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Ágnes Heller, a radical philosopher pursuing the adventure of existence

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Remembrance. Ágnes Heller could not stand the idea of neatly classifying thought according to labels, and did not identify with any of the many ‘-isms’ that have been attributed to her. One might say that life itself is the guiding thread running through her radical philosophy.

written by Donatella Di Cesare

July 22, 2019

She died while swimming in Lake Balaton, in her beloved Hungary. The end of Agnes Heller’s life was marked by the same spontaneous and joyful naturalness that was her defining trait. A small and frail-looking person, she was a survivor of the Budapest ghetto in 1945. She was only 15, and almost her whole family was exterminated. “Freedom for me has always meant liberation from Nazism,” she said.

That traumatic experience left her with a profound attachment to life. She wanted to live it each day to the fullest, enjoying every opportunity she had been given, but never shying away from the responsibility it implied. Perhaps that was the reason her unique personality as a philosopher shone through from every small gesture, every smile, every joke and every answer she gave. Her thinking was at one with her way of life.

Behind her outward frailty, one could perceive an extraordinary strength that carried her through the extremely long 20th century, in which almost nothing was left unsullied. After the Shoah, there was yet another event she would never forget: the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. At that time, Heller was already an assistant to György Lukács. Together with many dissidents, she was subjected to investigations,........

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