January 23, 2014

Pfau, Lakoff, and Raffoul

Jayarava on 22 January 2014 at 11:17 am said:
Perhaps the problem with periodisation is similar to the one I have been exploring with evolution. The metaphors and structures we employ are outdated and under-sophisticated. We can take a leaf from the book of physical archaeology. For example an archaeologist may talk about the “Iron Age”, but the Iron Age began at different times in different places. In India ca. 1000 BCE. In Australia or my home in New Zealand, there was no natural transition from Stone Age to the use of metals, no Bronze or Iron Age. This does not mean that Iron Age as a general category is meaningless. As a general term it is useful since cultures change in predictable ways when they discover how to work with iron and steel. If we have anxiety about categories then it might be well to read about how they work. George Lakoff’s, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things is an excellent introduction to a useful approach to categories and what they represent.

The Origins of Responsibility by Keith Ansell-Pearson
In this book Fran├žois Raffoul seeks to undertake a major reconsideration of the concept of responsibility, drawing upon the rich resources offered by trajectories in continental thought, notably Nietzsche, Sartre, Heidegger, Levinas, and Derrida...
It is not that Nietzsche is not important or significant (far from it!), but to make him the centrepiece in the turning of thought that is held to be required is to exaggerate his significance at the expense of other pivotal figures one might draw upon to support the aims of the research. I am thinking here in particular of Bergson and his analysis of the dual sources of morality, including his extraordinary treatment of the 'open soul' and dynamic morality in his neglected Two Sources of Morality and Religion. It is arguable that seminal strands of continental philosophy -- for example, the work of Levinas and possibly even Derrida -- take their cue, consciously or not, from Bergson as much as, if not more than, they do from Nietzsche... Rather than provide a normative ethics Raffoul shows the need, first of all, to inquire into the meaning of ethics or what he calls the ethicality of ethics.

The Unintended ReformationGenre, method, and assumptions posted by Brad S. Gregory More than 60 reviews of The Unintended Reformation have appeared since January 2012, including forums in four journals (Historically SpeakingChurch HistoryCatholic Historical ReviewPro Ecclesia), in addition to the multiple sessions that have been devoted to the book at professional conferences. The responses here at The Immanent Frame add another ten. I am grateful to my colleagues for their responses, to Jonathan VanAntwerpen and The Immanent Framefor hosting them, and for the opportunity to reply. I am gratified the work has provoked discussion and debate that shows little sign of abating. I am also pleased that most reviewers have acknowledged the book’s ambition and erudition, and that some regard it as an important analysis of modern Western history comparable to Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age or Max Weber’s Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Less satisfying (although not unpredictable) has been the ways in which the book has been misread, misunderstood, and misrepresented by some reviewers, including some respondents here.
Because The Unintended Reformation is unconventional and unsparingly compressed, understanding it requires careful reading. It deliberately crosses disciplinary and chronological boundaries normally kept distinct. Without these transgressions, its animating question about the intertwined formation of contemporary Western ideological and institutional realities could not have been answered...
But I reject as specious the assumption that all premodern paths and ends have somehow succumbed to that vulnerability simply by dint of being premodern—that we are in effect bound to enact the part prescribed for us by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in seeing especially the distant past as “a repository of expired meanings and outmoded practices,” as Thomas Pfau has recently put it in his magisterial work, Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge

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