Bettina Bergo, Senior Fellow

Senior Fellow
2015

Bettina Bergo is Professor of Philosophy at the Université de Montréal. She is the author of Levinas between Ethics and Politics and editor or co-editor of several collections, including: “I don’t see color!”: Personal and Critical Perspectives on White Privilege (Penn State Press, 2015);Trauma: Reflections on Experience and Its Other (SUNY, 2009); Levinas and Nietzsche: after the Death of a Certain God (Columbia, 2008); Levinas’s Contribution to Contemporary Thought (Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, 1999).

She translated three works of Emmanuel Levinas, Of God who Comes to Mind (Stanford University Press, 1998),God, Death and Time (Stanford, 2000), and On Escape/De l’Évasion (Stanford, 2003). She also translated Didier Franck’s Nietzsche and the Shadow of God (Northwestern University Press, 2012), Jean-Luc Nancy’s Disenclosure: The Deconstruction of Christianity (Fordham, 2008),Judeities: Questions for Jacques Derrida (Fordham, 2007), and Marlène Zarader’s The Unthought Debt: Heidegger and the Hebraic Heritage (Stanford, 2005).  She is the author of over 50 articles and book chapters on ethics, phenomenology, the history of psychology, and critical race theory.

Her project at the Marty Center, a mongraph entitled Anxiety: History of a Concept 19th and 20th Century Philosophy and Psychology, traces the intellectual history of anxiety, as an idea and a sign, from the exclusion of the emotions and passions from Kant’s transcendental revolution to the responses of Hegel and Schelling to Kant’s rational psychology. It notes the return of psychology in Hegel’s recourse to (French) revolutionary psychiatry and Schelling’s integration of a mystical Lebensphilosophie into the birth of the “Absolute” in anxious longing. It analyzes Nietzsche’s adaptation of Schopenhauer, for whom anxiety was the sign of the activity of the noumenal will in humans. It focuses also on Kierkegaard’s Concept of Anxiety (1844), whose impact on Heidegger, among others, was unparalleled. In the 20thcentury, it examines the works of Heidegger (between 1927 and 1936), those of Freud from both his “topics”, and of Husserl and Levinas. Over the course of its unfolding, the study integrates excursi concerned with social anxieties and the question of the universality of emotions.

Aimed at an interdisciplinary readership, the book is thus concerned with a recurrent theme in disciplines that framed the meaning of life, embodiment, subjectivity, and indeed, intersubjectivity. The phenomenon of Angst traced the limit, and a certain dialectic, between sensations and emotions, the pre-conscious and the conscious. But anxiety was also a sign of cultural change. It arose with debates about evolution (in Darwin) and colonialism, during the socio-political upheavals of the Belle Époque (Weininger, Fliess, and Hirschfeld), and in the inter-War period as syndicalism drifted toward national orvolkisch politics (Georges Sorel). The volume presents a selective portrait of the last 150 years of Western thought and cultural malaise. It does not advance reductive hypotheses about the trajectory of Europe from 1844 to the present; neither does it plead for a positive program or therapeutics. Showing their complex dialogues, it shows the influences of some of the founding texts of Idealism upon late Idealism, Romanticism, and Existentialism. It traces a partial evolution of French materialist psychiatry and psychology on German philosophy and on the birth of Freudian psychoanalysis. It concludes with the dialogue between phenomenology and Levinas’s hermeneutic anxiety of responsibility.

Of her felllowship, Bergo says "It is a privilege to be able to work with Sarah Hammerschlag, Ryan Coyne, and the members of the Marty Center. It is renewing and illuminating for me to listen to the research of the junior fellows. I am deeply honored to be a part of this dynamic and talented community."