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Showing Rating details. All Languages. More filters. Sort order. All modern thinkers, with the exception of the functionalists, have agreed in placing the individual at the centre of their thought. Most of them have posited a free- willed, autonomous, rational individual through whom alone creative forces could be put to work. Progress, until recently, has been considered as inevitable and as proceeding through the perfection of individuals.
Progress, moreover, has been measured in terms of individual values, and although the socialists emphasize reform through the group, rather than by private initiative, the success of their endeavour is measured in terms of benefits to individuals. The betterment of individual conditions, spiritual and economic, is an essential aim of socialism. Individual values have found their place in conservative Hegelianism and in Marxian socialism, as well as in liberalism.
Some writers have emphasized the collectivity, rather than the individual, but they have been able to do so only by accepting as fundamental the antinomy between the one and the many. They have focused their attention on one side of a " two-headed coin n but they have been able to do so only by positing a " two-headed coin " to start with.
Some writers have emphasized nature, rather than man, but they have been able to do so only by first presupposing a fundamental antinomy between man and nature. Some writers have emphasized man as a physical entity, rejecting his spirituality, but again they have been able to do so only by accepting a fundamental antinomy between soul and body.
With the exception of the functionalists, all modern thinkers have started from this dichotomy. The differences between schools of thought have been differences in emphasis, not in conceptual presuppositions. These conceptual presuppositions are those of individualism, and it is in this perspective that all modern thinkers have endeavoured to explain and understand their physical, spiritual, and social environment.
The doctrine of individualism has a parallel in the atomistic perspective of physical science. Until recently physical scientists believed that " it is possible to describe all natural phenomena in terms of simple forces between unalterable objects. The solubility of this problem is the condition of the complete comprehensibility of nature. All natural phenomena were thought of as being reducible to certain fundamental elements possessing certain attributes peculiar to them as particular and unique entities. Similar notions pervaded other realms of thought. In re- sponse to the intellectual climate of opinion ushered in by the Renaissance and Reformation, theologians sought to overcome the rigidity of orthodox Christianity and to bring its principles into harmony with the dominant scientific thought and with the individualistic milieu.
Liberal Protestantism " tended to brush aside all intermediaries priests and prelates ; sacred images and sacred relics ; saints, angels, archangels, and even the Blessed Virgin herself and so set God and the individual immediately in one another's presence. It tended to become a meeting place for individual worship rather than a symbol of the collective affirmation of certain religious beliefs. The doctrine of " private judgment " in time became the doctrine that each individual could believe what he wanted to believe, worship as he wanted to worship, and give expression to his religious convictions any way he saw fit.
Liberal theologians placed more and more emphasis upon religion as an individual experience, and less and less emphasis upon the Church or the Bible as symbols or embodiments of divine truth. As one con- temporary theologian has expressed it : " The Reformation had granted to the individual the ' right of private judgment ' upon the meaning of the authoritative scriptures ; the Enlightenment went further, and made the individual reason and conscience the final court of appeal, supreme over all external authorities.
In the realm of economic thought the individual was similarly the focal point. One of the first to espouse the optimistic doctrine that the general welfare is nothing but the resultant of private, individual interests was Adam Smith. The point from which he begins his whole theory is the individual. It is enlightened self- interest, he believes, which should be given the greatest possible freedom from arbitrary authority in order to express itself and to realize the potential harmony embodied in the nature of things. For, he wrote, man in pursuing self-interest " is in this as in many other cases led by an invisible hand to promote an end which has no part of his intentions.
To the anarchic element of his individualism he opposed this concept of a natural order filled with eternal, universal, and immutable truths. Individuals were to be free, but free only to realize the potential harmony embodied in nature. It was not license which he espoused but responsible freedom, freedom under the law, a law which he conceived to be natural and to have substantive content.
It is significant, moreover, that Smith insisted on preserving the natural liberty of individuals and opposed strenuously every kind of collective enterprise, such as joint-stock companies, from which he believed individual self-interest was absent. The end of economic action is the individual, and for this reason he should be let alone to follow the dictates of enlightened self-interest, to realize the potential harmony embodied in natural liberty.
This view is echoed again and again in economic thought, not only in England but in France and Germany as well. One of the most ardent of this latter group was Christian Jakob Kraus , for a time a professor at the University of Konigsberg in East Prussia. He declared on one occasion that Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations was the most important book after the Bible. Similar views exhibiting a basic individualistic temper were expressed by German economists like Sartorius, Liider, Jakob, Hufeland, Soden, Lotz, and Rau.
Professor Sabine sums it up well when he says : The individual human being, with his interests, his enterprise, his desire for happiness and advancement, above all with his reason, which seemed the condition for a successful use of all of his other faculties, appeared to be the foundation upon which a stable society must be built. Not man as a priest or a soldier, as the member of a guild or an estate, but man as a bare human being, a " masterlcss man," appeared to be the solid fact. Society is made for man, not man for society ; it is humanity, as Kant said, that must always be treated as an end and not a means.
The individual is both logic- ally and ethically prior. To the philosophy of the seventeenth century relations always appeared thinner than substances ; man was the substance, society the relation. It was this assumed priority of the individual which became the most marked and the most persistent quality of the theory of natural law, and the clearest differentia of the modern from the medieval theory. It persisted, moreover, as a presumption in Bentham's School long after David Hume had destroyed the method- ology of natural rights.
He wrote : Reason cannot desire for man any other condition than that in which each individual not only enjoys the most absolute freedom of developing himself by his own energies, in his perfect individuality, but in which external nature even is left unfashioned by any human agency, but only receives the impress given to it by each individual of himself and his own free will, according to the measure of his wants and instincts, and restricted only by the limits of his powers and his rights.
But his belief in the moral uniqueness of individuals, his desire to treat each individual as an end in himself, was shared by many Germans and particularly by Kant and Fichte. As a basic law of all human conduct Kant adopted the principle : " so act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only. Each one, moreover, has the right to judge for himself what is, and to defend, by his own powers, what he so judges to be, the limit of his free actions.
It is found in science, in theology, in economic and political theory ; it is found in England, in France, and in Germany. Since by that time the concept of God was gradually being replaced by the concept of nature, as deism replaced theism and in turn was giving way to pantheism, men called the immutable rights which they believed to be inherent in individuals by virtue of their humanity, natural rights.
By the thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries " natural rights were felt to rest on the same basis as Newton's discoveries ; and reason discerned these rights despite their daily violation, just as reason discerned the true movement of the earth despite its apparent immobility. As gradually codified, they included such rights as freedom of worship, of speech, of press, and of assembly.
By most of the writers of the age the existence of these rights was considered to be more or less self-evident, inherent in the nature of man and demonstrable by reason. Belief in natural rights was essentially " an assertion that certain human desires have greater validity than, and must therefore prevail over, force of circumstances or mere being. Locke, for example, posited a " state of nature " in which reason ruled supreme, and he believed that it taught those who would consult it " that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or posses- sions.
Property was defined by Locke, for example, as that with which one had mixed his labour. It was not the right to receive dividends from stocks and bonds that the early liberal demanded, nor the right of impersonal business corporations to do with " their " property what they liked, but rather the right of a man to make himself economically secure by his own labour.
To seek to explain seventeenth-century liberalism in terms of nineteenth-century conceptions of property and individual rights, as many writers do, is to mistake a distorted form of liberalism for integral liberalism.
In an over-zealous attempt to " explain " everything in terms of economic determinism, some writers, in effect, credit the seventeenth-century liberal with the ability to foresee social and economic developments of the nineteenth cen- tury, and, further, attribute to him the ulterior motive of providing a rationale for what was to take place two hundred years later!
If liberal concepts were used in the nineteenth century to justify economic licence, this is no indictment of integral liberalism, but more properly an indictment of those nineteenth-century " liberals " who perverted original liberal concepts to their own advantage. Locke presupposed that men were equal in the sense that each individual was a moral entity, an end in himself, and he posited the existence of rights deduced rationally from this pre- mise. They were binding, he believed, on both society and government, and should the government attempt arbitrarily to dispose " of the lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people " he thought that the people were justified in dissolving the old govern- ment and acquiring a new one, by revolution if necessary.
Economic motives un- doubtedly influenced the rising commercial classes but religious, social, and political motives were equally important. Scientists have discovered It existed not for the indivi- duals within it conceived as a whole, but for each individual. Then, whatever he enacts in the form of law backed by sufficient force must be regarded as law. Retrieved 7 February The new regimes were generally liberal in their political outlook, and employed the philosophy of positivism , which emphasized the truth of modern science, to buttress their positions. An unknown error has occurred.
Even when the rights were no longer regarded as " natural," their existence was not questioned. Belief in a system of rights peculiar to individuals, although " explained " and justified differently, extended into the nineteenth century. They justified them on the grounds of history, utility, heredity, and so forth. This was true not only in England but also in France, in Germany, and, indeed, throughout most of the Western world. In France the doctrine of natural rights found eloquent and practical expression in the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man and 'Citizen of August 26, The preamble to that declaration asserted : The representatives of the French people, organized in National Assembly, considering that ignorance, forgetfulness, or contempt of the rights of man, are the sole causes of the public miseries and of the corruption of governments, have resolved to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, inalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being ever present to all the members of the social body, may unceasingly remind them of their rights and duties ; in order that the acts of the legislative power and those of the executive power may be each moment compared with the aim of every political institution and thereby may be more respected ; and in order that the demands of citizens, grounded henceforth upon simple and incontestable principles, may always take the direction of main- taining the constitution and welfare of all.
And even Rousseau, who wavered between authoritarian collectivism and extreme individualism, on one occasion declared : To renounce one's liberty is to renounce one's quality as a man, the rights and also the duties of humanity. For him who renounces everything there is no possible compensation. Such a renunciation is incompatible with man's nature, for to take away all freedom from his will is to take away all morality from his actions.
Men have three duties, a duty to themselves, a duty to their fellow-men, and a duty to God, and since duties imply rights it follows that there are certain inalienable and inherent human rights. In order that. These rights, he says, " are involved in the mere concep- tion of the person, as such, and in so far are called Original [or inalienable] Rights. And since arbitrariness is incompatible with human dignity any sub- jection to the will of another individual, to the will of any personal, capricious authority, is incompatible with the idea that each individual is an autonomous being, equal in moral value with every other individual.
Freedom, however, logically implies responsibility. In order for each individual to have freedom, all individuals must recog- nize some common authority, some common responsibility. This authority, moreover, must be impersonal, calculable, and objec- tive. Only through the acceptance by the individual of a common, impersonal, rational, and objective authority can the individual be said to be free. When men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were confronted with this problem of freedom, explicitly or implicitly they reasoned in this way.
Writing and thinking in an age that focused its attention on the individual as a moral entity, in an intellectual climate of opinion that espoused the individ- ualistic Weltanschauung in every field of thought, they were compelled logically to the conclusion that freedom from personal, arbitrary, authority was essential to the dignity of human personality. But the problem of freedom was more than a theoretical one, more than a logical deduction from presuppositions which they consciously or subconsciously accepted as eternally true.
In- dividuals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were hedged in and restrained politically and economically by arbitrary and personal authorities. The rising commercial class rebelled against these restraints. At first it supported the absolute monarchs, but as it became stronger and more self-assertive, it turned against them.
Self-confident, eager for conquest, and adventurous, the com- mercial class found the restraints imposed by absolutism incom- patible with its economic, social, and intellectual aspirations. Arbitrary control of economic activity, especially when exercised by an absolute monarch, was unpredictable and unstable. Commercial activity could flourish only under conditions that were predictable, calculable, and stable. There must be some order, but this order needed to be impersonal, beyond the will of any arbitrary individual.
In order to realize their conception of individual autonomy and in order to carry on their struggle against absolutism, the rising commercial classes needed freedom to express their views, to assemble freely, to be free from arbitrary arrest and imprison- ment, and to have a voice in the shaping of governmental policy.
But their espousal of individual natural rights was more than a convenient doctrine ; they espoused civil liberties and representa- tive government because these things were essential if absolutism was to be defeated. In their own minds they probably did not separate the social and intellectual from the economic motives ; all these prompted their ardent advocacy of civil and political liberties, for all were present and sprang ultimately from the concept of individuality which emerged with the Renaissance and Reformation.
Their attitude was at once the product of logical derivation from philosophic premises and of social and economic interests. It was at once a theoretical intellectual attitude and a practical expression of rebellion against concrete restraints and specific injustice. Liberalism was the political expression of this attitude. In its name one can discern the core of its thought freedom libertas. Freedom from what? Freedom from arbitrary, personal author- ity ; freedom from other individuals, from the state, from every authority that is personal or capricious. Intellectually it was the logical outgrowth of the individualistic Weltanschauung ; politically and economically it was the embodiment of reaction against mercantilism and absolutism.
Liberalism holds that the individual should be free, but realizes that freedom demands the common acceptance of an impersonal authority if it is to be freedom and not license. Accordingly, liberalism espoused freedom from every form of social control except law. As Voltaire succinctly put it : " Freedom exists in being in- dependent from everything but law. Law, moreover, had to be conceived as eternal, immutable, and rational. If the authority was not to be arbitrary, it could not emanate from any will that was capable of acting capriciously ; it could not change from day to day or place to place ; it must be rational and predictable.
It was found, but not made, by reason and by conscience. Implicit in this reasoning is the assumption that positive law will conform to certain norms and values secured transcendentally, and the further assumption that the enforcement of law is purely impersonal and technical. In this assumption concerning the enforcement of law there is already an element of formalism, a quantitative conception of justice, but the notion of natural rights is a qualitative conception, and in the beginning this latter conception overshadowed the former.
Accordingly, two essential elements are found in liberalism in its integral form : first, the belief that society is composed of atomic, autonomous individuals ; and, second, the belief that there are certain eternal truths transcending individuals and independent of either individual will or desire. These eternal truths are referred to by the writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as natural law or natural rights, but writers of the early nineteenth century arrived at a similar conception in somewhat different terminology.
Positive law, in either view, is legitimate and capable of commanding obligation if its content conforms to the content of these transcendental truths. Positive law is not binding simply because it emanates from the legitimate sovereign, for the sovereign, like all individuals, is under a higher law. He cannot act arbitrarily and cannot make his will binding on other individuals unless his acts fall within the limits set by the higher law. Obligation, accordingly, rests essentially upon individual conscience. The contract does not bind the individual to obey blindly all the commands of the political sovereign, for if the sovereign acts unjustly, if he oversteps the limit set by law, the contract is void and his subjects may legitimately depose him.
It is the duty of individuals to reason objectively, to sub- ordinate passion and desire, in order to recognize the limitations upon will which alone make freedom possible. The content of law is discovered by dispassionate reason, but only conscience obligates the individual so to reason. The link, therefore, between transcendental norms, which constitute the only limita- tion upon will, and individual will is conscience.
In the early part of the seventeenth century he wrote : Natural law is the dictate of right reason. It is to be remarked that the law of nature deals not only with things which are outside of the human will, but also with things produced by the act of man. Thus property, as it now exists, is the result of human will ; but being once introduced, the law of nature itself shows that it is wrong for me to take what is yours against your will. The law of nature is so immutable that it cannot be changed even by God him- self.
God himself cannot make twice two not be four ; and in like manner He cannot make that which, according to reason, is intrinsically bad, not be bad. This is the cardinal element of the liberal conception of law. For the liberals, human conscience is the source of law and order.
They start " from the conviction that man [is] not only a physical being, subject to natural laws, but also a moral being subject to his conscience.
Freedom is accordingly only to be found in subjection to reason, that is to say, man is free only when all his actions are determined by reason. Just as the natural scientist of the age believed that there were universal, eternal principles governing the physical universe, so the political philosophers of the same period believed that there were similar principles governing human existence. In both science and philosophy, these principles were considered to be independent of human will, although discoverable by human reason.
It was thus possible to equate jurisprudence with ethics, " to think of legal precepts as a specialized type of moral precept. Bodin defined sovereignty as the " highest power over citizens and subject, unrestrained by laws. As Bodin wrote What we have said as to the freedom of sovereignty from the binding force of law does not have reference to divine or natural law. The test of freedom was whether or not the legislator was subject to limitation, whether or not there was some limitation upon arbitrary will.
If there were no such limitation, there could be no freedom. Freedom meant concrete and substantive limita- tions upon will, whether the individual will of a monarch or the collective will of a legislature. It did not mean a formal limitation but a substantive limitation. When legislative assemblies emerged and began to transfer to themselves the concept of sovereignty which had first been espoused for absolute monarchs, they too were thought of as subject to certain definite limitations imposed by a higher law.
Locke made this particularly clear. He held that the legislature was the supreme branch of government, but he said : Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth, yet, first, it is not, nor can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people. A man, as has been proved, cannot subject himself to the arbitrary power of another. The law of nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legis- lators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions must, as well as their own and other men's actions, be con- formable to the law of nature.
The idea of the liberal political philosophers that " the law " was a natural order filled with substantive content was shared by the economists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, finding early expression particularly among the Physio- crats. They are just the expression of the will of God. It remained the same for all times and all men. Its fiat was " unique, eternal, invariable, and universal.
The theologians were similarly abandoning a theistic concept of authority and accepting more and more an immanent authority in the form of certain principles. As one writer has expressed it, although they gave up " the belief in God's extraordinary and miraculous intervention in human affairs " they " laid all the more stress upon God's regular and orderly government. Whereas the orthodox Christian looked upon sin as the root of all evil, the liberal theologians tended to regard ignorance as the root of evil.
Sin could be removed only by God and by grace ; ignorance could be over- come by man through education. Orthodox theologians did not believe the world could be freed from evil, liberal theologians did. This optimistic belief in inevitable progress by education was shared by classical economists and liberal political philosophers. Thus, in the fields of political philosophy, economics, and theology, emphasis was placed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries upon an impersonal natural order which could be realized by human reason and conscience. On the one hand, there was the autonomous individual, on the other, the potential order objectified in eternal and universal principles with con- science and reason as the link between the two.
Under the Rechtsstaat men were conceived to be free from all authority except that of law. Men were to be equally free from injustice and arbitrariness and equal before the law. Justice and legality were considered to be identical and to be independent of consent or personal will because the authority of law was essentially and completely impersonal and objective. Administration of the law was re- garded as more or less mechanical. The ideal of the Rechtsstaat is to provide each individual with the maximum possible freedom. Only law is to restrain him. An analogous idea is found in classical economics.
Here each individual is to be given the greatest possible freedom from the state and from other individuals, and natural economic laws provide whatever regulation or restraint there is. It is the idea that all artificial, personal restraint should be removed that man might act in accordance with nature and its laws.
It is a belief in a prestabilized social harmony embodied in the natural order. State regulation is considered bad because it interferes with this natural order. It is artificial and should function best as a negative agency, restraining and redressing injustice but taking no action to provide for the positive welfare of its citizens.
Because there is a natural order embodying eternal, universal, and objective principles the government that governs least governs best. The way in which liberals regarded the function of the state is perhaps best illustrated by Wilhelm von Humboldt in his Ideen zu einem Versuch die Grenzen der Wirksamkeit des Staates zu bestimmen.
So significant and dominant was this problem in the eighteenth century that Humboldt declared that " the inquiry into the proper aims and limits of state activity. First, he said, it " invariably superinduces national uniformity, and a constrained and unnatural manner of action. The individual does not want " inertness and uniformity " 66 but rather " the most perfect freedom of developing himself by his own energies, in his perfect individuality.
The third reason he gave was that " in proportion as each individual relies upon the helpful vigilance of the state, he learns to abandon to its responsibility the fate and well-being of his fellow citizens. States which try to provide for the positive welfare of citizens, he says, " too often resemble the physician who only retards the death of his patient in nourishing his disease.
Before there were physicians, only health and death were known. The root of evil was found in individuals and they and they alone could overcome it. It was best to let the " diseases " of society run their inevitable, natural course. He concludes therefore that " the state is to abstain from all solicitude for the positive welfare of the citizens, and not to proceed a step further than is necessary for their mutual security and protection against foreign enemies ; for with no other object.
By security he meant protection from " attacks of foreign enemies " and " the danger of internal discord. It " is not itself an end, but is only a means towards human development. The state should exhibit positive solicitude for the welfare only of those persons who. Men should know what they can and cannot do, and the state should protect the rights of the individual, and redress the violation of those rights.
Presupposed in this idea is the notion of impersonal law. The Rechtsstaat embodies the idea of constitutional government, which Mcllwain characterizes as " limited government. As Mcllwain says, the law which defines the limitations may be customary, unwritten, or embodied in a written document, but in any case there must be " a law that puts bounds to arbitrary will. The opposite of constitutional government is not autocracy, which might be regarded as " unmixed government," but rather despotism, that is, " lawless government.
The autocratic monarchs, although not controlled, were nevertheless limited. This idea that there can be limitation where there is no political control was expressed in the thirteenth century by Bracton when he said : The King himself ought not to be subject to man, but subject to God and to the law, for the law makes the King. Let the King then attribute to the law what the law attributes to him, namely, dominion and power, for there is no King where the will and not the law has dominion.
And granted that there was such a pre- existent law, it became inevitable that governments and their acts should be judged by their conformity to it rather than to reason alone. The function of the Rechtsstaat is to administer justice to all, not merely to protect individual status but to establish every individual in his right status. It is government by law, but government by right law. It conceives of this law as having substantive content which serves as a limitation upon arbitrary will and as being discoverable through reason and conscience.
To trace the development in Germany of liberalism one must trace the development of the Rechtsstaatsidee which is its embodiment. Fichte continually stresses the fact that individual freedom can be obtained only by the common acceptance of a universal law. There is and can be no arbitrariness in them. They must be such as every rational being would necessarily make them. In these positive laws the rule of Rights is applied to the specific objects which the rule comprises. Positive law floats in the middle between Rechts- gesetze and Rechtsurtheile.
The process of formalization that characterizes the decline of the liberal ideology is described in the pages that follow. Although, for the purposes of this study. Publication date: /00/ Topics: SOCIAL SCIENCES, Politics, Forms of political organization. States as political power. Publisher: Kegan.
In positive law the rule of Rights is applied to particular objects ; in the decisions of law, the positive law is applied to particular persons. If the law is clear and complete, the decision or sentence should already be contained in it. There must be some assurance that law will be supreme and that no power " except that of law can ever be turned against me.
If a million men live together, it is very possible for each to desire as much freedom as possible. But if you unite the will of all of them in one conception, as one will, then that one will divides the amount of possible freedom in equal parts among them all ; desires all to be free, and hence desires the freedom of each to be restricted by the freedom of all others.
The only possible point of union for their will is, therefore, the Law, and, in our case where a fixed number of men of various inclinations and occupations live together the Law in its application to them, or their Positive Law. As sure as they are united they must will the law. If but one of them is wrongly treated, this one certainly pro- tests, and they are no longer united. Concerning justice and law, therefore, all are agreed ; and all who are agreed necessarily desire law and justice.
There cannot be a community whereof one member has another will than the other member. But as soon as two individuals are no longer united in their will, at least one of the two is at variance with all the others ; his will is an individual, and hence an unjust will. If the will of the other, with whom he is in conflict, agrees with the will of all the others, then this other is necessarily right.
He did not believe that the form of government was necessarily prescribed although he did believe that democratic government was the least desirable form, because under it the people would be both judge and party. He thought that this system was preferable to a separation of powers. Ordinary judicial power he would leave under the supervision of the executive ; the Ephorate would function as a kind of super-tribunal sitting in judgment upon acts of the government.
If the government acted unconstitutionally, the Ephorate would first issue a warning, and then, if the government did not heed the warning, it would call the people together in convention to overthrow the government. Although his patriotism often led him to make assertions which, if extracted from the context of his political philosophy, sound similar to the boastings of the Nazis, Fichte's temperament and philosophy, his motives and his character, are diametrically opposed to everything the Nazis stand for.
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