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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…

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 …

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…

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…

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…

Moment

(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 …

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…
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