Borderliners. Aspects of 'exceptionality' - a dialogue with four 20th century thinkers (Schmitt, Camus, Jaspers, Foucault).

Project Details


This project will try to clarify the concept of 'exceptionality' (i.e. that which cannot be grasped or contained, that which escapes us), more specifically, we will focus on the meaning of the exception in the activity of thinking and in experience.
After showing the problematic dimension of the philosophical concept (and use) of 'exceptionality', we will analyse four different and 20th century thinkers (Schmitt, Camus, Jaspers, Foucault).
Two crucial aspects of the issue will be highlighted: on the one hand the historical & biographical 'situation' which plays an important role in the fascination for the exception and on the other hand the mere philosophical dimension will come to the fore.
The former part will consider the Romantic Age as a key period necessary for the understanding of the 20th century antagonisms on the subject of exceptionality. In this specific era, a transformation of the (always tense) relation between norm(ality) and exception becomes manifest: an interesting (high-strung) imbalance is created that has influenced greatly 20th century thought (via p.e. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche).
In the latter part, the 4 proposed thinkers will be dealed with : we will play them against eachother, so as to bring to the surface the dimension of exceptionality in their work. The ideas, concepts and points of view thus dis-covered, will be compared and - if possible - made of use.

On the one hand, a confrontation between Schmitt and Camus will be staged (i.e. the recognition of 'the primary role' of exceptions versus the view that exceptions can merely have 'a secundary, intrumental function'). On the other hand, Jaspers and Foucault will be confronted (i.e. a 'micro' perspective versus a 'macro' one).
Ultimately, this complex thought instrument should allow me to follow a proper line of thought. The philosophical fascination for the exception (sometimes embodied as repulsion, at other times as admiration, yet always powerful) and the meaning of 'exceptionality' will be questioned and dealed with - at least, the problematical, difficult dimension of this issue will be pointed out.
Effective start/end date1/01/0231/12/05


  • Albert Camus
  • philosophy
  • Karl Jaspers
  • the Romantic legacy
  • fenomenology
  • Carl Schmitt
  • Michel Foucault
  • the exception

Flemish discipline codes

  • Languages and literary studies
  • History and archaeology
  • Philosophy, ethics and religious studies
  • Law and legal studies