Questioning the Presence of the Past

How Genuine Is the Contemporary Revival of Antique Horizons of Existential Meaning?

in Secular Studies
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Abstract

This paper questions the contemporary turn towards horizons of existential meaning going back to antiquity especially in the shape of a turn to religion by pointing to crucial differences between antique conceptions of thought and their modern revivals. Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault interpret antique thought as spiritual exercises to perfect human existence, exposing an inherent existential relevance and connection to a peculiar conception of truth. I argue that because of these ties to a truth claim deeply alien to the modern scientific world-view, antique horizons of existential meaning cannot be revived within modern frames of thought. Their contemporary presence is more likely the expression of the deeply ambivalent modern relationship to premodern horizons of existential meaning, rather than a genuine revival.

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