Leonard Lawlor: “Reality and Philosophy: Reflections on Cora Diamond’s Work”

The journal Philosophical Investigations has published an essay by Leonard Lawlor (Philosophy, Penn State University) — entitled “Reality and Philosophy: Reflections on Cora Diamond’s Work” — which we thought would interest some of our readers. To access the essay online, please click here.

Here is the essay’s abstract:

The publication of Cora Diamond’s important 2002 “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy” (in Philosophy and Animal Life) stimulated the writing of this essay. “The Difficulty of Reality and the Difficulty of Philosophy” attempted to show that there are experiences of reality (recounted especially in literature like John Coetzee’s novels and Ted Hughes’ poetry) in relation to which philosophical concepts and words encounter difficulty. The experiences resist conceptualization. By examining several of Diamond’s earlier writings, I try to show that the difficulty of philosophical conceptualization of reality is due to the fact that reality does not exist external to experience. Reality being internal to experience means that reality contains an unfixed set of possibilities. Being experiential, reality is historical. The historical dimension of reality – such as the reality of animal life suffering – makes the words through we describe this reality too weak, i.e. they are not powerful enough to capture reality, hence the difficulty. Consequently, as I argue, for Diamond, the weakness of words means that words are never complete concepts. The meaning of them seems always still to come since reality seems always to have a surplus of possibilities. I suggest that because of this always still “to come” aspect of the meaning of words, we might characterise Diamond’s thought as a messianism.

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