The collection of papers Existence and the One appears in a time in which as the reasons for the gathering of papers not only philosophical themes to which the collection of papers is dedicated are doubtful, but also philosophy in its own scope is found as that which is doubtful. The most doubtful of today’s status of philosophy are the questions of its postmetaphysical determination and meaning. Squeezed in academic institutions, philosophical thinking is admittedly nurtured through its own canons that zealously make its millennial tradition present, until the question arises of what such a philosophy can still do today. There is no more privileged access to truth, philosophers have not been the only thinkers in society for a long time. The question of “what can still be learned from philosophers?” is now a question which goes to the same plane of astonishment that philosophy is still present in the human community. Why this question “that in the human community there is still philosophy” is not and should not be a completely self-explanatory question?
When a bridge engineer is offered to build a bridge, we expect them to check the bridge statics. On several occasions, too, before we are ready to cross it. Why do we think it is not the same with philosophy? One should not only expect, but also demand thought responsibility for what is said from philosophers; responsibility for the very thinking. If we knew that a medical school did not take enough care of who of their students would tomorrow become a doctor, we would be reluctant to go to such doctors. It is the same with the study of philosophy. When its achievement starts to become absent in society, members of society will not feel the consequences immediately, as in the case of an absence of good treatment, but the consequences, immense consequences, will surely be present. How do we know this? We know this by all those dark times that already happened. This happens when philosophically responsible thinking is absent.
Today, philosophy is undoubtedly on the periphery of the scientific world’s attention. There are many reasons for this indolence – two are basic. The first reason is that the STEM area has been proclaimed the centre of university and public interest, and the second, related to this, is that today, instead of an irreplaceable social role, philosophy is given only a decorative status. Regardless of this, why is not everything bad with philosophy on the periphery? The Greek περιφέρειν literally means to carry about. This “about” means to be on the edge. In this edge, Karl Jaspers sees a possibility of the beginning of philosophy and calls this limit situations – situations in which death, guilt, suffering, but also struggle are experienced, all those situations where philosophy, if it is present, it is present as the answer to those situations, it is present, therefore, as responsible thinking.
Precisely in terms of such answers and responsibility, in the history of philosophy there are no periods which in their own way did not bring to the fore the question of existence and the one as such. It can be said without restraint that the very nature of philosophy is pervaded by these problems. Namely, the philosophical problem of the One since ancient times was never just a problem of number – in it, philosophy delivered actually all that thematically in tradition belonged to the sphere of transcendence: the problems of unity and uniqueness, the limited and limitless, individuality and universality, the supreme and divine, the whole and absolute, substance and Being qua Being, all in all, philosophical consideration of the One undoubtedly includes the fundamental question of understanding truth as the ultimate source of everything.
The problem of all existence is inevitably related to all of this. Jaspers points out that as early as Parmenides there is this philosophically articulated “miracle of life” which is delivered astonishingly not because of “how” life is, but rather that it “is” at all. As shown by its history until now, it was up to philosophy to tear away existence as being from every encountered illusion of being with its thinking. In the abundance of the various historical-philosophical interpretations of the complex relation between essence and Being, the reality of existence has always been somehow ontologically confirmed as a kind of resolution of such demythological separation. An even more drastic change in the philosophical understanding of existence began with the anthropocentrism of modern philosophy, from which as a separate philosophy of existence this understanding would get its new course on the ruins of the Hegelian legacy. The philosophical concept of existence in modernity was thus solely a horizon of the human encompassing possibilities. Accordingly, a programmatic thought can be found in Kierkegaard’s philosophy that when and if human exists in some way, at the same time philosophizing takes place – philosophizing, in that sense, is existing. Human existence is thus a very distinctive kind of existence – existence which is becoming. Heidegger would say that the human essence lies in their existence. Yet becoming which is never existence for itself, but which is essentially referred to the world it inhabits. The world and existence are obviously related and cannot be understood without one another. Philosophizing thus comes to its primary purpose when its content always anew fulfils individual life. When it becomes conscious of itself as existence with all its possibilities, thinking becomes philosophy.
Encouraged by such historical-philosophical thought movements, the articles in this collection of papers were the result of a multiyear collaboration of the Croatian Karl Jaspers Society and the Siro Moretti-Costanzi Foundation, but also other philosophical friendships around the world. The editors thus owe unusual and heartfelt gratitude to all authors and the rest of associates on this publishing venture.
In Osijek and Perugia, 29 May 2018
Boško Pešić and Pavao Žitko (editors)