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Democritus

(203 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (c. 460 – between 380 and 370 bce) came from Abdera. He was a disciple of Leucippus and chief advocate of atomism, founded by his teacher. Democritus dealt with a range of topics; his writings were devoted to issues of ethics and the doctrine of the soul, logic, mathematics and astronomy, as well as poetry and music. However, above all he cultivated his natural philosophy in which following his teacher he formulated and worked out the basic theses of atomism: in an empty space there are small, “indivisible” bodies (the word átomon, indivisible, does not occur in the tra…

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 …

Blumenberg, Hans

(189 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Jul 13, 1920, Lübeck – Mar 28, 1996, Altenberge), a German philosopher, was professor at Münster from 1970 to 1985, following professorates at Gießen and Bochum. Blumenberg is the author of many books that attest to his deep and broad learning. They deal primarily with two systematic questions. On the one hand, Blumenberg was concerned with a…

Arendt, Hannah

(256 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Oct 14, 1906, Linden/Hannover – Dec 4, 1975, New York) was a German-American philosopher and political thinker who at times exercised considerable public influence. From an assimilated Jewish family from Königsberg, she studied under, among others, M. Heidegger, K. Jaspers, and R. Bultmann. After emigrating, she lived initially in France, then from 1941 in the …

Adorno, Theodor Wiesengrund

(425 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Sep 11, 1893, Frankfurt am Main – Aug 6, 1969, Visp, Canton Wallis) is along with M. Horkheimer the most significant representative of the first generation of critical theory. The focus of his thought is a radical critique of the rationalism that was then manifesting itself academically, technically and socially. Adorno studied in Frankfurt am Main and, after receiving his PhD in philosophy in 1924, he studied composition under Alban Berg in Vienna. In 1930 he gained his Habilitation with a thesis on S. Kierkegaard in Frankfurt …

Fundamental Ontology

(465 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] is a term, analogous to “fundamental philosophy” and “fundamental theology,” coined by M. Heidegger in order to characterize the philosophical program of his main work Sein und Zeit (1927; ET: Being and Time). Heidegger was concerned with clarifying the possibility of ontology; only when this has been worked out can the question of Being, which Heidegger understood as the basic question of Western philosophy, be asked explicitly and without unexplained assumptions. In this spirit, Heidegger points out that all o…

Maximus of Tyre

(140 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (c. 125 – c. 182), rhetorician with philosophical aspirations who was imbued with the ¶ ideas of late Platonism, of the Stoics, and of Cynicism (Cynics). A written work containing lectures (διαλέξεις/ dialéxeis) has been preserved. The lectures are eclectic and lack philosophical originality, but are characterized by rhetorical brilliance and didactic skill. Thematically, they offer reflections on the religio-philosophical and ethical discussion in the environment of early Christianity. Günter Figal Bibliography Works: Maximi Tyrii Philosophi Platonici…

Being

(1,927 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] The German Sein, which can be either the infinitive of the verb “to be” or a noun (“being”), is translated by English-language philosophers as “Being” (often capitalized). One who inquires into Being seeks to know what it means for something to exist – whether specifically or in general. In Greek philosophy, which set the terms of this debate, Being in this sense is expressed not only by means of a definite article plus infinitive, το εἶναι/ tóeînai, but also by means of the article plus participle τὸ ὄν/ tò ón (“that which is/exists”). From Plato onwards, the noun οὐσία/ ousía…

Entwurf

(263 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (design, draft, plan), is a term first used in a philosophically significant way by I. Kant, to designate the productive role of reason with respect to the realm ¶ of what is understandable. In this sense Kant says “that reason only understands that which it produces according to its own design [ Entwurf].” Reason needs to force nature “to answer its questions” instead of allowing itself to “be led, as it were, by the nose,” otherwise there will be no progress beyond …

Boethius, Anicius Manlius Torquatus Severinus

(428 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (c. 480, Rome [?] – c. 524, Pavia [?]) is considered the most significant Latin author of Late Antiquity ¶ and one of the most important figures in the mediation of classical philosophy to medieval civilization. His most famous work is De consolatione philosophiae (or Philosophiae consolationis libri quinque), written in the Neoplatonic tradition; it was one of the most widely read books in the Middle Ages and still finds readers today. Most of our …

Modernity

(1,057 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (from Lat. modernus, “new”; cf. Ger. Moderne) is a periodization concept which, though usage varies, properly designates the latter part of the modern age, in distinction from modern times (cf. Fr. temps modernes; Ital. eta moderna; Ger. Neuzeit), which refers to the modern age as a whole. There are various opinions as to exactly when modernity began. Koselleck proposes the earliest date for the beginning of modernity by stressing the importance of the “threshold of c. 1770” for “the transformation process (that led)…

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 …

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…

Cynics,

(326 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] a Greek philosophical school, believed to have been founded by a student of Socrates named Antisthenes (c. 455–360 bce), but whose truest representative was Diogenes of Sinope (died c. 320 bce). The name derives from Gk kýon, “dog,” an association explained by a comment of Philodem (after 110–40/35 bce) to the effect that the Cynics wanted to imitate a dog's way of life ( Stoicorum Index Herculanensis, ed. D. Comparetti, 1875, 339, 8), by which they meant living without shame or following human conventions. The Cynics trivialized the stra…

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 …

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…

Discourse

(156 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] is derived from Lat. discursus, “running to and fro,” and came to be used as a philosophical term in English and French (and thence also in German, as Diskurs), while “discursive” has been commonly employed as an antonym of “intuitive” since I. Kant. The English “discourse” and the French discours denote a linguistic unit that spans several sentences; it may be a speech, a narrative, a treatise, or a line of argumentation. In analytical philosophy, the “universe of discourse” denot…

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 …

Feyerabend, Paul

(144 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Jan 13, 1924, Vienna – Feb 11, 1994, Geneva) was an epistemologist who followed K.R. Popper in his early writings, but also turned against him after developing his own “anarchistic epistemology.” Feyerabend denies the existence of tenable criteria for scientific cognition. As with all other ways of experiencing the world, science can thus only be evalu-¶ ated under the perspective of creativity and originality. Feyerabend summarized this position by quoting the title of a Cole Porter hit, “Anything Goes.” Günter Figal Bibliography Works: “Against Method: Outli…

Self-consciousness (Self-awareness)

(2,248 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Korsch, Dietrich
[German Version] I. Philosophy Self-consciousness (or self-awareness) is knowledge of one’s own states, wishes, and intentions, together with assessment of one’s own person (II) in relationship to others. An essential element of self-consciousness is reflection, i.e. the ability to relate to one’s own states, wishes, and intentions, to the embeddedness of one’s own life in situations, and to the course of one’s own life. Thus self-consciousness is neither immediate knowledge nor a special case of co…
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