Explores ontological humility in the history of philosophy, from Descartes to contemporary gender and race theory.
Neither self-effacing modesty nor religious meekness, ontological humility is a moral and philosophical attitude toward transcendence—the unknown and unknowable background of existence—and a recognition and awareness of the contingency and chance that influence the course of our lives. It is a concept that Nancy J. Holland finds both throughout the history of philosophy and across the volumes of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Tracing it through the philosophical thought of figures ranging from Descartes, Hume, and Kant to Heidegger, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida, Holland uses the Harry Potter saga as a guide to illustrate the concept, revealing a whole set of ethical imperatives. Connecting the concept to contemporary gender and race theory, she demonstrates its implications both for our understanding of the philosophical tradition and for the way we live our own lives.
Nancy J. Holland is Professor of Philosophy at Hamline University. She is the author of Is Women’s Philosophy Possible? and The Madwoman’s Reason: The Concept of the Appropriate in Ethical Thought. She is also the editor of Feminist Interpretations of Jacques Derrida and the coeditor (with Patricia Huntington) of Feminist Interpretations of Martin Heidegger.