Refereed Articles and Book Chapters

"Philosophical Piety in Response to Euthyphro's Hubris," Ancient Philosophy 38.2 (Fall 2018): 265-287.

Through a close reading of Plato’s Euthyphro, I reopen an old question: what would it look like to think piously? Although the dialogue itself is aporetic with regard to the definition of piety as such, I show that a specifically philosophical piety emerges through the contrast between Socrates and his interlocutor: namely, piety as the capacity to deal well with sameness and difference, especially concerning what exceeds us. A look at central features of the dialogues that provide the Euthyphro’s dramatic context confirms this claim.

"On Sameness and Difference in the Piety of Thought," Sophia (First Online, July 2018). DOI: 10.1007/s11841-018-0663-8

The paper works out an account of the piety proper to philosophical thought. The investigation proceeds as a critical interpretation of three enigmatic claims made by Martin Heidegger about ‘the piety of thinking,’ but the paper is not simply exegetical; the interpretive work is constantly in service of an attempt to think through the phenomenon independently. Plato’s Euthyphro and Nietzsche’s critique of scientific piety both hover in the background of Heidegger’s pronouncements, and they are given special attention here. Through the investigation, philosophical piety is shown to be a virtuous capacity to respond with fitting submission to the truth as what is insurmountably prior to us. To respond fittingly is, at least, to deal well with sameness and difference, which in the case of piety means to recognize two features of our situation: that philosophical questioning necessarily arises out of a fundamental listening, or affirmation, and that we always belong to being but only ever across a gap.

An examination of experimental psychologist Henry Watt's work on thinking and willing (early 20th century) in light of Edmund Husserl's response to it in Ideas I. Watt is interesting as marking a middle way between Wilhelm Wundt's entirely third-person experimental method and phenomenology's entirely first-person descriptive method. He does not oppose what he calls self-observation, only Husserl's reliance on intuitive rather than inductive argument.

In his discussions of justice and of friendship in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle appeals frequently—without much explanation—to temporal considerations. I take these indications as a key for sorting out the systematic significance of Aristotle’s claim that “when people are friends, there is no need for justice” (NE VIII.1.1155a26). Anaximander’s fragmentary claim that coming-to-be is itself an injustice serves as a touchstone for the analysis; I ask whether and how Aristotle might agree with such a claim. I first isolate some problems, especially those involving time, that underlie Aristotle’s various dialectical articulations of justice in NE V and show that friendship addresses them more beautifully than does justice. Then I propose that the ultimate work of friendship is to alter human temporality, interweaving multiple particular lives into a whole that both imitates and fits into the cosmic whole.

In the long line of French Sade studies, Deleuze's essay Coldness and Cruelty marks out a special place. By discussing Masoch both in addition to and in contrast to Sade, Deleuze reveals the stakes of his book: he wants to unmask the concept of sadomasochism as a clinical nonentity. In their paper, the authors explain the arguments supporting this project and show their relation to Deleuze's reading of Bergson. They then argue that there is a second, similarly Bergsonian criticism of Freudian psychoanalysis operating in the background of Coldness and Cruelty. This more wide-ranging criticism takes Freud to task for conceiving perversion, like neurosis, in Oedipal terms. This conception, Deleuze holds, forgets that perversion and neurosis represent two different worlds that essentially have nothing to do with each other despite crossing in clinical experience.

I offer a re-reading of some crucial passages in Aristotle's Metaphysics and Posterior Analytics to explain how he can say both that universals are most explanatory/most knowable in themselves and that non-universal substantial forms are most explanatory/most knowable in themselves. My claim is, first, that divine thinking is a universal by being the first cause, analogous to but not the same as those universals relevant for demonstration (apodeixis); second, that the way is carefully prepared in the Posterior Analytics for the outworking of substance in the Metaphysics, although it seems at first that these two works are radically inconsistent.

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Books

Summary: Interpersonal trust opens up a space in which truth and falsity matter more deeply and truth can be told more freely. This suggests that we might answer Nietzsche’s pair of questions – what is truth, and why do we care about it so deeply and so strangely? – by thinking from the phenomena of trust. Martin Heidegger has offered the best interpretation to date of truth’s essence (what binds us into the world and lets being show up in things), but the question of trust only hovers around the edges of his thinking. A phenomenology of trust, along with an excavation of Heidegger’s own thinking about it, shows that primitive trust, as a basic disposition, is another name for the ground of truth. It also shows that Heidegger’s account of such truth gets him into difficulties because he tacitly misinterprets this trust – the kind that opens up human being as a belonging to being in general – as a kind of structural assumption, rather than as a modification of personal trusting.

 

Heidegger’s work seeks to shift our thinking from the oppositional model of presence versus absence in the history of metaphysics to an interweaving of presence and absence which has haunted that history. This makes possible an account of truth’s essence not only as clearing versus concealing – in the sense of intrinsic limitations on how much we can know – but as clearing of or for self-concealing: it is precisely being’s withdrawal, its absencing without completely vanishing, that shows up in Heidegger’s experience of truth. But does this faithfully preserve the phenomenon of our relation to being? How could we ever tell?

In this book, I propose that we can find a way to respond to Nietzsche and evaluate Heidegger’s account if we think truth’s essence starting from the phenomena of trust and betrayal. That is not simply foreign to Heidegger’s thinking; it draws from both the margins of his work (Part 2 of the book) and from an independent phenomenology of trust (Part 1). In line with Heidegger’s own experimentation, I offer a new name or image for the phenomenon he was always after; in line with his concern for the centrality of affective dispositions (Stimmungen), I propose trust as one that he did not focus on. Through a reading of “The Essence of Truth” and of his work from the late 1930s into the early 1950s, I articulate an account of primitive trust as the primary basic disposition, that which other basic dispositions modify and which (mostly) holds us in the truth. This pre-subjective, non-voluntary disposition, I argue, is the originary essence of truth, which Heidegger also calls freedom, letting-be, the event of the clearing, and so on.

On the basis of the independent phenomenology of trust in Part 1, however, I then ask whether Heidegger’s interpretations of truth’s essence as interweaving of presence and absence, clearing for concealing, are appropriate to the phenomenon. They turn out not to be, which result both calls for a rethinking of truth’s essence and illuminates from within various tensions in Heidegger’s work (Part 3). These tensions center on the question of what he calls the danger, which in terms of trust looks like the possibility of betrayal. I ask: just how dangerous is it? The problem is that the more essential one interprets a danger to be, the less (eventfully) threatening it can be; we have always already been exposed to it and dealing with it. Or, to put it another way, hermeneutical interpretation of events is in tension with phenomenological recognition of essences, even when we take essences to be temporal.

I conclude by looking at paths not taken in Heidegger's work, especially in his discussions of death and anxiety, as openings to a different and more faithful account of truth’s essence: one that would not simply return to the metaphysical opposition of presence and absence but would call for a new articulation of belonging to being that starts from the basic experiences of trust and betrayal.

Summary: (Coming Soon!)

 
 
 
 

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