Politics & Poetics, CfP - 'The Human Difference'

Since classical antiquity the idea of human nature has played a central role in our understanding of ourselves and of our place in the world, providing the source of norms of conduct, as well as presenting a categorical framework for living a good, and fulfilled life. At the same time, however, this idea has always been controversial: the debate concerning the distinguishing characteristics of human beings, their grounding, and how fixed they are, is one of the oldest in philosophy, theology, literature and law.

A tradition dominant since Plato and Aristotle has emphasized rationality as distinctive of human beings. Among the rational capacities characteristic of humans, intellect and will are commonly singled out. Furthermore for many ancient thinkers, human nature is not only what distinguishes humanity as a kind, but it is also what human beings are meant to strive for to achieve perfection. Aristotle makes several influential suggestions concerning areas of human activity where our nature is most manifest: most notably perhaps, defining man in his Politics as a political animal, and in his Poetics as a mimetic animal. The former points to an innate propensity to develop complex communities, the latter denotes the need to represent reality, and thus to create art.

Following on the question of human nature, the relationship between a person and her community, or from the first-person perspective, between self and other, has also played a central role in human intellectual and literary history. This is especially true of ethics which might be construed broadly as an attempt to reconcile each person’s self-interest with the interests of others. On a widespread modern view communities are seen as dependent upon and grounded in the individuals that belong to them. Ethical and political theories that start from this assumption, such as social contract theory, standardly make the individual and her interests the basic unit of moral theorising. Yet many thinkers have defended a reversal of this relation between individual person and community. Such a view is famously proposed by Hegel who makes the dependence of the individual on wider social and historical structures fundamental to his political philosophy. Other traditions are harder to classify. For example the virtue ethics associated with ancient thinkers like Aristotle can be seen as heavily individualistic, if not egoistic in its emphasis upon personal flourishing. However, Aristotle himself makes interpersonal relations such as friendship and social virtues such as justice central to his ethical thought.

The central question of the third issue of Politics & Poetics is to assess and defend various views of human nature, their metaphysical claims and their implications for life together with other such humans. We also welcome contributions from those who are sceptical about a philosophy of human nature, as well as from those who deny that there is any such thing. Any aspect or part of this field, and the methodology related to investigating it, is open to enquiry. Given our mission, P&P will be especially receptive to papers that relate human nature to various ideas of political community, or to poetry, the arts or literature. However, this is not a precondition for submissions.

Politics & Poetics seeks articles that engage with questions of interest both to readers specialising in the relevant field and to a wider academic audience.

Subjects which authors may wish to focus on include:

  • Fictional narratives and literature as visions of human nature

  • Law and law-like conceptions of human nature

  • Music, music theory, theatre and performative aspects of human nature

  • Human nature and moral obligation

  • Evil and human nature

  • Theological and meta-ethical ways of understanding human nature

  • Which discipline does the study of human nature belong to? For instance, ought we to favour physical sciences such as biology and neurology, social sciences like anthropology, law and economics, or humanities such as history, theology and philosophy?

  • The relation of philosophy of human nature to philosophical naturalism? Does the former pose any problems to the latter? And vice versa?

  • Evolution, genetics and human nature

  • Does human nature need to be conceptualized always with reference to the political community?

  • The uses of a philosophy of human nature – and its potential misuses – for literature, scholarship, sciences, and for everyday life.

  • Technology and human nature

  • Historic or non-Western philosophies of human nature that merit discussion

Information for Authors Articles should be submitted as an email attachment in rich text format to:j.d.price@law.leidenuniv.nl

We shall accept submissions until early 2017, or until we receive sufficient high quality material (whichever comes first).

Publication will be on a rolling basis, as articles clear peer review, beginning October 15th, 2016.

Previously published articles and articles under consideration for publication elsewhere will not be considered for publication in Politics & Poetics. All articles are subjected to blind peer-review, and should be formatted accordingly: the submitted article itself should not indicate the identity of the author, and a separate cover sheet should be provided stating the author’s name and affiliation (if any). The author may include a CV, but this is not required. Submissions should also include an article abstract of about 200 words. Articles should be between 2000 and 8000 words in length, including footnotes. For longer submissions, seek editorial approval first. Footnotes should be numbered sequentially throughout the article. Font size should be 12, in a serif font. It is not necessary for manuscripts to conform strictly to our style guidelines on initial submission (full style sheet available upon request). However, the author must ensure that articles meet these standards prior to publication. The editors aim to inform authors of publication decisions within two months of reception.