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Caring for the Soul in a Postmodern Age

Politics and Phenomenology in the Thought of Jan Patocka

Edward F. Findlay

Publication Year: 2002

In 1977 the sixty-nine-year-old Czech philosopher Jan Patocûka died from a brain hemorrhage following a series of interrogations by the Czechoslovak secret police. A student of Husserl and Heidegger, he had been arrested, along with young playwright Václav Havel, for publicly opposing the hypocrisy of the Czechoslovak Communist regime. Patocûka had dedicated himself as a philosopher to laying the groundwork of what he termed a “life in truth.” This book analyzes Patocûka’s philosophy and political thought and illuminates the synthesis in his work of Socratic philosophy and its injunction to “care for the soul.” In bridging the gap, not only between Husserl and Heidegger, but also between postmodern and ancient philosophy, Patocûka presents a model of democratic politics that is ethical without being metaphysical, and transcendental without being foundational.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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p. vii

This book would have been impossible without the help of a number of individuals and organizations, and I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to them all. I am grateful, first of all, to Professors G. Ellis Sandoz and Cecil Eubanks of the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University for their invaluable support and assistance. Intellectual encouragement ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-13

The Czech philosopher Jan Patočka died in a Prague hospital on March 13, 1977, at age sixty-nine. The cause of death was a brain hemorrhage, brought on by a series of exhausting interrogations at the hands of the StB, the Czechoslovak secret police. Patočka had been under interrogation for his involvement in a protest, in the name of human rights, against the ...

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2. “Concrete Humans in Their Corporeal World”: An Interpretation of Husserl and Heidegger

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pp. 15-50

For those familiar with the philosophical traditions associated with Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, the first inclination on encountering Jan Patočka is to view his work as a modification of their, more original, theses. To some extent this is justifiable, for the Czech philosopher is most definitely a student of Husserl and Heidegger, and his ...

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3. Philosophy After the Death of Metaphysics Patočka and Greek Thought

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pp. 51-82

As an interpreter of Husserl and Heidegger, Jan Patočka takes up the Husserlian goal of a renewal of rationality in the West and considers it alongside his commitment to Heidegger’s critique of metaphysical philosophy. He wants to recover the insight of the classical conception of reason, in other words, but without becoming entangled in traditionally metaphysical ...

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4. A Philosophy of History and aTheory of Politics

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pp. 83-119

Despite international renown for his work in phenomenology, Patočka’s most influential text is his 1975 collection of Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History. Distinguished by what the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur has called a “sense of grandeur” and a “dense beauty,”1 the Heretical Essays represent the culmination of Patočka’s ...

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5. Politics and Ethics in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 121-160

In the last two Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History, Patočka turns from developing a philosophy of history to applying its principles in the contemporary world. Here we have a clear expression of the political side of his philosophy. Although Jan Patočka became known as a dissident in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, his political philosophy cannot accurately ...

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6. Conclusion: Foundations and Philosophy, Politics and Postmodernism

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pp. 161-184

Postmodernism, taking its lead from Nietzsche and Heidegger, presents a challenge to political theory with the contention that metaphysical foundationalism is a facile and impermissible ground for understanding. The effect of this critique on politics is particularly acute, for it implies that no consistent ground for ethics or political responsibility can be said to ...

Appendix: Patočka’s Reception in the English-Language Literature

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pp. 185-205


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pp. 207-240

Works Cited

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pp. 241-249


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pp. 251-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780791488065
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791454855
Print-ISBN-10: 0791454851

Page Count: 267
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 53924731
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Caring for the Soul in a Postmodern Age

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Subject Headings

  • Patočka, Jan, 1907-1977.
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