Saturday, October 06, 2007

Patoèka is an alchemist of thought

Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History
by Jan Patocka (Author), Paul Ricoeur (Preface), Erazim Kohak (Translator)
Customer Reviews: Influences are obvious, yet very independent,
By David J. Smith "loupgarou" (UK), 21 Jul 2005
Patoèka is an alchemist of thought. His contention is that, in contrast to the relativist pundits of popular PoMo, the problem of history must be kept open at all costs. Holding together dissimilar elements of being in an embrace that refuses to see them fused or indistinguishable is what makes Patoèka unique in wanting to prevent an "end to history" as such in a final and all-encompassing political resolution or a messianic attitude. He is postmodern in this sense, eschewing foundational and unifying metaphysical justifications for ethics.
Yet he is also astute: conversant enough with the early classical and pre-Socratic quivers in philosophy to read "the postmetaphysical" as being operative within history itself, rather than being "present" only at its conclusion, as if history were merely the means to or generator of that end. Philosophy and history have always been, from their inception, ambiguous and in interior tension, before Christianity, before even Aristotle or Platonism. The originary problematicity of life is a social history, and so philosophy and politics always emerge together: the act of problematising the very beginning of thought, of seeing thought as dealing intrinsically with problematicity, allows all that has proceeded from thought to be reconciled.
Sociology, philosophy, anthropology, politics, religion; these are only so many threads that in their varying metaphysical ways have failed to keep hold of that originary problematicity of life and have tried to ground themselves in foundational resolutions of history. Like Heidegger, Patoèka sees this problematicity as the concern of a historical being in the world - not a bare Cartesian/Husserlian subject - but unlike Heidegger, Patoèka sees that as political. For Patoèka politics and care for the soul are indissociable from the beginning - as a social being man is faced not just with the constant possibility of his own death but with the possibility of the abject decline of society itself. Likewise, man is not just faced with the functionalisation of his being, but with the functionalisation of social life, of the state, and of politics in a polity that loses the sense of the care for the soul and a life in truth. See all my reviews

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