The Death of Philosophy and the Beginning of Madness: Plato, Hegel, Heidegger, and Foucault on Madness and Death

Dissertation, Depaul University (2000)

Ferit Güven
Earlham College
This dissertation traces the themes of madness and death from Plato to twentieth century European philosophy. By focusing on the writings of Plato, Hegel, Heidegger and Foucault, this work tries to articulate the way in which philosophy relies on the themes of madness and death to define itself. Madness and death are not simply topics within philosophy, but they are the "other" of philosophical discourse. In this respect madness and death are instances of negativity. Negativity plays a significant role in the constitution of philosophical discourse. Thus far from being marginal topics within philosophy, madness and death prove to be related to many contemporary philosophical problems, such as subjectivity, the metaphysics of presence, the relationship between the body and language, and finally the question of ethics. ;The first chapter concentrates on Plato's Phaedo and Phaedrus. For Plato, philosophy is defined as a preparation of death and as a kind of madness. Through a close reading of these texts, this chapter establishes the constitutive roles of madness and death for philosophy. ;The second chapter concentrates on Hegel's notion of madness in the Encyclpaedia, and his understanding of death in the Phenomenology of Spirit. This chapter establishes that Hegel's approach to negativity ultimately remains a cognitive one, and incapable of thinking the question of negativity in a radical fashion. ;The third and fourth chapters focus on Heidegger in order to articulate a more radical thinking of negativity. The notion of death in Being and Time, and that of madness in Heidegger's later writings characterize Heidegger's non-cognitive understanding of negativity that cannot be reduced to a content of thought. ;The final chapter focuses on the debate between Foucault and Derrida on madness and ultimately attempts to question the radicality of both Hegel's and Heidegger's notions of negativity. ;The conclusion tries to connect the questions of madness and death to that of ethics. The radicalization of the question of ethics in twentieth century continental philosophy presupposes and requires a rethinking of the question of alterity. This work gestures towards such a rethinking
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