WRITING

Refereed Articles

 

N.B. The titles below link to journal websites; PDF icons provide my pre-publication versions. 

The Political Significance of Luck: A Thucydidean Perspective

Daniel Schillinger, Political Research Quarterly, Online First September 2020

 

Abstract: Contemporary authorities invoke luck to explain the arbitrariness of economic success, to emphasize our shared vulnerability to disaster, and to urge more generous policy, legislation, and governance. According to Robert Frank, Martha Nussbaum, and Ronald Dworkin, for example, extreme bad luck can befall individuals no matter what they know or do. By reframing the idea of luck as a psychological phenomenon rather than as a constitutive principle of the world, this article challenges the contemporary consensus. My approach to luck arises out of my engagement with the political thought of Thucydides. Whereas influential interpreters present Thucydides as a witness to the crushing power of bad luck, and whereas they criticize Thucydides’ Pericles for being insufficiently deferential to bad luck, I revisit and defend Pericles’ skeptical and psychological approach to luck, and I go on to argue that Thucydides shares this approach. The pathological intellectual and emotional responses to apparent good or bad luck diagnosed by Pericles recur throughout the History and influence the evolution of the whole war. Going beyond Pericles, Thucydides shows that the appeal of luck arises out of a human need to explain, beautify, or lament what is merely haphazard coincidence, natural necessity, or awful suffering.

 

 

Entangling Plato: A Guide through the Political Theory Archive

Daniel Schillinger and Liam Klein, Political Theory, forthcoming

 

Abstract: Political theorists have increasingly sought to place Plato in active dialogue with democracy ancient and modern by examining what S. Sara Monoson calls “Plato’s democratic entanglements.” More precisely, Monoson, J. Peter Euben, Arlene Saxonhouse, Christina Tarnopolsky, and Jill Frank approach Plato as both an immanent critic of the Athenian democracy and a searching theorist of self-governance. In this Guide through the Political Theory Archive, we explore “entanglement approaches” to the study of Plato, outlining their contribution to our understanding of Plato’s political thought and to the discipline of political theory.

Aristotle's Psychological Approach to the Idea of Luck

Daniel Schillinger, The Review of Metaphysics, September 2019

Abstract: My reading of Physics 2.4–6 shows that, for Aristotle, the idea of luck (tuchē) refers to an explanation or a description of action as opposed to a cause of it.  More precisely, the idea of luck is invoked when an unexpected outcome appears to have a striking effect on human flourishing in the eyes of some agent or observer.  Aristotle’s psychological approach to the idea of luck has important implications for his ethical thought.  Viewed as an explanation, luck does not necessarily nullify voluntary action.  On my interpretation of Nicomachean Ethics 3.1, Aristotle argues for an expansive conception of voluntariness that encompasses all actions knowingly initiated—even many actions undertaken in lucky or unlucky circumstances or issuing in lucky or unlucky effects.  Aristotle thereby illuminates the seriousness of agency and the task of practical wisdom—to deliberate and to act in accordance with circumstance and to take responsibility for one’s own actions without invoking bad luck as an excuse.

With Steel or Poison: Machiavelli on Conspiracy

Daniel Schillinger and David Polansky, Interpretation, September 2018

 

Abstract: Machiavelli’s life, times, and writings converge on the topic of conspiracy. Yet Machiavelli’s treatment of this topic is both more expansive and more complex than scholars have recognized. Attending to Discourse III.6, among other central passages, we argue that the significance of conspiracy for Machiavelli’s political thought lies in its connection to founding. In his analyses of historical conspiracies, Machiavelli shows what founding requires in practice; at the same time, the ubiquitous occurrence of conspiracies across historical and political contexts reveals the contested and contingent status of political order. Ultimately, Machiavelli depicts and analyzes conspiracies because he aims not only to investigate but also to produce new beginnings. Toward this end, Machiavelli deploys a novel rhetoric that challenges the reader to adopt a conspiratorial outlook, if not to become a conspirator himself.

Aristotle, Equity, and Democracy

Daniel Schillinger, Polis, September 2018

 

Abstract: Aristotelian equity (epieikeia) has often been relegated to scholarly discussions of retributive justice. Recently, however, political theorists have recast equity as the virtue of a sympathetic democratic citizen. I build on this literature by offering a more precise explanation of equity’s internal structure and political significance. In particular, I reveal equity’s deliberative dimension. For Aristotle, equitable citizens, statesmen, and legislators correct or go beyond the law, as appropriate, not only when they render retrospective judgments about matters of punishment or distribution, but also when they deliberate about future-oriented questions of legislation or political action. In addition, I show, more concretely, the role of equity in democratic citizenship. Drawing upon the Aristotelian Constitution of the Athenians, I argue that the Athenian demos exemplified equity when it brought about the reconciliation and the amnesty of 403 BC. Attention to this episode clarifies the conceptual linkages between equity, deliberation, sympathy, and democracy.

Luck and Character in Machiavelli's Political Thought

Daniel Schillinger, History of Political Thought, December 2016

 

Abstract: Is Machiavelli’s virtuoso responsible for his character? A number of scholarly authorities insist that Machiavelli ascribes to the man of ‘virtue’ the capacity to shape both his own nature and those of his fellows freely and at will. Putting this claim to the test, I show that even a virtuous character is, in Machiavelli’s own view, internally vulnerable to fortune. At the same time, Machiavelli argues that the experience of serious misfortune can, paradoxically, push the princely individual, and a republic led by such individuals, to develop virtue.

Occasional Pieces

Accountability after Insurrection: Classical Athens and the United States

Daniel Schillinger and David Polansky, The Washington Post, February 4, 2021

Expendable Bodies: Reading Sophocles' Philoctetes Now

Daniel Schillinger, Public Seminar, June 25, 2020

What Thucydides Can Teach Us: Ancient Reflections on a Time of Plague

Daniel Schillinger, Public Seminar, April 20, 2020

Book Chapters

"Every Form of Death": Thucydides on Death's Political Presence

Daniel Schillinger, in Political Philosophies of Aging, Death, and Dying, Routledge, forthcoming