Tag Archives: Tim Harding

U.S.A. Classic Jazz 1987

by Tim Harding

(This article was published in Jazzline magazine, Vol 20 No. 3, Spring 1987)

In June of this year, I was lucky enough to realise a life-long ambition to visit the birthplaces of jazz which I have read so much about:  New Orleans, St Louis, Chicago and New York.  The aim was also to  make some business contacts  for  the Cotton  Club Orchestra and to do some musical shopping.

First stop was colourful, hilly old San Francisco, where I must honestly say I heard the best band I have  ever heard live – Don Neely’ s Royal Society Jazz Orchestra.   This is a fully professional 12 year old  11-piece outfit playing very authentic jazz and hot dance music from the 1920s and 30s . They have improved dramatically since their recordings of the 1970s and are now playing more hot stomping black jazz tunes by bands like the Missourians, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and Cab Calloway.  Don was interested to know about the Cotton Club Orchestra in Melbourne and readily agreed to swap arrangements with us.

Turk Murphy had just died so there wasn ‘t much jazz  at  Fisherman’s Wharf, but I did arrange to visit the Alcatraz abode of that well-known jazz sponsor, Al Capone.

Next to New Orleans, and  the obligatory pilgrimage to that musical mecca , Preservation Hall.  Heard either Kid Sheik or Kid Thomas’s band (forget which ) and the Olympia Brass Band – both very predictable.  Unfortunately, the best jazz was to be found in the big city hotels like the New Orleans Hilton where the Placide Adams band and Banu Gibson’s  New Orleans Hot Jazz Orchestra have regular gigs.  Banu’s speciality is singing in 3-part harmony like the Boswell Sisters with trumpet and trombone.  Dave Sager, her young trombone player, is an absolute knock-out and the best I have heard live in this style.

Paid a very worthwhile visit to the Hogan Jazz Archives at Tulane University in  the leafy Garden District.  Here I met the curator , bass player Curt Jurde, who introduced me to the incredible collection of early sheet music there.  Came away with  photocopies of some 1923 King Oliver Creole Jazz Band charts and some  by Jelly Roll Morton’s 1926 Red Hot Peppers (yes, those guys actually played from written arrangements!)

Banu Gibson was also the hit of the 23rd Annual Classic Jazz and Ragtime Festival on a Mississippi  showboat in St Louis, which was reached after a fascinating train trip via Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.  Other good bands included the Original Salty Dogs from Chicago,   the Hot Frogs Jumpin’ Jazz Band from Los Angeles,  the Hot Cotton Band from Memphis and the Jim Cullum Jazz Band  from  San Antonio.  (All these bands have recorded on the Stomp Off label).

But the highlight of the trip, after a brief stopover in Chicago, was the home of my favourite music – New York.  Its size, scale, diversity  and culture is breathtaking.  Heard Dizzy Gillespie, and Woody Allen’ s New Orleans Funeral and Ragtime Orchestra at Michael’s Pub (on different nights) not far from my  hotel on West 55th Street.  Also heard Benny Carter (still playing well at 79), Ron Carter (no relation), and the 17-piece Mel Lewis Big Band at the Village Vanguard. The long-running Broadway show, 42nd Street, was an emotional, spectacular event, after having played the Times for a couple of years.

Visited Vince Giordano in Brooklyn, who heads a 10-piece 1920s band called Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks.  Vince has a collection of about 20,000 early arrangements and also agreed to swap  them with the Cotton Club Orchestra.  I bought about 20 charts from him and he agreed to select a bass saxophone for the Cotton Club (saw four bass saxophones in one shop on 48th Street).  Also bought a very nice dentless brass-lacquered sousaphone, and the two instruments will soon be shipped out here together.

Toured Harlem one day with an African-American tour company (reputedly the only safe way to go there).  Visited the Apollo Theatre on 125th Street, Duke Ellington’s  5-storey house in Washington Heights, and stood  on the site of the former Cotton Club on Lenox Avenue.  Over lunch at a restaurant in Lenox Avenue, some African-American guys asked me why I was  interested in Harlem.  After explaining about black jazz and the  Cotton Club, they asked me how many aborigines I had in the band!

My overall impression was that, whilst the quality of jazz was understandably superior in the  USA,  Melbourne has enough bands to qualify for the title of one of the jazz capitals of the world.

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Divides between sacred, secular, art and popular music

by Tim Harding

Research topic:  Divides between (a) sacred and secular and (b) art and popular music in the cultural contexts of the Middle Ages, the Nineteenth Century, and the Twentieth Century.

The divides between sacred and secular music have been relatively clear since the Middle Ages, with the possible exception of African-American gospel music in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.  On the other hand, the divides between art and popular music have not been as clear; and have become increasingly difficult to sharply define in terms of musical content and form in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.  Some examples of ‘crossovers’ between art music and popular music (in both directions) are given in this essay, together with an alternative method of distinguishing between art music and popular music (and also folk music), based on function rather than form.

Western music of the Later Middle Ages can be clearly divided into sacred and secular by its form and lyrics (if any).  Most notated music was intended for the Christian Church; indeed, the very first notated music was plainchant, to be sung as part of Christian worship.[1]

According to Fellerer and Brunner ‘in all Gregorian chants uniform melodic material is found, built upon basic formulas and variations, combined into a close unity of composition both in form and structure’.[2]  The Christian Mass was a daily service with a set form of two fixed categories of prayers set to music: the Proper (texts that vary according to the day) and the Ordinary (texts that remain the same for every Mass).[3]  Other sacred music can be clearly distinguished by its lyrics, if not its form.  For example, Hildegard of Bingen’s Ordo Vitutum is a separate morality play with music (that is, not associated with a Mass).  The final chorus In principio omnes ends with a call to kneel in prayer.[4],[5]

Medieval secular music can also be distinguished by its lyrics, if it is a vocal work.  Poetic love songs were mainly performed by wandering minstrels, known as troubadours in southern France, trouveres in northern France; and Minnesingers in Germany.[6]

According to Stephen Rose, by the fourteenth century, songs had become increasingly polyphonic and closely associated with poetry.[7]

“Initially, their genres were named after poetic forms – the ballade, rondeau, virelai – but by the middle of the fifteenth century, song types such as the chanson or frottola used a variety of poetic forms.”[8]

Instrumental music seemed to perform a different role in Medieval society.  There is plenty of evidence in illustrations, sculptures, letters, and poems that instrumental music was an important source of entertainment during banquets and festivals, in taverns and on the streets.[9]  In the sense of its wide audience appeal, rather than its form, medieval instrumental music could also be described as popular music, as will be discussed later in this essay.  Not much of this music was notated; however, one surviving music manuscript is known as Le manuscript du roi, which includes eight dance tunes called ‘estampies’.  For example, La quarte estampie royal is in a fast triple meter that sounds quite different to medieval sacred music.[10],[11]

The medieval division between sacred and secular music on the basis of their forms and lyrics can be carried through to the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.  According to Fellerer and Brunner, ‘many of the liturgical types developed in the course of history still survive, whereas most secular musical forms developed contemporaneously are no longer a part of musical life’.[12]

A possible exception to this generalization is African-American spirituals or ‘gospel music’, which first appeared during the early Nineteenth Century.[13]  Although initially part of sacred worship, Gospel singing later became a key influence on jazz and ‘soul music’, as well as a form of popular music in itself.[14]  For instance, the familiar ‘call and response’ pattern of gospel music can be heard in Fletcher Henderson’s recording of King Porter Stomp, as shown in the following notation.[15],[16]

king porter stomp

The divides between popular music and art music are less clear.  According to Trevor Herbert, ‘popular music’ can have a number of meanings.  It can simply mean music that has mass appeal; or it can also mean a type of music that is different from ‘art music’ or that which is colloquially known as ‘classical music’.[17]  Herbert identifies a definitional problem in that within classical music, there is a relatively narrow period (1750-1820CE) that is known as ‘the classical period’.  He says that many academic writers avoid such problems by using the term ‘Western art music’ instead of classical music.[18]

Nineteenth-Century popular music is thought to have originated in the 1880s, with the mass publication of sheet music of popular songs for voice and piano by music publishers located on ‘Tin Pan Alley’, a single block on 28th Street of Manhattan, between Broadway and 5th Avenue.[19]  Tin Pan Alley symbolizes not only a type of music published between 1885 and around 1950, but also a style of production and promotion of popular music.[20]  Many of the popular songs published in Tin Pan Alley have since become mainstream jazz standards.

Andrew Ford traces the course of both art music and popular music over the last hundred years or so, linking the changes in these musics to historical events and other societal factors.[21]  He focusses on the harmonic development of each music and the influence that each had on the other.  Nevertheless, he declines to draw a clear distinction between art music and popular music on the basis of musical structure and content, noting that that in the twentieth century, these characteristics were very fluid or constantly changing.[22]  For example, I would suggest that the art music of Stravinsky in the early Twentieth Century was initially far more harmonically complex than popular music.  Yet in the latter half of the twentieth century, modern large ensemble jazz became almost as complex harmonically; for example, the beginning of Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite.[23]

Gary Giddens’ book Visions of Jazz is a compendium of essays about 60 jazz musicians and singers ranging in genres from ragtime (W.C. Handy) to modern jazz (Joshua Redman).[24]  It traces of the transition of jazz from its origins as the traditional folk music of New Orleans, to popular swing music of worldwide appeal in the late 1930s, to the art music that modern jazz has become today.  So in that sense, over its 110 year history, jazz has belonged to all three broad musical categories – folk music, popular music and art music.

Giddens also alludes to some ‘crossovers’ between art music and jazz; for example, the author points to swing rhythms in the second half of the Arietta of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 32.[25]

“In a remarkable two minute episode, he switches to a twelve-beat rhythm, implying an unmistakable backbeat in alternating thirty-second and sixty-fourth notes, an augury made all the explicit by a melodic and harmonic content that suggests (for example, the major to diminished harmonic change at III 14) the first phrase of ‘Muskrat Ramble’”.[26]

Another ‘crossover’ example is Maurice Ravel’s ‘Five O’Clock Foxtrot’ from his one act opera L’enfant et les sortileges.[27]  This piece sounds like an impression of 1920s popular dance music; and is somewhat reminiscent of the ‘symphonic jazz’ or pseudo-jazz of Paul Whiteman and George Gershwin that Ravel is said to have admired.[28]  The ‘symphonic jazz’ genre is typified by George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which is now generally accepted as an art music composition; and is performed by symphony orchestras around the world, despite the earlier disdain of music critics such as Constant Lambert.[29],[30]  Yet on the other hand, Gershwin himself described jazz as ‘American folk music’.[31]

Later on in the 1950s, short-lived attempts were made at a more permanent fusion between jazz and art music, such as Gunther Schuller’s ‘Third Stream’ genre.[32]

Using these crossover examples, I have attempted to illustrate that there is no sharp dividing line between popular music and art music on the basis of form and musical content.  Another method of distinguishing between these categories of music is required.

Defining popular music as music that is neither art music nor folk music is circular and unhelpful.  Defining it as music that appeals to particular sections of society, such as younger generations, is also problematic.[33]

Tagg compares ‘popular’, ‘art’ and ‘folk’ music against a set of criteria related to the production, distribution and storage of the music; and the type of society in which the music occurs – rather than analysing its musical structure and content.  Using this method, he is able to distinguish each of the three types of music from the other two, shown by his following Figure 1.[34]

Fig. 1 Folk, art and popular music: an axiomatic triangle

CHARACTERISTIC

Folk

Music

Art

Music

Popular

Music

Produced and transmitted by

primarily professionals

 

x

x

primarily amateurs

x

 

 

Mass distribution

usual

 

 

x

unusual

x

x

 

Main mode of storage and distribution

oral transmission

x

 

 

musical notation

 

x

 

recorded sound

 

 

x

Type of society in which the category of music mostly occurs

nomadic or agrarian

x

 

 

agrarian or industrial

 

x

 

industrial

 

 

x

Written theory and aesthetics

uncommon

x

 

x

common

x

x

 

 

Composer / Author

anonymous

x

 

 

non-anonymous

 

x

x

Tagg’s argument is that_

“popular music cannot be analysed using only the traditional tools of musicology because popular music, unlike art music, is (1) conceived for mass distribution to large and often socio-culturally heterogeneous groups of listeners, (2) stored and distributed in non-written form, (3) only possible in an industrial monetary economy where it becomes a commodity and (4) in capitalist society, subject to the laws of free enterprise, according to which it should ideally sell as much as possible of as little as possible to as many as possible”.[35]

This paper was written in 1982 – before the present ‘Information Age’ and the global dissemination of popular music via the Internet, much of which is pirated; so his references to ‘industrial society’ and ‘industrial monetary economy’ are now outdated, in my view.  Indeed, Elizabeth Leach has recently suggested updated criteria for popular music, which include dissemination principally via the mass media; and production and uses of the music within other forms of popular culture.[36]

In conclusion, I think that some divides between the various broad categories of music can be identified.  Firstly, medieval sacred music can be distinguished from secular music on the basis of its forms and lyrics, a method of distinction that has carried through to the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, with the possible exception of African-American gospel music.  Secondly, popular music can be distinguished from art music, not so much by its forms and musical content; but by a set of criteria related to the production, distribution, use and storage of the music.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Scores

Anonymous. ‘La quarte estampie royal’, from Le manuscript du roi, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 55-56.

Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum: Closing chorus, In princio omnes. in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 36-37.

Morton, Ferdinand, ‘King Porter Stomp’, as recorded by Fletcher Henderson (1928), beginning of final strain transcribed by Fred Sturm, In Jeffry Magee, Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, 133.

Recordings

Anonymous. La quarte estampie royal, from Le manuscript du roi, Sinfonye. CD Hyperion records ℗1998.

Beethoven, Ludwig von. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111: II. Arietta: Adagio Molto Semplice e Cantabile, Glenn Gould, piano. mp3 file from CD album: Beethoven: Piano Sonatas Nos. 30-32, downloaded from iTunes, 9 April 2013.

Ellington, Edward. ‘Tourist Point of View’, from Far East Suite. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. CD BMG Music ℗1995 (Remastered).  

Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum, conclusion, In princio omnes. Sequentia, CD Deutsche Harmonia Mundi ℗1982.

Ravel, Maurice. Five O’Clock Foxtrot, Geoffrey Simon & Han De Vries with the Philharmonia Orchestra. CD Cala Records ©℗1991.

Gershwin, George. Rhapsody in Blue. Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra with George Gershwin, piano. Recorded New York, 10 June, 1924. mp3 file from CD album: 16 Classic Performances, downloaded from iTunes, 20 April 2009.

Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra. Recorded New York, 14 March 1928. CD A Study in Frustration/Thesaurus of Classic Jazz Disc 2. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. ©1994.

Journal articles

Tagg, Philip. ‘Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practice’, Popular Music 2 (1982): 37-65.

Books

Burnett, James. Ravel – his life and times. New York: Midas Books, 1983.

Fellerer, Karl Gustav and Brunner, Francis A. The History of Catholic Church Music. Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961.

Ford, Andrew. Illegal Harmonies – Music in the 20th Century. Sydney: ABC Books, 2002.

Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Hardie, Daniel. The Loudest Trumpet – Buddy Bolden and the Early History of Jazz. San Jose: toExcel, 2001.

Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lambert, Constant. Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1948.

Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 176-87.

Morgan, Robert P. Twentieth-Century Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991.

Morgan, Thomas L. and Barlow, William. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls. Washington: Elliott & Clark, 1992.

Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 119-133.

Scheurer, Timothy E. (ed.) American Popular Music Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century Tin Pan Alley. Bowling Green : Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989.

***


[1] Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, 123.

[2] Fellerer, Karl Gustav and Brunner, Francis A. The History of Catholic Church Music. Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1961, 26.

[3] Rose, Stephen, ‘Early Music’, In An Introduction to Music Studies ,123.

[4] Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum: Closing chorus, In princio omnes, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 36-37.

[5] Hildegard of Bingen. Ordo virtutum, conclusion, In princio omnes. Sequentia, CD Deutsche Harmonia Mundi ℗1982.

[6] Rose, Stephen. ‘Early Music’, In An Introduction to Music Studies, 127.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Anonymous. ‘La quarte estampie royal’, from Le manuscript du roi, in Burkholder, J. Peter and Claude V. Palisca, Norton Anthology of Western Music Vol. 1: Ancient to Baroque, 6th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010, 55-56.

[11] Anonymous. La quarte estampie royal, from Le manuscript du roi, Sinfonye. CD Hyperion records ℗1998.

[12] Fellerer and Brunner, The History of Catholic Church Music, 5.

[13] Morgan, Thomas L. and Barlow, William. From Cakewalks to Concert Halls. Washington: Elliott & Clark, 1992.

[14] Hardie, Daniel. The Loudest Trumpet – Buddy Bolden and the Early History of Jazz. San Jose: toExcel, 2001, 86-87.

[15] Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp. Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra. Recorded New York, 14 March 1928. CD A Study in Frustration/Thesaurus of Classic Jazz Disc 2. Sony Music Entertainment, Inc. ©1994.

[16] Morton, Ferdinand, King Porter Stomp, as recorded by Fletcher Henderson (1928), beginning of final strain transcribed by Fred Sturm, In Jeffry Magee, Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005, 133.

[17] Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 153.

[18] Herbert, Trevor. Music in words : a guide to researching and writing about music, 137.

[19] Scheurer, Timothy E. (ed.) American Popular Music Volume 1: The Nineteenth Century – Tin Pan Alley. Bowling Green : Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1989, 87.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ford, Andrew. Illegal Harmonies – Music in the 20th Century. Sydney: ABC Books, 2002.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ellington, Edward. ‘Tourist Point of View’, from Far East Suite. Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. CD BMG Music ℗1995 (Remastered).

[24] Giddins, Gary. Visions of Jazz: The First Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

[25] Beethoven, Ludwig von. Piano Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op. 111: II. Arietta: Adagio Molto Semplice e Cantabile, Glenn Gould, piano.

[26] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 9.

[27] Ravel, Maurice. Five O’Clock Foxtrot, Geoffrey Simon, Stephanie Chase, Han De Vries & Philharmonia Orchestra.

[28] Burnett, James. Ravel – his life and times. New York: Midas Books, 1983, 101.

[29] Gershwin, George. Rhapsody in Blue. Paul Whiteman and His Concert Orchestra with George Gershwin, piano. Recorded New York, 10 June, 1924.

[30] Lambert, Constant. Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline. Harmondsworth: Pelican Books, 1948, 162-163.

[31] Giddins, Visions of Jazz, 587.

[32] Morgan, Robert P. Twentieth-Century Music. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991, 416.

[33] Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies eds. JPE Harper-Scott and Jim Samson, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 176-87.

[34] Tagg, Philip. ‘Analysing Popular Music: Theory, Method and Practice’, Popular Music 2 (1982): 4.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Leach, Elizabeth Eva. ‘Popular Music’. In An Introduction to Music Studies, 189-190.

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Filed under Essays and talks

Theories of Generation

by Tim Harding

Does Darwin successfully combine the two explanatory paradigms of inheritance, and growth and development?  If he does, is this a problem for Kuhn’s view of scientific change?

In this essay, I intend to show how Darwin’s hypothesis of pangenesis created a synthesis between the then competing paradigms relating to inheritance and development.  I think that this synthesis does present a problem for Kuhn’s view of scientific change, and that Popper’s account may actually be more relevant than Kuhn’s to certain aspects of this particular case study.

Before discussing Darwin’s theories, it is necessary to briefly describe the two paradigms that attempted to explain inheritance (how characteristics are transferred to offspring from parents), and growth and development (how the growth of offspring is organised).  These two paradigms were characterised by competing Hippocratic theories and preformationist theories (Verdnik, 1998:126, 157).

Before the advent of genetics, Hippocratic theories attempted to explain inheritance in terms of a blending of fluids extracted from all parts of both male and female bodies during intercourse.  It was thought that the characteristics of the offspring are determined by the relative amounts and strength of fluids from each part of the body of each parent (Verdnik, 1998:126).

On the other hand, preformationist theories held that the new mammalian offspring is already preformed in miniature, either within the egg of its mother (ovist preformationism) or in the semen of its father (animalculist preformationism).  Both of these types of theories incorporated emboîtment (encasement), which was the thesis that God created all future organisms in miniature, and that reproduction was just the growth and development of these miniatures (Verdnik, 1998:128).

Hippocratic theories were very good at explaining inheritance but very bad at explaining growth and development; whilst preformationist theories were the opposite – very good at explaining growth and development but very bad at explaining inheritance (Verdnik, 1998:126).  To give some examples, Hippocratic theories were unable to adequately explain phenomena such as the regeneration of freshwater polyps as observed by Trembley (Trembley 1744: 148); while preformationist theories were unable to adequately explain how the mating of a mare with a donkey produces a mule (Maupertuis 1745: 172).

Darwin came to his hypothesis of pangenesis, from a different direction – to fill a gap left in his theory of evolution, as published in his 1859 book The Origin of Species (Darwin, 1859).  Natural selection provided a mechanism for variation and eventual speciation, but it did not explain the inheritance of variation.  Without some way to explain the inheritance of characteristics acted on by natural selection, his theory would be incomplete.  Darwin’s breeding experiments on domestic animals (mainly pigeons) in the 1850s and 60s[1] were part of his attempts to complete his evolution theory (Bartley, 1992: 308).  He was attempting in these experiments to show just how quickly varying characteristics can be amplified by domestic breeding, and therefore how natural selection can operate (Verdnik, 1998:156).

evolution_peas

The Laws Of Inheritance & Pangenesis

Darwin called his explanation of inheritance ‘the hypothesis of Pangenesis’, which he published in Part II of Chapter XXVII of Variation Under Domestication (Darwin, 1875: 374-404).  However, he provides a more succinct description of this hypothesis in an earlier unpublished manuscript on pangenesis sent to Huxley in 1865:

‘Furthermore, I am led to believe from analogies immediately to be given that protoplasm or formative matter which is throughout the whole organisation, is generated by each different tissue and cell or aggregate of similar cells; – that as each tissue or cell becomes developed, a superabundant atom or gemmule as may be called of the formative matter is thrown off; – that these almost infinitely numerous and infinitely minute gemmules unite together in due proportion to form the true germ; – that they have the power of self-increase or propagation; and that they here run through the same course of development, as that which the true germ, of which they are to constitute elements, has to run through, before they can be developed into their parent tissues or cells. This may be called the hypothesis of Pangenesis’ (Olby 1963: 259).

Darwin further proposed that his hypothesis would not only account for inheritance, but also for development:

‘The development of each being, including all the forms of metamorphosis and metagenesis, as well as the so-called growth of the higher animals, in which structure changes, though not in a striking manner, depends on the presence of gemmules thrown off at each period of life, and on their development, at a corresponding period, in union with the preceding cells ‘ (Darwin, 1875: 403-404).

Through these mechanisms, Darwin proposed that inheritance and development were tied together – not only in the generation of offspring and early stages of embryonic life, but throughout the life of the organism (Bartley, 1992: 310).  By giving ‘gemmules’ the power to be modified throughout the life of an organism and then be transferred to the next generation, he argued that inheritance should be viewed as a form of growth (Bartley, 1992: 331).

By means of this single hypothesis, Darwin not only filled a gap in his theory of evolution, but whether he meant to or not, he created a synthesis between the then competing paradigms relating to inheritance and development.

The preceding discussion raises some significant philosophical issues.  How does it compare with Kuhn’s view of scientific change; and in particular, is Darwin’s paradigm synthesis a problem for the Kuhnian account?

According to Kuhn, ‘normal science’ operates within scientific paradigms[2] that not only determine which scientific theories are acceptable, but define scientific communities and even the areas of research undertaken (Kuhn, 1962: 10-11).

Kuhn says that in so far as he is engaged in normal science, the researcher is a solver of puzzles, not a tester of paradigms.

Paradigm-testing occurs only after persistent failure to solve a noteworthy puzzle has given rise to crisis.  And even then it occurs only after the sense of crisis has evoked an alternative candidate for a paradigm.  In the sciences, the testing situation never consists, as puzzle-solving does, simply in the comparison of a single paradigm with nature.  Instead, testing occurs as part of the competition between two rival paradigms for the allegiance of the scientific community (Kuhn, 1962: 144-145).

Kuhn notes that the schools guided by different paradigms are ‘always slightly at cross-purposes’ and that they ‘fail to make complete contact with each other’s viewpoints’, a phenomenon which describes as ‘incommensurability’ (Kuhn, 1962: 112, 148-150).  The failure of the adherents of Hippocratic and preformationist theories to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of both paradigms, and to engage in the testing of both paradigms, tends to support Kuhn’s notion of incommensurability.  No crisis occurred within each paradigm, because their adherents failed to focus on how well each paradigm explained both inheritance and development.

The formulation of Darwin’s hypothesis does not accord with the Kuhnian account.  He did not conduct his breeding experiments on domestic animals to test either the Hippocratic or the preformationist paradigms, but to fill a gap in his quite separate theory of evolution.  Similarly, his synthesis between the then competing paradigms relating to inheritance and development, was not done to resolve any crisis in these paradigms, but for a separate purpose.  A further problem for the Kuhnian account is that the scientific method Darwin used to formulate his hypothesis was essentially inductive, although this may also be a problem for the Popperian account.

Another aspect of the Kuhnian account is that the failure of experimental results to conform to the prevailing paradigm is seen as an ‘anomaly’, rather than as an instance of Popperian falsification.[3]  If scientists are confronted by anomalies, they will often devise ad hoc modifications in order to eliminate any apparent conflict.  Anomalies do not cause the abandonment of paradigm or theory unless and until the level of anomalies builds to a crisis where the prevailing paradigm or theory is replaced by a new one (Kuhn, 1962: 77-78).

After reading Variation Under Domestication, Francis Galton (a cousin of Darwin’s) arranged for a series of experiments to be conducted on rabbits initially housed in the Zoological Gardens of London and later at his Kensington home.  His intention was to demonstrate the transmission of ‘gemmules’ to succeeding generations via blood injected from one rabbit to another, using coat colour as a marker.  Galton ultimately found that not a single instance of induced variation of coat colour occurred in a total of 88 offspring from blood transfused parents, and in 1871 published his results in Nature (Brown, 2002: 290-291).  Although intended to verify Darwin’s hypothesis, it seems that Galton’s experiments provided a Popperian falsification instance.  Whether the purpose was verification or falsification, Galton’s experiments do not accord with Kuhn’s account of paradigm-testing discussed above.

In later editions of Variation Under Domestication, Darwin admitted in a footnote that he would have expected to find ‘gemmules’ in the blood, although their presence was not absolutely necessary to his hypothesis (Brown, 2002: 292).  I find Darwin’s response unconvincing, as he provides no alternative explanation as to how the ‘gemmules’ are transmitted from the parents’ somatic cells to the germ cells.  He made no real attempt to modify his hypothesis in response to Galton’s falsification of it.

I therefore conclude that whilst the Hippocratic and preformationist paradigms accord with Kuhn’s notion of incommensurability, Darwin’s synthesis of these two paradigms does not accord with the Kuhnian account of science.  Furthermore, Darwin’s failure to make an ad hoc modification to his hypothesis after the discovery by Galton of an anomaly, as would be expected under the Kuhnian account, supports a Popperian rather than a Kuhnian account of the scientific process in this case.

References:

Bartley, M.M. (1992) Darwin and Domestication: Studies on Inheritance. Journal of the History of Biology, Vol 25, No. 2 pp.307-333.

Browne, J. (2002) Charles Darwin – The Power of Place, Volume II of a Biography. London: Pimlico.

Darwin, C. (1859) The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection, Or The Preservation Of Favoured Races In The Struggle For Life. 6th ed. 1873. London: John Murray.

Darwin, C. (1875) The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication, Vol II London: John Murray.

Kuhn, T.S. (1962) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Maupertuis, P. (1745) The Earthly Venus in Verdnik, D. (ed.) (1998) Thinking about Science. Study Guide and Readings. Churchill: Monash Distance Education Centre.

Olby, R.C. (1963) Charles Darwin’s Manuscript of Pangenesis, British Journal for Philosophy of Science 1: 251-263.

Popper, K. (1959) The Logic of Scientific Discovery. rev. ed. 1968, in Verdnik, D. (ed.) (1998) Thinking about Science. Study Guide and Readings. Churchill: Monash Distance Education Centre.

Trembley, A. (1744) Memoires pour server a l’histoire d’un genre de polypes d’eau douce in Verdnik, D. (ed.) (1998) Thinking about Science. Study Guide and Readings. Churchill: Monash Distance Education Centre.

Verdnik, D. (ed.) (1998) Thinking about Science. Study Guide and Readings. Churchill: Monash Distance Education Centre.

 Endnotes:

[1] Darwin reported the results of these experiments in both The Origin Of Species and The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication.

[2] Kuhn does not provide a concise definition of a scientific paradigm, but the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines it as ‘a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly: a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind.’

[3] Popper proposes falsifiability as the criterion of demarcation between scientific and non-scientific statements.  In other words, a theory is scientific if it is falsifiable (Verdnik, 1998:76).

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Egyptian Kingship in the Middle Kingdom

by Tim Harding

Divine kingship was the most striking feature of both the Middle and the Old Kingdoms (Trigger et al 1983, 71).  The king was thought to have a dual nature, both human and divine and was “a human in the role of a god” (Schneider 1984, 165).

The Egyptians also believed that the world was torn between potential chaos and order.  They thought that disorder is contained by the rule of kings.  In this way, their view of the nature of the world aligned with the structure of political power (Scarre 2008, 118).  In particular, the Middle Kingdom emphasised the indispensability of kingship for the well-being of the state and society (Schneider 1984, 170).

The Middle Kingdom lasted from 2040 to 1650 BCE and has been described as the classic period of Egyptian civilisation, marking a high point in the development of poetry and literature (Scarre 2008, 131-132, 145).  This literature provides information about both the religious and political dimensions of Egyptian kingship; and the relationship between these dimensions.

The king had obligations not only to humans but to the gods as well, including appeasing the gods with divine offerings and acting as a mediator between the gods (Schneider 1984, 169).  Indeed, there was a belief that religious piety and successful rule go together (Trigger et al 1983, 75).  For example, in the ‘Building Inscription of Sesostris I’ the King says:

He (Harakhty)[1] begat me to do what should be done for him,
to accomplish what he commands to do.
He appointed me shepherd of this land,
knowing him who would herd it for him…
He destined me to rule the people,
made me to be before mankind…
I excel by acting for my maker,
pleasing the god with what he gave (Lichtheim 1975, 116-117).

This text also illustrates the importance of the king’s role building enduring monuments, including temples and palaces as well as his own burial site (Schneider 1984, 170; Montet 1964, 46).

‘The Prophecies of Neferti’ (Lichtheim 1975, 139-145) describe the necessity of having a strong king to ensure Maat.[2]  This is done through a literary device[3] in which a picture of anarchy and chaos is depicted, together with calamities of nature including crop failures (Trigger et al 1983, 75).  Then along comes a king (probably Amenemhat I) who reunites the country, drive out foreigners, defend the borders and restores order (Lichtheim 1975, 143-144).

The importance of the king to the protection and unity of the Egyptian nation is also shown in the text entitled ‘A Cycle Of Hymns to King Sesostris III’:

Hail to you, Khakaure, our Horus, Divine of Form!
Land’s protector who widens its borders,
Who smites foreign countries with his crown.
Who holds the Two Lands in his arms’ embrace,
[Who subdues foreign] lands by a motion of his hands (Lichtheim 1975, 198).

The King claims to be the conqueror and owner of the land of all Egypt:

[Mine is the land], its length and breadth,
I was nursed to be a conqueror.
Mine is the land, I am its lord,
my power reaches heaven’s height (Lichtheim 1975, 117).

In other words, the king was the sole owner of the land and all that it produces.  These royal privileges not only gave him an economic monopoly within Egypt, but also the right to do as he pleases with the spoils of military campaigns including the mineral resources of foreign dominions such as the Sinai and Nubia (Schneider 1984, 168).

Notwithstanding the absolute power of the king, one king named Merikare was advised by his father to display justice and mercy in the exercise of his power:

Do not be evil, for patience is good; …Do justice, that you may live long upon the earth. Calm the weeper, do not oppress the widow, do not oust a man from his father’s property, do not degrade magnates from their seats. Beware of punishing wrongly;…(Simpson 1973).[4]

‘The Story of Sinuhe’ (Lichtheim 1975, 223-235) also tells how the kings of Egypt could combine simplicity with grandeur, and sternness with clemency (Montet 1964, 61).  While he was serving with prince Senwosret I in Libya, Sinuhe deserted and fled to Canaan because he overheard a secret about the death of the Egyptian king Amenemhet I.  He remained in exile until he was an old man, when he received an invitation from King Senwosret I to return to Egypt where he was graciously pardoned and provided with the honour of a house and burial tomb.

Merikare was advised to cultivate a powerful elite or entourage to assist in him in the application of his laws (Montet 1964, 35).  The development of a closely regimented and centralised society was later needed for the expansion of agricultural production into new areas such as the Fayyum Oasis near Memphis.  Papyri found during Petrie’s excavations of this area reveal the existence of a mayor, legal offices and a prison (Scarre 2008, 131-132).

However, not all of our knowledge about Egyptian kingship is derived from literary texts.  For example, the frequently depicted images of the king ‘smiting the foes’ and hunting wild animals are key components of the royal propaganda portraying the king as the defender and extender of the nation’s borders against the chaotic external world (Schneider 1984, 168).  These images complement texts such as where King Amenemhet I boasts of subduing lions and capturing crocodiles, together with defeating and humiliating foreigners (Lichtheim 1975, 137).  Other sources of information about the kingship in the Middle Kingdom include the various monuments the kings constructed (Schneider 1984, 170); and objects bearing their inscriptions in foreign places of trading importance such as the Sinai, the Levant, Syria and the Aegean (Scarre 2008, 131).

In conclusion, the literature of the Middle Kingdom provides fragmented glimpses of the behaviours of certain kings – it does not provide a complete overview of kingship as might be expected in a historical narrative like that of Plutarch or Quintus-Curtuis (Montet 1964, 62; Trigger et al 1983, 73).  Furthermore, these glimpses are presented in the form of concisely worded and sometimes cryptic assertions requiring interpretation, rather than as cogently argued treatises (Trigger et al 1983, 71).  Nevertheless, the literature provides us with some important pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ of archaeological evidence; and when read in the context of the other sources of evidence, a coherent picture of Egyptian kingship is emerging.

References:

Ancient Sources

‘A Cycle Of Hymns to King Sesostris’ in Lichtheim, M., 1975 Ancient Egyptian Literature; a book of readings, Vol 1: the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Berkeley.

‘Building Inscription of Sesostris I’ in Lichtheim, M., 1975 Ancient Egyptian Literature; a book of readings, Vol 1: the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Berkeley.

‘Instruction Addressed to King Merikare’ in Simpson, W.K (ed.), 1973, The Literature of Ancient Egypt, New Haven and London, pp. 180-192.

‘Instruction of King Amenemhet I for his Son Sesostris I’ in Lichtheim, M., 1975 Ancient Egyptian Literature; a book of readings, Vol 1: the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Berkeley.

‘The Story of Sinuhe’ in Lichtheim, M., 1975 Ancient Egyptian Literature; a book of readings, Vol 1: the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Berkeley.

Modern Sources

Anon. (2010)  AAH1010 Ancient Civilisations 1: The Bronze Age. Unit Guide, Semester 1, 2010. Monash University School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Clayton.

Montet, P. (1964 )  Eternal Egypt Phoenix Press, London.

Scarre, C and Fagan, B.M. (2008)  Ancient Civilisations, (third edition). Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River

Schneider, T. (1984)  Sacred Kingship in Anon. (2010) AAH1010 Ancient Civilisations 1: The Bronze Age. Unit Guide, Semester 1, 2010. Monash University School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Clayton, 165-171.

Trigger, B.G., Kemp, B.J, O’Connor, D and Lloyd, A.B. (1983 ) Ancient Egypt- A Social History Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.


[1] As Harakhty (Horakhty), or ‘Horus of the two horizons’, Horus was the god of the rising and setting sun.

[2] Maat was the fundamental concept of the Egyptian world view, signifying the correct structure of life and the world (Schneider 1984, 166).

[3] The ‘prophesies’ were actually written during the king’s reign to glorify the king (Lichtheim 1975, 139).

[4] Translated from the Leningrad Papyrus, written by a scribe called Khamwese during the Middle Kingdom (Simpson 1973)

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Ancient Athens, the Delian League and Corruption

by Tim Harding

After the final defeat of the Persians in the mid-fifth century BCE, the Delian League was gradually transformed into an Athenian empire.  The transformation was accompanied by an accumulation of power over other city states by Athens; associated with certain claims of political corruption.  This essay describes the transformation process, how Athenians justified it, and how they responded to the claims of corruption.  It also examines the claims in terms of the different ancient and modern perspectives of corruption.

Formation of the Delian League

A coalition of Greek city states defeated the Persians at Salamis in 480BCE and at Plataea in 479 BCE, led by Athens and Sparta respectively (Martin 2000, 104).  Following these victories, there was a brief attempt to continue a broad coalition, including both Athens and Sparta, as a naval operation to drive out Persian outposts in far northern Greece and Ionia.  However, there was strong criticism of the arrogant behaviour of the Spartan commander, Pausanias, and in 477 BCE he was replaced by an Athenian commander, Aristides (Martin 2000, 106; Roberts 2005, 207; Hornblower 2002, 10).  According to Thucydides, the Spartans wanted to be rid of the war against the Persians, and they were satisfied of the competency and friendship of the Athenians (Thucydides 1.96).

Thucydides then describes how Athens formed a new anti-Persian alliance (known as the ‘Delian League’ in modern descriptions):

“The Athenians having thus succeeded to the supremacy by the voluntary act of the allies through their hatred of Pausanias, determined which cities were to contribute money against the barbarian, and which ships;…Now was the time that the office of ‘Treasurers for Hellas’ was first instituted by the Athenians. These officers received the tribute, as the money contributed was called. The tribute was first fixed at four hundred and sixty talents. The common treasury was at Delos, and the congresses were held in the temple.”

The Aegean island of Delos was chosen because it was an ancient religious meeting place, it was centrally located, easy to defend and too small to pose a threat in itself (Bowra 1971, 26).  The member states of the Delian League were predominately those most exposed to Persian attack, located in northern Greece, Ionia and the islands of the Aegean Sea (Martin 2000, 106; Hammond 1967, 256; Bury 1963, 328; Waterfield 2004, 89).  They swore a solemn oath never to desert the alliance (Martin 2000, 106); and to have the same friends and enemies (Aristotle 23, 4-5).  However, League policy was executed by an Athenian high command that also controlled the Treasury, thus concentrating power in Athenian hands from the outset (Pomeroy et al 1999, 205).

View of Delos today

View of Delos today

Transformation to Athenian Empire

There was a gradual process of transformation from a voluntary mutual defence pact into an Athenian empire.  Although each member state in theory had only one vote, in practice Athens exerted the major influence in the League (Roberts 2005, 207-208; Hammond 1967, 257).  An Athenian general commanded every military expedition (Roberts 1998, 88).  Over time, more and more member states contributed money rather than warships.  Athens had superior shipyards and skilled workers to build triremes in large numbers, as well as a large population of thetes willing to serve as rowers.  However, this also meant that rebellious member states such as Thasos, Naxos and Mytilene were unable to defend themselves against naval attack by Athens (Martin 2000, 107).  There is no evidence that Athens consulted other members of the League in suppressing rebellions (Waterfield 2004; 90).

The Battle of Eurymedon in either 469 or 466 BCE was an important final victory for the Delian League over the Persians; and which left Athens free to build its empire (Bury 1963, 338; Bury and Meiggs 1975, 210; Finley 1981, 43).  To keep Athens’ other enemies out of the field during the dangerous process of establishing the empire, cleruchies (external Athenian colonies) were established (Hammond 1967, 306; Lendering undated).

In 454 BCE the League’s treasury was relocated from Delos to Athens.  Ostensibly, this was for security from Persians and pirates; but Delos was probably at no more at risk than previously. This event marks a turning point at which many historians stop referring to the Delian League (Pomeroy et al 1999, 214).  Athenians themselves began using the phrase ‘the cities which the Athenians rule’ in their inscriptions (Hornblower 2002, 17).  After the Kallias Peace Treaty with Persia in 450 BCE, the removal of the original justification for the League completed this transformation process (Roberts 2005, 208).  Yet the allied tributes continued to be ruthlessly extorted by Athenian warships (Wartenberg 1995, 19; de Bois and van der Spek 2008, 93).  Athens was also motivated by the necessity of securing a reliable source of grain from the Black Sea area (Waterfield 2004, 92).  The Athenian Empire at this stage included most of the islands of the Aegean (except for Crete, Melos and Thera), plus of the cities on or near the coast of mainland Greece (Bury and Meiggs 1975, 211).  The League’s territory had become Athenian territory.  Athenian colonies had become military bases (de Blois and van der Spek 2008, 93).

733px-Athenian_empire_atheight_450_shepherd1923

Between 450 and 447, Athens made the use of Athenian silver coins and weights mandatory (Meiggs and Lewis 1969, 45; Bury 1963, 366) which further infringed the autonomy of the allies (Hammond 1967, 306).  The single currency made commercial transaction easier, especially for Athens, and reinforced perceptions of Athenian dominance over a uniform culture (Wartenberg 1995, 27; Waterfield 2004, 93).  Athenians may also have hoped make money from fees charged for reminting non-Athenian coins (Wartenberg 1995, 27).  Athens also controlled shipments of corn, ostensibly to prevent it from being supplied to the Peloponnese (Finley 1981, 57; Hornblower 2002, 16).  Trials involving an Athenian had to be held in Athens (Lendering undated); and foreign defendants in law cases were obliged to come to Athens (Hornblower 2002, 16).  These assertions of Athenian power over her allies, coupled with her interference in their affairs, constitute clear evidence of her imperialism (French 1971, 99); although imperialism does not in itself constitute corruption, as will be discussed later.   

In the winter of 446-445, the Athenian leader Perikles engineered the ‘Thirty Years Peace’ treaty with Sparta, which although it lasted only until 432, did bring peace between Athens and Sparta, and preserved Athenian dominance of its empire (Martin 2000, 115).  Meetings of the Delian League ceased around 435, by which time they had become nonsensical (Waterfield 2004, 92).

Athenian justification for empire

The whole idea of domination and empire ran counter to the ingrained Greek ideals of autonomy and self-sufficiency; and also to the Olympic ideal of the equality of city states (Waterfield 2004, 90).  Athenian domination aroused great resentment in other Greek city states, including Sparta (Lendering undated).

On the other hand, the Athenian Empire did bring benefits to some of the poorer states.  There was security from further Persian attack; and piracy was suppressed to the great advantage of trade (Hornblower 2002, 17). The Ionians recognised Athens as their metropolis or colonial mother-city (Hornblower 2002, 13).  The Athenian navy provided well-paid employment opportunities to the islander population (Roberts 2005, 208).  The cessation of war against Persia would otherwise have confronted Athens with a considerable problem of unemployment (Burn 1948, 98).

Expenditure was incurred by Athens as head of the empire in building and maintaining ships and fortifications, paying military wages and supporting war-orphans.  During peacetime, there was a large excess of imperial income over expenditure, but in wartime the balance was reversed (Hammond 1967, 326).  There were also efficiency gains from economies of scale: the maintenance of a permanent navy would have been too costly for Athens alone (Roberts 1998, 95); and Athens demanded less money that the city states would have spent on their own defence (Lendering undated).

The presence in Athens of large numbers of slaves was a constant reminder that only Athenian naval and military power stood between its citizens and a similar fate.  The chasm between slave-owners and slaves was so wide as to explain the attitudes of Athenians towards their subject allies (Roberts 1998, 39).  Athenians maximised their own freedom by restricting the freedom of other Greeks (Roberts 1998, 85).

In his Last Speech (Thucydides 2.63.1), Perikles warned Athenians against giving up its empire:

“Again, your country has a right to your services in sustaining the glories of her position. These are a common source of pride to you all, and you cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honours. You should remember that what you are fighting against is not mere slavery as an exchange for independence, but also the loss of empire and danger from the animosities incurred in its exercise.”

In Greek thought, power was one of the prime sources of glory (Roberts 1998, 85).  According to Thucydides, (Thucydides 2.64.3) Perikles said:

“…even if now, in obedience to the general law of decay, we should ever be forced to yield, still it will be remembered that we held rule over more Hellenes than any other Hellenic state, that we sustained the greatest wars against their united or separate powers, and inhabited a city unrivalled by any other in resources or magnitude.”

Corruption

Lord Acton’s famous quotation ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ (Dalberg-Acton 1907) is obviously referring to political corruption.  Most modern definitions of political corruption tend to emphasise the subversion of the public good by private interest (Bratsis 2003, 8-9).  Imperialism in itself is generally seen as an act of state rather than as political corruption.  We also need to consider the temporal context: that which may be considered corruption today may not have been regarded as corruption in ancient times.

The initial financial arrangements of the Delian League were equitably worked out by Aristedes and incorporated in a formal agreement to avoid disputes later (French 1971, 79).  There was also a general move towards financial accountability in Athenian affairs by better record keeping (Thomas 1994, 48-49).

During wartime, allied tributes were primarily spent on shipbuilding and other military purposes (Hammond 1967, 326).  However, during the peacetime surpluses of League revenue over expenditure, Athens tended to use allied tributes for its own purposes.  Perikles built popular support for this by practical measures such the rebuilding of the Akropolis, the improvement of state festivals, the payment of trireme crews for eight months of the year, the establishment of cleruchies and colonies (Hammond 1967, 312) and the payment of jurors (Aristotle, 27).

From a reading of the literature related to the fifth century Athenian empire, there appear to be two main claims of possible corruption:

  1. the use of League tributes funds for solely Athenian purposes, for example the rebuilding of the Akropolis; and
  2. the acquisition of confiscated land and property by private Athenian citizens.

Neither of these activities would be possible without the power accumulated by Athens in converting the Delian League into its own empire.  So there is an implied connection here between power and corruption.  I will now examine these two claims of corruption in more detail.

Firstly, the conservative aristocratic politician Thucydides, son of Melesias (not Thucydides the historian) censured the transfer of the allied treasury to Athens and the use of the money to extravagantly adorn the city of Athens (Hammond 1967, 312).  According to Plutarch, the people in the assemblies cried out:

“The people has lost its fair fame and is in ill repute because it has removed the public moneys of the Hellenes from Delos into its own keeping, and that seemliest of all excuses which it had to urge against its accusers, to wit, that out of fear of the Barbarians it took the public funds from that sacred isle and was now guarding them in a stronghold, of this Pericles has robbed it. And surely Hellas is insulted with a dire insult and manifestly subjected to tyranny when she sees that, with her own enforced contributions the war, we are gilding and bedizening our city, which, for all the world like a wanton woman, adds to her wardrobe precious stones and costly statues and temples worth their millions.”

Although the tribute money was used for public rather than private purposes, such trenchant criticism can be interpreted as implying a form of corruption, in the sense of misuse of the money for purposes other than originally intended.

According to Plutarch, Perikles responded to this criticism by proposing to reimburse the city for all the expenses from his private property, under the term that he would make the inscriptions of dedication in his own name (Plutarch 14).  Perikles also defended the use of the tribute money by Athens (Plutarch 12.3) as a ‘fee for service’:

“For his part, Pericles would instruct the people that it owed no account of their moneys to the allies provided it carried on the war for them and kept off the Barbarians; ‘not a horse do they furnish,’ said he, ‘not a ship, not a hoplite, but money simply; and this belongs, not to those who give it, but to those who take it, if only they furnish that for which they take it in pay. And it is but meet that the city, when once she is sufficiently equipped with all that is necessary for prosecuting the war, should apply her abundance to such works as, by their completion, will bring her everlasting glory…”

So according to the standards of the time, it was debateable whether Athenian use of allied tribute funds constituted corruption.  There were arguments for and against, as illustrated by those of Thucydides, son of Melesias, and Perikles.  But in modern times, if for example Belgium started using NATO contributions for public buildings in Brussels, that would almost certainly be viewed as corruption.

Secondly, land and property confiscated after the defeat of rebel states were often allocated to landless Athenian citizens as colonists in the defeated territory.  Finley estimates that around 10,000 Athenian citizens may have benefited from this practice (Finley 1981, 51).  Finley appears to regard these private allocations of property as a form of corruption (Finley 1981, 53).  Whilst this would probably be regarded as corruption in modern times, it is doubtful whether it would have been regarded as corruption in ancient times, given the common practice after a battle victory against a city of killing the men, consigning the women and children to slavery and confiscating land and property.  These would have been viewed as legitimate acts of the victor rather than as corruption.

In conclusion, although the use of allied funds and confiscated property for Athenian purposes may be viewed as corruption by modern day standards, it was not necessarily seen as corruption by the standards of the time.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Ancient Sources

Aristotle, Constitution of Athens, trans. F.G. Kenyon. R.W.J. Clayton (ed.) Athenian Politics, 1973 London Association of Classical Teachers: The Classical Association, London. Available-: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/athenian_const.html Accessed 24 May 2012

Plutarch, The Life of Pericles in The Parallel Lives by Plutarch published in Vol. III of the Loeb Classical Library edition,1916. Available-:

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Pericles*.html Accessed 24 May 2012

Thucydides, A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, R.B. Strassler (ed), The Landmark Thucydides, Free Press, New York, 1996.

Modern Sources

Bowra, C.M., 1971    Periclean Athens, The Dial Press, New York.

Bratsis, P., 2003    Corrupt Compared to What? Greece, Capitalist Interests, and the Specular Purity of the State Discussion Paper No. 8, The Hellenic Observatory/The European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science

Burn, A.R., 1948    Pericles and Athens The English Universities Press Ltd, London.

Bury, J.B., 1963    A History of Greece, Macmillan, London and New York.

Bury, J.B., and Meiggs, R., 1975    A History of Greece 4thedition, Macmillan, London and New York.

Dalberg-Acton, J.E.E. (Lord Acton)., 1907    Appendix, in J. N. Figgis and R. V. Laurence eds, Historical Essays and Studies, Macmillan, London. Available-: http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/2201/203934 accessed 23 May 2012.

de Blois, L. and van der Spek, R.J., 2008    An Introduction to the Ancient World (2nd edition) Routledge, London and New York.

French, A., 1971    The Athenian Half-Century 478-431 BC Thucydides i 89-118 Translation and Commentary, Sydney University Press, Sydney.

Finley, M.I., 1953    Economy and Society in Ancient Greece, Chatto & Windus, London.

Hammond, N.G.L., 1967    A History of Greece (2nd edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hornblower, S., 2002    Chapter 2, The beginnings of the Delian League , in The Greek World 479-323, 9-17.

Lendering, J., Undated          Delian League. Ancient Warfare Magazine. Available-:

http://www.livius.org/de-dh/delian_league/delian_league.html  Accessed 24 May 2012.

Martin, T. R., 2000    Ancient Greece – From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Meiggs, R. and Lewis, D. eds, 1969    A Selection of Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End of the Fifth Century BC: To the End of the Fifth Century B.C. Vol 1 Oxford University Press, New York.

Pomeroy, S.B., Donlan, W., Burstein, S.M., and Roberts, J.T., 1990    Ancient Greece – A Political, Social and Cultural History Oxford University Press, New York.

Roberts, J., (ed) 2005    Oxford Dictionary of the Classical World, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Roberts, J.W., 1998    City of Sokrates: An Introduction to Classical Athens (2nd edition), Routledge, London.

Thomas, R. 1994    Literacy and the city-state in archaic and classical Greece, in A.K. Bowman and G. Woolf (eds), Literacy and Power in the Ancient World. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Thorley, J., 1996    Athenian Democracy, Routledge, Hoboken.

Wartenberg, U. 1995    Chapter 3, After Marathon: war, society and money in fifth-century Athens, British Museum Press, London.

Waterfield, R., 2004    Athens – A History, Macmillan, London, Basingstoke and Oxford.

Copyright notice: © All rights reserved. Except for personal use or as permitted under the Australian Copyright Act, no part of this website may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, communicated or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission. All inquiries should be made to the copyright owner, Tim Harding at tim.harding@yandoo.com, or as attributed on individual blog posts.

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Radical Democracy in Ancient Athens

by Tim Harding

Introduction

Within the context of ancient Athenian democracy, the term ‘radical democracy’ refers to a set of constitutional reforms introduced by Ephialtes and Perikles, beginning in 462 BCE.  The main elements of these radical reforms were that (1) all major matters of public policy were determined at meetings of the Ekklesia (Assembly); at which all adult citizens[1] of good standing were entitled to vote (Roberts 1998, 41); and (2) public officials were randomly chosen by lot, known as sortition (Scarre and Fagan 2008, 291).  In this essay, I propose to argue that these radical democratic reforms went too far – that is, that their advantages were outweighed by their disadvantages.

1024px-Akropolis_by_Leo_von_Klenze1

Radical democracy was the culmination of a series of constitutional reforms introduced over a period of about 130 years, which were begun by the archon[2] Solon in 594 BCE (Aristotle, 6-13; Roebuck 1965, 206-210; Martin 2000, 84-86).  The general thrust of these reforms was to transfer power from the aristocracy to the citizenry of Athens (de Blois and van der Spek 2008, 84-85).  This process separated the business of the State from the activities of its wealthier citizens; and limited the financial dependence of the State on their generosity (Humphreys 1978, 97).

The reforms were interrupted by the tyranny of Peisistratus, Megacles and Peisistratus’ sons between 560 and 510 BCE (Roebuck 1965, 210).  However, from about 508 BCE the reform process was recommenced and greatly extended by Kleisthenes,[3] who is regarded as the founder of Athenian democracy (de Blois and van der Spek 2008, 87).  Kleisthenes’ democratic reforms comprise the bulk of the constitutional situation that existed before the introduction of radical democracy by Ephialtes and Perikles in 462BCE.

Radical democratic reforms

According to Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens, the composition of the major governmental bodies and the legal system before and after the introduction of radical democracy may be summarised as follows.

After the Persian wars, the Council of Areopagus (comprised of aristocrats) resumed guardianship of the constitution.  Ephialtes, who had become a leader of the people, diminished the authority of the Areopagus by (1) denouncing and bringing legal actions against members of the Council regarding their alleged maladministration; and (2) re-assigning some of the powers of the Areopagus to the Council of Five Hundred, the Assembly and the law courts (Aristotle, 25; Bury 1963, 347; Hammond 1967, 288; Roberts 1998, 41, 47).  The role of the Council of Five Hundred or boule, was to draft legislation for consideration by the Assembly, which had a quorum of six thousand citizens (Waterfield 2004, 117; Roberts 1998, 41). All major matters of public policy were determined at meetings of the Assembly, which were a form of direct democracy.

After Ephialtes was assassinated, Perikles took his place as popular leader of the Assembly.  Perikles was also a general who redirected military resources towards sea power, which had implications for democracy because of the large numbers of citizens required as rowers of the triremes, of which more will be said later.

The major changes of radical democracy were that all magistrates (administrative officials) were selected by lot (sortition), except for military officers and certain other key officials who were elected by vote (Aristotle, 43).  No magistrate selected by lot could hold the same office twice (Roberts 1998, 41). The Council of Five Hundred also became elected by lot – fifty from each of ten tribes.  Each tribe held the office of Prytaneis in turn, the order being determined by lot.  The Prytaneis was responsible for convening meetings and setting the agendas of the Council and the Assembly (Aristotle, part 43).  However, in the interests of national security, the generals could instruct the Prytaneis to either call or not call a meeting of the Assembly (Roberts 1998, 47).

One counterbalance to this seemingly random process was a strict legal requirement that any new law must be consistent with the constitution and existing laws, which limited the whim of persuasive orators (Waterfield 2004, 102; Roberts 1998, 42).

The Council of Five Hundred passed judgement on nearly all magistrates, subject to appeal to the law courts.  Individual citizens could also lay an information against magistrates for not obeying the laws, subject again to appeal to the law courts if the Council found the charge proven (Aristotle, part 45).

Most of the law courts consisted of 500 citizens over the age of thirty; and more important cases were heard by 1000 or 1500 citizens selected by lot (Aristotle, part 45) from a pool of 6000 jurors (Waterfield 2004, 118).  Perikles introduced pay for jury service in the law courts, which counterbalanced the wealthy influence of the aristocrats (Aristotle, Part 27).  Pay was later introduced for the Council of Five Hundred and the Assembly (Aristotle, 62), presumably to encourage attendance (Thorley 1996, 73).  Councillors were exempt from military service, which would also have encouraged participation (Roberts 1998, 46).

The eligibility for citizenship by birth was altered to require both parents to be citizens (Aristotle, 41) which reduced the ability of aristocrats to marry other aristocrats from outside Athens, thus forcing further social mobility between the classes (Waterfield 2004, 102).  This change also inhibited the making of foreign alliances (Humphreys 1978, 99).

In his Funeral Oration, Perikles announced that the community would look after war orphans until they reached adulthood (Thucydides, 2.46.1); which, apart from providing direct benefits to the orphans, enhanced the sense of community in Athens.

Although ostracism (banishment to exile for ten years by vote of the Assembly) was an earlier institution, it became an important part of radical democracy because it symbolised the principle that the interests of the city state must prevail over those of the individual when these are in conflict (Martin 2000, 112).  Ostracism also helped to rid the city of potential tyrants (Humphreys 1978, 101).

701athens

Advantages of radical democracy

The main advantages of Athenian radical democracy may be summarised as follows.

(1) The various military threats to Athens made it important that all citizens felt integrally part of the city and its defence, particularly as they provided the essential manpower for the navy (Thorley 1996, 76).  As the anonymous writer of the ancient text known as “The Old Oligarch” wrote:

“First of all, then, I shall say that at Athens the poor and the commons seem justly to have the advantage over the well-born and the wealthy; for it is the poor which mans the fleet and has brought the state her power, and the steersmen and the boatswains and the shipmasters and the lookout-men and the shipwrights—these have brought the state her power much rather than the hoplites and the best-born and the elite.”  (‘The Old Oligarch’, i.1)

(2) Athens’ shift to democracy assisted her in forming alliances with other democratic city states such as Argos and Megara (Hammond 1967, 298).

(3) Radical democracy fostered political stability and civic pride by holding in check the inherent tensions between rich and poor; and between professional politicians and the masses (Waterfield 2004, 116, 119).

(4) The civic pride fostered by radical democracy promoted public expenditure on monumental buildings (such as the Long Walls), the arts and other cultural activities (Waterfield 2004, 119).  There was also an increased accountability of this public expenditure, as all the major decisions were debated and settled by the Assembly (Bury 1963, 348).

(5) The introduction of pay for jurors and later Assembly attendees encouraged wider participation and strengthened the position of democratic leaders against their aristocratic opponents (Hammond 1967, 301).

(6) Natural consequences of the radical democratic reforms were freedom of speech in the Assembly and equality before the law (Goldhill 2004, 5).

trireme

Disadvantages of radical democracy

The main disadvantages of Athenian radical democracy may be summarised as follows:

(1) There was a major problem of efficiency.  Because all public policy issues had to be debated and settled by the Assembly, which could not sit during the many festivals that were held, decision-making could be excessively slow and unresponsive to immediate needs (Thorley 1996, 71).  Big issues might take days to resolve (Roberts 1998, 41).

(2) There were risks to the quality and coherence of policy decisions; and their implementation.  Selection by lot meant that there were no professional government officials, or civil servants, apart from military generals (Waterfield 2004, 116).  For example, instead of having a Treasurer advised by financial experts, finance was managed by a multiplicity of boards (Roberts 1998, 43).  The lack of a civil service resulted in an over-reliance on professional politicians and orators like Perikles to develop and oversee the implementation of public policy, without expert advice (Waterfield 2004, 116).

(3) There were practical difficulties which prevented all citizens from participating equally in the Assembly meetings.  Many Athenian citizens lived too far away from the city; the meeting place at the Pnyx could accommodate only about 6,000 of the 50,000 citizens who now had the right to vote; and only around 2,000 normally attended because many citizens could not afford to attend, at least until pay for Assembly attendance was later introduced (Waterfield 2004, 116-117; Bury 1963, 349).

(4) Few citizens exercised their right to speak in the Assembly, resulting in the public debate being increasingly led by professional orators (Roberts 1998, 41); with most citizen participation being limited to cheering and heckling (Waterfield 2004, 117).

(5) The assumption that every citizen is equally capable of exercising sound judgement is dubious.  In contrast, modern representative democracy assumes that some people are better than others at political reasoning (Goldhill 2004, 2).

(6) The civic pride fostered by radical democracy worked against Panhellenism, despite the efforts of Perikles to make the two concepts work together.  The brake on Panhellenism arguably increased the threats to Athens from other Greek city states; and to the Greek states as a whole from external threats (Waterfield 2004, 119).

(7) The restriction of citizenship to children of both parents who are citizens would have excluded notable citizens such as Themistocles and Kleisthenes (Bury 1963, 350).  It must have also excluded other potentially notable citizens.  According to Hammond (1967, 301) modern historians have argued that this restriction also prevented Athens from developing into a larger state.

(8) Finally, it is highly doubtful that mass meetings could successfully manage an empire or wage a lengthy war.  It is telling that radical democracy was eventually abandoned after Athens provoked and lost the Peloponnesian War (Roberts 1998, 45).

I have not included the disenfranchisement of women and other non-citizens as a disadvantage here, because this was a common feature of all political systems in ancient Athens; and therefore cannot be attributed to radical democracy.

Conclusion

Naturally, different readers will have different values and priorities; and are therefore likely to weigh the various advantages and disadvantages differently.  Also, that there may be numerically more disadvantages than advantages of radical democracy is of little consequence.

My own view is that many of the advantages of radical democracy, for example, defence, political stability, civic pride, free speech, equality before the law, transparency and accountability can also be achieved through other forms of democracy such as the modern system of representative democracy.  When combined with the major disadvantages of radical democracy, especially for efficiency and the quality of public policy, I believe that this factor tips the balance against radical democracy.

The historical fact that the ancient Athenian experiment with radical democracy was abandoned after the Peloponnesian War and has rarely, if ever, been repeated, indicates that radical democracy may not in practice have been the best form of democracy.

Bibliography:

Ancient Sources

Anon. c.424 BCE  ‘The Polity of the Athenians’ The Old Oligarch in The Ancient History Sourcebook, Fordham University, New York.  Available-: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/424pol-athens.asp

Aristotle,  ‘Constitution of Athens’, trans. F.G. Kenyon. R.W.J. Clayton (ed.) Athenian Politics, 1973 London Association of Classical Teachers: The Classical Association, London. Available-: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/athenian_const.html

Thucydides Chapter 4: Pericles’ Funeral Speech in History of the Peloponnesian War trans. R. Warmer, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth 1972 (revised).

Modern Sources

Bury, J.B., 1963  A History of Greece, Macmillan, London and New York.

de Blois, L. and van der Spek, R.J.,2008  An Introduction to the Ancient World (2nd edition) Routledge, London and New York.

Goldhill, S., 2004  ‘The Good Citizen’, in Love, Sex and Tragedy: Why Classics Matters. John Murray, London, 179-94.

Hammond, N.G.L., 1967  A History of Greece (2nd edition), Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Humphreys, S. C., 1978 ‘Public and Private Interests in Classical Athens’, The Classical Journal, Vol. 73, No. 2 (Dec., 1977 – Jan., 1978), 97-104.

Martin, T. R., 2000  Ancient Greece – From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Osborne, R., 2009  Greece in the Making 1200-479 BC, Routledge, Hoboken.

Roberts, J.W., 1998   ‘Radical Democracy’ in City of Sokrates: An Introduction to Classical Athens, Routledge, London.

Scarre, C and Fagan, B.M. 2008  Ancient Civilisations, (third edition). Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River.

Thorley, J., 1996   Athenian Democracy, Routledge, Hoboken.

Waterfield, R., 2004  Athens – A History, Macmillan, London, Basingstoke and Oxford.


[1] Athenian citizens were males born in Attica with at least one Athenian parent, excluding metics (foreign residents) and slaves.

[2] The archon was the position title one of several aristocratic leaders who replaced the hereditary kings of Athens in about 750 BCE (Roebuck 1965, 205).

[3] Also spelled as Cleisthenes.

 

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Determinism, free will and compatibilism

by Tim Harding

The idea that the future is already determined is known in philosophy as determinism.  There are various definitions of determinism available; but in this essay, I shall use the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy definition, which is ‘the metaphysical thesis that the facts of the past, in conjunction with the laws of nature, entail every truth about the future’ (McKenna, 2009:1.3).

This idea presents a difficult problem for the concept of free will: how can we make free choices if all our actions are determined by the facts of the past and the laws of nature?  A related but distinct question is: how can we be held morally responsible for our actions if we have no free will? Undesirable consequences like these are not sufficient reasons for declaring determinism to be false; but they can act (and have influenced many philosophers) as a powerful motivator towards resolving the apparent conflict between determinism and free will. 

Some philosophers, such as Peter van Inwagen have gone as far as arguing that the existence of moral responsibility entails the existence of free will (Iredale 2012: 8).[1] There are various other philosophical arguments in favour of free will – one of these is an apparent paradox known as Buridan’s Ass. Some scientists, such as Sam Harris argue in favour of determinism and claim that free will is an illusion. Leading contemporary philosopher John Searle thinks that the issue has still not been resolved, despite two centuries of philosophical and scientific debate. 

Most people who are neither philosophers nor scientists seem to intuitively feel that they have free will and so when presented with this dilemma are more likely to choose free will over determinism (Iredale 2012:13).  On the other hand, in my personal experience, scientists who think in terms of causes and effects are more likely to side with a determinist view.  In this essay, I intend to argue that a solution to this dilemma lies not in choosing free will over determinism, nor vice versa; but in the theory that determinism and free will are compatible – known as compatibilism.

Before going on, let us be clear about what we mean by the term free will.  Clarke & Capes (2013:1) have provided a useful definition:

‘To have free will is to have what it takes to act freely. When an agent acts freely—when she exercises her free will—it is up to her whether she does one thing or another on that occasion. A plurality of alternatives is open to her, and she determines which she pursues. When she does, she is an ultimate source or origin of her action’.

So what does it take to act freely?  Taylor (2012: 40) states that there are three essential characteristics to free actions.  One is able to act freely only if:

(1) there is no obstacle that prevents you from doing A, and

(2) there is nothing that constrains or forces you to do A, and

(3) you could have done otherwise.

There is a diversity of philosophical views about the relationship between determinism and free will; but the higher-level taxonomy of these views may be summarised as follows.  Those who hold that determinism and free will cannot both be true are known as incompatibilists.  Within this category, those who claim that determinism is true – and therefore free will is impossible – are known as hard determinists.  Those who claim that determinism is false and therefore that free will is at least possible are known as metaphysical libertarians (not necessarily related to political libertarians).  Those who think that determinism and free will are compatible are known as compatibilistsThere is also a range of sub-categories within the compatibilist camp; but I will only discuss a couple of them in this essay.  This higher-level taxonomy can be visually described by the following diagram.

DeterminismXFreeWill.svg

To be more specific, the following set of propositions is described by McKenna (2009:1.5) as the Classical Formulation of the free will problem:

1)      ‘Some person (qua agent), at some time, could have acted otherwise than she did.

2)      Actions are events.

3)      Every event has a cause.

4)      If an event is caused, then it is causally determined.

5)      If an event is an act that is causally determined, then the agent of the act could not have acted otherwise than in the way that she did’.

This formulation involves a mutually inconsistent set of propositions, and yet each is consistent with in our contemporary conception of the world, producing an apparent paradox.  How can these inconsistencies be reconciled?  Compatibilists would deny proposition 5).  Incompatibilists, on the other hand, might move in a number of different directions, including the denial of propositions 1), 3) or 4) (McKenna, 2009:1.5).

According to Taylor (2012: 40), all versions of compatibilism (which he calls ‘soft determinism’) have three claims in common:

(i) Determinism is true.

(ii) We are free to perform an action A to the extent there are no obstacles that would prevent us from doing A, and we are not externally constrained (not forced by external causes) to do A.

(iii) The causes of free actions are certain states, events, or conditions within the agent himself, e.g., an agent’s own acts of will or volitions, or decisions, or desires, and so on.

Claim (i) is made in common with hard determinism.  Claims (ii) and (iii) are where the compatibilists part company with the hard determinists and attempt to explain how free will can be compatible with determinism.

Taylor’s objection to compatibilism is essentially a challenge to Claim (iii); that is, that the certain states, events, or conditions within the agent herself are themselves caused by external factors, consistent with determinism.

My response to Taylor’s objection is that the certain states or conditions within the agent could include the person’s values, ethics, loyalties, priorities, and so on.  Let us call these states or conditions within the agent ‘values’.  These values may have external causes accumulated over the agent’s lifetime.  The important point is that an agent’s values could give rise to more than one possible action by the agent, all of which are consistent with the agent’s values.  Let us call these possible consistent actions ‘options’.  When faced with a decision to make, a rational agent would be likely to consider the options available to her and choose the best option.  In this way, the options available to the agent stem from causes but the agent is making a free choice within the range of options available.

A simple way of modelling this limited version of free will has been referred to by some philosophers as a ‘Garden of Forking Paths’ after the novel of the same name by Jorge Luis Borges (McKenna 2009:2.1; Iredale 2012: 14).  In other words, there are alternative paths an agent could choose to take, but the paths available have been predetermined.  Within this model, the agent meets the criterion of acting of her own free will, because she could have acted otherwise.  Her ability to have acted otherwise is underwritten by her ability to have selected amongst, or chosen between, alternative courses of action (McKenna 2009:2.1).

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Garden with forked path (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It is possible that consciousness is an emergent psychological property of the material mind.  Free will could be seen as a manifestation of consciousness.  Whilst we cannot yet fully explain what consciousness is and how is works, there is little doubt that consciousness exists.  If consciousness can exist, then so can free will.

Daniel Dennett (2003) has proposed a more elegant version of compatibilism with an evolutionary basis.  Although in the strict physical sense our actions might be determined, we can still be free in all the ways that matter, because of the abilities we evolved.  Seen this way, free will is the freedom to make decisions without duress, as opposed to an impossible and unnecessary freedom from causality itself.  To clarify this distinction, he coins the term ‘evitability’ as the opposite of ‘inevitability’, defining it as the ability of an agent to anticipate likely consequences and act to avoid undesirable ones (Dennett 2003:56).  Evitability is entirely compatible with, and actually requires, determinism; because without it, an agent cannot anticipate likely consequences and avoid them.  Dennett provides us with the following explicit argument:

‘In some deterministic worlds there are avoiders avoiding harms. Therefore in some deterministic worlds some things are avoided. Whatever is avoided is avoidable or evitable.  Therefore in some deterministic worlds not everything is inevitable. Therefore determinism does not imply inevitability’ (Dennett 2003:56).

Dennett (2003:58) also argues that there is a concept of chance that is compatible with determinism, which has been invoked to explain evolution via natural selection.  Through these means, he endeavours to unyoke determinism from inevitability (Dennett 2003:60) [2].

In conclusion, I have offered two accounts of how free will may be compatible with determinism – my own and Daniel Dennett’s.  However, I do not claim that either of these accounts has solved the dilemma.  There are also, of course, many other accounts of compatibilism as well as objections to them, plus alternative theories such as hard determinism and metaphysical libertarianism.  Indeed, resolving the dilemma between free will and determinism is very complicated and may be ‘one of the most persistent and heated deadlocks in Western philosophy’ (Nichols and Knobe 2007:1).

Notes

[1] Peter van Inwagen’s argument that free will is required for moral judgments  is:

  1. The moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X implies that you should have done something else instead.
  2. That you should have done something else instead implies that there was something else for you to do.
  3. That there was something else for you to do implies that you could have done something else.
  4. That you could have done something else implies that you have free will.
  5. If you don’t have free will to have done other than X we cannot make the moral judgment that you shouldn’t have done X (van Inwagen 2009).

[2] For those who would like to read more on this topic, there is an interesting online debate between Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett.  Dennett critiques Harris’ book on Free Will in a review titled Reflections on Free Will. Then Harris responds to Dennett’s critique in a rejoinder entitled The Marionette’s Lament.

Bibliography

Clarke, Randolph & Capes, Justin, “Incompatibilist (Nondeterministic) Theories of Free Will”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2013/entries/incompatibilism-theories/&gt;.

Dennett, Daniel. 2003 Freedom Evolves. London, Penguin.

Iredale, Matthew 2012 The Problem of Free Will. Durham, Acumen.

McKenna, Michael, ‘Compatibilism’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2009/entries/compatibilism/&gt;.

Nichols, S. & Knobe, 2007 ‘Moral Responsibility and Determinism: The Cognitive Science of Folk Intuitions. Nous 41(4):663-85 in Iredale, Matthew 2012 The Problem of Free Will. Durham, Acumen.

Taylor, Richard. (1976) ‘Freedom, Determinism and Fate’; printed in Time, Self and Mind Study Guide, Monash, 2012:40-47.

van Inwagen, Peter (2009). The Powers of Rational Beings: Freedom of the Will. Oxford.

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Some Origins of Western Quackery

 By Tim Harding

             (An edited version of this essay was published in The Skeptic magazine, September 2013, Vol 33 No 3 p.16. The essay is based on a talk presented to the Mordi Skeptics in April 2013 ).

‘By definition, alternative medicine has either not been proved to work or has been proved not to work. You know what they call alternative medicine that has been proved to work? Medicine.’ – Tim Minchin

A corollary of Tim Minchin’s rhetorical question might be ‘What should we call alternative medicine that has been proved not to work?’  I recently asked this question at my local Skeptics in the Pub meeting, eliciting an immediate and resounding chorus of ‘Quackery!(When you think about it, if the part of ‘alternative medicine’ that works is medicine, and the part that doesn’t work is quackery, there is nothing left in the category of ‘alternative medicine’).

On his Quackwatch web site, Dr. Stephen Barrett defines quackery as ‘the promotion of unsubstantiated methods that lack a scientifically plausible rationale’.  This definition includes questionable ideas as well as questionable products and services, regardless of the sincerity of their promoters.  In line with this definition, Barrett reserves the word ‘fraud’ only for situations in which deliberate deception is involved.

So where did quackery come from?  The word ‘quack’ derives from the archaic word ‘quacksalver’, of Dutch origin, literally meaning ‘hawker of salve’.  The quacksalvers sold their wares on the market by shouting in a loud voice.  In the Middle Ages, the word ‘quack’ meant ‘shouting’.  These days, we tend to associate quackery with dodgy products and practices from the nineteenth century such as snake oil, miracle hair tonics, magnetic bracelets and homeopathic remedies.  But the origins of western quackery actually go back much further – to the cradle of western civilisation in ancient Greece and Rome.

In those ancient times, scientific experimental methods had not yet been developed – let alone clinical trials.  Medical observations were largely confined to patients as individuals rather as a cohort or group.  Ancient physicians were not much better than naturopaths when it came to empirical evidence.  Without scientific data from treatment groups versus control groups, it was difficult to know which treatments worked and which didn’t.  As a result, there was no clear dividing line between medicine and quackery.  Ancient ‘medicine’ consisted of a mish-mash of well-meaning but misguided treatment by physicians and surgeons, faith healers, herbal remedies, aromotherapy, other superstitions – and even sorcery or magic. Sounds familiar? That’s right – many of these weird ancient beliefs have carried through to the quackery of today as a legacy of the vast Roman Empire.

Ancient Greek medicine

The first notable Greek physician may have been the poet Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BCE.  In his Iliad, Homer describes various medical techniques such as the extraction of arrows, the treatment of wounds, the application of dressings and the dispensing of soothing drugs.  The Homeric poems provide a glimpse of ancient medical ideas and practices long before the formal documentation of medical literature.  It is significant that practical medical treatment appears to have been provided in this early period, probably as a matter of military necessity, so that wounded soldiers could be saved to fight another day.

Homer

Reliance on the gods or faith healing seems to have come later, to some extent in parallel with advances in medical treatment.  The god of healing, Asklepios, had a shrine at Epidaurus in southern Greece, where miraculous recoveries were said to have been made by the sick and lame by sleeping in the temple overnight.  A Greek lyric poet from Thebes named Pindar (c.522– c.443 BCE) wrote:

‘[Asklepios] delivered all of them from their different pains, tending some of them with gentle incantations, others with soothing potions, or by wrapping remedies all around their limbs, and others he set right with surgery.’

The following picture is of a cast showing a physician examining a patient while Asklepios stands nearby holding the symbol of medicine, a snake coiled round a staff.

Asklepios

There were also apothecaries who harvested herbs and prepared drugs, accompanying their ministrations with important rituals and incantations.  Theophrastus (c.371 – c.287 BCE), who was a student of Aristotle, described some of these weird rituals in his History of Plants:

‘They say that the peony, which some call glykyside, should be dug up at night, for, if a man does it in the day-time and is observed by a woodpecker while he is gathering the fruit, he risks the loss of his eyesight; and if he is cutting the root at the time, he gets a prolapsed anus’.

‘One should draw three circles around mandrake with a sword, and cut it with one’s face to the west; and at the cutting of the second piece one should dance around the plant and say as many things as possible about the mysteries of love’.

On the other hand, the medical literature subsequently found in Greece differs markedly from that found elsewhere.  It includes reasoned arguments and debates, reflecting an intellectual openness consistent with Greek philosophy, rather than medicine as some sort of secret mystical art.  The links between medicine and philosophy can be traced back to Parmenides, Empedocles and even Pythagoras, whose ideas on appropriate living included a ban on eating beans!

Athens was one of the first city states to employ a publicly funded physician as a more rational alternative to traditional folk medicine.  Other Greek cities also maintained a public physician as well as several private practitioners.

The Greek historian Herodotus tells the tale of the early Greek physician Democedes of Croton, who started his career in the civil service of Athens and Aegina.  In 522 BCE, Democedes was captured by the Persians and sent to Susa.  The Persian King Darius once sprained his ankle while he was hunting, and his Egyptian doctors seemed to make it worse.  Darius then summoned Democedes, who was able to heal the ankle using Greek remedies.  Democedes was richly rewarded and hired as a physician of the Persian court.  Darius’s wife, Atossa, later had a breast ulcer.  When Democedes cured her ulcer, he was allowed to visit Greece as a reward.

Schools of medicine had existed for some time in various regions of Greece, most notably on the island of Kos, associated with the famous name of Hippokrates, a younger contemporary of Herodotus.  Hippokrates’ contribution to medicine is best remembered today by the ethical oath bearing his name.  Very little is known of Hippokrates himself, or how much of the Hippokrates medical treatises he personally wrote.  Hippokrates is cited in later works by Aristotle and Plato; but the Greek habit of composing imaginary speeches or letters by famous people from the past gradually blurred the distinction between the genuine and the false.  The following references to Hippokrates are actually references to the large body of medical literature bearing his name, the Hippokratic Corpus.

Hippokrates attempted to put medical diagnosis and treatment on a rational basis.  He viewed the human body as an organism whose parts must be understand as a whole.  Hippokrates thought that human physiology was comprised of four fluids or ‘humors’: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile, corresponding to the four inanimate elements of earth, air, fire and water, as shown in the diagram below.

Four humours

Disease was thought to result from an imbalance of these humors, resulting in a disturbance of the natural harmony and order of the world so important to Classical Greek thought.  Hippokrates also placed emphasis on prognosis as well as diagnosis, so that the course of an illness could be predicted.  The more familiarity a physician showed with a disease, the more confidence his patients would have in him.  Prognosis also had practical benefits in planning the medical interventions that would be needed at different times.

In the absence of the modern germ theory of infectious disease, the danger to health from overcrowding within the Long Walls of Athens was not foreseen, resulting in a devastating plague in 430BCE.  Thucydides did not attempt to explain the reasons for the plague, but in the prognostic tradition of Hippokrates, he tried to describe its symptoms and effects so that if it struck again it could be recognised.

Active medical interventions included cauterisation and blood-letting, as well as surgery, the rectification of dislocations and the setting of bone fractures.  Other therapies included cupping, special diets, herbal remedies, potions, purgatives and exercises, consistent with the idea of ‘bringing the body back into balance’.  One rather spectacular treatment often performed in public was succussion, where the patient would be tied upside down to a ladder and then repeatedly dropped from a height of several feet as illustrated below.

succussion

It is unclear what succussion was supposed to achieve, but it is worth noting that succussion is a word still used by homeopaths to describe a shaking step in the preparation of their water doses.  The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann falsely believed that succussion activated the ‘vital energy’ of the diluted substance and made it stronger.

The rise of quackery in Rome

Traditional Roman medicine was initially an amateur activity using simple home remedies based on easily available agricultural ingredients such as wool, eggs and the humble but miraculous cabbage.  Cato the Elder wrote in his treatise On Agriculture:

‘For those who are troubled by colic, cabbage should be steeped in water…. ‘

‘Now as to patients for whom urination is painful or dribbling. Take cabbage, put in boiling water, boil briefly till half cooked…. ‘

‘If any sore or cancer develops in the breasts, apply ground cabbage …’

‘In case of dislocation, foment with hot water twice a day and apply ground cabbage: it will soon cure it…’

The Romans were a highly superstitious people.  For instance, the Roman Senate only sat on ‘auspicious days’.  In around 78 CE Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History:

‘I find that a bad cold in the head clears up if the sufferer kisses a mule on the nose.’

‘Some people keep a weasel’s heart in a small silver container, for swollen glands.’

The number three was regarded as a ‘lucky number’.  An anonymous Roman inscription reads:

‘To Julian who was spitting up blood and had been despaired of by all men the god revealed that he should go and from the threefold altar take the seeds of a pine cone and eat them with honey for three days. And he was saved and went and publicly offered thanks before the people’

Later Roman culture was greatly influenced by the ancient Greeks in many things, including philosophy, literature, art, science and medicine.

Galen of Pergamon (c. 129-200 CE) was a leading surgeon, physician, and philosopher of Greek origin.  In 162 CE, he established a large and successful practice in Rome, where he attended the Emperor Marcus Aurelias.  Amongst his voluminous works was a short essay entitled That the Best Physician is also a Philosopher, where he urged physicians to emulate Hippokrates and to embrace logic and rationality:

‘What reason, then, remains why the doctor, who practises the Art in a manner worthy of Hippocrates, should not be a philosopher? For since, in order to  discover the nature of the body, and the distinctions between diseases, and the indications for remedies, he must exercise his mind in rational thought, and since, so that he may persevere laboriously in the practice of these things, he must despise riches and exercise temperance,  he must already possess all the parts of philosophy: the logical, the scientific, and the ethical’.

Consistent with this approach, Galen saw the bodies of living things and their various parts as designed and operated by a craftsman-like nature with a purpose in mind; thus an important key to anatomical and physiological knowledge is an understanding of nature’s purposes.  This form of ‘intelligent design’ has been described as a teleological view of biology by modern reviewers of Galen’s writings.  Galen held that nature rules the body from three anatomical centres – the liver, the heart and the brain (in contrast to the Aristotelian view that all faculties are centred in the heart).  He claimed that human physiology can be explained by the principal activities of nature, which are genesis, growth and nutrition.

Like Hippokrates , Galen believed in the need for the ‘four humors’ to be in balance: blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm.  He thought that the human body had three physiological spheres: the nutritive, the vital and the logical.  According to Galen, stomach cooks food to what was called ‘chyle’ and sends it to the liver.  The liver adds ‘natural spirit’ and sends it to other organs and the heart.  The heart adds ‘vital spirit’ and sends it to the brain.  The brain adds what was called ‘pneuma’ and sends to the body through nerves.  Such views were the likely origin of the modern naturopathic belief in ‘vitalism’ that persists today.  Naturopathy posits that a special energy called ‘vital energy’ or ‘vital force’ guides bodily processes such as metabolism, reproduction, growth, and adaptation.  Such energies and forces are unknown to modern science.

For religious reasons, there was little or no dissection of human corpses in ancient Rome.  Nevertheless, Galen believed in the supreme importance of anatomy, so he regularly performed dissections on animals.  Although he was conscious of the limitations of extrapolating from animals to humans, he did express some erroneous views about human anatomy, such as the following description by Galen in his work On the Usefulness of Parts of the Body:

‘All the parts, then, that men have, women have too, the difference between them lying in only one thing, which must be kept in mind throughout the discussion, namely, that in women the parts are within [the body],   whereas in men they are outside, in the region called the perineum. Consider first whichever ones you please, turn outward the woman’s, turn inward, so to speak and fold double the man’s, and you will find them the   same in both in every respect’.

Women were treated by male physicians and the gynaecological treatises of the Hippokratic Corpus were almost certainly written by and for men.  Part of the deficiency of observational evidence stems from the failure of male medical writers to speak to women about their illnesses.  Women were traditionally presented as being incapable of knowing what was wrong with them or telling a doctor if they did know.  Galen’s teleological view of biology also appears to have influenced his attitudes towards women:

‘So too the woman is less perfect than the man in respect to the generative parts. For the parts were formed within her when she was still a foetus, but could not because of the defect in the heart emerge and project on  the outside, and this, though making the animal itself that was being formed less perfect than one that is complete in all respects, provided no small advantage for the race; for there needs must be a female. Indeed,  you ought not to think that our creator would purposely make half the whole race imperfect and, as it were, mutilated, unless there was to be some great advantage in such a mutilation’.

These biased attitudes impacted wider Greek and Roman society.  For example, it was believed, on false medical grounds, that a man’s seed was most potent when he was about 30 years of age; and a woman’s body best suited for childbirth when she was still a teenager.

The medical theories of ancient Greece and Rome formed the foundation of Western medicine for centuries, even if they were eventually rejected.  The main reasons for this rejection were the development of empirical scientific methods after the Renaissance; coupled with advances such as the invention of the microscope and the germ theory of infectious disease.  Whilst there were observations of individual patients, there is no evidence of any organised medical experiments being conducted in ancient Greece and Rome, let alone clinical trials.  In some ways, the Greek philosophical traditions of logic and reasoning held back a more empirical scientific approach to medicine.  Instead of conducting practical experiments on illnesses, ancient Greek and Roman physicians became diverted into a search for the underlying purposes of diseases – a relatively fruitless ‘search for meaning’ rather than for empirical evidence.  This mystical and unscientific approach is one of the hallmarks of quackery today.

REFERENCES

 Ancient Sources

Aristotle On the Generation of Animals excerpt translated by A.L. Peck.  Published online http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wlgr/wlgr-medicine339.shtml

(Accessed 20 September 2012)

Galen That the Best Physician is also a Philosopher translated by Brain, P., 1977, “Galen on the ideal of the physician”, South Africa Medical Journal, 52: 936–938.

Galen On the Usefulness of Parts of the Body excerpt translated by M.T. May.  Published online http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wlgr/wlgr-medicine351.shtml

(Accessed 20 September 2012)

Herodotus The Histories R.B. Strassler (ed), The Landmark Herodotus, Quercus, London, 2008.

Thucydides A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War, R.B. Strassler (ed), The Landmark Thucydides, Free Press, New York, 1996.

Modern Sources

Brain, P., 1986    Galen on Bloodletting: A Study of the Origins, Development and Validity of his Opinions, with a Translation of the Three Works Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Flaceliere, R., 2002    Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles. Phoenix Press, London.

King, H., 1995    ‘Medical texts as a source for women’s history ‘  in The Greek World Anton Powell (ed.) Routledge, London and New York.

Martin, T. R., 2000    Ancient Greece – From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Nutton, V., 2004    Ancient Medicine Routledge, London and New York.

Pagel, W., 1970    Book Review of Galen and the Usefulness of Parts of the Body in Medical History/ Volume14 / Issue04 / October 1970, 406-408.  Published online: 16 August 2012

Roberts, J.W., 1998    City of Sokrates: An Introduction to Classical Athens (2nd edition), Routledge, London.

Roebuck, C., 1966    The World of Ancient Times Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.

Waterfield, R., 2004    Athens – A History, Macmillan, London, Basingstoke and Oxford.

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Introduction

Welcome to Tim Harding’s blog of writings and talks about logic, rationality, philosophy and skepticism. There are also some reblogs of some of Tim’s favourite posts by other writers, plus some of his favourite quotations and videos This blog has a Facebook connection at The Logical Place.

There are over a thousand posts here about all sorts of topics – please have a good look around before leaving.

If you are looking for an article about the Birth of Experimental Science recently published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘Out of the Dark’, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about the Dark Ages recently published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘In the Dark’, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about the Traditional Chinese Medicine vs. Endangered Species recently published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘Bad Medicine’, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about the rejection of expertise published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘Who needs to Know?’, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about Charles Darwin published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘Darwin’s Missing Link“, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about the Astronomical Renaissance published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘Rebirth of the Universe‘, it is available here.

If you are looking for an article about DNA and GM foods published in The Skeptic magazine titled ‘The Good Oil‘, it is available here.

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The Case of the Falling Fat Man

by Tim Harding

Is it justified to kill an innocent threat in defence of oneself or others?

An ‘Innocent Threat’ is a person who poses an imminent threat your life, but who is not the originating cause of that threat, as in the ‘Falling Fat Man’ case hypothesised by Thomson (see below).  Some philosophers such Thomson argue that it is morally permissible to kill an Innocent Threat in self-defence (Thomson, 1991); whilst other philosophers such as Otsuka argue that it is not permissible (Otsuka, 1994).  In this essay, I intend to argue that it is justified to kill an innocent threat in defence of oneself or others, but on different grounds to those used by Thomson.  My grounds are (1) the traditional conditions for justification of self-defence; (2) the Doctrine of Double Effect (which is rejected by Thomson within this context); and (3) utilitarianism, in cases of defending more than one person.

In her 1991 paper on ‘Self-Defense’, Thomson provides three hypothetical cases in which she thinks it is morally permissible for you to kill a person in self-defence (‘Yes cases’); and three cases in which she thinks it is not permissible (‘No cases’).  These cases are:

      Yes cases        No cases
  • Villainous Aggressor
  • Innocent Aggressor
  • Innocent Threat
  • Substitution-of-a-Bystander
  • Use-of-a-Bystander
  • Riding-Roughshod-over-a-Bystander

A Villainous Aggressor intends to kill you, as in the case of a truck driver deliberately trying to run you over; whereas an Innocent Aggressor is not to blame for his aggression (for example, if he or she is insane).

An Innocent Threat does not intend to kill you, but will nevertheless do so unless you kill him or her.  For example, in Thomson’s Falling Fat Man case, you are lying in the sun on the balcony of your apartment and a fat man pushed by another person is falling towards you.  The only way you can prevent him falling on you and killing you is by moving an awning, which will deflect his fall on to the road below, where he will die.  If you do not deflect his fall in this way, your body will cushion his fall and he will live (but you will die).  The important point is that not only is the Falling Fat Man innocent, but he is not the cause of his fall towards you (Thomson, 1991:287).

fat-man-belly-crop

Thomson argues that there is no moral difference between the three ‘Yes cases’ – in each case the threat will kill you if you do not kill him or her.  She says that, other things being equal, every person Y has a right against X that X not kill Y.  In summary, she concludes that the threats in the ‘Yes cases’ will violate your rights that they not kill you, and therefore they lack rights that you not kill them (Thomson, 1991:300-305).

In contrast, bystanders are not threats – they are not causally involved in the imminent threat to your life.  Thomson concludes that bystanders do have rights not to be killed and therefore may not be killed in self-defence against a threat not caused by the bystander (Thomson 1991: 298-299).

On the other hand, in his 1994 paper Otsuka argues that there is no moral difference between an Innocent Threat and a bystander.  He thinks that it is never justified to kill innocents in self-defence.  It is morally impermissible to kill a bystander and therefore it is also impermissible to kill an Innocent Threat.[1]

The implication of Otsuka’s theory that you are morally obliged to lie back and let the Fat Man fall on you is counter-intuitive and likely to be rejected by most people.  Appeals to intuition and public opinion are, of course, not philosophical arguments, but I think they can sometimes act as a ‘reality check’ to indicate that there might be something inadequate with a moral theory like Otsuka’s; and that alternative approaches need to be considered.

For a start, Otsuka’s theory conflicts with the Hobbesian account of self-defence that if one will die unless one does X, then one has a right to do X.  However, this right needs to be limited in some way.

The traditional conditions for justification of self-defence are that (a) the threat must be imminent; (b) the defensive violence must be necessary; and (c) the force used must be proportionate to the threat.  I would argue that conditions (a) and (b) are an intrinsic component of the ‘Falling Fat Man’ case.  The proportionality condition (c) is demonstrated in DDE criterion (1) below.

The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) states that we may do what will cause a bad outcome in order to cause a good outcome if and only if (1) the good is in appropriate proportion to the bad and (2) we do not intend the bad outcome as our means to the good outcome (Thomson, 1991:292).  For example, it is morally permissible to give a terminally ill cancer patient enough morphine to relieve excruciating pain even if we know that this dose will kill the patient.  Thomson rejects the application of the DDE to the cases under discussion on the grounds that a person’s intentions are morally irrelevant (Thomson, 1991:293-296).

My view is that intentions are relevant to the morality of killing in general and to the killing of Innocent Threats in particular.  For example, in general terms, the essential moral difference (leaving aside the legal difference) between a murder and a manslaughter charge is one of intent.  All other facts of the case may be identical.

I think that Innocent Threats meet the criteria for the application of the DDE, as follows:

(1)  the good is in appropriate proportion to the bad because either you will be killed or the Innocent Threat will be killed.  Either way, one person will die; and

(2)  your intent in defending yourself from an Innocent Threat (for example, by shielding yourself from the Falling Fat Man) is merely to save your own life.  The death of the Falling Fat Man is an unavoidable consequence of the necessary action you take to save your life, rather than the purpose of your action.

The DDE can also apply to the defence of others – the above criteria could also be met in such cases.  In cases where more than one person is being defended, the good may even outweigh the bad.

Utilitarianism is of little assistance in the Falling Fat Man case.  Both you and the fat man are likely to have a preference to live.  Either way, one person will die.  The life of one of you may be more valuable to the community than the other and therefore have better consequences from being saved, but that is an assessment you are unable to make when a fat man is about to fall on you!  However, in other cases Utilitarianism may be relevant to the defence of more than one other person, on the grounds that saving more than one life would be a better consequence than saving only one life.

In conclusion, I think it is justified to kill an Innocent Threat in defence of oneself or others on the grounds of the traditional conditions for self-defence; the Doctrine of Double Effect; and utilitarianism in cases of defending more than one person.

 References

 Otsuka, M. (1994) ‘Killing the Innocent in Self-Defense’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Winter, 1994), pp. 74-94.

Thomson, J. (1991) ‘Self-Defense’ Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 20, No. 4 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 283-310.


[1] Otsuka also argues that it is morally impermissible to kill an Innocent Aggressor, but that issue is outside the scope of this essay topic.

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