I just received a flyer advertising Laurence Paul Hemming’s visit to USU next Wednesday, September 16th, at 4 pm. I don’t have the flyer with me just now, so perhaps Kleiner can supply the place and any other details. He is a very accomplished thinker on continental philosophy and Christianity, and gave a very impressive talk on campus last year, from what I hear. More info about him here. Definitely a talk you should attend, whatever your own beliefs.
8 thoughts on “Laurence Hemming is coming to USU”
Hemming will speak on “Divine Revelation and Human Reason” on Wed, Sept 16 at 4pm in Main 115.
The gloss on the paper Dr. Sherlock and I received was that this will be an investigation into faith/reason issues. In particular, I think we can expect a critique of enlightenment notions of reason (which would trend towards an antagonistic relationship between faith and reason). Though his abstract did not make this clear, I am expecting heavy doses of Heidegger.
One more plug: Hemming is a very accomplished philosopher in continental circles, and it is really an honor to have him come. But for all his academic accomplishments, his previous talk here demonstrated his ability to explain difficult ideas/texts/philosophers in a way that is grounded and accessible to novices. Dr. Sherlock and I left the last talk extremely impressed (Sherlock leaned over to me and said “Wow”).
By the way, his best known work in philosophy (he also does liturgics) is ‘Heidegger’s Atheism: The Refusal of a Theological Voice”.
I’d like to hear Kleiner and Huenemann reflect upon Hemming’s lecture yesterday! At risk of sounding like one of the pretentious grad students he poked fun at, I’d say it had threads of Heidegger weaving the whole thing together.
I thought it was a great lecture. He has a real talent for engaging with deep questions, but keeping the talk pretty accessible and down to earth. In the end, I didn’t really go for the way he was interpreting Zeno — I’m probably just stuck in my own, analytic mindset. Still, he surely knows more about it than me, and so one would be wise to prefer his interpretation to mine!
I’ll post my own response later, its been troubling me since the whole thing and I’ll need more time than I currently have, but I remember overhearing the possibility of viewing his paper via email or some other techno nonsense? If possible it would be a treat to read, at least so that I can show people what I’m stewing over instead of sounding ridiculous.
Dan is quite right, Heidegger’s fingerprints were all over that paper. In fact, I think Hemming is more thoroughly Heideggerian than I am. I hesitate to use the “ian/ist” there though. One of the things I really respect about Hemming is that he has really let Heidegger “under his skin”. He is not so much a “Heideggerian” as he is a “little Heidegger”. By that I mean I think he has learned to think with Heidegger rather than to think about Heidegger. That is special. (I recall in a class on Aquinas at Boston College my professor telling us, on the first day, that his “end was not to make us ‘Thomists’, but to make us ‘little Thomases’.”
A brilliant professor at Boston College named Fred Lawrence once told me that “Heidegger, by himself, has once again made it possible to read the Greeks.” While such a statement is offensive to old-school analytic Greek philosophers, and seems at least “unorthodox” to folks like Huenemann (I am referring to Huenemann’s remarks on his reading of Zeno), there is something to this claim. What I thought was so thrilling about Hemming’s lecture was that he saved Zeno from the dustbin of antique curiousity. He was in the business of recovering Zeno’s question, and that is a very “Heideggerian” thing to do. Of course, your more traditional readers of Greek texts will accuse Heidegger (and perhaps Hemming) of simply importing their own questions into older texts. Eye of the beholder, I suppose. But this is Heideggerian deconstruction at work. Unlike Derrida’s deconstruction which is deconstruction “wall to wall”, Heidegger deconstructs with the aim of recovery. In particular, Heidegger is interested in recovering questions, and recovering ways or manners of thinking. This is particularly important if we, as both Heidegger and Hemming suggest, have in some sense forgotten how to think or are no longer thinking (a very thought-provoking thought!).
Again, this annoys more traditional and analytic readers of the Greeks. But it is, it seems to me, a good idea to try to deconstruct the centuries of “debris” (systems, accepted interpretations) that conceals the life of a question in order to get back to the original lived/living thought of a thinker (his questions, his manner of thinking). For me personally a very good example of this is trying to save Thomas from Thomism (it is only the Thomists, not the Thomases, who think my dalliance with Continental philosophy is bizarre). These schools and accepted interpretations are not, after all, simply objective things. They, like all other interpretations, arise out of a particular time and a particular place that has particular interests. The danger is reifying these interpretations and, in so doing, covering over the original questions. Hemming made precisely this point yesterday when speaking about “recovering” (I know he did not like “re” words) Plato from Aristotle’s interpretations of Plato. This manner of thinking requires incredible humility for it requires that we listen and “not decide in advance” what a thinker has given us to think about.
One might say, in reference to my first paragraph here, that Hemming has deconstructed Heidegger himself and is now thinking with rather than about him. Heidegger himself wanted us to do this – hence the ongoing emphasis he puts on “being on the way” or a “path”. Thought – and that which we think about once we learn how to think – is not static.
Whether we think this is a good idea or not (this project of thought that is first deconstructive but then turns positive as we learn to think with the question of Zeno, Plato, etc) is a debate we could have. For now, I know that Hemming got Zeno involved in a very grand (and indeed very “existentially personal”) conversation (about being, beginnings, ends, reason, faith and the whole) and I had never quite heard Zeno’s paradox be made to say so much.
I forgot to ask Hemming at dinner if we could have a copy of the paper, but I emailed him to see. Will keep you posted on that.
Hemming was awesome. Sage advice and grandfatherly wisdom dispensed in a cute British accent. I’ll be quoting the “He’s so Hegelian” line for a long time.
Yeah, source, and you can rhyme it in a song with “totally mammalian.”
I agree with Kleiner that Hemming got a whopping lot of mileage with his Heideggerian reading of Zeno — it is a very “productive” reading, in the sense that it inspires many further thoughts and connections.
Unfortunately, copyright issues will prevent me from distributing Hemming’s paper on the blog here (it is part of a book project so he is understandably hesitant to put sections of it on a website). Those hoping to revisit it will have to wait until his book comes out.