By Josh Kaufman
If you’ve read The New York Times article on University of Chicago philosopher phenomenon Irad Kimhi and his new book Thinking and Being, you have read at least one indubitable statement: “It is not easy to summarize Kimhi’s book.” Nevertheless, in advance of an exciting conference on the book (March 1st to March 3rd) here at UChicago, we will do our best. At the very least, we hope this article will help sketch and motivate Kimhi’s project in advance of an exciting time to hear reactions to his project.
Coming in at 160 pages, Kimhi’s first published work presents a dense, new systematic approach to understand the relationship between thinking and being, wherein the two represent distinct sides of a unified capacity. Intertwined with Kimhi’s constructive project is an equally dense approach to the history of philosophy, with Kimhi focusing on what he calls the hidden thread. This starts in the genesis of philosophy with Parmenides, Plato, and Aristotle then returns with Kant, Frege, and Wittgenstein.
Both Kimhi’s own theory and his historical interpretation hinge on the relationship between propositions, thought, negation, and logic. These form a variety of particular pressing questions that motivate the project and which Kimhi tries to answer: how the principle non-contradiction for us as thinkers (I cannot think p and not p) relates to the principle of non-contradiction for the world (It cannot be the case that p and not p); how declaring a proposition (with assertoric force) is related to the proposition without force, or declaring the negation of the proposition; the classic Palmenedian puzzle of how we can so much as think what is not the case.
The conference will feature eight paper presents, presenting yet-to-be-publicized responses to Kimhi’s work. While not even abstracts are available, the paper titles are available down below. Each presenter will present their work for an hour followed by an hour of discussion with a moderator. At the end of the weekend, Kimhi himself will offer a reply.
All too often, works of profound philosophical depth narrow into a small subset of philosophical areas and philosophical figures. Thinking and Being, like the promise of this conference, reaches this depth while taking a fundamentally synoptic view, both in terms of philosophy as an academic discipline and in terms of philosophy as a historical process. This synoptic perspective both of Kimhi’s project and of the conference itself––bringing together Aristotle scholars, with Kant scholars, with formal-logic theory scholars grounded in a unified discussion––is sure to show something special.