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Hegel’s Civil Society in the Philosophy of Right §260-271

January 19, 2011
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G.W.F. Hegel’s discussion of civil society in the Philosophy of Right offers an important key through which to understand the whole philosophical project Hegel was undertaking. Karl Marx in his Critique of the Philosophy of Right remarked that “The entire mystery of the Philosophy of Right and of Hegelian philosophy in general is contained in these paragraphs.”[i] Karl-Heinz Ilting, has a similar opinion, saying “Hegel could include this whole sphere in his political philosophy, only because he had discovered the productive power of labour as the foundation of civil society.” (Ilting, 1971: 107) By examining the critiques Marx had, as well as a critical view of Marx’s critiques will show the importance of civil society to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

In sections §260-271, Hegel discusses several topics, such as patriotism, or the role of religion or science in regards the state.[ii] The most important aspect of this section, however relates to Hegel’s dialectical relationship between the state and civil society. Hegel begins by mentioning that the state is the actuality of concrete freedom, but that concrete freedom requires personal individuality receive their own development and recognition. Hegel say that individuals must “pass over of their own accord into the interest of the universal, and, for another thing, they know and will the universal; they even recognise it as their own substantive mind; they take it as their end and aim and are active in its pursuit”(Hegel, 2003: 282) This means that for Hegel the state is the result of the dialectical relationship between the universal and the particular wills of individuals.

The relationship between the state and different spheres of civil society is by Hegel as being both “An external necessity and…..their immanent end.” (Hegel, 2003: 283)  Hegel advances this thought by discussing the idea of rights and duties. For Hegel duty and rights are a package deal, and are not something which can be separated apart from one another. Hegel says that “my obligation towards the substantial is at the same time the existence of my particular freedom; that is, duty and right are united within the state in one and the same relation.”(Hegel, 2003: 284) Hegel argues that a person must, by acting within the state, gain rights so that their individual, particular interests become united with the universal interest. Hegel does not believe that the particular interest must be totally subservient to the universal, but that “on the contrary, they should be harmonized with the universal so that both they themselves and the universal are preserved.”(Hegel, 2003: 285)

At this point, Hegel takes a turn towards the metaphysical in his discussion of the Idea and how it divides itself up into different spheres, family and civil society which Hegel says are the “ideal spheres of its concept.” (Hegel, 2003: 285) Hegel does on to say that these while these spheres represent a finite mode, the Idea “emerges from its ideality to become infinite and actual spirit for itself. In so doing, it allocates the material of its finite actually, ie individuals as a mass to these two spheres.”(Hegel, 2003: 285) In these spheres the particular and individual “have their immediate and reflective reality.”(Hegel, 2003: 286) However the universal still present through the power of the rational, which is Hegel referring to the family and corporations.[iii]

Hegel identifies that this mass of individuals embodies a dual moment. On the one hand they represent the extreme of individuality as well as the extreme of universality. Hegel says that they can “attain their right in both of these respects only in so far as they have actuality both as private and as substantial persons.”(Hegel 2003: 287) As individuals they earn their right through their family and civil society, and they discover their right in regards to universality by “discovering their essential self-consciousness in institutions as that universal aspect of their particular interests which has being in itself…..and by obtaining through these institutions an occupation and activity directed towards a universal end.”(Hegel 2003: 287)

It is the civil institutions together that form the constitution, which Hegel calls “developed and actualized rationality.”(Hegel 2003: 287) This is the firm foundation of the state. Hegel calls them the “pillars on which public freedom rests, for it is within them that particular freedom is realized and rational; hence the union of freedom and necessity is present in itself within these institutions.”(Hegel, 2003: 287) This substantial universality becomes its own object, and then becomes the shape of freedom.(Hegel, 2003: 288)

Hegel identifies that the “necessity in ideality” is the development of the Idea in two ways, which reflects the dialectical mode of thinking. As subjective substantiality, the important thing is the person’s individual disposition, whereas objective substantiality can be found in the “organism of the state, the political state proper and its constitution.”(Hegel, 2003: 288)

For Hegel, the political disposition can  formed by the various organisms of the state. Hegel says that “these different aspects are accordingly the various powers [within the state] with their corresponding tasks and functions through which the universal continually produces itself.”(Hegel, 2003: 290) Hegel calls this organism the political constitution. Hegel ends this section by saying that the political constitution is first, “the organization of the state and the process of its organic life with reference to itself.” (Hegel, 2003: 304) and secondly it is “the state in its individuality is an exclusive unit which accordingly has relations with others; it thereby turns its differentiation outwards and, in accordance with this determination, posits its existing differences within itself in their ideality.” (Hegel, 2003: 304)

The dialectical relationship is very important for the understanding of what Hegel say in how civil society was different from the state, due to its focus on the particular rather then the universal. Frederick Beiser easily sets up the Hegelian format for civil society. Beiser says that according to Hegel’s system that “civil society is subsumed under the category of ethical life. Ethical life consists in three fundamental moments: the family(immediate unity); civil society(difference); and the state (unity-in-difference)” (Beiser, 2005: 244) As Beiser says, this allows for Hegel to both preserve and limit the freedoms of civil society. It can be argued that this is because of the nature of Hegel’s project. Hegel is attempting to offer a liberal view of the modern state, while still critiquing liberalism. Renato Cristi says that “Hegel’s conception of civil society proves him to be both a liberal philosopher and critic of liberalism.” (Cristi, 2005: 93) Hegel’s liberalism can be seen in the way he protects the separate and particular interests of civil society. Cristi says that Hegel’s critiques of liberalism shows that he wants limits to the market, and that Hegel “postulates a sphere of human activity which must remain absolutely untouched by market forces.”(Cristi, 2005: 94) Beiser says this is because of the way that the market leaves a great mass of people in poverty who “were damned to work in unhealthy, insecure, and deadening conditions  in modern factories and mines.” (Beiser, 2005: 248)

Z. A. Pelczynski, who edited a work on Hegel and civil society says “the conceptual separation  of the state and civil society is one of the most original features of Hegel’s political and social philosophy.”(Pelczynski, 1984:1) One of Pelczynski’s, as well as Karl-Heinz Ilting, interests in this aspect of Hegel is the way it was used by, and influenced Karl Marx. Pelczynski says that Klaus Hartmann “shows how Hegel’s categories of civil society and the state can be reformulated to provide a conceptual framework which fit’s the modern democratic welfare state very well…..rather than through a Marxian or quasi-Marxian critique.”(Pelczynski. 1984:12)

Before discussing Ilting’s critique of Hegel’s civil society, it would be worth quickly looking at what Marx has to say in regards to Hegel’s civil society. Marx says that, what Hegel is really arguing for, is a “logical, pantheistic mysticism.” This has to due with the way that Hegel treats the Idea. Marx also offers rephrasing of what Hegel is arguing, which makes it easier to understand. For instance, here is Marx describing civil society, he says “The family and civil society are elements of the state. The material of the state is divided amongst them through circumstances, caprice, and personal choice of vocation. The citizens of the state are members of families and of civil society. “(Marx, 1843)

Karl-Heinz Ilting, disagrees with Marx’s characterization of Hegel however. Ilting says this difficulty can be cleared up by examining the dialectical structure of Hegel’s work.(Ilting, 1984: 212) Ilting is very critical in regards to the fine point of Hegel’s arguments. One example of a problem that Hegel finds, in in the way civil society and corporations interact. Ilting says “in Hegel’s account of civil society that the union of the particular with the universal, which is achieved in the corporation, is still incomplete because the aim of the corporation is restricted and finite.”(Ilting, 1984: 224). Ilting offers a couple reasons for his thesis that Hegel cannot offer any ‘proof’ of his argument. Ilting says that Hegel’s terminology is not suited for that kind of purpose. Ilting also says “his dialectical method as practised in the Philosophy of Right is unsuitable for the purpose.” (Ilting, 1984: 226) For Ilting, Hegel does not off the necessary proof for his argument.

Hegel’s concept of civil society focuses around the dialectical interaction between the particularity of civil society and the universality of the state. It is through the combination of the two that allows the modern state to have actual, concrete freedom. As Beiser, Cristi, and Ilting show, Hegel presents a liberal philosophy of the state and civil society which also critiques liberalism because of the way the market acts. Marx calls Hegel’s writing “logical, pantheistic mysticism” and Ilting, for the most part agrees. Hegel does not offer the right kind of evidence or support for his theory. Ilting says this has to do with the terminology Hegel uses, as well as his dialectical method.

Hegel is still a very interesting philosopher, who with close study can reveal many issues that still happen in our world today. There is many questions about Hegel, including a question, asked by current philosophers like Slavoj Zizek, if one can even be a Hegelian today.[iv]

————————————————————–

[1] Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” Marxists Internet Archive 15 Dec. 2010. < http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch01.htm >

Marx is  referring to § 263 to § 266 of the Philosophy of Right

[1] These topics are being glossed over so as to focus on the dialectical relationship between the state and civil society.

[1] See Hegel’s endnote on this topic on page 457 of our Hegel Philosophy of Right textbook.

[1] This Zizek essay can be found for free, from the publisher’s website here: http://www.re-press.org/book-files/OA_Version_Speculative_Turn_9780980668346.pdf


[i] Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” Marxists Internet Archive 15 Dec. 2010. < http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch01.htm >

Marx is  referring to § 263 to § 266 of the Philosophy of Right

[ii] These topics are being glossed over so as to focus on the dialectical relationship between the state and civil society.

[iii] See Hegel’s endnote on this topic on page 457 of our Hegel Philosophy of Right textbook.

[iv] This Zizek essay can be found for free, from the publisher’s website here: http://www.re-press.org/book-files/OA_Version_Speculative_Turn_9780980668346.pdf

Works Cited

Beiser, Frederick (2005). Hegel. New York: Routledge.

Cristi, Renato (2005). Hegel on Freedom and Authority. Cardiff: University of Wales.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1991). Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Ed. Allen W. Wood. Trans. H.B, Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ilting, Karl-Heinz (1971). “The structure of Hegel’s Philosophy of RightHegel’s Political Philosophy: Problems and Perspectives. Ed Z. A. Pelczynski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 90-110.

—–      (1984). “The Dialectic of civil society” The State and Civil Society: Studies in Hegel’s Political Philosophy. Ed Z. A. Pelczynski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 211-226

Marx, Karl. “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right” Marxists Internet Archive 15 Dec. 2010. < http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/ch01.htm&gt;

Pelczynski, Z. A. (1984) “The significance of Hegel’s separation of the state and civil society” The State and Civil Society: Studies in Hegel’s Political Philosophy. Ed Z. A. Pelczynski. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1-13.

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January 5, 2011
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Gaza Youth Breaks Out: Manifesto for change (via Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts)

January 4, 2011

Saw this posted on Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts and I knew it should be reposted.

Gaza Youth Breaks Out: Manifesto for change A small  Gazan student collective, which calls itself Gaza Youth Breaks Out (GYBO) recently posted a 'manifesto for change' that I want to reproduce here, below. The group has a facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gaza-Youth-Breaks-Out-GYBO/118914244840679 Here is a link to a youth organisation in Gaza recently closed down by Hamas, which is mentioned in the manifesto: http://www.sharek.ps/gaza-youth-work-forbidden Here's a story writte … Read More

via Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts

Is Reserving Judgement Virtue Enough?

December 21, 2010

Is Reserving Judgement Virtue Enough?

In her work, Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing, Miranda Fricker outlines several interesting concepts and questions relating to both epistemology and ethics. The two most important concepts Fricker introduces are the ideas of testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. These concepts attempt to address the way our social structures influence a person’s testimony and hermeneutical resources. One such case Fricker discusses is taken from the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley, in which Herbert Greenleaf, a social elite, dismisses the claims of his son’s fiancée, Marge, calling them just ’feminine intuition.’ Towards the end of her work, Fricker mentions that had Mr. Greenleaf “might have sensed the alienness of to him as a man of her intuitive style as a woman and reserved his judgement. This might have been virtue enough.”[1] I believe that had he reserved judgement, he would not have acted in a virtuous manner for reasons which will be outlined later.

Fricker uses two different concepts to show the kind of injustices in which Marge experiences at the hands of Mr. Greenleaf. These injustices are testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. Testimonial injustice occurs when “someone is wronged specifically in her capacity as a knower.”[2] Fricker says that these kinds of injustices come from a credibility gap which separates someone’s actual ability from what society sees them as capable of doing. These gaps can work both ways, with someone gaining more credibility then they deserve, for example because of their accent, or maybe because of their position in society. The example Fricker uses to illustrate testimonial injustice in action is an example taking from How to Kill a Mocking Bird,  in which a jury composed of white people from the southern United States do not believe the testimony of Tom Robinson. Even with the facts laid out in front of them “leads at once to a gross epistemic failure and an appalling ethical failure of grave practical consequences.”[3]

Fricker goes on to identify the primary and secondary harms of testimonial injustice, just as she will do for hermeneutical injustice later. The primary harm of testimonial injustice is that “to be wronged in one’s capacity as a knower is to be wronged in a capacity essential to human value. When one is undermined or otherwise wronged in a capacity essential to human value, one suffers an intrinsic injustice.”[4] The secondary harm is a range of things that follow from the primary harm. Fricker gives the example of someone found guilty being given a fine. Another example is a minority being denied a job because of their race, then being accused of being a welfare leech.

Hermeneutical injustice, which is arguably worse then testimonial injustice, is defined in two ways by Fricker.  The first definition, for structural hermeneutical injustice, is “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding owning to a structural identity prejudice in the collective hermeneutic resource.”[5] Fricker defines a structural identity prejudice to be any prejudice against someone in virtue of their being in a socially powerless group. This is the kind of hermeneutical injustice that Fricker is most concerned with. She addresses incidental or generic hermeneutical, which she defines as “the injustice of having some significant area of one’s social experience obscured from collective understanding owing to hermeneutical marginalization.”[6] Hermeneutical injustice also has greater harms then the ones associated with testimonial injustice due to the way in which hermeneutical injustice so often has a structural form which makes it very difficult to escape.

The primary harm of structural hermeneutical injustice is the way in which it “concerns exclusion from the pooling of knowledge owing to structural identity prejudice in the collective hermeneutical resource.”[7] This greatly inhibits the ability of the subject to articulate in an intelligible way her experiences. Fricker also mentions the secondary harm of hermeneutical injustice which is “those harms which render the collective hermeneutical impoverishment asymmetrically disadvantageous to the wronged party.”[8] These two harms, primary and secondary, come together to seriously damage the way one constructs their own identity and how they view their ‘self’. Take Edmund White’s example from A Boys Own Story. White, who was homosexual while growing up in the 1950s, experienced a stereotype of what a homosexual was, which was not how White viewed himself. His attempts at articulating her experience to others is dismissed, and not given the adequate evaluation it is due. The other thing which often plays a feature in hermeneutical injustice is the fact that it is based upon systematic discrimination means that hermeneutical injustice is often accompanied by testimonial injustice. The two combined together definitely to be wronged in their capacity to be considered fully human.

In order to help solve the problem of hermeneutical and testimonial injustice, Fricker introduces a virtue theory of morality, centering around what she calls the virtue of epistemic justice. In her book, Fricker describes the virtue of epistemic justice as

“alertness or sensitivity to the possibility that the difficulty one’s interlocutor is having as she tries to render something communicatively intelligible is due not to its being a nonsense or her being a fool but rather to some sort of  gap in the collective hermeneutical resources.”[9]

The virtue of epistemic justice is something which must for the most part be consciously applied in our actions until it becomes a natural reflex. Writing in response to other philosophers views on he book, Fricker clarifies what exactly  her virtue would entail. Fricker says that “(a) notice that we are in a situation in which the credibility we spontaneously give the speaker is likely to be deflated by prejudice.” [10] and “(b) correct for any such deflation, either pre-emptively or after the fact of initial judgement, or, indeed, by suspending judgement in some measure.”[11] These two actions together are meant to identify when testimonial and hermeneutical injustice takes place and then to act or correct for the initial credibility deficit which led to the injustice in the first place. Without being able to identify testimonial or hermeneutical injustice, one would not be able to correct for the actions which lead to the primary and secondary harms mentioned previously.

Before turning to a closer look at the Marge and Mr. Greenleaf, it would be worthwhile to look at some of the criticisms and comments Fricker received from Linda Alcoff and Christopher Hookway. Alcoff is particular brings up a very important question which is central to the last chapter of Fricker’s book, as well as getting to the heart of the virtue of epistemic justice. Alcoff asks about the way identity works in conjunction with testimonial injustice. Alcoff says that the drive of Fricker’s notion of justice is the aim of neutrality or “the aim of becoming inured to either unearned privilege or undeserved demerit, where one might learn to correctly and fairly assess when identity is truly relevant … and to ignore it in all other cases.”[12] This is one half of the virtue of epistemic justice, but what concerns Alcoff is questions around the idea of ones social standpoint. She says “But what if identity is not merely the source of unearned merit or undeserved demerit, but a general epistemic resource…but because one is structurally positioned in society to tend to see what I cannot?”[13] Alcoff is alluding to the idea of standpoint theory like the like advocated by feminist philosophers or others like Charles Mill. Standpoint theory says that different parts of society have a different understanding than those at the top for example. Attached to this question is the idea if our actions in regards to trying to stop epistemic injustice is even something that is actually possible to achieve.

Miranda Fricker takes time to address Alcoff’s criticism, beginning by addressing her main concern, if critical reflection can accomplish the job of detecting prejudice. Fricker starts by saying that although not an easy task, eliminating prejudice is “an easily achievable ideal, my emphasis on critical self-reflection as an effective means of self-regulation for prejudice finds significant support in the empirical literature.”[14] Fricker  cites social psychology papers which show that critical reflection can help us to identify prejudice. Fricker uses the idea of certain cues one can use to be able to detect prejudice when critical reflection is used. Fricker says “For a conscientious person, it may be a matter of catching herself engaged in a stereotyped perception of a speaker, and the cognitive dissonance is between her perception and her own doxastically held standards for good epistemic conduct.”[15] Fricker makes it clear that the first step towards the elimination or neutralization of prejudice must be found in critical reflection.

Christopher Hookway takes a different approach in writing about Fricker’s ideas then Linda Alcoff. Hookway in his paper introduces a wider range of epistemic injustices outside of testimonial and hermeneutical injustices. Hookway begins the descriptions of his wider from of epistemic injustice by saying “My concern is that the resources we make use of in exercising our epistemic agency are richer and more varied than is often supposed.”[16] Hookway is interested in injustices which can be called intrinsically epistemic, yet do not have a testimonial factor associated with them. Hookway offers an initial case of ‘epistemic’ injustice, where a research scientist is unable to finish their research because of a shortage of child care. Hookway says that  this merely because of the way the scientists goals are epistemic in nature. The kind of case that Hookway is getting at is “a poor teacher whose behaviour in dealing with a student can be seen to manifest a kind of epistemic injustice, shaped by a prejudicial use of a stereotype of a student.”[17] In this case, the teacher provides information when the student asks, and when the student says they do not understand something, they are believed. When the student asks a question that is not a question for information, but an attempt to further the debate, then the teacher “makes a presumption of irrelevance and ignores the question or takes things over and construes the question as a request for information that is loosely related to the question asked.”[18] Hookway says this is an epistemic injustice because the student is not treated as a full participant in the dialogue. This allows Hookway to identify a new way to label epistemic injustices. These new labels are participatory, like the teacher example, and the second which is an informational perspective.

In her response, Fricker by affirming her support for what Hookway is doing and says that she had intended for epistemic injustice to be an umbrella category. She does however defend her idea that “testimonial and hermeneutical injustice are basic kinds of epistemic injustice, from which most others (perhaps all others of the discriminatory sort) can been seen to stem; and with testimonial injustice being…the most basic of all.”[19] Fricker says that without drawing the specific contours and colourations of epistemic injustice, that cases which are normally more hidden would be taken just as social injustices as opposed to epistemic injustices. Fricker agrees with Hookway in his description of the teacher and student, agreeing that it is a case of epistemic injustice. Fricker says “I would maintain the value of bringing such cases under the general head of testimonial injustice, on the ground that the basic form of all these variations of the injustice remains prejudicial credibility deficit.”[20] Fricker admits this is stretching the meaning of testimony, but I agree with her characterization. I feel that the division that Hookway uses is not as valuable as Fricker’s, I think it would be worth keeping, just to help best classify different kinds of epistemic injustice.

Now is the time to take a closer look at the case of Marge and Mr. Greenleaf from The Talented Mr Ripley, and to try and answer the question of whether reserving judgement in cases like this is virtue enough. In the movie, Mr Greenleaf plays a wealthy elite with a son in Italy he wants returned. Mr Greenleaf pays Mr Ripley to bring Dickey back from Italy. While in Italy, Ripley befriends Dickey, and eventually murders him and ends up stealing some of his possessions and his identity. Marge, Dickey’s fiancée, feels that the story of Dickey committing suicide has to be false and ends up finding one of Dickey’s rings, which Marge gave him as a gift, in Tom Ripley’s room. When Marge outlines her concerns and what she learned to Mr. Greenleaf he dismisses what she says as being mere female intuition. Marge suffers from testimonial injustice due to the credibility deficit Mr. Greenleaf views her as having.

This case is interesting because it shows how testimonial injustice works, as well as the secondary harms, which see Marge beginning to act ‘hysterical’, which perversely justifies Mr Greenleaf’s initial judgement of Marge having a credibility deficit. One of the things Fricker says towards the end of her book, which is quoted on the first page of this essay, the idea that had Mr. Greenleaf simply reserved judgement instead of dismissing her claims, then what Mr Greenleaf had done may have been virtue enough. Fricker, following her remark on Mr Greenleaf says that “interestingly, we can see from the profile we have drawn of the virtue that there are limits to the extent to which it can be possessed fully.”[21] That is to say, if it requires critical reflection, it is hard for it to be taken instantly.

As for the question of whether reserving judgement would be virtue enough, I would have to say that Mr Greenleaf would not be virtuous just from reserving judgement. There are two main arguments for this stance. The first has to do with the way social power, and power disparities lead to and cause the structural setting which enables testimonial or hermeneutical injustice. Those with the most power have the greatest ability to change the system, and it is currently set up mostly for their benefit. Different groups and classes have power over others, for example rich having power over poor, or as in the case of Marge, men having power over women. Fricker says that Mr Greenleaf “silences her suspicions of  the murderous Ripley by exercising identity power, the identity power he inevitably has as a man over her as a woman.”[22]

The second argument for why reserving judgement would not be virtue enough has to do with the idea that those with the more power then others have to be more responsible for their use of power. A king must be more concerned with how justly he acts in regards to others as opposed to a serf.  Those in a position of privilege, as a result from their social power have a responsibility to act virtuously because they are the ones who set examples and help shape what behaviour is acceptable. What the rich do, often filters down to the middle class, and finally to the lowest classes. Herbert Greenleaf is clearly shown to be  extremely wealthy, his son is living in Italy off of his allowance, and he can pay for someone to bring him his son, and later a private investigator to go to another continent. This amount of wealth  and power comes with the responsibility to act in a virtuous manner.

When Mr. Greenleaf dismisses Marge’s claims in regards to Mr. Ripley, he is acting in an ‘acceptable’ manner in his time, but he does not listen to what Marge has to say with any sort of critical reflexivity, which means he is missing out on the truth. He misses out on the truth because instead of critical reflection, Mr Greenleaf simply asserts his traditional power as a man over her as a women. I would consider the unreflexive use of power to not be virtuous, and that unvirtuous means cannot have virtuous ends. Doing anything but listening to what Marge has to say and taking it into account is falling short of doing one’s duty to critically examine all information we hear. Simply reserving judgement means not doing the right thing. Take Singer’s example of a drowning child, if you reserve judgement instead of saving the child, is that not just as bad as walking away?  Reserving judgement is not virtue enough, but it is a step in the right direction of what is the right thing to do.

Miranda Fricker introduces the concepts of testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice in her work Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing, as well as introducing the concept of a virtue of epistemic justice. Linda Alcoff and Christopher Hookway ask interesting questions of Fricker, particularly Alcoff, which Fricker is able to answer in a satisfactory answer. As for the question of whether reserving judgement can be considered virtuous enough, the arguments offered suggest that simply reserving judgement is not virtuous enough, but it is a step in the right direction. At the end of her reply to Alcoff and Hookway, Fricker mentions how her work will turn to a more political aspect of epistemic injustice. I think that this new work will offer even more information, as well as more perspective to add to this question of whether reserving judgment is virtue enough.


[1] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.  172

[2] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 20

[3] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 26

[4] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 44

[5] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 155

[6] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 158

[7] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 162

[8] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 162

[9] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 169

[10] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” Episteme 7, no. 2 (2010): 164-165

[11] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” 165

[12] Alcoff, Linda Martin. “Epistemic Identities.” Episteme 7, no. 2 (2010): 134

[13] Alcoff, Linda Martin. “Epistemic Identities.” Episteme 7, no. 2 (2010): 135

[14] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” 165

[15] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” 165

[16] Hookway, Christopher. “Some Varieties of Epistemic Injustice: Reflections on Fricker.” Episteme 7, no. 2 (2010): 153

[17] Hookway, Christopher. “Some Varieties of Epistemic Injustice: Reflections on Fricker.” 155

[18] Hookway, Christopher. “Some Varieties of Epistemic Injustice: Reflections on Fricker.” 155

[19] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” 174

[20] Fricker, Miranda. “Replies to Alcoff, Goldberg, and Hookway On Epistemic Injustice.” 175

[21] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 172

[22] Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice: Power & the Ethics of Knowing. 14

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December 20, 2010

Henri Bourassa, French Canada, and the Conscription Crisis

December 18, 2010

Henri Bourassa, French Canada, and the Conscription Crisis

Joseph-Napoléon-Henri Bourassa (1868-1952) was a French-Canadian political figure and Member of Parliament from Quebec. Bourassa was a member of the Liberal Party and an independent under a National Party. Bourassa believed in a very particular kind of Canadian nationalism, which consisted of the two races of Canada, French and English, living harmoniously as one nation, French and English from coast to coast. Bourassa also had very particular ideas when it came to issues such as conscription. By examining the events of the Conscription Crisis of 1917, such as how the government responded to the crisis as well as their motivations for doing so, one can see the total rejection of Bourassa’s nationalism, as well as the future turn away from ideas of French Canada to ideas of French Quebec.

Henri Bourassa presents Canadians with a unique form of Canadian Nationalism, which he hoped would be able to unite our country. Before addressing what exactly Bourassa’s concept was, it would be useful to look at the elements which influenced it. One of the biggest impacts upon Bourassa’s thought was “the impact upon Canada of the new imperialism, opening up prospects of direct involvement in imperial wars, in an age of mounting imperial rivalries.”[1] Canada had been asked to join imperial wars in Africa, such as the Boer War, and to produce a navy, to help forward imperialist goals. Two other things which had a great influence on Bourassa was the speed in which the western provinces of Canada developed following the turn of the century, as well as the “whole complex of adaptations – ideological, moral, economic, and social – being made in response to the coming of North American urban industrialism to the province of Quebec.”[2] These three elements would greatly shape Bourassa’s form of nationalism by identifying what exactly he wanted to work against, which was British imperialism, and the English-Canadian cultural imperialism which was at work.

To reach his goal, Bourassa became an independent MP, and formed the basis of a national party which would follow his political programme. Bourassa’s national movement was based on three particular ideas, all of which address the previous concerns mentioned. The first idea was to slow the pace of industrial change in Quebec. The second idea was “to fight imperialism and to foster the maximum independence of Canada compatible with remaining under the crown…[and] orient Canada’s defence policy into the direction of neutrality in wars of the Empire.”[3] The third idea was to speak for a union of French and Anglos throughout Canada “requiring the spread of French-Catholic groups into English speaking provinces with the provision therein of Catholic education and general bilingualism.”[4]

The first idea addresses the third concern Bourassa had, about Quebec changing into an urban industrial society, whereas the second idea addresses Bourassa’s concern over British imperialism and imperial wars. The third idea, was to address the way the western provinces had grown rapidly into being all English speaking by law, where Bourassa wished to have bilingualism. Bourassa, responding to a critic, Jules Paul Tardivel, said “Our nationalism is a Canadian nationalism founded on the duality of the races and the distinctive traditions that duality implies.”[5]

For Bourassa, it was important to “repudiate the concept of the ‘Quebec reservation’ that is the view of 1867 that Quebec would be the French province and the other provinces would be English.”[6] Bourassa believed that French Catholic communities, like “little provinces of Quebec” placed throughout Canada would help unite the two peoples, as well as address the concern over the United States of America converting away the culture of Canadians. Bourassa argued that this would grant the rest of Canada a kind of homogeneity, where the whole country would be French or English, but still living together in the same country.  Bourassa saw the way the French were labelled French-Canadian, while the English just considered themselves to be Canadian without a hyphen. However, as Robert Bothwell points out “Henri Bourassa and those who thought like him – including some English Canadians as well as Laurier – tended to believe that English Canadians were the ultimate hyphenated nationality”[7] Bourassa believed that if one could eliminate the empire, then “perhaps a real sense of common Canada would finally emerge.”[8] Bourassa’s idea of Canadian nationalism was based on the idea of all of Canada being French and English, as well as being our own peaceable kingdom under the Crown. Under this kind of system, the default when one thinks of a Canadian would no longer be exclusively an Anglophone.

Bourassa’s view on conscription was shaped greatly by his views on Canadian nationalism, in particular his anti-imperialism. Bourassa was not against all forms of conscription, he had no problem with Canada contributing to the war effort to help England and France as long as “Canada participate ‘as a nation’ or even as a ‘human community’; that is she think of her ‘relations with the world at large’; that is, that she intervene on other then imperial grounds.”[9] This represents a much more progressive view of Canada’s place in the world then was represented by the federal parties. Edward Porritt, writing in 1918, says “the war had been the dominating factor in Canadian politics since the autumn of 1914; and for seventeen years before the war.”[10] The war became the biggest issue in Canada after it started and this lead to the question of whether Canada would conscript soldiers to send to war.

Bourassa believed that Canada should only conscript its soldiers if it served the end term goal of achieving independence from England and its foreign policy. Bourassa said that “Canada could even have used its participation in the war as a means to increase freedoms, merely by obtaining from England and her allies an acknowledgement of its fully independent role.”[11] Without achieving greater freedoms from England, Canada would be making too great a sacrifice for the gains it could receive. Richard writes that “Bourassa … had come to believe instead that the country could do no more, having already fielded a larger proportion of its population (six percent of the population) than England, France and the United States.”[12] When it looked like it was a sure thing for the conscription bill to pass through the House of Commons, Bourassa and others tried to insist on a plebiscite to be help to determine the way the government would act. Bourassa

“believed that a direct popular vote was the best strategy to ensure social peace and order, and, more importantly, to rebuild national unity on a fresh basis. He wagered that ‘if conscription is accepted unreservedly by an absolute majority of all voters, French Canadians will accept it.’”[13]

We can see by what Bourassa says that he feels it is very important to maintain national unity, as well as his ability to accept conscription if it would increase the greater good. Bourassa also had to deal with the threat of violence in reaction to conscription in Quebec. Garth Stevenson writes “In Quebec mainstream nationalism after the Act of Union became closely associated with Catholicism, conservatism, and hostility to revolutionary violence.”[14] The question this quote raises is to what extent were the actions of the people of Quebec in response to the enforcement of conscription could be considered revolutionary violence. Bourassa encouraged a policy of non-action, and hoped that it would be enough, as he did not want to advocate unlawful actions.

The French public’s reaction to the Military Service Act has been labelled by some as the Easter Riots, which began on March 28th, 1918. The riots were started by the heavy handed enforcement of the MSA by two dominion police officers who arrested a young man when he was unable to produce his exemption certificate. [15] A large group of people, angry at the conduct of the police, followed the officers to the station, where they attacked the building and beat several officers. The next day rumours circulated that the rioters planned to attack government buildings. There was trouble at first getting an adequate response to the crowds, but by the second day of rioting the Canadian government had planned a response, Martin Auger writes “Borden decided to invoke the wide-ranging provisions of the War Measures Act … and declared that the federal government would now be in charge of the preservation of law and order in Quebec City.”[16] This lead to the deployment of Canadian soldiers to the streets of Quebec to restore order.

One way this was done was by sending English speaking soldiers from Ontario while keeping the French speaking soldiers in their barracks. The government was afraid that the French soldiers would join with the rioters and lead to even greater chaos, or possibly even revolution, as had just occurred in Russia. Auger gives other reasons why the government acted as swiftly as it did such as “the near collapse of Italy, and widespread mutinies in the French Army, to name but a few events that occurred in 1917, raised serious concerns about an Allied victory.”[17] There also was concerns from the English, that the people of Quebec could follow the Irish example and engage in an armed uprising. Another major concern was the different parts of the military-industrial complex which were in Quebec and necessary for the war effort to continue. Quebec housed “an important communication and transportation centre with dockyards and railway facilities, as well as vital telegraph and telephone lines connecting eastern and western Canada.”[18] as well as small arms factories and as well as important ship building infrastructure.

Quebec already had a recent history of terrorist activities, the dynamitards, who had blown up the residence of the owner of a pro-conscription newspaper. Auger writes that the “Canadian authorities then learned that the dynamitards planned to bomb other targets, including the Canadian Parliament, and to assassinate Prime Minister Borden and top government officials supporting conscription.”[19] This gave the government many different ideas of how the situation in Quebec could go wrong, and how catastrophic it could be. The Canadian government acted on the fears of what the Easter Riots could potentially become, instead of what actually was occurring. Examples of this can be found easily. One such case features fears of the mob gathering firearms and other weapons, the government ordered all hardware store owners “to move their firearms, ammunition, and explosives to safer locations, such as the Citadel, with the assistance of soldiers. About four hundred troops were used for that purpose that afternoon.”[20] The soldiers felt threatened and General Landry had his 980 soldiers “patroll the streets on foot, horseback, and in motorized vehicles, and stand guard at strategic locations. Machine guns were placed at several locations around the city, particularly near federal buildings.”[21]

The culmination of these events occurred on Monday, April 1st, when over a thousand soldiers from Ontario where on the streets of Quebec City. Before long, certain areas had too many people for the soldiers to control. They ordered the people to disperse, but the people then “reassembled and hurled stones, snowballs, ice, and bricks at the soldiers. Later, some armed rioters began shooting at the troops from rooftops, side streets, alleyways, snow banks, and other places of concealment.”[22] The soldiers opened fire with their weapons and the crowd then dispersed. Many rioters and soldiers were injured, with exact counts unknown. These events “marked the end of rioting in Quebec City. Overall, the Easter Riots caused more than 150 casualties and an estimated $300,000 worth of damage.”[23]

The end of the rioting, however did not lead directly to the English speaking soldiers leaving Quebec. The Government of Canada was nervous regarding the end of the violence, and many feared worse would happen, “including Prime Minister Borden, worried that the upheaval might signal the beginning of ‘unrest,’ ‘insurrection,’ ‘rebellion,’ and even ‘civil war’ in Quebec. Accordingly, Borden firmly supported a strong military intervention.”[24] This led to the introduction of the War Measures Act, which enabled the government to legalize the use of the military to stop any riot or insurrection which took place, it allowed for martial law to be imposed in the affected area, and finally it suspended habeas corpus rights. “declaring that any person captured, arrested, or taken into military custody for participating in any riot or insurrection would be detained without bail until released by direction of the minister of militia and defence.”[25] English soldiers would be in Quebec until the end of the war, as the Borden government could not let go of their fears that the violence in Quebec was not over.

By the time the war was over, Henri Bourassa’s vision of Canadian nationalism had been totally shattered. The greater two requirements of Bourassa’s nationalism, its anti-imperialism and idea of a French-English Canada, were shown to be totally disregarded by the federal Unionist government. The Unionists not only blatantly participated in England’s imperialist war, they had done so with a gusto, even going as far as to chastise Quebec for not matching its volunteer rate. The Unionist government also engaged in the war without any of the guarantees which Bourassa wanted from England, such as a formal recognition of Canada’s independent role.
More importantly however, it destroyed any chance of the French and English being equal partners in Canada. The government had shown that it could run the country with enough votes from English Canada that French Canada could be discarded if it did not agree. Bourassa believed that by having the Canadian national identity be based around being both French and English was the only way to protect Canadian culture from being subsumed by the United States of America. English Canada alone either might not resist the American culture enough to stay independent or be strong enough to resist. The change in language laws in provinces like Ontario and Manitoba signalled to the French Canadians that their language and culture was not welcome in the western provinces, which left them only with Quebec. This helps explain the shift from French Canadian nationalism to Québécois nationalism, as outside of their own province they had no real say in how things were governed. The Federal government, from the Québécois perspective, always ends with the English triumphing over the French everywhere expect Quebec, and so Quebec must be protected.

Henri Bourassa’s Canadian Nationalism offers a chance to see how French Canadians saw their place in Canada at the beginning of the twentieth century and why it changed from French Canadian to Québécois in nature. Bourassa’s policies of anti-imperialism, French-Catholic settlements throughout Canada creating a harmony between peoples, and his idea of slowing urban industrial growth were all shown to come up short. Canada gained its independence through engaging in England’s imperialist war, and the urbanization of Quebec as inevitable. Bourassa’s idea of a more harmonious Canada, which is French and English in every province represented a way for Canada to include the French Canadians as equal partners in our country, and had policies along this line been followed, then there is a chance that Quebec would not want to separate from Canada. It is too late for this policy to work, but the encouragement of greater bilingualism may help reach some of the desired effect. Henri Bourassa would want to be remembered not as a Québécois, or a French Canadian, but simply as a Canadian.


[1] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science / Revue canadienne d’Economique et de Science politique 19, no. 3 (1953): 361

[2] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 361

[3] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 362

[4] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 362

[5] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 363

[6] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 372

[7] Bothwell, Robert. Canada and Quebec: One Country Two Histories. 2 ed. Vancouver: UBC Press, 1998. 55

[8] Bothwell, Robert. Canada and Quebec: One Country Two Histories. 55

[9] O’Connell, M.P.. “The Ideas of Henri Bourassa.” 375

[10] Porritt, Edward. “The Coalition Government at Ottawa.” The American Political Science Review 12, no. 3 (1918): 504

[11] Richard, Béatrice. “Henri Bourassa and Conscription: Traitor or Saviour?.” Canadian Military Journal 7, no. 4 (2006): 76

[12] Richard, Béatrice. “Henri Bourassa and Conscription: Traitor or Saviour?.” 78

[13] Richard, Béatrice. “Henri Bourassa and Conscription: Traitor or Saviour?.” 78

[14] Stevenson, Garth. “The Politics of Remembrance in Irish and Quebec Nationalism  .” Canadian Journal of Political Science 37, no. 4 (2004): 914

[15] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” Canadian Historical Review 89, no. 4 (2008): 508

[16] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 511

[17] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 512

[18] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 512

[19] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 507

[20] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 517

[21] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 517

[22] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 518

[23] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 520

[24] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 524

[25] Auger, Martin. “On the Brink of Civil War: The Canadian Government and the Suppression of the 1918 Quebec Easter Riots.” 525-526

December update

December 9, 2010

I wanted to post what i am going to put up in the next couple weeks. I have an essay on henri bourassa and french canadian nationalism, an essay on fricker’s epistemology, and an essay on hegel’s conception of civil society. I plan to post some more updates as well in between these three.

comment if you want anything, i will try and accomadate you

Peace,
GLS