At the Limits of Political Philosophy
From "Brilliant Errors" to Things of Uncommon Importance
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Earlier versions of Chapter 2 can be found in Faith & Reason 16 (Spring 1990): 52-62; Chapter 5, in Divus Thomas, Piacenza, 92, no. 3-4 (1991), 273-79, and in The Politics of Heaven and Hell: Christian Themes from Classical, Medieval, and Modern Political Philosophy (Lanham, Md.:...
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At the Limits of Political Philosophy begins, as does politics itself for most of us, with those imperfect and dire conditions of human existence unsettlingly familiar to all actual human beings: with death, evil, suffering, injustices, even-dare we say it?-hell, as it presents the problem of freely chosen wrongs and their punishment. We are intellectually...
Part I: The Stages of Political Philosophy
1. The Intellectual Horizons of Political Philosophy
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This book is addressed without apology to Plato's "potential philosophers": to contemporary students, of whatever age or level, who are awakening in their very souls to the call of higher things. By being perplexed over the things that are, by passionately desiring to know how things...
2. The Sequence of Political Philosophy
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Political philosophy must explain itself, its concerns. The political realm must let what is not political exist in its own right if what is not political is to flourish. The understanding that nonpolitical things exist is the prerequisite for understanding the things that are political. Otherwise, what...
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No one likes to be called "anti-modern" or out-of-date, even if he is. To be up-to-date, however, is often to be out-of-date, and what is called "modern" is more and more a product of past ages. This is why we hear talk of the "post-modern" and even the "postpost modern world," even though the premises that ground these later theories are themselves firmly rooted in modernity itself. The nineteenth-century theory of....
Part II: The Grounds of Political Realism
4. Evil and Political Realism
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These blunt observations of Samuel Johnson about original sin or the Fall, as it is sometimes known, are directed to the religious doctrine that addresses the enigmatic nature and unsettling constancy of human evils in history.2 Johnson did not begin with a theological theory to conclude...
5. Regarding the Inattentiveness to Hell in Political Philosophy
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The preceding chapter on evil, the following chapter on death, and the present chapter on hell seem, at first sight, peculiarly odd in a reflection on political philosophy. Yet, as I have suggested, they lie at the natural origins of the "brilliant errors" that have...
6. Dwellers in an Unfortified City: Death and Political Philosophy
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Eventually, virtue and friendship, happiness and salvation must be accounted for in political philosophy. Before treating these central subjects, however, it has been necessary first to see the "brilliant errors" in which political things have been propounded. In addition, the natural context of those errors, the perplexing realities of evil and hell needed...
Part III: At the Limits of Political Philosophy
7. The Death of Christ and the Death of Socrates
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The first two parts of this book set down the context in which political philosophy arises, its historical setting and the "the grounds of political realism," those naturally perplexing issues of evil, punishment, and death that are found in every human life and every human polity. The following two parts deal not with those darker and unsettling realities...
8. Happiness and Salvation
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In this chapter and the one following, I will continue to discuss the relation of questions in Greek philosophy and in revelation. The context will be a clarification of a curious incompleteness (or, better, an openness) in finite things even when they are doing what is proper to them. This incompleteness is provocative. We cannot leave it alone. In Aristotle's...
9. Virtue and Vice: The Rule of the Self over the Self
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The classical authors provided adequate yet somehow insufficient definitions of what was meant by human virtue. They asked: What is virtue? Is it its own reward? Does it lead beyond itself by being itself-to happiness, say, or even salvation? The clearest and most authoritative discussion of human virtue and vice is found in Aristotle's Ethics and...
Part IV: Political Philosophy and the Things of Uncommon Importance
10. Theology, Science, and Political Philosophy
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In Part IV of this book, I want to continue the approach of Part III: not the "brilliant errors," but those intellectual and practical issues that leave us open to the higher things, leave us open by being themselves. In this book, classical ethical and political philosophy, particularly through Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, have presented and...
11. Truth, Liberty, and Law
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In 1778, Boswell recorded this first conversation with Samuel Johnson on the relation between truth, virtue, and society. In the second conversation, Johnson suggested that the lawyer could and should be honorable. It is in these relationships that the contrast between an autonomous modernity and a philosophic order based in a reality open to man but not...
12. Friendship and Political Philosophy
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Nothing is more surprising in the Ethics of Aristotle than the two books (Books VIII and IX; also, St. Thomas's ) Commentary that the Philosopher devotes to friendship. Though we can speak of a "virtue" of friendship, friendship is not strictly speaking a specific virtue. Rather it presupposes the discourse...
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This book is a discourse in political philosophy. It is addressed, in Johnson'S words, "to those that study politicks." The uniqueness of this discourse at the limits of political philosophy, its specific emphasis, is found in the particular way that certain basic questions in political philosophy, questions uncommonly important in themselves, lead...
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Index of Names
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Index of Subjects
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Page Count: 284
Publication Year: 2010