Current Issue Article Abstracts
October 2017 Vol. 78.4
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The fact that nonhuman animals share the power of communication, plus the likelihood that some share our capacity for ideation, demands reevaluation of why human ideas matter, and especially whether they adequately convey a sense of our place within the rest of nature. Nonhuman beings and phenomena may be intrinsically unhuman, but are not necessarily less important than us. Analysis of this difference-as-significance is an ongoing problem of the Anthropocene. This essay focuses on Arthur Lovejoy’s Great Chain of Being and Edmund Burke’s concept of the sublime, describing alternative ways of situating humans in relation to the nonhuman.
The De pietate Aristotelis erga Deum et homines (1645) by Fortunio Liceti is a one-of-a-kind text. In this book Liceti claimed that Aristotle converted to Judaism, and that he never contradicted the Scriptures in his writings. At a time when competing philosophical and scientific schools put Aristotle at odds with faith, restoring his reputation from a religious point of view could be seen as key to safeguarding Peripateticism. Nonetheless Liceti composed his work not to polemicize with anti-Aristotelians, but rather with fellow Aristotelians who were not sufficiently committed to defending his stature.
Richard Ligon’s True and Exact History of Barbados has been recognized as a major source of information on the emergence of planter society and slavery in the English Caribbean. Curiously, however, the centrality of the text’s discussion of business has been overlooked. Yet Ligon presents the History as a how-to manual on building and managing a sugar fortune. In doing so, Ligon self-consciously connects his work to Baconian ideas of improvement and useful knowledge to legitimize the position of the planters over others, and lend respectability to commercial accumulation.
When we read the Origin, we cannot help but hear echoes of the Wealth of Nations. Darwin’s “economy of nature” features a “division of labour” that leads to complexity and productivity. We should not, however, analyze Darwin’s ethics through this lens. Darwin did not draw his economic ideas from Smith, nor did he base his ethics on an economic foundation. Darwin’s ethics rest on Smith’s notion from the Theory of Moral Sentiments of an innate human faculty of sympathy. Darwin gave this faculty an evolutionary interpretation and built on this foundation an ethics far removed from what is commonly supposed.
Historians of sexuality credit marital advice with disseminating a modern discourse of the sexual, as developed by sexologists who understood sex as normal or abnormal. Marie Stopes did not reproduce their findings but drew on the methods of biometricians in attempting to normalize the natural. Thinking about Stopes’s methods in discerning a naturally occurring curve of normal female sex-impulses in relation to Havelock Ellis points to constraints in his production of the normal. The article traces the impact of Stopes’s attempt to measure desire by analyzing letters from her readers who became partners in the great scientific project of normalization.
This article reconstructs Leo Strauss’s reading of Rousseau’s Epicureanism to argue that his work is unified by an abiding concern with the problem of theory and practice. Strauss sought to clarify the distinction between theory and practice he considered a fundamental precondition of any properly philosophical reflection on political life, and he explained the pernicious obscuring of that distinction through a narrative tracing the modern modifications of classical Epicureanism. Strauss’s critical history of modern political thought is thus part of his attempt to restore the classical distinction between theory and practice to the status of a philosophical problem in modernity.
A review essay of recent literature in the field of Warburg studies.