Category: Reflections

Can Ethics be the First Philosophy?

Emmanuel Levinas is a unique philosopher in the 20th century. He redefines traditional philosophy by radically re-thinking it from the point of view of justice, which in his understanding originates in the encounter with the other. For Aristotle, the “first philosophy” is metaphysics: what is the meaning of the verb “to be.” This leads to a whole system of ontology that serves as the background to 2500 years of metaphysical thought.
Levinas suggests a radical turn. “This is the question of the meaning of being: not the ontology of the understanding of that extraordinary verb, but the ethics of its justice. The question ‘par excellence’ or the question of philosophy. Not ‘Why being rather than nothing?’, but how being justifies itself.”

Nietzsche: A look back.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the most important philosophers of the last 200 years. He foresaw the downfall of Europe, even though he died in 1900, and he influenced...

Emmanuel Levinas on Peace

The last entry on Carl Schmitt reflected on the implications of a realpolitik where the sovereign state is necessary to protect us from the hatred that can erupt so easily...

Carl Schmitt on Political Power

Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) is one of the most influential conservative political thinkers of the 20th century. His work remains very controversial, but his ideas allow us to think through some of...

Kierkegaard: The Inwardness of Existence

Kierkegaard’s works are interesting to read, they have a freshness and intensity that separates them from other philosophical writings. It is easy to get lost in his aphorisms – but what are the main features of his thought? I will examine his view of becoming a Christian, his idea of a “subjective truth,” and the “dialectic of existence.”  

You are my Creator, but I am your Master.

“Nature” has different meanings: It is the horizon of civilization, it is the material from which everything is made, and it is the origin to which everything wants to return. By “nature” we also mean the basic form which determines what something is. Aristotle thought that this natural form also determines the purpose something has. And finally, we human beings have a nature too – but how do we define it?

What does it mean to have rights?

When thinking about what it means to have a right it is sometimes useful to replace the word “right” with another word that expresses something similar. Let’s review some of these...

Reason and Arguments

This article will introduce the plural to the monumental concept of rationality. Rather than treating it as a fixed noun, I suggest we should contextualize “reason” and look at propositions...

Theology in Freud and Lacan

Freud is an atheist; God does not exist for him. For Freud and Lacan, the hypothesis of God’s existence contradicts the principles and results of modern science. The task of psychoanalysis is to explain not only the existence and the pervasiveness of religion but also its incredible resilience throughout the last two hundred years of criticism against it.

Ecological Thinking?

Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. One can even think about the human race in ecological terms, and this form of thinking is vital if...

In God we trust? Money, Debt, and Love.

The following comments are based on David Graeber’s book “Debt: The First 5,000 Years.” 2011. His basic assumption is that economies did not evolve from barter systems; from the beginnings...

Complex systems – a new scientific frontier?

Many of our most pressing challenges, like managing ecosystems and economies, or preventing mass epidemics and market crashes – require a better understanding of complex systems. In recent years, the science of “complexity” came into existence and has grown rapidly. “Complexity” has a precise meaning in science. We call a system “complex” if the whole transcends the parts and if multiple agents participate in it. Most complex systems consist of diverse entities that interact in space and in time; they can be real or virtual. Examples of complex systems are ecosystems, cities, universities, or the stock market. Systems that are merely based on a feedback loop, like automatic temperature regulators, are not complex. Complicated systems are also not necessarily complex. Complicated systems may have diverse parts or many variables, but they are not adaptive.

Comments on Althusser

Althusser, who died in 1990, became a very influential French thinker – not only because he was a teacher for many intellectuals, but also because of his outspoken Marxist and anti-humanist opinions. He is known as a philosopher who tried to develop a structuralist version of Marxism. With the general demise of Marxist thinking, however, Althusser’s influence in the intellectual debates has faded away. For most of his life, he was an intellectual ally of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, from whom he took some inspirations especially in regards to his theory of ideology. He was a very clear thinker who was not afraid to take a radical and critical position.

Time and Consciousness?

We live in a world where everything seems to speed up. Everybody is pressed for time; the pressures to perform, to consume, to “manage” time effectively, or to “have fun,” overwhelm our need for rest and contemplation. Will the future bring us even more acceleration? Are we going somewhere with all this change? And further: what is our relationship to time itself? Can we become more conscious of the flow of time and thereby separate ourselves from the addictive absorption in current affairs?

At the root of the last 500 years of scientific and intellectual history lie the abstractions of space and time. The progress we witnessed over the last centuries begins with our ability to represent space three-dimensionally. This historical progress began in the early 15th century.