Philosophers and the Project of Perpetual Peace (2)

Immanuel Kant’s conception of perpetual peace took into account the propositions already developed by l’Abbé de Saint-Pierre and Rousseau while exploring new routes leading to the end of all possible conflicts between so-called “civilised nations”. His preoccupation with the subject was mooted in his early writings of the 1750’s and 60’s before finding a theoretical formulation in his ‘Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose’ in 1784 and his treatise ‘Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch’, published in 1795 ...

Philosophers and the Project of Perpetual Peace (1)

The idea of a project of perpetual peace between European nations was anticipated long before the six member states of the original Economic European Union signed the Treaty of Rome in March 1957. If security and stability are often guaranteed through the agency of military force, such as the Pax Romana, long-term peace requires a deeper understanding of peoples’ aspirations and a wider perspective on what states can reasonably expect to achieve through diplomatic means.  Eighteenth-century philosophers were convinced of the ...

Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Popular Sovereignty

Public and social media are inundated with vitriolic declarations calling for the toppling of political institutions and their replacement by the infallible diktats of the so-called ‘sovereignty of the people’. Rousseau was the first modern theorist of this complex and ambiguous notion, analysed and developed in his seminal essay, The Social Contract, published in 1762. The proud ‘citizen of the City of Geneva’, lay down the foundations of a republican form of government resting on the principle of the sovereignty ...

Hegel on Freedom

Hegel’s conception of freedom is central to his Introduction to the Philosophy of History and his Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) in which it is described as one of its most immediately perceived properties. Yet, it is only through philosophy as speculative knowledge that freedom can fulfil itself. For Hegel, universal history is the slow progress of its understanding and advent through three stages: the earliest one is to be found in Antiquity and is epitomised by the autocratic power of ...

The Search for Authenticity

The term ‘authentic’ derives from the Greek ‘autos’ or self and ‘hentes’, originally meaning ‘worker’ and by extension ‘agent’. The notion of authenticity is alien to ancient philosophers for whom only the free man as opposed to slaves, women and children, is capable of a full rational judgement, dictated by a code of honour or informed by moral principles such as the ones developed by Aristotle in his ‘Ethics’. Augustine introduced a spiritual dimension to the self which emphasised the ...

Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy

Back in 1936, the English mathematician, Alan Turing, imagined a theoretical contraption capable of replicating thought processes. The ‘Turing machine’ proved that instances of intelligent cognition could be produced outside a human brain. Artificial intelligence was born and after the war, Turing went on to work on the first stored-program computer, at the University of Manchester. In 1950, in an article published in the philosophy journal Mind, he wrote: ‘I believe that at the end of the century, the use ...

How Postmodernism Undermined our Perception and Knowledge of Truth

The pursuit of truth has been the major preoccupation of philosophers from Thales’ search for the most elementary component of the universe or Heraclitus’ claim that everything is in constant flow down to Descartes’ attempt to found a new science of nature on purely rational principles and Kant’s systematic enquiry into the universal principles of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Generation upon generation of thinkers endeavoured to propose new systems of thought, buttressed by superseding concepts and models. For the twentieth-century ...

K.A Appiah and the Search for Contemporary Identity

Born in 1954 of British and Ghanaian descent, Kwame Anthony Appiah was originally interested in problems of semantics and theories of meaning before turning his attention to the impact of a more and more cosmopolitan world on perceptions of identity. He first considered the relation of personal and group identity to the realm of morals in The Ethics of Identity, published in 2005. To what extent are our deepest personal values attached to our inescapable cultural identity? Nineteenth-century liberalism provided a ...

On the Dangers of Sophistry

In a world where the concept of ‘truth’ is being questioned daily to the point that it is regarded, by some, as a flexible commodity to be abused in the name of short-sighted self-interest, it is to be wondered whether philosophy is still of any use in an intellectual landscape blurred by so many claims and counterclaims. Socrates found himself in the same situation as ours when he could only deplore the lack of rigour and clarity of his philosophical ...

Hartmut Rosa and the Concept of ‘Resonance’

In a technological world driven by intense productivity and relentless competition, individuals are caught between the imperative to be more efficient ‘performers’ and the natural need to slow down, recuperate and revive themselves. Heir to the Frankfurt School for Social research, the German philosopher and sociologist Hartmut Rosa offers a new approach of twenty-first life after his well-received critique of our high-speed society Alienation and Acceleration, published in 2010. Constantly bombarded by external stimuli, we seem to have lost the will ...