Many philosophers since Hegel have been disturbed by the thought that philosophy inevitably favors sameness over otherness or identity over difference. Originally published at a time when the issue was not so widely discussed in the English-speaking world, William Desmond here offers a constructive and positive approach to the problem of difference and otherness. He systematically explores the question of dialectic and otherness by analyzing how human desire inevitably seeks immanent wholeness in a manner that opens it to irreducible otherness. He faces the difficulties bequeathed to Continental thought by Hegelian dialectic and its tendency to subordinate difference to identity, whether appropriately or not.
Unlike many recent critics of Hegel, he argues that we must preserve what is genuine in dialectic. Granting the positive power of dialectic, Desmond offers his first articulation of a further philosophical possibility—what he terms the Metaxological—a discourse of the “between,” a discourse doing justice to desire’s search for wholeness without any truncating of its radical openness to otherness. In a wide-ranging yet unified discussion, Desmond tackles such issues as the nature of the self, the ambiguous restlessness and inherent power of being revealed by human desire, desire’s relation to transcendence, its openness to otherness in agapeic good will and in relation to the sublime as an aesthetic infinitude. Finally, Desmond brings this metaxological understanding to bear on the metaphysical question of the ultimate origin.
This book is a remarkable introduction to Desmond’s metaxological philosophy, prefiguring many of the ideas with which his later thought is associated. This second edition contains a substantial new preface and an afterword to each chapter in which Desmond reflects on the material from the standpoint of his current thinking.
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- Examines the philosophical ideas of dialectic and otherness
- Introduces the idea of ‘metaxological philosophy’
- Applies these concepts to the metaphysical question of origin
- Part 1: Intentional Infinitude
- Desire, Lack, and the Absorbing God
- Desire and Original Selfness
- Desire’s Infinitude and Wholeness
- Part 2: Actual Finitude
- Desire, Transcendence, and Static Eternity
- Desire, Knowing, and Otherness
- Desire, Concreteness, and Being
- Desire, Otherness, and Infinitude
- Part 3: Actual Infinitude
- Desire and the Absolute Original
Praise for the Print Edition
What splendid news that William Desmond’s admirable, insightful, engaging, and—because of its Hegelian involvements—exasperating book is republished! It invites reflection on those conversations with others in which we become other to ourselves. . . . Desmond’s book initiates just such a badly needed conversation with his readers.
—Alasdair MacIntyre, professor emeritus, University of Notre Dame
At the time of its publication over twenty years ago Desire, Dialectic, and Otherness represented the appearance of a truly important and original philosophical voice. It exhibited critical mastery of the entire philosophical tradition and a rare ability both to sift through it and to penetrate to its original and originating core. It was a portend of much to come. And in hindsight, one can see in this still amazingly fresh work the seeds of Desmond’s great trilogy in metaphysics, which has made him one of the essential philosophers of his generation.
—Cyril O. Regan, professor of theology, University of Notre Dame
About William Desmond
William Desmond is professor of philosophy at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven as well as David Cook Visiting Chair in Philosophy at Villanova University. He earned his MA from the National University of Ireland and PhD from Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Desmond is a Hegel expert, and he specializes in philosophy and religion. He is the author or editor of over a dozen scholarly works.