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On Calmness


This article proposes that the mood or affective attitude of calmness (“Gelassenheit” in German) consists in not striving to control things that are beyond our control, such as, first, inalterable conditions of our life; second, other people, at least when we regard them as autonomous agents who must not be manipulated or rhetorically persuaded but should be convinced by arguments; and third, ourselves. Focusing on the second phenomenon, argumentation or, more generally, rational action, it is argued that one’s rational conduct towards others is unavoidably based on hope or, as Kant puts it, on rational faith. Hence, calmness is explained as the practical attitude of trusting that the course of events beyond our control does not affect the meaning of a rational life, but rather is definitive of it.

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  1. Ludwig Wittgenstein, “A Lecture on Ethics,” in Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 3–12.

  2. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe, P. M. S. Hacker, and Joachim Schulte (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 1.613.

  3. Ibid., 1.615.

  4. This is the reconstructive proposal of Paul Lorenzen in Normative Logic and Ethics (Mannheim: Bibliographisches Institut, 1984), part 7.

  5. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness with an introduction by Bertrand Russell. London: Routledge, 1974, 5.631.

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Correspondence to Friedrich Kambartel.

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[Translated by Angelika Krebs, Anthony Mahler and Stephan Meyer from the German original ‘Über die Gelassenheit: Zum vernünftigen Umgang mit dem Unverfügbaren’, F. Kambartel, Philosophie der humanen Welt, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1989, 90–99.]

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Kambartel, F. On Calmness. Philosophia 45, 1613–1619 (2017).

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  • Calmness
  • Trust
  • Faith
  • Practical rationality
  • Argumentation
  • Agency