Posted in Philip Pettit

NewBooksInPhilosophy: Philip Pettit, “On The People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy”

At New Books in Philosophy, Robert Talisse interviews Philip Pettit on his latest book “On The People’s Terms: A Republican Theory and Model of Democracy”. Audio (1:11)

Posted in Jonathan Swift

Swift and the Postboy

Swift and the PostboyFrom the British Library, dated 3 February 1806. A ( probably apocryphal) tale of cheek rewarded!

The picture shows the postboy dressed in Swift’s dressing gown seated in Swift’s chair, as Swift bows to him. The text below the picture says:

A Gentleman employed a Post Boy to carry a present of a Turbot to Dean Swift, who seldom gave the bringer any thing for his Trouble, the Boy knowing this delivered it in an awkward & careless manner which discomposed the Doctor, who thereupon determined to teach him good Manners: “sit down in my Chair” said he “and suppose yourself to be the Dean and I will represent you” – on which the Dean delivered the Turbot and Message with great Politeness, – “well done” said the Boy “you are a very civil Fellow, here is five shillings for you and pray give my Compliments to your Master” – the Dean took the Hint, smil’d at the Joke, and rewarded him with half a Guinea.

 

Posted in Edmund Burke

If Laws Are Their Enemies, They Will Be Enemies to Laws

Surely the state of Ireland ought for ever to teach parties moderation in their victories. People crushed by law have no hopes but for power. If laws are their enemies, they will be enemies to laws; and those who have much hope and nothing to lose will always be dangerous more or less.

Edmund Burke, Letter to Charles Fox, 8 Oct. 1777 (Corr., II, 387.), twenty-one years before 1798.

Posted in Daniel O'Connell

A Giant Among Men: Daniel O’Connell’s philosophical influences

 Alarmed at the progress of a Giant of their own Creation
Alarmed at the progress of a Giant of their own Creation.
© National Portrait Gallery, London (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The satirical picture above (1831) from the National Portrait Gallery London depicts Daniel O’Connell approaching the Irish Channel, with Anglesey (Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) and Stanley (Chief Secretary of Ireland) attempting to restrain him by a large document headed PROCLAMATION. O’Connell holds a paper on which is written “Repeal of the Union”, in his other hand a paper bearing “Agitation within the letter of the law”.The implication is that O’Connell “is a monster produced by human machinations” (more details available from the British Museum).

Depicting O’Connell as Frankenstein’s Monster is appropriate, philosophically speaking: the DoIP notes that in his early life O’Connell had been “receptive to the leading radical philosophies of the day, including the revolutionary humanism and egalitarianism of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft” (p. 255).  These two philosophers were, of course, the parents of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein.

Godwin’s Political Justice greatly influenced the young O’Connell regarding the nature and purpose of government. Godwin confirmed O’Connell’s abhorrence of political violence. O’Connell came to see the end of government as the happiness of the many, and since everyone was governed, everyone should participate in governing. O’Connell’s political path was set during his law training in Dublin and London from 1794-7: “in the spring of 1797 he was already a democrat in politics and a Deist in religion” (Thomas E. Hachey, Lawrence J. McCaffrey (eds) Perspectives On Irish Nationalism, University Press of Kentuckyp. 105.)

O’Connell had been converted to Deism by his reading of Paine’s Age of Reason. He rejected it after a decade as a “miserable philosophy” and returned to Catholicism. He remained radical however, seeking Catholic Emancipation from the Penal Laws (successfully, in 1829), and then repeal of the 1801 Act of Union. He insisted however that “no political change whatsoever is worth the shedding of a single drop of human blood”.

Continue reading “A Giant Among Men: Daniel O’Connell’s philosophical influences”

Posted in Samuel Beckett

Beckett the Nietzschean Hedonist

[Beckett] deftly suppressed his philosophical reading in public statements. We don’t know why. According to David Addyman and Matthew Feldman between 1930 and 1938 he wrote 266 Folios of five hundred sides of variously typed and handwritten recto and verso notebook pages on philosophy taken from four sources. […] For this reason it is not unlikely that Beckett was not always sketching a generalized philosophical theme but had a specific one in mind.

Thomas Dilworth and Christopher Langlois think so. They propose that when Hamm remembers visiting a ‘madman’ in some anomalous visit, a recollection occurring halfway through ‘Endgame’ that draws attention to both memory and its defaults as well as the strategic location of the occurrence in the text as a whole, the ‘madman’ is to be identified as Nietzsche. […]

They conclude that, as with allusions to Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ in the characters Pozzo and Lucky of ‘Godot’, Beckett ‘… is repeating the strategy of referring through dramatized imagery to a famous philosophical text in order to emphasise a pervasive theme in the play’. Jean-Michel Rabaté notes that Beckett’s relationship to philosophy is purposively playful. At times it works as shorthand, a gesture towards some idea that may or may not be a central concern, at other times it illustrates some more general feature, such as the structure of dramatic reality in the use of the sorites found also in ‘Endgame’.

Was Beckett a philosopher? (He is not in The IP Bible). Richard Marshall in 3:AM Magazine outlines parallels between Nietzsche and Beckett. In this extract he argues that Beckett systematically uses philosophy in his work.

Posted in Books General

Book: Dictionary of Irish Philosophers

Dictionary of Irish Philosophers

About (via Bloomsbury Publishing)

Since 1999 Thoemmes Press (now Thoemmes Continuum) has been engaged in a large-scale programme of biographical dictionaries of philosophy and related subjects. This volume on Irish philosophers follows the standard format of arranging entries alphabetically by thinker.
It includes two forms of entry: (1) entries reproduced from previous editions of Thoemmes encyclopedias of British philosophy and (2) wholly new entries on early (renaissance-period) and  modern (20th century) philosophers, together with some new entries on the intervening centuries.

My new bible! The hardback is going for £175, but I got a copy of the paperback secondhand for $14 including shipping (as of May 2013).

The book includes an introductory overview which summarises the history of Irish philosophy from the Irish Augustine up to the 21st century. It also explains the logic behind the inclusions. The idea for the dictionary in the first place stemmed from the difficulty surrounding the Irish entries in the British dictionaries. Thomas Duddy outlines the debate that went on regarding this Irish Dictionary, in which differing definitions of “Irish” clashed, he feeling birth in Ireland was a necessary criterion, another consulting editor M. A. Stewart feeling birth in Ireland was neither necessary (what of those born abroad who had their career in Ireland?) nor sufficient (someone born in Ireland but who had no connection thereafter). Thus the selection of entries involved compromise and excluded several philosophers with more tenuous connections.

 As with the Thoemmes Encyclopedias an inclusive definition of philosopher, including writers on philosophical subjects whose contribution was small, plus celebrated figures from other domains such as literature, science or mathematics, who had made philosophical contributions.

There are entries on “over 180 philosophers”, with no entries on any living person. The selection includes all the well-known names, medieval philosophers, forgotten scholastics and academics. Where works by the subject have been published a bibliography is included, along with further reading.

Posted in George Berkeley

Oxford University General Philosophy: Berkeley and Locke, Problems with Resemblance

One of a series of lectures on General Philosophy delivered by Peter Millican to first-year philosophy students at the University of Oxford. This section (6.2) explores Berkeley’s and Locke’s arguments concerning the resemblance of qualities and objects; that the perceived qualities of objects exist only in the mind or whether secondary qualities are intrinsically part of the object.

Source: Oxford University

Posted in George Berkeley

What you see is what you get

This, too, is a feature of Irish thought. A nervousness of abstraction underlies the conservative politics of Berkeley, Swift and Burke, leading them to belabour impious rationalists and idle utopianists. It is not surprising that Burke, with his passion for the particular, should have produced one of the first great works of aesthetics in these islands. It fitted well with his hatred of revolutionary rationalism across the Channel. It may seem odd to say that Berkeley was wary of abstractions when he produced such a wildly speculative doctrine as esse est percipi, but the truth is that he thought it no more than common sense. It was, he thought, what the man in the street believed too. The common people were not metaphysically inclined, and so did not subscribe to the notion that there was some mysterious ‘substance’ that supposedly underlay our sensory impressions of things. For them as for Berkeley himself, what you see is what you get.

From “What you see is what you get” in the LRB, Terry Eagleton’s review of “The Correspondence of George Berkeley”, edited by Marc Hight (subscription required).

The piece is 90% Eagleton on Irish thought, and 10% the volume being reviewed, but none the worse for that.

Posted in Edmund Burke

Yale: Moral Foundations of Politics: Edmund Burke

Yale: Moral Foundations of Politics (PLSC 118) Edmund Burke

This 48 minute lecture looks at Edmund Burke’s political thought, which as Professor Ian Shapiro points out, was more revolutionary in its time than Marx in his.

This lecture is part of the Open Yale Course PLSC 118: The Moral Foundations of Politics. Also see the version of the course on Coursera.

Posted in William Desmond

Singing Life

Singing is an event of the highest interest. Compare a singing being with something inanimate. The wind blows around a bush and makes a whir or low burr, but neither the wind or bush properly sings. But a bird chirps, a thrush sings out again and again a line of lush notes, and we sense a presence there that was not manifest before. Something is coming awake in singing life. “

William Desmond (1990) Philosophy and Its Others: Ways of Being and Mind, p. 269