Modern Political Theory

Name: Nasser Behnegar
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Professional Email: behnegar@bc.edu
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Boston College
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: "Hedonism and Natural Right in Locke's Political Philosophy"
Panel Title: Natural Rights in Locke and American Founding
Panel Description: This panel examines the arguments by which Locke and the early American political thinkers justified the theories of natural rights on which they based their understanding of legitimate government. The papers will address topics such as what it means to call rights "natural," and what the connection is between rights, duties, and happiness.
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In his Two Treatises of Government Locke formulates a natural right doctrine based on the desire for self-preservation. But in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke has nothing to say about this desire. Instead, he discusses the desire for happiness, which he understands in hedonistic terms. This paper examines the relationship between the desire for self-preservation and the desire for happiness or between Locke's natural right teaching and his hedonism.


Name: Robert Boatright
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: rboatright@clarku.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Clark University
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: Corruption and “Corruption Talk” among Montesquieu and the Moderns
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Co-author info: Molly Brigid Flynn, Assumption College, mflynn@assumption.edu
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Montesquieu’s discussion in The Spirit of the Laws of how corruption occurs in different political regimes often serves as a touchpoint for contemporary discussions of corrupt political practices and institutions. This is unsurprising; Montesquieu stands alone among the moderns in offering an explicit argument about the causes and consequences of political corruption. We argue, however, that Montesquieu’s definition of corruption is incompatible with contemporary uses of the term. His definition is, we contend, best understood when compared to the more skeletal definitions offered by, among others, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau. All of these theorists were concerned with the ways in which peoples – not individuals or political institutions – can be corrupted. In this paper we seek to elucidate Montesquieu’s definition and causal mechanisms, to explore what it might mean in a contemporary context to allege that a people has been corrupted, and to explore claims that modern political philosophers altered the traditional meaning of corruption.


Name: Joshua Bowman
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: bowmanjosh@hotmail.com
Professional Status: Practitioner
Institution: The Ciceronian Society Foundation
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Paradigm Pressures: Quentin Skinner’s Age of Reformation and the Religious Roots of Modern Order
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Among the most foundational narratives or paradigms for the history of Western political thought is the emergence and triumph of distinctively modern concepts of the state, freedom, constitutionalism and rights rooted in reason over and against the repressive and hierarchical feudalism of the Middle Ages rooted in religion. It was, in a sense, the receding public authority of religion which cleared a space for modernity, tolerance, liberty and human rights to become social and political reality. While historians and political theorists such as Eric Voegelin, Michael Gillespie and Brian Tierney have already challenged this narrative, its hold on historians of political thought remains ubiquitous. Among the most influential champions of this paradigm is the former Cambridge historian, Quentin Skinner, whose influential two-volume Foundations of Modern Political Thought (1978) traced the paradigm shift in political thought during the Renaissance and Reformation from Ancient and Medieval ideas to Modern concepts, with a particular focus on the notion of the state. Skinner remains deeply committed to this paradigm of intellectual history, building on the first volume of his Foundations (The Renaissance) as well as additional work on Hobbes and the English Revolution throughout his prolific career. Despite his explicit animosity toward religion (and especially Christianity) in his later writings and interviews, his widely neglected second volume, The Age of Reformation, offers convincing evidence to undermine the paradigm he places such considerable stock in. This paper draws out the evidence from Skinner’s own work in Foundations to demonstrate that the narrative of modernity as resisting religion is less compelling than reading modernity as one of Medieval Christianity’s most important progenies.


Name: Daniel Burns
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: daniel.e.burns@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: University of Dallas
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Morning
Proposal Type: Panel
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Paper Title: How Hobbesian is Locke's Law of Nature?
Panel Title: Natural Rights in Locke and the American Founding
Panel Description: This panel examines the arguments by which Locke and the early American political thinkers justified the theories of natural rights on which they based their understanding of legitimate government. The papers will address topics such as what it means to call rights "natural," and what the connection is between rights, duties, and happiness.
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Locke scholarship is deeply divided over the character and grounding of Locke's central moral-political teaching, the "law of nature." What is its relation to late-medieval natural law theories? To the Hobbesian "laws of nature"? To Christian revelation? What makes the precepts of the law of nature morally binding on us? This paper seeks to advance the debate on these questions by concentrating on the similarities and differences between the Lockean and the Hobbesian laws of nature.


Name: Kimberley Burns
Section:
Professional Email: kimberley.j.burns@gmail.com
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: University of Dallas
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Rousseau's Religious Project
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The profession of faith of the Savoyard Vicar occurs within Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s work Emile as a private conversation between the priest and a young man, and is presented as an example of what sort of private, religious education Emile will receive. In Letters Written from the Mountain, Rousseau says that the private professions of faith made by the Savoyard Vicar in Emile and by Julie in his epistolary novel Julie “are sufficiently in accord that one can explain one of them by the other.” This singular faith, which, though Rousseau himself does not entirely share, he nevertheless “favors greatly,” appears to have very little to do with the public, civil religion described in the Social Contract. And yet, in Letters Written from the Mountain, Rousseau defends and promotes the Vicar’s faith as the most politically and socially salutary of religions. This paper discusses the political and social benefits Rousseau thinks can be derived from the Vicar’s faith, and how this faith best meets the demands of political right and legitimate government set out in the Social Contract. I focus on the question of toleration: to what extent Rousseau is in favor of religious toleration, and how the followers of the Vicar’s faith are, as Rousseau writes, “more tolerant than it is possible to be with any other doctrine.” I draw some comparisons between Rousseau and John Locke to elucidate Rousseau’s unique stance on the proper relation between religion and the state, and on the most effective means of obtaining an end to religious disputes.


Name: Caleb Chaplin
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: caleb.chaplin@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Carleton University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Scepticism in Times of Recalcitrant Politics: Hume's Response to Partisan Demands
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David Hume’s approach to philosophical scepticism is conspicuously absent of methodical application. He argued that cause and effect, commonly understood, is not something inherent to what we observe, rather that the connection between events instead takes place in our mind. That is, what we presume is causal is only sequential. Observable events may develop in sequence but not necessarily along causal lines. This yields important distinctions when evaluating competing explanations of political phenomena. Claims concerning justice, by members of a political community, usually rest on commonly understood beliefs about how we observe injustice. Claims about injustice are often couched in terms of simple causality. But if we consider Hume's argument that causality is a property of the mind, then we are led to consider injustice in terms of sequences rather than causes. But would such an approach to political dialectic permit any results that could be agreed upon as just? The political rhetoric of inequality is often framed in terms of causality, especially in the context of history. In such cases the resolution of justice, understood causally, may rest on immoderately ambitious claims about what can be achieved through promissory politics. Thus, what Hume provides is a way of inquiring, not into the causes of inequality, so much as the sequences of inequality. This points to a more refined way of distinguishing political phenomena, disaggregating what we believe to be true from what is observably true.


Name: Adam Dan`el
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: adamdd@uchicago.edu
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Ben Gurion University, Sapir College
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: La fortuna di Trump
Panel Title: Rhetoric, the Passions and Democracy in the Age of Trump
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All too many have noticed the Machiavellian trumpeting of political virtuosity. Yet significantly fewer have realized Machiavelli's virtual reduction of political virtue to the sequences of happenings in time--otherwise titled "fortune". Of course, Machiavelli admits the critical, and quite frequently even fatal, impact that fortune inflicts on the materialization of success of political virtue. Yet Machiavelli goes beyond that in tracing even the origins of various types of political virtue to temporal upheavals that potential leaders must withstand. Fortune is thus not only the mistress of political virtue, but even more profoundly, its mother. Out of the womb of fortune, wherein seeds of political virtue were planted, the later burst out, seeking to take advantage of the opportunities the former provides, and to overcome (or at least sideline) the obstacles it posits. Building on this interpretation of Machiavelli's philosophy, this paper attempts to deconstruct major predicates of Trump's campaign as fruits of strong undercurrents in mass politics, prevailing especially in Western democracies. Specifically it ventures to draw comparison between contemporary zeitgeist and those that gave birth to anti-democratic, yet not conservative nor socialist, mass movements at the inception of last Century, frequently referred to as fascist.


Name: Emily Ferkaluk
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: emilykferkaluk@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Dallas
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Name: Emily Ferkaluk
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: emilykferkaluk@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Cedarville University
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Paper Title: Imperial Problems of Domestic Policy: How Alexis de Tocqueville Discusses Empire in “On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application to France.”
Panel Title: The Statesmanship and Political Science of Alexis de Tocqueville
Panel Description: Alexis de Tocqueville was both a theorist and a practitioner of politics. The papers on this panel explore how Tocqueville’s observation of politics and human behavior shaped his understanding of human nature, as well as how his understanding of human nature informed his political prescriptions. The papers address a range of themes in his writings and contribute to our knowledge of his statesmanship and his ability to identify the effects, necessities and limits of politics and institutions.Emily Ferkaluk addresses how “On the Penitentiary System” situates its analysis of penitentiary systems as a domestic policy solution to increasing international imperialism by liberal nations, thus leading readers to a reconsideration of the grounds upon which Tocqueville supports imperialism. Aaron Herold discusses Tocqueville’s treatment of the natural desire for immortality in human beings and how Tocqueville believes that the cultivation and direction of this desire can be achieved in the most politically salutary way, in particular in modern democracies. Heather Pangle explores the way that Tocqueville believes imperial rule can shape the French people, meet France’s political needs, and remedy some of the defects and dangers that attend democracies. Leor Sapir shows that Tocqueville conceives of individualism in terms of feeling powerless. Sapir uses this observation to bring Tocqueville into conversation with the tradition of modern political thought on the theme of power, and explains how this comparison helps to illuminate the foundations of liberalism.Together, these papers show how Tocqueville’s theoretical and philosophic observations about politics and human nature are grounded in particular observations about the needs and limits of human beings.
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The seeming contradiction between Tocqueville’s liberalism and his defense of imperialism remains an important question in Tocqueville studies. Notably, while Tocqueville scholars such as Avramenko, Gingerich, and Boesche have articulated the understanding of domestic despotism that can be seen in Tocqueville’s “On the Penitentiary System in America and Its Application to France,” there has been no study of the analysis of empire that is also visible within the report. I argue that “On the Penitentiary System” situates its analysis of penitentiary systems as one of three policy solutions to increasing international imperialism by liberal nations. In particular, by arguing for penitentiaries as a decentralized solution to France’s domestic problem of crime, Tocqueville and Beaumont intend to strengthen public opinion against the imperialistic policy of penal colonies. Thus, within the case-study of penal reform Tocqueville’s liberal goal of freeing local communities from centralized national government leads to a reconsideration of the grounds upon which Tocqueville supports imperialism.


Name: Zachary German
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: zacharygerman@hotmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Notre Dame
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: The Spirit of Liberty's Laws: Montesquieu on the Possibilities and Prerequisites of Liberty
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Different readers of Montesquieu have found him to be the champion of various regimes that he analyzes. Some consider him to be partial to classical republics; others conclude that he is most sympathetic to the type of monarchy that characterized his homeland; still others argue that the mixed regime of England constituted his model government. Disagreement over Montesquieu has a long pedigree. In the debate over the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, for instance, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists took Montesquieu to be an authority on politics, but they stressed different aspects of his work. Disagreements about Montesquieu are no doubt due, in part, to the complexity, nuance, and allusiveness of his political science, which is centered on his concept of “spirit.” Montesquieu suggests that the character of a people must be compatible with the political system and laws in order to be stable and successful, and he further explains that a people’s character is shaped by a variety of political, sociocultural, and natural factors. For this reason, Montesquieu indicates that the possibilities for political action – and for establishing political liberty – are always significantly restrained and shaped by a society’s particular circumstances. This paper examines how Montesquieu’s spirit-centered political science entails certain limitations on and prerequisites for establishing and maintaining political liberty in a given political community. In so doing, it sheds light on what he perceived to be the particular challenges to liberty in republics, monarchies, and mixed regimes like England.


Name: chrysoula gitsoulis
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: cgitsoulis@gradcenter.cuny.edu
Professional Status: Adjunct Professor
Institution: City College, CUNY
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Paper Title: Utilitarian vs Rights-Based Constructions of Value
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The most glaring weakness of utilitarianism, according to many of its critics, is that it fails to respect individual rights. As a consequentialist moral theory, utilitarianism holds that it is the consequences or ends of our actions (maximizing happiness) that determine whether particular means to them are justified. But is any means of achieving the greater good permissible? Suppose someone poisons his grandfather to acquire his fortune. Even if greater overall happiness is achieved, that is morally reprehensible. My paper will be devoted to addressing this objection. I will try to show that it is best to think of the difference between utilitarianism and rights-based ethics not as a difference in kind, but as a difference in degree. Once we see that the difference between these theories is a matter of degree, it will become apparent that the rights-based theorist faces a similar type of objection, and hence is no better off than the utilitarian theorist in terms of the stated objection.


Name: Bjorn Gomes
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: bwg2107@columbia.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Columbia University
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Paper Title: Mandeville on Recognition
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In recent decades, the politics of recognition has become an important theme in political and social theorizing about justice and freedom. The desire for recognition, that is to say, the desire to have the approval, esteem, consideration or respect of those around us, whether as individuals or members of social groups, has in fact been described as a vital human need. In trying to make sense of the politics of recognition, scholars have, for the most part, turned to Hegel’s account of the struggle for recognition for guidance, although more recent efforts have included studies on Fichte and Rousseau. This paper looks at one unlikely source for an account of the desire for recognition: Mandeville. I argue that understanding his ideas is not only crucial to understanding Rousseau’s view on the subject, but that Mandeville’s treatment of recognition is interesting in its own right. The paper begins with an account of Mandeville’s psychological picture of human beings, a picture on which he builds his account of sociability. The picture turns, very basically, on the two innate passions of self-love and self-liking. I argue that most of the literature on this subject has misinterpreted his account, leading to omissions and errors at a foundational level. I offer a revised account of the two passions, the general features of each passion, and the relations between them. Next, I show how self-liking is a far more pervasive and multifaceted concept than previously acknowledged, and that it is not merely a forerunner of Rousseau’s amour-propre. I do so by discussing self-liking in connection with dominion and reverence. I then examine how the desire for recognition plays a foundational role in the sociability of human beings and the formation of societies, and how Mandeville’s account anticipates Kant’s unsociable sociability. Finally, I discuss why Mandeville did not think that the desire for recognition involved a loss of freedom, which Rousseau thought it did in certain forms, and how Mandeville’s philosophy can add to our current understandings of recognition theory.


Name: Guillermo Graíño
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: ggraino@gmail.com
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Universidad Francisco de Vitoria / Villanova University
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Blaise Pascal on the Political Role of Philosophy
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Name: John Grove
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: john.grove@lmunet.edu
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: Lincoln Memorial University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Absolutism, Equality, and Moral Perception in Burke’s American Writings
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The question of how Edmund Burke believed one could perceive political and moral right is an ongoing and confounding one to scholars of his thought. He has alternatively been described as a utilitarian, a natural law thinker, a historicist, and as occupying various positions between these. Recent scholarship has emphasized the importance, for Burke, of emotions, culture, metaphor and the recognition of cognitive limits for understanding true political justice. This paper examines Burke’s American writings – rightfully seen as some of his most practical – to demonstrate how he believed political institutions, political processes, and political history create a framework which makes possible true moral understanding unattainable to the merely abstract theorist. Parliamentary treatment of the colonies, he argued, tended toward absolutism which imposes a false equality on the world and banishes the political art. This distortion prevents any genuine understanding of political justice. While Burke often claimed that he was concerned only with crafting a reasonable, workable colonial policy, he was in fact quite concerned with justice and injustice as well. Absolutism, like Jacobinism, relied on the belief that history, culture, and the political process are unnecessary for understanding political morality. As such, it produced not only an impractical policy, but also one which was oppressively unjust.


Name: Mykolas Gudelis
Section:
Professional Email: mykolasgudelis@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: The New School for Social Research
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Paper Title: Demochronos: The Political Time of Democracy
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Through the lens of temporality and the perspective of the conjunction between politics and time, this paper takes a look at ancient democracy from its inception in late antiquity. Considering the view of the social context of time as a realm of a multiplicity of temporalities, I argue that democracy as a political form of collective life of the community based on the principle of equality creates its own time and delineates its own temporal parameters by reflecting and temporally “embodying” principles, institutions, and social and cultural practices of democratic politics. In other words, from the temporal perspective, democracy can be seen as a political form of self-temporalization of the community. Such self-temporalization corresponds to the principle of collective self-governance, in the process of which the community continuously creates and recreates its own time by weaving together different temporal strands of its political life. In developing the concept of “demochronos” as the political time of democracy, this paper emphasizes the importance of the notion of time in politics and its significance in early political theory by demonstrating that the notion of time, and its discourses indirectly addressing the role of time in politics, was of central importance in arguments against democracy by its intellectual opponents of the time. The paper concludes by highlighting the tension between the political time of democracy and time articulated as an external temporal framework superimposed over the collective body of the democratic community in order to regulate, control, and limit its politico-temporal space, which results in the deflation of democracy’s emancipatory potential.


Name: Aaron Herold
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: alherold@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: SUNY Geneseo
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Paper Title: Tocqueville's Religious Statesmanship
Panel Title: The Statesmanship and Political Science of Alexis de Tocqueville
Panel Description: Alexis de Tocqueville was both a theorist and a practitioner of politics. The papers on this panel explore how Tocqueville’s observation of politics and human behavior shaped his understanding of human nature, as well as how his understanding of human nature informed his political prescriptions. The papers address a range of themes in his writings and contribute to our knowledge of his statesmanship and his ability to identify the effects, necessities and limits of politics and institutions. Emily Ferkaluk addresses how “On the Penitentiary System” situates its analysis of penitentiary systems as a domestic policy solution to increasing international imperialism by liberal nations, thus leading readers to a reconsideration of the grounds upon which Tocqueville supports imperialism. Aaron Herold discusses Tocqueville’s treatment of the natural desire for immortality in human beings and how Tocqueville believes that the cultivation and direction of this desire can be achieved in the most politically salutary way, in particular in modern democracies. Heather Pangle explores the way that Tocqueville believes imperial rule can shape the French people, meet France’s political needs, and remedy some of the defects and dangers that attend democracies. Leor Sapir shows that Tocqueville conceives of individualism in terms of feeling powerless. Sapir uses this observation to bring Tocqueville into conversation with the tradition of modern political thought on the theme of power, and explains how this comparison helps to illuminate the foundations of liberalism. Together, these papers show how Tocqueville’s theoretical and philosophic observations about politics and human nature are grounded in particular observations about the needs and limits of human beings.
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In both volumes of Democracy in America, Tocqueville describes the presence in human beings of a natural desire for immortality—a complex longing that he says takes the form of a desire to affirm and forget oneself simultaneously. Tocqueville suggests that this longing is what makes human beings distinctivevill; it allows them to achieve a kind of greatness unavailable to other beings, but it is also at the root of our uniquely atrocious behavior as well. This paper will explore the way that Tocqueville’s “new political science” seeks to cultivate this desire, and direct it in healthy directions, given the historically unprecedented effects that democracy, or the “generative fact” of equality of conditions, is likely to have on it. It will examine Tocqueville’s practical expectations for the role of religion in democratic times and the ways that he sought to influence religion’s teaching. It will also indicate the ways that this part of Tocqueville’s analysis complements rather than opposes his reliance on several well known secular or rationalistic solutions to the problems posed by equality, such as the use of associations and the doctrine of “self-interest well-understood.” Finally, the paper will take up Tocqueville’s seemingly ambivalent attitude toward Christianity. It will argue that Tocqueville’s evaluation of Christianity’s political teaching is more critical than it seems, but that, if Tocqueville’s religious statesmanship is successful, the vices Christianity and democracy share in common can be turned into virtues. This can be seen especially through an analysis of Tocqueville’s somewhat puzzling portrayal of Pascal as the paragon of human greatness.


Name: Jiyoon Im
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: jiyoon.im@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Boston College
Scheduling Preference: Friday Morning
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: Montesquieu on the Flexibility of Man: Equality between the Sexes in the Spirit of the Laws
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In this paper, I argue that Montesquieu’s insight into the flexibility of man enables him to furnish the normative standard of sexual equality in order to confront the tension between the diversity of political norms and justice in a new way. Equality between the sexes, in Montesquieu’s view, requires neither reason nor political liberty but “charms” and the passions of commerce—honor and vanity. While Montesquieu’s political thought has recently been presented as flexibly pluralist, pragmatically liberal, or aristocratically moderate, I argue that commentators have overlooked that the flexibility and moderation originate precisely from his defense of sexual equality and the newfound role of passions, manners, and fashion in modern commerce. By examining his bold claim that the comparison of mores across cultures has resulted in a consensus concerning the best arrangement between the sexes, I argue that he defends sexual equality not simply because he believes that it is a necessary condition for modern commerce but because it promises the best possibility of happiness in accord with his understanding of the proper balance of liberty, commerce, and religion in modernity.


Name: Dhruv Jain
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: jaindhruv@hotmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: York University
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: Virtù, Fortuna and Atomic Motion: A Lucretian Reinterpretation of Machiavelli
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A small, but growing, body of historical scholarship has focused renewed attention to the reception of Lucretius in Renaissance Italy, and Machiavelli’s own attempt to produce a definitive edition of Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura. In juxtaposition to the civic republican tradition that typically emphases Machiavelli’s supposed Aristotelian or Ciceronian theoretical fidelities, scholars such as Allison Brown and Ada Palmer have argued for a Lucretian inheritance. However, much of this secondary literature has paid an inordinate amount of attention to the implications of Machiavelli’s indebtedness to Epicureanism and his account of religion. This of course has buttressed similar claims by Leo Strauss, Harvey Mansfield and Paul Rahe, who have similarly argued for a Lucretian influence. Ada Palmer, however, has recently argued in Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance (2015) that Machiavelli was far more interested in Lucretius’ theory of atomic motion (pp. 85). Palmer however does not develop this theme in her book, nor attempts to map out how atomic motion precisely functions within the Machiavelli’s theoretical landscape. In this paper this thematic will be explored in greater detail and Lucretius’ theory of atomic motion will be mapped onto Machiavelli’s most famous concepts. Indeed, it will be argued that Machiavelli’s virtù relies on Lucretius’ third form of atomic motion: the clinamen or ‘swerve’; whereas fortuna relies on Lucretius’ second form of atomic motion: movement by atoms “in manifold ways” (DRN, 5: 190-200). This latter form of movement, Lucretius also informs us, is not predicated on ‘fate’, but rather on a series of natural laws (DRN, 5: 50-60). In the first part of the presentation, Lucretius’ forms of atomic motion will be introduced within the context of Machiavelli’s interpretative marginalia, especially Machiavelli’s correlation of clinamen with voluntas or ‘free will’. In the second part, these forms of atomic motion will be displaced into The Prince and Discourses Book 1, Chapter 3. It will be argued that princes with virtù are able to break from chains of action-reaction, or necessity, and create new ‘modes and orders’; whereas those princes who lack the sufficient virtù are dependent on fortune and ‘accidents’, which results in an unfolding of a series of natural laws and necessities. I thus differentiate my own interpretation from both the civic republican and ‘soft Lucretian (or Straussian) schools of interpretation, and argue for a ‘strong Lucretian’ interpretation of Machiavelli’s work.


Name: Angel Jaramillo
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: angeljaramillot@gmail.com
Professional Status: Assistant Professor
Institution: unam
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Paper Title: Nietzsche and Kojève on Trump’s politics
Panel Title: "Rhetoric, the Passions and Democracy in the Age of Trump: Moderns”
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Nietzsche and Kojève on Trump’s politicsIn this paper I will use the political philosophies of both Nietzsche and Kojève to try to understand the Trump phenomenon in American politics. I will attempt to pin down whether Trump’s politics can be described as an expression of nihilism in Nietzsche’s sense. Contrary to what political thinkers such as Francis Fukuyama has recently said regarding Trump’s energetic reaction against political decay, I will argue that Trump’s allegiance to the “cash nexus” motive and his disregard for meaning speaks the language of nihilism. On the other hand, I will probe whether Trump’s politics is an expression of what Kojève calls, following Hegel, the desire for pure prestige.


Name: Maximilian Krahe
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: max.krahe@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Yale University
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Paper Title: Bridging The Gap Between Descriptive and Normative Theory
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In light of a recent spade of 'grand theorising' in political science and related fields (cf. Acemoglu and Robinson 2012, Mann 2012, Fukuyama 2011 and 2014), this paper asks how we should understand the relationship between normative political theory and 'grand theory.' The main claims defended are as follows: First, due to the complexity of the world relative to our ability to comprehend it, individual facts (even if, counterfactually, those could be firmly established) do not uniquely determine theory. This creates ‘wiggle room’ regarding how to pull various ‘facts’ together into an overarching theoretical representation of the world. Second, theory (by which I mean the particular lens through which we observe, comprehend, and talk about the world) is not neutral regarding different policy prescriptions. Any theory, even if purely descriptive, creates a slanted playing field with regards to justificatory claims for normative prescriptions: some will be easier to defend against its backdrop, others harder. In recognition of this, and against more positivist conceptions of political science, the paper then argues that prior normative commitments are a legitimate reason to move one way rather than another within the wiggle room offered by the under-determinacy of theory by facts. Even descriptive grand theory is therefore normative. There is no reason, the paper then concludes, why political theory should restrict itself to overtly normative forms of theorizing. Instead, the construction of grand descriptive theories, a la Acemoglu and Robinson, Mann, or Fukuyama, especially when done with normative intent, can be seen as a task fully appropriate to political theory.


Name: Adam Kunz
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: adamscottkunz@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of California, Davis
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: The Fraternity-Difference Principle Correspondence: Rawls’ Conception of the Person as Justification for Fraternity
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In his Theory of Justice, Rawls defends a number of classic liberal virtues, including fraternity, claiming that the difference principle is the mechanism by which fraternity is realized in a just society. Rawls’ reference to fraternity has received little scholarly examination. G.A. Cohen and subsequent commentators provide the most thorough analysis, arguing that in order for Rawls’ vision of fraternity to be possible, a separate egalitarian ethos must be read into the difference principle. However, Cohen’s critical review reaches outside the confines of Rawls’ theory to provide an alien gloss to the text and ignores Rawls’ own stated and unstated assumptions regarding the person. Rawls’ Kantian conception of the person, buttressed by his pre-Theory of Justice comments on fraternity, better explains his commitment to fraternity as a liberal virtue and provides adequate foundation for claiming that fraternity is comprehended by the difference principle.


Name: Damon Linker
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: damonlinker@gmail.com
Professional Status: Practitioner
Institution: Senior Correspondent, The Week.com
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Paper Title: Thoughts on Strauss on Trump
Panel Title: Rhetoric, the Passions and Democracy in the Age of Trump: Moderns
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No 20th-century political philosopher has exercised a greater (or more contested) influence on the shape of American conservatism than Leo Strauss. Many thought that they detected his influence on the neoconservative foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration, especially in its decision to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. But then what would Strauss have thought about the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, which the neoconservative faction of the Republican Party has vociferously opposed? In my paper, I will argue that Strauss' position on Trump would be deeply ambivalent. He would have judged presidential candidate Trump to be a very dangerous demagogue—a man with a tyrannical soul driven by intense passions (including the lust for popular approval) whose judgment is profoundly distorted by an almost comically extreme form of masculine self-regard. At the same time, however, Strauss would have been mildly encouraged by some of the impulses behind Trump's improbable rise, along with parallel tendencies on the other side of the Atlantic—especially the expression of nationalistic solidarity against extra-political/transnational institutions. While it's true that Strauss supported such institutions (like the United Nations) in the context of the West's clash with communist totalitarianism in the postwar decades, he would have looked on recent developments in Europe with suspicion. (Here I'll draw on the arguments of French Straussian and EU skeptic Pierre Manent.) Similar hostility to internationalism (open immigration, free-trade agreements) motivates many Trump supporters, and Strauss would have treated such instincts with respect, mainly because they push back against pernicious anti-political tendencies of both the contemporary center-right and center-left. In a word, Strauss would have been sharply critical of Trump but cautiously encouraged by Trumpism.


Name: Andrew Norris
Section:
Professional Email: anorris@polsci.ucsb.edu
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: Skepticism and Critique in Arendt and Cavell
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At first, or even second glance, Arendt and Cavell make an unlikely pair: the one a political theorist deeply suspicious of both liberalism and Romanticism; the other a philosopher of the intricacies and intimacies of skepticism and ordinary language who staked his later reputation on the public importance of Emersonian Transcendentalism. But, as deep as the differences between the two run—and this sketch is only that--there are important commonalties as well. The most striking of these is the fact that, within a two-year period in the early 1960’s, both Arendt and Cavell turned their attention to Kant’s Critique of Judgment, a text that up to that point had been almost entirely ignored in Anglophone philosophy. For both, what is of central interest in the third Critique is Kant’s account of the “universal voice” of aesthetic reflective judgment, our ability make “exemplary,” “public” judgments in which we speak for others in a manner that does not compromise their autonomy. And, for both, this account needs to be understood in the context of the critical project as a whole, a project they see themselves as developing. Cavell, who throughout his work draws as regularly upon the first and second Critiques as he does the third, characterizes his Perfectionism as a transfiguration of Kant, and his magnum opus, The Claim of Reason, as a critique of skepticism that will challenge and modify its self-understanding by uncovering “the truth of skepticism,” a truth that is quite different from the truths the skeptic takes himself to reveal. Arendt’s own magnum opus, The Human Condition, is well read as a critique of the grounds and limits of the Western tradition of political philosophy; and her unfinished final volume The Life of the Mind echoes the tripartite structure of Kant’s Critiques in its division into books on Thinking, Willing, and Judging. Indeed, The Life of the Mind proceeds in its first part and what we have of its third largely by means of a reinterpretation of Kantian arguments, the implications of which Kant himself “never became fully aware.” This reinterpretation comes very close to Cavell’s transfiguration, but never so close as to address in a sustained manner his master theme of skepticism and the role it might play in critique. In my discussion today I should like to consider why this is so, and what implications it might have for our understanding of these figures.


Name: Heather Pangle
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: pangle@bc.edu
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Boston College
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
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Paper Title: Tocqueville’s Argument for France’s Empire
Panel Title: The Statesmanship and Political Science of Alexis de Tocqueville
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This paper investigates why Tocqueville considered colonial imperialism to be good for the French people and consistent with liberal principles. Beginning from a brief overview of Tocqueville’s own influence on French public opinion and policies, the paper explains why Tocqueville supported imperial ventures as worthwhile, necessary, and moral – and as consistent with his understanding of what France stood for as a liberal nation. Tocqueville’s arguments for colonialism are revealing of what he understood to be France’s duties as, in his own words, “the persevering enemy of despotism everywhere and under all its forms.” His arguments also illuminate his understanding of the drawbacks or dangers of modern democracies. He says that commercial democratic nations in particular face a group of threats, including “the gradual softening of the manners, the degradation of the spirit, [and] the mediocrity of the tastes.” Rather than abandoning themselves to the pursuit of “peaceful prosperity” and individual wellbeing, Tocqueville argues that the French ought to pursue a proud, assertive foreign policy and a position of prominence in the world. He regards a great national project as necessary to stabilize France and stave off a slide toward softness and weakness. The heart of Tocqueville’s defense of French empire therefore appears to be the strength it will foster in French politics and mores. Tocqueville’s views on these subjects provide us insight into his understanding of human nature, his understanding of the way regimes can shape the character of peoples, and his assessment of the limits and drawbacks of liberal democratic politics.


Name: Katherine Paton
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: kpaton0197@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: Northern Illinois University
Scheduling Preference: Friday Morning
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Paper Title: Rome’s Mistaken Foundations: Virtue, Corruption, and Machiavellian Democracy
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At first glance, Machiavelli’s advocacy of Rome’s popular institutions seems at odds with his argument that the plebeian multitude became corrupt over time. Machiavelli views this corruption as rooted in the insatiability of human nature, as individuals are motivated by desire for wealth and power. Ultimately, corruption leads the plebs to resort to “partisan friends” as a means to subjugate the nobles and gain property. A well-ordered regime should inspire partisan enemies, not friends, as the stability of a well-ordered city allows both warfare against external forces and also a free way of life at home. Thus, the understanding of human nature as corrupted by its desire to subjugate others calls into question the ability of the multitude to participate in political institutions and maintain Roman perfection. To solve this problem, the city must found with a view to corruption; it must craft institutions that acknowledge the people as they are. In this formulation, Machiavelli suggests a critique of ancient Roman republicanism insofar as its foundations rested upon Roman virtue. Without rescinding his advocacy of an empowered multitude, Machiavelli presents an argument for a regime that both satisfies corrupt human nature while also eliminating the lure of partisan friends.


Name: Jennifer Phillips
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: jenn.leigh.phillips@gmail.com
Professional Status: Practitioner
Institution: Georgetown University (DLS Graduate '16) and Humanitarian Advisor to the Military (USAID/Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance)
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Morning
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Paper Title: Hermeneutic Inquiry in Conversation with Just War Theory: Finding Meaning in a Post-Conflict Society
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The jus post bellum tenets of Just War Theory serve as a nation’s guide as the tedious task of returning to peace begins. However, one should not presume that the concepts associated with justice and order hold normative value to all human persons in societies. Time and again, programs and policies implemented by victors fail when the notions driving these activities are incommensurate with the principles, ideals and ethical presumptions regarding order and justice among the affected society. The practical reality of modern conflict and demands of jus post bellum should not allow seemingly irreconcilable differences to force actors into a state of paralysis or inaction. The principles, ideals and ethical foregrounding of individuals and societies find their locus in the historical horizon of the individual and the society. How do we achieve order and justice in a society post bellum when the yardstick for measuring order and justice appears indeterminate and variable? This thesis explores possible answers to these questions and others through a hermeneutic conception of inquiry. The case of post-2001 Afghanistan will be used as a specific historical event in which this hermeneutic conception of understanding and language would have assisted policy makers and practitioners in pursuing a more disciplined approach to post-conflict activities. Understanding specifically will be explored further within the framework of hermeneutics as a process rather than a goal. By endeavoring to proceed via a hermeneutically informed approach to address this challenge of understanding across historical horizons, this thesis carries an assertion regarding the nature of reality. Discipline in dialogue by the practitioner in a post-conflict society promises a clearer approach to engaging the prejudices present within both our own historical horizon and that of the Other. It creates an environment for differences within the same reality to be seen as opportunities rather than a threat to one’s own ‘way of life’ through the fusion of historical horizons. Dialogue in the spirit of a postmodern hermeneutic inquiry offers an alternative to both subjective speculation and the objective, normative metanarrative of the Western expression of Just War Theory. Hermeneutics allows the human person to move beyond a mere validation of this tradition solely within the context of one’s own historical horizon. It allows the person to remain open to a process of questioning in which the person subjects their own prejudice to the Other in reflective openness to the questions at hand. The virtual openness of meaning within language (understood as the potential for meaning to be constantly redefined) is the only legitimate claim to truth finite man can make. Through responsible judgment in the pursuit of disciplined dialogue, engaging the event of understanding in the fusion of horizons, the person can engage truth. Truth being the universal nature of human dignity found in freedom – the openness to differ within the same reality.


Name: Lincoln Rathnam
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: lefrathnam@gmail.com
Professional Status: Graduate Student
Institution: University of Toronto
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Paper Title: The Sprouts of Humanity: David Hume and Mencius on the Family and the Affective Basis of Moral and Political Community
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In recent years political theorists such as Sharon Krause (2008) and Martha Nussbaum (2013) have argued for a more serious engagement with the ways in which the creation and maintenance of a just society depend on our emotional capacities, for example, our ability to respond sympathetically to victims of injustice. This raises crucial questions about the role of the emotions in cross-cultural interaction, especially given claims that our emotional lives are, in decisive respects, shaped by our particular cultural contexts (Prinz 2014). In this paper, I argue that we can find shared features of our affective lives, rooted in a common human nature, in the central works in moral and political theory that have emerged from various contexts. I take as a case study the treatments of the emotions and the family found in the works of David Hume, particularly his essay “Of Polygamy and Divorces,” and the great Confucian thinker Mencius. I argue that examining this theme in their works allows us to consider the conversation between Confucianism and liberalism from a new perspective. First, I argue that both thinkers agree that a shared human concern for others, manifest in our sympathetic response to those in peril, is a fundamental feature of human nature. Second, I argue that both regard the relationships that constitute family life as a crucial training ground for moral membership in a political community. These shared concerns, however, lead to quite different presentations of the way in which the interaction between family and government should be theorized. Mencius emphasizes the way in which the parent-child relationship can be taken as an analogue of the relation between rulers and ruled, in the sense that both involve deference and respect. Hume, on the other hand, uses the ideal relationship between spouses, which should be characterized by friendship and reciprocity, as a tool for nourishing the broader forms of equality that can ground political liberty. I argue that framing the dialogue in this way does not lead to an irreconcilable clash of competing values, given that both regard deference and reciprocity as important human characteristics, but instead to a fruitful debate on the relative importance of these considerations in a just society.


Name: Thomas Redden
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: tredden@svc.edu
Professional Status: Full Professor
Institution: Southern Vermont College
Scheduling Preference: Friday Afternoon
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Paper Title: "A Buddhist politics: the role of suffering/dukkha in assessing good government."
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Abstract: This paper is part of a larger project that seeks to envision what a "Buddhist politics" might look like in the United States today. At the heart of Buddhist philosophy is this notion that "life is dukkha," commonly translated simplistically as "life is suffering." Putting aside the limitations of such a definition, a "Buddhist politics" would surely focus on society's attempt to mitigate and possibly eliminate suffering where ever possible. Fundamental Western principles of such as "freedom," and "equality" would be seen in a different context when "human suffering" was placed at the center of society's concerns. This paper attempts to look at the "mitigation of suffering" as the dominant criterion of good government.


Name: Joseph Reisert
Section: Modern Political Theory
Professional Email: jrreiser@colby.edu
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Colby College
Scheduling Preference: Saturday Morning
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Paper Title: Does the Rise of Trump Signal the Decline of the American Republic? A Rousseauain Perspective
Panel Title: Rhetoric, the Passions and Democracy in the Age of Trump: Moderns
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Donald Trump’s ascent to the Republican presidential nomination surprised observers, who assumed that the primary electorate would not support a figure who violated the conventional norms of political behavior and spurned key elements of conservative, Republican orthodoxy. Trump rejects social conservatism and has no interest in limiting the size and scope of the federal government; instead, he has made ending illegal immigration and “restoring American greatness” the centerpieces of his campaign, advocating these causes with such stridency that critics (some of them Republicans) have accused him of racism. As we try to make sense of Trump’s unexpected success, we may find it useful to look beyond the conventional sources — back to some of the original theorists of democracy. In this paper, I propose looking to the political thought of J-J Rousseau to identify some possible explanations of Trump’s success. Rousseau articulates a vision of equal citizenship, in which all have the right to vote on the laws and on the magistrates, and he supposes that in a healthy polity, there will be broad and deep popular consensus on constitutional essentials (which will reflect the people’s general will), and that the people will choose as magistrates persons outstanding for their personal and civic virtue and for their demonstrated capacity to promote the public good. From a Rousseauian perspective, the rise of Trump would appear as a symptom of civic failure. But there are multiple possibilities (and these are not all mutually exclusive): (1) Trump may be the sort of “clever knave” and “insinuating talker” about whom Rousseau warns in book 4, chapter 1 of the Social Contract, and his rise may indicate that the voters lack the virtue or civic commitment to choose wisely those who rule them; (2) the popularity of Trump’s nationalistic, “American greatness” agenda, may vindicate Rousseau’s empirical concern that cosmopolitan ideals would be unable to attract the passionate, ongoing support needed to sustain a viable polity — a concern articulated with particular force in the essay on Political Economy; (3) Trump’s electoral success reveals a fraying of our constitutional consensus and fragmentation of our sense of national identity — so that there is ever less of a “general will” uniting Americans and ever stronger group identities in a zero sum competition for advantages and resources. Each of these possibilities will be seen to generate different testable hypotheses and will yield different policy prescriptions for improving the health of our polity.


Name: Jack Riley
Section: Ancient & Medieval Political Philosophy
Professional Email: JVThumos@aol.com
Professional Status: Associate Professor
Institution: Coastal Carolina University
Scheduling Preference: No Preference
Proposal Type: Paper
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Paper Title: The French Enlightenment Attack on Modern Natural Right and Political Project in The Encyclopedie
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At the height of the Enlightenment, the doctrine of modern natural right (e.g., Hobbes, Locke, and the American Framers) came under a vicious assault in the French Enlightenment. The French Enlightenment replaced the notion of modern natural right with the general will. This attack left politics with no natural guide for political life. Intellectually, it produced what has been called "the crisis of the West." Nevertheless, the French Enlightenment, through its main vehicle, The Encyclopedie, was much more than just an intellectual movement. Its aim was not only to bring down the ancien regime, but any political order grounded in nature, be it classical/medieval natural law or modern natural right. It sought to bring about an order based on the general will and guided by reason (understood as modern science). Its consequences have been disastrous first by its direct influence on the French revolution and its excesses. Second, it brought about "the crisis of the West," in which we find ourselves today. No intellectual task is more urgent than to understand the causes of this crisis and search for alternatives to it.