In the bitter aftermath of a very turbulent and emotionally unhinging presidential election it is easy to become distracted by the spectacle of the Real as it unfolds with both the surrealistic philosophic predilections of Jean Baudrillard and the realistic soothsayings of George Orwell without much distinction. But, nonetheless, I will try to converge my social-media therapy (ahem) and the philosophy of Eduardo Nicol in his essay History and Truth.
Donald Trump as part of his transitioning process and in honor of his second-amendment supporting constituents may have said that “the right to keep and bear arms is a right that pre-exists both the government and the Constitution, noting that government didn’t create the right, nor can it take it away” (unknown 2016). This quote does not have a citation because I came across this quote from an article posted on social media which had no citable author, but only cites another article as it’s source and when I went to the ‘source’ it also had no actual author and cited no point of reference to any Trump quote and/or paraphrasing. In other words, neither the article quoted, nor it’s cited reference actually show any verifiable account that Trump said or implied this. For the purpose of this essay, this questionable resource is of no importance and, in fact, only tacitly underlines the point of this argument.
So regardless if Trump said this or not, here is what the quote states:
P1: The second amendment of the united states is older than the United States and the document that contains the second amendment.
P2: The government did not create the second amendment, nor can the government remove the second amendment.
C: The second amendment as a right is ahistorical and immutable.
Now, I, as the crazy liberal that I am, challenge this article on two grounds: first, arguing that humans have some innate right to self-defense is not a matter of fact, but a matter of opinion and secondly, humanity as either a biological organism or as a (transcendental) organic unity of development is not ahistorical, therefore our relation to the world cannot be immutable. As Nicol argues, both science and doxa share the same world in regard to our perception (Nicol 132), but it is doxa that seeks to be “right” and knowledge which seeks to “explain” — or, in other words, opinion is trying to impose its own convictions on others, whereas knowledge is reality imposing on ones convictions (Nicol 130). The sensory data necessary to confirm either belief or knowledge is of the same, hence it is a fools task to attempt to uproot subjectivity as we are always active subjects in the world and there is no such thing as “passive reason” (Nicol 129) — humans are not passive examiners of reality like a thermometer, we are active in the world and are always wholly engaged with the reality to which we seek to explain. The distinction between opinion and knowledge is the former is pre-scientific thought and the latter is scientific thought and the latter relies on a process of removing the irrational components of the “sharable evidence” of our perceptive realities. In other words, to find objectivity requires removing the subjectivity and this cannot be done by any given subject and henceforth must be done with a shared community of knowledge. Truth — or knowledge — cannot be obtained by a human in isolation. So if we want to have discussions about the nature of man and if man as a natural being has the ‘right’ to defense himself, we need to distinctly separate doxa and episteme.
Knowledge — or Truth — henceforth, has two components: “a material aspect (in reference to things) and a formal aspect (internal coherence)” (Nicol 134) and in our process of building objectivity through community we utilize logic as instrumental for creating internal coherence of thought. But, as it were, because logical systems do not contain a “material aspect”, then logic itself is not knowledge, but merely method towards knowledge and if this is such, then no logical system has any higher consideration to truth inasmuch as it coheres with itself. That is to say that if we cannot state that one logical method of cohering reality of the nature of man to have any higher consideration towards truth than any other. If logic, as it were, is not episteme, and is only mere method to bring about understanding of the sensual world through a community of thought, then it would stand to reason that any system of logic that coheres to itself can be used to formulate the truth of episteme.
But, as we get back to our question about the nature of man and his innate right to defend himself: if we were to ask any given person their thoughts on this question, that would be the whims of that person and it would be the nature of THAT man and not all men (doxa). And, if we want to be scientific about the second amendment should we use the material conditions of the present or the material conditions of the past? Does that man in 2016 have any wherewithal or sound validity to understand the context of human nature as it was perceived in 1776? “History is a component of science, not an extrinsic factor” (Nicol 139) and this is inclusive of ontological examination of any/all declarations of what defines humanism.
To be more clear in this regard: to draw distinctions between animal nature and human nature and to use the word ‘right’ as a proclamation to determine what humans can do needs to be kept in contradistinction here. People would not necessarily say that animals have a right to self-defense, but would only say that animals when exhibited in conditions that deem necessity to defend oneself, they tend to make the decision towards either fight or flight. If, we as humans want to perceive ourselves as merely animals and on the same ontological plane, then you must change words like ‘rights’ to ‘natural instincts’, but even if you perceive human behavior as either a ‘natural instinct’ or as a ‘right’ is neither here nor there. As the study of these rights/instincts — if it is to stand any possibility of exhibiting true qualities — requires scientific inquiry that examines material reality as a historical object that changes in relation to our ontology as an evolving unfolding and secondly requires a method of logical coherence.
This means, in other words, if human nature has rights they are not innate, nor immutable. It means, what defines humanism in 1776 is not what defines humanism in 2016 and if we want to make proclamations about human nature in relation to the efficacy of the second amendment then we must use our perceptions of reality in 2016 and attempt to “explain” reality by challenging our convictions as such by disregarding irrationalism through communal objectivity in and only in the present. In sum, the only humans who can know what human nature is in 2016 is human beings in 2016 and the only method of constructing an objective formulation of what 2016 humanism is, is through rigorous and community based objective reasoning that abstains irrationalism, such as assuming we can apply the material conditions of 1776 to the material reality of 2016 without reveling in absurdity.
Nicol, E. (1965). History and Truth. Los Principios De La Ciencia (Fondo De Cultura Económica), 126-190.
Unknown source, http://reagancoalition.com/articles/2016/trump-releases-his-plan-for-2nd- amendment-leaves-millions-furious.html