Review of William Desmond, The Intimate Universal: The Hidden Porosity among Religion, Art, Philosophy and Politics
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Over a thirty-year period, William Desmond has published well over a dozen substantial sole-authored tomes that have been marked by their consistently systematic ambitions, connecting his reading of the western metaphysical tradition with kindred ‘meta’ explorations of religion, ethics, aesthetics and socio-political themes, all bound together by a concern for the variety and intricacy of human ways of knowing. In this new volume, Desmond again looks to tackle a variety of fields (as announced in the book’s sub-title), this time bound together by a particular focus on what he calls the notion of the ‘intimate universal’.
Desmond intends the phrase to be heard, prima facie, as an oxymoron. Universals are, by definition, that which apply everywhere; they are general, characteristic of the whole, cutting across all difference with their trans-personal and multi-cultural validity. The intimate, on the other hand, relates to the private, the individual, the idiosyncratic, the personal, or...