Philosophical Anthropology and the Problem of Potentiality

Term: Spring 2009

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6614

Part of the problem of Philosophical Anthropology ("What is a human being?") is the problem of the specificity of human faculties, i.e. the question of what it means for a rational being to �have� a potentiality. In contemporary philosophy, this question has gained a new and quite controversial actuality. On the one hand, metaphysical approaches in post-analytical philosophy (McDowell, Michael Thompson) maintain a neo-Aristotelian notion of rational faculties that culminates in the idea of virtue. In focusing on the (practical) rationality of the human life form, potentiality appears to this line of reasoning in the form of a unified, unambiguous, and transparent self-consciousness. On the other hand, however, some strands in contemporary ontological theory (Deleuze, Agamben) center on a concept of potentiality that decisively breaks with this Aristotelian framework. By way of highlighting notions of virtuality or impotentiality, they rather focus either on the peculiar human mode of �having� a potentiality, or on the inner structure of �the virtual� and its specific kind of actualization. The seminar course aims at both understanding and discussing this constellation by situating it in the philosophical tradition: Readings of Aristotle�s Metaphysics, Leibniz� �Monadology,� and Heidegger�s Being and Time shall therefore make up the background for such a discussion.

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