With the aim of guiding readers along, in Hegel’s words, “the long process of education towards genuine philosophy,” this introduction emphasizes the importance of striking up a conversation with the past. Only by looking to past masters and their works, it holds, can old memories and prior thought be brought fully to bear on the present. This living past invigorates contemporary practice, enriching today’s study and discoveries.
In this book, groundbreaking philosopher and author Donald Verene addresses two themes: why should one study the historically “great” texts and, if such a study is necessary, how can one undertake it? Acting out against the rejection of the idea that there is a philosophical canon, he centers his argument on the “tetralogy” of Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel. From his opening look at the rhetorical tradition, he brings those core ideals forward to classical Roman and medieval philosophers and then on into Renaissance and modern philosophy, including contemporary thinkers such as Derrida and Foucault. This vital chronological outline is supplemented by Verene’s contextualizing commentary. In ensuing sections, he offers guidance on reading philosophical works with “intellectual empathy,” suggests 100 essential works to establish a canon, illustrates the role of philosophers in history and society, and examines the nature of history itself. Ultimately, Verene concludes that history may be essential to philosophy, but philosophy is more than just its history.
James Joyce and the Philosophers at Finnegans Wake explores how Joyce used the philosophers Nicholas Cusanus, Giordano Bruno, and Giambattista Vico as the basis upon which to write Finnegans Wake. Very few Joyce critics know enough about these philosophers and therefore often miss their influence on Joyce's great work. Joyce embraces these philosophic companions to lead him through the underworld of history with all its repetitions and resurrections, oppositions and recombinations. We as philosophical readers of the Wake go along with them to meet everybody and in so doing are bound "to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy" of our souls the "uncreated conscience" of humankind. Verene builds his study on the basis of years of teaching Finnegans Wake side by side with Cusanus, Bruno, and Vico, and his book will serve as a guide to readers of Joyce's novel.
The Origins of the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms marks the culmination of Donald Phillip Verene’s work on Ernst Cassirer and heralds a major step forward in the critical work on the twentieth-century philosopher. Verene argues that Cassirer’s philosophy of symbolic forms cannot be understood apart from a dialectic between the Kantian and Hegelian philosophy that lies within it.
Verene takes as his departure point that Cassirer never wishes to argue Kant over Hegel. Instead he takes from each what he needs, realizing that philosophical idealism itself did not stop with Kant but developed to Hegel, and that much of what remains problematic in Kantian philosophy finds particular solutions in Hegel’s philosophy. Cassirer never replaces transcendental reflection with dialectical speculation, but he does transfer dialectic from a logic of illusion, that is, the form of thinking beyond experience as Kant conceives it in the Critique of Pure Reason, to a logic of consciousness as Hegel employs it in the Phenomenology of Spirit. Cassirer rejects Kant’s thing-in-itself but he also rejects Hegel’s Absolute as well as Hegel’s conception of Aufhebung. Kant and Hegel remain the two main characters on his stage, but they are accompanied by a large secondary cast, with Goethe in the foreground. Cassirer not only contributes to Goethe scholarship, but in Goethe he finds crucial language to communicate his assertions. Verene introduces us to the originality of Cassirer’s philosophy so that we may find access to the riches it contains.