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Aspects of Alterity

Levinas, Marcel, and the Contemporary Debate

Brian Treanor

Every other is truly other, but no other is wholly other.This is the claim that Aspects of Alterity defends. Taking up the question of otherness that so fascinates contemporary continental philosophy, this book asks what it means for something or someone to be other than the self. Levinas and those influenced by him point out that the philosophical tradition of the West has generally favored the self at the expense of the other. Such a self-centered perspective never encounters the other qua other, however. In response, postmodern thought insists on the absolute otherness of the other, epitomized by the deconstructive claim every other is wholly other.But absolute otherness generates problems and aporias of its own. This has led some thinkers to reevaluate the notion of relative otherness in light of the postmodern critique, arguing for a chiastic account that does justice to both the alterity and the similitude of the other. These latter two positions-absolute otherness and a rehabilitated account of relative otherness-are the main contenders in the contemporary debate.The philosophies of Emmanuel Levinas and Gabriel Marcel provide the point of embarkation for coming to understand the two positions on this question. Levinas and Marcel were contemporaries whose philosophies exhibit remarkably similar concern for the other but nevertheless remain fundamentally incompatible. Thus, these two thinkers provide a striking illustration of both the proximity of and the unbridgeable gap between two accounts of otherness.Aspects of Alterity delves into this debate, first in order understand the issues at stake in these two positions and second to determine which description better accounts for the experience of encountering the other.After a thorough assessment and critique of otherness in Levinas's and Marcel's work, including a discussion of the relationship of ethical alterity to theological assumptions, Aspects of Alterity traces the transmission and development of these two conceptions of otherness. Levinas's version of otherness can be seen in the work of Jacques Derrida and John D. Caputo, while Marcel's understanding of otherness influences the work of Paul Ricoeur and Richard Kearney.Ultimately, Aspects of Alterity makes a case for a hermeneutic account of otherness. Otherness itself is not absolute, but is a chiasm of alterity and similitude. Properly articulated, such an account is capable of addressing the legitimate ethical and epistemological concerns that lead thinkers to construe otherness in absolute terms, but without the absolute aporiasthat accompany such a characterization.

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Aspiring to Fullness in a Secular Age

Essays on Religion and Theology in the Work of Charles Taylor

edited by Carlos D. Colorado and Justin D. Klassen

Aspiring to Fullness in a Secular Age, whose title is inspired by Charles Taylor's magisterial A Secular Age, offers a host of expert analyses of the religious and theological threads running throughout Taylor’s oeuvre, illuminating further his approaches to morality, politics, history, and philosophy. Although the scope of Taylor’s insight into modern secularity has been widely recognized by his fellow social theorists and philosophers, Aspiring to Fullness focuses on Taylor's insights regarding questions of religious experience. It is with a view to such experience that the volume’s contributors consider and assess Taylor’s broad analysis of the limits and potentialities of the present age in regard to human fullness or fulfillment. The essays in this volume address crucial questions about the function and significance of religious accounts of transcendence in Taylor’s overall philosophical project; the critical purchase and limitations of Taylor’s assessment of the centrality of codes and institutions in modern political ethics; the possibilities inherent in Taylor’s brand of post-Nietzschean theism; the significance and meaning of Taylor’s ambivalence about modern destiny; the possibility of a practical application of his insights within particular contemporary religious communities; and the overall implications of Taylor’s thought for theology and philosophy of religion. Although some commentators have referred to a recent religious “turn” in Taylor’s work, the contributors to Aspiring to Fullness in a Secular Age examine the ways in which transcendence functions, both explicitly and implicitly, in Taylor’s philosophical project as a whole.

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The Assemblage Brain

Sense Making in Neuroculture

Tony D. Sampson

Once upon a time, neuroscience was born. A dazzling array of neurotechnologies emerged that, according to popular belief, have finally begun to unlock the secrets of the brain. But as the brain sciences now extend into all corners of cultural, social, political, and economic life, a yet newer world has taken shape: “neuroculture,” which goes further than ever before to tackle the profound ethical implications we face in consequence.

The Assemblage Brain unveils a major new concept of sense making, one that challenges conventional scientific and philosophical understandings of the brain. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattari, Tony D. Sampson calls for a radical critical theory that operates in the interferences between philosophy, science, art, and politics. From this novel perspective the book is structured around two questions: “What can be done to a brain?” and “What can a brain do?” Sampson examines the rise of neuroeconomics in informing significant developments in computer work, marketing, and the neuropharmaceutical control of inattentiveness in the classroom. Moving beyond the neurocapitalist framework, he then reestablishes a place for proto-subjectivity in which biological and cultural distinctions are reintegrated in an understanding of the brain as an assemblage. 

The Assemblage Brain unravels the conventional image of thought that underpins many scientific and philosophical accounts of how sense is produced, providing a new view of our current time in which capitalism and the neurosciences endeavor to colonize the brain. 

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Assisted Suicide

Canadian Perspectives

Edited by C. G. Prado

When it became possible to extend the dying process, it became necessary to decide when to stop doing so because of the enormous personal and social costs. But perspectives on "assisted suicide" vary greatly. Physicians see it as a medical issue, jurists as a legal issue, philosophers as a moral issue and the media as a political issue. These original essays show how these perspectives shape the ongoing debate.

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At the Limits of Political Philosophy

From "Brilliant Errors" to Things of Uncommon Importance

James V. Schall

James V. Schall presents, in a convincing and articulate manner, the revelational contribution to political philosophy, particularly that which comes out of the Roman Catholic tradition.

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Auden's O

The Loss of One's Sovereignty in the Making of Nothing

Andrew W. Hass

Explores the rise of the idea of nothing in Western modernity and how its figuration is transforming and offering new possibilities.

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Augustine and Academic Skepticism

A Philosophical Study

by Blake D. Dutton

Among the most important, but frequently neglected, figures in the history of debates over skepticism is Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE). His early dialogue, Against the Academics, together with substantial material from his other writings, constitutes a sustained attempt to respond to the tradition of skepticism with which he was familiar. This was the tradition of Academic skepticism, which had its home in Plato's Academy and was transmitted to the Roman world through the writings of Cicero (106–43 BCE). Augustine and Academic Skepticism is the first comprehensive treatment of Augustine’s critique of Academic skepticism. In clear and accessible prose, Blake D. Dutton presents that critique as a serious work of philosophy and engages with it precisely as such.

While Dutton provides an extensive review of Academic skepticism and Augustine’s encounter with it, his primary concern is to articulate and evaluate Augustine’s strategy to discredit Academic skepticism as a philosophical practice and vindicate the possibility of knowledge against the Academic denial of that possibility. In doing so, he sheds considerable light on Augustine’s views on philosophical inquiry and the acquisition of knowledge.

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Augustine and Postmodernism

Confessions and Circumfession

John D. Caputo and Michael J. Scanlon, eds.

At the heart of the current surge of interest in religion among contemporary Continental philosophers stands Augustine's Confessions. With Derrida's Circumfession constantly in the background, this volume takes up the provocative readings of Augustine by Heidegger, Lyotard, Arendt, and Ricoeur. Derrida himself presides over and comments on essays by major Continental philosophers and internationally recognized Augustine scholars. While studies on and about Augustine as a philosopher abound, none approach his work from such a uniquely postmodern point of view, showing both the continuing relevance of Augustine and the religious resonances within postmodernism. Posed at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and religious studies, this book will be of interest to scholars and students of Augustine as well as those interested in the invigorating discussion between philosophy, religion, and postmodernism.

Contributors include Geoffrey Bennington, Philippe Capelle, John D. Caputo, Elizabeth A. Clark, Hent de Vries, Jacques Derrida, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Richard Kearney, Catherine Malabou, James O'Donnell, Michael J. Scanlon, and Mark Vessey.

Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion -- Merold Westphal, general editor

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Augustine and the Cure of Souls

Revising a Classical Ideal

Paul R. Kolbet

Augustine and the Cure of Souls situates Augustine within the ancient philosophical tradition of using words to order emotions. Paul Kolbet uncovers a profound continuity in Augustine’s thought, from his earliest pre-baptismal writings to his final acts as bishop, revealing a man deeply indebted to the Roman past and yet distinctly Christian. Rather than supplanting his classical learning, Augustine’s Christianity reinvigorated precisely those elements of Roman wisdom that he believed were slipping into decadence. In particular, Kolbet addresses the manner in which Augustine not only used classical rhetorical theory to express his theological vision, but also infused it with theological content. This book offers a fresh reading of Augustine’s writings—particularly his numerous, though often neglected, sermons—and provides an accessible point of entry into the great North African bishop’s life and thought.

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Augustine for the Philosophers

The Rhetor of Hippo, the Confessions, and the Continentals

Calvin L. Troup

St. Augustine of Hippo, largely considered the greatest thinker of Christian antiquity, has long dominated theological conversations. Augustine’s legacy as a theologian endures. However, Augustine’s contributions to rhetoric and the philosophy of communication remain relatively uncharted. Augustine for the Philosophers recovers these contributions, revisiting Augustine's prominence in the work of continental philosophers who shaped rhetoric and the philosophy of communication in the twentieth century. Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, Jacques Ellul, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl, Jean-François Lyotard, and Paul Ricoeur are paired with Augustine in significant conversations close to the center of their work. Augustine for the Philosophers dares to hold Augustine’s rhetoric and philosophy in dynamic tension with his Christianity, provoking serious reconsideration of Augustine, his presence in twentieth-century continental thought, and his influence upon modern rhetoric and communication studies.

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