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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

DUVENAGE, Pieter. Philosophy as an interpretation of our times. Marinas Schoeman as thinker. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.1, pp.7-21. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2017/v57n1a2.

Marinus Schoeman has completed a career spanning 42 years as a philosopher at the University of Pretoria. This contribution focuses on Schoeman's remarkable career as a kind of Socrates figure in a country where thinking is not always first on the agenda of philosophers. The contribution starts (part 1) with some personal remarks by the author who considers Schoeman as one ofhis mentors in philosophy. In this process the following aspects are covered: Schoeman as a passionate teacher; dedicated, but strict supervisor; his broader initiatives in Afrikaans and the South African public sphere; his links with Dutch speaking philosophers; and specific character traits - which includes the virtue of generosity. The remainder of the contribution consists offour parts. In part 2 Schoeman's career as a philosopher is placed in the context of a hundred years of Afrikaans philosophy in South Africa. When Schoeman arrived at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria in 1969, the department was already 60 years old. The significant figures in the department's history in those 60 years were: W.A Macfadyen, T.J. Hugo, C.H. Rautenbach, C.K. Oberholzer, and P.S. Dreyer. The latter two were Schoeman's mentors and they introduced him to the Continental philosophical tradition in which phenomenology, philosophical anthropology, and the history of philosophy were important building blocks. It is also indicated in this part how Schoeman was influenced by at least seven systematic areas within Afrikaans philosophy: the issue of modernity and modern life; the tension between science and religion; the tension between the particular and the universal (including the political implications thereof); the relationship between thinking and language; historical trauma; philosophical criticism; and the issue of the self. In part 3 Schoeman's first major study on the Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse is given close attention. In this study Schoeman basically reconstructs Marcuse's position against the backdrop of Hegel 's, Marx's, and Freud's contributions to our understanding of contemporary society. In Marcuse's version of Critical Theory, Marx's theory of class repression and Freud's instinctual theory is given a new twist, with less emphasis on the biological-determinist sketch of humankind's oppression. In his fascinating work, Eros and Civilization (1955), Marcuse is even hinting in the direction of a society with less repression despite the danger of the achievement principle in contemporary capitalism. Schoeman, though, has problems with Marcuse's sketch of such a repression-less society, especially with regard to new forms of repression needed to create greater freedom. Eventually, at the end of this early study, he sides, quite enigmatically, with the thinking of Heidegger and his mentor, Dreyer as alternative to Marcuse. In part 4 a critical evaluation of Schoeman's early reading ofMarcuse is provided. The author commends Schoeman for his reading and critique of Marcuse, but still asks, why Schoeman never furthered his interest in Marcuse as a member ofthe first generation of Critical Theory. The author is of the opinion that if Schoeman had expanded his criticism of Marcuse in the direction ofthe second generation of Critical Theory (Habermas and Honneth), he could have deepened and expanded his critique of Marcuse. Schoeman'sfurther career is then sketched as a turning away from Critical Theory in the direction of a kind ofpost-Heideggerian reading of our contemporary times. In this regard, Schoeman became interested in the 1980s in the philosophical hermeneutics of Gadamer, and the neo-Aristotelianism of the Ritter School. In the 1990s a reading of Robert Bellah and Foucault was added, which eventually culminated in Schoeman's later study on the virtue ethics of Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt. In the final part (5) Schoeman's career as a thinker is appreciatedfor the following reasons: his respect for those mentors and sources that have informed his thinking; his deep sense of the importance of history and its implications for the way we argue in the present; a critique of any kind of abstract, utopian and de-humanising politics; and his concept offriendship as basis for a philosophical life.

Keywords : Marinus Schoeman; Afrikaans philosophy; Critical Theory; Marcuse; phenomenology; hermeneutics; Gadamer; virtue ethics; Nietzsche; Arendt; modernity; time diagnosis.

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