LION OF A MAN
The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill, volume one,
Visions of Glory: 1874-1932
Boston: Little, Brown, 1983
973 pp., $25.00
By Larry P. Arnn
The first thesis of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill is that Winston Churchill was a great man. Manchester informs us that Churchill was a brilliant writer and a courageous soldier. He was a leader of intuitive genius. He was a "tribune for honor, loyalty, duty, and the supreme virtue of action; one who would never compromise with iniquity, who could create a sublime mood and thus give men heroic visions of what they were and might become." He was his country's last chance, and in the end he was his country's savior. He was truly a lion of a man.
The second thesis of Manchester's biography is that Churchill was an epiphenomenon. He was shaped by a then passing, now long departed age, and he was shaped by a peculiar upbringing. He held to fading standards; in particular, to "fading Victorian standards." He was a "romantic," and in this he was "a man of his time." His time was the nineteenth century, which was "in his bones." He became "the most eloquent defender" of that century, "the apotheosis of its ideals, the resolute champion of its institutions and values." Churchill was the epitome of something spectacular, but defunct: the product of an extinct age, and of a strange childhood. Because of that, we are told, Winston Churchill's career "would be inconceivable today." He was truly a lion, but truly the last such lion there can be.
These two theses, which sit so uneasily side by side, dominate in alternation this first volume of The Last Lion. Their incompatibility in no way diminishes Manchester's devotion to them both. Around them he has built a vast story, reaching in this first volume alone to 900 pages.
The Last Lion is sometimes moved by a plain sympathy for Churchill, and in that mood, it gets very close to Churchill's own way of looking at things. Surely that is the primary business of biography. Surely before we can judge a statesman, which is in the end why we study his life, we must let him make his own argument as well as he can. Where The Last Lion dwells upon Churchill's deeds and words, it prepares the way for us to reach conclusions about him. Therein it does a service.
That is not, however, the real motive behind this grand project. Manchester is not revealing previously unknown facts; nor, for that matter, is he condensing the existing record for a popular audience. His real purpose is to give his personal outlook on what he considers a great figure of our time. He means to do Churchill honor, but that is where the trouble begins.
In nothing does Manchester take more pride than his refusal to judge one era by the standards of another. He finds the notion of "Victorian standards" serviceable as a kind of insulation to protect Churchill from the derision of fashionable opinion today. Sure, Churchill was an imperialist, but he was influenced by older values. Sure, Churchill was a racist, but so were most people back then. Those who do not look upon these Churchillian foibles with toleration are scathed as "liberal bigots." An example will show how this method of history operates.
Churchill, as is well known, was an opponent of Bolshevism from the time the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia. Most will think that Churchill was an extreme and irrational opponent of that regime, but Manchester sets out to make the case for Churchill, beginning as early as page 27, where he quotes Churchill: ". . . I was brought up in that state of civilization when it was everywhere accepted that men are born unequal." Manchester then makes a striking claim:
This explains, in foreign affairs, the ferocity of his attacks on Bolshevism well into the 1920s, long after his intransigence had become embarrassing to the government, and in domestic politics it accounts for his distrust of Labor.
It is amazing how easily large matters can be settled. Churchill himself devoted several hundred pages of speeches to his views on socialism and Bolshevism, and of course some significant events occurred during his time that are relevant to both issues. The typical plodding historian would probably have run the risk of boring his readers by going into some of these details before announcing his judgment. He might have mentioned what was happening in Russia in the early 1920s. He might have described Churchill's own account of his views, and he might have compared that account with whatever evidence could be found to contradict or support it. A more plodding historian would probably have done a lot of looking before he settled upon the influence of outmoded values as the reason for Churchill's "ferocity" against Bolshevism.
Instead we get from Manchester this terse reference to inequality. Without supporting argument, we have difficulty deciding what exactly this reference means, because of course Churchill made some ringing declarations in favor of human equality, too. We believe that an examination of Churchill's opinions on equality would prove that he believed approximately what Abraham Lincoln believed, namely, that men are equal in some respects and not equal in others. In particular, they are equal in their rights, and justice requires that their equal rights be recognized. But all this would take some argument to establish, or to refute. From Manchester, we wait for a long time for such an argument, but we wait in vain.
Churchill gets the same treatment elsewhere. From Manchester we learn, for example, that Churchill opposed dominion status for India because he was a racist. We learn that he was fascinated by war and force because "deep within him lurked the imaginative child who had played with toy soldiers in his Mayfair nursery." We learn that he was the captive of his childhood and of the biases of the preceding generation. We are never given much in the way of evidence to support these descriptions of Churchill. Sometimes contemporary psychologists are quoted, but of course none of these scientists had any extended opportunity to examine Churchill (can one imagine Churchill on the couch?), and only one of them makes a statement directly about Churchill. Sometimes isolated anecdotes or jokes that Churchill is said to have told are quoted. But it is not Manchester's habit to bring out the evidence on both sides and try to resolve the apparent contradictions. Random glimpses of Churchill stream by page after page.
What is even more surprising than these erratic sweeps of historical judgment is that Manchester in most instances goes on to belie them later on. It turns out, for example, that eventually Manchester does mention many of the relevant facts about the Bolshevik Revolution and Churchill's relation to it. He mentions the murders and the chaos. He even calls what happened in Russia a "holocaust." As the case is laid out in detail, Churchill's actions take on increasing plausibility, and one loses sight for a time of the reactionary Victorian, conditioned by the past to respond to change in a certain way. Manchester writes:
As a conservative in the purest sense-a defender of freedom, justice, and the great achievements of the past-he saw civilization gravely endangered [by Bolshevism].
Here, then, returns the first Churchill, the great Churchill. This Churchill was a defender of justice, freedom, the great achievements of the past, and civilization; this Churchill would never compromise with iniquity; this Churchill was a tribune for honor, loyalty and duty. He opposed the Indian reforms because he foresaw the "holocaust"-again, the word is used-that would and did result when the British departed. He was fascinated by war because he understood, deeply and rightly, that "conflict, not amity, would be the customary relationship between great states." This other Churchill, this great Churchill, served principles that endure, and he saw the world as it was and as-fundamentally-it is.
We cannot say definitely what accounts for this strange and schizophrenic presentation of Winston Churchill, but it seems to indicate a division within the breast of William Manchester. He reveres Churchill and the achievements of which Churchill was part. He seems to long for the great days of old. And yet he feels irrevocably separated from those great days. There is a sad, tired fatalism that lurks between the lines of The Last Lion.
In an earlier, autobiographical work called Good bye, Darkness, Manchester recounts a dream in which the two parts of his soul meet. The one part is the young, tough, brave Marine who fought so implacably in the Pacific. The other is the balding
writer who lives in a more complicated world, and who is not so sure any more of the causes for which his other self had struggled valiantly. Indeed, Goodbye, Darkness closes with the old Manchester crying because the last smoulderings of his younger self have been stifled. But in The Last Lion, the remnant, unextinguished embers of that Marine still warm one aspect of the story and still fight against the cold resignation that chills the rest. This incongruous warfare gives the book its interest, if, alas, it leaves the reader wondering what conclusions to draw about Winston Churchill. Churchill, we think, would have liked the Marine.
A MEDIEVAL MURDER MYSTERY
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
A Helen and Kurt Wolff Book
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983
502 pp., $15.95
By J. Jackson Barlow
The enthusiastic reception given this book by the critics is testimony to its novel charm. It is something new to American audiences-and critics are by profession novelty's heralds. This is not the kind of book an American or a Protestant would write, yet it is something that can be enjoyed universally: there is nothing mankind likes better than a good mystery.
This is a good mystery indeed. The year is 1327, and Brother William of Baskerville is engaged in the struggle between Emperor and Pope. He arrives at a nameless abbey in northern Italy while on his diplomatic business and is called upon to investigate a murder. The abbot knows part of the story-perhaps even the identity of the murderer-but he cannot reveal it because he heard it in confession. But does the abbot know the whole story? Will this one murder, and the others to follow, lead Brother William to discover the abbey's long-buried secrets? Where do the fabulous treasures of the abbey's library-off limits to all but the librarian-fit in? Outside, the deadly conflict being waged between Pope and Emperor for mastery of Christendom threatens to disrupt the abbey's peace even further. Within four days of Brother William's arrival, a papal representative will meet at this very abbey with the representatives of the "Spiritual" faction of the Franciscans. The narrow issue is ecclesiastical poverty. The broad issue is the jurisdiction of the spiritual (i.e., Papal) authority over temporal things.
Obviously, we are in for quite a story. It is told us by one Adso, who as a novice accompanied Brother William as his scribe, and who writes the book many years later as an old man. Although he clearly admires Brother William as a clever problem-solver, Adso is troubled by certain intellectual and political idiosyncrasies of his mentor. Brother William is, after all, a disciple of Roger Bacon, a friend of William of Occam, and the political ally of Marsilius of Padua. He is on the Emperor's side in his conflict with the Pope-reason enough for suspicion in itself. As a scientist, he has a certain skepticism about the world that leaves poor Adso somewhat befuddled, even many years later:
I did not then know what Brother William was seeking, and to tell the truth I still do not know today, and I presume he himself did not know, moved as he was solely by the desire for truth, and by the suspicion-which I could see he always harbored-that the truth was not what was appearing to him at any given moment. (p. 14)
Brother William is the first of the skeptical modern scientists. Yet his skepticism is not a dogmatic Cartesian dubitatio omnium, but a curiosity about the things that appear to him. He satisfies his curiosity by constructing hypotheses and by testing them. It is not clear whether he settles for constructing hypotheses only about some-rather minor-mysteries, or whether the great mysteries have been subjects of his investigation as well.
William's opponents are men whose mentality could easily be caricatured as merely "Dark Age." The richness of this book is its avoidance of that. Caricature would be inappropriate in Adso. Eco has been true both to his characters and to his narrator. One has only to read his description of the monks chanting the "Sederunt Principes" to be transported. There is none of the electronically altered ambience of modernity here.
Eco reminds us both of how far we have come and of how much we have lost. His book should have particular appeal for every member of that modern descendant of the monastery, the university. Eco himself is a member of the university, a teacher of semiotics and thus in his own way a solver of mysteries. He clearly identifies with William and with his science; but his sympathy for William's opponents is no mere exercise. He shows us science at its birth, but he reminds us that the science that would bring light has increased our power but not our wisdom. Men replaced faith in God with faith in science, only to discover that science was no kinder. Perhaps there is more to solving the mystery than cracking the code.
Adso, caught midway between William and his opponents, lived in an age when dogmas were powerful, and questioning them dangerous. We, on the other hand, live in an age when the chief dogma is anti-dogmatism. We are somewhat surprised, then, to find these monks engaged-passionately engaged-in a lifelong quest for understanding of the deepest of mysteries: of God and the soul of man and the nature of things. To them, dogmas were not limits but foundations of deeper knowledge. The universe no longer, seems such a mystery; perhaps Brother William is right, and science can solve all the mysteries. But is it not manifest that all the improvements in our methods have left the greatest of mysteries yet unsolved?
Can the Dark Ages be fun? And yet fun-or more precisely, laughter-is the point of The Name of the Rose. The one book that figures in the plot of The Name of the Rose is the lost second book of Aristotle's Poetics, on comedy. William is not the only
character who laughs, but he is the only one who laughs at himself. Our laughter at ourselves is the necessary antidote to our pride, especially that intellectual pride in our knowledge of secrets which is the father of dogmatism. As William himself says:
"Perhaps the mission of those who love mankind is to make people laugh at the truth, to make truth laugh, because the only truth lies in learning to free ourselves from insane passion for the truth." And thus there is a special irony in Adso's final comment on William: "I pray always that God received his soul and forgave him the many acts of pride that his intellectual vanity had made him commit." Perhaps we, as William's intellectual (would he have any other kind?) heirs, should take this warning to heart and remember that every mystery is a comedy.
Rhetoric and American Statesmanship
Edited by Jeffrey Wallin and Glen Thurow
Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 1984
Ix + 151 pp., $14.95
By Peter Augustine Lawler
The editors and authors of Rhetoric and American Statesmanship, a collection of essays by participants at a 1980 conference at the University of Dallas, are to be praised for having crossed a "research frontier" in political science. As far as I know, there is no other collection of essays available with its theoretical orientation. Their innovation is simply the attempt to evaluate rhetoric seriously or "scientifically," not just as a useful means for achieving political ends but also in terms of the reasonableness of those ends.
In his introduction, Glen Thurow rightly notes that such an enterprise is the appropriate antidote to the currently pervasive cynicism about political speech. Political scientists and journalists, among others, understand such speech solely as a weapon brandished in defense of some political, social, or economic agenda which is ultimately indefensible before the tribunal of reason. The winner of the war of words is simply the one who deploys his rhetoric most cunningly. This cynicism, as has been often noted, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If intellectuals do not take political arguments seriously as attempts to articulate the truth, how can politicians be expected to do so?
Ultimately, what lies behind the cynicism about rhetoric is a denial of the possibility of the statesman: the individual who apprehends the common good, desires its achievement, and persuades others to adopt his convictions through rhetorical skill. Without rhetoric in the service of such statesmanship, politics does, in fact, degenerate into the play of irrational forces. This is evident in totalitarian regimes where propaganda and terror are the instruments of rule. Their political theory denies the very possibility of genuine persuasion through reasonable speech.
In discussing America's "erosion within," Thurow argues that the reigning orthodoxy among American intellectuals may not fundamentally disagree with Communist ideology in this respect. He calls attention, in particular, to their absolutely indiscriminate use of the word "communication." In this light, the enterprise attempted in this book is of the greatest political importance. Articulating the possibility of rhetoric demands nothing less than reestablishing in the political world the distinction between persuasion or "free speech" and propaganda.
Such attempts cut deeply against the grain of modern thought. Not only Harold Lasswell but Max Weber and Thomas Hobbes deny the validity of this distinction. One cannot help but remember Harry Neumann's well-defended assertion in the October 1983 issue of this Review that "the soul of modernity's atheism" (and hence of modernity itself) is the attempt at "a complete eradication of any sense of good and bad, just and unjust."
Any analysis of the possibilities for rhetoric and statesmanship today must take into account the power of modern thought. The dynamic of political reform based on endless self-criticism may have created a world in which genuine rhetoric can have little practical effect. Consider a huge and complex democracy, largely dependent upon science and technology, in which most citizens are neither liberally educated nor accept the authority of tradition. These citizens receive the bulk of their political "communications" not from personal contact with friends, party leaders, or elected officials or from the written word, but from the electronic media. Even the press acknowledges the electronic media's powerful charm by paying them the compliment of imitation. Given such circumstances, by which medium can the statesman hope to articulate his understanding of the common good for the great mass of democratic citizens? How can he hope to present persuasive arguments when the most effective means of communication available appears to be a thirty-second segment on the evening news?
Harvey Mansfield, Jr. raises such questions in his essay when he considers the hostility of the media to reasonable political discourse or, more precisely, to reason and politics. For Mansfield, "the media merely actualize a principle and culminate a trend" (pp. 64-65). That principle is the peculiarly modern creation of a universal and homogeneous state populated by millions of equal, isolated, thoughtless, and despondent individuals. The media attempt to dismiss any opposition to this project as "benighted and reactionary" through appeals to the universal sentiments of indignation, fear, and compassion. These feelings, once inflamed, are then mobilized against the existence of human suffering, which is presented as wholly undeserved, wholly a product of human selfishness, and wholly eradicable by human effort.
The Media versus Rhetoric
The media serve the materialistic idealism of the modern intellectual through their opposition to all human distinctions, particularly the cherished belief in the autonomy of virtue, thought, and political life. The media cannot do justice to the particularity or individuality of the members of their audience. Their goal must be the destruction of humanity itself, at which point human suffering will really disappear. Perhaps it is the modern thinker's hostility toward his own humanity, his own limitations, that causes him to will his own self-destruction. In any case, the "effectual truth" of the media's vulgarization of his thought is the trivialization of all things human.
Mansfield's rhetoric is so persuasive that he almost has us believing that the end of history is at hand and that there is nothing to be done about it. But he leaves partisans of humanity grounds for hope: "Whether in fact intellectuals rule the world they interpret may well be doubted. Politics has its own imperatives that do not respond to direction from above" (p. 70). He does not reveal, however, how this insight might provide rhetorical possibilities for today's statesman.
There remains the pressing need to articulate these rhetorical possibilities. Despite the obstacles to communicating thoughtfully with citizens through the media, it is generally assumed today that effective rhetoric is the mark of good political leaders. The president's authority to govern, for example, is thought to come immediately from the people. By appealing directly to the populace for support of his policies, and the broad political vision which guides them, the president wields considerable power in compelling Congress to adopt them.
Jeffrey Tulis's essay questions the wisdom of such an arrangement in light of an older view of the presidency; namely, that found in the Federalist and generally accepted throughout the nineteenth century. Distrusting the demagogic potential of popular rhetoric, its exponents believed that the president should deal with legislators directly rather than coerce Congress through the mobilization of public opinion. Furthermore, they believed that rhetoric must be consistent with one's own constitutional tradition rather than some bold and innovative departure from it.
Tulis discusses several problems with the view of the presidency predominant in our own century; however, one significant problem suggested in Mansfield's essay is not sufficiently considered here. The president who relies excessively on rhetoric often becomes vulnerable to the media's anti-political idealism. More precisely, the shift of presidential authority from the Constitution to the public forum leads presidents to make extravagant promises. The media can then subject an administration to incessant criticism for its repeated failures. It seems that the more recent presidents have attempted to rule through popular rhetoric the more unpopular they have become. The rhetorical president has not been a successful demagogue.
The growth in the quantity and decrease in both the quality and effectiveness of presidential rhetoric can be traced, in part, to such factors as the emergence of the electronic media and the breakdown of parties. The perception of its legitimacy among intellectuals, at least, is rooted primarily in the success of Woodrow Wilson's rhetoric in defense of the rhetorical presidency. Tulis does not reject Wilson's position entirely.
Wilson's criticism of the Founders contains an important "aristocratic insight." In their extreme distrust of popular rhetoric, they may have unnecessarily denigrated the places of democratic citizenship and statesmanship in the American regime. The importance of presidential rhetoric as a means of civic education, even in a liberal democracy, cannot be overlooked. Although Wilson may have overstated the case, it is certainly a major role of the president to provide elevating moral leadership appropriate to the circumstances that the nation encounters.
Tulis concludes that an institutional means is needed to encourage rhetoric when it is beneficial and to discourage it when it is harmful. He searches for a mean between the approaches to presidential rhetoric advocated by the authors of the Federalist on the one hand, and by Wilson on the other. The search cannot be a completely successful one, Tulis concedes, because it is impossible to institutionalize the production of statesmen, on whom the production of appropriate rhetoric depends. Even with this observation in mind, Tulis's call for institutional reform is disappointing for its vagueness.
Mansfield's and Tulis's analyses of the contemporary political context are incomplete in that they fail to identify the sort of rhetoric appropriate to this context. Interestingly, the attempts by both President Reagan and his Democratic opponents to claim the political patrimony of Franklin D. Roosevelt might suggest that F.D.R. exemplifies the type of statesmanship possible in the post-Wilsonian, media-dominated era. John Zvesper's essay considers whether Roosevelt's rhetoric, in fact, deserves to be a model for contemporary democratic statesmen. His evaluation of the possibility is well-balanced, subtle, and ultimately favorable.
A key weakness of Roosevelt's rhetoric is its seeming hostility to entrepreneurial daring. The strong desire to be free from the fearful anxieties of individualism is natural enough, but finally enervating. This yearning prepares one to accept a "post-industrial" dependence on "enlightened administration" for one's own comfortable self-preservation. But Roosevelt's moderate promotion of "childish dependence on the paternalistic state" might be defended, Zvesper continues, as "a means of forestalling much more revolutionary and illiberal demands."
It might also be defended in view of the New Deal's limited objective of "economic rather than spiritual salvation." Roosevelt, for the most part, was too much of a political realist to take very seriously the apolitical, materialist idealism of the modern intellectual. His rhetoric was relatively free of messianic enthusiasm for humanity's boundless self-perfectibility. Human well-being, for Roosevelt, "was not constant creativity but the more mundane concerns of material security. . . ." Consequently, "it is possible to condemn his political vision for being not too lively and inspiring but too materialistic and deadening" (p. 91).
Much to Roosevelt's credit, his agenda rightly left much of the passion connected with assertions of human excellence in the private realm. The movement of the post-industrial era is toward ever-increasing leisure time, the purpose of which Roosevelt never presumed to dictate. He is, in this respect, a genuine liberal or "constitutionalist." The problems of post-industrial "alienation" and enervation are symptomatic, not of liberalism's failure but of its success.
Zvesper notes, however, that Roosevelt sometimes transgressed the limitations he placed on his vision by exaggerating unreasonably the seriousness of the Depression crisis. He also criticizes Roosevelt for arousing, on occasion, a general and unlimited "class hatred" instead of manageable anger at the particular injustices of "punishable individuals." Furthermore, Roosevelt was wrong to impose the simplistic ideological distinction between liberalism and conservatism on American party politics. Such a distinction suggests a false opposition between a virtuous and public-spirited populace on the one hand, and a vicious and self-serving plutocracy on the other. Those intellectuals who are the articulate voices of the people are, by their moral superiority or compassion, fit to rule over the vested interests which would otherwise govern the nation through greed. This aspect of Roosevelt's rhetoric places the legitimate demands of the people for safety, comfort, and leisure at the mercy of the intellectuals' demagoguery.
For Zvesper, the most praiseworthy element of Roosevelt's rhetoric is his interpretation of the New Deal for relatively forgotten Americans as an attempt to help create a democratic community of "equal dignity" (p. 96). Social legislation represents "an urge of humanity," "a growing sense of human decency." Roosevelt curbs the excesses of competitive individualism by emphasizing the common humanity of all Americans. This recognition imposes "the duty of self-restraint," moderates class antagonism, and becomes the basis of a national campaign against human suffering.
Roosevelt, I might add, sometimes understood the quite visible suffering of the Depression as the great teacher of self-restraint, and of social or political morality. (See his "Address to Young Democratic Clubs of America," August 24, 1935.) This suffering was cruel because it was so obviously undeserved. Those who fell victim to it were angered at its injustice; those who escaped feared that a similar fate lay in store for themselves. Both of these feelings, combined with compassion at the sight of human suffering, were sufficient incentives to mobilize the whole American people behind "cooperative efforts of government" to alleviate it. No account of Roosevelt's rhetoric is complete without an analysis of the necessity of and, as Mansfield reveals, the dangers of his efforts to use these universal feelings to moderate the excesses of individualism.
Because of the weaknesses of Roosevelt's rhetoric, which cause it to be in some respects too deadening and in others too dangerous, it is reasonable to search for alternative, or at least supplementary, examples of "post-Wilsonian" rhetoric. Thomas Silver directs our attention to the speeches of Calvin Coolidge. He convincingly refutes the conventional view that Coolidge was a thoughtless, heartless, and humorless defender of the unbridled capitalist materialism of the Twenties. Coolidge's defense of the Declaration of Independence as "the ark for the eternal and noble principles of the American people" (p. 117) is an impressive and thoughtful reconstruction of the political spirit of the Founding. Still, it is disconcerting to ponder that almost no one before Silver had appreciated Coolidge's rhetorical achievements. No doubt the contemporary liberal and conservative biases against the adequacy of the Declaration as a vessel of political principle have much to do with Coolidge's poor reputation. Yet part of the evaluation of rhetoric must be in terms of its effectiveness in given circumstances. One cannot say that Coolidge was the "moral trumpet" for the Twenties that Roosevelt was for the Thirties. Hence, can we really call Coolidge a statesman of Roosevelt's quality?
This question of rhetorical effectiveness is of central importance to Silver. His quarrel is with those who would deny, as do most contemporary intellectuals, that the version of liberal modernity contained in the American Founding is rhetorically defensible today. For Silver, the task of the statesman is to rehabilitate Locke's "exoteric teaching," a doctrine of natural law understood in opposition to all "arbitrary or artificial rule." He should foster public-spirited attachment to the original moral and political intention of liberalism, which is perfectly reflected in the Declaration of Independence, properly understood.
Liberalism, of course, asserts the limited nature of the political: "The public sphere . . . is not self-contained. It is open to the divine" (p. 121). According to Locke's "esoteric" or epistemological teaching, however, human beings do not have access to knowledge of the divine. Consequently, freedom from the political is in truth nothing more than freedom for the joyless quest for joy. Is not the central difficulty with the defense of liberalism today the almost universal recognition among intellectuals that Lockean epistemology does not support the Declaration's natural theology?
Fortunately, however, the Declaration's God is not limited to Lockean-Jeffersonian or even, as Silver seems to suggest, Aristotelian metaphysics. He also is Biblical and Christian. Does not the American assertion of the goodness of liberty for all human beings presuppose the Christian experience of a transpolitical personal God who is accessible to and cares for every man and woman?
It seems to me that Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments," which, as Eva Brann demonstrates in her essay, ought to be considered in some respects the model of American rhetoric, cannot be understood without acknowledging that it somehow presupposes the Christian experience of personal freedom. I cannot here do justice to the extraordinary care and depth of Brann's analysis of Madison's rhetoric. I can only consider the significance of some of her conclusions concerning the substance of this rhetoric.
According to Madison, religious freedom is an inalienable right "because of an ineradicable feature of human nature-its freedom" (p. 18). This freedom is freedom from political dominion, for one's free and personal acceptance of one's duties as a creature to one's Creator. It is freedom to search for the truth about God through reason and conscience. Madison teaches the compatibility between political enlightenment and religious truth. His God supports liberty because He is wholly transpolitical. Thus, Madison opposes every effort to chain religion to the purposes of any particular regime.
Religious truth, although transpolitical, is not idiosyncratic. The same truth is accessible to all human beings, and it results in the social phenomenon of common religious observance which also must be free from political control. The existence and the desirability of sectarian variety is evidence that human reason is fallible, rather than that religious truth is entirely beyond its reach.
If Madison's understanding of freedom is, most of all, freedom from political dominion for the fulfillment of religious duties to a personal, transpolitical God, and this freedom exists for all human beings, I cannot see how the "metaphysical" foundation of this understanding of freedom can be anything but rooted in the Biblical-Christian experience. Madison is surely neither simply a Lockean nor a Lockean-Aristotelian. As Brann notes, Madison's defense of religious freedom, as applied to the First Amendment, is far more vigorous than those concerned exclusively with the political effects of the decay of morality or "civil religion." Further, Madison would doubtless have opposed the contemporary dogma of public education that religious freedom consists essentially in the escape from, rather than the search for, transpolitical religious truth. It is not altogether clear how Madison's rhetoric might be recast by a statesman today. Yet it is certain that contemporary defenders of the founding of American liberalism are obliged to take sufficient stock of its Biblical-Christian dimension.
Each essay in this collection is worthy of extended discussion. The remaining three, however, can be noted here only in brief. Walter Berns, in his essay on judicial rhetoric, argues that judges as well have become almost totally dependent upon the current intellectual climate. They regard "the salutary and altogether reasonable idea that the Constitution embodies the true principles of republican government" (pp. 52-53) as a vulgar and outmoded prejudice. Rather than jealously guarding their independence of thought, they ride the crests of intellectual fashion. The resulting distortions of the Constitutional texts inevitably erode the affection and respect of the American people for the very idea of Constitutional government.
Forrest McDonald's essay, although occasionally lacking in focus and clarity, brings a wealth of learning and political sense to bear in a defense of the integrity of Hamilton's rhetoric. Larry Arnn's essay on two of Churchill's early works, the essay "The Scaffolding of Rhetoric" and the novel Savrola, offers in turn a fascinating and instructive account of the limits and possibilities of rhetorical statesmanship. Although it seems out of place in this book, Arnn's essay is one of its best.
Rhetoric and American Statesmanship is indeed a first-rate collection of essays on an important subject. Its publication should be regarded as an event of real significance for American political science. American political education, particularly in our colleges and law schools, requires the serious study of rhetoric. The political and intellectual life of the country has suffered too long under the tutelage of teachers who themselves were taught that rhetoric, properly speaking, does not even exist.
REVOLUTION IN THEORY AND PRACTICE
Son of the Revolution
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983
301 pp., $15.00
Reviewed by Fraser Lynn
Some years back I read with great interest an article on the influence, whether it be direct or obscure, of Rousseau and his notion of the "general will" on "Mao Ze-dong and the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution of 1966. At the time, we in the West knew very little about the Cultural Revolution or what life was like under that great movement. Yet somehow, the events that were happening inside China seemed to captivate our imagination, for they were a case of theory being put into practice. In fact, we often find connections between the teachings of the great thinkers of our heritage, and even the wisdom of the sages of other cultures, with so many revolutionary movements of our times. Perhaps this is one reason many today see no inherent differences between the democracies of the West and the Communist regimes of the East, a view clearly evident in the argument of many advocates of unilateral disarmament. Fortunately, for those of us who reject this view of the East and the West, the writings of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn give us a glimpse of the enormity of the tyranny of Soviet Communism. It is for this reason that I welcome Liang Heng's Son of the Revolution, a most revealing account of life under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party and how Communism operates as a system of control in China.
Son of the Revolution is the autobiography of Liang Heng and his family, who were caught in the chaos and turbulence of the many revolutionary movements, political campaigns, and purges in a China under the rule of the Chinese Communists, an experience that "seems to be quite typical of the lives of millions" of the Chinese people. Liang Heng was the son of low-ranking cadres in the Chinese Communist Party. His father was a reporter and editor of the Party newspaper in his native province of Hunan and his mother, a member of the local Public Security Bureau. They both worked with deep devotion to transform China into a great socialist country and "dreamed passionately of the day when they would be deemed pure and devoted enough to be accepted into the Party" (p. 4). As for Liang Heng and his two sisters, they were good little children of the Chairman, Mao Ze-dong, who "presided over our rest and play like a benevolent god, and [Liang] believed that apples, grapes, everything had been given to us because he loved us" (p. 7).
Liang Heng was only three years old when the Chinese Communist Party initiated a campaign to test the enormous popular support it enjoyed. First, there was the Hundred Flowers Movement of 1957, during which his mother was persuaded to show her loyalty to the Party by criticizing the Party. A few weeks later, her criticism redounded against her when the Hundred Flowers Movement changed into an Anti-Rightist Campaign, and she was branded a Rightist and an enemy of the Party. Without a trial and certainly without knowing what had happened, she was sent away to the countryside for labor reform. His father, who believed with his whole heart that "the Party could never make a mistake or hand down a wrong verdict" (p. 9), joined in the denunciation of his wife and later sought a divorce to save the family from ruin. But, as Liang Heng notes, "The divorce did nothing to rid us of having a Rightist in the family" (p. 15), for "the custom in such instances was that the whole family be considered as guilty as the single member who had committed the crime" (p.11). In the eyes of the Party, Liang Heng and his sisters were the children of a Rightist, and his father had a Rightist wife. As a result, he and his sisters were constantly harassed and ostracized in schools; they were forbidden to join the Young Pioneers, the Communist Youth League, and the Party. Since, moreover, "success in the political arena was a prerequisite for success in anything else" (p. 15), their exclusion from these "three stages of Revolutionary glory" (p. 15) was to forever change the life of the whole family. Gradually, Liang came to resent his mother for making his life miserable. He even began to believe that she really had done something wrong.
The tragedy in Liang Heng's family was followed by the widespread famine after the failure of the Great Leap Forward in 1958. His family was forced to subsist on grass they gathered in the park. Hence, Liang Heng, like many of the old people and almost all the children, became afflicted with "water-swelling disease," dropsy.
Next came the Cultural Revolution of 1966. This time, Liang Heng's father was denounced as a Reactionary and was consigned to a "study class" run by the People's Liberation Army, even though he continued to believe firmly that "you should always believe the Party and Chairman Mao" (p. 56). Now, Liang and his sisters became not only the children of a Rightist, but also the children of "capitalist reactionary stinking intellectuals" (p. 51). With both of their parents gone, they became orphans of the revolution. In the next few years, Liang, though still only twelve years old, became a Red Guard. His adventures included traveling to Jinggang Mountain to retrace the celebrated Long March of the Chinese Communist Party and a pilgrimage to Peking in the hope of getting a glimpse of Mao. But by then, affected by the shattering of his family and horrified by the bloodshed created by fighting Red Guard factions, he became cynical of the Cultural Revolution: "My family had sacrificed so much for the revolution, but it had given us nothing in return" (p. 148). Back in Changsha, his home town, he ended up in the streets drinking, fighting, and stealing with other orphans and outcasts of the Revolution.
The next episode of Liang Heng's story came when his father was released from his study class, and the two of them were sent down to the countryside for prolonged reeducation in order that they might help "cut off the tail of Capitalism by bringing Revolutionary knowledge and construction to the most isolated regions of China" (p. 161). Here, Liang describes to us the extreme poverty of the peasants, such as that of Old Guo and his wife, the couple who had only one whole pair of pants between them. Liang explains that the policy of "cutting off the tail of Capitalism," carried out dogmatically by Party officials, meant the killing of all privately owned chickens and pigs, either by oneself or by force. In so doing, the peasants were deprived of any supplementary source of income and faced certain starvation should their crops fail. Even Liang's father, after years of devotion, found himself unable to defend the Party's policy. With his health ruined by the hard work in the countryside, he and Liang were sent back to the city.
Back in the city, Liang Heng continued to face harassments by students "who had passed level upon level of political test" (p. 190). But by now, he had learned not to express an opinion on ideological matters. When he was seventeen, he was finally "rescued" by his ability to play basketball. Even though he flunked the political test needed to become "a professional athlete," he ended up playing for an oil factory in Changsha where he, like his fellow workers, spent his time reading books and "eating socialism." Life was better for Liang now, though his background continued to haunt him. His brief romances, first with the daughter of an editor of a newspaper in Guangzhou and later with the daughter of the assistant commander of the provincial military district, ended abruptly "on the political battlefield." He was rejected by the girls' fathers for his questionable political performance, his intellectual background, and his low factory-worker status. But things continued to look up. In 1977, China restored entrance examinations to universities. Liang entered Hunan Teachers' College where he met and later married an American teacher. In 1981, after graduation, Liang and his wife came to the United States, where he is now a doctoral candidate at Columbia University.
Before Liang Heng left China, he tells us that he was saddened and distressed by the kind of political indoctrination millions of Chinese youth continued to receive. He had seen the danger that lies in blind obedience, and he sensed the need to regain "the ability to see the world critically when [his] father's generation no longer has the strength to do so," lest this lesson, "paid for with the sufferings of our fathers and mothers and of ourselves" (p. 292), will be wasted. What Liang does not mention or see is that the Chinese Communist Party demands and requires the blind obedience of the people. As Liang himself observed, the peasants remained "mules under the whip who know they must eventually obey" (p. 171). The intellectuals, perhaps disheartened by the collapse of the old order and faced with the defeat of the Kuomintang (the Nationalists), eagerly accepted socialism as the vehicle to national salvation and worked enthusiastically to transform China into a socialist country. But socialism is an ideology the Chinese poorly understood, and for this, they paid dearly. Liang says that he became confused and disturbed the more he compared the society Marx and Engel described with the one in which he lived.
Yet we should hardly be surprised that Marxism, an ideology that ends in a solution with no empirical precedent, would, when put into practice, manifest itself in reform campaigns and purges that have little to do with what that great teacher of revolution, Machiavelli, advises founders: "Bring back the goodness that gives all religious republics and monarchies their first growth and reputation." The purges were merely tools of power struggle within the Party leadership. The Chinese Communists, of course, would make sure that their policies not be put under close scrutiny. Despite relying on the intellectuals to spread the gospel of socialism, the Party distrusted them and systematically sapped them of any strength "to see the world critically" by subjecting them to reforms and purges. The intellectuals, caught in a "frightening time of betrayals and arrests" and made helpless by the constantly changing policies, put priority on protecting themselves and avoiding political mistakes. "If they had their own opinions, they masked them in a welter of political jargons" (p. 270).
The irony of Chinese Communism is that while its success would depend on a kind of public-spiritedness and spontaneity of the people, its legitimacy ultimately would rest on a form of blind obedience based on traditional Chinese respect for authority reinforced by extensive political indoctrination under strict Party control. Life worked thus: "As Chairman Mao said, everyone had his own class position, and human relations were class relationships that could not be transcended. There was no room for a personal life outside the one assigned by the Party, and the Party's values had to govern your private life or you would be punished" (p. 29). Yet this kind of tyranny only served to make the Chinese people turn to their private affairs, as generations of educated Chinese had done and as Liang learned to do. What makes the story of Liang Heng and his family, and that of the Chinese people so tragic is that, bound by a society in which "one is born into a certain place in a hierarchy and kept it all of one's days" (p. 261), most of them, like Liang and his family, tried to make the best of it by working fervently to build
socialism in China but in the end found themselves betrayed by a Party leadership who saw socialism not as a goal but as a means to the end of power gratification. And it is equally tragic that of a generation of Chinese youth which was "passionately thirsty for truth," so very, very few could go outside "their own circumscribed plots of earth" (p. 291) to analyze things for themselves. As Liang Heng himself admits, fate has been extraordinarily kind to him.
Thomas More: History and Providence
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982
xi + 271 pp., $19.95
By Edward N. J. Peters
It is the first task of the historian-the recorder and interpreter of ideas and events-to see and understand those who made history as they saw and understood themselves. Our historical interpretations must proceed with an awareness of the importance of beginning with an accurate portrait. Hence, to understand Thomas More the scholar, the lawyer, the layman, and the saint, we must first understand More as he understood himself; that is, as a Catholic.
Thomas More would probably have been canonized by the Church simply for his life, even had he not suffered one of the most infamous executions in Western history. This is not, of course, to say that More led a perfect life. But notable with More is his serious and conscientious attempt to guide his life and political career by the principles of Catholicism. He recognized, insofar as he was able, when he had failed to live up to those principles, and strove to improve with each effort. This is indeed a man whose life should be understood in light of his final immortal words beneath the executioner's blade: "I die the King's good servant, but God's first." Attempts to do otherwise are doomed at best to incompleteness, at worst to positive error.
Alistair Fox's Thomas More: History and Providence is part of a broader Yale University Press interest in More, most notable in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More-a publishing event of great promise. Fox's commentary on literary matters is well researched and documented, bringing together diverse points which More addressed in numerous writings (though unfortunately, many of More's most important letters are omitted from consideration). Fox's synthesis of several points-for example, his theory of relationships among Utopia, The History of King Richard III, and Four Last Things-is thought-provoking. Again, Fox's study of the moving De Tristitia Christi appreciates More's understanding of Christ's suffering, and shows how More himself drew strength from that holy sacrifice. Yet, Fox's insights here make us regret all the more that Fox frequently fails to use the key of More's Catholic faith for a better understanding of More. Instead, he reverts too often to what seems to be little more than attempts at centuries-removed psychoanalysis.
Citing More's first biographer, son-in-law William Roper, Fox points to More's "distress" while his beloved daughter Meg lay near death as evidence that his "humanity was too powerful to be effectively sedated by the pious commonplaces he tried to administer to it." But how shall a father's distress over a stricken daughter be evidence that one is more human than Catholic? Consider as well this excerpt from a later letter to Meg, which More penned while imprisoned in the Tower:
I will not mistrust the Lord though I feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how St. Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: Call upon Christ and pray to Him for help. And then I trust He shall place His holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.
Shall a faith of "pious commonplaces" yield such fruit?
Fox's account of More's literary work during the period in which he finally decided against a religious vocation leaves us particularly disappointed. Fox simply assumes that More faced a dilemma which, in fact, he did not, namely, "whether to be holy or wise." Remembering our charge to see More, as far as we are able, as More saw himself, we must say that he was too perceptive a Catholic and too rigorous a scholar to presume a conflict between sanctity and wisdom, Initium sapientiae timor Domini (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). More's option for a lay vocation was not a humanist election but a Catholic one: More saw that it was God's will that He be served by More as a layman. That this might leave him more time for scholarly pursuits (though in fact, it probably had just the reverse effect) was of secondary interest to him.
Fox devotes a disproportionate amount of space to More's theological writings. While these are important works, and while Fox does have some interesting observations to make about them, we must recall that More was not, by his own frequent admissions, a theologian, nor did he have sufficient time to devote to the projects. Fox's assertions notwithstanding, it seems likely that More undertook the task unwillingly-and at times inadequately. To aid his commentary, Fox reprints several passages of More's theological texts, usually in the original Latin and late-middle English. He cites John Foxe among several authorities to maintain that More was "uncharitable" in these writings. This may have been so-though again More's 16th century words lend themselves to misunderstanding on the part of 20th century readers-and hence Fox must qualify his reliance on John Foxe as an authority on uncharitable writings. Fox does recognize, however, as More must have realized, that the Lutheran heresies were unlike any others faced till then by the Church. Whereas Pelagius, for example, thought men might be able to do some good works without the help of grace, Luther asserted they could do no good even with grace. If any assertion were to attract the ire of the Catholic and humanist, surely this was it, proposing, as it does, the ineffectiveness of grace and the powerlessness of men. Fox also notes something usually overlooked by modern scholarship, namely, More's fears over the politically disastrous effects of a splintering of European Christian unity, fears borne out by ensuing events.
Clearly, then, Alistair Fox has made a significant, perhaps important, contribution to More scholarship. But his reluctance to incorporate More's Catholicism more fully in his study prevents us from recommending Thomas More: History and Providence as an introduction to his literary works. We would recommend it instead to those already
fairly familiar with the works and life of St. Thomas More.
EQUAL - TO WHAT?
Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality
New York: Basic Books, 1983
Xviii + 345 pp., $19.95 (cloth)
By John A. Wettergreen
"Justice requires equality for equals and unequality for unequals." Whether Michael Walzer would admit it or not, his Spheres of Justice is an attempt to apply this ancient maxim to the conditions of modern Western democracies—especially the American one.
Walzer attempts to demonstrate that there exists a variety of kinds ("spheres") of human goods; for example, not only health and wealth, but also honors and offices and leisure. To this variety, Walzer contends, there answers a variety of principles for their just distribution: Superior wealth ought to go to the clever and industrious ones, love to the charmers, superior honors and political offices to the most talented and popular ones, and so on. The essential heterogeneity of human goods is the "Pluralism" of Walzer's subtitle. The "Equality" of the subtitle consists in "maintaining the boundaries" among the "spheres of justice," such that superiority in one sphere is never the condition for superiority in another, much less for dominance in all. For example, wealth ought not be able to purchase political office. Therefore, for Walzer, inequality in the distribution of one kind of good is just, at least insofar as it does not destroy the equality of the various spheres. Equality, Walzer insists is "complex."
Despite this, Walzer has not written "A Defense of Inequality and Equality." Such a defense, indeed, would not be quite proper for a professed democratic socialist. But it is not only Walzer's political position, but also his philosophic stance that makes him squeamish about inequality. Walzer claims to continue the tradition of philosophy founded by Socrates. He intends to philosophize, but he also means "to stand in the cave, in the city, on the ground." Accordingly, "social meaning" (i.e., opinion) is the primary object of philosophic understanding. Human things, Walzer claims, are emphatically social; their goodness cannot be evaluated apart from their particular social context. For this reason, Walzer is, for example, reluctant to condemn the ancient Athenians for preferring the public provision of baths, gymnasiums, and theater to food-stamp programs for the poor. Perhaps, he hints, tragedies and comedies were more important than food-for the Athenians. All of the charm of Spheres of Justice derives from Walzer's openness to the social meaning of institutions which are alien to contemporary Western society. Indeed, his social sympathies are so broad that he can view the Indian caste system (as it has been brilliantly interpreted by M. Dumont's Homo Hierarchus) with as much equanimity as American free enterprise.
Some may wonder whether Walzer is too philosophic. In Spheres, he seems to be at least as much at home in ancient Athens or a medieval Jewish community as he would be, say, in Anaheim or Azusa. Furthermore, this book is strangely apolitical. For example, he only mentions recent presidential politics in order to apologize for John F. Kennedy's nepotistic appointment of his brother as Attorney General. He never mentions party politics. Nevertheless, I do not think his sympathies are universal.
One must consider which "cave" Walzer stood in when he wrote this book. He describes it precisely in his "Acknowledgments"; in short, Walzer is from Princeton, out of Harvard. Spheres has social meaning, above all, in those communities and their moral equivalents. It is no surprise, then, that Walzer pays less attention to the most powerful opinions in the contemporary West-to say nothing of the opinions of the American people and their representatives-than he does to the opinions of two leading citizens of Harvard-Princeton, Robert Nozick and John Rawls. Of course, the leading opinions at Harvard-Princeton are of some importance for the United States, and so for the West. Therefore, we should welcome this report from Walzer's cave, the cave of Eastern academe.
From its beginnings, socialism has defined itself primarily by its opposition to individualism. In this respect, Walzer merely follows in the footsteps of Fourier, Marx, and Durkheim by opposing the radical individualism of Nozick. In more recent times, however, eastern academic socialism has faced a new rival: the "simple equalitarianism," as Walzer calls it, of John Rawls and his followers.
Plainly, Walzer's democratic socialism has been tempered by Nozick's arguments into a deeper suspicion of bureaucracy and a new trust in the soundness of the choices of free men. Indeed, his romanticization of the moral world of the "petty bourgeoisie" would make the most avid supply-sider blush; one wishes he had held as much social sympathy for the workers and managers of giant corporations. Yet Walzer's sympathy for capitalism on a small scale would not seem new to one who has followed American democratic socialism for the past three or four decades. Socialism, in fact, has always presupposed individualism.
What is new is Walzer's critique of Rawlsian "simple equality" and his attempt to recast democratic socialism in the form of "complex equality." Although Walzer supposes that his critique leads necessarily to his own democratic socialism, we shall see that, however sound that conclusion may appear to be in Walzer's cave, it cannot survive the brighter light outside.
The theoretical heart of Rawls' equalitarianism is his doctrine of "the original position." According to it, all human beings would freely choose to distribute the same amount of all goods to each, if they were in the original position; i.e., if they were unconscious of their own natural or social advantages over one another. Since the original position is one of unconsciousness, the goods to be distributed are primarily external; Rawls' doctrine is essentially materialistic. A sufficient objection to it might seem to be that human beings, living like human beings, are always conscious to some extent of their own relative merits and demerits. Thus Rawls was compelled to argue that no natural or social advantage is, or ought to be, regarded as a moral advantage. Yet Rawls could not deny the existence of moral superiority: "Inequalities are justified only if they are designed to bring, and actually do bring, the greatest possible benefit to the least advantaged social class." Rawlsian moral superiority is consciousness of the moral worthlessness of all natural or social advantage.
The regime corresponding to this notion of moral superiority is the redistributive state. At best, this regime is a bureaucratized social order whose rulers maintain their political inequality in order to benefit the poor, racial minorities, females, the handicapped, and other "disadvantaged classes." So, as a matter of course, Rawls' opinions are popular among American bureaucrats, and no less so at Harvard-Princeton, which is the alpha and the omega for the lives of top-level bureaucrats.
Walzer's pluralism is an answer to Rawls' original position. Every society is constituted, he argues, by a shared consciousness of certain things as goods, both in themselves and in relation to one another. Thus, each society is a moral order. If this is so, then to deny that consciousness of particular social advantages has any moral basis, as Rawls does, is to deny the legitimacy of every social order, however democratic or socialistic. In particular, Rawls' simple equalitarianism would require that worker-owned businesses comply with Affirmative Action guidelines, even though compliance would ruin that sense of workers' solidarity which Walzer insists is essential to the success of such businesses. Now we can appreciate why Walzer, who loves to drone on about complexity as much as any academic leftist, does not mince words when it comes to simple equality. He calls it "tyrannical."
The Eastern Cave
Political judgment, more than theoretical understanding of the incommensurability of human goods, guides Walzer's opposition to the simple equalitarianism of Eastern academe. Political inequality is the special case of inequality because "[p]olitics is always the most direct path to dominance, and political power . . . is probably the most important, and certainly the most dangerous, good in human history." Thus Walzer's complex equality is, above all, the means to explain why no amount of equality among the races, sexes, or economic classes can justify the political inequality of equalization experts. For the same reason, Walzer advocates traditional, American limited government; the Constitution's limits on governmental power distinguish the political sphere from the other spheres of justice. Given this devotion to political equality, Walzer's inattention to contemporary jurisprudence is a serious defect, for the ideology of simple equality is at least as powerful in the judicial system, including the elite law schools, as it is in the bureaucracy. In general, Walzer's political judgment is sound, but in the particular-Who is ruling?-there are some problems, as we shall see.
In sum: Walzer's critique of Rawlsian simple equality amounts to a reassertion of the tradition of free government in America, but the relation of this critique to democratic socialism remains obscure.
Before turning to Walzer's politics, we should notice the reception of Spheres of Justice by the denizens of Eastern academe.
One of the simplest of the simple equalitarians, Ronald Dworkin, reviewed Walzer's book for the New York Review of Books (April 21,1983). He accuses Walzer of "deep relativism" for affirming that "a given society is just if its substantive life is lived . . . in a way faithful to the shared [moral] understanding of the members." This affirmation is as relativistic as Aristotle's doctrine of natural right: In a just society, the members live the best life of which they are capable; not every people is capable of the best life or even of a very good one, but only tyrants-those willing to rule violently against the consent of the governed-expect a people to live a life for which it lacks the moral capacity. Simple equalitarians like Dworkin are incapable of making this distinction between the (one) best society and the (many) just ones. It is Walzer's burden, then, to explain this distinction, the principle of political moderation, to Eastern academe. Good Luck to him!
The Neo-Conservative Cave
Predictably, The Public Interest, the organ of the loyal opposition in Eastern academe, complains that Walzer is not relativistic enough. That is, its reviewer recommends that our author abandon his "principles" for "America: its history and its institutions, its people and their aspirations" (emphasis added). For example, whereas Walzer's democratic socialism causes him to admire the worker-owned Sunset Scavenger Company, Public Interest places its faith in the American people's common feeling that "there is more dignity in working for a garbage company than in owning one" (Fall, 1983, p. 133). To such subjectivism, Walzer ought to reply, citing Jefferson, that it is more important that individual Americans be economically independent than that they feel dignified; the affective sphere is distinct from, less politically relevant than, and largely dependent upon, the economic sphere. Walzer, however, probably would choose not to dignify Public Interest's high-rise capitalism with a reply.
As these two reviews illustrate, Walzer's democratic socialism now occupies the political center in the cave of Eastern academe-a position midway between absolutism and relativism, tyranny and servility, materialism and sentimentalism. For this reason, we should take his politics seriously.
Non-Marxist socialism, of which Walzer is the leading American proponent, posits an heterogeneity of human goods, and denies any hierarchy among them. From this point of view, political power is one more social good among many, albeit "the most dangerous" one. The problem for socialism, then, is to distribute all the goods-health, wealth, honor, offices, education, divine grace, etc., and political power-but to do so "equally"; i.e., as if all goods were equally good. Yet, as Aristotle noticed, all goods are not equal. In particular, the public good is superior to and comprehends all lesser or partial goods. Hence, the political community is the only sphere of justice, and politics is the art by which the spheres of the lesser goods are maintained. Walzer fails to consider why political power has always been the most dangerous social good. It has been because it is the best social good, the only one for which a good citizen could be expected to stake his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor.
Walzer's socialism proceeds from this failure to comprehend the architectonic character of politics. Like every good socialist, he claims that American society is characterized by "the dominance of money in the sphere of politics." American history is "the political success story of the rich." Suppose that these vast overstatements were true. Nevertheless, Walzer's socialism, which looks mainly toward a national health-care system and the nationalization of major industries, would result in the political dominance of, so to speak, the poor, but not in the maintenance of the boundaries between economics and politics, because political power does dominate the sphere of economics.
Indeed, it is precisely because governmental policies and regulatory fiats have come to have such profound effects upon the production of wealth, especially since 1970, that "the rich" have found it far more desirable than ever before to use their money for political purposes. Still, Walzer's nonrevolutionary socialism would not politicize the economy, as laissez-faire capitalists and more extreme socialists might suppose. Rather, socialism tends to economize politics, making every issue of the public good an economic issue. And, because economic matters are emphatically private, self-interest has invariably been the only principle of right action with "social meaning" in socialistic societies. Paradoxical as it might seem, socialism is just as radically individualistic, just as corrosive of political community, as laissez-faire capitalism would be.
Free government will have to look outside Walzer's cave for intelligent defenders.
GAMES "PHILOSOPHERS" PLAY
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979
xv + 401 pp., $7.95 (paper)
Consequences of Pragmatism
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982
xlvii + 237 pp., $11.95 (paper)
By John F. Wilson
Some men write or, to use the relevant metaphor, construct books on topics profound or obscure. Rorty calls these men "systematic philosophers." They are "philosophers like" (an indispensable Rorty locution) Plato, Descartes, Kant, and Russell. Other men review their books or, in the idiom, deconstruct them. These men are "edifying philosophers." Seemingly solid edifices like Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (PMN) should not deceive us. Rorty's business is not edificing, but edifying. He is a deconstructor.
But this is an incomplete characterization of the nature of Rorty's work. There are, it turns out, indirect deconstructors or meta-deconstructors or-and here we begin to get to the heart of things-poets of deconstructors. Rorty's "heroes"-Quine, Wittgenstein, Sellers, Kuhn, Feyerabend, Dewey, Heidegger, Foucault, and quite a few others-are the direct deconstructors. Rorty is the recounter of their deeds and, much more, the singer of their praises. His genre is the rhetoric of deconstruction.
What exactly is deconstruction, and how does it proceed, and why? To understand these things, it is necessary to sketch Rorty's view of where philosophy is now; his own role in the emergence of "edifying" philosophy; and his hopes for the results of deconstruction.
We are, according to Rorty, at a certain pregnant point in historical time. Guided by Hegel, Nietzsche, and especially Thomas Kuhn, contemporary philosophers are now completely self-conscious about the history of Western philosophy. We are able to see that all philosophizing is comprised of either "normal philosophy," constructed by the systematic philosophers, and "revolutionary philosophy," which is the deconstruction of normal, systematic philosophy by Rorty's various contemporary heroes. Of course, there have been previous revolutionary deconstructors, Socrates and Montaigne among them. Rorty's view of Socrates will figure in our tale as it gets told.
It is difficult to say how seriously Rorty takes this account of the history of philosophy. He neither critically examines it nor defends it, but instead takes it as the framework within which his own thought moves. My guess is that Rorty believes, first, that this account is now widely accepted among those whom he considers philosophers and, second, that it accords well with his own "pragmatic" notion of truth. Pragmatism contends that truth is what gets the job done, here and now. This "story" about the history of philosophy enables Rorty to ignore the possibility that various "philosophies" are other than divergent ungrounded constructions which possess, at best, internal coherence according to some historically bound notion of logic, and a certain perennial literary appeal. That one or the other of them might be the truth about things is dismissed out of hand, since we now know that, for all practical purposes, there is nothing enduring in which to ground truth.
Contemporary revolutionary philosophers have destroyed-sorry, deconstructed-the two characteristic modern grounds. These grounds are the mind and language. In his clearest single statement of purpose, Rorty says,
The aim of the book is to undermine the reader's confidence in "the mind" as something about which one should have a "philosophical" view, in "knowledge" as something about which there ought to be a "theory" and which has "foundations," and in "philosophy" as it has been conceived since Kant. (PMN, p. 7)
Rorty's distinctive contribution to this doubt-inducing process is to argue that "linguistic analysis," "epistemology," and "textualism" are modifications and continuations of Kantianism. They substitute (generally) semantic criteria for mind and its categories as inter-cultural and extra-cultural regulators and adjudicators of empirical "practices." Practices, it will become clear, are good things, critical reflection on them much less good.
Rorty's views on reading texts are of special interest. His essays in Consequences of Pragmatism (CP) on Derrida and "Idealism and Textualism" contend that it is no more possible to discover the meaning of a text than it is to discover the truth about reality. Texts are analogous to experience. What you see in them, or put in them, is what is there for you. No "objective" criterion exists to invalidate your opinion. It is thus impossible to retreat from the world of sense and mind, and establish a secure and meaningful world based on one or another text. He praises the "strong misreader" and "strong textualist," who "doesn't care about the distinction between discovery and creation, finding and making. He doesn't think this is a useful distinction any more than Nietzsche and James did. He is in it for what he can get out of it, not for the satisfaction of getting something right" (CP, p. 152). Texts, like the rest of constructed reality, are best when deconstrued. In Rorty's view, they cannot be misconstrued.
What is to result from this devastating, or at any rate well-timed, critique of mind, knowledge, and language; that is, of things distinctively human? Two answers are possible, one of which I'll mention briefly, since I don't think that it is Rorty's basic project. At various points, Rorty suggests that the dialectic between normal, systematic philosophy and edifying, revolutionary philosophy will continue ad infinitum, or at least ad terminam universitatas. Edifying philosophy, he says, "can only be reactive." Its job is to "send the conversation off in new directions," thus insuring that philosophy not become dry, academic and boring (PMN, p. 378; cf. p. 385).
I find it unlikely either that this eternal philosophical dance will be the result of deconstruction, or that Rorty thinks that it will. Once "normal" philosophy is widely held to be a recurring but ungroundable and thus misguided episode in the "conversation," no sane and duly sophisticated person will find construction worth the effort. To philosophize positively and constructively one must believe that what is sought exists and in principle may be discovered. This is as true of the "New Philosophy"-modern empirical science-as of any other mode of inquiry. Without this belief, philosophy is at best a game, but a game with no point, and such pastimes are poorly played and soon abandoned. Rorty is inclined to acknowledge this. In the concluding and most recent essay in Consequences of Pragmatism, he remarks on what rapidly passing fancies today's "problematics" have become:
One of the reasons people come to the divisional meetings of the [American Philosophical Association] is to find out what the fashionable new problems are-what the "good people in the field" are talking about nowadays. For it has now become enough to constitute a problem as "philosophical" that a well-known professor of philosophy has written an interesting paper posing it. . . . We no longer have a story to tell about the relation between our problems and those of the past, . . . (CP, p. 217)
The second possible "consequence of pragmatism" is much more interesting and "constitutes" Rorty as much more than a mere philosophic retailer of Kuhn's thesis about paradigms. Presumably, the contemporary revolutionary philosophers have deconstructed modern philosophy as the Cartesian-Lockean-Kantian-early-Wittgensteinian project of having the mind, and then language, mirror nature and thus discover truth. Rorty as their poet has, with the aid of Kuhn, placed this current deconstruction in the larger Hegelian-Nietzschean framework which makes it possible to see that all philosophy in the West has been this "conversation" between systematic and revolutionary philosophy. Thus seen, the conversation is just that, it is conversation for its own sake-not about anything real, only amusing the participants, without enduring consequences. Rorty's posture is never to say "strictly speaking"; nevertheless, strictly speaking this conversation is meaningless, and is now revealed as such.
Thus, Rorty the poet, Rorty the rhetorician, and Rorty the chronicler of deconstruction combine to construct the new reality in which "philosophy" will exist, or try to. It appears that as Plato is the constructor of Socrates the deconstructor, so now is Rorty the constructor of the various contemporary deconstructors-who after all may or may not have believed that their work was deconstruction-and, more than this, of the entire "story" of construction and deconstruction. But, if Plato was a poet of deconstruction, he took care not to appear as such, and succeeded. Rorty repeatedly contrasts misguided Platonic constructionism-he doesn't descend to examine the actual constructs-with edifying Socratic conversation. But did Socrates disbelieve in the possibility of philosophy as either an intellectual or a moral activity? If he did, then he and his creator were arch-deceivers, and, after all, we do not usually die for that which we disbelieve in.
Rorty knows that philosophy cannot survive this "edifying" account of it. Accordingly, in the last-written "Introduction" to Consequences of Pragmatism he sketches "a post-Philosophical culture." He gives only the most fleeting and apparently inconsistent glimpses of this "culture," or society, or commonwealth, or whatever this "form of life" may be. At times, it seems to be perfectly unruled assemblages of marvelously developed beings who are "simply people who (are) good at being human" (CP, p. xxxix). These are people knowing enough, and psychologically heroic enough, to live fully human lives in the absence of any theory or defensible belief about what human beings are. But they also live dangerously, without philosophical protection, with a full understanding of the consequences of their heroic ungroundedness:
. . . when the secret police come, when the torturers violate the innocent, there is nothing to be said to them of the form "There is something within you which you are betraying. Though you embody the practices of a totalitarian society which will endure forever, there is something beyond those practices which condemns you." This thought is hard to live with, . . . - the sense that there is nothing deep down inside us except what we have put there ourselves, . . . (CP, p. xlii)
It is especially hard, or puzzling, to live with since Rorty frequently remarks that what will mark "philosophy as conversation rather than discovery" is "phronesis [prudence, the virtue of statesmen] rather than episteme [science]," and "civility" (e.g., PMN, pp. 318-19). Can any prudent man believe that it is a sign of practical wisdom to applaud and assist in the deconstruction of a tradition substantially aimed at discovering the roots and grounds of civility, and developing institutions which shore up those grounds and nurture those roots? However misguided one may believe modern philosophy to be, nevertheless the philosophy of mind and of language may well be seen as an effort to discover and defend the distinctively human in a presumptively mechanical world. In passing, and only in passing, Rorty notes that he has not answered the "deep criticism" of pragmatism: "the criticism that the Socratic virtues cannot, as a practical matter, be defended save by Platonic means, that without some sort of metaphysical comfort nobody will be able not to sin against Socrates." Rorty the pragmatist says, "We just do not know," and leaves it at that (CP, p. 174).
Underlying his indecision and indifference is, I think, indecision and indifference. Evidently, Rorty has not thought through the relationship between philosophy and politics, and particularly the relationship between the tradition of political philosophy and the modern liberal commonwealth. If he had, he could not be willing "to celebrate bourgeois capitalist society as the best polity actualized so far" (CP, p. 210), and yet deconstruct the natural rights foundation on which that polity rests. Rorty has apparent confidence in "empirical practices," uncomplicated by theoretical constructions. Here, presumably, are "simply human beings," unencumbered by metaphysics, doing wonderfully well the things which human beings do. But which of our practices is uninformed by prior theory and metaphysical belief? More to the point, which of the splendidly diverse human beings engaging in these practices is unshaped by the tradition which Rorty is helping to further the deconstruction of?
At last, it appears to me that Rorty has trouble making up his mind. The true foundation of his thought shifts between an implicit confidence that the liberal polity will endure and continue to develop, no matter what one says or neglects to say about it, and no matter how unreflectively one deconstructs its foundations; between this, and the brooding sense that the epoch is ending, that our fate is sealed, and that the world after philosophy is all but upon us. The genuine choice for Rorty is between Dewey and Nietzsche. (See CP, pp. 203-8.) He opts for Dewey but can offer only "hope" and "an ungroundable but vital sense of human solidarity" as "justifications" for his choice. The questions which he might ask-but does not-are these: First, is there a fundamental or significant difference between the views of Dewey and Nietzsche or, in pointedly pragmatic terms, is the hope imparted by Dewey sufficiently inspiriting to outweigh both his lack of reasoned grounding and whatever dark attractions Nietzsche's apocalyptism offers? Second, if there is a decisive difference between Dewey and Nietzsche, is that difference a moral one with grounds which may be discovered in "process" and "interaction"?
Beyond these, if the implicit practical conclusion of Rorty's books is "Follow Dewey!" then he needs, and lacks, an extended discussion of how Dewey's writings either reflect practical wisdom-I at least will forgive him the "mirroring"-or develop it. In other words, Rorty's uncompleted task is to show how Dewey is a political philosopher
superior to those who have made it their work to discover what practical wisdom is and how it may be developed in practice. Until he does, I suggest that "deconstruction" is an idea whose time should never come.