It has to be said that the phenomenon and concept of power lies at the heart of Aristotle's metaphysics under the names a)rxh/ and du/namij in connection with the problem of grasping the phenomenon of movement/change as a mode of being a major issue for Greek philosophy from Parmenides on. The study on the Metaphysics of Exchange has explored du/namij with regard to the phenomena of commodity exchange and social interchange, which already represents a step outside traditional metaphysics. Why? Because the ontology of power offered by the tradition, starting with Aristotle, is exclusively that of productive power (du/namij poihtikh/, a collocation occurring in Aristotle at Met. Delta 1021a15 and generally mistranslated as 'active potential', is the complementary concept to du/namij paqhtikh/ (1021a15), the passive power to suffer the energy of a productive power). This ontology of productive power has only, by sleight of hand, been thoughtlessly transferred to phenomena of social power (du/namij koinwnikh/ a collocation that, as far as I know, does not occur in Greek philosophy). Here we will focus on the phenomenon and concept of a)rxh/ which is dealt with first of all in the famous book of definitions, Book Delta of the Metaphysics, as the very first chapter. Like all fundamental, simple concepts, a)rxh/, too, is "said in several ways", and all but one of Aristotle's definitions of a)rxh/ start with saying that a)rxh/ is o(/qen, i.e. "from where" or "whence" something has its beginning. Aristotle says explicitly that "of all the various meanings of a)rxh/ what is common is to be the first whence something either is or becomes or is known" (pasw=n me\n ou)=n koino\n tw=n a)rxw=n to\ prw=ton ei)=nai o(/qen h)\ e)/stin h)\ gi/gnetai h)\ gignw/sketai: 1013a17). An a)rxh/ is therefore a "whence".
The concept of a)rxh/ is essential to Aristotle's treatment of one of his most important and characteristic metaphysical categories, that of du/namij, for the latter is defined in Book Theta of the Metaphysics to be a kind of a)rxh/ having dominion over change in something else. According to the seminal Book Theta, and thus unquestioningly and implicitly for the entire philosophical tradition, power is always power to effect a change in something else. It makes not one iota of difference when synonyms for social and political power such as 'control', 'governance', 'force', 'violence', 'coercion', 'discipline', etc. are employed, as if these words captured the essence. Such proliferation of synonyms only muddies and covers up the ontological issue in more or less sophisticated, sophistic ways. The guiding, paradigmatic phenomenon for Aristotle's consideration of du/namij (power) is that of productive te/xnh, i.e. the know-how to effect a change in something else in bringing something forth, in pro-ducing. And this understanding of te/xnh is explicitly linked by Aristotle with political power in his run through various meanings of a)rxh/ in Book Delta when he writes:
h( de\ ou(= kata\ proai/resin kinei=tai ta\ kinou/mena kai\ metaba/llei ta\ metaba/llonta, w(/sper ai( te kata\ po/leij a)rxai\ kai\ ai( dunastei=ai kai\ ai( basilei=ai kai\ turanni/dej a)rxai\ le/gontai kai\ ai( te/xnai, kai\ tou/twn ai( a)rxitektonikai\ ma/lista. (Met. Delta 1 1013a10)This linking means that power in the sense of political rule and dominion is said to have the same ontological structure as that of the power (du/namij) of productive technical know-how (te/xnh poihtikh/) in the sense that both, as modes of being, are the starting-point governing, or a whence having dominion over, a change in something else (a)rxh\ metabolh=j e)n a)/ll% Met. Theta 1, 1046a9f). But the "something else" is different in each case. In the case of technical know-how, the power is a power to bring about a change in things considered in the 'third person'. The example of medical knowledge makes this particularly clear, since medical know-how is able to bring about a change in a human considered as a body, i.e. as a 'thing', rather than as a free-willed being.
Political power, on the other hand, concerns the rule over human beings and is insofar a social relation between human beings. Political power is a social relation in the sense of being, still in line with Aristotle's productive definition of du/namij, a point of emanation (a principal) for bringing about a change in other human beings according to a deliberate plan or purpose. Such a change can be understood as obedience to a command, an order, which may or may not be formulated as a law. For example, a magistrate holding an office entrusted with the administration of justice can, i.e. has the power to, order an offender who has infringed the law to be fined, imprisoned or otherwise punished. The magistracy is thus a source of emanation of political power over others, and the holder of this office holds and exercises specifically political power, here in the garb of judicial power. This understanding of political power is echoed even more than two millennia later in the modern social science of sociology, when Max Weber e.g. defines the phenomenon of ruling others, of rule or Herrschaft, "Rule, i.e. the chance of finding obedience for a certain command." (Herrschaft, d.h. die Chance, Gehorsam für einen bestimmten Befehl zu finden, 'Die drei reinen Typen der legitimen Herrschaft' in Max Weber Soziologie Universalgeschichtliche Analysen Politik Kröner Verlag, Stuttgart 1973 p. 151)
Those subjected to political rule, however, are humans regarded as humans, and not humans regarded as bodies (as in the case of medical know-how), and thus the relation of political power is one of power over beings in the 'second person', as an other human being, and not merely power over things (or humans regarded as bodily things, as 'patients' in the 'third person' who 'suffer' passively (pa/sxein) to have changes made to them). The relation of political power is that of the subjection of one human will to another, dominant human will in contrast to, say, a relation of agreement (a concurring of wills) on a course of action as in the case of the exchange of commodities or an interchange of views on how best to proceed regarding some practical issue (such as organizing a work process within a company).
To get a better overview of what the phenomenon of Greek du/namij encompasses, it is instructive to look first at the range of lexicographic meanings, not to do 'dictionary phenomenology', but to allow related phenomena to pass review before the mind's eye. The basic meaning is 'force', 'Kraft' or 'power'. This force may be the physical force of brute physical strength (e.g. to bend steel or knock someone out), or the force of armed forces such as an army or navy (e.g. to defeat an enemy in combat, which depends ultimately on the power to physically kill by destroying the body as a thing). Military force can be employed to 'beat an enemy into submission' but, significantly, the act of submission is performed by the enemy. Du/namij is also the power of an ability, a competence or skill based on know-how, such as knowing how to play the guitar or make a bookshelf. In particular, it is also rhetorical skill, the power of persuasion to win trust and bring others around to a particular view by force of what the speaker says, how winningly he says it and and the charisma of who is speaking. In the social realm, du/namij is 'influence', 'personal importance and prestige that carries weight', and also specifically the 'political power' of public office. It is also 'the meaning of a word', 'valuable assets' or 'the monetary value of something'. One signification of the related verb, du/nasqai, is 'to be worth', as in 'five shoes are worth one table', i.e. five shoes have the power to exchange for, i.e. to acquire, to bring into one's possession, one table. Exchange-value is therefore a social power, an observation whose importance cannot be overemphasized. The standard Latin translation of du/nasqai is 'valere' which means 'to be strong, powerful, influential; also, to have value, including monetary value, to be worth' (Cf. Georges Ausführliches Handwörterbuch Vol. II 'valeo'). The phenomena of social and political power are therefore situated in the realm of mutual estimation, esteeming and recognition among human beings and their goods, and therefore they cannot be approached without a sensibility for the dimension of whoness, of who-interplay. Of course, the ontological question concerning social and political power arises only with a plurality of human beings sharing a world and concerns relations, not substance. A determination of human being, say, as animal rationale (which includes animal irrationale) therefore leaves the problematic of social and political power grossly underdetermined.
The power of money can be understood from the metaphysics of exchange. It is not a power like productive power, which is the power to "bring forth a change in something else", but the power to purchase in exchange anything or anyone, i.e. anywhat or anywho, offered for sale or hire, which depends firstly upon what is offered itself being estimated as a value (and thus as having a power of exchange, such as labour-power that is valuable in producing things or performing services, or commodity goods that are valuable for some use or other), and secondly upon the possessor of that offering being willing to offer and to actually exchange, so that two powers (in the sense of being valuable) must reciprocally intermesh concurringly in an interchange, which is therefore always also an interplay, a power play, and never the one-sided exercise of a power or force having dominion from a single origin to cause an effect, i.e. never simply productive power. The game that is the interplay of exchange can never be adequately grasped ontologically in terms of the schema of cause and effect derived from productionist ontology, but only through its ontological structure sui generis.
The terms "game" and "power play" do not imply here an ontologically lightweight, merely playful, frivolous phenomenon; rather, here they are accorded the grave ontological weight due to them as fundamental concepts of human social living. One corollary of this insight into the ontological structure of social power as interplay is that social freedom itself can never be conceived as the freedom of individuals to do what they like, for all social freedom in its exercise or e)ne/rgeia is an intermeshing with others, and therefore the individual comes up against the other as a likewise free individual exercising its own powers, whatever they may be. Even the freedom to withdraw into one's private sphere and exercise one's caprice within this sphere is the ongoing outcome of a social power play in which it is decided politically where, precisely, the limits of the private sphere are to be drawn. Individual freedom, considered as social freedom, can only ever be the freedom of the individual to play in a power play with others according to rules of justice that are more or less fair, more or less beautiful. The notion of an individualist society of individuals being free to arbitrarily exercise their individual will denies the ontological insight that human social living is essentially, ineluctably a power interplay whose outcome, moreover, is ongoing, shifting, always becoming.
But let us continue our review of the various phenomena of social power.
The possessor or owner of money and assets furthermore has power and influence mediated through the power of money to acquire all sorts of material and more intangible goods simply because money is a reified social power that literally, as res or thing, can be handed over to another. In this way, money becomes the social power of capital, which can command not only labour power, but means of production and land, and also a lending price called interest. The reified power of money and capital extends to social prestige and influence, including political influence, enjoyed above all by the wealthy. But there is also political power proper by virtue of holding some public office, whether it be that of a magistrate, a king, a member of parliament, a minister in the government, a government bureaucrat, a police officer, a military officer, a customs official, etc. within a constituted polity. Such power is not exercised merely through brute physical force, even though political power is backed up by the possibility (du/namij) of exercising brute physical force against people through, say, a police force, but in general, the application of physical force against bodies is not necessary because the subject subjugated to political power recognizes the political power as a superior power and submits to it, i.e. in this recognition there is an act of submission to the superior political power. Only through this act of submissive recognition is the superior power able to issue commands that will be obeyed without the use of physical force.
By the same token, any holder of political office only ever has the back-up of the option of physical force insofar as the public forces such as the police and the army in turn recognize the political leaders and their political apparatus and officers as a superior political power and submit to them in obedience. Political power is therefore essentially based originarily on recognition in which subjects recognize and acknowledge another, usually an office-holder in the structured hierarchy of the polity, whether it be based on a written constitution or not, as superior.(2) Just as trust is essential to the interchanges of civil society, recognition of a political instance as superior is essential to the life of a polity and constitutes the core of its legitimacy. Political power sanctioned by the constitution is recognized and submitted to, a people's constitutional polity being its historical second nature by virtue of its living-together.
Why is this recognition and submission essential for political power? Regarded as a social relation between human beings, each of whom is a free starting-point (source of power, a)rxh/)) of self-movement (i.e. an individual endowed with free, spontaneous will), whether this movement be in understanding or in practices, specifically political power can only be understood as the submission of one free source of power to another in recognizing the other source of power as superior. The superiority consists in the superiority of the willed purposes posited by that superior a)rxh/, i.e. what the superior holder of political power posits as a purpose can has the power to assert itself vis-à-vis the inferior, subjugated subject, who recognizes the superior a)rxh/ and its purpose as superior and obeys. The hierarchy of political power thus necessarily depends on acts of recognition that are submissive. Without this submissive act of recognition, power in the guise of superior physical, coercive force would have to be applied in which the superior political power proves at least its physical superiority through the exercise of brute physical force carried out by its agents who, in turn however, must recognize their superior as superior (perhaps for the sake of some advantage this superior provides, such as comparatively lucrative pay for the security forces). But even the exercise of superior physical force cannot force the act of submission and recognition by the inferior subject (as evidenced by the phenomenon of political dissidence ubiquitously practised in the name of freedom). At most it can only physically restrain, confiscate, threaten physical violence, incarcerate, etc.(3)
The act of recognition is a kind of interchange in which the superior individual sees itself mirrored in the other's comportment in an act of submission as superior, and the inferior individual sees itself mirrored in the comportment of the superior individual as an inferior individual who will submit to and obey commands, and is, perhaps, under the superior's protection. The power relation is apparent in the reciprocal mirroring, that is, in the reflective interplay of mutual recognition. Therefore there can be no relation of political power without this reciprocal mirroring as superior who and inferior who, even though the act of recognition may be feigned, i.e. a false semblance effected by the presentation of false masks of self-comportment, and it may be grudging. If the recognition of the superior instance is freely given, it is legitimized.
The one holding political power is literally the governor who governs the subject by imposing its will on the governed subject (a will usually, but not always, formulated within the framework of the rule of law, at least in modern democracies). The holder of political office is a governing origin for bringing about a change in another, namely, the politically governed subject, through an imposition of will. The political subject, in recognizing, grudgingly or otherwise, the one holding political power as superior, obeys the command of the 'governor'. Imposition and obedience are therefore always already an interplay, and never one-sided. The relation between governor and governed, once constituted more or less permanently, is one-sided, unidirectional in the sense that the governor is the starting-point who governs the other through an imposition of will through command, whether it be a direct, specific command, or the indirect command by promulgated laws that prescribe rules of conduct, often negatively in the form of prohibitions, or indirect commands in the form of regulations issued by authorities under the control of the governor or government (which is a hierarchically organized, collective governor with a president, prime minister, premier or similar at its head). The change (metabolh/) is brought about one-sidedly in the other by the one governing. But this one-sidedness of having the power to issue commands that will be obeyed, i.e. the one-sidedness of being able to bring forth a change in another, inferior individual, is itself based upon and presupposes a deeper-lying two-sided or reciprocal act of recognition in which the respective superior and inferior statuses of the two individuals are acknowledged and thus established in the first place. In other words, the relationship of command and obedience between the two is a one-sided interchange of command and obedience, but it is based on an ontologically prior interchange of recognition in which superiority and inferiority are first established. Because the necessary recognition which forms the basis of the political power relation is invariably overlooked, political power seems to be simply a 'technical' relation of one-sided governing of changes (viz. performed, obedient behaviour) in the political subject. But the political subject is itself irrevocably an a)rxh/, a free, spontaneous will, who must renounce its individual will and power, and sight must not be lost of this.
The governor's imposition of will through commanding the governed subject in some way (e.g. a magistrate sentencing an offender to some punishment or other or, more mediatedly, a parliament promulgating a law) has to be distinguished from a technical relationship such as a doctor treating a patient, because te/xnh poihtikh/ which, like political power, is indeed an a)rxh/, i.e. an origin having dominion over change in something else, namely the patient's body is based on knowing how to bring about an envisaged change without one (superior) will being imposed on another (inferior) will. A carpenter, for instance, knows how to transform wood into a table, but the wood that is thus transformed has no will of its own. The phenomenon of a physician treating a patient is situated between purely technical manipulation of things and the exercise of political power because the patient is a human being endowed with free will who acknowledges the physician as superior only with respect to the medical know-how that will hopefully bring about a cure. The patient concurs to being treated by the physician for the sake of a purpose which the patient has set for him or herself, namely, to be cured. Insofar, the physician treating the patient is the patient's agent, acting at the patient's behest as a service-provider, and the patient's will and purpose remain the point of origin and thus ultimately superior, even though the physician has superior knowledge with regard to how to cure sick people. There is no imposition of a superior will when the physician manipulates the patient's body or prescribes how the patient should behave to get well. The relationship between physician and patient is that of an interchange between free sources of power in the sense that there is an agreement between the two for the physician to render a service, and not a relationship of one-sided social power between a superior a)rxh/ and a submissive a)rxh/, despite the physician's superior know-how (which may be factually intimidating for the patient but this is another facet of who-interplay). The patient obeys the physician not by dint of the physician's superior political power (in holding some political office or other), but by dint of the physician's superior knowledge which the sick patient ultimately wills and wants to have applied to him or herself. The patient can even refuse treatment by the physician. This shows that the patient remains the starting-point for what happens in the treatment, including even the termination of treatment. The patient remains in control, a point of origin, and does not submit to the doctor as a superior, governing a)rxh/. The patient's obedience to the 'doctor's orders' is still relative to the patient having ultimate control over being treated by the doctor (assuming that the patient is, say, not mentally ill and has lost the ability to be responsible for him or herself, or is unduly intimidated by the doctor's superior social status, etc.).
i) Brute physical, bodily strength that is superior to another's physical, bodily strength and can therefore be employed to subdue the weaker one. The superiority can also be a superiority of cunning in subduing the opponent. This is a power in the sense that the superior physical force is a starting-point (a)rxh/) for bringing about a change (metabolh/) in another, namely, another human being, by either killing him or forcing his submission, i.e. by breaking the opponent's will, which amounts to subduing the other as a free a)rxh/, a free starting-point governing its own self-movement in the sense of its own actions. Since the one to be subdued resists this 'change', this metabolh/, there is here a physical struggle, ultimately of life and death, between two a)rxai/ in which it is decided who is stronger. One can therefore not speak simply of a one-sided exercise of physical power from a single source, but must have the interchange of physical struggle, a physical power play, in view.
ii) Brute physical, bodily strength can be assisted by banding together and by technical means, i.e. weapons, which makes it brute physical, armed power. As Rousseau points out, "La force est une puissance physique; le pistolet que le brigand tient est aussi une puissance". (Contrat social I, 3 cited in Carl Schmitt Politische Theologie 1922 S. 20) To be an effective power that can actually (e)ntele/xeia) bring about change in the opponent or enemy, i.e. actually defeat the enemy, this military power must be superior to the enemy's. The military forces are matched in a struggle with each other, and one power achieves victory over the other. Victory is only finally achieved when the enemy admits defeat and recognizes the victor as victor. Within an established polity, the superior armed brute physical force is the police or national guard that exercises physical violence against law-breakers.
iii) The power of money in acquiring goods both tangible and intangible is a reified social power insofar as it can be employed to purchase the services of others. In employing workers to clean the windows, there is power exercised in that my purpose, namely, to have clean windows, is carried out by the window cleaners who submit freely, in exchange for money, to my will. Even the purchase of material goods can be regarded as the purchase of services insofar as indirectly it is command over the labour of others. Money can also buy a person more or less entirely to become totally subservient and do one's bidding. Furthermore, all capitalist enterprise depends on the power of money to purchase labour power, i.e. to hire workers. The entrepreneur or chief executive then exercises social power over others in the enterprise's organizational hierarchy who submit to the superior entrepreneurial or managerial will in exchange for wages or salary. The exchange is an interchange as a kind of recognition of the enterpreneur's power to exercise command over labour power in exchange for money and other benefits. The legitimacy of this power is expressed by saying that the enterprise has acquired, by exchange for money, the right to command others' labour power, and those who have sold their labour power in this way will not object to the employer's right of command, because they have agreed to it, and have a reciprocal right to be paid. The workforce's obedience to directives from above in the hierarchy is the change (metabolh/) effected by the entrepreneur's or chief executive's order, albeit that the boss, a superior a)rxh/, can only exercise this power mediatedly by virtue of the power of money to purchase others' labour power in the first place. Finally, there is the power of money as capital addressed by Karl Marx in his ontological determination of the essence of capital as the endless movement of the self-augmentation of reified value in which this self-augmentation has become a fetishized end in itself, divorced and alienated from any human purpose.(4)
iv) Political power is a special case of social power. It is the power to manage the affairs of a community or a society and in particular, to make and promulgate laws and decrees according to which the members of that community or society must conduct themselves. The citizens of a polity submit to a political power, which is institutionalized and constitutionalized in some way or other, by acknowledging it, emphatically or tacitly, as legitimate. The organized institutions of political power include a head of state with ministers forming a government, a law-making body, an executive body in the form of a bureaucracy of some kind. (The details of these constitutional institutions, whether democratic or not, are not of concern for the moment.) These institutions must ultimately be backed by brute physical force in the shape of military forces and a police force in order to quell resistance by those individuals who will not submit willingly to the exercise of political power, i.e. its e)ne/rgeia, its being-at-work or 'energy'. The legitimacy of a political power is the act of recognition and acknowledgement of and submission to that superior power by its subjects who, with greater or lesser insight, affirmatively or grudgingly, regard the political power as being for the good of social living or at least a necessary 'evil' to enable social cohesion and peaceful order.
v) The special social power, rhetorical power, which has been investigated elsewhere in the context of commodity exchange and social interchange, will be considered further below. It is the power of persuasion through speech to win others' trust and bring them around to a point of view. It is not a power of suppressing the other as a free a)rxh/, but a power for winning others over of their own free will so that there is agreement, i.e. a congruity and unification of free a)rxai/, on a given issue, course of action, business deal, sale transaction, etc.
These different kinds of social power, i.e. powers of human beings over other human beings bringing about specific changes, although ontologicially distinct, merge ontically into and intermesh with one another. There are countless sorts of mixtures and transitions between these kinds of social power one into the other. For instance, the power of money can be exercised (illegitimately) to purchase brute physical force (e.g. thugs, contract killing) or political influence (e.g. bribery of holders of public office, illegally funding political parties). A public servant is employed by a state department for money, but the loyalty demanded by the state from its employees goes beyond mere provision of service, i.e. there is an element of political power exercised over the public servant to loyally and dutifully serve the public and the state. Rhetoric as power of persuasion is employed in all social contexts (political deliberation and debates, economic exchange and other deals, combat pep talks, advertising, etc.) to win others over, to gain their trust and even build their confidence. Political power is (legitimately) exercised economically to purchase goods and services on the markets and, especially, to raise taxes to gain money to finance the government's budget. Political power also has legitimate disposal of armed physical force in the guises of the military forces and the police force. Or it can be exercised illegitimately by holders of public office to gain favours from enterprises (e.g. free flights, free hotel accommodation and countless other perks) in illegitimate exchange relations. Here we are not interested in these endless ontic mixtures and variants of social power in all their empirical richness, but in the invariably overlooked, simple ontological outlines of social power, and political social power in particular. It is the ontological structure of social power that is more difficult to see as a problem, not the 'sociological' investigation of how social powers intertwine ontically in ever new combinations in different times and places. The endless ontic variations of intertwinings form the stuff of thick narratives in sociology that may even have philosophical pretensions.
All social power, based socio-ontologically on an interplay of mutual estimation and recognition, is power to bring about changes in others (in what they do, in what they refrain from doing, etc.). Just as for technical power, which is power to produce changes in things, there is no inherent limit to the striving to augment its productive power, so too is there no inherent limit to social power. Its dynamic is to augment itself, so that one could speak of a dynamic of social du/namij, an inherent acceleration of social power that lies in the nature of social power itself. (In Chapter 9 of my Social Ontology special attention is paid to the tendency of the social power of money, i.e. value, to augment itself as capital.) The limit to social power ultimately can only come from the resistance of those who are subject to it, who do not go along with its essential tendency to encroach ever more. Because social power is always a power interplay, it is held in check only by the counter-powers at play in the interplay itself. In the particular case of political power, which ultimately is based on legitimacy, the limit to its inherent self-augmentation resides in the resistance of those over whom it is exercised to the office-holders of political power within a constitutional framework that provides for members of society to resist the ever-encroaching exercise of political power. (The topic of the constititution of a polity is taken up in my Social Ontology.) This resistance invariably amounts to putting the legitimacy of the exercise of political power into question. This question is always the question concerning by what legitimate right a particular political power is exercised, and the question of right is always intimately connected to the question of freedom which, ultimately, is essentially individual freedom since individuals are the ultimate origins of free, spontaneous movements of all kinds, including acts of willing submission.
The first good postulated by Aristotle in his Politics as a ground for association is that of progeneration, begetting (ge/nesij 1252a28) and the association is that between a man and a woman. The second good postulated as a ground for association is that of safety (swthri/an 1252a31) and this gives rise to an association between "ruler and ruled according to nature" (a)/rxon de\ kai\ a)rxo/menon fu/sei 1252a31). The "naturalness" of this association and power relation lies in the nature of human understanding: "the one with the ability to foresee through understanding is by nature the ruler" (to\ me\n ga\r duna/menon t$= dianoi/# proora=n a)/rxon fu/sei 1252a32). The nature of human being, its essence, is to have understanding, and the power of understanding varies from individual to individual. The kind of understanding addressed here is that of being able to foresee, this foresight being with regard to safety. This says first of all that human living is exposed to danger from what is detrimental to it. Such dangers are possibilities of what can happen and are thus situated in the prospective, i.e. forward-looking, futural dimension of human existence. Human existence always has to look forward and anticipate and cast its own future, and such casting of one's own existence has to take into account what could be, in the future, detrimental to living, its risks. The one who is able to foresee and assess possible dangers by virtue of his (or her) understanding is in a superior position with regard to shaping his existence. It is this superiority with regard to fore-seeing danger, according to Aristotle, which justifies one ruling the other.
Transposed to today's context, such a superiority of foresight with respect to providing safety and protection in living could well be regarded as a leadership quality by virtue of which those with less foresight and insight would be willing to obey and follow. There can be no doubt that leadership qualities play a decisive role in today's politics and that therefore Aristotle's text can be read not merely as an historical document from times far off, but as applicable also today. The submission to a leader for the sake of safety would then be an act of recognition that first establishes the positions of superior ruler and subordinate ruled with respect to relations of social power, i.e. of the ruler being able (having the power) to command, to rule the ruled. Submission to another's rule is the price for safety and protection, and the individual is willing to renounce its individual freedom for the sake of living securely, without care (se-cura) under a government whose principal task is to ward off the dangers that may and do 'arrive' from the future. Already here, with Aristotle's primal postulation of a social power relation of ruler and ruled, we see a trade-off between individual freedom and safety. Trade protectionism, for instance, is today a ubiquitous phenomenal form of this protectionism in which a state's subjects seek shelter from the rigours of competitive market rivalry in the state's power to impose customs duties, import quotas, and the like. The subjects thus increase their dependency on the state and its power in exchange for protection of their livelihoods.
The willing submission to a ruler for the sake of safety presumably is also to be seen in relation to being able to defend oneself against others exercising brute physical force of arms (today these arms have high technical sophistication and deadliness). Brute physical force is an effective social force, i.e. an effective force over others, only if it is a superior brute physical force that is able to (has the power to) overwhelm the resistance of those (an opposing brute physical force) this force is being exercised (e)nerge/i#) against. There is therefore sense and necessity in banding together for the sake of the good of safety against attack from others, and this banding together requires some kind of leader-follower structure, i.e. a hierarchy, in order to be able to act in concert against an enemy, which also is organized in some kind of hierarchical structure to be able to act as a unified, collective armed force. A leader arises who rules by virtue of being able to better assess and counter the external dangers than others. This is a germ, i.e. a ground for existence, of political power relations between a ruler and ruled for the sake of safety. In this case the ruler would be a general, and recognition of this leader as a commander for the sake of safety is a way for the subjects to achieve free and peaceable living under the protection of an able, far-seeing general.(5) With this example it can be seen already that free individuals would be willing to recognize and submit to a superior power, thus forfeiting in some measure their freedom, precisely for the sake of safely enjoying their individual liberty in other respects.
The above is an alternative reading to the usual interpretation of Aristotle's passage, according to which it is simply a justification of master-slave relations, and Aristotle seems to be saying that some are "naturally" masters and others are "naturally" slaves. However, reading this Aristotelean passage in our modern context would suggest rather a relationship of political leadership based upon the (natural, individual) superiority of the leader's understanding and foresight with regard to the practical casting of shared everyday life. If only this superiority of foresight can be inkled and acknowledged by those with a more limited horizon, a basis of trust for being led, along with a readiness to willingly follow and obey, would be established. In that case, the leader has authority. Insofar as Aristotle says that all associations exist for the sake of some good, he is committed to showing that social relations of power, i.e. relations between ruler and ruled, are for the good of both the ruler and the ruled, and are not merely a matter of one being factually and arbitrarily subjugated by the other through superior brute force, for such brute subjugation could not be regarded as being for the good of the one subjugated. Even where political power relations of ruler and ruled are established initially through an act of brute violence (du/namij in the sense of brute, physical, military force), there is still an act of recognition involved insofar as the subjugated subjects surrender and acknowledge the superior power of the ruler and his armed forces and submit (for the sake of their, the subjugated subjects', own lives and safety). Within this act of recognition of a superior physical force and of submission to it, the ruler can then rule peaceably and political power and authority are established. If those defeated by military force do not submit and recognize the superior power, this refusal of recognition amounts to a denial of a state of peace, and political power cannot be said to be properly established.
To recapitulate: The good of safety (which ensures an absence of what is detrimental to living, i.e. a kind of double negation) means that human beings associate also for the sake of saving a way of life (especially against an enemy composed of many hostile a)rxai/ or, in a milder form, a foreign 'enemy' that 'conquers' domestic markets by dint of superior economic power) and moreover that, for the sake of this good, social relations of political power are necessary and acceptable and thus consented to, i.e. are regarded as legitimate (cf. below, Section 3). Those with superior natural understanding and foresight with respect to practical human affairs are 'born leaders' who are recognized as such and willingly followed and obeyed by others with less understanding and foresight. The leader-follower or superior-subordinate relation is also a social power relation, although not necessarily a political social power relation (e.g. leadership in a commercial enterprise). The leader has power (du/namij) in the sense that the orders he gives to achieve a purpose he has set in accordance with his foreseeing understanding of what is good for a community or society (or even an organization or enterprise within the realm of social power) are the point of origin for governing the actions of others, just as analogously the foresight of technical know-how is the point of origin for governing changes in things in order to bring forth a fore-seen product. The carrying out of the ruler's commands is the e)ne/rgeia of his du/namij, his power, and the state brought about through carrying out the ruler's commands, in line with the purpose envisaged by the ruler, is the e)ntele/xeia, the perfected presence, the actuality of the ruler's political du/namij. A relationship of leadership in politics is also usually acknowledged on the basis of age and experience, which provides more insight into practical, political affairs and thus also a reason not only why those who are older should have an authoritative leadership role vis-à-vis the young in political matters, but also why those younger and less experienced recognize the one who is older and wiser and more experienced as superior and submit voluntarily to his or her leadership (cf. Aristotle's remark that "hence the young are not suited to be auditors in politics; for they are inexperienced in the practices of life" dio\ th=j politikh=j ou)k e)stin oi)kei=oj a)kroath\j o( ne/oj: a)/peiroj ga\r tw=n kata\ to\n bi/on pra/cewn, Eth. Nic. I iii. 1095a2).
As we have seen, the social relationship of political power has to be distinguished not only from the technical power to transform things (the know-how of te/xnh poihtikh/), but also from the social relationship of interchange in which humans freely give and take goods in the broadest sense, including the exchange of commodity goods, services, honour and prestige, esteem, gifts, views, opinions, pleasantries, kindnesses, insults, glances, etc. (as investigated elsewhere). Such a free give-and-take is not based on power in which one is ruled by the other, but on the equality of the exchangers in a power play,(6) even when a wealthy individual 'buys' others to do his or her bidding (thus exercising a kind of venal power over others, i.e. a social power mediated by the power of money). But the social relationship of political power must proceed from an act of recognition in which the ruled submit, i.e. renounce their status as being free, unrestricted a)rxai/, free points of emanation of their own self-movement for the sake of some good (which may be simply the absence of a bad).
However, as announced in the previous section, there is a further art investigated by Aristotle at the founding moment of Western metaphysics which does not fit the paradigm of know-how as a starting-point for governing change in things considered merely as physically manipulable. This art is the art of rhetoric which is the know-how of persuasion, i.e. the art of knowing how to bring an audience around to a given point of view aligned with what the orator aims at. The change which the art of rhetoric aims at is engendering and winning trust and confidence on the way to bringing about a change of viewpoint on the part of the audience, a change in how they hold the world or a particular aspect or situation in the world to be, and this change is to be brought about by (verbal, rhetorical) means of persuasion, i.e. of persuasive speech, and the movement itself is persuasion, and what is changed is how the world is held to be on the part of an audience in a certain aspect and a certain situation. Such a change ostensibly governed by the orator (e.g. a salesperson's pitch ending with the customer's decision to buy, thus 'clinching the deal') is not a merely real change in a thing, i.e. in a being regarded simply as a thing in the third person, but a change in a being or beings addressed in the second person. Such addressing presupposes that the ones addressed are themselves open to the world in its truth and that they hold the world to be in a certain way, which is their opinion (Dafürhalten), and that the way they hold the world to be is articulable in language and therefore also open to the flux of communication and argument in speech, in language. Such second person beings are human beings, i.e. beings themselves exposed to the open clearing of being who understand the world in a certain way. The change which the art of rhetoric aims at has to be regarded as a change in how the world reveals itself to an audience and not merely as a real (or 'thingly') change in things.
The words spoken by the orator what is said in the rhetorical arguments aimed at entering the hearts and minds of the listeners, and how they are spoken (their moodful intonation, the way the speech is 'delivered' to its auditors) are supposed to woo the audience over to another viewpoint favourable to the orator's intentions and interests. The audience can also be persuaded especially by the status of who is speaking, i.e. by the orator's authority, reputation and charisma, as who he shows himself to be in how he presents himself in the comportment-masks of his speech as well as the aura of his charisma and reputation. Charisma is the aura emanating from somewho's physical presence, whereas reputation is how a person is held to be by what is said generally about who this person is, which consists of a general opinion about the person's goodness, where goodness is not understood in the moral sense, but in the sense of whether this person is good for anything (e.g. competent, an expert in a field relevant to what is spoken about, reliable, etc.), or good for nothing.
The who-status of who is speaking is a powerful 'argument' in itself, and who-status in itself, independently of any overtly rhetorical situation in which words are spoken, must be considered as an aspect of social power in the basic and very simple sense that an individual will show itself off as somewho or other in order to make an impression on others. Making an impression on others, albeit diffusely, is a kind of change (metabolh/) brought about in others (in their perceptions) and therefore fits, at least from one side, the ontological structure of du/namij, of power, as laid out by Aristotle in the Metaphysics. Making an impression can be simply the beauty a woman puts on display to affect her public, or the clothes a man or woman wears in order to create a certain impression of wealth, stylishness, social stratum, up-to-dateness, hipness, conservative solidity, or whatever. Fame and renown have the social power aspect that the mere presence of a famous person, a celebrity, statesman or who-have-you, is sufficient to make waves in an audience. The who-status of fame is in itself a social power factor.
It must not be overlooked, however, that the social power exercised by showing oneself off in one's who-status in a certain way to make an impression is always a two-way, reciprocating situation in which an audience has to recognize and acknowledge and be receptive for the display and showing-off of who-status. The change wrought in making an impression on others is therefore in truth always and essentially an interchange that depends on the audience's active receptiveness. Even the simple physical presence of beauty, for instance, can fail to make an impression if the audience cannot properly read that beauty, so that beauty as a social power can only be exercised within a definite socially established understanding of what constitutes beauty in any given time and with an audience that can 'see' such socially defined beauty. Making an impression on others by the way one shows oneself off as who one is, is inchoate compared to the explicit exercise of social power in being able to command others. It is a more subtle, implicit sort of social power that may attempt and expect to get others to behave in a certain way, but may just as easily exhaust itself in simply quietly enjoying the feeling of power in the mirrored acknowledgement of one's impress-ive presence by others.
In listening to rhetorical arguments which aim at entering the heart, mind and soul in order to engender trust and bring the listener or listeners around to another viewpoint in swinging their mood, by gaining their confidence, it is the audience's soul as a whole that is aimed at, i.e. its openness to the unconcealedness of beings in their being in which the world shows itself either as it is or as it is not and is grasped thus by understanding. The limitations of the social power of rhetoric thus lie within the nature of the human soul. In other words, the limitations of the power of rhetoric lie ultimately in human being itself as ex-sistent exposure to the open clearing of the truth of being, which cannot be manipulated like a builder may manipulate a beam or a doctor a dislocated shoulder. By virtue of this exposure to the clearing, human beings are free a)rxai/ of their own self-movement. The limitations are therefore metaphysical-ontological in nature, not merely ontic or physically real.
There is no precalculable certainty with which a listener or an audience can be swayed in its mood and brought around to a given point of view through the employment of words for, how they see and understand the world lies at the core of the freedom of human being. The manipulability of an audience has its limits in the audience's very otherness as free, which is an ontological otherness that essentially remains untouched by ontic manipulation and effect (such as the collision between physical bodies). The words employed by a skilled speaker are not like the hammer employed by a builder in effecting real changes to nail and timber as things. Rather, they speak to the other revealingly or concealingly or distortingly and call a state of affairs to presence within the other's world and from within a certain mood and ontological pre-understanding. To win over an audience, to bring someone around by talking, to gain the trust of another person, depends on the other giving the speaker its trust and confidence, and this can be freely refused.
Thus we can see that the rhetorical situation is not and can never be one-sided, but is always an exchange, an interchange, even when only one person is doing the talking. The act of persuasion depends essentially also on a reciprocation in the listener or listeners giving the speaker their trust and confidence. This reciprocation, as we have seen, is a kind of recognition and mirroring, which underlies all interchange between human beings in their ineluctable casting as somewho or other. In the art of rhetoric, the speaker does not simply effect a change in the audience's heart and soul through bringing it around with well-chosen words. The audience is not a material worked on by words employed as tools. Rather, there is an exchange, an interchange in which the audience first recognizes the speaker as somewho and, second, reciprocates the speaker's rhetorical arguments with its attention and willingness or lack of willingness to go along with them and to allow its mooded view of the state of affairs under consideration to be swung. The reciprocity of human interchange decisively defines what power in the realm of politics and social being in general can be, namely an interplay of free powers. These brief remarks on rhetoric already suffice for our present purpose, which is to bring the phenomenon of social power further to light.(7)
Does the phenomenon of political power, as Aristotle suggests (cf. above Met. Delta 1 1013a10), have the ontological structure of a pro-ductivedu/namij in that the one wielding power, the ruler or governor or government, is the starting-point governing a change in the other, i.e. the ruled or governed, in the sense that the ruled obey the ruler's commands under pain of punishment? We have already seen that this is not the case because obedience presupposes submission, which is a kind of recognition by the governed. The terms ruler/ruled or government/governed are employed here for convenience only, on a general level of consideration of the phenomenon of political social power, and could be substituted by sovereign/subject, governor/governed, magistrate/accused, commander/commanded, but not the money-mediated social power of master/servant, superior/subordinate or employer/employee, etc. The social relation of political power involves a government and the governed, commands and obedience to commands. Political power is the power to get somebody else to do something or refrain from doing something in line with a ruler's will. This obedient action in response to a ruler's command constitutes the change (metabolh/) that is brought about in the other being, the one ruled, analogously (but by no means identical) to the case of the art of rhetoric, in which the change brought about is a change of viewpoint on the part of the audience. In both cases, it is words, speech which apparently effect the change, the words of command, on the one hand, and the persuasive words of rhetorical argument, on the other. The change wrought in each case is active obedience itself or a change of viewpoint.
But words do not and cannot 'effect' a change in a free human being. They are not 'effective', 'actuating'; they are heard. Obedience to a command is literally a 'hearingness' (from L. obedire, orig. obdire to give ear, hearken, obey f. ob- + audire to hear. OED), which presupposes that the commanded subject hears and gives ear. This giving of ear is already a recognition of the ruler or governor or commander as such. The willingness to obey is the governed subject's free decision and amounts to a submission on the part of the governed subject itself of its own will in favour of the ruler's will.
And what if the governed subject does not give ear to the ruler's command, .e.g. what if it does not obey the laws promulgated by the goverment? Such disobedience can go so far as that of a political dissident who questions the government's very legitimacy. Then it must be punished. Punishment can take the form of physical harm to the subject or those close to it, the restriction of the subject's liberty by imprisonment, the total or partial loss of the subject's property (e.g. a parking fine or confiscation of assets). Even punishment cannot force obedience, for the act of giving ear is a free act by a free a)rxh/. Under pain of punishment, however, this free a)rxh/ may acquiesce to comply. Apart from any consideration of due process of law, which is here put to one side, a subject that does not obey its government's commands in the form of law, etc. must be punished, and this punishment must be carried out by the government's agents (bailiffs, police force, prison officers, etc.) entrusted with the task of punishing offenders. The agents of punishment, in turn, must obey the commands to carry out a punishment, and this presupposes that these agents recognize the hierarchical power structures in which they are embedded and perform their duty. This recognition can be given, on the one hand, because the government's agents recognize the government as legitimate and understand themselves as loyal government officers, or on the other hand, they may recognize the chain of command from the government down for fear of punishment themselves if they do not properly carry out orders. There is thus a kind of regressive alternating chain of legitimacy and punishment that must underlie any form of social power relations in a community or society. In this chain, the alternating links have a different ontological status because legitimacy is an act of human freedom and punishment is ultimately an act of physical force and coercion directed at things and human bodies. Physical force and violence can confiscate, restrain, kill and maim, banish, incarcerate, intimidate, but it cannot force anyone to acknowledge a government as legitimate. Any individual as free principal is (ontologically, i.e. by virtue of exposure to the clearing of being) beyond the reach of the power of physical force emanating from another principal/, in this case, the collective organization of a state's repressive apparatus.
Furthermore, a government that relies primarily on a system of punishment carried out by its agents to enforce its will whilst not being recognized as legitimate by large parts of the citizenry must be a system of terror with a nested organizational system of agents of physical force who themselves fear punishment by other sections of the repressive apparatus if they do not efficiently carry out orders. (For instance, the secret police oversees the police.) The tyrant who rules through an organized system of terror (consisting of arbitrary punishment and also arbitrary rewards) must himself even fear being killed because the legitimacy of a government can only be given by a people that is not in constant fear of being subject to arbitrary, violent, physical force exercised by the tyrant's agents. Friedrich A. Hayek points out the crucial importance of legitimizing opinion among the people even for a tyrannical system of government:
As dictators themselves have known best at all times, even the most powerful dictatorship crumbles if the support of opinion is withdrawn. This is the reason why dictators are so concerned to manipulate opinion through that control of information which is in their power.(8)A system of political power relations constituting the government of a society can only be regarded as free insofar as the citizens of that society freely, willingly acknowledge the government as legitimate. This means that the citizens freely submit to the government's superior power and obey its laws and other decrees, edicts and regulations that shape how the citizens are to conduct themselves in social intercourse with each other and with the state itself. The exercise of political power is then not based largely on the threat of punishment, and even offenders who infringe the law accept their punishment as legitimate (presuming due process of law, which is an essential part of demonstrating the law's legitimacy and consists largely in acknowledging the accused as free and equal before the law). The 'hardened criminals' in society, who do not acknowledge any political power as legitimate and have to be restrained by physical force, remain a small minority, and the free citizens legitimize the regime only because they reconcile the existence of a superior, governing instance in some way or other with their own individual freedom.
A government also gains legitimacy through rhetorical means in the broadest sense insofar as it wins the 'hearts and minds' of its citizens, who signal that they have been won over by acknowledging the government as legitimate in their own minds. Political power therefore intermeshes with both rhetorical power (e.g. attempts on the part of the government to win the people over to a certain policy) and physical social force (the state's so-called repressive apparatuses, as last resort, in particular, to maintain the polity). Only the last form of social power is pro-ductive power at all in the sense investigated in the metaphysical tradition as a point of emanation governing changes in something else (the offender's body, property, ...), and even this point of emanation, a collective, physically repressive force (such as a police force) is, in turn, organized internally as a hierarchy of command and obedience that is a political power relation based on recognition of superiors by subordinate officers who are and understand themselves as dutiful servants of the state.
Furthermore, the offender as a human being can resist the attempt to restrain and subdue him physically, and may not simply submit to the state's agents of repression. Such an act of submission, in turn, is, as we have already seen, a free act of recognition beyond the reach of any physical force (even physical torture). Thus all forms of social power are structured ontologically as an interchange of recognition between free principals/. This is because all social relations between human beings without exception involve some form of recognition, no matter how deficient. In the case of specifically political power, the governed subjects recognize the superior powers as such, give ear and obey. Within the recognition of a government as legitimate, the government can indeed give commands (above all in the form of laws) that will be obeyed. As we have seen above, obedience can neither be pro-duced nor coerced; it must be given in an act of submission, even when this act of submission amounts to a breaking of the will rather than through rhetorical means of coaxing.
Legitimacy here is understood not as a synonym for legality in the sense of "conformable to law or rule; sanctioned or authorized by law" (OED), if law is taken to mean law promulgated by a legislature as written law, for this would be a formal conception of legitimacy as conformity merely to positive right, i.e. to right posited by the state in the form of law. Rather, legitimacy in the present context means conformity to law in the sense of natural right, which is ontologically prior to merely state-posited right. Natural right is 'natural' in the sense of being a state of affairs, a polity that is in-joint and conformable with 'human nature', i.e. with an historically cast essence of human being that is lived and practised ethically-habitually in the framework of certain shared usages or, in other words, with Greek no/moj. Legitimacy depends essentially on the insight of understanding into such conformity with no/moj, i.e. on the insight that how society is set up as a polity is in conformity with what is good and necessary for human beings living together in society in an historically rooted, customary way of living that at the same time engenders and preserves human freedom. Legitimacy of government or the government's laws thus depends in turn on the people's accepting it as in accordance with what is right, with law in the deeper sense of an in-jointness (di/kh) of social living within established and proven usages (no/moj). In Hegelian terms, legitimacy is an "Erfahrung des Bewußtseins", an experience that thinking consciousness goes through, and not merely a question of the procedure according to which laws are posited and promulgated. Legitimacy in the sense understood here is intimately associated with the liberal tradition of thinking for which government's raison d'être is the good of its citizens and in conformity with their individual freedom, rather the authority of tradition or the like.
This means in particular that even the legislator within an acknowledged form of government has to be recognized as legitimate. It does not suffice for the legislator to make the laws for those laws to be legitimate. Friedrich A. Hayek puts it thus:
The authority of a legislator always rests ... on something which must be clearly distinguished from an act of will on a particular matter in hand, and can therefore also be limited by the source from which it derives its authority. This source is a prevailing opinion that the legislator is authorized only to prescribe what is right, where this opinion refers not to the particular content of the rule but to the general attributes which any rule of just conduct [in civil society ME] must possess. ... In this sense all power rests on, and is limited by, opinion... (Friedrich A. Hayek Law, Legislation and Liberty Vol. 1 Rules and Order, Chicago U.P. 1973 p. 92)This conception of legitimate legislation is an injunction against the unlimited power claimed by a positivist conception of law, including an absolutist conception of democracy. There is an established, customary and thus ethical (in the sense of the connection between ethos (h)=qoj) and habit (e)/qoj)) way of life in civil society that must be respected by the legislator's laws if those laws are to be recognized by the subjects as legitimate.
Full legitimacy of government (not just a particular government, but a polity as a whole and in general as a system of political power), as opposed to grudging acceptance or mere acquiesence to being governed, amounts to its recognition and acceptance and even affirmation by those governed in the sense that the government's subjects view the world in such a way that holds the government's rule to be good for a given way of social living and therefore necessary and acceptable and welcome. Such legitimacy may be a recognition and acceptance of ancestral authority as a good way of social living, namely, according to tradition. Legitimacy of rule in the modern era, however, is given to the government by the subjects only in affirming that this rule is ultimately good for their own way of life, including their individual liberty, and not merely as an act of reverence for traditional authority. There is no force or threatened use of force which could enforce legitimacy, since legitimacy is beyond the reach of any physical power, just as a person's political convictions are beyond the reach of torture. In another context, Thomas Hobbes puts it thus: "It is true, that if he be my Soveraign, he may oblige me to obedience, so, as not by act or word to declare I beleeve him not; but not to think any otherwise then my reason perswades me." (Thomas Hobbes Leviathan eds. Richard E. Flathman and David Johnston, Norton, New York/London, Ch. XXXII p. 196(9))
How "my reason perswades me" to hold the world to be is an ontological, or at least pre-ontological, condition of how the world shows itself to be in its truth and untruth. Insofar, the situation of legitimate rule by a sovereign or government is similar to the rhetorical situation in which the audience is persuaded, brought around, coaxed, won and wooed over by a speaker to see the world or a situation in a certain way, i.e. to freely adopt a certain view of the world as its own. Legitimacy of rule in the modern age can only be granted by a subject who freely affirms being ruled by a superior sovereign or government for the sake of some good, which must include also its own good social living. Otherwise, a government governs (or vainly attempts to govern) only by coercion and ultimately if the citizens thoroughly refuse recognition of the goverment as legitimate by terror, i.e. by virtue of being able to (threaten to) do physical violence to the subject, to exercise physical force against the subject's "Life, Liberty and Estate" (Locke).
The question of the legitimacy of government is at the heart of the liberal question concerning government which was first posed by Thomas Hobbes and taken up again by John Locke in seventeenth century England. Although Hobbes is usually assigned to the school of "absolutist" political thinkers, both Hobbes and Locke must be regarded as the fathers of liberalism in the thinking of political philosophy at least in the sense that the government now has to legitimize itself, i.e. to justify itself, to the reasoning of the individual subject for the sake of whom government exists. Government must now justify itself to "Laws of Reason" rather than simply being accepted as divinely ordained in a monarch's rule. In the incipient modern age emerging from medieval times, the individual subject (understood both in the political sense as the subject of a sovereign and also in the ontological-metaphysical sense of the reasoning, conscious subject as the underlying locus of representations of beings as such in consciousness) becomes the touchstone for all questions of truth, including the question of how society is to be set up or whether a polity's existence is justified at all. This contrasts with the medieval age in which all questions regarding truth or the legitimacy of the social order were referred back ultimately to the supreme subject, God, as the creator of the universe and the instance responsible for the highest good of humankind (salvation of the sinful soul).
The question of the legitimacy of government for the individual subject is a renaissance of the Greek question concerning the polis insofar as Greek thinking, too, understood the polity of the polis solely in terms of it existing for the sake of some human good, namely, good living, i.e. eu)= zh=n. But the individual subject and the conception of a state of nature as a pre-social situation composed of individuals is a modern conception necessitated by having to free all questioning from the oppressive authority of the Christian church which theologically usurped questioning in favour of the dogmas of faith "to the Honor and Dignity of God Almighty" (Edward Hyde A Brief View and Survey of the Dangerous and Pernicious Errors to Church and State in Mr. Hobbes's Book, Entitled Leviathan, London 1676, reprinted in part in Leviathan, op. cit. p. 286). The historical condition of possibility of questioning authority and tradition is the emergence of the human being as an individual which, in turn, goes hand in hand with the sociation of human beings abstractly via money, whose ascent sets human beings abstractly free as individuals.
The Hobbesian conception of the state of nature is the (inept, because in large part ontically conceived as a temporally prior period of history) attempt to start again with a clean slate in order to legitimize the social way of living and its government to individual consciousness itself in the light of its natural, individual reason. That is why the state of nature and a law of nature in both Hobbes and Locke are synonymous with the state of reason and a law of reason. Reason is rendered by the individual subject asking why, and it is human nature itself to reason. As Leibniz formulates around the same time, nothing exists without sufficient reason. This "grand principle" of reason is equivalent to the relentlessness of the individual subject of consciousness in asking the question, "Why?", which does not shrink back even from questioning the legitimacy of government in a fundamental sense by demanding its raison d'être. The posing of the question of why a state must exist at all, or its constitution, has traditionally taken the form of a rationalist justification consisting in logical deduction from self-evident premises. The rationalist mode of thinking was first formulated explicitly by Descartes. In the present context, this subjectivist rationalism has the curious side-effect of imagining (vorstellen) an isolated, pre-social subject in a state of nature = state of reason trying to reason about society, social relations with others, the necessity of government, etc. as if social being itself could be a product of the mind. This is akin to Descartes' solitary subject reasoning about the candle wax in his chamber.
To return to the specific question at hand, we now see that the power which a government exercises over its subjects has two essentially different sources. The one, primary source is the affirmation by the subjects on the basis of insight and conviction that they be ruled by a superior, sovereign subject, i.e. a government, and the other, secondary source is the fear of punishment which is based always ultimately on (the potential use of) physical force exercised against bodies and property. The subjects only assent to being governed because, on balance, they regard it to be for their own good and preferable to another kind of polity or no polity at all and in this way they reconcile the possible use of superior force against them with the restriction of their own individual liberty. Insofar, the subjects regard their being ruled by the government as necessary, justified and legitimate, in that the government's rule is affirmed as being good for a given social way of living. It is accepted that social life would be impossible without a superior, powerful subject "able to over-awe them all" (Lev. p. 61), which is what Hobbes means by the Leviathan. The granting of legitimacy to the government is a renunciation on the part of the subjects in the sense that subjects subject themselves willingly, i.e. freely, to a superior will, namely, that of the government (which, in the present context, may be monarchical, democratic, oligarchic, aristocratic or whatever). They are in agreement with and assent to being governed by the government, in its Hobbesian formulation, for the sake of living peaceably with one another and insofar give the government power over themselves, which makes the use of force superfluous. Otherwise, they resist the government's power and attempt to delegitimize this power, which latter is at core a rhetorical enterprise, since all questions of legitimacy stand or fall ultimately with regard to the question of what is the best government or best form of government for those living under it or whether government is necessary at all. Such questions are dealt with in words, reasoning, argument. Force and violence against bodies and property, by contrast, can never touch the question of legitimacy because legitimacy is situated in the realm of how the (social) world is held to be, i.e. ultimately within the openness of being's truth, whereas physical force and violence can only restrain, injure, damage and destroy physical bodies or reified property.(10)
Hobbes poses the decision of individual subjects in the situation of confronting each other as individual centres of power (like Leibnizian monads, themselves a modern transposition of Aristotelean a)rxai/ as governing sources of self-movement) as to whether they can agree to renounce the use of violence against each other in favour of being governed and "kept in awe" by a superior power whose primary function is to maintain a peaceable way of living among its subjects. The proposed reason for the existence of the state is pacification of a warlike state of (human) nature. Who are the subjects confronted with this decision? Hobbes casts human beings as such, i.e. ontologically, as desirous subjects of power.
Nor can a man any more live, whose Desires are at an end, than he, whose Senses and Imagination are at a stand. Felicity is a continuall progresse of the desire, from one object to another; the attaining of the former, being still but the way to the later. ... And therefore the voluntary actions, and inclinations of all men, tend, not onely to the procuring, but also to the assuring of a contented life; ... So that in the first place, I put for a generall inclination of all mankind, a perpetuall and restlesse desire of Power after power, that ceaseth onely in Death. (Lev. p. 47)The "Power after power" referred to here implies a continual, endless accretion and augmentation of power, an "Übermächtigung" (Heidegger Die Geschichte des Seyns 1938/40 GA69:62) and a will to power, a Nietzschean Willen zur Macht, for the sake of the "Felicity" of "assuring ... a contented life" or, as Aristotle would say, eu)daimoni/aj e(/neka (cf. Nic. Eth. 1176b30). But the difference from Aristotle's te/loj of eu)daimoni/a is that "Felicity is a continuall progresse of the desire", i.e. it is a)telh/j, without end. And what is power for Hobbes?
The POWER of a Man, (to take it Universally,) is his present means, to obtain some future apparent Good. ... Naturall Power, is the eminence of the Faculties of Body, or Mind: as extraordinary Strength, Forme [i.e. appearance ME], Prudence, Arts, Eloquence, Liberality, Nobility. Instrumentall are those Powers, which acquired by these, or by fortune, are means and Instruments to acquire more: as Riches, Reputation, Friends, and the secret working of God, which men call Good Luck. (Lev. p. 41)In contrast to Aristotle, who envisages a te/loj or end-state in the strivings of men in social living, Hobbes posits an endless, restless desire for more which, moreover, has an essential link with comparing oneself to others:
... as men attain to more riches, honours, or other power; so their appetite groweth more and more; and when they are come to the utmost degree of one kind of power, they pursue some other, as long as in any kind they think themselves behind any other. (Elements of Law E I, VII 7 cited in Leo Strauss Hobbes' politische Wissenschaft Luchterhand, Neuwied 1965 on the basis of the German manuscript from 1934/35 p. 131)Leo Strauss comments:
Das Selbstbewußtsein konstituiert sich aber nur durch die Vergleichung des Individuums mit anderen Individuen: nicht überhaupt nach immer weiteren Zielen strebt der Mensch, sondern nach immer weiteren Zielen als sie je ein anderer erreicht hat. Gibt es also Angenehmes, das der Rede wert ist, nur in der Vergleichung mit andereren, nur im Sichmessen mit anderen, nur gegen die anderen... (HpW. p. 131)The individuals each stand in a status as who, and this who-status is what it is only in the comparison with the stands of other individuals who likewise are cast into the ontological mould of whoness. It is therefore not just self-interest and egoism that drive human beings to strive for more "power", i.e. the goods of living, but their mutual, differential measuring of each other's who-status in each other's mirrors, which reflect how high or how low one stands in the hierarchy of possible who-stands. Leo Strauss calls this the essential "vanity" ("Eitelkeit" HpW. p. 20, p. 144) or "boundless self-love" ("schrankenlose Selbstliebe" HpW. p. 148) that drives human beings and, together with the fear of violent death, necessitates a superior instance, viz. the state, to pacify the war over precedence in who-standing, and it is indeed the essential endangeredness of each individual's stand as who in the comparison and rivalry with others' who-stands that characterizes the ontological predicament of humankind. This ontologico-existential whoness of human being must not be conceived merely as a human failing or as a dismal aspect of human nature but in all explicitness as an historical ontological destiny that entered into Western thinking even with the Greeks (and presumably universally into human experience since time immemorial). Although, as Leo Strauss is at pains to emphasize, Hobbes saw the phenomenon of human pride and gave it a central role in his political thinking (for instance, by choosing the name Leviathan from the book of Job because "the state resembles the Leviathan, since it too and precisely it is the 'King of all the children of pride'" HpW. p. 22), this nevertheless does not amount to an ontology of whoness but rather outlines an anthropology. To return to the exposition in Leviathan:
Such desirous subjects of power seeking their own apparent good inevitably come into conflict with each other. "Competition of Riches, Honour, Command, or other power, enclineth to Contention, Enmity, and War." (Lev. p. 47f) This can only be so because the claims to goods are mutually exclusive so that the powers to obtain such goods are opposed to each other; they are rival claims. Desirous subjects of power are in a permanent state of differentially measuring their respective powers against each other. In the first place, the goods of life are all those material things comprising a man's estate which contribute to living well. In the second place, the goods of life are the command over servants (today we would say service-providers) who perform services that enhance living. In the third place, there is the derived, intangible good of honour which, for Hobbes, resides in the acknowledgement of a man's powers:
The Value, or WORTH of a man, is as of all other things, his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power: and therefore is not absolute; but a thing dependant on the need and judgement of another. ... The manifestation of the Value we set on one another, is that which is commonly called Honouring, and Dishonouring. To Value a man at a high rate, is to Honour him; at a low rate, is to Dishonour him. (Lev. p. 42)The constant measuring and acknowledging of each other's powers (especially abilities) as the means to acquiring other goods is itself, for Hobbes, a good, namely, the derived or second-order good of honour. Such a good presupposes already that the subjects live together in a world, that they regard themselves in having self-esteem and that they have social intercourse with each other in mutually acknowledging, estimating and esteeming each other, including, of course, also the negations and deficient modes of self-esteem, acknowledgement and esteem. Such subjects continually eyeing and sizing each other up and exercising their individual powers with and against each other in the acquisition and enjoyment of the goods for living live is what Hobbes calls a "condition of warre one against another" (Lev. p. 63), i.e. a social state of vieing, which arises from
three principall causes of quarrell. First Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory. The first, maketh men invade for Gain; the second, for Safety; and the third, for Reputation. The first use Violence to make themselves Master of other mens persons, wives, children, and cattell; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other signe of undervalue, either direct in their Persons, or by reflexion in their Kindred, their Friends, their Nation, their Profession, or their Name. (Lev. p. 62)Such a "condition of warre one against another" as name-bearing whos is not empirically, i.e. experientially, alien to us, even and especially today in the twenty-first century. There are, for instance, stateless regions of the world where a state of continual or intermittent war reigns with shifting alliances between warlords involved in various rackets or with feuds of honour between clans. And, as Hobbes points out,
yet in all times, Kings, and Persons of Soveraigne authority, because of their Independency, are in continuall jealousies, and in the state and posture of Gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; (Lev. p. 63)This is the state of affairs among the individual nation states of the world which have no "common Power to keep them all in awe" (Lev. p. 62). Hobbes, too, is undoubtedly referring also to an empirical, historical state of affairs in the seventeenth century present in men's minds. His proposal that men agree to set up a sovereign power to rule them all (whether it be a single sovereign or an assembly, i.e. a monarchy or "an Assembly of All that will come together, ... a DEMOCRACY or Popular Common-wealth" Lev. p. 94) could thus also be regarded as a practical political proposal in a specific historical context. Such an interpretation is too easy and unphilosophical, however, since the "condition of warre one against another" has to be understood not merely as some empirical, particular, historical overall state of affairs present or past, but ontologically as a "condition" of human nature itself. Such an ontological condition of humankind, or human being itself, is open to view for reflection or speculation even within our highly civilized conditions of everyday life, namely, as a "condition of warre one against another" which is only kept in check and repressed by a superior power.
It should also be noted here that only a superficial reading of Hobbes could assert that he argues exclusively for an absolutist monarchy as opposed to a democracy, a line often adopted even today in readings of Hobbes. For Hobbes, the "common Power to keep them all in awe" can indeed be a democratic government, whether it be a democracy of an assembly of all, or a representative democracy. The core, essential argument for the existence of the Leviathan is, in the first and fundamental place (prior to any arguments in favour specifically of absolute monarchy), indifferent to whether the form of this Leviathan is monarchical, democratic or otherwise. What Hobbes argues is that this sovereign power, whether it be monarchical or democratic, must have absolute power to make laws and that no individual subject can opt out a situation not entirely inconsistent with the understanding of legitimate democratic sovereignty today as absolute, despite (or even because of) the refinement of the idea of legitimate democratic sovereignty through the addition of ideas of a division of powers within the state, revisions to the constitution through referendum, etc. Absolutist democracy is not a contradiction in terms and indeed, it is the form that our modern democracies, especially in the name of social justice (cf. Chapter 6 v) of my Social Ontology), have increasingly assumed (in negating and restricting individual liberty). But neither the absolute nature of Hobbes' Leviathan which therefore with some justification could be called a Frankenstein nor his preference for absolute monarchy is the fundamental point. Hobbes' innovation in political philosophy is that he poses the decision as to whether individual subjects of power could assent, through the use of reason and for their own sakes, to set up a superior sovereign power at all, thus asserting the modern subjectivity of human subjects in the context of the question concerning social political power. The fundamental modern question of the legitimacy of government is how the polyarchic rivalry among many human beings each conceived of as an individual centre of power (a)rxh\ duna/mewj) comes, through the use of reason, to willingly relinquish its individual powers in favour of a unifying, pacifying, superior power. Leo Strauss makes an equivalent point on the underlying subjectivity of individual human subjects for the state when he writes in Natural Right and History:
If we may call liberalism that political doctrine which regards as the fundamental political fact the rights, as distinguished from the duties, of man and which identifies the function of the state with the protection or the safeguarding of those rights, we must say that the founder of liberalism was Hobbes. (Leo Strauss Natural Right and History 1953 p. 181f)Attributing fundamental, primordial rights to individuals (namely, their individual freedoms in who they are and what they have in their social intercourse with one another) amounts to making individualized human subjectivity the basis, the u(pokei/menon, on which all social power must be legitimized through an act of reason (not a factual act) that constitutes a state. This individualism of human subjectivity the hallmark of the modern era has been noted by a bitter critic of Hobbes when he writes that Hobbes' politics
is itself based ... on assumptions representing an extreme form of individualism: an individualism more uncompromising than that of Locke himself. (C.E. Vaughan Studies in the History of Political Philosophy Before and After Rousseau Manchester 1925 I p. 23 cited in Leo Strauss HpW. op. cit. p. 151)The individualism here repudiated is not merely the individualism of self-interest and arbitrary liberty, but must be seen to lie deeper in the ontology of a world in which individual humans have (been enabled by money as pervasive reified social relation to) become free subjects, thus fundamentally transforming the problematic of political power and the state:
While modern thought starts from the rights of the individual, and conceives the State as existing to secure the conditions of his development, Greek thought starts from the right of the State. (E. Barker Plato and His Predecessors p. 27 cited in Leo Strauss HpW. p. 149f)It is a moot point whether the Greek po/lij can be regarded as a "State". That said, the individualized subjectivity of modern man means that the very existence of the sovereign state has to be instituted by an act (in thought that grants legitimacy) of collective individual will (based, according to Hobbes, on the primal fear of violent death at the hands of other individuals but this is secondary and presupposes the fundament of individualized, free human subjectivity):
A Common-wealth is said to be Instituted, when a Multitude of men do Agree, and Covenant, every one, with every one, that to whatsoever Man, or Assembly of Men, shall be given by the major part, the Right to Present the Person of them all, (that is to say, to be their Representative;) every one, as well that Voted for it, as he that Voted against it, shall Authorise all the Actions and Judgements, of that Man, or Assembly of men, in the same manner, as if they were his own, to the end, to live peaceably amongst themselves, and be protected against other men. (Lev. p. 88)This passage, no doubt, can be read as a description of an historical practical political situation in which men institute a commonwealth, and there are indeed historical examples which need no mention here, the most notable being perhaps the founding of the North American colonies. Such a reading is from within a problematic of the history of ideas which investigates the ideas that thinkers have and how they have influenced the course of history by being taken up by socio-historical movements. 'Ideas' are then conceived of as final-causal, 'influencing' elements in a chain of historical, ontic events. But we need to dig deeper to unearth an ontological reading of the constitution of social power. The situation in which "a Multitude of men do Agree, and Covenant" that a "Man, or Assembly of Men, shall be given by the major part, the Right to Present the Person of them all, (that is to say, to be their Representative;)" is the socio-ontological question of the legitimacy of a superior political power which necessarily involves a relinquishing and giving of power, not factually in an empirically given historical situation, but in an act of legitimation even here and now , i.e. through assent to a superior power which could and must be given even in an already constituted society and state. This relinquishing and giving of power to a superior governing subject, an a)/rxwn, is said to be for the sake of a definite te/loj or end of government, namely, to enable men to "live peaceably amongst themselves". Hobbes hence makes the question of the legitimacy of a superior social power into a question of war and peace and, ultimately, life and death. As an individual, the security of one's own life and estate, he says, demands a superior social, political power to prevent violence being done to oneself by others. Such a superior political power can only be constituted by men banding together to form an "Artificiall Man" (Lev. p. 1) (although, in the first instance, we may object, this does not have to be a "Common-wealth, or State"), for no individual is strong enough to defend himself alone. Such banding together must be a unification of will of some kind, i.e. there must be some kind of agreement to act together in some way and insofar a subordination of individual will to a collective will formed by agreement on how to act against dangerous, hostile individuals and groups of individuals.
The strife among men means in the first place that there must be a collective arbiter and judge to decide cases of dispute over the goods for living well, which are primarily material goods and the intangible good of honour, which latter the Greeks call timh/ and Hobbes calls "Glory" and "Reputation" (Lev. p. 62). This amounts to a modification of the Greek concept of justice according to which "the distribution of esteem, wealth and other divisible goods" (Eth. Nic. 1130b32) must be "fair" ( i)/soj 1129a35). This Greek concept of distributive justice differs from Hobbes' concept of justice, viz. "That men performe their Covenants made" (Lev. p. 71), which is restricted to voluntary dealings among men. In the Aristotelean tradition, this latter kind of justice has been called commutative or corrective justice (cf. Chapter 6 of my Social Ontology) relating to commutatio or social interchange. The reason for this restriction is that Hobbes conceives society itself as being constituted by the covenants among a multitude of individual subjects who acquire and trade the goods of life, thus leading society itself back to the posited ultimate subjects, namely, individual human subjects who freely enter into interchanges with each other for the sake of enjoying the exercise of each other's powers.
But already the phenomena of "Glory" and "Reputation" show that these goods are not merely traded by covenant and contract, but that they are in part constituted in their very being through social intercourse and the mutual mirroring of social recognition. To be who he is, an individual is reliant on the confirming mirroring by others of his who-status. Acknowledging, respecting, honouring, offending, insulting, etc. each other are only possible in the mutual mirroring of social interchange and are socially 'distributed' through this interplay according to worth of each individual as constituted in this interplay itself, "which is commonly called Honouring, and Dishonouring" (Lev. p. 42). (Because of this constitution through commutatio itself, it is misleading to speak here of distribution.) Is dishonouring an act of injustice? It is certainly an injury and a cause for offence and conflict among men, but it does not involve breaking a covenant, but, say, stealing, too, does not involve breaking a covenant, but is an injury that falls under the heading of corrective or commutative justice, so it would seem that Hobbe's definition of justice is too narrow, encompassing only "Covenants made" and not the implicit covenant not to harm each other in social intercourse by injuring each other's goods, whether tangible or intangible. That is, just interchanges demand first of all the mutual respect for each other as persons.
As laid out in Chapter 6 vii) of my Social Ontology, there also do not seem to be any ready criteria available for a fair and just distribution of honour. Honour, rather, is a good that results first and foremost from the power interplay among whos. In contrast to the criteria for individual worth specified by Aristotle, namely, free birth, wealth, nobility of birth and ability/excellence (Eth. Nic. 1131a28), in the modern era of individual human subjects sociated through the commutations of everyday life, the socially guaranteed acknowledgement of individual worth has to be restricted to a guarantee of abstract acknowledgement as a free and equal person within the domain of commutative, and not distributive justice. Hobbes himself implies that there are no readily available criteria available for assessing the individual worth of a man by claiming that it is only the result of a kind of market transaction, "his Price; that is to say, so much as would be given for the use of his Power: and therefore is not absolute; but a thing dependant on the need and judgement of another". (Lev. p. 42) Price, however, is an abstract quantitative (po/soj) phenomenon of acknowledgement or mirroring of worth that itself comes about only in relation to others (pro\j e(/teron) and not automatically on the basis of any 'substantial' (ou)si/a), intrinsic worth such as an individual's inherent abilities. So there can well be a rivalry and contest over the estimation of men's value, but this contest must take place within certain rules of fair interplay that safeguard against doing positive harm to each other in who he is and what he has.
The rivalry and strife among men means in the second place that justice, which guarantees men their just deserts as the outcome of an interplay, must not only be arbitrated by a superior instance but must also be enforced, if needs be, by a superior power against individuals and groups of individuals who act unjustly. Such a superior power must be capable of doing physical violence and must be great enough to overwhelm resisting individuals and groups of individuals within the given community. This is the germ of Hobbes' Leviathan, and its legitimacy is acknowledged by all those with insight into the understanding of justice as the fair interchange of both tangible and intangible goods among formally free and equal individual centres of power. The judicial, arbitrating function of the superior instance is primary here, and its superior force is secondary, that is, derivative of its judicial function something that is not made clear in Hobbes. No other or greater sovereign power can be derived from the Hobbesian situation of "Competition of Riches, Honour, Command, or other power" (Lev. p. 47). To be a legitimate arbitrating and enforcing power, this superior power must be above the fray of particular interests, for only if this be the case can it decide what is fair in a case of contention over the goods of living. The very concept of fairness demands impartiality of justice, which is a kind of absoluteness in the sense that true justice, i.e. justice that corresponds to its concept, cannot be relative to any particular interest within society. The superior power must therefore be above society, independent and stronger than any interest group.
From here it can be seen that Hobbes does not just set up an ontic situation which calls for decision, but rather, read on a deeper plane, he sets up a fundamental ontological dilemma confronting individual human beings as a plurality of individual centres of power sharing a world. It is not enough for human beings to agree to be fair in pursuing their desires or that they concur with adhering to the moral precept, "Do not that to another, which thou wouldest not have done to thy selfe" (Lev. p. 79), for this is not sufficient to prevent strife and ardent contention over the goods of living from arising. Not even an agreement to comply with what Hobbes calls the third law of nature, viz., "That men performe their Covenants made" (Lev. p. 71) is sufficient to prevent strife for, as Hobbes points out, "nothing is more easily broken than a mans word" (Lev. p. 65). Apart from a man thoughtlessly giving his word and then, subsequently, dishonestly wheedling his way out of it, the breaking of a man's word can be interpreted in two ways; in the first place, that men are inclined to break their word for the sake of their own self-interests, or alternatively and more innocently, that the individual situations of men desiring to pursue their interests and enjoy the goods of life (both useful goods and esteem as somewho) inevitably give rise to differences in viewpoint, even when the men involved are genuinely trying to behave fairly and above mere blinkered self-interest.
Hobbes is generally attributed with having a 'pessimistic' view of human nature according to which his statement, "The force of Words ... [is] too weak to hold men to the performance of their Covenants..." (Lev. p. 70) could be interpreted merely as a more or less cynical observation on human moral weakness. Such a 'pessimistic' interpretation is supported also by many other passages such as Hobbes' "three principall causes of quarrell. First Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory." (Lev. p. 62) for, even in agreeing to curb their vieing for material goods and glory in line with the moral precept of "Do not that to another, which thou wouldest not have done to thy selfe" (Lev. p. 79), there is still a further cause for strife arising, namely, diffidence. That is, human beings simply do not trust each other because they have learned that, under the mantle of trust, the other is inclined nonetheless to deceivingly pursue his self-interest. Trust is easily betrayed in interchanges among men.
But, taking leave of Hobbes' dismal view of human nature which is not at all implausible, granted even that human beings genuinely agree and strive to trust each other (an 'optimistic' view of human nature as upright and honest), it cannot be avoided that contention and strife arise among human beings. Why not? Because human being itself is ontologically exposure to the truth of being and this exposure is always essentially individual, i.e. each individual human being is exposed individually to his or her own truth or perspective, despite every willingness and good will to understand another human being's point of view and to act fairly (or even altruistically, i.e. one-sidedly to the other's benefit). Even a genuine willingness to relativize one's own self-interest in favour of an impartial fairness and to well-meaningly trust other human beings and their good intentions and to stick to contracts which one has entered into cannot prevent a difference and clash of viewpoints from arising.
Such a clash of viewpoints, when it is associated with desires in a practical situation having effects on individuals' ways of living, i.e. when it affects practical self-interests, inevitably leads to strife and fervid contention over useful goods and honour. Such strife and contention or, more mildly, 'misunderstandings', can perhaps be resolved through argument and controversy between or among the parties involved, but, when the fragile ground of trust given in mutual recognition breaks and diffidence gains the upper hand, the only way out is for a third, impartial, superior power to intervene to conciliate, arbitrate and adjudicate. Such as superior power is superior in a threefold sense: i) acknowledged as standing above the fray of the conflict of self-interests and thus empowered to adjudicate as a universal instance, ii) acknowledged as this superior, governing source of power and iii) backed by superior means of physical force (cf. the first two sections of this study). This, in germ, is Hobbes' Leviathan, which conceived now as a superior power over human beings living together in a society to adjudicate conflicts of interest is ontologically essential given the individual exposure of human being to perspectival truth (cf. the next section below). Inevitable differences in viewpoint inevitably lead also to practical conflicts in action, quite apart from any distortion of individual viewpoints through egoistic, single-minded self-interest.
The 'best will in the world' of human beings to keep their word and trust each other cannot avoid contention and strife, especially over the goods of life both tangible and intangible, not simply because of the moral weakness of humankind or the ineradicability of human egoism and selfishness, or even because of self-interest which distorts one's perspective, but, at its ontological root, because of the individuality of truth in individual situations in the world, even independently of self-interest, egoism, pride, etc. which blind individuals. By contrast, Hobbes relies on a pessimistic ontic, empirical assessment of humankind:
The force of Words, being ... too weak to hold men to the performance of their Covenants; there are in mans nature, but two imaginable helps to strengthen it. And those are either a Feare of the consequence of breaking their word; or a Glory, or Pride in appearing not to need to breake it. This later is a Generosity too rarely found to be presumed on, especially in the pursuers of Wealth, Command, or sensual Pleasure; which are the greatest part of Mankind. The Passion to be reckoned upon, is Fear; ... (Lev. p. 70)The weakness of the force of words, according to Hobbes, resides in the self-interest of the "pursuers of Wealth, Command, or sensual Pleasure", etc. which can often make "men" reluctant to perform their "Covenants". But the non-performance can also lie, even independently of self-interest, in a dispute over the interpretation of the word given in the contract, whether this dispute is motivated by self-interest or not, i.e. self-interest may make men blind by allowing only a self-interested interpretation of a word given in a contract, or there may be a more genuine 'disinterested' dispute over the terms of the word given and agreed in a contract. The agreement made in any "Covenant" may be simple and straightforward, leaving little room for diverging interpretations, or, more often, it may leave much room for interpretation and therefore dispute, or it may offer another interpretation at a later point in time when the situation has changed. The words employed in making any "Covenant" ultimately fail to tie an agreement down unambiguously in every instance; they scatter and disperse into the scattering of truth passing through several or many individuals. Agreements made in words always remain essentially tenuous, ultimately because truth necessarily always manifests itself individually in individual perspectives. Social being of human beings is a sharing of a splintered truth of being within the practices of individual lives. Such splintering is apparent, for instance, in the law of contract which develops its own elaborate, even contorted language to tie down and precisely define the "Covenants" that men are obliged to "performe".
Hobbes' by no means implausible dismal view of human nature is echoed through the tradition both before and after. In Kant's thinking, for instance, it is taken up again as the ground for a repressive state power when he refers to "the maliciousness of human nature that makes coercion necessary" (das Bösartige der menschlichen Natur ... welches den Zwang notwendig macht, Zum ewigen Frieden BA 20 Werke Band VI ed. W. Weischedel 1964 S. 244) and "the malice of human nature that is ... very much veiled in the state of civil law due to the coercion of government" (die Bösartigkeit der menschlichen Natur, die sich ... im bürgerlich-gesetzlichen Zustande durch den Zwang der Regierung sich sehr verschleiert, ibid. S. 210). The propensity for malice among human beings can hardly be overestimated, but this should not allow the more fundamental, and even more tragic human predicament of being cast individually into the shared openness of being's truth to become invisible. The splintering of the truth of being goes hand in hand with human being as individually free because to be a free individual means to be a groundless point of emanation of both one's actions and also one's understanding of the world.(11) of truth as the disclosure of the world in individual situations does not amount to an inferior kind of truth vis-à-vis a superior, firmly established, 'hard', 'objective' truth said to be 'independent' of subjectivity. Rather, it has to be seen that the truth of being universally lays claim on human being individually, and that the individual human being coming to the truth of the world in its unconcealment is, paradoxically, at the same time the individuation(12) of that individual. Protagoras is famously attributed with having had the first insight into the individuality of truth:
pa/ntwn xrhma/twn me/tron e)sti\n a)/nqrwpoj, tw=n me\n o)/ntwn w(j e)/sti, tw=n de\ mh\ o)/ntwn w(j ou)k e)/stin. (according to Sextus Empiricus; cf. Plato Theaitaetos 151c)Socrates paraphrases this in Theaitaetos thus:
ou)kou=n ou(/tw pwj le/gei, w(j oi(=a me\n e(/kasta e)moi\ fai/netai toiau=ta me\n e)/stin e)moi/, oi(/a de\ soi/, toiau=ta au)= soi/: a)/nqrwpoj de\ su/ te ka)gw/; (Theaitetos 152a).Heidegger comments:
Die Art, wie Protagoras das Verhältnis des Menschen zum Seienden bestimmt, ist nur eine betonte Einschränkung der Unverborgenheit des Seienden auf den jeweiligen Umkreis der Welterfahrung. Diese Einschränkung setzt voraus, daß die Unverborgenheit des Seienden waltet, noch mehr, daß diese Unverborgenheit bereits als solche einmal erfahren und als Grundcharakter des Seienden selbst ins Wissen gehoben wurde. (Nietzsche II S. 139 emphasis in the original)The clearing of the truth of being holds sway, i.e. prevails over human being and thus over all human beings, but in relation to individual human beings in their individual situations in the world and individual experience of the world, it holds sway in an individually "restricted" way so that the way beings present themselves to me in their looks is the way they are in their disclosure (truth) for me, whereas the way beings present themselves to you in their looks is the way they are in their disclosure (truth) for you. Despite human longing, there is no 'objective' truth that hovers over all individuals in general and on the whole (kaqo/lou), no 'catholic' truth (whether it be religious or scientific), but there is an open clearing for unconcealment and concealment within which all beings can present themselves and also not present themselves or present themselves only distortedly or partially as what or who they are or as what or who they are not. Moreover, this very as is historical, temporal, i.e. defined by an historical time. Protagoras says that each of us as individual selves is the measure of the truth of beings in the sense that i) each of us is an individual site for the disclosure of beings, where this disclosure is taken in the broadest sense of including also its negative and privative modes, and ii) the truth of beings in their being, which belongs to human being as such, must pass through human beings individually, thus individuating them as selves. Beings present themselves to each of us individually in our understanding, and if they do not present themselves, i.e. if they are not present at our individual site not even in the mode of ab-sence as memory or as phantasy of the future or as the imagining of a possibility then we are unaware of them, i.e. they 'are' not. Or if they present themselves to our understanding in a partial or distorted way, i.e as what they are not, then their disclosure is an untruth of which we are not aware (but about which we may become aware).
I hold the world to be in a certain way according to how it presents itself and discloses itself to me in my daily practical situation, and you hold the world to be in a certain way according to how it presents itself and discloses itself to you in your daily practical situation. This disclosure to you or to me does not remain static, however; it moves, for life itself is a movement. I go through the experience that beings present themselves to me, i.e. become present for me in how I understand them, in differing ways, showing different faces and facets, so that I also go through the experience that how things present themselves to me may be misleading because I am not yet aware of other facets (my view is too simple), or the view I have is too superficial (it has no insight into the deeper essence of how things are), or it turns out to be not only partial but downright deceptive and false (not only as a matter of fact, but as a conception of the nature of the world). This means in particular that my 'truth' of the world in particular and in general shifts and, although it differs from your truth of the world, there is still the possibility that with regard to a particular issue we can come to reconcile our individual truths with one another so that we end up seeing 'eye to eye', i.e. the issue becomes present for both of us showing the same face. This movement is only possible within the clearing of being's truth that we, as human beings inhabiting the clearing, ineluctably share. This possible reconciliation of our differing disclosive truths may take place simply over time through the experience of living, but its more direct mode of possibility is that we talk and argue with one another.
In this dialogue, the way the world or a situation or an issue presents itself to me and to you alters. Each of us starts to understand things differently through trying to meet each other's objections. The disclosure of world becomes fluid through other aspects of beings' self-presentations coming to light and distorted views of things being corrected or discarded. Thus it can be seen that the inevitable individuality of truth by no means amounts to an irrevocable, rigid 'subjective relativity' of truth. Both my truth and your truth rely on the strifeful holding sway of the clearing of being's truth in which there is a dynamic of disclosure, distortion and hiddenness, i.e. of presencing, partial presencing and absencing. Because each of us is a finite being, this dynamic of disclosure and hiddenness does not necessarily lead to a convergence of our viewpoints, but may end merely in the consolidation of divergent, intransigent standpoints.
This individuality of the truth of beings to individuals is the ultimate ontological source of strife among men, and not merely the clash of differing and opposed egoistic practical self-interests (Selbstsucht, Habsucht) or that men do not keep their word (moral failing). Human beings may have differing worldviews on the whole (e.g. different religious or political convictions), but this by no means prevents them from having practical dealings with one another in an agreeable way, and this is because the horizon of a shared practical situation such as a business transaction is restricted enough to allow it to show itself to both parties in the same way. As noted in the preceding section, the individualization of truth in practical everyday affairs demands that there be a superior subject (a judge, not necessarily a ruler who issues commands) to arbitrate the conflict that necessarily arises despite the 'best will in the world' and despite men even being inclined to trust each other, i.e. "the litigants may differ in good faith".(13) But Hobbes and all philosophers of the modern age before Heidegger are far removed from any insight into the clearing for the truth of being as the play of unconcealment and concealment, of a)lh/qeia and lh/qh, that encompasses both the theoretical and practical realms.
Hobbes claims that only fear can hold most men to their word. Fear is ultimately the fear of having physical violence done to one's person or one's estate in the broadest sense. One can lose one's liberty or property through the exercise of a superior physical force capable of violence, if necessary. But men failing to keep their word by wilfully breaking it is only one of the contentious situations that can arise with regard to "Covenants" or contracts. And contention can also arise outside contract in the narrow sense over the exercise of an individual's rights of liberty or property, and that even without the contending subject having malicious designs on that individual's liberty or property. So fear of punishment cannot be a means of preventing strife from arising among men. Contentious issues can and do arise even when men honestly intend to keep their word and respect each other's liberty and property. When a dispute over an issue is theoretical, i.e. situated in the realm of contemplation and a speculative mirroring of the world, men may 'agree to differ', but, more often than not, even philosophical disputes are inexorable struggles over who-status aiming at annihilation. Disputes over the truth of an issue also often have practical implications, i.e. they impinge on how men act in the realm of daily action in dealing with their property, exercising their liberty in practice and enjoying the goods of living, both tangible and intangible. Disputes over an issue with practical consequences arise not just from individuals having different perspectives, but also from them having differing practical situations, i.e. differing interests with regard to action in pursuit of the goods of living, whether it be income or who-status. Self-interest is the way an individual self is situated 'amidst beings', i.e. inter-esse. The individual's practical situation affects, focuses, circumscribes and even partly defines how it sees the world, i.e. its individual perspective on the truth of the world. In the multiplicity of individual practical situations in their respective truth lies also the germ for strife over practical issues arising from differing and therefore also often opposed self-interests.
The individuality of truth (the world discloses itself individually and in diverse, particular perspectives) and the associated individuality of practical situations (as experience of the world) are ontologically prior to the individuality of desire in desiring, willed subjects as free centres of power and thus also ontologically prior to the "three principall causes of quarrell" proposed by Hobbes, "First Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory" (Lev. p. 62). The truth of being is ontologically prior to will and desire (which are always practical). The necessity for the mediation of conflicts of interest thus derives most originarily not from desiring human nature and a natural propensity for men to do violence to one another in a "State of Nature", but from human being itself being cast individually as free into the truth of being. A 'pessimistic' casting of human nature (e.g. as malicious or as inclined to break covenants) is ultimately too superficial a ground for the necessity of government over society. The superior arbitrating instance required to mediate conflicts between individuals is in the first place an instance to find out the truth of the matter of contention in a practical situation, and secondly, it is an instance to decide on the fair allotment of goods (both material goods and intangible goods such as honour, respect, reputation) in accordance with the truth that is brought to light through mediation (which necessarily includes the presentation of evidence to prove the 'true facts' of the matter).
The individuality of truth, its diversity for individuals in a multiplicity of perspectives, is an ontological condition of finite human being and has nothing to do with a supposed fictitious or non-fictitious "state of nature" temporally prior to the constitution of society and government in which only egoistic, self-interested, asocial individuals exist. Such imaginings of a state of nature represent a crudity in thinking that is unable to distinguish between the ontological and the ontic, and also covers up the tragic depth of the human dilemma. It is impossible that there could be anything resembling a temporally prior asocial state of nature, because human beings, even in the rudest of circumstances, are ineluctably social, i.e. they relate to each other (pro\j e(/teron), they recognize each other in some way or other, even when the mode of recognition is asocial, i.e. deficient, e.g. hostile. An a-social mode of recognition is still a-social, i.e. one possibility of social relations. Both Hobbes and his critics can be blamed for setting up the ontic misconception of a state of nature which leaves traces throughout political philosophy, especially in the empirically-minded Anglo-Saxon and French traditions. The ontological individuality of truth along with the derived particularity of perspectives in practical situations of individuals which necessarily gives rise to diverse self-interests has, in the very first place, nothing to do with egoism. Rather, each individual human being has a world and a worldview on a world which is always already shared, i.e. there is no state of human being, either ontically or ontologically, prior to a shared world in its open truth (of disclosure and concealment). The self-interests which arise naturally in a shared practical world (a world of everyday practical activity concerned with striving for and acquiring the goods of living through give and take) always also involve others, namely, the others who belong to one's own world with whom one shares one's practical, quotidian life. Self-interest must therefore not be confused with egoism according to which an individual greedily and ruthlessly seeks to satisfy its desires regardless of the others in its life-world. Neither is this world of individuals with their individual perspectives and particular practical self-interests an asocial world.
The world of human beings is always already associated. Exposure to the openness of being is always already also exposure to others who are understood and recognized (no matter how minimally) as other human beings and all practical life necessarily involves others, even when one lives in splendid isolation. No individual has a world in which others are not present, even if this presence is not the presence of direct, practical dealings with one another. Even a withdrawal from the society of humans into an isolated, reclusive way of living in total solitude cannot escape the originary ontological sharedness of world nor the presence of others in their absence in one's world, nor even the practical importance of what others can provide for daily living. The construction of a so-called state of nature thus has to be conceived as the situation of diverse individuals each with its own perspectival truth and associated practical self-interest. And the question of society and government has to be conceived as the question of how these individual perspectival truths and associated practical self-interests can be mediated with each other in such a way that a shared practical way of social living is possible. The enablement of practical social living, of course, is a much more modest problem than the pretension that a community must share holistically the same worldview, so that much room is left for individual liberty.
As all philosophers since Plato know, truth first has the form of opinion, do/ca, Meinung, opinion. Hegel says that my Meinung is meins (mine), i.e. opinion is my individual way of holding the world to be in how it discloses itself to me in my individual perspective on the world. Shared opinion is only a shared way of holding the world to be, i.e. shared conviction, and can be just as wayward as a single opinion. The way toward truth requires the mediation of a dialectic, a dialogue which discursively passes through the various (opinionated) views of the world in order finally to converge on a view on which all can agree on the basis of an insight that can cope with counterviews by showing up their inadequacies with good arguments. A dialectic in this sense has to pass through all the negations of a perspective on an issue in order to finally arrive at an unencumbered view of the issue and establish the perspective in question in its well-grounded truth well-grounded through the medium of the dialogical lo/goj that has the role of disclosing the world in how it shows itself. An unobstructed view of an issue in the clearing, whether theoretical or practical, on which all participants agree, however, is extremely rare, if only for want of motivation to engage diligently in a (possibly strenuous) dialogue. The various views of an issue always remain in a difference, borne apart (diafe/rein) from one another and therefore remain debatable.
In the realm of collective practical action, the dialogical process mediating diverse views on an issue at hand with one another becomes the finite process of deliberation in which finally a decision has to be made on a course of action to be taken. The participants in the process of deliberation reach some sort of consensus or compromise, or take a vote that enables a practical resolution; the final truth of the issue itself remains undecided and is clarified only to an extent that reveals a feasible course of action. The diversity of views on a practical issue is inevitably associated also with practical consequences which favour or prejudice the self-interests of the various participants in their differing individual situations. The resolution of an issue can then no longer be a matter of disinterestedly uncovering the truth of the matter but in reaching a compromise with which each of the participants 'can live', each with their own interests, i.e. their individual ways of being amidst beings (inter-esse) in their respective situations, being partially fulfilled. Since practical situations in which deliberation takes place invariably depend also on what is likely to happen, and this view into the future cannot be entirely revealing, even the individual truth of a practical situation can never be complete. The assessment and judgement of a practical situation are not of the totally disclosed truth of the situation (which cannot be had for finite human beings), but are guided by experience and prudence, experience of what has already happened in similar situations in the past, and prudence regarding the risks of possible adverse happenings in the future. By contrast, a theoretical debate over an issue involves only speculating, i.e. mirroring the world without practical consequences, so that the differences in viewpoint remain in suspense. Only mathematics, which deals with pure, simple entities such as number and figure that are abstracted from the world, is able to finally settle its issues with a proof.
The bedrock of difference among 'men' is thus not the conflict of opposed interests of desiring, asocial, 'greedy', etc. egoists in an uninhibited state of nature, but, more innocently and more tragically, the individualization of truth in human individuals with diverse perspectives in a world which is always already shared with others, both in how it is understood contemplatively and from within everyday practical situations. The problem, on the fundamental level, is not the moral problem of how to get 'men' to restrain their egoistic desires and 'do unto others as thou wouldst have done unto thyself', but how to mediate the myriad individual perspectives on the world in such a way that a social world is practically liveable. It is in this context of the necessity of mediating differing, conflicting, practical, self-interested points of view with one another to enable viable living that a superior, arbitrating social, political instance, which is stronger than individuals, itself becomes necessary. Self-interest arises only with an individual self existing in the world in its individual situation, i.e in its own individual truth, which, as we have seen, is not merely 'subjective' but possesses its own validity. The individual situation shapes the practices that are practised and that the individual regards as favourable and desirable and good for its existence. The clash of practical self-interests is therefore inevitable and has to be mediated or aufgehoben in the Hegelian sense, i.e. the conflict of practical self-interests has to be waived, saved and raised to a higher, more unified plane. The clash is waived insofar as the parties' conflict is settled by the intervention, mediation and judgement of the superior, adjudicating instance and the parties forbear to claim or demand from each other; it is saved insofar as, according to the judgement, not all the self-interests of the parties are fully satisfied; and it is raised insofar as what is right is laid down in the higher judicial instance's judgement that overrules each party's conflictual viewpoint.elsewhere , itself related in essence to the powerlessness of being itself? That is to say, is it not the case that the other human being as an other individual site of the openness to being is beyond the reach of technically conceived productive power and machination? Does the merging of the openness of being as shared individually by each and every human being require an essentially different approach to the question of specifically social and political power? Does the question concerning the possibility of constituting a We at all (cf. Chapter 11 of my Social Ontology) have to be posed anew from a perspective that has clearly taken leave of the traditional, one-sided, mono-archic metaphysical conception of power? Within such a conception of power, a social power such as rhetoric is regarded as a technique that (mis)understands its powerlessness over the other as merely an impotence that could be overcome through improvements in technique, and not as an ontological powerlessness.
As Heidegger points out, powerlessness has to be distinguished from impotence. Powerlessness is situated outside the dimension of power altogether, whereas impotence is a lack, a deficiency of power. "Power-lessness is not im-potence that, lacking power and having to do without it, still remains related precisely to power." (Das Macht-lose ist nicht das Ohn-mächtige, das immer noch und gerade auf Macht sie entbehrend und sie missend bezogen bleibt. Besinnung GA66:188) Even when an other human being is coerced through (the threat of) the use of physical force to obey a command, such subjugation under duress does not impinge upon the other's freedom, which, as we have seen, remains in essence untouched by such subjugation. Such subjugation through the use of physical force or its threatened use is based on force directed physically, i.e. ontically, against the other's body or property or the bodies of persons close and dear to the other. The other's body or the other's property can be physically restrained or confiscated or injured and damaged, or even destroyed by a superior force, but the other as another human being is situated ontologically in a nothingness altogether outside the realm of exercise of such violent power which is thus altogether powerless, and not merely impotent, in this respect. Why is this? Because the other as another human being is an individual site of the clearing for being. In other words, the other in his or her otherness is essentially, inherently ontological, that is, free in how the world shapes up in their understanding.
The individuality of this site means inter alia, as we have seen in the previous section, that the world opens in its truth individually on this site of the other. How the other holds the world to be in the openness of the clearing for being's truth is essentially individual and therefore untouchable by means of violent force. Holding the world to be within the open clearing for being's disclosure and concealment is constitutive of human freedom, which is always essentially and ultimately individual freedom, even when practical consensus has been attained through some kind of deliberation, or certain truths, as we shall see below, are necessarily shared, 'common property' in any given epoch. The truth of being is situated outside the reach and scope of any possible one-sided exercise of political or other social power, which is directed at another being, but not another being in its being. That is why the means of rhetorical power are primarily words, and these means come up against and are faced with the essential limit of the other's very being in its freedom, i.e. of the other human being's essential individuated situatedness within the openness of being in its truth and its corresponding practical self-movement within this openness emanating from it as a point of origin. All the means and techniques of rhetorical persuasion, no matter whether they reside in the arguments presented to enter and sway the heart and soul of the audience, or in the reputation and charisma of who is speaking and how the speaker projects his character and who-standing to the audience, or in the way in which the arguments are delivered through the tone, inflection and drama of the voice, have to win the confidence and trust of the audience and somehow mesh with its worldview to have their effect. Such winning of confidence and trust is thus always essentially a free reciprocation that depends on the willingness of the audience to go along with the speaker in an implicit exchange of views on how the issue at hand is to be seen.
As has been presupposed throughout this inquiry, from Heidegger we can learn that being and the truth of being needs human being as the open site for truth, as the Da. Being and human being belong to each other in the open clearing. That is Ereignis or propriation, and such belonging is at the same time the groundless exposure of humans to freedom of both thought and action. Only through being and human being belonging to each other does world open and beings as a whole and as such, both as what they are and who they are, come to show their multifaceted faces to human being in some casting or other. But the clearing for the truth of being is occupied existentially by human being individually; each human being ineluctably partakes individually of the open clearing of the truth of being so that the constitution of a We has to be approached as an explicit philosophical problem of how the truth of being, in its singularity, particularity and universality, comes to be shared.
At the same time, each individual participation of human being in the truth of being is also essentially shared; in being human beings, we essentially and necessarily share the openness of being with other human beings. No individual is able to 'make up' its own world entirely. And more than that: each individual world only ever opens also through the other's opening to the world. Each individual experience of world is mediated essentially also through the experience of others, i.e. world opens for each of us also through the mediation of other human beings in their own openness to being from whom we learn in countless ways, be it through communication or simply by practically imitating. Thus, traditions, which are always also ways of understanding the world, are handed down. This means that each individual truth, each individual point of view is mediated by practically sharing a life-world with others through education. But even more than that: Each individual truth is also a shared truth with others within a shared historical world that has a given, universal casting. No matter what differences in individual, singular views exist, these differing individual views and how each individual holds the world to be (Dafürhalten) are all situated and are mediated with one another within a shared, universal-historical world in historical time-space with its fundamentally shared understanding of that world in the basic ontological outlines and building blocks of its truth. The historical opening of world in how it shapes up in a given, universal casting is ontologically prior to the individual or any collectivity of human beings, and is an 'always already' universal given whose givenness is only co-shaped and co-moulded by those rare, exceptional thinkers and artists who find themselves called to the abyssal task of co-casting an historical world. The 'always already' only becomes malleable and revisable in a creative re-casting that must first dare to question. At first and for the most part, the truth of an historical world is simply given and shared unquestioningly thus forming the basis within which differences arise.
Nevertheless, this shared historical truth of the world in its all its particularity (specific areas of what is understandable and knowable in the world) has to be appropriated individually. There is thus an essential embeddedness of individual (singular) truth in a shared (universal, historical) truth of being which provides the basic casting for all particular truths. The clearing for being's truth, although ineluctably individually, mortally and therefore also finitely ek-sisted, is essentially also ineluctably shared with the other in the other's exposure to the clearing in a given, historical, universal casting. An individual opening of world in all its particularity is willy-nilly a shared opening of world mediated not only by the countless others, near and far, intimately close and anonymously average, present and past, together with whom we are cast into and share an historical world, but also by a universal casting of historical world that confronts humankind, unquestioned and seemingly unquestionable, like an uncanny destiny which, however, is experienced simply as self-evidence. How an individual understands and holds the world to be is always a configuration, perhaps singular, unique and quirky, of ontological building blocks provided by an historical epoch. Radical singularity only comes about when an individual questions the very self-evidence of a given world, thus breaking with all possible configurations.
The sharing of an understanding of world with other human beings takes place primarily through language (leaving aside the powerful possibility of imitating through which, especially when young and not yet our selves, we appropriate others' understanding and way of being in the world in a kind of one-sided mirror-game with 'identification figures'). The other's world is evoked, called to presence primarily through language. But even more than that: Insofar as the stillness of the truth of being makes its way to human language,(14) an historical world opens up and takes shape in language's casting definition, which can be shared among humans through this language. The casting of an historical world is a shared epochal human project in which individuals participate not only through listening to each other in dialogue, but also by listening and being open to the hitherto unheard-of, silent sendings of being, through which our most fundamental concepts, each of which is an ontological casting, take shape. And we can listen to each other because human being itself is first and foremost openness and exposure and a belonging to the openness of the truth of being in its stillness from which an historical world emerges and assumes shape and within which it can even change how it shapes up epochally.
The enpropriation of human being to the clearing of self-concealment of being, i.e. Ereignis, from which beings as such emerge in their defined outlines, is powerless. It is 'only' a possibility that cannot be denied or refused, since we are powerless to refuse, knowingly or unknowingly, our enpropriation to being or how an historical world shows up and shapes up for our understanding. It is the possibility of all human possibilities. The eyes of understanding cannot banish an insight once they have caught a glimpse of it. There is no power which can either coerce or prevent such knowing belonging, just as there is no power which can either coerce or prevent the oblivion to such belonging to the truth of being. Philosophy and art inhabit this realm of powerlessness that remains invisible from within an established epochal understanding.
One powerless possibility for a shared historical truth that breaks the mould is to come to conceive social and political power differently from how it has been conceived, mostly implicitly, throughout the history of metaphysics. The phenomena of human beings sharing the world in interchange with each other point to the limits of mono-archically conceived productionist, metaphysical power, for metaphysical power is always thought as a starting-point residing in one being governing a change, a metabolh/ in another being. Monotheism, in particular, thinks within this mono-archic paradigm by positing the a)rxh/ as a supreme being. In questioning powerlessly, we ask: Does not the reciprocity of the free exchange and interchange (metabolh/ in its other sense) between and among human beings, even today, still await its appropriate conceptualization, no longer subsumed (implicitly) under key metaphysical concepts from du/namij and e)ne/rgeia through to Nietzschean will to power in which power is always thought mono-archically? By virtue of the ontological peculiarity of human beings as ineluctably free beings cast individually and singularly out into an historically shared, universal, open truth of being, all interchange among them is a power play that, paradoxically, is situated essentially outside the reach of any metaphysically conceived power and therefore within a realm of powerlessness. In particular, there is no metaphysically conceived power capable of achieving a lasting unity of truth (e.g. a theocracy) or practical agreement among a plurality of individual emanations of freedom; any unity is a unity on recall, until the next outbreak of dissent and conflict. The yearning for the one (to\ e(/n) must give way to acceptance of the many (ta\ polla/).
The power interplay among many individual centres of power is not to be subdued or made calculable for an outcome that fulfils external criteria, but is to be recognized and protected as the historical form of human sociation that corresponds to individualized, plural, human freedom per se. The individuality of individuals is only made possible by an abstract form of sociation mediated by a reified social relation, money, that allows many degrees of freedom for individuals to shape their own selves and their own lives shared with chosen others. Individuals struggle against and with one another to become who they are and to gain what they desire to enjoy and individually shape their lives. On the fair side of the medal, the everyday interchanges among individuals enable them to exercise their individual powers and abilities for each other's benefit, and that in often unforeseeable ways. Each individual comes to show who he or she is and to validate their powers in the interchanges with others, and also to acquire goods of living that make their lives comfortable. Such freedom of interplay concerns powers and potentials, and not any outcomes that could be specified as 'the good' or 'well-being' of all, and therefore there is always risk of failure in the play of free individuality. The gambit to be esteemed as somewho and to gain the material wherewithal for good living carries no guarantees of assured outcomes, but is already the very realization of social freedom.
The justice pertaining to the interplay among individuals vieing for who-status and gain is the commutative justice of fair play, and not the distributive ('social') justice of assured, secure outcomes. The superior instance called for by the power interplay of individuals has first of all to fulfil a judicial role to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise, and secondly a rule-setting role to ensure that the interplay overall is played out according to fair rules. This latter is the translation of the Hobbesian criterion of "peaceable living" among the players, above all by preventing unfair concentrations of power in the striving for monetary gain and in the employment of money as an accumulated, reified social power. The adjudicating and rule-setting roles of government are its core determinations. The power interplay among individuals is not to be quelled but allowed to play out, with unforeseen and often surprising outcomes. A third role for government is to develop, through education and training, the powers and abilities of individuals so that they can play as well as they possibly can in the power plays of daily life to gain esteem and income.
A conception of social living and its government in terms of fair power play is antithetical to the traditional conception of power that posits a principal having dominion over the movements to bring forth an envisaged outcome. Such a principal is required by conceptions of distributive (social) justice that are bent on guaranteeing actual outcomes deemed as good, e.g. (the maximization of) the happiness of society as a whole.(15) To guarantee such actual outcomes, free interplay must be quelled or at least constrained and confined. The individual players in the power interplay who value their own individual freedom affirm a superior instance of power only insofar as it exercises judicial and rule-setting powers, for such powers are in accordance with the interplay of individual freedom and necessary for it. Such a free society is necessarily pluralist, for there can be no unified truth for a way of living in it, but only a plurality of different ways of living mediated with one another by abstract, reified social relations of interchange that leave each other in peace, and indeed, in a guaranteed, but benevolent indifference to each other. The preservation of freedom demands conceding the powerlessness of government to bring about certain envisaged outcomes of the power interplay at the heart of social living.
The power play among individuals and associations therefore contains
many contradictory possibilities, including the following: rivalry and
teamwork, competition and co-operation, appreciation and depreciation of
abilities, vanity and self-esteem, flattery and esteem, winning and losing,
greed and moderation, mutual benefit and one-sided advantage, uplifting
exhilaration and downcasting disappointment. The power interplay cannot
be governed, controlled to produce certain desirable outcomes rather than
others, nor can it be quelled to prevent the savage struggle over who-status
among the players (over standing presence in the mirroring shine of public
or private estimation) that rages everywhere and everyday, mostly covertly.
Political power is not cybernetic, but can only arbitrate conflicts and
right wrong through a judiciary and seek to maintain fair boundary conditions
of the game as a whole. Fairness cannot be calculably set up. When the
power play among individuals and their associations is fair, it is beautiful
like a fleeting, mild summer's day, but, more often than not, it is unfair
and ugly. The government is only one instance mandated to fight for fairness
by laying down rules of play. Fairness, however, is not so much a matter
of implementable government policy; rather fair play is an ethos
in which the players are immersed that imbues the power interplay with
a certain attunement. An ethos is an aether which the players breathe habitually
like a fairer, higher atmosphere; it is not a higher power.
1. trans. To render individual or give an individual character to; to characterize by distinctive marks or qualities; to mark out or distinguish from other persons or things.
1. a. The action or process of individuating or rendering individual; that of distinguishing as an individual. spec. in Scholastic Philosophy, The process leading to individual existence, as distinct from that of the species.
principle of individuation (= med.L. principium individuationis): the principle through which the individual is constituted or comes into being. In Scholastic Philosophy this was variously held to be Form (by most Realists); Matter (by the Nominalists); and Matter as limited in the individual (by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas).