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Current Issue Article Abstracts

January 2017  Vol. 78.1

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Bodin’s Puritan Readers and Radical Democracy in Early New England

J. S. Maloy

The legal and political theory of Jean Bodin made a significant impact on ecclesiastical and constitutional ideas in the earliest puritan colonies in New England (ca. 1620-50), structuring the terms of debate over basic institutions. The Massachusetts regime was initialy considered a “popular state” with an “aristocratic government,” akin to ancient Rome and modern Geneva. Through the pressures of political conflict, however, the colony elite abandoned Bodin’s distinction between sovereignty and government in favor of Aristotelian ideas of mixture and balance. Radical democrats, by contrast, creatively adapted Bodin’s analytic protocols to advocate reforms that he would have abhorred.

The Body of Mahomet: Pierre Bayle on War, Sex, and Islam

Mara van der Lugt

This paper discusses Pierre Bayle’s article on Muhammad in his Dictionnaire historique et critique (1696), especially with regard to its two main themes: the role of force in the establishment of Islam, and sexual morality within Islam. Both themes had been a traditional part of Christian apologetics for centuries, but Bayle takes them up in an unconventional way, proposing to write the history of Islam objectively rather than fitting it into a Christian story. This article will discuss these and other themes in Bayle’s "Mahomet" and place it within the wider historiographical context of the early modern debate on Islam.

Miltonic Sublimity and the Crisis of Wolffianism before Kant

Adam Foley

A generation before Kant emerged from his "dogmatic slumber,” Christian Wolff’s rationalist metaphysics had already undergone a crisis. When Johann Jakob Bodmer translated Paradise Lost into German (1732) it sparked a polemic among leading Wolffians. The metaphysics of Milton's poetology raised concerns about the extent and bounds of rational imagination analogous to Kant's concerns about the limits of pure reason. The aesthetics of creative genius Bodmer articulated in his defense of Milton was based on Wolff’s rationalism yet found warm acceptance among leading Romantics of the following generation. This article therefore contributes to the rationalist roots of Romantic irrationalism.

The Problem of Natural Religion in Smith’s Moral Thought

Colin Heydt

A number of recent interpretations defend the description of Adam Smith as "a strong supporter of natural theology" and claim that his moral philosophy depends, in some way, on God and God’s providence. This paper argues against that claim using novel evidence. What I demonstrate is that Smith took positions at odds with a conventional commitment to natural religion’s importance for morality. In particular, I show that it is hard to square Smith’s alleged support of natural religion with his account of conscience, his natural rights theory, and his omission of piety from his catalog of virtues.

Between Philosophy and Judaism: Leo Strauss’s Skeptical Engagement with Zionism

Simon W. Taylor

This article offers an explanation for Leo Strauss’s apparently contradictory views on Israel and the Zionist project. Strauss’s views on Zionism, I argue, are intelligible only within an interpretative framework that allows for the fundamentally open-ended nature of Strauss’s thought. With this in mind, the article demonstrates how Strauss was able to reject the philosophical validity of Zionism even as he maintained a sectarian loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people. These twin identities – what I term “Strauss the Philosopher” and “Strauss the Man” – are justified on the grounds of Strauss’s wider thought.

Adolescence versus Politics: Metaphors in Late Colonial Uganda

Carol Summers

In late colonial Uganda, British social scientists, development experts, religious leaders, and administrators used the metaphor of adolescence to explain political unrest. If Uganda could be seen as an adolescent, upheaval in the model colony was a sign of successful growth, not a rejection of British administration or global ideas of development and progress. Using the metaphor of adolescence, experts emphasized the period’s turmoil as signs of biosocial, adolescent maturation, rather than symptoms of political competition, clashing class interests, or ethnic patriotisms. Through this powerful metaphor, British observers rejected any politics based in different values, interests, or goals.

The Many Returns of Philology: A State of the Field Report

Andrew Hui

A review essay considering three recent works: Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities, by James Turner; World Philology, edited by Sheldon Pollock, Benjamin A. Elman, and Ku-ming Kevin Chang; and Minima Philologicaby Werner Hamacher.