Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy

Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy

Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy

Philosophy, Politics, Autonomy


These remarkable essays include Cornelius Castoriadis's latest contributions to philosophy, political and social theory, classical studies, development theory, cultural criticism, science, and ecology. Examining the "co-birth" in ancient Greece of philosophy and politics, Castoriadis shows how the Greeks' radical questioning of established ideas and institutions gave rise to the "project of autonomy". The "end of philosophy" proclaimed by Postmodernism would mean the end of this project. That end is now hastened by the lethal expansion of technoscience, the waning of political and social conflict, and the resignation of intellectuals who blindly defend Western culture as it is or who merely denounce or "deconstruct" it as it has been. Discussing and criticizing Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Weber, Heidegger, and Habermas, the author of The Imaginary Institution of Society and Crossroads in the Labyrinth poses a radical challenge to our inherited philosophy.


An old philosophical habit: I feel obliged to begin by dwelling upon the terms in which the question is posed. First of all, the term "history." I do not understand by it merely history-already-made but also history-in-the-making and history-to-be-made.

In this sense, history is essentially creation -- creation and destruction. Creation signifies something entirely different from the objective indeterminacy or the subjective unforeseeability of events and of the course of history. It is ridiculous to say, for example, that the advent of tragedy was unforeseeable, and it is stupid to see in St. Matthew's Passion an effect of the indeterminacy of history.

History is the domain in which human beings create ontological forms -- history and society themselves being the first of these forms. Creation does not necessarily -- nor even generally -- signify "good" creation or the creation of "positive values." Auschwitz and the Gulag are creations just as much as the Parthenon and the Principia Mathe matica

Speech given to the Intellectuals and History round-table discussion at the International Conference of Intellectuals and Artists in Valencia (June 16, 1987), commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1937 Congress of Antifascist Writers in Valencia. Published as Les Intellectuels et l'histoire in Lettre Internationale, 15 (December 1987), pp. 14-16, reprinted in Le Monde Morcelé. Les Carrefours du labyrinthe iii (Paris: Seuil, 1990), pp. 103-11, and translated as Intellectuals and History, tr.David Ames Curtis , Salmagundi, 80 (Fall 1988), pp. 161-69.

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