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Roman rhetoric, deployed as a legal and political tool and as a means of generating social capital, presupposes that the words of the speaker or writer initiate a dynamic, socially efficacious process of reception, and that that process is the real point of speaking or writing at all. Words shape audience reactions; and yet they can’t tightly and precisely control them. The text taken on its own proffers meaning in potentia only. It’s actualized in the reactions of its readers. But readers are multiple, never the reader. Communities of readers are always ad hoc and at best imperfectly coherent, and the consequent instabilities of reception open a space for the articulation of heterodox sexual identities. It is these less stable but potentially more productive aspects of preterition—and with them an expanded understanding of the device that goes beyond the textbook definition—that this book will consider, as they inform a select group of medieval texts whose readerships extended from late antiquity to the fourteenth century and beyond. Contemporary queer theory offers a useful framework through which to analyze these potentially subversive receptions of canonical texts.
This chapter focuses on Maritain’s analysis of the ontological and epistemological foundations of human rights, and his wider hope for ‘practical agreement’ on the content of those rights. On the ontological front, I argue that such agreement is not forthcoming on the basis of natural teleology or eternal law. Neither of these secures assent across the world’s major religious or philosophical traditions. On the epistemological front, neither rationalism nor naturalism holds great promise. While Maritain upholds the naturalist alternative, his efforts devolve into a performative contradiction. For he hopes to rest agreement about human rights on ‘natural inclinations’, which, at the same time, he confines to the realm of the non-conceptual, non-rational and pre-conscious. This constitutes a markedly weak, even incoherent basis for agreement. The stage is set, therefore, for ‘new’ natural law theory, which proposes a non-ontological, purely rationalist foundation. I conclude that this too is an unpromising basis for agreement on rights. Instead, we need a new approach, one that privileges the deliverances of the social sciences and does not strive for universal consensus.
Natural law theory in the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition is grounded in a metaphysics of essentialism and teleology, and in turn grounds a theory of natural rights. This chapter offers a brief exposition of the metaphysical ideas in question, explains how the A-T tradition takes a natural law moral system to follow from them, and also explains how in turn the existence of certain basic natural rights follows from natural law. It then explains how the teleological foundations of natural law entail not only that natural rights exist, but also that they are limited or qualified in certain crucial ways. The right to free speech is used as a case study to illustrate these points. Finally, the chapter explains the sense in which the natural rights doctrine generated by A-T natural law theory amounts to a theory of human rights, specifically.
One bad act can permanently stain perceptions of someone’s character. Being labeled a criminal potentially has such an enduring stigma because of people’s willingness to believe that people have an internal, unchanging essence leading them to transgress. In Study 1, we developed a novel scale to assess individual differences in essentialist beliefs about criminality and found that these beliefs predicted punitiveness. Study 2 replicated these findings and also revealed that participants’ attitudes toward people who had committed crimes mediated this link. Study 3 found that participants who held essential beliefs about criminality were more likely to choose retributive punishments over those that prevented future harm. These results illustrate the importance of essentialist beliefs in the context of the legal system.
Some people think wisdom is a stable and invariable individual disposition. Others view wisdom as deeply embedded in culture, experiences, and situations, and treat these features as mutually making up wisdom. What are the implications of each view for measurement, training, and the fundamental nature of wisdom itself? This chapter reviews evidence concerning the dispositional versus situational approaches to study wisdom. Even though main features of wisdom show some stability, there is also a profound and systematic variability in response to situational demands. By conceptualizing dispositions as a distribution of situation-specific responses, one can integrate dispositional and situational approaches to wisdom. Building on these insights, it is recommended to pay attention to contextual factors in measurement. Insight about contextual factors can also shed light on how to develop interventions for training wisdom.
In this article I contrast two opposing forms of essentialism, definitional and transcendental versus productivist and historical, and trace both forms back to Kripke's Naming and Necessity (1980). Definitional essentialism, as developed by Fine, centers on kind-membership. Historical essentialism, as anticipated by Prior and developed by Almog, puts origin at its center. The article focuses on the fundamentally distinct manners in which these two views handle the necessity of origin thesis. In the final section of the article, inspired by a Nietzschean genealogical methodology, I pursue a naturalization strategy and conclude that rather than origin being necessary, it is essentialist necessity that reduces to origin.
Viability is a capacity an organism’s constituents have – the ability to engage in various such as nutrition in an integrated way. It is what makes things compose an organism and what makes an organism alive. To die is to lose that capacity. So things come alive by coming to be organisms, and they die when they cease to be organisms. But in theory an object that dies while it is an organism might later be brought back to life. Since dying is the loss of viability, and nothing is viable while nonexistent, any object that ceases to exist while it is alive dies. Nor may anything be a corpse while it is still an organism. Yet objects that die while they are organisms may continue to exist – they may become corpses. So the dead may exist. Personhood is a phase objects go through while they are organisms that can think. When you and I use the term “I,” we refer to an object that is currently both an organism and a person, but the property of being a person is contingent to organisms, and the property of being an organism is contingent to us.
This chapter starts by asking ‘What is in a Thing?’ It discusses the material presence of the past and its rediscovery, for example, in the history of commodities. Material culture history, it argues, has been critical of the linguistic turn but is still building on insights from it. It proposes that objects provide an ‘order of things’ (Michel Foucault), which is in need of examination and contextualisation. At the same time material culture history has also been in the vanguard of decentring human agency and problematising the ‘Anthropocene’. Using non-representational theory, it has been arguing in favour of recognising the agency of things and decentring human agency in history. Material culture history has also been pointing to the longevity of material objects, providing them with often malleable and multiple meanings. It is striking how prominent everyday objects are in material culture histories. Through them individual identities are often related to larger collective identities. Historians of material culture have contributed to raising our awareness of the link between objects and collective identity formation. Examples from national history, environmental history, first nations hsitory, the history of ethnic minorities, colonial history, cultural history, design history, architectural history, regional history, class history, gender history and religious history are all discussed in oder to underline the potential of material culture history to lead to greater self-reflexivity among historians about their role in constructing forms of collective identity and to deconstruct these identities.
This chapter starts by accounting for the early beginnings of social, economic and labour history in different parts of the world at different times. It then analyses the crisis of social history during the 1970s and 1980s. Challenged both by history from below and by political history as well as poststructuralist theories, social, economic and labour history began to decline. However, over recent decades we have also witnessed a renaissance of a ‘new’ social, economic and labour history. The main bulk of the chapter analyses this renewal, discussing sublaltern studies, the cultural turn, the move to global histories of work, the emphasis on practices as well as discourses and the proliferation of new sub-fields. Overall, many of these recent developments have led to a greater self-reflexivity about the writing of history and its links to collective identity formation.
This chapter starts off by discussing the roots of historical anthropology in ‘people’s history’ before the linguistic turn. It then traces the journey from the history workshop movements of the 1960s and 1970s to historical anthropology, focusing on European and Indian groups (the Subaltern Studies Group). It highlights the work of Ann Laura Stoler as an example of how historical anthropology led to new and exciting perspectives in historical writing with deep implications for the deconstruction of historical identities. Historical anthropologists brought with them a concern for the everyday, diversity, performance and resistance and they raised an awareness of the undeterminedness of the past. They also emphasised how collective identities were rooted in constructions of culture. Relating cultural values to practices, diverse theories of the everday examined different structures of power and the agency of ordinary people in resisting and re-appropriating these structures of power. Treating culture as fluid, plural and changing, it also contributed to the de-essentialisation of human identities. Emphasising mimetic processes and the interrelationship of diverse mimetically produced images, historical anthropology also contributed to the decentring of Western perspectives.
This chapter traces the emergence of the field of memory studies and assesses the historians’ contribution to this field. In particular the influential work of Pierre Nora is discussed here. Memory history, it argues, has moved from underpinning national historical master narratives to promoting transnational cosmopolitan forms of memory that in turn have produced greater self-reflexivity about the relationship between historical writing and collective identity formation and helped to de-essentialise collective identities. The chapter introduces and analyses a range of different memory debates that all, in their different ways, have helped to de-essentialise the construction of collective identities: memory debates surrounding communism, the Holocaust, Brexit, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa are all discussed in this respect. The chapter also introduces the concept of ‘agonistic memory’ and discusses how it may help to repoliticise memory and contribute to greater self-reflexivity about the construction of memory and the shaping of collective identities.
This chapter looks at the cultural turn in historical writing since the 1980s and how it changed the established traditions of cultural history writing which had existed since the beginnings of professional history writing. The strong influence of poststructuralist theories led to a growing attention to questions of representations and constructions as well as to hidden meanings. It also traces the increasing desire to embed discourses in social practices. The chapter argues that an emphasis on the situational and relational processes in which humans acted remained often linked to an emancipatory agenda. A concern for human agency united with an interest in forms of creolisation and hybridity. Theories of alterity and studies of cultural transfer moved to the fore in many sub-fields of history, e.g. in LGBT history. The chapter explores in particular a range of promising new avenues in the new cultural history: the history of the senses, the history of emotions, the history of the body, the history of violence, nationalism studies. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how the new cultural history contributed to greater self-reflexivity about the role of historical writing in collective identity formation. In particular Stuart Hall’s theory of ‘identification’ is used to describe the way in which a commitment to an engaged history writing can be squared with reflexivity about identity formation through historical writing.
In his philosophical writings, Marx develops a conception of self-realization which includes a conception of positive liberty. Based on his critique of deontological ethics and law he rejects the idea that negative liberty is sufficient to realize emancipation and to overcome alienation. In the central concepts of Marx's philosophical anthropology (alienation, recognition, species being), a conception of positive liberty is integrated which will be made explicit here. In the third part of my chapter, it is shown that in his program of a critique of political economy Marx also uses a conception of positive liberty as a guiding principle. In the fourth part, the way in which Marx's conception of positive liberty fits into a philosophical tradition that can be labeled as "post-kantian perfectionism" is discussed. In the final fifth part, two fundamental problems in Marx's conception are considered and it will be shown why and in which sense the conception of positive liberty identifiable in Marx is systematically still important (if some philosophical corrections need to be made).
In Section 1, I outline the history of natural law theory, covering Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and Aquinas. In Section 2, I explore two alternative traditions of natural law, and explain why these constitute rivals to the Aristotelian tradition. In Section 3, I go on to elaborate a via negativa along which natural law norms can be discovered. On this basis, I unpack what I call three 'experiments in being', each of which illustrates the cogency of this method. In Section 4, I investigate and rebut two seminal challenges to natural law methodology, namely, the fact/value distinction in metaethics and Darwinian evolutionary biology. In Section 5, I then outline and criticise the 'new' natural law theory, which is an attempt to revise natural law thought in light of the two challenges above. I conclude, in Section 6, with a summary and some reflections on the prospects for natural law theory.
The rising wave of nationalism and xenophobia in the world triggers interest in processes underlying ethnocentric tendencies in humans. In this chapter we focus on the issue of ethnocentrism in perception of places and describe processes that facilitate the ethnocentric closure to the presence of the ‘other’ in the city space. We present data that demonstrate that one of the factors responsible for this ethnocentric closure is type of the perceived continuity of a place: essentialist vs anti-essentialist. We show, on the basis of studies carried out in cities of Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania, that perception of places in terms of essentialist continuity facilitates place identity but is also a powerful trigger of the ethnocentric bias in perception of the places’ multicultural past and present. In contrast, interpretation of the place continuity as a chain of interconnected events (anti-essentialist continuity) helps to accept the ethnic and social diversity of places.
The significance of this project ought to be evident. First, it shows that Plato’s Forms simply are essences, not things that have an essence and that Plato’s theory of Forms is just that, a theory of essence. Secondly, it shows that, if we have reason to raise and take seriously the ti esti (‘What is it?’) question, then we have reason to take seriously Plato’s theory of essence, the theory of Forms, with the remarkable characteristics that Plato attributes to essences and Forms. thirdly, it presents a challenge to those philosophers today who think that essentialism is an optional item on the philosophical menu. Finally, it presents a challenge to the tendency, typical to the essentialists of today, to think that the only option is Aristotelian essentialism, and that Platonic essentialism, if it can be made out at all, is simply Aristotelian essentialism with the addition of certain Platonic commitments that are both unattractive and optional. The projects demonstrate that Plato’s essentialism is a well-argued, rigorous and coherent theory, and a viable competitor to Aristotle’s essentialism.
In this book, Vasilis Politis argues that Plato's Forms are essences, not merely things that have an essence. Politis shows that understanding Plato's theory of Forms as a theory of essence presents a serious challenge to contemporary philosophers who regard essentialism as little more than an optional item on the philosophical menu. This approach, he suggests, also constitutes a sharp critique of those who view Aristotelian essentialism as the only sensible position: Plato's essentialism, Politis demonstrates, is a well-argued, rigorous, and coherent theory, and a viable competitor to that of Aristotle. This book will appeal to students and scholars with an interest in the intersection between philosophy and the history of philosophy.
Aristotle’s biology and contemporary evolutionary biology appear to be fundamentally at odds. Any comparative biology seeks to explain the fit and diversity of organismal form, but Aristotelian and contemporary biology do so in very different, evidently incompatible, ways. In this chapter, I argue for a reconciliation between the two biologies. Recent advances in evolutionary thinking suggest that the form of population thinking pursued by twentieth-century evolutionary biology must be augmented by an understanding of the ways in which organisms as adaptive, purposive entities contribute to adaptive evolution. Moreover, the phenomenon of adaptation cannot adequately be understood unless we take into account the ways in which an organism’s “way of life” structures its experience of its conditions of existence. The active role that organisms play in evolution is nicely captured in Aristotle’s concept of bios – way of life.
This chapter takes a critical look at the characterization of the Palestinian-Arab religious jurisdiction as a liberal multicultural accommodation and re-characterizes it as a “multicultural entrapment.” The jurisdictional authority accorded to the Palestinian-Arab religious communities does not meet what can be defined as “multicultural qualifications” exposing them as mere mechanisms of control and oppression. However, both the Israeli establishment and the Palestinian-Arab political establishment are interested in presenting religious jurisdiction among the Palestinian-Arab as multicultural. The characterization covers for Israel’s “embarrassing” interest to maintain the religious divides among its citizens in order to maintain its Jewish character. The characterization also helps the Palestinian-Arab politicians to maintain their refined liberal agenda while not upsetting the conservative religious establishment that exists within. Given the adverse implications religious jurisdiction has in terms of personal liberty and its pseudo-liberal multicultural character, the acute individual predicament of the Palestinian-Arabs thus emerges as a multicultural entrapment.
In addition to the ‘Key words’ at the head of the article that are provided for online searches, there are a number of other terms that may be regarded as key words in Theory, i.e. terms that tend to recur in works of Theory, works about Theory, and works that employ Theory, terms by which the presence of Theory may be recognised. Many of these are French (or German) words that an English rendering may not fully explicate. Also, they cannot be fully understood outside the context in which they are used, which is a necessary limitation on books about Theory, necessary though these are for beginners. (Wittgenstein famously said that one should not ask for the meaning of a term but look for the use.)