Rational Anthropology and Radical Enlightenment, #1–What is Existential Kantian Dignitarian Anarchist Cosmopolitan Eco-Socialism?

By Robert Hanna

“Rage, the FlowerThrower/Love in in the Air,” by Banksy (Bethlehem, 2005)

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You can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of this essay, including the BIBLIOGRAPHY, HERE.

The BIBLIOGRAPHY will also appear in the second installment.

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Our age is the genuine age of criticism, to which everything must submit. Religion through its holiness, and legislation through its majesty commonly seek to exempt themselves from it. But in this way they excite a just suspicion against themselves, and cannot lay claim that unfeigned respect that reason grants only to that which has been able to withstand its free and public examination. (Kant, 1781/1787, CPR Axi n., boldfaced emphasis in the original)

Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from their own self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of Enlightenment. (Kant, 1784, WIE 8: 35, boldfaced emphasis in the original, translation modified slightly)

When nature has unwrapped, from under this hard shell [of the “crooked timber of humanity” (Kant, 1784, IUH 8: 23)], the seed for which she cares most tenderly, namely the propensity and calling to think freely, the latter gradually works back upon the mentality of the people (which thereby gradually becomes capable of freedom in acting) and eventually even upon the principles of government, which finds it profitable to itself to treat the human being, who is now more than a machine, in keeping with their dignity. (Kant, 1784, WIE 8: 41–42, boldfaced emphasis in the original, translation modified slightly)

That kings should philosophize or philosophers become kings is not to be expected, but is also not to be wished for, since possession of power unavoidably corrupts the free judgment of reason. (Kant, 1795, TPP 8: 369)

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Rational Anthropology and Radical Enlightenment, #1–What is Existential Kantian Dignitarian Anarchist Cosmopolitan Eco-Socialism?

Since 2001, I’ve been presenting, defending, and developing a broadly and radically Kantian philosophical alternative to Analytic philosophy and so-called “Continental philosophy” alike, that I call rational anthropology (Hanna, 2001: pp. 281–285, 2015, 2017a, 2018a, 2018b, 2018c, 2018d, 2021a, 2022a, 2022b; Hanna and Paans, 2020, 2021, 2022).

Indeed, recently I’ve synonymously identified “philosophy” and “rational anthropology” as follows:

For me, philosophy is the broadly and radically Kantian enterprise I’ve called rational anthropology, by which I mean authentic (i.e., wholehearted, and pursued and practiced as a full-time, lifetime calling), serious (i.e., neither careerist, nor conformist, nor dogmatic, nor esoteric, nor hyperspecialized), critical, synoptic, systematic reflection on the individual and collective rational human condition, and on the thoroughly nonideal natural and social world in which rational human animals and other conscious animals live, move, and have their being.

As such, rational anthropology fully includes the knowledge yielded by the formal and natural sciences; but, as I see it, the formal and natural sciences also all have inherent limits, and these limits are recognized by what I call creative piety: so rational anthropology also goes significantly beneath and beyond the sciences, and non-reductively incorporates aesthetic or artistic, affective or emotional, ethical or moral, sociopolitical, and, more generally, personal and practical insights that cannot be adequately captured or explained by the sciences.

Rational anthropology is all about the nature, meaning, and value of individual and collective rational human existence in the natural and social world, and how it is possible to know the philosophical limits of science, without being anti-science, and indeed while also being resolutely pro-science.

Finally, rational anthropology is neither Analytic philosophy nor so-called “Continental philosophy,” and its other elaborations are anarcho– or borderless philosophy, life-shaping philosophy, neo-organicist philosophy, and above all, the philosophy of the future. (Hanna, 2022c: pp. 1–2)

And I’ve also recently spelled out the principal differences between rational anthropology and Analytic philosophy, comparing-&-contrasting them point-by-point, by listing and briefly defining (i) eight basic commitments of Analytic philosophy and (ii) eight basic commitments of rational anthropology (Hanna, 2022d: pp. 2–6).

Here’s a schematic summary of that list, leaving out the definitions, using AP as an abbreviation for “Analytic philosophy” and RA as an abbreviation for “rational anthropology.”

1. AP–>the rejection of idealism vs. RA–>weak transcendental idealism (Hanna, 2015: section 7.3, 2022b: section 4.4).

2. AP–>logical empiricist modal monism vs. RA–>synthetic apriorist modal dualism (Hanna, 2001: chs. 3–5, 2015: ch. 4).

3. AP–>the mechanistic worldview vs. RA–>the neo-organicist worldview (Bohm, 1952; Bohm and Hiley, 1975; Prigogine, 1997; Goldstein, 2017; Torday, Miller Jr, and Hanna, 2020; and Hanna, 2022b: esp. chs. 2 and 4; Hanna and Paans, 2020, 2021, 2022).

4. AP–>scientism vs. RA–>anti-scientism but also robustly pro-science, via the unique meta-cognitive attitude of creative piety (Hanna and Paans, 2022; Hanna, 2022b).

5. AP–>materialism or physicalism, reductive or non-reductive vs. RA–>the rejection of materialism or physicalism, whether reductive or non-reductive, as well as the equal and opposite rejection of Cartesian dualism, whether ontological dualism or property dualism (Hanna and Maiese, 2009; Hanna, 2011).

6. AP–>ethical or moral naturalism vs. RA–>ethical or moral anti-naturalism, but without platonism (Hanna, 2018c: esp. chs. 1–2, 2022e, 2022f).

7. AP–>conceptualism about representational content vs. RA–>essentialist content non-conceptualism about representational content, together with the theory of thought-shapers (Hanna, 2015: ch. 2, 2021b; Hanna and Paans, 2021).

And finally, 8. AP–>the computational-functionalist model of rational human thinking vs. RA–>the epigenetic model of rational human thinking (Hanna, 2022d, 2022g).

Obviously, this list of pairwise critical comparisons-&-contrasts is focused on presenting rational anthropology in direct dialectical and diametric opposition to Analytic philosophy.

For this reason, it also naturally leaves out other core features of rational anthropology that don’t fit neatly into this presentational format; and in particular, it leaves out rational anthropology’s basic moral and sociopolitical commitments, which I’ve collectively called radical enlightenment (Hanna, 2016a, 2018d: part 2).

So, what is rational anthropology’s doctrine of radical enlightenment?

In his excellent — but also highly controversial — book, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Israel, 2001), and its two sequel volumes, the intellectual historian Jonathan Israel traced the origins of the very idea of a radical enlightenment project back to Spinoza, pantheism, and metaphysical monism.

I certainly agree with Israel that Spinozism is at least one important partial source of the radical enlightenment tradition, but in my view, Kant’s theory of enlightenment, correctly interpreted, is the proper source of the radical enlightenment tradition.

In any case, rational anthropology’s doctrine of radical enlightenment is a maximalist version of enlightenment, that sharply contrasts with other everyday, familiar minimalist versions of enlightenment, whether Kantian[i] or non-Kantian,[ii] epitomized by Frederick the Great’s despotic liberalism: “Argue as much as you will and about whatever you will, but obey!” (Kant, 1784, WIE 8: 37).

Correspondingly, rational anthropology’s doctrine of radical enlightenment centrally includes a commitment to what I call dignitarian anarchism.

Now, the term anarchism, as standing for a radical philosophical thesis and a correspondingly radical sociopolitical doctrine, didn’t exist until 1840, when Pierre-Joseph Proudhon coined it (Proudhon, 2008); nevertheless, both the radical philosophical thesis and the radical sociopolitical doctrine were substantially anticipated by certain lines of thought in Kant’s post-Critical writings (Hanna, 2016, 2017b, 2018c), as well as by similar lines of thought in the writings of Kant’s contemporaries William Godwin, Thomas Paine, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (van der Weyde, 1910; Bertram, 2020: section 3.1; Philp, 2021).

In any case, the term anarchism should be sharply contrasted with the term anarchy, standing for violent social-political chaos and moral nihilism, that’s been in use since at least the middle of the 18th century.[iii]

Aside from the 18th and 19th century proto-dignitarian-anarchists I’ve mentioned above — Godwin, Paine, Rousseau, and (in footnote [iii]) Percy Shelley — other central figures in the dignitarian anarchist tradition after Kant include Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Bertrand Russell after World War I, Murray Bookchin, and Noam Chomsky.

As its name clearly suggests, dignitarian anarchism is to be sharply contrasted with egoistic forms of anarchism, but it also significantly overlaps with socialism, especially democratic socialism.

More precisely, however, what is dignitarian anarchism, and how can it be rationally and morally justified?

The State and other State-like social institutions are correctly characterized, as Max Weber pointed out, by their being social institutions that possess a territorial monopoly on the (putatively) legitimate means and use of coercion (Weber, 1994: p. 310) — but that’s only a somewhat superficial gloss that doesn’t really get at the essence of the State.

The essence of the State is that it’s a form of social organization, with territorial boundaries, that’s both authoritarian and also coercive with respect to its government, i.e., its ruling class.

The State is coercive insofar as it claims the right to compel the people living within its boundaries to heed and obey the commands and laws of the government, in order to realize the instrumental ends of the State, whether or not those commands and laws are rationally justified or morally right on independent ethical grounds.

In turn, the State is authoritarian insofar as it claims that the commands and laws issued by its government are right just because the government says that they’re right and possesses the power to coerce, and not because those commands or laws are rationally justified and morally right on independent ethical grounds.

Here we can easily see the the fundamental parallel between what can be called “Statist Command Ethics” and what’s classically called “Divine Command Ethics,” which says that the commands and laws issues by God are right just because God says that they’re right and possesses the power to create and destroy the world, punish with eternal damnation, and more generally cause people to do whatever God wants them to do, and not because those commands or laws are are rationally justified and morally right on independent ethical grounds.

Therefore, the basic objection to Statist Command Ethics is essentially the same as the basic objection to Divine Command Ethics, going back to Socrates’s classical objection to Divine Command Ethics in the Euthyphro, which is that divine commands and laws, insofar as they’re not grounded in independent ethical principles or reasons that are rationally justified and morally right, but are instead backed up by divine creative, destructive, and punitive power alone, are inherently arbitrary, and fully open to the possibility that those commands and laws are rationally unjustified, morally wrong, and even profoundly evil (Hanna, 2018c: section 2.4).

Now I’ll cover the same moral and sociopolitical ground again, but even more carefully this time.

By political authority,I mean the existence of a special group of people (aka government), with the power to coerce, and the right to command other people and to force them to obey those commands as a duty, no matter what the content of these commands might be, and in particular, even if these commands and/or the forcing are rationally unjustified and morally impermissible.

And by coercion, I mean either (i) using violence (for example, injuring, torturing, or killing) or the threat of violence, in order to manipulate people according to certain purposes of the coercer (primary coercion), or (ii) inflicting appreciable, salient harm (for example, imprisonment, termination of employment, large monetary penalties) or deploying the threat of appreciable, salient harm, even if these are not in themselves violent, in order to manipulate people according to certain purposes of the coercer (secondary coercion).

Therefore, as I’m understanding it, the general problem of political authority is this: Is there an adequate rational justification for the existence of any special group of people (aka government) with the power to coerce, and the right to command other people and to force them to obey those commands as a duty, no matter what the content of these commands might be, and in particular, even if these commands and/or the forcing are rationally unjustified and morally impermissible?

And by the State or any other State-like institution, as an essential characterization, I mean any social organization that not only claims political authority, but also actually possesses the power to coerce, in order to secure and sustain this authority.

Of course, this is only the essence of a State or any other State-like social institution.

It does certainly doesn’t exhaust the very idea of a State in an anthropological, historical, or sociopolitical sense.

For example, as per Weber, States normally also control geographical areas, or territory, over which they monopolize the application of coercive force to the people (and other animals) who inhabit that territory.

Moreover, as James C. Scott points out:

[T]he standard [Kantian and] Weberian criterion of a territorial unit that monopolizes the application of coercive force[iv] [is not] entirely adequate, for it takes so many other features of states for granted. [I] think of states as institutions that have strata of officials specialized in the assessment and collections of taxes — whether in grain, labor, or specie — and who are responsible to a ruler or rulers. [I] think of states as exercising executive power in a fairly complex, stratified, hierarchical society with an appreciable division of labor…. Some would apply more stringent criteria: a state should have an army, defensive walls, a monumental ritual center or palace, and perhaps a king or queen. (Scott, 2017: p. 118)

Therefore, also granting Scott’s more fully specified and somewhat open-ended conception of a State as backdrop to the essential characterization I’m using, by the specific problem of political authority, I mean: Is there an adequate rational and/or moral justification for the existence of the State or any other State-like institution?

Now, the thesis of dignitarian anarchism, as such, says that all political authority, States, and any other State-like institutions are rationally unjustified and immoral, due to their inherent coercive authoritarianism — which directly violates our strict moral obligation always to treat everyone, everywhere with sufficient respect for their human dignity and never treat them as mere means or mere things, and always treat them with kindness, and that therefore we ought to reject, devolve, and ultimately exit the State and all State-like institutions, in order to create, belong to, and sustain a real-world universal ethical community, in a world in which there are no States or other State-like institutions, but instead a cosmopolitan or world-wide network of constructive, principled-authenticity-enabling, post-State, post-State-like social institutions, for the sake of universally sufficiently respecting human dignity and always treating everyone, everywhere, with kindness.

But rational anthropology’s doctrine of radical enlightenment, which not only includes dignitarian anarchism but also substantively extends it, is nothing more and nothing less than existential Kantian dignitarian anarchist cosmopolitan eco-socialism.

Of course, I realize I fully realize that “existential Kantian dignitarian anarchist cosmopolitan eco-socialism” is rather a mouthful: so what, more precisely, do I mean by it?

(i) By existential (see also, e.g., Crowell, 2012), I mean the primitive motivational, or “internalist,” normative ground of the moral and sociopolitical doctrine proposed by rational anthropology, which is the fundamental, innate need we have for a wholehearted, freely-willed life not essentially based on egoistic, hedonistic, or consequentialist (for example, utilitarian) interests, aka the desire for self-transcendence, while at the same time fully assuming the natural presence — aka the facticity — of all such instrumental interests in our “human, all too human” lives (Hanna, 2018b: ch. 3, 2018c; see also Crowell, 2012).

In a word, the existential ideal of a rational human wholehearted autonomous life is the ideal of authenticity.

(ii) By Kantian, I mean the primitive objective, or “externalist,” normative ground of the moral and sociopolitical doctrine proposed by rational anthropology, which is the recognition that the fundamental, innate need we have for a wholehearted, freely-willed, non-egoistic, non-hedonistic, non-consequentialist life, which we call the desire for self-transcendence, can be sufficiently rationally justified only in so far as it is also a life of principled authenticity, by which I mean principled wholehearted autonomy, or having a good will in Kant’s sense, that’s also a specifically human, all-too-human (i.e., essentially embodied, finite, and imperfect) good will, guided by sufficient respect for the human dignity of all rational human animals, i.e., human real persons,[v] under the Categorical Imperative.

(iii) By dignitarian anarchist I mean, as per the above, the thesis that all political authority, States, and any other State-like institutions, are rationally unjustified and immoral, due to their inherent coercive authoritarianism, which directly violates our strict moral obligation always to treat everyone with sufficient respect for their human dignity and never treat them as mere means or mere things, and always with kindness, and that therefore we ought to reject, devolve, and ultimately exit the State and all State-like institutions, in order to create, belong to, and sustain a real-world universal ethical community, in a world in which there are no States or other State-like institutions, but instead a cosmopolitan or world-wide network of constructive, principled-authenticity-enabling, post-State, post-State-like social institutions, for the sake of universally sufficiently respecting human dignity and always treating everyone, everywhere, with kindness.

(iv) Notoriously, there’s no comprehensive, analytic definition of the term cosmopolitanism as it’s used in either ordinary or specialized (say, legal, political, or scholarly) language, covering all actual and possible cases.

It’s variously taken to refer to globe-trotting sophistication; to nihilistic, rootless, world-wandering libertinism; to the general idea of “world citizenship”; to a single world-state with coercive power; to a tight federation of all nation-states, again with coercive power; or to a loose, semi- coercive international federation of nation-states and related global institutions concerned with peace-keeping, criminal justice, human rights, social justice, international money flow and investment, or world-trade, like the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the (plan for a) World Court of Human Rights, the World Bank, or the World Trade Organization (see, e.g., Kleingeld and Brown, 2019).

Nevertheless, the term cosmopolitanism has an original, core meaning.

As Kwame Anthony Appiah correctly and insightfully points out:

Cosmopolitanism dates at least to the Cynics of the fourth century BC [and especially to Diogenes of Synope], who first coined the expression cosmopolitan, “citzen of the cosmos.” The formulation was meant to be paradoxical, and reflected the general Cynic skepticism toward custom and tradition. A citizen — a politēs — belonged to a particular polis, a city to which he or she owed loyalty. The cosmos referred to the world, not in the sense of the earth, in the sense of the universe. Talk of cosmopolitanism originally signalled, then, a rejection of the coventional view that every civilized person belonged to a community among communities. (Appiah, 2006: p. xiv)

In short, the original, core meaning of cosmopolitanism expresses a serious critique of existing political communities and States; a thoroughgoing rejection of fervid, divisive, exclusionary, loyalist commitments to convention, custom, identity, or tradition; and a robustly universalist outlook in morality and politics, encompassing not only the Earth but also other inhabited worlds if any, and also traveling between worlds, and, finally, the entire cosmos.

By cosmopolitan, then, I mean the original, core meaning of that term.

(v) And by eco-socialism (see also Gare, 2022),I mean a universal ethical community that’s constituted by a world-wide network of constructive, principled-authenticity-enabling, post-State, post-State-like, post-advanced-capitalist, post-technocratic, post-neoliberal-cum-neofascist, social institutions, created and sustained for the sake of universally sufficiently respecting human dignity, such that we sufficiently respect not only the human dignity of everyone everywhere, but also the proto-dignity of the cosmos, and therefore we must cultivate our global garden (Hanna and Paans, 2022) — a neo-utopian cosmopolitan moral and sociopolitical call-to-action that extends by one word the famous last line of Voltaire’s Candide, “Il faut cultiver notre jardin,” i.e., “we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire, 1959: p. 120), hence: Il faut cultiver notre jardin mondial.

NOTES

[i] I borrow the helpful label “maximalist” from (Fleischacker, 2013: p. 7). Fleischacker himself defends a “minimalist” version of Kantian enlightenment (Fleischacker, 2013: pp. 169–193).

[ii] To be sure, not only does “the Enlightenment” stand for an era whose historical interpretation is controversial, but also there are many distinct philosophical conceptions of enlightenment, some of them highly critical. See, e.g., the Frankfurt-school classic, Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s 1947 The Dialectic of Enlightenment (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002). Others are pro-enlightenment, yet not only minimalist but also morally and sociopolitically stale, flat, and unprofitable, or what I call enlightenment lite (“argue, but obey!”): see, e.g., (Pinker, 2018). For a critique of enlightenment lite and a defense of what I call heavy-duty enlightenment, aka maximalist or radical enlightenment, see (Hanna, 2017b).

[iii] See, e.g., Percy Shelley’s late 18th century radical poem, The Masque of Anarchy. Shelley’s title — which means that authoritarian regimes disguise their true nature, namely, violent social chaos and moral nihilism, behind a facade of legitimacy — is, from my point of view, unintentionally highly ironic, since Shelley was a romantic follower of William Godwin’s political philosophy, with special reference to autonomy and human dignity, and therefore also a proto-dignitiarian-anarchist. So Shelley’s poem is a perfect illustration of the apparent paradox that dignitarian anarchists are sworn enemies of anarchy.

[iv] See, e.g., Kant’s neo-Hobbesian classical liberal Statist political treatise, The Doctrine of Right, the first part of his Metaphysics of Morals (Kant, 1797, MM 6: 231–233 and 311–318). The Doctrine of Right, in my opinion, is clearly an “exoteric” text in Leo Strauss’s sense, in that it systematically disguises Kant’s own “esoteric” dignitarian anarchist sociopolitical views, which were highly politically “dangerous” in the context of late 18th century Königsburg — as indeed they would also be now, in the context of contemporary 21st century Kaliningrad — and therefore highly apt to get Kant censored, sanctioned, stripped of his professorship, fired, arrested, and/or imprisoned. See (Hanna, 2017b, 2017c).

[v] By “real person,” I mean an essentially embodied rational minded human animal, as opposed to either disembodied persons (e.g., souls, angels, or gods) or collective persons (e.g., business corporations). For full details and defenses of this view, see (Hanna and Maiese, 2009; Hanna, 2018b: chs. 6–7).

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

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Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.