Deutsche Gesellschaft
für phänomenologische Forschung

Series | Buch | Kapitel


Change and permanence

on the possibility of understanding history

Hans Jonas

pp. 102-132


Achilles sulks in his tent, mourns for Patroclus, drags Hector's corpse around the funeral pyre, weeps at Priam's words. Do we understand this? Surely, we do, without being Achilles ourselves, ever having loved a Patroclus and dragged a Hector through the dust. Socrates passes a life in discourse, examines opinions, asks what virtue and knowledge are, makes himself the gadfly of Athens in obedience to the god's command, and dies for it. Do we understand this? Yes, we do, without ourselves being capable of such a life and such a death. A wandering preacher calls to two fishermen: Follow me, I shall make you fishers of men; and they leave their nets, never to return to them. Even this we understand, although the like of it has happened to none of us, and none of us is likely to follow such a call. Thus do we understand the never-experienced from the words of ancient writings. But do we understand it correctly? Do we understand it as meant by Homer himself and as understood by the listeners of his time? As Plato and the readers for whom he wrote understood the words of Socrates? As the Palestinian Jew of the first century understood the nearness of the kingdom of God and the call to it? Here we hesitate with our answer. Even he who affirms the possibility (and more than the possibility of adequate understanding no reasonable man will affirm) must add that we can never be sure whether the possibility is realized in a given case.

Publication details

Published in:

Carr David, Casey Edward (1973) Explorations in phenomenology. Den Haag, Nijhoff.

Seiten: 102-132

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-010-1999-6_4


Jonas Hans (1973) „Change and permanence: on the possibility of understanding history“, In: D. Carr & E. Casey (eds.), Explorations in phenomenology, Den Haag, Nijhoff, 102–132.