Phil 3.28.17

7:00 – 8:00 Research

  • Still working my way through The Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt makes some really strong points:
    • Lawfulness sets limitations to actions, but does not inspire them; the greatness, but also the perplexity of laws in free societies is that they only tell what one should not, but never what one should do. Her point here is that laws provide the boundaries of acceptable belief space. Freedom (in a republic) is the ability to move unfettered within theses spaces, not outside of them. Totalitarianism eliminates the freedom to move, or to make decisions, either by the perpetrator or the victim.
    • It substitutes for the boundaries and channels of communication between individual men a band of iron which holds them so tightly together that it is as though their plurality had disappeared into One Man of gigantic dimensions. This is what I see in by simulations:echochambertest There is are a couple of issues that aren’t treated though – spontaneity and lifespan. In my simulations, spontaneity is approximated by the initial placement and orientation of the explorers. At the very least, I should see how the change to a random walk would affect supergroup formation. The second issue of lifespan is also important:
    • The laws hedge in each new beginning and at the same time assure its freedom of movement, the potentiality of something entirely new and unpredictable; the boundaries of positive laws are for the political existence of man what memory is for his historical existence: they guarantee the pre-existence of a common world, the reality of some continuity which transcends the individual life span of each generation, absorbs all new origins and is nourished by them. One way of looking at this is that the rules and the population affect each other. This makes intuitive sense – slavery used to be legal, and the changing ethics of the population changed the laws. These are not ether law or population, they are matters of emphasis, and I think these qualities can be traced in court decisions (particularly Supreme Court, since they get harder decisions). SCOTUS, in Dred Scott lagged behind the popular will, while in Miranda (and Row as discussed in quantitative terms here), probably led it. So lifespan, as expressed in demographics, plays a part in moving these boundaries of belief. This is certainly the case in a republic, and may also be the case in a more oppressive regime (e.g. student protests). And according to Arendt, this could be the greatest risk to totalitarianism.
    • The last point she makes is about ideology.  The word “ideology” seems to imply that an idea can become the subject matter of a science just as animals are the subject matter of zoology, and that the suffix -logy in ideology, as in zoology, indicates nothing but the logoi, the scientific statements made on it. The fact that ideology has at it’s code a set of assumptions about past, present and future history make it an organizational structure, or a framing narrative. And there is no reason to think that ideologies can’t have the same cascade effects as other stories.
  • So here’s the point. Laws are not the only kind of rules. Interfaces are as well. And the amount of freedom, as described above, means the allowable motion in belief space that the interface affords. Bad interfaces can literally be a tyranny or worse…

8:30 – 4:00 BRC