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Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

Warning, this is a long post.


For some time now (probably two years) I have been working my way towards this point of view, though it is still definitely a work in progress. Very simply put it is this: I believe that the notion of nation is inherently flawed and irrational and hence that it is irrational to want to belong to a national community.

I will state at the outset that I am a third culture child, so British parents, but brought up in Belgium, went to a sort of international school etc. and this may explain (causally) why I argue as I do (though what matters is whether the arguments are sound, not where they come from).

I am going to use a rather general account of National Identity, shared culture, history, language and a desire to live together. Of these history is going to be the most important, followed closely by culture (lots of nations share languages and non-nations can easily desire to live together).

This shared history and culture is going to be central to national identity in a way that language and desire to live together are not.

Language because same language does not imply same nation (consider England vs. Scotland vs. Australia vs. America vs. India etc.), so it is not a sufficient basis for a nation, and nor is it a necessary one, for it is conceivable that a nation can be formed from different linguistic communities (perhaps Belgium, or Yugoslavia before it broke up). So neither necessary, nor sufficient, but rather only something it is useful to have.

Desire to live together is necessary to the notion of nationhood, after all it is hardly possible to claim identity with some greater group and yet wish to be entirely separate from them. Add to this the idea that nationhood generally implies a move towards statehood (or is held to do so). It is not however sufficient, after all many groups of people have similar desires to live together, even in states of their own. Cults move out to the desert to commune with their conception of God (or other), certain people want states identified by religious affiliation etc. A desire to live together does not imply or entail nationhood, so it is not sufficient.

More central to nationhood is shared history and culture, which will certainly be necessary to nationality and although they will only be jointly sufficient to provide a foundation for nationhood with desire to live together, I would suggest that a reasonable interpretation of this desire is that it springs from the shared history and culture.

So, if I can show that there is some problem with the notion of shared culture and history, then I think I can show that there is a problem with the notion of nationhood.

What is my gripe with shared history and culture then? The answer is very simple, boundaries. There are no boundaries to what belongs to nation which are not drawn from the notion of nationhood already. What I mean by this is that to know what, say, British history is, we need already to know what it is to be British (I admit that Britain is not a nation, but it is not relevantly different with regards to the purposes of this argument)

It cannot be defined by physical location, i.e. “British history is what ever happened in this area of land, which we nowadays call the UK”, because paradigmatically “British” history occurred all over the place, from the battle of Trafalgar, to India, to the South Pole. So perhaps we might describe British history as that which is performed by British people, but there we must define what it is to be British without relying upon a notion of British nationality. Again the territorial option is not good enough, Wellington was born in Ireland, Tolkien in South Africa, and many other famous Britons elsewhere in the world. We might suggest something about being born to British parents, but then that seems to cause problems for naturalisation as well as requiring some people to be British without being born to British parents.

Even if we accepted this definition of British people as the basis for British history, we still would not get what we wanted. Apparently, the majority of sailors and ships on the victorious side in that sea battle were, by the above definition, not British. When ships were captured, it was often the case that the crews would be hired by the side that captured them, and so, apparently, the majority of ships and crews on the “British” side were French and Spanish in fact. Was it therefore a British victory? One might argue, I suppose that it was led by Nelson who was British and hence that the event in question was a British victory. But then on that account, the battle of Waterloo was a joint British-Swedish victory, for Blucher, the commander of the Prussian forces, was Swedish.

Perhaps it might be argued that historical events are “owned” by whichever nation it most effects, so the victory at Trafalgar safeguarded Britain against invasion by Napoleonic troops etc. But then causal effects spread out in all directions, irrespective of nationhood. Pearl Harbour ensured that Britain was able to stand against Germany by ensuring that America entered the war (admittedly Hitler declared war on America), and so by causal action, Pearl Harbour seems as much to belong to British history as to American or Japanese.

In the end, the only reasonable interpretation of historical events which allows one to place ownership of them in one camp or another is the explicit or implicit use of the notion of nationhood. Trafalgar is a British victory, because it was done by “Britain” in “Britain’s” national interest. No other account of ownership of history can account for everything which is supposed to be paradigmatically owned by some particular nation.

But if we accept this interpretation, we find that our notion of nationhood relies upon shared history and culture and the notion of sharing history and culture relies upon the notion of nationhood. Rather, we imagine a community, an identity which we then impose on objects which we find in the world. We will never meet and come to know every other person in our nation, so we imagine that there is something held in common between us, this history, but the history itself is imagined (i.e. the ownership of it is).

Again an example might help make my point. The Blitz in 1940. Imagine two people, A and B. A lives in a nice part of London whereas B lives in a less nice area and the two have never, nor will never meet. One night during the Blitz B’s house is hit and completely destroyed and what little is left is looted. My complaint is that people identify A and B as having both essentially lived through the same experience in 1940, namely the Blitz. Actually the two have had completely different experiences and B will have more in common with a German person whose home and goods were destroyed than she will with A. And yet there is a shared sense of “the Blitz”. It is an imagined unity. I hold that the nation is the same, we have vastly different experiences of life and yet imagine that they are unified by something “greater”, something shared. But there is nothing, it is illusory.

It might be argued that there is a unity of experience in a nation. For instance, in Britain there is a national curriculum, so every school child learns much the same thing as every other child. Or the fact that the free healthcare exists for all people creates a similarity in everyone’s lives.

I have two gripes with this. The first is that the national curriculum and the NHS exist because we have imagined that there is such a thing as a nation and shared history and hence it is reasonable to impose some general features on everyone’s lives. My second complaint is more basic and more important, I think. I disagree with the idea that everyone has the same experience. How one is taught in a school is very important to how one experiences it, just as how one is oneself (interested in learning, desirous of doing well etc.). The national curriculum does not ensure that we all experience the same sort of thing, because we are all different and were taught differently and experienced different class dynamics etc. The NHS differences are even starker, for I may never enter a hospital in my life, or I may be struck down with cancer aged 28. My experiences of the NHS will be vastly different from most other peoples, because most other people will not be ill in the same way I am, and so to believe that we experience the same thing in free healthcare is imagined.

Nations are like this, they are imagined. They are artificial. They are based upon a notion of shared history and culture (ok I haven’t specifically dealt with culture but I hope it is relatively clear how the arguments will work) which relies upon the concept what it is to belong to the nation already.

I don’t make the claim that nations are not real, if I were then whenever I made reference to “British, French, German” etc. not in quotation marks I would be speaking of unreal things and hence my arguments would reduce to meaningless incomprehensibility. My point is not that they do not exist, but that their existence is irrational and hence that they should not exist.

More generally I think that most of these arguments will apply to any community which one comes to belong to without some element of choice. I can belong to the role0playing community, in a very general sense, because I have chosen to take up role-playing as a hobby. The real feature of my enjoying role-playing games ties in to the real feature of other people enjoying role-playing games and insofar as I am interested in groups of people who share my interest (as I will be because role-playing is not a solitary activity) one might want to describe me as a member of a community. But I am not British, though I have a British passport, and I am not European, though my natural inclinations pull me towards this sort of identification.

I am two things. I am an individual defined by a point of view on the world and I am a member of the set of rational beings (rationality being a shared characteristic relevant enough to warrant identifying with a group). I relate to other people either as members of this set of rational beings (when I don’t know them and have no common or repeated interaction with them) or as individuals who I know (note both groups are to be treated with respect and dignity, but the latter group, in being friends, family and acquaintances can make other demands on me).


Right, this is a long post I realise, but I would be interested to find out what people think. view post


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Harrol, Moderator

Peter I agree with a lot of what you say but one point I believe needs to be added.

But if we accept this interpretation, we find that our notion of nationhood relies upon shared history and culture and the notion of sharing history and culture relies upon the notion of nationhood. Rather, we imagine a community, an identity which we then impose on objects which we find in the world. We will never meet and come to know every other person in our nation, so we imagine that there is something held in common between us, this history, but the history itself is imagined (i.e. the ownership of it is).

Like I said this appears to me to be true but in addition is protection. Nationhood means protection from in al ot of ways. True being a part of a nation does not mean you are protected totally but it does mean in some way you have protection. view post


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

And this is why I posted here. I did not think about protection. My initial problem is that people could band together for help without needing to be a "nation" and I wonder if people actually consider being a member of a nation for reasons of security. And if they do, how do we explain the First World War?

Anyway, got to go, but I'll hopefully get a more complete reply out soon. view post


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Harrol, Moderator

True to what you say. I believe it is the perception of protection more than anything. Also I believe having common laws and some sort of domestic protection helps out. Why have a nation still? People need leaders. Leadership appears to be defined in a society by the rules/laws. I realize my post is not perfect but I speak in terms of perception rather than actual reality. view post


Nationhood posted 11 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Will, Peralogue

I'm always a bit leery of defining something which actually exists as being "illogical" and especially of saying that it "shouldn't" exist.

Should is a bit of a silly word for conversation of the level you seem to want to have. What do you mean by "should"? Are you religious, in which case your "should" might be translated to be "Divinely commanded"? Are you an atheist (humans are lightning in meat) in which your "should" comes out as something like "I prefer that".

You state that : "their (their refers to nations) existence is irrational and hence that they should not exist. " You base the irrationality of nations upon the foundation that you have not been able to rationalize their existence. I imagine that you are also (offhand) unable to explain the full workings of your computer, or your local hospital. Clearly its irrational and shouldn't exist. The idea that your idea of rationality is the litmus test that all human institutions must pass in order to be justified (with the almighty should!) in their existence is hilarious, but oddly attractive.

Accepting then, as read, the idea that nations are not inherently logical by virtue of having come into existence and endured thousands of years of stress testing we come to the conclusion that further proof is necessary. I propose that you accept nations as rational based upon their utility. I think if you examine the actions of nations you will have some difficulty in determing another group which could and would take on those actions if nations were to be dissolved. view post


Nationhood posted 12 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

I'm always a bit leery of defining something which actually exists as being "illogical" and especially of saying that it "shouldn't" exist.


I can see where you are coming from here but I would say to you that if someone came up to you and said "I like all cats, but I hate all mammals" there is an obvious inconsistency, such that it is simply basic to our capacity to think about anything that we must think "He shouldn't think like that". If we don't think like that on some level I suggest that we don't even think.

Should is a bit of a silly word for conversation of the level you seem to want to have. What do you mean by "should"? Are you religious, in which case your "should" might be translated to be "Divinely commanded"? Are you an atheist (humans are lightning in meat) in which your "should" comes out as something like "I prefer that".


Why does an atheist have to abandon a normative (i.e. action-guiding) understanding of should? I am an atheist, but I happen to believe that certain sorts of thing are immoral, simply because they are practically inconsistent (in a technical sense of practical which refers to action). When I am not so tired I will try and find somewhere on this section of the forum where I have argued this position so you can see where I am coming from. At the very least I can tell you now that I follow Immanual Kant's system of ethics (or at least how I have understood them) and God actually must take a back seat in this. You might want to look up Plato's Eurythphro argument to see why God is not necessary for, and indeed can get in the way of, morality when issuing edicts of "Don't do X" etc.


You base the irrationality of nations upon the foundation that you have not been able to rationalize their existence. I imagine that you are also (offhand) unable to explain the full workings of your computer, or your local hospital. Clearly its irrational and shouldn't exist. The idea that your idea of rationality is the litmus test that all human institutions must pass in order to be justified (with the almighty should!) in their existence is hilarious, but oddly attractive.


The workings of a computer or a local hospital are not usually irrational. To the extent that a computer consistently came up with incorrect answers, say in a calculating programme, or the hospital came out with the explicit policy that nurses should both wear Nurses uniforms and not wear Nurses uniforms, then that running would be irrational and should be changed, in the sense of should above.

I hope that my argument is not saying "I don't understand the mechanisms behind the foundation of the notion of nationality, hence it must be irrational", but rather that "the only possible causal explanation of how the concept of nationhood is arrived at gives us only circular reasons to adopt such a notion and hence is irrational".

So, I could give an objective causal account of my writing this sentence. It would tell me nothing about the reason I wrote it. Reasons are derived from deductive and inductive (perhaps also abductive) systems of thinking and justifying and that something is caused need not have a reason.

Accepting then, as read, the idea that nations are not inherently logical by virtue of having come into existence and endured thousands of years of stress testing we come to the conclusion that further proof is necessary. I propose that you accept nations as rational based upon their utility. I think if you examine the actions of nations you will have some difficulty in determing another group which could and would take on those actions if nations were to be dissolved.


Firstly nations have not endured thousands of years of history, they have endured about 300 at the most. The concept of a nation is embedded in 17-18th century Western European thought. Scottish kilts, English manners, military parades, country-wide civil service all serve to create and bolster an imagined unity, the nation and all created in the 19th century I believe (not so sure about the military parades). My point was that the notion of naitonhood takes ownership of historical events and claims them as its own, when it is the belonging of these historical events to a unified history which are meant to create the nation. Benedict Andersen has a lovely quote (which I may find later if I can) saying something like "Nations are imagined to arise out of a distant past and sail on into a glorious invisible future"... ok he puts it better than that.

As for the utility argument. Well that might appear to make it rational to pretend to support nations with all their created community etc., but really we get to a prisoner's dilemma problem. It is rational for you to get everyone else to believe in the nation, to go off and fight wars in its name, to obey the law because "one doesn't steal from one's fellow citizen" etc., but that does not mean that if one is merely seeking utility that it is rational for you to do so. It is rational for you to duck military service because you might die. It is rational for you to steal from people to the extent that you can get away with. Essentially, where there are social goods for which one is not pivotal in providing, then it is always rational to let other people bear the burdens of the social good and gain personal goods associated with not paying these costs and still get the social goods (like security etc.).

Now I think that actually such 'rational' thinking, i.e. based in utility, is not fully rational, for reasons given by my support of Kantian ethics. We should not steal from others for reasons entirely separate from what good it will or will not do me.

I also think that nationhood has led to some of the worst outcomes imagineable in the history of humanity. Nations mobilise people in a way which is unheard of in history, save perhaps in things like the Crusades etc. Admittedly, nations have been mobilising themselves in the era of modern communications etc. which has helped enourmously, but when a nation moves in a given direction it can bring to bear enormous power, pressure and weight. The war economies of the two World Wars required modern communication, but they also required identification with the nation. In the 17th c. Dutch merchants sold guns and ammunition to countries with which they were at war and this was not thought to be odd. I very much doubt that if this attitude had been prevalent throughout society in the World Wars, that the requisite levels of mobilisation of resources and manpower would have been at all possible. To be a part of one nation is not to be a part of any other, but more than this it is to perceive other nations as rivals. Community almost by definition (though not entirely) entails a concept of the Other, who is to be reviled. Perhaps this is human nature, but if it is, it is something to be militated against. Even if nations weren't, in my view, irrational constructs which we would do well to drop as soon as possible, the horror they have wrought and made possible surely tells very much against them.

Local militias in the Congo, for instance, are horrific (and I think part of the reason they are so is because of the fact that they form a specific community which defines the Other, just as nations do), but at least they are not organised so that they can do more damage.

Now, as for the problems of getting along without nations, well I would like some sort of highly federalised world state, but insofar as this is utopian, then when dealing with the real world, I think it is more a question or trying to argue and get people away from tribalistic, particularistic groups. Perhaps I can't stop someone feeling British, but maybe I can make them hate the French less. view post


Nationhood posted 12 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Sokar, Auditor

First off..the posts are really too long..so I am going to keep it short and simple in hope you will too...

Anyway..the notion of nation is not irrational..it is our confirmity with the nation that can be seen as irrational. This brings us to the discussion you guys already have..utility vs rationality. Since rationality is just as ambiguous notion as that of a nation..it makes not sense to continue this argument. In fact I believe you are tackling the issue from a 'wrong' angle. It would be more interesting, indeed, to see how the nation comes to existance.
I have had some history classes only, so I am not sure if i am entirely correct here..but didn't the Greeks have a nation? the Persians? The fact that Euro-centric scholars see the notion of nation slowly finding its purpose! after the Middle Ages, does not mean that they never existed. I was reading Aristotle's Politics some days ago and I am sure that the word nation is in it. Now, I agree that translations (to English this time) can be deceiving, it could have just as well be the new interpretation ("there are no facts, only interpretations"), yet it could just as well be the unity of the Greeks that made them a nation..even if the notion did not exist. Furthermore, Aristotle (and so many other) often talk of the Hellenes and the barbarians, which necesserily implies that there was such a thing as the self and the other...

In any case..historical inaccuracies are not the point here..I am trying to show that the existence of nations cannot be disputed, just as both of you already agree.. But also that there is a rational thought for their exitence.. The existence of nation-states is very logical..at least them coming into being..the fixed territorial boundaries (initially for the population, eventually for resources)..in order to keep the population under the rule one must find the necessary legitimacy (based on your interpretation, I suppose you would see these as lies)..legitimacy is won slowly of course..first by security..then by extension of rights etc... I don't have much time to look into the subject right now..but my point is that their is a logical series of causes for a state..thus also a nation-state..to exist... And since I define these causes as logical..you might say they are also rational.
Our confirmity with the nation is a different matter entirely..it is bound to the self..yet one must not forget that he/she is not the same as the other, even if he/she is not unique.. That you (and me too for that matter) do not find a rational need for a nation, does not mean that others don't either.. You example of A and B supposing to have the same experience is void..because you do not have this sentiment..yet others might... C, for example, coming from Scottland, might feel the same sentiment for entire different reasons..yet his union with the rest of the Brits! can only be explained by him.. It would be his need/desire for his community (just as your need for the RPG community).

I will try to formulate my thoughts on the whole subject better next time...
Oh..and I see now that I have failed to keep it short... view post


Nationhood posted 13 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

First off..the posts are really too long..so I am going to keep it short and simple in hope you will too...


Bah, long posts are a sign of strength. Ok, you are right, long posts make for difficult reading. I defend the length of the initial post because I think the ideas need to be spellt out clearly (or as clearly as I am capable of doing). I am guilty of verbosity however.

Anyway..the notion of nation is not irrational..it is our confirmity with the nation that can be seen as irrational. This brings us to the discussion you guys already have..utility vs rationality. Since rationality is just as ambiguous notion as that of a nation..it makes not sense to continue this argument.


I am not sure I agree with you when you say that the concept of nation is not irrational, and that I argue only that our adoption of it is. A concept which implied both P and not P at the same time (this object both has three internal angles and does not have three internal angles at the same time) would be irrational and it would be irrational to adopt such a concept. I argue that the concept of nationhood can only be "justified" by reference to itself. Therefore it is circular in its nature. The concept of nationhood relies upon the concept of nationhood. Insofar as circularity is irrational, then adoption of any concept which is circular in nature must be irrational too.

I can see why one might think that the notion of rationality is ambiguous. People use it in lots of different ways in lots of different contexts. So, let us be clear about this, the rationality used here is describable in terms of intelligibility Intelligibilty is, very briefly, characterised by a minimal requirement of consistency (I cannot explicitly believe, at the same time, both P and not P and remain intelligible to someone else) and more generally a general acceptance of certain rules of thinking, principally the laws of logic. Someone who consistently states that "If P then Q, If Q then R, and finally P but not R" is failing to think intelligibly and to the extent that we cannot explain this behaviour away with reference to circumstantial facts (i.e. "he is under a lot of stress and isn't thinking clearly), then may also be classed as irrational.

With this account of rationality, I think I can say that the concept of nationhood is irrational because it fails to conform to the laws of logic, specifically the problem of circularity. This is not to say that it is automatically irrational to adopt the concept of nationality, for we can render intelligible why someone might mistake themselves and think that the concept is rational. Mostly people will simply not question the provenance of the concept, which is not irrational. However, once someone accepts that the concept is irrational, then they will become irrational if they continue to adopt and uphold the concept.

So, it is not irrational for someone to hold the belief that TV does not affect people's behaviour and so all this "less violence" stuff is ridiculous and also, at the same time, the belief that the world would be a better place if there were more religious programming on the box. If we take it that the implicit implications of both beliefs do, in fact, lead to inconsistency (they don't have to, but could easily, so let us assume they do), then once it is pointed out the person only becomes irrational if they accept the inconsistency but refuses to abandon or modify his beliefs.

So, perhaps I was too strong in my initial argument. It is not irrational to want to belong to a nation, although I think my argument shows that the concept of nation is irrational. It is irrational if someone accepts my argument and continues to accept the concept of nation. I do however think that people should accept my argument, because I think it is sound (i.e. both that the structure is valid and that the premises are true) and insofar as it is irrational for us to hold beliefs we know to be false (because belief aims at truth, and knowledge implies belief anyway), then people should abandon their concept of nationhood.

In fact I believe you are tackling the issue from a 'wrong' angle. It would be more interesting, indeed, to see how the nation comes to existance.
I have had some history classes only, so I am not sure if i am entirely correct here..but didn't the Greeks have a nation? the Persians? The fact that Euro-centric scholars see the notion of nation slowly finding its purpose! after the Middle Ages, does not mean that they never existed. I was reading Aristotle's Politics some days ago and I am sure that the word nation is in it. Now, I agree that translations (to English this time) can be deceiving, it could have just as well be the new interpretation ("there are no facts, only interpretations"), yet it could just as well be the unity of the Greeks that made them a nation..even if the notion did not exist. Furthermore, Aristotle (and so many other) often talk of the Hellenes and the barbarians, which necesserily implies that there was such a thing as the self and the other...


Causal accounts are, to me, always less interesting than explanations. A causal account describes, an explanation gives an account of why.

As for the historical. I am specifically targetting the concept of nationhood, which is definitely a modern notion. The Greeks had a concept of race, and a common language, but no desire to live together and no shared history (though they did have something of a shared culture). I have read Aristotle's Politics too, so readable compared to so much stuff I read now, and he does identify the Hellenes as opposed to the Easterners (Persians) and the Barbarians (everyone else), but this is not a nation, it is an ethnic group or 'race'. Modern Greece required precisely the sort of ownership of history to come into being which I think is illegitimate. Spartan history is as "Greek" as Athenian, is as "Greek" as Corinthean etc. despite the fact that the Spartans, the Athenians and the Corintheans would not have identified themselves as having a shared history, except insofar as they interacted as sovereign states.

Before European 17-18th century thought there were administrative units which made up states, there were not nations. There were things which fulfilled similar roles to nations, religion for instance. The Islamic Caliphate ran from Bagdhad to Andalucia, all nominally under the control of the Caliph, but what held people together was religion, not nation.

Perhaps the Jews could be said to have formed a nation before this (Nietzche apparantly credits them with the founding of the idea), but the shared language is sacred (Hebrew was the language of the Torah and nothing else for a long time) as are the shared customs and history. I would say that it was a religious imagined community rather than a national one.

All of this said, I don't deny the existence of imagined communities prior to the nation. There are many actually existing (religions for example) and there were many others (of all sorts). I strongly suspect that to the extent that we are simply born into them that there will be similar problems as with nations, but I don't want to get into that yet. Once (if) I am on firmer footing with nations I'll go further.


.. The existence of nation-states is very logical..at least them coming into being..the fixed territorial boundaries (initially for the population, eventually for resources)..in order to keep the population under the rule one must find the necessary legitimacy (based on your interpretation, I suppose you would see these as lies)..legitimacy is won slowly of course..first by security..then by extension of rights etc... I don't have much time to look into the subject right now..but my point is that their is a logical series of causes for a state..thus also a nation-state..to exist... And since I define these causes as logical..you might say they are also rational.


Causal accounts are not normative. They do not indicate whether something should be the case or not, simply that this is how things are and how they happened. I can give a causal account of my shooting someone, from the physical brain states, down to the muscle movements and catastrophic effects upon the other person's body that the bullet has. This account explains that I shot someone. It does not explain why I shot someone (even if we include brain state descriptions prior to the shooting). This is the case even if we claim that brain states are all there is to thinking (a reasonable claim, though not entailing that all that can be known about thinking resides in brain states), for the reasons exist independently of the brain states. In a pre-neuroscientific age it is still possible to explain why it is that I shot the person, so explanation cannot be identified with physical brain states (if they were we could not know of them without our scientific account which is plainly false)

As to the actual causal account, I have seen a number of different interpretations. Most of them invoke some sort of notion of necessity deriving from economic models. The mass labour required for capitalism can only be unified with something akin to nations etc. These explanations tell me how it is that nations came about. They do not give me reasons to think that it should have come about or that it should remain. If nations remain purely because they are useful, even though the concept is irrational, then I claim it should be abandoned because it is irrational.

You example of A and B supposing to have the same experience is void..because you do not have this sentiment..yet others might... C, for example, coming from Scottland, might feel the same sentiment for entire different reasons..yet his union with the rest of the Brits! can only be explained by him.. It would be his need/desire for his community (just as your need for the RPG community).


I have to say I don't really follow this part here. Are you saying that it is legitimate for C to desire to be British because of his desire to become part of a community? I would say that his need to become part of a community cannot be enough for nationhood, because there are uncountably many different sets of people with whom he could desire to form a community. He could base his desire on any number of characteristics, real (like being a roleplayer, or being an admirer of the qualities of tin) or imagined (like being British, or being a Hellene). Sorry I am not really clear what you mean by this, do you think you could elaborate please?

Oh..and I see now that I have failed to keep it short...


Sorry, me too. <!-- s:oops: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_redface.gif" alt=":oops:" title="Embarassed" /><!-- s:oops: --> Better luck next time? <!-- s:D --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_biggrin.gif" alt=":D" title="Very Happy" /><!-- s:D -->


Why have a nation still? People need leaders. Leadership appears to be defined in a society by the rules/laws. I realize my post is not perfect but I speak in terms of perception rather than actual reality.


Yeah, sorry, I didn't see this reply initially (sorry blind). I don't want to go on too much more, so I'll say that I can see why it might be the case that people need leaders and nations provide a firm basis for creating leaders, but I think that other systems might do it better. National leaders will follow the national interest and this will harm the interests of others. What I want is leadership which deals with individuals and with all rational beings. No ignoring the plight of Africa because they are poor, no hatred of the French because history tells us to and no &quot;My country right or wrong&quot;. view post


Nationhood posted 14 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Harrol, Moderator

Yeah, sorry, I didn't see this reply initially (sorry blind). I don't want to go on too much more, so I'll say that I can see why it might be the case that people need leaders and nations provide a firm basis for creating leaders, but I think that other systems might do it better. National leaders will follow the national interest and this will harm the interests of others. What I want is leadership which deals with individuals and with all rational beings. No ignoring the plight of Africa because they are poor, no hatred of the French because history tells us to and no &quot;My country right or wrong&quot;.


I t is hard to see some times that most of what we have is of our own human weaknesses i. e nations. Do we have to have them? No if we as people were perfect then no. We are not perfect so we need cumbersome things like the government and nations. view post


Nationhood posted 18 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

The imperfection argument is both very powerful and very unfair in some ways.

It is powerful because most ethical systems adopt the principle that &quot;ought implies can&quot;, i.e. if it is not possible to do it, then it cannot be the case that one ought to do it. If there were not this reauirement then moral failings could occur through no fault of one's own and yet one would be just as guilty as if it were the case that one could have done something and didn't.

So, one might argue 'there ought to be some system by which general decisions can be made. Either governments or absolute direct and participatory democracy could make decisions. Absolute direct and participatory democracy is impossible, so only governments should take such decisions and so governments should exist.' Then one might argue 'Governments can only exist if there are nations (or equivalents), so nations ought to exist'. Other things being equal perhqps nations are bad things, but so long as having a government and nation is better than not having a government and not having a nation, then one ought to have a nation.

The imperfection of humanity implies the impossibility of government without some form of national community (or equivalent), at least gov. at the level at which it is needed for the modern world and the impossibility of absolute direct and participatory democracy at the level required for modern society.

The argument is, I think, valid (if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true), but it is not clear that all the premises are true.

The danger of arguing from our own limitations here is that it can be a veil for all sorts of easy conclusions. Some/many (at the very least Nick Griffin leader of the NF in Britain) on the far right claim that races have inherently different characteristics, including social and behavioural ones and that because of this it is impossible for them to live alongside each other. It used to be argued that it was impossible for women to be fully educated as their brains couldn't handle it.

I think we can be relatively secure in rejecting both these claims, but if we do, should we reconsider the impossibility of living without nations? I reject the concept of nations, though I admit I have inclinations which are not as universal as they should be given my point of view (I strongly identify with a 'European' identity). Intellectually I have come to an opinion and I try to act consistently with it. I don't see that I am unique and special and that therefore my views are destined to obscurity (they are destined to obscurity for other reasons, to do with my own personal limitations).

Moreover, when I am feeling optimistic I think that sometimes the world is moving in a less tribalistic and nationalistic direction. The UN may be less than what it should be, it may be a petty talking shop for the great powers to impose &quot;international&quot; will and the lesser powers to make incoherent noise, but the ideal behind it is something to be taken in awe. And the mere fact that it recognises this ideal is enough to give me some hope.

On the other hand when I am feeling less than optimistic I find myself echoing Brian Barry when he says (roughly) &quot;I fear we are heading for a new Dark Ages, and there is nothing philosophers [or anyone perhaps] of a liberal persuasion can do to stop it&quot;. view post


Nationhood posted 20 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Sokar, Auditor

I am rather busy this week, so my answer is going to be short..or we'll see if it is... In any case, I will just give arguments for nations being natural and the critique on it.

First, there are several beliefs on this: modernist, primordialist and the perennialist.
The modernist claim that nations are indeed irrational and that they are and have been a political tool to control the masses. Even in the past, starting with the code of Hammurabi even, there was a need to keep and justify the authority over the mass and this was done, partially, through means of 'nationhood'.
Primordialists oppose this and say that nations are natural, that they have existed and always will, a clear divide between people has been present throughout history.
Similar to this is the perennialist argument that says even though nations were not existent as such, meaning nation-states, there were always collective! cultural ties.

There is also a book of Anderson, I think it's called Imagined Communties or something of that sort. I haven't read it myself, but I read another which talks about him also (Smith, The Origins of Nation; which I read partially only, for some work in the university). I think you would find it rather interesting..

As it goes for Aristotle, book 7 chapter 7 says that Greeks are a nation, and if it were united into a state, Hellas &quot;would be able to rule the world&quot;.

Finally, you are indeed tackling the point from a wrong angle, at least even more so after your explanation. To find the cause of things is necessary, given that you find a cause instead of a speculation on the cause. I am not interested on the fact that you shot someone, but rather on the what led you to shoot someone. In other words, I am not interested on the function of your body, but the whole surrounding, the whole setting, not only your mind, but even more so the mind of the other to make you shoot him.
To put it differently, to ban something that is irrational is irrational in itself. If you accept that there is a purpose for the nation, the economic or the stability, perhaps even legitimacy of the state, then it is rational to have the nation. If they are useful there is a rationality behind it! Damn how I hate exclamation marks...

Finally I don't get your circularity is irrational argument, perhaps you could explain it me.. But I must tell you that everything is circular.. Heraclites was rather interesting on this, but I have to look deeper into that, I never really read his work, just got to know it from others... Also, maybe you should explain to me into a deeper extent why you think that something can be P and not P at the same time. There is a 'rational' explanation for both being and not being at the same time..in physics we are getting to this point where the same object can be in two places simulatneously..why not in thought, which is by far much easier...

Oh..I failed to keep it short..but I do have a final question, which I think is the reason why we keep this argument... When you say nation..do you mean nation-state or nation itself..? Do you mean the sentiment or the actual application of the sentiment..?

And also I am sorry for ignoring Harrol, I'll have a look another time... view post


Nationhood posted 28 December 2006 in Philosophy DiscussionNationhood by Peter, Auditor

Ok, sorry for the delay in answering...

First, there are several beliefs on this: modernist, primordialist and the perennialist.
The modernist claim that nations are indeed irrational and that they are and have been a political tool to control the masses. Even in the past, starting with the code of Hammurabi even, there was a need to keep and justify the authority over the mass and this was done, partially, through means of 'nationhood'.
Primordialists oppose this and say that nations are natural, that they have existed and always will, a clear divide between people has been present throughout history.
Similar to this is the perennialist argument that says even though nations were not existent as such, meaning nation-states, there were always collective! cultural ties.


Yeah, I remember this from my Political Sociology lectures.

If the Primordialist argues that nations have always existed, then it seems obvious that this is false. It may seem that the French Nation has drifted out of some immemorial past, but 3000 years ago there definitely was nothing resembling the French. If they are claiming that there have always existed nation-like entities, I would still disagree, for the earliest communities would have been of villages and families, all small enough that every member of the community could know every other member. This is a significant difference and it is the difference between an imagined community where the links between people are artificial and imagined and a community based upon actual relationships formed between people. Once we start getting groups of people larger than which it is possible for all to know all, then we move into territory similar to nations. I say similar because there are differences in how the community is imagined if it is based on the notion of a nation or, say, a religion. Here I am not yet ready to say whether this is likely to be a relevant or irrelevant difference. Perhaps non-national imagined communities are not going to be irrational. I suspect they are but I don't have much inclining me either way. This, I think also deals with the Perennialist, insofar as I recognise that there have been communities. I just don't think that will make Nations rational.

There is also a book of Anderson, I think it's called Imagined Communties or something of that sort. I haven't read it myself, but I read another which talks about him also (Smith, The Origins of Nation; which I read partially only, for some work in the university). I think you would find it rather interesting..


The Andersen is indeed what set off this whole train of thought, though it was set me in an essay dealing with Ethnicity rather than Nationality. I was initially hostile to it, but found it very difficult to ignore. Thank you for the Smith, I shall have to look it up at some point.

As it goes for Aristotle, book 7 chapter 7 says that Greeks are a nation, and if it were united into a state, Hellas &quot;would be able to rule the world&quot;.


Certainly this is closer to the notion of a Greek nation than I had thought, but I am not sure that this indicates a desire to live together under a state amongst the Greeks, nor that it would overcome the individual histories of each city-state. Could the Spartans have claimed the same sort of ownership of the Delphic League (I think that was the name of the Athenian alliance against the Spartans) as the Athenians? To the extent that you think yes, then they could have formed a nation. I don't know (meaning really that I don't know, not that I think it unlikely etc.), and so perhaps we should put out a call to Ancient Historians tell us what they believe.

Finally, you are indeed tackling the point from a wrong angle, at least even more so after your explanation. To find the cause of things is necessary, given that you find a cause instead of a speculation on the cause. I am not interested on the fact that you shot someone, but rather on the what led you to shoot someone. In other words, I am not interested on the function of your body, but the whole surrounding, the whole setting, not only your mind, but even more so the mind of the other to make you shoot him.
To put it differently, to ban something that is irrational is irrational in itself. If you accept that there is a purpose for the nation, the economic or the stability, perhaps even legitimacy of the state, then it is rational to have the nation. If they are useful there is a rationality behind it! Damn how I hate exclamation marks...


Ok. The roots of the word Aristocracy are Arete and Cratos, meaning Talented, Great, Superior etc. and Power. Essentially, an Aristocratic system of government literally means &quot;Rule by the Best/most Talented etc.&quot;. Here we can see the legitimation of an Aristocracy, that it allows for the most talented to rule, and that is legitimate because the most talented will make the best decisions for the whole. So the argument for the rule of Aristocracts might be put like this.

&quot;The most legitimate Government is the one which best rules the whole in the interests of the whole. We believe that the most legitimate Government should rule us, because that is most in our interests. The best rule (i.e. most in our interests) will come from the most talented. Therefore, the most talented should rule&quot;

Or rather, because Aristocracy is almost always hereditary (at least we can imagine dealing with one now).

&quot;The most legitimate Government is the one which best rules the whole in the interests of the whole. We believe that the most legitimate Government should rule us, because that is most in our interests. The best rule (i.e. most in our interests) will come from the most talented. The most talented will have the most talented children. Therefore, the most talented and then their children etc. should rule&quot;

The argument is, I think, valid (that is to say if the premises are true then the conclusion MUST be true). It is pretty clearly not sound (not all the premises are true). It is not necessarily true that the most talented will best serve the whole, indeed there is good empirical evidence to suggest that anyone in a position of power will be tempted to screw people over and therefore the aristocracy, in being the most talented, will simply screw people over more efficiently.

We can give a causal explanation as to why Aristocracy exists or existed. The most talented took power and then transferred it to their progeny, who benefitted from the better food and lifestyle and so were more talented themselves. The reason we had for adopting and supporting an Aristocracy was its superior rule in the interests of the whole, but in actual fact that is not what Aristocracies do. So, knowing that the reasons we have to support an Aristocracy are not sound (i.e. not true), it is irrational then to support an Aristocracy.

The causal explanation is neither here nor there when considering reasons for something.

Finally I don't get your circularity is irrational argument, perhaps you could explain it me.. But I must tell you that everything is circular..


Socrates is a man.
All men are mortal
Therefore Socrates is mortal.

Valid and presumably sound argument.

From Wikipedia

p implies p
suppose p
therefore, p.

So,

If Socrates is a man, then he is a man
Socrates is a man
Therefore he is a man.

The conclusion merely restates one of the premises. For the conclusion to follow from the argument, the conclusion must already be supposed, and this is an invalid argument. I think there are philophers and other people out there who think we don't need logic or it isn't necessarily true, or that somethings are true but illogical (i.e. actually invalid as above), but I actually find it impossible to understand that point of view. If circularity really is not a problem in reasoning, then reasoning rules nothing out at all and I suggest that thought stops at that point.

Also, maybe you should explain to me into a deeper extent why you think that something can be P and not P at the same time. There is a 'rational' explanation for both being and not being at the same time..in physics we are getting to this point where the same object can be in two places simulatneously..why not in thought, which is by far much easier...



Sorry this bit is going to get quite technical, so feel free to ignore it.

If you talk to physicists and applied mathmeticians they will tell you that Schroedinger's cat is not a thought experiment to show how modern physics has overturned logic, rather they will tell you that it was a thought experiment designed to show how utterly weird quantum mechanics are by showing them in action at the macro level. Quantum mechanics, like all science is simply a model explaining data.

The dual existence is not the problem one might think it is either. &quot;Object 1 is in location L at time T&quot;, say call this P. &quot;Object 1 is in location M at time T&quot;, say call this R. P and R, no contradiction. To get the contradiction you need to go further. You need to get it that P implies not-R and R implies not-P. To say that you need to show that L does not eqaul M and that the same object cannot exist at both L and M at the same time. But then this isn't a logical contradiction, for it isn't a logical contradiction to say that a thing can exist at two points at the same time.

P can only imply not-R if something cannot exist in two places at the same time. The logical truth is simply that it cannot be the case that the object exist at L and not exist at L at the same time, not that it might exist at M as well.

When you say nation..do you mean nation-state or nation itself..? Do you mean the sentiment or the actual application of the sentiment..?


I agree, I haven't been very clear about this. I believe that support for the concept of nation (regardless of whether expressed in an actual state) is irrational, and therefore that supporting the nation in sentiment and action will, when one is fully aware of the irrationality of the concept, be irrational. I therefore belive that the effects of such sentiment and actions, such as nation-states will be irrational. Of course all of this needs to be qualified by my earlier definition of rationality, where people can be rational in believing irrational things because of limited information, or being under stress. Subjectively a thing may be rational, when taken objectively it would be irrational.

Long post again. I find it difficult to keep them down. view post


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