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Workshop Teleology and History

Wednesday 10 April 2019
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Institute of Philosophy is pleased to announce a workshop on Teleology and History with two distinguished guests from Universidad Diego Portales (Santiago di Chile). The topic is connected to the PhD dissertation of Álvaro Cortina on Bergson and the Aristotelian model of immanent teleology which he will defend the next day.

All are welcome!

Hugo E. Herrera

Theory of Understanding and Historical Teleology in Carl Schmitt


In the works of Carl Schmitt there is a theory of understanding, that he develops starting from a reflection about juridical understanding. The theory of understanding considers the situation in its concrete and peculiar character. Due to that character, the situation is for Schmitt irreducible to general rules and concepts via subsumption or subordination of the former to the latter. In Schmitt’s works, there is also an historical thought. Relevant aspects of this thought appear, however, to be in tension with his hermeneutical theory. In his texts devoted to reflections on history, he persistently mentions the notion of Katechon, a force that suspends the process of historical decadence that begins with Modernity, and whose efficacy ends with the coming of the Antichrist. Both the notion of a process of historical decadence and the notion of Katechon seem to contradict the Schmittian theory of understanding, more specifically, the thought of the situation as a concrete and eventual case, that can arise as exceptional to the rules and general concepts. In the present conference, I put forward the central aspects of Schmitt’s theory of understanding, his notions of Katechon and historical decadence, and the way in which these notions are in conflict with that theory of understanding.

Hugo E. Herrera has a degree in Juridical Sciences at the Valparaiso University (Chile) and a PhD at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg (Germany). He is full professor at the Diego Portales University (Santiago, Chile). His research and teaching interests include modern and contemporary political philosophy, Kantian philosophy and German Idealism. He is the author of seven books (among them: Carl Schmitt between Theology and Technology. SUNY Press, forthcoming; Carl Schmitt als politischer Philosoph. Versuch einer Bestimmung seiner Stellung bezüglich der praktischen Philosophie. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 2010; Más allá del cientificismo. Santiago: Ediciones UDP 2011; Sein und Staat. Die ontologische Begründung der politischen Praxis bei Helmut Kuhn. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann 2005); co-author of two books; editor of two books; Herrera has published around 30 papers in scholarly journals.

Aïcha Liviana Messina

Time, Destiny and History in Levinas’ thought


In this workshop, we will analyze Levinas’s conception of time, destiny and history taking into account the influence of Bergson in Levinas’s thought. Whereas on the one hand, Levinas is close to Bergson’s conception of time as creation, on the other hand, Levinas doesn’t think time as duration but as discontinuity. We will argue that by reintroducing discontinuity in Bergson’s understanding of time, Levinas proposes a new articulation between creation and freedom that aims at freeing history from the prism of destiny.

Aïcha Liviana Messina has studied Literature and Philosophy in Paris and Strasbourg. She is full professor of Philosophy at University Diego Portales.

Her works focuses on French contemporary philosophy and in particular on the problem of critic and on its political repercussions, and on the problem of violence.

She is the author of L’anarchie de la paix. Levinas et la philosophie politique (CRNS, 2018) (The anarchy of peace. Levinas and political philosophy) ; of an essay on Marx titled Argent/Amour. Le livre blanc des manuscrits de 1844 (Le portique, 2011) (Money/Love. The white book of the 1844 Manuscripts), and of a book of literature and philosophy on the topic of the model in the artistic process of creation titled Poser me va si bien (POL, 2005).

She has also edited and co-edited several books such as Philosophy and Messianism. Language, Politics, Philosophy and Writing violence. Toward a grammar of the cry published in Metales Pesados; the dossier Peace and War. From the question of memory to the new forms of global war published in The New Centennial Review as well as Writing and Power which will be published in Cahiers Maurice Blanchot; and finally Life, War, Ontology published in Pleyade.

She is currently finishing a monography on the topics of Law, innocence and grace in Blanchot’s thought.

Álvaro Cortina

The problems of philosophy of history. Around Aristotle, Bergson and the final cause


The progressive philosophies of history apply the doctrine of the final causes or teleology to history. This entails a vision according to which universal history is a linear trend which ends in its own culmination, goal or telos. However my aim in this lecture will be to confront this view with two authors that used the final causes massively and that considered the particular domain of philosophy of history highly problematic. Firstly we will see Aristotle’s denial of philosophy of history. Aristotle considers that history is extremely important, but from the empirical point of view. That means that in his view although the data taken from history can be enlightening, one could never extract a teleological inner principle or whatever principle from it. Secondly I will address Bergson’s view of history. Bergson’s perspective regarding our topic can be found somewhere in the middle of the XIX century optimism and XX century skepticism or pessimism. He defended teleology since he saw perfectivism in his broad unified view of human cultures and he did not define any final telos to attain. Given his naturalistic account of mankind and human history, he believes that the so-called principle that moves and directs history is biological, in a broad sense. He distinguishes in cultures both a tendency to conservation and a tendency to transgression and change. The latter is the source of Bergsonian progress.

Alvaro Cortina obtained the degree on Philosophy in the University of Navarra. He also studied at Università degli Studi di Roma. La Sapienza, in Italy. He received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. In 2014 he obtained a four-year scholarship from the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago de Chile, with a Cotutelle in Leiden University. Between Autumn 2013 and Spring 2018 he has given seminars at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Instituto de Humanidades de la Universidad Diego Portales, Leiden University, École Normale Supérieure of Paris, Universidad Eclesiástica de San Dámaso of Madrid and in the Commisio Leonine (Paris) on Bergson and Aristotle. In Autumn 2017, he took part in the Selbstorganisierte Gruppe zur klassischen Deutschen Philosophie at Humboldt Universität of Berlin. He has given lectures at Oxford University, Manchester University, and Groningen University. His current research is in aesthetics. He has published around 15 papers in scholarly journals. Today he is professor of Philosophy at the Augustinian Center of Theological Studies, in Madrid.

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