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  • The Cosmology of Joseph Grange: Nature, The City, Soul
  • Robert Cummings Neville (bio)

The late Joseph Grange (1940–2014) is perhaps the most sharply focused and elegantly lucid of the group of North American philosophers to build new aesthetic metaphysical visions from the legacies of process philosophy and pragmatism. His peers include, among others, George Allan,1 Roger Ames,2 Chung-ying Cheng,3 Robert Corrington,4 Frederick Ferre,5 Warren Frisina,6 David L. Hall,7 Judith Jones,8 Elizabeth Kraus,9 Hugh P. McDonald,10 Steve Odin,11 Sandra Rosenthal,12 Robert Smid,13 David Weissman,14 and myself, along with our many students and colleagues. This group has widely variant systems, yet what unites us is an emphasis on the aesthetic and a lack of the fear to enter deeply into metaphysics when relevant (though the philosophy of culture, politics, ethics, and education are important for most).15 Whereas the academically dominant developments of process philosophy have been in the direction of Christian theology, most members of this group downplay or outright reject Whitehead’s conceptions of God in favor of the Whiteheadian aesthetic vision for cosmology and metaphysics. Whereas the dominant recent developments of pragmatism have been in ethics and analytical logic, most of us have built rather on the early pragmatists’ flair for systematic philosophy in the grand tradition during a period in which both analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy have flubbed systematic thinking.

Several in this group have seen and built upon the affinity of this conjoint legacy of process philosophy and pragmatism with the large history of Chinese philosophy, especially in its aesthetic emphasis and sense that practical human problems are to be understood in the context of nature conceived with all possible breadth.16 Ames and Hall have significantly set the conversation of East-West comparison, as has Cheng. But Grange and I, and several of our students, including Jim Behuniak, Steve Odin, Warren Frisina, and Robert Smid, have also written with serious attention to Chinese resources and comparative issues. Grange’s John Dewey, Confucius, and Global Philosophy is a masterpiece of sensitive, learned, but beautiful dialogue.17

I have taken pains to call up the intellectual context of Joseph Grange’s philosophy because it is easy to miss what makes him so fine a philosopher. He was not a trained Sinologist, as are most of the contributors to Philosophy East and West, including its editor Roger Ames and our colleague Chung-ying Cheng in this group. Although Grange wrote a solid scholarly dissertation on Whitehead’s approach to tragedy at Fordham University, he did not identify himself as a Whitehead scholar. He also did not write studies of pragmatists in the genre of intellectual history, though he was well versed in that literature. Rather Grange was a philosopher in his own right. There are others of us who share that ambition and honor his contribution. In this [End Page 663] essay I shall focus not on Grange’s explicit interpretation of Chinese philosophy but rather on his systematic metaphysics, which arises in part out of his experience with the Chinese tradition. Any of the authors in this group would be at home in Grange’s work.


In comparative East Asian and Western philosophy it has long been commonplace to note that whereas Western philosophies tend to see sharp distinctions between the individual and society and between the human sphere and environing nature, the East Asian traditions see continuity. More strongly, the East Asian traditions take the broadest sense of the natural cosmos as basic and show how social institutions and the development of individual life with individualized virtues and vices are embedded specializations of the themes and categories descriptive of cosmic nature. When the Hebrew Bible says that humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1 : 26–31), it is as if the whole of previously created nature were skipped over for a direct connection between God and human beings, with nature being subordinated to human interests; at least that passage often has been construed that way. But when the roughly contemporaneous Chinese Doctrine of the Mean says that human nature is something that Heaven imparts to human...


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