The Dialogue as Icon

By far the greatest impediment and aberration of the human understanding arises from [the fact that] . . . those things which strike the sense outweigh things which, although they may be more important, do not strike it directly. Hence, contemplation usually ceases with seeing, so much so that little or no attention is paid to things invisible.” — Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, Aphorism 50.

What characterizes the material idol is precisely that the artist can consign to it the subjugating brilliance of a (more…)

What grounds opinion?

The short answer is that nothing grounds an opinion. If it were grounded, it would constitute knowledge and would no longer be opinion. OK, what settles opinion then? Obviously, there are many opinions and to hold a particular opinion is to settle on one rather than moving on to another. To answer this question, I will rely on the schema of the tripartite soul in Book IV of the Republic. The tripartite psychology articulated there results from Socrates pointing out that the soul is often in conflict with itself, which he takes as evidence that the soul has parts. The city/soul analogy leads (more…)

A few tweaks to the site…

I have made some changes to the site that are worth mentioning briefly:

1. I changed the subtitle to make it more descriptive of what the site is about.

2. I rewrote the “About” page a little.

3. I added a page “What is Defective Reading?” — a first draft of a first part of a preface to my Plato book. Note that this is different from my previous post on defective reading.

The Relation between Knowledge and Understanding

Knowledge and Understanding are intimately related, and yet different, operations. In my post on The Phenomenon of Questioning, I made the claim that “Knowledge is parasitic on understanding — we can’t really know what is not meaningful to us…One may certainly have another type of relationship to someone/something that isn’t understood, but that relationship is not knower-to-known.” As a follow up, I want to explore a bit the differences and relationship between knowledge and understanding. I will be relying on some of the insights from my (more…)

On Defective Reading

I call my project the “Defective Reading” of Platonic philosophy. My working hypothesis is that defects can only be experienced as defects if there is at work an anterior/immanent norm of completion or wholeness. The defect is “seen” by the “light” provided by the sense of wholeness/completion animating the beholder. The light is not seen, but seen by. Once one become aware of a defect, in an argument for instance, an inner norm becomes energetic and operative. Defects excite such norms, whereas self-satisfied opinions depress them. Moments of such defective awareness thus present the best chance (more…)

A Few Quotes on the Issue of Questions

Here are some supplementary quotes related to my last post on the Phenomenon of Questioning for you to chew on:

The Cleitophon is the shortest of the Platonic dialogues and is often assumed to be spurious due to its defects, that it is not worthy of the pen of Plato. I disagree. I think the defects are just the “cracks to let the light in” (Leonard Cohen). The dialogue suggests that it is an antechamber to the Grand Mansion of the Republic. Cleitophon is a young student of Socrates who has just left his master to become the student of Thrasymachus. (Both obviously make appearances in the Republic itself.) The reason for his frustration with Socrates is stated in the following question: (more…)

The Phenomenon of Questioning

I am obsessed with the phenomenology of questions. What is a question? What does it mean to have a question? The answers to these questions are intimately bound up with what it means to be human. Aristotle observes in the Metaphysics that all human beings by nature desire to know and this desire to know is manifested most obviously in questioning.  Questioning is properly an existential concern, a keystone to philosophical anthropology, and the source of vitality in a mind alive.

As a way at getting at the importance of questions, I want to begin with a couple of quotations from R. G. Collingwood’s (more…)

The Mimetic Theory of Rene Girard, Part 3/3

(This is a continuation of a series of posts comprised of Part I and Part II. Reading those posts first is a necessary backdrop to Part III given here. If you would like to read all three parts in a single post, click here.)

Girard’s anthropology implies that human subjectivity is essentially de-centered. The Mimetic Theory replaces the notion of the individual as the first principle of social analysis with the radical notion (more…)

Scandal and story-telling

One of my favorite podcasts is the New Yorker Fiction Podcast in which a published New Yorker Magazine story author picks another author’s story from the archives, reads it out loud and discusses it with a New Yorker editor. Listening to that podcast a few days ago, I chanced upon the story “Adams” written by George Saunders and read by Joshua Ferris. (Here is a link to that podcast reading and discussion. Here is a link to the text of the story from the New Yorker archives if that works better for you.) I mention it because Saunders’ story is a near perfect (more…)

Upcoming posts

Here are a few posts that you can look forward to over the coming weeks/months:

1. A continuation of my introduction to Mimetic Theory, including the following topics: the gospel unmasking of sacrificial myths, the apocalyptic situation that results from this unmasking, the notion of “structural innocence”, the “interdividual” status of human beings, the mimetic origins of occult phenomena, hominization and the birth of meaning, and (more…)