Tag Archives: Heidegger

A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life now available

I spent a lot of time working on this (as an editorial assistant) and so am advertising it here (plus I know of at least a couple of people who read this blog showed an interest in this collection).

cover

A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life
McGrath, S.J. and Andrzej Wiercinski (Eds.)

In the academic year 1920-1921 at the University of Freiburg, Martin Heidegger gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the phenomenological significance of the religious thought of St. Paul and St. Augustine. The publication of these lectures in 1995 settled a long disputed question, the decisive role played by Christian theology in the development of Heidegger’s philosophy. The lectures present a special challenge to readers of Heidegger and theology alike. Experimenting with language and drawing upon a wide range of now obscure authors, Heidegger is finding his way to Being and Time through the labyrinth of his Catholic past and his increasing fascination with Protestant theology. A Companion to Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religious Life is written by an international team of Heidegger specialists.

Links: Rodopi, Amazon (US), Amazon (UK).

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The Schelling Effect?: Philosophy in the Shadows

Schelling

I gave a guest-lecture for one of the graduate seminars here at MUN last week. The course is a historical reading of Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift, providing the context necessary for a thorough reading of Schelling’s essay from Spinoza, to Kant, to Fichte, to Boehme. My lecture took the opposite strategy, making a case for taking Schelling as a significant figure by tracing his ideas and concepts through post-Schellingian thought. I’ve decided to post the handout from this otherwise unscripted lecture since I know there are people who frequent this blog who are very much interested in Schelling and his effect on philosophy. I hope this will help those interested further their study of some of Schelling’s key concepts.

I have posted the handout here on my Academia.edu page.

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Lacan and some philosophers

I’ve been sitting in on the seminar on hermeneutics that Sean is doing this semester. Besides Gadamer’s Truth and Method, we’re reading several essays by Ricoeur, and some pieces by Derrida. Our last class was on the topic of ideological critique, reading a piece on Habermas’ critique of hermeneutics as being unable to adequately critique ideology or politics at all because of its inherent relativism.

The next day I was exchanging emails with Sean and this ended up with a discussion of Freudo-Marxism and Lacanian-Marxism, and Sean leading me to look at a few pages of a book by Charles E. Reagan called Paul Ricoeur: his life and his work. Pages 25-31 (available as a free preview on Google Books) detail Ricoeur’s relationship with Lacan, which was unusual to say the least. I find the relationships that Lacan had (or tried to have) with philosophers very interesting. I of course knew about his attempt to seek approval from Heidegger and the encounters with Deleuze, but I was unaware that he had sought out both Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur as potential allies. The whole thing has this very bizarre feel to it. Of course now there are many philosophers who pledge allegiance of some sort to Lacan. Does anyone know of any other relationships between Lacan and philosophers, and if so, were they as strange as these?

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The Next Big Thing (Uncharted Waters)

Graham has a great post up on “the next big thing” in philosophy, in reference to the recent flurry of activity in regards to Badiou.

What I especially liked about this post was the following:

In continental philosophy, the cutting edge is usually wherever 25-30 year-olds are working right now. The senior figures in continental philosophy are more likely to still be working on whatever was hot when they were 25-30. (My older Department colleagues, bless them, still think Merleau-Ponty and Derrrida are the latest news. Nothing against Merleau-Ponty and Derrida, but they are obviously not the latest news. I assume this would be far less likely to happen in analytic philosophy circles.)

This reminded me of my undergraduate thesis experience. My grad advisor, Sean, taught at my undergrad institute and was going to supervise my thesis on Eckhart and Heidegger (and at the time, Derrida). My basic premise was that while contemporary philosophy of religion (Caputo, Kearney, and Marion) were enthralled in the “innovations” of Heidegger and Derrida (on ontotheology and negative theology) that the same innovations could be found in Eckhart’s German sermons, that almost identical moves had been made. The hope was to use this as ammunition for an eventual revival of Eckhart, who, while Caputo even has a book on Heidegger and Eckhart, has been mostly overlooked in contemporary philosophy of religion. I was excited about this, and Sean was excited as well.

Unfortunately, Sean left and came to my current school, which is where he’s from originally. He and his wife moved back here to raise their son. At the time I was really upset because I’d already begun work on my thesis and thought I would have to find a new topic, which I really didn’t want. I met with my new advisor, who specializes in Aristotle and Virtue Ethics. He assured me that I could keep my same topic, and that he had an interest in both mysticism and Medieval philosophy. I was relieved to say the least.

After working on the first half of my thesis in the Fall, the half on Heidegger, ontotheology, and Eckhart, I had a meeting with him. I was told he didn’t want me to do the Derrida half, that this should be a thesis on Heidegger and Eckhart. I didn’t understand why, considering Derrida was (and still is) highly relevant to the philosophy of religion. My advisor told me that Derrida hadn’t proved himself to be a lasting figure yet. I was stunned. I considered myself something of a deconstructionist at the time, and had plans to study it further in grad school and was being told that what I was working on, what I was planning to continue working on, wasn’t a proven system yet even though Derrida had just died and had been producing work for decades, not to mention all of the work of other deconstructionists. All of the contemporary people I was working with for my thesis were highly influenced by Derrida. Again, I was stunned.

The rest of the year was spent miserably trying to turn what I had thought was simply a chapter, less than half of my total thesis, into the thesis itself. I was depressed, angry, and confused. My advisor became more and more critical of the contemporary thinkers I was using for my thesis, telling me that I needed to be doing a historical thesis. I tried to explain that I was doing a work of hermeneutics (which had been the point all along) which he also seemed to scoff at. To top it off, I found out early on that my advisor wasn’t reading any of the books I was reading. I had read the complete works of Eckhart, Heidegger’s Identity and Difference, a couple of books by Caputo (The Mystical Element of Heidegger’s Thought, and Weak Theology), a couple by Marion (God Without Being, and Being Given), and one by Kearney (The God Who May Be), plus assorted essays and secondary sources. My advisor didn’t read any of them.

I had a couple of good courses that year though, a seminar on Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, and a seminar on Foucault which I sat in one (it was a sociology course and I lacked the pre-reqs). What I loved about these courses is that in the case of Merleau-Ponty, I was understanding the context of Jean-Luc Marion much better, while reading Foucault furthered the interest I already had in Deleuze.

I realized that year that while I am interested in the history of philosophy as it is broadly understood, I wanted to be doing contemporary work, looking for that next big thing. I think that’s why when I came here for my MA, while I had planned originally to write a thesis on Derrida (essentially writing what would have been the second half of my undergrad thesis) I quickly abandoned it to study the contemporary relevance of Schelling, reading Grant’s book, along with a lot of Zizek.

Basically, I was very unhappy working with someone who thought the history of philosophy (at least continental philosophy) ended sometime in the beginning of the 20th Century. Now I’m working with someone who is much more understanding of my interests, and has even started reading speculative realism texts in order to also understand the next big thing.

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The Spooky World of Quantum Biology… and Decisions

From h+:

They were trying to establish exactly how organic photosynthesis approaches 95% efficiency, whereas the most sophisticated human solar cells operate at only half that. What they discovered is nothing short of remarkable. Using femtosecond lasers to follow the movement of light energy through a photosynthetic bacterial cell, Engel et al. observed the energy traveling along every possible direction at the same time. Instead of following a single trajectory like the electrons on a silicon chip, the energy in photosynthesis explores all of its options and collapses the quantum process only after the fact, retroactively “deciding” upon the most efficient pathway.

What does this all mean? Not only does quantum phenomena occur in living systems, but the basic processes of life we take for granted rely on the transfer of information backward in time. Life is so magical because it cheats.

What’s amazing to me is the fact that this retroactive decisional structure is one of the foundations not only of Schelling’s thought (the mystery of personality or rather, of there being things at all being explained through the logical necessity of a retroactive [and therefore unconscious] decision from God creating Himself all the way down to the tiniest existents) but also that this structure is at the core of many post-Schellingians as well. Maybe this is the connection that needs to be drawn between Schelling and a whole school of Schellingians, from Heidegger’s “thrown-projection,” to the Lacanian Real, to Badiou’s Subject of Truth. I don’t know Laruelle at all, but I know the act of decision is crucial to his critique of philosophy. Can someone fill me in briefly of how these philosophers of retroactive decision fit his critique?

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Update / Reading Aristotle

Sorry I haven’t been around much. I’m working all summer as an editorial assistant, and the past little while has been swamped with work since our deadline has moved from the end of the year to the end of August. I should have the next little while free though before I start work on the next set of essays.

Besides that, I have a few essays I’d like to finish this summer. One is on the Ur-Event in Badiou (building off of the paper I mentioned before on Badiou and Rousseau), one is on Zizek and vampires (continuing my interest in the relation of Zizek to vitalism as seen in his readings of Lacan’s lamella), and the third is another on Badiou that I’m not ready to talk about yet (which I’m not sure I’ll really have time for until next year, but I want to get it started). Oh, I have this piece on Graham and OOP too, which I need to clean up a bit before I do anything with it. I’m looking to publish it somewhere, but I haven’t really decided where yet. Plus, you know, that thesis I’m writing. As for that, the summer is really just for all the background reading I need to do, while the writing proper won’t really start until this fall, although I do have a couple of essays and a couple of seminars given that are to make their way into the current thesis.

In other news, a friend of mine was just accepted to his first choice in PhD program. He’s worried though because this is a Jesuit school, and his background in Thomism and Scholasticism is a little shaky, I guess. He’s asked me to be part of a reading group this summer to whip him into shape since I have more of a background in Medieval philosophy that most of the people at MUN (before coming here and re-focusing my attention on continental philosophy, my plan had actually been to follow up the other half of my thesis, that is, focusing on Medieval philosophy and mysticism as part of a degree in Theology; I’ll be editing my thesis on Heidegger and Meister Eckhart early this fall for publication, since it will be published in an open, online journal that I will be editing, I plan on sharing it with you all as soon as I can).

We’re starting with Aristotle’s Metaphysics, then likely moving on to the De Anima, and then we’ll see what Aquinas we can cover with the rest of the summer. First meeting of this reading group is tonight. There’s only four of us in the group, three students (one Hegelian and one Cartesian, plus me) and one prof who was literally just hired on after being a session prof this past year, whose specialization is neo-Platonism, I think focusing on Augustine (but I could be wrong on this). Should be good.

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Nature Always Wins

This is one of the few mantras that I have: “Nature always wins.” It comes from a seminar on Heidegger from a few years ago, when we were discussing the later Heidegger, “The Question Concerning Technology” and “Building, Dwelling, Thinking.” It’s stuck with me ever since and really reflects my own anti-humanism.

I came across this photo over at Sweet Juniper, and I think it expresses pretty well the dominance that Nature has over us tiny humans.

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