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Lecture 2

POL2108 Lecture 2: Lecture 2 -Boetie

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Political Science
Robert Sparling

18/1/17 POL 2108 Lecture 2 – Boetie Background - Famous for his text and friendship with Michel de Montaigne o Montaigne on friendship: radical friend ship- don’t know the line between one and the other- pretty huge ideal of friendship Themes of Text – how to interpret? - Objecting tyranny – cry against being dominated - Is it philosophy? o Light on logic and heavy on emotion o Different text when expecting philosophy - Piece of humanism renaissance work o Humanism – concentrating on the individual o Movement celebrating the reading of classic texts as if they are important to us o Living relationship to the text of antiquity o Has some Christian elements to humanism o Attachment to pagan texts o Movement that saw itself as opposition to scholastic text - Boetie hates Julia Cesar - Appreciation of republican liberty - Highly rhetorical text – trying to convince us o Portraits of human types, to be disgusted by it o Possibility to contemplate being a slave – trying to get us to be revolted Clarification on synonyms of tyrant - Cross out dictator and write tyrant instead - Tyrant and monarch? o Boetie seems to use them interchangeably o Monarchy can turn into tyranny? Walk through the text – Ulysses - Quote from Homer : Complaining about many people trying to rule - Boetie doesn’t blame Ulysses “choosing language to meet emergency rather than the truth” - State of emergency might undermine our capacity to express truth - Relationship between necessity and truth (hobs thinks we’re always in emergency) Boetie dismisses the question: what’s the best regime? - Doesn’t go the Aristotle route that distinguish between good and perverted forms of regimes - Suspicion that monarchy is not ultimately too different than tyranny – is there even a public nature in the rule of one? Relationship of rule – masters and servants - Text that evaluates the phenomenon of domination and why people allow it by tyranny - Why do people obey? The way he poses the question is striking - Its not strange to see people obeying monarchs, France and Great Britain o But he thinks its nuts yet self-evident? Something taken for granted - “Why would one obey this little jerk? It’s absurd” o Shift in outlook on how you see the regimes mouth piece - Boetie says its dishonorable to let a ‘little man’ to treat you in such a way - anti-Hobbesian thing, thinks that this kind of rule is extremely harmful, he thinks that there is a natural condition to be attained or brought back - he wants us to see this as an artificial condition – unnatural - Boetie says tyranny comes about where you set up this one person to rule and you get use to it - Habituated to obedience which is the heart of the problem - Is it cowardice? Cant be that they’re all just cowards… - People often loath the tyrant but still obey - Language of effeminacy Suggesting there is a kind of consent to their own domination - Hence the title “voluntary” servitude - Adopts the second person on page 8 o Accusation stage calling people stupid for obeying tyrants - What’s he telling them to do? Nothing o At the beginning he calls for civil disobedience o Just stop obeying Problem of Nature – Becoming accustom to obedience - Boetie telling us that its unnatural - What does nature say? How does nature serve as normativity? - What does he mean when we are naturally free? o That people are naturally optimistic and inclined to get along o There is a kind of natural end to human beings that is fraternal o Liberty is a natural thing o He makes the argument that people fighting for freedom are better fighters as oppose to people fighting for material gain and yet in spite of that we are inclined to freedom, he doesn’t see many free people - What kind of obedience? o Obedience in general or obedience of a bad regime? Is there are respectable obedience? - Page 10: “nature has caste us all in the same mold – companions or rather brothers” o To know each other in this radically close way (reference to Montaigne) - Nature made us for friendship and unity - Unity is founded on the capacity to know each other and to do that we talk to each other o Language is central element No such thing as natural slavery - Unlike Aristotle who though slaves lack rationality and are naturally slaves, Boetie does not think that slaves are natural at all - We’re supposed to be free o Opposition to Hobbs - Hobbs thinks we are estranged to each other and cannot trust one another - Need sovereign to establish conditions of trust - But Boetie says we naturally know each other and the sovereign actually undermines the trust Arguments for Natural Freedom 1. You can’t be placed in slavery without being wronged a. Makes it sound like your freedom is a possession you have and its taken away from you is theft – sounds like modern natural law theory 2
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