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Theory and Praxis

(4,249 words)

Author(s): Linde, Gesche | Figal, Günter | Westhelle, Vítor | Herms, Eilert | Meyer-Blanck, Michael
[German Version] I. Natural Sciences The distinction between theory as a consistent linguistic or symbolic system of ordered statements about a par-¶ ticular subject area or phenomenal domain and practice (praxis) as technical action to produce quantifiable phenomena in an experiment, or at least observation against the background of a theory, is fundamental to the modern natural sciences, although the precise definition of the relationship between the two is disputed and is addressed by the philosophy of science. Usually the relationship between theory and praxis is desc…


(276 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] is (as Destruktion) a term in M. Heidegger's philosophy in the 1920s that appeared first in his lecture in the summer semester of 1920 and was extensively elucidated in the programmatic work Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles (1923). “Destruction” refers to the “dismantling” of tradition in terms of the self-evidence of its concepts and discourse. This destruction is necessary in order to expose and repeat the origina…

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 …


(2,992 words)

Author(s): Löser, Philipp | Figal, Günter | Mühling, Markus | Mädler, Inken
[German Version] I. Literary Criticism – II. Philosophy – III. Philosophy of Religion – IV. Fundamental Theology – V. History of Art I. Literary Criticism Metaphor (Gk μεταφορά/ metaphorá, “transfer,” from μεταφέρω/ metaphérō, “to transfer”) is a figure of speech in which, by means of a linguistic image, that is, in a figurative sense, reference is made to an object. The semantic analysis of metaphor, its distinction from other tropes, and discussion of the effectiveness and comprehensibility of poetic metaphors are some of the more difficult tasks of literary criticism. Definit…

Gadamer, Hans-Georg

(1,026 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Feb 11, 1900, Marburg – Mar 13, 2002). Gadamer is the most important representative of philosophical hermeneutics; the fact that hermeneutics has developed into a firmly established philosophical approach is due to him and his principal work, Wahrheit und Methode, 1969 (ET: Truth and Method, 21989). Gadamer studied first in Wrocław (Breslau) and then in Marburg. In 1922 he obtained his doctorate under P. Natorp. In 1923 he spent a semester studying in Freiburg im Breisgau, where he met M. Heidegger, who was to become his re…

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…


(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 …

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…


(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…

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice

(515 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Mar 3, 1908, Rochefort – May 3, 1961 Paris), French philosopher, leading representative of phenomenology. After completing his studies, Merleau-Ponty taught first in secondary schools, and then, between 1935 and 1939, at the École Normale Supérieure, where he had been a student. During the German occupation of France he was active in the resistance. In 1945 he became professor in Lyon, and a year later returned to Paris, first to the Sorbonne. From 1952 until his death he taught at the Collège de France. From 1945 to 1953 he edited the periodical ¶ Les temps modernes, toge…


(258 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] A moment stands out in one's experience of time. While the mathematical, punctiliar “now” is empty, the ecstatically perceived moment marks a distinctive, no longer temporal suddenness. The most important writer on the moment in modern philosophy and theology has been S. Kierkegaard, who in turn was influenced by Plato's dialogue Parmenides and the idea of the “sudden” (τὸ ἐξαίϕνης/ tó exaíphnēs) developed in it. For Kierkegaard, the moment marks the point at which a human being becomes spirit: spirit is the place where the eternal and the …

Nietzsche, Friedrich

(2,451 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Oct 15, 1844, Röcken near Leipzig–Aug 25, 1900, Weimar). Nietzsche is the key philosophical figure for understanding modernity. Like no other before him, he diagnosed the break with tradition taking place in his time and reflected on the consequences of this process. In doing so, his intention was neither to glorify the past nor to count on a better future. Nietzsche is not a romantic and not a propagandist of progress, but sees himself as a transition thinker; he looks back on a his-¶ tory that bears the stamp of Christianity and metaphysics, and weighs up the …


(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…

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…


(1,112 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Adriaanse, Hendrik Johan
[German Version] I. Philosophy – II. Philosophy of Religion – III. Dogmatics I. Philosophy In philosophy, finitude refers basically to that which has bounds or is limited and already R. Descartes considered it a defining essence of human being and knowing. This idea was adopted by I. Kant and extensively dealt with in the discussion of the human ability of cognition. In German idealism, especially in F.W.J. Schelling and G.F.W. Hegel, the interdependence or dialectics of finitude and infinity was the focus of philosophical concern. Schelling initially understood finitude ( Fernere…

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, …

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…


(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…


(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 …
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