In this essay, the author argues that Dennis Schmidt’s considerations of ethical life, when taken together, comprise a prescient and distinctive response to Heidegger’s call to pursue an ‘original ethics.’ In this, Schmidt disavows discourses within the discipline of ethics that seek to establish an ethical theory or position, arguing instead that the demands of ethical life require us to focus on the incalculable singularity of the factical situations in which we find ourselves. The author suggests that Schmidt’s contributions (...) to such an original ethical turns on Schmidt’s claims that the context of ethical life is fraught because bound up with radical finitude—though, for that very reason, also tender because marked by the need to care for one another in our vulnerability and fragileness. (shrink)
Although it might go without mention, editor Bret Davis nevertheless reminds us on the first page of his introduction to Key Concepts that “Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is widely considered to be the most famous, influential, and controversial philosopher of the twentieth century.” This really fine new companion put together by Davis promises to elucidate the main lines of Heidegger’s thought at a moment when Heidegger is perhaps receiving more scholarly attention and, indeed, more diverse scholarly attention, than at any previous (...) time. Alongside the vast and ever-growing body of literature on Heidegger, not only has a new edition of Joan Stambaugh’s English translation of Being and Time, revised by Dennis Schmidt, now appeared (State University of New York Press, 2010) but also previously untranslated writings are being put into English at an impressive clip. The purpose of Key Concepts, as Davis indicates in the “Acknowledgements,” is to facilitate readers’ access to Heidegger’s thought with a companion that strikes a mean between more advanced scholarly treatments of Heidegger’s ideas and more introductory surveys. (shrink)
What is the significance of hermeneutics at the intersections of ethics, politics and the arts and humanities? In this book, George -/- - Discusses how hermeneutics offers ways to develop an ethics - Makes the case for the relevance of contemporary hermeneutics for current scholarly discussions of responsibility within continental European philosophy - Contributes a new, ethically inflected approach to current debate within post-Gadamerian hermeneutics - Extends his analysis to the practice of living and covers animals, art, literature and (...) translation -/- Few topics have received broader attention within contemporary philosophy than that of responsibility. TheodoreGeorge makes a novel case for a distinctive sense of responsibility at stake in the hermeneutical experiences of understanding and interpretation. -/- George argues for the significance of this hermeneutical responsibility in the context of our relations with things, animals and others, as well as political solidarity and the formation of solidarities through the arts, literature and translation. (shrink)
Hermeneutics is widely celebrated as a call for “conversation”—that is, a manner of inquiry characterized by humility and openness to the other that eschews the pretenses of calculative rationality and resists all finality of conclusions. In this, conversation takes shape in efforts to understand and interpret that always unfold in the transmission of meaning historically in language. Yet, the celebration of hermeneutics for humility and openness appears, at least, to risk embarrassment in light of claims found in Heidegger and Gadamer (...) that conversation is always contingent on “prior accord.” Critics of hermeneutics have, for some decades, interpreted this claim of prior accord to refer to a common tradition, so that the understanding achieved in conversation is restricted to those who belong to the same heritage. In this essay, the author argues that although Heidegger and Gadamer often suggest this prior accord is a matter of common tradition, crucial threads of Gadamer’s thought, in particular, recommend a different view. Gadamer, in these threads, offers that “prior accord” concerns not a common tradition, but, on the contrary, the call to participate in hermeneutic transmission as such, even—and no doubt especially—when those in conversation are not familiar with the tradition or language of the other. With this, we are called to converse not first by _what_ the other says, but by the fact _that_ we do not yet understand, that we have already misunderstood, and that we perhaps cannot understand. (shrink)
Although there is much scholarship on Maurice Blanchot’s relationship to his contemporaries on the French intellectual scene, substantially less has been made of his debts to the German philosophical heritage in general, and to G. W. F. Hegel in particular. In this article, the author maintains that Blanchot’s association of literature with worklessness comprises a direct, if somewhat tacit, refusal of Hegel’s determination of art as a work of spirit. The author argues that Blanchot’s critical relation to Hegel sheds new (...) light not only on Blanchot’s conception of literature and related themes of language, but also on his view of the significance of literature as a powerful and elusive force of resistance to hegemonic and ideological programs of many kinds. (shrink)
In Tragedies of Spirit, Theodore D. George engages Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit to explore the philosophical significance of tragedy in post-Kantian continental thought. George follows lines of inquiry originally developed by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Derrida, and takes as his point of departure the concern that Hegel’s speculative philosophy forms a summit of modernity that the present historical time is called to interrogate. Yet, George argues that Hegel’s larger speculative ambitions in the Phenomenology compel him to (...) turn to the resource of tragedy in order to give voice to issues of incommensurability, discontinuity, otherness, strife, and crisis. From this standpoint, Hegel’s interest in the tragic proves to be more pervasive and to run deeper than has previously been recognized. The author shows that Hegel’s reliance upon the tragic not only stretches and tests assumptions of speculative philosophy, but also illuminates original insights into human finitude. While situating Hegel’s approach to tragedy as part of a broader response to Kant, George also contextualizes Hegel’s interest in tragedy with reference to figures in German Idealism and Romanticism, such as Schelling, Hölderlin, and Schlegel. (shrink)
In this paper, the author turns to Hans-Georg Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics to examine the experience of grieving. Specifically, the author argues that grieving may be grasped as a limit situation of memory. This approach suggests that grieving cannot be adequately captured by a stage model theory but, instead, poses an infinite task that is fraught with difficulty and ethical demands. The author develops this approach in reference not only to Hans-Georg Gadamer but recent research by Nancy Moules and Kate Beamer.
The appearance in English of Donatella Ester Di Cesare's Utopia of Understanding: Between Babel and Auschwitz brings a distinctive development within the philosophical study of hermeneutics to an Anglophone readership.
The purpose of this essay is to consider the significance that Hegel grants to religious love and, with it, forgiveness in his early The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate. Although Hegel characterizes religious love in this writing as a unity that transcends reason, his association of such love with forgiveness nevertheless sheds light on an important aspect of human finitude. In this, Hegel may be seen to identify forgiveness as a form of freedom elicited by limits that we encounter (...) in practical life. The author suggests that Hegel’s approach to forgiveness, which makes use not only of themes expressed by Jesus in the Gospel but also Greek tragedy, comprises an attractive alternative to some current views. (shrink)
Taken in general terms, “hermeneutics” refers to the study of understanding and interpretation, and, traditionally, this study focuses on considerations of the art, method, and foundations of research in the arts and humanities. The study of hermeneutics has been developed and applied in a number of areas of scholarly inquiry, such as biblical exegesis, literary studies, legal studies, and the medical humanities. In the context of post-war Continental European thought, however, hermeneutics is brought into a novel philosophical context and, with (...) this, comes to designate a philosophical movement – or, at least, a number of related philosophers and themes – concerned with the scope and limits of phenomenology, the character of human existence, the relation of the natural sciences and humanities, as well as a range of interrelated matters in the philosophy of history, the philosophy of language, the philosophy of art and aesthetics, practical philosophy, as well as in epistemology and the theory of meaning. (shrink)
Abstract The broad concern of this article is to contribute to discussions within hermeneutical philosophy that address the question of life as a form of correlation. More specifically, its purpose is to shed light on the character of life as correlation with reference to a basic aspect of this correlation: our living relation to things. To this end, the author focuses, first, on the later Heidegger's suggestion that our proper relation to things takes shape as an enactment guided by the (...) releasement or letting-be ( Gelassenheit ) of things in their independence; and, second, on Günter Figal's recent claim that this enactment, in turn, depends on our referential relation to the exteriority or objectivity of things. The author concludes that our living relation with things may be understood best in terms of the movement or mutual interplay of these two conditions. (shrink)
This article argues that the political significance Hans-Georg Gadamer's attributes to friendship not only resists the criticism of Gadamer (and Heidegger) leveled by Axel Honneth but, moreover, that Gadamer's approach to friendship sheds light on a certain intimacy we experience in our opening onto the political sphere.
Some more recent scholarship that challenges received wisdom about Gadamer not withstanding, it remains common to associate his hermeneutical approach to art and literature, along with his hermeneutics generally, with political and cultural conservatism. In this essay, however, the author argues that some of Gadamer’s significant, but underappreciated, later essays on Hegel’s aesthetics further support and nuance the rising recognition of Gadamer’s sensitivity to the discontinuities, dislocations, and fractures that pervade any experience of the past. Specifically, Gadamer’s critical response in (...) these essays to Hegel’s familiar thesis that art is a “thing of the past” sheds light on the special hermeneutical difficulties faced in the present historical juncture—a time, which Gadamer suggests is increasingly alienated from its own heritage. As I wish to show, Gadamer believes this schism to signal not an end of Western art, but, rather, a liberation of art that releases novel possibilities for artistic practice and for the interpretation of art. Far from being a conservative who might deny or lament the rupture of tradition, then, Gadamer’s take on the Hegelian thesis reveals Gadamer to acknowledge and even embrace this withdrawal of tradition as a source of new meaning and experience. (shrink)
The author submits that while Nancy's tendency to make Occidentalist remarks cannot be denied, it is antithetical to his own conception of community that may be forged through literature. Nancy's conception actually provides a basis to critique not only Occidentalism, but any view that blinds us to the significance of cultural differences. For Nancy genuine community can only be achieved in the exposure of the other as a singular individual marked by unique cultural, historical, and existential experiences. His approach reminds (...) us that it is impossible to achieve genuine community unless we recognize and respect not only cultural differences, but differences of all kinds. It is possible, in fact, that despite some of Nancy's untenable remarks suggesting a precedence of the Occident, his concept of literary communism must be understood as a non-, or perhaps better, post-Western form of community. (shrink)
Hegel is usually regarded as a "speculative" philosopher of history, claiming to discover a pattern or meaning in the historical process as a whole. On the contrary, he held that history deals only with those events of which there are historical accounts; the distinction between "speculative" and "critical" philosophy of history thus has no meaning for Hegel. In "original" history, written by participants, subject and object are one; in "reflective" history they are divided, and the historian's attitudes and beliefs themselves (...) become uneliminable constituents of the history of historiography. "Philosophical world history" is not about the totality of events and deeds, but is the dialectical product of reflective history including the history of historical interpretation. It is, in fact, the history of historical consciousness, the history of ideas seen in its internal principle. (shrink)
Some critics charge that Gadamer’s approach to our experience of art remains mired in conservatism because he believes our experience of artworks depends on tradition. In this essay, I argue that this charge fails to address the full scope of Gadamer’s considerations of our experience of art. This becomes clear with an emendation that Gadamer appears to make to his Truth and Method account of artistic imitation, or, mimesis, in his later essay “Art and Imitation.” Whereas Gadamer’s approach to mimesis (...) in Truth and Method provides testimony to the significance of tradition for our experience of artworks, his account in “Art and Imitation” make the supplementary proposal that our experience of artworks testify to a more fundamental and encompassing experience of what he shall simply refer to as ‘order.’ Gadamer thereby suggests that our experience of artworks concerns not only foremost or exclusively our belonging to a tradition but, more originally, our possibilities for belonging as such. (shrink)
In this essay, the author contends that Schelling’s first publication, the Philosophical Letters on Dogmatism and Criticism, provides crucial insights into the wide spread philosophical interest in poetic art today. For Schelling, philosophical inquiry finds that its native resource, reason, requires the disclosive power of the poetic genera of tragic drama in order to remedy a crisis which inheres in its very nature and operations.
One of the most pressing issues for contemporary continental philosophy turns on the determination of a concept of community that twists free from the dangerous tendency in the canon of Western thought to associate the perfection of political affiliation with complete unity, even totality and immanence. In this article the author suggests that in the Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel provides important resources for this project—not, of course, in his conception of that community indicated by the absolute spirit, itself a preeminent (...) example of political totality, but instead in his discussion of a very different form of togetherness, one achieved in the tragic work of art. As the author argues, this is a sense of community that takes as its very basis the impossibility of political totality, for Hegel an impossibility evoked by a crisis concerning the political significance of the dead. (shrink)
Jean-Luc Nancy’s conception of the ‘inoperative community’ is one of the most original attempts in recent memory to develop a theory of the political that addresses contemporary concerns for difference and singularity. In this paper, I will argue that despite the deep rapprochement between Nancy and Heidegger, Nancy’s insistence upon the connection between community and singularity allows him to twist free from the more duplicitous features of his Heideggerian heritage. In contrast with Heidegger, Nancy interprets the political significance of finitude (...) with reference not to the work of a people, but, instead, to the finitude of singular beings that we encounter in our exposure to the death of others. From Nancy’s interpretation emerges a view of community that resists, or, as he puts it, unworks all tendencies toward totalitarian politics. (shrink)
In this essay, the author maintains that Gadamer’s affirmation of the relation among art, truth, and beauty is less a sign of conservatism or nostalgia than it is a key to his innovative and insightful examination of our experience of art. Gadamer’s approach to both the truth claim and the beauty of art flows from his association of the being of art with enactment (Vollzug). Yet, increasingly over the course of his writings, Gadamer appears to relinquishes talk of art in (...) this sense as a ,work‘ in favor of an emphasis on the kinship between art and the phenomenon of play. In light of this shift, it is argued that Gadamer’s conception of the truth claim and beauty of art may best be understood not as properties of a product or artifact, of something already enacted and thus complete in itself, but, instead, as nothing other than the very enacting of that freedom which he finds at the heart of human play. (shrink)
The purpose of this essay is to examine Giorgio Agamben’s important but underappreciated debts to the early German Romantics and to Hegel. While maintaining critical distance from these figures, Agamben develops crucial aspects of his approach to radical passivity with reference to them. The focus of this essay is on Agamben’s consideration of the early German Romantics’ notions of criticism and irony, Hegel’s notion of language, and the implications of this view of language for his notion of community.