New issues from the twentieth year of our journal feature articles from editorial board member Bonnie Honig, a special issue on Pragmatism and Political Theology, book reviews and more.
Ted Smith delivers an unprecedented thesis about Brown’s violent assault on slaveholders as the human side of a “divine violence.” From beyond the limits of any earthly system of political justice and social ethics, this is a divine judgment against the validity of an entire system of political ethics. Addressed, for one, to American ethicists today — both those who teach and study in the university and those who voice their ethical judgments on street corners, in churches, and across the Sunday dinner table — Smith’s words, while gently spoken, deliver their own report of divine judgment.
Despite the unending political chatter over global spying, the recent government shutdown, and now the misadventure of the Obama care rollout, I have also been pondering the meaning of something worth more obsessing about. . . . It amounts to the latest variation not of Murphy’s Law (“if something can go wrong, it will”), but what I have called Raschke’s Rule (“if you didn’t think people could be more foolish than they already are, just wait a day or so”).
In Plato’s Theaetetus Protagoras insisted that one should not persuade the other of what is true in relation to what is false because no one has ever succeeded in doing so and most of all because truth in itself is not the issue in political discussions, debates, and deliberations. But there is one thing that Protagoras wanted to persuade people about, namely improvement. From the point of view of ancient Greek politics, this is all that can be done: We can strive to achieve a better situation, which inevitably will require further improvement. But if nothing but improvements can be hoped for, then “truth” or the “good” have no place in this progress because they presuppose final achievements, accomplishments, and results. The point of Protagoras is that one should never persuade people of what is good—only of the need for improvement…