Being Guilty: Freedom, Responsibility, and Conscience in German Philosophy from Kant to Heidegger

ISBN : 9780197605561

Guy Elgat
336 Pages
140 x 210 mm
Pub date
Jan 2022
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What can guilt, the painful sting of the bad conscience, tell us about who we are as human beings? How can it be explained or justified? Being Guilty seeks to answer these questions through an examination of the views of Kant, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Paul Ree, Nietzsche, and Heidegger on guilt, freedom, responsibility, and conscience. The concept of guilt has not received sufficient attention from scholars working in the history of German philosophy. What's more, even individual thinkers whose conceptions of guilt have been researched have not been studied fully within their historical contexts. Guy Elgat redresses both these scholarly lacunae to show how these philosophers' arguments can be more deeply grasped once read in their historical context, a history that should be read as proceeding dialectically. Thus, in Kant, Schelling, and Schopenhauer, we find variations on the idea that guilt for specific actions we perform is justified because the human agent is guilty in his very being-a guilt for which he is responsible. In contrast, in Ree and Nietzsche, these ideas are rejected and guilt is seen as rarely justified but rather explainable through human psychology. Finally, in Heidegger, we find a near synthesis of the views of the previous philosophers, as he argues we are guilty in our very being yet are not responsible for this guilt. In the process of unfolding the trajectory of these evolving conceptions of guilt, the philosophers' views on these and many other issues are explored in depth, and through them Elgat articulates an entirely new approach to guilt.


Chapter One: Kant: The Timeless Deed that Makes Guilt Possible
Chapter Two: Schelling: Evil, Freedom, and Guilt
Chapter Three: Schopenhauer: The Varieties of Guilt
Chapter Four: Ree: The Naturalization of Guilt
Chapter Five: Nietzsche: The Genealogy of Guilt
Chapter Six: Heidegger: Being-guilty as a Condition of Possibility of Guilt

About the author: 

Guy Elgat is Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has published numerous articles on the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche in various journals and is the author of Nietzsche's Psychology of Ressentiment: Revenge and Justice in On the Genealogy of Morals (Routledge, 2017).

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