This memorable essay offers in lay language a profound criticism of the limitations of modern thought as based on Descartes, Darwin, and Freud. It highlights the decissive role of Peirce's approach to language and human activity in order to close the modern rift between matter and mind, between biology and grammar.
Suicidal Thoughts is a compilation of some of the most moving and insightful writing accomplished on the topic of suicide. It presents the thoughts and experiences of fifteen writers who have contemplated suicide-some on a professional level, others on a personal level, and a few, both personally and professionally. Through this collection, the reader is able to bear witness to the struggle between life and death and to the devastating aftermath of suicide. Suicidal Thoughts provides readers with a better understanding (...) of the reasons why some individuals give serious consideration to killing themselves. (shrink)
The American novelist Walker Percy (1916-90) considered himself a "thief of Peirce", because he found in the views of C.S. Peirce, the founder of pragmatism, an alternative approach to prevailing reductionist theories in order to understand what we human beings are and what the peculiar nature of our linguistic activity is. -/- This paper describes, quoting widely from Percy, how abduction is the spontaneous activity of our reason by which we couple meanings and experience in our linguistic expressions. (...) This coupling of personal creativity and cultural tradition makes it possible to bridge the gaps between persons and cultures. (shrink)
The novelist Walker Percy argued that modern science has a tremendous blind spot in its view of human nature. Unlike purely physical phenomena, which can be explained by the interaction of dyadic relationships, human beings must also be understood in terms of triadic relationships brought into being by symbolic language. The self brought into being by symbolic language is nonmaterial but real, and operates by different “laws” than those that govern dyadic relations. In making this case, Percy drew (...) a sharp line between human and nonhuman language, a line that more recent developments in science has challenged. However, Percy's central point, that the agent of symbolic language cannot be understood within a materialist framework, remains valid. (shrink)
This article introduces the work of philosopher-novelist Walker Percy to the Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science readership. After some biographical and contextual preliminaries, I suggest that the conceptual collecting feature to Percy's work is his critique of abstractionism manifest in a tripartite congruence of Cartesianism, derivatively misapplied science, and social atomism.
In "The Problem with Percy: Epistemology, Understanding and Critical Thinking," Sharon Bailin argues that critical thinking skills do not generalize because students do not understand the larger epistemological picture in which to situate the importance of arguments and reasons. More plausible explanations are: (I) instructors across the disciplines do not give assignments requiring critical thinking (CT) skills, (2) single courses in CT have little effect, (3) pragmatic arguments showing the effectiveness of CT are more effective than epistemological arguments with (...) the average student. So to achieve the generalization of the logical skills and intellectual dispositions inherent in CT courses, CT thinking cannot be departmentalized. (shrink)
The technological transformation of the conduct of war, exemplified by the American employment of drones in Afghanistan and in Iraq, calls for a critical reflection about the fantasies that underpin, and are in turn animated by, the robotic revolution of the military. At play here is a fantasy of a “costless war" or a “sterile war", that is such act of military state violence against the other that is inconsequential for the self. In other words, the seductive appeal of the (...) “costless war’ fantasy rests on the desire to develop a self that is invulnerable in the face of violence. Importantly, it is a desire explicitly projected towards a particular American future (of an imagined warfare, or of a super-power status), but also one that is connected to a lacking critical reflection about the intersubjective aspects of violence in the debates about America’s post-9/11 military involvements. This article reflects critically about the fantasy of the “costless war" and about its underpinning politics of invulnerability from a perhaps unlikely angle of literature. In a close reading of a short story by Benjamin Percy called “Refresh, Refresh" (2008), it explores its narrative insights into how acts of violence, which are undertaken far from home, inevitably return to affect and damage, perhaps beyond repair, the subject at home. Importantly, the return of violence in Percy’s story occurs within the domain of the everyday and the mundane, not of the exceptional, and testifies to the despair experienced by young males “abandoned" by their military fathers. My interpretation draws also on theoretical explorations of the connection between violence, intersubjectivity and vulnerability, based on the ideas of Emmanuel Levinas on the subject's ethical captivity by the suffering of the other, and on Judith Butler's recent “uses" of the Levinasian ethical project in her writing about the post-9/11 America. (shrink)
This study reexamines the existentialist nature of Walker Percy's fiction, arguing that his debt to Kierkegaard is more substantial than previously acknowledged. Others have noted his employ of Kierkegaardian stages, terminology, and artistic indirection, but they haven't revealed the extent to which his sources lie in Kierkegaard and the action of his novels occurs within the context of a "Kierkegaardian narrative." Prior critics have overstated both the role his protagonist's "searches" and the assistance of others play in their movement (...) to faith. This study rejects the Marcelian reading of Percy's endings and demonstrates that his characters follow a Kierkegaardian path toward faith; they do not move toward faith via the assistance of an other, but subjectively, by despairing of their efforts to find ontological answers in immanent sources and choosing, in the midst of that despair, a paradoxical faith. ;Chapter one pairs Kierkegaardian philosophy with views espoused by Percy in his nonfiction and interviews in order to establish their intellectual affinities: each uses art as a means of responding to the objectifying forces of rationalism and posits a movement toward self which necessitates the embrace of faith after despairing of an aesthetic existence. The second and third chapters provide extended Kierkegaardian readings of The Moviegoer and The Last Gentleman, tracing their sources to his philosophy and demonstrating how each can be read within a Kierkegaardian framework and as a tacit either/or. Percy's protagonists either "come to themselves" by despairing of their own searches and realizing a subjective faith , or they remain in Kierkegaard's aesthetic stage, separated from faith, and thus lost to themselves . Both readings of Percy's novels reveal the ways in which he continually adopts Kierkegaardian categories, images, and details as he works within the larger framework of the paradoxical movement toward faith. The study concludes by emphasizing the Christian character of the narratives of Kierkegaard and Percy and arguing that a strict Kierkegaardian reading of Percy's fiction is more illuminating than the use of multiple existentialist perspectives. (shrink)
Over the past twenty odd years, North America has witnessed the complete medicalization of unhappiness by transforming it into depression, which has been conceived in psychologically reductionistic terms. Many are unhappy with this state of affairs, including the contemporary American novelists, Walker Percy, Richard Ford, and Jonathan Franzen. This paper explores why they are unhappy with this trend and why they reject psychological reductionism in favor of a vision of life that is more thoroughly moral in its outlook.
Most current conceptions of critical thinking conceive of critical thinking in terms of abilities and dispositions. In this paper I describe a common type of problem students experience with critical thinking and argue that conceptualizations in terms of abilities and dispositions do not provide a way to understand this problem. I argue, further, that a useful way to think about the problem is in terms of epistemological understanding, and that this way of thinking about the issue can provide both pedagogical (...) and conceptual grounding to efforts to foster critical thinking. (shrink)