Mr John de Lima

Research project: Gillian Rose and the Political


Toward the end of her philosophical authorship, under the tripartite analogy of the soul, the city and the sacred, Gillian Rose made a critique of ‘the autodestruction of philosophy' in its ‘desertion of Athens in search of a New Jerusalem'. These reflections accompanied a restatement of her prognosis of ‘the trauma within reason itself' and extended her indelible claim for the retrieval of speculative philosophy. This retrieval was accompanied by a formidable intellectual history of modernity and a redress to the judged absence of any adequately sustained rehearsal of its legal character within its intellectual self-conceptions, especially across its Hellenic, Roman and Hebraic modes. Writing predominantly in the form of the extended philosophical essay, Rose´s authorship combined rigorous scholarly historical research and philosophical exegesis with highly original topographical and speculative completions of the tradition. Such speculative work, she argued, required the motility of suspending the ancient within the modern, and the universal within the particular. Taken together, her works combine to present one of the most original and ambitious histories of philosophy and philosophies of history of the last century, whilst opening up crucial avenues of research within the tradition of philosophy, history, and social and political thought. Rose´s refusal of the decisively modern ‘diremption of metaphysics and ethics' – a division which she argued was our history and our problem – was designed to counter the injury attendant upon any acceptance of their separation, and to reinvigorate the philosophical enterprise around a reading of the Hegelian authorship which centralises the rethinking of reason and revelation, around what she took to be the core speculative statement of absolute idealism  --  ‘the identity and non-identity of the church and state'. Whilst carrying this out, Rose made major interventions in the reception of thinkers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Freud, Adorno, Levinas and Mann.

Rose´s oeuvre still lacks any comprehensive philosophical reconstruction, thus leaving the bulk of its technical and historiographic interventions in ´modernity´ and ‘the speculative' only partially received. This absence of systematic reception is partly due to an adherence by many readers to the undeservedly secure status of independent disciplines, of which the authorship itself rejects (theology, philosophy, political theory, etc) and is partly due to the sheer scope of Rose´s project. Our task will begin with a critical analysis of her highly nuanced reading of legal paradigms across their interwoven actuality with modern European philosophy and political history, scrutinising her position against its three major codifications of that actuality – : i. the unacknowledged neo-Kantian philosophical basis of modern social and political theory ii. the premature completion of ‘philosophy' as political theology in the 20th century, and iii. the inseparable relation of Judaism and western philosophy. This will provide the basis of a critical exegesis of Rose´s account of our ancient entanglement with the need to think through ‘the absolute' which she advanced as an unsettling of our dispirited relation to ‘the work of reason in history' and as resistance to the illusions of tribalism, exclusive community, and the modern inability to reflect upon law and aporia. By advancing an extended technical-philosophical commentary to Rose's work, we set out to augment and supplement the recent revival of interest in her thought, expounding the internal and external tectonics of her authorship, whilst mining the highly inflected debates yet to be disclosed which take place between them. We will pay close attention to the early period of Rose´s work in her formative years studying with Dieter Henrich and Leszek Kolakowski, which are crucial to reconstructing the highly original contributions she made to the rereading of historically axiomatic yet notably overlooked figures within the post-Hegelian tradition, such as H Lotze, E Lask, B Bolzano and H Cohen.

This project will conclude with a close study of the critique which Rose brought to the attempts by Rosa Luxemburg, Hannah Arendt, and Rahel Varnhagen, as three thinkers of the political whom despite their exclusion from civil-society – as both Jews and as women – insisted on the universal character of the philosophical project for the difficulties of their own time. Centralising the question of philosophy´s struggle with its import to two distinct realms – the religious and the political – the three political and social periodisations which typify the historical present of each authorship will then be reread against the philosophical developments and permutations pertinent to Rose´s philosophy of modern history; the late-eighteenth century bureaucratic reform marking the transitions from aristocratic to bourgeois society (Varnhagen), the defeat of Social Democracy (Luxemburg), and the rise of totalitarianism (Arendt).


After having completed my Masters in Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory at CRMEP, for which I prepared the dissertation, ´Theodor W Adorno and Freedom´, I have moved forward to my doctoral studies. 

Areas of research interest

  • Political Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Law
  • German Romanticism
  • German Idealism
  • Philosophy of History & History of Philosophy
  • Judaica


  • MA in Philosophy and Contemporary Critical Theory, CRMEP, Kingston