Atheism

Alexandre Kojève. Translated by Jeff Love.

Columbia University Press

Atheism

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Pub Date: November 2018

ISBN: 9780231180009

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $32.00£25.00

Pub Date: November 2018

ISBN: 9780231542296

Format: E-book

List Price: $31.99£25.00

Atheism

Alexandre Kojève. Translated by Jeff Love.

Columbia University Press

One of the twentieth century’s most brilliant and unconventional thinkers, Alexandre Kojève was a Russian émigré to France whose lectures on Hegel in the 1930s galvanized a generation of French intellectuals. Although Kojève wrote a great deal, he published very little in his lifetime, and so the ongoing rediscovery of his work continues to present new challenges to philosophy and political theory. Written in 1931 but left unfinished, Atheism is an erudite and open-ended exploration of profound questions of estrangement, death, suicide, and the infinite that demonstrates the range and the provocative power of Kojève’s thought.

Ranging across Heidegger, Buddhism, Christianity, German idealism, Russian literature, and mathematics, Kojève advances a novel argument about freedom and authority. He investigates the possibility that there is not any vantage point or source of authority—including philosophy, science, or God—that is outside or beyond politics and the world as we experience it. The question becomes whether atheism—or theism—is even a meaningful position since both affirmation and denial of God’s existence imply a knowledge that seems clearly outside our capacities. Masterfully translated by Jeff Love, this book offers a striking new perspective on Kojève’s work and its implications for theism, atheism, politics, and freedom.
Kojève is a riddle, his Russian roots eclipsed by his legendary role as explicator of German idealism to French intellectuals in the 1930s. This splendid translation of his erudite, eccentric 1931 text reveals him taking on the most Dostoevskian of questions with all the wisdom of Western Europe at his back. What is our relation to what is outside the world? Here is an inquiry into atheistic anthropology that would have thrilled Heidegger himself. Caryl Emerson, Princeton University
Alexandre Kojève became famous and influential primarily because of his seminar on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit that was given in Paris between the years 1933 and 1939. This seminar was regularly attended by leading figures of the French intellectual life of that time such as Georges Bataille and Jacques Lacan. Kojève's earlier book Atheism is a brilliant analysis of the relationship between faith and atheism that offers invaluable insights on the formation of Kojeve’s thought but also remains important in our time. Boris Groys, author of Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media
Alexandre Kojève's philosophical novella on the stakes of atheism for his time is the most significant work of his early career. It is key to understanding his famous Hegel lectures, his attempt to outdo Heidegger, and his idiosyncratic early politics that mixed hopes of radical transformation with a deep pessimism. Thanks to Jeff Love's translation, we can open up anew those philosophical movements of interwar France, including phenomenology and existentialism, which Kojève would so profoundly affect. Stefanos Geroulanos, New York University
In Jeff Love's careful translation, this difficult text exudes the irresistible attraction of Kojève's philosophical prose. Written a couple of years before his famous lectures on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, this essay already displays Kojève's signature combination of intellectual depth, probity, and radicalism. Galin Tihanov, George Steiner Professor of Comparative Literature, Queen Mary University of London
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Atheism and Politics
Translator’s Note
Atheism
Notes
Index

About the Author

Alexandre Kojève (1902–1968) was a Russian-born French philosopher and polymath whose influence on contemporary thought via his many disciples and detractors, from Derrida to Lacan to Leo Strauss, is vast. While most famous for his Hegel lectures, Kojève also had exceptional influence while working in the French Ministry of Economic Affairs as an important figure in the creation of the European Economic Community.

Jeff Love is Research Professor of German and Russian at Clemson University. He is the author of The Black Circle: A Life of Alexandre Kojève (Columbia, 2018) and The Overcoming of History in “War and Peace” (2004). He is also cotranslator of F. W. J. Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom (2006) and editor of Heidegger in Russia and Eastern Europe (2017).