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NONTHEMATIC / Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring 1973)

Arien Mack, Editor

The fundamental aim of John Stuart Mill’s essay on Liberty was the revival of the old issue of the proper limits to be set on state action. When is the state justified in restricting the liberty of the citizen? When is the citizen entitled to claim that his freedom has been unduly or unfairly curtailed? Raised originally in opposition to the arbitrary power of kings or aristocrats, rulers whose position was due to inheritance or usurpation, these questions, Mill claimed, had with the passing of the state into popular control, come no longer to be regarded as matters of general concern. Once power is in the right hands—ran the prevailing feeling—any further limitation upon its exercise becomes unnecessary.

All previous ethics—whether in the form of issuing direct enjoinders to do and not to do certain things, or in the form of defining principles for such enjoinders, or in the form of establishing ground the ground of obligation for such principles—had these interconnected tacit premises in common: that the human condition, determined by the nature of man and the nature of things, was given once and for all; that the human good on that basis was readily determinable; and that the range of human action and therefore responsibility was narrowly circumscribed. The author’s argument shows that these premises no longer hold, and urges us to reflect on the meaning of this fact for our moral condition. More specifically, it is the author’s contention that with certain developments of our powers, the nature of of human action has changed, and since ethics is concerned with action, it should follow that the changed nature of human action calls for a change in ethics as well.

Psychology is a vast and ramified discipline. It contains many mansions. But this doesn’t prevent it from being intellectually divided against itself. The author discusses one major division in psychology and suggests a way to reconcile the two sides. Out of such reconciliation, there might come a new perspective on the discipline. The deep division in the discipline which the author examines is the basic notions about science and the methods of science.

Every political theory contains a theory on the nature of action, whether specifically weighed or tacitly assumed, stated in so many words or lodged in the categorical apparatus. The problem to which every theory of action seeks to give a direct or indirect answer is the problem of the start and of starting—for all action is a beginning, a new beginning of which something did not previously exist… Rosa Luxemburg’s theory of revolution holds a special place among all theories of revolutionary movements. It is precisely against the Leninist revolutionary theory with metaphysical implications that Rosa Luxembourg’s theory is directed. She opposes first, the seemingly so plausible identification of revolution and force: “But revolution is something other, and something more, than bloodshed.” The entire question which dominates her political thinking can be understood as a search for the “other” thing, this “more” that distinguishes revolution from pure use of force.

As the modern world slowly emerged from the Middle Ages, most men and women came gradually to abandon the relatively unitary modes of medieval living and to adjust the complexity of modern life-styles. In the modern world (except for totalitarian countries), each person belongs to a variety of groups all of which claim allegiance and loyalty while none demands exclusive commitment.

Is economics a science? Partly that depends on how we choose to define the word. Does science mean a search for “repeatable patterns of dependence” among variables, the definition suggested by Ernest Nagel? This nicely fits the current fashion for functional models in economics, but omits large areas of economic scrutiny, including economic history or economic taxonomy (comparative economic systems). Do we mean by science a reliance on the experimental method? This throws into limbo certain central ideas of economics, such as value or utility, for which no experiments seem to be possible. Do we mean only the acceptance of a common paradigm as suggested by Kuhn? This then presents us with the problem of which economic paradigm to choose among a number of competing claimants: neoclassicism, institutionalism, Marxism. The concern of this essay is the relevance for economics of an idea that runs through all ideas of science—the conviction that science must be “value-free.”

J. B. S. Haldane once said that the main characteristic of the universe is its inexhaustible queerness. The statement reflects one of the least rational but most potent beliefs of scientists: that for the foreseeable future (perhaps forever?) each sustained and respectively imaginative research effort will lead us to some unexpected new level of understanding. Recent developments in sociobiology are not inconsistent with this vision of nature. They reveal a richness of detail combined with resistance to generalization of the kind that typifies a science at the early age of its development.

There is a remarkable contrast between the general point of view of philosophical thought since the Renaissance, and especially empiricist thought, on the one hand, and the thought of the classical Greek philosophers on the other. Modern thought has been dominated by an egocentric skeptical perspective to which Plato and Aristotle paid little or no attention. In calling this perspective “egocentric,” I want to bring out the philosophical thought that what a man is directly aware of is always something that is present in his own conscious mind, and that in perception what he is aware of is his own perceptual state, presumed to be caused in him by the outer object he is commonly said to perceive.

A standard mode of interpretive writing on the work of great thinkers attempts to find a consistency where the vulgar find inconsistency. A recent exercise in this direction is Bertell Ollman’s Alienation: Marx’s Conception of Man in Capitalist Society. Ollman tries to develop a comprehensive view of Marx’s conception within a broad philosophical context. The attempt to develop such a philosophical conception of Marxism has up until now fallen to continental European thinkers such as Lukács, Korsch, LeFebvre, Sartre. That an American political scientist such as Ollman should enter into this province lends immediate interest to his work.

Wittgenstein’s philosophy has proved exceedingly difficult to understand: his works—principally the early Tractatus LogicoPhilosophicus and the posthumously published Philosophical Investigations—have engendered great numbers of commentaries. Part of the difficulty is stylistic. The Tractatus is dense, cryptic in places almost oracular, and the reader finds himself having to decipher each sentence individually. The Investigations presents a different problem. The work is comprised of paragraph-long sections, which, taken singly, are easy to understand. But the content of these passages—often devices like rhetorical questions and facts no one would think of denying—makes it hard for the reader to grasp the cumulative force. The latter Wittgenstein bypassed conventional expository forms because he conceived what he was doing as something that no one had ever done before. I will try to indicate later why Wittgenstein held rhetorical questions and obvious facts to be suitable vehicles for his new ideas.

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