Hosted jointly with the Centre for Philosophy & Critical Thought, we’re delighted to announce two talks by philosopher Justin E. H. Smith, Université Paris Diderot. Smith is author of The Philosopher: A History in Six Types andNature, Human Nature, and Human Difference: Race in Early Modern Philosophy. All are welcome and there is no need to register.
Leibniz on Political and Metaphysical Domination
Room 220, Education Building
As many know, domination is at the heart of Leibniz’s theory of monads, in which simple substances enter into infinitely complex hierarchical relations of domination and subordination as a result of the varying degrees of clarity in their perceptions. Clearer perception at the monadic level translates into a greater capacity for domination, and in turn, at the phenomenal bodily level, into a capacity for action. But does this analysis of domination carry over into Leibniz’s political thought? I would like to consider some evidence that it does.Readings from: Consilium Aegyptiacum (1671); ‘Meditation on the Common Concept of Justice’ (1702).
Philosophers, Neighbours, and Tartars
Room 309, Richard Hoggart Building
In his 1762 Émile, ou De l’éducation, Jean-Jacques Rousseau criticises those philosophers who “will love the Tartars in order to avoid loving their neighbour.” The ethnic group in question would be more correctly called the ‘Tatars’, a wide family of Turkic groups living throughout the broader Black Sea region, and often invoked by Western Europeans in the Enlightenment as a stock example of savage peoples. Rousseau’s critique here is directed at those cosmopolitan thinkers who turn their attention away from the concrete human reality that surrounds them, and towards what he sees as abstractions and fantasies of what human beings are like, or could be like, in far-away settings that we, here in 18th-century Geneva, will never encounter. But there are two possibilities that may have escaped Rousseau’s attention. These are, namely, that the neighbours are themselves Tartars, and that the Tartars are themselves philosophers. According to the stereotype that makes Rousseau’s example work, Tartars are by definition far away, and by definition unphilosophical. But why suppose as much? In this talk, I will draw on themes developed in my recent book, The Philosopher: A History in Six Types (2016), in order to answer this question.