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Historicism

(749 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
1. The term “historicism,” now used mostly in a critical sense, still had positive significance in the mid-19th century. Thus it could denote a philosophy that, following G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831; Hegelianism), viewed world history as a realization of the absolute (C. J. Braniss). It then soon became a polemical title for Hegel’s own philosophy of history (R. Haym), for the historical school of law (I. H. Fichte), and finally for a concept of human life oriented primarily to historical facts and contexts. Critics of historicism did not dispute the historicity of this life but …

Spontaneität

(195 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[English Version] Spontaneität, von neulat. spontaneitas, gebildet von lat. spons, »Antrieb, Wille«, bez. im Anschluß an den Ablativ sponte, »von selbst«, die Selbsttätigkeit. Spontan ist eine Bewegung, für die es weder in der Natur des Sichbewegenden noch in einem anderen eine Ursache gibt. In diesem Sinne hatte schon Aristoteles eine Bewegung von selbst (α᾿πο` ταυτομα´του/apó tautomátou, metaph. VII 7, 1032a 13) von der natürlichen und der durch Kunst (τε´χn̆η/téchnē) bewirkten Bewegung unterschieden. Prominent wird der Gedanke aber erst in der neuzeitlichen …

Sein

(1,742 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[English Version] als substantivierter Infinitiv bez. in der Philos. die Bedeutung des Ausdrucks »sein«, und zwar auch in seinen flektierten Formen. Wer nach dem S. fragt, möchte wissen, was es heißt, daß etwas ist – sei es überhaupt, sei es dieses Bestimmte. Das derart erfragte S. wird in der die Problemstellung vorgebenden griech. Philos. außer mit dem Infinitiv, dem ein bestimmter Artikel vorangestellt ist (το` ει᾿˜n̆αι/tó eínai), auch mit dem Partizip το` ο῎n̆/tó ón bez., das in diesem Fall eher mit »das Seiend« als mit »das Seiende« zu übers. wäre. Seit Plato i…

Difference, Ontological,

(345 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] a term introduced by M. Heidegger for the purpose of determining the ¶ relationship between being ( Sein) and “beings” ( das Seiende; Ontology). Although the term did not yet appear in Being and Time ( Sein und Zeit, 1927) and was first introduced in the summer semester lecture series of 1928 and further elaborated in The Essence of Reasons ( Vom Wesen des Grundes, 1929), in content it also relates to the conception of Heidegger's early main work. In it, the discovery of “beings” as they are enco…

Decisionism

(381 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] From Latin decisio, “decision,” “judgment,” is a term coined by C. Schmitt to designate ¶ his thesis that the application of a norm can never be entirely defined by the norm itself, so that there is always a margin and need for “decision.” The term is directed critically against normative and legal positivist positions, especially against the position of Hans Kelsens. For Schmitt …

Interpretation

(328 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] Interpretation, from Lat. interpretatio, “analysis,” “translation,” generally refers to the elucidation of works and texts. F. Nietzsche elevated the term's prominence in philosophy. In analogy to human behavior toward the world, he understood vitality in general as interpretation. Interpretation is the attempt “to become lord over something” ( Kritische Studienausgabe, vol. XII, 314); it is the selective and harmonizing mastery of an infinitely manifold reality. Only through interpretation, and that means, from relative perspec…

Blondel, Maurice

(179 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Nov 2, 1861, Dijon – Jun 4, 1949, Aix-en-Provence), French philosopher. He was professor in Aix from 1896 to 1949. In a broad sense, his philosophy can be classed under the heading of phenomenology and has a clear philosophy-of-religion accent. A central element is the supposition that thinking proceeds from a comprehensive existential …

Kojève, Alexandre

(175 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (actually Alexander Koshevnikov; May 11, 1902, Moscow – Jun 4, 1968, Brussels), studied philosophy, linguistics, and literature in Heidelberg and earned his doctorate there as a student of K. Jaspers in 1926. He subsequently moved to Paris, deepened his previously acquired knowledge of religious studies, and entered the École Pratique des Hautes Études as a lecturer in comparative religion in 1933. However, he attained philosophical renown as a result of his lectures on G. Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807; ET: Phenomenology of Mind, 1910), which influen…

Socrates

(1,072 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (470 or 469, Athens – 399, Athens), is the prototypical philosopher. He embodies the dialogical character of thinking, the possibility of articulating thoughts in such a way that they are no longer simply stated, as in the case of the “pre-Socratic” thinkers Heraclitus and Parmenides, but can be repeatedly reformulated and tested to determine their coherence. Only in this process can the authority of ideas be proved – whatever is important enough for people to take the trouble to …

Epicurus

(241 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (342/341, on Samos – 371/370, Athens) was a Greek philosopher, the founder of a school of philosophy that he understood to be a competitor to the Platonic Academy and the Aristotelian Peripatos. Of his numerous writings – according to Diogenes Laertes 10.28 he left nearly 300 scrolls – only three didactic letters, a collection of 40 Sentences, and a few fragmenta…

Jonas, Hans

(218 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (May 10, 1903, Mönchengladbach – Feb 5, 1993, New York) studied with E. Husserl, M. Heidegger, and R. Bultmann. His dissertation was on “Augustin und der paulinische Freiheitsgedanke” [1930, Augustine and the pauline notion of freedom]. Jonas emigrated to London in 1933, and two years later to Palestine. He taught in Jerusalem (1946–1948), as professor in Montreal and Ottawa (1949–1950), and in New York (1955–1976). His book Gnosis und spätantiker Geist (vol. I, 1934; vol. II/1, 1954; vol. II/2, 1993; ET: Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the …

Plato

(2,073 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (c. 427 bce, Athens – 347 bce, Athens), marks the beginning of a philosophical tradition in the strict sense. He took the various approaches to philosophical thought of his predecessors and brought them together in a unified intellectual context. Myth and poetry were included; poetic motifs and forms of expression were borrowed and used productively to articulate something ¶ totally new. As F. Nietzsche said, “the Platonic dialogue was the raft . . . on which the earlier poetry rescued itself and all its children from shipwreck” (“Die Geburt der Tragödie,” in: Kritische …

Löwith, Karl

(232 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Jan 9, 1897, Munich – May 24, 1973, Heidelberg), German philosopher. Löwith studied in Munich and Freiburg, earned his doctorate in Munich and his habilitation under M. Heidegger, in Marburg with his thesis “Das Individuum in der Rolle des Mitmenschen. Ein Beitrag zur anthropologischen Grundlegung der ethischen Probleme” [The individual in the role of fellow human being: a contribution to the anthropological foundation of the ethical problem]. In 1933, Löwith emigrated to Italy, …

Apollonian and Dionysian

(131 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] are terms first attested in F.W.J.Schelling ( Philosophy of Revelation, posthum. 1858) for the nature of the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. The comparison of the two gods and the arts ascribed to them plays a role already in Plato ( Polit. 398c–400c; Nomoi 652a–674c) and is taken up in a manner suited to modern times in F. Nietzsche. According to the explanations in his book on the Geburt der Tragödie (1872; ET: The Birth of Tragedy, 1927), apollonian stands for the limiting, individuating principle of graphic art, while diony…

Spontaneity

(225 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] from Neo-Latin spontaneitas, based on Latin spons, “incentive, will,” the ablative of which ( sponte), means “of one’s own accord,” self-motivated. A movement is spontaneous if it is not caused by something inherent in the person who moves or in someone or something else. In this sense, Aristotle already distinguished between motion that arises “from itself ” (ἀπὸ ταυτομάτου/ apó tautomátou, Metaph. VII 7, 1032a 13) and motion caused by nature or art (τέχνη/ téchnē). The notion first became prominent, however, in modern philosophy under the category of…

Idea

(849 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] Idea, in Greek ἰδέα/ idéa or εἶδος/ eídos, “form”; in pre-philosophical usage this means particularly the form of a human being (e.g. Plato Prot. 315e; Hom. Il. III 39; V 787; X 316). This also explains philosophical usage: since it is by their form that people are recognized, the idea can be generally that which makes something understandable. To perceive something that makes it what it is means the same as to perceive its idea. Plato uses this expression very early, using “idea” to distinguish between understanding an object and the object's actual existence. Thus Socrate…

Substance/Substance and Accident

(1,192 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] Substance (from Lat. substantia) generally denotes what is constant in contrast to the variation of its conditions and attributes, which are called accidents vis-à-vis substance. Substance is what stays constant as it bears its attributes, as the etymology of the word indicates: substantia (from the verb substare) means literally “what stands firm” and “is beneath”; accidens (present participle of the verb accidere) means that which arises or eventuates. In philosophical usage, substantia and accidens generally represent Greek οὐσία/ ousía and συμβεβηκός/ symb…

Turnabout

(314 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] German Kehre, “turnabout” or “turning,” is a philosophical term of M. Heidegger, probably first used in the draft of a lecture dating from 1937: ¶ human beings stand “in a turnabout,” and that is synonymous with a possible “transformation of personhood itself “ ( Gesamtausgabe XLV, 214). Heidegger here draws on a fundamental philosophical motif that Plato had already addressed (περιαγωγή/ periagōgḗ, “shifting, conversion”; Rep. 518d) and visualized in the allegory of the cave in his Politicus. Heidegger developed his understanding of this turnabout in his lectures E…

Epoch

(262 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (᾿Εποχή/ epochḗ) derives from the Gk verb ἐπέχειν/ epéchein, “to stay,” “to hold back.” The noun epochḗ was originally a term from astrology and there indicated either the position a heavenly body occupied in its course, or the constellation of two heavenly bodies. Analogously, the word can also designate the point in time from which it can be reckoned. In the Enlightenment, the meaning of the term changed: the epoch was now a historically significant period of time. The word epochḗ first acquired philosophical significance in ancient …

Jünger

(884 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] 1. Ernst (Mar 29, 1895, Heidelberg – Feb 17, 1998, Riedlingen), author of literary diaries and essays, but also of novels and stories, one of the most important German writers in the 20th century. Jünger participated in World War I immediately after completing his schooling. In 1918, he was awarded the Order Pour le Mérite. From 1923 until 1926, he studied philosophy and zoology in Leipzig and Naples. Afterwards, he worked as a national revolutionary journalist; in the late 1920s, however, he withdrew from politics and began life as …
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