Sunday, September 02, 2007

The abandoning of the ‘constitutional concept’

Is the meaning of a word explained by that to which it refers, or should we say that that to which we use a word to refer is explained by what concept it expresses?

Clause 1 of the IGC mandate for the EU’s proposed ‘Reform Treaty’ states: ‘The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called “Constitution”, is abandoned.’

This phrase has been reiterated time and again in defence of the decision to deprive the British people of a referendum on the matter, despite around 96% of the original Constitution being incorporated into the new Treaty. Exactly like the Constitution, the Reform Treaty is not a final settlement, because it was never intended to be. It is a basis for evolution towards perpetual deepening integration – ever closer union, which was declared in the preamble to the Treaty of Rome.

It is time to debunk the phrase, for it does not say that the Constitution is abandoned, and neither does it state that the intended legal effects of the Constitution are abandoned. It is the ‘concept’ which is abandoned, and it is therefore the concept of ‘concept’ which needs to be expounded.

On the meaning of ‘concept’ as a theoretical term, from standard philosophical usage, it is usually either (i) an intentional content of a mental representation structure, or (ii) an internal physical structure in the brain that intrinsically has or determines such a content or a worldly extension. In the first case, a concept is an abstract object (an intention); in the second, it intrinsically relates to some external object or set-theoretic construct that it is ‘true of’. The term is the modern replacement for the older term ‘idea’, stripped of the latter’s imagist associations, and thought of as more bound up with language.

A ‘concept’ creates or constitutes its own world. The meaning of concept is revealed through its relation to other concepts. The basic meaning of ‘concept’ is an idea that can be applied to many ‘objects’: it is an idea which is universal across a type or genre, and not particular to an instance in time. It is abstract, signifying a classification by virtue of common features. And it is general in its extension, identifying various particulars that satisfy conditions for class-inclusion.

Kant drew the important distinction between ‘things in themselves’ (noumena) and things as we perceive them (phenomena). The ‘world that is’ informs our theories, but our understandings of it are always human concepts and constructs. On the Kantian view, a concept is a product of the understanding operating on empirical content supplied by the sensory faculties. That which appears to be the same will be of one concept. Thus a concept has a stable meaning associated with its object-class’s essential properties. It is these properties which render it of the same concept. The concept is a unity of rule that determines all that is manifold in sensory intuition of objects and limits it to conditions that make possible a conformity to type.

It is a fundamental contradiction to insist that the constitutional concept is abandoned, when everything that constitutes the Reform Treaty is of the same object-class as the ‘abandoned’ Constitution. That which constituted the Constitution also constitutes the Reform Treaty: the latter is therefore manifestly of the same concept, ergo Clause 1 of the IGC mandate is insidious deception.

Interestingly, whether a treaty or a constitution, the German word for ‘treaty’ – grundvertrag – displays clear kinship with that for constitution – grundgesetz. The language establishes that they are of the same foundational concept. A change of name does not facilitate the deception in Germany at all.


Blogger the doctor said...

Your Grace , as a bio-ethicist may I congratulate you on a masterful exposition of the nature of the "concept" . It was a privilege to read it .

2 September 2007 at 14:05  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Is the meaning of a word explained by that to which it refers, or should we say that that to which we use a word to refer is explained by what concept it expresses?

Oh yes the Empiricists and their obsession with colour and object.

We could however apply the "British Standard (BS) Duck Test"...."when I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck."

In short if the Document drawn up at the last meeting Blair attended and for consultation/debate/discussion at the IGC in October has the effect of giving the EU a legal identity such that it can act in its own name without any requirement to have the agreement of each and every member; then something has changed.

If however the Document explicity forbids the EU from acting unilaterally as if representative of all members, and prohibits it signing treaties etc in its own right; and, also makes any change in the status quo subject to future IGCs and ratification in national parliaments, we can see that our fears are not being realised.

However it does appear that the Document does breathe Promethean fire and animate the as such whatever it is called it has the effect of a Constitution

2 September 2007 at 18:20  
Anonymous prziloczek said...

Your Grace, semantics AND religion! Explosive! But scholarly and masterful nevertheless.
If the concept of a constitution is passed into law, however, there is going to be a conceptual problem. The rulers are going to think that their concept of the constitution and government of the European Project is one thing, while everyone else (with a different concept) is going to see it as something completely different.
Your Grace will remember how the Low Countries were, for a time, conceived by their government to be part of the Holy Roman Empire. The local people, however, as Protestants like yourself, saw themselves as part of an independent State.
I fear that the EU will be rather the same with the governors thinking one thing and not being supported in their belief by their governed.
In times of economic crisis, war or natural disaster, the thing will simply break apart.

2 September 2007 at 19:18  
Blogger AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

I'm a BSDT fan myself, even if the originator sounds a bit foreign. I never quite know where I am with noumena.

Anyways, it was posited recently that under this new quackstitution, it will in practice not be possible to know whether you have are currently breaking the law. This is because of the complexity of the regulation. Knowledge on the matter of your legality will necessarily be reserved to a court.

May I suggest that this is the end, or the beginning of the end of Liberty? Or, if it isn't, then it heralds the same liberty as a serf might enjoy.

When it is impossible to know the law then the Rule of Law is a travesty and becomes a tool of the rich. We shall have a new class of feudal lords, each backed by an army of lawyers. You ding their car in a fender-bender? They'll find fault with the deeds on your house - or somesuch that is effectively the same but which cannot be known except by the expenditure of more time and effort than you will ever have.

Maybe we're better off out.

2 September 2007 at 19:43  
Anonymous Geoff said...

Off Topic:

I see from your comment on Mr. Dale's site that you have personal issues at the moment that are taking up your time.

I hope that whatever they are they can be resolved and you have my best wishes.

2 September 2007 at 23:21  
Blogger Newmania said...

V OFF TOPIC but I believe your Grace is of one mind with me on the very great importance of Mr. Johnson B replacing Mr. Livingstone K.

Help Boris Attack Compass
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Its in a good cause pass it on to as many as you can PLEASE PLEASE HELP GOOGLE BOMB COMPASS

3 September 2007 at 01:37  

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