Why I Won’t Vote (Part Two.1) January 28, 2008Posted by Josef K Buenter in Political Philosophy.
I’m not here trying to persuade anyone. I’m not even trying to inform per se, but I am trying to explicate an idea that I think has something to it. Obviously I’m also very open to anyone who can offer an insight I’m failing to notice, and I’d be grateful for any detailed explanation that detailed what it is that I’m missing. But in the absence of this I will continue.
I’m also aware of my own elipsis that may foster false impressions, or may lead to a lack of understanding (that is unavoidable in a blog where the space is limited). To that end I’d happily respond to any queries that sought to draw out my thoughts more clearly.
In my last post I mentioned something pertaining to Davis Hume and I thought I might detail that thought out more a bit more assiduously.
Hume was very influential in noting what we might call the “grabby nature” of people. This is what I was noticing in many people’s desire to vote: the desire to get your way done, and by extension, using other people’s votes to facilitate the attainment of some perceived desirous end.
Madison saw how ‘factions’ did in fact work in this way. He saw no way to end the motives that create ‘factions,’ but he did see a way to ‘neutralize,’ or mitigate, their strength by avoiding ‘majoritarian rule.’ This protected the interests of small states from those states with large numbers of people. We often forget we are “These United States”— notice the grammatical inaccuracy we’ve adopted for nearly a hundred years?
Well we can thank Hume for laying the ground work that people like Madision all the way to people like John Rawls have tried to exploit.
Hume is the one to fault for being the first to try identifying impartiality (and later justice) with the ‘neutralizing’ of the “grabby nature of man” I mentioned above. The impact of this on Rawls is impossible to miss and is a great fault in Rawls, if for no other reason than that it makes it impossible for Rawls to deal with “retributive justice” in any meaningful way. It is Rawls’ Gothic detail that makes it so difficult to notice how much and how often he confuses “means” and “ends.”
Hume wrote: “If every one had the same affection and tender regard for every one as for himself, justice and injustice would be equally unknown among mankind,” and, “Encrease to a sufficient degree the benevolence of man and you render justice useless.” Hume saw the problem of man as neutralizing “the selfishness and confin’d generosity of men.” The uselessness of this conception with any notion of “retributive justice” is plain, but it is also false in regard to “distributive justice.” Rawls too had a terrible blind spot for this and it leads his ideas into incoherence, though his Gothic detail buys him cover from this. As Hume and Rawls would agree, it leads to the idea that all we need are “impartial judges” to determine a ‘rational solution’ to a dispute, yet this it perfectly in error.
I will pick up later this idea and finish it because I wish to be as brief as possible here, but as you probably know by now, that’s one of my faults.