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02 Apr

Pettit: ‘A Theory Of Freedom’ in Spain

In 1997, Professor Pettit published a book called Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom. In it, he declares that “the traditional, republican ideal of freedom” – drawing on thinkers going back to Cicero, Machiavelli, the writers of the English Revolution and “many theorists of republic and commonwealth in 18th-century England and America and France” – could still provide “an exciting way of rethinking democratic institutions”.

At its heart is the notion of “freedom as non-domination”. Since liberals see freedom in largely negative terms, as “absence of interference”, writes Professor Pettit, that makes them “tolerant of relationships in the home, in the workplace, in the electorate and elsewhere, that the republican must denounce as paradigms of domination and unfreedom”. It is time to return to the much more demanding republican conception of freedom, he argues.

Republicanism is a clear and accessible book, but Professor Pettit saw little prospect of it changing the world. He had reckoned without the interest of Spanish opposition leader José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who had read the book in Spanish translation and announced in 2000 that if he ever came to power, he would use it as the basis for his legislative programme.

From Times Higher Education (23 Jan 2011), “Spanish statecraft, the scholarly way” by Matthew Reisz.

02 Apr

(E-Book) Journeys of Janus: Explorations in Irish Philosophy

Journeys of Janus:Explorations in Irish Philosophy

A book by Leonard O’Brian exploring the work of five Irish philosophers.

Contents

  • Prologue
  • John Scottus Eriugena
  • John Toland
  • George Berkeley
  • Francis Hutcheson
  • Iris Murdoch
  • Epilogue
31 Mar

Festival Time

The festival is nothing new. Neither old nor new it is elemental. […] One thinks of the harvest festival blessing the year’s yield and completeness, of Easter transfiguring the sacramental earth with jubilating, spring shouts of renewal. […]

In the modern rationalisation of time the weekend gets its instrumental justification from the workweek; working time possesses the primacy. In the festival, by contrast, we experience time as other. Festival time does not simply borrow its meaning from worktime. […] For modernity, efficient work, aided by powerful technology, is the primary transformer of nature. With the festival, however, nature and the human are transformed in a different way such that everyday work becomes a secondary mode of transformation. The original power of being itself is festal.

William Desmond, Philosophy and Its Others: Ways of Being and Mind (pp. 301-2)

30 Mar

Women, in whatever country ye breathe

Women, in whatever country ye breathe – wherever ye breathe, degraded, awake! Awake to the contemplation of the happiness that awaits you when all your faculties of mind and body shall be fully cultivated and developed; when every path in which ye can exercise those improved faculties shall be laid open and rendered delightful to you, even as to them who now ignorantly enslave and degrade you.

William Thompson and Anna Doyle Wheeler, Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery, 1825 (extract available)

30 Mar

Molyneux’s Problem

Molyneux’s Problem (and Locke’s comment on it) Youtube 3:11

For more information see the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

Alternatively try this readable account by an optician.

28 Mar

Evil, Ethics, and the Imagination

 

I would also argue that the poetical imagination in art is one that opens up an ethical sensitivity in us. It opens us to other ways of thinking, living, and being. Here I am, an Irishman in Boston in 2012 reading Anna Karenina, for example, and suddenly I’m a woman in nineteenth-century Russia, and I’m committing suicide. That’s what imagination can do. The artistic imagination can, as King Lear says, expose oneself to “feel what wretches feel.” And that vicarious literary imagining, it seems to me, is already protoethical in that it’s opening us up to acts of sympathy, to living as others lived, and to living as if we were them. And that’s an ethical sensitivity that I think can help us to live better.

Of course, there are misuses of imagination as well. We can go the other way and close ourselves off from others, and then it can become voyeuristic, egotistical. It can generate a kind of narcissism that feeds upon itself, and then we believe, as the serpent says to Adam and Eve, that we shall be as gods, that is, sufficient unto ourselves (see Gen. 3:4). It seems to me that the imagination that thinks it is sufficient unto itself and has no other beyond, no vis-à-vis outside of itself, is on an unethical path.

Richard Kearney on the uses and abuses of imagination.

27 Mar

Hypatia

[Hypatia], he educated not only in all the qualifications belonging to her sex; but caused her likewise to be instructed in the most abstruse sciences, which are reputed the proper occupation of men, as requiring too much labor and application for the delicate constitution of women.
[…]
That this notion is a vulgar prejudice, the vast number of ladies who have in every age distinguished themselves by their professions or performances in learning, furnishes an unanswerable argument. Whole volumes have been written containing nothing else but the lives of such women, as became eminent in all kinds of Literature, especially in Philosophy; which, as it is the highest perfection, so it demands the utmost effort of human nature.

But leaving these heroines to the search of the curious, I shall confine myself at present to one object worthy all admiration; in doing justice to whom I may be deemed to write the panegyric of the whole sex.

John Toland arguing for female education in “Hypatia”

27 Mar

Irish Intellectual Thought

Imperial history is taken as a standard for all national history, as if nations that have been the target of invasion, conquest, and colonisation cannot have histories appropriate to themselves — histories that tell a story of disruption, displacement, and discontinuity. […]
There is, of course, such a thing as Irish intellectual thought but it can’t be characterized in imperially nationalistic terms.

From the Preface of A History of Irish Thought, Thomas Duddy. via @judystout1

17 Mar

Borges on Irish Philosophy

Borges

110 Borges [warholized]
(c) Gisela Giardino/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I was intrigued by these quotes from Jorge-Luis Borges in Richard Kearney’s Post-Nationalist Ireland.

My father introduced me to Berkeley’s philosophy at the age of ten. Before I was even able to read or write properly he taught me to think. He was a professor of psychology and every day after dinner he would give me a philosophy lesson. I remember very well how he first introduced me to Berkeley’s idealist metaphysics and particularly his doctrine that the material or empirical world is an invention of the creative mind: to be is to be perceived/esse est percipi. It was one day after a good lunch when my father took an orange in his hand and asked me: ‘What colour is this fruit?’ ‘Orange’, I replied. ‘Is this colour in the orange or in your perception of it?’ he continued: ‘And
the taste of the sweetness—is that in the orange itself or is it the sensation on your tongue that makes it sweet?’ This was a revelation to me: that the outside world is as we perceive or imagine it to be. It does not exist independently of our minds. From that day forth, I realised that reality and fiction were betrothed to each other, that even our ideas
are creative fictions.

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17 Mar

We Irish think otherwise: The Golden Age of Irish Philosophy

Berkeley and his Entourage, by John Smibert Wikimedia, Public Domain

Berkeley and his Entourage, by John Smibert
Wikimedia, Public Domain

Here is a brief sketch of the philosophical struggle that went on in Ireland over the ideas of the Enlightenment. It is based heavily on part II of David Berman’s Berkeley and Irish Philosophy. (“We Irish think otherwise” is a quote from Berkeley. All links in text are Wiki).

The signing of the Treaty of Limerick had marked the final defeat of the old Irish landowning classes. It also marked the end of wars that since 1642 had seen thousands killed, exiled and dispossessed.

Despite the turmoil, Ireland was not isolated from new ideas from Britain and Europe. William Molyneaux, a natural philosopher and founder of the Dublin Philosophical Society (1683) had given his name to Molyneaux’s Problem in his friend Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Another interested in the new ideas was Robert Molesworth, a Whig, a follower of Lord Shaftsbury. Graduates from Trinity mingled with those from Oxford on the Dublin streets.

John Toland published Christianity Not Mysterious in 1696. Much as Augustinus Hibernicus before him had brought Augustine’s thought to a logical conclusion, Toland did the same with the ideas in Locke’s Essay. He argued that only intelligible ideas could be believed. There could be no religious mysteries, such ideas would have to be nonsense.

This position had both religious and political implications, potentially undermining faiths and the basis of the Penal Laws. Toland arrived in Dublin to hear himself and his book denounced from the pulpit. His book was condemned by the Irish government and he left the country to avoid arrest.

Philosophically, though, Toland’s contention needed an answer. In their efforts to create one the Irish Counter Enlightenment also used the ideas of Locke, and thereby triggered a philosophical programme which saw developments in epistemology, aesthetics, religion, ethics and language.
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