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Utopie en bevrijding

Voorkant Berlin 'The crooked timber of humanity - Chapters in the history of ideas' Isaiah BERLIN
The crooked timber of humanity - Chapters in the history of ideas [Edition Hardy]
London: Murray, 1990, 276 blzn.; ISBN: 07 1954 789X
Het kromme hout waaruit de mens gemaakt is - Episoden uit de ideeëngeschiedenis
Kampen / Kapellen: Kok Agora / Pelckmans, 1994, 244 blzn.; ISBN: 90 3910 6088

[Deze bundel werd samengesteld uit essays die allemaal dezelfde thema's als onderwerp hebben. Er is daardoor sprake van enorm veel herhaling en overlap. De titel van het boek is afgeleid van een uitspraak van Immanuel Kant: "Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert werden." Berlin's werkt een nogal vage kritiek uit op het geloof in universele waarden: er is niet één menselijke natuur die het mogelijk maakt dat mensen allemaal in dezelfde zaken geloven en daarom harmonieus kunnen samenleven, er zullen altijd waarden naast elkaar blijven bestaan die elkaar uitsluiten en op zichzelf genomen toch verdedigbaar zijn, jammer maar zo is het nu eenmaal. Zijn kritiek op dogmatisme is terecht, maar eenzijdig: er wordt wel verwezen naar fascistische en socialistische / communistische ideologieën en alle ellende die die veroorzaakt hebben, maar wordt er weer eens niets gezegd over het kapitalisme en neoliberalisme als 'killer' van miljoenen mensen terwijl daarnaast religieuze ideologieën met fluwelen handschoentjes worden aangepakt. Zijn kritiek op het relativisme is terecht, maar hij werkt niet uit hoe het alternatief dat hij geeft - pluralisme - in de praktijk zou moeten werken. Juist hier zou het moeten gaan over de publieke ruimte, communicatieve rationaliteit, de invulling van democratie, en zo verder.

[Ik vind Berlin eenzelfde benadering hebben als Hans Achterhuis: we horen de hele tijd eenzijdige verhalen over wat er niet goed is aan idealisme en utopisch denken, we horen dat ze leiden tot bloedvergieten en onderdrukking, maar we horen van hen bijzonder en opvallend weinig over hoe we kunnen veranderen wat er allemaal niet deugt aan deze globale samenleving. Het is weglopen voor je verantwoordelijkheid met als smoes dat het slecht is om mensen te dwingen, te corrigeren, op te voeden. Het is een liberaal conservatisme dat zelf een aantal stiekeme normatieve vooronderstellingen hanteert, alles wil houden zoals het is, en zich daarmee in feite akkoord verklaart met het bloedvergieten en alle mogelijke andere ellende die de huidige status quo kent. Berlin wil niet dat we duizenden eieren breken om iets te bereiken van een utopische toestand. Begrijpelijk. Maar wat als er geen enkel ei gebroken wordt?]

[Ik heb het boek vroeger gelezen in het Nederlands en vat het nu samen aan de hand van een digitale Engelse uitgave. ]

(1) The pursuit of the ideal

"There are, in my view, two factors that, above all others, have shaped human history in this century. One is the development of the natural sciences and technology, certainly the greatest success story of our time - to this, great and mounting attention has been paid from all quarters. The other, without doubt, consists in the great ideological storms that have altered the lives of virtually all mankind: the Russian Revolution and its aftermath - totalitarian tyrannies of both right and left and the explosions of nationalism, racism, and, in places, of re­ligious bigotry, which, interestingly enough, not one among the most perceptive social thinkers of the nineteenth century had ever predicted."(1)

[Merkwaardig weer dat kapitalisme en (neo)liberalisme blijkbaar niet onder de 'ideologische storm' van de laatste paar honderd jaar vallen die mensen zo beïnvloed heeft. Berlin is blijkbaar vergeten dat nationalisme, racisme en alle mogelijke uitwassen van religie met name ook voorkomen in het meest kapitalistische land ter wereld: de Verenigde Staten. Sterker nog: misschien heeft het een wel met het andere te maken, zou het niet? En ook die voorzichtigheid met religie is belachelijk: religie is niet alleen 'in places' een probleem, ze is per definitie een probleem.]

"Ethical thought consists of the systematic examination of the relations of human beings to each other, the conceptions, interests and ideals from which human ways of treating one another spring, and the systems of value on which such ends of life are based. These beliefs about how life should be lived, what men and women should be and do, are objects of moral inquiry; and when applied to groups and nations, and, indeed, mankind as a whole, are called political philosophy, which is but ethics applied to society.
If we are to hope to understand the often violent world in which we live (and unless we try to understand it, we cannot expect to be able to act rationally in it and on it), we cannot confine our attention to the great impersonal forces, natural and man-made, which act upon us. The goals and motives that guide human action must be looked at in the light of all that we know and understand; their roots and growth, their essence, and above all their validity, must be critically examined with every intellectual resource that we have."(1-2)

Berlin legt in het vervolg uit hoe hij persoonlijk tot dit normatieve denken kwam dat hem al veertig jaar bezig houdt. Aanleiding vormde het lezen van Russische schrijvers en latere het lezen van allerlei filosofen.

"The rational reorganisation of society would put an end to spiritual and intellectual confusion, the reign of prejudice and superstition, blind obedience to unexamined dogmas, and the stupidities and cruelties of the oppressive regimes which such intellectual darkness bred and promoted. All that was wanted was the identification of the principal human needs and discovery of the means of satisfying them. This would create the happy, free, just, virtuous, harmonious world which Condorcet so movingly predicted in his prison cell in 1794. This view lay at the basis of all progressive thought in the nineteenth century, and was at the heart of much of the critical empiricism which I imbibed in Oxford as a student."(5)

" The day would dawn when men and women would take their lives in their own hands and not be self-seeking beings or the playthings of blind forces that they did not understand. It was, at the very least, not impossible to conceive what such an earthly paradise could be; and if conceivable we could, at any rate, try to march towards it. That has been at the centre of ethical thought from the Greeks to the Christian visionaries of the Middle Ages, from the Renaissance to progressive thought in the last century; and indeed, is believed by many to this day."(7)

[Je kunt je afvragen wat er zo mis is met dit ideaal. Er staat immers nergens dat mensen allemaal dezelfde waarden en normen moeten hebben / volgen, er staat nergens dat mensen gedwongen moeten worden om die ene verzameling van waarden en normen behorende bij één menselijke natuur te volgen. Dat dat gebeurd is zegt niet dat het noodzakelijkerwijs moet gebeuren, het zegt alleen maar dat het beschreven ideaal een stuk lastiger is dan zo op het eerste gezicht lijkt.]

Het lezen van Machiavelli maakte hem er echter van bewust

" that not all the supreme values pursued by mankind now and in the past were necessarily compatible with one another. It undermined my earlier assumption, based on the phiosophia perennis, that there could be no conflict between true ends, true answers to the central problems of life."(8)

Giambattista Vico en Johann Gottfried Herder maakten hem weer iets anders duidelijk:

"The ways in which men live, think, feel, speak to one another, the clothes they wear, the songs they sing, the gods they worship, the food they eat, the assumptions, customs, habits which are intrinsic to them - it is this that creates communities, each of which has its own 'life-style'. Communities may resemble each other in many respects, but the Greeks differ from Lutheran Germans, the Chinese differ from both; what they strive after and what they fear or worship are scarcely ever similar.
This view has been called cultural or moral relativism - this is what that great scholar, my friend Arnaldo Momigliano, whom I greatly admired, supposed both about Vico and about Herder. He was mistaken. It is not relativism. Members of one culture can, by the force of imaginative insight, understand (what Vico called entrare) the values, the ideals, the forms of life of another culture or society, even those remote in time or space. They may find these values unacceptable, but if they open their minds sufficiently they can grasp how one might be a full human being, with whom one could communicate, and at the same time live in the light of values widely different from one's own, but which nevertheless one can see to be values, ends of life, by the realisation of which men could be fulfilled."(10)

Het is geen relativisme, maar pluralisme. Dat laatste is

" the conception that there are many different ends that men may seek and still be fully rational, fully men, capable of understanding each other and sympathising and deriving light from each other... "(11)

"Of course, if we did not have any values in common with these distant figures, each civilisation would be enclosed in its own impenetrable bubble, and we could not understand them at all; this is what Spengler's typology amounts to. Intercommunication between cultures in time and space is only possible because what makes men human is common to them, and acts as a bridge between them. But our values are ours, and theirs are theirs. We are free to criticise the values of other cultures, to condemn them, but we cannot pretend not to understand them at all, or to regard them simply as subjective, the products of creatures in different circumstances with different tastes from our own, which do not speak to us at all.
There is a world of objective values. By this I mean those ends that men pursue for their own sakes, to which other things are means. What is clear is that values can clash - that is why civilisations are incompatible. They can be incompatible between cultures, or groups in the same culture, or between you and me."(11)

"These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are. If we are told that these contradictions will be solved in some perfect world in which all good things can be harmonised in principle, then we must answer, to those who say this, that the meanings they attach to the names which for us denote the conflicting values are not ours."(13)

"The notion of the perfect whole, the ultimate solution, in which all good things coexist, seems to me to be not merely unattainable - that is a truism - but conceptually incoherent; I do not know what is meant by a harmony of this kind. Some among the Great Goods cannot live together. That is a concep­tual truth. We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss. Happy are those who live under a discipline which they accept without question, who freely obey the orders of leaders, spiritual or temporal, whose word is fully accepted as unbreakable law; or those who have, by their own methods, arrived at clear and unshakeable convictions about what to do and what to be that brook no possible doubt. I can only say that those who rest on such comfortable beds of dogma are victims of forms of self-induced myopia, blinkers that may make for contentment, but not for understanding of what it is to be human."(13-14)

"Utopias have their value - nothing so wonderfully expands the imaginative horizons of human potentialities - but as guides to conduct they can prove literally fatal. Heraclitus was right, things cannot stand still.
So I conclude that the very notion of a final solution is not only impracticable but, if I am right, and some values cannot but clash, incoherent also. The possibility of a final solution - even if we forget the terrible sense that these words acquired in Hitler's day - turns out to be an illusion; and a very dangerous one. For if one really believes that such a solution is possible, then surely no cost would be too high to obtain it: to make mankind just and happy and creative and harmonious for ever - what could be too high a price to pay for that? To make such an omelette, there is surely no limit to the number of eggs that should be broken - that was the faith of Lenin, of Trotsky, of Mao, for all I know of Pol Pot. Since I know the only true path to the ultimate solution of the problems of society, I know which way to drive the human caravan; and since you are ignorant of what I know, you cannot be allowed to have liberty of choice even within the narrowest limits, if the goal is to be reached. You declare that a given policy will make you happier, or freer, or give you room to breathe; but I know that you are mistaken, I know what you need, what all men need; and if there is resistance based on ignorance or malevolence, then it must be broken and hundreds of thousands may have to perish to make millions happy for all time. What choice have we, who have the knowledge, but to be willing to sacrifice them all ?
Some armed prophets seek to save mankind, and some only their own race because of its superior attributes, but whichever the motive, the millions slaughtered in wars or revolutions - gas chambers, gulag, genocide, all the monstrosities for which our century will be remembered - are the price men must pay for the felicity of future generations. If your desire to save mankind is serious, you must harden your heart, and not reckon the cost."(15)

Hoe kunnen we dit soort ontwikkelingen vermijden? Wat moeten we daarvoor doen?

"The first public obligation is to avoid extremes of suffering."(17)

"A certain humility in these matters is very necessary."(18)

[Nou, die normatieve standpunten zijn allebei lekker vaag.]

"There are, if not universal values, at any rate a minimum without which societies could scarcely survive."(18)

[Maar onderzoek dan eens diepgaand hoe ver dat bestaan van universele waarden kan of moet gaan! Maar natuurlijk kom je dan op een punt uit dat je bepaalde waarden en normen van mensen niet meer kunt zien als maatschappelijk acceptabel en dat je van mening bent dat die mensen opgevoed moeten worden. Sommig gedrag van kinderen is universeel slecht gedrag en overal zal men dat gedrag willen corrigeren. Sommig gedrag van groepen mensen is universeel slecht gedrag en ook dat gedrag wil men overal corrigeren behalve binnen die groep zelf. Beide kun je alleen naar voren brengen wanneer je met heel goede argumenten kunt komen die onderbouwen dat er van slecht gedrag sprake is en waarom dat moet ophouden. Ik vind die angst om te moraliseren onbegrijpelijk. ]

"But on the other hand, the search for perfection does seem to me a recipe for bloodshed, no better even if it is demanded by the sincerest of idealists, the purest of heart."(18)

[Maar waar zoek je dan wél naar? Of accepteer je gewoon de status quo? Ik vind Berlin eenzelfde benadering hebben als Hans Achterhuis: we horen de hele tijd eenzijdige verhalen over wat niet goed is, en dat idealisme en utopisch denken leiden tot bloedvergieten en onderdrukking, maar we horen van hen bijzonder en opvallend weinig over hoe we kunnen veranderen wat er allemaal niet deugt aan deze globale samenleving. Het is weglopen voor je verantwoordelijkheid met als smoes dat het slecht is om mensen te dwingen, te corrigeren, op te voeden. Het is een liberaal conservatisme dat zelf een aantal stiekeme normatieve vooronderstellingen hanteert, alles wil houden zoals het is, en zich daarmee akkoord verklaart met het bloedvergieten en alle mogelijke andere ellende die de huidige status quo kent.]

"To force people into the neat uniforms demanded by dogmatically believed-in schemes is almost always the road to inhumanity."(19)

['Almost always'? Is dat wel goed wanneer het om een religie gaat bijvoorbeeld? Of wanneer de Staat dat doet binnen een parlementaire democratie? En een veel belangrijker vraag: wanneer is er eigenlijk sprake van een dogmatisch geloof in iets? Opnieuw wordt er hierboven alle mogelijke kritiek geleverd op fascistische en socialistische / communistische ideologieën en alle ellende die die veroorzaakt hebben, maar wordt er weer eens niets gezegd over het kapitalisme als 'killer' van miljoenen mensen, nog afgezien van allerlei desastreuze invloeden die daar vandaag de dag nog vanuit gaan. Is het heilige geloof in het kapitalisme en neoliberalisme niet dogmatisch? Proberen die ideologieën mensen niet in een keurslijf en een uniformpje te dwingen? Zullen we ook eens proberen vast te stellen tot hoeveel doden en gewonden en andere ellende (zoals de verontreiniging van het milieu, het uitputten van natuurlijke hulpbronnen door een vergaande verspilling, de armoede, de wapenwedloop) de economische globalisering geleid heeft?]

(20) The decline of utopian ideas in the west

"The idea of a perfect society is a very old dream, whether because of the ills of the present, which lead men to conceive of what their world would be like without them - to imagine some ideal state in which there was no misery and no greed, no danger or poverty or fear or brutalising labour or insecurity - or because these Utopias are fictions deliberately constructed as satires, intended to criticise the actual world and to shame those who control existing regimes, or those who suffer them too tamely; or perhaps they are social fantasies - simple exercises of the poetical imagination.
Broadly speaking, western Utopias tend to contain the same elements: a society lives in a state of pure harmony, in which all its members live in peace, love one another, are free from physical danger, from want of any kind, from insecurity, from degrading work, from envy, from frustration, experience no injustice or violence, live in perpetual, even light, in a temperate climate, in the midst of infinitely fruitful, generous nature. The main characteristic of most, perhaps all, Utopias is the fact that they are static. Nothing in them alters, for they have reached perfection: there is no need for novelty or change; no one can wish to alter a condition in which all natural human wishes are fulfilled.
The assumption on which this is based is that men have a certain fixed, unaltering nature, certain universal, common, immutable goals. Once these goals are realised, human nature is wholly fulfilled. The very idea of universal fulfilment presupposes that human beings as such seek the same essential goals, identical for all, at all times, everywhere. For unless this is so, Utopia cannot be Utopia, for then the perfect society will nor perfectly satisfy everyone."(19-20)

[Dit is zo'n eenzijdig invulling van wat een utopie kan zijn, ongelooflijk. Natuurlijk zijn er ook utopieën mogelijk die pluraliteit en voortdurende ontwikkeling benadrukken en niet gebaseerd zijn op een naïeve harmoniegedachte.]

"These are poets who believed that the golden age is in a past which can never return. Then there are the thinkers who believe that the golden age is still to come."(21)

"The constant theme which runs through all Utopian thought, Christian and pagan alike, is that once upon a time there was a perfect state, then some enormous disaster took place: in the Bible it is the sin of disobedience - the fatal eating of the forbidden fruit; or else it is the Flood; or wicked giants came and disturbed the world, or men in their arrogance built the Tower of Babel and were punished. So too in Greek mythology the perfect state was broken by some disaster, as in the story of Prometheus, or of Deucalion and Pyrrha, or of Pandora's box - the pristine unity is shivered, and the rest of human history is a continuous attempt to piece together the fragments in order to restore serenity, so that the perfect state may be realised once again. Human stupidity or wickedness or weakness may prevent this consummation; or the gods may not permit it; but our lives are conceived, particularly in the thought of Gnostics and in the visions of the mystics, as an agonised effort to piece together the broken fragments of the perfect whole with which the universe began, and to which it may yet return. This is a persistent idea which goes through European thought from its earliest beginnings; it underlies all the old Utopias and has deeply influenced western metaphys­ical, moral and political ideas. In this sense utopianism - the notion of the broken unity and its restoration - is a central strand in the whole of western thought. For this reason it might be not unprofitable to try to reveal some of the main assumptions which appear to underlie it."(23-24)

"The first proposition is this: to all genuine questions there can only be one correct answer, all the other answers being incorrect. If there is no correct answer to it, then the question cannot be a genuine one. Any genuine question must, at least in principle, be answerable, and if this is so, only one answer can be correct. (...)
The second assumption is that a method exists for the discovery of these correct answers.(...)
The third assumption, and perhaps the most important in this context, is that all the correct answers must, at the very least, be compatible with one another."(24)

De rationele insteek van zo veel utopische denkers:

"To know what will liberate one from error and illusion, and truly understand all that as a spiritual and physical being one knows oneself to seek after, and yet, despite this, to refrain from acting accordingly, is not to be in one's right mind - to be irrational and perhaps not altogether sane. To know how to compass your ends and then not to try to do so is, in the end, not truly to understand your ends. To understand is to act: there is a certain sense in which these earlier thinkers anticipated Karl Marx in their belief in the unity of theory and practice."(28)

"Crime, vice, imperfection, misery, all arise from ignorance and mental indolence or muddle. This ignorance may be fomented by wicked people who wish to throw dust in the eyes of others in order to dominate them, and who may, in the end, as often as not, be taken in by their own propaganda.
'Virtue is knowledge' means that if you know the good for man, you cannot, if you are a rational being, live in any way other than that whereby fulfilment is that towards which all desires, hopes, prayers, aspirations are directed: that is what is meant by calling them hopes. To distinguish reality from appearance, to distinguish that which will truly fulfil a man from that which merely appears to promise to do so, that is knowledge, and that alone will save him. It is this vast Platonic assumption, sometimes in its baptised, Christian form, that animates the great Utopias of the Renaissance, More's wonder­ ful fantasy, Bacon's New Atlantis, Campanella's City of the Sun, and the dozen or so Christian Utopias of the seventeenth century - of which Fenelon's is only the best known. Absolute faith in rational solutions and the proliferation of Utopian writing are both aspects of similar stages of cultural develop­ment, in classical Athens and the Italian Renaissance and the French eighteenth century and in the two hundred years that followed, no less so in the present than in the recent or distant past."(29)

[Maar wat is het alternatief van een geloof in rationele oplossingen eigenlijk? Opnieuw het geloof in de voorzienigheid die het beste met ons voorheeft? ]

"The notion that somewhere, whether in a real or imagined society, man dwells in his natural state, to which all men should return, is at the heart of primitivist theories; it is found in various guises in every anarchist and populist programme of the last hundred years, and has deeply affected Marxism and the vast variety of youth movements with radical or revolutionary goals."(30)

"None of these doubters wish to deny that the central human goals are universal and uniform, even though they may not be necessarily established a priori: all men seek food and drink, shelter and security; all men want to procreate; all men seek social intercourse, justice, a degree of liberty, means of self-expression, and the like. The means towards these ends may differ from country to country, and age to age, but the ends, whether alterable in principle or not, remain unaltered; this is clearly brought out by a high degree of family resemblance in the social Utopias of both ancient and modern times."(30-31)

[Ja, en wat is daar dan mis mee? Is dat niet een prachtige verdediging van de mogelijkheid van universele waarden en normen waarnaar we zouden kunnen streven?]

Machiavelli wordt weer opgevoerd. Het relativisme ook.

"Henceforth, the spectre of relativism makes its dreaded appearance, and with it the beginning of the dissolution of faith in the very concept of universally valid goals, at least in the social and political sphere. This was accompanied, in due course, by a sense that there might be not only a historical or political but some logical flaw in the very idea of a universe equally acceptable to communities of different origin, with different traditions, character, outlook, concepts, categories, views of life.
But again, the implications of this were not fully spelt out, largely, perhaps, because of the enormous triumph at this very time of the natural sciences."(33)

Dat betekende namelijk: één externe wereld voor iedereen.

"Why cannot one create a science or sciences of man and here also provide solutions as clear and certain as those obtained in the sciences of the external world?
This was a novel, revolutionary and highly plausible proposal which the thinkers of the Enlightenment, particularly in France, accepted with natural enthusiasm. It was surely reasonable to suppose that man has an examinable nature, capable of being observed, analysed, tested like other organisms and forms of living matter. The programme seemed clear: one must scientifically find out what man consists of, and what he needs for his growth and for his satisfaction. When one had discovered what he is and what he requires, one will then ask where this last can be found; and then, by means of the appropriate inventions and discoveries, supply men's wants, and in this way achieve, if not total perfection, at any rate a far happier and more rational state of affairs than at present prevails. Why does it not exist ? Because stupidity, prejudice, superstition, ignorance, the pas­sions which darken reason, greed and fear and lust for domination, and the barbarism, cruelty, intolerance, fanaticism which go with them, have led to the deplorable condition in which men have been forced to live too long."(34)

Maar op dat Verlichtingsdenken kwam reactie.

"In due course this great wave of rationalism led to an inevitable reaction. It seems to me a historical fact that when­ ever rationalism goes far enough there often tends to occur some kind of emotional resistance, a 'backlash', which springs from that which is irrational in man. This took place in Greece in the fourth and third centuries BC, when the great Socratic schools produced their magnificent rationalistic systems: seldom, we are told by historians of Greek cults, did mystery religions, occultism, irrationalism, mysticisms of all kinds flourish so richly. So too the powerful and rigid edifice of Roman law, one of the great achievements of human civilisation, and, side by side with it, the great legal-religious structure of ancient Judaism were followed by a passionate, emotional resistance, culminating in the rise and triumph of Christianity. In the later Middle Ages there was, similarly, reaction to the great logical constructions of the schoolmen. Something not dissimilar occurred during the Reformation; and finally, following the triumphs of the scien­tific spirit in the west, a powerful counter-movement arose some two centuries ago."(34-35)

[Dat wordt neergepend alsof er een oorzaak-gevolg-relatie is tussen beide: een rationele aanpak leidt noodzakelijkerwijs tot een irrationele reactie. Het is vast niet zo simpel, er is vast een samenhang met machtsverhoudingen, verdediging van belangen, en dergelijke. ]

En dat is natuurlijk de Duitse Romantiek vanaf Johann Gottfried Herder.

"Beginning as a literary historian and essayist, he maintained that values were not universal; every human society, every people, indeed every age and civilisation, possesses its own unique ideals, standards, way of living and thought and action. There are no immutable, universal, eternal rules or criteria of judgement in terms of which different cultures and nations can be graded in some single order of excellence, which would place the French - if Voltaire was right - at the top of the ladder of human achievement and the Germans far below them in the twilight regions of religious obscurantism and within the narrow limits of provincialism and dim-witted rural existence. Every society, every age, has its own cultural horizons. Every nation has its own traditions, its own character, its own face. Every nation has its own centre of moral gravity, which differs from that of every other: there and only there its happiness lies ­ in the development of its own national needs, its own unique character."(37)

"The conception of human history as a single universal process of struggle towards the light, the later stages and embodiments of which are necessarily superior to the earlier, where the primitive is necessarily inferior to the sophisticated, is an enormous fallacy."(37-38)

Cultureel relativisme dus.

" The idea of a single, perfect society of all mankind must be internally self-contradictory, because the Valhalla of the Germans is necessarily different from the ideal of future life of the French, because the paradise of the Muslims is not that of Jews or Christians, because a society in which a Frenchman would attain to harmonious fulfilment is a society which to a German might prove suffocating. But if we are to have as many types of perfection as there are types of culture, each with its ideal constellation of virtues, then the very notion of the possibility of a single perfect society is logically incoherent. This, I think, is the beginning of the modern attack on the notion of Utopia, Utopia as such."(40)

[Dit is een denkfout. Een 'volmaakte samenleving' staat voor een normatief beeld van hoe het zou kunnen worden, en niets van alle genoemde normatieve feitelijke verschillen tussen mensen en groepen en regio's doet iets af aan wat we normatief zouden kunnen willen. Feiten en waardering van de feiten, hoe het is en hoe het zou moeten zijn worden hier niet uit elkaar gehouden.]

[Een foute aanname is verder dat een utopie streeft naar een enkele volmaakte samenleving voor iedereen. Dat hoeft dus niet, nergens staat dat een utopie moet streven naar een samenleving die uniform is voor alle deelnemers. Variatie is te organiseren, denk aan verschillende samenleefvormen (vrouw met man, man met man, vrouw met vrouw, polyamoureuze stellen, getrouwd of niet, met of zonder kinderen, en noem maar op).]

"Values are not discovered, they are created; not found, but made by an act of imaginative, creative will, as works of art, as policies, plans, patterns of life are created. By whose imagination, whose will? Fichte speaks of the self, the ego; as a rule he identifies it with a transcendent, infinite, world-spirit of which the human individual is a mere spatiotemporal, mortal expression, a finite centre which derives its reality from the spirit, to perfect union with which it seeks to attain. Others identified this self with some other superpersonal spirit or force - the nation, the true self in which the individual is only an element; or, again, the people (Rousseau comes near to doing this) or the state (as Hegel does); or it is identified with a culture, or the Zeitgeist (a conception greatly mocked by Goethe in his Faust ), or a class which embodies the progressive march of history (as in Marx), or some other, equally impalpable, movement or force or group. This somewhat mysterious source is held to generate and transform values which I am bound to follow because, to the degree to which I am, at my best or truest, an agent of God, or of history, or progress, or the nation, I recognise them as my own. This constitutes a sharp break with the whole of previous tradition, for which the true and the beautiful, the noble and the ignoble, the right and the wrong, duty, sin, ultimate good, were unalterable, ideal values and, like their opposites, created eternal and identical for all men; in the old formula, quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus: the only problem was how to know them and, knowing, realise or avoid them, do good and eschew evil."(42)

"The notion that there exists a celestial, crystalline sphere, unaffected by the world of change and appearance, in which mathematical truths and moral or aesthetic values form a perfect harmony, guaranteed by indestructible logical links, is now abandoned, or at best is ignored. That is at the heart of the romantic movement, the extreme expression of which is the self-assertion of the individual creative personality as the maker of its own universe; we are in the world of rebels against convention, of the free artists, the Satanic outlaws, the Byronic outcasts, the 'pale and fevered generation' celebrated by German and French romantic writers of the early nineteenth century, the stormy Promethean heroes who reject the laws of their society, determined to achieve self-realisation and free self-expression against whatever odds."(43)

" It is clear that the notion of a harmonious solution of the problems of mankind, even in principle, and therefore of the very concept of Utopia, is incompatible with the interpretation of the human world as a battle of perpetually new and ceaselessly conflicting wills, individual or collective. Attempts were made to stem this dangerous tide. Hegel, and after him Marx, sought to return to a rational historical scheme."(44)

"For Utopian thinkers in this tradition, the happy ending is a timeless serenity, the radiance of a static, conflict­ free society after the state has withered away and all constituted authority has vanished - a peaceful anarchy in which men are rational, cooperative, virtuous, happy and free. This is an attempt to have the best of both worlds: to allow for inevitable conflict, but to believe that it is at once unavoidable and a temporary stage along the path to the total self-fulfilment of mankind."(44)

"Since then the 'perennial philosophy', with its unalterable objective truths founded on the perception of an eternal order behind the chaos of appearances, has been thrown on the defensive in the face of the attacks of relativists, pluralists, irrationalists, prag­matists, subjectivists, and certain types of empiricism; and with its decline, the conception of the perfect society, which derives from this great unitary vision, loses its persuasive power. From this time onward, believers in the possibility of social perfection tend to be accused by their opponents of trying to foist an artificial order on a reluctant humanity, of trying to fit human beings, like bricks, into a preconceived structure, force them into Procrustean beds, and vivisect living men in the pursuit of some fanatically held schema. Hence the protest - and anti­ Utopias - of Aldous Huxley, or Orwell, or Zamyatin (in Russia in the early 1920s), who paint a horrifying picture of a frictionless society in which differences between human beings are, as far as possible, eliminated, or at least reduced, and the multi-coloured pattern of the variety of human temperaments, inclinations, ideals - in short, the flow of life - is brutally reduced to uniformity, pressed into a social and political straitjacket which hurts and maims and ends by crushing men in the name of a monistic theory, a dream of a perfect, static order. This is the heart of the protest against the uniformitarian despotism which Tocqueville and J. S. Mill felt to be advancing upon mankind."(45)

"This is not accepted by those who declare that men's temperaments, gifts, outlooks, wishes permanently differ one from another, that uniformity kills; that men can live full lives only in societies with an open texture, in which variety is not merely tolerated but is approved and encouraged; that the richest development of human potentialities can occur only in societies in which there is a wide spectrum of opinions - the freedom for what J. S. Mill called 'experiments in living' - in which there is liberty of thought and of expression, views and opinions clash with each other, societies in which friction and even conflict are permitted, albeit with rules to control them and prevent destruction and violence; that subjection to a single ideology, no matter how reasonable and imaginative, robs men of freedom and vitality."(46)

" Side by side with these collisions of values there persists an age-old dream: there is, there must be - and it can be found - the final solution to all human ills; it can be achieved; by revolution or peaceful means it will surely come; and then all, or the vast majority, of men will be virtuous and happy, wise and good and free; if such a position can be attained, and once attained will last for ever, what sane man could wish to return to the miseries of men's wanderings in the desert? If this is possible, then surely no price is too heavy to pay for it; no amount of oppression, cruelty, repression, coercion will be too high, if this, and this alone, is the price for ultimate salvation of all men? This conviction gives a wide licence to inflict suffering on other men, provided it is done for pure, disinterested motives. But if one believes this doctrine to be an illusion, if only because some ultimate values may be incompatible with one another, and the very notion of an ideal world in which they are reconciled to be a conceptual (and not merely practical) impossibility, then, perhaps, the best that one can do is to try to promote some kind of equilibrium, necessarily unstable, between the different aspirations of differ­ing groups of human beings - at the very least to prevent them from attempting to exterminate each other, and, so far as possible, to prevent them from hurting each other - and to promote the maximum practicable degree of sympathy and understanding, never likely to be complete, between them. But this is not, prima facie, a wildly exciting programme: a liberal sermon which recommends machinery designed to prevent people from doing each other too much harm, giving each human group sufficient room to realise its own idiosyncratic, unique, particular ends without too much interference with the ends of others, is not a passionate battle-cry to inspire men to sacrifice and martyrdom and heroic feats. Yet if it were adopted it might yet prevent mutual destruction, and, in the end, preserve the world."(47-48)

[Zelfde thema's, zelfde stellingen, kritiek iets breder, maar dezelfde zinloze zwartwit-tegenstellingen. Waarom zie ik hier geen analyse van de economie en zo? Hoe kun je politieke filosofie bedrijven zonder de economie erbij te halen? Is die beschreven balans wel mogelijk binnen een kapitalistische samenleving? Waarom niets over regulatie en de grenzen aan regulatie? Hij noemt zijn pleidooi een 'liberal sermon'? Pardon? In welke betekenis liberaal? Zoals in het neoliberalisme van de Verenigde Saten, 'the land of the free'? Laat me niet lachen? Wat een geweldige balans is er bereikt in dat ontwikkelingsland ... ]

(49) Giambattista Vico and cultural history

Over de redenen waarom mensen hun eigen verleden bestuderen. Trots zijn op jezelf vanwege je verleden; qua moraal leren van het verleden; zoeken naar een ontwikkelingspatroon of zelfs een plan in de geschiedenis, bijvoorbeeld om de toekomst te kunnen voorspellen; nieuwsgierigheid; te weten komen hoe het nu ontstaan is uit het verleden, de behoefte aan zelfkennis zeg maar. Aan dat laatste koppelt Berlin:

"This last motive for the study of history springs from a desire for self-knowledge - something which, however implicit in earlier writers, came to the surface only in the eighteenth century, principally among thinkers in the west who reacted against a central doctrine of the French Enlightenment, then the dominant influence on the majority of European intellectuals. This was the belief that a universally valid method had finally been found for the solution of the fundamental questions that had exercised men at all times - how to establish what was true and what was false in every province of knowledge; and, above all, what was the right life that men should lead if they were to attain those goals which men had always pursued - life, liberty, justice, happiness, virtue, the fullest development of human faculties in a harmonious and creative way. This method consisted in the application of those rational (that is, scientific) rules which had in the previous century produced such magnificent results in the fields of mathematics and the natural sciences to the moral, social, political, economic problems of mankind, so long bedevilled by ignorance and error, super­stition and prejudice, much of it deliberately spread by priests, princes, ruling classes, bureaucrats, and ambitious adventurers who disseminated falsehoods as a means of keeping men obedient to their will."(51)

[De Verlichting wil dus de universele natuurwetenschappelijke methoden toepassen op het bestuderen van alles. Rationaliteit is hier niet meer dan dat. Maar de mensen die hij noemt als vertegenwoordiger, zoals Voltaire en Montesquieu nemen duidelijk normatieve standpunten in wanneer ze dat soort rationaliteit bepleiten, standpunten die je niet met dat soort wetenschappelijke rationaliteit kunt bewijzen. Wat ze dus over de geschiedenis beweren is even 'irrationeel' als wat Romantici beweren. Ben je tegen de Verlichting, ben je dan tegen wetenschappelijke rationaliteit of tegen de achterliggende normatieve overtuigingen? Maar dit is wel erg vaag eigenlijk. Zijn de 'irrationele' normatieve overtuigingen van de Verlichtingsdenkers nu de oorzaak van alle ellende in de 20ste eeuw of de 'irrationele' reactie daarop? Misschien moeten we wel zeggen: de Verlichting was niet 'rationeel' genoeg. Schijntegenstellingen.]

"The view that the truth is one and undivided, and the same for all men everywhere at all times, whether one finds it in the pronouncements of sacred books, traditional wisdom, the authority of churches, democratic majorities, observation and experiment conducted by qualified experts, or the convictions of simple folk uncorrupted by civilisation - this view, in one form or another, is central to western thought, which stems from Plato and his disciples."(53)

[Is of moet zijn? Zelfs als je accepteert dat er eindeloos veel verschillen van opvatting bestaan tussen mensen, kun je nog vinden dat dat niet wenselijk is en dat het streven moet zijn het allemaal met elkaar eens te worden. De vraag is dan vervolgens hoe je die eenheid gaat nastreven. Met geweld of zonder? Etcetera. Er was altijd een reactie op: skepticisme bestond al in de tijd van Socrates, etc etc. via de Romantiek tot en met het postmodernisme van vandaag de dag. Maar wat schieten we nu eigenlijk op met al dat skepticisme en relativisme? Is dat niet even gevaarlijk, omdat het alles uiteindelijk laat zoals het is? Berlin wil niet dat we duizenden eieren breken om iets te bereiken van een utopische toestand. Begrijpelijk. Maar wat als er geen enkel ei gebroken wordt?]

Opnieuw wordt Herder besproken.

"It is worth remarking, in this connection, that the history of ideas offers few examples of so dramatic a change of outlook as the birth of the new belief not so much in the inevitability, as in the value and importance, of the singular and the unique, of variety as such; and the corresponding conviction that there is something repressive and deeply unattractive in uniformity; that whereas variety is a symptom of vitality, the opposite is a dreary and dead monotony. Indeed, this notion, this feeling, which seems so natural to us now, is not compatible with a view of the world according to which truth is everywhere one, while error is multiple; that the ideal state is one of total harmony, while apparently irreconcilable differences of outlook or opinion are a symptom of imperfection - of incoherence due to error or ignorance or weakness or vice. Yet that kind of worship of oneness is the basis of Platonism and of much subsequent thought, in both Judaism and Christianity, and no less so in the Renaissance and in the Enlightenment, deeply influenced as it was by the triumphant progress of the natural sciences."(56)

[Ik vraag me dus af of dit beeld wel klopt, of er niet een heel grote schijntegenstelling aan ten grondslag ligt. Wat als die ene normatieve waarheid is dat mensen diversiteit moeten leren aanvaarden? Op die manier. Of: diversiteit in sommige opzichten, maar niet in andere.]

"No doctrine that has at its heart a monistic conception of the true and the good and the beautiful, or a teleology according to which everything conspires towards a final harmonious resolution - an ultimate order in which all the apparent confusions and im­ perfections of the life of the world will be resolved - no doctrine of this kind can allow variety as an independent value to be pursued for its own sake; for variety entails the possibility of the conflict of values, of some irreducible incompatibility between the ideals, or, indeed, the immediate aims, of fully realised, equally virtuous men."(57)

[Dat betwijfel ik dus. Een analyseer dan ook hoe een leven of een samenleving eruitziet waarin waarden met elkaar in conflict zijn. Is dat zo'n geweldige samenleving? En is het antwoord 'ja, maar zo is het gewoon' niet even dogmatisch? Diversiteit als dogma. Relativisme als absolute stelling.]

"Yet it is this worship of rich variety which was at the centre of the romantic movement, both in the arts and in philosophy. This seems to me to have led to something like the melting away of the very notion of objective truth, at least in the normative sphere. However it might be in the natural sciences, in the realm of ethics, politics, aesthetics it was the authenticity and sincerity of the pursuit of inner goals that mattered; this applied equally to individuals and groups - states, nations, movements. This is most evident in the aesthetics of romanticism, where the notion of eternal models, a Platonic vision of ideal beauty, which the artist seeks to convey, however imperfectly, on canvas or in sound, is replaced by a passionate belief in spiritual freedom, individual creativity."(57)

[Geloof in vrijheid etc. Meteen komen er allerlei vage termen op tafel. Wat is dat 'land of the free' eigenlijk? En hoe gaat het er daar aan toe? Wanneer ik naar de VS kijk zou ik zeggen: niet zo best.]

"This voluntarism and subjectivism, of which the most passionate prophet is the true father of romanticism, Johann Gottlob Fichte, did, of course, in the end lead to wild anarchy and irrationality, Byronic self-intoxication, the worship of the gloomy outcast, sinister and fascinating, the enemy of settled society, the satanic hero, Cain, Manfred, the Giaour, Melmoth, whose proud independence is purchased at the cost of no matter how much human happiness or how many human lives. In the case of nations, this rejection of the very notion of universally valid values tended at times to inspire nationalism and aggressive chauvinism, the glorification of uncompromising individual or collective self-assertion. In its extreme forms it took criminal and violently pathological forms and culminated in the abandonment of reason and all sense of reality, with often monstrous moral and political consequences."(58)

[Precies.]

"The principal, officially recognized exponent of this view was Herder; but it may be that the man who first gave it flesh and substance was Walter Scott."(58)

"Herder may have been the effective discoverer of the nature of this kind of imaginative insight, but the man who first con­ceived, in concrete terms, the possibility of it, and provided examples of how such a method could be employed, was the early eighteenth-century Italian thinker Giambattista Vico. Vico's principal work remained unread save by a handful of Italians and those few Frenchmen to whom, years later, the Italians spoke of him, until, at the beginning of the last century, Jules Michelet came upon him, caught fire, and celebrated his achievements across Europe."(59)

Vico is de vader van het cultureel pluralisme. Hij ging er vanuit dat je andere culturen tot op zekere hoogte kon begrijpen en bestuderen.

"In a sense this approach is not so very different from what is involved in any act of understanding others, their words, their looks, their gestures, which convey to us their intentions and aspirations. We have recourse to purely scientific methods of decipherment only when communication breaks down; we formulate hypotheses and seek to verify them, to establish the authenticity of documents, the dates of antiquities, the analysis of the materials of which they are made, the degree of reliability of testimony, sources of information, and the like. For all of this we have recourse to normal scientific methods, and not to the kind of inspired guesswork that must inevitably enter to some extent into any attempt to understand what it must have been like to have lived in a given situation at a particular time, to have to cope with the forces of nature or other men, to grasp what things must have seemed like to those who believed in the efficacy of witchcraft, incantations, sacrifices to placate the gods or to make nature more amenable to human will.
Because our ancestors were men, Vico supposes that they knew, as we know, what it is to love and hate, hope and fear, to want, to.pray, to fight, to betray, to oppress, to be oppressed, to revolt."(61)

[Hermeneutiek dus. Vreemd dat hij dat woord niet gebruikt. 'Verstehen' wel, op de volgende pagina. De tegenstelling tussen 'normal scientific methods' en 'inspired guesswork' is ook een schijntegenstelling.]

"The door that he opened to the understanding of cultural history by the 'decoding ' of myths, ceremonies, laws, artistic images, he regarded as his major achievement. No wonder that Karl Marx, in a well-known letter to Lassalle, said that Vico had moments of genius as a writer on social evolution.
No one has stronger claims than Vico to be considered as the begetter of historical anthropology. Jules Michelet, who re­garded himself as his disciple, was right: Vico was indeed the forgotten anticipator of the German historical school, the first and in some ways the most formidable opponent of unhistorical doctrines of natural law, of timeless authority, of the assumption made by, for example, Spinoza, that any truth could have been discovered by anyone, at any time, and that it is just bad luck that men have stumbled for so long in darkness because they did not or could not employ their reason correctly."(62-63)

"We call great historians only those who not only are in full control of the factual evidence obtained by the use of the best critical methods available to them, but also possess the depth of imaginative insight that characterises gifted novelists."(65)

"One o f the most interesting corollaries of the application of Vico's method of reconstructing the past is what I have called cultural pluralism - a panorama of a variety of cultures, the pursuit of different, and sometimes incompatible, ways of life, ideals, standards of value. This, in its turn, entails that the perennial idea of the perfect society, in which truth, justice, freedom, happiness, virtue coalesce in their most perfect forms, is not merely Utopian (which few deny), but intrinsically incoherent; for if some of these values prove to be incompatible, they cannot - conceptually cannot - coalesce. Every culture expresses itself in works of art, of thought, in ways of living and action, each of which possesses its own character which can neither be combined nor necessarily form stages of a single progress towards a single universal goal.
The conception of different visions of life and their values, which cannot be represented as capable of fitting into one great harmonious structure, is illustrated vividly in that part of Vico's Scienza nuova which deals with Homer."(65)

"The notion of a perfect society in which all that men have striven for finds total fulfilment is consequently perceived to be incoherent, at any rate in terrestrial terms: Homer cannot coexist with Dante; nor Dante with Galileo. This is a truism now. But the anti-Utopian implications of the section on Homer in the Scienza nuova, largely neglected as they were in the author's time, have lessons for our own day. The unparalleled services of the Enlightenment in its battle against obscurantism, oppression, injustice and irrationality of every kind are not in question. But it may be that all great liberating movements, if they are to break through the resistance of accepted dogma and custom, are bound to exaggerate, and be blind to the virtues of that which they attack. (...) The underlying assumption that human nature is basically the same at all times, everywhere, and obeys eternal laws beyond human control, is a conception that only a handful of bold thinkers have dared to question. Yet to accept it in the name of science is, in effect, to ignore and downgrade man's role as creator and destroyer of values, of entire forms of life, of man as a subject, a creature with an inner life denied to other inhabitants of the universe. The most celebrated Utopians of modern times, from Thomas More to Mably, Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen and their followers, provided a somewhat static picture of men's basic attributes, and, in consequence, an equally static description of an attainable perfect society. There­ by they ignored the character of men as self-transforming beings, able to choose freely, within the limits imposed by nature and history, between rival, mutually incompatible ends.
The conception of man as an actor, a purposive being, moved by his own conscious aims as well as causal laws, capable of unpredictable flights of thought and imagination, and of his culture as created by his effort to achieve self-knowledge and control of his environment in the face of material and psychic forces which he may use but cannot evade - this conception lies at the heart of all truly historical study. To exercise their proper function, historians require the capacity for imaginative in­ sight, without which the bones of the past remain dry and lifeless. To deploy it is, and always has been, a risky business."(68-69)

(70) Alleged relativism in eighteenth-century European thought

Opnieuw over de 'philosophes' van de Verlichting en hun basisopvattingen:

"Only 'the constant, the general, the universal' is real, and therefore only this is 'truly human'. Only that is true which any rational observer, at any time, in any place, can, in principle, discover. Rational methods - hypothesis, observation, generalisation, deduction, experimental verification where it is possible - can solve social and individual problems, as they have triumphantly solved those of physics and astronomy, and are progressively solving those of chemistry, biology and economics; philosophy, that is ethics, politics, aesthetics, logic, theory of knowledge, can and should be transformed into a general science of man - the natural science of anthropology; once knowledge of man's true nature is attained, men's real needs will be clear: the only remaining tasks are to discover how they may be satisfied, and to act upon this knowledge. The majority of human ills - hunger, disease, insecurity, poverty, misery, injustice, oppression - are due to ignorance, indolence and error, consciously or un­ consciously fomented by those whose interests are served by this reign of darkness; the triumph of the scientific spirit will sweep away the forces of prejudice, superstition, stupidity and cruelty, too long concealed by the mumbo-jumbo of theologians and lawyers."(70-71)

Vico en Herder opnieuw.

"Both Vico and Herder are sometimes described as relativists. In this connection one thing ought to be made clear. There are at least two types of relativism, that of judgements of fact, and that of judgements of values. The first, in its strongest form, denies the very possibility of objective knowledge of facts, since all belief is conditioned by the place in the social system, and therefore by the interests, conscious or not, of the theorist, or of the group or class to which he belongs. The weaker version (for example that of Karl Mannheim) exempts the natural sciences from this predicament, or identifies a privileged group (in Mannheim's view, the intel­ligentsia) as being, somewhat mysteriously, free from these distorting factors.
Whether the first, or stronger, version is ultimately self­-refuting (as I am inclined to believe) is a philosophical crux that cannot be discussed here. It is, however, only the second type of relativism, that of values or entire outlooks, that is in question here. No one, so far as I know, has ascribed relativism regarding factual knowledge to Vico or Herder. Their critique of the unhistorical approach which they attribute to the French lumières is confined to the interpretation and evaluation of past attitudes and cultures. I wonder how much Wissenssoziologie (radical sociology of knowledge) as we know it today is to be found before Marx and the Young Hegelians. Vico regarded each stage of the historical cycle of cultures (through which each gentile nation was bound to pass) as embodying its own autonomous values, its own vision of the world, in particular its own conception of the relations of men to one another and to the forces of nature; and he believed that it was in terms of this alone that their culture, that is, the significance attached by these men themselves to what they did and what was done to them, could be understood by us, their descendants. He maintained that men at each stage of this process generated their own expressions and interpretations of their experience - indeed, that their experience was these expressions and interpretations, which took the form of words, images, myths, ritual, institu­ tions, artistic creation, worship."(74-75)

"True relativism de­veloped from other and later sources: German romantic irrationalism, the metaphysics of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, the growth of schools of social anthropology, the doctrines of William Graham Sumner and Edward Westermarck, above all the influence of thinkers who were not necessarily relativists themselves - Marx, for example, or Freud, whose analyses of appearance or illusion and reality entailed belief in the objectivity of their own disciplines, without, perhaps, awareness of at any rate some of their full implications.
I may be speaking in ignorance, and stand ready to be corrected, but I know of no consistent effort by any influential thinker in the eighteenth century to put forward relativist views. Some leading French philosophes certainly declared that passions and ' interest' could unconsciously mould values and entire outlooks; but they also believed that critical reason could dissipate this and remove obstacles to objective knowledge both of fact and of value. So too Lessing, who believed that values alter as mankind progresses, was not troubled by relativist doubts, any more than the leading historians of the first half of the nineteenth century - Ranke, Macaulay, Carlyle, Guizot, Michelet (the self-confessed disciple of Vico), Taine, Fustel de Coulanges; not even the early nationalists influenced by Herder. There is, so far as I can see, no relativism in the best-known attacks on the Enlightenment by reactionary thinkers - Hamann, Justus Moser, Burke, Maistre. Relativism, in its modern form, tends to spring from the view that men's outlooks are unavoidably determined by forces of which they are often unaware - Schopenhauer's irrational cosmic force; Marx's class­ bound morality; Freud's unconscious drives; the social anthro­pologists' panorama of the irreconcilable variety of customs and beliefs conditioned by circumstances largely uncontrolled by men."(77-78)

"We are urged to look upon life as affording a plurality of values, equally genuine, equally dltimate, above all equally objective; incapable, therefore, of being ordered in a timeless hierarchy, or judged in terms of some one absolute standard. There is a finite variety of values and attitudes, some of which one society, some another, have made their own, attitudes and values which members of other societies may admire or condemn (in the light of their own value-systems) but can always, if they are sufficiently imaginative and try hard enough, contrive to understand - that is, see to be intelligible ends of life for human beings situated as these men were."(79)

Het is geen relativisme, maar pluralisme.

"The relativism which has so deeply troubled historians, sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers of history during the last hundred years is, in the main, if not entirely, a legacy of the schools of thought which look upon human activity as being largely caused by occult and inescapable forces of which explicit social beliefs and theories are rationalisations - disguises to be penetrated and exposed. This is the heritage of Marxism, of depth-psychology, of the sociology of Pareto or Simmel or Mannheim - ideas of which, even in their embryonic form, the leading thinkers of the eighteenth century, in Paris and London and their cultural dependencies, as well as their critics in Italy and Germany, seem to have showed scarcely any systematic awareness."(89-90)

(91) Joseph de Maistre and the origins of fascism

"To this world, so we are told by virtually all his biographers and commentators, Joseph de Maistre did not belong. He detested the romantic spirit. Like Charles Maurras and T. S. Eliot, he stood for the trinity of classicism, monarchy and the church. He is the embodiment of the clear Latin spirit, the very antithesis of the moody German soul."(93)

"Maistre's works are regarded as interesting rather than im­portant, the last despairing effort of feudalism and the dark ages to resist the march of progress."(95)

[Verder niet interessant voor mij.]

(175) European unity and its vicissitudes

[Enorm veel van het voorafgaande komt in dit hoofdstuk terug. Maar de formuleringen van Berlin zijn hier over het algemeen beter en toegankelijker.]

" I am not qualified to undertake a general examination of the causes of hatred and strife in our time. I should like to direct attention to only one aspect of this situation. We live in an age in which political ideas, conceived by fanatical thinkers, some of them very little regarded in their own day, have had a more violently revolutionary influence on human lives than at any time since the seventeenth century. I should like to discuss one group of such ideas, by which our own lives have been profoundly affected both for good and evil."(175)

"The most important common characteristic was considered to be the possession of a faculty called reason, which enabled its possessor to perceive the truth, both theoretical and practical. The truth, it was assumed, was equally visible to all rational minds everywhere. This common nature made it not only necessary, but also reasonable, for human beings to attempt to communicate with each other, and to try to persuade one another of the truth of what they believed; and, in extreme cases, to inflict compulsion upon others, on the assumption (made, for example, by Sarastro in the great fable of the age of reason, Mozart's Magic Flute) that if men obeyed orders (or were, if all else failed, forced to obey) they would, as a result of this, perceive the validity of what their educators or legislators or masters themselves knew to be true; they would follow this, and be wise and good and happy. In the twentieth century this claim to universality, whether of reason or any other principle, is no longer taken for granted; what Walter Lippmann had called the public philosophy has ceased to be the automatic presupposition of politics or social life, and this has vastly transformed our lives.
This is most obvious in the case of Fascism. The Fascists and National Socialists did not expect inferior classes, or races, or individuals to understand or sympathise with their own goals; their inferiority was innate, ineradicable, since it was due to blood, or race, or some other irremovable characteristic; any attempt on the part of such creatures to pretend to equality with their masters, or even to comprehension of their ideals, was regarded as arrogant and presumptuous.(...) The business of slaves is to obey; what gives their masters their right to trample on them is precisely the alleged fact - which Aristotle asserted - that some men are slaves by nature, and have not enough human quality to give orders themselves, or understand why they are being forced to do what they do.
If Fascism is the extreme expression of this attitude, all nationalism is infected by it to some degree."(175-176)

[Waarom die redelijke natuur de overgang zou maken van 'proberen te overtuigen' naar 'dwingen voor je eigen bestwil' wordt niet uitgewerkt. En zo wordt het geloof in rede en rationaliteit van de Verlichting weer zonder meer gekoppeld aan de irrationaliteit van fascisten en nazi's en nationalisten die juist helemaal niet geloven in een universele menselijke rationaliteit, zeker niet in een normatieve rationaliteit. Dit is schokkend oppervlakkig.]

Volgt kritiek op nationalistisch denken en even verderop op het marxisme met zijn klassengebondenheid van alles.

"All men will not be saved: the proletariat, justly intent upon its own salvation, had best ignore the fate of their oppressors; even if they wish to return good for evil, they cannot save their enemies from 'liquidation'. They are 'expendable' - their destruction can be neither averted nor regretted by a rational being, for it is the price that mankind must pay for the progress of reason itself: the road to the gates of Paradise is necessarily strewn with corpses."(179)

[Ideologiekritiek van Marxisten kan bijzonder leerzaam zijn, ook al is er vergaande kritiek op mogelijk: er was / is immers wel degelijk sprake van klassen met en zonder privileges en van klassenbewustzijn. Waarom lees ik hier niets over de rijken en machtigen die zich nooit iets gelegen laten liggen aan de armen en machtelozen? Dit is zo gemakkelijk: het communisme en stalinisme hebben miljoenen doden gekost. Ja, waar, en nee, niet goed. Maar het was niet heel veel anders in de eeuwen daarvoor: hoeveel levens heeft de Enclosure Movement in feite gekost? en hoeveel de industrialisatie, de urbanisatie, de verontreiniging van het milieu, de verspilling, de globalisering van het kapitalistische systeem?]

"However bitter the hatreds between Christians, Jews and Muslims, or between different sects within these faiths, the argument for the extermination of heretics always rested on the belief that it was in principle possible to convert men to the truth, which was one and universal, that is, visible to all; that only a few individuals were lost beyond redemption, being too blinded and perverted to be saved by anything but the sufferings of death. This rests on the assumption that men, as such, have a common nature, which makes communication in principle always possible and therefore always morally obligatory. It is this assumption that was at first questioned, and then altogether collapsed. The sheep must not try to save the goats - that is irrational and unrealisable.
The division of mankind into two groups - men proper, and some other, lower, order of beings, inferior races, inferior cultures, subhuman creatures, nations or classes condemned by history - is something new in human history. It is a denial of common humanity - a premise upon which all previous human­ism, religious and secular, had stood. This new attitude permits men to look on many millions of their fellow men as not quite human, to slaughter them without a qualm of conscience, without the need to cry to save them or warn them. Such conduct is usually ascribed to barbarians or savages - men in a pre-rational frame of mind, characteristic of peoples in the infancy of civilisation. This explanation will no longer do. It is evidently possible to attain to a high degree of scientific knowledge and skill, and indeed, of general culture, and yet destroy others without pity, in the name of a nation, a class, or history itself."(179-180)

[Ik val van mijn stoel. Wat is hier nieuw? Als er ergens miljoenen doden gevallen zijn dan is het in hoe westerse groepen groepen in verre landen of religieuze groepen andere religieuze groepen benaderden. De ontdekkingstochten, de kolonialisering, de kruistochten, godsdienstoorlogen, duizend vormen van terreur: vanuit westerse superioriteitsgevoelens en religieuze dogma's werden ketters en ongelovigen en inlanders zonder pardon over de kling gejaagd omdat ze als minder en primitief werden gezien. Alsof dat alleen te maken had met dat ze weigerden zich te bekeren. En nog een ding: net werd dat geloof in een universele natuur gebruikt om de Verlichting te veroordelen, nu wordt dat geloof gebruikt om religies te verontschuldigen. Net ging rationaliteit nog over in dat irrationele fascisme, en nu is fascisme ineens van een pre-rationele barbaarsheid. Wat een gemakkelijk geklets over absolutisme en relativisme. In het vervolg blijkt dat opnieuw.]

[Op een gegeven moment gaat het weer over de Romantiek met zijn artistieke en genie-denken en in feite blijkt dan dat het vooral de Romantiek is die leidde tot de irrationaliteit van het fascisme en tot die scheiding van de superieure groep en de inferieure groep.]

"Men either possess creative genius, or they do not; those who do not must regard it as their proper destiny, indeed as a high privilege, to be moulded - and broken - by those who do. As the artist blends colours and the composer sounds, so the political demiurge imposes his will upon his own raw material - average, ungifted human beings, largely unconscious of the possibilities dormant within them - and shapes them into a splendid work of art - a state or an army, or some great political, military, religious, juridical structure. This may entail suffering: but like discords in music it is indispensable to the harmony and effect of the whole. The victims of these great creative operations must take comfort, and indeed be exalted, by the consciousness that they are thereby lifted to a height which their own lower natures could never by themselves have achieved. This is the justification of acts which in terms of an older morality might be called brutal interference, imperialism, the crushing and maiming of individual human beings for the glory of a conqueror, or a state, or an ideology, the genius of the race. From this to extreme nationalism and to Fascism is but a short step. (...)
This frightening conclusion follows from the same assumptions as the romantic virtues - the value placed upon martyrdom, defiance, integrity, dedication to one's own ideals - in the name of which the old universal laws were broken."(194)

"Irrational forces are now set above rational, for what cannot be criticised or appealed from seems more compelling than what reason can analyse; the deep, dark sources of art and religion and nationalism, precisely because they are dark and resist detached examination, and vanish under intellectual analysis, are guarded and worshipped as transcendent, inviolable, absolute."(195)

"Romanticism was just such an outbreak against a moral and political structure that had become a suffocating straitjacket: in due course this became decayed, and one fine day burst asunder in country after country. Like all revolutions, romanticism revealed new truths, endowed men with insights which they were never wholly to lose again, renovated the ancient establishment, and went too far and led to distortions and excesses, its own tyranny and its own victims. The distortions are all too familiar: our generation has paid for them more heavily, perhaps, than any other human society has ever paid for an aberration of the spirit."(196)

"The neo-rationalism of Hegel and of Marx, in a sense, tried to oppose the unbridled subjectivism of the romantics, and their self-worship, by an effort to discover objective standards in the inexorable forces of history, or the laws of the evolution of the human spirit or the growth of productive forces and relations. But they were themselves sufficiently infected by romanticism to make progress consist in the defeat and absorption of the rest of society by one victorious section of it."(198)

[Ja, hoor, Marx was een romantische subjectivist... ]

"Yet there is a central insight given us by romantic humanism - this same untamed German spirit - which we shall not easily forget. Firstly that the maker of values is man himself, and may therefore not be slaughtered in the name of anything higher than himself, for there is nothing higher; this is what Kant meant when he spoke of man as an end in himself, and not a means to an end. Secondly, that institutions are made not only by, but also for, men, and when they no longer serve him they must go. Thirdly that men may not be slaughtered, either in the name of abstract ideas, however lofty, such as progress or freedom or humanity, or of institutions, for none of these have any absolute value in themselves, inasmuch as all that they have has been conferred upon them by men, who alone can make things valuable or sacred; hence attempts to resist or change them are never a rebellion against divine commands to be punished by destruction. Fourthly - and this follows from the rest - that the worst of all sins is to degrade or humiliate human beings for the sake of some Procrustean pattern into which they are to be forced against their wills, a pattern that has some objective authority irrespective of human aspirations.
This conception of man, inherited from the romantic move­ment, remains in us to this day: it is something which, despite all that mankind has lived through, we in Europe have not abandoned."(199)

[Ik zou dat toch liever terugvoeren op het rationele humanisme van de Verlichting...]

"This dedication to ideals, irrespective of their 'source' - it is sometimes even denied that there is a source to seek - has an affinity with the modern existentialist position, which declares that the attempt to seek guarantees for moral beliefs in some vast, objective metaphysical order is no more than a pathetic attempt on the part of men to look for help outside themselves, to lean on something stronger than themselves, to derive rational justification for their acts by proving that they are ordained by some objective establishment; that they do this because they have not the courage to face the fact that there may exist no such establishment, that their values are what they are, and men commit themselves as they do, for no reason, or rather for the only reason that can, in principle, be given, namely that, being what they are, this particular end - whatever it may be ­ is what they have chosen, is their ultimate goal; that is what choice entails - and beyond it there is no other, and since a final goal justifies all else it cannot itself need justification. Such existentialists are legitimate descendants of that humanist romanticism which declares that man is independent and is free, that is to say, that the essence of man is not consciousness, nor the invention of tools, but the power of choice."(200-201)

"That this is not a valid diagnosis has been made clear if only by the great and widespread sense of horror which the excesses of totalitarianism have caused. For the fact of shock reveals that there does exist a scale of values by which the majority of mankind - and in particular of western Europeans - in fact live, live not merely mechanically and out of habit, but as part of what in their moments of self-awareness constitutes for them the essential nature of man."(203)

[Waarom nou toch weer die verwijzing naar West-Europeanen? Gaat het nu om een verzameling van universele waarden en normen of om een verzameling van waarden en normen waarnaar westerlingen leven?]

"But there are also certain moral properties which enter equally deeply into what we conceive of as human nature. If we meet someone who merely disagrees with us about the ends of life, who prefers happiness to self-sacrifice, or knowledge to friendship, we accept them as fellow human beings, because their notion of what is an end, the arguments they bring to defend their ends, and their general behaviour, are within the limits of what we regard as being human. But if we meet someone who cannot see why (to take a famous example) he should not destroy the world i n order to relieve a pain in his little finger, or someone who genuinely sees no harm in condemning innocent men, or betraying friends, or torturing children, then we find that we cannot argue with such people, not so much because we are horrified as because we think them in some way inhuman - we call them moral idiots."(203-204)

[En? Is dit nu universeel of westers?]

"The common moral - and therefore also political - foundations of our conduct, so far from being undermined by the wars and the degradation of human personality that we have witnessed in our time, have emerged as something more broadly and deeply laid than they seemed to be during the first forty years of this century. I say 'our' conduct; I mean by this the habits and outlook of the western world. Asia and Africa are today boiling cauldrons of disruptive nationalism, as Germany and perhaps France still were after Britain and Holland and Scandinavia had attained relative equilibrium. Humanity does not seem to march with an even step, the crises of national development are not synchronised. Nevertheless, after the violent abberrations of the recent European experience, there are symptoms of recovery: of a return, that is to say, to normal health - the habits, traditions, above all the common notions of good and evil, which reunite us to our Greek and Hebrew and Christian and humanist past; transformed by the romantic revolt, but essentially in reaction against it. Our values today tend to be, increasingly, the old universal standards which distinguish civilised men, however dull, from barbarians, however gifted."(205)

[Dat is toch helemaal niet relevant? We hebben het over waarden en normen, over hoe mensen zich horen te gedragen. We hebben het niet over hoe het is. Dat het nu niet zo is, zegt niets over de normatieve kracht van genoemde standpunten. En om dan Azië en Afrika en het nationalisme daar te noemen is weer eens blind. Wat met het nationalisme in de Verenigde Staten? En waarom is het een terugkeer naar de oude griekse, joodse, christelijke en humanistische waarden? Waarom niet naar islamistische of confucianistische waarden?]

(207) The apotheosis of the romantic will - The revolt against the myth of an ideal world

[Weer enorm veel herhaling.Ik volsta met een paar citaten.]

"All the Utopias known to us are based upon the discoverability and harmony of objectively true ends, true for all men, at all times and places. This holds of every ideal city, from Plato's Republic and his Laws, and Zeno's anarchist world community, and the City of the Sun of Iambulus, to the Utopias of Thomas More and Campanella, Bacon and Harrington and Fenelon. The communist societies of Mably and Morelly, the state capitalism of Saint-Simon, the Phalanstères of Fourier, the various combinations of anarchism and collectivism of Owen and Godwin, Cabet, William Morris and Chernyshevsky, Bellamy, Herczka and others (there is no lack of them in the nineteenth century) rest on the three pillars of social optimism in the west of which I have spoken: that the central problems - the massimi problemi - of men are, in the end, the same throughout history; that they are in principle soluble; and that the solutions form a harmonious whole. Man has permanent interests, the character of which the right method can establish. These interests may differ from the goals which men actually seek, or think that they seek, which may be due to spiritual or intellectual blindness or laziness, or the unscrupulous machinations of self-seeking knaves - kings, priests, adventurers, power-seekers of all kinds - who throw dust in the eyes of fools and ultimately their own. Such illusions may also be due to the destructive influence of social arrangements - traditional hierarchies, the division of labour, the capitalist system - or again to impersonal factors, natural or the unintended consequences of human nature, which can be resisted and abolished. Once men's true interests can be made clear, the claims which they embody can be satisfied by social arrangements founded on the right moral directions, which make use of technical progress or, alternatively, reject it in order to return to the idyllic simplicity of humanity's earlier days, a paradise which men have abandoned, or a golden age still to come."(211-212)

"It is this great myth - in Sorel's sense of the word - that came under attack towards the end of the eighteenth century by a movement at first known in Germany as Sturm und Drang, and later as the many varieties of romanticism, nationalism, ex­pressionism, emotivism, voluntarism and the many contemporary forms of irrationalism of both the right and the left familiar to everyone today. The prophets of the nineteenth century predicted many things - domination by international cartels, by collectivist regimes both socialist and capitalist, by military­ industrial complexes, by scientific elites, preceded by Krise, Kriege, Katastrophen, wars and holocausts - but what none of them, so far as I know, predicted was that the last third of the twentieth century would be dominated by a world-wide growth of nationalism, enthronement of the will of individuals or classes, and the rejection of reason and order as being prison­ houses of the spirit."(213)

(238) The bent twig - On the rise of nationalism

[Weer enorm veel herhaling. Ik volsta met een paar citaten.]

"Universalism, by reducing everything to the lowest common denominator which applies to all men at all times, drained both lives and ideals of that specific content which alone gave them point. Hence Herder's implacable crusade against French universalism, and his concept and glorification of individual cul­tures - Indian, Chinese, Norse, Hebrew - and his hatred of the great levellers, Caesar and Charlemagne, Romans, Christian knights, British empire-builders and missionaries, who elimin­ated native cultures and replaced them with their own, histori­cally, and therefore spiritually, foreign and oppressive to their victims. Herder and his disciples believed in the peaceful coexistence of a rich multiplicity and variety of national forms of life, the more diverse the better. Under the impact of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic invasions, cultural or spiritual autonomy, for which Herder had originally pleaded, turned into embittered and aggressive nationalist self-assertion."(245)

"The rationalists and liberals, and of course the early socialists, virtually ignore nationalism. For them it is a mere sign of immaturity, an irrational relic of, or retrogressive return to, a barbarous past: fanatics like Maistre (who for all his ultra­ montanism was an early believer in natural 'integralism') or Fries or Gobineau or Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Wagner, or, later, Maurras, Barres, Drumont, are not taken seriously until the Boulanger and Dreyfus affairs; these, in their turn, are regarded as temporary aberrations, due to the abnor­mal mood following on defeat in war, which will make way once again for the return of sanity, reason and progress."(248)

"The belief that nationalism was a reactionary bourgeois ideology was tantamount to the belief that it was doomed. At most, national risings on the part of colonial peoples against their imperialist masters might be considered as historically determined, a tactical step on the road to the true socialist revolution which could not be too far behind. Even so, a national rising was one thing, and nationalism another. It was this belief that caused such disappointment and indignation to the internationalist left, led by Lenin, Karl Liebknecht, and their friends, when the socialist parties in the belligerent countries, instead of proclaiming a general strike which should have stopped the war in 1914, joined the national colours and went to war against each other."(249)

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