Feb 25, 2013
Many students fail to make an argument
Ask TA if your agument is good- summary is not enough
Making a claim but not backing it up with evidence
If you’re comparing thinkers, what is needed is to evaluate them- who was stronger on
what points? Who was weaker on what points?
Not just parallel summaries
Weighing of the thinkers
The assessment you will provide will consist of your main argument
New Theme: Authority
Authority can be of different kinds. We could talk about religious authority (Catholic
Church electing a new Pope) The moral authority of the Church is very weak- so many
cases of child abuse that have come forward. The problem has to do not only with the
mistreatment of children, but also the way in which the institution responds to these
cases. Attempts to cover up to silence this problem. Perfect illustration of erosion of
moral authority – Church is supposed to uphold behaviour- there is a gap between what
the Church is supposed to uphold and the behaviour.
The kind of authority we will be looking at are: authoritative opinion, and political
Already have exposure of the erosion of political authority (French Revolution).
- The King of France’s authority being weakened; and of the nobility around them
– example of erosion of political authority.
- A regime in which the rightness of rule has been called into question.
Authority of Public Opinion – Should public opinion rule, can public opinion be trusted?
- There have been times in which the people have been swayed by emotion,
- When we consider those examples in history we should consider pause
- Think about how many poor leaders have been elected democratically- shouldn’t
that give way to praising public opinion?
- Is public opinion divorced from reason and relate to emotion, or is it in fact to be trusted?
- The erosion of religious authority is still with us (?)
Exploring in more detail these two prongs of authority
Starting with political authority
Looking at the question of authority in Iraq after the second Gulf War
In March 2003, the U.S attacked Iraq
U.S official said major combat was over
However peace and security did not occur in Iraq
Bombings killed civilians, kidnappers, torture
Thomas Hobbs who wrote in England in the 1600s at the time of the civil war in
England. Hobbs in his writings provides a justification for strong sovereign. His
justification rides on a preoccupation with peace and securities (security of person, body).
His argument starts on the premises of when strong authority, a state of anarchy exists,
whereas each person strives for as much individual power against others (attacking
others- not peace and security). He claims that such a situation is frightening and that the
best solution is to sacrifice the freedom to some greater power (sovereign), and the
contract is that I sacrifice my individual freedom to sovereign but what I gain in return is
security. I give the sovereign absolute power to enforce the law (to achieve peace).
People lived at the time of death, disorder, tax property. HE argued that it was better to
live under a sovereign than to live in a state of anarchy where there is a great deal of
insecurity. IF we don’t relinquish our freedom to an absolute power, then we don’t have
Grain of truth: if we don’t sacrifice some of our freedom, then we stand to lose safety,
security, peace of mind.
Where we might disagree is that an absolute authority is needed to protect these things
we cherish. Do we have to give up all of our freedom to get this good thing
After the American invasion of Iraq, there was authority. It was contested by the Shea
and by the Curds who wanted to take advantage of this moment of instability.
Widespread looting in Baghdad
Loss of respect in widespread authority
They imposed a military role but not .. Baath party was the ruling party. After WWII the allies (American, French, British)
wanted to de-Nazify society. Made it difficult for people who were Nazi offical holding
positions of authority
Americans did a similar thing, wanted to remove positions of authority those who were
members of the Baath Party- (start on a clean slate)
The number of people who lost jobs was enormous – 30,000-50,000 civil servants lost
their jobs overnight
We can understand how a conqueror would want to remove these official of the old
regime, because it might break on change. A wealth of experience was removed- you
can’t create experience overnight, all of that know-how is lost- That’s a cost, is that cost
The American created 30,000-50,000 overnight peasants who were smart
Who will enforce authority if the police are no longer in place – takes years ot create an
army or police force, only a moment dispands an army or police force. It takes a lot of
time to create the instruments by which authority is enforced.
Concrete ways in which authority is upheld, the difficult involved for any occupying
power. How is authority maintained or recreated if you are an occupying force? –It’s not
Illustrates that political authority (thing we take for granted) is much more salient after a
change of heads of state, is pretty important.
Now looking at the question of Public opinion, ideas
When no ideas have authority we have a state of Nihilism- the belief in nothing as
opposed to absence of belief.
Crime and Punishment (dostaevsky)
Known for notes of the underground
He was for a time sympathetic of nihilist ideas
Tries to provide the strongest argument possible against belief in religion, religious
authority, by describing the terrible things that have happened to children. He talks about
the kinds of evil inflicted on children through history. Doesn’t this make the case against
the existence of a God? (How could he let this happen) Novel about a young man who
commits a terrible double murder. He is clearly marginalized in society. Dostaesky is trying to prove how a prostitute who is consider impure, is actually a Saint- because she
loves this murderer unconditionally. This guy was clearly a nihilist, believer in nothing,
is converted by the love of Sonya.
Describing a nihilist state of mind that is spreading through Europe of his day, and
describing the emotions, disorientation, the emptiness that comes with nihilism. We have
here a good description of what happens in a society where there is no authority.
There was not confidence in the moral authority of the group, or individual in this new
society that was emerging. You can see why the authority of opinion was called into
question at the time we are studying in European thought.
3. (a) Coercion (b) Authority
4. Legitimacy and legitimation
5. The function of authority?
Weber’s definition of power- about being able to carry out one’s will
In talking about power, it’s useful to contrast power in the Weberian sense with the idea
of influence, the idea that there are situations where someone can have their will fulfilled
without necessarily commanding other people to do certain things. When taking about
authority, we are talking about power or influence.
- what we have in mind when Weber talks about the probability that a command
will be obeyed.
- Two forms:
o Coercion – obedience due to a threat, fear on person or property
o Authority- when people obey not so much b