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The Woman Question in Plato’s Republic

By: Mary Townsend and Political Animal

In the era of women’s marches and #metoo movements, the role of women in society is being challenged from many quarters. To better understand the controversy, it is worth recalling that the fundamental question is one that human beings have had to wrestle with in every age and in every regime.

With this in mind, the editors of Political Animal Magazine spoke to Mary Townsend, the author of The Woman Question in Plato’s Republic. Her book examines how Plato dealt with the role of women in his Republic. We asked Townsend to tell us a little about the “Woman Question” and Plato’s thoughts on the matter. The following is what she had to say.


Political Animal: The title of your book refers to “The Woman Question” – what is “The Woman Question”, and how does Plato deal with it in the Republic?

Mary Townsend: The “Woman Question” is the open, living, and perennially fraught question of what women’s nature, role, and political position in the human community is or ought to be. Plato’s Socrates’ answer is without parallel: he pulls apart the polis in search of the women who will be educated in philosophy and rule as philosopher-queens.

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Does the Conservative Brand Need a Reset?

Daniel Clements from New American Perspective examines whether American conservatives–and more specifically Republicans–need a rebrand to distance themselves from Trumpism.

By: Daniel Clements

Journalist Bill Kristol tweeted recently that conservatives should consider rebranding themselves as “liberals” to distance themselves from Trumpism, noting they’re for “liberal democracy, liberal world order, liberal economy, liberal education…”. The pro-Trump pundits immediately took this admittedly flippant remark as another indicator of the Establishment™️’s conspiracy to unseat the president. Of course, “conservatives” in the US would typically be described as “liberals” in Europe (and if the US had a more European-style ideological spectrum, the Republican Party would be a coalition of a liberals, Christian Democrats, and nationalists). Lacking a feudal past and being founded on (classical) liberal principles, it follows that to be conservative in the US is to be liberal, though the term now has a different meaning in common speech.

The negative reaction from Trump supporters is surprising, as they largely openly rejected conservatism, both as a label and ideology—asserting that limited government and the free-market are non-issues, especially in comparison to cultural and civic cohesion.

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Perfect Storm

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

I think our culture is facing a convergence of three popular philosophical theses which threatens to undo us. I’ll set out the three theses and then I’ll set out the storm.

Thesis 1: There is no objective truth.

This means that truth can’t be a relation between what one believes and what is actually the case independently of what one believes, so one cannot be mistaken about what is real. (One can only be “inauthentic,” i.e., not in touch with one’s feelings, which leads to thesis 2.)

Thesis 2: Truth is subjective, i.e., it’s what you feel.

Thesis 3: Disagreeing with someone is the same as hating that someone. Witness the negative reactions on some university campuses to speakers expressing views contrary to the views of students, faculty, and administrators.

Here’s the perfect storm: I am whatever I feel—and you’re a bigot for challenging that.

Let’s put some flesh on this storm.

Recently, white American man Adam Wheeler, who now calls himself Ja Du, has decided he is transgender and Filipino. And people are defending Ja Du’s status as a Filipino woman.

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Debate: Who’s Keeping Birtherism Alive?

Alex Knepper and Cinzia Croce from New American Perspective debate who is responsible for the continued existence of Birtherism in American Politics.

Why Won’t Birtherism Die?

By: Alex Knepper

America’s Worst Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a petty despot with a cruel streak to rival that of Roy Moore, has jumped into the Arizona Senate race. It is — or should be — common knowledge that Arpaio wasted five years blowing through taxpayer money on a wild goose chase for President Barack Obama’s ‘real’ birth certificate (the one produced by the White House is fake, of course; any evidence that Obama was born in Hawaii is to be rejected a priori). Arpaio just yesterday declared once again that the former president’s birth certificate is ‘phony.’ Why today, with Obama out of office forever, is Arpaio still fixated on the ‘Birther’ question? What difference, at this point, does it make?

The prevailing narrative on the right about President Obama is that he was a leftist infiltrator who doesn’t love his country and is bitter and resentful toward white people. Let us recall what Marco Rubio was repeating as Chris Christie murdered his campaign during that New Hampshire debate two years ago: the problem with Obama wasn’t, as John McCain alleged in 2008, that he was inexperienced and unready for the job on Day One, he said. No: the problem was that Obama knew exactly what he was doing, and he did it because, in a word, he doesn’t love America. For Sen. Rubio, as for Fox News, Breitbart, talk radio charlatans like Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, President Trump, etc., Obama wanted to ‘fundamentally transform’ this nation the image of leftist ideology because he’s not a ‘real’ American, whether literally or ideologically.

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Trump’s Racist Comments on Africa Obfuscate a Domestic Political Struggle in America​

By: David O. Monda

Presidents Trump’s racist comments on Africa obfuscate a deeper political struggle in America. Africa finds itself at the center of a tricky political play by an American president desperate to consolidate his base via blatantly racist comments. President Trump criticized immigration from Africa by calling African nations “shithole countries” at a meeting with US Congress members.  He suggested the United States focus its immigration policy on entry of immigrants from countries like Norway. Africa is not a collection of “shithole countries”. However, the American President’s comments illustrate a complex play at consolidating his political base through racist rhetoric.

A background of historical context is necessary in contextualizing Mr. Trump’s comments. The legacy of the transatlantic slave trade remains a problem in dealing with race relations in America. This is because people of African ancestry were repeatedly considered as less human in the United States than people of European ancestry. In addition to this, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade devastated African economies and went a long way in creating the modern state of marginalization of the continent in global trade and commerce.

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Performing a Seduction: Performance Art Houston’s “Political Seducer’s Diary”

By: By Jeanette Joy Harris and Steven Martz

“The Political Seducer’s Diary,” is an Instagram-based performance art exhibit by Performance Art Houston that ran from November to December 2017 on @PerformanceArtHouston. Inspired by Kierkegaard’s “The Seducer’s Diary,” the exhibit delved into the question of how “what is beautiful” might determine “what is just” and ultimately affect politics.

Jeanette Joy Harris, the organizer of the project and one of the contributing artists, reflects on it below:

The Instagram handle @kimkierkegaardashian has six posts, most of which would certainly make the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard cringe. One is a picture of one elephant giving another a bouquet of daisies, saying, “Some people won’t love you no matter what you do and some people won’t stop loving you no matter what you do. Go where love is!” Appropriate for Kim Kardashian’s very public romantic life, but ironic for a man who abandoned romantic love for a lifetime of philosophy. In short, @kimkierkegaardasian has used celebrity appeal to promote a philosopher. In this context, it is hard not to envision Kardashian in a tight designer dress, seducing people into attending a Kierkegaard lecture by using the type of banal pick-up line that a hostess would use to woo you into a sidewalk cafe.

As an artist, curator, and writer based in Houston, I am interested in this combination of the aesthetic and seduction, and especially in how it overlaps with public dialogue and politics. This is the goal of my recent Instagram-based, performance art exhibition, “The Political Seducer’s Diary.” Using social media as a platform, I invited eight artists from around the world to consider how aesthetics and seduction affect public life.

Julia Claire Wallace, director of Experimental Action, invited me to participate in the organization’s larger project that explores how performance art interacts with social media. Like me, Wallace is interested in the political possibilities of Instagram, particularly since its image-based platform would seem to make political speech a difficult endeavor. After conversations with Wallace and a recent reading of Kierkegaard’s “The Seducer’s Diary,” I asked my artists to delve deeper into how “what is beautiful” might determine “what is just” and ultimately affect politics. This resulted in the two-month exhibition, “The Political Seducer’s Diary,” which ran from November to December 2017 on @PerformanceArtHouston. Each artist took control of the handle for one week and looked at topics from assault to consumerism.

My project had two goals: First, to use the term ‘political’ in the classical sense, broadening it to a description of issues that are shared in community. This opened up the possibility for artists to look at social issues beyond party politics. Second, to use Kierkegaard’s articulation of aesthetics in “The Seducer’s Diary” as a starting place to ask the question: what if aesthetics not only guided our personal actions but political actions, as well?

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Israel’s Outreach in Africa Continues at the Kenyan President’s Inauguration

By: David O. Monda

The presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at festivities surrounding the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta illustrates Tel Aviv’s continuing diplomatic offensive to gain allies on the African continent. The history of Israel and Africa has been frosty at best. The Yom Kippur War and the resultant Oil Crisis in 1973 forced many African countries to sever relations with Israel or face economic ruin. However, the close association of Israel and the apartheid regime in South Africa did the most to sour relations between Africa and the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has brought a reevaluation of Israel’s foreign policy priorities in relation to Africa. Israel has sought to reengage the African continent and specifically the Sub Saharan region where it is likely to have more fruitful returns on its diplomatic efforts relative to the Northern African states. In July 2016, the Prime Minister met the heads of state of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia in Entebbe, Uganda. At the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) conference in Monrovia Liberia in June this year, Netanyahu stressed Israel’s ability to provide technological and military support to African countries.

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Canada’s Transgender Rights Bill is incoherent—and that’s a concern

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Canada’s Bill C16, a.k.a. Transgender Rights Bill, attempts to add gender identity and expression to human rights and hate-crime laws. Below I argue (with Jordan B. Peterson’s help) that the bill is incoherent. I also show why, logically, that’s a concern—for everyone.

Jordan B. Peterson, a psychology professor at U of Toronto and an outspoken critic of Bill C16, appeared in a Senate hearing on Bill C16. He expressed concern that the bill compels speech, and thus is a threat to free speech. He also testified to Bill C16’s incoherence—my interest here.

Peterson’s testimony correctly points out that the appropriate context of interpretation for C16 is constituted by the policies of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), as was indicated by a link at the website of the Department of Justice. (The link was later taken down, which is a discussion for another time, a discussion having to do with this question: Are Bill C16 proponents hiding something?)

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The Grand Trumpeter

By: Philip James Villamor (Many Thanks to Fyodor Mikailovich Dostoevsky)

Trumpeter (from Dictionary.com) – 4) A person who proclaims, commends, or extols something loudly or widely. And, interestingly, 5) Any of several large South American birds… related to the cranes and rails, having a loud, harsh, prolonged, cry.

Even this immediately recognizable plagiarism of ideas from Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” must have a preface, although I am a poor hand at making one. Nonetheless, as in that incomparable poem, the story to be told here imagines heavenly powers interacting with mankind – albeit something short of the second coming – which allows for some insight into the motives or rationale of otherwise incomprehensible others. In this case, however, you will be spared the insight of characters discussing the merit of those arguments, partly because this is not the middle of a book where those characters’ personalities have already been established and mostly because this author lacks the commitment and actual talent to do so.

The action of the story to be told does not occur in the sixteenth century, where it was customary in poetry to bring down heavenly powers to earth, but in the twenty-first century, where the prospect of heavenly powers -let alone the Messiah- materializing on earth is so far from expected as to no longer merit a poet’s ponderings. Nonetheless, this story is told in the spirit of those sixteenth century tales and one notable nineteenth century one. In an effort to parallel that nineteenth century tale, as well as bring hope to the heart, the story is told as if what is being described is in the distant past and the days described are long behind us.


He came to the United States of America at a time quite different than that of the Catholic Crisis which Dostoevsky had observed in Spain. The prevailing perversion of many Americans was, making use of their democracy as a godly tool, purporting to protect their way of life they viewed as threatened by forces both from without and within by demonizing and pre-judging those forces. The forces being Bad Hombres who immigrate illegally to the country bringing with them crime and drug addiction (not to mention infidels from Muslim nations that want to kill all Americans), and loose laws by tolerant administrations that allowed for morally degenerate groups like homosexuals, transsexuals, and others to claim better or near equal footing in business and government relations.

And so, as different as the circumstances and nature of the institutions involved in the sixteenth and twenty-first centuries might be, the choice between security and happiness or complete freedom was still the conflict of the day. The difference, an important one to be sure, was that it was no longer one or a few members of an institution making the choice to take away freedom and provide security and happiness but the masses themselves proclaiming the virtues of this argument, hoping for and then electing a politician brazen enough to take on the task. Such was the situation when He came again.

And, behold, He came once more in a human shape similar to that in which He walked among men for thirty-three years twenty-one centuries ago. He came down to the hot pavements of the streets of Yuma, Arizona, the very same as which, on the day before, almost a hundred illegal immigrants had, Ad majorem Trump gloriam, been rustled up by a local town’s sheriff and deported back to Mexico. And, as luck – or fate – would have it, He came on a day that President Trump was to hold a rally at the local arena for the Trump faithful – those neglected, tried and true Americans who had for too long waited for a leader to bring law, order, and patriotism back to the United States of America. He came on a day when Donald Trump was locked and loaded, ready and willing to expound on how to Make America Great Again.

He came, at least in appearance, as an undocumented Mexican American, moving through the crowds of Trump supporters as comfortably as might a white representative of Breitbart News. He wore beat up jeans and a stained tee-shirt. His face was unshaven, with a week’s growth, and His hair was slightly disheveled, thick as if with dirt from recent labors. At first glance, one might assume that He had come straight from the fields, but the grace with which He moved through the crowd and the steady gaze of His eyes belied the aforementioned details. The masses parted for Him as he made His way from the back end of the arena towards the front, as the presence they felt was not that of a common field worker. He was unrecognizable, yet somehow entirely different from anyone with whom they had ever come into contact with, and many seemed to know exactly who He was…

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Why Yoweri Museveni’s Retirement is Key to Uganda’s Democratization

By: David O. Monda

Uganda is romantically idealized as the Pearl of Africa. The reality is that in the field of democratization, the Pearl of Africa metamorphoses into the Peril of Africa. This is because the example of Museveni’s mockery of Uganda’s constitution is being replicated in many African countries. African presidents have discovered ways to amend their national constitutions to perpetuate themselves in power at the expense of democratization in their countries. These constitutional amendments have the effect of institutionalizing the individual in power rather than building the institutions that will safeguard the nation long after the individual president is gone. Yoweri Museveni’s retirement is key to Uganda’s democratization.

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