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1. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Simone de Beauvoir, Chris Fleming “What Can Literature Do?”
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In this article de Beauvoir defends a conception of literature as a kind of unveiling of something that exists outside itself, a mode of action which reveals certain truths about the world. What we call “literature” is eminently capable of grasping the world—a world which de Beauvoir, following Jean-Paul Sartre, conceives of as a “detotalized totality”; one that is real and independent of us, which exists for all, but is only graspable through our own projects and our perspectives. Yet far from keeping us stranded within our unique subjectivities, literature restores to subjective experience its generality; it allows other to “taste” the world as it exists for others. We can communicate through literature because in it our world, our languages, and our projects overlap. Ultimately, for de Beauvoir, literature is what allows us to see the world as others see it—all the while remaining, irreducibly, ourselves.
2. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Simone Weil, Chris Fleming Essay on the Notion of Reading
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In this essay, Weil undertakes a meditation on the idea of “reading”, which she thinks can shed new light on a diverse range of conceptual and experiential “mysteries”, especially with respect to our existential responses to the world. A central concern is how we ascribe meaning and respond to phenomena. She argues that, for the most part, our reading of the world and the things in it are immediate, not subject to “interpretation”, at least as this is regularly conceived. Further, Weil says, our readings of the world are invariably tied to particular kinds of valuation, of ethical assessment and orientation, which appear to us as both obvious and immediate. This immediacy of reading, however, does not entail that our readings cannot be changed or challenged—only that such a change or challenge requires a particular kind of labor.
3. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Michel Foucault, Mark G. E. Kelly Interview with Madeleine Chapsal: Michel Foucault
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In this 1966 interview, published here in English translation for the first time, Michel Foucault positions himself as a representative of a ‘generation’ of French thinkers who turned towards the analysis of ‘structures’ and away from the phenomenological approaches that had previously dominated French philosophy. In this, Foucault claims inspiration not only from older French scholars—namely Georges Dumézil, Jacques Lacan, and Claude Lévi-Strauss—but also from the science of genetics.
4. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alexander Crist Pain: Reflections of a Philosopher
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In “Pain,” Hans-Georg Gadamer offers several reflections on the experience of pain and its importance for both modern medicine and hermeneutic thought. Having already celebrated his 100th birthday at the time of this lecture, Gadamer speaks of his own experience with polio and the pains of old age, and the influence that his friend and physician, Paul Vogler, had on his approach to the treatment of pain. In the year 2000, Gadamer is concerned with the dominance of technology and chemical “pain management” in the professional medical community, which has largely forgotten the more natural or traditional healing methods in approaching pain and recovery. In light of this, what is crucial for Gadamer is that individuals approach the challenges of pain by taking an active part in their own recovery. For Gadamer, hermeneutics speaks to these encounters with pain and recovery as decisive for human life and understanding.
5. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Hannah Arendt The Difficulties of Understanding
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For the inaugural issue of the Journal of Continental Philosophy the editors have republished this decisive text in the arc of Hannah Arendt’s thought. In this text she orients us towards the totalitarian impulses inherent to modernity as such. Her text is presented in its various iterations, reprinted with permission from The Modern Challenge to Tradition: Fragmente eines Buches (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2018), volume VI of the Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Hannah Arendt.
6. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Luigi Pareyson, Daniele Fulvi Latest Developments of Existentialism
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In this paper, Pareyson provides an analysis of the existential features of the philosophies of Jaspers and Heidegger, that he considers as the two greatest philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. In Jaspers, Pareyson identifies the idea that truth is both singular and one, meaning that it can be grasped only through a personal interpretation and never in absolute terms. This implies that truth and person are inseparably tied to each other and that existence carries transcendence in itself: just as truth transcends our personal knowledge of it, Being itself transcends our personal existence. Moreover, Pareyson sees Heidegger as the initiator of an existential ontology that poses a fundamental relation between the human being and Being itself; hence, the philosophical discourse on human existence inevitably turns into a discourse on Being. Therefore, Heidegger finally manages to overcome traditional metaphysics and its forgetfulness of the question of Being itself, by giving such question a central role within philosophical reflection. In conclusion, Pareyson maintains that Jaspers and Heidegger are able to make the voice of Being been heard, in contrast with the humanist and nihilist tendencies of twentieth century philosophy.
7. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Alain Badiou, Alex Ling Hegel, the Arts and Cinema
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Alain Badiou embarks on a close reading of Hegel’s Aesthetics to consider how his own recently-developed concept of the “index”—designating the crucial point of mediation between finite works and the absolute (or the means by which “works of art obtain their seal of absoluteness”)—might figure therein, as well as to explore what Hegel would have made of cinema, had he lived to experience it. After first examining the various ways that this “index of absoluteness” functions in the Hegelian conception of art—both according to its canonical forms (sculpture, architecture, painting, music, and poetry including theatre) and its historical classifications (classical, symbolic and romantic)—Badiou proceeds to investigate whether Hegel’s aesthetic system could and should have foreseen the eventual birth of cinema, together with its general characteristics; and whether this new development would ultimately refute or confirm his famous thesis on the end of art.
8. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Gianni Vattimo, Paolo Diego Bubbio Interpreting the World Is Transforming the World
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Vattimo argues that the core of Gadamer’s hermeneutics resides in the identification of interpreting with changing the world, and analyzes the ontological turn in hermeneutics in light of such identification. Vattimo advocates for a radical reading of Gadamer’s claim “Being, which can be understood, is language” and maintains that hermeneutics requires a profound revolution in ontology, overcoming the idea of Being as a given object “out there”. In light of the dialogue that Gadamer’s Truth and Method establishes with Heidegger’s Being and Time, Vattimo concludes that hermeneutic ontology has its core in the identification of reality with the history of effects; not as a descriptive proposition, but as the meaning of Being in whose horizon hermeneutics interprets the experience of the world. A coherent philosophy of interpretation, conceived as a call to transform the objective reality of things “out there” into truth, namely into language and project, actually changes the world.
9. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 1
Dennis Schmidt, Chris Fleming, Diego Bubbio, Anthony Uhlmann, Jennifer Mensch College of Fellows Roundtable Transcript: 27 November, 2019
10. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Donatella Di Cesare It is Time for Philosophy to Return to the City
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Philosophy has been a subversive practice since the time of Socrates. Recognizing no authority other than the persuasiveness of dialectics, philosophy designated a thinking beyond the boundaries of the city: an estranging conception, an elsewhere of thought. It is from this critical distance that philosophy derived its political vocation. In the era of global capitalism, however, philosophy has become institutionalized and lost its subversive potential. To this end, philosophy has accepted that it should no longer pose too many questions, especially the ones which are most fundamental, resulting in a dearth of in-depth public questioning, and the slumber of critical reasoning. Hence, philosophy needs to rediscover its political vocation in order to reawaken consciences and to once again embrace that theoretical and practical commitment which never accepts anything without critical reflection. By doing so, it will be possible to restore philosophy to its original role as a guiding light for the community.
11. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Barbara Cassin, Michel Narcy, Alex Ling Pre-Socratics and Post-Moderns: The Effects of Sophistry
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In this text Cassin and Narcy begin their reassessment of the mode of thought that is sophistry, which has historically functioned as the (negative) “other” of classical philosophy. To this end, the authors first present a close reading of Book Gamma of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, understood as a concerted “strategy against sophism” that, in establishing a logical basis for metaphysics, seeks to relegate the former to the sidelines once and for all. What proves ineliminable in this operation, however, and which “resurfaces beyond metaphysics,” is discourse itself. Cassin and Narcy then set about exploring the contemporary resurgences of sophistry, first through the discourse of (novelistic) fiction, then, more rigorously, in the work of Jacques Lacan, whose own thought poses radical challenges to the relation of language to meaning
12. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Alain Badiou, Alex Ling In Search of the Lost Real
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The real invariably functions today as a means of intimidation and constraint. That we consistently fail to overcome this static conception stems from the fact that we do not know what the real actually is, nor do we know how to access it. To address this shortcoming, Badiou looks first to the well-known story of the death of Molière to show how all access to the real necessarily entails division—not only a division of the real from semblance, but also a division of the real itself. Staying with theatre, Badiou then turns his attention to Pirandello to pursue the idea that, since the real is always manifested within semblance, its exposure demands not simply that its “mask must be torn off as semblance,” but moreover that “the mask itself demands that it be taken as real.” Applying these principles to our present situation, Badiou proceeds to isolate the contemporary semblance of real capitalism—the crucial mask that needs to be torn off today—as nothing other than democracy itself, noting that, as with all access to the real, its division will necessarily entail a measure of violence.
13. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Justin Clemens Contraversy in the Nursery; or, A Brace of Basterds
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The controversies unleashed by psychoanalysis never seem to stop repeating themselves. If what psychoanalysis has to say is true, then, by its own lights, it has to be controversial. Controversies are thus a privileged place to see this truth and this resistance in violent and lurid action. Take infant experience and bastardry. Every kid is a bit of a bastard, and the establishment of this infantile bastardry conditions subsequent repetitions of the organism: that breast is persecuting me, these are not my real parents, I did not borrow your kettle. Just how much of a bastard is this baby? The answers psychoanalysis comes up with depend on how it formulates the vicissitudes of differential repetitions, formations of the unconscious. Yet there remains something puzzling about repetition: if eros is constantly getting itself into nasty situations as a matter of course, are there still other factors (perhaps even more sinister) at work? Because of his refusal to dismiss his own puzzlement, Jacques Lacan persistently returned to the relation between desire and drive, reformulating his own theory as he went. At one moment, as we shall see, he comes to discriminate between a surprising number of (at least 3!) kinds of death.
14. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Ian Alexander Moore, Hans Weichselbaum, Georg Trakl Georg Trakl’s Poem “Hölderlin”
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This document includes the first English translation of Georg Trakl’s recently discovered poem “Hölderlin,” along with two commentaries on it. Moore’s commentary highlights the significance of this poem for continental philosophy (especially Heidegger and Derrida) by focusing on the German word for madness, Wahnsinn, which Trakl (mis)spells with three n’s. Moore argues that this word resists the sense of gentle gathering that Heidegger locates in Trakl’s poetry and therefore in Hölderlin and his madness. Trakl is, rather, a precursor to Paul Celan. Moore’s commentary concludes with a new translation of Celan’s own poetic response to Hölderlin, titled “Tübingen, Jänner.” Weichselbaum’s commentary discusses the background for the genesis and discovery of Trakl’s “Hölderlin.” Weichselbaum compares this poem with other moments in which Trakl alludes to Hölderlin.
15. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Gabriel Marcel, Maria Traub, Brendan Sweetman The Emissary, Act Three
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Act Three of Gabriel Marcel’s play, The Emissary, is presented here in English for the first time. The introductory essay introduces Marcel and several of his best known themes, especially the distinctions between problem and mystery, and primary and secondary reflection. Focusing on the relationship between experience and conceptual knowledge, it discusses Marcel’s attempt to argue philosophically for a return to ordinary experience. The role of drama and art in the recovery of the realm of mystery is also highlighted. The play illustrates these themes at the concrete level as it raises many of the challenging situations and moral dilemmas that emerged from the occupation of France by a brutal enemy during World War II. The realities of deceit, betrayal and blackmail are all in the air, as are real worries about reprisals, violence, and irreparable loss. In a moving, gripping drama, Marcel portrays the occupation as an occasion for deep soul-searching among the characters, in the midst of great suffering and loss, and, rather than passing easy judgment, he suggests a journey toward healing, one inspired by compassion, honesty, courage, and faith.
16. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Drew A. Hyland Heraclitus the Jock
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The ancient Ephesian thinker Heraclitus, in his aphoristic writings, described the dynamic coming-to-be of things according to a number of obscure metaphors. In this essay, Hyland ponders whether there is a paradigmatic experience according to which a number of these metaphors can best be understood. Gathering together and thoughtfully retranslating a number of Greek terms including polemos (often translated as “war”), eris (“strife”), agon (“contest”), and paidia (“play”), Hyland argues that Heraclitus’s metaphors can be understood as referring to an experience of athletic play. Hyland explores the significance of athletic play, with its stance of responsive openness, as a paradigm for thinking and living.
17. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Jeff Malpas Spirit of Time/Spirit of Place
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This essay is a meditation on the relevance of the concept of Zeitgeist for thinking about the ills of our contemporary globalized world. Exploring the heritage of the term from Roman times through to Herder, Hegel, and others, Malpas argues that Zeitgeist (literally: spirit of the time) nevertheless includes a notion of place such that time always unfolds in and through place. It is Heidegger who, for Malpas, most illuminatingly thinks this belonging-together of place and time. Malpas explores the disorientation and anxiety created by the spatialization of the modern world, which imagines that horizons of time and place can be dissolved into unbounded, undifferentiated space.
18. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Nicola Abbagnano, Daniele Fulvi Existentialism as Philosophy of the Possible
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In this paper Abbagnano outlines his conception of “positive existentialism” as a philosophy of freedom and of responsible choice, in opposition to any form of dogmatism. In our everyday existence, we constantly face possibilities, meaning we are always required to make choices between the different alternatives we are presented with. Abbagnano thus argues that philosophy must provide a criterion for our existential choices, which he identifies in the possible itself. Existentialism is then understood as that philosophy which establishes valid criteria according to which human beings can choose, and that can reduce the possibility of error and constitute norms and rules of conduct. Abbagnano maintains that choosing wisely and freely means that the choice one makes in a specific moment can and should be renewed and repeated under any circumstance. Accordingly, our task is to establish criteria that will not lead us to irreparable error, but will allow us to implement a practice of always renewable choices.
19. Journal of Continental Philosophy: Volume > 1 > Issue: 2
Reiner Schürmann, Francesco Guercio Heidegger and the Mystical Tradition
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The text presented here is an edited transcription of a thirteen-page unpublished typescript titled “Heidegger and the Mystical Tradition” by Reiner Schürmann. It dates back to the time following the completion of Schürmann’s book on Meister Eckhart and exhibits the preliminary conception of the former’s famous ‘practical a priori.’ Focusing on the relation between Heidegger’s meditative thinking and a mystical tradition inaugurated by Meister Eckhart, the text retrieves the steps of the latter’s path to Releasement as a practical transformation of existence (Part I). In so doing, it provides a detailed account of Releasement as the condition for a peculiar experience of thinking “in which one fundamental attitude manifests itself throughout an itinerary of human existence and which tends to make this itinerary the very condition for the understanding of truth.” By hinging on Heidegger’s different acceptations of ‘letting-be’—as well as on his verbal understanding of Being as Anwesen (presencing) and Ereignis (appropriation-event)—the text indicates Releasement as the coincidence of Being’s and man’s ways to be and shows how it is in the very “urgency of a new existence and thought” that the proximity between Heidegger and Meister Eckahrt’s mystical tradition comes to the fore.