Monthly Archives: July 2017

20. Faith Today’s “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”

Shortly after I began my series of articles on classic writings on the development of political theory and government, an article appeared in the March / April, 2017, issue of Faith Today, a publication of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, which I thought would make a profitable conclusion to the series. I asked for and received permission to report on it.

The article is called “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?” and was written by Patricia Paddey, a Faith Today senior writer. It consists of interviews with four theologians ‒ Ephraim Radner, John Stackhouse, Stephen Studebaker, and Miroslav Volf. Here is how Patricia Paddey concludes her introduction to the article:

“So how do we co-operate to allow God to direct our political choices and activities? “One of the best resources is theology ‒ the critical study of ideas that have to do with God, and with what God has to do with the world. Faith Today senior writer Patricia Paddey spoke with four theologians and learned sound theology isn’t just important for pastors and professors. It’s important for every Christian’s every concern ‒ including political ones. Following are highlights from those conversations.” (Patricia Paddey, “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”, Faith Today, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, March / April 2017, page 31)

Here I present only a small portion of those highlights. I also share from an article appearing in the same pages as “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?” ‒ David Guretzki’s “Theology and politics: two mistakes, two correctives.” Both articles can be read at http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20170304?pg=30#pg30.

Ephraim Radner

Ephraim Radner is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College (University of Toronto). In answer to the question “How can theology inform our political thinking and engagement?” he says that theology helps us understand what God’s purposes are for us as human beings and thus how we should think and act politically. And in answer to the question “How do we decide which goals and values should shape our political decisions?” he identifies two goals that Christians should have: to witness to God revealed in Jesus Christ in the way that we live and to aim at the integrity of the Christian church, not at the larger society. He concludes:

“To me, that is the greatest political challenge of Christians today ‒ an integrated, healthy, unified Christian Church. We don’t have that, so it’s not surprising that we have little purchase in larger society.” (Patricia Paddey, “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”, page 32)

John Stackhouse

John Stackhouse is professor of religious studies at Crandall University. In answer to the question “In Need to Know [Oxford University Press, 2014], you write that Christians are called by out Lord to think Christianly. What does it mean to think Christianly about politics?” he says:

“To think Christianly and to act Christianly in politics is to try to do so in the company of Jesus. We should be walking with Jesus as disciples, listening to His voice, trying very hard to please Him, and to achieve His purposes in the world. It’s also to think the way Jesus has taught us to think, particularly through the Bible, as well as through the wisdom of the Church. That means to prize the Bible as God’s Word written. Then also to take full advantage of the other gifts God has given us ‒ in scholarship, experience, art, and in the traditions we have in our ethnic and family units, as well as in our particular churches ‒ and above all, the Holy Spirit.” (Patricia Paddey, “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”, pages 32-33)

In answer to the question “Two people who self-identify as Christians can think Christianly and come up with very different ideas about politics. What are we to make of that?” Stackhouse says that some people are smarter than other people in different zones, politics is complicated and thus Christians wanting the same outcome may differ on how to achieve it, and what the Lord wants us to accomplish may be complex enough that no one posture or policy can accomplish it. And in answer to the question “What are some of the questions we ought to ask ourselves when considering how to cast a vote?” he suggests “What is necessary in the short term?” and “Who is likely to bring [such] a correction?”

In addition to answering the questions, Stackhouse recommends some online resources representing Christian views. Although I visited and appreciated all of them, I’m sharing here a link to only the one of them that I have in my Internet bookmarks, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, http://www.TheEFC.ca.

Steven Studebaker

Steven Studebaker is associate professor of systematic theology and historical theology at McMaster Divinity School. In answer to the question “Why should Christians explore theology for help engaging in the political realm?” he says that theology helps us understand what it means to live in relationship with God and other people. And in answer to the question “What should be the correct approach for political engagement by Christians today?” he says that they need to think more about preserving democracy than about advancing one of their moral causes and to encourage society to reflect Christian values.

Finally, in answer to the question “If you could offer one single guiding principle for Christian political action, what would it be?” he says:

“Politics is essential for the Christian life. It’s not extraneous. That doesn’t mean that we all need to become political activists and 24-hour news junkies. But we do need to be people who are concerned about homelessness, about the ability of others to thrive, about the environment, about a lot of things to make ours a better world. “We should see politics as one of the dimensions of the life for which God created us.” (Patricia Paddey, “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”, page 34)

Miroslav Volf

Miroslav Volf is professor of systematic theology and founding director at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. In answer to the question “In A Public Faith [Baker, 2013], you observe that members of all religious groups want their convictions and practices to shape public life. Is this an appropriate desire for Christians?” he says that it’s more than appropriate, it’s our responsibility. In answer to the question “You believe that coercive faith is malfunctioning faith. How can we safeguard against coercive faith in our private and public lives?” he advises emphasizing freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and the separation of church and state. In answer to the question “What should be the boundaries for a Christian’s political activism?” he advocates an ad hoc position, being fully involved in some areas and being only partially involved in other areas.

Finally, in answer to the question “Final thought for Canadian Christians on how theology ought to inform our political engagement?” he says:

“I would say to be courageous and not think that Christ is irrelevant to politics. Expressing and giving voice to the radical character of Christ’s vision is what we are called to do. “Act in hope, and hold before others our own better selves, so that somehow we can come together to create and to enjoy a world that is called to be our home.” (Patricia Paddey, “Is Christ Relevant to Politics?”, page 34)

David Guretzki

David Guretzky was a professor and dean of the seminary at Briarcrest College and Seminary when his “Theology and politics: two mistakes, two correctives” appeared in Faith Today. In June he became executive vice-president of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. The two mistakes are (1) separating reality into sacred and secular with the former under God’s authority and the latter under human authority and (2) identifying “political” with “the government.” The corrective to (1) is to recognize that God is in charge of everything although His authority is not yet fully publicly acknowledged and celebrated in the secular realm and to try to persuade others that God’s ways are best for all, not just for Christians. And the corrective to (2) is to broaden our understanding of “political” to working toward all the ways in which the glory of God can be displayed in society rather than just voting for a particular political party or candidate in an election.

Guretzki concludes his article thus:

“This means that the Church in Canada needs to better learn to do ‘life together’ … in view of the world, as followers and lovers of Jesus Christ.

“For it will not be how well we are able to convince others of biblical views … but how well we exemplify lives lived for the common good, and not just for our own sakes. ”So Jesus does not say, ‘They will know you are my disciples by how you vote,’ but ‘They will know you are disciples by how you love one another’ (John 13:35).”

(David Guretsky,  “Theology and politics: two mistakes, two correctives,” Faith Today, The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, March / April 2017, pages 32-33)

15. J. S. Mill’s On Liberty

“The line between matters that are affected with the public interest and the private concerns of individual men is a difficult one to draw. What part of anyone’s life or conduct is nobody’s business, and what part is everyone’s business because it affects the lives of others and the welfare of society as a whole? There may be no satisfactory answer to this question, but some determination of what is private and what is public is necessary to determine the proper scope of government and the sphere of individual liberty. “This is the problem John Stuart Mill undertakes to solve in his essay On Liberty.” (Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, volume 2 of The Great Ideas Program, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1959)

In introducing my last post, on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, I said that although I didn’t share the antipathy that some hold of it I was tempted not to include an article on it in this series of posts at Bob’s Corner on the writings considered in The Development of Political Theory and Government because I found it difficult to read. I have no such problem with On Liberty, finding it easy to read. Additionally, although J. S. Mill’s discussion of where to draw the line between conduct that affects others and conduct that affects the individual’s personal life was published over one and one-half centuries ago, it seems quite contemporary to me.

In their guide to On Liberty Adler and Wolff consider Mill’s view of its importance, the meaning of “liberty,” the importance of individuality, and two other questions about On Liberty. Here I’ll give  the sketch of J. S. Mill’s life that I included in my earlier post on his Representative Government and summarize and comment on what Adler and Wolff say.

The Life of Mill

John Stuart Mill was born in Pentonville, London, on May 20, 1806, the oldest son of James Mill, an outstanding philosopher, political thinker, and practical statesman. He was educated exclusively by his father, a strict disciplinarian. He began to study Greek and arithmetic at the age of three; by the time he was eight he had read the whole of the historian Herodotus, six dialogues of Plato, and considerable history; and before he was twelve had studied Euclid and algebra, the Greek and Latin poets, and some English poetry. At twelve he was introduced to logic, and his thirteenth year (the last under his father’s direct supervision) was devoted to political economy under his father, who was working on his Elements of Political Economy. He furthered his studies with his father’s friends, studying law with Austen and economics with Ricardo.

In 1826, at the age of twenty, Mill suffered what he later called “a crisis in my mental history.” He became greatly depressed, asking himself, “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you were looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness and happiness to you?” and answering with “an irrepressible self-consciousness” with “No.” This depression lasted several months and affected him for three or four years. He finally emerged from it with a new appreciation for the value of the emotions and a realization that philosophical analysis was only part of life. (The quotations in this paragraph are from Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 181.)

From the time he was seventeen, Mill supported himself by working for the British East India Company, where his father was an official. Like his father he worked in its examiner’s office and rose (on his father’s death in 1836) to be chief examiner. He spent thirty-five years at it, retiring in 1858 when the company was dissolved and its functions were taken over by the British Government. In addition to his regular employment, he took part in many activities tending to prepare public opinion for legislative reform; for example, he wrote often for newspapers friendly to the “radical” cause. However these activities didn’t present him from pursuing his own intellectual interests, his studies resulting in the publication of System of Logic (1843) and Principles of Political Economy (1848).

Mill attributed the development and productivity of these years to his relationship with Mrs. Harriet Taylor, who was the wife of John Taylor when he met her in 1830. They were married in 1851, two years after the death of her first husband. Mill later wrote that his friendship with her “has been the honour and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the source of a great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to do hereafter, for human improvement.” Although in the seven years of their married life he published less than at any other period of his life (because of his increasing absorption in the work of India House), he thought out and discussed with her such important works as On Liberty and Representative Government (published in 1859 and 1861, respectively).

Mill died on May 8, 1873, in his cottage at Avignon which had been built so that he might be close to the grave of his wife, who had died there on November 3, 1858.

Mill’s View of the Importance of On Liberty

Mill thought that On Liberty would be his most lasting work and attributed its high quality to his wife’s help with it. In the Autobiography he says:

“The ‘Liberty’ was more directly and literally our joint production than anything else which bears my name,  for there was not a sentence of it that was not several times gone through by us together, turned over in many ways, and carefully weeded of many faults, either in thought or expression, that we detected in it. It is in consequence of this that, although it never underwent her final revision [because of her death], it far surpasses, as a mere specimen of composition, anything which has proceeded from me, either before or since.…

“The ‘Liberty’ is likely to survive longer than anything else than anything else that I have written… because the conjunction of her mind with mine has rendered it a kind of philosophic text-book of a single truth, which the changes progressively taking place in modern society tend to bring out into ever stronger relied: the importance, to man and society, of a large variety in types of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions.” (New York, 1948, pages 176-77; quoted in Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 209-10)

The Meaning of “Liberty”

“Liberty consists in doing what one desires” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty in volume 43 of Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952, page 313).

As indicated in the following statement, On Liberty assigns both a positive and a negative aspect to liberty:

“The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our only good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 273).

Positively, liberty means that a person can think, express himself, and do as he pleases. Chapter 2, “Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion,” deals with why people should be free to form and express opinions without reserve, and Chapter 3, “Of Individuality, as one of the Elements of Well-Being,” deals with why people should be free to act on one’s opinions without hindrance from others. (For more on Chapters 2 and 3, see respectively the first question in “Questions about On Liberty” and “The Importance of Individuality” below.)

Negatively, liberty has only one restriction on it‒the exercise of one’s freedom must not interfere with a similar freedom on the part of others. Chapter 4, “Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual,” deals with the extent to which society is justified in interfering with the individual’s freedom. (For more on Chapter 4, see the second question in “Questions about On Liberty” below.)

(Chapters 2-4 constitute the main body of On Liberty, with Chapters 1, “Introductory,” and 5, “Applications,” introducing and concluding it.)

The Importance of Individuality

Throughout Chapter 3 Mill tells us that most people don’t appreciate the value of individuality. For example, near the beginning of the chapter, he says:

“Individual spontaneity is hardly recognized by the common modes of thinking as having any intrinsic worth, or deserving any regard on its own account. The majority, being satisfied with the ways of mankind as they now are…cannot comprehend why those ways should not be good enough for everyone.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 294)

In the chapter Mill gives an assortment of reasons why individuality should be highly regarded. Adler and Wolff identify three:

(1) Although a person should learn from the experiences of others, their experience might be suitable for their circumstances but not suitable for him. Nor can he rely on customs.

“Customs are made for customary circumstances and customary characters; and his circumstances or his character may be uncustomary” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 294).

(2) Only by choosing and acting for oneself can a person develop fully as a human being.

“A person whose desires and impulses are his own‒are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture‒is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam-engine has a character.” (J. Mill, On Liberty, page 295)

(3) People’s preference for the uniformity and customariness of routine lives leads to a depressing sameness in tastes, desires, and actions.

“Comparatively speaking, [all people] now read the same things, listen to the same things, go to the same places, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects, have their hopes and fears directed to the same objects, have the same rights and liberties, and the same means of asserting them. Great as are the differences of position which remain, they are nothing to those which have  ceased. And the assimilation is still proceeding.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 302)

In light of the many things in society endangering individuality, Mill encourages unusual thought and behaviour.

“Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 299)

Questions about On Liberty

What are Mill’s arguments in favor of liberty of thought and discussion?

In Chapter 2 Mill says that everyone’s opinions, whether right or wrong, ought to be allowed to be expressed, discussed, and disseminated.

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, [men] are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 275)

Adler and Wolff’s consideration of the question consists mainly of the posing of several follow-up questions. Although I’ll give only a few of them here, I’ll add my answers to them. I invite you to also share your answers to them, in the Bob’s Corner and/or Facebook discussions of this article. (The questions quoted below are from Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 215-16.)

“In this view [the view expressed in the quotation above], should free discussion of any opinion put forth (in public discussion, in the newspapers, etc.) be permitted? Or are there any opinions the suppression of which Mill would think justified?” Yes to both questions. An example of the latter is:

“An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but they may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 293)

“Does the freedom of opinion which Mill advocates extend to all subjects? Or are any excepted? For instance, are theological matters to be excepted in a country‒like England‒where there is an established church?” Yes, no, and no, respectively. Mill even argues that doctrines being challenged gives life to them. For example, he says:

“There are many reasons, doubtless, why doctrines which are the badge of a sect retain more of their vitality than those common to all recognized sects, and why more pains are taken by teachers to keep their meaning alive; but one reason certainly is, that the peculiar doctrines are more questioned, and have to be oftener defended against open gainsayers. Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post, as soon as there is no enemy in the field.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 287)

“It is sometimes said that ‘the public business must be public,’ that is, that there must be no closed sessions of legislatures, city councils, etc. Would these bodies sometimes not function more efficiently and more courageously if their deliberations were not subject to public scrutiny? Is the loss in efficiency made up for by a gain in liberty?” Yes to both questions.
As I read Chapter 2, I wondered what Mill would say about the current attempts in my country, Canada, of the BGLT community to censor public objections to homosexualism on the grounds that the objections display intolerance. What do you think?

Are there any restrictions on freedom of action?

Actions should not be allowed which harm or threaten to harm other people.

“Acts, of whatever kind, which, without justifiable cause, do harm to others, may be, and in the most important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and, when needful, by the active interference of mankind” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 293).

In Chapter 4 Mill sums up his view of the relation of society and the individual thus:

“As soon as any part of a person’s conduct affects prejudicially the interests of others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it, becomes open to discussion. But there is no room for entertaining any such question when a person’s conduct affects the interests of no persons besides himself, or needs not affect them unless they like.” (J. S. Mill, On Liberty, page 303)

14. Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

“Of all the contributions to political theory which are included in this Reading Plan, that of Hegel is least likely to elicit a sympathetic response in a democratic audience. On the contrary, its main tenets are such as to produce an emotional antipathy verging even on an unwillingness to give his views a fair hearing. Yet they deserve our closest attention in spite of the distaste they may arouse in us, precisely because they represent so clearly and powerfully the antithesis of our most fundamental convictions.” (Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, volume 2 in The Great Ideas Program, page 195)

Thus Adler and Wolff introduce their consideration of the Introduction and Subsection III (The State) of the Third Part of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. The antipathy that they refer to results from Hegel’s being viewed as promoting totalitarianism when he affirms that man is made for the state, rather than that the state is made for man as believers in democracy hold. However, in view of his also emphasizing the principles of right and justice, respecting law as the voice of reason, and insisting on constitutional government, I didn’t share the antipathy that some hold of Philosophy of Right when I read the selections from it.

However for a different reason I was tempted not to include an article on Philosophy of Right in this series of posts at Bob’s Corner on the writings considered in The Development of Political Theory and Government. The reason is:

“Hegel constructed a philosophic system. He does not treat the various fields as independent realities, but binds everything together with a few central ideas. It is difficult to understand any part of Hegel’s system without understanding the whole.” (Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 197) 

Although Adler and Wolff go on to say that Philosophy of Right can be more easily read separately than some of Hegel’s other works, I still found it difficult. (I was also turned off by Hegel’s dogmatic presentation of his views and cavalier dismissal of other views.)

Yet because of Hegel’s importance in the history of political theory, I didn’t want to omit him in the series of posts. I discussed my problem with my daughter Allison (see Allison’s Book Bag). She suggested that I base my article on what Adler and Wolff say about the selection rather than on the selection itself. I liked her suggestion and decided to follow it except for including also a sketch of Hegel’s life. Thus this post contains a sketch of Hegel’s life and a summary of Adler and Wolff’s discussion of the Introduction and Subsection III (The State) of the Third Part of Philosophy of Right. The latter considers the content and method of Hegel\s philosophy, his conception of the state and freedom, and three questions about the reading.

The Life of Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born at Stuttgart, Germany, August 27, 1770, the oldest child of a revenue officer. His achievement at the local grammar school and gymnasium was unremarkable. In 1788 he entered the University of Tűbingen as a student of theology. He showed little aptitude for theology, his sermons being a failure and his finding more congenial reading in the classics. After leaving the university in 1793, he earned his livelihood as a family tutor, first at Berne (1793-96) and then at Frankfurt (1797-1800). From his years as a tutor came numerous manuscripts, in various stages of completion and of varying importance but all indicative of a great deal of study.

In 1799 Hegel’s father died and a small inheritance offered him a brief period of independence. He wrote to a friend, Schelling, asking him to suggest a suitable town for a brief period of studious withdrawal. Schelling’s answer must have been enthusiastic because Hegel joined him at Jena almost immediately. Here he became a Privadocent at the university. In the winter of 1801-02 his lectures on logic and metaphysics were attended by eleven students. Succeeding series in later years were attended by about thirty students and were devoted to a “system of speculative philosophy,” the history of philosophy, pure mathematics, and other topics. His academic career was brought abruptly to a close by the Napoleonic campaign culminating in the battle of Jena in late 1806. However despite the war his first great work, The Phenomenology of Spirit, appeared in 1807.

At loose ends Hegel edited a newspaper at Bamberg for a time (1807-08) but, finding journalism distasteful, he accepted a position a position as headmaster of the Gymnasium at Nuremberg, where he remained until 1816. In 1811 he married; the marriage was entirely happy and his wife bore him two sons. Two volumes of his Science of Logic were published in 1812 and a third in 1816. Offered professorships at Erlangen, Heidelberg, and Berlin, he accepted the invitation to Heidelberg. However after the publication of his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in 1817, the offer of Berlin was renewed and he accepted it.

The thirteen years of Hegel’s professorship at the University of Berlin (1818-31) brought him to the summit of his career and made him the recognized leader of philosophic thought in Germany. Philosophy of Right, the last of the large works published in his lifetime, appeared in 1821. His lectures on aesthetics, the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of history, and the history of philosophy were constantly revised and improved and finally published after his death. In 1830 he became rector of the university and was decorated by Frederick William III of Prussia. He died of cholera on the 14th of November, 1831.

Content and Method of Hegel’s Philosophy

To make the reading of the Introduction and Subsection III (The State) of the Third Part of Philosophy of Right easier, Adler and Wolff consider two things that are central to Hegel’s philosophy, the first having to do with its content and the second with its method.

(1) Hegel is often called an “idealist” in philosophy because what for him is most real are ideas or concepts or thoughts. The most important aspect of the world is its ideal or rational character. The sensible or phenomenal aspect of the world (what we see, hear, feel, etc.) is intelligible only insofar as we recognize it as partaking of rationality. The state and its institutions, which we read about in Philosophy of Right, are of interest to Hegel only insofar as they reflect the rational spirit which is reality. For Hegel, the real is the ideal.

(2) Hegel calls his method “dialectical.” The dialectical approach, in Hegel’s sense, involves viewing everything, including ideas, as developing and changing. Most important is the development that occurs when an idea and its opposite clash. Out of such a meeting of a “thesis” and its “antithesis” there emerges a “synthesis,” a stage of development in which the earlier opposites are both contained but in such a way that they are reconciled. In Philosophy of Right the state is a synthesis of two opposite poles, subjective and objective freedom; for the distinction between them, see the next section.

Hegel’s Conception of the State and Freedom

The main political question in ancient and medieval political writings was “To what end should the power of the state be used?” Since the seventeenth century that question has been replaced by Rousseau’s “Man is born free; yet everywhere he is in chains. What is the reason for this and what makes it legitimate?” Hegel presents a mixture of these traditions, being much concerned about the problem of freedom (like his contemporaries and immediate predecessors) and yet viewing nothing as right which doesn’t serve the state (like the ancients). Because he doesn’t conceive of the state and freedom the same as most other political writers do, Adler and Wolff next consider somewhat closely his use of those key terms.

Observing that Hegel identifies the state with both freedom, “The state is the actuality of concrete freedom” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right in volume 46 of Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952, page 82), and rationality, “the state is absolutely rational” (op. cit., page 80), Adler and Wolff suggest that for him freedom and rationality are closely related and perhaps even identical. They confirm this with the following quotation from Philosophy of Right:

“Rationality, taken generally and in the abstract, consists in the throughgoing unity of the universal and the single. Rationality, concrete in the state, consists (a) so far as its content is concerned, in the unity of objective freedom (i.e. freedom of the universal or substantial will) and subjective freedom (i.e. freedom of everyone in his knowing and in his volition of particular ends); and consequently, (b) so far as its form is concerned, in self-determining action on laws and principles which are principles and universal.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 80)

Subjective freedom is the freedom of the individual person to be himself, to act and do as he and he alone pleases. Objective freedom is the freedom which the will achieves when it wills not what it pleases but what is right for it. The object of the will when it wills thus wills rightly is necessarily universal. A man so determined in his choices and actions will not be free in the sense of subjective freedom: he will no longer be able to arbitrarily choose this way ot that way. But he will be free in the objective sense: he will be free from all those attractions that the will ought not to follow because they are not truly good for man. Hegel asserts:

“The idea which people most commonly have of freedom is that it is arbitrariness‒the mean, chosen by abstract reflection, between the will wholly determined by natural impulses, and the will free absolutely. If we hear it said that the definition of freedom is ability to do what we please, such an idea can be taken to reveal an utter immaturity of thought, for it contains not even an inkling of the absolutely free will, of right, ethical life, and so forth,” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 16; the quotation is an example of what I was referring to when I said above in introducing this article, “I was also turned off by Hegel’s dogmatic presentation of his views and cavalier dismissal of other views.”)

Returning to a statement which they had quoted earlier, “the state is the actuality of concrete freedom,” Adler and Wolff now consider how the state can be an embodiment of freedom. The freedom that Hegel has in mind is the true or objective freedom, his continuing thus after the statement just quoted:

“But concrete freedom consists in this, that personal individuality and its particular interests not only achieve their complete development…but, for one thing, they also pass over of their own accord into the interest of the universal, and, for another thing, they know and will the universal; they even recognize it as their own substantive mind; they take it as their end and aim and are active in its pursuit. The result is that the universal does not prevail or achieve completion except along with particular interests and through the co-operation of particular knowing and willing; and individuals likewise do not live as private persons for their own ends alone, but in the very act of willing these they will the universal in the light of the universal, and their activity is consciously aimed at none but the universal end.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, pages 82-83)

Adler and Wolff conclude their consideration of Hegel’s conception of the state and freedom thus:

“In Hegel’s view of the state, then, there is no opposition between the individual’s rights and freedoms on the one side, and the state’s rights and demands on the other. There is no need, therefore, for any provisions to safeguard the individual against the encroachments of the state. Such things as Bills of Right are absurd. The state, not the individual, is supreme. Hegel expresses his idea of the state’s grandeur very plainly: ‘The march of God on earth, that is what the state is’ (p. 141),”  (Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 202)

Three Questions about Philosophy of Right

What is the relation of religion to the state?

In modern times the separation of church and state is a cardinal principle of life in Western countries. This is based on the view that state and religion are concerned with two different spheres of the individual’s life, the former with such things as individuals’ relations to one another, their property, and their security and the latter with matters that concern an individual’s relation with God.

However for Hegel the individual can have no rights apart from what the state gives him. Religion is an expression of a person’s individuality and belongs to his subjectivity. Subjectivity has its place in the state, but its ultimate destiny is always to be transformed and raised up into objectivity. Hegel describes the relation of religion and the state thus:

“If religion be religion of a genuine kind, it does not run counter to the state in a negative or polemical way…It rather recognizes the state and upholds it…The state discharges a duty by affording every protection to the church by affording every assistance and protection to the church in the furtherance of its religious ends.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 86)

What are the three powers of the state?

The usual numeration of the three powers of the state are the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Hegel gives them as the executive, the legislature, and the crown. Here is how he defines them:

“(a) the power to determine and establish the universal‒the Legislature; “(b) the power to subsume single cases and the spheres of particularity under the universal‒the Executive; “(c) the power of subjectivity, as the will with the power of ultimate decision‒the Crown. In the crown, the different powers are bound into an individual unity which is thus at once the apex and  basis of the whole, i.e. of constitutional monarchy.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 90)

Further on he notes that executive power also includes the judiciary.

What are the divisions of the Philosophy of Right?

The divisions of Philosophy of Right arise from the dialectical method by which the subject of right is treated. The dialectical method take an idea and considers it in its development. Thus Hegel writes:

“In correspondence with the stages in the development of the Idea of the absolutely free will, the will is A. Immediate…‒the sphere of Abstract or Formal Right; B. Reflected from its external embodiment into itself‒it is then characterized as subjective individuality in opposition to the universal…‒the sphere of Morality; C. The unity and truth of both of these abstract moments…‒Ethical Life.” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 20)

On the same principle Ethical Life is divided into three parts: the family, civil society, and the state. And the section of the book dealing with the state is divided into three parts: the state in itself, the state in relation to other states, and the state as it is a phase of world history. On the latter Hegel says:

“The State [is] freedom, freedom universal and objective even in the free self-subsistence of the particular will. This actual and organic mind (α) of a single nation (β) reveals and actualizes itself through the interrelation of the particular national minds until (γ) in the process of world-history it reveals and actualizes itself as the universal world-mind whose right is supreme.” ((Hegel, Philosophy of Right, page 20)

13. J. S. Mill’s Representative Government

“John Stuart Mill’s Representative Government is the first great work in political theory which argues for the proposition that democracy is the ideal form of government. The central democratic principal of universal suffrage was not only an untried and radical proposal in 1861, but it was also one that aroused justifiable fears of mob rule or, at least, misgovernment by the uneducated and inexperienced mass of working-men. Mill himself shared these fears, and he proposed weighted voting and proportional representation to overcome the tyranny of an underprivileged majority legislating in its own interest when it obtained the franchise. But he had the courage, nevertheless, to defend the principal of universal suffrage on the grounds of justice or right‒the right of every men to have a voice in matters which are the common concern of all…. “Representative Government was a tract for the times in Mill’s day. It is still one in our day, and considering the world at large, it is likely to be for some time to come a tract for the future.” (Mortimer J. Adler and Peter Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, volume 2 in The Great Ideas, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1959, pages 177-179)

Adler and Wolff go on to sketch the life of Mill, to compare and traditional conceptions of democracy, to explain why Mill favoured representative government, and to discuss four questions about Mill’s view of representative government. Here I’ll summarize their presentation, occasionally supplementing the sketch of Mill’s life with details from other sources and the rest of their presentation with comments of my own.

The Life of Mill

John Stuart Mill was born in Pentonville, London, on May 20, 1806, the oldest son of James Mill, an outstanding philosopher, political thinker, and practical statesman. He was educated exclusively by his father, a strict disciplinarian. He began to study Greek and arithmetic at the age of three; by the time he was eight he had read the whole of the historian Herodotus, six dialogues of Plato, and considerable history; and before he was twelve had studied Euclid and algebra, the Greek and Latin poets, and some English poetry. At twelve he was introduced to logic, and his thirteenth year (the last under his father’s direct supervision) was devoted to political economy under his father, who was working on his Elements of Political Economy. He furthered his studies with his father’s friends, studying law with Austen and economics with Ricardo.

In 1826, at the age of twenty, Mill suffered what he later called “a crisis in my mental history.” He became greatly depressed, asking himself, “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you were looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness and happiness to you?” and answering with “an irrepressible self-consciousness” with “No.” This depression lasted several months and affected him for three or four years. He finally emerged from it with a new appreciation for the value of the emotions and a realization that philosophical analysis was only part of life. (The quotations in this paragraph are from Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 181.)

From the time he was seventeen, Mill supported himself by working for the British East India Company, where his father was an official. Like his father he worked in its examiner’s office and rose (on his father’s death in 1836) to be chief examiner. He spent thirty-five years at it, retiring in 1858 when the company was dissolved and its functions were taken over by the British Government. In addition to his regular employment, he took part in many activities tending to prepare public opinion for legislative reform; for example, he wrote often for newspapers friendly to the “radical” cause. However these activities didn’t present him from pursuing his own intellectual interests, his studies resulting in the publication of System of Logic (1843) and Principles of Political Economy (1848).

Mill attributed the development and productivity of these years to his relationship with Mrs. Harriet Taylor, who was the wife of John Taylor when he met her in 1830. They were married in 1851, two years after the death of her first husband. Mill later wrote that his friendship with her “has been the honour and chief blessing of my existence, as well as the source of a great part of all that I have attempted to do, or hope to do hereafter, for human improvement.” Although in the seven years of their married life he published less than at any other period of his life (because of his increasing absorption in the work of India House), he thought out and discussed with her such important works as Representative Government (published in 1861) and the work that I’ll report on in my last post in this series of posts, On Liberty (1859).

Mill died on May 8, 1873, in his cottage at Avignon which had been built so that he might be close to the grave of his wife, who had died there on November 3, 1858.

Modern and Traditional Conceptions of Democracy

After observing that Representative Government is the first of the great books on political philosophy to expound the modern theory of democracy and the first one to defend this kind of government as the best form of government, Adler and Wolff explain how modern and traditional theories differ in their conceptions of democracy.

Both Plato and Aristotle were acquainted with forms of government that they called democracies. To them a democratic form of government exists when “the many” rule. However “the many” doesn’t comprise every adult or even every adult male in the state, and so this form of government is democratic only in comparison to the kinds of government to which it is opposed, such as monarchy and oligarchy. However to Mill democracy meant nothing less than universal suffrage.

In addition neither Plato nor Aristotle favours democracy, but Mill unequivocally endorses it. Plato calls it “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike” (Plato, The Republic, in volume 7 of Great Books of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952, page 409). And although Aristotle recognizes democracy as better than oligarchy, he calls the form of democracy in which the citizens (those entitled to vote) are very numerous “the…worst form of democracy” (Aristotle, Politics, in volume 9 of Great Books of the Western World, page 523). But Mill says:

“There is no difficulty in showing that the ideally best form of government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community, every citizen not only having a voice in the exercise of that sovereignty, but being, at least occasionally, called on to take an actual part in the government, by the personal discharge of some public function, local or general” (Mill, Representative Government, in volume 43 of Great Books of the Western World, page 344).

Why Mill Favoured Representative Government

In Chapters 1 and 2 of Representative Government Mill deals with two preliminary problems, the solution of which will help explain why Mill favoured representative government‒how far governments are subject to human choice (in Chapter 1) and the criteria by which we judge the goodness of a particular form of government (in Chapter 2).

With regard to the first problem, Mill concludes that men can do something about their governments but that not every form of government is possible for every kind of people. He identifies three conditions which must be taken into account in considering whether a form of government is suitable for a given country:

“The people for whom the form of government is intended must be willing to accept it; or at least not so unwilling as to oppose an insurmountable obstacle to its establishment. They must be willing and able to do what is necessary to keep it standing. And they must be willing and able to do what it requires of them to enable it to fulfil its purposes.” (Mill, Representative Government, page 329)

He concludes that within the limits set by these three conditions “institutions and forms of government are a matter of choice” (Mill, Representative Government, page 331).

With regard to the second problem, Mill concludes that the best government is one which fulfils the purposes for which governments are established. He then considers what the purposes of government are and concludes:

“The merit which any set of political institutions can possess…consists partly of the degree in which they promote the general mental advancement of the community, including under that phrase advancement in intellect, in virtue, and in practical activity and efficiency; and partly of the degree of perfection with which they organize the moral, intellectual, and active worth already existing, so as to operate with the greatest effect on public affairs” (Mill, Representative Government, page 338).

In Chapter 3 Mill argues that the representative form of government best fulfils these two purposes and thus is the ideally best form of government. Regarding the former, he claims that the best and happiest kind of person is one who is not content merely to remain what he is but who constantly tries to improve himself and that this active type of character is encouraged by self-government but suppressed in varying degrees by other forms of government. Regarding the latter, he claims that self-government uses the existing good qualities of a people in the best way because it promotes the common good by enlisting the energies of all the people. This just shows the superiority of democracy over other forms of government, but

“since all cannot, in a community exceeding a single small town, participate personally in any but some very minor portions of the public business, it follows that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative” (Mill, Representative Government, page 350).

Four Questions about Mill’s View of Representative Government

What means does Mill propose in order to counteract the “tyranny of the majority?”

Mill presents the problem thus:

“The pure idea of democracy…is the government of the whole people by the whole people, equally represented. Democracy as commonly conceived and hitherto practised is the government of the people by the mere majority of the people, exclusively represented” (Mill, Representative Government, page 370).

But this is not just.

Mill’s proposed solution is proportional representation, a system of voting which gives minority parties representation in a legislation in proportion to their popular vote. Adler and Wolff comment:

“There is something very persuasive in the arguments advanced by Mill and others in favor of proportional representation. It definitely results in a legislative assembly that is a more exact image of the divisions of popular opinion than can otherwise be obtained. And it seems just that the assembly should mirror the country as a whole. [But] proportional representation seems to encourage unstable governments.” (Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 189)

Years ago, when I was a member of the Reform Party of Canada, I favoured proportional government. However now I think that its disadvantages outweigh its advantages and thus favour our present, non-proportional system of representation.

Who governs in a representative government?

Mill answers:

“The proper duty of a representative assembly is regards to administration is not to decide them by its own vote, but to take care that the persons who have to decide them shall be the proper persons” (Mill, Representative Government, page 358).

And those people, the executive, should be allowed to govern.

Does Mill think that all men are entitled to vote?

Mill answers affirmatively, arguing that only children, illiterates, those who don’t pay taxes, and those on public relief are properly excluded. Adler and Wolff add, “We may assume that he would as a matter of course also exclude convicted criminals” (Adler and Wolff, The Development of Political Theory and Government, page 192). The following passage shows how important Mill considers suffrage, from the point of view both of utility and of justice:

“Whoever, in an otherwise popular government, has no vote, and no prospect of obtaining it, will either be a permanent malcontent, or will feel as one whom the general affairs of society do not concern… “It is a personal injustice to withhold from any one, unless for the prevention of greater evils, the ordinary privilege of having his voice reckoned in which he has the same interest as other people.” (Mill, Representative Government, page 382)

Should everyone’s vote count equally?

Although Mill thought that everyone is entitled to vote, he also thought that some men should be able to vote two or three times. He justifies holding both opinions thus:

“Everyone has a right to feel insulted by being made a nobody, and stamped as of no account at all. No one but a fool…feels offended by the acknowledgement that there are others whose opinion…is entitled to a greater amount of consideration than his” (Mill, Representative Government, page 384-385).

This method of voting is called “plural voting.” In arguing for it, Mill said that it shouldn’t be based on accidental circumstances, such as the possession of property, but on some just qualification, such as superior education or mental ability.

Personally, I disagree with plural voting, for both practical and moral reasons. I think that it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to select a characteristic to base it on that everyone would agree with. I also think that it is unjust, being incompatible in my opinion with the concepts of representation and universal suffrage.