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Philosophy Alive

Philosophical Biography and News

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The American Catholic Philosophical Association met at the Wyndham Miami Beach Resort in Miami, Florida, 5 to 7 November 2004.  In addition, there were satellite sessions of the International Institute for Hermeneutics, the International Society for Environmental Ethics, the Society for Catholicism and Analytical Philosophy, the Society for Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy, the Society for Thomistic Natural Philosophy, and a Special Session on the School of Salamanca.  The presentations themselves were of significant interest, including new prespectives on Plato and Aristotle. 


Jacques Derrida
This Algerian-born French intellectual died in Paris at 74 on Friday 8 October 2004, said a release from the office of the President of France.  Derrida was one of the most celebrated and notoriously difficult philosophers of the 20th centrury.  He was the father of "deconstruction," the method of inquiry that asserted all writing was full of confusion and contradiction, and that the author's intent could not overcome the inherent contradictions of language, thus robbing texts -- whether literature, history or philosophy -- of truth, fullness, absolute meaning and permanence (Chicago Tribune, 10 October 2004).  Derrida and his followers were unable to define deconstruction with any precision, so it has remained misunderstood or interpreted in contradictory ways.  Cultrual critic Roger Kimball claimed that deconstruction encourages "an emacipation from the responsibilities of truth" (Ibid., 17 October 2004), and he asserts that "deconstruction is an updated version of nominalism, the view that the meanings of words are completely arbitrary and that, at bottom, reality is unknowable" (Wall Street Journal, 12 October 2004).  Two reasons why deconstruction has declined recently was defense by Derrida (himself a Jew) of the Nazi, Paul de Man, Belgian-born Yale professor of comparative literature, and secondly, the passing of any trendy academic fashion as it becomes part of the common coin of academic discourse.  As a lecturer, Derrida cultivated charisma and mystery, so that for many years he declined to be photographed for publication.
Pope John Paul II, formerly Karol Wojtyla
The illness of Pope John Paul II, who died Saturday 2 April 2005, was televised to the world.  Cardinal Geroge, of Chicago, noted, "People keep looking at him as a moral policeman instead of taking a look at the whole breath of academic work and intellectiual vision".  The pope's writing rests on his understanding of "person".  Phenomenology, developed in the early 20th century, inteded to rescue philosophy from abstraction and fragmentation, using as its data human experience seen as a whole in its physical, psychological, and moral elements.  The young philosopher, Wojtyla, worked to synthesize phenomenolgy into the framework of Thomas Aquinas, making humans the subject, not the object, of Christian theology (Chicago Tribune, 17 April 2005).  The 1981 encyclical "On Human Work"  reflects Scheler's emphasis on indiviudal experience.  The 1993 encyclical "Veritatis Splendor"  uses person as the baseline for a new moral theology.  The encyclical "Fides et Ratio" calls on religious and secular thinkers alike to pursue the ultimate truth, according to Steve Kloehn (Idem). 
Paul Ricoeur
He died at 92 years of age on 20 May 2005 in his sleep at his home in Chatenay-Malabry, France.  He received his doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1950.  He began his existentialist view of philosophy with a study of Jaspers in a German prisoner of war camp.  He then shifted to phenomenology, studying Husserl and Heidegger.  His mature thought was philosophical hermeneutics, and he concluded the meaning carried by texts cannot be absolutely known.  Derrida and Lyotard were his students.  (Confer Chicago Tribune, 25 May 2005) 
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