The Transcendental in Question. Echoes of the symposium held at the University of Lorraine, Metz, November 16-18, 2016

Should we still be thinking transcendentally? In other words, is it possible to consider any object of contemporary research without being concerned about the conditions that make knowledge possible? Since this issue was at the center of our debates, this presentation will not be an itemized description of all the papers, but rather an attempt to summarize the major issues that arose at the conference.

Through the wide range of talks, we were able to notice just how impossible it has become to situate an objective approach to the subject implementing it. However, the chosen transcendental forms vary widely from one author to another. Yet, many of the authors who presented at this colloquium affirm the need to maintain a transcendental attitude that is not confined to the Kantian reading grid. A striking example of this comes from passages in Kantian formal theory and Husserlian material theory.

The epistemological dichotomy between understanding and sensibility can be abandoned without diverging from the transcendental habitus. This abandonment of the formal preconceptions may also redefine the empirical domain into a place of experimentation that constantly modifies the conditional framework that defines experience itself. Scientific research is a good illustration of this. It is even possible, according to the paper read by Jean Ladrière, that existence can be described in terms of transcendental factuality. Indeed, if meaning can emerge through what is occurring, we will be removed from a strictly Kantian framework.

However, even when we read Poincaré or Husserl, Schopenhauer or Deleuze, one point remains: the subject of the work—regardless of whether it accepts the notion of subject on a theoretical plane — freely explores multiple hypotheses or fictitious variations. This “as if”  game enables one either to identify its object more effectively, if it keeps a theoretical attitude, or to enter into its actions more effectively, if it takes on an existential attitude. The exploratory exercise, fruitful in mathematics, logic as well as ethics, requires a willingness to distance one’s self from the immediate facticity of the data.

Generally, thought refers to a given phenomenon only because it is always capable of embracing a wider field of possibilities. This field can then be classified between feasible and non-feasible possibilities, and among the feasible ones, between those that either are or are not ultimately realized. Hence the notion of a double transcendentality through which the very notion of reality is questioned. Indeed, for all authors, something comes forward and is revealed in one way or another. This does not have to be evidenced, because were it not, there would not only be nothing to say about it, and no one to discuss it. It is from that point onward, some identify external phenomena—those that can be touched and manipulated—to reality, and others, conversely, reject this identification.

For some authors, the real, unlike the possible, is “effective” and this “effectivity” is centered in front of the subject seeking it. Among these, some purport that this “effective reality”, present before me, contains in itself numerous possibilities which are only waiting to be activated. Now, though the human mind is a space to gain awareness into the matter, and not bring a newness that things would not hold in themselves. This attitude is already transcendental insofar as the subject already contemplates the real as that which can arise by other means than how it has arisen there. Therefore, it considers its conditions of possibility, hence, the realist Etienne Gilson’s exposé as to the inability for anyone to any longer speak of the real other than in a transcendental way. For other authors, regarding the reserve of possibilities already given, identifying the objective that is effective with reality is by no means self-evident.

Since the life of consciousness has been revealed as more effective than any objectification, what the former calls real could conceivably become relativized by the mind beholding it. Put another way, it is possible, in this case, that this so-called real is only a division made by the subject, or that this relation subject-object is somehow abolished in favor of structures that should be deciphered. Here, too, the act of deciphering emanates from an “active I” (ego) which considers all structures on the basis of structural variants. In short, from one attitude to its opposite, one does not come out of the transcendental.

If we were to conclude with one word summarizing the contribution of this conference, we could say that it has brought to light a “broadened transcendentality”. This transcendentality was present in the philosophies which we studied, regardless of their orientation concerning the notion of reality. We certainly do not think we have exhausted the subject.

Yves Meessen (translation by Aaron Taylor). Co-organizer of the symposium with Anthony Feneuil and Christophe Bouriau


International Conference Phenomenology and Practice: The 2nd Conference on Traditions and Perspectives of the Phenomenological Movement in Central and Eastern Europe (September 8-10, 2016, Gdańsk, Poland)

In September 8-10, 2016 University of Gdańsk (Poland) organized the international conference entitled Phenomenology and Practice. The 2nd Conference on Traditions and Perspectives of the Phenomenological Movement in Central and Eastern Europe. The conference was organized by a committee, including Krystyna Bębenek, Jakub Buźniak, Łukasz Depiński, Dobrosław Mańkowski, Witold Płotka (chair), Aleksandra Szulc, Martyna Zimmermann-Pepol (secretary) and Jagoda Żołędzka, in cooperation with the Polish Association of Phenomenology. The conference was a continuation of a previous international conference on Horizons Beyond Borders which took place in Budapest (June 17-19, 2015). The Gdańsk conference schedule encompassed 25 speakers from 11 countries (including Belgium, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, USA and Italy).

All of the conference attendees had the opportunity to participate in four keynote lectures. During the first day, two of the lectures were presented. The conference was opened with a keynote speech by Carlos Lobo (College International de Philosophie, France). The opening lecture was entitled Idealization of Practice and Idealization in Practice. Or how one can be an Idealist in Ethics without being an Intellectualist. During his talk Lobo reconstructed Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological analysis of practical philosophy. Husserl believed that each theory of practical philosophy must meet the following three primary conditions. Firstly, such theory must concern all aspects of a normative dimension of human life, including comprehending them from the perspective of the individual as well as from the community. Secondly, the theory cannot include any characteristics of a naturalistic theory. And thirdly, it should point out the sources of normative and axiological diversity among societies. In order to justify his thesis, Husserl used the parallelization method. This method follows from the phenomenological method of eidetic variation and description after a transcendental reduction. In Lobo’s opinion, an important aspect of Husserl’s thesis was that the axio-normative sphere is an ideal entity. However, Lobo claimed that idealisation (the thesis that the practical sphere is based on ideal entities) is ambiguous. Firstly, it means that all cognitive activities are based on discovering the ideas. Secondly, it means that these ideas can motivate a human being to do something, or to have different feelings.  

The second key speaker – Dalius Jonkus (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania) – presented a lecture on The Primacy of Intuition in Phenomenology: Critical Realism or Transcendental Idealism? His talk was focused on the phenomenological concept of intuition presented by Vasili SesemanJonkus acknowledged that the concept of intuition plays a crucial role in the phenomenological tradition. Husserl, for instance, believed that cognition begins and ends with intuition. He also believed that a possibility of intuitional knowledge indicates an important aspect of the human mind, namely openness of consciousness. Martin Heidegger, however, questioned the possibility of pure intuition. He believed that direct knowledge is mediated by language and thus, it requires interpretation. Alike Heidegger, Seseman questioned the concept of pure intuition. Jonkus, however, believes that Sesemman questioned the possibility of pure intuition, because he wanted to transform it and give it a new meaning that would be close to the concept of understanding comparable to the hermeneutic tradition (as inspired by Heidegger). In the end, Jonkus concluded that Seseman’s understanding of intuition allows us to acknowledge phenomenology as a form of critical realism.

During the next day of the conference Natalia Artemenko (State University of St. Petersburg, Russia) presented a keynote lecture entitled Špet’s Project of Hermeneutic Phenomenology. She began her talk with a presentation on the history of the phenomenological movement in Russia. She emphasized that Gustav Špet’s work and his book Apperance and Sense (Javlenie i smysl, 1914) played an important role in Eastern Europe. In his work Špet presented the concept of constitution inspired by Husserl, however, he reinterpreted it. From Špet’s perspective a constitution of human existence was directly connected with historical and ethno-cultural dimensions. Artemenko also pointed out that if one looks from a wider perspective, it is easier to see that the intellectual evolution of Špet and Heidegger is comparable. In the early stage of their philosophical developments they were both highly influenced by Husserl’s ideas. They had noticed a need for a modification of the methods and intellectual tools used by Husserl, and they both had followed the exact same way in order to resolve issues related to phenomenology. Ever since, this method of interpretation is called hermeneutics.

During the last day of the conference, Michael Gubser (James Madison University, United States) presented the last keynote lecture entitled The Definitive No: Phenomenology and Czechoslovak Dissidence in the 1970s. Gubser examined the relations between phenomenology and Czechoslovak dissidence movements, particularly the Charter 77. Gubser noticed that this document was developed to fulfill a need to create a new ethical society which could be independent from both the western liberal trends, and communist ideology. This was inspired by Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences where he had critically evaluated European culture. The creators of Charter 77 were deeply influenced by phenomenology. Their studies on this subject enabled them to understand a true nature of the communist system, as well as the spiritual condition of Europe in the XX century. In addition, it is worth mentioning that Jan Patočka was the first spokesman of Charter 77. Gubster claimed that as stated by participants of this initiative (i.e. Vaclav Havel), the language of phenomenology and the phenomenological atmosphere enabled Charter 77 signatories to express their hopes and fears.

In addition to the keynote lectures, papers (divided into seven different parallel sections) were presented at the conference. On the first day, conference speakers presented papers divided into three sections. Michal Zvarík (Trnava University, Slovakia) opened a presentation with the paper entitled Polemos and Meaning. On the Actuality of Patočka’s Undestanding of Polis. After that, Peter McDowell (Charles Darwin University, Australia) gave a speech entitled Beyond Ressentiment: Lukács’ Critique of Scheler’s Phenomenology. The last paper of this section was Martyna Zimmerman-Pepol’s (University of Gdańsk, Poland) talk on Czesław Znamierowski’s Social Ontology: On How to Put Phenomenology Into Practice.

Two other sections Phenomenology and Medicine, and Reinterpreting Phenomenology took place simultaneously. The first section was opened by Anna Alichniewicz (Medical University in Łódź, Poland) with a talk on Phenomenology of Embodiment in Medicine. The second presentation in this section – Medical Ethics as ”Ethics of Relations”  – was presented by Katsiaryna Yancheuskaya (European Humanities University, Lithuania). Māra Grīnfelde (University of Latvia & Riga Stradiņš University, Latvia) presented a talk on Phenomenology of Body and its Implications for Medical Practice. During the Reinterpreting Phenomenology section, the first talk was given by Andrei Patkul (St. Petersburg State University, Russia) on The Phenomenological Interpretation of Act in Alexei Chernyakov. The next speaker – Uldis Vēgners (University of Latvia & Riga Stradiņš University, Latvia) – gave a talk on The Practical Dimension of Time. After that Daniel Roland Sobota (Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland) presented a paper on Towards a Poor Phenomenology: J. Grotowski’s Philosophy of Theater.

On the following day, the next two sections were organized – Action and Practice and Phenomenology and Its Other. In addition, a book session on the new (5 (1), 2016) issue of the Horizon Studies in Phenomenology was organized. The issue is dedicated to the tradition and perspectives of the phenomenological movement in Central and Eastern Europe.

The session on Action and Practice started with Simona Bertolini’s (University of Parma, Italy) speech on Roman Ingarden: Phenomenology and Ontology of PracticeThe next paper – From Praxis to Focal Practices: Karel Kosík’s Heideggerian Marxism – was presented by Ivan Landa (Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic). Discussions on this section were finished with Michał Piekarski’s (Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, Poland) talk entitled Blindness to Normativity and Morphology. The case of Husserl and Wittgenstein. The next section – Phenomenology and Its Other – was opened by Cezary Woźniak (Jagielloński University, Poland) with his lecture on Discovering the Plane of Immanence with Phenomenology followed by Georgy Chernavin’s (National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia) talk on The Entselbstverständlichung: on the Phenomenological Practice of Self-Transformation. Magdalena Hoły-Łuczaj (Jagiellonian University, Poland) was the next speaker in this section, and she presented a lecture entitled Eco-phenomenology, Heidegger, and Postenvironmentalism. Discussions in this section ended with Petr Prášek’s (Charles University & Université Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne, Czech Republic & France) speech entitled On the Possibility of a “Phenomenological Ethics” in Contemporary French Phenomenology.

The last day of the conference discussions focused on two sections Beyond Theory and Confrontations and Discussions. The opening lecture of the first one was done by Marek Pokropski (Warsaw University, Poland) with his speech entitled Leopold Blaustein’s Phenomenology. The next speech was given by Liisa Bourgeot (University of Helsinki, Finland); she presented a paper on Gustav Šhpet’s Phenomenology of Meaning (in the Context of Husserl’s Revisions of Logical Investigations). Discussions on the Confrontations and Discussions section began with Wing-Keung CHIK’s (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium) lecture entitled Estrangement, Freedom and Life: The Estrangement of life and Freedom from the Phenomenological Perspective. After CHIK, Tomasz Kąkol (University of Gdańsk, Poland) presented a speech on On Empathy. E. Stein and R. Ingarden vs Cognitive Psychology. The last paper of the conference was given by Witold Płotka (University of Gdańsk, Poland) who presented a talk on A “Practical Turn” of Phenomenology in Poland: Ingarden, Wojtyła, Tischner.

This year the Phenomenology and Practice conference was the second conference focused on exploring traditions and perspectives of the phenomenological movement in Central and Eastern Europe. The conference discussions, as well as examinations that were conducted by the participants have proven that phenomenology is still an interesting area of research. Presented papers did not focus merely on examining traditional problems and questions, but, more importantly, they aimed at questioning important conditions for postmodern culture. Postmodern culture itself involves human fascination with technical developments and the scientistic approach, but at the same time it still questions the existing norms and values which seem to be objective. In today’s world of axiological confusion, a conference on practical aspects of life seems to be very important and valuable. In order to overcome this axiological confusion, it is important to return to the things themselves and their rigorous description. This, as one can expect, will allow the suspension of many, if not all, of the existing prejudices that are embedded in the modern minds of western people.

To conclude, it is worth noting that the next conference regarding the phenomenological tradition in Central and Eastern Europe is planned to take place in 2017 in Ryga.

Reviewed by: Jakub Buźniak (Institute of Philosophy, Sociology and Journalism, University of Gdańsk, Poland)

An original version of the report will be published in the Horizon. Studies in Phenomenology 6(1) 2017.

Cologne-Leuven Summer School of Phenomenology 2016 “Genetic Phenomenology”: A Report

Since 2008 the Cologne-Leuven Summer School for phenomenology has been a hallmark within the landscape of the phenomenological summer schools of philosophy. Moreover, it is the only school which deals specifically with Edmund Husserl, and, as such, it is a must for anybody interested in the founder of the phenomenological movement.

This year’s topic was genetic phenomenology. Related issues, such as pre-predicative experience, the lived body, the relation of phenomenology to psychology, the access to other persons, intersubjective constitution, history, phantasy and the life-world, were also touched upon by a series of presentations carried out by internationally renowned Husserl scholars.

In the morning sessions, professors and post-graduates presented accessible lectures which unraveled particular topics related to Husserl’s thought. The afternoon sessions were devoted to either textual discussions or presentations by graduate students.

Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Static and Genetic Phenomenology”

Dieter Lohmar’s talk during the first day of the summer school focused on the distinction between static and genetic phenomenology. His aim was to show the continuity rather than the discontinuity between these two methods of phenomenological investigation. Lohmar stressed the fact that, thanks to the new critical edition of Ideas II, we can now place the date of the beginning of the genetic phenomenology between 1912 and 1915, i.e. the time when Husserl was working on his drafts of the publication of Ideas II. According to Lohmar, both different topics as well as different methods distinguish genetic from static phenomenology. Static phenomenology takes into account the structure of isolated complex acts, whereas it does not investigate the dynamics of the experiential history, which is rather a characteristic topic for the late genetic phenomenology.

It is possible to mention at least two paradigms or dogmas that broadly characterize static phenomenology. Phenomenology generally starts as an investigation of the essential structures of consciousness. From the point of view of static phenomenology, we can pursue this investigation only by focusing on singular acts (Lohmar baptizes this trait, the “one-act-paradigm” of static phenomenology). Furthermore, static phenomenology relies on the so-called “one-way-foundation-paradigm” related to the general direction of constitutive effects: doing phenomenology, we have to start from the lowest levels of constitution and then work from the bottom up. In the Logical Investigations, Husserl understands the relation between acts primarily in terms of the notion of “foundation” (Fundierung). For instance, the act of feeling is regarded as a complex whole made out of two different acts. The founding act is an act intending a single object: in order to feel something, we need first to have a consciousness of the particular object of our feeling. On the other hand, the founded act is the feeling itself. High level objectivities like states of affair, essences are also grounded on a given cluster of simple acts. From this perspective, however, there is no room for a consideration of the constitutive effects that go the other way around, i.e. from the higher back to the lower levels of constitution. According to Lohmar, the latter is namely more a concern for genetic phenomenology, which focuses on the history of experience and the temporal succession and intertwining of multiple acts.

Diverse topics can be solved or addressed only by going into the genetic history of experience – for instance, the phenomena of language, consciousness, and especially the constitution of experiential “types”.

Types are regarded by Husserl as a product of the process that brings about the sedimentation of experience. They function actively in guiding and determining our perceptual as well as our practical life. Lohmar points out that any sedimented experience does not rest calmly and unknown in an alleged obscure soil, as the metaphor of sedimentation at first glance suggests; rather it influences our further perceptual and practical life. In fact, the term “sedimentation” should not be misunderstood: It does not imply that experiences are simply stocked and rest calm without effecting the life of consciousness; quite the opposite, they determine in a crucial way our experience of the present and likewise our expectations towards the future.

A characteristic example of genetic analysis is given by the experiential, pre-predicative origin of the sense of negation set forth in Experience and Judgment (cf. EU § 21). Husserl’s level of investigation here is well before full-blown cognition, that is, before the sphere of predicative judgment. The sense of negation needing to be addressed in the first place by the genetic phenomenologist belongs to the pre-predicative perceptual dynamics itself. Consider the perception of a tomato. At the beginning, I can just see the front-side of the tomato and notice that it is red. I am therefore motivated to make the experiential judgment that the tomato is red. However, I may afterwards turn the tomato in my hands and see the other side: I then realize that the other side is green. It is still one and the same tomato, but it is an unripe tomato that can no longer be considered fully red: my expectations on the level of perception have been disappointed, or more precisely, my expectation concerning the redness of the tomato was frustrated. This points to the fact that we have usual expectations concerning certain types of objects, but these expectations may undergo a complete or partial delusion. This experience of delusion is illustrated by Husserl with the model of a “fight” (Kampf) between evidences. A kind of evidence is already there before actual perception takes place: It is the evidence of expectation that I already have before I am going to directly perceive the object itself or the currently unperceived side of the object. The evidence of expectation “fights” with the evidence of perception. Yet, after the fight, the looser is still there, i.e. the evidence of anticipation is still alive and forceful, but its force undergoes now a modulation. Thus, a negation of the type “S is not p” is, in Lohmar’s own words, an “historiographic information”. I believed this object be red, but it revealed itself to be green. This information is sedimented in my experience, as “we are historical creatures”: everything that I experience speaks about what I was expecting before and, in this way, it speaks about me, my subjective view and attachment to the world with all its practical expectations, desires, values, etc.

Andrea Staiti (Cologne, Germany/Boston, USA): “The Late Conception of the Eidetic Method”

Andrea Staiti’s lecture focused on a further aspect of Husserl’s phenomenological method, namely eidetics. In the first part of his talk, Staiti investigated the notion of essence within Ideas I. Although Ideas offer the first substantial presentation of the notion of essence, anticipations of this method can be found in the Logical Investigations, for instance in the Second Investigation where Husserl introduces the concept of species or in the Sixth Investigation with the reference to the phenomenological structure of categorial intuition. In Ideas I, however, Husserl explicitly puts forth his theory of essences. Staiti noticed that the backdrop of the introduction of essences in Ideas I is “wissenschaftstheoretisch”. Husserl is introducing here a new kind of sciences, the so called Wesenswissenschaften as opposed to the Tatsachenwissenschaften. Essences fundamentally are the object of investigation for the first type of sciences, to which phenomenology also belongs.

In this way, Husserl is contrasting the idea that philosophy should be considered solely as a second order discipline that is a mere appendage of the empirical sciences. According to this view, philosophy does not have a subject matter, but is rather a reflection on the procedure of other sciences. This is the (Neo-Kantian) picture that Husserl precisely seeks to overcome in Ideas I.

The second part of Staiti’s talk dealt with the method of eidetic variation in Experience and Judgment. In this work, Husserl undertakes an analysis of the condition of possibility for experiencing and cognizing generalities. Staiti maintained that generality is already an ingredient of our direct experience of things, not a byproduct of intellectual procedures. We do in fact encounter a sort of generality in experience. However, this kind of generality is not the same generality of concepts or essences. This is a line of thought that goes back to Hermann Lotze, who introduces for the first time the notion of “first generality” (erste Allgemeinheit). Both Lotze and Husserl argue that this generality is grounded in the experience of similarity or syntheses of coincidence (Deckungssynthese): passive syntheses of associations which are at work in every experience without any active engagement or performance (Leistung) on the side of the subject. Anything we experience evokes certain expectations related to a generality called “type”. Types are, thus, a result of the fundamental cumulative aspect of our experience.

Staiti introduced then a fundamental distinction within the realm of generalities between essences, empirical concepts, and types. Empirical concepts, unlike types, do not depend on experience. An empirical concept opens up the extension of the type to infinity. It is not bound to that which I have seen. Differently from essences, however, empirical concepts are tied to the contingency of the world, since the method of attaining them does not get rid of the aspect of contingency and thus bounds the validity of the concept to the existence of the world. In order to purify our concepts, we need a different method, i.e. the method of free variation. This method enables us to discover, as Staiti put it, “what is not negotiable in the properties of an object in order for the object to count as that particular object”. This also means that we do not harvest essences which are already given in perception, but eidetic intuition or experience of essences is a process through which we try to get clear of our cognitive commitments. Staiti ultimately noticed a fundamental difference between type and stereotype. The latter may be characterized in terms of an upshot of the petrification of types. Experiential types, then, are intrinsically fluid and open to change and rectification on the basis of further experience.

Christian Ferentz-Flatz (Cologne, Germany/Bucharest, Romania): “Geschichte in der Sicht der genetischen Phänomenologie”

Christian Ferentz-FlaTZ’s talk developed in three sections. In the first part, he engaged with the objection concerning the absence of the historical dimension within the Husserlian phenomenology. This absence has been first justified with Husserl’s own critique of historicism in the Logos article of 1911, where Husserl was contraposing its biased method to the radical method of phenomenology based on direct intuition and the grasping of essences. This led many interpreters to consider phenomenology and history as fundamentally incompatible. The transcendental standpoint Husserl develops from the years in Göttingen onwards has also been regarded as a departure from the dimensions of historicity and facticity towards a focusing of the performances of a pure I completely bereft of any content and consequently of history. Furthermore, the eidetic method has been alleged to abstract from the dimension of history due to its prevailing interest on timeless eidetic truths (cf. especially Adorno’s critique of Husserl).

Especially two authors, Lembeck and Landgrebe, sought to provide an answer to this everlasting objection. They both pinpoint to the founding function that phenomenology, due to its eidetic method, can provide with respect to historical sciences.

Heidegger, on the other hand, sets forth with his own conception of phenomenology developed in lectures during the Twenties a new understanding of the relationship between systematic method and historicity. According to him, historicity does not necessarily imply the loss of objective, systematic knowledge. This is possible, however, only by adopting a hermeneutic standpoint, which Heidegger fundamentally misses in Husserl’s own methodology.

In the second part of the talk, Ferentz-Flatz considered a series of sources in which Husserl himself poses the question of historicity and its relationship to the phenomenological method. For example, in a letter to Cornelius from 1906 Husserl draws a distinction that he did not mention in the Logical Investigations: namely, the distinction between causal-explanatory psychology (kausal-erklärende Psychologie) and genetic psychology. The first type of psychology provides causal explanations by making reference to transcendent causes, whereby the second type opens up the possibility of a genetic consideration of experience which is not based upon external causation. Thus, Ferentz-Flatz concludes that a new concept of genesis begins to take hold in Husserl already during the 1910s.

The very breakthrough of the genetic phenomenology is however firstly documented in the appendix XLV of Husserliana XIII, which is dated 1916-17. Here Husserl provides four different meanings of the term “originality” (Ursprünglichkeit): 1) original givenness as opposed to indirect givenness, 2) founding as opposed to founded, 3) prior as opposed to posterior (temporal succession), 4) unmodified as opposed to modified (reproductive modification).

In Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), Husserl will apply the genetic method in order to clarify the origin of judgments. This implies the consideration of the history of sense (Sinngeschichte) that pertains to each judgment as such as well as to each form of judgment. Further, Experience and Judgment (1939) purports to follow a similar undertaking, whereby the Cartesian Meditations contain a treatment of the experience of others that does not completely get rid of genetic explanations. Especially in this case, as Ferentz-Flatz underlined, Husserl makes a methodical use of the concept of genesis: he simulates a “fictive genesis” in order to discover new layers of experience – as when in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation one is requested to abstract from others and from any intentional implication that refers to others in order to discover a primordial sphere from which to begin the phenomenological analyses of the intersubjective experience. In this sense, a parallelism between genetic phenomenology and developmental psychology becomes evident. This is, however, only a parallelism, Ferentz-Flatz points out, since psychology has to do with empirical laws of the succession of stages of development, whereas phenomenology is concerned with eidetic laws of succession that strive for being universally valid.

The third and last section of Ferentz-Flatz‘s talk was devoted to a clarification of the third appendix of Husserl’s Crisis. His reading of the Husserlian reconstruction of the origin of geometry points to the fact that we are confronting here not a historical investigation devoted to rendering the objective truth about how things really happened. On the contrary, Husserl is here rather keen to show how things should have developed, how geometry should be born of conscious accomplishments. Genesis in this sense does not refer to the factual, objective history. As Rudolf Bernet points out in his preface to the German edition of the introduction to Husserl’s appendix written by Derrida, the history of consciousness has nothing to do with the factual history.

Emanuele Caminada (Cologne, Germany): “Lebenswelt in Ideen II”

Emanuele Caminada tackled the problem of tracing the historical genesis of the problem of the lifeworld in Husserl from Ideas II onward as well as engaged with its late systematic account in Husserl’s philosophy. At the core of Husserl’s idea there is the constitutive function of attitudes (Einstellungen). In Ideas II, Husserl distinguishes between the phenomenological attitude, the naïve attitude, the naturalistic attitude, the personalistic attitude, and the so called “geisteswissenschaftliche Einstellung”, i.e. the attitude proper to the humanities. Caminada characterized the notion of attitude in general as a form of perspectivity, a habit, a mindset.

Phenomenology defines itself in the first place as an attitude, namely the phenomenological attitude. In order to perform phenomenological analyses, one is required to adopt a new attitude that allow her to grasp phenomena in their richness beyond any scientific bias and prejudices. The natural attitude and the naturalistic are, according to Caminada, “absolute attitudes”: they provide us with a complete vision of the world. On the other hand, the attitude of the humanities and the personalistic attitude are attentive to the role that the fundamental correlation between subject and the world plays in every experience; these latter two are thus more committed to a form of relativism.

The phenomenological attitude can help us to distinguish the different attitudes, that is, it makes us sensitive towards the grasping of changes between attitudes. In fact, the phenomenological task is not only to pursue a classification of the different attitudes, but to investigate the correlation and transition from one attitude to another, as well as the way they interplay in concrete experience.

Jagna Brudzinska (Cologne, Germany/Warsaw, Poland): “Genetische Phänomenologie und Psychologie”

Jagna Brudzinska delves into the much debated question of the relation between phenomenology and psychology. Phenomenology characterizes itself as a descriptive science of experience and, under this perspective, it shares the descriptive character of its method with psychology. However, unlike empirical psychology phenomenology deals with eidetic laws and truths concerning the essential structures of experience. Its method is therefore not deductive and empirical, as in the case of psychology. Brudzisnka underlined further that one of Husserl’s main goals was to lay the foundations for a new kind of psychology as an a priori discipline. In this sense, one can speak of a parallel development of phenomenology and a pure, a priori psychology in Husserl’s thinking. The difference between the two derives from the transcendental character of the former, i.e. its attempt to unravel the constitution of being by the transcendental subject.

A topic further addressed by Brudzinska’s talk was the character of motivation as opposed to proper causation. According to her, it is important not to conflate motivation with a weak form of causality, as the former has a totally different structure of relation with respect to the latter.

The genetic turn in Husserl’s phenomenology means a turning point in the analysis of the life of consciousness. If in static phenomenology the singular act was the primary focus of the phenomenological investigation, with total abstraction from the temporal dimension of experience, genetic phenomenology instead points at illustrating the meaningful connections that join experiences together. One of these connections is the temporal succession which is far from being a mere “one-after-the-other” (Nacheinander), but which is more better described as a “one-upon-the-other” (Aufeinander) or “one-in-the-other” (Ineinander) relationship. Thus, there is a dynamic structure underlying the succession of experiences; one that cannot be seized upon by static phenomenology alone. The genetic method permits precisely the singling out of this structure and makes it the object of a phenomenological, a priori analysis.

Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Prepredicative Experience, Negation, Explication”

In his second talk, Lohmar tackled the topic of pre-predicative experience in the late Husserl by introducing a number of examples from everyday life. Pre-predicative experience is a knowledge each individual has about the properties and practical usefulness of determinate objects. This knowledge is not propositional; ratherit is founded in the past experiences the subject has of this or that object. Furthermore, the way that this specific kind of knowledge appears in phenomenological terms is a phantasmatic anticipation of the distinctive characteristics that individuate an object as that particular object. This phantasmatic anticipation is a form of evidence that Lohmar contrasts to impressive evidence. In the case of disappointment, a pre-predicative experience Husserl poses as the basis of the predicative form of negation, anticipative and impressive evidences clash together giving rise to a conflict of evidences in which impressive evidence usually has the upper hand.

According to Lohmar, pre-predicative experience functions primarily in an unconscious way. Whether the subject can find out what she already knew in advance depends on the particular situation in which she finds herself, and it is pre-predicatively functioning by shaping her experience of a determinate object and of the world in general. Methodically, we need to make a conscious repetition of the situation, and then we may gain insight into the knowledge and pieces of information that were operative in it.

Lohmar emphasized once more the fact that we have an historiographic knowledge of past experiences. Our present situation is informed by what we have lived in the past. This holds true also for predicative formations like negation, addition, and subject-object predication. They all have their origin in experience or, more specifically, in the history of experience. This is the main idea Husserl advocates, for instance, in Formal and Transcendental Logic, in which he argues that logic needs a theory of experience in order to become understandable and justified from a phenomenological perspective.

Sebastian Luft (Marquette University, USA/Padeborn, Germany): “Husserl’s Mature Phenomenology of the Life-World and His Critique of the Sciences”

Sebastian Luft offered a survey of Husserl’s phenomenology of the life-world from its beginnings in Ideas II to its extensive development in the Crisis-work. Husserl envisioned the task of describing the intuitive lifeworld in its concrete typicality especially in the lecture on Nature and Spirit from 1919. In Ideas I (1913), this project is not yet fully developed, although one can find there a description of the natural attitude, i.e. the way in which human beings naturally live and are conscious of a world that is intuitively given in experience. Therefore, Luft argues that the theme of the life-world was introduced in 1913 whereas the concept only in 1919. The first time both the theme and the concept were set forth in a published work was in the first volume of the Crisis in 1936. For this reason, the theme of the life-world was usually understood as a result of Heidegger’s influence on Husserl’s later work. This is, however, far from being true, as the unpublished Husserl’s reflections on this particular topic from the 1910s and 1920s unmistakably prove.

Luft discussed the concept of the natural attitude as the horizon within which the theme of the life-world gradually emerged in Husserl’s thought. The natural attitude is the normal attitude underpinning our everyday activities and opinions. Most importantly, we do not know that we are in the natural attitude as long as we are in it. The main thesis of the natural attitude is that the world exists and  more precisely does so independently of any experiencing consciousness. Thus, according to Luft the correlation between the subject and the object of experience remains absolutely concealed in the natural attitude. Only phenomenology and its proper methodology can reveal that everything objectively existent is the correlate of a subjective “doing”. In this sense,  science is deemed to be a specific doing guided by the intention of gaining objective (subject-independent) knowledge. This doing is further characterized by a proper form of attitude that Husserl calls “naturalistic attitude,” which distinguishes itself from the natural attitude through the epistemological goal informing its activity. This primarily consists in the task of de-perspectivizing the perspectival view on the world proper to the natural attitude and achieving thereby a “view from nowhere”. The world of the natural attitude is therefore prior to science and to the naturalistic world that is a product of the objectivizing and de-perspectivizing standpoint the natural sciences assume with respect to the given, intuitive world.

The world of the natural attitude, which Husserl lately baptizes as the life-world, is not a pre-linguistic world, but rather a world of opinions, musings, projects, and interests. Luft provided the following definition of the life-world: “The life-world is the product of constitution on the part of transcendental subjectivity, living in the mode of the natural attitude”.

In the Crisis Husserl explicitly carries out the project of a phenomenological description of the a priori of the life-world as it is given to us prior to science. This world is eminently a social world, and the naturalistic attitude of the positive sciences has concealed this fundamental worldly dimension by identifying the world with (material) nature. Hence, Husserl’s project amounts to the attempt to develop a science of the “despised doxa”, i.e. of the subjective-relative that characterizes the natural attitude and the experience within the original dimension of the life-world. This experience is at the same time the starting point of every scientific endeavor, and the life-world can thus lay the “meaning-foundation” of and for every kind of science. Sciences “cover up” the life-world with a “shroud of ideas” and take the result of this operation, which is the world according to the science, as the real world while relegating the life-world to an illusion. But this is the reverse of the truth, according to Husserl. Science reverses the natural order of things or, to put it in Cassirer’s terms, science is the one symbolic form of meaning that has become the measure of all others. This position characterizes the so-called naturalistic reductionism against which Husserl’s phenomenology of the life-world wants to take over. This implies the development of a new science able to describe and to conceptually fix the structure of a world that is most known and familiar to us, and in that way most distant. This world contains a material a priori structure – spatially, temporally, and genetically. A science of the life-world, Luft finally remarked, is precisely a transcendental science of the subjective, i.e. of the conditions of the possibility for the subjective access to the world.

Alice Pugliese (Palermo, Italy): “Intersubjectivity in Late Genetic Phenomenology”

Alice Pugliese provided in her talk an overview of Husserl’s understanding of intersubjectivity. In particular, she questioned the method through which Husserl intended to illustrate the experience of the other in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation. In this work, the analysis carried out by Husserl boosts a static account of intersubjectivity in which the individualities of the encountering subjects are already constituted and pre-given. Pugliese argues that this is certainly one aspect of the intersubjective encounter, but it does not exhaust all of the dimensions and facets in which intersubjectivity may appear. The face-to-face encounter that Husserl has in mind in describing intersubjectivity within the Fifth Meditation presupposes that each person has already a history of experiences that constitute her individuality and make her a full-blown subject. There may be, however, encounters with subjects at different levels of genetic development, for instance the relation between the mother and child, which has also been object of scrutiny in Husserl’s posthumously published manuscripts. According to Pugliese, it is precisely the static account characterizing Husserl’s most known theory of intersubjectivity that poses the problem of the accessibility of the other’s consciousness life. In this view, the subjects are mutually inaccessible, they are opaque to each other. This depends, at least partly, on the fact that the already constituted subjects do not share the same experiential history. This represents, however, both a term of differentiation as well as a term of continuity between the subjects. In fact, Pugliese stressed that the individuation of the subject through a lived history means that they are profoundly different, but this is at the same time the basis for their mutual recognition. A single experience is by definition not sharable; and, therefore, the other is given to me in this regard in the mode of the accessible inaccessibility. Yet, if one puts the single experience in the web of a continuous flow of experiences, the identification with the other subject can take place, since we both share the structure of a meaningful life spreading over a number of different, successive experiences. This general structure is what links us together and gives evidence of our commonality, which is then the basis for the mutual recognition of the other as a subject like me, that is as an alter ego.

Pugliese continued by saying that a specific kind of individuation takes place in the experience of the other. There is a process that Husserl labeled with the term “communalization” (Vergemeinschaftung) that means the process of becoming subjects within a given community of other subjects – what the sociologists nowadays probably would call “socialization”. Through this process of becoming intersubjectively recognized by other subjects, everyone achieves a characteristic individuation as a social subject. Everyone becomes an individual for a community and thus identifies herself with specific social roles and values.

Saulius Geniusas (Hong Kong, China): “Phantasy in Late Phenomenology”

Saulius  Geniusas undertook a discussion of Husserl’s phenomenology of phantasy. He focused in particular on the question about productive imagination and sought to answer this on the basis of Husserl’s reflections on the phenomenon of phantasy. The issue regarding productive imagination is a critical one and concerns the alleged absence of a treatment of this phenomenon within the Husserlian phenomenology. According to Geniusas, this represents a bias of post-Husserlian phenomenologists, according to whom Husserl ultimately never recognizes productive imagination as a proper object of investigation. Geniusas’ talk provided an argument against this bias.

The talk was divided into four sections. First, Geniusas elucidated the meaning of the concept of “reproductive phantasy”, with which Husserlian phenomenology is particularly concerned. According to a widespread view, the reproductive character of phantasy derives from the fact that it replicates copies of actual objects given in actual experience. This however does not exhaust the meaning of the reproductive character in phantasy experiences. In addition to this Geniusas identifies two other forms of phantasy reproduction: namely, the reproduction of the experience (Erfahrung), e.g. the act of seeing Peter, and the reproduction of experiencing (Erlebnis), e.g. the act of seeing as such without its intentional object. This should allow us to draw a distinction between memory, as a reproduction of experience in the first sense, and phantasy, which has the freedom to reproduce the act of experiencing in isolation from the object of experience.

Second, Geniusas tackled the question of whether phantasy can be regarded as an immanent component of perception. With the help of the example of cross-modal illusions, he showed how the transfigurative function of phantasy does not go smoothly together with the fundamental capacity of perception for presentingthe given in its own pure givenness. Hence, phantasy cannot be taken to be an ingredient of the perceptual experience. This does not mean, however, that phantasy is completely disconnected from perception. As Geniusas pinpoints, in fact, the function of phantasy in perception has to be found on the objective side of the experience, i.e. in the internal and external horizon that surrounds the object as perceived. Every perception is, according to Husserl, an apperception. This entails that the perception of the front side of an object is always at the same time accompanied by the givenness of the back side and of the other objects that physically surround the first object. In this sense, Geniusas sees a function of phantasy in providing an experience of these horizons of the objects that cannot be grasped in immediate perception.

Third, Geniusas discussed three fundamental senses on which one can speak of productive phantasy in the framework of Husserl’s phenomenology. In the first place, productive phantasy may be intended as referring to the capacity to intend original fictive objects, such as centaurs, round squares, etc. Secondly, productive phantasy is associated with the activity of opening up the field of pure possibilities. This sense is employed by Husserl in his discussion of the eidetic method and the function of phantasy as one of its pre-conditions. Ultimately, productive phantasy intends configurations of sense in the sphere of inactuality with the practical purpose of transferring them into the sphere of actuality. This latter sense has been then the topic of the last part of Geniusas’ talk.

In the fourth section, Geniusas argued for an understanding of the constitution of the cultural world in terms of a product of phantasy. His argument began with addressing the question of meaning that is at the core of Husserl’s philosophical enterprise. Namely, all philosophical questions represent for Husserl questions of meaning. The actual reality, and in particular the reality of the cultural world, is in this view also a particular configuration of meaning. The problem of constituting a cultural world equals, therefore, the problem of constituting a new sphere of meaning that is shared by a plurality of subjects. The main question here amounts to asking how a subject can participate in and gain access to a particular cultural world. A first answer would be simply communication: the subject apprehends the culture in question through communication with the ones who belong to that particular cultural world. This, however, begs the initial question according to Geniusas. Communication does not make me intuitively present the sense that is communicated; rather, it points towards this sense and its correlative intuition. An empty intention of the sense and meaning contained in a cultural practice does not allow the actor to fully understand what she is doing while performing this or that practice. There must be an intuitive access to the content of sense conveyed by the cultural practice. Now, the question turns out to be, what kind of experience can provide us with an intuitive access to this content? Geniusas’ answer is that only phantasy can and must play a role here by furnishing an intuitive experience of a sense that would otherwise be inaccessible and concealed.

Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Kritik und Begründung von Wissenschaften im Spätwerk Husserls“

Lohmar’s last talk addressed the issue of Husserl’s foundation of sciences. Hereby, one intends three kinds of scientific inquiry: humanities, formal sciences (like mathematics and logic), and natural sciences. Husserl attempted, on the one hand, to provide a critique of those sciences as they are historically handed down by the Western tradition and, on the other hand, to found them on the basis of a phenomenological investigation into their a priori conditions. Probably taking up a concern which Dilthey expresse before him, Husserl especially aimed at establishing a foundation of the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), and this is attested by a series of lectures he gave in 1913, 1915, 1919, and 1927 that bear the title “Natur und Geist” as well as the lectures on Phenomenological Psychology from 1925 and, ultimately, the Crisis (1936). Ideen II (1912-15) is also informed by this project, since is displays analyses concerning the intersubjective constitution of cultural sense as well as a consideration of the development of habitual, spiritual meaning and the “teleological” dynamics of sinking-down and re-actualization of cultural formations.

In the discussion of the constitution of a cultural world, the body (Leib) plays a prominent role. This is so, according to Lohmar, because the communication between subjects takes place first and foremost at a bodily level rather than a merely linguistic one. There is a huge number of conversational patterns that are possible and are actually performed only through body movements and behaviors. The body is an organ of communication and also is the principal path allowing us to discover the other as another subjectivity like us, as the well-known analyses of the experience of the other in the Cartesian Meditations suggest. The activity of interpreting or re-enacting (Nachvollziehen) in one’s mind what the other thinks, feels and judges relies on the direct experience of the other’s body in analogy with our own.

In the Crisis Husserl pinpoints the role played by the evidences of the life-world in laying the foundation for the natural sciences. He shows how everyday evidences supervise and ultimately render possible every step of the scientific inquiry, starting from the bare handling with experiment devices to the communication of scientific results within a community of trusted co-researchers.

Reviewed by: Marco Cavallaro (PhD Fellow at a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne; Department Member of the Husserl-Archive Cologne; Visiting Researcher at Boston College)


International Conference: Women Phenomenologists on Social Ontology, 11-12 February 2016, University of Paderbon

The conference “Women Phenomenologists on social Ontology” financed by DAAD, University of Paderborn, and Gender Studies Centre, was held at the University of Paderborn from the 11th to 12th of February and aimed at highlighting the phenomenological thinking of some women scientist of the previous century, namely: Gerda Walther, Edith Stein, Hedwig-Conrad Martius and Simone de Beauvoir. The thinkers lived contemporaneously and their contribution to philosophical thought turned out to be fundamental for the field of phenomenology since the problems they undertook to work on are still today worth negotiating and discussing not only from an exclusively theoretical standpoint, but also on a level we could define as “ontological” and “political”. These keywords constituted the basis of their phenomenological proceedings in close relation to an analysis of the world of humans and the individual as a fundamental element of society. This type of problematization which clearly distinguishes between the single individual and the society it finds itself inserted in turns out to be a recurrent theme in the contemporary philosophical landscape and a sine qua non leitmotiv of fundamental reflection in modern thought.

The necessity to concentrate on these women philosophers’ thought is primarily justified by the fact that their contribution to phenomenological thinking and to philosophy in general has up to now remained nearly unexamined or sometimes even misconceived, most of the time with reference to the question of their “feminine gender” and even though neither Heidegger nor Husserl pronounced any distinction between these authors and their other colleagues of the epoch. Although phenomenology in fact defines itself from the beginning as a philosophical current based on very precise methodological parameters – or the “return to the things themselves” – and Husserl really aimed at creating a “proper” philosophical movement based on an evident knowledge of ideal objects, the methodological approach chosen by these women philosophers at times proves to be “different” as it tries to analyze the profundity of a human being immersed in a world which in some ways can be society itself.

Husserl’s phenomenology had already proven the impossibility of reducing a mathematical object to psychological rules, since the acts of thought (Noesis) and intentional comprehension are mutually closed off by the so called “objects” of thought. Thus the aim of phenomenology has right from the beginning been to define the thought objects’ ideality in order to arrive at a clear vision of the essence. In the wake of the master, Husserl, these women philosophers take up this characteristic of the thought school, although with some substantial modification, as was highlighted and problematized in these two days of study. Despite of the fact that one of the fundamental premises of phenomenology is to create an opening preceded by an Epochē – or the suspension of judgment concerning all acquired knowledge and believes -, the theoretical and systematical proposition of these women philosophers rather tended to describe a structure of the human essence as a basis for the implementation of phenomenology. From this derives the importance of analyzing, always in front of a strictly phenomenological background, the relationship between the individual and society, or, more specifically, between singularity and totality.

Now the description and summary of the interventions of the research Professors and doctors who participated in this conference and which follow this premise of notable philosophical importance.

11th February

Prof. Dr. Antonio Calcagno (Western University Canada):

Edith Stein and Gerda Walther: The Role of Empathy in Experiencing Community

In his opening contribution, Professor Antonio Calcagno payed special attention to the role of empathy in collective experience in the philosophy of Edith Stein and Gerda Walther.

Departing from the analysis of the individual act where the knowledge of the other is understood as “empathy”, at first was emphasized the intersubjective experience in Stein’s philosophy which reflects on a human being as a psycho-psychological individual. Then two particular aspects were highlighted: corporality and lived experience. It thus emerged that i) if corporality becomes a necessary means of this same conscience, conscience in its animated and living quality becomes an integrated part of affections, impulses as well as of thoughts, reasoning and decisions; ii) and in this same lived experience can be delineated “similarity” as a uniting factor of all cultures. As a consequence, also emotions like happiness or pain experienced by the others must be conceived by way of the perception connected to our bodily senses, showing the impossibility to trace back the profundity of life to an psychological object.

The development of these two points demonstrates that, in Stein’s thinking, the lived experience inserts itself into these same acts of conscience, and for her it is this same community suffering its influence and at the same moment exhibiting itself as a social and solidary organism.

At this point, Stein’s philosophy was juxtaposed to that of Gerda Walther: by confronting them, it emerged that, for the second thinker, empathy becomes “constitutive”, a clearly visible fact: despite the fact that societies are inclined to “passivity”, it influences its individual members’ and individuals in general: it is constitutive for it. Husserlian echoes clearly resound in Walther’s concept of society; active as well as passive elements appear in the ‘Vergemeinschaftung’. The active parts of a community are constructed by way of empathy and the reciprocal exchange between the subject and the world, in accordance with Husserl’s statements; but the community manifests itself through a passive synthesis where the subject develops a sense of itself and from which point it is also possible to extrapolate their feelings, impulses, impressions, instincts etc. Moreover, Professor Antonio Calcagno showed the uniqueness of describing a habitual derived society, meaning a silent or reposing one. As a conclusion, his contribution revealed the profound sense of collectivity of not only Stein’s, but also Walther’s philosophy.

Prof. Dr. Sara Heinämaa (University of Jyväskylä, Finland):

Simone de Beauvoir on Sexual Difference

This contribution centered on the idea of the phenomenology of the body and sexual difference in human society which fundamentally structure Simon de Beauvoir’s thinking. Consequentially, the intervention initiated with the discussion of de Beauvoir owed to existential and classical phenomenology concerning the concept of incarnation. Then it proceeded to analyzing the thinker’s discussion of phenomena of sexual difference and pregnancy, which was seen to be related to human coexistence or Mitsein. These premises on one hand allowed for a short reflection on the concept of couples, on the other for obtaining her position on the analysis of human beings. Furthermore it emerged that, although the interpreters of de Beauvoir’s thinking tend to privilege the aspects of her reflection found in her novels and essays, the tribute this woman philosopher has given to the sociological aspects of phenomenology is really very important.

Contrary to those who misconceive the philosophical content of her writings, here the phenomenological elements of the concept of the body and of sexuality were emphasized especially referring to “Le Deuxième Sexe” (1949). The ample descriptions offered by de Beauvoir in this essay provide us with an image of the living sexual body, physically and with spiritual aspects, from which also emerges her relation to the other entities and to the entire world and went on to suggest to treat this question departing from the conception of sexuality in philosophy itself. From this point of view it became evident that sexuality is not one of many details of our existence, but that it rather provides its structure, its basis, equal to mortality; it thus becomes impossible to imagine a society without any difference of the sexes. Although such differences seem to be profoundly engrained into our experience of people and human beings – and even more so than those of skin color or racial -, it also becomes clear that de Beauvoir insists on the fact that not all experiences of a person’s individual state need to imply sexual differences – deducing the importance of the role the experience of the lived body (Leib, corps vivant, corps vécu). plays for the concept. Here was introduced the experience of pregnancy which became an emblem of representation for the convergence between nature and culture and the dialectic collision of this two instances. In this process, man and woman act together – and their bodies can be perceived as active and passive; The experience thus does not emerge on an experiential level, but in relation to the temporal organization of the sequence and succession. In the woman’s life, constituted of an alternation between passive and active moments, exists a scheme different from that of the man, despite of the fact that both experiences of the body are active and passive and both draw from the experience of the specific other, from the Mitsein. So one can easily sense that pregnancy acquires its dramatic nature from its event-related character of something happening inside the woman, be it related perceived as enrichment or mutilation.

Prof. Dr. Ronny Miron (Bar-Ilan University, Israel):

The Self of Reality – A Metaphysical Commentary on Hedwig Conrad-Martius’ Idea of the Internality of Being

Professor Ronny Miron’s contribution highlighted the aspects of “the consolidation of a unique vocabulary whose objective is to dub the real being and Being in general with what she terms ‘outside-spatial designations’.” Departing from this viewpoint was investigated the classical realistic phenomenology in order to obtain a comprehension of reality as well as of perception and conscience in general.

From Hedwig Conrad Martius’ genealogy it was derived that the ‘outside-spatial’ in whose center is constituted by the dimension of being exists a trilogy of concepts, namely: “essence, abyss, and ‘self’ (Selberkeit) or “self-adherence” (Selbsthaftigkeit).” Professor Ronny Miron paper centered on the development of these concepts, which for Martius thinking realize a constitution of reality which does not manifest itself in a special manner.

Dr. Anna Jani (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary):

The Ontic-Ontological Aspects in Edith Stein’s Contribution to the Social Life

The ontico-ontological aspects in Edith Stein’s thinking and her contribution to social life emerged from Dr. Anna Jani intervention, which concentrated on Stein’s dissertation investigating the acts of empathy as personal acts and related to the individual’s interactions. “While in her first work on the empathy Edith Stein investigates how the act of empathy as a personal act relates to the experiences of the community and how the personal value becomes a communal value; in her study, entitled Individual and Community, she investigates the common ontological background of the individual and the community. According to the thesis of Edith Stein, the community is from the view of the individuality an ontical reality, which is independent of the individual life, and the community is for the individual life an experience of the outside world.”

“Both the individual and the community have an internal and an external or objective appearance, which are naturally able to transform into each other and the properties of the individual and the community are in analogical relationship. The objective appearance of both is constituted by their values.” At this point arose the fundamental question of “how the individual value system belongs to a common value ethics, that is, whether the individual values are constituted by the communal values or vice versa?” From this point of view “[t]he super-individual personality of the community [überindividuelle Persönlichkeit], which is the carrier of the higher values of the community is not different in its actions from a personal activity, however this activity is regarded as independent from the members of the community.” Conclusively it is possible to argue that it is the same Edith Stein who “describes the function of the community as pure action that is confined to external activity. So the communal life has an internal life form, the inner value judgment of the individual, and an external appearance in the form of the activity.” Thus, social life presents itself as a performative art form which helps liberating oneself from the weight of existence.

Dr. Michela Summa (University of Würzburg, Germany):

Empathy and Anti-Empathy. Which are the Problems?

The goal of Dr. Michela Somma’s presentation revealed itself to be double: if on one side the discussion centered on “why we need a ‘multi-layered’ account of empathy”, secondly it also sought to clarify the role “of imagination in empathy, with particular attention to the process of ‘centrally imagining’ what the other is experiencing.” Her argumentation then developed departing from a juxtaposition of the idea of empathy in Peter Goldie an Edith Stein.

In the first part of her contribution, Dr. Michela Summa presented the problem of otherness in Peter Goldie and particularly concentrating on his text “The Emotion” and his critical article “Anti-Empathy” in which it emerges that the understanding of the other does not really aim at clarifying a certain phase of an emotion but rather seeks to retrace the significance of its emotional and intentional experiences, which implicates attributing a constitutive role to imagination as the highest manifestation of personal understanding. Thus, “empathy, in its different layers, significantly relies on imaginative components, and more precisely on ‘central imagining’”, implying that Goldie’s rather sophisticated concept of empathy already presupposes basic layers of understanding.” In the second part was highlighted how this concept becomes in some way “thoroughly clarified in Stein’s analyses”, since Stein’s empathy concept reveals itself, contrary to Goldie’s, to be basic, constitutive in so far as it proposes to shed light on our experience of the others in the sense of a recognition of – in Levinas’ words – of an autrui, which, though it preserves characteristics different from us ourselves, always maintains its own subjective qualities. And still the other is always conceived as an entity possessing a psico-psichological structure, by way of a process put in motion by the empathies understood as perceivable and which then passes on to understand the others as persons tzo be comprehended in the spirituality. From the juxtaposition of Goldie and Stein thus emerged a stratification with which one needs to understand the phenomenon of empathy; in Stein’s philosophy, Dr. Michela Summa proposed to accentuate the distinction existing in the empathy of psycho-physical individuals and of individual persons; and then Goldie’s point where she argued that his merit lay in having underlined the role of imagination internal to the empathetic process; thus also presenting a critique which Goldie also had put to himself; the assumption of the individual characterization of the others.

 12th February

Prof. Dr. Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir (University of Iceland, University of Helsinki, Finland):

Gerda Walther’s Social Ontology and the Relations of the Sexes

Prof. Sigridur Thorgeirsdottir lecture treated the fundamental questions at the basis of Gerda Walther’s “Phänomenologie der Mystik”, namely in what consists a mystical experience; she particularly insisted on the fact Walther’s interrogations about mysticism meant a completion for the phenomenological method initiated by Husserl. Hence, one of the key aims of the contribution was it to underline that man understands himself in the likeness of God and not God in the likeness of himself. In this way it was tried to show that the mystical experiences described by Gerda Walther are no fantastic visions which man could never rationally explain, but on the contrary, that it is possible to legitimize the mystical experience, or rather to convert it into a recurrent phenomenon, which would imply a phenomenological approach due to its total extension. We can follow this reading as well for an understanding of the telepathic experience. While Husserl as well as Stein adhere to the Einfühlungstheorie, Walther in certain way overcomes it exactly by implementing this concept. In fact, telepathy is presented as a “capacity” of the body and of the sexes. The relationship the I-center builds with objectivity really implicates a counter-movement which draws the I towards its most intimate profundity, or inside itself. Thus the I-center comprehends the polarity between the inner psyche and the content of the experience of another human being, but from which movement originates. So, telepathy could either concern the other in the moment where the other itself experiences it, although there can be no identification be the two Is since the I is aware of living something that in reality is not really completely a part of it. The consequences of this conception ae also true for the members of a community, where the body, the soul, the spirit become constitutive parts of the human being. The relationship between the sexes thus acquires three fundamental characteristics: it is i) a cosmic, spiritual relationship ii) it implies an association of the sexes, iii) by way of an holistic phenomenon. Now it is not difficult to understand how Walther really divides body and spirit. The stratum, the sphere that we could define as spiritual is something which settles above the I itself and is unavoidably distinguished from the experiences themselves.


Prof. Dr. Hans Bernhard Schmid (University of Vienna, Austria):

Gerda Walther’s ‘Copernican Turn’ in Social Ontology

At the center of Professor Schmid’s contribution stands the “social role” and the sense of Zusammensein obtained through the sharing of experiences; consequentially, Professor Schmid’s explanations focused on the philosophy of Gerda Walther and on the difficulties arising when trying to distinguish between an experience lived as “Erlebnis” and experience in the sense of “Erfahrung”. By referring to Gerda Walther’s dissertation of 1923: “Ein Beitrag zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften”, Professor Schmid particularly emphasized the significance of the We-experience, which must not be understood as a complex of “parallel individual experiences plus some structure of mutual or reciprocal social cognition”, since “the way in which it is ‘ours’ rather than yours and mine is not in virtue of reciprocal attitudes, but in virtue of plural pre-reflective ‘self-knowledge’.” So, the question he asked was what can make an experience such that it can be shared. First, Professor Schmid answered the question paraphrasing Walther, who in her text clearly stipulates that the experiences we share tend to unite us to “them in such a way that they do not ‘belong to different subjects’, and that it is not the case, in shared experience, that I ‘stand for myself’, ‘closed off’ against another subject that is conceived as similarly closed off”; and from this it becomes evident that We-experience is nothing that could belong to me or you, but realizes a We to be understood as collective. But despite of Walther’s expository clearness, according to Professor Schmid remains the question on basis exactly an experience can be considered as collective. “Walther says in her text that it is clearly insufficient for experience to be shared at each participant has his or her own experience, and, in addition to that, some empathetic experience of the other’s experience. Such experiences, she says, are still separate rather than joint. Just that I experience something and you experience the same, with each of us empathizing with the other, does, in and of itself, not make this “our” experience, in a collective sense.” His solution is it to propose a particular type of We-Experience. He then introduced an analysis of the Gemeinschafterlebnis, which could be characterized by its interactivity and its being an Erlebnis that can be repeated indefinitely. Here it becomes understandable how the incomprehension of the interpretations of the  We-experience really derive from a wrong approach to it.


Dr. Alessandro Salice (University College Cork, Ireland):

Edith Stein and Gerda Walther on Experiential Sharing

Dr. Alessandro Salice contribution examines the aspects of sharing referring to the answer Edith Stein and Gerda Walther give to this problem. The question arising is whether the predication ‘sharing’ should be understood as something to be analyzed from a linguistic viewpoint and, more precisely, how an emotion could be shared. “Currently, this question is at the core of an intense debate involving philosophy of mind and other disciplines as well, but it is by no means new. Detailed descriptions of the many forms of sociality that can affect experiences have been produced especially within the Munich and Göttingen circles of phenomenology.”

Both philosophers “have provided to the question of experiential sharing. It is argued that both authors consider empathy (i.e., a quasi-perceptual access to others’ mental states) to be fundamental to sharing. In addition, they both distinguish experiential sharing from other forms of sociality and, especially, from sympathy (understood as a pro-social emotional response to the other’s emotion). And they also claim that, to be shared, the individual emotions have to interlock in an adequate way, one that involves reciprocity.”

So are generated “[t]wo tensions, it is further claimed, [that] could challenge the accuracy of the account just sketched”, and which lead to two different outcomes. “The first results from two apparently conflicting considerations: (i) the focus of empathy is on the I-Thou relationship, whereas (ii) share demotions are experienced as ours. The second tension arises from the observation that, in certain cases, shared emotions could bypass the reciprocity condition – it seems plausible to argue that a single individual can feel an emotion which is adequate if assessed from the group’s perspective and that this emotion is felt as ‘ours.’”

In Stein case it was shown that in order to begin the experience of “sharing”, one needs the element of empathy in order to be together and so it becomes a sharing experience on an emotional level; contrary, in Gerda Walther’s thinking appears the holistic approach to this experience, by way of the distinction made between community and society. This opens up the question of how one has to understand an inner joining? Clearly not only from a purely cognitive standpoint. The existence of community is based on exactly this element. Furthermore, it is in Dr. Salice opinion possible to combine inner joining with Stein’s concept of Einfühlung (empathy). Here his remarks ended.

“By introducing Walther’s idea of a ‘sense of belonging or unification,’ which is considered as a further, and crucial, element of experiential sharing. This idea, it is maintained, could be used to solve both of the above tensions.”

Dr. Thomas Szanto (University of Copenhagen, Denmark):

Stein and Walther on Shared Experiences: A Critical Comparison

Dr. Thomas Szanto opened up a critical juxtaposition of the thinking of Edith Stein and Gerda Walther about the sharing of experiences by highlighting three important points, namely: i) intentionality and mutual awareness; ii) plurality of self/other differentiation; iii) integration. He began with an analysis of Gerda Walther’s thinking concentrating on the intentional sharing of object and sense and then passed on to intentional reciprocity. This led the discourse to mutual awareness in a We-experience, where the terms A and B possess not a reflective but an absorbed conscience of one another; consequently, the subdivision can be realized as follows: it can be i) between individuals (intra-group); ii) between groups and member (group-level); iii) between groups (inter-group). In consequence, the feeling of Belonging Together can lead to a reaction to the unification which ramifies into four different typologies – direct in case it is interpersonal, indirect in the case of a shared object of appraisal, actual or habitual. By way of this Dr. Szanto illustrated Stein’s position and particularly highlighted that the “same affective-intentional (noematic) core sense (Sinnkern) of intentional feelings [and] sentiments cannot be shared.” He thus further illustrated how one passes from shared emotions to collective emotions: Shared emotions can be identified through three aspects: being interactive empathy based, being directly perceptual and lastly through face to face mutual awareness. Collective emotions on the other hand are “typically not face to face, not necessarily synchronous, habitualized and robustly sedimented.”

Prof. Dr. Julia Jansen (KU Leuven, Belgium):

Social Ontology and Phenomenology: Methodological Reflections with Gerda Walther and Edith Stein

By way of a methodological reflection, Professor Julia Jansen described the most salient points in Gerda Walther’s and Edith Stein’s thinking. At first her contribution was oriented on highlighting the enrichment of ontology through phenomenology by analyzing Walther’s philosophy. It has been particularly emphasized that the Husserlian method at one time becomes understood as a alternative for describing the social ontologies and at the other as a condition for pinpointing conscience – exactly by a transmutation operated by Walther from a viewpoint we could define as epiphenomenal and which concerns eidetic reduction and transcendental reduction. This path of research allowed to enter in dialogue with Stein: For example, was underlined the only ontical aspect of her philosophy and the implications this statement could involve.

Departing from this connotation, Stein’s critique of Husserl, her teacher, was introduced, about the subjectivity that in his philosophy never reaches an absolute anchoring, and how his aim rather is to unite subject and object and how one can discover in his thinking a regional ontology of the human being. One can thus claim that his philosophical anthropology lends itself to creating a system inside of which it would be possible to, by juxtaposing it with other sciences, let reemerge the results of Stein’s research that led her to an ontological level concerning the individual immersed in society. So ontology, with the help of the phenomenological method, becomes the means of investigating the experiences on an intentional level. The correlation between conscience and the world implies the admission of an essential doctrine of the objects that are understood by the conscience in the multiplicity of all possible forms.


Prof. Dr. Sebastian Luft (Marquette University, USA/ Paderborn University):

Do We-Experiences Require an Intentional Object? On the Nature of Reflective Communities

The fundamental question of “what does it mean to be a community and to be in a community ” and of what is the de facto factor that consents to analyze it was posed by Professor Sebastian Luft. Departing from a structural analysis of phenomenology, it was shown how the acts can be understood as an integrating part of sociability, or rather as their specific object. In that way it becomes possible to discover in this philosophical movement aspects that we could describe as social, in which it is possible that emerges the complement of the first person plural “us” on an account that needs to be considered from the outside – in the third person plural “they” – or from the viewpoint of a spectator who remains external. Apparently, as Professor Luft pointed out – in alignment with the Husserlian analysis of intersubjectivity followed also by Stein and Walther – every consideration of the “we” with its experiences and its objects can only go forward where there is a tension also with the “I”. It follows the creation of a space – an aspect not by chance underlined by Walther; that is to say the experience of the community and its specific intentional object and what that means for the community, a phenomenon that Walther has recognized as “reflecting” – or as the fact that a community becomes a reflection of itself.

And when Walther as well as Husserl insist on the fact that even if a community is composed of experienced bodies it is not itself an experienced body, the same type of reasoning can be followed when thinking about groups of individuals: those can be united to a point where they constitute a personality of a superior order or create a community in the true sense of the word, authentic and never dissociated from the “Einigung” one has with the others. Through this reflection Professor Luft pointed out that through the analysis of the social act and those of the community one can turn to analyzing the individuals and this is the reason why a phenomenology of the single entity can serve as methodological starting point for identifying the acts defined as social. Normally, the fact that individuals live in a community is considered a sociological problem, but the phenomenological contribution to this problem shows itself in the dichotomous relationship between We-experience and I-experience: in order to explain this question and particularly what the constitutive aspects of “true communities” could be, Professor Luft expounded on some characteristics of phenomenological egology. Referring to Husserl’s phenomenological genetic research one could see that the passive genesis obeying the formal and universal law shows how conscience from the beginning is a transcendence that differs from the ontological questions concerning the being of the subject and the object. Here was introduced a comparison to Gerda Walther who in her “Zur Ontologie der sozialen Gemeinschaften (On the Ontology of Social Communities)” of 1922 works out the structure of intersubjectivity referring to Husserl’s egology. Although there persist fundamental differences between Walther and Husserl, since his interest lay in the givenness of the other, or an intentionality that he calls empathy and Walther was more interested in investigating the “character of acts that occur when individuals unify themselves in forming a community.” Here was presented her distinction between Gesellschaft (society) and Gemeinschaft (community): “What distinguishes this sociality from a genuine community is the lack of unification (Einigung). In this community, individuals enter into it freely and unify themselves as a community, which exists for the sake of something which she also calls a ‘leading objectivity’ or a guiding idea. Communities create their own internal and power structures, their own sub-structures that require special groups or even rely on outside members to sustain them, as, for instance, members of a parliament rely on persons to heat the building, do the cleanup and arrange the work space required for their work. Hence, once again, Walther’s scenario is far from being an ideal and romantic vision of unity or cohesiveness of a group, but very sober-minded and realistic.”

Departing from this ontological research – what is community – this question becomes entwined with phenomenology and thus with the area of the experiences. Conclusively, one could understand that “the merit of Walther’s analysis, apart from her keen and insightful descriptions of the constitution of genuine, unified communities, is that she unearthed a truly constitutive phenomenon of communities, their reflective element, to which I would add that it ought to be expanded as being part of every community in some at least minimal manner.”

Reviewed by: Manuela Massa (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)

Geschichte, Politik, Ideologie. Heideggers „Schwarze Hefte“ im Kontext

(History, Politics, Ideology. Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks” in Context)

From 14th to 16th of January 2016 an international conference on Heidegger’s recently published Black Notebooks was held at the University of Freiburg. It was sponsored by Fritz Thyssen-Stiftung and organized by Günter Figal, David Espinet, Tobias Keiling, and Nikola Mirković. A volume collecting all the contributions will be published by Mohr Siebeck Press in Tübingen. Currently, the organizers of the conference are working on a related project, Heidegger Lexikon, which will be published by Verlag De Gruyter in 2016. Ever since the publication of the first volume of the so-called Black Notebooks, Heidegger’s philosophy has become the focal point of controversy, debate and target of criticisms. The disturbing remarks on the world Jewry in the Black Notebooks pose serious challenges to Heidegger scholarship: how to make the distinction between Heidegger’s groundbreaking and inspirational philosophy and the man who gets involved in the National Socialism and succumbs to its anti-Semitic ideology, and how to deal with this gloomy legacy in general. Participants of the conference, including renowned specialists from all over Europe and America who spoke English, French, and German, approached this contentious topic carefully and conscientiously by situating various concrete questions of the Black Notebooks in the broader philosophical, historical, and theological contexts.

The conference opened with a lecture by the former president of the Martin Heidegger Society, Günter Figal. According to Figal, there is not much philosophical worth in the Black Notebooks. Instead, Heidegger himself stands as the protagonist at the centre stage, yet without the Nietzschean irony of self-portrait. The notebooks lay open Heidegger’s personal opinions and prejudices culminating in the idea that the world Jewry and the Jews are the main agency of the oblivion of Being and privileged conveyors of machination (Machenschaft) in modernity. Heidegger’s polemical attacks on others in order to legitimate the status of his own thinking follow the logic of resentment, as it is analysed by Nietzsche in Zur Genealogie der Moral. However, what is even more troublesome is the amalgam of Heidegger’s antisemitic resentment and his philosophy, because in this kind of amalgam something that makes philosophy impossible creeps in the philosophy and distorts it to ideology. Therefore, it is misleading in this context to try to relativize Heidegger’s antisemitism by attributing it to his criticism of modernity and naming it as being-historical (seinsgeschichtlicher) or metaphysical antisemitism. The critical question here is how to distinguish between two types of ideas and concepts, namely those that rule out the possibilities of ideological appropriation and those susceptible to ideology. Pursuing this reading strategy, Figal carries out an examination of some key concepts in the Black Notebooks in the second part of his talk and offers an insightful explanation about the intricate relation between Heidegger’s thinking and his personal resentments. For example, the flip side of Heidegger’s attack on metaphysics as such is his own conception of the truth of Beyng (Seyn), which finds its expression in the saying (Sagen) and naming of the word of thinking. And such thinking could preserve the origin and is rooted in the enowning event (Ereignis) of Beyng. Heidegger calls it “radicalism” (GA 96, 51), which prepares for the leap into the other beginning. At the same time, the revolutionary thinking of beginning excludes and opposes everything that is not originary or radical in the Heideggerian sense of the word. From the structure of such radical and polemical thinking, according to Figal’s analysis, one cannot derive the antisemitic resentment as its integral part. And yet, the basic structure of this thinking allows for possibilities of concrete resentments like antisemitism, which in turn do not object to the fundaments of that structure. This is the reason why Heidegger could incorporate the ideological resentments into his philosophy and thereby undermine its value blindly. The last part of Figal’s talk points towards some other aspects of Heidegger’s later thinking, which, as alternatives to his revolutionary radicalism, have shown inconspicuous gestures of humility and releasement (Gelassenheit). Heidegger criticizes in the fictive dialogue “Ἀγχιβασίη” the polemical and revolutionary way of thinking for being ensnared in antagonism and “enmity” (Gegnerschaft, GA 77, 50-51). However, judging from the already published Black Notebooks, one cannot know for sure that there is definitely such a change of attitude in Heidegger’s thinking after World War II. Therefore, towards the end of his talk Figal called for an open access to Heidegger’s unpublished works, which received positive responses from most of the participants.

As the original title of his lecture, “L’introduction de la philosophie dans le nazisme”, suggests, Gérard Bensussan reverses the position of Emmanuel Faye, who maintains that Heidegger introduces Nazism into philosophy, and raises instead the question: to what extent does Heidegger introduce philosophy into Nazism? Bensussan argues against Faye’s attempt of eliminating Heidegger’s thinking from philosophy and tries to show that Heidegger’s antisemitism does not arise from the “sleep of reason”. Rather, it is a monstrosity not foreign to reason even when it is awake and vigilant. To develop this thesis, Bensussan generalizes the use of the term “anti-Semitism” to all implicit antisemitic idioms, which are not restricted to the fourteen explicit disparaging references to the Jews in the Black Notebooks. Just as Nietzsche in Der Antichrist and the young Hegel in Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal have done before him in the diagnosis of their epoch, Heidegger assigns Judaism a place in his thinking. The epoch is, as Heidegger diagnoses it, a time of urgency, disenchantment, and necessity (Notwendigkeit). Machination is most expressive of such a modern time which reduces truth of Beyng to technical manipulation of beings. In Bensussan’s view, Heidegger’s epochal diagnosis overlaps with the metaphysical role of the Jews as the culminating top of metaphysics in its completion in the being-historical sense. This metaphysical approach to the issue of Jewry, albeit not a racial question anymore, outdoes the biological and vulgar racism just in a frightening way, for the Jews have become the carrier of various symptoms of the oblivion of Being. Even the “principle of destruction” could be attributed to the Jews themselves, and this attribution can find its expression in both historical and contemporary discourses on the Jewish tradition. For Heidegger, the reversal of the Hegelian metaphysics by Marx exemplifies this destructive principle. The world Jewry is thus a universal figure of enmity in the Black Notebooks, and Heidegger’s antipathy to the Jews is also essentially linked to his criticism of “culture” (Kulturbetrieb). Bensussan’s generalized understanding of Heidegger’s anti-Judaism draws on several relevant thinkers in the history of Western philosophy in order to show that his antisemitic resentment follows the paradigms of antisemitism in the metaphysical tradition. Bensussan’s meticulous analysis is mostly convincing and sheds light on the larger background and context of the issue.

In line with Bensussan’s verdict on the relation between Nazism and philosophy, David Espinet contends in his paper that Heidegger indeed introduces a specific pattern of totalitarian philosophy, i.e. the monistic, identifying, and totalitarian way of thinking of the all-encompassing Being, into a particular kind of National Socialism. Espinet sets forth to read Heidegger’s characterization of philosophy as “attack” in an earlier lecture on Kant (GA 31, 35) and a passage from the Black Notebooks, “people without space” (GA 94, 18) in parallel, and points out the conflation of Heidegger’s metaphysics of Dasein in this period with his narrative about the founding of a national space (einen völkerischen Raum) and his attack on Husserl and the Kantian transcendental philosophy. Espinet moves on to show that the critical reading of Kant’s concept of freedom in the Black Notebooks is based on the primacy of historicity in Heidegger’s thinking. In his destruction of the moral core of the Kantian freedom, Heidegger transposes the cosmological freedom to the practical freedom and thereby overlooks the normative dimension of this concept. While one cannot but follow Espinet’s compelling and rigorous argumentation, one might still raise the question if it is appropriate to reduce the whole spectrum of Heidegger’s phenomenological reading of Kant’s moral philosophy to such politicised interpretation based on the hindsight derived from the Black Notebooks. In the last part of his account, Espinet argues against Heidegger’s ontological identification of nature and freedom and the total reign of Being in general. According to Espinet’s illuminating diagnosis of the typology and pathology of radical thinking, philosophers like Marx, Heidegger, Sartre, and Badiou tend to find philosophical, unitary reason for their radical convictions in the hope for a super-event that changes everything.

Maurizio Ferraris draws an interesting parallel in his talk between Heidegger’s piety of thinking and Pharisaism: As the Pharisees claim that moral value is determined by the beliefs one professes, not by one’s actions, the Heidegger of history of Being develops a theory of thinking according to which thoughts are the true, most intense and radical actions and thus exempt him from common moral actions in practice. Ferraris identifies the Pharisaism with the anti-realistic epistemological and ontological fallacy that things exist only for subjects, who are therefore responsible for the things. In light of his new-realistic standpoint, which is somewhat far-fetched in this context, Ferraris continues to discuss critically Derrida’s and Vattimo’s interpretation of Heidegger’s philosophy in the last part of his lecture.

The subject of Nikola Mirković’s talk centers on the style and form of the Black Notebooks. Mirković’s analysis of the three passages on the concept of style indicates that there is no consistent usage and definition of style in Heidegger’s notebooks from 1931 to 1948. In the following part of his talk, Mirković describes in detail the transformation of style of the Black Notebooks in terms of three phases of attunement (Stimmung), namely revolutionary pathos, gloominess, and fall of tension. This description is helpful to capture the immanent transition and shift of tones in Heidegger’s notebooks. Moreover, Mirković’s talk shows us that Heidegger has deployed consciously various stylistic and linguistic devices to evoke certain attunements in the notebooks.

In his talk on Heidegger’s antisemitism, Dieter Thomä discerns first of all two patterns of logical operation in the Black Notebooks. On the one hand, the logic of identity prevails and different phenomena are equated with one another under the name of the Same, such as capitalism, communism, and Catholicism, which are all symptoms of oblivion of Being. On the other hand, Heidegger avails himself of superlative expressions, like “highest clarity” and “purest simplicity” (GA 94, 47), to display his superiority. Thomä makes a very telling observation that Heidegger did not make explicit antisemitic remarks until the end of 1930s, i.e. after his public engagement with the Nazi movement. This is also the period when he began to distance himself from National Socialism, which, according to Heidegger’s changed opinion, has slipped into oblivion of Being. Different from Carl Schmitt’s aetiological antisemitism, which attributes the downfall of the German people to Jews as its cause, Heidegger’s antisemitism is described by Thomä as “emergent” antisemitism. It means that the Jews emerge at the right moment of the declining history of Being, not as necessary cause, but as profiteers. Towards the end of his talk, Thomä compares the reference of “worldless” and “groundless” (bodenlos) in Being and Time with relevant passages in the Black Notebooks, which are explicitly embedded in Heidegger’s antisemitic discourse, and calls for a more differentiating research approach to Being and Time. In view of the convincing argumentation of his talk, one can only concur with Thomä’s appeal for more critical differentiation concerning Heidegger research in general.

Hans Ruin’s talk, titled “Heidegger, Paul, and Theology: Rethinking the Greco-Judaic divide”, puts the topic of anti-Judaism in the constellation of Bultmann, Heidegger, and Jonas with regards to their common link, the Letters of Paul. Ruin begins with a delineation of the Pauline legacy in the existential analysis of the early Heidegger and the history of Being of the 1930s. Ruin points out that Paul, while providing the foundations of Christian ethics, is at the same time inventor of the historical and theological matrix that produces antisemitism in Christianity. According to Ruin’s illuminating analogy, this immanent tension in the Pauline Letters resurfaces in Heidegger’s contorted appropriation of them. Through comparing Bultmann’s and Heidegger’s behaviour in similar situation during the time of NS movement, Ruin shows us another possibility of comportment on their shared basis of existential analysis. Ruin moves on to ask what are the sources for Heidegger’s ideas of returning to the Greek beginning and of leaping into a new beginning. Ruin puts forward an insightful thesis concerning Heidegger’s sources: It is exactly in the Pauline Letters that the shape of history as destruction of tradition and possibility of new birth is configured. Furthermore, Heidegger’s denial and rejection of the Jewish in his narrative of history of Being can also be seen as extension of the anti-Jewishness of the Jewish tradition itself. The last section of Ruin’s paper discusses Jonas’ essay “The abyss of the will”, dedicated to Bultmann. Here, Ruin’s intricate and intriguing interpretation reaches its climax, which also marks one of the highlights of the entire conference. He argues that Heidegger’s existential analysis of temporality, his understanding of human will and the finitude of freedom, and the exclusion of the Jews from the history of Being can all be traced back to Paul to the extent that the Pauline Letters foreshadows the ambivalent fusion of genuine articulation of the human existential predicament and anti-Judaism.

The starting points of Denis McManus’ speech are authenticity and historicity in Being and Time, which might have sown the seeds of Heidegger’s later political commitment. Yet, McManus points out that Heidegger’s discussion of Dasein’s historicity and the related terms like Schicksal, Geschick, Held, and Volk in section 74, is strikingly faint and brief, and accordingly the arguments for a chauvinistic reading of these passages are remarkably thin. McManus’ interpretation links those concepts to Heidegger’s destructive approach to the history of philosophy in other lecture courses before Being and Time. In his whole talk, however, there is scarcely direct thematization of those key ideas from the Black Notebooks, which the audience had naturally expected.

Tobias Keiling’s talk broaches the traumatic Heideggerian question of Being in relation to Heidegger’s understanding of power. In his reading of the Black Notebooks, Keiling discerns sharply a connection between Heidegger’s thinking and the experience of power, violence, and brutality. Keiling’s argumentation operates with the concept of “ontological circle” pointing to the inner difficulty of the question of Being. Instead of conflating the ontological speculation with Heidegger’s idioms of power, Keiling suggests that one can understand the circular logic of the question as a “progress”, which provides an alternative possibility to overcome the traumatic failure of Being and Time and the later concept of history of Being. Accordingly, the role of Dasein is freed from the ontological orientation towards power, time, and truth; it is transformed into a place for open questions and new beginnings in thinking.

The three-day conference was wrapped up with Markus Gabriel’s talk, “What is ‘thinking’. Heidegger and the problem of philosophy”. Gabriel is mainly concerned with the fundamental question of the link of Heidegger’s philosophy to his political engagement with the Nazi movement. According to his reading, what is at stake in this context is the intractable problem of the status of philosophy that remains unclear since Kant. First of all, Gabriel points out some editorial malpractices and errors, which lead to the mystification of a text type and genre, namely the Black Notebooks. Subsequently, Gabriel analyzes several passages from the notebooks to illustrate Heidegger’s ambivalent attitude to philosophy and thinking in relation to the political situation of the time and the concept of worldview (Weltanschauung). Against the practice of marginalizing Heidegger’s political mistake, as well as demonizing his philosophy at large, Gabriel calls for a more balanced and differentiated approach in line with the spirit of Enlightenment. In sum, Gabriel’s talk provides some novel insights into Heidegger’s ambivalent understanding of the role of philosophy and thinking in the Black Notebooks.

The papers presented at the conference approached the theme of the relation between philosophy and ideology in the Black Notebooks from various perspectives. The speakers tried to explore different interpretative possibilities of dealing with Heidegger’s political engagement critically and yet philosophically. The forthcoming compilation of the papers will certainly contribute to, and offer new vistas for the research on the Black Notebooks and Heidegger’s philosophy in the future.

Reviewed by: Guang Yang (University of Freiburg and Nankai University)

Phenomenological Aesthetics after the Centenary: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Trends

The Annual Colloquium of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology

On November 21, 2015, The University of Bucharest hosted the annual Colloquium of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology (SRF), “Phenomenological Aesthetics after the Centenary: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Trends”, organized by Dr. Mădălina Diaconu (University of Vienna) and Dr. Christian Ferencz-Flatz (Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Bucharest). The 2015 Colloquium was held in memoriam prof. Walter Biemel (1918-2015), one of the spiritual patrons of the Romanian Society for Phenomenology.

The organizers proposed the topic of phenomenological aesthetics based on several considerations.

First, the aesthetic was a topic of reflection for several classics of the phenomenological tradition, from Moritz Geiger to Heidegger, Sartre, Dufrenne or Merleau-Ponty. Although the phenomenological approach to art continues to influence theoreticians and artists, and researchers continue to publish texts that present new perspectives on phenomenological aesthetics, as well as exegetic volumes dedicated to previous work in phenomenological aesthetics, one can say neither that the phenomenological approach occupies the main stage in the contemporary debates about the aesthetic, nor that the aesthetic is a favorite topic for a great number of phenomenologists.

Aware of this situation, the organizers of the Colloquium had a double aim: on the one side, to turn to account the phenomenological perspectives on the aesthetic, present in the work of the classics of the tradition, and, on the other side, to explore new perspectives offered by phenomenological reflection on the aesthetic and by the artists’ reflection, using phenomenological tools, on their own practice.

The scholars who responded to the organizers’ call touched upon these topics, in papers that aroused questions and long and productive discussions.

In the first presentation of the Colloquium, The Art of Making Oneself ‘Understood’. Communicating Experience through Artistic and Phenomenological Discourse, Alexandru Bejinariu (University of Bucharest) offered a novel reading of Erscheinungsdinge, as well as of other works by Günter Figal. The main question of the paper was in what sense one can say that the artwork transmits something and in what measure an investigation of art can elucidate fundamental phenomenological concepts.

This investigative line was continued by Remus Breazu (University of Bucharest). In Variation and the Artistic Object, after a review of Husserlian eidetic variation, its analogues in the history of philosophy, and the Bachelardian analysis of the poetic image, R. Breazu explored the way in which the poetic image is itself a specific form of variation and the prospects of this interpretative strategy for rethinking the workings of the poetic text.

In The Place of Subjectivity in Understanding the Work of Art: Heidegger vs. Schapiro, Ileana Borțun (Romanian Society for Phenomenology) offered a Heideggerian response to M. Schapiro’s critique of Heidegger’s interpretation of a painting by Van Gogh in his essay on the work of art, and, respectively, to Schapiro’s critique of the Heideggerian conception of art. Subsequently, I. Borțun explored, from a Heideggerian perspective, the possibility of thinking about the work of art without reference to the artist’s or the receiver’s subjectivity.

Bogdan Mincă (University of Bucharest), in Heidegger’s Reading of the Greek Arché as “Original Leap” (Ur-sprung) in the Essay The Origin of the Work of Art, offered a reading of Heidegger’s essay on the origin of the work of art in the context of the 1931-1932 courses, where Heidegger approached the problem of origin in a Greek context. According to B. Mincă, the essay’s title can be read as both objective genitive and subjective genitive – in the latter case, the work of art becomes itself an origin as Ur-sprung and offers new vistas for rethinking this concept.

Eveline Cioflec (Romanian Society for Phenomenology), in Aesthetic Valences of the Technical Reproduction of the Work of Art, offered a parallel reading of W. Benjamin’s essay on the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction and Heidegger’s text on the origin of the work of art. E. Cioflec explored the tension between the two radically different texts written in almost the same time, offering alternative possibilities for rethinking the work of art – as the “becoming and happening of the truth” or as something affected in its essence by the possibility of technical reproduction.

In Film in the Early Phenomenology, Christian Ferencz-Flatz (Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Bucharest) attempted a reconstruction, based on several passing references by the first-generation phenomenologists, of the implicit conception of film in early phenomenology. According to C. Ferencz-Flatz, it was tainted by the generalized prejudice against photographical reproduction and by a hostile attitude towards entertainment. The presentation ended with a reflection on phenomenology’s general tendency towards conservativism.

Alexandru Cosmescu (Academy of Sciences of Moldova) presented a paper on The Practice of Description in Phenomenology and Literature. Starting from the Alva Noe’s idea that art and philosophy are two species of the same genus – investigative reorganizational practices – A. Cosmescu explored how the similarity and difference between philosophy and literature are influenced by their usage of description as a discursive practice.

Mădălina Diaconu (University of Vienna), in For an Aesthetics of Atmospheric Conditions, explored the ways phenomenology can be used to account for the conditions in which meteorological phenomena can generate aesthetic experiences. The stakes of this project would include leaving behind the simplistic and cliché interpretations of atmospheric conditions (“blue-sky thinking”), raising awareness regarding climate change, as well as recovering, for phenomenology, the original, non-metaphoric signification of the atmosphere.

In Aisthesis as dialogue. An artist’s perspective on Bernhard Waldenfels’ responsive phenomenology, Teresa Leonhardmair (Musikschule Elijah, Sibiu) explored, from the perspective of an artist reflecting on her own practice, the significance of Bernhard Waldenfels’ work in an artistic context. The phenomenological thematization of the Alien, the lived body, the pathos, can fertilize as well as elucidate various experimental artistic projects – for example, the one T. Leonhardmair is currently preparing together with a team of disabled and non-disabled dancers.

The papers presented at the Colloquium brought together various topics and authors, important for phenomenological aesthetics, establishing a dialogue between phenomenology, other philosophical traditions, and artistic practice. The presentations have once again shown phenomenology’s prospects in interpreting aesthetic phenomena and have outlined new vistas for phenomenological explorations.