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Autonomy And Meaning

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Chapter Summary

The importance of the Greek cultural legacy to the development of Western society is beyond question. For Castoriadis, of course, the most significant aspect of this cultural legacy is the project of autonomy. According to Castoriadis, the fundamental characteristic of social heteronomy is the one which is suggested by the literal meaning of the term: heteronomous societies posit their laws and institutions as given to them by an 'other'. A corollary of this positing of heteronomy is what Castoriadis terms the 'closure' of signification within the society. Castoriadis' central argument, is not that Greece achieved or perfected social autonomy, but merely that autonomy emerged there for the first time as a counter-trend which was, for a period, decisive in the development of Greek society. Religion 'presents/occults' the Abyss, the ineffable. It obscures the Abyss, deforming it by presenting it in and through forms which are particular and determinate.

Keywords: abyss; Castoriadis; determinate meaning; Greek cultural legacy; mystical religion; social autonomy



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