Political Psychology in the Modern State: Thumos beyond the Politics of Recognition

Modern political thought tends to ignore the place of spiritedness in the psychology of political life, although it was explicitly thematic in For 2000 years–prior to the birth of the modern state–thumos, or spiritedness, was a core theme in the psychology of political life. Between the intellect and the emotions, this third component of man pertained to the realm of desire.



Yet, modern political thought largely ignores the role of thumos in politics. Even Francis Fukuyama, the modern champion of its importance, underexamines the place of thumos in the soul and its impact on political society by reducing it to the soul’s craving for recognition, dignity, and esteem.

Is thumos best understood as the fire animating tribal identity, self-assertion, and an increasingly divisive and belligerent polity? Can this power be confined to the level of consciousness, or is its place in the psyche of man more complex?

Through the lens of a Platonic-scholastic psychology, our panelists (Joe Capizzi, Matthew Crawford, Mark Shiffman, and Adrian Walker) will delve deeper into the role of thumos in the modern soul. Particular attention will be given to questions regarding the relationship between thumos and work, economic competition, violence, and political legitimacy.

Please RSVP here.

A recording is available here.



Adrian Walker, PhD has taught theology and philosophy at The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies, The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America, and the Pontificio and Istituto Giovanni Paolo II per Studi su Matrimonio e Famiglia.

In addition to his own publications, Dr. Walker translated and edited numerous philosophical and theological texts into English, German, Spanish, and Italian. He is an editor of Communio: International Catholic Review.

He is fluent in English, Italian, German, Spanish, and French.



Joseph E. Capizzi, PhD is Ordinary Professor of Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America. He teaches in the areas of social and political theology, with special interests in issues in peace and war, citizenship, political authority, and Augustinian theology. He has written, lectured, and published widely on just war theory, bioethics, the history of moral theology, and political liberalism.

Dr. Capizzi is the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Ecology at Catholic University. He received his B.A. from the University of Virginia, his Masters in Theological Studies from Emory University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He lives in Maryland with his wife and six children.



Matthew Crawford, PhD studied physics at UC Santa Barbara and then turned to political philosophy, earning a PhD from the University of Chicago. He has published articles on ancient Greek philosophy, neuroscience, and the philosophy of science. He is the author of Why We Drive: Toward a Philosophy of the Open Road (HarperCollins, 2020); The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015); and Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (Penguin, 2009), a New York Times best seller that has been translated into seven languages.




Mark Shiffman, PhD is Associate Professor of Philosophy, Classical Studies and Social and Political Theory in the Department of Humanities. A professor at Villanova since 2003, he teaches interdisciplinary courses in the humanities, including classical studies, social and political theory, and philosophy.  His researches focus on the transformations of the disciplines of knowledge in the west from the Greeks to the present, in both the practical (moral, economic and political) and theoretical (metaphysical, natural scientific and mathematical) fields of inquiry.  He is the translator of Aristotle’s De Anima (Focus Books) and Descartes’ Rules for the Direction of the Mind (Saint Augustine’s Press, forthcoming), and has published on Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Augustine, William of Ockham, John Locke, Simone Weil, Ralph Ellison, Wendell Berry and Rémi Brague.