Théorie politique

H19(b) - Ancient and Medieval Philosophy

Date: Jun 14 | Heure: 01:45pm to 03:15pm | Salle:

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Neil Hibbert (University of Saskatchewan)

Communalism and Empire in Dante's Monarchia: James G. Mellon (Independent scholar)
Abstract: Originally proposed and accepted for conference at the University of Western Ontario but cancelled due to Covid. Medieval political thinkers contended with such contending forces as the Church and papal claims to ultimate temporal sovereignty , the Holy Roman Empire and its claims to ultimate temporal sovereignty, the national monarchies and their claims to temporal sovereignty, feudalism, and the Roman civil law tradition. Working within parameters set by Augustinian, Thomistic-Aristotelian and Aristotelianism as interpreted by Averroes, medieval thinkers simultaneously shared certain attitudes while differing in a number of ways. It is especially difficult in Dante's case to identify precisely the sources of his logic. His thought reflected a profound Thomist influence. Nevertheless, this was the case with thinkers like James of Viterbo, who argued in favour of ultimate papal temporal sovereignty, and John of Paris, who opposed such a position and supported the national monarchs within the temporal sphere, and Dante, who rejected the notion of ultimate temporal sovereignty the Papacy but supported the claims of the Empire within the temporal sphere as opposed to both the Church and national monarchs. The paper proceeds by reading Monarchia, and seeking the elements that distinguish Dante not only from thinkers like James of Viterbo and John of Paris but from a fellow supporter of Empire like Engelbert of Admont.

Herodotus and Hannah Arendt: philosophy, history, and judgment: Lindsay Mahon Rathnam (Duke Kunshan University)
Abstract: The question of whether values can ever be truly universal is endlessly contested. History is littered with awful injustices committed in the name of the good; yet it is questionable whether is even possible to resist oppression and injustice without recourse to any form of universals. Hannah Arendt’s influential (yet unwritten) theory of judgment attempted to resolve this dilemma by positing judgment as a way of ‘thinking the particular’ and thus avoiding the pitfalls of both relativism and universalism. Her theory has thus enjoyed a renaissance amidst the contemporary interest in judgment. While much work has shown the way Arendt’s theory of judgment rests on her reading of Kant, little attention has been paid to the importance of ancient Greek historiography to her account. I will excavate the place Herodotus’ Histories plays in Arendt’s account of judgment. I argue that, while Herodotus is formative to her conception of judging without rules, it rests on a fundamental misreading of Herodotus’ practice of inquiry. I will turn to what Ronald Beiner has called Arendt’s “tacit dialogue” with Leo Strauss in order to show how Arendt misses out on the philosophic aspect of Herodotus’ Histories- which are not merely a record or a chronicle, but rather an exploration into the nature of human beings and their communities, one that offers textured and careful non-ideal ideals of human flourishing. Herodotus’ example suggests that the quest to understand nature motivates us to take each other seriously, and is essential for resisting injustice.

Democracy and the unfolding of being in Plato's Sophist: Ann Ward (Baylor University)
Abstract: In Plato’s Sophist, the Eleatic Stranger argues that the philosopher encounters non-being not as the opposite of being but as the difference or diversity of being. The philosopher then tries to communicate the truth of the different beings by using dialectic to create “likenesses” of them. In contrast the sophist believes non-being signifies falsehood and uses deceptive speech to communicate “appearances” that distort the truth of being. The sophist deceives because human reason cannot comprehend the totality of the being of things such as justice all at once. Rather, the mind’s grasp of beings such as justice is disproportionate: the more obvious parts seem larger and nearer at hand, the more difficult or less obvious seem smaller and more distant. The sophist, however, abandons truth and creates a false image of proportionality; they deceive the public into thinking that how justice appears now is not a part but rather the totality of its being, and hence that beings such as justice are unchanging or at rest. Atypical of the scholarly consensus on the Platonic understanding of being, I will argue that Plato suggests that being can change or is in motion. Being is in motion in the sense that its parts unfold over time, and in the sense that what it is changes over time. According to the Stranger, when the being of things such as justice is known, it is moved. I conclude by arguing that the understanding of being as unfolding and changing is more suited to democracy.

The Diotima Debate: on Femininity, Liminality, and the Body in Plato’s Symposium: Amanda Roberts (Carleton University)
Abstract: Plato is often depicted as a dualist and proponent of a soul-over-body hierarchy, where the body is an obstacle to be overcome on the philosopher’s journey. However, this paper proposes a reading of Diotima’s speech in the Symposium that shows more space for nuance as it relates to the body than one might expect. By focusing on the body-soul relationship and the politics of presence and absence, this paper will argue that Diotima emerges as a liminal figure and presents a similar characterization of Eros. Consequently, her admonishment of Socrates’ black-and-white thinking both reflects her own positionality and challenges the reader to make space for the ambiguities of what lies between masculinity and femininity, soul and body. This paper argues for an inclusive reading of Diotima’s Ladder of Love and a reconsideration of the place of the body in philosophy. Ultimately, it will conclude that the use of reproductive imagery and the goal of love being to give birth in beauty suggest that the body is not necessarily something to be transcended or escaped, but can be an ally and a starting place on our philosophical journey.