Sunday, August 8, 2010

*p. 93-94 & 98 & 433 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

What is Calhoun's "concurrent majority"? Compare to Rousseau's "general will." How are these both related to Hegel's "cunning of history" ? (p. 94)

Relevant Passages: Calhoun's principle of the "concurrent majority"-by which certain minorities are given a veto power over actions of the government-is likewise said to transform factional strife in society into harmony and mutual advantage. As presented by Calhoun, it neutralizes and brings into unity the otherwise uncontrollable conflicts of interests, in much the same way that the abolition of private property is thought to do by Marx.

Hegel's "cunning of history," by which the rational ends of human civilization were supposedly advanced without any rational foreknowledge of those ends by the makers of the great events of history, was the tacit ground of the optimism equally of Calhoun and of Marx. Both, like Hegel, believed that they looked back upon the course of human history and were able to descry therein a rational purposefulness of which even philosophers had not hitherto been aware. They believed this was possible because, unlike their predecessors, they lived in proximity to that absolute moment when the purpose of all previous history would stand revealed. Because of this, they could be rational or scientific concerning the actions necessary to promote the completion of the historical process, and thereby the human good, as none of their predecessors could have been.

The idea of progress led Hegel, Marx, and Calhoun radically to depreciate the role of reason in all of their predecessors, whether statesmen or philosophers, to none of whom the rationality of history itself had been vouchsafed.33 Reason was truly manifest only in the absolute moment wherein history as progress was revealed. The scope and importance of reason as a means of access to truth, or of guiding human life toward human fulfillment, was thereby immeasurably degraded, except within the infinitesimal boundaries of the absolute moment. But questions were inevitably raised about that moment. By what right had the historical school exempted itself from the relativism that it attributed to everyone else?

Harry Jaffa. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Kindle Locations 1572-1580). Kindle Edition.

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