Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 19, Issue 1, Fall 2014

Charles Scott
Pages 155-163


This discussion of John Sallis’s thought on “the elemental” begins with an engagement of Terrance Malick’s film The Tree of Life. In this engagement the emphasis falls on mere cosmic force, the formation of life on earth, and the development of human bodies with the elemental inevitability of cruelty and violence that is simultaneous with nurturing care, tenderness, and love. Does Sallis give adequate consideration to cosmic force and human kinship with mere force? The next section expands Sallis’s understanding of “elemental” to include such integral aspects of human lives as institutions, languages, cultural identities: To include all the defining (elemental) aspects intrinsic in human lives. This section calls for a re-thinking of “elemental” and its restricted use in connection with “nature.” The third section engages parts of the chapter, “Elemental Cosmology,” in Logic of Imagination. Although Sallis often appears to give priority to vision, in this chapter he turns to the invisible in his encounter with “the” elemental. In this process he develops within the context of a broadly conceived phenomenological tradition a new conception of objectivity and a new conception of logic. A final section summarizes Sallis’s and my encounter and leads to an incident the telling of which shows a deep compatibility in Sallis’s and my thought in spite of significant differences.