This book is an exploration of Plato's Republic that bypasses arcane scholarly debates. Plato's Fable provides refreshing insight into what, in Plato's view, is the central problem of life: the mortal propensity to adopt defective ways of answering the question of how to live well. How, in light of these tendencies, can humankind be saved? JoshuaMitchell discusses the question in unprecedented depth by examining one of the great books of Western civilization. He draws us beyond the ancients/moderns (...) debate, and beyond the notion that Plato's Republic is best understood as shedding light on the promise of discursive democracy. Instead, Mitchell argues, the question that ought to preoccupy us today is neither "reason" nor "discourse," but rather "imitation." To what extent is man first and foremost an "imitative" being? This, Mitchell asserts, is the subtext of the great political and foreign policy debates of our times. Plato's Fable is not simply a work of textual exegesis. It is an attempt to move debates within political theory beyond their current location. Mitchell recovers insights about the depth of the problem of mortal imitation from Plato's magnificent work, and seeks to explicate the meaning of Plato's central claim--that "only philosophy can save us.". (shrink)
Masterfully interweaving political, religious, and historical themes, _Not by Reason Alone_ creates a new interpretation of early modern political thought. Where most accounts assume that modern thought followed a decisive break with Christianity, JoshuaMitchell reveals that the line between the age of faith and that of reason is not quite so clear. Instead, he shows that the ideas of Luther, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau draw on history, rather than reason alone, for a sense of political authority. This (...) erudite and ambitious work crosses disciplinary boundaries to expose unsuspected connections between political theory, religion, and history. In doing so, it offers a view of modern political thought undistorted by conventional distinctions between the ancient and the modern, and between the religious and the political. "Original.... A delight to read a political philosopher who takes the theologies of Hobbes and Locke seriously." —J. M. Porter, _Canadian Journal of History_ "Mitchell's argument both illuminates and fascinates.... An arresting, even stunning, contribution to our study of modern political thought."—William R. Stevenson, Jr., _Christian Scholar's Review_. (shrink)
The Arab Spring, with its calls for sweeping political change, marked the most profound popular uprising in the Middle East for generations. But if the nascent democracies born of these protests are to succeed in the absence of a strong democratic tradition, their success will depend in part on an understanding of how Middle Easterners view themselves, their allegiances to family and religion, and their relationship with the wider world in which they are increasingly integrated. Many of these same questions (...) were raised by Alexis de Tocqueville during his 1831 tour of America, itself then a rising democracy. JoshuaMitchell spent years teaching Tocqueville’s classic account, _Democracy in America, _in America and the Arab Gulf and, with _Tocqueville in Arabia_, he offers a profound personal take. One of the reasons for the book’s widespread popularity in the region is that its commentary on the challenges of democracy and the seemingly contradictory concepts of equality and individuality continue to speak to current debates. While Mitchell’s American students tended to value the individualism of commercial self-interest, his Middle Eastern students had grave doubts about individualism and a deep suspicion for capitalism, which they saw as risking the destruction of long-held loyalties and obligations. When asked about suffering, American students answered in psychological or sociological terms, while Middle Eastern students understood it in terms of religion. Mitchell describes modern democratic man as becoming what Tocqueville predicted: a “distinct kind of humanity” that would be increasingly isolated and alone. Whatever their differences, students in both worlds were grappling with a sense of disconnectedness that social media does little to remedy. We live in a time rife with mutual misunderstandings between America and the Middle East, and _Tocqueville in Arabia_ offers a guide to the present, troubled times, leavened by the author’s hopes about the future. (shrink)
We formulate a new modal ontological argument; specifically, we show that there is a possible world in which an entity that has at least the property of omnipotence exists. Then we argue that if such an entity is possible, it is necessary as well.
Because Hobbes is understood to be a proto-liberal thinker, a great deal hinges on how we understand his writings. Does he contribute to the development of a purely secular political self-understanding, as many liberals today claim? And, by extension, does that mean that liberal thought today best stands on a purely secular foundation? What, then, should we make of the extensive theological speculation throughout his Leviathan ? Here, I argue that to reconcile the seemingly purely secular claims in Leviathan with (...) the obviously religious claims found there we must move beyond reading him in terms of what I here call 'the fable of liberalism', and comprehend Leviathan as a whole in terms of Reformation era debates between Protestants and Roman Catholics about the limits and purview of reason. Understood in that way we see his claims about 'reason' in a new and important light. Rather than being an inevitable development that comes to supercede honour and glory, as the fable of liberalism suggests, 'reason' is seen to have an historically contingent character, whose parameters are established by wagers about the meaning of religious experience. (shrink)
"An intelligent and sharply drawn portrait of a conservative Toqueville."—Anne C. Rose, Journal of American History "I recommend this book as one of a very few to approach seriously the sources of Tocqueville's intellectual and moral ...
Because Hobbes is understood to be a proto-liberal thinker, a great deal hinges on how we understand his writings. Does he contribute to the development of a purely secular political self-understanding, as many liberals today claim? And, by extension, does that mean that liberal thought today best stands on a purely secular foundation? What, then, should we make of the extensive theological speculation throughout his Leviathan? Here, I argue that to reconcile the seemingly purely secular claims in Leviathan with the (...) obviously religious claims found there we must move beyond reading him in terms of what I here call 'the fable of liberalism', and comprehend Leviathan as a whole in terms of Reformation era debates between Protestants and Roman Catholics about the limits and purview of reason. Understood in that way we see his claims about 'reason' in a new and important light. Rather than being an inevitable development that comes to supercede honour and glory, as the fable of liberalism suggests, 'reason' is seen to have an historically contingent character, whose parameters are established by wagers about the meaning of religious experience. (shrink)
The resurgence of religion around the globe poses a challenge for both empirical and normative social scientists. For the former, the question is whether the terms at their disposal are adequate to comprehend religious self-understanding and, therefore, human motivation and conduct. For the latter, the question is whether those terms confuse or clarify the way in which religion may be brought into public dialog without violating the tenets of pluralism or toleration. How, then, do social scientists of both persuasions currently (...) understand religion? I begin by distinguishing religious experience from other sorts of experience, with a view to demonstrating, first, that the two preeminent terms adopted by social scientists today preference and choice cannot comprehend religious experience. To do this, I provide a brief exposition of what I call the fable of liberalism, in order to explain why the terms preference and choice have achieved the currency that they have and what problems their invocation was intended to address. Second, I consider two other terms social scientists often invoke value and identity and suggest that these terms also are inadequate for understanding religious experience. The first set of terms arises in the eighteenth century, out of the Anglo-American tradition; the second set of terms arises in the nineteenth century, out of the German tradition. None of these terms are able to comprehend religious experience, which antedates these sets of terms by centuries. I end by suggesting, first, that empirical social scientists would do well to reconsider whether terms that arose during specific historical moments in order to circumvent or to supersede religious experience can help them understand human motivation, let alone predict human conduct, whenever or wherever religion is involved; and, second, that the attempt by well-meaning normative social scientists to bring religion into the public sphere by treating it in terms of preference, choice, value, or identity distorts religious experience, and cannot succeed as a strategy for reintroducing religion into public dialog, since religion is not what they wish to render it in terms of. (shrink)
Tocqueville’s incomplete, conflicted reflections on whether honor and war have been safely consigned to the past should alert us to the psychological, not merely sociological, difficulty of adjusting to modernity. His thoughts about memory suggest that one form of adjustment is the attempt to re‐enchant the world. Among such attempts are both the European ideologies that have spread to the Middle East—nationalism, communism, and fascism—and religious fundamentalism. The latter, in particular, responds not only to the loss of premodern enchantment, but (...) to the complexity that makes the modern world so chaotically contingent and changeable—deepening the allure of simple precepts, imposed from above, experienced directly, and adhered to inflexibly. (shrink)
This volume brings together eminent theologians, philosophers and political theorists to discuss such questions as how religious understandings have shaped the moral landscape of contemporary culture; the possible contributions of theology and theologically informed moral argument to contemporary public life; the problem of religious and moral discourse in a pluralistic society; and the proper relationship between religion and culture.
These essays represent an important contribution to modern philosophical theology. They begin with an appreciation of Basil Mitchell's work and then discuss the role of reason in the justification of Christian theism, giving special attention to the nature of informal reasoning in religion and science. The latter essays examine particular arguments raised by specific religious concepts, covering such topics as the problem of evil, conspicuous sanctity, atonement, and the Eucharist. Drawn from a wide spectrum of philosophers and theologians, the (...) contributors include Maurice Wiles, Grace M. Jantzen, Gordon Kaufman, J.R. Lucas, Rom Harr'e, Richard Swinburne, and Michael Dummett. (shrink)
Near the beginning of the last chapter of Life's Dominion, Ronald Dworkin expounds the following problem. Margo has Alzheimer's disease. She suffers from ‘serious and permanent dementia’. It transpires that some years ago, at a time when she was mentally fully competent, Margo executed an advance directive. In this formal document she expressed her wishes concerning what should happen to her if she were to develop Alzheimer's. Should those wishes now be acceded to? For instance, suppose that in her document (...) Margo directed that she should not receive treatment for any life-threatening illness she might contract. Should a doctor therefore now refrain from such treatment? What if, more than this, Margo indicated in her will that after the definitive onset of Alzheimer's ‘she should be killed as soon and as painlessly as possible’? Could it possibly be right to grant that request? (shrink)
‘I can't believe that,’ said Alice. ‘Can't you?’ the Queen said in a pitying tone. ‘Try again: draw a long breath and shut your eyes.’ Alice laughed. ‘There's no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can't believe impossible things.’ ‘I dare say you haven't had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’.
It is a pity that the question about the proper purpose of law has so often been formulated in terms of ‘the enforcement of morals’. Not only is that issue highly charged with emotion, but the sense of the expression is unclear and, taken in any ordinary sense, its importance is marginal. What Lord Devlin seems chiefly to be arguing, when he supports the enforcement of morals, is that there are in any society certain central institutions which receive and deserve (...) protection by law and that without such protection the society in question would disintegrate. His examples in our own society are monogamy and private property. It is true that these institutions are closely bound up with parts of our morality in two different ways: certain moral prohibitions are defined in terms of them, e.g. adultery and theft; a host of obligations is associated with them upon whose general acceptance and discharge their continuance depends. But it is only in an extended sense that one could describe the institutions themselves as parts of the common morality. It is possible, therefore, to hold that the law may properly be used to protect such institutions without necessarily taking the further step of maintaining that their protection requires and justifies legal prohibition of acts which offend against the associated morality. Professor Hart states this position clearly : ‘What is essential and to be preserved is the essential core. On this footing it would be an open and empirical question whether any particular moral rule or veto, e.g. on homosexuality, adultery or fornication, is so organically connected with the central core that its maintenance and preservation is required as a vital outwork or bastion.’. (shrink)
The world is complex, but acknowledging its complexity requires an appreciation for the many roles context plays in shaping natural phenomena. In _Unsimple Truths, _Sandra Mitchell argues that the long-standing scientific and philosophical deference to reductive explanations founded on simple universal laws, linear causal models, and predict-and-act strategies fails to accommodate the kinds of knowledge that many contemporary sciences are providing about the world. She advocates, instead, for a new understanding that represents the rich, variegated, interdependent fabric of many (...) levels and kinds of explanation that are integrated with one another to ground effective prediction and action. Mitchell draws from diverse fields including psychiatry, social insect biology, and studies of climate change to defend “integrative pluralism”—a theory of scientific practices that makes sense of how many natural and social sciences represent the multi-level, multi-component, dynamic structures they study. She explains how we must, in light of the now-acknowledged complexity and contingency of biological and social systems, revise how we conceptualize the world, how we investigate the world, and how we act in the world. Ultimately _Unsimple Truths _argues that the very idea of what should count as legitimate science itself should change. (shrink)
What enables individually simple insects like ants to act with such precision and purpose as a group? How do trillions of individual neurons produce something as extraordinarily complex as consciousness? What is it that guides self-organizing structures like the immune system, the World Wide Web, the global economy, and the human genome? These are just a few of the fascinating and elusive questions that the science of complexity seeks to answer. In this remarkably accessible and companionable book, leading complex systems (...) scientist Melanie Mitchell provides an intimate, detailed tour of the sciences of complexity, a broad set of efforts that seek to explain how large-scale complex, organized, and adaptive behavior can emerge from simple interactions among myriad individuals. Comprehending such systems requires a wholly new approach, one that goes beyond traditional scientific reductionism and that re-maps long-standing disciplinary boundaries. Based on her work at the Santa Fe Institute and drawing on its interdisciplinary strategies, Mitchell brings clarity to the workings of complexity across a broad range of biological, technological, and social phenomena, seeking out the general principles or laws that apply to all of them. She explores as well the relationship between complexity and evolution, artificial intelligence, computation, genetics, information processing, and many other fields. Richly illustrated and vividly written, Complexity : A Guided Tour offers a comprehensive and eminently comprehensible overview of the ideas underlying complex systems science, the current research at the forefront of this field, and the prospects for the field's contribution to solving some of the most important scientific questions of our time. (shrink)
Guanxi (literally interpersonal connections) is in essence a network of resource coalition-based stakeholders sharing resources for survival, and it plays a key role in achieving business success in China. However, the salience of guanxi stakeholders varies: not all guanxi relationships are necessary, and among the necessary guanxi participants, not all are equally important. A hierarchical stakeholder model of guanxi is developed drawing upon Mitchell et al.’s (1997) stakeholder salience theory and Anderson’s (1982) constituency theory. As an application of instrumental (...) stakeholder theory, the model dimensionalizes the notion of stakeholder salience, and distinguishes between and among internal and external guanxi, core, major, and peripheral guanxi, and primary and secondary guanxi stakeholders. Guanxi management principles are developed based on a hierarchy of guanxi priorities and management specializations. The goal of this application of instrumental stakeholder theory is to construct, for Western business firms in China, a means to reliably identify guanxi partners by employing the principles of effective guanxi. These principles are described in the form of testable propositions that advance social scientific research in this area of international business ethics. (shrink)
"[Mitchell] undertakes to explore the nature of images by comparing them with words, or, more precisely, by looking at them from the viewpoint of verbal language.... The most lucid exposition of the subject I have ever read."—Rudolf Arnheim, _Times Literary Supplement_.
The polymath Michael Polanyi first made his mark as a physical chemist, but his interests gradually shifted to economics, politics, and philosophy, in which field he would ultimately propose a revolutionary theory of knowledge that grew out of his firsthand experience with both the scientific method and political totalitarianism. In this sixth entry in ISI Books’ Library of Modern Thinkers’ series, Mark T. Mitchell reveals how Polanyi came to recognize that the roots of the modern political and spiritual crisis (...) lay in an errant conception of knowledge that served to foreclose any possibility of making meaningful statements about truth, goodness, or beauty. Polanyi’s theory of knowledge as ineluctably personal but also grounded in reality is not merely of historical interest, writes Mitchell, for it proposes an attractive alternative for anyone who would reject both the hubris of modern rationalism and the ultimately nihilistic implications of academic postmodernism. (shrink)
Although the notion of spatiality has always lurked in the background of discussions of literary form, the self-conscious use of the term as a critical concept is generally traced to Joseph Frank's seminal essay of 1945, "Spatial Form in Modern Literature."1 Frank's basic argument is that modernist literary works are "spatial" insofar as they replace history and narrative sequence with a sense of mythic simultaneity and disrupt the normal continuities of English prose with disjunctive syntactic arrangements. This argument has been (...) attacked on several fronts. An almost universal objection is that spatial form is a "mere metaphor" which has been given misplaced concreteness and that it denies the essentially temporal nature of literature. Some critics will concede that the metaphor contains a half-truth, but one which is likely to distract attention from more important features of the reading experience. The most polemical attacks have come from those who regard spatial form as an actual, but highly regrettable, characteristic of modern literature and who have linked it with antihistorical and even fascist ideologies.2 Advocates of Frank's position, on the other hand, have generally been content to extrapolate his premises rather than criticize them, and have compiled an ever-mounting list of modernist texts which can be seen, in some sense, as "antitemporal." The whole debate can best be advanced, in my view, not by some patchwork compromise among the conflicting claims but by a radical, even outrageous statement of the basic hypothesis in its most general form. I propose, therefore, that far from being a unique phenomenon of some modern literature, and far from being restricted to the features which Frank identifies in those works , spatial form is a crucial aspect of the experience and interpretation of literature in all ages and cultures. The burden of proof, in other words, is not on Frank to show that some works have spatial form but on his critics to provide an example of any work that does not. · 1. Frank's essay first appeared in Sewanee Review 53 and was revised in his The Widening Gyre . Frank's basic argument has not changed essentially even in his most avante-garde statements; he still regards spatial form "as a particular phenomenon of modern avante-garde writing." See "Spatial Form: An Answer to Critics," Critical Inquiry 4 : 231-52. A useful bibliography, "Space and Spatial Form in Narrative," is being complied by Jeffrey Smitten .· 2. This charge generally links the notion of spatial form with Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound, the imagist movement, the "irrationality" and pessimistic antihistoricism of modernism, and the conservative Romantic tradition. Frank discusses the complex motives behind these associations in the work of Robert Weimann and Frank Kermode in his "Answer to Critics," pp. 238-48. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is the author of Blake's Composite Art, and The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon. The present essay is part of Iconology: The Image in Literature and the Visual Arts. "Diagrammatology" appeared in the Spring 1981 issue of Critical Inquiry. Leon Surette responds to the current essay in "‘Rational Form in Literature’". (shrink)
This book analyzes the moral confusion of contemporary society, relating rival conceptions of morality with a wide variety of views about the nature and predicament of man. Mitchell argues that many secular thinkers possess a traditional "Christian" conscience which they find hard to defend in terms of an entirely secular world-view, but which is more in line with a Christian understanding of man.
The question naturally arises: Is public art inherently violent, or is it a provocation to violence? Is violence built into the monument in its very conception? Or is violence simply an accident that befalls some monuments, a matter of the fortunes of history? The historical record suggests that if violence is simply an accident that happens to public art, it is one that is always waiting to happen. The principal media and materials of public art are stone and metal sculpture (...) not so much by choice as by necessity. “A public sculpture,” says Lawrence Alloway, “should be invulnerable or inaccessible. It should have the material strength to resist attack or be easily cleanable, but it also needs a formal structure that is not wrecked by alterations.”12 The violence that surrounds public art is more, however, than simply the ever-present possibility of an accident—the natural disaster or random act of vandalism. Much of the world’s public art—memorials, monuments, triumphal arches, obelisks, columns, and statues—has a rather direct reference to violence in the form of war or conquest. From Ozymandias to Caesar to Napoleon to Hitler, public art has served as a kind of monumentalizing of violence, and never more powerfully than when it presents the conqueror as a man of peace, imposing a Napoleonic code or a pax Romana on the world. Public sculpture that is too frank or explicit about this monumentalizing of violence, whether the Assyrian palace reliefs of the ninth century b.c., or Morris’s bomb sculpture proposal of 1981, is likely to offend the sensibilities of a public committed to the repression of its own complicity in violence.13 The very notion of public art as we receive it is inseparable from what Jürgen Habermas has called “the liberal model of the public sphere,” a dimension distinct from the economic, the private, and the political. This ideal realm provides the space in which disinterested citizens may contemplate a transparent emblem of their own inclusiveness and solidarity, and deliberate on the general good, free of coercion, violence, or private interests.14 12. Lawrence Alloway, “The Public Sculpture Problem,” Studio International 184 : 124.13. See Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit, “The Forms of Violence,” October, no. 8 : 17-29, for an important critique of the “narrativization” of violence in Western art and an examination of the alternative suggested by the Assyrian palace reliefs.14. Habermas first introduced this concept in The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence . First published in 1962, it has since become the focus of an extensive literature. See also Habermas’s short encyclopedia article, “The Public Sphere,” trans. Sara Lennox and Frank Lennox, New German Critique 1 : 49-55, and the introduction to it by Peter Hohendahl in the same issue, pp. 45-48. I owe much to the guidance of Miriam Hansen and Lauren Berlant on this complex and crucial topic. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is Gaylord Donnelly Distinguished Service Professor of English and art at the University of Chicago. His recent book is Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. (shrink)
Mitchell, J.C. and E. Moggi, Kripke-style models for typed lambda calculus, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 51 99–124. The semantics of typed lambda calculus is usually described using Henkin models, consisting of functions over some collection of sets, or concrete cartesian closed categories, which are essentially equivalent. We describe a more general class of Kripke-style models. In categorical terms, our Kripke lambda models are cartesian closed subcategories of the presheaves over a poset. To those familiar with Kripke models (...) of modal or intuitionistic logics, Kripke lambda models are likely to seem adequately ‘semantic’. However, when viewed as cartesian closed categories, they do not have the property variously referred to as concreteness, well- pointedness or having enough points. While the traditional lambda calculus proof system is not complete for Henkin models that may have empty types, we prove strong completeness for Kripke models. In fact, every set of equations that is closed under implication is the theory of a single Kripke model. We also develop some properties of logical relations over Kripke structures, showing that every theory is the theory of a model determined by a Kripke equivalence relation over a Henkin model. We discuss cartesian closed categories but present the main definitions and results without the use of category theory. (shrink)
This may be an especially favorable moment in intellectual history to come to some understanding of notions like “abstraction” and “the abstract,” if only because these terms seem so clearly obsolete, even antiquated, at the present time. The obsolescence of abstraction is exemplified most vividly by its centrality in a period of cultural history that is widely perceived as being just behind us, the period of modernism, ranging roughly from the beginning of the twentieth century to the aftermath of the (...) Second World War.1art is now a familiar feature of our cultural landscape; it has become a monument to an era that is passing from living memory into history. The experiments of cubism and abstract expressionism are no longer “experimental” or shocking: abstraction has not been associated with the artistic avant-garde for at least a quarter of a century, and its central masterpieces are now firmly entrenched in the tradition of Western painting and safely canonized in our greatest museums. That does not mean that there will be no more abstract paintings, or that the tradition is dead; on the contrary, the obsolescence we are contemplating is in a very precise sense the precondition for abstraction’s survival as a tradition that resists any possible assault from an avant-garde. Indeed, the abstract probably has more institutional and cultural power as a rearguard tradition than it ever did as an avant-garde overturning of tradition. For that very reason its self-representations need to be questioned more closely than ever, especially its account of its own nature and history. This seems important, not just to set the record straight about what abstract art was, but to enable critical and artistic experimentation in the present, and a more nuanced account of both pre-and postmodern at, both of which are in danger of being swallowed up by the formulas of abstract formalism. If art and criticism are to continue to play an oppositional and interventionist role in our time, passive acceptance and reproduction of a powerful cultural tradition like abstract art will simply not do. 1. I define modernism and “the age of abstraction” here in familiar art historical terms, as a period extending from Kandinsky and Malevich to Jasper Johns and Morris Louis. There are other views of this matter which would trace modernism back to the emergence of an avant-garde in the 1840s , or to romanticism , or to the eighteenth century . My claim would be that “the abstract” as such only becomes a definitive slogan for modernism with the emergence of abstract painting around 1900. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is professor of English and a member of the Committee on Art and Design at the University of Chicago. His most recent book is Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. (shrink)
Mitchell: Could we begin by discussing the problem of public art? When we spoke a few weeks ago, you expressed some uneasiness with the notion of public art, and I wonder if you could expand on that a bit.Kruger: Well, you yourself lodged it as the “problem” of public art and I don’t really find it problematic inasmuch as I really don’t give it very much thought. I think on a broader level I could say that my “problem” is (...) with categorization and naming: how does one constitute art and how does one constitute a public? Sometimes I think that if architecture is a slab of meat, then so-called public art is a piece of garnish laying next to it. It has a kind of decorative function. Now I’m not saying that it always has to be that way—at all—and I think perhaps that many of my colleagues are working to change that now. But all too often, it seems the case.Mitchell: Do you think of your own art, insofar as it’s engaged with the commercial public sphere—that is, with advertising, publicity, mass media, and other technologies for influencing a consumer public—that it is automatically a form of public art? Or does it stand in opposition to public art?Kruger: I have a question for you: what is a public sphere which is an uncommercial public sphere? Barbara Kruger is an artist who works with words and pictures. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is Gaylord Donnelly Distinguished Professor of English and art at the University of Chicago. (shrink)
What does it mean to be black in America, to exist as a dark physical body, a "colored" voice, a stigmatized being in a society that sees, hears, and acts according to a set of bleaching assumptions? Versions of that question have echoed across our historical landscape ever since James-town, but rarely have they figured so forcibly as in the 1890s, when the Supreme Court upheld Ferguson over Plessy, Jim Crow laws spread through the South, degenerationists elaborated the "problem of (...) the Negro," imperialists hoisted the "white man's burden" of "little brown brothers" abroad, and racial lynching peaked at an all-time high that incited a national scandal. Any radical hopes for Reconstruction after the Civil War had long since vanished by the years of the fin de siècle. And a century later, the gains of a "Second Reconstruction" movement for civil rights have likewise eroded, with unparalleled "hypersegregation" accentuating new patterns of black poverty, unemployment, family disintegration, homelessness, and addiction.1 Being black, in other words, has meant—and, to a considerable degree, continues to mean—being excluded from white society, white prerogatives, even white discourse itself, in a process whose effects insidiously appear to legitimate the very causes that produce them. 1. C. Vann Woodward first warned of this unsettling repetition of nineteenth-century patterns in his 1965 suggestion that the civil rights movement might constitute a "Second Reconstruction" . In his recent reassessment of the troubling implications of that prediction, he notes how ghetto speech is growing more distinct from standard English: "The result is a vicious circle in which the longer blacks are made victims of the white stereotypes that foster hypersegregation, the more they appear to conform to the stereotypes that were used to justify segregation in the first place, and the deeper victims sink in isolation" . Lee Clark Mitchell, professor of English at Princeton University, is the author of Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The Nineteenth-Century Response and Determined Fictions: American Literary Naturalism . He is currently working on the formula western in a book tentatively titled "Writing Westward: Imagining America beyond the Frontier.". (shrink)
At the moment in Britain and elsewhere the debate inside and outside of Parliament on various medical issues which are essentially moral never ends. Everybody has his own point of view--or principles. But what emerges for society to adopt can often be called in lay terminology 'compromise'. Professor Mitchell argues in this paper that a moral consensus is possible and indeed ought to be achieved, as today the medical practitioner can no longer make his decision only in accordance with (...) the strict code of ethics of the medical profession. The task of the philosopher, says Professor Mitchell, is to interpret the actions and attitudes demanded by modern medical practice. (shrink)
It may seem a bit perverse to argue that pluralism is a kind of dogmatism, since pluralists invariably define themselves as antidogmatists. Indeed, the world would seem to be so well supplied with overt dogmatists—religious fanatics, militant revolutionaries, political and domestic tyrants—that it will probably seem unfair to suggest that the proponents of liberal, tolerant, civilized open-mindedness are guilty of a covert dogmatism. My only excuse for engaging in this exercise is that it may help to shake up some rather (...) firmly fixed ideas about dogmatism held by those who advocate some version of pluralism. Dogmatism, I want to argue, has had a very had press, some of it deserved, some of it based in misunderstandings and ignorance. Much of that bad press stems, I will suggest, from the dominance of pluralism as an intellectual ideology since the Enlightenment. If “dogmatism” is a synonym for irrationality, infelixibility, and authoritarianism, the fault lies as much with pluralism as it does with any actual dogmatism. I’d like to begin, therefore, with a definition of dogmatism that comes, not from its pluralist foes, but from a historian of religion who treats it as a fairly neutral term, describing a complex and ancient feature of social institutions. This definition comes from E. Royston Pike’s Encyclopedia of Religion and Religions:DOGMA . A religious doctrine that is to be received on authority—whether of a Divine revelation, a Church Council, Holy Scripture, or a great and honoured religious teacher—and not, at least in the first instance, because it may be proved true in the light of reason. Almost always there is associated with dogma the element of Faith. The term comes from the Greek word for “to seem,” and it meant originally that which seems true to anyone, i.e. has been approved or decided beyond cavil. In the New Testament it is applied to decisions of the Christian church in Jerusalem, enactments of the Jewish law, and imperial decrees, all of which were things to be accepted without argument. A little later it had come to mean simple statements of Christian belief and practice; and it was not until the 4th century, when the heretics were showing how far from simple the basic Christian beliefs really were, that it acquired the meaning of a theological interpretation of a religious fact. Then came the division of the Church into a Western and an Eastern branch, and never again was it possible to frame a dogma that might be universally held. The 39 Articles of the Church of England, the principles deduced from Calvin’s “Institutes” and John Wesley’s “Sermons,” and the items that compose the Mormon creed may all be classed as dogmas.1 W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is professor of English and a member of the Committee on Art and Design at the University of Chicago. His most recent book is Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. (shrink)
Guilty , by Georges Bataille Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 162-163 Authors Andrew J. Mitchell, Emory University Journal Comparative and Continental Philosophy Online ISSN 1757-0646 Print ISSN 1757-0638 Journal Volume Volume 4 Journal Issue Volume 4, Number 1 / 2012.
Mitchell, W.J., An infinitary Ramsey property, Annals of Pure and Applied Logic 57 151–160. We prove that the consistency of a measurable cardinal implies the consistency of a cardinal κ>+ satisfying the partition relations κ ω and κ ωregressive. This result follows work of Spector which uses the same hypothesis to prove the consistency of ω1 ω. We also give some examples of partition relations which can be proved for ω1 using the methods of Spector but cannot be proved (...) for cardinals κ>+ without a much stronger hypothesis. (shrink)
Has some of the fruit of feminism begun to rot on the vine? Or is the work of feminist philosophy just beginning? Are we still in thrall to pervasive sexist assumptions at the roots of our thinking and our language? With Marjorie Jolles, Ellen Klein, and Helen Mitchell.
Has some of the fruit of feminism begun to rot on the vine? Or is the work of feminist philosophy just beginning? Are we still in thrall to pervasive sexist assumptions at the roots of our thinking and our language? With Marjorie Jolles, Ellen Klein, and Helen Mitchell.