The impact of 'exile' on thought: Plotinus, Derrida and Gnosticism

History of the Human Sciences 20 (4):27-52 (2007)
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This article examines the impact of `exile' — as an individual or collective experience — on how human experience is theorized. The relationship between `exile' and thought is initially approached historically by looking at the period that Eric Dodds famously called the `age of anxiety' in late antiquity, i.e. the period between the emperors Aurelius and Constantine. A particular interest is in the dynamics of `empire' and the concomitant religious ferment as a context in which `exile', both experientially and symbolically, appears to assume an overbearing significance. Plotinus' narrative of emanation and epistrophe as well as a group of narratives often classified as `Gnosticism' are juxtaposed as two radical examples of a wider spiritual trend at the time according to which `exile' could be considered constitutive of human experience. By way of an historical analogy, the insights gained from this study of late antiquity are then used to guide an analysis of the current, `restless' epoch, in which experiences of displacement and exile on a mass scale undermine traditional notions of belonging, thus reviving the gnostic vision of cosmic reality as an alien, exilic environment. The article concludes with a discussion of Jacques Derrida's work as an example of contemporary gnosticism, in which a `metaphysics of exile' is presented in the disguise of an `exile from metaphysics'



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Empire.Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri - 2001 - Harvard University Press.
Empire.Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri - 2002 - Utopian Studies 13 (1):148-152.
Empire.Michael Hardt & Antonio Negri - 2000 - Science and Society 67 (3):361-364.

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