All these posts are from my university studies, and are ‘as submitted’ – so they are likely to contain errors. They are mainly to show where I am progressing, and where I am going backwards. I’m happy to receive criticism, though – particularly if I have used words incorrectly (i.e. No-one would really say things in that way)
This is one of my favourite university assignment topics – intertwining my two favourite subjects; politics and philosophy. This context of this assignment was October 2013; Obama was the POTUS, and the US Ultra-Right wing Tea Party groups were ‘rising up’. The issues in the USA now reminded me of this assignment – and I realised how it was still quite applicable in the age of “MAGA” and Donald Trump.
Fellow Patriots! It’s time to stand up and “Take America Back!”
There was once a ‘land of the free and home of the brave’, where men were judged not by their level of education, but by their hard work and productivity. They were exceptional people, with an exceptional purpose. However, this idyllic, mythical history is not the world in which the US Tea Parties call home. Since the 1960s, the ‘pace of contemporary social, cultural, economic, and political change [has been] unprecedented’; this world is increasingly filled with egalitarianism, sexual liberation, differing cultures and moral values. As their myth is challenged by this reality, they feel threatened, and become disillusioned. Democracy, the government ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’, has seemingly failed them. The State is no longer the neutral, impartial arbiter, but now has become an agent of minority interests. Their great nation has been weakened by ‘un-Americans’. Their identities, based on these myths and moralities, have been profoundly affected by modernity, leading them to an anomic dissonance caused by the realisation of transience, the ‘it was’.
These factors demonstrate what Nietzsche called ressentiment, and it is the task of this essay to provide a narrative explaining ressentiment, particularly its manifestation in the contemporary extreme-right conservative ‘Tea Party’ movement in the United States of America (US), which originated in 2009 with a ‘carefully planned “spontaneous” outburst of anger’ over economic and social issues. It will be shown that this ressentiment has been directed at the State through an articulation of ressentiment nationalism; the State has been perverted from the inside, and has become ‘un-American’.
The US was formed around a national mythos of a Promised Land, and an American Exceptionalism. These myths were based on a ‘White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP)’ ethnic core. The ‘Promised Land’ for an ‘Ethnic Christian Nation’ was a deeply religious myth rooted in the beliefs of the population of the ‘New World’ of Early American history. Between the first colonial arrivals, and the War of Independence; civil society was inextricably intertwined with the protestant religion, and one’s place in this society was ordained by God. This new nation was granted by God, a ‘new Canaan’ and was thus sacred; a new Eden, which would succeed or fail according to the actions of the ‘American Adam’.
This ideology became embedded with the Puritans, and ‘Protestant Work Ethic’, then so with ‘The Spirit of Capitalism’. Through hard work, they could obtain the ‘Promise’ of America – the ‘American Dream’: unlimited progress, social mobility, wealth. This connection of social life with the religious ideology of the early American colonies was, in Weber’s thought, suggestive towards an ‘ascetic ideal’, which promoted the idea of working hard and saving money to prove God’s Grace; supporting the poor through taxation was seen as going against God’s purpose; ‘Unwillingness to work [was] symptomatic of the lack of grace. This emergent ‘American’ identity was bolstered by the events around the ‘Great Awakening’ and the Revolution. They were the ‘chosen people’ of God, who would dominate the land, and, without falling prey to immoral intellectualism, would create the ‘city on the hill’ that Winthrop, and later Regan, articulated. Much as then, today this manifests as the laissez-faire individualist, allowing the capitalist ‘marketplace’ to be the determinant of one’s moral worth.
Furthermore, America would not be party to the ethnic strife of the Old World; their focus on individualism and liberty meant they could be the civic, cosmopolitan ‘smelting pot’ which transformed diverse individuals into ‘Americans’. Unlike Europe, America was unburdened by the hierarchy and identity formed from a ‘common history’; instead, one could be ‘American’ through adopting the ideology. This myth suggested that America was the land of the noble, common people, brought together by a civic ideal and unhindered by ‘ethno-cultural nationalism’. The tensions between their demanded individualism and the community of ‘Americans’ was discarded by the belief that no single culture would be dominant; each new arrival would be subtly changed by the ‘natives’, as would the natives be subtly altered. The American nation thus could be truly diverse. This was the ‘egalitarian, populist’ America, where their unique political history, with the importation of Locke’s political philosophy, and the ‘republican’ safeguards on democracy made the US doubly special: all were endowed with natural rights, and so were equal, and this equality plus the diversity of the people made majority rule work.
This established the idea of the ‘American Nation’ as ‘Exceptional’. The nation’s ‘ideology [could] be described in five words: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez-faire’. These ideals were enshrined in the US Constitution, and as has been seen, stemmed from their history. Even as the emphasis on religion declined, with the avowal of secularism, the constructed national imagination promoted the idea that ‘America’ had a great purpose: to advance their republic, and be the model of the world. These were the myths ‘of origin, history and destiny’ that formed the basis of their nationalism.
The ‘Glorious Past’ represented by this mythologised history no longer exists, if indeed it ever did. It has been washed away by the new social milieu. On one side, the various rights movements and immigration significantly affected social demographics; since the womens rights, and civil rights movements, Women, African-Americans, and Immigrants from diverse countries are now capable of full citizenship, rather than the implicit, and sometimes explicit, discrimination allowed. The projected demographic changes in American society, via birth-rate of minority groups, and legal (and ‘illegal’) immigration have suggested that by 2050, ‘whites will become a minority’ in America, which challenging the supremacy of the ‘White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant (WASP)’ ethnic core. Likewise, the rising secularism and religious pluralism in the US has highlighted the divide between the past, and the present. On the other side, industrialisation and globalisation have destabilised the mythological notion of the adaptable, self-made, self-educated, self-reliant man, and replaced it with a [white] ‘wage slave’. The days of the yeoman farmer, or even skilled manufacturing, are gone. Rising wealth inequality, and job losses through corporate outsourcing overseas have eroded the great promise of America, and the bureaucratic state is ubiquitous.
Ressentiment and the US Tea Party
Ressentiment is an enduring, reactive attitude towards a hostile external stimulus experienced by the marginalised or powerless. It is fertile amongst ‘[p]eople who yearn to be someone else’, or perhaps somewhere or some-when else. Nietzsche argued that ressentiment was the basis of ‘herd’ morality, where the ‘plebian masses’ would band together against those who were truly noble. The narrative includes three ‘character types’: Nobles, Slaves, and Priests.
On Nietzsche’s account, the noble’s morality was given under the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dichotomy, where the ‘good’ was defined by, and expressed as, what they did and wanted; they actively assert themselves in the world, expressing themselves fully and honestly. They ‘are’ the expression of their ‘will to power’, and act in a manner that is life-affirming. Their morality affirmed the self; their qualities they had, like power, wealth, health, and ‘all things that involves vigorous, free, joyful activity’. They were ‘good’; ‘Bad’ was merely an afterthought – it was whatever was ‘not good’. Whilst not perfect, the nobles did not suffer from their lack, or feel thwarted in achieving their goals.
The Slaves, the ‘plebeian masses’, are poor, sick, or weak. They are ‘bad’ in that they are ‘not good’, i.e., not ‘noble’. Whilst barely existing in the nobles’ conception of the world, the slaves’ entire existence is framed in reference to the nobles. They feel both admiration and hatred for the nobles; they believe they neither have their attributes, nor have the ability to get them. Being unable to relieve the resultant anger and envy, they turn it inwards, where ‘hatred grows to take on a monstrous and sinister shape’. This is ressentiment; ‘an emotion that does not promote personal excellence [like in the ‘noble’ morality] but rather dwells on competitive strategy and thwarting others’. The Other is perceived as all powerful, while they are ‘powerless to express these feelings actively against the person or social stratum evoking them… [This leads to] a continual re‐experiencing of this impotent hostility’. Their belief that they are lacking causes them to repress their ‘whole negative impulse’ towards the source of their pain, which enables the detachment of ‘negative sentiment’ from its initial object, and the absorption of other qualities into these sentiments. The ‘slaves’ resign; they cultivate their grievances, revel in their ‘ressentiment complaints’, and take comfort in blaming and shaming the ‘evil Other’, their ‘imagined revenge’.
There is one other class – The transitional ‘priestly caste’. In Nietzsche’s narrative, the priest is a subset of the nobles, and so shares some ‘noble’ traits, but due to their desire for the power of the nobles, and their ‘incurable’ impotence in achieving it, they also share the ressentiment of the slaves. They hold this impotence responsible for the loss of their political supremacy. Unlike the ‘slaves’, the priests cannot resign themselves to their impotence, because like the nobles, they see ‘themselves to be of a higher rank’, and so, unlike the slaves, expect to be able to realise their goals. This makes them all the more dangerous; those of the noble morality had no requirement for cunning, but, in a backhanded compliment, Nietzsche writes that ‘[a] race of such men of ressentiment will inevitably end up cleverer than any noble race’. They are willing to wait for their revenge, and they don’t forget.
The interplay between these three classes is Nietzsche’s ressentiment argument. While modernity has been threatening for many in the US, those who identify with the ‘Tea Party’ movement feel particularly distressed over the path their ‘nation’ is taking. Their ‘grassroots’ membership predominantly consists of older, educated, white, middle class, Christian men with ‘internally generated’, ‘ethnic pride’ of their nation. It is an almost ‘primordialist fantasy’ of the ‘American Nation’; they see themselves as the ethnic descendants of the ‘Founders’, who are ‘the greatest group of Americans to ever live’. They envision themselves as heirs to a proud, wholly ‘American’ culture, as well as the inheritors of strong civic values which had been vindicated across US history; they had conquered and tamed the New World, ‘settled’ the ‘European’ wars by their moral leadership and might, and had become the ‘leader of the free world’. They were the ‘beacon on the hill’ that Winthrop saw them becoming.
The new nobility which has taken over US society since the civil rights movement has displaced the culture which the Tea Party supporters hold dear; their identities are tied into this idea of the nation, and the challenge to the hegemony of their cultural ideals, and a relative loss of cultural and economic power, is anomie-inducing.
“[E]very sufferer instinctively looks for a cause of his distress; more exactly for a culprit, even more precisely for a guilty culprit who is receptive to distress – in short, for a living being upon whom he can release his emotion … on some pretext or other: because the release of emotions is the greatest attempt … at anaesthetizing on the part of the sufferer … In my judgment, we find here the actual physiological causation of ressentiment … in a yearning … to anaesthetize pain through emotion”.
The State, which once protected and entrenched their privilege and control, has been unable to maintain this stance in a post-civil rights world. Their privileges have been equalised and spread to previously subjugated groups, leading to a downward trend in their position, relative to these other communities. The loss of their imagined nation to this ‘usurper’ nation makes them feel angry, and they feel powerless to act. Instead of recognising this as the ‘equality’ espoused by their treasured constitution, they perceived this as marginalisation, or discrimination against them. “[I]t’s not the past that’s a ‘foreign country’”, writes Lepore, ‘[i]ts the present’. They feel ashamed that they could do nothing to stop this decline, and admiring, because it hasn’t seemed to fail, despite its faults. There is also a sense in which they admire the capacity of the State to provide them with benefits – and resent the power this gives over them. Theirs is an ‘orientation to the outside’, with an inability to face the existential pain of transience. Despite the vocal impression of the Tea Party as the ‘voice of the nation’, their support is small. Without significant backing, there will be no ‘anaesthetisation of pain’ via political channels. They must be satisfied with their ‘imaginary revenge’, labelling any and all liberals, particularly the President, as ‘un-American’.
The ‘priestly caste’, the Tea Party Leadership, feel this pain also; the changes to society have been profound, and the necessity to ‘pander’, in varying degrees, to public opinion limits their capacity to roll-back or reshape the US in their own image. However, they cannot be satisfied with mere ‘imaginary revenge’. It is the priestly caste which acts as the catalyst for the ‘slave revolt in morality’, a ‘radical revaluation of their values… an act of the most deliberate revenge’. They turn ressentiment creative; it at once negates all noble values, and replaces them with that of the ‘slave morality’. It says ‘NO!’ to whatever is not of it; the hostile, evil ‘Other’ is to blame for their place in the world. The priestly caste rejected ‘the aristocratic value equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = blessed)’, and replaced it with a slave morality where ‘those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good’! They no longer would see any good in those former values; they deigned them evil, and could thereby deign themselves ‘good’ since they did not possess them. Since they, the Tea Party, don’t have the power to enact their will over the people, power over people must be evil.
The priest, via his respected image amongst the masses, also has the power to change the focus of ressentiment. The ressentiment sufferers are
[F]righteningly willing and inventive in their pretexts for painful emotions… they rummage through the bowels of their past and present for obscure, questionable stories that will allow them to wallow in tortured suspicion, … they make evil-doers out of friend, wife, child and anyone else near to them. ‘I suffer: someone or other must be guilty’ – and every sick sheep thinks the same. But his shepherd … says to him, ‘Quite right, my sheep! Somebody must be to blame: but you yourself are this somebody … one thing has been achieved by it, the direction of ressentiment is… changed.
In turning ressentiment, the priest can manipulate the energy of the slaves toward the priest’s ultimate goal; a return to power, and their expected glory. Their ressentiment can be directed inward, so as to consolidate a community of sufferers who will learn and pass on the priests values; this is clearly highlighted in statements by the TeaPAC:
Our mission is to restore a limited, constitutional government through effective, ongoing citizen participation. As citizens, we must accept ultimate responsibility for what has happened and what will happen in the future.
They direct the ressentiment inwards, citing the lack of ‘professional citizens’, in order to keep the ressentiment festering, and impress their value structure. Since Tea Party supporters tend to be more authoritarian, libertarian, and nativist, as well as more fearful of change, the direction by their leaders provide a measure of security. However, it also allows the ‘priests’ to manipulate them by simplifying all the issues into an ‘evil Other’– the State –, vs. the ‘moral Us’, and providing simplified solutions to fix any and all problems.
Since the nature of the modern world is such that ‘most people [have] few spaces for the joys of agency’, through a ‘national self-identity linked to a valorized and idealized nation-state’, and participation in nationalist causes, people could feel empowered, rather than powerless. Populist politicians, including the Tea Party ‘priests’ have been able to mobilise the ressentiment nationalism of this group by appealing to their sense of belonging; their ‘nation’ is under siege by forces outside the ‘real’ American Nation. Those forces are not merely construed as external to the State, but of it, and within it; they are the ‘undeserving poor’ who live off ‘our hard earned taxpayer dollars’; the ‘illegals’ who come in and take jobs, homes and welfare; in fact, anyone that doesn’t fit to their narrow sense of who the ‘real Americans’ are. Even the State itself is evil – it has given itself powers in excess of what the founders intended. These Others are construed as immoral merely through this ‘persuasive definition’ of them as such. This implicitly and explicitly directs the ‘slaves’ ressentiment outwards, providing a route for collective action. They call for an ‘American Jeremiad’, identifying their idyllic past, the immoral present, and promoting a return to their beloved ‘America’.
This essay has argued that the U.S. ‘Tea Party’ movement exemplifies the attitude that Nietzsche described as ‘ressentiment’. Their slogan, to ‘Take Back America’ is, in a sense, an attempt to take America back in time, and from, those they see as gaining, via illegitimate means, the fruits of their, and their forefathers, labours. Seeing themselves as the rightful inheritors of the ‘American Dream’, enshrined in a series of national myths, the ‘Tea Party are sufferers of ressentiment railing against the States’ inability to manage the pace and direction of cultural and economic change.
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 From the US national anthem, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.
 Wendy Brown, “Specters and Angels at the End of History,” in Vocations of Political Theory, ed. J.A. Frank and J. Tambornino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 25.
 ‘It was’: that is what the will’s gnashing off teeth and loneliest tribulation is called. Helpless against what has been done – of all things past it is an angry witness. Backwards the will cannot will: that it cannot break time and time’s inordinate desire,- that is the will’s loneliest tribulation […] That time does not run backwards, this is its anger; ‘That Which Was’ – this is what the stone it cannot roll is called. Friedrich Nietzsche and Thomas Wayne, Thus Spake Zarathustra, (New York: Algora Publishing, 2007), http://murdoch.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=318662. 107.
 Lauren Langman, “Cycles of Contention: The Rise and Fall of the Tea Party,” Critical Sociology 38, no. 4 (2012): 470.
 “Cycles of Contention: The Rise and Fall of the Tea Party,” Critical Sociology 38, no. 4 (2012).
 Eric Kaufmann, “American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: Anglo-Saxon Ethnogenesis in the Nation, 1776 – 1850,” Journal of American Studies 33, no. 03 (1999); see also Matt A. Barreto et al., “The Tea Party in the Age of Obama: Mainstream Conservatism or out-Group Anxiety?,” in Rethinking Obama, ed. J. Go (Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2011), 10.
 Kaufmann, “American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: Anglo-Saxon Ethnogenesis in the Nation, 1776 – 1850,” 442.
 Ibid; S. Bercovitch, The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America (Routledge, Chapman & Hall, Incorporated, 1993), 8, 9; R.W.B. Lewis, The American Adam: Innocence Tragedy and Tradition in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955).
 M. Weber, Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. T. Parsons, Routledge Classics (London: Routledge, 2001).
 In the thought of many, this was obviously granted by the grace of God; whereas idleness would lead one in a downwards spiral into poverty, due to ones personal failures and lowering in the eyes of God. Erich Fromm discusses this in To Have or to Be? (New York: Continuum, 2005).
 Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Ch5:159.
 Weber: The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.
 S. Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad (University of Wisconsin Press, 1978), 105; See also Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” Lillian Goldman Law Library, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/jeffvir.asp.
 Bercovitch, The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America, 32.
 See Cotton, cited in R. Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2012), 46; Sowell argues that the ‘common man’ triumphed against the ‘presumptions of the arrogant. See T. Sowell, The Quest for Cosmic Justice (New York: Free Press, 2001), 187.
 Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity”; Ronald Regan, “Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination” (at the the Republican National Convention, Dallas, Texas, August 23 1984), sourced at: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=40290.
 Emerson, as cited in Kaufmann, “American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: Anglo-Saxon Ethnogenesis in the Nation, 1776 – 1850,” 452.
 David Brown, Contemporary Nationalism: Civic, Ethnocultural, and Multicultural Politics (London: Routledge, 2000), Ch 3; see also S.M. Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword (W.W. Norton, 1997); and Thistlethwaite, in The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1963).
 American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, 1-3. This is also part of the critique of American Exceptionalism.
 M. Kazin, The Populist Persuasion: An American History (Cornell University Press, 1998), 1.
 Brown, Contemporary Nationalism: Civic, Ethnocultural, and Multicultural Politics, Ch 3.
 Though, this idea of course has been challenged. See Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, 154; A. de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1959), Ch 14.
 See James Madison, “The Federalist Papers No. 10: The Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection,” Lillian Goldman Law Library, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/fed10.asp.
 Thomas Jefferson et al., “The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776,” ibid. http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/declare.asp.
 Lipset, American Exceptionalism: A Double-Edged Sword, 1.
 This can be seen in POTUS Wilson, and his ‘moral imperative’ to make the world ‘safe for democracy’, in Woodrow Wilson, “Request for Declaration of War” (at the Joint Session of the Two Houses of Congress, Washington, April 2 1917), sourced at: http://wwl2.dataformat.com/PDF/D04363.pdf 7.
 Lauren Langman, “The Social Psychology of Nationalism: To Die for the Sake of Strangers,” in The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism, ed. G. Delanty and K. Kumar (London: SAGE, 2006), 74.
 Barreto et al., “The Tea Party in the Age of Obama: Mainstream Conservatism or out-Group Anxiety?,” 10.
 In theory, even if this is still sometimes lacking in practice.
 Slavery being the most prominent example of explicit discrimination; there is also the lack of women’s political and personal rights, and lack of institutionalised anti-discrimination even against Catholics, or the Irish to consider. Bart Motes, “The Tea Party Wants You to Call Them Racist,” (2010), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-motes/the-tea-party-wants-you-t_b_649006.html; Joan Dowlin, “The Tea Party Movement Vs. The Civil Rights Movement,” The Blog(2010), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joan-e-dowlin/the-tea-party-movement-vs_b_551100.html.
 Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn. “U.S. Population Projections: 2005-2050 “. (Washington DC: Pew Research Centre, 2008), http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/85.pdf.
 Kaufmann, “American Exceptionalism Reconsidered: Anglo-Saxon Ethnogenesis in the Nation, 1776 – 1850.”
Barreto et al., “The Tea Party in the Age of Obama: Mainstream Conservatism or out-Group Anxiety?,” 10.
 Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, 342.
 See M.J. Sandel, Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1998), Ch 6, esp. 172-173.
 Henry Blodget, “Here’s the Biggest Problem in the American Economy,” Business Insider Australia(2012), http://www.businessinsider.com.au/heres-the-problem-with-our-economy-2012-9.
 W. Brown, States of Injury: Power and Freedom in Late Modernity (Princeton University Press, 1995), 68.
 Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson, trans. Carol Diethe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), GM1:7-10. Scheler, as cited in Lita Crociani-windland and Paul Hoggett, “Politics and Affect,” Subjectivity 5, no. 2 (2012): 166.
 J. Portmann, When Bad Things Happen to Other People (Taylor & Francis, 2000), 119.
 It is interesting to ask the meaning of the Tea Party wish to ‘Take America Back’? To when? From whom?
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GM7-10.
 Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition.
 F. Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals : A Polemic., trans. D. Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), GMI:7. Parts of this translation are more eloquent.
 Robert Solomon, “Nietzsche Ad Hominem: Perspectivism Personality and Ressentiment Revisited,” in The Cambridge Companion to Nietzsche, ed. B. Magnus and K. Higgins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 210.
 Scheler suggests that ressentiment ‘is not in the same sense tied to definite objects… On the contrary, this affect seeks those objects, those aspects of men and things, from which it can draw gratification’. See M. Scheler, Ressentiment (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Marquette University Press, 1994), 30.
 Merton, in Jock Young, “Moral Panic: Its Origins in Resistance, Ressentiment and the Translation of Fantasy into Reality,” British Journal of Criminology 49, no. 1 (2009): 12. Following Reginster, I disagree with the final portion of the Merton quote.
 Panu Minkkinen, “Ressentiment as Suffering: On Transitional Justice and the Impossibility of Forgiveness,” Law and Literature 19, no. 3 (2007): 521.
 Bernard Reginster, “Nietzsche on Ressentiment and Valuation,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 57, no. 2 (1997): 8.
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GMI:6-7.
 Reginster, “Nietzsche on Ressentiment and Valuation,” 287 – 288. See also note 9.
 However, it ought to be said that those of the ‘noble’ morality did not see this lack as an obstacle to obtaining their values.
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GMI:10.
 Barreto et al., “The Tea Party in the Age of Obama: Mainstream Conservatism or out-Group Anxiety?; Langman, “Cycles of Contention: The Rise and Fall of the Tea Party.”
 David Brown, “The Ethnic Majority: Benign or Malign?,” Nations and Nationalism 14, no. 4 (2008): 771; Adams calls this ‘racial pride’, in J.T. Adams and H. Schneiderman, The Epic of America (Transaction Publishers, 2012), 46.
 Matthew Levinger and Paula Franklin Lytle, “Myth and Mobilisation: The Triadic Structure of Nationalist Rhetoric,” Nations and Nationalism 7, no. 2 (2001): 177.
 Glenn Beck, as cited in Jared A. Goldstein, “The Tea Party Movement and the Perils of Popular Originalism,” Arizona Law Review 53(2011): 849.
 Brown, “The Ethnic Majority: Benign or Malign?,” 772.
 At least, they were descended from those who did – see Stephen Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (London: Penguin Group, 2011), 521. for an interesting discussion on these lines.
 D.H. Murdoch, The American West: The Invention of a Myth (University of Nevada Press, 2001), 18.
 Woodrow Wilson, “President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points,” Lillian Goldman Law Library, http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/wilson14.asp; Truman, in J. Fousek, To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War (University of North Carolina Press, 2000), 19-23.
 To Lead the Free World: American Nationalism and the Cultural Roots of the Cold War, 130.
 Winthrop, “A Modell of Christian Charity”; Regan, “Remarks Accepting the Presidential Nomination.”
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, III:15.
 Though this trend is merely relative; substantively, the Tea Party Supporters are still economically better off. Liah Greenfeld and Daniel Chirot, “Nationalism and Aggression,” Theory and Society 23, no. 1 (1994): 85. suggest this is an inspiration for ressentiment.
 Gary Younge, “Race Is Central to the Fear and Angst of the Us Right,” (2013), http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/20/race-central-fear-angst-us-right.
 There has been admitted failure on both Democrat and Republican sides.
 “Hands off our Medicare!” is an odd placard noting Tea Party philosophy, yet when queried, they defend their receipt of government benefits by claiming that they deserved it because they paid into the system. See Paul Briand, “Average Tea Party Member Is Baby Boomer,” examiner.com(2010), http://www.examiner.com/article/average-tea-party-member-is-baby-boomer.
 Keith Ansell-Pearson, Carol Diethe, and Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche : ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), http://murdoch.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=321153. GMI:10.
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GMI:7.
 Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GMIII:15.
 “TeaPAC: About Us”.
 Andrew J. Perrin et al., “Cultures of the Tea Party,” Contexts, Spring 2011, 74.
 Langman, “The Social Psychology of Nationalism: To Die for the Sake of Strangers,” 72.
 The ‘garrison nationalism’ discussed in Brown, “The Ethnic Majority: Benign or Malign?,” 783.
 Stevenson, in John Hill, “The Grammar of Restorationism,” The Australasian Catholic Record 88, no. 2 (2011): 179. Daly defines ‘persuasive definition’ as a definition which ‘gives a new conceptual meaning to a familiar word without changing its emotive meaning; and which is used with the conscious or unconscious purpose of changing the direction of people’s interests’. Ibid.
 Nietzsche, Nietzsche: ‘On the Genealogy of Morality’ and Other Writings Student Edition, GMIII:15,20; Patrik Aspers, “Nietzsche’s Sociology,” Sociological Forum 22, no. 4 (2007): 484.
 Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad.
Learning happens. It happens so often, in fact, that we regularly fail to call it ‘learning’, except in the narrow field of ‘schooling’. Theories of learning aim to explain the process of how we learn; in so far as they succeed, they can be used to guide teachers towards better practice. While no one learning theory has been shown to be universal, or flawless, Constructivism, specifically the ‘Social Constructivism’ of Vygotsky (Vygotsky & Cole, 1978), provides useful insight into this learning process. His theory suggests that learning occurs through collaboration with ‘More Knowledgeable Others’ (MKOs), within a ‘Zone of Proximal Development’. This view of learning has both challenging and exciting implications for effective praxis; on this view, teachers must work towards providing: engaging, immersive and expressive teaching; a safe, supportive, and diverse social environment that includes family and community connections; holistic learning tasks, set in a ‘real world’ contexts; and predominantly dynamic, formative assessment.
Vygotsky is a Social Constructivist; while accepting Piaget’s claim that learners were actively constructing their knowledge (McInerney & McInerney, 2009, p. 53), Vygotsky did not accept Piaget’s noting of the learner as a solo explorer, constructing their knowledge through self discovery (McInerney & McInerney, 2009, p. 53). Vygotsky saw that whilst learning takes place within the mind, and skills are often practiced and mastered alone, learners were never truly ‘solo explorers’; their learning is never completely ‘individual’, but is socially mediated by ‘MKOs’, and through the use of various physical and cognitive tools, e.g. books/reading (language), equipment, rules, and strategy (Salomon & Perkins, 1998, p. 2). This ‘mediation’ begins from our earliest experiences, and continues indefinitely.
The learning process follows the same basic pattern, regardless of the age of the learner. Where a learner comes across a problem that they cannot solve alone, a ‘Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD) is generated (Newman, Griffin, & Cole, as cited in Hausfather, 1996). The ZPD is a theoretical construct to highlight the ‘zone’ between the knowledge and skills that a learner has already developed, and can use without assistance (the ‘Actual Development Level’), and the things the learner cannot do even with support (John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996). This ‘zone’ helps to identify current knowledge, the knowledge and skills that are as yet immature, but in potentia, and skills and knowledge that the learner is not yet ready for; it is here that there are opportunities for learning and development.
Each learner, in every domain, has a ‘ZPD (Hausfather, 1996; Vygotsky, 1997; Vygotsky & Cole, 1978). On this view, the learner is a ‘cognitive apprentice’ that is supported by ‘tools’, such as books and computers, and ‘mediators’, such as MKOs, to co-construct new knowledge, or to ‘bridge’ the gap between old knowledge used in a new situation. In Vygotsky’s learning theory, it was the role of an MKO to support the ‘cognitive apprentice’ in a learning task through their ‘ZPD’ (Vygotsky, 1997; Vygotsky & Cole, 1978); building their capacity by setting tasks that were neither too easy, or too challenging. Depending on the level of development of particular skills within the ZPD, MKOs’ support may be graduated through a series of ‘stages’, including modelling, scaffolding, fading, and coaching (Collins, 1991).
The collaborative nature of meaning-making makes learning bi-directional; despite the apparent ‘transmission’ of knowledge from the MKO to a learner, the knowledge co-created does not merely affect the learner, but also the MKO, and others. By teaching, the MKO is also learning; sometimes gaining new ‘content’ knowledge, from the learner’s experience, at other times, the learning is a deeper understanding of the subject, and knowledge of how to teach. Meaning is neither ‘transmitted’, nor ‘independent’, neither ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’; instead, it is a little of both. The learner is both shaped by, and shapes, the environment around them (Bodrova, 1997, p. 16).
Vygotsky’s theory has some challenging, but exciting implications for my teaching. The first is that, particularly in my LOTE classroom, I need to be engaging, immersive, and expressive, because Vygotsky’s theory suggests that
“…children observe conversation and […] it is the unity of perception, speech and action which leads them to make sense of situations… Children do not simply react to the words that are used but interpret the context, facial expression, and body language to understand meaning.” (Pound, 2012, p. 39)
While teaching and learning a second language, context, expression, and body language are key strategies to ‘decoding’ unfamiliar vocabulary and grammatical structures. Similarly, in my SOSE classes, it will be important to recognise the context, expression and body language of my learners who speak the same language; we sometimes need to interpret their terminology due to unfamiliar subgroup differences. This will require attending and questioning skills.
The second key implication for my teaching is that the learning environment must be a safe, supportive place, which encourages diversity and collaboration with family and community. Vygotsky’s emphasis on the social nature of learning, and the contexts in which it happens, promotes both interactive, collaborative activities at school, and strong relationship building with family and community outside of it. Firstly, encouraging, and developing the skills for group work demand the use of multiliteracies (including social/emotional literacy) and metacognition. I will have to model these multiliteracies, and, through attention to my feedback and teaching styles, must develop a space where learners feel safe and supported, by both myself, and their peers. Secondly, Vygotsky’s theory demands attention on partnerships with families and communities; learning and development are mediated by a variety of social actors, and without collaboration with, and reinforcement from, family connections, learning will not occur at the optimum level.
Similarly, while diversity in our classrooms can present challenges, it can also provide benefits in a Vygotskian framework. Vygotsky suggests that different cultures develop different mental tools and strategies (Davidson & Davidson, 1994; Vygotsky, 1997). This provides additional reasons to support multicultural awareness and cross-cultural support networks. By utilising the diversity in the classroom, additional opportunities for peer- and teacher support would be created, and strategies and ‘tools’ could be shared cross-culturally; this is seen when we consider the ‘8 Ways of Learning’ (Bangamalanha Centre via the Traditional Owners of Western New South Wales, 2011) that has been promoted to assist with Aboriginal perspectives across the curriculum. Sharing cognitive and metacognitive strategies opens these resources to all, and allows them further opportunity to internalise a range of strategies that will assist them in achieving their educational goals (Kozulin, 2003, p. 16). It also promotes recognition of the value of diversity, and respect for all.
The third key implication for my teaching is that tasks should be holistic, and based in the ‘real world’. When requiring a product of learning, whether in social sciences or in the L2, learning and assessment tasks should be holistic. This is due to the contextual nature of learning; abstraction from one field to another is not automatic. Rather than demanding demonstration of individual skill or memory of an isolated fact, teachers need to look at them in a holistic way, to embed the tasks in as ‘real-world’ a context as possible. This also connects to the activation of the students’ prior learning/knowledge, in that the use of skills and facts in new ways supports the abstraction of this learning into new areas.
Vygotsky’s emphasis on context was to bridge the gap between learners’ real world experience, and the learning done in school. As their knowledge is ‘deconstructed’ in the classroom, and new knowledge co-constructed, students develop their ability to analyse, formalise and abstract their experience to novel situations (Smagorinsky, 2013). This will be important in both LOTE and SOSE. In LOTE, there is little point in teaching young adolescents the vocabulary and constructs for discussions about advanced science, or political theory; teaching topics should be predominantly within the students’ range of experience, relevant and relatable to their lives. It is also important to avoid breaking tasks down into components; learners need to be focused on the ‘whole’ (McInerney & McInerney, 2009, p. 55). Similarly, in the study of SOSE, particularly history, it is important to bring students experiences of the world now, to see their world reflected in the world of the past. Through their experiences, they will relate, and investigate differences between then and now; they will also have the opportunity to reflect on where we can go from here, and the impact they can have in affecting the world around them. Everything they experience in their world today must be used to provide connections between their understandings, and the abstracted historical knowledge.
The other aspect of this worth mentioning relates to the idea that cultural tools do not merely shape us, but we use these tools to change our environment (Salomon & Perkins, 1998). As a LOTE teacher, I want to develop learners who find their own ‘space’ between two cultures, with due consideration of ‘correct’ language in the classroom, but also with the confidence to experiment with the modes and registers of their counterparts in the target culture. This implies a careful balance between requiring ‘school’ language, and allowing students to make the L2 ‘their own’, in conjunction with other speakers in the community.
The fourth key implication of Vygotsky’s theory for my teaching is that it implies a much more nuanced view of assessment; not only do we require knowledge of what a student can do now, but we need to know where that student is going, and what they need assistance with to get there. Tasks must be pitched at the correct level, and the appropriate level of support needs to be given. I will need to gain knowledge of my students’ capabilities very quickly, and, particularly in LOTE, be capable of providing multi-levelled tasks. Formal assessment needs to be dynamic, rather than static, and focus on the formative elements of assessment, rather than all attention on the summative elements. In all my classes, formative assessment will be paramount; regular feedback will be given to students both formally and informally. Assessment, particularly in my LOTE classes, will by as ‘dynamic’ as I can make it, with individual/paired activities that are assessed and progression that is plotted over time. This will assist me as the teacher, in knowing my students; It will assist in determining what, when, and how much assistance to provide to individuals and the class as a whole. Summative assessment is necessary, but will eventually only demonstrate what I already know about my students, and what they already know about themselves.
For Vygotsky (Vygotsky, 1997), learning was not limited to formal education; it began almost immediately after birth, and didn’t really stop until – one assumes – death. While His Social Constructivist theory, like all learning theories, has flaws, it does provide a useful conception of learning that can support praxis. The implications for teaching are at once challenging and exciting; they are also admittedly complex in practice, noting the constraints in classrooms. This difficulty, however, should not be cause for discarding the theory; striving for greater incorporation of social constructivist ideas is worthwhile for both ‘learning teaching’, and ‘teaching learning’.
Bangamalanha Centre via the Traditional Owners of Western New South Wales. (2011). 8 [Aboriginal] Ways of Learning. from http://8ways.wikispaces.com/
Bodrova, Elene. (1997). Key Concepts of Vygotsky’s Theory of Learning and Development. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 18(2), 16-22. doi: 10.1080/1090102970180205
Collins, A. (1991). Cognitive Apprenticeship: Marking Thinking Visible. American Educator, 15, 38-39.
Davidson, John, & Davidson, Frances. (1994). Vygotsky’s Developmental Theory: An Introduction: Davidson Films, Inc.
Hausfather, Samuel J. (1996). Vygotsky and schooling: Creating a social context for learning. Action in Teacher Education, 18(2), 1-10.
John-Steiner, Vera, & Mahn, Holbrook. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational psychologist, 31(3-4), 191-206.
Kozulin, A. (2003). Psychological Tools and Mediated Learning. In A. Kozulin, B. Gindis, V. S. Ageyev & S. M. Miller (Eds.), Vygotsky’s Educational Theory in Cultural Context. Learning in Doing: Social, Cognitive, and Computational Perspectives (pp. 15 – 38). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
McInerney, D.M., & McInerney, V. (2009). Educational Psychology: Constructing Learning: Pearson Education Australia.
Pound, Linda. (2012). How Children Learn : From Montessori to Vygosky – Educational Theories and Approaches Made Easy Retrieved from http://murdoch.eblib.com.au/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=977676
Salomon, Gavriel, & Perkins, David N. (1998). Chapter 1: Individual and Social Aspects of Learning. Review of Research in Education, 23(1), 1-24. doi: 10.3102/0091732×023001001
Smagorinsky, Peter. (2013). What Does Vygotsky Provide for the 21st Century Language Arts Teacher? Language Arts, 90(3), 192 – 204.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1997). Interaction Between Learning and Development. In M. Gauvain & M. Cole (Eds.), Readings on the Development of Children (2nd ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
Vygotsky, L.S., & Cole, M. (1978). MIND IN SOCIETY: Harvard University Press.
 Which, on this theory, is intimately connected with development – learning is not the same as development, but learning can result in development (Hausfather, 1996).
 Correct citation unknown; contact with the Bangamalanha Centre was attempted, but failed. Suggested citation was extrapolated from the wiki protocol page.
What kind of person do we aim to be? Persons of principle, who (aim to) uphold a set of standards, a ‘moral code’? Perhaps we aim at being someone who is sensitive to situations, with no set rules, but determining right or wrong depending on each new situation they find themselves in? This will depend on whether you think rules or principles are essential, or whether the specific facts of an individual situation has greater import, when considering whether an action is moral. This is the argument between moral principlists, and moral particularists. After a brief introduction to the problem, two key principlist positions, Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism, will be explored along with particularism to find the strengths and weaknesses of these positions. It will be shown that in spite of the strengths of principle-based theories, particularism still poses a significant challenge to them.
Principle based ethical systems claim that there are one or more true, general, and universal principles that are ontologically prior to action, and which serve as guides or directives on ethical behaviour. Without principles, they suggest, there can be no morality, for there would be no standards by which they can be determined. While they disagree on the content and structure of an ethical system, two of the most recognised principle based systems are Kantian Deontology and Utilitarianism. Each of these ethical systems provide methods of judging actions based on their observance of a general principle. They are the ‘moral reasons’ for acting in any particular case, which may be held to be a priori, known through reason alone, or known a posteriori, through experience of similar cases. Regardless of any additional features, whenever a ‘moral reason’ appears, this will always have the same moral value, moral ‘polarity’. That is, for a Kantian, false-promising will always be morally wrong; perhaps for a Utilitarian, buying expensive cars instead of donating to charity would be. They share a demand for application of a principle in each scenario one finds oneself in, though may disagree on specifics.
Particularists disagree with this principle approach. Rather than a rule being ontologically prior, a moral particularist suggests that moral reasons are particular to their context, and are ontologically prior. Rational moral judgement, under particularism, does not depend on a ‘suitable provision’ of principles. the moral reasons for an action can also be affected in polarity by their relations and wider interconnections. What might have been a ‘moral reason’ for acting in one case, may not have the same relevance, or support the same polarity in another case. While a principle of ‘don’t cause pain’ might indeed suggest a good moral reason not to hit your mother with a bokken, in another case, causing pain in this manner might be morally neutral. There are also cases whereby causing pain is the morally right action; when encountering a gunman threatening to kill a group of people, hitting the gunman’s arm with a bokken will certainly cause pain, but in that situation, it would be morally required. Perhaps an onlooker, seeing the event from a distance, may see you hit your mother with a bokken, and evaluate your action as immoral, without seeing the gun in her hand that threatened the others present; likewise, we may also retain some moral guilt for this act, despite the circumstances. What is apparent though, to a particularist moral agent fully cognisant of the context, is that the same action ‘causing pain’ has switched polarity based on a holism of reasons; it must be evaluated based on the situation, not against a general rule.
Strengths and Weaknesses of these Views
Both principlism and particularism have several strengths and weaknesses. A principle based ethical system is seen as having universals which are rationally calculable and objective. To their credit, and to the extent they match our expectations, these strengths make principle based theories very attractive. However, principle based systems are also heavily criticised for failing to factor for complexity, being too rigid in their demands, and too impartial. For its part, particularism is accused of not having the strengths of principles based morals. It does not have the capacity for universals, cannot straightforwardly guide action, and is not objective, but subjective; the very antithesis of principles based theories. However, these weaknesses can be forceful strengths: while not offering a universal, it highlights the natural complexity of human endeavour; while generally more difficult to apply, and more labour intensive, particularism can offer a more satisfying outcome through a comprehensive and sensitive consideration of the situation; and while less objective, particularism can factor for the inherent nature of human relationships. To the extent that principle based theories do not match our moral expectations, particularist ethics can. These are the key elements which will be unpacked here.
The moral directives of principlist theories submit that they are action-guiding for all moral agents, and all times, regardless of self- or other- interests. These universals are grounded for Kant, in universal reason, and for Utilitarians, in a shared capacity for pleasure and pain. This universalism offers a degree of certainty in moral judgment, and, since it is grounded on alleged shared capacities, it is universally applicable. In this realm, however, there are some differences between the principlists. For Deontological principlists, the situation, culture, and historical position one finds oneself in bears little to no influence on the morality of an action; theirs is a universal, duty- and intention- based doctrine. It is for this reason that Kant outlines the Categorical Imperative’s (CI) edict against making false promises. According to Kant, One cannot universalise a maxim that suggested false promises were morally permissible, because it is not rational, nor does it respect individual autonomy. It would remove the very institution of promising. For teleological principlists, as a consequentialist doctrine, the situation will affect the morality of an action; False promising, contra Kant, can be morally permissible if the expected positive outcome is sufficiently good, based on the Utility Principle. However, the principle will still be universalisable to any and all others in a situation that is relevantly similar; similar situation will have a similar ‘right’ action.
To a particularist, as briefly outlined previously, this view is false. Each situation is new; the features are never completely the same. While they may be small or great, the ‘[d]ifference[s], idiomaticity, singularity, exceptionality’ are the hallmarks of real life situations. The Universals, if they exist, attempt to pronounce a clear judgement, subsuming any and all particulars within a singular situation under an overarching universal principle. However, this is rarely appropriate; in all but the most banal situations, principles cannot suffice alone, and it is in banal situations that we do not have need of the guidance from a principle. Real situations don’t conform or reduce naturally to cases; principles, even by their proponents, are modified and adjusted. This leads to problems of application, discussed in the next section.
This also leads to the question of where the universals came from; under these principlist views, as mentioned, universals are known a priori through reason, or a posteriori through a shared experience of pleasure and pain. However, particularists recognise that both of these universals assume a key point; rationality and shared features rely upon particulars. Particular instantiations of rationality point to a universal shared feature, not the other way around: ‘[e]very concept originates through our equating what is unequal’. Seeing one thing as equal to another, ‘[tying] down […] a single item [that] is carried over and used to refer univocally to other items which are not identical with the original one’ serves to emphasise certain aspects, whilst hiding others. Principles force a narrow viewpoint, and miss the distinct features of particular situations, and can further exacerbate problems of power; framing issues in a specific way points to one principle, though looking at it through another lens can privilege another. Subsuming the particular can have deleterious effects on morality. At their best, principles can merely signpost possible moral reasons or relevance of situational features.
Application / Calculation of Morality
Principle based theories are often lauded for being easy to apply. There is a clear system in place for judging right from wrong. They provide of a degree of certainty about what is ‘right’ which impacts greatly on humanity; these principles are, broadly speaking, the basis of law and government, and follows the contours of a common approach to moral argument. For a Kantian Deontologist, their moral reasoning process to enable good moral decision-making consists of measuring an action against the Categorical Imperative (CI); provides an effective and simple method for determining the moral worth of an action– simply measure an action against the principle, and obtain an answer. If I want to know whether withholding information when trying to sell my car would be morally permissible, I merely need only to consider the first two formulations of the CI. Perhaps considering the first formulation, ‘act only on the maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law’, perhaps you could rationalise that, at least in the realm of car sales, withholding information is already a universal law. However, the second formulation of the CI will remove any doubt, and subjective bias; one could not be acting ‘as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only’ by the universalisation of this act, because it removes the autonomy and respect for persons which this formulation stands to guard. I would be duty-bound to give a full and honest sales pitch. Similarly, if perhaps I am a Utilitarian preparing a last Will and Testament, I may want to determine who to leave my riches to; perhaps I like the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, but I also think that UNICEF does important work worldwide. As a Utilitarian, I could calculate the moral worth of these options; all I have to determine is which would provide the ‘greatest happiness for the greatest number’. It would seem I am morally bound to willing my riches to UNICEF. These principles provide a rational defence for a specific moral judgement, by an appeal to the principle(s).
It is often this ‘calculation’ or ‘programmed response’ factor that, while supposedly making moral decisions easier, disturbs particularists. This ‘principled irresponsibility’ takes moral agency out of the equation, and ignores the real complexity of each individual situation. Real world situations are singular, not identical with one another. While it may be correct to say that they share some similar features, this ‘looking away’ from the particulars of each situation is, to a particularist, of considerable concern. As Caputo suggests, the use of principles can lead to an ‘abdication of responsibility’, leaving moral judgement to simply determine the action that ‘comes out’ of a formulaic response to inputs, and come what may. Rather than principles which create moral responses, following principles can lead to immoral outcomes. Consider the scenario often directed against Kant:
A friend of yours comes to you for help, due to being chased by an alleged murderer. Your friend is, by all accounts, innocent of any crime. Not wanting your friend to be murdered, you provide a place for them to hide, and so you know where this hiding place is located. Shortly after, the alleged murderer comes to your door and asks you where your friend is.
According to Kant’s principlism, lying is always morally wrong, so you must either refrain from saying anything, with its possible ramifications, or tell the truth, and face those consequences. This certainly does not follow common moral reasoning, and particularism offers us an explanation. Lying to someone in one situation, say, for personal gain, would likely be morally wrong; however that same action, in the case of the murderer at the door, would be morally right. The valence of lying has a moral reason in favour of performing the action. A Utilitarian would not necessarily agree with Kant on this issue, since theirs is a consequentialist doctrine, and their emphasis is on maximising the welfare of the greatest number; a Utilitarian would perhaps say it was fine to lie in that situation. However if the murderer subsequently threatened to replace his original target (your friend) with a family in the next town, whom you have never met, then Utilitarianism would also demand you give up your friend. Particularists point to the difficulty of moral application of a formula; it is never as easy as it appears because multiple different cases can appear to be relevant. Principles, even by their most ardent proponents, are modified and adjusted in application, and it is at this point, personal judgement then becomes necessary to determine which principle to apply. This can be affected by our perspective, and serve to demonstrate our own bias. It becomes possible to restate a maxim in such a way that your desired end is approved; as Caputo suggests, this can make principles become simply a means to ‘getting our way’; a ‘thinly disguised weapon of the will to power’.
However, this is not to say the particularist doctrine can, alone, fully meet the challenge of a complete theory, replete with an understanding of what the relevant moral reasons in any given situation might be. This makes application of a particularist ‘moral calculus’ difficult for individuals looking to determine their right course of action, as well as problematic for analysis of action post-event. This is a significant hurdle for particularism, which, in its current form, essentially amounts to a ‘critical theory’ of principlist ethical systems. This difficulty, however, does not suggest that we should appeal to principles, because it ethics is too difficult;
Objectivity, Subjectivity and (Im)Partiality
Objectivity is seen as very important for morality, and so is another clear strength of principle-based ethics. Both Kantian deontology and Utilitarianism suggest this as a matter of course. As discussed previously, the first formulation of the CI maintains that only actions which could be universalised can be moral. Furthermore, the second formulation of the CI ensures the absolute autonomy and respect for individuals that comes from impartial application of principle; no exceptions for yourself or anyone else. Likewise, Utilitarianism informs that all are ‘to count for one, and none more than one’. The objectivity, impartiality and egalitarianism of these theories are seen as a significant strength; it tells us that there is no provision for placing individual desires, over that of the desires of others. One’s desire to sell a car does not outweigh the desire of the buyer to purchase a car that meets their needs; nor does one’s desire for an expensive car outweigh the greater good from purchasing a good bicycle and investing the excess funds into a benevolent society. Principle based theories do not favour any one person over another, and avoids the subjective special pleading of a moral agent attempting to shirk their responsibilities.
This argument, against ‘partiality’, ‘special pleading’ and ‘backsliding’ can be a problem for particularism. Firstly, the partiality of particularism is criticised, claiming that special treatment of persons based on their relationship to you is immoral. On this view, morality requires universality, and so should be applied equally to all. However, just as the framing of an issue can lead to particular decisions on the appropriate moral principle to use, framing the issues in an alternate way can point to a problem with impartiality. A particularist viewpoint would generally disagree with the impartiality requirement at all. Consider the impartial view: If a building is burning, with your partner, and an aloof, but brilliant scientist acquaintance who has just now found a cure for some insidious disease still inside and you could only save one of them, the greatest good would demand you ignore your partner’s pleas, and save the scientist, since they would offer greater value to the whole. In the utilitarian calculus, humans are atomistic and need to be radically egalitarian; it expects us to place no value on those close to us. However, humans are not as atomistic as is assumed, and perhaps desired by principlist views; dependence and interdependence are key features of our existence. Particularist views might instead call for a partialist stance, where those who stand in particular relations are afforded a greater degree of care. Any moral system based on reference to rules and principles alone (and which thus discounts the emotions and intuitions, including empathy, as well as the proper satisfaction in doing good both immediately and habitually) is unliveable and necessarily leads either to hypocrisy or to the abandonment of morality itself.
Secondly, ‘special pleading’ suggests that the recognition of differences between cases can allow, or even promote the assumption that one has greater importance than another; almost a reversal of Kant’s CI. Principles are supposed to stop, to provide a bulwark against this sort of attitude. However, as Dancy suggests, instead of appealing to principles to allay bias in moral judgement, it rather should demand better moral judgement from moral agents. While this is as yet an insufficiently developed area in moral particularism, it is unlikely that a principle based morality would not face this same issue; as has already been demonstrated, a deontological principle can be wielded to produce any desired outcome, and likewise, with a utilitarian view – all that is required is fudging the numbers, and since these individual ‘moral calculations’ are not public, then there is no guarantee of fidelity to the situation. Dancy suggests that we implore self-critique, and while flawed, the appeal to principle cannot solve the problem either. A promising direction for improving this in the direction of particularism is the use of features of other systems, in particular, the Virtue Ethics of Aristotle.
Backsliding suggests that a lack of principles would be liable to cause a failure to meet moral obligations all too often; responsibility for action would wane. This is an interesting criticism, particularly when considering what it is to meet responsibilities under Kantian deontology. Reflect that, under the dutiful nature of Kant’s doctrine, only acts done from duty have moral worth. Our responsibilities are based on duty; compassion, generosity, and love may be fine things, but they cannot be moral things. This stands in opposition to common conception of morality; acting in a certain way from a sense of obligation does not normally inspire moral praise – in fact, in some positions, merely acting from duty can inspire moral blame, because it fails to demonstrate adequate sentiment for those other persons. The divorced parent who collects their children once a fortnight and provides financial support for their care, for the sake of duty, does not often seem to be exemplars of moral virtue; on the contrary, it is the dutiful nature of their acts which serve to make them seem etiolated. Particularists may be suggesting that the person of principle ‘has lost sight of the person among the general rules; perhaps indeed he is insufficiently aware of what the rules are for’. Backsliding, if it so consists in seeing a duty but failing to carry it out, may not always be a negative; it could be neutral. Even where it is negative, as in a case of failing in a ‘duty’ to act, other factors can provide information that modifies moral judgement; the person may lack of empathy, misunderstand the situation, inappropriately assist, or feel helpless. If we happen onto a scene where someone is filming an assault, our initial reaction might suggest that the recorder is immoral; questions may be asked about why they have failed to intervene. However, the act of recording an event like this could have greater potential value, than a failed attempt at rescuing the person – particularly where the physical conditions are seriously threatening. It may simply be that the person felt unable to intervene, and so began recording in order to provide evidence to the police. An intervening moral agent might simply have been assaulted or killed in addition to the initial victim, and so been unable to provide evidence of who committed the act, and what happened. A duty to act, under Kantian deontology, still requires a determination of what a duty consists of in any particular situation. A duty to help provides no guidance on what constitutes aid towards rescuing a person being attacked. Purely relying upon principle will not be sufficient.
This essay has provided a brief discussion of the principlist and particularist systems of ethics, in conjunction with their strengths and weaknesses. It has shown that the principlist systems, often lauded for being universal, easy to apply, and objective, and for those reasons are used in various streams of modern thought, have significant flaws; they fail to recognise the complexity in human life, they are more difficult to apply than is often suggested, and they are too impartial, and can lead to inappropriate judgements. The particularist stream of thought has been shown to conform to many of our common, pretheoretical notions of morality; an understanding of context, the inability to apply single rules, and the need for recognition of our significant dependent and interdependent relations. This approach too, has problems, which need to be dealt with more fully. What is apparent, is that there is still scope for a great deal of improvement in our ethical theory, and that this theory will need to be focused on improving judgement, rather than providing an endless list of maxims, or impersonal appeals to calculation.
Baron, M.W. “Kantian Ethics.” In Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate, edited by M.W. Baron, P. Pettit and M. Slote. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.
Bentham, J. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907. http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html
Blum, Lawrence. “Against Deriving Particularity.” Chap. 9 In Moral Particularism, edited by B. Hooker and M.O. Little, 205 – 26. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Bohman, James. “Critical Theory.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2013. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/.
Caputo, John. “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics.” Chap. 9 In The Ethical, edited by E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny. Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy, 169 – 80. Oxford: Wiley, 2003.
Dancy, J. Ethics without Principles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
———. Moral Reasons. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.
Dancy, Jonathan. “Moral Particularism.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2009. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/moral-particularism.
Godwin, W. Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness. London: J. Watson, 1842. http://archive.org/details/enquiryconcernin01godwuoft.
Hinman, Lawrence M. “Nietzsche, Metaphor, and Truth.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43, no. 2 (1982): 179-99.
Johnson, Robert. “Kant’s Moral Philosophy.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2012. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/kant-moral/.
Kant, Immanuel. “Appendix I: On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives.” In Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics, edited London: Kongmans, Green and Col, 1889. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=360&chapter=61936&layout=html&Itemid=27.
———. “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals .” In Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology, edited by Heimir Geirsson and Margaret R. Holmgren, 113 – 30. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2000.
Mill, J.S. Dissertations and Discussions: Political, Philosophical, and Historical. Vol. 3, Boston: William V. Spencer, 1865.
Mill, John Stuart. “Utilitarianism .” In Philosophy: The Big Questions, edited by R. J. Sample, C. W. Mills and J. P. Sterba, 383-9, 94-8. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.
Millgram, Elijah. Ethics Done Right: Practical Reasoning as a Foundation for Moral Theory [in English]. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense.” Translated by Daniel Breazeale. In Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s, 79 – 97. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities P International, Inc., 1997.
Raz, Joseph. “The Truth in Particularism.” Chap. 3 In Moral Particularism, edited by B. Hooker and M.O. Little, 48 – 78. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Rist, John M. Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Shiu-Hwa Tsu, Peter “Moral Particularism.” In The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited, 2013 http://www.iep.utm.edu/morlpat/.
Singer, Peter. “Equality for Animals.” In Practical Ethics, edited by Peter Singer, 44-71. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
Slote, M. The Ethics of Care and Empathy. New York: Routledge, 2007.
Varden, Helga “Kant and Lying to the Murderer at the Door . . . One More Time: Kant’s Legal Philosophy and Lies to Murderers and Nazis.” Journal of Social Philosophy 41 no. 4 (Winter 2010): 403-21.
 For my purposes, ‘Principlist’ is someone who follows a principle-based ethical system (principlism), following the use in Peter Shiu-Hwa Tsu, “Moral Particularism,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013 ), http://www.iep.utm.edu/morlpat/. Literature sometimes also uses the term ‘moral generalists’, as in Elijah Millgram, Ethics Done Right: Practical Reasoning as a Foundation for Moral Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 178..
 Shiu-Hwa Tsu, “Moral Particularism.”
 J. Dancy, Ethics without Principles (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
 Kantian Deontology’s Categorical Imperative has three formulations; there are doubts about whether these three ‘formulations’ constitute a monist or pluralist principle theory. See Robert Johnson, “Kant’s Moral Philosophy,” ed. Edward N. Zalta, Summer 2012 ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2012), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/kant-moral/.
 Jonathan Dancy, “Moral Particularism,” ed. Edward N. Zalta, Spring 2009 ed.Ibid. (2009), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2009/entries/moral-particularism.
 Japanese wooden sword, used for non-lethal, but still dangerous sword training.
 Perhaps bokken practice with your mother as a training partner. It is not clear that causing pain is a morally relevant or necessarily charged factor in this sort of situation.
 Or woman – no gender implicit in this usage of (hu)‘man’
 This highlights an essential difference in the values of actions – between the ‘evaluation’ and ‘guiding’ functions of an action; Joseph Raz, “The Truth in Particularism,” in Moral Particularism, ed. B. Hooker and M.O. Little (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 60.
 Immanuel Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals ,” in Ethical Theory: A Concise Anthology, ed. Heimir Geirsson and Margaret R. Holmgren (Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press, 2000), 120 – 25.
 John Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” in The Ethical, ed. E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny, Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy (Oxford: Wiley, 2003), 171.
 “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” in The Ethical, ed. E. Wyschogrod and G. McKenny, Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy (Oxford: Wiley, 2003), 175.
 “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.
 The consequences of which will be discussed in the section ‘Objectivity, Subjectivity and (Im)Partiality’
 Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense,” in Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the Early 1870s (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities P International, Inc., 1997).
 Lawrence M. Hinman, “Nietzsche, Metaphor, and Truth,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 43, no. 2 (1982): 187, 88.
 Dancy, “Moral Particularism; Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 173,75.
 The common tendency to consider a general rule, and measure moral permissibility from it; “I promised to do the dishes, so I must do them” – the unstated ‘principled’ premise is ‘I must fulfil my promises’.
 Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals ,” 120.
 Irrationality aside.
 Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals ,” 124.
 J Bentham, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), http://www.econlib.org/library/Bentham/bnthPML1.html 4 of 21, para I.1, note 6., with associated considerations, Chapter IV, para IV2-IV; John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism ,” in Philosophy: The Big Questions, ed. R. J. Sample, C. W. Mills, and J. P. Sterba (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 385-89. Whilst Mill suggests greater moral worth in the higher pleasures, than the lower ones, it is highly unlikely he would allow for higher pleasures to take greater precedence over basic needs.
 Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.
 J. Dancy, Moral Reasons (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 63-63.
 Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.
 Reformulated version of the ‘Inquiring Murderer’ case by Constant, in Immanuel Kant, “Appendix I: On a Supposed Right to Tell Lies from Benevolent Motives,” 4th revised ed., Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason and Other Works on the Theory of Ethics (London: Kongmans, Green and Col, 1889), http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=360&chapter=61936&layout=html&Itemid=27.
 This, of course, has been questioned, for example, in Helga Varden, “Kant and Lying to the Murderer at the Door . . . One More Time: Kant’s Legal Philosophy and Lies to Murderers and Nazis,” Journal of Social Philosophy 41 no. 4 (2010).However, as the author herself noted, this is not the traditional interpretation.
 Like above in the ‘false promise’ issue.
 Though a particularist would not generalise this, since there may be cases where lying for personal gain could be morally right.
 Utilitarianism is strictly impartial, as discussed in the next section
 M.W. Baron, “Kantian Ethics,” in Three Methods of Ethics: A Debate, ed. M.W. Baron, P. Pettit, and M. Slote (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), 73.
 Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 172.
 In a broad sense: see James Bohman, “Critical Theory,” ed. Edward N. Zalta, Spring 2013 ed., The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2013), http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/critical-theory/.
 J.S. Mill, Dissertations and Discussions: Political, Philosophical, and Historical, vol. 3 (Boston: William V. Spencer, 1865), 388; sometimes called the ‘equal consideration of interests’, pace Peter Singer, “Equality for Animals,” in Practical Ethics, ed. Peter Singer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 48.
 Reconstruction of Godwin’s thought experiment W. Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, (London: J. Watson, 1842), http://archive.org/details/enquiryconcernin01godwuoft. 60.
 M. Slote, The Ethics of Care and Empathy (New York: Routledge, 2007), 21.
 John M. Rist, Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 120.
 Dancy, “Moral Particularism.”
 This relates to a future topic of personal interest – joining Particularism with Virtue Ethics for moral education.
 Dancy, “Moral Particularism.”
 Kant, “The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals ,” 115; Lawrence Blum, “Against Deriving Particularity,” in Moral Particularism, ed. B. Hooker and M.O. Little (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 207.
 “Against Deriving Particularity,” 213.
 Caputo, “Against Principles: A Sketch of an Ethics without Ethics,” 179.
 Rist, Real Ethics: Reconsidering the Foundations of Morality, 121.
What is the mind, which gives humans this rich conscious experience, and how is it related to physical bodies? This ‘true nature’ of the ‘mind’ has intrigued man for centuries, and even now, with a much greater knowledge of the world, the answer still eludes those searching. Many attempts have been made to answer these existential questions, and although none have been completely successful, there are theories regarded as more plausible. One such theory is the ‘mind-body identity thesis’, a fully materialist theory which claims that all mental states are physical states. Like all theories, it has come against considerable opposition, with objections ranging from alleged contradictions of Liebniz’s law, through to problems of representation and identity. The identity thesis (arguably) has a sound response to these objections, and so offers a clear, rational, and logical theory to answer the problem of how our mind and body are connected. However, there are still some weaknesses that have not yet been recognised as successfully overcome. In this, at least, the identity thesis is not alone; there are still problems with all other alternatives. The problems faced by the identity thesis will be explored, along with its best responses. Firstly it is necessary to explain the identity thesis, and place it in the wider context of theories of mind.
The identity thesis is a fully materialist theory claiming the contingent, a posteriori proposition (Blackburn, 2008a, b, Carruthers, 1992) that all mental states and events are physical states and events (Carruthers, 1992); they are in fact referring to the same thing (Carrier & Mittelstrass, 1995). Two versions of the theory can now be identified, largely in response to objections from several competing theories which to an extent has divided Identity theorists. The ‘strong’ version of ‘type identity’ claims general types of mental states will be consistent with general types of physical (brain) states, while the ‘weak’ version, ‘token’ identity has the lesser claim that each individual mental state will correspond with an individual physical state. Lowe (2004) illustrates this ‘type/token’ distinction with the word ‘tree’, which contains 4 letter tokens, but only three letter types – t, r and e (p. 48).
There are several other contenders attempting to answer the mind-body problem; to place the identity theory among its challengers, short descriptions of the main objectors are provided here. Antithetical to the identity thesis are the various dualist theories which posit two distinct ‘pieces’ to conscious beings – a physical body and a non-physical mind. Other criticisms come from other theories with a materialist grounding, like functionalism, which ‘characterises mental states with the causal roles they play in determining how a subject behaves in different circumstances’ (Lowe, 2004, p. 45). A range of objections to the identity theory will now be discussed, along with how these objections are mitigated (Carruthers, 1992, Heil, 2004, Crane, 2003).
The first set of objections stem from alleged contradictions of Liebniz’s law; the issues of ‘certainty’, ‘privacy’ and ‘value’. The responses here show Carrier and Mittelstrass’ point that unacceptable results are found from ‘extreme’ use of this principle. (1995, p. 83).
Certainty is primarily a dualist objection which stems from Descartes (Lowe, 2004, p. 11); it is essentially that ‘I’ am unable to be ‘certain’ of any physical states, but ‘I’ am able to be certain of my experiences; therefore by Liebniz’s law, conscious experiences cannot be equal to brain states (Carruthers, 1992). However, the identity theory contends that since ‘I am certain’ is clearly intentional, this use of Liebniz’s law is fallacious (Carruthers, 1992, Carrier & Mittelstrass, 1995).
The ‘privacy’ argument claims that brain states are ‘public’ (not private), but conscious states are private, therefore conscious states are not identical to brain states. This argument has problems of its own. Carruthers (1992) notes an inherent ambiguity in this argument, since the meaning of ‘private’ can imply two different contexts; it can be understood as either a problem of ownership, or a problem of knowledge (Carruthers, 1992, pp. 139-140). If privacy is taken in context of ownership then the argument is unsound, as the premise claiming that brain states are ‘public’ is false, since only ‘I’ can own my brain states. If the context of this is taken as ‘private knowledge’ then this argument suffers from a fallacious use of Liebniz’s law, similarly to the certainty argument (Carruthers, 1992, p. 139, Taylor, 2005, p. 153, Heil, 2004, pp. 80, 85). Further, Carrier and Mittelstrass inform that the ‘privacy’ of these mental states is simply by virtue of our ‘acquaintance’ with them, and that the ‘conscious awareness’ of these mental states ‘[do] not imply knowledge’ (Carrier & Mittelstrass, 1995, p. 85).
The value argument relates to the capability of assigning ‘value’ to mental states. The argument contends that while mental ‘conscious’ states can have value, in that they can be good or bad, no brain ‘merely physical’ states are able to have a value (Carruthers, 1992, p. 40). Carruthers (1992) points out that a response will ultimately depend on the context of this objection, since it is questionable that ‘physical’ states cannot be subject to value claims. If the claim is that the physical states do not have value, because it is the intent behind the physical event, then this appears to be fallacious, since it appears to use Liebniz’s law in an intentional context.
Another category of problems faced by the identity theory are qualitative aspects of consciousness. These objections are seen by David Chalmers as constituting the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness (Heil, 2004, p. 164). Within this category, there are two main arguments: the sensory experience of colour, and ‘felt’ sensations. Both these ‘problems’ stem from subjective experience, which, as Heil (2004) notes, must be allowed for in a theory attempting ‘to make minds parts of a single reality’ (Heil, 2004, p. 87). This makes the issue of qualia to be one of difficulty, and of importance to fully document in order to make the identity theory successful.
The ‘experience’ of “what it is like” (Nagel, 2005) to see “x” colour’ is seen as a problem for the identity theory, since we have no way of knowing how someone else views a colour. We would not know what it was like for someone else to ‘see red’. Similarly, the second problem of ‘what it feels like’ is based around the subjective nature of ‘felt sensations’; that even with ‘complete knowledge’ of the physical (brain states), we would not be able to ‘know’ how it feels to have those experiences. This is often the basis for considering there must be something more than just our physical selves; however it should be noted that many of these issues are similarly problematical for dualist theories.
The identity thesis has several responses to these problems. The first relates to an apparent linguistic propositional error, in which the objectors treat sensation and visualisation experiences as a particular individual thing, or a property of the thing (Carruthers, 1992, Heil, 2004). According to Carruthers (1992), this is incorrect; since no experience has a particular colour, or a particular sensation, it is simply the way in which the mind processes visual and sensory input. This can be a particular brain state; the key is in understanding representation, which, as Crane (2003) notes, is a problem for both materialist and dualist theories (Crane, 2003). This representation issue is an ongoing one. The issue of complete knowledge, however, can be responded to by understanding that the proposition is flawed; there are two types of knowledge, factual (propositional) and practical (recognitional). Carruthers vehemently states that there is no amount of factual knowledge that can provide ability; a person must be able to apply the factual information into the appropriate field, effectively requiring the practice in having those physical states, and being able to recognise them as what they are.
The ‘qualia’ problem is related to the intentionality problem. Conscious states are seen as unique, they are intentional or representational states, whereas no ‘merely physical’ state can be intentional in its own right. Detractors invoke Liebniz’s law, to conclude that conscious states cannot be identical to brain states. This is indeed problematical for the identity thesis, since the argument is valid. However, it can be postulated that the argument may yet prove unsound, since while the intentional status of conscious states can be accepted, the soundness of the argument hinges on the acceptance of physical states intentionality. This, however, is currently unable to be answered; though again, it should be noted that no other theory (and in particular, dualist theories) have yet been able to answer this either.
Another issue for the identity thesis is spatial position; if all mental (conscious) states, like thoughts are physical states, then they must have a spatial position. The argument however claims that since conscious states are not attributed spatial positions, but brain states must have them, then conscious states cannot be identical. However, there is no real reason why they could not be, with a little more research. Carrier and Mittelstrass (1995) inform that this is simply a result from a ‘conflict between the materialist and the everyday manner of speaking’ (1995, p. 84). The current non-use of language for this purpose is not because of an implicit ‘wrong’; it is just a ‘peculiarity of everyday speech’ (Carrier & Mittelstrass, 1995, p. 84). If the possibility of attributing spatial positions to thoughts is accepted, it becomes possible to investigate the brain event which corresponds to those thoughts, and the location of those particular brain state changes, and then it would be possible to nominate this spatial position.
An interesting argument against the identity theory is Putnam’s Multiple Realizability argument, which claims that ‘all mental kinds are ‘multiply realized’ by distinct physical kinds’ (Bickle, 2008). The general view of Putnam’s claims is that it puts forward against the ‘type’ identity thesis that it is conceivable that a form of life could exist in the universe which is capable of being in a particular mental state, without being in the same physical state as the identity theorist would assume (Bickle, 2008, Heil, 2004, Lowe, 2004, Ravenscroft, 2005). The argument states that if a mental kind is multiply realizable by distinct physical kinds, then it cannot be identical to any specific physical kind – however, as the multiple realizability thesis states, all mental kinds are multiply realizable by distinct physical kind. Therefore, it follows that no mental kind is identical to any specific physical kind (Ravenscroft, 2005, Bickle, 2008). The identity theory has a number of responses to this argument; there is the option to follow Lewis (as cited in Bickle, 2008) in claiming that this does not remove the option of restricting claims to ‘domains’, since reductive physicalism has always been domain based (Bickle, 2008). Alternatively, as several theorists have done, recent successes in neuroscience can be alluded to; success from neuroscience would not be expected if there was no continuity of ‘neural mechanisms’ (Bickle, 2008). Yet we do expect some continuity across species, and have been able to apply successes from other species to humans. This neuroscience evidence suggests that ‘psychological functions are not as radically multiply realized as … suggest[ed]’ (Bickle, 2008). Shapiro (Bickle, 2008) also provides another option to overcome this problem – with the claim that a case of multiple realizability must be argued, since the ‘realizing kinds’ must ‘genuinely differ in their causally relevant properties’. If there is no difference, then there is no multiple realizability; However if there is difference, Shapiro argues that they are not the same kind, and so there is no multiple realizability (Shapiro, as cited in Bickle, 2008). In effect, the multiple realizability argument is severely weakened in its claims against the identity thesis.
The final hurdle to the identity theory is that of ‘necessary identity’. Kripke’s identity argument (Kripke, 1981, 1983) is recognised to be a very powerful argument against materialism (Skokowski, 2007). Kripke contends that ‘identity is not a relation which can hold contingently between objects’ (Kripke, 1981); all identities are necessary, even where they are found a posteriori; they only give the appearance of being contingent. This is seen as a serious problem since the identity theory attempts to identify as a contingent proposition, which, in Kripke’s view, is impossible; he calls upon identity theorists to ‘explain away’ the appearance of contingency. As Papineau (2008) acknowledges, this is hard for the materialist to do, since it does in fact seem possible that the identities of mental states and physical states could have been different (Papineau, 2008). The identity thesis has not been able to reply with a sufficiently powerful argument, but there are several responses. Carruthers (1992) argues that identity theorists must deny the ability to successfully imagine particular feelings; the imagined states are not more than qualitatively similar (Carruthers, 1992). Smart (Smart, 2011) responds that the ‘rigid designator’ in Kripke’s argument appears ‘highly contextual’, this rigid designator could both appear to match and appear to differ depending on the context in which we place it. While these do not respond fully to Kripke’s argument, they do go some way to reducing its full force.
The identity thesis is far from perfect, and this essay is by no means comprehensive; space has only allowed the coverage of a brief introduction to the identity thesis, along with a superficial discussion of the main objections to the theory. It has been shown that the essential nature of the identity thesis is that the mind and body are not distinct; this is expected to be further supported through neurological research. The many problems faced by the identity theory were discussed; while issues of apparent contradiction of Leibniz’s law appeared easily solved, and only of minor consequence; Others, like the problems of qualia and necessary identity are highly significant, and require serious attention. However, in spite of the problems it faces, the identity thesis is capable of responding to those objections, and provides a coherent and logical philosophical position which can explain, and assist scientific researchers with a research program.
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 A contingent truth is one that is not ‘necessary’; that is, it could have been different.
 a posteriori refers to the requirement for empirical experience to ascertain this knowledge, as oppsed to a priori knowledge which can be developed conceptually.
 ‘Strong’ and ‘Weak’ here are not value claims; instead they refer to a kind of purity; ‘Strong’ is the more ‘pure’ form, along with its ‘diluted’ counterpart; however this ‘dilution’ should not necessarily be considered negative.
 Leibniz’s law contends the identity of two entities implies the sameness of their properties – identity implies indiscernibility.