The Janus Face of Ideas: Which Way Should We Look?


Porter, Burton, Ph.D., University of Oxford


Professor of Philosophy, Western New England University; Author of Finding Your Own Philosophy of Life and The Great Perhaps: God as Question

In ancient Roman myth and religion, Janus was the god of physical and emotional gateways. He is traditionally shown as having two faces pointing in opposite directions, representing different perspectives, or perhaps a reconciliation of two points of view. He is the god of the past and the future, looking fore and aft, as Homer says. He is the god of transitions, doorways, beginnings and endings, passageways, options, change, entrances and exits.

The Janus figure is a fitting symbol for this book, which concerns conflict and agreement between pairs of ideas. Janus, of course, is everyone – all of us -- as we struggle to reach decisions on the choices that punctuate our lives. We are unsure which is the real face of the Janus figure, or whether there is a right direction to point, although compasses are oriented toward true north. Janus is two-faced, not from hypocrisy or insincerity, but as a result of reflection. He always looks at both sides of the question, reflectively and deeply within the conscious mind.

The ideas we will explore include such apparent polarities as justice and forgiveness, belief and skepticism, the ascetic and the sensuous. When we unpack these concepts, we discover that in some cases the two sides align and a compromise is possible. In other cases, they repel each other, like identical poles of magnets. All of the ideas will receive critical airings so that we can be clear on what we can believe, which choices can be avoided, and which ones must be confronted as alternatives.

Philosophy, Psychology, Mindfulness, Humanities, Ideology, Classics, Antiquity, Philosophy, Mythology, Myths
Release Date: 
July 1, 2019
Hardcover: 978-1680531510
Trim Size: 

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