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”.