Volume IV Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1992

Message from the President

Francis Peddle


The lament for the condition of public education continues in the press and in more seasoned academic discussions. The back to basics movement ranges from the systematic cultural critiques of Alan Bloom and others to the straightforward hope by parents that their children be taught to read and write. Liberal democratic education, rooted in the ethics of society and cultural historicity, is social servicing, nursed by a vast industry of situational consultants who refer primarily to a pedagogy originally anchored in the sociology of knowledge. The principal thesis of Karl Mannheim’s Ideology and Utopia, that there are modes of thought which cannot be adequately understood as long as their social origins are obscured, was transformed into the considerably less rigorous notion that there are no modes of thought severable from their social origins.

The condition of public education obviously reflects the condition of our culture and ultimately of our philosophy. And it cannot be known that our culture has a coherent history and theoretical underpinning if history is the only arbiter of how we think about history and culture. The transhistorical abstractions of the older metaphysics were inevitably displaced by historiologies – empirical, sociological, economic, hypothetico-deductive – and cultural self-portraits that cultivated a contingent instability and tedious revisionism. Such historiologies are equally abstract and unsupportive of any form of cultural unity, or more speculatively a unity in diversity. As Edward Gibbon once said of the ambassadors of a Renaissance Greek emperor: “persuasion is the resource of the feeble; and the feeble can seldom persuade”. The modern cultural historiologies do not even have an emperor.

Philosophy is neither historical nor transhistorical, contingent nor provident. Education is initially imitative, that is, sourced in an externality that the student does not yet know as a totality of subjective and objective referents. As an achieved mediacy, education overcomes itself and attains a nonimitative mediacy that is fundamentally the standpoint of philosophy and thus both historical and transhistorical. Educational institutions conceived as social service agencies absolutize the externalities of educational development and as such are inherently counter-philosophical. Our current educational environment is incapable of making such a critique of the educational milieu because it is devoid of a sufficiently rigorous speculative philosophy. The abstract socio-historical methodologies which drive the educational bureaucracies in the end prohibit more than promulgate educational and cultural development.

Most people are aware of this unhappy state of affairs. This is why many are calling for radical solutions, which are consistently opposed by entrenched interest groups in the public schools and universities. Radical reform is nothing but fundamental reform. Radix in Latin means “fundamental”, but such reform is itself abstract and unstable if not properly contextualized within a broader speculative and philosophical portrait of human nature and human organizations.

The current lament for public education will continue as long as speculative thought enlivens only at the margins. As people recoil from the mediocrity of the government schools, more resources will filter out to the marginalized centres of speculative rationality. This has become apparent in recent years, with the growth of sentiment for the voucher system in the United States and widespread disenchantment in Canada with high per capita educational costs and disproportionally low scholastic results. The 1990s could prove to be the decade when a command system of education becomes transformed into one more guided by a general speculative reason.

* * *

This issue contains the second instalment of Dr. James Lowry’s Psyche and Cosmos. Causation theory pervades by necessity the realm of education and educational theory. Speculation about origins and causes are one of the earliest enthusiasms of a developing mind. There is little outlet, however, for these speculations, as one advances through the present educational system. The deadweight of sociological reasoning blurs reflections on the relation between the individual and the universe, making them appear irrelevant and puerile. Dr. Lowry shows that if these initial speculations on cosmology and the individual are taken up into a more rigorous system of thought, then educational theory and practice will no longer be vulnerable to continual detours and unimportant excursions. The rigor of systematic speculative thought is nurtured by our more immediate and youthful speculations about infinity, the origin of the universe, and the stark isolation of the individual. The third and final instalment of Psyche and Cosmos will appear in the next issue of ELEUTHERIA. provinces.

Volume III Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1991

Message from the President

Francis Peddle


This issue contains pieces by Ian Lambert and James Lowry. Mr. Lambert, who is currently an attorney in the Cayman Islands with Maples and Calder, writes on the relationship between free will and causation as conceptualized by Henry George and Ludwig Von Mises. Traditionally, free will and causation have been looked upon as mutually exclusive; causation thus negating and eliminating free will; free will disrupting and rendering unintelligible cause and effect relationships. George and Von Mises demonstrate that it is conceptually incoherent to think of free will apart from cause and effect relations. It is only insofar as the will creates cause and effect relations that those relations become intelligible to us. Equally, a sequence of causes and effects only have meaning insofar as we relate them to our will acting independently and causally upon the external world. Understanding free will and causation as aspects of the same concept is to think speculatively about their complementarity and interrelation.

Lowry’s article Psyche and Cosmos will be serialized over the next three instalments of ELEUTHERIA. This monograph is a systematic examination of the circular and linear referents buried in the paradox of causation and the desire to return to origins. Dr. Lowry shows how in the very life of thought uncertainty demands certainty, ambiguity determinateness and subjectivity objectivity. This article speculatively interrelates a broad range of dichotomies that, in modern philosophy, are generally looked upon as delimiters to conceptual liberation. Dr. Lowry’s work is therefore as much an answer to the problematics of modern philosophy as it is a going beyond that philosophy in its explicit characterization of philosophy as such.

* * *

In May of this year the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada decided that “private scholars” would no longer be eligible to apply for research grants. This decision discriminates against a significant and viable sector of the Canadian research community. The arguments stated in the Council’s letter, dated June 20, 1991, to the Presidents of Learned Societies to support revoking the eligibility of private scholars for research grants are seriously flawed.

The Council makes a comparison with the policies of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Medical Research Council which is inappropriate. The research programs of the other federal granting councils require a much stronger institutional context, both with respect to the procurement of equipment and to the teamwork necessary to carry out scientific empirical research. By contrast, a significant proportion of the research in the human and social sciences takes place outside of the university. This is evidenced by the fact that university-based researchers generally leave the university setting when they go on sabbatical or obtain research time stipends and research grants.

The Council states that the university environment is the only one which “provides opportunities to combine research with teaching and training opportunities”. This is parochial in the modern context where many scholars work and flourish in non-university based institutes and research centres. It is private scholars and nonuniversity based inquiry which add diversity, imagination and vitality to many of the disciplines which the Council supports.

The decision of the Council was taken without any prior consultations with either private scholars or the academic community in general. Many scholars thought that the days of “executive federalism” and decision-making in a void had passed.

The Council is in effect discriminating against perfectly qualified scholars and researchers, who do not want university positions becauseit is not the most favourable environment for the pursuit of their research, or who for reasons usually beyond their control cannot get university positions. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council was created by Parliament to “promote and assistresearch and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities”. The Council best fulfils this mandate by concentrating on excellence in scholarship irrespective of the academic or social status of the author. This mandate is severely weakened by Council’s move to drop support for all research conducted solely by non-university based scholars.

The Council should review and revoke this decision. It diminishes support for the Council’s efforts amongst its very own clientele. This support is not something that can be overlooked with impunity, especially in a fiscal and constitutional climate where there is discussion of possibly disbanding the three federal granting councils or devolving their mandate to the provinces.

Volume III Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1991

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

During the week of March 21-27, 1991 I attended a conference in London, England on “War and Peace” sponsored by the International Union for Land Value Taxation and Free Trade. The participants, who were from the U.S., the Soviet Union, the U.K., Hungary, Australia, Denmark, South Africa, the Netherlands and Canada, share an interest in the social and economic philosophy of Henry George. In 1879 George published Progress and Poverty: An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth…The Remedy, which is one of the most widely read and translated texts on the philosophy of political economy. This work had a substantial influence on such varied modern figures as Leo Tolstoy, Sun Yat-Sen, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, Aldous Huxley, and Milton Friedman. Here in Canada, Georgist schools of economic science flourished during the first half of this century in such cities as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. The philosophy of Henry George also led to the formation of an international movement devoted to the recouping for the community of publicly created values and benefits which have hitherto been largely monopolized by a few individuals and interests with its accompanying maldistributions in wealth and power.

The conference was also the scene for the launching of a new book on Georgist philosophy entitled Now the Synthesis: Capitalism, Socialism and the New Social Contract, edited by Richard Noyes (London, Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991). Interestingly, this work uses Hegel’s concept of the dialectical unfolding of history to argue for a holistic philosophy that sets aside the failures and distortions of both capitalism and socialism in favour of a social order which examines anew property rights, the ownership of land and natural resources, taxation and the development of institutional structures over the past several centuries which have “disfigured the rights of the individual”, negated the natural environment and adumbrated our sense of community.

Hegelian dialectico-speculative logic, as historically instantiated, argues that philosophy comprehends (begreifen), in its time, the most explicit working of the Absolute. The limitation of Hegelian speculative philosophy is that it is primarily reflective (nachdenklich) and historical, not futural. The famous passage in the Preface to the Philosophy of Right is à propos:

The teaching of the concept, which is also history’s inescapable lesson, is that it is only when actuality is mature that the ideal first appears over against the real and that the ideal apprehends this same real world in its substance and builds it up for itself into the shape of an intellectual realm. When philosophy paints its grey in grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy’s grey in grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.

In reflecting on its own development, philosophy comes to understand the process of history, and thus its underlying continuity. Equally this continuity must be interrelated with novelty, paradigm shifts and the severe diremptions of a modern intellectuality that focuses primarily on imagination and the discursive rather than the rationally integrative and the speculatively reconciliatory. Even more importantly, mature philosophical reflection on the process of history must also have room for the power of the anticipatory hope which lies buried in future expectation.

There is a fundamentally speculative orientation in the socio-economic philosophy of Henry George. His exposition of a practical life and civilization that is based on the theoretical complementarity and dialectico-speculative mediation of freedom and property rights, of the production and distribution of wealth, of individual liberty and equal justice for all, of respect for all natural life and the environmentally sound creation of wealth, and of the tradition and its imaginative reworking and development, is not only an accomplishment that scholars must further elaborate but also a disclosure which holds great promise for the future betterment of society.

* * *

Expanding the publication frequency of ELEUTHERIA has been suggested by a number of members of the Institute. Semi-annual publication does not nearly cover the large amount of materials that Institute members currently have ready for the press. However, our financial resources do not, at present, allow us to increase the number of issues. Our General Endowment Fund is not currently able to meet the semi-annual operating expenses of ELEUTHERIA.

I urge all members and interested parties, who have not yet brought their membership fees and donations up to date, to do so in the near future. Donations to the Endowment Fund are encouraged and greatly appreciated. There are many ways to make such donations, through loans, trust agreements, bequests, matching funding and so on. For example, if you work for a company that has a matching charitable funding program, you can direct that every dollar you donate to the Institute be matched on a dollar for dollar basis with a corresponding donation to the Institute from your employer. All you have to do is to give a copy of the official receipt you receive from the Institute for your donation to your employer and direct the corporate donation to the Institute. Professional investment and legal advice on Canadian charities and tax law is available from the Institute free of charge. As an interim measure, the Board of Directors has decided that if there is a sufficient increase in funding, supplemental issues of ELEUTHERIA will be published in the near future.

* * *

The Institute on February 23rd and 28th sponsored two seminars at the University of Ottawa on the topic “Modernity and History”. These seminars, led by Peter McCormick, were a sequel to the seminar “Understanding Modernity” held by the Institute on March 31st, 1990. The review of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, which appeared in Volume II, Number 1, is followed in this issue with a continuation of that review and a comparative consideration of Stephen Toulmin’sCosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. The portrait of modernity in the earlier review is filled out by McCormick with a critical evaluation of Taylor’s historical narrative in the Sources of the Self. The contours of this narrative are then contrasted with the competing historical interpretation of the origin of “theory-centered” philosophy in the seventeenth century presented by Toulmin in Cosmopolis. Sponsorship of seminars and presentations on the nature of modernity are a regular part of the work of the Institute.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Peter McCormick on being named a Killam Fellow of the Canada Council. Over the next two years he will be relieved from his teaching duties at the University of Ottawa. This will enable him to concentrate on his writings in the areas of metaphysics and the philosophy of art.

Table of Contents

  • MODERNITY AND HISTORY by Peter McCormick
  • ON PRAGMATISM by Francis Peddle


Volume II Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1990

Message from the President

Francis Peddle


Western philosophy traditionally occupied itself primarily with the identification of the rational component of human nature and the articulation of the interrelationship between rational self consciousness and the realm of sensible being. Equally, reflection on the nature of the universe focused on the search for and the inquiry into the first principles of the cosmos. The discovery of these principles, and their systematic elucidation, was thought to be the condition precedent for determining the order of obligations in the moral sphere and the foundation of rational institutions in civil society.

Modern, post-Enlightenment philosophy has been a sustained critique of the quest for first principles and of the laying forth of the essential nature of both personhood and the natural environment. The quest has been said to be futile, the foundations of ethics undiscoverable and the search for an essential core to human nature an unfortunate obstacle to revealing what is human and to what should constitute our actions in the private and public spheres. Modern discourse has therefore inverted the thought-world of classical Greek philosophy. Plato and Aristotle wished to conceptualize and portray the contingent within the necessary, the infinite within the finite as determinate, time within eternity and language as an epiphenomenon of thought. Modern philosophy, by absolutizing historical contingency, has expunged ab initio the validity of reflecting on the necessary or of supposing that the external world contains within it discoverable, objective truths.

While making thought functionally dependent on language, and in viewing the activity of thought as redescriptive, contemporary philosophy has had great difficulty in shedding the basic terms of the final vocabulary of classical metaphysics. The counter-absolutistic reflections of much of twentieth century philosophy liberally employ the contrastive terminologies of the older traditions while often making resolute but ultimately failed attempts, as in Heidegger and Derrida, to neologize their way into non-privileged and thoroughly historicized vocabularies. Therefore, even though thinking has been purged of the “limiting” nisus towards hoping to find absolute, unrevisable truths, it is still delineated in relation to such necessary truths as inherently “contingent”. Literary anti-foundationalism flourishes in our universities often without recognition or understanding of the foundationalism that makes possible the reaction. The result is frequently neither coherent philosophical argument nor literary pieces of any perceptible quality. Much of this “anti-foundational” activity would be looked upon by many as relatively innocuous if it were not for the fact that it has itself become the “theoretical foundation” for much of the dialogue in contemporary institutions – educational, political, financial, and religious. Redescriptive vocabulary construction is now axiomatic. Its fluid referents and values form the putative substrata of institutional life in the various manifestations of policy development, legislative enactment, resource allocation and decision-making.

Out of the modern thought-orientation also flows a variety of equally dogmatic reactions. Religious fundamentalists, physicists turned Buddhists, philosophers become poets and mystics, and analysts who typically prefer a bureaucratized and austere distribution of social goods as a means to purge civil society of the tyranny of the focus imaginarius, are some of the many permutations. The “relevancy” of literary culture has become a basic problematic.

If the activity of thought is delimited to self-creation, novelty and the perspectival reiteration of the contingent, then this activity is by definition a continual effort to remove itself from the “relevant”. if this is taken as something other than merely a abstractly subjectivized self-referentiality. Modern philosophy has not, however, become “irrelevant” simply because it is an abstract theoretical selfconcern, since actual theoretical being is inherently practical and concrete, but because it has deliberately construed its relation to thought and the world as preeminently “non-theoretical”. The result is that it can onlyconceive of its relation to the world within contexts, options and alternate strategies. But this relation is still primarily self-oriented, that is, it has onesidedly absolutized its practicality and is thus insufficiently stable within the community at large to count for anything other than yet another interesting view of things. Philosophy has become a weakly competing perspective within a world where the formation of such perspectives is determined primarily by socio-economic externalities. The internally generated thus pre-determines its own irrelevancy.

Speculative philosophy, in contradistinction to both modern (post-Enlightenment and contemporary) and traditional philosophy, neither vacates the theoretical field nor takes it in abstraction from the practical. Further, speculative philosophy recognizes permanentsubstrata in human nature and selfconsciousness and actualizes the presence and recognition of such substrata in historical contingencies. And, it further contextualizes the attempt in historicized reflection to deny the existence of these substrata as itself a self-absolutizing and negative reductionism. Speculative philosophy therefore demonstrates its relevancy in the actual working out and articulation of the pervasiveness of speculative principles in such fields as law, economics and sociopolitical/ economic organization.

This issue of ELEUTHERIA contains two essays on the interrelationship of the theoretical and the practical in speculative thinking. The first considers he work of Albert Schweitzer and Henry George with respect to integrating ethical individualism into a concrete program of fiscal and economic reform based on George’s idea of land value taxation as the foundation for the organization and maintenance of delivering social or merit goods and services. The second essay applies first principles to the elucidation of a sound program of portfolio management and investment. These essays have not been ran domly juxtaposed, as is the prescribed format for many literary productions, but are internally connected. This connection is to be found in their speculative content. By taking the manifestations of the modern “non-theoretical” relation to contingent existence as itself an implicitly “theoretical” position, these essays demonstrate that theory and practice can only be meaningfully thought about and practised when neither the historical nor the permanent as such are taken as the fundamental condition of mental and physical life.


On October 24th the Institute held its Third Annual Meeting of the Board of Directors. Dr. Lowry was reelected to his position as Vice-President and Dr. McCormick remains as a Director. I will continue in the offices of President and Secretary-Treasurer.

Membership dues for 1991 will remain at fifteen dollars ($15.00). Any donations received at or in excess of fifteen dollars ($15.00) entitle the donee to a membership in the Institute.

The Board noted that Dr. McCormick was named a Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Summer 1990 Institute in Aesthetics, at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He also was able to pursue further research at Freiburg in late summer thanks to the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung. Besides giving papers at several scholarly meetings this Fall, Dr. McCormick will return to Japan in November to participate in the tenth Tamiguchi Symposium on Eco-Ethica in Kyoto and Tokyo. The sequel to Dr. McCormick’s “Understanding Modernity” which was in the previous issue will appear in the Spring, 1991 instalment of ELEUTHERIA.

Volume II Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1990

Message from the President

Francis Peddle


Although words and texts are the central referents for reflective activity in the arts and letters, the publishing industry has never had a halcyon relationship with the disciplines that come within the rubric of the humanities. It is a rare occasion today when a humanist finds a thoroughly sympathetic publisher following faithfully the tradition of such Renaissance scholar-printers as Aldus Manutius! Apprising businesses of the virtues of our intellectual heritage in an increasingly non-literary culture is perhaps a more daunting task, though one not to be shirked given present trends, than for humanists to go into the publishing business for themselves.

As is well known only a small fraction of publications in, for instance, philosophy are commercial successes. The bulk of the output in the discipline is artificially supported by other publications and by various, primarily governmental, subsidies, the distribution of which proceeds through the conduits of academic editorial committees, on to libraries and into the hands of those with a special interest in the subject.

The publication of journals in the humanities is a component of academic life that is currently undergoing a re-appraisal. In many instances libraries now face decisions about how many humanistic journals should be delisted if a new scientific publication is to be acquired. Humanities journals also face a growing problem of funding. Larger proportions of the membership fees to Learned Societies are going into scholarly publication. Government too is having second thoughts about supporting journals whose reading clientele could easily fit into the author’s car.

There is also the problem of access. Younger writers, and those not working in the mainstream, as well as some established authors, often find it difficult to get their articles accepted for publication. Too much energy, that could be more profitably employed, is spent trying to find a suitable journal or amenable editor. When one is eventually found, considerable time usually lapses before it ends up in print. Out of this milieu a great deal of standardized and mediocre work finds a ready outlet, while inspiring pieces are often left to wither on the desk of the jaded craftsman.

There are a number of causes which have led to this parlous state of affairs. Overspecialization in the humanities, in recent decades, has created an ever increasing spate of journals. Esoteric subspecialities have very small subscriber lists. By definition many such publications rarely address the fundamental concerns of thinking and living. They are thus devoid of a vibrancy and spirit that would make one want to preserve them at all costs. Another problem, not unrelated to the issue of specialization, is that much material is published primarily for the external reason of gaining security and promotion within the university hierarchy. Apart from the rather curious spectacle of taxpayers’ money being used to further lighten the public treasury, this situation has led to uniformity and a serious decline in the weight given to the content of what is written. Artificial methodological standards and restrictions have been superimposed upon publications in the humanities that are foreign to the essential orientation of these disciplines.

Self-institutionalization and self-publication have been common in our cultural tradition. The list of famous texts that were originally produced through the author’s financial and even technical support – texts which have often spawned their own industry of secondary literature – is extensive. The established knowledge industry has a tendency to view this disdainfully as vanity publishing, while others see it as indicative of the innovative and original rebelling against a more oppressive form of intellectual culture. A typical concern, for instance, is thought to be that a decline occurs in editorial standards when there is an increase in self-publishing. Equally, however, this thinking can be seen as the desire to maintain a hegemony over any challenges to accepted intellectual beliefs since it assumes that all literary production must for some reason be policed.

It is not improbable that in the coming years humanistic publication, and the associated activities of scholars in general, will undergo a considerable shift from governmental to private funding. The transition will be difficult for many. Others will resist the change by continuing the call for more government funding. Some will simply be resigned to the inevitable and do nothing. If this change from a social to an individual basis in the financial under-structure of intellectual activity in such areas as philosophy and literature does occur, as I think it will, then the varied interplays between trade and business and the more noble pursuits will once again assume their traditional place. With some exceptions, worthwhile artists, philosophers, poets and teachers have always been able to find patrons, supporters and followers because they speak to the elemental and the significant in the thought and life of all people, no matter how dimly felt and unarticulated. The socialized bureaucratic dispensation of cultural benefits appears to encourage an abstract self-referentiality. What is methodologically sound and fashionable is copiously sponsored, while insight, depth of thinking and coherent reflection are too often shunted aside.


The Institute has been attempting to address these issues by means of both its theoretical and practical constitution which is partially reflected in its publishing agenda. We have recently launched a campaign to introduce libraries and interested individuals to the concept of a looseleaf publication in the humanities, and more particularly in philosophy. Legal practitioners and researchers are already quite familiar with looseleaf services. In the humanities, however, the traditional journal has remained the format of choice for most editors. The primary disadvantages to such a format are high costs, lack of flexibility in adding new features, such as supplements, and significant time lags in publishing already accepted articles and essays. By distributing ELEUTHERIA in a looseleaf format we hope that a paradigm will be created, using modern technology, so that humanistic publications will become accessible and affordable, while serving more adequately the aims of writing in philosophy and its related disciplines. I encourage all members to bring the Institute’s looseleaf service for ELEUTHERIA to the attention of university and public libraries as well as to individuals.

Another feature of ELEUTHERIA that we regard as important is its wholly non-governmental source of funding. What we are trying to create is a capital endowment fund out of which will come sufficient income to finance this publication and eventually a more expansive publishing program. Our LIFETIME MEMBERSHIPS are an aspect of this effort. Capital funding, in place of operating grants, for publications in the humanities is quite unusual in the current environment, where governments are the primary sponsors of such publications. Individuals are the best source of capital donations. Although building up capital endowments is initially quite time consuming and painstaking, especially in the context of the humanities, over the long term the pay-off in terms of security and a reduction in energy expended on fund-raising is significant.

On February 2nd of this year I addressed the Board of Directors of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities with a presentation entitled “Learned Societies, Funding and Tax Law”. The proper and informed utilization of charitable tax law is an integral part of limiting the dependency of learned societies on government funding. Although donations to arts and culture rank low in the charitable priorities of most Canadians, it is now necessary for humanities scholars to focus on new sources of funding. Persuading donors to give to the humanities will also help these disciplines clarify to themselves their activities both in relation to the nature and purpose of their undertaking as well as with respect to their role in our overall cultural development. There will undoubtedly be casualties in this process, but a more vital, rich and surefooted community of active players in the humanities may very well emerge.

On March 31st the Institute sponsored a seminar in Ottawa entitled “Understanding Modernity” which was led by Peter McCormick who gave a critical review of and a commentary on Charles Taylor’s new book Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity . Out of that seminar came the review which is included in this issue ofELEUTHERIA . It is expected that early in the Fall the Institute will hold another seminar in Ottawa wherein Taylor’s work will be further examined and contrasted with Stephen Toulmin’s new book Cosmopolis . Occasional seminars and presentations on various topics related to speculative philosophy are an aspect of the work of the Institute.

Table of Contents

  • Understanding Modernity by Peter McCormick
    • A Portrait of Modernity: Moral Sources, Instrumentalism, and Morality
    • Moral Frameworks, Incomparable Goods,and The Moral Spaces of The Self
    • Qualitative Distinctions, Moral Realism, and Articulacy
  • Transcending Modernity: Albert Schweitzer and Beyond by James Lowry
  • Beyond Modernity

Volume I Number 2

Ottawa, Canada

Fall 1989

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

The Institute held its second annual meeting of the Board of Directors on September 16th. The Board reviewed generally the activities of the Institute during the past year. Significant donations from two benefactors were gratefully acknowledged in the minutes.

The Board voted at the annual meeting for Dr. Lowry to take over the office of Vice-President. Dr. McCormick retains his position as a Director. I will remain in the offices of President and Secretary-Treasurer.

The Board resolved that the membership fees for 1990 should remain at $15.00. However, anyone making a donation in excess of this fee will have their entitlement to ELEUTHERIA extended on a pro rata basis.

The Board also decided to offer LIFETIME MEMBERSHIPS in the Institute for two hundred and fifty dollars ($250.00). A description of the intent of this offer is included in this mailing and is also available upon request. Lifetime members have the same privileges as current members.

A Resolution of the Board dated December 19, 1988, formalizes the Institute’s policy with regard to the receipt of charitable gifts of books for a library on speculative philosophy. Donations of gifts in kind, such as books, that are under $1000.00 in fair market value will be officially receipted by the Institute for purposes of tax deductibility if they are itemized, available for prior inspection by Institute staff, and relevant to the discipline of speculative philosophy. Donations of books over $1000.00 in fair market value will have to be independently appraised at the donor’s own expense before official receipts will be issued. These conditions on charitable gifts in kind are in accordance with Revenue Canada guidelines and policies. A copy of the full Resolution is available upon request.

The goal of putting out a publication, ELEUTHERIA, in our first full year of operation was achieved well within budget. The presentation and content of ELEUTHERIA has been favourably commented upon by both members and non-members. While this publication will continue to be the Institute’s informal medium for the exchange of views and information relevant to speculative philosophy, it is also our broader intent to provide within its pages a comprehensive critique of the narrow conceptualizations of philosophy common in modern thought and in the professional practice of the discipline. Within the confines of ELEUTHERIA this critique will primarily take the form of book reviews, commentaries, exchanges, occasional pieces and short essays.

Institute publications are also a good way to promote membership and generate financial support. Extra copies of ELEUTHERIA are available to members who wish to distribute them to interested parties. If any back issues are required, please specify in the request.

Members of the Board have been quite active recently. Dr. McCormick has had another manuscript accepted by Cornell University Press entitled Modernity and the Bounds of Art: Eighteenth Century Origins and the Realist Backgrounds of Aesthetics. This book is a sequel to Fictions, Philosophies and the Problems of Poetics, which was published by Cornell in 1988. The latter was the subject of a special session of the annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Aesthetics, which took place during the Learned Societies Conference at Laval University in late May and early June of this year. At the same conference I presented a paper on “Hegel’s Philosophy of Music”.

In early August I attended the Henry George Sesquicentennial International Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and presented a paper entitled “Philosophies of Taxation in Contemporary Society”. Henry George is one of the great American economic and social philosophers of the nineteenth century who has been unfortunately bypassed by mainstream socio-economic scholarship. His Progress and Poverty has, however, had a considerable influence on the philosophy of economics and has engendered a world-wide movement of students and scholars devoted to fundamental reform in such areas as public finance, land reform, environmental policy and the sound use and equitable allocation of natural resources. George’s elegant articulation of his philosophy in terms of natural law and non-utilitarian moral principle put him at odds with the modern scientific development of utility theory and the subjective theory of value. As utilitarianism, refined and unrefined, dissipates its moral force and practical efficacy towards the end of the twentieth century, it is probable that George will once again become a widely known author and guide for genuine thought and action in both philosophy and socio-economics.

In the Foreward to the 1946 edition of Brave New World Aldous Huxley goes beyond the two alternatives to which he previously adhered: “…If I were now to rewrite the book, I would offer the Savage a third alternative. Between the utopian and the primitive horns of this dilemma would lie the possibility of sanity – a possibility already actualized, to some extent, in a community of exiles and refugees from the Brave New World, living within the borders of the Reservation. In this community economics would be decentralist and Henry-Georgian, politics Kropotkinesque and cooperative”. Huxley goes on to talk about a “higher utilitarianism”, which is in fact speculative philosophy where science and religion are united in a teleological principle that avoids the autocratic distortions of unreflective scientism and frenetic religiosity.

George provides that urgent synthesis of deep moral thought and feeling with a practical and viable agenda that is utterly lacking in contemporary philosophy. Indeed, one of the great paradoxes of modern philosophical realism and pragmatism is that it offers no programs, no beacons, no well-built highways to social and moral betterment. In giving up systematic thought, first principles, and a comprehensive teleology, modern philosophy sought to achieve the permanently workable and relevant. This project was, however, flawed ab initio, due to the assumption that rational thinking could only work well in practice on the basis of theories wholly dependent upon and articulated out of the practical, the commonplace and the everyday linguistic milieu. It was inevitable that appearances and relative determinations would gain prominence in all realms of discourse. The result has been theoretical chaos, moral digression and a deep-seated inability to recognize that it is a pathological condition for rational beings to believe that all theory must be a function of practice, situation and ongoing historical revision.

Volume I Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1989

Message from the President

Francis Peddle

On this, the occasion of the inaugural issue of our semi-annual publication ELEUTHERIA, I would like to take the opportunity to welcome all new members and associates. In particular, I would like to sincerely and enthusiastically thank those who have so generously donated both their time and financial resources to the goal of seeing the Institute become a viable philosophical enterprise during the past two years.

The intent and objective of ELEUTHERIA is to provide members with an informal medium for exchanging views and information on topics relevant to the discipline of speculative philosophy and other related activities of the Institute. ELEUTHERIA will therefore complement the formal writings of the Institute in the Yearbook, which is projected to begin publication in 1990.

As always with fledgling organizations our initial concerns must be with increasing membership and ensuring ongoing financial stability. By far the greater part of our finances will be used in such crucial areas as publications and teaching. Launching glossy membership drives of any significance will not be possible at present. I therefore encourage all members to spread by word of mouth, or by any other medium within their means.

A number of representations on behalf of the Institute have been made in national fora over the past year. On November 4, 1988 I gave an address entitled “Private Scholars and the Humanities” at a National Forum on the Un/Under-Employment of Humanities Graduates sponsored by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities. Brief extracts appeared in the Canadian Association of University Teachers’ Bulletin, Vol.36, No.1, January, 1989, and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities Bulletin, Vol.12, No.1, Spring, 1989. I argued in the paper that the “independent” or “private” scholar is best able to pursue the classical ideals of education within the constraints of modern organizational and corporate life. The contemporary university is essentially a corporatized instantiation of a socio-economic ethic which is non-humanistic and deliberately counter-idealistic.

information about the Institute. Extra copies of our flyer are available on request. Funding from other organizations and foundations, both governmental and private, is often closely tied to the number of members in an organization. Size of membership also determines economies of scale with regard to the distribution of publications and the availability of courses. Increasing membership over the next few years has to be a principal objective of the Institute.

We are currently making an effort to put as much information as possible relating to speculative philosophy on computer disc. This includes articles, addresses, monographs, bibliographies and so on. If any member wishes to directly access this information via an electronic file transfer, arrangements can be made. Here is some preliminary information. The Institute stores information on an IBM AT computer. The wordprocessing program being used is WordPerfect, Version 5.0. We are also using a 2400 baud Hayes modem and the Telix communications system, Version 3.11. Starting in June, the system will be in “host” mode on the first Monday evening of every month between the hours of 7:00 and 10:00pm. EDT. Please use this telephone number: (613) 594-5881, and access the following drive path and directory: D:\SPECPHIL.DOC. Sub-directory files such as articles and papers are identified by author; all other files are named descriptively as far as is possible.

Philosophy cannot but become delimited and misformed in such a setting. Reform of the modern university must be driven by philosophical ideals and not by ad hoc utilitarian criteria based on the external determinations of a onesidedly materialist and economic culture. I advocated a simple reform in order to resurrect and further develop the classical paradigm of education. Anyone wishing to pursue a course of studies at a university in a pure, theoretical discipline should be admitted free of charge. Tuition fees would, however, be charged to those who study technical, job-oriented disciplines primarily with a view to receiving employment after graduation. This simple reform has many wide-ranging implications. For example, the applied disciplines will be purged of a false scientific and conceptual intellectuality. On the other hand, the theoretical disciplines will be relieved of the fleeting necessity of constantly having to prove their relevance.

Indicative of the utilitarian culture pervading modern universities is that multiple social, economic and cultural ills are only thought remediable by multiple and diverse solutions. Indeed, most university based research in the social sciences and the humanities is almost totally directed towards the description of externally encountered problematics. “Solutions” are thus defined by narrow methodological, epistemological, and analytical frameworks. Genuine and fundamental reform, however, must involve animating and unitary principles which order and sustain historical contingencies. It is because the modern university has been thoroughly historicized that therein no “solutions” can be found to the “modern crisis”. Contemporary intellectuality and research in the inaptly named “humanistic sciences” can only find an operational agenda in its professional undertakings. It thus skillfully manages to avoid crucial reflections on cosmology, absolutes, first principles, and related matters, by relegating these considerations to the speculative infancy of the human race. Speculation has, according to the view of modern “scientific” ethical, positivistic and analytical philosophy, merely sustained the myth-making capacity of human culture. What is fundamental to philosophy is marginalized by modernity and its professional practitioners, who, for the most part, live that marginality in fragmented writings and wistful second-order critiques of largely extraneous material served up by sundry disciplines clamouring for recognition in the modern university.

The Institute has also been actively involved in making representations to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC) regarding procedures in its Standard Research Grants program. The Council is currently undergoing a review of these procedures and input has been received from the academic community as a whole. On November 29, 1988 Dr. Lowry and myself submitted a detailed response to the Courtney Committee Interim Report. We opposed the concept of “person-based” funding in the Interim Report and called for the implementation of appeal procedures in the adjudication of research grant proposals. At present the adjudication committees have absolute discretion and this has led to arbitrary and often biased decisions in the awarding of grants. Given the pivotal role that such funding could play in the development of philosophy, and the humanities in general, the distribution of taxpayers’ money in this regard needs to be carefully monitored. Unfortunately, at the present time these funds are being directed primarily towards narrowly-focused research in either various analytic and phenomenological forms of socio-political philosophy or merely descriptive historical scholarship. This situation should be rectified so that government based funding reaches all manner of philosophical and scholarly research in Canada. Copies of our response are available from the Institute.

On January 12, 1989 I attended, on behalf of the Institute, a national conference, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the SSHRCC, entitled “Taking the Pulse: Human Sciences Research for the Third Millennium”. From the keynote addresses to the various workshops, the dialogue reflected an overwhelmingly quasi-scientific eclecticism. Systematic, absolute and unitary philosophy was referred to only as an historical curiosity. There was a noticeable absence of transhistorical or transtemporal referents, even though the conference ostensibly was about the “future”. The view of many participants was that the humanistic studies have merit, and thus ought to be vigorously supported by government and society, because of their pluralistic, qualitative, value-oriented nature. Their very historicism was thus seen to be the source of their virtue in a society overrun by the debilitating value-neutrality, ethical insouciance, and uniformity of modern science and technology. Needless to say most participants left the conference with a promise to continue the “dialogue”. Nothing, however, was mentioned about the need for constructing a philosophy for the third millennium which would be the – “guide and guardian of the general reason” – to use a felicitous phrase of Albert Schweitzer’s.

One of the fundamental aims of the Institute is to preserve and cultivate a philosophical tradition which is ignored, often forgotten, and insufficiently understood by modern academic institutions. The thought orientation of these institutions is primarily empirical, non-systematic, and inductive. Authority seeps down from the natural sciences into the humanistic disciplines. Quantitative measures have come to be the primary modes of reference for these disciplines. Historically, they find their thought-world in the utilitarian philosophies of the English Enlightenment and positivistic nineteenth century Continental philosophy. The modern university is in essence the practical working out of these thought orientations. We are thus in an unique position to witness and evaluate the inadequacies of these philosophies as they pervade and shape modern intellectual discourse.

From the standpoint of speculative philosophy, however, utilitarianism and positivism are not absolutes, but derivative ethical, historical and epistemological systems that do not wholly recognize either the implications or limitations of their own principles. The subordination of modern pluralistic thought-orientations, which hold themselves as either absolute or relative, or which provisionally maintain their theoretical veracity, is, and has always been, a central task of speculative thinking. This subordination is a fundamental element in the speculative rethinking of “modernity”.