Re: Hello, from Illinois, Fellow Inquirers…
[quote author=“gmgauthi”]This seems confusing to me. Could you help clarify for me, how an institution like government, which is predicated on the threat of force, can act as a “moderating influence” on a group of beings that you also seem to imply are naturally inclined to violent domination of one another - particularly, when that institution is populated by the same sort of beings?
Government can do these things by forcing people to be reasonable, and not use violence. You remember the old People’s Court slogan: “Don’t take the law into your own hands, take them to court.”
It can also moderate such forces by helping out the poorest and most downtrodden, by providing a support mechanism for people who have nothing or have lost all. And by providing good public education and healthcare. (We aren’t quite there yet in this country, which is a shame).
[quote author=“gmgauthi”]Actually, my intent was not to imply either a “good” or an “evil” nature, in the sense that Rousseau used it. Apologies if I was unclear about that. What I’m trying to figure out, is what exactly is the “natural state” of a human being? And, extending from that, what sort of organizational principle could we institute, that would best reflect that natural tendency? Of course, my questions do imply that I don’t think the current situation is the best reflection of that “natural state”, but I have to be totally honest, and admit now, that I’m not quite sure what that “natural state” is.
Good questions, and I don’t have real answers for you. This is definitely something that cries out for serious study and discussion.
[quote author=“gmgauthi”]If a given behavior is “natural”, how can we call it “evil”? What’s more, if “dominance hierarchies” (I presume this means hierarchies predicated on the use of, or threat of, violent aggression, to organize a given social group) leads to “evil” behavior, then how do you justify the presence of the world’s largest “dominance hierarchy” - namely, the state?
Some natural behaviors might well be evil. By “natural” I only mean something like “genetically heritable”, “societally universal” or the like (very vaguely). There is no obvious link between being natural and being good.
As for the state, I do believe that the whole point of democracy is to modify and minimize the link between “dominance hierarchies” and state power ... at least in the sense that (1) Those in power are chosen by and accountable to the entire populace. They are our employees and not our hereditary rulers. (2) Those in power are (or at least should be!) totally beneath the rule of law.
It is the rule of law that differentiates a government ruled by “dominance hierarchies” from one that is not. A government ruled by laws is not one ruled by particular “dominant” individuals. All individuals, even the most dominant, are open to prosecution by lowly lawyers and judges, if the lawbooks say so.
... or at the very least, that is the ideal we should strive for, and pay attention to when it doesn’t happen.
[quote author=“gmgauthi”]Is it possible to architect a “rule of law” that is predicated on anything other than the use of, or threat of, violent aggression, or force? For instance, could we not construct a society, in which the “rule of law” was based on our intellectual capacity for negotiation and mutual benefit? Or, would you say that only the threat of harm is capable of insuring conformity from the members of the group?
Well, at the extremes, of course law must assume some sort of threat of force. If it does not, then the powerful will disregard it: they are perfectly capable of buying protection.
As for negotiation and mutual benefit, absolutely! And that is probably 99% of what goes on in everyday society. Most people are content to negotiate, compromise and work together. It’s what we see around us every day. The threat of force is really only in extremis; most of us may go through an entire life without seeing it implemented.
Interesting questions. They make for good discussion.