Absolutism is a nineteenth-century term designed precisely to address the mismatch between doctrine and power. The intellectual resources of absolutism were far older than the Renaissance and Reformation. The absolutism of monarchs was a contingent and temporary corollary of the principal juridical development of the early modern period: the emergence of the concept of sovereignty. Absolute monarchy was a free rider on a concept that would later unseat it. Theorists of absolute sovereignty drew heavily on Roman law, and often invoked the idea of the translatio imperii, the inheritance by modern monarchies of Roman imperial authority. The sovereignty of kings, seeking to trump the divine imperium of the papacy, masqueraded its jurisprudence as the divinity of kings. The “divine right of kings” was a theological meditation on a juridical concept, not a species of mysticism, and rarely did absolutists endow monarchs with magical or sacerdotal attributes. Absolutism conspicuously appropriated religious form when expressed as a theory of obedience. Absolutist theory offered an account of the origins of civil authority.
Anarchism rejects the state as an inherently despotic institution that must be abolished in order for human nature to flower. This does not mean the absence of social order, however, for anarchism also contains a positive vision of the kind of community it expects to arise when political authority is eliminated. Although it shares liberalism's commitment to individual autonomy and Marxism's commitment to social justice, anarchism claims that it can implement those principles more fully and effectively without utilizing the mechanism of the state. Anarchism as a secular political philosophy originated as a product of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and anarchist thought was the cumulative product of a number of different individuals in different countries who elaborated its basic principles. This article examines the views of several thinkers on anarchism, including William Godwin, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, and Prince Peter Kropotkin. It also considers the link between anarchism and terrorism.
In the ancient world, the idea that killing animals for food is wrong arose mainly from belief in a deep continuity between the animal and human psyche. The underlying thought is that the victimization of an animal is sinful and dehumanizing. Among the Greeks, orphic ritual and mysticism mixed with philosophy prescribe a vegetarian diet as a condition of self-purification. Perhaps the major extant work on vegetarianism dating from classical antiquity is On Abstinence from Animal Flesh by the neo-Platonist Porphyry, the student and biographer of Plotinus, himself a vegetarian. Peter Singer's immensely popular book Animal Liberation (1975) almost immediately generated a new movement for animal rights as distinct from a program limited to animal welfare, animal protection, and prevention of cruelty. This article explores the link between animal rights and political theory, focusing on the views of such thinkers as John Wesley, Bernard Mandeville, Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham, Tom Regan, Immanuel Kant, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Charles Hartshorne.
Charles E. Butterworth
This article explores political philosophy within the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East, focusing on the contributions of a few thinkers including Alfarabi, Avicenna, Ibn Bajja, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd, Averroes, and Ibn Khaldūn. Political philosophy in general differs from political thought, on the one hand, and political theology, on the other, insofar as it seeks to replace opinion about political affairs by knowledge. Political philosophy in the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East differs from that in the medieval Arabic-Jewish or Arabic-Christian traditions in that it is beholden neither to political nor to theological currents, its occasional rhetorical bows to one or the other notwithstanding. Political thought, best exemplified by the genre known as “Mirrors for Princes,” is always limited by the opinions that dominate the setting and time. Political theology or, for medieval Islam, jurisprudence focuses on how the beliefs and actions set forth in the religious tradition elucidate the conditions justifying warfare or the qualities an individual must have to be considered a suitable ruler.
Christa Davis Acampora
Ecce Homo offers Nietzsche’s own interpretation of himself, his thoughts, and his works. This article analyzes how the text bears on his ideas about agency, fate, and freedom. It presents an account of “how one becomes what one is.” For Nietzsche, a person is a set of drives ordered or ranked a certain way; there is no will or subject separate from these that could carry out the work of becoming. What is most important is that one’s drives be coordinated in a single entity. Through these tactics some of us can become what we are.
Normative theorizing about citizenship has been dominated by three different models—the republican, the legal, and the liberal democratic—reflecting respectively the civic experiences of city republics, empires, and nation-states. The first two originated in ancient Greece and Rome. These provided the classical models of citizenship not only by belonging to the “classical” period of history but also in setting the terms of much later debate. The key contemporary debate surrounds whether we are witnessing the emergence of a fourth, cosmopolitan, model of citizenship appropriate to a global age, and how far it departs from these earlier three. Aristotle's Politics provides the canonical text of the Greek version of republican citizenship, with ancient Athens as the model. Legal citizenship has private interests and their protection at its heart. The sociologists T. H. Marshall and Stein Rokkan established what has become the standard narrative of the evolution of modern democratic citizenship. This article also discusses liberal democratic citizenship and cosmopolitan citizenship.
Systematic political thought in ancient Greece begins with Plato, and quickly reaches its zenith in the rich and complex discussions in Aristotle's Politics. The political theories of both philosophers are closely tied to their ethical theories, and their interest is in questions concerning constitutions or forms of government. Herodotus sketches a fascinating debate by proponents of three forms of government: democracy, monarchy, and oligarchy. In Euripides' Suppliant Maidens, there is a debate between Theseus, champion of Athenian democracy, and a messenger from Creon, ruler of Thebes. Among Plato's predecessors there was a tradition of political thought and debate, but he was the first Greek thinker to undertake a careful, systematic analysis of fundamental questions in political philosophy. This article discusses Socrates' influence on Plato. It then looks at Plato's masterpiece, the Republic, and considers his model of an ideal constitution. It concludes with a discussion of Aristotle's complex and sophisticated analysis of political constitutions.
Confucianism is an ethics tied intimately with political philosophy. According to the text that is the most reliable guide to the teachings of Confucius, the Analects (Lunyu), he took the Mandate of Heaven (tianming) as a guide. The Mandate was formulated during the early period of the Zhou dynasty to justify the overthrow of the Shang dynasty and to legitimate the rule of the Zhou kings. The Confucian diagnosis of China's troubles suggests that the way out of the turmoil required a moral transformation led by the top ranks of Chinese society, a return to the virtue of the early Zhou kings. This article discusses Confucianism and its relation to political philosophy, the role of ritual in the cultivation of goodness, the concepts of ren and junzi, filial piety, the debate between Mozi and Mencius over filial loyalty versus impartial concern, family as the paradigm in a relational and communal conception of political society, the goodness or badness of human nature and its relation to morality, perfectionism and harmony, democracy, rights, and gender equality.
According to a now familiar narrative, in the middle of the twentieth century, political philosophy was “dead,” but it has since been resurrected in a new form. Credit for the death certificate is given to Peter Laslett, who bemoaned the absence of major philosophers writing in English, like the tradition of thinkers from Thomas Hobbes to Bernard Bosanquet. According to many theorists, responsibility for the revival of political philosophy belongs to John Rawls. One of Rawls's most important contributions is the method of “reflective equilibrium.” In A Theory of Justice (1971), Rawls attempts to reconcile freedom and equality in a principled way, offering an account of “justice as fairness.” Three years after publication of Theory, Rawls's Harvard colleague Robert Nozick published Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), which is, after Theory, probably the most celebrated and widely discussed work in political philosophy in recent decades. This article explores contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy, the evolution of Rawls's thought, communitarianism, feminism and liberalism, multiculturalism, and global justice.
Stephen K. White
“Continental philosophy” is generally understood as a contrast term for “Anglo-American analytic philosophy.” On its face, we seem to have a distinction rooted in geography, the continent in question being Europe. What is the relationship between Continental philosophy and Continental political philosophy—more frequently called Continental political thought (CPT)? There is the common postulation that modern Western social life, despite its many achievements, carries within it a certain “malignancy.” A tool frequently used by CPT is a skepticism of Enlightenment universalism in relation to ethical and political life. Given CPT's postulation of some sort of malignancy in modern Western society, it is hardly surprising that there is usually also sustained attention given to the possibility of some transformation that will overcome or at least combat more effectively the danger or harm that malignancy carries with it.
There are several contextual, historical approaches to texts. They include much hermeneutics, reception theory, and the new historicism. Yet, in the history of political philosophy, the contextual approach is associated narrowly with J. G. A. Pocock, Quentin Skinner, and the Cambridge School they are often said to have inspired. This article examines the rise of this contextualism, the theoretical arguments used to justify it, and its current standing and future prospects. It pursue several arguments. First, the label “Cambridge School” is highly misleading: Pocock and Skinner differ significantly from one another, while many of the other historians involved are suspicious of all theoretical statements and methodological precepts. Second, contextualism arose as a historical practice indebted to modernist empiricist modes of inquiry: contextualist theories arose only later, as Pocock and Skinner grabbed at philosophical vocabularies to defend that practice. Third, recent developments in contextualism involve a retreat from these vocabularies: in the absence of renewed theoretical debate, contextualism may lapse into naive empiricism or bland eclecticism.
Mark E. Warren
When compared to various forms of autocracy, monarchy, theocracy, oligarchy, and dictatorship, democracies are better at solving, routinizing, and institutionalizing basic problems of common social life and collective action. This article explores the historical origins of ideas that articulate and justify contemporary democratic theory and practice. First, it surveys the conceptual questions embedded in the concept of democracy inherited from the Greek, demokratia—literally, the power (kratos) of the people (demos), though commonly translated as rule of the people. Embedded in this concept of democracy we find at least four basic classes of questions: Who are “the people”? At what level of organization is “self-government” directed? How is the rule of the people translated into collective decisions and actions? Why is democracy good? The answers to these questions form, as it were, the history of democratic theory from the perspective of what historical democratic ideas and practices might contribute to the present and future of democracy.
Derrida’s deconstruction and rejection of the metaphysics of presence is examined along with Ferdinand de Saussure’s influence on Derrida’s trace of différance. The influence of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger is considered regarding Derrida’s commitment to a priori transcendentalism along with his strident anti-empiricism. Derrida’s approach to educational issues is surveyed with emphasis on his deconstruction of rationality and construction of a series of educational aporias providing occasion for novel topoi. It is shown that Dewey too rejects the metaphysics of presence in ways integral to his philosophy of education. Dewey and Derrida agree on the inevitable openness to otherness and difference. Dewey’s empirical pluralism and perspectivism is discussed as an alternative to Derrida’s quasi-transcendental apriorism. The conclusion proposes that Derrida’s putatively a priori quasi-transcendental deconstructive trace of différance is an a posteriori consequence within the trace of genetic inquiry; specifically, it is, a reified hypostatic abstraction.
After briefly reviewing some of the ways in which Dewey’s pragmatism has been discussed by contemporary philosophers of race, this essay examines Dewey’s views on race and colonialism via his analyses of World War I. The chapter argues that Dewey’s assessment of the war is shaped by conceptual whiteness: it reflects an unacknowledged white perspective that tends to ignore, overlook, and make invisible matters of race and racism. To detect the conceptual whiteness of Dewey’s work and the white privilege it supports, Dewey is read in conversation with W.E.B. Du Bois on the war. Their radically different analyses of (a) the war’s meaning, (b) the importance of the (white) working class for global stability, and (c) the solution for preventing future world wars help reveal Dewey’s complicity with the white colonialist domination of his time. Their analyses also could help contemporary pragmatists avoid similar complicities in future work on Dewey.
John Dewey’s record as a feminist and an advocate of women is mixed. He valued women intellectual associates whose influences he acknowledged, but did not develop theoretical articulations of the reasons for women’s subordination and marginalization. Given his mixed record, this chapter asks, how useful is Dewey’s work as a resource for feminist philosophy? It begins with a survey of the intellectual influences that connect Dewey with a set of women family members, colleagues, and students. It then discusses Dewey’s influence on the work of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century pragmatist feminist philosophers. Dewey’s influence has been strongest in the fields of feminist epistemology, philosophy of education, and social and political philosophy. Although pragmatist feminist philosophy remains a small field within feminist philosophy, this chapter argues that its conceptual resources could be put to further good use, particularly in feminist metaphysics, epistemology, and value theory.
Of late many philosophers have taken up the mantle of public philosophy, but, unlike Dewey, many think that the goal is to perform philosophy in public, to broadcast widely their arguments, or become renowned as public intellectuals. Many aim to improve the public, to help people think more rationally and critically, argue more deliberatively and logically, and perhaps see the light about philosophical matters. But Dewey shows that none of such work is democratic, for it usurps the role of a public to identify problems and their sources and skips over any need for public deliberation on what should be done. From a Deweyan perspective, the key for public philosophy is to remember that public problems are best fathomed by the public itself, which may enlist experts or governments to fix the problems but alone is the best judge of what needs to be addressed and whether the remedy is successful.
Following Dewey’s advice to move beyond the traditional search for antecedent certainty, several of his main ideas are applied in three areas: (a) the traditional highly specialized curriculum—the priority given to academic subjects, neglect of vocational education, and the faulty definition of “equality” as “sameness”; (b) a reconsideration of educational aims—neglect of moral/social aims, need to include these in all disciplines, preparation for life in participatory democracy, and importance of choice; and (c) importance of interdisciplinary studies—search for meaning and connection, incorporation of aims across disciplines.
In this chapter, Dewey’s theory of law—its nature, authority, and legitimacy—is brought to the surface. It is argued that, from his entirely general pragmatist account of knowledge as seen through the lens of human inquiry, we find a promising theory not only of how we can make sense of getting things right in ethics but also in the law. Detours are taken to the work of James, Peirce, and Holmes, and, in the end, we find that Dewey builds on his pragmatist predecessors to offer a truly promising account and justification of the law as a series of provisional punctuation points in a democratic process of inquiry.
Human development, human rights, and social inclusion are currently among the main challenges for democratic life. John Dewey understood democracy not only as an individual and social task but also as a moral commitment to human growth deeply related to education. He identified reflective inquiry as both the backdrop of moral agency (in the form of reflective morality) and the method of social reconstruction aimed at assuring social justice and social inclusion through a shared understanding and exploration of individual and collective problems. Moreover, he advocated for new relationships between industry, schools, and society, envisaging the crucial role of education in the development of more inclusive societies. Dewey’s approach suggests significant guidelines for contemporary democratic education in times of anxiety, disaffection, and distress since his insights anticipated crucial issues within current economic and sociopolitical debate on human and social growth and development.
In what way, and by how much, is the working man better off than the slave? Frederick Douglass argued that the difference might not be great. The slaveholders, he claimed, had succeeded in making the laboring white man “almost” as much a slave as the “black slave himself.” But some contemporary philosophical discussions go much further, suggesting that essentially the laboring white man and the black slave were both enslaved. For example, this is the clear implication of Philip Pettit's discussion of domination, freedom, and slavery in his book Republicanism (1997). Pettit calls a person's freedom “republican freedom,” marking it off from negative and positive liberty. As if to confirm that the republican tradition was right to equate domination and slavery, Pettit describes them as both characteristically condemning their victims to lives of fear, deference, flattery, and slyness. Since the most important and reliable of the strategies to deaden the slaves' imagination is to compel them to live in constant fear, there would be no difference between slavery and mere domination if domination per se made people fearful.