Volume III Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1991

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

During the week of March 21-27, 1991 I attended a conference in London, England on “War and Peace” sponsored by the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade. The participants, who were from the U.S., the Soviet Union, the U.K., Hungary, Australia, Denmark, South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada, share an interest in the social and economic philosophy of Henry George. In 1879 George published Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth…The Remedy, which is one of the most widely read and translated texts on the philosophy of political economy. This work had a substantial influence on such varied modern figures as Leo Tolstoy, Sun Yat-Sen, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Aldous Huxley, and Milton Friedman. Here in Canada, Georgist schools of economic science flourished during the first half of this century in such cities as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The philosophy of Henry George also led to the formation of an international movement devoted to the recouping for the community of publicly created values and benefits which have hitherto been largely monopolized by a few individuals and interests with its accompanying maldistributions in wealth and power.

The conference was also the scene for the launching of a new book on Georgist philosophy entitled Now the Synthesis: Capitalism, Socialism and the New Social Contract, edited by Richard Noyes (London, Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991). Interestingly, this work uses Hegel’s concept of the dialectical unfolding of history to argue for a holistic philosophy that sets aside the failures and distortions of both capitalism and socialism in favour of a social order which examines anew property rights, the ownership of land and natural resources, taxation and the development of institutional structures over the past several centuries which have “disfigured the rights of the individual”, negated the natural environment and adumbrated our sense of community.

Hegelian dialectico-speculative logic, as historically instantiated, argues that philosophy comprehends (begreifen), in its time, the most explicit working of the Absolute. The limitation of Hegelian speculative philosophy is that it is primarily reflective (nachdenklich) and historical, not futural. The famous passage in the Preface to the Philosophy of Right is à propos:

The teaching of the concept, which is also history’s inescapable lesson, is that it is only when actuality is mature that the ideal first appears over against the real and that the ideal apprehends this same real world in its substance and builds it up for itself into the shape of an intellectual realm. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy’s grey in grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.

In reflecting on its own development, philosophy comes to understand the process of history, and thus its underlying continuity. Equally this continuity must be interrelated with novelty, paradigm shifts and the severe diremptions of a modern intellectuality that focuses primarily on imagination and the discursive rather than the rationally integrative and the speculatively reconciliatory. Even more importantly, mature philosophical reflection on the process of history must also have room for the power of the anticipatory hope which lies buried in future expectation.

There is a fundamentally speculative orientation in the socio-economic philosophy of Henry George. His exposition of a practical life and civilization that is based on the theoretical complementarity and dialectico-speculative mediation of freedom and property rights, of the production and distribution of wealth, of individual liberty and equal justice for all, of respect for all natural life and the environmentally sound creation of wealth, and of the tradition and its imaginative reworking and development, is not only an accomplishment that scholars must further elaborate but also a disclosure which holds great promise for the future betterment of society.

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Expanding the publication frequency of ELEUTHERIA has been suggested by a number of members of the Institute. Semi-annual publication does not nearly cover the large amount of materials that Institute members currently have ready for the press. However, our financial resources do not, at present, allow us to increase the number of issues. Our General Endowment Fund is not currently able to meet the semi-annual operating expenses of ELEUTHERIA.

I urge all members and interested parties, who have not yet brought their membership fees and donations up to date, to do so in the near future. Donations to the Endowment Fund are encouraged and greatly appreciated. There are many ways to make such donations, through loans, trust agreements, bequests, matching funding and so on. For example, if you work for a company that has a matching charitable funding program, you can direct that every dollar you donate to the Institute be matched on a dollar for dollar basis with a corresponding donation to the Institute from your employer. All you have to do is to give a copy of the official receipt you receive from the Institute for your donation to your employer and direct the corporate donation to the Institute. Professional investment and legal advice on Canadian charities and tax law is available from the Institute free of charge. As an interim measure, the Board of Directors has decided that if there is a sufficient increase in funding, supplemental issues of ELEUTHERIA will be published in the near future.

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The Institute on February 23rd and 28th sponsored two seminars at the University of Ottawa on the topic “Modernity and History”. These seminars, led by Peter McCormick, were a sequel to the seminar “Understanding Modernity” held by the Institute on March 31st, 1990. The review of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, which appeared in Volume II, Number 1, is followed in this issue with a continuation of that review and a comparative consideration of Stephen Toulmin’sCosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. The portrait of modernity in the earlier review is filled out by McCormick with a critical evaluation of Taylor’s historical narrative in the Sources of the Self. The contours of this narrative are then contrasted with the competing historical interpretation of the origin of “theory-centered” philosophy in the seventeenth century presented by Toulmin in Cosmopolis. Sponsorship of seminars and presentations on the nature of modernity are a regular part of the work of the Institute.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Peter McCormick on being named a Killam Fellow of the Canada Council. Over the next two years he will be relieved from his teaching duties at the University of Ottawa. This will enable him to concentrate on his writings in the areas of metaphysics and the philosophy of art.

Table of Contents

  • MODERNITY AND HISTORY by Peter McCormick
  • ON PRAGMATISM by Francis Peddle