NL XXXIII: Decline of the Classical Politics

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Lacking the experience of social and political life mentioned at the end of the previous chapter, Germans could not understand the classical politics. German communities were non-social (33. 32). What experience those communities did have of freedom was despised (33. 5). When Marx converted Hegel’s dialectical idealism into the equally nonsensical dialectical materialism (33. 91), he sought only to teach what materialism entailed: that there was no such thing as freedom of will (33. 97).

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NL XXXII: Society and Nature in the Classical Politics

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In the last chapter, we described classical politics by analogy with classical physics. Now we turn entirely to politics. The nature of “Society and Nature in the Classical Politics,” Chapter XXXII of the New Leviathan, is not the nature studied by physics; it is the nature of the “state of nature” (32. 32), which is our theoretical political origin.

The “problem of the classical politics” (32. 1) is “to give an account of the social element” of political life (32. 19). The non-social element of political life is nature (32. 19).

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NL XXXI: Classical Physics and Classical Politics

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As my beach holiday winds down, so perhaps does the current spate of blog posts. Here is one more. Setting aside Homer, I continue immediately with Collingwood, in part because, in the 2000 paperback impression of the 1992 Revised Edition of the New Leviathan that I take to the shore, I have now also read the Editor’s Introduction by David Boucher. (Back at the cottage, I have to type out the quotes from this that I make below; for quotes of Collingwood himself, I cut and paste from a scan of the 1947 corrected reprint of the 1942 First Edition.)

As I could infer from my pencil-marks, I had read Boucher’s introduction some time before; but I could remember little of it. I think it is aimed at professional philosophers, rather than at anybody who would admire Collingwood for saying, as he does in An Autobiography (page 6), when he describes getting prepared to go to Rugby School,

The ghost of a silly seventeenth-century squabble still haunts our classrooms, infecting teachers and pupils with the lunatic idea that studies must be either ‘classical’ or ‘modern’. I was equally well fitted to specialize in Greek and Latin, or in modern history and languages (I spoke and read French and German almost as easily as English), or in the natural sciences; and nothing would have afforded my mind its proper nourishment except to study equally all three.

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NL XXX: War As the Breakdown of Policy

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Humans have not always made war (30. 1); why do we make it now? War is said to be a continuation of policy (30. 14); but as Collingwood cleverly points out (30. 15), the saying due to Clausewitz (30. 69) is ambiguous: a continuation could be an extension or a breakdown (30. 16–17).

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XIV

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

When Neptune was helping the Greeks stave off certain defeat, I tried to suggest that divine intervention in the course of events might be understood as human resolve to change that course. This was in Book XIII of the Iliad, where Neptune took the form of one of the Greeks—Calchas—in order to exhort the others. They would have listened to Calchas anyway; he was a prophet. Ajax Oileus said he could tell Calchas was “really” a god; we can read this to mean Calchas was inspiring. We can say this of somebody today, without meaning to suggest any supernatural influence.


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NL XXIX: External Politics

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Executive summary (added September 13, 2018): External politics—dealing with other bodies politic—is the third stage of political life, after the forming of societies (as if by marriage), and their coming to rule over non-social communities (as if by having children) in the formation of a body politic. Since dialectic has been used in the first two stages, it can be used in the third. Thus, being the eristic of external politics, war has no psychological cause. Still, war is a state of mind, which does not think non-agreement can become agreement. Pacifism has this state of mind.


External politics are international relations. These represent a third “stage” in political life (29. 1):

  1. The first stage is the the joining of wills into a society, which rules itself (29. 11).
  2. The second stage is such a society’s ruling over a non-social community in a body politic (29. 12).
  3. The third stage is dealing with other bodies politic (29. 13).

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XIII

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

Usually when your defenses are breached, you are lost. Thus when the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet I found a way through the Theodosian Walls on Tuesday morning, May 29, 1453, the city of Constantinople was theirs.

Now the Trojans under Hector have breached the wall around the Greek ships, and—the ships are not theirs. How does Homer explain this?

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NL XXVIII: The Forms of Political Action

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Executive summary (added September 12, 2018): Continuing a thought from the previous chapter, we observe that to condemn political discussion is also to wish for tyranny. Though the ruling class need not share their deliberations with the ruled class, it is better if they do. As our understanding of the reason for an action evolves from utility to conformity with a rule, so ruling, originally by decree, has evolved to include legislation. However, law does not require a formal structure to be enforced, and international law is an example. The best reason for an action is duty. Though the German Treitschke says our highest duty is to the state, he gives the state no duty, and so his politics are entirely utilitarian.


In Plato’s Republic, Socrates seeks understanding of the just human being through examination of the just state. In the New Leviathan, the order is reversed. What we first considered in somebody, we now look at in the “body politic.”

Narthex of the former Taksiyarhis Church (now museum), Ayvalık, Balıkesir, Turkey, August 30, 2018

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On Chapman’s Homer’s Iliad, Book XII

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

Both first and last place may be prominent in a narrative. Occurring three-quarters of the way into Book XII of the Iliad, but presented last below, Sarpedon’s great speech on leadership ought to be known by everybody with authority and power.

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NL XXVII: Force in Politics

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Executive summary (added September 12, 2018): Those persons who cannot rule themselves are ruled by force by other persons as their duty, and for the benefit and pleasure of all. Force includes fraud and deceit; their use is limited by the expection that those being ruled now will one day join the ruling class themselves. If they take up the ideals of democracy and aristocracy discussed in the last chapter, a liberal and a conservative party must understand that each needs the other for the dialectic that aims for the best society. If one thinks the two parties waste energy, either in pretending to be opposed, or in actually being opposed, then one is effectively wishing for tyranny.


In my last post on the New Leviathan (which was my first for this year), I said Collingwood would discuss the British parliament in Chapter XXVII. This now my subject.

The ruling class must incorporate new members from time to time, whether anybody thinks about it or not (27. 75). Anybody who does think about it may take up one of two goals (27. 77).

27. 79. To hasten the percolation of liberty throughout every part of the body politic was the avowed aim of the Liberal party; to retard it was the avowed aim of the Conservative party.

27. 8. The relation between them was consciously dialectical. They were not fundamentally in disagreement. Both held it as an axiom that the process of percolation must go on. Both held that given certain circumstances, which might very well change from time to time, there was an optimum rate for it, discoverable within a reasonable margin of error by experiment.

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