Department Chair

  • Jennifer McErlean
    Professor of Philosophy
    Siena Hall 414
    (518) 783-4129
    mcerlean@siena.edu



Raymond D. Boisvert, Research

Convivialism: A Philosophical Manifesto

The Pluralist, 5(2), 57-68. Summer 2010.

"Autonomy," although capturing a major direction of modern European philosophy, is incompatible with a metaphysics that takes the concrete seriously. Here, terms signifying "living with" (symbiosis and convivialism), are more suitable. The little preposition "with" provides the pivot around which an alternative philosophical position can be developed. This essay examines what a philosophy built around the preposition "with" would look like. Four areas are examined: (1) metaphysics, (2) philosophical anthropology, (3) epistemology, (4) nature-cultures. In each case a radical challenge to modern (1500-1900) philosophy is developed.

 

The Will to Power vs the Will to Prayer: William Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique 30 Years Later.

Journal of Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination, 22(1), 24-32. 2008.

William Barrett believed that the best in 20th-century thought emerged from an amalgam of Martin Heidegger and William James. Both looked askance at "the illusion of technique," the modern dream of a single method that would apply in all areas of human concern. Such hegemony encourages thinking in terms of a "will to power," seeing things as 'manipulanda', that which awaits reshaping by humans. Barrett contrasts this with the "will to prayer," an attitude which, inspired by Platonic 'eros', seeks, not control, but active engagement leading to personal transformation.

 

Personalism, Pluralism and Guest/Host Ambiguity

The Pluralist, 1(1), 31-40. Spring 2006.

The purpose of this essay is to sketch a pluralistic personalism for our time. It does this by focusing on the ambiguity of the French "hôte", which means both host and guest. This ambiguity suggests a tensional metaphysics in which some oscillating plurality rather than a unity best describes beings. Applied to philosophical anthropology the resonating tension is that between 'dasein', "being there," and 'ens ubiquitus', "being everywhere." The latter is based on Michel Serres's "world-objects," which de-localize humans, i.e., the Internet. As both local ('dasein') and global ('ens ubiquitus') humans must accept a new level of responsibility, one which matches the global scope of their reach.

 

Diversity as Fraternity Lite

Journal of Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination, 19(2), 120-128. 2005.

This paper examines challenges to fraternity as a communal ideal. It urges a re-emphasis on the forgotten third prong associated with the French Revolution. It argues that a new commitment to fraternity is especially important in advanced democratic republics which house ethnically and religiously diverse populations. Exhortations to tolerance and multiculturalism are inadequate without fraternity. The former can coexist with a community made up of "silo subsocieties," Balkanized groups where identity and purity remain guiding ideals. Fraternity as "fraternization" urging transformations and privileging mixtures and blendings over purity encourages a multiculturalism of interchanges rather than one of simple mutual toleration.

 

Ethics is Hospitality

Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association, 78, 289-300. 2004.

The central virtue dealt with in 'The Odyssey' is hospitality. Religious traditions and cultures throughout the world prize hospitality as a major virtue. Philosophy, for some reason, has proven the exception. Hospitality is missing from just about any philosopher's list of virtues. Few discussions of ethics pay attention to it. This essay explores why hospitality has been so prominent in literature but ignored in philosophy. What Santayana called the "sedentary city mind," typical of modern thought, which replaced the medieval "pilgrim mind," is seen as a key move leading philosophers to marginalize hospitality. The move to rehabilitate hospitality, I claim, can draw inspiration and sustenance from a surprising source: Jacques Derrida.

 

Philosophy, Postmodern or Polytemporal?

International Philosophical Quarterly, 40(3), 313-326. 14 p. September 2000.

This article claims that the best way to approach the confusing issue of postmodernism is to pay attention at once to an older generation (turn-of-the century thinkers) and several new thinkers, while minimizing the impact of the so-called postmodern thinkers in between. Thinkers at the turn of the century (Ortega y Gasset, Berdyaev, Toynbee) had a real sense of how different were emerging views from those that had dominated modernity. New thinkers (Latour, Serres) have offered an important way of reading history as "polytemporal," abandoning the prefix "post" which, even when used in "postmodern," is irredeemably a modern notion. Constructive philosophy should aim to be what it has always been, a mix and blend of good ideas from all epochs.