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Modern Political Thought


Academic year: 2021

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Modern Political Thought

Professor Nicholas Tampio

Fordham University, POGA 5301 Spring 2009

Class: Faber Hall 668, T 5:30-7:20 pm Office hours: T afternoon, Faber 665 tampio@fordham.edu

Course Overview

How should we think about morality and politics today? That question inspired the great European philosophers of the 17th and 18th Centuries and continues to motivate political

theorists. The aim of this course is to follow several of the key debates within the Enlightenment to sharpen our own thinking about contemporary politics.

The course begins with the dispute between Kant and Hamann over the meaning and legitimacy of the Enlightenment. Then, we turn to Spinoza and Leibniz battling over whether politics and religion should be separated or intertwined. Next, we follow the conversation between Hume and Kant over whether passions or reason should guide practical judgment. The course then jumps to the contemporary feud between Foucault and Habermas over the Enlightenment’s legacy.

Finally, we consider the possibility of an Islamic Enlightenment. By navigating these debates, we clarify and enrich our own political thinking.


What is Enlightenment?,ed. James Schmidt (California 1996)

Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, ed. Jonathan Israel (Cambridge 2007) Leibniz, Political Writings, ed. Patrick Riley (Cambridge 1998)

Matthew Stewart. The Courtier and the Heretic (Norton, 2006) Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford 1998)

Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals (Cambridge 1996)

Critique and Power, ed Michael Kelly (MIT 1994)

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, Islam and the Secular State (Harvard 2008) Course Requirements

1. Class participation. Students are expected to come to class on time and prepared to discuss the readings.

2, 3, 4. Class presentation, paper, and handout. Early in the semester, we will assign students to lead discussion for one class. Write a 8-10-page paper describing the context of the book (especially if you are the first one presenting on an author) and the argument of the assigned


work. For the class, distribute a one-page handout (with key dates, quotes, diagrams, arguments, and critiques), speak for about 20 minutes, and lead class discussion. This seminar gives you the chance to hone the art of teaching.

5. First paper: Write a 8-10 page essay comparing and contrasting Spinoza’s and Leibniz’s political theories. This essay should contextualize the debate between Spinoza and Leibniz, explain their similarities and differences, and explain why this debate still matters today. 6. Second paper: Write a 8-10 page essay either (1) comparing and contrasting Hume’s and Kant’s political theories, (2) comparing and contrasting Habermas’s and Foucault’s

interpretations of the Enlightenment, or (3) interpreting An-Naim’s project to secularize Islam in light of the European Enlightenment.

Grade Distribution

Class participation 10

Class presentation 10

Class presentation paper 20

Handout 10

First paper 20

Second paper 30

1. January 13 – What is Enlightenment?: The Kant-Hamann Debate Readings from What is Enlightenment?, Part I, including:

Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?”

Hamann, “Letter to Christian Jacob Kraus” and “Metacritique on the Purism of Reason” 2. January 20 – Spinoza’s Theology

Theological-Political Treatise, Introduction-Chapter 15 3. January 27 – Spinoza’s Politics

Theological-Political Treatise, Chapter 16-20 4. February 3 – Leibniz’s Politics

Political Writings, Parts I and II 5. February 10 – Leibniz’s Theology

Political Writings, Parts VI and VII


7. February 24 – First Paper Due (May be submitted electronically by 5:30 pm); No class 8. March 3 – Hume’s Aim

Treatise of Human Nature, Introduction, Book 1 9. March 10 – Hume’s Morality

Treatise of Human Nature, Book 2 10. March 17 – Hume’s Politics

Treatise of Human Nature, Book 3 11. March 24 – Kant’s Aim

Metaphysics of Morals, Preface, Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals 12. March 31 – Kant’s Politics

Metaphysics of Morals, Part I

13. April 7 – Kant’s Morality

Metaphysics of Morals, Part II

14. April 14 – Foucault on the Enlightenment Foucault’s essays in Critique and Power

15. April 21 – Habermas on the Enlightenment Habermas’s essays in Critique and Power

16. April 28 – An Islamic Enlightenment?

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, Islam and the Secular State, Preface, Chapters 1, 2, 3, Conclusion


Additional Readings

“As a set of political, economic, social, institutional, and cultural events on which we still depend in large part, the Enlightenment constitutes a privileged domain for analysis.” Foucault’s point is that nearly everything we think, feel, and do has been shaped at a profound level by the European Enlightenment. This thesis finds confirmation throughout academia, as philosophers, political scientists, humanities professors, economists, historians, and natural scientists, with varying degrees of self-awareness, take up the mantle of the Enlightenment. This course addresses several of the most important conversations within modern political thought. I

encourage you to keep up with the most recent contributions to those debates, particularly for the authors on whom you present. Here are a few of the more prominent recent studies of the authors and themes we consider this semester.

The Enlightenment

Bronner, Stephen Eric. Reclaiming the Enlightenment: Toward a Politics of Radical Engagement. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

Connolly, William E.. Political Theory and Modernity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993. Dupré, Louis K. The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture. New

Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

Himmelfarb, Gertrude. The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments. New York: Knopf, 2004.

Israel, Jonathan Irvine. Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Katznelson, Ira. Desolation and Enlightenment: Political Knowledge After Total War, Totalitarianism, and the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Knott, Sarah, Barbara Taylor. Women, Gender, and Enlightenment. New York: Palgrave

Macmillan, 2005.

Muthu, Sankar. Enlightenment Against Empire. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2003. Leibniz

Berkowitz, Roger Stuart. The Gift of Science: Leibniz and the Modern Legal Tradition. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2005.

Rawls, John and Barbara Herman. Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000.


Riley, Patrick. Leibniz' Universal Jurisprudence: Justice as the Charity of the Wise. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1996.


Deleuze, Gilles. Spinoza, Practical Philosophy. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988.

Israel, Jonathan I. Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Negri, Antonio. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.

Strauss, Leo. Spinoza's Critique of Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. Kant

Deligiorgi, Katerina. Kant and the Culture of Enlightenment. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

Ellis, Elisabeth. Kant's Politics: Provisional Theory for an Uncertain World. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Guyer, Paul. Knowledge, Reason, and Taste: Kant's Response to Hume. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Kant's Metaphysics of Morals: Interpretative Essays. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Wood, Allen W. Kantian Ethics. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Hume

Baier, Annette and David Hume. A Progress of Sentiments: Reflections on Hume's Treatise. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Deleuze, Gilles. Empiricism and Subjectivity: An Essay on Hume's Theory of Human Nature. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

Finlay, Christopher. Hume's Social Philosophy: Human Nature and Commercial Sociability in A Treatise of Human Nature. New York: Continuum, 2007.

Traiger, Saul. The Blackwell Guide to Hume's "Treatise". Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.



Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere : An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1991.

Habermas, Jürgen, Benedict, Xvi, Pope, and Florian Schuller. The Dialectics of Secularization: On Reason and Religion. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006.

Habermas, Jürgen, Jacques Derrida, and Giovanna Borradori. Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Habermas, Jürgen and Eduardo Mendieta. Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2002.


Foucault, Michel, Sylvère Lotringer, and Lysa Hochroth. The Politics of Truth. New York: Semiotext(e) : Distributed by the MIT Press, 1997.

Foucault, Michel and Roberto Nigro. Introduction to Kant's Anthropology. Cambridge, Mass; Distributed by the MIT Press, 2008.

Foucault, Michel, Paul Rabinow. The Essential Foucault: Selections from Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984. New York: New Press, 2003.

Islamic Political Thought

Kamrava, Mehran. The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking Politics and Modernity : A Reader. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.

Lewis, Bernard. The Crisis of Islam : Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

Mahmood, Saba. "Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation."

Public Culture 18, no. 2 (05/01, 2006): 323-347.

Ramadan, Tariq. Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity. Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 2004.

———. Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.


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