By Artemus W. Gaye, PhD
As Liberia gears up for its presidential and general elections ( on October 10, 2017), shrouded with missteps, violations, and exclusion of others from the process, the Supreme Court will rule on a key word now in the political domain as extrapolated from the so-called Code of Conduct —Desire. So what is desire? A basic layperson’s definition sees desire as a sense of imagination or longing for an outcome, object, or person. Thus, when a person desires something or someone, their sense of longing is excited by the pleasure the idea or thought of that desired object or person brings. Thus, to obtain such desire, they must take action to reach that goal. Hence, desire is the ultimate inspiration of all human action.
The earliest writing on desire by Aristotle, can be found in his philosophical, psychological, biological, and ethical treatises, but remained scattered. Thus, a systematic exposition of desire can be problematic. On this note, let me attempt to bring some clarity on how this much argued term ought to be understood and addressed by the court. Aristotle uses the term orexis for desire. For the erudite philosopher, there are three kinds of desires (orexis) namely, epithumia (appetite), thumos (passion), and boulêsis (rational desire for end and not means for good not pleasure).
Looking at the scope and aim of desire as argued by the aggrieved parties in Liberia, were Karnwea, Sulunteh, or Jones moved to action only when they grasped the object of desire, in this case when petitioned or nominated by their constituents, ignoring a key component of the law restricting political appointees within two years? What were they grasping as the object of their desire before their nomination? When and what moved them to action in fulfilling the object of their desire? Were they oblivious to the law or unconscious of the situations at play? They ought to understand that all desire is evaluative in nature. Therefore, they must have grasped the prospect of being nominated but chose not to resign for fear of losing their monetary benefits and authority as provided by the state. These men had phantasia (imagination), which is absolutely necessary for desire and as long as they accepted the nomination in the present, it was an outward expression of their orexis (desire) for the good, herein the political authority to one day serve as president or vice president. Interestingly, this desire for the political good may not necessarily require belief or reason, the trap that caught them. The aggrieved knew such position would be seen as kalon (as fine or noble) undertaking. For example, Jones was aware that the law specifically targeted him when he was carrying on the loan scheme. He seemed to be motivated by timôria a form of retaliation and defiance. This was the same fate for Karnwea and Sulunteh, two men, who heard their names mentioned on so many occasions in the media and amongst friends as possible nominees for Mr. Boakai. No wonder when hope (a form of desire) faded for both men in the UP they were quick to jump ship to the ANC and LP, as a means of fulfilling their boulêsis, in this case eudaimonia (happiness). Consequently, for those political appointees who are seeking redress from the Supreme Court, the fact that they possess self-consciousness, it is a state of desire, as articulated by Friedrich Hegel in his work Phenomenology of Spirit. Accordingly, the aggrieved ought to be told that it was their desire, in concert with their long held beliefs to someday run for the highest offices that motivated them to such political actions—whether maneuvering or lobbying to be in the political limelight. Henceforth, let me end with Stuart Mill who claims that a desire for an object is caused by an idea that this desire must be fulfilled. That is why they are in the court in the first place. On this assessment, the longing or imagination for power is the sole motivating factor of the desires of these aggrieved men.
Dr. Artemus Gaye, chairs the All Liberian Diaspora Conference, a Liberian run research group and hold a doctorate from Loyola University Chicago as an Ethicist.