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Ontology after Ontotheology

Plurality, Event, and Contingency in Contemporary Philosophy

by Gert-Jan van der Heiden

Publication Year: 2014

After the vehement critique of metaphysics in the twentieth century, ontology has again found its place at the center of continental philosophy. Yet this does not mean that the way in which metaphysics and ontology are understood has not been affected by these criticisms, the so-called “linguistic turn” of hermeneutics and deconstruction. In fact, as Gert-Jan van der Heiden demonstrates, the themes and concepts of contemporary continental metaphysics are highly influenced by the different versions of the account of classical metaphysics as ontotheology. Thus, contemporary thought seeks to recover a sense of the absolute, but without recourse to specifically theological underpinnings. Working largely with present-day thinkers who take seriously Heidegger’s critique of ontotheology—authors such as Alain Badiou, Jean-Luc Nancy, Claude Romano, Quentin Meillassoux, and Giorgio Agamben—van der Heiden returns with them to the question of ontology rather than rejecting the question altogether. As the book’s title suggests, he maps this contemporary debate in terms of three axes: plurality; the event and contingency; and, finally, an ethics proper to a thinking receptive to contingency. Rather than affirming either the speculative or the hermeneutic-phenomenological school of thought, van der Heiden shows how these schools, each in their own way, are concerned with similar themes and sources of inspiration. In particular, he assesses and critiques the ways in which philosophers today deal with these concepts to offer an alternative to ontotheology. The question of contingency, he argues, is the most challenging issue for present-day ontology, and ontology today can only be an ontology of contingency.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

After the vehement criticisms of metaphysics in the twentieth century, one might say that “first philosophy” has found its place at the center of continental philosophy once again. Of course, the question of being has never truly left the scene, but serious attempts to...

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to express my gratitude to the two referees of this manuscript whose comments helped me to sharpen some of my arguments, offered relevant references in the literature, and helped me to focus whenever my thoughts were set to wander off. I am grateful...

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Introduction: Returning to Ontology

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pp. 1-22

If we consider the landscape of continental philosophy today, we may easily be struck by the fact that many works demonstrate a renewed interest in first philosophy or ontology. Of course, ontology was never simply absent. As Alain Badiou acknowledges in the epigraph above...

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Part 1. Conflicting Pluralities: Between Hermeneutics and Mathematics

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pp. 23-28

One way to overcome the ontotheological emphasis on the one is by accounting for being in terms of plurality. Contemporary continental thought displays a number of such accounts of plurality. Yet, these conceptions of plurality are conflictual. In fact, the present-day debate...

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1. Mathematics and Beyond: Event, Axiom, and Subject

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pp. 29-68

After introducing the themes of plurality, event, and comportment in terms of the questions with which Martin Heidegger’s oeuvre confronts us, and after having pointed out the vehement discussions between the speculative and the hermeneutic-phenomenological...

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2. Hermeneutics and Beyond: Partage and Abandonment

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pp. 69-100

Go beyond finitude toward infinity and absolute.1 The speculative school follows this imperative, and it inspires the speculative critique of the hermeneutic-phenomenological paradigm of philosophy and its passion for finitude. Yet, is this critique justified? If so, which of...

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3. Beyond Presupposition: Plato and Agamben

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pp. 101-132

After the long discussions of the ontological trajectories Badiou and Nancy propose, it is now time for an assessment. To what extent do these trajectories offer a valid alternative for ontotheology? In the previous two chapters, I showed how both Badiou and Nancy criticize...

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Part 2: Figures of Contingency: Suspending the Principle of Sufficient Reason

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pp. 133-137

Despite the many ways in which present-day philosophy introduces, defines, and locates the event, it is possible to discern a shared concern in the different concepts of the event that are created today. Although I acknowledge that it is always risky to depart from one...

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4. Advent or Birth: Two Models of the Event

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pp. 138-184

Without any doubt, Badiou and Heidegger are two of the most influential philosophers for rethinking the conception of the event today. For both, the event concerns “the revolutionary,” that is, the singular and unheard-of new beginning, a radical change of thought and...

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5. Absolute Beginning or Absolute Contingency

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pp. 185-224

This chapter furthers the different trajectories developed in Heidegger’s and Badiou’s conception of the event, but it will do so in terms of the work of Claude Romano and Quentin Meillassoux. From a methodological point of view, Romano’s work provides us with a...

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6. What Can No More Be Than Not Be

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pp. 225-261

In light of the previous two chapters and their conclusions about the different concepts of the event in contemporary thought, it seems natural to turn to the work of Giorgio Agamben—and not so much to his work on the event itself but, rather, to his work on potentiality...

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7. The Ethos of Contingency

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pp. 262-288

Throughout this study, I have argued that present-day philosophy is confronted with the task of answering the question of what ontology might be after ontotheology.1 As I have argued, the core of this ontotheological constitution of metaphysics is found in the principle...


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pp. 289-317


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pp. 318-330


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pp. 331-340

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705989
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704722
Print-ISBN-10: 0820704725

Page Count: 340
Publication Year: 2014