Proto-Institutions and Epistemological Encounters

Suzi Adams

in Castoriadis's Ontology

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780823234585
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823240739 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Proto-Institutions and Epistemological Encounters

Show Summary Details


This chapter focuses on Castoriadis's epistemological grappling with the social-historical and argues that he does so via a critique of elementary reason (as a critique of Kant). He elucidates social-historical being as comprised of two strata: the ensemblistic-identitarian and the imaginary/signitive. He gives an account of the two proto-institutions of legein and teukhein. They can be understood as elementary forms of, respectively, “thinking” and “doing”, and act as a bridge between nature and the social-historical. Legein, as a form of “theoretical reason”, corresponds to proto-thinking, whilst teukhein, as a form of “practical reason”, converges with elementary social doing. Mathematics has a natural anchor in legein as the capacity to “distinguish-choose-posit-assemble-count-speak” in a universal manner, whilst teukhein involves identitarian aspects of “assembling-adjusting-fabricating-constructing”. Although there are overlaps between the two, each reveals a dimension that is absent in the other: The signitive relation is characteristic only of legein, whereas the transformative relation is present in teukhein. Castoriadis seeks to elucidate legein and teukhein as the social-historical, that is, institutional underpinning of ensemblistic-identiatarian logic and charts Castoriadis's growing realization that ontological foundations are inseparable from logical foundations.

Keywords: legein; teukhein; reason; ensemblistic-identitarian logic; proto-institution; signitive relation; transformative relation; social doing

Chapter.  10099 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Fordham University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.