The Concept of the 'Decisive Moment' in 19th- and 20th-Century Western Philosophy

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  • Koral Ward, Murdoch University, Western Australia
  • Series : Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Philosophy
  • Augenblick, meaning literally 'In the blink of an eye', describes a 'decisive moment' in time that is both fleeting yet momentously eventful, even epoch-makingly significant. In this book Koral Ward investigates the development of the concept into one of the core ideas in Western existential philosophy alongside such concepts as anxiety and individual freedom.

    Ward examines the whole extent of the idea of the 'decisive moment', in which an individual's entire life-project is open to a radical reorientation. From its inception in Kierkegaard's works to the writings of Jaspers and Heidegger, she draws on a vast array of sources beyond just the standard figures of 19th and 20th century Continental philosophy, finding ideas and examples in photography, cinema, music, art, and the modern novel.

  • Contents: Preface; Foreword; Of time and the eternal, Søren Kierkegaard's moment [Øieblik]; The gateway named Augenblick: its place in Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of eternal return; Karl Jaspers' 'pure eye' of the 'fleeting moment'; Martin Heidegger's Augenblick or 'moment of vision', and the redemption of being; Henri Cartier-Bresson's Images à la sauvette [images on the run], and the image as still; A decisive epoch, and the 'existential moment' [ der Augenblick der Existenz] in art; Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.

  • About the Author: Koral Ward teaches at Murdoch University, Western Australia. She also has an art practice which focuses on text: in writing, performance, installation and situational works.

  • Reviews: 'Koral Ward's book is a genuinely original contribution to the understanding of 19th- and 20th-Century philosophy and art. It is the first book-length treatment in English of the intriguing idea of the Augenblick - of those 'decisive moments' which, while forcefully confirming to us our temporal existence, also intimate our relationship to what transcends the temporal. Ward's achievement is to demonstrate how central and organizing this idea has been in the existential philosophical tradition from Kierkegaard to Heidegger, and in the work of artists as diverse as Kandinsky, Schoenberg and Cartier-Bresson.'
    David E. Cooper, University of Durham, UK.

    'This is the only book I know of that treats the entire extent of the philosophical concept of the decisive moment from its inception in Kierkegaard’s works to the writings of the Existentialists, such as Heidegger, Jaspers, and Sartre in the 1920s and 1930s. Koral Ward draws on a vast array of sources, and not just works by standard figures in 19th- and 20th-century philosophy; she also finds strong support for her interpretation of this idea in autobiographies, the modern theatre, photography, cinema, the surrealists, and the modern novel. She carries off this hugely ambitious project with scholarly skill and literary flair, making some heavily worn texts seem fresh and alive, and bringing out others you would never have imagined. The basic concept of the decisive moment, in which an individual’s entire life-project is open to radical reorientation, is not just confined to the scholarly reaches of recondite works from an earlier period, but resonates deeply today as well. Her book should appeal to a wide audience of readers interested in contemporary philosophy, existential themes, modern literature, modern theatre, and the visual arts.'
    Paul S. MacDonald, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

  • Extracts from this title are available to view:

    Full contents list

    Preface and Acknowledgements