Today, John Locke is recognized as one of the most important and formative philosophical influences on the modern world. His imprint is still felt in political and legal thought, in educational theory, moral theory and in the theory of knowledge. Lockes key works, Two Treatises of Government , and the monumental An Essay Concerning Human Understanding , provoked lively debate when they were first published in 1690 and remain standard texts in undergraduate philosophy courses throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. (...) It is not surprising therefore that Locke scholarship is a burgeoning force in the history of philosophy and that his ideas and arguments are repeatedly alluded to in current philosophical debate. Indeed, since the publication of the first series of Locke: Critical Assessments in 1991, Locke research has proceeded apace, and it is now fitting that a second Critical Assessments series be published. Of particular importance in recent work on Locke has been research into the colonial contexts of his political writings; a more nuanced and historically grounded approach to Lockes writings on natural philosophy; and a theological turn in Locke scholarship that has centred on the content and reception of his The Reasonableness of Christianity . Each of these new trends is represented in this second series, as are recent contributions to long-standing debates concerning Lockean interpretation and influence. (shrink)
The place of the State in Spinoza's ontology has emerged in scholarly literature as one of the most complex issues involving Spinoza's political thought. At issue is whether Spinoza's State is an actual individual with its own conatus . Some consider it a completely real individual, others say that its individuality can only be metaphoric, whilst others point out the conceptual insufficiency of this polarity for explaining the ontological status of political aggregates and try to overcome it through new concepts, (...) such as the multitude, transindividuality, and figuration. In this paper, each of these interpretations is analyzed and dismissed in favour of a new one stating that Spinoza's State is actually a dynamic network of political concepts operating in resemblance of individuality and reflecting the main characteristics of the modern Nation-State. (shrink)
This paper investigates early modern and enlightenment roots of contemporary ideas of public reason. I argue that concepts of public reason arose in answer to the question ‘who shall judge?’ The religious and moral pluralism unleashed by the reformation lead first to the weakening of authoritative common forms of reasoning, this in turn and more importantly lead to the question who is the final arbiter when a political community is faced with deep disagreement about political/ moral questions. The rise of (...) pluralism meant that to the question ‘what are the standards of public right?’ is added the corollary and equally important question ‘who judges when those standards are violated?’ The answer is that the public judges. Public reason thus refers to the role of the public as judge of public right and not simply to a set of reasons that an actual public happens to share. On this reading of Hobbes, Locke, and Kant, the initial contract recedes in importance while the seat of authoritative political judgment comes to the fore. Keywords: public reason; pluralism; Hobbes; Locke; Kant (Published: 4 December 2009) Citation: Ethics & Global Politics, Vol. 2, No. 4, 2009, pp. 349368. DOI: 10.3402/egp.v2i4.2135. (shrink)
Paul Collins travels the globe piecing together the missing body and soul of one of our most enigmatic founding fathers: Thomas Paine. A typical book about an American founding father doesn’t start at a gay piano bar and end in a sewage ditch. But then, Tom Paine isn’t your typical founding father. A firebrand rebel and a radical on the run, Paine alone claims a key role in the development of three modern democracies. In death, his story turns truly bizarre. (...) Shunned as an infidel by every church, he had to be interred in an open field on a New York farm. Ten years later, a former enemy converting to Paine’s cause dug up the bones and carried them back to Britain, where he planned to build a mausoleum in Paine’s honor. But he never got around to it. So what happened to the body of this founding father? Well, it got lost. Paine’s missing bones, like saint’s relics, have been scattered for two centuries, and their travels are the trail of radical democracy itself. Paul Collins combines wry, present-day travelogue with an odyssey down the forgotten paths of history as he searches for the remains of Tom Paine and finds them hidden in, among other places, a Paris hotel, underneath a London tailor's stool, and inside a roadside statue in New York. Along the way he crosses paths with everyone from Walt Whitman and Charles Darwin to sex reformers and hellfire ministers—not to mention a suicidal gunman, a Ferrari dealer, and berserk feral monkeys. In the end, Collins’s search for Paine’s body instead finds the soul of democracy—for it is the story of how Paine’s struggles have lived on through his eccentric and idealistic followers. (shrink)
This edition of the French philosopher Auguste Comte's (1798-1857) early essays shows Comte at the heart of the political and intellectual debates of Restoration France. The young Comte forged the central features of his philosophical system in response to the central challenge of the 1820s - how to find a new foundation for political legitimacy and thus to 'close' the revolutionary era. Stuart Jones's introduction to this new edition shows how Comte grappled with problems that confronted liberals and counter-revolutionaries alike, (...) and identifies the novelty of his solution. The essays presented in this edition reveal the systematizing character of Comte's intellect, which lay at the root of his enormous appeal to nineteenth-century readers. In addition to the substantial introduction, this volume contains a chronology, biographical information on key figures, and a bibliographical note making this an accessible volume highly suitable for undergraduate use. (shrink)
This volume discusses the ideas of six leading thinkers of the French Enlightenment: Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Holbach, and Condorcet. A general introduction surveys the political theories of the Enlightenment, setting them in the context of the political realities of 18th-century France. The first book of its kind on the subject, Philosophers and Pamphleteers brings a welcome, new perspective to the study of French political thought during a fascinating historical era.
Recent work in Hobbes scholarship has raised again the subject of Hobbes's notion of liberty. In this paper, I examine Hobbes's use of the notion of liberty, particularly in his theory of rights. I argue that in describing the rights that individuals hold, Hobbes is employing "liberty" to cover more than the famously restrictive definition of the "absence of external impediments" and that this broader understanding of liberty should not be put down to simple inconsistency on Hobbes's part. In the (...) second part of the paper, I look at the Hohfeldian analysis of rights and at the tendency to see the notion of a claim as foundational for rights, which for some, is a legacy of that analysis. I argue that there are disadvantages to this and suggest that the notion of liberty may be a more useful one than that of a claim to ground our understanding of rights. (shrink)
Hobbes held distinctive views about the role of power in organizing and directing human life and posing the central problems of politics. His English vocabulary (unlike his Latin vocabulary) conflates conceptions of force, instrumental capacity, right and entitlement in a single term. It remains controversial how far he changed his conception of human nature over the last four decades of his intellectual life from a more to a less egoistic version, and how far, if he did, any such change modified (...) his recipe for pacifying human collective life. The best way of tracking the development of Hobbes?s political thinking is to trace the ways in which he saw the shifting contributions of power to human life in assisting, enabling or impeding human beings in living and acting as they wish. (shrink)
Abstract In his ?Freedom, Self?Ownership, and Libertarian Philosophical Diaspora, ?Justin Weinberg attempts to show, by using arguments from G.A. Cohen, that philosophical defenses of libertarian natural rights are doomed to failure, because they are either circular (by basing libertarianism on the value of ?freedom") or invalid (by basing libertarianism on a self?ownership premise that actually leads to some form of egalitarianism). In fact, however, a natural?rights libertarianism based on the self?ownership premise is not inconsistent if it holds that the (...) earth is initially unowned, rather than collectively owned by all humanity. Under this thesis, the self?ownership assumption may lead to libertarianism, though other hurdles (such as social?contract theory) stand in the way. Finally, ordinary usage of the term ?freedom? permits its application as a moralized concept to a political philosophy that has been demonstrated true. (shrink)
The distinguished philosopher David Gauthier examines Rousseau's evolving notion of freedom, particularly in his later works, where he focuses on a single quest: Can freedom and the independent self be regained? Rousseau's first answer is given in Emile, where he seeks to create a self-sufficient individual, neither materially nor psychologically enslaved to others. His second answer comes in the Social Contract, where he seeks to create a citizen who identifies totally with his community, so that he experiences his dependence on (...) it only as a dependence on himself. Implicitly recognizing the failure of these solutions, his third answer is one of the main themes of the Confessions and Reveries, where he creates himself as the man made for a kind of love that merges with another's into a self-sufficient unity. (shrink)
In this major study of the foundations of modern political theory the eminent political philosopher T. R. Harrison explains, analyzes, and criticizes the work of Hobbes, Locke, and their contemporaries. He provides a full account of the turbulent historical background that shaped the political, intellectual, and religious content of this philosophy. The book explores such questions as the limits of political authority and the relation of the legitimacy of government to the will of its people in non-technical, accessible prose that (...) will appeal to students of philosophy, politics, theology and history. (shrink)
This book examines Rousseau’s ideas about the natural transparency of human intention, the loss of this transparency in the opaque cities of Europe, and the possibility of its restoration within small republican communities. The author weaves together Rousseau’s provocative conjectures about transparency and opaqueness to provide an original interpretation of Rousseau’s political thought and its bearing on several contemporary controversies. He also argues that civic cooperation in Rousseau’s model republic requires mutual surveillance; that Hobbes’s argument for a sovereign state assumes (...) the natural opacity of human intention; and that Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” cannot efficiently coordinate the self-interested choices of opaque traders. (shrink)
Introduction: The politics of construction -- A genealogical context of modern political thought -- More geometrico -- Nominalism redux -- The state of nature -- Constructing politics -- Conclusion: From erasing nature to producing the multitude.
Thomas Hobbes is arguably the greatest of all English philosophers. In the second half of the twentieth century, he has been the subject of sustained critical attention. Hobbes was capable of powerful argument on virtually any level, whether logical, scriptural or historical. And he has attracted attention in all these areas and more questions of historical method, language and linguistics, metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, science and religion. Hobbes has been examined from a great variety of perspectives as an ethical positivist (...) and a deontologist, as a bourgeois advocate and a supporter of the aristocracy, as an absolutist and a proponent of parliamentary government, as a "conservative" and a "modern," as an atheist and a believer. The periodical literature on Hobbes is accordingly very rich, but it is also difficult to access. The four volumes of these critical assessments assemble an important array of material which will be invaluable to all students of Hobbes. (shrink)
This paper examines Spinoza's remarks on women in the Political Treatise in the context of his views in the Ethics about human community and similitude. Although these remarks appear to exclude women from democratic participation on the basis of essential incapacities, I aim to show that Spinoza intended these remarks not as true statements, but as prompts for critical consideration of the place of women in the progressive democratic polity. In common with other scholars, I argue that women, in Spinoza's (...) system, are deprived of freedom and political participation not by their essential natures, but by their social and historical circumstances. I differ from other scholars, however, in basing this conclusion on the different critical functions of the Political Treatise and the Ethics. Following that critical comparison, I consider Spinoza's views on the `natural right' of women and their equal capacity for political participation in terms of his arguments for the compositional similarity of men and women. Finally, I argue that Spinoza offers an explanation for women's actual disempowerment through his account of economic dependence within marriage. (shrink)