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The impact of ‘exile’ on thought: Plotinus, Derrida and Gnosticism

Rossbach, Stefan (2007) The impact of ‘exile’ on thought: Plotinus, Derrida and Gnosticism. History of the Human Sciences, 20 (4). pp. 27-52. ISSN 0952-6951. (doi:10.1177/0952695107082490) (KAR id:70647)

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This article examines the impact of ‘exile’ – as an individual or collective experience – on how human experience is theorized. The relationship between ‘exile’ and thought is initially approached historically by looking at the period that Eric Dodds famously called the ‘age of anxiety’ in late antiquity, i.e. the period between the emperors Aurelius and Constantine. A particular interest is in the dynamics of ‘empire’ and the concomitant religious ferment as a context in which ‘exile’, both experientially and symbolically, appears to assume an overbearing significance. Plotinus’ narrative of emanation and epistrophe as well as a group of narratives often classified as ‘Gnosticism’ are juxtaposed as two radical examples of a wider spiritual trend at the time according to which ‘exile’ could be considered constitutive of human experience. By way of an historical analogy, the insights gained from this study of late antiquity are then used to guide an analysis of the current, ‘restless’ epoch, in which experiences of displacement and exile on a mass scale undermine traditional notions of belonging, thus reviving the gnostic vision of cosmic reality as an alien, exilic environment. The article concludes with a discussion of Jacques Derrida’s work as an example of contemporary gnosticism, in which a ‘metaphysics of exile’ is presented in the disguise of an ‘exile from metaphysics’.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1177/0952695107082490
Uncontrolled keywords: alienation, Jacques Derrida, empire, exile, Gnosticism, negative theology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Stefan Rossbach
Date Deposited: 05 Dec 2018 11:53 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Rossbach, Stefan:
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