Volume 12 (2008): The Modern State

(Published May, 2008 ISSN 1209-0689)


David Peddle (Sir Wilfred Grenfell), Ken Jacobsen (Dalhousie), Eli Diamond (Dalhousie), Neil G Robertson (University of King's College), Kenneth Kierans (University of King's College)

Preface (click to download)

David Peddle, Intimations of Modernity: Freedom and Equality in Calvin’s Institutes.

Peddle's essay investigates Calvin's theological conceptions and finds in them pre-modern intimations of freedom and equality the foundational concepts of modernity. Through this investigation he wishes to indicate how the conception of religion present in political liberalism distorts the religious roots of liberalism.

Ken Jacobsen, 'The Law of a Commonweal’: The Social Vision of Hooker’s Of The Laws Of Ecclesiastical Polity and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

Hooker’s Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew represent the issues of sociality and dissent in strikingly similar terms and articulate a common social vision. Both writers strive to harmonize social unity with inward liberty. Hooker seeks not only to refute the non-conformity of his Puritan opponents, but to reconcile them, in both heart and mind, to the social order to which they belong. Similarly, Petruchio convincingly demonstrates to Katherine that the common good and her own personal happiness substantially coincide in the reciprocity and communion of marriage.

Eli Diamond, The Common Structure of Religion, Philosophy and Politics in Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.

In his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Spinoza seeks to separate religion from philosophy and from politics. Yet the true metaphysical understanding of God remains relevant to a proper grasp of the state for Spinoza. Through identifying a common logical structure underlying Spinoza’s conception of God and the two subjects of the TTP - the relation of faith and reason, and the origin of the state and its relation to individual citizens – the paper attempts to demonstrate that Spinoza’s argument for the autonomy of secular reason and the secular state in the TTP is inseparable from his metaphysical theology.

Neil G. Robertson, Rousseau, Montesquieu and the Origins of Inequality.

In his portrayal of a non-juridical state of nature, Montesquieu escapes Rousseau’s critique of seventeenth-century natural rights thinkers. While their respective states of nature share the character of being at peace and so not directly prescriptive of political forms, Rousseau criticizes Montesquieu of having established only the science of positive right and not that of political right. By considering their respective states of nature, the paper looks to the ground of this distinction, arguing the two types of science are not distinguished as descriptive from prescriptive, but rather as two forms of legitimation: the one remaining within a reforming relation to the Ancien Regime, the latter pointing to its revolutionary overthrow.

Kenneth Kierans, ‘Absolute Negativity’: Community and Freedom in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.

Critics have long complained that the Philosophy of Right is a dogmatic attempt to cover up the deep-seated conflicts of the modern state. By contrast, I argue that Hegel developed his conception of a unified state from out of the deepest divisions of community and freedom. Precisely because the ‘negativity’ in the state is ‘absolute’ – i.e. not limited by nature or history – it is the means by which moderns can discover in themselves a divine principle of harmony and reconciliation.

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