By Michael Strawser

Presidential Address of the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Florida Philosophical Association, 2016

Michael Strawser, University of Central Florida

I would like to start by expressing my gratitude to Jon Matheson not only for his very kind introduction but also for putting together an excellent program this year. Thank you to Andrew Aberdein for making the site arrangements, to Joshua Rust for handling all the communications and the money, to Greg Ray for all his technical work, and to Doug Keaton for putting together the FPA Newsletter. Finally, I would like to thank everyone for coming tonight; it is a real privilege for me to share this address with you. The last time I spoke to a plenary session of the FPA was 27 years ago, when I presented the Winning Graduate Paper at the 35th Annual 1Meeting. Naturally, when I think about the course my life has taken since then, I find it quite remarkable to be playing this role tonight. As for the theme of my address, it is no doubt a lofty one; I hope you won’t mind joining me in contemplating it.

We all know that politics and religion divide people—especially these days. And some contemporary philosophers have also suggested that “disagreement in philosophy is pervasive and irresoluble,” as there is “no thesis in philosophy about which philosophers agree.”2 Why is this? In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion Jonathan Haidt offers an intriguing defense of the Humean view that we are ruled by our passions, which he metaphorically refers to as an elephant that has to be ridden. Serving our own particular elephants is what leads us to division.3 In this address, and in contrast to Haidt and those who think we are subject to “persistent philosophical disagreement,” I wish to propose that “the edified mind”—a mind cultivated by philosophical practice—can help bring us closer together, and I shall try to suggest why philosophy is centrally important to achieving this task.

First, let me offer a caveat. Although the edified mind, as intended here, comes about through the practice of philosophy, this does not mean that its origin or foundation will be made plain. For the fundamental origin of the edified philosophical mind (and if you are not fond of the word “mind” feel free to substitute it with the German word “Geist,” which may actually be closer to what is intended here with certain qualifications) is no doubt hidden and mysterious, and while we may be tempted to contemplate its origin, I suspect that the ground remains hidden “just as the quiet lake [that] invites you to contemplate it but by the reflected image of darkness prevents you from seeing through it.”4

Let me also try to prevent us from going down one hermeneutical dead end from the outset. The edified philosophical mind is not meant to evoke the so-called Platonic thesis that reason should rule the passions, as if reason and emotion were somehow completely separate aspects of a human being. Haidt righty rejects this thesis, which is also nicely countered in Jill Gordon’s recent study Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death. Gordon shows persuasively how eros permeates our existence and is the central driving force of all of Plato’s writings.5  The edified philosophical mind points to a desire to partake in the “art of erotics,” which is after all the only thing Socrates considered himself to have mastered.6 The edified mind is thus an erotic mind seeking union through the practice of philosophical dialogue and encountering the other in his or her situatedness—in short, through the practice of edifying philosophy.

Thus, the obvious overarching answer to the question “how can philosophy unite people?” is that philosophy is a discipline originating in love. Surprisingly, however, this is not so obvious. Philosophers, as Jean-Luc Marion points out at the beginning of The Erotic Phenomenon, have forsaken love, their original determination, and they have radically forgotten “the erotics of wisdom.”7 Powerful accusations such as these are no doubt polemical, and while they may suit Marion’s purpose, what I would like to show here is how philosophers actually provoke love in their common practices, which is of course to say in our common practices. Before doing this, however, I want to characterize briefly some of the philosophical features of the edified mind as developed by certain key philosophers, such as Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Rorty, and Gadamer. This will reveal the hyperbolic nature of Marion’s beginning, although I have no pretensions that the insights of these thinkers are to be considered dominant in our discipline.

We have already made reference to Socrates and Plato, two philosophers of love who establish the practice of philosophy as a dialogue developed to lead to an edifying ascent. This is seen quite clearly in the Symposium, but as Gordon has shown it is part of even Plato’s supposedly non-erotic dialogues. Gordon’s exposure of Plato’s appreciation of the role of the body and emotions is especially interesting and invites a radically new reading of Plato.

Perhaps the most beloved philosopher, at least if we are inclined to agree with Bertrand Russell, is Baruch Spinoza,8 and it is noteworthy that the epigraph to Haidt’s The Righteous Mind comes from Spinoza’s Tractatus Politicus. It reads: “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them.”9 This perspective signals the beginnings of an edified mind and sets a good opening tone for Haidt’s work, but readers will be disappointed to find no additional reference to Spinoza’s philosophy, which would surely be of value in an exploration of moral psychology and the moral emotions. In fact, as neuroscientist Anthony Damascio has shown in Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Spinoza’s insights into the nature of human emotions are especially relevant today. In Damascio’s earlier work Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, he demonstrates why the Cartesian separation of reason and emotion is mistaken, and while Haidt reviews this earlier work of Damascio in The Righteous Mind, it is hard to understand why he does not look to Spinoza for guidance in his own study, since there is so much in Spinoza’s work that is relevant to Haidt’s investigation into the origin of morality and his social intuitionist model.

Perhaps it because of Spinoza’s complex understanding of intuition that Haidt does not venture to consider the philosopher of Amsterdam, for Spinoza’s view of intuition appears to be at odds with Haidt’s. According to Haidt, “Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second”—this is the title of Part I of his book, in which he argues that moral intuitions are “the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do.”10 Whereas for Spinoza intuitions are the highest form of knowledge, providing us access to timeless truths. What Haidt refers to as intuitions are for Spinoza confused, inadequate ideas or imaginations, so perhaps it is little wonder that Haidt chooses not to engage with Spinoza’s philosophy.

Now, in what way does Spinoza exhibit the edified mind and what are the features of this mind, which already must be reconceived as a “mind-body”? For starters, as H. A. Wolfson has argued, it is Spinoza who is the father of modern philosophy—not Descartes—because Spinoza is the first modern thinker to severe the umbilical cord tying philosophy to religion (although we can note that this does not preclude the possibility of a “religion without religion”). 11 Perhaps even more importantly, Spinoza is the only great modern philosopher who places the central focus of his philosophy on the ethical goal of demonstrating the kind of practice that leads to the good life. After all, his greatest work Ethics is first and foremost a book about ethics (i.e., not metaphysics or epistemology), and cultivating the proper moral emotions and intuitions is the key to living the ethical life.

One of the heightened moral truths that Spinoza promotes is that we are stronger together than alone. For Spinoza this idea is more than a slogan; it is a demonstrable certainty. In Part IV of the Ethics he writes:

If we consider the mind, surely our intellect would be less perfect if the mind were in solitude and understood nothing beyond itself. Therefore there are many things outside ourselves which are advantageous to us and ought therefore to be sought. …For if…two individuals of the same nature are joined with each other, they constitute an individual which is twice as powerful as either. Nothing, therefore, is more [advantageous] to [people] than [other people].12

Thus, Spinoza’s edifying philosophy is designed to unite people in freedom, and fixed at the core of this design is the active emotion of love or nobility (generositas), which Spinoza defines in Ethics, Part III, scholium to proposition 59, as the endeavor “to help other people and join them…in friendship.”13 Later in Part V Spinoza explains that “the best we can do, therefore, as long as we do not have a perfect knowledge of our emotions, is to conceive a right way of living, i.e. fixed rules of life that are certain,” and the only example he provides is this: “that hatred is to be conquered by love, i.e. by nobility,”14  which he had previously expressed in proposition 43 of Part III and proposition 46 of Part IV. (Unfortunately for students of modern philosophy who use the popular Hackett anthology, the main ethical parts of Spinoza’s Ethics—Parts III & IV—are not included in the textbook. 15) Thus for Spinoza the free, edified person “who strives to overcome hatred with love is surely fighting a happy and carefree battle … [and] all this follows so clearly solely from the definitions of love and intellect that there is no need of detailed proof.”16

Another philosopher to center his activity on love is Søren Kierkegaard, who in Works of Love—arguably the central work in [his] entire authorship17—writes that “to love people is the only thing worth living for.”18 Kierkegaard’s writings, as I have argued recently, can be read not only as dealing with the question of becoming a Christian, but more broadly with the more inclusive question concerning how one best becomes a lover. Such an approach shifts from a narrow theological focus on what it means to become a Christian to a broader phenomenological focus on how one becomes a lover. In contrast to Kant, for whom the central philosophical question is “How is understanding possible?” Kierkegaard’s writings are pervaded by the question “How is love possible?” and such a view is already (ironically) present in Kierkegaard’s magisterial dissertation, The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, where the longing for the actualization of “a sound and healthy love [en sund Kjærlighed]…through action” is the goal of the only life worth living.19 As is well-known, Kierkegaard created a category of discourses called “edifying” or “upbuilding,” which he published alongside his pseudonymous works, but even throughout his pseudonymous works the goal of edification is central. Consider Either/Or, the start of his authorship proper and perhaps his most famous work: From beginning to end, the central theme of this work is love. This has not been the most prevalent view, which instead reads Either/Or as essentially a work in existential philosophy focusing on the stages or spheres of existence. But the spheres of existence presuppose the foundational focus on love, for they only become manifest and are differentiated through the pursuit and expression of love. Whether they are fully successful or not, all of the sub-authors in Either/Or—Victor Eremita, “A,” Johannes the seducer, Cordelia, Judge William, and the Jutlandic parson—are essentially marked as lovers, 20 and this remarkable text concludes by stating “only the truth that edifies is truth for you.”21

Fortunately, in Works of Love Kierkegaard provides a direct account of the meaning of edification. Here he explains that “to edify” is a figurative expression, but we must first consider “what this word signifies in ordinary use.”22 Etymologically speaking, “to edify” means to build up. Here the emphasis is on the adverb “up,” for as we are told “everyone who upbuilds builds, but not everyone who builds builds up.”23 Consequently, this “up” is significant and indicates some upward direction in building something from scratch. Thus, when one builds an addition to his house, even if it adds to the height of the house, we do not say he builds up, but rather builds on because to “build up” is to start from the beginning which includes “digging deep” to lay the foundation. Therefore, we cannot understand “building up” without its contrary depth. For this reason we say “building castles in the sky” (i.e., building without a foundation), instead of “building up castles in the sky” which would be a thoughtless use of language.24

What, then, does the figurative use of “edifying” signify? As Kierkegaard explains, it signifies “to the one who has ears to hear with” that love is present, that love is presupposed as the foundation upon which we build up. For “edifying” is “exclusively characteristic of love,” Kierkegaard writes, and “there is nothing, simply nothing, which cannot be said or done so that it becomes edifying; but whatever it is, if it is edifying, then love is present.”25 He writes further:

To edify is to presuppose love; to be loving is to presuppose love; only love edifies. To edify is to erect something from the ground up, but spiritually love is the ground of everything. No human being can place the ground of love in another person’s heart; yet love is the ground, and we can edify only from the ground up; hence we can edify only by presupposing love. Take love away, then there is nothing which edifies, and no one who is edified.26

As lovers of wisdom we should hardly be surprised by this fundamental presupposition, for it lies at the root of our practice.

This brief glance at edifying philosophy would not be complete without including Richard Rorty, who is the clearest direct proponent of edifying philosophy in the 20th century. Although Rorty does not emphasize the significance of love in his writings, he nevertheless views edifying philosophy as a return to philosophers’ “proper” concern, and in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature he writes:

One way of thinking of wisdom as something of which the love is not the same as that of argument, and of which the achievement does not consist in finding the correct vocabulary for representing essence, is to think of it as the practical wisdom necessary to participate in a conversation. One way to see edifying philosophy as the love of wisdom is to see it as the attempt to prevent conversation from degenerating into inquiry, into a research paradigm. 27

Of course, university administrators would probably not like the sound of this very much, but what we learn from Rorty is that edification has something to do with hermeneutics, the project of human beings interpreting themselves in their ever changing worlds, and he is thus deeply indebted to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s Truth and Method. As Rorty explains, Gadamer substitutes Bildung for knowledge as the new goal of thinking, and Bildung is often defined as “education,” which refers to our project of “remaking ourselves” or arriving at new interpretations of ourselves through speaking abnormally, which is to say incommensurably. Perhaps there is no problem in calling this “education,” but why does Rorty suddenly change the term to “edification”? Here is his explanation:

Since “education” sounds a bit too flat, and Bildung a bit too foreign, I shall use “edification” to stand for this project of finding new, better, more interesting, more fruitful ways of speaking. The attempt to edify (ourselves or others) may consist in the hermeneutic activity of making connections between our own culture and some exotic culture or historical period, or between our own discipline and another discipline which seems to pursue incommensurable aims in an incommensurable vocabulary. …For edifying discourse is supposed to be abnormal, to take us out of our old selves by the power of strangeness, to aid us in becoming new beings.28

Although Rorty’s view is significant in making edifying philosophy more prominent, it has its shortcomings, including the neglect of the philosophy of love and the contentious context developed through the polemical distinction between edifying and systematic philosophy. What I find most important in Rorty’s account is the importance placed on Gadamer’s work—work which explains quite clearly how the ontological conditions of the search for truth in the Geisteswissenschaften (the core of which is philosophy) lead to an edified mind. At the center of Gadamer’s work lies the priority of the question, the practice of dialogue, and the experience of the other as a Thou.

What do we accomplish in teaching philosophy? What do our students learn through rigorous instruction in critical philosophical thinking? Undoubtedly, our students gain deep knowledge about brilliant thinkers and philosophical positions, and they also learn how to analyze an argument insightfully and show where reasoning sometimes goes wrong. This knowledge and these skills are what we frequently assess and laud as essential outcomes of philosophical study, but I suspect that there is something more important, more edifying, that is achieved through our discipline—something that is rarely assessed or cited as a goal, and something that the cluster of socalled edifying philosophers assembled in this paper helps us to see. The study of philosophy should cultivate in our students a more careful and generous “attending—listening—to those with whom we engage, whether they are people or texts.”29 As Simone Weil writes, “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,”30 and it is encouraging that the phenomenon of attention is a topic in both the graduate and undergraduate award papers this year. The study of philosophy thus facilitates in students a special openness towards others, in part because they are more questioning—and the structure of the question, as Gadamer shows, implies a fundamental openness—more accepting of alternative points of view,31 and more understanding of the indeterminacy of our finite existence. In order to engage critically with another’s view, we must first consider it as a viable possibility. Students of philosophy, that is all of us here, come to learn to be far less righteous—there’s no doubt about this is there?—far less dogmatic, far less Euthyphronic, and I suspect, along with some of my colleagues at UCF, that this is a measurable outcome that we could assess…well, that is if we actually enjoyed assessment, which, of course, we don’t.

In Twilight of the Idols Friedrich Nietzsche expresses the first step towards the edified mind:

Learning to see—accustoming the eye to calmness, to patience, to letting things come up to it; postponing judgment, learning to go around and grasp each individual case from all sides. That is the first preliminary schooling for spirituality: not to react at once to a stimulus, but to gain control of all the inhibiting, excluding instincts. …To have all doors standing open…32

Such non-judgmental openness derives from the hermeneutic priority of the question, the hallmark of philosophy, and as Gadamer explains, there is no single method for learning to ask good questions, and asking good questions is often much more difficult than answering them. (It is worth reminding ourselves here that Socrates’ expression of the “art of erotics” [ta erôtica] is etymologically related to the art of asking questions.) Further, the art of questioning “is not the art of being able to win every argument,”33 for in questioning I have to be ready to accept some things that are against me, in which case I may sometimes come out looking worse than the other. This is because through the activity of questioning I am able to conduct a real dialogue in which I encounter the special hermeneutical experience of the Thou, for “the Thou is not an object but is in relationship with us.”34 “This kind of experience is a moral phenomenon,”35 Gadamer writes, and “without such openness to one another there is no genuine human bond.”36 The edified mind knows that the experience brought about through questioning, dialogue, and the special relation of openness and attention to the other begets insight, which is “always more than the knowledge of this or that situation.”37 “Insight is something we come to,” Gadamer writes, “it is ultimately part of the vocation of [a human being]…to be discerning and insightful.”38

Gadamer’s analysis of hermeneutical consciousness shows that the edified mind, in the strict sense, doesn’t believe anything absolutely—no, not even love, because love is not a belief—and this serves as a condition that enables us to listen much more carefully and engage much more fruitfully with the other, whether a person or a text. Of course, students of philosophy—again, this includes us all—have natural and strong intuitions, but we work steadfastly to prevent these from becoming fixed dogmas that cannot be called into question. Philosophers know that every belief has multiple sides and raises multiple issues, so we question everything, while being equally open to engaging with the insights of Plato and Aristotle, Spinoza and Leibniz, Hegel and Kierkegaard, Weil and de Beauvoir, or Wittgenstein and Wittgenstein.

As lovers of wisdom, we are first and foremost lovers, and lovers behold the other with respect and appreciation, acting a ways that presuppose that the other is also a lover, desirous of wisdom, desirous of the good, and thus also searching. Because of this erotic desire, a lack that conditions who we are, we as lovers may also appear quite appropriately as ironists.

The edified philosophical mind does not rest—we all know that it never rests—in the happy thought that it has once and for all achieved its purpose. It does not take itself for certain or that its incitement of love will always lead to unification. But this is as it should be, and it also reveals the irony of love and the interconnectedness between irony and love, which was embodied in the person of Socrates. Lovers know that the most they can do is act in ways that presuppose love in others and never serve as the adequate cause of love itself. Likewise, teachers of philosophy know that their effect on students is uncertain, but again, this is how it should be.

I am nearing the end on my address, so let’s consider more specifically how love is a part of what we do in teaching philosophy. These remarks will be developed in relation to some ideas from a little book titled The Ideal Teacher written by George Herbert Palmer, former Alford Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, and published in 1908. It was my good fortune to come across this work among the stacks in a used book store in Cincinnati several years ago, but you can find it online at Project Gutenberg today. 39 Although Palmer does not identify love as a focus of his work, it is interesting how several of his ideas fit nicely with those being discussed this evening. First, although perhaps not observed as frequently as it should be, I think it is a given that we love our profession of teaching philosophy.40 After all, it is obvious that we do not get involved in becoming a philosophy teacher from a desire for financial gain or increased power or status. Instead, I suspect that somehow we have all been influenced by an edified mind who imparted the desire to engage with others in the pursuit of wisdom. This love must be presupposed to be a good teacher, and it serves as a foundation for the many other key characteristics required, one of which, as Palmer explains, is “an aptitude for vicariousness.”41 A good scholar may possess much knowledge and wisdom, but that is not enough to make a good teacher. Instead, good teachers work diligently to share and impart their wisdom with others, not for the sake of themselves, but for the sake of others. “Love,” Kierkegaard writes, “is not a being-for-itself quality but a quality by which or in which you are for others.”42 Edified teaching is an expression of love. A good (philosophy) teacher “does not live for himself” or herself, as Palmer writes, and must “readily think in terms of the other person.”43 As good teachers we must habitually put ourselves in the place of the others—our students—and sympathetically imagine how they are learning. “Till altruistic vicariousness has become our second nature,” Palmer writes, “we shall not deeply influence anybody.”44

The final quality of the ideal teacher that Palmer describes fits neatly with a decisive feature of the phenomenon of love. For Kierkegaard this feature is “self-denial,” and for Palmer it is identified as “the readiness to be forgotten.”45 This feature may prove disagreeable to our natural instincts, but as teachers we are “called on to rise above ordinary human conditions,”46 which is something that the righteous mind is unable to do, but the edified mind attempts while not knowing whether it will be successful or not. According to Palmer “we teachers must accustom ourselves” to “proper unthankfulness,” for “we cannot tell what are our good deeds, and shall only plague ourselves and hinder our classes if we try to find out”47 (there goes the need for student perception of instruction surveys). Paradoxically, this movement away from our natural selves allows for the possibility of a return of love. Palmer eloquently writes:

But though what we do remains unknown, its results often awake deep affection. Few in the community receive love more abundantly than we. Wherever we go, we meet a smiling face. Throughout the world, by some good fortune, the period of learning is the period of romance. In those halcyon days of our boys and girls we have a share, and the golden lights which flood the opening years are reflected on us. Though our pupils cannot follow our efforts in their behalf, and indeed ought not—it being our art to conceal our art—yet they perceive that in the years when their happy expansion occurred we were their guides. To us, therefore, their blind affections cling as to few besides their parents. It is better to be loved than to be understood.48

On an important concluding note, Palmer explains in good philosophical fashion that given the endless qualifications required, “it is [actually] impossible to be a good teacher,” as “a finished teacher is a contradiction in terms.”49 Thus, the dialectical play between love and irony emerges again as we realize—what some of you may have already suspected—that the impossibility of a final attainment is equally true of the edified philosophical mind. But we shall nevertheless continue to delight in the amorous approximation.


Thank you.




Ariew, Roger and Eric Watkins, eds. Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2009.

Chalmers David. “Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy?” In Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen, edited by John Keller, 277-298. Oxford University Press, 2017.

Daly, Christopher. “Persistent Philosophical Disagreement.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. CXVII (2017): 4-24.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg. Truth and Method. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. London, UK: Continuum, 1989.

Gordon, Jill. Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012.

Kierkegaard, Søren. The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates. Kierkegaard’s Writings II. Edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Either/Or: Part I. Kierkegaard’s Writings III. Edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Translated by David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2009.

Kierkegaard, Søren. Works of Love. Kierkegaard’s Writings XVI. Edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Marion, Jean-Luc. The Erotic Phenomenon. Translated by S. E. Lewis. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Twilight of Idols. In The Portable Nietzsche. Edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1982.

Palmer, George Herbert. The Ideal Teacher. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910.
Plato, Symposium. In Plato on Love. Edited by C.D.C. Reeve. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing

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Rorty, Richard. Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Russell, Bertrand. A History of Western Philosophy. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1972.

Smith, Richard. “Between the Lines: Philosophy, Text and Conversation.” Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 43, No. 3 (2009): 437-449.

Spinoza, Baruch. Ethics. Edited and translated by G. H. R. Parkinson. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Spinoza, Baruch. The Ethics. Translated by Samuel Shirley. Edited by Seymour Feldman. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1992.

Van Inwagen, Peter. “Freedom to Break the Laws.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (2004): 332-350.

Weil, Simone and Joë Bousquet. Correspondance. Lausanne: Editions l’Age d’Homme, 1982.

Wolfson, H. A. Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Vol. II. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1948.














  1. The title of my graduate award paper was “Kierkegaard and Rorty: A Preliminary Study of Edifying Philosophy,” so it would seem that I have remained somewhat consistent in my approach throughout the years.
  2. Peter van Inwagen, “Freedom to Break the Laws,” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 28 (2004): 332. Also, Christopher Daly writes that “no philosophical problems have been solved and philosophers can’t agree about anything beyond that” in “Persistent Philosophical Disagreement,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. CXVII (2016): 4.
  3. See Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Pantheon Books, 2012).
  4. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, Kierkegaard’s Writings XVI, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 10.
  5. See Jill Gordon, Plato’s Erotic World: From Cosmic Origins to Human Death (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  6. Plato, Symposium.
  7. Jean-Luc Marion, The Erotic Phenomenon, trans. S. E. Lewis (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), 3.
  8. In A History of Western Philosophy Bertrand Russell writes: “Spinoza is the noblest and most lovable of the great philosophers” (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1972), 569.
  9. Quoted in Haidt, The Righteous Mind, vii.
  10. Haidt, The Righteous Mind, 45.
  11. H. A. Wolfson makes this claim in Philo: Foundations of Religious Philosophy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Vol. II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1948), chapter 14. See also Seymour Feldman’s “Introduction” to Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics, trans. Samuel Shirley (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1992), 5f.
  12. Spinoza, Ethics, E4p18s. Shirley’s translation has been combined with G. H. R. Parkinson’s translation (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000). Note that I follow that the standard style for citing Spinoza’s Ethics, where “E” stands for the part of Ethics, “p” for proposition, “s” for scholium, and “c” for corollary.
  13. Spinoza, E3p59s.
  14. Spinoza, E5p10s.
  15. See Modern Philosophy: An Anthology of Primary Sources, ed. Roger Ariew and Eric Watkins (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2009), a textbook that emphasizes the inclusion of many complete texts.
  16. E4p46s. “A free person hates no one, is angry with no one, envies no one, is indignant with no one, despises no one, and is far from being proud” (E4p73s).
  17. George Pattison’s “Foreword” to Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, trans. Howard and Edna Hong (New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2009), p. ix. This translation of Works of Love was originally published in 1962.
  18. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1995), 375.
  19. This refers to the last of the 15 theses appended to Kierkegaard’s magisterial dissertation. See Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony with Continual Reference to Socrates, Kierkegaard’s Writings II, ed. and trans. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 6.
  20. This is easily seen at a glance by considering the following: (1) the first sustained essay by “A” titled “The Immediate Erotic Stages or the Musical Erotic” focuses on exposing the origin of desire, (2) Johannes writes in his diary of seduction that he is an eroticist, not a seducer, who loves with love (See E/O I, 368, 337), (3) William takes up “The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage” understanding that the essence of marriage is love and intimating that love is the central free choice that solidifies the personality, and finally (4) the parson’s edifying sermon expresses the exponential deepening of love that creates a literary merger of all the prior directions of love.
  21. Kierkegaard, Either/Or: Part I, Kierkegaard’s Writings III, ed. and trans. by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1987), 609.
  22. Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love, trans. David F. Swenson and Lillian Marvin Swenson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1946), 170.
  23. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1946), 170.
  24. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1946), 171.
  25. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1946), 172.
  26. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1946), 181. This quotation is modified by the Hongs’ translation of Works of Love (1995), 224.
  27. Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 372.
  28. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 360.
  29. Richard Smith, “Between the Lines: Philosophy, Text and Conversation,” Journal of Philosophy of Education, Vol. 43, No. 3 (2009): 437.
  30. Simone Weil, letter to poet Joë Bousquet, published in Correspondance (Lausanne: Editions l’Age d’Homme, 1982), 18.
  31. Thus, I think this is more than just tolerating dissenting viewpoints, which is a feature of philosophy identified by David Chalmers in “Why Isn’t There More Progress in Philosophy?” in Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen, ed. John Keller (Oxford University Press, 2017), 277-298.
  32. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. by Walter Kaufmann (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1982), 511.
  33. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (London, UK: Continuum, 1989), 360.
  34. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 352.
  35. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 352.
  36. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 355.
  37. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 350.
  38. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 350.
  39. George Herbert Palmer, The Ideal Teacher (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910). Available in The Teacher: Essays and Addresses on Education by Palmer and Palmer at
  40. Palmer also seems to presuppose this when he writes: “Accordingly in this paper I address those only who are drawn to teaching by the love of it” (The Ideal Teacher, 7).
  41. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 8.
  42. Kierkegaard, Works of Love (1995), 223.
  43. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 26, 14.
  44. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 15.
  45. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 8, 26f.
  46. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 26.
  47. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 28.
  48. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 28-29.
  49. Palmer, The Ideal Teacher, 29.

Michael Strawser

Michael Strawser is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Central Florida. His research interests are the philosophy of love, ethics, Continental philosophy (Modern & Contemporary), phenomenology, and the philosophy of religion. His books include Kierkegaard’s God and the Good Life (co-edited with Stephen Minister and Aaron Simmons), Kierkegaard and the Philosophy of Love, Asking Good Questions: Case Studies in Ethics and Critical Thinking (with Nancy Stanlick), and Both/And: Reading Kierkegaard from Irony to Edification. [email protected]