Category: Continental Philosophy

Roland Barthes: Elements of Semiology (1964)

Source: Elements of Semiology, 1964, publ. Hill and Wang, 1968. The first half of the book is reproduced here. INTRODUCTION In his Course in General Linguistics, first published in 1916, Saussure postulated the existence of a general science of signs, or Semiology, of which linguistics would form only one part. Semiology therefore aims to take in any system of signs, whatever their substance and limits; images, gestures, musical sounds, objects, and the complex associations of all these, which form the content of ritual, convention or public entertainment: these constitute, if not languages, at least systems of signification. There is no doubt that the development...

Hegel: Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. 1830.

Part One: Introduction §1 Philosophy misses an advantage enjoyed by the other sciences. It cannot like them rest the existence of its objects on the natural admissions of consciousness, nor can it assume that its method of cognition, either for starting or for continuing, is one already accepted. The objects of philosophy, it is true, are upon the whole the same as those of religion. In both the object is Truth, in that supreme sense in which God and God only is the Truth. Both in like manner go on to treat of the finite worlds of Nature and the...

Theodor Adorno: Minima Moralia. Part III, 1947

Avalanche, veux-tu m’emporter dans ta chute? French: Avalanche, won’t you carry me away in your fall? Baudelaire 101 Hothouse plant. – The talk of early or late development, seldom free of the death-wish for the former, is not binding. Whoever develops early, lives in anticipation. Their experience is an a prioristic, intuitive sensibility, which gropes in pictures and words for what is later redeemed in things and human beings. Such anticipation, satiated in itself, as it were, turns away from the external world and lends the color of something neurotically playful to the relationship to the latter. If early developers...

Theodor Adorno: Minima Moralia. Part II, 1945

Where everything is bad it must be good to know the worst. – F.H. Bradley 51 Behind the mirror. First word of caution for authors: check every text, every fragment, and every line to see if the central motif presents itself clearly enough. Whoever wants to express something, is so carried away that they are driven along, without reflecting on such. One is too close to the intention, “in thought,” and forgets to say, what one wants to say. No improvement is too small or piddling to be carried out. Out of a hundred changes, a single one may appear...

Theodor Adorno: Minima Moralia. Part 1, 1944

Dedication The melancholy science, from which I make this offering to my friend, relates to a realm which has counted, since time immemorial, as the authentic one of philosophy, but which has, since its transformation into method, fallen prey to intellectual disrespect, sententious caprice and in the end forgetfulness: the teaching of the good life. What philosophy once called life, has turned into the sphere of the private and then merely of consumption, which is dragged along as an addendum of the material production-process, without autonomy and without its own substance. Whoever wishes to experience the truth of immediate life,...

Levinas: Ethics as First Philosophy (1984)

This essay was published for the first time in “Justifications de l’Ethique” (Bruxelles: Editions de l’Universite de Bruxelles), 1984, pp. 41 – 51. I am quoting here from the English translation in “[easyazon_link identifier=”0631164472″ locale=”US” tag=”mainacademicsite-20″]The Levinas Reader[/easyazon_link],” edited by Sean Hand, 1989, p. 76. Ethics as First Philosophy’ is a clear and powerful summary of Levinas’s methodical and yet radical move away from Husserl’s transcendental idealism and Heidegger’s hermeneutics towards the ethical question of the meaning of being, as we encounter it in the face-to-face relation. Beginning with the phenomenological legacy which reveals knowledge as built on an intentionality...

Truth, Power, Self: Interview with Michel Foucault.

What I have studied are the three traditional problems:

What are the relations we have to truth through scientific knowledge, to those “truth games” which are so important in civilization and in which we are both subject and objects?
What are the relationships we have to others through those strange strategies and power relationships? And
what are the relationships between truth, power, and self?

Michel Foucault: “What is Enlightenment?”

What is Enlightenment? This is a question that modern philosophy has not been capable of answering, but that it has never managed to get rid of, either. And one that has been repeated in various forms for two centuries now. From Hegel through Nietzsche or Max Weber to Horkheimer or Habermas, hardly any philosophy has failed to confront this same question, directly or indirectly. What, then, is this event that is called the Aufklärung?

Michel Foucault: Key Concepts

 This page offers brief definitions of some of the key concepts in Foucault’s work. It is adapted from Michel-Foucault.com, maintained by Claire O’Farrell. apparatus (dispositif) Foucault generally uses this term to indicate the various institutional, physical and administrative mechanisms and knowledge structures, which enhance and maintain the exercise of power within the social body. The original French term dispositif is rendered variously as ‘dispositif’, ‘apparatus’ and ‘deployment’ in English translations of Foucault’s work archaeology ‘Archaeology’ is the term Foucault used during the 1960s to describe his approach to writing history. Archaeology is about examining the discursive traces and orders left by the...

Michel Foucault

Foucault (1926 – 1984) was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic. He theorized the relationship between power and knowledge, and examined the forms of social control through societal institutions. He is often considered to be a post-structuralist and postmodernist, but he preferred to think of his work as a critical history of modernity. Here is a biographical sketch from the Stanford Encyclopedia article, as well as a timeline of his life. Biographical Sketch “Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, on October 15, 1926. His student years seem to have been psychologically tormented but were intellectually brilliant. He...

Louis Althusser: Contradiction and Overdetermination

Althusser argues in this passage from the 1965 book “For Marx,” that the difference between Marx and Hegel is not just a reversal of the dialectical method from an idealistic to a materialistic use, as Hegelian Marxists like Lukács, Benjamin, and the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory have claimed. Althusser tries to show that Marx’s model of the dialectic is quite different than Hegel’s,  and he argues that Marx’s Opus Magnum, the “Kapital” from 1867, is a decisive epistemological break with Hegelian categories of thought.  In Althusser’s view, Marx tried to conceptualize the ‘social formation’ not in the Hegelian terms of an ‘expressive totality’ (see [easyazon_link...

Louis Althusser: Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

In: Louis Althusser, “Lenin and Philosophy” and Other Essays. 1970 First published: in La Pensée, 1970. Translated: from the French by Ben Brewster; Source: Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, Monthly Review Press 1971. On the Reproduction of the Conditions of Production I must now expose more fully something which was briefly glimpsed in my analysis when I spoke of the necessity to renew the means of production if production is to be possible. That was a passing hint. Now I shall consider it for itself. As Marx said, every child knows that a social formation which did not reproduce the...

Heidegger made simple.

The photo above was taken during Heidegger’s Paris visit in 1955. The photo shows him with Lacan and their wives in Lacan’s house in Guitrancourt, near Paris. During the visit in Paris, Heidegger delivered the lecture ‘What is Philosophy?’ at Cerisy-la-sale. Left to right: Heidegger, Axelos, Lacan, Jean Beaufret (recipient of the Letter on Humanism), Elfriede Heidegger, Sylvia Bataille (by this time married to Lacan). You can find more on Heideggers biography here.  The Basic Question: What is Being? Heidegger’s main work, Being and Time (1927), begins with a traditional ontological question, which he calls the Seinsfrage, or the “question of Being.” He uses...

Friedrich Schelling: System of Transcendental Philosophy. 1800

About Schelling “Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854) is, along with Fichte and Hegel, one of the three most influential thinkers in the tradition of ‘German Idealism’. Since he changed his conception of philosophy often, it is hard to attribute a  clear philosophical conception to him. Schelling was a rigorous logical thinker, but in the era during which he was writing, there was so much change in philosophy that a stable, fixed point of view was impossible. Schelling’s continuing importance today is based on three aspects of his work. Schelling’s Naturphilosophie. His empirical claims are largely indefensible, but his approach...

Martin Heidegger (1889–1976)

Martin Heidegger was an important German philosopher in the 20th century, who is famous for his theories on existentialism and phenomenology. He was associated with existentialism, despite his efforts to distance himself from it. He had a strong influence on the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, for instance. He developed a phenomenological critique of Kant and wrote widely on Nietzsche and Hölderlin. His thinking influenced many other fields, such as theology, art, architecture, artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, design, literary theory, social theory, political theory, psychiatry, and psychotherapy. His main work, a 20th century classic in philosophy, is ‘Sein und Zeit...

Hegel: Phänomenologie des Geistes. (1807)

Sektion 4, A und B. IV. Die Wahrheit der Gewißheit seiner selbst In den bisherigen Weisen der Gewißheit ist dem Bewußtsein das Wahre etwas anderes als es selbst. Der Begriff dieses Wahren verschwindet aber in der Erfahrung von ihm; wie der Gegenstand unmittelbar an sich war, das Seiende der sinnlichen Gewißheit, das konkrete Ding der Wahrnehmung, die Kraft des Verstandes, so erweist er sich vielmehr nicht in Wahrheit zu sein, sondern diesAn-sich ergibt sich als eine Weise, wie er nur für ein Anderes ist; der Begriff von ihm hebt sich an dem wirklichen Gegenstande auf, oder die erste unmittelbare Vorstellung in der Erfahrung,...

Gottfried Leibniz: Monadology (1714).

1. The monad, of which we will speak here, is nothing else than a simple substance, which goes to make up compounds; by simple, we mean without parts. 2. There must be simple substances because there are compound substances; for the compound is nothing else than a collection or aggregatum of simple substances. 3. Now, where there are no constituent parts there is possible neither extension, nor form, nor divisibility. These monads are the true atoms of nature, and, in a word, the elements of things. 4. Their dissolution, therefore, is not to be feared and there is no way...

Levinas: Peace and Proximity

In one of his late works, Alterité et Transcendence, 1995, (the year of his death) Levinas develops a notion of peace that ranges from an idea of personal peace, to the political question of world peace, and the role of the state. What are the philosophical roots of the European ideas about justice and peace, and how do they relate to religious conceptions? In the following, I will quote one short excerpt from this text, entitled “Peace and proximity.” Here is the Text: I The problem of Europe and peace is precisely the problem posed by the contradiction in our...