Thursday, December 23, 2004

From the Mail: Blondel and Lask

Dear Bill!

I am a German hobby philosopher and read your Internet texts with great interest. You mentioned Blondel the other day, [see here and here], which is what led me to your page in the first place. In fact I have read a great many of Blondel´s writings, both from his earlier and his later period, and I can say that I have been enthusiastic about his philosophy. I even wrote a manuscript on him (to be published posthumously).

BV: Posthumously?! There is such a thing as excessive modesty. (I myself do not suffer from it.) Why not publish your manuscript now, while you are rot und nicht tot, and see if you can get some responses from people? If you like, you may send me a sample of your manuscript.

How much of Blondel has been translated into German? There is not that much in English. I read German, but not French.

At the moment I am waiting for Oliva Blanchette´s intellectual biography of Blondel, because I think that whoever strives to understand Blondel´s philosophy must come up with a convincing interpretation of the connection between the two phases of his thought. More about that later, if you are interested.

BV: Yes, please do tell me about this. I was a student of Blanchette's, but we never discussed Blondel. I wasn't aware that Blanchette was working on an intellectual biography of Blondel. He performed a great service by translating L'Action (1893).

These days I often look into the writings of Emil Lask, a thinker that you should certainly include in your list of neglected philosophers. To my mind a real philosophical superstar, who was killed in action in 1915 at the age of 40. People often chide him for having misinterpreted the Kantian ´Copernican Revolution`, in fact of having perverted a milestone of modern subjectivism into a highlight of objectivism, which, by the way, is not at all the case, as Lask is beyond the duality of subjectivism and objectivism and cannot be interpreted within the framework of this opposition.

BV: I think you are right about Lask. I haven't been able to find a good website devoted to him. Do you know of one? I read some Lask as a graduate student, but his works are hard to come by. I know a lot more about his teacher, Heinrich Rickert, and his student, Eugen Herrigel, than I do about Lask himself.

The same holds good for Blondel. He tried to go beyond the dualisms that he had inherited and ends up with a brilliant vision on the other side of ontology. Hopefully I could hold your interest for a while. All I can do is encourage you to go on!

Yours sincerely,

Peter Freienstein

BV: Thank you very much for writing, Peter, and for the encouragement. What you say interests me very much, and I encourage you to write again. I am particularly fascinated by Blondel's notion that heteronomy is a condition of genuine human autonomy. If he can pull that off, then he can reconcile Athens and Jerusalem. Neither Athens without Jersualem (Husserl, say) nor Jerusalem without Athens (Shestov, say), but the two reconciled.