Boylston Street, Boston

Boylston Street Boston

13th ICP: Final Schedule

MONDAY, August 3


Knowledge and the Person

Wecome and Conference Information:

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Chair and Introductions:

James Beauregard, Rivier University (Nashua, NH, USA)

“Apprehending the Person: Two Approaches”

Grzgorz Hołub, Pontifical University of John Paul II (Krakow, Poland)

“The Comprehensive Experience (Experiencia Integral): A New Proposal on the Beginning of Knowledge

Juan Manuel Burgos, Universidad CEU San Pablo (Madrid, Spain)

TUESDAY, August 4

SESSION 1, 9:00-10:30

1A (Room B23): The Concept of the Person

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“Love, Identification and Equality: Rational Problems in Harry Frankfurt’s Concept of Person”

Jorge Martin Montoya, University of Navarra (Pamplona, Spain)

“Persons, Animals, and Clinical Normality”

William Jaworski, Fordham University (New York, NY, USA)

Commentator: Eleanor Wittrup, University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA, USA)

1B (Room B24): Person, Mind, Brain

Chair, Grzgorz Hołub , Pontifical University of John Paul II

“Neuroethics and Impersonalism: Value Revelation in Subjective Disclosure”

Denis Larrivee, International Association of Catholic Bioethicists (Ottawa, ON, Canada)

“Why Cognitivist Accounts of Personhood Fall Short”

Nils-Frederic Wagner, University of Ottawa (ON, Canada)

Commentator: Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

1C (Room STH325): Moral Personhood

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Moral Personhood”

Sari Kisilevsky, City University of New York, Queens College (USA)

“The Linguistic Bounds of Personhood”

Ray E. Jennings, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, BC, Canada), David McIntyre, Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, BC, Canada)

Commentator: Genevieve Wallace, Sacramento State University (CA, USA)

SESSION 2, 10:40-12:10

2A (Room B23): Personal Identity

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“Agency, Personhood, and Personal Identity”

Benjamin Yelle, Mt. Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA, USA)

“Pratical Concerns and Numerical Identity”

Maxwell Suffis, Rice University (Houston, TX, USA)

Commentator: Ben Abelson, City University of New York, Graduate Center (USA)

2B (Room B24): Ontological Dignity and Virtuous Knowing

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Wang Yangming on Personal Awareness as World-Awareness”

Joshua Hall, Emory University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

“A Process Ontology of Dignity”

John W. August III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Robert C. Neville, Boston University (USA)

2C (Room STH325): The Self and the “I”

Chair, James McLachlan, Western Carolina University

“Imagining the Self: Lacan and Levinas on the Formation of the ‘I’”

Christopher Lucibella, University of Memphis (TN, USA)

“The Socio-historical Ordeal of Personhood:  Remarks on Later Nietzsche and Freud”

Jeffrey M. Jackson, University of Houston, Dowtown (TX, USA)

Commentator: James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 2:00-3:10 (CAS B12)

Chair: Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinberg, NC, USA)

“Teleology and Consciousness Theory”

Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

3:10-3:40 Break

SESSION 3, 3:40-5:10

3A (Room B23): Psychological/Physical Continuity and Personhood

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“Personal Identity in Alzheimer’s Disease: What Supports the Self When Memory Fails?”

Marie-Christine Nizzi, Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, USA)

Commentator: Michelle Maiese, Emmanuel College (Boston, MA, USA)

3B (Room B24): Higher Education, Race, and Societal Change

Chair, James Beauregard, Rivier University

“Dialectical Adherence to the Beloved Community: John G. Fee and the Founding of Berea College”

Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

“Pedagogical Personalism at Morehouse College from Benjamin E. Mays and Howard Thurman to Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University (Greenville, SC, USA)

3C (Room STH325): Early 20th Century Personalism

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Phenomenological Resistance to Tyranny”

Jason M. Bell, Assumption College (Worcester, MA, USA)

“The Personalism of John MacMurray”

Fr. Bogumił Gacka, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University (Warsaw, Poland)

Commentator: John Hofbauer, Mount St. Mary’s College (Newburgh, NY, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 5:30-7:15 (CAS B12)

Chair, Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University (Atlanta, GA, USA)

“‘We Are Not Disposable’: People with Psycho-social Disorders and Social Justice”

Carol Moeller, Moravian College (Bethlehem, PA, USA)

“Dissociative Identity Disorder, Personhood, and Responsibility”

Michelle Maiese, Emmanuel College (Boston, MA, USA)



4A (Room STH325): The Life and Work of Thomas O. Buford

Chair, Christopher Williams, University of Nevada

“Buford, Kohák, and a Renewed Understanding of the Personal Nature of Time”

John Scott Gray, Ferris State University (Big Rapids, MI, USA)

“Christianity and Intellectual Seriousness”

Mason Marshall, Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA, USA)

“Personalism and Global Bioethics”

James Beauregard, Rivier University (Nashua, NH, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University (Greenville, SC, USA)


4B (Room B23): The Next Generation, Session Alpha

Chair, Fr. Bogumił Gacka, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University

Eudaimonia, Catholicism, Sex, and the Person”

Madison Forbes, Bridgewater State University (Bridgewater, MA, USA)

“The Consolation of Philosophers: Recovering Dignity and the Self After Sexual Assault ”

Mackenzie Lefoster, Belmont University (Nashville, TN, USA)

Commentator: Grzgorz Hołub, Pontifical University of John Paul II (Krakow, Poland)

4C (Room B24): The Next Generation, Session Beta

Chair, William Jaworski, Fordham University

“Freedoms Undone: Domination by Agents and Structures in Pettit’s Republicanism”

Mariela Libedinsky, University of Toronto, St. George-Woodsworth College (ON, Canada)

“The Emergence of Personhood and its Importance in the Experience of the Sublime”

Leslie Micheal Murray, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Sofia Inês Albornoz Stein, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil)

SESSION 5, 10:40-11:30

5A (Room B23): Howard Thurman’s Personalism

Chair, Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary

“Reading Thurman as a Philosophical Personalist”

Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College

Commentator: Myron M. Jackson, Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI, USA)

5B (Room B24): Is the Universe the Work of a Person?

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“Persons, Theology, and Cosmology”

Gilbert Fulmer, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX, USA)

Commentator: Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University (USA)

SESSION 6, 11:40-12:30

6A (Room B23): Person and Emotion

Chair and Commentator, Ralph D. Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Emotion Makes the Person”

Eleanor Wittrup, University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA, USA)

6B (Room B24): Climate Change

Chair, Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University

“Personalism and Climate Change”

Thurman Todd Willison, Union Theological Seminary (New York, NY, USA)

Commentator: John W. August, III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

6C (Room STH325): Personalism and Monotheism

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Personal Identity with and without Monotheism”

Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College (Laurinberg, NC, USA)

Commentator: Kipton Jensen, Morehouse College (Atlanta, GA, USA)


Optional group trip to Concord, MA (home of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne’s Old Manse, Walden Pond, etc., site of the Battle of Concord).

THURSDAY, August 6

SESSION 7, 9:00-10:30

7A (Room B23): Self, Person, and Process

Chair, Richard C. Prust, St. Andrews Presbyterian College

“On the Mistaken Lexical Liberty of Conflating ‘Self’ and ‘Person’ in Philosophy”

Megan Roehll, University at Buffalo (NY, USA)

“Self and Person: Distinctions in Bergson”

Robert G. Fiedler, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Gilbert Fulmer, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX, USA)

7B (Room B24): Descartes and Locke

Chair, Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Persons and Passions: The Late Cartesian Account”

Mark C.R. Smith, Queens University (Kingston, ON, Canada)

“Mixed Modes and the Non-Existence of Lockean Persons”

Sam N. Johnson, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR, USA)

Commentator: Laura J. Mueller, Luther College (Decorah, IA, USA)

7C (Room STH325): Hegel and Personhood

Chair, Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University

“A Limit to the Market: Hegel and Personhood”

Victoria I. Burke, University of Guelph (ON, Canada)

“Holy Robot: Early German Idealism on Persons”

Rolf Ahlers, The Sage Colleges (Albany, NY, USA)

Commentator: Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University, Sweden

SESSION 8, 10:40-12:10

8A (Room B23): The Concept of Person

Chair, Jorge Martin Montoya, University of Navarra

“Salvaging a Concept of a ‘Person’”

Ben Abelson, City University of New York Graduate Center (USA)

“Looking into Objects, Dispositions and the Lockean Person-Making Properties”

Mihretu Guta, Durham University (Durham, England)

Commentator: Benjamin Yelle, Mt. Holyoke College (South Hadley, MA, USA)

8Bi (10:40-11:30) (Room B24): Law and Culture

Chair, Lawrence Nelson, Santa Clara University

“Roma-Integration: The Existential Tension Between Public Policy and the Person”

Philippe-Edner Marius, Legislative Fellow, Sate of New York (Albany, NY, USA)

Commentator: Jonas Norgaard Mortensen, think tank Cura

8Bii (11.30-12.10) (Room B24):

Chair, James Beauregard, Rivier University

“On Buford on Trust”

Nathan Riley, Independent Scholar (St. John’s, FL, USA)

Commentator: Thomas O. Buford, Furman University

8C (Room STH325): Schelling and Boehme

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Personhood in the Board Room: A Schellingian Account of Corporate Agency”

Myron M. Jackson, Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI, USA)

“Satan, Romantic Hero or Just Another Asshole: Boehme, Rebellion, Evil, and Persons”

James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

Commentator: Rolf Ahlers, The Sage Colleges (Albany, NY, USA)

PLENARY SESSION, 2:00-3:30 (CAS B12)

Chair: James McLachlan, Western Carolina University (Cullowhee, NC, USA)

“Further Considerations on Personalism and Idealism”

Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University (Sweden)

“Who Are the Real Impersonalists?”

Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University (PA, USA)

SESSION 9, 3:40-5:10

9A (Room B23): The Metaphysics of Person

Chair, Ralph Ellis, Clark Atlanta University

“Personal Identity and the gumnos kókkos

Thom Atkinson, University of Liverpool (England)

“Person and Incarnation”

Randall Johnson, Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL, USA)

Commentator: Matthew Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

9B (Room B24): Law and Punishment

Chair, Joseph Harry, Slippery Rock University

“Returning to Redemption as a Theory for Justifying Punishment”

Brian J. Buckley, Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA, USA)

“An Ethical Perspective on Legal Personhood, Prenatal Humans, and Feticide Laws”

Lawrence Nelson, Santa Clara University (Santa Clara, CA, USA)

Commentator: Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

9C (Room STH325): British Idealism

Chair, Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University

“No Free Lunch: Pringle-Pattison’s Ideas on Personhood, the Soul, and Personal Immortality”

Robert Devall, West Chester University (West Chester, PA, USA)

“Expression and Self-Knowledge”

Christopher Williams, University of Nevada (Reno, NV, USA)

Commentator: Phillip Ferreira, Kutztown University, PA, USA


Filippo’s Italian Ristorante, Boston’s North End 

FRIDAY, August 7

SESSION 10, 9:00-10:30

10A (Room B23): Intention and the Person

Chair, John W. August III, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“The Indexing Ego”

Matthew Z. Donnelly, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Mihretu Guta, Durham University (England)

10B (Room B24): Kant

Chair, Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

“Imagination, Unfettered: Breaking the Sensuous Chains in Kant’s Critical Philosophy”

Laura J. Mueller, Luther College (Decorah, IA, USA), Randall E. Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

“Freedom and Value in Kant’s Practical Philosophy: the Core of Personhood”

Adriano Naves de Brito, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil), Sofia Inês Albornoz Stein, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (São Leopoldo, Brazil)

Commentator: Eli Orner Kramer, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

10C (Room STH 325): The Sign of the Person

Chair, Robert C. Neville, Boston University

“Quotational Characters: Subjectivity, Journalists, and the Persons Portrayed in News Journalism”

Joseph Harry, Slippery Rock University (Slippery Rock, PA, USA)

“Peirce on Person: Peirce’s Theory of Determination and Personality”

Cheongho Lee, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Commentator: Christopher Williams, University of Nevada (Reno, NV, USA)


Chair: Jan Olof Bengtsson, Lund University (Sweden)

The Future of Persons and Personalism?

Randall Auxier, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (USA)

Robert C. Neville, Boston University (MA, USA)

13th International Conference on Persons

Louis-Hippolyte Lebas: Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, Paris


Photo: Davitof

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Michelle Maiese

MaieseMichelle Maiese is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Emmanuel College in Boston. Her research focuses on issues in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychiatry, and the emotions. In recent work, she has examined enactivism, the integration of emotion and cognition, and the nature of psychopathology. She is the author of Embodied Minds in Action (co-written with Robert Hanna, 2009) and Embodiment, Emotion, and Cognition (2011).

13th International Conference on Persons

Bryan Ferry: Bitter-Sweet

Live in Paris 2000. From Roxy Music’s album Country Life (1974).

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Juan Manuel Burgos

BurgosJuan Manuel Burgos is a leading personalist philosopher in the Spanish-speaking world with a growing influence in Europe and America. He is Profesor Titular at the University San Pablo CEU in Madrid and has been a guest professor and delivered conferences in Britain, USA, Poland, Mexico, Sweden, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and many other countries. He is also the founder and president of the Spanish Association of Personalism and of the Asociación Iberoamericana de Personalismo, and founder and editor of Quién. Revista de Filosofía personalista. Burgos specializes in anthropology and personalism; among his books are Antropología: una guía para la existencia, Repensar la naturaleza humana, and Introducción al personalismo. Some of them have been published in Polish and Portuguese translations, and the last mentioned is currently being translated into English. Studies of Burgos’s philosophy have been published by Beauregard, Bermeo, Seifert and others.

13th International Conference on Persons

Antoine Pesne: Mädchen mit Tauben und Hühnern


13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Jan Olof Bengtsson

BengtssonJan Olof Bengtsson teaches the history of ideas at Lund University in Sweden. He is best known for his book The Worldview of Personalism: Origins and Early Development, to which a special issue of the journal The Pluralist was devoted in 2008. He has published articles and book chapters on personalism, idealism, and so-called value-centered historicism, the most recent being a chapter on the origins and meaning of the German concept of “late idealism” (Spätidealismus). He is the author of the entries on personalism in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (with Thomas D. Williams) and Springer’s Encyclopedia of Sciences and Religions. He has also published a Swedish introduction to and translation of Eric Voegelin’s Wissenschaft, Politik und Gnosis. He regularly attends conferences on personalism and idealism in Europe and America, and, in 2013, organized the 12th International Conference on Persons at Lund.

13th International Conference on Persons

Henri Bréançon: Sofia University


13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Phillip Ferreira

FerreiraPhillip Ferreira is Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Kutztown University. His work focuses on 19th century idealism and its relation to contemporary thought. He is author of Bradley and the Structure of Knowledge (1999) and many articles on philosophical idealism.

13th International Conference on Persons

Åkesson i Almedalen


13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Randall E. Auxier

AuxierRandall E. Auxier is Professor of Philosophy at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he specializes in process philosophy, American idealism, and the philosophy of culture. He is author of Time, Will, and Purpose: Living Ideas from the Philosophy of Josiah Royce (2013) and co-author (with Gary Herstein) of The Quantum of Explanation: Whitehead’s Radical Empiricism (forthcoming). He has edited seven volumes of the Library of Living Philosophers and was for 15 years the editor of The Personalist Forum and its successor, The Pluralist. He writes popularly for books, magazines, newspapers and blogs, along with the usual scholarly journals.

13th International Conference on Persons

Hotel Danieli, Venezia

Hotel Danieli Venezia

Estetiskt program?

En läsare efterlyser i ett privat meddelande “något slags förklaring eller presentation på din blogg angående de många målningar du lägger upp”. Och “samma sak, för övrigt, angående serien med gamla fotografier på byggnader och platser som inte finns längre”.

Hans intryck hade varit att jag “ville presentera något mer definierat estetiskt program eller så. Detta eftersom många av konstnärerna du presenterar inte är ‘de vanliga’, alltså Rembrandt, Rafael, Monet, Vermeer, El Greco, Whistler, Turner, o.s.v., utan mer sådana som Magnasco, Cignani, Batoni, och så vidare. Konstnärer som jag tror är mindre kända.”

När det gäller måleriet och arkitekturen är de ju underkategorier under Arts. Syftet med denna huvudkategori är bara att lyfta fram exempel på viktig konst, i linje med bloggens andra huvudtema, Arts & Humanities, eller Restoring the Arts & Humanities. En del inlägg i denna kategori innehåller också egen text med estetisk-kritisk diskussion, men i övrigt handlar det – med visst undantag för underkategorin Literature – om att variera med visuell och auditiv kommunikation.

Det stämmer att jag vill presentera ett definierat estetiskt program. Definitionen har dock ingenting att göra med att många av de konstnärer jag presenterar är “mindre kända” än de “vanliga”. Det bör noteras att Rafael, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner och Monet är representerade under Painting. De “mindre kända” och de “vanliga” tillhör s.a.s. samma stora, för mina syften relevanta kategori; det är den kategorin som sådan som mitt budskap gäller.

Förhoppningsvis lyckas jag tydliggöra hur mycket mer det finns i den som bör uppmärksammas än de “vanliga”. Vad som närmar sig min läsares frågeställning är väl att det kanske också indirekt framgår att jag menar att de historiska kulturella och kritiska processer som gjort de “vanliga” vanliga och de “mindre kända” mindre kända ofta är tämligen godtyckliga, ja i några fall (såsom, föreslår jag, El Greco) styrda av delvis problematiska faktorer och kriterier.

Tilläggas bör också att fotografierna på byggnader och platser i underkategorin Architecture inte bara är av sådana som inte finns längre. Ofta är de förvisso sådana, och då får de givetvis en särskild betydelse, men i andra fall är de bara gamla fotografier av byggnader och platser som fortfarande finns kvar. Nya fotografier förekommer också.

Antinous Mondragone

Antinous Mondragone

Gudmundson, SD och Putin

Nu ansluter sig Per Gudmundson, en av de bättre borgerliga publicisterna, som jag brukar uppskatta i några viktiga frågor, till misstänkliggörandet av SD ifråga om förhållandet till “Putin”. Han kan ha gjort det förut utan att jag lagt märke till det; jag har tidigare bemött Stefan Olsson, Olof Ehrenkrona och Lars Wilderäng, som angripit mig, men många andra ulvar tjuter i total flockkonformism på identiskt sätt.

Hur djupt har Putin klorna i populisterna?, heter det i den grovt populistiska rubriken till en ny, karaktäristiskt ensidig och ytlig SvD-ledare föranledd av en norsk FrP-företrädares kontakter med vad som sägs vara underrättelseofficerare på ryska ambassaden, och hans ryskvänliga agerande i OSSE. På det här området delar Gudmundson tyvärr ledarredaktionens allmänna, och katastrofala, svaghet. Vilka kontakter de borgerliga politiker de försvarar har, inte bara på amerikanska ambassaden utan i NATOs högkvarter, vet vi ju.

Vad som verkligen, och oupphörligen, förvånar är hur djupt Obama, eller kanske snarare John McCain och hans efterföljare, har klorna i den svenska högerns och borgerlighetens historielösa talespersoner. Hur man, om man överhuvudtaget är europé i någon autentisk mening, kan vara fullständigt okritisk mot USAs agerande i (bl.a.) Ukrainakonflikten. Än obegripligare blir det om man dessutom gör anspråk på att vara konservativ (och inte bara social- utan t.o.m. liberal-).

I USA är ju alla genuina konservativa sedan mycket länge på självklart sätt kritiska mot den egna utrikespolitiken. Adam Cwejmans ledare Vi hade fel om Mellanöstern i GP nyligen var ett ofattbart sent men ändå givetvis välkommet uppvaknande. I förlängningen av de insikter han där äntligen uttryckte borde åtminstone vissa slutsatser lätt kunna dras också om Ukraina och Ryssland. Och som vanligt (det här är så tröttsamt): att säga detta är verkligen inte “putinism” eller principiell antiamerikanism.

King Crimson: Prelude – Song of the Gulls

From their album Islands (1971).

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Robert Cummings Neville

NevilleRobert Cummings Neville is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Boston University. He is formerly the Dean of the School of Theology at BU and is author of over 25 books, including his recent three-volume Philosophical Theology (SUNY Press, 2014-15), as well as Religion in Late Modernity (2002), The Truth of Broken Symbols (1995), The Cosmology of Freedom (1974), The Tao and the Daimon (1981), Boston Confucianism (2000), and many others. He is well known as a leader in comparative philosophy and theology and as a critic of personalism and process thought.

13th International Conference on Persons

The Moody Blues: Have You Heard (Part 1) – The Voyage – Have You Heard (Part 2)

Live 1969. From their album On the Threshold of a Dream (1969).

13th ICP Plenary Speaker: Ralph Ellis

EllisRalph Ellis received his PhD in philosophy at Duquesne University and a postdoctoral M.S. in Public Affairs at Georgia State University. He has worked as a social worker as well as teaching philosophy, and is interested in applied phenomenology and integrating the social sciences with philosophy of mind. His books include An Ontology of Consciousness (1986), Theories of Criminal Justice (1989), Coherence and Verification in Ethics (1992), Questioning Consciousness (1995), Eros in a Narcissistic Culture (1996), Just Results: Ethical Foundations for Policy Analysis (1998), The Caldron of Consciousness: Affect, Motivation, and Self‑Organization (2000), Love and the Abyss (2004), Curious Emotions (2005), Foundations of Civic Engagement (2006, co-authored with Jim Sauer and Norm Fischer), How the Mind Uses the Brain (2010, co-authored with Natika Newton), and a critical thinking textbook, The Craft of Thinking. Ellis is also co-editor with Peter Zachar of a book series, Consciousness & Emotion (

13th International Conference on Persons

M. Frederic Butler: California State Capitol, Sacramento


Photo © Matthew Hendricks

Is Terrapin Station Progressive Rock?

Is The Grateful Dead’s album Terrapin Station (1977) progressive rock? This has been suggested to me by an American friend and professor of religion. I have now listened carefully to it. It was an interesting experience and a positive surprise for one who has struggled hard with the Dead’s defining, purely hippie, early work.

Still, I must state the reasons why I think it is not quite on the level of classic progressive rock, which is really what interests me, since, as explained not least in earlier posts in this blog, I hold that rock becomes good to the extent that it transcends ”ordinary” rock and becomes progressive rock of the kind that can be understood as something that could develop into a new, independent musical genre beyond rock – which is not to say that there is no ”ordinary” rock that is good in its own way, but it is rare (so rare that I hate the word rock). I will take the opportunity to also restate this general position.

When one makes the distinction between ordinary rock and progressive rock (not just the first but also the second being, needless to say, a very broad category), ”rock’n’roll” should also be mentioned. Some make a distinction between it and rock, the former being the thing – early Elvis etc. – that developed in the 1950s, the latter being something more serious that emerged in the course of the 1960s and was in place as a distinct genre in the second half of that decade. There are subgenres and also influences from other genres. Similar distinctions, on a scale from lightweightness to seriousness, could be made in the case of jazz (I hate the word jazz too; like the word rock, it almost effects, in itself, a kind of a priori invalidation of any attempt at serious critical discussion).  Anyway, progressive rock is a further development of the rock that emerged in the second half of the 1960s, and in particular after The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper album.

Again, this doesn’t mean there is no good non-progressive rock. Music cannot be rejected as bad simply because it belongs to this genre. As I have explained, I reject the concept of ”classical” music, except in the senses of 1) ”classicist” music and 2) ”classic” music of any kind, including rock etc. (in European languages other than English there is no distinction between ”classical” and ”classic”). Music in the broad, problematic category of ”classical” is both good and bad, and, as in the case of rock, distinctions can be made on the scale from the lightweitght to the serious. And in ”classical” music as well as in rock, the lightweight too can be good. All music is music, and there are no determinations of quality that are intrinsic to specific genres. In this respect there is no sharp line of demarcation between the music called ”classical” (we are not forced to use this term, others are available) and the music I am now discussing.

When I say there are no determinations of quality that are intrinsic to specific genres, I of course do not mean there are no genres that, as such, are not more valuable, important, elevated etc. than others. It is not an expression of today’s massive ideological pressure to have every form of art or non-art accepted as being of equal worth, to end discrimination and real criticism as such as inherently anti-democratic, elitist, etc. (Roger Kimball speaks about the postmodern ”evaporation of seriousness”). Although it must be said that precisely in rock there are indeed sub-genres that do at least come close to determining the music subsumed under them as per definition bad, what I mean is that the mere fact that a piece of music belongs to a specific genre does not in itself imply that it is by this fact alone good or bad, as a consequence of the intrinsic nature of the genre.

The fact that a piece of music is progressive rock does not necessarily make it good just because the genre of progressive rock must as such be regarded as more valuable and important than other forms of rock. And, conversely, the fact that a piece of music belongs to other forms of rock does not mean it is by that very fact necessarily bad since these genres themselves are less valuable and important than progressive rock. The differences between and the specific characters of the genres account for the difficulty of comparing music in different ones, or rather, of ranking music in different ones on the same scale of quality and with the same criteria.

But while there are other forms of rock, or of ordinary rock, of which examples can be found which could be considered to be better than bad progressive rock, I do find it natural and defensible to regard both bad progressive rock as better than bad ordinary rock, and good progressive rock as better than good ordinary rock. The most important reason for this is that while the members of the progressive rock bands of the age of classic progressive rock were, like other rock musicians, more or less hippies and shared the limitations of hippiedom, and while they too were part of the (popular) music industry and – beyond its commerciality – its deliberate, systematic work of cultural and moral subversion, the quality and sophistication of progressive rock’s musical and lyrical development away from rock counterbalanced these factors to an extent that was impossible in ordinary rock.

Now, so-called “rock purists” insist that the only real and authentic thing is the early, simple, sweaty, working-class, garage thing, as “black” as possible, which largely coincides with what I called rock & roll in contradistinction to rock, and whose spirit was restored only with the deliberately anti-prog punk movement in the second half of the ‘seventies. Bill Martin’s Music of Yes: Structure and Vision in Progressive Rock (1996) is a highly problematic work which has yet to be properly dealt with in Yes studies, but he nonetheless makes many important and valid observations, one of them being that the purists are wrong in downplaying the importance of progressive rock as a distinct genre. I argue that there is no need to defend the legitimacy of progressive rock in the face of the purists’ propaganda, one reason for this being simply that their rock (& roll) is not quite what it seems or what they say it is.

I.e., the commercial and the manipulative, subversive, music industry element in the launching as well as the continued ”purist” defence of the early thing – it was of course to a not negligible extent there in the launching of jazz too – discredits it. But even if the thing really was what they say it is, there would still be no need to defend progressive rock in the face of it. In fact, the purists even tend unhistorically to identify the punk phenomenon with rock, or rock & roll, as such, thus ignoring the fact that 1950s and early 1960s rock & roll was actually not at all as working-class and garage as they would wish, but was quite as commercial. As for the relation between white rock musicians and the ideals of blackness, it is enough to refer to Robert Pattison’s analysis in The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism (1987), the best book on rock music (which doesn’t mean it isn’t incomplete and in need of supplementation and correction in some respects).

Rock, as developed thoughout the 1960s and distinct from rock & roll, was in fact often closer to the black blues roots. Pattison correctly argues that the irony and humour of the black blues heroes is missing in their white rock imitators, and that this is because the latter are thorougly shaped by Western Romanticism with its pantheism etc., which of course did not end in the mid-19th century, but, through high modernism and postmodernism, continues to define Western culture to this day; one of the things that makes Pattison’s book the best on rock is that it builds directly on Irving Babbitt’s partly “classicist” analysis of Romanticism.

The Grateful Dead, Pattison writes, ”acknowledged their debt to black America…by recording songs like ’U.S. Blues’ that retain the name if not the nature of their putative black sources”. Their ’Eyes of the World’ expresses ”Berkeley’s esse est percipi refined through the optimistic strain of American Romanticism and presented in the vulgar mode of rock”. ”Vulgarity” is not used by Pattison as a term of abuse. His book, as the title indicates, focuses in particular on this phenomenon, as emerging in Romanticism with its pantheism, democratism, its particular emotional states, etc.; but while understanding these things exclusively in terms of the analyses of conservative critics like Babbitt, he briefly and half-heartedly makes the case for their inevitability and acceptance; cf. his brilliant and similarly paradoxical book on Newman, The Great Dissent. But it must be said that it was precisely this Romanticism, properly understood, that, in various ways, turned rock into a genre of its own, distinct from blues, rock & roll, and pop, and, in time, made possible the emergence of progressive rock, which, in a few cases, rises from the lower kind of Romanticism to what must, at least in some cases, be seen as a higher kind.

But the ”punk” trend was launched as a reaction against this development of rock into ever more advanced forms, away from the purist ideologists’ project. Of course, both the fully developed and highly variegated rock and the progressive rock of the first half of the 1970s were still almost entirely part of this romantico-pantheistic-revolutionary project more broadly conceived. But the aesthetic development made it more indirect, more independent, more difficult to control; it tended to include too many ambiguous and potentially counter-productive musical, lyrical and other elements and references, and, in the case of progressive rock, it also simply became too difficult to be useful as a tool for indoctrination and debasement. Therefore, punk, marketed as the ”real”, ”true”, ”original” rock, had to be created. But when the potentially dangerous mature rock and progressive rock had been killed or sufficiently marginalized, punk was no longer needed, and the insipid 1980s followed.

Again, the boundaries between all the mentioned genres of music are of course often fluid and porous, and, like much ”classical” music, progressive rock uses elements from popular music (popular music, folk music, being, needless to say, something that has always existed and not only what is produced by the music industry that emerged in the last century). Progressive rock borrows more from other genres than from pop (in the broad, music industry sense). Folk, jazz, and various so-called ”classical” influences are  prominent, sometimes depending on the sub-genre of this genre (of which so-called ”symphonic prog” is the most important and fully developed).

The Dead were originally blues-rock oriented, although they developed this genre in a distinct way, to a more elaborate, romantic hippie rock of their own. They did include other genres in their repertoire. But the problem, from my perspective, is that – with the exception, to some extent, of the “psychedelic” one – these are not normally the ones included, and transformed, by progressive rock. But Terrapin Station seems exceptional in incorporating, in the words of Dr Wiki, “a more symphonic sound bordering on progressive rock styles that were expressed earlier by progressive art rock groups like Yes and Genesis”.

The fact that and the way in which they do this – not just incorporating and transforming the relevant kind of non-rock influences but incorporating the specific development of rock into progressive rock of the kind that Yes and Genesis had achieved – are certainly interesting. But this seems to be true only of the title track. What in the vinyl age used to be side one is what for my present limited purposes can be characterized by the broad designation ordinary rock. Again, all such rock is not necessarily or intrinsically bad (I will refrain from making a judgement about these particular songs here); only it is not on the level of classic progressive rock.

My general objection to the album, from this perspective, is that a real progressive rock band would not have released a song like the title track together with songs like these, on the same album; or rather, they would never have recorded such songs at all. ‘Sunrise’ is certainly at least different – another characteristic kind of American romanticism. It, and to some extent the (long) first part of the title track, make the contrast between these songs and the title track less sharp.

Now, the first of the four problems I have with the title track itself, which is for me the only really interesting thing here, is related to the general problem with the album as a whole. The song is called ‘Terrapin Station Part 1’, but there is no ‘Part 2’. No ‘Part 2’ was, as far as I understand, ever recorded, although the lyrics for it exist. A real progressive band would have uncompromisingly devoted a whole album to ‘Terrapin Station’, Part 1 on side one and Part 2 on side two, without any admixture of the kind of stuff now found on side one. The Dead not having done this betrays a lack of seriousness. Now seriousness, even in the major progressive bands, is of course a relative thing, or rather a thing often disturbed or ruined by the constitutive limitations of the music industry and ‘entertainment’ context in which they have to work. Because of another admixture of the misplaced lightweight (I am not saying the lightweight material cannot be admixed, but it must be of the right kind an in the right place), even Emerson, Lake & Palmer are seriously flawed. Seriousness as such is not an unambiguous or unproblematic aesthetic category. But with due awareness of its limitations – even, in fact, as applied to, say, Gregorian chant – its use is for some purposes admissible. For instance, the criticism of postmodernism that I mentioned, for having brought about ‘the evaporation of seriousness’, is legitimate and important.

The second problem has to do with the relation between the music and the lyrics. According to David Gans’s note, Robert Hunter says they “dovetailed perfectly”. I doubt that this is so. Accompanied by the majestic orchestral string arrangements, the solemn choir sings the name of this – turtle. The effect is strange. Again, I have to study the lyrics closer to see if this can in any way be considered warranted, but for now, I doubt it. The music does not match the earth symbolism.

The third objection is that the lyrics are not included in my CD version, which is of a kind that suggests they were not printed in the original album either. This is surprising, given Hunter’s poetic aspirations, and, again, uncharacteristic of real “progressive” rock.

The fourth problem is that some, indeed much of what makes this an at least semi-progressive song seems not to have been written by the band itself. Gans writes: ‘Olsen [the producer] flew to England to record orchestral and vocal overdubs arranged by Paul Buckmaster. The band were taken aback when they first heard the additions, but as Weir explained in an August 1977 interview, “We were pretty much into letting Keith [Olsen] have his way; that’s what we were paying him to do.” Still, there was some grumbling at the addition of strings…and the massive vocal ensemble’. This of course cannot but detract somewhat from the achievement.

These criticisms are serious ones. But they are, as it were, serious only from the distinct perspective from which I make them. They indicate why Terrapin Station is not on the level of classic progressive rock. That having now been done, let me say also that the title track is an interesting, exceptional song with at least the right aspiration to transcend the rock genre, to progress beyond it. For this reason, it is certainly relevant to the general theoretical and critical discussion of progressive rock.

Le Orme: Come una giostra

From their album Storia o leggenda (1977).

Stilnivåernas blandning och den panteistiska revolutionen

Nu måste jag få återkomma om det här med popen – om jag för enkelhetens skull får kalla den så, förstådd i vid mening – och kritiken. I tidigare inlägg, och senast det om melodifestivalen nyligen där jag kort angav vad jag uppfattar som kritikens enda möjliga alternativ idag, var argumentet bara kritikens allmänna förblivande nödvändighet även under popens nu överväldigande dominans.

Efter gårdagens exempel på den senare vid prinsbröllopet i slottskyrkan är det dock inte i första hand denna fråga om genrernas eller stilnivåernas respektive ställning i sig utan snarare den om deras urskillnings- och kriterielösa blandning som tränger sig på. Denna blandning är en nästan ännu tydligare illustration till analysen av den romantisk-panteistiska revolutionen som det större sammanhang i vilket allt detta måste förstås – ett sammanhang som, föreslår jag, också bör indirekt tydliggöra vilket det alternativa perspektiv är som den enda i denna situation förblivande möjliga och giltiga kritiken måste bygga på.

Min utförligaste formulering av denna vidare analys med hänsyn till estetiken återfinns i artikeln Pantheism, Postmodernism, Pop.

Friedrich Hitzig: Schloss Dwasieden, Sassnitz



Jan Olof Bengtsson D.Phil. (Oxon.)

Teaching Spirituality

Restoring the Arts & Humanities

Saving Europe


For a Truly European Union

All original writing © Jan Olof Bengtsson

Other Jan Olof Bengtsson Websites

History of Ideas


13th International Conference on Persons

12th International Conference on Persons

"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi