2001: Summaries

Contents (in Dutch)

Fokke Akkerman
Summary: Wrong Tracks in Interpreting Spinoza
In this article a number of separate text-passages and aspects of Spinoza’s Tractatus theologico-politicus are discussed in seventeen short, numbered sections. This is done in defence of the author’s published translation into Dutch of Spinoza’s TTP against the criticisms that have been advanced by Dr. W.N.A. Klever. Among the topics and terms treated are ratio vitae (a code of life-conduct) (1), free will (3), belief in revelation (4), civil law (5 and 6), reasoning and imagination (8), consultatio (deliberation or consultation?) (11), religion and politics (13), freedom of thought (14), the audience aimed at in the TTP (15), the uniqueness of Christ (16), the baroque structure of the TTP (17). At the end a small number of errata in the author’s translation of the TTP is listed.

Rudof Bernet
Summary: Pleasure and Displeasure. An Attempt at a Philosophical Foundation of Psychoanalytical Concepts
A correct understanding of what Freud means by “pleasure” and what he thinks of the possible ways to obtain pleasure requires an examination of his conceptions of the drive and of the libidinal body. Both theories are built on a variety of traditional philosophical views, the examination of which can help to overcome some of their obscurities. The reference to Leibniz and his Aristotelian understanding of the relation between pleasure and the force (vis activa) which animates the substance and maintains it in constant movement allows an account of what in the drive preserves it from total exhaustion and a consequent reversal of pleasure into displeasure. Similarly, an examination of Schopenhauer’s conception of the human body clarifies what Freud says about the “pleasure of the organ”. The necessity for the drive to invest a body is given thereby a metaphysical foundation. Furthermore Schopenhauer’s phenomenological description of the manner in which this driven body is experienced differently in the affect of pleasure or displeasure, and in an objective representation sheds new light on the relation between the libidinal body and the objective body.

Roland Breeur
Summary: Attila’s Cogito. On Consciousness and Liberty in Descartes
In a letter to Mesland (1645), Descartes suggests that “a greater freedom” consists in a positive faculty to follow “the worse”, although “we see the better”. What does such freedom presuppose? A good illustration of this kind of excess of the will, as suggested by Beyssade, is Attila, the “black hero” in one of Corneille’s tragedies. This article tries to relate the possibility of that freedom with th very nature of the cogito.

P. Cruysberghs
Summary: Aesthetic and Demonic Closeness in Kierkegaard. With Reference to the Story of the Merman in ‘Fear and Trembling’
As opposed to the ethical ideal of openness and communication Kierkegaard refers to an aesthetic strategy of closeness on the one hand, and to a demonic closeness on the other hand. The aesthetic closeness is the subject of Either/Or. The diary of John the Seducer in the first part offers a lively example of such a closeness, whereas judge William offers us an ironic diagnosis of a life that cultivates secrecy and furtiveness especially in love life, showing how it remains beneath the level of real love that requires openness and submission to the other.
In Fear and Trembling Johannes de silentio presents two forms of what Quidam in Stages on the Life’s Way calls demonic closeness. The first has a religious nature, the second is demonic in the stronger sense of the word. Both religious and demonic closeness represent a tendency to transcend the ethical duty of openness skipping the mediation of the universal. Abraham having to kill his son, is represented as the knight of faith: his closeness is inspired by religious motives; whereas the story of Agnete and the merman is used to show the ambiguities of demonic closeness, i.e. of an attachment to evil which leads towards extreme despair. While analysing the different versions of the story of the merman, the author tries to show that demonic closeness, i.e. sin, is the real theme of Fear and Trembling and of the whole of Kierkegaard’s authorship.

Karin de Boer
Summary: Time, the Animal, and the Genesis of Interiority: On Hegel’s Early Philosophy of Nature
In his early Jena System Drafts, Hegel elaborates a conception of time which is no longer thematized in later works such as the Encyclopaedia. Hegel’s early philosophy of nature bears not only on time insofar as it constitutes - together with space - the basic framework of the sciences, but also on the interiorization of time which occurs in the animal. This interiorization marks a decisive moment in the transition from nature to human consciousness, for it is here, in Hegels’ view, that time begins to enact itself as pure form of intuition. In this article I reconstruct Hegel’s conception of this transition by sketching out the movement in which the pure concept unfolds itself in the element of exteriority and, within the limits imposed by that element, increasingly overcomes its self-externalization. According to Hegel’s Jena texts, the concept initially determines itself as ether, space and time, reaches its turning point in the interiorization of time that occurs in the animal, and culminates in the distinction between the pure I and time which allows human consciousness to increasingly overcome its dependence on impressions caused by outward objects. I argue that this construction of the genesis of human consciousness sheds new light on Hegel’s understanding of the relation between the pure concept and time, and hence on his philosophy as such.

Lieven Decock
Summary: Attributes, Sets and Predicates. Quine’s Struggle with Universals
The development and changes in Quine’s ideas on universals are analysed, and especially the interplay of the notions of attribute, set and predicate is highlighted. In a first logico-mathematical part it is shown how Quine banned attributes as a result of extensionalism, and how set-theoretic solutions for Russell’s paradox disturbed the easy view of each predicate determining a class. Quine even tried to formulate nominalistic theories without universals (sets). It is further shown how linguistic considerations played a role in Quine’s ideas on universals. The role of predicates is scrutinised, and it is shown how they are torn between logical and linguistic demands. It is suggested that the role of attributes has been taken over by predicates. This semantic role of predicates is quite unstable. I conclude with the suggestion that Quine should separate set theory and linguistics more radically.

Jos Decorte
Summary: Medieval and Contemporary Appreciation of Mystical Love
In this contribution the author defends the thesis that the rise of mystical movements replacing the traditional religions is a dubious phenomenon. Many people seem to think that the revival of mystical movements is an apt answer to the religious crisis we are living in. Even when they are not interested in commercial success but solely in going back to the historical roots of mysticism, those movements often fail to realize that traditional mysticism is deeply embedded in a religious tradition, and cannot work or be effective when dissolved from this religious bedrock. To substantiate this thesis, the author analyzes the essence and function of Christian religion in the Middle Ages, i.e., the attempt to learn to live with unfulfilled desires, as a kind of wisdom (sapientia), that saves us from the vanity (vanitas) of endless new desires, and from the pride (superbia), that testifies to itself in the frustration over an unfulfilled desire. Second he shows that the historical mystical movement is nothing but a prolongation and intensification of the movement set in motion by religion. Whereas in religion one still keeps one’s desires, though unfulfilled, mysticism appears more radical in that it destroys the desires themselves, and consequently also the I. Anyhow, from all this is clear that mystical liberation cannot work outside religious liberation - in spite of what many people nowadays seem to think on the basis of a certain presentation of historical mysticism as anti-institutional and anti-clerical.

W. Desmond
Summary: Enemies
Much has been written on love and friendship, but not a lot on the nature of an enemy, in a manner analogous to the nature of love itself. To understand something about what it means to be an enemy is not at all self-evident. And if we do not know what an enemy is, do we really know what a friend or a lover is? An understanding of what it means to be an enemy might offer us something like the reverse negative of love or friendship. From holding the reversed negative to the light perhaps we can also gain some sight of the “unreversed” original. The article discusses the fact that we live life as something that offers us a certain affirmative delight in the “to be” as good. It explores how this is changed in relation to different forms of threat. It situated the nature of an enemy in terms of the equivocal constitution of the human being as passio essendi and conatus essendi. Different kinds of enemy are investigated by considering the “reversed negatives” of these four forms of love: self-affirming love, erotic love, philia, and agapeic love.

Ian Hacking
Summary: On Sympathy: with other Creatures
Animal liberationists have increased our moral concern for animals, to the extent that many now think that animals have rights. I am very cautious about the arguments of these philosophers, although I agree with many of their precepts. In this respect, I am aligned with the powerful essays of Cora Diamond. I argue that something like what Hume calls sympathy is essential for expanding circles of moral concern, and develop some Humeian ideas. Sympathy with, and not simply sympathy for. Suffering is too narrow a range of concern. It is not as if the pain and pleasure of the utilitarians were the only ways in which we could be concerned with others. As Hume argued, animals share most human emotions, and it is through sympathy with the entire range that our worlds join. It is increasingly difficult for most of us to realize this, because human relationships with animals have changed since Hume’s day. The multi-species barnyard has all but disappeared. We now live in a world of televised wilderness. To exaggerate, our species lives alone for the first time. Animal liberationists have the effect of enlarging our moral world, but should do so not just by attending to suffering or to rights of an animal, but to the whole creature, a being with which we can resonate.

C. Lansink
Summary: Self-Denial and Self-Acceptance: The Meaning of Detachment in Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard
What is the ultimate motivating force of human life? What is het essence of human beings? This article confronts the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard against the backdrop of these two interrelated questions. It is intended to show that their answers to these great metaphysical questions, notwithstanding a number of striking formal similarities, radically differ from each other. In order to shed light on these differences, I investigate their respective reflections on ‘detachment’. Schopenhauer interprets detachment as the way in which human beings attempt to negate their essence, that is to say, to liberate themselves from the blind will to life that inevitably entails pain and suffering. Kierkegaard, on the other hand, takes detachment to refer to the attempt of human beings to liberate themselves from an insubstantial aesthetical inspiration. This liberation should precisely allow them to assume their essence, that is to say, to take responsibility for the ethical dimension of their life. Kierkegaard considers that one can only accomplish one’s own life by taking responsibility for the life of others; moreover, this responsibility entails that one frees the other person for the ethical task to be responsible for his own life. This latter liberation - a specific mode of care - constitutes a form of detachment different from the one that a person might achieve with respect to himself. I consider the different modes of detachment developed by Kierkegaard to have much more to contribute to an understanding of ethical life than the one we find in Schopenhauer. The ‘dialogue’ between Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer thus seems to end in an impasse, or, as Kierkegaard might have put it, in an either-or. This irreconcilable opposition might be traced back, I suggest, to the fact that Kierkegaard believes in a benevolent and faithful God whereas Schopenhauer does not.

Paul Moyaert
Summary: Courtly Love. Sublimation through Idealisation
I argue that courtly love can throw a new light upon two major problems in Freud’s theory of sublimation. For Freud sublimation is the proces in which the sexual aim of the drives is diverted towards a non-sexual aim that is still related with the original one. The first problem regards the relation between the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem. Freud describes this relation with different terms. The notion of ‘desexualisation’ represents precisely what he has in mind. This term propounds that Freud understands sublimation as a one-sided movement that consists in leaving behind the original sexual aim. Courtly love proves that desexualisation as Freud understands it, is not a necessary condition for sublimation. A weakening of Freud’s strong claim concerning desexualisation implies however that the distinction between sublimation and perversion is not always clear-cut. The second problem appertains to the processes that bring about the transformation of the sexual aim. Courtly love infers that idealisation of the love-object can play an important role in bringing about sublimation. The kind of sublimation that corresponds to courtly love is what has been called in German Idealism ‘Verführung’ (rapture).
Psychoanalytic theory is not willing to conceive idealisation in this sense. According to the classical psychoanalytic theory, idealisation produces repression of sexual drives. I argue that this idea is counter-intuitive and that Freud’s understanding of idealisation is more subtle. I give a short overview of Freud’s approach of idealisation and I denote some elements in his approach that help us to describe the direct link between idealisation and sublimation. Idealisation of the beloved can go together with an inhibition of sexual drives. But it is wrong to identify aim-inhibition with repression. I suggest to characterize the interaction between idealisation and sublimation as an exaltation of drives.

Vasti Roodt
Summary: Amor fati, amor mundi
The purpose of this article is twofold: to examine the origins and ruinous consequences of the teleological conception of history that characterises modernity, and to explore an alternative, non-instrumental conception of history and historical judgement that does not fall prey to the snares inherent in the modern project. To this end, the article draws on insights generated by Nietzsche and Arendt in their respective analyses of the link between history, action and the worldly domain of cultural and/or political engagement. The argument is divided into three sections: the first section explores the significance of history as portrayed by Nietzsche and Arendt, followed, in section two, by an analysis of their respective criticisms of a teleological conception of history that underlies the philosophical and political practices of modernity. The third part of the paper then explores action, narrative and judgement as constituent elements in an alternative conception of the relationship between historicity and worldliness. This alternative, it is argued, presents a challenge to the privatised individuals of late-modernity to re-think our relations with one another in the context of a shared, public domain; that is to say, to re-think history and praxis beyond the confines of subjectivity or teleology for the love of the world that lies between us.

Paul Schuurman
Summary: Descartes’ Hybrid Physics: Certain Principles and Hypothetic Models
The interpretation of Descartes’ physics as given in the Principia Philosophiae should take into account the fundamental differences between its two levels. First, in Principia Part II there is the level formed by his general physical principles, i.e. his three Laws of Nature. Second, in Principa Part III and Part IV there is the level of Descartes’ explanations for the different phenomena. While pretending to give physical principles that are certain and not based on empirical evidence, he admits that his explanatory models for the physical phenomena have a hypothetical character. In these models empirical evidence plays a vital role - if not in practice than at least in theory. The article ends with a discussion of the problems, posed by these differences between two levels, for Descartes’ view of one unified science.

J. Taels
Summary: Speaking on One’s Own Behalf. Primitiveness, Word and Speech Act in Søren Kierkegaard
According to recent studies Kierkegaard must be recognized as the precursor or even the father of postmodernism. One of the chief exponents of this trend is J.D. Caputo, who, especially in his Radical Hermeneutics (1987), presents Kierkegaard’s thought in line with Heidegger’s or Derrida’s philosophy as a huge effort “to restore factical existence to its original difficulty”. In my paper I first try to show what could be the Kierkegaardian sense of the “original difficulty” of existence by analysing the unpublished and uncomplete manuscript Dialectics of the Ethical and Ethical-Religious Communication. In this text Kierkegaard, in polemics with modern culture and modern philosophy, argues in favour of “a more primitive thinking”. Secondly I present in a broad outline the crucial contentions of Kierkegaard’s philosophical production: (1) The concept of human being is normative; (2) The ethical task of each singular human being consists in transforming the psychic qualification of his existence in a pneumatic one; (3) The bedrock normative practice that determines the human being as “pneumatic” is the existential speech-act. Finally I summarize the main points of difference between the proposed interpretation of Kierkegaard’s thought and Caputo’s post-modern view.

Bart Vandenabeele
Summary: Shuddering with Pleasure in Hell. Ethical and Tragic Dimensions of the Sublime Feeling
This article discusses Kant’s and Schopenhauer’s analyses of the feeling of the sublime. The focus is on the relationship between their ethics and aesthetics. It is argued that the kantian-schopenhauerian analysis of the sublime reveals an insurmountable fissure at the heart of subjectivity. This points out that a dialectical interpretation of kantian-schopenhauerian aesthetics, that reduces the sublime feeling to a kind of bridge or passage (Übergang) from the beautiful to the good is not without complications. Although this is not always explicitly acknowledged by Kant and Schopenhauer, some of their remarks show that the sublime feeling confronts the subject affectively with the impossibility to coincide with itself. In the first section, it is shown that the sublime in Kant cannot be fully explained by interpreting it merely as the (preparatory) feeling of a kind of ethical superiority. Moreover, in the light of recent developments in art history (which offers sundry examples of the extremely sublime to the abject), the ethical mediation of sublime communicability as it is offered by Kant and Schopenhauer (section 2) can no longer be defended as valid alternatives. As is claimed in section 3, a deep tragic heterogeneity manifests itself in an exemplary way in the affective ambivalence typical of the sublime feeling, which cannot be ethically or dialectically recuperated.

Koo van der Wal
Summary: A Balance of Twentieth Century Philosophy. Or: What did we Learn in the Field of Philosophy during the Past Century?
Looking back at the twentieth century the (admittedly formidable) question is what we have ‘learned’ in the field of philosophy in that century. In the case of philosophy ‘learning’ is understood as getting a more adequate insight into the frameworks in terms of which we spell our experience, in particular as getting an eye for aspects of it that were overlooked or insufficiently noticed in the philosophy of earlier periods.
In that connection four themes are discussed: 1) subjectivity and inwardness, i.e. the issue of the special mode of being of the subject (especially in existential philosophy and phenomenology); 2) intersubjectivity and connectedness, i.e. the ‘discovery’ that by the relation between subjects a very special dimension of reality is indicated that cannot be adequately characterized in terms of the subject-object relationship (especially dialogical and hermeneutic philosophy); 3) mediation, the issue that meanings are always context and tradition bound, that subjectivity, mind, etc., manifest themselves only as ‘incarnated’, mediated by nature (philosophy of language, philosophy of mind); and 4) the evolution from a uniform to a manifold concept of rationality and experience (epistemology, philosophy of science, general philosophy).

Bart van Leeuwen
Summary: Recognition, Identity and Difference. The Moral Logic behind Multiculturalism
The main argument of this paper is concerned with a formal recognition of difference, namely recognition of the value of a culture for the other. Axel Honneth makes a distinction between three types of recognition: (1) love, (2) respect and (3) social esteem. Recognition of cultural difference is situated in the third sphere. There are two problems with his proposals. In the first place he constructs appreciation for cultural difference as a moral imperative in the form of ‘solidarity’. When it comes to normative demands in the third sphere of recognition, our alternative is ‘hermeneutic openness’. In the second place, formal respect in Honneth’s scheme is solely the universal recognition of personal autonomy and its preconditions. But the logic of a recognition of cultural difference, also asks for a non-evaluative recognition, a respect for difference. Difference-respect cannot be reduced to personal autonomy, but is oriented towards another dimension of the human condition, what we call social ties. By recognising the moral importance both of personal autonomy and of social ties, we do not have to surrender to the reductive bent in modern moral philosophy. Will Kymlicka’s proposals for that matter are not fully convincing.

Gerd Van Riel
Summary: Plato and Aristotle: Two Paradigms of Pleasure
According to Plato, pleasure consists in the replenishment of a lack, i.e., in restoring the natural condition. At first sight, this might seem to mean that pleasure is always linked to previous pain. However Plato stresses the importance of so-called ‘true’ or ‘pure’ pleasure, which is not paired by pain. The acceptance of this type of pleasure depends on a dissociation of the definition of pleasure and pain from the physiological condition that underlies them (i.e., lack and replenishment). The latter are inescapable: our condition is subject to an everlasting whirl of lack and replenishment, although they are not always perceptible. Pleasure is, then, the experienced replenishment of a lack. This qualification allows one to introduce important nuances in the theory of pleasure: ‘pure’ or ‘true’ pleasure occurs in those cases where the preceding lack was not felt, and thus did not give rise to pain. ‘Mixed’ or ‘impure’ pleasures, on the other hand, refer to cases where both the lack and the replenishment are perceptible. A third situation is the so-called ‘neutral state’, which consists in a coincidence of unfelt lack and imperceptible replenishment.
According to Aristotle, who disagrees with Plato on almost every detail of the doctrine of pleasure, pleasure consists in the unimpaired activity of a disposition in its natural condition, i.e., pleasure is a sign of nature indicating that the situation is all right, when any faculty operates as it should. In this model, pleasure is not a ‘movement’ or a process, and neither can it be excessive in se.
These two models are criticized for accepting a necessary link between pleasure and the conditions described in the definitions. This seems to misrepresent an essential characteristic of pleasure: pleasure can always fail to occur, even if the concrete situation completely fits the terms set by the definition. Or, conversely, it can suddenly occur, even if the conditions outlined in the definition are not met.

Paul Verhaeghe
Summary: Freud’s Drive Theory. From Partial Pulsion to Eros/Thanatos
In this article, the author discusses the thesis that Freudo-Lacanian psychoanalysis proposes a radical split between man and animal, and argues that this split is closely connected to the drive. Arguments for this thesis are found in the works of Freud and Lacan. According to Freud, the inner traumatic pressure (‘Drang’) of the drive becomes from its first occurrence associated with the figure of the external Other. From this Other, an answer or representation is expected. Two central problems regarding the drive are discussed, the representation problem and the problem of aim. The representation problem relates to the unbridgeable gap between the real of the drive and the symbolic presence of the Other. The problem of aim concerns the contradictory intention inherent in the drive. Freud found that two tendencies are working at the same time. One is striving towards complete separation and the other strives to undo the separation. This brought him to formulate a dualism in his drive theory: the relationship between Thanatos and Eros. This dualism explains why the drive remains ever unsatisfied: once one aim is reached the possibility of reaching the other is lost, and vice versa. As a conclusion, Lacan’s main ideas on this subject are mentioned. The double and contradictory aim of the drive is traced back to a double lack. A primordial lack is situated in the Real, since eternal life is lost. Within humans, attempts to undo this loss lead to a second (Symbolic) lack. The original lack is thereby re-written as a phallic lack in the relation between subject and Other. As a consequence the primordial loss is confirmed on a different and more distant level. The result is a circular, non-reciprocal relationship ‘qui ne cesse pas de ne pas s’écrire’. The missing link between man and nature remains missing.

K. Verstrynge
Summary: With Kierkegaard against Kierkegaard
In his posthumous publication The Book on Adler (1872), Kierkegaard provides the reader, by way of his pseudonymous author Petrus Minor, with the distinction between a “premisse-author” and an “essential author”. Along with this difference, a fundamental criterion for all authentic communication between author and reader is given. After having described this distinction in the first part, the paper connects this insight with Climacus’ analysis of the subjective thinker and the “essential knowledge” which he ascribes to him in the second part of the article. Also the specific character of indirect communication used throughout Kierkegaard’s entire pseudonymous production corresponds to that paradigm. The third part of the article focuses on Kierkegaard’s own authorship. As an author, one of Kierkegaard’s main concerns was to safeguard and render manifest the (religious) life-view from which his productions stemmed. Especially in his autobiographical work The Point of View for My Work as an Author (1859), his implicit attempt to judge his own authorship as “essential” becomes apparent. But especially here, the conflict between the meaning of Kierkegaard’s indirect method and the idea of the essential authorship comes to the fore.