Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy

Name: Seth Appelbaum
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: sethappelbaum@gmail.com
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: Tulane University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Panel
Participation Type: Panelist
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Paper Title: "Earth Shall be Filled with the Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord": The Messianic Age and Popular Enlightenment in Maimonides' Thought
Panel Title: "Bridging the Gap between Nature and Politics in Hesiod, Maimonides, and Hobbes"
Panel Description: In this panel, we will explore the relationship of nature – divine and human – on one hand, and politics, on the other, as it appears in the works of a Greek epic poet, a medieval Jewish theologian and jurist, and an early modern political philosopher. In her paper “The Role of Hesiod's Account of the First Things in His Political Thought,” Anna Schmidt (LMU Munich) asks whether the understanding of the cosmic order Hesiod presents in the 'Theogony' also provides the model for his account of the political order, or whether it instead casts doubts on its possibility and goodness. In his paper, “"Earth Shall be Filled with the Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord": The Messianic Age and Popular Enlightenment in Maimonides' Thought,” Seth Appelbaum (Tulane) explores the tension between Maimonides’ account of the limits that human nature sets on popular knowledge of God, on one hand, and his assertion, on the other, that a Messianic age will come to pass that will bring about universal enlightenment without changing the nature of human beings or the world. Finally, in his paper “Founding the Divine City: Moses as a ‘First Founder of a Commonwealth’ in Hobbes’ 'Leviathan,'” Ferdinand Deanini (LMU Munich) argues that while Hobbes seems to pay little attention to the practical difficulties of establishing a new commonwealth out of the lawless state of nature, in fact in Part III of 'Leviathan' his treatment of Moses serves as the paradigm of the “first founder of a commonwealth”, allowing Hobbes to show the requirements and problems of founding a new state.
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Maimonides' 'Guide of the Perplexed' provides ample evidence for the intellectual and political obstacles that stand in the way of communal enlightenment about the true nature of God. Such knowledge is the province of the few who dwell in the light; it will never become available to the many, who will remain in the half-light of opinion. The anthropomorphic images of God and the sacrificial cult are to be understood as concessions to the needs of the many and do not in and of themselves fulfill the Law’s true intention: fostering demonstrative knowledge of the highest beings. However, Maimonides’ legal code, the 'Mishneh Torah,' refers to the Messianic redemption as a time when "earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord" (Hab 2:14). Maimonides interprets this verse as a reference to a future enlightenment made possible by the political restoration of the Messianic age, thus contradicting the tendency of the Guide, which is to deny that any such enlightenment can be achieved. In light of this contradiction between Maimonides' most philosophical book and his most Jewish one, what is Maimonides’ teaching regarding the Messianic age, and what does he intend for us to learn from his multiple presentations? Beyond the great intrinsic interest of this question, Maimonides' thoughts on enlightenment and its relation to Jewish political restoration may clarify the contested relationship between the Jewish state and the modern enlightenment, to say nothing of clarifying the contested status of the modern enlightenment itself.


Name: Christopher Baldwin
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: cebaldwin2014@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Southeast Missouri State University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Aristophanes’ Tragi-Comic Political Realism in the Knights
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Aristophanes regularly refers to and makes fun of the corrupt character of Athenian political life in his plays. In the Birds and Assemblywomen Aristophanes comically explores the desirability and possibility of reforming Athens’ corrupt politics. Yet the ridiculous and fantastically unbelievable character of those attempts at political reform—requiring, for example, the overthrow of the Olympian gods or the abolition of the family—suggests that radical political reform, however desirable, is not possible. By comically raising and exploring the possibility of radical political reform Aristophanes points to a more tragic or sobering political reality: the impossibility of a perfectly just or good society and the inevitability of injustice and corruption in actual political life. The Knights, however, could seem to be different. There Aristophanes seems to propose a more moderate and realistic political reform: ridding the city of its current corrupt leader (Cleon) and returning the city and its people to an earlier, less corrupt state. Yet Aristophanes suggests that even such seemingly modest attempts at political reform cannot realistically be expected to succeed. In my paper I explore Aristophanes’ sober political realism as it comes to sight in the Knights, considering especially what Aristophanes suggests there about the essential character and limits of political life.


Name: Jack Barlow
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: barlow@juniata.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Juniata College
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Participation Type: Panelist
Roundtable Title: Walter Nicgorski's Contribution to the Study of Cicero (?)
Roundtable Description: A discussion of Walter Nicgorski's book on Cicero and more broadly on his career contributions to Cicero studies.
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Roundtable Description: A discussion of Walter Nicgorski's book on Cicero and more broadly on his career contributions to Cicero studies.
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Name: Matthew Berry
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: berryme@bc.edu
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Boston College
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Paper Title: Democracy's Dignity and Aristotelian Political Justice
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Contemporary scholars have argued that the fundamental values of liberal democracy--liberty and equality--are insufficient. Some have proposed to add a third fundamental value--dignity--in order to regulate the other two. I argue that dignity fails to bear the weight such scholars would place on it. I urge instead a new articulation of Aristotle's conception of political justice as a standard that secures not only liberty and equality, but their preconditions.


Name: Daniel Blanchard
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: drblanchardxiv@hotmail.com
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Institution: Fay School
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: The Historian Polybius’ Political Perspective and the Theory of Mixed Government
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The Greek Historian Polybius, in his history of the Roman Republic, heralded the construction of the Lacadaemonian constitution as the archetype, the most perfect political form achieved by the Ancient Greek poleis, thereby rejecting through his method the theoretical constructs of Aristotle’s constitutional polity and Plato’s ethical hierarchy, while drawing from Xenophon’s historical analysis that the inherent nature of Sparta’s government brought equity and balance to society, and thus peace, stability and prosperity. Important to understanding the perspective of Polybius’ theory was the shift in the appreciation, by ancient political scientists and historians, of the concepts surrounding the institution democracy. Polybius interpreted that democracy was logical, natural, and just therefore encouraging the political equality and freedom of speech that was also evident in the other logical and just forms of kingship and aristocracy. This was an important departure from Aristotle, who argued that democracy was a corruption, a deviation away from polity, which was a short lived human constructed fusion that harnessed both oligarchical (wealthy minority) and democratic (poor majority) elements into a single unified political entity. For Polybius then it was the aristocracy, comprised of the most just and wisest, the noblest, that maintained the virtuousness of monarchy and democracy. Mixed government worked precisely because of this shift in political theory. What was noticeably absent from Polybius’ own historical analysis was any mention of the pervasive socio-economic reforms, so well documented by Xenophon, of the mythic lawgiver Lykurgos that ruthlessly demanded conformity, enforcing sameness and equality. Also missing were references to the subjugation and enslavement of the Messenians and the necessities of a massive slave population to support Sparta’s socio-economic and political life. Without the Helots, Sparta, both culturally and politically, was not able to exist, and this singular point was not included by Polybius in his writings on mixed government. From here, Polybius’ own political beliefs were uncovered. While in Rome, he was aware of the influx of slavery, a byproduct of imperialism, and the subsequent collapse of the Italian yeoman farmer and hemorrhaging of the plebian class. However, Polybius looked beyond these issues and excluded socio-economic reform from his political theory. He favored the Patrician model as his basis of work; the consolidation of power within the confines of wealthy, well-educated elite citizens that controlled the Senate and Consulship and relied heavily on slave labor for the production of their plantations. Moreover, while Aristotle wrote about the inevitability of a slave class and Plato’s Republic necessitated a slave class, Polybius took it for granted. This seemingly Patrician attitude resulted in Polybius avoiding altogether Lykurgos’ socio-economic reforms, Aristotle’s middling constitution, and Plato’s economic sameness. Polybius’ argument was a true departure from Lykurgos, Aristotle, Plato, and even the historian Xenophon in that he wrote that it was government, and government alone, linked naturally with human evolution, which made collective human existence, society, both feasible and productive. It was government which raised humans out of their bestial state in nature providing laws, supplanting base animal instincts, and confining the inbred self-preservative and openly destructive nature of humans. Essential to his argument was his conviction that the virtuous balance formed between monarchial, aristocratic and democratic political elements in a mixed government, harnessed into republicanism, halted the degeneration of government and staved off the cycle of political revolution.


Name: Stephen Brown
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: brownst@bc.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Boston College
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Peter Aureoli on the Nature of Averroes's Philosophy
Panel Title: Medieval Christian Views of Islamic Political Philosophy
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Co-author info: Stephen Brown, Boston College brownst@bc.edu
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Peter Aureoli, a Franciscan theologian at the University of Paris, argued in his 'Scriptum in I Sententiarum' and his "Reportatio in I Sententiarum' that despite Averroes's fame for strong demonstrative arguments that would prove a philosophical position as certainly true that he (and Aristotle) often presented arguments which were not demonstrative. Such non-demonstrative arguments were not aimed at proving the truth of his positions but rather were 'declarative', that is, they were offered to bring a better understanding of the positions he held. Considered in themselves, the 'arguments' (probable in terms of proof) were meant to 'declare' (bring understanding) or 'to imagine through the intellect' the truth of the position presented.


Name: Timothy Burns
Section:
Professional Email: Timothy_Burns@baylor.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Baylor University
Scheduling Preference: Thursday Morning
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Paper Title: The Fate of Virtue in Cyrus’ Babylon
Panel Title: Understanding Ancient Law and the Regime
Panel Description: This panel will examine ancient law and the regime. Panelists will consider their relationship, their natural and conventional limits, what supports and undermines them, and the education that prepares one to rule well.
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Xenophon presents Cyrus the Great as offering the Persian Peers, through military conquest, restful rewards for the laborious virtues they have long practiced, and as having offered the Persian commoners the opportunity to deserve the same rewards through virtuous service in his army. Yet when Cyrus’ army has succeeded in taking over the Assyrian empire, Cyrus tells the Peers that they must continue to practice virtue and its hardships rather than reaping restful rewards. The Peers are, moreover, no longer rulers but instead must do obeisance to Cyrus as their absolute monarch, and must submit to the artful deprivation of their friendships and omnipresent scrutiny of their words and deeds. This paper investigates the inherent difficulty with Cyrus’ promised meritocracy.


Name: Peter Busch
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: peter.busch@villanova.edu
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Villanova University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: An Augustinian Defense of the Nation-State? Pierre Manent and the Mediation of Humanity
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A decade before “Brexit” became a household word, the nation-state was already being defended by Pierre Manent. According to Manent, the nation offers a kind of common ownership and activity that befits our human nature, while trans-national entities allow nothing of the kind. While this argument draws on classical political philosophy, especially that of Aristotle, I mean to consider its relationship with Augustine. My discussion will focus on Metamorphoses of the City, Manent's most fundamental work of the past ten years. The final section of that book devotes two chapters to Augustine’s critique of paganism and his doctrine of the two cities. I read the final chapter, “The Stakes of Mediation,” as a response to the problems posed by the latter separation above all. For Manent, democratic nations mediate the humanity of their citizens, and although such mediation is now officially secular, its roots lie in the specifically Christian tradition of the West. How, for Manent, does this constitute an improvement over the un-mediated humanism of a trans-national entity like the European Union? Should an Augustinian be persuaded that such mediation truly distinguishes the democratic nation-state from the “City of Man,” pure and simple?


Name: Alejandro Castrillon
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: acastril@nd.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Unveiling the divine in Eros: The intrusion of desire in Plato’s Republic and Herodotus’s History
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The relationship between the divine and Eros, though alluded to within The Republic, is portrayed more strongly in Herodotus’s History. This paper will examine Plato’s account and Herodotus’s function as foil in order to understand Socrates’s reasons for concealing Eros within The Republic, as well as the necessity of a divine education in directing that strong desire towards a suitable end for the city. We will first outline the nature of Eros and the corresponding parts of the soul, paying particular attention to Socrates’s discussion in The Republic. We will use this as a foundation for our examination of the varying stories on the Ring of Gyges, exploring the conflict of erotic desire with the political community. Then we shall explore the ways that Eros is directed toward a divine conception, basing our discussion on Socrates’s education from Diotima and his elaboration on the origins of tyranny in Book VIII of The Republic. Not only will we establish the permanent problem of Eros with respect to the city, but we will also detail the necessity of its redirection under the guise of a divine end.


Name: Ann Charney Colmo
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: charneca@dom.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Dominican University
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Paper Title: The Triumvirate of the Life of Contemplation
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Aristotle did not call the happiest life the life of philosophy, because this life is more complex: it calls for three of the intellectual virtues--intellect (nous), wisdom, and prudence--to provide "the complete happiness of a human being."


Name: Randall Clark
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Name: Thomas Cleveland
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: tjc.caute@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Boston College
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Paper Title: The Eleatic Stranger's Critique of Divine Law and Socratic Dialectic
Panel Title: Virtue, Religion, and Politics in Platonic Philosophy
Panel Description: Plato's Socrates makes virtue the central theme of his philosophic investigations. But the political and religious context and character of the Socratic project creates a challenge for the unfettered questioning required by philosophy. The papers on this panel explore the balance between incisive critique and defensive rhetoric struck by Socrates in his examinations of justice, the noble, the good, piety, and the gods presented in Plato's Cleitophon, Republic, Philebus, and Statesman. Each paper thereby contributes to the project of elucidating the original meaning of political philosophy, with respect both to its subject and its inevitable political consequences.
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In this paper I argue that in the Statesman (Politikos) Plato presents an alternative to the political science (politikē) of Socrates. The Eleatic Stranger attempts to show that a science of politics is possible in large part by confronting the greatest challenge to it, the claim that the city's laws come from gods and are the object of piety or awe, not science. In order to address this challenge, then, the Stranger offers a critique of law that culminates in the claim that no perfect being (no god) would rule through categorical imperatives that are unchanging and applicable to all. His critique, however, takes for granted that the human good is independent of or superior to the common good that is the aim of law. The Stranger's approach, then, would have to be supplemented with a dialectical investigation of the alternative supposition – namely, that the individual finds happiness only through his devotion to the common good. This investigation is a part of the Socratic activity alluded to in both the Sophist, which precedes the Statesman in its dramatic date, and in the Apology, which follows it.


Name: Christopher Colmo
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: farabi@dom.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Dominican University
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Paper Title: Alfarabi and the Furniture of the Cave
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Alfarabi presents himself as a follower of Plato and Aristotle. This paper will suggest that precisely because of their enormous success, it was no longer possible to simply follow the ancients. The rhetoric of Plato and Aristotle made the natural city impossible. It was no longer enough to simply protect the city from the influence of philosophy. That influence is too great. Alfarabi takes it upon himself to provide the images of the cave, images that every city needs. Every city sees itself as the virtuous city that Alfarabi depicts. As he envisions the way that philosophers change the world, Alfarabi takes at least one step toward creating a philosophy of history.


Name: Daniel Davenport
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: danielrdavenport@yahoo.com
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: Sacred Heart University
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: “Two Going Together”: On Protagoras 347a-351b and Socrates’ Humility before Others
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What is necessary in order for there to be a true community rather than just people sharing physical space? What is necessary in order for togetherness to be? One might answer these questions by saying that a certain shared understanding or a certain shared set of beliefs is necessary in order for community or togetherness to exist. Plato’s Republic emphasizes and radicalizes exactly that point of view as the city in speech is developed with the goal of having its rulers and guardians, at the very least, be of one mind. But, is that point of view actually Platonic? We see a very different understanding of community in Plato’s Protagoras, an understanding of community that is rooted in what we might call “humility.” We are accustomed to Socrates’ encouragement of intellectual humility with respect to the truth, but the Protagoras points to a kind of humility that seems equally important to philosophy – a humility with respect to whether we presume to know and understand the beliefs and motivations of those with whom we converse. Socrates’ humility and Protagoras’ lack thereof is dramatically evident throughout the Protagoras but perhaps especially so at 347a-351b. Here, the opportunity to learn eludes Protagoras less because he fails to understand an argument than because he fails to understand Socrates himself.


Name: Ferdinand Deanini
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: ferdinand.deanini@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: Founding the Divine City: Moses as a “first founder of a commonwealth” in Hobbes' Leviathan
Panel Title: Bridging the Gap: On the Relationship of Nature and Politics in Hesiod, Maimonides, and Hobbes
Panel Description: In this panel, we will explore the relationship of nature – divine and human – on one hand and politics, on the other, as it appears in the works of a Greek epic poet, a medieval Jewish theologian and jurist, and an early modern political philosopher. In her paper “The Role of Hesiod's Account of the First Things in His Political Thought,” Anna Schmidt (LMU Munich) asks whether the understanding of the cosmic order Hesiod presents in the Theogony also provides the model for his account of the political order, or whether it instead casts doubts on its possibility and goodness. In his paper, “"Earth Shall be Filled with the Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord": the Messianic Age and Popular Enlightenment in Maimonides' Thought,” Seth Appelbaum (Tulane) explores the tension between Maimonides’ account of the limits that human nature sets on popular knowledge of God, on one hand, and his assertion, on the other, that a Messianic age will come to pass that will bring about universal enlightenment without changing the nature of human beings or the world. Finally, in his paper “Founding the Divine City: Moses as a ‘First Founder of a Commonwealth’ in Hobbes’ Leviathan,” Ferdinand Deanini (LMU Munich) argues that while Hobbes seems to pay little attention to the practical difficulties of establishing a new commonwealth out of the lawless state of nature, in fact in Part III of Leviathan his treatment of Moses serves as the paradigm of the “first founder of a commonwealth”, allowing Hobbes to show the requirements and problems of founding a new state.
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One striking peculiarity of Hobbes’ Leviathan is the absence of a comprehensive discussion of lawgiving and the founding of a concrete commonwealth. While Hobbes elaborates at length the necessity and legitimacy of an absolute sovereignty and the mutual contract underpinning it, he seems to pay little attention to the practical difficulties of establishing a new commonwealth out of the lawless state of nature. My paper intends to argue that Hobbes turns to this question in Part III of the Leviathan, when he discusses Moses and the establishment of the Jewish polity. Moses serves as the paradigm of the “first founder of a commonwealth”, allowing Hobbes to show the requirements and problems of founding a new state. Hobbes here not only makes clear the important role of religious belief for creating consent among the new citizens, but also elaborates on the difficult transition of sovereignty from a divinely sanctioned, charismatic first founder to his successors.


Name: Erik Dempsey
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: ed6335@utexas.edu
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Afternoon
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Paper Title: Thumos in Plato's Repubilc Book IV
Panel Title: Virtue, Religion, and Politics in Platonic Philosophy
Panel Description: Plato's Socrates makes virtue the central theme of his philosophic investigations. But the political and religious context and character of the Socratic project creates a challenge for the unfettered questioning required by philosophy. The papers on this panel explore the balance between incisive critique and defensive rhetoric struck by Socrates in his examinations of justice, the noble, the good, piety, and the gods presented in Plato's Cleitophon, Republic, Philebus, and Statesman. Each paper thereby contributes to the project of elucidating the original meaning of political philosophy, with respect both to its subject and its inevitable political consequences.
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Co-presenter info: Ariel Helfer--Michigan State UniversityDaniel O'Toole--UT-AustinThomas Cleveland--Harvard University
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This paper offers an interpretation of the meaning of thumos in Book IV of the Republic, by means of a close reading of the story Socrates tells about Leontius.


Name: Jordan Dorney
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: dorney.jordan@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Morning
Proposal Type: Paper
Participation Type: Panelist
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Paper Title: Sage Against the Machine
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The complaint of the Cleitophon—that Socrates gives no actionable advice—lies at the core of the conflict between political and philosophic education. Cleitophon recounts a remarkably un-Socratic hymn designed to resemble the beautiful speech with which Socrates is said to speak while “evaluating” (“judging,” “censuring” [ἐπιτιμῶν]) human beings. Not as the gadfly or as the midwife or as the old fool does Socrates appear to Cleitophon but “just like a god upon the tragic machine.” In the apparent plot-saving device of the deus ex machina, of all places, Cleitophon identifies the very man whom he believes to give no definitive answers on action, who, so far from cutting all cords to reach a satisfying conclusion to human problems, revels in aporia. This paper interprets the pseudo-Socratic hymn in light of the tragic device of the deus ex machina. I look primarily at Aeschylus’ and Euripides’ Athenas, and their pre-tragic prototype in the epilogue of the Odyssey, alongside the mockeries of Aristophanes. I note also the other gods and demigods who appear in the machine in extant tragedy. I advance a defence of the device against its usual criticisms. Cleitophon, even in his less-than-serious invocation of the tragic machine, presents us with an underappreciated side of Socrates as teacher—the fearsome, the astounding, the beautiful. Such a comparison is mutually beneficial for students of tragedy and for students of Plato. Socrates the “terrible” (deinos) as much as Socrates the “clever” (deinos) (Apol. 17b), demonstrates the proper mode of education to philosophy, and Cleitophon’s reaction, with his threat to leave for the more political, practical Thrasymachus, demonstrates a significant, though not unaccounted for, challenge.


Name: George Dunn
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: FritFerret@aol.com
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: University of Indianapolis
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Paper Title: Could Confucius Support Donald Trump?
Panel Title: Political Philosophy in the Face of Donald Trump
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Could Confucius support Donald Trump? On its face, Donald Trump’s political agenda has much in common with some perennial themes of the Confucian tradition, such as the stress on strong families, the promotion of personal responsibility, the preference for a relatively closed and homogeneous society, and the desire to trim government expenditures. Also, like the Confucians, Trump proposes a government that is based on an aristocracy of talent, offering himself as someone whose successful business ventures demonstrate that he possesses the intelligence and strength to be an effective chief executive. In fact, Trump’s pitch to the voters typically focuses more on his supposed personal virtues than on his stances on particular issues. Confucius would agree that the excellence or virtue of the ruler, his 德 (pronounced “duh”), is the crucial ingredient of good government. However, the virtues that Trump advertises as qualifying him for the office of the presidency differ in significant ways from the virtues extolled by Confucius. Simply put, the superior man or true Confucian gentleman, the 君子 (pronounced “junzi”), does not regard riches as a measure of merit, as Trump’s continual trumpeting of his own wealth indicates he does. The Confucian gentleman doesn’t necessarily scorn wealth, but he does view the petty man’s inordinate preoccupation with making a fast buck as a disqualification for holding public office. So Confucius would not support Donald Trump, despite some superficial similarities in their social philosophies.


Name: Garrett FitzGerald
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: gfitzge1@nd.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Corpses and Coercion: The Regulation of Pity and Grief as “Lawless” Desires in Plato’s Republic
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Throughout Plato's Republic, pity and grief are depicted as emotions particularly hostile to reasoned civic rationality as instantiated in and through the law. In addition to Socrates' direct exposition of the dangers posed by 'lawless' desire toward the experience and expression of these emotions, the startling vignette of Leontius offers another possible illustration of the subversive potential of pity and grief. By reading political significance back onto the paradoxically depoliticized image of executed criminals to which Leontius reacts, the reader may move beyond the scene's immediate pedagogical function to examine its consonance with Plato’s deeper abiding concerns with the ways in which such 'lawless' emotions can subvert the justice claims of the city, especially in their (ostensibly) irrational challenge to the authorization and legitimation of the city’s necessary enactment of coercive force. Building on the strange tale of Leontius, this paper thus explores the broader implications of the desire toward 'lawless' emotions—and pity and grief in particular—as threats to rational, legal civic order within and beyond the City in Speech of Plato's Republic.


Name: Steven Forde
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: forde@unt.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: University of North Texas
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: The virtue of Strife in Hesiod’s Works and Days
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Strife is an evil. Or is it? Strife is the first theme on which the Muses enlighten Hesiod in his Works and Days. Contrary to expectation, strife is twofold, with one being praiseworthy—to him who understands. But what is it that one must understand, and what makes some strife praiseworthy? I follow the theme of Eris in the Works and Days, as a way to get at Hesiod’s deeper teaching. NPSA organizers: this is a revised version of a paper I was scheduled to give at last year's conference. I had to cancel at the last minute due to illness, so the paper was never delivered.


Name: David Fott
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: dsfott@yahoo.com
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Scheduling Preference: Thursday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
Participation Type: Moderator
Roundtable Title: Walter Nicgorski's New Book on Cicero's Political Philosophy
Roundtable Description: Walter Nicgorski’s new book, “Cicero’s Skepticism and His Recovery of Political Philosophy,” will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in summer 2016. It represents the fruit of an effort to understand Cicero’s moral and political philosophy and to understand Cicero himself, perhaps the greatest combination of philosopher and politician who ever lived. The book finds solutions to apparent tensions in Cicero’s thought–chief among them the tensions between his Academic skepticism and his advocacy of Stoic morals, between his commitments to philosophy and to rhetoric, between his appreciation of Greek philosophy and his pride in Roman culture, between theory and practice, and between right and utility. The key to the coherence is to be found in Cicero’s intention to imitate Socrates in a manner appropriate to Rome. In particular Cicero adopts Socrates’s skepticism and his focus on fundamental questions of practical philosophy. The key concept then becomes the model statesman–what can be called a Socratic statesman. Understanding Cicero’s ability to adapt Socratic political philosophy to Rome is the basis of our ability to see the relevance of Cicero’s political philosophy to our problems today. Nicgorski achieves this result through a close reading of Cicero’s most important philosophical writings. His book stands out from other recent books on Cicero in its combination of comprehensiveness and thorough attention to secondary sources. It is unsurprising that this book makes a large contribution to the field because Nicgorski is significantly responsible for the existence of the field through his earlier published work. From the nineteenth century into the twentieth, many scholars had viewed Cicero almost exclusively as a source of information about the philosophical schools of his day but not as a serious thinker himself. Beginning with an article in 1978, then in journals such as “Political Theory,” then in an edited volume resulting from a conference he organized at the University of Notre Dame, Nicgorski challenged the dismissive approach to Cicero and paved the way for later scholars, a number of whom are on this panel to express their gratitude as well as their constructive criticism. David Fott will serve as moderator. He is the translator of Cicero’s “On the Republic” and “On the Laws” (Cornell University Press, 2014) and author of articles and book chapters on Cicero in such journals as “Political Theory.” Several accomplished scholars will participate in the discussion: J. Jackson Barlow has published on statesmanship in Cicero’s political philosophy, and he has studied the influence of Cicero on American political thought. Charles Kesler wrote his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University on Cicero. Among his many publications are essays on Cicero and natural law. Norma Thompson has written on Herodotus and Thucydides as well as on statecraft and judgment in ancient political philosophy. Michael Zuckert’s numerous books began with “Natural Rights and the New Republicanism” (Princeton University Press, 1994). He has also written an article on natural right in Roman law for “Review of Politics.”
Paper Title: Cicero on the Order of Rank between Theoretical and Practical Wisdom
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Roundtable Description: Walter Nicgorski’s new book, “Cicero’s Skepticism and His Recovery of Political Philosophy,” will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in summer 2016. It represents the fruit of an effort to understand Cicero’s moral and political philosophy and to understand Cicero himself, perhaps the greatest combination of philosopher and politician who ever lived. The book finds solutions to apparent tensions in Cicero’s thought–chief among them the tensions between his Academic skepticism and his advocacy of Stoic morals, between his commitments to philosophy and to rhetoric, between his appreciation of Greek philosophy and his pride in Roman culture, between theory and practice, and between right and utility. The key to the coherence is to be found in Cicero’s intention to imitate Socrates in a manner appropriate to Rome. In particular Cicero adopts Socrates’s skepticism and his focus on fundamental questions of practical philosophy. The key concept then becomes the model statesman–what can be called a Socratic statesman. Understanding Cicero’s ability to adapt Socratic political philosophy to Rome is the basis of our ability to see the relevance of Cicero’s political philosophy to our problems today. Nicgorski achieves this result through a close reading of Cicero’s most important philosophical writings. His book stands out from other recent books on Cicero in its combination of comprehensiveness and thorough attention to secondary sources. It is unsurprising that this book makes a large contribution to the field because Nicgorski is significantly responsible for the existence of the field through his earlier published work. From the nineteenth century into the twentieth, many scholars had viewed Cicero almost exclusively as a source of information about the philosophical schools of his day but not as a serious thinker himself. Beginning with an article in 1978, then in journals such as “Political Theory,” then in an edited volume resulting from a conference he organized at the University of Notre Dame, Nicgorski challenged the dismissive approach to Cicero and paved the way for later scholars, a number of whom are on this panel to express their gratitude as well as their constructive criticism. David Fott will serve as moderator. He is the translator of Cicero’s “On the Republic” and “On the Laws” (Cornell University Press, 2014) and author of articles and book chapters on Cicero in such journals as “Political Theory.” Several accomplished scholars will participate in the discussion: J. Jackson Barlow has published on statesmanship in Cicero’s political philosophy, and he has studied the influence of Cicero on American political thought. Charles Kesler wrote his doctoral dissertation at Harvard University on Cicero. Among his many publications are essays on Cicero and natural law. Norma Thompson has written on Herodotus and Thucydides as well as on statecraft and judgment in ancient political philosophy. Michael Zuckert’s numerous books began with “Natural Rights and the New Republicanism” (Princeton University Press, 1994). He has also written an article on natural right in Roman law for “Review of Politics.”
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This paper concerns the dream of Scipio in book 6 of Cicero’s “On the Republic.” That section begins with Scipio’s ambiguity about the desirability of human glory. Then his adoptive grandfather, Africanus, appears to him in a dream and tells him that managing one’s fatherland is a way to attain eternal life. When Scipio’s natural father appears and shows him the galaxy, Scipio becomes discontented with Rome’s empire. Africanus shows him the larger universe in the form of concentric spheres. But the passage is unclear about the governance of the universe. Scipio cannot keep from looking at Earth, so Africanus explains to him how fleeting human glory is. Human glory was said to be undesirable in the first passage on natural law in book 1; nor was it desirable later in book 1, where Scipio classified it with avarice and lust in opposition to reason or judgment. Cicero’s teaching about glory is that it is not the goal of the wise man. Africanus tells Scipio that the quickest way to reach heaven is for him to promote the well-being of his fatherland. Africanus thereby makes the practical life seem superior. But he adds that an even quicker way to heaven is for the soul, while performing its political duties, to contemplate what is beyond human bodies. Thus contemplation is the inherently superior activity, but the philosopher cannot afford to lack prudence. Yet why did Cicero not avoid politics after Caesar’s assassination, when he could have done so? He saw his political activity as promoting moderation–reform of the republic rather than descent into one-man rule–and as thereby trying to make a home for philosophy and free speech in Rome.


Name: Ben Gibson
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: benjamin.gibson@yale.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Yale Divinity School
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Fifth, and First: Priests, Public Religion, and Divinity in Aristotle's Politics
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From all appearances, Aristotle was less concerned with the relationship between religion and politics than his teacher, Plato. Whereas Plato dedicated a whole chapter of his Laws to an argument for the existence of a good god, in his Politics, Aristotle gives what seem to be passing references to the priesthood. Scholars have differed in their approaches to interpreting the priesthood in Book VII of Aristotle’s Politics. Given Aristotle’s theology of a distant and immutable unmoved mover in the Metaphysics, many regard Aristotle’s language about the priesthood as simply insincere or politically expedient. However, when Aristotle’s description of the priesthood as “fifth, but first” in importance in the best regime is taken together with his theology found in both Nichomachean Ethics and Eudemian Ethics, it becomes clear that Aristotle is doing more than founding a civil religion. Rather, the priesthood provides the space for contemplation he outlines in Book X of Nichomachean Ethics, while providing the possibility of beneficent gods as seen in Book VIII of Eudemian Ethics. Through this paper, I argue that religion in Politics is more than useful to political rule, it is also a reflection of Aristotle’s understanding of the divine and the god life.


Name: Jonathan Gondelman
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: JGondelm@nd.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: The Ennui of Conquerors: The Periclean Vision and the Athenian Plague
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Pericles’ third, and final, speech finds the Athenians in a dire situation. Not only have the Spartans returned to ravage the Athenian territory for the second year in a row, but a plague has descended upon Athens. The illness is exacerbated by the refugees who, according to the plan laid out by Pericles, abandon their land and crowd into the city. General sentiment turns against Pericles and against the war. Envoys are sent to Sparta; in return for relief, the Athenians are almost ready to give up their empire. It is in this atmosphere of despair that Pericles attempts to hearten and chastise the Athenians at once. Pericles's third speech thus appears as a corollary to his Funeral Oration; if, in the Funeral Oration, he describes the glory and freedom of Athens, in the plague speech, he emphasizes the resolve necessary to preserve Athenian greatness. The plague, far from undoing the Periclean vision of the unity of war and greatness in the Funeral Oration, rather confirms the equation between war, greatness, and immortality that Pericles first made in that earlier speech.


Name: Elizabeth Goyette
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Professional Email: Elizabeth_Goyette@baylor.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Baylor University
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: The Role of Need and Dissimilarity in Friendship in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics
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In the eighth book of his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle introduces friendship by dividing it according to its three objects: utility, pleasure, and goodness, the greatest friendship being that between people alike and equal in virtue. The friendship of virtue is called “complete friendship” and “true friendship,” since it partakes of all the aspects of the other kinds of friendships and exceeds them in being for its own sake. When Aristotle proceeds in the latter half of Book Eight to discuss friendships of inequality, he is not just discussing forms of friendship that are merely analogous or fall short of being real friendships. Instead Aristotle’s discussion of the friendships of inequality expands and enriches the account of friendship he has already given. He brings the family and the city into the discussion in order to illustrate the role that need and dissimilarity play in friendships. Such an expansion of the discussion of friendship helps to show how friendship is possible for one who is not fully virtuous, but who is working to improve in virtue. Finally, this reading suggests that the discussion of friendship plays an essential role in the Ethics as a whole by revealing the deep parallelism and interdependence between friendship and politics.


Name: Ariel Helfer
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: ariel.helfer@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Michigan State University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: The Philosophic "Defense" of Virtue: Socrates' Adventures in Athenian Quicksand in the "Cleitophon" and "Republic"
Panel Title: Virtue, Religion, and Politics in Platonic Philosophy
Panel Description: Plato's Socrates makes virtue the central theme of his philosophic investigations. But the political and religious context and character of the Socratic project creates a challenge for the unfettered questioning required by philosophy. The papers on this panel explore the balance between incisive critique and defensive rhetoric struck by Socrates in his examinations of justice, the noble, the good, piety, and the gods presented in Plato's Cleitophon, Republic, Philebus, and Statesman. Each paper thereby contributes to the project of elucidating the original meaning of political philosophy, with respect both to its subject and its inevitable political consequences.
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The Platonic Socrates' reputation among his Athenian contemporaries presents a paradox. He was executed on charges of impiety and corrupting the youth, but he was also known as a champion of justice who stood up to the amoral sophists in defense of the beauty and goodness of virtue. Plato's "Republic" is the most memorable depiction of Socrates in the latter role, but its tiny companion dialogue, the "Cleitophon," raises challenging questions about the content of the morally salutary Socratic education. I this paper, I present a novel approach to this pair of Platonic works, including a controversial new interpretation of the Republic, in an attempt to show how Socrates' positive image among the Athenians was an only partially effective counterweight to the political problem that almost always confronts the practice of philosophy, and which Socrates was ultimately unable to escape.


Name: John Hungerford
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: john.hungerford@bc.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Boston College
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: Aristotle on the Distinction between Natural and Conventional Rule in the Politics
Panel Title: Understanding Ancient Law and the Regime
Panel Description: This panel will examine ancient law and the regime. Panelists will consider their relationship, their natural and conventional limits, what supports and undermines them, and the education that prepares one to rule well.
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Aristotle's introduction to his Politics is famous for its bold claims that "every city exists by nature" and that, accordingly, "the human being is by nature a political animal." These claims along with his arguments for them serve as Aristotle's official response to a critique of the authority of the city leveled certain unnamed predecessors. As a number of recent studies have noted, however, Aristotle gives several indications that this official response is not his most serious, or most rigorous, response the these predecessors' critique. Aristotle's more serious response is found, rather, in his discussion of the household in the rest of book one of the Politics. In this paper I argue that the core of that response is Aristotle's treatment of household slavery. His treatment of slavery is not only a somewhat veiled retreat from his earlier assertion of the city's naturalness, as some commentators have argued, but serves to introduce the reader to Aristotle's method of evaluating the naturalness of politics (or anything, for that matter) as well as to some of the reasoning behind that method. On this view, Aristotle's discussion of slavery holds the key to understanding his later treatment of politics proper -- the regime -- which treatment, I argue, is ultimately a continuation of his response to his predecessors' critique of political authority.


Name: Douglas Jarvis
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: dejarvis18@gmail.com
Professional Status: Practitioner
Institution: Independent Scholar
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Paper Title: Globalization as Universal Challenge to the Human Family? An Historical-Sociological Comparison of Confucius and Socrates on Ancestral Loyalty
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Many scholars have focused on the ethical dilemma faced by Confucius and Socrates in regards to the issue of whether or not there exists a moral duty to testify in a public court against one’s father. Confucius’ attempt to address the question through a “concrete case” approach, which advised against being a witness for the prosecution of the father, helped establish the means for a cult of ancestor worship ruled by the imperial ‘Mandate of Heaven.’ On the other hand, the Socratic dialogue on the persecution of a father for murder in Plato's Euthyphro, which opened the door to the philosophical inquiry towards the true “form” of piety, esoterically underscored the principles of individual autonomy and mind-body dualism that has come to define Western history. Various scholars have debated whether or not Socrates’ ethical arguments should be read in a Confucian manner (or vice versa); however, little attention has been given to the question as to how this shared dilemma in ancient thought applies to the current day challenges for the family in Western and Far Eastern societies. The dilemma of filial piety for both Confucius and Socrates, and the implications of their different approaches to the problem, reveals a major paradox for the contemporary human family in both societies. Globalization necessitates the material actualization of an increasingly integrated system of economic trade, social networking and sexual inter-mingling for the populaces of both the Far East and the West. On the other hand, the continued maintenance of the family in both civilizations demands culturally distinct frameworks for defining human existence, which appear to be ultimately not commensurable.


Name: Juman Kim
Section: Democratic Theory
Professional Email: jumankim@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Pennsylvania
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Democracy and the Politics of Impudence: An Unorthodox Reading of Aristotle
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This paper seeks to examine the unavoidable ‘impudence’ built into democratic political life. By this I mean we, as democratic citizens, tend to disregard dissimilar views and perspectives especially in the kind of situations in which we are enthusiastically and excessively participatory. Democratic theory has often condemned the politics of impudence as an aberration of democracy, not a problem incidental to and typical of democracy per se, while instead propagating an image of the idealized democratic self who is deliberative, reflective, and tolerant. However the portrait of this self-critical and deliberative citizen may seem normatively appealing, this view has at least two problems. First, empirically speaking, the portrait goes pale at the difficulty in fostering the kind of excitement and enthusiasm necessary for motivating democratic participation. When we care about politics, we care disproportionately more about the views and positions of our own (or those reside in contiguity with ours) while conceiving of them as superior to the rest otherwise perhaps equally reasonable opinions. Second, the rationalist account does not properly attend to the moral-psychological constitution of the democratic self at the deeper level. In the world of opposing forces and values, we usually form our political views only against, or in competition with, our opponents and enemies. In this respect, we are in fact reactive rather than straightforward. Even our seemingly most firm and consistent positions in fact rest on trembling foundations largely determined by our enemies. Democratic impudence — contempt or indifference in regard to dissimilar views and perspectives — is indicative of fear and diffidence rather than genuine strength. That is why democratic impudence is hardly overcome —certainly not by a simple negation. By drawing on and complicating Aristotle’s discussion of shame [aidōs], shamelessness/impudence [anaischuntia], and incontinence [akrasia], I demonstrate that democratic impudence is an ordinary vice in a qualified sense — something we constantly do as a result of our weakness even while acknowledging that what we do is in part disgraceful. Without any pretense of building a democratic politics devoid of impudence, this paper claims that what we can realistically do is to mobilize the seductive lure of impudence in such a way that we can promote and enlarge the sense of moderate pride associated with the virtues of magnanimity [megalopsuchia] and goodwill [eunoia]. This unorthodox reading of Aristotle suggests that by honestly professing and deploying (rather than jettisoning) our seemingly indelible impudence, we can keep alive a lively democratic politics while preventing a much more worrying trend of mutual hostility and aggressiveness.


Name: Douglas Kries
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: kries@gem.gonzaga.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Gonzaga University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: Albert the Great, Alain de Libera, and the Question of "Averroism"
Panel Title: Medieval Christian Views of Islamic Political Philosophers
Panel Description: This panel session will explore how medieval Christian philosophers and theologians understood Arabic political philosophers, including especially Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroës. The goal is to improve our grasp of the assimilation of Islamic political philosophy within the medieval Christian world. Since the Islamic political thinkers were working in the light of Plato and Aristotle, the panel session will also seek to shed light on how ancient political thought, especially Aristotle, was viewed in the Middle Ages.
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Albert the Great’s commentary on the Politics features a quotation from Alfarabi in its prologue. The commentary itself likewise contains elements, especially in its first chapters, that might incline one to think that its author harbors certain ‘averroist’ inclinations. The question of Albert’s possible averroism has been much discussed in recent decades by the prominent French medievalist Alain de Libera. De Libera has written two books and a number of articles on the problem, and has attempted to fit Albert’s averroistic tendencies into the larger question of averroism within the whole of the Middle Ages. Indeed, de Libera seems to consider it a fundamental and permanent philosophical problem. The goal of this paper will be to review and assess de Libera’s understanding of Albert only, and particularly to raise especially the question of the political overtones and implications of Albert’s work. Between his work on the Ethics and the Politics, Albert must be said to be an important figure in the history of political philosophy, and the purpose of the paper will be to assess how well that political thought has been understood by Alain de Libera.


Name: Lisa Leibowitz
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: leibowitzl@kenyon.edu
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Kenyon College
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: Who is a greater danger to law and the regime: the poet or the philosopher?
Panel Title: Understanding Ancient Law and the Regime
Panel Description: This panel will examine ancient law and the regime. Panelists will consider their relationship, their natural and conventional limits, what supports and undermines them, and the education that prepares one to rule well.
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In Book Ten of Plato’s Republic, the interlocutors determine that the poet who isn’t subservient to the philosopher must be expelled from the city for the health of the city. In Aristophanes’ Birds, Peisthetairos banishes Meton, a natural philosopher, from his city on what seem to be similar grounds. But who is actually more dangerous to the laws and the regime: the poet or the philosopher? This paper will begin this investigation by looking at the evidence Aristophanes offers in the Birds and elsewhere for expelling the philosopher.