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Opposing Political Philosophy and Literature

Strauss's Critique of Heidegger and the Fate of the 'Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry'

Paul O'mahoney

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.

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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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Polycarp Ikuenobe

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.

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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.

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Death Camps and Designer Dresses

The Liberal Agenda and the Appeal to 'Real Existing Socialism'

Lorna Finlayson

Political philosophers tend to notice their differences more than their similarities. I suggest that contemporary analytic political philosophy in fact exhibits a 'dominant paradigm', the main features of which are a commitment to liberal capitalism and a preference for the designing of 'just institutions.' To subscribe to this paradigm involves making a decision about how to manage the philosophical 'agenda.' In order to focus on certain issues within this paradigm, alternatives, most notably socialism, have to be excluded from prolonged consideration. A popular way of supporting this policy is by reference to the perceived failure of 'real existing socialism.' Taking the late political philosopher Brian Barry, among others, as an example, I argue that this argumentative strategy is unconvincing, and furthermore that its deployment tells a worrying story about the practice of political philosophy.

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Dennis McEnnerney

Recognition of a right of resistance to oppression clearly helped modern Western polities accept constitutional forms of order. Drawing on Locke's canonical discussion in the Second Treatise, influential Anglo-American political theorists also suggest that the establishment of modern constitutional states required outlawing resistance practices. A francophone perspective, however, raises a problem for such generalizations about modern Western political philosophy and practice: the French “résistance” differs in meaning from the English “resistance” in important ways. Reconstructing the histories of the cognate concepts, I show that “résistance” emerged out of feminized discourses concerning moral conscience and that, as a result, excluding résistance from politics seems implausible, a conclusion that sheds light on the discussion of résistance in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. The article closes with the suggestion that, following the Second World War, French understandings of “résistance” may have influenced American politics and thought in unrecognized ways.

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Jakob Norberg

Hannah Arendt and Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich produced influential accounts of the postwar West-German population's silence or inarticuleteness. The Mitscherlichs claimed that this silence was symptomatic of a blocked process of mourning; Arendt saw it as a legacy of brutal totalitarian rule. However, both viewed the rapid economic recovery as evidence of the German inability to engage in discursively mediated therapeutic and political processes. Frantic busyness was a form of silence. This paper presents a critical reassessment of these approaches. By drawing on Albert Hirschman's theory of exit and voice, it argues that economic activity possesses a communicative dimension. The alleged retreat from politics is not a symptom of muteness but rather indicates people's preference for an alternative mode of communication. Arendt and the Mitscherlich may be right in assuming a correlation between the postwar economic recovery and ostensible political apathy, but lack the conceptual means to clarify the relationship.

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David Hall

Climate action is conventionally framed in terms of overcoming epistemic and practical disagreement. An alternative view is to treat people’s understandings of climate change as fundamentally pluralistic and to conceive of climate action accordingly. This paper explores this latter perspective through a framework of philosophical psychology, in particular Bernard Williams’s distinction between internal and external reasons. This illuminates why the IPCC’s framework of ‘Reasons for Concern’ has an inefficacious relationship to people’s concerns and, hence, why additional reason giving is required. Accordingly, this paper recommends a model of truthful persuasion, which acknowledges the plurality of people’s motivations and sincerely strives to connect the facts of climate change to people’s subjective motivational sets.

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Jean Terrier

Th is article off ers a history of pluralism as a term in scholarly discourse. It presents the existing research on the question and off ers a contribution on the basis of an inclusive approach that is not limited to one discipline (philosophy or political science) or to one linguistic area. In particular, it references the rich German debate and the important French intellectual developments. Moreover, it considers not only the proponents but also the adversaries of pluralism. Th ere are two recurring elements in the debates on political pluralism. One is the existence, even among the critics of pluralism, of a recognition of plurality at some level. Th e other is the advocacy, even by authors who strongly emphasize confl ict and dissent, of some necessary unity.

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Teppo Eskelinen

This article focuses in the allocation of financial risks from the viewpoint of social justice. In contemporary society, finance and the related risk allocation patterns have become highly important in determining the social positions of individuals. Yet it is somewhat unclear how ‘financial risks’ should be understood in normative theory and to what extent their allocation is a specific problem of justice. This article consists of a definition of this category and a typology of three different and distinctive perspectives to financial risks and social justice, out of which a synthesis is drawn. The contribution of the article is to propose a normative basis for a research programme on risks and justice in the society of high financialisation.