Review Of "The Experience Of Freedom" By J.-L. Nancy

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The dust jacket announces this book (published in France in 1988) as the most systematic, radical, and lucid treatise on freedom written in contemporary Continental philosophy. The author more modestly calls it a "sketch" that "barely outline[s]" his thesis that "There is no ‘experience of freedom’: freedom itself is experience." Freedom is not to be understood as a property of a subject, opposed to necessity, captured by various political and moral freedoms, or inextricably linked with rationality or goodness: freedom chooses evil and good alike. Nancy dismisses the semantics "freedom" or freedom as concept or idea: freedom must be grasped in its facticity and singularity. Continental philosophy and Anglo-American philosophy are each other's "Other." Nancy makes no attempt to engage with Anglo-American discussions. His audience is clearly those who are au courant with contemporary French and German philosophy, especially as represented in the thought of Heidegger. Those not intimately familiar with the terminology (and style) of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, and Blanchot will find the book far from lucid or systematic, which then obscures the radical, even revolutionary, political message it wishes to deliver. Not generally recommended, except for libraries specializing in recent French philosophy.


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