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Idealism without Absolutes

Philosophy and Romantic Culture

Tilottama Rajan, Arkady Plotnitsky

Publication Year: 2004

Idealism without Absolutes offers an ambitious and broad reconsideration of Idealism in relation to Romanticism and subsequent thought. Linking Idealist and Romantic philosophy to contemporary theory, the volume explores the multiplicity of different philosophical incarnations of Idealism and materialism, and shows how they mix with and invade each other in philosophy and culture. The contributors discuss a wide range of major figures in the long Romantic period, from Kant and Hegel to Nietzsche, as well as key figures defining the contemporary intellectual debate, including Freud, Heidegger, Adorno, Lyotard, Derrida, de Man, and Deleuze and Guattari. While preserving the significance of the historical period extending from Kant to the early nineteenth century, the volume gives the concept of Romantic culture a new historical and philosophical meaning that extends from its pre-Kantian past to our own culture and beyond.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

The editors would like to acknowledge the support of their respective institutions, The University of Western Ontario and Purdue University, for support that has made possible the completion of their research for this volume. Tilottama Rajan would also like to acknowledge the aid of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, a grant from which, ...

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pp. 1-14

In the past decade the philosophical tradition of German Idealism has come to be recognized as a rich and complex part of “Theory,” while this field itself has been associated with a fundamentally interdisciplinary way of thinking and range of practices. Yet there has been little intensive consideration of either the disciplinary or interdisciplinary nature of Idealism itself. Nor has much attention been given to the ways in which philosophy—the discipline ...

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Romanticism and the Invention of Literature

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pp. 15-37

Contrary to Derrida’s provocative assertion, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean- Luc Nancy’s seminal L’absolu littéraire maintains not only that there is literature but that its conception can be dated rigorously as the advent of Romanticism. But what can it mean that Romanticism marks the “invention of literature”? That it “constitutes, very exactly, the inaugural moment of literature as the ...

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Allegories of Symbol: On Hegel’s Aesthetics

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pp. 39-50

G. W. F. Hegel’s double, ambiguous and ambivalent if not downright duplicitous, attitude toward art is legible in his Aesthetics from one end to the other, from the beginning and to the ends. All we need to know both about the philosophy and the history of art (according to Hegel) is there to be read already in the introduction. As Hegel goes through the three main types or forms of art according to the different relations between sensuous form and ...

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Toward a Cultural Idealism: Negativity and Freedom in Hegel and Kant

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pp. 51-71

German Idealism is often seen as transcendentally indifferent to history. When it is recognized that these theorists are not “pure” philosophers, their cultural and historical concerns are seen as emerging within a totalizing imperialism of philosophy. Yet it is the very idealism of post-Kantian philosophy, intersected as it is by a certain Romanticism, which has made possible our appreciation of aesthetic alterity. For whatever its local prejudices, philosophy after Immanuel ...

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Mediality in Hegel: From Work to Text in the Phenomenology of Spirit

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pp. 73-91

In the “Earliest Program for a System of German Idealism,” a two-page manuscript from 1796 that is in G. W. F. Hegel’s handwriting but whose authorship is uncertain, the author or authors call(s) for “a new mythology.” The manuscript stresses the crucial role that collective narratives—and institutionalized practices of reflecting on such narratives—play in the development of human culture. Myths as fables or legends embodying the convictions ...

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Beyond Beginnings: Schlegel and Romantic Historiography

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pp. 93-112

Despite the publication of most of the thirty-five volumes of the Kritische Ausgabe of his works, Friedrich Schlegel remains known to critics almost exclusively for a small segment of his early writings. As in his own era, his fame as the theorist of romantic irony and as a guiding force in the Jena romantic circle has tended to eclipse a range of activity that extended far beyond these literary and critical projects.1 If the later Schlegel gets any ...

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Curvatures: Hegel and the Baroque

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pp. 113-134

The problem of Hegel has been given many names, idealism and the absolute arguably most prominent (and most often misleadingly applied) among these names. The very name Hegel may be best seen as the name of a problem. The question is whether such a problem, as it is posed each time, places G. W. F. Hegel and his work further out of reach or even makes him a kind of thing in-itself, or, conversely, (re)defines the problem as the way toward or even as a solution, in a process that Gilles Deleuze envisions, or whether it would ...

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Three Ends of the Absolute: Schelling, H

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pp. 135-159

Even if one is not writing about G. W. F. Hegel, one is writing of and from Hegel, certainly insofar as one is invoking “the Absolute.” Such is the gist of James’s perceptive—and rather jaded, or at least weary—remark. James is weary and wary when it comes to “Hegelism” and the self-styled refutations of “Hegelism.” He would surely affirm the tendency of many twentieth-century readings of Hegel, however, which arise from the need to respect and pay ...

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Schopenhauer’s Telling Body of Philosophy

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pp. 161-180

It is a commonplace that Schopenhauer anticipates Sigmund Freud. Schopenhauer’s will suggests Freud’s Triebe, the dark materiality of the ego’s substratum fundamental to the psyche’s makeup yet beyond its control.1 Together Schopenhauer’s will and representation suggest Freud’s primary processes and secondary revision, the latter evoking a type of deceptive consciousness of the former. For Freud, interpretation and the talking cure mitigate this ...

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Sacrificial and Erotic Materialism in Kierkegaard and Adorno

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pp. 181-201

Idealism and materialism are tricky terms. Adamant materialists tend to idealize matter, while idealists can sometimes produce thoroughly material rabbits (or ducks) from ideal hats. The relationship between Søren Kierkegaard and Theodor Adorno—both relating to romantic culture via, as well as contra, G. W. F. Hegel—gains a good deal of its complexity from this kind of problem. ...

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Absolute Failures: Hegel’s Bildung and the “Earliest System-Program of German Idealism”

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pp. 203-218

In his discussion of Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption, Ernest Rubinstein declares that the difference between Romanticism and Idealism is not “minute,” but rather “infinitesimal.”1 To be sure, it is not new to suggest the complex interrelations between Romanticism and Idealism or to point out that the dividing line between the two is obscured. Yet Rubinstein’s use of the term infinitesimal suggests a relatedness that is not simply obscured, but rather ...

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Futures of Spirit: Hegel, Nietzsche, and Beyond

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pp. 219-239

In the wake of Heidegger’s “destruction” of metaphysical thinking, the continental philosophy of the last fifty years has increasingly placed the powers of human reason under suspicion. Central within the discipline of philosophy to this move has been a radical questioning of Hegelian thought and an affirmation of Nietzsche’s oeuvre. The former has been considered the exposition of the concept, of the rational qua of the whole, of the identity of the real and ...

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Conclusion: Without Absolutes

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pp. 241-251

The title of this volume, “Idealism without Absolutes,” is a conjunction of two apparent opposites, idealism and the lack of absolutes accompanying it, since idealism is customarily conjoined or even defined by one or another form of absoluteness. As, however, the essays here assembled argue, individually and collectively, the opposition is only apparent, at least in certain, but, philosophically and culturally (including politically), arguably decisive, ...


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pp. 253-255


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pp. 257-262

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485538
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791460016
Print-ISBN-10: 0791460010

Page Count: 262
Publication Year: 2004