Jan 18, 2011

Needed Name Change

After much reflections, tossing ideas back and forth, and soliciting input from friends and colleagues, I've arrived at more suitable, yes, catchier and flashier, but most importantly apter name for this blog site.  It's two Greek words which comprise one single challenging-to-translate term, occurring in a passage where it is paired with its lexical and conceptual mirror:


Orexis  means "desire" (apparently the reason it's also the trade name for a new libido-enhancing product), in a broad sense of the term, extending to "craving" and "lust"-- and  since Aristotle distinguishes between  several different modes of it and because orexis fits into the human passions or emotions as well, I sometimes go so far as to translate it as "affectivity."  Dianoētikē is an adjective, deriving from dianoia, "thought," "understanding," the mind as it actively works things out.  So, Orexis Dianoētikē means something like understanding desire, desire that thinks, or as I've rendered it elsewhere as "desire bound up with mind."

This phrase is a portion of a passage in which Aristotle characterizes what is for his moral theory a keystone term, prohairesis, deliberate moral choice, what fundamentally reveals, molds, and reflects a person's character, who it is that they are.  Aristotle says that prohairesis is mind bound up with desire (orektikos nous) or desire bound up with, structured by mind (orexis dianoētikē).

So, why did I select this Greek locution for the title of my blog?  Looking at my entries, Anselm and Aristotle predominate, so I thought perhaps AAA -- Anselm, Aristotle, and Anything else.  I thought about what the core of my blog and my work was, and realized that among the many other things I do and am interested in, what ties them together more than anything else is moral philosophy, more specifically, practical reasoning.  What I see as my calling is bringing the fruits of classic thought to bear on contemporary problems, to set long-dead thinkers' still so-valuable thoughts out for new audiences, not out of an antiquarian interest but because these great philosophers and theologians offer intellectual treasures that enrich practical life and the thinking every person must sooner or later engage in about the content, value, direction, projects, and priorities of that life.  Googling "practical reasoning," I saw that there were already so many sites using that term in their title that to introduce it to my blog's moniker would be to cast it down into the outer darkness of voluminous googlelists

This one does show up, in papers on Aristotle, and predictably enough, practical reasoning, politics, moral philosophy, sometimes rhetoric. Why not its slightly more substantively intellectual brother couplet, Orektikos Nous?  I considered that, but eventually saw the greater appropriateness of its counterpart:  am I more a desirous mind -- a mind responding to and implementing desires --  or am I more fundamentally a desire which takes shape and seeks out its objects through mind?  Which of these is how my character, my basic and fundamental patterns of choices have been given structure and lasting density, inertia in motion?   Well, many other philosophers may be the first, but the second fits me much more closely.  So, Orexis Dianoētikē it is!