Monthly Archives: September 2017

NL XXV: The Three Laws of Politics

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018): The the three laws of politics are that (1) within the body politic, there is a ruling class, which is a society proper; (2) the ruling class can take in members from the ruled class; (3) the ruled and ruling classes will resemble one another, so that e.g. rulers of slaves will become slavish themselves. I compare such laws with physical laws, as discussed by Einstein; but on this subject, a look ahead to Chapter XXXI, “Classical Physics and Classical Politics,” would be in order. Meanwhile, by the Second Law, the body politic, or its ruling class, can be a permanent society; Nazi claims about the youth or senility of different states are bogus. There are further gradations within the ruling and ruled classes, according to strength of will; a weak will can be strengthened by another person’s stronger will through induction.


A pervading theme of the New Leviathan is freedom of will. Whether we actually have it is only a pseudo-problem (13. 17). Some persons have been fooled into thinking it a problem, perhaps by the misleading myth that free will is a divine gift, like life itself, breathed into our nostrils when, in Genesis 2:7, God forms us of the dust of the ground. As Collingwood observes at the end of Chapter XXIII, “The Family As a Society,” we are born neither free nor in chains. We have to grow up. Growing up is becoming free.

The Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb (New York: Norton, 2009)

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book IX

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book IX of the Iliad is easily summarized. Chapman does it in four lines.

TO Agamemnon (vrging hopelesse flight)
Stand Diomed, and Nestor opposite:
By Nestors counsell, Legats are dismist,
To Thetis sonne, who still denies t’assist.

These lines hide a wealth of thought. To suggest some of the gems of the book, I expand the summary.

Dog and seaweed on shore opposite Lesbos, 2017.09.14

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NL XXIV: The Body Politic, Social and Non-Social

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018): The subject of political theory is the kind of community called a body politic. For the Ancients, this is a society, composed of, for example, the citizens of Athens, excluding women, children, slaves, and foreigners. In medieval times, all human beings in the community compose a body politic, which is thus non-social, though having within it the societies called estates; sovereigns rule by force (e.g. by the bribery called the granting of liberties), but may in turn be ruled, as is the husband, sovereign of the wife. For Hobbes, a sovereign can also rule by authority. An eristic argument would insist that only one of these accounts of the body politic is correct; but the world is in the flux described by Heraclitus, and the way to come to terms with it is not eristic, but dialectic, as described in the Meno of Plato.


Dialectic is the way to come to terms with a world of constant change. On the internet in particular, too many persons engage in eristic, staking out a position like the Greeks at Troy, who built a wall around their ships on the shore and tried to defend it against all comers.

Dogs stake out their positions in the shade,
2017.09.14

In the argument of the New Leviathan, we pass from the family to the state, which Collingwood calls the body politic. This is what political theory must give a scientific account of (24. 1). We consider three phases of political theory:

  1. ancient,
  2. medieval, and
  3. modern.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VIII

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

In the eighth of the twenty-four books of the Iliad, the battle is even all morning, until Jove weighs out the fates of the two sides. The fate of the Greeks is heavier. They are driven back to the wall around their ships. Juno and Pallas try to help them, until warned off by Jove. The Trojans camp outside the Greek wall, lighting fires, at Hector’s command, so that they can see through the night whether the Greeks are trying to escape.

Altınova 2017.09.13

In the fourteenth of the sixteen chapters of the 1884 novel Against Nature by Joris-Karl Huysmans (in the translation by Margaret Mauldon, Oxford World’s Classics, 1998/2009, from the French original, A rebours), the narrator describes a thought of the main and indeed only character that is connected to the aim of the present series of articles on the Iliad.

Many times had Des Esseintes reflected upon the thorny problem of how to condense a novel into a few sentences, which would contain the quintessence of the hundreds of pages always required to establish the setting, sketch the characters, and provide a mass of observations and minor facts in corroboration. The words chosen would then be so inevitable that they would render all other words superfluous; the adjective, positioned in so ingenious and so definitive a manner that it could not legitimately be displaced, would open up such vistas that for days on end the reader would ponder over its meaning, at once precise and manifold, would know the present, reconstruct the past, and make conjectures about the future of the souls of the characters, as these were revealed by the light of that single epithet.

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NL XXIII: The Family As a Society

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 11, 2018):

1.
The society at the nucleus of the family is temporary, ending with the death of one of the two members.
2.
The family has a life-cycle, with three phases: (1) before children; (2) after children, but before they have free will; (3) after the children have free will.
3.
The community consisting of husband and wife is now a society. It was not a society when a marriage was arranged by the groom or the groom’s father and the father of the bride. The non-social aspect of a marriage survives in the custom of formally “giving away” the bride.
4.
If today a bride and groom do not quite recognize themselves as forming a society, they may come to do so in time.
5.
Contraception helps clarify that a marriage is normally for the sake of having children.
6.
In order to grow up and leave the nursery, the child must be educated. The work of this is both the child’s and its teachers’. Parents must also allow the child to leave the nursery and join their society.
7.
There are three possible needs, and they are distinct: (1) to have a baby, (2) to have a child, (3) to have a grown-up child.
8.
Any of those three needs is fulfilled by an act of will; there is no parental “instinct”—not a scientific term anyway, though it is used popularly for an appetite or desire.
9.
Born without free will, we are not born in chains either, since this would mean suppression of a will that didn’t exist.

The last chapter was called “The Family As a Mixed Community,” because the family consists of both a society and a non-social part, called the nursery. Now we are looking at “The Family As a Society.” We are not in contradiction, but are in the flux that Heraclitus observed in all existence (24. 62). The inmates of the nursery normally grow and join the society of their parents: the family as a whole is a society in this sense.

Altınova bazaar, Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VII

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

On the recommendation of his brother Helenus, Hector invites any one of the Greeks to single combat—as his brother Paris did, though this is not recollected. The proposed combat will not resolve the war, but may remove from one side, by death, its best man. No Greek takes the challenge until Menelaus offers to. Agamemnon stops him, since he is not good enough. Nestor chides the Greeks, recalling how he once took the challenge of fighting Ereuthalion and won. Nine Greeks now come forward. A lot being picked from Agamemnon’s helmet, Ajax Telemon recognizes it as his own. His combat with Hector ends not with death, but with night and exchange of gifts. In Troy, Paris rejects a suggestion that he return Helen to Menelaus, but he is willing to return her property, and more. This offer is rejected, but not an offer of a truce for burial of the dead. The Greeks build a wall around their burial site and themselves, offending Neptune by not making due sacrifices first. Jove says Neptune may raze the wall when the Greeks go back home. Meanwhile the Greeks enjoy wine purchased from a merchant fleet of Lemnos.

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NL XXII: The Family As a Mixed Community

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 10, 2018): The family is a mixed community, consisting of a society and a non-social community. Usually the society is a married couple; if they have children, these constitute the nursery, which is the non-social part of the family. The children need an ordered, regular life. They grow up and leave the nursery; the parents may replenish it.


This chapter and the next concern the family, which like most communities is a mixed community (22. 11): part of it is a non-social community, but some part of it is a society proper (22. 1), this being, again, as in Chapter XX especially, a community constituted as an act of will on the part of its members.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book VI

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book VI of the Iliad may illustrate or test what I have also been reading, whose second title is Man, Society, Civilization and Barbarism. For the Greeks, the Trojan war is a fight for civilization, against the barbarism of stealing the wife of the man who has played host to you. In Book VI is the great exemplar of civilization: the meeting of Diomedes with Glaucus. Discovering that the grandfather of his Trojan enemy had once been a guest of his own grandfather, Diomedes urges that he and Glaucus must exchange gifts, be friends, and avoid meeting on the battlefield; and Glaucus agrees.

One flame of the Chimera, with my backpack, 2009

The Greeks are still some ways from civilization. For Collingwood in New Leviathan,

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NL XXI: Society as Joint Will

Index to this series

Executive summary (added September 10, 2018):

1.
I cannot say “I will” without recognizing the possibility of joining with others to say “we will.”
2.
A social consciousness consists of (1) a precise idea of one’s place in a society and (2) a vague sense of the society as a whole. The latter sense may be incorrect, having been foolishly accepted on the word of an authority.
3.
Properly understood, ruling, of itself and perhaps of a non-social community, may be all that a society does. It is the responsibility of the members alone.
4.
To form a society means (1) to form social relations and (2) to do this for some purpose. To focus on (1) yields the idea of a universal society—which cannot actually exist, despite foolish hopes for the League of Nations.
5.
The universal society cannot exist, because we produce a society by transforming an earlier community, and some trace of this must remain.
6.
Members of a society are equal, (1) in having the freedom to join and (2) in just being members. A society may create an inequality, as by delegating authority. There may be natural inequalities, not produced by the society itself; society may compensate for them, turn them into assets, or even depend on them, as in the case of initiative.
7.
Rule by force (in a non-social community) may be by rewards and punishments, that is, objects of desire and fear. These may be promised or threatened fraudulently. One who grows too accustomed to exerting force may lose freedom of will.
8.
Societies institute criminal law to mitigate members’ losses of freedom of will.
9.
Societies can be temporary or permanent.

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book V

Index to this series | Text of Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad

Book V of the Iliad is long and rich, with as many characters as War and Peace, and stories within stories. The main story is of Tydeus’s son Diomedes, who with Pallas’s help is able to wound both Venus and Mars—I follow Chapman in using the Roman names.

  • Mars agrees with Minerva not to interfere with the war, but she immediately breaks the agreement.
  • A skilled hunter is successfully hunted down.
  • An oracle is mentioned that the Trojans should not go to sea; the master builder of Paris’s ships is slain.
  • A man who can read the future in dreams is bereft of the sons he let go to war.
  • An old man loses his only sons, the offspring of his old age.
  • Pandarus, who broke the truce and shot Menelaus, had left his horses in Lycia, because he didn’t think they would eat well in Troy.
  • The story is mentioned twice of the horses of Aeneas, offspring of the horses of Jove.
  • Pandarus thinks the horses of Aeneas will respond better to his command than Pandarus’s.
  • Venus is not the first deity to have been injured by a mortal, and her mother Dione advices patience.
  • “He that fights with heaven hath never long to live”—or perhaps to have a faithful wife.
  • Dione can cure a wound without balm.
  • “The race of gods is far above men creeping here below.”
  • Sarpedon discusses justice and sets an example of it.
  • “Strength is but strength of will.”
  • To have self-confidence may be good, but not to tempt fate.
  • Pallas has a theory of just war.

At the beginning of the book, Pallas breathes on Diomedes, so that he shines “like rich Autumnus’ golden lampe” (line 6). This lamp is “Sirius, the star whose rising marked the beginning of” ὀπώρα or late summer, according to the Liddell–Scott lexicon, which refers to the passage of Homer under the featured adjectival form, ὀπωρ-ινός , ή, όν.

Diomedes’s first target is the sons of Dares, a priest of Mulciber (namely Hephaestus or, as the Romans, Chapman, and now I have it, Vulcan). The spear of Ideus hits the left shoulder of Diomedes, but does no harm, while Diomedes deals Ideus a fatal blow. Vulcan (called “the God, great president of fire” in line 23) helps Ideus’s brother Phegeus to flee.

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