Castoriadis's Ontology: Being and Creation

Castoriadis's Ontology: Being and Creation

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 312
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    Castoriadis's Ontology: Being and Creation
    Book Description:

    This book is the first systematic reconstruction of Castoriadis' philosophical trajectory. It critically interprets the internal shifts in Castoriadis' ontology through reconsideration of the ancient problematic of 'human institution' (nomos) and 'nature' (physis), on the one hand, and the question of 'being' and 'creation', on the other. Unlike the order of physis, the order of nomos played no substantial role in the development of western thought: The first part of the book suggests that Castoriadis sought to remedy this with his elucidation of the social-historical as the region of being elusive to the determinist imaginary of inherited philosophy. This ontological turn was announced with the publication of his magnum opus The Imaginary Institution of Society (first published in 1975) which is reconstructed as Castoriadis' long journey through nomos via four interconnected domains: ontological, epistemological, anthropological, and hermeneutical respectively. With the aid of archival sources, the second half of the book reconstructs a second ontological shift in Castoriadis' thought that occurred during the 1980s. Here it argues that Castoriadis extends his notion of 'ontological creation' beyond the human realm and into nature. This move has implications for his overall ontology and signals a shift towards a general ontology of creative physis. The increasing ontological importance of physis is discussed further in chapters on objective knowledge, the living being, and philosophical cosmology. It suggests that the world horizon forms an inescapable interpretative context of cultural articulation - in the double sense of Merleau-Ponty's mise en forme du monde - in which physis can be elucidated as the ground of possibility, as well as a point of culmination for nomos in the circle of interpretative creation. The book contextualizes Castoriadis' thought within broader philosophical and sociological traditions. In particular it situates his thought within French phenomenological currents that take either an ontological and/or a hermeneutical turn. It also places a hermeneutic of modernity - that is, an interpretation that emphasizes the ongoing dialogue between romantic and enlightenment articulations of the world - at the centre of reflection. Castoriadis' reactivation of classical Greek sources is reinterpreted as part of the ongoing dialogue between the ancients and the moderns, and more broadly, as part of the interpretative field of tensions that comprises modernity.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4921-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. General Introduction: Castoriadis in Context
    (pp. 1-16)

    Ontological creation was long held to be an extrahuman affair and occupied a central place in philosophical and theological discussions alike. In Western philosophical traditions, the civilizational constellations surrounding Athens and Jerusalem have provided dual cultural sources for its historical elaboration. It was the arrival of modernity, however, that first ushered in the social-historical horizons from which the ontological implications of human creation could be more fully grasped.¹ What were the historical preconditions of this turn of events? Hans Blumenberg (2001 [1957]) emphasizes the protracted breakdown of the idea ofmimesisas the “imitation of nature,” especially in relation to...

  6. Part I: Nomos
    • Introduction to Part I: The Importance of Nomos
      (pp. 19-24)

      The significance of the ancient Greek institution of thephysisandnomoswas a lasting problematic for Castoriadis.¹ As distinguished from the normative order ofphysis,nomosindicated the order of self-institution and human convention for Castoriadis, and, as such, it encompassed the two central motifs of his thought: Autonomy and human creation.² As the epigraph states, he considers it as “our imaginary creative institution” (PA). Nevertheless, as he observed in an earlier, 1974 essay “no ontological place,” it had not been elaborated for the being ofnomos(VEJP: 326). Rectifying this situation was the result, in retrospect at least,...

    • 1 Toward an Ontology of the Social-Historical
      (pp. 25-59)

      If the 1964–65 section of theIISannounced Castoriadis’s farewell to Marx, the second section (written 1970–74) heralds his shift from phenomenology to ontology.¹ It declares itself with the programmatic chapter on the social-historical as an occluded ontological region that has remained unrecognized by traditional philosophy. Castoriadis’s original purpose in the second part ofThe Imaginary Institution of Societywas to elucidate the ontological preconditions of “autonomy.” Along the way, however, it became an elaboration ofself-creationas the mode of being of thesocial-historical. His contention, forcefully made, is that Western philosophy has reduced the richness and...

    • 2 Proto-Institutions and Epistemological Encounters
      (pp. 60-82)

      Since Kant and the transcendental turn, the status of ontology—in the sense of philosophical claims about being—has been questioned.¹ In the previous chapter, Castoriadis boldly approached the subject of being in an elucidation of the social-historical, but he quickly encounters heightened epistemological issues and a corresponding Kantian problematic: Ontological foundations are inseparable from logical foundations. Similar to Kant, Castoriadis discovers the imperative of interrogating the frameworks and categories of thought through which the idea of being can even begin to be thought, although Castoriadis’s arguments are epistemologically and ontologically substantive. In this sense, the Kantian theme is one...

    • 3 Anthropological Aspects of Subjectivity: The Radical Imagination
      (pp. 83-99)

      Castoriadis’s philosophical anthropology of the subject is found in the chapter of theIIScalled “The Social-Historical Institution: Individuals and Things.” Here an elaboration of the psyche as radical imagination is placed in the foreground.¹ The imagination was an incipient theme common to Kant, Freud, and the phenomenological movement, but with Castoriadis it was radicalized to become the very cornerstone of subjectivity and selfhood. In some ways, parallels with the chapter onlegeinandteukheinare discernable in that both chapters investigate the borderlands between the social and the natural.² At first glance, a focus on the mode of being...

    • 4 Hermeneutical Horizons of Meaning
      (pp. 100-134)

      Merleau-Ponty famously wrote, “because we are in the world, we arecondemned to meaning” (1962, p. xix). Castoriadis would seem to agree, at least in the writings predating his ontological turn. For example, his 1971 homage to Merleau-Ponty—“The Sayable and the Unsayable”—discloses a rich meditation on the importance of the world in the formation of sociocultural meaning (SU). With the onset of his ontological turn, however, Castoriadis increasingly recasts his elaboration ofmeaning, not only in terms of its sociality but also—and most especially—with respect to its world relation. More and more, Castoriadis understands the human...

  7. Part II: Physis
    • Introduction to Part II: Physis and the Romanticist Imaginary of Nature
      (pp. 137-144)

      As was evident by the final chapter of theIIS, Castoriadis had begun to extend the scope of magmas beyond the human realm and into nature. Not surprisingly, this expansion wrought changes in his overall philosophical reflections, in particular to his rethinking of the ontological significance of the creativity of nature, on the one hand, and the lines of continuity and discontinuity between human and nonhuman nature, on the other. As with his rethinking of the being of human institution (nomos) after his break with Marx, Castoriadis returned to the ancient Greeks—most explicitly to Aristotle, but also to the...

    • 5 The Rediscovery of Physis
      (pp. 145-162)

      If Castoriadis focused on an elucidation of a regional ontology ofnomosduring the 1970s, from the 1980s a shift becomes apparent in his thought as his writings become more infused with a growing realization of the importance of the creativity ofphysis. For convenience, we can date this with the publication of his 1980 review of Varela’sPrinciples of Biological Autonomy(1979). More broadly, by the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s Castoriadis shows a growing awareness of the importance of rethinking nature in relation not only to the political but also to the philosophical...

    • 6 Objective Knowledge in Review
      (pp. 163-180)

      Castoriadis’s ongoing reflections on science were critical in paving the way for a new reflection onphysis. Although he subsumed his epistemological critique to the discussion of the proto-institutions oflegeinandteukheinas a critique of elementary reason at the time of theIIS, it later developed its own momentum. During the 1980s Castoriadis’s epistemological reflections go beyond theIISto further relativize the claims of science while simultaneously liberating a space for philosophical reflection, in general, and, in particular, for deeper reflection on nature. He claims that science provides not only knowledge about nature, but also that underpinning...

    • 7 Rethinking the World of the Living Being
      (pp. 181-194)

      The living being emerges as a central theme for Castoriadis’s rethinking of creativephysis.¹ His reengagement with the mode of the living being sees the simultaneous reappearance of thephysisandnomosproblematic, although it is reconfigured at a new level. In line with the more general trend evidenced in Castoriadis’s philosophical path during the 1980s, the living being is now less characterized asself-organizing—which implies an ensidic logic—and more properly theorized in terms ofself-creation. Castoriadis’s elucidation of the living being to some extent obscures the previously clear boundary between anthropic and non-anthropic regions of being. As...

    • 8 Reimagining Cosmology
      (pp. 195-213)

      Castoriadis’s cosmological considerations emerge from his reflections on the interconnectedness of time and creation. He seeks to offer a philosophical articulation of the physical universe—as one reducible neither to a purely scientific nor a religious imaginary—by an elucidation of the overarching meaning of time.¹ Castoriadis’s dialogue with—and continual movement between—the ancients and the moderns continues to inform his elucidation, and he also draws on archaic mythopoietic motifs to anchor his image of the kosmos. Castoriadis’s philosophical cosmology, in its radicalization of Aristotle via a rethinking of Kant, continues to resonate with pre-Socratic—more specifically Ionian—visions...

  8. Conclusion: The Circle of Creation
    (pp. 214-222)

    The present study has taken the reader through the figurations—and reconfigurations—of Castoriadis’s philosophical path through ontology, and into the “crossroads in the labyrinth” emerging beyond. It offered a hermeneutic reconstruction of Castoriadis’s ontological path, with a particular emphasis on his central concept of “creation.” Its argument was twofold: First, it showed that over the course of his philosophical trajectory, Castoriadis extended his notion of ontological creation beyond the human realm to include regions of nature as well; that is, he shifted from a regional ontology of social-historical creation (asnomos) to a transregional ontology of creative emergence (as...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 223-258)
  10. References
    (pp. 259-284)
  11. Index
    (pp. 285-300)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 301-304)