From Aristotle to Thomas Jefferson, seminal thinkers have declared “common sense” essential for moral discernment and civilized living. Yet the story of commonsense philosophy is not well known today.
In America and the Political Philosophy of Common Sense, Scott Segrest traces the history and explores the personal and social meaning of common sense as understood especially in American thought and as reflected specifically in the writings of three paradigmatic thinkers: John Witherspoon, James McCosh, and William James. The first two represent Scottish Common Sense and the third, Pragmatism, the schools that together dominated American higher thought for nearly two centuries.
Educated Americans of the founding period warmly received Scottish Common Sense, Segrest writes, because it reflected so well what they already thought, and he uncovers the basic elements of American common sense in examining the thought of Witherspoon, who introduced that philosophy to them. With McCosh, he shows the furthest development and limits of the philosophy, and with it of American common sense in its Scottish realist phase. With James, he shows other dimensions of common sense that Americans had long embraced but that had never been examined philosophically.
Clearly, Segrest’s work is much more than an intellectual history. It is a study of the American mind and of common sense itself—its essential character and its human significance, both moral and political. It was common sense, he affirms, that underlay the Declaration of Independence and the founders’ ideas of right and obligation that are still with us today. Segrest suggests that understanding this foundation and James’s refreshing of it could be the key to maintaining America’s vital moral core against a growing alienation from common sense across the Western world.
Stressing the urgency of understanding and preserving common sense, Segrest’s work sheds new light on an undervalued aspect of American thought and experience, helping us to perceive the ramifications of commonsense philosophy for dignified living.
The Common Good of Constitutional Democracy offers a rich collection of essays in political philosophy by Swiss philosopher Martin Rhonheimer. Like his other books in both ethical theory and applied ethics, which have recently been published in English, the essays included are distinguished by the philosophical rigor and meticulous attention to the primary and secondary literature of the various topics discussed
Faith and Political Philosophy consists of fifty-three letters between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, two of the most important political theorists of the twentieth century. In this correspondence, Strauss and Voegelin explore the nature of their similarities and differences, offering insightful observations about one another's work, about the state of the discipline, and about the influences working on them. The letters shed light on many assumptions made in their published writings, often with an openness that removes all vestiges of uncertainty.
History of Political Philosophy
Edited by Leo Strauss and Joseph Cropsey University of Chicago Press, 1987 Library of Congress JA81.H58 1987 | Dewey Decimal 320.01
This volume provides an unequaled introduction to the thought of chief contributors to the Western tradition of political philosophy from classical Greek antiquity to the twentieth century. Written by specialists on the various philosophers, this third edition has been expanded significantly to include both new and revised essays.
Constantly revised and refined over three decades, Rawls's lectures on various historical figures reflect his developing and changing views on the history of liberalism and democracy. With its careful analyses of the doctrine of the social contract, utilitarianism, and socialism, this volume has a critical place in the traditions it expounds.
Leo Strauss and his alleged political influence regarding the Iraq War have in recent years been the subject of significant media attention, including stories in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.Time magazine even called him “one of the most influential men in American politics.” With The Truth about Leo Strauss, Michael and Catherine Zuckert challenged the many claims and speculations about this notoriously complex thinker. Now, with Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy, they turn their attention to a searching and more comprehensive interpretation of Strauss’s thought as a whole, using the many manifestations of the “problem of political philosophy” as their touchstone.
For Strauss, political philosophy presented a “problem” to which there have been a variety of solutions proposed over the course of Western history. Strauss’s work, they show, revolved around recovering—and restoring—political philosophy to its original Socratic form. Since positivism and historicism represented two intellectual currents that undermined the possibility of a Socratic political philosophy, the first part of the book is devoted to Strauss’s critique of these two positions. Then, the authors explore Strauss’s interpretation of the history of philosophy and both ancient and modern canonical political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Locke. Strauss’s often-unconventional readings of these philosophers, they argue, pointed to solutions to the problem of political philosophy. Finally, the authors examine Strauss’s thought in the context of the twentieth century, when his chief interlocutors were Schmitt, Husserl, Heidegger, and Nietzsche.
The most penetrating and capacious treatment of the political philosophy of this complex and often misunderstood thinker, from his early years to his last works, Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy reveals Strauss’s writings as an attempt to show that the distinctive characteristics of ancient and modern thought derive from different modes of solving the problem of political philosophy and reveal why he considered the ancient solution both philosophically and politically superior.
Leo Strauss is known primarily for reviving classical political philosophy through careful analyses of works by ancient thinkers. As with his published writings, Strauss’s seminars devoted to specific philosophers were notoriously dense, accessible only to graduate students and scholars with a good command of the subject. In 1965, however, Strauss offered an introductory course on political philosophy at the University of Chicago. Using a conversational style, he sought to make political philosophy, as well as his own ideas and methods, understandable to those with little background on the subject.
Leo Strauss on Political Philosophy brings together the lectures that comprise Strauss’s “Introduction to Political Philosophy.” Strauss begins by emphasizing the importance of political philosophy in determining the common good of society and critically examining the two most powerful contemporary challenges to the possibility of using political theory to learn about and develop the best political order: positivism and historicism. In seeking the common good, classical political philosophers like Plato and Aristotle did not distinguish between political philosophy and political science. Today, however, political philosophy must contend with the contemporary belief that it is impossible to know what the good society really is. Strauss emphasizes the need to study the history of political philosophy to see whether the changes in the understanding of nature and conceptions of justice that gradually led people to believe that it is not possible to determine what the best political society is are either necessary or valid. In doing so, he ranges across the entire history of political philosophy, providing a valuable, thematically coherent foundation, including explications of many canonical thinkers, such as Auguste Comte and Immanuel Kant, about whom Strauss did not write extensively in his published writings.
Wars of national secession and ethnic cleansing, based on the claims of supposedly distinct racial, ethnic, cultural, and national identities, have disfigured recent years. Probing the roots of these conflicts, this book provides the first comprehensive survey of the full range of political theories of ethnicity and nationalism.
Paul Gilbert explores the role of identity in configuring contemporary states. He examines the concepts of race, ethnicity, cultural identity, and nationality, as well as the relevant political theories, including liberalism, communitarianism, and postmodernism. He also covers in depth the topics of citizenship and migration, multiculturalism and the ethics of secession. His multidisciplinary approach will be of value to those in philosophy, politics, sociology, and cultural studies.
A collection of Fr. James Schall's recent essays, Political Philosophy and Revelation offers a learned, erudite, and coherent statement on the relationship between reason and revelation in the modern world. It addresses political philosophy in the context of an awareness of other humane and practical sciences, including history, literature, economics, theology, ethics and metaphysics.
Heinrich Meier’s guiding insight in Political Philosophy and the Challenge of Revealed Religion is that philosophy must prove its right and its necessity in the face of the claim to truth and demand obedience of its most powerful opponent, revealed religion. Philosophy must rationally justify and politically defend its free and unreserved questioning, and, in doing so, turns decisively to political philosophy.
In the first of three chapters, Meier determines four intertwined moments constituting the concept of political philosophy as an articulated and internally dynamic whole. The following two chapters develop the concept through the interpretation of two masterpieces of political philosophy that have occupied Meier’s attention for more than thirty years: Leo Strauss’s Thoughts on Machiavelli and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract. Meier provides a detailed investigation of Thoughts on Machiavelli, with an appendix containing Strauss’s original manuscript headings for each of his paragraphs. Linking the problem of Socrates (the origin of political philosophy) with the problem of Machiavelli (the beginning of modern political philosophy), while placing between them the political and theological claims opposed to philosophy, Strauss’s most complex and controversial book proves to be, as Meier shows, the most astonishing treatise on the challenge of revealed religion. The final chapter, which offers a new interpretation of the Social Contract, demonstrates that Rousseau’s most famous work can be adequately understood only as a coherent political-philosophic response to theocracy in all its forms.
In this classic analysis, Leo Strauss pinpoints what is original and innovative in the political philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. He argues that Hobbes's ideas arose not from tradition or science but from his own deep knowledge and experience of human nature. Tracing the development of Hobbes's moral doctrine from his early writings to his major work The Leviathan, Strauss explains contradictions in the body of Hobbes's work and discovers startling connections between Hobbes and the thought of Plato, Thucydides, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, and Hegel.
Peruvian novelist, poet, and anthropologist José María Arguedas (1911–1969) was a highly conflicted figure. As a mestizo, both European and Quechua blood ran through his veins and into his cosmology and writing. Arguedas’s Marxist influences and ethnographic work placed him in direct contact with the subalterns he would champion in his stories. His exposés of the conflicts between Indians and creoles, and workers and elites were severely criticized by his contemporaries, who sought homogeneity in the nation-building project of Peru.
In Rethinking Community from Peru, Irina Alexandra Feldman examines the deep political connotations and current relevance of Arguedas’s fiction to the Andean region. Looking principally to his most ambitious and controversial work, All the Bloods, Feldman analyzes Arguedas’s conceptions of community, political subjectivity, sovereignty, juridical norm, popular actions, and revolutionary change. She deconstructs his particular use of language, a mix of Quechua and Spanish, as a vehicle to express the political dualities in the Andes. As Feldman shows, Arguedas’s characters become ideological speakers and the narrator’s voice is often absent, allowing for multiple viewpoints and a powerful realism. Feldman examines Arguedas’s other novels to augment her theorizations, and grounds her analysis in a dialogue with political philosophers Walter Benjamin, Jean-Luc Nancy, Carl Schmitt, Jacques Derrida, Ernesto Laclau, and Álvaro García-Linera, among others.
In the current political climate, Feldman views the promise of Arguedas’s vision in light of Evo Morales’s election and the Bolivian plurality project recognizing indigenous autonomy. She juxtaposes the Bolivian situation with that of Peru, where comparatively limited progress has been made towards constitutional recognition of the indigenous groups. As Feldman demonstrates, the prophetic relevance of Arguedas’s constructs lie in their recognition of the sovereignty of all ethnic groups and their coexistence in the modern democratic nation-state, in a system of heterogeneity through autonomy—not homogeneity through suppression. Tragically for Arguedas, it was a philosophy he could not reconcile with the politics of his day, or from his position within Peruvian society.
Social and Political Philosophy
Peter A. French, Theodore E. Uehling Jr., and Howard K. Wettstein, Editors University of Minnesota Press, 1982 Library of Congress JC571.S697 1982 | Dewey Decimal 320.011
Social and Political Philosophy was first published in 1982. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
One of the central challenges to contemporary political philosophy is the apparent impossibility of arriving at any commonly agreed upon “truths.” As Nietzsche observed in his Will to Power, the currents of relativism that have come to characterize modern thought can be said to have been born with ancient sophistry. If we seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary radical relativism, we must therefore look first to the sophists of antiquity—the most famous and challenging of whom is Protagoras.
With Sophistry and Political Philosophy, Robert C. Bartlett provides the first close reading of Plato’s two-part presentation of Protagoras. In the “Protagoras,” Plato sets out the sophist’s moral and political teachings, while the “Theaetetus,” offers a distillation of his theoretical and epistemological arguments. Taken together, the two dialogues demonstrate that Protagoras is attracted to one aspect of conventional morality—the nobility of courage, which in turn is connected to piety. This insight leads Bartlett to a consideration of the similarities and differences in the relationship of political philosophy and sophistry to pious faith. Bartlett’s superb exegesis offers a significant tool for understanding the history of philosophy, but, in tracing Socrates’s response to Protagoras’ teachings, Bartlett also builds toward a richer understanding of both ancient sophistry and what Socrates meant by “political philosophy.”
How should democracies respond to the millions who want to settle in their societies? David Miller’s analysis reframes immigration as a question of political philosophy. Acknowledging the impact on host countries, he defends the right of states to control their borders and decide the future size, shape, and cultural make-up of their populations.
Modern liberal political philosophy is closely associated with post-1945 secularism. But Eric Nelson contends that the liberal tradition founded by John Rawls is an unwitting outgrowth of ancient theological debates about justice and evil. When we understand this, we can better untangle the knotted strands of liberal political thought.
Martin Luther King, Jr., may be America’s most revered political figure, commemorated in statues, celebrations, and street names around the world. On the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination, the man and his activism are as close to public consciousness as ever. But despite his stature, the significance of King’s writings and political thought remains underappreciated.
In To Shape a New World, Tommie Shelby and Brandon Terry write that the marginalization of King’s ideas reflects a romantic, consensus history that renders the civil rights movement inherently conservative—an effort not at radical reform but at “living up to” enduring ideals laid down by the nation’s founders. On this view, King marshaled lofty rhetoric to help redeem the ideas of universal (white) heroes, but produced little original thought. This failure to engage deeply and honestly with King’s writings allows him to be conscripted into political projects he would not endorse, including the pernicious form of “color blindness” that insists, amid glaring race-based injustice, that racism has been overcome.
Cornel West, Danielle Allen, Martha Nussbaum, Robert Gooding-Williams, and other authors join Shelby and Terry in careful, critical engagement with King’s understudied writings on labor and welfare rights, voting rights, racism, civil disobedience, nonviolence, economic inequality, poverty, love, just-war theory, virtue ethics, political theology, imperialism, nationalism, reparations, and social justice. In King’s exciting and learned work, the authors find an array of compelling challenges to some of the most pressing political dilemmas of our present, and rethink the legacy of this towering figure.
Is Leo Strauss truly an intellectual forebear of neoconservatism and a powerful force in shaping Bush administration foreign policy? The Truth about Leo Strauss puts this question to rest, revealing for the first time how the popular media came to perpetuate such an oversimplified view of such a complex and wide-ranging philosopher. More important, it corrects our perception of Strauss, providing the best general introduction available to the political thought of this misunderstood figure.
Catherine and Michael Zuckert—both former students of Strauss—guide readers here to a nuanced understanding of how Strauss’s political thought fits into his broader philosophy. Challenging the ideas that Strauss was an inflexible conservative who followed in the footsteps of Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Carl Schmitt, the Zuckerts contend that Strauss’s signature idea was the need for a return to the ancients. This idea, they show, stemmed from Strauss’s belief that modern thought, with its relativism and nihilism, undermines healthy politics and even the possibility of real philosophy. Identifying this view as one of Strauss’s three core propositions—America is modern, modernity is bad, and America is good—they conclude that Strauss was a sober defender of liberal democracy, aware of both its strengths and its weaknesses.
The Zuckerts finish, appropriately, by examining the varied work of Strauss’s numerous students and followers, revealing the origins—rooted in the tensions within his own thought—oftheir split into opposing camps. Balanced and accessible, The Truth about Leo Strauss is a must-read for anyone who wants to more fully comprehend this enigmatic philosopher and his much-disputed legacy.
Some six years after his narrow escape from proscription in 43 bce, Marcus Terentius Varro, the “most learned” of the Romans, wrote a technical treatise on farming in the form of a satirico-philosophical dialogue. Grant A. Nelsestuen argues that far from simply being just another encyclopedic entry of a seemingly aloof antiquarian or offering an escapist’s retreat into rustication, Varro’s De Re Rustica uses the model of the farm to craft an implicitly political treatise that grapples with multifarious challenges facing the contemporary Roman world.
On one level, Varro’s treatise presents an innovative account of the Roman farm, which rationalizes new agricultural and pastoral opportunities for contemporary elite owners of large-scale estates. But on another level, this bold agronomical vision associates the farm’s different spheres with distinct areas under Roman control, thereby allegorizing Rome’s empire on the model of a farm. Nelsestuen argues that Varro’s treatise thus provides his contemporaries with a model for governing the Roman state, anticipates Augustus’ subsequent transformation of Roman dominion into a coherent territorial state, and offers an ancient theory of imperialism.
Shedding new light on the only completely extant work of a much-celebrated but ill-understood figure, Varro the Agronomist has much to offer to those interested in Latin literature—especially, Cicero and Vergil—as well as on the political dimensions of intellectual life in first-century bce Rome, ancient imperialism, and Roman political philosophy.