Last week we introduced a play by STOPPARD called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead saying its message was very contemporary to political events of these few decades of CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA. Many artists and performances want their creations to be free from their personal passion from the piece---they want the viewer to come to their own conclusions----and they really hate critics because of this. Then there are artists and performances written to make a statement on society and politics of the day----these are very, very GOOD TOOLS in educating to be a CITIZEN. If someone tells us----DON'T READ OR LISTEN TO THAT POINT OF VIEW ONLY OURS----then that person is trying to keep you a slave and not a CITIZEN. We all must educate BROADLY to know our opponent political or business---that means knowing across culture, across history, and philosophy.
MY FRIENDS JUST BEGINNING TO EDUCATE ON PUBLIC POLICY WILL FIND TODAY DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO SEE THE STEPS OF THINKING THESE ISSUES THROUGH.
We have heard from Reagan/Clinton and global neo-liberalism that we MUST BE PRAGMATIC! The term pragmatic has been CORRUPTED ----surprise! Take time to understand what pragmatism is ---just as the term FREE MARKET was corrupted at this same time.
Below we see a definition of pragmatism from a very far-right global Wall Street neo-conservative IVY LEAGUE corporation which tells us nothing much PRAGMATIC happened during the last century UNTIL THE 1970S.....of course that was the beginning of MOVING FORWARD ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE and the coming of REAGAN/BUSH and global Wall Street. So, this is a right wing idea of what pragmatism means.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
First published Sat Aug 16, 2008; substantive revision Mon Oct 7, 2013
'For much of the twentieth century, pragmatism was largely in eclipse. Few philosophers were familiar with the works of classical pragmatists such as Charles Sanders Pierce and William James, and pragmatist ideas were not at the centre of debate. John Dewey, who had been a dominant philosophical figure in the 1920s, was no longer a central figure. Analytical philosophers and their students had a central role in philosophy. It was not until the 1970s that interest in the writings of the Pragmatists became widespread and pragmatist ideas were recognized as able to make a major contribution to philosophy'.
Pragmatist theories of truth
These differences in motivation become clearest when we consider how both Peirce and James applied their pragmatist maxims to the clarification of the concept of truth. Peirce's account of truth is presented as a means to understanding a concept that was important for the method of science: reality (3.1); while James was ready to use his account to defend the pluralist view that there can be different kinds of truths (3.2).
The true is the name of whatever proves itself to be good in the way of belief, and good, too, for definite assignable reasons. (1907: 42)‘The true’, to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as ‘the right’ is only the expedient in the way of our behaving. Expedient in almost any fashion; and expedient in the long run and on the whole, of course. (1907: 106)
Here is ONE INTERPRETATION of Stoppard's play---I don't necessarily agree with this academic but it outlines how to approach analysis of meanings that may be found in any creative work. The play is hard to read because it is based on LIFE NOT MAKING SENSE. Now, if Stanford, YALE, Johns Hopkins, et al are telling WE THE PEOPLE what TRUTH MEANS---PRAGMATISM------then we see where 99% of people would feel they don't understand THAT INTERPRETATION OF TRUTH......it is a TRUTH made to fit extreme wealth and extreme corporate power.
The theme in media these few decades is -----AMERICANS DON'T KNOW WHAT THE TRUTH IS. Now, this is what MAO, STALIN, AND HITLER did in their times---they created societal structures so people could not find out what was true----we call that FASCISM -----and indeed CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA and the rise of global IVY LEAGUE corporations basically global HEDGE FUNDS----is that corporate fascism and they DO have ideas of TRUTH far different than 99% OF WE THE PEOPLE.
We have been saturated through media---through entertainment----through corporate universities to KNOW ONLY THAT GLOBAL 1% IDEA OF TRUTH.
So STOPPARD's play is bringing this confusion to light-----NOTHING MAKES SENSE.
'The Difficulty of Making Meaningful Choices'
This play was written in 1966 just as global ONE WORLD 1% were MOVING FORWARD----right away a viewer would think----what is meant by this confusion.
When global 1% become the source of WHAT IS TRUTH----we are on our way of not knowing what is next ---we were entering that naked capitalism empire-building killing our economy and moving it overseas.
The Incomprehensibility of the World
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead highlights the fundamental mystery of the world. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spend the entirety of the play in total confusion, lacking such basic information as their own identities. From the play’s opening, which depicts them as unable to remember where they are headed and how they began their journey, to their very last moments, in which they are bewildered by their imminent deaths, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cannot understand the world around them. Their confusion stems from both the sheer randomness of the universe, illustrated by the bizarre coin-tossing episode, and the ambiguous and unclear motives of the other characters, who pop onstage and deliver brief, perplexing speeches before quickly exiting. While Stoppard frequently uses their confusion for comic effect, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern occasionally become so frustrated by the world’s incomprehensibility that they fall into despair. The play ultimately suggests that the prominent role of chance in our lives, coupled with the difficulty of discerning the true intentions and desires of other people, leads to almost paralyzing confusion. Although this experience may sometimes be amusing or seem funny when it happens to others, in the end it is one of the most dreadful aspects of existence.
The Difficulty of Making Meaningful Choices
The constant confusion in which they find themselves leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern feeling unable to make any significant choices in their lives. They are pushed along toward their deaths by what appear to be random forces, and they fail to respond to their circumstances with anything but total passivity. Their lack of agency is underscored by Stoppard’s decision to transport them from scene to scene without any choice on their part. One minute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are in the woods with the Tragedians, and the next they are in Elsinore being asked to probe Hamlet’s distressed mind, a request they accept without even understanding what they have been asked to do. Even at the end of Act II, when they ask each other if they should go to England, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not make a choice but instead merely continue on the path that has been laid out for them. Since they have already come this far, Rosencrantz says, they may as well keep going. Their passive approach to their lives reflects how difficult it is to make decisions in a world that we do not fully understand, in which any choice can seem meaningless and therefore not worth making.
Stoppard demonstrates the danger of this passivity by giving Rosencrantz and Guildenstern the opportunity to make a very meaningful choice, which they fail to do. This moment occurs when they discover that they have a letter ordering Hamlet’s death upon their arrival in England: if they destroy it, Hamlet lives, but if they do nothing, he dies. While Rosencrantz hesitates about what to do, Guildenstern argues that they should not take any action, since they might not understand what is at stake. Although this decision may seem like an unfeeling rationalization for moral laziness, it is in fact simply an extension of the passivity that has marked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern throughout the play. By failing to make a significant choice when they have the opportunity to do so, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern incur terrible consequences, as Hamlet discovers the letter and switches it with one ordering their deaths rather than his own. Even though deciding which actions we should take in life is at times so difficult that we might be tempted to succumb to total passivity, failing to act is itself a decision, one that the play presents as not merely immoral but self-destructive.
The Relationship Between Life and the StageRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead emphasizes the close connection between real life and the world of theatrical performance. Numerous features of the play work to underscore this connection, not least of which is the fact that the play asks its audience to assume that the characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet are real and deserve to have their story told from another perspective. Within the play, the connection between life and the stage is revealed to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by the presence of the Tragedians, who perform a play that depicts parallel events to those in which the two men find themselves. This play shows that the characters most similar to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are ultimately killed, which is precisely the fate that befalls Stoppard’s main characters. As they watch the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern see that the two actors playing the roles parallel their own are dressed exactly as they are. This confuses Rosencrantz so much that he wonders why he recognizes the actor dressed as himself but then tells the actor that he is not who the actor believed he was. In other words, theater reflects life so well that Rosencrantz cannot tell which is which.
Guildenstern criticizes the Player for assuming that theatrical performance can depict real feelings, especially the terror of death. The Player’s response is twofold—he claims that theatrical death is the only kind people believe in because it is what they expect, and then he demonstrates that point to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by convincingly performing his own death when Guildenstern stabs him with a stage knife. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are completely persuaded by the Player’s performance, which lends credence to his claim that people really do believe in the things that theater has led them to expect. Indeed, the characters only believe in death when it looks theatrical, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cannot quite bring themselves to believe in their own impending deaths, for which they are unable to form any expectations. The audience cannot believe in their deaths either, at least according to the logic of the play and the Player, since the audience’s expectation that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern will die is never fulfilled. By refusing to depict their deaths and refusing to give the audience what it knows is coming, Stoppard keeps Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from dying and instead turns them into living literary characters.
Shakespeare’s HamletRosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead actively engages with Shakespeare’s Hamlet through quotation and visual cues. Stoppard includes many of Hamlet’s most notable scenes in a way that casts them in a new light. For instance, the most famous portion of Hamlet is the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, Hamlet’s monologue about mortality and whether he should kill himself. Stoppard includes this scene, but it occurs in the background, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in the foreground, wonder whether to approach Hamlet. As Hamlet mulls over his death, they decide that the time is perfect for a casual chat. This belief is deeply at odds with Hamlet’s actual state of mind, which the audience knows but the characters do not. Such dramatic irony is funny, but it serves a larger purpose. Hamlet is regarded as one the greatest works of world literature, but Stoppard’s comic treatment of it shows the importance of viewing Hamlet on its own terms rather than as the apex of literary tradition. By presenting Hamlet not as a great artifact but as a play that depicts real feelings and complex characters, Stoppard reminds his audience of the power of Shakespeare’s play to speak to us on an individual, human level.
The Lord’s PrayerThroughout the play, Guildenstern performs punning riffs on a segment of the Lord’s Prayer, uttered by Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and known to many people as the “Our Father” prayer. Guildenstern usually replaces the final word of the phrase give us this day our daily bread with a word that both rhymes with Rosencrantz’s most recent remark and forms a pun on their situation. For instance, after Claudius and Gertrude greet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, mix up their identities, and ask them to probe Hamlet’s mind, the two become so confused that they can hardly speak straight. Rosencrantz cries out, “Consistency is all I ask!” to which Guildenstern responds, “Give us this day our daily mask.” Guildenstern’s substitution of the word mask for bread is deeply ironic. In the prayer, Jesus asks God to provide something people need on a daily basis—bread—while Guildenstern asks for something that the two men have too much of—masks, or shields, that prevent their identity from being known. Since even they cannot keep themselves straight, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would have little need for masks, and thus Guildenstern’s remark is a bleak, almost resigned response to their situation.
This ironic reuse of a sacred text parallels Stoppard’s irreverent use of another hallowed literary work, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Stoppard wants to emphasize the lure of literary works—be they prayers or plays—but he also wants to show the danger of relying on them exclusively to help us solve our problems. People often look to literature in times of need, but Stoppard reminds us that although such works as the Lord’s Prayer or Hamlet may seem universally appealing, they are grounded in specific circumstances and are about specific people, and thus they cannot be applied to any situation indiscriminately. Guildenstern calls on the Lord’s Prayer when placed in trying situations, but it does him no good, and his punning substitutions point out that there is no piece of literature that can help them through their particular situation. Thus Stoppard reminds his audience that great literature—be it religious or secular—is not a blueprint for how to lead our lives. Rather, literature itself struggles to make sense of the complex business of living in a confusing, often frustrating world.
GamblingScenes of gambling occur repeatedly in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and underscore the central role that chance plays in the lives of the characters. The play opens with Guildenstern losing bet after bet to Rosencrantz as the flipped coins keep coming up heads. Later, Guildenstern tricks the Player into accepting a bet that the year of the Player’s birth doubled is an even number, and Rosencrantz tries to cheer up Guildenstern on the ship to England by giving his friend a chance to win the same bet. All this gambling, this reliance on chance rather than individual actions, highlights how much chance drives the lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and how little they do to counteract it. Although they are frustrated that chance puts them in unmanageable situations, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern take no action to help themselves and instead surrender to chance by relying on gambling. Confronted with the troubling randomness of reality, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern do not try to resist it. Instead, they embrace the very thing that is tormenting them, finding it easier to give in to chance than take the difficult step of actively deciding how best to lead their lives.
The coins that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern flip at the beginning of the play symbolize both the randomness of the world and the play’s exploration of oppositional forces. The pattern of coin after coin landing heads up defies the expectation that the laws of probability actually do work and that the world makes clear sense. Instead, the coins suggest that the world is ruled by randomness and the occurrence of highly improbable events. The point made by the coins is reiterated by the way that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get caught up in a string of improbable situations that, from their perspective at least, occur entirely at random and make no sense whatsoever. Randomness is often contrasted to determinism, the notion that events happen according to some unbreakable plan. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead combines randomness with determinism to suggest that chance seems deterministic. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern feel that they can do nothing to counteract the chance’s determinist force, just as they can do nothing to stop the coins from landing heads up.
The coins also stand in for the play’s exploration of oppositional forces. Although the coins land heads up so many times that they may seem one-sided, coins are actually two-sided, a fact the audience is reminded of when a coin lands tails up. This two-sidedness reflects the many sets of opposites in the play, from the division between Guildenstern’s philosophical pessimism and Rosencrantz’s pragmatic optimism to the dual nature of language, which is a source of both pleasurable wit and painful confusion. Imagining the world as a set of opposites is somewhat at odds with the coins’ symbolism of a world dominated by chance, since oppositions impose order on the world. Stoppard resolves this tension by having the oppositions in the play break down. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern reveal themselves to be more complex and less oppositional than they initially seem, for instance. This breakdown of oppositional forces is reflected in the coins in that the laws of probability suggest that flipped coins should split evenly between heads and tails, but Stoppard shows that such a simple model does not account for the sheer randomness of the world.
Almost the entirety of Act III takes place onboard a boat to England, and Stoppard uses the boat to reflect the experience of living in a universe that is beyond our control. Guildenstern initially responds quite positively to being on the boat, noting that it is pleasurable to give up responsibility and allow oneself to simply be carried along through life. This resignation to life’s randomness is freeing, Guildenstern believes, because it means that we no longer have to worry about whether we are making the right decisions—we can just relax and see where life takes us. The play suggests that this is a naïve and dangerous attitude, however, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s refusal to take any action for themselves will end up getting them killed. Guildenstern realizes that getting on the boat was a mistake, since giving up their freedom meant that they lost all control over their lives. Simply giving in to the randomness of the world, as well as believing that giving in leads to freedom, are self-destructive gestures. These gestures make us like men on a boat they cannot steer, unable to do anything about our experiences.
I was too young in 1966 to have experienced this play at its opening but I read it in college during the 1970s and I was given a broad interpretation of bias in what this play meant and from there I was able to inject my personal beliefs whether right wing, left wing, global 1% Wall Street----we have not been able to do this since Clinton took our public universities global Wall Street. Our private and IVY LEAGUE have been right wing and/or global 1% Wall Street---but it was the killing of our public universities teaching BROADLY FOR PEOPLE TO BE CITIZENS----that captured 99% of people to a definition of TRUTH GIVEN BY A GLOBAL 1%. This is why we hear all the time THEY KNOW BEST-----So who wrote that review of STOPPARD for SPARK's NOTES? It matters because depending on who wrote this the bias of interpretation becomes right wing, left wing, or global 1% Wall Street. During most of last century when our universities were filled with ordinary citizens writing academic studies geared towards community interests most writing was a real conservative Republican or a real left social Democrat----since Clinton and the loss of all media and publishing to global Wall Street the bias has been completely global Wall Street in interpreting STOPPARD.
When educating whether right conservative or left social democrat---always go back to when the piece was written or created to read commentary---don't depend on CLINTON/BUSH/OBAMA global Wall Street interpretations for the 1%.
'From the play’s opening, which depicts them as unable to remember where they are headed and how they began their journey, to their very last moments, in which they are bewildered by their imminent deaths, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cannot understand the world around them. Their confusion stems from both the sheer randomness of the universe, illustrated by the bizarre coin-tossing episode'
We don't want to generalize to the point of saying just because a person lives in a conservative Republican state vs a social liberal state that these kinds of interpretations carry into their work---but it usually does. Here we have the source of many high school and college CHEATERS----who did not value reading their LITERATURE and coming to their own conclusions-----Spark NOTES from IVY LEAGUE takes us in 1999---Clinton era-----to a global wall Street interpretation. IT REALLY MATTERS FOLKS! The interpretation of STOPPARD I shared was from SPARKS----the most easily found when GOGGLED----so that is why I may have a different interpretation than our Harvard grads.
CliffsNotes was started by a Nebraska native named Clifton Hillegass in 1958. He was working at Nebraska Book Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, when he met Jack Cole, the co-owner of Coles, a Toronto book business. Coles was also the publisher of a series of Canadian study guides called Coles Notes. He offered the American rights to Hillegass.
TheSpark.com was a literary website launched by four Harvard students on January 7, 1999. Most of TheSpark's users were high school and college students. To increase the site's popularity, the creators published the first six literature study guides (called "SparkNotes") on April 7, 1999.
Morality is found under LAWS OF NATURE-----coin tosses and probability are found under SCIENTIFIC LAWS OF PHYSICS FOR ONE. This may be boring or too complicated for some but the point is this------we are being literally FORCED from what are LAWS OF NATURE to what is completely TRUTH ACCORDING TO SCIENTIFIC LAWS. This includes what we shout over and again GLOBAL WALL STREET POLS HAVE NO MORALS, NO ETHICS, NO GOD'S NATURAL LAW----THEY ARE ATTACHED TO PRAGMATISM formed by scientific expediency PERIOD.
'Are these five conditions jointly sufficient for a proposition's being a Law of Nature?
Regularists say "yes"; Necessitarians, "no".
Laws of Nature
Laws of Nature are to be distinguished both from Scientific Laws and from Natural Laws.
Neither Natural Laws, as invoked in legal or ethical theories, nor Scientific Laws, which some researchers consider to be scientists' attempts to state or approximate the Laws of Nature, will be discussed in this article. Instead, it explores issues in contemporary metaphysics.
Within metaphysics, there are two competing theories of Laws of Nature. On one account, the Regularity Theory, Laws of Nature are statements of the uniformities or regularities in the world; they are mere descriptions of the way the world is. On the other account, the Necessitarian Theory, Laws of Nature are the "principles" which govern the natural phenomena of the world. That is, the natural world "obeys" the Laws of Nature. This seemingly innocuous difference marks one of the most profound gulfs within contemporary philosophy, and has quite unexpected, and wide-ranging, implications.
Some of these implications involve accidental truths, false existentials, the correspondence theory of truth, and the concept of free will.
Perhaps the most important implication of each theory is whether the universe is a cosmic coincidence or driven by specific, eternal laws of nature. Each side takes a different stance on each of these issues, and to adopt either theory is to give up one or more strong beliefs about the nature of the world.
1. Laws of Nature vs. Laws of Science
In 1959, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, Michael Scriven read a paper that implicitly distinguished between Laws of Nature and Laws of Science. Laws of Science (what he at that time called "physical laws") – with few exceptions – are inaccurate, are at best approximations of the truth, and are of limited range of application. The theme has since been picked up and advanced by Nancy Cartwright.
If scientific laws are inaccurate, then – presumably – there must be some other laws (statements, propositions, principles), doubtless more complex, which are accurate, which are not approximation to the truth but are literally true.
When, for example, generations of philosophers have agonized over whether physical determinism precludes the existence of free will (for example, Honderich), they have been concerned with these latter laws, the laws of nature itself.
It is the explication of these latter laws, the Laws of Nature, that is the topic of this article. We will not here be examining the "approximate truths" of science. Thus, to cite just one example, the controversy over whether scientific laws are (merely) instruments lies outside the topic of this article.
2. The Two Principal Views
Theories as to the features of Laws of Nature fall into two, quite distinct, schools: the Humeans (or Neo-Humeans) on the one side, the Necessitarians on the other.
Recent scholarship (for example, that of J. Wright and of Beauchamp and Rosenberg) makes a convincing case that the received view as to what David Hume offered as an explication of the concept of law of nature was quite mistaken, indeed the very opposite of what Hume was arguing. What, historically, until late in the Twentieth Century, was called the "Humean" account of Laws of Nature was a misnomer. Hume himself was no "Humean" as regards laws of nature. Hume, it turns out, was a Necessitarian – i.e. believed that laws of nature are in some sense "necessary" (although of course not logically necessary). His legendary skepticism was epistemological. He was concerned, indeed even baffled, how our knowledge of physical necessity could arise. What, in experience, accounted for the origin of the idea? What, in experience, provided evidence of the existence of the property? He could find nothing that played such a role.
Yet, in spite of his epistemological skepticism, he persisted in his belief that laws of nature are (physical) necessities. So as not to perpetuate the historical error as to what "Humean" properly connotes, I will abandon that term altogether and will adopt the relatively unproblematical term "Regularity" in its stead. At the very least, the Regularists' Theory of Laws of Nature denies that Laws of Nature are 'physically necessary'. There is no physical necessity, either in laws or in nature itself. There is no intermediate state between logical necessity on the one hand and sheer contingency on the other.
Necessitarians, in contrast, argue that there is physical (or as they sometimes call it "nomic" or "nomological") necessity. They offer two different accounts. According to some Necessitarians, physical necessity is a property of the Laws of Nature (along with truth, universality, etc.); according to other Necessitarians, physical necessity inheres in the very woof and warp (the stuff and structure) of the universe.
Thus, for example, on the first of these two Necessitarian theories, electrons will bear the electrical charge -1.6 x 10-19 Coulombs because there is a Law of Nature to that effect, and the universe conforms to, or is 'governed' by, this physically necessary (i.e. nomological) principle (along with a number of others, of course).
On the second of the two Necessitarian theories, the "necessity" of an electron's bearing this particular electrical charge "resides" in the electron itself. It is of the very 'nature' of an electron, by necessity, to have this particular electrical charge. On this latter account, the statement "All electrons bear a charge of -1.6 x 10-19 Coulombs" is a Law of Nature because it correctly (veridically) describes a physical necessity in the world.[ 1 ]
3. Shared Elements in the Competing Theories
Regularists and Necessitarians agree as to five conditions necessary for a statement's being a Law of Nature.
Laws of Nature
1.are factual truths, not logical ones;"The boiling point of sulfur is 444.6° Celsius" expresses a factual truth. "Every number has a double" expresses a logical truth.
2.are true for every time and every place in the universe;There are no laws of nature that hold just for the planet earth (or the Andromeda Galaxy, for that matter), nor are there any that hold just for the Eighteenth Century or just for the Mesozoic Era.
3.contain no proper names;Laws of nature may contain general concepts, such as "mass", "color", "aptitude", "capital", "diabetes", "return on investments", etc.; but may not contain such terms as "the Fraser River", "the planet Earth", "$59.22", "June 18, 1935", "IBM", etc.
4.are universal or statistical claims; and"(All pure) copper conducts electricity" expresses a law of nature. But "Stars exist" (although true) does not express a law of nature: it is neither a universal nor a statistical claim.
5. are conditional claims, not categorical ones.Categorical claims which are equivalent to conditional claims (e.g. "There are no perpetual motion machines of the first kind" which is equivalent to "If anything is a perpetual motion machine then it is not of the first kind") are candidates for lawfulness.[ 2 ]
Categorical claims (e.g., again, "There are stars") which are not equivalent to conditionals are not candidates for lawfulness.
Note: Laws of physics which are expressed mathematically are taken to be elliptical for conditional truths. For example, the law "mv = mo/(1 - v2/c2)½ " is to be read as equivalent to "for any massy object, if its velocity is v, then its mass [mv] is equal to its rest mass [mo] divided by ..."
Are these five conditions jointly sufficient for a proposition's being a Law of Nature? Regularists say "yes"; Necessitarians, "no".
4. The Case for Necessitarianism
Necessitarians lay claim to a number of examples which, they say, can be explicated only by positing a sixth necessary condition for laws of nature, namely, by positing natural (physical /nomic /nomological) necessity.
a. Accidental Truths vs. Laws of Nature
Moas (a large flightless bird that lived in New Zealand) have been extinct for more than a century. We can assume (this example is Popper's [The Logic of Scientific Discovery, Appendix *x]) that some one of them (we needn't know which one) was the oldest Moa ever to have lived. Suppose it died at the age of n years. Thus the statement "No moa lives beyond the age of n years" is true (where "lives" is being used as a tenseless verb). Moreover this statement satisfies all the other necessary conditions specified above.
But, Necessitarians will argue, the statement "No moa lives beyond the age of n years" is not a law of nature. It is counterintuitive to believe that such a statement could be on the same (metaphysical) footing as "No perpetual motion machine of the first kind exists", or, citing another example, "No object having mass is accelerated beyond the speed of light". The latter statements are bona fide laws of nature; the former a mere 'accidental' truth. The difference lies in the (alleged) fact that the latter two cases (about perpetual motion machines and about massy objects) are physically necessary truths; the former (about moas) is a mere accidental truth. To use Popper's terminology, genuine laws of nature "forbid" certain things to happen; accidental truths do not. Suppose the oldest moa – we'll call him Ludwig – died, of an intestinal infection, at the age of (let's say) 12 years. (I haven't any idea what the average life span of moas was. It's irrelevant for our purposes.) Now suppose that Ludwig had a younger brother, Johann, hatched from the same clutch of eggs, one hour later than Ludwig himself. Poor Johann – he was shot by a hunter 10 minutes before Ludwig died of his illness. But, surely, had Johann not been shot, he would have lived to a greater age than Ludwig. Unlike his (very slightly) older brother, Johann was in perfect health. Johann was well on his way to surviving Ludwig; it's just that a hunter dispatched him prematurely. His death was a misfortune; it was not mandated by a law of nature.
b. False Existentials
False existential statements of the sort "Some silver burns at -22° Celsius" and "There is a river of cola" are logically equivalent to statements satisfying all of the five necessary conditions specified above. If those conditions were to constitute a set of sufficient conditions for a statement's being a law of nature, then the statement "No river is constituted of cola" would be a law of nature.[ 3 ]
The oddity goes even more deeply. Given that what it is to be physically impossible is to be logically inconsistent with a law of nature, then every false existential statement of the sort "Some S is P" or "There is an S that is a P" would turn out to be, not just false, but physically impossible.
But surely the statement "There is a river of cola", although false, is not physically impossible. There could be such a river. It would merely require a colossal accident (such as befell Boston in 1912 when a huge vat of molasses ruptured), or the foolish waste of a great deal of money.
If "there is a river of cola" is not to be regarded as physically impossible, then some one or more further conditions must be added to the set of necessary conditions for lawfulness. Physical necessity would seem to be that needed further condition.
c. Doom vs. Failure
Suppose (1) that Earth is the only planet in the universe to have supported intelligent life; and (2) that all life on Earth perished in 1900 when the earth was struck by a meteor 10,000 km in diameter. Clearly, under those conditions, the Wright Brothers would never have flown their plane at Kitty Hawk. Even though tinkerers and engineers had been trying for centuries to build a heavier-than-air motorized flying machine, everyone had failed to produce one. But their failure was merely failure; these projects were not doomed. Yet, if the universe had had the slightly different history just described, the statement "there is a heavier-than-air motorized flying machine" would turn out to be physically impossible; hence the project was doomed. But, Necessitarians will argue, not all projects that fail are doomed. Some are doomed, e.g. any attempt to accelerate a massy object beyond the speed of light, or, e.g. to build a perpetual motion machine of the first kind. Again, just as in the case of accidental truths and lawful truths, we do not want to collapse the distinction between doom and failure. Some projects are doomed; others are mere failures. The distinction warrants being preserved, and that requires positing physical necessity (and – what is the other side of the same coin – physical impossibility).
5. The Case for RegularityWith the dawning of the modern, scientific, age came the growing realization of an extensive sublime order in nature. To be sure, humankind has always known that there is some order in the natural world – e.g. the tides rise and fall, the moon has four phases, virgins have no children, water slakes thirst, and persons grow older, not younger. But until the rise of modern science, no one suspected the sweep of this order. The worldview of the West has changed radically since the Renaissance. From a world which seemed mostly chaotic, there emerged an unsuspected underlying order, an order revealed by physics, chemistry, biology, economics, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, geology, evolutionary theory, pharmacology, epidemiology, etc.
And so, alongside the older metaphysical question, "Why is there anything, rather than nothing?", there arises the newer question, "Why is the world orderly, rather than chaotic?" How can one explain the existence of this pervasive order? What accounts for it?
a. Naturalizing Philosophy
Even as recently as the Eighteenth Century, we find philosophers (e.g. Montesquieu) explicitly attributing the order in nature to the hand of God, more specifically to His having imposed physical laws on nature in much the same way as He imposed moral laws on human beings. There was one essential difference, however. Human beings – it was alleged – are "free" to break (act contrary to) God's moral laws; but neither human beings nor the other parts of creation are free to break God's physical laws.
In the Twentieth Century virtually all scientists and philosophers have abandoned theistic elements in their accounts of the Laws of Nature. But to a very great extent – so say the Regularists – the Necessitarians have merely replaced God with Physical Necessity. The Necessitarians' nontheistic view of Laws of Nature surreptitiously preserves the older prescriptivist view of Laws of Nature, namely, as dictates or edicts to the natural universe, edicts which – unlike moral laws or legislated ones – no one, and no thing, has the ability to violate.
Regularists reject this view of the world. Regularists eschew a view of Laws of Nature which would make of them inviolable edicts imposed on the universe. Such a view, Regularists claim, is simply a holdover from a theistic view. It is time, they insist, to adopt a thoroughly naturalistic philosophy of science, one which is not only purged of the hand of God, but is also purged of its unempirical latter-day surrogate, namely, nomological necessity. The difference is, perhaps, highlighted most strongly in Necessitarians saying that the Laws of Nature govern the world; while Regularists insist that Laws of Nature do no more or less than correctly describe the world.
b. Revisiting Physical Impossibility
Doubtless the strongest objection Necessitarians level against Regularists is that the latter's theory obliterates the distinction between laws of nature (for example, "No massy object is accelerated beyond the speed of light") and accidental generalizations (e.g. "No Moa lives more than n years"). Thus, on the Regularists' account, there is a virtually limitless number of Laws of Nature. (Necessitarians, in contrast, typically operate with a view that there are only a very small number, a mere handful, of Laws of Nature, that these are the 'most fundamental' laws of physics, and that all other natural laws are logical consequences of [i.e. 'reducible to'] these basic laws. I will not further pursue the issue of reductivism in this article.)
What is allegedly wrong with there being no distinction between accidental generalizations and 'genuine' Laws of Nature? Just this (say the Necessitarians): if there is a virtually limitless number of Laws of Nature, then (as we have seen above) every false existential statement turns out to be physically impossible and (again) the distinction between (mere) failure and doom is obliterated.
How can Regularists reply to this seemingly devastating attack, issuing as it does from deeply entrenched philosophical intuitions?
Regularists will defend their theory against this particular objection by arguing that the expression "physically impossible" has different meanings in the two theories: there is a common, or shared, meaning of this expression in both theories, but there is an additional feature in the Necessitarians' account that is wholly absent in the Regularists'.
The common (i.e. shared) meaning in "physically impossible" is "inconsistent with a Law of Nature". That is, anything that is inconsistent with a Law of Nature is "physically impossible". (On a prescriptivist account of Laws of Nature, one would say Laws of Nature "rule out" certain events and states-of-affairs.)
On both accounts – Necessitarianism and Regularity – what is physically impossible never, ever, occurs – not in the past, not at present, not in the future, not here, and not anywhere else.
But on the Necessitarians' account, there is something more to a physically impossible event's nonoccurrence and something more to a physically impossible state-of-affair's nonexistence. What is physically impossible is not merely nonoccurrent or nonexistent. These events and states-of-affairs simply could not occur or exist. There is, then, in the Necessitarians' account, a modal element that is entirely lacking in the Regularists' theory. When Necessitarians say of a claim – e.g. that someone has built a perpetual motion machine of the first kind – that it is physically impossible, they intend to be understood as claiming that not only is the situation described timelessly and universally false, it is so because it is nomically impossible.
In contrast, when Regularists say that some situation is physically impossible – e.g. that there is a river of cola – they are claiming no more and no less than that there is no such river, past, present, future, here, or elsewhere. There is no nomic dimension to their claim. They are not making the modal claim that there could not be such a river; they are making simply the factual (nonmodal) claim that there timelessly is no such river. (Further reading: 'The' Modal Fallacy.)
According to Regularists, the concept of physical impossibility is nothing but a special case of the concept of timeless falsity. It is only when one imports from other theories (Necessitarianism, Prescriptivism, etc.) a different, modal, meaning of the expression, that paradox seems to ensue. Understand the ambiguity of the expression, and especially its nonmodal character in the Regularity theory, and the objection that the Necessitarians level is seen to miss its mark.
(There is an allied residual problem with the foundations of Necessitarianism. Some recent authors [e.g. Armstrong and Carroll] have written books attempting to explicate the concept of nomicity. But they confess to being unable to explicate the concept, and they ultimately resort to treating it as an unanalyzable base on which to erect a theory of physical lawfulness.)
c. Regularity and Explanation
Another philosophical intuition that has prompted the belief in Necessitarianism has been the belief that to explain why one event occurred rather than another, one must argue that the occurring event "had to happen" given the laws of nature and antecedent conditions. In a nutshell, the belief is that laws of nature can be used to explain the occurrence of events, accidental generalizations – 'mere truths devoid of nomic force' – can not be so utilized.
The heyday of the dispute over this issue was the 1940s and 50s. It sputtered out, in more or less an intellectual standoff, by the late 60s. Again, philosophical intuitions and differences run very deep. Regularists will argue that we can explain events very well indeed, thank you, in terms of vaguely circumscribed generalities; we do not usually invoke true generalities, let alone true generalities that are assumed to be nomically necessary. In short, we can, and indeed do several times each day, explain events without supposing that the principles we cite are in any sense necessary. Regularists will point to the fact that human beings had, for thousands of years, been successfully explaining some events in their environment (e.g. that the casting cracked because it had been cooled down too quickly) without even having the concept of nomicity, much less being able to cite any nomologically necessary universal generalizations.
Necessitarianism, on this view, then, is seen to dovetail with a certain – highly controversial – view of the nature of explanation itself, namely, that one can explain the occurrence of an event only when one is in a position to cite a generalization which is nomologically necessary. Few philosophers are now prepared to persist with this view of explanation, but many still retain the belief that there are such things as nomologically necessary truths. Regularists regard this belief as superfluous.
d. Problems with Necessitarianism I
– Its Inverting the Truth-making RelationReligious skeptics – had they lived in a society where they might have escaped torture for asking the question – might have wondered why (/how) the world molds itself to God's will. God, on the Prescriptivist view of Laws of Nature, commanded the world to be certain ways, e.g. it was God's will (a law of nature that He laid down) that all electrons should have a charge of -1.6 x 10-19 Coulombs. But how is all of this supposed to play out? How, exactly, is it that electrons do have this particular charge? It is a mighty strange, and unempirical, science that ultimately rests on an unintelligible power of a/the deity.
Twentieth-century Necessitarianism has dropped God from its picture of the world. Physical necessity has assumed God's role: the universe conforms to (the dictates of? / the secret, hidden, force of? / the inexplicable mystical power of?) physical laws. God does not 'drive' the universe; physical laws do.
But how? How could such a thing be possible? The very posit lies beyond (far beyond) the ability of science to uncover. It is the transmuted remnant of a supernatural theory, one which science, emphatically, does not need.
There is another, less polemical, way of making the same point.
Although there are problems aplenty in Tarski's theory of truth (i.e. the semantic theory of truth, also called the "correspondence theory of truth"), it is the best theory we have. Its core concept is that statements (or propositions) are true if they describe the world the way it is, and they are false otherwise. Put metaphorically, we can say that truth flows to propositions from the way the world is. Propositions 'take their truth' from the world; they do not impose their truth on the world. If two days before an election, Tom says "Sylvia will win", and two days after the election, Marcus says, "Sylvia won", then whether these statements are true or false depends on whether or not Sylvia is elected. If she is, both statements are true; if she is not, then both statements are false. But the truth or falsity of those statements does not bring about her winning (or losing), or cause her to win (or lose), the election. Whether she wins or loses is up to the voters, not to certain statements.
Necessitarians – unwittingly perhaps – turn the semantic theory of truth on its head. Instead of having propositions taking their truth from the way the world is, they argue that certain propositions – namely the laws of nature – impose truth on the world.
The Tarskian truth-making relation is between events or state-of-affairs on the one hand and properties of abstract entities (propositions) on the other. As difficult as it may be to absorb such a concept, it is far more difficult to view a truth-making relationship the 'other way round'. Necessitarianism requires that one imagine that a certain privileged class of propositions impose their truth on events and states of affairs. Not only is this monumental oddity of Necessitarianism hardly ever noticed, no one – so far as I know – has ever tried to offer a theory as to its nature.
e. Problems with Necessitarianism II –
Eighteenth-century empiricists (Hume most especially) wondered where, in experience, there was anything that prompted the concept of physical necessity. Experience, it would seem, provides at best only data about how the world is, not how it must be, i.e. experience provides data concerning regularity, not (physical) necessity. Hume's best answer, and it is clearly inadequate, lay in a habit of mind.
Twentieth-century empiricists are far more concerned with the justification of our concepts than with their origins. So the question has now evolved to "what evidence exists that warrants a belief in a physical necessity beyond the observed and posited regularities in nature?"
A number of Necessitarians (see, for example, von Wright) have tried to describe experiments whose outcomes would justify a belief in physical necessity. But these thought-experiments are impotent. At best – as Hume clearly had seen – any such experiment could show no more than a pervasive regularity in nature; none could demonstrate that such a regularity flowed from an underlying necessity.
f. The Regularists' Trump Card – The Dissolution of the Problem of Free Will and DeterminismIn the Regularity theory, the knotted problem of free will vs. determinism is solved (or better, "dissolved") so thoroughly that it cannot coherently even be posed.
On the Regularists' view, there simply is no problem of free will. We make choices – some trivial, such as to buy a newspaper; others, rather more consequential, such as to buy a home, or to get married, or to go to university, etc. – but these choices are not forced upon us by the laws of nature. Indeed, it is the other way round. Laws of nature are (a subclass of the) true descriptions of the world. Whatever happens in the world, there are true descriptions of those events. It's true that you cannot "violate" a law of nature, but that's not because the laws of nature 'force' you to behave in some certain way. It is rather that whatever you do, there is a true description of what you have done. You certainly don't get to choose the laws that describe the charge on an electron or the properties of hydrogen and oxygen that explain their combining to form water. But you do get to choose a great many other laws. How do you do that? Simply by doing whatever you do in fact do.
For example, if you were to choose(!) to raise your arm, then there would be a timelessly true universal description (let's call it “D4729”) of what you have done. If, however, you were to choose not to raise your arm, then there would be a (different) timelessly true universal description (we can call it “D5322”) of what you did (and D4729 would be timelessly false).
Contrary to the Necessitarians' claim – that the laws of nature are not of our choosing – Regularists argue that a very great many laws of nature are of our choosing. But it's not that you reflect on choosing the laws. You don't wake up in the morning and ask yourself "Which laws of nature will I create today?" No, it's rather that you ask yourself, "What will I do today?", and in choosing to do some things rather than others, your actions – that is, your choices – make certain propositions (including some universal statements containing no proper names) true and other propositions false.
A good example embodying the Regularists' view can be found in the proposition, attributed to Sir Thomas Gresham (1519?-1579) but already known earlier, called – not surprisingly – "Gresham's Law":
[Gresham's Law is] the theory holding that if two kinds of money in circulation have the same denominational value but different intrinsic values, the money with higher intrinsic value will be hoarded and eventually driven out of circulation by the money with lesser intrinsic value.
In effect what this "law" states is that 'bad money drives out good'. For example, in countries where the governments begin issuing vast amounts of paper money, that money becomes next-to-worthless and people hoard 'good' money, e.g. gold and silver coins, that is, "good" money ceases to circulate.
Why, when paper money becomes virtually worthless, do people hoard gold? Because gold retains its economic value – it can be used in emergencies to purchase food, clothing, flight (if need be), medicine, etc., even when "bad" paper money will likely not be able to be so used. People do not hoard gold under such circumstances because Gresham's "Law" forces them to do so. Gresham's "Law" is purely descriptive (not prescriptive) and illustrates well the point Regularists insist upon: namely, that laws of economics are not causal agents – they do not force the world to be some particular way rather than another. (Notice, too, how this non-nomological "Law" works perfectly adequately in explaining persons' behavior. Citing regularities can, and does, explain the way the world is. One does not need to posit an underlying, inaccessible, nomicity.)
The manner in which we regard Gresham's "Law" ought, Regularists suggest, to be the way we regard all laws of nature. The laws of physics and chemistry are no different than the laws of economics. All laws of nature – of physics, of chemistry, of biology, of economics, of psychology, of sociology, and so forth – are nothing more, nor anything less, than (a certain subclass of) true propositions.
Persons who believe that there is a problem reconciling the existence of free will and determinism have turned upside down the relationship between laws of nature on the one side and events and states of affairs on the other. It is not that laws of nature govern the world. We are not "forced" to choose one action rather than another. It is quite the other way round: we choose, and the laws of nature accommodate themselves to our choice. If I choose to wear a brown shirt, then it is true that I do so; and if instead I were to choose to wear a blue shirt, then it would be true that I wear a blue shirt. In neither case would my choosing be 'forced' by the truth of the proposition that describes my action. And the same semantic principle applies even if the proposition truly describing my choice is a universal proposition rather than a singular one.
To make the claim even more pointedly: it is only because Necessitarianism tacitly adopts an anti-semantic theory of truth that the supposed problem of free will vs. determinism even arises. Adopt a thoroughgoing Regularist theory and the problem evaporates.
6. Statistical LawsMany, perhaps most, of workaday scientific laws (recall the first section above) are statistical generalizations – e.g. the scientific claims (explanatory principles) of psychology, economics, meteorology, ecology, epidemiology, etc.
But can the underlying, the "real," Laws of Nature itself be statistical?
With occasional reluctance, especially early in the Twentieth Century, physicists came to allow that at least some laws of nature really are statistical, for example, laws such as "the half-life of radium is 1,600 years" which is a shorthand way of saying "in any sample of radium, 50% of the radium atoms will radioactively decay within a period of 1,600 years".
Regularists take the prospect (indeed the existence) of statistical laws of nature in stride. On the Regularists' account, statistical laws of nature – whether in areas studied by physicists or by economists or by pharmacologists – pose no intellectual or theoretical challenges whatsoever. Just as deterministic (i.e. exceptionless) laws are descriptions of the world, not prescriptions or disguised prescriptions, so too are statistical laws.
Necessitarians, however, frequently have severe problems in accommodating the notion of statistical laws of nature. What sort of metaphysical 'mechanism' could manifest itself in statistical generalities? Could there be such a thing as stochastic nomicity? Popper grappled with this problem and proposed what he came to call "the propensity theory of probability". On his view, each radium atom, for example, would have its "own"(?) 50% propensity to decay within the next 1,600 years. Popper really did see the problem that statistical laws pose for Necessitarianism, but his solution has won few, if any, other subscribers. To Regularists, such solutions appear as evidence of the unworkability and the dispensability of Necessitarianism. They are the sure sign of a theory that is very much in trouble.
7. Is the Order in the Universe a Cosmic Coincidence?
An important subtext in the dispute between Necessitarians and Regularists concerns the very concepts we need to 'make sense' of the universe.
For Regularists, the way-the-world-is is the rock bottom of their intellectual reconstruction. They have reconciled themselves to, and embraced, the ultimately inexplicable contingency of the universe.
But for Necessitarians, the way-the-world-is cannot be the rock bottom. For after all – they will insist – there has to be some reason, some explanation, why the world is as it is and is not some other way. It can't simply be, for example, that all electrons, the trillions upon trillions of them, just happen to all bear the identical electrical charge as one another – that would be a cosmic coincidence of an unimaginable improbability. No, this is no coincidence. The identity of electrical charge comes about because there is a law of nature to the effect that electrons have this charge. Laws of nature "drive" the world. The laws of physics which, for example, describe the behavior of diffraction gratings (see Harrison) were true from time immemorial and it is because of those laws that diffraction gratings, when they came to be engineered in modern times, have the peculiar properties they do.
Regularists will retort that the supposed explanatory advantage of Necessitarianism is illusory. Physical necessity – nomicity if you will – is as idle and unempirical a notion as was Locke's posit of a material substratum. Locke's notion fell into deserved disuse simply because it did no useful work in science. It was a superfluous notion. (The case is not unlike modern arguments that minds are convenient fictions, the product of "folk" psychology.)
At some point explanations must come to an end. Regularists place that stopping point at the way-the-world-is. Necessitarians place it one, inaccessible, step beyond, at the way-the-world-must-be.
The divide between Necessitarians and Regularists remains as deep as any in philosophy. Neither side has conceived a theory which accommodates all our familiar, and deeply rooted, historically-informed beliefs about the nature of the world. To adopt either theory is to give up one or more strong beliefs about the nature of the world. And there simply do not seem to be any other theories in the offing. While these two theories are clearly logical contraries, they are – for the foreseeable future – also exhaustive of the alternatives.
Today global Wall Street keeps media filled with NECESSITY -----that is SUSTAINABILITY ----it is GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE-----it is a collapsing US DOLLAR ----these are now what create TRUTH and morality and ethics can no longer come into play----this ideal is centered around the goals of ONE WORLD ONE GOVERNANCE only wanting to include that global 1% and their 2% into what are today US Foreign Economic Zone development. The Asian nations were forced into these suspensions of moral and ethical TRUTHs and pushed to MAOIST industrial corporate truths with the loss of land and ability to feed and house oneself came the greater good as GLOBAL CORPORATE SWEATSHOP FACTORY SUPPORTERS said of enslaving people just so they could get a meal and a bed.
That is LAW OF NECESSITY taking over from GOD'S NATURAL LAWS -----it becomes OK TO ENSLAVE PEOPLE and take all human rights away because have to protect the poor.
'The constant confusion in which they find themselves leaves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern feeling unable to make any significant choices in their lives. They are pushed along toward their deaths by what appear to be random forces, and they fail to respond to their circumstances with anything but total passivity'.
Global Warming is the other side of NECESSITY----we are now bombarded with the term SUSTAINABILITY----and it is not even used as is the goal of global Wall Street---sustainability means we are only going to build societal structures to take care of global 1% and their 2%---it has nothing to do with environmental sustainability----THERE GOES THAT TRUTH AGAIN BUT IT IS ONLY A LIE OUT OF NECESSITY.
You can believe citizens in China under MAO and Russia under Stalin---AND citizens in Germany under Hitler had all these moral and ethical dilemmas washed away by those fascists because of NECESSITY----it became NECESSARY.
STOPPARD HAS THESE CHARACTERS MOVING FORWARD WITH TOTAL PASSIVITY.
Moral Law and the Ten Commandments
Dr. Art Lindsley
November 19, 2013
Once I was given a private tour of the United States House of Representatives. Our tour guide, the chief of staff for a congressman, had us go up and sit in the Speaker’s chair, look straight ahead, and tell him what we saw. Directly in front of us was a representation of Moses, whose writings were a primary basis for our rule of law. Although we might acknowledge the moral foundations of our nation’s laws, many believers are unclear about the place of biblical law in our personal and public life.
The place of law in general, the influence of the Ten Commandments in particular, and the application of law to public life are all topics that provide an important framework for making wise decisions in our work and in economics. With this framework of uprightness and honesty, Christians and non-Christians alike are best equipped to love their neighbor and serve others through their work and business transactions.
The Threefold Use of the LawIn theology, there is much discussion of the threefold use of the law. The first is the political use, in which moral law is used as a solid basis for deciding what makes good or bad law in the political arena. The second use of the law is the pedagogical use of the law, in which the law is a teacher.1 In ancient times, the teacher would make sure the student was focused on his studies, disciplining him if he was not. In the same way, the law convicts people of their sin, exposing them and helping them to see their sin more clearly through the mirror of the law.
When the law has served this function, the sinner is driven to God’s grace in Christ. Since sinners are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, and through Christ alone, those who have trusted in Christ are in a sense not under the law. Paul says in Romans 6:14, “you are not under law, but under grace” with respect to salvation. At the same time, that does not mean that people are now free to sin.2 It is the law that continually reminds sinners of their need for Christ and their inability to attain salvation in their own strength.
The law has a third use as a principle or as a guide. It shows us what is right, helping us to be discerning in the tangled jungle of moral decisions that we have to face. Because of the church’s focus on the second use of the law, this third use has often been forgotten. Old Testament professor and author Dr. Bruce Waltke speaks of a time in his life when he had an inadequate view of the law. Someone came to his house and gave him a gift of a cup inscribed with the Ten Commandments. When his guest left, Waltke went out on his back deck and smashed the cup on the stone. He did this because he was free from the constraints of the law due to his saving faith in Christ. However, he realized later in life how he had neglected the biblical teaching in Romans that the law is “holy and righteous and good,” and even “spiritual.”3 In other words, the problem is not with the law, but with those who violate the law. Though Christ’s grace has absolved his people from the consequences of violating his mandates, the law still condemns and then guides. The purpose of the second, condemning, use of law is to drive us to Christ, and the third use drives us to live faithfully thereafter.
The Law is Not Arbitrary
In some secular schools, a dilemma will be posed to Christians in basic philosophy classes: is law good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good? Either choice causes problems. If law is good because God commands it, then the command seems arbitrary. He could perhaps make what we think right into wrong, or what we think wrong into right. In the Middle Ages, some held this position by maintaining that God is ex lex, or “outside the law.”
On the other hand, if God commands a law because it is good or right, that suggests a standard above God that he must observe. To scholars in the Middle Ages, this position meant that God was sub legi, or under the law. This dilemma would thus conclude that God’s law is either arbitrary or higher than God himself. Fortunately, there is a third option. God is sibi ipse ex, a law unto himself. One could represent the three positions thus, with Θ representing God:
In the third position, the law is a reflection of God’s character and an expression of who he is. And just as the law corresponds to God’s nature, those made in his image also correspond to his nature.
Law Fits God’s Nature and Ours
If the law is a reflection of God’s character and humans are made in God’s image, then the law fits human nature as well as that of God. It follows that humans are structured to follow certain laws and operate in certain ways. For instance, a car that is not made for diesel fuel will not be able to run well on diesel. The car might stop altogether with water or sugar in the gas tank. Likewise, if one runs full speed into a brick wall, chances are that one will do more damage to himself than to the wall because the wall is stronger. If a person jumps from a plane, he may feel as free as a bird for a moment, but unless he has a parachute, the law of gravity will bring him crashing to the ground.
God’s law is like a manufacturer’s manual showing human beings how to act according to their nature. There are consequences to each action. People will experience brokenness or disintegration if they violate how God has made them. Breaking God’s law is just like running into the wall or jumping from the plane without a parachute. Unless individuals pursue an intimate relationship with God and with other people and come to know and employ their gifts, they will not experience wholeness. If we either neglect or violate our nature, we will experience brokenness. God’s law is meant to help his people avoid mistakes which lead to brokenness, not hurt them. It is intended to show the way to life and joy, not just to restrict.
Jesus Came Not to Abolish But to Fulfill
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” Does this mean that all of the Old Testament Law applies to us? Most evangelical theologians would say that there are three aspects to the Old Testament Law: ceremonial, civil or judicial, and moral. The ceremonial law is clearly fulfilled in Christ. God’s people no longer sacrifice in the Temple because Christ’s sacrifice has been offered once for all of us.4 Old Testament dietary restrictions such as clean or unclean foods no longer apply to us because Jesus has “declared all foods clean.”5 Note also the vision of the sheets given to Peter, where God repeatedly says to Peter’s objection about eating unclean animals “what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”6 These and other ceremonial laws are fulfilled in Christ. Secondly, most theologians agree that civil or judicial law is fulfilled in Christ. Christians can learn principles of justice from God’s provisions there, but do not need to directly apply it today. Calvin argued that the judicial law was God’s application of the principles of justice—for that time and place.7 However, the moral laws such as the Ten Commandments are normally held to be fully in effect now. Jesus said that to neglect even the least of the commands has serious consequences.8
Law and Love
Jesus argued that if someone wanted to know what it was to love, he needed to look at the law. When the Pharisees asked Jesus to identify the greatest commandment, he responded that it was to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.9He continued that the second one was to “love your neighbor as yourself.”10 He concluded by saying that “on these commandments depend the whole law and the Prophets.”11 The law is summed up in loving God and one’s neighbor, and particular requirements of the law help the believer to achieve the broad objectives. The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:8 says, “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”12 It follows that it is wrong to commit adultery, steal, lie, or murder, etc., because those things are the opposite of love.
Negative Implies Positive
With regard to the Ten Commandments in particular, we can say that a negative prohibition such as “Thou shalt not steal” means more than just staying away from that crime. “The Westminster Larger Catechism” says, “Where sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded.”13 The prohibition against stealing arises out of God’s larger concern with private property and how we use it. Likewise, the commandment against adultery assumes a larger perspective on the nature of sexuality and marriage. Condemning murder assumes a position on the dignity of life. In the same way, Jesus taught that the spirit of the law is included in the letter of the law. One secular writer argued that Jesus was a bad ethicist because he said that anger was as bad as murder and lust was as bad as adultery. This, however, is a misunderstanding of what Jesus said.
In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus maintained that the command “you shall not commit murder” was violated when a person was unjustly angry at someone else. Despising one’s “brother” by saying “Raca,” which meant good for nothing—or empty-headed—or calling him a “fool,” also broke the prohibition against murder. Jesus’ teaching indicates that there are serious consequences for violating the “spirit” of the law. The sixth commandment prohibits not only killing but all of the steps that lead up to that act. Murder starts in anger, thoughts of revenge, disregard for someone’s dignity, and hatred. The process proceeds to plotting the act and then finally to committing the deed. Certainly, murder has more massive consequences on the community than anger because it destroys someone who might have been a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or sister. Yet anger is the root that can produce murder, and the law prohibits the root as well as the fruit of the deed. Thus, while anger is not as bad as murder, it still is a violation of the spirit of the law and so God prohibits it.
Similarly, the commandment “you shall not commit adultery” prohibits the act as well as the beginnings of considering the act.14 Adultery also has massive consequences on marriages, families, and on the fabric of the community. Jesus proscribes the thought of the act as well as the act itself. He does not say that lust is as bad as adultery; this is a false implication of what Jesus actually said. While it is easy to condemn those who murder and commit adultery, Jesus’ teaching shows need to admit that the root of the matter is in the hearts of individuals. People need to maintain humility saying, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” G.K. Chesterton, in his Father Brown detective series, has his hero give his method of detection:
You see, it was I who killed all those people…no man’s really good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery and sneering, and talking about criminals, as if they were apes in a forest, ten thousand miles away…till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.15
First Tablet and Second Tablet
When Moses received the Ten Commandments, he received two tablets of stone.16 This probably included two complete lists of the commandments and not the first and second half of the list. However, throughout church history, believers have thought of the first tablet as referring to our responsibilities to God and the second tablet as referring to our neighbor.
We are always to worship God’s ultimate being, worship him alone, guard his reputation, and set apart time for him. Loving God is the foundation for love of neighbor. We are not to violate our neighbor’s person, property, marriage, and reputation in thought, word, or deed.
Application to Public Life
Throughout history, the Ten Commandments have been used as a framework for expounding all of our ethical responsibilities. For instance, John Calvin develops a substantial section of his Institutes of the Christian Religion by using this outline. While a full exposition of the Ten Commandments is impossible in a short article, a thought or two on each mandate may help readers as they face their personal and public lives:
1. Placing Priority—“no other gods,” provides prophetic resistance to anything that would make itself into a god, such as the totalitarian state.
2. Saying No—“no idols.” Christians must have no physical or mental images that we worship; they must resist idols and uphold the truth. At the same time, tolerance is a Christian invention. It follows that we must defend both legal and social tolerance.
With regard to legal tolerance, leaders cannot and should not coerce religious belief. Freedom of religion is America’s first freedom. Christians should defend the rights of people to believe and practice any religion, regardless of whether that belief system teaches the truth.
Social tolerance is just as important. Jesus calls us to love not only our neighbors but everyone—up to and including our enemies. Christ’s love has a centrifugal force that thrusts us over the deepest divides of race, ethnicity, religion, and moral beliefs.
Tolerating others’ beliefs both legally and socially does not mean that we agree with those beliefs, or that differences do not matter. There are times we must take a stand. There are times when Christians must say “no” to the world and proclaim Christ’s truth to a fallen culture.
3. Complete Conviction—“not in vain.” We should not take God’s name in vain with respect to his worship, in language, in oaths, or in promises. Perhaps the worst sin is not profanity, but lip service. Luther once said that God is sometimes more pleased with the curses of the wicked than the “hallelujahs” of the pious.
4. Time—“remember the Sabbath.” We must set aside time for our Lord for worship, fellowship, and devotion. When one’s output exceeds his input, it leads to his downfall. Christians must take the time to renew themselves and invest in the church, weak as it may be. There will be no rebuilding of the culture without the church.
5. Respect for Inheritance, Heritage and Succession—“honor your father and mother.” Let those who come behind us find us faithful. C.S. Lewis argued we need to let the breezes of the centuries blow through our minds, specifically by reading one old book for every new one, lest we become captive to the latest fashion of our time. That which is most relevant is that which is most timeless and eternal.
6. Dignity—“you shall not murder.” The image of God is the only adequate basis on which murder can be condemned. C.S. Lewis held that there are no ordinary people—“you have never met a mere mortal.” People dare not get used to the taking of life lightly. With this in mind, Christians must help the poor not only because God commands it, but because people are made in the image of God. We want to give the poor an opportunity to flourish.
7. Fidelity—“you shall not commit adultery.” Sexual beauty comes not by repression, nor by unlimited expression, but by discipline. Marriage and family are at the core of society. If they fail, society will become poorer economically and spiritually.
8. Ownership—“you shall not steal.” Stealing is evil because private property and ownership are good. God wants everyone to have the joy of sitting under their own vine and fig tree.17 The best protection for our economy is the rule of law which guards private property and character that allows trust to form between people.
9. Veracity—“you shall not bear false witness.” In today’s culture, “truth has fallen in the street.”18 Truth is replaced by rhetoric and “spin.” Individuals are to be truthful because God is truthful. Above all, Christians must uphold the veracity of God’s Word.
10. Desire Versus Greed—“you shall not covet.” One can condemn greed and envy without prohibiting a healthy desire for relationships and things. “An argument against abuse is not an argument against use,” says an ancient proverb. Justly decrying greed does not negate the value of serving people through business and free markets. You can have one without the other. One can distinguish the Fall from Creation.
All of our ethical responsibilities come down to duty and desire. While one can teach duty—what we ought to do—it is much more difficult to instill a desire to do one’s duty. This is why lists of the Ten Commandments are not enough. Lists of rules are rarely inspiring. Once a believer is established in God’s grace, knowing that he or she is truly are forgiven and regenerated by God’s spirit, then he or she will develop a desire to do his duty.
One way to cultivate desire is to do so indirectly by stories which portray the true, the good, and the beautiful together. The moral life is the most daring, noble, and adventurous one. It is the last rebellion left, as all the other uprisings have been tried and have failed.
The law must be taught with love and intimacy. Many young people are repelled by the truth because they have grown up in a strict Christian home with no love and intimacy. If one teaches the law without the grace, love, and truth of the gospel, they should be strongly warned. The law defines the way of love and should never contradict it in theory or in practice.
One can learn a great deal from studying biblical law. The moral law still applies to us today and provides a basis for formulating and evaluating political laws. The judicial law, while no longer binding, can at least supply principles that can be guidelines for thinking through issues in today’s society. Biblical law also provides us with guidance for our work and for our business transactions, exhorting us to seek success without greed and to treat others with dignity and honesty.
People certainly are not saved by obedience to the law; rather, Christ extends grace to those who believe on him. Yet though the law is not a means of salvation, it can still establish principles for each individual’s conscience, enabling him to make wise ethical decisions in personal and public life. Biblical law can help Christians in their daily work and as they engage the world around them.
We will end today by emphasizing the value of finding the RIGHT TRANSLATION----the RIGHT INTERPRETATION of anything read especially when it deals with TRUTH and politics. American politics is tame compared to the history of democracy we have been captured into accepting BONES THROWN BY GLOBAL WALL STREET----
OH, PLEASE GIVE US JUST ONE SCHOOL --YOU CAN TAKE TENS OF TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS ---JUST ONE SCHOOL!
We talked above about publishing houses and writers hailing from a Republican state vs Democratic state-----now all publishing houses are tied to global Wall Street and global IVY LEAGUES----We are now told America is RIGHT WING GOING FURTHER RIGHT---as if citizens were wanting that---and not that we are being TAKEN.
Below we see a master of moral philosophy----KANT. He wrote this in 1785 at the time Europe was in upheaval ----the Catholic church was totally corrupted ---the DECLINING MERCHANTS OF VENICE were warring with KINGS AND QUEENS----the Age of Enlightenment and REASON were moving SCIENTIFIC LAW to forefront ---and KANT felt the need to reset standards for that time. Whether one is to right or left in political thinking----it makes a great platform for thought on morals, truth, et al.
All this is far too complicated for folks just learning public policy---philosophy is hard for everyone. Those wanting to try---please always get a translation from around the period of writing---and someone from KANT'S school will give a more reflective interpretation and not one
BIASED BY TODAY'S RIGHT WING OR LEFT WING/GLOBAL WALL STREET POLITICAL THOUGHT
Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (German: Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten; 1785; also known as the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Grounding of the Metaphysics of Morals and the Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals) is the first of Immanuel Kant's mature works on moral philosophy and remains one of the most influential in the field. Kant conceives his investigation as a work of foundational ethics—one that clears the ground for future research by explaining the core concepts and principles of moral theory and showing that they are normative for rational agents. Kant aspires to nothing less than this: to lay bare the fundamental principle of morality and show that it applies to us. In the text, Kant provides a groundbreaking argument that the rightness of an action is determined by the character of the principle that a person chooses to act upon. Kant thus stands in stark contrast to the moral sense theories and teleological moral theories that dominated moral philosophy at the time he was writing. Central to the work is the role of what Kant refers to as the categorical imperative, the concept that one must act only according to that precept which he or she would will to become a universal law.
The wish to talk to God is absurd. We cannot talk to one we cannot comprehend — and we cannot comprehend God; we can only believe in Him.
Religion is too important a matter to its devotees to be a subject of ridicule. If they indulge in absurdities, they are to be pitied rather than ridiculed.
Men will not understand … that when they fulfil their duties to men, they fulfil thereby God's commandments...
Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly.
By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man.
- The wish to talk to God is absurd. We cannot talk to one we cannot comprehend — and we cannot comprehend God; we can only believe in Him. The uses of prayer are thus only subjective.
- A lecture at Königsberg (1775), as quoted in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1946) by H. L. Mencken, p. 955
- Religion is too important a matter to its devotees to be a subject of ridicule. If they indulge in absurdities, they are to be pitied rather than ridiculed.
- A lecture at Königsberg (1775), as quoted in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1946) by H. L. Mencken, p. 1017
- The body is a temple.
- A lecture at Königsberg (1775), as quoted in A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Modern Sources (1946) by H. L. Mencken, p. 1043
- Freedom is the alone unoriginated birthright of man, and belongs to him by force of his humanity; and is independence on the will and co-action of every other in so far as this consists with every other person’s freedom.
- Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.
- Idea for a General History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose (1784), Proposition 6.
- Variant translations: Out of timber so crooked as that from which man is made nothing entirely straight can be built.
- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned.
- Never a straight thing was made from the crooked timber of man.
- Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination.
- Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics (1785)
- Since the narrower or wider community of the peoples of the earth has developed so far that a violation of rights in one place is felt throughout the world, the idea of a cosmopolitan right is not fantastical, high-flown or exaggerated notion. It is a complement to the unwritten code of the civil and international law, necessary for the public rights of mankind in general and thus for the realization of perpetual peace.
- Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1795)
- Beneficence is a duty. He who often practices this, and sees his beneficent purpose succeed, comes at last really to love him whom he has benefited. When, therefore, it is said, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," this does not mean, "Thou shalt first of all love, and by means of love (in the next place) do him good"; but: "Do good to thy neighbour, and this beneficence will produce in thee the love of men (as a settled habit of inclination to beneficence)."
- Metaphysical Elements of Ethics (1780). Translated by Thomas Kingsmill Abbott, translation available at Philosophy.eserver.org. From section "Preliminary Notions of the Susceptibility of the Mind for Notions of Duty Generally", Part C ("Of love to men")
- There are three juridical attributes that inseparably belong to the citizen by right. These are:
- Constitutional freedom, as the right of every citizen to have to obey no other law than that to which he has given his consent or approval;
- Civil equality, as the right of the citizen to recognize no one as a superior among the people in relation to himself...; and
- Political independence, as the right to owe his existence and continuance in society not to the arbitrary will of another, but to his own rights and powers as a member of the commonwealth.
- Science of Right (1797)
- Men will not understand … that when they fulfil their duties to men, they fulfil thereby God's commandments; that they are consequently always in the service of God, as long as their actions are moral, and that it is absolutely impossible to serve God otherwise.
- As quoted in German Thought, From The Seven Years' War To Goethe's Death : Six Lectures (1880) by Karl Hillebrand, p. 207
- As everybody likes to be honoured, so people imagine that God also wants to be honoured. They forget that the fulfilment of duty towards men is the only honour adequate to him. Thus is formed the conception of a religion of worship, instead of a merely moral religion. … Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly. If once a man has come to the idea of a service which is not purely moral, but is supposed to be agreeable to God himself, or capable of propitiating him, there is little difference between the several ways of serving him. For all these ways are of equal value. … Whether the devotee accomplishes his statutory walk to the church, or whether he undertakes a pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of Loretto and Palestine, whether he repeats his prayer-formulas with his lips, or like the Tibetan, uses a prayer-wheel … is quite indifferent. As the illusion of thinking that a man can justify himself before God in any way by acts of worship is religious superstition, so the illusion that he can obtain this justification by the so-called intercourse with God is religious mysticism (Schwärmerei). Such superstition leads inevitably to sacerdotalism (Pfaffenthum) which will always be found where the essence is sought not in principles of morality, but in statutory commandments, rules of faith and observances.
- As quoted in German Thought, From The Seven Years' War To Goethe's Death : Six Lectures (1880) by Karl Hillebrand, p. 208
- [Religion should be] .... successively freed from all statutes based on history, and one purely moral religion rule over all, in order that God might be all in all. The veil must fall. The leading-string of sacred tradition with all its appendices becomes by degrees useless, and at last a fetter … The humiliating difference between laymen and clergymen must disappear, and equality spring from true liberty. All this, however, must not be expected from an exterior revolution, which acts violently, and depends upon fortune In the principle of pure moral religion, which is a sort of divine revelation constantly taking place in the soul of man, must be sought the ground for a passage to the new order of things, which will be accomplished by slow and successive reforms.
- As quoted in German Thought, From The Seven Years' War To Goethe's Death : Six Lectures (1880) by Karl Hillebrand, p. 208
- Have patience awhile; slanders are not long-lived. Truth is the child of time; erelong she shall appear to vindicate thee.
- As quoted in Gems of Thought (1888) edited by Charles Northend
- The death of dogma is the birth of morality.
- As quoted in Faith Or Fact (1897) by Henry Moorehouse Taber, p. 86
- By a lie a man throws away and, as it were, annihilates his dignity as a man. A man who himself does not believe what he tells another … has even less worth than if he were a mere thing. … makes himself a mere deceptive appearance of man, not man himself.
- Doctrine of Virtue as translated by Mary J. Gregor (1964), p. 93
- Even philosophers will praise war as ennobling mankind, forgetting the Greek who said: War is bad in that it begets more evil than it kills.
- As quoted in Philosophical Perspectives on Peace: An Anthology of Classical and Modern Sources (1987) by Howard P. Kainz, p. 81
'Philosophy and Morality
Undergirding what Stoppard calls his conservatism in politics (“I am a conservative in politics, literature, education and theatre”) is a deep and uncompromising view of the morality of freedom; a conception that could almost be called natural law. It enjoins the universal precepts of human liberty and a commitment to a minimalist equality'.
Here we have identified the bias of STOPPARD----and the fact it was written in 1966 before MOVING FORWARD REAGAN/THATCHER/CLINTON/BLAIR had taken hold gives at least a perspective of what political thought would be for modern America and Britain -----conservative when CONSERVATIVE WAS NOT BUSH NEO-CONSERVATIVE is better than global Wall Street neo-liberal viewpoint!
We see right away from a conservative side Stoppard's play was fighting against MARXISM----my interpretation from the left placed it fighting global Wall Street ONE WORLD---which indeed tries to instill LIBERTARIAN MARXISM
Freedom and Morality in the Plays of Tom Stoppard
Sunday, August 01, 1999
Norman Barry is professor of social and political theory at the University of Buckingham in the UK. He is the author of Business Ethics (Macmillan, 1998).
Most people who were dazzled by the verbal dexterity and comic genius revealed in Tom Stoppard’s Oscar-winning movie, Shakespeare in Love (his co-writer, Marc Norman, provided the idea but every line of dialogue is quintessentially Stoppard’s) do not realize that behind this extravagant frivolity is a serious, indeed political, playwright. Unusual for a British writer, Stoppard is not a man of the left; not since Noel Coward has Britain had an artist so unashamedly “right-wing.” He once famously said: “I burn with no causes. I cannot say that I write with any social objectives. One writes because one loves writing.”
He displayed a welcome hedonistic approach to life with his reply to a question on his first play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966). “What is it all about?” he was asked. “It is about to make me a lot of money,” he said. One can’t imagine Harold Pinter or Arthur Miller saying that: they are far too “serious” and morally pompous.
But all this is a little disingenuous, for Stoppard is actually much more politically acute than Pinter and Miller, and he is certainly more morally mature and intelligent. He has written at length on political themes, notably in his anti-communist plays Professional Foul (1977) and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1977) and in his memorable dramatizations of modern philosophy, especially Jumpers (1972). All these works, and many others, reveal a deep commitment to morality and an intellectually, as well as theatrically, coherent rejection of that relativism which logical positivism and sterile linguistic philosophy have spawned. Above all there is a confident exposure of the dehumanizing aspects of Marxism and its relativistic anti-ethics.
Philosophy and Morality
Undergirding what Stoppard calls his conservatism in politics (“I am a conservative in politics, literature, education and theatre”) is a deep and uncompromising view of the morality of freedom; a conception that could almost be called natural law. It enjoins the universal precepts of human liberty and a commitment to a minimalist equality. Equally important is the idea that ultimately morality is individualist; our fundamental values cannot be submerged in a collectivist enterprise and personal responsibility ought not to be diluted by the ersatz ethics of nationalism, ideology, or an overpowering sense of religion (though this is not to say that he has no belief in God). As he said in an interview: “However inflexible our . . . beliefs . . . they owe their existence to individual acts between individuals, which themselves are derived from an individual’s intuitive sense of what is right and wrong.” Correct values are simple and immediate in their appeal. As Chetwyn says in Professional Foul: “A good rule, I find, is to try them out on men much less clever than us. I often ask my son what he thinks.”
The intellectuals have made morality socially untenable, and in Jumpers Stoppard mercilessly and comically exposes the aridity and ethically subversive nature of logical positivism (“truth is an interim judgment,” says a leading character). Set in a university, the play features yellow-clad gymnasts who reproduce physically the verbal agility of the positivists (“I have seen the future and it is yellow”). They are opposed by a believer in old-fashioned moral absolutes, Professor George Moore, who points out that the acrobatic team consists of a “mixture of the more philosophical members of the university gymnastics team and the more gymnastic members of the Philosophy School.” They are mainly positivists, empiricists, Benthamites, behaviourists, even lapsed Kantians, and they all make fantastic leaps of the imagination along with their gymnastic flights of physical fancy. Their political wing, the Radical Liberals, have just won an election but the positivists’ victory is spoiled by the murder of their most prominent member, McFee. They soon discover that there are absolute values; a circumstance the logical positivists normally find difficult to accommodate.
Even worse, McFee had already defected before his death, having himself witnessed a murder on TV. George cannot handle the slickness of the positivists and never makes the final lecture that would restore intellectual respectability to his absolutist beliefs or secure them in a plausible notion of God. George’s metaphysical meanderings seem as inconsequential as his zany wife Dotty’s badly rhymed rendition of classic musical comedy numbers (“I want to spoon to my honey I’ll croon love’s June or July”). Both seem out of touch with modernity. The positivists, in their sanitized belligerent way, are as much responsible for the misery in the world as are the overt totalitarians. As Stoppard said, in a fine refutation of moral equivalence: “The point is not to compare one ruthless regime against another—it is to set up one against a moral standard . . . and at least my poor professor in Jumpers got that right.”
Stoppard’s first theatrical onslaught against Marxism is in the extraordinarily adroit Travesties (1975). Three famous people, James Joyce, Tristan Tzara (the founder of the anarchic artistic movement, Dadaism), and Lenin are all in Zurich at the same time (1917) and are involved with a British civil servant, Henry Carr, in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Here one of the targets is Lenin’s materialism (“people were a sensational kind of material object”) and his dehumanizing theory of art and revolution. Lenin almost sobs with admiration at hearing Beethoven’s “Appassionata,” but quickly relapses into an ideological harangue against Western capitalism, for example, a free press will be “free from bourgeois anarchist individualism.” For him art’s only role is to be the servant of the class war. This small speech constitutes an instructive vignette on the depredations of ideology.
As it turns out, Carr is the real hero of Travesties. He may have somewhat jejune old-world British characteristics and an odd dress sense, but he does espouse Stoppard’s own beliefs in genuine artistic freedom, civil liberties, and a modest patriotism. And the important point is that these values are not negotiable; they are the universal standards by which we assess the secondary claims of art and politics.
The Political PlaysStoppard was originally criticized for his alleged indifference to contemporary social issues; compared to the tedious moralizing and posturing of fashionable left-wing theatrical ranters, his retreat into cleverness, sheer verbal wizardry, and literary adroitness were a welcome relief. But two important plays in 1977--Professional Foul (written for TV) and Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (with music by André Previn)—firmly established him as an anti-communistic and pro-West writer. Stoppard had long been involved with Czech dissident movements (he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937 but his family moved two years later) and his political views were not unknown—but he had not let them interfere with his professional work in the theatre.
Professional Foul nicely blends philosophy and politics. Anderson is an orthodox analytic philosopher who believes that ethics are mere conventions and not really worthy of intense speculation apart from the linguistic puzzles they might generate. He is on his way to Prague to pursue his real interest, football (soccer). There is a game on during a philosophy conference to which he has been invited to give a paper. His smug equanimity is disturbed by his meeting a former student, Pavel Hollar, who has been reduced to a cleaner’s job because of his political views: he wants to have his thesis smuggled into the West. Anderson’s complacent detachment is counter-poised by the moral absolutist, Chetwyn, and the conceited, amoral Marxist, McKendrick.
But circumstances, mainly the arrest of Hollar and the threat to his son, compel Anderson to engage in substantive moral issues. He changes the subject of his paper from a tame analytic enquiry about nothing important into a ringing declaration of human rights and a strident denunciation of communist tyranny. Against the subjectivism that had previously dominated his metaphysics he now says that “there is a sense of right and wrong that precedes utterance” and, in a neat paraphrase of a famous aphorism of Wittgenstein’s, maintains that “whereof we cannot speak, thereof we are by no means silent.” Anderson discovers that ethics are not club rules we can change at will; and at some risk to himself, as well as at the cost of missing the football game, he manages to get the thesis out of Czechoslovakia. In a gesture of supreme irony, Stoppard arranges for it to be placed in the luggage of McKendrick. There is redemption for philosophy after all.
In Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Stoppard mercilessly parodies, with deadly intent, Soviet psychiatry. Mental hospitals are really prisons (“your opinions are your symptons”) and the dissident Alexander finds himself alongside a genuinely mentally disturbed patient, also named Alexander, who thinks he is conducting an orchestra. Indeed, an aberrant triangle functions as a discordant element in the grisly order of communism, as well as allowing Stoppard to make some complex wordplay on geometrical configurations. Again, correct morality is presented through a child, Alexander’s nine-year-old son Sacha (“Papa doesn’t lie”).
The ending of the play, in which a KGB official appears to confuse the two Alexanders so that both are released, caused some controversy at the time it was produced. It was said that Stoppard had concocted a bureaucratic bungling to effect a tame happy ending. But this was not so; it was a genuine decision by the regime. It did not want the embarrassment of continuing to persecute a famous dissident. That was the only relief available from the horrors of communism, but as Stoppard well knows, it was a poor consolation for the thousands of unknown victims of tyranny.
Both plays reflect Stoppard’s concern to stress the dependency of politics on morality. As he said: “All political acts have a moral basis to them and are meaningless without it.” This basis is objective, and Stoppard is disgusted by those people in comfortable situations in the West who think otherwise: Marxism and relativism “are now the quite familiar teachings of well-educated men and women holding responsible positions in respectable universities, and the thing to say about such teaching is not that it is “radical” but that it is not true. . . . It is silly. Daft. Not very bright. Moreover, it is wicked.” He knows, and has articulated very well, the absurdity of Marxist economics and sociology. But what he thinks has not been expressed strongly enough is its bankrupt and dehumanizing non-morality.
Stoppard, of course, has had the inestimable advantage of not going to university, yet he is undoubtedly thinking of those contemptible fellow travelers in Soviet Studies at Ivy League universities who were defending communist regimes as late as 1990.
Chaos and Order
In addition to the political implications of his objective ethics, Stoppard is also interested in some more general philosophical themes. An abiding concern is his sometimes comic exploration of the relationship between order and chaos and the possible unreliability of conventional scientific truths. His plays themselves are often constructed out of seemingly bizarre concatenations of events. There is an order out there, but it often has to be imagined, and although he is conservative about science, as in everything else, he is very much aware of the inadequacy of simple linear theories. It explains his recent excursion into chaos theory in his much-acclaimed play Arcadia (1993). But some of the themes here are presaged in his first stage success, later made into a movie, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
One recalls the opening scene where the two hapless Shakespearean courtiers from Hamlet keep spinning a coin, which keeps coming up heads. As well as effecting a mild redistribution of income this phenomenon obviously breaches the laws of probability and introduces us to what was to become a familiar Stoppard theme: uncertainty even about our most firmly held and apparently well-established convictions. The play itself is Hamlet seen from the wrong end of a telescope: characters come in and out of the action, they do unexpected things, and yet some semblance of order (though indescribable) is maintained. People die as they should, if not quite in the place and at the time that Shakespeare originally intended. Moviegoers will notice how Stoppard uses a similar technique in Shakespeare in Love; the Romeo and Juliet theme is a convenient peg on which to hang his invented relationship between Will Shakespeare and Viola.
The theme of order out of chaos is much more fully explored in Arcadia in which, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a 13-year-old but precocious schoolgirl, Thomasina, discovers chaos theory while doing her math homework. What is described is a non-linear world that is also further exemplified by a modern character’s study of the breeding of grouse: the play is set in two different time periods, nineteenth-century England and the present day. The world may not be Newtonian but it is orderly, a theme that Stoppard directly borrows from James Gleick’s book Chaos. But in his own imaginative reconstruction of the theory, Thomasina shows how simple rules and equations, which contain apparently no random elements, can generate extraordinary complexity. Also, they have much greater explanatory power than conventional scientific theory.
Stoppard himself veers toward an understanding of the world in terms of a kind of order, though he clearly appreciates the dramatic power that chaos can create: “iterated algorithms” and other paraphernalia of modern mathematics adorn the play. The only philosophical omission in all this is the absence of any consideration of what the debate might imply for freedom. But the implication from his other work is that in politics he is an indeterminist; after all, his fierce anti-collectivism reveals a deep commitment to liberty and personal responsibility.
But Arcadia itself is wonderfully complex. Stoppard manages to work in a purported explanation of the mysterious disappearance of Lord Byron after a duel in 1809 alongside the pyrotechnics. The order/chaos dichotomy is further explored with the description of the changes in English social life as evinced by the transformation of the garden from classical symmetry through to “picturesque” disorder. It also contains some of Stoppard’s delightfully witty comments on sex, which rival those in Shakespeare in Love: “Is sexual congress like love?” Thomasina asks her tutor innocently. “Oh no, it is much nicer than that,” he replies knowingly.
Freedom and Literature
It is doubtful that the success of Stoppard will lead to a renaissance of “conservatism” in English literature. Already Shakespeare is being subtly removed from many courses (he was, of course, a racist and a sexist), so what chance does an avowed Thatcherite have of getting on the syllabuses of left-dominated schools? The class war and communism may be over in the regimes Stoppard has so brilliantly, and poignantly, pilloried, but they go on in their enervating ways amongst the British intelligentsia, especially in the arts.
But none of this matters. Stoppard does not work in the subsidized theatre. Nobody who has lived parasitically off the state could venerate freedom as much as he does. He would dazzle us with his verbal dexterity and theatrical innovations even if there were no political problems to worry about. And that, I am sure, would be his own Arcadia.