This special issue arose from a workshop on “Peace and Concord from Plato to Lessing”, organised by the editors and which took place at the University of Sydney on 18 and 19 September 2017. Central to the work of both the editors is the relationship between the concepts of ‘concord’, ‘peace’ and ‘dignity’ within a setting created by a concern with the development of a philological anthropology. Their work combines both intellectual history and philosophy, a combination that is reflected in the contents of the special issue of Theoria. The importance of these terms is that they allow for another interpretation of the ethical and the political. Central to both is the location of human being within a larger cultural context. That context demands an approach in which philosophy does not exclude history, and history recognises that it is already informed philosophically. If there is a unifying term, it is ‘culture’. The approach taken within the larger project starts with the centrality of culture as that which demands to be thought. And yet culture is neither tranquil nor unified. As Walter Benjamin argued, there ‘is no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism’. Allowing for culture’s centrality entails a reconfiguration of both philosophy and intellectual history.
Andrew Benjamin and Francesco Borghesi
African Philosophy and Rights
Motsamai Molefe and Chris Allsobrook
A useful way to approach the discourse of rights in African philosophy is in terms of Kwasi Wiredu’s (1996) distinction between cultural particulars and universals. According to Wiredu, cultural particulars are contingent and context-dependent. They fail to hold in all circumstances and for everyone (Wiredu 2005). Cultural universals are transcultural or objective (Wiredu 2005). Examples of cultural particulars include dress styles, religious rituals, social etiquette and so on. One example of a cultural universal is the norm of truth. One may imagine a society with different methods of greeting, dress, and raising children, but one cannot imagine a robust society which rejects the norm of truth as the basis of social practices.
This edition of Theoria brings contributions that engage, provocatively, with an unusually wide range of issues. They include reflections on Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics, an exploration of the concept of trust in Locke’s thought, an account of Ellen Meiksins Wood’s pioneering contribution to the recasting of political thought, and an essay concerned to revisit and re-assert the importance of Noam Chomsky’s thought with respect to the articulation of a principled socialist politics. They include, too, reflections on J.M. Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K and Chinua Achebe’s Anthills of the Savannah, a critical examination of aspects of Nancy Cartwright’s seminal contributions to the philosophy of science, and conclude with a critique of the case made for ‘illiberal democracy’ in the context of economic modernisation.
This article discusses the contemporary history of South African social science in relation to the Azanian Philosophical Tradition. It is addressed directly to white scholars, urging introspection with regard to the ethical question of epistemic justice in relation to the evolution of the social sciences in conqueror South Africa. I consider the establishment of the professional social sciences at South African universities in the early twentieth century as a central part of the epistemic project of conqueror South Africa. In contrast, the Azanian Philosophical Tradition is rooted in African philosophy and articulated in resistance against the injustice of conquest and colonialism in southern Africa since the seventeenth century. It understands conquest as the fundamental historical antagonism shaping the philosophical, political, and material problem of ‘South Africa’. The tradition is silenced by and exceeds the political and epistemic strictures of the settler colonial nation state and social science.
Ever since Livy proclaimed that ‘freedom is to be in one’s own power’, if not from long before and in other contexts, the relationship between freedom and power has been an enduring concern of social and political theorists. It has withstood even Isaiah Berlin’s sharp distinction between seemingly irreconcilable forms of freedom and much of the subsequent theoretical and philosophical debates that it spawned. The history of political thought is littered with thinkers who have opposed freedom and power, arguing that liberty can only be truly attained free from power and domination (republicans) or in the absence of external impediments imposed by other human beings (liberals); but there are also many examples of arguments that identify a close and intriguing link between them, especially in the sphere of politics, that emanate from radicals and conservatives alike, thinkers such as Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Arendt and Foucault. Moreover, those in the former camp tend to think of freedom in formal and abstract terms, while proponents of the latter eschew this now normal tendency in political philosophy and instead think of freedom in fully substantive, concrete and even materialist terms. Hobbes is an unusual and unique figure as his account of freedom inspires members of both parties, that is those concerned with the formal character of freedom and those troubled by its more substantive components and conditions, which is why it is only right that we start this special issue on freedom and power with an analysis of Hobbes’ account of freedom.
This article sets out a few key questions, themes, and problems animating an Azanian social and political philosophy, with specific reference to the radical promise of undoing South African disciplinary knowledges. The article is made up of two parts: The first part discusses the epistemic and political forces arrayed against black radical thought in South Africa and beyond. A few current trends of anti-black thinking – liberal racism, Left Eurocentrism, and postcolonial post-racialism – which pose challenges for the legibility of Azanian critique are outlined. Part two constructs an exposition and synthesis of key tenets of Azanian thinking elaborated upon under three signs: ‘South Africa’, ‘race and racism’, and ‘Africa’. The aim of the discussion is to illustrate the critical, emancipatory potential of Azanian thought and its radical incommensurability with dominant strands of scholarship in the human and social sciences today. The article ultimately defends the reassertion of black radical thought in the South African academy today and underscores in particular the abolitionist drive of Azanian political thought.
Some Senses of Pan-Africanism from the South
observation that, though the three main oceans of the world are separated as ‘isms’, we cannot deny that they also flow into one another as one. In defining the meaning of African-ness, he claims, ‘African philosophy is predicated on the recognition that
SimonMary Aihiokhai, Lorina Buhr, David Moore, and William Jethro Mpofu
, Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, proposes in Political Categories: Thinking beyond Concepts the addition of the category as a further element of the basic building blocks of political thought in terms of
Representation . Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107477698 . Hamilton , L. 2019 . Amartya Sen . Cambridge : Polity . Hasselberger , W. 2014 . ‘ Human Agency, Reasons, and Inter-Subjective Understanding ’, Philosophy 89 ( 1 ): 135
Freedom, Resistance and Radical Realism
huge volumes of theoretical contributions to many fields in economics, philosophy and beyond; and he was a man of action – he has been actively involved in a whole array of practical achievements, with the World Bank and the UN at a global level, in