Jos de Mul. The Tragedy of Finitude. Dilthey's Hermeneutics of Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014 (2nd edition), 424 p.
First edition: 2004, ebook: 2010; second edition 2014
Cloth: US $52.00; €33,99 (Bestel)
One of the founders of modern hermeneutics, German philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) confronted the question of how modern, postmetaphysical human beings can cope with the ambivalence, contingency, and finitude that fundamentally characterize their lives. This book offers a reevaluation and fresh analysis of Dilthey’s hermeneutics of life against the background of the development of philosophy during the past two centuries.
Jos de Mul relates Dilthey’s work to other philosophers who influenced or were influenced by him, including Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Comte, Mill, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, and Derrida. Weaving together systematic analysis and historical investigation, de Mul begins the book with an account of the horizon on which Dilthey developed his unfinished masterwork, Critique of Historical Reason. The author then elaborates a systematic reconstruction of Dilthey’s ontology of life, relates the ontology to the work of other twentieth-century philosophers, and positions Dilthey’s thought within current philosophical debate.
Jos de Mul is full professor in philosophical anthropology, Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Winner of the Praemium Erasmianum Research Prize.
"A thorough, insightful account of Dilthey's philosophy, this book offers many valuable new contributions. De Mul argues effectively for Dilthey's relevance today"
Rudolf Makkreel, Emory University, Atlanta
"De Mul is an ambitious commentator. He reconstructs both biography and cultural context, and he interprets virtually all of Dilthey's more substantial writings while seeking to engage with his critics. In addition to extensive discussions of Dilthey's own writings, there are long sections on Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Husserl, Gadamer, and Derrida. In a book that may stand as one of the best and most thorough in the recent critical literature on Dilthey, de Mul successfully tackles all of these challenges"
Espen Hammer, The Review of Metaphysics 60:4 (2007) Read entire review
In an era of heightened existential vulnerability and awareness of ﬁnitude there is a correspondingly heightened need for new contexts of human understanding. Here we owe an enormous debt of gratitude to de Mul for providing us with a superb explication of the thought of Wilhelm Dilthey, whose precocious insights into the ﬁnitude and historical contingency of human understanding promise to contribute immeasurably to the widening of its horizons.
Robert D. Stolorow, Human Studies.A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences (2012) Read entire review
"This work by de Mul is the definitive synthesis on Dilthey available in English. It not only develops the thought of Dilthey chronologically, it also sets his thought in an overall structure that he terms the Critique. This structure solves one of the major problems of Dilthey studies - how to organize his disparate thoughts when no definitive work of his exists. Until this book, most other treatments, while helpful and informative, have not managed to rise to the precision and clarity of this work.
One of most helpful aspects to this book is the author's ability to locate and identify the tensions in Dilthey and provide the structure that is needed to understand them. By describing how ambivalence, contingency, and finitude serve as structuring ideas to Dilthey's thought, the author saves a reader from finding Dilthey contradictory and incomprehensible.
One final aspect of praise for this work is the clarity of thought and writing. A helpful and detailed Table of Contents allows any reader to quickly discover the argument and structure of the book. In addition, most esoteric and technical terms and ideas (including many 19th Century German philosophical concepts) are explained quickly and understandably in a way that allows one unfamiliar with these ideas to follow. These explanations, however, do not sidetrack the argument from its purpose and therefore do not prove distracting to one more familiar with the history and ideas referenced.
In conclusion, after having read many works on Dilthey, I find this to be the clearest, most informative, and best written of them all. Not only will it introduce one to a great philosopher, it will also provide a synthesis of his thought that is invaluable."
Amazon.com review of reader