For a reader versed in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of political philosophy, the Czech philosopher, Jan Patocka, appears as a paradoxical figure. A champion of human rights, he seems to present himself and his philosophy in quite traditional terms. He speaks of the “soul,” its “care,” and of “living in truth.” Such concepts are combined with his insistence on the unconditional character of morality. Yet, in his proposal for an “asubjective” phenomenology, he undermines the traditional conceptions of the subject of such rights. In fact, what Patocka forged in the last years of his life was a new conception of human being, one that fi nds its origins as much in Aristotle as in the phenomenological tradition. This book traces the infl uence of Husserl, Heidegger, and Aristotle, among others, on the development of Patocka’s thought. It shows how the confluence of these influences led Patocka to redefine, not just phenomenology, but also the basic terms in which the debates on human rights have traditionally been cast.
The author James Mensch is Professor at the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University in Prague, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Collaborator at the School of Arts, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia, and a member of the Central European Institute of Philosophy. Eleven previous books of his have been published by university presses.