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Dordt College News

Dordt Writes

February 7, 2013

The first Dordt Writes event celebrating books written by Dordt College authors will be held in the John and Louise Hulst Library on Dordt’s campus on Friday, February 15, at 11 a.m. All are invited to share a cup of coffee and a cookie and hear the author talk briefly about his book.

The featured book for this event is Dr. Neal DeRoo’s Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida, recently published by Fordham University Press. Admittedly an academic book, the volume explores how philosophy, especially the branch of philosophy called phenomenology, can be relevant to the general life of society by better understanding its own task, methodology, and relation to tradition, says DeRoo, a professor of philosophy.

Once we “name” something we tend to develop a stereotypical understanding of it and eventually come to treat the word and what it names without a deep understanding of what we mean by it, DeRoo explains.

Phenomenology, according to DeRoo, wants to set aside stereotypes that people bring with them when they think about an idea or topic, focus instead on understanding what is really happening, and then ask whether the explanation of what is happening fits with our experience of the world. DeRoo doesn’t claim that such an approach is easy because everyone brings perceptions to an issue or topic or situation, but he believes it “helps put everything on the table.”

What especially interests him is that it makes room for the notion of worldview as a way to make sense of ideas, a way to consciously take a position and then ask whether our actions line up with what we say we believe.

He gives the example of a school.

“What does it mean to be a school? Is it a delivery mechanism for a product or is it more? Is it a non-profit business or is it something else?” Asking those questions can keep teachers and administrators from merely using a “let’s try it and see” approach that, when it goes wrong, can sometimes be quite damaging. Instead, it can help them better accomplish their goals by giving them a fuller picture of the factors they must consider before deciding whether to try something.

That’s not to say that such an approach gives final answers to every question or problem. Conversations need to be ongoing to uncover and recover how we believe we should act.

DeRoo knows that his book probably won’t make it onto the “must read” list for most people, because of its academic and philosophical content, nor will most consider it practical or “serviceable” (although he certainly hopes they will), but he believes it can have very practical implications. It is his way of offering insight that can affect how our society thinks and acts.

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