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The Art of Re-Interpretation

Michel de Certeau

Peter Burke

After a certain time-lag, the Jesuit Michel de Certeau (1925-86) has come to be recognized as one of the most creative cultural theorists of the late twentieth century, in the same class as his more celebrated contemporaries Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault. The secondary literature on Certeau is increasing at a remarkable rate. A Certeau reader was published in 2000 and an intellectual biography in 2002.2 A remarkable polymath, Certeau practised at least nine disciplines (history, theology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, literature, geography and psychoanalysis), and he has been discussed from many points of view. All the same, as this article will attempt to show, one of the various contexts in which his thought developed has been relatively neglected

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Daniel Canaris

A persistent feature in Jesuit reports about the late Ming and early Qing was the notion that an enduring peace and concord pervaded the Chinese political system. Although the Jesuits did not invent this association, which was rooted in Greco-Roman historiography, the Jesuit encyclopaedist Antonio Possevino (1533–1611) was the first to link the ‘perpetual peace’ (perpetua pax) and ‘supreme concord’ (summa concordia) of the Chinese state to the Confucian intellectual tradition. As the Jesuits’ missionary strategy developed under the tutelage of Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), ‘public peace’ (pax publica) and ‘the calm of the Republic’ (Republica quies) came to be perceived as the ultimate purpose of the Confucian precepts and one of the hinges on which the aims of Christianity, Confucianism and natural law can be reconciled. The supreme expression of the link between Confucianism and peace can be found in the Confucius Sinarum philosophus (1687), which presented for the first time an accessible translation of three of the four Confucian classics. Yet while retaining the view that pre-Qin Confucianism espoused peace as a central political aim, the Confucius Sinarum philosophus challenged the view that contemporary China could be regarded as a utopic actualization of Confucian peace. This paper will discuss this shift as an attempt to coopt the Chinese political experience as an argument against the pragmatic political philosophy known as ‘reason of state’, which was perceived by Jesuit thinkers as atheistic and immoral.

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David Spurrett

In a famous passage in his Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein compares a language to an ancient city, saying that we can see it as ‘a maze of little streets and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs with straight regular streets and uniform houses’(1958: paragraph 18). Descartes exploited a similar analogy in his Discourse on the Method, drawn in his case between a city and a system of knowledge. His position, though, was strikingly different. Where Wittgenstein describes, he prescribes, stating, first, that ‘there is not usually so much perfection in works composed of several parts and produced by various different craftsmen as in the works of one man’ and going on to argue that the proper task of philosophy is to show us how, individually, we can ‘get rid of’ the opinions which form our existing epistemological landscape, ‘in order to replace them afterwards with better ones, or with the same ones once … squared … with the standards of reason’ (1985: Discourse 1).

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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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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