CONGRATULATORY COMMENTS FROM MENTOR SHANNON HOFF ON THEIR SUCCESSFUL MA THESIS DEFENCES IN 2013
The idea for Bryan’s thesis, like the best projects, had deeply existential origins. His goal was to reconcile two ideas that seem to lie in tension with each other: the idea that the responsibility for living one’s life lies only in oneself, such that to live honestly and authentically means owning up to one’s status as an individual, and the idea that our lives are essentially and primordially immersed in the lives of others and a social world, such that living honestly and authentically requires us to own up to our indebtedness to this broader world. He finds a worthy interlocutor in Martin Heidegger, and Heidegger finds an eloquent defender in Bryan, who shows that there are indeed insights of ethical and political import in Heidegger’s thinking. The thesis—“Ow(n)ing Existence: Human Meaning, Identity and Responsibility in Heidegger’s Being and Time”—is impressive in many ways: Bryan has become an excellent scholar, competent with the technicalities of Heidegger’s thinking, but also an excellent communicator, devoted to making Heidegger’s dense and difficult philosophy clear and concrete. Bryan has accomplished much in his time at ICS, both philosophically and personally, and has shown through his experience the possibilities of personal transformation that lie in the process of doing philosophy. We warmly congratulate him both for facing the difficult challenges involved in completing the thesis and for being accepted into the Ph.D. program at the University of Guelph.
The central focus of Levinas’ philosophy is the idea of the “Other,” that incomprehensible, infinite source of meaning that sustains the “I” as a self while remaining mysterious to it, calling the I to be ethical but preventing the I from ever conclusively determining what being ethical requires. It is therefore not surprising that Eric Hanna wrote his thesis—“The I’s Relationship to the other as Transcendent, Foundational, and Ethical in Levinas’ Totality and Infinity”—on the philosophy of Levinas; Eric seems to approach every text, every philosophical problem, and every human interlocutor as a source of possible meaning, with an unsurpassed generosity of spirit and a persistent openness to the learning that could be generated from interaction. Eric came to ICS from Regis College so as to be able to complete his Jesuit formation in the study of philosophy, and his tenure at ICS was a demonstration of how to live out one’s religious commitments in an open, dynamic, and ecumenical spirit. Over the span of a challenging few months that proved his steadfast character, he turned himself into an expert on Levinas, writing an excellent thesis on the way in which we are constituted fundamentally through relationships with others and how we might better take up our relationships so as to do justice to their fundamental character. Eric enriched life at ICS with his regular contributions to chapel, his wicked sense of humour, and his appreciation of all things under the sun. Currently he is teaching several courses at his alma mater, Campion College at the University of Regina, and we are happy that he has the opportunity to impact others as he has impacted us.
April 2014 >