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Series: Vernon Series in Philosophy

Bertrand Russell’s Life and Legacy

Edited by Peter Stone, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

June 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-191-6
Availability: In stock
$60 £49 €57

Almost five decades after his death, there is still ample reason to pay attention to the life and legacy of Bertrand Russell. This is true not only because of his role as one of the founders of analytic philosophy, but also because of his important place in twentieth-century history as an educator, public intellectual, critic of organized religion, humanist, and peace activist. The papers in this anthology explore Russell’s life and legacy from a wide variety of perspectives. This is altogether fitting, given the many-sided nature of Russell, his life, and his work. The first section of the book considers Russell the man, and draws lessons from Russell’s complicated personal life. The second examines Russell the philosopher, and the philosophical world within which his work was embedded. The third scrutinizes Russell the atheist and critic of organized religion, inquiring which parts of his critical stance are worth emulating today. The final section revisits Russell the political activist; it directs an eye both at Russell’s own long career of peace activism, but also at his place in a highly political family tradition of which he was justifiably proud. This book thus constitutes an invitation, if one were needed, to the world of Bertrand Russell. Those new to Russell, but with an interest in biography, philosophy, religion, or politics, will hopefully find something to learn here. This may spark an interest in learning more about Russell. But this book is not just intended for the Russell neophyte. The book sheds fresh light on a number of topics central to Russell studies—his connections to other philosophers, for example. Scholars well-versed in Russell studies will enjoy grappling with the treatment given to these topics here.

Mustard Seeds in the Public Square

Between and Beyond Theology, Philosophy, and Society

Edited by Sotiris Mitralexis, City University of Istanbul, Turkey; University of Winchester, UK

April 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-169-5
Availability: In stock
$55 £40 €50

This volume seeks to explore the intersection of theology, philosophy and the public sphere not by referring the social and political to ethics and deontology as is often the case, but rather to ontology itself, to the very nature of beings. The meaning of history and historicity is most pertinent to this enquiry and is approached here both from the perspective of social reality and from the perspective of ontology. Joining together contributions focusing on theory of the public sphere and metaphysics, chapters explore subjects as diverse as the political implications of the Incarnation, the paradox between ontology and history, politically left and right appropriations of Christianity, the fecundity of Maximus the Confessor’s insights for a contemporary political philosophy, modern Orthodox political theology focusing on Christos Yannaras and numerous thematic areas that together form the mosaic of the enquiry in question.

The Common Good

An Introduction to Personalism

Edited by Steffen Boeskov, University of Liverpool and Leif E. Kristensen, Københavns Universitet

March 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-192-3
Availability: In stock
$45 £35 €42

Our traditional ways of thinking about politics and society are becoming obsolete. We need some new points of reference in order to re-imagine the possible character, growth, and functioning of our private and common life. Such re-imagination would imply doing away with every-man-for-himself individualism as well as consumption-makes-me-happy materialism and the-state-will-take-care-of-it passivity. There is an alternative: Personalism is a forgotten, yet golden perspective on humanity that seeks to describe what a human being is and to then draw the social consequences. Personalism builds upon the thinking of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, among others, and has been a source of inspiration for Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, and other important personalities in recent history. According to personalism, humans are relational and engaged and possess dignity. The person and the relationship amongst persons are the universal point of departure: Human beings have inherent dignity, and good relationships amongst humans are crucial for the good, engaged life and for a good society. Personalism has been greatly neglected in Western political thought. In this book, Jonas Norgaard Mortensen attempts to introduce personalism while simultaneously demonstrating its historical origins, acquainting the reader with its thinkers and those who have practiced it, and showing that personalism has a highly relevant contribution to make in the debate about today’s social and political developments.

Free Will, Neuroethics, Psychology and Theology

Geran F. Dodson, University of North Georgia

February 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-153-4
Availability: In stock
$60 £50 €57

The topic of human free will has received more attention in the past several years due to the important discoveries of neuroscience but no consensus of opinion is evident in related disciplines. The traditional approach to understanding free will in philosophy employs conceptual analysis to determine whether humans have freedom of choice. Theology affirms that every person has free choice although God is somehow behind all human decisions. Evolutionary psychology points to human behavior as the product of biological processes and antecedent events. And neuroethics attempts to define what it means to be a thinking moral agent by investigating how neurons in the brain and chemical interactions combine to produce conscious actions. An assessment and evaluation of these various positions is given in light of the evidence. The issue of whether a person can be held morally responsible for their actions hinges on whether those actions originate from free will or are the result of determinism. Theology makes assumptions of the existence of an absolute deity that has a hand in human decision making, but there is no agreement regarding the nature of that intervention. Recent scientific discoveries confront traditionally held religious beliefs and necessitate the creation of a new theology and articles of faith.

Modernity, Civilization and the Return to History

Anthony F. Shaker, McGill University, Canada

January 2017 / ISBN: 978-1-62273-184-8
Availability: In stock
$80 £68 €77

The modern concept and study of civilization have their roots, not in western Europe, but in the spirit of scientific investigation associated with a self-conscious Islamicate civilization. What we call modernity cannot be fathomed without this historical connection. We owe every major branch of science known today to the broad tradition of systematic inquiry that belongs to a “region of being”—as Heidegger would say—whose theoretical, practical and institutional dimensions the philosophy of that civilization played an unprecedented role in creating. This book focuses primarily on the philosophical underpinnings of questions relating to civilization, personhood and identity. Contemporary society and thinking in western Europe introduced new elements to these questions that have altered how collective and personal identities are conceived and experienced. In the age of “globalization,” expressions of identity (individual, social and cultural) survive precariously outside their former boundaries, just when humanity faces perhaps its greatest challenges—environmental degradation, policy inertia, interstate bellicosity, and a growing culture of tribalism. Yet, the world has been globalized for at least a millennium, a fact dimmed by the threadbare but still widespread belief that modernity is a product of something called the West. One is thus justified in asking, as many people do today, if humanity has not lost its initiative. This is more a philosophical than an empirical question. There can be no initiative without the human agency that flows from identity and personhood—i.e., the way we, the acting subject, live and deliberate about our affairs. Given the heavy scrutiny under which the modern concept of identity has come, Dr. Shaker has dug deeper, bringing to bear a wealth of original sources from both German thought and Ḥikmah (Islamicate philosophy), the latter based on material previously unavailable to scholars. Posing the age-old question of identity anew in the light of these two traditions, whose special historical roles are assured, may help clear the confusion surrounding modernity and, hopefully, our place in human civilization. Proximity to Scholasticism, and therefore Islamicate philosophy, lent German thought up to Heidegger a unique ability to dialogue with other thought traditions. Two fecund elements common to Heidegger, Qūnawī and Mullā Ṣadrā are of special importance: Logos (utterance, speech) as the structural embodiment at once of the primary meaning (essential reality) of a thing and of divine manifestation; and the idea of unity-in-difference, which Ṣadrā finally formulated as the substantial movement of existence. But behind this complexity is the abiding question of who Man is, which cannot be answered by theory alone. Heidegger, who occupies a good portion of this study, questioned the modern ontology at a time of social collapse and deep spiritual crisis not unlike ours. Yet, that period also saw the greatest breakthroughs in modern physics and social science. The concluding chapters take up, more specifically, identity renewal in Western literature and Muslim “reformism.” The renewal theme reflects a point of convergence between the Eurocentric worldview, in which modernism has its secular aesthetics roots, and a current originating in Ibn Taymiyyah’s reductionist epistemology and skeptical fundamentalism. It expresses a hopeless longing for origin in a historically pristine “golden age,” an obvious deformation of philosophy’s millennial concern with the commanding, creative oneness of the Being of beings.

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