Academic programs and scholarships  //  Register now for our Academic programs

From Logos to Person

 5th Interdisciplinary Conference

 at The Polis Institute

 October 5-7, 2021 

Further Information        

Author: Mauricio Beuchot

Email: [email protected] 

Conference Participation: Speaker

Institution: UNAM, Cd. Mexico

   Abstract 

An emphasis is made on the distinction between reason, characteristic of the human person, and intellect (the Greek nous and the Latin and medieval intellectus), attributed to God and angels, and on the ancient and medieval precedents of the modern idealistic notions of thinking subject and moral subject, as well as of the phenomenological and relativistic answers, concluding that they all share an objectivistic interpretation of human knowledge that is far from its active nature, and an understanding of the will foreign to an accurate notion of freedom, imbued in determinism.

I conclude with a discussion of contemporary notions of person as a symbolic animal, and as a hermeneutic and analogical animal.

Author: Hildegund Müller 

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: Speaker

Institution: University of Notre Dame

   Abstract 

But Christianity is not about theoretical philosophy alone, but about the practice of celebrating Mass and preaching or listening to the Word. How would a Latin preacher practically approach talking about verbum in John? What are the opportunities and pitfalls he encountered? How did the specificities of language, audience and historical circumstances shape the concept itself? Augustine’s Tractates on the Gospel of John offer a fascinating example of an approach focused on the selective appropriation and modeling of a rich tradition and its adaptation to pedagogical needs.

Author: Christophe Rico

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: Speaker

Institution: Polis Institute & EBAF-CNRS

   Abstract 

Special attention will be given to the Hebrew and Aramaic words that are likely to underlie this concept, the johannine uses of the word, and the reflections on λόγος [logos] made by Philo and other ancient Greek philosophers. With this background, I will try to define the specific meaning of λόγος [logos] within Greek speech, by contrasting the term with other Greek words concerned with speaking (ῥῆμα [rhēma], λέξις [lexis], ὄνομα [onoma], φωνή [phōnē], ὁμιλία [homilia], διάλογος [dialogos]).

These results will be compared to the corresponding meanings of sermo and verbum in Latin. The inquiry into these terms will consequently help elucidate the following relationships that are parallel to the Λόγος [Logos] –Εἰπών [Eipōn] relationship in scripture: Υἱός [Huios]–Πατήρ [Patēr], ἀπαύγασμα [apaugasma]–δόξα [doxa], χαρακτήρ [charaktēr]–ὑπόστασις [hupostasis], εἰκών [eikōn]–ἀόρατος [aoratos].

Author: Natan Behrendt de Carvalho

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: Polis - The Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanites 

   Abstract 

Still remaining, however, is the need to analytically express the similarity between certain of Philo's ideas and tenets of thought found in the NT. In this paper I propose that the working and ceasing to work of Jesus in John 5 is categorically and qualitatively in line with contemporary and previous Jewish thought, including Philo's Allegorical Interpretation. As such, the paper suggests a way to mediate the academic dialogue regarding the influence of Jewish and Graeco-Roman thought in the NT through a demonstration and analysis of the shared conceptual features between a Jesus follower, Hebrew thought, and Graeco-Roman influence.

Author: Erik Ellis

Conference Participation: In-person 

Email: [email protected]

Institution: Universidad de los Andes (Chile)

Abstract 

Erasmus' challenge to the by-then traditional rendering In principio erat verbum was met with swift, intense, and long-lasting opposition. Critics attacked Erasmus from the pulpit, in the lecture hall, and with an irresistible torrent of spilt ink, and the popular response approached physical violence and civil disturbance. The answer to why Erasmus' translation caused so much outrage remains elusive. Over the past fifty years, scholars have agreed with Erasmus’ translation from both philological and theological perspectives and struggled to understand his critics’ response as anything other than irrational traditionalist vitriol. In explaining his choice, Erasmus says that he wanted to use sermo as early as 1516 but had been kept back by a superstitioso metu. This paper examines the sources of Erasmus' fear, the special place of the Prologue in late medieval piety, and Erasmus’ reenactment of the philological boldness of his hero, Jerome, in the face of textual tradition. By approaching Erasmus’ reception as a liturgical and devotional problem rather than a philological or theological one, we gain a deeper understanding of the socio-linguistic background of the firestorm set off by the seemingly innocuous and undeniably accurate translation of a single biblical word.

Author: Mark Saltveit

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: The Palindromist Magazine

   Abstract 

The manifestations and interpretations of this square have changed through at least five distinct phases over the past 2,000 years. Only in recent centuries has anyone tried to interpret it as a denotative sentence or define the letters “AREPO” as a word. 

This shift exemplifies a more general tendency in modern Western thinking. The concepts of Logos and the Person have been fetishized, by which I mean they are simultaneously glorified and exalted even as they are stripped of context and meaning. Logos has been gradually reduced toward simply meaning “words” while “the person” has shrunk to the legal abstraction of “the individual,” occasionally deified into a “celebrity.” As a result, the connection to deeper reality has diminished.

The argument that reality can't be fully captured by words is often disparaged in the West as irrational "mysticism.” Yet no one seriously believes that any words – even great poetry -- can fully express the experience of a sunrise.

Along with skeptical epistemology, I advocate humor and wordplay as correctives. These are reminders of the crudeness of our linguistic maps, because they tend to zero in on the ambiguities and false conclusions these maps create. They poke us and remind us not to get too comfortable with the equation between reality, on the one hand, and the words and personae we use to describe it.

Author: Tzvi Schoenberg

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: University of Chicago

   Abstract 

The question of whether proper names are derivable has been a point of theological debate in Jewish tradition. Maimonides reserved God’s proper name for God’s necessary existence while excluding any form of derivation. However, Avraham ibn Ezra maintained that insofar as God is the source of existence, it is essential to distinguish the primitive name from its derivable form, the latter referring to the existence of all beings as contingent on God. I claim that this debate captures a focal moment in the thought of Giqatila. While philosophically indebted to Maimonides, Giqatila is critical of his treatment of God’s name. Instead, Giqatila reconstructs the Hebrew language by incorporating the principle of derivation as developed by Ibn Ezra. Giqatila’s reconstruction, facilitated by medieval linguistic attempts to identify the name of God with the Hebrew vowel-letters, distinguishes the derived name of God as the deep structure of linguistic activity, and to which the designation of all beings is attributed. Considered in the context of linguistic Kabbalah, my paper examines how the adaptation of the principle of derivation marks a theological revision of linguistic thought; specifically, the existence of all beings is established linguistically through the name of God

 

Author: Sharron Shatil

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: Open University of Israel

   Abstract 

 Based on Heidegger’s phenomenology and the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language, I present a critique of this conception of the subject while focusing on language and meaning. I claim that fully understanding the meaning of things, events, words and thoughts is based on a unique freedom of the understanding – the freedom to engage in a meaningful practice, only within which things have a fixed meaning. This freedom makes the human subject and mental life unlimited and unpredictable in a way that contradicts its explanation in mechanistic or computational terms. Every computational model includes a finite list of options based on a fixed vocabulary and syntax. Even if it has a certain level of self programming abilities, they themselves must be limited on pain of an infinite regress. This means that some forms of action and understanding are necessary for it in particular circumstances, and it can never transcend them. In contrast, the freedom of understanding entails that no understanding of the situation and no manner of response is necessary for the subject as language speaker. Ontologically, therefore, it is irreducible to a mechanism which is itself explicable without recourse to meaning. Human beings may be mechanistically explicable as organisms, but not as creatures constituted in part by understanding of meaning. 

Author: John Thuppayath

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: Polis - The Jerusalem Institute of Languages and Humanities

   Abstract 

Concomitantly, a new wave of ‘philosophical biblical criticism’ has persuaded many that, contrary to an earlier generation of scholarship, there is evidence of critical philosophical thought within the Hebrew Bible. These emerging interests embolden the interdisciplinary reader of the Tanakh to be more descriptive about the pluriform philosophical systems of the ancient Israelites.

As a prolegomenon to such a comprehensive description, I will argue that the Book of Job displays significant philosophical thinking in the way that it parodies, reworks, and reinterprets the Torah. While scholarship into inner-biblical interpretation within the Hebrew Bible has successfully detailed the philological and literary shape of Job’s metalepsis of the Pentateuchal materials, a precise delineation of the author(s)’ philosophical hermeneutics implied by this exegesis has thus far been lacking.

By a close reading of a selection of key exegetical movements in the Book of Job’s narrative and poetry, it is hoped that this preliminary sketch will show that Joban hermeneutics merits serious attention as a key moment in the histories of biblical exegesis and Jewish philosophy. More generally, the presence of such a philosophical system in ancient Israel will form yet another corrective argument to long-entrenched narratives that see philosophy as being originally (and, thus, properly) Western.

Author: Ruth Fine

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: Speaker

Institution: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

   Abstract 

Leví de Barrios is one example of many converso writers, who since the establishment of a relatively tolerant Dutch Republic in 1581 had made their homes in the city of Amsterdam. A number of these men and their families took the opportunity to reconvert to Judaism. However, this conversion process was a traumatic affair, as conversos, accustomed to a private religious existence, were now required to adjust to the demands of normative orthodox Judaism. How did this array of religious beliefs enable the Iberian conversos to make multiple identity border crossings? What effects did it have on their thought and world vision? Was the emergence of skepticism one of the main results of this dramatic shift?

An examination of the notion of person and identity in the writings of these New Jews authors will yield important information on the impact of memory, migration and conversion for individual and collective identity. I believe that the literary expressions of their diasporic experience and trauma turned to be a crucial factor in the shaping of their self-perception as individuals and as a group, influencing indirectly or directly in the birth of Modernity.

Author: Sarit Cofman-Simhon

Email: [email protected]

Conference Participation: In-person

Institution: Kibbutzim College

   Abstract 

These new initiatives in Israeli theatre reflect a major shift taking place, which sociologists and historians have discussed. This shift rejects the essentialist linguistic ideology of Hebrew as the sine qua non for Israeli theatre. 

I would like to explore two case studies and analyse how these languages operate onstage, what is their reception, who is the audience, and what is their aesthetic rationale. 

At the heart of my analysis will be the concept of postvernacularity, a term coined by Jeffrey Shandler in Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture (2006). In his study Shander defined postvernacularity as a cultural practice where languages that are no longer in use as the vernacular gain in symbolic value what they have lost in their communicative functions, by generating vanished soundscapes, and performing vocal dimensions of familiarity and estrangement. Indeed, what is peculiar about postvernacularity is that rather than the language functioning as a vehicle of performance, its utterance is the performance itself. I will further explore the theatrical attributes of endangered languages and their attractiveness for audiences who understand them, as well as those who barely understand them. Consequently, I will analyse how one can mobilise such languages to evoke a lost, multilingual background.

Author: David van Schoor

Conference Participation: In-person 

Email: [email protected]

Institution: Rhodes University

Abstract 

Logos, speech and the mind inferred from speech acts are only the traces of the more fundamental, the sufficient condition for personhood: responsiveness. In responsiveness lies the capacity for social interaction. Persons are always social agents, personhood a function of sociality. There are degrees of responsiveness and persons are only ever such by fluctuating degrees.

Interpreters of ancient poetry have typically worked with a normative conception of person. In part because of the nature of their art and its competitive and ritual context of production, in part because of the anthropological character of their perspectives on human events, Athenian poets confronted themselves and their audiences with searching explorations of basic and easily overlooked questions: why and how are we taken in about the identity of persons; what is it that we must falsify in order to reproduce credible personhood; in what do person and non-person consist; more precisely, when is a person, when is it most, when least itself, when does personhood cease. Setting out from the theories of Alfred Gell on  agency and the art nexus, Baron-Cohen, Tomasello and other recent work in cognitive psychology, I consider some examples from across Greek dramatic poetry to test this thesis.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Giuseppe Veltri : Institute for Jewish Philosophy and  Religion : Universität Hamburg

Author: Giuseppe Veltri

Conference Participation: Speaker

Email: [email protected]

Institution: University of Hamburg

Abstract

The condition of a single man in all his multiplicity is to be considered a “a very arduous and difficult endeavour”.   Luzzatto refers to letter CXIII by Seneca ad Lucilium, in which he purposely mentions the Stoic doctrine of the multiple or animal soul in human beings, because virtues can only be animal in nature: “virtutes esse animalia.”  Quoting Theophrastus of Eresos ,the author of Charakteres, a series of characterisations of the human soul, Luzzatto  puts the accent on a very popular rhetorical device of that time: the use of typical characters of seventeenth-century theatre. The representation of the affections of the human soul and of its different characters was a sign of distinction in a century of comedies and tragedies, put on the stage and even sung.  

An attentive reader will note that emphasising the theatrical character of the human soul also means negating objective responsibility: everyone is an actor on the theatrum mundi’s stage and every time he performs a passion or its contrary. How then can one speak of an immutable essence of the human being?  How to speak of personal moral responsability? 

The lecture will address the philosophic topics of the unicity and multiplicity of the human being and its responsibility as persona,  a word which originally means “mask”,  the "character" of a theatrical performance.


Author: Karen Lancaster

Conference Participation: In-Person

Email: [email protected]

Institution: University of Nottingham

    Abstract

Deception is a success verb – something only counts as deception if the ruse is believed by the listener. In the case of robots which falsely display traits of personhood, we should be careful not to be deceived by their ruse.

Ethical behaviourism is the thesis that if an entity such as a robot appears to have emotions, feelings, opinions and suchlike, then so long as there is a reasonable degree of consistency, we should respond as if these emotions (etc) are genuine. Ethical behaviourism is not an ontological or metaphysical thesis, but an epistemic one: it is concerned with our inability to verify robots’ inner mental states, not with whether or not such mental states exist. In this paper I argue that although accepting ethical behaviourism may be a morally correct response to robots’ putative emotions, behaving as if the robot is a person may not be an apt response to the display of person-like traits. This is because the rights and privileges that are bestowed by personhood should require a high degree of evidence, rather than a ‘leap of faith’ in the absence of evidence to the contrary. I conclude that the evidence required by ethical behaviourism does not have a high enough threshold when personhood is at stake.

Author: Jordan Myers

Conference Participation: In-person

Email: [email protected]

Institution: University of Pittsburgh

Abstract 

In these cases, when extricating oneself is not a viable option, I argue that the objective stance can be a moral tool in alleviating interactions with another. In this paper, I raise both pragmatic and moral reasons why the objective attitude should be taken towards two types of persons: (1) A person who has been mentally degraded or changed such that they no longer have the ability to engage in reactivity in an effective or ethical manner, and (2) a person who has brought the objective stance on himself; this person exists in a separate and isolated moral community, immune to moral address from those outside it. In taking the objective attitude towards these persons, though, one incurs a moral cost. The one who suspends reactivity must damage the moral standing of the other as a “free and rational agent,” instead viewing him as an object to be dealt with; taking this attitude may remove the possibilities of many things which make relationships worthwhile. While this cost is a terrible one, I conclude that it may be morally necessary to take the objective stance to preserve an irreparable relationship that cannot be terminated.

Keywords: reactive attitudes, objective attitude, moral responsibility, Strawson, Korsgaard, relationships.

EDWARD O'BOYLE

Author: Edward O'Boyle

Conference Participation: Atrium paper

Email: [email protected]

Institution: MAYO RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Abstract 

Human communication is mentioned from time to time as one of several factors contributing to the economic development of industrial nations. However, human communication is not addressed specifically in terms of the distinction between orality and literacy, and how that difference plays into the passive role of homo economicus in economic affairs as compared to the dynamic role of the person of action.

In the following we use a strict representation of homo economicus that emphasizes the well-established characteristics of rationality and self-interest, and the objective of maximizing personal net advantage. Excluded by orthodox economics are qualifiers such as enlightened self-interest, altruism, sympathy, benevolence, or generosity that critics of homo economicus sometimes use while still clinging to the mainstream’s underlying philosophy of individualism.  

With the exception of replacing maximum personal net advantage with human perfection as the objective for engaging in economic affairs, the person of action is very much a work in progress. In other words, we do not claim herein that our representation of the person of action is complete.