Equality, diversity and radical politics -- Value incommensurability -- Empathic imagination and its limits -- Critiquing compassion-based social relations -- Egalitarianism, disability and monistic ideals -- Equality, identity and disability -- Paradox and the limits of reason.
In Explaining and Understanding International Relations philosopher Martin Hollis and international relations scholar Steve Smith join forces to analyse the dominant theories of international relations and to examine the philosophical issues underlying them.
The insanity defense presents many difficult questions for the legal system. It attracts attention beyond its practical significance (it is seldom used successfully) because it goes to the heart of the concept of legal responsibility. “Not guilty by reason of insanity” generally requires that as a result of mental illness the defendant was unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the crime. The many difficult and complex questions presented by the insanity defense have led some in the (...) legal community to hope that neuroscience might help resolve some of these problems, but that hope is not likely to be realized. (shrink)
Baruch de Spinoza —often recognized as the first modern Jewish thinker—was also a founder of modern liberal political philosophy. This book is the first to connect systematically these two aspects of Spinoza's legacy. Steven B. Smith shows that Spinoza was a politically engaged theorist who both advocated and embodied a new conception of the emancipated individual, a thinker who decisively influenced such diverse movements as the Enlightenment, liberalism, and political Zionism. Focusing on Spinoza's _Theologico-Political Treatise_, Smith argues that Spinoza was (...) the first thinker of note to make the civil status of Jews and Judaism an essential ingredient of modern political thought. Before Marx or Freud, Smith notes, Spinoza recast Judaism to include the liberal values of autonomy and emancipation from tradition. Smith examines the circumstances of Spinoza's excommunication from the Jewish community of Amsterdam, his skeptical assault on the authority of Scripture, his transformation of Mosaic prophecy into a progressive philosophy of history, his use of the language of natural right and the social contract to defend democratic political institutions, and his comprehensive comparison of the ancient Hebrew commonwealth and the modern commercial republic. According to Smith, Spinoza's _Treatise_ represents a classic defense of religious toleration and intellectual freedom, showing them to be necessary foundations for political stability and liberal regimes. In this study Smith examines Spinoza's solution to the Jewish Question and asks whether a Judaism, so conceived, can long survive. (shrink)
In Hegel's Critique of Liberalism , Steven B. Smith examines Hegel's critique of rights-based liberalism and its relevance to contemporary political concerns. Smith argues that Hegel reformulated classic liberalism, preserving what was of value while rendering it more attentive to the dynamics of human history and the developmental structure of the moral personality. Hegel's goal, Smith suggests, was to find a way of incorporating both the ancient emphasis on the dignity and even architectonic character of political life with the modern (...) concern for freedom, rights, and mutual recognition. Smith's insightful analysis reveals Hegel's relevance not only to contemporary political philosophers concerned with normative issues of liberal theory but also to political scientists who have urged a revival of the state as a central concept of political inquiry. (shrink)
Most readers of Spinoza treat him as a pure metaphysician, a grim determinist, or a stoic moralist, but none of these descriptions captures the author of the _Ethics, _argues Steven B. Smith in this intriguing book. Offering a new reading of Spinoza’s masterpiece, Smith asserts that the Ethics is a celebration of human freedom and its attendant joys and responsibilities and should be placed among the great founding documents of the Enlightenment. Two aspects of Smith’s book distinguish it from other (...) studies. It treats the famous “geometrical method” of the _Ethics _as_ _a form of moral rhetoric, a model for the construction of individuality. And it presents the _Ethics _as_ _a companion to Spinoza’s major work of political philosophy, the _Theologico-Political Treatise, _each work helping to explore the problem of freedom. Affirming Spinoza’s centrality for both critics and defenders of modernity, the book will be of value to students of political theory, philosophy, and intellectual history. (shrink)
Spinoza's Ethics is rarely read as a work of political theory. Its formidable geometric structure and its author's commitment to a kind of metaphysical determinism do not seem promising materials from which to fashion a theory of democratic self-government. Yet impressions can mislead. A close reading of the Ethics reveals it to be an impassioned, deeply political book. Its aim is not only to liberate the individualfrom false beliefs and systems of power but also to enable us to act in (...) concert as members of a democratic community. Above all, the work represents a celebration of individuality and the joys of life in all its plenitude. The Ethics provides Spinoza's clearest answer to the question "What is a free people (libera multitudo)? " only briefly alluded to at the end of his unfinished Political Treatise. (shrink)
Debates concerning principles of justice need to be attentive to various types of social process. One concerns the distribution of resources between groups defined as talented and untalented. Another concerns the social mechanisms by which people come to be categorised as talented and untalented. Political philosophers have paid considerable attention to the former issues, much less to the latter. That, I shall argue, represents a significant oversight.
appropriate redistributive principles is a proper part of what justice entails, these principles must also paradoxically include the possibility of an agent-based response to misfortune that transforms adverse contingencies, such that the initial bad luck becomes a positive part of the sufferer's identity. This neo-Kantian accommodation within theories of justice signifies a deep egalitarian empathic connectedness between persons, based on an equal respect for persons as agents (and not simply as passive victims of misfortune). Moreover, it is an accommodation that (...) (a) can promote equality as an end in itself rather than as merely a means to the end of enhancing a teleological conception of well-being and human flourishing and (b) can underpin a more robust Rawlsian conception of justice as reciprocity than is usually allowed. (shrink)
The disability rights movement has often been closely associated with the liberal values of individual choice and independence, or the?ethics of agency?, where enhancing the capacity to make autonomous decisions in various policy and practice-based contexts is said to facilitate disabled people's well-being. Nevertheless, other liberal values are derived from what will be termed here the?ethics of self-acceptance?. The latter is more disguised in liberalism and the DRM, as rather than emphasising the capacity to make autonomous decisions, self-acceptance focuses on (...) the positive acceptance of individual limitations, but again to enhance well-being. The further argument is that while the ethics of agency and self-acceptance often logically cohere and overlap, through promoting the values of self-respect and relational autonomy, dilemmas arise from our asymmetrical, or uneven, dispositions towards time, and present and future lives and experiences. For example, positively accepting individual limitations allows for a present-oriented immersion in?the moment?, but which often requires some suspension of future-oriented goals and aspirations. Understanding some of the implications of this asymmetry, and the dilemmas arising from it, provide important insights concerning approaches to physical and intellectual impairments and the subsequent debates within the DRM, social policy and welfare practice. (shrink)
Interest in Leo Strauss is greater now than at any time since his death, mostly because of the purported link between his thought and the political movement known as neoconservatism. Steven B. Smith, though, surprisingly depicts Strauss not as the high priest of neoconservatism but as a friend of liberal democracy—perhaps the best defender democracy has ever had. Moreover, in _Reading Leo Strauss, _Smith shows that Strauss’s defense of liberal democracy was closely connected to his skepticism of both the extreme (...) Left and extreme Right. Smith asserts that this philosophical skepticism defined Strauss’s thought. It was as a skeptic, Smith argues, that Strauss considered the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between reason and revelation—a conflict Strauss dubbed the “theologico-political problem.” Calling this problem “_the_ theme of my investigations,” Strauss asked the same fundamental question throughout his life: what is the relation of the political order to revelation in general and Judaism in particular? Smith organizes his book with this question, first addressing Strauss’s views on religion and then examining his thought on philosophical and political issues. In his investigation of these philosophical and political issues, Smith assesses Strauss’s attempt to direct the teaching of political science away from the examination of mass behavior and interest group politics and toward the study of the philosophical principles on which politics are based. With his provocative, lucid essays, Smith goes a long way toward establishing a distinctive form of Straussian liberalism. (shrink)
What is the relation between the thought of exteriority (that is, of an intellectually unencompassable Other taken to be a supreme source or condition of meaning) and the idealism, subjective or objective, that it reacts against? Eberhard Grisebach makes a good case study because his exteriority statement (Gegenwart, 1928) is unsurpassably extreme yet evolves in discernible stages from an idealist starting-point. After considering parallels with Buber and Levinas and criticisms from several sources, I argue that the exteriority strategy for thinking (...) about community is indispensable even if its dedication to negating comprehension renders it sterile for many philosophical purposes. (shrink)
Buber's assertions about the relation between the self (I) and God (the Eternal You) amount to an "argument" which means reasonably to bring its audience to awareness of God. This reasoning is better understood and evaluated if it is presented in a more conventionally argumentative form than Buber gave it. The key premises are: 1) Buber's account of I-You saying as a general theory of meaning and criterion of reality, and 2) Buber's claim that You-saying in encounters with finite beings (...) does not exhaust the I's capacity to say You. Thus 1) whenever I say You, I meet reality; and 2) I can say You infinitely. Both in its premises and in its non-coercive way of soliciting assent, this Buberian argument exhibits the actual valid appeal of all the best-known arguments to God. (shrink)
Some of kant's rationales for conceiving the highest good of morality as virtue rewarded with happiness rest on the subject's "necessary" natural desire for happiness, While others appeal to a still-Obscure principle of moral desert. The principle, I argue, Is that the moral agent qua moral necessarily hopes for the "approval" of fellow moral legislators and god, Who "would" (did they exist, And if they could) signify their approval by bestowing the means of happiness.
For perspicuous comparison and evaluation of moral positions on life-and-death issues, it is necessary to take into account the different meanings that killing and getting killed can bear in the two dimensions of dealing with persons (intention meeting intention) and handling them. A homicidal scenario in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight shows the possibility of courteous dealing coinciding with lethal handling. The extreme possibility of lovingly affirming persons while killing them, suggested by the Augustinian “kindly severity” ideal for state-sponsored (...) punitive killing, requires the killers’ affirmation of a fleshliness and fallibility shared with their victims; but love can accept killing only provisionally, since it postulates freedom from the constraints that are felt to require killing. (shrink)
John Finnis's powerfully and deservedly influential modern classic, Natural Law and Natural Rights, expounds a theory of law and morality that is based on a picture of “persons” using practical reason to pursue certain “basic goods.” While devoting much attention to practical reason and to the goods, however, Finnis says little about the nature of personhood. This relative inattention to what “persons” are creates a risk—one that Finnis himself notices—of assuming or importing an inadequate anthropology. This essay suggests that the (...) “new natural law” developed by Finnis suffers in places from the inadvertent adoption of a flawed anthropology—an anthropology under the thrall of modern individualistic commitments. To explain this suspicion, this article discusses three difficulties in his natural law theory: difficulties in accounting for the basic good of friendship, for obligations we owe to others, and for legal authority. These difficulties may seem disconnected, but this article suggests that they may all reflect an inadequate anthropology—one that Finnis does not exactly embrace but that is pervasive today and that in places may affect his theorizing. (shrink)