Metaphysic and Dialectic

James Lowry, 81 pages. Price: $10.00

metaThe highest activity of which mankind is capable is thinking – specifically thinking about thinking. Even though this thought has a history, it has never been clearly understood.. This is because both dialectic and thinking can be either only partly understood or be thought in various forms of incompleteness. The result of these various forms of misunderstanding has many consequences for metaphysics, which is impossible without dialectic – which is its native form. In Metaphysic and Dialectic both the history and the theory of this problematic is fully comprehended and through its accuracy shows how Mentaphysics is their proper and actual unity.

Excerpts from Metaphysic and Dialectic:


James Lowry, 288 pages. Price: $25.00

MENTAPHYSICS is an original and systematic work of speculative philosophy. The title itself, although suggestive of the traditional term “metaphysics”, indicates a knowledge that does not simply transcend physics but rather unites the mental and physical aspects of spirit. Spirit, which is the ultimate principle in this treatise, is the comprehensive living reality of which mentaphysics is the theoretical exposition. The main body of the text is a detailed elaboration of this principle. As a contemporary work of speculative philosophy MENTAPHYSICS is intended to provide the framework and underlying principles of all philosophical inquiry and reflection. At the same time it is a scholarly re interpretation of the history of philosophy and culture. As such MENTAPHYSICS is both a continuation of and an addition to the speculative traditions of the East and the West.

Excerpts from Mentaphysics:

Reason and Religion

James Lowry, 98 pages. Price: $15.00

reasReason and Religion is divided into two parts: the first is theoretical, the second practical. Theory – religion popularly understood is an ultimate emotional response to mankind’s longed for relation to the Absolute. Faith in God claims to transcend Reason. Modern Science, in claiming to overcome Religion as superstition, is a false champion of reason as it is tied to the noose of materiality as ideal. Practice – in the second part of Reason and Religion Dr. Lowry shows the absolute relation between theory and practice by providing a philosophical commentary to the Christian liturgy. Liturgy is the practical act of mediation in which mankind is raised from Earth to Heaven, from mortality to immortality – a Prefiguration in Time of an ultimate Transformation to Eternity.

Excerpts from Reason and Religion:

Psyche and Cosmos

James Lowry, 167 pages. Price: $18.00

psyPsyche and Cosmos has for its theme the perennial ineluctable human desire to know the origin and end of mankind – of self. Science and religion are understood to be the immediate and opposite efforts to fulfill this desire. The requirement that they be mediated by philosophy, by thinking as ultimate activity, is shown forth in Psyche and Cosmos with spiritual clarity and lucidly accurate historical learning. The inevitable result must be mentaphysics.

Excerpts of Psyche and Cosmos:

Speculative Philosophy and Practical Life

James Lowry, 79 pages. Price: $10.00

specModernity as a human phenomenon is an era of praxis, thought by its adherents to be perpetual. Practical action is assumed to always trump theoretical relation. Speculative Philosophy and Practical Life shows the futility of this hubris in the one area to which modern societies are most attached – the accumulation and enjoyment of wealth. In the most advanced societies this takes the form of pension funds. Pension funds are, afterall, the effort to establish, even to ensure, a Shangri-La – Work transformed by the accumulation and compounding of money into Play. In Speculative Philosophy and Practical Life Dr. Lowry shows that, even in what is considered most practical,the management of pension funds, a misunderstanding (really a practical innocence!) of the immutable relation of theory and practice must result in dysfunctional practice. The possibility of correcting this dysfunctionalism is fully explained in this small volume.

Excerpts of Speculative Philosophy and Practical Life:

Volume XI Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1999

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

The relationship between speculative philosophy and the organization of civil society, between philosophical economics and ecological equilibrium has not been systematically developed in modernity. Philosophers, such as Kant and Hegel, would not have imagined how a residual science such as economics, could spiral off into an unbridled Pythagoreanism or how ethics could collapse into that to which it is applied. The fragmentation of the intellectual disciplines is as much the adoption of other values, of mathematics, of hypothetico-deduction, of proof and of manipulative engineering, as it is isolation and xenophobia.

There are two recently published antidotes to these developments, Arundhati Roy’s The Cost of Living and Dierdre McCloskey’s The Vices of Economists. The former is an architect writing about the diabolical absurdities of big dam construction and population displacement in the Narmada Valley in India, the latter a professional economist who rails against statistical significance, blackboard proofs and social, or rather, people engineering that perversely dominate her chosen discipline. While few writers today have the historical and philosophical perspective, much less the perseverance, to elaborate a metaphysics out of their painfully won insights, these authors, in their thin volumes, manage to coalesce a world-view that shatters much conventional wisdom. The Cost of Living, especially, combines an informed non-fictional narrative with a powerful, poetic style that intuitively applies many of the philosophical and economic principles of Henry George. Towards the end of The Greater Common Good (pp.80-81), in The Cost of Living, she intones:

The Cost of Living, especially, combines an informed non-fictional narrative with a powerful, poetic style that intuitively applies many of the philosophical and economic principles of Henry George. Towards the end of The Greater Common Good (pp.80-81), inThe Cost of Living, she intones:

Big Dams are to a nation’s “development” what nuclear bombs are to its military arsenal. They’re both weapons of mass destruction. They’re both weapons governments use to control their own people. Both twentieth-century emblems that mark a point in time when human intelligence has outstripped its own instinct for survival. They’re both malignant indications of a civilization turning upon itself. They represent the severing of the link, not just the link – the understanding – between human beings and the planet they live on. They scramble the intelligence that connects eggs to hens, milk to cows, food to forests, water to rivers, air to life, and the earth to human existence.

This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains Part IV, the final instalment, of “Metaphysic and Dialectic: Ancient and Modern” by James Lowry. It is expected that this series will be published by the Institute as a Monograph. Also in this issue are some reflections on Hegel’s Concept of Denken by Mark Nyvlt, who is currently doing a Ph.D. in philosophy at Boston University, and working primarily in the area of the relationship between Hegel and Aristotle.

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Volume XI Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1999

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

Occasionally I am the recipient of various discussions and controversies via what is now known as Internet listservers. This form of communication can be most valuable. As always it depends on the quality and tone of the individual submissions. “Netiquette” is obviously still in its early stages of refinement. There is something about the spontaneity of the Internet, without the social restrictions of face to face contact, that seems to grant participants a linguistic license which often borders on the obstreperous. There are now listservers for almost every type of philosophical discourse – some freewheeling and anarchic, others controlled by various rules decreed by the manager of the listserver.

I was struck recently while on one listserver of how prevalent the temptation is for philosophy students to seek out secondary literature before they had even begun to study an original text. There were even requests for secondary literature from particular perspectives, such as an analytical reading of Hegel’s Logic or a post-modern interpretation of Kant. The pitfalls associated with reviewing secondary literature before one has a thorough understanding of the original text are obvious and need no repeating here. It appears to me, however, that the philosophical condemnation of such practices is neither common nor fashionable. Graduate students therefore feel no hesitation in making such admissions and requests. There is now no disciplinary shame in confessing your intentions to read this literature as a modus vivendi to allegedly understanding Plato or Aristotle.

There are several possible remedies to this situation. Quotations from secondary sources in term papers will result in demerits not advancement. The sighting and citation of secondary literature in classroom discussions will be strictly forbidden. Professors deeply immersed in such practices will have to exercise restraint. Survey courses based on textbooks designed primarily by the larger commercial publishing houses should be eliminated from all curricula. Finally, the classroom mantra at the beginning of every semester will be the understanding of the text through individual study, effort and reflection. Let the students know that they are usually capable enough.

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This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains Part III of “Metaphysic and Dialectic: Ancient and Modern” by James Lowry and “F.W.J. von Schelling and Post-Hegelian Nihilism” by Francis Peddle which are continuations of essays published in Volume X, Number 2, Fall, 1998. F.W.J. von Schelling is the last representative of classical German Idealism before its disintegration as a philosophical force around the middle of the nineteenth century. He remained an idealist all his life. His philosophical writings have enjoyed a considerable resurgence in recent decades.

As an interpreter of Hegel he was astute, conceptually rigorous and often prophetic of later developments for which a critical understanding of the import of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences is a necessary prerequisite. With his invocation of a positive philosophy, and his preoccupation with Naturphilosophie, as opposed to Hegel’s negative rationalism, many modern writers see him as more exemplary of a form of modern existentialism than as an idealist. The following essay is primarily concerned with the issue of Schelling’s understanding of the role of nothing in relation to the Absolute in Hegel, and philosophy in general, and the implications this has for modern nihilism.

Volume X Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1998

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

With this issue of ELEUTHERIA the Institute completes its tenth year of publication. It is noteworthy that the first volume in the Spring of 1989 contained an announcement that the scholarly and philosophical work of the Institute would be accessible by members while a computer was in “host” mode on Monday evenings between 7:00 and 10:00pm. The intervening years have witnessed an unheard proliferation of journals, semi-journals, newsletters, monographs, bulletins and assorted intellectual efforts. Then in recent years the Internet, E-mail, electronic journals, philosophical news services and websites have supplanted much traditional publishing. Many of the well known print journals still retain their prestige and honour. Their permanency may, however, be somewhat less resilient than those wanting publication within may surmise.

Financial considerations are not the only reasons driving these developments. There is an air of democracy, of freedom and anarchic revelry on the Internet that is almost irresistible. Its blandishments are what one cares to make of them, without the coercive rot and peer group sidling that bedevils much of institutional scholastic life. As a cursory acquaintance with the history of ideas reveals, most great writing, such as Giambattista Vico’s New Science or Henry George’s Progress and Poverty , have been Sisyphean exercises in self-publication. Conventional wisdom dismisses vanity publishing. It is nonetheless integral to our cultural and philosophical traditions. If the Internet lightens the task of the mute Beethovens, Platos and Dantes lurking in our midst, then it is worthy of support and respect.

In the near future the Institute will have a website and join the ranks of global instantaneity and but hopefully not spontaneity – one of the Internet’s more beguiling but counter-intellectual attributes. It is not yet clear if humanity has moved on to another sequence, or perhaps moment, in the articulation of absolute mind. Certainly technology as an external force and instrumentality must always remain subordinate to our moral and spiritual consciousness.

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In Volume IX, Number 2, Fall 1997 I declared our intention to produce the ten volumes ofELEU­THERIA in a bound edition. The Board of Directors has since then revisited this issue and has decided to reproduce selected thematic essays to be published in theMonograph Series . ELEUTHERIA has evolved over the years from its original inception as a more philosophical newsletter to a philosophical journal with the occasional reference to newsworthy items relevant to Institute activities. Issues of the Monograph Series will be announced herein with the usual discounts to Institute members.

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This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains the continuation of articles by James Lowry and myself of essays published in Volume X, Number 1, Spring, 1998 and Volume IX, Number 2, Fall, 1997 respectively. The metaphysical problem of dialectic as understood by the ancients requires the suspension of modern scientific and Christian assumptions. To confront the metaphysics of modernity through Kant and Hegel also necessitates a thorough survey of the many presuppositions associated with the concept of nothing. How one can reconcile or metaphysically integrate the ancients and the moderns, if such a reconciliation is possible, is an important undertaking of speculative philosophy.

Volume X Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1998

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

In Hegel’s Dialectic , Hans-Georg Gadamer, one of the foremost philosophers of the twentieth cen-tury, states:

It seems to be a fundamental trait of philo­sophical consciousness in the nineteenth century that it is no longer conceivable apart from historical consciousness.

The inherent antinomial nature of reason awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumber. The post-Kant­ian development of philosophy is primarily an odyssey of the increasing historicity of truth. While this development diminished faith in the universal validity of philosophy it did not eradicate the conviction that thought could somehow dwell outside of time. The result was the formation of a fifth underlying antinomy of reason in which the thesis asserted the possibility of scientific and philosophical truth, while the antithesis presented an unbounded historical relativism based on the radical historicity of subjectivity and objectivity. Hence the source of most contemporary dogma­tisms and scepticisms.

Kant’s four antinomies originated in inferential and syllogistic reasoning. They are circumscribed by reason’s higher powers and are not in any sense destructive of the rational faculty itself. Recognition of the mutual validity of thesis and antithesis renders nugatory a constitutive employ­ment of the transcendental cosmological ideas. Reason is protected from the darker onslaught of its own possible self-annihilation as long as it is delimited to a regulatory function.

The fifth antinomy of post-Kantian modernity juxtaposes reason and anti-reason, universal valid-ity and historical relativism. However, in this antinomy thesis and antithesis are not innocent and mutually plausible adversaries. The assertion of one necessarily undermines the foundation of the other. This total incompatibility is rooted in the fact that if truth is irretrievably historicized, then universal transhis­torical validity is not ration-ally enter­tainable as a possibility, unlike the inferences reason makes in the antheses of Kant’s original four antinomies.

The antithesis in the primary antinomy of post-Kantian thought declares that a human being can never stand outside of time and history. A trans-historical absolute is unattainable. Does such an affirmation of the historicity of consciousness necessarily entail a thoroughgoing denial of rationality and lead to nihilism? And is such an antithesis inextricably dependent upon and sur-reptitiously assumptive of the universal reason which it denounces? Denying the possibility of positing something outside of time and history may very well necessarily presuppose certain logical and formal structures of thinking that are indeed unrevisable and atemporal. The proofs of the antinomy of modernity would therefore seem to involve the same assumptions of their opposites as are found in the Kantian cosmologi­cal proofs.

Speculative metaphysics must not simply confront the crisis of historical relativism, radical historicism and the question of whether or not historical existence per se has any meaning. It is conclusion­ary as much as it is heuristic, critical and reflec­tive. This is a perennial mandate even though historicity as such often disguises and sidetracks our metaphysical endeavours.