The Oxford English Dictionary says that a rite is ‘a formal procedure or act in a religious or other solemn observance’. The word comes into English through the French rite from the Latin ritus . Its original meaning escapes etymologists; and this is a mixed blessing, for we neither can nor must attempt a retrieval of its hidden roots. We are told by respectable etymologists that the word is associated from earliest times with Latin religious usage, but that even in (...) the early Latin it was already extended to ‘custom, usage, manner or way’ of a non-religious sort. [Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary .] So, too, in modern languages the terms ‘rite’ and ‘ritual’ have specifically religious meaning, but they are also used in social and cultural settings that we would not call religious. What first strikes us about the terms ’ and ‘ritual’ is an emphasis upon a certain formality, upon a regular and stable way in which an action or set of actions is to be performed. A ritual is more than a formalism, however, since there are formalisms that are not rites, such as the logical rules for making a valid argument. Moreover, the term is frequently associated with the terms ‘myth’, ‘symbol’ and ‘faith’. These, too, are primarily religious, but are also extended to non-religious contexts. Indeed, there seems to be a network of such terms whose usage touches upon some extraordinary quality in things. Like them, the term ‘ritual’ shares both a wide variety of meanings and a certain hint of impropriety. The variety of ritual forms is notorious, ranging from the most sacred religious liturgies to the absurdities of a fraternity initiation; and the impropriety of the term breaks out whenever we brand a certain action ‘ritualistic’, just as we sometimes refer slightingly to an assertion, saying it is ‘mythical’, ‘merely symbolic’ or ‘credulous’. (shrink)
The Wofford symposium was the first of the North American bi-centennial conferences on Hegel. Except for a considerable number of troublesome misprints, the present volume preserves the quality of the meeting, and its editor is to be thanked for bringing off the conference and bringing out the volume. Circumstances led him to substitute a general exposition of Hegelian concepts for an intended introduction to the conference theme. As a result the Introduction is too general for most readers of the volume. (...) The spirited use of examples - an Eskimo, an apprentice, a burglar and Moses - will interest pedagogues who have tried to present Hegel. I am not sure, however, that the student would be made sufficiently aware of Hegel’s departure from ordinary dualistic modes of thought. Thus, we read of ideas as “contents coming before the mind,” of Hegel’s “theory of innate ideas,” of mind “having” its thoughts. I am, moreover, puzzled by assertions which I may not have understood well. For example, I do not know what it means to say that for Hegel the unity of a concept “cannot contain a contradictory content,” ; it seems to me that Hegel demands something like this for the concept as notion. Nor does it seem true to say that “the concept of God… is … an exemplification of the triumph of the monistic principle in Hegel’s philosophy”, since he closes the Encyclopedia with an exposition of the necessity for a Trinitarian conception of the divine. These points also seem to trouble the much more sophisticated study which the editor contributed to the conference itself. Although somewhat removed from the specific theme of the conference, it raises one of the most serious questions in Hegelian studies. In what way can Hegel’s readers judge the truth of his assertions? Mr. Christensen sets out to answer by clearly stating the “formal properties” of Hegel’s dialectic method, so that its results will be falsifiable and thereby meet a test which every historical account must meet. It seems to me, however, that Mr. Christensen has shifted from Hegel’s logic to some alleged “method,” and from his philosophical account of history to an “historical” account. Now this introduces presuppositions alien to Hegel’s enterprise, however compatible they may be with some theory of falsifiability. Moreover, we read of two types of content belonging to the Notion, which look very much like an a priori formal and an a posteriori material content. Furthermore, Mr. Christensen seems to suppose that the dialectic must present only those stages which advance spirit and contain their predecessors in a straightforwardly accumulative way. Towards the end of what is a vigorous paper, he confesses that Hegel’s “blurring” of the distinction between method and notion renders a dialectical account of history in principle not falsifiable. It seems to me, however, that in framing the question - while the author has avoided gross reductions of Hegel to formalism or dualism - his thought has shifted towards Verstand and away from Begriff. He is uneasy with his more abstract approach, and with good cause, for the shift works at cross-purposes to the expressed intent of his analysis. Professor Findlay recognizes the importance of calling Hegel to some kind of critical account, but at the end of his prudent comment he returns to an initial scepticism regarding any single formulation of the vital and revisionary character of the dialectic. While he finds many Hegelian accounts “profoundly illuminating”, he also finds that he “cannot further illuminate this illumination”. (shrink)
It is said of St. Thomas Aquinas’ teacher, St. Albert the Great, that he grew forgetful towards the end of his life and began to say mass for himself as though he were dead: quasi defunctus est. The fact that he was one of the most learned persons of Western Europe during his life-time did not save him from a pathetic loss of memory. The story illustrates a bitter knowledge known from time immemorial: that age may steal away one’s innermost (...) possessions. Of course, it has always been known too that a blow upon the head in the prime of life may rob a person of consciousness and leave him or her permanently impaired. To this general wisdom about the fragility of conscious life, researchers have lately added an increasingly complex and precise knowledge of just how the brain and its various regions participate in our conscious life. So that this new detailed knowledge fills out the ancient recognition of the soul’s reliance upon its physical base; it gives new weight to that dependence, and confirms the human spirit’s immersion in matter. And if it does not quite overwhelm us with the intimacy of the alliance between soul and body, it bids fair to change the tone and degree of our awareness of that connection, so that the claim to the soul’s immortality is likely nowadays to fall upon less receptive ears. Indeed, talk about the soul sounds strange to the ears of many present-day psychologists and philosophers. And even Christian theologians write copiously today about the resurrection of Christ and of the dead, but little about the immortality of the soul. (shrink)
It is not usual to associate Hegel’s dialectic with the philosophical trend called nominalism. Nevertheless, nominalism plays an indispensable role in the modern philosophical developments leading up to Hegel’s Science of Logic. Even more, it continues its career within that logic. It would be simply absurd to label Hegel a nominalist, but the challenge posed by nominalism is not simply opposed by Hegel, i.e., it is not opposed without qualification. Of course, one never expects Hegel to confront anything directly. Instead, (...) the nominalist strain is integrated into the movement of his thought in order to be overcome by speculative reason. But what is this overcoming, this sublation? It seems to be the ambitious attempt of thought to cancel out a thought-content, while somehow preserving it and at the same time transforming it. This very ambition has led critics, such as Heidegger and Derrida, to home in on what they take to be a major point of vulnerability in the Hegelian drive for system. (shrink)
THE OPTION proposed by Weiss's Modes of Being is between a radical monism which denies a plurality of beings and a radical pluralism which demands the imperfection of God. The dilemma is stated thus: Either there is a perfect God, as the Hebraic-Christian tradition holds, and no other actual beings; or there are other actual beings and, at best, an imperfect God. Weiss resolves the dilemma in favour of a radical pluralism and a supreme but imperfect God. Multiple proofs secure (...) a God who is one of four interrelated modes of Being. To propose an absolutely perfect God would be to make it "impossible to acknowledge the independent reality and excellence of anything else." Quite simply, if God were all that is, there could be no more; but there is more, and so God is not all that is. (shrink)
Nevertheless, the work is not a standard handbook of religious information. It is written with intelligent passion, and is stamped with the urgency of an author who senses the importance of his inquiry. Professor Dupré advances a thesis with implications not always easy to discern in the complex discussions that propose it. Moreover, he clearly means us to use caution in applying his interpretation to data which have not formed the basis of his thesis. He writes most about what he (...) knows best, and places his emphasis upon the Christian religion. The book is not simply a study of a particular religion, however, because the author undertakes to interpret themes that are fundamental to most religions. Followers of other religions as well as non-believers may agree with much of what he has written, but he leaves to others the manner and extent to which his views may be extrapolated to non-Christian religions. To sum up, then: the context within which he writes includes his understanding of the religious past, the plurality of world religions and the emergence of secularism; his focus is upon Christian religious experience; and his intention is to formulate a comprehensive and contemporary view of the meaning of religion in modern life. (shrink)
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT has two broad phases: the first is that of infancy, childhood, and adolescence; the second is that of our continuing development as adults. Without excluding the former, I wish to concentrate upon the latter in order to describe what I will argue is a spiritual form of life in the individual human being. Becoming in the order of human personhood arises out of a dynamic source that is not easy to name with accuracy. It has been called the (...) "psyche," or "subjectivity," or "personality," and sometimes "the human spirit," though the latter term often remains rather too vague for philosophical purposes. Aristotle has said that the fruits of understanding come with getting the name right. What, then, is the proper name with which to designate the dynamic principle at the center of the movement of life that is appropriate to the human person? (shrink)
THIS ESSAY was originally prepared for the 1988 Metaphysical Society Meeting, where I had been asked to speak out of what has been called "the great tradition," concerning the rumored "end of metaphysics." It is important, however, to notice what followed the colon in the chosen theme: "the question of foundations." For metaphysics has been pronounced dead several times already, according to different autopsies: by scepticism, nominalism, empiricism, and by at least two versions of positivism, the one prescribed by Auguste (...) Comte and the other more recently mandated by the Vienna Circle. Indeed, death notices of metaphysics have become traditional in "the great tradition" itself; so that these recurrent obituaries disclose something of the very nature of metaphysics. While several of these morbid diagnoses continue to play a role-since in these matters nothing ever seems to quite wholly die once it gets itself born--there is a new angel of death on the scene. It is Nietzsche, purged of the metaphysics that had allegedly infected him, a revisionist or at least a revised Nietzsche, a neo-Nietzsche who has rallied an impressive number of lively mourners to the wake. Should the notices prove premature, however, the question will then resolve itself into: "Who will bury whom?". (shrink)
About the Author:Kenneth L. Schmitz is professor emeritus of philosophy and fellow of Trinity College, University of Toronto, associate fellow of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, and professor of philosophy, John Paul II Institute and CUA, Washingto.
According to the modal philosophy the many different arts serve to acknowledge and promote the career and value of existence. Architecture does not exist primarily because men need shelter, nor sculpture because men have hands, nor painting because they have eyes. Neither do story, poetry and theatre arise because men speak, nor music because they hear, nor dance because men leap. The arts are surrogates, embodiments and representatives of the mighty power of existence.
The history of philosophy provides examples of attempts to vindicate the adequation of thought with being. Thought has sometimes armed itself in the Cartesian manner with criteria for measuring its own conformity with being. But such an immediate and direct appeal to "pure" thought rests inescapably upon a tacit appeal to a human experience which includes sensible factors; and so it begs the question. Moreover, it seems to me that all attempts fail which try to join the knower and the (...) known by putting the idea or judgment between them. For whether the intervention is by criterion, instrument, or method, it merely complicates the problem of their union by adding a useless intermediary. Indeed, in the face of the idealism of Descartes and Locke, and within the presuppositions of a theory of noetic species, modern scholastics were right to insist upon the "non-entity" of ideas and judgments. They insisted that a noetic principle, such as an idea or judgment, is nothing in itself but a pure sign, and that it is not an object which, while signifying something else, also exists in its own right as a mental entity. In trying to account for the concrete unity of language and cognition—which I may be forgiven for calling "linguo-knowledge"—there is much to recommend a theory of signs which differentiates knowledge-signs from all other kinds. It is an attempt to do justice to the quasi-instrumental features of linguo-knowledge, while at the same time keeping before us its radical ontological openness. Nothing intervenes between knowing and being, least of all the "equipment" of knowing, its ideas and judgments. The relationship between language and knowledge, however, would have to be determined more precisely since linguistic signs lend themselves to being considered as odd sorts of instruments, and by some linguists even as entities. Nevertheless, although linguistic signs are inseparable in concreto from noetic signs, it remains true that noetic signs are non-entitative, for there is a fundamental sense in which knowing is not an affair of entities or instruments at all. The essential possibility of knowledge lies in what has traditionally been called its immateriality and even its spirituality. (shrink)
IT is almost a century since Ferdinand Tönnies published his influential work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft. In it he drew semantic lines around the conception of "community" that have persisted to this day in much of the literature. He intended his description to be widely applicable, but he drew it chiefly from ancient, medieval, and modern European society up to the present century. Moreover, he circumscribed the terms "community" and "society" by placing them in contrast with one another, binding them together (...) by the mutual antagonism of their meanings. Gemeinschaft is supposed to rest upon ties of blood and kinship, upon associations with the land and ties of place, and upon ties of friendship, shared feeling, and common belief. The prototype of Gemeinschaft is the family; and out of it have arisen extended communal forms of association, such as the village and neighborhood, the family farm, the older type of parish, and the more or less hereditary guild. The unity of such groups exists prior to their present members who receive the communal form and its values through tradition as a given way of life. In contrast with these bonds of kinship and friendship, Gesellschaft is supposed to be. (shrink)
METAPHYSICS is the most controversial and controverted of the philosophical disciplines. I want to argue, nevertheless, that if it did not already exist in some form, then it would be necessary to invent it. For the need to think fundamentally is not incidental to the inquiring energy of the human mind. That energy has taken form as myth, meditation, and reflection among a variety of peoples of diverse cultures. In our rather abstract and articulate culture, however, fundamental thinking has taken (...) the rational, argumentative and conceptual form of discourse. (shrink)
Three distinct objects of attention - nature, culture, and God - call for the recognition of three distinct modes of truth. A single code of rational discourse - the preferred one today is that of the empirio-mathematical study of nature - is not enough to preserve the diversity of meanings called for by the investigation of culture and religion. In particular, the human subject stands in relation to the three objects of enquiry respectively as “door-keeper,” “participant,” and “respondent.” Recognition of (...) the analogous unity of rational discourse is prelude to releasing the spheres of culture and religion from subjection to the epistemology that functions in the natural sciences and frees them for investigation on their own terms. (shrink)