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Reunifying Political Theory and Social Science
Today the ethical and normative concerns of everyday citizens are all too often sidelined from the study of political and social issues, driven out by an effort to create a more “scientific” study. This book offers a way for social scientists and political theorists to reintegrate the empirical and the normative, proposing a way out of the scientism that clouds our age. In Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and the Demise of Naturalism, Jason Blakely argues that the resources for overcoming this divide are found in the respective intellectual developments of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre. Blakely examines their often parallel intellectual journeys, which led them to critically engage the British New Left, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, continental hermeneutics, and modern social science. Although MacIntyre and Taylor are not sui generis, Blakely claims they each present a new, revived humanism, one that insists on the creative agency of the human person against reductive, instrumental, technocratic, and scientistic ways of thinking. The recovery of certain key themes in these philosophers’ works generates a new political philosophy with which to face certain unprecedented problems of our age. Taylor’s and MacIntyre’s philosophies give social scientists working in all disciplines (from economics and sociology to political science and psychology) an alternative theoretical framework for conducting research.
Humanity has sat at the center of philosophical thinking for too long. The recent advent of environmental philosophy and posthuman studies has widened our scope of inquiry to include ecosystems, animals, and artificial intelligence. Yet the vast majority of the stuff in our universe, and even in our lives, remains beyond serious philosophical concern.
In Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing, Ian Bogost develops an object-oriented ontology that puts things at the center of being—a philosophy in which nothing exists any more or less than anything else, in which humans are elements but not the sole or even primary elements of philosophical interest. And unlike experimental phenomenology or the philosophy of technology, Bogost’s alien phenomenology takes for granted that all beings interact with and perceive one another. This experience, however, withdraws from human comprehension and becomes accessible only through a speculative philosophy based on metaphor.
Providing a new approach for understanding the experience of things as things, Bogost also calls on philosophers to rethink their craft. Drawing on his own background as a videogame designer, Bogost encourages professional thinkers to become makers as well, engineers who construct things as much as they think and write about them.
Laruelle and Nonhuman Philosophy
All Thoughts Are Equal is both an introduction to the work of French philosopher François Laruelle and an exercise in nonhuman thinking. For Laruelle, standard forms of philosophy continue to dominate our models of what counts as exemplary thought and knowledge. By contrast, what Laruelle calls his “non-standard” approach attempts to bring democracy into thought, because all forms of thinking—including the nonhuman—are equal.
John Ó Maoilearca examines how philosophy might appear when viewed with non-philosophical and nonhuman eyes. He does so by refusing to explain Laruelle through orthodox philosophy, opting instead to follow the structure of a film (Lars von Trier’s documentary The Five Obstructions) as an example of the non-standard method. Von Trier’s film is a meditation on the creative limits set by film, both technologically and aesthetically, and how these limits can push our experience of film—and of ourselves—beyond what is normally deemed “the perfect human.”
All Thoughts Are Equal adopts film’s constraints in its own experiment by showing how Laruelle’s radically new style of philosophy is best presented through our most nonhuman form of thought—that found in cinema.
Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty on the Question of Truth
Friedrich Nietzsche and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Chouraqui argues, are linked by how they conceive the question of truth. Although both thinkers criticize the traditional concept of truth as objectivity, they both find that rejecting it does not solve the problem. What is it in our natural existence that gave rise to the notion of truth?The answer to that question is threefold. First, Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty both propose a genealogy of “truth” in which to exist means to make implicit truth claims. Second, both seek to recover the preobjective ground from which truth as an erroneous concept arose. Finally, this attempt at recovery leads both thinkers to ontological considerations, regarding how we must conceive of a being whose structure allows for the existence of the belief in truth. In conclusion, Chouraqui suggests that both thinkers’ investigations of the question of truth lead them to conceive of being as the process of self-falsification by which indeterminate being presents itself as determinate.The answer to that question is threefold. First, Nietzsche and Merleau-Ponty both propose a genealogy of "truth" in which to exist means to make implicit truth claims. Second, both seek to recover the preobjective ground from which truth as an erroneous concept arose. Finally, this attempt at recovery leads both thinkers to ontological considerations, regarding how we must conceive of a being whose structure allows for the existence of the belief in truth. In conclusion, Chouraqui suggests that both thinkers' investigations of the question of truth lead them to conceive of being as the process of self-falsification by which indeterminate being presents itself as determinate.
A Genealogy of Pragmatism
Taking Emerson as his starting point, Cornel West’s basic task in this ambitious enterprise is to chart the emergence, development, decline, and recent resurgence of American pragmatism. John Dewey is the central figure in West’s pantheon of pragmatists, but he treats as well such varied mid-century representatives of the tradition as Sidney Hook, C. Wright Mills, W. E. B. Du Bois, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Lionel Trilling. West’s "genealogy" is, ultimately, a very personal work, for it is imbued throughout with the author’s conviction that a thorough reexamination of American pragmatism may help inspire and instruct contemporary efforts to remake and reform American society and culture.
"West . . . may well be the pre-eminent African American intellectual of our generation."—The Nation
"The American Evasion of Philosophy is a highly intelligent and provocative book. Cornel West gives us illuminating readings of the political thought of Emerson and James; provides a penetrating critical assessment of Dewey, his central figure; and offers a brilliant interpretation—appreciative yet far from uncritical—of the contemporary philosopher and neo-pragmatist Richard Rorty. . . . What shines through, throughout the work, is West's firm commitment to a radical vision of a philosophic discourse as inextricably linked to cultural criticism and political engagement."—Paul S. Boyer, professor emeritus of history, University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Wisconsin Project on American Writers
Frank Lentricchia, General Editor
Vol. 31 (2010) through current issue
The American Journal of Theology & Philosophy is a scholarly journal dedicated to the creative interchange of ideas between theologians and philosophers on some of the most critical intellectual and ethical issues of our time.
Exceptional scholars, such as Gordon Kaufman, John Cobb, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Holmes Rolston III, Robert Neville, Delwin Brown, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Richard Rorty, Nancy Frankenberry, William Dean, Richard Bernstein, Nancy Howell, Daniel Dombrowski, Edward Farley, Victor Anderson, and Linell Cady have challenged us to think in completely new ways about topics that include public theology and American culture, religion and science, ecological spirituality, feminist cosmology and ethics, problems in religious pluralism and inter-disciplinarity, process thought, metaphysical theology, postmodern thought, the viability of historical and contemporary concepts of God, American religious empiricism and pragmatism, creative democracy, and the nature and truth-value of religious language.
The American Journal of Theology & Philosophy is the official publication of the Highlands Institute for American Religious and Philosophical Thought.
Imagining the East from the Colonial Era through the Twentieth Century
Surveying the American fascination with the Far East since the mid-eighteenth century, this book explains why the Orient had a fundamentally different meaning in the United States than in Europe or Great Britain. David Weir argues that unlike their European counterparts, Americans did not treat the East simply as a site of imperialist adventure; on the contrary, colonial subjugation was an experience that early Americans shared with the peoples of China and India. In eighteenth-century America, the East was, paradoxically, a means of reinforcing the enlightenment values of the West: Franklin, Jefferson, and other American writers found in Confucius a complement to their own political and philosophical beliefs. In the nineteenth century, with the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy, the Hindu Orient emerged as a mystical alternative to American reality. During this period, Emerson, Thoreau, and other Transcendentalists viewed the “Oriental” not as an exotic other but as an image of what Americans could be, if stripped of all the commercialism and materialism that set them apart from their ideal. A similar sense of Oriental otherness informed the aesthetic discoveries of the early twentieth century, as Pound, Eliot, and other poets found in Chinese and Japanese literature an artistic purity and intensity absent from Western tradition. For all of these figures the Orient became a complex fantasy that allowed them to overcome something objectionable, either in themselves or in the culture of which they were a part, in order to attain some freer, more genuine form of philosophical, religious, or artistic expression.