Ontological Humility

Lord Voldemort and the Philosophers

By Nancy J. Holland

Subjects: Continental Philosophy, Epistemology, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy, Heidegger
Paperback : 9781438445502, 165 pages, January 2014
Hardcover : 9781438445496, 165 pages, March 2013

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Table of contents

Prologue: Defining Ontological Humility
In the Beginning
Lord Voldemort and the Philosophers…
The Arrogant Eye and the World Picture
The Wizard of Infinite Resignation?
The End of it All
1. Epistemological Humility
2. Ontological Humility in Heidegger
The Thrownness of Dasein
The Humility of Ancient Greek Philosophy
The Arrogance of Technology
3. Existential Humility and Its Other
4. Postmodern Humility and Its Order
Derrida – Linguistic Humility
Derrida – Humility Unto Death
5. Feminist Humility
Epistemologies of Ignorance
Humility beyond the Divides – Race/Gender
Humility beyond the Divides – Race/Sexuality

Explores ontological humility in the history of philosophy, from Descartes to contemporary gender and race theory.


Neither self-effacing modesty nor religious meekness, ontological humility is a moral and philosophical attitude toward transcendence—the unknown and unknowable background of existence—and a recognition and awareness of the contingency and chance that influence the course of our lives. It is a concept that Nancy J. Holland finds both throughout the history of philosophy and across the volumes of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Tracing it through the philosophical thought of figures ranging from Descartes, Hume, and Kant to Heidegger, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida, Holland uses the Harry Potter saga as a guide to illustrate the concept, revealing a whole set of ethical imperatives. Connecting the concept to contemporary gender and race theory, she demonstrates its implications both for our understanding of the philosophical tradition and for the way we live our own lives.

Nancy J. Holland is Professor of Philosophy at Hamline University. She is the author of Is Women's Philosophy Possible? and The Madwoman's Reason: The Concept of the Appropriate in Ethical Thought. She is also the editor of Feminist Interpretations of Jacques Derrida and the coeditor (with Patricia Huntington) of Feminist Interpretations of Martin Heidegger.


"Nancy J. Holland's Ontological Humility … makes philosophy publicly relevant again. And despite the scope of its task, the book remains captivating and accessible. " — Fila Sophia