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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…

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…

Finitude

(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, …

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…

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…

Benjamin, Walter

(254 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (Jul 15, 1892, Berlin – Sep 27, 1940, Port Bou, France) left a rich oeuvre as a writer, translator, and philosopher. In the center of Benjamin's thought stands the attempt to rehabilitate religious, magical, and speculative experience in the medium of language. Benjamin wishes to regard the phenomena of the world from the perspective of their …

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…

Understanding

(1,637 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Herms, Eilert
[German Version] I. Philosophy It was not until the modern period that the concept of understanding became philosophically important. It gained currency by denoting the special kind of of knowledge in the humanities (Epistemology). What is understood is “historical material” (J.G. Droysen, ¶ Grundriss der Historik, 1868, §9; ET: Outline of the Principles of History, 1967) and any expression of human life. Thus the term “understanding” is used in contrast to explanation, which is used in connection with scientific, explicable nature. W. Dilthey made…

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…

Eros

(1,954 words)

Author(s): Konstan, David | Stock, Konrad | Figal, Günter
[German Version] I. The Term – II. Eros and Amor – III. Eros and Agape ( Caritas) – IV. Eros in Philosophy I. The Term The Greek term ἔρως/ éros, noun, verb ἐρᾶν/ erā́n (“to be in love with”), denotes an intense affection or desire. It can express a passion for an inanimate object, such as wine or one's city, or even for wisdom, as in Plato. However, eros is commonly associated with er…

Logos

(4,012 words)

Author(s): Peppel, Matthias | Slenczka, Notger | Figal, Günter
[German Version] I. History of Religion – II. Fundamental Theology – III. Philosophy I. History of Religion The Greek noun logos (λόγος/ lógos), which is derived from the verb λέγειν/ légein, “to say, to speak,” designates the human faculty of speech and ability to reason, usually in combination, as well as numerous individual aspects such as: sentence, topic, oration, prose, teaching, judgment, cause, conclusion, and reason. In its earliest attestations logos refers to an “oration,” whose deceptive effects are frequently emphasized (Hom. Od. I 56) – thus in the personific…

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 …

Parmenides

(437 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter
[German Version] (probably not before 510 – after 450 bce). Alongside Heraclitus, Parmenides was the most important thinker before Socrates and Plato. Nothing is known of his life apart from his birthplace, Elea in southern Italy. By contrast, his philosophy is well attested; the poem in hexameters, in which he presents it, has been preserved in large part, particularly in quotations given by Simplicius. Parmenides is the discoverer of the unity of being. This does not mean a unity imposed on being from outside; rather, it is imparted directly with the sense of “being” (ἐόν/ eón): everyth…

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…

Destruction

(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 …

Metaphor

(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…
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