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Adventures in Unfashionable Philosophy

James W. Felt

Publication Year: 2010

Throughout more than forty years of distinguished teaching and scholarship, James W. Felt has been respected for the clarity and economy of his prose and for his distinctive approach to philosophy. The seventeen essays collected in Adventures in Unfashionable Philosophy reflect Felt’s encounters with fundamental philosophical problems in the spirit of traditional metaphysics but updated with modern concerns. Among the main themes of the volume are: the enrichment of Thomistic philosophy through engagement with modern philosophers, Whitehead and Bergson, in particular; considerations of metaphysical method and its effect on philosophic conclusions; the development of a nuanced epistemological realism; and the relation of possibility to actuality and of time to experience.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

The following essays unashamedly pursue metaphysics in the classical but now rather unfashionable sense. During my four decades of challenging undergraduate students with philosophic problems, the essays emerged like mushrooms, unpredictably, and even now seem worth reading for those interested in the problems they address. One readily recognizes their resonance with the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Henri...

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1. On Being Yourself (1968)

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pp. 1-3

“Be yourself!” Psychologists urge this upon us. Philosophers stress it. We increasingly recognize that it is profoundly necessary. But just what does it mean to “be yourself”? In a sense this is a large question, and so I want to focus on just one sense in which I think “Be yourself” is often misunderstood. I attack such a misinterpretation, of course, on the basis of what I believe to be an essential ingredient in what it does mean to “be yourself.”

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2. Invitation to a Philosophic Revolution (1971)

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pp. 4-21

This essay appeared in The New Scholasticism and was written in the flush of early enthusiasm for Whitehead’s “process philosophy.” The essay in fact influenced several other more traditional philosophers to take a harder look at Whitehead’s philosophy. I believe now, however, that whatever its merits, the essay is simplistic in its criticism of traditional thinking, especially that of St. Thomas Aquinas. It is, I think,...

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3. The Temporality of Divine Freedom (1974)

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pp. 22-36

This essay was inspired by a need to complement a major essay by Lewis S. Ford, “The Non-Temporality of Whitehead’s God.”1 Without disagreeing with anything Ford wrote, I was convinced that there was another side of the story that must be worked out if the Whiteheadian viewpoint is to square with revelation and our deepest religious convictions. Ford had admirably described the sense in which, in the...

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4. Philosophic Understanding and the Continuity of Becoming (1978)

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pp. 37-60

This moderately technical essay arose, as I now imagine, out of puzzlement over how central philosophic interpretations of Bergson and of Whitehead concerning the nature of becoming, especially the becoming that is human experiencing, could both be correct. The arguments for both views seemed quite persuasive yet mutually contradictory. Experiencing for Bergson was regarded as continuous, but for...

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5. Transmutation and Whitehead’s Elephant (1981)

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pp. 61-67

This friendly criticism of two aspects of Whitehead’s theory of sense perception was written for delivery at the First International Whitehead-Symposium held in Bonn, Germany, in 1981. The essay raises a problem internal to Whitehead’s philosophy, a problem that did and still does bother me. It also adumbrates a criticism that Whitehead’s philosophy seems to invite from the outside, a criticism of a...

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6. Coming Around Again in Philosophy (1982)

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pp. 68-77

This is the presidential address I gave before the Jesuit Philosophical Association of America in 1982 in Houston. It reflects back on my natural attraction to Bergson’s and Whitehead’s philosophies, particularly as expressed in “Invitation to a Philosophical Revolution” ten years earlier (essay 2), but from the more critical view that the intervening years furnished. In reviewing this address now I notice, with some surprise,...

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7. Impossible Worlds (1983)

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pp. 78-100

The previous essay points out but does not much develop the absurdity of attributing ontological status to the now popular conception of “possible worlds.” The following essay is my first detailed polemic against that very popular fiction cherished by so many contemporary philosophers but destructive of the metaphysical advance made by Aristotle when he introduced the dynamic notion of the potentiality within...

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8. God’s Choice: Reflections on Evil in a Created World (1984)

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pp. 101-109

“Why did God create a world with so much evil in it?” In the face of the evils surrounding us, anyone who believes in the existence of a God who is infinitely powerful, knowing, and good, finds this question arising spontaneously and repeatedly. Although I have cited this question, I have no intention of trying to answer it—not only because evil is the most formidable of problems,...

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9. Whitehead’s Misconception of “Substance” in Aristotle (1985)

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pp. 110-127

My being invited to contribute to a special issue of Process Studies devoted to Whitehead’s relation to other philosophers happened to coincide with my own eagerness to make the following correction, as I saw it (and still do), to what has always had the status of an unquestioned icon among Whiteheadian philosophers, namely, the conviction that “substance” is one of the most disastrous, though long-cherished...

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10. Intuition, Event-Atomism, and the Self (1987)

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pp. 128-140

In 1984 I had the honor of being invited to present a paper at a multidisciplinary conference held in Galveston, Texas, the aim of which was to explore the implications of Henri Bergson’s philosophy for questions arising in contemporary science. Contributors to the conference came from countries as far away as Greece and from sciences as diverse as physics and neuropsychiatry. Among the philosophers was the...

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11. Faces of Time (1987)

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pp. 141-151

The following essay appeared in Thought, a Fordham University journal that unfortunately is no longer being published. Though fairly easy to read, the essay clarifies and develops a Bergsonian idea, already alluded to, of the two radically different conceptions of time that arise from two different ways of using the mind. In particular I suggest, perhaps originally, how the future can be thought to inhere in the...

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12. Fatalism and Truth about the Future (1992)

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pp. 152-168

This essay first appeared in The Thomist, and subsequently as a chapter in my book Making Sense of Your Freedom. It does not pretend to cover this whole issue of the relation of truth to time, controverted since Aristotle, but it may provide an accessible introduction to some aspects of the problem. It stakes out what I still think is a defensible position. Professional philosophers familiar with contemporary...

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13. Relational Realism and the Great Deception of Sense (1994)

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pp. 169-183

The Modern Schoolman was the birthplace of this short piece, an essay that I consider significant, not because I am saying something quite original (I really am not), but because of the importance of the issue for a sound philosophical understanding of sense perception. The basic thesis reaffirms in modern terms the essential view of St. Thomas Aquinas, and does it in stark contrast to a view of perception...

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14. Why Possible Worlds Aren’t (1996)

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pp. 184-197

This essay is parallel to “Impossible Worlds” (essay 7 in this volume), but more sharply focused on the issue itself with less attention to its historical background. Once again I could not resist attacking the contemporary philosophic penchant for thinking that the concept of “possible worlds” illuminates rather than obfuscates the basic metaphysical relation between possibility and actuality, a relation that...

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15. Proposal for a Thomistic-Whiteheadian Metaphysics of Becoming (2000)

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pp. 198-213

This essay is my first tardy response, after some twenty-nine years, to my own invitation (essay 2) to attempt to fuse the better elements of the respective metaphysics of St.Thomas Aquinas of the thirteenth century and Alfred North Whitehead of the twentieth. It was about time—and also about being and becoming. A notion of how such an unlikely merger might be effected had gradually taken...

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16. Epochal Time and the Continuity of Experience (2003)

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pp. 214-231

This is the presidential address delivered to the Metaphysical Society of America at its meeting at Santa Clara University in March 2002. It is as much an essay on metaphysical method as on time, and it draws on ideas developed in earlier essays, especially essay 4 of this volume. I hope the reader will forgive the repetition of some of the principles already invoked, since I still stand by them. But I do...

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17. “Know Yourself!” (2007)

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pp. 232-238

I close this volume with excerpts from the last chapter of my book Aims: A Brief Metaphysics for Today, which constitutes my best development to date of the melding of the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas and of Whitehead that I invited in essay 2 of this volume. I hope it would be fair to say that it amounts to an enriching or modernizing of Thomas’s metaphysics in terms of more contemporary insights.


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pp. 239-266

Index [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 267-274

E-ISBN-13: 9780268079673
E-ISBN-10: 0268079676
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268029029
Print-ISBN-10: 0268029024

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2010