Thursday, 31 May 2018

Knud Haakonssen is going to present a working paper on 'Natural law and moral philosophy in the Scottish Enlightenment'

The paper is my contribution to a new edition of The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment, ed. A. Broadie & C. Smith (forthcoming late in 2018). The paper is therefore primarily written for an English speaking audience, and this is reflected in the choice of secundary literature. The first section sets the European scene. Section 2 details the institutional adoption of the subject as part of the curriculum in moral philosophy in the five Scottish universities. Section 3 sketches the social function of the natural law works that issued from the academic teaching. The final and longest section attempts an over-all interpretation of the amorphous body of ideas that made up natural jurisprudence as the Enlightenment’s ‘practical ethics’. Readers with limited time or patience may want to concentrate on section 4.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Benjamin Sippel gives a working paper on 'The many religious identities of Aurelios Ammon'

Did Egyptian priests cite Stoic ideas in private letters? How did they appear in public when offduty? Plenty of research has been done on identification-patterns regarding Greek, Roman, and Christian cults, but there is not much known on identification-strategies of Egyptian priests in both, the public and private sphere. Yet they are interesting targets of observation, because they were distinguished from other parts of society in many ways. The archive of Aurelios Ammon offers a suitable case-study to investigate patterns of religious identification: As he belonged to a family of high-ranking Egyptian priests, he was involved in diverse encounters with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian elites. In every situation, he adapted certain patterns of self-identification according to context. Ammon will be observed in three different situations: (1) As a young man, he wrote a letter to his mother, thereby referring, among other things, to Stoic theology. (2) Years later, he prepared a couple of drafts for a petition addressed to the Prefect of Egypt. Therein he referred to Neoplatonic thinking, but also to “Agathos Daimon”, which was a common translation for Shai. (3) At another occasion, he approached a Roman official in order to complain about certain issues. While facing the Roman, he was dressed in his priestly robe. Socio-linguistic examination of all three scenes will explain why Ammon opted in each situation for one specific way of religious identification.

Genuine Pretending and Prolificity - two projects presented by Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio

Hans-Georg Moeller and Paul J. D’Ambrosio presented their recently published book to a seminar at the MWK today:

Genuine Pretending. On the Philosophy of the Zhuangzi, Columbia University Press, New York 2017.

New book:

Profilicity: Notes on the Problem of Identity

Are we in an age of diminished authenticity and on the rise of genuine pretending as a new paradigm of identity construction? We surely move from a first order observation to what Luhmann called second order observation, hence move away from what we are or want to be and go to how one wants to be seen, liked ...
The project makes use of Chinese philosophy of the Confucian classics of the Zhuangzi and pertains to the discussion of sincerity vs. authenticity.

Tomás Bartoletti presents a working paper on 'Tupi or not Tupi: towards an ecological history of early modern superstition'

In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, demonological and theological output and controversies over the idea of superstition marked antagonistically the limit of what was Christian, civilized and rational. There are various studies into how the ideas of demons, witchcraft and superstition were projected and exploited in the Christianization of the New World. But to a lesser degree, interpretations can be found that centre on the opposite process: how chronicles, accounts and letters written about the New World contributed to the ideas of early modern superstition. This paper sets out to map which accounts and imaginary of the New World returned and fed the early modern construction of superstition. Such mapping aims to explore this output and identity associations and how they were established. This is a necessary step towards an ‘ecological’ history of modern superstition. Here the ‘ecological’ dimension for historiographical inquiry aims to cover the diversity of sources, authorities, spaces of circulations in which the idea of superstition was reproduced in relation to the New World and not only understand it as a phenomenon limited to the European territory. But the ‘ecological’ dimension is tied too to its more widely-accepted meaning and has to do with the role of nature in ‘savage superstition’, in other words, the place that was given to the relationship that Amerindian cultures established between ‘religion’ and nature. This second question runs through this paper. In order to show the ecological diversity of sources and authorities, the mapping proposed here delimits certain outlines and paths to explore in this territory. To do so, I propose three sections. The first will concern itself with the works produced on Latin American soil or by transatlantic figures that focused on the demonic question, in a kind of ‘reception’ of European discourse in the New World. In the previous semester I looked into the chronicles, relaciones, extirpation trials, the indigenous chronicle of Guaman Poma and the Quechua manuscript of Huarochiri, sources that are evidence of the ‘official’ anti-superstitious colonial discourse, with the exception of this latter Quechua document. On this occasion I will focus on certain colonial literary output, specifically some epic poems such as Alonso de Ercilla’s La Araucana (1569, 1578 and 1589) and Juan Mogrovejo de la Cerda’s satirical story La endiablada. In the second section I will analyse passages of the works of Jean Bodin and Martin Delrio, known for their demonological writings. Lastly, I will review writings by Gerardus Vossius, François de La Mothe Le Vayer and Bernard de Fontenelle and their ‘comparative theology.’ Considering that superstition (and later ‘divination’ and ‘magic’ as scientific concepts) was the frontier that marked the limit of all kinds of alterities and epistemic teratologies, an ecological history of this would, in a second instance, make it possible to open the possibility of diffracting the line that separates the western Self (Christian and Rational) and the Other (non-western) in order to overcome the potential biases in our current onto-epistemological understandings.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Marialilia Cavallaro gives a working paper on 'Music and the Gods. The Harmony of Bow and Lyre in the Imagery on Apollo'

The reference to the fragment 51 (DK) of Heraclitus, in the title of this paper, aims to start a reflection on the opposition between music and war and, more broadly, on the opposition between soul and body, humans and gods, politics and religion.
At the basis of the argument there are two considerations on the role of the mousikē technē in the ancient Greek societies: 1) musical rituals always preceded the establishment of the divine cults performed during the Greek period; 2) proceeding towards the classical age, it becomes even more evident that the performances of musical rituals within the cults were related to their growing social importance rather than to their pertinence to some religious competences of the gods.
This second aspect appears even more controversial in the case of Apollo, since we are used to think of his figure as mainly associated with the musical arts, although the god had a primary characterization as archer/warrior An historical analysis on the developments of the divine figure of Apollo, based on literary and archaeological sources, allows to reconstruct the opposition between his archaic competences as archer and the image of the god as mousikōs, that was spread in the Greek imagery from the end of the 6th century B.C. Beyond the apparent contradictions of the representations of Apollo, the bow and the lyre seem to find harmony under the wing of his human, or social, affinities, that well suit with the social use of the musical practices.
Moving forward with this reflection, the way in which the imagery on the god was conceived in the literature also complies with the image of Apollo spread by contemporary festivals, and it is particularly interesting the case of the Spartan Gymnopaidiai. The anthropological analysis of the musical rituals performed at the Gymnopaidiai, at the end of the paper, brought the discussion to its beginning, pointing out both the actual absence of strict connections between Greek gods and musical rituals, and the socio-political role of the mousikē technē in the construction of social memories. A unique instance of an entirely civic Greek festival, with the musical features of all its rituals, the Gymnopaidiai expressed, in the most exemplar way, all the socio-political potential that was assigned to the religion. Conversely, they also reveal how well-known the religious aspects of politics were.