Recasting ourselves with Michael Eldred

Evelyn De Morgan, Study of arms for "The Cadence of Autumn" (1905). Graphite and pastel on brown paper. The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 2018.


Recasting ourselves with Michael Eldred

WE 18, The Hall

A Monastery Lecture on the Ontology of Human Being

We are pleased to welcome Michael Eldred as a guest of the Conceptions of Human Flourishing. He will give a Monastery Lecture on the topic of the Ontology of Human Being.

Greek philosophy asked: What is distinctively human being? and answered: Animality with the specific difference of having language, reason. This has been variously modified up to modern science's casting of human being as an evolved species of animal possessing an unusually large, high-performance, cogitating brain — with no trace left of the ontological difference first opened up and explored by Plato and Aristotle.

A temporal recasting of who we are cannot be satisfied with 'what' answers. It proposes starting from the elementary phenomenon of open three-dimensional time to see where this path of thinking leads. It turns out that we are not substantial beings with a material substrate, but relational beings who become who we are only sociating in the estimative interplay with each other played out in 3D-time.

In today's globalized world, however, this sociating. estimative interplay is played out immersed in the all-pervasive medium of thingified value. This competitive gainful game for income, in turn, is undergirded by the invisible, endless, accumulative circling of thingified value. Crises, disruptions, dislocations, frictions, etc. in this endless valorization erupt incalculably both globally and locally, thus intermittently reducing our prized individual freedom to nought.


Michael Eldred is an Australian philosopher, mathematician and translator currently living in Cologne, Germany. He was born in Katoomba NSW Australia and gained academic qualifications Ph.D. in philosophy and M.Sc. & B.Sc. (Hons.) in mathematics from the University of Sydney. He moved from Sydney to settle in Konstanz, Germany in the early 1980s, where he continued his philosophical work, which ranges over political and social philosophy, phenomenology of whoness, social ontology, digital ontology, philosophy of music as well as foundational questions in mathematics and physics, in particular, the question of time. In Germany he established himself as a freelance translator with a specialization in contemporary art.


What's a Monastery Lecture at THE NEW INSTITUTE? We host various discussion formats for sharing ideas, presenting work-in-progress and testing arguments within the fellow cohort. Either taking a deep dive into the work of our fellows and programs or providing outside stimuli by invited guests, our weekly Monastery Lecture intensifies the exchange of thoughts across programs and disciplines over the course of an evening. Fellows and guests may split into breakout groups during the event to come together again later. Lunch Lectures, a briefer midday format, allow for welcoming discussions of presentations by further guests or by fellows arriving outside of the usual term dates.


This conference is a closed event. If you have any questions about this event, please contact Victoria Sukhomlinova. Press inquiries can be made here.

curatorial note

Influenced by late-Pre-Raphaelitism, and contemporaries such as Edward Burne-Jones and Frederic Leighton, De Morgan made detailed drawings as she prepared paintings. This study relates to "The Cadence of Autumn" (1902, De Morgan Foundation, London) which uses young women in an elegant frieze-like arrangement to connect seasonal rhythms to human mortality—with notes of redemptive hope reflecting the artist’s personal belief in spiritualism.

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