The Charioteer

"The charioteer of the human soul drives a pair of steeds, and one of the horses is beautiful, good, and formed of such elements, whereas the makeup of the other one is quite the opposite." -Phaedrus

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Location: Duquesne University, United States

A Blog For All and None. Consider it my narrative history of ideas. A place primarily to share and obtain feedback to my thoughts through my graduate career in philosophy. For philosophy is simply "thoughts that have been thought out."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Paper Presentation for the International Graduate Conference, Essex

I was pleased to learn that a paper I wrote on the question of human finitude in Hegel and Paul Ricoeur was accepted for presentation at University of Essex's 10th International Graduate Conference. The title of the conference is "G. W. F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: After 200 Years." The keynotes are Dr. Karin de Boer from Groningen, presenting "Hegel's Antigone and Tragedy of Cultural Difference." As well as the University's own, Dr. Wayne Martin, who will be presenting on "Hegel's Failed Confessional Enterprise." I will therefore be traveling to England (actually returning!) at the end of April to participate in this one day conference.

Official conference literature has just been posted recently. A colleague of mine at Duquesne, Jim Bahoh, was also accepted, which certainly puts the Duquesne philosophy program in good light for those attending.

I put online the original copy of my paper. The one being presented will be a revised version of this one. I will put that revised copy up when it is completed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Charles Taylor, Winner of the 2007 Templeton Award

The prestige of the award notwithstanding, there is a compelling interview with Taylor entitled: "What Role Does Spiritual Thinking Have in the 21st Century."

Should be good!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Alasdair McIntyre's Books on Edith Stein

The renowned contemporary ethicist, most known for his work in communitarian virtue ethics, has supposedly devoted the remainder of his career to the lesser known student of Husserl and Catholic phenomenologist, Edith Stein (aka, Sister Benedicta Croce). Even the titles of his first two books, Edith Stein: A Philosophical Prologue (Dec. 2005), and Edith Stein: The Philosophical Background (Aug. 2006), indicate an anticipated lengthy project, for they more resemble chapter titles than those of entire book-length studies. Might an awakening of Stein be in the "works"? If it will ever happen, most assuredly, it will happen under the auspices of a name like MacIntyre's.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Maine de Biran (1766-1824)

I came across the name of this French Modern philosopher somewhat by accident, when, in doing research, it suddenly popped up in more than one place and in the most random and unconnected settings; nothing of substance was ever said of him, only his name mentioned to draw a connection to some thought. So I did some more research. It turns out, despite his obscurity and hiddeness in the philosophical shadows, the legacy applied to him is quite staggering.

I first came across his name in reading Scheler. In his essay "Idealism and Realism" Scheler writes: "The most penetrating and rigorous development of...the idea that reality is not given to us in perceptual acts, but in our instinctive and conative conduct vis-a-vis the world..., and the one which, at the same time, seems to come closer to the truth than anything else written on the subject--closer even than Dilthey [Scotus, Berkeley, and Schelling]--is that of the Frenchman Maine de Biran" (Selected Philosophical Essays, 318). Yet Scheler leaves it at that, pursuing it no further, and instead goes into detail on Schelling and Dilthey!

The second most striking place Biran name came up is in Mounier's book, Personalism. Mounier writes that Biran "is the latest of the fore-runners to French personalim. He denounces the mechanical mentality of the ideologues, who resolve all concrete existence into the psuedo 'elements' of thought, and he looks for the self in the propulsive effort by which man acts upon the world. ... Maine de Biran's thinking is a remarkable elucidation of the roots of personality and of its sphere of expansion" (Personalism, xxiv). This passage is in Mounier's introduction; Biran's thought is pursued no further!

The third setting is the most accidental: In Scheler's essay "Love and Knowledge," he attributes the phrase "volo, ergo sum," to Augustine. I know in the City of God is Augustine's famous "Si fallor, sum," but "volo, ergo sum"? So I did a Google search of the phrase to see what came up. In the few pages that hit, I found that the phrase is mostly attributed to the Islamic philosopher Al Gazzali (maybe some kind of westernization there, for why would a Muslim write in Latin?) However, there was one site, with a copy of Alexander Gunn's book Modern French Philosophy, which was written initially as a dissertation under the direction of Henri Bergson! This is significant, because I have also noticed that Biran's name would, more times than not, be in connection with Bergson. Supposedly Bergson was really interested in Biran, which would explain the connection to Scheler.

Here is a passage from Gunn's book on de Biran:

It is the special merit of De Biran that he endeavoured, and that successfully, to establish both the concreteness and the essential spirituality of the inner life. The attitude and method which he adopted became a force in freeing psychology, and indeed philosophy in general, from mere play with abstractions. His doctrines proved valuable, too, in establishing the reality and irreducibility of the mental or spiritual nature of man.

Maine de Biran took as his starting-point a psychological fact, the reality of conscious effort. The self is active rather than speculative; the self is action or effort-- that is to say, the self is, fundamentally and primarily, will. For the Cartesian formula 'Cogito, ergo sum,' De Biran proposed to substitute that of 'Volo, ergo sum.'

I must conclude with my recent findings. Two books that I'm very eager to dive into (and now that it is my break, I can) are 1) Merleau-Ponty actually wrote a book partly on Biran, The Incarnate Subject: Malebranche, Biran, and Bergson on the Union of Body and Soul.

2) Michel Henry's book entitled Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body. The first chapter is "The Philosophical Presuppositions of the Biranian Analysis of the Body."

Biran and I just may get along.