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A RETURN TO LOVE IN WILLIAM JAMES AND JEAN-LUC MARION
Department of Educational Psychology and Philosophy The Ohio State University
Abstract. In this essay Samuel Rocha primarily addresses, and challenges, the modern conception of reason and the lowly place of intuition, feeling, and love in what has become traditional philosophy and education. Drawing upon the rich thought of William James and Jean-Luc Marion, Rocha introduces the reader to a certain harmony between their ideas, most evident in their mutual appeal to philosophy to return to a broader understanding of reason that celebrates the role of intuition and, above all, love. Rocha concludes by relating the philosophical critiques of modern rationalism offered by James and Marion to the current state of education, especially in the United States.
My primary contention in this essay is that philo-sophia (love of wisdom) offers education a tremendous resource — love — that is too often ignored in favor of the conventions of modern reason, which culminate in the inappropriate extension of modern science.1 I will argue that in narrowing the horizon of what it means to reason and be rational by ignoring the feelings and intuitions ordered by ‘‘that great god’’ spoken of in Plato’s Symposium, attempts by modern science to serve as the tool to shape, measure, and validate educational practice are fundamentally inadequate. William James and Jean-Luc Marion each provide rich and compelling philosophical insights and critiques that offer a great deal to education whether it (education) is broadly or narrowly construed.2 In this essay I will focus on two
1. Whatever doubt or ambiguity there may be in what I mean by ‘‘science’’ in this essay, especially in relation to educational ‘‘science,’’ can be alleviated by observing the testing and evidence-based program laid out by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (HR 1, 107th Cong., P.L. 107–110, 115 Stat. 1425, January 8, 2002). This program is brieﬂy, and critically, evaluated from a ‘‘postmodern’’ perspective (which, of course, is not a monolithic thing) by Elizabeth Adams St. Pierre in ‘‘‘Science’ Rejects Postmodernism,’’ Educational Researcher 31, no. 8 (2002): 25–27. It is very clear that love has nothing intentional or explicit to do with the ‘‘science’’ of this program. 2. Pragmatism and phenomenology are notoriously complex philosophical traditions to understand and, especially, to label. What one means when calling him- or herself a pragmatist, phenomenologist, experimentalist, existentialist, naturalist, or humanist, and so on, is not clear based on titles alone. To group William James and John Dewey or Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger together without drawing a number of careful distinctions will usually fall into oversimpliﬁcation. About all we can say is that these names and theories occur roughly around the same times and in the same places and that they display certain continuities and overarching preoccupations. For this reason, I will avoid making general remarks on the traditions most commonly associated with James and Marion (pragmatism and phenomenology), and instead will treat each thinker individually. This will not only avoid some of the basic pitfalls of general nomenclature, it will also avoid a mischaracterization of two thinkers whose thought extends across many philosophical traditions and into several different disciplines. I also think they would prefer not be grouped so crudely. At the same time, this approach risks ignoring the scholarly places that James and Marion traditionally occupy for the sake of a more tradition-detached interpretation. Sadly, I am conﬁdent that I cannot offer a perfect or near-perfect balance of these competing interests in this essay. EDUCATIONAL THEORY Volume 59 Number 5 © 2009 Board of Trustees University of Illinois 2009
of these critical insights: (1) Marion’s Pascalian and James’s radical empiricist understandings of reason as heartfelt, and (2) the crucial role of intuition — or what is more commonly referred to as ‘‘gut feeling’’ — in their thought. In my discussion of each of these insights, the supremacy of the ordo amoris (order of love) should be clear. After making those two points, I will conclude by offering some remarks on the urgent need for these kinds of philosophical observations in education at this time when we are faced with the continued dominance of, among other things, uses and abuses of psychology and science and the collective forgetting that students (and teachers) are, ﬁrst and foremost, human persons to be loved. This ‘‘return’’ to love is not an attempt to go back into some previously vacant space; it is instead an effort to realize that this is where we have been all along. So, in the end, James and Marion should not leave us with mere indictments of modern reason, science, and education; instead, because of the irony of this return, we should ﬁnd that we have been loving beings doing amorous things all along, in spite of whatever conceptual disputes may continue to arise.
Reason is usually thought of as something from our mind or intellect that orders our impulses and desires. It is understood as the subordination of sentiment and emotion to something that, at its best, is immune from impediments, complications, or vagueness. Philo-sophy itself — philo-sophia, love of wisdom — is confusedly understood to be rational when it suppresses love, that is, when it censors itself. Reason, by this account, should protect our ordered head from our disordered heart. Jean-Luc Marion brings this up when he asks,
Why is love thrown to the wind, why is it refused an erotic rationality. . . . The answer is not hidden far away: because love is deﬁned as a passion, and therefore as a derivative modality, indeed as an option to the ‘‘subject,’’ who is deﬁned by exercise of the rationality exclusively appropriate to objects and to beings, and who, by thinking, is originarily. . . . And, in fact, we think of ourselves most of the time as just such an ego, a being who cogitates orderable and measurable objects, so that we no longer look upon our erotic events except as incalculable and disordered accidents happily marginalized, indeed optional.3
This passage points to Marion’s twofold objection to conceptions of reason that marginalize love. The ﬁrst is concerned with reason itself. The second points to the priority given not only to reason, but, more importantly, to rational beings — human persons. The key point here is not primarily a matter of advocating for an accurate description of reason. That description is petitioned in
3. Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 6. SAMUEL ROCHA is a Doctoral Candidate and Gates Millennium Scholar in Philosophy of Education at The Ohio State University, 29 Woodruff Ave., Columbus, OH 43210; e-mail <email@example.com>. His primary areas of scholarship include philosophy of education, curriculum theory, and literacy.
A Return to Love in William James and Jean-Luc Marion
order to serve the more important task of recovering a sense of ourselves, of what it is to be thinking beings, rational animals. As a Parisian intellectual, Marion in his conception of ‘‘erotic rationality’’ ´ favors Blaise Pascal’s understanding of reason over that of Rene Descartes. As important as this Pascalian preference is for understanding French intellectual life, it is even more crucial for understanding Marion (who began as a Cartesian scholar and translator) and his critique of modernity. Marion notes that in the original Latin of Descartes’s Meditationes, the ego is described without reference to love. The ﬁrst translator of Descartes from Latin into French, the Duc de Luynes, added ‘‘which loves, which hates’’ to the opening of Descartes’s Third Meditation.4 Marion favors this revision (albeit unintended by Descartes) and exhorts us to take up the Duc de Luynes’s addition to the ego and see ourselves ‘‘as the cogitans that thinks insofar as it ﬁrst loves, in short as the lover (ego amans) . . . substituting for the ego cogito, which does not love.’’ Marion maintains further that ‘‘it will be necessary, then, to take up the Meditationes from the starting point of the fact that I love even before being because I am not, except insofar as I experience love, and experience it as a logic.’’5 In short, Marion challenges the widely accepted, and distinctly modern, cogito and argues that we do not think and therefore exist. We are prior to thinking. We exist before we think. We love ﬁrst. This conception of reason as something heartfelt and primordially love-ordered is at the very core of Pascal’s opposition to Cartesian rationalism. We see this in ´ the Pensees, where Pascal famously wrote, ‘‘Le cœur a ses raisons (the heart has its own reasons).6 This raison de cœur (reason of the heart) is not purely rational, and if subordination occurs, it is fundamentally a submission of head to heart. In other words, reason submits to the ordo amoris (order of love). Reactions against Cartesian rationalism, including Marion’s, are often misunderstood as advocacy for an irrationality of some kind or, at least, a limitation upon what has become traditional reason. We should be reminded
4. This description of the ego can be found in the ﬁrst paragraph of Meditation Three, ‘‘Concerning God that He Exists.’’ The original Latin passage (1641) reads ‘‘Ego sum res cogitans, id est dubitans, afﬁrmans, negans, pauca intelligens, multa ignorans, volens, nolens, imaginans etiam & sentiens.’’ The 1647 French translation by Louis-Charles d’Albert, Duc de Luynes, reads as follows: ‘‘Je suis une chose ` qui pense, c’est-a-dire qui doute, qui afﬁrme, qui nie, qui connaˆ t peu de choses, qui en ignore beaucoup, ı qui aime, qui hait, qui veut, qui ne veut pas, qui imagine aussi, et qui sent.’’ In the 1901 English version, translator John Veltch retains Duc de Luynes’s addition parenthetically. It reads: ‘‘I am a thinking thing, that is, a being who doubts, afﬁrms, denies, knows a few objects, and is ignorant of many — [who loves, hates], wills, refuses, who imagines likewise, and perceives’’ (emphasis added, brackets in original). All three versions are available on the Web at http://www.wright.edu/cola/descartes/intro.html. 5. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 8. 6. Max Scheler, Ressentiment (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2003), 4. For an interesting treatment of this subject, see Jennifer Church, ‘‘Reasons of Which Reason Knows Not,’’ Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology 12, no. 1 (2005): 31–41.
that Pascal himself wrote several times of the need for reason (which, in this case, refers to headbound reason). For instance, Pascal wrote:
There is nothing so consistent with reason as this denial of reason. Two excesses: to exclude reason, to admit nothing but reason. . . . Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an inﬁnite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go as far as to realize that.7
In other words, while we must not neglect matters of the mind, to reduce the world to nothing but intellect is also a mistake. The point here is that one should avoid rationalism and irrationalism. It is vital to remember that Marion too sees a need for the mind and ‘‘the (dis)ordered events’’ of reason. His dissatisfaction is only in the narrowness of the sovereign modern mind. For Marion, there are no limits in advance to reason. In William James we ﬁnd Marion’s Pascalian critique of rationalism treated as a psychological issue. James’s The Will to Believe includes a provocative chapter entitled, ‘‘The Sentiment of Rationality,’’ where he asserted the following: ‘‘Well, of two conceptions equally ﬁt to satisfy the logical demand, that one which awakens the active impulses, or satisﬁes other aesthetic demands better than the other, will be accounted the more rational conception, will deservedly prevail.’’8 For James, as for Marion, ‘‘logical demands’’ or ‘‘rational conceptions’’ are not rational in the traditional, modern, Cartesian sense of the word. James argued empirically that, in the case of a conﬂict among congruent interests or values, a ‘‘rational conception’’ is nothing more than the concept that awakens and satisﬁes other active impulses and aesthetic demands. According to James, we select and name things as ‘‘rational’’ in heartfelt terms of reason, especially when it comes to belief. He observed, for example, that ‘‘if your heart does not want a world of moral reality, your head will assuredly never make you believe in one.’’9 James also directly mentioned the primordial place of love in human experience when he asked us to
Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all the emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try to imagine it as it exists, purely by itself, without your favorable or unfavorable, hopeful or apprehensive comment. It will be almost impossible for you to realize such a condition of negativity and deadness. No one portion of the universe would then have importance beyond another; and the whole collection of its things and series of its events would be without signiﬁcance, character, interest, or perspective. . . . The passion of love is the most familiar and extreme example of this fact. If it comes, it comes; if it does not come, no process of reasoning can force it. Yet it transforms the value of the creature loved as utterly as the sunrise transforms Mont Blanc from a corpse-like grey to a rosy enchantment; and it sets the whole world to a new tune for the lover and gives a new issue to his life.10
For James, unlike Marion, these theoretical claims are not a product of textual exegesis. This is not to imply that James lacked any amount of erudition;
´ 7. Blaise Pascal, Pensees (New York: Penguin Books, 1995), 55–56. 8. William James, The Will to Believe (New York: Dover, 1956), 75–76. 9. Ibid., 23. 10. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Random House, 1936), 147–148.
A Return to Love in William James and Jean-Luc Marion
however, James characterized the poverty of rationalism as a part the human psychological — or, one might say, experiential — condition. So, while Marion’s return to love is initiated following his discovery of its omission in Descartes’s founding texts of modernism,11 James’s return is, more ironically, the product of a hypermodernism — radical empiricism. Central to this Jamesian radical empiricism is the intuitive formulation of the ‘‘concrete.’’
In his book The Meaning of Truth, James wrote, ‘‘the whole originality of pragmatism, the whole point of it, is in its concrete way of seeing. It begins with concreteness, and returns and ends with it.’’12 In his use of ‘‘concreteness,’’ James was referring to sensory experience of a radical kind. This is clear in his exhortation that we must ‘‘dive back into the ﬂux (and) turn your face toward sensation, that ﬂeshbound thing which rationalism has always loaded with abuse.’’13 The ‘‘concrete’’ is ‘‘the ﬂux’’ of experience. His use of ‘‘concreteness’’ and ‘‘sensation’’ makes clear that James was not referring to a Lockean, classical — or modern, in the Cartesian sense — kind of empiricism. Even regarding action, one of the hallmarks of James’s philosophy, he advocated for action to be understood ‘‘in the widest sense.’’ He was very explicit about this when he spoke of action in his Talks to Teachers on Psychology:
No truth, however abstract, is ever perceived, that will not probably at some time inﬂuence our earthly action. You must remember that, when I talk of action here, I mean action in the widest sense. I mean speech, I mean writing, I mean yeses and noes, and the tendencies ‘‘from’’ things and tendencies ‘‘toward’’ things, and emotional determinations; and I mean them in the future as well as the immediate present. As I talk here and you listen, it might seem as if no action followed. You might call it a purely theoretical process, with no practical result. But it must have a practical result. It cannot take place at all and leave your conduct unaffected.14
A few passages later, James made the very same point about behavior when he told teachers that
You should regard your professional task as if it consisted chieﬂy and essentially in training the pupil to behavior; taking behavior, not in the narrow sense of his manners, but in the very widest possible sense, as including every possible sort of ﬁt reaction on the circumstance into which he may ﬁnd himself brought by the vicissitudes of life.15 11. I have phrased this carefully to avoid mischaracterizing Marion’s work, especially in The Erotic Phenomenon. It is important to note that while Marion’s scholarly work begins with Cartesian exegesis, which is what I emphasize in this discussion, Marion uses many other resources as well. In The Erotic Phenomenon (and other works) much of Marion’s time is spent working from simple intuitions and observations much as James did. However, the point here is that Marion’s work grew out of his discovery of Descartes’s neglect of love, while James’s analysis does not seem to have any similar kind of exegetical origin. 12. William James, Writings 1902–1910 (New York: Library of America, 1987), 934. 13. Ibid., 951. 14. William James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology: And to Students on Some of Life’s Ideals (New York: Dover, 1962 ), 13 (emphasis added). 15. Ibid., 12 (emphasis added).
So, instead of a standard modern behaviorist-empiricism (or pragmatism, for that matter), James proposed a radical empiricism that explicitly critiques modern rationalism and celebrates intuition. He wrote compellingly about this in The Varieties of Religious Experience:
Nevertheless, if we look on man’s whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superﬁcial. It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions. If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be truer than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it.16
These ‘‘prepared premises’’ of our ‘‘dumb intuitions’’ or feelings that, according to James, arise from ‘‘deeper levels of your nature’’ are central, indeed primordial, to rational judgment. James wrote again of the indispensability of feeling in his Talks to Teachers on Psychology:
Our judgments concerning the worth of things, big or little, depend on the feelings the things arouse in us. Where we judge a thing to be precious in consequence of the idea we frame of it, this is only because the idea is itself associated with a feeling. If we were radically feelingless, and if our ideas were the only things our mind could entertain, we should lose all our likes and dislikes at a stroke, and be unable to point to any one situation or experience in life more valuable or signiﬁcant than any other.17
For Jean-Luc Marion, ‘‘that ﬂeshbound thing’’ — what would have been ‘‘the concrete’’ for James — also appears through intuition and feeling. However, while James’s point is, primarily, epistemological, Marion’s is ontological in nature. Marion writes:
For a statement, to appear phenomenally amounts to assuming ﬂesh; the phenomenon shows the ﬂesh of the discourse. How does the statement obtain this phenomenal ﬂesh? Through intuition. One intuition, whatever it may be, is sufﬁcient for the phenomena, the ﬂesh of the discourse, to occur. Indeed, intuition operates an absolutely indisputable hold, and it operates an ultimate cognition, since only another intuition can contradict a ﬁrst intuition, so that in the last instance there always remains an intuition. Of all the acts of cognition, intuition accomplishes the most ﬂeshly.18
In other words, intuition is the most palpable, ﬂeshly, concrete sensation available to reason. It is also the last sensation. It always remains in the end. Implicit to this point, I would argue, is that it is also the ﬁrst cognition. That is, before every rational judgment, a feeling precedes, holds, and intuits a primary and ﬁnal cognition. This ﬁrstness and lastness of intuition create and legitimize a new amorous, affective, and intuitive order of ﬁrstness.
16. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 72–73. 17. James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology, 113. 18. Jean-Luc Marion, ‘‘Metaphysics and Phenomenology: A Relief for Theology,’’ Critical Inquiry 20, no. 4 (1994): 581.
A Return to Love in William James and Jean-Luc Marion
Without denying the obvious need for a head to go along with our hearts, we are perceptually bound, in a primordial way, to our intuitive sight of things in order to experience them from beginning to end. As Marion reminds us, in the ﬁrst and last instance (and all the ones in between), our intuitions operate and hold an ‘‘ultimate cognition.’’ This perceptual priority of intuition or feeling ﬂows directly from the heartfelt order of reason. We lose ourselves not, primarily, for a lack of rationalistic order. Rather, we are lost without the ordo amoris. Marion remarks: ‘‘Knowledge does not make love possible, because knowledge ﬂows from love. The lover makes visible what she loves and, without this love, nothing would appear to her.’’19 Ontologically (for Marion) and epistemologically (for James), love comes ﬁrst. Marion and James both, in very different ways, challenge philosophy to return to itself — to return to love, or to what Marion calls the ‘‘erotics of wisdom.’’20 From this philosophy we ﬁnd a deepening and broadening of the horizons of rationality, and of ourselves in the intuitive dimension of our sight. This philosophical vision is inextricably bound in a heartfelt reason and an intuitive primacy ordered by ‘‘that great god,’’ love.
Educational discourse often addresses culturally sensitive pedagogy, emotional literacy, diversity, and other humanistic issues, yet it seems that Marion’s opening critique of philosophy in The Erotic Phenomenon — where he writes that ‘‘philosophy today no longer says anything about love, or at best very little’’ — is also a ﬁtting assessment of education.21 The only contentious point is whether education ever did say anything about love in the ﬁrst place. The very meaning of education today is fundamentally modern, scientiﬁc, and behavioristic, and for good reason. The school is a historically modern institution where modern science has become central to its perceived effectiveness, and the behavioristic assumptions of human persons who function as objects, capital, and other lessthan-human things are embedded in its pedagogy. We have witnessed clear historical movements toward ensuring the sovereignty of modern science in the United States. From the National Defense Education Act of 1958 that brought national attention to the need of schools to emphasize math and science, to the 1983 report A Nation at Risk that, in many ways, bred the current federalization of schooling in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, where we ﬁnd hegemonically embedded assumptions about the nature of reason that are unmistakably modern,22 schooling has clearly
19. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 87. 20. Ibid., 3. 21. Ibid., 1. 22. See National Defense Education Act of 1958, 85th Cong., P.L. 85-864 (September 2, 1958); National Commission on Excellence in Education, A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Ofﬁce, 1983), http://www.ed.gov/pubs/ NatAtRisk/index.html; and No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
privileged the modern rationalistic conceptions of science.23 The blueprint of No Child Left Behind states that ‘‘federal dollars will be spent on effective, research based programs and practices.’’24 This lays out the standard of effectiveness as necessarily related to fundable (which means scientiﬁc) research. And, as the integrity of testing and scientiﬁc metrics has increasingly come to be seen as unquestionable, the status of ‘‘other’’ sciences has diminished. Most notable in public schools are the fading subjects of art — including the art of literacy, of reading and writing as hermeneutic art — and music, and even less discussed is the forgotten subject, the human person. This privileging of modern science, however, is not only an educational trend. Marion writes:
This radical mutation [from love to science] . . . thus opened the way to the project of science and, indissolubly, to technology’s hold upon the world, but above all it censured the erotic origin of ‘‘philo-sophy’’. . . At the completion of this history (today, in other words), after having degraded beings to the dishonorable rank of objects. . . philosophy, henceforth nearly silent, even lost that to which it had sacriﬁced the erotic: its rank as science, and eventually its dignity as knowledge.25
So, we ﬁnd in philosophy, schools, and their educational policies the aftermath of the theoretical dominance of modern reason, a dominance that directly threatens the status of other disciplines — including art, music, and philosophy — as ‘‘legitimate’’ forms of science or knowledge. Marion and James remind us, however, that the replacement of one totem, or idol, as Marion puts it, with another will not do. A premodern reaction would be a misguided response. An outright rejection of reason would be absurd. That is why we need to return to love and its distinct ordo amoris. If we can embrace a heartfelt formulation of reason and the primacy of intuition, and do so critically and lovingly, we will ﬁnd that education already serves very different erotic purposes in everyday experience regardless of the dominance of modern reason. Any high school graduate will likely forget the periodic table of elements, historical names and dates, and much (if not all) of the data on a standardized test. Only nostalgia will endure. Stated differently, what is likely to be remembered, cherished, and practiced is, as James put it, that which awakens the active impulses and other aesthetic demands. In James’s Talks to Teachers on Psychology, he
23. In case there is any doubt about the validity of this sentence, or if anyone is curious to see this argument ﬂeshed out in the context of educational policy, see Patti Lather, ‘‘Scientiﬁc Research in Education: A Critical Perspective,’’ British Education Research Journal 30, no. 6 (2004): 759–772; and Michael J. Feuer, Lisa Towne, and Richard J. Shavelson, ‘‘Scientiﬁc Research and Educational Research,’’ Educational Researcher 31, no. 8 (2002): 4–14. While my focus in this essay is, primarily, on the philosophical roots of such policies, there is very little question that they represent more than a technocratic system of accountability that somehow functions outside of the domain of science. This is especially clear upon considering that these policies govern the teaching of science, literacy, and more. 24. No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Executive Summary, http://www.policyalmanac.org/education/ archive/no child left behind.shtml (emphasis added). 25. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 3 (brackets in original).
A Return to Love in William James and Jean-Luc Marion
prophetically warned of the abuses of science and psychology in regard to teaching and education:
I say moreover that you make a great, a very great, mistake, if you think that psychology, being the science of the mind’s laws, is something from which you can deduce deﬁnite programmes and schemes and methods of instruction for immediate schoolroom use. Psychology is a science, and teaching is an art; and sciences never generated arts directly out of themselves. An intermediary inventive mind must make the application by using its originality.26
Elsewhere James observed:
In their failure to achieve such accuracy, the so-called ‘‘empiricists’’ have ignored the basic responsibility of any genuine empiricism. They have ignored the warmth of bodily feelings, their continuity, and appropriative activities, which are all involved in personal self-consciousness.27
These passages by James remind us that education is not a purely rational and scientiﬁc process, and every skillful teacher knows that teaching is not either. Sadly, this fundamentally artful notion of teaching is, in many cases, critically forgotten in education and philosophy. While the educational establishment cogitates over curriculum and instruction and the mechanics and behaviorisms of teaching and learning, and while academic philosophy mostly ignores the subject of education, students — that is, persons, who are the subject — intuitively crave and desire what truly matters, what is genuinely important, as fragile and broken as we are.
In education this forgetting amounts to a catastrophic mistake. In philosophy this repeated failure to remind educators (and others and themselves) of this destructive forgetting, amounts to a cold, distant, and apathetic neglect. The insights of Marion and James are relevant to philosophy, psychology, education, theology, literature, and beyond. Perhaps even more impressively, philosophers, psychologists, educators, theologians, and poets are paying some attention. But not enough. Most of these pursuits unfortunately parallel the impoverished fragmentation we ﬁnd in the modern school’s architecture, curriculum, schedule, and methods. The poignant urgency of Marion’s and James’s message derives from this fragmentation. This sense of urgency is especially apparent in Marion’s observation that
The result of these failed efforts is that ordinary people, or, put another way, all those who love without knowing what love wants to say, or what it wants of them, or above all how to survive it — that is to say, you and I ﬁrst and foremost — believe themselves condemned to feed on scraps: desperate sentimentalism of popular prose, the frustrated pornography of the idol industry, or the shapeless ideology of that boastful asphyxiation known as ‘‘self-actualization.’’ Thus philosophy keeps quiet, and in this silence love fades away.28 26. James, Talks to Teachers on Psychology, 3. 27. Ronald Podeschi, ‘‘William James and Education,’’ Educational Forum 40, no. 4 (1976): 225. 28. Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, 2.
It is no wonder, then, why most students, teachers, philosophers (and everyone, for that matter) feel that on issues that have grave matter and real importance to their lives, schools, education, and philosophy are blind and silent. Teachers and philosophers who are able to see and speak to what is meaningful, the ones who love, are the rare (and odd) exception. We ﬁnd that what James referred to as ‘‘a certain blindness in human beings’’ and what Marion cites as ‘‘the silence of love’’ are chronic conditions in education, philosophy, and beyond. When love fails, beauty seems sparse, wonder becomes elusive, and wisdom is scarce. What’s left is information, and that’s the problem.
I WOULD LIKE TO THANK Nicholas Burbules, the anonymous reviewers for Educational Theory, and James Harold, Jim Garrison, and Timothy Leonard for their challenging, insightful, and encouraging remarks on earlier drafts of this essay. I am also grateful for conversations with, and moral support from, Phil Smith, Bryan Warnick, Bill Taylor, DeLeon Gray, and joshua j. kurz at Ohio State University; these interactions contributed greatly to this essay’s development. Finally, I would like to give special thanks to Jean-Luc Marion for his attention to an early draft of this essay presented at the Annual Conference on Christian Philosophy: The Philosophy of Jean-Luc Marion, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, April 2008.
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