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Spirit in Ashes

Spirit in Ashes: Hegel, Heidegger, and Man-Made Mass Death

Copyright Date: 1985
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 263
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  • Book Info
    Spirit in Ashes
    Book Description:

    Contemporary phenomena of mass death-such as Hiroshima and Auschwitz-have brought with them the threat of annihilation of human life. In this provocative and disturbing book, Edith Wyschogrod shows that the various manifestations of man-made mass death form a single structure, a "death-event," which radically alters our understanding of language, time, and self. She contends that the death event has its own logic and driving force that she traces to pre-Socratic philosophy and to certain mythological motifs that recur in Western thought."Spirit in Ashesis one book in contemporary philosophy that should be read aloud and taken to heart by any professional or intellectual who purports to have a conscience."-Carl Rasche,Journal of the American Academy of Religion"A masterful blend of scholarship, originality, and serious passion."-Robert C. Neville,Commonweal"An original, insightful, and challenging work."-Robert Burch,Canadian Philosophical Reviews

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16198-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. I Kingdoms of Death
    (pp. 1-34)

    What is the meaning of deathin the twentieth century, when millions of lives have been extinguished and the possibility of annihilating human life altogether remains open? Is there an art of dying which is useful in this time and circumstance? Or does quantitative change, the emergence of the numberless dead, so alter our perspective on death that no interpretation is adequate to the apocalyptic character of the phenomenon except perhaps the gasp of horror, the scream, that in Greek tragedy accompanies the revelation of things unspeakable? For meaning can only be created when what is radically new appears in...

  7. II The Logic of Mass Death
    (pp. 35-64)

    The death event includes a variety of phenomena, of which the death-world is an important part. Its horrors remain visible because the victims of the death-world are not all destroyed outright. But to understand the magnitude of the death event we must also explore those aspects of it in which the victims are eliminated altogether: war, extermination camps, mass shootings, famine, and so on. Here it will not do to examine the meaning of the phenomenon in terms of the destroyed life-world, or to show that a new language has been created for the inhabitants of an inner world surrounded...

  8. III Hegel and the Crises of Cognition
    (pp. 65-105)

    The death event with its vortex at the death-world seems to have established once and for all the radical incommensurability of reason and history. Yet the adequacy of reason to historical actuality is a basic premise of Hegel’s system. Why then should we look to the philosophy of Hegel for insight into the meaning of man-made mass death? What is living in the philosophy of Hegel, what speaks to us as fresh and vital, is not his uncanny insight into such isolated precursors of the death event as the bloody aftermath of the French Revolution but his recognition that the...

  9. IV Hegel and the Aporias of Existence
    (pp. 106-149)

    The meaning of death requiresan understanding of man not only as a self-conscious existent, a subject, but also as a natural being. Even if man transcends nature, the human existent is also “the most fundamental type of organism.” This means that the conquest of nature by Spirit does not entail the end of finite existence. Instead the sheerly contingent aspects of finite existence are transformed by the actions of Spirit and taken up into its larger design so that the overcoming of nature remains a perpetual challenge to Spirit. This would be true even if this overcoming belonged only...

  10. V Finitude and the Structures of Existence: The Early Heidegger
    (pp. 150-174)

    In a remarkable passage in his Logic, Hegel describes the character of finite being: “Theyare, but the truth of this being is theirend. The finite not only alters, like something in general, but itceases to be; and its ceasing to be is not merely a possibility, so that it could be without ceasing to be, but the being as such of finite things is to have the germ of decease as their Being-within-self: the hour of their birth is the hour of their death.”¹ Finite things are what they are because it is impossible for them not...

  11. VI Technology and Poetry: The Later Heidegger
    (pp. 175-200)

    In considering Heidegger’sanalysis of Dasein inBeing and Timeit is all too easy to forget the book’s aim, which is to “work out the question of the meaning of Being” (BT1, p. 19). Heidegger never loses sight of this question, which is for him the sole theme of philosophy. Since human beings alone inquire into the meaning of Being,Being and Timefocuses on Dasein as the access route to Being. Only after making Dasein transparent to itself does Heidegger turn in his later work to interrogate the essence of Being, beginning with Being as it has...

  12. VII Self, Language, and Community
    (pp. 201-216)

    The incongruities and paradoxes generated by the twentieth-century world of man-made mass death fundamentally and apocalyptically overturn our previous conceptions of finitude. No contemporary thinker has made this phenomenon thematic, much less tried to assess its relevance for developing a conception of the self to which this phenomenon is integral. I only hope to offer some tentative suggestions for developing such a paradigm. The self I describe is not an abstraction based upon empirical observation of survivors of the various segments of the death event. Rather, I appeal to the structures of existence opened up in a world of radically...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 217-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-247)