Darwinian Institutionalism

Happy belated birthday to Charles Darwin, and happy belated bicentennial! Two hundred years ago, Charles Darwin wrote a less famous treatise on morality titled The Moral Sense of Man.

Most striking to me, from a political standpoint, are these lines: "As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races...as man gradually advanced in intellectual power...so would the standard of his morality rise higher and higher."

What Darwin argues in this treatise is that there are two types of moral instincts in men. The lower instinct is that which relates to self-preservation; this is the self-interest that Smith capitalized on (pun intended). The higher instinct is that which relates to man's care for his fellow man, his community, and to humanity. Darwin argues that a finer mind would lead to a more compassionate heart.

This is all very interesting from the standpoint of an educator: if you're training the "leaders of tomorrow," how do you help your students "advance in intellectual power" in a way that will rise their "standard of his morality higher and higher?" A later post will explore that.

From the international relations stand-point, Darwin's prediction that the march of civilization will be marked by increasing cooperation has been accurate thus far. While he was writing, the West practiced a very pure form of realpolitik - statecraft based solely on self-interest. We now associate our own self-preservation with the good of the human race or at least a large slice of it. The EU is a prime example of it.

Bushfire Defense

Image credit: Aussie_Pecker/flickr

This is a place to interactively examine the lessons from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires and similar events, with a view to finding solutions to the problems of living in an environment that can produce such fires.

Individual isolated houses and tree lined streets need to be re-engineered to allow amenity and survivability.

Lying in Politics Revisited: The Iraq War in the Age of the Internet

Presented to the Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy Conference, Auckland, December 2008.


Hannah Arendt's "Lying in Politics" is a pithy essay which not only documents the extent of public deception and personal self-deception by the U.S. administration during their military intervention in Indochina, but also acts as a commentary on her argument for liberty and freedom ensured through constitutional protections and the human motivation to protect those principles.

Forty years later somewhat similar circumstances have arisen. Based on false assertions of the presence of weapons of mass destruction and collaboration with Al-Qaeda (along with other justifications), the world's greatest superpower finds itself embroiled in a war that appears to have no conclusion, suffers a lack of support on the domestic front, and is under profound international criticism.

In addition to revisiting the replication of deception by political administrations to their population contrary to known reality, there are also the issue of significant changes to the acquisition of popular knowledge of popular knowledge that deviates from the official line. The internationalisation of media and the establishment of mass communication systems have profoundly altered the human condition of consciousness generation, but also has different effects in matters of civil disobedience.



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