12 April 2013

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: What is a nation? + Lunch


Dear friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What is a nation?

You will find the link to Ruel's essay at below and also a few lines from me.

But first thank you for those who have confirmed they are coming to the lunch on the 28th April. I
will confirm 3.30pm with Encarna on Sunday. In the meantime:

----Lunch at the Segoviano----

Hola a todos,
Os escribo este mensaje para concretar el tema de la Comida.

Se celebrará el día 28 de Abril a las 15:30 (la hora la discutiremos próximamente). Por favor,
hacerme saber, lo antes posible, qué es lo que queréis de menú, si alguien desea o necesita algo
especial decírmelo para poder pasar el mensaje a Encarna, o por el contrario podéis hablar con ella

Animaros, podemos pasar una buena tarde.

Un saludo.

(Just in case you are wondering, Isabel wrote the above!!!)

----Lunch at the Segoviano----
1) Last Sunday we discussed the possibility of organising a lunch at the centro and I asked Encarna
for details. However, we still have to organise the date so you can think about this lunch and find
a gap in your busy diary. I also have a pending appointment at the hospital and won't know the dates
until next week. What is sure is that we start lunch at 3:30pm and then start the meeting as usual.
In the meantime we can think about the menu:
-Starters (frituras variadas), Entrecot o Cochinillo con ensalada, Postre- cafe-bebida. 25 euros per
-Alternative option 1: fish or vegetarian but you will have to speak to Encarna about this, I've got
her number so please ask me or her when you come to the meeting. 25 euros per person
-Alternative option 2: cochido completo (plus the extras above) 20 euros per person.
(Looking at the menu you might think this is a challenge to this week's subject, but I am assured
that the food is very good!!!)

RUEL essay-----

Hello Lawrence,
In case you didn't see the e-mail I sent you yesterday, here's the link to an essay I wrote re the
topic on Sunday.

Thank you very much. Hasta luego.

Lawrence essay-----

What is a nation?

Before looking at this issue, we can start by reminding ourselves of a milestone in philosophy.
There was a time within living memory, certainly well into late twentieth century, where it was said
that one can do philosophy criticizing Kant, or one can do philosophy praising Kant, but one cannot
do philosophy without Kant. The metaphysics of Kant captured the essence of the key issues in
philosophy at the time. We can also say that by the mid twentieth century, Wittgenstein replaced the
central place Kant once occupied.

The essence, but certainly the philosophical DNA of both philosophers, was based on our relationship
with the rest of the universe. For example, the distinction between categorical truths and
hypothetical truths - moral objective duty vs satisfying a wish now. Or maybe the distinction
between our personal ideas and our ability to communicate with others.

Today, I would argue that the situation has changed from following a particular personality towards
pursuing what is objective and our place in this objective world. We no longer investigate the
relationship between us and the rest of the universe, but rather our place in the universe.

Why is this important for our topic? But first what do I mean by our place in the universe? Today we
investigate our relationship within the universe by understanding how we feature in the universe.
And we can do this because we have the tools, even if they sometimes seem rudimentary: i.e. the
scientific method. Thus, I would argue, Kant and Wittgenstein have been replaced by physics and
biology. Let us pass for today the question whether biology is a subset of physics.

So why is this important for us? The concept of a nation was, first and foremost, established when
our philosophical mindset involved understanding of our existence in terms of our relationship with
the rest of the universe (us against the rest of the universe). And secondly, our philosophical
mindset did not take into account the fact that both us and the universe change despite the
teachings of various philosophers starting from the pres Socratics.

In other words, today the concept of a nation depends on the protection of acquired territory which
is no different from the protection of an alley by a street tomcat. Despite the political banter and
the frills of politics a nation reflects a group of people associated by proximity and usually
identified to a specific location. Thus an English nation or a Spanish nation is associated by the
historical antecedents of people living in parts of the British Isles or the Iberian Peninsula.

As far as the land part of the nation is concerned this must surely occupy an arbitrary position in
our theory of a nation on the grounds that a piece of land might well be occupied by dinosaurs or
human beings. Less arbitrary are maybe, genetic changes to the people living on a particular piece
of land for example skin adaptation, immunity against certain local pathogens and so on. And of
course, there are nations (and their nationals) without occupying their ancestral lands.

However, what distinguish one nation from another are such as human activities such as language,
laws, rituals, culture, even maybe religion. The people that inherit these qualities or
characteristics belong to a specific nation. Indeed, in modern times, one can become a citizen of a
nation not only by birthright but also by procedures of the state (the power behind the nation). The
process might involve an arbitrary question like knowing the name of the spouse of the prime
minister or go to fight for the adopted country.

Whatever a nation might be, it is out of necessity a feature about people, or rather a feature about
the dynamic relationship amongst a group of people. What the old mindset of "us vs the rest of the
universe" does not take into account is that not only physical things change, but also the dynamics
of the physical things change. Thus laws change, language changes, culture evolves and so on.

The consequence of my argument so far is to ask ourselves whether the old concept of a nation is
still valid today. Keep in mind that today we recognize that we have our scope when we can change
the environment around us and vice versa. For example, most nations are bound by international
courts, international laws, international standards, treaties, such as the EU membership, require
nations to give up some of their sovereignty, and other external influences that can and do change
the roots of a nation.

With the interwoven relationships of political, military, natural resources and information, could
we say that today's model of a nation will not change drastically. I would argue that whatever a
nation is today, it is bound to change beyond recognition in the future. The mystery is how and when
our concept of a nation will change.

Best Lawrence

Lawrence: 606081813
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao

Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: What is a nation? + Lunch

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