WILLIAM H POTEAT (1919-2000)
Duke University NC
William H. Poteat (1919-2000)
Distinguished graduate of the Yale Divinity School (MDiv 1944) and Duke University (PhD 1951). At Duke, where he taught philosophy and religion for most of his career, Poteat became a leading, early exponent of the thought of Michael Polanyi, who delivered Yale’s Terry Lectures in 1962. Standing against reductive positivism and Cartesian dualism, Poteat was especially known for his contributions to Post-Critical Philosophy and for originating seminal ideas such as "mindbody"—the point of origin for personal experience and our encounter with the world. His convivial approach to teaching, built on a richly personal implementation of the Socratic method, distinguished him as a lifelong professor of transformative discovery.
The Primacy of Persons Conference Yale (June 2014)
The first conference considering the legacy of William H. Poteat, was held at Yale University June 6-8 2014. This exciting intellectual gathering provided a space for articulating and acknowledging his work and was intended to find ways to make it accessible to others who have yet to learn of and benefit from it; it proved to be of particular value to those interested in exploring the nature of personhood and the important implications of the tacit dimension of knowing.
The Conference was sponsored by the Polanyi Society:
The Timing of this Conference was Significant
Since many of Poteat’s students have retired, or soon will, this event was the best opportunity to communicate and embody the heart of Poteat’s intellectual legacy as well as his legacy as a teacher of undergraduate, graduate, and divinity students, which was his personal and conversational relationships with others.
The Conference represented an important “tipping point” in determining how the intellectual legacies of Polanyi and those who followed after him could be advanced.
The archive of Poteat’s letters, papers, unpublished manuscripts, and student lecture notes has just been established at the Yale Divinity School Library. The conference was the opportunity to formally recognize this important step while affording a glimpse into the potential of the archive for future research.
The Conference schedule featured both plenary and concurrent sessions, with an unusual amount of time allotted to Q&A and open discussion for exploring the ideas presented and their larger implications from numerous perspectives. All conference sessions took place in one of Yale's grand lecture halls. Speakers included world-renowned authorities on both Poteat and Polanyi, many of whom were his former students, along with others whose compelling interest in Poteat's ideas motivate them to share their perspectives in this forum. The archive of Poteat’s letters, papers, unpublished manuscripts, and student lecture notes was recently established at the Yale Divinity School Library. The conference formally recognized this while affording a glimpse into the potential of the archive for future research.
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