Death, Poetry, and the Beginnings of Cultural Change


Theorists such as Whitehead and Braudel have noted how slowly ideas can move through civilisations. However, as Arran Gare points out, many of us are becoming impatient. This paper starts from the narrative theories of Ricoeur, MacIntyre, Carr, and Gare, and the existentialism of Heidegger, and attempts to show how cultural change may be achieved more swiftly through a narrative approach oriented authentically towards death. Via the work of Plato and Aristotle, the limits of this approach are then explored. Finally, in attempting to overcome these limits, it is argued that poetry allows us to authentically appreciate our own deaths, thereby facilitating more fruitful cultural change.

Published as Young, D.A. (2001), 'The Mortal Blessings of Narrative', Philosophy Today, Volume 45, Number 3/4, pp.275-285

Culture, Dialogue, and Polyphony


Sensible dialogue is essential to any healthy democracy. Unfortunately, cultural 'rootlesness' in Western society makes sensible dialogue impossible. Sadly, the universities seem to have lost their ability to remedy this rootlessness. As such, if we are to create an authentic democracy, we must reconceptualise the role of academics and intellectuals. Drawing on narrative theory, this paper argues that such a role is the chorus of classical Greek tragedy. When linked to the work of Bakhtin and Bourdieu, the chorus not only remedies cultural rootlessness, but enables democratic citizens to do justice to themselves and one another through narrative paideia.

Published as Young, D.A. (2003), 'The Democratic Chorus', Democracy and Nature, forthcoming

Semantic Superficiality in New Age Religions


New Age philosophies often present themselves as valid alternatives to popular culture or orthodoxy. On the contrary, however, their practices and beliefs demonstrate both the commodification of life inherent in popular consumer culture, and the stubborn irrationalism inherent in fundamentalist dogma; they discard any sense of narrative continuity over time and replace it with fragmented obscurantism. This can be demonstrated by an analysis of the New Age appropriation of terminology from other cultures or from specialist speech genres within Western society, where the use of words is often self-contradictory, and at odds with any coherent or rigorous evaluation of the world, religious, philosophical or scientific. These New Age religions contribute little or nothing to an active reevaluation of contemporary society, let alone aiding in the emergence of a coherent ontology and ethic with which to orient ourselves altruistically within a world dominated by the destructive themes of profit and progress.

Published as Young, D. A. (1999), 'Quantum Karma: Semantic Superficiality in New Age Religions', Democracy and Nature, Volume 4, Issue 2/3, pp.95-112

Process, Language, and Narrative Justice


With his later emphasis on physis, Heidegger attempts to move us away from a 'thingly' understanding of the world. Instead, with thinkers such as Collingwood, Whitehead, and Gare, Heidegger attempts to do justice to 'things' as processes of becoming. When understood through the narrative approach of MacIntyre, Carr, and others, this 'process' worldview also allows us to make sense of culture and language. With this narrative approach, we may better understand those who do not 'do justice' to culture and language, including many New Age writers. This paper looks at the tragic impact of one 'New Ager', and gleans some broader 'process' insights for ontology, ethics and everyday life.

Delivered as Young, D.A. (2001), 'Stealing the Voice of Orpheus', delivered to the Third Australasian Conference on Process Thought, La Trobe University, November 29th -December 2nd 2001

Rights, Intellectual Disability, and Understanding


Via a sociological and philosophical exploration of rights-based strategies relating to intellectual disability, the purpose of this paper is to provide a fuller exploration of the issues surrounding the problem of 'rights'. Critical discussion of contemporary difficulties relating to 'intellectual disability rights' is complemented by a brief historical review that traces the conceptual development of 'rights' to their current form. After establishing that 'rights' have failed to redress the 'inequities' of powerless groups, and with a better 'grasp' of their social development, the case for a more fruitful alternative is made. In contrast to the limited victories that 'rights' have achieved, it is argued that a narrative approach is a more effective method of fostering broad-based community understanding. Understanding, facilitated by narratives, will then enable inequalities to be redressed with a better 'feel' for what people deserve.

Published as Young, D. A. & Quibell, R. (2000), 'Why Rights Are Never Enough', Disability and Society, Volume 15, Number 5, pp.743-760