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16 Nov

The Mindful Asking of Essential Questions

The charge of lack of progress can also be equivocal. If philosophy is the mindful asking of essential questions, perhaps there are never ready-made answers that can be encapsulated in univocal categories, hence packaged and transmitted through time, like mail handled through the post. […] No genuine philosopher can accept answers ready-made from others: this is simply the nature of the philosophical enterprise as a metaxological dialogue. This may seem to confirm the prejudice that philosophy is just sophisticated, not to say sophistical garrulousness. The deeper meaning is that each age and every individual must struggle, in the overdetermined ambiguity of the middle, to renew for itself a mindfulness of the essential questions. Nothing, not even scientific method, can stand proxy for this struggle.

William Desmond (1990) Philosophy and Its Others, Albany NY: State University of New York Press, pp. 31-2.
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23 Nov

Reading Hegel

I think many read Hegel much too innocently – this is especially true of those who want to make religious use of him. He is far more dialectically slippery and equivocal than they seem to realize or want to grant. That said, he is an essential thinker with whom one must come to terms. I’m afraid many of those who think they are beyond Hegel and dialectic are not quite where they claim to be. That is another reason why a recuperation of dialectic, both in its Hegelian and non-Hegelian forms is a continuing task. Dialectic is not univocal.

Does Hegel represent the end of metaphysics? No. Does Hegel stand for the consummation of the philosophical tradition? No. Does Hegel bring about the completion of dialectical thinking? No. Many anti-Hegelians answer yes to the above questions. I say no and engage the metaphysical tradition and dialectic differently.

[…] The reason I continue to teach Hegel is because the struggle with Hegel is worth it philosophically. I do see green readers fall under his bewitchment. I try to offer some philosophical inoculations against false conceptual enchantments. But what can one do when someone is infatuated? The spell will run its course. Or do we need to develop a need area of expertise for treating conceptual possession: philosophical exorcism?

Radical Orthodoxy: Between God and Metaphysics: An Interview with William Desmond

07 Jun

We Are Double

When one returns to the first home, one’s eyes have been doubled and one sees the same thing differently. One sees the home in a doubled way, in a redoubled way. There is no simple univocal home ever more. Again the great task is to find a way of being-at-home in this not being-at-home. I think this is coincident with the metaphysical destiny of being human. We are native to the world/we are strangers in the world. We are at home with being/we can never be completely at home with being. We are double.

William Desmond on the experience of returning to Ireland after seven years in the US.

From Perplexity and Ultimacy (1995), pp. 19-20

08 May

Singing Life

Singing is an event of the highest interest. Compare a singing being with something inanimate. The wind blows around a bush and makes a whir or low burr, but neither the wind or bush properly sings. But a bird chirps, a thrush sings out again and again a line of lush notes, and we sense a presence there that was not manifest before. Something is coming awake in singing life. “

William Desmond (1990) Philosophy and Its Others: Ways of Being and Mind, p. 269

31 Mar

Festival Time

The festival is nothing new. Neither old nor new it is elemental. […] One thinks of the harvest festival blessing the year’s yield and completeness, of Easter transfiguring the sacramental earth with jubilating, spring shouts of renewal. […]

In the modern rationalisation of time the weekend gets its instrumental justification from the workweek; working time possesses the primacy. In the festival, by contrast, we experience time as other. Festival time does not simply borrow its meaning from worktime. […] For modernity, efficient work, aided by powerful technology, is the primary transformer of nature. With the festival, however, nature and the human are transformed in a different way such that everyday work becomes a secondary mode of transformation. The original power of being itself is festal.

William Desmond, Philosophy and Its Others: Ways of Being and Mind (pp. 301-2)