Volume VIII Number 1

Ottawa, Canada

Spring 1996


Message from the President

Francis Peddle

This issue of ELEUTHERIA is devoted to my study of the phenomenological historicism of Johann Gustav Droysen, F. H. Bradley and Wilhelm Dilthey in the late nineteenth century. The intensification of historicist thinking during this period forms the backdrop to the nihilism of Friedrich Nietzsche and to the predominance of time and historicity in existentialist thinkers such as Martin Heidegger. The concentration in these authors on the particulars of history as indicia of inner experience illustrates the tendency, in the history of the historicization of Western thought, towards the intensification of the principle of historical expressivism and its growing prevalence over transhistorical rationality and the traditional conceptualisms that were unencumbered by the flux of historical change.

Phenomenological historicism replaces the closed metaphysical circle of traditional philosophy with the “hermeneutical circle” which is no longer representative of a finished system of thought but indicative of an epistemological direction that is indefinitely open-ended, always imperfect and historically revisable. Dilthey formulated definitively for the twentieth century the question of how the historical consciousness can, on the one hand, assert the historically conditioned character and relative validity of all its objects and, on the other, seek a science of its objects which must include universal and non-relative criteria for their investigation.

Many writers in this period were acutely aware of the contradiction between the creative and the historical consciousness. Dilthey rightly saw this contradiction as “the silently born affliction most characteristic of philosophy today.” In the contemporary philosopher creative activity is copresent with the historical consciousness, since philosophizing without this would embrace only a fragment of reality. At the same time, it is recognized that this creative activity is a part of the historical continuum, in which the philosopher consciously produces or creates something which is dependent. Historical dependency and an autonomous subjectivity are inextricable aspects of creativity.

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There were a number of significant changes in the 1996 federal budget and related announcements with respect to donations to charities and income tax credits, and in the application of the federal goods and services tax, that affect the operation of non-profit organizations like the Institute of Speculative Philosophy. The government has proposed that the ceiling of 20 per cent of net income for receiptable donations to registered charitable organizations like the Institute, and charitable foundations, be increased to 50 per cent for the 1996 and subsequent taxation years. Furthermore, the limit on gifts by individuals in the year of death and the preceding year, including bequests or legacies, is being raised from 20 per cent to 100 per cent.

The Institute has never accepted direct grants from any level of government. However, in the absence of overall reform of our system of public revenue generation, we are of the view that the longstanding tax subsidization of charitable giving is an appropriate way for the community to support non-profit organizations that have as their object, for instance, the advancement of education.

The government has also declared that charitable organizations will no longer be required to pay the federal goods and services tax (GST) on its purchases. In the past GST was payable by charities and refunded 50% on application.

For many charities, especially smaller ones, this was an onerous administrative and financial burden. It was yet another example, and there are many, of how one legislative provision is defeated and nullified by another.

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On behalf of my colleagues in the Institute I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Peter McCormick, one of our founding members, on his recent nomination as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. The induction ceremony is to take place this Fall.

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