Vol. 43, Number 1, Winter 2022

Towards a Phenomenological Ontology: Synthetic A Priori Reasoning and the Cosmological Anthropic Principle
James Schofield, Bentley University

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the theoretical commitments of autopoietic enactivism in relation to Errol E Harris’s dialectical holism in the interest of establishing a common metaphysical ground. This will be undertaken in three stages. First, it is argued that Harris’s reasoning provides a means of developing enactivist ontology beyond discussions limited to cognitive science and into domains of metaphysics that have traditionally been avoided by phenomenologists. Here, I maintain enactivist commitments are consistent with Harris’s reasoning from certain synthetic a priori first principles, to his derivation of a teleological anthropic principle, which asserts the necessity of consciousness within the cosmos. Second, it is proposed that Steven Rosen’s long-standing proposal for a topology of phenomenology may provide a common logical foundation for both Harris and enactivists regarding anthropic reasoning. Third, it is argued that a pragmatic approach to process ontology is the most rigorous way of responding to the realism/anti-realism concerns that inevitably follow. If successful, this work will update Harris’s arguments with contemporary scientific and philosophical terminology and extend enactivism from philosophy of mind, into a general phenomenological ontology. 

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to James Schofield, Ph.D., Department of Philosophy, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts 02452. Email: jschofield@bentley.edu


Hannah Arendt on Racist Logomania
Joshua M. Hall, William Paterson University

In this article I offer a new reading of Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, specifically her argument that ideologies such as racism engender totalitarianism when the lonely and disenfranchised laborers of modern society develop a pathological fixation on formal logic, which I term “logomania.” That is, such logical deductions, from horrifically false premises, are the closest thing to thinking that individuals can engage in after their psyches, relationships, and communities have broken down. And it is only thus that totalitarianism can achieve power, since it offers at least some form of connectedness and meaning, regardless how terrifying and violent. The danger persists, clearly, with the resurgence of the far Right, including in the extraordinary regime of Trump in the United States. From this I conclude that, along with the admirable calls to fight loneliness and rebuild our communities, we should also supplement all formal logical instruction and community education with instruction in creative thinking (including aesthetics), thereby discouraging the monomaniac reliance on formal logic as an inadvertent weapon of totalitarianism.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Joshua M. Hall, Ph.D., 300 Pompton Road, William Paterson University, Wayne, New Jersey 07470. Email: j.maloy.hall@gmail.com


Kelsen’s Criticism of Platonic Justice
Christopher Adair–Toteff, University of South Florida

Hans Kelsen has been recognized as one of the leading legal theorists of the twentieth century but in the last decade scholars have begun to examine his political writings. In the conflict between the state’s need for order and the individual’s right to freedom, Kelsen always defended the latter. Scholars have started to investigate his political writings from the Weimar era, but one essay that has remained neglected is an essay that he published in Kant-Studien in 1933. Although the main target in “Die platonische Gerechtigkeit” was Plato, Kelsen’s criticism of the irrational basis for order was applicable to the early defenders of Nazism like Carl Schmitt. This 1933 essay was neither a period piece nor a rehash of Nietzschean relativism, but was an acute analysis of the Platonic notion of justice. Kelsen argued that rather than providing a metaphysical foundation for justice, the Republic was an almost mystical basis for Plato’s own need for authority and order. Kelsen would make many of the same points much later in “What is Justice?” but that only underscores both the continuity of his thinking and the radicality of his criticism of Platonic justice.

Correspondence concerning this article should be sent to Christopher Adair–Toteff, 323 Monticello Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902. Email: csa-t@web.de

Critical Notice

Mental Weakness and the Failures of Military Psychiatry
Stuart T. Doyle, Third Force Reconnaissance Company, USMC

Book Title: Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of War.
Book Authors:
Mark C. Russell and Charles Figley. New York: Columbia University Press, 2021, 464 pages, $40.00 paperback, $160.00 hardcover.

Throughout the past decade, there has been a growing awareness of the high rate of suicide among veterans of the United States Armed Forces. Suicide is only the most visible facet of a complex of mental health problems facing multiple generations of war veterans. Psychiatric casualties since World War II (WWII) have surpassed the combined numbers of personnel both killed and wounded in action. Here at the end of major US Military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, these problems are receiving some attention from national and military policy makers. But has anything substantial actually been done to fix the problem? Why is there so much unmet mental health need amongst war veterans in the first place? What could have been done to mitigate the problem? Mark C. Russell and Charles Figley provide answers to these important questions in Psychiatric Casualties: How and Why the Military Ignores the Full Cost of War. They find a pattern of recurring failures on the part of the military and those who oversee it. Primarily, Russell and Figley show that the military has repeatedly failed to act on the lessons that should have been learned many times over from each successive conflict in US history. Further, the authors argue that while proper action has been abdicated, harmful “dark-side strategies” have been used to eliminate, minimize, or conceal the problem of unmet mental health needs.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Stuart T. Doyle, 3rd Force Recon Co, 1630 S Broad Street, Mobile, Alabama 36605. Email: stuartdoyle1@gmail.com

Book Reviews

Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures
Book Author: Merlin Sheldrake. London: Penguin Random House, 2020, 380 pages, $18.00 paperback.
Reviewed by Alex Gomez–Marin, Instituto de Neurociencias (CSIC-UMH), Alicante, Spain

The line between science and fiction is never settled or easy to draw. On the one hand, there is “science fiction” such as Herbert George Wells’ The War of the Worlds. On the other hand, we have “fiction science” as enacted by colossal promissory ventures such as Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project. In between, or somewhere in a third dimension, one can sometimes come across science told in such a way that it surpasses fiction itself, without losing any of the grounding that makes it scientific.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Alex Gomez–Marin, Ph.D., Av. Ramón y Cajal s/n, 03550 Sant Joan d’Alacant, Spain. Email: agomezmarin@gmail.com

Connecting Hearts and Minds: Insights, Skills, and Best Practices for Dealing with Differences
Book Author: Greg Nees. Longmont, Colorado: Vagus Publications, 2015, 377 pages, $19.95 softcover.
Reviewed by Liz Stillwaggon Swan, Program for Writing and Rhetoric, University of Colorado Boulder

Now more than ever, people need to learn how to communicate effectively. Humanity has always been rife with division and infighting but even since this book was published, these problems have been exacerbated by political, religious, and other ideological differences as well as an increasingly hard-to-ignore wealth disparity not just among nations but also within the United States. Greg Nees, a self-identified “interculturalist” and the author of Connecting Hearts and Minds, takes a deep dive into the brain and body mechanisms underlying human communication in an effort to bridge these chasms between people. Through countless personal stories, substantiated by current research and professional insights, this book sets readers off on a journey of beginning to understand people who are different from them.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Liz Stillwaggon Swan, Ph.D., 1338 Grandview Avenue, Boulder, Colorado 80302. Email: liz.swan@colorado.edu