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Reason and passion
Which should rule the man?
—Eric Leberman

Man needs a government

Man is instinctually not a social animal, he has to learn to be social, because it is in his good. Since one man cannot brave the effects of the external, he will logically group himself in society to the individual's benefit. But for society to function properly, his individual desires that harm others in the community are 'sacrificed'.

Why then does a society chose to live, by a government? Government in its ultimate goal liberates man. It prevents the overprevalance of passions or passion without the adjunct of reason to persist among its subjects. Hence by removing the chance that anger progresses to violence, the individual though he gives up that extent of 'freedom', he is also at the same time protected from the very same overzealous passions of his peers.

Therefore the primal property of "might is right" is absolved within a society. Government reins in the individuals that form society. It is formed to do so, it will rein in only in a manner that the individuals of that society decide.

Who should govern

Hence we question ourselves; who is given the responsibility to govern? The question assumes special relevance in our country at this stage and point of time because the response of people to questions and issues only seems to be by their passions.

Let me define my terms:

  • A reflex is a local response to a local stimulus
  • 'Passion' is a limited response to an incomplete perception.
  • Reason is the complete response to an entire perception (which is understood contextually)
  • Hence can we trust a process which is driven by passion alone to protect individual rights? A government is created to insure virtuous citizens. Spinoza once said that; "...the more a man can preserve his being and seek what is useful to himself, the greater his virtue"

    A man's ability is nothing but achieving the state when he is truly himself— government should provide for all its subjects to be themselves. A man's achievements are by his ability—no government should hold a claim on a man's ability.

    Happiness is liberating, a state where pleasure is gained and pain is removed. But then pleasure and pain are relative, they can exist in the form of emotions which are achieved in transitory states. Pleasure is a emotion achieved when a higher state of perfection is reached from a lower. Pain is felt when a lower state of perfection is attained.

    Man's happiness, therefore, remains in his power to reach his being. So his ethics cannot based on altruism nor even on 'indiscriminate selfishness' or the 'natural wickedness' of man but in an inevitable and justifiable egoism which is the logical extension of nature. And it is people with an understanding of this principle who should be in governance.

    The forces of reason and passion are not divorced

    We think we are ourselves the most, when we feel passionately feel, but in actuality, we are then the most passive. Because we are then swayed, caught in a primitive current of impulse and whim. If we let passion rule us, our lives become only a partial response to the problem that life is. Reason is that which can complete the response, for reason without passion is dead and passion without reason is blind. Reason originates and completes passion in man.

    Therefore might is still right, but not in the physical sense. The pen will write only if the sword is dropped. But the sword cannot be just held in one's hands forever, because it is the pen that moves the hand that holds the sword. To impose laws on a society of men would be superfluous if all men therein were to be men of reason, laws are framed and upheld to preserve men of reason from powers that are destructive. It is the might of the pen, the might of reason of man, that is right.

    Is democracy the right form of governance?

    Is democracy the most reasonable form of governance because in it, everyone submits to the control of authority over his actions but never in judgement or reason? If so, aren't we foolish to think that mere numbers will guarantee us wisdom? In fact, the overwhelming tendency of democracy is to put in power the mediocre. Democracy will liquidate itself because office has to be limited to the trained and skilled, and the mediocre has no means of deciding who that is. Therefore, in democracy, like in our country, the office in the government will be held by a procession of brief-lived demagogues. However can we want reason to rule and yet let the number decide?

    Sooner or later democracies change into aristocracies and aristocracies to monarchies. In other words, if the mediocre rule, men submit to tyranny rather than to chaos. As long as the few who live by reason, do not decide to move their hand that holds the pen, many hands will pick up swords elsewhere. As long as the men of reason are not willing to fight, the men of passion are willing to kill.

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