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Cat Moir

This article argues that G. E. Lessing should be viewed as one of the German Enlightenment’s foremost thinkers of peace alongside his contemporary Immanuel Kant, whose contribution to thinking peace in the eighteenth century is already well recognised. It makes this case by examining two of Lessing’s late works: the 1779 drama Nathan the Wise and the 1780 essay The Education of the Human Race. The dialogue between faith and reason characteristic of Enlightenment discourse is at the heart of both texts, but here it is argued that peace is a crucial third moment. While in Nathan Lessing asserts the need to find peace between the forces of faith and reason in a literary register, in the Education essay he does so in a more explicitly theoretical mode.

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Wu Wei East and West

Humanism and Anti-Humanism in Daoist and Enlightenment Political Thought

Eric Goodfield

Some contemporary authors have witnessed the flourishing of the Sinophilia of the Early Enlightenment and the direct impact of Daoist and Chinese thought on the ideas of Spinoza, Leibniz, Voltaire, Quesnay and the philosophes and have proceeded to make overt connections between the Daoist notion of 'non-action' or Wu wei and Enlightenment doctrines of laissez-faire. In contrast to such approaches, I argue that these frequent conceptual comparisons have often been inappropriate where touchstone humanist notions devoid of the Dao de Jing's fundamental spiritual and metaphysical commitments are brought forward as evidence of interconnection.

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Religion and Community

Adam Smith on the Virtues of Liberty

Charles L. Griswold

The architects of what one might call ‘classical’ or ‘Enlightenment’ liberalism saw themselves as committed to refuting the claims to political sovereignty by organized religion.2 The arguments against the legitimacy of a state-supported religion, and in the extreme case, of a religious monopoly, are so integral a part of the Enlightenment’s effort to put politics on a stable and just foundation as to constitute one of the controlling themes of the period. Liberal politics requires toleration, or better, liberty of religious belief. And this in turn implies that religious institutions be privatized, as it were, and that just politics be secularized. Legitimate rule is to lie in the consent of the ruled rather than in the laws of God as interpreted by his ministers on earth. Differences in religious outlook are to be settled, as Jefferson tells us, by persuasion, not by force, and persuasion is a private matter. The state has no role to play except (to simplify somewhat) that of preventing the use of force by the parties involved. As Jefferson strikingly puts it: ‘The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg … Reason and persuasion are the only practicable instruments [against error in religion].’

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Christopher J. Paskewich

Which of the regimes of the modern world is the best? The political philosopher Leo Strauss provides a useful context for this issue by weighing the three primary regimes he finds available to modernity: traditional regimes, liberal regimes, and the universal state (in the manner of the French philosopher, Alexandre Kojève). He posits a new cycle of regimes for the modern world, just as Plato and Polybius did for the ancient world. Strauss suggests that the post-Enlightenment tendency is toward a universal state, but he asserts that a highly traditional, but liberal, regime is the most desirable for us.

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Strategies of Governance

Michel Foucault on Power

Roger Deacon

How and why is it that we in the West, in our arduous and incessant search for truth, have also built into and around ourselves intricate and powerful systems intended to manage all that we know and do? This, arguably, was the key problem to which Foucault applied himself. Central to his critical, historical ontology of Western, and especially Enlightenment, reason is an investigation of the constitutive relations between the operation of power relations, the production of knowledge, and ways of relating ethically to oneself and others. This article examines Foucault’s account of the relations of power which are said to underpin contemporary thought and to regulate and subject modern individuals. Contrary to the belief that Foucault’s conception of power is dogmatic and all-encompassing, leaving no room for progressive resistance or change and flowing over into the realm of theory such that truth itself becomes questionable, it is argued here that Foucault offers us an analysis of relations of power as ‘strategies of governance’ which depend for their operation on the existence of free subjects capable not only of resistance but of positively producing effects of truth in reality.

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Colonising ‘Free’ Will

A Critique of Political Decolonisation in Ghana

Bernard Forjwuor

refers to as the ‘critical attitude’, is intimately intertwined with the Enlightenment ( Raunig 2008 ; Allen 2017 ) and Eurocentric rationalities ( Mbembe 2001 ; Serequeberhan 1997 ; Mills 2017 ); and, if the constitutive colonial impulses are also

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A Critique of Liberal Universalism

The Concept of Secular Philosophical Grounding

Jaan S. Islam

Following the Enlightenment and the post-Enlightenment period, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the dawn of a new philosophy came into existence. Unlike the Enlightenment, which lacked the knowledge or experiences of the globalised

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Wiping away the Tears of the Ocean

Ukusulaizinyembezizolwandle

Mogobe Ramose

, anxiety, danger, evil and inferiority. By contrast, to whiteness is ascribed the meaning of clarity, certainty, security, goodness and superiority. Enlightenment and modern philosophers like Kant, Hume and Locke are well-known to have given ‘philosophical

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Book Roundtable

Discussion text: Chin, C. 2018. The Practice of Political Theory: Rorty and Continental Thought.

Lasse Thomassen, Joe Hoover, David Owen, Paul Patton, and Clayton Chin

impossibility of giving our normative values a rational foundation. Rorty relishes undercutting the pretensions of Enlightenment philosophy's attempts to justify our ethics with unshakeable certainty, and in this he is clearly against a particular kind of

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A Negative Theory of Justice

Towards a Critical Theory of Power Relations

Leonard Mazzone

, enlightenment is nothing but the autonomous process of individual self-liberation from a self-imposed immaturity ( Unmundigkeit ) and it consists of the ability to use one's own understanding without another person's guidance ( Kant 2009 ). 3 A theory of