Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A call for Europe - by Ulrich Beck, Habermas & others

The German sociologist Ulrich Beck and several other European intellectuals have published a joint statement on the coming elections for the European Parliament in May:

"Wählt Europa"

"Vote for Europe"

The statement is signed by Ulrich Beck, Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Delors, Bruno Latour, Zygmunt Bauman, Anthony Giddens, Harold James, Robert Menasse, Agnes Heller, Alain Touraine, and many others.

Jürgen Habermas says: 

"“Die deutsche Bundesregierung darf die politische Verantwortung nicht länger verleugnen, die sie durch das von ihr bestimmte Krisenmanagement für die geradezu obszön ungleichen Krisenschicksale in der Eurozone übernommen hat. Weil sie selbst ein ‚deutsches Europa‘ am meisten fürchten muss, sollte sie diese Art von Führungsrolle in einer Politischen Union, die ihren Namen verdient, überflüssig machen."

“The German federal government must no longer deny the political responsibility that it has assumed for the almost obscenely unequal crisis outcomes in the Eurozone, through the crisis management that it has imposed.  Since it has itself most to lose from a “German Europe”, it should make this type of leadership role superfluous, through a political union worthy of the name.”

New Book by Tomasello: A Natural History of Human Thinking

A Natural History of Human Thinking

by Michael Tomasello

(Harvard University Press, 2014)

192 pages


Tool-making or culture, language or religious belief: ever since Darwin, thinkers have struggled to identify what fundamentally differentiates human beings from other animals. In this much-anticipated book, Michael Tomasello weaves his twenty years of comparative studies of humans and great apes into a compelling argument that cooperative social interaction is the key to our cognitive uniqueness. Once our ancestors learned to put their heads together with others to pursue shared goals, humankind was on an evolutionary path all its own.

Tomasello argues that our prehuman ancestors, like today’s great apes, were social beings who could solve problems by thinking. But they were almost entirely competitive, aiming only at their individual goals. As ecological changes forced them into more cooperative living arrangements, early humans had to coordinate their actions and communicate their thoughts with collaborative partners. Tomasello’s “shared intentionality hypothesis” captures how these more socially complex forms of life led to more conceptually complex forms of thinking. In order to survive, humans had to learn to see the world from multiple social perspectives, to draw socially recursive inferences, and to monitor their own thinking via the normative standards of the group. Even language and culture arose from the preexisting need to work together. What differentiates us most from other great apes, Tomasello proposes, are the new forms of thinking engendered by our new forms of collaborative and communicative interaction.

Contents [preview]

1. The Shared Intentionality Hypothesis [preview]

2. Individual Intentionality
    Evolution of Cognition
    Thinking like an Ape
    Cognition for Competition

3. Joint Intentionality
    A New Form of Collaboration
    A New Form of Cooperative Communication
    Second-Personal Thinking
    Perspectivity: The View from Here and There

4. Collective Intentionality
    The Emergence of Culture
    The Emergence of Conventional Communication
    Agent-Neutral Thinking
    Objectivity: The View from Nowhere

5. Human Thinking as Cooperation
    Theories of Human Cognitive Evolution
    Sociality and Thinking
    The Role of Ontogeny

6. Conclusion

Michael Tomasello is Co-Director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. He is the author of "The Cultural Origins of Human Cognition" (Harvard University Press, 1999), "Origins of Human Communication" (MIT Press, 2008), and "Why We Cooperate" (MIT Press, 2009). 

Many of Tomasello's recent papers are available here

His Tanner Lectures from 2008 are available here: "Origins of Human Cooperation" [pdf]. 

See also some of my previous posts on Michael Tomasello:

* Interview with Michael Tomasello (video) [2008]

* Michael Tomasello wins the Hegel Prize 2009

* Habermas's laudatio to Michael Tomasello [2009]

Monday, February 24, 2014

In "Le Monde": Habermas on Europe

An article by Jürgen Habermas in "Le Monde" (February 25, 2014):

"Repolitisons le débat européen" [+ the complete text here]
La vie démocratique et l’Etat social ont pour cadre l’Etat-nation, attaqué par la mondialisation.L’Europe supranationale peut être le modèle alternatif.

The article is an abridged version of Habermas's speech in Potsdam on February 2, 2014. See my post on the event here.

The speech is published in "Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik" 2014 no. 3: "Für ein starkes Europa – aber was heißt das?". 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

New Book: "Essays and Reviews" by Bernard Williams

Essays and Reviews: 1959-2002

by Bernard Williams

(Princeton University Press, 2014)

456 pages


Bernard Williams was one of the most important philosophers of the last fifty years, but he was also a distinguished critic and essayist with an elegant style and a rare ability to communicate complex ideas to a wide public. This is the first collection of Williams's popular essays and reviews, many of which appeared in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement. In these pieces, Williams writes about a broad range of subjects, from philosophy and political philosophy to religion, science, the humanities, economics, socialism, feminism, and pornography. No matter the subject, Williams probes and challenges arguments, teases out their implications, and connects them to the wider intellectual scene. At the same time, readers see a first-class mind grappling with landmark books in "real time", before critical consensus had formed and ossified.


Foreword [pdf] by Michael Wood

1. Plato Today, by R.H.S. Crossman (1959)
2. English Philosophy since 1900, by G. J. Warnock (1959)
3. Thought and Action, by Stuart Hampshire (1960)
4. The Theological Appearance of the Church of England (1960)
5. The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis (1960)
6. Discourse on Method, by René Descartes (1960)
7. The Individual Reason: L'esprit laïc (1961)
8. What Is Existentialism? (1962)
9. Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, by Jean-Paul Sartre (1962)
10. Sense and Sensibilia, by J. L. Austin, (1962)
11. The Concept of a Person, by A. J. Ayer (1963)
12. Two Faces of Science (1963)
13. The English Moralists, by Basil Willey (1965)
14. Universities: Protest, Reform and Revolution (1968)
15. Has "God" a Meaning? (1968)
16. Russell and Moore, by A. J. Ayer (1971)
17. Immanuel Kant, by Lucien Goldmann (1972)
18. A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls (1972)
19. Beyond Freedom and Dignity, by B. F. Skinner (1972)
20. What Computers Can't Do, by Hubert L. Dreyfus (1973)
21. Wisdom, edited by Renford Bambrough (1974)
22. The Socialist Idea, ed. by S. Hampshire & L. Kolakowski (1975)
23. Anarchy, State, and Utopia, by Robert Nozick (1975)
24. The Ethics of Fetal Research, by Paul Ramsey (1975)
25. The Moral View of Politics (1976)
26. The Passions of Bertrand Russell (1976)
27. Where Chomsky Stands (1976)
28. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins (1976)
29. The Fire and the Sun, by Iris Murdoch (1977)
30. The Logic of Abortion (1977)
31. On Thinking, by Gilbert Ryle (1979)
32. Rubbish Theory, by Michael Thompson (1980)
33. Lying, by Sissela Bok (1980)
34. Logic and Society / Ulysses and the Sirens, by Jon Elster (1980)
35. The Culture of Narcissism, by Christopher Lasch (1980)
36. Religion and Public Doctrine in England, by Maurice Cowling (1981)
37. Nietzsche’s Centaur (1981)
38. After Virtue, by Alasdair MacIntyre (1981)
39. Philosophical Explanations, by Robert Nozick (1982)
40. The Miracle of Theism, by J. L. Mackie (1983)
41. Offensive Literature, by John Sutherland (1983)
42. Consequences of Pragmatism, by Richard Rorty (1983)
43. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, vol. I (1984)
44. Reasons and Persons, by Derek Parfit (1984)
45. Wickedness: A Philosophical Essay, by Mary Midgley (1984)
46. Secrets, by Sissela Bok (1984)
47. Choice and Consequence, by Thomas C. Schelling (1985)
48. Privacy, by Barrington Moore, Jr. (1985)
49. Ordinary Vices, by Judith Shklar (1985)
50. The Right to Know, by Clive Ponting (1985) 
51. Taking Sides, by Michael Harrington (1986)
52. A Matter of Principle, by Ronald Dworkin (1986)
53. The View from Nowhere, by Thomas Nagel (1986)
54. What Hope for the Humanities? (1987) [preview]
55. The Society of Mind, by Marvin Minsky (1987) 
56. Whose Justice? Which Rationality? by Alasdair MacIntyre (1989)
57. Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson (1989)
58. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, by Richard Rorty (1989)
59. Sources of the Self, by Charles Taylor (1990)
60. The Need to Be Sceptical (1990)
61. The Saturated Self, by Kenneth J. Gergen (1991)
62. Realism with a Human Face, by Hilary Putnam (1991)
63. Political Liberalism, by John Rawls (1993)
64. Inequality Reexamined, by Amartya Sen (1993)
65. The Therapy of Desire, by Martha Nussbaum (1994)
66. Only Words, by Catharine MacKinnon (1994)
67. The Riddle of Umberto Eco (1995)
68. On Hating and Despising Philosophy (1996)
69. The Last Word, by Thomas Nagel (1998)
70. Wagner and the Transcendence of Politics (2000)
71. Why Philosophy Needs History (2002)

See also Roger Scruton's review of the book in "The Telegraph".

Monday, February 17, 2014

In Memoriam: Ronald Dworkin

Ronald Dworkin passed away a year ago. The "Harvard Law Review" (December 2013) features an article on Dworkin with contributions by Richard H. Fallon Jr., Charles Fried, John C. P. Goldberg, Frances Kamm, Frank I. Michelman, Martha Minow, and Laurence H. Tribe.

See the contributions here: "In Memoriam: Ronald Dworkin" (pdf).

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Michael Rosen on Dworkin on Religion

In "The Nation" (March 3, 2014) Professor Michael Rosen reviews "Religion Without God" by the late Ronald Dworkin:

"Beyond Naturalism: On Ronald Dworkin"


If morality were just a matter of God’s will, then presumably whatever God willed would be good for that reason and no more. But if God is indeed just, it must be possible for human beings to recognize independently why his commands are good. Of course, goodness is essential to God, so he could not conceivably will anything that was not good—but, still, it is not his willing something that makes it good. As Seneca once wrote, “I do not obey God; I agree with him.” So, Dworkin argues, any reasonable religion must acknowledge the priority of value over the will of the Deity. But in that case, the supernatural narrative of creation, revelation and prophecy that surrounds the moral teachings of religion is dispensable.

Dworkin still wants to call his attitude “religious” because, although he does not believe in the existence of God, he “accepts the full, independent reality of value” and hence rejects the naturalistic view that nothing is real except what is revealed by the natural sciences or psychology.

Yet if values exist as “fully independent,” how can we have access to them? As Dworkin admits, there are no experiments we can conduct to confirm their existence. Dignity—the “God particle” that sustains the existence of human rights—will not be detected by any scientist. On the contrary, the realm of value is “self-certifying,” so the only evidence for the existence of values is the truth of the things that we say about them. And the evidence for that truth is what, exactly—that we agree about values? But disagreement about values is where we came in. Even if we accept that we carry within ourselves an inner kernel of transcendental value, would it give us a way of telling where the claims of the collective end and the prerogatives of the individual begin?

See my post on Ronald Dworkin's book here (with links to reviews by Jeremy Waldron, Stanley Fish and others).

Friday, February 14, 2014

New Book: "Freedom's Right" by Axel Honneth

Freedom's Right
The Social Foundations of Democratic Life

by Axel Honneth

(Columbia University Press, 2014)

448 pages


Theories of justice often fixate on purely normative, abstract principles unrelated to real-world situations. The philosopher and theorist Axel Honneth addresses this disconnect, and constructs a theory of justice derived from the normative claims of Western liberal-democratic societies and anchored in morally legitimate laws and institutionally established practices.

Honneth’s paradigm—which he terms “a democratic ethical life”—draws on the spirit of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right and his own theory of recognition, demonstrating how concrete social spheres generate the principles of individual freedom and a standard for what is just. Using social analysis to re-found a more grounded theory of justice, he argues that all crucial actions in Western civilization, whether in personal relationships, market-induced economic activities, or the public forum of politics, share one defining characteristic: they require the realization of a particular aspect of individual freedom. This fundamental truth informs the guiding principles of justice, grounding and enabling a wide-ranging reconsideration of its nature and application.

Contents [preview]

Introduction [preview]

Part I. Historical Background: The Right to Freedom
1. Negative Freedom and the Social Contract
2. Reflexive Freedom and Its Conception of Justice
3. Social Freedom and the Doctrine of Ethical Life
Transition: The Idea of Democratic Ethical Life

Part II. The Possibility of Freedom
4. Legal Freedom
5. Moral Freedom

Part III. The Reality of Freedom
6. Social Freedom

Axel Honneth is Professor of Philosophy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt and Professor for the Humanities at Columbia University. He is the author of "The Struggle for Recognition" (Polity Press, 1995), and "The I in We: Studies in the Theory of Recognition" (Polity Press, 2012)

The German edition: "Das Recht der Freiheit. Grundriß einer demokratischen Sittlichkeit" (Suhrkamp Verlag, 2011). See my post on the book here. And my links to reviews here

"Krisis: Journal for Contemporary Philosophy" (2013 no, 1) features essays in English on Axel Honneth's new book and a reply by Honneth. See my post here (with links to pdf-files).

See also a video of Honneth's lecture on "The Normativity of Ethical Life" (September 2013). 

Saturday, February 08, 2014

New Book: "The Heart of Human Rights"

The Heart of Human Rights

by Allen Buchanan

(Oxford University Press, February 2014)

320 pages


This is the first attempt to provide an in-depth moral assessment of the heart of the modern human rights enterprise: the system of international legal human rights. It is international human rights law-not any philosophical theory of moral human rights or any "folk" conception of moral human rights-that serves as the lingua franca of modern human rights practice. Yet contemporary philosophers have had little to say about international legal human rights. They have tended to assume, rather than to argue, that international legal human rights, if morally justified, must mirror or at least help realize moral human rights. But this assumption is mistaken. International legal human rights, like many other legal rights, can be justified by several different types of moral considerations, of which the need to realize a corresponding moral right is only one. 

Further, this volume shows that some of the most important international legal human rights cannot be adequately justified by appeal to corresponding moral human rights. The problem is that the content of these international legal human rights-the full set of correlative duties-is much broader than can be justified by appealing to the morally important interests of any individual. In addition, it is necessary to examine the legitimacy of the institutions that create, interpret, and implement international human rights law and to defend the claim that international human rights law should "trump" the domestic law of even the most admirable constitutional democracies.


1. Introduction
2. A Pluralistic Justificatory Methodology for Human Rights
3. The Task of Justification
4. The Case for a System of International Legal Human Rights
5. An Ecological View of The Legitimacy of International Legal Human Rights Institutions
6. The Problematic Supremacy of International Human Rights Law
7. The Challenge of Ethical Pluralism
8. Conclusions
App. 1: Non-Rights Norms in Major Human Rights Documents
App. 2: Results of the Investigation

Allen Buchanan is Professor of Philosophy at Duke University, and Professor of Philosophy of International Law at King’s College, London. He is the author of "Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law" (Oxford University Press, 2003) and "Human Rights, Legitimacy, and the Use of Force" (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Friday, February 07, 2014

Robert Dahl has passed away

Robert Dahl, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Yale University, passed away on February 5 at the age of 98.

See Robert Dahl in an interview with Margaret Levi, editor of the Annual Review of Political and professor of Political Science at University of Washington:

In memory of Robert Dahl:

* Douglas Martin (The New York Times)

* Hillel Italie (Washington Post)

* Adrian Rodrigues & Matthew Lloyd-Thomas (Yale Daily News)

* Nathaniel Zelinsky (Yale Daily News)

* Bill Kissane (London School of Economics)

* Jeff Isaac (The Monkey Cage)

* Linda Greenhouse (The New York Times)

* Ian Shapiro (Foreign Affairs)

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sadurski on Public Reason and Legitimacy

Professor Wojciech Sadurski has posted a new paper on SSRN:

Legitimacy of Law in a Liberal State: The Contours of Public Reason

In contemporary liberal philosophy, the idea of Public Reason is intimately tied up with the liberal principle of legitimacy which postulates that only those laws that are based upon arguments and reasons to which no members of the society have a rational reason to object can boast political legitimacy, and as such can be applied coercively even to those who actually disagree with them. In this working paper I suggest the ways of fine-tuning the idea of Public Reason in such a way as to make it more immune to its critics. In particular, I explain what specifically it means for Public Reason to be an exclusionary, second-order rule about the exclusion of reasons which can figure in justifications for law (Part 1), how we can plausibly claim that Public Reason may be thought to be a feasible political imperative in pluralistic societies (Part 2), what should be its scope of application, both in terms of the types of laws to which it applies and the actors who should be bound by it (Part 3), and what specifically is at stake if we see the status of Public Reason as a legitimacy-conferring device (Part 4).

Wojciech Sadurski is Challis Professor in Jurisprudence at the University of Sydney. He is the author of "Equality and Legitimacy" (Oxford University Press, 2008) and co-editor (with David Kinley and Kevin Walton) of "Human Rights: Old Problems, New Possibilities" (Edward Elgar, 2013).

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

New Book on the Intercultural Dialogue on Human Rights

Reframing the Intercultural Dialogue on Human Rights 
A Philosophical Approach

by Jeffrey Flynn 

(Routledge, 2014)


In this book, Flynn stresses the vital role of intercultural dialogue in developing a non-ethnocentric conception of human rights. He argues that Jürgen Habermas’s discourse theory provides both the best framework for such dialogue and a much-needed middle path between philosophical approaches that derive human rights from a single foundational source and those that support multiple foundations for human rights (Charles Taylor, John Rawls, and various Rawlsians).
By analyzing the historical and political context for debates over the compatibility of human rights with Christianity, Islam, and "Asian Values," Flynn develops a philosophical approach that is continuous with and a critical reflection on the intercultural dialogue on human rights. He reframes the dialogue by situating it in relation to the globalization of modern institutions and by arguing that such dialogue must address issues like the legacy of colonialism and global inequality while also being attuned to actual political struggles for human rights.

Contents [pre-view]


Part I. Multiple Foundations for Human Rights 

1. Compatibility Debates, Colonial Subtexts, and Global Inequality 
2. Human Rights as Political, not Metaphysical 
3. Unforced Consensus and Multiple Modernities 

Part II. A Dialogical Framework 

4.Reconstructing the Western Model 
5. How to Frame a Real Dialogue 
6. The Shifting Horizons of Secular Modernity 
7. A Realistic Utopia of Human Rights


Jeffrey Flynn is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, USA.  In 2013-14 he is a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Four papers by Jeffrey Flynn: 

* "Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and the Politics of Human Dignity"

* "Rethinking Human Rights" [pdf]

* "Habermas on Human Rights" [pdf]

* "Human Rights in History and Contemporary Practice" [pdf]

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Habermas on "Europa neu denken"

Jürgen Habermas was invited to speak at a SPD meeting on "Europa neu denken" in Potsdam , February 2, 2014. 

His lecture is available at SoundCloud here [37 minutes].

See reports on the meeting:

* "Habermas legt der SPD den Finger in die Wunde" (Die Welt)

* "Kritik an Europas Krisenpolitik" (Berliner Zeitung)

* "Habermas warns Germany risks undermining EU" (The Irish Times)

Habermas's speech is published in "Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik" 2014 no. 3: "Für ein starkes Europa – aber was heißt das?".

Abridged versions have been published in:

* La Repubblica (February 7, 2014)

* Le Monde (February 25, 2014) [complete text here]