Aryeh Botwinick

Aryeh BotwinickProfessor

464 Gladfelter Hall
1115 West Berks St.
In-Progress Website


Political Theory, Democratic Theory, Participatory Democracy and Political Empowerment, Theories of Justice, Theory and Ideology, Politics and Religion, Comparative Historiography of Western Political Theory and Western Religion, Epistemology, Ethics, and Politics


My recent work has been devoted to a systematic calling into question of a pervasive set of dichotomies constitutive of Western  self-understanding. These dichotomies have been rationality/power,  truth/skepticism, belief/non-belief, religion/politics, infinity/finiteness. In a series of books and essays which is  continuing into the present, I have tried to theorize the ways in which the second-listed foil in each of these dichotomies partakes of many key characteristics of the term that it is officially serving as a  contrast to. “Power” is a rationally devised category to help flag the limitations of reason. Skepticism in its denials and renunciations is a theory of truth in its own right.

The non-believer in any given set  of beliefs is simultaneously guided by another set of beliefs and  priorities that he might not be fully self-conscious about. Given the  fundamental premise of Western monotheistic religion that God is utterly transcendent and infinite, then religion from its formative period  through all subsequent generations consists of a series of power  assertions invoked to advance its principles and values. The very label of “infinite” applied to God delimits Him and militates against its  own content unless you translate vertical infinity into horizontal  terms, envisioning stretches of human time moving endlessly forward. The conceptual confusions residing in these dichotomies are reflected  and re-inscribed in theoretical and historical texts and the  interpretations they have spawned. In my own work, I have focused on  ancient, medieval, early modern, and late modern texts to try and get  hold of the thread at the right end and achieve enhanced coherence.

Selected Publications

  • Participation and Tacit Knowledge in Plato, Machiavelli and Hobbes (University Press of America, July 1986).
  • Skepticism and Political Participation (Temple University Press, January 1990).
  • Power and Empowerment: A Radical Theory of Participatory Democracy-Co-authored with Peter Bachrach (Temple University Press, May 1992).
  • Postmodernism and Democratic Theory (Temple University Press, April 1993).
  • Skepticism, Belief, and the Modern: Maimonides to Nietzsche (Cornell University Press, 1997).
  • Democracy and Vision Co-edited with William Connolly (Princeton University Press, August, 2001).
  • Michael Oakeshott’s Skepticism (Princeton University Press, 2011).
  • Emmanuel Levinas and the Limits to Ethics: A Critique and a Re-appropriation (Routledge, December, 2013)
  • “A Case for Hume’s Nonutilitarianism,” The Journal of the History of  Philosophy (Vol. XV, No. 4, October, 1977).
  • “Typologies of Theories of Justice and Political Obligation and the Vision of a No-Growth Society,” The Philosophy Forum (Vol. 15, No. 3/4, 1977).
  • “Hobbes’s Concept of Law and Representation: Some Reflections on Past and Future,” Journal of Social Philosophy (Vol. XIV, No. 1, January 1983).(with Peter Bachrach)
  • “Democracy and Scarcity: Towards a Theory of  Participatory Democracy,” International Political Science Review (June, 1983).
  • “Dilemmas of Political Participation,” Journal of Social Philosophy (vol. XIV, No. 4, 1983).
  • “Wittgenstein and Skepticism: An Essay in the Unity of Wittgenstein’s Thought”-Published in Volume XII of Philosophy Research Archives (March,1987)
  • “A Neo-Pragmatist Defense of Democratic Participation”-Published in Volume XIX, Number 2, of Journal of Social Philosophy (Summer 1988).
  • “Nietzsche, Foucault and the Prospects of Postmodern Political Philosophy”-published in Manuscrito, Vol. 12, Number 2 (October, 1989).
  • “Strauss’s Generalized Agnosticism and American Liberalism” — constitutes a chapter in a book edited by Kenneth Deutsch and John
  • Murley called, Leo Strauss, the Straussians and the Study of the American Regime (Rowman and Littlefield, 1999).
  • “Nowhere to Go but Back, Nowhere to Go but Forward: The Circular Stance of the Law in the Thought of Hans Kelsen,” appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Telos (Number 131).
  • “The Qu’ran as a Negative Theological Text: The Evidence of Sura II” appears in the Spring 2007 issue of Telos (Number 138).
  • “Philosophy, Skepticism, and Politics: A Review-Essay of the Works of  Michael Oakeshott” appeared in Political Theory, Volume 36, Number 3  (June 2008).
  • “Monotheism, Negative Theology, and Mysticism: A Review Essay of ‘Maimonides’Confrontation with Mysticism’” appeared in Philosophy East  and West, Volume 58, Number 3 (July 2008).
  • “The Dialectic of Monotheism: St. Paul’s ‘Letter to the Romans,’” appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Telos (Number 143).
  • “Shakespeare in Advance of Hobbes: Pathways to the Modernization of the European Psyche as Charted in The Merchant of Venice” appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of Telos (Number 153).
  • My article, “God: Divine Transcendence” appears in The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: The Modern Era, ed. Martin Kavka, Zachary Braiterman, and David Novak (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • “Liberal Democracy, Negative Theory, and Circularity: Plato and Rawls,” appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Telos (Number 161).
  • “Same-Other Versus Friend-Enemy: Levinas Contra Schmitt” will appear in The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt, edited by Jens Meierhenrich and Oliver Simons (Oxford University Press, December 2015).
    “The Good of Liberalism: Weak Messianism” will appear in Telos in 2017.

Courses Taught

  • Undergraduate Courses:
  • Introduction to Political Philosophy
  • American Political Thought
  • Modern Political Philosophy
  • Classical Political Philosophy
  • Theories of Justice
  • Seminar in Political Philosophy
  • Graduate Courses:
  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • History of Political Theory I: Ancient and Medieval Political Theory
  • Modern Political Philosophy
  • 19th and 20th Century Political and Social Thought
  • Contemporary Theories of Democracy
  • Selected Problems in Political Philosophy
  • Special Topics in Political Philosophy

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