Sunday, October 02, 2011

an exemplary day

I intended today to write the next section of “Elations of solitude,” this time on a sense of inworldness, but the reality of the solitude I love is that I have to go with emergent appeals, which didn’t take me into doing the next section.

Rather, it took me on a wonderful excursion into recent academic work that’s integral to my long-term Project. I’m excited by emerging work of others. 

Robert Bellah has just finished his magnum opus on religion in human evolution—which isn’t a near-term interest of mine, but I spent a good portion of Saturday afternoon in University Press Books reading the synoptic beginning of his book before I bought it. The background of my interest here is a long story, including his long relationship to Habermas, their shared interest in theories of social evolution (both influenced by Weber, Durkheim, and Parsons—Bellah decisively, he notes in his “Acknowledgements”), my Habermasian interest in issues of religious life in secular modernity, and emails between Bellah and I last year (I was to address him as “Bob”).

After my reading in UPB, I went to Moe’s and bought a group of books (first large book purchase in months) that would blow your mind (interesting cliché). So, my exemplary day included realizing, when I woke up, that I really did purchase those books. (It wasn’t a dream. One tome is by a well-known professor of Hebrew and the Kabbala who decided, for his 50th birthday, to let his mind go wherever he chose, resulting in a 500+ page excursion titled A Dream Interpreted Within A Dream: oneiropoiesis and the prism of imagination, 2011. This is directly relevant to my intent to interplay evolutionary-cognitive aspects of mind with phenomenological excursions, which the author, E.R. Wolfson, is also venturing—in his very different way, of course.)

Bellah’s stance on cultural evolution made me wonder what Terrence Deacon might think of Bob’s great work. (Both are/were UCB faculty—Bellah’s very emeritus: 83 years old), and I’ve been waiting years for Terrence Deacon to finish his great work. So, I turn to Bellah’s Index, and what do you know!: many citations of Deacon, including a long discussion of Deacon’s sense of evolution!

Then, I went to Deacon’s faculty Webpage and yea!!, his book is coming out in November. Better yet, it apparently fits in better with work on consilience between the sciences and the humanities than I anticipated (according to the book description). Deacon’s Webpage lists his recent articles with links to PDF downloads! What great luck. So, that occupied a couple of hours—which led me to wondering about updates from Mark Turner, whose approach to cognition (“conceptual blending”) I’ve presumed for years as an approach I’m advocating. Deacon is overtly fitting in his work with Turner’s. This led me to The National Humanities Center, which I’ll mention further below.

Bellah’s approach to religion in evolution appropriates a leading model of cultural evolution (congruent with my view that religion is a special kind of culture, not anything essentially different from interests of cultural evolution) that gels with Deacon’s approach to bioanthropology (which argues, on massive evidence, that symbolic capacity is not primordially linguistic, just as I’ve been convinced for many years), which gels with Turner’s approach to cognition, which (going back to my interest in Turner in the first place, years ago) gels with Sternberg’s long-leading approach to the nature of intelligence (which I discuss briefly in “developmentality as generative modeling,” section 2 on “modeling [as] at least conceptual prospecting.”)

And the story goes on: The priority focus for the National Humanities Center Project “on the Human” (which is overtly linked up with the new work on consilience I mentioned) is “Autonomy, Singularity, Creativity” (Jan 9, 2017: for 2011; no longer listed), directly congruent with my own focus, growing for over a decade as The Project that I so vaguely allude to.

So, today was definitely made of elating solitude.