Crisis and Meaning: F. Kafka and the Law

Luc Anckaert (University of Louvain, Belgium)
Roger Burggraeve (University of Louvain, Belgium)


The parable “Before the Law” is a pivotal text in the work of Franz Kafka. It tells of a man who looks for the law as the quintessence of his life. But his quest for meaning comes to a crisis because of a fundamental deception. Instead of interpreting the law as a personal mystery, he somehow objectifies it. His abstract view on life begets the obstacle-character that embodies all those who could bar him from finding the law. In this narrative, the failure of finding the law results in a murder in which human life is reduced to bestial death. In this sense, Kafka’s narrative is a tale of anti-creation. In a close reading we analyze the text with attention for the ternary structure, i.e. the intertwined complex of the I-Thou relation and the I-It relation (Martin Buber). The literary text is interpreted for its philosophical relevance. Franz Rosenzweig and Emmanuel Levinas but also Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida have an important role in this way of reading.

Article in: English

Article published: 2017-09-20

Keyword(s): “Before the Law”; dialogical thinking; fragmentation; Franz Kafka; obstacle; quintessence of life; searching; ternary thinking; The Trial.

DOI: 10.3846/cpc.2017.288

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Coactivity: Philosophy, Communication / Santalka: Filosofija, Komunikacija ISSN 2029-6320, eISSN 2029-6339
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