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Philosophy, science fiction, capitalism & rural development

3 January 2019

Our first Neoinklings literary coffee klatsch for 2019 was attended by more people today as the universities are closed, and many people are still on holiday.

Duncan Reyburn kicked off by saying that he was reading about the philosophy of William Desmond, an Irishman. OK, I nicked the following from Wikipedia, but it is more or less what Duncan said, and saved a bit of typing, giving a brief summary of Desmond’s ideas..

Neoinklings Literary Coffee Klatsch: Annalet van Schalkwyk, Tony McGregor, Duncan Reyburn, Val Hayes, David Levey, Janneke Weidema

  1. Univocal: This potency is that of intelligibility and identity. It is a potency most clearly seen as the driving force behind modernity. The univocal potency helps manifest intelligibility and gives determination to the ethos.
  2. Equivocal: The equivocal potency is marked by its indefiniteness and difference.
  3. Dialectic: Characterized by mediation, the dialectic sense places emphasis on self mediated wholeness.
  4. The Metaxological: From the Greek ‘metaxu’ meaning ‘between’, the metaxological is a view of the ethos from the between as overdetermined. Emphasizing mediation, it leaves the between open (as opposed to the dialectical) and emphasises the interplay between sameness and difference. The metaxological considers the between as overdetermined and does not attempt to constrict or define the between or the ethos as whole or progressing teleologically. It is a more robust consideration of the agapeic origin as overdetermined good

Duncan is reading Being and the Between and Ethics and the Between, but said that the books are horrifically expensive.

Duncan was also reading Gulliver’s Travels to his daughter Isla, aged 4, and she was loving it. That is one of those books that has layers of meaning that one discovers when re-reading it at different ages. I found the same in Bleak House which I am currently reading. I would have missed a great deal of the story if I’d read it when I was younger, before I knew the difference between Common Law and Equity, for example.

David Levey returned our copy of The Owl Service by Alan Garner, but said he hadn’t enjoyed it as much on the second reading. All the professional critics seem to think it is his best book, but we preferred Elidor. We returned David’s copy of Boneland, see my review here. It seemed to question the nature of reality and what is real and what is fiction, and reminded me of a science fiction short story I had read when I was about 15, The New Reality by Charles L. Harness. For me, at least, that story was a preparation for accepting Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigm shifts.

Duncan Reyburn said the different paradigms sounded like a multiverse, and that was the theme of a film currently showing, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Janneke Weidema brought us down to earth in the current universe by mentioning Peter Storey’s new book, I beg to differ: Ministry amid the Teargas. She had been peripherally involved in some of the events described in the book. Peter Storey was a Methodist minister, and had at one point been Methodist chaplain to the prison on Robben Island, and had got to know many of the political prisoners held there.

Annalet van Schalkwyk, who has been working on an article on the struggle of the people of Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape to protect their land from rapacious mining companies, had also been reading A Broken River Tent by Mphuthumi Ntabeni, set in the same area. Annalet said she had become very interested in the history of the area, and I suggested that she should read Sir Harry Smith: bungling hero. We had discussed that at an earlier gathering, along with several other books on the same topic. Yet another book mentioned was The House of Phalo: A History of the Xhosa People in the Days of Their Independence.

Tony McGregor had been reading a much more recent book dealing with the same issues in the present, Democracy and Delusion: 10 Myths in South African Politics, by Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh.

In her article on the struggle of the people of Xolobeni Annalet had made use of some of the books of Walter Wink to provide a theological interpretation of the events, especially Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament and Unmasking the powers. My part in the discussion that followed on that is fairly fully described  in a blog post I wrote nine years ago on Social Justice and evangelism, so I won’t retype it here. But I will say that back in 1975 or so I was catechising a couple of fairly recent converts to the Christian faith, and I recommended that they read a work of fiction, C.S. Lewis’s Out of the silent planet, to get a whiff of the Christian worldview and ethos. Shortly thereafter we had a Bible study in which we were discussing the principalities and powers, the rulers and authorities, the Archontes and Exousiae, And the “mature” Christians in the group were flummoxed, and didn’t have a clue what it was about, But it was the two novices who clicked and said “It’s all in that book!” — meaning Out of the silent planet.

We also briefly mentioned BookCrossing, which is an interesting way of passing on unwanted books — ones you’ve already read and are unlikely to want to read again, or ones that you have more than one copy of.

If you’re interested, see here:




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