Dr. Carmen Lea Dege

Areas of specialization:

Myth, Uncertainty, Politics of Loss, (Post-)Metaphysical Thinking, Science Denialism, Climate Crisis, Social Criticism

Areas of competence:

Modern and Contemporary History of Political Thought, Critical Theory, Democratic Theory, Political Theology, Existentialism

Personal Website

Dr. Carmen Lea Dege received her PhD in Political Theory from Yale University in December 2019 and works broadly on the relation between uncertainty, loss, and political myth. In particular, she asks how an existential understanding of change corresponds to – and differs from – moral, material and idealist accounts of social criticism, and how it bears on questions of health crises, climate action, and authoritarianism.

Her book manuscript, Myth, Guilt, and Communicative Reason: Karl Jaspers and the Problem of Uncertainty in 20th Century Political Thought, analyzes the timely contribution of the existentialist philosopher and psychologist Karl Jaspers to contemporary crises in democratic societies. She situates Jaspers in the intellectual history from Max Weber to Jürgen Habermas, investigates his contributions to central debates in critical theory, existentialism and psychoanalysis, and shows how his thinking speaks to problems of loss and uncertainty in present-day politics.

In addition, Dr. Dege pursues a postdoctoral project on science denialism which studies the workings and breakdowns of the fact-value distinction and resuscitates the tradition of “political myth” (e.g., Sorel, Bataille, Sartre, Beauvoir, Lefort, Fanon). This tradition depicts myth as powerful narratives and images that respond to experiences of lack and uncertainty, and motivate action prior to its capture by rational calculations. Unlike the concepts of ideology and illusion, myth does not indicate a misunderstanding of logos but eludes it by operating in the sphere of conviction where the distinction between the rational and the irrational has little effect. Dr. Dege advocates for a more nuanced use of the concepts of myth and ignorance, which allows her to examine the significance of non-knowledge for knowledge and evaluate political practices of rage, anger, and mourning independently of their rational definitions as “negative” emotions.

Before graduating from Yale University and becoming a Polonsky Fellow, Dr. Dege received a Master’s degree in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a Diploma degree in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin.

Recent Publications

  • “‘Standing behind your phrase’ – Arendt and Jaspers on the (Post-)Metaphysics of Evil,” European Journal of Political Theory, Online First, November 24, 2021.
  • “To Karl Jaspers, Uncertainty Is Not to Be Overcome but Understood,” Aeon+Psyche, September 9, 2020.
  • “2020’s Existentialist Turn,” Boston Review, August 24, 2020.
  • “Diversity in Unity in Disenchanted Times: Max Weber’s Challenge and Karl Jaspers’s Response,” Philosophy & Social Criticism, 46(6), 2020, 703-733.
  • “Bound by Disenchantment, Review of This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, by Martin Hägglund,” New Rambler Review, September 18, 2019.