Rousseau and the Tragic Desire for Unity

In “A Tragic Desire: Rousseau and the Modern Democratic Project,” Alice Ormiston brings to the fore a figure often neglected in contemporary political theory and that, as the title foreshadows, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. First, Ormiston—animated by the task of the intellectual historian—traces to Rousseau the discovery of a fundamental clash at the heart of the modern subject, which is that between nature and abstract reason. Such tension, Ormiston claims, has influenced, or is present in, subsequent thinkers like Kant, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. Rousseau identifies the clash between nature and reason, and eyeing man’s primitive condition with nostalgia and viewing his modern condition with contempt, he is seeking to resolve such contention in his works.

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Religion and the New Cosmopolitanism in a Postsecular Age

The following paper was presented at the Seventh Annual Telos Conference, held on February 15–17, 2013, in New York City.

Flush with optimism following the end of the Cold War, many American and European scholars openly speculated about the possibilities of a Kantian perpetual peace, returning with renewed vigor to theories of cosmopolitanism. As Amanda Anderson has put it, such cosmopolitanism “endorses reflective distance from one’s cultural affiliations, a broad understanding of other cultures and customs, and a belief in universal humanity.” Indeed, recent developments in communication technology, combined with a proliferation of transnational migrations, have made it possible to truly imagine and experience “navigating beyond one’s state.”

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