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Essay on a Critique of Life and a Science of Practice
Action was once a prominent theme in philosophical reflection. It figured prominently in Aristotelian philosophy, and the medieval Scholastics built some of their key adages around it. But by the time Maurice Blondel came to focus on it for his own philosophical reflection, it had all but disappeared from the philosophical vocabulary. It is no longer possible or legitimate to ignore action in philosophy as it was in France when Blondel appeared on the scene in 1882, when at the age of 21 he first began to focus on action as a dissertation subject, and in 1893, when he defended and published the dissertation now presented here for the English reader.
This book will appeal to professional scholars and graduate students with an interest in Aristotles ethics and in ethics generally. It proposes comprehensive interpretations of some difficult passages in Aristotles two major ethical works ( the Nicomachean Ethics and the Eudemian Ethics ). It brings to bear upon the analysis of human behavior passages in Aristotles logical works and in his Physics. It also draws connections among areas of particular interest to contemporary ethics: action theory, the analysis of practical reason, and virtue ethics.
Miller's Metaphysics of Democracy
The ancient antagonism between the active and the contemplative lives is taken up in this innovative and wide-ranging examination of John William Miller’s effort to forge a metaphysics of democracy. The Active Life sheds new light on Miller’s actualist philosophy—its scope, its systematic character, and its dialectical form. Michael J. McGandy persuasively sets Miller’s actualism in the context of Hannah Arendt’s understanding of the active life and skillfully presents actualism as a response to Whitman’s challenge to craft a democratic form of metaphysics. McGandy concludes that Miller reveals how the philosophical and the political are inextricably connected, how there is no active life without the contemplative life, and that the contemplative life is founded in the active life.
Causality plays a central role in the way people structure the world; we constantly seek causal explanations for our observations. But what does it even mean that an event C “actually caused” event E? The problem of defining actual causation goes beyond mere philosophical speculation. For example, in many legal arguments, it is precisely what needs to be established in order to determine responsibility. The philosophy literature has been struggling with the problem of defining causality since Hume. In this book, Joseph Halpern explores actual causality, and such related notions as degree of responsibility, degree of blame, and causal explanation. The goal is to arrive at a definition of causality that matches our natural language usage and is helpful, for example, to a jury deciding a legal case, a programmer looking for the line of code that cause some software to fail, or an economist trying to determine whether austerity caused a subsequent depression. Halpern applies and expands an approach to causality that he and Judea Pearl developed, based on structural equations. He carefully formulates a definition of causality, and building on this, defines degree of responsibility, degree of blame, and causal explanation. He concludes by discussing how these ideas can be applied to such practical problems as accountability and program verification. Technical details are generally confined to the final section of each chapter and can be skipped by non-mathematical readers.
At a time of great and increasing interest in the work of Emmanuel Levinas, this volume draws readers into what Levinas described as "philosophy itself" "a discourse always addressed to another." Thus the philosopher himself provides the thread that runs through these essays on his writings, one guided by the importance of the fact of being addressed the significance of the Saying much more than the Said. The authors, leading Levinas scholars and interpreters from across the globe, explore the philosopher's relationship to a wide range of intellectual traditions, including theology, philosophy of culture, Jewish thought, phenomenology, and the history of philosophy. They also engage Levinas's contribution to ethics, politics, law, justice, psychoanalysis and epistemology, among other themes.
The Convent Philosophy of Port-Royal
In seventeenth-century France, southwest of Paris, the Port-Royal convent became the center of the Jansenist movement and of its adherents’ resistance to church and throne. Three abbesses from the Arnauld family spearheaded this resistance: Mère Angélique Arnauld (1591-1661), Mère Agnès Arnauld (1593-1671), and Mère Angélique de Saint-Jean Arnauld d'Andilly (1624-1684). Although many books have been written about the tragic lives of the Port-Royal nuns, John J. Conley provides the first study of the radical Augustinian philosophy developed by these remarkable abbesses during decades of persecution by Louis XIV and his ecclesiastical allies. Openly declaring themselves “disciples of Saint Augustine,” the Arnauld abbesses forged a philosophy notable for its original treatment of the attributes that stressed divine otherness; a moral philosophy of virtue rooted in grace; and a politics that supported the right of women to resist abuses of religious and civil authority. Although their philosophy was clearly influenced by their male Jansenist mentors, the nuns’ radical Augustinianism maintains its own gendered originality: their philosophy of virtue is closely tied to practices valued in a contemplative convent setting; their defense of freedom of conscience is linked to their defense of women’s right to exercise religious authority; and their negative theology, focused on divine incomprehensibility, depicts a God beyond sexual difference. A fascinating account that includes translations ranging from abbatial conferences to private letters, Adoration and Annihilation is an important chronicle of the doctrinal battles of early modern Catholicism.
The Deconstruction of Christianity II
Adoration is the second volume of the Deconstruction of Christianity, following Dis-Enclosure. The first volume attempted to demonstrate why it is necessary to open reason up not to a religious dimension but to one transcending reason as we have been accustomed to understanding it; the term "adoration" attempts to name the gesture of this dis-enclosed reason. Adoration causes us to receive ignorance as truth: not a feigned ignorance, perhaps not even a "nonknowledge," nothing that would attempt to justify the negative again, but the simple, naked truth that there is nothing in the place of God, because there is no place for God. The outside of the world opens us in the midst of the world, and there is no first or final place. Each one of us is at once the first and the last. Each one, each name. And our ignorance is made worse by the fact that we do not know whether we ought to name this common and singular property of all names. We must remain in this suspense, hesitating between and stammering in various possible languages, ultimately learning to speak anew. In this book, Jean-Luc Nancy goes beyond his earlier historical and philosophical thought and tries to think-or at least crack open a little to thinking-a stance or bearing that might be suitable to the retreat of God that results from the self-deconstruction of Christianity. Adoration may be a manner, a style of spirit for our time, a time when the "spiritual" seems to have become so absent, so dry, so adulterated. The book is a major contribution to the important strand of attempts to think a "post-secular" situation of religion.
The American Years
German philosopher and social critic Theodor Adorno (1903--1969) is widely regarded as one of the twentieth century's most influential thinkers. A leading member of the Frankfurt School, Adorno advanced an unconventional type of Marxist analysis in books such as Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), Minima Moralia (1951), and Negative Dialectics (1966). Forced out of Nazi Germany because of his Jewish heritage, Adorno lived in exile in the United States for nearly fifteen years. In Adorno and Democracy, Shannon Mariotti explores how this extended visit prompted a concern for and commitment to democracy that shaped the rest of his work.
Mariotti analyzes the extensive and undervalued works Adorno composed in English for an American audience and traces the development of his political theory during the World War II era. Her unique study examines how Adorno changed his writing style while in the United States in order to directly address the public, which lay at the heart of his theoretical concerns. Despite his apparent contempt for popular culture, his work during this period clearly engages with a broader public in ways that reflect a deep desire to understand the problems and possibilities of democracy as enacted through the customs and habits of Americans. Ultimately, Adorno advances a theory of democratic leadership that works through pedagogy to cultivate a more robust and meaningful practice of citizenship.
Mariotti incisively demonstrates how Adorno's unconventional and challenging interpretations of US culture can add conceptual rigor to political theory and remind Americans of the normative promise of democracy. Adorno and Democracy is an innovative contribution to critical debates about contemporary US politics.
“For those inclined to dismiss Adorno’s take on America as the uncomprehending condescension of a mandarin elitist, David Jenemann’s splendid new book will come as a rude awakening. Exploiting a wealth of new sources, he persuasively shows the depth of Adorno’s engagement with the culture industry and the complexity of his reaction to it.” —Martin Jay, Sidney Hellman Ehrman Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley
The German philosopher and cultural critic Theodor W. Adorno was one of the towering intellectual figures of the twentieth century, and between 1938 and 1953 he lived in exile in the United States. In the first in-depth account of this period of Adorno’s life, David Jenemann examines Adorno’s confrontation with the burgeoning American “culture industry” and casts new light on Adorno’s writings about the mass media. Contrary to the widely held belief—even among his defenders—that Adorno was disconnected from America and disdained its culture, Jenemann reveals that Adorno was an active and engaged participant in cultural and intellectual life during these years.
From the time he first arrived in New York in 1938 to work for the Princeton Radio Research Project, exploring the impact of radio on American society and the maturing marketing strategies of the national radio networks, Adorno was dedicated to understanding the technological and social influence of popular art in the United States. Adorno carried these interests with him to Hollywood, where he and Max Horkheimer attempted to make a film for their Studies in Prejudice Project and where he befriended Thomas Mann and helped him craft his famous novel Doctor Faustus. Shuttling between insightful readings of Adorno’s theories and a rich body of archival materials—including unpublished writings and FBI files—Jenemann paints a portrait of Adorno’s years in New York and Los Angeles and tells the cultural history of an America coming to grips with its rapidly evolving mass culture.
Adorno in America eloquently and persuasively argues for a more complicated, more intimate relationship between Adorno and American society than has ever been previously acknowledged. What emerges is not only an image of an intellectual in exile, but ultimately a rediscovery of Adorno as a potent defender of a vital and intelligent democracy.
David Jenemann is assistant professor of English at the University of Vermont.