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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 …

Mimesis

(1,016 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] is both “imitation” and “representation.” For example, when someone is said to destroy his life through mimesis of a tyrant (Plato Gorg. 511a), the former is meant; when the sculptor is said to produce the mimesis of a body (Hippocrates, DK 22, C 1,29), the reference is to the latter. The term is philosophically significant for Plato because of both meanings. Although Plato adopted the term from the theory of music, it did not have primary significance in the philosophy of art. But in reference to art…

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…

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 …

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, …

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

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 …

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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

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)…

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 …

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 …
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