The Discourses by Epictetus

Alanis Comiotto – I am a junior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I enjoy learning about the philosophical ideas of the past that were once considered radical and how they apply to our lives today.

Matt Manilli – I am a senior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in National Security. I enjoy deciphering the texts of philosophers and implementing them into situations that are relevant to modern day circumstances. 

Trevor Kinman – I am a junior majoring in Political Science with concentration on National Security classes. I have always been interested in politics, especially political stances and debates. I enjoy seeing where our early looks on modern politics came from and see how different or similar they have become. 

The linked video is a presentation by Les Stroud, also known as Survivorman. He is the original wilderness vlogger and his show has inspired many others such as Man Vs. Wild, Dual Survival, Naked and Afraid, and Alone. Stroud would go into the wilderness with little more than a multitool and 50 lbs. of camera equipment to film himself, without a crew, surviving by himself for a week or more at a time in some of the harshest and most rugged landscapes on the planet. In the above video, Stroud discusses his ecosophy – Earth Wisdom – which shares attitudes with Epictetus and stoicism regarding nature and being. Any real survival expert will tell you that it is a mental game beyond simply procuring the means of subsistence and that attitude is what many have relied on to pull themselves out of dangerous situations and back to safety. Stoicism, both above and below, is about surviving and thriving in difficult and challenging environments – as the former slave, Epictetus will tell you.

The Discourses by Epictetus

This week we are covering books I and II of the Discourses, which are a collection of informal lectures by Epictetus, a Stoic, that were written down by his student Arrian back in Ancient Greece around 110AD. To remind everyone, Stoicism is the belief that those who are in harmony with the higher powers and have reached intellectual and moral perfection do not experience any “bad” emotions. Epictetus believed that happiness is a choice, and we must learn what we have in control and what is out of our control in order to achieve happiness in life.

Book I: Chapters 1-11

Leo from that 70’s show with a Stoic message. 

 “Of the Things that are in our Power, and not in our Power”: In chapter 1, Epictetus begins his Discourse discussing whether things like music or grammar can tell you to sing or to write, and asserts that music will tell you how to play and grammar will tell you what to write but neither will tell you whether or not you should sing or write, as that can only be done with rationality. Rationality is the only thing that can be used to make judgments and decisions. It speaks for those things as they cannot. Epictetus then moves on to discuss how the only power that we do have is to be rational, or the “right use of appearances,” because it was the only thing the Gods, aka Zeus, shared with us. Zeus tells Epictetus that the power of appearances is all that he has, and he would have given Epictetus more power and freedom had he been able. He then discusses how people should do the best with what they have and not let external things drag them down, which could even mean relationships that one might have, “We must make the best use that we can of the things which are in our power, and use the rest according to their nature”. I think so far Epictetus has a great point and this is one of my life philosophies, although I do not agree that it makes you immune to any negative emotions. There are so many things that are out of our control, and if we cannot make a change ourselves then what is the point of dwelling on the negatives? For the rest of Book I, Epictetus discusses different circumstances and how a person should just accept their outcomes because they should be enlightened in some way and know that their minds are above whatever physical punishment is being placed. To be enlightened according to Epictetus is to fully know yourself and continually strive for personal betterment. Life goes on (unless you’re being beheaded).

“How a Man on every occasion can maintain his Proper Character”: Epictetus begins chapter 2 by stating that man, as an animal, is made of everything irrational, but is attracted the most to what is rational. He then goes on to argue that what is rational and what is irrational is different depending on the person, and that is why discipline is necessary, unlike Plato who just thought rationality was just out there and the same for all. People must consider what is appropriate to each person and how the concept of rationality applies to the world and nature around them. I think this quote does a good job summing it up, “for it is you who know yourself, how much you are worth to yourself, and at what price you sell yourself: for men sell themselves at various prices.” Only you can know yourself well enough to know what would be rational or irrational for you to do; no one can do that for you. Epictetus uses a lot of historical examples in this writing, and in this chapter, he makes an example of the Stoic philosopher Helvidius Priscus, who believed that the emperor should only act with the approval of the senate ( 

Before going into the senate, emperor Vespasian ordered him not to go in and speak, but Helvisius said he must stick to his duties and his morals even if it cost him his life. Through this example, Epictetus is saying that being moral and sticking to reason is more valuable than life. He then discusses how there is no way to tell what is rational for another human being because they have different life experiences and something that might matter a lot to them might be meaningless to someone else. He does this through an anecdote of an athlete who did not want to get his male “package” amputated. Epictetus ends this chapter by saying that one should not neglect to look after themselves because of the desire to reach perfection. 

“How a man should proceed from the principle of God being the father of all men to the rest”: Epictetus argues in chapter 3 that if men just accepted that they are a creation of God, and God also created other gods like Zeus, then they would not be self-deprecating. He then states how if someone would consider more personal and corporeal facts like who their parents were then they might fall into those bad emotions, for example, a person adopted by Caesar would be arrogant about it. Men are more than just flesh, they have intelligence like the gods, and should act that way. The main message of this chapter is that we cannot be too attached to the physical world as we are more than just animals. 

“Of progress or improvement”: “For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach towards this point”. Epictetus begins chapter 4 by asserting that people should do what they want, in the context of their desires, or else they will not be happy. But one should not fall into the things that they know are immoral or things they know that they should avoid, but should instead keep their drive on what good they desire. Virtue is what everyone should really be striving for, because virtue brings about good fortune and tranquility, aka peace of mind. Epictetus then begins to talk of Chrysippus, another Stoic philosopher who is actually considered to be one of the founders of Stoicism ( He makes an example of how a person can know Chrysippus and his writings, but knowing is not enough their actions also matter. He also makes a point that a person cannot be afraid of failing, or else they are actually not making progress, “that he may be able to say when he is in fetters, “Dear Crito, if it is the will of the gods that it be so, let it be so,”; and not to say. “Wretched am I, and old man;”””. As we have seen in class, Crito is a whole dialogue written by Plato. Reading Epictetus is extra interesting because of these references that he makes to other philosophers. Epictetus then makes an interesting note mentioning that people have erected temples to celebrate those heroes and gods that have brought them things like wheat and grapes but not for those that have shown the light, the real gift from the gods, that came from their human mind. 

“Against the academics”: In chapter 5 Epictetus poses the questions of what should one do if a person is so stuck in their own ignorance that they do not listen to rational arguments. People can be hard-headed because of things like understanding or shame. Someone who has the ability of perception but pretends not to is “even worse than a dead man”, someone that cannot comprehend is in pretty bad shape, but one that can perceive and still does not make changes for the better is the worst. In this chapter, Epictetus seems to be making the point that people can be in many different conditions that can affect why they are not seeking virtue and a good life, and some are worse off than others, but nothing is as bad as chosen ignorance. 

“Of providence”: Epictetus argues in chapter 6 that God created everything for a reason, and so that things can work together, like man and woman, or even just the existence of light that enables us to use our vision to see. One must recognize creation and praise Providence so that they may appreciate and be thankful for everything that they can do. It is not sufficient to simply exist, you have to understand the purpose behind things, like why animals are the way they are. God has given “powers” to humankind so that they can experience the wonders of the world, the good and the bad. It is very important to understand that everything has a purpose that it was made for, and accepting that is a step towards happiness. 

“Of the use of sophistical arguments, and hypothetical, and the like”: Like in chapter 6, Epictetus discusses in chapter 7 how not only do things have a purpose and people must understand that, but people must also understand the concept of consequences and how they affect their lives. One of the duties of life is to question everything, even the things you may know so that you can gain perspective. He is almost saying to be like Socrates when it comes to questioning everything no matter the cost, “… purposes to conduct himself skillfully in reasoning, the power of demonstrating himself the several things which he has proposed, and the power of understanding the demonstrations of others, including of not being deceived by sophists”. He then discusses that people should stick with what they do and the conclusions they draw, as long as the premises for that conclusion remain the same as when they were made. This also applies to something that may seem like a false conclusion. The way to not give in to false reasoning is to stick with what you know and not be pushed into ridiculous arguments. 

“That the faculties are not safe to the uninstructed”: It is not only important to know to argue but to also know the different ways one can make arguments. I had to google a couple of words here for chapter 8. Enthymeme is an argument that is not completely stated (, and syllogism is an argument that has two premises that lead to a conclusion. You cannot only know perfect syllogism, but you must also master imperfect syllogism to be able to argue. Someone who is not educated might try to make arguments that are imperfect, you must be able to explain their imperfect arguments and then use reason against them, or else they will bring you down. Everyone kind of has their own thing and one must understand their different perspectives or appearances, with reason. 

“How from the fact that we are akin to God a man may proceed to the consequences”: Epictetus really touches the heartstrings with chapter 9, where he states that a man should not say that they are Athenian or Corinthian, and state where they are born or reside, but should instead say they are a citizen of the world when asked where you are from. To say you are from a country or a state is to limit yourself, as a real community should be between man and God, with man united as one people. He thinks that this should be enough, “to have God for your maker and father and guardian, shall not this release us from sorrows and fears?”. People should not rely on others but on themselves for their needs. Epictetus then makes an interesting point, if we came from God and in death will return to him, why not just kill ourselves so we can join him sooner and leave the wretchedness of the physical world. To this, he says that one must accomplish their purpose and God will bring them back once they are ready because there is a reason behind it all. He also quotes Socrates, who argued that God has given us a post and we must not desert it until it is time. Even if people fall into ill conditions, they can reach for help so that they can move forward, instead of looking for pity and sentiment. 

“Against those who eagerly see preferment at Rome”: I think this is probably one of the parts that most resonates with me, chapter 10. Epictetus makes an example of a man he knows who is superintendent of corn in Rome. The man told Epictetus that his life had been too busy, about work for others and no time for himself, and he would be returning from exile and leading a life of tranquility. The man, however, got some letters from Ceasar and immediately gave up on what he said, and went back to work. We spend so much time slaving away and working jobs that are not helping us grow as people and completely leave ourselves behind. I have seen this personally so many times in the restaurant industry, where people succumb to their jobs with awful hours and usually quite terrible management just to get by because they have given up. 

“Of natural affection”: Epictetus used an interesting anecdote to explain the concept of affection and nature in chapter 11. Epictetus is speaking to a man who is unhappy with his wife and children and tells Epictetus that while his daughter was sick he could not bear to be around to see it, and instead left and awaited someone else to tell him what had happened. The man states that it was his natural response to leave. Epictetus then uses the argument of reason and goes through different scenarios with the man to explain how his decision to leave his daughter can be seen as. The conclusion is that if the man really loved his daughter he would have been there to show her affection and support while she was sick, as affection is the natural response of parents towards their children. Epictetus kind of explains here that not everything is black and white or right and wrong, and it is a person-by-case basis. People have their own opinions and their own free will. 

Book I, Chapters 12-16: God and Man

In regards to god, Epictetus refers to himself and society that worships a higher being as having two sides. He reiterates this point through Chapter 12 where he states, “For if there are no gods, how is it our proper end to follow them? And if they exist, but take no care of anything, in this case also how will it be right to follow them”. If there happens to actually be a god why should an individual worship a being that does not benefit someone and only brings more trouble to one’s life. Throughout chapter 12 Epictetus reiterates this point with examples of “bad parents” or being “dissatisfied with your children” makes it acceptable for an individual to be a bad son or a bad father. This reasoning is based around the fact that if a god truly does exist and he puts you through the misery of externals outside of your control it then justifies bad character. Why make your life even harder by accommodating these externals when you didn’t have the choice of picking these circumstances in the first place. How should one act to please the gods above continues through Epictetus’ writings. 

When it comes to eating the gods want us to eat in a well mannered fashion, however what becomes of us if we asked the servant for iced water and they brought us warm water. Would we then be given the right to lash out and order around a servant who made a mistake. It becomes important to remember where one came from first and be understanding, thus the notion of living by the laws of the gods or being bound by the dead man’s laws. By abiding by the dead man’s laws simply means to be human and to respond to inconveniences with emotion rather than reason. However, if you live by the laws of the gods, you understand that you are superior and that no external force can change that.  Epictetus continues to clarify the lines of man and god. Earth and all of its beauty is a creation of god, hence making man one of those creations that he oversees. When god believes that you are obeying his wishes and acting proper he has the power to guide you down the correct path, but only if you embrace his presence and trust in his power. Epictetus uses his wisdom of philosophy much like a god to a human when helping a man who has issues with his brother. When healing a wound that is associated with hate and anger the only solution is time. Epictetus references this solution with the fig-tree metaphor and informs the man that nothing happens overnight. Consistency, hard work, and time are needed in order to grow a fig-tree which is the same as healing a brother with hatred in his heart. God continuously works in ways that man cannot understand, but must try to appreciate. The appreciation of what god has given humanity is important, something that must be recognized through Epictetus’ philosophy. Animals do not require the same needs as man because they were created as tools to help humanity. Epictetus reiterates this point by stating, “For, animals not being made for themselves, but for service”. Humanity is blinded by stupidity and foolishness if they do not realize the gifts and tools god has given them in order to survive. 

Book II: 1-5 The Philosophy of Man

Epictetus Begins chapter 1, Book 2 stating that philosophers opinions could be paradoxical. Caution and confidence are two solutions that can be used when dealing with certain circumstances. However, what happens when a situation arises and you need both caution and confidence? When dealing with problems of the unknown you cannot be confident because it is a situation you are unfamiliar with. However, Epictetus states that one can have confidence in their caution towards a situation. Epictetus then correlates when man should use confidence and caution by stating, “Confidence then ought to be employed against death, and caution against the fear of death”. However, there is a common conundrum where man flips these two and becomes cautious of death, but when a situation occurs that could kill an individual they become more confident and want to survive. The most important notion Epictetus refers to through chapter 1 is the fact that the body and soul at some point will be separated and is why it should not be feared. Being cautious or fearing of the inevitable seems to be a waste of energy in the eyes of Epictetus. 

Moving to chapter 2, Epictetus discusses the importance of only caring about what is in your own power of doing. When one continuously worries about things outside of themselves such as “poor body” and “little property” you become grounded to things outside of your own control and become consumed and bound to these externals. An example of this can be found when Epictetus states, “ For when you have subjected to externals what is your own, then be a slave and do not resist”. Epictetus uses this example to show when you are consumed by an element or situation outside of your own control you then become a slave to whatever it is you are after. Epictetus then uses Socrates as an example of someone who lived his life in a just manner through his actions and teachings. Therefore, living his life through the things only he can control and not being dominated by problems outside of his control like the trial. 

Moving into chapter 4, Epictetus talks through the implications of fidelity and its correlation with adultery. If an individual’s significant other cheats on them with their neighbor, what are the consequences to the neighbor who did an act of adultery. How is the individual now supposed to see you as someone trustworthy after you broke such a sacred act of love. Should that individual see you as a neighbor, a friend, or anything at all. The trust or bond that was once there between two neighbors is now crushed to dust and something that can never be fixed. Epictetus emphasizes this point when stating, “You have no place where you can be put”. There is no justifiable act a man can do that would ever atone for ruining another man’s marriage. 

Lastly, chapter 5 touches on the importance of only worrying about what is one’s own control. By casting a die you have no choice what the numbers will be, therefore making it an external that should not be stressed upon. Only ones will is a defining factor when it comes to dealing with externals. No one chooses the externals that are placed upon them, however an individual does have the power to turn a bad external into a better one through will power and perseverance. Thus, the analogy between the ball being good or bad doesn’t matter and all that matters is the will power you put into making a bad ball a good ball or turning a good ball into a great ball. One cannot be their best version if they continuously worry about externals or things that are out of their control. By focusing all will power and attention on turning something bad into good is all one can do and all one should really ever focus on. An example of this can be seen through Socrates’external misfortune where it is stated, “Life, chains, banishment, a draught of poison, separation from wife and leaving children orphans. These were the things with which he was playing; but still he did play and threw the ball skillfully”. This is a clear example of how an individual can actively turn negatives into positives by simply not allowing your externals to define you as a person. 

Book II: Chapters 6-15

Chapter 6: Of indifference

In chapter 6, Epictetus is talking about hypothetical proposition. Everyone has opinions, experience, and expertise on various different subjects. Oftentimes judgment is used by many people, but “life is indifferent but use of it isn’t. When someone tells you these things are indifferent, don’t become negligent”. Epictetus goes to give examples of indifference, say for example a man tells you not to do something; reflect on yourself to see if it is something you can honestly do. Do not immediately judge him or his opinion, rather look upon yourself to see if it’s achievable by your experiences and character. If it is not, then let the man who knows more about it do it and then follow in suit. A person should play to their strengths and weaknesses and grow from them. As another example of life’s indifference, always remember what yours is and what is others by staying around what is yours, you should not be troubled in any way. God gave your choice and abilities, so stay within the nature of them. If you do not and get caught up in a series of consequences, acknowledge how you got there and learn from it.

Chapter 7: How we ought to use divination

In chapter 7, Epictetus is talking about the responsibilities to man and divinity. Epictetus, he questions why people turn their backs to some of life’s responsibilities for the sole purpose of divination. Paying too much of one’s attention to divination, seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means, could hurt one’s well being when it comes to life. He discusses if divinity is something that is telling me good from evil why are some acts of sacrifice necessary. A balanced person should know what their best interest is. Epictetus points out that it is odd when we resort to divinity only when it is in our own selfish needs and for rewards. Good things are favors and bad things are too fearful to do anything about. Here Epictetus later states that indifference in God’s words are important, “we come to God also as a guide; as we use our eyes, not asking them to show us rather such things as we wish, but receiving the appearances of things such as the eyes present them to us. But now we are trembling, taking the augur by the hand, and, while we invoke God.”

Chapter 8: What is the nature of the good

God is beneficial. But the Good also is beneficial. It is consistent then that where the nature of God is, there also the nature of the good should be. What then is the nature of God? Flesh? Certainly not. An estate in land? By no means. Fame? No. Is it intelligence, knowledge, the right reason? Yes.” Epictetus here is talking about looking for the nature of good. You can look for good in any nature that was given by God, . He relates it to character, very similar to the saying, “what would Jesus do?” if you were aware of the image of God in you, would you still do the thing that you are doing? If you are doing something knowingly bad, is it right to be at the anger of God and his nature? Epictetus brings up ignorance as an example here, the nature of ignorance in a person can deflect the nature of all things good.

Chapter 9: That when we cannot fulfill that which the character of a man promises, we assume the character of a philosopher

A man is a rational, logical, mere mortal being. A being that thinks, talks, and grows and that is highly separated between wild beasts. If you stray away from the basic pillars of being a man, you will resemble a wild beast. Ensuring that man does not behave like wild beasts only benefits nature, society, and the way of life. We can not lose ourselves and lose rational, it is what makes us, us. This will lead us to becoming animals and will only keep us stagnant as beings. Epictetus brings morality towards man in chapter 9, between modesty and immodesty. The idea being that modesty keeps a man pure and happy, immodesty leads to fault and bad things. Epictetus in the end talks about the role and experiences of being a philosopher. How there are times where what they learn and practice can lead to immodest things, which can help build character in the right people. By this, I mean, the right people can learn from mistakes. Faults and mistakes faced with responsibility and action, builds character.  

Chapter 10: How we may discover the duties of life from names

Here in chapter 10, Epictetus focuses on asking who you are. He asks upon people to look at themselves from the in and out and consider your being. You are alive, you are human being, and a natural person to the world you walk around on. You as a being have logic and reasoning, how will you use it? We can’t see the future, only what we allow. Our path is written by us and us alone, some may feel there are outside forces that may play apart and maybe there is, it is still always up to the person to follow, listen, and act. Our choices in nature open paths that we can choose to take or not to take. Only thing we know as humans that the future holds is death, so we have to make the choices that will benefit us and the beings around us the best. We men all have faults in character and are not 100% good throughout, and there is no concrete way to stop this, it is simply nature. But we have to reflect and divert ourselves away from bad to the best of our ability to stay as civilized as possible or we will decline to the level of beasts. All men experience damage, you act upon it, using rational, is the most important.

Chapter 11: What the beginning of philosophy is

In chapter 11, Epictetus explains how philosophy is a “door opener” that can lead to questions and ways to live life. If you break it down piece by piece, you will find that philosophy is essential to man. It is the tool to use our logic and rational to its fullest extent. Men were given curiosity and many things amongst it for a purpose, philosophy gives us opportunity. “We come into the world with no natural notions of math & science, but we learn about them in due course.” There is never a right or wrong when asking questions, it only opens doors to more questions, in essence it is a rabbit hole that man is destined to follow. With opinions left and right it’s never a bad thing to stop and ask about life’s perfections and imperfections. Anything in life can be questioned and by questioning it, is the beauty of philosophy.

Chapter 12: Of disputation or discussion

Philosophers have shown what you need to do to use the art of debate, but it is obvious that it is not always practiced. As an example, consider every illiterate man. Abusing or ridiculing him will not get you too far with him. If you try to convince a guy to change his ways, do not mock or threaten him. The idea of political or philosophical debates is not to degrade the other but rather try and understand the adversary. We are all different beings; we have different upbringings and opinions and that is no means for degrading. This chapter is one of the most applicable to modern day politics, we see no matter the side of reason the other is quick to insult rather than to reflect and ask questions. Poking fun and trying to offend in a discussion or debate discredits the philosophy behind it. That is the pure beauty in using our logic, two people have different views, they both explain and spark conversation and questions. Not one person talks and the other employs rude comments. We can see how Socrates did this; he never became irritated in argument, never to utter anything abusive, but to bear with abusive people.

Chapter 13: On anxiety

Epictetus’ chapter on anxiety is a short one compared to his others in book two but that does not mean it needs to be overlooked. “When I see a man anxious, I say, “What does this man want? If he did not want something which is not in his power, how could he be anxious?” For this reason, a lute player when he is singing by himself has no anxiety, but when he enters the theatre, he is anxious even if he has a good voice and plays well on the lute; for he not only wishes to sing well, but also to obtain applause: but this is not in his power.” The biggest thing to take from this quote is the last few words, too often, and I am even at fault here, but it is being anxious over something that one cannot control. Too many times many people get anxious over times in life where it was out of their control. There are countless successful people in the world who will tell you this. Being fearful of something that is uncontrollable is a waste of energy and time. It is more beneficial to put one’s efforts into the aspects that can be controlled. Keep your understanding, time, confidence, energy, and logic in the things you can control. You can’t make things always go your way, but there are many things you can control, and you should stick to those.

Chapter 14: To Naso

“Every art, when it is taught, causes labour to him who is unacquainted with it and is unskilled in it, and indeed the things which proceed from the arts immediately show their use in the purpose for which they were made; and most of them contain something attractive and pleasing. For indeed to be present and to observe how a shoemaker learns is not a pleasant thing; but the shoe is useful and also not disagreeable to look at. And the discipline of a smith when he is learning is very disagreeable to one who chances to be present and is a stranger to the art: but the work shows the use of the art.” Here in this chapter, learning is sometimes never a pretty thing to experience, but it is the byproduct of that learning that makes it amazing. Using what is learned can be great for the mind, body, and soul. It provides a sense of reward for using that time to learn. Which comes hand and hand with philosophy. When you see or hear something that can be questioned and you question it as such, it can be rewarding in a way.

Chapter 15: To or against those who obstinately persist in what they have determined

Epictetus’ 15th chapter is another short one in book two but discusses, “that a man ought to be constant, and that the will is naturally free and not subject to compulsion…” It is important to know yourself, if you know you are unhealthy but appear to be you should not brag, the only act you should do is become the best version of what you want to portray. The example Epictetus gives is he witnessed a man not eat for 3 days, and he asked the man if it was right, had it been right, to leave the man alone, but had it been wrong Epictetus should try and lead him to a healthier path. The takeaway here is if someone is doing right try and not divert them but if it is wrong and harmful attempt to dissuade the action. It can be challenging to try and persuade people to change their minds but it never hurts to try. 

Commodity Development and Global Environmental Zoning

Amanda Runnels: I am a senior majoring in Natural Resources Conservation and after graduation in May I will be going to UVA to get my Masters in Elementary Education. I plan to teach during the school year and work in Outdoor Recreation in the Summers. 

Ryan Groene: I am a senior Political Science major, and after graduation I hope to work in the public service sector.

Luke Chapter 7 “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology” (Ryan Groene)

In Luke, Chapter 7: “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology”, Luke discusses Marcuse, as Luke describes as a ‘radical ecologist’ whose work was overlooked for years. In most of his work, Marcuse claims that Nature serves as ‘man’s inorganic body’, and he often humanizes Nature to emphasize the importance of respecting the environment’s integrity and order. In Chapter 7, Luke analyzes Marcuse work through the means of society and discusses the negative impact that social institutions have had on Nature, “The radical transformation of nature becomes an integral part of the radical transformations of society.” Breaking down his work, we first see the perspective of “Subjectivity and Productivity” where Marcuse discusses freedoms and the relation to human needs. He states that human needs are preconditioned, and the freedoms that we have are a result from our needs. Humans have “True Needs” and “False Needs,” where “True Needs” are your basic food, shelter, clothing, etc. and “False Needs” are what stems from social interest that result in societal misery and injustice. We then take these ideas and can understand that societies “False Needs” is what truly exploits Nature and creates ecological disaster because of our material existence that allows for, what we see as, a ‘comfortable living’. “Everyday material existence can be quite tolerable, rewarding, and comfortable because it requires deep, long-run, ecological disaster to sustain its shallow, short-run institutional reproduction. False needs become that cause of and excuse for continuing such environmental destruction as everyday life merely vindicates “the freedom to choose”. 

Furthermore, Marcuse also discusses technology and science, and essentially sees these as instruments of society used in a way to create domination, power, and control over Nature and man. “Humanity’s increasing control over the environments of Nature through technological means necessarily results in a greatly increased ability to dominate human nature.” A “New Science”, or a new foundation of the instrument, and a “New Sensibility,” or understanding of these instruments, linked not to domination, but to liberation, can result in a ‘reconstruction of reality’ that would allow for humanity and Nature to become one.

After reading this chapter, it immediately made me think of these “False Needs” that Marcuse discusses. We live in a throw-away society that has a materialistic way of life, we pollute the air everyday when we drive to work, we use paper cups at the water fountain, plastic straws, all sorts of pointless things that simply make our lives ‘more comfortable’. Something that has stuck with me is this video of Oprah visiting a family in India:

We all live in homes (even apartments or dorms at school) ten times bigger than this. We use up so much land and space for comfort, not realizing the environmental impact that we have made. The need for comfort for many is increasing everyday, as our technology is constantly developing, making more people comfortable at the expense of someone else, as many feel they ‘need’ that new iPhone, ‘need’ that new iPad, etc. and it becomes a never ending cycle that will only dig the hole deeper. 

Stubberfield, Chapter 2: Building the Laboratory: Instrumentalizing the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming (Amanda/Ryan)

Dr. Stubberfield begins Chapter 2 by introducing the background for how institutions were used in the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of Wyoming in response to the Greater Sage-grouse problem. When the Greater Sage-grouse populations began to decline, it served as a threat to the economy of Wyoming. This chapter discusses the processes that occurred for so-called the protection of the Greater Sage-grouse through the Wyoming Core Area Protection strategy (CAP) which was ultimately a political move to look like a good thing. In 2010 it was suggested for the Greater Sage-grouse population to be added to the Endangered Species list because the population is only 56% of what it was before the expansion of the Western United States and Canada. Despite the population being heavily affected by habitat fragmentation and loss due to human activity, it remained a low priority for the Endangered Species List to the USFWS and was deemed a “candidate species.” 

Although the USFWS did not provide any regulatory control for helping the species, it started a conservation effort with management and regulatory plans to protect the habitat and research the species behavior and living conditions.The CAP rezoned Wyoming’s land according to the GRSG populations by deterritorialization and reterritorialization based on species specific areas. The CAP showed how social environments were used for biopolitics and ultimately how the Endangered Species Act was used by governments as a vessel for other purposes. 

The CAP created relationships within public and private industries with government and non-governmental parties working together. Following this, zones were split between private and public managerial authorities, and new zoning conditions were then placed. These zoning conditions depended on the biological needs of the populations within the area. This new form of managing and controlling created new loopholes to appear as though the species in these areas were being protected, when in fact far more disruptions to the natural habitats were happening within the zones. The instability that this created allowed for an unjust and dangerous expansion where guidelines and rules were taken advantage of for capitalistic purposes. 

Luke, Chapter 11:  “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” (Amanda Runnels)

Luke, Chapter 11: “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” starts off by discussing the overall opinion that the details of climate change negotiation often lack attention from the public because it is not as captivating as an inauguration in the United States or the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Many countries have made pledges to reduce carbon emissions and do their part to lower the world climate by 2050, however there are still many climate change doubters, “clean coal” advocates and industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels. All of these reasons show that the Paris Agreement will be highly contested and difficult to meet its goals. 

Climate change is not something that we can turn a blind eye to. It is important to ensure that all localities are educated and made aware of the problems and negative effects that climate change causes. It is difficult to ignore the melting of all the ice in the Arctic Ocean, the droughts that are occurring in areas that were once very wet regions, sea level rise happening in coastal areas, and the loss of biodiversity that is occurring in nearly every biome on Earth. The ability for countries to make plans to alter these negative impacts of humans on Earth is becoming more and more urgent and important to life on Earth. 

The UN-backed Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was first held in April 1992 and was responsible for the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The negotiations that followed the Earth Summit began playing upon the idea of “common but differentiated responsibility” for countries trying to mitigate climate change. This meant that larger and richer countries were held to high standards of making large cuts to carbon emissions and greatly reducing their impact on climate change, but smaller, less developed countries demanded that they remain able to pollute as much as they desired to attain economic growth. The Kigali Agreement to limit HFC use exemplified this discrepancy between developed and developing countries by directing countries such as the United States, Japan and the European Union to start removing HFC use in 2019. 

Alternatively, it was expected that developing countries would wait to begin until 2024 and the negotiators reasoned that with the large countries acting first, the smaller countries would follow quickly in their footsteps. There are pros and cons to the differentiated policies among countries. Instead of using a one size fits all approach to mitigating climate change, different countries have the ability to develop plans that mesh well with their cultures and ways of life of their country. Oppositely, many of the larger regions are somewhat stuck in their energy-intensive growth such as China in order to achieve economic growth. With this, it is highly likely that their strategies will be slow, make less of an impact, and be mostly unmonitored. 

All of these factors have shown that the targets of the Paris Agreement for only a 2°C increase in temperature will be reached sooner than the original goal of 2100. Continuing business as usual, as many countries have shown that they will continue to do, can lead us to raise the climate temperature 4.5°C. Knowing that prediction, even countries that have put together weak plans for mitigation strategies are better prepared than countries without plans at all.

On Sophistical Refutations

Tiffany Hakenson

I am a senior in my last semester as a Political Science major here at Virginia Tech. As a Political Science major I have a strong interest in understanding theory and its applications in public policy.

Ryan Grannan

I am a Senior with a major in PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) and a minor in Leadership. I am interested in Teaching, as well as politics. I think that the readings I have done for this class will help me put a variety of the concepts from social studies into their historical philosophical contexts.

Bryson Dannewitz

I am a senior getting my Political Science degree with a National Security focus. I am about to commission into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, and I hope to be able to put the skills that I have learned in my major to work during my career as an Army officer. I have always had an interest in politics and the origins of our political system, which is why I decided on this major.

Cade Ashby

I am a junior majoring in Political Science: National Security Studies, and minoring in Russian Area Studies. I Transferred to Virginia Tech last year from VMI where I was a part of Army ROTC. I have always been interested in philosophy, and figured that understanding political philosophy would be useful for the career in federal law enforcement that I plan to pursue.

Why read sophistical refutations?

Economies of images and appearances are where sophistry manifests. We see this heavily in our political discourse and news media which makes it important to know how to counter and find fault in typical sophistical arguments to safeguard the state through public discourse.

[Editor’s Note]: As you may recall, sophists and sophistry were endemic to Athenian society and held and influenced the arc of power in Athens and elsewhere in the ancient world. As you’ll recall, the death of Socrates in Apology is caused, in part, by sophists accusing Socrates of sophistry (hilariously, it would appear that Socrates in Euthyphro is picking apart a sophist from a place of ignorance thus providing a small refutation of the charges in Apology). Their arguments and presentations of Socrates as a threat to Athens relied on images of him and his actions to ground their accusations. In this way, we can see that sophistry is an actual political force within democratic society and Gorgias himself in his writings argues for the sophist as an endemic species of democracy. However, as we saw in Gorgias the sophist relies on the use of rhetoric for purposes of mass persuasion and you’ll recall that Gorgias himself said that rhetoric can be a tool to make any man a slave. Further, you’ll recall from Sophist that the sophist is a sort of angler – a fisherman – and attempts to ensnare, hook or tangle their targets in environments of images produced by the sophist through the use of rhetoric. This is mostly aimed at serving the sophist who grows from selling images and beliefs regardless of their veracity but more as a form of flattery. As we saw in Republic, as Socrates engages with his eventual executioners, the sophist does not care about or possibly believe that there is an “objective Truth” as Plato or Aristotle do and thus their ethical commitments to “truth” are grounded in what will draw in the most power, capital and influence. Their targets, as you’ll recall, are typically young men of well-to-do families in need of formal instruction. The sophist instructs the young in the use of rhetoric and not necessarily the production of knowledge and the pursuit of “truth.”

Both Plato and Aristotle are suspicious of democracy. Why? Because democratic orders can be chaotic with multiple avenues to degrade into tyrannies simply because democratic citizens are ruled by their desires and not necessarily their reason. This is a point of ethical conduct for Plato and Aristotle as one cannot divorce Ethics from Justice in their thinking. This means that it may be difficult, if not impossible – depending on whether you ask Plato – for democratic citizens to really advocate for the interests of society in general as this would require a wider rationality than simply acting in self-interest in the pursuit of desire. As you’ll recall, Plato, in particular, believed that democracies contain the seeds of tyranny as they are composed of petty dictators acting in their self-interest and not the interest of the collective state. Aristotle recognized demagoguery as a symptom of a failing democracy, and at the core of demagoguery is the use of rhetoric to ensnare and channel the desires of those to whom the demagogue appeals most. This means that sophistry is connected not only to the administration of state but is also part and parcel of populational management within democracies as it is used to sway the emotions and desires of its audience.

Now recall that Gorgias has said rhetoric is an art central to sophistry and that rhetoric can be used coercively – in other words it can be used to, in his words, enslave others. How does it do this? Simply by convincing others to accept the presented images and rhetoric of the sophist. Here’s a question for you, dear reader, how would you know if you actually hold authentic desires? That is, desires you came to that you know or understand to be yours and are genuinely grounded in your self-interest or possibly altruistic motivations or other duties which you have accepted freely and without coercion. Socrates seems to display an authentic example of this sort of desire in Crito as he accepts his execution in lieu of exile from Athens. His argument, as you will recall, is grounded in his sense of justice and duty to the state. Despite Athens adopting the trumped up charges of his accusers, Socrates still recognized his life as part and parcel of Athenian democracy and accepted his execution as one guided by his love of Athenian society and senses of duty and justice. Furthermore, and as you’ll recall, Socrates famously proclaims “the unexamined life is a life not worth living,” at his trial but this remark is emblematic of the broader Socratic quest for truth and knowledge as a matter of living “the good life.” At his death, one can assume, Socrates allowed this quest to end, but it doesn’t stop for you or anyone else who still live within democracy.

As you’ll all dutifully remember from Century of the Self, American society was remade into the mass consumer republic that it is out of the horrors of WWI and the growth of Public Relations as a vocation and as a function of governance. The rise of mass scale consumer society was, in part, advanced by the increasing power of corporations as one of the pillars of U.S. society incubated since the colonization of the Eastern Seaboard by, for example, the Virginia Company, The Massachusetts Bays Company, The Hudson Bays Company and many others such as the slavers, The Caribbean Adventurers. In other words, the organizational infrastructure was already in place for Public Relations to hold sway over the minds of their consuming publics through the mouthpiece of the corporation growing from the history of mass scale industrialization in the US from the 1880’s onward. The modern corporation, as some of you may be aware, was thought of as a person in U.S. law before black slaves and the history of corporate personhood in the U.S. had included protections for corporate personhood grounded in English Common Law dating back to the Dartmouth College Charter. This trend was carried forward in the growing and expanding economies of the U.S. and the corporation became one of the central pieces in U.S. political and economic organization as the documentary argued – recall how Calvin Coolidge tried to give himself a personality within governance through connecting the White House to stardom, spectacle and entertainment.

Corporations argue for their self-interests publicly and privately. Privately, one can see this through lobbying efforts in Congress, for example, or through how laborers might identify their interests with the interests of their organizations – surprise, surprise, people want to keep their jobs. Publicly, however, corporate self-interest is usually manifested through the production and circulation of images through advertising and Century of the Self argues that it is both the rise of PR and its birth of more aggressive forms of advertising even branching into gorilla marketing – remember “torches of freedom” and the rich debutants adopting cigarettes to break the taboo against women smoking specifically orchestrated by tobacco interests to open a new consumer market – that shows how desires can be tapped and expanded within consuming publics to advance private interest. Further, this displays the use of strategic ambiguity in that “freedom” as a term is polymorphous and tobacco interests were able to use the ambiguity of “freedom” to imply a woman’s ability to smoke without the pain of social and cultural sanctions. This was not done to liberate women but to open a new market and increase profits.

Now recall Marx, from way back, and his remarks on capital: it can and does take many forms and the corporation is really just a massive concentration of capital is terms of money, labor power, asset ownership, and public persuasion. When a corporation speaks, it is its duty to protect its assets and increase its profitability (just ask Milton Freedman). So, not only do we have a society dominated by the corporation as a mode of social organization (just look at your generation and who or what is educating it) but also, as the Coolidge administration showed, central to statecraft in the U.S. republic. As I’m sure you’re aware, economic viability is the name of the game in terms of international political economic development and the centrality of the corporation in U.S. politics and society exhibits those institutions as vital pieces of a governing system that relies on economic expansion to ground the value of its currency. Thus, it makes no odds whether people are actually in touch with their authentic desires, it only matters that they desire in terms of systemic viability and governance.

As you’ll recall from Statesman, the goal of statecraft is to connect differing parts into functional wholes. The statesman does not look to the next election but to the next generation and it is their job to ensure social and political reproduction. They are not sophists, but they aren’t philosophers either and their judgements can and do have an environmental effect as they influence the interactions between social and political parts. Now recall the centrality of education and art from Republic and the Allegory of the Cave. As the corporation is now one of the loudest speaking components of the U.S. republic and as PR is grounded in the use of rhetoric, and as corporations are the primary mode of social organization, and, as capital, embodied by them, it is not unreasonable to conclude that sophistry is a project of mass management and that duty falls primarily on the Producers more so than the Auxiliaries or Guardians. This is an easy jump to make when you consider that the notion of ‘person’ includes collective personas such as organizations and that corporations are concerned almost solely with self-interested production and reproduction as they are locked in a competitive struggle against others for consuming publics. This means that sophistry need not be located in the individual human but can be a mass scale project of direction and management through individuated collectives – if but a chaotic one as both Aristotle and Plato would say. This means that the environments in which we live contain the persuasive pieces of sophistry that aim at influencing and reproducing Desire much like the cave walls displaying the shadow puppets of the puppeteers. To the point of the Allegory of the Cave: how do you know your “cave” isn’t entirely sophistry? How would you know if you ever left the cave? Where do your desires come from? Are they yours really or are they pieces left by “people” trying to manage you? What can you do to ensure that someone else isn’t taking advantage of you or trying to get you to have a desire that you wouldn’t have otherwise? How would you know if you’re under the influence of a demagogue and are being miseducated or led astray (just ask Facebook and Cambridge Analytica)? These are some of the dangers within a producers republic and a quick examination of The Federalist Papers will reveal that the founders discussed these problems in other language.

The answers to the above are of paramount importance as “the good life,” is not only the goal of the state, but the ethical project of all who desire happiness according to Plato and all those who aspire to excellence according to Aristotle. How are you supposed to know if you’re leading “the good life” – one in which you are a self-legislating subject pursuing truth, knowledge and justice – if you can’t be sure whether you’re captured by sophistry and thus are acting on behalf of someone else as a mental slave? Below is Aristotle’s answer that reflects his teacher’s – logic. It is logic that will be the tool for liberation and logic that will keep you safe from sophistry. Far be it from a simple annoyance as a text, Sophistical Refutations may be the handbook for wrecking sophistical arguments and exposing their fallacious reasoning that would lead you and your state away from “the good life” – a central project of state as you’ll recall from Statesman and Republic – and into the economies of appearances manufactured by sophists. As sophists are an endemic species of democracies, a healthy and vibrant society might include them, but it is the duty of the democratic citizen to protect and keep their democracy as its jealous guardians. How do we do this? How are we to pursue “the good life” – the examined life – and ensure our desires are our own when we cast a ballot, when we advance an interest, when we engage in public debate? Logic. [End Editor’s Note]


On Sophistical Refutations is typically viewed as a part of Aristotle’s body of work on logic. This book focuses on how debates were structured in ancient Greece, the common tactics used by orators and how the student ought to respond to these tactics. Section One focuses on introducing the reader to the debate format, and defines some of the basic tactics and goals of orators. Section Two focuses on how the reader might use these tactics to question the arguments of a Sophist, and section three focuses on how the reader should defend their arguments from Sophist’s questions. Overall, the book identifies and explains many of the debate strategies and tactics that are still used today, and provides interesting context into one of the most enduring forms of human communication, the argument.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section One

Section one of Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations is divided into ten chapters. Chapters one and two act as the work’s introduction, followed by chapters three through eight which address tactics of the questioner, and chapters nine and ten which provide an interlude. The questioner and answer in Athenian dialogue were expected to follow a pattern when debating. The questioner poses a propositional question, the answerer selects his position, and the questioner then attempts to refute the answerers position using a deductive argument. Chapter 1 explains that some arguments or refutations are not truly deductive, but only appear to be so. Used by Sophists, these sophistical arguments are fallacious, the remaining chapters designed to explain these fallacies.

Chapter three describes the goals of this type of questioner, those being to simply refute the answerer’s claim, to show that he has committed a fallacy, to lead him into a paradox, to force the answerer to use an ungrammatical expression, or to make him repeat himself.

Chapter four explains how sophistical reasoning is divided into two groups, one of which is dependent on language, the other of which is not. The first group contains six sophistical refutations, “ambiguity, amphiboly, combination, division of words, accent, and form of expression.” Additionally, there are seven sophistical refutations independent of language, which include “that which depends upon Accident, the use of an expression absolutely or not absolutely but with some qualification of respect or place, or time, or relation, that which depends upon ignorance of what ‘refutation’ is, that which depends upon the consequent, that which depends upon assuming the original conclusion, stating as cause what is not the cause, and the making of more than one question into one.” Chapter seven explains why these fallacies are able to trick people, primarily by appearing very similar to answers that would in fact be correct. Chapter eight describes the fallacy of refutations which, although legitimate and correct, are only appropriate in the specific circumstance of the question.

Fallacies in the language (in diction)






Figure of speech or form of expression: In which the literal meaning of a phrase is not the understood meaning of the phrase for the purposes of the debate.

Fallacies not in the language (extra dictional)


Secundum quid: Applying General Rules to specific circumstances, or holding that things which are only usually true are always true.

Irrelevant conclusion:

Begging the question:

False cause:

Affirming the consequent:

Fallacy of many questions:

Chapters nine and ten act as an interlude before Aristotle addresses tactics for the answerer in the second section. In chapter nine Aristotle rejects that arguments can be directed at either a person’s words or thoughts, and instead, in chapter ten that argues that these differences must be discussed within the argument, rather than being presupposed by them. Both arguments can be made, but this distinction comes within the argumentative structure, not before it.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section Two

Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations Section 2, brings to light the fallacies within arguments and other discussions. This section is broken up into ten subsections that layout different tactics, rules, and tricks when it comes to sophistical arguments. There are many rules and tricks discussed throughout the writing which allow for one to find deeper ways to win over or skew people in an argument. Some of which create a facade to others and in turn allows for the fallacies in an argument to come to light. This turns the entire discussion in the favor of the one who guides the answerer to this fallacy. This section also brings to light tactics for the answerer as well because many times one may find himself not on the questioning end but on the opposite. Being able to comprehend and utilize all these tactics can allow one to control the direction of almost any discussion.

In chapter 12 Aristotle discusses the importance of framing your argument as well as setting up your opponent so that their fallacies are presented because of how they frame their argument. A very important aspect that Aristotle brought up was that one should never present a controversial question right away. A rule that is helpful in allowing a fallacy to come about as he states is “one should draw the answerer on to the kind of statements against which one is well supplied with arguments.” This allows the one arguing to control the discussion by staying ahead of the answerer. He says that arguing from one’s opinions will allow for an opportunity to rebut against the answerer’s desired opinions when the moment presents itself. Hearing someone out instead of raising one’s voice allows for the listener to hear the entirety of one’s argument. This can also give the idea that one is winning in a contentious argument before the rebuttal has even presented itself. Another tactic brought to light in chapter 13 is the use of babbling. Being able to bring someone to a state of babbling allows them to seem as though they have no true premise to their argument, and can discredit them because they try to make the same point in too many different ways.

In chapter 15 the discussion of the tactics for the questioner is drawn to a conclusion. Within this chapter, Aristotle discusses how when you are in the discussion it is difficult to keep track of several aspects at once. The questioner may also use speed as a tactic to confuse and leave the answerer behind in the discussion. This may cause the answerer to become agitated or even angry, and when someone is angered, they are less capable of creating rational thoughts. They then may react very emotionally and say or do something that could discredit themselves. Aristotle describes the elementary rules for producing anger as “to make a show of the wish to play foul, and to be altogether shameless.” This makes the answerer feel as though the questioner is being demeaning to them which again can make them act irrationally. Another trick that is brought up is having a strong appearance of having been refuted in an argument. A questioner without proving anything can give their final proposition as a statement giving the perception that they have proven it rather than giving supporting evidence. In a sense, this is arguing from ignorance, which can work in a case where the arguing parties do not have known evidence of what is being discussed. From the audience’s perspective the confidence of the perception of winning the argument can truly mean winning or losing. If the audience feels the confidence of the argument the entire attitude shifts away from the opponent’s argument.

Chapter 16 starts to bring the answers tactics to play in an argument. Having and being able to utilize specific tactics as an answerer can allow one to combat against the tactics used by the questioner. Aristotle also says that following this study is useful for philosophy because it will sharpen your semantic insight, which can be useful when reacting to fallacies in an argument. Being able to answer questions in a logical manner allows for the answerer to seem intelligent. One’s reputation can be built in a positive manner if one is able to intelligently answer questions. Aristotle says that to have a reputation of being well trained in everything can allow for one to point out fallacies, and by doing so you can make it seem that the questioner is inexperienced.

Chapters 17 and 18 describe different ways that one can stand in the way of the questioner’s real or apparent success. It describes how one should not hesitate when it comes to pointing out fallacies and introduces distinctions, even if one does not see how the questioner could exploit the ambiguity. An important defense that is described in chapter 18 is by providing a solution to a false deduction. There are different ways to solve deductions, one of which is by pinpointing the premise of that deduction or falsehood. By doing so one should then demolish the idea of that deduction with facts to exhibit the falsehood in the argument.

Chapter 19 brings the idea of ambiguity to question. Being able to use ambiguity in an argument can do one well in many ways. For one, it shows the intelligence of the answerer because the questioner overlooked the possibility of any such outcomes in their statement. By restating the question asked with a different sense in the conclusion you can make the questioner question what they do and do not know about the topic. This can also work from the questioner’s aspect because it can create an opportunity for the answerer to disprove themselves if the question is stated properly. Chapter 20 begins to bring into light the solutions to sophistical refutations that depend on the use of language.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section Three

Section three is a continuation of examples on how an Answerer should respond to a Sophist Questioner’s various tactics. This section encompasses chapters 21-34 and touches on each individual fallacy by example.

Chapter 21 details how you would respond if someone tries to use the accent fallacy, otherwise referred to as the emphasis fallacy, to refute your argument. Chapter 21 states that the accentuation of a word within an argument does not give way to fallacious arguments. The Accenture does not change the meaning of the word itself. We would look to defend against this in cases in which your opponent is attempting to use your intonation to refute the point you’re trying to make.

Chapter 22 examines how to respond to a fallacy involving figure of speech. Aristotle states that sometimes sophists will get you to agree to a premise and manipulate that premise to say that you agreed to something that isn’t necessarily what you agreed to. Aristotle states that this should be countered by telling the sophist exactly what the premise you agreed to means.

Chapter 23 details that the answerer should always take the opposite tactic of whatever your debate opponent, assumed to be a sophist, relies on for their argument. If your opponent uses reasoning that requires combination, then your solution should consist of division, then combination. If it depends on an “acute” accent, then the solution is a grave accent and vice versa. If the argument depends on ambiguity, then you must use the opposite term.

Chapter 24 describes how to deal with an argument that depends on Accident. Aristotle states that one and the same solutions meets all cases. Solving refutations that rely on Accident may be solved by taking down or deconstructing the original proposition that was asked by asserting that they do know and don’t know the same object. False reasoning is used to suppose a solution which becomes a false solution. Aristotle uses the example that is X may have a child or may state that this is “my child” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that X is the father of the child. Using the principle of ambiguity could solve this issue simply by stating that ‘X is your father,’ ‘son’ or ‘slave’. Campaign slogans such as “Make America Great Again” are an example. What does “great” mean? Is America not already great?

In the video above Jeff Daniels picks apart a question that relies on ambiguity.

Chapter 25 describes how to deal with Secundum Quid. Arguments that depend upon an expression that is valid in a particular situation but is not valid in the absolute should be solved by considering the conclusion you’re trying to draw in relation to its contradictory. For example, “Can a liar tell the truth?” We know that liars lie, but it is possible for the liar to tell the truth even though they are generally a liar?

Chapter 26 details how to deal with refutations that depend on the definition of a refutation. Refutations that depend on the definition of another refutation must be met by comparing together the conclusion with its contradictory and seeing that it involves the same respect, relation, time and manner.

Chapter 27 is how to deal with refutations that beg the question. Refutations that depend on begging the question – assuming the original point to be proved – are determining the nature of the question to be obvious. Even if it’s representing a generally agreed upon belief the questioner should be providing a refutation that’s independently proved from the original point being made. In addition, the answerer should state that the point granted wasn’t meant to be used as a premise, but should reason against it, in the opposite way from the adopted refutations on side issues. Dialectic reasoning is at the center of Plato and Aristotle’s works. In Hagelian dialectics there’s an idea that thesis and antithesis combining into synthesis. These are two seemingly contrary ideas resulting in truth. From this perspective, Aristotle is recommending that you provide the antithesis if your opponent tries to beg the question.

Chapter 28 follows up on discussions about begging the question. If someone is begging the question to you in their refutation this should be evident in what they’re stating. Aristotle states that the fashion in which the consequences unfold follows a twofold path. Either the universal is stated as “if A is always found with B then B must always be found with A” or is opposite to these terms for “if A follows B, then A’s opposite must follow B’s opposite.”

Chapter 29 discusses how to deal with false premises. When any refutation presented reasoning depends on some addition, absurdity should follow upon the subtraction of that addition. For example, stating: “It’s warm outside. Therefore, it must be summer,” when it is, in fact, spring, or fall or winter.

Chapter 30 discusses how to deal with the fallacy of many questions. Refutations that make many questions into one should be dealt with by making the distinction between them from the start. Questions should be singular and have one distinct answer to avoid the confirmation or denial of many questions with a singular answer. The man who answers double questions may be made to say that several things are the same even though they are not. An example of a loaded question may be “Hey Bryson, when did you decide to stop beating your girlfriend?” Where by answering you may implicate yourself in the crime of beating your girlfriend by just simply replying.

Chapter 31 details how to deal with opponents who push you to repeat yourself a number of times. When being drawn into repeating yourself multiple times, proclamations of relative terms should be assumed as not having meaning in the abstract by themselves. The term defined in the abstraction is not the same as the whole phrase.

Chapter 32 describes how to deal with solecisms. Solecism is a phrase that breaks grammar rules. Questions such as, “Can he be a she?” or “Is a thing what you say it to be?”

Chapter 33 and 34 wrap up in a quick conclusion, re-stating the ideas presented in the previous chapters. For the modern audience, the concepts presented here are best applied to live debates or discussions in popular media. Understanding these debate tactics can help modern readers understand why two debaters or panelists are doing what they are doing. It is also important to remember Aristotle’s warning that these tactics can be misused to provide the appearance of a refutation or argument where none exists. Modern debates cannot always be analyzed efficiently in real time, but the concepts presented here can give modern audiences a starting point at finding the truth and instill a healthy sense of skepticism by showing them how the sausage is made.


Krabbe, Erik C. “Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations.” Topoi, vol. 31, no. 2, 2012, pp. 243–248., doi:10.1007/s11245-012-9124-0.

Aristotle. “The Internet Classics Archive: On Sophistical Refutations by Aristotle.” The Internet Classics Archive | On Sophistical Refutations by Aristotle, W. A. Pickard-Cambridge,

Group Blog Post: Devin Welsh, Lilly Church, Merrill Wheeler

Global Environmental Issues: Dr. Stubberfield


Hybridity: in Death, Alan P. Rudy and Damian White (Devin Welsh)

The authors in this reading draw attention to the discursivity applied to the idea of ‘society vs nature.’  Historically and as a result of The Enlightenment, nature and society have been viewed as two different entities completely separate from one another.  This has been detrimental to human understanding of how the world works, and how humans influence it directly.  This idea that society is somehow separate from the world it inhabits is absurd, and more importantly dangerous.  When the two are divided then it leads people to think their actions in one entity will not, and even cannot, have an impact on the other.  This is evident within the capitalist economic structure; ignore the negative effects you wish did not exist. We see this with a willing ignorance of the subaltern or poor populations across the globe who both suffer from capitalism’s effects while also being forced to take part in it, as they are the cheap labor capitalism is built on. The authors bring us to the idea that nature is itself a construction of humanity.  ‘True’ nature by definition has not existed for a very long time, as now everything on earth has been touched in one way or another by humanity.  What we think of as nature in current times is an artificial recreation of what humans arbitrarily designate as nature.

Rudy and White in their chapter in Critical Environmental Politics introduce us to Bruno Latour, a French sociologist who used the term ‘hybridity’ to better understand the concept of ‘modernity’. Hybridity is combining different fields of study usually believed to be distinct from one another, to better understand how they influence each other.  In this sense, it is applied to combining society and nature into a hybrid to better understand how they are directly related.  Latour posits the idea that humanity does not understand its role in directing ‘society’, or lack thereof, and how that role directly influences ‘nature’.  Society is a set of norms that are hard to turn against in an effort to see change, yet nature is actually extremely malleable and susceptible to human decision making.  He claims that modernity today is built on the idea that we cannot change our politics, in the same manner that we manipulate ecosystems and our environments. Essentially humanity is locked into a social system that it thinks it cannot change, although we have altered ecologies around us.  It is an almost intentional contradiction that does not allow a restructuring of the current societal hierarchy, most likely because elites are happy with the way it is, while also maintaining their power over much of society.  He calls us to see the connections between cause and effect across multiple fields of inquiry.  Hybrids have been historically viewed in a negative light, as illegitimate combinations that should not have happened, such as unwanted animal or plant half-breeds.  But hybrids have a key role to play in the future, not as half-breed plants or animals, but by combining fields of knowledge.  The hybridity of society and nature, long previously thought to be distinct from one another, will be vital to bettering humanity’s impacts on the world it inhabits.

Donna Haraway is the next scholar introduced to us.  Her arguments are along the same lines as Latour, but she adds in other specific social elements often left out of the equation.  Her focus on hybridity is constantly laid in front of the backdrop of ‘socialist feminism.’  An interesting point she makes is how ‘modernity’ is built off social conceptions birthed in colonialism and its conception of ‘the other’.  This dualism is evident today in nearly every societal situation, where one’s situation is inherently separate from the conditions that may have caused it.  The authors point to several of her works and how they draw from multiple fields to offer a better context of social situations, while I was most interested in her article titled, ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’.  In this work she lays out a fictional scenario where cyborgs have taken the place of humans as a hyperbolic example of modernity, where humans and technology are inexorably intertwined. In this work she details the decisions facing female cyborgs in a world where technology is inherently masculine, and how the world shapes individual decision making.  Essentially, she is calling attention to the role physical situations influence decision making, and not just trying to understand decision making in a vacuum. We see how technology is used widely across the Global North as a solution to current physical situations, such as carbon capture to combat climate change, or gene-editing to combat disease. These new technologies are widely accepted because they are seen as a solution, without much contemplation on how they could influence things further down the road, it seems the era of cyborgs is already here. 

We as humans must look harder at the connections between cause and effect, and how one situation can and does affect another.  There needs to be a hybridity of nature and society as well as a hybridity across the fields of academia.  Researchers and scholars must do a better job of working together across the scientific and social fields to create a better understanding of how humans shape the planet.  We need to take accountability for our actions, unlike capitalist elites who just close their eyes and hope the negative externalities of their decisions just disappear in a magic cloud of carbon emissions.

Bio: My name is Devin Welsh, and I am a senior in my final semester here at Virginia Tech.  I am studying International Relations while pursuing a minor in German.  I love watching soccer and I really hope Paris Saint-Germain beats Bayern Munich in their first champions league matchup this week.  Bayern fans feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I think it’s PSG’s year to win it all.

An excellent little presentation on public lands, waters, environment and social behavior.

“On the Politics of the Anthropocene” Luke, Chapter 10 (Lilly Church)

Proponents of the Anthropocene are social warriors calling for change and trying to get nation-states to “do something”, while other groups such as scientists depoliticize and refuse to work together. The goal to depoliticize means they want to move away governments making and enforcing decisions about the environment that have political-motivated biases. This removes “the environment” as a space for democratic politics and political solutions by sequestering decisions about it to “experts” that can be under the employ of global commercial organizations and governments, such as the U.S., that have a vested economic interest in continuing business-as-usual and others with more altruistic motivations advocating for environmental protection through top-down, non-democratic decision-making. This means that “the environment” under this way of thinking, can be designed and administered by technocrats beyond the reach of democratic politics and their decisions have the potential to have global effects. A dividing question between these groups is if the products of humans are actually significant on a geological timescale, and if so, what should the response be? Many people who have studied this want the Anthropocene to be a warning and a call to action, but there have been warnings about this for over 150 years, even as far back as 1864. An important question for critics to be asking is if new concepts and terminology around the Anthropocene are actually helpful to pinpointing a problem and clearly stating how to fix them. 

Arcology is a concept coined by Paolo Soleri to describe a (theorized) compact living structure that combines natural and unnatural elements to support a family in a sustainable way. Arcology is not actually practiced anywhere, but it does provide insight into how to create more sustainable cities. As human shelters and cities arise, agriculture spreads, and arcologies are formed. Agriculture and habitat are the two indicators of human existence, and without them, we cannot exist. Obviously, food and shelter are two out of three of the absolutely crucial factors for humans to survive. When we look from a technonatural view, technology is essential to this architectural design because of the materials needed to keep such a network running.

Soleri’s claim is that shelter is the most imposing feature of humans, and the suburban home is the most consuming and wasteful shelters we can create. Only a few people actually benefit from the amount of space that humans take up, while the by-products are destructive for local, regional, and global systems. Soleri’s claim is that the only solution to saving the environment stems from the city, because the city and the environment are connected in terms of habitat. The only way to move forward is to recenter the attention on arcologies and fix the way we consider and improve them.

Soleri’s Arcology was tried nearly 50 years ago in the Arizona desert. Its name is Arcosanti and Soleri was trying to design a city seated at the intersection of ecology and architecture.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ideas as to when the Anthropocene actually began, and it again ties into the process of depoliticalization. Crutzen pins the start of the Anthropocene on the invention of the steam engine in 1780, while other anthropologists, paleobotanists, and stratigraphers argue that there are multiple stages of the Anthropocene. And still others from fields like conservation biology and physical geography want to put their own claims and characteristics on the Anthropocene, which can only be because of the political power that comes from control of the narrative over the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is politicized through “expert” scientific claims gaining power by condemning environmental crises. Earth system science (ESS) is a relatively new study for analyzing changes in the Anthropocene by multiple organizations trying to discover new ways of surviving it. ESS creates discourse of sustainable development for the purpose of policy creation. Yet with this discourse, there is little conclusion of what to do because that decision is left to policy-makers. This allows for aesthetically pleasing debates, resumes, and research without actual positive impacts on our consistently degrading environment. 

Luke makes the statement, “As long as scientific experts peer at these turbulent currents of planetary transformation through the taxonomies and terms of Victorian science, the arcologies of the earth will continue to destructively omnipolitanize the planet-state, but in strong accord with peer-reviewed Anthropocenarios from ESS labs and their panels of expert authority.” To elaborate on this quote, Luke is saying that people who study the evolution of Earth through the ESS framework are foolishly defending the science through a 19th century lens. This inevitably leads to destroying the Earth by politicizing it and using poorly researched and backed up Anthropocene critiques by other ESS supporters to defend it. Unfortunately, there is not yet an answer as to who is in control of the response going forward. The media normalizes trends of human damage to the environment by examining it only as a fascinating trend of our society. ESS demonstrates how we must impose ourselves on the future in order to move forward in remaking the world. Bu there is hope in that the Anthropocene addresses the multifaceted evolution of the world and does not assume that world solely exists for humans.

Bio: Lilly Church is a senior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) with a minor in Theater Arts. She was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and only left so she could spend her college years in Blacksburg. She has never left the country, leaving her entirely uncultured. For this, she would like to thank COVID-19, which cancelled her study abroad. Lilly is taking this class in order to have a better understanding of the critical environmental issues which are so engrained in all three of her major’s key subjects. 

Chapter 1: Instruments, Assemblages and Environmentality: Toward the Technonatural (Merrill Wheeler)

    In this chapter the author explores the use of instruments in assemblages, specifically relating to the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming, that leads to a bigger commentary on technonature. Though a study of instruments that are part of bigger capital machines, we can see a bigger pattern of an expansion of technonature. These instruments are described as causing the production of artifacts. Specifically, the animal and plant life of Wyoming is being subjected to strategies of environmentality that is only concerned with the production of commodities. The author sees technonature having historical power because it is now seen as a natural feature of the environment that’s being made and affecting the plant and animal life through social activity, thus showing the growing expansion of technonature through these instruments that are functions of machinic assemblages and further link human and non-human populations. 

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 Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: The Technonatural Condition: Synthetic and Organic Imbrications of the Machine

    Machinic assemblages use instruments with organic components to further industrial activity leading to a concern of a hybrid of infrastructure between human and non-human economies. There has been an evolution of both humanity and non-humananity through tehonology, as they develop together there are human-non-human assemblages that create the production commodities in technonaturalism. This can be seen through technoatural lifeforms, topographies, environments that were previously autarkic but are now part of the technonaturalization system. Technonature as concerned by the author is simply the continuance of civilization through means of technological infrastructure and commodity production. When we add organic components to this equation through geo-engineering, we are headed to a what the author calls a “megamachinic consciousness.” We can’t escape geotechnic hybridity because it is deeply ingrained in the creation of our civilization. Things like the carbon cycle have been commodified, by the instrumentalization of previously autarkic organic things through, for example, the global production and trade of carbon credits or offsets. Instrumentalization means that organic systems have been used as tools and instruments to further the advancement of some agency. 

More Power to the Machine: Strategic Control of Synthetic Flows

     Synthetic assemblages employ the formation of technonature and environmentality – environmentality being the materialization of the organic and synthesized – further cementing technonatural history in the material and the concept of human-non-human history. The author describes this as a Megamachine: “Megamachine is a planetary life support system for one formulation of culture that rules over and dominates global flows of energy, humanity, and infrastructure.” This is key to understanding that technonature is humanity’s movement away from the autarik and can be seen in organic assemblages assimilated to the Megamachine.  The Megamachine is a tool to move away from harsh economies of nature and into harsh economies of the Machine because we are ruled by artifice inside the most “advanced” industrial economies as a matter of social material reproduction. Technonature is then an artifact of the Megamachine because it is a manufacturing of synthetic assemblages that display their global connections thus revealing more how the human experience is manipulated technocratic management. 

Technonature and Environmentality: State-of-the-Art as Art of the State

     To maintain the power of the Megamachine hybridization and synthetic environments, technocrats designed and utilize enviornmentalities. As stated, “Environmentality, for my purposes, is a socio-techno-environmental process that organizes the relationships of living, and non-living through the production of knowledge/power regimes such that they create administrable environs.” It is explained through an analysis of Michel Foucault’s ideas of governmentality which is referenced as the ‘conduct of conduct’. At its core it connects to the idea of environmentality that government and non governmental actors can and will turn environmental crises into commodities and profits. This creates a biopolitical regime that instrumentalized ‘nature’ and humanity within synthetic assemblages for the Megamachine.  The people who create and profit from the Megamachine should be free but really not because the deployment of environmentalists leaves us all in a geotechnical hybridity of infrastructures that we can not separate from our civilization. Therefore, based on the logics of capitalist modernity, the tools used for social reproduction and the imperatives of continual capital development within organizations, even the CEO of any given commercial organization is ruled by and administers artifice itself.  

From Instruments to Technonature: A Conclusion 

     As reviewed in this chapter the there are major problems with using the ‘conduct of conduct’ market as to talk about conservation discourse. The market is the governing discourse for the environment, as seen through the production technonature. According to specific operationalizations of governmentality, Technonaturialization works to separate organic things from their autarkic nature and create synthetic assemblages that exhibits the movements of, and creation of capital through an instantiation of governmentality. Instruments of technonature turn ‘the organic’ such as found reserves of oil into artifacts for a greater scheme of environmentally, or the commodification of humanity and nature. Technonature is a result of instruments and instrumentalization of ‘nature’. This can specifically be seen in an example of the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming showing this cycle of technonature, explained in later chapters. 

Merrill Wheeler: I am a senior who is set to graduate in May 2021 from Virginia Tech. I am a double major is PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) and Psychology. I am from Mclean Virginia and love to take advantage of all the great parks located on the Potomac River. 

Editor’s Note: Technonaturalization is directly inspired by the Starcraft series. I was able to get a handle on the idea of instruments dominating space and recreating life in the image of capital and technology by thinking of how technological frontiers might be formed and advance. I used “the Creep” necessary for infrastructural advancement of the Zerg army from the aforementioned series to help conceptualize the advance of The Megamachine through the instrumentalization of life and territory. The video below displays how “the creep” is formed and extends through Starcraft‘s virtual environments. As I said at the start of class, inspiration can come from anywhere. For those of you familiar with the Starcraft lore, the Zerg Army is a technonatural army run-amok displaying the fragility of technological systems and the inherent risks of technonaturalization.

The Greater Sage-grouse Conservation-Resource Complex

Jae Ju: Hi everyone, my name is Jae and I am a Communication Science and Social Inquiry Major with a minor in Political Science. I am from Northern Virginia (Ashburn.) I am currently in my last semester here at Virginia Tech. Though I have enjoyed my time here I can’t wait to see what graduation and post-college is going to be like. My hobbies include video games, watching golf, playing golf, and looking at golf equipment. I also enjoy watching well-made films and also love to spend my free time catching up on sleep – ‘cause let’s be honest, you can always use sleep throughout the day

Mel Hillelsohn: Hey guys! My name is Mel and I am a Junior double majoring in Political Science and Sociology under the Women’s and Gender Studies option. I’m also from Northern Virginia in Herndon and I’m looking at continuing my education after I graduate next spring! I am really into plants and have been hand propagating plant clippings for years to help my wallet and I hand paint pots because I love painting as well as many other art forms! I did photography for four years specializing in nature photography and worked on a farm for a year and helped them make a compost system!

Camden Carpenter: Hello! My name is Camden and I am a Senior majoring in Smart and Sustainable Cities with a minor in Real Estate. I’m one of the very few Virginia Tech students from Virginia Beach, and I try to embody Carpe Diem in all that I do. I hope to pursue my passion for real estate development in graduate school this fall, so fingers crossed! Most of my time is spent at the beach, searching for the perfect matcha latte, or experimenting with short-term hobbies like bullet journaling. 

Luke, Chapter 3: “The Dreams of Deep Ecology”, goes in-depth on what Deep Ecology is and the science and the philosophy behind it. The chapter starts off with exploring the current situation of our society and how we got to the point where we are. The chapter explains deep ecology as “ The foundations of deep ecology are the basic intuitions and experiences of ourselves and nature which compromise ecological consciousness.” (Luke, 2019, pg. 873 ). I think that when people think of our society, we tend to separate humans from non-humans. But in reality, don’t we all live in the same environment? What is the point in separating species if we all live at the same place? This introduces the idea of biocentrism. Biocentrism argues that “all things in the biosphere have an equal right to live and blossom and to reach their own individual forms of unfolding and self-realization” (Luke, 2019, pg.896). We need to keep in mind that everyone in the biosphere has its own purpose on earth. If we as a society can’t integrate every form of species in the biosphere, it leads to “creative destruction”. This is because when we only focus on one part of the ecological spectrum, we are completely putting off the “others”. An example of this is, if there was a government movement that aimed to conserve the water resources here in the United States, yes, this movement would benefit the animals and the ecosystem, however, who does this hurt? It would hurt the water industry. By limiting the resources that they have access to, it is hurting the water and mineral sectors of the economy. 

The picture above shows the integration that we need to be implementing. There shouldn’t be tiers of species like the picture on the left. By being able to integrate all living species together, we can think of every species as a whole family instead of having multiple families living under the same roof. By doing so, we eliminate the “other” when it comes to making important decisions regarding the environment.  

Today, modern technology and industrial production create “creative destruction”. Following World War II, America entered this phase in society called the Industrial Revolution. During this revolution, we as a society rapidly innovated and this was the time in our history in which the idea of capitalism was really engraved into our society. With all these innovations, we were forgetting the destruction that comes with these innovations. “In the years following WWII, smog, man-made radioactive elements, DDT, detergents and synthetic plastics (Luke, 2019)” were some of examples in what we would call a “creative destruction.” These are the “bad things” in which we tend to forget about when it comes to manufacturing something. As a society, we only see the positives in which this new invention can improve the lives of our society, but we never see the other side of it. For example, let’s observe landfills. Landfills were designed so that we can accumulate all of our waste into one area. From a broader perspective, this is a good idea because all of our waste is in one location, but what is the downside? The downside is that the trash will keep on accumulating unless we do something about it. What is this “it” though? If we burn the trash, it benefits the human society because we can make more trash whenever we want, but when we burn trash, we release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. So we have to ask ourselves, is this all worth doing? 

These are the 8 principles of deep ecology elaborated by Arne Naess and George Sessions. They are considered to be the prominent exponents of deep ecology. 

  1. the well-being of human and nonhuman life on earth has intrinsic values, separate from human uses or purposes;
  2. the diverse richness of all life-forms contributes to realizing these intrinsic values;
  3. humans have no right to reduce this richness and diversity of life except to satisfy vital needs;
  4. the flourishing of human life and culture is compatible with a substantial decrease in human populations—indeed, the flourishing of nonhuman life requires such a decrease;
    1. Luke disagrees with this point because he points out the fact that nobody has the decision to decrease human population nor do they have the means to. In developing countries, more human life promotes the life and prosperity of that developing nation. 
  5. human interference with the nonhuman world is excessive and worsening;
  6. policies must be changed to transform economic, ideological, and technological structures into a situation much different from the present;
  7. human satisfaction must shift to appreciating the quality of life (dwelling in situations of inherent value) rather than adhering to higher material standards of living;
  8. those who subscribe to these points have an obligation, directly or indirectly, to try to implement the necessary changes.

Preface: The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study

The preface of the dissertation shares the environmental political aspect of working with Greater sage-grouse in Wyoming. What is Greater Sage-grouse?, Take a look above. At first, the creature looks like a cross-over between a peacock and a chicken. The problem is, these days the Greater Sage-grouse are being forced out of their habitat. The preface to The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study explores how certain industries have been pushing these animals out of their habitat, and it also explores how animal conservation programs are being critically explored. The ultimate question that the author asks in order to dive deeper into this is “whose environment is the Environmental Defense Fund defending?” And he answers this question in four different chapters. The first chapter part identifies the author’s theoretical and methodological terms and commitments. The second chapter being the examination of Greater Sage-grouse across the state of Wyoming. The third chapter analyzes the development in market-based conservation instruments (MBIs) by the Wyoming Conservation Exchange , and lastly, the fourth part shows the industrial partners that helped with administering and implementing the resources. 

Introduction: The Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: A Technonatural Study 

The introduction questions the environment that the Environmental Defense Fund is truly defending. The Nature Conservancy invited the Environmental Defense Fund to form the Wyoming Conservation Exchange – a market-based conservation instrument tailored to trading in habitat mitigation credits (Stubberfield, 2019, abstract).

Wyoming’s declining sage-grouse population has been negatively impacted by urban development, mining, agricultural use, and recent oil and gas extraction (Stubberfield, 2019, 7). 

The Wyoming Core Area Protection (CAP) was created to avoid losing nearly a quarter of the state’s total surface area to sage-grouse conservation. It limited or entirely prevented development that would disturb the species’ habitat. However, CAP was created with loopholes to allow for continued industrial development and resource extraction. The state’s true motive was to proceed with gas and coal extraction, rather than conserving the sage-grouse and its home. The natural gas boom has led Wyoming to become more invested in increasing and expanding capital. Excessive fossil fuel extraction has led to the state’s domination of the sage-grouse’s habitat, which causes habitat fragmentation and destruction. 

It is integral to understand the environment that the Environmental Defense Fund truly protects. Stubberfield compares the environment of the now-endangered sage-grouse to the environment. He introduces technonaturalization which defines new combinations of material and energy as they display the instrumentalization, and technologization of the planet in attempts to address perceived environmental problems (Stubberfield, 2019, 20-21). In the case of the sage-grouse, Stubberfield defines the indirect relationship between natural gas and the birds’ habitat in Wyoming. Fossil fuel extraction could halt and encourage the conservation of the bird, or fossil fuel extraction could continue and result in habitat fragmentation. 

Therefore, the sage-grouse is being transformed into a political instrument as the state’s conservation efforts are disguised as green governmentality while the state’s primary focus is actually economic gain through fossil fuel extraction. Stubberfield ends the chapter by introducing an ecocritique of the negative influences conservation attempts have had on the sage-grouse habitat. 

 Its relevance to the issue lies in addressing the changing relationships between land, people, and capital and how they have transitioned the efforts of conservation from legitimate habitat preservation to capital-driven fossil fuel extraction. 

Death Chapter 19: Resource Violence

Watts and Peluso start chapter 19 on the premise that most natural resources have become entrenched in political discourse with the control and access to these resources being an important part of governance. Case studies include Indonesia’s forests which have been privy to insurrections and violence over access to land, resources, and territory which allows us to ultimately see how our concept of the environment and nature is transformed into resources that have a value. This relates directly to the Luke reading as we see that there is no single identifiable form of the environment, but it becomes a part of our lives in new ways as we conceptualize possibilities of use for our surroundings that change as we develop over time.

The Indonesian forests are historically intertwined with violence as insurgencies have been staged from the forested territories which helped form the idea of national forests as a political component of the Indonesian nation-state (Watts 2014, 184). Through this conceptualization of the forest in law came the formation of distinct governing agencies such as the Department of Forestry in which control was centralized by the military and elites to allow for the benefit from profitable resources and corporations (Watts 2014, 185). The Basic Forestry Act and New Forestry Law both saw major forestry concessions to corporations that attempted to stimulate economic growth, but substantially marginalized forest-based communities (Watts 2014, 185-186). Through the creation of these laws and instating bureaucratic organizations to oversee the management of land and natural resources, we see how the authors illustrate how states identify features of their environment and create regulatory agencies to oversee the dissemination of these resources to positively bolsters the nation.

In the late 1960s through the 1980s, there was a major push by national and international institutions for the forest development of Indonesia, allowing international investment to bolster the parastatal forest service. The Indonesian government referred to the dual nature of the military of repression and development, and with the increased entrepreneurial efforts the forest guards were armed and militarized to protect what became the dominant site of tropical timber trade and teak product production (Watts 2014, 186). As the tropical forest coverage is the third most extensive in the world, it is not surprising that the forest products industry generates almost 7% of the Indonesian GDP (Watts 2014, 186). The perception of security continues to vary as the economic environment has dramatically changed and private militias with political ties to the state are hired by companies with ventures in the Indonesian forests to preserve their efforts. Specifically, colonial military forces evaluated a high value on teak as an extremely desirable ship-building material that seemingly justifies the dispossession and deployment of people left landless living in Java for extraction purposes (Watts 2014, 187). Although the military is organizationally representing the state in these cases, the sites they guard are often illegally accessed and utilized for the extortion and criminal acquisition of resources. While the land between Malaysia and Indonesia was divided up and allocated amongst those that retire after military service, all military branches were considered responsible for financing more than 60% of their operating budgets (Watts 2014, 188).

Nigeria has been characterized by a violent democracy and the Niger Delta oil fields have been a nexus of insurgency and crime. From the mid-1950s to the 1970s oil transformed Nigeria into a petrostate in which there exists a shadow economy that profits as 55 million barrels of oil are stolen each year and greater than 80% of oil revenues go to the richest 1% of the population (Watts 2014, 189). Over the last decade GDP per capita and life expectancy have both fallen as the number of those living in poverty with little to no income has grown to 90 million (Watts 2014, 189). Communities across the delta were promised compensation and benefits for loss of land, and although companies did make alliances with members of local chieftaincy systems, ultimately oil resource wealth was not invested in infrastructure which is an omission of secular national development (Watts 2014, 189). The oil resource complex is constructed through two forms of logic. The first is the state’s acquisition of oil rents with laws and rules regarding monopolies which creates the foundation for the assertion of differential claims due to all citizens and the centralizing power of oil (Watts 2014, 190). The second logic observes the centralizing effect of revenue allocation in which the ethnically diverse 36 states making up the federal system receive 26.72%  of revenue for governance, but the federal government receives 52.68% (Watts 2014, 190). These disproportionate allocations have facilitated the rise of violent insurrection groups as communities contend for oil bunkering territories. 

Ultimately, Watts and Peluso discern that the resource complex addresses how resources are made into objects of regulation and how they are governed under specific political circumstances is shaped by the centralization and neo-liberalization of states as well as the security complex associated with these resources. The authors use these case studies as they are extremely relevant to their discussion of natural resources with the observation of resource scarcity and the violence and security concerns with dependence on raw materials. This is similar to the case of the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming as we see the extraction of natural resources becoming a critical element of economic life force that is subject to regulation as the government ensures self interests. In these cases where conflict is often observable, it is considered that a combination of state failures and poor economic performance creates conditions conducive to violence and poor governance. In a case of economic reliance on wealth accumulated from the export and sale of natural resources as the primary industry, the need to tax is no longer relevant so loose political constraints create a dysfunctional economic order. Le Billon understands the various degrees of vulnerability, risk, and opportunity are conducive to the development of the resource curse, resource wars, and resource conflicts through either a coup d’etat, secession, mass rebellion, or warlordism (Watts 2014, 193).

The Politics: Books V-VIII

  • Maya Patel 

I am a junior majoring in Political Science with a minor in Business Leadership. I enjoy learning about how philosophers discuss and view government and politics especially how they affected the citizens throughout the time periods. 

  • Ryan Odibo

I am a junior majoring  in Political Science with a concentration in Political Theory. I personally find the intersection between philosophy and politics interesting and think many of the topics expressed in texts from hundred of years ago are still pertinent in a contemporary context. 

  • Jennifer Garcia

I am a senior majoring in Political Science, and I will graduate this semester. I like reading and analyzing the dialogues about politics and the government. I enjoy reading about how to have a stable government and use Aristotle’s arguments to compare with the modern legal system.   

Aristotle: The Politics “Books V-VIII”

How is it possible for democracies, and polities to degrade and what are some dynamics of political decay?

This week we were assigned to read Aristotle: The Politics, Books V-VIII. In his political philosophy series of works, the Politics provides an in-depth analysis of the political dynamic that existed in the time period and how they prospered and failed throughout time. Written between eight books, we are focusing on books 5, 6, 7, and 8. Book 5 examines constitutional change, revolutions as seen through different types of constitutions and preservation efforts, and the downfall and instability of tyrannies. Book 6 focuses on democratic and oligarchic constitutions and their political dynamics, while Book 7 connects the happiness of the Individual and the State and in book 8, Aristotle explains the establishment of education.

Book V

Oligarchy: Form of government in which power rests with a small number of people. 

Democracy: Form of government in which people have authority to choose their legislators. 

Anarchy: A state in which society is freed from authority or a governing body; absence of government and complete freedom.  

Monarchy: Form of government in which a person, monarch, is head of the state for life or until death. 

Aristocracy: Form of government that puts strength in the hands of a ruling, small and privileged class. 

Preface to Causes of Revolution and Preservation

Aristotle’s understanding of revolution and how it is objectively political stems from the connection between the types of governments that function for and by the people. In Book 5, chapter 1, democracy versus oligarchy and its causes that lead to revolution are discussed. Aristotle highlights how any form of government has its significant flaws and how they seek to fulfill different functions and means by which people and those in charge live. In a sense, both forms of government have their own meaning of justice and are still flawed. When the people and ideals often do not align, and there is a continuation of unjust actions, it is ground for revolution. There are two sorts of changes in government: a change in the constitution, a form of government is changed, or no change to the constitution does not disrupt government. Either the type of regime becomes less or more similar to its governmental form. Where there is inequality, there are grounds for a revolution in any regime. Overall, Aristotle states, “Still democracy appears to be safer and less liable to revolution than oligarchy” (Aristotle, Book 5). In a democracy or democratic government, there is no inherent danger towards those in positions of power but rather a fair middle class that builds the nation’s foundations. 

Preemptive to Revolutions and how Constitution affects them

In terms of the constitution and its relation to revolutions, one must understand the causes of revolution and the motives and feelings behind them. As stated in chapter 2, “The universal and chief cause of this revolutionary feeling has been already mentioned; viz., the desire of equality, when men think that they are equal to others who have more than themselves; or, again, the desire of inequality and superiority, when conceiving themselves to be superior they think that they have not more but the same or less than their inferiors” (Aristotle, Book 5). When faced with inequality, the desire for equality determines the means for revolution; “Inferiors revolt in order that they may be equal, and equals that they may be superior” (Aristotle, Book 5). The motives that are behind the cause for revolution are fear, dishonor, gain, and loss. The leading causes are the love of honor and gain, and some other reasons are contempt, carelessness, excessive pride and predominance, and insolence. 

EXAMPLE: An example is from the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In the movie, the galaxy was gripped by fear and stood up to fight against the First Order. The people rose up and fought hate with love and with everything they had left. The clip shows the preemptive fight between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker and exemplifies how Rey becomes a jedi and a symbol for hope across the galaxy for people to take a stand. (Watch from 9:10-9:45)

Causes and Quarrels of Revolution

Honor, superiority, and fear are prominent causes of revolution and how men can be rewarded or punished due to these reasons. Regarding superiority and contempt, this leads to oligarchy, monarchy, or democracy when people revolt because they think they are stronger or when the rich reject the state due to its lack of structure regarding a constitution. Political revolutions also begin from parts of the state that are disproportionate; for example, “When the rich grow numerous or properties increase, the form of government changes into an oligarchy or a government of families” (Aristotle, Book 5).

Furthermore, governments have the ability to transition from one regime to another; for example, “Governments also change into oligarchy or democracy or a constitutional government because the magistrates, or some other section of the state, increase in power or renown” (Aristotle, Book 5). As in a democracy, the middle class holds up a state, so without one, it is just rich and poor with no middle class. However, it is known that the middle class in the US is shrinking, so one could wonder what that means for the state and its people. Revolutions happen in two ways: by force and by fraud. “Sometimes the citizens are deceived into acquiescing in a change of government, and afterward they are held in subjection against their will. In other cases, the people are persuaded at first, and afterward, by a repetition of the persuasion, their goodwill and allegiance are retained. Force may be applied either at the time of making the revolution or afterwards” (Aristotle, Book 5). Not only are force and fraud changed during the revolution, revolutions that affect the constitution often are created by the two causes. 

Revolutions in Democracy

Revolutions created in democracies are caused by the actions of demagogues, less extreme politicians in some sense and instigators, who fuel revolts amongst the rich and stir up the people against them. To elaborate, a demagogue is a popular, political leader in democracy who gains the popularity of the common people to rise up against the elites. When demagogues leave a democratic state after a revolution has begun at their hands, there is no reversal; their ignorance and neglect towards the preservation of the state does not exist. In the case of insolent demagogues, a democracy changes into a tyranny; power is given to individuals.

Oligarchy versus Democracy

Democracy: “arises out of notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal”

Oligarchy: “based on the notion that those who are unequal in one respect are in all respects unequal; being unequal, that is, in property, they suppose themselves to be unequal absolutely” 

Revolution in Oligarchies 

There are two recognizable causes of revolutions in oligarchies: oligarchs oppress the people, which allows for a champion to appear amongst the people, and an internal cause of rivalry between the oligarchs themselves or which they pose as demagogues. When an oligarchy is unified, revolting against it becomes much more difficult. The way they can be overthrown is only when another oligarchy takes the place of the original form. As stated by Aristotle, “We must generally remark both of democracies and oligarchies, that they sometimes change, not into the opposite forms of government, but only into another variety of the same class” (Aristotle, Book 5). Not only do these forms of government have the ability to transform, but they also have the ability to create the same version under different variations. Changes of constitutional governments allow for the opposite forms of government to form but also allow for the same form to be changed. Specifically with democracies and oligarchies as Aristotle mentions, these variations can occur randomly rather than based around a system. 

EXAMPLE: Pictured is an example of a modern oligopoly, which is where a government is controlled by a small number of people, in this case it is an industry dominated by a small number of sellers. 


An aristocracy is similar to an oligarchy but not quite the same; “In aristocracies, revolutions are stirred up when a few only share in the honors of the state; a cause which has been already shown to affect oligarchies” (Aristotle, Book 5). Whereas in an aristocracy, power is given to aristocrats versus in an oligarchy when it is given to a small group of people who hold the most power. Revolutions occur when people think they are equal to the ruler, men are dishonored by those in high office, and when an individual believes they are great and wants to rule alone. There is an existing constitution that controls political power through set principles in a constitutional government, and often greed and insolence are run amuck amongst the rich. However, along with aristocracies, they are commonly overthrown for the sake of justice or lack thereof. 

Constitutional Preservation versus Destruction

Here, Aristotle focuses on preserving constitutions and whether or not it is known that the causes that destroy constitutions can also preserve them; deemed as, “for opposites produce opposites, and destruction is the opposite of preservation” (Aristotle, Book 5). The way a government is preserved and created is also a way it can be destroyed; the laws that were put in place can create inequality among classes or a class of people which then disadvantages the entire state. To recognize and understand the foundations that government is built on, one must understand how a just state can ensure people live a good life as believed by Aristotle. Furthermore, in efficiently-run governments, nothing is more important than upholding that of the laws not to let evil run amuck as coinciding with quarrels among the state. Constitutions are best preserved when the ruling classes are prevented from overtaking the government or controlling any aspect of the law and its functions in society. When the government acts in ways that do not appease the rich, they have the ability to then become powerful together and control the means by which the government and its citizens bend to the will of those with a highly unequal amount of wealth. 

The Democratic Perseverance of Income Inequality as seen by Aristotle 

In democracies, the wealth and property of the rich should not be redistributed by any means or in order to prevent an oligarchy; those with the most power pose the greatest threat to a constitutional government, such as a democracy. To further explain, Aristotle states, “In democracies the rich should be spared; not only should their property not be divided, but their incomes also, which in some states are taken from them imperceptibly, should be protected. It is a good thing to prevent the wealthy citizens, even if they are willing from undertaking expensive and useless public services, such as the giving of choruses, torch-races, and the like” (Aristotle, Book 5). Essentially, the rich should remain unprovoked because they have the power to take away public services. However, in an oligarchy, taking care of the poor is of utmost importance, and estates and wealth are passed on through inheritance, allowing the poor to become equal to those who have more. 

Highest Offices 

Continuing to how forms of government are to be organized and managed, there are three qualifications necessary in order to fill high offices: “(1) first of all, loyalty to the established constitution; (2) the greatest administrative capacity; (3) virtue and justice of the kind proper to each form of government; for, if what is just is not the same in all governments, the quality of justice must also differ” (Aristotle, Book 5). In an office built on trust or management, the opposite requirements are needed; “for more virtue than ordinary is required in the holder of such an office, but the necessary knowledge is of a sort which all men possess” (Aristotle, Book 5). Oligarchies and democracies are in between extreme forms of government and no form of government. The statesmen and legislators know how to save and destroy the two forms and know that neither can exist without the extremes of the rich and poor. As previously stated, education, or necessary knowledge, should be adapted within a form of government but is often not. All forms of government have significant flaws, which Aristotle highlights throughout the Politics book 6. It is evident that Aristotle believes that living a happy life requires living a life of virtue. Furthermore, when someone is not living a morally good life, then they are not living a happy life. For Aristotle, when a state or government ensures all their citizens live virtuous lives, then it is a just state. The purpose of the state is to prioritize the happiness of its citizens, so Aristotle does not think that there is a perfect and most just form of government because the forms he discusses do not prioritize its citizens happiness. 

Monarchy and Tyranny Destruction 

Aristotle speaks on monarchy and the causes of its destruction and perseverance. He states, “For royal rule is of the nature of an aristocracy, and a tyranny is a compound of oligarchy and democracy in their most extreme forms; it is, therefore, most injurious to its subjects, being made up of two evil forms of government, and having the perversions and errors of both” (Aristotle, Book 5). In explaining how tyranny is an extreme form of oligarchy and democracy, Aristotle may inherently consider the forms of government evil because of their vulnerability to erupt into violent states. He explains how aristocracy is, in its nature, a monarchy because they are led by noblemen and royals, while tyranny is an extreme form of democracy and oligarchy. In a monarchy and aristocracy, there is the notion that a king protects the rich from unjust treatment while protecting the poor from abuse at the hands of the rich. Aristotle mentions how tyrants are chosen to be the protectors against the nobles and royalty. Still, they function within the bounds of their own greed because they are not concerned with public interest but rather their own private interests. A monarchy is destroyed from within like most other forms of government. There are two ways a monarchy may be destroyed: “(1) when the members of the royal family quarrel among themselves, and (2) when the kings attempt to administer the state too much after the fashion of a tyranny, and to extend their authority contrary to the law” (Aristotle, Book 5). Democracy is “antagonistic to tyranny” whereas royalty and aristocracy are alike but opposite to tyranny due to the constitutional form of government. However, a tyranny is destroyed from the outside and, in the case of The Hunger Games, replaced with a democratic state. Additionally, there are two motives used to attack tyranny: hatred and contempt. Freedom and honor are taken away and replaced with anger and hatred, whereas contempt is represented by those who live luxurious lives at the expense of the poor (in this instance, there is no middle class). 

EXAMPLE: Hunger Games – Katniss kills Coin — She attempted, and succeeded in, overthrowing a tyranny and its leader

Monarchy and Tyranny Preservation

Monarchies are preserved through the limitation of the power, specifically the power royalty holds. As stated by Aristotle, “The more restricted the functions of kings, the longer their power will last unimpaired; for then they are more moderate and not so despotic in their ways, and they are less envied by their subjects” (Aristotle, Book 5). Tyrannies are preserved in two different ways: the first being a state where tyrants run their government. It is a police state in that the people are allowed no privacy, given no social or developmental aid, prohibited public gatherings, and works to ensure the poor stay poor. Aristotle states, “the evil practices of the last and worst form of democracy are all found in tyrannies” (Aristotle, Book 5). For example, independence and dignity are frowned upon, and the “there is an ‘i’ in ‘team’” outlandish concept. The tyrant aims to humiliate subjects, create mistrust, and disable subjects to take action. The three policies of the tyrant distrust take away any form of power and humble the people. The second way a tyranny is preserved is how careful tyrants must be to maintain control over the subjects; power must be held onto to preserve the tyranny. Essentially, the tyrant should show himself as a king – to be moderate and not be the subject of hatred. The opposite of this is seen in Mad Max: Fury Road, where the tyranny had too much power to the point where its own subjects either revolted or began to revolt against the common enemy. 

EXAMPLE: Mad Max: Fury Road — Explaining the character of Furiosa (Charlize Theron) living under the rule of a tyrannical dictator and how she did not give up hope in search of a better, free state (Behind the scenes)

In the final section of Book 5, Aristotle explains why tyrannies and oligarchies are the two shorted lived forms of government. The longest tyrannies ruled in Sicyon for 100 years and in Corinth for 73 years because the laws were moderate and the favor of the people was gained. Over the course of chapter 5 and even throughout The Politics, Aristotle discusses how a change in forms of government is unavoidable, prominently due to time. I will end the discussion of Book 5 with this: Can a modern US really call itself a democracy or democratic state, especially today? Is there a possibility that tyranny could evolve as a result of a failed democratic state? Especially because revolutions do not just occur because of money, but rather from the rich not wanting the poor to rise up and be a prominent part of the government, which is a suffocating problem the US faces. 

Book VI

Democratic versus Oligarchic Constitutions: Which one is more flawed?

In Book 5, Aristotle goes into depth about different forms of government, their destruction and preservation, and how revolutions shape the people and the state. However, in Book 6, Aristotle shifts focus on democratic and oligarchic states and their constitutions. There is a possibility of the two forms intertwining in a way, and the combinations are a result of “ the deliberative part of the government, and the election of officers is constituted oligarchy, and the law-courts aristocratically, or when the courts and the deliberative part of the state are oligarchical, and the election to office aristocratically, or when in any other way there is a want of harmony in the composition of a state” (Aristotle, Book 6). First, Aristotle discusses democracy and the characteristics and two differences created: “One (1) differences of the population; for the popular element may consist of husbandmen, or of mechanics, or of laborers, and if the first of these be added to the second or the third to the two others, not only does the democracy become better or worse, but its very nature is changed. A second cause (2) remains to be mentioned: the various properties and characteristics of democracy, when variously combined, make a difference” (Aristotle, Book 6). When establishing a democracy, it is best not to force together all the elements that make it one; refer back to the preservation and destruction of states. To further elaborate, when establishing a government and its constitution, it is essential that corruption does not run amuck. Democracy, in this instance, best perseveres in a society that allows for the people to have equal control and not to give the rich an unequal amount of control or wealth. 

Aristotle’s Crash Course on Democracy 

Diving further into democracy, “The basis of a democratic state is liberty” (Aristotle, Book 6). Similarly, as seen in the fifth amendment of the US constitution, “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. … nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” ( Ultimately, liberty is the goal of democracy, and the principles are as such: “all to rule and be ruled in turn; whence it follows that the majority must be supreme and that whatever the majority approve must be the end and the just; Every citizen, it is said, must have equality, and therefore in a democracy the poor have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme” (Aristotle, Book 6). The principles are the only way men believe equality and freedom can be secured in the state. Turning to the US as an example compared to Aristotle’s explanation of democracy, right off the bat, it can be seen that his principles do not exist in the modern US; the gap between the rich and poor has never been wider, and the poor do not, nor have it ever, had majority power especially over the rich, regardless of how many people there are. According to Aristotle, transitioning to the characteristics of a democracy is having elections of officers, judges, and magistrates to keep accounts and the assembly to “keep everything in check.” The second is having payments for services where everyone receives money when there is none, and finally that “no magistracy is perpetual, but if any such have survived some ancient change in the constitution it should be stripped of its power, and the holders should be elected by lot and no longer by vote” (Aristotle, Book 6). 

EXAMPLE: To further demonstrate the power of corporate money and influence in US politics, a clip from Iron Man 3 where Tony, Iron Man, calls the VP of the US to warn him about The Mandarin but the clip insinuates that the VP is aware of what may happen and ignores the danger other people are in for personal interests under the influence of the villian, Killian, and his company. (Watch from 1:30-2:35)

Aristotle asks, “Next comes the question, how is this equality to be obtained?” (Aristotle, Book 6). The democratic notion says justice is when the majority agrees, whereas oligarchs state that it is according to the rich. Both forms are inherently flawed and ultimately lead to inequality; both agree that the majority equates to just actions. The two classes, rich and poor, are to settle disagreements based on either qualification or number of individuals. Aristotle states, “Now they agree in saying that whatever is decided by the majority of the citizens is to be deemed law” (Aristotle, Book 6). 

As Aristotle states, “The mere establishment of a democracy is not the only or principal business of the legislator, or of those who wish to create such a state, for any state, however badly constituted, may last one, two, or three days; a far greater difficulty is the preservation of it” (Aristotle, Book 6). After the emergence of democracy, there is a challenge that faces the state: preservation. Overall, the best measures to maintain a democratic state are the ones that ensure the government lasts over time: providing a good foundation and writing laws that guard against destruction. Flaws of democracy include individuals’ faults; many do not bother attending assemblies unless there is a monetary value that is unacceptable, as seen by the rich. There is greed seen amongst the rich but also among those who are not. Citizens who contribute to the flaws of democracy see monetary value as a priority in order for society to function; all citizens are then fueled by greed and self interest. Hence, the solution in terms of assemblies is for qualified individuals to represent those in court who cannot or wish not to attend. 

Preservation of Harmony and Order 

Aristotle’s final thoughts in Book 6 focus on the need for states to preserve harmony and order within offices. He states, “No state can exist not having the necessary offices, and no state can be well administered not having the offices which tend to preserve harmony and good order” (Aristotle, Book 6). The necessary offices include: care of the market which allows for safe supply and demand, the second is supervision and embellishment of public and private buildings, road and house maintenance, dispute resolution, third is countryside management (Wardens), fourth is maintaining taxes and revenues (Treasurers), a fifth is registration of private contracts and court decisions (i.e., Presidents), and the final office is the charge of executing punishments and keeping custody of prisoners. There are also military positions, as stated previously, that is required mainly in times of war (Generals or Commanders). Additionally, an office that handles public money is required, and such positions are deemed, for example, Accountants or Auditors. Another office is concerned with religion and its preservation: priests or, as Aristotle states, “archons, sometimes kings, and sometimes prytanes” (Aristotle, Book 6). Those who look after good order have magistracy characteristics and are “guardians of women, & of children, director of gymnastics, Dionysiac contests & of spectacles” (Aristotle, Book 6). Having such offices, with the right people in those office positions, in an oligarchical state allows for the preservation of harmony and order within the state. 

Book VII

Happiness of the Individual and the State 

In Book 7, Aristotle starts out by saying before people can determine what the best form of government and statehood is, first we must determine what the best way to live life is and then from there we will be able to understand and decide if that same life is suitable for the state. “We ought therefore to ascertain, first of all, which is the most generally eligible life, and then whether the same life is or is not best for the state and for individuals” (Aristotle Book 7). He then goes into how there are three different kinds of goods that need to be understood: external goods, goods of the body, and goods of the soul. Although philosophers have many disputes on the order and importance of each “good,” Aristotle believes that the good of the soul holds the most importance due to the soul being a boundless entity and the body and external goods having a measurable threshold. He goes on to make the argument that God does not have a body nor wealth and external goods and yet he is happy and full of virtue. Aristotle holds virtue and wisdom to the highest necessity and believes without those two things, it would be difficult to find happiness. “Let us acknowledge then that each one has just so much of happiness as he has of virtue and wisdom, and of virtuous and wise action. God is a witness to us of this truth, for he is happy and blessed, not by reason of any external good, but in himself and by reason of his own nature” (Aristotle Book 7). To Aristotle, being able to create and enjoy materialistic goods is made possible by having virtue and wisdom, not the other way around. So Aristotle concludes this section by saying that in order for a state to be happy and functioning it must be operated in a virtuous manner. 

Aristotle then asks whether the goals and happiness of an individual is the same as that if the state. This means that if one believes a life of virtue would lead to happiness and stability then the same person would similarly think that a state of virtue would lead to a state of happiness. Aristotle believes that this holds true to everyone. Aristotle then goes on to ask a question with two options. The question being, “what kind of virtue produces happiness?” From an individual point of view is it better to take on the role of a statesman and govern over others? Or is it better to live the life of a philosopher contemplating life’s greatest questions? Aristotle says, “There are some who think that while a despotic rule over others is the greatest injustice, to exercise a constitutional rule over them, even though not unjust, is a great impediment to a man’s individual wellbeing. Others take an opposite view; they maintain that the true life of man is the practical and political, and that every virtue admits of being practiced, quite as much by statesmen and rulers as by private individuals” (Aristotle Book 7). Aristotle finally says that neither life can be argued to be better than the other and that both virtuous lifestyles are taking action in some shape or form and that is important. Here it seems as though Aristotle has decided virtue is really based upon purpose and curiosity. Although the life of a statesmen and a philosopher are on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of responsibilities and motive, the two professions serve a purpose and encourage the expansion of knowledge and innovation; which is what Aristotle holds in high regard. 

The Ideal State

Aristotle then returns to the original question of what the ideal state would and should look like. He then creates a hypothetical scenario of his ideal state. He believed that when it came to size, a state should not be too small or it will not be able to rely on itself and its resources but also not too large or that those in power will not be able to effectively govern. Aristotle says that there should be a limit on the size of government so that those governing are able to accurately judge on another’s character. “Clearly then the best limit of the population of a state is the largest number which suffices for the purposes of life, and can be taken in at a single view. Enough concerning the size of a state.” (Aristotle Book 7). Aristotle says here essentially that the size of the state should be small and intimate enough that the constituents and government officials are able to know one another personally but large enough that the state itself is self sufficient. As for this limit, Aristotle is not necessarily clear on what the magic number is. Aristotle’s ideas on that of  taste are similar to that of what a territory should look like. He thinks that living by the sea is also advantageous because it encourages commerce as well as easy access to sea ports and military entities like the navy. He says, “There can be no doubt that the possession of a moderate naval force is advantageous to a city; the city should be formidable not only to its own citizens but to some of its neighbors, or, if necessary, able to assist them by sea as well as by land. The only concern that Aristotle expresses with living by the sea is the possibility of foreign lands surrounding the area. This holds importance because during this time, imperialism was still prevalent and the strength of societies were defined by the strength of their military. If a specific area was not militarily strong, then they were susceptible to being conquered.

Ideal Citizen and  Social Structure 

Aristotle continues to describe his ideal state: he begins to outline his idea of the ideal citizen and social structure. He says that Eurpoeans, although they “are “full of spirit,” but “wanting in intelligence and skill; and therefore they retain comparative freedom, but have no political organization, and are incapable of ruling over others” (Aristotle Book 7). He then says the Asians are the opposite because they are “are intelligent and inventive, but they are wanting in spirit, and therefore they are always in a state of subjection and slavery.”(Aristotle Book 7). Aristotle goes on to say that he thinks Greeks are the perfect in between of these two cultures. Aristotle then goes on to describe the ideal social structure of a state. Concerning the caste system of a state Aristotle delineates the city into six sections: food, craftsmanship, property, worship, and government. Aristotle believed that food and crafts should be left to enslaved people and non citizens because they were the most laborious tasks.While the citizens should take control of the other sections and decide amongst themselves who does what. He decides that the younger people should take on more military responsibilities, the middle age should take part in government and the elders do work concerning the Gods.  Aristotle says, “The land must therefore be divided into two parts, one public and the other private, and each part should be subdivided, part of the public land being appropriated to the service of the Gods, and the other part used to defray the cost of the common meals; while of the private land, part should be near the border, and the other near the city,” Aristotle believed that there should be enslaved people because they were a necessary part of of the functioning of a society. A slave to Aristotle is someone who by nature is under ownership of someone else and not themselves, being used as a tool for some sort of action. Although he believed in the separation of different entities and a caste system,  Aristotle also believed that there should be walls surrounding the city and an environment where all people can live a safe healthy lifestyle. 

Ideal Education and Household for Virtue

Aristotle then goes on to express how he thinks education should look in his hypothetical city. He says that since it is not obvious who should rule because no man is better than the other, people must take turns ruling, specifically the young and the old. The old should rule because they have several life experiences and impart wisdom. The young should hope to rule one day and educate themselves in a way that serves their greater community. Aristotle backs this up by saying “We conclude that from one point of view governors and governed are identical, and from another different. And therefore their education must be the same and also different. For he who would learn to command well must, as men say, first of all learn to obey. “(Aristotle Book 7). Aristotle maintained this idea that for a society to function freely, its constituents must be good people. Continuing this idea, he says that educators and statesmen need to constantly keep in mind that there needs to be a balance between teaching the nature of habit and the nature of reason because “.. in men rational principle and mind are the end towards which nature strives, so that the birth and moral discipline of the citizens ought to be ordered with a view to them.” (Aristotle Book 7). Meaning that men seem to use rational beliefs to find answers but in the process kill creativity and curiosity, so both should be taught. He says that with the education of children specifically, they should be allowed to roam free of labor and responsibility up until the age of 5. Then when they are to be educated they should be shielded from certain images and words to protect their innocence due to how impressionable they are. When it came to marriage, Aristotle believed that the time for  procreation should be within certain ages due to biological observation. He believed that women should not be asked for their hand in marriage before the age of 18 and men should not be looking to procreate until the age of 37 because these are the prime ages for reproduction. Aristotle believed in the consultation of physicians on when to have children as well. Lastly, Aristotle believed that abortion should be on a case to case basis depending on populaton control, birth defects, and customary law while adultery should not be allowed. 


The Importance of Education 

Aristotle stresses the importance of education that must be public to all citizens in a city. All the citizens belong to the city are meant to work together; therefore, a citizen does not belong to himself. The Lacedaemonians are known for their disciplined approach to training their children and values education to have a thriving state. It is necessary for the youth to have access to public education, and a law should be created to require young people to be educated. What should be taught? He believes children should be taught moral goodness and pure knowledge. The four branches of education that are useful to be taught are (1) reading and writing, (2) gymnastic exercises, (3) music, and (4) drawing (Aristotle, Book 8). He states, “if he does or learns anything for his own sake or for the sake of his friends, or with the view to excellence the action will not appear illiberal; but if done for the sake of others the very same action will be thought menial and servile” (Aristotle, Book 8). All the branches have a valuable purpose of teaching that will challenge them to use their knowledge in society except for music. Music is meant for leisure that is pleasurable and relaxing; it is not necessarily essential compared to reading and writing. He states that gymnastic exercises are good for the youth to participate, but it is not meant for excessive training. Aristotle expands on the role music has in education since it is underappreciated but is a valuable skill. He states music should be taught as it will encourage the youth to learn to perform and study it. 

Week 3-14/20 Readings

Darier – Discourses of the Environment – Nature Writing as Self-Technology; Sylvia Bowerbank

The main idea of this writing is how people change themselves through the, “…greening of oneself…” and how these changes affect our society (Macy, 1991). Bowerbank writes about how popular “nature writing” has become in North America over the past three decades. This nature writing acts as a form of meditation for participants and allows the writer to reflect. More and more people are writing about their experiences in nature and how it is shaping them. The encounters are becoming more and more documented. These personal changes are described in the quote, “…the subject undertaking self-transformation in the name of nature is the same self-improving…” (Chaloupka and Cawley, 1993). Bowerbank then discusses the ideas of if this change promotes positive change for our environment. 

Moving forward, Bowerbank tells the story of Thomashow. This man was pro-environment, however, after a vacation on an island in Maine, he threw two bags of diapers into the ocean because he had no other way to dispose of them on the island. He then regretted the decision and has tried to better himself. He confessed this action in hopes of self-reformation and continues to try and inspire others to do better.

Bowerbank then talks about all the effects of the increase in personal writing about nature. To me, she describes this “nature writing” as a form of meditation/therapy for the writer, allowing them to reflect on themselves and attend to their flaws. This self reflection drives more people to care for the environment and its protection.

The next topic is the idea of a “nature retreat”. This is the act of leaving society for  a period of time to get some fresh air. People find themselves retreating to the isolation of nature to reset. I personally do this; it really helps me prioritize and think. It reminds me of the story, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, where a young man leaves New York City for the country and lives off the land in a tree for about a year. The main character, Sam, desired to leave the busy city and the tiny apartment packed with his various siblings and parents. He was too closed in. He retreated and reset. Funnily enough, he was a great nature writer as well, drawing his observations, collecting recipes, and journaling his daily events. The book is actually written in the style of a nature journal. I encourage you to read the book to see how it ends. 

Bowerbank also talks about different authors idea’s of the dangers of becoming too immersed in nature. If this happens, and the subject loses sight of modernity, they can not contribute to the protection of nature and are lost in a different age. They are ignorant of the legitimate and pressing problems for nature posed by modernization. By this, I mean, people become lost in nature and lose sight of expansion. Cities are getting larger and reservations are getting smaller. The last administration was the first to decrease the size of a National Monument (Bears Ears). Modernization, or the expansion of humanity, poses threats to these lands. The more people that become “Sam”, then the less there are to oppose the expansion of humans into the raw natural world.

For a further look into nature journaling please watch the following:

Work Cited:

Sylvia Bowerbank. “Nature Writing as Self-Technology.” Darier, E. (1999). Discourses of the environment. Oxford: B. Blackwell.

Thomas Leffel: Hello, I am a junior in Natural Resource Conservation and I plan on going into the Army when I graduate. I am from the Eastern Shore of Virginia (near Virginia Beach, but very rural) and found my love of the outdoors growing up there. My hobbies include: surfing, kayaking, fishing, rappelling, backpacking, working out, and other outdoor activities. I plan on teaching myself how to sail this summer. My favorite thing about Tech is the 3.2 for 32 and tailgating at Center Street before football games.

Luke — “A Harsh and Hostile Land: Edward Abbey’s Politics and the Great American Desert”

Edward Abbey was a fierce environmentalist who has led many to join various environmental causes and groups in the United States. While some see him as an environmental anarchist, others see him as a pioneer of eco-activism. In chapter 8 of Anthropocene Alerts, Luke looks at Abbey’s views and how they have changed Americans’ subjectivity and pursuit of political change. 

Luke compared Abbey with Henri Lefebvre, a French philosopher. In doing this, Luke is able to compare the two’s perspectives of spatality. They both “recognize that spatiality should not be left to be discovered, preserved, or safeguarded as if it could be seen as a preexistent externality always unknown or untrammeled apart from human action.” Spatiality has many meanings, which Abbey uses to his advantage when he examines how spatial constructs modernize the American Southwest. It must be recovered in order to focus on the environment and get away from the technological simulation of the future that urbanism and planning falls under. 

In his writings, Abbey contrasts the disastrous urban advancements with the rural wilderness of the desert. However, his works focus more on exploration of the desert than encouragement to live primitively. He aims to confront the desert. Lefebvre writes about how cities initiate “strong normative agendas through everyday spatial codes”. Urban planners and officials design cities to support actions that they direct as meeting standards and ethics of their choosing.  Abbey warns of this destructive urban revolution and how it is necessary to prevent it from expanding to the American Southwest. 

Abbey’s anarchist nature has energized many to partake in small actions, such as monkeywrenching, that cause other, more significant reactions from authorities of various levels. His followers were at one point known as “eco-terrorists” due to their destruction. Parks now develop training programs for its rangers to learn about riot control and terrorist strikes in addition to their traditional roles. Some attribute the increase in preparation for a diverse range of events to what Abbey “caused”, while others staunchly defend him. However, one cannot argue against the fact that there has been no one since Abbey who has been quite so passionately about the American West.

Luke does not argue against the ability of novels to have political influence; however, he does mention that Abbey is not that different from countless anti-industrial critics that were around before him. Writing is a technology that Abbey uses to recount his experiences with the environment, but not necessarily for the reason of inspiring followers. One of the most fascinating aspects of the chapter is that Abbey states that desert southwesterners and techno-industrial culture are what is wrong with America. He views nature as the only bright spot in an otherwise negative, corrupted system. But without regulation, can nature be preserved and therefore appreciated as he so wants it to be?

The additions of Ann Ronald’s analysis of Edward Abbey provide an captivating look at Abbey and his ability to write of the desert and urbanization in such polarizing, conflicting ways, with the beauty of nature coming out on top. She writes about how Abbey creates a world meant to expose conflicting values but seems to miss that he writes less of an affectionate letter to the desert and more of a veiled attack towards tragic wrongdoings in other places that are ravaging the Southwest and the rest of the world. He has issues with urbanity, but not necessarily the urban. Building spaces that become “tourist traps” take away from the beauty and unconformity of nature. So many people flock to see the Grand Canyon that it impacts the environment in many ways, including waste and air pollution. However, people who simply enjoy nature and want to experience the desert all share a common goal and lack of desire to impact nature.

Luke also describes Abbey’s personal views on his own works. Though categorized by librarians as “nature works,” Abbey argued that they are more about his own personal history than the environment. Rather than a “naturalist,” he considered himself to be a displaced wanderer and anarchist. Abbey did not set out to be a nature writer, but rather a fiction writer or novelist. Luke concludes by saying that “Those first affected by Abbey, but then driven further out into nature to become today’s “nature writers,” still attempt to fill his shoes as authors. Unfortunately, they are all too often “the naturalists” that Abbey was not, and they never rise to the level of astute political observation that he could not avoid.” No one yet has been able to write about America’s deserts as passionately as Abbey. He negatively appraises the modern industrial society and the Southwest, but argues them in a more artful way. The chapter finishes with Luke stating that Abbey was ultimately protesting how America’s spatiality turned into unsatisfactory economic and political order that requires “monkeywrenching” to allow it to be more unrestrained and open for “those who endure its corruptions.”

Luke, Timothy. “A Harsh and Hostile Land: Edward Abbey’s Politics and the Great

American Desert” Anthropocene Alerts: Critical Theory of the Contemporary as Ecocritique, Candor, NY, Telos Press Publishing, 2019, pp. 159-183.

Trish Grace – I am a sophomore double majoring in Geography and Smart and Sustainable Cities with a minor in Environmental Policy and Planning. After graduation, I hope to join the Peace Corps for a few years before becoming an urban planner with a focus in sustainability and the environment.

Death – Posthumanism; Stephen Hobden

Most of us grow up being told humans as a species are special. Whether it’s our parents, teachers, television, or movies, all these sources of information contain a linked message: humanity is “above” nature. Even those with good intentions, such as Francis Ford Coppola during the making of Apocalypse Now, can allow these anthropocentric ideas to slip in. It is frequently reiterated throughout the movie that humanity is no different from animals, but in the final scene, a certain major character is repeatedly compared to an animal because the Vietnam War has caused them to lose their mind. The lack of rationality is equated with “nature.” But, one may question, is this anthropocentrism really a bad thing? At least in regards to the development of environmentalities, this is an unequivocal yes. The centralization of human interest above those of “nature” fundamentally ignores the fact that humans are a part of nature, and thus, the environmentalities that are generated are insufficient, whether it be governments who have non-human interests at heart or not. The government’s strategies for managing the environment must take into account the complex web of interactions between humans and non-humans, rather than elevating human systems. It is only in this way that both humans & non-humans can thrive.

So, how can we remove the shackles of anthropocentrism? According to Stephen Hobden, it is through posthumanism. Now, this conception of posthumanism is not what we might think of when we first hear the term. In common parlance, it usually refers to technology “improving” humanity, whether it be AI or cybernetics. However, these are more trans-humanist approaches, and the posthumanist approach Hobden discusses is that of removing the accepted separation between human systems and nature.

This new understanding comes from complexity theory, which is rooted in trying to develop an understanding of non-linear systems within the world. It is in some ways closely related to chaos theory.

A classic example of chaos theory is the double pendulum, showing how minute differences in initial conditions lead to vast differences in outcome. Complexity theory looks at these relationships out in the world.

Complexity theory looks at relationships that cannot be reduced down to a single interaction between properties. Just because two things interact a certain way does not mean that altering one of them will change the interaction in a predictable way. Furthermore, complex systems often contain feedback loops. Whereas most systems we think of contain negative feedback loops to reach an equilibrium, Hobden explains how the environment and its interrelated systems often contain positive feedback loops, meaning a change one way will then exacerbate that change into the future (i.e. runaway climate change). Humanity, which is commonly thought to be distinct from these systems because of our “special nature.” But, in fact, human life is filled with these complex systems, and that has only been intensified by modernity, which has caused technological innovations to become essential to human life. Even under the belief that humans are superior and rational, these technologies mean that human systems are no longer inherently rational nor linear. However, Hobden asserts there is more to these systems than just being “complex.” They evolve, and are thus adaptive. Systems influence each other, and thus, it creates an environment of systems that all reflect back on each other as they change.

Hobden discusses 3 critical thinkers within this complex systems theory. Edgar Morin asserts that our political decision-making is rooted in the simplifications of these complex systems, which is unable to account for the uncertainty they generate, and coping strategies, rather than controlling strategies, would lead to more effective governance. Giorgio Agamben expands upon this by discussing the systems’ connections to anthropocentrism with the “anthropological machine.” This machine is the establishment of the human/non-human binary by governments, and in doing so, necessarily excludes non-humans. Donna Haraway discusses clearly how “humanity” is constructed to suit society’s needs, and thus, the idea of a separation between “non-human” and “human” is facile at best.

The purpose of the posthuman approach is to reiterate how non-human systems are naturally embedded in human systems. It thereby lessens the perceived “greatness” of humanity. This understanding is not an attempt to show the futility of human endeavors, but instead is an attempt to elucidate a new principle of precaution to approach human systems. To explore the environment, we have to consider the interrelations between human systems, non-human systems, and systems between them, to develop an environment of systems. “[providing] a framework for re-considering the human position within non-human nature.” (Hobden, 182). The “environment” (i.e. non-human systems) are influenced by, and influence humanity collectively, and thus, humanity is not separate from non-humans, but is instead an integral element of their existence, just as they are in ours.

“Ultimately, it is impossible to study events in isolation as everything is in some way interconnected.” (Hobden, 179).

Works Cited:

Hobden, Stephn. “Posthumanism.” Critical Environmental Politics. Edited by Carl Death. New York: Routledge Press, 2013.

Mitchell Davenport – I am a sophomore with a double major in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE), and Political Science, with a minor in Urban Affairs & Planning. My plan after graduation is to go to law school although I’m not sure which field of law I would like to pursue. My eventual goal is to help develop sustainable cities and environmentally-focused urbanization throughout the world.

Green Governmentality, Technology, and The Economy of Food

Green governmentality is a concept developed following the Cold War. In a consumerist world, countries were scrambling to take as much natural resources and control as many markets as possible. But in order to keep up with the depletion of natural resources and seeing how severe environmental issues could turn a state into a failed one, the international system developed the idea of sustainable development and economic growth going hand in hand. Technology is at the core of nation-building and the construction of new communities, but in Death, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Chapter 27: Technology,” we see how it has to adapt to new sustainable development and economic growth concepts in order to make sure technology improves society, instead of creating a system of overconsumption. In Darier, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Environmentality as Green Governmentality,” Luke follows Foucault and his ideas in explaining how green governmentality came to be and Luke, Chapter 9: “Hashing It Over: Green Governmentality and the Political Economy of Food” gives examples of how even our diet heavily affects the environment around us.

Manasha: Darier, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Environmentality as Green Governmentality”

In Chapter 7 of Discourses of the Environment, Timothy W. Luke follows Michel Foucault to analyze ecology in the modern state and green governmentality. For more information on what governmentality is, this is a great video describing it: 

Luke says in the Post-Cold War era, US politicians say earth is balanced and there is a need to develop the world economy through new technologies, dominating more markets, and exploiting national assets. During this time, more environmental issues and sustainable development are coming to the forefront when it comes to advancing technology and creating new jobs. Seeing the status of “failed state” of Rwanda and other nations and putting the blame partially on the environmental issues associated with their economic growth, American superpowers were quick to put ecological conservation at the top of their policy agenda. The more the environment  was seen as a human security issue, the more it became the state’s job to manage the issues that came with it. Geo-economics and reach for economic growth is a zero sum game and countries need more material wealth in a show of power. But Clinton said people cannot separate common good for the US from common good for the rest of the world and appointed the United States as the world’s leading agency for environmental protection. He said it’s the U.S.’s job to spread democracy and freedom because democracy and freedom is what is best for governments and the people. As a global leader, it then became the job of the United States to promote the new common good of environmentally conscious policies to other countries. There is a greater effort made to connect ecological responsibility with economic growth and Al Gore establishes the Global Marshall Plan (129-131). In a bid to turn Americans away from being biosphere abusers and dysfunctional deviants, this plan calls for environmentally centered growth and brings the state back in to help monitor that initiative. It outlined how there needed to be strategic goals in order to bring forth longlasting economic and ecological progress. Japan was a great example of environmentally centered economic growth. Japan created a sustainable development program in the 1990s that actually allowed them a cost advantage in some of their production over American products (125). So not only would Al Gore’s plan allow for sustainable development, but also it would maintain national competitiveness with other countries like Japan. On an international level, nature and humanity were declared as being one and the same by the Brundtland Commission, and therefore, environment and development could not be separated. New international bodies like the World Commission on Environment and Development were created to intervene on these matters and monitor sustainable development around the world. A government’s main job is to ensure productivity and survive the capitalistic world by becoming environmental protection agencies. Thus, green governmentality comes in. There must be producers, laws, and codes that guide this environmentally conscious development or “enviro-discipline.” So in order to make sure the human population is to survive, the survivalist state must regulate the use of the environment to do so (134). However, over time governmentality moved its focus from governing of the people to governing of the people through  the environment. Luke writes “In practice, Global

Marshall Planners in Washington could use ecological criteria to impose their sustainable development of economic growth at home as they also force an ecological steady state upon others abroad” (147). The practice of green governmentality pushes the governance of people through the “disguise” of sustainable development abroad as well. 

Camryn: Death, TIMOTHY W. LUKE, “Chapter 27: Technology”

Within Chapter 27 of Critical Environmental Politics, Timothy W. Luke, as well as other key thinkers like Michel Foucault and John Law, evaluates the current and future role technology plays in the development of systems and societies and how this will affect environmental politics. This chapter begins by asserting that ‘technology’, whether you define it as a series of actions or a collection of human reasoning, must be a central concern for environmental politics. The natural lifeworld, or nature overall, is controlled by the “objectivity or instrumentally rational systems- or technology” that focus on continuing to develop and evolve their own system instead of the planet (267).  ‘Technology’ has been seen as the enemy to ecology, though cradle-to-cradle designers and social ecologists assert technology does not per se threaten nature, but factors such as how it is used, who it is used by, and on what scale can determine the level of threat a technology is to nature. Foucault (2003) suggests that to gain ‘know-how’, or expertise, about technology is to also gain ‘command, control, and communicate-how’ and can therefore dictate how the technology is used. This creates a connection between technology and governmentality because with each new technology there are rules created to maintain control over its uses and misuses, which later become solidified by the economies and societies it is used within (268).

The issue is not technology, but the excessive human use of technologies and systems that lead to environmental degradation. Systems grow that allow for people to take positions of power that lead to overproduction and profit-seeking actions. Excessive economic growth and a society based around material goods and commodities has led to technology being overused as well as environmental damage, “The growth of technology ꟷ to the extent in which it endangers human populations and natural ecologies for the improvement of world capitalist markets ꟷ is the reason why environmentalists are concerned that when the modernization process is complete, nature is gone for good” (269). Society is not intending to harm the environment with new technologies being created, but there are unintended consequences when those technologies are applied to the large-scale environment of the entire world. In the last two hundred years, the population has grown significantly, and with that society and its processes have had to grow, now to an extent that is even further than what is needed because of the global commodity-based society. The population has grown past the point of what is needed and has used technology to create its own environment that has systems and processes just like any other traditional environment. As new technologies are experimented on that could have groundbreaking effects on current systems and processes, it is done with the knowledge that these technologies could, and often do, have ‘normal accidents’, or consequences that are merely accepted as a risk once they happen. The chapter uses nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl (1986), to represent this issue: it is known that experimenting with nuclear technology could have disastrous effects for humans and the environment, but they continue anyway in the hopes that the benefits outweigh the potential costs or disastrous situations (270). These potential disastrous consequences have been normalized on the basis of growth and ‘modernity,” and its easier to accept them because they have the potential to make lives easier (270). To change this and our society of commodities, both producers and consumers need to work to make more sustainable products and practices. The idea of “built-in obsolescence” of “rapid circulation” should be changed so that products are more durable and of higher quality, and consumers should move away from that same rapid purchasing of products.

 One difficulty with changing the system is that it is controlled by bureaucrats. Bureaucracy controls and manages consumption through systems of “industrial products, manufacturing processes, and transnational production are systems for conducting conduct by administering anxiety, power, and want” (271). The bureaucracy creates the systems that then lead to degradation and destruction and puts people positions of power or lack thereof to keep the system of consumption in place and keep their overall mechanisms of power in place. “Technology is governance, and so, too, does it bring its own security and insecurity, power and vulnerability, risk and benefit” (272). With the issues that come with technology, Luke concludes this chapter by emphasizing that while issues arise from the deep integration and commodification of technology, the future of environmental politics and growth lies in the ‘latest technologies’ (276).

Neebal:Luke, Chapter 9: “Hashing It Over: Green Governmentality and the Political Economy of Food”

Timothy Luke is notorious for his knowledge and research regarding the interaction between states, societies, and their surrounding environments. Luke offers a deep analysis regarding political and economic conflicts starting back over nearly fifty years ago and focuses on the idea of “green governmentality.” By itself, governmentality is how the government controls the conduct of its populace. However, green governmentality is the process of how issues regarding the environment are addressed, discussed, and resolved through government involvement.

Luke states that this chapter serves as a “prelude to more elaborate critiques of today’s growing economic inequalities and their close ties to the industrial food system and its ecology.” Ecological degradation has been important in green governmentality since 1962, when Rachel Carson discovered various traces of DDT contamination in most of North America’s food chains. DDT is a pollutant that is found in soil that can be very toxic to some living organisms. Although it may be okay for some people to consume, it still caused quite the stir. As a result, groups of activists and agriculture enthusiasts decided to focus on economic and social inequalities by using food. By using food as the main objective to show the effect on economic and ecological equalities, it showed how important it was to redirect the production, distribution, and consumption of food. This form of green governmentality was shown as a way to impose the U.S Government’s environmental practices.

The Virginia Cooperative Extension, a program that practices green governmentality while counteracts massive technological systems, such as industrial agriculture, had revealed the idea to reinforce and multiply the actions towards protecting the environment. Henrico County has had issues regarding high infant mortality, poor nutrition, and family stress in one small district of the entire county. As a result, Henrico County had released a statement encouraging people to grow their own fruits and vegetables for the sake of providing nutritious food and physical activity. In 2008, the county had established two acres of land dedicated to fruit and vegetables. Seven families were told to maintain it and grow their own food. This program was called “Gardens Growing Families.” This program that started from two acres had evolved to twenty-seven plots that required twenty families to maintain, just within a few years, “77% of gardeners indicated that they saved money by growing their own fruits and vegetables in 2010. And 94% of the gardeners said their family diet improved as a result of the vegetables or fruit grown in their garden.” (187) The willingness to waste money on less fresh and healthy food had decreased drastically. But it also established a message, “Eating is an ecological act, and a political act too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world – and what is to become of it” (188). By creating a striving, eco-friendly system to introduce cheap and healthy fruits and vegetables to the public, the VCE met its object by countering the purpose of industrial agriculture. 

On a more personal note, both Manasha and I are from Henrico County so we’ve seen how different districts can be in our home county. In low-income districts, there’s a fast-food chain nearly a minute walk from one another. Due to low prices, it’s much cheaper to buy food from a chain than there is to buy fresh produce from a grocery store. And the food from these chains are mostly not environmentally friendly. Meals such as burgers use an absurd amount of water, which results in habitat loss and pollution in the environment. So establishing acres for families to grow their own fruit and vegetables is definitely the move in order to save money and offer proper nutrition.

Thanks to Luke’s research we’ve been able to create a more concrete correlation between food and the environment, allowing clearer and more progressive laws to be established. And because of this, every government action, rule, or law that’s been established in the name of green governmentality will be able to be improved.

Manasha Bhetwal is a Senior majoring in International Relations and International Public Policy. She is from Henrico County, VA and the reason she is taking this class is because she is interested in learning more about how our environment affects us in the context of global human security.  

Neebal Aridi is a Junior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Arabic. He is from Henrico County, VA and is taking this class because he has always been environmentally cautious but wanted to understand more about how politics and the environment interact. It’s been a goal of his to get into international politics but recently has decided to double major in Real Estate. So he’ll be around for another year!

Camryn Cappel is a Senior majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning. She is from Ocean City, NJ and plans to go into policy analysis and development in the nonprofit sector after graduation. The reason she is taking this class is because she wants to broaden her understanding of the economic, political, and societal factors that affect how we view and interact with the environment, and what needs to change in order to improve conditions instead of exacerbate them.

Republic: Books VII, VIII, and IX

Kiersten Lamke:

I am a Junior with a major in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. I am interested in more modern day politics such as political communication and public policy. While studying philosophers is not my favorite thing, I am interested in taking the analytical methods I learn in this class and implement them in my career.

Macey Sheppard:

I am a Sophomore here at Tech with a major in Political Science with a concentration in Legal Studies. I have a passion for politics and I love broadening my understanding of our legal systems and the inner workings of politics. Philosophy has always fascinated me as well, so this class has been especially interesting to learn about. I enjoy reading about the philosophers who helped build what we now know as politics and government. I believe that this class will help me with my future endeavors in government.

John Fratis

I am a Junior Political Science major here at Virginia Tech, I recently switched majors from Philosophy Politics and Economics, where I first began my interest in philosophy and political theory. I am particularly interested in discovering how current world politics matches up to its theoretical roots and how philosophers and theorists like Karl Marx and Socrates continue to shape the world today.

Plato’s Republic: Defining the connection of education and philosophical inquiry to desire and the soul, how “the just city” should embody the “just soul” and how a disorder soul

connects to socio-political disorder on the city, and how the soul of a tyrant constituted and how democracies have the ability to degrade into tryannies:

This week we were assigned to read Plato’s Republic, a piece that was written later in his life. Throughout this piece, his voice and words are spoken through his teacher – Socrates. Organized into 10 separate books, we will be focusing on Books 7, 8 and 9. In book 7, Socrates draws upon the allegory of the cave in order to show this relationship between how education and philosophical inquiry affects how one perceives the world. Book 8, Socrates introduces the four imperfect societies and how these imperfections have characterized the individuals within. In the last book we looked at, book 9, Socrates looks at the tyrannical man and his characteristics, in order to discuss how these democracies can transition into tyrannies.

Education and philosophical inquiry connected to desire and the soul:

Throughout Socrates’ allegory of the cave he continues to elaborate on his indirect description of the Good. Within the cave, the men live everyday, shackled and forced to only stare at what is in front of them. They enter an imaginary state from the shadows of the images cast on a curtain from a fire. With nothing else to believe, prisoners start to assume what they see and hear is reality. This allegory adds the search for truth, and how the things that we as people know affect this notion of being a “just person” in a “just state.” In connection to today, we can relate this back to what we watch on television, we expect things to go a certain way being that is how it happened in a show. But, when faced with reality, we are left at a halt because our minds are preconceived to this imaginary state we saw.

Look at it in a sense of fake news, in the political world nowadays fake news has become more and more normal. Fake news can alter our perspectives on events, trends and people, filling our heads with false information created by false reality. It is not until people realize that the information being presented to them is notions of an imaginary world, once the people choose to understand the truth, they are faced with reality.

Quotes from this scene from The Matrix that draw parallels with Socrates’s Allegory of the Cave in Book VII of the Republic were quotes from Morpheus, where he says “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.” As the Sophists manipulate the shadows present in the cave, the Shadows could be seen as the Matrix itself, and the Sophists as agent Smith, the main antagonist for the bulk of the film. Morpheus continues and tells Neo that he was born into bondage like the rest of humanity, stuck in the reality they are presented with. It is important to note that in the original quote Morpheus mentions the truth (sought by philosophers although difficult to digest in reality) while also mentioning bondage and saying that everyone else is in this same state, much like the other prisoners in the cave.

Book VII begins with the Allegory of the Cave. In this scenario, there is a group of prisoners who have lived their whole lives in a dark cave. Not being able to see anything but statues in front of them. The prisoners face the statues everyday, and have grown accustomed to them always being there. They have no other understanding of the outside world. They don’t even understand that there is an outside world. This has become their reality, and they know practically nothing else. Socrates explains that this part represents our imagination. Then, a prisoner leaves the cave, and begins to realize what reality is. They see trees, flowers, light, and they soon see that there is more to the world than the statues. This is the stage of “thought,” and the prisoner can now see the forms of things in reality.

Leaving the cave is used to understand the process of education. Education’s main goal is to take individuals as far away from the cave, in order for them to learn and grow as people. In order to understand the world, we have to continue reaching for more knowledge. However, education’s purpose isn’t necessarily putting the knowledge into our soul, but instead, steering our soul towards the forms of good, “the time has now arrived at which they must raise the eye of the soul to the universal light which lightens all things, and behold the absolute good,”(book VII). As we continue to educate ourselves, our soul will go toward the right desires. Like the prisoner in the cave, we start out not understanding much of the world. As we travel through life, we begin to grasp new understandings of it. Our soul reaches towards the right desires because we can comprehend what is just and unjust. We continue to educate ourselves so we can make justly decisions and strive towards the forms of good. In the last stage of the allegory, the prisoner notices the sun, and how it lights up the world. The prisoner now understands things, has learned how to process reality, and how to see forms of good.

Education should be to bring everyone as far out from the cave as possible, and in turning the soul toward the right desires rather than putting new knowledge into it. Socrates argues that professors of education are wrong when they say that they can put knowledge into the soul that didn’t exist there before, likening it to sight in a blind man’s eyes. Instead Socrates claims that the power and capacity to learn already exists in the soul. So therefore the instrument of knowledge, the mind’s eye, can only be turned towards the good only by movement of the whole soul from the world of becoming to the world of being.

This clip is from Legion, an American TV series. The scene uses the Allegory of the Cave to create a modern day scenario that parallels Socrates’ story. Instead of people trapped in a cave watching shadows, the clip shows how we are kept behind a screen just watching the rest of the world.

The just city embodying the just soul and a disorder soul connecting to socio-political disorder on the city:

The goal of a city is to educate its people with the right desires, so they can achieve good.

People will continue to educate one another and practice living just lives. Once this happens, it is like a domino affect. If a ruler is educated, then they will continue to educate their people. This, as Socrates explains, creates a cycle of learning that never stops. When a ruler is truly good, it sets an example for their city. A true ruler doesn’t rule for personal benefits, but they rule for justice and truth. The main goal being, making the whole city happy rather than a select few, majority over minority. It is their job to educate their people on justice, so the people within the city can make justly decisions. So, a ruler with a disordered soul will create a disordered city.      

The disordered ruler doesn’t lead with the right desires, thus, leading their city towards unjustly actions. The picture below is showing a leader (hand) and the people (puppet). The people are puppets to the leaders symbolizing that a bad leader will reflect in the people as they will begin to act in accordance with tyranny. We can see the action of an unjust ruler through examples of Tyranny. A lawless leader will only create a lawless city.

6,585 Tyrant Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Socrates named the four imperfect states; first being Cretan or Spartan (timarchy), second being oligarchy, third democracy and the fourth also the worst is tyranny. Along with this notion of imperfect states, he also introduces that there are five types of man; corresponding and another for each of the “lesser” regimes. These imperfect states are contrasted with Socrates’ ideal state. These are presented as the stages of degeneration of the just state overtime, each being worse than the last.

A Timarcy; the government of honour, descends into an Oligarchy as money and wealth determine who attains positions of political power. Ruling is based on wealth. This divides the city into factions of rich and poor, who do not have common goals, Socrates says, “-in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it” (Book 8). Arguing that this form puts the rich at a privilege leaving the poor with merely nothing in terms of wealth and power. The idea of wealth begins to become more valued than virtue, changing the dynamic from a state wanting/needing to be run by noble, just men into one of money-hungry businessmen interested in sedimenting their own positions within society.

In describing the rulers of an Oligarchy and a Democracy, the key difference between them is that the former is driven by necessary pleasures, and the latter by unnecessary pleasures. The oligarch is portrayed as a miser, who wishes to hoard his wealth, whereas the Democrat, who also has wealth, appreciates and indulges in the luxuries that he can afford. Socrates notes,“-characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike” (Book 8).

Soul of a tyrant and the states degrading from a democracy to a tyranny:

Socrates divides the unnecessary pleasures of men that lead to the evolution of a tyrannical man, making the point that all have these pleasures yet some persons are controlled by laws and by reason in order to restrain themselves from acting upon them. The tyrannical man is ruled by his desires. There comes a point in time where his needs are not able to be satisfied and he will resort to unlawful actions through crime. A tyrannical man is unjust and the worst type of man. The tyrannical person is not someone a man ought to desire to be, as they cannot be trusted and will stop at nothing to satisfy their needs even if that means going against what is right and just. Further, the tyrannical soul is one of constant unhappiness as it will never find satisfaction for it is ruled through Desire as a chief virtue rather than its reason. The tyrannical soul is one of disorder, according to Plato, because rationality is subjected and oriented to rapacious desire that can never be satisfied. It is, therefore, impossible for the tyrant, or the tyrannical soul to lead “the good life.”

As Socrates puts it, the tyrant is a product of his democratic father. Democracy’s biggest flaw is how it puts the value of freedom before ruling in a just way. The tyrant’s democratic father held some of the virtues of his miserly father and thus was drawn in both directions of being driven by pleasure, differing from his father in that his pleasures were unnecessary, aimed at amusement, ornament, and luxury – such as gold toilets. The democrat ultimately leads a life of moderate indulgence, this moderation is not passed down to the tyrant. Throughout history there have been numerous tyrants and dictators that have destroyed nations through systemic degradation. Plato himself ran into trouble when he tried to implement his ideal state in Syracuse, Sicily. The tyrant’s desires are what leads to his unjustly reign over a city. As stated previously, in order to have a just city, we must have a just ruler with a soul that is searching for the right desires and a soul ruled by reason rather than reason ruled by desire. A true ruler will want to rule because it is their duty to steer their city towards forms of good. A true ruler understands the difference between just and unjust, and they do not choose to lead with desire. A tyrant leads with the desire to control. A tyrant’s desire for power overtakes them, and causes them to become power hungry, greedy, and destructive. He is not looking to create a justly city, with good citizens who respect him as a ruler. Instead, desire for control takes over and they create an unjustly city ordered, only by its ever shifting and elusive desires built from the images of sophists.

Arguing, Socrates mentions that a tyrant is the unhappiest man, and his state is the worst among the imperfect states mentioned previously. A tyrant is always living in this state of fear, in that “Their pleasures are mixed with pains,” (Book 9) meaning in the midst of trying to satisfy his pleasures, a tyrant is faced with the pain of reality when he is never fully satisfied leaving a void in his heart causing him to continue to fight for satisfaction he can never attain as a matter of the logic of desiring. They begin to lose their wisdom and virtue, causing them to be filled with gluttony and sensuality, distracting them from the notions of a “just man.”

Century of the Self Part I: Happiness Machines

The philosopher-king rules in an aristocracy, enlightened by exiting the cave, looking at the sun and understanding the form of the good, he returns to the cave. He does this to show gratitude to the city, which had given him the opportunity to leave the cave in the first place, through education. In viewing rule as giving service, the philosopher-king views ruling as an obligation, as they understand the form of the good and is guided by the desire for truth, they knew that the city would be less just if they were not to rule. In this sense, the philosopher’s reluctance to rule deems him the most fit to rule. This idea is expanded upon in the Adam Curtis documentary, Century of the Self, Part I: Happiness Machines brings to light ideas of Sigmund Freud, and his nephew Edward Bernays.

In particular, Bernays changed America into a consumer society following World War I, and did so as a means of controlling the masses in a democracy. According to Freud, the human subconscious is animalistic and irrational, and hides just beneath the surface of consciousness. These irrationalities can be emphasized in the masses, leading Bernays to believe that the masses could not be trusted, and thus needed to be guided from above, which would ultimately result in advertisements to prey on the desires of society. The belief of people as subconsciously irrational essentially dismantled the notion of individual freedom at the heart of democracy. Human beings could never be allowed to truly express themselves as it would be too dangerous, they could not be trusted to make their own informed decisions and would act based on emotion. Therefore, the masses must be controlled for their own good, reflective of Socrates’s idea that the philosopher-king should rule for the sake of the city as a whole. Bernays, however, in giving the modern corporation the means for mass manipulation through public relations campaigns and advertising, may have subverted Plato and set the stage for the democracy in the US to degrade into a tyranny where desire, not reason, is the instrument for organizing and controlling people through consumer society. In other words, it is possible that the sophist has transformed from an individual human person as we have seen in antiquity, into to the modern commercial corporation that speaks and persuades in our social environments and has more power than any one of us to do so. Here’s the question: are we in contemporary US society, actually organized by tyrants; and are those tyrants telling us to join them?

Professor’s Note: For those of you scraping around for a multimedia analysis project, you should consider They Live!, John Carpenter’s 1988 classic.

Plato’s Republic: Books III and IV

Kyle Merrill

  • I am a Junior majoring in Political Science with a focus in national security.  I enjoy learning new perspectives as it gives more depth to my analytic ability for political situations.

Alexa Zaldivar

  • I am a Sophomore majoring in English with a concentration in Pre-Law and double majoring in Political Science. Political and philosophical discussions have always been an interest of mine and I am excited to be learning and deepening my knowledge of such topics in this class. 

Luis Lopez

  • I am a Junior majoring in Political Science (Legal Studies) and Philosophy. I have always been more inclined towards the ‘cut and dry’ of most things Law, but love engaging in political discourse, and having a better understanding of the machinations of its theory has always sounded interesting.

Books III and IV:

This week our group was tasked to read The Republic: Books III and IV by Plato. Book III continues the discussion seen in the previous books, in which Socrates carries on with the dialogue pertaining to the stories and education allowed to be given to the soldiers – the Auxiliaries – of the State. Book IV focuses on many complex theological themes that we will further get into in this discussion. Including Adeimantus questioning on the happiness of the Guardians and Socrates diving into where justice lies both in the State and Individual. These two dialogues continue on with points of discussion around “the just state” and “the good life.”

Unjust Poetic Role Models and Messages

Early into Book III Adeimantus and Plato have a conversation about poets and the risks involved with their potential messages. In the reading, they specifically highlight the portrayal of heroic figures by poets as often figures of happiness through the means of being unjust. Plato finds a significant issue in this when he says “poets and story-tellers are guilty of making the gravest misstatements when they tell us that wicked men are often happy, and the good miserable” (Plato, Book III). This however is but an example of the bigger problem Plato is trying to point out. The real issue highlighted by Plato here is the problems that can arise from freedom of speech in general. If you give those with the incorrect ways of thinking platforms among the masses, it could spread harmful trains of thought to many and harm society as a whole. Plato concludes that the solution to such a potential problem is “we shall forbid them to utter, and command them to sing and say the opposite,” showing his ideals of being anti-free speech and expression for the sake of justice and happiness (Plato, Book III). 

Plato understands that people with the wrong thoughts and behaviors should not freely express and influence the masses and in this section, he is pointing his finger at the poets. Poets speak to the masses for entertainment and informational purposes and Plato thinks they have a great deal of influence over how people should think and act. Individuals with this power have the ability to spread unjust behavior to people and this is exactly what Plato wants to prevent by limiting the ability for these people to spread it in the first place. What one needs to understand is that these are the effects of the culture industry that still apply to us today. The culture industry is the idea that (capitalist) entertainment industries subject the consumers to manipulation of thought and opinions. The issue here is if the industry leaders are sophists they would be spreading potentially harmful thoughts to the consumer groups. This raises the question of whether it is beneficial to censor these leading entertainment industries due to the harm they can cause.

Short video on what Horkheimer and Adorno thought the culture industry was.

Importance of a balanced education

Plato highlights the importance of early education within the Guardian class talking about a proper balance between physical training and music saying that “Gymnastic as well as music should begin in early years; the training in it should be careful and should continue through life. Now my belief is…not that the good body by and bodily excellence improves the soul, but, on the contrary, that the good soul, by her own excellence, improves the body as far as this may be possible,” indicating his belief that Guardians cannot rely on a single form of education to become great (Plato, Book III). The reason for this balanced form of education especially for the Guardian class is because not all issues can be solved with one form of problem-solving. The Guardians are the most important component to make Plato’s just state a reality and to do the best job possible given a tool belt of knowledge and thinking so they can lead and guide the state through diverse situations.

What Plato is concerned with the most in this section is over-focusing on the physical side of education of young Guardians as “such excessive care of the body, when carried beyond the rules of gymnastics, is most inimical to the practice of virtue, ” which basically means it can lead to the hindering of one’s development as a virtuous person (Plato, Book III). The importance of development is vastly stronger on Guardian individuals due to their role in society and Plato understands the risk that is involved with improperly developed members in that societal role. This would hinder Plato’s ideal just state due to improper fulfillment of one’s role in society which would greatly impact everyone else in a negative manner. If Producers concede to their desires, as Plato contends as he argues that they are Producers because they do not have a good soul, they would cause more work upon the Auxiliaries whose role is to keep them in order. For this reason, Plato contends that Producers are mostly incapable of becoming soldiers or even be the focus of becoming knowledgeable at all and instead focuses on the Auxiliary and Guardians. Furthermore, Socrates contends that if we allow these corrupted souls to take the role of an Auxiliary, it will make more weak soldiers who fear death and will abandon their role just to save themselves. If the Auxiliary is then faulty and incapable of their duty to fight and protect the State physically, the Guardians will have no foundation to assert their rule, enforce the principles that require a State to serve all of its people, the function of the State in general, and will then allow for the destruction of that State which would be seen as unjust. Therefore, Justice and the “just State” are dependent on people in these roles accepting the requirements that are based on how “good” their soul is and how in tune they are with that Knowledge.

We are met with three different class/roles: Guardians/Philosopher Kings (Those in charge of the state, the “higher-ups”), Auxiliaries (Soldiers, Policing Figures), and Producers (the rest of society/the majority, the people who are constantly under the rule of the other two classes.) Education is the fulfillment and adherence to requirements/principles of the class you are in, be it Guardians/Philosopher Kings, Auxiliaries, and Producers on the basis that, if you do not do what you are supposed to do, you will make the other classes unhappy. For example the Guardians, according to Plato, are those who have mastered philosophy and rhetoric and thus, have taken charge of the State as they have mastered this knowledge that allows them to trick people into believing enforcement/creation of classes, say who is in them, and establish all the roles and machinations of the State’s composing class. The Auxiliary’s function, according to the reading, is to fight and protect the State at all costs be it militant or policing and enforcement of what the Guardians impose, and then finally there are the Producers, which is just about anyone that is not a Guardian or an Auxiliary. This relation/structure has been seen through most, if not all, 20th Century, post-Industrialism society: a ruling class, Bourgeois, etc. that rules over a vast majority, Producers, proletariat, etc. that lack a certain means of capital which puts them in this position of servitude and submission, and along with the ruling class having a tangible weapon to enforce their whim upon those Producers, the Auxiliary.  However, Plato also emphasizes that one ought to acquire formidable knowledge in other subjects like the arts (though not too much, for that leads to weak soldiers) to better you in your designated class as it enlightens the soul but does not change it completely. Education, Plato argues, is simply further specialization on those soul-found reasonings. He highlights the importance of the training of the soldiers to how they can contribute to the just state. Plato suggests that the Auxiliary class should not just be trained in warfare but in proper balance with music and poetry to avoid developing too much aggressiveness which can turn into the polar opposite and birth weak men who will give up their State and autonomy just so they are not killed (Book III). Here we see a nuance in “knowledge” and “education”: Knowledge is within the Soul, where Truth is derived from, and where you truly see if you are capable of attaining characteristics required to understand other classes, while Education is further specialization after you have those realizations of the Soul. What you have become educated on is not actually any ‘new’ concept, as that education only comes from realizing from something that was in your soul all along. This concept of it being in your soul all along, Plato establishes, is why Producers cannot truly become Auxiliaries, nor can Auxiliaires truly become Guardians. Plato mentions that one cannot change class easily, if at all, but the means exist to become more educated, and that the Producers never have that realization or potential in their souls and therefore, ought to ‘stay in their place’ and do what the “more” knowledgeable auxiliaries and guardians want for their souls are good and need to be in charge to bring about a “just State.” (Book IV). The State’s function should never be one that is “piecemeal” but rather, one that tries to keep all classes happy. However, happiness is not based on what they desire but what their role is (Book IV).

Acquiring knowledge helps one better understand what the good life is, it is based on doing what your class has been assigned to do in order to make the other classes happy and establish a high standard of well-being for all under the state in its totality, not just certain individuals. (Book IV). This is why Plato harshly critiques the Arts and the glorification of heroes, for this inspires thinking and desires not warranted by the ruling classes. This supports Plato’s principle that having a pure soul will eventually lead to you bettering yourself in the material world (Plato, Book III).This relief from the chains of societal pressures and starting to escape the cave and submitting to casted shadows, as Plato describes it in his Allegory of the Cave. However, we see that demagoguery can function, and has functioned, off of this exploitation of those who do not have this knowledge and Plato contends in The Republic that your soul cannot be changed, but one can become more educated on their soul as a whole.

Socrates explains to Adeimantus that when Producers focus and act based in raw emotion and personal desires, he will not truly value nor even understand nobility and honesty and will be slaves to fear and would rather give himself as a slave and sacrifice his own people’s freedom for his life and his love for material things. A rational part (Reason), an appetitive part (Desire), and the spirit (Will) are what compose our souls, independent of the mind. For something as strong and compelling as desire is not dictated by the mind and Plato points that Auxiliaries will most likely cave in to desires before they fully submit to reason so their will, their actions, will not be those that are reasonable and solely based upon justice, but dictated more by personal temptations. Personal, individual wills cannot sustain the collective, class-dependent “just State” as conceived by Plato. This, in turn, will then crush the foundation which grants the Auxiliary their police/military power as then they will be disposed of at will to protect the State and ultimately, bring the Philosopher King’s down with them as they never truly had the capacities that a grand majority such as the Producers had. The seeking of Truth inspires a yearning and passionate desire to acquire as much knowledge as possible to ascend from the material world and social constructs. Knowledge grants freedom from institutionalizations imposed upon the majority of those that are being ruled (Producers, Auxiliaries) and allows for the realization of the soul, that Eros or divine-tier love: the love for things truly good, which is anything that strengthens the State’s power and helps form an effective, though elitist, government system.

Happiness for the city as a whole 

In these two books, the overarching idea regarding happiness is that Socrates assumed that each individual will be happy if they engage with the occupation that best suits them; meaning that if the state as a whole is happy, then the individuals within that state are happy as well. We are first introduced to the topic of happiness at the end of Book III after establishing that individuals who play their part are happy because they are playing the part they are best framed to do, “Citizens, we shall say to them in our tale, you are brothers, yet God has framed you differently”(Plato, Book III). However, happiness is further discussed in Book IV as Adeimantus questions Socrates on the happiness of the guardians. Socrates responds with the reminder that the goal in building a just state is not to make one particular group happy at the expense of making another unhappy but to make the state as a whole as happy as it can be: “We are fashioning the happy State, not piecemeal, or with a view of making a few happy citizens” (Plato, Book IV). Socrates brings up the idea that we cannot provide guardians with any sort of happiness that would make them something more, or want to be something more, than just a governor of the city. This is why the statement that Guardians, philosophers who govern the city, should have no right to private wealth is made. 

Capital: Wealth and Poverty

While discussing the conditions of happiness for the guardians, Socrates raises the topic of capital. He makes a connection to wealth and poverty to “the just state” and “the good life.” He does so by first giving an example of how wealth and poverty can corrupt the workmen and their work. He begins by stating that if a potter becomes rich, he will grow indolent and carless in his work because he will “no longer take the same pains with his art,” and the end result would be that he’d become a worse potter and “he greatly deteriorates” (Plato, Book IV). On the other hand, if the potter was poor, he would not be able to provide himself the necessary tools and instruments he needs to do his job well. Therefore, he too would deteriorate. After this analogy, Socrates declares that it is these “new evils,” wealth and poverty, that the “guardians will have to watch, or they will creep into the city unobserved” (Plato, Book IV). While we have determined that people will be the happiest if they have a job or role within society that suits them, they must be cautious about making too much or too little because the quality of their work and thus the quality of their lives will suffer. Such occurrences could become a threat to the functioning state. For example, if the guardians become greedy individuals due to wealth, then they will deviate from living “the good life” and if they care more for anything other than the care of their state and its people, then it is a deviation from accomplishing “the just state.”  There is a connection made between wealth, happiness, and justice in these books. Specifically, how too much or too little capital can affect the happiness of an individual and state, which are two important factors needed to achieve a “just state.”

Adeimantus adds to the discussion by stating his curiosity and worries on how their city, with no wealth, will be able to go to war against other cities that have wealth. But Socrates asserts that this brings no issues whatsoever. While they will lack monetary wealth, they will be rich in other aspects. Socrates reminds Adeimantus that if a fight were to occur, their side will have “trained warriors fighting against an army of rich men” (Plato, Book III). He proceeds to state other advantages to their situation with wealth, or lack thereof. Since they do not have or permit wealth, they will be able to form alliances, where they would offer them the victory “spoils of the other city” (Plato, Book III). Finally, Socrates states that their lack of richness is no issue by bringing up the division within other states and the cohesion of their state, particularly in terms of economic classes. Their unification will protect their state from inner conflict, this being a major weakness in other states as they are “divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another” (Plato, Book III). This forms the argument that a just society should not be internally divided into economic classes. 

The Offspring- “Americana”: This song paints a drab picture of the world in the eyes of the typical Producer in a modern, capitalism-enforcing, mundane, sophist-ran society. In which you do what you’re told and if you don’t well then good luck, because the storyteller himself does not even know what he wants but is “happy”. Rather, his wants have been decided by “Thieves, thugs, and vermin.” and he has all he needs (according to these thieves, thugs, and sophists… sorry vermin) in his sphere of society. This class structure, subordination, and its causation being lack of knowledge and just having a bad soul so you have been subjected to this role as a mindless wage slave, Producer, etc. and that they see no problem with it, they are satisfied staying in “their cave” as Plato mentions in his Allegory of the Cave, providing a powerful foundation for the demagoguery that has burdened this bland, unwilfully-chosen life of these people or a soldier being confined to just battling and policing.

All in all, Plato infers that justice in a state and “the good life” can only be achieved through happiness and well-being. With the proper education and introduction to arts, there can be achieved happiness in fulfilling one’s appropriate role, which in turn leads to justice, “we affirmed that justice was doing one’s own business” (Plato, Book IV).