Nihilism and Emancipation

Ethics, Politics, and Law

Gianni Vattimo. Edited by Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press

Nihilism and Emancipation

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Pub Date: February 2007

ISBN: 9780231130837

160 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $26.00£22.00

Pub Date: September 2004

ISBN: 9780231130820

160 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $75.00£63.00

Nihilism and Emancipation

Ethics, Politics, and Law

Gianni Vattimo. Edited by Santiago Zabala

Columbia University Press

A daring marriage of philosophical theory and practical politics, this collection is the first of Gianni Vattimo's many books to combine his intellectual pursuits with his public and political life. Vattimo is a paradoxical figure, at once a believing Christian and a vociferous critic of the Catholic Church, an outspoken liberal but not a former communist, and a recognized authority on Nietzsche and Heidegger as well as a prominent public intellectual and member of the European parliament. Building on his unique position as a philosopher and politician, Vattimo takes on some of the most pressing questions of our time: Is it still possible, long after Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, to talk of moral imperatives, individual rights, or political freedom? Are these values still relevant in today's world?

Tackling these crucial issues, Gianni Vattimo argues that nihilism is not the absence of meaning but a recognition of a plurality of meanings; it is not the end of civilization but the beginning of new social paradigms. Commonly associated with the pessimistic belief that all of existence is meaningless, nihilism, as a philosophical principle, is far less sensational—it is the ethical doctrine that there are no moral absolutes or infallible natural laws, that "truth" is inescapably subjective. Because the conditions for equality and liberty are not "naturally" given, society must actively create these ideals or it will inevitably fall prey to irrationality, prejudice, and oppression. Vattimo contends that the infighting, timidity, and confusion that have overtaken contemporary liberal thought and politics are the products a prolonged and indulgent mourning over the loss of the transcendental father figure—any institution or power structure that defines truth, knowledge, and reality. Until humanity overcomes its need for external authority—whether it be organized religion, the nation-state, or free-market capitalism—emancipation will remain unattainable. Collecting fourteen of Vattimo's most influential essays on ethics, politics, and law, Nihilism and Emancipation is a provocative reevaluation of meaning, values, and the idea of freedom in Western culture.

The fluid writing and the translator's "invisible" inclusion of explanatory phrases...makes this accessible to undergraduate and lay readers, as well as of interest to scholars...Highly recommended.

Library Journal

Nihilism and Emancipation gives an excellent picture of Gianni Vattimo's recent work and of the interesting and original challenges he offers to what are often seen as philosophical certainties. Even those who disagree with where Vattimo ultimately takes his argument would benefit from pondering his suggestive and imaginative remapping of our philosophical landscape.

Charles Taylor, Northwestern University
Foreword by Richard Rorty
Editor's Preface
Introduction
Part I. Ethics
1. Postmodernity, Technology, Ontology
2. Philosophy and the Decline of the West
3. Ethics of Provenance
4. Liberty and Peace in the Postmodern Condition
5. Ethics Without Transcendence?
6. Pain and Metaphysics
Part II. Politics
7. Philosophy, Metaphysics, Democracy
8. Hermeneutics and Democracy
9. A project for the Left
10. Socialism, in Other Words Europe
11. Globalization and the Relevance of Socialism
Part III. Law
12. Doing the Law Justice
13. An Apology for Proceduralism
14. On the Externality of Crimes and Punishments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

Gianni Vattimo is emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Turin and a member of the European Parliament. His books with Columbia University Press are Christianity, Truth, and Weakening Faith: A Dialogue (with René Girard), Not Being God: A Collaborative Autobiography, Art's Claim to Truth, After the Death of God, Dialogue with Nietzsche, The Future of Religion (with Richard Rorty), Nihilism and Emancipation: Ethics, Politics, and the Law, and After Christianity.

Richard Rorty has taught at Wellesley, Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Stanford. With Gianni Vattimo, he is the author of The Future of Religion.Santiago Zabala is ICREA Research Professor at the University of Barcelona. He is the author of The Remains of Being: Hermeneutic Ontology After Metaphysics and The Hermeneutic Nature of Analytic Philosophy: A Study of Ernst Tugendhat; editor of Art's Claim to Truth, Weakening Philosophy, and The Future of Religion; and coeditor (with Jeff Malpas) of Consequences of Hermeneutics. William McCuaig is a translator living in Toronto.