Democracy in Europe: A History by Luciano Canfora

By Luciano Canfora

This background lines the advance of democracy in Europe from its origins in historic Greece as much as the current day.

The publication opens with the start of democracy in old Greece, and descriptions the adoption and model of Greek political principles via French revolutionaries and intellectuals to fit their very own ends. the writer then is going directly to examine all of the significant watersheds within the improvement of democracy in glossy Europe: the twenty-year trouble from 1789 to 1815, whilst the repercussions of revolution in France have been felt around the continent; the explosion of democratic routine among 1830 and 1848; the hijacking of democratic approaches by means of Napoleon III, and the débâcle of the Paris Commune. Canfora strains how the unfold of Marxist principles in east and west Europe, the Russian revolution, and the increase of fascism ended in a ‘European civil war’ lasting from 1914 until eventually 1945.

In end, the publication demonstrates how within the contemporary earlier democracy, faraway from making development, has in reality develop into extra constrained and oligarchic, as certainly it was once on the outset, 2,500 years in the past.

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A paradoxical effect of limitation is—in one carefully defined sense—to defy, or at least render inoperative, the limits of morality and finitude. Morality is not a matter of calculation, of “this far, and no further,” but an exercise of the boundless moral will, which no merely objective reality can determine. The limit here is never one; the limit of reason folds back upon itself and becomes a line running through reason itself, determining its legitimate and illegitimate uses as belonging to two different domains.

It is tempting to see in this approach a typical gesture of negative theology, or apophatics. Language, or reason, take us only so far. They take us to a limit, beyond which there is the transcendent unknowability and simplicity of the One. Here, language must fall silent and thought give way to something other: faith or ecstasy. In this interpretation, there is a complicity, an alliance between the frame (which contains a given territory) and the limit (which marks the advent of something other).

These questions of analogy were a live issue for pre- and post-Kantian philosophy of religion. In the seventeenth century debates over deism and mystery, it became apparent that a causal proof of God’s existence failed to give any conceptual content to the idea of God. What do we prove when we prove that there is a first cause? If we name it as God, is the assertion that God is the first cause any more than an empty tautology? Worse, from the point of view of the orthodox divines such as Tillotson, if skepticism about the ontological grounding of causality is introduced—if, that is, causal beliefs are psychologically grounded in custom and association, rather than in the nature of the real itself—then there is little to prevent a Hobbesian conclusion, in which the divine nature becomes sheer brute incomprehensibility and in which attribution to the divine has no cognitive content.

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