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Political Theory

H05(a) - Reason and Rationalism

Date: Jun 4 | Time: 01:30pm to 03:00pm | Location: SWING 110

Chair/Président/Présidente : Deanne LeBlanc (University of British Columbia)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Deanne LeBlanc (University of British Columbia)

How Political Theory Silences and Distorts Indigenous Voices: Yann Allard-Tremblay (Glendon College, York University)
Abstract: Rationalism refers to a mode of theorizing that sees in universal reason the right tool to apprehend politics. In this paper, I argue that this mode of theorizing is a source of epistemic violence in that it silences and distorts the voices of the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. I firstly explain what this mode of theorizing is in greater detail. I secondly provide an account of the ways in which it is generally applied to the theorization of Indigenous peoples and to their political claims. Thirdly and fourthly, I explain how this rationalist mode of theorizing both silences and distorts the voices of Indigenous peoples. Finally, I explain what is entailed in opposing rationalism so as to hear Indigenous peoples in their own voices. I discuss two considerations about politics and political theory that should be kept in mind so as to avoid masking domination under the guise of reason and ignoring people’s agency in determining the right structure of society. The relevance of the argument lies in showing how the supposedly inclusive discourses of political theory thwart the already present political agency and voices of Indigenous peoples. It shows that in order to speak truth to the people, political theorists need to truly hear people in their own voices, in all their various tones and expressions, recognize alternative worldviews and alternative understanding of politics and political conduct.

29.Allard-Tremblay.pdf


Huntington, Kuhn, and Toynbee: Analyzing and Critiquing the Relativism Underpinning the Clash of Civilizations Thesis: Colin Cordner (Carleton University)
Abstract: The release of Samuel P. Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" was the occasion for quite the stir in academic circles. Perhaps more importantly, his ideas of civilizations and the incommensurability of values continues to have outsized influence on the framing of policy debates and public opinion. While initial critiques of his ideas were sharp, they have elided the sort of deep theoretical analysis of the origins and defects of those idea which could have been achieved by a comprehensive analysis of his chief sources - particularly the British historian and philosopher of history Arnold J. Toynbee, and the historian of science, Thomas Kuhn. I shall endeavour to untangle these two separate threads in his thoughts in order to enucleate the core of his ideas. In the process, I shall demonstrate that Huntington ignored those theoretic insights of Toynbee’s which invalidated his conception of civilization, and propped-up a theoretically invalid conception by a dubious appeal Thomas Kuhn's questionable idea of "paradigms". It was these choices of Huntington’s which I shall show, had the perverse effect of providing an illusory justification for the concept of a necessary “clash”. I will end the essay with a brief encapsulation of the problem of the conceptualization of “civilization”, the defects in Huntington’s formulation, and, using the work of Toynbee and Eric Voegelin as reference points, suggest a more transparent conception which does away with the misleading, and dualistic symbol of “the West” altogether.


The Critique of Reason in the Context of Irrationality: Where Does Critical Theory Go Next?: Eleanor MacDonald (Queen's University)
Abstract: Both critical and poststructuralist theory engage in sustained criticism of liberalism’s link of reason to social progress. Both critiques do so, arguably, not through dismissing reason but through making heightened and more complex demands of the work of reasoning. In this paper, I query the adequacy of these critiques of reason and of their alternatives, in the context of a political world that increasingly denies the relevance of reason and facts to political decision-making. We need to remain attentive to the insights of these bodies of thought, but we need additionally a theoretical basis to understand both the appeal of irrationality and the denial of truth. In the context of reason’s abandonment, a critique of reason alone may not suffice. I argue that, beyond the logical arguments made by previous critiques, it is useful to explore the affective basis of resistance to reasoning. In this exploration, I develop insights gained from Freudian theory into the consequences of privileging specific psychic experiences associated with the acquisition of conventional subjectivity, characterized by affective commitments to independence, competitiveness, rule-orientation and acquisitiveness. I argue that we need to understand the this culture and its central subjects as uniquely historical. This line of analysis leads me to broader speculations about our culture’s treatment of negative affects such as shame, confusion, guilt, and – especially grief. I propose that, until we acknowledge the psychological and affective aspects of reason’s denial, we may not achieve the kinds of social change we envision or desire.