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Evil is subtle. The most effective perpetrator is always found quietly plotting and calculating behind the scenes. The writers of Les Diaboliques capture the meaning and import of evil like few films in this genre ever have. Delasalle is a tyrannical man. One of the teachers at the school, Nicole Horner Simone Signoret , is his mistress.

Adding fuel to this classic plot of resentment, hate and double-dealing is the fact that all of the parties involved live in close quarters in the same building. A short time into the story, the wife and mistress conjure up a sinister plot to do away with their mutual tormentor, M. The two women leave the school during a weekend. Mme Delasalle is going to ask her husband for a divorce. Of course, the official plan is to give him poison-tainted alcohol and then drown him in the bathtub.

All along, we watch her incite anger and hate in her co-conspirator.


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They wait several days for the body to surface or to be discovered by one of the students. However, this does not happen. Instead, the two women begin to get hysterical. This is the point where the infighting begins in earnest. The suspense truly begins when someone delivers the suit that M. Delasalle was wearing when murdered from the cleaners.

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While the two women quickly conspire to kill M. Delasalle, the viewer is only privy to a portion of the plan they conjure up.

Defining the Humanities: Normativity

However, these are also significant points of divergence, since Castoriadis considers imagination creative and radical, while Ricoeur considers it more interpretative. Moreover, Castoriadis considers the self-institution of society an ex nihilo creation of a proper world, while for Ricoeur it is an interpretation of a given, though not fixed, world horizon. Castoriadis insists on the project of individual and social autonomy through democratic social transformation, and the possibility of actually overcoming heteronomy.

Their encounter occurred after Castoriadis had broken with Marxism and turned to psychoanalysis and ontology. He had accused Marx of adopting essential elements of the dominant capitalist worldview, such as scientific rationalism, the predominance of the economy, and dominance over nature. Then he undertook the task to combine action and theory within the praxis of autonomy beyond Marxist dialectics, while his main philosophical ideas such as autonomy, and his emphasis on the creativity of the instituting imaginary in and through the activity of an anonymous collective, first appear in that political context [3].

Thus, while Ricoeur presented his own critique of Marx during his Chicago lectures, Castoriadis moved on to a critique of the western philosophical tradition more generally. On that theoretical ground rationalistic or tautological philosophical systems that try to reduce ontological multiplicity to some transcendent uniformity and temporal becoming to static eternity are constructed.

Castoriadis claims that this leads traditional philosophy to obscure the inseparable connection between society and history, existence and temporality and to negate ontological creativity and time itself. Without the acknowledgment of ontological creativity and historical relativity, he argues, we cannot understand how human activity transforms the world and how society creates its own history. This means that the creation of new forms or beings cannot be reduced to previous conditions, such is the emergence of life.

Traditional ontology aspires to reduce the plurality of beings, ontological multiplicity, to a single unified Being or principle. However, Castoriadis claims that there are ontological levels or strata that cannot be reduced to a single principle or to each other, such as the natural physical stratum, the living being, the human psyche and the social-historical, each with unique attributes that constitute different proper worlds.

Time is the emergence of alterity, the creation and destruction of new forms, and both the tautological and the creative dimensions are interwoven within time and space.

Criticism – textbookarena

For Castoriadis, ontological creativity is the reason for historical relativity. Every human society creates its own history, establishes its own institutions and a unique public space and public time that cannot be attributed to extra-social forces, such as God, or human nature, which means that there are no historical laws or destiny. The social-historical is the proper world of human existence, created by the anonymous collective imaginary and realized in institutions and human activity, which leans on the natural environment but is not determined by it.

Such is any living being, from the simplest to the most complex species, that creates a variety of assessments of its environment and informs its proper world according to its own senses, for self-preservation and reproduction. Psychic intention is arbitrary, its content is imaginary, its passion illogical.

Ortega y Gasset’s Metaphysical Cure for Invertebrate Cultures

Human psyche is a distinct being-for-itself whose sufficient and necessary condition for survival is society, which transforms the psyche into a functional individual, in accordance to the dominant social images and significances. These are the creation of another psychic pole, the anonymous social imaginary imaginaire , which is transmitted through language, custom and social behavior. Ricoeur also pointed out the importance of the involuntary, as he named it, element of the social background in the constitution of the conscious ego, but, as we will see, he gives more emphasis to the symbolic over the imaginary.

For Castoriadis, the social imaginary is responsible for providing reality with a coherent meaning available to the individual psyche in order to reconcile the trauma of the breakup of the initial psychical monad that comes with birth. Castoriadis refers here to Freud and perceives the newborn psyche as an enclosed unity of meaning, being and pleasure, that is broken up through socialization and the separation of the Self and the Other, with the Other remaining a necessary component of the constitution of the Self [10].

Creative imagination, which Castoriadis calls primary or radical, and which precedes productive imagination, is the source of every signification and representation, the common root of both the real and the symbolic. On this path Castoriadis met Paul Ricoeur, who also places imagination at the center of existence. The involuntary, manifested as objective environment, as bodily functions, as the network of relationships with others, determines and complements voluntary intention, selection and action.


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  • To rephrase this, the individual self is not a static solitary entity but a dynamic plexus of relations where the others always participate, in actuality or in memory, as persons or influences, and where the individual is always signified in relation to others and to a common world. This unity is achieved through mutual recognition and shared communication.

    For Ricoeur, communication and recognition provide us with meaning when our activity corresponds to the pre-existing structure of the world. Our actions become meaningful within cultural and natural contexts, which are not our subjective creations, but precede and define our conceptual orientation.

    However, new meaning emerges, in any given context, within the process of communication and language that allows constant re-interpretations. The mental faculty that ensures the openness and fluidity of meaning, as well as the possibility of mutual recognition, is imagination.

    Fragments: Essays in Subjectivity, Individuality and Autonomy

    In this context, as M. Since understanding requires recognition and communication, Ricoeur turns to language and symbolism. For Ricoeur, imaginary meaning is not an arbitrary creation, but rather a free, non-regular re-interpretation of elements already given to human experience by the world and culture. Hence, interpretation is free and diverse but does not constitute the creation of a new form or being. For Ricoeur, imagination is interpretative. Self-understanding of pre-existing meaningful contexts is made possible through images preserved in memory and imagination by literary tradition, which determines the cultural context in which we live and which is offered to interpretation.