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.
Next month, Palgrave Macmillion will release “The Rule of Law and the Rule of God” edited by Simeon O. Ilesanmi (Wake Forest University), Win-Chiat Lee (Wake Forest University), and J. Wilson Parker (Wake Forest University School of Law). The publisher’s description follows:
The Rule of Law and the Rule of God examines the competing regimes of law and religion, using the concept of rule to illustrate the patterns of their interactions, and a multidisciplinary approach to demonstrate the global scope of their influence. It argues that the tension that often characterizes the relationship between these two cultural institutions results from their disagreements about the kinds of rule that should govern human life and society, and from where they should be derived. By combining theoretical analyses with tradition-specific and regional case studies, the book aims to advance our understanding of how the rule of law and the rule of religion should properly relate to each other, not only in a general way, but also in the context of addressing conflicts that may arise from their inevitable interaction. In addition to legal academics, the humanities scholars and students as well as the general public, will benefit from this book.
From the noted philosopher of aesthetics Roger Scruton comes this new volume, The Soul of the World, published by Princeton University Press, in which Scruton offers a philosophy and a sociology of religion as situated within various worldly, personal, and aesthetic forms and experiences. The publisher’s description follows.
In The Soul of the World, renowned philosopher Roger Scruton defends the experience of the sacred against today’s fashionable forms of atheism. He argues that our personal relationships, moral intuitions, and aesthetic judgments hint at a transcendent dimension that cannot be understood through the lens of science alone. To be fully alive–and to understand what we are–is to acknowledge the reality of sacred things. Rather than an argument for the existence of God, or a defense of the truth of religion, the book is an extended reflection on why a sense of the sacred is essential to human life–and what the final loss of the sacred would mean. In short, the book addresses the most important question of modernity: what is left of our aspirations after science has delivered its verdict about what we are?
Drawing on art, architecture, music, and literature, Scruton suggests that the highest forms of human experience and expression tell the story of our religious need, and of our quest for the being who might answer it, and that this search for the sacred endows the world with a soul. Evolution cannot explain our conception of the sacred; neuroscience is irrelevant to our interpersonal relationships, which provide a model for our posture toward God; and scientific understanding has nothing to say about the experience of beauty, which provides a God’s-eye perspective on reality.
Ultimately, a world without the sacred would be a completely different world–one in which we humans are not truly at home. Yet despite the shrinking place for the sacred in today’s world, Scruton says, the paths to transcendence remain open.