AUP students enjoying an evening picnic at the Seine river.

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AUP Philosophy Professors Celebrate Double Book Launch

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On Tuesday, October 15, 2019, Professor Julian Culp and Professor Oliver Feltham, who both teach on the AUP philosophy major, celebrated a double book launch in the presence of faculty, students and friends of AUP. They were joined on the panel by Dr. Chiara Destri, who spoke about Culp’s publication, and AUP’s own Professor Stephen Sawyer, who discussed Feltham’s work. The event took place in the Omid & Gisel Kordestani Rooftop Conference Center in AUP’s flagship building, the Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons.

First off, Destri, currently on a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellowship at Sciences Po, spoke on Culp’s book, Democratic Education in a Globalized World: A Normative Theory. She raised the “circularity problem”: how can we get democratic education off the ground if people are not already democratically educated? Professor Culp responded that existing social and political movements often, in practice, demonstrate the reality of democratic education.

Audience member Professor Philip Golub then asked Culp to what extent the work was Kantian or Hegelian; this was in response to an earlier comment from Professor Feltham in which Feltham insisted that, in their shared office, he was the Hegelian and Culp was the Kantian. Culp responded that, in so far as the ideal of reason can be found in intersubjective discursive practices of public reasoning, his approach corresponds to a Hegelian idea of bringing about the social conditions for the realization of the ideal. However, he believes the Kantian aspect of his approach is just as important, if not more fundamental, given that his conception of educational justice is based on a particular understanding of “right” rather than on an understanding of the “good life.”

Professor Sawyer then presented a review of Feltham’s book, Destroy and Liberate: Political Action on the Basis of Hume. He read out the book’s opening sentences, in which readers find themselves on a journey into the English Revolution. He promised all readers there were juicy anecdotes and examples drawn from Feltham’s life, from the brand of cigarettes smoked by highly ranked groups in Feltham’s high-school “topology of passions” to the use of BMX bikes and AC/DC as markers of prestige.

Sawyer then discussed the theory of political action that the book develops using a close reading of Hume’s History of England – specifically the volume on the English Revolution – before asking Feltham to explain the articulation of history and philosophy at work in his methodology. Feltham noted that the book focused on the descent of ideas and concepts of political action into the reality of political conflict, as well as the singular nature of Hume as both a systematic philosopher who provides a theory of political conflict via his account of “the passions” and a historian who wrote a hugely controversial but justly famous historical work.

The event concluded with a reception and further discussion between the audience and the academics on the panel.