36th Fritz Marti lecture features Vanderbilt University professor

Vanderbilt University professor David Wood explored multiple “aporetic sites” or “problematic spaces of thinking” during his lecture at SIUE last week.

Wood’s discussion, “Thinking Out of the Box (After Heidegger),” was the 36th Fritz Marti lecture. Wood first looked at mortal existence, which he said philosopher Martin Heidegger puts “front and center to the question of being.”

“We might find it frustrating that Heidegger doesn’t give us much guidance on how to proceed from here, but perhaps the point is beyond the nautical map he does provide, we are indeed at sea without our own course to steer,” Wood said.

This approach, according to Wood, means that “singularity is our universal condition.”

“My singularity is and is not something I share with others. What I think I mean when I point to myself is absolutely non-substitutional, and this is not egoism or narcissism but something of a logical truth that cannot properly speak its name.”

Wood also explained experiences, which he said play an important role in modern philosophy.

“These doubts about the idea of experience have followed in the wake of the problematizing of the individual subject, one that would be illicitly confirmed in its entirety and groundedness if we really thought we had experiences,” Wood said.

He also tackled the concept of language. Per Heidegger, “Language has already constituted us as subjects before we could ever talk about using it,” according to Wood.

“We speak, as he put it, only when we listen to the voice of language,” Wood said.

Time and future were also taken in consideration, during which Wood said he has no doubt that “human existence is quintessentially temporal.”

“But it’s easier to say, ‘Yes, yes, we’re born. We die and stuff happens to us in between. What’s the big deal?’” Wood said. “In fact, at any stage we could have many more details, dates circumstances, opportunities taken and missed, significant events, achievements and so on.”

But Wood said for the most part, people live, remember the past, “enjoy the present and expect the sun to rise tomorrow.”

“What happens to yesterday when all my troubles seemed so far away?” Wood said. “In fact, what happened to the beginning of this lecture? Or this sentence? Where is it now? When all my troubles seem, remember that? Where is that? It’s over, it’s gone. We did it once. It’s history, it’s disappeared.”

Wood also questioned whether the unreality of the future should be a source of unease or comfort.

“I’m trying to capture some of what I take to be common, pre-philosophical thoughts of our time that cross our mind even before anyone asks us, as Augustine put it,” Wood said.

Lastly, Wood took on the concepts of God and the universe.

“It may be a distinctive, if not always exercised, capacity of the human to be able to contemplate the universe… even if we cannot know its extent or deep down what it is we’re contemplating…,” Wood said. “If we cannot think it, we can surely try to appreciate the fact of it and live in the light of that fact at some level.”

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