SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Moral Authority, Rationality, Alexis De Tocqueville

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SOC203: Lecture 7: Authority
Position Paper: talk to TA and ask if this is an argument; better argument; not just
summary; Make Introduction last (going to write about where we’re going to go);
Authority:
Authority of church has been sapped, cases of child abuse, problem is not
only with the mistreatment of children by priests, but the way in which the
institution responds to these cases
Erosion of moral authority (because the Church is supposed to uphold right
behaviour) and the gap between what it should be upholding and how it
actually does
The kinds of authority we’ll be looking at is authoritative and political
Authority of nobility around them (in French revolution) erosion of
political authority and rightness (and rightness of rule)
Authority of public opinion Should public opinion rule? Should it be
trusted? More wisdom in public opinion than in the hands of a few political
leaders; some who put a great deal of faith in public opinion; but in history,
the populace has been swayed by emotion, demigods, superstitions; think
about how many poor leaders have been elected democratically; shouldn’t
that give us cause in refraining from praising the public opinion. So what is
the nature of this public opinion in terms of reason? Rationality? Prejudice?
Or can it be trusted. Should public opinion have greater authority than
leaders who are born (kings?)
To what extent does a conqueror have authority? Perhaps because it believes
that the ideology of the conqueror is bringing civilization, enlightenment;
The question of authority clearly is still with us today
Question of political authority: a contemporary example
o Look at the question of authority in Iraq after the second gulf war
o Words ‘peace and security’
o Civilians thought peace and security was worse after Americans came
o Hobbes wrote in England in 1600s about the Civil war in
England provides justification for a strong sovereign (incl. peace
and security); a state of anarchy exists where each individual strives
for as much power as possible (clearly not a situation where there is
peace and security) Hobbes claims that such a situation is frightening,
and that the best solution that an individual can find is to sacrifice
their freedom to a greater power (sovereign) and the deal/contract is
this: I sacrifice my freedom to sovereign, but in return I get security
(to achieve peace, I give sovereign absolute authority to make law)
Thought it was better to live like this than to live in a state of
anarchy
He’s making strong claims (we don’t relinquish all our freedom
to an absolute power, then we don’t have safety)
Perhaps there’s a grain of truth to Hobbes and also an error:
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Grain of truth: That if we don’t’ sacrifice some of our freedom,
then we stand to lose safety, security, peace of mind) we
completely relinquish it
Error: An absolute authority is needed
Question: do we have to give up all of our freedom to get this
good thing? :S Seems like a lot.
o After Americans came into Iraq, it was contested by Shia? The
Curds? Kurds? Kirds? >< (contesting authority of Americans)
o After Americans came, there was a lot of looting (important treasures
in museums were looted, universities vandalized)
No one gave the authority to Americans to arrest
Americans lost respect couldn’t provide safety for looting
Americans military role, not a policing role
The ruling party was the Bach party; the Americans wanted to
remove positions of authority that held allegiance to Bach
party. The number of people who lost jobs were 30 000-50 000
(civil servants who lots government jobs)
A conqueror would want to remove old regime, that’s
understandable. Presumably, these people who were removed,
had a wealth of experience (you can’t just put up experience)
and that’s a cost; was that cost worth paying?
Another drawback: Americans created 30-50 000 jobs
overnight.
Americans disbanded the ministry of interior (we don’t have it
in Canada; Ministry of interior and Ministry of Defense;
Ministry of interior is one of the most important/powerful
ministry spying internally, power over police forces,
separate from other police forces in the country;
Overnight, thousands of soldiers out of jobs; so who to
replace them?
It takes years to build up a police force and authority
(gone overnight)
Nihilism (Nothing)
o Etymology: nihil= Latin words for nothing
o ‘The belief in nothing, as opposed to absence of belief. The word has
been used in English since at least 1817, but gained currency later on
account of the Russian nihilists.’
o ‘The basic idea was that, since society is founded on lies, and all moral,
religious and humanitarian beliefs are just instruments of
concealment, all beliefs and values must be torn down and the
disposition to hope and worship be eliminated, so that the world
could be seen as it really is. For some reason it was thought that
things would then be better for the people.’
Roger Scrouton. A Disctinoary of Political Thought p379
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Document Summary

Position paper: talk to ta and ask if this is an argument; better argument; not just summary; make introduction last (going to write about where we"re going to go); Authority of church has been sapped, cases of child abuse, problem is not only with the mistreatment of children by priests, but the way in which the institution responds to these cases. Erosion of moral authority (because the church is supposed to uphold right behaviour) and the gap between what it should be upholding and how it actually does. The kinds of authority we"ll be looking at is authoritative and political. Authority of nobility around them (in french revolution) erosion of political authority and rightness (and rightness of rule) Should public opinion have greater authority than leaders who are born (kings?) Perhaps because it believes that the ideology of the conqueror is bringing civilization, enlightenment; The question of authority clearly is still with us today.

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