I spend most of my days reading and discussing political news with friends, reading and discussing political philosophy with my professors, and figuring out how these both connect. This is going to be a series making the case for Bernie Sanders, who fits is the candidate who represents what is right (as in philosophical right) in the closest sense of the word. I am not sure exactly what I am going to write about so I do not know how many parts this is going to be. There are some definite things I have planned, such as one on moral politicians and moral character, foreign policy, unconditional poverty relief, and free public universities are some of the things I can imagine doing right now.
At least in the primaries, there is no excuse to vote for the best candidate. Bernie does not have any (that I have heard) blemishes to his moral character. He has no massively awful history (Biden), he is not a billionaire, he is not perpetuating the status quo by taking money from billionaires or flip flopping on positions in mere months because of establishment elites and billionaires telling him to or because he just purely wants to win (Buttgieg) and does play up his background to see more in touch with certain areas of the country (Buttgieg you are not rural and yes I will gatekeep that). Biden, Warren (native American scandal, lying about Bernie and a women being president), and Buttgieg have a tainted moral character. What you are willing to lie about and corrupt yourself on in the name of winning a race is nothing compared to what you will bend on when in office.
The character of someone is one of the largest indicators of stability and truthfulness that they will display when in office. Bernie has been fighting for the same rights at home and abroad. Most senators on both sides of the political spectrum respect Bernie for who he is despite policy agreements. Even then, most senators know Bernie better than the average person. Bernie has fought for legislation and purposefully taken his name off of things and pushed for legislation in private out of fears that people will reject the bill because of that (e.g. a congressman in Virginia rejected his own legislation he proposed about removing a statue just because democrats supported it, his own legislation…). Additionally, he makes compromises when appropriate. However, some of his policies there is no compromise to be made on these and should be (assume you believed abortion to be wrong, it is wrong at day 1 and wrong at the day before birth and there is no compromise to make it better).
I also think that Bernie is going to still work and make policies that are beneficial for everyone, from rural americans in the Midwest to homeless in LA to poor people in Brooklyn. People associate socialism with communism (the “communism” of China and Russia). I am not going to sit there and argue that they are different or that his policies are more feasible. There are people who have made this argument ad nauseam (referring to something that has been done or repeated so often that it has become annoying or tiresome.) However, if you are a Trump supporter and think that people who vote blue are libtards, or someone who thinks that Trump supporters are pure evil, I am not going to try and convince you either way.
As someone who has lived with both sides of the spectrum, both sides rarely do anything more than parrot common sayings by the media and their own leaders of ideology and might put down a fact. As we know, facts are not enough to bridge the divide. We need to find common ground on definitions and theories and then see what we can do. For example, if you believe that the state should enforce X, while someone things the state should not enforce X, you need to find what is driving that belief. You will find almost certainly that the disagreement stems from some premise P that both people disagree on. You might believe that the definition of freedom is one thing, the other thinks another.
What I am going to do is present you with a theory in the abstract of what the role of the state should be and what it should not be able to do. I will present you with some of the lines of reasoning I think along and how they extend into our current political system. To do this, I will start with some definitions and lines of thought that if you accept them, you are on the hook for believing some other things to be what we ought to do.
The theory that I mainly study is Kant’s theory of right. It is understudied relative to other classic theories such as Hobbes, Locke, or Rosseau who greatly influenced our own political system and especially Locke did. Around the 1980s, people started to look more into other areas of Kant’s philosophical system after mainly focusing on his ethics. Kant explicitly stated ethics cannot be grounds for the state, something that echoes in our own political common sense today with the separation of the church and state. Kant wrote extensively on what he thinks right is, how it it differs from ethics, and additionally on things such as peace, international right, and cosmopolitanism. Other philosophers such as Varden, Ripstein, Kleingeld, etc., have made careers out of examining Kant’s theory of right and its relation to human nature, religion, ethics, etc. I hope instead of disagreeing about this or that fact or arbitrary belief, we can find some common ground. The selfish reason for this is that I just want to write about what I look for in politics. I grew up in rural Illinois, voted for Kasich in the 2016 primaries, and have thought about what is right or wrong and this is where I currently am at.
I am going to outline at least some of the necessary areas of Kant’s theory of right. it may sound obtuse and abstract at first. But in the words of my friend Jack after a philosophy talk, QA, and discussion, “I forget that philosophy is just thinking”. Indeed, philosophy is just the process of thinking about things and we do it everyday. There are good and bad ways of doing philosophy, but most people do it everyday. There is a great Aeon article about de-pretentiousizing (not sure if that is a word) philosophy and it is the best way to explain the importance of philosophy to non-philosophy people (people who hear the word and think SJW or useless profession). The gist of the article is to compare philosophy to acting using this film genre of neorealism.
Philosophy is to acting as what theoretical physics is to being a classical musician. The average person being asked to explain how quantum mechanics differs from classical mechanics is going to be at a loss for words, maybe won’t even know anything about it. Imagine if you went to a grand music hall, black tie affair, and the program sheet said “Josh Dunigan, first time playing an instrument, giving violin a shot”. Everyone would protest that they want their money back and rightly so because I have no idea even how to hold a violin properly.
However, philosophy is not like theoretical physics or being a great violinist. People use their reasoning powers every day, we make epistemological claims and normative claims and get angry when someone does something unethical and respect the ones who behave ethically when it was not in their own interest to do so. We get profoundly angry when we are lied to and find that anyone harming someone else has done something wrong. We worship bodily autonomy and the freedom of being able to choose our own goals in life and we get satisfaction when we complete them and get satisfaction out of realizing that our older ends we set are not something we want and we are excited about making new ones. When someone has a belief about something that is founded on superstition, has no factual basis, and has been dismissed as wrong by many an expert, we think they are making a mistake in their knowledge of reality.
So this is where philosophy is more like acting. The Aeon article cites how “the first-time actorHaing S Ngor won an Academy Award for his role in The Killing Fields (1984)”. Some people can do great acting their first time, but it is not really their “first time” acting. We all know how to do acting in some way in real life. We all know how to get mad, how to be surprised, how to talk seriously. Some people have very distinct personalities and mannerisms, and they could be cast almost as themself in a movie and do well. This is similar to philosophy. I have had conversations with people who have never taken a philosophy class or read a philosopher, but have said things that have been argued for many times in philosophy. I have heard people make great novel arguments that extend from “common sense” ( I do not think this is actually real however). For example, my dad said that if companies are going to be all moving towards the internet for things that you need to do to exist in society, you have to accomadate for everyone, particularly the bottom line. This sentiment is echoed in cities making it illegal for a business to be cash only since some rely heavily on cash or do not have any cards. However, there are people who are going to be great actors just like great philosophers. A great philosopher is someone that has an easier time making good arguments for things and does it more consistently. The neorealist actor may be a one-trick pony until they take acting classes, learning how to play vastly different roles. To finish, a quote on one of the best examples of a good philosopher
Gilbert Ryle, one of Williams’s mentors at Oxford, said that he “understands what you’re going to say better than you understand it yourself, and sees all the possible objections to it, and all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your own sentence.”