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Sam Coombes

The transition made by Sartre to an increasingly political brand of commitment after the Liberation proved to be one of the most challenging and difficult transitions of his career. L’Etre et le néant had been taken by many, both followers and critics alike, to be the fullest exposition of his world-view, but the type of commitment Sartre spoke of in this work did not seem to be an obvious candidate for reconciliation with a radical political agenda.

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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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A Political Theology of the Empty Tomb

Christianity and the Return of the Sacred

Roberto Farneti

This article argues a case against the theory of the sacred put forward by the French anthropologist René Girard. In particular, Girard seems to have obliterated one of the tenets of Christian theology, namely, the doctrine of Christ's ascension, in accord with his critical reading of Paul's letter to the Hebrews, which contains a rare emphasis on Christ's departure from the world. This article adopts a 'neo-Hobbesian' perspective in understanding the return of the sacred and fosters a 'political theology of the empty tomb', where the doctrine of Christ's ascension is called upon to again play a major theological role as a workable antidote to the contemporary resurgence of the sacred.

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Kate Soper

All of those working in the broad field of environmental studies (and I here include, among others, philosophers, geographers, political ecologists, sociologists, cultural historians and critics) are likely to agree to two points. First, the term “nature” which has been so central to our various debates, has lost its all-purpose conceptual status and can no longer be bandied around as it once was. This does not mean that we have ceased to use it. Indeed, it still regularly recurs in ecological laments and admonitions (it is “nature”, after all, that we are being told is being lost, damaged, polluted and eroded; and it is nature that we are enjoined to respect, protect and conserve). But we readily acknowledge now that this is no more than a kind of shorthand: a convenient, but fairly gestural, concept of eco-political argument whose meaning is increasingly contested. This bears on the second point of presumed agreement, namely, that we can, broadly speaking, discern two main parties to this contest over the nature of nature: the realists on the one hand, and the contructivists on the other. Since this distinction will be familiar to readers in its general outline, I shall not here elaborate in any detail upon it. But a few specifications might be added at this point.

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Andrew Nash

For most of its existence, the academic study of politics has been based on the reading of the texts of a recognised number of great thinkers from Greek and Roman antiquity through the European middle ages to modern Europe. In the English-speaking world, the example of ‘Greats’ at Oxford – and ‘Modern Greats’ (philosophy, politics and economics) after 1920 – has been crucial in establishing this approach. In 1928, in his inaugural lecture as Professor of Political Science at Cambridge, Ernest Barker (1930:204) still saw the central role of the history of political thought as uncontroversial: ‘The more the development of political ideas is studied, the richer will be the development of political theory’.

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R. Bruce Douglass

John Rawls is widely thought to have revitalised political philosophy. This paper discusses that claim critically in the light of Rawls' own characterisation of his project as well as a series of objections that have been raised by critics from diverse points of view. It concludes that the criticisms advanced by the authors in question help to clarify what exactly Rawls accomplished. He did revitalise liberal political philosophy, but in a manner that lacks much of the traditional substance of political philosophy. The paper concludes by discussing the significance of this finding and its implications for the future of political philosophy.

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Christine Hobden

Citizens increasingly engage with political issues in new ways by addressing politicians via social media, campaigning at international forums, or boycotting corporate entities. These forms of engagement move beyond more regulated electoral politics and are rightly celebrated for the ways they increase representation and provide new channels of accountability. Yet, despite these virtues, political engagement beyond voting inevitably tends to entrench and amplify inequality in citizen influence on political decision-making. The tendency toward inequality undermines relational equality between citizens and muddies the channels of political accountability and responsibility. This article unpacks the ostensible tension and argues that it reveals to us another strength in views which hold the state to be citizens’ collective project and provides argumentative resources to motivate democracies to give due attention to ensuring that democratic participatory channels remain fit for purpose in an ever-changing society.

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Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther and Jonathan Michael Kaplan

All eyes are turned towards genomic data and models as the source of knowledge about whether human races exist or not. Will genomic science make the final decision about whether racial realism (e.g. racial population naturalism) or anti-realism (e.g. racial scepticism) is correct? We think not. The results of even our best and most impressive genomic technologies under-determine whether biogenomic races exist, or not. First, different sub-disciplines of biology interested in population structure employ distinct concepts, aims, measures and models, producing cross-cutting categorisations of population subdivisions rather than a single, universal biogenomic concept of 'race.' Second, within each sub-discipline (e.g. phylogenetics, conservation biology), genomic results are consistent with, and map multiply to, racial realism and anti-realism. Indeed, racial ontologies are constructed conventionally, rather than discovered. We thus defend a constructivist conventionalism about biogenomic racial ontology. Choices and conventions must always be made in identifying particular kinds of groups. Political agendas, social programmes, and moral questions premised on the existence of naturalistic race should accept that no scientifically grounded racial ontology is forthcoming, and adjust presumptions, practices and projects accordingly.

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Christian Fuchs and John Collier

Economic logic impinges on contemporary political theory through both economic reductionism and economic methodology applied to political decision-making (through game theory). The authors argue that the sort of models used are based on mechanistic and linear methodologies that have now been found wanting in physics. They further argue that complexity based self-organization methods are better suited to model the complexities of economy and polity and their interactions with the overall social system.

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Bilal Tawfiq Hamamra

problems of a society constructed solely through masculine discourses. Sacrifice in Iphigenia therefore comments critically upon the political and religious concerns of sixteenth-century England that were immediately related to Lumley’s family. Lady