The death and the rebirth of the subject

November 12, 2019 - November 13, 2019
Instituto de Filosofia, Universidad Diego Portales

Av. Ejército 260
Santiago 8320000

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Keynote speakers:

Columbia University


Universidad Diego Portales

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The term “subject” is used in philosophy in two different and apparently even contradictory senses. On the one hand, the term means the agent as the source of thought and action, as the origin of change in the world. The idea that the human being is – or can be – a subject in this sense characterizes much of modern thought, for example the philosophies of Descartes and Kant. On the other hand, the term refers to the agent as subjected to the prevailing political and social order, as governed by the established rules and practices. The idea that the human being is a subject in this second sense has been put forward by Nietzsche, Marx, and Freud and then developed by Heidegger, Foucault, Althusser, and others. Foucault has called this development “the death of the subject” since it aims to put an end to the notion of subject in the first, traditional sense.

The history of the notion of subject does not end with this “death”, however. We find in recent and contemporary philosophy not only said critique of the traditional notion, but also attempts to re-establish, after that critique, a notion of the human being as the source of change in the world. Arendt and Badiou may here be mentioned as prominent examples.

The present conference seeks to explore this “death” and “rebirth” of the notion of subject. The central question of the conference will be whether the attempts to recover a notion of the human being as source of thought and action succeed in “overcoming” the critique of the traditional notion.

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