 11 – an
>> >
>> > imperial or  hegemonic act?
>> > What about the IMF’s role in Argentina in past  years?)"
>> >
>> > "As soon as we talk history, these conceptual distinctions are
>> > problematized."
>> >
>> > "Rome forms an interesting case where these ideal  distinctions are
>> > finessed on the ground.
>> > Most of the geopolitical expanse of  what we call the Roman Empire was
>> > gained when its civic
>> > political structure  was that of a republic."
>> >
>> > Back to Helm's post. He goes on:
>> >
>> > "To assert as some do that “empires  operate differently nowadays” is an
>> >
>> > assertion in search of an argument.
>> > To  put it another way, if Rome, Britain, Spain, France and the
>> Netherlands
>> > were at  one time empires but the U.S. is “a different sort of empire,”
>> > then where do we  find in this a definition of what an empire is? And
>> if you
>> >
>> > reply that the new  definition is merely whatever the U.S. happens to
>> be,
>> > then how is that a  definition of “empire”?"
>> >
>> > Well, indeed, definitions can be intensional  (the ones I prefer) or
>> > EXtensional, as per by enumeration. I would think in  terms of
>> set-theory,
>> > the
>> > idea would be. Let "E" be the class we call "Empire"  (as per a Venn
>> diagram,
>> >
>> > say). We then define "E" extensionally:
>> >
>> > E =  {Rome, Britain, USA}
>> >
>> > I'm sure there is an extensional way to proceed to  represent the fact
>> that
>> > Rome, Britain and USA, while they HELP to define,  extensionally, the
>> > 'set', "Empire", do not yet provide the set's full extension.
>>  Extensional
>> > definitions avoid dealing with INTENSIONS. IntenSionally, one could
>>  define
>> > "Empire" without reference to members of the set. This leads us to
>>  _analyse_
>> >
>> > "Empire" in terms of more basic characteristics which, jointly, should
>> > provide
>> > _necessary and sufficient_ conditions for the appropriate use of
>>  "Empire"
>> > in utterances like, "... is an Empire". E.g.: "Rome is an Empire",
>>  "Britain
>> >
>> > is an Empire". And so on.
>> >
>> > Helm goes on:
>> >
>> > "For the above  reasons and many others, those who think about the
>> modern
>> > era in mega-terms,  especially Fukuyama and Huntington do not apply the
>> term
>> > “
>> > empire” to the  U.S.  Fukuyama doesn’t see the U.S. as being unique,
>> > merely the best  example of a Liberal Democracy.  He sees all nations
>> > becoming
>> > Liberal  Democracies in the future.  A state needs to become on if it
>> is to
>> > succeed  economically.  In fact, the most successful nations already
>> are,
>> > either  wholly or partly.  Think of the nations which aren’t successful
>> > today
>> > and  the common explanation for why they are not is that they are not
>> Liberal
>> >
>> > Democracies and do not have modern economies that participate in the
>> “world
>> >
>> >  economy.”  Huntington, without addressing economies, as I recall,
>> argued
>> >
>> > that wars will continue between Civilizations (using the common
>> definition
>> > of  “civilization” which he references in Clash of Civilizations)
>> > occurring
>> > along  “fault lines,” those being the borders where a nation of one
>> > civilization is up  against that of another, as in the case of Pakistan
>> and
>> > India
>> > for example.   He also uses the term “core state.”  Within most
>> > civilizations there is a  “core state.”  The U.S. is the “core state”
>> > in the “West”
>> > civilization.  Russia is the “core state” within the Eastern Orthodox
>> > civilization.  In Huntington’s terms, the U.S. is the most powerful
>> nation
>> > in “
>> > the West.”   Things have indeed changed, and there are no more  empires
>> in
>> >
>> > the sense that Britain, Spain, France and the Netherlands were  empires
>> up
>> > until WWII the end of WWII.  Now you have “core states” and  spheres of
>> > influence.  The problem with the Middle East isn’t that their  states
>> > aren’t in
>> > the world economy as Liberal Democracies; it is that they don’t  have a
>> > “
>> > core state.”"
>> >
>> > Interesting. If one disallows extensional  definitions, which tend,
>> > granted, to look pretty 'unclarifying', we should look  for those basic
>> > characteristics, in geopolitical terms, which will help us  define
>> 'empire'.
>> > Helm is
>> > right that other notions play an interesting role, such  as 'state', and
>> > 'liberal democracy', and these ideas are developed in the second  link
>> > provided
>> > above.
>> >
>> > On top of all that, a rather side issue, which seems to have some sort
>> of
>> > 'lingustic effect'. The phrase 'American empire' IS used, when it comes
>> to
>> > architecture! So one has to be careful!
>> >
>> > Cheers,
>> >
>> > Speranza
>> >
>> >
>> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Empire_(style)  informs us that
>> > "American Empire" is a classical style of American arts and
>>  architecture"
>> >
>> > "It gained its greatest popularity in the U.S. after 1810  and is
>> > considered a robust phase of the classical style."
>> >
>> > "As an  early-19th-century design movement in the United States, it
>> > encompassed  architecture, furniture and other decorative arts, as well
>> as
>> > the
>> > visual  arts."
>> >
>> > "The Red Room at the White House is a fine example of American  Empire
>> > style."
>> >
>> > I guess Jacqueline Kennedy knew all about it!
>> >
>> > "A  simplified version of American Empire furniture, often referred to
>> as
>> > the  Grecian style,"
>> >
>> > not to be confused with the Griceian  style,
>> >
>> > "generally displayed plainer surfaces in curved forms, highly  figured
>> > mahogany veneers, and sometimes gilt-stencilled  decorations."
>> >
>> > "This Americanized interpretation of the Empire style  continued in
>> > popularity in conservative regions outside the major metropolitan
>>  centers
>> > well
>> > past the mid-nineteenth century."
>> >
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