​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Chair: Ann Ward
Philosophy and Politics and International Studies
Campion College, University of Regina, Canada

The dramatic changes that have occurred in Europe in the past quarter century, such as the fall of communism and the expansion of liberal democracy together with the desire to project a new “Europa” that is united, peaceful and prosperous into the future, illustrates that political philosophy is what grounds European political discourse and identity. Thus, an understanding of Europe’s political past and potential future directs us to the question: What is political philosophy?

An exploration of the question of political philosophy points us back to Socrates, widely regarded as the first political philosopher, or the first philosopher to make human beings central to philosophic inquiry. His political thought, which we know primarily through Plato’s Socratic dialogues, turns to the human soul as it reflects on and is drawn toward the good, and hence thinks about justice, virtue and the best regime in a universal way. But what is the justification for such an enterprise? Medieval Europeans looked to Scripture as authoritative on questions of justice or how one ought to live, leading to attempts by thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas to harmonize classical reason with revelation. Modern Enlightenment philosophers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau discarded the classical quest for natural right in favour of individual natural rights secured by the social contract. The rise of historical consciousness in nineteenth-century Europe led to a reassessment and critique of Socratic rationalism by philosophers such as Hegel, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche in the name of history, faith and art.

Scholars such as Thomas Pangle suggest that a revival of the study of Socratic political philosophy will revive serious consideration of the questions of justice or how one ought to live, and demonstrate that classical rationalism is the essential dialectical partner and interrogator of the political theology of Scripture/scripture(s). Classical rationalism in this context is understood as a necessary alternative to (1) modern liberalism, inadequate to the task of taking questions of justice seriously as it insists on regarding all religious claims and understandings of virtue (including the virtue aspired to by the ancients) as private preferences rather than definitive of the public sphere; and (2) contemporary postmodernism, which has abandoned rationalism altogether by rejecting any truth claims not understood as relative.

This workshop will explore Socratic rationalism, the major alternatives to it in the history of political philosophy, and the potential impact of returning to it in contemporary times. Papers on these and related topics are welcome.

Please send abstracts of one half to one page in length, by 31 March 2016, to Ann Ward, at: Ann.Ward@uregina.ca

Workshop: Classical Rationalism and the Politics of Europe