Session 2: Castoriadis' Method and Epistemology

Ratio and Castoriadis
K. Psychopedis, University of Athens

Castoriadis attempts a criticism of instrumental rationalism based on a non instrumental discourse referring to the imaginary and to 'magmas'. The question is whether this discourse corresponds to a broader concept of reason (Vernunft) or on the contrary leads Castoriadis to an irrationalist position.

This question is approached from four distinct angles. First, in relation to Castoriadis' critique of the concept of rationality in Kant and Weber. Second, concerning his theory of society and history and the relation between understanding and explanation it entails. Third, in relation to Castoriadis' criticism to the concepts of development, capitalist economy and technique and the type of rationality this criticism implies. Finally, in relation to the consequences Castoriadis' notion of autonomous action has for the concept of rationality. Communitarianist and spontaneist elements in the thought of Castoriadis are noted. I conclude that Castoriadis's problematique leads us to a substantive theory of values in the contemporary world, a theory however that he did not fully elaborate.


C. Castoriadis: The Philosopher of Elucidation and Autonomy.
F. Theodoridis, Uppsala, Sweden

Castoriadis' work provides a threefold contribution to the Greco-western philosophical and political thought and practice. First, it constitutes a new logic and ontology, the logic-ontology of magmas, which it superposes to the dominant identitary-ensemblistic logic-ontology. While the later is based upon the assumptions of determinacy and identity of the forms of being, constituting in that way the doctrine of reductionism, the former is based upon the assumptions of creation and otherness of the forms of being, constituting in that way a conception of being (and time) as creation and alteration of forms. Second, it defines the imaginary (meaning) as the super-form in and through which both the psyche and the social-historical do exist, constituting in that way a new conception of the subject and of the social-historical, but also of the relation between them. Third, finally, it defines freedom as a project of individual and collective autonomy, a project that is pertinent to the western civilization, as it comprises its creation, one of its central social imaginary significations. Thus, in sum, to the dominant reductionist mode of thinking-doing, Castoriadis puts forward the elucidative mode of thinking-doing which emerges in his work both as a methodology of understanding of the psyche and the social-historical and, potentially, as a mode of individual and collective thinking-doing, non-instrumentally committed to the political-practical project of pursuing autonomy.


Truth and Praxis in Castoriadis.
K. Kavoulakos, University of Crete

Throughout his entire oeuvre, Cornelius Castoriadis sought to map out a course beyond objectivism and relativism. A radically anti-idealist and anti-positivist thinker, he gave in neither to relativism nor to skepticism, believing that the traditional philosophical antitheses derive from a similarly erroneous understanding of knowledge and truth. Beginning with a critique of the marxist scientism and objectivism, Castoriadis gave us the outlines of an alternative notion of truth, which has to be connected with social practice and the historical context. In The Imaginary Institution of Society, Castoriadis provides strong arguments in favor of actively transcending the classic dilemmas that in our days have resurfaced as the conflict between universalism and relativism. Castoriadis bridges this antithesis by arguing that whereas the particularity of our historical perspective is a quasi-transcendental precondition of our knowledge, it also defines it positively, since it is only through the singular/particular that we can access the universal, which is connected to the critique of the particular and the consequent emergence/creation of new social meanings. Ultimately, Castoriadis intersects a broader tradition in European philosophical thought. It is the current of hermeneutic philosophy with its more contemporary aspects and offshoots.