In part 1, the introductory essay, it was alluded to that the solution to Trinidad & Tobago’s societal problems would be best understood and solved through a comprehensive analysis of what a properly ordered society is. It was also hinted to, that, perhaps T&T is making little positive societal movement since the notion of a “good society” might not be understood in the first place. Lastly, the essay mentioned that everyone wants what they know to be good for society, no one is aiming for society’s downfall (at least not purposely/objectively). Now we must begin to discuss in general the indispensable fundamental of the subject at hand, that is, man.
The reason we will focus on man is that the first thing one knows about society is that it consists of a plurality of persons. It is therefore fundamental to first discuss man since a “good” society would differ depending on what is good for the individual men that make it up. I am pressing forward based on the fair assumption that man should not be the slave of society or of any of its parts, economic or otherwise. I am treating with man as though society is oriented to serve him and not vice-versa.
Interesting, Intelligent, Free & Moral
Man is an interesting being. He has striking similarities to the creatures of the animal kingdom. It is certain however that what separates man from every other material creature is that he alone possesses the ability to understand this similarity between him and the other animals. Man alone (of creatures) can know in this abstract, yet real sense. The process of man’s “knowing” is both physical and intellectual or “spiritual.” Man senses the material things (he sees, touches, hears them, etc) and then is able to grasp the substance of what they are with his mind. Man then can understand concepts of things through the double function of his senses and mind. These two faculties of knowledge have traditionally been called “sensation” and “intellection.” They are man’s windows to the world. Sensation is the sensing while intellection is the grasping or understanding.
Sensation as such provides man’s intellect with the appearance of things while intellection penetrates to the heart of what it is. Many modern philosophers have tried to turn man against himself and against all reality by claiming that the senses cannot be trusted and that the only reality that exists is the one each man creates by the use of his own mind. Yet one never finds such a philosopher applying his own retardism in his own life. None of those who say we must distrust the senses have tried to breathe underwater or avoid a fire’s burn while remaining in its flame.
The human mind is always penetrating the substance of what things are, it is always occupied with the work of discovering the truth. This means that man must submit to the reality in which he finds himself, man cannot decide to mentally create his own world, rather he must aim to know the truth about the world in which he finds himself. Man has made a tremendous amount of positive progress in this regard, from the ancient Egyptians, and, especially the ancient Greeks, man has been able to codify language and express the truths of reality. Many good historians attribute the success of the ancient Greek empire to the fact that it was one of the only empires at the time that didn’t bring laws into existence out of thin air, instead the laws and society rested upon reality as it was discovered through objective reasoning.
This long history of discovering the truths of reality has enabled and continues to enable a great growth of wisdom. Each individual man however cannot expect to begin this process from “ground zero” on his own, he must essentially be educated in order to benefit from the arduous process of his predecessors. Hence, we can say there is an essentiality of education in every society. Without proper education, man would be deprived of a higher standard of life and knowledge. Unfortunately, in society today the concept of education has been reduced to teaching men the skills required so as to earn a livelihood in the monetary economy. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it would be of great value for men in society to know more, rather than be reduced to dollars and cents like economic cogs in a wheel.
Man also has freedom. He can choose to eat or not to eat, to walk or run, to party or pray. Many they are who choose to deny that man is free, sadly such people never seem to realize that they have come to do so freely. Whether men know it or not, they are always using their freedom to become better or more “perfect.” Man makes a decision after considering it in comparison to others and chooses that which he determines is better for him. Due to the fact that knowledge informs man’s decisions, education should primarily be geared at educating man on what is truly good for him so as to enable him to make good decisions. In so doing, the educated man will be best informed as to what decisions will best lead him to perfection. This means there ought to be a moral dimension of education where virtues (such as justice, temperance, and prudence) are fostered in the student.
Lastly, man is a moral being. The very fact that courts of law universally appeal to “principles of natural justice” is evidence enough for the moral nature of man. Further, evidence for man’s moral nature can be found in the fact that, for example, to intentionally deceive another person goes against the consciences of those who are yet to know what deception even is. Man feels compelled to be good, honest, upright, and just. Everyone, regardless of who they may be, prides themselves on having these qualities and in heart aspires to them.
Every being follows the laws of its own nature/species, hence all animals of the same nature behave in a similar fashion. Yet when it comes to man, he is not forced to follow the moral law as he is to follow the physical law (like gravity). Our freedom enables us to choose or not to choose to do the good (what corresponds at the given time to our perfection) but ultimately we work against freedom when we consistently make decisions that do not correspond to our perfection and the moral law. For example, if man consistently gives way to laziness instead of being industrious he will get into a bad habit (vice) which will incline him to continue to be lazy. This will make the man less free since although he may want to work the tendency/vice to laziness would prevent him from doing so. His freedom will also be hampered since he would not be able to make use of what he would have earned if he was industrious instead of lazy.
Therefore, after acknowledging that man is an interesting, intelligent, free, and moral being, we can say that a good society will not limit him in his ability to attain perfection, but rather a good society will be geared toward, and oriented around its attainment.
Since perfection corresponds to what is good, I hope to address the topic of “the good” next and then (hopefully) delve into the fundamentals and types of society.