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Coming to Understanding

Marc Sanders in Zermatt

SLATE recently republished an article that first appeared in LINGUA FRANCA 14 years ago, the story about a wealthy man who wanted to shake up the world of academic philosophy, and in particular to argue about Being on the intellectual/historical plane of Spinoza or Hegel.

The 'millionaire metaphysician' was Marc Sanders, and the L.F. piece makes THAT the big story. Sanders, whose photo you see here, had originally created a fog of anonymity around himself while appealing under his pen name to well credentialed philosophers, like Jan Cover of Purdue,  to review his manuscript. 

Cover wrote: "One would be hard-pressed to locate a richer, deeper contemporary approach to the most fundamental questions of metaphysics." So Sanders certainly succeeded in drawing attention. 

Reporter Ryerson wrote the story largely around the question "Who is this person?" The question, "What is his proposal as to the nature of Being" incident was secondary, a clue to the real mystery, the whodunnit.

The gist of it is that Being is a unity aimed at understanding itself. "Coming to Understanding," the title of the essay, is coming to be. Further, in Sanders' view this premise has the advantage that it allows us to explain the distinction between contingency and necessity without collapsing the contingent into the necessary. 

You can read more at You can also buy there either the original essay (2000) or a later version that Sanders drew up in 2010 to take account of objections from some of his reviewers (2010). 

Sanders passed away in 2011. 

It's a fascinating incident. I'm certain that it did philosophy no harm, and given the other things millionaires choose to do with their money, this was certainly a benign pasttime. From the point of view of an impoverished Jamesian, though, it all simply means that Sanders was a purveyer of a Block Universe, an upper dogmatism, that would by explaining everything undermine creativity and freedom. 


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