This March, De Gruyter published Religion and Public Reason: A Comparison of the Positions of John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas and Paul Ricoeur by Maureen Junker-Kenny (Trinity College, Dublin). The publisher’s description follows.
This book compares three approaches to public reason and to the public space accorded to religions: the liberal platform of an overlapping consensus proposed by John Rawls, Jürgen Habermas’s discourse ethical reformulation of Kant’s universalism and its realization in the public sphere, and the co-founding role which Paul Ricoeur attributes to the particular traditions that have shaped their cultures and the convictions of citizens.
The premises of their positions are analysed under four aspects: (1) the normative framework which determines the specific function of public reason; (2) their anthropologies and theories of action; (3) the dimensions of social life and its concretization in a democratic political framework; (4) the different views of religion that follow from these factors, including their understanding of the status of metaphysical and religious truth claims, and the role of religion as a practice and conviction in a pluralist society. Recent receptions and critiques in English and German are brought into conversation: philosophers and theologians discuss the scope of public reason, and the task of translation from faith traditions, as well as the role they might have in the diversity of world cultures for shaping a shared cosmopolitan horizon.
This month, Oxford University Press published The Morality of Defensive War edited by Cécile Fabre (Lincoln College, Oxford) and Seth Lazar (Australian National University). The publisher’s description follows.
Most of us take it for granted that wars in defence of one’s political community are the quintessential just wars. Indeed, while in recent years philosophers have subjected all of our other assumptions about just war theory to radical revision, this principle has emerged largely unscathed.
But what underpins the morality of defensive war? In this book, leading moral and political philosophers both show the profoundly challenging nature of that question, and advance novel answers to it. The first part exposes the deep tension between the individualist foundations of much contemporary philosophy and plausible conclusions about the morality of defensive war. The second part offers an individualist attempt to resolve that tension, while the third seeks to justify defensive war by appeal to more collectivist values.
This month, Lexington Books will publish God, Locke, and Liberty: The Struggle for Religious Freedom in the West, by Joseph Loconte (The King’s College). The publisher’s description follows:
“I no sooner perceived myself in the world,” wrote English philosopher John Locke, “than I found myself in a storm.” The storm of which Locke spoke was the maelstrom of religious fanaticism and intolerance that was tearing apart the social fabric of European society. His response was A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), arguably the most important defense of religious freedom in the Western tradition. In God, Locke, and Liberty: The Struggle for Religious Freedom in the West, historian Joseph Loconte offers a groundbreaking study of Locke’s Letter, challenging the notion that decisive arguments for freedom of conscience appeared only after the onset of the secular Enlightenment. Loconte argues that Locke’s vision of a tolerant and pluralistic society was based on a radical reinterpretation of the life and teachings of Jesus. In this, Locke drew great strength from an earlier religious reform movement, namely, the Christian humanist tradition. Like no thinker before him, Locke forged an alliance between liberal political theory and a gospel of divine mercy. God, Locke, and Liberty suggests how a better understanding of Locke’s political theology could calm the storms of religious violence that once again threaten international peace and security.
This March, The Catholic University of America Press will publish Liberty and Law: The Idea of Permissive Natural Law, 1100-1800 by Brian Tierney (Cornell University). The publisher’s description follows.
Liberty and Law examines a previously underappreciated theme in legal history – the idea of permissive natural law. The idea is mentioned only peripherally, if at all, in modern histories of natural law. Yet it engaged the attention of jurists, philosophers, and theologians over a long period and formed an integral part of their teachings. This ensured that natural law was not conceived of as merely a set of commands and prohibitions that restricted human conduct, but also as affirming a realm of human freedom, understood as both freedom from subjection and freedom of choice. Freedom can be used in many ways, and throughout the whole period from 1100 to 1800 the idea of permissive natural law was deployed for various purposes in response to different problems that arose. It was frequently invoked to explain the origin of private property and the beginnings of civil government.
Several kinds of permissive natural law were identified. Permission could be positive or negative, depending on whether it was specifically conceded by a legislator or only tacitly allowed. It could free from sin or merely remit some temporal punishment that was due. It could commend some conduct without commanding it or permit some evil without condoning it. Medieval canonists used the concept of permissive natural law to harmonize the discordant texts that they found in their sources; William of Ockham found it a powerful tool in his defense of Franciscan poverty against papal criticisms; for Richard Hooker it justified both the constitutional structure and the ritual practices of the Anglican church; John Selden used it to uphold the inviolability of contracts, most importantly the contract of government; Hugo Grotius made it a central theme in his treatment of the conduct permissible in waging war; in the eighteenth century Jean Barbeyrac and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui associated the idea with the emerging doctrine of natural rights. In Liberty and Law, Tierney has presented us with a magisterial and provocative way of interpreting legal history.
This month, Ashgate published Visions of Peace: Asia and the West edited by Takashi Shogimen (University of Otago) and Vicki A. Spencer (University of Otago). The publisher’s description follows.
Visions of Peace: Asia and the West explores the diversity of past conceptualizations as well as the remarkable continuity in the hope for peace across global intellectual traditions. Current literature, prompted by September 11, predominantly focuses on the laws and ethics of just wars or modern ideals of peace. Asian and Western ideals of peace before the modern era have largely escaped scholarly attention. This book examines Western and Asian visions of peace that existed prior to c.1800 by bringing together experts from a variety of intellectual traditions.
The historical survey ranges from ancient Greek thought, early Christianity and medieval scholasticism to Hinduism, classical Confucianism and Tokuguwa Japanese learning, before illuminating unfamiliar aspects of peace visions in the European Enlightenment. Each chapter offers a particular case study and attempts to rehabilitate a ‘forgotten’ conception of peace and reclaim its contemporary relevance. Collectively they provide the conceptual resources to inspire more creative thinking towards a new vision of peace in the present. Students and specialists in international relations, peace studies, history, political theory, philosophy, and religious studies will find this book a valuable resource on diverse conceptions of peace.
On January 9, Oxford University Press published Spinoza on Philosophy, Religion, and Politics: The Theologico-Political Treatise by Susan James (Birkbeck College). The publisher’s description follows.
Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise is simultaneously a work of philosophy and a piece of practical politics. It defends religious pluralism, a republican form of political organisation, and the freedom to philosophise, with a determination that is extremely rare in seventeenth-century thought. But it is also a fierce and polemical intervention in a series of Dutch disputes over issues about which Spinoza and his opponents cared very deeply.
Susan James makes the arguments of the Treatise accessible, and their motivations plain, by setting them in their historical and philosophical context. She identifies the interlocking theological, hermeneutic, historical, philosophical, and political positions to which Spinoza was responding, shows who he aimed to discredit, and reveals what he intended to achieve. The immediate goal of the Treatise is, she establishes, a local one. Spinoza is trying to persuade his fellow citizens that it is vital to uphold and foster conditions in which they can cultivate their capacity to live rationally, free from the political manifestations and corrosive psychological effects of superstitious fear. At the same time, however, his radical argument is designed for a broader audience. Appealing to the universal philosophical principles that he develops in greater detail in his Ethics, and drawing on the resources of imagination to make them forceful and compelling, Spinoza speaks to the inhabitants of all societies, including our own. Only in certain political circumstances is it possible to philosophise, and learn to live wisely and well.
Next month, Oxford will publish The Oxford Handbook of Christianity and Economics, edited by Paul Oslington (Australian Catholic University). The publisher’s description follows.
Many important contemporary debates cross economics and religion, in turn raising questions about the relationship between the two fields. This book, edited by a leader in the new interdisciplinary field of economics and religion and with contributions by experts on different aspects of the relationship between economics and Christianity, maps the current state of scholarship and points to new directions for the field. It covers the history of the relationship between economics and Christianity, economic thinking in the main Christian traditions, and the role of religion in economic development, as well as new work on the economics of religious behavior and religious markets and topics of debate between economists and theologians. It is essential reading for economists concerned with the foundations of their discipline, historians, moral philosophers, theologians seeking to engage with economics, and public policy researchers and practitioners.
Next month, University of Chicago Press will publish The Future of Illusion: Political Theology and Early Modern Texts by Victoria Kahn (University of California, Berkeley). The publisher’s description follows.
In recent years, the rise of fundamentalism and a related turn to religion in the humanities have led to a powerful resurgence of interest in the problem of political theology. In a critique of this contemporary fascination with the theological underpinnings of modern politics,Victoria Kahn proposes a return to secularism—whose origins she locates in the art, literature, and political theory of the early modern period—and argues in defense of literature and art as a force for secular liberal culture.
Kahn draws on theorists such as Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, Walter Benjamin, and Hannah Arendt and their readings of Shakespeare, Hobbes, Machiavelli, and Spinoza to illustrate that the dialogue between these modern and early modern figures can help us rethink the contemporary problem of political theology. Twentieth-century critics, she shows, saw the early modern period as a break from the older form of political theology that entailed the theological legitimization of the state. Rather, the period signaled a new emphasis on a secular notion of human agency and a new preoccupation with the ways art and fiction intersected the terrain of religion. Reclaiming a role for the arts in contemporary debates about liberalism and political theology, The Future of Illusion articulates a new defense of what Hans Blumenberg called “the legitimacy” of our modern secular age.
This month, Indiana University Press published Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology, edited by Randi Rashkover (George Mason University) and Martin Kavka (Lehigh University). The publisher’s description follows.
Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology provides the first broad encounter between modern Jewish thought and recent developments in political theology. In opposition to impetuous associations of Judaism and liberalism and charges that Judaism cannot engender a universal political order, the essays in this volume propose a new and richly detailed engagement between Judaism and the political. The vexed status of liberalism in Jewish thought and Judaism in political theology is interrogated with recourse to thinking from across the Continental tradition.
Last month, University of Chicago Press published Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought by Julie E. Cooper (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows.
Secularism is usually thought to contain the project of self-deification, in which humans attack God’s authority in order to take his place, freed from all constraints. Julie E. Cooper overturns this conception through an incisive analysis of the early modern justifications for secular politics. While she agrees that secularism is a means of empowerment, she argues that we have misunderstood the sources of secular empowerment and the kinds of strength to which it aspires.
Contemporary understandings of secularism, Cooper contends, have been shaped by a limited understanding of it as a shift from vulnerability to power. But the works of the foundational thinkers of secularism tell a different story. Analyzing the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau at the moment of secularity’s inception, she shows that all three understood that acknowledging one’s limitations was a condition of successful self-rule. And while all three invited humans to collectively build and sustain a political world, their invitations did not amount to self-deification. Cooper establishes that secular politics as originally conceived does not require a choice between power and vulnerability. Rather, it challenges us—today as then—to reconcile them both as essential components of our humanity.