Anarchy in the UK

December 8, 2008

“I am an Antichrist / I am an anarchist” – The Sex Pistols, Anarchy in the UK

I’ve been reading a fantastic blog called Anarchy Without Bombs. To quote at length from the most recent post:

Here is the practical case for anarchy in a nutshell (well, most people think anarchists are nuts, don’t they?):

“The use of aggression in a particular situation will, on average, make matters worse, and it is not possible to know in advance when the general probability doesn’t apply nor to create institutions that will limit their use of aggression to when the general probability doesn’t apply, so a policy of completely rejecting the use of aggression or institutions of aggression is the optimal strategy in the real world.”

Interestingly, this is essentially the initial position that Hegel takes in his Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Now, I never did finish the thing, but as I understand it Hegel’s essential argument is that, if you believe in the golden rule, then you must forsake aggression as a means of control. This is because any injury done to one individual cannot be repayed in kind without committing some new offense. The christian principle of turning the other cheek must hold.

If I learned any lesson from my tangle with Hegel and Ethics, it’s that you can’t privilege ANYTHING without making some presuming that some one thing or another has value. Hegel himself, in an effort to establish a “presuppositionless philosophy,” finds himself forced to assert the commandment “be a person and treat others as persons,” before he can achieve any meaningful, philosophical contribution to the realm of right and wrong.

Now, the other thing I learned from my ethics tutorial is that philosophy is silly. So… Hegel may not be the best place to go for guidance in matters of politics – I can accept that. We can’t make every one obey the golden rule or live out its implications to the full extent of rationale inquiry. Many devout christians will not question the necessity of a police force, for example. I’m not saying that I would want us to do without one, but I would question their necessity. There is an important distinction here that I would like to spell out as best I can. At this very moment, I prefer the existence of a police force. This is because, to the small degree that I have considered the implications of a police force existing, I find it to be generally more beneficial than harmful. However, before I would be willing to demolish OR to unequivocally support even just the very idea of a law enforcement agency, I would hope to take a full accounting of my personal moral values, bearing out the full impact of each, and consider the consequences in relation to the question of the existence of said agency.

This is why Rawls and Habermas – to the extremely limited degree that I am familiar with their ideas – are so appealing. Their philosophies seek to establish tools for examination of a situation, and the development of reasoned and reasonable responses to the needs of society. This is not a system that finds the metaphysical right, or that makes all things perfect for all people. But it does try to do a good job.

Well, I see I’ve gotten far from my original thesis, which was something to the effect of “Hey, I think anarchism is cool; and while I wouldn’t describe myself as a dogmatic anarchist, I think the ideas are worth consideration. Besides, I’ve yet to find a political ideology that suits me better.”

Random thought: “Godwin’s Law” is an internet phenomenon. The law states something to the effect of: as any message board or mailing list debate approaches infinity, the chances of a comparison to Hitler or Nazism approaches one. See also, “reductio ad hitlerum.”

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