Archive for the 'Germany' Category

Logocentrism in 19th Century European Thought

In his seminal work Of Grammatology Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) breaks down the idea of logocentrism within European philosophical thought:

Within this age of metaphysics, between Descartes and Hegel, Rousseau is undoubtedly the only one or the first one to make a theme or a system of the reduction of writing profoundly implied by the entire age.  He repeats the inaugural movement of the Phaedurs and of De interpretatione but starts from a new model of presence: the subject’s self-presence within consciousness or feeling.  What he excluded more violently than others must, of course, have fascinated and tormented him more than it did others.  Descartes had driven out the sign–and particularly the written sign–from the cogito and from clear and distinct evidence; the latter being the very presence of the idea of the soul, the sign was an accessory abandoned in the region of the senses and the imagination.  Hegel reappropriates the sensible sign to the movement of the Idea.  He criticizes Leibniz and praises phonetic writing within the horizon of an absolutely self-present logos, remaining close t itself within the unity of its speech and its concept.  But neither Descartes nor Hegel grappled with the problem of writing.  The place of this combat and crisis is called the eighteenth century.  Not only because it restores the rights of sensibility, the imagination, and the sign, but because attempts of the Leibnizian type had opened a breach within logocentric security.  We must bring to light what it was that, right from the start, within these attempts at a universal characteristic, limited the power and extent of the breakthrough.  Before Hegel and in explicit terms, Rousseau condemned the universal characteristic; not  because of the theological foundation which ordained its possibility for the infinite understanding of logos of God, but because it seemed to suspend the voice.  “Through” this condemnation can be read the most energetic eighteenth-century reaction organizing the defense of phonologism and of logocentric metaphysics.  What threatens is indeed writing.  It is not an accidental and haphazard threat; it reconciles within a single historical system the projects of pasigraphy, the discovery of non-European scripts, or at any rate the massive progress of the techniques and deciphering, and finally the idea of a general science of language and writing.  Against all of these prussures, a battle is then declared.  “Hegelianism” will be its finest scar (98-9, bold mine).


Derrida, Jacques.  1997.  Of Grammatology.  Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak.  Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

History and Consciousness

In his work History and Class Consciousness György Lukács (1885-1971) wrote:

In his celebrated account of historical materialism Engels proceeds from the assumption that although the essence of history consists in the fact that “nothing happens without a conscious purpose or an intended aim”, to understand history it is necessary to go further than this.  For on the one hand, “the many individual wills active in history for the most part produce results quite other than those intended–often quite the opposite; their motives, therefore, in relation to the total result are likewise of only secondary importance.  On the other hand, the further question arises: what driving forces in turn stand behind these motives? What are the historical causes which transform themselves into these motives in the brain of the actors?”  He goes on to argue that these driving forces ought themselves to be determined, in particular those which “set in motion great masses, whole peoples and again whole classes of the people; and which create a lasting action resulting in a great transformation.”  The essence of scientific Marxism consists, then, in the realisation that the real motor forces of history are independent of man’s (psychological) consciousness of them (46-47).


Lukács, Georg.  1971.  Translated by Rodney Livingstone.  History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Heidegger’s Impact on Philosophy

Richard Wolin wrote that Heidegger‘s impact on Marcuse, Arendt, Jonas, and others:

affirmed that what they found unique in Heidegger’s approach was his capacity to revivify antiquated philosophical texts in light of present historical needs and concerns…doing philosophy ceased to be an exercise in disembodied, scholarly exegesis.  At issue was a momentous, hermeneutical encounter between the historical past and the contemporary being-in-the-world.  By proceeding thusly, Heidegger was only being self-consistent: he was merely applying the principles of his own philosophy of Existenz to the subject matter of his lectures and seminars.  Two of the central categories of Being and Time‘s “existential analytic” were “temporality” and “historicity.”  Both notions addressed the way that we situate ourselves in time and history.  In Heidegger’s view, one of the hallmarks of “authentic” being-in-the-world was the capacity to actualize the past in light of essential future possibilities.  Conversely, inauthentic Dasein (das Man) displayed a conformist willingness to adapt passively to circumstances–an existential lassitude that bore marked resemblances to the inert being of “things.” Heidegger’s ability to fuse the discourse of “everydayness” with the demands of “rigorous science” he had imbibed during his youthful apprenticeship with…Edmund Husserly, distinguished his thinking from the Lebensphilosophie or “philosophy of life” that flourished among popular writers…at the time (bold mine, xii-xiii).


Wolin, Richard.  2005.  “Introduction: What Is Heideggerian Marxism?”  In Heideggerian Marxism, eds. Richard Wolin and John Abromeit.  Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

DeNazifacation and the Judicial System

Iosef Jughashvili Stalin (left) and Georgi Dimitrov, a Bulgarian communist, converse.  Dimitrov won world reknowned fame for his vibrant defense of Communist ideals and of himself during the trial against him in Germany over the Reichstag Fire.

Iosef Jughashvili Stalin (left) and Georgi Dimitrov, a Bulgarian communist, converse. Dimitrov won world reknowned fame for his vibrant defense of Communist ideals and of himself during the trial against him in Germany over the Reichstag Fire.

Michael E. Tigar and John Mage write:

Gradually in the years after the “thaw” that followed on the death of Stalin, the rise of Khrushchev, and the end of the Korean War, the truth of the allegations could no longer be denied. It was established beyond question that Hitler’s loyal servants occupied key places from the top of the West German regime on down. West German Chancellor Adenauer’s chief of staff, Hans Globke, had played a central role in the drafting and enforcement of the infamous Nuremburg Laws and the extermination of the German Jews. Of the 160 top officers in the West German army in 1961 all but one had been a colonel or general in Hitler’s Wehrmacht. In West German university chairs in law there were professors who had written vicious articles on the “Jewish problem” in the years leading up to its “final solution.”…

The great bulk of German opposition to the Nazis had been from leftists, and it was in the government of the communist East German state—the German Democratic Republic—that it was easy to find those who had fought the fascists arms in hand, and those who truly had been opponents of the Nazis. A more promising alternative was to exculpate the Nazis—who after all had been staunch anticommunists—and in particular the Nazi legal system. A further, and more material, concern was the presence of substantial claims from Jewish victims of the Nazis, demanding restitution of property they had lost (of course always in accordance with legal process of some sort) in the first years after Hitler came to power.


Tigar Michael E. and John Mage.  “The Reichstag Fire Trial 1933-2008: The Production of Law and History.”  Monthly Review 60, no. 10 (March 2009).  (Accessed June 23, 2009)


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