Previous Issue Article Abstracts
July 2016 Vol. 77.3
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This paper tracks the fortunes of the debate on whether children playing at baptism can actually administer and receive a valid sacramental baptism from Rufinus of Aquileia (late 4th to early 5th century) through ca. 1300. Theologians and canonists who addressed this question arrived at no consensus. They often disagreed with their own masters, applied Rufinus to a range of issues he never took up, used him to support or criticize Augustine on this topic, and viewed as acceptable more than one position on it within orthodox Christianity.
This essay analyzes Robert Burton’s methodological approach to the subject of melancholy and draws comparisons between Burton’s method of inquiry and the 17th-century scientific method at large. Burton’s sources are hence examined and two epistemological lines of influence are singled out, one being characterized by deductive procedures (Galen, Ramus), and the other by inductivism (Hippocrates, pseudo-Hippocratic representation of Democritus). Combined by Burton, these traditions inspired the structure of Burton’s Anatomy, which allowed the concurrence of multiple opinions that mutually interact and automatically correct one another within a cento-like text.
During the 1640s, the Irish Franciscan theologian John Punch taught his theology students in Rome that war against Protestants was made just by their religion alone. Jesuits like Luis de Molina identified the holy war tradition in which Punch stood as a Scotist one, and insisted that the Scotists had confused the natural and supernatural spheres. Among Irishmen, Punch was unusual. The main Irish Catholic revolutionary tradition employed Jesuit and Thomist theory. They argued that the Stuarts had lost the right to rule Ireland for natural reasons, not supernatural ones; because the Stuarts were tyrants, not because they were Protestants.
Samuel Pufendorf is known for his normative natural law philosophy, and particularly for his theory of sociability. This article concentrates on a topic that has received very little attention – his theory of the motivating character of passions in social life. It will demonstrate that individually and politically governed passions play a central role in Pufendorf’s description of the structure of human societies. I argue that for Pufendorf the norms of sociability are effective in social life because social interaction, guided by political governance, enables people to moderate their antisocial passions and habituate themselves to sociable passions.
Although European travelers to the Ottoman Empire often noted the inhabitants’ “fatalism,” historians have never seriously examined this intellectual phenomenon. Whether or not we can credit such sources, the testimony of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century Turkish and Arabic sources points to a robust debate over fate, free will, and predestination. What were the reasons behind these discussions? What issues were at stake? This article outlines the context and content of the debate. It then offers some observations about the wider significance of free will and predestination in the Ottoman intellectual universe – particularly their relation to early modern bureaucratic and military reform.
In his wartime discourses of 1914, Henri Bergson mobilizes his philosophy of creative evolution: France is a nation of creative life able to replenish itself, whereas Germany, for all its technological might, is a mechanistic power bound to wear itself out. This paper shows that this moblization is made possible by Bergson's philosophy of will: life as a creative principle is will, and it is a controllable and commandable willpower that he opposes to Germany. Grasping this is crucial for understanding not only the war discourses but also Bergson's later reflections on technology, modernity, and mysticism.
The case of William Morton Wheeler and Alfred North Whitehead represents a striking example of how biologists and philosophers engaged in a common enterprise in the early twentieth century. Both challenge the notion that the living world is composed of distinct organisms. Based on his studies of the behavior of social insects, Wheeler developed a concept of superorganisms that paved the way for a theory of emergent evolution. This paper argues that Whitehead, whose relation to academic biology has been largely ignored, drew on Wheeler's findings and integrated them into a universal philosophical cosmology.
April 2016 Vol. 77.2
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This article deals with a forgotten treatise on the age of the world, written between 1308 and 1316 by Walter Odington, a monk of Evesham Abbey, otherwise known for his writings on alchemy and music theory. By tracing the sources and rationale behind Odington’s arguments and comparing them with those of other medieval authors, the article attempts to shed new light on the state of chronological scholarship in England in the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, when astronomical and astrological methods were freely used to supplement or replace scriptural interpretation, yielding creative and unexpected results.
This paper focuses on the shift that occurred in the spatial representation of states in the eighteenth century. This shift will be considered as a combination of institutional reforms and of a new social awareness of space. A consideration of the case of the Italian Piedmont will demonstrate how “national” space was created through antiquarian research and how a larger political confrontation took place in the guise of a learned debate. The diverse accounts of Piedmontese history under examination all employed methods derived from previous ages, relying upon a concept of space as historically continuous, embedded in time immemorial.
At the outset of the French Revolution John Adams penned a series of Discourses of Davila, philosophical ruminations on the sixteenth-century French Wars of Religion. Recent historians have read these Discourses in terms of Adams’s Machiavellianism—his conviction that men’s passions lead to violence, if unrestrained. But this reading overlooks the extent to which Adams intended his Discourses as a particular investigation into the French nation’s character, and into whether the revolutionaries could lay claim to a native, French tradition of mixed constitutional government. Situating the Discourses vis-à-vis Adams’s contemporaneous reading of Montesquieu, this article argues for an underappreciated historicist dimension to his thought.
This paper traces the ancestry of a familiar historiographical narrative, according to which early modern philosophy was marked by the development of empiricism, rationalism, and their synthesis by Kant. It is often claimed that this narrative became standard in the nineteenth century because of the influence of Thomas Reid, Kant and his disciples, or German and British idealists. I argue that the narrative became standard at the turn of the twentieth century. Among the factors that allowed it to become standard are its aptness to be adopted by philosophers of the most diverse persuasions, its simplicity and suitability for teaching.
Pedro T. Magalhães
The thesis that the theory of charismatic–plebiscitary democracy developed by Max Weber in the wake of the Weimar Republic was developed to its ultimate consequences by Carl Schmitt in the final crisis of Weimar has been hotly debated since it was first advanced in the 1950s. This paper proposes a fresh look at the controversy. By comparing both authors’ concepts of politics in their relation to the problem of modernity, it argues that the Weber–Schmitt affair is neither a baseless legend nor a case of natural continuity. Instead, it should rather be understood in terms of a contingent affinity.
Deborah R. Coen
The climate crisis has raised questions about the proper scale of historical analysis in the Anthropocene. After explaining how this methodological crisis differs from an earlier stand-off between proponents of microhistory and total history, this paper suggests a role for intellectual history in moving us beyond the current debate. What is needed is a history of “scaling”; that is, we need to historicize the process of mediating between different frameworks of measurement, even those that might at first appear incommensurable. Historical examples are explored in which such a process of commensuration has allowed for a pluralism of perceptions of space and time.
Comparative political theory is an emerging sub-field of political theory; it is a response to the dissatisfaction with the prevalent Eurocentric mode of political theorizing in the age of globalization. A methodological characteristic of comparative political theory is cross-cultural engagement through dialogue with foreign political ideas. The present paper argues that the dialogical mode of cross-cultural engagement is distinctively European. While the dialogical engagement with foreign worldviews constitutes a mainstream of the European literary tradition, it is largely absent, for example, from the Japanese counterpart. Despite its anti-Eurocentric motivations, comparative political theory is methodologically rooted in the European tradition.
January 2016 Vol. 77.1
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Ancient Greeks drew advice from oracles, dreams, entrails, the movements of birds, sneezes, and myriad other sources for divination. Classicists typically study such phenomena as examples of occult religion, or for their use as a social mechanism for managing dissent and forging consensus. Ancient philosophical accounts by contrast go a longer way toward considering them seriously, on their own terms. They take them as an invitation into developing speculative accounts of non-standard epistemological schemes. Plato is examined as a case study of a more general Greek philosophical tendency to treat divination as something akin to what we might call intuition.
Scarce attention has been given to Samuel Taylor Coleridge's engagement with the philosophical theology of Jonathan Edwards, and yet a clear understanding of each thinker's position on determinism and Original Sin is of vital importance if we are understand the lasting significance of their disagreements. There have been a number of studies to take up Coleridge's influence on the American Romantics, but there is no scholarship that has taken into account how the reception of this influence was inflected both by the legacy of Edwards and by the critical response that his theology elicited from Coleridge.
Matthew S. Adams
The work of Herbert Spencer was a crucial influence on the development of Peter Kropotkin’s historical sociology. However, scholars have underestimated this relationship; either overlooking it entirely, or minimizing Kropotkin’s attachment to Spencer with the aim of maintaining the utility of his political thought in the present. This article contests these interpretations by analyzing Kropotkin’s reading of Spencer’s epistemological, biological, and political ideas. It argues that Kropotkin was engaged in a critical dialogue with Spencer, incorporating many Spencerian principles in his own system, but also using this reading to articulate a distinctive anarchist politics.
This article addresses the role of asymmetry in the interaction between intellectual fields in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. By focusing on the spatial and temporal hierarchies implicit in the ways intellectuals from the Nordic countries perceived and made use of marginality and backwardness, the article brings a peripheral perspective to the discussion of transnational intellectual history. This is important as the discussion on transnational history tends to stress notions like reciprocity and hybridity, which reproduce the ideal of a borderless and equal republic of letters, and paints a too harmonious picture of global cultural space.
The sixth and final volume of J. G. A. Pocock’s Barbarism and Religion appeared in 2015; Wolin designates this work an exemplar of “total history” and of “philosophical historiography,” in Momigliano’s term. The symposium to follow—comprising this introduction by Richard Wolin, essays by Helena Rosenblatt, Jonathan Israel, and Pierre Force, and a concluding response by Pocock—constitutes one of the first critical examinations of Pocock’s late work, and arises out of a conference hosted at the CUNY Graduate Center in 2010.
In Barbarism and Religion, his six-volume work on the “Enlightenments” of Edward Gibbon, J. G. A. Pocock argues for a “family of enlightenments,” disputing accounts, particularly Venturi’s and Gay’s, of it as a unified phenomenon. This article asserts, however, that Pocock’s reconfiguration of different national contexts to emphasize the diversity of strands of the Enlightenment underestimates their commonality and the degree to which they fall into the recognizable currents of radical and moderate. Ultimately, Pocock’s attention to the ecclesiastical and theological dimensions of the Enlightenment undermines rather than supports his argument for its pluralism.
This article offers a critical discussion of Pocock’s analysis of the relationship between Gibbon and Voltaire, and particularly the extent to which Decline and Fall was inspired by Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs. It shows that “Momigliano’s hypothesis” about the divorce of philosophy and erudition and their reconciliation in Gibbon was initially a commentary by Momigliano on Voltaire’s historical work. It argues that the “Momiglianian model” plays a central role in Pocock’s argument in Barbarism and Religion. In that sense, understanding Gibbon’s highly ambiguous appraisal of Voltaire helps us understand the overall purpose of Decline and Fall.
Rosenblatt questions whether Pocock’s Barbarism and Religion, though enormously learned and rich, in fact accomplishes Pocock’s stated aims. In other words, does the context presented help to explain the intended meaning and significance of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall? She asks whether Pocock’s methodology, indebted to the Cambridge School, is consistent and serviceable and challenges his claim that Gibbon should be seen as a member of the “Protestant Enlightenment.”
July 2015 Vol. 76.3
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This article seeks to locate Vives’s work in the tradition of humanist thought that criticized the linguistic and philosophical abstraction of the scholastics. After discussing Vives’s views on language and knowledge as functions of man’s biological nature, the article argues that for Vives the topics, as seats of argumentation, are a reflection of the ontological order and as such an instrument and heuristic aid for the human mind. They form a grid through which knowledge can be acquired and arguments be formulated. The topics bridge the world of (unknown) essences and man’s epistemic categories.
In 1778, Vicesimus Knox declared his time the “Age of Information,” suggesting, in a fashion recognizable today, that the period had severed connections with prior ages. This paper examines Knox’s claim by exploring changes in conceptions of information across the eighteenth century. It notes in particular shifts in the concept’s personal and political implications, reflected in the different ways information is used from Locke at the beginning of the century to Godwin at the end, and manifest to some degree in Knox’s own political radicalisation.
In the early 1800s, two figures foundational to modern intellectual life, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Friedrich Schleiermacher, engaged in what they called a “quiet war,” stemming from Schelling’s famous lectures on the method of academic study and Schleiermacher’s reaction. This paper argues that their “quiet war” resulted in a powerful synthesis that transformed the German university model and German Protestant and Catholic university theology until the dawn of the twentieth century. Schleiermacher sharply criticized and then in essence adopted the program of Schelling’s lectures. Their disagreements masked deeper commonalities, which together contributed to theology’s historicization in the nineteenth century.
Histories of liberalism have neglected the existence of a distinctive Spanish liberalism. Influenced in part by British and French thinkers, Spanish liberals also sought to reconnect Spanish political thought with the tradition of the Scholastics. The resulting liberalism combined the two traditions, incorporating both individualist and communitarian features. This article exhibits this unique liberalism through an examination of Francisco Martínez Marina and the 1812 Constitution which he influenced. A proper understanding of this work is important both for developing a more comprehensive understanding of liberalism’s history and for its subsequent influence in Spain and Spanish America.
This article reconsiders Bentham’s theory of liberty in relation to republican and democratic ideas in the Age of Revolution. It reinterprets his jurisprudential definitions of liberty as ideological weapons intended to “cut the throat” of pro-American and proto-democratic discourse. In particular, his negative definition of individual liberty and his democratic and international definitions of political liberty were designed and used to caricature and draw to absurdity the republican ideal of self-government. The early Bentham, according to this interpretation, was a subversive critic of republicanism, who occupied its language of liberty and security while trying to neutralize its democratic potential.
In this paper, I explore the work of several positivists involved with the “Metaphysical Club” of Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early 1870s—Fiske, Wright, and Abbot. Like the logical positivists of the 1930s, these philosophers were forced to answer a key question: with so many of its traditional domains colonized by science and so many of its traditional questions dismissed as metaphysical or useless, what is left for philosophy to do? One answer they gave was that philosophy could unify the sciences. As Fiske put it, “positive philosophy is science organized.”
Although there has been much discussion of the reception of Hobbes’s work, Hobbes’s response to his own reception has rarely received much consideration. This article looks at Hobbes’s engagements with his critics. Far from being rearguard actions by a philosopher under siege, or disingenuous attempts to curry favour with those in power, they can be read as moments when Hobbes in fact sought to convert what he saw as the “truth of speculation into the utility of practice.”
January 2015 Vol. 76.1
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In this paper, I wish to present the first full-fledged investigation of Benedetto Varchi’s manuscript writings on psychology, which show the depth of his familiarity with philosophy and his originality as a thinker. In particular, I wish to show that Varchi was not an Averroist. Rather in the manuscript Varchi rejects Averroistic doctrines and seeks to reconcile Aristotelian psychology with the truth of religion. In so doing, Varchi appropriates Themistius’s interpretation of Aristotle through the filter of Marcantonio Zimara’s writings, which allows him to support the immortality and indivisibility of the human soul while safeguarding the doctrines of Christian faith.
This paper presents the scientific project of Descartes’s Meteors (1637) and integrates it in the development of Descartes’s thought. It assesses Descartes’s publication strategies and the reception of the essay, while drawing attention on its opposition to contemporary Aristotelian meteorology. I argue that Descartes is concerned in The Meteors with advancing an anti-qualitative physics on the basis of an ontological reduction of real accidents to modes. I then analyses Descartes’s nominalist critique of the late-scholastic notion of body from Replies VI, The World and Rule XIV.
While the Royal Society’s experimental and mathematical investigations of the 1660-90s opened up new areas of acoustical knowledge, these did not simply overturn older traditions of musical wisdom. Fellows continued to draw on stories of music’s power contained in Classical mythology and Ancient history, as well as more contemporary anecdotes. Considering how they used, evaluated, and interpreted these stories, this study reveals the interdependence of myth, anecdote, and scientific thought in the Royal Society’s musical investigations. Their blending of Humanism with empirical philosophy proved a productive site for developing new conceptions of musical creativity and purpose.
Since his first writings, C. S. Peirce defended an unpsychological approach to logic. His authority was J. F. Herbart, who in his Lehrbuch zur Einleitung in die Philosophie had affirmed that “in logic it is necessary to ignore everything that is psychological.” This would become a standard reference for Peirce’s philosophy of logic. Moreover, it was from Herbart’s conception of apperception that Peirce inherited the “synechistic” law of mind first exposed in 1892. This paper explores Peirce’s lifelong “Herbartian” antipsychologism, reviews Herbart’s notion of apperception and indicates its significance for Peirce’s law of mind.
Stephanie L. Schatz
This essay reads Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) alongside influential mid-century Victorian psychology studies—paying special attention to those that Carroll owned—in order to trace the divergence of Carroll’s literary representations of the “dream child” from its prevailing medical association with mental illness. The goals of this study are threefold: to trace the medico-historical links between dream-states and childhood, to investigate the medical reasons behind the pathologization of dream-states, and to understand how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland contributed to Victorian interpretations of the child’s mind.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1860 essay “Fate” has long been recognised as one of his most important essays. This paper is the first to examine the significance for Emerson of his reading of F. W. J. Shelling’s “Inquiry into the Nature of Human Freedom” using the unpublished manuscript of James Elliot Cabot’s translation of Schelling from the 1840s (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe). I locate Emerson’s reading of the MS against the backdrop of his own intellectual development as recorded in his journals from 1822 to 1859, working out in what ways Schelling’s work influenced and supported his ever changing conception of fate.
Gabriel Alejandro Torres Colon, Charles A. Hobbs
This article argues that John Dewey, influenced by Franz Boas and early American anthropology, made the first attempt to understand nature from a modern anthropological perspective. We first explain how Boas helped develop the culture concept, which played a key role in the development Dewey’s own understanding of experience. In support of our interpretation of Dewey’s anthropology of nature, we conclude with some consideration of how Dewey’s anthropological philosophy served as an inspiration for anthropologists Ruth Benedict, Gene Weltfish, Alexander Lesser, and Leslie White.
April 2014 Vol. 75.2
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The Divine as Inaccessible Object of Knowledge in Ancient Platonism: A Common Philosophical Pattern Across Religious Traditions
The divine is an inaccessible object of human knowledge and reasoning according to some philosophers–theologians of the first four centuries CE. They display a refined cognitive approach to religion and a sophisticated treatment of the problem of “theo-logy”: reasoning and speaking about the divine, which nevertheless is unknowable and ineffable. They belong to the same philosophical tradition, Platonism, but to different religious traditions: Philo to Judaism, Plotinus to “paganism” and Origen and Gregory of Nyssa to Christianity. But their reflections on the divine as an impossible cognitive object for humans are homogeneous, and this, the essay argues, mainly on account of their common philosophical tradition, which provides them with a shared epistemological and ontological pattern. They show a tension between a declared apophaticism and a discourse about the divine that they do not renounce developing.
Definition, Division, And Difference In Machiavelli's Political Philosophy
This article aims to illuminate one of the most striking characteristics of Machiavelli’s intellectual style—deployed repeatedly in his political theory and usually termed his “dilemmatic” approach—by demonstrating that it is a technique derived from classical Roman rhetoric which forms part of a wider theory of definition. Part I of the article extracts and outlines that theory, showing how it advocates a way of dividing and differentiating items in order to define them. Part II illustrates Machiavelli’s deep dependency on this theoretical apparatus throughout his political thought, perhaps most conspicuously of all in Il Principe.
Searcher Of Hearts: Cesare Baronio's History Of Conversion
Peter A. Mazur
The conversion of Henry IV of France to Catholicism provoked a debate in the Roman curia over the status of converts that was finally resolved through a re-reading of the history of the Church by one of its most well-known scholars, Cesare Baronio. Though often viewed as a political maneuver, Baronio’s argument for clemency towards heretics was in fact part of a larger shift in policy towards Protestants in Italy that was subsequently promoted by a proxy, the ex-Calvinist Justus Baronius, who publicized his own conversion and reception in the Roman curia in a collection of letters.
Leibniz, The Encyclopedia, And The Natural Order Of Thinking
This article investigates some of the didactic aspects of Leibniz’s encyclopedic project by asking how it could contribute to the development of a new intellectual ethos. Most commentators acknowledge that the encyclopedia was intimately linked to educational concerns. But they do not take sufficiently into account the implications this has for the concrete exposition of the encyclopedia, but subordinate the didactic aspect to the demonstrative one. I argue how the encyclopedic order was not just demonstrative, but also conceived so as to facilitate learning and stimulate further research by helping intellectuals acquire good scientific habits.
John Jamieson, Franz Passow, And The Double Invention Of Lexicography On Historical Principles
This article argues that the historical principles which guide most major scholarly dictionaries today were invented independently by two nineteenth-century scholars, John Jamieson of Edinburgh in 1802 and Franz Passow of Danzig in 1812. It suggests how both Jamieson and Passow may have based their lexicographical innovations on contemporary developments in (i) literary and cultural history and (ii) geology, palaeontology, and biology, and proposes that this accounts both for the near-simultaneity of their innovations and for their remarkably modest attitudes towards them.
Eve And Evolution: Christian Responses To The First Woman Question, 1860-1900
Diarmid A. Finnegan
Historians of encounters between evolutionary science and Christianity have long been aware of the significance placed upon debates about the applicability of evolution to Adam. It has not been widely noticed, however, that in more conservative circles the creation of Eve was frequently thought to be a more difficult problem to solve. This essay examines how, in distinctive ways, the creation of Eve became a point of contention among three communities of conservative Christian thinkers grappling with the implications of evolutionary theory in the period 1860-1900.
"Vertical Perspective Does Not Exist": The Scandal Of Converging Verticals And The Final Crisis Of Perspectiva Artificialis
In this paper I address the question of why the everyday experience of seeing verticals converge remained taboo in Western visual culture until the late nineteenth century and in painting until the 1920s. I argue that perspective theory was fused to a pre-Copernican, architectural model of space and a static model of vision based on Enlightenment optics rather than physiology. The dynamism of modernity and technologies of embodied vision such as the stereoscope exposed the covert assumptions of perspective orthodoxy. Efforts to rescue three-point perspective by invoking the station-point for viewing risked exposing perspective painting as just another peepshow art.