Book Review: Santiago Zabala: Being at Large

FALL 2020

by Marvin Milian

Cohort ’20

As I write this, the Presidential election looms less than two weeks away in the United States of America, and the world peers anxiously in as political parties brace themselves on opposite ends of a dialectic. Media storms engulf the digital airwaves while the world’s political culture buckles under a fervent reality of alternate facts. The Trump Presidency has suffered under four years of doubt stemming from the forty-fifth President’s inauguration and comments from his then press secretary Kellyanne Conway that seemingly cemented doubt into truth. Santiago Zabala’s, Being at Large, provides a philosophical architecture that promises to bring light to this history blanketed in uncertainty. Zabala is a philosopher and cultural theorist whose work at Pompeu Fabra University looks at the modern state of emergency and argues that the lack of emergency has reached a critical degree in our political landscape.

Book cover: “Being at Large.” Image courtesy of Marvin Milian
Book cover: “Being at Large.” Image courtesy of Marvin Milian.

Driven by the classical structure of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, Zabala echoes a philosophy rooted in hermeneutics and is supported by the ideas of thinkers such as Gianni Vattimo. The author examines ideas of Being and truth as they relate to Heidegger’s concept of metaphysics, and we see that for Zabala, conversation rather than dialectic triumphs supreme as a standard ontology.

On the concept of truth, Zabala suggests that the approach one takes facilitates a more affirmative truth, and it is in conversation that philosophy works to illuminate this disclosure. Zabala further unpacks the ideas of Vattimo in his interpretation of hermeneutics as he proceeds diligently into an examination of the history of this interpretive philosophy and asks who interprets ideas and why? Finally, the author examines the concept of emergency, or rather the lack of emergency in contemporary cultural philosophy, as he paves a path to order. Building on his previous text, Why Only Art Can Save Us: Aesthetics and the Absence of Emergency, Zabala presents a timely read that calls for examining truth in an age of alternative facts.

Works Cited

Zabala, Santiago. Being at Large. Canada, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020.