Logos in Plato and John

I really appreciate that you all have been continuing the discussion in my absence. I’ll have links soon to several interviews that I’ve done recently, including one for the Immanent Frame website that should be up within a week or so. But my time lately has been taken up with two exciting courses I’m teaching – one a graduate seminar on Heidegger’s Kant and the other a General Education course that is related to the themes of ATS. I’ll slowly be putting up the recordings of those two classes on the relevant course websites, so if anyone wants access to them please let me know. In the meantime, though, I wonder if I could get your help.

In the Gen Ed course we’ve finished our reading of Homer and Aeschylus, and I’ve given a brief account of the difference in temperament and focus between the Classical Greek account of the universe as found in Plato (for example) and the Hebraic account as found in the Old Testament. I won’t belabor the distinction here, though I will say that my strategy has been to emphasize a difference along three axes: 1) the role of history in an account of the being we are, 2) the kind of access we have to ultimate truths, and 3) the importance or unimportance of embodiment. I’m hoping this discussion will set up a reading of the Gospel of John.

At the moment I’m struggling with the famous opening lines of John, which seem to identify Jesus with the logos and the logos with God. But I’d like to give a good, clear account of the distinction between “logos” as it figures in Plato and John. I understand that it is possible to highlight similarities. One might think, for example, that the term “logos” is tied in Plato in some way or another with reason or rationality, and connections between this idea and some of John’s influences could easily be made. For example, John is typically thought to have been influenced by the Stoics, and their account of the logos as the active, rational force that pervades the universe is one of the classic references. Or perhaps one could draw on Philo’s account of the logos as divine reason, which may be in the background of John’s text. But ultimately I think it is misleading to emphasize the rational aspect of logos as John uses it, and I have lots of details from the text to support this reading. What I’m looking for at the moment is a good reference from Plato to make it clear how he understands the term. I remember that in the Thaeatetus there is discussion of knowledge as true belief with logos, and a natural account here might count logos as something like rational justification or explanation. And perhaps Glaukon’s request in the Republic for an explanation or account (logos) of the claim that Justice is a good in itself is a clue. But there must be other places where the term appears in Plato. Does anyone have them?

In general, how do you understand the relation between logos in the Christian and the Classical Greek senses?

About Sean D. Kelly

Sean Dorrance Kelly is the Teresa G. and Ferdinand F. Martignetti Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also Faculty Dean at Dunster House, one of the twelve undergraduate Houses at Harvard. He served for six years as chair of Harvard's Department of Philosophy. Kelly earned an Sc.B. in Mathematics and Computer Science and an M.S. in Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences from Brown University in 1989. After three years as a Ph.D. student in Logic and Methodology of Science, he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. Before arriving at Harvard in 2006, Kelly taught at Stanford and Princeton, and he was a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. Sean Kelly's work focuses on various aspects of the philosophical, phenomenological, and cognitive neuroscientific nature of human experience. He is a world authority on 20th century European Philosophy, specializing in the work of Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. He has also done influential work in philosophy of mind and philosophy of perception. Kelly has published articles in numerous journals and anthologies and he has received fellowships or awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEH, the NSF and the James S. McDonnell Foundation, among others. Fun fact: He appeared on The Colbert Show in 2011 to talk about All Things Shining. Sean Kelly lives at Dunster House with his wife, the Harvard Philosopher Cheryl Kelly Chen, and their two boys, Benjamin and Nathaniel.
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210 Responses to Logos in Plato and John

  1. dmaddock1 says:

    I’ve always thought of the logos in John in terms of breath of God from Genesis, which I later learned was, if not cribbed from, at least analogous to Philo’s reasoning. Also, I’d love access to the class recordings!

    • Bai Junxiao says:

      This way of identifying John’s interest with the style of philosophizing overlooks John’s Jewishness and closeness to Jesus’s life and times. It also distorts the perspective of John’s prologue by ignoring the parallels between John and the Old Testament.

  2. dmf says:

    in general for me it’s vital to remember that for the early Christians Logos is a “person’s” voice and tied to the prophetic/historic Presence (later abstracted as Hegel’s holy Geist), I think this becomes very important (indirectly) in Levinas’ critique of Heidegger and Derrida’s developing the “messianic”, and of course plays out in St.Paul and others in the relationship between the Spirit and the Law, and of course Love. (Not sure if love is yet a third or a kind of sublation?) can’t wait to hear the classes, have you let your ATSish class know that you are blogging here?
    Also would be interested if people think that St.Paul’s Athenian sense of a more abstract/universal/tribal-less Logos might be the beginning of the rise of Christianity as opposed to the apocalyptic Jewish cult of personality (in the anthro sense) composed of the more direct followers of Jesus?

    • radioflyer says:

      Very ingesting thoughts.

      I recently read a monograph titled, “John’s ezekiel” and though I can’t claim the author as definitely “right”, I think his points are worth observing. He parallels the opening to John and the opening to ezekiel in literary tenor.

      For John, I tend to agree with most that the gospels come later, for me, because a second generation of followers have less access to first hand witness (namely because the first hand audience is persecuted greatly). In this way, the audience is still steeped in Jewish context as early followers (the ones writing) considered themselves the “true Jews” and a subset of Judaism following “the way.” In this regard, logos (for me) seems to carry more Jewish than platonist intent (not that John’s words wouldn’t easily speak to platonists and especially plato’s cave).

      I think logos, as connected to prophecy/the prophet and prophetic vision fit nicely with a more Jewish reading of John. But, I’m like the author; just digging in history for more context and clarity (thus snooping your posts…).

      Some interesting posts here – glad you guys are having the discussion so I can eve’s drop. 🙂

  3. Eric Mongeon says:

    Here’s another request for access to those podcasts, please!

  4. Charlie says:

    +4 on access to the class recordings. Thanks

  5. anonymous coward says:

    Can you post a syllabus on the Heidegger seminar? I can wait a few days for the podcasts. 🙂

  6. Yes, please on those recordings!

  7. Lew says:

    Another eager request for your podcasts Sean!

  8. david leech says:

    Sean: I don’t have much to work with, but it’s an intriguing question so I thought I’d give it a go. I don’t read Greek; I don’t have a comprehensive grasp of Plato; and even my biblical translation is “tilted” by the problematic of distinguishing the “Jesus” of John’s gospel from the “Jesus” of Paul and the synoptic gospels. (The only “saving grace” (pun intended) is that I was motivated in all of this, substantially, by Bert’s interpretation of Jesus as the first reconfigurer. The way I got back into “Jesus issues” from my youthful indoctrination was through Thomas Sheehan’s “historical Jesus” lectures and related literature. Sheehan is a fine Heidegger scholar so I figured I wouldn’t be too far from the reservation starting my re-education there.) At any rate, the bible translation I use is The Complete Gospels: the Scholars Version, Robert Miller (editor), Westar Institute/Polebridge Press, 2010.

    Furthermore, what limited understanding that I do have of the meaning of logos is further tilted by Heidegger’s project of “peeling back the onion.” But I am even further constrained by the fact that I am at the beach for the week (yea!), don’t have access to GA 19 Plato’s Sophist but DO HAVE GA18, Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy, and Van Buren’s Young Heidegger with me as “beach reading!” (Based on a quick glance at GA 19, going out the door, I decided that it wasn’t going to help me much for your question so I left it behind.)

    So, at beast, my reading of logos is doubly or triply distorted. Given that, the following is what I have come up with. First I am going to find some characterizations of Heidegger’s confrontation with primal Christianity, from Van Buren, that seem germane. Then I am going to look at Heidegger’s discussion of logos in GA 18. Finally I “read” John, based on Miller’s translation, and discuss how it squares with Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s logos.

    1. Van Buren is trying to explain how Heidegger came to see contemporary metaphysics as a covering up and how this first became evident to Heidegger especially in his understanding of Luther’s discovering of the Aristotelian overlay/filter of the earliest expression of the Christian experience. So, in a long chapter entitled “Primal Christianity” Van Buren is concentrating on the differences between Greek thought and early Christian thought. (Van Buren is treating Greek thought and Christian thought as two distinct and homogeneous “systems” so the differences between Plato and Aristotle, on the one hand, and Paul, the synoptic gospels, and John, on the other hand, are not discernable.)

    In an early section of Young Heidegger, entitled “Relational Sense as Logos” — a section in which Van Buren is laying out the structure of Heidegger’s earliest thought up to the supplement to his habilitation dissertation — the following characterization of Heidegger’s understanding of human relation to being as explicated in early Greek thought is offered:

    “The founded relational sense in the structure of the guiding question of metaphysics is logos, in the inclusive sense of theory, thought, and assertion about the etiotheological topic of being. Though Greek thought tended to be an objectivism that took being to be independent of thought it was still quite aware of the relation of human life to being. …The thinker is a spectator of truth, a ‘lover of the spectacle of truth’ …Thus Plato took being to be an idea, an eidos, that which is seen. ……The Greeks were all eyes …Greek thinking thus has a strong phenomenological character, since aesthesis, nous, and logos are taken to be types of letting appear… making manifest … unconcealing … of being. (p. 33)

    In his discussion of the development of Heidegger’s insights and project, following Luther, in his phenomenology of primal Christianity, Van Buren makes the following summary point:

    “There is a strong emphasis on language in primal Christianity. In his WS 1920-21 lecture course [The Phenomenology of Religious Life, GA60, University of Indiana Press, 2004], Heidegger noted that ‘the situation of [I. Thess.] is designated as preaching.’ …[Van Buren continuing] Whereas Greek thought has a primarily ocular orientation to seeing with the oculus mentis, ‘the ears alone,’ as Luther put it, ‘are the organs of a Christian person.’” (p. 176)

    To deepen this insight, via Luther and what Heidegger found in him, here is another quote from Van Buren, again on the distinction between Greek thought and early Christian thought:

    “[Luther’s’] Thesis 19 attacked the scriptural basis in the letter to the Romans that had been used to justify the adoption of Greek philosophical methods and concepts: [Paul] “That person is not rightly called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were perceptible through things that have been made [Rom. 1:20.]” (p. 160)

    [I read Paul’s distinction between perceptible and invisible things as the root difference between the Greek and the Christian view when we get to John’s gospel.]

    Again, from Van Buren:

    “Following Paul’s dismantling of the Greek concept of being into non-being, Luther’s deconstruction of the theologia gloriae and reduction to the facticity of “the cross” reverses the Platonic valorization of the ontos on of the universal eidos, the radiant form and look of being, over against the me on of the concrete temporal world of particularity with all its deprivations.” (p. 162)

    And again from Van Buren (with a reference to other passages in Plato that Sean is looking for):

    “the ocularism of Greek metaphysics can be seen in its emphasis on theoria (a metaphorical term that signifies the spectator [theoros] …) … This desire [for the aesthetic pleasure at the radiant presence-before-the-hand-of-being, in Kierkegaard] is in fact described by Plato as “eating at the feast of logos,” such that the being of being appears here as a kind of cosmic banquet table of Ideas at which the reverent philosophical guest sits (Republic 585-86; Timaeus 20c). The mind is for the Greeks a second spiritual stomach.” [Emphasis added by David Leech.] (p. 187)

    Again from Van Buren:

    “According to Heidegger, a basic mood permeating Christianity is anxiety over the believer/God relation.” (p. 172)

    [From Paul] “We live by faith, not by what is seen (eidos) … we consider not the seen but the unseen.” (p. 179)

    “In primal Christianity the conscience is … the agency that calls the individual back from falleness to the self-God relation and thus effects a Kehre, a turn.” (p. 182-83)

    “Whereas in Greek philosophy parousia or ouisa means constant presence, in the New Testament it means rather a futural coming that is just as much an abousia, the absence and mystery of the Deus absconditus.” (p. 190)

    2. In Basic Concepts of Aristotelian Philosophy, Heidegger is trying to peel back the onion of “conceptuality” in Kant (a mere technique, “a symptom of decline”) and calls Aristotle as “a witness” (p. 5). Heidegger distinguishes “concept as definition” (Kant) (p. 9-10) from “definition as place … the ground of definition” (Aristotle) (p. 9). As a basic concept, conceptuality is a concrete basic experience, not a theoretical grasping. (p. 15) Heidegger calls logos the ground, so definition is derived from logos. (p. 13)

    According to Heidegger, “logos [is] speaking … about something in a way that exhibits the about which of speaking by showing that which is spoken about … the bringing of a matter to sight. Every speaking is, above all for the Greeks, a speaking to someone or with others, with oneself or to oneself. Speaking is a concrete being-there, where one does not exist alone, speaking with others about something. … a fundamental determination of the being of the human being as such … a living thing that, as living, has language. (p. 14)

    “This speaking… is utilized by the Greeks in order to determine the being of the human being itself in its peculiarity … speaking, then, refers to the being-context of the life of a specific way of being. … Living for human beings, means speaking.” (p. 16)

    “…[S]peaking is, in itself, and as such, self-expressing, speaking-with-one-another where others are themselves speaking; and therefore speaking is … the fundament of [being-with-one-another]… logos is that which is able to constitute the having-with-one-another of ‘the good.’” (pp. 35-36)

    “…[T]he characteristic being of human beings in their world as being-with-one-another becomes visible in logos…” (p. 39)

    “The here and now of the being of human beings becomes explicit in a determinant deliberating; through this deliberating, the human being — in modern terms — is in the concrete situation.” (p. 42)

    [I think this “concrete situation” that separates Plato from John, but we’ll see.]

    “The Greeks saw logos in an original way … the concrete document for the originality of the Greek view is the entire Rhetoric. Speaking is the deliberative speaking about that which is conducive, speaking-with-one-another; logos is the mode of being of human beings in the world …. being-with-one-another is not only determined through logos itself, but also through the fact that logos is a deliberating within a surveying look of concern … logos belongs to concern; concern is in itself a speaking, a discussing.” (p. 43)

    “The human being is the type of being that … has, in its structure, the possibility of a cultivated being-in-the-polis.” (p. 45)

    3. In the Westar edition of the Gospel of John, the editorial commentary is partly focused on the differences between the John and the synoptic gospels. They argue that John’s gospel becomes more important for the later development of Christian theology. (p. 205) We might want to say its more ontotheological. [One wonders if the editors had access to the concept of ontotheology how they might dissect the difference between the synoptic gospels and the gospel of John.]

    “If the synoptic Jesus appeals to the trust of those who hear and follow him, for our gospel [John] the same term (pistis) means belief — in Jesus’ divine sonship, … and by believing has life in his name.” (p.207) The editors also claim that, “the very term kosmos (world) is fundamental (for John’s gospel), used negatively to speak of the nationalistic realms of Roman’s and Jews.” (p. 207) [Note here the difference between Aristotle’s sense of the being of the polis as a concrete, situational, being-with-one-another, and John’s sense (according to the editors) that the more situated, (“nationalistic”) political entity is seen as negative because its less universal. In other words, I read the editor’s focus on John’s sense of the word kosmos to be more abstract than Aristotle’s and, presumably, Plato’s.]

    Moving on to the Westar edition’s translation the Gospel of John’s opening lines, their translation of logos is “the divine word and wisdom.” Their footnote (p. 209) explains that the various meanings of logos include concept, pattern, reason, speech, and revelation. [It seems to me, on the basis of Heidegger’s GA 18, that “speech” and “revelation” (in the sense of uncovering the ground) are closer to Aristotle’s sense of the term. Where the editor’s get “divine” is not explained on a quick read.] So, in this translation (1:1-6):

    Logos (“divine word and wisdom”) is with god
    Logos (“divine word and wisdom”) was god
    Logos (“divine word and wisdom”) [is] there from the beginning
    Logos (“divine word and wisdom”) is that by which everything comes to be [by means of logos]

    In (logos) was life
    This life (=logos) was the light of humanity
    [This] light [=life, logos] was shining in the darkness and darkness did not master it.

    4. So what do we make of all this? It seems to me that logos in Aristotle, and presumably in Plato, on Heidgger’s account, is a being-with-others, local, situated, and present. According to Van Buren, even Plato’s eidos, which I have heretofore thought of as abstract and theoretical (in the modern sense, unhinged from its root ocularism in theoria), seems very grounded in coming to presence.

    John’s logos is not that at all. While I hear Aristotle’s/Heidegger’s “speaking-with-one-another”/”being-with-one-another” and “the fundamental determination of the being of the human being as such,” in John’s “logos as there from the beginning” and his “logos as everything comes to be by means of” (as long as there have been humans), John’s use strikes me as much more abstract, like the light and the darkness is abstract and not situated; other-wordly rather than this-worldly.

    Reaching back to Van Buren’s discussion of what Heidegger found in Luther’s analysis of Paul (“We live by faith, not by what is seen (eidos)”) — what Van Buren calls the early Christian rejection of Greek ocularism, for something more relational (“According to Heidegger, a basic mood permeating Christianity is anxiety over the believer/God relation.” (p. 172)) — that (non-ocular) relation seems more concerned with the genealogy of Jesus-as-body in the synoptic gospels. It’s not clear that John’s Jesus even has a body. But the relationship, per se, is still prominent in the gospel of John, albeit to something more abstract, not seen. If John’s God is “present” it is not grounded in Aristotle’s situated, being-with kind of logos. If there is “speaking-with” in John’s gospel it is not grounded in a tradition of “speaking-with-Jesus” (or having-spoken-with) that one gets in the synoptic gospels. Rather it is a different kind of speaking, perhaps a speaking-to-an-abstraction.)

    On the other hand, John’s gospel seems consistent with Paul in the sense that it is addressing a more abstract version of that in which the Christian is supposed to have faith. (As I recall, Paul is only concerned with the “arisen” Jesus, not the Jesus that was born, lived and died.)

    Back to the beach!

  9. dmf says:

    Daniel Dennett’s paper on atheist preachers and the belief in belief:

    Click to access EP08122150.pdf

  10. terenceblake says:

    An affirmative understanding of the death of God:

  11. terenceblake says:

    “all shining and fading depend on the saying that shows … The saying is a gathering [ in Deleuzian language , an assembling] … The showing, for its part is multiple.” (Basic Writings, Ch X: The Way to Language, p414)
    ALL THINGS SHINING has begun to fade for me, as there is for the moment no new interesting material. On the other hand Badiou is beginning to shine again.
    My project is as always to find passages and translations between various related but incommensurable idioms, in the hope of creating a new provisional common idiom.
    One of the strong points of ALL THINGS SHINING is its way of “de-jargonizing” and transposing Heidegger as a means of bringing his thought out of the academic ghettos and into the intellectual commons.

    • david leech says:

      Yes, the intellectual commons, that seems important. But then there is the tragedy of the commons to contend with. How do you structure, cultivate, and sustain interest and engagement where the “shining” quotient has the potential to be high — the world of application where the barriers to philosophical jargon/discourse are high — but where the number of people per square mile with an effective interest in ATS/heidegger/related perspectives (or speak the language) are very low (such as rural areas, away from the hustle and bustle of college populations, or urban settings where the hustle and bustle of professional life crowds out the potential for “thinking”)?

      Dmf raised the question, when he withdrew (significantly), of how you sustain the intellectual commons in this blog form. I’m sure we all find it somewhat frustrating. Still, for the time invested, I have gotten a lot out of this blog, both from considering or responding to challenges and from pursuing suggested complementary sources. Perhaps that is the limit of commons like this. Perhaps that is the tragedy of this intellectual commons: one gets out of it what one can and the hope and possibility of a sustained collective improvement depends on individual efforts in other venues where the center of collective gravity is stronger. Still, the center of collective gravity has been relatively strong here, given the time the blog has been sustained. Volunteerism in sustaining the flow has been important, not least from Sean who is surely no less thinly spread than the rest of us.

      I have the sense that the predominance of words written here are by people who don’t make a living, in any obvious way, by writing or teaching philosophy, or have any vested interest in ATS, but who probably do struggle to collect and sharpen philosophical tools and apply them in their regional worlds. How to sustain the interest and the exchange is indeed interesting. Harnessing the insights and lessons of application could be important in some sense. The conventional economic logic of collective action (the metaphysical commitments of which I find suspect) suggests that those with so much to gain (“privileged groups”) that they would be willing to make the investment in generating collective benefits without investments by others are the key. Accordingly, collective action expands and succeeds because collective cost sharing reduces the costs to the “privileged groups” as well as to the collective.

      Whether this logic holds here or how one structures an alternative in the context of the ATS blog is beyond me. Unlike more traditional commons, the boundaries of this one are quite nebulous. Perhaps the issue is similar to the Wiki issue of controlled and uncontrolled content.

      Suggestions anyone?

      • dmf says:

        you know I initially thought that the lack of a moderator/guiding-hand was the major problem but after more experience/reflection I think that the limits are more about the lack of a common vocabulary/perspective (not a subject which I think is less to the point). These can be rather technical/complex problems we are addressing here (and that face our lives/nations in these modern/globalized times) so not having a common background/shorthand is pretty limiting (no doubt complicated by various psychological/personality factors, we are human after all, tho that is much less a problem here than elsewhere). Just as I have been questioning here how much a book-reading/class can offer us in such concerns I’m afraid that communication in these kinds of e-ways is self-limited in ways that might be predictable by a Dreyfusian understanding of embodiment. Our (here in the US) democracy may well depend on
        figuring out how to successfully introduce complex ideas/situations into public spaces/uses but I haven’t yet seen a good model for achieving such (John Dewey though that we would need to revolutionize elementary ed. and sadly he may well be right.)

      • david leech says:

        only a down-payment now:

        there are lots of dimensions. the strong moderator — I am not sure one could exist for the community in questions (even narrowly construed) but I’ll come back to that — is the flip side of the background/shorthand issue. On top of that, as you say there is the subtlty and complexity.

        I think I reported somewhere above that I sustained my interest in heidegger, in the face of the serious threat of too many voices, by sticking with Bert and his students-turned professors. I think that is a good strategy for many subjects. With a peprspective under my belt I brached out. But part of that branching out was soliciting maps of the streams and eddies of Hedieggerian scholarship from highly respected scholars and, much to my surprise, initially, one of the most respected Heidegger scholars ventured that this couldn’t be done, not easily; not without serious original research. Then I started to reflect on the narrowness of various subject areas in my own field of application: the economics of R&D/technology and I thought how small the group that really and truely shares a specialized vocabulary maybe moreso in applied fields. So if there are so many streams and eddies of thought in a area of interest (say the areas encompassed by ATS, or “just” the philosophical perspective most strongly represented), perhpas the very idea of a strong moderator is a chimera, a wish. This seems almost certainly the case when you expand the circle to include the many many other scholars and paths of thinking that have been suggested here.

        But despite this problem, I think I see a possibility for “successfully introduce complex ideas/situations into public spaces/uses.” I want the intituion that they way forward at least in part rejects the economic logic I’ve alluded to above. Rather, I think that there is some intersection of “things thinging,” “gift giving,” and a sense of gratitude that could support a community (and intellectual commons) if participants recognizes the use value they received from participation and found ways to offer small gifts to the participants. All that is required is action in response to a perceived benefit. The form of that action TBD in context. Why would a beneficiary do that when its possible for them to free ride? A sense of responsibility to sustain the common; a sense that without the exercise of gratitude, the commons disappears.

        I have an intution that this is possible. I have a real sense of gratitude, that I have occasionally expressed, in real terms, to some of the people in the neighborhood of this blog for the gifts they have given me in terms of insights that have significantly changed my life in subtle but much appreciated ways. I could do more of that. We all could. We are certainly clever that way. For example, when Sean shares his lectures with those asking for a website address; or when dmf points us to otherwise practically inaccesible lectures, they are providing a gift. They are offering something for the good of the common. Other do this when they cite an author or offer an interpretation/hypothesis. Assuming some of us feel like a real benefit accrues from that largess, we could figure out a way to make some small contribution to the offerer’s passion. Its possible.

        Admittedly there are many many distractions — a DFW theme (bringing it back to ATS). But it seems possible to build little communities with real centers of gravity out of the possibilities thrown up by venues like the WWW. On Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle’s understanding of logos, that community sense of gravity/gratitude for the other, is our ground, its got something to do with what makes us us.

      • dmf says:

        gratitude, eros,, curiosity, etc, are all good, even vital starting places, but I’m not sure that merely pointing to them (or otherwise illustrating them as ideas) is enough to cultivate them in others (even if they agree that to do so makes sense), and even if it were the question is how to develop the know-how to build on them, to as I would say sublimate them into public works. I think that this takes time and commitments/relations that these kinds of e-exchanges work may well work against by their very nature (as do lecture classes). As for a guiding hand, one I think that apprenticeships are sorely need in our times and two I have found many times that there are substantial limits to peer “supervision” even when people do the same general work and meet in person regularly. This is why I think the idea (maybe yours dl?) of bootstrapping is a better model, to start with a particular concern/interest and than to flesh it out in the working it through, but the question that remains is how to scale-up such efforts and or how to make such focused work a publicly/broadly useful venture? When for a brief while the social sciences start to take post-modern concerns of context/complexity/emergence and such seriously they were rightly panicked about what this meant to their ability to generalize from case studies and what I tried to tell them is that perhaps there is something to how the particularity of literature speaks to a wider audience with conviction that they too could tap into, but such talks went nowhere.

      • Charlie says:

        I think this vehicle/format is novel in its inconsistency, as the layering of perspectives creates a rambling that spawns related, new topics. There’s also a weak force of peer pressure that circumscribes the discussion. A benevolent policing that keeps it interesting. Further, I like the gadfly/aphoristic character, as Sean contributes when he can, which spurs a little celebration. At least in my opinion, the discourse is also informed – even though there are ostensibly non-professionals like myself. No digital viruses yet either – absent are the bots or pseudo–science crackpots that frequent many of these sites. Most importantly, thoughtful contributors such as yourselves sustain the inertia. I for one appreciate the variety of links. I’m trying to find time to reintroduce myself to modern philosophy, appreciating ATS even more. So count me in…this bookmark is a welcome sight

  12. See instances of logos under “Pl.” (Plato) (and under following “Id.” (Idem )) in Liddell and Scott’s “A Greek-English Lexicon” —

    /text?doc=Perseus:text:1999.04.0057:entry=lo/gos .

    (See also Liddell and Scott’s “General List of Abbreviations”—

    http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Asection%3D5 .)

  13. Pingback: Logos at Harvard « Log24

  14. dmf says:

    ch, I think that the ease of cut and paste makes for a lovely way to share e-discoveries that may add some new elements/aspects to the mix but not sure (not just here but at other sites, philo-oriented or otherwise) if much can happen in the way of discussion/discovery, these kinds of exchanges tend to go in circles.
    “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being”

    Click to access Bargh%26Chartrand.pdf

  15. dmf says:

    on the King James translation of the Hebrew and its relations to Homer, and Melville

  16. dmf says:

    love of wisdom after the exorcising of the “demons” of folk psychology?

    Click to access C2_Paul_Churchland.pdf

  17. dmf says:

    this lecture by Bambach gets to the heart of the matter, whether or not “correspondence” (or fit) is available to us even in moments/events beyond human measure/calculation:

    • david leech says:

      I’ve read both of Bambach’s books recently (within the last year) and do find him very insightful. I am looking forward to his forthcoming book on ethics (responsibility).

      It strikes me that the kernel this lecture (only half way through) is quite close to what I was groping for, way back when (near the beginning of this blog as I recall), when I referred to the 4-fold as like a sanded down virtue ethics requiring a balancing act. Your response, as I recall, questioned whether balance was possible in our time. I think that’s the right question but might still try to argue that the process of striving for a balance, if not achieving it, is close to dwelling even though we must “ever learn to dwell.”

    • david leech says:

      I like Thomson’s work a lot but I “read” him with one eye on my market-is-a-work-of-art hypothesis which limits my openess to other things (or other ways of reading) what he is saying. I recently read his “Heidegger, Art, and PoMo” (AHPM) which I think it quite insightful (especially for my distorted reading — because it emphasizes my responsibility to interpret the market as a WOA). This link seems to be derived from AHPM and his earlier helpful Ontotheology.

      To the extent that AHPM bears on my notion of balance, and what I take to be your good question about whether balance is even a possibility for us, or good for us, I read Thomson’s last chapter — Against Conclusions — to say that at our best we are balanced on the precipice looking for another place to receive us (jump to) at which point the old balance (of the 4-fold) will have to be re-established, repeat, repeat.

      So, I think you are right not to accept the centrality of the balancing act without the dangerous groping for a new hold. Together they seem to define dasein.

      • dmf says:

        if you get a chance see what you make of the ideas/desciptions in the derangements of scales lecture/video and how this might fit in with Critchely/Heidegger on facing overwhelming powers.

  18. dmf says:

    via must-read for all things heidegger: http://enowning.blogspot.com/
    “Hermann Heidegger on his father’s religion, interviewed by Antonio Gnoli and Franco Volpi.
    Your father was a Catholic, a Catholic who, he said, had converted to Lutheranism. On the other hand, his writings can be interpreted as a very intense form of atheism. However, in his later years of life the question of God becomes imperative, as you can see in the famous formula “Only a God can save us”. What were his relations with religion?

    As he came from a very Catholic family, his training and his education were Catholic. But already early on he realized that he could not remain with the dogmas of the Church. It was a conviction that matured inwardly, but which could not afford to be expressed publicly. A young man of his status could not continue his studies without the support of the Church. It was only after obtaining his Habilitation, on becoming professor in Marburg, that Heidegger could truly say what he thought. But I can say with certainty that he never was an atheist. In any case, he always believed in the presence of a God. With regard to what was written later, that he had become Protestant, following that creed, it is not true. He had deep confrontations with Luther.

    Nevertheless, he wrote that he had become Protestant.

    As my mother belonged to the evangelical church – though she later split with it – and we, the children had been baptized according to the evangelical rite, the legend was created of a Heidegger converted to evangelism. But this never took place. He never freed himself of his origins. And when he reached old age, he asked to be buried in Meßkirch in the Catholic rite. He told me on this subject: “That’s where I was born and one corresponds with the custom when one dies.”

    However his philosophy can be read as a great atheist speculation. . . .

    His philosophy has always refrenced a principle of transcendence.

    Do you think that this principle had become more urgent in his later years?

    No. This interest was always present. Already when I was young I spoke with my father in religious matters, of God and the divine.”

    • david leech says:

      I find this confusing and am looking forward to others’ comments. It strikes me that life is a never-ending series of intellectual and social/personal comprimises and that seems especially true of MH. I have the impression that he got the balance way out of wack, certainly with his political commitments and the consequences of those compromises.

      He proclaimed himself a “Lutheran theologian,” as I recall, whether or not he “freed himself of his origins”. (Another compromise.) My reading of MH is that its fundamental that we are never free of origins. Similarly, there doesn’t seem to be essential contradictions in any of the dichotomies presented: atheist/transendence; atheism/speaking of religious matters, God, and the divine (with one’s child); following a (protesant) creed/confrontations with Luther. Indeed I wonder if “confrontation WITH Luther” could be translated (or better understood) as “confrontation ALONG WITH Luther.” Perhaps I am too much in the sway of what I take to be VanBuren’s reading of H’s formative period.

      In any event, what H said or believed, is useful but for now I am sticking with the hypothesis that he can be READ/used as providing a framework that is productive for believers and non-believers alike.

  19. dmf says:

    Click to access Ontotheo.pdf

    “Heidegger’s Destruktion of the metaphysical tradition leads him to the
    view that all Western metaphysical systems make foundational claims best
    understood as ‘ontotheological’. Metaphysics establishes the conceptual
    parameters of intelligibility by ontologically grounding and theologically
    legitimating our changing historical sense of what is.”

    • david leech says:


      If this is a reply to my nov.11 reply to your nov. 11 post, and if I understand what you mean (that all western metaphysical systems make foundational claim best understood ontologically AND theologically and so H can’t be offering a way ahead that is open to either a secular or theistic, but rather must be offering a way forward that is ontologically grounded but not theologically legitimated), then I think that in the wake of “the turning”, going forward, we could be post-metaphysical/post-ontotheological and that H’s framework is amenable to both. I have an intution of what that means from a secular perspective and less of an intuition of what it means for a theistic perspective but I take it that Albert Borgmann wants to be a post-ontotheological Christian and I think Charles Spinosa’s post about the god of Abraham/god of Kierkegaard vs. the medieval god, is supposed to be post-ontotheological as well.

      Not sure if we agree on this or not.

  20. LIM says:

    Hey Sean,

    Was hoping to make it to your talk at Columbia last week but I ended up not being in the area. I am sorry to have missed your talk. Still looking forward to your new audio lectures!


    • dmf says:

      more on this and Bert vs McDowell:
      via http://www.newschoolphilosophy.com/activities/thursday-night-workshops/
      Inferential Semantics, the Extended Mind, and Kant’s Fourth Question in the
      Light of a ‘Second Detachment’ | Download Audio
      Lenny Moss (University of Exeter)
      Abstract: Brandom’s anti-representationalist philosophy of language and the work of Andy Clark (and many others) on the “extended” (but also “embodied”, “embedded”, “enactive” and “emotive”) nature of human cognition, all threaten to burst the bounds of traditional analytic philosophies of language and of mind respectively and to gesture, once again, toward the unavoidability of Kant’s famous fourth question (Was Ist Der Mensch?). This talk will offer a recontextualization of Brandom’s semantics and Clark’s cognitive science in the light of a renewed and radicalized (philosophical) anthropology that draws on a new concept of a “second detachment” in anthropogenesis.

  21. dmf says:

    Tim Morton on hyperobjects (think global warming for example), intimacy/cohabitation, and our asymmetrical uncanny age of the anthopocene.

  22. LaurenceMcM says:

    I would really like to hear the Heidegger on Kant graduate course lectures. Have these been made available yet?
    Also, if anyone can point me in the direction of Dreyfus’ lectures on Hiroshima Mon Amour, I would be grateful. I only saw the film for the first time recently, and was typically baffled by it! I have previously listened to Dreyfus’ Exist. in Lit & Film course where he discusses HMA, but this course does not seem to be available from Berkeley anymore . If anyone has a link, preferably non- i-tunes, I would appreciate it.

  23. LaurenceMcM says:

    Thanks for the link Terence.
    I wasn’t expecting a response so late in the thread!

  24. Sims says:

    Does anyone know if there is a complete set of the recordings from Dr. Kelly’s 2009 course on Being and Time?
    The course website is here :

    However, it seems that most of the lectures from October are missing; these are the ones that should deal with several of the critical concepts in division one: care, falling, throwness etc.

  25. dmf says:

    dan dennett reflecting on his own work and its implications:

    • david leech says:

      I proposed to Dennett that I thought the philosophical foundations of his views (especially as expressed in Breaking the Spell) could be located in Heidegger’s concept of language. While he thought this was unlikely, he agreed, in principle, to review the evidence if I provided it. Its another item on a long list of things to do before its over for me. When I read Breaking and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, I had just finished reading several Heidegger essay’s about language. While I have a sense that Dennett has gone off the rails (and would cite Bert and Sean’s paper on Heterophenomenology as evidence), I think you can read Hedegger on language as way ahead of Dennett in many repects; as laying the groundwork for Dennett view of language as a replicator: a virus-like something that attaches to us; that uses us.

      • dmf says:

        here he addresses the intentional-stance in relation to historicity (he doesn’t call it that) and comes down for a specifically Darwinian/human kind of free will, that might fit better with freudian thought than later heideggerian thought.
        the whole “meme” thing is the weakest part of his work but it would be interesting to see what he would make the idea/influence of moods and other such un-conscious/extended attunements.

  26. LaurenceMcM says:

    Hi david
    I’d love to have seen Dennett’s face when it was suggested to him that his work might contain Heideggerian roots! Equally, I would love to see Heidegger’s reaction if he was aware that his concept of language might be distorted towards a crass materialist account such as Dennett’s…. multiple grave rotations at the Meßkirch cemetery would be likely! Apart from the obvious connection where both H. and D. see language as something that uses us rather than us using it, I’m interested to hear more about how you would justify making this comparison.

    • david leech says:

      All I have at this point is a bunch of uncollected marginal notes. It’s going to be a while before I get to it. And it may be nothing but what you call the obvious connection. Still, that puts Heidegger decades prior to the dawkins/dennett idea of language as something outside us and in a symbiotic relation with us. (For all I know that is a commonplace. It was new to me when I first read Heidegger on language.) And I find it intriguing (rather than appalling) that we could find an ontic account, a scientific account, of something for which we also have a phenomenological account. Isn’t “neuro-phenomenology” trying to do something similar? To be bold, if on Heidegger’s account language is the house of being, couldn’t memetics be the “science” of house-of-being construction/deconstruction; a science of culture, of sorts. (I think that somewhere Dennett pulls back from claiming that memetics could be a predictive science but I can’t find the citation.) And why not? So long as one kind of understanding doesn’t try to do the job of the other, both are improved.

      Also, when I am reading Heidegger’s essays on language I sometimes have the sense that there is an evolutionary analogy between the lines. At first I thought that it I thought it was just me, reading too much into him, but according to Heidegger’s own account he did “extensive reading in the theory of biological evolution” in his 4th year at the Berthold Gymnasium in Freiburg. (“Heidegger’s Lehrjahre,” Thomas Sheehan in John Sallis et al., eds., The Collegium Phaenomenologicum, Kluwer, 1988, pp. 77-137.)

      What is being? Dreyfus might answers: “That on the basis of which beings are understood.” Does imitation play a major role in that basis? You bet. Some protagonists of memetics call it “thought contagion.” That could well be the mechanism of our “throwness.” I think there is a lot of room for cross-fertilization here.

  27. LaurenceMcM says:

    Thanks for your response. An eventual ontic account from an original ontological account is always likely. Even more likely is that the “discoverers” of any ontic/scientific account would seek to deny its phenom/philosophical roots in order to claim originality for themselves – such is the nature of science and hubris! A similar event is happening with research into embodied cognition, having recently become all the rage some 50 years or so after Merleau-Ponty!

    Memetics for my money is a clumsy attempt to transfer the language of genetics onto culture as a whole. It was a short-lived fizz of illumination that is no longer taken seriously beyond the evolutionary die-hards – even its founder Dawkins has notably distanced himself from the theory. You have picked up on the one fruit from this otherwise barren tree however, and that is the role of imitation for cultural dispersion and sedimentation. If cultural inter-subjective imitation is the field of investigation, then we already have a word for it – namely mimetics. Again this is hardly a new discovery, and the attempt to change the terms by altering one vowel is no more than an ontic appropriation of an ontological given. In fact, insofar as it dresses up the agency of mimetics in a bio-medical language (virus/contagion etc.), the vowel change is a distortion that prioritizes the ontic and proposes an ultimately materialist reality for culture as well as the living organism.

    On the subject of Heidegger’s language theory and a possible evolutionary analogy, I have not had a sense of this myself from reading his essays on language. That’s not to say it’s not there, and I will certainly be on the look out for it in future readings. I suspect that the fruits of H’s “extensive readings in biological evolution” to which you refer, are found more in the distinction he makes between the animal world and the human world in Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, rather than in his theory of language.

  28. dmf says:

    On approaching this issue of Humana.Mente, readers could maybe wonder why a theme such as that of Weltbild could be considered relevant for philosophy today. Of course, the debate on Weltbild, a term that can be translated in English as “world image” or “world picture”, represented an important moment of the late-modern German-speaking philosophical debate, at least from the second half of the nineteenth century until the 1930s, before slowly fading out in the 1970s. From Wilhelm Dilthey to Edmund Husserl, from Max Weber to Martin Heidegger, passing through thinkers such as Franz Borkenau, Karl Jaspers, Ernst Cassirer and Ludwig Wittgenstein, until the works of Günther Anders and Hans Blumenberg, the idea of Weltbild and of what we can call the “family of concepts” related to it (such as Weltanschauung, Weltauffassung, Weltansicht, Lebensanschauung, etc.) seems to represent a characteristic element of the particular “philosophical Stimmung” of that specific epoch

  29. terenceblake says:

    Let’s begin with a quote:
    “The Greek gods are dead and gone, but the theme of Athenian democracy, the demonstrations of Archimedes, the tragedies of Aeschylus, and the amorous surges of Sappho are as yesterday for our thought. And the same for Plato. Only that has enduring value of which we imagine and practice the return”. (Badiou, ENTRETIENS 1,p166, my translation)
    Badiou is often hailed as a rigorous thinker (by himself and by his disciples), but I fear he is guilty here of a contradiction. Of course, the works of Aeschylus and Sappho, which “seem written yesterday”, are full of Greek gods. I open THE POETRY OF SAPPHO and I find (p3):

    “Artfully adorned Aphrodite, deathless
    child of Zeus and weaver of wiles I beg you
    please don’t hurt me, don’t overcome my spirit,
    goddess, with longing,
    but come here, if ever at other moments
    hearing these my words from afar you listened
    and responded: leaving your father’s house, all
    golden, you came then,
    hitching up your chariot: lovely sparrows
    drew you quickly over the dark earth, whirling
    on fine beating wings from the heights of heaven
    down through the sky and
    instantly arrived—”

    The whole corpus is polytheist and not just the explicit references to the gods. Badiou, however, is incapable of taking seriously the fact that many works of literature that “seem written yesterday” (in their charge of intensity, depth, novelty, and pertinence) embody polytheist percepts and affects. Badiou is Lacanian like other people are for example Catholic: he was born into a milieu where the truth of the psyche is enounced by Lacan. No need to do any research or wide-ranging reading in other psychologies there! Badiou was just lucky to be born in the right place at the right time.

    This is why I find ALL THINGS SHINING an important philosophical work. Its authors have the freedom of thought to notice that what is living in, for example Homer (and in Aeschylus and in Sappho, but in different ways), is precisely their polytheism. They are coherent where Badiou is not, and call on us to “imagine and practice the return” (Badiou) of the gods. “Luring back the gods” is not the slogan of some naïve Wiccan literalism, but the formula for a polytheistic thought and perception and action. Suddenly Badiou’s stereotypical critiques (themselves absorbed unthinkingly from Lacan) fall to ground. Dreyfus and Kelly are Americans, but are not guilty of “psychologism” nor, even less so, of “ego-psychology”. They are however pluralists in a more thoroughgoing way than Badiou has ever been.

  30. dmf says:

    Click to access V3-No3_James_1185142690724.pdf

    “Awakening to Language in Heidegger and Zen”

  31. Frank says:

    I wonder how the ideas of Julian Jaynes fits in with Homer’s experience of listening to the gods for guidance on how to behave? Jaynes suggests that the mentality of the mind in Homer’s world was different, that people literally did hear voices, just as some, (but fewer?) hear voices today.

    • david leech says:

      Frank: With reference to All Things Shining, I think its fair to say that the authors do not posit that we are neurologically different than our homeric brothers and sisters but rather than we are hermeneutically different; that they were interpretively open to phenomenon that we tend to have closed off, but could cultivate.

      • Frank says:

        David: Correct. But who is right? Jaynes argues in his extraordinary book “Origin of Consciousness”, that our homeric bros and sis’s were different – they had a bicameral mind. jaynes argues that the heroes of the illiad and old testament actually heard the voices of the gods (god), gave them commands and advice, that the voices arose from their own minds but were perceived as external. he compared the phenomenon with the auditory hallucination seen in schizophrenia. jaynes thought that there was a connection between the voices of the gods and changes in the mental world of those who heard them and that this might have something to do with the brain. I cannot judge how accurate any of this is, but, if you have not read jaynes, you have a wonderful reading experience in store for you!

      • david leech says:

        Oh, I read it when it first came out. Lots of water under the bridge since then.

        Here is how I’d navigate “rightness” is this case. It seems to me that the claims of ATS are far less demanding; that we can simply attune ourselves to certain phenomenon that are implicit in everyday interactions; that we can “find meaning” in certain practices in such a way that fundamental (in my case, secular) posits are not offended. There is no need to posit, on the ATS account, that some people have an essential capability and some don’t. (I am reminded of the christian concept of “the elect” which I always found a little annoying.)

        Dennett (whose work has come up in this thread) is some sort of admirer of Jaynes (for theoretical audacity I think) and in his “Breaking the Spell” he calls Jaynes work, “brilliant but quirky and unreliable.” (p. 133) He seems to interpret Jaynes’ evidence not as evidence of change in brain wiring (I think that’s Jaynes’ claim) but rather as “merely” a shift in a social rhetorical strategy, strategies for blaming.

        So while Dennett’s take and the claims of ATS are very different, neither are physicalist so far as I know. So they explain the same kind of “subjective” phenomenon without the extra sky hook. They do more with less and are, on the grounds of explanatory efficiency, to be preferred.

  32. dmf says:

    “On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life” is an attempt to put Freud in dialogue with his contemporary Franz Rosenzweig in the service of reimagining ethical and political life in the age of globalization

  33. dmf says:

    “The phenomenological paradox of meaning-events, then, is the paradox of an
    experience that is mine and yet not my accomplishment.”

    Click to access Measure%20Taking%20Meaning%20and%20Normativity%20in%20Heidegger%27s%20Philosophy.pdf

  34. Frank says:

    Thanks David. I hear what you are saying. You write: “that we can simply attune ourselves to certain phenomenon that are implicit in everyday interactions; that we can “find meaning” in certain practices…”

    Now this approach may work for some but I don’t think this is “simple” and as far as actually providing meaning, these words leave me flat. Ishmael knew that there is no deeper meaning to be found. live on the surface. give up the search for meaning. maybe the only meaning is in the search.
    After all these years Jaynes has not been debunked all that much. some things he got right, other things he may be off base on I like Jaynes because he is such fun and full of original thought. the idea that the right hemisphere of our brain once produced the voices of the dead, hallucinated by the living and was the source of religion. that at some point the voices stopped and a inner life began. after all is said and done, we don’t really know.

    • david leech says:

      “Simply” WAS a poor choice of words. Your “actually providing meaning” could be the rub. Not sure what that implies. I see meaning as personal-with-wide-margins. I’d be a little wary of …how do they say? … totalizing or from-on-high or objective meaning. I have a sense that this is just not in the cards.

      I think meaning has to do with the story that we put together about ourselves-with-wide-margins and, to some important degree, that others put together about us/for us. I suppose I agree that the only meaning is in the search but I hear that as, “for me, the story is most conducive to a fruitful life if it is unfinished and in some permanent state of revision.” If its an honest story (whatever that means) I think that has to be the case.

      As to the words leaving you flat, I vaguely understand phenomenology to be the search for the practice of attunement; the openness to the wonder or the ordinary and the practice of culling out that wonder. (I am on the edge here so I imagine that this wonder can be either “dark” or “light” — I haven’t gotten much further than these two baskets but I do have distinct experiences that I can clearly put in one box or the other. So far I feel lucky — but perhaps I am just benighted — that the “light” box is more full than the “dark” one. Perhaps its congenital. When I am thinking/explaining that way, I am probably in league with Jaynes!)

      I think Borgmann is good at turning us onto these possibilities for uncovering the meaning in the ordinary in his divice vs. thing distinction. Heidegger’s notion of a thing thinging is a stab too. OK, that’s about the “frames” in the story.

      Back to the story story: I have been playing with the idea that our meaningful stories are constructed (or arranged, probably temporaily, and ever-so fagilly) from moments of dark/light wonder that occur in our lives and that as we plow through life these “mythical”(?) events are re-arranged. I take it that learning and practicing the art of attunement will be like learning to read: it dawns slowly. I also have the sense (calling on the hermeneutics of facticity in B&T) that this must be an adventure of struggle, with the door banging open and closed for no-in-principle-discernable reason; that one (not one like me at any rate) cannot be “held open.”

  35. dmf says:

    “Whatever language may be, whatever its powers may be, it is always a derivative and
    a function of the logos. The logos of the pre-socratics (and especially of Heraclitus)
    certainly not ‘statement, the locus of truth as correctness’,as modern thinking has
    tended to make it. Less virulently anti-Catholic and anti-clerical than Char, Heidegger
    nonetheless also insists on the ways in which the Church Fathers have misread and
    mis-represented the pre-Socratic logos by focusing on St John’s Gospel, which equates
    the logos with Christ, ‘the Word made flesh’. This willful misreading is, for Heidegger,
    a major example of the generalized and generalizing decline from the first beginning.
    Although he, like Char, is aware of the cultural force of the Genesis myth of Creation,
    to which St John’s Gospel is a hermeneutic response, he is determined to remind us
    that the logos should be examined and understood in pre-Socratic terms and not in the
    narrowly defining meaning accorded it (as a capitalized Logos, Verbe, or Word) by the
    doctrinal institutions of Christianity.”

    Click to access Rec_Worton.pdf

    • Frank says:

      wow. Great talk. “…randomness…luck…blind…mutations…godless” any room left for anything shiny or sacred, besides tennis and coffee?

      • dmf says:

        it’s an interesting question, as we come to understand that ‘religious’ experiences have natural causes, are natural functions of being-human, will we still feel them to be “sacred” or will some new honorific/category emerge? The secular-buddhist movement in the west might be a leading example (one can hope tho the Oprah newage reigns in the short-term) and they are pretty quickly dropping most of the traditional religious trappings, including related language/concepts, and one might hope that this brings about a sense of existential-hermeneutics freed from the backward looking theological desire for Origins/Sources/Authenticity/Logos.

      • david leech says:

        Frank: In answer to your question, yes, a thousand times yes! While I am sure that there are themes that are developed by Dennett and others, following his line of thinking, that would be contrary to the theme of discovering the shiny and sacred in ATS, a lot of what Dennett has to say is completely compatible with what ATS are pointing to. Tennis and coffee are mundane examples, provided, I presume, to make the point that we can discover and cultivate externally induced meaning (non-subjective meaning) in a variety of ways if we open ourselves to it.

        The subtle danger in Dennett, one i am guessing he would not succumb to, is the danger of science (as developed by Heidegger): that we close ourselves off to our nature as the site where meaning happens by modeling ourselves as meaning-free objects.

        One task, that I am sure Dennett would applaud, is the attempt to discover where our meanings come from and to free ourselves, to the extent possible, from those that distort our possibilities, and to cultivate those that encourage our possibilities: demystification!

        But demystification doesn’t destroy the sacred and shining, necessarily, if the sacred is understood merely as an external source of meaning. Let me take three examples of the sacred, all three of which have positive and negative dimensions. The first is probably controversial but I feel like I understand it best. I think “the market” is sacred. The practices, beliefs, and metaphysical commitments that markets enforce (that all things — including ourselves — are objects, that are fungible, and rankable in terms of money equivalents). Markets are the other side of the coin that Heidegger calls technology. Insofar as market institutions provide opportunities for meaning cultivation, health and happiness they are positive. Insofar as their influence distorts and constrains our nature as meaning-givers/cultivators (vs. resources) they are negative. You can’t begin to appreciate the force of this institution until you understand it as sacred and start to demystify it.

        Another example of the sacred, that I suspect Dennett pays homage too, are institutions of higher education and research. Their practices and beliefs no doubt sustain his quest for, and contributions to, understanding what he calls “the infinite universe.” Maybe we could say that these sacred practices are positive when, following Heidegger and Kuhn, they are engaged in questioning their basic concepts, and working out the implications of those questions — when they are engaged in demystification — and negative when the serve the forces of authority and mystification.

        My final example of sacred practices are those engaged in by some religious organizations. When people come together, as part of ancient traditions to experience rituals they hold in common, and turn their common energies to sustaining and discovering meaning; to demystification of authority; and making contributions to social needs, there is something positive happening.

        As I read him, Dennett believes that the demystification and pro-authority functions of religious sacred practices are in short supply and that their negative functionality outweighs the positive. My biography confirms that but I see where it could be wrong; I see strong elements of demystification here and there. I see generosity being cultivated by the adherents of religious sacred practices; and I see unions of the secular and religious practices that lead me to believe there is something positive there that I have tended to overlook; something important to the future of Western culture at least.

        In my view there are many many sacred practices that are mystifying, authoritarian, and suppressive of our nature as meaning-givers. They come in many forms, some more apparent than others. But these sacred practices also have the potential to be demystifying of authority, and meaning-giving, as well as their opposite. Coffee, sports, family/communal gatherings, rituals of the table, and rituals of words, all have the potential to draw us to affirming the meaningful in our lives if we learn how to be receptive to their call and navigate them to positive effect.

        So Dennett’s “scientific view” of how we have come to where we are is not necessarily at odds with the notion of the sacred, if we understand the latter term in the demystified sense in which it is deployed in ATS

      • dmf says:

        dl, I’m puzzled but intrigued by your seeming equation of “sacred” and “demystified”, as I have suggested here in various links I strongly agree that there is much to learn about how meaning (mind-ing) is an extended/systemic process but I would say that this would allow a sense of gratitude/wonder (for all that is involved in such processes and for our having such rare capacities) in a way which doesn’t feed into our understanding of such experiences as having any extra Author-ity, any sense of being above and beyond ( or being the grounds for) the rest of our experiences.

      • david leech says:

        DMF: I agree with you about meaning as a extended/systemic process. I don’t think the authors of ATS are positiing anything beyond that, in fact they are calling our attention to it, hoping that we can be more sensative to it. And I think they think that its a very rich source of meanings, not requiring anything more than attentiveness to the phenomenon.

        But the way I understand this is that it is our (ownmost) interaction with these extended/systemic processes (equipmental totalities), each with our own unique biographies (interpretations) that give some of these experiences authority over others.

        Viewed scietificially (nihilistically) none of these experiences would have a sense of “being above and beyond ( or being the grounds for) the rest” but phenomenologically they do. So when I hold my infants, and stare into her/his eyes, experience their development, share with them (recollect) the meaning of this or that set of experiences together, on this occasion or that — at the celbratory meal, for example — these experiences are meaningful and have authority over us. One could say that, objectively, everyone has experiences like that so they are not special. My experience of them is that they are indeed special and authoritative.

        I have one short life. In that short life there are many things that might bring me pleasure but I am very selective about the ones I engage in because some would upset the shared meaning that “a life” has for me and the people that count for me. The interpretation of “a life” has effective authority over me. There are some senses in which I am the author of the interpretation (and meaning) but there are some senses in which I am pushed around by what has become a collective interpretation.

  36. LIM says:

    Any hope of getting to hear your kant-heidegger class this christmas break, Sean? Thanks!

  37. Frank says:

    David: you define the sacred as “an external source of meaning”, yet wish to call “the markets” educational institutions, and religious practices sacred. how can this be so when “the markets”, educational institutions, and religious practices are not external, but are all man made creations? however, i would concede that if the performance of religious rites is associated with actual beliefs directed towards a numinous authority, and one is not simply going through the motions, then that indeed would be meaningful and sacred. i must add also, that to remove mystery and authority from a source of meaning does something to weaken its attraction. the process of demystification results in the movement of something from the numinous to the scientific, no? didn’t darwin and galileo demystify and to some extent desactify mankind?

    • david leech says:


      Regarding “external,” I only me “external to me” not external to us.” The ATS examples — coffee in our favorite cup and place, the sports event with “my team” in “my stadium” — are part of my “world” (in Heidegger’s sense), my “ownmost” but not of my making, Ditto with “the market” etc.

      Regarding the religious rites, I have the sense that the collective practices, rather than the beleifs (much less the belief in the numinous authority), are where the meaning-giving come from. Granted that is a much less demanding source of meaning (not requiring all the baggage of the medieval construction) but a source nonetheless.

      I THINK that the demystification advocated in All Things Shining is a “demystication-to-the-phenomenon” (“hermeneutics of facticity” comes to mind) rather than the sort of demystification of worldviews practiced by scientists qua scientists.

  38. dmf says:

    Charles Taylor, the distinguished Canadian philosopher, has just been awarded the Templeton Prize, the world’s most highly endowed award for intellectual achievement. This week on The Philosopher’s Zone, he talks to ABC Radio National’s Tom Morton, about how we are intellectually and how we got to where we are.

  39. dmf says:

    dl, what makes collective practices “religious” if they are not related to a belief in some Author-itative transcendent being? and if we drop the higher powers why not replace “sacred” with good or desirable or some other honorific like Dewey’s “intelligent”? where does the ATS sense of something not just being collective/systemic but somehow Objectively worthy/good ( to be praised and emulated) a kind of deep calling to deep (moody/spontaneous/moving), go?

    • david leech says:

      dmf: I don’t have a good feel for religious intuitions myself, so I am just thinking in terms of possibilities that are more compatible with my perspective (and maybe the perspective of ATS). I think that what makes collective practices religious is self-identification/tradition. The “belief in some authoritative transcendent being” might be less important going forward than it has been in recent (post-medieval) tradition. Caputo, to whose work you referred me, seems to have a rather unelaborate view of what one prays to/about — the unimaginablly other. But I can imagine him (I know nothing about him or his background) praying with others as part of a tradition that secures meaning for the participants.) And one of the points that Charles Taylor makes in The Secular age is that, looking back over the sweep of the Christian tradition, its a big tent. While I don’t claim to know anything, at all, about it, I hear tell of atheistic Christians.

      Perhaps you are right that it makes sense to find a different word for “sacred.” OK, but I suspect the authors use it (they may say why but finding the citation is not convenient right now) to demonstrate the partial overlap between the phenomenon of traditional religious externally-induced meaningful experience (feeling grounded followed by an interpretation of the feeling in belief) and the phenomenon of secular externally-induced meaningful experience (feeling grounded followed by an interpretation of the feeling by an alternative belief).

      Finally, I don’t think the authors of ATS do go beyond the collectively worthy. Yes, they do want to valorize the spiraling positive over the spiraling negative sense of collectively worthy and they think it takes the development of metapoietic skill to make that call. That is where they leave it because that is where we have gotten to post-ontotheologically — in a position where the way forward requires us to lower or shift our conceit of attainable felicity.

      • david leech says:

        A related thought: It seems to me that the contributors to Wrathall’s collection of essays entitled Religion After Metaphysics are circling around the same lowered conceit that might be important going forward; a lowered conceit that might mitigate some of the tension that characterizes the secular age (as I read Taylor) for future generations and epochs. I guess that would be a good thing. Dmf’s december 24 post, concernng the markets vs. religion discussion at LSE, seems to indicate that the issue is here to stay for a while.

        I hypothesize that it will be helpful to recognize the market as a work of art so that we can be more open to moving beyond the nihilistic metaphysics it reinforces. My sense is that the next epoch will occur in the aftermath of, or in the process of, the merger of post-metaphysical religion and post-metaphysical social structures/theories.

  40. dmf says:

    habermas on myth and ritual:

  41. dmf says:

    dl, sadly I think that ATS goes beyond bringing our attention to our un-conscious extended processes/interactions/events to privileging some, even going so far as to posit them as autonomous and public exemplars and so the terms sacred and gods. I wish they had stuck with the as-if/experiential/affective characteristics (what some of us understand as “archetypal” in the adjectival sense) of these moody phenomena (which take us beyond mere calculative reasoning) but there is much lurking aristotelian arete at play, at least by my reading.

    • david leech says:

      dmf: I agree that the authors posit that we are called to privilege some of our extended processes/interactions/events over others, each according to his ownmost (biography/facticity). I think that is as it should be. Otherwise you have the nihilism against which the authors offer an alternative.

      I imagine this would lead to a plurality of deeply meaningful (sacred) events (occasions for the expression of our ownmost arete) and that people will tend to gather around shared kinds of meaningful events — traditional religious gatherings, celebratory meals, craft shows/guild meetings, spotrting events, poetry readinging, book clubs, maybe philosophy blogs (so long as they have a gift-giving component) and/or open source software sites.

      So long as it is recognized that one kind of meaning-community is not privileged over another meaning-community — no meta-meaning community — we would have a plethora of meaning communities, analogous to polytheism but without the ontotheological dimension.

      • dmf says:

        if the authors had framed this as “each according to his ownmost” , that would have been an interesting update of a quasi-nietzschean theme of the daimonic life but they tend toward a more hegelian public/group experience of sports or family dinners or such in the kind of heideggerian temple mode, which is why we got into this whole question of how theo-logical is this book, remember that for ATS it is the things (themselves as it where) which are shining, not reflecting a glimmer in the eye of the beholder, or so I remember it.

      • david leech says:

        dmf: Its clearly time for me to re-read ATS (a new year resolution I can look forward to keeping!) with all these many questions we’ve batted around in mind. That’s going to be more fun than the first time through for sure!

        Happy new year. Thanks for all your contributions here in 2011.

      • dmf says:

        very good, you can let me know how much creative re-membering I’ve been doing to the poor book. it’s been a pleasure to add what I can, these are important themes that rarely get worked thru and I appreciate folks pitching in.
        hopefully there is now a bit of an archive here now for anyone inspired by the book to learn more of the background, while terence blake is moving the conversation forward at his related blog for all who might wonder where things go from here.

  42. dmf says:

    perhaps with some unintentional irony it strikes me that we have talked about Moby Dick as an illustration but not as a work of art, maybe in the coming year:

  43. Charlie says:

    Greetings! Some reflections on ATS in the new year – triggered by the obits on Dummett. If the realist debate (hoax) hinges on truth, perhaps we could see ATS as collapsing fictions. The democratization of the sacred – with the levelization and equivalency the pious abhor – leaves us exposed to our experience. In the way Nietzsche dismisses other worlds or Kierkegaard takes the air out of miracles. The irony around the project grows richer for me with time. The “debasement” to phenomenological terms resurrects the only meaning we have. The Epochal void is not modernity or technology decaying values but rather the handiwork of the logical positivists finishing the job. Maybe it’s my melancholy of turning 50 and entering the back 9 of life, but the philosophical discipline in now best charged with assessing our limitations. ATS starts a phenomenological project that harvests and expands meaning, most importantly for a broader audience with literary/comprehensible terms. Surely there is no better tonic for our current culture?

    • dmf says:

      of course Heidegger was a master thinker of our finitude , but leaving that somewhat aside I read ATS as an extension of Bert’s ongoing attempts to overcome a kind of gossip-world-nihilism in which people are valuing (attracted like magpies to) the wrong kinds of things, that they couldn’t tell what was really worth engaging in and so confused the superficial with the deep/sustaining. The question tho is do these things have some kind of autonomous/archetypal quality (of Being?) which shines thru or are these matters more of socialization and other “blind” impresses.

    • david leech says:

      Three things trouble me here: 1) “democratization of the sacred” seems to mix two categories (political and ontological?). I find that confused or confusing. 2) I understand modernity, technology, and positivism (and market metaphysics) to be dimensions of the epoch that tend us toward “void”; that there is no “epochal void”; as a student of Dreyfus put it, “we got it, but we don’t get it” (I think HD’s “Heidegger on the Connection between Nihilism, Art, Technology and Politics” gets at the issue). 3) The idea that there is a “tonic” for a culture seems “technological.” The “tonic” proposed by Hediegger, as I understand it, is to get in touch with “the sacred;” to guard it. ATS seems to suggest that one approach is to get in touch with how other’s, in other epochs, “tuned in” and situate that to our own time. I suppose that is what you call the “debasement to phenomenological terms.” “Terms” can’t be right and I don’t understand “debasement” in this context. Phenomenological seems basic rather than de-based. I love the title of a recent Thomas Sheehan paper: “Astonishing! Things Make Sense.” I think its the kind of phenomenon we are supposed to guard.

      • dmf says:

        but how do we know what to guard/foster/worship/etc, what are the criteria and how do we come to them, are they self-evident in some way?

      • david leech says:

        I’m thinking about that.

      • david leech says:

        I fussed and fussed over “we” vs. “I.” It’s just not clear to me yet, but here is where it stands for me now.

        The “we,” in your “how do we know what to guard,” could mean “I,” or it could mean something collective. Let’s distinguish first-order normative commitments (the ones I’m thrown into initially) from the nth-order normative commitments that I come to over time, after my awakening as more or less responsible individual/young adult, and that I can reasonably call my own. I think you are asking the question about nth-order normative commitments with your question, “how do I know what to guard.”

        I don’t think there are fixed collective nth-order normative collective answers to the question; no fixed nth-order collective prescriptions. We can come to “know” nth-order normative collective prescriptions but they are subject to change — hence, nth-order rather than something fixed. (My model here is something like “Neurath’s boat.” Even as we break free of the 1st-order and early-order answers we breaking free within a given problem space. I am not sure that I can comprehend a fundamental, twinkling of the eye-type “conversion.”)

        So, how do “I” know what to guard? Well, I’m not sure that I “know” for the most part. I just take a position. I have to occasionally uncover what matters by means of interrogating my position (and being prepared to be surprised): “What do I care about, by my actions?” Of those things/habits/actions I effectively care about, what is the source and nature of their authority over me? Where I can figure that out, do I concede to that authority? Is this series of concessions part of the narrative I want to tell about myself among the community of people I care about? Do I embrace the narrative as mine? What things/habits/actions do I guard and pass along in light of the narrative I embrace?

        Back to the collective “we.” That’s really got my social-theoretical mind racing. I guess, we tend to find common cause with those whose narratives share important aspects: infra-meanings (to coin a phrase). [It dawns on me that this may not be a good assumption; that we actually tend to find common cause with others based on a very uneasy and uncertain, almost random, set of “thrown” circumstances. But that is too hard for me to think about right now, so I’ll stick with the assumption that we tend find common cause with those with whom we share meanings/values as they unfold in our lives.]

        Since being-with-others seems to be a compulsion for beings like us, and since there are more and more ways to escape the gravity of others (more paths to “bowling alone”), we might expect to be drawn to situations on the basis of “infra-meanings;” drawn to organizations of people that share a sense of what genuinely (authentically) matters for the group. I suspect this ATS blog is such a situation— tentatively — and that some of the dynamics of the conversation reflect the puts and takes required to “take the measure” of the participants. As you have suggested, this may be an unsustainable forum. I suspect so. Still, while an extreme example, it is an example of people turning to something they are drawn to and wondering if there is some basis for sustained shared meaning there. I think that is how a collective “we” figures out what is worth guarding. Maybe, we are on the cusp of an era in which organizations are routinely founded for the purpose of forging bottoms-up “we” answers to what “we” guard.

        I have a hunch that this is an emerging possibility; that infra-meanings are different after the “death of God” than before. Before the death of God, infra-meaning were given, top down or inside-out. In the wake of he death of God the shared (infra) meanings are collected bottom-up, and built up, democratized in a positive sense.

        And given all the frictions that are likely to accompany a “green field” approach to developing associations of infra-meaning, I wonder if organizations historically rooted in shared ideological or religious meanings are the places where these “guardianship associations” will take root. One wonders if the frictions that might accompany such “re-positioning” of historically pre-death-of-God organizations are less than the green field frictions. I hear people talking about the “third awakening.” I wonder if anyone is looking to distinguish the “first (post-death-of-God) awakening” signals from the “third awakening” noise.

        So there are a couple vectors to the question about how we know what to guard. There is the nth-order “I” question vector (the product of the hermeneutic process by which I interpret my own-most commitments and guard the rituals that bolster them) and the nth-order “we” question vector (the product of the a collective hermeneutic/dialectical process by which “we” interpret and negotiate infra-meanings and guard the rituals that bolster them). And, presumably, all this takes place against a background of an understanding of being that “we” (in both senses) should remain open to shifting.

        That’s the best I can do. More form than content.

  44. dmf says:

    dl, you increasingly sound more like a narrative-theorist than a phenomenological/existential analyst and in terms of ATS isn’t it the mood/event/thing/experience which ‘tells’ us what is valuable (shines) and not our after the fact reflections/calculations, or is there some kind of feedback looping effect/affect? when I think of Dreydeggerian quality talk pre ATS it is in relation to say jazz musicians who by mastering their chops thru ruthless discipline are ready instruments to be taken over by, overflowing with, the mus(e)ic, and I think that this sense of giving in, swept up by (or otherwise being moved by), is a central aspect of the “sacred” in these post-ATS contexts. Not sure if Sean is still following any of this but perhaps he will drop us a signpost.

    • david leech says:

      Are the narrative/phenomenological distinctions exclusive. Doesn’t sound right. In any event, I think the shininess is part of the reflective process by which we determine what does/doesn’t have authority for us, to the always limited — one hopes expanding — extent that we can discern what is authoritative for us. That must be right or we couldn’t develop metapooietic skills by leaning this way or that; mediating what we are open to being swept up in. The “sacredness” of the mood/event/thing/experience is its ability to attract but we (in both senses) are still responsible for what we are attracted to (regard as “sacred”).

      • dmf says:

        except it hasn’t been established that we can actually develop “metapooietic” skills, just gestured at, and leaves open the question of what is a suitable measure/method for (response to) such bright intensities, to equate the sacred with the attractive seems to lose the Gods rather than return them, along Rortyian lines I’m fine with that but ATS seems to want more

      • david leech says:

        I don’t read ATS as wanting more than the phenomenon of an external (external to self) source of mattering. But, as I said above, its time to give it another read.

  45. dmf says:

    here is Sean and others on a topic that could use it’s own post:

  46. dmf says:

    unless Sean returns it seems to me that the conversation is now best served by TB’s blog:

  47. Lew says:

    I don’t know why, but the hope of getting to listen in on Sean’s Heidegger-Kant course still remains with me. Call me foolish!

    • Sean D. Kelly says:

      It will come!


    • david leech says:

      How does one guage the thickness of the line that separates hopefullness from foolishness? One way surely is pragmatic: a hope fulfilled is separated from foolishness by a thick line. Sean’s response indicates that your (our) hopefullness will not be in vain.

      I’ve been preparing. While I am not up to tackling the first and second critiques head on, after my day job, someone I respect sugested that the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics could be read as the “First Critique for Dummies” and the General Introduction to the Metaphysics of Morals could be read as the “Second Critique for Dummies.” I’ve been pecking away at them.

      Dreyfus’ posted lectures on B&T and Later Heidegger, and his Commentary — as I recall — don’t require serious familiarity with Kant. (Thank goodness!) That is, he doesn’t approach Heidegger as a confrontation with Kant but rather as a confrontation with Descartes and Husserl. (The Latter Heidegger lectures presents Kant as the fullfillment of Descartes, but still, that Kantian apparatusdoesn’t present a hurdle.) William Richardson’s tome on Heidegger starts with Heidegger’s Kant lectures; Bill Blattners Heidegger’s Temporal Idealism requires familiarity with Kant’s problematic; and it seems that any discussion of Heidegger’s intellectual genesis (Kesiel/Van Buren requires familiarity with Neo-Kantians at least (Kant, once removed or so).

      So I am really looking forward to Sean’s Heidegger-Kant course. Perhaps I finally get this monkey off my back!

      Sean: thanks for chiming in.

  48. david leech says:


    One suspects a secret, and perhaps confused or off-axis, admirer of ATS.

    • david leech says:

      Interesting too that the author is a professor of business ethics. Its not a subject that I have paid any attention to but it dawns on me that it could be/should be on my radar as I navigate and develop the intersection of Heidegger and economic thought in my market-is-a-work-of-art thesis.

  49. Frank says:

    this image immediately made me think of poor ol’Pip from when he was stranded alone in the open sea “…but the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! Who can tell it?”


    • Charlie says:

      Interesting, and I suspect we could draw from Sean’s earlier question on ATS being a theological project. But, to ask a rhetorical and specific question: would the uncomfortable Nietzschean revaluation be the secular alternative? The diatribe against levelization/liberalism/Christianity is systematic, circumscribing Philosophy in the process. In fact, it’s built on Schopenhauer’s pessimism, so the lineage is pure. Maybe at least illustrative of the sacrifices?

      BTW, dmf, I’ve turned into a huge fan of Ross Douthat. He not (yet) in the pantheon of the Economist editorial board, but a welcome non-partisan voice. His upcoming book on religion should be thought provoking.


      • dmf says:

        hi charlie, douthat of the nytimes? if so how is he non-partisan?
        Critchely’s question of whether or not we can believe in a value/idea/story that we know to be a fiction is an interesting one but I wish he was closer to ATS in understanding how intuitions/drives are largely non-conceptual. for some earlier work along these lines see:
        best, d.

  50. Charlie says:

    In so many ways it does come back to ATS because modernity has shattered virtually all norms. I mentioned the “fairer” Douthat because I think his critique of Christianity will be interesting. It’s reflective of our pseudo culture. Philosophy is neutered. The hegemony of the West is over, and consumerism will soon rule China. What is left but a practical phenomenology?

    • dmf says:

      as long as “practical” phenomenology doesn’t include anything like an objective sense of truth or quality than I would say that we are well on our ways to individualized gay sciences and may a 1,000 flowers bloom but than that wouldn’t be a return to ATS but a move beyond the dream of collective un-consciousnesses…

      • Charlie says:

        I don’t think it leaves us with objectivity. I think we can safely conclude that the “failure” of Philosophy has taught us that the discipline is mostly a process. But, as Nietzsche would argue, some interpretations are more valuable. I think it brings us back to ATS because it’s more than the vapidity of modern diversions. As Sean artfully highlighted, we are normatively bankrupt. If the horse is out of the barn, now what? Which is why I think Douthat’s critique of modern Christianity may prove interesting. The wild card is whether Sean can pull a rabbit out a hat weaving Kierkegaard into his narrative. Personally, I would like to make lemonade out of lemons

  51. Charlie says:

    So much for phenomenology, dmf. It’s soylent green after all. Not much of a leap to siri-enabled contact lenses that store your life’s video in the cloud. Think of the productivity gains -jurisprudence for dummies. The commercial opportunities abound. We are going to need a ton of energy to store all this data. How about a top ten whooshing experiences for 2051? Pay per view, of course


  52. Eusebius says:

    Any chance we might get to think along with Kelly, Kant, Heidegger and Boyle this summer? Fingers crossed that that Heidegger Kant course might be cherished by ATS fans some day!

  53. Eusebius says:

    Sorry to be so annoying, but Sean, any updates on the Heidegger-Kant recordings? If you cannot put them up might I request that you let us know? That would dissipate expectations and thereby save you from extra pestering! My most heartfelt thanks to you!

  54. Charlie says:

    I’m sure Sean is operating at well above the capacity of most mortals, so don’t begrudge him for his absence. Excuse the hijacking as I seek suggestions for other interesting philosophy blogs for this (long) former Philosophy student. There’s an explosion of content, but I have found precious few instances of informed philosophical debate on the web. The dialogue here was by far the best that I’d stumbled upon. All suggestions welcome for a non-Academic (dare I say financial executive?) seeking refuge. Otherwise, I will wait patiently for the ATS follow-up that brings Kierkegaard into the phenomenological fold, which hopefully seeds renewed dialogue here. Cheers

  55. Sean D. Kelly says:

    Rather than above the capacity of mortals, I fear the opposite: for some time now I have been overwhelmed by the dual responsibilities of childcare and administration. But I have a sabbatical now, and I hope to return here soon. Huge apologies if I have disappointed people in the meantime!

    • Eusebius says:

      Great to hear from you Sean! I hope all is very well and blessed in your life. I do look forward to your return to this site and am happy to wait for it as long as as is required. One thing thinking can teach us is extraordinary patience. In the meantime, I’ve been reading a book which presents an important counterposition to All Things, namely, Robert Pippin’s “Modernism as a Philosophical Problem.” If one is familar with Hegel and Heidegger, then one cannot help but see something significant in the confrontation of the thought-traditions these thinkers have bequeathed us. I believe one can gain a faint intimation of this confrontation by reading All Things Shining in tandem with Modernism as a Philosophical Problem.

    • dmfant says:

      No worries, life is messy and demanding and these kinds of exchanges, like other moments of reflection, are welcome as they come and even as they go.
      TBlake has been doing yeoman’s work in not just keeping the conversation going but by my accounts moving it steadily forward but a return to a common base of thought might be fruitful in terms of widening the conversation as has been the case here before.

  56. Charlie says:

    Excellent news Sean. The New Year brings good tidings. Watching the political dysfunction (with a Nozick/Rawls-like divide) I was getting a tad depressed – wondering if we are witnessing the death of Athenian democracy. In weaker moments, watching self interest prevail, I began reconsidering the scope of Nietzsche’s insights. There’s so much at stake in fixing our welfare state. And we still haven’t found the Higgs Boson. There is much to discuss. But the democratization of the sacred demands top billing. Cheers

  57. terenceblake says:

    I am glad you are back Sean, and that others are manifesting themselves. I am looking forward to the next book, and I hope we can have access to some podcast courses in the meantime. I have been following the guiding thread of pluralism on my blog and am eager for the discussion to diversify once again.

  58. Andrew Nolan says:

    The way I *prefer* to see Logos in John is the way Heraclitus uses it: wisdom. Or else in a more postmodern sense it may refer to the power of ‘word’ or naming things (as in Genesis).

    • terenceblake says:

      The way I prefer to see John is as a Gnostic text about Christ, ie as ignoring the existence of jesus, because there is no reason to believe that he actually existed; The way i prefer to see Logos is as the “principle of sufficient philosophy” as described by Laruelle, ie as a strucure of subjection of the real to philosophical sufficiency.

      • dmfant says:

        some of the recent philosophical readings of the life changing conversion experience of St.Paul might be a useful pivot away from more theological trends and into thinking about intuitions/callings/moods/faith-commitments/etc, but I say we just skip the all to vague and overburdened biblical sources all together and in the spirit (but not the words) of Emerson take up the living phenomena more directly/concretely, how often does one get to work things thru with one of the few people actually doing phenomenology the way that our good host is?

  59. david leech says:

    Here is a proposition — work project — in the spirit of what dmf suggests:

    I propose that we talk about (explore) the phenomenon of “conversion.” Not so quick! I don’t mean St. Paul’s conversion experience, or anything “like” William James’ discussion of “conversion” (although, personally, I might be inclined to start there to peel back the onion of “kinds of coversion” to the underlying phenomenon). I want to get back to the thing itself in Husserl’s sense. What is the structure of the underlying experience of seeing in a new light? (I switch metaphors from “light” to “currents” and “streams”.) What are its kinds? Where does it start? What are its boundaries?

    Does this have anything to do with something essential in ATS: the development of metapoietic skills? Perhaps. If we are striving to develop the capability for negotiating between “dark,” perhaps exclusive, moods, given from outside us, and more inclusive ones, are those skills the root of seeing in a new light (a “conversion-like” experience) or the result? Are the experiences of negotiating (“swimming with or against” may be a better metaphor: “the stream” comes from outside us) different facets of the same experience? In other words, if there are different currents for us to be guided by, what is the structure of the experience of staying with the flow, maintaining ones position with respect to it, or swimming away?

    • dmfant says:

      cultivating “metapoietic skills” does seem to be the key point/hinge in a future for ATS, gets to the ethical questions/possibilities raised by the book and its critics and is in keeping with the phenomenological question of aspect-dawning, how is it that things appear to us, strike us, maybe even lead us as they do, what skills/functions/e(a)ffects/environs/etc are involved and how can they be sublimated. I haven’t read Alva Noe’s new book “Varieties of Presence” yet but some of his related papers take up similar subjects of inquiry/experimentation.
      is this more or less what you are pointing to?

  60. Charlie says:

    Speaking of Logos…has anyone been following the news on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer? Nearly, what, 3,000 years ago Heraclitus told us everything is in flux and we can’t step into the same river twice – and we still can’t account for a huge portion of matter (and have no theory that works at all scales). These inferential conclusions – that colliding particles we can’t see leave residual positrons, or that existing particles might acquire mass from field interaction (Higgs Boson) – suspiciously remind me of other conduit/deductive fallacies (i.e. ether propagating light). Not much to show for $25B in colliders and cosmic ray detectors. This divine reason is proving to be quite expensive

    • dmfant says:

      hey Charlie, I’m still struggling to get a grip on the lived world that I stumble my way through so I leave the big picture to those with a God’s eye view and some math skills, hope life is treating you well, cheers.

      • Charlie says:

        Thanks DMF, yes – no complaints, and I hope you are well. I am making the best of things on the back 9 of life. I think the golden years officially start @ 60 so I have a little runway left. Tracking the latest on scientific front is my form of religion – drawing from Spinoza where understanding the natural scheme of things brings tranquility. I’m convinced my love of nature is meaningful. Brian Greene does the best job of making the leading edge of physics comprehensible. Maybe the striving for knowledge is overplayed as a virtue and just a great diversion? But the broader Stoicism is a powerful tool for the lived world. Cheers

      • dmfant says:

        I tend to read more earthbound sciences as I don’t really grasp the truly macro (or micro) but certainly nothing wrong with wonder and as long as things are meaningful to you than that’s meaning enough.

  61. Eusebius says:

    Any word on the Heidegger-Kant lectures?

  62. Charlie says:

    DMF, that recommendation looks like my speed – thank you. Speaking of nothing, how about this modern example of vacuity. Reality TV would get a tad boring watching people die on a one way ticket to Mars. Clever CEO using the media spectacle to pique the interest of aerospace companies. I suspect the people who died trying to get there would be canonized, but after they land and dig a few holes the ratings would drop precipitously


  63. Charlie says:

    Good wishes to all who still check this site. I hesitate to lose the bookmark…just in case Sean weaves Kierkegaard into the ATS fabric in the next work.

    Watching Twitter price to a $18B market cap and then melt up on the first trading day led me consider a potential irony. In the 2 years since this blog has been active there has been remarkable traction in social media, including enormous value creation. I am not a user or even a fan of these sites, but I wonder if technology is mutating into a force for hastening and enabling the “democratization of the sacred”. Specifically, in expanding meaningful, shared experiences. There are a host of virtual shinings now. Perhaps instagram is the most obvious example. Playing Alvin Toffler, might this be the front edge of a different sort of democratization – a future with real time decisioning and (we can only hope) governance. Nothing reifies collective action like commerce (e.g. Groupon). Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think sharing pictures of finger nail polish is going to replace the classics, but…perhaps technology is the mixed bag we should expect with hitherto unimagined distributive power. In sum, appearances might be deceiving and everyone peering at smartphones is not the ultimate nihilism. Even if we don’t create meaning with social media the divine value creation is a good – ultimately trickling down to endowments and charities.

  64. Can anyone simply write the quotation from Plato’s work on the “Logos” please?

  65. Keith says:

    In “arche” (the single material of which the entire universe is composed) was the “logos” (rational expression) and the logos was “toward” God and the logos was God

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