Session 1 - Defining safety: philosophical and historical perspectives

Defining safety: philosophical and historical perspectives

Ana Alicia Carmona Aliaga (École Pratique des Hautes Études) 
Tolerance, a safety policy in Pierre Bayle’s thought
For the French philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647-1706), civil security was first and foremost a matter of erasing religious conflicts, which in turn constituted the main threat to the political peace of countries. Indeed, religious conflicts marked the era of our philosopher: we are in the period of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in France and the Glorious Revolution in England. Thus, for Bayle, marked by the conflicts of his time, both as a thinker and as a member of a persecuted denomination in his country, the idea of safety and security crystallized above all in the idea of religious peace, of non-conflict between the different denominations. It is in this context that he wrote several of his texts, such as the “Philosophical Commentary” (1686) where he developed a theory of tolerance which also addressed the question of state security and the religious elements that endangered it. For the philosopher, the question of security will serve both as a justification and as a limitation of this theory of tolerance. In this sense, achieving social peace, and thus lasting security for the kingdom, passes through controlling the passions, both by the confessions and by the civil powers, for the purposes of persecutions and conversions that lead to disorder and social insecurity. We will analyse how for Bayle the question of the safety of the State with regard to religious disorders passes through a policy of tolerance, and how this tolerance is in turned defined by an approach to the question of the passions mobilized in such a context.

Dr. Tom Giesbers (Open University) 
The modern philosophical underpinnings of ‘Public Safety’
As Hegel remarks, his fellow German idealist philosopher Fichte was the first to introduce the idea of identification papers as a prerequisite for entry within, and passage through, a state. This serves as an illustration of how influential Fichte’s approach to politics was. Although Fichte’s ethical position is entirely egalitarian and based on an absolute freedom, his philosophy of right is fundamentally aimed at substantializing a conception of the state that facilitates a feeling of public safety. This notion of public safety becomes the foundational problem of the state because individual ethical practices cannot by themselves establish it. Even Fichte’s attempt to demonstrate of the validity of human rights is presented as a matter of “securing” these rights. His philosophical position had a surprising impact on the modern political landscape, such as the Ba’ath Party. In this presentation, I will briefly outline the major characteristics of ‘public safety’ in Fichte’s thought, after which I will focus on how this view of the state reframed the United States revolutionary rhetoric after the civil war. German idealist thought left a surprising mark on the institutions and public debate shortly after the civil war. 
I will argue that it was Fichte’s strict separation of ethical and political discourse that led safety, or the feeling of (un)safety, to become a political end in itself, perhaps the main political intuition, which is easily separated from the human action that it was originally supposed to guarantee, rather than curtail.

Dr. Kai Preuß (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt/Main) 
Unsettling the secular – Late Antique perspectives on (in)securitization and power
Although being native to political science and the study of very recent history, the concept of securitization can be brought into fruitful contact with older, even ancient history (a field of study not much explored so far). To do so, the paper will examine the notion of securitas as used in the theological discourse of Augustine. This can help to define the concept of safety in general because the religious discourse of safety does not only share lexical, metaphorical, and structural features with a secular understanding of the term; it can also be understood to fulfil a similar function in terms of what it does with and to the subjects addressed in the matter. To Augustine securitas means certainty with regards to the enjoyment of goods. Thus, it is not only associated with protection but is a predominantly temporal concept: enjoyment is morally safe, when it is secure, i.e. when it relates to goods that are stable in time, preferably eternal. This ultimate security being reserved for the afterlife, the more mundane matters are subject to a constant threat of insecurity, so much that the lack of security and safety can serve as the distinguishing mark for earthly existence. But it also serves as a means to stimulate action, question social relations, and motivate people to put themselves into positions otherwise considered dangerous, using a discourse of ubiquitous insecurity. This interplay of security and insecurity is not exclusive to theological discourse and, as the paper will show, can be used by imperial power to keep minorities in check.

Carlotta Voß (Freie Universität Berlin) 
“what is profitable goes with security, and that which is just and honourable with danger”? The Athenian Security Discourse in Thucydides
Security is one of the central topics in Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian War - and this surely is one of the reasons for the unabated reception of his work in modern political theory from Hobbes onwards. In my presentation, I intend to discuss Thucydides’ depiction of the Athenian security discourse and his subversive critique of the same. The Athenians in his work rely increasingly upon the notion of security or asphaleia to rationalize their expansionist politics, which in modern historiography is sometimes referred to as the Athenian “imperialism”. Throughout the Thucydidean work, they argue that security lies in acting according to an alleged necessity or ananke rooting in human nature. I suggest that Thucydides is not endorsing the Athenian thesis on security but guiding his reader to reflect critically upon it and to understand it as a symptom of war, which he conceptualizes by drawing on the metaphor of an illness. I argue furthermore, that Thucydides presents - mainly through his so-called Archaeology of Hellas and through the first speech of the Syrakusan strategos Hermokrates - a concept of both safety and security that is in line with his normative notion of „to anthropinon (the human thing/that what defines being human)“ as a potential for freedom.