2018-2020:The Development of an Existential Ethics

through a Phenomenological Approach to Political Judgment.

Project development

Scientific Report for the period 1 May 2018 – 31 December 2018


        The research activity from this first stage of the project has focused on the relation between judgment and imagination. The project was bound to begin with this theme, given that its general goal is to develop an existential ethics (which has been firstly configured in my doctoral thesis, starting from Heidegger’s existential analytics form Being and time) through a phenomenological approach to political judgment, starting from Arendt’s ethico-political interpretation of Kant’s theory of reflexive judgment from his third Critique.

        Thus, the objective of the first stage of research was to connect Arendt’s interpretation of the Kantian reflexive judgment to the Heideggerian ontology (which is the starting point of the existential ethics), through the notion of imagination. This objective has been addressed by following these five sub-objectives, which have been guiding my research:

        (1) Arguing that Arendt’s account of imagination allows a phenomenological-hermeneutical approach to political judgment: I could observe that the way Arendt describes imagination reminds us of the existential of understanding analysed by Heidegger (actually, Arendt even says that imagination is understanding); moreover, through a detailed research of several important Arendtian works – in particular, The Human Condition, The Life of the Mind, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, Responsibility and Judgment – I could identify other elements which pertain to hermeneutical phenomenology; even Arendt does not identify them as such, they are “at work” in her texts: e.g. the method of destruction, the understanding of truth as disclosure, the lack of omnipotence of the agent, the critique of metaphysics, or the plea for a phenomenological-hermeneutical approach to political, social and cultural events and processes.

       (2) Arguing that Arendt’s account of imagination allows an existential approach to political judgment: although Arendt originally distanced her thought from the existential analytic, considering it (unjustly) as marked by solipsism, her political ontology does not stand in a simple opposition to it; plurality, which is a central notion in Arendtian political ontology, does not actually oppose Dasein’s analytic, but can be seen as a necessary development of the Heideggerian notion of being-with (Mitsein), which is fundamentally constitutive of Dasein. In this direction, I found enough elements to support a very important argument for the present project, namely: imagination – which, through its role in the reflexive judgment, opens the individual who judges to the plurality to which s/he belongs – can also be seen, in existential Heideggerian terms, as that ability of the individual Dasein to open itself to being-with-one-another (Miteinandersein). This is the connection which makes possible the existential approach to the political judgment analysed by Arendt.

         (3) After establishing that Arendt’s account can be approached existentially, the next step was to see what can be said about imagination (as Kant understands it) from Heidegger’s perspective, more precisely from the perspective of his famous interpretation from Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics (1929), where he discusses the temporality of imagination (involving thus the account of temporality from Being and Time). This interpretation is existential in nature, prioritizing the ek-static dimension of man as a being open towards being – open in the sense of transcending towards… Heidegger sees this transcendence as reflecting the fundamental finitude of the self, which, precisely because it is finite, produces (einbildet) the horizon in which the being can be given to the self, i.e. that subjective horizon in which any possible donation of the objective being occurs. For Heidegger, this preliminary production, called “imagination”, lies both at the root of the pure intuition of space and time (as forms that unify what is diverse by letting it appear as such, as diverse) and at the root of the re-presenting (vor-stellend) function of the pure intellect, through which thinking places in relation to itself what it unites conceptually (the connection between “I think” and the synthesis of judgments). Thus, pure imagination is the expression of the receptive spontaneity of the human mind. In other words, for Heidegger, the essence of imagination is precisely time / temporality, since the preliminary production (which is at work in pure imagination) functions synthetically in three ways: there is synthesis in the mode of apprehension (in pure intuition), synthesis in the mode of reproduction (in imagination), and synthesis in the mode of recognition (in concepts); and these are three precisely because they spring from the three dimensions of the primordial time: the synthesis of apprehension pertains to the present, the synthesis of reproduction pertains to the past and the synthesis of recognition to the future. Because it is in recognition that the identity (the self) is constituted, according to Heidegger the synthesis of the future is primordial in relation to the other two syntheses; the self / the subject (therefore, we can add, also the one who judges) turns out to be founded in time, which is the deepest expression of finitude and, therefore, of transcendence.

          (4) Given this connection Heidegger makes between the structure of the transcendental imagination in Kant and the structure of the primordial temporality – brought to light by Heidegger in Being and Time (1927), through an analysis of the authentic temporality, i.e. of Dasein’s anticipatory resoluteness – the necessary next step was to reread the analysis of resoluteness from the perspective of Heidegger’s interpretation of transcendental imagination. In Being and Time, the existential aspect is decisive in the interpretation of temporality as the ontological meaning of Dasein’s being. In Kant, man appears as knowing self and metaphysical subject; in Heidegger, man’s being is care (knowledge being just one mode of care), a threefold structure made of projective understanding – disposedness – concern. In the second section of Being and Time, Heidegger shows that this threefold structure is rooted in temporality, with its three ecstases: the future is the ecstasis that opens Dasein to possibilities, so that Dasein can project itself towards them and thus be a “self”; the past is the ecstasis of returning to… and of recovering what Dasein already is; the present is the ecstasis of concern with the environmental being. The three ecstases temporalize themselves in authentic or inauthentic modes. The authentic one is called anticipatory resoluteness; it focuses on the finitude of Dasein, who, in the primordial ecstasis of the future, comes to itself and constitutes itself as self.

          The main general conclusion for points (3) and (4) is the following: the research carried out has confirmed the initial hypothesis, namely that Arendt’s interpretation of Kantian reflexive judgment can be integrated into the project of the existential ethics also because it can be connected to the Heideggerian ontology through the notion of imagination. The connection is possible due to the fact that Heidegger, in Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, insists on imagination’s role of being the common root of human faculties (an idea that appears only in the first version of the Critique of Pure Reason) and, in a second step, argues that the role played by transcendental imagination in the first Kantian critique is similar to the fundamental role played by primordial time – or originary temporality, as it is analyzed in Being and Time. Here, in the context of an ontology which is ontically founded in Dasein, the originary temporality (which is ontological) is accessible through an analysis of the authentic temporality (which is to be found at the ontic level); thus, Heidegger’s thesis that transcendental imagination is primordial time represents the bridge which can connect the Arendtian political judgment (where imagination, understood also in a Kantian manner, plays a central role) to the existential analytic, where Dasein’s authenticity is fully disclosed in the analysis of the authentic temporality, which is experienced by Dasein as anticipatory resoluteness.

       This connection between the Arendtian political judgment and the existential analytic of Dasein through the notion of imagination (in Heidegger’s interpretation of it) is essential for the development the existential ethics in the way specified at the beginning (i.e. through a phenomenological-hermeneutical approach to political judgment), because it allows us to speak of “imagination” and of “judging” within the existential structure of the anticipatory resoluteness. This connection and its implications will be detailed in a paper (which will be submitted for publication in 2019) where I intend to explore also the possibility of moving from the reflective level of Arendt’s account of judgment to the pre-reflective level of Dasein’s understanding (we imagine spontaneously and non-reflectively).

        (5) In order to develop the role of imagination within the existential ethics, I intend to broaden the horizon already reached through the Arendtian and Heideggerian perspectives, by taking into consideration other phenomenological accounts of imagination, especially those offered by Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, and focusing on the relation between imagination and judging.


  1. Preparing the elaboration of the first article, starting from the results of the research described above (points 1-4).
  2. Preparing the participation in two international conferences in 2019, with presentations that pertain to the thematic of this project.
  3. Organising an international conference which will take place in Bucharest (26-28 September 2019): I have been involved in co-organizing this conference together with dr. habil. Cristian Ciocan, dr. Christian Ferencz-Flatz and d. Paul Marinescu. It is about The 5th Conference on Traditions and Perspectives of the Phenomenological Movement in Central and Eastern Europe, entitled Shifting Roles. The Manifold Identities of Phenomenology, organised under the aegis of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology and the University of Bucharest.
  4. Purchasing the equipment and books required for the project: a Microsoft Surface Book 2 laptop and books.
  5. Monthly consultations with my mentor in this project, dr. habil. Cristian Ciocan, regarding the progress of my research and the new directions of research which have been opened along the way.
  6. The website of the project has been created.

N.B.: Going abroad for research has been postponed for the second part of the project, because the library of the Institute, complemented by the books purchased within this project, provided enough resources to research the notion of imagination as described above.