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Realistic Idealism

An Aristotelian Alternative to Machiavellian International Relations

Pedro Alexis Tabensky

In this paper I criticize political realism in International Relations for not being realistic enough, for being unrealistically pessimistic and ultimately incoherent. For them the international arena will always be a place where a battle of wills, informed by the logic of power, is fought. I grant that it may be true that the international political domain is a place where such battles are fought, but this alleged infelicitous situation does not in and of itself entail the normative pessimism informing their assessments of the international domain, and it does not entail the recommendations offered by political realists, particularly relating to balance of power concerns. Their lack of realism stems from total or partial blindness to the proper and coherent ideals that ought to be informing their analyses of the international domain. Such blindness does not allow them properly to grasp what actually is the case. As we can only properly understand what an eye is by knowing the ideal that defines eyes — proper vision — so too we can only properly identify the movements of the international political arena in relation to ideals that ultimately define this arena, ideals that stem from a proper understanding of the human person. Following an Aristotelian teleological technique of analysis, I show that ideals are a constitutive part of the international domain and I recommend an alternative to political realism, namely, realistic idealism (or, if you prefer, idealistic realism).

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Knowledge, Travel, and Embodied Thought

Restlessness in Herder’s Journal of My Voyage in the Year 1769

John K. Noyes

In this article I examine Johann Gottfried Herder’s Journal of My Voyage in the Year 1769 as a radical experiment in travel writing. Herder understands travel as an alignment of the mobility of the mind with the mobility of the body, and the task of the travel writer (and the traveling reader) is to use language to explore this alignment. Th e experiment of 1769 was intended as a continuation of his studies on epistemology, which had been intent on finding an alternative understanding of knowledge to the dominant trends of the day, idealism and empiricism. Language and its actualization in reading and writing are the foundation upon which knowledge transfer can be built, and the Journal is an attempt to demonstrate how knowledge transfer is possible.

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Wesley Gunter

Sartre's thoughts on the eighteenth century are ambiguous and schematic at best but they do contain an interesting analysis of materialism that continues from this period through to the early 1940s. Even though Sartre refers to the eighteenth-century as a paradise soon-to-be lost, it is argued here that his condemnation of atomistic materialism as it was conceived during this period is directly linked to his rejection of the dialectical materialism of the Communist Party and bourgeois ideology. This article examines the relationship between these different modes of thought and seeks to demonstrate how Sartre's take on the eighteenth century provided a stern warning to the communists about the pitfalls associated with basing a revolution on materialist doctrine.

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Josh Toth

As Christina Howells notes in ‘Sartre and Negative Theology’, it is easily assumed that Sartre was ‘a God-haunted or Spirit-haunted atheist, one haunted if not by the god of Christianity then at least by the god of idealism’.1 Sartre himself, as the above epigraph suggests, was all too aware of the spectre of idealism that haunted—or better, tainted—his early philosophical endeavours.

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John Duncan

In this article, I situate and reconstruct Sartre's rejections of subjective and objective idealism in order both to sketch his realism-all-the-way-down and to contrast it with Richard Rorty's pragmatic, anti-essentialist contextualism. The contrast with Rorty is important because his contextualism is one of the most prominent approaches within the relatively recent proliferation of antiessentialist views mobilized under the banners of pragmatism, hermeneutics, postmodernism, constructivism, etc. Although Rorty's contextualism is both compelling and comparable to Sartre's realism-all-the-way-down, I shall argue that the latter does not throw out the baby that the former throws out with the bathwater. Realism-all-the-way-down is not compelled to throw out realism along with subjective and objective idealism, whereas contextualism must throw out the whole lot. If compelling intuitions recommend realism to us, and if Rorty's rejection of realism is unconvincing, there are good reasons to prefer Sartre's realism-all-the-way-down.

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Agency and the Anstoß

Max Planck Directors as Fichtean Subjects

Vita Peacock

One of the core assumptions in agency theory has been that agency is a primordial attribute of persons: an agent is 'the origin of causal events'. However, rather than situating agency at the origin, this article argues that we should a end to where agency, within a given context, itself originates. In Germany's Max Planck Society the departmental heads – so-called 'directors' – possess a significant degree of 'agency' in realizing their personal will. Yet they are not its authors. On the contrary their agency is a secondary product of the philosophies of German Idealism, which eulogize the subjectivity of a heroic intellectual. In this analysis, the agency of the directors is not a precondition of their humanity, but the off spring of a specific cultural inheritance which frames the organization's intramural life. Organizational theorists should thus pay close attention to the geo-cultural location of their object before drawing conclusions about agency.

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Nationalism and Internationalism Reconciled

British Concepts for a New World Order during and after the World Wars

Antero Holmila and Pasi Ihalainen

The carnage of World War I gave rise to liberal visions for a new world order with democratized foreign policy and informed international public opinion. Conservatives emphasized continuity in national sovereignty, while socialists focused on the interests of the working class. While British diplomacy in the construction of the League of Nations has been widely discussed, we focus on contemporary uses of nationalism and internationalism in parliamentary and press debates that are more ideological. We also examine how failed internationalist visions influenced uses of these concepts during World War II, supporting alternative organizational solutions, caution with the rhetoric of democracy and public opinion, and ways to reconcile national sovereignty with a new world organization. The United Nations was to guarantee the interests of the leading powers (including the United States), while associations with breakthroughs of democracy were avoided. Nationalism (patriotism) and internationalism were reconciled with less idealism and more pragmatism.

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Bettina Bergo

In 1968, at the height of political unrest in Europe and North America, in the heyday of French existentialism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, Emmanuel Levinas published an essay curiously opposed to the emerging “canon” of the time, in defence of humanism. Both with and against psychoanalysis’ and structuralism’s decentring of the subject and the Marxist critiques of bourgeois humanism, Levinas called for a different conception of humanism. He suggested that humanism had never been truly humanist because metaphysics (and ethics) had given priority to a conception of subjectivity characterized exclusively by activity and rationality. But Levinas did not toll the death knell of reason; rather he suggested that the rationalist subjectivity of humanism and idealism covered over depths of our intersubjective life. Against these, he proposed a humanism whose beginning would not be the self-positing of the ego, but rather would lie in the peculiar character of our sensuous vulnerability to other human beings. This vulnerability – whose ethical implications can be elucidated by an inquiry into the possibility of the sentiments of responsibility and obligation – belongs to a philosophical anthropology characterized by a certain optimism. Such an optimism is envisionable for Levinas even in the wake of skepticism over the meaning and coherence of ethical judgement. Thus, in the following passage Levinas summarizes his conception of the subject and the starting point of his humanism, using the Fichtean ego (inter alia) as its foil.

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Anthony Holiday

John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University speaks to the concerns of African educationalists, not despite, but because of the circumstance that his fidelity to the ideal of a university as a seat of universal knowledge is tied to his argument for the inclusion of theology as an indispensable part of any university syllabus. It is not the case, moreover, that his idealism resonates with us purely because it is carried by a magnificent prose style. Rather, Newman’s thoughts about the universality of higher learning touch us across a considerable culturo-temporal divide, because Africans in their quest for a form of university education which will harmonize with their Africanness are driven by an innate conviction, too seldom made explicit, that such education would have to be inseparable from their own spirituality and religious commitments. If the conviction remains largely unspoken, this has much to do with the global climate of scientism and secularism in which humanity’s aspirations – religious and educational – must seek expression. It is, perhaps, because we are denizens of this climate that we can scarcely suppress a smile at Newman’s claim that theology is a factual science much as, say, physics is a factual science and why his assertion in the Fourth Discourse that “the preservation of our race in Noah’s Ark is an historical fact which history never would arrive at without revelation”1 strikes us (quite rightly) as being something of a howler.

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Eirini Kasioumi, Anna Plyushteva, Talya Zemach-Bersin, Kathleen F. Oswald, Molly Sauter, Alexandra Ganser, Mustafa Ahmed Khan, Natasha Raheja, Harry Oosterhuis and Benjamin Fraser

Max Hirsh, Airport Urbanism: Infrastructure and Mobility in Asia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), 216 pp., 80 black-and-white illustrations, 20 color plates, $25 (paperback), $87.50 (hardback)

Laura Bang Lindegaard, Congestion: Rationalising Automobility in the Face of Climate Change (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2015), 214 pp., $54.95 (hardback)

Neriko Musha Doerr and Hannah Davis Taïeb, eds., The Romance of Crossing Borders: Studying and Volunteering Abroad (New York: Berghahn Books, 2017), 302 pp., $90 (hardback)

Ehren Helmut Pflugfelder, Communicating Mobility and Technology: A Material Rhetoric for Persuasive Transportation (London: Routledge, 2017), 178 pp., 19 illustrations, $149.95 (hardback), $54.95 (ebook)

Christo Sims, Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno- Idealism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017), 232 pp., $27.95 (paperback), $80 (hardback)

Charlotte Mathieson, ed., Sea Narratives: Cultural Responses to the Sea, 1600– Present (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 281 pp., 5 illustrations, €93.59 (hardback), €74.96 (ebook)

Till Mostowlansky, Azan on the Moon: Entangling Modernity along Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), 240 pp., 25 black-and-white illustrations, $26.95 (paperback)

Steff en Köhn, Mediating Mobility: Visual Anthropology in the Age of Migration (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), 208 pp., $30 (paperback)

Margaret Guroff, The Mechanical Horse: How the Bicycle Reshaped American Life (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2016), 295 pp., 10 black-and-white photographs, 5 black-and-white illustrations, $17.95 (paperback)

Melody L. Hoffmann, Bike Lanes Are White Lanes: Bicycle Advocacy and Urban Planning (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 210 pp., $40 (paperback)

Alexander Braun, ed., Winsor McCay: The Airship Adventures of Little Nemo (Cologne: Taschen, 2017), 288 pp., $15 (hardback)