Notes on the Notes: “They’ve a temper, some of them…”

Talking about the “Notes,” there really does seem to be a certain amount of fear that if we don’t couch our anarchism in a specific language of “anti-statism” we may somehow slide into the embrace of something we ought to oppose. Now, any set of terms or concepts can almost certainly lead us astray, if we let the terms do the leading, and not our principles. That, of course, includes those honored by time and tradition, if they have become fixed ideas. Recall that Proudhon’s assault on “property” began with a pre-Stirner warning about such things—and then recall Stirner. And if that doesn’t do it, recall the words of Humpty-Dumpty:

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.

1 Comment

  1. Shawn … I’m surprised you haven’t had any comments on this series of posts, and thought it worth noting that at least one person is following the line of thought. I came to a similar conclusion (or, opening) some years back when trying to get to grips with Spinoza (and amid a backdrop of not having a terminology that could make any sense to those around me).

    The question of whether Spinoza is simply repeating the Hobbesian social contract (or not), and what might follow in that regard in terms of reifying the ‘state’ as a natural, and given, body, is a difficult one given that Spinoza frames the question in somewhat Hobbesian terminology, however, for Spinoza this ‘state’ is a body coming into “union or agreement” (with all the dangers of bodies external to that union). In this regard the location of the ‘state’ is no more than the inclusion and integration of other, or distinct, composite bodies (something akin to Proudhonian Federalism). In as much as the ‘state’ is an entity unto itself and situates itself outside its composition (unity, agreement, etc) it is itself a danger to the “peace of the commonwealth”, being what Spinoza terms a “hidden external cause” in the dissolution of a commonwealth.

    None of this helps us terminologically, I know, but it does follow a similar theme to the one your developing above (particularly if we also think to include ideas developed by Proudhon in “War and Peace”).

    The error, I think, was to invest too deeply in the term “anarchist”, but its a term that has been taken, and passed on, without having to give too much thought to the lingua latina or the ties that a particular terminology bring with it.

    yours … khayyam

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