Politics and the Passions, 1500-1850

Politics and the Passions, 1500-1850

Victoria Kahn
Neil Saccamano
Daniela Coli
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 322
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    Politics and the Passions, 1500-1850
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the new theories of human motivation that emerged during the transition from feudalism to the modern period, this is the first book of new essays on the relationship between politics and the passions from Machiavelli to Bentham. Contributors address the crisis of moral and philosophical discourse in the early modern period; the necessity of inventing a new way of describing the relation between reflection and action, and private and public selves; the disciplinary regulation of the body; and the ideological constitution of identity. The collection as a whole asks whether a discourse of the passions might provide a critical perspective on the politics of subjectivity. Whatever their specific approach to the question of ideology, all the essays reconsider the legacy of the passions in modern political theory and the importance of the history of politics and the passions for modern political debates.

    Contributors, in addition to the editors, are Nancy Armstrong, Judith Butler, Riccardo Caporali, Howard Caygill, Patrick Coleman, Frances Ferguson, John Guillory, Timothy Hampton, John P. McCormick, and Leonard Tennenhouse.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2715-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)
    Victoria Kahn and Neil Saccamano

    In recent years there has been a renaissance of interest in the passions in interdisciplinary work in the humanities and social sciences. Scholars have directed their attention to the passions as vehicles of knowledge, as attributes of aesthetic experience, as labile affects or shifting currents that contribute to political upheaval or religious self-sacrifice. The reasons for this affective reorientation are multiple. We might think of it as a reaction to the linguistic turn or the deconstruction of the subject. We might instead think of it as the logical consequence of the focus on tropes and figures: themselves, as ancient rhetoricians...

    (pp. 7-29)
    John P. McCormick

    One of the most anxiously posed questions in the history of political thought is: What was Machiavelli’s intention in writingThe Prince?¹ Was it to advise a prince, or undo him; to encourage tyranny or more subtly moderate it?² Quite appropriately, interpreters begin to answer this question by focusing on the book’s dedicatee, Lorenzo de’ Medici. They then proceed to readThe Princein light of how Lorenzo specifically, or a young prince more generally, might receive, understand, and potentially act upon the book’s advice. However, few scholars ask the same question, certainly with comparable urgency, of Machiavelli’s greatest work,...

    (pp. 30-48)
    Timothy Hampton

    September of 1581 found Montaigne in Italy, in the baths. He had left France the year before, after submitting for publication the first edition of hisEssais, and had traveled through France, Switzerland, and Italy on a trip that was both cultural and therapeutic. He had come to Lucca, the last of several balneal stops on his Italian journey, as he tried, unsuccessfully, to soak his way out of the pain inflicted on him by his kidney stones. As he considered options for further treatment, he received a letter, forwarded from Rome, informing him that he had been selected by...

    (pp. 49-74)
    John Guillory

    As a commonplace of Western thought, Plato’s notion of the “philosopher king” lends itself to contexts remote from Greek antiquity. In modern invocations of this theme, the termsphilosopherandkingmight refer to intellectuals in general, or rulers in general; but for premodern societies, these terms usually name more precisely specified social roles. In Bacon’sNew Atlantis, the Fathers of Salomon’s House seem to be Bensalem’s true rulers, very like Plato’s philosopher kings; yet no one of them is the king, a difference that gives the fable its peculiar political resonance with contemporary England. Bensalem, we are told, does...

  7. Hobbes’s Revolution
    (pp. 75-92)
    Daniela Coli

    In the history of philosophy Thomas Hobbes has often been regarded as the theorist of absolute power and the inventor of a monstrous Leviathan. Instead, however, as we shall show, power is for Hobbes the central element in all human conduct, marked by passions. From curiosity, the origin of every science, to glory, the object of all competition among men, the conflict between the passion for unlimited power and for the preservation of life is present in every individual. Hobbes founds his system upon motion, the keystone of his whole philosophy. By re-elaborating the role of motion, Hobbes gives a...

    (pp. 93-110)
    Victoria Kahn

    In the history of philosophy, Descartes most often appears as the founder of modern epistemology, a scientific discourse whose notion of evidence decisively shaped the subsequent understanding of philosophy.¹ Scholars of Descartes only rarely discuss his late treatise on the passions, written in 1645–46 and published in the last year of Descartes’s life.² Like his correspondence with Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and Queen Christina of Sweden, thePassions de l’âmeis read for its contribution to the fuller study of ethics Descartes did not live to complete. In this essay, I argue that the treatise on the passions should...

    (pp. 111-130)
    Judith Butler

    The desire to live is not an easy topic to pursue. On the one hand, it seems too basic to thematize; on the other hand, it is vexed enough as a topic to cast doubt on whether one can settle the question of what is meant by the phrase itself. The desire to live is not the same as self-preservation, though both can be understood as interpretations of a person’s desire “to persevere in its being,”¹ Spinoza’s well-known phrase. Although self-preservation is largely associated with forms of individual self-interest associated with later contractarian political philosophers, Spinoza’s philosophy establishes another basis...

    (pp. 131-150)
    Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse

    Most scholars of eighteenth-century England and America are quick to credit John Locke with being the first to imagine a modern liberal state, where literacy was the ticket for participation in the civic arena and men could assume positions there on the basis of their intrinsic worth. While they grant the modernity of his model of the state, many of the same scholars consign Locke’s model of the human subject to the late seventeenth century—there to be superseded during the eighteenth century by Hume, who understood an individual’s intrinsic merit to consist not only or even primarily of reason...

  11. Rousseau’s Quarrel with Gratitude
    (pp. 151-174)
    Patrick Coleman

    One of Rousseau’s complaints about modern society was that it stifled the freedom of response that supposedly distinguished gratitude from forced obligation. He got angry when friends reminded him about the gratitude he owed to his patrons. But he was just as uncomfortable about being a benefactor. In a memorable passage of hisReveries, Rousseau tells the story of a young lame boy he used to see on the streets of Paris. The first few times they met, he would cheerfully give the boy a coin, but “this pleasure, having gradually become a habit, was inexplicably transformed into a kind...

    (pp. 175-195)
    Neil Saccamano

    David Hume’s well-known critique of the sovereignty of reason in human life is “extraordinary” not only because he reverses the positions of master and slave by bestowing authority on the passions, but also because he declares the traditional discourse of the passions to be unphilosophical in its use of the metaphor of combat. “ ’[T]is impossible that reason and passion can ever oppose each other, or dispute for the government of the will and actions,” since emotions, feelings, sentiments, or affections—the passions, in Hume’s broad sense of the term—have unquestionable jurisdiction over praxis (T, 416). Hume develops his...

  13. Vico, “Tenderness,” and “Barbarism”
    (pp. 196-216)
    Riccardo Caporali

    After the brief period of Jacobin interpretations at the end of the eighteenth century,¹ all the elucidations of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth explicitly denied the possibility of tracing a political intention or even, more simply, intonation in Vico’s philosophy. For Croce, Vico was a beautiful spirit, “impartial and innocent,” and politics was “above his head, like the heavens and the stars.”² And even earlier Giuseppe Ferrari, the scrupulous editor of a complete edition of the works of the Neapolitan philosopher, had delivered his own judgment: “And of what use is the preciseness of the...

  14. Kant and the Relegation of the Passions
    (pp. 217-230)
    Howard Caygill

    Kant’s account of the passions occupies a surprisingly marginal place in his philosophy. His few discussions of the passions (Leidenschaften) are dedicated almost exclusively to their role in the pathologies of the will. A sustained analysis of the passions is conspicuously absent from the three critiques, as well as from critical works on physics and practical philosophy such as theMetaphysical Foundations of Natural Science(1786) and theGrounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Although they appear as a marginal theme in theCritique of Judgementand in postcritical works such asReligion Within the Limits of Reason Aloneand...

  15. Beliefs and Emotions (from Stanley Fish to Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill)
    (pp. 231-250)
    Frances Ferguson

    From the time that eighteenth-century thinkers like Cesare Beccaria took up the project of demanding that laws answer to reason, government and governmentality have frequently been depicted as being at odds with emotion.¹ And it is true that, insofar as projects like Beccaria’s and Jeremy Bentham’s aimed to restrain the judgments of local justices, outlaws, or outraged private citizens, personal attachments were a target of the reformers’ schemes. Rationalizing the law meant insisting that judgments look plausible to those who were not themselves parties in a dispute—or property-holders with enough land to feel that they were always parties to...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 251-252)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 253-310)
  18. Index
    (pp. 311-314)