Session 3: Castoriadis and the Theorization of Nature and Society

Physis and Nomos in the Castoriadian Ontology.
S. Adams, La Trobe University, Australia

This paper explores Castoriadis' reinterpretation of Arisotle's physis and nomos. Traditionally, physis refers to the natural realm and nomos to the human realm, where nomos is understood as 'law'. The two realms are constructed as incommensurable. In this paper, I argue that Castoriadis appeals to two discourses of nomos: as human law and convention and nomos as the 'creation of form'. It is on this second, more marginal discourse of nomos that I focus my attention. Here I posit that Castoriadis deregionalizes nomos from the purely human domain to encompass the world of physis. Thus, nomos and physis entwine - at least in the natural realm. I argue that human and non-human beings are seen to share the ontological principle of creation.


Ontology of Physis and Society in the work of Cornelius Castoriadis.
G. Daremas , University of Indianapolis

In the present paper I discuss Castoriadis' conception of Being and the beings it consists of. How it relates to itself or does not relate to itself. I elucidate the space-time schemata which describe the wholeness of Being. Since Being is constituted as four ontological strata, - physis, life, society, psyche - I explore the connections binding each ontological stratum to each other as well as the modes of their existence.

The emphasis will be shed on society and physis -nature.The logical schemata which subtend the conceptualization of the ontological strata are presented . Special focus is given to the ontological suppositions, presuppositions, conditions and requirements of society which through the creation of innumerable social significations determines in both a determinate and an indeterminate mode the constitution of itself, and overdetermines the other ontological levels of Being. I conclude the analysis by briefly exposing Castoriadis' understanding of the 'good society' and his project of achieving an autonomous society.


The Problem of Heteronomous Sublimation.
S. Gourgouris, Rutgers University, USA

This paper continues my study of Castoriadis' unique theory of sublimation and politics by concentrating on those modes of sublimation, on a cultural scale, that stand as obstacles to the project of autonomy.

The central issue under inquiry is the social imaginary of religion (particularly monotheistic religion), as is delineated in Castoriadis' major essay "L'Institution de la societe et religion", with emphasis on those aspects of psychic investment that underwrite a process of heteronomous sublimation even in a so-called secular universe. The paper will conclude with a brief meditation on the terms of Castoriadis' own "atheism".


The Indeterminate 'Mode of Being' of Ideology in Cornelius Castoriadis' Theory of the Imaginary.
A. Koutsogiannis, University of Sussex, U.K.

With a few notable exceptions, the traditional problematic of ideology within the domains of what is broadly defined as critical social theory is facing a considerable decline. The reasons for this development may very well extend beyond the classical 'common sense' debates on the 'end of ideology' in the sixties, and be related more generally with the major social and political upheavals that in a global level characterised the second half of the twentieth century. The social and political thought of Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997) represents a refreshing deviation from the above tendency by attempting to re-address the discussions of ideology through a critical glance upon issues of 'technological mastery', political apathy and social heteronomy.

The paper shall observe that Castoriadis' work exists at a cross-roads between a genuine political belief in revolutionary praxis and a philosophical, ontological enterprise which characterises his main writings; it examines in particular whether or not the theory of the imaginary is at odds with Castoriadis' initial faith in 'autonomous' politics and argue that if the problematic of ideology is caught up in an inevitable stream of an opposition of truth to falsity, a specific account of social knowledge that is implicated in such an opposition, incorporates an uneasy, and quite often perplexed equilibrium between an evaluation of theoretical models of social explanation (Castoriadis' theory of indeterminacy) and an investigation of any inferences on social and individual emancipation (Castoriadis' political and psychoanalytic project of autonomy).