Saturday, 1 May 2010

Review: Animalkind (2010)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXVIII No. 1 Spring 2010


By Martin Cohen

Animalkind: What we owe to animals, by Jean Kazez, Wiley-Blackwell 2010 ISBN 978-1-4051-9938-4 226 pages
Jean Kazez has written a great little book here, but it is full of bad arguments. (To borrow a phrase from Walter 'Waldo Gazza' Runciman.) It starts promisingly enough. Kazez has a superb, easy style, and is in full command of the material, at least in terms of the facts. She sweeps up the existing literature on animal exploitation, from UN reports to Peter Singer's polemic against meat-eating, such as Animal Liberation and that disguised as an educational text, Practical Ethics, along with issues like biodiversity, cultural aesthetics, and the neurobiology of animal brains. She misses out on my own excellent survey of much the same terrain - 101 Ethical Dilemmas (Routledge 2002 and 2007) but never mind. Suffice to say she has clearly read a lot on the topic - and she is a natural communicator (just as Singer, in his rather acerbic way, is).

Singer offers no particular arguments, merely a machine-gun utilitarianism, that tolerates no dissent. For SInger, and most animal rights exponents, animal suffering, is no different in 'quality' from the kind we experience, and hence on a utilitarian calculus, usually outweighs the supposed needs of humans. Babies and the mentally handicapped have a status somewhere below poodles in his universe.

Kazez, by contrast plods obediently, like a donkey perhaps one might say, through as many possible positions on animal rights as she can think of before coming up with Ö a limp kind of utilitarianism. Is vivisection wrong? Not if it helps save human lives. Is meat eating wrong? Not when it is necessary for human well-being. Was it okay to kill thousands of monkeys to develop the Polio vaccine? Most certainly. Will it be okay if I swat this mosquito that is annoying me? Ah.. now that, probably not, and if it must be done, then it should be done 'respectfully'. Above all, we return to the question, is it okay if I eat meat? Yes, if it is important to you and you don't care about the consequences on the world's rainforests/or about climate change.

Actually that's one of the book's 'bad arguments'. Kazez says that meat-eating involves deforestation, which it does, and that deforestation causes 'climate change' which it also must, at least locally. But climate is much more complicated than that. In much of the temperate zones, meat can be pastured without any such concerns, and indeed chopping forests there is said to have a cooling effect on the regions. And in the tropics when rainforest is being cleared, much of it is cleared for soya beans - the diet of choice of course for vegetarian authors.

Kazez however, does not even aspire to persuade the world to stop eating meat, instead opting for the 'low hanging' fruit by arguing for 'pain reduction', quoting approvingly the efforts of Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation, to redesign slaughter houses to reduce the anxiety of the animals being slaughtered there. I'm sure this is a good idea, but then, who exactly opposes it?

But, of course, it should surprise no one who has ever discussed meat eating 'at the table' as it were, perhaps over Christmas Turkey, that there are plenty of such people, primed and raring to go with a lot of bad arguments to raise in relation to the topic. Take Professor Peter Carruthers', who is quoted here:

Much time and money is presently spent on alleviating the pains of brutes, which ought properly to be directed towards human beings , and many now are campaigning to reduce the efficiency of modern farming methods because of the pain to the animals involved. If the arguments presented here have been sound, such arguments are not only morally insupportable but morally objectionable.
Kazez notes that Carruthers' book has a "charming dedication to his child whose 'animal days are almost done'", and in this simple way she surely wins that argument. If we object to children feeling pain, we should object to animals suffering it too.

Another debate which Kazez airs and in my view emerges triumphant, is the issue of whether animals are really just machines driven by automated responses (instinct) or rational 'problem-solving' animals, like wot we're supposed to be. But just as I'm about to be convinced, along comes a lousy argument. Kazez offers the variety of designs of birds' nests, and beaver dams as evidence that animals really are thinking about what they are doing.

Yet trees grow in a variety of ways too - a branch this way on this one, or a root this way on that one, always for a good reason (to get more light, or to grip more firmly the ground). Trees, it seems likely are not 'thinking', but merely following simple chemical promptings. The range of results produced by such promptings does not mean that there is a higher level of decision making required, and I suspect beavers could likewise be following mere instinct when they adapt their dams to the water flows.

Many defenders of animal rights, such as Singer, accuse humans of speciesism, that is judging animals prejudicially because they belong to the 'wrong species', but another curious twist in the tale here, is that Kazez thinks the problem is anthropomorphism - respecting animals that are like us more than animals that are very different - like birds.
"If we're biased in placing ourselves on a higher rung than other animals it's a bias we can't avoid... but there's a related bias that we can and should void. That's the bias that say there's something special about other animals the more they are genetically and evolutionarily close to us."

There, in a bold sweep, Kazez undoes most of the 'consciousness-raising' efforts of animal welfare groups, on behalf of apes, monkeys and so on, not to mention all our fellow mammals, in favour of a more egalitarian concern for insects, birds, fish and yes, poor old laboratory mice. "The sheer fact that a mouse is a conscious entity, unlike a wind-up, toy mouse, is impressive", she thinks. I like mice too, but to rise their rights up to those of bonobos or chimpanzees seems to be a step backwards.

The book has a strong and welcome personal flavour, enhanced by many interesting anecdotes and asides. One such is that Montezuma had a huge zoo that needed 300 people to run it, feeding, for example the birds in the bird collection 500 turkeys a day. And he had colour coded animals too - putting all the white plants and animals and trees together in one collection. The spookiest thing about that, was the collection included some white (albino) people - men, women and children.

Was it right to do that? As Bentham might say, did the albino's suffer? As Singer might ask, how much pleasure did their presence give the spectators? These are the sorts of questions that animal rights discussions tend to raise. Kazez instead attempts to shift the debate by appealing to something she terms as a sense of the 'respect' owed to all life. Respect, that is, in the manner that indigenous people offer prayers to the Gods before hunts. She prefers this approach to the efforts of philosophers from Kant to Bentham to come up with hard and fast rules. But it's a weak remedy for that virulent and dangerous disease of contempt for animal lives that has taken such a firm hold on 'humankind'.

About the author: Martin Cohen is author of several books including Paradigm Shift and 101 Ethical Dilemmas
Address for correspondence: Readers can contact him via Twitter @docmartincohen

Review: Pygmy science (2010)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXVIII No. 1 Spring 2010

By Perig Gouanvic

What's Wrong with Science?Towards a People's Rational Science of Delight and Compassion 
by Nicholas Maxwell
Pentire Press, 2009, 290 pp., UKP 6.99 ISBN 0955224012

Do you know Pygmy science? In What's Wrong with Science?, Nicholas Maxwell boldly states from the start that ideal science could be best described as 'Pygmy science': like Pygmy's songs described in Colin Turnbull's influential 1961 book The Forest People, it should help Humans 'experience that which is beautiful in Nature.' Technologies result from these songs, they are those parts of nature that best prove that our songs have reawakened in Nature her ability to protect and amaze us. But Maxwell's book, a theatrical play really, is not about what is beautiful in Nature, but about what's wrong in our science. Equip yourself with the tools of a producer, because this play in two acts will require that you feature the Pygmy philosopher of science and the Bantu scientist, in the first act, and a merry crowd made of a Marxist, a Liberal, a Romantic, a Buddhist, and many others, during the second act.

Our scientists are like the Bantu. They believe that Nature is dangerous, and that it should be fought. They have elaborate rituals to exorcise the evils of Nature. Maxwell's thesis, as it unfolds during the first act here, the debate between the philosopher and the scientist, is really that there are Pygmys who think they are Bantus and the Pygmys who know they aren't - like Einstein or Kepler, those mystics. Or, in other words, what's wrong with scientists is really that they are neurotic, and that their goals (which are Pygmy-like) and their practices (which are Bantu-like) don't match, as Maxwell and his philosopher explain. Instead, most scientists just want to have fun, and they love at least some aspect of nature. Karl Popper (the archetypal Bantu) was wrong: rarely do scientists wake up in the morning and walk merrily to the lab propelled by the hope of creating theories to subsequently be proven wrong.

Once it becomes obvious that this posture of scientists is, really, that of any honourable man or woman who lends oneself to criticism, and that science has no monopoly on honesty, what is left? What is left is the sad state of affairs today, where some people wave the flag of science, as Paul Feyerabend said, to champion their cause, as if the quest for 'neutral' data was the most honest one. Science is about goals, says Maxwell.

What a beautiful paradox, detailed in the debates between the Scientist and the Philosopher. But what does Nature says? (S)he is not amongst the protagonists, because the object of science, in Maxwell's terms, is something to be either sung about or to be fought against. Personally, although I wouldn't personify Nature, I would find a way to let 'her' make an appearance in the play. Isn't it what happens in the course of our scientific or otherwise honest endeavours, when it seems that reality, nature, biology, the cosmos, the unconscious, is talking to us?

Let's return to the Pygmys: they sing about what's beautiful in nature. Do they think that nature is a being who has beautiful features? Probably. But is Maxwell's ideal science about a being that is intrinsically beautiful, or about the true scientists who make beauty happen? This is not to annoy the reader with a philosophical paradox (if no one sees the leaf falling from the tree, does it fall?). But rather, the problem raised by Maxwell's book is: how can one talk about science without talking about what science is about?

Nicholas Maxwell talks about Einstein's endeavours, mainly. (Imagine a Pygmy Einstein ? Rather convincing, isn't it?) However, there is a prejudice in favour of physics in his depiction of science. Maxwell, in the second act, outrageously (but quite amusingly) steps into the debate and depicts his metaphor of the world. In his world, the sciences are arranged like the layers of an onion. At the onion's core, of course, is physics. Now personally, I would say that physics should be the outermost layers of the onion. Physics does not relate to my songs about nature, which are rather different. (To do with my amazement about the beauty of neurochemistry, its complexities, its poetic value...) 
I suspect many scientists think about the object of their research in a similar way, and that it is this that makes them wake up and go to work. Is Maxwell doing justice to these scientists who wake up without, obviously, seeking a Popperian refutation? Nicholas Maxwell invites us to be involved in science. Those ivory tower types wish we wouldn't, that's true. But I am left wondering: if curiousity is absent, or spoken about indirectly, how can science fructify? The songs of the philosopher still ring in my ears, but the long arguments with the scientist were easy to forget. Why argue with someone if you can't share your amazement?

Address for correspondence: Perig Gouanvic can be contacted vis The Philosopher

On Scepticism (2010)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXVIII No. 1 Spring 2010


David Hume, and
the role of chance in reasoning

By Paul Healey

What role does blind chance play in reason?
Sentiments that can be otherwise or not, as in feelings that follow from what is thought to be right, have a power. To simply deny sentiments their power, as Hume does, is to see those who stand by religion, democracy, environmental and any other contemporary issues, as irrational and irrelevant. By Hume's reckoning, choices are based upon suppositions which cannot be identified by their speculative value.

What is necessary, possible or contingent for the choices that can be made, if chances are merely the appearance of what can be otherwise? We don't have to agree that it is necessary that one of two opposed ways of thinking can make no difference, or that what is possible is determined by someone's opinion. It could be the custom that the chances are determined by the proportion of properties, like those of cards in a deck, but given the influences that can affect an outcome are external to the deck, what is determined, is what is true for the combination of the cards as an event which is possible. By denying certain combinations are possible, the understanding can place limits on what can be experienced and in so doing, can make errors. So when Hume asserts that 'Necessity is regular and certain.', while 'human conduct is irregular and uncertain', what can be said of human conduct is assumed to be necessary and certain, so one claim does proceed from the other! Yet Hume insists that it doesn't.

That we agree with a proposition, is explicit in making a claim. Belief in the truth of a proposition must be implicit if science is to have any moral standing. Many scientists to be sure, do believe all that can be done is to run trials and tests, so what is thought to be true for an hypothesis as a scientific claim can always be falsified in the light of new evidence. Clearly Newton's Laws as formulae, work for bodies on the supposition that there motion is regular and certain, but do not work when their motion is irregular and uncertain. Counting such an understanding of hypothesis' for the theories where it does work, is not proof that it is true for all of them. By such a reasoning, exceptions cannot be eliminated.

With this notion of falsification, it would appear that a belief in any claim can be true sometimes and false others; the opposition between two different ways of thinking can never be settled with any certainty. In mathematics, there is plenty of certainty, so why should there be none for science if its hypothesis' depend on what is true for mathematical relations? What is necessary, possible and contingent for mathematical formula presents a big problem for the morality of this hypothetical thinking. At this point, it seems the public are left in the dark between different ways of thinking that are in opposition. Knowledge of these it is claimed, require a special training within a language designed for an analysis that would be foreign to them. Not so, if the difference between making decisions which are efficient and effective can be compared with those that are not. Consider, for example the following explanation by way of an analogy that is portable and accessible to ordinary thinking:

Imagine an ideal engine where all its parts work at an optimum level of efficiency. Let us not worry whether such an engine actually exists, but rather think about what happens if some of its parts are replaced by ones of a lower standard. Chance tells us that a car that has a more efficient engine should produce more power, and vice versa. The driver and the mechanics don't have to believe that the engine is an ideal one; just that it is good enough. The car that it belongs to, can have flaws and yet still be the best one in a race. Surely that is a reason to improve their chances of success? What the modern sceptic should not deny, is that the efficiency of a car's function counts more than its looks! What is true for an understanding can mean there is a denial of the evidence.

Clearly, it is not belief in its efficiency based on mere appearances and assumptions, but the actual efficiency that counts. Many other relevant conditions can be counted, for example, the skill of the mechanics, but to count all those which are irrelevant to its history seems absurd. Why should their selection be irrelevant? Well it can be justly claimed, that there are many properties which coincide with the state of an event, such as turning the engine on; but do not have a direct effect on it i.e., what is happening in some other workshop. Although it can be said they are connected by space and time, this does not make them relevant to a degree that it is worth adjusting our beliefs. Neither do the actual chances of winning a race determine the efficiency of an engine. For example, the fact that some drivers might be more likely to crash, less experienced and have won fewer races has nothing to do with an engineís efficiency until they use it. Even that might not be a reason for the chance of an event to happen otherwise.

Of course, there are chances that affect why the driver's team believe what they believe. If not, their confidence would not be about knowing what the reasons for their successes and failures are. There are therefore reasons for their lack or gain of knowledge that affects their chances. A lot depends on their training, skills and creativity. In this sense, they are beneficiaries of others knowledge and the customs that make its acquisition possible. That is, the belief that the driver's team has in winning, as compared with their actual chance of winning, can be a fuzzy measure of the enthusiasm, commitment, loyalty and passion.

Customs that affect our understanding of chance

For those that follow Hume, all our reasoning concerning the cause and effect for the way probabilities can be calculated are based on custom, which given customs are thought to be evidence against the truth of speculation, they appear to be an argument against being skilled in the dialectic. Even if true, its truth has more to do with a psychological disposition than it has of being evidence. This implies that one of two opposed ways of thinking cannot conform to what is true for experience. In his own words Hume clearly rejects the idea that a belief is a cognitive part of our nature and so falls back on presupposing what is true for our understanding of chance is determined by that which he attributes to our human nature:
The principle is custom or habit. For whatever the repetition of any particular act or operation produces a propensity to renew the same act or operation without being impelled by any reasoning or process of the understanding, we always say that this propensity is the effect of custom. By employing that word we pretend not to have given the ultimate reason for such a propensity. We only point out a principle of human nature which is universally acknowledged, and which is well known by its effects. Perhaps we can push our inquiries no further or pretend to give the cause of this cause, but must rest contented with it as the ultimate principle which we can assign all our conclusions from experience.

- An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding 
As a guide to life, we respect the custom that surrounds the meeting, but we need not agree that they account for the chances of an event. Hume, it could be said was an advocate of those who have an interest in preserving customs. A reasonable enough desire, but what has this to do with undermining the reason for the chance of it coming about? In a world with no oil, both reason and chance count, for the occurrence of a combustion engine has a chance given the conditions are suitable. There is no reason why there couldn't exist a world with oil, but then it will never have any combustion engines. An understanding which is in opposition to this would be a belief in a proposition that does not conform to what can be experienced.

By proposing that chance is only about what appears to be otherwise, Hume makes the truth of what propositions refer to, determined by their mere being. This is how Hume interprets Newton's Laws.

The problem which modern sceptics like Lewis, Hall and even their more recent advocates; Ismael and Briggs as well as Thau who is supposed to be a critic, fail to recognise, is that if hypothetical use of language is based upon presuppositions, this has the effect of placing limits on our understanding as opposed to recognising what those limits are for it to have an identity in its difference. That is, the whole of the scepticís position hangs on the idea of a belief being a function as opposed to being subject to what is true for them. What a person believes does not have to be true for that which is confirmed by experience. That is why, for example, it is sensible to believe that someone who has a better knowledge of an engine should be trusted to repair it and so have a better chance of working as a result. Any mechanic who deserves the name of being one, would have a better chance of finding the reason why an engine doesn't work than someone who is not one! The beauty of the dialectical analysis, as bought down to us by Socrates, is that you don't have to be a mechanic, or skilled in any particular vocation, to appreciate what they can do, or that their way of working is efficient and effective.

To understand why this is so important, consider the presuppositions that surround the benefits of new technologies. These can be challenged, as science without reason can have no morality. A supposition which denies this is too handy for those in a position of power and influence and so needs to be refuted. To challenge the future consequences for the use of technologies is not unlike insisting that the rules of the race must be fair. Technology is a race where reason is no mere sentiment, but the conscience of a folk psychology that gives some teams a winning edge. Such an edge is a reason why its effect can become a spectacle; like the Roman games, it can end up being for the benefit and desires of the oligarchs and their preferred understanding of our customs.

Chance as a reason for our understanding of morality and human conduct

If sentiments about choices and their chances can only be guided by emotions expressed as sentences, presumably there would be no way to distinguish them. Once it is admitted that the weighing of choices does count, the reason for moral judgements should not be denied. That is, what is true for them is not a contingent state of affairs. By presupposing that it is, in the following quote, Hume undermines reason again by making everything that can be referred to, subject to being determined by the experience of its being:
I have objected to the system, which establishes eternal rational measures of right and wrong, that ítis impossible to show, in the actions of reasonable creatures, any relations, which are not found in external objects; and therefore, if morality always intended these relations, twere possible for inanimate matter to be virtuous or vicious.

- The Treatise of Human Nature 

Our understanding of science is not found in external objects like a brain, but is a product of its biological processes. Humeís reasoning results in a contradiction as processes are as real as sticks and stones, so if their properties have limits, why should beliefs not have them? In fact dispositions are a reason for the different understandings that constitute our beliefs in moral judgements. If we believe Hume, the consequence of our acts are subject to us being blind to the effects they have as mere outcomes of chance.

The idea that immoral sentiments, where capitalism is greed, are healthy for the worldís markets persists. It persists, because judgements like Hume's, about what constitute beliefs about chance have been absorbed into our folk psychology. Of course there are degrees of belief, and not everyone takes a sceptical position, which is as extreme as Hume's. The problem is, as long as it is considered reasonable to deny that the relation of good to evil is a moral judgement that is not affected by our understanding of chance, there seems no point to having them. If it is correct that the limits of our understanding about chance do affect our conduct then it does have an impact on our future. If human conduct is all and only about what is irregular and uncertain then this makes us look rather stupid. While Hume's attack on reason could be said to have had a profound influence on scientific attitudes towards chance, it appears that it does not readily conform with what is actually true for our everyday experience.

Address for correspondence:
Paul Healey <>

Philosophical Anarchism (2010)

From The Philosopher, Volume LXXXXVIII No. 1 Spring 2010

A Critical Philosophical Presentation
By Magda Egoumenides

In all the important aspects of our lives, we want to decide by ourselves. We care a lot about living our own way. About being able to make our own decisions concerning who to be, how to live and what to value and achieve. We do not want others to make these decisions for us. Except that is, it seems in the all-important public sphere of life. Yet why should the public sphere be different? What is so appealing about the state when our natural and basic tendency is not to be ruled? This is one concern that gave birth to anarchism. It is also a central problem of political philosophy, theory and practice. And yet it seems so strange to us when the idea of rule is challenged. Perhaps the reason is that, being used to protection by the law, we have forgotten the basic concern anarchism expresses. So here I present the main forms of anarchism in order to arrive at a position which, in my opinion, makes the anarchist insight clearer and shows us a way to remember what otherwise we too easily may forget.

In the history of the anarchist tradition and ideology there are two main sides of anarchism: political and philosophical. The first of these, Political Anarchism is primarily devoted to the task of demolishing the state. It sees this task as an immediate implication of rejecting political authority. But Political Anarchism also views the state as a very bad form of social organisation, and there is a reason for opposition which is, for this form of anarchism, additional to its belief that the state's existence and authority remain unjustified. Correspondingly, its critique of the state is premised on a vision of social life without political institutions.

I distinguish Political Anarchism from Philosophical Anarchism, on the other hand, which concentrates on the critique of political authority and does not necessarily require the abolition of the state. This latter characteristic is reflected in the fact that negative philosophical anarchism is compatible with many alternative political outlooks. A subspecies of Political Anarchism might be identified as the idea that individuals have each an inviolable sphere of action under their total control. This form of anarchism views social relationships as contractual interactions between independent beings, beings seen as able to lead their lives abstracted from their social environment and its impacts.

Opposed to this is kind of individualism is what we might call Political Communal Anarchism, a view which has roots in socialism but nonetheless differs from other socialist ideologies, especially in the latter's devotion to politically centralised forms of organisation and control (if not always as ends, at least as means towards an ideal society). As John Horton puts it in his book Political Obligation (1992), communal anarchism points out 'the social character of human life' and the accompanying values of community, equality, free co-operation and reciprocity. Proponents of Political Communal Anarchism, like Peter Kropotkin and Michael Bakunin, have devoted themselves to developing visions of society which involve a series of co-operative enterprises in every aspect of social life (economic, cultural, educational, etc.) and which are offered as alternatives to views of society which essentially involve the state. These visions are based on reasonably optimistic views of human nature and are accompanied by the characteristic (anarchist) rejection of coercive schemes.

I should like to focus however here on the philosophical side of anarchism and outline its contribution to the debate on political authority. For this, I will need to concentrate on what I call 'critical philosophical anarchism'. This I define as the view which examines the best candidates for moral theories of political obligation and derives from their failure the result:
* there is no general political obligation, and that in this respect,
* political institutions remain without justification.
Incorporated in this approach is a prior standard of theoretical criticism merged with some idea of what an ideal legitimate society should be like. Philosophical Anarchism considers all existing states to be illegitimate insofar as they fail to meet this ideal. 
This anarchist position, as it figures within the debate on political obligation, offers something valuable to the perspective we have towards political institutions and our relation to them. I think that it is important to stress both its critical perspective and its ideal of legitimacy. I see these aspects as defining features of the approach and furthermore as incorporating crucial elements of the arguments of Philosophical Anarchism against political obligation. These are also compatible with certain features of Communal Anarchism.

Anarchists enter the debate on political obligation with a concern about freedom. They concentrate on the importance for individuals to be self-governed, to be able to have a say on and determine the main aspects of their own lives. But how can this be compatible with external constraints? The respect for self-government and the rejection of constraints are characteristic anarchist arguments, each of which might take, and at times has taken, priority over the other within the anarchist tradition. Yet, an anarchist can insist on the priority of freedom and criticise political institutions without rejecting constraints in general. Anarchists are sensitive to the fact that political constraints create problems for self-determination and it is with this in mind that they criticise the way traditional defences of political institutions work. Critical Philosophical Anarchism points out that, if these defences start from a different perspective on political institutions, one which involves the task to show a positive relation between them and freedom, they will deal all the more successfully with the difficulties which they face in their effort to justify the political reality. The debate can then develop in a different light and can provide more fruitful ways of addressing our relationship to the state. It is exactly these features which are significant in the critical philosophical anarchist position.

To conclude, the distinctive perspective of Critical Philosophical Anarchism is that it revives the question of whether we should have political institutions by questioning our obligation to them. It is a question which has been overlooked for too long in discussions of political authority. Rather than promoting a duty to justify constraints, anarchism makes compelling a duty not to accept illegitimate constraints: it focuses on what constraints take away and thus on the need to account for the point of their very existence. Critical Philosophical Anarchism makes us think about what freedom and its loss imply for the way we defend political institutions, and it helps us to re-establish our methods of justification.

Critical Philosophical Anarchism offers an indispensable outlook: it re-assesses the very approach to political authority that has incorrectly been used as a starting point for the debate on political institutions and this offers a clear view of the character, possibilities and problems of political constraints which point out and correct this. At the same time, Critical Philosophical Anarchism preserves its authenticity. It is not about putting limits on political institutions out of a concern to preserve them. It does not emphasise the legitimacy of the state. The anarchist is rather motivated by the problem of subjugation, the way in which improper relations between people undermine them. The defect of political institutions detected through the anarchist criticism of political obligation is that political constraints, by their very nature, tend to accept, cultivate and establish subjugation. In the end, anarchism is about how difficult it is to substantiate political legitimacy

A selection of Anarchist quotations
William Bailie
'Modern primarily a tendency - moral, social, and intellectual. As a tendency it questions the supremacy of the State, the infallibility of statute laws, and the divine right of all authority, spiritual or temporal. It is, in truth, a product of Authority, the progeny of the State, a direct consequences of the inadequacy of law and government to fulfill their assumed functions. In short, the Anarchist tendency is a necessity of progress, a protest against usurpation, privilege, and injustice.' (The Anarchist Spirit, 1906)

Alex Comfort
'Anarchism is that political philosophy which advocates the maximization of individual responsibility and the reduction of concentrated power -- regal, dictatorial, parliamentary: the institutions which go loosely by the name of 'government' -- to a vanishing minimum.' (Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State: A Criminological Approach to the Problem of Power (1950)

Noam Chomsky 
'...anarchism can be conceived as a kind of voluntary socialism, that is, as libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndicalist or communist anarchist, in the tradition of, say, Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin and others. They had in mind a highly organized form of society, but a society that was organized on the basis of organic units, organic communities. And generally, they meant by that the workplace and the neighborhood, and from those two basic units there could derive through federal arrangements a highly integrated kind of social organization which might be national or even international in scope. And these decisions could be made over a substantial range, but by delegates who are always part of the organic community from which they come, to which they return, and in which, in fact, they live.' ('The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism', an interview with Peter Jay, July 25, 1976)
Bill Christopher, Jack Robinson, Philip Sansom and Peter Turner: 
'Anarchism is a philosophy of freedom. It is a body of revolutionary ideas which reconciles, as no other revolutionary concept does, the necessity for individual freedom with the demands of society. It is a commune-ist philosophy which starts from the individual and works upwards, instead of starting from the State and working downwards. Social structure in an anarchist society would be carefully and consciously kept to a minimum and would be strictly functional; where organisation is necessary, it would be maintained, but there would be no organisation for its own sake. This would help to prevent the hardening of organisations into institutions - the hard core of government.' 
(The State Is Your Enemy: Selections From Freedom (a London Anarchist newspaper)  1965-86)
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
'The notion of anarchy...means that once industrial functions have taken over from political functions, then business transactions and exchange alone produce the social order.' (The Federal Principle, 1863) 
'Anarchy is... a form of government or constitution in which public and private consciousness, formed through the development of science and law, is alone sufficient to maintain order and guarantee all liberties...' (Correspondence, 1864)
Leslie Green
'Is there a general obligation to obey the law, at least in a reasonably just state? Increasingly, political theorists deny that proposition. Of course, anarchists, marxists and many theologians have denied it all along ­ their allegiance is to things higher than, or at any rate different from, the state. Now, however, a number of writers within the liberal tradition are denying it too. To call this an emerging consensus would be more performative than descriptive; but it is, shall we say, a significant coalescence of opinion.' ('Who Believes in Political Obligation?' in For  and  Against  the  State:  New  Philosophical  Readings, 1996)

Address for correspondence: No contact details available