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Binding Words: Conscience and Rhetoric in Hobbes, Hegel, and Heidegger (Topics in Historical Philosophy) Paperback – July 21, 2006

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Editorial Reviews


"A brilliant consideration of the relationship between performativity and conscience, Binding Words is a tour de force, written with admirable lucidity, vitality, imagination, and originality. It is at once rhetorical and philosophical, full of vibrant and unexpected readings." 

--Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

About the Author

Karen S. Feldman is a lecturer in the departments of rhetoric and German at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Product Details

  • Series: Topics in Historical Philosophy
  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (July 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810122812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810122819
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,681,440 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By John Russon on January 20, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a short book--three short chapters--that looks at the texts on conscience in Hobbes's Leviathan, Hegel's Phenomenology and Heidegger's Being in Time. In each case, Feldman is interested in the relationship between the textuality of the text and the phenomenon of conscience there invoked/evoked. Her claim is that, in each case, language--and metaphorical language in particular--is essential to the realization of conscience. In Hobbes, the word "conscience," when applied to individual certainty, is seen as a metaphorical misuse of its true sense of "shared witnessing." Feldman looks at Hobbes's critique of this metaphorical use, but also at the ways in which Hobbes himself exploits the power of metaphor in his own writing. In Hegel, the conscientious agent must announce her conscientiousness in order to accomplish her reconciliation with the community, but the very language that brings her into community also slips out of her control and has effects she cannot control. Feldman argues that Hegel here shows the way that language is simultaneously performative and rhetorical, both realizing what it announces, but also setting in motion something the effects of which cannot be controlled. In Heidegger, conscience, like being itself, is a matter of possibility, and thus no actuality can be adequate to it. This means, Feldman argues, that no word or deed can ever be other than a metaphor for concience; Heidegger's own text is an attempt to own up to this necessary non-coincidence between language and that of which it speaks. Feldman's treatments of the three texts are compelling in each case, and her work is provocative and exciting in its suggestions about the interpretation of these texts, about the nature of conscience in general, and about language. I recommend this book to students and scholars of contemporary Continental Philosophy in general, and of Hegel and Heidegger in particular.
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