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'The Walls of Our Cage'

Wittgenstein’s Lecture on Ethics

Anthony Holiday

The phrase which commences the title of this essay occurs among the concluding sentences of a paper which Wittgenstein presented to Cambridge’s Heretics Society in November of 1929, the momentous year in which he returned to academic philosophy and (in writing the paper, ‘Some Remarks on Logical Form’), began to make public his doubts about the viability of some of the logico-semantic doctrines of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. His offering to the ‘Heretics’ is generally known as his Lecture on Ethics (henceforth LE),1 although the typescript on which it was presumably based bears no title. The Lecture consists of a careful elaboration of the laconic statements in the Tractatus concerning the transcendental status of ethical and aesthetic values (TLP 6.42 – 6.423). Although Wittgenstein avoids any reference to his first great work, he, nonetheless, argues for the same position set out in the Tractatus, which is that there can be no propositions concerning such values, so that any attempt to say anything about what is absolutely good or beautiful transgresses the limits of language and results in nonsensical utterances.

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Lawrence Hamilton

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.

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'Don't Kick the Habit'

A Taylorian Critique of Rorty’s Achieving Our Country

Deane-Peter Baker

In his Theoria 97 (June 2001: 23-40) assessment of Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, Fred Dallmayr agrees that Rorty’s criticism of the contemporary Left in America is necessary, that the Left has indeed lost the momentum that in previous years so impacted American society. He further agrees with Rorty that there is an important distinction to be made between the old-guard ‘reformist’ Left and the new orthodoxy of ‘cultural’ Leftism. Dallmayr argues, however, that Rorty’s critique is unbalanced, and is unfairly biased against the ‘cultural’ Left, despite the occasional conciliatory statement. He argues further that there is something worrying in the style of American pride that Rorty is promoting. In particular, argues Dallmayr, it seems to ignore the fact that in the contemporary world national boundaries can no longer be sharply defined, and the narrow form of national pride that Rorty seems to espouse can be a destructive force in the interwoven international community. Undoubtedly, Dallmayr makes some telling points against Rorty’s position in what is a thoughtful and well-crafted response. There is, however, more to be said, and I wish in this paper to add to Dallmayr’s critique, working from within the philosophical framework provided by Charles Taylor.1 I will also consider the attempt, made by Gary Gutting, to overcome some of the shortcomings of Rorty’s pragmatism by drawing on aspects of Taylor’s philosophy.

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Neo-Natal

On Thinking New Times Philosophically

Daniel Herwitz

This is a paper about what it means to be early. Philosophy has been early from the moment of its inception in the west. Socrates was the first to have been ‘ahead of his time’. Thinking of himself under the sign of a midwife, he believed himself to be stamped with the project of giving birth to a new form of thinking which would in the first instance be critical of existing templates of thought and in the second grasp the essentially experimental character of the search for knowledge. To bring about a sea change in the young, to bring them to the brink of this questioning, experimental moment, to accommodate them to the whirl of a reality whose contours were unknown and whose design undiscovered was for him the task of education. This questioning spirit, meant to challenge the oligarchic and the complacent through a relentless cross-examination or ‘elenchus’, famously accepts that the wisest person is ‘the one who knows that he does not know’ and famously acknowledges the difficulty in achieving genuine knowledge of anything in this kaleidoscopic world.

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Joel Modiri

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.

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Matthew Festenstein

One of the most long-standing and potent charges against pragmatism from the point of view of political philosophy has been that of acquiescence. 1 Whatever the personal, moral or political commitments of particular pragmatists, this criticism alleges, pragmatism is vulnerable to appropriation by whatever social forces are most powerful. This criticism takes various forms (MacGilvray 2000), but its core can be fairly simply stated. On the one hand, pragmatism (at least in its Deweyan version) subsumes theoretical reasoning within practical reasoning. For the Deweyan account, inquiry is understood as a particular kind of activity. Like other activities, it is pursued in order to achieve particular goals. In its course one’s goals may change, new conceptions of what one is doing emerge and indeed who one is may emerge, etc. But inquiry should be understood as goal-directed activity, and successful inquiry as that which allows us to deal with the environment in better ways. On the other hand, Deweyan pragmatism is notoriously reticent about setting out ‘final ends’ for the sake of which this activity takes place (Richardson 1999: 122). Inquiry is then viewed as instrumental and goal-directed, but the goals to which it is or should be directed are left out of the picture of practical reasoning. Accordingly, social consensus or power rushes to fill the vacuum. The dilemma that this position presents for the pragmatist, then, is that either she abandons the aspiration to say something critical about existing social and political arrangements or she abandons the pragmatist view of inquiry: she cannot have both.

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Arpad Szakolczai

Since its birth, but especially since its academic institutionalization, sociology has been plagued by a series of dualisms and dichotomies that seriously diminish the relevance of much of sociological work. To start with, there is the opposition of theoretical and empirical soci- ology; an opposition that should have been stillborn, as it is com- monplace that theoretical work without empirical evidence is arid, while empirical research without theory is spiritless and boring, but continues to survive and even thrive. There is also the division between substantive and methodological issues, creating the impres- sion of two separate realms and the illusion of a ‘free choice’ of method. One can continue with the contrast between methodological individualism and collectivism that in our days culminates in the var- ious debates around rational choice theory, but which is just the old debate between (neo-classical) economics and classical (Durk- heimian) social theory, in new clothes. Still further, there is the dilemma of dynamic versus static approaches, which could be for- mulated in the language of historical versus structural, or of genetic versus genetic. There is furthermore the dichotomy dominating so much of contemporary sociology, between agency and structure, which is just another way of posing the contrast between action and system, dominating the structural-functionalism of the 1950s and 1960s, or the even older opposition between object and subject and their dialectic, central for German idealist philosophy. At an even more general level, there is the question of the link between reality and thought, the extent to which thought and discourses can properly reproduce reality, or, on the contrary, the claims about the autonomy of discourse, or the independence of the text, a theme particular cher- ished by various postmodern approaches.

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Book Reviews

Hegelianisms without Metaphysics?

David James, Bahareh Ebne Alian, and Jean Terrier

's ethical, legal, social and political philosophy, or ‘philosophy of right’, the original French edition of which appeared in 2008, Jean-François Kervégan focusses on Hegel's idea of ‘objective spirit’, that is to say, the idea that rational freedom achieves

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Pascah Mungwini

, however such decolonisation cannot come from existing philosophies and analytic paradigms which have dominated the world thus far but from those epistemologies born out of the historical experiences of the struggle against domination. These are alternative

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Relational Ethics and Partiality

A Critique of Thad Metz’s ‘Towards an African Moral Theory’

Motsamai Molefe

qua ubuntu in African philosophy. Furthermore, I am aware that this theory has been criticised for several reasons. I find at least three major criticisms against this moral theory in the literature. First, there is a complaint that Metz’s moral theory