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Human Destinies

Philosophical Essays in Memory of Gerald Hanratty

Frank O'Rourke

Publication Year: 2012

From 1968 until his death in 2003, Gerald Hanratty was professor of philosophy at University College Dublin. In this volume to his memory, Fran O'Rourke has assembled twenty-six essays reflecting Hanratty's broad philosophical interests, dealing with central questions of human existence and the ultimate meaning of the universe. Whether engaged in historical investigations into Gnosticism or the Enlightenment, Hanratty was concerned with fundamental themes in the philosophy of religion and philosophical anthropology. Human Destinies brings together a wide range of approaches to central questions of human nature and destiny. Included are historical studies of classical thinkers of the ancient and medieval periods (Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas) and of modern authors (Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Marcel, Adorno, Derrida, Plantinga, Scruton).

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-18

To his colleagues and many friends, the news of Gerald Hanratty’s unexpected death on 9 October 2003 came as a deeply personal shock. Gerry was a profound, simple, and uncomplicated person, universally held in fond regard; one never heard even the slightest negative comment about him—lamentably...

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Chapter One: Human Nature and Destiny in Aristotle

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pp. 19-55

Aristotle’s inquiry into human nature is manifold and far-reaching.1 Each aspect of his philosophy discloses an understanding of man as unique—distinguished by his diversity. Aristotle’s man merits the Odyssean epithet πολύτροπος: of many turns, versatile and resourceful. Superficially his creative and...

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Chapter Two: Aristotle’s Self

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pp. 56-80

The preoccupation with the self or subjectivity is one of the distinctive features of modern philosophy, understood as the tradition that goes back to Descartes. The turn to the self is centrally present in Descartes: the self or ego is the fons et origo of his philosophical system. Everything else is ultimately to be...

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Chapter Three: Mechanisms That Respond to Reasons

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pp. 81-97

Are there any mechanisms in the natural world that respond to reasons— that are sensitive to considerations about what they should do? I think the answer is that there are approximately 6.6 billion of them on this planet alone. This is not to say that there is nothing more to being a person than being...

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Chapter Four: Plotinus on Fate and Free Will

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pp. 98-111

To assert man’s dignity and freedom in respect of the world around him had been a main concern of most Greek philosophers from the Hellenistic age onwards. The Epicureans had removed what to them seemed to be the restricting force of “providence” by denying the existence of a divinely planned...

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Chapter Five: A Zealous Convert

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pp. 112-133

Twelve books—no less than half of Augustine’s prodigious output in the fifteen years after his conversion—were directly aimed at countering the teaching of the Manichaeans. In many of the others written during this lengthy period, the effects of his struggle to free himself from the teachings of this...

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Chapter Six: Answering Back

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pp. 134-184

Belatedness is the fate of philosophers with regard to significant thinkers who have gone before. The greater the intellectual and spiritual achievement of the earlier thinker, the greater the authority enjoyed by his or her texts, the less opportunity for genuine contribution or prospect for genuine novelty...

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Chapter Seven: Man’s Natural Condition

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pp. 185-196

In his Lectures on Genesis (chapter 3) Martin Luther writes: “It is a cause for great error when some men minimize this evil [original sin] and speak of our depraved nature in the manner of the philosophers, as though it were not depraved.” He further explains his view of this teaching...

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Chapter Eight: Philosophical Sources of Aquinas’ Quarta Via

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pp. 197-223

In his “fourth way” of showing that God exists, Aquinas argues for the existence of an absolutely supreme being from the degrees of perfection observed in the things about us: The fourth way is taken from varying degrees which are found in things. For among things one finds that some are more and less good, true, noble, etc. But more...

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Chapter Nine: Philosophy and Its Value

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pp. 223-251

In this essay I propose to first outline the nature of philosophy as emerging from the human desire to know, and from its early expression as the native wisdom or folk philosophy present to some degree in every developing mind. I will then comment on its contribution to three areas of life: ethics...

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Chapter Ten: Kant and Dennett on the Epistemic Status of Teleological Principles

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pp. 252-270

In the second half of his Critique of the Power of Judgment (Kritik der Urtheilskraft, 1790), which concerns teleological judgment, Kant presents an antinomy between two regulative principles or maxims of reflecting (or “reflective”) judgment.1 The first maxim, which we may call the “mechanistic maxim,” appears to affirm the sufficiency of mechanistic principles to explain the possibility...

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Chapter Eleven: Human Nature and One-Eyed Reason

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pp. 271-289

Gerry Hanratty distrusted the Enlightenment project. In undergraduate lectures his favorite quotation was that of Whitehead describing the Enlightenment as “the age of one-eyed reason.” To undergraduate minds, such criticisms seemed like heresy—a true treason of the clerks. But Gerry’s...

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Chapter Twelve: Relativism and Religious Diversity

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pp. 290-311

Cultural diversity creates not only sociopolitical but also philosophical headaches. The Encyclopedia Britannica estimates that there are about ten thousand distinct religions, of which 150 have at least one million followers. According to other methods of individuation, there are nineteen major world religions...

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Chapter Thirteen: The Plagues of Desecration

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pp. 312-336

Twenty years ago the English philosopher Roger Scruton published a remarkably prescient essay entitled “The Philosopher on Dover Beach.”1 The title was a play on Matthew Arnold’s richly construed poem “Dover Beach” (1851), in which the poet agonizes over the decline in religious faith...

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Chapter Fourteen: Dawkins’ Fear of Reason

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pp. 337-365

No one who has read The Selfish Gene or has drawn on his wonderfully presented The Ancestor’s Tale will be inclined to speak ill of Richard Dawkins’ intelligence and ability to present a case persuasively.1 That is why The God Delusion is so surprisingly less than persuasive.2 Is it because, as Thomas Nagel wrote in...

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Chapter Fifteen: The Experiential Argument for the Existence of God in Gabriel Marcel and Alvin Plantinga

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pp. 366-387

In these brief reflections, I wish to explore and extend Gabriel Marcel’s approach to the question of the existence of God. I believe that Marcel’s work offers many profound insights on the subject that have not received sufficient attention or appreciation. Indeed, within contemporary philosophy of...

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Chapter Sixteen: A Secular Spirituality?

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pp. 388-414

We live in a time of energetic argument for which, in the United States, the phrase “the culture wars” has for some time now been current. For some in these wars the conception of an argument is evidentially supported reason, for others it means assertions supported by intuitions or by the authoritative interpretation...

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Chapter Seventeen: Eucharistic Imagination in Merleau-Ponty and James Joyce

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pp. 415-433

Some of my best memories of Gerald Hanratty are of various conversations, when I was a student and later a colleague of his at University College Dublin, on the philosophy of religion. His passion for interdisciplinary research, spanning philosophy, theology, history, and the arts, was infectious, and I always guarded a deep admiration for his generous method and...

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Chapter Eighteen: Immanence, Self-Experience, and Transcendence in Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, and Karl Jaspers

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pp. 434-467

Phenomenology’s relationship with the concept of transcendence is not at all straightforward. Indeed, phenomenology, from its inception, has had an ambiguous, uneasy relationship with transcendence, with the wholly other, the numinous. Phenomenology, as the French philosopher Jean-Luc Marion...

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Chapter Nineteen: Presuming the Other from Stein to Husserl

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pp. 468-490

Habent sua fata libelli. “Books have their fate.” With this time-honored maxim begins Erwin Straus’ eloquent foreword to the English translation of Edith Stein’s work from 1917, Zum Problem der Einfühlung.1 Rendered into English by Waltraut Stein, a grand-niece of the author, that 1964 edition comprised an account of the problems of intersubjective experience that was as full...

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Chapter Twenty: The Unity of Thought in Aristotle, Kant, and Heidegger

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pp. 491-518

At the end of the spirited “theological” book (XII) of his Metaphysics, Aristotle cites the words of Athena from the Iliad: “A multitude of leaders is not good—let there be one leader!”1 Within its immediate theoretical context the purpose of Aristotle’s citation is to underscore his insistence on the necessity...

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Chapter Twenty-one: Communication, Struggle, and Human Destiny

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pp. 519-542

In an essay entitled “Urbanisation et confrontations culturelles,” Thierry Paquot observes that philosophy is a part of the city as the city is a part of philosophy. He illustrates the paradox with reference to ancient philosophy and the city of Athens: “It is in Athens that the philosopher strolls with...

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Chapter Twenty-two: Forgetting Aristotle?

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pp. 543-562

Philosophers are worth reading also when they do not get it quite right. For even then they set us on the path to further interrogation. To this purpose, arguably there are few as inspiring as Aristotle and Heidegger: veritable masters of probing heuristic. It is ironic that the philosopher who indicted his contemporaries...

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Chapter Twenty-three: Immanent Transcendence?

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pp. 563-587

Contemporary philosophy generally sees itself as decisively postmetaphysical. It consciously avoids seeking to justify its explanations of the world or its phenomena in terms, concepts, or principles that might be understood to be in some sense “world transcending,” that is, metaphysical. In this respect...

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Chapter Twenty-four: On Losing Uniqueness

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pp. 588-617

It is my hope in the following essay that something of the spirit of Gerry Hanratty’s view of philosophical explication will be discernible. I recall his remarking that, in its operation, the ideal of economy can result in theses that are inadequate to lived experience. Ockham’s razor is sometimes employed...

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Chapter Twenty-five: The Person and the Common Good

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pp. 618-646

The title has been chosen to recall the masterpiece of concision published by Jacques Maritain under the same name over forty years ago.1 He too had concluded that the political language by which we juxtapose the “individual” and the “common good” had doomed the possibility of recomposing...

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Chapter Twenty-six: Ethics and Economics

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pp. 647-662

In the film Heavens Above! (1963), Peter Sellers plays a Church of England prison chaplain who is mistakenly appointed to an affluent rural area. He has ill-digested notions of social justice which he attempts to put into effect in his new parish with comically disastrous results for all concerned, including...


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pp. 663-671


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pp. 672-678

E-ISBN-13: 9780268088651
E-ISBN-10: 0268088659
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268037345
Print-ISBN-10: 0268037345

Page Count: 656
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2012