“Meno” by Plato

“Meno” by Plato

  • Meno was a young, rich nobleman from Thessaly
  • Anytos was an Athenian politician, later accuser at Socrates’s trial

 

Meno – Can virtue be taught? Does it come by practice? If neither, do you get it through nature or another way?

Socrates – I’ve always thought people from your neck of the woods were smart & that they’d always answer freely without fear if asked such a question. But, unfortunately, we’re not as smart as you in Athens. Ask that question around here & you’re likely to get blank looks, shrugs or questions in return. I don’t even know what virtue is, let alone where it comes from.

Meno – Are you serious?

Socrates – I don’t even know anyone who does know.

Meno – You knew Gorgias. Don’t you think that he knew?

Socrates – Maybe. What did he say? I can’t remember.

Meno – A man’s virtue is to manage public business, help friends, hurt enemies & stay out of trouble. A woman’s virtue is to manage the house, keep the stores safe & obey her husband. There are other virtues for boys, girls & old people. There are many kinds of virtue depending on your activities, age, etc.

Socrates – OK. If I asked you what a bee was, you’d tell me there were different kinds of bees. They may be different but what do they all have in common that make them all bees? Likewise, virtues may be different but what do they all have in common in that men, women, the old & children all can have them? Is managing public affairs justly & is managing the household justly virtuous?

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – So, it’s not possible to manage affairs justly without being just. Being just is a virtue. All the virtues you’ve listed are only activities performed justly… What did Gorgias say?

Meno – To be able to rule men.

Socrates – Can a slave rule his master? If he rules, would he still be a slave? Shouldn’t we add “justly” to “to be able to rule men”?

Meno – Yes, justice is a virtue.

Socrates – Is it “a virtue”, or “virtue” itself?

Meno – What do you mean?

Socrates – Take “roundness”. A figure can be round  but “figure” is not necessarily “roundness” because we know there are other types of figures.

Meno – I see… Yes, there are other virtues, like courage, temperance, wisdom, high-mindedness, etc.

Socrates – So, we’ve found a few examples but what do they all have in common? “Roundness” is a type of figure but you must allow for others. “White” is a type of color, but not all colors. I’d like a definition that ties all virtues together.

Meno – What would you say what color was to someone who didn’t know?

Socrates – The truth. If he’s being a dick about it, I’d explain & then tell him to take it or leave it. If he’s friendly, I’d walk him through it. For a figure, I’d say, “something bounded & ended”.

Meno – What about color?

Socrates – We were talking about Gorgias’s definition of virtue…

Meno – You first.

Socrates – Very well, but you’re just ordering me about. OK… [Does an imitation of Gorgias] “Color is an emanation from figures symmetrical with sight & perceptibility to the senses.”

Meno – Very nice. I like that answer!

Socrates – I figured you would. But that answer can also apply to a question about smell, sound, etc. So, what about virtue then?

Meno – “To rejoice in what’s handsome & to be able…” as a poet once said. It’s the desire for handsome things & to be able to provide them.

Socrates – Don’t we all want good things but just differ in what we see as “good”? Do people want “bad” things if they know they’re bad?

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – Why?

Meno – To have them.

Socrates – Because they benefit from them or because they injure?

Meno – Some because they benefit. Some because they injure.

Socrates – Those who want bad things don’t know what they are but desire them because they thought they were good but in reality, they’re bad. Those who don’t know will think they’re good & desire good. Those who want them because they injure know that they will injure but don’t know that to injure will make them wretched.

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – Who wants to be wretched?

Meno – No one.

Socrates – Nobody unless he wants to be wretched… Isn’t misery or wretchedness just the desire for bad things & actually getting them?

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – If virtue is the desire for good things & to be able to provide them, desiring makes no difference between one man & another – only in their ability – the power to get good things.

Meno – Yes. Gold, silver, public appointments & honor are the highest things.

Socrates – Could you add “justly” to that?

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – It seems like no matter what you do, for it to be virtuous, you have to do it justly.

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – So not getting silver, gold, public appointments, etc. when it’s unjust is also virtuous. Getting those thing is no more just or unjust than not getting them. Just using justice makes everything good. Whatever you do with virtue is virtuous. But I still need a definition for virtue. What is it?

Meno – You’re lucky you live here & not somewhere else. They’d lynch you. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.

Socrates – I’ve heard people of all kinds talk about virtue at great length with eloquence. They say the soul is immortal & it’s reborn after death & can never be destroyed. Since the soul is immortal, there can be nothing we don’t know. There is no learning, just remembering.

Meno – Explain that.

Socrates – I’ll demonstrate it using your servant. [Starts with things the servant understands, asks questions & the servant begins to understand geometry & arithmetic.] I’m not teaching him a thing. He’s only remembering my questions. He starts off not remembering anything & answers my carefully worded questions. Now he remembers. It might have been difficult but he got there in the end. By numbing the pain & not launching right away into difficult questions, he’s learned. We didn’t put thoughts into his head that weren’t originally his.

Meno – No, they must have been there all the while.

Socrates – It’s like they came from a dream. No one taught him, only asked him. It must be a form of remembering. He’d either got it before, or he always knew it. It wouldn’t have been in this lifetime because he didn’t know it.

Meno – No one had ever taught it to him.

Socrates – If knowledge & truth are always in us, the soul must be immortal. Anything you know must be re-learned or remembered. In order to know what is really unknown, we must be braver & less idle than if we believed that it’s impossible to know & not worth trying.

Meno – OK. Let’s find out if virtue can be taught or if you’re born with it.

Socrates – I think we’d better find out what it is before. Let’s approach this matter as if it were geometry. Is virtue a form of knowledge?

Meno – I think so.

Socrates – If something is good, but separate from knowledge, then there’s something that exists outside of knowledge. I think there’s no good that knowledge doesn’t have. So maybe virtue is a form of knowledge.

Meno – Yes

Socrates – Health, strength, good looks, wealth – there are all good but are the helpful?

Meno – Yes

Socrates – But sometimes they do harm?

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – When used correctly, they help & when used incorrectly, they harm. You said temperance, justice, courage & cleverness are good things for the soul.

Meno – Yes

Socrates – But you don’t think they’re a form of knowledge & somehow separate. Are they sometimes harmful & sometimes helpful? Courage isn’t intelligence. It’s more like boldness. If a man is senselessly bold, he’s harmed. If he’s sensefully bold, he’s helped.

Meno – Yes

Socrates – The same is true with temperance & cleverness. With sense, they’re good & without it, they’re bad. So, it seems with the soul, wisdom leads to happiness & senseless leads to unhappiness. Virtue must be a sort of wisdom. It all revolves around your soul

Meno – Yes

Socrates – So, wealth, heal, strength, etc. – we said they can harm or help. Using wisdom makes them help & not using wisdom makes them harm. A senseless soul will use them badly & a wise soul will use them well. It doesn’t depend on the soul, just on whether or not the soul uses wisdom. Using wisdom is good & not using it is bad. Virtue is a form of wisdom & nature doesn’t make us good or bad.

Meno – Right.

Socrates – If that were true, you could just isolate the good away from the bad to protect them. If men aren’t good or bad by nature, it must be learned or taught.

Meno – Yes.

Socrates – What if we’re wrong… If it can be taught, there must be teachers & students. If there aren’t any, it probably can’t be taught.

Meno – You don’t think there are any teachers?

Socrates – I’ve tried to find them without any luck. I know others have tried, too [ANYTOS ENTERS]. Say, Anytos, your father became a wealthy guy without any luck or inheritance but by his own wisdom. If we wanted Meno to become a doctor, would we send him to learn with the doctors?

Anytos – And if we wanted him to be a shoemaker, we’d send him to learn with a shoemaker?

Socrates – In general, if you want to learn something, you’ll have to learn it from someone who practices it. It would be stupid to do otherwise. Meno says he wants wisdom & virtue. Should he got to those who claim to be virtuous & teach it?

Anytos – Who might that be?

Socrates – Sophists.

Anytos – Hell no! You don’t want to go see them. They’re turn you into an absolute maniac.

Socrates – They say they know how to do good. But you say they’ll corrupt us through their teachings. & they want money on top of all that! I knew a guy, Protagoras, who made way more money than any artist or shoemaker. If a shoemaker did his job as poorly as you say Sophists do, you’d know it with in a month by the shoe falling apart. But Protagoras got away with it for over 40 years without anyone noticing it. His name is still praised by the Sophists. Do you think the Sophists know what they’re doing to their students? Or do you think they’re crazy & have no idea.

Anytos – They know what they’re doing. It’s crazy to pay them for what they do. It’s crazier to send your kids off to them. & what’s craziest of all is that cities allow these charlatans to hand around corrupting their young with their bullshit!

Socrates – Have you ever been trained by one?

Anytos – No way would I ever go near one of them!!

Socrates – How do you know anything about them if you’ve never been near them?

Anytos – I know how they operate.

Socrates – Well, we don’t want to send Meno to a charlatan, just to someone who can teach him virtue. I was about to send him to a sophist but as you say, they probably aren’t the ones to see. Perhaps you can suggest one?

Anytos – Any gentleman in Athens would be a better teacher than a Sophist.

Socrates – Did they learn or become virtuous by luck. If they got lucky, how could they teach it?

Anytos – I guess they probably learned from their fathers. Don’t you think we’ve got virtuous men here in Athens?

Socrates – I know politicians. They’ve always been around. But have they taught virtue? Meno & I have been discussing whether or not virtue can be taught or if comes naturally or another way… Was naval hero Themistocles a good man?

Anytos – None better.

Socrates – Wouldn’t he have provided virtue lessons to his son by himself or hired a teacher if he could? He taught his son to be an expert at horses. Why not do the same with virtue? Did he wish to teach his son but not make him any more virtuous than the neighbors’ kids? If virtue could be taught, could we believe he wouldn’t provide lessons for him?

Anytos – Probably not.

Socrates – One of the best men of the past? Not a grand teacher of virtue? It’s hard to believe. What about Aristeides? Was he good?

Anytos – Yes.

Socrates – He taught his sons & gave them the best teachers you get in Athens. But he never gave them lessons in virtue. & Pericles’s sons? He taught them to be the best horsemen Athens has ever seen. He gave them the best education money could buy. No virtue teacher, though. Thucydides’s sons were educated & he got them the best wrestling coach & they became the best wrestlers in Greece. No courses in virtue…

Anytos – No…

Socrates – Isn’t it clear that all these great men with money could provide their kids with an education but never taught them virtue. I think it’s because it can’t be taught.

Anytos – Be careful. It’s easy to do more harm than good in most cities. It’s even easier in Athens… [ANYTOS LEAVES]

Socrates – I guess Anytos left because he thought I was defaming those men & him as well… Do you have good men in Thessaly?

Meno – Absolutely.

Socrates – Do they teach virtue?

Meno – No… Sometimes you hear it can be taught. Sometimes you hear that it can’t be taught.

Socrates – Only Sophists claim that it can be taught. Do you think that they teach it?

Meno – Gorgias always laughed at those who claimed it because he just thought they were teaching them how to speak cleverly.

Socrates – Do you think they taught virtue?

Meno – I’m not sure… Sometimes I think so & other times I don’t.

Socrates – You aren’t alone. Theogonis said the same as you. That it can’t be & then said it can be. Can you think of any other subject whose teachers are thought not only not to teach but not even to know the subject itself? If students are confused, they must be bad teachers.

Meno – Correct.

Socrates – If neither Sophists nor gentlemen can teach virtue, there are probably no teachers or students. Then it probably can’t be taught.

Meno – Looks like it. Are there any good men at all?

Socrates – Maybe we should try to find out how good men become good. Good men must be useful & guide their business correctly. If a man knows the way from here to Larissa (region where Thessaly, north of Athens), he goes there himself & can guide others there as well.

Meno – Right.

Socrates – If a man who’s never been there before guess & is correct, then a good guess isn’t any worse than knowledge. They both guide to the right action.

Meno – But the one with knowledge will always be right. The one who makes good guesses will be wrong sometimes.

Socrates – Not if he always guesses correctly.

Meno – I suppose so. Why is knowledge any better than good guesses? How are they different?

Socrates – Well, like it is with statues. You’ve got to nail them down to something otherwise they’ll disappear. They’ll be stolen, get knocked over or the wind will take them away. If you don’t do that, there’s little point in owning one. As long as they stay, they’re wonderful. But we all know sooner or later, they’ll be gone or broken. They’re not worth much unless they’re fastened down. Having a good guess isn’t worth much in the long run unless you start to understand why you’re right, and cause & effect. When you do that, it turns into knowledge. That’s why it’s better.

Meno – Nicely put. I think I get it.

Socrates – Good guesses guide us no better or worse than knowledge. Good guesses aren’t inferior to knowledge in their results. A man is as useful to his city if he’s a good guesser than if he is knowledgeable, no matter how knowledge or good guessing skills are acquired.

Meno – So, not by nature.

Socrates – The good doesn’t not come by nature. But if not from nature, can it be taught? Since we don’t have teachers & students, probably not.

Meno – Correct.

Socrates – Good guesses & knowledge do just as well as each other in guiding us. If a man has either, he’s useful. If he’s not useful by knowledge, at least he guesses well. That’s how politicians keep a state afloat. It has no more to do with knowledge & understanding than an oracle or a diviner, or poets or artists. When they are right, they are divinely inspired but have no understanding of why they’re right.

Meno – Seems right.

Socrates – Women call a good man divine.

Meno – Don’t let Anytos catch you saying that. He won’t like it.

Socrates – Whatever… He’ll hear about it sooner or later. Virtue comes not from nature or learning but from divine allotment or dispensation.

“Enchiridion” by Epictetus (c.125)

“Enchiridion” by Epictetus (c.125)

  • Things you can control:
    • opinion, aim, desire, aversion
      • all of your own affairs
      • by nature free & unrestricted
    • if you confuse them with things you can’t control, you’ll be sad & disappointed
    • if you focus purely on these, you won’t do anything against your will, won’t be harmed or have enemies
  • Things you can’t control:
    • body, property, reputation, office
      • all not of your own affairs
    • don’t go for these or you’ll only be disappointed if you don’t get them
      • avoid them to be happy
  • Think of unpleasant things
    • say to them: you’re just a semblance & you’re not real
    • Think: Is this within my control? Or not?
      • If in your control, or not, be prepared to walk away
  • Focusing on things you can’t control or can’t get will make you sad & disappointed
    • things you want to avoid but can’t will make you sad
    • things you want but can’t get will make you sad
    • Focus on things you can get & can control & make sure that your desires, opinions & avoidances are properly placed
    • Do so with discretion, gentleness & moderation
  • Remember to notice what category things are in (controllable or not controllable)
    • if a valuable object breaks, remember it’s just a thing
    • if a loved one dies, remember you can bear the pain if you choose to do so
  • When doing anything, remember to maintain your harmony with nature, no matter what happens
  • Disturbances come from views of things, not things
    • The thought of death is worse than death
    • Don’t put views into things & people
  • Don’t become elated by excellence or down by failure
    • Maintaining harmony with nature is most important
  • Be perpetually attentive to what’s most important, especially when around trivial things
  • Sickness or lameness is only a hindrance to the body
    • Don’t let it affect your will because you’ll be hindered twice
  • Whenever confronted by a situation, think:
    • How can I make the most of this?
    • Pain builds strength, annoyance builds patience
  • Don’t whine about losing things
    • You’ve been borrowing it & now it has been returned: people & things
  • Better to die of hunger w/o grief than to be affluent & in constant worry
    • Think: this is the price of peace & tranquility. Everything has its price. Nothing can be had for nothing
  • Don’t worry about looking like a fool to others
    • It’s hard to be in harmony with nature & maintain external appearances
  • Don’t wish to live forever
    • It’s not going to happen & you’ll only be disappointed when it doesn’t happen
    • Don’t make wishes for things you can’t control
  • Don’t yearn for your desires
    • Wait for it to come to you
    • At some point, you’ll be worthy to feast with the gods
    • Don’t always take things as they are laid out for you
      • If you can resist, then you can even command the gods
  • If you see someone grieving, don’t worry
    • Think: what hurts him is the view he allows himself to have of it
    • You may groan along with him but don’t groan on the inside
  • Remember, you’re just an actor in a play
    • The author may cast you as a cripple, a peasant or a king
    • Play your part to the best of your ability
  • Nothing is portended to anyone or anything
  • You’ll be unconquerable if you only fight battles you can win
    • Don’t be bewildered by appearances, honors, etc
    • Don’t wish for high roles – just focus on what you can control
  • Allow terrible things to appear so you’ll be used to them & won’t panic
  • If you are prone philosophy be prepared to be mocked
    • If you are persistent, they’ll come around & admire you
  • Don’t worry about not being believed
    • What’s it to you to get power based on people’s belief?
    • Friends who don’t believe you aren’t much as friends
    • Better to have self-respect & harmony w/ nature than to worry what others thing
  • You can learn about nature through things everyone agrees with
    • Things break & people die
  • Before you do something, think about what you have to do before & after as well as during
    • You may not know how to prepare for success or how to deal with consequences
    • In participating in the Olympics, you have to follow rules, eat right, exercise, practice, etc
      • If you don’t prepare, you could hurt yourself or suffer defeat & swear off the activity
    • Think before you do & you’ll be much more likely to succeed
  • Duties are independent of relations
    • Whether or not your father is good or bad, your duty to him is the same
    • You’ll only be hurt when you consent to be hurt
    • Think of your duties as family member, citizen, neighbor or commander
  • If something’s not in your power, it can’t be good or bad
    • it’s indifferent to you
    • It’s within your power to make the right use of it
  • Piety toward the gods
    • Have the right opinions of them
    • Obey them & yield to them
      • You’ll never find fault with them or think they neglect you
      • If you focus on good/bad events you’ll be disappointed
  • Forge a character you can have in public or alone
    • Be mostly silent & say only what needs to be said
    • Don’t go into discourse too often
      • if you do, don’t focus on vulgar topics: sports, food, drink or people
      • Don’t take oaths if you can help it
    • Only eat & drink what you need
      • same with clothes, home & company you keep
      • nothing for show or luxury
    • Don’t fool around women too much
      • don’t brag about doing so
      • don’t condemn those who do
    • If someone speaks badly of you, think:
      • He was ignorant of the real me
    • Refrain from acclamations, derision & violent emotions
    • In private events, maintain your dignity & gravity
    • If before anyone in power, hope he doesn’t notice you
      • if you can’t avoid it, just deal with it
    • Don’t brag about your adventures
  • If you are excited about anticipated pleasure
    • allow it to wait for your leisure or some delay
    • If it’s not too gratifying, go ahead but don’t get carried away
  • When doing something needed to be done
    • Don’t hide from being seen doing it
    • If people misunderstand think:
      • Why do people censure me for it?
  • When at a feast, don’t pig out
    • You might have a huge appetite but have some courtesy for the host
      • You have to balance hunger & etiquette
  • You try to avoid walking on nails b/c they hurt
    • do the same with your mind
      • take care before acting
  • Women over the age of 14 are flattered by being someone’s “mistress”
    • they are only qualified to give pleasure to men
    • They begin to adorn themselves
    • But they will only truly be honored if they appear beautiful in demeanor & modestly virtuous
  • You look stupid only worrying about the physical
    • Exercise, drinking, eating
    • You look like an animal
    • Apply strength to reason
  • Everything has 2 handles
    • one by which you can carry & one by which you can’t
    • learn which one is which & act accordingly
  • Makes no sense to say:
    • I’m richer than you therefore I’m better than you
    • I’m more eloquent than you therefore I’m better than you
  • Makes more sense to say
    • I’m richer than you therefore I have more stuff than you
    • I’m more eloquent than you there for my style is better than yours
  • If someone does something that seems wrong outwardly, withhold opinion
    • until you know his motives completely
  • Don’t tell people you’re a philosopher or talk to them about your principles
    • Show them by your actions naturally
  • Don’t publicize your virtue
  • A vulgar person looks to the external world for help or confirmation
    • A proficient person looks within
  • To understand nature, follow her
    • make use of instructions
  • Follow principles as laws & ignore the detractors
    • How long will you allow yourself to delay improvement?
    • Will wallow until your death regretting it
  • Don’t lie. Learn why not to lie. & Learn what a good demonstration of why not is.

“The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent” by John Erskine

  • Ask: “What are modern virtues?”
    • You might answer things we like: meekness, humility, renunciation of world
    • Would you answer, “Intelligence”?
  • Old idea that intelligence is dangerous
    • Anglo-Saxons have derided the idea of intelligence being important
      • As if you have to choose between being good & intelligent
      • As if stupidity is a cousin to morality, and reason & God are not on good terms w/ each other
        • As if you mind is full, your heart is empty
  • Shakespeare often portrays intelligent men as villains or tragic victims
    • Iago, Prospero, Richard, Edmund, Hamlet
      • Best characters are moral but not intelligent
      • English portrayal of humility often accompanied by stupidity
  • Milon’s “Paradise Lost” puts high intelligence to the devil trying to trick God & Job
    • Liberty-loving Satan, always persistent
    • God’s angel cautions Adam not to wander the earth & eat from the Tree of Knowledge
    • Theologians & scientists like Satan
  • Fielding, Scott, Thackeray, Dickens
    • Hero is a well-meaning blunderer saved by the grace of god from his mess of a life
      • Often needs rescue
      • His wife is good but even simpler than he is
  • French authors, especially Balzac, would show us the tragedy of goodness being tied to stupidity
    • would also be incomprehensible to the Greeks
  • Some English writers, Shelley, Byron & Spencer believed in intelligence
    • Spencer may confuse readers because he demands the reader to have a mind & a heart in order to understand
    • English attitude may have come from Germany brought by Saxon invaders
    • No use for craft or strategy
      • just fighting & self-reliance
    • A man was only as good as his word & was ready to back it up with force
    • Germans didn’t enter into public or private business without a sword on them
      • Social emphasis on honor, integrity
        • word more important than deed
      • Words & deeds said something about the man behind them – not good & evil
      • Idea was that without thinking:
        • A good man does good things
        • A bad man does bad things
  • Moral obligation of an intelligent creature to learn if an action leads to a good end or a bad end
    • only a system that excuses him from that is a vicious one
  • Bad acts may be done by bad intentions or our of neglect
    • You must feel responsibility not to neglect learning the consequences of your actions
  • Matthew Arnold said:
    • The purpose of culture is to make reason & will of God prevail
    • Before we can make the will of God prevail, we must find out what it is
  • America has assimilated other cultures apart from English
    • Greek love of knowledge & idea that sin & misery come from ignorance & scientific spirit
  • Need courage & steadfastness
    • But need to recognize when old virtues leave us with something missing
    • Often social & economic problems are about intelligence
      • seems ignoble to admit this
    • Matters of faith
      • seek knowledge not for answers but b/c we think knowledge is life itself
        • not to make God prevail but to know the will of God
        • Love knowledge for its own sake – like virtue
      • If we don’t hand thieves anymore, it’s not because we don’t think any less of thieving
        • it’s because intelligence usually leads to virtue & enterprise
  • Religion
    • Intelligence is the master of virtue
      • decrease fear & increase opportunity
      • outward effect is to rob the altar of its sacrifices & the priest of his mysteries
        • Because we know so much more, the altar is abandoned & the religion becomes revised when it’s clear that sacrifices didn’t work & knowledge is power
        • Then one hypothesis supplants another
    • Religion reacted violently because Darwinism & the like inundated society with knowledge & changed our views so quickly & violently
  • Be patient with those who don’t agree with this idea
    • Dividing – We are rooted by languages, places & customs
    • Uniting – Intelligence unites us after roots of prejudice are pulled up
      • Jesus – he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me
    • Intelligence begins with a pang & turns into a vision to make a life of opportunity, make goodness articulated & make virtue a fact
      • Liberation of human spirit & uniting force

David Hume – Of the Study of History

History will show that that hat was not the best idea.

David Hume – Of the Study of History

  • Hume advises women of the 1700s to study history
  • Women tended to eschew history & the like for fiction
    • Gives a copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives to a girl he likes
      • Tells her that it’s fiction
      • She likes it at first until she figures out that Alexander & Caesar were real people
      • Does this w/ lots of women to tease them about their aversion to history
  • Much get out of reading History
    • It’s fun
    • it improves your understanding of the world
    • it gives examples to improve your virtues & minimize your vices
  • It’s fun to go back in time & look at places that are completely foreign to us
    • look at early art & sciences
    • see how gov’ts worked & how/why they change over time
    • you see how human society & inventions perfect life
    • see how the times informed people’s vices & virtues
  • Improving our knowledge
    • Often called being erudite
      • really just knowing what happened
      • Might be a luxury to have the time to learn about the rest of the world
      • ought to know about your own country & Greece & Rome
    • history is the passing off of knowledge
      • leading to passing off of knowledge in sciences across time & across national borders
      • it is a way of living since the beginning of time
      • & learning for past experiences
  • Poets & Philosophers help improve our virtues
    • Poets by praising them
    • Philosophers by defining them & defending them
    • History shows how people have gone astray from virtue
  • Machiavelli
    • As a political man
      • Gives excuses for murder, assassination, perjury
    • As historian
      • says vice is bad & shows historical evidence on how going on the wrong path leads to bad results
    • Philosophers speak in abstract manners
    • Historians show how people & societies stray from or stick to virtues & the consequences of those actions

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book II (1762)

J-J Rousseau, proud owner of history’s greatest comb-over.

Book II

Chapter One: Sovereignty is inalienable

The conclusion of Book I was that only the general will can direct the state’s forces based on the reason behind its establishment: the common good. Clashing interests create the necessity for societies but common interests allow them to continue. Society must only be governed by common interests.

Sovereignty is the exercise of the general will and cannot alienate itself. Once the will becomes particular and partial, it can no longer be equal to all citizens. If the will is to be general and based on common interest, then it will be equal. Bodies politic posing as the sovereign and the general will are reverting to the right of the strongest in a natural state or a magistracy.

Chapter Two: Sovereignty is indivisible

Indivisible essentially means inalienable. If you can’t give away or sell away part of the sovereignty, then you cannot divide it into parts. Either a will refers to society as a general or individuals as particular and they never cross.

Our minds always analyze the sovereign by dividing the government into departments, ministries, and branches based on functions but the general will is not divisible like that. The sovereign is like a body as the parts of the body may serve different functions for the will of the body but the will cannot be divided up like that.

Chapter Three: Whether the general will is infallible

The general will is always right and will always tend toward the public advantage. But public deliberations are sometimes wrong. We know what we want in a roundabout way but we might not know exactly what that is. The will is never corrupted but can be deceived and then it will seem to want bad things.

There is a difference between the aggregate of particular wills and the general will. The general will is based on everyone’s common interest and the aggregate is the summation of private interests. What is left over from the cancelling out of pluses and minuses of individuals wills will be the general will.

When the public is sufficiently informed ad there is no communication between citizens, the result will be a good general will. When they divide into factions and associations, they form at the expense of the general will and to the benefit of the individuals in those factions. The differences in opinion change and the results will be different and even worse. There is no longer a general will but a prevailing particular will.

The general will must express itself so that there is no partial society within the state. If there must be partial society, there should be as many as possible to prevent inequality among them. This will help the general will to be enlightened and the people not to be deceived.

Chapter Four: Limits of sovereign power

The sovereign power functions as a person does in that it must preserve itself. In order to do that, it must have a universal and compelling force. As nature gives a man absolute power over himself, the social contract gives the body politic absolute power over its members, and under the general will, is the sovereign.

We must distinguish private people from the body, as well as the rights of the citizen and the sovereign – as duties and rights in nature and as subjects of the state. The social contract alienates from men their natural liberties and goods. The citizen owes whatever the state may ask but the state must not ask anything useless of its citizens – only what is necessary. The undertakings are obligatory only because they are mutual and we can’t work for others, that is, with respect to the general will, unless we work for ourselves. The general will must be general in object and in essence. That is, they must come from and apply to all and it ceases to be general when used for particular objects.

Sometimes issues will arise that have never been thought of or never have occurred before, and there is no general convention. An individual’s stance can’t be against the general will in this case. The general will will not be able to express a desire on the matter. What makes a general will general is not so much about the number of votes but the common interest uniting interests. In the system, each man submits to the conditions he imposes on others. The social compact binds us to all the same duties and gives us all the same rights. So the sovereign makes no distinctions between those that make it up.

An act of sovereignty is not between an inferior and superior but a convention between the body and each member. The connection is an expression of the general will and stable due to the guarantee of public force. As long as the acts go no further, citizens will have to boss other than themselves. Sovereign power cannot exceed the limits of the general will because if it does, it ceases to be an expression of the general will and becomes particular.

Once the social contract is determined, each man gives up the unstable and precarious nature of a natural state for a more stable life. People’s natural independence and their power to harm others are needed to get security for themselves in nature. Under the social contract, their strength is traded for social union. It isn’t an imposition to demand a man to defend the state because just as the state is being attacked and putting at risk his and all other citizens’ rights and goods, he would face the same attack with no one else to help him fight off that same attack. At least in the social union, he can rely on others’ help but he must also give his help when it is asked for.

Chapter Five: The right of life and death

Suicide may be a crime in many societies but it is not a crime to risk your life to try to preserve it. Giving the power of life and death to the state is not a transfer of rights you didn’t have in the first place. We don’t fault people for risking others’ lives to save their own. The state may see fit to put someone to death or risk its death in order to save itself. The state’s laws are clear: in order not to become the victim of a murder, we agree to be put to death if we become murderers ourselves. When we are assured protection our expectation of murder decreases.

When a malefactor attacks people’s rights, he forfeits his and becomes a rebel and a traitor to the country. He is making war against the state. The state’s self-preservation and his become in conflict with each other and one must win and one must lose. When he is caught and punished, he is no longer treated as a citizen but as an enemy. The trial and sentence against him are proof that he has broken the social contract and is no longer a member of the state. Depending on the crime, he’ll be exiled as a violator of the contract or killed as a public enemy. It is the sign of a weak state when the state punishes the same man again and again. He must be able to have some good in him. The state has no right to put anyone to death whom it can leave without danger.

Only the sovereign may pardon or exempt someone from the a penalty because only the sovereign is above the law. In a well-governed state, there aren’t many prisoners – not because there are few punishments (which there may be) but because there are few criminals. When crimes are committed with impunity, a state is in decay.

Chapter Six: The Law

Legislation gives the body politic movement and will. The union itself doesn’t actually doesn’t actually determine what must be done. Laws are there because we don’t receive justice directly from God. Justice is a result of society. In nature, having laws to follow does harm to the good and does good for the bad. If only good people follow laws toward everyone else, they can easily be taken advantage of. Laws of nature say nothing about laws of the state.

There is no general will over particular objects because to do so would involve particular parties and interests at odds with whole. This is paradoxical. But when the whole people decrees for itself, it is only referring to its own actions and that makes the decree general. When a decree is general, it is law.

Laws consider the people as a whole and actions in the abstract and never particular people and actions. Laws can decree there will be a privileged class but never can actually name anyone assigned to it. It can create social hierarchies but never specifically put anyone in them. It can set up a royal family but not nominate a specific one. That power doesn’t belong to the legislative power. The laws are the expressions of the general will and no one is above them. They aren’t unjust because in order to be unjust would be to unfair to a particular person and the would not be something particular (not general). That would be an act of magistracy, not a law.

Chapter Seven: The Legislator

He must be an intelligent source of wisdom without “participating” in normal society – not having the same needs and desires as normal citizens. He needs to be able to see needs beyond the present.

There is a difference between a prince and a legislator. The legislator is the engineer who invents the political machine and the prince is the mechanic to set it up and make it go. Montesquieu – “At the birth of societies, the rulers of republics establish institutions and afterwards the institutions mold the rulers.”

To change or make a society you must feel capable to change human nature or transform each individual or substituting moral and partial existence for physical and independent existence. He must create an environment for men to come together in society and abandon the state of nature through the creation of institutions.

A legislator should not have control over men and those who have control over men should not have control over legislation. Power over the other will inevitably corrupt the commander or legislator. Many older cities and modern republics would invite a foreigner to establish a government because he had no particular interests either way as to how it was set up and would be more likely to establish a good constitution.

Establishing the republic is a special job – it is not a magistracy or sovereignty. When Lycurgus gave his laws to Sparta, he began by abdicating his throne. Cities and states that have followed this example have flourished while those who haven’t – Rome – have seen the rebirth of all the crimes of tyranny and been brought to the verge of destruction because they have joined the heads of the legislative authority and sovereign power. The decemvirs never claimed the right to pass laws purely by their own authority. “Nothing we propose to you can become law without your consent. Romans, be yourselves the authors of the laws which will make you happy.”

One problem is that these wise men often aren’t understood by the common people. It is often impossible to translate their ideas into lower language because the ideas are too general or out of the range of understanding the average person.  The common man might not understand anything outside his own particular interest. A social spirit must be created by institutions to cultivate an appreciation and understanding of the new state. The legislator must have some recourse in this case – he must appeal to the people about divine intervention giving the legislator the wisdom to write the laws and the divine will that they be followed.

However, not all can access this divine inspiration or be believe to be able to. Anyone can make claims about being wise or having contact with the gods about right and wrong. They might also have bad plans in this case – either intentionally or not. If he is capable of fooling the people or  isn’t wise, he never will succeed in establishing an empire. Whatever he establishes will die out with him. Only wisdom can endure. It takes real wisdom and real laws for a government representing the people to last forever.

Chapter Eight: The People, Part One

A wise legislator must survey the people for whom he’ll be writing laws like an architect survey his building site to see how much weigh it will support. Plato refused to write laws for the Arcadians and the Cyrenaens because they were so wealthy that they wouldn’t tolerate equality. He could do so in Crete because Minos had already inflicted discipline on them.

A people is only docile in its youth. As it grows older, it becomes incorrigible. Once customs and prejudices are entrenched, they are difficult to change, even if it is for the best. Crises often cause a state or a people to be reborn since the past customs – however recent they may be – are often forgotten in these cases. If rebuilding and burning down of states happens too often, the people will start to lose civil impulses and become barbarous. “Freedom may be gained but it can never be recovered.”

A period of youth in a country is when they are not subject to laws and as it matures it should be given laws it can handle. If the state lingers too long in “lawlessness” or the people aren’t amenable to proper laws, they will remain barbarous. The time has to be right, the conditions must be right, the people must be ready and the laws must be appropriate.

Chapter Nine: The People, Part Two

There is a limit to how effective a government can be with respect to its size. If it is too large, it ceases to be a good government. If it is too small, it cannot maintain itself. Long distances make administration difficult and maintenance becomes more and more burdensome as the distances increase. The government goes from city to district to province and on and on, until the supreme government. All of these governments and their connections to each other drain the people of their resources and there may not be enough for them in case of emergencies.

Furthermore, the government becomes slower, less rigorous in observing laws, correcting abuses and preventing nuisances. People have less affection for their rules and fellow citizens who become more and more like strangers. The same laws won’t suit diverse provinces with diverse customs, diverse climates and become incapable of enduring a uniform government.

Talent is buried, virtue unknown and vice unpunished. People are never sure if they can even call their country their own since they become so detached from it. Central administration becomes a gathering of a multitude of men who don’t know each other, overwhelmed with the business of the state and the state itself becomes run by nothing but clerks. The measure taken to maintain the general authority – which authorities wish to escape from or impose upon the people – absorb all the energies of the public and there is nothing left to live for. There isn’t enough to defend the state when it is needed and the body politic becomes so large and overweight for its constitution that it collapses in on itself – the people.

The state must have a stable foundation to resist shocks and to maintain itself. People tend to act in a centrifugal force acting against one another to aggrandize themselves at their neighbor’s expense. The weak are swallowed up. It is impossible to preserve oneself except when in a state of equilibrium with others – where each man’s needs and desires press upon the others equally to check the others’ actions. There are reasons for expansion and contraction and the statesman’s job is to find the right balance. The reasons for expansion are external and relative and the reasons for contraction are internal and absolute. A strong and healthy constitution is most important.

Chapter Ten: The People, Part Three

A body politic can be measured by its land area or its population. Men make up the state and land sustains the men. A balanced must be established. On one hand it must be so that the land only has the maximum number of people it can sustain without fighting within the state or with neighboring lands, or even starvation. On the other hand, it is important not to have land so sparsely settled that there will not be territory wars between settlers. Land settled near the sea may have the coasts supply them with food but they are exposed to pirates. Establishing the right sort of order is important to get right and quickly because often usurpers pick the most chaotic times to strike and then make destructive laws that would never otherwise have been enacted.

The ideal people for legislation is one of common origin, interest or convention, without deeply ingrained customs or superstitions, independent, self-sufficient and this people unites the qualities of the consistency of an ancient people with the docility of a new one.

Chapter Eleven: Various Systems of Legislation

What should the goal of every legislative system be? Liberty and equality. Liberty because particular dependence means that force has been taken away from individuals. Equality because liberty cannot exist without it. Liberty was dealt with in Book I.

Equality doesn’t mean to be identical in degrees of power and riches but power is never great enough for violence and it is always exercised by virtue of rank and law. There should be a great moderation in goods and position, and a moderation in avarice and covetousness.

If abuse is inevitable, regulation concerning that abuse should be there. If circumstances destroy equality, force of legislation should maintain it. General objects should be specified in every country according to the local situations and customs. Land fertility or natural resources will drive the people into different industries. Countries tend to specialize in what is best and easiest for them.

Chapter Twelve: Division of the Laws

There are divisions in four parts:

1 – Action of the complete body upon itself. This is how the government is set up and how it goes about taking the general will and putting it into action.

2 – How individuals relate to each other and to the whole body. They will be independent from each other but dependent on the the body to secure their liberties. These are civil laws.

3 – The relationship between the individual and the law. Disobedience will be met with a penalty. These are criminal laws.

4 – Morality, custom, habit, public opinion. While they are not set in stone, they do define the laws and society depends greatly on them.

“The Social Contract” by Jean-Jacques Rousseau Book I (1762)

Kitty, you’ve been getting too many crunchies as it is.

Book I

Chapter One: Introduction

“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains.”

With respect to force, people will obey if they are forced to. Without the chains of obedience or slavery, life would definitely be better. The former master and former slave may continue a relationship based on superiority-inferiority but force is no longer what is binding – but a social convention.

Chapter Two: First Societies

The basic form of society is the family. The father owes his children protection and provision. The children owe their father obedience. Once the children are grown, the natural relationship dissolves. Any further link is voluntary and is a social convention.

Man’s first duty is to himself, his self-preservation, once he is old enough. He is his only source of judgment and his only master. Between a ruler and people there are obligations similar to that of the family. People obey the ruler for protection and the ruler gets obedience. Rather than the binding sense of love between a father and child, the ruler will get a sense of love of power, since he is incapable of loving an abstract idea such as his people.

Chapter Three: Right of the Strongest

Force can never oblige in any other way than through compliance based on self-preservation. It cannot impose duties or morals. If we are able to disobey with impunity, that is a legitimate behavior because we no longer have to obey out of force. Compliance due to force never implies a sense of duty. Once force disappears, duty doesn’t necessarily replace it. So, the word “right” can’t be used with “force”.

Because our duty to ourselves is self-preservation, we must obey force when we are unable to overcome it. Because power comes from “God”, as does illness, should we never call a doctor? If a robber demands our wallet even though we are able to keep it from him secretly, should we give it over to him out of “duty” to the force which comes from the gun?

Chapter Four: Slavery

Just because a man can exert force over another doesn’t make anything a “right”. Only conventions are the basis of legitimate authority over men.

Def’n: “alienation”: to give or sell oneself.

A slave doesn’t give himself to another but sells himself to another – at least for subsistence. Do people sell themselves to a king even if they don’t get any subsistence from him? They can get “civil tranquility”. But the consequences of the king’s greed might outweigh the benefits of civil tranquility. One can be quite safe and tranquil in a prison cell.

Giving oneself up to another, in a state of nature, is nonsense since a man gets nothing in return. Someone can do this but almost assuredly they are insane because they get absolutely nothing out of it – in fact, they lose everything.

The same goes for a people giving itself up to a king. Even if a man should sell himself, he doesn’t have the right to do that for his children. They are born free and are their own men. A father may stipulate the conditions of his children’s upbringing but he may not take actions that affect their children so irrevocably and unconditionally beyond the end of their “natural” relationship – when the child is grown. Nature’s laws or rules supersede those of the father. So for a government to be legitimate, each generation must be able to accept or reject it.

To give up one’s liberties is to renounce being a man and one’s rights, duties and morality. There is no possible recompense. Furthermore, it would remove all morality in his actions and liberty in his will, since the owner is responsible for all of the slave’s actions.

On the subject of slavery after war, often the victor swaps the vanquished’s life for his liberty. This “right” to kill doesn’t come from war. Men cannot be at war with each other, because this is only a state of relationship between two or more states. Individuals may engage in combats, duels and fights but these aren’t acts of states. Individuals are only enemies with each other in war by accident, and not as men but as soldiers and defenders of a state. States’ enemies may only be other states.

Declarations of war are as much warning to states as they are to individual men. A man who kills, steals or kidnaps without a declaration of war isn’t an enemy but an outlaw. In war, when a just country invades another, it must respect the rights of the newly conquered people as it does to its own. A state may kill its enemy’s defenders if they are armed but if they lay down their arms and surrender, they go back to being only men and the state can no longer have claim over their lives.

If war doesn’t give the right to kill the vanquished, then it doesn’t give the right to enslave. If we can’t kill the enemy once it has surrendered, we can’t make him a slave because we can’t make him choose between the two options, one of which we aren’t allowed to do to him. Furthermore, a slave would be under no obligation to obey his master except under threat of force. If you take what is the equal to his life, his liberty – since you are offering to swap them -, the victor isn’t really doing the vanquished a favor – he is only doing himself one. He gets a slave, instead of killing a man who has surrendered. Thus the war continues between the victor – imposing the right of the strongest – and the vanquished – fighting for his right to self-preservation. The relationship goes back to war because the slave is only a slave through force and not social convention.

So, the word “slave” and “right” are contradictory and shouldn’t be used together. The victor is essentially saying to a newly vanquished slave – in making a deal with with you, the vanquished, at your expense and my benefit, I will observe it if it pleases me and you will observe it if it pleases me.

Chapter Five: We must always go back to a first convention

Even if we put aside everything said about slavery not being “right” and legitimate, despotism is just as much nonsense. There’s a difference between conquering many people and ruling a society. Even if a man can enslave millions, the relationship between them and him is still that of master and slave. There is nothing at all related to society about it. There is no free association, body politic or public good. The master is just a man and his interests are his alone and not at all those of his slaves. If he dies, the collection of slaves is no more a society than before.

A people may give itself to a king because it is a people before this act. The act supposes that there is a public deliberation. There must also be a previous convention that the minority in this deliberation will abide by the decision of the majority before the king’s election. The law of the majority itself is a convention that supposes at one time in the past some unanimity.

Chapter Six: Social Compact

Man has reached a point where self-preservation in nature is no longer feasible, and a non-natural and indeed social convention is necessary. Men can only unite or aggregate forces to overcome aggression under a single motive, power and action. This is the union of many but the force and liberty of each man must remain his own. The goal is man will obey himself alone and remain as free as before, even in uniting in a common force for each man’s defense. This is the idea behind the Social Contract. The smallest modification of the Social Contract nullifies it, even though the contract was never formally stated, openly admitted or even recognized until it was violated. At this point each man regains his first right and natural liberty because the convention is nullified.

The clauses of the Social Contract mean in sum the “alienation” of each man to the whole community. He gives himself absolutely, as do all men and no man has the interest to make conditions more burdensome to others, as it will also be so to him. Alienation is without reserve and the union is as perfect as it possibly can be. Rights must be given to the whole so a man cannot place himself in the position of being the superior to another, which would make the other the inferior, so that the right of the strongest will not cause the convention to revert to a state of nature.

Every man gives himself to the all and acquires from the others exactly what he gave of himself. He gains the ability to preserve himself. The Social Contract becomes: giving up yourself, along with the others doing the same to the “general will” and the “corporate entity”, and each member becomes an indivisible part of the whole. This association creates a moral and collective body of members in a common identity, life and will.

New definitions are needed to be made to understand the parts of the Social Contract. These words need to be clarified as people often do not understand the nuances between them, and confuse them.

Under the Social Contract, the aggregation of the “city” becomes “republic” or “body politic”. Its members call it the “state” when it is in a passive form, “sovereign” when it is in its active form and “power” when compared to others. People within the Social Contract call themselves “citizens” when they are participants in the sovereign and “subjects” when they aren’t.

Chapter Seven: The Sovereign

A citizen is in a reciprocal arrangement with the state in a double capacity – an individual in a relationship with the sovereign, and a part of the sovereign in relationship with individual members. Public deliberation causes the state not to be bound by itself since it is both a social convention – which may change at any time – and merely an aggregation of citizens with their own natural rights surrendered to the sovereign in exchange for civil rights.

The state is in a sense a body in contract with itself. There can’t be a law it creates to bind itself that it has to force against itself. It may change the laws itself but the social contract maintains the general will of the people which cannot be bounded. The body may engage others as long as it doesn’t infringe its contract. It becomes like a single entity when acting with others.

Because the Social Contract is a sacred convention that creates a political body and authority, it cannot bind itself, even to an outsider, to anything that is derogatory to the original act, to alienate a part of itself or to submit to another sovereign. Any violation is an act of self-annihilation. Once there is a body, it may not harm itself or its members. Duty and interest oblige both parties – members and complete body – to help each other. The state doesn’t need to make guarantees to itself or its members because their interests are the same.

An individual may have interests contrary to those of the state. His own interests may cause him not to want to contribute to or abide by the common interest. His withdrawal of contribution and support are more harmful to himself than to the rest of the body. For the Social Contract to work, those who refuse the general will must be compelled to do so by the body. This alone legitimizes civil undertakings.

Chapter Eight: Civil State

The move from nature to the civil state produces a change: instinct and justice are swapped and morality is given to man’s actions. He is forced to act on different principles. He loses from what he had in nature but gains so much more from the Social Contract. He becomes civilized and above animals. He gains civil liberty and legal rights over property in exchange for his natural rights.

Chapter Nine: Real Property

Along with himself, man gives his property to the state in the Social Contract. Possession doesn’t change hands but is made stronger due to the increase in the force of the state. When the state relates to other states and outlaws, the property of members is considered that of the state on the basis of the right of first occupiers.

The right of first occupiers becomes more real than the right of the strongest in the Social Contract with secure property rights. In nature, a man has a right to secure what he needs and the act of acquiring makes him proprietor of it. The right of first occupier is weak in nature but is very strong in a civil society. We respect more so the idea of what is not ours than the idea of what belongs to others.

To authorize land to an occupier we need: the land to be vacant, the occupier to occupy what he needs and the land to be worked and cultivated , not just simply claimed. This is a good substitute for a legal title. But is this right unlimited? Is just being on the land enough? Is it enough to scare off others to make the claim? How can you own land and keep away everyone by simply claiming ownership? Spain claimed its American colonies but what happened to the rights of the natives who were there first? How did that claim stop other countries’ claims to that same land? Anyone can claim anything.

Possessors are made dependent, needing the formation of a sovereign to secure the right. Forces at their command used to guarantee property rights also guarantee fidelity. Older kings were called kings of the Persians, of the Scythians, of the Macedonians. They were rulers of men. Modern kings are called kings of France, Spain, England. These are rulers of a land and have the obedience of the inhabitants as a result. There has been a shift from the ruler essentially treating his people as those forced physically to swear allegiance to a ruler elected or tolerated by the people.

Alienation of people and goods isn’t plunder but allows them to enjoy property. Possessors are depositories of a public good and that public good is maintained against foreign countries, which is an advantageous cession that benefits the public. Individuals “retain” what they have “given up”. It is a paradox – the sovereign and proprietors have a claim over the same land.

It is entirely possible that men unite before owning anything, that just occupying land be enough for everyone, or that land is shared among members evenly or in a manner established by the sovereign. However it happens, each man’s right over his land is always subordinated to that of the community. Without that right, there is no social link or any real sovereign force.

The whole social system is based on: instead of destroying natural inequality, the fundamental compact substitutes a moral and legitimate equality for a physical equality that nature has established between men, and those being unequal in strength or intelligence become equal in convention and legal rights.

“Second Treatise of Government” by John Locke (1689)

Chapter 1 – Introduction (1-3)

Adam was created by God and told to rule and cultivate the earth. But can we really know who is true heirs are? So, divine right of kings is bullshit. Political power is not parental power. Political power is the power to write and execute laws, regulate property and defend the nation for its own good.

Chapter 2 – Of the State of Nature (4-15)

The state of man in nature is freedom unrestrained by others. They are all equal, same species with same humanity. No subordination or subjection. All differences in ability and wealth come from God.

Natural liberty is not license. We are bound not to harm each other because it violates reason, which is the basis of natural law. This violation of reason is taking another’s life, liberty and property.

Men must be restrained from violating others’ rights. That requires execution of laws and must be applicable to every man. Criminals place themselves outside of nature and the offended party has a right to reparation.

In nature, man has 2 rights:

A – To punish crime and restrain or prevent further crime. In society, this is in the hands of the magistrate.

B – To seek reparation for the crime. Only the victim has the right to this.

These two apply to all crimes big or small but only in proportion of the crime. In society, a man cannot be a judge if he’s involved with the case because he may lack objectivity or calmness to handle it. Civil government will handle it. Any other government is a violation of nature/rationality. Civil society or community preserves rights. Natural law allows us to get what we want from or in others without violating others’ rights.

Chapter 3 – Of the State of War (16-20)

State of War = enmity and destruction, declaring one man’s life the goal of the other. There is no superior authority to adjudicate matters. In this state, you have the right to defend yourself until it is over. Your enemy is declaring war on you by trying to kill you or enslave you and you have the right to stop him.

State of Nature = mutual assistance, preservation, goodwill, living together according to reason with a superior authority to adjudicate differences. In peace, law prevails. If someone violates it, a law separates the state of war from the state of nature. When forces stop and both sides are subject to the same judgment, peace and state of nature continue

Chapter 4 – Of Slavery (21-23)

It’s natural to be free from authority. Liberty is not under legislative authority without any consent. It is a standing rule to live by for all according to nature. Freedom from arbitrary power is necessary for one’s preservation.

Not having this, a slave cannot give consent to his captor. It is a perfect state of war between the conqueror and the captive. If there is consent, then it’s not really slavery because the “slave” in this case is fine with the situation.

Chapter 5 – Of Property (24-51)

We can’t really use Adam as a basis for anything. But we’ll start with God. He gave humans the world, animals and plants in it to use to our benefit. They are in a state of nature and were given to us for our use.

Our bodies are ours and so are our labor and the fruits of our labor. Whatever we do or transform is ours. Possession begins when something is taken out of nature (being man-made). Before it is changed, it is common property.

In civilization, if you do the work, the product is yours. The limit is when your product spoils because it wasn’t used due to overproduction. This is wasteful and not productive. The world was meant for industrious and productive or rational use.

Land is scarce these days and naturally we have divisions between property, counties and countries. God’s commandment created dominion and natural private property. Our labor is limited to our physical productivity. Divisions weren’t necessary before the world got so crowded.

Land is to be common property until someone starts working it. Labor makes an unproductive thing productive. Men move from crowded places to make use of land and in doing so en masse, form societies and law.

Eventually relative value is established between products and money acts as a symbol of that value. Most land requires some labor to get anything out of it. In 1600s America, Indians had huge amounts of land and never did a thing to it. This is why they were poor. When labor is added, value goes up. Nature gives us little but adding work to it makes us much richer.

When land is scarce, distinct divisions arise and societies form to protect individuals’ land, property, etc. from violation. Most Indians subsist on whatever falls to the ground or runs through the forest. It’s a form of temporary property with no long-lasting value. Cultivation gives the land value and money cements it. This allows different degrees of industry but also leads to inequality. But that also leads to expansion of industry, division of labor and increase of wealth.

Chapter 6 – Of Paternal Power (52-76)

Paternal power should be referred to as parental power because Mom plays a role too. God commanded us to honor both parents, not just Dad. Somehow this turned into regal, absolute power. Maybe if Mom had a bigger say in raising kids, we’d have a penchant for multiple powers and not a quasi-dictatorship.

In nature, men are equal but it is true that some have more money and influence. But we are subject to the same laws. It’s a bit different with kids. Parents have a special reign. Children get equality as they age. Adam was given reason and understanding upon his creation but that wasn’t normal. Children are born helpless and irrational. They need guidance and protection until they grow up and have these faculties on their own. You must be able to understand natural law in order to have its rights.

Once old enough, a person is responsible for his actions, safety and survival. Then he owes no one any allegiance or loyalty. To set a child free too early is detrimental. Parents are rulers as long as they accept the guardian’s role for the kid. Problems may arise with a death of or abandonment by a parent. But a parental presence is necessary. They are the instruments of protection and education.

The rule ends at a child’s majority age. Until then the duty of a child is to honor and obey. He gets protection and education in return. Education can be handled by a hired hand but protection is also necessary. The relation may continue into his adulthood but it is not required. We as a society owe honor to our elders, defense to friends and help to those who need it but outside of this parent-child relationship, it is not obligatory.

Political and parental powers are separate but are somewhat parallel. Princes have no right to claim this power over their people because most of them are adults and he is not their father. Parents are free to bequeath property to kids but not required to do so. That’s not part of the deal. Somehow history has this power turning into a monarchy.

Chapter 7 – Of Political or Civil Society (77-94)

God created us to live in a society, to learn and understand the world around us. The first society was a family – parents and kids. The second was a relation between a master and a servant. But conjugal society is a voluntary compact between a man and a woman for procreation, mutual supper and shared interest. This is continuation of the species is distinct to humans because in most other species, the father is never around. But pregnancy is long and the woman needs a man to help her during the pregnancy with the unborn and the older kids too. But there’s more to marriage than just raising kids.

Things get hairy sometimes because they might not always see eye to eye on things. Usually the man ends up the leader because he is stronger and more capable of providing but this does not mean he’s in complete control of her life or property. Civil society settles disputes. In places where the wife is 100% property, the government will usually enforce husbands will on her.

Of the master/servant relationship. In a free society, a man can choose to be a servant for money. This is with consent. He is under the command of the master but under terms of a contract. Slavery is absolute dominion with no consent.

We were born with a right to preserve ourselves and our property and punish those who violate that. When we combine ourselves, we make a civil society and agree to live under one set of laws for the common good. We put together a list of rules and punishments and surrender our natural right to decide those rules and punish their violation all by ourselves.

Absolute monarchy is not a civil government. There’s no agreed upon authority. The monarch answers to no one. He is in a state of nature but declaring war on all his subjects as his slaves. They can appeal to him but he doesn’t have to answer them. Only a parliament can deal with this.

Chapter 8 – Of the Beginning of Civil Societies (95-122)

Men can only be taken from nature without consent and can only join a civil society with consent. In this case, the majority have a right to act. When it’s created on consent, man must agree to the majority’s decision because there are always going to be disagreements and this way most people get what they want. If you go against the majority, you are placing yourself outside of society and back into nature, alone. There needs to be a constitutional basis for majority rule.

There are 2 objections to this and 2 responses:

A – Objection: Man’s never been outside of society. Answer: History can only go so far back but there are plenty of examples of men leaving one society and forming another voluntarily (Rome, Venice, Sparta). Somehow the first leader became a father figure and this led to a monarchy.

B – Objection: Most people would rather stay with their form of government than try anything drastically new. Answer: True but there are plenty of examples of governments evolving throughout history. Old laws change. A man has no obligation to follow his father in staying in a government/society. But you tacitly agree to law when you establish a life and get and keep property and enjoy society’s protection of it. If you move, you must engage in the society to be considered a part of it.

Chapter 9 – Of the Ends of Political Society and Government (123-131)

Why give up life and possessions to absolute dominion? A man may be vulnerable to attack and give up rights of enforcement to band together with others for each other’s benefit and preserve property and establish a common standard of right and wrong.

In nature, there’s no legal judge and men get heated when in dispute or may not even care for others. It’s hard to execute judgment for fear of retribution. So, people form societies to overcome this chaos and selfishness. In nature, a man has 2 powers:

A – Ability to decide what is needed to preserve self and property. He gives this up in society to a legislative power.

B – Ability to enforce needs and punish those who violate them. He gives this up in society to an executive as well.

Political society’s authorities must respect established laws and not change them without consent, as well as enforce laws and protect community.

Chapter 10 – Of Forms of Commonwealth (132-133)

If power is in the majority, it is a Democracy. If power is in a few, it is an Oligarchy. If power is in one man, it is a monarchy. A commonwealth is not a specific form of government but an independent community.

Chapter 11 – Of the Extent of the Legislative Power (134-142)

In setting up society, we establish a legislative power. These laws they write can only be changed with consent. People agree to obey its laws. The Rules are

A – Power cannot be arbitrary. People give up some rights in order to be protected, not enslaved, destroy or impoverished. It is only for the public good.

B – Laws are permanent and available for the citizens to know and understand. They must know them. Laws must not be misinterpreted, misapplied or disobeyed without punishment. Disputes are to be remedied. Arbitrary power make men worse off than before because at least in a state of nature, they could settle matters themselves.

C – Supreme power cannot take away property without consent. The government was the reason to guard the property in the first place. If it can be taken away so easily, it’s not really property at all. The fewer people you have in this power, the more likely you are to see abuse.

The military is a bit special in that it need something of an absolute (but not completely so) monarchy. Governments costs money, so taxes need to be taken in order to maintain it – but only with consent and representation.

Chapter 12 – Of Legislative, Executive and Federative Power of the Commonwealth (143-148)

The legislature doesn’t always need to be in session. In fact, it shouldn’t be there too often because the representatives might use their power for their own personal gain against the people. Laws need to be constant and long-lasting and need perpetual execution. The legislature and executive must be separated to ensure good government.

A Federative power deals with society as a whole, as well as dealings with foreign powers (trade, war, peace, etc.).

The executive power deals with local laws within the commonwealth which have been passed by the legislature and consented to by the people. The Federative should be left to the wisdom and care of experts. They are distinct powers but should be kept together in one body. To do so otherwise is impractical and in-fighting might occur.

Chapter 13 – Of the Subordination of Powers of the Commonwealth (149-158)

The legislative power represents the people, has their consent and is the supreme government body. In it, people make laws for themselves. Laws don’t need constant up-dating. It needs to meet occasionally but not constantly. It needs occasional updating through elections and Constitutional changes needed by changes in society, wealth and population.

The executive power has one man representing it with supreme power but no law-making powers, only executive powers. It is subordinate to the legislature and accountable to it. It is purely through to execute laws passed. It is nimbler and can do things the legislature cannot anticipate. It can even convoke a legislature to session

Chapter 14 – Of Prerogative (159-168)

The executive is given powers when the legislature is unavailable and it exercises discretion. If it needs to circumvent the law, so be it. This can only be for the public good, even if it violates the Constitution. The legislature is slow and may even be harmful, so it might be necessary to violate its laws. It should be rare to do so and watched closely for abuse. It can only do so if in the public interest.

It may violate laws but not natural law. This can happen if the law is bad or there is no law at all. Sometimes a little violate does a lot harm and sometimes a lot of violation does little harm. It depends on what is being done.

Chapter 15 – Of Paternal, Political, and Despotical Power, Considered Together

Paternal Power – to nourish and educate child until adulthood. There’s no control over life or property. The child must obey and honor the parents. This is a natural power but not a political one.

Political Power – given to authority of a commonwealth. It only exists to preserve prosperity and punish violations. It is not arbitrary or abusive and only exists in consent between the ruler and the ruled.

Despotical Power – absolute and arbitrary. One man’s domination over other. It is unnatural and non-consensual and only by forfeiture. One man declares a state of war over others and has won.

Chapter 16 – Of Conquest (175-196)

History is loaded with war and conquest. It is not consent or establishment of a government. That can only be done with consent. The vanquished must be patient to try to overthrow the conqueror.

IF an unjust war is waged, the people aren’t responsible for the ruler’s actions. But the conqueror has the right to the lives of those who fought against him. He must not touch their children, wives or property. That is a declaration of war on them. Innocent bystanders must be spared. The price is to obey eternal and fundamental laws of nature and God.

Chapter 17 – Of Usurpation (197-198)

It is never justified to usurp. The usurper has violated the will of the people and declared war on them. They have the right to overthrow him because they have not given him their consent.

Chapter 18 – Of Tyranny (199-210)

The tyrant exercises power beyond what is right and does so for personal gain. A king is bound to observe fundamental laws of a nation and protect it. Once he strays from this, he becomes a tyrant. This can happen in Democracies and Oligarchies, too when authority goes beyond any natural law. If people are wrong in claiming violation the can oppose the law. The legislature and executive can be tried for this. Head of executive will often be spared as it is a sacred position. But if the people can’t appeal to the government, they may force change. It is unlikely to end in chaos because people will only revolt when things are really bad. If they’re correct in assuming they’re being abused, they have the right to start all over and establish a government based on natural law.

Chapter 19 – Of the Dissolution of Government (211-243)

There are differences between governments and society. A dissolved society is sent back to the state of nature with frequent states of war. It has no civil society and no government. But a dissolved government is just one where the government has ceased to represent the people and must be reestablished.

A hereditary government with absolute power goes beyond natural laws, prevents a legislature from meeting. The prince has tampered with the legislature or sold his people out to a foreign power. This needs to be dissolved. The executive must be dissolved if he neglects his duty, doesn’t enforce laws. Society then is in a state of anarchy. Bribes, threats and the like are examples of him declaring war on his people by refusing to execute the law.

If the people fear the new legislature will be just as bad as the last, remember people rarely like drastic change in government. If it’s really bad, they’ll want drastic change. But if it’s a small change, there will probably be little to no rebelling because revolutions don’t occur for minor infractions.

People won’t let a king ruin the nation if they can stop him. That happens when he actually ruins the county (like Nero or Caligula) or he becomes dependent on a foreign power and does what it wants and not what the people want. People will react to this. They will be his judge and judge if there is tyranny or not.

The power that men get from nature is given up in joining the commonwealth. The power in the legislature is carried out by the executive. If either one steps out of line, the commonwealth crumbles into a state of nature and war and a new commonwealth must be formed.