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Panagiotis Kondylis

Panagiotis Kondylis

Panagiotis Kondylis (Παναγιώτης Κονδύλης, Panajotis Kondylis, Panagiotes Kondylis) (17 August 194311 July 1998), was a Greek philosopher and historian of ideas who principally wrote in German, in addition to translating his work into Greek. He placed himself in the tradition of thought best exemplified by Thucydides, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Carl von Clausewitz and Max Weber. Other thinkers such as Michel de Montaigne, Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, Baruch Spinoza, Julien Offray de La Mettrie, Marquis de Sade, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Schmitt were important influences on his thinking, notwithstanding the often significant differences he had with these writers. Kondylis claimed to be "scientific" in the sense of being "descriptive" rather than "prescriptive" or "normative". He called his philosophical outlook „descriptive decisionism“.

Life

Born in Olympia in 1943 in the small community of Dourbas (Δουρβάς), he moved with his father, who was a military officer, at the age of 6 to Kifisia, Athens where he attended school. Kondylis studied classical literature at the University of Athens as well as philosophy, history and political science at the Universities of Frankfurt and Heidelberg — during his postgraduate studies decided to transfer from Frankfurt to Heidelberg —, where he earned his PhD with the 700 pages study of the early years of Hegel, Schelling and Hölderlin: Die Entstehung der Dialektik (The formation of dialectics) - supporting views which where considered innovative and provocative at the time. Kondylis was awarded the Goethe Medal in 1991. As a recipient of the Humboldt Prize he also was in 1994/95 a fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin. Kondylis was independent, though, a "Privatgelehrter" (private scholar) who never aspired to an academic career — except in the earlier stages of his life where he entered into discussions with the Philosophy Department of the University of Athens, applying for a placement. His application was confronted with distrust from the conservative faculty of the philosophical department. Although Kondylis was supported by the then well-known professor Theofilos Veikos, he was still confronted with the enmity of most professional philosophers. After this disappointment he never expressed any wish for an academic career, although he was offered a lot of honourary placements (including by the University of Ioannina), which he politely refused.

When he died in 1998 because of a medical error in a Greek hospital, he had no family of his own and was not married. His library of some 4.000 titles based in his house in Politeia, Athens was donated by his sister, Melpo Kondylis, to the Aristotle University of Thessalonikiin which a special "Kondylis" section exists in the campus library. In November of 2008 a conference is going to be held in Heidelberg honouring the memory of the late Panagiotis Kondylis. A similar event was held in Greece on 22 May 2008.

Work

The great bulk of his corpus was written in German, and almost all of his writings were translated by Kondylis himself into Greek. He was interested in a number of areas of study including the philosophy of war and Clausewitz' s theories, as well as the work of Hegel and Marx, the Enlightement, Modernity and their Critics, Western civic culture and its decay, even International Affairs. He has also been a prominent interpreter and translator, e.g. he has translated into Greek -and also written a preface- about Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt. He wrote extensively on the major figures of the European Enlightenment as well as on Hegal and Marx. His best known books are: Die Aufklärung (The Enlightenment) and Macht und Entscheidung (Power and Decision). In his book Theorie des Krieges (Theory of War) Kondylis opposes Raymond Aron' s liberal interpretation of Clausewitz's theory. According to Aron in Penser La Guerre Clausewitz is one of the very first writers condemning the militarism of military elites and their war-proneness (based on the famous sentence "war is a continuation of politics by other means"). Kondylis claims that this was a reconstruction not coherent with Clausewitz's thought. Clausewitz is, according to Kondylis, morally indifferent to war, and his propounding of the value of political rule over war has nothing to do with pacifistic claims. For Clausewitz war is just a means to the eternal quest for power in an anarchical and unsafe world. Kondylis continues with an analysis of Lenin's, Hegel's and Marx's theory of war, articles about military staff and politicians, technological and absolute war, and with a famous analysis of a possible Greek-Turkish war.

In Macht und Entscheidung (Power and Decision) Kondylis claims that all human ideologies, perceptions and beliefs are nothing more than an effort to give to our personal interests a normative form and an objective character, deriving from our "decision" on what means we should use, who should be our friends and who our foes in our big Hobbesian struggle for — what was the most primitive and common goal among all humans — self-preservation. Ideologies are nothing more than a part of our personal "world-construction" (κοσμοκατασκευή) and our world-construction is a subjective view of the world deriving from our interests and Hobbesian survival instincts. From this point of view, Kondylis claims that ideology and opinion in general are used as a weapon in our everyday struggle for claims of "power" and self-preservation.

About Kondylis

"while we advance into the 20th century we discover that in 70's Haidelberg there was a Scholar of Philosophy who continued Max Weber's tradition more creatively than all professional scholars of Political Science, Sociology and Philosophy [...] and his project is now necessary after Comte and Marx." Volker Gerhardt, Die Zeit

Books

  • Die Entstehung der Dialektik. Eine Analyse der geistigen Entwicklung von Hölderlin, Schelling und Hegel bis 1802. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1979. 729 S. ISBN 3-12-911970-1 (The Formation of Dialectics)
  • Die Aufklärung im Rahmen des neuzeitlichen Rationalismus. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1981. 725 S. ISBN 3-12-915430-2 (The Enlightenment within the Rationalism of Modern Times)
  • Macht und Entscheidung. Die Herausbildung der Weltbilder und die Wertfrage. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1984. 129 S. ISBN 3-608-91113-8 (Power and Decision — World Views and the Problem of Values)
  • Konservativismus. Geschichtlicher Gehalt und Untergang. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1986. 553 S. ISBN 3-608-91428-5 (Conservativism — Historical Content and its Decline)
  • Theorie des Krieges. Clausewitz - Marx - Engels - Lenin. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1988. 328 S. ISBN 3-608-91475-7 (Theory of War)
  • Die neuzeitliche Metaphysikkritik. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1990. 614 S. ISBN 3-608-91330-0 (Criticism of Metaphysics in Modern Times)
  • Der Niedergang der bürgerlichen Denk- und Lebensformen. Die liberale Moderne und die massendemokratische Postmoderne. Weinheim: VCH-Verlagsgesellschaft, 1991 ISBN 3-527-17773-6 (The Decline of the Bourgeois Forms of Thinking and Living)
  • „Nur Intellektuelle behaupten, dass Intellektuelle die Welt besser verstehen als alle anderen. Interview von Marin Terpstra mit Panajotis Kondylis. In: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 42,4 (1994), S. 683-694 (Only Intellectuals claim that Intellectuals have a better Understandling of the World than all other Men)
  • Planetarische Politik nach dem kalten Krieg. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1992 ISBN 3-05-002363-5 (Planetarian Politics after the Cold War)
  • Montesquieu und der Geist der Gesetze. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1996 ISBN 3-05-002983-8 (Montesquieu and the Spirit of the Laws)
  • Grundzüge der Sozialontologie. Band 1: Das Politische und der Mensch. Soziale Beziehung, Verstehen, Rationalität. Aus dem Nachlass hg. von Falk Horst. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag 1999 ISBN 3-05-003113-1 (The Political and Man — from the literary remains of P.K.)
  • Das Politische im 20. Jahrhundert. Von den Utopien zur Globalisierung. Heidelberg: Manutius-Verlag 2001 (Sammlung von 19 Artikeln aus den 1990er Jahren) ISBN 3-934877-07-9 (The Political in 20th Century — compilation of 19 articles from the 1990s)
  • Machtfragen. Ausgewählte Beiträge zu Politik und Gesellschaft. Darmstadt: WBG 2006 (enth. Nachdruck von Macht und Entscheidung, von 6 thematisch zugehörigen Artikeln und dem Interview mit Marin Terpstra) ISBN 978-3-534-19863-4 (Questions of Power — Reprint of Power and Decision plus 6 pertinent articles)

Books published only in Greek

  • Melancholy and Polemics, editions Themelio, 2002 (Μελαγχολία και Πολεμική series of articles of Kondylis, published posthumously)
  • Invisible chronology of Thought, editions Stigmi (Αόρατο Χρονολόγιο της Σκέψης Interviews of Pnagiotis Kondylis with German and Greek journalists and Scholars)

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