Dr. Carmen Lea Dege

Areas of specialization:

Myth, Uncertainty, Politics of Loss, (Post-)Metaphysical Thinking, Climate Action.

Areas of competence:

Modern and Contemporary Political and Social Thought, Critical Theory, Democratic Theory, Political Theology, Existentialism.

Personal Website

Dr. Carmen Lea Dege received her PhD in Political Theory from Yale University in 2019 and works broadly on the relation between myth, uncertainty and social transformation. In particular, she is interested in the experiential and psychic conditions of social change. She asks how an existential understanding of change corresponds to – and differs from – moral, material and historical accounts of social criticism, and how it bears on questions of climate action, civil disobedience and social movements.

Her book manuscript, Uncertainty as Method: Karl Jaspers and Political Theory, 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, social thought, existentialism and psychoanalysis, and shows how his thinking speaks to problems of loss and uncertainty that shape present-day politics.

In addition, Dr. Dege pursues a postdoctoral project on half-truths and science denialism which studies the workings and breakdowns of the fact-value distinction and resuscitates the tradition of “political myth” (e.g., Sorel, Bataille, 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. A considerable part of the project investigates this existential sphere of willing, its social and political impact and how it can help us evaluate different practices of dissent, civil disobedience and mourning.

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:

  • “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.