Back in 2017, we were fortunate enough to host Sir Roger Scruton here at the Center, when he delivered the keynote address and participated in workshops at the second meeting of the Tradition Project, on culture and citizenship. (A video of Sir Roger’s remarks is available here). Later this year, Palgrave Macmillan will release Politics and Art in Roger Scruton’s Conservative Philosophy, a new study of Sir Roger’s philosophical legacy, covering subjects as diverse as politics, art, music, and religion–all of which Sir Roger discussed that night in 2017, as I remember. The author is philosopher Ferenc Horcher (Hungarian Academy of Sciences). Here’s the publisher’s description:
This book covers the field of and points to the intersections between politics, art and philosophy. Its hero, the late Sir Roger Scruton had a longstanding interested in all fields, acquiring professional knowledge in both the practice and theory of politics, art and philosophy. The claim of the book is, therefore, that contrary to a superficial prejudice, it is possible to address the philosophical issues of art and politics in the same oeuvre, as the example of this Cambridge-educated analytical philosopher proves.
Accordingly, the book has a bold thesis on the general, theoretical level, mapping the connections between politics, art and philosophy. However, it also has a pioneering commitment on the level of the particular, offering the first full-length study into the philosophical legacy of Roger Scruton, probably the most important British conservative philosopher of the late 20th and the first decades of the 21st century. It also allows reader to look into the philosopher’s fascination with Central European art and culture. Finally, it also provides a daring analysis of the late Scruton’s metaphysical inspirations, connecting the arts, and especially music, with religion and the bonds of love.
In May, Brill Publishers will release Christianity and the Roots of Morality: Philosophical, Early Christian and Empirical Perspectives edited by Petri Luomanen (University of Helsinki), Anne Birgitta Pessi (University of Helsinki), and Ilkka Pyysiäinen (University of Helsinki). The publisher’s description follows:
What is the role of religion, especially Christianity, in morality, pro-social behavior and altruism? Are there innate human moral capacities in the human mind? When and how did they appear in the history of evolution? What is the real significance of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount — does it set up unique moral standards or only crystallize humans’ innate moral intuitions? What is the role of religious teachings and religious communities in pro-social behavior? Christianity and the Roots of Morality: Philosophical, Early Christian and Empirical Perspectives casts light on these questions through interdisciplinary articles by scholars from social sciences, cognitive science, social psychology, sociology of religion, philosophy, systematic theology, comparative religion and biblical studies.
Contributors include: Nancy T. Ammerman, Grace Davie, Jutta Jokiranta, Simo Knuuttila, Kristen Renwick Monroe, Mika Ojakangas, Sami Pihlström, Antti Raunio, Heikki Räisänen (✝), Risto Saarinen, Kari Syreeni, Lauri Thurén, Petri Ylikoski.
In March, the Columbia University Press will release “State of Nature, Stages of Society: Enlightenment Conjectural History and Modern Social Discourse,” by Frank Palmeri (University of Miami). The publisher’s description follows:
Frank Palmeri sees the conjectural histories of Rousseau, Hume, Herder, and other Enlightenment philosophers as a template for the development of the social sciences in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Without documents or memorials, these thinkers, he argues, employed conjecture to formulate a naturalistic account of society’s commercial and secular progression.
Palmeri finds evidence of speculative frameworks in the political economy of Malthus, Martineau, Mill, and Marx. He traces the influence of speculative thought in the development of anthropology and ethnography in the 1860s, the foundational sociology of Comte and Spencer, and the sociology of religion pioneered by Weber, Durkheim, and Freud. Conjectural histories reveal a surprising ambivalence toward progress, modernity, and secularization among leading thinkers of the time, an attitude that affected texts as varied as Darwin’s Descent of Man, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality, and the novels of Walter Scott, George Eliot, and H.G. Wells. Establishing the critical value of conjectural thinking in the study of modern forms of knowledge, Palmeri concludes his investigation with its return in the work of Foucault and in recent histories on early religion, political organization, and material life.
This month, the University of Minnesota Press releases “Unconditional Equality: Gandhi’s Religion of Resistance,” by Ajay Skaria (University of Minnesota). The publisher’s description follows:
Unconditional Equality examines Mahatma Gandhi’s critique of liberal ideas of freedom and equality and his own practice of a freedom and equality organized around religion. It reconceives satyagraha (passive resistance) as a politics that strives for the absolute equality of all beings. Liberal traditions usually affirm an abstract equality centered on some form of autonomy, the Kantian term for the everyday sovereignty that rational beings exercise by granting themselves universal law. But for Gandhi, such equality is an “equality of sword”—profoundly violent not only because it excludes those presumed to lack reason (such as animals or the colonized) but also because those included lose the power to love (which requires the surrender of autonomy or, more broadly, sovereignty).
Gandhi professes instead a politics organized around dharma, or religion. For him, there can be “no politics without religion.” This religion involves self-surrender, a freely offered surrender of autonomy and everyday sovereignty. For Gandhi, the “religion that stays in all religions” is satyagraha—the agraha (insistence) on or ofsatya (being or truth).
Ajay Skaria argues that, conceptually, satyagraha insists on equality without exception of all humans, animals, and things. This cannot be understood in terms of sovereignty: it must be an equality of the minor. This equality is simultaneously a resistance: satyagrahis (practitioners) must resist all that obscures absolute equality and do so passively, without sovereignty and in the spirit of absolute equality.
This month, the University of Pennsylvania Press releases “Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority: Platonists, Priests, and Gnostics in the Third Century C.E.” by Heidi Marx-Wolf (University of Manitoba). The publisher’s description follows:
The people of the late ancient Mediterranean world thought about and encountered gods, angels, demons, heroes, and other spirits on a regular basis. These figures were diverse, ambiguous, and unclassified and were not ascribed any clear or stable moral valence. Whether or not they were helpful or harmful under specific circumstances determined if and what virtues were attributed to them. That all changed in the third century C.E., when a handful of Platonist philosophers—Plotinus, Origen, Porphyry, and Iamblichus—began to produce competing systematic discourses that ordered the realm of spirits in moral and ontological terms.
In Spiritual Taxonomies and Ritual Authority, Heidi Marx-Wolf recounts how these Platonist philosophers organized the spirit world into hierarchies, or “spiritual taxonomies,” positioning themselves as the high priests of the highest gods in the process. By establishing themselves as experts on sacred, ritual, and doctrinal matters, they were able to fortify their authority, prestige, and reputation. The Platonists were not alone in this enterprise, and it brought them into competition with rivals to their new authority: priests of traditional polytheistic religions and gnostics. Members of these rival groups were also involved in identifying and ordering the realm of spirits and in providing the ritual means for dealing with that realm. Using her lens of spiritual taxonomy to look at these various groups in tandem, Marx-Wolf demonstrates that Platonist philosophers, Christian and non-Christian priests, and gnostics were more interconnected socially, educationally, and intellectually than previously recognized.
In October, Palgrave Macmillan released “British Burma in the New Century, 1895-1918” by Stephen L. Keck (Emirates Diplomatic Academy). The publisher’s description follows:
British Burma in the New Century, 1895 – 1918 draws upon neglected but very talented colonial authors to portray Burma between 1895 and 1918, which was the apogee of British governance. These writers, most of them ‘Burmaphiles’, wrote against widespread misperceptions about Burma. They sought to separate Burma from India, recover the country’s recent and ancient past, understand Buddhism and revere the land, all while supporting the imperial mission. Between 1895 and 1918, Burma experienced a period of profound social and economic transformation. Burma would be challenged by bubonic plague, the persistence of crime, multiple forms of corruption and rising ethnic tensions. The Burmaphiles wrote during a dynamic period in which the foundations for much of modern Myanmar were established. New Century Burma proved to be a formative moment in the subsequent development of the country.
In September, Routledge released “Rights, Religious Pluralism and the Recognition of Difference: Off the Scales of Justice,” by Dorota Anna Gozdecka (Australian National University College of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
Human rights and their principles of interpretation are the leading legal paradigms of our time. Freedom of religion occupies a pivotal position in rights discourses, and the principles supporting its interpretation receive increasing attention from courts and legislative bodies. This book critically evaluates religious pluralism as an emerging legal principle arising from attempts to define the boundaries of freedom of religion. It examines religious pluralism as an underlying aspect of different human rights regimes and constitutional traditions. It is, however, the static and liberal shape religious pluralism has assumed that is taken up critically here. In order to address how difference is vulnerable to elimination, rather than recognition, the book takes up a contemporary ethics of alterity. More generally, and through its reconstruction of a more difference-friendly vision of religious pluralism, it tackles the problem of the role of rights in the era of diverse narratives of emancipation.
In November, Columbia University Press will release “Relativism and Religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes” by Carlo Invernizzi Accetti (City College, City University of New York). The publisher’s description follows:
Moral relativism is deeply troubling for those who believe that, without a set of moral absolutes, democratic societies will devolve into tyranny or totalitarianism. Engaging directly with this claim, Carlo Invernizzi Accetti traces the roots of contemporary anti-relativist fears to the antimodern rhetoric of the Catholic Church, and then rescues a form of philosophical relativism for modern, pluralist societies, arguing that this standpoint provides the firmest foundation for an allegiance to democracy.
In its dual analysis of the relationship between religion and politics and the implications of philosophical relativism for democratic theory, this book makes a far-ranging contribution to contemporary debates over the revival of religion in politics and the conceptual grounds for a commitment to democracy. It conducts the first comprehensive genealogy of anti-relativist discourse and reclaims for English-speaking readers the overlooked work of political theorists such as Hans Kelsen and Norberto Bobbio, who had articulated the bond between philosophical relativism and democracy. By engaging with attempts to replace the religious foundation of democratic values with a neo-Kantian conception of reason, this book also offers a powerful case for relativism as the strongest basis for a civic ethos that integrates different perspectives into democratic politics.
In July, Ashgate released “The Concert of Civilizations: The Common Roots of Western and Islamic Constitutionalism,” by Jeremy Kleidosty (University of Jyväskylä, Finland). The publisher’s description follows:
Are Western and Islamic political and constitutional ideas truly predestined for civilizational clash? In order to understand this controversy The Concert of Civilizations begins by deriving and redefining a definition of constitutionalism that is suitable for comparative, cross-cultural analysis. The rule of law, reflection of national character, and the clear delineation and limitation of governmental power are used as lenses through which thinkers like Cicero, Montesquieu, and the authors of The Federalist Papers can be read alongside al-Farabi, ibn Khaldun, and the Ottoman Tanzimat decrees. Bridging the civilizational divide is a chapter comparing the Magna Carta with Muhammad’sConstitution of Medina, as both documents can be seen as foundational within their traditions. For the first time in political theory, this text also provides a sustained, detailed analysis of Khayr al-Din al-Tunisi’s book The Surest Path, which explains his fusion of Muslim and Western ideas in his writing of Tunisia’s first modern constitution, which is also the first constitution for a majority-Muslim state. Finally, the book discusses the Arab Spring through a brief overview of the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, and offers some early thoughts about Tunisia’s uniquely successful revolution.
In November, SUNY Press will release “Religion Among We the People: Conversations on Democracy and the Divine Good” by Franklin I. Gamwell (University of Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:
Franklin I. Gamwell holds that democracy with religious freedom is dependent on metaphysical theism. Democratic politics can be neutral to all religious convictions only if its constitution establishes a full and free discourse about the ultimate terms of justice and their application to decisions of the state, and the divine good is the true ground of justice. Notably, Gamwell’s view challenges virtually all current accounts of democracy with religious freedom. This uncommon position emerges through a series of essays in which Gamwell engages a variety of conversation partners, including Thomas Jefferson, David Strauss, Abraham Lincoln, Jürgen Habermas, Alfred North Whitehead, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Iris Murdoch. Discussions of Jefferson, Lincoln, and the US Constitution illustrate the promise of neoclassical metaphysics as a context for interpreting US history. Gamwell then defends his metaphysics against both modern refusals of metaphysics and accounts of ultimate reality offered by Niebuhr and Murdoch.