Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Cosmic Christmas

For Carl, Darwin's insight that life evolved over the eons through natural selection was not just better science than Genesis, it also afforded a deeper, more satisfying spiritual experience...




Sunday, December 18, 2011

almost free

In other words: It's 9 am Sunday, I've been grading for hours already this morning, and I'm taking a break.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hitch alive

Sifting through my personal archives for a fitting Hitchens tribute, on this sad morning of his demise, I come across a dawn post from October 2010 titled alive:



We talked about the varieties of humanism yesterday.

I really like the version that sees humanism fundamentally as an expression of the love of life.

Humanism is, in sum, a philosophy for those in love with life. Humanists take responsibility for their own lives and relish the adventure of being part of new discoveries, seeking new knowledge, exploring new options. Instead of finding solace in prefabricated answers to the great questions of life, humanists enjoy the open-endedness of a quest and the freedom of discovery that this entails.

This sentiment was given unexpected voice recently by Michael Gerson, George Bush’s old speechwriter, writing of Christopher Hitchens’ joie de vivre and his special talent for friendship.

In earlier times, without derision or irony, this would have been called “humanism,” a delight in all things human — in wit and wine and good company and conversation and fine writing and debate of large issues. Hitchens’s joy and juice put many believers of my acquaintance to shame — people for whom religion has become a bloodless substitute for life. “The glory of God,” said St. Irenaeus, “is man fully alive.” Hitchens would hate the quote, but he proves the claim.

I don’t think Hitch hates the quote. I don’t. The best humanists are fully alive, as Hitch seems to be in these sadly dwindling days of his cancerous physical decline. Glorious days.

The days, as Emerson said, are Gods.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"What Is College For?"

It's for "opening up to new dimensions," both in and out of the classroom.
Students readily accept the alleged wisdom that their most important learning at college takes place outside the classroom.  Many faculty members — thinking of their labs, libraries or studies — would agree.  But the truth is that, for both students and faculty members, the classroom is precisely where the most important learning occurs.
Gary Gutting, "The Stone"

And if you missed it: Simon Blackburn, "Of Hume and Bondage"

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Humanist Community Project | From the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard

The Humanist Community Project | From the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard:

Greg Epstein apparently aims to gather a herd of independent minds. "Humanist community" may not be a flat contradiction in terms, but it definitely rubs against the grain for some. Most un-churched humanists don't want a church, but a stronger sense of solidarity (or at least a greater awareness of their numbers) might be just what they need.

'via Blog this'

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why are we here?

The question I always ask myself at staff and committee meetings.

Thanks for finding this, Zachary.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

working on treadmills

Now here's a metaphor for you, for the absurdity of modern life in the corporate/consumer world. Move over, Sisyphus! Most of my academic staff and committee meetings feel like treadmilling too. But it is a good idea, if you have to be trapped in a rectangle surrounded by suits, to move. Must we imagine these people happy?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Calvin gets existential

I suggested Woody Allen as a more accessible version of Camus, in class yesterday; but maybe Calvin's even better. Thanks for posting this, Derrick.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Herman's coming to town

Herman Cain's coming to my campus, but (our administration assures us) not as a campaigning politician.
This event was scheduled as a student-oriented, educational session before Mr. Cain declared his candidacy.  His appearance on Dec. 1, therefore, will not be political in nature but rather will focus on his experience as a businessman and entrepreneur.
"Therefore"? Hahahaha.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Intro to Philosophy text?

I've been trying to replace the late Robert Solomon's A Passion for Wisdom: A Very Brief History of Philosophy for a long time in the course formerly known as Intro which I've started calling "CoPhi" instead (short for the pluralistic collaborative form of  "CoPhilosophy" William James advocated).

It packs philosophy's story into an extremely concise and accessible package, without sacrificing too much precision or honesty. But Passion's nearly fifteen years old, and I'd like to try something a little fresher.

So far, I have yet to find a worthy successor. But Nigel Warburton's A Little History of Philosophy looks promising. (Sample pages)

My concern is the new book may be just a little too light and breezy. Its ideal reader, I think, would be a motivated high schooler encountering philosophy for the first time. Will it strike our college students as beneath them? Will they read it? (Always a question, nowadays, whatever the text.)

I would supplement it with an intellectual biography or two. How to Live,  perhaps. Or Courtier and Heretic. Or maybe bring back Logicomix, which went over well last year. Or stick with Doubt and Passion.

Change is a good thing, but it's never good to fix what ain't broken. This'll be a tough call.

Atheism & Philosophy


Spring Semester 2012-
PHIL 4800-003  Readings in Philosophy:
Atheism & Philosophy

With special emphasis on ethics, and how atheists, agnostics, humanists and other deity-deniers establish a personal sense of right and wrong.
Were all other things, gods and men and starry heavens, blotted out from this universe, and were there left but one rock with two loving souls upon it, that rock would have as thoroughly moral a constitution as any possible world which the eternities and immensities could harbor. It would be a tragic constitution, because the rock's inhabitants would die. But while they lived, there would be real good thing and real bad things in the universe; there would be obligations, claims, and expectations; obediences, refusals, and disappointments; compunctions, and longings for harmony to come again, and inward peace of conscience when it was restored; there would, in short, be a moral life, whose active energy would have no limit but the intensity of interest in each other with which the hero and heroine might be endowed. We, on this terrestrial globe, so far as the visible facts go, are just like the inhabitants of such a rock. Whether a God exist, or whether no God exist, in yon blue heaven above us bent, we form at any rate an ethical republic here below. And the first reflection which this leads to is that ethics have as genuine and real a foothold in a universe where the highest consciousness is human, as in a universe where there is a God as well. "The religion of humanity" affords a basis for ethics as well as theism does.
-William James, “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”

Was James right? We’ll see. The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:40 – 4:05, in James Union Building room 202.
Readings will include
·        Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
·        Anthony, Philosophers Without Gods
·        Blackford, Fifty Voices of Disbelief
·        Harris, The Moral Landscape

For more information contact Dr. Oliver, poliver@mtsu.edu

Monday, November 21, 2011

"New Courses"

I went back to visit our curriculum committee again Friday afternoon. The results this time were quicker and happier than back in April.  PHILOSOPHY 3160, "Philosophy of Happiness," now enjoys a permanent designation and place in the university's course catalog: 
This course examines the concept of human happiness and its application in everyday living, as discussed since antiquity by philosophers, psychologists, writers,spiritual leaders,  and contributors to popular culture. 
Likewise for PHIL 3310, "Atheism and Philosophy":
This course examines various philosophical perspectives on atheism, understood as the belief that no transcendent creator deity exists, and that there are no supernatural causes of natural events. The course compares and contrasts this belief with familiar alternatives (including theism, agnosticism, and humanism), considers the spiritual significance of atheism, and explores implications for ethics and religion.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

goals & sacred grounds

There's a nice story about the reigning queen of coffee, a Salvadoran and former Nashvillian named Aida Battle, in the current edition of the New Yorker  ("Sacred Grounds," Nov. 21). It comes with a bonus cartoon on p.95, reminding us that life is what happens while we're making other plans.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Evolutionary biology for beginners

For students in search of a good science primer, Richard Dawkins' Magic of Reality lays it out straight, simple, and pretty. "Neither supernatural or a trick, quite simply wonderful and real. Wonderful because real."

Here are others. Here's the great PBS Evolution series, and here's the BBC's Darwin. Here's an old post on theistic evolution.

Like it or not, it's everybody's story.

squirrel philosophy

"I tell this trivial anecdote of the squirrel because it is a peculiarly simple example of the pragmatic method." William James


Frazz

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ron Bombardi

Very nice profile piece in the Honors College Fall magazine (p.43) by my colleague Ron Bombardi. Handsome photo too.

When John Adams wrote his beloved Abigail in 1780, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy,” he understood the pursuit of philosophy to encompass what we should today call the natural and social sciences. English usage has since changed; disciplinary boundaries have been declared, funded, and institutionalized. Yet, as I see the role of philosophy in contemporary American education, the spirit of Adams’s aspiration remains central to our own, for we too recognize that there are two educations: one that “should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.” The tenor of my own teaching is grounded in this fundamental principle, that liberation of the intellect is essential to human flourishing. Intellectual freedom is, in my view, tantamount to the practice of sound scholarship—that is, to maintaining rigorous habits of organized skepticism and reasoned consensus in all collective endeavor. (Continues...)

Monday, November 14, 2011

"there is grandeur in this view of life"


Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death,[i] the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.



"The Greatest Show on Earth": Dawkins on Darwin

Postscript. How appalling, on the very day of this post, to read a student's comment on the class blog that


If we evolved from animals it would have taken a human procreate with an animal to creat what we now know as human.

I try to stay out of the student blog-comments space but this was too much. I had to reply,

WHAT?! Please tell me you're joking, or at least that you're not repeating something you think you heard in a biology or other science class. Such statements are so fundamentally misinformed, so embarrassing, I don't know whether to laugh first or cry. But I strongly advise getting hold of a biology primer and reading carefully. You and I and every human share common ancestry with all living things. That's simply a fact.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

luminous spaceship earth


Earth | Time Lapse View from Space | Fly Over | Nasa, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

The video captures in equal measure the wonders of the physical planet — including the dancing auroras of both hemispheres — and the impressive luminosity of humanity in the midst of its fossil-fueled growth spurt. It is indeed a “very small stage in a vast cosmic arena,” as Carl Sagan wrote in 1994. But the stage is getting pretty populated... Andrew Revkin

Transcript | Holding Life Consciously with Arthur Zajonc [OnBeing.org]

Transcript | Holding Life Consciously with Arthur Zajonc [OnBeing.org]: "the contemplative traditions have been extraordinarily successful it seems to me in cultivating attention, and attention is one of the most precious entities the human mind has to offer the world. If we can attend to something in a sustained way, especially in a learning context, it's much to our advantage. The other, you know, big gain is if there's emotional balance, and this is another set of practices which are …"

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Sagan Day!



It's his birthday, and groups from Australia to Alaska are planning star parties, astronomy lectures, science fairs, teacher workshops and more to say thanks to Dr. Sagan and bring his work to the next generation of "star stuff." 

My longtime view about Christianity is that it represents an amalgam of two seemingly immiscible parts: the religion of Jesus and the religion of Paul. Thomas Jefferson attempted to excise the Pauline parts of the New Testament. There wasn't much left when he was done, but [the Jefferson Bible] was an inspiring document." Carl Sagan
The clip above is from Cosmos episode 10, "The Edge of Forever"

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson"

Just saw the finale of the premier local performance of this amazing show this afternoon. Every American (especially every Tennessean) should see it. Every Nashvillian should have seen it. I'll never look at a $20 bill the same way again. The "inspired discussion" among audience and cast afterwards was, well, inspiring.

As Santayana said, if we don't learn from our history (Trail of Tears, bank crises, the American culture of "want" and grab, and the culture of political  "change" and disappointment et al) we're doomed to repeat it. Have been repeating it. "Populism, yeah yeah!"

Friday, November 4, 2011

TPA

No, not the Parent-Teacher Ass'n (TPA)... the Tennessee Philosophical Association, holding its annual meeting tonight and tomorrow at Vanderbilt. The personal highlight for me: a reunion with old grad school pals, coming to town to pay tribute to our old Prof Jeffrey Tlumak.

Tonight's keynote address is from LSU Prof John Whittaker, asking "what it costs philosophy to take religious belief seriously."*

It's all free and open to the public, come as you are and stay for the free food and drink afterwards (and pick up easy extra credit, CoPhi and SOL students).

*Abstract: Judeo-Christian religion – and indeed, most any religion – is defenseless when its critics focus on the literalism of its exponents and the mythical character of its sacred stories. This target is too easy to criticize, and it is beneath the dignity of philosophy to concentrate on this naïve form of belief. To take religion at its best, philosophers must pay attention to faith’s insistence that it is not knowledge in the ordinary sense, that all descriptions of the divine are anthropomorphic, that its principles can be reasonable without being evidentially or argumentatively justified, that its wisdom is therapeutic and not cognitive, that its truths are not objectively determinable but discernible in new forms of understanding, that its trust is open-ended, and that the “objects” of this trust are wholly unknowable mysteries. To take these aspects of religion seriously requires nothing less than the overthrow of standard models of epistemology. With respect to these narrow models of epistemology, the wisdom of faith is a form of “not-knowing.”
Does not knowing become deep and profound when "hyphenated"?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaNoWriMo

A post for Immanuel, among others:

Ready to write your novel? Sign up here.
At NaNoWriMo, we provide the support, encouragement, and good old-fashioned kick in the pants you need to write the rough draft of your novel in November.
I'm such an inveterate editor, always revising as I go (and then revising the  revisions), that trying to crank out so many unexamined words so quickly would make me crazy. (Crazy in a good way, though, possibly?) And, I have all these papers to grade.

Older Daughter did it last year and says she's doing it again. Her lament on the way to school this morning: "I just want to go home and write!" Good for her. "Quantity over quality"  is the goal of a first draft, she says. I have a hard time committing to that, myself. Maybe next year? Or next month when nobody's looking?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Atheism & Philosophy


Spring Semester 2012-
PHIL 4800-003  Readings in Philosophy:
Atheism & Philosophy
With special emphasis on ethics, and how atheists, agnostics, humanists and other deity-deniers establish a personal sense of right and wrong.
Were all other things, gods and men and starry heavens, blotted out from this universe, and were there left but one rock with two loving souls upon it, that rock would have as thoroughly moral a constitution as any possible world which the eternities and immensities could harbor. It would be a tragic constitution, because the rock's inhabitants would die. But while they lived, there would be real good thing and real bad things in the universe; there would be obligations, claims, and expectations; obediences, refusals, and disappointments; compunctions, and longings for harmony to come again, and inward peace of conscience when it was restored; there would, in short, be a moral life, whose active energy would have no limit but the intensity of interest in each other with which the hero and heroine might be endowed.
We, on this terrestrial globe, so far as the visible facts go, are just like the inhabitants of such a rock. Whether a God exist, or whether no God exist, in yon blue heaven above us bent, we form at any rate an ethical republic here below. And the first reflection which this leads to is that ethics have as genuine and real a foothold in a universe where the highest consciousness is human, as in a universe where there is a God as well. "The religion of humanity" affords a basis for ethics as well as theism does.
-William James, “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”
Was James right? We’ll see. The course will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:40 – 4:05, in James Union Building room 202.
Readings will include
·        Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
·        Anthony, Philosophers Without Gods
·        Blackford, Fifty Voices of Disbelief
·        Harris, The Moral Landscape




For more information contact Dr. Oliver, poliver@mtsu.edu

Monday, October 31, 2011

"Happiest Man in the World"

No, not me on Friday night after the last out of the 2011 World Series, but Matthieu Ricard (despite his "1,000 disclaimers"). He was just featured on "On Being" (the radio show formerly known as "Speaking of Faith") with Krista Tippett. We read him in SOL last month. A wise man, combining the best of science and humane spirit.
...we are all part of one family. That's not just a nice, naive image; either we are all losers or all winners in terms of survival. Now we can't say it makes sense for just one nation to be powerful, rich, and so forth. If the whole world is starving, we'll create immense wars and difficulty. And the environment can only be a chance national solution. So hopefully, evolution wouldn't take hold quickly enough so that altruistic behavior become — not just seemingly altruistic behavior, which is selfishness in disguise... 
True altruism is a genuine consideration for all sentient beings, whether they are your tribe, your relatives, your own gene lines — forget about that, it has now to be concern for all that lives. (Full transcript 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dumbledore as philosopher

We had excellent midterm report presentations in Co-Phi yesterday. Asiyah, Hannah, Allie, and Katie collaborated on Harry Potter & Philosophy, and Amanda did Sex in the City. Only one of us had issues with Harry, whose creator-- herself the creator of Albus Dumbledore-- is certainly a philosopher. I'm glad he (not Aristotle) ran Hogwarts.  The quote my daughter the Slytherin gave me hangs above my desk: 
Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light.
Not sure my mind is organized or Socratic enough to share the wise old wizard's view of death as just an adventure waiting to happen, but I'm trying.


 Here was my brief and bleary post after returning from the midnight screening of the last film.


But, Amanda: Carrie Bradshaw as philosopher? I'll have to think some more about that. Liked your report, though.



Thursday, October 20, 2011

Do humanists need a chaplain?

Or a church? Or even a community center?

P."Zed" Myers thinks not, emphatically, but at Harvard they've got one, namely Greg Epstein. [HarvardHumanist's YouTube Channel] They've been debating the whole concept of humanist communitarianism on Twitter (#humanistcommunity).

Myers notwithstanding, I've often heard humanists, atheists, and secularists of various other stripes express regret at not enjoying the conviviality and "fellowship" available to church-based religionists. Some of us have the Church of Baseball, of course; but for others Epstein is pushing to create something more like a community of non-believers. He's been hosting talks, not quite sermons, in service of that goal. Jennifer Hecht gave one recently:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The meaning of life

(Also known as the "secret of happiness")...

A student in CoPhi yesterday posted the lyrics of a vulgar song by the old punk band The Dictators, purporting to express the meaning of life. I found it a bit reductive. Here's a more expansive view, from the conclusion of Bertrand Russell's 1930 Conquest of Happiness:


The happy man or woman is
a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle that it offers and the joys that it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because he feels himself not really separate from those who will come after him. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found.

The "secret" is this: 
Let your interests be as wide as possible , and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.

Maybe. But maybe those other Brits were onto something too:
Well, it’s nothing special. Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.

Fundamentally that's all the same advice, isn’t it? Someone should put it in a song.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Global Perspectives on the Holocaust"

The annual Holocaust Studies Symposium is back on our campus next week, Oct. 19-22. Here's this year's program... and here was my notice of the excellent conference two years ago.

Organized in 1988, the Middle Tennessee State University Holocaust Studies Committee's original mission was to encourage the study of the Holocaust at Middle Tennessee State University and in the mid-South.  Since that time the committee's mission evolved to:
  • disseminate greater understanding of and knowledge about the Holocaust from an inter-disciplinary and bi-gender perspective;
  • serve as a bulwark against the spread of Holocaust denial and antisemitism, as well against racial, religious and ethnic hatred;
  • memorialize the lives and suffering of all people persecuted during the Holocaust.  These include but are not limited to Jews, Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, Hitler’s political opponents, people of African descent, Slavs, Jehovah's Witnesses and other religious groups, and persons with physical or mental disabilities
  • raise awareness in both the academic community and the general public that genocidal hate did not end in 1945 by disseminating information about other genocides, past and present.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Santayana on the meaning of life


In SOL today we're reading Bertrtand Russell on the "causes of happiness." Foremost among them, for him, was the constant courting of "zest" in life. This led me to consider William James on "what makes a life significant" and "the solid meaning of life"... and that, to their contemporary George Santayana. There is no cure for birth and death, Santayana said, save to enjoy the interval.

As Older Daughter would say: "True dat."


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Every day is doomsday. Steve Jobs at Stanford, 2005:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. commencement address

Reasons for Reason - NYTimes.com

Finding common currency is not so easy these days, but as David Hume said: there, not in a narrow and sterile concept of "reason," is ultimately where our values abide. So we'd best keep looking, and had best not constrict our "reason" either.


Hume’s point, in alluding to what he also sometimes called “the principle of humanity” was that the ideal of civility requires us to find common currency with those with whom we must discuss practical matters...

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Yoga Won the West - NYTimes.com

More philosophy in the Sunday paper:

When the Hindu sage Vivekananda made his way to America over a century ago,

The Harvard philosopher and psychologist William James was fascinated by the 31-year-old Indian and quoted at length from Vivekananda’s writings in his seminal work, “The Varieties of Religious Experience.”
“A very nice man! A very nice man!” Vivekananda reported after his first meeting with James, who called his new friend “an honor to humanity.”
The novelist Gertrude Stein, then a student of James’s at Radcliffe, reportedly attended Vivekananda’s 1896 talk at Harvard — which so wowed the college’s graybeards that they offered him the chairmanship of Eastern philosophy. He declined, noting his vows as a monk.

'via Blog this'

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Swerve

Excellent review in yesterday's Times by Montaigne biographer Sarah Bakewell, on a new account of ancient atomism in Lucretius (and before him Democritus and Epicurus)...

The Swerve - How the World Became Modern - By Stephen Greenblatt - Book Review - NYTimes.com:
“What human beings can and should do is to conquer their fears, accept the fact that they themselves and all the things they encounter are transitory, and embrace the beauty and the pleasure of the world.”
Montaigne, too, was a fan of ancient atomism. He scooped Nietzsche on eternal recurrence:

“Since the movements of the atoms are so varied, it is not unbelievable that the atoms once came together in this way, or that in the future they will come together like this again, giving birth to another Montaigne.”

In a separate review, Dwight Garner finds a Woody Allen angle and adds that for Lucretius
“there is no master plan, no divine architect, no intelligent design.” Religious fear, Lucretius thought, long before there was a Christopher Hitchens, warps human life... living a full life include[s] friendship and philanthropy and fundamental happiness.
As for the atomism itself,
the philosopher George Santayana would call this “the greatest thought that mankind has ever hit upon.” 
Well, maybe... 'til Darwin had the best idea ever.

'via Blog this'

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I wonder why


Found it!

We just had a bunch of old family VHS tapes converted to DVD, and the other night watched Older Daughter's first four birthdays. The highlight, for me, was her singing a clever song called "I Wonder Why." I couldn't remember where she'd gotten that song, and it's been bugging me since. I just found it:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More CoPhi comics


Love these exam day funnies, courtesy of Earl and Hicham...
ATT00003
ATT00001
ATT00004
ATT00005


Exam day advice


Here’s the best test-prep advice I can pass along:
If you want really to do your best in an examination, fling away the book the day before, say to yourself, “I won’t waste another minute on this miserable thing, and I don’t care an iota whether I succeed or not.” Say this sincerely, and feel it; and go out and play, or go to bed and sleep, and I am sure the results next day will encourage you to use the method permanently. William James, “Gospel of Relaxation

If you’ve been up all night cramming, in other words, good luck. You’ll need it. But if you’ve been diligent, have steeped yourself in the subject all semester long, and either went out to play or to an early bed last night, your luck will be the residue of design. You’ll do fine.
But don’t try too hard to relax.
It is needless to say that that is not the way to do it. The way to do it, paradoxical as it may seem, is genuinely not to care whether you are doing it or not.
Care tomorrow. Today, just show up and do your best.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hegel was not a Cubs fan

Probably not a Cards fan either. But I hit upon a fun new way of trying to explain Hegel yesterday in Co-Phi, inspired by an essay on 19th century St. Louis Hegelians Henry Brokmeyer and W.T. Harris:
Hegel’s progressive unfolding [of rational consciousness, geist, Utimate Reality] thrived on conflict, what Hegel’s popularizers (but rarely Hegel himself) referred to as “thesis and antithesis.” Hegel stuck to lofty abstractions like Being (thesis), Nothing (antithesis) and Becoming (synthesis.) Henry Brokmeyer, not so much. His unimpeachably practical list of theses and antitheses encompassed nearly every aspect of American life: religion vs. science, abolitionism vs. slavery, St. Louis vs. Chicago.
It just so happens that St. Louis defeated Chicago on Sunday to keep their flickering MLB postseason hopes alive. What could be the "world-historical" significance of that? Or of the fact that the lowly Astros knocked the Cards off last night, dropping the Braves' magic number to 2?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: none at all. But I still like Hegel's largest message, as reported by the authors of our Co-Phi text. "We're all in this together." I wonder if they came to that after a hit of nitrous? Or after reading "On Some Hegelisms"...

"The interest of history is detached from individuals." Squashed Hegel



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Atheist spirituality

And snark. More Co-Phi comics...

Funny, Hicham, but next time I teach "Atheism & Spirituality" I'll again be debunking the notion that atheists don't believe anything (or have any content for their pamphlets). For instance, check out Andre Comte-Sponville's Little Book of Atheist Spirituality.

This coming Spring semester, btw, I'll be teaching "Atheism & Ethics"...




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