Towards the end of one of his last texts, “The Schema of History” (Das Geschichtsschema, written in German between 1975 and 1976), Patočka poses a question that orients much of his late thought on the concepts of “post-Europe,” the “solidarity of the shaken,” and indeed “war” as the unifying theme of the twentieth century (and indeed many of the chapters in this volume). The question is simply: will “man” of “the planetary era” live in a manner that is effectively historical? Other contributions in this book have taken on this question in its positive sense by addressing the concepts of “post-Europe,” “solidarity,” “community,” and “war.” Indeed the question of what it is to live “historically” is the central concern of Patočka’s late work and it is parsed existentially, phenomenologically and also, if sometimes rather obliquely, politically throughout his entire oeuvre. In this chapter I am primarily concerned with the counterpoint to Patočka’s question. If, in the “planetary era,” living historically is a question, a desirable but seemingly rather unlikely possibility, what is the primary impediment? Patočka’s response to this is in the sentences, paragraphs, and pages which surround the question and specifically in one term: biology.
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- Jan Patočka, modernity, biology, politics, phenomenology