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WHY LOGOS AS WEB SITE TITLE?

 


Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535 BCE-c. 475 BCE)
 

Why logos (Greek = logos) as the title of this Web site? Logos is a Greek term with a wide range of interrelated meanings and rich history of philosophical usage. In any specific context of usage, logos may mean: word, speech, language, account, explanation, theory, reason, thought, concept, principle, formula, articulation, or law. From Heraclitus to Plotinus, it plays a central role in classical Greek and Hellenistic philosophy. In this historical context, logos gathers within its semantic scope the distinguishable domains of human rationality, linguistic symbolization, and intelligible law. Therefore, my first reason for choosing logos is its rich semantic complexity and the implicit philosophical connections contained within that complexity.

The term logos also evokes reflection upon the oft-discussed, historical transition from mythos to logos in Greek thought. The Greek philosophical revolution inaugurated by the Milesian school represented a rejection of the Homeric and Hesiodic mythical worldview (mythos) in favor of a rational-scientific form of thinking (logos).  Accordingly, logos symbolizes for us the birth of Western rationality (philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, scientific methodology, etc.) out of its mythical historical matrix. Generalizing beyond this specific historical significance, logos also symbolizes the individual intellectual shift from prephilosophical attitudes and thinking to a distinctively philosophical form of reasoning.  Consequently, my second reason for selecting logos is its symbolic reference to both the historical and individual birth of philosophical thinking.

In contrast to a predominantly individualistic, subject-centered model of rational activity, the term logos also draws our attention to the possible inner connection between rationality and dialogue (dialogos). In its original Greek formulation, dialogos embraces the three distinct senses of logos articulated above: language, reason, and law. Accordingly, we define dialogue philosophically as a form of linguistic communication conducted by means of (dia) a common commitment to rational principles and pursuits (logos). This concept of dialogue, however, does not dispute the legitimacy or reality of individual rational activity. Rather, it suggests an additional, and often overlooked, communicative or dialogical dimension of rationality. Therefore, my third reason for adopting logos is its semantic suggestion of a specifically dialogical dimension of rationality.

Finally, logos also signifies my philosophical rejection of recent totalizing or radical critiques of Western reason. The concept and practice of a critique of reason by reason itself has undoubtedly become a prominent feature of Western European philosophy since Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). However, in recent years an unprecedented radicalization of the critique of reason has put the fundamental legitimacy, and not merely the limits, of reason into question. While I readily acknowledge the theoretical need for philosophical rationality to exercise vigilant self-criticism, the wholesale dismissal and dissolution of Western logos proposed by various "postmodern" philosophers is naive, self-destructive and incoherent. Hence, the Web site title Logos indicates my positive interest in philosophical attempts to reconceive Western rationality constructively within our contemporary historical context. Conversely, it also indicates my critical stance towards what Richard Bernstein has aptly termed the rage against reason.


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