Thomas Fuchs: Ecology of the Brain: The Phenomenology and Biology of the Embodied Mind

Ecology of the Brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind Book Cover Ecology of the Brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind
Thomas Fuchs
Oxford University Press
Hardback £34.99

Reviewed by: Diego D'Angelo (Universität Koblenz-Landau)

Thomas Fuchs is one of the leading scholars worldwide trying to merge psychopathology, phenomenology, and neurosciences. In the German-speaking part of the world his name is mostly connected to his book (published in 2007) Das Gehirn – ein Beziehungsorgan. Thanks to his latest publication, this reference book is now available in English with some updates and improvements. This edition is, in Fuchs own swords, “completely revised and extended” (v) and offers an overarching analysis of his approach.

For the purpose of this review, I will not go into details describing the differences between the two edition – this would be mostly interesting for the German speaking readership – and I will restrict myself to the philosophical content, setting aside analysis of and implications for psychotherapy, psychology, and neurosciences. Instead, I will focus on giving a broad introduction to the work, spelling out the reasons why I think that Fuchs’ approach has to be taken very seriously in a wide array of contemporary debates, and what I think could profit from further refinement.

In order to properly sketch out the novelty and conspicuousness of Fuchs’ analysis, it is necessary to pick out, from the international panorama, the antagonistic positions. Having Husserlian and Post-Husserlian phenomenology as carrying pillars of his approach, Fuchs builds up his theory against common assumptions put forward by, on the one hand, (I.) representationalism (as a leading theory in the phenomenology of mind) and, on the other hand, (II.) by the view of the brain as a computational machine or, more broadly, every version of neurobiological reductionism. Interestingly, Fuchs claims that both these views rest on the same unwarranted assumption: they both beg the question, since they want to explain the human subject and her experiences, but end up presupposing this very subject in order to make sense.

  1. As for representationalism, grasping something as a representation (a picture, a sign, a symbol…) of something else requires someone able to grasp this relationship. As in Charles Sanders Peirce’s triangular semiotic relationship, a sign can be a sign of something only for someone that interprets this relation as a semiotic relation. Representationalism conflates sign and interpreter and is therefore not viable for the construction of a full-fledged theory of subjectivity.
  2. Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that the view according to which subjectivity and mind stand to the brain like software to hardware is right. The argument of Fuchs is metatheoretical: “How is the brain supposed to know itself? How should a physically describable and localized mechanism be in a position to bring forth the world of scientific experience in which it emerges at tthe same time?” (xvii) In standard approaches, the brain is the starting point (as that which produces the mind viz. consciousness) and the result (namely the theoretical product of a series of scientific and methodological steps that lead us to explaining its functioning) at the same time. The brain, even if understood as hardware, presupposes something capable to look and study it (its software): but the subject is nowhere to be found in the brain. Surely there would be no consciousness without the brain, but it is also true that “without consciousness there would be no human brain.” (228) Indeed, according to Fuchs “the mind is not in the brain, for it is the overarching manifestation, the gestalt, and the ordered patterns of all relations that we have to our environment as animate beings, and as humans to our fellow humans.” (207) The neuroscientist that forgets this and takes the brain as the sole origin of the mind “loses sights […] of his own subjectivity“ (43) and thereby of his own brain. Any discourse about the brain clearly presupposes what the brain is alleged to bring forth: namely, “conscious human persons who exist to communicate with each other.” (xvii) This critique can be widened in order to encompass not only theories about the brain, but even the scientific practice as such, and a longer quote explains this: “My thesis reads as follows: the problems of the relationship between brain and mind, as they present themselves today, emerge from a short circuit between the level of natural scientific, in this case, especially neurobiological constructs, and the level of intersubjective, life-world experience, from which the neurobiological special practice has developed and with which it remains always bound.” (62) In a Husserlian fashion, Fuchs claims therefore that “Neurobiology is primarily a highly specialized form of common practice arising from the life-world.” (63)

His own positive theory proposes, as stated by the title, a completely different view of the brain, the body, the subject, and the surrounding world. “We are not figments of our brains, but human persons in the flesh.” (291) The non-reductionistic approach Fuchs puts forward claims that the human person must be ecologically regarded as an organism in its totality, avoiding thinking that, as the adagio goes, we are our brains. The brain is not the production place of the mind, but an organ of relation with the body and with the environment. The brain is a mediating organ: “it can only be adequately understood as an organ of the living being in its environment.” (67) This central claim is quickly said, but not as quickly understood. What does it exactly mean?

First of all, Fuchs questions the centrality of the notion of the mind as something separated from the body and the Umwelt. Following mostly Merleau-Pontian phenomenology, but also the German tradition of philosophical anthropology (mostly Plessner), Fuchs stresses the unity of the living being, a unity encompassing life (as opposed to mind), body, and world, and grounded in intentionality (36 f.). Subjectivity is not restricted to the mind as a “property” of the brain, but is coexstensive to life of the organism and is therefore, in the concepts of today’s 4E cognition, extended: “The peripheral and autonomic nervous system, the senses, the skin, the muscles, the heart, the viscera – all these are carriers of subjectivity too.” (19)

Even if this may seem like a bold statement, its consequence is clear: what we are looking for is therefore not the origin of the mind in the brain, but the function of the brain (and of the central nervous system) in the global life of the human person as a living organism. The starting point, for Fuchs, is indeed the concepts of life and experience (leben and erleben, cf. 31). He argues, along with the phenomenological tradition, that the world experienced in perception is the world we live in and not a mere illusion to be corrected by science. This would amount to what he calls “the idealistic legacy.” (5) Instead, according to Fuchs’ phenomenological, embodied, and enactive paradigm, things are encountered as what they are, since “they are perceived as available for our interaction with them” (9) – they are at the disposal of our own body. This is an important point: the interrelatedness of brain, body, and world can only be stated if our perception of the world can be thought of as a genuine source of knowledge about the world itself and if, at the same time, our body is a part of it.

If the role of the brain is to connect and mediate, a crucial role in this process of mediation is played by the human body, which carries along a twofold structure: the body is both lived body (Leib) and living or objective body (Körper) (12-14). Following Thompson’s groundbreaking Mind in Life as well as Husserl’s Ideas II, the mind-body problem is rewritten as the “LeibKörper problem.” Consciousness is not “born in the brain,” but is an “enactment of life” (45) involving the whole living organism. The conception of embodied subjectivity put forward by Fuchs is thus ecological (whence the title of the book) thanks to the claim that the brain must be studied in conjunction with the whole body and the whole life of the organism, together with its surrounding world. Against the standard view, Fuchs stresses that “none of these emerges as a construct in the brain.” (75)

This rejection of the classical views of the mind-body problem (or of subjectivity as such) in no way amounts to a rejection of natural sciences, their experiments, or their results. One could suppose this to be the necessary conclusion drawn by Fuchs’ account, since this aims to thematize interactions and, in his own words, “mediations” that would be difficult to measure quantitatively within current standard of, e.g., neurobiology, neuophysiology, or even empirical psychology. But this conclusion is actually unwarranted. Fuchs’ approach does not claim for the life of the organism to be the unique object of philosophical, conceptual or phenomenological, reflection; instead, he claims that natural sciences and human sciences (in particular, philosophy and phenomenology) are both needed to achieve a description of the living organism because the living organism itself is two-sided. As stressed before, the dualism of living body and lived body requires two different ways of thinking about life, as instantiated by natural and human sciences. This, in turn, does not produce any kind of new dualism, since these aspects “are objectively distinct characteristics of one and the same living being” (80) – like the two sides of a coin (cf. ibidem). Another quotation helps understanding the full potential of undermining classical dualisms in favor of an “aspect dualism”: “[t]he lived body and life itself therefore become the bridge between the ‘mental’ and the ‘physical.’” Even if this conception still implies duality, namely as the dual aspect which the living being shows, such a duality corresponds not to two essentially distinct domains of reality, but rather to “two opposing perspectives and attitudes, which we can adopt towards life, and which are not mutually transferable.” (213)

Fuchs himself gives some hints at how this separation of the fields of work could be achieved. On the one hand, he dedicates long analysis to the biology of the organism, claiming that under this point of view the organism is to be understood as an active self-organising and autopoietic system in the sense already sketched out by Varela and Marturana in a series of publications, among them the classical The Tree of Knowledge. Since self-organisation and autopoiesis are based on interaction with the environment, and since “directed behavior came before the brain,” (87) Fuchs is able to explain (at least in very general terms) the necessity and vantages of having a brain from an evolutionary perspective: “an organ of integration became necessary […]. The C[entral] N[ervous] S[ystem] mediates, selects, and facilitates organism-environment interactions.” (87) In order to explain the complex feedback structure that impinges on these interactions, Fuchs introduces the concept of “circular and integral causality,” (94) that describes the reciprocal relation between organism and environment.

On the other hand, he suggests new ways to discuss central problems in classical philosophy and phenomenology of mind. The concept of representation, as we have shown before, has been criticized by Fuchs, but he gives us also a positive proposal in order to substitute for it. Instead of talking about representation or information, he introduces the notion of “resonance”, for this concept is able to show, at the level of the lived body, the same feedback structure we found at the level of the living body. The relation between organism and environment has a two-way directedness that has to be accounted for, and this is something that both the concepts of representation and of information fail to achieve. Thus, “the purpose of the cognitive system is not to construct mental representations of external states, but to provide possibilities for embodied actions within the world,” (108) again in accordance with claims recently put forward by 4E cognition. The concept of “resonance” is particularly apt because it describes not only the relation between body and environment, but also between body and brain (cf. 119). Applied to sense perception, the concept of resonance can be further specified as “mediated immediacy” (a concept obviously mutuated from Hegel), insofar as perception always means a mediated “remembering present” or a “re-creation,” (153) which is, in turn, the only immediate access to reality we have – thereby stepping outside of every naive realism, favoring instead a “realism rooted in the life-world.” (171)

In order to describe the interconnectedness of the brain with the surrounding world, a chapter of the book is dedicated to the concept of the person in its intersubjective ramifications. The brain is a “social organ” (175) and research in social cognition needs, exactly in a similar way as the one discussed above, to free itself from representationalism and reductionisms of sort in order to locate intersubjectivity already at the level of intercorporeality. As an example, Fuchs criticizes the hype around mirror neurons since “it should first be remembered that neurons cannot mirror anything.” (187) This is surely true, but at this point Fuchs seems to be unfair to current debates on mirror neurons. The “mirroring” of neurons is just a metaphor (which can be dangerous if substantiated without warrant, for sure), for they fire under certain conditions which involve both the doing and the seeing of an action (for an balanced analysis of mirror neurons also in the context of phenomenology and philosophy of mind see Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, Mirrors in the Brain. How Our Minds Share Actions, Emotions, and Experience). But surely, Fuchs is right in pointing out that human sociality cannot be based alone on neural structure; for it to develop, “real intercorporeality and interaffectivity” (189) are required. Also in this case, Fuchs’ concept of resonance is introduced in order to replace representational concepts: mirror neurons do not “mirror” actions, but resonate socially. They do not represent something, but are rather “specific carriers of embodied social perception.” (191)

In order to sum up, we can say with Fuchs that consciousness “is nothing else but the human organism that one is” (218) and that therefore its origin is not the be found in the brain alone. Conscious experience is “an enactment of life” and “is the superordinate process, which shapes the participating structures at the microlevel, and is thereby incorporated in form of lasting dispositions.” (225)

To conclude, let me point to one way Fuchs’ positions could benefit from some refinement. As quoted above, the dual aspectivity of the lived and living body has the configuration of the two sides of coin – which is a usual metaphor and not at all problematic. But Fuchs further spins the metaphor, claiming that “no side of the coin impacts the other.” (233) Should this mean that the materiality of my objective body has no relation whatsoever to my experience? In this case, the claim would seem rather bold and rather implausible. But – clearly – this is not the claim: the claim is restricted to the absence of any direct, mechanistic psychophysical or psychosomatic causality. Three sets of problems arise here. Firstly, this claim is presented by Fuchs as the result of his analysis and is not defended in extenso. Secondly, I hold that the formulation “no side of the coin impacts the other” is too coarse and that a definition of “impacting” in this context would be required in order to falsify the first interpretation I gave of this claim. Thirdly, even if we restrict (in a charitable reading) the meaning of “impacting” to causal mechanisms, this seems hard to defend. Surely there is no 1:1 causality between the physical and the psychical, but when Fuchs states (as quoted above) that without brain there would be no consciousness (and also that without consciousness there would be no brain, for sure), then there seems to be some kind of direct causality in play. The brain is a necessary (although not sufficient) condition for consciousness, and it seems rather odd to claim that this relationship is in no way causal and in no way an impact. Even accepting his version of the emergence theory, claiming that material processes “facilitate or realize” functions of life, “initiate or trigger them as stimulus” and “disrupt and render them impossible” (248) seems different then claiming that there is no impact and no direct causality. Maybe I am missing something here, but since this certainly is a central piece of Fuchs’ account and indeed of any thematization of the relation between brain and consciousness, it would be nice to have more details as to how strong exactly Fuchs means his claim. I think my critique would hold even if, according to Fuchs, we would be willing to accept the idea of the brain as an “organ of freedom” (242) instead as an organ of determinism. If the brain somehow brings about freedom – by way of mediating, integrating, resonating – then we can claim that at least the possibility of freedom is causally created by the brain.

But this critique is only meant to show how far Fuchs’ approach can bring current discussions on these matters, more often than not swimming otherwise in really muddy waters. Understanding consciousnesses as embodied in an ecological way allows to avoid important impasses in current debates and opens new and astonishingly refreshing perspectives both for empirical and for philosophical research. Moreover, the book de facto bridges the long-standing and outdated divide between so-called analytic and so-called continental philosophy. By drawing from phenomenology, philosophical anthropology, philosophy of mind, and neurophilosophy (just to mention philosophical disciplines without venturing in a list of natural sciences on which Fuchs draws), he shows performatively that there is only good and bad philosophy. And being a piece of good philosophy, Ecology of the brain is a recommended reading not only for everyone interested in psychology, neurosciences, psychopathology and so forth, but also for anyone interested in theoretical philosophy today.

Stefano Marino: Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer

Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer Book Cover Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer
Stefano Marino
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Hardback £41.99

Reviewed by: Diego D'Angelo (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

Sono pochi, forse pochissimi gli autori di lingua italiana in grado di muoversi agevolmente nel panorama filosofico internazionale. Molti si astengono persino dal provarci. Tanto più va lodato e apprezzato, allora, il riuscito tentativo di Stefano Marino di pubblicare anche in lingua inglese, come dimostra questo volume, uscito di recente per Cambridge Scholars Publishing, su estetica, metafisica e linguaggio in Heidegger e in Gadamer. Non si tratta peraltro della prima pubblicazione di Marino diretta ad un pubblico internazionale: ricordiamo qui il volume, risalente 2011, Gadamer and the Limits of the Modern Techno-Scientific Civilization (Peter Lang, Francoforte sul Meno), nonché il saggio in lingua tedesca Aufklärung in einer Krisenzeit: Ästhetik, Ethik und Metaphysik bei Theodor W. Adorno, pubblicato nel 2015 (Kovac Verlag, Amburgo).

La raccolta di saggi qui in questione continua dunque un discorso di apertura nei confronti della ricerca filosofica in lingue che non siano unicamente quella italiana. E si nota che, qui, Marino si muove con coerenza, affrontando soprattutto temi legati all’estetica e alla metafisica, rivolgendo la propria attenzione ad autori classici della tradizione tedesca del Novecento: Adorno, Heidegger e Gadamer, soprattutto, per quanto proprio questo volume contenga un’apertura anche verso il pensiero – diretto soprattutto alla politica – di Hannah Arendt, nonché al discorso anglofono di John McDowell e Richard Rorty. In questa recensione forniremo dunque alcune osservazioni contenutistiche a proposito dei cinque capitoli che costituiscono il volume, chiudendo poi con alcune osservazioni critiche di carattere generale. Tutti i testi tranne il primo, che è un contributo originale al volume, sono infatti rimaneggiamenti, a volte anche sostanziali, di articoli pubblicati in precedenza.

Il saggio di apertura, Gadamer and McDowell on Second Nature, World/Environment, and Language, cerca di ricostruire il debito, espressamente riconosciuto da McDowell stesso, che alcune posizioni di Mind and World – uno dei libri più dibattuti degli ultimi vent’anni – hanno nei confronti del pensiero di Hans-Georg Gadamer, e in particolare del suo capolavoro Wahrheit und Methode (Mohr Siebeck, Tubinga 1960). Nella ricostruzione di Marino, questo debito è individuabile soprattutto nei temi della seconda natura, del mondo (ambiente) e del linguaggio. Infatti, McDowell si riferisce espressamente a Gadamer, per il quale, nella lettura che ne dà il filosofo sudafricano, “the human experience of the world is verbal in nature” (p. 10; le indicazioni del numero di pagina in questo formato si riferiscono sempre, nel testo seguente, al libro preso in esame). Partendo da qui, Marino individua somiglianze e corrispondenze (cfr. p. 13) tra i due autori che ci consentono di vedere il discorso di entrambi sotto una luce nuova, in grado di chiarifica in particolare la genesi filosofica dei concetti di mondo e mondo ambiente: se è vero che McDowell si rifà a Gadamer per questi concetti, e che questo legame è riconosciuto dalla maggior parte degli studiosi, il merito di Marino sta nel connettere questo legame, a sua volta, agli autori cui Gadamer stesso si ispira per il suo concetto di mondo (cfr. p. 23), restituendo così al concetto tutta la sua complessità anche dal punto di vista della storiografia filosofica.

Un approccio simile, legato alla ricostruzione di punti precisi di storiografia filosofica, è perseguito anche nel secondo saggio, Gadamer on Heidegger: The History of Being as Philosophy of History. Se prima si trattava soprattutto di ricondurre concetti adoperati da McDowell alla loro fonte in Gadamer, e poi di vedere da dove Gadamer aveva a sua volta tratto certe linee del pensiero, ora è proprio questo secondo aspetto a venir enfatizzando, mostrando come Gadamer sia, nella sua filosofia della storia, debitore alla cosiddetta “storia dell’essere” di cui parla l’Heidegger degli anni ’30-’40. Eppure, questo “debito” è soprattutto di carattere negativo: secondo Marino, Gadamer recupera alcuni temi “particolari” della storia dell’essere, rigettandone l’impianto concettuale generale (cfr. p. 50). In particolare, Marino individua tre motivi. Il primo, di carattere filologico, è che la violenza con cui Heidegger interpreta altri filosofi per iscriverli nella sua storia dell’essere è, secondo Gadamer, un atto “barbarico” (cfr. p. 51). In secondo luogo, Gadamer rifiuta, secondo la lettura di Marino, l’esistenza, postulata da Heidegger, di un linguaggio unitario della metafisica che andrebbe superato (p. 52). In terzo luogo, legando Heidegger a Hegel, Gadamer è essenzialmente scettico nei confronti dell’unificazione forzata della storia della filosofia sotto l’egida della “dimenticanza dell’essere”: questo introduce una teleologia nella storia che Gadamer non può sostenere, secondo Marino. Discutendo anche alcune conseguenze che questa impostazione porta con sé per la questione estetica, cioè per la questione relativa al ruolo dell’arte nella contemporaneità, il saggio si chiude mettendo il luce come, forse, il debito di Gadamer nei confronti di Heidegger sia meno diretto di quanto si tenda comunemente a pensare (p. 63).

Il terzo saggio, Gadamer’s and Arendt’s Divergent Appropriations of Kant: Taste, Sensus Communis, and Judgment, ricostruisce un altro momento di questa critica ad una storiografia basata sui “debiti filosofici”, se si può dire così: Marino vuole, in effetti, anche in questo caso mettere in luce soprattutto le divergenze tra Arendt e Gadamer. Le loro letture della Critica del Giudizio, infatti, sarebbero addirittura “opposte” (p. 76): sintetizzando l’opposizione, spiega Marino, “Kant is praised by Arendt for having politicized some basic aesthetic concepts, but he is criticized by Gadamer for having depoliticized and aestheticized those same concepts!” (p. 77, corsivi ed enfasi nell’originale). Non si tratta, però, di semplici errori di interpretazione da parte dei due filosofi del Novecento: piuttosto, la storia delle ricezioni kantiane è una storia fatta di “productive misunderstandings” (p. 79), di cui il presente non è che un esempio.

Il quarto saggio presentato nel volume porta il titolo Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics of Tragedy and the Tragic, ed è l’unico a non seguire già dal titolo la struttura del confronto tra due (o più) autori della storia della filosofia. Si tratta in questo caso, infatti, piuttosto di un’analisi concettuale in senso stretto: Marino si dedica ad una disamina del modo in cui Gadamer pensa e interpreta la tragedia e il tragico, un tema tradizionalmente poco esaminato (p. 85). Marino sposta il concetto di tragedia al centro del pensiero gadameriano, ricostruendone il ruolo giocato anche in Verità e Metodo: la tragedia, così la tesi dell’Autore, dimostra in maniera pregnante l’irriducibilità dell’esperienza umana all’approccio scientifico (p. 87). La tragedia sorge infatti dall’incontro/scontro tra l’umano e il divino (p. 88), ma non è riducibile unicamente a questa origine (p. 99), andando, nel suo sviluppo, al di là di essa. Gadamer ci consente, infatti, di riconoscere l’origine religiosa della tragedia senza negarne il valore estetico autonomo.

In conclusione, il volume ritorna alla struttura binomiale dei saggi precedenti, concentrandosi su Heidegger and Rorty: Philosophy and/as Poetry and Literature. Cerando di superare l’impasse che ha costituito buona parte dell’attrito tra filosofia analitica e filosofia continentale, ossia l’accusa rivolta dalla prima alla seconda di essere troppo vicina alla letteratura e poco al rigore scientifico, Marino decide di interrogare i massimi rappresentati di una filosofia contaminata con la letteratura: Heidegger perché nessun autore ha mai avvicinato così tanto poesia e filosofia (p. 107), e Rorty perché egli stesso vede la sua filosofia “come” letteratura (p. 108). Anche qui Marino ricostruisce il debito di Rorty nel confronti di Heidegger, concludendo però in modo fortemente critico: la lettura rortiana di Heidegger è – uso l’indicativo perché mi sembra difficile non concordare, specialmente alla luce delle ultime pubblicazioni e degli esiti della ricerca internazionale – “hermenutically careless and does not adhere to Heidegger’s own text” (p. 114). Purtroppo l’articolo si chiude, a mio parere, troppo presto, mancando di discutere se, effettivamente, da un punto di vista sistematico, l’idea di filosofia come letteratura sia davvero perseguibile.

In generale – sia detto in chiusura – l’approccio di Marino non vuole affrontare questioni di carattere teoretico-sistematico, ma solo fornire una disamina storiografica: egli stesso riconosce che si tratta di un “comparative approach” (p. 5). In tal senso, i limiti della lettura sono chiaramente definiti fin dall’inizio. Ciononostante, il lettore rimane con un certo amaro in bocca proprio per la mancanza di una discussione più approfondita di certi punti proprio in una prospettiva sistematica. Nel momento in cui, in effetti, l’Autore si ripromette di superare il “gap” tra analitico e sistematico, come afferma con chiarezza nell’Introduzione (p. 6), questo obiettivo sembra mancato: come si può, in effetti, istituire, da parte continentale, un discorso con la filosofia analitica – per altro, auspicabilissimo, se non addirittura necessario al giorno d’oggi – concentrandosi su questioni di storiografia? Certamente il tentativo sviluppato nel primo saggio di ricollegare espressamente John McDowell al pensiero di Gadamer è lodevole anche sotto questo punto di vista, ma non è forse abbastanza per rinfocolare un discorso tra due tradizioni. Lo stesso valga per l’ultimo saggio, riguardante appunto il problema della filosofia e/come letteratura, che lascia la questione in sospeso.

Al di là di questo limite, che è, come detto, intrinseco all’approccio esplicitamente adottato dall’autore, la “storiografica comparatistica” sviluppata qui da Marino ha grandi pregi: innanzitutto, la chiarezza espositiva; in secondo luogo: l’onestà intellettuale di restringere chiaramente a pochi concetti le proprie analisi, senza ricadere nella retorica roboante di certa letteratura; e infine, di presentare la tradizione filosofica italiana (buona parte dei contributi scientifici che Marino cita sono infatti di area italiana) al pubblico internazionale, un’impresa che, pur nei limiti accennati, non si può che lodare.

Andrea Staiti (Ed.): Commentary on Husserl’s “Ideas I”

Commentary on Husserl's "Ideas I" Book Cover Commentary on Husserl's "Ideas I"
Andrea Staiti (Ed.)
Walter De Gruyter
Hardcover 89,95€
Reviewed by: Diego D’Angelo (University of Würzburg)


Zweifellos gehört der erste Band von Husserls Ideen zur einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie zu den am häufigsten missverstandenen Werken der Phänomenologie und möglicherweise der gesamten Philosophie des 20en Jahrhunderts. Seine komplexe innere Logik wirkt beim Lesen befremdlich, und das Auftreten von „methodischen Vorerwägungen“ noch in der Mitte des Buches ist ein berechtigter Anlass zu einem gewissen Unbehagen. Wie mehrere Kommentatoren auch erkannt haben, tut sich Husserl auch keinen Gefallen, wenn er einige Begriffe nicht klar definiert bzw. wenn er gegen den Sinn seiner eigenen Phänomenologie zu gehen scheint. Verbindet man diese Umstände mit der großen Wirkungsgeschichte dieses Buches, so leuchtet die Notwendigkeit eines geschulten Kommentars zu diesem Werk ohne weiteres ein. Das Buch, das Andrea Staiti herausgegeben hat, nimmt sich vor, diese Lücke in der Forschungsliteratur zu schließen.

Die Gliederung des Buches leuchtet unmittelbar ein. Zu jedem Kapitel der Ideen bietet das Kommentar einen Aufsatz an, der – zumindest dem Anspruch nach – die zentralen Fragen der zu diskutierenden Passagen erläutert und eine Hilfe zur Lektüre darstellt. Das Werk will sich verstanden haben als ein kooperativer Kommentar (S. 10), der als eine „Einführung“ dienen soll. Das Publikum, wem die Beiträge gerichtet sind, besteht somit hauptsächlich aus Lesern, die sich zum ersten Mal ans Werk wagen: „This commentary’s ambition is to enable first-time readers of Husserl to tackle Ideen directly (that is: to go for the central insights of Husserlian phenomenology without having to first detour through one of the by now innumerable introductions and companions to phenomenology on the market), while still getting the necessary ,roadside guidance in order the avoid the interpretative perils Husserl identifies in his later remarks“ (Ibidem). Wie sich im Folgenden zeigen wird, hält dieser Kommentar dem Anspruch, eine erste Einführung zu sein, in vielen Fällen nicht stand. Nichtsdestoweniger kann er als ein wichtiger neuer Beitrag zur Husserl-Forschung gelten, nicht zuletzt angesichts der Tatsache, dass bis zu seinem Erscheinen die Literatur, die sich extra diesem Werk gewidmet hatte, recht spärlich war. Die Entscheidung, dem Werk anlässlich seines hundertsten Geburtstages (2013) einen eingehenden Kommentar zu widmen, leuchtet unmittelbar ein.

Es lohnt sich, die einzelnen Beiträge kurz zu diskutieren, da die Texte teilweise sehr unterschiedlich voneinander sind. Der Nachteil einer solchen Vorgehensweise, die eine tiefer gehende Analyse nicht erlaubt, wird dadurch kompensiert, dass die jeweilige Stärke und Schwäche der Beiträge hervorgehoben werden und die tatsächliche Tragweite des ganzen Werkes besser zum Vorschein kommt.

So bietet die Einführung des Herausgebers eine knappe, aber prägnante Darstellung der Wirkungsgeschichte und der unterschiedlichen Reaktionen, die die Ideen I nach ihrem Erscheinen hervorgerufen haben, und zwar sowohl in Deutschland und unter Husserls direkten Schülern, in Frankreich und den USA. Staiti legt die Ideen I als eine Kritik der Vernunft aus und belegt diese Auffassung im Hinblick auf die Entstehungsgeschichte des Werkes. Die These, die für die Forschung nicht neu ist, lässt sich kaum bestreiten und rückt das Gesamtprojekt der Ideen in einen Rahmen ein, der, obwohl stark kantischer Prägung, die Entwicklung der verschiedenen Kapitel gut nachvollziehen lässt und einige Missverständnisse (vor allem in der Interpretation von Husserls „Idealismus“) vermeiden kann.

Gerade aber solche Missverständnisse haben die Rezeptionsgeschichte des Werkes geprägt: John J. Drummond greift in seinem Beitrag „Who’d ‘a thunk it? Celebrating the centennial of Husserl’s Ideas I“ die ambivalente Rezeptionsgeschichte wieder auf, vertieft aber vor allem die immerwährende Relevanz dieses Werkes in der Phänomenologie sowie ihre Tragfähigkeit für die analytische Philosophie. Er nimmt sich hauptsächlich vor, zu zeigen, wie „phenomenology intersects and contributes to current debates in non-phenomenological circles“ (S. 16). Zu diesem Zweck analysiert Drummond mehrere Ansätze zum Begriff von Intentionalität und von intentionalem Gegenstand, vor allem in Hinblick auf jene intentionale Beziehung, wo eins der beiden Korrelata ein nichtexistierender Gegenstand ist: Laut Drummond befindet sich hier eine Stärke von Husserls theoretischem Rahmen, der auch in der Phänomenologie der Emotionen und Gefühle, sowie in der Reflexivität des Bewusstseins und im Zeitbewusstsein mit nichttranszendenten, nichtweltlichen Gegenständen zum Trage kommt: Es zeigt sich in diesem Bereich die interdisziplinäre Stärke von Husserls Phänomenologie zum Trage. Dennoch lässt sich kaum die Frage vermeiden, warum hier, gerade im Hinblick auf den interdisziplinären Kontext , nicht der Stellenwert von Husserls Wahrnehmungsanalysen hervorgehoben wird. Nicht von Ungefähr wurden die Wahrnehmungsanalysen schon zu Husserls Lebzeiten als das zentrale Stück seiner Phänomenologie verstanden. Dass die intentionale Beziehung auf nichtexistierende Gegenstände interdisziplinär fruchtbar ist, leuchtet ein; der Vorzug gegenüber anderen phänomenologischen Themen müsste aber eingehender bewiesen werden.

Claudio Majolino („Individuum and region of being: On the unifying principle of Husserl’s ,headless ontology“) kommt dagegen die schwierige Aufgabe zu, das extrem dichte erste Kapitel („Tatsache und Wesen“) zu erschließen. Er überspitzt dabei die Rolle der formalen Ontologie und des Individuums-Begriffs und schafft es somit, den gesamten Rahmen von Husserls Überlegungen kompakt darzustellen, liefert aber dafür keine Erklärungen der im Text vorkommenden Begriffe. Es handelt sich somit um einen starken Beitrag zur Forschung, der aber für Husserl-Anfänger wegen der fehlenden Erklärungen nur schwer zugänglich ist.

Robert Hanna („Transcendental normativity and the avatars of psychologism“) knüpft in seiner Lektüre von den „Naturalistischen Missdeutungen“ an Steven Crowell an und legt Husserls Kritik des Naturalismus, Empirismus und Skeptizismus als eine These aus, die er „phenomenological-transcendental normativity“ (S. 54) nennt. Mit dieser These gehe nach Hanna „a strong anti-naturalism“ einher, was eher schwer zu beweisen scheint, vor allem weil der Autor selbst die Gleichung „scientific naturalism = empiricist naturalism = positivism“ (S. 65) aufstellt, Husserl aber seine Philosophie ausdrücklich auch als „echten“ (d. h. recht verstandenen) Positivismus bezeichnet (Hua III/1, S. 44). Die These, dass es um einen „starken“ Antinaturalismus gehe, müsste abgeschwächt werden; trotzdem sind die einzelnen Ausführungen sehr klar und der Text schafft es, einen mittleren Weg zwischen Forschung und Einführung einzuschlagen.

In seinem eigenen Beitrag „The melody unheard. Husserl on the natural attitude and its discontinuation“ gelingt es Staiti, einen Text zu verfassen, der für eine erste Annäherung an Husserls Text gute Dienste leistet. Er konzentriert sich auf den Begriff der „Setzung“, der für Studenten oft eine gewisse Herausforderung darstellt, und erklärt ihn in überzeugender Weise. Er schafft es, die wichtigsten Aspekte des Textes gründlich zu erläutern; zugleich ist auch die Debatte in der Sekundärliteratur immer präsent und dazu wird auch entsprechend Stellung genommen.

Hanne Jacobs fährt in ihrem Text mit der Einstellung des Herausgebers fort. Deswegen ist ihr Beitrag „From psychology to pure phenomenology“ besonders lesenswert: Der Text verortet den psychologischen Weg zur Reduktion innerhalb der Gesamtkonzeption der Ideen und macht ihn stark wie sonst kaum in der Forschung; das ist aber deswegen sinnvoll, weil damit die methodischen Schritte von Husserls Vorgehen deutlicher zum Vorschein treten. Wichtige Begriffe wie „Immanenz“ und „Transzendenz“ werden kompetent eingeleitet, sodass der Text auch für Studenten zu empfehlen ist.

Burt Hopkins („Phenomenologically pure, transcendental, and absolute consciousness“) nimmt sich einen reinen Forschungsbeitrag vor. Er kritisiert alle Kritiker von Husserls „reinem Bewusstsein“, geht aber so undifferenziert vor, dass er mit einem Schlag das husserlsche Bewusstsein gegen „almost a century of Neo-Kantian, Hermeneutic, and French critique“ (S. 123), d. h., sowohl gegen Heidegger und Cassirer, als auch gegen Levinas, Derrida, Marion und andern Ansätzen reetablieren will. Hopkins will das „Pathos“ (S. 130) gegen den Naturalismus stark machen, das Platon und Husserl verbinde: „Plato and Husserl seem to have been pathologically united by their shared response to naturalism“ (Ibidem). Auch wenn der Ansatz grundsätzlich geteilt werden kann, wäre hier eine stärkere Differenzierung der Kritikpunkte vonnöten gewesen, um den Sinn dieses „Pathos“ für das Verständnis des Werkes nachzuvollziehen.

Dagegen schafft es Sebastian Luft in seinem Beitrag („Laying bare the phenomenal field. The reductions as ways to pure consciousness“), durch eine punktuelle Analyse des Textes wirklich Klarheit in Bezug auf einige Grundbegriffe herzustellen. Vor allem im letzten Teil des Beitrags plädiert er für „a more modest conception of phenomenology“ (S. 154), welcher nicht nur Wesens-, sondern auch Tatsachenwissenschaft sein sollte; damit würde die Phänomenologie eine Wissenschaft bleiben, ohne den immer wieder missverstandenen Anspruch, eidetisch, rein und ideell zu sein. Jenseits der realen Haltbarkeit dieses Anspruchs mit seinen Konsequenzen für die Phänomenologie als Ganzes (was eine Diskussion in extenso erfordern würde), zeichnet sich der Beitrag von Luft dadurch aus, dass seine Analyse zu den Wegen der Reduktion mit Beschreibungen einiger Zentralbegriffe (z. B. „reines Ego“) einhergeht; mit diesen Analysen und Beschreibungen und der These einer „bescheidenen Phänomenologie“ spricht der Beitrag sowohl Anfänger in Sachen Phänomenologie als auch Forscher an.

Haben wir am Anfang dieser Rezension von der Verblüffung gesprochen, die von der „methodischen Vorerwägungen“ in der Mitte des Buches ausgeht, so ist James Dodds „Clarity, fiction, and description“ dabei hilfreich, diese Verblüffung wenn nicht abzuschaffen, so wenigstens zu mildern; er vollzieht nämlich den Gedankengang der Ideen I nach und zeigt, dass diese Vorerwägungen tatsächlich dazu da sind, den Bereich des reinen Bewusstseins einzuleiten und die Umschlagstelle direkt mit Descartes in Verbindung zu bringen. Der Beitrag bleibt dabei nah am Text und gibt interessante Einsichten in Schlüsselbegriffe wie „Eidetik“, „Gegebenheit“ und „Klarheit“.

Der Text von Dan Zahavi („Phenomenology of Reflection“) verteidigt die Reflexion als plausible Methode des Philosophierens gegen Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermanns (und Heideggers) Angriff an den Reflexionsbegriff. Es handelt sich um eine eher fachimmanente Kritik, die den Text zu einem reinen Forschungsbeitrag macht; als Kommentar (vor allem für Anfänger) bleiben aber die Ausführungen in ihrem Erklärungspotential zu beschränkt.

Ganz in die andere Richtung geht Dermot Moran („Noetic moments, noematic correlates, and the stratified whole that is the Erlebnis“). In seiner Analyse des Noemabegriffs meidet er die klassischen Forschungsfragen (wie die langjährige Debatte bezüglich des Verhältnisses von Noema und fregeanischem Sinne) und liefert erfolgreich einen überschauenden, einführenden Einblick in die verschiedenen Themen, die in Husserls Text auftauchen. Damit bekommt der Leser eine fundierte Einführung in Begriffe wie „Noema“ und „Noesis“, aber auch „Erlebnis“ und „Intentionalität“ überhaupt.

Der Text von Nicolas De Warren („Concepts without pedigree. The noema and neutrality modification“) trägt zum einem besseren Verständnis der Ideen I in ausgezeichneter Weise bei. Er schafft es, mit großer Klarheit die enormen Schwierigkeiten von Abschnitt III, Kapitel IV („Zur Problematik der noetisch-noematischen Strukturen“, das längste Kapitel im Buch) darzustellen, und zwar auch für einen Leser, der kein Spezialist ist. Aber er behält auch den größeren Kontext vor Augen, und der Text bleibt deswegen auch für erfahrene LeserInnen ansprechend. Einige Punkte (wie die Behauptung, Husserls Unternehmen sei „pädagogisch“ im Charakter und ziele nicht darauf ab, ein System zu bilden) würden freilich weiterer Erklärungen bedürfen, um ins Detail bewiesen werden zu können; andere Punkte (wie die Tatsache, dass die Phänomenologie als „first-person-perspective“ zu brandmarken, wie es geläufig ist, Husserls Ansatz widerspricht) leuchten ein, obwohl der Leser sich wünschen würde, dass ihnen mehr Platz gewidmet wäre. Sehr zu bedauern bleibt nur, dass der Text offenkundig schlecht redigiert wurde, was den Lesefluss leider beeinträchtigt.

Die klassische Debatte über den Noemabegriff, den von Dermot Moran aus dem Spiel gelassen war, wird von John J. Drummond („The doctrine of the noema and the theory of reason“) wieder aufgenommen. Der Autor konzentriert sich auf den Noemabegriff, grenzt sich gegenüber Gurwitchs Interpretation ab und nimmt zugleich in der Debatte zwischen Føllesdal und McIntyre Stellung: Die Intentionalität sei nicht so sehr vom (ggf. als „Sinn“ verstanden) Noema selbst, sondern vielmehr von den Noesen getragen (S. 261).

Daniel O. Dahlstrom („Reason and experience. The project of a phenomenology of reason“) liefert eine sehr textnahe Analyse der Evidenz und Vernunftsproblematik. Er zeigt, indem er der Devise des Bandes treu bleibt und einen darstellenden Umriss der Hauptthemen gibt, dass die Evidenz die Basis für Vernünftigkeit darstellt. So tritt zutage, dass die in der Einleitung aufgestellte These, die Ideen seien eine „Kritik der Vernunft“, darauf zurückzuführen ist, dass die Phänomenologie den Grund der Vernunft in der Evidenz sieht. Mit anderen Worten, eine Phänomenologie der Vernunft ist demgemäß nichts anderes als eine in der Evidenz fundierte Phänomenologie.

mit dem Versuch, diese Problematik der Vernunft mit der Frage nach der Teleologie zusammenzubringen, schließt Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl („Husserl´s analogical and teleological conception of reason“) auf exzellente Weise den Band ab. Obwohl der Text Vorwissen erfordert, ist die hier gestiftete Beziehung zwischen Husserls Teleologie der Vernunft und Kants praktischer Vernunft, was im Endeffekt zu einer phänomenologische Ethik führen soll, durchaus einleuchtend; insbesondere die These, dass Husserls Teleologie mit Normativität nichts zu tun hat („the teleology of reason as presented in the final sections of Ideas I does not amount to a normative transformation […] that transcends the theory of pure reason”), würde einige gängige Lektüre von Husserls Phänomenologie in Schwierigkeiten bringen.

Jenseits der eigentlichen Beiträge schlägt dieser Kommentar mit einem Schema eine Systematisierung von einigen Begriffen vor. Graphische Darstellungen sind in der Phänomenologie selten, aber nicht deswegen von vornherein unerwünscht, wenn man darüber im Klaren ist (wie der Autor Ben Martin das ist), dass einige Begriffe der husserlschen Philosophie eher flüssig sind, und sich daher nicht abschließend definieren lassen. Einige Annahmen des Schemas kann man in Frage stellen, aber im Wesentlichen scheint die vorgeschlagene Darstellung der noetisch-noematischen Korrelation korrekt zu sein und eine gute Ergänzung für diejenigen, die sich damit konfrontiert sehen, die Ideen I zu unterrichten.

Das gilt ebenso auch für den Band insgesamt. Dem Herausgeber und den Beitragenden ist es gelungen, einen lang erwarteten Kommentar zur Verfügung zu stellen. Selbst wenn die einzelnen Beiträge manchmal zu sehr mit Forschungsfragen beschäftigt sind, und selbst wenn grundlegende Erklärungen von Begriffen und Argumenten fehlen, die für Anfänger wichtig wären, erlauben die zu Wort kommenden Einsichten ein besseres Verständnis des Buches, womit das wichtigste Ziel eines solchen Kommentars schon erreicht ist.