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Friday, June 13, 2008

Some renaissance thinking for modern-day Trenton

One of the revolutions that came with Renaissance thinking was the belief that man’s existence was totally based upon sensory input, and not on a “soul” or innate ideas inserted into one’s psyche by God at birth.

John Locke and Claude Helvetius shaped these ideas, but a truly revolutionary leap from those philosophical positions came later.

It may actually have good application here in Trenton.

The philosophy of these men actually converts easily into political science, because if sensory input and the human environment were all that shaped human existence then people were neither good nor bad, at least at birth.

So, shaping the surrounding environment with “good” legislation issuing forth from a “good” government is therefore a practical way of making people live a virtuous and productive life, free from crime and a destructive existence.

If someone is in support of those views, than the greater national government and the local Trenton City government have both failed many of the men and women in Trenton and the rest of the nation by failing to create effective “good” legislation and ensuring an environment that causes mankind to live a virtuous existence.

Locke and Helvetius would probably look at Trenton’s city government as an entity that has failed mightily in creating “good” laws that make – or at least help - Trenton’s people live virtuous lives.

They would probably say Trenton’s City Council – in allowing itself to be kicked around and disrespected by administration officials – has severely retarded the ability of its members to ever create the kind of “good” legislation that these long-dead philosophers were talking about.

They would frown even harder on the greater state and federal governments for letting such large populations living in the nation’s cities exist in a broken environment where living a virtuous life is nearly impossible, or at least severely difficult.

Surely some that read this will be angered by the idea that the government – through “good” legislation and controlling the social environment – may be responsible for the actions of citizens and that the same government is highly responsible in propping up the lives of the people it rules.

The people who are most often angered by such a proposition are those who already lead a productive, and even maybe a virtuous life in places like Trenton, where so many others are sucked into a less-virtuous life of crime and poverty.

Before discounting this as philosophical-scientific nonsense, remember the importance that Locke – and to a lesser extent – Helvetius have in the foundations of modern thinking and the scientific method.

With that in mind, the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” position that does not fit in anywhere with Locke or Helvetius is less easy to take when observing those who have fallen through the cracks.

Also, few of the people actually taking such a position have ever been confronted with the sheer difficulty of growing up and living in places like some of Trenton’s neighborhoods, without opportunity or dealing with what must be a very strong pull to give up and give in to the surrounding environment.

Trenton’s City Council and the greater state and federal governments need to take better action in making “good” laws that create a more virtuous environment.

And to do that, City Council needs to continue fighting to get the tools it needs to create that “good” legislation we so desperately need.

We want to be virtuous, right?

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