Passion and Action is an exploration of the role of the passions in seventeenth-century thought. Susan James offers fresh readings of a broad range of thinkers, including such canonical figures as Hobbes, Descartes, Malebranche, Spinoza, Pascal, and Locke, and shows that a full understanding of their philosophies must take account of their interpretations of our affective life. This ground-breaking study throws new light upon the shaping of our ideas about the mind, knowledge, and action, and provides a historical context for (...) burgeoning current debates about the emotions. (shrink)
Susan James explores the revolutionary political thought of one of the most radical and creative of modern philosophers, Baruch Spinoza. His Theologico-Political Treatise of 1670 defends religious pluralism, political republicanism, and intellectual freedom. James shows how this work played a crucial role in the development of modern society.
Historically, as well as more recently, women's emancipation has been seen in two ways: sometimes as the `right to be equal' and sometimes as the `right to be different'. These views have often overlapped and interacted: in a variety of guises they have played an important role in both the development of ideas about women and feminism, and the works of political thinkers by no means primarily concerned with women's liberation. The chapters of this book deal primarily with the meaning (...) and use of these two concepts in the context of gender relations, but also draw attention to their place in the understanding and analysis of other human relationships. (shrink)
This is a study of the central questions of explanation in the social sciences, and a defence of 'holism' against 'individualism'. In the first half of the book Susan James sets out very clearly the philosophical background to this controversy. She locates its source not at the analytical level at which most of the debate is usually conducted but at a more fundamental, moral level, in different conceptions of the human individual. In the second half of the book she examines (...) critically three case studies of holistic approaches - Althusser, Poulantzas and the Annales historians - and progressively refines our sense of the strengths and deficiencies of their programmes. She ends by arguing for a form of concessive holism, which offers some accommodation to liberal conceptions of individual autonomy but continues to emphasise the explanatory importance of social regularities and environments. (shrink)
Does Spinoza present philosophy as the preserve of an elite, while condemning the uneducated to a false though palliative form of ‘true religion’? Some commentators have thought so, but this contribution aims to show that they are mistaken. The form of religious life that Spinoza recommends creates the political and epistemological conditions for a gradual transition to philosophical understanding, so that true religion and philosophy are in practice inseparable.
It is not uncommon for early-modern philosophers to portray a perfectly philosophical way of life as a condition that approaches the divine. The philosopher becomes as like God as a human being can, and in doing so experiences unparalleled and unalloyed joy. Spinoza advocates a version of this view and defends it with impressive consistency. To suggest that the process of philosophical enlightenment involves any affective cost, he argues, is simply to display a lack of understanding, and thus to fall (...) short of the insight and joy that understanding ultimately yields. Nevertheless, something seems to be missing. I turn to a pair of novels by J.M. Coetzee - The Childhood of Jesus and The Schooldays of Jesus - to elucidate a significant though suppressed form of emotional loss that is integral to Spinoza’s image of the philosophical life. (shrink)
Book synopsis: Since its publication in 1677, Spinoza’s Ethics has fascinated philosophers, novelists, and scientists alike. It is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and contested works of Western philosophy. Written in an austere, geometrical fashion, the work teaches us how we should live, ending with an ethics in which the only thing good in itself is understanding. Spinoza argues that only that which hinders us from understanding is bad and shows that those endowed with a human mind should devote (...) themselves, as much as they can, to a contemplative life. This Companion volume provides a detailed, accessible exposition of the Ethics. Written by an internationally known team of scholars, it is the first anthology to treat the whole of the Ethics and is written in an accessible style. (shrink)
Unless rights are claimable, it is sometimes argued, they are no more than rhetorical gestures which mock the poor and needy. But what makes a right claimable? If rights are to avoid the charge of emptiness, I argue, they must be effectively enforceable. But what does this involve? I identify three conditions of enforceability, and four sets of broader circumstances in which these conditions can be met. I discuss the implications of this analysis of rights for multicultural societies, and conclude (...) that the conditions in which appeals to rights are useful are more limited than many contemporary theorists allow. (shrink)
Historians of philosophy are well aware of the limitations of what Butterfield called ‘Whig history’: narratives of historical progress that culminate in an enlightened present. Yet many recent studies retain a somewhat teleological outlook. Why should this be so? To explain it, I propose, we need to take account of the emotional investments that guide our interest in the philosophical past, and the role they play in shaping what we understand as the history of philosophy. As far as I know, (...) this problem is not currently much addressed. However, it is illuminatingly explored in the work of Spinoza. Spinoza aspires to explain the psychological basis of our attachment to histories with a teleological flavour. At the same time, he insists that such histories are epistemologically flawed. To study the history of philosophy in a properly philosophical fashion we must overcome our Whiggish leanings. (shrink)
This article investigates the uneasy process of integrating midwifery’s alternative, women-centered model of childbirth care within the medically-dominated healthcare system in Canada. It analyses the impure processes of rhetorical identification and differentiation that characterized the debate about how to regulate midwifery in Ontario by examining a selection of submissions from diverse health care groups with vested interest in the debate’s outcome. In divergent ways, these groups strategically appeal to the value of the “public interest” in order to advance professional concerns. (...) The study considers the implications of this rhetorical process for re-defining midwifery’s distinctive professional identity in relation to other health professions, to the state, and to the women for whom midwives care. Likewise, it suggests the relevance of rhetorical analysis for understanding the discursive formation and re-formation of health models, values, and professions in Western culture. (shrink)
The sudden resurgence of interest in the emotions that has recently overtaken analytical philosophy has raised a range of questions about the place of the passions in established explanatory schemes. How, for example, do the emotions fit into theories of action organized around beliefs and desires? How can they be included in analyses of the mind developed to account for other mental states and capacities? Questions of this general form also arise within political philosophy, and the wish to acknowledge their (...) importance and find a space for them has led to some fruitful developments. Among these are a new sensitivity to ways in which attributions of emotion can create and sustain unequal power relations, an interest in the underlying emotional capacities that make politics possible, a concern with the kinds of emotional suffering that politics should aim to abolish, and analyses of the emotional traits it should foster. While these and comparable explorations have enormously enriched contemporary political philosophy, a great deal of mainstream work continues to ignore or marginalize the emotions, so that their place remains uncertain and obscure. There is no consensus as to what kind of attention should be paid to them, or indeed whether they deserve any systematic attention at all. This is a curious state of affairs, because it was until quite recently taken for granted that political philosophy and psychology are intimately connected, and that political philosophy needs to be grounded on an understanding of human passion. In this essay I shall first consider why political philosophers ever rejected this set of assumptions. I shall then return to the pressing issue of how we might take account of the emotions in our own political theorizing. (shrink)
In this paper I offer three main challenges to James (2011). All three turn on the nature of philosophy and secure knowledge in Spinoza. First, I criticize James's account of the epistemic role that experience plays in securing adequate ideas for Spinoza. In doing so I criticize her treatment of what is known as the 'conatus doctrine' in Spinoza in order to challenge her picture of the relationship between true religion and philosophy. Second, this leads me into a criticism of (...) her account of the nature of philosophy in Spinoza. I argue it is less piecemeal and less akin to what we would recognize as 'science' than she suggests. Third, I argue against James's core commitment that Spinoza's three kinds of knowledge differ in degree; I claim they differ in kind. My argument will offer a new interpretation of Spinoza's conception of 'common notions'. Moreover, I argue that Spinozistic adequate knowledge involves something akin to angelic disembodiment. (shrink)
Liberal political theorists commend a comparatively orderly form of life. It is one in which individuals and groups who care about different things, and live in different ways, nevertheless share an overriding commitment to liberty and toleration, together with an ability to resolve conflicts and disagreements in ways that do not violate these values. Both citizens and states are taken to be capable of negotiating points of contention without resorting to forms of coercion such as abuse, blackmail, brainwashing, intimidation, torture (...) or other types of violence. In explaining what makes such a state of affairs possible, such theorists have tended to present the citizens of liberal polities as more or less rational individuals who are aware of the advantages of a pluralist, yet co-operative way of life, and understand what it takes to maintain them. Liberalism works best, they have suggested, when, and because, individuals understand its benefits, and therefore act broadly in accordance with the norms it prescribes. (shrink)
In 1983 the Royal Institute of Philosophy organized a conference for teachers of Liberal Studies, designed to help them to develop critical skills in their Sixth Form and Further Education pupils. The announcement said that the conference would ‘explore the competing claims of objectivity and relativism in different areas of inquiry, asking in each case to what extent there are objective ways of assessing competing views’. The event was innocently advertised under the title ‘Critical Thinking’. The innocence was in the (...) intention more than in the effect. One transatlantic visitor, though he expressed himself with New World courtesy, accused the organ-isers of something between bad faith and false pretences. Unknown to Gordon Square, the phrase ‘critical thinking’ had by then been hijacked by a new movement and taken out of the main current of its currency, like ‘peace’ and ‘gay’ and ‘anti-Nazi’ before it. (shrink)
Women often seek midwifery care as an alternative to the maternity services that are readily available within the insured health care system in Alberta. Some aspects of community-based, primary care midwifery in Alberta that characterize this alternative are the use of story-telling as a form of knowledge, the development of social con nections among women seeking midwifery care, and nonauthoritarian relationships between midwives and women. In this paper, the concept of confidentiality, as it relates to these aspects of midwifery practice, (...) is explored, using traditional, caring and feminist models of ethics. (shrink)