Living Without Why: Meister Eckharts Critique of the Medieval Concept of Will

Hardcover | August 25, 2014

byJohn M. Connolly

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What does it mean to "live without why"? This was the advice of Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1328), both in his Latin treatises to philosophers and theologians and in his German sermons to nuns and ordinary lay persons. He seems to have meant that we should live and act out of justice or goodnessand not in order to gain some reward for our deeds. This message was received with indignation by the Church hierarchy and was condemned by the Pope in 1329. How did Eckhart come to formulate it? And why was it so controversial?John M. Connolly addresses these questions by locating Eckhart's thinking about how to live within the mainstream synthesis of Christian and classical thought formulated in the High Middle Ages. He calls the classical Greek moral consensus "teleological eudaimonism," according to which correctliving coincides with the attainment of happiness (eudaimonia). This involves living a life marked by the practice of the virtues, which in turn requires a consistent desire for the correct goal in life. This desire is the core notion of will. In late antiquity Augustine drew on this tradition informulating his views about how Christians should live. This required grafting onto classical eudaimonism a set of distinctively scriptural notions such as divine providence, original sin, redemption, and grace. In the 13th century these ideas were systematized by Thomas Aquinas in his will-centeredmoral theology.Eckhart claimed that this tradition was profoundly mistaken. Far from being a wild-eyed mystic or visionary, he argued trenchantly from classical philosophical principles and the Christian scriptures. Connolly proposes that Eckhart's views, long obscured by the papal condemnation, deservereconsideration today.

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What does it mean to "live without why"? This was the advice of Meister Eckhart (ca. 1260-1328), both in his Latin treatises to philosophers and theologians and in his German sermons to nuns and ordinary lay persons. He seems to have meant that we should live and act out of justice or goodnessand not in order to gain some reward for ou...

John M. Connolly is Sophia Smith Professor of Philosophy at Smith College. His research is currently focused on medieval philosophy, especially Meister Eckhart. He has also worked in philosophy of mind, Wittgenstein, contemporary German philosophy, philosophical hermeneutics, and issues of academic freedom and tolerance. Connolly has t...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:256 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:August 25, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199359784

ISBN - 13:9780199359783

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAbbreviationsIntroduction1. The Will as "Rational Appetite"2. Aristotle's Teleological Eudaimonism3. St. Augustine's Christian Conception of Will4. Aquinas on Happiness and the Will5. Meister Eckhart, Living on Two Levels6. Meister Eckhart, Living Without Will7. Living without Why, ConclusionNotesBibliographyIndex