Leo Strauss once called the theologico-political problem ‘the theme of my investigations’ from the 1920s on. What justified this remark is by no means obvious. This article examines the origins of Strauss’s concern with political theology in his earliest writings on Zionism and Jewish thought during the Weimar period. Here we see Strauss, at the outset of his career as a young Zionist committed to a programme of political atheism, slowly begin to develop the idea that the conflict between unbelief (...) and belief (Unglauben und Glauben) was the ‘deepest theme of world history’. This awareness, I argue, slowly led Strauss to reassess the adequacy of political Zionism as an answer to the Jewish question and to justify his later claim about the centrality of the theologico-political problem. (shrink)
John Finnis's powerfully and deservedly influential modern classic, Natural Law and Natural Rights, expounds a theory of law and morality that is based on a picture of “persons” using practical reason to pursue certain “basic goods.” While devoting much attention to practical reason and to the goods, however, Finnis says little about the nature of personhood. This relative inattention to what “persons” are creates a risk—one that Finnis himself notices—of assuming or importing an inadequate anthropology. This essay suggests that the (...) “new natural law” developed by Finnis suffers in places from the inadvertent adoption of a flawed anthropology—an anthropology under the thrall of modern individualistic commitments. To explain this suspicion, this article discusses three difficulties in his natural law theory: difficulties in accounting for the basic good of friendship, for obligations we owe to others, and for legal authority. These difficulties may seem disconnected, but this article suggests that they may all reflect an inadequate anthropology—one that Finnis does not exactly embrace but that is pervasive today and that in places may affect his theorizing. (shrink)
The feuding factions of the memory wars, that is, those concerned with the validity of recovered memories versus those concerned with false memories, are unified by Erdelyi's theory of repression. Evidence shows suppression, inhibition, and retrieval blocking can have profound yet reversible effects on a memory's accessibility, and deserve as prominent a role in the recovered memory debate as evidence of false memories. Erdelyi's theory shows that both inhibitory and elaborative processes cooperate to keep unwanted memories out of consciousness.
Baruch de Spinoza —often recognized as the first modern Jewish thinker—was also a founder of modern liberal political philosophy. This book is the first to connect systematically these two aspects of Spinoza's legacy. Steven B. Smith shows that Spinoza was a politically engaged theorist who both advocated and embodied a new conception of the emancipated individual, a thinker who decisively influenced such diverse movements as the Enlightenment, liberalism, and political Zionism. Focusing on Spinoza's _Theologico-Political Treatise_, Smith argues (...) that Spinoza was the first thinker of note to make the civil status of Jews and Judaism an essential ingredient of modern political thought. Before Marx or Freud, Smith notes, Spinoza recast Judaism to include the liberal values of autonomy and emancipation from tradition. Smith examines the circumstances of Spinoza's excommunication from the Jewish community of Amsterdam, his skeptical assault on the authority of Scripture, his transformation of Mosaic prophecy into a progressive philosophy of history, his use of the language of natural right and the social contract to defend democratic political institutions, and his comprehensive comparison of the ancient Hebrew commonwealth and the modern commercial republic. According to Smith, Spinoza's _Treatise_ represents a classic defense of religious toleration and intellectual freedom, showing them to be necessary foundations for political stability and liberal regimes. In this study Smith examines Spinoza's solution to the Jewish Question and asks whether a Judaism, so conceived, can long survive. (shrink)
Recent years have seen a renewed debate over the importance of groupselection, especially as it relates to the evolution of altruism. Onefeature of this debate has been disagreement over which kinds ofprocesses should be described in terms of selection at multiple levels,within and between groups. Adapting some earlier discussions, we presenta mathematical framework that can be used to explore the exactrelationships between evolutionary models that do, and those that donot, explicitly recognize biological groups as fitness-bearing entities.We show a fundamental set (...) of mathematical equivalences between these twokinds of models, one of which applies a form of multi-level selectiontheory and the other being a form of ``individualism.'' However, we alsoargue that each type of model can have heuristic advantages over theother. Indeed, it can be positively useful to engage in a kind ofback-and-forth switching between two different perspectives on theevolutionary role of groups. So the position we defend is a``gestalt-switching pluralism.''. (shrink)
Altruism is generally understood to be behavior that benefits others at a personal cost to the behaving individual. However, within evolutionary biology, different authors have interpreted the concept of altruism differently, leading to dissimilar predictions about the evolution of altruistic behavior. Generally, different interpretations diverge on which party receives the benefit from altruism and on how the cost of altruism is assessed. Using a simple trait-group framework, we delineate the assumptions underlying different interpretations and show how they relate to one (...) another. We feel that a thorough examination of the connections between interpretations not only reveals why different authors have arrived at disparate conclusions about altruism, but also illuminates the conditions that are likely to favor the evolution of altruism. (shrink)
Formal methods developed for modeling levels of selection problems have recently been applied to the investigation of major evolutionary transitions. We discuss two new tools of this kind. First, the ‘near-variant test’ can be used to compare the causal adequacy of predictively equivalent representations. Second, ‘state-variable gestalt-switching’ can be used to gain a useful dual perspective on evolutionary processes that involve both higher and lower level populations.
_ Source: _Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 211 - 228 In this Reply, I argue that _pace_ Knud Haakonssen it is dubious that Adam Smith managed to ‘blow up’ Hugo Grotius’s universalist system of natural jurisprudence. Rather, Smith emerges as a closet rationalist who put forward crypto-normative universalist claims himself and found that he could not in the end improve upon Grotius’s system. Grotius was not seen by Smith as a ‘casuist’ _tout court_. I try to give (...) an explanation for the tensions introduced into Smith’s work by his incorporation of key aspects of Grotius’s theory of justice. Furthermore, I try to clarify in what regard Grotius should be seen as a novel and original thinker. Lastly, I argue in favor of according ideas and arguments their own weight, against a facile contextualism that is always in danger of falling prey to the genealogical fallacy. (shrink)
What might a theory of mental imagery look like, and how might one begin formulating such a theory? These are the central questions addressed in the present paper. The first section outlines the general research direction taken here and provides an overview of the empirical foundations of our theory of image representation and processing. Four issues are considered in succession, and the relevant results of experiments are presented and discussed. The second section begins with a discussion of the proper form (...) for a cognitive theory, and the distinction between a theory and a model is developed. Following this, the present theory and computer simulation model are introduced. This theory specifies the nature of the internal representations (data structures) and the processes that operate on them when one generates, inspects, or transforms mental images. In the third, concluding, section we consider three very different kinds of objections to the present research program, one hinging on the possibility of experimental artifacts in the data, and the others turning on metatheoretical commitments about the form of a cognitive theory. Finally, we discuss how one ought best to evaluate theories and models of the sort developed here. (shrink)
_A rediscovery of patriotism as a virtue in line with the core values of democracy in an extremist age__ “Like you perhaps, I still regard myself as an extremely patriotic person. Which is why I so admired [this book].... __It explained my emotion to me, as it might yours to you." —David Brooks, _New York Times___ “Smith superbly illuminates the distinctiveness of the American idea of patriotism and reminds us of how important patriotism is, and how essential to making (...) America better.”—Leslie Lenkowsky, _Wall Street Journal__ The concept of patriotism has fallen on hard times. What was once a value that united Americans has become so politicized by both the left and the right that it threatens to rip apart the social fabric. On the right, patriotism has become synonymous with nationalism and an “us versus them” worldview, while on the left it is seen as an impediment to acknowledging important ethnic, religious, or racial identities and a threat to cosmopolitan globalism. Steven B. Smith reclaims patriotism from these extremist positions and advocates for a patriotism that is broad enough to balance loyalty to country against other loyalties. Describing how it is a matter of both the head and the heart, Smith shows how patriotism can bring the country together around the highest ideals of equality and is a central and ennobling disposition that democratic societies cannot afford to do without. (shrink)