War and the Fate of Europe in Patočka’s Heretical Essays


Dusenbury addressed the question of the European wars and peace-making processes of the twentieth century against the background of the work of Czech philosopher Jan Patočka. In the last of his Heretical Essays, Patočka asks, what was “that awesome will which for years drove millions of humans into a fiery furnace”? He is referring to the First World War, a driving force which led, nightmarishly, to a Second World War – and ultimately, to what he calls “the definitive collapse of Europe.” Patočka in the mid 1970s suggests that Europe fails to address the dialectic of “the night“ and “the day“; the rational account on the limits of reason which does not exhaust the depth of human existence. 

David Lloyd Dusenbury is a Visiting Fellow at the Danube Institute in Budapest, and a visiting professor at Eötvös Loránd University. He is the author of The Innocence of Pontius Pilate (2021), Platonic Legislations (2017), and The Space of Time (2014).

Katerina Koci, Lise Meitner Fellow and Research Director of the FWF funded project Woman without a Name:Gender Identity in Sacrificial Stories, will provide the comment.

This event is part of the "On the Death Giving: War and Sacrifice in Patočka and Derrida" lecture series of the Woman without a Name: Gender Identity in Sacrificial Stories Research Program at the IWM. It is headed by Katerina Koci, Research Director and Lise Meitner Fellow, and generously funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

Despite the effort not to repeat the mistakes and atrocities of the previous generations, the twenty-first century continues to be a century of wars and suffering. In these lectures, David Dusenbury and James Dodd reflected on Patočka’s and Derrida’s phenomenological analysis of self-sacrifice as a form of resistance in extreme situations of oppression (war or repression of authoritarian/totalitarian regimes).

Other events in this series include:
Philosophy, Sacrifice, and War: Problems and Ambiguities by James Dodd