Wednesday, August 29, 2007

CFP: Montesquieu

The Society for Social and Political Philosophy
is pleased to issue
for a Roundtable on Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws

The Roundtable is to be held at Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, New York
on March 21-23, 2008.

This Roundtable is designed to explore Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws (1748). We chose this text because our notion of Enlightenment Political Philosophy, and perhaps even Modern Political Philosophy more broadly, has been dominated by the classical theorists of the contract tradition. We need to pay more attention to figures like Montesquieu, who form a counter-tradition in political modernity.

Given the influence of the implicit and explicit norms of the contract tradition on most contemporary political philosophy, the question is not merely of historical value. As a thinker outside of the mainstream tradition of political philosophy, Montesquieu may be a resource for rethinking pressing contemporary questions that have remained stubborn blind spots: especially questions about the passions and political life; about political virtue; about democracy and liberalism. In addition, both Montesquieu and the counter-tradition of political modernity more generally have been significant to post-enlightenment figures in political and continental philosophy like Marx, Deleuze, Schmitt, Negri, Arendt, and Berlin, to name only a few.

Applicants need not be experts in Montesquieu or in 18th century political theory. Applicants must, however, have an expertise in some area of social or political philosophy. Applicants must also be interested in teaching one another and in nurturing the ongoing exploration of the history of political thought.

If selected for participation, applicants will deliver a written, roundtable-style presentation on a specific part or theme of the text. Topics can be historical (e.g. influence of The Spirit of the Laws in the 18th century), contemporary (e.g. liberalism and The Spirit of the Laws), figure-driven (e.g. Marx and The Spirit of the Laws) or thematic (e.g. politics of the passions and affects). However, all topics must relate centrally back to some aspect of The Spirit of the Laws.

Prior to composing their applications, applicants are encouraged to review either the French original of The Spirit of the Laws or the 1989 translation from Cambridge University Press by A. Cohler et al. The Cohler is the official English translation, and it will be used by participants reading in English at the roundtable in March.

Roundtable participants must be members of the society in good standing.
You can become a member of the society at
or by following the membership link at

Spaces are limited.

Applicants should send the following materials as email attachments to by October 1, 2007:

1. Curriculum Vitae
2. One page statement of interest in the project. (Please include a discussion of topics that you would be willing to explore in a roundtable presentation. Please also include the projected significance of participation for your research or teaching.)

All applicants will be notified about the outcome of the selection process via email on or before November 1, 2007. Participants will then be asked to send a draft, abstract, or outline of their roundtable presentation to

by March 1, 2008 so that we can put together a final program.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

POLI 433

The syllabus for POLI 433, "History of Political and Social Thought 3: The 17th and 18th centuries," is online.

This is a course in the history of western political and social thought in early modern times—broadly the 17th and 18th centuries. It spans the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the American and French Revolutions, a period that brought most of the political ideas of the west into recognizably modern form. The significant themes in the period include social contract theory as a mode of political justification; the idea of a break with ancient and medieval, Aristotelian and Thomist, thought; the possibility of a shared political life among members of different religious groups; popular consent; the rise of commercial and polished society, and the meaning of progress; the right to revolt; and the idea of a constitution.

First class is in Arts 145, next Tuesday at 1:05 pm. Space is available in the class. Prior coursework in political theory, political philosophy, or intellectual history is required.
Media again

I'll apparently be discussing reasonable accommodation etc at 7:20 am on 940 AM, which can be listened to here.

The current excuse for a flare-up of attention on the topic (not that it's ever far from the news) is that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the famous Bill 101 in Quebec. And former PQ premier Bernard Landry took the occasion to say that Quebec is neither bilingual (which legally it is) nor multicultural (which sociologically Montreal clearl is). We may be seeing a trial balloon electoral strategy for the PQ, trying to protect itself against the ADQ: try to tie together old Quebec language resentments with standard-issue rural and working class distrust of immigrants and religious pluralism. This needn't be pure laine-- Landry went out of his way to stress that an acculturated Haitian Quebecoise Pequiste is as much a member of Quebec culture as he is-- but it will be unpleasant.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Calvin Normore is coming to McGill

Via Brian Leiter:
Calvin Normore, one of the world's leading scholars of medieval philosophy (who also works in political philosophy and logic) at UCLA, has accepted the Macdonald Chair in Moral Philosophy at McGill University, where he will join the faculty in fall 2008. That's a major hire for McGill, which will solidify its position as a leading center for history of philosophy. (Normore will continue as an Honorary Research Professor in the American summers/Australian winters at the University of Queensland.)

I'm likely to be on CBC radio this afternoon about 5:40, discussing the Taylor-Bouchard commission, the accommodation of immigrant cultures in Quebec, and Quebecois attitudes toward multiculturalism.

Update: False alarm.
A question for APSA old-timers

It seems to me that the switch from the Panel Paper Room to PROceedings online has resulted in a very dramatic reduction in the number of papers being circulated. It seems to me that there was a genuine strong norm in favor of bringing papers to the PPR in the old days-- it was stated as a rule, and while some papers were too drafty to be circulated and some senior people didn't bother, most papers were in there.

Now as I browse through the (terrible) PROceedings site (click "browse," click on the name of the section or division, e.g. Foundations of Political Theory,, you wish to browse through, you get to the list of panel names; click on a panel name, you see the list of papers that have been uploaded, if any; click "back," and instead of returning to the list of Foundations panels, you're returned to the home page-- maddening) it seems to me that the modal number of papers per panel that are actually uploaded is zero. It also seems to me that this wasn't true in the first few years after the switch-- that is, the norm stuck for a little while but is now close to dead.

Explanations? Is it the terrible site, the worry about putting drafts online, some combination? Or am I hallucinating that there's a phenomenon here at all?