Caring for the Soul in a Postmodern Age

Politics and Phenomenology in the Thought of Jan Patočka

By Edward F. Findlay

Subjects: Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791454862, 267 pages, August 2002
Hardcover : 9780791454855, 267 pages, August 2002

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Table of contents


1. Introduction

2. "Concrete Humans in Their Corporeal World": An Interpretation of Husserl and Heidegger


The Influence of Heidegger
A Phenomenology of Movement


3. Philosophy After the Death of Metaphysics: Patocka and Greek Thought


Plato and Europe
Caring for the Soul
Metaphysics and "Negative Platonism"
The Idea, the Good, and the Truth


4. A Philosophy of History and a Theory of Politics


The Basis of Human Historicity
A Philosophy of History
The Polis in History
Two Elements of Historical Life: Freedom and Problematicity
Philosophy of History and Politics
Europe, Science, and Metaphysics


5. Politics and Ethics in the Twentieth Century


Patocka and Politics
The Heretical Essays and the Twentieth Century
The Spiritual Person and the Polis
Ethics and Morality


6. Conclusion: Foundations and Philosophy, Politics and Postmoderism


The Problem of Meaning
Meaning, Politics, and Conflict


Appendix: Patocka's Reception in the English-Language Literature


Patocka as Conflicted Humanist
Patocka as Postmodern: Antifoundationalism, Theology, and Liberalism



Works Cited


The first full exploration of the political thought of Jan Patocka, student of Husserl and Heidegger and mentor to Václav Havel.


In 1977 the sixty-nine-year-old Czech philosopher Jan Patočka died from a brain hemorrhage following a series of interrogations by the Czechoslovak secret police. A student of Husserl and Heidegger, he had been arrested, along with young playwright Václav Havel, for publicly opposing the hypocrisy of the Czechoslovak Communist regime. Patočka had dedicated himself as a philosopher to laying the groundwork of what he termed a "life in truth."

This book analyzes Patočka's philosophy and political thought and illuminates the synthesis in his work of Socratic philosophy and its injunction to "care for the soul." In bridging the gap, not only between Husserl and Heidegger, but also between postmodern and ancient philosophy, Patočka presents a model of democratic politics that is ethical without being metaphysical, and transcendental without being foundational.

Edward F. Findlay received a Ph. D. in Political Science from Louisiana State University.


"…Caring for the Soul in a Postmodern Age … is the first introduction to Patocûka's work written in English. As such it is to be welcomed. " — Radical Philosophy

"A superb book. Findlay's treatment makes an excellent case to give Patocûka's thought a serious reading in the present day, given its unusual station as lying both in between various positions generally taken to be mutually opposed to each other, and in its earnest effort to integrate the best of each and move beyond the limits of both. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle get unified in terms of the fundamental inspiration of European philosophy—'care of the soul'—while in the context of the social and political (not to mention philosophical) founderings that have characterized the twentieth century. " — Ronald Bruzina, translator of Sixth Cartesian Meditation: The Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method by Eugen Fink