This is a programmatic paper, calling for the renewal and modernisation of the therapeutic approach to philosophy found in Epicureans, Stoics, and Skeptics; and, in particular, for an application of the therapeutic approach to the life of poverty. The general assumption behind a therapeutic approach to philosophy is that it is possible for someone to be exposed to philosophical work which leads her to an improved understanding of herself and her situation, and for her life to be improved by this understanding. After offering a sketch of how, given the current nature of academic philosophy, such work will be carried out and disseminated, I suggest three areas in which philosophical discourse could have a therapeutic affect on the poor.
Ward E. Jones
Strauss's Critique of Heidegger and the Fate of the 'Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry'
Strauss's critique of Heidegger's philosophy aims at a recovery of political philosophy, which he saw as threatened by Heidegger's radical historicism; for Strauss, philosophy as a whole could not survive without political philosophy, and his return to the classical tradition of political philosophy, while inspired by the work of Heidegger, was directed against what he saw as the nihilism that was its consequence. Here I wish to examine a dimension of Strauss's critique which, though hinted at, remains neglected or unexplored by Strauss: that is, how the critique of Heideggarian historicism should naturally link with Strauss's frequent attention to the issue of the ancient 'quarrel between philosophy and poetry'. It has often been observed by other commentators that through Heidegger's work, philosophy appears liable to be supplanted by contemporary literature, whether poetry or philosophy. As some of Strauss's explicit statements extend his definition of what falls under the category of 'poetry' in the modern age to contemporary novels and poetry, this aspect of Heidegger should have commanded more of his attention. Endurance of the quarrel between philosophy and poetry becomes through the prism of Strauss's work the confrontation of political philosophy with literature, particularly the novel form. It was not so much the rise of modern, non-teleological natural science that threatened the endurance and dignity of philosophy, then, but the rise of modern literature; the critique of historicism, when viewed in the light of the enduring 'quarrel', should lead one to a consideration of a crucial issue which remained oddly neglected, or was only hinted at, by Strauss.
Where Does He Leave Us?
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.
Hegel associates 'subjective' freedom with various rights, all of which concern the subject's particularity, and with the demand that this particularity be accorded proper recognition within the modern state. I show that Hegel's account of subjective freedom can be assimilated to the 'positive' model of freedom that is often attributed to him because of the way in which the objective determinations of right (Recht) recognise the subject's particularity in the form of individual welfare. To this extent, the practical constraints to which individuals are subject in the modern state are not purely external ones, and the freedom which they enjoy within it is not merely subjective in kind. In exploring the role of certain practical forms of necessity in Hegel's account of civil society I show, however, that Hegel points to the existence of a group of people, the poor, who must be thought to lack subjective freedom, because they will experience the constraints to which they are subject as purely external ones. He also suggests the existence of a form of freedom that is merely subjective in kind, because it consists in a sense of absence of constraint that fails to reflect fully the practical forms of necessity that underlie civil society and constrain an individual's actions. The importance of the concept of necessity in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, as highlighted in the paper, demonstrates, moreover, that the emphasis on freedom found in recent interpretations of Hegel's social and political philosophy needs to be counterbalanced by greater recognition of the role played in it by this concept.
This article examines Nnamdi Azikiwe’s idea of mental emancipation as the intellectual foundation for his political philosophy. Mental emancipation involves re-educating Africans to adopt scientific, critical, analytic, and logical modes of thinking. Azikiwe argues that development must involve changing Africans’ intellectual attitudes and educational system. He argues that Western education, through perpetuating negative stereotypes and engendering ‘colonial mentality’, has neither fostered critical and scientific thinking, nor enabled Africans to apply their knowledge for development. Mental emancipation would enable Africans to develop self-confidence, and the critical examination of superstitious beliefs that have hindered Africa’s development. I show that Azikiwe’s ideas have been recaptured by African philosophers like Bodunrin and Wiredu, regarding their critique of aspects of African tradition and prescription for how African philosophy can contribute to development.
The Novelist as Cultural Hero of Modernity? On Richard Rorty’s New Pragmatism
Let us begin with a generalisation: Richard Rorty’s approach to literature is consistently – to use his own opposition – ‘solidarity-related’; what he calls the ‘other side’, literary self-creation, remains programmatically and intentionally undiscussed. One gets the impression that literature, and the novel in particular, is being burdened with an (‘unbearable’) heaviness of responsibility. Does the novel in Rorty’s reflections appear as a source of multifarious metaphors, of whole worlds born out of a writer’s imagination? Is there in it another dimension, where mundane obligations no longer bind the human being and where one can give rein to usually hidden desires and passions? The answer is in the negative.
In La Barrière et le Niveau (1925), the French philosopher Edmond Goblot applied a logic of quality to the social world. The major thesis which Goblot defended at that time was: having no titles or property, the bourgeois class constructed itself superficially through value judgements, building upon commonly shared appreciations, however intrinsically contradictory they may be. If we accept this logical reading found in La Barrière et le Niveau, then two different types of paralogism, useful for sociological theory, merit consideration: paralogisms of criteria and paralogisms of judgement. When interpreted in this way, Goblot’s work presents a threefold theoretical interest: it associates logic and sociology in an original way; it illustrates the heuristic relevance of a social ontology approach, and it provides a grid of sociocultural analysis of the social classes which is still relevant today.
Dannica Fleuß and Gary S. Schaal
The article analyzes the (often implicit) understanding of democratic theory that is presupposed by scholars who engage in this practice and provides an answer to the question: “What are we doing when we are doing democratic theory?” We flesh out the core features of this scholarly activity by relating it to and differentiating it from assessments made from the perspective of political philosophy and political science. We argue that democratic theory aims at proposing institutional devices that are (a) problem-solving approaches and (b) embodiments of normative principles. This two-faced structure requires democratic theorists to engage in feedback loops with political philosophy on the one hand and empirical political science on the other. This implies that democratic theorists must adopt a dynamic approach: democratic theories must “fit” societal circumstances. In consequence, they must be adapted in case of fundamental societal transformations. We exemplify this dynamic character by referring to digitalization-induced changes in democratic societies and their implications for democratic theorists’ practice.
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.
Rikki Dean, Jean-Paul Gagnon, and Hans Asenbaum
What is democratic theory? The question is surprisingly infrequently posed. Indeed, the last time this precise question appears in the academic archive was exactly forty years ago, in James Alfred Pennock’s (1979) book Democratic Political Theory. This is an odd discursive silence not observable in other closely aligned fields of thought such as political theory, political science, social theory, philosophy, economic theory, and public policy/administration – each of which have asked the “what is” question of themselves on regular occasion. The premise of this special issue is, therefore, to pose the question anew and break this forty-year silence.