In his 2015 Theoria article titled ‘A Rejection of Humanism in African Moral Tradition’, Motsamai Molefe argues that Kwasi Wiredu's humanistic interpretation of traditional Akan ethics cannot be the best account of African ethics because Wiredu overlooks the significant sentiment in traditional African thought that regards reality as a holistic totality of spiritual, social and environmental components. I point out that Molefe's rejection of Wiredu's humanism follows from the latter's de-emphasising of supernaturalism. I argue that Molefe overlooks the fact that (...) the displacement of God in this humanism is consistent with the limited God sentiment in traditional African thought, which confirms Wiredu's humanistic ethics as one rooted in traditional African worldviews. Adopting the method of philosophical exposition and analysis, I show how Wiredu's limited God framework motivates scepticism about the possibility of a supernaturalist ethics and renders a humanistic orientation a more attractive account of African moral tradition. (shrink)
Kwasi Wiredu defines conceptual decolonisation as an activity in which Africans divest themselves of undue colonial influences, but his descriptions of this process are either unrelated to divesting or work quite generally, and not in favour of an African point of view. Wiredu's approach to decolonisation appears to be largely indistinguishable from the business of philosophy.
Niccolò Machiavelli has acquired a prominent position in the history of political thought. Machiavelli is probably most notorious as a teacher of evil, a political realist advising tyrants and a proud proponent of Machiavellism, a devilish politics that astoundingly bears his name. This image, however, is far from being the only one. Sorting through the history of political thought, Machiavelli suddenly appears ubiquitous and dressed in various disguises. Historical interpretations of Machiavelli's writings range from a predecessor of totalitarianism to a (...) proponent of subversive republicanism or even radical democracy, from the first political scientist to have discovered the ideal of value-free political analysis, to a liberal, a fascist, or a communist avant-la-lettre to name just a few. (shrink)
This article will explore the historical account and political actualisation of Machiavelli and La Boétie in the work of Claude Lefort. In the 1970s, Lefort renewed the interpretation of Machiavelli and La Boétie by underlining their common ‘radical humanism’. The long-overlooked insights into desire and social division of the two Renaissance thinkers underline the subversive potential of humanism against its common ideological and oligarchic uses. But the history of radical humanism cannot be separated from its topicality, as it is one (...) of the germs of the democratic revolution. This radicalism echoes and inspires Lefort's agonistic theory of democracy. After Machiavelli and La Boétie, his work grapples with the continued dependency of the subjects on visible and invisible masters. Indeed, according to Lefort, contemporary societies long for certainty and remain haunted by servitude in the form of ideology (be it bourgeois, totalitarian or invisible). (shrink)
John McCormick's ‘democratic’ interpretation of Machiavelli depends on the view that Machiavelli unequivocally endorses the people's moral and political wisdom over that of princes and the elite alike. Leo Strauss's interpretation of Machiavelli offers a means for appraising the anthropological basis of this reading, which is yet to appear in the scholarship. Strauss argues that Machiavelli reduces human nature to the mere desire to stay alive. The people will therefore choose whatever political option stands to offer them the best chance (...) for survival, and, this being equivocal to them, they are just as likely to opt for democracy as they are to raise up a tyrant. From this anthropology also emerges a strand of intellectual elitism in Machiavelli, which is incompatible with what McCormick considers to be Machiavelli's staunch anti-elitism. This article therefore uses Strauss to challenge McCormick's reading of Machiavelli as a populist, arguing that McCormick exaggerates Machiavelli's populist partisanship. (shrink)
Machiavelli can be read as a plebeian thinker supportive of plebeian institutions that, as such, differentiate the few from the many and aim to regulate and burden the few. Yet, like numerous contemporary plebeian thinkers, Machiavelli is mostly silent about the moral transgressiveness required by the advocacy of plebeian institutions and ideas. The theses offered here argue that advocates of plebeianism will need, like the Machiavellian prince, to learn how not to be good. In explaining what this means in practice, (...) the theses also defend the propriety of anachronistic readings, caution again plebeian violence, and explain other dynamics of plebeian leftism. (shrink)
Recent scholarship on the political thought of Niccolò Machiavelli has demonstrated the extent to which the latter's republicanism is of a populist type, and a potentially important resource for contemporary democratic theory. Although work has been produced on the constitutional form of the Machiavellian republic, less effort has been made to articulate the theoretical assumptions upon which the advocacy of such a republic is ethically grounded. Here, I attempt to locate the democratic ethical imperative in the affirmation of a fundamental (...) human difference. Influenced by the Epicurean tradition, Machiavelli's natural philosophy considers material entities as absolute singularities lacking internal teleological direction, their movement the productive result of contingent encounters. One cannot assume a natural or pre-social identity of desire between persons. Democracy is the ethically preferred regime because it is the one that is capable of facilitating the expression of this human uniqueness. (shrink)
Niccolò Machiavelli's political thoughts are based on a specific understanding of time. Whoever wants to make use of his conclusions must therefore be aware of his premises in order not to run the risk of misinterpreting them. Even if the Florentine does not develop an explicit theory of time, statements about the meaning of time can be found implicitly in his entire oeuvre. In three steps, this article will present the main features of Machiavelli's understanding of time, an explanation of (...) the significance of time in contemporary politics, and an answer to the question ‘How to proceed with Machiavelli and his political thoughts?’ With regard to his understanding of time, Machiavelli's political thoughts will not be presented as a guide for the challenges of contemporary politics but as a distorted reflection of a distant mirror. (shrink)