Political & Social Theory

14 posts

Challenges of the Anthropocene

This paper draws on early twentieth-century philosophical anthropology as well as cognitive science and evolutionary anthropology to examine how humans compensated for their biological under-determination by becoming second-natured, empathetic, cooperative, symbol-using creatures. Examining the capacities for cooperation that emerged in our evolutionary history may help clarify our thinking about contemporary problems that require collective decisions.

Shrump II: Madness, Fascism, and Resistance.

Silence from the country’s mental health organizations has been due to a self-imposed rule about evaluating public figures. But this silence has resulted in a failure to lend our expertise to worried journalists and members of Congress at this critical time. We fear that too much is at stake to be silent any longer… We believe that the grave emotional instability indicated by Mr. Trump’s speech and actions makes him incapable of serving safely as president.

Shrump I: Post-Democracy in America?

Before I get started, let’s introduce a new term that helps us to appreciate the differences between words, their meaning, and reality itself. You may wonder what a “shrump” is. If you google it you will find that the definition is still in flux, and ranges from a “pickled shrimp” to a twitter hashtag, and to what I am suggesting here, namely […]

God bless America!

You wake up and realize that a dystopian vision has become reality: America just became Trump University. There is no termination clause in the contract, and the sale is final. What went wrong? Hillary won in terms of absolute numbers, but lost the election. She received 48% against his 46.5%, or around 3 million votes more than Trump, out of 120 million […]

Cicero

I recently added some texts from the ancient Roman politician and philosopher Cicero (106 – 43 BC) to this blog. Cicero rose to the highest political offices in Rome, and he defended the Roman Republic, a limited version of democracy within an oligarchy, against various attempts by individuals and small groups to usurp power. He saw the rise of Caesar, […]

Europe: What now?

When I grew up in West Germany in the 70’s and 80’s, I learned French in High School, and I participated in a student exchange program that sent us young Germans to live during the Summer months with French families, while their teenagers came to our homes. I learned that the Germans and the French belong together, in the words […]

What is characteristic about Human Rights?

Human rights are universal: all human beings have these rights, for no other reason than their humanity and the values attached to humanity; this means that human rights precede and trump considerations of national sovereignty and that national sovereignty, therefore, does not provide a means to escape human rights obligations. They are also moral claims, and therefore they are grounded in morality, not just law. They are necessary for the protection and realization of certain fundamental, basic and universal human values and interests. They are instrumental principles in the sense that we don’t want them for their own sake; they are means for the creation of better life quality and not just goals in themselves.

Three Perspectives on Political Theory

What is the main task for any state? Providing security, creating a diverse and stable reform-oriented middle class, or unifying the citizenship through education into a strong community? These three views on political theory can be correlated with the names of Machiavelli, Aristotle, and Plato. I will discuss them briefly.

1. Security first: political realism and the role of power (Machiavelli, Hobbes.)
2. Diversity and freedom: stability and reform (Aristotle, Locke)
3. Community, unity, and vision (Plato, Rousseau.)

The Idea of Dialogue

“The cup has to be empty in order to hold something.” When a group is new, in general people talk around the point for a while. They often have a way of not directly facing anything at the beginning. They talk around things, avoiding difficulties or direct questions. If the group continues to work, this tendency begins to break down. Dialog is different from discussion, […]

Plato and Aristotle

Plato lived from 428/427 or 424/423 BCE  to 348/347 BCE. He was born and died in Athens, and reached 80. He was a student of Socrates, and started a school of philosophy, the Academy, when he was around 40. Aristotle (384-322 BCE) was born in Stagirus, northern Greece. His father died when Aristotle was a child. At eighteen, he joined Plato’s […]

History of Human Rights

Which movements, ideas, and events have contributed to the history and development of the concept of human rights?  The following list is very selective; it shows some historical highlights that manifest the trend that runs through the Western legal and philosophical traditions. Traditional Religions all support idea that the human person has worth and value and should be treated with […]

Russia at the Crossroads

Update 2017:  Liu Xiaobo died in a Chinese prison in 2017.  Update Dec 26, 2013: Mikhail Khodorkovsky was released from jail on Dec 20, 2013. He is now organizing a democratic movement for Russia from exile.  Note: This post was written in 2013; some things have changed, but the situation in Russia has become even worse, and the country faces […]