Toward a Metaphysics of Silence

Idealistic Studies 32 (3):255-271 (2002)
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Abstract

The metaphysics of presence has led not only to the closure of rationalized systems that define modernity, but also to what can appear as its opposite, the freely flowing movement of information (and of capital) characteristic of the post-modern “de-centered” world. Ideas, after all, require a depth dimension that ultimately proves irreconcilable with the one-dimensionality of the purely present. It is for this reason that the rejection of metaphysics (which is only the final consequence of the metaphysics of presence) fails to solve our dilemma. An alternative strategy is to attempt the recovery of the living heart of metaphysics, its open and ecstatic gaze, rather than its final consequence, the constrictive will to closure, determination, and power. This is the genuinely Socratic possibility, a metaphysics not of presence but of radical transcendence. To clarify that possibility, it is necessary to show how Socrates himself was characterized less by practical and political concerns than by a metaphysical vision directed not to presence but to the unknowable region that opens with death. Socrates’ irony and courage have the same source, what I call a metaphysics of “silence.”

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Joseph Lawrence
University of Edinburgh

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