This lecture is free and open to the public. (RSVP recommended, see right) It will be followed by a response by Justin Gable, OP, DSPT Professor of Philosophy.
To point is to share wonder with another. “What is that?” we say in the interrogative or “That is a bat” we say in the declarative. Pointing, weaving together bodily movement and speech, is specifically human. (Apes, researchers tell us, point only in the imperative, not to share wonder or to learn speech, but just to convey their desire for food.) How can we humans point in the way that we do?
Heidegger thinks of us as Dasein, those entities to whom the things of the world are available in their intelligibility. St. Thomas Aquinas thinks of us as humans, who are animals with reason that can perceive and understand the things around us. Heidegger denies our animality, because he thinks it compromises our distinctness; Aquinas affirms our animality while transfiguring its meaning in order to maintain our distinctness.
To assess what is at stake in the Heidegger-Aquinas debate concerning human animality, the paper contemplates the significance of the human hand, which Aristotle memorably calls the tool of tools. The hand clearly belongs to the bodily dimension of us and is both anticipated by animal grasping and transfigured by the unlimited openness of the human spirit. In this way, Aquinas can account for the kinship of the human and the animal while maintaining the essential difference between them. However, it is Heidegger who helps us see the full significance of the human hand, which is not just handy for handling things: the hand also points out, and, we could say, it embodies the presence of God in the world.
Chad Engelland, PhD, is an assistant professor of philosophy and director of the MA program in philosophy at the University of Dallas in Irving, Texas. He is the author of three books: Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind (2014), The Way of Philosophy: An Introduction (2016), and Heidegger’s Shadow: Kant, Husserl, and the Transcendental Turn (2017). His writings have appeared in such venues as “Journal of the American Philosophical Association”, “Continental Philosophy Review”, and “The Thomist”.
Prior to arriving at UD in 2014, he taught philosophy for nine years at Borromeo Seminary and John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.
He and his wife have four children, who continually inspire them to wonder.
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