Greek European Culture

Education, Europe - West, Plato

Remembering Reiner Schurmann

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House

Knowing Reiner in his last days was nothing more and nothing less than what walking with Socrates must have been for Phaedrus. In one way or another, all shadows of the immortals that covered up the mortal singular – be it the city, hyperurania, philosophical and erotic genera – fell away from my eyes like scales falling off the eyes of a blinded man. No more generalizing philosophy for me in the style of Lysias! Like Parmenides (I argue), no matter how seductive the realm of eternal, simple being may be, we must return to our pluralistic mortal cosmos, where singulars are possible. In my thesis, which is a continuation of the journey I began with Reiner, I extend his notion of mortality to redefine (if definition is even possible in the realm of singulars) human beings and phusis in terms of mortal temporality.

Reiner Schurmann was born of German parents in Amsterdam in 1941. He received his doctorate at the Sorbonne in 1981 and was Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. Among many other awards for his scholarship and writing, he received the Distinguished University Teacher Award in 1989. He wrote a seminal work on Heidegger and, just before his death in 1993, completed the two-volume Broken Hegemonies, a study of the imposition of the universal on the singular throughout the history of philosophy.

Cf. Adluri on Parmenides and the Transcendence, The Man Without a Face, Plato Home Page, Meeting Meister Eckhart (featuring Schurmann’s book on Meister Eckhart).


  1. James

    Thank you for your Blog about Reiner Schurmann. I didn’t know anything about him or the philosophical work that occupied much his life.


    When I was reading the final paragraph in your commentary I was particularly stroke again by the notion of mans (tragic) upward seduction towards the eternally unchangeable immutable realm of the ideas or the Gods. Historically I never been able to discern critically how widespread this notion about the realm of the ideas actually was in Greek culture as a whole or at what decisive juncture the ideas become a more tenable or believable part of the cultured Greeks’ general education rather then the mythic beliefs that surrounded the Olympian Gods. I think that perhaps in many important ways we can begin to see this critical difference, a difference that is even more visibly apparent today, between the fundamental notions of the logos and mythos. Likewise in Plato’s dialogue, Parmenides, the One exists only as a unity of the many, and the Many only exists only as a manifold of units. In this dialogue Plato seems to (unlike his early dialogues) concede some type of reciprocity between the universal or the ideas and the particular, meaning the empirical, given datum of what’s apparent as reality before us in the world as it is, namely that which can’t be dissolved back into concepts. However it’s in this connection that I agree that with your or Parmenides statement that we must return to our pluralistic mortal cosmos, where the singular can only be returned to momentarily, or more exactly as something that can no longer be anything “more” then it is. However this “more” that demands nothing more that what it actually is can only be experienced in the sense of a relationship not just between the “mortal” things that give the world it’s sense of unity, but also in terms of what can be, precisely “no more” and this is the essence of what we should perhaps mean by something being temporal. Yet, in order to fully understand not the concept of what something means in a temporal state or how it relates to “things in time”, which is the way many people relate to many temporal things, including their own mortality, it’s important I think to see “temporality ‘ in the original sense of how things pass, are more simply as their passing in this world of which we are a small part, and this relationship doesn’t relate us to time but to those things that can be “no more” because they are complete in-themselves. Paradoxically to know something can be “no more” is also to know that it is more then what can be its temporal moment.


    I think that perhaps Reiner Schurmann sensed something of this lost along the pathway in western thought with all the talk about ideas and form, ultimately we have perhaps lost the feel for what life really is through our readiness to know it without knowing.



  2. J

    The work you are citing from is now in print. Just thought you might like to let your readers know the reference: Parmenides, Plato and Mortal Philosophy: Return From Transcendence (Continuum Studies in Ancient Philosophy)