Reason and Self-Enactment in History and Politics

Reason and Self-Enactment in History and Politics: Themes and Voices of Modernity

F.M. Barnard
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Reason and Self-Enactment in History and Politics
    Book Description:

    Reason and Self-Enactment in History and Politics also offers a reappraisal of basic political principles and constructs. Barnard argues for bridging differences among a plurality of truths and forming practical judgments through cultivation of a sense of situational appropriateness.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7672-8
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    FEW WHO HAVE INVESTED TIME AND EFFORT in exploring the precise meaning of “rationality” will deny that it is an overwhelming, if not altogether frustrating, task — as subsequent chapters also in their turn disclose. Mercifully, in what follows in these introductory remarks, I am principally concerned with reason or reasons in a causal sense. And, although there is also an undeniable ambiguity in speaking of reasons as causes, the ambiguity may be potentially fruitful in calling attention to causal meanings radically different from those associated with mechanical or organic processes. To wit, that linking reasons with intentions, goals, convictions, or...

    • 1 Reasons in History: Causality of Ends
      (pp. 25-50)

      MUCH OF WHAT FOLLOWS IN THIS CHAPTER may be viewed, albeit in a qualified sense, as a vindication of R. G. Collingwood’s philosophy of action-in-history. I say in a qualified sense, because although I do endorse Collingwood’s principal thesis that actions are the essential stuff of history and that it is therefore through actions that the historian can seek to penetrate into what people are doing and for what reasons or ends, I do not altogether share his faith in the historian’s intuitive capacity to discern meanings to a degree of authenticity that falls little short of an action’s re-enactment...

    • 2 Reasons in Politics Explanation and Commitment
      (pp. 51-71)

      WHILE DETERMINING THE CASUALLY DECISIVE in any sequence of historical occurrences is nearly always a contentious issue, the vital point in this chapter is not so much the particular weighing of what could be looked upon as causally decisive, as what is to be made of reasons as credal or compelling grounds for action. Yet, even thus delimited, reasons, to have any significance in the realm of political activity, must, I shall argue, have causalrelevance.

      However, to haveanyrelevance at all, giving reasons as explanations or justifications presupposes the asking of questions. In contrast to a traditionalism of...

    • 3 Reasons, Ideology, and Politics
      (pp. 72-96)

      ONE WONDERS AT TIMES if modernity is overarticulate, and at other times one feels it suffers from a dearth of vocabulary to give expression to shades of perception. Not infrequently, moreover, words are confused with things, giving rise to the belief that every addition to the stock of language is tantamount to the birth of a new phenomenon. Even as sensitive a writer as Hannah Arendt, for instance, appears to have been taken in by the word “ideology.” The word, it is true, is undeniably fairly recent, but it can hardly, in many of its stipulated connotations, be said to...

    • 4 Revolutionary Purpose: Rational and Natural Necessity
      (pp. 97-116)

      WHETHER OR NOT “REVOLUTION” ULTIMATELY is little more than a metaphor, taken as a concept, it absorbs meanings as eagerly as a sponge absorbs water. Hence, whatever is said in general terms is either equivocal or platitudinous, or both. Even when confined to the political sphere, as in this chapter, it is a highly slippery notion, and a definition is at best stipulative. Revolutions are commonly contrasted with gradual or evolutionary change, that is, with change that does not involve the violent and non-constitutional replacement of one government by another. At the same time, revolutionary change implies not merely the...

    • 5 Practical Reason and Civic Mutuality: Christian Thomasius
      (pp. 119-144)

      IN HER ACCOUNT of the emergence of the American republic, Hannah Arendt cites the central principle on which it was founded as that of mutuality. And she emphasizes that it was a mutuality characterizing the relation of citizens among themselves, as distinct from a mutual pledge by subjects to their monarch. One promises a common life of “fortune and sacred honour,” to be shared by fellow-citizens, while the other constitutes a vow of submission by loyal subjects.¹

      It is the mutuality of citizens that this chapter is about. And it traces the idea to a seventeenth-century thinker who contrasted it...

    • 6 Public Reason and Political Self-Mastery: Jean-Jacques Rousseau
      (pp. 145-174)

      AS ROUSSEAU TELLS US in hisConfessions, he was first stirred into serious study by Voltaire, in the late 1730s, in particular by Voltaire’s correspondence with the Crown Prince of Prussia, who ascended the throne as Frederick ii in 1740. The correspondence had recently been published and, as Rousseau records, was causing quite a flurry.¹ It is apparent from the letters that Frederick was quite taken with Thomasius, whose demand for rational accountability by rulers was a central theme in the king’s throne speech.² Although Rousseau mentions his interest in Leibniz and Spinoza (among others) during this period, it is...

    • 7 Rational Principles and Civic Self-Legislation: Immanuel Kant
      (pp. 175-207)

      THE SELF-PROFESSED IMPACT of Rousseau’s thinking on Kant’s re thinking is well known and well documented. The oft-quoted statement by Kant, made in the early 1760s, gives vivid expression to this crucial impact, which, as Ernst Cassirer correctly observed, assigns credit to Rousseau not so much for any particular theory of his own as for the influence Kant claimed he had on his general attitude and his general mode of philosophizing. “Rousseau has set me right … I learned to respect human nature, and I should consider myself more useless than a common labourer if I did not believe that...

    • 8 External Principles, but no Banisters: Hannah Arendt
      (pp. 208-240)

      ALTHOUGH ARENDT ATTRIBUTED her line of political thinking chiefly to Kant, in her emphasis on an autonomous ethic of political action she discloses striking similarities with Christian Thomasius, whose ideas she probably learned about in the course of her reading of Lessing.¹ At the same time, her (selective) amalgam of sources includes writers who are almost as frequently mentioned as Kant, such as Aristotle, Machiavelli, Montesquieu, and Tocqueville. What she chiefly had in common with all of them is the celebration of the public domain, its distinctive freedom and plurality.

      After tracing Arendt’s conceptual distinctions, if not polarizations, together with...

  7. Epilogue Highlights without Footnotes
    (pp. 243-266)

    OWING TO THE PARTICULAR CHARACTER OF THE BOOK, an overall conclusion or summary seems to me out of place. Instead, I intend to select a number of focal points and bring together overlapping issues of Part I and Part II.

    Both principal thinkers who originally prompted the writing of this book, R.G. Collingwood and Hannah Arendt, strove to forge a sort of amalgam within political self-enactment between autonomy and interdependence, as well as between plurality and a common constituency. Above all, both wished to interpret “self-enactment” in terms of individuals acting together in pursuit of joint principles, and doing so...

  8. Index
    (pp. 267-271)