Current Issue Article Abstracts
Volume 79, Number 3, July 2018
The importance of Origen of Alexandria’s legacy for Giovanni Pico della Mirandola has been widely debated for its role in Pico’s trial, its possible reverberations on the entire “Apology,” and its assonance with the Pichian idea of the dignity of man. This article aims instead to show the substantial role of Origen in shaping the Pichian construction of the Christian Kabbalah’s tradition. This scrutiny, by clarifying the extent of the Origenian influence as well as Pico’s rhetorial strategies, helps to put the Pichian idea of the freedom of man in a new framework.
This article argues that Kant’s early metaphysics (1755–1764) remains unscathed by the arguments found in the 1766 work, Dreams of a Spirit-Seer. I expose the errors of the standard approaches to Dreams, which take the text to be either entirely opposed to metaphysics or at least critical of all present forms of metaphysics, Kant’s own early work included. Through a close reading of the text of Dreams, I show that Kant’s early metaphysics remains the standard of how metaphysics should be done, how it avoids any commitment to immaterial spirits, and what some of its actual conclusions are.
This paper situates Carl Hempel’s 1942 paper “The Function of General Laws in History” within a broader debate over the philosophy of history in American academia between 1935 and 1943. I argue that Hempel’s paper was directed against German neo-Kantianism, and show how the German debate over historiography continued between 1939 and 1943 in the context of New York through the contributions of German philosophers who operated in the same intellectual network as Hempel, namely Paul Oskar Kristeller and Edgar Zilsel. Whereas this debate still witnessed many different philosophical approaches, Hempel’s logico-analytic methodology would come to dominate analytic philosophy of history.
This essay explores the early Catholic response to the concept of human rights. It is widely assumed that the Catholic Church opposed human rights talk in the wake of the French Revolution, and only slowly came around to accepting it in the twentieth century. However, a more systematic analysis of Pius VI’s stance toward the French Revolution reveals that he approved of human rights, but had a more Thomistic understanding of them than what was found in the French Declaration. The Vatican’s embrace of human rights in the 1930s should accordingly be seen as a continuity of more long-standing practices.
How Christian conceptions of human rights became associated with anti-racism is the subject of this article. Protestants rooted human rights in a philosophical doctrine called “personalism,” whose language of “dignity,” the “human family,” and the “human person” was first developed in the Methodist-run philosophy department at Boston University at the turn of the century. Personalism, evoked in interwar discussions of racism and colonialism, transformed into the political language of human rights during World War II, a moment when Protestant intellectuals were seeking to defend liberal freedoms.
This article provides a rejoinder to recent historical accounts which trace the origins of international human rights to the work of conservative Christians writing in the 1930s and 1940s. Focusing on the French Catholics usually identified as the architects of Christian human rights theory, I argue that this was neither a unified project, nor an unambiguously conservative one. Instead, I stress the political ambivalence of Christian human rights discourse—the way it defied distinctions between right and left, or liberal and conservative.
This essay explores the transformation of Catholic thinking about the right to religious freedom. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century, Catholics vehemently opposed this right (Pope Gregory XVI called it “absurd and erroneous”). Church leaders claimed that in order to protect Catholic Church teachings on marriage, education, and worship, states had to enshrine them in law, even if that meant severely limiting the rights of Protestants, Jews, and others. The 1950s and 1960s, however, witnessed a sea change, as a growing chorus of thinkers and theologians called on Catholics to embrace a pluralist and tolerant attitude.
pp. 481 - 495
This essay explores the intellectual origins of Edith Stein’s canonization. In the years of the early Cold War, when Christians on both sides of the Atlantic proclaimed “Judeo-Christian civilization” to be the greatest bulwark against totalitarianism in both its Nazi and Soviet guises, Stein became a powerful anti-totalitarian symbol. During the 1980s, a new Pope, John Paul II, revived the memory of Stein and linked it to his own rich understanding of Judeo-Christian civilization as a set of values opposed to both Nazism and Communism. Thus, Edith Stein became an icon of anti-totalitarianism in an age of Holocaust memory.