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New anthology: Early Modern Philosophy

Shapiro, Lisa & Lascano, Marcy P. (2021): Early Modern Philosophy. An Anthology, Broadview Press.

Description
This new anthology of early modern philosophy enriches the possibilities for teaching this period by highlighting not only metaphysics and epistemology, but also new themes such as virtue, equality and difference, education, the passions, and love. It contains the works of forty-three philosophers, including traditionally taught figures such as Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant, as well as less familiar writers such as Lord Shaftesbury, Anton Amo, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, and Denis Diderot. It also highlights the contributions of women philosophers, including Margaret Cavendish, Anne Conway, Gabrielle Suchon, Sor Juana Inéz de la Cruz, and Emilie Du Châtelet.

Latest issue of Hobbes Studies

Hobbes Studies, Volume 33, Issue 2 (Nov 2020)

Articles

Book Reviews

  • John Marshall: Collins, Jeffrey. In the Shadow of Leviathan: John Locke and the Politics of Conscience 177
  • Vladimir Milisavljević: Courtland, Shane D., ed. Hobbesian Applied Ethics and Public Policy 182
  • Enzo Rossi McQueen, Alison. Political Realism in Apocalyptic Times 188
  • David Johnston: Raylor, Timothy. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Thomas Hobbes 192
  • Jeffrey Collins: Fukuoka, Atsuko. The Sovereign and the Prophets: Spinoza on Grotian and Hobbesian Biblical Argumentation 196

New book on Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics

Field, Sandra Leonie (2020): Potentia. Hobbes and Spinoza on Power and Popular Politics, OUP.

We live in an age of growing dissatisfaction with the standard operations of representative democracy. The solution, according to a long radical democratic tradition, is the unmediated power of the people. Mass plebiscites and mass protest movements are celebrated as the quintessential expression of popular power, and this power promises to transcend ordinary institutional politics. But the outcomes of mass political phenomena can be just as disappointing as the ordinary politics they sought to overcome, breeding skepticism about democratic politics in all its forms.

Potentia argues that the very meaning of popular power needs to be rethought. It offers a detailed study of the political philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and Benedict de Spinoza, focusing on their concept of power as potentia, concrete power, rather than power as potestas, authorized power. Specifically, the book’s argument turns on a new interpretation of potentia as a capacity that is dynamically constituted in a web of actual human relations. This means that a group’s potentia reflects any hostility or hierarchy present in the relations between its members. There is nothing spontaneously egalitarian or good about human collective existence; a group’s power deserves to be called popular only if it avoids oligarchy and instead durably establishes its members’ equality. Where radical democrats interpret Hobbes’ “sleeping sovereign” or Spinoza’s “multitude” as the classic formulations of unmediated popular power, Sandra Leonie Field argues that for both Hobbes and Spinoza, conscious institutional design is required in order for true popular power to be achieved. Between Hobbes’ commitment to repressing private power and Spinoza’s exploration of civic strengthening, Field draws on early modern understandings of popular power to provide a new lens for thinking about the risks and promise of democracy.

Article: A Pragmatics of Political Judgment: Hobbes and Spinoza

Oliver Feltham: ‘A Pragmatics of Political Judgment: Hobbes and Spinoza’, Philosophy Today, 60, 1 (2016).

Abstract: The question of political judgement is usually addressed within a normative or epistemological framework. In contrast in this paper the approach is that of a pragmatics of judgement. The leading questions are what does political judgement do and how does it operate? This enquiry, carried out through an examination of political judgement in Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, is shown to ineluctably lead to an ontology of action. These philosophers’ contrasting ontologies give rise to two different frameworks for political judgement whose avatars are still with us today: Hobbesian functionalism and Spinozist affirmationism. Finally these competing frameworks of judgement are put to the test of resolving—or at least treating—the very problem that gave rise to them in the first place in Hobbes and Spinoza’s philosophies, the problem of political conflict. The singularity of Spinoza’s affirmationist framework for judgement is identified as its capacity to pose the reflexive question of who the subject of judgement is for the object of judgement in the actual action of judgement. The hypothesis is that this question opens a way for both subject and object of judgement to increase their power to act and think.

Book: Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought

Julie Cooper,  Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought (University of Chicago Press, 2013)

About this Book: Secularism is usually thought to contain the project of self-deification, in which humans attack God’s authority in order to take his place, freed from all constraints. Julie E. Cooper overturns this conception through an incisive analysis of the early modern justifications for secular politics. While she agrees that secularism is a means of empowerment, she argues that we have misunderstood the sources of secular empowerment and the kinds of strength to which it aspires.

Contemporary understandings of secularism, Cooper contends, have been shaped by a limited understanding of it as a shift from vulnerability to power. But the works of the foundational thinkers of secularism tell a different story. Analyzing the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau at the moment of secularity’s inception, she shows that all three understood that acknowledging one’s limitations was a condition of successful self-rule. And while all three invited humans to collectively build and sustain a political world, their invitations did not amount to self-deification. Cooper establishes that secular politics as originally conceived does not require a choice between power and vulnerability. Rather, it challenges us—today as then—to reconcile them both as essential components of our humanity.