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Broken Hegemonies

Reiner Schürmann. Translated by Reginald Lilly

Publication Year: 2003

"... a book of striking originality and depth, a brilliant and quite new interpretation of the nature and history of philosophy." -- John Sallis

In Broken Hegemonies, the late distinguished philosopher Reiner Schürmann offers a radical rethinking of the history of Western philosophy from the Greeks through Heidegger. Schürmann interprets the history of Western thought and action as a series of eras governed by the rise and fall of certain dominating philosophical ideas that contained the seeds of their own destruction. These eras coincided with their dominant languages: Greek, Latin, and vernacular tongues. Analyzing philosophical texts from Parmenides, Plotinus, and Cicero, through Augustine, Meister Eckhardt, and Kant, to Heidegger, Schürmann traces the arguments by which these ideas gained hegemony and by which their credibility was ultimately demolished. Recognizing the failure of ultimate norms, Broken Hegemonies questions how humanity today is to think and act in the absence of principles.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Studies in Continental Thought

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication Page

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii

Shortly before his death, and prior to its publication in French, Reiner Schürmann asked me to translate Des Hégémonies brisées into English. He provided me with the manuscript of the French as well as sections of the book that had been translated by others. While often benefiting from the work of others, I have translated the text from "scratch," often drawing on the felicitous renderings of others. Clearly Schürmann...


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General Introduction

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pp. 3-48

The pages that follow are meant to be read as a contribution to the age old "doctrine of principles." Philosophers have never stopped speculating about this principal Greek legacy. Today the business of principal principles seems to have been robbed of its heritage. What can be learned from its loss? May it actually represent a gain for us? These are good enough reasons to examine the operations that have been carried...

PART ONE: In the Name of the One: The Greek Hegemonic Fantasm

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pp. 49

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I. Its Institution: The One That Holds Together (Parmenides)

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pp. 51-54

Parmenides, it has been said from antiquity, is the father of philosophy. He was the first to place discursive reason in the service of intuitive thought. He was also the first to designate the one problem worthy of a philosopher, the problem of being. He carried out this act of paternity by arguing that being is one. His predecessors, as well as all those after him who distrust argumentation,...

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CHAPTER 1: Contradictories: Their Juxtaposition and Their Confusion

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pp. 55-70

The question of how many paths does not seem to pose any problem. Does Parmenides not oppose "the one, which is" to "the other, which is not" (2.3 and 5)? Whatever this "one" may be which is or is not, the two propositions, "it is" and "it is not," present themselves in the form of an alternative. And the text leaves no doubt about the import of this disjunction. Its "either-or" constrains all thinking--"it is" and...

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CHAPTER 2: Contraries: The Ground for Obligation

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pp. 71-94

It is not difficult to convince oneself that this double inclusion articulates the law. The goddess straightaway makes use of the one that she reveals so as to distinguish between the uses we can make of opposed concepts, namely, the absurd use of contradictions, the scatterbrained use of contraries. The one is directly put to work in order to exclude the builders of the absurd and to bring order to the scatterbrained.

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CHAPTER 3: On Power and Forces: The Normative System

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pp. 95-109

Parmenides, it is said, gave his native city of Elea its constitution. Like Solon, he therefore would have been a man of the law, in word and in deed (an expression that does not presuppose "the separation of theory and practice," but that, since Homer,70 is a standard formula for speaking of the unity of a life--or, in the negative case, of a contradiction in a person's character). If Parmenides is the first to have spoken of...

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CHAPTER 4: Henology Turned against Itself?

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pp. 110-121

The "it is" joins contraries in a struggle; hence the precariousness of the world for Parmenides. To an ear divinely instructed, the undertow toward the absent makes itself heard with as much sonority as the tumult of the present. There is a double dictate whose pulls are opposed without a common genus and that ceaselessly vary their configurations. Taken up, heard, obeyed in isolation, neither of these two...

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CHAPTER 5: The Disparate: Narrative of a Journey

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pp. 122-135

The power of the one gives force to laws. It legitimizes the absent forces, excluded by a nomothesis, just as much as it does the present ones, retained by this thesis. A double strategy is thus at work in the justification of norms. Henology expresses the dissension of force--a dissension that is, and that must be--by placing us amidst the chiastic legislative/transgressive push and pull. Now, what is it that runs through the...

II: Its Destitution: The One Turned against Itself (Plotinus)

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pp. 137

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pp. 139-142

When we now read some of Plotinus's texts our study will involve addressing pre- cise questions to these texts which stem from the reading of Parmenides: Above all, how does the initiatory impulse of natality suffer the counter-blow {contre-temps} of mortality (chapter 7), and more generally, how does time {temps} effect the stable referent which is the one (chapter 6). Thus for the moment Plotinus will thus speak on behalf of the closure of the...

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CHAPTER 6: The Temporalizing Event

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pp. 143-160

The one is not a being, not a something. This is clearly indicated in the first lines of Plotinus's treatise On the One: "It is due to the one that all beings are beings." (En. VI, 9 [9], 1, 1). Why can one not say of the one that it is something, a being? "The one is in all respects first, but Intelligence, ideas and beings are not first." (ibid. 2, 30; my emphasis). The derivative status of beings follows from their chief quality,..

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CHAPTER 7: The Singularizing Contretemps

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pp. 161-188

"How did the one not remain in itself?" (En. V, 1 [10], 6, 6). Even though this question seems, by all rights, a source of insoluble perplexity, Plotinus nonetheless answers. The treatise which gives the answer--and which in turn has all it needs to perplex the reader--is entitled: "On the Freedom and the Will of the One" (En. VI, 8 [39]). How did the one, immobile beyond eternity, not remain in itself? Here is the...

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PART TWO: In the Name of Nature: The Latin Hegemonic Fantasm

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pp. 189-200

The Romans are not considered to have been particularly sensitive to the tragic. But if sensibilities are one thing, the argumentative strategies therein are another. The Latin hegemonic fantasm does not follow--any more than will the modern--from the discovery of some previously unknown phenomenon. Of course, the idea of an order that administers both human action and what there is of the extra-human, an...

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I: Its Institution: The Principle of Telic Continuity (Cicero and Augustine)

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pp. 201-203

When philosophy began to speak Latin, nature came to exert a regulative force in it. For a millennium and a half, nature will determine the conditions according to which what is must show itself. It became normative with Cicero, who prides himself on having brought philosophy, 'that source from which all flows," home to Rome.20 More precisely, there is a new beginning when Cicero gives a Latin rendition...

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CHAPTER 8: Concerning Singular Given Natures

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pp. 205-221

Do not these lines read as a paraphrase of Antigone justifying herself before Creon? She had invoked the "unwritten and unshakable laws of the gods." It is all there--immutability, eternity, and the intelligibility of the true law; also a quasi-religious fear, seeing that it would be contrary to the fas to abolish or reinstate the application of the law; and again the limit of the law traced through its interdictions; and there is...

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CHAPTER 9: On the Erratic Differend

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pp. 222-239

The transgressive strategies that topple a hegemony result from singularizations and from a temporalization which renders them capable of being narrated; such is the work of indetermination--and therefore of death--which inevitably ruins the de- terminant work of life erecting normative constructions. In order to grasp how the time of the singular breaks the natura, let us first recall...

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CHAPTER 10: On the Natural Double Bind: The Will Turned against Itself

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pp. 240-267

The historians of ideas teach that the will became a philosophical issue at the end of antiquity.58 If we recall the difficulties the Neoplatonists had in saying, if not why, at least how the one was not content in its solitude but exteriorized itself in order to constitute what is other than it, then we may be tempted to chalk this innovation up to Alexandrian henology. Some have even taken this for a philosophical effect of...

II: Its Destitution: The Double Bind of Principle and Origin (Meister Eckhart)

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pp. 269

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pp. 271-274

At the end of the Middle Ages the natura which for a millennium had been called upon to legitimize all laws of knowing and acting disintegrates. From under its simple bond that was posited as an ultimate authority, a double bind reveals itself which from then on is undeniable. In order to see how this happens, it is necessary to interrogate the spokesmen for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries who, with a clear awareness...

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CHAPTER 11: Nature, Principle of Subordinations

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pp. 275-297

Certain texts in the history of philosophy gather together and articulate the great strategies of life and thought that made up an epoch. There are others which, in addition, reshape received configurations and thereby disrupt the epoch. These are texts of transition. Among the latter one may count Plotinus's Enneades, Heidegger's writings, and certainly the German sermons of Meister Eckhart. Indeed, it is the case...

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CHAPTER 12: Feet on One's Neighbor's Head

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pp. 298-318

Eckhart in no way contends that "God's will is above his intellect." Rather, this is the way the Scotists speak when they deprive the natural order of its source in the divine intellect and thereby render it essentially contingent. Eckhart, in a way, does worse. He argues that this order depends on God and does so with such a passion for immanence that this order has to pre-exist in God's very ground--where it necessarily...

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CHAPTER 13: Nature Denatured by the Origin

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pp. 319-340

In these four points, Eckhart outlines as many strategies for thinking otherwise than in the name of nature. The group is obviously less than systematic. But on each point, the principle of continuous integration loses its power of univocal legislation, a loss due to the intrusion of an occurrent sense of being. In the exhortation to non-attachment, this descriptive event signifies "becoming free." The points that follow this...


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Preface: Analytic of Ultimates and Topology of Broken Hegemonies

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pp. 343-349

Is the law, as these lines suggest, a weapon to brandish in the defense of our passions? A passion turned into a weapon, perhaps? A singular passion--the passion for some singular--which desire would promote, exalt, institute as a universal rule? If this is the way it is, if the law first of all protects this or that particuar private pas- sion, then public law will prove of rather modest extraction. As in all dazzling ascents,...

PART THREE: In the Name of Consciousness: The Modern Hegemonic Fantasm

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pp. 351

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pp. 353-363

A century before Descartes, Luther recognized, circumscribed, and resolutely occupied the site upon which every thought process and every conceptual strategy of the next four centuries were to work. Self-consciousness is the philosophical terrain where the moderns believe themselves to be at home. Here they find a certitude capable of assuaging their pangs of doubt, an achievement sufficiently neutral to lend...

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I: Its Institution: On the Consciousness That Determines (Kant with Luther)

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pp. 365-368

With Luther and Kant, self-consciousness comes to exercise a regime. For an entire epoch, which is hardly past, it will govern the manner by which every object of experience must be constituted. This comes to pass in the time of Copernicus. Self-consciousness thus finds itself promoted to an ultimate referent, constitutive of phenomenality as an ultimate authority--a hegemonic fantasm.

A. The Regime of Passive Consciousness: 'An Obedient Spirit that Lets Itself be Broken . . .'

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pp. 369

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CHAPTER 1: The Identity of the "I"

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pp. 371-407

Transcendental logic and consciousness in a differend with itself impose upon Luther a single necessity. What is the obvious fact that gives rise here both to a new logic and to a new sense of the tragic? Topography of speech* The logic of the formal I and the aporia of the differend that is its consequence are not only announced by Luther in a single breath; he puts them forth with auto-biographical accents betraying an urgency which is at first neither theological nor...

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CHAPTER 2: A Pathetic Differend

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pp. 408-443

If Luther institutes the new fantasmic authority in declaring "only by faith," he institutes it as immediately broken, declaring its subject "simultaneously justified and sinner." After having seen the modern hegemony, it is now necessary to see what is the modern tragedy. Candor prior to the word is forever lost with the discovery of good and evil; we will even see, from the transcendental point of view, that it never really existed. Can...

B. The Regime of Spontaneous Consciousness: "I, the Possessor of the World"

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pp. 445

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pp. 447-451

Did not the Enlightenment finally discover the infrangible referent? The ancients let themselves be mystified by the gods or God. From Parmenides to Proclus, Greek polytheism is caught up in the search for a foundation within the limits of simple rea- son, just as Christian monotheism is from Augustine to Luther. Modernity comes to enfranchise reason, to give autonomy to man, to emancipate people. . . . The rational...

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CHAPTER 3: The Torments of Autonomy

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pp. 453-481

In the twentieth century, we imagine that we have achieved a science of mind through demonstrating that the mind functions like a computer; the nineteenth century invested its hope for an impeccable science of mind in the analogy with the steam engine (as one dreams of a thermodynamic, hydraulic model of the unconscious); the eighteenth century invested such hope in the analogy with a building. Science...

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CHAPTER 4: The Differend in Being-for-Consciousness

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pp. 483-510

Kant, it is said, supposedly recoiled before an abyss into which he glimpsed, and then denied. It is as if he shied away from his own discovery of the temporality of being. His retreat may be seen particularly in the revisions to which he submitted the deduction of the categories in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason.141 However, by examining what he says in all of his statements regarding the question...

II: The Diremption: On Double Binds without a Common Noun (Heidegger)

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pp. 511

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Introduction: Proteus Alone Can Save Us Now

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pp. 513-528

For a century and a half--since the deaths of Hegel and Goethe--hegemonic fantasms have suffered a polymorphous suspension. Hölderlin declared that he had received from the gods a knowledge heavier than he could digest, a knowledge which had to do with a certain condition of being becoming obvious in this late modernity; then Russians appeared, calling themselves nihilists and anarchists; lastly, Nietz-...

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CHAPTER 5: On the Historial Differend

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pp. 529-552

In this remark, Heidegger pushes modern hegemony to its extreme limit. We must try to grasp this "our selves" (wir selbst) as pointing toward the self (das Selbst), and we must try to grasp the event--strangely instrumentalized here by the self--as the strife between appropriation (Ereignung) and expropriation (enteignet, ibid.). Instru- mentalization pulls the event under the modern hegemony, where everything become...

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CHAPTER 6: What, the Deferred There?

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pp. 553-574

Da-sein is not yet. Such is the surprising reinterpretation of the there in the Contributions. The reader remembering Being and Time can only be jolted: How is the there deferred? The Da designates a possible place (topos). Topology is the phenomenology of this possible place. It matters little whether the reinterpretation would have occurred that way without the expectations Heidegger had invested in the political movement of the day and...

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CHAPTER 7: On the Discordance of Times

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pp. 575-620

The discordance of times sums up for Heidegger the origin that is dreadful because it is turned against itself, the tragic origin that diremption frees. Now the issue is to understand how the ultimate that mortality is effects such a turning and undermines time. As everyone knows, time is what we always lack. Now Heidegger looks to what everyone knows for a hint of the condition of being. One...

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pp. 621-632

By way of conclusion, it will be useful to return to an ambition stated in the General Introduction, namely, to learn more deeply about the conditions of sufferings that humans have inflicted upon themselves on a small and grand scale. The natural metaphysician in us might scoop up those conditions--the plural must not be effaced--with one stroke of the shovel and summarily call them evil. By remembering...


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pp. 633-680


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pp. 681-683

INDEX OF TERMS [Includes About the Author]

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pp. 685-692

E-ISBN-13: 9780253110534
E-ISBN-10: 025311053X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253341440

Page Count: 712
Illustrations: 1 b&w photos, 1 index
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Studies in Continental Thought