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Conference: Between Metaphysics, Aesthetics, and Religion

BETWEEN METAPHYSICS, AESTHETICS AND RELIGION
International Symposium in honour of William Desmond

April 19-20, 2017
KU Leuven (University of Leuven)

Metaphysics has gotten a bad rep throughout the last decades. This ancient practice is thought to be not simply archaic as the systematic interrelationship of concepts that fails to understand the twists and turns of the human condition, but also hegemonic, oppressive and just plain wrong. As a result of this point of view, most philosophers abstain from providing a comprehensive and overarching account of such things as being, religion, art and ethics.

Wiliam Desmond

One vocal opponent of this evolution is William Desmond. In his works, he draws on various past traditions and current insights so as to argue that metaphysics does not belong to a dim and distant past. Instead, human beings find themselves always in the midst, or ‘between’, in terms of standing porous in the grand pageant of existence. From that perspective, one can speak intelligibly about the intimate strangeness of being in all its aspects. ‘Metaxology’ is the key-term of Desmond’s philosophy, which is a way of doing philosophy in the ‘between’. Central to this style of philosophizing is a ‘porosity’ to an ‘overdeterminacy’, in terms of a surplus to (self)determinate being, that resists ‘univocal’ or ‘dialectical’ (self)mediation, which in turn engenders a ‘perplexity’ towards such a ‘surd’ to determination. The task of metaxological philosophy is then to stay faithful to what exceeds univocalizing thought by allowing reflection to hyperbolically (i.e. to ‘be thrown beyond’) transcend itself for a metaphysical account of being. Central to metaxological philosophy is then a profound engagement with being (metaphysics), being good/beautiful (ethics and aesthetics) and absolute being (religion). Among the many thought-provoking features of metaxology, there are two that merit special mention since they go against the grain of postmodern philosophy. On the one hand, metaxology cultivates a community in which there is an open dialectics between being, goodness, beauty and absolute being; on the other hand, metaxology does not shun a metaphysical account of that open dialectics, in which porosity between being receptive (porosity) and being active (thought) is of central importance. Needless to say, most of postmodern philosophy prefers to separate being, goodness, beauty and absolute being into their respective domains.

This symposium is dedicated to clarifying, testing and applying metaxological philosophy with regard to metaphysics, aesthetics and religion. The keynote speakers are companions of Desmond’s philosophy and, although critical of many aspects, appreciative of the stubborn tenacity of metaphysical questions. These include: Richard Kearney, John Milbank, Jack Caputo, Cyril O’Regan, Christoph Schmidt, and Sander Griffioen.

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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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