Monthly Archives: February 2016

Politics : European Union : Entry 10 : My Opinion

This is my entry and my opinion for staying or leaving the European Union. My next entry will be unknown. This is to be used as a guide to make a decision and to further discussion.

European Union

untitled

Introduction

I will be talking about the European Union and to see if I think the UK should leave or continue staying in the EU.

History

The EU is a unique economic and political partnership between 28 European countries that together cover much of the continent.

The EU was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict.

The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential.

What began as a purely economic union has evolved into an organisation spanning policy areas, from development aid to environment. A name change from the EEC to the European Union (EU) in 1993 reflected this.

The EU is based on the rule of law: everything that it does is founded on treaties, voluntarily and democratically agreed by all member countries. These binding agreements set out the EU’s goals in its many areas of activity. [1]

Decision-making at EU level involves various European institutions, in particular the European Parliament, which represents the EU’s citizens and is directly elected by them the European Council, which consists of the Heads of State or Government of the EU Member States, then there is the Council, which represents the governments of the EU Member States, then there is the European Commission, which represents the interests of the EU as a whole. The European Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the EU but it does not exercise legislative functions. Generally, it is the European Commission that proposes new laws and it is the European Parliament and Council that adopt them. The Member States and the Commission then implement them.

The argument for staying in the EU:

  1. Jobs

Around 3.5 million British jobs are directly linked to British membership of the European Union’s single market – 1 in 10 British jobs.

Britain’s large, foreign-owned car industry would be particularly at risk. “The attractiveness of the UK as a place to invest and do automotive business is clearly underpinned by the UK’s influential membership of the EU,” said a KPMG report on the car industry. The financial services sector, which employs about 2.1 million people in the UK, also has concerns about a British exit. “The success of the UK financial services industry is to a large extent built on EU Internal Market legislation. To abandon this for some untried, unknown and unpredictable alternative would carry very significant risks,” said global law firm Clifford Chance in a report by think tank TheCityUK.

  1. Exports & investment

The EU buys over 50 per cent of UK exports (54 per cent of goods, 40 per cent of services). Over 300,000 British companies and 74 per cent of British exporters operate in other EU markets. American and Asian EU firms build factories in Britain because it is in the single market.

  1. Trade

The EU negotiates trade agreements with the rest of the world. Outside the EU Britain would have to renegotiate trade deals alone. While the EU is the world’s largest market, a UK outside the EU would not be a high priority for other counties to negotiate a trade deal.

The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, worth more than £400bn a year, or 52% of the total trade in goods and services. Complete withdrawal from the EU would see trade barriers erected, with car exports to the EU, for example, facing a 15% tariff and imports a tariff of 10%. “The idea that the UK would be freer outside the EU is based on a series of misconceptions, that a medium-sized, open economy could hold sway in an increasingly fractured trading system dominated by the US, the EU and China; that the EU makes it harder for Britain to penetrate emerging markets; and that foreign capital would be more attracted to Britain’s economy if it were no longer part of the single market,” the pro-EU Centre for European Reform said in a recent report.

  1. Consumer clout

British families enjoy lower mobile phone roaming charges, lower credit card fees, cheaper flights and proper compensation when flights are delayed or cancelled. These sorts of benefits could not be achieved by Britain alone.

  1. Clean environment

Through commonly agreed EU standards, national Governments have achieved improvements to the quality of air, rivers and beaches. Good for Britain and good for Britons holidaying or living abroad!

  1. Power to curb the multinationals

The EU has taken on multinational giants like Microsoft, Samsung and Toshiba for unfair competition. The UK would not be able to do this alone.

  1. Freedom to work and study abroad – and easy travel

1.4 million British people live abroad in the EU. More than 14,500 UK students took part in the European Union’s Erasmus student exchange scheme in 2012-13. Driving licences issued in the UK are valid throughout the EU.

  1. Peace and democracy

The EU has helped secure peace among previously warring western European nations. It helped to consolidate democracy in Spain, Portugal, Greece and former Soviet bloc countries and helped preserve peace in the Balkans since the end of the Balkans War. With the UN it now plays a leading role in conflict prevention, peacekeeping and democracy building.

  1. Equal pay and non-discrimination

Equal pay for men and women is enshrined in EU law, as are bans on discrimination by age, race or sexual orientation. This benefits Britain and British people who live in other EU countries.

  1. Influence in the world

As 28 democracies, and as the world’s biggest market, we are strong when we work together. Britain is represented in many international organisations in joint EU delegations – giving Britain more influence than it would have alone. The EU has played a major role in climate, world trade and development.

  1. Cutting red tape

Common rules for the common market make it unnecessary to have 28 sets of national regulations.

  1. Fighting crime

The European Arrest Warrant replaced long extradition procedures and enables the UK to extradite criminals wanted in other EU countries, and bring to justice criminals wanted in the UK who are hiding in other EU countries. It helps UK authorities work with other EU countries’ to tackle international organised crime such as drug smuggling, people trafficking and money laundering.

  1. Research funding

The UK is the second largest beneficiary of EU research funds, and the British Government expects future EU research funding to constitute a vital source of income for our world-leading universities and companies. [2]

  1. Economical preservation

An “amicable divorce” is a pipe dream, pro-EU campaigners argue. France, Germany and other leading EU nations would never allow Britain a “pick and mix” approach to the bloc’s rules. Norway and Switzerland have to abide by many EU rules without any influence over how they are formed and have to pay to access the single market. Negotiating a comprehensive free trade agreement could take years and have an uncertain outcome. And if Britain went for a completely clean break with the EU its exports would be subject to tariffs and would still have to meet EU production standards, harming the competitiveness of British business. The end result could be a trade war between Britain and the EU, some have warned, which could cripple Britain’s export industries. [3]

The Centre for Economic Performance, at the London School of Economics, says the worst-case scenario is a 6.3% to 9.5% reduction in GDP, “a loss of a similar size to that resulting from the global financial crisis of 2008/09”. The best case, according to their analysis, is a loss of 2.2% of GDP, although it does not take into account as wide a range of factors as the Open Europe study. [4]

  1. Immigration

Britain might have to agree to allow free movement of EU migrants as the price of being allowed access to the free market. In any case, pro-EU campaigners argue, immigration from the rest of the EU has been good for Britain’s economy. The UK’s growth forecasts are based, in part, on continued high levels of net migration. The independent Office for Budget Responsibility says the economy relies on migrant labour and taxes paid by immigrants to keep funding public services.

A lot would depend on what kind of deal was reached with the other EU nations. Britons may have to apply for visas to enter EU countries and those already living there may face integration rules, such as proving they can speak the language before gaining long-term residency rights. There would also be uncertainty for many EU workers now paying taxes in the UK – what benefits, if any, would they be entitled to?

The Argument for Leaving the EU:

  1. Democracy

The EU undermines British democracy – Because the European Parliament makes laws on an EU-wide basis, we are in the bizarre situation of non-British representatives making laws which affect the UK and likewise British representatives are helping to make laws affecting other member states. For many people opposed to Britain’s EU membership, this is a matter of principle – the UK should be governed by British representatives only and the only way to achieve this is by leaving the EU.

  1. Trade

Leaving the EU will not stop Britain from trading with Europe – A common argument against leaving the EU is that it will shut us off from the European market but this claim is not borne out by the facts. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland for example are not members of the EU but have access to the single market through the European Free Trade Association. Furthermore, the UK is a huge market for many EU member states so it would make little sense for European exporters to cut off such a large market.

The EU is not as important to British trade as it used to be, and continuing turmoil in the Eurozone will make it even less so. Even if Britain did not manage to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU it would not be as disastrous as EU-enthusiasts claim, argues economist Roger Bootle in his book The Trouble with Europe: “It would place the UK in the same position as the US is currently in, along with India, China and Japan, all of which manage to export to the EU relatively easily.” The UK would be free to establish bilateral trade agreements with fast-growing export markets such as China, Singapore, Brazil, Russia and India through the World Trade Organisation.

  1. Greater trade freedoms

Leaving the EU will allow the UK greater trading freedom – If the UK were to leave the EU, we’d be allowed to pursue our own wide-ranging bilateral trade agreements with other economic powerhouses such as the US, China, India, Brazil and Japan far more easily.

  1. Wasteful spending

The EU is wasteful – Vast sums of money have been spent on unnecessary and inappropriate projects such as £760,000 for a “gender equal” cultural centre which was never built, over £350,000 for a project to get European children to draw each other and £155,000 for a Portuguese golf resort. Of course, the UK government too wastes money but why subject ourselves to more waste than we have to, particularly in the age of austerity?

  1. No transparency

The EU is not transparent – Many EU laws are discussed and drafted in informal meetings held between the “trilogue” – representatives of the European parliament, European Commission and EU Council. No public records are published on the content of these meetings.

  1. Irrelevant

The UK does not need the EU to be relevant on the world stage – Supporters of the EU often argue that we must remain in it to stay relevant but much of our clout does not come from our membership of the EU. We are one of only 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, we are members of the world’s most powerful military alliance in NATO and we are key players in the IMF and the World Bank. On the other hand, the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy is toothless and requires unanimity before new policy stances can be adopted. The EU is credible because states like the UK and Germany are members, not the other way around.

  1. Immigration

There can be no fair, controlled immigration policy while the UK is a member of the EU – Because of the EU’s free movement of people policy, member states are unable to place any meaningful controls on EU migrants, meaning that member states may only set a limit on the number of non-EU migrants that are able to enter the country. As a result, the UK has had to turn away skilled immigrants to the UK this year at the same time as being powerless to turn away non-skilled EU migrants. If you believe in controlled immigration, it can only be fair with Britain outside the EU.

Britain would regain full control of its borders, say anti-EU campaigners. UKIP wants to see a work permit system introduced, so that EU nationals would face the same visa restrictions as those from outside the EU, which it says would reduce population growth from current levels of 298,000 a year to about 50,000. This would create job opportunities for British workers and boost wages, as well as easing pressure on schools, hospitals and other public services.

  1. Defence

The EU has done little to ensure peace in Europe – It is often argued that the only reason why Europe has largely been at peace since World War II is because of the EU, but this ignores the fact that it was NATO and the American nuclear umbrella, not the EEC (as it was then known) which was responsible for stopping an East-West conflict during the Cold War, for example. Furthermore, the EU did little to stop the conflicts on its doorstep in the Balkans during the 90s. Even if the EU were to disintegrate, war between European states would be no less irrational and unlikely than it is now.

  1. Subsidies

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – This policy is essentially a gigantic EU subsidy for the agriculture industry and takes up around 40% of the entire EU budget. Because the UK has a relatively small agriculture sector (approximately 0.6% of the economy compared to 3.6% in France for example) this means that CAP costs the UK rather than benefits it.

  1. More integration

For the EU to properly work, even more integration is required – The crisis in Greece demonstrates that for the EU project to really work, there needs to be complete political and economic integration. Only through passing even more powers to the EU Commission, can the union overcome many of its efficiency problems. However, further integration is not something many people in the UK are comfortable with, including this author. Free trade and the common market are good things but we must not let our country be absorbed into a “United States of Europe” where the European interest trumps the British interest. [5]

  1. Models of adoption
  • The Norwegian model: Britain leaves the EU and joins the European Economic Area, giving it access to the single market, with the exception of some financial services, but freeing it from EU rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs
  • The Swiss model: Britain emulates Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU but negotiates trade treaties on a sector-by-sector basis
  • The Turkish model: The UK could enter into a customs union with the EU, allowing access to the free market in manufactured goods but not financial services
  • The UK could seek to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, similar to the Swiss model but with better access for financial services and more say over how rules and standards are implemented
  • The UK could make a clean break with the EU, relying on its membership of the World Trade Organisation as a basis for trade
  1. Jobs

There would be a jobs boom as firms are freed from EU regulations and red tape, say those arguing for an exit, with small-and medium-sized companies who don’t trade with the EU benefiting the most. In its recent paper, the EU Jobs Myth, the free market Institute for Economic Affairs seeks to debunk the claim that 3-4 million jobs would be lost if Britain left. “Jobs are associated with trade, not membership of a political union, and there is little evidence to suggest that trade would substantially fall between British businesses and European consumers in the event the UK was outside the EU,” it argues. “The UK labour market is incredibly dynamic, and would adapt quickly to changed relationships with the EU.”

  1. Economy

The best-case scenario, according to think tank Open Europe, is that the UK would be better off by 1.6% of GDP a year by 2030. That is assuming the UK carried out widespread deregulation after its exit and managed to strike favourable trade deals. The think tank adds: “A far more realistic range is between a 0.8% permanent loss to GDP in 2030 and a 0.6% permanent gain in GDP in 2030, in scenarios where Britain mixes policy approaches”.

The EU has limited power over tax, which is largely a matter for national governments. The exception is VAT, which has bands agreed at the EU level. Outside the EU, the UK would potentially have more flexibility. [6]

My opinion

There is good and bad arguments on both sides but for now at least I am for staying in the European Union although this might change nearer the voting day through more conversations and discussions.

References

[1] http://europa.eu/about-eu/basic-information/about/index_en.htm

[2] http://www.proeuropa.org.uk/twelevereasons

[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32793642

[4] Ibid

[5] http://www.nakedpolitics.co.uk/home/10-reasons-why-the-uk-should-leave-the-eu

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32793642

Advertisements

Philosophy : Entry 9 : My Opinion : Stoicism

So this is my first entry in the Philosophy series. I will be giving my opinion on stoicism at the end. The next entry is still undecided. Happy Chinese New Year to my readers.

Stoicism

Introduction

The term “Stoicism” derives from the Greek word “stoa,” referring to a colonnade, such as those built outside or inside temples, around dwelling-houses, gymnasia, and market-places. (To simplify it is a long pillar foundation) They were also set up separately as ornaments of the streets and open places. The simplest form is that of a roofed colonnade, with a wall on one side, which was often decorated with paintings. Thus in the market-place at Athens the stoa poikile (Painted Colonnade) was decorated with Polygnotus’s representations of the destruction of Troy, the fight of the Athenians with the Amazons, and the battles of Marathon and Oenoe. Zeno of Citium taught in the stoa poikile in Athens, and his adherents accordingly obtained the name of Stoics. Zeno was followed by Cleanthes, and then by Chrysippus, as leaders of the school. The school attracted many adherents, and flourished for centuries, not only in Greece, but later in Rome, where the most thoughtful writers, such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and Epictetus, counted themselves among its followers [1]

History

Stoicism first appeared in Athens in the period around 300 B.C. and was introduced by Zeno of Citium. It was based on the moral ideas of Cynicism (Zeno of Citium was a student of the important Cynic Crates of Thebes), and toned down some of the harsher principles of Cynicism with some moderation and real-world practicality. During its initial phase, Stoicism was generally seen as a back-to-nature movement, critical of superstitions and taboos (based on the Stoic idea that the law of morality is the same as Nature).

Zeno’s successor was Cleanthes of Assos (c. 330 – 230 B.C.), but perhaps his most influential follower was Cleanthes’ student Chrysippus of Soli (c. 280 – 207 B.C.), who was largely responsible for the moulding of what we now call Stoicism. He built up a unified account of the world, consisting of formal logic, materialistic physics and naturalistic ethics. The main focus of Stoicism was always Ethics, although their logical theories were to be of more interest for many later philosophers.

Stoicism became the foremost and most influential school of the Greco-Roman world, especially among the educated elite, and it produced a number of remarkable writers and personalities, such as Panaetius of Rhodes (185 – 109 B.C.), Posidonius (c.135 – 50 B.C.), Cato the Younger (94 – 46 B.C.), Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – A.D. 65), Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius.

Neo-Stoicism is a syncretic (This is a union or attempted fusion of different religions, cultures, or philosophies) movement, combining a revival of Stoicism with Christianity, founded by the Belgian Humanist Justus Lipsius (1547 – 1606). It is a practical philosophy which holds that the basic rule of good life is that one should not yield to the passions (greed, joy, fear and sorrow), but submit to God. [2]

Scholars usually divide the history of Stoicism into three phases:

  • Early Stoa, from the founding of the school by Zeno to Antipater.
  • Middle Stoa, including Panaetius and Posidonius.
  • Late Stoa, including Musonius Rufus, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius.

No complete work by any Stoic philosopher survives from the first two phases of Stoicism. Only Roman texts from the Late Stoa survive [3]

Doctrine

When considering the doctrines of the Stoics, it is important to remember that they think of philosophy not as an interesting pastime or even a particular body of knowledge, but as a way of life. They define philosophy as a kind of practice or exercise in the expertise concerning what is beneficial. Once we come to know what we and the world around us are really like, and especially the nature of value, we will be utterly transformed.

Stoic Logic

Stoic logic is, in all essentials, the logic of Aristotle. To this, however, they added a theory, peculiar to themselves, of the origin of knowledge and the criterion of truth. All knowledge, they said, enters the mind through the senses. The mind is a blank slate, upon which sense-impressions are inscribed. It may have a certain activity of its own, but this activity is confined exclusively to materials supplied by the physical organs of sense. This theory stands, of course, in sheer opposition to the idealism of Plato, for whom the mind alone was the source of knowledge, the senses being the sources of all illusion and error. The Stoics denied the metaphysical reality of concepts. Concepts are merely ideas in the mind, abstracted from particulars, and have no reality outside consciousness. [4]

The scope of what they called ‘logic’ (i.e. knowledge of the functions of reason) is very wide, including not only the analysis of argument forms, but also rhetoric, grammar, the theories of concepts, propositions, perception, and thought, and what we would call epistemology and philosophy of language. Formally, it was standardly divided into just two parts: rhetoric and dialectic.

One of the accounts they offer of validity is that an argument is valid if, through the use of certain ground rules. It is possible according to them to reduce it to five demonstrable forms.

These are:

  • if x then y; x; therefore y;
  • if x then y; not x; therefore not-y;
  • it is not the case that both x and y; x; therefore not-y;
  • either x or y; x; therefore not-y;
  • either x or y; not x; therefore y

Stoic Ethics

The Stoic ethical teaching is based upon two principles already developed in their physics; first, that the universe is governed by absolute law, which admits of no exceptions; and second, that the essential nature of humans is reason. Both are summed up in the famous Stoic maxim, “Live according to nature.” For this maxim has two aspects. It means, in the first place, that men should conform themselves to nature in the wider sense, that is, to the laws of the universe, and secondly, that they should conform their actions to nature in the narrower sense, to their own essential nature, reason. These two expressions mean, for the Stoics, the same thing. For the universe is governed not only by law, but by the law of reason, and we, in following our own rational nature, are by default conforming ourselves to the laws of the larger world.

In a sense, of course, there is no possibility of our disobeying the laws of nature, for we, like all else in the world, act of necessity. And it might be asked, what is the use of exhorting a person to obey the laws of the universe, when, as part of the great mechanism of the world, we cannot by any possibility do anything else? It is not to be supposed that a genuine solution of this difficulty is to be found in Stoic philosophy. They urged, however, that, though we will in any case do as the necessity of the world compels us, it is given to us alone, and not merely to obey the law, but to assent to our own obedience, to follow the law consciously and deliberately, as only a rational being can.

Virtue, then, is the life according to reason. Morality is simply rational action. It is the universal reason which is to govern our lives, not the caprice and self-will of the individual. The wise man consciously subordinates his life to the life of the whole universe, and recognizes himself as a cog in the great machine. Now the definition of morality as the life according to reason is not a principle peculiar to the Stoics. Both Plato and Aristotle taught the same. In fact, it is the basis of every ethic to found morality upon reason, and not upon the particular foibles, feelings, or intuitions, of the individual self. But what was peculiar to the Stoics was the narrow and one- sided interpretation which they gave to this principle.

Aristotle had taught that the essential nature of humans is reason, and that morality consists in following this, his essential nature. But he recognized that the passions and appetites have their place in the human organism. He did not demand their suppression, but merely their control by reason. But the Stoics looked upon the passions as essentially irrational, and demanded their complete extinction. They envisaged life as a battle against the passions which they regarded as emotional which had no real value, in which the latter had to be completely annihilated. Hence their ethical views end in a rigorous and unbalanced asceticism.

Virtue is founded upon reason, and so upon knowledge. Hence the importance of science, physics, and logic, which are valued not for themselves, but because they are the foundations of morality. The prime virtue, and the root of all other virtues, is therefore wisdom. The wise man is synonymous with the good man. From the root-virtue, wisdom, spring the four cardinal virtues: insight, bravery, self-control, and justice. But since all virtues have one root, those who possess wisdom possess all virtue, and those who lack it lack all. A person is either wholly virtuous, or wholly vicious. The world is divided into wise and foolish people, the former perfectly good, the latter absolutely evil. There is nothing between the two. There is no such thing as a gradual transition from one to the other. Conversion must be instantaneous.

The wise person is perfect, has all happiness, freedom, riches, beauty. They alone are the perfect kings, politicians, poets, prophets, orators, critics, and physicians. The fool has all vice, all misery, all ugliness, all poverty. And every person is one or the other. Asked where such a wise person was to be found, the Stoics pointed doubtfully at Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic. The number of the wise, they thought, is small, and is continually growing smaller. The world, which they painted in the blackest colours as a sea of vice and misery, grows steadily worse. [5]

We too, as rational parts of rational nature, ought to choose in accordance with what will in fact happen (provided we can know what that will be, which we rarely can—we are not gods; outcomes are uncertain to us) since this is wholly good and rational: when we cannot know the outcome, we ought to choose in accordance with what is typically or usually nature’s purpose, as we can see from experience of what usually does happen in the course of nature. In extreme circumstances, however, a choice, for example, to end our lives by suicide can be in agreement with nature.

The Stoics distinguish two primary passions: appetite and fear. These arise in relation to what appears to us to be good or bad. They are associated with two other passions: pleasure and distress. These result when we get or fail to avoid the objects of the first two passions. What distinguishes these states of soul from normal impulses is that they are “excessive impulses which are disobedient to reason”

Modern day Stoicism

Academic interest in Stoicism in the late 20th and early 21st century has been matched by interest in the therapeutic aspects of the Stoic way of life by those who are not specialists in the history of philosophy. There seem to be strong affinities between the central role that Stoicism accords to judgement and the techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.

An example of what a modern Stoic would abide by here are a few examples:

  1. The realization of a trichotomy of control, leading to the internalization of one’s goals.
  2. Virtue reconceived as the ethical maximization of agency.
  3. A mandate to “follow the facts” about the nature of the universe in general and human nature in particular.
  4. An expanded conception of positive emotions, to include those that are related to fundamental human needs.
  5. An expanded pursuit of preferred indifferents, to include those that are only indirectly related to virtue, itself understood as excellence of character.
  6. A neutral stance on the fundamental metaphysics of the universe, with the Logos interpreted either classically, as a providential ordering principle, or in closer accordance with modern science, as the idea that the universe can be understood and lived rationally.

ancient-to-modern-stoicism3

For humour I will add the modern day definition used by the urban dictionary.

Stoic:

Someone who does not give a shit about the stupid things in this world that most people care so much about. Stoics do have emotions, but only for the things in this world that really matter. They are the most real people alive.

Group of kids are sitting on a porch. Stoic walks by.

Kid – ‘Hey man, you’re a fuckin faggot and you suck cock!’

Stoic – ‘Good for you.’

Keeps going. [6]

Criticisms of stoicism

Friedrich Nietzsche taunts the Stoics in Beyond Good and Evil (1886):

“O you noble Stoics, what deceptive words these are! Imagine a being like nature, wasteful beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure, without purposes and consideration, without mercy and justice, fertile and desolate and uncertain at the same time; imagine indifference itself as a power – how could you live according to this indifference? Living – is that not precisely wanting to be other than this nature? Is not living – estimating, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different? And supposing your imperative ‘live according to nature’ meant at bottom as much as ‘live according to life’ – how could you not do that? Why make a principle of what you yourself are and must be?”

This is pretty good, as denunciations of Stoicism go, seductive in its articulateness and energy, and therefore effective, however uninformed. (This is addressed in My Opinion)

The Stoics practised Apatheia, “absence of feeling”: a state of mind where the soul experiences no emotion at all. That was the only way in which the soul could be completely free. Any emotion would bind it to the body. Life is a cart pulled by dogs; you, as a dog, have a choice between struggling against it, thereby causing yourself grief, or simply running along, going neither too fast nor too slowly

Any sexual escapade or other enjoyment compromised one’s apatheia. In addition, even moderate pleasure could destabilize the soul, subjecting it to greater pleasure by consequence, which would ultimately end in pain. They equated sex with passion but since they considered passion to be weak, they still saw sex to be of value and equated happiness with it. This is one of the few paradoxes of life the stoics could not fully balance.

Criticisms of the Stoic theory of the passions in antiquity focused on two issues. The first was whether the passions were, in fact, activities of the rational soul. The medical writer and philosopher Galen defended the Platonic account of emotions as a product of an irrational part of the soul. Posidonius, a 1st c. BCE Stoic, also criticised Chrysippus on the psychology of emotions, and developed a position that recognized the influence in the mind of something like Plato’s irrational soul-parts. The other opposition to the Stoic doctrine came from philosophers in the Aristotelian tradition. They, like the Stoics, made judgement a component in emotions. But they argued that the happy life required the moderation of the passions, not their complete extinction.

My Opinion

I think the appeal of stoicism must be more pronounced in eras when the world seems to be unmanageable and resistance to our efforts to change its terrible course. Phenomena like global warming, the concentration of capital in the hands of the few, ideological polarization, persistent violence against civilians in acts of terror–the world does not seem to be inhabiting one of its more hopeful moments. Learning to take an attitude emphasizing having an even mind, and the importance of behaving oneself, locally, in a morally defensible way, even as the wider world goes to hell, can give us a sense of well-being that does not depend on the world’s being headed the right way. Detachment of this sort is one way of restoring a sense of control over our lives–that is, if I at least live rightly, to the greatest extent circumstances beyond my control permit that should be enough to find peace in grim times.

The truth is, indifference really is a power, selectively applied, and living in such a way is not only eminently possible, with a conscious adoption of certain attitudes, but facilitates a freer, more expansive, more adventurous mode of living. Joy and grief are still there, along with all the other emotions, but they are tempered – and, in their temperance, they are less tyrannical.

So is it the right position to take?

Some of it yes, but I don’t consider passion to be of lesser value since sometimes passion is what is used to portray what being human is.

There is a time to be Stoic and there is a time to cater for passion. Balancing the two together and you have a good healthy lifestyle in my opinion.

[1] http://www.iep.utm.edu/stoicism/

[2] http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_stoicism.html

[3] A.A.Long, Hellenistic Philosophy, p.115.

[4] http://www.iep.utm.edu/stoicism/

[5] Ibid

[6] http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=stoic

 

 

Feminism : Entry 8 : My Opinion

I was going to delve into philosophy first however I wanted to do feminism since it is a topic I have recently read about. So my next entry will be about philosophy and I am open to any suggestions on what topics to do first.

Feminism

I will be looking at feminism and will be concluding if I agree with it or not.

Introduction

Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes. [1] This is the common usage.

Feminism is a range of movements and ideologies that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve equal political, economic, cultural, personal, and social rights for women. [2] This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.

The basic idea of Feminism revolves around the principle that just because human bodies are designed to perform certain procreative functions, biological elements need not dictate intellectual and social functions, capabilities, and rights.

History

Charles Fourier, a Utopian Socialist (Utopian socialists were seen as wanting to expand the principles of the French revolution in order to create a more “rational” society.) and French philosopher, is credited with having coined the word “féminisme” in 1837. Fourier’s concern was to liberate every human individual, man, woman, and child, in two senses: Education and the liberation of human passion. [3] The words “féminisme” (“feminisme”) and “féminist” (“feminist”) first appeared in France and the Netherlands in 1872, Great Britain in the 1890s, and the United States in 1910, and the Oxford English Dictionary lists 1852 as the year of the first appearance of “feminist” and 1895 for “feminism”

French writer Christine de Pizan (1364 – c. 1430), the author of The Book of the City of Ladies and Epître au Dieu d’Amour (Epistle to the God of Love) is cited by Simone de Beauvoir as the first woman to denounce misogyny and write about the relation of the sexes [4]

Other early feminist writers include Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa and Modesta di Pozzo di Forzi, who worked in the 16th century, and the 17th-century writers Hannah Woolley in England, Juana Inés de la Cruz in Mexico, Marie Le Jars de Gournay, Anne Bradstreet, and François Poullain de la Barre. One of the most important 17th-century feminist writers in the English language was Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The Age of Enlightenment was characterized by secular intellectual reasoning and a flowering of philosophical writing. Many Enlightenment philosophers defended the rights of women, including Jeremy Bentham (1781), Marquis de Condorcet (1790), and, perhaps most notably, Mary Wollstonecraft. (1792) Mary Wollstonecraft was important because she wrote one of the earliest works on feminist philosophy in 1792

19th-century feminists reacted to cultural inequities including the pernicious, widespread acceptance of the Victorian image of women’s “proper” role and “sphere.” The Victorian ideal created a dichotomy of “separate spheres” for men and women that was very clearly defined in theory, though not always in reality. In this ideology, men were to occupy the public sphere (the space of wage labour and politics) and women the private sphere (the space of home and children). Queen Victoria herself disparaged (undervalued) the concept of feminism, which she described in private letters as the “mad, wicked folly of ‘Woman’s Rights” [5]

In Scotland, Marion Reid published her influential A Plea for Woman in 1843, which proposed a transatlantic Western agenda for women’s rights, including voting rights for women. Caroline Norton advocated for changes in British law. She discovered a lack of legal rights for women upon entering an abusive marriage. The publicity generated from her appeal to Queen Victoria and related activism helped change English laws to recognize and accommodate married women and child custody issues.

Due to varying ideologies, feminists were not always supportive of each other’s efforts. Harriet Martineau and others dismissed Wollstonecraft’s contributions as dangerous, and deplored Norton’s candidness, but seized on the abolitionist campaign that Martineau had witnessed in the United States as one that should logically be applied to women. Her Society in America was pivotal: it caught the imagination of women who urged her to take up their cause.

Feminists of previous centuries charged women’s exclusion from education as the central cause for their domestic relegation and denial of social advancement, and women’s 19th-century education was no better. Frances Power Cobbe, among others, called for education reform, an issue that gained attention alongside marital and property rights, and domestic violence.

Female journalists like Martineau and Cobbe in Britain, and Margaret Fuller in America, were achieving journalistic employment, which placed them in a position to influence other women. Cobbe would refer to “Woman’s Rights” not just in the abstract, but as an identifiable cause.

Campaigns gave women opportunities to test their new political skills and to conjoin disparate social reform groups. Their successes include the campaign for the Married Women’s Property Act (passed in 1882) and the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869, which united women’s groups and utilitarian liberals like John Stuart Mill.

Feminists did not recognize separate waves of feminism until the second wave was so named by journalist Martha Lear, according to Jennifer Baumgardner. Baumgardner reports criticism by professor Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz of the division into waves and the difficulty of categorizing some feminists into specific waves, argues that the main critics of a wave are likely to be members of the prior wave who remain vital, and that waves are coming faster [6]

Women entered the labour market during the First World War in unprecedented numbers, often in new sectors, and discovered the value of their work. The war also left large numbers of women bereaved and with a net loss of household income. The scores of men killed and wounded shifted the demographic composition. War also split the feminist groups, with many women opposed to the war and others involved in the white feather campaign (this was a movement promoted by the army which got women to go up to men who have not enlisted and were not wearing a military uniform by giving them a white feather which is a sign of cowardice, the purpose of this was to shame men into enlisting)

European women received the vote in Denmark and Iceland in 1915 (full in 1919), the Russian Republic in 1917, Austria, Germany and Canada in 1918, many countries including the Netherlands in 1919, Czechoslovakia (today Czech Republic and Slovakia) in 1920, and Turkey and South Africa in 1930. French women did not receive the vote until 1945. Liechtenstein was one of the last countries, in 1984.

“Second-wave feminism” identifies a period of feminist activity from the early 1960s through the late 1980s that saw cultural and political inequalities as inextricably linked. The ideas and efforts of this era continue to coexist with third-wave feminism. The movement encouraged women to understand aspects of their personal lives as deeply politicized and reflective of a sexist power structure. As first-wave feminists focused on absolute rights such as suffrage, second-wave feminists focused on other cultural equality issues, such as ending discrimination. [7]

The rise of the Women’s Liberation movement revealed “multiple feminisms”, or different underlying feminist lenses, due to the diverse origins from which groups had coalesced and intersected, and the complexity and contentiousness of the issues involved. Bell Hooks is noted as a prominent critic of the movement for its lack of voice given to the most oppressed women, its lack of emphasis on the inequalities of race and class, and its distance from the issues that divide women

Third-wave feminism began in the early 1990s in response to what young women perceived as failures of the second-wave. It also responds to the backlash against the second-wave’s initiatives and movements. Third-wave feminism seeks to challenge or avoid second-wave “essentialist” definitions of femininity, which over-emphasized the experiences of white, upper middle class women. A post-structuralism interpretation of gender and sexuality, or an understanding of gender as outside binary maleness and femaleness, is central to the third wave’s ideology.

A fourth-wave of feminism is not currently acknowledged as a historical wave of feminism, but scholars have advocated for its existence due to the lack of activism in other waves of feminism regarding our current cultural issues. Waves of feminism are usually created as a partial response to the failures of the previous wave.

Theory

There are a number of distinct feminist disciplines, in which experts in other areas apply feminist techniques and principles to their own fields. Additionally, these are also debates which shape feminist theory and they can be applied interchangeably in the arguments of feminist theorists.

Body

In western thought, the body has been historically associated solely with women, whereas men have been associated with the mind. Susan Bordo, a modern feminist philosopher, in her writings elaborates the dualistic nature of the mind/body connection by examining the early philosophies of Aristotle, Hegel and Descartes, revealing how such distinguishing binaries such as spirit/matter and male activity/female passivity have worked to solidify gender characteristics and categorization. Bordo goes on to point out that while men have historically been associated with the intellect and the mind or spirit, women have long been associated with the body, the subordinated, negatively imbued term in the mind/body dichotomy [8]

The standard sex and gender model

The standard sex and gender model consists of ideologies based on the sex and gender of every individual and serve as “norms” for societal life. The model claims that the sex of a person is the physical body that the individual is born with, strictly existing within a male/female dichotomy giving importance to the genitals and the chromosomes which make the organism male or female. The standard model defines gender as a social understanding/ideology that defines what behaviours, actions, and appearances are proper for males and females living in society.

The contemporary sex and gender model corrects and broadens the horizons of the sex and gender ideologies. It revises the ideology of sex in that an individual’s sex is actually a social construct which is not limited to either male or female. This can be seen by the Intersex Society of North America which explains that, “nature doesn’t decide where the category of ‘male’ ends and the category of ‘intersex’ begins, or where the category of ‘intersex’ ends and the category of ‘female’ begins. Humans decide. Humans (today, typically doctors) decide how small a penis has to be, or how unusual a combination of parts has to be, before it counts as intersex” [9]

Epistemology

The generation and production of knowledge has been an important part of feminist theory and is at the centre of discussions on feminist epistemology. This debate proposes such questions as “Are there ‘women’s ways of knowing’ and ‘women’s knowledge’?” And “How does the knowledge women produce about themselves differ from that produced by patriarchy?

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is the examination of various ways in which people are oppressed, based on the relational web of dominating factors of race, sex, class, nation and sexual orientation. Intersectionality “describes the simultaneous, multiple, overlapping, and contradictory systems of power that shape our lives and political options”. While this theory can be applied to all people, and more particularly all women, it is specifically mentioned and studied within the realms of black feminism. Patricia Hill Collins argues that black women in particular, have a unique perspective on the oppression of the world as unlike white women, they face both racial and gender oppression simultaneously, among other factors. This debate raises the issue of understanding the oppressive lives of women that are not only shaped by gender alone but by other elements such as racism, classism, ageism, heterosexism, disableism etc.

Language

In this debate, women writers have addressed the issues of masculinized writing through male gendered language that may not serve to accommodate the literary understanding of women’s lives. Such masculinized language that feminist theorists address is the use of, for example, “God the Father” which is looked upon as a way of designating the sacred as solely men (or, in other words, biblical language glorifies men through all of the masculine pronouns like “he” and “him” and addressing God as a “He”). Feminist theorists attempt to reclaim and redefine women through re-structuring language. For example, feminist theorists have used the term “womyn” instead of “women.” Some feminist theorists find solace in changing titles of unisex jobs (for example, police officer versus policeman or mail carrier versus mailman). Some feminist theorists have reclaimed and redefined such words as “dyke” and “bitch” and others have invested redefining knowledge into feminist dictionaries.

Psychology

Feminist psychology, is a form of psychology centred on societal structures and gender. Feminist psychology critiques the fact that historically psychological research has been done from a male perspective with the view that males are the norm. Feminist psychology is oriented on the values and principles of feminism. It incorporates gender and the ways women are affected by issues resulting from it.

Economics

Feminist economics broadly refers to a developing branch of economics that applies feminist insights and critiques to economics. Research under this heading is often interdisciplinary, critical, or heterodox. It encompasses debates about the relationship between feminism and economics on many levels: from applying mainstream economic methods to under-researched “women’s” areas, to questioning how mainstream economics values the reproductive sector, to deeply philosophical critiques of economic epistemology and methodology. [10]

Legal theory

Feminist legal theory is based on the feminist view that law’s treatment of women in relation to men has not been equal or fair. The goals of feminist legal theory, as defined by leading theorist Claire Dalton, consist of understanding and exploring the female experience, figuring out if law and institutions oppose females, and figuring out what changes can be committed to. This is to be accomplished through studying the connections between the law and gender as well as applying feminist analysis to concrete areas of law [11]

There are many, many other theories which feminism partakes in, however to keep the entry from being too long I will end here.

My opinion

I am happy that there is an alternative perspective on critiquing society. Movements like this enriches society, because it enables debate on the issue that is brought up.

It is a comprehensive movement which means different things to different people. It is not monolithic and any positive or negative actions cannot be attributed to the movement as a whole.

Just like in religion and in other fields, there will be sub-sects of feminism believing in different ideals which arises from experiences and through their learning.

So would I call myself a feminist? No. The reason being is because even though it has an egalitarian definition to increase female standing to equal the standing of men, it is a specified movement based on female’s needs and wants. So it would not make sense to prescribe myself as one since only a female can prescribe me as one.

So the question really is do I oppose feminism? Since I am not an ideologue, I am neither pro or anti-feminism. There will be things I disagree upon on both sides of the argument.

One being for the feminist side is that since it has the narrative that women are innately oppressed, that they are automatically victims. My problem with this is I don’t consider women to be innately oppressed since growing up most of my figures of authority growing up have been women and they have taken responsibility for their actions. So there is an oversight of theory over practise. (Keep in mind the key word here is innate)

And for the sake of clarification, one argument I disagree with from the anti-feminism side is someone like Paul Gottfried maintaining that the change of women’s roles “has been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on the family” My problem is that Feminists generally are not against the notion of families and that they advance the notion of both partners of being in an equal setting rather than man then wife.

References:

[1] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/feminism

[2] Chris Beasley, What Is Feminism? Page 3, (1999)

[3] Goldstein, L (1982). “Early Feminist Themes in French Utopian Socialism: The St.-Simonians and Fourier”, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol.43, No. 1.

[4] de Beauvoir, Simone, English translation 1953 (1989). The Second Sex. Vintage Books. p. 105.

[5] Grayling, A. C. (2007). Toward the Light of Liberty. New York: Walker & Co. p. 212

[6] Baumgardner, Jennifer, F’em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls (Berkeley, California: Seal Press, 2011

[7] Freedman, Estelle B., No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

[8] Susan Bordo, Unbearable Weight, p. 4

[9] ISNA.“Frequently Asked Questions.” Intersex Society of North America 1993–2008

[10] Barker, Drucilla K. and Edith Kuiper, eds. 2003. Toward a Feminist Philosophy of Economics

[11] Dalton, Claire, ‘Deconstructing Contract Doctrine’ in Feminist Legal Theory: Readings in Law and Gender ed. by Katharine T. Bartlett and Rosanne Kennedy