The World explored, the world suffered: The Exeter lectures is the first part of a trilogy and is a work of philosophical/ educational fiction(Published in November 2017). Its fictional component is composed of a middle-aged Romeo-Juliet drama which ends with two deaths in Venice and a youthful adventure that takes Robert, the narrator from trauma in South Africa to a teacher training institute in England where he discovers Philosophy and befriends an alcoholic lecturer who had once studied under Wittgenstein.
The educational component is composed of a series of lectures on the philosophy of religion, psychoanalysis, aesthetics, ethics, the philosophy of natural science, human science and mathematics, philosophical psychology, political science, philosophy of education. Three different lecturers deliver a series of lectures, the educational intention of which is to introduce the reader to the world of Philosophy and the world of Education seen through the eyes of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant,Hegel, Marx, Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, Freud, William James, Wittgenstein Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau- Ponty, Arendt, Quine, Cavell, Paul Ricoeur, Brian O Shaughnessy, R. S. Peters, Paul Hirst, Peter Winch, Hudson, Adrian Stokes, T S Eliot, Julian Jaynes.
The book attempts to take the reader on a philosophical journey from curiosity to commitment and it is hoped that the trilogy will serve as a general introduction to Philosophy for all who are curious about the eternal Philosophical questions such as “What is the nature of Reality?” “Is God merely an idea in our minds?” “Is the soul a function of the body?” What is Justice?” “What is ethics?” “What is the role of Education in the life of the individual and society?”How should we characterize the feeling of the sublime?” “How shall we characterize the feeling of the beautiful?” “What properties do great works of Art possess?” What is the philosophical role of Psychoanalysis?” “How shall we philosophically characterize the role of language in our understanding of the world?” “What is the meaning of life?”
Life, for the central character and philosophical explorer of the book, Jude Sutton, was ebbing to its conclusion prematurely and his best friend Glynn Samuels, a religious Welsh follower of Heidegger, Freud and T S Eliot could do nothing but play the part of the spectator of a Greek, Shakespearean tragedy, watching the spectacle unfold to its inevitable conclusion. He could do nothing but express his admiration for his friend and his suffering at his friend’s misfortune in his lectures.
Below is the central lecture given by Glynn Samuels, the lecture has the same title as the book:
“Ladies and Gentlemen! How does man relate to the world? What is he that he is capable of posing a further question for every answer he gives himself? Why is the mind of man so restless? Thanks to science we know why the sea is restless. Indeed the behavior of all the other elements, earth, air, and fire have been captured in our observations and equations. Science in this very restless century has explored the outer regions of the heavens and the inner structures of the smallest particles in the Universe: particles that are invisible to the human eye. However, in a series of operations reminiscent of the unpacking of a sequence of embedded Russian dolls, it looks to me as if an inevitable limit has been encountered even for the eye equipped with various forms of microscopes and telescopes. If this is true, does this signal that we have come to a resting point in Science especially insofar as the exploration of the Natural physical world is concerned? Are we detecting a winding down of the activity that occupied the geniuses of Einstein and Bohr? Have the microscopes been packed and moved off to other kinds of laboratories for the study of other kinds of things? Will we now be eagerly awaiting the results from clinical laboratories whose experiments save lives? The Frontiers of Science may have been moved to Chemistry, Biology, Medicine and the Human Genome, but the methodology is the same. Penetrate the phenomenon, reduce it to its smallest components and measure these in a myriad of ways. What will the result of all this activity be, ladies and gentlemen? Will we find a gene that explains my tendency to eat porridge in the mornings or will I read a book one day that tells me that it has now been established that mankind uses all his genes in his choice and eating of porridge? Dr. Sutton in his lecture last year attempted to map out the transformations in our intellectual landscape brought about by Science. He reviewed the developments of science in this century and arrived at the conclusion that though we have only completed 70 years of the cycle, this century may well come to be known by historians as “the century of terror”, counting amongst its “happenings” two world wars and the dropping of two atomic bombs on civilian populations. He asked the thought-provoking question: “on whom should we place our bets for the future: Einstein or Wittgenstein? I believe in that lecture he gave very cogent and persuasive arguments for believing that the processes of philosophical thinking are more to be trusted than the processes of scientific “thinking”. A colleague of Einstein once wondered what would have happened if Einstein had used his talents and genius to study the question “What is life?” as if he was to science what Christ was to Christianity. A famous psychologist who met Einstein at Princeton University thought there were contradictions in Einstein’s theories. There certainly appeared to be un- Christ-like practical contradictions in Einstein’s personal life. I am skeptical about the reasoning of Einstein’s colleague, ladies, and gentlemen because he was placing his faith in the science of Biology to investigate the gift of life. Biological investigations, I wish to maintain, need to be conducted holistically and philosophically, within an Aristotelian framework of Change: kinds of change, principles of change and causes of change. The concepts of matter and form, potentiality and actuality, the actualizing process, genus and species need to lift the level of reflection above the so-called “material causes” relating to why we choose to eat porridge in the morning. The question of the meaning of life, ladies and gentlemen, is a philosophical question, but it also a religious question. Even the great Einstein believed in Spinoza’s God: the God who ordered the world harmoniously in terms of principles and adequate ideas that man could theoretically understand. We heard in last year’s lecture that Wittgenstein too believed in God and the religious attitude, perhaps because he believed that no other attitude could bring peace to his restless soul. The sign of a great man, ladies and gentlemen may not be in the work that is immediately published, but rather in what happens to the entire history of thought once the published ideas have been assimilated, in our culture. Will these ideas still permit a judgment of the culture, a judgment urging necessary change? Dr. Sutton showed us how he himself through the work of Wittgenstein could understand Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant and all British Philosophy in greater depth. He demonstrated that philosophical texts are not atoms or particles in the cultural world but something more akin to living, breathing beings working together to build and maintain our culture in accordance with holistic principles. Man is a curious being, ladies, and gentlemen: he has intuition, intuition for the connection of things and the relation of parts to a whole. He is, as Professor Heidegger so perceptively maintained: a being for whom his very being is an issue. Heidegger also believed that the philosophical issue of the nature of his own existence was being addressed by the poets and their writings. The poets’ words, ladies, and gentlemen are drawn up very carefully, and with great effort, from the well of suffering- not only the well of their own suffering but also the very deep well of the suffering of the world. To fully understand the cathartic effect of the poet’s words we may need to recall Dr. Sutton’s lecture which referred to the Copernican Revolution of the work of the later Wittgenstein which in his words “shed the philosophical light of the sun on the role of language in our understanding of the world and each other.” T. S. Eliot had the following to say about some cathartic uses of language: “…..Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden Under the tension, slip, slide, perish Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place Will not stay still. Shrieking voices Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering Always assail them. The Word in the desert Is most attacked by voices of temptation The crying shadow in the funeral dance The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.” You may guess to whom these shrieking voices belong. Partly, to the manipulators of our diminishing dolls whose language has been atomized to the point at which one no longer cares for humanity in the way the religious man, the poet or the philosopher care. Consequences are not arguments, ladies and gentlemen. The consequences of medical science are indeed valuable but it is important to note that they are the result of the deep cultural process, which, in spite of the scientific method, inhabits the habitats of the universities. In relation to this deep cultural process we intuit the purpose of engaging in the search for knowledge for the sake of knowledge. We do not seek knowledge because it pays or gives us something. Restless eyes look for payment, for reward. These are not the eyes searching through the pages of books fighting the good fight that Eliot referred to in East Coker of the Four Quartets: “The fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again.” There is hostility in restless eyes searching for a reward. An ancient religion and these restless explorers par excellence may have played a role in the Crucifixion of Christ. The restless eyes and minds of this century, ladies and gentlemen are engaged on the project of culturally crucifying religion and everything spiritual. We are, as Aristotle said, ladies and gentlemen, social beings, we absorb language and attitudes: like impressionable children. There is no longer any “easy commerce of the old and the new” to quote Eliot again. We have learned from Wittgenstein’s Philosophy that two of the essential characteristics of language are its Communication and Truth functions. Heidegger, in an essay entitled “The Work of Art” talks about how artworks can be revelatory of the world we are attempting to understand. The poet is conceived as an artist using words in a world revelatory manner. He is searching for the moods of the restless sea, the moods of the restless world. The world of Eliot was measured by a time older than chronometers, the time of a tolling bell of an untethered sea buoy responding to the swell of an infinitely restless sea. Who of you believe that this phenomenon can be caught in the torn nets of science being sewn together by the wives of old mariners who have missed the morning watch whilst the mariners themselves are searching the sea for what is inside of themselves or nowhere. Religion is world revelatory, ladies and gentlemen, it shows itself both in the commerce of the world and in the explanations and justifications of the most important aspects of this commerce. The world is laden with hidden values that reveal themselves, if and only if, one learns to look in the right way and with the right attitude. The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is revealed or brought from concealment. Heidegger uses the term aletheia for this process. Truth begins with the Transcendental Aesthetic of the poet in his rendering of the spirit of place in the rhythms of time. It flourishes further in a Transcendental Logic of the categories of existence revealed in language. In the sea of meaning out of which the island of truth arises we find castaway life forms living in flux. Religious truth, ladies and gentlemen interprets life holistically. It can see a handful of dust particles without fear and trembling. It can calmly survey the end of the world of things. It can ask coolly and clinically “Is this handful of dust a part of the corpse we buried so long ago?” The religious eye is not afraid to dwell in the pages of old manuscripts and is not afraid to lift its eyes to the heavens and celebrate the divine in the human. It is not afraid to embrace humanity as a whole. In the beginning this embrace was carefree but time has taught us a lesson: that Care is tinged with the mourning for aged lost friends and relatives, ancient forms of life and forms of thought. Or if one wishes to change the key of this sung lament from Heidegger to Freud, the ego has a heart of darkness within, a heart composed of the memories of lost objects of the past. No one can live during this period, during this century, and not feel transformative processes shaping our world into something we know not what. Aristotle believed that every human process aimed at the good but this terrible century has allowed the skeptic to flourish. Where will it all end? In Eliot’s rose garden or in Kant’s Kingdom of Ends, or perhaps in Eliot’s waste land, where the cultural attitude will be shared by a few lost souls whose eyes will never dare to meet lest shared sorrow about lost values releases an infinite flood of tears, making life impossible. In the agony of such existence what comfort can there be other than in Religion, Philosophy, Music and Poetry?”
There are two more lectures in his series of three lectures on the themes of exploring and suffering. These lectures complement the exploratory lectures of Jude Sutton who is sublimating his suffering with alcohol and what it allows to rise to the surface from the depths of his losses.
The book is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
If you wish to peruse the lectures which figure in the following two volumes of the trilogy, you can do so via my blog situated at:
My author page is at :
https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B077JVNXCV and at
Michael R D James