Existenz Menu
An International Journal in Philosophy, Religion, Politics, and the Arts
ISSN 1932-1066

Volume 11, No.1, Spring 2016

Culture and Politics


Index and Editors' Introduction

Thus Spake Romano
Carlin Romano | Ursinus College

The author of America the Philosophical responds to four sympathetic, but hardly in-the-pocket interpreters of his book. He appreciates Paul Croce's support of a broad conception of philosophy outside philosophy departments, but resists, as needlessly confusing, Croce's rhetorical desire to dub such activity "unphilosophical," à la the "uncola's" twist on Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. He welcomes John Kaag's adding him to a line of "atypical" American thinkers, but demurs at Kaag's willingness to accept the Platonic characterization of Isocrates as a sophist, and to blame Isocrates for the "might makes right" attitudes of his students, Glaucon and Thrasymachus. He applauds Jackie Kegley's vaunting of William James and Josiah Royce as role models for broad-based philosophy, but thinks her rejection of Richard Rorty as such a model stems from an overweighting of an ambiguous, canonical Rorty sentence about the link between individualism and participation in a community. Finally, he basks happily in Mary Rorty's suggestion that America the Philosophical continues, as a fourth wave, the pragmatist vision of philosophy.

The session is viewable at YouTube.

Keywords: Rorty, Richard; Isocrates; United States of America; pragmatism; rhetoric; sophistry; argument.


Carlin Romano, UnPhilosopher of the Philosophical Landscape
Paul Croce | Stetson University, Florida

Carlin Romano has identified an approach to philosophizing widespread in the United States especially on the margins of and outside of professional philosophy, with roots in pragmatism and the ancient Greek philosopher Isocrates, and with emphasis on flexibility and openness to diverse experiences. This approach has parallels to marketplace thinking and practices and provides opportunities for teaching and for popularizations of philosophy, but also contains problems for potential loss of rigor and precision in philosophical discourse.  William James' philosophy offers complementary support for Romano's goals especially for the mediation of body-mind contrasts implicit in many of the unconventional philosophizers in his book.

Keywords: Romano, Carlin; unphilosophy; precision; direction; James, William; pragmatism; Western philosophy; American philosophy; popular philosophizing; marketplace culture; rational thinking; non-rational thinking.


Do Not Block Inquiry: Philosophy in America—The Tradition of Socrates and Peirce
Jacquelyn Ann Kegley | California State University, Bakersfield

Romano is correct that philosophy today needs to become more public and inclusive. But different models for philosophical practice are needed: not Rorty, maybe Isocrates, but definitely Socrates, Peirce and Royce. Rorty's focus on the individual and the private and on conversation misses the strong emphasis in pragmatism on balancing individual and communal needs and on the call to build community. Isocrates fits into pragmatism's concern for reflection and deliberative choice, but Socrates asks us to probe, criticize, and seek to change fundamental assumptions. Also needed today in light of a dominant scientism is a Peirce/Royce notion of science as a human but significant community endeavor.

Keywords: Rorty, Richard; Iscocrates; Socrates; Peirce, Charles Sanders; Royce, Josiah; scientism; community.


On Not Being A (Typical) Philosopher
John J. Kaag | University of Massachusetts, Lowell

This essay accesses the difference between traditional professional philosophy and a practical-critical strain of philosophy found in Romano's America the Philosophical. While Romano eschews many of the forms that contemporary philosophy has taken in the second half of the twentieth century, he seeks to revive the thinking of Isocrates, an ancient thinker who was committed to rational discourse about matters of vital importance. Romano sees classical American philosophy, and especially Richard Rorty, as extending this legacy of Isocratic teachings. The essay concludes with a brief comment concerning philosophical trade publishing.

Keywords: Romano, Carlin; Isocrates; pragmatism; instrumentalism; relativism.


Envisioning a Fourth Wave
Mary V. Rorty | Stanford University

This comment on America the Philosophical calls attention to its treatment of Richard Rorty's place in the history of American pragmatism and as a successor to a seldom-discussed Greek philosopher, Isocrates. Carlin Romano's discussion of both the content of contemporary American philosophizing and the range of people he acknowledges as participating in it is itself a valuable contribution to the tradition he describes.

Keywords: Romano, Carlin; Rorty, Richard; Isocrates; American Philosophical Association; Bourne, Randolph; Rawls, John; pragmatism.


Evil as the Ghostly Doppelgänger of Good in Karl Jaspers
Czesława Piecuch | Pedagogical University Krakow, Poland

The originality of Karl Jaspers' thought, is embodied in his notion of evil as the "ghostly doppelganger of the good." Jaspers argues that good and evil are inextricably connected: the good reveals itself in battle against the evil, while the evil is the answer to the temptation of the good. According to this concept, destroying one of them also implies destroying the other. While such a notion may carry a pessimistic implication for the possibility of moral improvement, it also brings an optimistic conviction that the evil can never conquer the world completely. The question that remains to be examined is whether this interconnection of good and evil in human life and action can be reconciled with another of Jaspers' beliefs, namely that of their essential opposition. The answer is affirmative when viewed from a perspective of Transzendenz.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Kant, Immanuel; good; evil; misfortune; ghostly doppelganger; freedom; Existenz; Transzendenz; sincerity.

Ceslawa Piecuch |

Sacrificing Sacrifice to Self-Sacrifice: Sublimation of Sacrificial Violence in Western Indo European Cultures
Eric D. Meyer | Albuquerque, NM

Karl Jaspers describes The Axial Period (800-200 BCE) as a world-historical turning point in the spiritual evolution of the human species, characterized by the rise of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Pythagoreanism, and the Hebrew prophets, without precisely identifying what defines this world-historical period. What defines The Axial Period, I argue with Jaspers, is the sublimation of sacrifice, through which the sacrificial killing of domestic animals, characteristic of primitive religions, is sublimated into the self-sacrificial disciplines of prayer, meditation, and asceticism. This sublimation of sacrifice involves a curiously duplicitous gesture, through which the sacred violence of primitive sacrifice is simultaneously sublimated into the self-sacrificial disciplines of the Western Indo-European religions, and demoted to the strictly physical violence of modern warfare, stripped of its sacred origins. I argue, against Jaspers, that there is no world-historical discontinuity between primitive and modern sacrifice, but rather a continuous trajectory of the sublimation of sacrifice in Western Indo-European cultures. The Brahminic sacred texts, the Rig Veda and the Brahmanas, for example, describe a sophisticated sacrificial ritualism that more effectively sublimates sacrificial violence than do Western European modern cultures, in which un-sacrificial violence continues to escalate, to challenge the survival of the contemporary world.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Axial Period; Indo-European; Veda; sacrifice; ritual.


Jaspers, Husserl, Kant: Boundary Situations as a Turning-Point
Gladys L. Portuondo | Los Angeles, CA

The essay addresses the meaning of boundary situations in the philosophy of Karl Jaspers, as a turning point drawing on Edmund Husserl's phenomenology and Immanuel Kant's transcendental philosophy, and as a key for the comprehension of some of the differences in Karl Jaspers' philosophy regarding the thought of Husserl and Kant, respectively. For Jaspers, the meaning of boundary situations as a structure of Existenz underlines the possibility of risk in the individual historicity. Taking risks breaks the flow of reflection and, at the same time, appeals to an opening of ethics—without sacrificing the universality of Kant's categorical imperative. From Jaspers' point of view, Husserl's phenomenology does not open the possibility of self-transformation of the self, nor contributes it to the unfolding of the "inner action" of the transcending thinking, and since the boundary situations break the flow of the self-reflective consciousness, tensions arising between consciousness and Existenz remain beyond the scope of Husserl's phenomenology. Similarly, as seen from Jaspers' position the meaning of Kant's transcendental method has become different after the clarification by the Existenz, which not only shows that thought is at stake in boundary situations, but also that Existenz at the same time puts its potentiality and its fate at stake.

Keywords: Jaspers, Karl; Kant, Immanuel; Husserl, Edmund; phenomenology of consciousness; ill consciousness; self-reflective consciousness; boundary situations; transcending-thinking; transcendental method; existential clarification; individual historicity.


The Erotico-Theoretical Transference Relationship between Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir Revisited with Michèle Le Dœuff
Ruth A. Burch | Lugano-Paradiso, Switzerland

Michèle Le Dœuff considers the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as a paradigmatic case of what she calls an "erotico-theoretical transference" relationship: De Beauvoir devoted herself to Sartre theoretically by adopting his existentialist perspective for the analysis of reality in general and the analysis of women's oppression in particular. The latter is especially strange since Sartre used strongly sexist metaphors and adopted a macho attitude towards women. In her book Hipparchia's Choice, Le Dœuff speaks in this context of "theoretical masculinism." She convincingly shows in this book that Sartre without using images could not have closed his existentialist philosophy: without the feminine drawback he would not have been able to explain why man cannot become god. Sartre not only understands gaining knowledge as a rape of a woman he also fears that the possessed feminine (body) could reverse its position from being dominated to the dominating force by appropriating the masculine through slime. In Being and Nothingness Sartre states that "slime is the revenge of the In-itself. A sickly–sweet, feminine revenge." Despite of the fact that De Beauvoir used Sartre's heterosexist ontology and metaphysics she managed to provide a highly influential depiction of women's condition and offered an original approach to the understanding of selfhood which places woman inside the subject.

Keywords: Le Dœuff, Michèle; de Beauvoir, Simone; Sartre, Jean-Paul; second sex; women's condition; selfhood; transference relationship; sexist metaphor; existentialist philosophy; philosophical imaginary.



Founding Editors
Alan M. Olson
Helmut Wautischer

Spring / Fall

Sponsored by
Karl Jaspers Society
of North America
Boston, MA

All materials posted
on this site are
protected under
copyright law. Unauthorized dissemination of any content posted on this site is prohibited. Please contact the editor for copyright clearance.

Karl Jaspers Stiftung | KJSNA | Karl Jaspers Gesellschaft | Polish Karl Jaspers Society | Italian Karl Jaspers Society