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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 …

Wisdom

(1,471 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Hailer, Martin | Wahl, Heribert
[German Version] I. Philosophy Wisdom is the knowledge that philosophy aspires to. It is an element of the Greek word for philosophy, which combines the verb φιλέω/ philéō, “love, aspire to,” with the noun σοφία/ sophía. Initially σοφία had no particular philosophical significance. The word denoted expert skill in the practice of an art or craft. Aristotle, who was responsible for developing the word’s specifically philosophical sense, introduced σοφία by calling it “the perfection of an art” (ἀρετὴ τέχνης/ aretḗtéchnēs; Eth. Nic. 1141a 12). The designation of philosophical ins…

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…

Memory

(1,437 words)

Author(s): Assmann, Jan | Schröter, Jens | Figal, Günter
[German Version] I. Religious Studies – II. Bible – III. Philosophy I. Religious Studies Memory, in the present context, is the ability to store motor skills, experiences, and learned materialover longer periods; remembrance on the other hand has to do with the use of memory. Individual memory is already ¶ socially conditioned (through language, socialization, cultural setting) and thus has a communicative character. Institutionalization (e.g. feasts, school) and objectivization (e.g. rites [Rite and ritual], texts) serve to stabilize the co…

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 …

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, …

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…

Validity

(859 words)

Author(s): Figal, Günter | Dreier, Ralf | Grube, Dirk-Martin
[German Version] I. Philosophy The term validity was already used by I. Kant ( Akademie-Ausgabe IV, 460f.), but it did not play a prominent role in philosophy until the late 19th century. Validity is an actuality, not further explicable, that is understood primarily in contrast to existence. In this sense, R.H. Lotze distinguished between things, which exist, events, which take place, and propositions, which are valid ( Grundzüge der Logik und Encyklopädie der Philosophie, 1902; ET: Outlines of Logic and of Encyclopædia of Philosophy, 1892). To say that a proposition is valid …

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…

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…
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