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Broad, Jacqueline, Karen Green. A History of Women’s Political Thought in Europe, 1400–1700
2009, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Karen Green

Publisher’s Note: This ground-breaking book surveys the history of women’s political thought in Europe from the late medieval period to the early modern era. The authors examine women’s ideas about topics such as the basis of political authority, the best form of political organisation, justifications of obedience and resistance, and concepts of liberty, toleration, sociability, equality, and self-preservation. Women’s ideas concerning relations between the sexes are discussed in tandem with their broader political outlooks; and the authors demonstrate that the development of a distinctively sexual politics is reflected in women’s critiques of marriage, the double standard, and women’s exclusion from government. Women writers are also shown to be indebted to the ancient idea of political virtue, and to be acutely aware of being part of a long tradition of female political commentary. This work will be of tremendous interest to political philosophers, historians of ideas, and feminist scholars alike.

Comment: Offers an overview of women's works advocating for the spiritual and political equality of women and men from Christine de Pizan's Book of the City of Ladies to Mary Astell's Serious Proposal to the Ladies. Embeds these works within the wider traditions of political philosophy and in particular debates about virtue, liberty, religious toleration, equality, and good government.

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Finlayson, Lorna. The Political is Political: Conformity and the Illusion of Dissent in Contemporary Political Philosophy
2015, London: Rowman and Littlefield International
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by: Emily Dyson

Publisher’s Note: Nobody should really have to point out that political philosophy is political. Yet in this highly original and provocative book Lorna Finlayson argues that in fact it is necessary to do so. Offering a critique of mainstream liberal political philosophy through close, critical engagement with a series of specific debates and arguments, Finlayson analyzes the way in which apparently neutral methodological devices such as ‘charitable interpretation’ and ‘constructive criticism’ function so as to protect against challenges to the status quo.
At each stage, Finlayson demonstrates that political philosophy is suffering from a complex process of ‘depoliticization.’ Even in cases where it appears that the dominant framework of liberal political philosophy is being strongly challenged – as, for example, in the case of the ‘realist’ critique of ‘ideal theory’ – this book argues that the debate is set up in such a way as to impose strict limits on the kind of dissent that is possible. Only by dragging these hidden presuppositions into the foreground can we arrive at a clear-eyed appreciation of such debates, and perhaps look beyond the artificially constricted landscape in which they seek to confine us.

Comment: Good further or advanced reading on the methodology of political philosophy, and an incredibly illuminating critical complement to a Rawls-heavy syllabus. Finlayson provides an interesting and challenging critique of liberal presuppositions that are widespread in political philosophy. Individual chapters would also make very good further or advanced reading in their own right, especially the chapters on Rawls, the norm of philosophical charity, speech acts and silencing, and political realism.

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O'Neill, Onora. The public use of reason
1986, Political Theory 14 (4):523-551.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa

Abstract: LIBERALS OFTEN THINK diversity of belief and its expression should be tolerated in order to respect either individuals or reason and truth themselves. Because they are agnostic about the good for man, they hold that liberty for each to pursue his or her conception of the good in “self-regarding” matters is required, and that practices of toleration are important aspects of this liberty. They also often advocate practices of toleration as means by which reasoned and true beliefs can come to prevail over false beliefs. Each line of thought justifies practices of toleration as means to something which is seen both as logically independent and as of more fundamental value. These familiar lines of thought are not the only possible liberal vindication of toleration. In Kant’s writings toleration is not a derivative value, to be established only when the value of true and reasoned belief and of liberty in self-regarding matters has been established. His arguments for toleration of what he terms “the public use of reason” presuppose neither antecedently given standards of rationality nor that any class of self-regarding individual actions is of special importance. For Kant the importance of (some sorts of) toleration is connected with the very grounding of reason, and so in particular with the grounding of practical reason. His arguments suggest that liberal political thinking can vindicate practices of toleration without commitment either to a strong form of individualism or to the view that we can distinguish “self-regarding” acts, and without claiming that reasoning either has a “transcendent” vindication or is groundless. The themes of toleration and of the grounding of reason are brought together in many Kantian texts. The most important is the Critique of Pure Reason, in particular the section of the Doctrine of Method called “The Discipline of Pure Reason in Respect of its Polemical Employment.” I The same connection is stressed in many other places, including scattered passages in the Second and Third Critiques, in the Logic, and in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone. A number of shorter essays, including “What Is Enlightenment?” (1784), “What Is Orientation in Thinking?” (1786), “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose” (1784), “The Conflict of the Faculties” (1798), “On the Common Saying ‘This may be True in Theory, but it does not Apply in Practice’ ” (1795), and “Perpetual Peace” (1795),2 appear at first to have much to say about toleration, including the political aspects of toleration, and little about the grounding of reason. Yet here too the themes are often interwoven. The close connections between the short political essays and the central critical writings suggest not only that the essays are part of Kant’s systematic philosophy, and not marginal or occasional pieces, but also perhaps that the entire critical enterprise has a certain political character. If this is the case, it is no accident that the guiding metaphors of The Critique of Pure Reason are political metaphors. If the discussion of reason itself is to proceed in terms of conflicts whose battlefields and strife are scenes of defeat and victory that will give way to a lasting peace only when we have established through legislation such courts, tribunals, and judges as can weigh the issue and give verdict, then it is perhaps not surprising that Kant links his discussions of politics very closely to larger issues about the powers and limits of human reason. However, this is a large and for present purposes somewhat tangential issue.3 The more immediate concern is to see how Kantian arguments link toleration to the very grounding of reason.

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