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June 2014


First Things First: On the Priority of the Notion of Being, ROBERT E. WOOD

This paper examines three propositions: “First to arise within intellectual awareness is the notion of Being”; the human being is defined as “the rational animal”; and knowing involves “the complete return of the subject into itself.”  Its starting point is an examination of what seems trivial: the letter ‘F’ in ‘First.’  It involves eidetic recognition of the alphabet and is identically the same, not only in different times and places and in different type-faces or hand-written form, but in differing media: visual, audile, tactual.  And eidetic recognition is also involved in the terms into which the letters or sounds or embossings enter, each of which is definable in terms of other terms which, in turn, are definable in other terms until we see that the whole itself is articulated in terms of the interlacing of meanings.  What grounds such recognition is the openness to the whole introduced by the notion of being.  The unrestrictedness of the openness is paralleled by the coemergence of the principle of noncontradiction which governs coherent discourse.  In both sensory presentation and intellectual apprehension we are outside our spatial inside, with the things manifest in the environment and in terms of the world of public meaning expressed in language.  The second part of the paper traces the various options for understanding the notion of being in the history of Western thought: Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Scotus, Spinoza, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Derrida.

Avicenna and the Principle of Sufficient Reason, KARA RICHARDSON

The term “principle of sufficient reason” (PSR) was coined by Leibniz, and he is often regarded as its paradigmatic proponent.  But as Leibniz himself often insisted, he was by no means the first philosopher to appeal to the idea that everything must have a reason.  Histories of the principle attribute versions of it to various ancient authors.  A few of these studies include—or at least do not exclude—medieval philosophers; one finds the PSR in Abelard, another finds it in Aquinas.  And while Leibniz retains pride of place in these histories, Spinoza is sometimes said to precede him “in appreciating the importance of the Principle and placing it at the center of his philosophical system.”  In this paper, the author argues that the same should be said of the Islamic philosopher Avicenna.  Writing 600 years before his early modern counterparts, Avicenna routinely and consistently appeals to the PSR in generating his metaphysical system.  The paper aims first to establish that Avicenna deserves a position of prominence in histories of the PSR, and then to consider how he addresses certain challenges to the PSR, especially the threat posed by necessitarianism.

Descartes’s Revised Averroism, Timothy Sean Quinn

Descartes’s Discourse on Method proposes a radically democratic goal, science on behalf of the common good of humanity, and an equally radical elitism, wherein strong minds, possessed of true virtue, direct the efforts of weak minds.  In this respect the argument of the Discourse entails what we might call a “revised Averroism”: a distinction between the few and the many intended not to protect the faith of the many, but to suborn it on behalf of the new science Descartes proposes.  The goal of this essay is henceforth threefold.  First, the essay attempts to show how a distinction between strong and weak minds emerges in the argument of the Discourse; second, it indicates the use toward which Descartes puts this distinction; and finally, it attempts to clarify Descartes’s own relationship to both strong and weak minds.  The essay concludes with some thoughts concerning the significance of Descartes’ “revised Averroism.”—Correspondence to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The Role of Aristotle in Schelling’s Positive Philosophy, ALESSANDRO MEDRI

This article shows how important Aristotle’s thought has been in the development of Schelling’s last attempts in order to build a complete system for the solution of the problem of the existent.  In particular, the last philosophy of the author of Leonberg is centered on the relationship between negative or purely rational philosophy, and positive philosophy, which Schelling used to call philosophical Empiricism.  The former—the main representative of which was Hegel—gains exclusively the empty logical concept of the existent; the latter realizes that only experience can give us the actual existence.  But they are both indispensable: positive philosophy gives the content, negative philosophy fixes the container: they are necessary to one another.  Aristotle did not elaborate a complete positive philosophy, but he was the first one who recognized the prominence of the fact of existence on its mere concept.  So that, in the end, he embodied the necessary step that the reason must make beyond itself, in order to get the real existence: this philosophical and not at all mystical step is what Schelling called ecstasy.—Correspondence to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Einstein’s Dreams, JOHN H. SWEENEY

Albert Einstein was different.  He was aloof; in the popular image, he was the definition of a dweller in the Ivory Tower.  Einstein’s physics was different, too.  Einstein never followed the crowd, and the crowd, even while incorporating many of his results directly into the main stream, never really followed him.  The article discusses Albert Einstein’s unique ability to devise, pursue, and exploit imaginary physical situations: his dreams.  Although such thought- or gedanken-experiments were always based on commonly held premises, Einstein was able, over and over, to use gedankenexperiments to capture the barest physical essentials of a situation, and to proceed from those essentials to their inescapable consequences, no matter how astonishing, no matter how remote from previous conventional wisdom.  The paper describes and discusses the thought-experiments that Einstein used in achieving his most notable successes, the Special and General Theories of Relativity.  It discusses the origins of each, their physical meaning, and some of the ways in which the principles embodied in the thought-experiments contributed to his subsequent discoveries.  The paper concludes by contrasting Einstein’s Special and General Relativity campaigns with his search for a theory describing gravity and electromagnetism as part of a greater whole, a Unified Field Theory.  In almost thirty years of trying, he made little or no progress.  Notably, Einstein never reported devising a thought-experiment to motivate or guide him in this, the longest effort of his career.—Correspondence to: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

On Heisenberg’s Key Statement concerning Ontology, THOMAS L. PANGLE

Despite a flurry of renewed scholarly interest in the development of Heisenberg’s scientific work, and in his complex relation to the dramatic unfolding of German cultural history in his time, there has yet to be executed a sustained and philosophically critical interpretative commentary on the book that is his crucial philosophical-ontological legacy, Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science.  Given the profound ontological puzzles that continue to attend quantum physics and its implications for humanity’s past as well as present and future conception of reality, such a critical exegesis of this text is overdue.  No thinker has yet appeared who possesses such an authoritative combination of the decisively necessary learning, in quantum physics and in the historical development of philosophic ontology.  This article tries to extricate the central nerve of Heisenberg’s sinuously unfolding, dialectical exposition, and in the process to elucidate its strengths but also its deep ambiguities and perplexities—which express fundamental dilemmas that pervade contemporary ontology.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 06 November 2014 03:19 )