14. Philosophy, Democracy, and Justice
A. Politics of Ballot Initiatives
In Modern times, most democratic societies adopted representational democracy, which simply put, means that people elect their representatives, and those representatives form the parliament and create laws for nations. In other words, parliament in the Modern times has been almost equivalent to the legislative branch of government.
Only a few occasions like referenda of France had been by popular vote (i.e. non-parliamentary but at the same time legislative). But for the most part, democracy in the Modern times has been *representative* democracy. Even in Iran, in the past, Majles ShorAyeh Melli of 1906, with all its peculiarities, was a parliament and during IRI, the Majles ShorAyeh EslAmi in Iran, with all its peculiarities, is a parliament.
In the last two decades, a new political form of legislative power has developed in the West, especially in the US, and especially in California. This new form of law-making is called politics of ballot-initiative, at the state and local level. For a good historical overview, please see initiatives and referenda section of "Megatrends" by John Naisbitt (pages 181 to 190 ).
What is the use of ballot-initiatives? Well, people directly get a chance to vote for the laws they want to see. Currently only 3% of popular signature is is needed to put an initiative on ballots in California. Also currently in the US, this form of law-making is available only for local and state governments, but some people are working to make it possible for national initiatives as well. The initiatives range from banning smoking in restaurants to putting a ceiling on taxes.
I was thinking of some Propositions that could be worthwhile for a ballot-initiative in Iran, to see what people really vote for rather than speculating on what the people want:
Proposition 100: To separate state and religion in Iran. Yes()No().
Proposition 101: Women be allowed not to wear hejab. Yes()No().
Proposition 102: Change Iran to a federal republic. Yes () No().
Proposition 103: Abolish death penalty in Iran. Yes() No().
Proposition 104: Abolish conscription (sarbAzi) and only have a professional army. Yes () No().
B. What is Modern Democracy?
It is not only the political theory and practice that has advanced and new thoughts such as the above have been achieved in the last 50 years, even the basic philosophy of science has drastically changed which I have discussed in my paper entitled "Philosophy of Science in 20th Century". In my paper, I have shown how the epistemology of objective knowledge proposed by Karl Popper has an impact in the way one can see the world and understand it. His falsification theory is used by many scientists and also the contending subjective theory of Thomas Kuhn is useful for some other areas of knowledge such as the topic of shifting paradigms.
In light of practical changes such as the ballot initiatives and the theoretical works of philosopher Karl Popper, let's examine the critical issue of democracy which is a central practical topic of political movement in Iran today.
Modern democracies and Open Society are not defined by the question of *what* (i.e. who rules), but rather it is the question of *how* the state rules that makes the difference.
Today the Western governments are called democracies. The Greek meant rule of people when they talked of democracy. But in reality it is not the rule of “who”, the benevolence of ruling individual, caste or class which has mattered, whenever there has been a democracy or its lack of. For example, in the Modern Times, the Communists cared the most about the issue of rule of “who”, and in their search for the best to rule, they discovered the proletariat, and thus they talked of rule of the workers, the class which was the majority of the industrial society, and regardless of how Communist representation mechanism worked, even when that majority supported them, it was obvious that it did not usher in freedom.
One of the first people who theoretically explained this problem was Karl Popper in his book “The Open Society and Its Enemies,” around the time of WWII, where he showed that modern democracy was not about *who* rules, but it is about *how* a state rules. In other words, the mechanism of checks and balances is the crux of what separates a modern democracy from a dictatorship. More search for finding *who* is the best to rule, the attempt from Plato to Marx, is a futile endeavor to achieve an ideal government. Whether the rule of Philosopher-kings of Plato and Khomeini, or Marx’s representatives of the proletariat, the result is the same tyranny, if the *how* of state control, lacks extensive checks and balances.
The above is an important issue to understand when one reviews modern democracies. Even the rule of law, which is so central to modern democracies, because of protecting individuals from all other rules, is effective to the end of democracy, only when it is in the context of full checks and balances, instituted between the various branches of government. The following interesting point about the U.S. Supreme Court by Bertrand Russell exemplifies the above regarding checks and balances:
"The country where Locke's principle of the division of powers has found its fullest application is the United States, where the President and Congress are wholly independent of each other, and the Supreme Court is independent of both. Inadvertently, the Constitution made the Supreme Court a branch of the legislature, since nothing is a law if the Supreme Court says it is not. The fact that its powers are nominally only interpretative in reality increases those powers, since it makes it difficult to criticize what are supposed to be purely legal decisions. It says a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution has only once led to armed conflict.-Bertrand Russell-History of Western Philosophy"
Karl Popper in his later works on democracy emphasizes the issue of the government being able to be removed without bloodshed, reminding us of Communist and Nazi governments that could not be removed, even with bloodshed, in contrast to Nixon’s government in the U.S., that was removed by impeachment without bloodshed. In short, regardless of the ones making the laws of the state in representational democracies, people are able to be the judge and even remove the government.
And of course, focused on Western states, Popper does not refer as much to religious states that have been basically gone in the West for centuries. So the authority of civil society over religious order is a given in the West at this time. For countries like Iran, creating various modern institutions of civil society and their authority in the law of the land are currently live debates and action issues.
This is why democracy is so much emphasized by the popular movement, as the encounter of people’s rule versus God’s rule, in popular jargon, but one should go a step further and note that people's rule to be a modern democracy means that civil society should be developed in contrast to "God's rule" and for civil society to be an open society, it is about the *how* question, and that a secular state is a modern democracy depending on how far it goes in implementing checks and balances.
Marx in Europe lived in an era when the opposition to despotism cared a lot for liberal democracy and especially in his early works, he defended liberal parliamentary system. But supporting dictatorship of the proletariat defeated his support of liberal democracy in the Communist creed that Marx left behind. True that only in works like "Critique of the Gotha Program", Marx emphasized the dictatorship of the proletariat and Kautsky and Engels did not push that side of Marxian theory after Marx's death, and only Lenin picked it up and made it the main trend of Marxism. Nonetheless this was part of the Marxist ideological empire from the beginning in the Holy Family, where the proletariat is depicted as the savior of humanity, because it had nothing to lose but its shackles, and was supposed to open the door of classless communist society. Times have passed the world of introducing another ideological empire (which thinkers like Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper realized well, and treated their own philosophies of logical atomism and objective knowledge, as reasonable discourse, rather than an ideological creed).
So in a way an icon like Marx shares the fault of yet bringing another *closed* society to the world, to the point of defeating the *open* society. It took over 100 years for the world to discard most of the Communist *closed* societies and get back to a state where most of the Earth sides with Open Society again.
C. Iran & Law: Virtue or Rights
Socrates in his defense, addresses the ideological democratic state, that had accused him of believing in supernatural Gods and corrupting the youth with such beliefs, in the following words:
"Please do not be offended if I tell you the truth. No man on Earth who consciously opposes either you or any other organized democracy , and flatly prevents a great many wrongs and illegalities from taking place in the state to which he belongs, can possibly escape with his life. The true champion of justice, if he intends to survive even for a short time, must necessarily confine himself to private life and leave politics alone." [Socrates' Defense (ََApology), Collected Dialogues of Plato, Princeton University Press, P.17]
This is as if Socrates is speaking in the courts of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), not the current IRI, but the ideal IRI of reformists, namely the Republic of "Islamic Democracy". He is tried and condemned to death in a court with the presence of a jury, in an ideological democracy, on charges of believing in supernatural, holding thoughts of other Gods different from the Gods sanctioned by the state, and encouraging the youth with such beliefs thru reasoning, and he finally drinks the hemlock, and for centuries humanity has been in shocks and is bewildered about why things went wrong, and how this treacherous murder happened in a democracy.
What has been less noticed in Socrates' defense, is the fact that he does *not * speak of his *rights*, when addressing the jury, *contrary* to the way the political prisoners in our times address similar courts. He tries to convince them that his ideas are the expression of *good* and *virtues* and not the thoughts of his prosecutors in the court. Even at the end, he says if his own sons grow up and "put money or anything else before goodness", he asks the same jury and judges to take their revenge and plaque his sons "for neglecting the important things and thinking that they are good for something when they are good for nothing." And he continues that if judges do that, "he shall have justice at their hand, both he himself and his children." [Ibid P.26].
It is as if Socrates, just like Bukharin in Stalin's court, deeply believed that the system in which he was being prosecuted, is the ideal just system, and this is why to the end, he does not want to escape from prison, because he considers the escape to be undermining the system which he considers to be just, although he thinks the functionaries of the system at the time, had distanced themselves from the just path of the regime, especially with regards to their judgment of him, and thus he does not escape although he can, and drinks the hemlock.
The same way Bukharin, centuries later, at the Soviet gallows, with the outcry of long live communism, bids farewell to this world. And today, Aghajari in Iran, although himself condemned to death for his views, does not reject the death fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, even when their verdicts are similar to a disinterested eye, but in Aghajari's mindset, he is representing virtue, whereas Rushdie represents vice, and the Rushdie deserves to die for his views but not him, because for Aghajari the *rights* of freedom of thought do not determine the path of the state, and virtue determines it.
What Socrates, Bukharin, and Aghajari have in common, is the dominant concept of justice of the societies of antiquity and Middle Ages, which viewed justice as equivalent to *goodness* and *virtue*, and for them justice was *not* specific *rights* such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and the like. John Rawls has shown this difference very well, in a new book entitled "Lectures of Moral Philosophy" published in 2000. He shows that philosophers of Ancient Times, such as Plato, in contrast to philosophers of Modern Times such as Hume and Kant, viewed justice and moral philosophy as issues of *virtue* and not *rights*.
This is why the dialogues of Socrates is about *virtue* and *goodness*, whereas the discussions of Hume and Kant is about *rights*. It is interesting to note that Rawls mentions about Ancient Greece, that religion had been civil in there, similar to what the religious reformists and their supporters propose for Iran. In fact, he mentions that religion of Ancient Greece focused on civil rituals, and the critical philosophers were the ones who were concerned with *virtue* and *goodness* in their *reasoning*, which they considered as the philosopher's search for justice. Whereas in Europe of Middle Ages, religion had a complete doctrine for *virtues* and *goodness*, and finally the modern philosophers used *reasoning* to define *rights* and did *not* use *virtue*, in order to arrive at justice and modern state.
In fact, in Iran, both Khomeini and Shariati, although in two different ways, were in search of justice of the type of the Ancients. Khomeini in his book "Velayate Faghih", calls for Plato's state of philosopher-kings, which in practice was ushered in with the position of VF (valie-faghih) and the Assembly of Experts in IRI, and the clergy took the role of guardians of virtues. And IRI constitution ended to be based on Islamic *virtues* and not human rights. Now if such a state was formed, even if it was civil and did not include the clergy, would the likes of Shariati and Aghajari, not be slaughtered by it, just like Socrates, if they remained as critics of the state?
A lot of people have been upset about my critic of Shariati and I hope my explanations here clarify that my critic is not a personal issue. Perhaps if Khomeini had had been killed at the beginning of the revolution, today he would not have been as hated as he is, and some might have called for return of Khomeini's ideology and not Shariati's, but I still would have written the same critic of his views, as I have written here, his error of placing virtue as the basis of state and law. And in this modern world, this is the biggest retrogression, even if it be in the non-religious form, such as what the communists did, and the great thinker Karl Popper had shown this error from the time of Plato to our times and I have written about it elsewhere.
The error of the model of justice of antiquity and Middle Ages is that it places *virtue* as the basis of justice, and not *rights*. And even their "philosopher-kings" cannot cannot agree on the goodness and virtue of an idea or an individual. This is why in the modern world, rights of people have been documented separate from any ideology, and today are recognized as universal human rights, separate from any religion or school of thought, and John Rawls, in his books "Theory of Justice" and his new work "Justice as Fairness", has tried to even define these rights, independent of liberal philosophy, as a logical template independent of any any religious or philosophical system.
Today, the attempts to write the future constitution of Iran has already started, and it is important that we do not make the same mistakes of 1979, and in that document we should not define *virtues* acceptable to the law, which the constitution of IRI has done, instead, we should focus on the rights of citizens and how to best limit the power of the state and religious institutions, so that again we do not become the victims of the regime we found, and establish a proper Constitution.
D. Rule of Law and *Judgment by the People*
There is a lot of confusion in the Iranian political circles about "rule of law", especially since Ayatollah Khatami, the President of Islamic Republic of Iran, has become the so-called bastion of the "rule of law".
On January 2004, in "Democracy is Not People's Rule, It is People's Judgment" I discussed about the judgment of people to be the key in evaluating any democracy, and why *rule of law* in the absence of mechanisms of *judgment by the people* is not democracy..
It is true that democracy is avoidance of a form of rule that is not the rule of law, namely avoidance of tyranny. But rule of law without the institutions of judgment by the people is not democracy either. Hitler came to power with the democratic majority vote, but from the moment the most important institution of German people's judgment, namely the Reichstag was closed down, the German democracy was ended. Although his regime was still the rule of law, i.e. the fascist law.
Karl Popper, the contemporary philosopher, in an interview during the last years of his life says that it is dangerous to teach people and particularly children that democracy was the rule of people, i.e. popular rule, which is not true, and he thought once they become aware of the truth, they will feel cheated and let down, and he thought they can get disappointed and this can even lead them to terrorism. Democracy has never been people's rule, nor can or should it be. [See Karl Popper's "Lesson of this Century", Publ. 1997]
People who elect the government are not able to make decisions about complex issues like nuclear polities or long term space projects or the likes. But after a while, people can see the results of the most complex policies, and in a system where the institutions of *judgment* by the people have power, in the next elections, those policies and the individuals responsible for those policies, can be elected again or rejected.
Many dictatorial regimes have called their rule that of workers state, or rule of the deprived, or the people's rule, to hide the reality of the state. As Popper notes, "Hitler came to power legitimately, and that the Enabling Law that made him a dictator was passed by a parliamentary majority", thus the issue of legitimacy of *who* should rule is not the issue, and as I have explained in "What is Modern Democracy", the difference is about *how* to rule.
In fact, people's *judgment* in all three areas of legislature, executive, and judicial, is the meaning of democracy, from the election of representatives of parliament and president, to election of judges, and participation in the juries. Continuous judgment by the people, at various levels, has been the main pillar of all modern democracies, and democratic constitutions should define, and support, the details of freedom of various institutions of judgment by the people.
Even unelected state organs such as the Supreme Court in the U.S. law is not part of judicial branch and is part of the legislative branch and its function has been assumed to be limited to the *interpretation* of the law, and it does not have executive authorities such as confirming the candidates of Congress, or approving the elected representatives. Nonetheless, many visionaries had thought such muscle bestowed to an unelected body could be problematic, and they thought "it was a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution had only once led to armed conflict." [See Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Page 640]
Now if we take a look at the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), we will see that not only lack of secularism has turned the judgment in the society to apartheid against non-Muslims, but even ordinary Muslim people have no rights of judgment, and in that system, judge and prosecutor are one, and they are the Shi'a clergy, and even among them, a combination of the heads of judiciary and part of Guardian Council (GC) and other members of IRI elite forms Expediency Council (EC), which is Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches of the state put together, and this way the candidates for the parliamentary election are confirmed by GC, when half of its members are members of EC. This is not the first task of GC and will not be its last. If in this case they have a legislative and executive role, with regards to the chained murder case trial, they had a judicial role as well.
Expediency Council (EC) was formed following the 2nd of Khordad movement, to neutralize that development. If 2nd of Khordad was a movement where the people tried to use the little republicanism and parliamentarism that was present in IRI against it, EC in contrast, was an attempt to even the minute republican traits of the regime, by creating a semi-Islamic Supreme Soviet, in parallel to the Islamic Parliament, and the result was further removal of people's judgment from the IRI system. The system uses deceptive slogan of people's rule with a sham that Communist states exploited to deceive the people, when institutions of judgment by the people, such as the political parties, newspapers, and free elections were blocked or severely censored. In practice the conflicts of various organs of IRI, such as the animosity of parliament and Guardian Council, can end up in a civil war.
Slogans of rule of law by Khatami and the IRI reformists, as democracy, are to distract the people and to offer a wrong image of democracy, when the most important criteria of democracy, i.e. the institutions of judgment by the people, are hidden from the eyes. How can a regime be called a democracy and the issue of freedom of political parties to be treated with silence for so many years?
Both Pahlavi monarchy and IRI did not allow the flourishing of the institutions of judgment by the people, and they blocked and banned these institutions. From newspapers and magazines, to political parties, courts, and parliament, all have been under control of the monarchy and clergy. The ballot boxes in both systems were meaningless. In fact, any other political force that is silent in its ideals about the institutions of *judgment* by the people, when talking of democracy, has not really understood the meaning of democracy.
When for the first time, Iranian people in 2nd of Khordad used the levers of IRI against Islamic Republic itself, IRI was so panicked that it was afraid the next step to be the real reformists of Iran such as Forouhars, Mokhtaris, and Pouyandehs to come to the scene, and thus IRI committed the heinous chained murders. Today the problem of regime is not the people's use of the levers of IRI, and even some real reformists like Forouhars to come to the political scene is not IRI's main fear.
The real issue of the regime in Iran today is people's entry into realm of judgment, which is the real meaning of democracy and the actual fear of regime is from this development. It does not seem like that even to shoot the people in the streets will stop them from entering this real realm of democracy and this is how people have been playing with boycotting and participating in IRI elections showing their resolve to be the judges of the state.
People in 1979 came to the streets and gave blood but their demand was not to get increasing role in the judgment of the state. In contrast, today the best judges do not understand the Iranian people, and they want to judge for Iranian people, the same way monarchy and later the clergy had done for centuries, to decide for people and to announce it to them. Those days have long passed.
The organs of judgment by the people, from the scientific associations to student groups , are in contact with similar institutions aboard, and these relations are increasing every day.
From the chained murders to the fatwas of Ayatollah Jannati against the Internet, these attacks on Iranian people, are not able to stop the new roaring waves. Iranian people will judge all three branches of the state, legislative, executive, and judiciary. Whether Fayzieh of Qom and OMIR (Organization of Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution) take Iran to the border of a civil war, or if they get united to draw their sword against the people, every day the Iranian people are taking another step closer to a secular republic, a republic with real institutions of judgment by the people. This time contrary to 1979, we will not be exchanging one dictatorial regime with another whether by revolution or reform.
E. Ethics, Closed and Open Societies
Does a sense of right and wrong need a creed to be achieved? Does ethical judgment of evil and good need a religion or a closed ideology to defend it? In Zoroastrianism evil and good is discussed extensively. Later on, Manichaeism viewed evil to have a separate identity and did not see it as the lack of good. In contrast, Spinoza and most of the modern Western thought views evil as the lack of good. The dualism of evil and good was brought to the Gnostic traditions of Christianity by St. Augustine and passed on to some of the post-Islamic sects and religions like Yazdanis in Iran.
The theory of evil has passed on for ages, and the Christian author Scott Peck in his "People of the Lie" has extensively used this theory, a book which I highly recommend. Although he is a Christian author, the book could have been written by a secular thinker and explains well, about issues of honesty and dishonesty. It shows how one who lies and persists in dishonesty, can end up to justify the acts of a Nazi torturer.
I have written that there are honest and dishonest people in every religion and ideology; and no ideology can make people honest, and we have seen how some people use their ideology as a justification for their dishonesty, basically by end justifying the means.
True that for those who really need a religion, if they discard a religion like Islam in Iran, they can pick up a religion like Zoroastrianism, which is more of a cultural identity and very ethical and its current organization is not cultish. But in open societies, the religion that people proclaim because of family lineage, is increasingly losing its import, in contrast to closed societies, and people are basically not that religious, and their decisions about good and evil, are increasingly based on utilitarian ethical and legal considerations, than due to any religious dogma.
There are liberal theorists like John Rawls today, who define rights without even the liberal comprehensive system of enlightenment of Kant and JS Mill. But this is not the only option to have open society.
A religious person like Krishnamurti is as close to an open society, as a secular person like Kant whose comprehensive system did not give rise to despotism. . In contrast, the irreligious system of Marx and Nazis proved to be as despotic as the religious systems of Medieval Christianity and Islam. So again the distinction is in Open Society than in following a religion or an atheistic creed.
The above is what Popper tries to show by arguing for *Open Society*. He does not discard Communism because of its Utopianism, which many previous critics of Communism before him did. He discards it because it replaced open society with a closed society. In other words, the fault of Communism was not because it was Utopian, and in fact the ethical views of Krishnamurti or the socio-political views of Kant and J.S. Mill could as well be considered as Utopian dreams, but they did not cause despotism. The crucial difference being the support for an *open society*. Therefore Popper condemns Plato's Republic as much as the Utopia of Communists or Nazis for being contrary to an Open Society.
F. Problem is not Utopianism, it is Lack of Open Society
Many of those who have come out of the experience of political and ideological dictatorship of Communism, or Islamism, think that the main reason for the despotism of the system they were part of, has been its utopianism, and arrive at negating utopianism. The reality is that even liberalism has been as utopian as the communist utopianism, whether in economic arena, or political arena, but what separates the experience of Western democracies is their dedication to *open society*.
In fact, the first critics of Leninism like Lucas and Mannheim in 1929 were wrong to think that Communist dictatorship was because of its utopian thinking. They eliminated utopianism and became neo-Marxists, with emphasis on sociology of knowledge. In reality, the democratic thought of modern society, from John Locke to John Stuart Mill, is very utopian, but not all utopians have promoted *closed society*.
This is the topic which is the important achievement of Karl Popper who showed that dictatorship from Sparta in Ancient Greece to Communism and Fascism of industrial world, has been in lack of acceptance of *open society*, and showed that from Plato's Republic, with its rule of Philosopher-Kings, to Hegel's theory of state, and finally Karl Marx, with its rule of the proletariat, the issue of allegiance to a *closed society* is the reason for creating despotism. In fact, even Ayatollah Khomeini in his book Velayate Faghih has used Plato's thought, and he even mentions Plato by name.
I showed in Iran & Law: Virtue or Rights , that in Athenian democracy of Ancient Greece, democracy was not understood as *rights*, and was understood as *virtue*, and this is why Socrates' defense (Plato's Apology), there is no mention of rights, and even his endeavor is to show that he is more virtuous than those who are prosecuting him, and the ultimate judge are the gods which both sides to try to claim to speak for.
Thus in the theory of justice of Socrates and Plato, there is no discussion of human rights, and the main discussion is about virtues. As much rights as there was in real life for the Athenian aristocracy was not due to a constitution with rights, not even for the aristocracy. And in Sparta even the aristocracy did not have such rights, and the women and slaves in both societies did not have these rights either. My point is that the concept of democracy based on rights, and not based on virtues, was introduced in the modern world.
An open society is a society in which human rights, are accepted as universal, and in practice and law are acknowledged. In fact, modern socialism in its critic of liberalism, also distanced itself from the open society, This can be seen in the Critique of Gotha Progarm of Marx and Engels, where this way the open society is negated and dictatorship of the proletariat is justified. And this is continued in the theory of state of Lenin and Stalin in the later decades. And it was their major error in the area of sociology, alongside their theory of state economy, which ended up in despotism of Leninism and Stalinism.
In fact, the Communist utopianism, long before Lucas, was critiqued by Bertrand Russell. The issues raised by them are true, as I have noted the interesting critic of Bertrand Russell of Thomas More's Utopia in Marxist Thought & Monism. Nonetheless, building the democratic society after the Renaissance was as much utopian. Popper in the 1940's in his book Open Society and its Enemies showed that the problem is not utopianism and the issue of modern socialism is its opposition to open society.
Popper does not view modern socialism as equivalent to the pre-industrial socialist currents, although their ideals are similar, and Bertrand Russell's critic of these ideals as plans for a boring future society are appropriate, but the issue of despotism and dictatorship of modern socialism is a different discussion, and Popper answers that. These two issues, namely utopianism and lack of open society, before Popper, whether among the liberal authors like Bertrand Russell, or among the neo-Marxists like Lucas and Mannheim were viewed as equal.
Retrogressive utopian currents, like the present Islamic Republic of Iran and mojahedin, have existed in the past too, for example the Mazdakian, and Dehkhoda wrote the best critic on them as a retrogressive cult. In contrast, communist authors because of seeing commonality of some of the ideals of them with the Mazdakian, considered them as progressive. Unfortunately authors like Ehsan Tabari who wrote about Mazdakian and similar movements, contrary to Engles who wrote of Munzer, were not familiar with the real history of these movements, and only judged them by their ideals, and defended retrogressive movements, and the opponents of the left, most of the time did the reverse, and condemned these movements because of their ideals, and not because of the historical role in progress or retrogression they played. At any rate, this is a vast topic and I know some of the historians, who view history from new perspectives, are doing research and publishing about Mazdakian.
What should be remembered about Leninism and Islamism, is again not their utopianism, which of course is problematic, but it is their opposition to the open society, in law and practice.
The following is one of the most interesting writings about utopianism in our present era and I hope it gets translated to Persian:
In the recent years, in critic of IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran), many have written critiques of various realms of social life in Iran, and have written of their expectations from a civil society. For example, they have written critic of women scarf among the mojahdein khalgh organization. These writings are the kind of critic that was done in the West by people like Voltaire and Thomas Paine, which extremely helped the progress of *open society*. Development of open society is not only in politics, and the importance of works like Ibn Warraq or Ali Dashti, and even many of the modern novels in Iran, that deal with everyday issues, is exactly other social realms beside politics.
The new authors like Hedayat's Haji Agha examine the everyday life but they do not just critic, they promote open society.
In fact, the case of someone like Aghajari, who is against his own death verdict for blasphemy, but defends Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie, is not because of his utopianism, but is because of the opposition of him and other so-called reformist Islamists with an open society, where they see democracy as an issue of virtue and think of themselves as more virtuous, and see the hardliners as villain, not that they believe in human rights in an open society. The same way the mojahedin and the lack of human rights in their organization and the problems of their defense for an Islamic interim state, head scarves in their organization, and their attacks on the opponents with lies and threats, all show their opposition to open society.
Having or not having ideals and utopianism does not mean pluralism or its lack of. The same way that I wrote in Democracy is Not People's Rule, the main issue of democracy is not in ideals or in individuals, it is in *how* it is ruled, and exactly this is why Islamic Democracy is *not* Pluralism.
To summarize, the ideals of John Locke and John Stuart Mills, were as much utopian, as the ideals of Marx. Although I think property-owning democracy is more appropriate for the post-industrial development than socialism and state economy, and have written my opinion in details in Is Socialism More just?, but what distinguishes Western democracies and has helped their thinkers to succeed in developing democracy, has not been lack of utopianism, but has been because of their endeavors in theory and practice to form an open society.
G. Social Justice and Freedom
Before the fall of the Soviet Union, the progressive thinkers were focused on freedom, whereas since the fall of the Soviet Union, more and more thinkers have been discussing responsibility alongside freedom. Karl Popper in his interviews entitled "Lessons of This Century" emphasizes the issue of responsibility.
Popper in the later years, focused more on rule of law and even regulating Television, with regards to violence, and the critical importance of children's rights. Areas such as children's rights are hardly discussed fully in the past human rights literature. Popper viewed the underdog of our era to be the children, in his interviews of 1990's. Also as far as economic justice, Karl Popper wrote the following interesting passage in his autobiography:
"I remained a socialist for several years after my rejection of Marxism; and if there could be such thing as socialism combined with individual liberty, I would be a socialist still. For nothing could be better than living a modest, simple, and free life in an egalitarian society. It took some time before I recognized this is as no more than a beautiful dream; that freedom is more important than equality; that the attempt to realize equality endangers freedom; and that, if freedom is lost, there will not even be equality among the unfree."
Social justice is a key issue of the post-industrial society. In my paper entitled "A Discourse about Value Theory in Knowledge_Based Economies" I have reviewed the post-industrial economy from this perspective and following the value theory for this economy, I discussed the issue of social justice in the new civilization. As is already evident, if there is any "surplus-value" under uniqueness value, which I have defined in my paper, it is least likely to be related to the property owners. There seems to be a major injustice in the distribution of income that, I believe, comes from the ranks of the practitioners of the free creative activity themselves and not activity as a tool-like production which follows the standard industrial production..
I claim that since free creative activity is becoming the major portion of human activity in post-industrial societies, the question of a fair or just distribution of wealth has shifted from the relationship of owners to non-owners, to the relationship of the best creator/performer to the average (or below) creators/performers. Best or perceived as best which I have explained in my paper how it is determined. In other words, injustice is evident when a top musician or movie star makes millions whereas an average musician cannot even receive a minimum wage for his/her profession. They are not members of opposite classes and with both capitalist and socialist measures, the top performers cannot be accused of "exploiting" others. Yet, it is within the ranks of the producers that one must look for answers to the question of distribution of income in post-industrial societies.
In contemporary society, the free creative activity of individuals replaces tool-like work as the major portion of human activity. The social groups that are primarily involved in such activities are the major social forces of the future society. Thus, questions of social justice shifts to their way of compensation and must increasingly take these groups into account.
In ancient Greece it was not of primary importance if the distribution of income among philosophers was just or unjust: They were essentially acting as part of other social groups (e.g. their source of income was the same as slave owners in Greece and likewise it was the same as the feudal lords in medieval Europe). But although in the industrial sector of developed countries the question of justice is still related to the labor-time compensation in relation to ownership, management, and meritocratic privileges, etc., it is not true for the people who are involved in non-tool-like activities. (The concept of labor-time here is meaningless whether you are the "owner", "manager" or "laborer" of these activities.)
For example, a musician who sells millions of copies of his tape gets the bulk of the profit even though the company that buys the copyright makes "surplus-value" from the production process. The other musicians who are suffering and feel "exploited" would not feel any better if the capitalist gave them all the proceeds of their not-selling piece of music. Neither the other capitalist who is promoting the music of their colleague is "exploiting" them. (Even though their celebrity colleague may sometimes complain about his contractors, he hardly feels exploited either.) In reality it is their colleague who is reaping the fruits of the activity of their whole social group, because his work is the best (or accepted as the best).
The same is true in movie production, book writing, software design, architectural plans, etc. For simplification purposes, let's look at a capitalist/worker model. If we had a factory with 1000 workers and only the best worker was paid the wages of 800 workers and the rest were unpaid, would the question of justice be related to the capitalist who does not pay the surplus value (say equivalent to the wages of 500 workers) or the "superworker" who is "legitimately" taking the wages of 800 (and is still himself giving out "surplus-value" to the owner!)
The carpenter of classical economists would make a table cheaper or more expensive relative to the average cost of production. But Leonardo's Mona Lisa is worth much, much more than its paper and ink and its "labor-time" cost, even if Leonardo was hired by the most generous employer. On the other hand, thousands of works of art are worth less than the paper and ink used to produce them, and are dumped as trash (any publisher could give you the figure for the dumped hard covers. It is looking for the best that justifies the fact that of one hundred text books on the Strength of Materials, ninety-nine have to fail!
Even if all revenues from the sale of the product are given to the composer of a failed music piece, the musician would still not even meet the minimum survival needs. If the publisher of a not-so-terrific book does not even take any "surplus value" and gives all the proceeds to the writer, the writer will still suffer injustice, but not from the owner (manufacturer, or publisher, etc.). If his book is really worthless, and not judged so simply because of social trends, then even public opinion is not responsible for the injustice.
On the other hand, if a best-seller book pays lots of "surplus value" to the publisher, the "superprofit" of the author is still not comparable to that of the printer. The author will sell the copyright for subsequent paperbacks, mass paperbacks, books-on-tape, movies, plays, etc., if his book keeps on selling for decades. In such cases the injustice is not due to the employer, it is not even in the industrial work-place anymore. Instead, it is within the creative groups themselves. When a top violinist is making money like a millionaire and an average violinist cannot even make a minimum wage in his profession, then the dilemma of justice is not between the owner of the means of production and the worker, but is implicit in the ethical principles governing the reward of creative activities in our society.
It is true that the same problems of just compensation could have been mentioned for creative professions in the Middle Ages. The crucial differences are: the speed in which works can be eliminated and "the best" determined (the Oscars, the Grammy's, the Pulitzers, etc.), and the continuous rise in the significance of the creative activities in contemporary life.
Compensation and rewards for sports or scientific theories is similar to what was done in ancient Greece but it is done quicker and on a more global scale. Yet musicians may still have a fate like Mozart if they are not recognized as the best in their lifetime. The problem is not that of payment for the "necessary" labor-time versus nonpayment of the "surplus" value. The problem is that of social responsibility which is not contained in the reward system.
I think the people who are involved in creative activities are the principle builders of the future human civilization. The issue of justice is a central problem to our future quality of society. Yet because it is a problem between professional colleagues rather than between two opposite social classes, recognition of the issue is difficult. Star performers continue to appropriate the legitimate expectations of the average and lower ranked performers. Even rewarding on the basis of needs (welfare state) does not solve this problem, because it does not recognize intention as a basis for reward (such as the intention of an anonymous composer is not legitimate for need-based reward system, which prohibits him from even composing.) The "needs" of a well-known musician for an expensive secluded place for mediation is the same as that of an anonymous (or even bad) musician. "Needs" independent of intentions are meaningless for these groups (just having food and shelter is not enough to compete with Picasso, especially if you live in Bangladesh).
The difference between an advanced shoe factory and an average or a less developed one is not much and the better than average makes a super-profit which is soon averaged out in the industry. But the difference between a music tape that sells one hundred copies and a hit that sells millions, has nothing to do with averaging, etc. There is no law that obliges such hit creators to subsidize or help the well being of others in the same profession. He is taxed for his income as if he had made it in manufacturing or real estate. The allocations of money to music foundations is not directly related to the income of the stars.
In the ethics and law of the industrial society, it is assumed, rightfully, to expect factory owners to be taxed for the welfare and social security of their workers and such measures are no longer viewed as the "infringement" of freedom. But in the case of the artist/workers, to be taxed in favor of the low paying members of their own profession is frowned upon.
I think even professional organizations (in which celebrities usually do not participate) are an expression of the needs of the lower ranks of such professions to claim their share of the income. Maybe unconsciously the term social-responsibility used by some of these organizations like Physicians for Social Responsibility or Computer Scientists for Social Responsibility, is more an expression of a yearning for justice for themselves!
The value of the commodities is determined by the law of labor-time value (averaging) in the industries and the law of uniqueness value when human activity is not tool-like. Nonetheless, as Marx said, the question of justice is not in recognizing the mechanism of value determination and whether the full value is realized; the question is in introducing a different social distribution system (and ethics). Contrary to Marx, I think that the distribution system is not a direct continuation of the production system. The law of labor-time value is true for the industrial production (determination by the average) whether the distribution is capitalistic or socialistic. I think the same is true for the law of uniqueness value (determination by the best). Once recognizing its mechanism, we need to look for an alternative distribution system and I consider what I proposed as an attempt in this direction. The problem of social justice has shifted from opposing social classes to within social groups or classes.
I believe that just as in physics there are four forces (or five as some physicists believe); in economics we have two values. And as in physics, where the unification has already been achieved between the two forces of electromagnetic and the weak force, I think my proposal for the unification is one possible way of study in economics. But my main purpose in my paper was to show the significance of the law of uniqueness value and the need for dealing with the unification problem of this scheme and to see its implication for addressing the dilemma of social justice in the near future.
H. Wealth and Justice in Future Iran
What are Patents and Codified Knowledge? Dr. Shahindokht Kharazmi in her April 29, 2004 article entitled "Iran and Digital Revolution" writes:
"From the viewpoint of Technology, Jeffrey Sachs at the Harvard University has done a study and based on two criteria of invention patent rights for every 1 million people of the population and the share of advanced technology export of gross national product has divided the world into the following three regions:
"Technology Innovators: The countries with 10 patents (registered inventions) or more, per million of population with the technology export comprising two percent of Gross national Product.
"Technology Users: Countries that have a high capacity to attract advanced knowledge and technology and have created the necessary infrastructure for this task.
"Eliminated: These countries in production, attraction, and use of advanced technology do not have an important share or their share is very minimal.
"Iran is in the third group. Perhaps it may be said that since the model and numbers of this classification is not available, it is not possible to verify the credibility of this classification. But there is no doubt that the share of Iran of export of advanced technology and patents that are representative of production of new technologies, is very minimal. Iran in 2001, only had one patent. This is in circumstances that in 1997, this number for the United States has been 111906."
Let me repeat her last statement again, where she writes that Iran in 2001, had only one patent, whereas U.S. in 1997 had 111805 patents. Is the significance of this number like 100 years ago, only meaning that one society is more educated than the other? No.
The figure related to patents, in our times, is representative of the future wealth of the two societies, because the most important wealth of the world of future, is neither land property, nor industrial factory property, but it is the intellectual property, which is best represented in the number of registered inventions. Consequently the basis of production and distribution of wealth of Iran in the future, is intellectual property, and in better words, production and ownership of codified knowledge.
About codified knowledge, Daniel Bell in the 1999 Preface to his book The Coming of Post-Industrial, has extensively explained. What he calls codified knowledge, today is easily seen in the complex design of ASICs in the production of Semiconductors, and these designs, separate the real post-industrial economies from old service-oriented economies.
What is the Wealth of Societies? Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations is the most important book in history, which has been written about the *wealth* of human societies. It is interesting that at the start of his work, he compares the hunter societies with the pasturing societies, that have domesticated animals, and writes that the latter can accumulate its product, and for the product, he gives the example of cattle. In fact, the difference of a wild deer and a domesticated cow is in the latter being controllable, and ultimately with the guarantee of law and state, can be owned as property.
The same way, intellectual property, such as inventions, or software, in countries where the rights are secured by the state, is different from free thought and science, and can be controlled and owned, and thus is representative of wealth of a society.
Adam Smith's book was published the year America's Declaration of Independence was written. At that time, the main form of wealth, even in Europe and America, was still landed property. But Smith correctly realized that factory ownership was the future wealth of the world. In cities, this wealth, either grew in relation to the agricultural regions around the city, or in case of cities on the shores of the seas, connections to the foreign trade, were the guarantee for the growth of wealth of the cities.
Today the first case, meaning the new economy benefiting from the needs of the adjacent industries of the past, has been the basis of growth of post-industrial economies in the West. In other countries like Japan, new economy essentially has grown in connection to the global economy. For example, in the recent two decades, economies of India and Singapore were the best examples of this kind of post-industrial development.
It is interesting to note that India's economy was able to seriously grow, when India's government took the securing of Intellectual Property rights very seriously, and companies like Wipro in India, have even done a better job than their Western counterparts, in securing these legal rights for their customers. Ten years ago, in a professional engineering management position at Adaptec, I had an engineering development office in Bangalore, where I used Wipro's services, and they would keep various operations of companies like Adaptec and Tandem, thoroughly shielded from each other, and used separate staffing and other resources, even when doing similar projects in the same building.
Let me return to the discussion, what is the wealth of Iranian society and what will it be into the future? It is true that until a serious alternative to oil is created, the main wealth of Iran is its oil reserves. But the essential issue for Iranian society is creating new wealth, and even the distribution of wealth, should be mainly in the framework of creating new wealth, and not redistributing the old wealth.
Why Adam Smith, in his discussion of Wealth of Nations, starts with *division of labor* in the industrial society, and states that agricultural production could not easily be subject to division of labor, and why in contrast, he emphasizes, that factory production, in his time, which was a young production, had already divided into thousands of parts. I think he wants to understand and move with the future trend of wealth building, in other words the dividing of work and the plenitude of the parts, meant the ownership of greater number of parts, and thus was a representative of the expansion of industrial property. If the growth of industrial society was measurable with the growth of division of labor, in our times, the post-industrial development, is exactly measured by the degree of expansion of intellectual property, and the number of registered inventions is a good indicator for this expansion, and this is the subject to consider whether in relation to production of wealth or its distribution,
In my paper on Post-Anthropocentric Production, I noted that molecular production, which basically does not need human activity as a tool, will be the main way of production in the future. And a country like Iran will not be able to compete with post-anthropocentric production in the world, in the global economy, using old anthropocentric production. Therefore, post-industrial production for creating wealth in Iran is as important in Iran as in the U.S., and the competition will be on the best inventions and their growth, and the cornerstone of value of such production is none other than the intellectual property of the processes involved.
It is interesting that today, India and Singapore have started doing many *basic* projects which were previously possible only in the West. Thus it is apparent that such production endeavors for the developing countries are not only possible, but are the key to their future success, and in fact, these productions, will be the main source of wealth in Futurist Iran.
What is social justice? The capitalist and socialist approach to social justice will not work for future Iran, and neither will any middle road between the two, such as social-democracy. And obviously the return to the past has lost for a long time. One has to go forward beyond the capitalist and socialist solutions:
a. Those who think social justice in the post-industrial economy is not an issue of Iran, and think they can use capitalism as the solution for Iran, in effect are offering the capitalist solutions of the kind of privatizations of IRI, and will be quickly defeated in competition with the West, and will end up in protectionism, and ultimately will again cause the distancing of Iran from the global economy, this time in the framework of a private economy.
b. The dream of socialists who want distribution of wealth of industrial society, in the world of today, and are thus promoting a state economy, in practice will scare the foreign investors from investing in Iran, because of the state privileges. Moreover, internally, corruption and misuse, as it has been tested over and over again in socialist countries, will paralyze Iran's economy.
If in the developed countries, the achievements of socialist movements within capitalist systems, have created adjustments like welfare state and social rights, in Iran, even such systems do not exist, and moreover, the new development, will not be gradual like the Western democracies, and in practice, similar to the experience of countries like Zimbabwe, such plans can oscillate the country from one of these two scenarios to the other, and the result will be nothing but the destruction of society.
In other words the old capitalist and socialist solutions, or mixtures of the two in programs of social-democracy, are not a solution, rather are repetition of the same defeated vicious circles of the past, even though the issue of social justice, is an inseparable part of post-industrial development plan for Iran, and without an effective plan of social justice, no development plan can be successful in Iran.
In my opinion, with regards to social justice in Iran, the following points should be considered:
1.The state to spend its resources on supporting the educational institutions to create multitude of new inventions in the next 10 years.
This way Iran can reach an acceptable level relative to its size and population, in this regard, to be able to compete in the global economy.
2. A property-owning economy be accepted as the main form of economy in Iran with the necessary exponential taxes.
As I noted in Is Socialism More just? , the panacea of socialism has a lot of attraction among Iranian intellectuals:
"We are talking about a country that people have hardly paid any taxes and the state has always been the biggest owner and has owned the oil industry which is 90% of all the revenue -generating capital that the country owns and the state has been paying the citizens and not the taxpayers paying the state. So it is a pretty tough undertaking, to plan a property-owning democracy for Iran, and wanting to build-in justice into that system. Whereas in the eyes of the leftist intellectuals, there is a shortcut of socialism where one can just make the ownership of the means of production to be public, and social justice to follow. Easy and quick panacea to all the social ills in one easy shot.
"Regardless of how democratic liberal socialism to be, it will end up with small part of society to control the economy as had been seen by the elites in the socialist countries. Because they are the ones who will represent the productive assets and lack of ownership in the means of production means that such small elites *are* the owners. In contrast, the property-owning democracy avoids this, by ensuring the widespread ownership of productive assets and human capital, and this is why equal opportunity as well as political liberties are supported to make the system fair.
"In fact, to maximize the minimum of the basic needs in society that John Rawls emphasizes in his book “Theory of Justice” in 1971, and his venture into enlightened self-interest are beyond the current Western societies. He always notes that for fairness, the 'greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society' is to be guaranteed. In other words supporting the first principle, meaning political liberties, and ensuring to maximize the social minimum, does not mean to stop the motivation for activity, which is killed in the socialist societies of even the Swedish type, because is is achieved here, thru the second principle of justice, i.e. equal opportunity, and not by charity."
In sum, the property-owning economy, more than a property-less economy, has the capacity to establish social justice, but the issue of income from national mutual fund alongside income from work, and a proper tax system, are the key issues for social justice that I note below:
3. To consider a Welfare System, as I have described in A Futurist Viewpoint in 1989, using Albus's model of a National Mutual Fund and not the government.
As noted in Post-Anthropocentric Production , "if the worldwide need for human labor drops, people in all countries, whose income is based on human labor as an intelligent tool in manufacturing or agriculture, will lose their source of income, and their lives will be directly impacted by such changes."
It is important to note that the welfare system that is being proposed, is a *non-governmental* pension fund, but it is for all people of all ages, and this way the minimum income of the society will be maximized, by owners of shares of this pension, and this income, will be independent of the citizen's income from work.
This plan, by creating an income, separate from work, for all people, will reduce the human damages of the economic change as the society moves towards a post-industrial production.
As we know, someone like the singer Britney Spears, or soccer player Ali Dai, or a successful software developer, may end up with millions of dollars of income from their work, whereas others in similar profession may have no income from their work, because the work of the former have been recognized as *best*. I have discussed this issue in details in Knowledge Economy & Social Justice.
Should the above differences be removed? I do not think that should be the goal, because that way the incentive for creating intellectual property will vanish, and the result will be like the slaves in the U.S., who basically had incentive for consuming more and working less. In fact, at the time of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. of 1862, The Homestead Act was done to create the incentive for property, in opposition to the Southern states of slavery, and it was successful and was continued till 1976, and even halting it 100 years later, was because no more land was left for such plan. Therefore, if today, a similar plan, for granting the rights of individual inventions of educational and government entities, to the inventors themselves, is executed, for example within a time period like the 5 years of Homestead act, that was the time allowed for building a house and cultivating the land, such a plan can become a strong incentive for entrepreneurial activity.
In other words, my intention is not to prevent income from work, but it is to create appropriate laws for taxation, and also suitable laws for companies to give shares to their employees, companies that produce these kinds of intellectual property. And this way an increase of wealth and a fairer and more just distribution of wealth will be resulted. Perhaps it would be right to set aside a portion of the shares of these companies, at the time of them going public, to be allocated to the whole profession, to help the activity of the members of that profession who have less income. I have extensively discussed the formation of value in new economy in A Theory of Uniqueness Value and those same criteria should be used to determine the exponential taxing of this income.
Finally, the issue of production and distribution of wealth in future Iran cannot be solved by the programs of capitalism or socialism, and the post-anthropocentric production of post-industrial societies, have as much significance for Iran's future economy, as for the U.S Economy. Working for molecular prodcution, development of intellectual property in the universities governmental private firms, and NGOs, and creating a welfare system based on national mutual funds, are the type of work needed for production and distribution of wealth in future Iran.
I. Monism and Pluralism
For years I could not understand the animosity of Marxist groups such as hezb-e toodeh with Iranian liberals, such as the Bazargan government and its spokesman Amir Entezam. I was always surprised why these leftists sided with hezbollAhis during the hostage crisis and were happy about the subsequent overthrow of the Bazargan government. I also was surprised why the Soviet and Chinese Marxist hardliners were always against the liberals.
Many of the Marxist groups in Iran fell apart, because of the international experiences such as the Killing Fields of Cambodia and the revelations following the falling apart of the Soviet Union, and not because of a strong critic of this ideology in Iranian intellectual circles. Whereas various ideologies that had their roots in this school of thought, had reigned in Iranian intellectual thought for almost a century. Even the ideology of some Islamic organizations such as MojAhdein had its roots in the Marxist ideology.
I did a research about "Marxist Thought & Monism", which answered some of the questions I had about the anti-liberal stand of many Iranian revolutionary organizations. My paper has since been mentioned in a bibliography, alongside many other works, that in one way or other, have dealt with related topics.
Of course, Marxism being a major school of thought in the last century has had so many versions and some of them are even pluralist. Moreover, regardless of the issue of pluralism, Marx and Marxists have contributed a lot to many areas of modern social sciences, and humanities, and my critic of monism in Marxist Thought, is not aimed at discrediting those contributions. Also in contrast to Monism, I studied the subject of pluralism in the Western Philosophy and wrote a paper about Pluralism in 1985. Furthermore, wrote a a short paper on New Paradigms going forward..
Some of the leading thinkers of the 20th Century, such as Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper, had noted the importance of pluralism in the Western Philosophy. And of course, one could find pluralistic metaphysics in philosophical works ranging from Aristotle's Metaphysics to Leibniz's Monadology and Russell's logical atomism. Russell's Logical Atomism, which he proposed at a juncture of his philosophical journey, was a very pluralistic philosophy, and even some philosophers of our times, such as Nelson Goodman, in his "Many Ways of World-making," have pursued Russell's paradigm.
And there are many less known works such as a book called "Architectonics of Meaning, Foundations of the New Pluralism" by Walter Watson, that have tried to better understand the fundamental attributes of Pluralism in the philosophical thought.
I think the Iranian intellectual thought can benefit a lot from the contributions of philosophers who have worked more on pluralistic approach in philosophy, whether they have worked on topics of moral philosophy like John Rawls in his "Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy" or those who have focused on topics of logic like Quine.
I think Iranian intellectual thought has had more tendency towards monism than pluralism and this is why Marxism and especially the more monistic versions of it, have had more appeal among the Iranian revolutionaries. We have not had an abundance of people partial to James, Russell or Popper in Iran, but have had an abundance of ones following Lenin or Khomeini. I think it is more important for us to ponder more on pluralistic thought, both in philosophical or religious thinking.
Let me finish my note with the following passage from William James, from his lectures in 1907 entitled "A Pluralistic Universe". I find this passage an excellent explication of Pluralism:
"Pragmatically interpreted, pluralism or the doctrine that it is many means only that sundry parts of reality *may be externally related*. Everything you can think of, however vast or inclusive, has on the pluralistic view a genuinely 'external' environment of some sort or amount. Things are 'with' one another in many ways, but nothing includes everything, or dominates over everything. The word 'and' trails along after every sentence. Something always escapes. "Even not quite" has to be said of the best attempts made anywhere in the universe at attaining all-inclusiveness. The pluralistic world is thus more like a federal republic than like an empire or a kingdom. However much may be collected, however, much may report itself as present at any effective center of consciousness or action, something else is self-governed and absent and unreduced to unity.
"Monism, on the other hand, insists that when you come down to reality as such, to the reality of realities, everything is present to *everything* else in one vast instantaneous co-implicated complete-ness-nothing can in any sense, functional or substantial, be really absent from anything else, all things interpenetrate and telescope together in the great total conflux." (William James, Pluralistic Universe, Harvard Edition, Page 45, 1977 print).
The above does not mean that I agree with the philosophy of William James. In fact, in my paper about Pluralism, I have written a critic of James for his support of Bergson, which I find odd considering James's partiality towards pluralism.
Finally let me close this by stating that I doubt it that humanity in any country can achieve the American ideal of *pursuit of happiness* within the confines of monism, whether it is a religious monism or an atheistic monism.
J. Postmodernist Fallacies
The definition of Postmodernism by its advocates is hardly consistent, and in way if it was consistent, it would be antithetical to the premise of this school of thought, which basically strives to be "as every thing goes" or simply put as anti-method.
Basically Postmodernism is the anarchism of the late part of 20th Century. The following is what I wrote in a different paper about Cynics, i.e the predecessors anarchists in Ancient Greece, and I think the 19th Century anarchism and 20th Century Postmodernism have very similar traits to the Cynics of Ancient times:
"THE CYNICS rejected all the achievements of civilization such as government, private property, marriage, and established religion. In fact, they can be regarded as the predecessors of modern anarchists, which I have discussed elsewhere. They did not try to correct the social ills by any reform, nor did they advocate any alternative society to be reached by revolution, their only alternative to the existing social order was a 'return to nature' and living like animals. One of the most prominent figures, Diogenes, even believed in brotherhood of human race and animals. In short, their rejection of established order was a blow to monism, but their doctrine was detrimental to intellectual activity as a whole. [From my paper entitled "Pluralism in Western Thought"]
Let's now look at Postmodernism in more details. I think Daniel Bell's exposition of Postmodernism in the Part II of "Afterword 1996" to his book "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" is one of the best analysis of the topic. Daniel Bell defines Postmodernism as follows:
"Postmodernism is a flight from philosophy-I think of Foucault or Derrida or Rorty -into cultural history, rhetoric, or aesthetics and the denial, if not the subversion, of universalist and transcendental values" [Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Daniel Bell, P.298]
"For Foucault, the contemporary epistemological rupture was with the Enlightenment concept of Man, ... [and] mounted a challenge to Western humanism ...Derrida wanted to reject philosophy, in search for an ontological center .... Instead of philosophy (or, in his language, "the signified"), there is only literature, and in literature, there is only text, and in text, there are only signs. ... Although Derrida perceived as the voice of wild interpretative freedom, he is anything but. His method and his categories are as schematic as those of a scholastic schoolman. His all-purpose tool is the technique of "deconstruction." Yet any effort to pin down the meaning of the term is invariably elided by the fact that Derrida refuses to assign any fixed meanings for terms, including, apparently, his own. In the end, textual analysis for Derrida is not concerned with "the fetishism of Meaning," which is a relation to a referent, or an outside reality. One reason Derrida is attractive, especially to literary theorists, who find their subject now designated the central focus of all inquiry, is that deconstructionism blows apart all systems in favor of a method that is also an anti-method. Derrida has it both ways. [ibid, P.302-304]
"It is foolish to seek to locate postmodernism or PoMo as either "right" or "left." What we have here is the working out of the logic of modernism (its anticognitive and anti-intellectual modes) and consumerism (its acquisitiveness) in a world where the culturati find their own worldviews incoherent-because of the absence of a secure foundation in traditional morality or in liberalism that found it difficult to set limits on permissible behavior-and have welcomed the cultural anarchism and the transvaluation of values that postmodernism set loose." [ibid, P.306]
The above clearly shows that the individual freedom for the Postmodern thinker means forgetting the achievements of humanity over the millennia, whether it is scientific facts of natural sciences, or the human rights that have been achieved universally, and instead to call for cultural relativism, and to justify the anti-human rights traditions such as stoning and amputations, because of denying the universality of human rights. This is the anarchists' view of individual freedom.
For anarchists freedom does not mean freedom within the progressive institutions of law, and is supposedly achieved by discarding the achievements of civilization, thus by throwing away the democratic institutions and human rights, one can arrive at freedom, because just like the Cynics, the existence or lack of these progressive institutions, which are the achievements of humanity, are considered as unimportant for them . Thus civilized life and a modern recognition of human rights, is seen identical with the Medieval life and acceptance of savage traditions of stoning and amputations, this way Postmodernism end up as the ideology of the return of the Medieval Islamist state.
In other words, by denying the value of science, and the value of human achievements of democratic institutions and human rights, the postmodernist becomes the management tool for the most backward Medieval system of Islamism. Anarchist denying any rules, even the liberal rules of the game, ends up justifying and helping a Medieval fascism. This is what is keeping Islamic Republic of Iran in power. This is how the ones who consider the basic moral principles of liberalism and humanism to be shackles, end up working for the worst rules of Medieval Islamism, taking pride in "elimination of the distinction between high and low culture." cultural relativism which I discussed in a different article, is the direct result of postmodernist thought.
K. Conference of the Birds
Following the topic of paradigm shift and new theoretical perspectives, I should note my article "Dancing in the Air", where I discussed the new paradigm in the area of human interrelations, and the article "Women/Men/Love/Commitment/Etc.", reviewing women issues in the post-industrial society. I have also discussed development of new music in my paper entitled "New Sound". Finally I have explored this paradigm shift in poetry in Expressions of Life, and in philosophical thought in a long paper entitled Meaning of Life, and discussed the impact of new technologies and space travel on our thinking in Space and New Thinking.
Shunryu Suzuki in his book entitled Not Always So, which was published thirty years after his death, in 2002, has a very interesting description of Zen and going to the rest room. He writes that one of the Zen masters in history by the name of Ummon may have been the first to make a connection between Zen and rest room. "What is your practice? What is Buddha?" someone asked Ummon. He answered "Toilet paper". Actually, nowadays it is toilet paper, but he said, "Something to wipe yourself with in the rest room." Suzuki says that is what Ummon had said and since then many Zen masters are thinking about it, practicing with the koan: What is toilet paper? What did he mean by that?
I am not going to explain the meaning of koan here. My late friend Jack Li, whose teacher was Suzuki, in his article entitled Zen Meditation, has given enough explanation for it, and those interested can refer to his paper. I should mention that Jack was not religious and the reason he choose the Zen method for mediation, was because he thought one would need to choose a way of meditation, and follow it through, for meditation to give the intended results. I should say that if I was going to choose a religion, I would choose Zen, but I am not religious, although I see Zen meditation to be a useful practice. Also I need to note that I am against Sufism and mysticism and I have explained my view thoroughly in other writings, and my use of poetic expressions of mysticism here does *not* mean that I belong to Iranian mystic tradition. Let me return to the topic of my discussion here.
I think Iranian political movement can learn from the words of this Zen master who resembles his school of thought to "Something to wipe yourself with in the rest room".
The various political and philosophical views in our movement, even the nonreligious ones, are adhered so doctrinaire, that their followers are not willing to talk of their ideologies and religions in this way, and are willing to kill for their doctrines, but are not willing to throw them out. They are not willing to go to the rest room and free themselves of the obsolete thoughts that weigh heavily on their mind. They consider such talk to be a great sin, whereas all they need is just a tool to clean themselves, so that later they can see the world with an open mind. Our problem is that all the different political currents of Iran are drowned in history, and with a thousand tricks and deception, want to color their old school of thought and sell it again. Instead of cleaning their mind of the waste, which is blocks their thinking and brings them back to the first step again and again, they keep repeating the same defeated verses of their holy books.
What is wrong with the Iranian Opposition? This was the title of an article of mine in 2002. Some international circles concluded from the described situation of discord means that Iranian political movement will have a hard time to resist the attacks of Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) 's security forces. The reason for having so many groups is not because of the differences of their political programs, or because of freedom of thought and democracy. It is because as free individuals we have not been successful to cooperate with each other. If a group has remained together, it has been because it has worked like a cult, and not as an association of free individuals. All our political lines have hundreds of groups and parties where their quarrels are like the fights of Shiite and Sunnis, like hundreds of dead and living dead schools of thought.
Ten years ago I wrote in an article entitled Conference of the Birds, which where the title was the English translation of Attar's Mantegh-ol-Tair's book. Attar according to the one in charge of his tomb, whom I had met in Neishabor of Iran, was beheaded by the Moghol invaders, and according to the legend his head was still talking of the atrocities of Moghols, and the same Moghols, fearing people's revenge, made a tomb for him. In fact, the same discord that defeated Iranians in face of the Moghols, today has been with us in the last 25 years of IRI, and the murderers of Foruhars just like Attar, are hearing his voice, and make tombs for them, fearing the revenge of the people, but our birds of freedom themselves, are tearing each other apart. Why can't we discard the obsolete politics and philosophies from our minds? The best thinking is the one that has no fear to be discarded in the rest room. Because it is not scared of people viewing the world with an open mind.
Our story is the story of the birds of Attar who need to look at themselves in the mirror of GhAf Mountain, and see that the legendary Simorgh is none but the thirty (si in Persian) birds (morgh in Persian) of them, who are together, looking for the future of Iran, and the lack of discarding the waste of the past, weighing on our minds, is not allowing us to see this simple truth, and for the last 25 years, we are still busy repeating the same thoughts, that were defeated 25 years ago, and this way because of these wastes, we are still alienated from each other.
References Chapter 14