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The Human Eros

Eco-ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence

Thomas M. Alexander

Publication Year: 2013

The Human Eros: Eco-ontology and the Aesthetics of Existence explores themes in classical American philosophy, primarily that of John Dewey, but also in the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Santayana, and Native American traditions. The primary claim is that human beings exist with a need for the experience of meaning and value, a “Human Eros.” Our various cultures are symbolic environments or “spiritual ecologies” within which the Human Eros can thrive. This is how we inhabit the earth. Encircling and sustaining our cultural existence is nature. Western philosophy has not generally provided adequate conceptual models for thinking ecologically. Thus the idea of “eco-ontology” undertakes to explore ways in which this might be done beginning with the primacy of Nature over Being, but also including the recognition of possibility and potentiality as inherent aspects of existence. I argue for the centrality of Dewey for an effective ecological philosophy. Both “pragmatism” and “naturalism” need to be contextualized within an emergentist, relational, non-reductive view of nature and an aesthetic, imaginative, non-reductive view of intelligence.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction

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pp. 1-24

The essays gathered here, spanning over two decades, represent my own attempts to explore what may be called an “aesthetics of human existence” in terms of an ecological, humanistic naturalism.1 They include extensions of my earlier interpretation of the philosophy of John Dewey as well as studies of the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson and George...

PART ONE NATURE AND EXPERIENCE

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One The Aesthetics of Reality

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pp. 27-53

The period between Dewey’s emergence as a major philosophical voice and his becoming the leading figure in the movement that became known as “pragmatism” is not well understood. That it was something of a mystery to Dewey himself is evident by the prominence ...

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Two Dewey´s Denotative-Empirical Method

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pp. 54-71

In teaching Experience and Nature, I once had my students do a one-page writing assignment after having read both versions of Dewey’s first chapter, “Experience and Philosophic Method.” The question was, “What is Dewey’s Denotative-Empirical Method?” They were forewarned—did not Dewey himself feel compelled to rewrite the whole first chapter for...

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Three Between Being and Emptiness

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pp. 72-102

Philosophy today stands in a problematic relationship to wisdom. Introductory texts still relish defining philosophia as “the love of wisdom.”1 But, as anyone reading on discovers, the ideal of wisdom itself is long gone. In its place is the view that philosophy provides exceedingly clever and confl icting answers to puzzles that do not particularly relate...

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Four The Being of Nature

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pp. 103-132

American philosophy has been dominated by the theme of “Nature.”1 From Edwards to Emerson to Dewey to Dennett, American thought has variously invoked Nature. But to articulate a philosophy of Nature is not thereby to espouse a form of “naturalism.” In fact, philosophies undertaken in the name of “naturalism” seem to have a different...

PART TWO EROS AND IMAGINATION

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Five The Human Eros

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pp. 135-158

I wish here to explore the relation between our desire to exist meaningfully through action and the question that this poses for philosophy. My thesis is simple: We are erotic beings. Our Eros, however, is neither divine nor animal. It is distinctively human: We are beings who seek meaning imaginatively through each other, and the locus of this transformative...

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Six Pragmatic Imagination

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pp. 159-179

Pragmatism originated as a movement that sought to clarify meaning in terms of action. We recall the phrasing of Peirce’s famous maxim: “Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the ...

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Seven John Dewey and the Moral Imagination

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pp. 180-206

The last decades have witnessed an important series of changes in Anglo-American philosophy, not least of which has been the revival of an interest in the classical phase of American pragmatism. The work of the pragmatists seems once again to speak to the current philosophical dilemmas. Former “analytic philosophers” like the late Richard Rorty,...

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Eight Educating the Democratic Heart

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pp. 207-224

Though Dewey is frequently recalled primarily as an educational theorist, it would be better to remember him as a philosopher who located every aspect of his thought within the general problematic of the nature and purpose of the democratic life. Dewey’s theory of education is guided by his conception of what a democratic culture must be. Every ...

PART THREE AESTHETICS OF EXISTENCE

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Nine Love Calls Us to Things of This World

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pp. 227-242

One of the most fascinating and totally unproductive exchanges between two major American philosophers commenced with Santayana’s review of Dewey’s Experience and Nature and Dewey’s rather testy rejoinder, “Half-Hearted Naturalism.” Santayana’s review was perversely insightful, highlighting in Dewey’s metaphysics just about...

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Ten Mountains and Rivers Without End

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pp. 244-262

In many ways Chinese and Western philosophy offer a series of vivid contrasts going all the way back to their respective origins, so that the very idea of philosophy itself stands in contrast. The West begins with the Greeks and their speculative wonder at nature. The original question for ...

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Eleven Creating With Coyote

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pp. 263-283

In this essay, I want to address the problem of creativity largely through the eyes and voices of Native North American traditions. The theme of creativity, however, is so deeply tied up with fundamental commitments of the West that I will have to postpone the examination of the Native American traditions for a brief synopsis of what I take to be the key...

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Twelve Tricksters and Shamans

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pp. 284-300

This essay is at once an effort to present something of a synopsis of views I have been developing over the past decade as well as to articulate that aspect of them that falls under the area of aisthēsis, by which I mean the “aesthetic” reconceived as ecstatic, transformative existence. Aisthēsis is a mode of participatory existence in which the immediacy or ...

PART FOUR SPIRIT AND PHILOSOPHY

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Thirteen Santayana´s Sage

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pp. 303-328

In his “General Review” at the end of Realms of Being, Santayana observes that “my philosophy is like that of the ancients a discipline of the mind and heart, a lay religion.”1 I intend to take this remark seriously and to explore what “a discipline of the mind and heart” means. Santayana was a careful writer, so already we should remark on those three key ...

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Fourteen Beauty and the Labyrinth of Evil

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pp. 329-351

Among the thinkers of the past century who offer themselves to the future for its reflection, Santayana must stand out as a singular figure, one whose thought is dedicated to the overarching possibility of the spiritual life undertaken without religious faith or metaphysical dogma. Among the throngs that fill the philosophical bestiary of the...

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Fifteen The Spirituality of the Possible in John Dewey´s a Common Faith

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pp. 366-391

It is more than an understatement to say that philosophy today is not associated with “spirituality.” Professional philosophers disdain the topic. Some may try to approach it with a philosophical method, analytic or phenomenological, that is not itself inherently spiritual but cognitive. Those philosophers writing within a spiritual tradition—for example,...

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Sixteen Eros and Spirit

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pp. 392-422

"Philosophy and Civilization” is one of Dewey’s most important—and most neglected—essays. It is unsettling to anyone who wants to think of Dewey primarily as a “pragmatist,” since Dewey says the aim of philosophy should be to deal with the meaning of culture and not “inquiry” or “truth.” He says, “Meaning is wider in scope as well as more...

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Bibliographic Essay on Resources for Native American Thought

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pp. 423-430

The literature concerning Native North American worldviews and religious attitudes is immense and overwhelming. The purpose of this analytical bibliography is to highlight those titles which may be of use to those who wish to incorporate Native American ideas into their existing courses on American philosophy or who wish to begin the long, fascinating...

Index

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pp. 431-436

American Philosophy

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pp. 437-442


E-ISBN-13: 9780823251223
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823251209

Page Count: 432
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth
Series Title: American Philosophy