Contents (in Dutch)
Summary: Human Nature between Technics and Ethics
De Dijn’s book Taboes, monsters en loterijen is a succesful attempt to overcome the narrowness of much of the applied ethics that is dominant in our technological culture. However on two points the position of the author could be corroborated. In the first place the suggestion of a general accepted idea about human nature on which ethics could be built, turns out to be based mainly on the Christian-humanist western tradition. The argument could be strengthened either by adopting a certain etnocentrism or by dropping the central concept of human nature. Secondly the fundamental independence that De Dijn claims for ethics in a technological culture is belied by an already long tradition of research in STS (Science, Technology, Society). It seems better to acknowledge these empirical findings and to develop a position that accepts the interaction between technology and ethics as a starting point for a critical analysis.
Summary: On Fetishes and Ghosts. Marx and Derrida
In his hauntology or ‘ghost theory’, Derrida both subscribes to and rejects Marx’s famous exposition on commodities fetishism. He subscribes to Marx’s analysis of the world of merchandise as a shadowy world which covers up how exactly society produces this merchandise. His rejection pertains to the invariant structure typical of all discussions of fetishism. This structure, in which the fetish is determined as a substitute for the real item, presupposes a determinable distinction between substitute and the real item. It will be shown that Marx’s concept of fetish does indeed rest on this presupposition, because it assumes that the utility value of the commodity can be dissociated from its market value. Derrida’s hauntology wants to retain the critical dimension of Marx’s exposition on fetishism, without incorporating its intrinsic ontology.
Summary: Proust on Time and Reality
Walter Biemel designated Time as the real protagonist of Proust’s In Search of Time Lost. This article wants to analyse in detail the complex inner structure of that “proustian time” by focusing on the existence of a double tension. Indeed, the awareness of time of the novel’s protagonist “Marcel” seems to be determined by surprising “paradoxes”. The first one betrays a strange opposition between, on the one hand, a very lucid description of temporality as a devastating power, but on the other hand, a complete blindness to one’s own ageing. The second tension consists in the fact that, although in one respect everything changed and all characters in the novel grew older, still at the end of his “search”, and on the occasion of his long meditation about the meaning of the “souvenirs involontaires” and the works of art, Marcel affirms that he “remained the same”. What is the meaning of this “sameness” in connection with time, and more precisely, in relating with the fact that everything vanishes, changes and dies? What have both tensions to do with each other?
Summary: Foundations and Methods of Murdoch’s Moral Philosophy
Iris Murdoch’s moral philosophy concerns the sovereignty of the Good. In the first part of this text, the basic arguments of Murdoch’s thought are discussed. Murdoch takes her starting point from an imagistic conception of morality. Far from being neutral observers of facts, human beings are imaginative perceivers: things and persons are ‘seen as’. Imagination is at play in all human perceptions and reflections; which therefore are evaluations. All the time values are seen everywhere. This imagistic conception of morality then, goes hand in hand with the notion of the ubiquity of values, which becomes obvious when different activities are analysed. The analysis shows that all human activities are moral experiences. The awareness of doing something more or less successfully leads the way to the idea of perfection. Further reflection on this idea is highly problematic. Murdoch enacts Socrates’ (or Plato’s) discretion when asked to define the Good. She takes her cue from Anselm’s arguments. A thoroughly moral interpretation of these arguments enables Murdoch to conclude that the idea of the Good is an inevitable reality. It is, however, also a universal. Specific criteria of goodness are derived from particular activities. The imagistic conception of morality, the insight in the ubiquity of values, the proposition that the idea of the Good is inevitable, and the argument that this idea is inextricably linked to the particularities of concrete life, constitute the foundations of Murdoch’s moral philosophy, or, as she claims, of any serious moral philosophy.
The second part of the text posits the question of a method proper to moral philosophy. It is argued that any attempt to delineate a specific method for moral philosophy is misleading. It is characteristic of the nature of morality to view methods metaphorically. Murdoch practises the metaphorical conception of method in all of her writings. Therefore it is not improper to explain her moral thought by a reading of both her novels and her philosophical essays. Read together, they prove to be an illuminating ‘guide to morals’.
Summary: Europe and Beyond. Nietzsche’s View from afar
The present essay reconstructs a concept that up until now has received little attention: Nietzsche’s concept of ‘über-europäisch’ (‘supra-European’, ‘over-European’), where Europe is what has to be overcome, gone beyond, left behind. The philosopher already considers Thus Spake Zarathustra as an attempt at an ‘oriental overview of Europe’, but only after this poem do his reflections concentrate on the ‘supra-European’. His ‘good Europeans’ should not only be ‘supra-national’, but finally ‘supra-European’, i. e., they must be able, at least occasionally and temporarily, to transcend the horizon of Western culture. This is the turn Nietzsche gives to his critique of European morals after the Zarathustra. In European history he sees, if not a tradition of overcoming boundaries, at least some isolated individuals who at times have approached a supra-European way of thinking, and sets himself the task of a ‘supra-European view of Europe’. There are a few reasons to doubt whether he really accomplished it, but his attempt can be considered one model of the distant view on Western thought that remains a challenge for Europe itself.
Herman De Dijn
Summary: Resistance, Hermeneutics, and Monster Assimilation
This paper is a reply to my critics (see the other papers in this issue) on three points:
- My book is not an apologetics for Catholic tradition in general or traditional moral views in bio-ethics, but a plea for a philosophical-hermeneutical reappropriation of metaphors and insights (partly) from that tradition;
- My book is not a defence of the traditional natural law approach, but an attempt at an hermeneutical and internal critical elucidation of ethical sensibility;
- I disagree with a pragmatic attitude leading to ‘monster assimilation’ and with pleas for a ‘transcendance opératoire’ of existing human nature and its cultural-symbolic ‘mindedness’.
Gerard de Vries
Summary: Styles of Ethical Reasoning in Late Modernity
A cursory view of the history of ethical thinking shows the presence of a limited variety of ‘styles of ethical reasoning’, a term used in analogy of Crombie’s ‘styles of scientific reasoning’ for systems of thought that set their own standards and techniques for providing evidence. Each style of reasoning tends to suggest a specific role for ethicists. Styles are appropriate relative to particular contexts of problems and require special institutions to flourish.
Herman De Dijn’s discussion in Taboes, monsters en loterijen of the problems hybrids produced in biomedicine and biotechnology pose for the symbolic order is shown to rest on two ‘styles of ethical reasoning’, viz. ‘postulation of principles’ and ‘hermeneutics’. It is argued that both styles fall short, but for different reasons. ‘Postulation of principles’ is ill-equipped to answer problems posed by a world of change. Hermeneutics requires a pace of time and institutions not available in current society. Confronted with the problems De Dijn discusses, therefore two separate problems arise. Ethicists not only have to learn how to account for the hybrids that biomedicine and biotechnology produce, they also have to think about and contribute to institutional innovation. Rather than opening a space for discussing both tasks, De Dijn’s styles of reasoning close off this matter.
Summary: Inner Life and Transcendental Philosophy in Husserl
‘Inner Life and Transcendental Philosophy’ explores the interconnection between two difficult and ambiguous concepts from Husserl’s later writings: “inwardness” (Innerlichkeit) and “instreaming” (Einströmen). “Inwardness” for Husserl refers not to some closed off sanctum or subjective point of observation, but a developed sensitivity to the life and movement of concepts, one that can be cultivated as the result of phenomenological reflection. “Instreaming” refers to the effect, or influence that knowledge of the transcendental dimension of experience has on everyday, non-transcendental life thanks to this cultivated inwardness. The argument of this paper is that Husserl’s discussion of the place, significance, and impact of transcendental philosophy represents a nuanced and sophisticated assessment of our dependency on concepts, and a healthy appreciation of the limits of our ability to govern this dependency with the aid of philosophy, even ‘transcendental’ philosophy.
Summary: Man as ‘Schicksal’. The Anthropological Basis for Schicksal Analysis
In this article the author argues that Szondi’s conception of the drives differs radically from the Freudian notion of the drive. These differences also result in a different perspective on the problems of pleasure and unpleasure and of freedom and pathology. As such, Szondi’s theory of the drives contains the kernel of a philosophical anthropology that could overcome the problems of Freudian-Kleinian psychoanalysis. Szondi thinks the drives in terms of spontaneity and conflict, not in terms of satisfaction and defence. In this way, Szondi develops a philosophical anthropology which at the same time elucidates the possibilities of the human being as well as his propensity towards madness and barbarism.
Summary: Prophetic Revelation and Miracle in Spinoza’s ‘Theological-Political Treatise’: A Philosophical and/or Theological Question?
In Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus two phenomena, which are of crucial importance for revealed religion, namely prophetic revelation and miracle, are investigated in two different ways. The first phenomenon, prophetic revelation, is primarily considered as a theological issue and is mainly discussed on the basis of biblical research. The second phenomenon, miracle, is primarily considered as a philosophical issue and is mainly discussed on the basis of rational principles. The question is raised why Spinoza is using two different methods to discuss these two issues. Some have argued that Spinoza is using these two different methods on account of strategic reasons. Nevertheless, such a strategic explanation is not entirely satisfactory in so far as it ignores more substantial reasons, which are related to the content of the issues mentioned. In search of these substantial reasons it is necessary to investigate Spinoza’s discussion of the phenomena of prophetic revelation and miracle in more detail. This investigation leads to the conclusion that Spinoza exerts himself more to give causal explanations of miracles than of prophetic revelations, although both phenomena are considered by him as purely natural. However, in the last analysis both extraordinary phenomena are considered as inexplicable natural events, which in this respect are not different from all ordinary natural events. In this way we discover at the border of Spinoza’s rigorous rationalism a new enchantment of the world.
Summary: The Situation of Transcendental Arguments
Transcendental arguments are widely understood as anti-skeptical arguments. These arguments point out the conceptual structure of every possible knowledge and experience that cannot be refuted by the skeptical challenge. In this sense, transcendental arguments are supra-temporal. This is so because the necessary conditions of possible knowledge and experience do not change, but rather, are independent from relation to any specific situation of arguing. In contrast to this position, firstly this article attempts to demonstrate that transcendental arguments cannot reach their emphatic goal of sketching a conceptual scheme that is resistant to any form of skepticism. Secondly, the paper endeavors to point out that the proper sense of transcendental arguments is to understand only if one considers also the reference of transcendental arguments to the concrete situation of arguing transcendentally.
Summary: Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Humanity
Nietzsche’s critique of Christianity is approached by asking how far it implicitly relies upon Christian concepts and resources in implementing its criticisms. The essay first looks in detail at the parable of the madman in Gay Science, focussing in particular on its double address to theists as well as atheists; I explore its implicit invocation of Macbeth, as well as its articulation of an implicit theology of Holy Saturday, which roots the thought of God’s death in Christian conceptions of the full implications of the Incarnation. The second half of the essay examines the Genealogy of Morality; it focusses on Nietzsche’s implicit admiration for the will to power implied in the slave revolt, his conception of himself as speaking against Christianity from a position prepared by it, and the ways in which his account of that revolt reiterates the structure of the Christian account of the Fall.
Summary: Poetics and Politics. On Tragical Mimesis Imitating Action
This paper is an attempt to compare Plato and Aristotle with respect to their approach of both politics and tragic poetry. The paper argues that Plato approaches both topics in terms of a solitary contemplation or speculation which ultimately is the exclusive privilege of the philosopher, whereas Aristotle approaches them in terms of the ability everyone has to judge situations affecting human interaction. As a result of the first approach the specialized activity of the expert is put on a higher level than the activity of praxis understood as a sharing of words and deeds among peers. On the contrary, in the second approach praxis is taken to be higher than any specialized production.
Joris L. Van Damme
Summary: Intolerance, Indifference and Deference.
It seems that we can’t speak about intolerance without first speaking about tolerance. This paper argues that we should think in the opposite direction. Before conceptualising tolerance we must first tackle the issue of intolerance and indifference. I propose to think of intolerance not as a privation of tolerance but as the expression of an original attitude. Two kinds of intolerance are distinguished. Next to the intolerance which is interwoven with the vulnerability of what Martha Nussbaum calls ‘external goods, ’ there are excessive forms of intolerance like fanaticism. This article focuses on a paradigmatic case of the first form of intolerance. This ambivalent case is analysed in close connection with phenomena like defilement, pollution and blasphemy. Special attention is paid to the crucial role of seemingly unimportant rituals of excuse, marks of honour and gestures of respect and deference. In the last part I try to show how some forms of zealous fanaticism can be related to the first kind of intolerance. Fanaticism and indifference are thought of as two extreme ways of dealing with the vulnerability of the things we care about. By way of conclusion I sketch a model in which the relations between intolerance, indifference, fanaticism and tolerance are pictured.
Geert Van Eekert
Summary: In Quid a Posterioribus? Soteriology after the ‘End of Metaphysics’
Verhack’s book De mens en zijn onrust. Over het raadsel van de beweging (Man and his Unrest. On the Enigma of Movement) seeks to develop a metaphysics after the ‘end of metaphysics’. Such a metaphysics not only has to take into account Nietzsche’s and Heidegger’s radical critiques of metaphysics. It also has to avoid the soteriological strategies of traditional metaphysics by searching for a transcendent meaning, to which our finite and restless human existence is pointing from the inside. Yet in which direction does our human existence transcend itself? By comparing Verhack’s answer to this question with Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of the desiderium naturale Dei, it is argued that Verhack’s post-metaphysical metaphysics is based on a spiritualistic outlook on life. From this line of argument it is shown that this metaphysics threatens to perpetrate the very same soteriological strategies it tried to avoid, and to pass over the meaning and bearing of ‘the end of metaphysics’.
Frans van Peperstraten
Summary: Onto-Mimetology. Lacoue-Labarthe on Heidegger’s Involvement with Nazism
A long and persistent consideration Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism can be found in the work of the French philosopher Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe (1940, Strasbourg). Starting from a re-evaluation of mimesis as a productive relationship between technè and physis, Lacoue-Labarthe detects in mimesis an original supplementarity, forgotten by metaphysics. According to Lacoue-Labarthe, Heidegger respects this supplementarity both in Sein und Zeit (1927) and in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’ (1936), whereas Heidegger’s Rectorial Address of 1933 represents a retroversion into metaphysics. In this article, I argue that Lacoue-Labarthe’s diagnosis is correct, where he proves that Heidegger’s Address is dominated by ‘onto-typology’, i.e. a desire to have the Gestalt (figure, type) of the German people presented. However, first of all I show that also — what I call — ‘onto-physiology’ is important in Heidegger’s metaphysical thinking in the Address. Second, I show that not all of the Address is a repetition of western metaphysics: notably Heidegger’s treatment of knowledge cannot be taken to be metaphysical. A last question is whether Heidegger’s involvement with Nazism coincides with his falling back into metaphysics. In fact, Lacoue-Labarthe gives cause for believing this is not the case and that Heidegger’s Nazism is to be found just as much in his retreat from metaphysics.
Summary: Philosophy of Religion between Ontology and Theology
In topical philosophy of religion the word ‘given’ plays an important role. However the meaning of this word is ambiguous. The word refers not only to the factual reality (datum) but also to what is given as a gift to someone (donum). This ambiguity leads to an unclear mixture of philosophical and religious positions. Therefore an analysis of such mixture is necessary. The main question of this analysis is how faith and religion on the one hand, and ontology and reason on the other hand, influence each other? Isn’t it so that in the religious domain nobody can be convinced with and by rational means? In the first section, the question on the reality of the ultimate meaning as the moment from where man is motivated to lead his life, is explored. In the second section the idea is developed that philosophical insights are meaningful with regard to religious meaning only if they are referred back to religious faith. In the third section the question posited is whether philosophical reflection does not loose its original motivational context if it isn’t referred back to its original point of departure. This analysis is worked out against the background of I. Verhack’s book: De mens en zijn onrust. Over het raadsel van de beweging.
Summary: The Chastening of Eros
After the ‘death of God’, it would be a mistake to continue to think of eros in terms of a longing for possession of that which one is lacking, especially in matters of religion. Alongside Plato’s Diotima, Kierkegaard, Levinas and even Heidegger, an alternative view of eros is proposed in which eros is gradually letting go of its possessive cravings in order to open itself for the other. In this way, eros is bent in the direction of the unselfish service of the other. The question is then asked which kind of understanding of being is implied by this redirection of eros. The answer is taken from a thinking of the meaning of being in terms of self-givenness and self-outpooring in beings, for beings to be ‘there’. Our being at the service of the other can therefore be seen as a following of the call of being in us to become adequate to the meaning of being itself.
Summary: “Du sollst der werden, der du bist.” A Reading of Nietzsche in the Light of Being and Time
Nietzsches aphorism “Was sagt dein Gewissen? — ‘Du sollst der werden, der du bist’ ” (Gay Science, p. 270) draws our attention to several modifications of living time: an abstract, a teleological, an existential and a mystic modification of time. The abstract time (succession of moments) underlies the impression of contradiction the statement creates. The teleological explanation: you have to become what you potentially are (living time as development), seems obvious, but neutralizes the essential paradox of the statement. The source of the statement, Nietzsche’s conscience, refers to an existential time, that bears upon a more original movement of life than development, that of becoming authentic (Einkehr). The existential time in turn conditions a mystic movement of fulfillment. Each of these times is distinghuised for its modification of the present (and the interacting of past, future and present) too: present as the abstract moment, present as continuity, present as the opening up of the lifespan between birth and death (existential Augenblick) and present as the fulfillment of life with eternal being (mystic Augenblick). This study confirms its hermeneutic guide, Heidegger’s thought of the bond between being and time: through time we are not tied so much to the transition of becoming as to the openness of being. This openness is manifest in the modifications of the width of present, the fundamental phenomenon that Nietzsche neglects in his ontological concept of time.
Summary: Adorno and the Prospect for a New Metaphysics
Is metaphysical thinking still possible today, in this ‘late modernity’, also termed ‘the post-metaphysical era’? The author reflects on this question with reference to Theodor W. Adorno’s prospect for another metaphysics, mainly posited in his ‘Meditations towards a Metaphysics’ (‘Meditationen zur Metaphysik’) at the end of his Negative Dialectics (Negative Dialektik, 1966). Although traditional metaphysical thinking was categorized by Adorno as a ‘metaphysics of death’ because of the emphasis on identity and prevalent subjectivity by which it supported a praxis of domination and violence, he eagerly yearned for the dawn of a converted philosophical thinking ‘after Auschwitz’, where the idea of transcendence should no longer coincide with absolute identity nor be perfectly attainable by means of positive thinking. Expounding this new perspective, the author does not abstain from critical comments on the possibility of Adorno’s new metaphysics. In relation to this appreciation reflections are advanced regarding present day metaphysics.
Summary: Our Fate between Word and Fact
This critical study of De Dijn’s work is divided into three parts; in the first, the author briefly presents his own point of view and refers to the notion of the disenchantment of the world developed by M. Weber and P. Gauchet. In the second, he tries to reconstruct De Dijn’s vision and dwells on his use of the notion of fidelity to a tradition and on his recurrent but metaphoric use of Christian theological words. In the third, the author asks some critical questions, as for instance about De Dijn’s conception of the life-world; about his strategy aiming at positing some values or realities as sacred and at immunizing the tradition against critiques which could undermine its coherence and unity; about De Dijn’s mistrust of such technological developments as medically assisted child conception or discoveries which could lead to the radical transformation of the human body.
Summary: The Event, between Phenomenology and History
Ever since event became an ‘epochal’ word, it has been preoccupying today’s phenomenologists’ as well as historians’ minds. How to explain this convergence? Having analysed (in the first section) the status ascribed to the event in phenomenology, one has next to consider it within contemporary historiography (second section). Finally an effort has to be made in order to posit the shared though largely implicit question to which phenomenologists and historians give divergent answers (third section). As a hypothesis it is proposed that both are related to the event as to a phenomenon and that their opposition stems from the position they adhere where being is concerned.