|Interview with Philip Pettit
The Irish-born philosopher Philip Pettit (*1945) is L. S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University and Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University, Canberra. He has published multiple books, chapters and articles on the topic of republican political theory. Today, he is considered the most influential republican political theorist. This interview was recorded during the Republicanism in the History of Political Philosophy and Today conference, where Phillip Pettit delivered the keynote address entitled “Neo-liberalism and Neo-republicanism”.2 The conference was organised in November 2017 by the Institute of Political Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in cooperation with the School of International Relations and Diplomacy, Anglo-American University in Prague and the Centre for Political Philosophy, Ethics and Religion at Charles University.
|Sovereign versus Government: Rousseau's Republicanism
Rousseau has been criticized by modern republicanism proponents for failing to live up to the standard of republicanism that involves criticizing unjust laws. Rousseau’s version of republicanism regards a different issue as more urgent. Rousseau regards abusive administration of laws, or usurpation of sovereignty by the government, as a more urgent problem. As a result, he addresses issues of dissent, activism and resistance to government rather than protest about laws.
|Benjamin Constant and the Ideas of Republicanism
Benjamin Constant is considered as a classical liberal thinker due to his conviction that men establish political authority in order to protect their pre-existing rights, his theory of limited sovereignty and the modern concept of liberty described as a possibility to enjoy our private pleasures. Throughout his life Constant defended his liberal views; at the same time, while persuaded of the progress of mankind and therefore of the impossibility to revive the ancient conception of liberty, he was clearly aware of the dangers of modern society made up of solitary individuals and of the need of a social bond so that the liberal constitution could be maintained. The aim of this paper is to show that through his effort to overcome the atomisation of modern society, Constant comes in some respects close to the ideas of civic republicanism as developed for example by Pettit or Spitz; in the republican tradition, he stresses the need to overcome our selfish passions and to create a legal framework so that we may enjoy our freedom. In his famous speech distinguishing two forms of liberty, Constant emphasizes the importance of combining both kinds of liberty as well as the necessity of political participation. Nonetheless, the preservation of liberty may require more than that. Constant refuses modern moral theories based on the notion of self-interest and utility and demonstrates that the selfishness and passivity they promote may lead to despotism. Liberty is so precious because it enables the full development of human dignity of individual human beings as well as mankind as a whole. Morality that buttresses liberty, according to Constant, must be individual and based on our passions. The virtuous and disinterested deeds that make human greatness possible are based on “religious sentiment”—a moral sentiment that can be expressed in the public sphere as “patriotism”. Thanks to this sentiment, we are capable of overcoming the selfishness of modern sensibility dominated by calculation as well as of offering sacrifices that liberty sometimes demands. Moreover, thanks to this sentiment, we can accomplish our destiny as moral beings.
|Republicanism and Feminism: A Plausible Alliance. The Case of Margaret Fuller’s Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Margaret Fuller is chiefly known as the author of the first American feminist manifesto, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, published in 1845. This article undertakes to read Fuller’s work through a republican lens by viewing her discussion on women’s rights as a part of the antebellum debate on American democracy. It also aims to put together two approaches, republicanism and feminism, whose relationship some scholars consider to be antithetical, i.e. Phillips (2000), Friedman (2008) and Hirschmann (2003) but which, in general, has been scarcely analysed. Although republicanism called for freedom and equality among men, it never seriously considered, especially in ancient and early-modern times, the status of women and the recognition of their civil and political rights. However, recent studies, such as Vega (2002), Coffee (2012), Costa (2013) and Halldenius (2015), have tried to reinterpret the possible dialectical connections between women and republicanism, opening up new lines of research on this topic. The purpose of this paper is therefore to provide new food for thought to this contemporary academic debate by adopting a historical approach. This paper argues that Fuller’s use of the concept of ‘liberty’ in her defence of women’s civil and political rights corresponds to Philip Pettit’s (1997) definition of liberty as ‘nondomination’. Taking freedom to mean independence from arbitrary power, Fuller demonstrated that due to their submission to the arbitrary power of men, women totally lacked any measure of independence, and could thus be defined as ‘slaves’. In addition, Fuller bolstered these affirmations by considering a further form of interference resulting from what Alan Coffee (2012) has called ‘social domination’, which was based on cultural values and traditions that condoned women’s exclusion from social, political and working life on the basis of their supposed physical and intellectual inferiority. This did not allow them to exercise their right to freedom as independent agents. The paper demonstrates that thanks to the use of republican paradigms to develop her feminist critique, Margaret Fuller took republicanism a step further and developed a more inclusive and egalitarian model of republican liberty that embraced women. Indeed, her feminist internal critique of republicanism can offer new food for thought to the contemporary academic debate on the compatibility between republicanism and feminism. The research brings to light how Fuller criticized women’s legal status and the institution of marriage, how she compared the condition of women to that of slaves, and how she supported higher levels of education for women as a right and an emancipatory instrument in a free republic.
|Rafał Lis, Christopher Donohue
|A Dialogue between Republicanism and the ‘Republic of Science’
In the present article, we argue that there can indeed be a dialogue between the political and philosophical theory of republicanism and between the philosophy of science. We argue that although there exists an apparent conceptual and historical gap between the philosophy of science and theories of republicanism, that gap can be breached, we argue through an attention to conceptions of elitism in republicanism, focusing on the work of Madison and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. We also contend, though in a preliminary, often provocative way, that the issue of elitism in republican theory can benefit from a dialogue with the philosophy of science—especially the “negative epistemology” of Karl Popper and his students, Ian Jarvie and Joseph Agassi. Such a dialogue is possible because Popper’s philosophy proposes a solution to the problem of elitism in epistemology and in politics.