Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review of Otto Weininger's "Sex and Character"(1903)

Book Review of Otto Weininger's “Sex and Character”
by Ryan Haecker

Otto Weininger (1880-1903) was a brilliant young Viennese Jew who converted to Protestantism upon receiving his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Vienna and shortly thereafter took his own life in Beethoven's house at the ripe young age of 23. Weininger published only a single work, Geschlecht und Charakter or Sex and Character (1903), in which he sought to solve the “woman question” by demonstrating both the metaphysical connection between genius and masculinity and the moral and intellectual inferiority of women and Jews. The book is an astonishingly comprehensive combination of contemporary science, Schopenhauerean misogyny, and Kantian metaphysical speculation synthesized together with the ultimate aim of resolving the “woman question”. His work has been described by his critics as an “apotheosis of misogyny” (Harrowitz, 1995) and by his admirers as a work of “lasting spiritual genius”. While Sex and Character is generally dismissed today as misogynistic and anti-Semitic, it received glowing reviews upon its initial publication. The great Swedish playwright August Strindberg wrote that Weininger “had probably solved the hardest of all problems, the woman problem”. Although Weininger's life was brief, his influence on the writers, philosophers, and artists of his generation was immense. Karl Kraus, Franz Kafka, Gertrude Stein, and Ludwig Wittgenstein were among the many intellectuals who Weininger's life had a lasting impact on.

Weininger's unique life and work have cast a spell on generations of Germans. Doctoral dissertations, plays, operas and movies have all been made on the subject of Weininger’s unique life and untimely death. Weininger’s sensational suicide had no small effect on the astonishing popularity which his writings enjoyed after his death. In attempting to demonstrate the metaphysical connection between masculinity, logic, memory and ethics, Weininger wrote extensively about his subjective experience with genius madness and insanity, giving the reader an unparalleled insight into the psychology of the now deceased and possibly mentally unstable author. Additionally, his writings on the subject of Protestantism and Judaism have been seen as reflective of both his own personal struggles with his Jewish identity and his rebellion against the Catholic culture of Vienna. Finally, it is often assumed, and perhaps mistakenly, that his vitriol against effeminacy is indicative of his own personal self loathing of his Jewish identity. For all these reasons, Weininger’s single work of philosophy and science can be, and often has been, read as an autobiography of a deeply insecure, anxious, spiteful, yet brilliant young student who would shortly thereafter tragically take his own life.

His biographer David Abrahamsen described him as follows: “The man came as a meteor and disappeared as suddenly. It was only when he had passed that his ideas started to sparkle, electrifying the world. Some regarded him as a biologist, others as a psychologist; still others called him a mystic. Though generally considered a realist, he was at the same time strongly suspected of dealing in fantasies. He was praised for his invincible logic and attacked for his crusade against women. He was full of contradictions. His name became the signal for dispute and controversy in a thousand cities...Weininger's nature forced his mind on long expeditions into psychology, biology, literature, and philosophy, journeys from which he never returned. Dissatisfied with scientific research, discontent with his own restless nature, he went farther and farther along the paths of speculative thought until he was, at the end, quite alone...It would be hard to find another man who showed even in mild form the characteristics and the mental processes that Otto Weininger revealed in the extreme.”

The great Viennese analytic philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was deeply impressed by Weininger, so much so that he would routinely recommend the book to his friends and colleagues. While Weininger's influence was great, it shouldn't be imagined that many people wholly accepted Weininger's conclusions. While Wittgenstein admired Weininger, he distanced himself from Weininger's thought, and upon questioning about Weininger's conclusions on women he was reported to have exclaimed “How wrong he was, my God he was wrong”. Wittgenstein wrote to G.E. Moore to explain his views: “It isn't necessary or rather not possible to agree with him but the greatness lies in that with which we disagree. It is his enormous mistake which is great.” Wittgenstein was fond of using the metaphor that he had “thrown away
Weininger's ladder after using it to climb up beyond Weininger's world.”

As novel and horrific as Weininger's conclusions were its enthusiastic acceptance in early 20th century Europe has continued to puzzle and intrigue scholars. Nancy Harrowitz explains the historical milieu into which Weininger's thought entered and was so highly praised: “The prevailing image of Jewish male sexuality at the turn of the century in Central Europe was closely linked to images of the femme fatale and women's emancipation. The culture as a whole harbored fears of Jewish reproduction, since Jews were assimilating so well that their representation in the professions far outnumbered their percentage of the population. By vilifying Jews as more lascivious than non-Jews, the Christian host culture also expressed fears that the emancipation of the Jews had unleashed a competitive labor force and a rival cultural voice. By likening male Jews to sexually or politically aggressive non-Jewish women, the patriarchal dominant culture insulted male Jews by underscoring their relative powerlessness as a social group.”(Harrowitz, 1995)

Sex and Character is composed of two sections; one scientific and the other philosophical. In this book review I will deal primarily with his scientific work with only brief allusions to his much longer and more complex philosophical work. Although Weininger’s conclusions about women and Jews may at first seem vulgar and obscene, even a cursory familiarity with his text quickly reveals the surprising extent of Weininger’s scientific acumen. As a gifted doctoral student, Weininger displays an astonishingly erudite familiarity with the biological and psychological sciences which were current at the turn of the century. However, Weininger is by his own admission selective and unscientific in his both his method of inquiry and the presentation of his theories. Weininger’s haughty contempt for science is revealed when he writes: “it is to be observed that the investigations of the scientific are always in definite relation to the knowledge of their day…On the other hand, we can ascribe to the work of the great philosopher, as to that of the great artist, an imperishable, unchangeable presentation of the world.” (p.140) and “The scientist takes phenomena for what they obviously are; the great man or the genius for what they signify” (p.170). Chandak Sengoopta writes “Weinginer rarely used scientific notions without in some way revising, extending, or modifying the original arguments. Sometimes for strategic reasons, he transformed them entirely. More frequently, he simply extracted an isolated point from a scientific work while ignoring the larger context in which that point had been made.” This characteristic of “Sex and Character” presents the reader with a contradiction: a work of contemporary science which is itself self-consciously unscientific in method and intent. However, it is because of Weininger’s attempt to use the façade of science to demonstrate empirically indemonstrable claims that I believe that Weininger’s work may properly be called a work of pseudoscience.

Overview of “Sex and Character”
In the introduction to “Sex and Character”, Weininger considers the difficulties associated with assigning bivalent sexual categories of male and female to all persons on the basis of divergent genitalia alone. Weininger writes “”two general conceptions have come down to us from primitive mankind, and from the earliest times have held our mental processes in their leash…we have still to reckon with the primitive conceptions of male and female.”(p.1-2) Among the problems associated with these bivalent categories are the occasions of “unmanly men” and “unwomanly women”. Because women have pelvises of greater with for the purpose of parturition, anthropologists commonly use pelvic bones to determine a person’s sex. Weininger challenges this by mentioning the unusual cases of men with wide hips and women with narrow hips. Weininger attempts to show the problems associated with these conventions in order to convince the reader that biology currently insufficient in defining strict rules with which to determine sexual categories. Weininger argues that a new, non-scientific means of determining sex is required. Weininger writes: “Are we then to make nothing of sexual differences? That would imply, almost, that we cannot distinguish between men and women…If the received ideas do not suffice, it must be our task to seek out new and better guides.”(p.4)

In the first chapter, after briefly problematizing common assumptions about the strictly bivalent categories of sexual differentiation, Weininger then enters into an attempt to reconstruct sexual categories along a biological basis. Weininger offers the reader an embryological account of sexual differentiation when he writes: “In the fifth week of fetal life processes begin which, by the end of the fifth month of pregnancy, have turned the genital rudiments, at first alike in the sexes, into one sex and have determined the sex of the whole organism.”(p.5) However, despite the appearance of sexual differentiation in the earliest stages of embryonic development, Weininger reminds us that this process is never complete when he writes “It can be shown that however distinctly unisexual an adult plant, animal or human being may be, there is always a certain persistence of the bisexual character, never a complete disappearance of the characters of the undeveloped sex. Sexual differentiation, in fact, is never complete. All the peculiarities of the male sex may be present in the female in some form, however weakly developed; and so also the sexual characteristics of the woman persist in the man, although perhaps they are not so completely rudimentary.”(p.5) Weininger informs his reader that despite the appearance of complete sexual differentiation in the embryonic stage, vestigial genitalia remain undeveloped in the developed male or female form.

However, Weininger argues that despite the apparent impossibility of isolating a “complete male” or a “complete female”, the purpose of science is to determine the characteristic of these ideal types. Weininger writes “such types not only can be constructed, but must be constructed. As in art, so in science, the real purpose of is to reach the type, the Platonic Idea.”(p.7) Weininger writes: “male and females are like two substances combined in different proportions, but with neither element ever wholly missing.” For Weininger, all persons are comprised of an unequal admixture of the male and female substances. When there exists a preponderance of one substance over another we may speak of a either a male or a female “condition” in which the admixture is decidedly one or the other. Weininger offers the following formula [fig. 1] to clarify his conclusions.

[fig. 1]A= {aM, aW} B= {bW, bM}

Weininger criticizes statistics and empirical sciences as insufficient means in obtaining the understanding of pure types. Weininger writes: “knowledge must be obtained of male and female by means of right construction of ideal man and woman, using the word ideal in the sense of typical, excluding judgment of value.”(p.9)

In the second chapter, Weininger attempts to give a scientific basis for his ideal male and female types by advocating what was, at the time, an acceptable idea of male and female cellular plasmas. Weininger doesn’t claim to have evidential support for this view, instead he leaves the phenomena to be observed and investigated by future scientists. Weininger writes: “Were I to attempt to reach the sexual types by means of the probable inferences drawn from his collected results, my work would be a mere hypothesis and science might have been spared a new book. The arguments in this chapter, therefore, will be of a rather formal and general nature; they will relate to biological principles, but to a certain extent will lay stress on the need for a closer investigation of certain definite points, work which must be left to the future, but which may be rendered easier by my indications.”(p.11)

To support his assertions, that there exists a an ideal male and female type, Weininger argues in support of a theory, first proposed in 1840 by J. J. S. Steenstrup, that “sexual characters are present in every part of the body.”(p.12) He cites the evidential investigation of numerous biologists to demonstrate what he claims are the “universal presence of sexual differentiation”. From this evidence Weininger concludes: “The direct logical inference may be drawn, and is supported by abundant facts, that every cell in the body is sexually characteristic and has its definite sexual significance.”(p.12) Weininger combines this conclusion with his previous speculation in chapter one to come to the conclusion that “There may be conceived for every cell all conditions, from complete masculinity through all stages of diminishing masculinity to its complete absence and the consequent presence of complete femininity.” (p.13) Weininger considers the effects of internal bodily secretions on the sexual differentiation of cells and concludes that “The internal secretions of the genital glands must be regarded as completing the sexuality of the individual. Every cell must be considered as possessing an original sexuality, to which the influence of the internal secretion in sufficient quantity is the final determining condition under the influence of which the cell acquires its final determinate character as male or female.”(p.16)

Weininger now moves to define what constitutes the sexually divergent character of cells. He cites the work of three cellular biologists to claim that every cell contains the unique “combination of the characters of its species and race.”(p.16) With this in mind, Weininger jumps to the conclusion that every cell must possess a sexually differentiated plasma. Weininger writes: “In a similar fashion I have been led to the conception of an “Arrhenoplasm” (male plasm) and a “Thelyplasm” (female plasm) as the two modes in which the idioplasm of every bisexual organism may appear” (p.16) Plasmas are essential to Weininger’s theory as they create the biological foundation of Weininger’s essentialist masculine-feminine dichotomy. Weininger admits that his theory of ideoplasms is not currently accepted but he appeals to future scientists to discover what he has hypothesized. Weininger writes: “The theory of an idioplasm, the presence of which gives the specific race characters to those tissues and cells which have lost the reproductive faculty, is by no means generally accepted.”(p.21) From all of this, Weininger concludes that “Every cell, every cell-complex, and every organ have their distinctive indices on the scale between thelyplasm and arrhenoplasm.”(p.23) Finally, Weininger criticizes science for its perceived inability to inductively determine what he has shown deductively. Weininger writes: “This source of error, the careless acceptance of sexually intermediate forms as representative subjects for measurement, has maimed other investigations and seriously retarded the attainment of genuine and useful results…without the conception of ideal male and ideal female he lacks a standard according to which to estimate the real causes.” (p.24)

The third chapter of “Sex and Character” examines what Weininger calls the as yet “unknown natural law” of sexual attraction. However, any discussion about the unity of male and female types would be a necessary abstraction. This presents Weininger with a difficulty which he explains as follows: “It has been recognized from time immemorial that, in all forms of sexually differentiated life, there exists an attraction between males and females, between the male and the female, the object of which is procreation. But as the male and the female are merely abstract conceptions which never appear in the real world, we cannot speak of sexual attraction as a simple attempt of the masculine and the feminine to come together.”(p.26) Weininger argues that every person, as a unique instantiation of masculine and feminine types, has a unique sexual attraction which he describes in the following way: “Every one possesses a definite, individual taste of his own with regard to the other sex.”(p.27)

Weininger claims that sexuality, like gravity, is always reciprocal and so every type of person has a sexual counterpart of the opposite sex. Weininger explains that “for a true sexual union it is necessary that there come together a complete (M) and a complete (F), even though in different cases the M and F are distributed between individuals in different proportions.”(p.29) Weininger gives the following equations to demonstrate this principle:

Mu + Wu = Ordinary Male Mw + Ww = Ordinary Female
Mu + Mw = Ideal Male Wu + Ww = Ideal Female

Weininger tests this principle by asking his friends which of many photographs they are sexually attracted to and predicts the outcome in advance. Here again, Weininger shows his disdain for the scientific method, claiming that it is not so much his aim to demonstrate these principles as it is his desire to “incite others to study”(p.32). Weininger attempts convince his reader by asking for the reader’s recognition of it by asking how much it would explain if it were true. Weininger claims that sexual attraction is analogous to a chemical reaction, which he terms “chemotropism” (p.39). He claims that this is the very same force which drives the sperm towards the ovaries within the uterus. Weininger hypothesizes that “the force of this reaction is in proportion to the mass of the substance involved” (p. 41) Weininger says that the same is true with the sexual types of (M) and (W). He claims that “sexual desire increases with the time during which two individuals are in propinquity” (p. 42). With this he is able to explain the slowly growing love of arranged marriages.

In the fourth chapter, Weininger examines the subject of “Homosexuality and Pederasty”. Weininger writes: “The law of Sexual Attraction gives the long-sought-for explanation of sexual inversion, of sexual inclination towards members of the same sex.”(p. 45) Weininger argues that homosexuality or “sexual inversion” is a result of “sexually intermediate types”. As a result, these persons display characteristics of the opposite sex. Weininger writes: “I may say at once that it is exceedingly probable that, in all cases of sexual inversion, there will be found indications of the anatomical characters of the other sex.” (p.45) Weininger weighs into the contemporary, and still disputed, controversy of whether homosexuality is a result of either inherited or environmental factors. Weininger instead explains that because of the lack of uniformity of sexual differentiation throughout the entirety of the body, a person who is assigned to one sex on account of their genitals may in fact be sexually attracted to the sex to which they were nominally assigned. Weininger explains: “individuals in whom there is as much maleness as femaleness, or indeed who, although reckoned as men, may contain an excess of femaleness, or as women and yet be more male than female…Homosexuality is merely the sexual condition of these intermediate sexual forms that stretch from one ideal sexual condition to another sexual condition” (p. 47-48)

Surprisingly, Weininger argues that there exists some degree of bisexuality in all persons. Weininger writes: “That the rudiment of homo-sexuality, in however weak a form, exists in every human being, corresponding to the greater or smaller development of the characters of the opposite sex.” (p. 48) Weininger contends that these intermediate sexual states create a condition of bisexuality, in which a person may be attracted to members of either sex. This leads Weininger to identify friendship as inherently homosexual, writing “A person who retains from that age onwards a marked tendency to “friendship” with a person of his own sex must have a strong taint of the other sex in him…There is no friendship between men that has not an element of sexuality in it… there can be no friendship unless there has been some attraction to draw the men together.” (p. 49) Weininger notes in support of his theory of biological determinism that homosexual attraction appears among animals. He then briefly weighs into the current controversy surrounding the acceptance of homosexuality in society, arguing that because homosexuality is biologically determined it should be tolerated.

In the fifth chapter, Weininger argues that there exists a “close correspondence between matter and mind” (p. 53). In this chapter, Weininger argues in support of the now discredited science of physiognomy, writing: “congruity between bodily and mental sexuality is more common than incongruity.” and “readily enough followed by those who believe in the parallelism between mind and matter, fur they will see in psychology no more than the physiology of the central nervous system, and will readily admit that the science of character must be a sister of morphology.”(p. 53, 59) Weininger here makes the startling and confusing assertion that human beings “oscillates” between one sex and another. This leads Weininger to another criticism of science when he argues that “bi-sexuality cannot be properly observed in a single moment, but must be studied through successive periods of time.” (p. 55) This criticism allows Weininger to indict science for failing to account for the dynamic nature of character, which he argues has inhibited science from coming to an understanding of physiognomy. Weininger writes: “The problem of physiognomy is the problem of the relation between the static mental forces and the static bodily forces, just as the problem of physiological psychology deals with the dynamic aspect of the same relations… None the less it will be long before official science ceases to regard the study of physiognomy as illegitimate.” (p. 59-60) Why Weininger makes these claims about the correlation between the morphology and psychology will become clear later when he seeks to demonstrate the psychology of women from the anatomical differentiation of the female sex.

In the sixth and final chapter of Weininger’s scientific exposition, he leaves the realm of science and enters into a discourse on contemporary politics. Here he addresses, what is the aim of his book, the resolution of the “woman question” in a chapter entitled “Emancipated Women”. Here the physiognomic and plasma claims which Weininger has made in the preceding chapters bear fruit in a practical understanding of contemporary discussion about women and politics. Building on what Weininger has already claimed, he writes: “a woman’s demand for emancipation and her qualification for it are in direct proportion to the amount of maleness in her.” (p.64) It is important to understand specifically what Weininger means when he speaks about “emancipation”. Weininger explains it as follows: “Emancipation, as I mean to discuss it, is not the wish for an outward equality with man, but what is of real importance in the woman question, the deep seated craving to acquire man's character, to attain his mental and moral freedom, to reach his real interests and his creative power. I maintain that the real female element has neither the desire nor the capacity for emancipation in this sense.” (p. 65)
With this definition in mind, Weininger claims that all women of talent have invariably been masculine women. He enters into a long listing of historical and contemporary women who have either advocated for equality or had some admirable talent, concluding that all of them were masculine and prone to homosexuality. Weininger writes: “we find that the degree of emancipation and the proportion of maleness in the composition of woman are practically identical.” (p. 66) and “It is only the male element in emancipated women that craves emancipation”. (p. 68) Weininger anticipates his critics accusation that he is merely glorifying the males sex by ascribing all talent as indicative of maleness and writes that he has “no caprice, no egotistical wish of a man to associate all higher manifestations of intelligence with the male sex.” (p. 66) Among Weininger’s most misogynistic remarks on the subject of the female sex is his condemnation of the capacity of female intellectuals. Weininger writes: “It is enough to make the general statement that there is not a single woman in the history of thought, not even the most masculine that could be truthfully compared with men of a fifth or sixth rate genius.” (p. 68) Weininger explains this statement later by claiming, without explanation, that “even the malest woman is scarcely more than 50% male.” (p. 71)

At the conclusion of this chapter, Weininger speaks about the “emancipation of women” in the historical context. Weininger claims that emancipation movements are a result, not of industrialization, but of the periodic variations in the masculinity and femininity of the female and male sex respectively. Weininger critiques both historians and modernity when he argues that the current women’s movement has resulted from the feminization of modern man. Weininger writes: “the connection between industrial progress and the woman question is much less close than it is usually realized.” and “it is not the true woman who clamors for emancipation, but only the masculine type of woman.” (p. 74, 72) Weininger concludes this chapter with a claim that will reverberate throughout the remainder of his book, that “the greatest, the one enemy of the emancipation of woman, is woman herself.” (p. 75)

Weininger’s Science:
Allan Janik has subdivided the arguments of “Sex and Character” into “4 reciprocally
interactive ‘analytic movements’: the biology of sexuality, an idiosyncratic version of Neo-Kantian ethics, Nietzschean cultural criticism, and a Diltheyan psychology of ‘lived experience’” (Sengoopta, 2000 p.45) In this book review, I will analyze only the biological claims that pertain to sexual differentiation. These claims form the scientific foundation many of Weininger’s later conclusions on the subjects of the biological, psychological, cultural, and ontological meanings of masculinity and femininity. The 19th century produced an enormous literature on the subject of the biological determinism of sexuality. Weininger’s theories of ideosplasms and cellular sexual differentiation were in many ways a product of the biological determinism which prevailed at the turn of the century. Sengoopta writes: “Weininger went far beyond this minimal requirement, engaging at great depth with the scientific theories of sex. His knowledge of the discourse of contemporary biomedical science was impressive, and his own text and theories were profoundly influenced by it.”(p.45)

Weininger draws on a long tradition of biological texts which have attempted to biologically account for sexual differentiation. His distinction between primary reproductive and secondary morphological sexual characteristics was first delineated in the 18th century by the British surgeon and anatomist John Hunter (1728-93) and later expanded upon by Havelock Ellis(1859-1939) who Weininger mentions in his text. Ellis defined secondary sexual characteristics as “one which, by more highly differentiating the sexes, helps to make them more attractive to each other, and so to promote the union of sperm-cell with the ovum-cell.”(Sengoopta, 2000 p.70) European biologists and physicians had produced volumns of literature on the subject of secondary sexual characteristics with the often implied intent of demonstrating biological reasons for gender appropriate roles. Weininger attempted to move beyond the examination of secondary sexual characteristics, by attempting to show that every cell of the body was sexually differentiated. Weininger drew on a variety of biomedical sources including J. J. S. Steenstrup (1813-97) and the Munich Botanist Karl Wilhelm von Nägeli (1817-91). “Japetus Steenstrup had argued in the mid-nineteenth century that the sex of an organism was not localized in any particular anatomical zone: each and every part of the organism was endowed with sex.”(Sengoopta, 2000 p.72) However this view of sexual differentiation at the cellular level was not universally shared. Rudolf Leuckart(1822-98) criticized Steenstrup’s sexually polarized model as redolent and quasi-mystical. He argued that Steenstrup’s denial of the possibility of hermaphroditism followed logically from his mistaken presupposition that masculinity and femininity were equal and opposed forces that could not co-exist without neutralizing one another.(Sengoopta, 2000 p.72) Weininger seems to recognize how this mystical view of sexual polarization has come down to us from earliest times in his introduction, but nonetheless accepts Steenstrup’s idea, all the while ignoring Steenstrup’s conclusion that “diffuse sexuality ruled out the possibility of hermaphroditism”. (Ibid. p. 72) Here it is apparent that Weininger was using contemporary science selectively, while ignoring both the context and the counter-arguments, in order to achieve his larger non-scientific objective of demonstrating the ontology of sexual types.

In support of his utilization of Steenstrup’s idea that sexual differentiation occurred in every cell, Weininger adopted Karl Wilhelm von Nägeli’s theory of ideoplasm. Nägeli was among the foremost botanists of the 19th century. “In the last decade of his life, he had published the voluminous work, Mechanisch-Physiologische Theorie der Abstammunglehre (1884) in which he had attempted to explain phylogeny and the basis of heredity… coining the term ‘idioplasm’ for the portion of the protoplasm carrying the hereditary material, Nägeli attributed hereditary differences between individuals and species to molecular differences in their idioplasms… Since the idoplasm bore all traits of the species to which the individual belonged, each cell of every organism, too, contained the rudiments of every trait of its species.”(Ibid. p.74) This theory was widely popular in the decades preceding Weininger’s work, and as an early form of gene theory it was a widely held consensus among biologists that “the nucleus contains the physical basis of inheritance”. Sengoopta points out that Weininger appropriated one specific notion from Nägeli’s theory for his own use: that biological difference between individuals was a result of idioplasmic differences. Although Weininger was familiar with an opponent of this theory, August Weismann, he nevertheless dismissed these criticisms and moved on to his “entirely speculative formulation relating sex and sexual intermediacy to idioplasmic differences between individuals.”(Ibid. p.75)

Weininger speculates that Nägeli’s idioplasm could theoretically occur in two ideal-typical forms: male (arrhenoplasm) and female (thelyplasm). Weininger argues that it is the case with both biology and ontology that absolute masculinity or femininity is impossible. Weininger argues that localized asymmetries of sexual differentiation could occur within any organism, which would account for masculine men without beards, and feminine women with narrow hips. Weininger ignored the contemporary approach which characterized these differences as a result of sex gland secretion and instead argued in support of Nägeli’s hypothesis that these differences were the result of idioplasmic differences. Among the many reasons for the ambiguity of the scientific establishment on the question of the origin of sexual differentiation was the inability of scientists until 1910 to conduct experiments which would study the development of organisms after extirpating the earliest fetal rudiments of the sex glands. No consensus on this subject was reached until long after Weininger’s death. In this respect, Weininger may be applauded for “competently adding his own hypothesis and some sensible suggestions for future research” to a biological debate that was far from resolved at the turn of the century. (Ibid, p.76) The importance of these microscopic speculations was to deconstruct the common macroscopic understanding of sexuality in which a person was divided into simple bivalent categories. Weininger challenged this conventional notion by arguing that microscopic features which contained the rudiments of ideal masculinity and femininity were the origin of sexual differentiation.

Throughout “Sex and Character”, Weininger misappropriates contemporary research to create the appearance of a scientific work while at the same time criticizing the inductive nature of science as insufficient to realize the deductive goals to which it hopes to examine. Weininger’s speculation about ideoplasm, while it was currently discussed in biomedical literature, was not grounded in experimental data, but instead, in the lofty scientific speculations of Weininger himself. Weininger presumes to be able to rationally deduce universal natural laws from preceding hypothesis, while ignoring counter-arguments and the context in which these investigations have been made. Weininger’s goal throughout his “scientific section” was simply to provide a plausible scientific basis for his further philosophical examination of the ontological character of the ideal man and woman. While this section of Weininger’s work is an attempt to show a correspondence between his philosophy and contemporary science, which reflects his early enthusiasm for scientific positivism, it is ultimately a charade meant to hoodwink the reader into believing that his Neo-Kantian metaphysical speculations have the support of the scientific establishment.

Weininger’s science is an excerpt of his doctoral dissertation and successfully maintains the façade of a moderately respectful and impartial scientist. However, his purpose in this biological treatise becomes increasing clear as the text comes to fruition in the final chapter of the first section when he attempts to apply his speculation to the political subject of “the woman question”. Weininger’s larger philosophical aim is described by Sengoopta as follows: “Weininger’s argument, of course, was philosophical only in its terminology and rhetoric. Based largely on medical discourse, which Weininger displaced, reinscribed, and transformed in order to align his ‘data’ with his profoundly political ontology, Weininger’s much-vaunted resolution of the Woman Question consisted of the demonstration that since Woman did not possess an individual identity and intelligible self, she could not demand freedom and autonomy. Her only valid identity was that of a sexual object of Man.”

As reprehensible as Weininger’s conclusions may seem, it should be noted, in his defense, that when Weininger writes of “Woman” he is neither speaking of all women or even an individual woman but instead of the ‘ideal’ or ‘absolute’ abstract platonic woman which contains all those aspects of femininity which could never be actually instantiated within any individual woman. This has been a notable cause for confusion among Weininger’s critics, who have mistakenly assumed (and with some textual support) that Weininger was condemning the entirety of the female sex and soulless automatons lacking in an indivisible and imperishable ego. If we are to be charitable to Weininger, which the scientific and philosophical acumen of his texts demands, we should interpret his text as merely asserting that woman contains a greater proportion of femininity which Weininger argues is lacking in an intelligible ego. Both Weininger’s popularity among his readers and what Wittgenstein called his “great mistake” should be seen in relation to the difficulties of interpreting the extent of Weininger’s apparently monstrous conclusions.

Harrowitz, Nancy A., and Barbara Hyams, eds. Jews and Gender : Responses to Otto Weininger. New York: Temple UP, 1994.
Weininger, Otto. Sex and Character. Grand Rapids: Kessinger, LLC, 2006.
Sengoopta, Chandak. Otto Weininger : Sex, Science, and Self in Imperial Vienna. New York: University of Chicago P, 2000.
Abrahamsen, David. The Mind and Death of a Genius. Columbia University Press, 1946
Monk, Ray. Ludwig Wittgenstein : The Duty of Genius. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1991

Saturday, September 13, 2008

History of Peace Plans from Antiquity to the Modern Era

[I have written this for next week's UPA discussion on the same topic]

History of Peace from Antiquity to the Christian Era
by Ryan Haecker

Perpetual Peace Attempts in Antiquity:

Internecine warfare was endemic to the Greek world throughout the recorded history. The first attempt at an intercity organization to arbitrate disputes was the Amphictyonic League(600BC-200AD) which was founded as a religious organization to host the Olympic games. The League doctrine established rules of conduct in wartime. After the Persian Wars(498-448BC), and the subsequent collapse of the Greek Alliance, the Athenians rallied the Ionian Greeks and created the Delian League; a multi-state federations founded with the expressed purpose of fighting the Persian Empire. The league was slowly transformed into a despotic Athenian Empire. The Delian league would clash with the multi-state alliance called the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta during the 27 year long Peloponnesian War. The first representative federal league was the Boeotian League(371-335BC) which was founded by the Thebans and the surrounding peoples of Boetia. The Boeotian League extended suffrage to all members of the Hoplite class, created a common market with common coinage, and established a assembly with representatives from all 11 districts of Boeotia. The Boeotian League scored an initial success with the utter defeat of Sparta at the Battle of Luectra(371BC) but was ultimately unmade after the sack of Thebes(335BC) by Alexander the Great.

Despite the end of Greek independence after the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians, Ancient writers continued to hope that a monolithic state could bring about world peace. The Athenian orator Isocrates (436–338 BC) dreamed of uniting all Greek peoples under a single ruler, who would then redirect the martial energies of the Greek peoples against the Persian barbarians:

“I am about to advise you to stand at the head of a Greek alliance and lead a Greek campaign against the barbarians[Persians]” -Letter from Isocrates to Phillip II

His hope was fulfilled in the year of his death when Phillip II united all of Greece under the Macedonian dominated Corinthian League(338BC). His 19 year old son Alexander III would later go on to conquer the majority of the known world(334-323BC). However the wars of the “Diadochi”(322-281BC), the successors of Alexander, would end all hope of a universal kingdom. Greek power would become increasingly fragmented during the Hellenistic period until the final conquest of the eastern Mediterranean by the Roman Republic(71-31BC). Many Greeks still hoped that the Roman Empire would bring about world peace, and for two centuries, from the triumph of Augustus to the assassination of Commodus(27BC-180AC), the Roman world enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity which historians call the “Pax Romana”(the Roman Peace). But this peace proved to be despotic, increasing the disparity of wealth and impoverishing the great majority of the empire. Eventually the empire would sink into desolation and ruin and the peace projects of antiquity would be forgotten.

Perpetual Peace attempts in the Christian Era:

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”—Luke 6:27-31

After the conversion of Constantine at the Battle of Milvian Bridge(312BC) and the subsequent conversion of the Roman World to the Christian faith when Theodosius I proclaimed Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire(380), many Christian's hoped that as the Empire became increasingly Christian, war would cease to haunt their daily lives. But despite the pacific message of the Christian faith, war would remain endemic to human existence despite the best intentions of the faithful. With the realization that warfare could not be wholly avoided, St. Augustine of Hippo(354-430AD) formulated theories of Just War by which Christian princes should govern.

In the darkest years after the collapse of Roman power in the western world, Monasticism developed as a means of escaping from internecine strife and protesting the social and political oppression of the times. Monastic orders such as the Benedictines and Augustinians sought to achieve spiritual tranquility in a time when peace between kingdoms was unattainable.

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic church, the Western World's greatest international institution, attempted to, like the Amphictionic League, set standards for the just conduct of war. The “Pax Die” or Peace of God (989AD-) movement was one of the ways that the Catholic Church attempted to Christianize and pacify the feudal structures of society through non-violent means. Begun in the year 989AD at the Synod of Charroux, local clergy would issue proclamations which granted peasants, clergy, women, and children immunity from civil strife. Excommunication would be the punishment for an offender who attacked or robbed the defenseless. “Treuga Dei” or the Truce of God were days set aside in which violence would not be permitted. Papal and episcopal arbitration settled countless disputes; and just-war legal and some theological thought affirmed rights of individual conscience and popular consensus against war.

During the Renaissance, humanist scholars like Sir Thomas More hoped that the spread of the Gospel through printmaking would bring about an end to war. Franciscan friars like Bartolomé de las Casas attempted to restrain the imperial excesses of the Spanish conquistadors and worked for peace and justice for the Mexican Natives. A French political writer named Émeric Crucé(1590-1648AD) hypothesized in a work on international relations in which he envisaged an international body which would gather the representatives of the Princes of Europe to meet in Venice with the task of resolving disputes among nations. In his “Permanent Peace Congress”, Crucé envisaged a federally united Europe with a uniform standard of weights and measures, a common currency, and free trade.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Excerpts on Pacifism

French writer Guy de Maupassant:
“When I think only of this word war, a kind of terror seizes upon me, as though I were listening to some tale of sorcery, of the Inquisition, some long past,remote abomination, monstrous, unnatural.

“When cannibalism is spoken of, we smile with, pride, proclaiming our superiority to these savages.Who are the savages, the real savages: those who fight toeat the conquered, or those who fight to kill –for nothing but to kill?

“The young recruits, moving about in lines yonder, are destined to death like the flocks of sheep driven by the butcher along the road. They will fall in some plain with a saber cut in the head, or a bullet through the breast. And these areyoung men who might work, be productive and useful. Their fathers are old and poor. Their mothers, who have loved them for twenty years, worshiped them as none but mothers can, will learn in six months’ time, or a year perhaps, that their son, their boy, the big boy reared with so much labor, so much expense, so much love, has been thrown in a hole like some dead dog, after being disemboweled by a bullet, and trampled, crushed, to a mass of pulp by the charges of cavalry. Why have they killed her boy, her handsome boy, her one hope, her pride, and her life? She does not know. Ah, why?

“War! Fighting! Slaughter! Massacres of men! And we have now, in our century, with our civilization, with the spread of science, and the degree of philosophy that the genius of man is supposed to have attained, schools for training to kill, to kill very far off, to perfection, great numbers at once, to kill poor devils of innocent men with families and without any kind of trial.

“And what is most bewildering is that the people do not rise against their governments. For what difference is there between monarchies and republics? The most bewildering thing is that the whole of society is not in revolt at the word war.”

“Ah! We shall always live under the burden of the ancient and odious customs, the criminal prejudices, the ferocious ideas of our barbarous ancestors, for we are beasts, and beasts we shall remain, dominated by instinct and changed by nothing. Wouldn’t any other man than Victor Hugo have been exiled for that mighty cry of deliverance and truth? Today force is called violence, and is being brought to judgment; war has been put on its trial. At the plea of the human race, civilization arraigns warfare, and draws up the great list of crimes laid at the charge of conquerors and generals. The nations are coming to understand that the magnitude of a crime cannot be its extenuation; that if killing is a crime, killing many can be no extenuating circumstance; that if robbery is disgraceful, invasion cannot be glorious. Ah! Let us proclaim these absolute truths; let us dishonor war!’

Edouard Rod:
“What is the good of doing anything? What is the good of undertaking any enterprise? And how are we to love men in these troubled times when every fresh day is a menace of danger?... All we have begun, the plans we are developing, our schemes of work, the little good we may have been able to do, will it not all be swept away by the tempest that is in preparation?... Everywhere the earth is shaking under our feet and storm-clouds are gathering on our horizon that will have no pity on us.

“Ah! If all we had to dread were the revolution that is held up as a specter to terrify us! Since I cannot imagine a society more detestable than ours, I feel more skeptical than alarmed in regard to that which will replace it. If I should have to suffer from the change, I should be consoled by thinking that the executioners of that day were the victims of the previous time, and the hope of something better would help us to endure the worst. But it is not that remote peril that frightens me. I see another danger, nearer and far more cruel – more cruel because there is no excuse for it, because it is absurd, because it can lead to no good. Every day one balances the chances of war on tomorrow, every day they become more merciless.

“The imagination revolts before the catastrophe that is coming at the end of our century as the goal of the progress of our era, and yet we must get used to facing it. For twenty years past every resource of science has been exhausted in the invention of engines of destruction, and soon a few charges of cannon will suffice to annihilate a whole army. No longer are a few thousand poor devils paid a price for their blood and kept under arms, but whole nations are under arms to cut each other’s throats. They are robbed of their time now (by compulsory service) that they may be robbed of their lives later. To prepare them for the work of massacre, their hatred is kindled by persuading them that they are hated. And peaceable men let themselves be played on thus and go and fall on one another with the ferocity of wild beasts; furious troops of peaceful citizens taking up arms at an empty word of command, for some ridiculous question of frontiers or colonial trade interests – Heaven only knows what... They will go like sheep to the slaughter, knowing all the while where they are going, knowing that they are leaving their wives, knowing that their children will want for food, full of misgivings, yet intoxicated by the finesounding lies that are dinned into their ears. They will march without revolt, passive, resigned – though the numbers and the strength are theirs, and they might, if they knew how to co-operate together, establish the reign of good sense and fraternity, instead of the barbarous trickery of diplomacy. They will march to battle so deluded, so duped, that they will believe slaughter to be a duty, and will ask the benediction of God on their lust for blood. They will march to battle trampling underfoot the harvests they have sown, burning the towns they have built – with songs of triumph, festive music, and cries of jubilation. And their sons will raise statues to those who have done most in their slaughter.

“The destiny of a whole generation depends on the hour in which some ill-fated politician may give the signal that will be followed. We know that the best of us will be cut down and our work will be destroyed in embryo. We know it and tremble with rage, but we can do nothing. We are held fast in the toils of officialdom and red tape, and too rude a shock would be needed to set us free. We are enslaved by the laws we set up for our protection, which have become our oppression. We are but the tools of that autocratic abstraction the state, which enslaves each individual in the name of the will of all, who would all, taken individually, desire exactly the opposite of what they will be made to do.

“And if it were only a generation that must be sacrificed! But there are graver interests at stake. The paid politicians, the ambitious statesmen, who exploit the evil passions of the populace, and the imbeciles who are deluded by fine-sounding phrases, have so embittered national feuds that the existence of a whole race will be at stake in the war of tomorrow. One of the elements that constitute the modern world is threatened, the conquered people will be wiped out of existence, and whichever it may be, we shall see a moral force annihilated, as if there were too many forces to work for good – we shall have a new Europe formed on foundations so unjust, so brutal, so sanguinary, stained with so monstrous a crime, that it must be worse than the Europe of today – more iniquitous, more barbarous, more violent.

“Thus one feels crushed under the weight of an immense discouragement. We are struggling in a cul de sac with muskets aimed at us from the housetops. Our labor is like that of sailors executing their last task as the ship begins to sink. Our pleasures are those of the condemned victim, who is offered his choice of dainties a quarter of an hour before his execution. Thought is paralyzed by anguish, and the most it is capable of is to calculate – interpreting the vague phrases of government ministers, spelling out the sense of the speeches of sovereigns, and ruminating on the words attributed to diplomatists reported on the uncertain authority of the newspapers – whether it is to be tomorrow or the day after, this year or the next, that we are to be murdered. Consequently, one might seek in vain in history for an epoch more insecure and more crushed under the weight of suffering.”

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

O'Neil Cylinders

O'Neil Cylinders: The Exciting Future of Space Colonization
By Ryan Haecker

In a 1798 essay entitled 'an Essay on the Principle of Population', Thomas Robert Malthus speculated, with knowledge of the 18th century English and American population boom, about the potential problems associated with an unsustainable population growth. Before the first modern census(1801) Malthus had correctly foreseen that the population of the western world was rapidly and uncontrollably increasing. With the population of the world expected to approach 9 billion by 2050, the problems of overpopulation and global environmental sustainablility have today an increasing relevance. Since this problem of overpopulation became apparent, futurists and science fiction writers such as K. Drixler, Gerard O'Neil, and Micheal Savage have speculated about the possibility of overcoming the 'Malthusian population limit' through the habiation of artificial worlds outside the confines of the earth. After the Civil War, American writer Edward Everett Hale was the first to write about space habitation in his novel, a 'Brick Moon'. Later in the 19th century, a Russian writer named 'Konstantin Tsiolkovsky tackled the idea more technically in a 1895 science-fiction story, and in 1903 expanded his description to include rotation for artificial gravity, the use of solar energy, and even a space greenhouse with a closed ecosystem...The notion of a rotating wheel-shaped station was introduced in 1929 by Herman Noordung in his Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums (The Problem of Space Flight). He called his 30-meter-diameter station "Wohnrad" (Living Wheel) and suggested it be placed in geostationary orbit.'

Space colonization affords man the previously undreamt of oppurtunity of expanding outside the confines of the Earth's habitable biosphere. However, there daunting engineering hurdles that will forestall and inhibit all future attempts to domesticate the vaccuum of space. The first difficulty is that immediate problem of protecting onself from solar radiation. Within the Earth's biosphere, the oxygen rich atmosphere effectively eliminates all harmful radiations. Outside of this protective barrier, humans will be forced to provide their own means of survival. Additionally, there is the problem of interplanetary debrees and micrometeriorites that pose a lethal danger to all artificial spaceborne human environments. To effectively encase a human settlement in the extraterrestrial armor needed to overcome these difficulties will require an enormous space platform to support the necessary thick walls. However this same lethal solar radiation is also essential for human survival. Without the sunlight, either natural or artificial, plantlife cannot grow. Without plants, there can be no natural ecosystem. More importantly, human beings require a natural cycle of day and night to live comfortably and heathily. Any large scale colonization effort will therefore have to reconcile the contradictory demands of providing sunlight while protecting the inhabitants from harmful solar radiation.

Once the problems of atmospheric containment a radiation are overcome, the chief hazard, which will forever inhibit the human habitaiton of space will be that of gravitation. In an environment which lacks the Earth's tremendous gravity, man's bones and muscles will quickly atrophe and whither away. Barring the constructiong of a space outpost with a mass equal to that of the earth, the surest means of overcoming this obstacle will be to find some means of artificially simulating the force of gravity. The aforementioned Konstantin Tsiolkovsky(1903) was the first to write about the possibility of using the centrifugal force of a rotating wheel to produce artificial gravity in space. A wheel shaped space station, once set in motion, could perpetually generate centrifugal force, providing artificial gravity as effortlessly as on the earth. This wheel shaped space station design has proven popular in Hollywood and science fiction, featuring prominently in the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As a circle is the natural extension of any rotating vessel, a spinning wheel is similarly the most logical and efficient design for a small orbital space outpost.

While this wheel shaped design might forseeably serve as a small space station, any signifcant human colonization of space will require a much larger installation. By extending the wheel shape along it's Z-axis we can multiply the amount of habital space within any rotating space colony many times over. Just such a cylindrical space colony was first proposed by Gerard O'Neil in 1974 in his book 'The High Frontier'. Gerard O'Neil's designed called for the construction of a 'gargantuan cylinder with hemispherical end caps, 32 kilometers (20 miles) long and 6.4 kilometers (four miles) in diameter, with a habitable surface area of 325 square kilometers (125½ square miles) or 32,500 hectares (80,310 acres) supporting a population in the tens of millions...Orbiting with one end facing the sun, it’s divided lengthwise into six alternating “ground” and “sky” panels, so only half of the inner surface is actually available for habitation. Three mirrors project outward at a 45° angle from the end facing away from the Sun and reflect sunlight through the translucent “sky” panels to the landscaped “ground” panels opposite them.' This so called 'sunflower' arrangement is the most efficient means of directing natural sunlight unto a rotating orbital platform.

Each of the three valleys within the colony is an elongated rectangle 32 kilometers (20 miles) long and 3.2 kilometers (two miles) wide, yielding a total area of 105 square kilometers (40 square miles). The six cities and their associated suburbs cover an area of 41.4 square kilometers (16 square miles) each. The three rural areas cover an area of 20.7 square kilometers (eight square miles) each, which must be shared evenly between the two urban/suburban centers at either end. WIthin these cylinders, gravity will be 'simulated' through the centrifugal force of the rotating colony.'The simulated “gravity” resulting from the rotation varies from one “G” at the base of the mountain to zero-G at the apex. The drop-off is linear—at the 1.6-kilometer (one-mile) level, midway (45°) up the mountainside, the pseudo-gravity is 50% (½ G). You can calculate the acceleration that produces this pseudo-gravity using the formula F=rω²/g, where F is the resulting acceleration, r is the distance from the central axis, ω is the angular velocity (a constant equal to 2π times the number of rotations per second) and g is the acceleration due to gravity experienced on Earth (9.80665 m/s² or 32.174 ft/s²).'

The three problems which inhibit the human colonization of space are: One, the problem of effective solar lighting and a day and night cycle. Two, the necessity of artificial gravity. And three, the containment of the atmosphere and protection from the radiation and vacuum of space. O'Neil's design was important because it is the most logical and efficient design to handle all three of these design problems. Through his rotating cylindrical design, O'Neil overcomes the problem of artificial gravitation. With the mirrors and windows reflecting solar light, O'Neil's design creates an artificial day and night cycle, as well as generating solar energy. Finally, the massive quartz windows and moon rock exterior effectively protects and contains the internal atmosphere.

Although O'Neil cylinders are technically constructable with existing technology, their enormous size and requisite expense will prevent anything of this sort from being built in the near future. In the distant future, as space flight becomes more practicable and population pressures become more acute, we may come to consider the necessity and enjoyment of living outside the Earth's atmosphere. For this purpose, O'Neil cylinders offer humanity a bright and hopeful, ecologically sustainable future.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Chivalry in the Age of Autonomous Weapons pt. 2

Chivalry in the Age of Autonomous Weapons
by Ryan Haecker

In the 21st century, man has empowered his tools to autonomously kill other men on his behalf. These weapons can operate independent of their human creators, while retaining the capacity to kill other men. In a very real sense, Man, the paragon of Animals, has created a species of “predators” where nature had failed to supply one. Just like animals, these automatons are thoughtless and ruthlessly efficient; the perfect digital servants of a triumphant civilization. By collectivizing, mechanizing, and digitalizing modern warfare we have developed the science and art of war to unprecedented efficiency. But our mastery of the clockwork of battle has dehumanized us in the process.With the ever increasing abstraction and artificiality of 21st century warfare, a new moral imperative will be required to render hospitable this increasingly inhuman battlefield. The Categorical Imperative demands that we show compassion to all human beings.Abstract mechanical processes must no longer dispense life and death to human beings. If we ever aspire to be a “Kingdom of Ends”, then chivalry must return to the digital battlefield.

The Romans were the first to realize that warfare was not merely a martial contest, but a contractual relationship. The Romans added the concept of “Just Cause” to Just War Theory by applying the legal understanding of contractual obligation to the relationship between nations. Cicero correctly noted that war could be said to be just only if it seeked to redress some grievance; such as the loss of goods or prestige(rebus repetitis). Because warfare must have some purposeful just cause, it will always be more than merely a martial contest. Warfare is a contractual relationship, both on the collective level of the state and the individual level of the soldier. The individual soldier fights for the redress of the collective grievance of the state as well as on an individual basis against individual opponents. In this way, warfare is, in every instance, a contractual relationship in which party A seeks to redress some grievance which party B will not allow. Because of this relationship, warfare can be understood in the symbolic abstract:

Combatant A brings a dispute to battle in order to redress some damage done to them by combatant B. While combatant B may not have the same combative means (weapons, skill, experience etc.) as A, combatant B affirms his acceptance of the contractual relationship by refusing to submit to A’s demands and instead taking up arms. Both combatants employ primary and secondary combative means to achieve victory in battle. The primary combative means are those abilities which are immediately available to a human combatant(intellect, willpower, strength etc.) without the use of tools or artificial implements. The secondary combative means are those means which are employed in addition to primary means, such as javelins and guided missiles, in order to afford the combatant an added artificial advantage:1. A require a redress of grievances from B: A makes demands on B2. B refuses demands of A, and chooses to enter into a combative contest with A3. A employs (primary means) X B employs (primary means) Y + (Secondary means) 4 + (Secondary means) 2 Assuming X=Y, this conflict is unfairly biased in favor of combatant A because A is employing twice the secondary means (ex: longer spears) as combatant B. However X and Y remain unknown whole numbers since human potential will and intellect are unquantifiable(for our example we will use a range of 1-10).

B recognizes his disadvantage in secondary means buy chooses to enter into the contest with the hope that (Y+2)>(X+4). because the primary means(X&Y) can be any whole number from 1-10, combatant B may have a fairly good chance of employing a greater total of primary and secondary means through which he defeats combatant A. Because the primary means in this example vary from 1-10, while A has merely a +2 advantage in secondary means, the primary human means become far more important. In this way human combatants can be said to influence battles inasfar as the artificial tools(secondary means) which they use are not disproportionately more powerful than the humans(primary means) which use them. conversely, combative relationships become inhuman to the degree to which the secondary artificial means are more powerful than the primary human means which direct them. In this way, we can establish linear relationship to symbolically represent the human-ness or inhuman-ness of combative relationships. Those methods of warfare which employ a greater proportion of secondary artificial means are to that degree inhuman, and those methods which employ a greater proportion of primary means are to that degree more human.Human war <-(greater proportion of primary means)-----(greater proportion of secondary means)-> Artificial warWhen man empowers his tools with the autonomy to kill other men, he alters the previously understood combative relationship in such a way as to make it dehumanizing. The aforementioned relationship had required 2 human combative parties to freely consent to the armed struggle in which both human combatants would act as autonomous combatants in themselves, employing dependent secondary means as merely extensions of their own autonomous will. When those secondary dependent means are granted a degree of autonomy from their human controllers, they usurp the status of combatants.

Although these secondary means are now autonomous, they still remain merely instrumental means because they cannot, like humans, willfully consent to do battle. These autonomously empowered instruments are mere automatons, without the rational choice to do otherwise than that for which they are designed. The combative relationship that now exists, between artificial means and human willful combatants changes from a true martial contest between actual combatants to a merely mechanical process by which man uses instruments as a means to destroy his fellow man. This process cannot be called 'battle' in the aforementioned sense because the one or more of the human actors has been removed from the combative relationship. With the usurpation of the combative role of humans by machines, this relationship becomes merely a mechanized process of destroying human lives. War then becomes an extension of industry and computer science rather than a true martial contest between nations.

As the science and art of war advances at an exponential pace(with the exponential advancement of technology[12]), the ability to of humans to influence battles, or the “human factor”, becomes increasingly diminished. In the 7th century BC, the Greeks developed a method of warfare in which individual citizen soldiers would be amassed in a densely packed mechanistic formation called the hoplite phalanx. By replacing the individual soldier with the collective weight of many soldiers working in tandem, the Greeks could gain a decisive edge in the arms race of antiquity. But this advance in the science of war proved to be a Faustian bargain: individual soldiers would no longer be allowed to freely choose which combative relationship they entered upon. With the fear of death in mind, soldiers would sacrifice their individual autonomy for the advantages of collective commanded warfare. The chivalry of Homer could not survive the hoplite revolution. As spears became longer and formations became tighter, individual men were reduced in importance until they became merely predictable mechanistic numerical values rather than decisive variables. All of an individual man's courage and dignity in battle could no longer carry the deciding weight because the variable primary human means of X would no longer outweigh the secondary means of X which could be in excess of +10, +100, and +1000. With the introduction of industry into warfare, individual courage could be gunned down with the swiftness of a rapid fire machine gun. These were the horrors of the Battle of Verdun and the Somme when men first encountered the the ruthless efficiency of inhuman warfare. Today, Guided missiles and Autonomous weapons have so far empowered secondary artificial means as to make immediate primary human means inconsequential. This increasing collectivization and mechanization of warfare will continue to abstract and artificialize warfare. As this process continues, the human element will be almost entirely extricated from warfare, leaving only digital inhuman warfare in it's place.

As the human element is continually replaced by the digital element, the destinies of individual soldiers will be increasingly determined by abstract mechanical processes. When the autonomy of an individual soldier is subsumed by mechanical warfare and the digital element man's will is subsumed within the workings of an inalterable mechanistic process. This process, whether it be the hoplite phalanx or the hyper warfare of the digital age, denies man the autonomy of action that he would have had otherwise. This creates a condition in which men are treated merely as means and not as human ends in themselves. Because humans treat themselves as ends, the Categorical imperative requires that we treat our neighbors as ends in themselves and not merely as the means of our own subjective ends[11]. Less ethical warfare is then that method of warfare wherein men are treated merely as means. As warfare becomes more artificial and collectivized, men lose their autonomy of action. This creates a condition in which man has less of an ability to will himself towards his own subjective ends. In contrast, More ethical warfare is that method of warfare in which man is liberated from artificial mechanisms of the collective. It is that method of warfare in which man's immediate primary means of intellect, will, and martial valor are proportionately more important than the merely artificial secondary means. In this way we can establish a linear opposition between more and less perfect methods of warfare.

Human/Individual/Primary means Inhuman/ Collective/ Secondary Means

If we abstract this linear opposition towards its most ethical form ad infitum, we can imagine a most perfect, more chivalrous method of warfare. Chivalry as we will use the word, is the abstract form of the most perfectly ethical form of warfare. All methods of warfare are ethical insofar as they approach in likeness the form of Chivalry. Chivalry can be understood in Kantian terms as that method of warfare in which man is treated to the greatest degree as an end in himself and not merely as a means to some further subjective end. Chivalry is that method of warfare in which man in the arbiter of his own desitny. It is that method in which man is free from the restraints of the abstract mechanistic collective. In chivalry, individual combat is superior to collective combat and primary means are superior to secondary means. Chivalry is respect for human war, and disregard for the tactical advantages of inhuman war.

The Hindu Epic the Mahabharata tells the story of the 18 day Kurukshetra War in which all of India is divided between the sibling clans of the Pandavas and the Kauravas[14]. During the battle, both sides agree to abide by the rules of Dharmayuddha(righteous warfare). Included within these rules are two pertaining to correct method of warfare:

Multiple warriors may not attack a single warrior.
Two warriors may "duel," or engage in prolonged personal combat, only if they carry the same weapons and they are on the same mount (no mount, a horse, an elephant, or a chariot).

In the 21th century, the demands of necessity have caused the rules of righteous warfare to be discarded. The use of UAV's(unmanned aerial vehicles) and NCW(network centric warfare) to destroy other men represents the further abstractions and artificialization of warfare. This process began in the 7th century BC and it has continued at an exponentially accelerating rate. The ever increasing power of mans tools will in the future offer man further opportunities to artificialize and abstract warfare. If we are to be a 'Kingdom of Ends' we have a moral imperative to match in our conduct what our epic poems teach us about humane and righteous warfare. We have a moral obligation to rectify the ethical deficiency began when Hellenic warfare replaced Homeric.

11. Immanuel Kant, the Metaphysics of Morals p.36 http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/5i.htm

12. Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity is Near p.64 http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/moore.ars/

13. Randy J. Blakenship, Could he be President? 2004 p.59614. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurukshetra_war

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chivalry in the Age of Autonomous Weapons pt.1

Chivalry in the Age of Autonomous Weapons
By Ryan Haecker
From javelins to rifles, instruments have been wielded by men to make war. It is only in the 20th century that these instruments have wielded themselves. As early as 1916, Great Britain had begun experimenting with A. M. Low's “Aerial Target” drone[1]. During the Second World War, the German Luftwaffe employed V1 and V2 rockets[2], the first guided missiles, to terrorize London from across the English Channel. Today, the United States Air Force employs a large number of unmanned aerial vehicles like the missile armed MQ-1 Predator[3]. While many of these weapons systems require a operator on the ground, the Global Hawk[4] and others like it can operate completely autonomously. As computer technology advances exponentially, we should expect the 21st century to bring wars unlike any yet seen in our history: Automated wars fought and won by automated weapons. Soon human lives will be exchanged in an enormously complex satellite guided mechanical process. Where warfare had once required individual courage and martial valor, it will soon require only information networks and computer technicians. Just as the 20th century was appalled by the horrors industrial warfare, the 21st century will soon grow disgusted with the guided missiles and autonomous weapons of the digital age. If we must engage in the pursuit of war, then compassion demands that we should be just and respectful in the process of warfare. This requires that we treat our enemies as human ends, and not merely as the means that fuel the cogs of war. So that human warriors might be saved from the most ignoble and dishonorable of deaths, chivalry must return to warfare in the age of autonomous weapons.

Warfare has never remained a static practice. Todays exponentially increasing technological advancement has accelerated this change. The concept of Network Centric Warfare(NCW) first appeared in 1998 with the publication of John Gartska's book of the same name. Gartska examined the business community's use of information sharing to show the potential for a new military doctrine in which information superiority, rather than quantitative or industrial superiority, could allow for a tactical superiority on the battlefield[10]. Information superiority allows commanders both greater situational awareness and the ability to deny this information to their opponents. Shared situational awareness among soldiers and commanders allows an army to synchronize and coordinate its maneuvers, dramatically increasing the performance speed of an attacking force. When soldiers can maneuver more precisely, and at the same time deny their enemy information of their movements, they have the ability of operate with impunity within enemy territory. This allows for tactical advantages to be exploited to their fullest use. From the implementation of this doctrine in the the recent wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, we have learned that information superiority can allow a numerically inferior force to easily defeat a vastly numerically superior opponent. Just as armament factories allowed industrialized nations to dominate the battlefields of the industrial age, so too will information superiority allow those nations with satellite networks to dominate the battlefields of the digital age.

The most decisive advantage which information superiority brings is the ability of air power to deliver pinpoint attacks to the ground. When commanders have immediate real time information of the battlefield, they also gain the ability to, within minutes, deliver precision weaponry from fighter-bomber aircraft onto ground targets. Currently, the process of identifying targets to delivering precision bombs takes anywhere from 30minutes to 2 hours. With the increasing use of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, information processing, and ever-present UAV's, we should expect this time delay to dramatically decrease. In the future, militaries may be able to sight, identify, and eliminate targets through the use of high speed computer processing entirely without the intervention of a human controller. In the digital age, peer to peer networks and global communications will be more decisive than the highest caliber artillery. In 2003, Alberts and Hayes published the book “Power of the Edge” which examines the potential of using peer to peer networks to autonomously synchronize war fighters to allow them to operate independent of a traditional hierarchical command structure. This would allow individual unit commanders to make strategic decisions involving troop movements and airborne munitions in the way that Generals do today. In the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson chose the target of nearly every American air strike. In the future, the application of Facebook and Napster to the digital battlefield, will give individual soldiers the ability to decide where airborne munitions fall as well as the strategic course of battle.

Until the information age, the tools that man has used to kill other men have always required a human actor. In the age of superfast digital processors, humans for the first time have the ability to empower tools to autonomously command themselves. This military advancement has recently enjoyed widespread use among western militaries. As of 2005, the US Army has used robotic explosive disposal units in over 20,000 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. These robotic S.W.O.R.D.S.[5](Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System) have also been fitted with machine guns and deployed in Iraq since 2004. More ominously, western militaries are increasingly investing in unmanned fighter bombers. The French military has recently flown the Dassault nEUROn[6]; a European unmanned stealth fighter-bomber scheduled for service by 2020. The United States Navy has a similar project called the X-47 Pegasus[7]; envisioned as a carrier based fighter-bomber that will eventually replaced manned carrier strike craft. The most terrifying new concept is what the USAF calls “Just In Time Strike Augmentation”(JITSA)[8]. The concept calls for a swarm of 50+, 100lb., meter long, “Dominator” UAV's to circle a battlefield for up to 40 hours at a time. These UAV's could at a moments notice be called upon to deliver 2-8 guided missiles from its belly onto a ground target. This is only the first generation of such omnipresent ground-attack aircraft. The Airforce has plans to create even smaller versions of these UAV's that can operate ever increasing amounts of time. There has been recent research into the development of hummingbird sized UAV's called Micro Air Vehicles(MAV's)[9]. In the future, battlefields may be saturated with a near infinite number of minuscule UAV's, each able to unload deadly force on target at a moments notice. The prevalence of UAV's on the battlefield of today offers commanders near complete omni pretense of the events occurring. In a future wartime scenario in which deadly force could be delivered effectively and immediately to any target, commanders would increasingly approach the threshold of omni potency as well.

While the ability of the individual to significantly influence battles seems to have only existed in Homer, pre-modern battles, to a much greater degree, remained physical and tangible contests between large bodies of soldiers. Although Homeric warfare of Hector and Achilles didn't survive the Hoplite Revolution, Greek warfare would remain at least remain a tangible contest between opposing bodies of hoplite citizens throughout the 5th century. Only when Athens constructed her Long Walls and built her immense professional navy did wars truly leave the realm of immediate human influence and understanding. Unlike previous Greek wars, the Peloponnesian War was, to a far greater degree, decided by extra-human factors such as economics, food supplies, tributaries, and the plagues. Men still faced each other immediately on the battlefield, but these contests would no longer be the deciding factor in wars. In a very real sense, economics contests of attrition like the Peloponnesian war, are intangibly removed from direct human experience.

While Athenians might bemoan the abstractness of attritional warfare, warfare in antiquity still remained sensibly perceivable. Alcibiades's could still count his triremes on the eve of the disastrous Battle of Aegispotomi. This would begin to change in the later half of the 19th century with the introduction of long range artillery and modern riflery. Where the Great Emperor Napoleon had skillfully commanded his regiments in France during the magnificent Six Day campaign, Napoleon III, half a century later, would be bewildered by the terrible complexity of industrial warfare. The introduction of air power and enormous artillery barrages in the First World War would only further abstract the already surreal nature of industrial warfare. The outcome of warfare would no longer be decided on the field of battle. Increasingly, wars would be decided by “the economy” and “industrial production”. In this way, the technological-industrial revolution has changed the very ontology, or existential nature, of modern warfare. Where Leonidas could perceive and confront an actual enemy, in the industrialized 20th century, wars are much more contests between merely conceptual industrial economies.

As warfare continually grows in complexity we should expect this trend in abstraction to continue. The 21st century is a post industrial information age, in which warfare's ontology will become increasingly digital. Where steel workers once contributed to 20th century industrial wars, in the 21st century, computer technicians and satellite communication networks will be the deciding factor. Today, American military supremacy remains uncontested so long as her orbital communication satellites continue to relay information to and from America's global military assets. With the increased use of UAV's and satellite guided weapons, we can expect this dependence on global communications to increase exponentially. Cyberspace, is truly the medium by which future wars will be decided, because it will be communication superiority instead of industrial superiority that allows 21st century victory. In this way, the decisive factor in warfare- the martial contest between organized factions- will soon have merely a digital existence.

When the exponentially increasing power of future computer processors is applied to autonomous weapons, the already bewildering speed of modern warfare will quickly become incomprehensible. Today, guided missiles and mechanized infantry continue to test the limits of a commanders ability to comprehend and command. As information technology becomes increasingly synchronized, we should expect the speed of warfare to increase dramatically. This information development will coincide with the development of superfast computer processing power[12], to such an extent that military commanders of the future, just like computer game commanders of today, will increasingly turn to artificial intelligence to command and control autonomous weapons. In future digital wars in which battles last minutes instead of days, battlefield superiority will go to those armies with the most efficient command and control systems. Expedience and necessity will compel men to abandon the compassionate control of human beings for the cold certainty of superfast command and control systems. Just as UAV's have taken warfare out of human hands, so too will satellite networks and superfast computer processors soon remove warfare from the realm of human understanding. These wars of the future will be enormous dances of automated weapons, decided at the push of a button. Human actors will be replaced as both the planners and executers of war, yet humans will still participate in the dying.

1. http://www.vectorsite.net/twcruz_1.html
2. http://www.flyingbombsandrockets.com/
3. http://www.airforce-technology.com/projects/predator/
4. http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002647.html
5. http://www.defenselink.mil/transformation/articles/2004-12/ta120604c.html
6. http://www.is.northropgrumman.com/systems/nucasx47b.html
8. http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002309.html
9. http://www.fas.org/irp/program/collect/docs/mav_auvsi.htm
10. http://www.ncwevent.com/ShowEvent.aspx?id=85586
11. Immanuel Kant, the Metaphysics of Morals p.36 http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/5i.htm
12. Ray Kurzweil, the Singularity is Near p.64 http://arstechnica.com/articles/paedia/cpu/moore.ars/
13. Randy J. Blakenship, Could he be President? 2004 p.596