Secular PowersHumility in Modern Political Thought

Secular PowersHumility in Modern Political Thought

Julie E. Cooper

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226081298

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Genealogies of secularity have long depicted the secular project as one of self-deification – humans attack God’s authority only to usurp God’s place. Against these narratives, this book demonstrates that secularization is not tantamount to self-deification. The secular project is a project of human empowerment. Yet scholars have misunderstood the sources from which secular empowerment derives, and the kinds of strength to which it aspires. Thomas Hobbes, Baruch Spinoza, and Jean-Jacques understand that, if humans want to rule themselves, they must acknowledge their limitations. Thus, these theorists chasten human pretension to enhance human power. To craft this alternative portrait of secular subjectivity, the book reconstructs the tradition of the non-Augustinian critique of pride, offering a detailed analysis of the place of modesty and humility, pride and self-love, in early modern philosophy. Challenging the familiar equation of the secular subject with the sovereign subject, this book helps to reframe contemporary debates about secularism, religion, and politics.