William James’ celebrated lecture on “The Will to Believe” has kindled spirited controversy since the day it was delivered. In this lively reappraisal of that controversy, Father O’Connell contributes some fresh contentions: that James’ argument should be viewed against his indebtedness to Pascal and Renouvier; that it works primarily to validate our “over-beliefs” ; and most surprising perhaps, that James envisages our “passional nature” as intervening, not after, but before and throughout, our intellectual weighing of the evidence for belief.
St. Augustine was a consummate artist as well as a great philosopher, and he was deeply concerned with art, beauty and human values. But little attention has been paid to his theory of aesthetics. Now a distinguished Augustine scholar turns to this important subject and offers a book that is at once engaging, comprehensive and complete.
Narrowing the focus of his Soundings in St. Augustine's Imagination (1994) O'Connell (philosophy, Fordham U.) analyzes three decisive conversions portrayed in the Confessions: the youthful reading of Cicero, that sparked by the platonist books, and the final capitulation in the Milanese garden. He also compares the conversion imagery with that in the Dialogues of Cassicciacum to shed light on the question of two Augustines. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR.
The Phenomenon of Man, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, has been characterized as metaphysics, poetry, and mysticism-virtually everything except what its author claimed it was: a "purely scientific mémoir." Professor O'Connell here follows up on a nest of clues, uncovered first in an early unpublished essay, then in the series of essays contained principally in The Vision of the Past. Those clues all point to Teilhard's intimate familiarity with the philosophy of science propounded by the celebrated Pierre Duhem. It was (...) Duhem's central claim that science, to remain true to itself, must aim at establishing a genuine "natural classification" phenomenal reality. That insight, Professor O'Connell argues, guided Teilhard's lifelong effort to describe the "imposed reality-factors" which science in its variety of forms suggests as ingredients and operative at every phase in the evolutionary development of planet Earth. Limiting his focus to the way Teilhard unfolded his vision of the past, Professor O'Connell concludes that those who deprecate Teilhard as unscientific betray little awareness of how sophisticated his understanding of science truly was. (shrink)
James's ethical thought could frequently be consequentialist, but it could also on occasion show a deontological side, or "streak," as I contended in "William James on the Courage to Believe". This shows up when he speaks of the "strenuous" as against the "easy-going" moral mood, in "The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life," and it preserves the precursive intervention of our "passional natures" in "The Will to Believe" from lapsing into "wishful thinking." Toned down slightly, perhaps, in "Varieties of Religious (...) Experience", it reasserts itself in "Pragmatism", and, it could be shown, in James's succeeding works as well. (shrink)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:BOOK REVIEWS 125 oped the theory of the swerve and applied it to the problem of voluntary action, also made use of it in his defense of moral responsibility" (l ~9-3o). The distinction Englert has in mind is between to hekousion and to eph' heroin, a distinction he had emphasized in his long chapter 5 on Aristotle, and insisted was important to Epicurus as well. But the promise is (...) not realized; we are told only that to eph' heroin is saved just as is to hekousion, by insisting that the swerve marks a causal break (135). The book then ends with some undigested matters: David Sedley's work on Epicurus 's On Nature and Don Fowler's suggestion that the mind's act of focus (epibole)might constitute a swerve. There is more to be said for their views. And more against. The last word on the subject has yet to be written. JEFFREY S. PURINTON Princeton University Gerard O'Daly. Augustine's Phzlosophy of Mind. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987. Pp. xii + 241. $35.00. Paul Rigby. Original Sin in Augustine's "Confessions." Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1987. Pp. 137. Paper, $17.95. Augustine's philosophy of the human person is one of the most neuralgic points in his thought, and the neuralgic soreness spreads to almost every other compartment of his thinking. Since there is still much to learn in this troubled area, one can only welcome the publication of these two studies. O'Daly's book aspires to deal with the entire list of questions involved in the ancient world's Platonic tractatus De anima, whereas Rigby focuses on a single issue, critically evaluating (and largely refuting) the contention put forth by Athanase Sage in two classic articles: that the Augustine who wrote the Confessions had not yet come to think of humanity as guilty of original sin. The breadth of O'Daly's focus also betrays a distinctly confident attitude toward the wide array of matters he must discuss; he seems to view the Augustinian field as relatively trouble free. The central chapters of his book originated as a Habilitation thesis for the University of Heidelberg: hence the generous display of German scholarship, but also a greater serenity toward the difficulties non-German students might perhaps raise against some of his conclusions. He moves from Augustine's general theory of the soul, through claapters on the soul's "lower" activities (sense-perception, imagination, and memory), to that peculiar Augustinian preoccupation with the soul's measurement of time; he then concludes with the psychology of what Augustine would term "knowledge" in the higher (i.e., intellectual) sense of the term. The atmosphere throughout is encyclopedic, but then so is the impressive scale of O'Daly's learning; at the end, though, the reader is especially grateful for the two valuable indices---one topical the other an Index locorum--which help in retrieving the multitude both of texts and topics O'Daly handles. O'Daly is confident that Augustine's views on most of these matters solidified early on, so he feels entitled tojump about from early to late works and back again. Those who 126 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 28:1 JANUARY 199o find Augustine's thought more fluid will question this methodology, even find it circular ; it supposes a continuity of thought which ought rather to be proven. But this nondevelopmental approach results in another loss--the living sense of context, the controlled excitement that invariably marks Augustine's own thinking, has mostly drained off. This is all the more disappointing since O'Daly writes a pleasing prose style. But that judgment may only reflect the preferential conviction that we still have more exciting things to learn about Augustine's philosophy of human nature than O'Daly is willing to admit. Is this, one wonders, the reason why he ignores the many relevant insights contained in Oliver DuRoy's massive study? He is particularly adamant on the question of the soul's origin, yet one is at liberty to doubt that forty-four years of Augustine's thinking on this gnawing issue can be treated adequately in a... (shrink)
A great thinker once said that "all philosophy is merely footnotes to Plato."Through Plato, Father O'Connell provides us here with an introduction to all philosophy. Designed for beginning students in philosophy, Plato on the Human Paradox examines and confronts human nature and the eternal questions concerning human nature through the dialogues of Plato, focusing on the Apology, Phaedo, Books III-VI of the Republic, Meno, Symposium, and O'Connell presents us here with an introduction to Plato through the philosopher's quest to define (...) "human excellence" or arete in terms of defining what "human being" is body and soul, focusing on Plato's preoccupations with the questions of how and what it means to have a "good life" in relation to or as opposed to a "moral life.". (shrink)