Thesis Eleven is honoured to be able to publish this text by our late friend and mentor Agnes Heller. It was secured in the period before her recent death, and is published now posthumously in her memory. Echoing her earlier text written as an Imaginary Preface to Arendt’s Totalitarianism, it responds to themes in the later text, The Life of the Mind. These were among the most eminent of the minds referred to later as Women in Dark Times. Their connection (...) was not only institutional, via the New School, but represented a deep and ongoing affinity and critical engagement in political and philosophical terms. The imaginary letter arcs around issues and questions indicated by Cicero, Kant, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, including matters of republicanism, rhetoric and the question of thinking. Best of all, it shows Agnes Heller at work, at her best: it shows her thinking. Like Arendt, she offers inspiration, provocation, through thinking. (shrink)
In the crisis scenarios of modernity which flourished in the Weimar Republic, technology is typically seen as destiny or fate. Thus Oswald Spengler and Ernst Jünger both construe the coming struggle for world power in terms of the integration of production and technology in the industrial-military complex. Martin Heidegger’s critique of Jünger’s blueprint for total mobilization in Der Arbeiter (1932) springs from his reading of modernity as nihilism. Just as the crisis of Western history is reaching completion in modernity, so (...) equally metaphysics reaches completion in modern technology. Heidegger’s essay ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, written after the Second World War, is contrasted with Ernst Cassirer’s essay ‘Form and Technology’ (1930), directed against Spengler’s regression to irrationalism, in terms of two fundamental relationships to the world: Heidegger’s Greek-oriented ontology of world disclosure and Cassirer’s modern ontology of construction (the possibilization of the world) with reference to technology and art. (shrink)
Integral to the modern paradigm of cultural critique is an entropic vision of the `completion' of modernity reaching from Heidegger and Adorno to Debord and Baudrillard. Are contemporary cultural developments to be grasped in terms of this `completion' or do we need a more open-ended account of capitalism and culture? The article examines two key aspects of contemporary culture, both tied to processes of aestheticization and commodification since the 18th century: the progression from the culture industry (Adorno) to the aesthetic (...) economy (Böhme), premised on the creation of aesthetic value in addition to use and exchange value; the progression from the `age of the world picture' (Heidegger) to culturalism, in which the culturalization of nature and history responds to the reduction of nature and history to standing reserves. (shrink)
Debord’s influential theory of the spectacle is vitiated by its lack of historical and analytical differentiation. This article draws on Debord’s own undeveloped distinction between the concentrated spectacle and the diffuse spectacle in order to propose a double genealogy and a fourfold typology of the spectacle since the French Revolution.
The collapse of the Weimar Republic remains central to the history of the 20th century and to contemporary debates on 'classical modernity' and its Europe-wide crisis in the wake of the First World War. The present issue of Thesis Eleven focuses on three dimensions of the Weimar crisis: the experience of fundamental societal crisis and closure and its diagnostic power in relation to the rise of fascist movements; the cognitive and normative resources that sought to work against this crisis-ridden sense (...) of closure; and third, the degree to which these counter tendencies anticipate postmodern interrogations of the premises of classical modernity. (shrink)
A growing literature testifies to the persistence of place as an incorrigible aspect of human experience, identity, and morality. Place is a common ground for thought and action, a community of experienced particulars that avoids solipsism and universalism. It draws us into the philosophy of the ordinary, into familiarity as a form of knowledge, into the wisdom of proximity. Each of these essays offers a philosophy of place, and reminds us that such philosophies ultimately decide how we make, use, and (...) understand places, whether as accidents, instruments, or fields of care. (shrink)
As a universal theory Luhmann's systems theory of society includes art in its ambit. The Art of Society (1995) reconstructs the formal and the social-historical conditions of the functional differentiation of a system of art since the Renaissance. The methodological focus of the reconstruction - Luhmann's theory of form (perception, first and second order observation, medium and form) and of systemic differentiation (social function, self-organization, codes and programmes, evolution and self-description of art) - are analysed in the first part of (...) the paper. The second part examines the unresolved question of the code of the art system, the hermeneutic circle integral to Luhmann's theory design, and the relation of his theory of art to the `aesthetic epoch' of art theory with special reference to Heidegger and Adorno. (shrink)
What is the role of history in our "postmetaphysical" age? Surveying two centuries of philosophical writing, David Roberts offers a thoughtful guide to the philosophy of history _before_ the recent challenges associated with deconstructive postmodernism. He then argues for a moderate intellectual tradition in which historical knowledge, although freed from transcendent values, continues to play a crucial role in the conduct of human affairs. Roberts's careful account of historicism explores the ideas of its major nineteenth-century representatives and foils, including Hegel, (...) Dilthey, and Nietzsche. His thorough consideration of such twentieth-century thinkers as Gadamer, Croce, Foucault, and Heidegger contributes vitally to the ongoing discussions about the use and abuse of history. Certain to engage historians and philosophers, this book will interest scholars across the humanities who are concerned with the present and future utility of historical thinking. (shrink)