Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ode to Immanuel Kant

Ode to Immanuel Kant

composed and presented aloud on the 286th anniversary of Kant's birth
Along foggy Baltic shores, in centuries gone was found,
amongst pear-plumed steeples and knotted girdles,
Resolute Kant, made humble by late notice,
in sleepy Tuetonic town of Königsberg

Lengthily he speculated into nebulas above- searching, formulating,
and deducing by Leibniz logical laws
Yet lately were his thoughts troubled more by contrast
of philosophie and Newton's universal laws

Upon oft-expected morning sojourns,
which both maintained routine and Kant's virginitee
His careful inquiries would soon chance to find
by trials and turns to considerrings of too reasonable impiety.

Soon his copious deliberations were coarsely intruded
by the fattened skepticism of David Hume
Stunned was he to find yet overlooked that causality protruded
from the cosmos which Leibniz had presumed.

Those cloistered thoughts, long constructed, were swiftly tumbled,
the orderly heavens were loosened and unfixed
Sun and Moon ceased assisting, a new star stirred and rumbled,
the Copernican Revolution began and mixed.

Hibernating went Kant so swiftly,
Ten restless years he descended into critical slumber
Dancing and wrestling. Dialectics and antinomies.
Kant mined cognition for a glittering intuition and a pure number.

Unceasing phenomena, unknowable noumena,
Kant marooned, a perceiver adrift in Space and Time.
Thence was conceived of- Luminous Ego!
The transcendental self , the source of good will mine.

Three Critiques thereafter followed: Pure, Practical, and Judgmental,
to worldwide bafflement and unexpected fame.
Immanuel now exalted, his memory now hallowed,
of comprehension, a poet laureate he is acclaimed.

All concepts' hidden passageways, the self's innermost chambers,
once guarded wisdom now made known.
A self-conscious synthesis of man's intuitions; both space extensive and time eternal,
all within the mind as Kant has shown.

Napoleon's ambition spirited away, Holy Roman Empire surrendered; astounding!
Ideas of Reason disperse through all lands.
Philosophic youths gaily awaken, set now firmly on sure grounding,
an unforeseen synthesis now in hands.

Forevermore Hume's skepticism has retreated,
amoralism and solipsism conclusively expire in very fitting and loathsome ignominy.
Kant has buttressed starry vaults with new permanence,
demonstrated reason's prowess and transparency,
Gloria Immanuel!
His triumph is the minds evermore undimmed sublimity.

a Short Defense of Monarchism

This is a short defense of Monarchy in theory and history written in response to the criticisms of Justin. Please enjoy.


Ugh Ryan. I wasn't going to respond to these strange monarchist outbursts of yours. But come on. I'm all for healthy intellectual dissent, but i highly doubt you're genuine to the core--you delight in too many freedoms that otherwise you would not be deemed entitled to you in a tyrannical regime. I’ve seen your rather Nietzschean arguments that somehow suppose aristocratic excellence (which somehow is more desirable, or more ‘excellent-ish’ than other types of imaginable excellences/[virtues?]) is A.) only achievable in a non-egalitarian social framework (in your case it seems only monarchism could achieve this) and B.) somehow innately desirable. [which of course is ludicrous]

You know that monarchy is not somehow a more natural form of governance, and you *know* that Obama-idolatry or celebrity idolatry isn’t evidence of a society’s natural inclination toward monarchy. There’s no indefeasible warrant connecting the two—at all, just sophistic contrivance. Now, if you wanted to advance some argument that there’s some perpetual, ever-present social forces pushing toward plutocratic oligarchy, then fine, I might even be inclined to agree with you—but that doesn’t get a singular sovereign into the picture…at all.

Furthermore, a monarchy is almost always theoretically predicated upon a social fiction—some supposed ‘divine right’ or what have you. And these fictions are demonstrably (just that)….fictions. There is no social warrant, no bite to an absolute, hereditary monarchy.

In any monarchical system there are extra-monarchical magnates and extra-monarchical feudal or feudal-like structures. IN THIS FACT ALONE we can see the beginnings of the theoretical necessity for popular sovereignty, from that, the seeds of liberalism. Magnates must be pleased in order to maintain power, and their potential (and actual) “usurpation” of power is not only a salient feature of monarchical regimes—but historically a part of every monarchical system this planet has ever seen. Because it is, in fact, a NECESSARY feature of every monarchy—we see that there is NO ORGANIC RIGHT/ENTITLEMENT to absolute sovereignty. There is only practical, this-worldly forces that the person who claims the sovereignty can manage to wield to maintain power—all completely contingent upon his abilities and any other random, relevant state of affairs. **there might be some very tiny nations, or tribes out there where this might not apply, but consider them irrelevant—I refer only to nation states of any sufficient size.

Theoretically, the only way there might be some organic entitlement is to derive some Hobbesian normative claim—which is all predicated upon arcane state of nature arguments—and which still rely on theories of social contract—and, as I won’t go into depth here, I think as soon as we wrestle w/ social contract, popular sovereignty and the seeds of liberalism begin to sprout [I’ll just take that as granted…I’m sure you’re smart enough to fill in the in between steps].

Where else might we find an organic entitlement? Perhaps…God? Ryan, as a good catholic you should be well aware of various encyclical literature praising things like democracy and egalitarianism. This should be enough for you to drop your monarchist claims…or at least any claim that monarchy is somehow innately good…or at VERY least, that monarchy is some how natural or necessary.

Finally, the contemporary monarchy [that is actual] is DE FACTO a fascist and/or otherwise extreme totalitarian regime. I shouldn’t need to go into this too much. Maybe you don’t think that’s too bad—but tell me, examine yourself and ask whether you would really like to live in such a state. The sovereign is always in a harrying fight to maintain his power—which leads to oppressions and violence of every kind—the modes of productions are taken over (this includes far-right regimes…it’s just done through the military industrial complex)—otherwise threatening magnates will arise AKA potential usurpers. There just has been no contemporary monarchy that has been idyllic or pleasant—it has just produced violence and war, oppression and misery…and what may for you be even worse…the antithesis of excellence and virtue.

I hope I haven’t created too many straw men here, I only briefly read a lot of your recent comments floating around Facebook. Regardless, I think these considerations are enough to defeat any monarchist claims. I’m calling you on your bull.


I am pleased that you have expressed such diligent interest in the viability and coherency of Monarchy. I have excerpted what I considered to be the nine principle arguments(in quotes) from the previous reprinting of your criticism.

1. "you delight in too many freedoms that otherwise you would not be deemed entitled to you in a tyrannical regime."

Classical political philosophy, from Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Polybius, to Porphyry, Iamblichus and Augustine, employed the conceptual distinction between monarchy and tyranny. Tyranny, in contradistinction to monarchy, was considered to be an illegitimate usurpation of the State; generally by a personal turn to wickedness, the force of partisan loyalists, or the cajolery of populist demagoguery, for the aim of private interest and aggrandizement unrestrained by moderation, law or governmental bodies. By contrast, Monarchy was considered as a healthy and virtuous form of government, in equal proportion to the viciousness and pathology of Tyranny. Where the former was thought to be a harmonious and integral social body, ordered by the unreflective expression of prudence, wisdom, civility and compassion, the latter was required, in the absence of these virtues, to employ the legal and administrative powers of the State to forcibly coerce and compel compliance with the self-indulgent whims of the Sovereign. In short, Monarchy was envisioned as an idyllic community in which virtue was natural and spontaneous, rather than mere hypocrisy or affectation, and obedience resulted, not from legal or social compulsion, but rather from a fraternal cooperation and a genuine admiration and fidelity to the excellence and superiority of the rulers.

However both Plato and Aristotle recognized the fragility of the ideal Monarchy due to the weakness of social immoderation and human caprice, and for this reason forewarned that a monarchist regime was all too prone to descend into Tyranny if the sovereign were not of exceeding superiority of character and the severest self-restraint. For this reason both classical philosophers, while recognizing the lofty aspiration of Monarchy, advised a variety of remedies(a topic of investigation for political theorizing, yet the concern of philosopher-poets of old!) with which to restrain the sovereign, so that his expected incontinence and inadequacies might be prevented from thereby imperiling the State. In reference to the classical tradition of political philosophy, it should be apparent that the integral fraternity and humane felicity of Monarchy need not imply an unfavorable diminution of freedom, but instead rather serves to enable a more immediate freedom of personal actualization and princely decisiveness; both of which remain unrestrained by either constitutional proceduralism or legalism, and yet simultaneously adhere without reflection to the requirements of the universal Moral Law! Furthermore, this sublime vision of government is intended, not merely for the private avarice of the Sovereign, but for the vigor and spiritedness of broader society; who are through this means united in action and intention by a continually renewed bond of fraternity and courtesy, extending from the humblest servant to the most resplendent and magnanimous prince.

2. "I’ve seen your rather Nietzschean arguments that somehow suppose aristocratic excellence (which somehow is more desirable, or more ‘excellent-ish’ than other types of imaginable excellences/virtues?) is a.) only achievable in a non-egalitarian social framework (in your case it seems only monarchism could achieve this) and b.) somehow innately desirable. [which of course is ludicrous]"

The second contention which you raise(2.b) concerns whether virtue and excellence are innately desirable by all men, or merely the parochial aspiration of Aristotelians or Nietzscheans. While it appears that you seem find this proposition to be prima facie "ludicrous", instead I contend that the desirability of these qualities is both apodeictically and categorically true- or truly the case everywhere and always for all persons! We should ask how could virtue could be unwelcome when broadly conceived as the pragmatic capacity to act freely, a potentiality and will to power, as well as the moral conscience and discipline to resolutely adhere in thought and action to what reason informs us to be practically required and theoretically true. When virtue is thusly conceived, it is viewed not as an arbitrary social circumscription or an unfavorable restrictedness, but as the very means and measure of will and action with which to actualize the intrinsic potential of our selves in accordance with the pragmatic and theoretical necessities of the world! As no alternative to this moral and pragmatic freedom can possibly be conceived without also imagining a diminution of the angelic freedom which virtue implies, this effectatious unity of movement and comprehension cannot be simply disregarded or denied without also involving oneself in a theoretical contradiction.

The first contention which you raised(2.a), concerning whether an inegalitarian society is more conducive to the furtherance of excellence and virtue, or whether these traits might be equally evident in a more egalitarian society, is a central theoretical concern for monarchists and one of the principal reasons for any advocacy of a more explicitly inegalitarian society and constitution. Like the dialogue of Socrates in which in which personal virtue is related to political virtue in "the Republic", I find that this concern can be best understood in relation to the previous question(2.b) of the intrinsic value of virtue and the conditions which inspire human excellence. If the former description of the practical necessity and highest good of virtue is categorically true, then it follows that we should analogously judge that constitution and social arrangement which is most conducive and effective in inspiring the development of virtue among the people to likewise be the highest social or political good.

From this judgment, it needn't follow that socio-political inequality is more advantageous than equality, nor does this recommend a specific arrangement of the constitution, the laws, or of broader society. The necessity of unequal relations (such as the five Confucian relations of ruler and minister, parent and child, older and younger neighbors, husband and wife, and older and younger sibling) follows instead from another three convictions: 1) that among the varying multitude of mankind there is to be found an unequal allotment of talent, form, and ability which corresponds to their intrinsic potentiality and relative actualization of human virtue, 2) that human society and politics achieves the aforementioned aims most efficiently when organized so as to maximize the beneficial effects of (1), and 3) that (2) is best achieved when society and politics are organized into a visible and understood hierarchy from the most temperamental infant to the most serene and magnificent exemplar of mankind. The result of accepting the soundness and truth of these three propositions, which I see no need to herein argue for, is the inferential conclusion that Monarchy is the most just, able and noble form of government.

3. "if you wanted to advance some argument that there’s some perpetual, ever-present social forces pushing toward plutocratic oligarchy, then fine, I might even be inclined to agree with you—but that doesn’t get a singular sovereign into the picture…at all."

I do not argue that a description of social or economic forces which lead incrementally from one government form to another (such as the anacyclosis described by Polybius, the corruption of a regime described by Aristotle, or the development of productive and political monopolies under capitalism as described by Marx ) is a compelling argument for the benefits of Monarchy. Indeed such a description does not suffice to advise us of the benefits of any particular regime, and serves merely to describe the dangers of inherent in the development of polities in history. Additionally, you correctly mention that these unintended historical processes are very likely to tend towards unfavorable governments such as Tyranny, Oligarchy, or Ochlocracy(or the rule of the mob), and offer very little reassurance of a benign result.

4. "Furthermore, a monarchy is almost always theoretically predicated upon a social fiction—some supposed ‘divine right’ or what have you. And these fictions are demonstrably (just that)….fictions."

Has there been, or could there ever foreseeably be, a form of government which does not make use of social fictions, myths, and rhetorical sophistry to offer a legitimization of their laws, policies and institutions? Even the city-states of classical Greece found it expedient to deify their founders, to trace their ruling lineages to the heroes of Homer and Hesiod, and to attribute their laws and constitutions to sage-kings such as Solon of Athens or Lycurgus of Sparta. The fictions which our present polity entertains- of inspired founding fathers, hallowed documents, and unexamined egalitarian convictions-seem equally fantastic, yet for this we are faulted with the greater hypocrisy due both to our stated disbelief in the sacredness of the State as well as our cynicism concerning the fallibility of men and their writings. The reason for the necessity of these social fictions should be quite clear; for why would any man consent to be governed and punished by a State which is not of his choosing, if it and its laws were acknowledged to be the whimsical invention of fallible men of his own wretched condition? Why should he prize the constitution and the products of his legislature so highly, when he might equally scribble his own thoughts for the regulation of his neighbors? These inquiries swiftly reveal that the State is at present, and has been for all time, the result of a systematic exercise of force, violence, and cruelty without comparison in any other human institution.

Our present adulation of the State, inspired with the same benign intention as Virgil's mythic retelling of the founding of imperial Rome, aims in part to persuade us against considering these unsettling conclusions - yet is a sophistry which I find to be indispensable in governing the sentiments and restraining the ambition of nations. This observation of the continuing necessity of social fictions should not be misconstrued as simply a injunction to maliciously deceive the people. Rather it is an pragmatic assessment, in the tradition of blessed Plato's "noble lie", of the invaluable yet strategic function which the myths and public cult of the State serve.

5. " In any monarchical system there are extra-monarchical magnates and extra-monarchical feudal or feudal-like structures. (a)In this fact alone we can see the beginnings of the theoretical necessity for popular sovereignty, from that, the seeds of liberalism. (b)Magnates must be pleased in order to maintain power, and (i)their potential (and actual) “usurpation” of power is not only a salient feature of monarchical regimes—but historically (ii)a part of every monarchical system this planet has ever seen."

In the excerpted quote(5.a) you describe the necessary plurality of social and political power (whether it be invested in ministers, proconsuls, governors, dukes, or viceroys etc.) which you infer to create the "theoretical necessity [of] popular sovereignty". First, it will help to clarify that "popular sovereignty" is a modern theory of statal legitimacy rather than a description of either the arrangement or the functioning of political power. It is fairly incoherent to infer the theory of popular sovereignty(which it should be noted is a conceptual contradiction, for how can the people be both sovereign and subject) from the existence of political plurality. Additionally the existence of political plurality has not historically resulted in a theory of "popular sovereignty" until the writings of European liberals in the early modern period(Locke, Rousseau, and Montesquieu). When Pontius Pilate touted his power to crucify Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace replied "Thou shouldst not have any power over me, unless it were given to thee from above."(John 19:11), yet no theory of popular sovereignty followed from this exchange.

Second, although it might be imagined that the necessary existence of political plurality (this is a necessity as humans live in communities which require cooperation and interdependence) leads historically to liberal democracy, this assertion of a grand historical narrative merely tautologically presumes the conclusion(in this case liberal democracy) of a historical socio-political teleology, and thereafter claims that the present political arrangement is a conclusive validation of the "end of history" presumption! Although this assertion is logically invalid, the thought remains compelling- or at least as compelling as the historical inevitability of the Kaiser's German Empire or the Soviet Union must have seemed to partisan contemporaries. However without any further arguments in support of this historical teleology, this assertion will only seem as presumptuousness as those of our ancestors; ancestors whose tendency towards cultural chauvinism has yet to be exorcised by the inspiration of modern rationalism.

The second criticism which you offer(5.b) is twofold: (i)you briefly argue that the means by which the recipients of political power in a monarchy are compensated and recognized inclines them to usurp power from the sovereign. Apart from this observation being horribly anachronistic(for instance the last civil-war among the nobility of England was the War of the Roses(1455-85), the Wars of Religion(1562-98) in France, and the uprising of Zhu Di(1398-1402) in Ming China!), the argument fails to offer either an explanation of why this phenomenon might be more pronounced in Monarchy, or why we should not expect to find similar events in liberal democracy (as in the innumerable instances of military coup d'états in recent memory). An argument in your favor might be presented as follows:

(p1) Feudal lords are granted absolute power over their subjects and soldiers.

(p2) Fuedal lords are afforded compensation and recognition in proportion to the extent of land and the number of subject which they have dominion over.

(p3) if (p1) and (p2) are true, then we should expect fuedal lords to attempt to forcibly increase the extent of their land and the number of their subjects by (i) usurping power from the sovereign, (ii) and accumulating absolute socio-political power to themselves.

(p4) if (p3) is true and political plurality is necessary for any monarchy, then we should expect this violent cycle of hegemonic domination and usurpation described in (p3) to repeat itself without end.

TF: if (p4) is true, then Monarchy is inherently violent and politically unstable.

However this argument is specious because, although Monarchy might comically be conceived as a violent monopoly of marauding Franks, Huns, and Vandals, history and political theory displays much more administrative and social sophistication in actual monarchies; a fact which demonstrates (p1) and (p2) to be mere storybook simplicities. Additionally it is not clear that, if these premises were sound then this argument would not also apply to contemporary military officers; who are similarly invested with inestimable armed force, and are recognized in accordance with their political power and compensated, not with land(as in physiocratic agrarian states), but with money. Yet the application of this argument to present government of either a country like Communist China or the United States is viewed as prima facie absurd precisely because we know of the social and political mechanisms with which military officers are restrained from overthrowing the state- mechanisms such as legal institutions, social reprobation, and the fiction of sacredness(quote 4) which the State promotes and for which officers swear to defend (a custom similar to an oath of fealty still practiced widely in the world's militaries).

After asserting the truth of (5.b.i) you inductively conclude(5.b.ii) that because usurpation is evident in all historical monarchies, Monarchy is therefore intrinsically prone to feudal strife and instability. If the falsehood of (5.b.i) and thereby this inference is not apparent, then we might instead equally investigate the sordid history of political instability among Republics; beginning with the Athenian Democracy, the Roman Republic, the five French Republics, and so many other instances of civil strife and political instability in recent history. From this it may be understood that evidence alone is insufficient to establish to preponderance of political instability in Monarchy in comparison to liberal democracy. Finally, it should be considered that the political instability of a government, while certainly the cause of great harms and historical grievances, cannot and should not be universally prepared against, as it may in some instances be the requisite means by which a despotic form of government is overthrown.

6. Because it is, in fact, a necessary feature of every monarchy—we see that there is no organic right/entitlement to absolute sovereignty. There is only practical, this-worldly forces that the person who claims the sovereignty can manage to wield to maintain power—all completely contingent upon his abilities and any other random, relevant state of affairs."

For the reasons elaborated in (5.a), the criticisms expressed in quote (6) are meaningless. Neither the existence of political hegemony nor the necessity of political plurality suffices to warrant either the theory of monarchical "absolutism" or the theory of "popular sovereignty". This is so because a description of affairs does not necessarily entail a normative theory of how affairs ought to be, without reference to additional theoretical resources which are not contained within the description.

7. "Theoretically, the only way there might be some organic entitlement is to derive some Hobbesian normative claim—which is all predicated upon arcane state of nature arguments—and which still rely on theories of social contract... Where else might we find an organic entitlement? Perhaps…God?... that monarchy is somehow natural or necessary."

The three convictions which were listed in response to quote (2) provide a limited theoretical justification for the legitimacy of monarchy, without appealing to either Hobbesian political hegemony or the "divine right" of kings. However, this inferential judgment doesn't show that Monarchy is "natural or necessary", only that it is preferable to other forms of government which fail to satisfy the second requirement.

8. "Finally, the contemporary monarchy [that is actual] is de facto a fascist and/or otherwise extreme totalitarian regime... There just has been no contemporary monarchy that has been idyllic or pleasant—it has just produced violence and war, oppression and misery…and what may for you be even worse…the antithesis of excellence and virtue. "

The presentation of the argument (5.b), which is implied in this quote (8), adequately demonstrates that Monarchy needn't invariably lead to either Tyranny or Fascism. The confusion between Monarchy and Tyranny was addressed in response to quote (1). Additionally, there is some dispute among scholars concerning the historical causes and intellectual ancestry of Fascism, yet Monarchy is not generally considered among the factors involved (for a scholarly summary of this dispute, you might read pages 141-72 of Roger Griffin's anthology "Fascism" for which I wrote this Wikipedia article While Italian fascism developed within the government of the Italian monarchy(the Monarchy also was among the principle agents in deposing the Fascist government of Benito Mussolini), this has not been universally the case with fascist states as Adolf Hitler's National Socialists famously emerged from the republican government of Weimar Germany. Furthermore, many historians consider modernity(Talcott Parsons), capitalism(Harold Laski), and liberalism(Ernst Nolte) to be among the principle factors in the historical development and continued appeal of Fascism; while the historical influence of traditionalism is a subject of dispute(Stephen Holmes), but is not an argument which I find especially convincing.

9. "Ryan. I wasn't going to respond to these strange monarchist outbursts of yours. But come on. I'm all for healthy intellectual dissent, but I highly doubt you're genuine to the core.[...]I think these considerations are enough to defeat any monarchist claims. I’m calling you on your bull."

I am indeed genuine in my advocacy of Monarchy, which I find to be both a viable and healthy alternative to the contemporary morass of democratic liberalism. These considerations of yours are unfortunately insufficient to "defeat any monarchist claims". I encourage you to re-examine your democratic beliefs in reference to this alternative as well as the potential of Monarchy to offer America and the world a more advantageous socio-political arrangement to that which we currently enjoy. I thank you for your contributions, and encourage you to inquire into any further concerns which you have with the idea of Monarchy.

Immanuel Kant's theory of the transcendental Freedom of the Will

Interview with Pablo on Immanuel Kant's theory of the transcendental Freedom of the Will

Prussian Philosopher Immanuel Kant
The problem of whether man's free will is compatible with the apparently deterministic laws of natural science was especially troubling to thoughtful men of the 18th century, due principally to the newfound popularity of Newtonian physics and its corresponding "universal laws of motion". Philosophers were greatly distraught by the apparent determinism which these universal natural laws of motion implied, and whether this new science meant that all notions of Man's free will would now be obsolete. The Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume responded to this problem by criticizing the possibility of gaining definitive knowledge of the truth of those causal connections which we perceived as cause and effect. However, this skepticism concerning universal causation merely served to bring the new science of Newtonian physics into doubt, and did not also demonstrate the possibility of free will of agent-determining moral action. The Prussian(German) philosopher Immanuel Kant(1724-1804) was deeply troubled by this apparently irresolvable skepticism of causal determinism, which raised fundamental doubts about the possibility of natural science and human freedom. At the age of 46, Kant began his "silent period" of uninterrupted isolation and dedicated contemplation of this very problem which would last eleven years. When Kant finally emerged, he was ready to publish the Critique of Pure Reason(1781), which would be followed within the decade by the Critique of Practical Reason(1788) and the Critique of Judgment(1790). These three great critiques explored, through the faculties of reason, the very potential and limitations of reason, judgment, and human understanding. Kant believed that he had discovered the solution to the problem which David Hume had raised concerning the incompatibility of universal causal determinism and human freedom(which philosophers call 'incompatibilism'). The following is a recorded discussion(edited for clarity) in which I discussed with Pablo the solution which Kant offers to this apparent problem.

Definition of Terms:

Causal Connectivity: This is the connection which is inferred to exist between the cause and effect of
any perception.

Determinism: This is the consistent universal relation of all perceived events in an inalterable chain of cause and effect.

Free Will: This is the freedom of a person to act apart from the causal influence of those causes which precede and determine effects in a sequence of cause and effect.

Causa Sui: This is the possibility of a self-caused effect, which has no preceding and determining cause for which it exists. Agent-Directed causa sui is thought to be necessary for the possibility of Free Will.

A Priori knowledge: That knowledge which is known independently of, and prior to, experience of the world.

A Posteriori Knowledge: That knowledge which is known of, and proven through experience of the world.

Postulate or Axiom: This is a premise in a logical argument whose truth is supposed, yet remains inconclusive as to whether it is either true or false.

Deduction:: This the logical and mathematical appraisal of whether the premises of an argument necessarily entail(or may be inferred as) the conclusion of the argument.

Induction: This is the sensory perception of phenomena and claims which may be made on the basis based on these experiences of phenomena.

Kant's theory of Free Will Interview with Pablo Vasquez.

[Tuesday December 1st 2009, 6:04-7:22pm]

[18:04] Ryan: I would like to tell you how it is possible to resolve the apparent conflict between Free Will and Determinism. I have determined how the difficulty might be successfully overcome.

[18:06] Pablo: I have a full hour, if you'd like to start.

[18:07] Ryan: alright. First, are you familiar with David Hume's criticism of commonly held view of causal connectivity?

[18:07] Pablo: Somewhat. Please overview it for me.

[18:09] Ryan: Alright. It is commonly held that just as "if A then B" entails "B" if "A" is true, then so too does "object A colliding with object B" compel "B" to move in equal and opposite reaction to object "A", as per Newton's 3rd law of motion.

[David Hume described the problem in "An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding". Here "reason" refers the deductive reasoning of mathematical logic and "induction" refers to what is perceived by the senses. First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relations, which form the basis for what he refers to as "matters of fact." He argues that causal relations are known not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds. For example, when one thinks of "a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another," one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc. There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls. In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise. (More information:]

[18:09] Pablo: Indeed.

[18:09] Ryan: David Hume criticized this view in "an Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding". Here he successfully showed that we can only know the effects of causal connectivity(that A compels B ) through experience, which provides no universally valid, or a priori logical laws of causation.

[18:11] Pablo: Indeed

[18:13] Ryan: However, if causal connectivity were merely perceived rather than actual in the universe, then both the laws of natural science would be inoperative, and human action would be impotent (because our willful actions couldn't be expected to produce predictable results). This is the problem which Kant set out to solve in the three critiques. [The Critique of Pure Reason(1781), The Critique of Practical Reason(1788),The Critique of Judgment(1790)]

[18:13] Ryan: Do you follow?

[18:14] Pablo: Yes, indeed. Do continue.

[18:15] Ryan: Alright. Kant concedes, as per Hume's critique, that it is true that we only continuously perceive, rather than know a priori that causal connectivity is operable in the natural world. Further, Kant argues that we can only, and must necessarily postulate some form of determinism as a precondition for the functioning of both natural science and human action. Now, a postulate is a logical axiom which is adopted, not necessarily because it is true(as its truth cannot be validated without a supporting argument), but rather merely on account of its utility in allowing for the present argument to function.

[18:17] Ryan: Do you follow this?

[18:17] Pablo: Yes, do continue.

[18:20] Ryan: Alright. Now Kant also says that we must necessarily also postulate the truth of free will for moral action to be possible. This is the case because without the freedom of the will, we cannot be held morally responsible for our actions. This position, in which determinism(or not free will) is incompatible with moral responsibility, is called "incompatibilism".[more information:]

[18:21] Ryan: So, because we want to act morally (or even effectively), we must necessarily postulate free will and moral responsibility as a precondition for human (and moral) action.

[18:22] Pablo: I see, yes, excellent point.

[18:24] Ryan: Alright, now a paradox arises here because if determinism is true, then free will is necessarily false. So if we postulate determinism (which is necessary for science and prediction) then we must deny the truth of free will. Further, if we postulate free will(which is necessary for moral action) then we cannot simultaneously hold determinism to be true. Hence there arises a logical paradox in which a proposition(either determinism or free will) is held to be true and false simultaneously, in violation of the laws of logic! [ ¬(P ∨ ¬P), for more information:]

[18:25] Pablo: Quite so.

[18:26] Ryan: And now we come to where "ever-victorious" Immanual Kant, to whom immortal praise glorie and honor are forever due, triumphs over David Hume's skepticism.

[18:27] Ryan: Kant first distinguishes two abstract domains of human thought: pure theoretical reason and pure practical reason.

[18:28] Ryan: As an abbreviation of these terms, I will hereafter use "Pr" and "pr" to describe "pure reason"(Pr) and "practical reason"(pr) respectively.

[18:28] Pablo: Of course.
I made this picture to illustrate Kant's theory of cognition.

[18:30] Ryan: The former (Pr) is employed to cognize relations of a priori deductions; those of logic, mathematics, spacio-temporal arrangements, as well as the categories of understanding (unity, plurality, extension) etc. The latter (pr) is used to understand the relation to empirical phenomena and a posteriori things of experience, such as tying shoe laces, navigating while walking, chewing etc. In the first "Critique of Pure Reason", Kant grants to (Pr) the powers of theory and imagination, and to (pr) the power of understanding and judgment.

[18:32] Ryan: Now, one might question how the interaction between the faculties of pure reason(Pr) and practical reason(pr) can occur. For example, one would need to know spacial relations and deduction to know how to navigate while walking. Kant agrees that this is a difficult problem, and in the first and third Critiques he argues* that we use our faculty of "determinate judgment", with which to apply the theoretical ideas of (Pr) to the practical circumstances and experiences of (pr).

[*The comprehensibility of the most frustrating section of the first Critique, the "Transcendental Deduction of Categories", has been a consistently disputed topic among Kantians and later Idealists such as Fichte, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Hegel. Kant attempted to offer a more compelling account of this in the third "Critique of Judgement", and it remains a central question in Kantian scholarship and German Idealism as to how this 'Pure Reason-Practical Reason problem'(which mirrors the 'Mind-Body problem') might be resolved.]

[18:33] Ryan: For instance. If I see a ball, I can make the determinate judgment that it is a sphere by applying the idea of a sphere from pure reason(Pr) to the empirical phenomena of the sight of the ball.

[18:34] Ryan: Judgments of this sort are done reflexively and fairly instantaneously as you might imagine.

[18:34] Pablo: I see, yes.

[18:37] Ryan: Alright, here is where this question becomes a bit more complicated. As I mentioned before, both determinism and free will are postulates which are necessarily made for the functioning of practical reasoning(pr), and not those of theoretical reasoning(Pr).

[18:38] Ryan: Further, Kant states(and we will return to this later) that neither the truth of determinism nor that of the freedom of the will can be theoretically(Pr) demonstrated to be either true or false. That determinism cannot be shown to be theoretically true follows from the conclusiveness of David Hume's aforementioned critique of causal connectivity.

[This is David Hume's conclusion, which Kant and I accept as valid, that the truth of causal connectivity cannot be demonstrated either deductively or a priori, and must generally be assumed due to our continual perception of apparent causal connections.]

[18:39] Ryan: Now, Free Will cannot be shown to be true because of the requirement that for the Will to be free would mean to have the quality of "causa sui", or self-causation, and so also to be without an antecedent and determining cause.

["Causa sui" is a technical term of medieval scholasticism meaning "the cause of itself". The 17th-century physics of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibnitz contained as self-evident axioms within them, the idea of universal causal laws of motion and the principle of sufficient reason. The acceptance of these two principles led inevitably to a conception of the universe in which all effects must necessarily be preceded by a sufficient cause. As A causes B, and B causes C, and on and on ad infinitum, we arrive at a conception of universal causation which requires a previous antecedent cause for every subsequent effect. As a the circumstances of a person's birth and life are preceded by and thought to be caused by effects which precede their birth, so too would everything about them, as well as all those decisions which they might make in life, be thereby causally determined by events prior to their conception. The term "causa sui" refers to those acausal instances in which an effect has no previous cause, and is thereby simultaneously both the effect and its own cause. Prior to Newtonian mechanics, God, the will of human beings, and miracles where all thought to occur in this way. (More information:,]

[18:40] Ryan: Kant acknowledges that the "causa sui" quality of the will, cannot be theoretically demonstrated, and doesn't generally conform to our experiences of the natural world, where we perceive causal connectivity to be the norm.

[The impossibility of demonstrating "causa sui" or the self-causation of the will also follows from David Hume's criticism of the indemonstrability of causal connectivity.]

[18:41] Pablo: Indeed.

[18:51] Ryan: Now recall that Kant argued that the practical belief, or postulate, in and for the truth of causal connectivity is a necessary "practical postulate", or hypothesis of human action. Yet, we know from David Hume's criticism that the mere postulate of causal connectivity is not sufficient to theoretically demonstrate determinism, however necessary it may be for the practical belief in deterministic causal laws.

[18:55] Ryan: Here, Kant and I argue that the practical(pr) postulate of a deterministic universe is of no relevance to our ability to otherwise postulate, in our daily actions, the existence of the causa sui quality of and freedom of the Will. This follows because we have already accepted (due to David Hume) that determinism cannot be theoretically(Pr) demonstrated as an a priori law of reason, but must instead be merely presumed as a necessary postulate with which to speculate about the universal laws of natural science(for example Newton's Three Laws of Motion).

[18:58] Ryan: To clarify, we can willfully alternatively adopt the hypothetical postulate of free will and causa sui in our practical moral decisions, so long as there is no a priori and theoretical (Pr) argument which opposes and invalidates these postulates. It is admitted that we cannot practically(pr) postulate a theoretically(Pr) impossible axiom because, we cannot genuinely(with contrite judgment) adopt a practical(pr) postulate which contradicts what we know theoretically(Pr). If we attempted to do so, we would be deceiving ourselves and by acting contrary to our theoretical beliefs without a defensible theoretical justification.

[19:01] Ryan: Now, the English philosopher Galen Strawson argues that there is an a priori reason for not holding the postulate of Free Will to be true. He argues that 1.) causa sui (and Free Will as well) is impossible under deterministic natural causal laws, and 2.) that even if causa sui (and Free Will) were possible postulates of practical reason, then regardless there would be no means of judging according to a "causa sui" free choice, rather than our previously inherited circumstances(mental states, dispositions, biases etc.).

[19:02] Pablo: I see.

[19:01] Ryan: Now there is one further counter-argument which I would like to address. The English philosopher Galen Strawson(the son of the celebrated philosopher P.F. Strawson) argues that there is an a priori reason for not holding the postulate of Free Will to be true. He argues that 1.) causa sui (and Free Will as well) is impossible under deterministic natural causal laws, and 2.) that even if causa sui (and Free Will) were possible postulates of practical reason, then regardless there would be no means of judging according to a "causa sui" free choice, rather than our previously inherited circumstances(mental states, dispositions, biases etc.).

[19:02] Pablo: I see.

[19:03] Ryan: His first argument (1) is shown to be false because he unjustifiably supposes that causa sui is impossible. For causa sui to be impossible, and Strawson's presupposition to be true, determinism would have to be conclusively true and thereby universally binding. However, we have already accepted that it is impossible to demonstrate the truth of determinism. Therefore, neither determinism, nor argument (1) can be justifiably be accepted as true.

[19:04] Ryan: Now, if we postulate determinism as a precondition for natural causal laws, then causa sui and free will cannot be possible. However this postulate is only made necessary as a precondition for the study and understanding of the laws and mechanisms of natural science, and need not be consistently adopted for judgments of practical reason(pr), or moral actions in general. Indeed, it cannot be adopted as a postulate of practical reason(pr) and moral actions, without raising the practical contradiction of believing in determinism while simultaneously acting, as though one were free, to effect some future and conceivably indeterminate cause.

[19:06] Ryan: the second argument (2) is more difficult to refute as it appears to require a conceptual account of cognition which allows for causa sui as well as freely-willed judgments, independent of those previous involuntary facts of inherited biases, dispositions, and mental states. This is the case, because although we might practically(pr) postulate the freedom of the Will, if the freedom of the Will is nonetheless logically and theoretically(Pr) impossible, then we might assuredly come to know theoretically(Pr) that we are merely postulating falsehoods rather than the actual qualities of the cosmos. Further, regardless of our knowledge of our determinism, if the existence of causa sui and the freedom of Will is logically impossible, then no amount of willful protest can overcome our previously inherited determination.

[In the first Critique, Kant offers a helpful distinction between 'transcendental freedom' and 'practical freedom'. Transcendental freedom is that quality of the universe and our minds in which universal causal determinism is false, and human agents are wholly free from the determinism of antecedent causes(what philosophers call 'libertarianism'). Practical freedom is rather the moral freedom to act without a determinate influence from involuntary inclinations(such as concupiscence, lethargy, hunger, or wrathfulness). Kant believes that, whether we could come to or not know of universal determinism and the truth of 'transcendental freedom', is a question of pure theoretical reason(Pr), while acting with moral and 'practical freedom' in our daily affairs is a concern for practical reason(pr).]

[19:10] Ryan: Now, for this argument, in which causa sui and the freedom of the will are impossible, to be universally binding it would be necessary to conclusively show that causa sui is not only impossible in this universe(which was attempted with argument 1 and yet has been shown to be inconclusive), but also that the freedom of the will is metaphysically impossible; or impossible in any possible universe regardless of that particular universes physical laws due to the metaphysically binding laws of logic! [More information:]

[19:10] Pablo: Haha, indeed.

[19:11] Ryan: This raises two questions; 1.) what is the criteria for metaphysical impossibility, and 2.) does the postulate of the causa sui freedom of the will violate these criteria. I should stop to notify you here, that these criteria of metaphysical impossibility are enormously difficult to satisfy because they must be valid and irrefutable a priori - or merely on account of the very laws of logic.

[19:13] Ryan: The most commonly mentioned criteria of metaphysical impossibility is inconceivability. Because we can only conceive of logically possible things, it is generally held that a logical or metaphysically possible thing must similarly be conceivable. If a thing is inconceivable then it is generally thought to violates the laws of logic, and thereby also to be metaphysically possible.

[19:13] Ryan: Now, is causa sui and the freedom of the will conceivable? The answer is Yes! As no antecedent and deterministic cause to our wills can be conceived, human minds must always and everywhere phenomenologically perceive ourselves as willing our actions causa sui. This mere fact alone satisfies the criteria of conceivability for the able functioning of our practical reason(pr).

[This is Kant's, as well as my own, belief which I find to correspond with my inner sensation(or phenomenological perception) of my volition. This is an apodictic or self-evident assertion for which no argument(to my knowledge) can be given. Rather it must be perceived immediately and always by ourselves. It can easily be perceived by envisioning some prior cause which thereby determines your actions. Kant and I believe that this would be impossible to imagine because 1.) no preceding mental event can be perceived as the determining cause of our will to act, and 2.) because even if (1) were true, this would merely be a mental perception of causal connectivity which cannot be held to be true a priori (due to David Hume's critique).]

[19:15] Ryan: Here Galen Strawson aims to raise one final objection; that even if causa sui is phenomenalogically conceivable and functional for practical reason(pr), then it still does not follow that a conceivable account of causa sui, and transcendental freedom, can be given and conceived of theoretically(Pr). Strawson believes that it is necessary to offer a positive theoretical explanation of the transcendental freedom of the Will, for the practical freedom of the Will to be conceivable. If this were true and no positive account could be offered, then it would follow that the practical freedom of the Will is merely illusory and factually unreal. Furthermore, we have already established that neither universal determinism nor the transcendental freedom of the Will can be theoretically demonstrated. However, the indemonstrability of the transcendental freedom of the Will or of universal determinism, is not logically sufficient to conclusively discredit the metaphysical possibility of transcendental freedom or of universal determinism. Instead, we are left, as Socrates so often found himself, in a state of aporia, or a logical and conceptual impasse from which no conclusions can be forthcoming. The indemonstrability of either of these theoretical postulates(Pr) does not invalidate, but instead allows for the free postulation of either hypothesis(determinism or free will) by practical reasoning(pr). It is inconclusive whether Kant believed he had shown that the transcendental freedom of the will was true*, yet and later German idealists believed that he had conclusively saved the practical freedom of the will from the specter of determinism!

[*Although it is apparent from the Critique of Practical Reason that Kant believed he had overcome the problem of free will and determinism, there remains some contention among Kantian scholars, concerning whether Kant believed in the transcendental freedom of the will, or only the practical freedom of the will. Henry Allison in "Kant's Theory of Freedom"(1990), and Derek Pereboom's paper "Kant on Transcendental Freedom" in the journal "Philosophy and Phenomenological Research" argue in favor of Kant's theoretical account of the transcendental freedom of the Will. However, Allen Wood presents Kant as arguing merely for the practical freedom of the Will in "Kant's Compatibilism"(1994).]

[19:19] Ryan: Because our daily actions of practical reasoning (pr) are informed by and generally correspond to the dictates of pure reason(Pr), our practical actions must generally, if not universally, obey the theoretical determinations of pure reason(Pr). To postulate that we have the freedom of the will, is not mere wishful thinking. Rather, the inherent unknowability of the truth or falsity of either determinism or causa sui, requires that we make this practical postulate. Further, we need only to postulate this as an axiom of practical reason(pr), to act with the belief in free will and moral responsibility in our daily affairs.

[Kant will argue further that, although we might theoretically believe in determinism, we nonetheless cannot act with practical consistency while holding this practical understanding. To do so would result in a practical(pr) (rather than logical or theoretical(Pr)) contradiction in which we should simultaneously act with the understanding that we were both free and not free.]

[19:21] Ryan: To conclude, if it is conceivable, and thereby possible, to postulate without a logical fallacy the causa sui freedom of the will, and for this reason it may thereby be freely postulated without practical(pr) or theoretical contradiction(Pr).

[19:22] Ryan: With this line of argument, the apparent conflict between determinism and free will is resolved.

[19:23] Pablo Vasquez: Absolutely fascinating.

[With this argument concluded, I implore all you who read this to daily act with the genuine confidence in your transcendental freedom to dutifully obey your very own self-legislating moral duties. Proclaim far and wide the philosophic gospel of Immanuel Kant.]

Dedication to Immanuel Kant:
Kant described overwhelming and terrifying aesthetic delight as a feeling of the sublime. If an undiluted insight into the very nature of cognition and reality can ring with the same finality as a new and harmonious melody, then I should loudly proclaim that the three great critiques of Immanuel Kant are surely the most sublime work of recorded human ingenuity. Now I feel assured that the mind actively synthesizes the perceptions of space and time into a coherent apperceptive unity. I have theoretically confirmed what I had heretofore known only in practice; that I am, at every moment, bound by the apodictic rational duty to my own self-legislating moral law, yet simultaneously practically free from the determination of outside causal forces.

I still find it astonishing to have had the philosophic dilemmas of my youth dismantled and thereafter reconstituted so as to grant my mind a brilliant new awareness of space, time, cognition, freedom, beauty, and the moral law. Johann Gottlieb Fichte confided a similar feeling to his friend in 1790 upon reading the three critiques: "I have been living in a new world ever since reading the Critique of Practical Reason... Propositions which I thought could never be overturned have been overturned for me. Things have been proven to me which I thought could not be proven - concepts of absolute freedom, and the concept of duty. I feel all the happier for it." The arrival of this insight was entirely unmerited, as it might have heretofore been imagined that our discursive and unruly intellects should have struggled unendingly with these intransigent paradoxes. That their answer should have been so fittingly and perspicaciously revealed gives me a renewed and ever-greater hope for our future, as well as a far deeper respect for the inestimable potential of Man's angelic reason.

All glorie and honor we give to thee o' Kant whose miraculous theophanie hast sav'd Mankind from the devastating skepticism of David Hume. Praise Kant! Zuruck zu Kant! Praise Kant! Hallow'd is his name forever and ever.

Paul Harvey's "Immanuel Kant with Flowers and Painting"
Acrylic on canvas, 92 x 71cm

A Short Refutation of the Principle of Hereditary Succession

A Short Refutation of the Principle of Hereditary Succession

the Union of Lublin(1569) replaced the personal union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Lithuania with an elected King, a common Senate and Parliament. This painting is by Jan Matejko.

Due to the extended history of male primogeniture among world monarchies, it may at first seem meaningless to question whether it is just for a monarchy to choose its subsequent sovereign upon the principles of hereditary succession. With the political and military triumph of American Liberalism after the end of the Second World War, the purpose of existing monarchies has come under dispute and their future remains uncertain. It is my hope that a thoughtful examination of this question will provide some stimulus for a re-evaluation of the function and purpose of monarchies in the 21st century. Although the principle of hereditary succession could foreseeably be critiqued for both its socio-political and economic inefficiencies, in this essay I will focus on its most decisive failing; that of justice. Using the political philosophy of the recently deceased political liberal John Rawls(1921-2002), I will attempt to demonstrate the following:

1.) If a government does not adhere to the principles of justice, then this government does not have justified political authority(JPA)

2.) A government which chooses its subsequent sovereign through the method of hereditary succession does not satisfiably adhere to the principles justice.

3.) A government which is bereft of JPA ought be reformed or replaced in such a manner that the government will then have JPA.

TF: If premise 1,2,& 3 are true, then governments which choose their subsequent sovereign according to the principles of hereditary succession* ought to be reformed or replaced.

* “hereditary monarchies”, as mentioned here, refers only to hypothetical monarchies in which the sovereign, chosen according to the principles of hereditary succession, has political power. This argument may not be applicable to many contemporary constitutional monarchies in which the monarch lacks substantial political power.

Justified Political Authority

Justified Political Authority(JPA) is that authority of the state for which we have a normative obligation to dutifully obey quite apart from the potential of the state to forcibly coerce us. It is important here to distinguish between the de facto political authority and de jure political authority or JPA. De facto political authority is that non-normative, or not morally required, authority which is derived from the maintenance of public order, security, and tranquility(Hart 1961). De facto political authority is the “state's or any agent's ability to get others to act in ways that they desire even when the subject does not want to do what the agent wants him to do”(SEP Christiano 2004). While it is generally recognized that de facto political authority is pre-requisite for de jure political authority, JPA is distinguished by the additional normative moral obligations in which the state's subjects are obliged to obey it apart from the threat of coercion. Although this distinction is generally accepted, Thomas Hobbes(1668) notably argued that all JPA was derived from de facto political authority. Nonetheless, the general philosophical consensus has historically held that there is a clear distinction between the descriptive and non-normative circumstance of de facto authority and the prescriptive and normative circumstance of de jure political authority.

In the history of philosophy, this distinction between de facto and de jure political authority has been elucidated independently by numerous thinkers. During the Warring States period, the Confucian political philosopher Mencius distinguished between a government which was humane(ren), which its subjects had an obligation to obey, and a government which was tyrannical(li), under which conditions its subjects had a right to revolution(4A:2). In the Indian political text the Artashastras, the distinction is made between a King who obeys rajadharma(or “king law”) and one who does not, under which conditions Brahmans are obliged to leave the kingdom. In the Politics, Aristotle distinguishes between monarchy and tyranny(Bk. II ch. 7-14), and in the Republic Plato distinguishes between the rule of the just and the rule of force(see Justice of Thrasymachus Bk. I 343c-344c).

There are a variety of contemporary theories of JPA which I will briefly summarize:

1.) Instrumentalist view of JPA: A subject will be better off if he should follow the laws of the state (Raz 1986).

2.) Consent theory of JPA: the sovereignty of the government is legitimate only if it has the consent of the subjects it commands (Locke 1690) .

3.) Reasonable Concensus view of JPA: The coercive institutions of society should be structured to adhere with the reasonable views of the majority of the subjects (Rawls 1996).

It is important to recognize that all three of these theories of JPA require the notion of justice in jurisdiction, legislation, and (most importantly) regarding the elevation of persons to political power. For example, in the instrumentalist view justice is required insofar as the person following the laws of the state must benefit from following those laws. The instrumentalist view that the government provides justice to its subjects because it is in a person's benefit to live in a just society. This argument is similarly applicable to the consent theory as a person will presumably only consent to be governed by that government which ensures justice. Finally, the reasonable consent theory, which is said to be a “mean between the extreme individualism of consent theory and the lack of respect for people's opinions of the instrumentalist views”, similarly requires that justice benefit the people in such a way that the majority will assent to be governed. Therefore, although there are a variety of theories regarding the establishment of JPA, all of them require the establishment of sufficient standards of Justice. As such, we will now turn to the question of justice itself.

Theory of Justice

American political philosopher John Rawls(1921-2002)

While the de facto political authority, in which security is preserved through armed force against foreign and domestic enemies, is certainly a prerequisite for de jure political authority(JPA), this attribute alone is not sufficient to satisfiably meet to the requirements of justice. We may divide the attributes of justice as follows:

Political Authority:

I de Facto
II de Jure
A. Justice in Crime and Punishment
B. Justice in Opportunity
1. Economic Justice
2. Social Justice
3. Political Justice
a. Representation
b. Separation of Powers
c. Selection of Government Leaders

Although the principle of hereditary succession may fail to satisfiably adhere to the principles of justice in many of these categories, I will focus on the issue which appears to be the most central and decisive: the selection of government leaders(II.B.3.c). As the sovereign stands at the apex of the socio-political hierarchy, commanding the obedience of his people and the immense resources of the state, justice similarly requires that there should exist a means of selecting the sovereign which is similarly fair in respect to the enormity of this task. In John Rawls's 1971 book, “A Theory of Justice”, Rawls introduces a number of arguments for a theory of justice which should be relevant and universally agreeable in the context of our contemporary pluralistic society. For the purposes of this essay I will focus on his argument for the Original Position(OP).

In the presentation of his theory of the Original Position(OP), John Rawls continues a long tradition in Western Political Philosophy, beginning with Plato's Republic, of utilizing hypothetical thought experiments to establish the a priori principles of justice. “The strategy of OP is to construct a method of reasoning that models abstract ideas about justice so as to focus their power together onto the choice of principles.”(SEP, Wenar 2008)

Central to the conception of OP is the idea of a “veil of ignorance”, which inhibits the arbitrary facts of our current lives(social status, race, sex, class etc.) from influencing our decisions of how our ideal political community ought to function. This concept inhibits us from unabashedly biasing our idealization of justice in such a way that we might accrue the most socio-political gain from it. For example, in the absence of the veil of ignorance, it may be plausible for a tall man to will we should adhere to that conception of justice which disenfranchises only very short people.

However, if a person can imagine these principles without consideration of their socio-economic position, they would be compelled to wish that there should exist a society which distributes the maximum benefit to all, rather than the partial benefit of a select group. “No party can press for agreement on principles that will arbitrarily favor the particular citizen they represent, because no party knows the specific attributes of the citizen they represent. The situation of the parties thus embodies reasonable conditions, within which the parties can make a rational agreement. Each party tries to agree to principles that will be best for the citizen they represent (i.e., that will maximize that citizen's share of primary goods). Since the parties are fairly situated, the agreement they reach will be fair to all actual citizens.”(SEP, Wenar 2008)

Rawls clarifies what can be considered under his hypothetical veil of ignorance:
Parties do not know:
• The race, ethnicity, sex, age, income, wealth, natural endowments, comprehensive doctrine, etc. of any of the citizens in society, or to which generation in the history of the society these citizens belong.
• The political system of the society, its class structure, economic system, or level of economic development.

Parties do know:
• That citizens in the society have different comprehensive doctrines and plans of life; that all citizens have interests in more primary goods.
• That the society is under conditions of moderate scarcity: there is enough to go around, but not enough for everyone to get what they want;
• General facts about human social life; facts of common sense; general conclusions of science (including economics and psychology) that are uncontroversial.

With these conditions in mind, Rawls believes that any reasonable person will then conclude that there should exist a community in which primary goods will be distributed such that they will maximize their benefit to all persons, regardless of their respective social circumstances.

As the position of a sovereign confers upon its holder extraordinary social and political benefits, if we adopt the veil of ignorance we would foreseeably conclude that there should be an appropriately equitable method of assigning this office. In consideration of the veil of ignorance, it is required that political offices should be distributed so as to afford all persons, regardless of birth, the opportunity to receive the benefits which these offices confer. Now the necessity of command and control as well as the limitation on the number of offices available means that it will be necessary to select a small number of office-holders from among the general population. Because the veil of ignorance allows for an understanding of virtue and psychology, the OP does not require that the mentally ill or otherwise unfit persons should receive these offices. As the office of sovereign is at the apex of the socio-political hierarchy and government authority, its assignment carries unequalled importance. With all of these considerations in mind, the OP merely requires that those persons who are most able to benefit society through the distribution of primary goods, should receive this singularly important office.

Legitimist objections to John Rawls's OP:

I will herein outline the expected objections of legitimists(those persons who favor hereditary succession) to John Rawls's OP, and thereafter offer a refutation:

Objection 1: All talk of de Jure or justified political authority is mistakenly conceived. It was previously conceded that the "legitimacy" or "illegitimacy" of government X can only be evaluated after government X has achieved a monopoly on the use of force. Moral responsibility with regard to government X is misconceived because government X uses coercive force to secure and maintain power. Therefore force is the single requirement for JPA.

Objection 2: There can be no reasonable consensus on the standards of justice or the distribution of goods, because people invariably disagree about the standards of justice and the distribution of goods. Only the majority can decide how to distribute resources and conceive the principles of justice. How the majority decides to distribute resources and allocate goods is the functioning of government.

Objection 3: The original position(OP) and the veil of ignorance is mistaken because (i) it assumes that rational adults should be treated as equals and (ii) it presumes the possibility of excluding considerations of (a) religion and (b) individual partial interest. (i) It is merely presumed that all rational adults should be treated as equals, without offering an argument for this presumption. (ii.a) To include considerations of psychology and yet exclude considerations of religion is to violate the principles of justice. (ii.b) It is impossible for rational persons to wholly exclude their partial interests of class, sex, and ethnicity.

I answer that: (1) & (2) would disassociate the moral evaluation of JPA and moral responsibility from the distribution of goods and offices. If these objections were conceded, we might then allow for the existence of any regime, regardless of tyranny or injustice, without the possibility of a justifiable reproach. Although it is true that any consideration of whether government X has JPA requires that government X has a monopoly on the use of force, this is an essential and unavoidable characteristic of all sovereign governments. Yet because, a sovereign government might act to secure only the private interest of a few and thereby harm the majority of their subjects, and this requires reproach (1) must be rejected. The decisions of the majority can easily become its very own tyranny at the expense of a disenfranchised minority. disagreement generally arises from logical invalidity rather than mutually conflicting yet valid claims to justice. For these reasons (2) must be rejected.

(3.i) correctly states that the equality of all rational adults is presumed. Because this is a customary and widely held belief it has been presumed, yet the universality of this belief invariably places the social burden of proof lies upon the doubter. (3.ii.a) is mistaken because although religiously beliefs vary widely and are inherently indemonstrable, psychological theories and practice have retained a relative uniformity as well as offering methods of validation. So although psychological theories may not be deductible through pure reason alone, it remains prudent to utilize these theories, rather than religion, in our practical affairs. (3.ii.b) requires a strong argument for the epistemological determinism of interests arising from class, sex, and ethnicity. In the absence this argument, we cannot hold this objection to be decisive. For all of these reasons (3) must be rejected.

Legitimist Arguments for the Utility of Hereditary Succession:

I will herein offer the expected Legitimist arguments for the utility of selecting the subsequent sovereign according to the principles of hereditary succession. After which I will promptly answer them:

Argument 1: Hereditary succession is appealing because it uniquely allows the monarch to (i) hold magnificent ceremonies, (ii) the practice is sacred, (iii) it has origins in antiquity.

Argument 2: Hereditary succession is useful because it will allow for (i) the superior breeding of a future sovereign, (ii) a higher quality of education for the future sovereign, and (iii) serves as a unifying national figure and symbol.

Argument 3: Hereditary succession will make the future sovereign known to all, and thereby depoliticize the office of the sovereign. To depoliticize the office of the sovereign will be of greater benefit to the state, than the possibility of individually selecting the subsequent sovereign.

I answer that: (1.i) is an insufficient objection because the hereditary succession of the sovereign is not a necessary condition for magnificent pageantry and ceremonies, which might be displayed by any government whether monarchy or not. (1.ii) is correct to point to the appearance of the belief in the sacrality of the hereditary succession of the sovereign in some cultures (the Merovingians of France, the Japanese Emperor). Yet although this belief has been held in some few cultures, it is far from universal. We should note that many historic monarchies (the Carolingians, the Holy Roman Emperor, the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth) have rather had elective monarchies without thereby professing disbelief in the sacrality of the monarchy. The truth or falsity of the claim to the sacrality of hereditary succession cannot be readily ascertained, and the peculiarity of this belief lends evidence in favor of the view of it as artificial rather than genuine. (1.iii) is mistaken to assert that hereditary succession had its origins in antiquity. Many forms of government are known to have existed before recorded history, not all of whom are monarchies in which the subsequent sovereign is chosen according to the principal of hereditary succession.

Nonetheless, (1) must be rejected because aesthetic appeal alone cannot serve as the basis for the selection of a form of government. Although aesthetic judgment is surely an important consideration, allowing this consideration to hold priority over concerns of justice and utility leads to the absurd possibility of adopting an unjust and inefficacious government merely for its artistic merit. As the purpose of government is to lead its subjects to the highest goods of virtue, mutual protection and prosperity, aesthetic judgment alone cannot be the means by which we select the best form of government.

(2.i) is correct to note that the institution of hereditary succession will allow for the vast resources of the state to be employed in the selection of partners with which to breed the future heir. Nonetheless their will assuredly arise a myriad of problems which are inherent in the practice of breeding due to its unpredictability and the determinism of male primogeniture. Undesirable hereditary traits might appear prominently in the offspring which had heretofore remained dormant or unnoticed. The multitude of variables involved in breeding a single individual should warrant a large selection pool of candidates, yet the determinism of hereditary succession, which invariably selects the first-born male heir, precludes this possibility. Hence, (2.i) is as problematic as it is efficacious and cannot be a reliable response on the grounds of utility.

(2.ii) is correct to note that the institution of hereditary succession will allow for the vast resources of the state to be employed in educating the future heir. Additionally, the notoriety of the promise of succession to the throne might induce the future sovereign to study more diligently. Nonetheless problems similar to (2.i) arise here as well. If the intelligence, temperament, and studiousness of the sovereign is influenced by hereditary traits, then the variability of hereditary traits noted in (2.i) should warrant a very large selection pool. Yet again, the determinism of hereditary succession precludes this possibility. Because we should expect a diminishing return upon resources exhausted in educating the future sovereign, the benefits of a large selection pool of candidates who are all excellently provided for, would be presumably be of greater benefit than one single candidate possessing variable inherited traits who is super-abundantly provided for.

(2.iii) is correct to note that hereditary succession allows a single family and a single ruler to be the personified focus of national adoration. Although an elected lifetime monarch or a temporary president might also serve this function, the hereditary monarchy appears to do so more viscerally than the previous options. Although this objection is conceded, the benefit thereby accrued appears to be miniscule in comparison to a popular president or elected sovereign who might also, to an admittedly lesser degree, be the object of national adulation.

(3) is correct to note that hereditary succession depoliticizes the selection of the future sovereign. Although this point is conceded, we must see what benefit is thereby accrued. The benefit might be very great if the nation is fraught by internecine warfare. In this instance the succession might not thereby be politicized by the civil strife. However, the opposite might hold if monarchy is the source of civil resentment and antagonism, in which case the hereditary succession of the heir of the previous sovereign, rather than the prospect of electing an neutral candidate, might further inflame these tensions. While (3) may be of some benefit, it might also become a fatal liability.

While the arguments of legitimists are admittedly compelling, they cannot satisfy the requirements of justice. All of these arguments (1,2,&3) mistakenly presume that arguments from either the utility or the aesthetic value of an unjust government can validly object to the inefficacy of a just government. Although it is admitted that the efficacy of a government is a necessary condition for justice (see above Political Authority II.B.1&2), it cannot be a sufficient condition in the absence of the other criteria of justified political authority(JPA), especially political justice. If a regime is beneficent yet unjust, no amount of beneficence can make it so. All three abovementioned arguments might be conceded, and yet the injustice of hereditary succession would remain. Additionally, what useful and aesthetic ends which they achieve might be similarly wrought by other, less problematic, means. It may be beneficial to reflect upon the prosperity of 19th century monarchies which enriched their subjects and yet were the object of scorn and derision for precisely this reason.


This short refutation is aimed principally at the legitimist argument for the necessity of hereditary succession. It does not exclude the possibility of a monarchy, but merely contests the necessary correspondence of the legitimist principle of hereditary succession. Future monarchs might be chosen from among one or many noble dynasties, so long as no single heir is determined exclusively on account of being the hereditary heir of the previous sovereign. Further, this argument nowhere entails either democracy or the political primacy of a parliament. An elected monarch might foreseeably distribute goods to the nation with greater beneficence than a parliament. Monarchy is not invalidated by this line of argument. Only the principle of exclusive hereditary succession has been cast into disrepute. I encourage all monarchists to reflect upon these issues, and consider the wonderful possibility of an elective monarchy.
The coronation of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. This painting is by Laurits Tuxen.