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.