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Interview

Propaganda’s Role in Liberal Democratic Societies

Jason Stanley and John B. Min

Stanley and Min discuss how propaganda works in liberal democratic societies. Stanley observes that the inability to address the crisis of liberal democracies can be partially explained by contemporary political philosophy’s penchant for idealized theorizing about norms of justice over transitions from injustice to justice. Whereas ancient and modern political philosophers took seriously propaganda and demagoguery of the elites and populists, contemporary political philosophers have tended to theorize about the idealized structures of justice. This leads to a lack of theoretical constructs and explanatory tools by which we can theorize about real-life political problems, such as mass incarceration. Starting with this premise, Stanley provides an explanation of how propaganda works and the mechanisms that enable propaganda. Stanley further theorizes the pernicious effects that elitism, populism, authoritarianism, and “post-truth” have on democratic politics.

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The Editors

With this issue, Contributions to the History of Concepts, a publication of the History of Political and Social Concepts Group (HPSCG), relaunches under the auspices of a new publisher and new sponsorship, and with a new editorial team. Berghahn Journals, the new publisher, is an independent scholarly publisher in the humanities and social sciences. The new host and sponsor is the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, an intellectual center for the interdisciplinary study and discussion of issues related to philosophy, society, culture and education.

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Combining Intellectual History and the History of the Book

A Case Study on the Concept of Folk in Popular Literature in the Nineteenth Century

Lone Kølle Martinsen

In this article I discuss how intellectual history can be fused with the history of the book. I base this on a case study of the concept of folk (the people) in a Scandinavian, but mainly Danish context in the popular literature written between 1822 and 1836 by the Danish author B.S. Ingemann. The main argument of the article is that in studying the history of political concepts we should include not only sources of politics and philosophy (canonical works) but broadly read work (including fiction) as sources, too, along with observations about the spread and circulation of these texts.

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The Fate of Mutation

Shift , Spread, and Disjunction in a Conceptual Trajectory

Jörg Thomas Richter

Hugo de Vries’s Mutation Theory (1901–1903) fell on fertile ground in the evolutionary sciences around the year 1900. Aside from the impact it had on biology, the concept of mutation also spread into a variety of non-biological discourses, including philosophy, sociology, historiography, and philology. The article follows the trajectory of de Vries’s concept through the discursive landscapes of the early 1900s and the 1960s. From its inception in the 1900s, the cultural imagination of mutation marks a field of conceptual crossing over rather than a mere takeover from biology.

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Oili Pulkkinen

Newtonian science and mechanics left an important imprint on the Scottish Enlightenment. Even though the usage of mechanical metaphors, especially that of a “state machine” per se, were rare in Scottish philosophy, its conception of the human, animal and political bodies as mechanisms that function according to regular principles, or laws, helped to shape many of the theories that have now become popular in various fields of Scottish studies. Most research in these fields focus on the conceptions of history related to theories of economic advancement. In this article the author suggests that the theories produced in the Scottish Enlightenment were also nuanced attempts to describe how historical mechanisms operate.

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Reinhart Koselleck

His Concept of the Concept and Neo-Kantianism

Elías José Palti

The present article intends to trace the conceptual roots of Koselleck’s concept of the concept. Koselleck’s distinction between ideas and concepts has its roots in the logic of Hegel, who was the first to elaborate on the multivocal nature of concepts as their distinguishing feature vis-à-vis ideas. The main hypothesis proposed here is that Koselleck reformulated Hegel’s view on the basis of the neo-Kantian philosophies developed at the turn of the century, with which his theory maintains a tense relationship, without breaking, however, some of its fundamental premises.

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Civis, civitas, civilitas

Translations in Modern Italian and Conceptual Change

Sandro Chignola

By focusing on the Italian translations of civilization, the author explores ways in which conceptual change has reflected historical developments in Italy. Unlike the widespread literal translation of civilization from English or French to other languages, civilizzazione has been a marginal term in Italian. On the other hand, terms such as civiltà, more akin to the Latin civitas, are more frequently employed. e article maps out the complex semantics of civitas and how its trajectory in the philosophy of history was uniquely translated into Italian. Whereas in other European nations civilization and the notion of historical progress it conveyed became a central concept, in Italy, due to the elaboration of an identity heavily influenced by Christian heritage, the more static concept of civiltà proved to be more significant.

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Robert Zaretsky

Algeria is never far from the center of Albert Camus's life and work—no further, in effect, than Ithaka is from the center of Odysseus's thoughts. In fact, Camus tended to see his native country through his readings of ancient Greek myth and tragedy. This article traces the ways in which Camus, with materials provided by ancient Greece, not only represented his native land, but also elaborated a “Mediterranean” school of thought—la pensée du Midi—that emphasizes the role of moderation or “measure.” There is an undeniable aspect of nostalgia to Camus's rendering of his country and its past, but this does not undermine its validity. By making use of Svetlana Boym's fruitful distinction between reflective and restorative forms of nostalgia, I suggest that the combination of the two categories lies at the heart of Camus's “philosophy of limits.”

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Interwar Fascism and the Franchise

Women's Suffrage and the Ligues

Daniella Sarnoff

This article addresses the fascist leagues' policies and philosophies regarding the political role of women, particularly the question of female suffrage. Unlike the parliamentary Right, which did not attempt to mobilize women until 1935, the fascist leagues envisioned women as key political players as early as 1924. Often invoking female work and sacrifice during the war, as well as women's supposedly superior moral aptitude, the leagues presented themselves as the forces that truly respected women's potential and importance in the state. To the leagues the domestic identities and concerns of women were not only compatible with fascist notions of politics, but rendered women potentially better fascists and citizens. Leaders of the organizations expected women to be wives and mothers, producing more children for France, while at the same time the leagues advocated that women engage in national politics and world affairs.

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Charles Bradford Bow

This article examines the “progress” of Scottish metaphysics during the long eighteenth century. The scientific cultivation of natural knowledge drawn from the examples of Sir Francis Bacon (1561–1626), John Locke (1632–1704), and Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) was a defining pursuit in the Scottish Enlightenment. The Aberdonian philosopher George Dalgarno (1616–1687); Thomas Reid (1710–1796), a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society known as the Wise Club; and the professor of moral philosophy at Edinburgh University Dugald Stewart (1753–1828), contributed to that Scottish pattern of philosophical thinking. The question of the extent to which particular external senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) might be improved when others were damaged or absent from birth attracted their particular interest. This article shows the different ways in which Scottish anatomists of the mind resolved Molyneux’s Problem of whether or not an agent could accurately perceive an object from a newly restored external sense.