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This essay examines how the philosopher William Desmond reimagines two great â€œimaginative universalsâ€: the ascent out of the cave and the descent into the underground.Â Desmond uses these imaginative universals to explore the possibility of re-awakening wonder in a purportedly disenchanted world and of thereby affirming the goodness of being.Â In the tradition of Plato, Desmond uses ascent out of the cave as a metaphor for this re-awakening.Â Desmond notes that, in the wake of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, philosophy has often been more interested in descent, in digging down beneath the cave in search of a dark origin in will.Â Desmond argues, though, that such an origin cannot yield the light that even Schopenhauerâ€™s and Nietzscheâ€™s projects require. As an alternative way of conceptualizing descent, Desmond reconsiders another ancient â€œimaginative universalâ€â€”the descent into the underworld.Â Drawing on this imaginative universal, Dante and Shakespeare depict kenotic descents that are also paradoxically ascents, descents that undo the fixations and self-delusions of the will and allow for a rebirth of compassion and wonder.Â Ultimately, the example of Dante suggests that a widespread reawakening of wonder might require renewed porosity between philosophy, art, and religion.Â Â Â Â Â
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