This is a weblog devoted to thinking….

 …thinking the history of literary theory and applying its deep grace to the possibility of conversation between science and faith.

As a retired professor, I’d like to teach you “how to think theory,” through a course in the history of literary theory, from Plato to Derrida and Kristeva.  (See more in “About me.”)

AND it is a weblog for me to offer some sustained meditations (and a chance for dialogue) about the wisdom and grace I think theory has to offer us today, regarding the various human ways of knowing and how we might carry their wisdom out of the disciplines and into the civic arena of public discussion. Without that, democracies really haven’t much hope.

We are experiencing the disturbing heating up again of conflict between science and religion,  evidenced by “creation science” and by reactions from scientists such as Richard Dawkins in his recent book, The God Delusion. I’ve spent my lifetime teaching the branch of philosophy called literary theory, which I believe  from Plato onward has raised fundamental  questions about how human beings come to know. Theory provides no simple answers, but it does yield some deep insights that apply to the arts and the sciences and even to other ways of knowing outside academia….

So I am attempting to introduce a different way of thinking about knowing. It is NOT the way we are most familiar with, which opposes scientific “knowledge” to non-scientific “opinion” or “merely personal” experience. This opposition is regarded in my own fields (and in many others) as unhelpfully simplistic and biased, but it is still deeply entrenched in all of our minds.

So I am trying to get you to go with me on a journey of discovery, keeping an open mind and attempting the “thought experiment” of stepping outside of our own cultural conditioning and considering other thought worlds., such as that of the Greeks, for example, where my course begins.  

Today I am placing on this site much of Session One, a rapid-fire course overview. In the weeks to come I will be posting additional sessions from my course, one by one, where we slow down and work in greater detail.

I will also be offering excerpts from Session One as posts, and offering other posts on related issues. My hope is that you will  be drawn into reading the sessions, and responding to them with questions, because that is the only way I can really offer you the deep grace of theory for our day.

This site is intended not so much for arguing for or against the perspectives offered here, as for explaining these perspectives and makaing them clear.  But I can guarantee you’ll learn a lot about history and philosophy in the process.

Okay, folks, with that explanation behind us, please stay tuned for my first post tomorrow, considering a great physics blogsite named “Cosmic Variance,” in relation to some other posts over at “Soulforce,” a site for a group of students who are visiting Christian college campuses “to affirm the full humanity” of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students on those campuses. 

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4 Responses to “This is a weblog devoted to thinking….”

  1. Caleb Knedlik Says:

    Sounds great! I can’t wait.

  2. Bethany Reid Says:

    Oh, wow!!!

  3. Neil B. Says:

    Hello, Janet.

    I surfed here from cosmicvariance.com, after seeing your post there. I thought it would help for me to repeat, edit, and amplify some of my comments there:

    Remember that there are really three main players in these kinds of discussions: science, philosophy, and religion. The latter two are not identical. Science is a process for investigating the world that was developed to do a job for mostly practical reasons. Ironically, the notions of what science should be and what its implications are, are in fact “philosophy” and not science itself. Philosophers take what we already know in experience, and try to draw conclusions about things – some of them issues we don’t have easy access too, other than our thoughts. It is “larger” than science. A philosopher could have a discussion with Plato about whether we should believe in God that would be far different than the sort of discussion a fundamentalist would have. Religion comes from a tradition and is not really the same thing, and is a sort of tangential approach. It also involves more experiential knowing and connecting, which philosophy does not depend on unless it is “common experience.”

  4. deepgraceoftheory Says:

    Eliot wrote: “Ironically, the notions of what science should be and what its implications are, are in fact “philosophy” and not science itself.”

    Yes, I agree that there are considerations about physics or natural science, that are carried on by philosophy. My favorite branches of philosophy are epistemology, “the study of how humans come to know,” and the theory of literature, which studies “how humans come to know in through the literary mode of thought.”
    In another sense, it is only from within science that the aims and methods of science can be properly determined. As you suggest, philosophy steps back from the way science seeks to know and the way literature seeks to know and the way sociology or psychology or music seek to know and considers questions common to all of them as ways of knowing, such as their relationship to fundamental reality and to what degree we can determine that.
    My famous “flux diagram” of Plato and Aristotle’s revolutionary new vision of education (using MANY arts and sciences to educate the whole citizen) gives us a useful way to talk about distinguishing science, philosophy, and religion. It begins in Session Two and continues in Session Three. But I am setting up for these in Session One.

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