An influential thinker’s fascinating reflections and meditations on reacclimating to his native Senegal as a young academic after years of study abroad
The call to morning prayer. A group run at daybreak along the Corniche in Dakar. A young woman shedding tears on a beach as her friends take a boat to Europe. In African Meditations, paths to enlightenment collide with tales of loss and ruminations, musical gatherings, and the everyday sights and sounds of life in West Africa as a young philosopher and creative writer seeks to establish himself as a teacher upon his return to Senegal, his homeland, after years of study abroad.
A unique contemporary portrait of an influential, multicultural thinker on a spiritual quest across continents—reflecting on his multiple literary influences along with French, African Francophone, and Senegalese tribal cultural roots in a homeland with a predominantly Muslim culture—African Meditations is a seamless blend of autobiography, journal entries, and fiction; aphorisms and brief narrative sketches; humor and Zen reflections.
Taking us from Saint-Louis to Dakar, Felwine Sarr encounters the rhythms of everyday life as well as its disruptions such as teachers’ strikes and power outages while traversing a semi-surrealistic landscape. As he reacclimates to his native country after a life in France, we get candid glimpses, both vibrant and hopeful, sublime and mundane, into his Zen journey to resecure a foothold in his roots and to navigate academia, even while gleaning something of the good life, of joy, amid the struggles of life in Senegal.
In this lively look at current debates in American philosophy, leading philosophers talk candidly about the changing character of their discipline. In the spirit of Emerson's The American Scholar, this book explores the identity of the American philosopher. Through informal conversations, the participants discuss the rise of post-analytic philosophy in America and its relations to European thought and to the American pragmatist tradition. They comment on their own intellectual development as well as each others' work, charting the course of American philosophy over the past few decades.
Giovanna Borradori, in her substantial introduction, explains the history of the analytic movement in America and the home-grown reaction against it. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American philosophy was a socially engaged interdisciplinary enterprise. In transcendentalism and pragmatism, then the dominant currents in American thought, philosophy was connected to history, psychology, and public issues. But in the 1930s, the imported European movement of logical positivism redefined philosophical discourse in terms of mathematical logic and theory of language. Under the influence of this analytic view, American philosophy became a professionalized discipline, divorced from public debate and intellectual history and antagonistic to the other, more humanistic tradition of continental thought.
The American Philosopher explores the opposition between analytic and continental thought and shows how recent American work has begun to bridge the gap between the two traditions. Through a reexamination of pragmatism, and through an attempt to understand philosophy in a more hermeneutical way, the participants narrow the distance between America's distinctly scientific philosophy and Europe's more literary approach.
Moving beyond classical analytic philosophy, the participants confront each other on a number of topics. The logico-linguistic orientations of Quine and Davidson come up against the more discursive, interdisciplinary agendas of Rorty, Putnam, and Cavell. Nozick's theory of pluralist anarchism goes face-to-face with the aesthetic neo-foundationalism of Danto. And Kuhn's hypothesis of paradigm shifts is measured against MacIntyre's ethics of "virtues."
Borradori's conversations offer an unconventional portrait of the way philosophers think about their work; scholars and students will not be its only beneficiaries, so will everyone who wonders about the current state of American philosophy.
Few men have had as much cultural and educational influence on their own countries as the philosopher and educator Antonio Caso (1883-1946). He was above all a patriot of his beloved Mexico, and he sought to deliver his humanitarian message to his countrymen. In his youth, after the revolt against Díaz, he was a member of the Ateneo de la Juventud, a group that sought to bring Mexico, spiritually and economically, back to the Mexicans. Caso realized that this effort involved the forming of a national consciousness among his people, whom he saw divided by their private and public interests. As an educator of Mexican youth for more than thirty years, Caso sought to imbue in his students the desire to search and to question. He saw education as a perpetual search for truth, and his own life and philosophy reflect this search. He rejected any system that proposed to describe all of reality, and he despised all dogmas—official or unofficial. He particularly fought against positivism and Marxism, systems current in his youth. The first part of this book is an introduction to the philosophical and educational ideas of Caso, as well as to the intellectual and political ideas in his life. Mr. Haddox skillfully shows the development of Caso's ideas and how they took shape from his own reading as well as from the experiences of his age and of his country. The second part contains Mr. Haddox's translations of selections from Caso's writings. They give a moving picture of Caso's hopes for Mexico and for humanitiy.
Appetites for Thought offers up a delectable intellectual challenge: can we better understand the concepts of philosophers from their culinary choices? Guiding us around the philosopher’s banquet table with erudition, wit, and irreverence, Michel Onfray offers surprising insights on foods ranging from fillet of cod to barley soup, from sausage to wine and coffee.
Tracing the edible obsessions of philosophers from Diogenes to Sartre, Onfray considers how their ideas relate to their diets. Would Diogenes have been an opponent of civilization without his taste for raw octopus? Would Rousseau have been such a proponent of frugality if his daily menu had included something more than dairy products? Onfray offers a perfectly Kantian critique of the nose and palate, since “the idea obtained from them is more a representation of enjoyment than cognition of the external object.” He exposes Nietzsche’s grumpiness—really, Nietzsche grumpy?—about bad cooks and the retardation of human evolution, and he explores Sartre’s surrealist repulsion by shellfish because they are “food buried in an object, and you have to pry them out.”
A fun romp through the culinary likes and dislikes of our most famous thinkers, Appetites for Thought will intrigue, provoke, and entertain, and it might also make you ponder a bite to eat.
Arendt and America
Richard H. King University of Chicago Press, 2015 Library of Congress JC251.A74K56 2015 | Dewey Decimal 320.5
German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906–75) fled from the Nazis to New York in 1941, and during the next thirty years in America she wrote her best-known and most influential works, such as The Human Condition, The Origins of Totalitarianism, and On Revolution. Yet, despite the fact that a substantial portion of her oeuvre was written in America, not Europe, no one has directly considered the influence of America on her thought—until now. In Arendt and America, historian Richard H. King argues that while all of Arendt’s work was haunted by her experience of totalitarianism, it was only in her adopted homeland that she was able to formulate the idea of the modern republic as an alternative to totalitarian rule.
Situating Arendt within the context of U.S. intellectual, political, and social history, King reveals how Arendt developed a fascination with the political thought of the Founding Fathers. King also re-creates her intellectual exchanges with American friends and colleagues, such as Dwight Macdonald and Mary McCarthy, and shows how her lively correspondence with sociologist David Riesman helped her understand modern American culture and society. In the last section of Arendt and America, King sets out the context in which the Eichmann controversy took place and follows the debate about “the banality of evil” that has continued ever since. As King shows, Arendt’s work, regardless of focus, was shaped by postwar American thought, culture, and politics, including the Civil Rights Movement and the Cold War.
For Arendt, the United States was much more than a refuge from Nazi Germany; it was a stimulus to rethink the political, ethical, and historical traditions of human culture. This authoritative combination of intellectual history and biography offers a unique approach for thinking about the influence of America on Arendt’s ideas and also the effect of her ideas on American thought.
In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson, Francesca Aran Murphy tells the story of this French philosopher’s struggle to reconcile faith and reason. In his lifetime, Gilson often stood alone in presenting Saint Thomas Aquinas as a theologian, one whose philosophy came from his faith. Today, Gilson’s view is becoming the prevalent one. Murphy provides us with an intellectual biography of this Thomist leader throughout the stages of his scholarly development.
Murphy covers more than a half century of Gilson’s life while reminding readers of the political and social realities that confronted intellectuals of the early twentieth century. She shows the effects inner-church politics had on Gilson and his contemporaries such as Alfred Loisy, Lucien Lévy Bruhl, Charles Maurras, Henri de Lubac, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and Jacques Maritain, while also contextualizing Gilson’s own life and thoughts in relation to these philosophers and theologians.
These great thinkers, along with Gilson, continue to be sources of important intellectual debate among scholars, as do the political periods through which Gilson’s story threads—World Wars I and II, the rise and fall of Fascism, and the political upheavals of Europe. By placing Gilson’s twentieth-century Catholic life against a dramatic background of opposed political allegiances, clashing spiritualities, and warring ideas of philosophy, this book shows how rival factions each used their own interpretations of Thomas Aquinas to legitimate their conceptions of the Catholic Church. In Art and Intellect in the Philosophy of Étienne Gilson, Murphy shows Gilson’s early openness to the artistic revolution of the Cubist and the Expressionist movements and how his love of art inspired his existential theology. She demonstrates the influence that Henri Bergson continued to have on Gilson and how Gilson tried to bring together the intellectual, Dominican side of Christianity with the charismatic, experiential Franciscan side.
Murphy concludes with a chapter on issues inspired by the Gilsonist tradition as developed by recent thinkers. This volume makes an original contribution to the study of Gilson, for the first time providing an organic and synthetic treatment of this major spiritual philosopher of modern times.
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) is usually remembered for his pessimism. His most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, concluded that no human desires can ever be fully satisfied. But as Peter B. Lewis shows in this new critical biography, Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways—via artistic, moral, and ascetic forms of awareness—to overcome the frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. Offering a concise introduction to the life and work of this German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer explores a man who devoted his life to articulating a philosophy that would benefit mankind by providing a solution to the riddle of human existence.
Lewis situates Schopenhauer’s principal doctrines of his philosophy into the context of his life, explaining how major events like his father’s apparent suicide led to his ideas on the meaning of life and the nature of art, religion, and morality. He also relates Schopenhauer’s thoughts to the intellectual and cultural world of early nineteenth-century Germany, where his philosophy was ignored for most of his life. Illustrated with images of Schopenhauer, his family, and his contemporaries, this book will engage anyone interested in music, literature, and the arts, as well as those who ponder the eternal questions of life’s meaning.
At Home with André and Simone Weil
Sylvie Weil, translated from the French by Benjamin Ivry Northwestern University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PQ2683.E3463Z4613 2010 | Dewey Decimal 843.914
“It is quite incorrect to believe that the dead are gone forever and never return to speak to the living. They return to speak to the living all the time; indeed, it is their main activity.” Thus writes Sylvie Weil in this illuminating memoir, in which contemporary readers can hear the voices of her famed philosopher aunt Simone and mathematician father André.
Born into a freethinking Jewish family in France in 1909, Simone Weil was one of the twentieth century’s most original philosophers, influencing Albert Camus, T. S. Eliot, Simone de Beauvoir, Pope John XXIII, Czesław Miłosz, and Susan Sontag. She fought for workers’ rights and, later, the Spanish Republican cause. Before her death at age thirty-four, Simone Weil turned increasingly to mysticism and religion, especially Roman Catholicism, exploring themes of sacrifice, asceticism, and the virtues of manual labor. She never converted, however, and Sylvie Weil writes from a Jewish perspective, emphasizing Simone’s Jewish heritage.
Using previously unpublished family correspondence and conversations, Sylvie Weil paints the most vivid, private portrait of her aunt in print. The book illuminates Simone’s relationship with others, especially with her brother, André. Loving and unsparing, affectionate and incisive, At Home with André and Simone Weil is an insightful memoir about a family of intellectual luminaries.
Autobiographical Reflections is a window into the mind of a man whose reassessment of the nature of history and thought has overturned traditional approaches to, and appraisals of, the Western intellectual tradition. Here we encounter the motivations for Voegelin's work, the stages in the development of his unique philosophy of consciousness, his key intellectual breakthroughs, his theory of history, and his diagnosis of the political ills of the modern age.
Included in this revised volume is a glossary of terms used in Voegelin’s writings. The glossary lists, defines, and illustrates from the author’s writings many of the key terms employed, paying particular attention to the Greek terms. Together, the glossary and enlarged index systematically include names, subjects, ideas, writings, and terms, making this volume an indispensable help for any serious study of Eric Voegelin’s oeuvre.