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Hermann Cohen’s essay on Maimonides’ ethics is one of the most fundamental texts of twentieth-century Jewish philosophy, correlating Platonic, prophetic, Maimonidean, and Kantian traditions. Almut Sh. Bruckstein provides the first English translation and her own extensive commentary on this landmark 1908 work, which inspired readings of medieval and rabbinic sources by Leo Strauss, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas.
Cohen rejects the notion that we should try to understand texts of the past solely in the context of their own historical era. Subverting the historical order, he interprets the ethical meanings of texts in the light of a future yet to be realized. He commits the entire Jewish tradition to a universal socialism prophetically inspired by ideals of humanity, peace, and universal justice.
Through her own probing commentary on Cohen’s text, like the margin notes of a medieval treatise, Bruckstein performs the hermeneutical act that lies at the core of Cohen’s argument: she reads Jewish sources from a perspective that recognizes the interpretive act of commentary itself.
In a challenge to current thinking about cognitive impairment, this book explores what it means to treat people with intellectual disabilities in an ethical manner. Reassessing philosophical views of intellectual disability, Licia Carlson shows how we can affirm the dignity and worth of intellectually disabled people first by ending comparisons to nonhuman animals and then by confronting our fears and discomforts. Carlson presents the complex history of ideas about cognitive disability, the treatment of intellectually disabled people, and social and cultural reactions to them. Sensitive and clearly argued, this book offers new insights on recent trends in disability studies and philosophy.
Levinas and Environmental Thought
Despite its attention to questions of ethics and “the ethical,” contemporary continental philosophy has often been disengaged from inquiring into our ethical obligation to nature and the environment. In response to this vacuum in the literature, Facing Nature simultaneously makes Levinasian resources more accessible to practitioners in the diverse fields of environmental thought while demonstrating the usefulness of continental philosophy for addressing major issues in environmental thought. Drawing on the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas, these scholars approach environmental philosophy from both humanistic and nonanthropocentric points of view. On the one hand, the book contributes to the discussion of environmental justice as well as the growth of ecophilosophical literature. At the same time, some of the essays take an interpretive approach to Levinas’s thought, finding that his work is able to speak to environmental thinkers whose positions actually diverge quite sharply from his own. While recognizing the limitations of Levinas’s writings from an environmental perspective, Facing Nature argues that themes at the heart of his work—the significance of the ethical, responsibility, alterity, the vulnerability of the body, bearing witness, and politics—are important for thinking about many of our most pressing contemporary environmental questions. Essays specifically highlight the otherness of nature, the vulnerability and suffering of nonhuman animals, the idea of an interspecies politics, the role of nature in ethical life, individual responsibility for climate change, and the Jewish understanding of creation as points of contact between Levinas’s philosophical project and environmental thought. Levinas is also brought into conversation with dialogue partners who enhance this connection, such as Theodor Adorno, Hanna Arendt, Tim Yilngayarri, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Henry David Thoreau. While widely relevant to all those who attempt to think through our ethical relation to the natural world, Facing Nature will be of special interest to scholars and students interested in both continental philosophy and the manifold areas of environmental studies.
Essays in Friendship and in Truth
In his explorations of the relations between the sacred and violence, René Girard has hit upon the origin of culture — the way culture began, the way it continues to organize itself. The way communities of human beings structure themselves in a manner that is different from that of other species on the planet.
Like Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Émile Durkheim, Martin Buber, or others who have changed the way we think in the humanities or in the human sciences, Girard has put forth a set of ideas that have altered our perceptions of the world in which we function. We will never be able to think the same way again about mimetic desire, about the scapegoat mechanism, and about the role of Jewish and Christian scripture in explaining sacrifice, violence, and the crises from which our culture has been born.
The contributions fall into roughly four areas of interpretive work: religion and religious study; literary study; the philosophy of social science; and psychological studies.
The essays presented here are offered as "essays" in the older French sense of attempts (essayer) or trials of ideas, as indeed Girard has tried out ideas with us. With a conscious echo of Montaigne, then, this hommage volume is titled Essays in Friendship and in Truth.
Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality in Hispanic American and Latino/a Thought
Forging People explores the way in which Hispanic American thinkers in Latin America and Latino/a philosophers in the United States have posed and thought about questions of race, ethnicity, and nationality, and how they have interpreted the most significant racial and ethnic labels used in Hispanic America in connection with issues of rights, nationalism, power, and identity. Following the first introductory chapter, each of the essays addresses one or more influential thinkers, ranging from Bartolomé de Las Casas on race and the rights of Amerindians; to Simon Bolívar's struggle with questions of how to forge a nation from disparate populations; to modern and contemporary thinkers on issues of race, unity, assimilation, and diversity. Each essay carefully and clearly presents the views of key authors in their historical and philosophical context and provides brief biographical sketches and reading lists, as aids to students and other readers.
Liberty, Equality, and Utility
In Friendship, James O. Grunebaum introduces a new conceptual framework to articulate, explain, and understand similarities and differences between various conceptions of friendship. Asking whether special preference for friends is morally justified, Grunebaum answers that question by analyzing a comprehensive comparison of not only Aristotle’s three well-known kinds of friendship—pleasure, utility, and virtue—but also a variety of lesser-known friendship conceptions from Kant, C. S. Lewis, and Montaigne. The book clarifies differences about how friends ought to behave toward each other and how these differences are, in part, what separate the various conceptions of friendship.
Studies in Mediaeval and Early Modern History
Today, friendship, love and sexuality are mostly viewed as private, personal and informal relations. In the mediaeval and early modern period, just like in ancient times, this was different. The classical philosophy of friendship (Aristotle) included both friendship and love in the concept of philia. It was also linked to an argument about the virtues needed to become an excellent member of the city state. Thus, close relations were not only thought to be a matter of pleasant gatherings in privacy, but just as much a matter of ethics and politics. What, then, happened to the classical ideas of close relations when they were transmitted to philosophers, clerical and monastic thinkers, state officials or other people in the medieval and early modern period? To what extent did friendship transcend the distinctions between private and public that then existed? How were close relations shaped in practice? Did dialogues with close friends help to contribute to the process of subject-formation in the Renaissance and Enlightenment? To what degree did institutions of power or individual thinkers find it necessary to caution against friendship or love and sexuality?
In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which declared that every human being, without "distinction of any kind," possesses a set of morally authoritative rights and fundamental freedoms that
Environmental Philosophy, Epistemology, and Place
Grounding Knowledge claims that one of the unforeseen consequences of this anthropocentrism has been to ignore the epistemic argument for maintaining diverse natural environments. Grounding Knowledge supplies that argument. Preston first traces the separation of place and mind in Western epistemology. Drawing connections between skepticism and ungrounded knowledge, he then explores how a common insight in the epistemologies of both Kant and Quine sets the scene for more situated accounts of knowledge. After showing how science studies and cognitive science have both recently moved in this direction, Preston draws further evidence for his thesis from fields as far apart as evolutionary biology, anthropology, and religious studies. He asks what these ideas in contemporary epistemology and environmental philosophy mean for environmental policy, concluding that the grounding of knowledge strongly suggests epistemic reasons for the protection of a full range of physical environments in their natural condition.
Grounding Knowledge comes at a time of increasing dialogue between the sciences and the humanities about our rootedness in all of our different "worlds." Preston hopes to persuade his readers that "it is not only in our biological but also in our cognitive interests to protect these roots."
A Pragmatist Reconstruction
Habits of Whiteness offers a new way to talk about race and racism by focusing on racial habits and how to change them. According to Terrance MacMullan, the concept of racial whiteness has undermined attempts to create a truly democratic society in the United States. By getting to the core of the racism that lives on in unrecognized habits, MacMullan argues clearly and charitably for white folk to recognize the distance between their color-blind ideals and their actual behavior. Revitalizing the work of W. E. B. Du Bois and John Dewey, MacMullan shows how it is possible to reconstruct racial habits and close the gap between people. This forthright and persuasive analysis of the impulses of whiteness ultimately reorganizes them into something more compatible with our country's increasingly multicultural heritage.