A Curious Miscellany of Items Philosophical, Historical, and Literary

Manus haec inimica tyrannis.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Medieval Philosophy, Part II

Aquinas confounding Averroes
As promised, here’s the continuation of the January 7, 2011 post on medieval philosophy.

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When we enter the period of later medieval philosophy, we enter the period of scholasticism, and of philosophy as an academic discipline. It now becomes possible to talk about people (or rather men) who were professional philosophers, a phenomenon not seen since the Classical period. The reappearance of such beings comes hand in hand with the rise of universities. Thus, I will discuss the rise of the university, the activities that took place within it, and the career and course of studies of the late medieval philosopher.

Peter Abelard.

As an entryway into the subject, it might help to have a look at the career of Peter Abelard (1079-1142), a figure who stands at the very cusp of medieval scholasticism. Like other students of the time, Peter studied the seven liberal arts, the trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), under masters in the Paris schools. At this time, the University of Paris did not yet exist, except as a collection of schools, many of them loosely associated with the cathedral of Notre Dame. Abelard was a very precocious student, and a brilliant mind. He learned logic from William of Champeaux, with whom he had a very public disagreement on the nature of universals. I know I promised not to get too technical, but the so-called “problem of universals” was a major pastime of medieval philosophers, so I think I owe at least a brief explanation.

The problem turned around whether a general term, like “table”, stood for some kind of ideal (or real) table — existing either in the mind, or in some transcendent realm, or in the mind of God — of which the particular tables we see around us are merely less real reflections; or whether all the tables we see around us are each perfectly real and individual existences, which we lasso together as a matter of custom under the linguistic term “table”, for convenience’s sake. The first position, associated with Plato, came to be referred to as realism. The second position came to be referred to as nominalism. The debate continued throughout the Middle Ages (in a later generation, thinkers like Duns Scotus came to be associated with realism, while William of Ockham was very much a nominalist), and indeed into the modern period. Nowadays, nominalism is more or less the mainstream position, but this does not mean there is unanimity on the matter.

I’m sure that at the moment many of you are shrugging your shoulders inwardly and asking “Who cares?” But to the medievals it mattered. For example, take the phrase, “God exists de divinitate” (“by divinity”). Realism would seem to imply that something else — a real existing thing called “divinity” — was the cause of God’s existence, which contradicted the accepted theology that God was a necessary and self-caused being.

William of Champeaux was a realist, while his student, Peter Abelard, was a nominalist. With characteristic arrogance, Peter publicly humiliated William and set up his own rival school, attracting students away from his old master. Later, Peter turned from logic to theology, and began teaching the subject in 1113. (I will not discuss Peter’s ill-starred liaison with Heloise, as the story is familiar, and has little bearing on the subject at hand.)

Abelard wrote a work called Scito Teipsum (“Know Thyself”), which was one of the few lasting contributions to moral philosophy to come out of the Middle Ages (the other one being Aquinas’ Summa Theologica). The work stressed the almost overriding contribution of the moral agent’s intentions to the moral value of his actions; the quality of one’s will was more important than the rightness of one’s action.

However, for our purposes it was another of Abelard’s works that would have an influence on later scholastic philosophy — Sic et Non (“Yes and No”). In this work, he gathered together a large number of passages and opinions, mostly from the Fathers of the Church, and juxtaposed them in ways that made them seem contradictory. Some have thought that in doing this Abelard was trying to ridicule the authorities of doctrine. However, it is more likely that he wrote the work as an invitation to scholars to sort out and reconcile these contradictions. As we will see, the juxtaposition of opposing opinions on an issue, along with the attempt to resolve the contradiction, would become the hallmark of scholastic method.

The Rise of the Universities.

At some point in the twelfth century, the concentrations of separate schools in certain centres became incorporated by charters granted by local bishops or Church officials. Such corporate structures were run by their own statutes and regulations and were characterized by division into separate faculties. There developed an ordered course of studies and a series of degrees was established to mark a student’s progress.

The earliest universities were located in such places as Paris, Bologna, Montpellier, and Salerno (and Oxford a little later). Bologna was known for its law faculty, Montpellier and Salerno were known for their medical faculties, and Paris was a known for its theology faculty. A university would have an Arts faculty, but the Law, Medicine, and Theology faculties were considered the “higher” faculties (though ironically, it was the Arts faculty and its members that actually governed the universities). We will focus on the University of Paris, because it was in those universities with a strong theological orientation that philosophical speculation was most robust. Again, this is another indication of medieval philosophy’s God-centredness.

At the beginning, the universities were run by secular officials (i.e. people not associated with any of the religious orders), but over time they came to be dominated by members of the mendicant orders, mainly Dominicans and Franciscans. St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican, while Duns Scotus and William of Ockham were Franciscans. This process began at Paris during a strike by the secular Masters in 1229-1230. The friars continued teaching and took on many of the secular students who were locked out. Over time, as the mendicant orders became more popular, many secular Masters converted to them. The process was accelerated by the fact that Masters belonging to a given order tended to pass their Chairs (i.e. professorships) on to fellow members of their orders. Thus, by 1254, secular Masters held only three out of fifteen Chairs in the Theology faculty. There was much tension between the mendicants and the seculars.

The Student’s Career.

In more or less its final form, the career of a student in the Arts faculty went something like this:

1.   Undergraduate. At the age of fourteen or fifteen a student entered the university, where he spent four years as an undergraduate (much like today). For the first two years he attended readings, which were similar to modern lectures. All teaching was based around authoritative texts, and undergraduates would listen to such texts being read, with varying degrees of commentary added by the readers. (This made sense in an age when students could not be expected to possess their own copies of books.) In the next two years of undergraduate studies, the attending of readings continued, while added to this, students were also expected to take part in disputations — which I shall explain shortly. After the four years, assuming that he had displayed the required proficiency, the student determined, i.e. he became a Bachelor. The determination was marked by participation in a dispute in the presence of his Master, the university Chancellor, and other worthies.

2.   Bachelor. The student then spent a period (three years at Oxford, but variable at Paris) as a Bachelor, during which time he continued to attend readings and take part in disputes, but now in more advanced subjects, such as Aristotle’s natural philosophy and metaphysics. He would also begin to give his own “cursory” readings (i.e. reading texts with very little commentary). After this time, he would reach inception as a Master.

3.   Master. As an Arts Master, the student was now licensed to teach. In Paris, there was a regency system, meaning that a student had the same teacher for all subjects throughout his education (the regency system was still in place in many Scottish universities until a century ago). Thus, the Master taught all subjects, giving readings and conducting disputations.

One had to spend at least two years as an Arts Master, before he could go on to study theology. I won’t go into the details of the theologian’s career, except to say that it had various stages, culminating in inception as a Regent Master after fifteen or so years. Unfortunately, inception as a Regent Master depended on there being a vacant Chair available, otherwise one remained what was called an “Inceptor”. William of Ockham was known as “the Venerable Inceptor” because there never ended up being a vacant Chair for him to occupy. However, it was generally expected that a Master would only occupy a Chair for a couple of years and then pass it on to someone else. Often a Master would then move on to a high position in the Church or government.


Disputations were an extremely important part of the philosopher’s activities. They were of two kinds: “ordinary” and “quodlibetal”. Ordinary disputations were regularly conducted by Masters as part of their teaching duties, to instruct undergraduates and Bachelors. They took place in two sessions. In the first session, two students, an objector and a responder, debated opposing sides of a topic or question assigned by the Master, while the Master acted as referee. In the second session, the Master would “sum up” and give his own opinion on the issue.

Quodlibetal disputations were open to all faculties of the university and questions or topics to be discussed were posed by members of the audience. Objectors and responders might be students, but often they were Masters. The Chancellor and officials of the university would also be present. Quodlibetal disputations were much more infrequent, held a couple of times a year. Many of the medieval philosophical works that have come down to us represent notes or summaries of such disputations, either taken down by attendees, or else “worked up” by participants afterwards.

It is important to note that the tradition of disputation is central to academic philosophy even to this day. Papers are delivered, and the audience has the opportunity to “grill” the author before an audience. Or else, the paper is submitted to a journal, and readers and anonymous referees have the opportunity to offer criticism. Much of this goes on in other academic disciplines as well, but philosophers are a notoriously disputatious lot. There are many stories — not all of them apocryphal, unfortunately — of philosophers being publicly humiliated by members of an academic audience after delivering a paper. Thus, the tradition of the disputation survives. One recent philosopher noted this tendency, publishing a paper entitled “Philosophy as Blood Sport”.

Philosophical Literary Forms.

Medieval philosophical literary forms in some ways reflected the educational process. Indeed, many surviving works are little more than students’ notes of readings and disputations. Broadly speaking, there were three main types of works: sententiae, quaestiones, and summae.

Sententiae (“sentences”) were comments by some authority, on some text, usually Scripture. The most famous of these was the Sentences of Peter Lombard (c. 1100-1160). These were comments on the Bible, which came to be the theological textbook of the Middle Ages. (As a matter of fact, the book I referred to earlier, which was presented to Richard of Gloucester, was Duns Scotus’ commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences.) Sententiae did not have to be merely comments on the Bible. For example, there were many people who wrote sentences or commentaries on Aristotle’s works. The main idea behind sententiae is that they were observations or comments on some authoritative text, and followed that text fairly closely.

Quaestiones (“questions”) can be understood if we look back to Peter Abelard’s Sic et Non (“Yes and No”). Sometimes texts could give rise to contradictions, as could the opposing opinions of authorities on such texts, and it was the job of the quaestio to resolve these seeming contradictions. So, a question would be posed, the opposing authorities would be juxtaposed, and the author would give his proposed resolution of the question. Quaestiones bear a similar structure to the medieval disputation in their pro and con structure, arguing opposing sides of a question before coming to some kind of resolution.

Summae are best understood as quaestiones arranged in some systematic order, so that they covered a larger area of intellectual ground. Indeed, the ultimate summa is St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, which covers just about all the intellectual ground, from the existence and nature of God, to metaphysics, to ethics, to death and the Resurrection. No history of medieval philosophy can get away without discussion of Aquinas, so to him we now turn.

Thomas Aquinas (1224-1279).

Aquinas was the seventh and youngest son of a nobleman, the Count of Aquino. He was born in the town of Roccasecca, near Naples. He attended the University of Naples, where he became acquainted with the Dominicans and, much to the chagrin of his family, he decided to join their Order. His family had him kidnapped away from them and imprisoned, but he stubbornly refused to give up his plan of joining the Dominicans, so his family eventually relented.

Thomas moved to the University of Paris, where he studied under the greatest philosopher of the period, Albert the Great (c. 1193/1206-1280) — a.k.a. “Albertus Magnus”. Albert was a follower of the doctrines of Aristotle. If you’ll remember, I earlier said that Aristotle was a fairly marginal figure in the ancient world, and after the disintegration of the Roman Empire, most of his works became unavailable. In Thomas’ time, this situation was changing. Many of Aristotle’s works were becoming available in western Europe through Moorish and Byzantine channels, in Latin translations from Greek or Arabic. In addition, many commentaries on Aristotle by Arabic authors were also becoming available.

Thomas was therefore steeped in the new Aristotelian philosophy, and it influenced all aspects of his thought. However, Aristotle was still a controversial figure, as many of his positions were in tension with Christian doctrine. In 1277, a list was drawn up of 219 Aristotelian theses which were prohibited from being taught at the University of Paris. Ultimately however, Aristotelianism came to dominate medieval philosophy, due in no small part to Aquinas, whose system of thought would end up being the official philosophy of the Catholic Church to this day. In many ways Aquinas had Christianized Aristotle, making him compatible with Church doctrine.

Although he wrote many works, he is most famous for his Summa Theologica, which he began writing in 1267. It is a massive work, its authoritative Latin version comprising some twenty-eight or so volumes. It is an awe-inspiring thought, to envision Thomas, sitting in his magisterial chair, dictating the Summa to the various scribes and students seated before him, waiting on his every word. Apparently he did not write the work from beginning to end, but would rather simultaneously dictate various parts to different scribes. The Summa was never finished. One day, Thomas had a mystical vision, and could not be brought to write any more. He is reported to have said: “I can do no more; such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems as straw, and I now await the end of my life.” He became known in the Church as “Doctor Angelicus” (“the Angelic Doctor”), but perhaps more apt is his other nickname, “Doctor Universalis” (“the Universal Doctor”), for the breadth and depth of his learning.

One of the most famous parts of the Summa Theologica comes in the First Part, Question Two, Article Three, which deals with the question, “Whether God Exists?” This is where Thomas lays out his so-called “Five Ways”, five arguments for the existence of God. They are:

1.   The Argument from Motion. There is motion. If something is moved, it must be moved by something else that is greater. And this thing cannot be moved by itself, but must be moved by something else greater than it. And so on. But this cannot go on indefinitely. THEREFORE, there must be a First Mover, more powerful than anything else. That First Mover is God. It’s important to note that Aquinas means “motion” in a more extended sense, as “movement from one state of being to another” (i.e. from cold to hot), not just physical motion from one place to another.

2.   The Argument from Efficient Cause. Every effect has an efficient cause, which must be greater than it. And that cause must in turn have an efficient cause that is greater than it. And so on. But this cannot go on indefinitely. THEREFORE, there must be a First Cause, which is greater than all the effects that flow from it. That First Cause is God.

3.   The Argument from Necessary Being. There are things which exist contingently, and contain the possibility of not existing. This means that all such things have not existed at some time. But not all things can be contingent in this way, for then there would have been a time when nothing existed. But something cannot come from nothing. THEREFORE, there must be something which is not contingent, but which exists necessarily, from eternity to eternity. That thing is God.

4.   The Argument from Perfection. There are degrees of perfection in the world. Some things are said to be good, while other things are said to be bad. But such judgments of goodness can only be made relative to some standard of perfect goodness. THEREFORE, there must exist something that is perfectly good. That thing is God.

5.   The Argument from Final Ends. All things, even unintelligent things, act for some end. Every thing has some end or purpose to which it tends. But a thing that lacks knowledge cannot be said to move towards an end, unless there is some mind or intelligence which directs it. Therefore, some intelligent being exists which directs all things to their proper ends. That being is God.

We might note in passing that the First, Second, and Fourth Ways depend for their argumentative force on the medieval abhorrence of infinite regress — it simply cannot be the case, for example, that the chain of causality extends back in time indefinitely. By modern standards, these arguments are weak, because there is nothing logically wrong with infinite regress. Nonetheless, the structure of Thomas’ argument has its modern parallel in cosmology’s “Big Bang Theory”.

To give a taste of how Thomas’ Five Ways are all laid out in a medieval philosophical text, we begin with the statement of the question: “Whether God exists?” Then we proceed to two different “Objections”, arguing that God does not exist. We then are given a statement of the opposite position, arguing that God does exist (the “argument” here is one from authority, and consists of a biblical quotation from Exodus). Then we are given Aquinas’ own position, laying out his five ways. The whole is rounded off by “Replies” to the two “Objections” with which the article began.

This sort of quaestio format would make frequent use of certain technical scholastic phrases. The problem would be stated using the form queritur (“It is asked whether…”). The contrary position would be introduced using the phrase videtur quod (“It seems that…”). Opposing views are introduced by the phrase sed contra (“But against this…”). The author’s own solution to the problem would begin with the phrase respondeo dicendum (“I respond that it ought to be said that…”).

In principle, there is no limit to the number of possible Objections, and Replies to those Objections, that could be given on any question. It was a badge of honour for Duns Scotus to have the reputation of being extremely thorough in this regard. By the later fourteenth century, the questio structure had become very complicated indeed. There was still the opening Question, with statements of the opposing views. There could be arguments, with objections, followed by replies, followed by replies to the replies, and so on, in a sort of nested structure. After pages and pages of this back and forth, the author would state his solution to the whole question in one sentence. It was all laid out with an air of relentless precision, authority, and utter finality.

On the whole, medieval philosophical texts look very dry and formal to modern eyes, even for a trained philosopher like myself.

The Demise of Medieval Philosophy.

Scholasticism continued on even into the period we call the Renaissance, particularly in certain places, like the Spanish universities. But two trends contributed to the demise of the medieval scholastic tradition.

The first was a turn to religious mysticism. People simply got tired of the theologians and their logic-chopping, and they desired a more direct relationship to God, one based on feeling rather than on reason. Scholasticism fell into disrepute. Unfortunately, the very rigour and formality that was the hallmark of medieval philosophy made it largely inaccessible to the layperson. Some (i.e. me) would say that philosophy today is going through a similar process.

But perhaps more importantly, insofar as scholasticism took for granted an Aristotelian approach to natural philosophy, the advent of the modern sciences began to reveal the shortcomings of that philosophy. Aristotelianism was incompatible with the findings of experimental science. And much of the natural world could be explained without appeal to any God at all. Nature did not work by purpose. Thinking back on William of Ockham’s question of whether an angel could move through a vacuum, not only did it become possible to actually create vacuums, but it also became intellectually possible to question the existence of angels, and ultimately even of God Himself. And so we take our leave of medieval philosophy.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Everyman a Minuteman?

It had been my intent to continue on with my history of medieval philosophy from my last post. But intervening events have altered this plan, by instilling in me a need for some topical spewing of opinion. I promise that the next post shall find The Spectacled Avenger back on track.

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The shootings of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a number of her constituents in Arizona seems to have sparked a lot of hysterical hand-wringing in the media. Don’t get me wrong; the shootings were tragic and disgusting. But the media moralizing it has generated is dubious at best. For one thing, despite almost everyone’s pronounced intention not to make this mass murder become just another vehicle for politics, everyone seems to be doing it.

For another thing, the majority of the hand-wringing has centered around the supposedly vitriolic tone of public political discourse in America, as if this is some new thing. I hate to break it to people, but the vitriol is as old as the United States itself (as this video nicely demonstrates). In the 1790s, Thomas Jefferson, as Secretary of State in the administration of George Washington, used public funds to hire an official “translator” named Philip Freneau, despite the fact that the latter only had a shaky knowledge of French and no other linguistic talent to speak of. In reality, Jefferson’s real object was to subsidize Freneau’s newspaper, which printed the most scurrilous lies about Jefferson’s political enemies, including his own boss. If you want to see real political mud-slinging, get your hands on an issue of Freneau’s National Gazette. And of course, there were the opposing Federalist scandal rags that trumpeted Mr. Jefferson’s relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, and the children he sired with her.

We should be happy we don’t live in the last days of the Roman Republic, where the Sarah Palins and Barack Obamas of the world would simply hire gangs of club-wielding street thugs and have their opponents beaten to death in the forum. The fact is, political violence flourishes quite happily without a free press, thank you very much. I would argue that the “there-is-something-wrong-with-political-discourse-in-America” bleating is rather a red herring. American political discourse is ugly and uncivil, but so is democracy itself, more often than not. Saying that hyperbolic political discourse is responsible for murder is about as useful as saying that heavy metal albums cause school shootings.

In any case, as more information comes out about the Arizona shootings, it is becoming apparent that the culprit responsible was not so much your political fanatic with an axe to grind, but more of a mentally unhinged loner who too easily managed to purchase a gun and ammunition.

When I heard about the Arizona shootings, my first thought was that it would generate another predictable round of gun control debate. Instead, I find a very surprising lack of comment on gun control in the media. It’s almost as if everyone has ceded the issue to the NRA and given up even trying to have that discussion. When it comes to gun control, it seems to me that something has changed in America. This particular elephant in the room has somehow managed to blend in with the drapes.

What’s just as strange, not even the Canadian media seems much interested in discussing it anymore (with some exceptions). I say this is strange because usually Canadians are indecorously eager to seize themselves of an opportunity to feel superior to Americans. Perhaps we have finally realized that Americans don’t really care about whatever advice we have to offer them. And when the advice is proffered in that sanctimonious tone that we Canadians seem to have mastered when talking down to our American cousins, why should we expect them to listen to us?

The Second Amendment

I never cease to be amazed at how successful groups like the NRA have been in hijacking gun control discourse in America, nor do I cease to wonder that successive American courts have managed to willfully misunderstand one short and fairly straightforward passage in the Constitution. The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

When you ask an American, as I have, what the Second Amendment says, they will usually tell you it grants citizens “the right to bear arms”; in other words they give you some perversion of the last clause of the text. This, for NRA purposes, is very convenient, as it leaves aside precisely what is most pertinent to the interpretation of the Amendment’s text.

I am not a US citizen, so I assume there is much about the history of the Amendment that I am ignorant about, particularly the dubious jurisprudence with which it has become lumbered. My aim in what follows is simply to see what analysis of the text I can come up with armed (pardon the pun) mainly with the words of the text itself, plus a little common sense and some basic knowledge of social and technological conditions prevailing on December 15, 1791, when the Second Amendment was adopted.

The Security of a Free State

First, the text states that a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Context here is important. The word “State” is capitalized, both in the version passed by Congress, and in the version circulated to the individual states, despite the fact that there are several differences in capitalization between the two versions of the text. This leads me to suspect that by “a free State” the framers had in mind the several States of the Union, not the federal State, especially since there was no such thing at the time as anything resembling a federal militia, the Continental Army having been disbanded in 1783.

There were at least three reasons the framers felt the need to provide for this right to keep up state militias. First, it assuaged the paranoid fears of antifederalists that the states would be superseded by a tyrannical federal government. Second, there was at the time no federal standing army to provide for defense, and initially one wasn’t welcome either, largely due to the paranoid fears just mentioned. And third, it was easier to meet local threats with local defenses in an age where the movement of forces across the vast distances of America was arduous, expensive, and time-consuming.

Therefore, the passage should be read as granting the right of the several states to maintain their own militias. As such, it should again be read as being primarily addressed to the states, not to individual citizens. Citizens are to be guaranteed the right to keep and bear arms only insofar as this serves the function of maintaining state militias. Therefore, it could be argued that if a well-regulated state militia can be maintained without the necessity of resorting to a citizenry that is armed to the teeth (as it most certainly can), then the rationale for the – in my view – subsidiary part of the Amendment falls away. The main function of the Amendment is served.

Furthermore, given that the function of a militia is to provide for “the security of a free state,” and since a citizenry armed willy-nilly is more likely to undermine the security of said state, the general right to bear arms, in its NRA-advocated form, is inimical to the purpose of the Amendment itself. Therefore, it is incumbent on judges to pursue some other interpretation of the text than that peddled by the NRA, preferably one that preserves the Amendment’s intended function instead of making it seem to undermine itself.

A Well-Regulated Militia

Next, these state militias are to be “well-regulated”. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine whether an armed individual under the command of nobody but himself and the voices in his head constitutes a well-regulated anything.

I would argue that at most, the Second Amendment guarantees the possession of arms only to those who are recognized as being under the command of some officer of a state militia. Each state currently has a well-regulated militia, constituted under the Militia Act of 1903: it is called The National Guard. In other words, if you are a member of your state’s National Guard, then perhaps the Second Amendment guarantees you a right to keep and bear arms. If you want to own a gun to defend yourself and your family from King George III or his descendants, then you should be required to join your state’s National Guard.

To Keep and Bear

In light of the foregoing, what can we say is meant by “keeping and bearing” arms? Well, first of all, keeping arms is quite a different thing from walking around in public with them, perhaps concealed under one’s jacket, during peacetime. The original intention, I’m sure, was that militia members would have a musket hanging over the fireplace (“keeping”), taking it down and bringing it with them (“bearing”) when mustered for active duty in defense of their state.

Of course, in a rural and agricultural society no one would have questioned one’s right to keep a gun for hunting, although this was an activity which would normally have been done on one’s own property, which was, after all, the only place where one had a unilateral right to hunt in any case.

And of course, we mustn’t forget that having the right to possess a firearm is perfectly consistent with the government’s right to know about it, to require that it be registered, and to take it away from a possessor if she should abuse her right (even NRA gun nuts would presumably say that criminals should be disarmed).


To the best of my knowledge, hunting in 1791 was not normally done with a 9 mm Glock automatic pistol (pardon my ignorance if there is no such thing) with silencer, shooting bullets with exploding tips. Nor is it now. In 1791, all firearms were muzzle-loaded and could get off a single rather inaccurate shot before requiring to be reloaded. If you were really angry and wished to kill someone in 1791, you were better advised to knock on his door wielding a club or agricultural implement.

The framers of the Second Amendment certainly never had in mind the insidious killing ingenuity of modern weaponry. And even the most hardened NRA wingnut would never (I hope) claim the right of every citizen to keep and bear a nuclear warhead in her garden shed.

The People

In fact, firearms in 1791 were so inaccurate and took so long to reload that they were only of much military effectiveness when their fire was grouped together in volleys. It is precisely this aspect of weapons use that the Second Amendment has particularly in mind. The framers were not so much concerned with the danger (or lack thereof) of a single gun-toting individual. They were more concerned with large groups of such individuals, collected into effective bodies. It is the latter that the Second Amendment wished to have armed.

Pre-independence, the American colonists were subject to restrictions on weapons possession by the British government, precisely because an armed citizenry posed a threat to that government’s power. They were right to feel threatened, as subsequent events were to demonstrate. When forming a constitution for their own federal government, those who demanded the Second Amendment to it wished to retain in the hands of the citizenry this ability to resist tyrannical government power. But they wished to retain it for its military effectiveness, when deployed in an organized and well-regulated group. I doubt very much that a large rabble of unregulated hillbillies, however many guns they were allowed to own, would be able to resist government tyranny, at least not for very long. But if those same hillbillies are drilled, disciplined, and placed under the command of officers who know what they are doing, then tyrants have cause to quake. The framers intended that the rights of citizens be protected by a militia, not a rabble.

In the Second Amendment the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed to the people (collective term), rather than to simply people or citizens or individuals or each person. If the NRA interpretation of the text were correct, then wouldn’t a more natural wording be “the right of each person to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? This is an important point. So long as arms are kept in an armory, accessible by personnel of the state militias under command of their officers, then the right of the people to keep and bear arms has been upheld. A reasonable “framer’s intent” reading of the Second Amendment, such as I propose, need guarantee no more than this.

The broad interpretation of the Second Amendment favoured by NRA types is unwarranted by the text itself and the intentions of its framers, and is more likely to be subversive of them.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Medieval Philosophy, Part I

I’m lazy at the best of times, and since I currently lack the leisure time to write something new, I’m going back to the archives. Now, back by popular demand, here is an address on medieval philosophy I gave to The Richard III Society of Canada a few years ago – an organization of which, it must be said, I am not a member. They were simply kind enough to invite me to drone on to them about philosophy for an hour or so.

Since it’s a longish paper, I will divide it into two parts. Without further ado, here is the first.

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It’s always hard to talk about philosophy with people who are not themselves philosophers. For many people, nothing can put them to sleep faster than an abstract philosophical discussion. For such people, philosophy acts a lot like Valium. If so, then medieval philosophy acts more like some sort of powerful horse tranquilizer. I will do my best to keep you awake, by making an inaccessible subject more accessible.

There are several ways one can write a “history of philosophy”. One way, which tends to be the philosopher’s way, would be to take a problem-based approach. On such an approach, we roll up our sleeves and dig into the actual philosophy of a period, get down in the muck, and examine the problems and issues which occupied the time and minds of philosophers through a given period. The only thing that makes such an approach historical is the chronological arrangement of material. Otherwise, it is philosophy rather than history.

Another possible way of approaching things is more properly historical. This would involve telling a story about the chronological development of philosophy as a practical discipline, its changing institutional structure, and what it meant to be a philosopher in a given period of the endeavour’s existence. This latter is, for the most part, the approach I’ll be taking. That should hopefully keep the boredom to a minimum.

However, we cannot completely avoid taking the occasional side glance at the actual philosophy that medieval philosophers produced. I will also keep this to a minimum by mostly directing such glances at a particular philosophical issue, namely the existence and nature of God. One of my reasons for choosing this particular issue is because perhaps the single most identifying characteristic of medieval philosophy — as opposed to other periods of philosophy — is its “God-centredness”.

Here’s a little taste of what I mean. One can open up a copy of William of Ockham’s (c. 1285-1347) Quodlibetal Questions — though I confess I don’t know why anyone would wish to — and find in quodlibet 1, question 8, William addressing the following burning philosophical issue that has confounded thinkers since time immemorial, namely “Can an angel move through a vacuum?” His answer is divided into two articles, each of which is composed of various objections and replies. It takes him several pages of careful analysis to get to the point. What is characteristic about William’s answer is that he approaches the question by asking whether or not there is such a thing as a vacuum. After all, if there’s no such thing as a vacuum, then it’s impossible for an angel to move through one. Never, through the entire process (and indeed throughout the entire book) does William consider what for a modern philosopher would be the real issue, namely whether or not there is even such a thing as an angel! (Incidentally, for those of you who can’t wait to find out the answer, William concluded that vacuums do indeed exist, and that therefore angels can move through them.)

Many modern critics of medieval philosophers have charged them with treating God in much the same way that William treats angels: as something given, not requiring demonstration. And it is true that many of them did take God for granted. But they could do this for at least three reasons:

1. Scripture and faith told them so, and neither Scripture nor faith was capable of rational doubt. The former was directly revealed to us by God himself, while the latter was simply something beyond the reach of reason, past the point where reason runs out.

2. Arguments for the existence and nature of God in fact had been offered which were considered to be more or less conclusive, at least as far as they were prepared to look into the matter. The ground had already been covered.

3. Medieval philosophy’s attitude towards the question of God illustrates the place of philosophy within the larger intellectual context, showing how the medievals traditionally thought of philosophy as “the handmaid of theology”. Philosophy served theology, and it was not philosophy’s place to go snooping into areas where it had no jurisdiction.

These are three senses in which medieval philosophy was “God-centred”, and so by looking at some of the arguments for God’s existence and nature, we get to the very beating heart of medieval philosophy.

Other than occasional looks at proofs of God’s existence, this paper will, as I said, be mainly concerned with looking at medieval philosophy as a practical and institutional phenomenon, and what it meant to be a professional philosopher in western Europe in the Middle Ages. We will be less concerned with the actual work produced by philosophers.

This will involve a brief excursus on medieval philosophy’s classical heritage, followed by an equally brief glance at early medieval philosophy (insofar as there was such a thing), to be followed by a more detailed examination of later medieval philosophy, say from 1150 onwards — the heyday of what is commonly referred to as medieval scholasticism. I have chosen to focus on the later period in part because it is in its later scholastic form that Richard III would have been familiar with it.

Incidentally, Richard must have been at least a little familiar with philosophy. The Walsh Philosophy Collection at the University of Toronto’s Fisher Rare Book Library has a beautiful copy of Duns Scotus’ (c. 1266-1308) Quaestiones in quattuor libros Sententiarum (“Disputed questions on [Peter Lombard’s] Four Books of Sentences”), which is believed to have been a presentation copy given to Richard while he was Duke of Gloucester. It was printed on vellum, in Venice, in 1476. Its presenter was the book’s editor, Thomas Pinketh (d. 1487), an Augustinian friar who had returned to England from Italy. He would go on to do service for Richard by preaching on the bastardy of Edward IV’s children.

Admittedly, I have trouble picturing Richard actually reading the book: Scotus’ work represented medieval scholasticism at its most abstruse. Scotus was called “the Subtle Doctor” for his skill at thinking up possible objections to his positions, which he would then go on to answer in endless divisions and subdivisions of argument. Not exactly light chivalric romance. Nonetheless, I’ve brought a photograph of a leaf from Richard’s copy, which you can have a look at.


In the later ancient world, persons of means sent their adolescent children to some centre of learning to be trained up in philosophy and rhetoric, much the way one might send one’s children to a finishing school. By “centre of learning” I mean some city or urban area with a high concentration of teachers who had put out their shingles, and who gained their teaching qualifications by virtue of having been themselves trained by some eminent teacher. Such teachers were most often self-proclaimed adherents to one or more of the philosophical schools which existed in the Hellenistic world.

Typically, one adhered to a philosophical school in much the way that one adheres to a religion, for adopting such a philosophy gave one a comprehensive belief system which gave answers to one’s questions in just about any area: metaphysics, natural philosophy (what we’d call “science”), logic, ethics, politics, religion, Providence (or lack thereof). By telling me you were, say, a Stoic, I could infer much about what you believed and how you lived your life. In this sense, philosophy was a very practical endeavour, and was much more a part of the general culture than it is now.

When I refer to a philosophical “school”, I do not necessarily mean this in its modern, physical sense. Think of it rather as a philosophical tradition, with its characteristic answers to certain philosophical questions.

There were several schools, with differing fates in the post-Classical world. Without being exhaustive, the main ones were: Epicureanism, Scepticism, Aristotelianism, Platonism, and Stoicism.

Epicureanism and Scepticism fell off the map mainly because they proved irreconcilable with Christian dogma. Epicureans were atheistical, and so were Sceptics, at least insofar as they doubted that the existence of a Deity could be proved (indeed, their central belief was that nothing could be proved). Also, Epicureans defined the good life, the achievement of which was the purpose of ethics, as pleasure, which was obviously incompatible with Christian self-denial and disdain for the sensual world.

Surprisingly, Aristotelianism was a fairly marginal philosophy in ancient times, much less popular than the Big Three of Platonism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism. Aristotelianism was also in some tension with Christian dogma; for one thing, Aristotle believed in the eternity of the world, which did not sit well with the Scriptural account of Creation.

Stoicism and Platonism were much more agreeable to the early Christians. In the late Classical period Platonism had developed into neo-Platonism, a semi-mystical philosophy which emphasized the role of a transcendent Deity. Stoic ethics, which emphasized endurance and self-denial, and the moral equality of all (even slaves), had obvious affinities with the Christian view of the ethical life. Also, the Stoics believed that the world would come to an end, to be consumed by fire, and then to be reconstituted and begin all over again, and to run its course in exactly the same way. The Christians liked the sound of the sensible world coming to an end, but weren’t so keen on it starting up all over again!

For obvious reasons, Epicureanism and Scepticism didn’t have legs in a world turned Christian. Even Aristotelianism fared poorly, at least initially. Most of Aristotle’s works — with the notable exception of his logical works — were lost. However, knowledge of many of them would later be regained, though it would take thinkers like Thomas Aquinas and others to make his teachings compatible with Christian dogma.

Stoicism and Platonism were, in a way, victims of their own success. The early Christians were not, for the most part, a learned lot. Rather than do much thinking of their own, they often preferred the eclectic approach, taking what they liked from various philosophies, and discarding the remainder. There was much that they liked in the Stoics and neo-Platonists, and like an all-devouring empire, they ransacked Stoicism and neo-Platonism, and absorbed them into a single Christian thought-system. Much of the thought of St. Augustine and other early Christians can be characterized as a dog’s breakfast of Stoic and neo-Platonist leftovers re-heated.

For the curious, scholars fix the end of Classical philosophy by either of two traditional dates: AD 524, when the Roman philosopher Boethius was strangled in his prison cell, or AD 529, when the emperor Justinian closed down the remaining pagan philosophical schools in Athens. In either case, it would be centuries before anything resembling philosophy returned.


From the end of the Classical period until the age of Charlemagne (sixth to ninth centuries), there was really little philosophy to speak of. Historians tend to avoid the term “Dark Ages”, but as far as philosophy is concerned, the seventh to at least the ninth centuries were truly dark.

Scholarship of any kind was more a matter of preservation than of innovation, and a poor job was done of even that limited task. The medievals had a limited number of Plato’s dialogues to work from, they had many of Cicero’s works (themselves amounting to mere primers of philosophy), a few of Aristotle’s works — mainly his logical works, and Boethius’ Latin translations and commentaries on the latter. They had the Stoic Seneca’s writings. They had the works of some neo-Platonists, such as the third-century philosopher Porphyry. And of course, they had St. Augustine. Much of the Greek literature was available only in quite poor Latin translations. Otherwise, philosophical works were available only in scraps collected by encyclopaedists like Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636).

This was the state of things when the first glimmerings of philosophy re-emerged in the court of Charlemagne, who had hired into his service an Englishman by the name of Alcuin of York (c. 735-804) to organize his “Palatine School” at the imperial capital, Aachen. Alcuin encouraged the study of Aristotle’s logic, and wrote a work of his own on the topic, called the Dialectica.

Alcuin represents a fairly minor foray into philosophy. The first medieval philosopher worthy of the name was John Scotus Eriugena (c. 815-877). As the name “Scotus” implied, John was an Irishman. And in case anyone was in doubt, “Eriugena” is Latin for “Irish-born”. He wrote a dialogue entitled De divisione naturae (“On the Division of Nature”), which was remarkable for containing a complete system of philosophy, constructed through the use of the logical syllogism, and borrowing heavily from neo-Platonism.

The Syllogism.

Incidentally, a syllogism is a particular kind of deductive argument, composed of three sentences — a major premise and a minor premise, followed by a conclusion. An example of a valid syllogism would be:

1. All men are mortal.
2. Socrates is a man.
3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

In a valid syllogism, of which there are a limited number of forms, if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true as well. There must also be what’s called a “middle term”, a term common to both premises. In the example, the middle term is the category “men”. The middle term is necessary to ensure that the true premises bear some relation to each other; otherwise, one could construct a formally “valid” syllogism out of unrelated premises, generating any old conclusion. The resulting “argument” would not be an argument at all, but merely a juxtaposition of sentences that happen to be true. Example:

1. All men are mortal.
2. A pigeon is a bird.
3. Therefore, Socrates is Greek.

Syllogistic logic was developed by Aristotle, who had mapped out the argument forms, separating out the valid ones, and figured out the rules governing them. The logic of the syllogism was the logic of the medieval philosophers.

The Institutional Setting.

Universities as such did not yet exist. So we must look at where philosophy took place. As the case of Alcuin of York illustrates, there were schools in existence. Alcuin’s was a royal school, but most commonly, schools were situated near cathedrals, hence “cathedral schools”. Here, qualified teachers, often certified to teach by the local bishop after paying a fee, set up shop. In certain centres there might be a high concentration of schools, attracting teachers and students from other regions. As we’ll see, these centres would become the nuclei of universities.

One such centre of learning was Canterbury. Its most famous philosophical son was St. Anselm (1033-1109), Archbishop of Canterbury. Anselm is well-known for a work called the Proslogion in which there first appears an argument for the existence of God called the “Ontological Argument”. I have warned you that we would be looking at such arguments. I’m throwing you into the deep end, as the Ontological Proof is probably the most difficult one to get one’s head around.

Anselm’s Ontological Proof.

Anselm’s proof was meant to do double duty: it would demonstrate the existence of God, and it would say something about His nature, namely that He exists necessarily, and that he is greater than anything which can be conceived. Here’s how the proof proceeds. Stay with me.

It begins with a definition of God as “that than which no greater can be thought”. Given this, it is impossible to deny God’s existence without involving oneself in a contradiction. Why? Because if God, as conceived in the definition, existed only in the mind, we could conceive of an even greater being, namely one that existed in reality. Therefore, to think of a being greater than anything that can be conceived entails thinking of a being that necessarily exists. Therefore, God must exist, and He is greater than anything, and He exists necessarily (i.e. He couldn’t not exist; or, as the jargon of medieval philosophy would put it, God’s essence is existence). The Ontological Proof represents, in general terms, an attempt to derive the existence of God from the idea of God.

If you don’t get it, don’t worry too much. It has seemed a pretty fishy argument to many. A monk named Guanilo, a contemporary of Anselm’s, noted that you could prove the existence of just about anything by using an argument with that form. Example: The most beautiful island must exist, because we can form the idea of such a concept. If such an island only existed in the mind, then one that existed in reality would be more beautiful. Therefore, it must exist, etc. But we know that there is no logical contradiction in denying the existence of “the most beautiful island”. We could easily imagine a world where there were no islands at all. Such a world would not represent a logical contradiction.

Try the same exercise with the concept of “the most powerful unicorn”, and you understand the absurdity that Guanilo is getting at. I don’t think it’s stepping too far out on a limb to assert that unicorns in fact do not exist, but Anselm’s logic seems to imply that a most powerful unicorn necessarily exists.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Spectacled Avenger's Reading List, 2010

Another year has come and gone, and for me it wasn’t such a bad year, all things considered. I certainly had plenty to be grateful for.

As an homage to Art Garfunkel, and in keeping with a practise established last new year, here is The Spectacled Avenger’s reading list for 2010. As with last year's list, books I particularly enjoyed are bolded, and if a book is listed twice, that is because I read it twice.

* * * *

ACKERMAN, Bruce. The Failure of the Founding Fathers: Jefferson, Marshall, and the Rise of Presidential Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

ACKERMAN, Bruce. The Decline and Fall of the American Republic. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

ADAMS, John. The Portable John Adams. John Patrick Diggins (ed.). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2004.

ACTON, Lord. Essays in the History of Liberty. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1985.

ARISTOTLE. Politics. H. Rackham (trans). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005.

ARIUS DIDYMUS. Epitome of Stoic Ethics. Arthur J. Pomeroy (trans.). Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 1999.

BAILYN, Bernard (ed.). The Debate on the Constitution, Part One: September 1787 to February 1788. New York: Library of America, 1993.

BAKER, J. H. An Introduction to English Legal History (4th edition). London: Butterworths, 2002.

BARRY, Brian. Why Social Justice Matters. Cambridge: Polity, 2005.

BARRY, Brian. Political Argument. London: Routledge, 1965.

BRENNAN, Geoffrey and James M. BUCHANAN. The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy (Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.

BRENNAN, Geoffrey and James M. BUCHANAN. The Reason of Rules: Constitutional Political Economy (Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 10). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.

BUCHANAN, James M. and Richard E. WAGNER. Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes (Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Vol. 8). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000.

CHESTERFIELD, Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of. Letters. David Roberts (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

COHEN, G. A. Rescuing Justice and Equality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

COKE, Sir Edward. The Selected Writings of Sir Edward Coke (Vol. I). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003.

FLOWER, Harriet I. Roman Republics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

GALBRAITH, John Kenneth. American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1993.

GALBRAITH, John Kenneth. The Great Crash, 1929. Boston: Mariner Books, 1997.

GALBRAITH, John Kenneth. The Affluent Society. Boston: Mariner Books, 1998.

GROTIUS, Hugo. The Rights of War and Peace (Vol. II). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005.

HAMILTON, Alexander. Writings. New York: Library of America, 2001.

HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON, and John JAY. The Federalist. New York: Modern Library, 1937.

HARDIN, Russell. How Do You Know? The Economics of Ordinary Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

HAYEK, Friedrich. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.

HAYEK, Friedrich. The Fortunes of Liberalism: Essays on Austrian Economics and the Ideal of Freedom. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1992.

HAYEK, Friedrich. Studies on the Abuse and Decline of Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

HAYEK, Friedrich. The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

HAYEK, Friedrich. Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948.

HAYEK, Friedrich. Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Vol. III: The Political Order of a Free People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

HĂ–LKESKAMP, Karl-Joachim. Reconstructing the Roman Republic: An Ancient Political Culture and Modern Research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010.

JANAWAY, Christopher. Beyond Selflessness: Reading Nietzsche’s “Genealogy”. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

JOHNSON, Samuel. The Works of Samuel Johnson (Vol. VII). London: F. C. and J. Rivington et al, 1823.

JOYCE, Richard. The Evolution of Morality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006.

LACROIX, Alison L. The Ideological Origins of American Federalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

LINCOLN, Abraham. Speeches and Writings, 1832-1858. New York: Library of America, 1989.

LUKES, Steven. Liberals and Cannibals: The Implications of Diversity. London: Verso, 2003.

MACINTYRE, Alasdair. Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Volume 2. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

MADISON, James. Writings. New York: Library of America, 1999.

MARCUS AURELIUS. The Meditations of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus. Francis Hutcheson and James Moor (trans.). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008.

MCILWAIN, Charles Howard. Constitutionalism: Ancient and Modern. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1975.

MEDEMA, Steven G. The Hesitant Hand: Taming Self-Interest in the History of Economic Ideas. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

MISES, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Vol. 1). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007.

MISES, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Vol. 2). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007.

MISES, Ludwig von. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Vol. 3). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2007.

MISES, Ludwig von. Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981.

MOORE, G. E. Principia Ethica (Revised Edition). Thomas Baldwin (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

MYERS, Robert H. Self-Governance and Cooperation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

NARVESON, Jan. The Libertarian Idea (2nd edition). Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2001.

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Walter Kaufmann (trans.). New York: Modern Library, 1993.

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Walter Kaufmann (trans.). New York: Modern Library, 1993.

NORTH, Douglass C. Understanding the Process of Economic Change. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

OLSON, Mancur. The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965.

OLSON, Mancur. The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982.

OVERALL, Christine. Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

PETTIT, Philip. Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

POLANYI, Michael. The Logic of Liberty. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998.

POSNER, Richard A. The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

POSNER, Richard A. The Problematics of Moral and Legal Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

POWER, Michael. The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

RAKOVE, Jack N. (ed.). The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

RUDDIMAN, William F. Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

SATZ, Debra. Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

SCHUMPETER, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (3rd Edition). New York: Harper, 1962.

SELDON, Arthur. Capitalism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990.

SMITH, Steven D. The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

TOCQUEVILLE, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Gerald E. Bevan (trans.). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003.

TRENCHARD, John and Thomas GORDON. Cato’s Letters: or, Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious (Vol. II). London: J. Walthoe et al, 1755.

TULLOCK, Gordon. The Rent-Seeking Society Redistribution (Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, Vol. 5). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005.

TULLOCK, Gordon. Bureaucracy (Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, Vol. 6). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005.

TULLOCK, Gordon. The Economics and Politics of Wealth Redistribution (Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, Vol. 7). Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005.

VAN CLEVE, George William. A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.

VICO, Giambattista. The First New Science. Leon Pompa (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

WALLACE, James D. Ethical Norms, Particular Cases. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996.

WASHINGTON, George. Writings. New York: Library of America, 1997.

WATSON, Alan. Roman Private Law around 200 BC. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1971.