Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson, Eleanor Rosch: A mente corporeificada (2017, Edição Revisada)

The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Revised Edition) Book Cover The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (Revised Edition)
Francisco J. Varela, Evan Thompson and Eleanor Rosch. Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn
MIT Press
2017
Paperback $30.00
392

Reviewed by:  Adrian Spremberg (State University of Campinas-Brazil, Psychiatry Department/University of Heidelberg-Germany, Clinic for Psychosocial Medicine, Section Phenomenology)

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A envolvente obra de Varela et al. (1) que aqui será resenhada é um marco no pensamento interdisciplinar entre filosofia (principalmente fenomenologia) e as diversas ciências da cognição. O livro The Embodied Mind, ou ‘’A Mente Corporeificada’’ foi originalmente lançado pela ‘’MIT Press’’ em 1991, quando alcançou considerável interesse de leitores das mais diversas áreas do conhecimento. Desde ali, a obra se tornou leitura essencial a leigos e estudiosos da filosofia, ciências da cognição, antropologia, etc. Os autores desenvolvem, em seu livro, uma crítica tenaz ao modelo cognitivista ‘’representacionista’’ e computacional das ciências cognitivas, que se encontrava em voga na época e, em diversas instituições de pesquisa, ainda hoje. O argumento principal delineado pelos autores é o de que para que haja um modelo integrativo de ciência, é preciso considerar aspectos „em primeira pessoa”, ou experiencias, de maneira que estes também possam ser incluídos em estudos empíricos tais como desenvolvidos pelas ditas ciências naturais. Ou seja, cientistas, assim como biológos ou médicos, por exemplo, não devem apenas focar nos fatores biológicos e ‘concretos’ de suas respectivas investiagações, mas incorporar estes no ambiente em que se encontram, e na constante intrerrelação entre sujeito, corpo (organismo), e mundo. Para tanto, Varela et al. argumentam que a ciência cognitiva (e porquê não as restantes, também?), precisariam ser entendidas a partir de um movimento circular entre fenômenos e processos experienciais, aspectos biológicos (organismo como um todo) e ambiente (mundo).

Para os autores, a mente e seus processos não poderiam simplesmente serem entendidos como estando ‘’imbuídos’’ no cérebro e em seus processos neurofisiológicos. Não, o sujeito entende e vai de encontro com a realidade por meio de um corpo vivido também, um corpo ‘’experiencial’’. Para que tal fato possa ocorrer, é preciso que exista uma interação sistêmica bastante complexa entre mente, corpo, e mundo: uma regulação organísmica ‘’autopoiética’’ e autônoma, que confere significação ao sujeito em imediato contato com o mundo. Ou seja, processos cognitivos como ações, comportamentos, percepções, e outros, se dão em uma interação significativa e e-nativa entre sujeito e mundo. Portanto, o sujeito se auto-regula de maneira a significar o mundo e o contexto no qual se encontra. Em ‘’A mente corporeificada’’, os autores também acrescentam aos seus argumentos a necessidade de incluir, para que possa haver um entendimento ainda mais mais aprofundado e heurístico sobre a ciência da cognição como inseparável de sua base humana, alguns aspectos da filosofia oriental (budista). Os autores focam principalmente no conceito de ‘’mindfulness’’, que resumidamente corresponde a um estado de profundo autoconhecimento da consciência, no qual o sujeito alcança um estado de consicência ‘’pura’’ acerca de si e seus estados mentais.

Trata-se aqui, certamente, de uma obra brilhante, que deverá continuar rendendo novos frutos aos interessados em pesquisas interdisciplinares. É importante também ressaltar que o livro foi escrito, assim dizem seus autores, de maneira a não ‘’encaixar-se’’ em nenhuma disciplina do conhecimento em particular: ‘’A Mente Corporeificada’’, deverá ser tomado como uma obra a ser lida de fato interdisciplinarmente, e o leitor deve ter em mente que é exatamente isto que a destaca dentre tantas outras escritas na grande área das ciências cognitivas. Para os autores, é preciso entender a ciência cognitiva através de uma perspectiva mais abrangente, de acordo com a qual a expêriencia humana estaria constantemente relacionada a processos cognitivos (mentais e corporais). Para tal, o conhecimento humano deve concernir todos os sistemas cognitivos mentais intrínsecos e invariáveis que nos fazem humanos, a partir da junção de processos sensíveis (experienciais) com processos cognitivos e comportamentais, os quais se dão a partir da interação do corpo tanto físico, quanto “vivido” com o mundo. Assim sendo, esta resenha será dividida em duas partes: (1) primeiro, esboçarei brevemente, em sequência, alguns dos temas e argumentos apresentado pelos autores nesta obra. (2) por fim, abordarei alguns aspectos do novo prefácio que foi escrito especialmente para esta nova edição, expondo desta maneira alguns aspectos críticos com os quais os autores já não concordam mais, nos quais é possível perceber o quão substancialmente o próprio entendimento que dois dos autores (Evan Thompson e Eleanor Rosch) têm de que sua obra se modificou com o passar dos anos, e qual seria o impacto presente- e futuro desta para os pesquisadores e pensadores da ciência cognitiva e interdisciplinar. Após estas considerações, também apresentarei uma pequena observação questionadora de cunho pessoal, sobre a importância dos estudos interdisciplinares entre as ciências da cognição e a saúde mental, especificamente a psiquiatria e psicologia.

No primeiro capítulo da obra, Varela et al. apresentam o arcabouço teórico conceitual a partir do qual eles desenvolverão a crítica a modelos de ciência cognitiva baseadas em modelos computacionais e ‘’representacionistas’’. O principal autor da tradição fenomenológica com o qual os autores dialogam é Maurice Merleau Ponty (2), que, em grande parte de suas obras desenvolve uma fenomenologia da corporeidade e da percepção ancorada na ideia de que mente e corpo se encontram intrinsecamente relacionados, de maneira direta. Ou seja, o sujeito percebe e se engaja com a realidade por meio de uma intencionalidade direta que acontece tanto por meio de processos mentais, quanto também corporais. Para que esta dialética relacional e intencional possa ocorrer, certo processos corporais, como a ação, ocorrem de maneira situacional: por exemplo, o sujeito tem consciência de um copo de água e movimenta seu braço para pegá-lo e, por fim, tomar a água. Torna-se então possível dizer que o braço estendido faz parte de um campo significativo: a percepção do copo de água, em conjunto com a sede (desejo fisiológico), e ação, fizeram com que o sujeito percebesse e agisse no mundo de maneira significativa. A percepção ”corporal” que o sujeito teve com o mundo então não ocorreu somente por meio de um ato visual perceptivo, mas o próprio corpo também se engajou, ao mesmo tempo e naquele instante, em um processo significatório, que levou então o sujeito a uma ação. Portanto, a cognição humana não se encontra fundamentada em uma ontologia cartesiana que separa pensamento de corpo, mas em um sistema circular enativo: mente, organismo, e corpo se encontram intrinsecamente inter-relacionados.

Portanto, pode-se dizer que nesta obra, mundo (realidade) e sujeito são constituídos e se constituem por meio de uma constante atividade experiencial vivida: a cognição como um sistema se dá por meio de uma relação direta que o sujeito tem com o ambiente. Para tanto, processos mentais ocorrem, de fato, em ação conjunta com o corpo e o organismo ( sistema neurológico, por exemplo). Assim sendo, os processos cognitivos não devem ser entendidos como sendo puramente fisiológicos ou fundamentados na ideia de que processos mentais podem ser co-relacionados a processamentos computacionais, nos qual a informação perceptual, por exemplo, é recebido como ”input”, processada pelo cérebro, e então representada para o sujeito. Não, os processos são, de fato, enativos; ou seja, eles ocorre sempre tanto internamente (constituição do self autônomo), quanto externamente, por meio de ações emergentes que então ”regulam” e situam significado sobre objetos, outras pessoas, etc.

Um aspecto interessante que os autores sobre o qual os autores também discorrem é a questão relativa a ”Análise Experimentativa e Experiencial” (Experimentation and Experiential Analysis). Para Varela et al., o ‘experimentar’ é frequentemente relacionado à uma ciência paradigmática que se baseia em fundamentos e asserções empíricas clássicas. O budismo, por outro lado, pode ser entendido como uma ciência que investiga fenômenos (especialmente aqueles relativos a estudos em primeira pessoa), por meio de ”mindfulness”, ou um acesso experiencial à consciência e ao mundo subjetivo. Portanto, para os autores, os diversos processos cognitivos sempre se dão em conjunto com o mundo e a subjetividade:

”particularmente impressionante para nós é a convergência que nós descobrimos em meio a temas centrais da doutrina budista, fenomenologia e ciência da cognição-temas relacionados ao self e à relação entre sujeito e objeto”(3).

Os autores continuam analisando e criticando, nos subsequentes capítulos, o viés filosófico-científico cognitivista clássico. A ciência cognitiva dita clássica se iniciou com pesquisas feitas, principalmente, nas áreas da robótica e cibernética. Consequentemente, um dos argumentos fundamentais do cognitivismo clássico é que a inteligência, entre outros fundamentais processos cognitivos, poderia ser basicamente entendida como ocorrendo por meio de computações de representações.

Brooks (7), por exemplo, desenvolveu um primeiro importante passo utilizando sistemas cognitivos ‘’simples’’: ele desenvolveu robôs com sistemas funcionais capazes de ‘’entenderem’’, por meio de processos computacionais, certos aspectos relacionados ao mundo.Portanto, poderia-se dizer que os primeiros sistemas complexos auto-organizadores foram pensados a partir de estruturas que funcionavam, de fato, como um computador. Os robôs eram capazes de elaborarem comportamentos simples que condiziam com estímulos ambientas que eles recebiam. Estes simplesmente processavam informações que recebiam de seu ambiente, por meio de processamentos computacionais; desta maneira, eles já interagiam com o mundo, por meio de comportamentos simples de contato e comunicação, ‘’reconhecendo’’ portanto que tipo de comportamento simples produzir.

Os robôs de Brooks foram um primeiro importante passo rumo a uma ciência da cognição que incorporava processos ‘’mentais’’ e informacionais ao ambiente, que fornecia aos robôs a possibilidade de agir, por exemplo. A partir daí, alguns aurores começariam a explorar a ideia de que a cognição (humana) se dá à partir de um contato direto com o ambiente. Em vista disso, foram desenvolvidas novas perspectivas que tentariam ir além de componentes computacionais que pudessem dar ao sujeito as capacidades de entender e agir em seu ambiente.

Esta hipótese tradicional é obviamente incompleta, por motivos bastante claros: de que maneira estes inputs computacionais podem explicar aspectos referentes à subjetividade, consciência, e fenômenos relacionados? Ou seja, de que maneira um modelo computacional poderia instanciar, por assim dizer, aspectos fenomenais? Para uma grande variedade de pesquisadores em ciência da cognição clássica (4), é preciso que o sujeito represente o mundo, de certa maneira, em sua ‘’mente’’ (no cérebro), por meios de processos ligados à funcionamentos neurofisológicos, para que seja então possível significá-lo. Assim sendo, o sujeito encontra-se assim ‘’conectado’’ com a sua realidade por meio de processos mecanicistas, fundamentado em uma ontologia ainda cartesiana e materialista: mente, corpo e mundo não interagem, realmente, entre si. A representação da realidade é dada ao sujeito por meio de intermediações processuais computacionais: o sujeito tem certas sensações físicas, por exemplo, que são processadas pelo cérebro, que então constrói uma representação interna relacionada à sensação, percepção, ou qualquer outro processo, seja este mental ou corporal, por assim dizer.

Se houver então consciência, ainda assim, esta seria instanciada pelo cérebro, por meio de processos puramente neurofisiológicos, e a experiência seria apenas um epifenômeno. Para os cognitivistas tradicionais, para que tanto processos mentais como corporais possam acontecer, é necessário que o cérebro do sujeito tenha alguma ‘’capacidade’’ de conceber o mundo por meio de processos neuronal-representacionistas que o levem a inter-agir com o ambiente. De que maneira seria então possível correlacionar estados intencionais (experienciais) com processos neurofisiológicos que poderiam levar a alguma ação ou percepção?

Porém, Varela et al., durante todo o percurso de ‘’A Mente Corporeificada’’, nos lembram que é de suma importância concebermos que a cognição se faz por meio de uma relação intencional, tanto experiencial quanto organísmica, que o sujeito entretém com o mundo. O próprio organismo intra-celular mantém uma variedade de processos, uma regulação contínua que leva o sujeito a agir, sentir, pensar, etc. Portanto, tanto processos mentais quanto corporais ocorrem, intrinsecamente, por meio da tríade entre sujeito-corpo/organismo-mundo.
Sendo assim, para os autores, a cognição se dá em contato direto com o mundo por nós experiencialmente e corporalmente articulado.

Entre outros autores importantes que destacam o papel da relação primordial entre a percepção visual e a articulação com processos regulatórios sensos motores são O’Regan e Noë (6), por exemplo. Para os autores, a articulação intencional e consciente entre sujeito e mundo não ocorre somente por meio da percepção visual, mas também por meio de certos posicionamentos e ações corporais pelos quais este percorre e ”explora” seu ambiente. Consequentemente, o corpo (tanto físico quanto vivido) é, de fato, componente intrínseco desta autorregulação organísmica que dá ao sujeito alguma experiência sobre si- mesmo, significando também o mundo através do dispositivo ”sense-making” (trad. livre: processo significativo), como diz Thompson (5). O processo de Sense-making se refere a capacidade que o sistema autorregulatório tem de, por meio dos mais variados processos cognitivos e mentais, significar o mundo para o sujeito. O sujeito dá sentido ao seu mundo por meio de ações e percepções incorporadas; que se tornam implícitas a partir do momento no qual o sistema enativo se relaciona com o mundo e o contexto em que este se encontra. Ou seja, o sujeito encontra-se sempre situado cognitivo-corporalmente em um certo contexto vivido, que pode então ser significado experiencialmente.

O self, para os autores, deve aqui ser entendido como uma estrutura móvel e experiencialmente acessível ao sujeito; não por meio de ”introspecção”, como diriam autores que, novamente, reduziriam alguma capacidade de uma possível sensação sobre ”si mesmo” a estados puramente mentais e internos. O self se dá, ele ”acontece” durante a interação que o sujeito tem com o seu mundo, tanto por intermédio de processos mentais como percepções, o imaginário, etc., tanto como processos corporais e fisiológicos como ações, movimentos corporais, entre outros. Varela et al. (3) fazem, neste ponto do livro, uma interessante relação com algumas tradições budistas que tomam o self como estrutura que não é permeada por experiencial alguma ‘’sobre si’’. O termo para este estado, em inglês, é chamado de selflessness. Ou seja, a mente estaria esvaziada de qualquer conteúdo experiencial, estado afetivo, etc. Portanto, o self deverá, penso, ser entendido de fato como um ”algo” maleável e em constante transformação, e não como estrutura fixamente localizável no cérebro, por exemplo.

Aqui, os autores de ”A mente corporeificada” continuam desenvolvendo um framework holístico em relação a uma ciência cognitiva que leva em conta os diversos fatores experienciais que também engendram a visão enativista que é proposta na obra. Sendo assim, o self é também composto por uma variedade de fatores ”disposicionais” que constituem a maneira pela qual o sujeito entende seu mundo: a cognição, por exemplo, ocorre aqui em um processo auto-regulatório e ”significador”, é necessário que o self também seja entendido como uma unidade intimamente pertencente ao organismo, sendo constituída por afeto, percepção, corporeidade, impulso, etc. Ou seja, o self não é uma estrutura mental, por assim dizer, mas um processo relacional com o mundo e outros que também inclui, em diferentes níveis de funcionamento, disposições e atividades cognitivas, mentais, biológicas, etc.

Evan Thompson e Eleanor Rosh, em seu novo prefácio escrito especialmente para esta edição revisada, fazem uma série de críticas conceituais com as quais eles dizem não estarem mais satisfeitos, anos após a publicação da primeira edição (1). Isto se dá, também, a meu ver, com os avanços técnico-empiricos das ciências médicas. A psiquiatria contemporânea, por exemplo, conta com instrumentos diagnósticos que têm o poder de localizar mudanças neurofisiológicas mínimas, recorrentes em alguma localização bastante específica do cérebro. Portanto, a neuroimagem certamente se tornou ”parceira” indispensável para pesquisadores na área de neuropsiquiatria. Ainda assim, imagino que Varela et al. nos mantêm constantemente em alerta sobre a importância da pesquisa ”naturalista-biológica” ser feita em conjunto com as ciências humanas. Por conseguinte, enquanto a medicina avança com importantes achadas neurobiológicos, a subjetividade e o significado da existência humana precisarão também ter o seu espaço em uma interação de fatores que muitas vezes é mais complexa do que aquela que uma visão puramente naturalista nos dá.

Esta nova edição da obra de Varela et al. (3) proporciona ao leitor uma perspectiva ampla e bastante inovadora em sua proposta de esmiuçar uma ciência cognitiva que integra uma grande diversidade de outras concepções e visões de mundo tanto científicas (de cunho empírico e teórico) quanto práticas. Por exemplo, se inserido (o que já têm sido feito por alguns) no contexto das ciências da saúde, mais especificamente mental, que vantagens a proposta enativista poderia vir a trazer à psicopatologia, às diversas abordagens psicoterápicas, etc.? Quais seriam as vantagens que esta proposta poderia vir a trazer nas atuais e relevantes discussões interdisciplinares entre as ciências humanas, médicas e biológicas? A leitura desta obra, assim espero, abrirá horizontes de expansão intelectual para seus leitores, que certamente se enriquecerão com uma proposta tão atual e heurística acerca de tudo que nos faz humanos. Vejo como absolutamente necessário que os pesquisadores, estejam estes desenvolvendo os seus trabalhos nas mais diversas áreas do conhecimento, partam do princípio de que é sim necessário pensar e praticar ‘’além’’ da própria disciplina, indo assim ao encontro do que é feito e pensado em outras áreas. É claro que não será nunca possível dedicar-se unicamente ao estudo de uma grande diversidade de autores, áreas do conhecimento, etc. Mas as colaborações interdisciplinares se fazem importantes, já que é desta maneira que pesquisadores poderão construir ”pontes de conhecimento”. Varela et al. certamente se empenharam neste quesito, mostrando o quão frutífera a pesquisa multidisciplinar pode ser.

Por fim, ainda vale expor um breve parágrafo sobre as introduções reescritas por Evan Thompson e Eleanor Rosch ainda se faz necessário. Os autores retomam alguns aspectos do momento em que a obra foi originalmente publicada, acessando criticamente alguns dos pontos temáticos que, com o passar dos anos, se modificaram com relação aos pontos de vista e argumentos da maneira pela qual estes foram inicialmente apresentados. Infelizmente não será possível aqui analisar todos os pontos apresentados pelos autores, mas vale a pensa considerar, por exemplo, a importância que todo o framework enativo desfruta, hoje em dia. A filosofia ”incorporeificada” se tornou aliada importante das ciências naturais, configurando assim novas bases empírico-teóricas para a apreciação dos mais diversos fenômenos subjetivos, cognitivos e inter-relacionais humanos. Já existem, além da perspectiva enativista, outras versões dos chamados ”e-approaches” à mente, que cada vez mais se estabelecem como contraponto às divisões demasiado dualistas das ciências, em geral.

Porém, é óbvio que entre estas perspectivas também há divergências teóricas bastante significativas: algumas ainda se apoiam em uma ontologia dualista, outros propõem modelos internalistas ou externalistas no que diz respeito a eventos e conteúdos mentais e perceptuais, etc. De qualquer maneira, a fenomenologia atual também se encontra muito mais avançada em sua investigação rigorosa das estruturas experienciais, desta maneira se destacando como importante aliada, principalmente, do movimento enativista. Para Rosch, e eu apoio completamente esta linha de argumentação crítica, a grande pergunta, de agora em diante, seria*, dentre muitas outras: o que mais temos a aprender, no que diz respeito as ciências naturais e ao método investigativo da primeira pessoa, ou subjetivo?

O enativismo, como proposta filosófico-empírica de investigação das estruturas processuais cognitivas e experienciais deverá, a meu ver, tentar adequar-se a entendimentos científicos materialistas e/ou reducionistas, para que seja possível encontrar assim caminhos investigativos que possam ser feitos em parceria. Certamente será muito importante que os pesquisadores se mantenham atentos a estes questionamentos, para que não haja exageros de ambos os lados: a ciência natural precisa cuidar para que ela não se aprisione em enquadramentos demasiado reducionistas, e o enativismo, com a sua investigação de sistemas autônomos experienciais e cognitivos complexos, deve manter-se aberto para a eventual e cuidadosa integração de aspectos que vão além de seu escopo investigativo.

Literatura:

Brooks, R. (2002). Flesh and Machine: How Robots Will Change Us. New York: Pantheon.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). The Phenomenology of Perception. London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

O’Regan, J. K., Noë, A. (2001a). A sensorimotor account of visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 939 –973. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X010007.

Thagard, P., “Cognitive Science”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL .

Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology and the Sciences of Mind (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. MIT Press.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience (6th ed.). Cambridge, MA.

Varela, F. J., Thompson, E., Rosch, E. (2017). The Embodied Mind: Cognitive Science and Human Experience. Cambridge, MA.

 

Carl B. Sachs: Intentionality and the Myths of the Given: Between Pragmatism and Phenomenology

Intentionality and the Myths of the Given: Between Pragmatism and Phenomenology Book Cover Intentionality and the Myths of the Given: Between Pragmatism and Phenomenology
Routledge Studies in American Philosophy
Carl B. Sachs
Taylor & Francis
2015
Paperback £25.59
208

Reviewed by: Eric Chelstrom (St. Mary's University)

 

Carl Sachs identifies himself a Kantian naturalist (2). What he means by this is that he accepts as plausible the transcendental standpoint and that its task is one of cognitive semantics, identifying the minimally necessary conditions for an utterance to be expressive of a thought. He identifies as a naturalist in the sense that he aims to provide an account of intentionality that is fully naturalizable. He argues that transcendental naturalism is the view that “transcendentally-specified roles must have empirically-specifiable role-players” (9). Sachs frames his book not only around the Myths of the Given, but around the question of how to account for original intentionality as opposed to derived intentionality. In laying out his solution, he favors a two-fold sense of original intentionality, what he calls bifurcated intentionality. He argues “both discursive and somatic intentionality must be considered as equally original…because discursive intentionality and somatic intentionality are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for judgments with empirical content” (8). This is endorsed in order, Sachs argues, to answer the naturalists challenge. It is a cornerstone of Sachs’s attempt to realize John Haugeland’s claim that there is a position between neo-behaviorists (Quine, Dennett) and neo-pragmatists (Sellars, Brandom). In contrast with Haugeland, Sachs approaches his challenge by relying heavily on the work of Merleau-Ponty. This, he believes, enables him an opportunity to construe one form of original intentionality as both non-social and non-linguistic, namely somatic intentionality: the intentionality of the body in its lived engagements and comportments.

Sachs makes a reasonable case that Wilfrid Sellars’s Myth of the Given has traditionally been too narrowly interpreted in terms of its scope. He argues that the problem is not just with an empirical given, but rather whatever sort of thing one treats a given. What’s more, Sachs argues that to understand Sellars’s criticisms of C.I. Lewis, one needs to appreciate that the given in question is not an epistemic given, but a cognitive-semantic given. To clarify, “the epistemic given has both epistemic efficacy (it plays a justificatory role in our inferences) and epistemic independence (it does not depend on any other justified assertions). The semantic given is both efficacious and independent with regard to cognitive semantics” (22). The Myth of the semantic Given is “the thesis that cognitive significance, objective purport, requires something with a semantic status, or a kind of meaning, independent of and yet bearing on the meaning of objectively valid judgments” (29). Sachs’ view of these two Givens is that his account of bifurcated intentionality opens room for non-conceptual content that does not violate the Myth of the semantic Given. Sachs believes a benefit of his account is that it preserves “transcendental friction,” which is “that it must be possible, by reflecting on our most basic conceptual and perceptual capacities and incapacities, to guarantee that we are in cognitive contact with the world we discover and do not create” (13).

Chapter one provides a lot of the groundwork for the book. This includes defining terms like non-conceptual content and transcendental friction. By the former, Sachs means “personal-level representational cognitive-semantic content that does not conform to the Generality Constraint [that a subject cannot conceive of a is F if she cannot also entertain the thought that a is G and that b is F]” (12). The latter is the requirement that “it must be possible, by reflecting on our most basic conceptual and perceptual capacities and incapacities, to guarantee that we are in cognitive contact with a world we discover and do not create” (13). The first two chapters are basically dedicated to explicating and defending a view of C.I. Lewis’s thought. It is done to establish a basis for the thesis of bifurcation. One might contend that Sachs is establishing a neo-Lewisian view. Indeed, the entire setup seems to leave one the impression that Lewis was very close to the truth, but lacked a sufficient understanding of somatic intentionality to make his semantic foundationalism work. In particular, Sachs argues at the close of chapter two, that one of Lewis’s critical errors was to adopt an Augustinian conception of language.

Chapter three is broken into three subsections. The first section outlines the dispute between Roy Wood Sellars and C.I. Lewis, specifically between the former’s physical realism and the latter’s conceptualistic pragmatism. The middle section establishes how this contextual backdrop informs Wilfred Sellars’s formulation of the Myth of the Given and his criticisms of Lewis. The final section establishes the place of non-conceptual content in lieu of the arguments presented by the younger Sellars. This chapter should be of immense historical value to the history of analytic philosophy. In terms of phenomenology, I believe that there is substantial potential for further engagement. The first section in particular has much in common with disputes between Husserl and Heidegger. This is in no way to assert that the disagreements or their terms are the same, only that there are sufficient parallels to warrant further comparison. The middle section might provoke an interest in drawing Mikel Dufrenne’s work on the a priori into dialogue with the analytic literature on the synthetic-analytic distinction in fruitful ways. As for the final section of the chapter, its concern for transcendental structures bears clear interest to the phenomenologist, even if the latter is not generally concerned for the causal role of said structures. That said, the way Sachs frames the chapter could be helpful for phenomenologists in thinking about how their work relates to work in other fields. That said, there is one clear complaint that anyone with a phenomenological background would raise. At the end of the chapter, Sachs quotes Sellars’s remarking: It is by the introduction of visual sensations that we transcend phenomenology or conceptual analysis. They are not yielded by phenomenological reduction but postulated by a proto-(scientific)-theory” (Sellars in Sachs, 69). Puzzlingingly, no relation of this passage to phenomenology is ever provided. Given the care in which Sachs works through the analytic literature, this is very surprising. This idea only returns directly in the Appendix. In either case, no mention is made of Sellars’s relationship to Marvin Farber or that Sellars is clearly claiming to have bettered both Husserlian phenomenology (Husserl, Farber) and conceptual analysis (Ryle, Lewis) on the question of non-conceptual content. It is disappointing that this comes at the end of the chapter without discussion or more critical attention.

Chapter four outlines the Brandom-McDowell dispute, and their shared rejection of non-conceptual content. It ends with a discussion of Dreyfus’s and McDowell’s exchanges. All of this seems to serve the purpose of establishing that non-conceptual content is rightly dismissed where one begins from discursive intentionality as paradigmatic. However, it is not clear that discursive intentionality is the (sole) original form of intentionality. Hence Sachs’s advocacy in the fifth chapter for Merleau-Ponty’s emphasis on somatic intentionality as a co-original form of intentionality.

This all leaves open a position that might challenge Sachs. One might argue that somatic intentionality is original and that discursive or linguistic intentionality is secondary. This challenge does get a response at the end of chapter six, when Sachs offers his reasons for rejecting this sort of position in the work of Dreyfus and Todes. I’m not convinced that this possibility is so easily rejected, as it seems to hang on the requirement that defining intentionality in terms of language and not vice versa is true. While the latter is at odds with the Sellarsian approach, one might want more careful reasons for rejecting that alternative. Alternatively, why not think that something like somatic intentionality – or a system of affectations that might grow more and more sophisticated – is more basic? This certainly would make more sense of the evolutionary continuity one finds across species, and would help make sense of human development as well.

Chapter five brings Merleau-Ponty into the discussion. Merleau-Ponty’s criticism of intellectualism and empiricism are used by Sachs to ground the necessity that somatic or motor intentionality is distinctive from discursive intentionality. For Sachs, discursive intentionality consists of both directedness and aboutness, especially since he couches it in terms of Sellars’s community of language users, i.e. the deontic scorekeepers. Somatic intentionality, on the other hand, lacks aboutness but consists of directedness. It is also non-apperceptive. Sachs presses the distinction between the “I think” and “I can” in accentuating this difference. Discursive intentionality is associated with intellectual activity and judgments; somatic intentionality with the habitual deployment or execution of embodied postures or gestures. Habits are understood as quasi- or proto-normative. With regard to somatic intentionality, Sachs argues that the Myth of the Given – in either epistemic or semantic form – is avoided only insofar as one appreciates a distinction between pre-personal and sub-personal senses of non-conceptual content. If one locates non-conceptual content at a sub-personal level, then, he argues it cannot take on an intentional structure. That point is not consistent with Merleau-Ponty’s broad application of intentionality to the natural world (Merleau-Ponty 2003; see also Hamrick 2011). However, Sachs believes that conceiving of non-conceptual content in pre-personal terms avoid this problem.

Sachs makes a surprising, if subtle, error in his discussion of Merleau-Ponty (107-108). He correctly indicates that motor intentionality is directedness without aboutness. A dog might be directed towards the object of play, even if it might not experience play as something about which it participates. However, he misapprehends what is meant by Merleau-Ponty identifying it as non-apperceptive. Apperceptive contents in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty – unfortunately ambiguously used by both – refer to the adumbrated profiles associated with the object of experience, or to the pre-reflective mineness of experience. That is apperception refers to the unity of the experience of this or that both in relation to the “object” and to the “subject.” Motor intentions aren’t necessarily constituted through profiles. Nor are they the sorts of things that one generally recognizes their self to be enacting or embodying in an explicit, voluntaristic manner. The later part Sachs gets right, though his interpretation is perhaps a little intellectualist, thinking this is about a reflective “I think.” It’s more a comment for Merleau-Ponty about the absence of the pre-reflective sense of an “I” in the experience of these intentional states. For example, one affects a posture, but one is neither aware of one’s affecting one’s posture nor is one’s affectation of a posture something that’s adumbrated. There are no posture-profiles intended in absence of the intentional affectation of the posture itself. By denying that there are profiles, absences co-constituting internal horizons of the intention, one does not deny that motor horizons have temporal dimensions that involve action-possibilities.

Chapter 6 pulls all of the parts together firmly and offers closing arguments. Interestingly, Sachs believes that it is worthwhile retaining Sellars’s non-relational conception of discursive intentionality over Merleau-Ponty’s relational conception, though he concedes that somatic intentionality is by its nature relational (136). Sachs offers a succinct three thesis summary of what he’s arguing for, which is helpful for his pointing out how he resolves both the Sellars-McDowell and the McDowell-Dreyfus debates. They are:
(a) discursive intentionality is non-world tracking;
(b) perceptual episodes have somatic intentional content (phenomenologically considered);
(c) perceptual episodes have world-tracking representational content (naturalistically considered) (138).
Sachs insists upon preserving (a) on the basis that rejecting (a) “leads one right back to all the problems of ‘intentional inexistence,’ realism about universals, and so on” (ibid). I’m not sure why that would have to follow, though Sachs seems to treat language games as abiding by their own internal rule-systems without necessary reference to the world. The deontic scorekeepers track whether one’s usage is correct, not whether one’s claims track true. Sachs understands our embodied coping skills in terms of “sheer receptivity” (ibid). It should be warned that Sachs does not equate receptivity with passivity (139). Rather it is a spontaneous non-conceptual, non-inferential state of affairs. Phenomenology’s role in this line of reasoning is to dislodge the assumption that “rational conceptuality is the paradigm of intentional activity” (139). Rejecting the view attributed to Dreyfus and Todes that somatic intentionality grounds discursive intentionality, Sachs does accept that the former constrains the latter. By this he understands that “the normativity of bodily habits constrains (but does not determine) the normativity of social norms” (139). More formally, somatic intentionality is necessary, but not sufficient for discursive intentionality. As noted above, one is wont perhaps for a more complete set of reasons why one should reject the thesis of somatic-intentionality’s grounding discursive intentionality. Sachs is skeptical in no small measure because, he argues, were somatic intentionality necessary and sufficient for discursive intentionality, one would succumb to the Myth of the Given again. I’m not sure why that would have to be the case, even if I accept the reasons he offers. In other words, I don’t see why one can’t agree that the relationship is as Sachs states – that somatic intentionality is necessary but not sufficient for discursive intentionality – and not still prioritize somatic intentionality as more basic. Granted, that might require going with Merleau-Ponty in denying (a) and affirming a relational account of language.

The book closes with an Appendix, addressing the question as to whether or not phenomenology commits itself to the Myth of the Given. In brief, Sachs’s argument is that Merleau-Ponty successfully avoids the Myth in either form, but that the early Husserl commits to the Myth. Specifically, Husserl commits to the Myth through the correlation of noesis and noema. Says Sachs, “Correlationism is Mythic dues to its foundational role within the total system as the presuppositionless condition of possibility of cognitive experience, just because our awareness of the correlation is achieved when all presuppositions are suspended, i.e. when the phenomenological reduction is complete” (161). Sachs believes this fits Sellars’s metaphor of the “seal on melted wax.” I’m not sure how this is supposed to be, as it strikes me as a misunderstanding of Husserlian phenomenology. That we discover noetic-noematic correlation while maintaining the phenomenological reduction is not a problem in this manner. Sachs forgets that the reduction effects the suspension of the natural attitude. That is, our everyday comportments in the world are focused on the objects themselves as given. The reduction enables us to step back from that naïve standpoint in order to identify and explicate the subjective roles played in consciousness in experience. A shift of attentional focus is a necessary condition for discovery of the workings of consciousness. Nor does presuppositionless mean suspension of contents, only suspensions of interests and judgments. I suspend my affirmations and negations, specifically my existential commitments. Husserl never asserts that “the categorial structure of the world imposes itself on the mind as a seal on melted wax” (Sellars in Sachs, 161). What Husserl does argue is that the categorial structure of consciousness arises in relation to the experienced contents of lived experience. What’s discovered is that our epistemic and semantic starting points involve an exchange or relation between the subject and the world – which is precisely the thing Sachs praises Merleau-Ponty for discovering. I can appreciate that if one interprets Husserl’s reduction as violating the demand for transcendental friction, that one might argue that he is committed to the Myth. However, Husserl is careful to articulate how the content of consciousness involves the relationship between the subject and her world. That relationship grounds his consistent concern for evidentiary fulfillment. There could be no concern for fulfillment unless it were possible that both that the subject be mistaken – either noetically or noematically – and that evidences be possible. Husserl’s neither granting justificatory nor semantic roles to the given. One might think that noema can stand in isolation and that this is precisely what the reduction realizes or reveals. However, that cannot be the case, because Husserl is clear that noema emerge from out of a horizonal network, i.e. meanings are the results of interactive relations between categorial elements (see Logical Investigation VI) and the subject’s comportment within and towards the world. Unfortunately, it may be the case the Sachs is inheriting mistaken attributions about Husserl’s philosophy from Sellars, who received those mistakes from Marvin Farber (1943).

A quibble with Sachs’s book might be raised about the book’s approach on the whole is how quickly Sachs is to brush over applying categories associated with historical figures. For example, much of the book involves consistent usage of Kantian v. Hegelian labels to distinguish different positions or thinkers in their disputes. Given that these labels aren’t always defined, and that they represent potentially niche interpretations of those labels, one wonders if they might not obscure things at times. For example, in one of the early chapters, Sachs associates Kantianism with Lewis White Beck’s translation. While that was an influential translation of Kant’s Critique, it is now generally regarded as excessively Humean in its interpretive approach. More recent Kant scholarship is far less enamored of the Beck paradigm that Kant was directly responding to Hume. Rather, Kant is far more grounded in the development of the Leibniz-Wolff tradition, and in responding to Baumgarten’s work. This isn’t to say that Kant is not influenced by empiricism as well, just to note that Hume’s role in spurring Kant’s philosophical development is much less important than Beck and cohort asserted. What’s more, the term Hegelian has different meanings in different circles as well. Within British Idealism it meant one thing, and variants from that school of thought inform the American Hegelian lines. But this is not obviously the same Hegel that one finds in Marx or the German tradition. None of this is Sachs’s doing, historical chains of influence are intrinsically complex. But the plurality of these interpretive lineages do raise questions about the efficacy of using the labels so freely.

A more substantive question I have is whether or not Edmund Husserl’s account of the genetic origins of judgment in Experience and Judgment poses a challenge to Sachs’s approach. Not only does Husserl offering a rather robust account of how judgments – discursive intentionality – arise from out of non-discursive origins; but it is well known that Merleau-Ponty was familiar with most of Husserl’s later works – as Sachs acknowledges in The Appendix. As such, there is a possibility that Merleau-Ponty has an intrinsic objection to how Sachs is approaching bifurcated intentionality. This is in no way an argument here, only to raise the consideration – as such scholarship is beyond the scope of this review.

On the whole Sachs’s Intentionality and the Myths of the Given is a worthwhile text. It provides careful and precise elucidations of Sellars’s Myth. It deepens the historical context and understanding of important debates in contemporary philosophy, especially analytic philosophy – for which Sachs’s contribution might be invaluable. And it joins a growing chorus of works that bring phenomenological philosophers into prominent dialogue with more widely read philosophers. The book’s aim to outline an approach to intentionality without succumbing to the Myths of the Given and to preserve transcendental friction both succeed. While the book is often very technical and dense in the usage of terminology that would be potentially prohibitive for a broader audience, I believe it merits recommendation for those working on issues relating to the nature of intentionality or the Myth(s) of the Given.

Works Cited
Dufrenne, Mikel. 1966. The Notion of the A Priori. Edward S. Casey, trans. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Farber, Marvin. 1943. The Foundation of Phenomenology. Albany: SUNY Press.
Hamrick, William. 2011. Nature and Logos: A Whiteheadian Key to Merleau-Ponty’s Fundamental Thought. Albany: SUNY Press.
Husserl, Edmund. 1970. Logical Investigations. J.N. Findlay, trans. London: Routledge. Husserliana (Hua) XIX/1 and XIX/2: Logische Untersuchungen. Untersuchungen zur Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis, Zwei Bänden, ed. Ursula Panzer. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984.
Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2003. Nature: Course Notes from the College de France. Robert Vallier, trans. Evanston: Northwestern University Press.
Sachs, Carl. 2014. Intentionality and the Myths of the Given. New York: Routledge.

Chad Engelland: Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind

Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind Book Cover Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind
Chad Engelland
MIT Press
2014
Hardcover $42.00
336

Reviewed by: María Jimena Clavel Vázquez (St. Andrews/Stirling Philosophy Graduate Programme)

How do children come to learn their first words? One key term in answering this question is ostension: lacking linguistic resources, language speakers recur to ostensive acts or movements –such as gestures and pointing– to teach someone the name of an object. This is the phenomenon that concerns Chad Engelland in his book Ostension: Word Learning and the Embodied Mind. For Engelland, the question regarding first-word acquisition involves several other matters: how are the intentions of the language speaker available for the infant? (i.e. the phenomenological problem); if intentions are available through animate movement, what is the concept of the mind that allows such availability? (i.e. the intersubjective problem); how can infants understand an ambiguous movement such as an ostensive act? (i.e. the epistemological problem); and, finally, what is the place of animate movement in nature and its relationship with language? (i.e. the metaphysical problem).

Engelland focuses on the phenomenological question, a matter he takes to be prior to other issues. For him, phenomenology is necessary to make sense of ostension because it is a matter of availability. He claims that the question of ostension “asks how the intentionality of the other is intersubjectively available in a prelinguistic way (…) ostension concerns how specific items in the public world can be mutually manifest as the target of joint attention” (xxvii). Only when we have an adequate grasp of the phenomenon we can answer the epistemological question and advance into the metaphysical problems of the nature of the mind, and language. According to Engelland, phenomenology is an adequate method to tackle the problem of first-word acquisition because it is concerned with making explicit the way something is manifested in our everyday experience. Phenomenology grasps the interplay between presence and absence, manifestation and hiddenness, an interplay that lies at the heart of Engelland’s account of ostension. Ostension is, for him, the prelinguistic means by which infants enter the public game of language, a character that necessitates a phenomenological account.

This understanding of phenomenology allows Engelland to engage with philosophers within the phenomenological tradition such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hans Georg Gadamer, and Robert Sokolowski, but it also allows him to read Wittgenstein, Aristotle and Augustine on this basis. Besides recurring to historical figures, he engages with contemporary thinkers, within both philosophy and psychology, such as W.V.O. Quine, Donald Davidson, Paul Bloom, and Michael Tomasello. The dialogue with philosophers that belong to different traditions and times is part of Engelland’s strategy. Philosophy is, for him, a conversation that inevitably ends up facing questions regarding human nature. In that respect, he claims that: “The restlessness of conversation, its incessant movement back and forth, is rooted in the natural aims of human like. To reflect on language in terms of conversation is to reflect on those who desire to converse with one another, with those who wish to share a life with one another. The turn to conversation necessarily involves the question concerning human nature” (216).

Part I. Contemporary Resources

Engelland begins this philosophical dialogue conversing with contemporary thinkers and scientists. In the first chapter, he starts by looking into the theory of language acquisition of Quine and Davidson. Quine gave a central role to behaviour in his explanation of language learning. He takes behaviour to be intrinsically ambiguous, an ambiguity that can only be (partially) remedied through repetition. However, Engelland considers that Quine’s external account of behaviour results in an artificial reconstruction of ostension and fails to see that, in an ostensive act, an item of the world is jointly disclosed but from different embodied perspectives: “[o]stension makes something jointly present to each, and presence involves people for whom it is present, people who together experience the world but from different points of view. In this way, there is an ineluctably ‘inward’ dimension to ostension, and there is more to behaviour than the behaviorist can see” (5).

Donald Davidson follows Quine in his account of ostension, but he emphasizes an important relational feature of the phenomenon. Language learning is the result of triangulation, that is, of the interaction between two agents, and other items in the world. The language learner associates the intention underlying the behaviour of the other agent with changes occurring in their surroundings.

Quine and Davidson are clear in that ostension is the prelinguistic means that allows first word acquisition. But, as mentioned earlier, for Engelland, ostension can only be properly unpacked phenomenologically. Phenomenology can answer “how the intentions of others are on display” in our actions (11). The movement Engelland is concerned with is not mere behavior, rather he is interested in intentional actions, actions in which one’s affective engagement is advertised. Even perception is among this kind of actions: it is not a passive process. He follows Ava Noë and Kevin O’Regan in their enactive account of perception, according to which perception is an embodied activity. Perception advertises intentionality and affectivity just like any other action; and just like any other action, perception takes place in the world and not just in our heads. Engelland also draws on the enactivist movement to account for the intersubjectivity that is constitutive of experience. Finally, Engelland draws on Gadamer’s concept of “play”, a concept that bring action and manifestation together. Play involves turn-taking and mirrored actions; players are interacting between each other, they are presenting their actions to themselves, to other players, and to spectators; it displays actions that are directed to the world and which are structured with a distinction between means and ends. This will turn out to be important features of ostensive actions.

In the second chapter, Engelland turns to scientific accounts of first-word acquisition, a matter he qualifies to be “a burning issue” in contemporary psychology. He draws mainly, on the one hand, on the work of Paul Bloom, who recovers an Augustinian proposal of language learning; and on the other, on the work of Michael Tomasello, who offers, in turn, a Wittgensteinian account. The psychological studies recovered by Engelland show that infants do not learn new words unless both the language speaker and the named item are present. For language learning, presence and intersubjective interaction is crucial. Ostension presupposes what Colwyn Trevarten identifies as the first and second stages of intersubjective development: (1) first, an understanding of others as “fellow animate beings” to whom a newborn child pays attention and with whom she interacts by imitating and by taking turns in their interactions; (2) second, an understanding of others as “intentional agents” with whom an infant engages in joint situations. It is not only that the infant can understand gestures and follow gazes, she recognizes “that these actions have reciprocal possibilities” (28). To explain the phenomenon of mirroring, Engelland recurs to the mechanism of mirror neurons, which fire when seeing the actions of another agent.

At the end of this chapter, Engelland reaches the following definition of ostension: it is “[a]n unintentionally communicative bodily movement, arising from a pattern of meaningful human action, that makes an item in the world jointly present and affords the opportunity for an eavesdropper to identify a certain kind of item in the world and/or to learn the articulate sound used to present the identified item” (36). It differs from ostensive definition in that (a) it does not necessarily have communicative intentions; and (b) it arises from a meaningful pattern of action.

Part II. Historical Resources

The historical conversation held throughout the second part of this book sets the stage for the final philosophical discussion. Although Engelland chooses four thinkers that come from different backgrounds and contexts, the way he guides the discussion enables a productive intertwining that enlightens the problem of ostension. While Augustine, Wittgenstein, and Merleau-Ponty explicitly deal with the problem of language acquisition, Aristotle does not. This is one of the virtues of the text. Engelland shows that Aristotle has the conceptual resources to deal with the issue of world learning; furthermore, Aristotelian philosophy allows the clarification of problems that arise within the other views, such as the nature of movement, and of animal life.

In the third chapter, Engelland starts this historical journey analysing Wittgenstein’s position which he reads in a phenomenological manner: the task of philosophy is not to raise scepticism, but to clarify the phenomena that appear in our everyday experience. Wittgenstein develops his account in opposition to Augustine’s. Firstly, he regards Augustine’s theory to apply only to naming; secondly, he takes it not to involve ostension, but ostensive definition which supposes the infant to have some kind of mental language; finally, he emphasizes the ambiguity of ostension as a central aspect of ostension, one that Wittgenstein considers to be missing in Augustine’s account.

Engelland argues that these objections are due to a misconstruction of Augustine’s position which, without realizing, is a lot closer to Wittgenstein’s own account in the following aspects: (1) firstly, ostensive acts (i.e. gestures) enable infants “to follow intentional cues and, when coupled with training, find their way into a language game” (52); (2) secondly, there are some human voluntary movements that are universal and which reveal our intentions; (3) gestures reveal the consciousness of another, (4) facial expressions betray our attention, (5) and the tone of voice and its modulation reveal emotions; (6) finally, all of these reveal affections, they “serve to make manifest one’s affections in the pursuit or avoidance of things” (53). Given that our body manifests our intentions, one can perceive the other’s affective life. Per Wittgenstein, minds are not private, they rather seem hidden when we are facing an ambiguous behavior. Despite the similarities of Wittgenstein’s account with Augustine, there is one central difference. For the former, ostension is disambiguated thanks to training, because the infant cannot surpass ambiguity without the help of a teacher. Engelland rejects this picture of the passive child and instead takes Augustine’s perspective of a ripe infant who desires to participate in the language game.

In the next chapter, Engelland revisits Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s position regarding language learning. The phenomenological perspective of Merleau-Ponty allows Engelland to account for the intersubjective interplay that lies at the basis of ostension. For Merleau-Ponty it is not so much that the child acquires language, rather she gets habituated to the language game. In learning to speak, the infant is learning to play a role and, thus, is acquiring not language but a whole world of meaning. In that sense, Engelland claims with Merleau-Ponty that “the body gains a ‘figurative significance’” (71).

To understand the communicative powers of the body, Merleau-Ponty abandons the opposition between a material world governed by causal relations, and consciousness. The body “must become the intention” if it is to account for our communicative interplay. The reciprocity of communication is possible in virtue of a common world to which both the language speaker and the infant belong. Engelland follows Merleau-Ponty in claiming that intersubjectivity is constitutive of the body. The flesh, a term that the French philosopher coined to refer to the basis of this embodied intersubjectivity, brings together the activity of the lived body and the passivity of the perceived body. Engelland claims that “the twofold or chiasm of flesh places each of us in a world together, enabling gesturing and joint attention” (81). For Engelland, Merleau-Ponty captures in a brilliant way “how the body is the best picture of the mind” (82). However, he fails to account just how it is that the body is twofold, a task that can be accomplish by two classical programs.

In the fifth chapter, Engelland addresses the first of these programs: Augustine’s account of word learning. With Jean-Luc Marion, Engelland takes Augustine to be concerned with the phenomenological question regarding ostension. In De Doctrina Christiana, Augustine notices that there are signs that are instituted or conventional, and, therefore, are arbitrary. However, that poses a problem for word acquisition: if these signs are arbitrary, how can they be acquired? To explain this, it is necessary to account for the joint attention that precedes language learning. Augustine recalls the context in which he acquired language: “a context of interpersonal affection nourished by expressive bodily movements” (93). In that context, the infant fails to disclose her needs, affections, and desires, and “discovers the ability to do so by understanding the bodily movement of language speakers” (94). Unlike the passive infant in Wittgenstein’s account, Augustine’s infant wishes to participate in the language game. This infant learns in an important sense by eavesdropping the conversations that take place in daily routines. Context controls ambiguity in an important way.

But, what happens when the context is not enough to disambiguate? For Augustine, the infant possesses some kind of perception or receptivity that allows disambiguation. The child conjectures that “bodily movement signifies soul” (101). But this conjecture is not an inference, it is rather an awareness we share with other animals and that is rooted in our inner sense. The infant develops this awareness when developing motor control. Nonetheless, interanimal awareness is not enough to make sense of this phenomenon. The child requires understanding as well to grasp bodily movement as an intentional action. Engelland intends to show, contra Wittgenstein, that Augustine does consider ambiguity as a problem. Not only that, Augustine realizes that ambiguity is a central feature of language learning, and that it is an obstacle that is not easy to surpass.

The last stop in Engelland’s historical route is Aristotle. As mentioned earlier, Aristotle does not have an account of word acquisition, however, Engelland reconstructs what would be the Aristotelian account of language learning, an account that offers some important concepts that were lacking in Augustine’s view. Engelland begins his reconstruction with the argument against the denier of PNC (the Principle of Non-Contradiction). For Engelland, this refutation shows that the PNC accounts for the possibility of intelligibility. But, what accounts for the possibility of joint intelligibility?

For Aristotle, animals communicate on the basis of natural significations: they express pleasure and pain. Humans, on the other hand, transcend this and institute conventional terms to express something other. However, these conventional terms are problematic in that they must communicate the way the world appears individually to each of us. This inward dimension of affectivity does not represent a problem, because it can be shared through our bodily movement. Aristotle’s account of movement differs from that of modern physics. For him, natural movement reveals the power to move. Animate movement, which is common to all animals, has a discriminatory character because it “targets a good or avoids a bad” (116). What is specific of deliberate human gestures is that they invite the other to look beyond them and to rest their attention in something else. Human joint activity goes beyond coordination, and turns into political cooperation (i.e. into a “share[d] belief about what makes for a good life” (124)). According to Engelland, the reciprocity of understanding in Aristotle’s description of friendship, sheds light to the meaning of cooperation: in friendship, we understand ourselves by understanding others.

Part III. Philosophical Investigations

These two conversations –the one with contemporary thinkers and the historical one– allow Engelland to set the stage for his philosophical investigations. In chapter seven, he gives a phenomenological account of ostension, according to which the intention of ostensive bodily movements is manifested, and not inferred. Engelland draws on the theory of the perception of emotion developed by J. L. Austin for whom: “one’s body advertises the movement of emotions to all those who have eyes to see” (p. 134). For Engelland, the advertisement of our affections is not reduced to emotion, but extends to action and perception in general.

Engelland rejects the inferential position because it assumes the “Cartesian bifurcation of internal and external evidence” (136). This bifurcation implies that, in order to go from behavior to internal intentions, the infant would need to experience such an internal realm. Inference requires the experience of internal intentions as evidence. Without it, the child has no basis for inference. He claims that: “[The inferential view] assumes a flawed framework in which the terms inside and outside, private and public, self and other, are mutually exclusive. The chasm separating these two domains cannot be bridged by endowing the infant with mindboggling powers of inference; it can be bridged only by uncovering the perception of animate movement. On this view, the infant appears more naturally as an understanding animal, not an inferring scientist” (138).

Per Engelland, ostension is not the coordination of the inner lives of two agents through behavior, it is rather joint perception. Joint perception requires spatial and temporal presence not only of the agents, but of the perceived item as well. Our individual perspective of the perceived object does not cancel joint perception because we perceive the public appearance or look of the item. Things have a public dimension and it is this dimension that we perceive and intend. In ostension, my bodily movement manifests the intended object, thus, bringing it to presence or making it an object of joint attention to anyone who is attentive to my movements.

In the following chapter, Engelland tackles the problem of other minds. The inferential view of ostension claims that, in analogy to ourselves, we take the other to be an agent. Wittgenstein notes that underlying this view is the notion of the body as a machine inhabited by a consciousness. However, for Engelland, this is an odd view: it would seem more natural to “perceive fellow animate minds at work” (155). He follows several phenomenologists, such as Edith Stein, Hans Jonas, and Evan Thompson, in claiming that our body is not properly understood as a machine, it is rather a lived body. We live among animate bodies, and our own animate movements “puts us into spontaneous communion with one another” (p. 155). Engelland takes one step forward from these phenomenological considerations in that, for him, although it is the case that we take the others to be animate beings because we understand ourselves as such, it is also that we are aware of our own life because we perceive it in the others.

The notion of mind that is at play in Engelland’s view is one that recovers an Aristotelian hylomorphism according to which “[p]oints of view are essentially embodied” (p. 170). Engelland enriches this position with the phenomenological account, thus, resulting in a view that takes the mind to be animate: “The mind is not incidentally attached to a body; the mind is essentially embodied and on display in animate action” (170).

And how does this account of ostension and of the animate mind deal with ambiguity? The ninth chapter of the book deals with the epistemological challenge regarding ambiguity. Although ostension recurs to similar resources to those of ostensive definition to control ambiguity –for instance, movement and novelty–, it also has “unique disambiguating cues”: (a) natural wants and desires, (b) daily routines and games, and (c) repetition across contexts. However, Engelland, inspired by Aristotle’s and John McDowell’s reflections on human nature, also argues that we are naturally inclined to the development of specific habits. To explain what he means by natural inclinations, Engelland draws on the concept of life-form developed by Michael Thompson. Life-forms are judgments that we use to “make sense of each other” (181), in that they afford ways of “generalizing or profiling” (183). Human inclinations are natural because they belong to our common nature, one that is available in the intersubjective realm of our perception. When learning a language, infants risk acts of identification and profiling. Engelland claims that “[t]he ostensive act affords the interlocutor or eavesdropper the opportunity to achieve something like a nominal definition, that is, an understanding that allows him or her to identify the spoken item and distinguish it from other sorts of similar things” (188).

In the final chapter of the book, Engelland focuses on the metaphysical problems concerning ostension. For him, what makes ostension logically possible is the structure of our experience. Given that experience is dominated by rest and sameness, movement and change call our attention. The relevance of movement and difference make ostension possible.

In this chapter, Engelland also discusses the relationship between phenomenological movement of disclosure and manifestation, and physical motion. For him, physical happenings are necessary for phenomenological movement, nonetheless, the latter does not identify with mere physical happenings. He claims that “[p]henomenological movement needs all this physics to happen, but it is something other than the physical happening” (198). Furthermore, we can only make sense of physical motion if it is immersed in our phenomenological experience.

This distinction leads Engelland to discuss the relation between scientific explanation and phenomenology. Although Engelland does not explicitly refer to this debate, I believe he engages with the problem of naturalization of phenomenology when dealing with the question about the relation between these two kinds of explanations. Engelland adopts Sokolowski’s notion of lensing to account for the role the brain, the nervous system, and our senses have in our experience. These do not appear in our everyday experience since they are transparent. These physical structures enable experience and “[make] the world available” (201).

Given their transparency, Engelland considers that a phenomenological account of consciousness is irrelevant for biological explanations. For him, there is an uncontroversial division of labor between phenomenology and science: biology is equipped to understand life, while philosophy is equipped to understand the manifestation of life. Philosophy, then, cannot contribute to biology as such, but it can make a non-biological contribution. In that vein, Engelland shows that joint presence is a condition of possibility of scientific discourse. Philosophy contributes in our understanding of the world, a world to which science belongs. Engelland would seem to claim that phenomenology cannot be naturalized in the sense that: “philosophers have no reason to adopt the scientific image as their point of departure or their point of return” (214). If that is so, why engage with science at all? Engelland is right in distinguishing the tasks of philosophy and science, but such a distinction should not amount to the claim that philosophy does not depart nor return to science. Claiming the latter inevitably leads to philosophical solipsism, something that Engelland himself avoids throughout his book by taking philosophy as conversation.

Concluding Remarks

Ostension invites the reader into a dialogue that not only goes through different disciplines, but also through different philosophical traditions and problems. It offers a treatment of first-word acquisition that takes into account traditional and contemporary considerations, but goes beyond them by introducing a new perspective that is enriched by phenomenology and psychology. Its originality lies in the explicit formulation of the phenomenological question regarding first-word acquisition. This book will be valuable to anyone who is interested in theories of meaning, language acquisition, and the dialogue between phenomenology, analytic philosophy, and science.

 

Burkhard Liebsch (Hg.): Der Andere in der Geschichte – Sozialphilosophie im Zeichen des Krieges

Der Andere in der Geschichte - Sozialphilosophie im Zeichen des Krieges. Ein kooperativer Kommentar zu Emmanuel Levinas' "Totalität und Unendlichkeit" Book Cover Der Andere in der Geschichte - Sozialphilosophie im Zeichen des Krieges. Ein kooperativer Kommentar zu Emmanuel Levinas' "Totalität und Unendlichkeit"
Burkhard Liebsch (Herausgeber)
Verlag Karl Alber
2016
Paperback 40,00 €
432

Reviewed by: Anne Clausen (University of Göttingen)

Das 1961 erschienene erste Hauptwerk von Emmanuel Lévinas, Totalité et infini. Essai sur l’exteritorité, hat auch im Jahre 2017 nichts von seiner Aktualität verloren. Die darin behandelte Frage nach der Andersheit und dem Anspruch des (ganz) Anderen behält angesichts von Flüchtlingskrise, Terrorismus und kriegerischen Auseinandersetzungen in vielen Teilen der Welt seine thematische Relevanz, die zu dem Denken über Gerechtigkeit, Ethik und Ansprüche wie es etwa im Kontext von Habermas oder Rawls geschieht, eine ernst zu nehmende Infragestellung und Alternative darstellt.

Lévinas steht für ein Denken von Alterität oder Ander(s)heit, die sich jeder Verfügung entzieht und nur als Überschuss verstanden werden kann, der zugleich das Subjekt in seiner oder vielmehr als Verantwortung für den Anderen konstituiert. Er eröffnet damit den Blick für einen Bezug auf den Anderen, in dem wir schon stehen, bevor wir Verträge schließen und Politik treiben. So bringt er zur Sprache, was „‚zwischen uns’ geschieht, bevor es überhaupt zu normativen Fragen des Guten und des Gerechten kommen kann“ (Liebsch, 23). Der Andere begegnet dem Ich als Gesicht bzw. Antlitz und das Einzige, was positiv über ihn gesagt werden kann, ist gerade, dass er konstitutiv nicht in dem Eigenen aufgeht. Diese Fremdheit des Anderen macht zugleich seine Freiheit aus, die zu schützen die unbedingte Forderung ist, die an das Ich ergeht.

Die radikale Unverfügbarkeit des Anderen sprachlich zu fassen stellt ein Paradox dar, das Lévinas zu immer neuen Formulierungen an der Grenze der Sprache treibt. Dabei geht es darum, ein Jenseits des Seins zu denken bzw. den Anderen anders zu denken denn als „Teil einer als ‚Schauspiel’ aufgefassten Welt oder als ‚Theater’ eingestuften Weltgeschichte“ (vgl. Liebsch 46). Die Geschichte ist nicht das „Maß aller Dinge“ (Vgl. Lévinas, Schwierige Freiheit 151), sondern kann und muss von der Beziehung Von-Angesicht-zu-Angesicht her korrigiert werden (vgl. Liebsch 11), die sich der Totalität entzieht. Notorisch problematisch bleibt dabei die Frage, wie radikale Geschichtskritik und anti-historisches Denken der Alterität doch wieder mit der Geschichte und vor allem mit dem Politischen zusammenzubringen sind. Es resultiert das dringende „Desiderat, in diesem alteritätstheoretisch anspruchsvollen Sinne ethisches und historisches Denken zusammenzubringen“ (Liebsch 14).

Diesem Desiderat nähert sich Burkhard Liebsch an und fügt mit seinem 2016 im Karl Alber Verlag erschienenen kooperativen Kommentar der breiten Literatur einen neuen und informativen Beitrag hinzu, dessen Alleinstellungsmerkmal darin besteht, sich dem vieldiskutierten Werk in Einzelanalysen zu widmen, die sich chronologisch  den einzelnen Abschnitten des Werkes widmen. Der 400 Seiten starke Kommentar ist dafür in 16 Einzelanalysen plus Einführung und Nachtrag des Herausgebers organisiert, in denen bekannte Namen der Lévinas-Forschung jeweils einen kurzen Abschnitt des Werkes behandeln. Anstelle einer akribischen Interpretation bemühen sich die einzelnen Autoren und Autorinnen dabei, die Thematik des jeweils behandelten Abschnittes in einen größeren Kontext zu fassen und auf je eigene Weise zu fokussieren. Die einzelnen Analysen unterscheiden sich dabei erheblich darin, ob sie sich ganz auf den Ausschnitt beschränken oder diesen eher zum Anhaltspunkt für weiterführende Überlegungen nehmen. So entsteht ein sehr reichhaltiger Überblick mit detaillierten Einzelinterpretationen, der zudem – nicht zuletzt dem Schreiben von Lévinas selbst geschuldet – mit der Polyphonie der Stimmen ein Sagen und Wieder- bzw. Wider-Sagen der zentralen Motive beinhaltet. Die großen Themen wie der Genuss und die Sinnlichkeit des Subjekts, ein anderes Denken der Intentionalität, die Vorgängigkeit des Anderen und die Verantwortung für ihn, Ontologiekritik und das Jenseits des Seins und natürlich das Gesicht bzw. Antlitz werden so immer noch einmal neu perspektiviert. Im Gespräch mit Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Sartre, Derrida, aber auch Proust und Beckett werden einzelne Diskursstränge herausgeschält, gesagt und wi(e)der gesagt. Neben der vorwiegend affirmierenden Lektüre richten sich dabei auch einige kritische Fragen an den Autor, die insbesondere die Implikationen des Alteritätsdenkens und die philosophische Haltbarkeit der vorgebrachten Thesen betreffen. So entsteht ein lebendiges, reiches und auch spannungsvolles Bild des Werkes, das zeigt, dass die Auseinandersetzung mit Lévinas auch nach mehr als 55 Jahren nicht abgeschlossen ist.

Zum Auftakt thematisiert Hans-Christoph Askani die Beziehung zum ganz Anderen, die das Ich sich selbst entreißt und die Lévinas als Metaphysik bezeichnet . Er zeigt, dass der hiermit angezeigte Bruch mit der Totalität sich in der Sprache und als metaphysisches Begehren ereignet, das dem (weltlichen, leiblichen) Bedürfnis entgegensteht. Dieser Bruch wird als Bedingung der Möglichkeit von Frieden ausgewiesen; es gibt aus der Totalität und d.h. vom Krieg „einen Ausgang, weil es in sie einen Einbruch gibt.“ (87)

Der Herausgeber selbst, Burkhard Liebsch, nimmt sich Lévinas’ „sozialphilosophisch gewendet[e]“ (89) Lesart von Descartes vor, mit der dieser  zu zeigen versucht, dass das Soziale, verstanden als Begegnung mit dem ganz Anderen, das Epistemische fundiert (vgl. 90f.). Diese Begegnung ist, so Lévinas, nur möglich in einem getrennten Psychischen, das sich der „Aufhebung in Geschichte“ (95) widersetzt. Das Begehren des Anderen bewirkt dann eine Umkehrung oder „Konversion“ des Seienden, in der es sein Glück, seinen Genuss, für den Anderen aufzugeben bereit ist. Liebsch stellt jedoch die beschriebene Selbstgenügsamkeit dieses Subjekts der Trennung in Frage – „Können wir wirklich in psychischem Leben derart bei uns selbst ‚zuhause’ sein […] ?“ (110) – die zudem in Spannung mit Lévinas’ späteren Andeutungen steht, denen zufolge das Subjekt immer schon ein Empfangenes, d.h. dem Anderen schon begegnet sei.

Bernhard H.F. Taureck gibt den wohl am wenigsten favorablen Ausblick auf Lévinas. Seine Analyse der Freiheit stellt „kritisch-polemische“ und „eklektische“ „Evidenzen“ heraus, die nur durch die weitere „Evidenz“ der „Verklärung“ eine gewisse Attraktivität erhalten, und sieht Lévinas letztlich in einer Komplementärstellung zu Beckett: „Wenn Levinas die Verwüstung verklärt, so wird hier die Verklärung verwüstet. […] Was der eine befestigt, reißt der andere ein und umgekehrt.“ (134f.)

Auf den dann folgenden Seiten stellt Sophie Loidolt die „Intentionalität des Genießens als Grundstruktur der Subjektivität“ (136) heraus, die sowohl zu der Intentionalität Husserls als auch zu der Sorgestruktur des Daseins bei Heidegger eine Alternative darstellt. Als „leben von…“ hat Existenz eine irreduzibel sinnliche Qualität, die es nur gestattet, eine Unabhängigkeit des Subjekts in der Abhängigkeit von etwas zu denken, die die Voraussetzung für die Begegnung mit dem Andern ist. In dieser Darstellung fährt Alwin Letzkus fort, der den Genuss als „die eigentliche, weil tiefste Wurzel der Intentionalität“ (161) herausstellt: Die Vorstellungen des Bewusstseins selbst sind vom Genuss getragen. Nur diese Konzeption eines nicht auf Intentionalität und Repräsentation reduzierten Bewusstseins soll es erlauben, die Transzendenz des Anderen zu denken.

Pascal Delhom arbeitet die „Struktur der bedingten Bedingung“ (186) heraus, die sich zuerst in der doppelten Vorgängigkeit von Gegenständen und Ich zeigt (176f.) und sich bezüglich der Begegnung mit dem Anderen wiederholt: Einerseits setzt diese die Trennung des Individuums voraus, andererseits ist diese Trennung aber nur möglich, weil das Subjekt dem Anderen bereits begegnet ist, d.h. von ihm empfangen wurde. Delhom sieht hier „jenseits aller Dialektik“ eine spezifische Verbindung von Aktivität und Passivität beschrieben, die die Setzung eines Ichs ermöglicht, das der Offenbarung des Anderen fähig ist (vgl. 187).

Auch Gabriella Baptist stellt die Vorgängigkeit der Begegnung mit dem Anderen heraus, durch die eine „Dimension der Aufmerksamkeit eröffnet [wird], die sich vom Genuss der Elemente und von den Bedürfnissen des Lebens und deren Nahrung befreien kann“ (192) und die letztlich auch die Enteignung durch den Anderen, nämlich das Geben, erlaubt. Die Autorin kontrastiert Lévinas’ Darstellung der Bleibe mit dem In-der-Welt-sein bei Heidegger, dem sich auch Antje Kapust noch einmal als der Bedingung und dem Anfange menschlicher Bezugnahme zur Welt widmet (vgl. 203).

Matthias Flatscher und Sergej Seitz gehen auf die Rolle der Sprache ein, die bei Lévinas „nicht in epistemologischer Hinsicht betrachtet, […] sondern als ein responsives Geschehen gefasst [wird]“ (220) und Transzendenz ermöglicht (vgl. 223). Der Andere sei kein Inhalt, der sich thematisieren ließe, sondern er wird angesprochen und drückt sich aus; ihm gegenüber steht das Ich in der Verantwortung, die es erst konstituiert. Gegen die Selbstkritik von Lévinas an seinem eigenen Werk schlagen die Autoren vor, „eines der produktivsten Momente von Totalität und Unendlichkeit [] [in dem] Anbieten eines alteritätsaffinen Seinsbegriffs [zu] verorten“ (234).

Der Frage, wie etwas zugleich Modalität des Bewusstseins und Exteriorität sein kann, widmet sich Alain David. Um diese paradoxe Qualität des Gesichts zu denken, muss – gegen Husserl und Heidegger – eine Sinnlichkeit gedacht werden, die die Intentionalität des Bewusstseins überschreitet und bei der es nicht um „die Offenbarung der Welt, sondern [um] diejenige der Sprache – als Sprache des Anderen“ (255) geht.

In einem stärker systematisch orientierten Zugang beleuchtet Werner Stegmaier die Destruktionen, die Lévinas vornimmt, indem er den Blick für die ethische Beziehung zum Anderen öffnet: An die Stelle des Spekulativen, des Prinzipiellen, des Theoretischen und des Definitiven rückt das Über-sich-hinaus-gezogen-werden des Denkens, die ethische Beziehung, die Umorientierung im Denken des Denkens, der Sprache und der Gesellschaft. Der Beitrag von Hans-Martin Schönherr-Mann hat eine ähnliche Stoßrichtung, indem er den Institutionen, dem Werk und der Geschichte, in denen das Individuum nicht als solches erhalten bleibt, den Pluralismus entgegensetzt, der sich in der Beziehung zum Anderen ereignet und durch die Geduld, die Epiphanie des Antlitzes und die Verantwortung expliziert wird. Wie der Autor zeigt, ermöglichen es diese Figuren, eine Subjektivität zu denken, die sich von sich selbst entfernt, ohne dass dies als Unterwerfung unter das Universelle zu denken wäre.

Vor dem Hintergrund eines Überblicks über die großen Themen, die in Totalität und Unendlichkeit verhandelt werden, – die Priorität der Alterität vor der Identität, die (Inter-)Personalität und Pluralität vor Universalität und Rationalität und die Individualität und Responsivität vor der Intentionalität und Totalität – gibt Christian Rößner ein Bild jener „Phänomenologie des Eros“ (313, nach einer Überschrift in Jenseits des Seins), wo die „Zweisamkeit zu keiner erotisch-platonischen Einheit“ (316) verschmilzt. Dabei stellt er heraus, dass dieser Teil des Buches, der vor allem feministische Kritiken auf sich gezogen hat, seine literarische Vorlage in Prousts Albertine hat. Christina Schües stellt die Fruchtbarkeit, die Lévinas im letzten Teil seines Werkes behandelt, als eine Möglichkeit heraus, Transzendenz zu denken, indem sich das Subjekt hier nicht „mitnimmt“ und damit die Einheit der Selbigkeit aufgebrochen wird. Der Sohn bedeute die Befreiung des Vaters und erlaube es, eine unendliche und diskontinuierliche Zeit zu denken, in der Vergebung möglich sei.

Dieter Mersch stellt im Sinne der „Konversion des Bezugs“ (351), die die Destituierung der Ontologie, die Priorisierung der Passivität vor der Aktivität und eine Ethik der Alterität beinhaltet, das „Von-Angesicht-zu-Angesicht“ als Quelle des Sozialen heraus, das einerseits dieses Soziale anders verstehen lässt – nämlich nicht als Gefüge von „‚Interaktion’ bzw. den Regeln interpersonaler Verständigung“ (359) – und andererseits eine „Ethik ohne Gesetz“ (369) begründet.

Und schließlich differenziert Alfred Hirsch zwei Stufen der Freiheit: zuerst jene willkürliche und einsame Freiheit des genießenden Subjekts und dann die moralische Freiheit, in die das Ich durch den Anderen eingesetzt wird. Hirsch sieht durch den Eintritt des Dritten die „Möglichkeit der Symmetrie, des Austausches und die Gerechtigkeit“ (386) gegeben, wobei es der „Asymmetrie des ethischen Anspruches durch den Anderen “ bedarf, die „verhindert, dass der Staat nicht zum Unrechtsstaat mit gutem Gewissen wird.“ (387)

Hiermit kehrt das Buch letztlich zu der Ausgangsfrage nach der Stellung des Anderen in der Geschichte zurück. Abschließend lässt sich sagen, dass es sich bei dem kooperativen Kommentar um eine solide Einführung in das erste große Hauptwerk von Lévinas handelt, die zudem an vielen Stellen Bezüge zu anderen Schriften des Autors herstellt und Verbindungen zu anderen Autoren eröffnet. Naturgemäß werden die bekannten Gedankenfiguren behandelt, die für Lévinas-Vertraute eher keine Neuigkeit darstellen werden. Darüber hinaus bietet das Buch aber auch Fokussierungen auf randständigere Aspekte des Werkes und besticht durch detail- und kenntnisreiche Analysen. Der im Titel angekündigte Geschichtsbezug wird dabei allerdings nur sporadisch aufgegriffen und darf durchaus auch weiterhin als Desiderat gelten.

 

Donata Schoeller, Vera Saller (Eds.): Thinking Thinking: Practicing Radical Reflection

Thinking Thinking: Practicing Radical Reflection Book Cover Thinking Thinking: Practicing Radical Reflection
Schriftenreihe der DGAP
Donata Schoeller, Vera Saller (Eds.)
Verlag Karl Alber
2017
Hardcover 30,00 €
240

Reviewed by: Étienne Pelletier (University of Montréal)

Thinking Thinking: Practicing Radical Reflection, edited by Donata Schoeller and Vera Saller, is a collection of essays that reflect on the very process of reflection. The topics revolve around the activity and the experience of thinking. As such, the nine authors address questions related to language-use, the body as source of meaning, and subjective experience. They offer a broad picture of contemporary discussions and debates in phenomenology, philosophy of language, and psychotherapy.

In a way, each essay points toward theoretical constructions and attempts to define their epistemological blind spots. The phenomenological postulate stating that what is described is tightly linked to the way it is given and to the experience of the subject for whom it is given lies at the root of every contribution. The “logical, syntactical and semantic structures of propositions (11)” are insufficient to account for the complexity of thought-in-process. Furthermore, it is the contributors’ conviction that these habitual conditions of thinking leave aside the vitality of the process. This implies that we should consider the embodied processes and the preconscious dimension accompanying thinking.

Claire Petitmengin’s chapter invites us to take account the corporeal experience of the scientist at work. The author collected a series of scientists’ descriptions of their ideational processes to clarify a source of pre-reflective meaning. In so doing, she provides interesting epistemological considerations regarding the relation between lived experience and the genesis of new ideas. In this perspective, “non-rational” tasks such as walking and drawing prove to be decisive in many researchers’ methods of investigation. Albeit underexamined, this “shifting of the center of attention from the head to the body (34)” should be considered. By turning away from discursive modes of thinking, the scientist can open to a “‘felt’ dimension of experience which seems to be…the very dimension of meaning (37).” The skeptic is tempted to question the probity of a so-called felt meaning. But we should keep in mind that such questioning weakens the moment we give up rigid distinctions between body and mind.

In her chapter, Susan A. J. Stuart similarly situates bodily experience at the center of her investigation, this time in explicit relation to language. Discussing Thomas Reid’s theses on artificial language and natural language, she argues for a priority of kinaesthetic, perceptual, and especially “enkinaesthetic” (i.e., the affects we have of our neuro-muscular processes) determinants at the origin of language and considers them as “artificial.”

Eugene Gendlin also approaches an implicit dimension of cognition. He argues that this “background” is not as vague as we might suppose. From the outset, it has a certain “precision” and is decisive, for example, in the formation of concepts. The author suggests various analytic possibilities for this “thinking with the implicit.” Referring to a similar notion of “background,” the prime concern of Donata Schoeller’s chapter is the “thoughtful process of articulation.” She argues that “what is said clarifies aspects of a background that functions in the meaning of what is said (112).” In other words, she examines the cultural and biographical ‘contexts’ that come into play when we formulate and articulate any experience through language. The essay is particularly interesting for its discussion of new possibilities in the methodology of scientific inquiries. These possibilities extend to the theory and practice of psychotherapies.

Both Terrence W. Deacon and Vincent Colapietro’s chapters examine the role of language in relation to the process of thinking. The former offers a neurologically-oriented account of language as “a variation on the emergent dynamics of mental processes in general (157).” He argues that this best fits with our experience of language (i.e., not as a construction and analysis following rules). As for Colapietro, he discusses Peirce’s fallibilism and the experience of ignorance and error as constituent of self-knowledge.

Language is also central in the last chapter, that of Steven C. Hayes’. He examines the relation between knowing and its verbal-symbolic correlate. His thesis is that “human language and cognition…fundamentally alters and shapes our subjective experience and the perspective from which we view it (209).” However, despite the ostensible simplicity of this statement, the author shows clearly that this commonplace appearance arises from our failing to question the meaning of the very terms and concepts used in its formulation. The concern of Hayes’ contribution is the specific meaning of language, cognition, symbols, and perspective-taking, as well as our use of them. This is especially relevant if we are to manipulate them in theoretical investigations concerning their role in our subjective life.

Vera Saller’s contribution addresses the notion of abduction, understood as the “creativity within the framework of rational thinking (182).” Peirce argued that abduction was the “only logical operation which introduces [a] new idea (183),” and should be distinguished from hypothesis. The author also points out that Peirce compared abduction and perception (201). As to the possibility of new ideas, Saller stresses the importance of everyday thinking in their formation: “it is in the problem solving of everyday life, that new thoughts arise (186).”

Remember the story of a Buddhist monk whose disciple urgently asks him about a serious spiritual issue. The master answers with a question: “Have you finished eating?” “Yes,” answers the impatient disciple. The master then replies: “Then go wash your bowl!” In short, there is no better way of solving a preoccupying reflective problem than going about our everyday tasks hoping for the “momentary but significant flash (190),” i.e., the abductive moment. This moment of understanding is clearly not of an exclusively cognitive nature, the more so that it “comes along with a pleasant bodily emotion (202).”

But Saller’s contribution is also interesting as she compares this process with the detective metaphor in psychoanalysis. The literature examining the detective leitmotif in psychoanalysis sometimes commits a crucial error: neglecting the patient’s own work. This is often in favor of a misguided image of the analyst as the sole investigating instance in the cure. The analyst is thus constantly chasing the truth of the subject lying on the couch. Moreover, in this conception of the analyst, he or she attributes to the patient a knowledge that can only come from him/herself. The author points out this mistake and brings forth the “abductive inferences” that the method of free association is supposed to facilitate.

Thinking Thinking: Practicing Radical Reflection serves multiple purposes, including theoretical inquiry (scientific and philosophical), as well as practical concerns (psychotherapy and other social practices). Combining numerous perspectives, notably phenomenology and the philosophy of language, it is relevant to a broad range of researchers and practitioners.

 

Mahon O’Brien: Heidegger, History and the Holocaust

Heidegger, History and the Holocaust Book Cover Heidegger, History and the Holocaust
Bloomsbury Studies in Continental Philosophy
Mahon O'Brien
Bloomsbury
2017
Paperback £17.99
192

Reviewed by: Gregory Jackson (The National University of Ireland, Maynooth)

Martin Heidegger was one of the most influential figures in 20th century philosophy but also both a member of the National Socialist party and a committed antisemite. That such a controversy would generate a substantial amount of scholarship is not surprising, and yet Mahon O’Brien’s Heidegger, History and the Holocaust attempts to break the trends of the usual works that deal with this highly contentious issue. In O’Brien’s view, the controversy surrounding Heidegger’s philosophy is an emotionally charged debate that fails to truly get to grips with the content of Heidegger’s philosophy. This philosophy is one that he justifiably finds ‘profound’ (4), and yet he has no delusions regarding whether Heidegger was a Nazi or antisemitic. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of taking sides in the debate which in the process eclipses the critical engagement necessary to understand the nature of Heidegger’s commitments to National Socialism and his antisemitism, and the implication of this for his thinking. It is precisely this trap that Heidegger, History and the Holocaust sets out to avoid. In the discussion that follows, however, there are other traps that O’Brien leaves himself vulnerable to.

In the first chapter, ‘Re-assessing the “Affair”’, O’Brien reviews some of the scholarship surrounding Heidegger’s political affiliations in order to explore how the controversy has unfolded. He argues that those who want to dismiss Heidegger’s philosophy on account of his political affiliations (the assumption being that it is intrinsically fascist) betray a kind of ‘victor’s morality’ (12), where the everyday, banal evils and the more overt evils of both the allies and our contemporary world are ignored. O’Brien’s reminder to step back from our own historical world and draw attention to the evils we regularly participate in is not meant to condone the horrific and abysmal acts of the Holocaust. That is, the repugnancy of Nazism is beyond dispute, but O’Brien is pointing out that the people who fought against them were not ‘faultless paragons of virtue’ either (13). This position does risk diminishing the specific horror of the Holocaust, but it is utilized by O’Brien to take on scholars such as Zimmerman who argue that the Holocaust was a singular event belonging to the Germans. On the contrary, O’Brien claims that the Holocaust is a horrific but complex story that extends beyond the borders of Germany. Framing the debate in this way, he is given cause to defend one of the only statements by Heidegger on the Holocaust:

Agriculture is now a mechanized food industry, in essence the same as the production of corpses in the gas chambers and extermination camps, the same as the blockading and starving or countries. The same as the production of hydrogen bombs. (as quoted on p. 24)

Dubbed the ‘agriculture remark’, this statement has generated much controversy due to its suggestion that the horrors of the Holocaust are no different than the horrors of the mechanized food industry. This passage, written in context of Heidegger’s confrontation with the essence of technology, is the basis of O’Brien’s second chapter, ‘The Essence of Technology and the Holocaust’. On the surface, it appears as a highly insensitive claim that suggests a lack of remorse for the victims of the Holocaust. On the contrary, however, O’Brien believes that Heidegger’s work on technology should be ‘interpreted as a robust confrontation with the Holocaust’ (23). His strategy here hinges on drawing attention to Heidegger’s use of the word ‘essence’. For the claim that agriculture, the hydrogen bomb, and the Holocaust are the same ‘in essence’ is very different than saying they are identical, morally or otherwise. For Heidegger, the essence of something is ‘what holds sway within it such that it appears as what it is’ (39). This essence, for Heidegger is Gestell, or ‘enframing’, the technological deployment of the meaning of being into which we in the contemporary world are ‘thrown’. That is, Heidegger is trying to tell us something about the way in which things appear for us in our given historical epoch. Thrown into a world of Gestell, humanity succumbs to seeing things as ‘standing reserves’, that is, things (and people) are ‘revealed’ in relation to how efficient and optimized they are for our use. Hence, the specific way in which phenomena in our contemporary world is generally understood—or ‘revealed’ in Heidegger’s language—lends itself to the production of the atom bomb, the mechanized food industry, and, at its worst, atrocities such as the Holocaust.

O’Brien does not only draw from Heidegger, however, but also explores some of the memoirs of Nazi officials. In doing so, we witness the way in which the Jewish people were interpreted by the Nazis as pests to be exterminated. As O’Brien points out, the phrase the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’ is particularly telling. This chilling phrasing expresses how ‘the inmates at the camp were revealed […] as practical, logistical problems that could be approached as one would approach an infestation of rodents or vermin within a factory’ (33) [1]. The Heideggerian warning is that in the age of the technological dispensation of being this way of seeing lends itself to the horrors that occurred in Auschwitz. It is O’Brien’s contention that by viewing the Holocaust as a singular event specific to the German people we miss this sinister occurrence of truth that Heidegger diagnoses as part and parcel of our historical world. He thus presents the case that far from being dismissive of the horrific treatment of the marginalized in Nazi Germany, Heidegger offers us an analysis that may not only aid us in preventing the reoccurrence of something so morally repugnant, but also give us the tools to properly resist alternate expressions of its essence in our own time.

For my own part, nonetheless, although O’Brien’s efforts to show the relevance of Heidegger’s diagnoses is thought provoking, the existential gap between a philosophical analysis of essence and the lived suffering of those who were subject to the atrocities of the Nazi regime seems problematic. As I discuss in a footnote above, even the language of ‘reveal’ [zeigen] could serve to further de-humanize the marginalized and eclipse the responsibility of those involved in the atrocities that occurred in the Nazi regime. This, of course, raises the issue of Heidegger’s silence, his refusal to offer a public apology for his support of the regime. O’Brien’s solution to this is to draw our attention to the ‘lose-lose’ (19) situation Heidegger was in. A public apology would be an admission of guilt, which in turn would eclipse the far greater danger Heidegger wanted to warn us of. Perhaps this is a moment where our commitments to an idea can cause one to lose sight of the concrete and particular suffering in the lived experience of an individual. O’Brien’s later discussion of Heidegger’s rather unfavourable character might testify to this lack of empathy (117-124).

Chapter three moves to examine the charge against Heidegger of being a dangerous ideologue, given that critical scholarship often dismisses him on the assumption that he is just another member of the German Conservative Revolutionary Movement. Here O’Brien concedes that Heidegger does borrow some of the ‘motifs’ and ‘symbolism’ (71) of his contemporaries, such as Spengler and Jünger, but he makes a convincing case that philosophically Heidegger is far removed from the reductive and simplistic, and often dangerously racist, views of these intellectual counterparts. Here, we are reminded that identity of terms is not the same as identity in concepts, that is, that just because both Jünger and Heidegger are concerned with the role of technology in our age this does not mean that philosophically their reasons and solutions to this concern are the same. At times, however, I am left wanting for greater critical engagement with why Heidegger chose to express his philosophy through the language of the ideologues of his time, and the significance of this for a thinking which differs philosophically.[2] O’Brien spends the first part of the chapter exploring the criticisms of the likes of Adorno, Bordieu and Zimmerman, showing in what way their issues with Heidegger’s conservatism fail to miss the content and significance of his philosophy. Having done so, O’Brien is free to move on to address some of the problems he sees in Heidegger’s conservatism, for he is aware that there are ‘genuine flaws’ in this ‘onslaught against modernity’ (48).

There is a great surprise lurking in this next part of the chapter. With its strong criticism of ‘will’, it is easy to assume that Heidegger’s concept of Gelassenheit is born out of his attempts to come to terms with what went wrong during the National Socialist regime in Germany. This concept is also born out of Heidegger attempts to confront the technological view of the meaning of being, and so offers us a potential way out of the force of its Gestell. O’Brien points out, however, that even as late as the 1950s this concept is entrenched in Heidegger’s idea of the ‘authentic rootedness of the people’ (72). Although the case might not be so evident by 1950, in the 30s it is clear that this idea of rootedness had ethnic ramifications, and given that the Black Notebooks show that Heidegger saw the Jewish people as the acme of a calculative thinking and this as a loss of the rootedness in the earth, the seemingly progressive notion of Gelassenheit becomes shrouded in doubt.

In the next chapter, ‘The Authentic Dasein of a People’, O’Brien returns to the roots of Heidegger’s notion of rootedness (Bodenständigkeit) through his analysis of the authentic community in Being and Time. Described as a ‘hornet’s nest’ (77), the author argues that the undeniably racist implications of Heidegger’s understanding of an authentic community rely on a number of arbitrary moves in his thinking. That is, O’Brien makes the case that Heidegger’s shameful prejudices are at odds with his own philosophy. Drawing our attention to Heidegger’s discussion of authentic community in Being and Time, O’Brien argues that in the notions of ‘leaping-in’ and ‘leaping-ahead’ (79) there is the potential for the development in Heidegger’s thought toward the recognition of the universal condition of finitude that is taken up in the particular historical situation one is thrown into. The inauthentic ‘leaping-in’ that Heidegger understands as the customary way we interact with others denies them the recognition of their finitude, whereas ‘leaping-ahead’ allows both individuals to be who they are (as finite beings toward death) in relation to the project at hand. Of course, my use of the word ‘individual’ here is problematic for this discussion rests on Heidegger’s conception of the human being as Dasein, a being which is primarily related to its self, world and others. As far as Heidegger is concerned Dasein is not an individual at all precisely because it is not indivisible from the historical situation it is thrown into and the others it shares this with, until, of course, it faces its finitude in the experience of anxiety-toward-its-own-death. Nonetheless, O’Brien exploits a strange ambiguity in Heidegger’s description of the social constitution of Dasein, where Heidegger rather bizarrely tries to argue that despite this primary social constitution Dasein is also ‘in the first instance’ unrelated to others (80). O’Brien contends that it is this ambiguity in Being and Time that allows Heidegger’s thought go awry in the 1930s. This is because in Being and Time Heidegger ends up, in some fashion at least, privileging the individual that he at the same time shows to be phenomenologically inappropriate. When his understanding of Dasein in the 30s becomes the Dasein of the nation, this privileging of the individual gets taken up as a privileging of a particular nation. Conveniently, this nation is the German one. Heidegger now thinks that Europe lies between the ‘pincers’ of Russia and America, and it is up to the Germans to save it, through a ‘repeat’ and ‘retrieve’ [Wiederholen] of the ‘historical-spiritual Dasein’, a task for the preserve of the Germans as the most metaphysical of people (85-87). Heidegger’s racism is thus not biological but spiritual, and one that O’Brien contends denies the implications in Heidegger’s thought of the shared history I have with others in my ‘cultural and intellectual milieu’ (88), a notion that an appropriate understanding of ‘leaping-ahead’ would have made apparent. Why are the Jewish people of the German nation denied their part in the historical-spiritual destiny of the German people?

O’Brien’s last chapter turns to Heidegger’s racism, and although the author’s use of the poetry of Kavanagh and Heaney gives rise to some of my favourite moments in this short work, it also seems to be the book’s most problematic chapter. It deals with a number of key seminars and works from the 1930s such as Nature, History, State and the Origin of the Work of Art. Major problems lurk in Nature, History, State, where Heidegger begins to conceive of historical Dasein as a Volk, thought of in terms of ‘mastery, rank, leadership and following’, where a Volk proper is only so in relation to the state (102/103). The ambiguity that O’Brien notices in Heidegger’s thought makes a return, however, for Heidegger also points out that wherever humans go we root ourselves in the soil. As such, the spiritual-ethnic chauvinism of Heidegger seems to briefly lift itself. Heidegger has always favoured the provincial, and through drawing on the poetry of Heaney and Kavanagh O’Brien offers a compelling case for why this provincialism is not necessarily problematic. He sees in Heaney, for example, an expression of the worlding of the world through a relationship with the earth that Heidegger explores in On the Origin of the Work of Art. These poets explore this tension between the universal and the particular, but give us the means of realizing that through our particular, historical and concrete struggles we are connected to all human beings as others who are thrown into the world and projected toward their end. This is of course the same latent possibility that O’Brien sees in Heidegger’s thought, but because of Heidegger’s insistence of the primacy of the particular over the universal O’Brien believes Heidegger’s thought went astray. People may indeed root themselves wherever they go, but in Heidegger’s account it is those rooted in German soil that are superior. The universal dimension that O’Brien finds in Heaney and Kavanagh is denied in Heidegger’s account of the artwork also, as the artwork is a purely regionally specific occurrence. Given that the work of art allows meaning and truth to emerge for Heidegger, O’Brien asks what the implications are ‘for a people [in this instance, the Jewish people] who are [according to Heidegger] worldless and without history?’ (112) O’Brien does not answer this question, but the implications are obvious and distressing.

Nonetheless, I am left wondering why the implications of this are not discussed in greater detail. Furthermore, there are some troubling moments where it is suggested that Heidegger’s friendship with other Jewish people at least somewhat obscures his commitments to his antisemitism (121, 132)[3]. Of course, dealing with antisemitism, particularly in such an important thinker, is a sensitive and difficult topic. O’Brien’s work is an important contribution to the growing debate around Heidegger’s political and ideological sympathies. However, perhaps O’Brien’s commitments to the resources in Heidegger’s thought that for O’Brien deny racism cause him to underplay at times the devastating role that Heidegger’s racism wreaks on this thinking. For, although Heidegger’s philosophy might on the one hand suggest that we should never deny someone their essence as a thrown projector, this is nonetheless precisely what he ends up denying the Jewish people. We may dismiss this as a personal prejudice that can be separated from his thinking, but this becomes increasingly difficult when, for example, passages of the Black Notebooks claim that ‘World Jewery’ is ‘grounded’ in the very calculative thinking and ensuing worldlessness that Heidegger’s notion of Gelassenheit attempts to resist.[4] Furthermore, given that O’Brien does a good job of unearthing Heidegger’s specific form of antisemitism, I am left unconvinced that this ‘spiritual’ racism is indicative of the ‘garden variety’ racism (132) that O’Brien charges him with at the end of this work precisely because such a version of racism would seem to be more deeply rooted than the version of biological racism that was more prevalent at the time.[5] That is, Heidegger does not dismiss the Jewish biology as defective as many who bought into the Nazi ideology of the time believed, but instead denies the Jewish person their Dasein. This problematizes one of the central tenets of O’Brien’s case—that Dasein is a universal condition of being human. For this is precisely what Heidegger denies in various works of the 1930’s, such as the Contributions to Philosophy. Here, Dasein is understood as a condition that we must ‘leap’ into, and we now know from the Black Notebooks that this is a possibility that for Heidegger is unavailable to the Jewish people. The troubling implications of this is not brought to the level of critical scrutiny that O’Brien shows himself capable of at other moments in this work. The sentiment that we are left with, however, is that through a proper and critical engagement with his thinking we are not de facto led to a racist ideology, although there is no doubt that Heidegger himself insists that his philosophy and politics are intertwined at some fundamental level. Thus, O’Brien’s study successfully makes the case that Heidegger’s attempt to reconcile the two is problematic.

We must not forget, however, that despite the problems in doing so Heidegger did try to reconcile the two. We can, if we wish, dismiss this aspect of Heidegger’s philosophy, but it is nonetheless a part of its legacy. I welcome O’Brien’s attempt toward a reconstruction of Heidegger’s philosophy. His project, one of critically engaging Heideggerian discourse through delicacy, warranted suspicion, but a certain amount of good will, is bound to bear fruit for Heideggerian scholarship. But I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that despite setting out to do otherwise there is an attempt in this work to find a sanitized Heidegger, as if his revolting prejudices can be weeded out of his philosophy. There is only one Heidegger, and his philosophy will (and should) continue to inspire, provoke, and propel thinking. But the man himself was an ethnic chauvinist and an antisemite, and his attempts to reconcile his philosophy with his prejudices have stained the possibilities of his thought.


[1]His emphasis. It is important to note that ‘revealed’ is not meant to invoke some sort of ‘true’ (in the usual sense of the term) reality coming to appearance, but simply the way in which the appearance is at a given time. In this view, the appearance gets its stability from a given historical movement of ‘truth’ (in Heidegger’s sense of the term), but this truth is not guaranteed or grounded by any transcendent source, such as a God, for example. As such, to say the Jewish people were ‘revealed’ as ‘pests to be exterminated’ is not meant to suggest that this revealing shows anything intrinsic (or truthful, in the usual sense of the term) about Jewishness. Instead, it is meant to suggest something highly problematic about the way in which the world reveals itself to us in our contemporary historical world, where things ‘show up’ as ‘standing reserves’ to be made efficient and optimized. Although phenomenologically justifiable, that the language used to express this (i.e. how the world ‘reveals’ itself) could be utilized to avoid responsibility is not brought under critical scrutiny in this work. That is, Heidegger, or O’Brien’s defence of his position here, has the potential to be used to justify the atrocities of the Nazi regime by arguing that it was simply the way the world was revealed to them at the time and, as such, one bears little responsibility for the horrors committed. Although this is certainly not what O’Brien intends it is a problematic worth drawing attention to.

[2]O’Brien’s discussion in a later chapter of Heidegger’s appropriation of the term Volk touches on this problem somewhat (98-105).

[3]In the first of these instances, O’Brien is quoting Hugo Ott. The second is his own, but afterwards he concedes ‘And yet […] he once insisted that there was indeed a dangerous international alliance of Jews, a belief which he expresses again in his notebooks from the 1930s.’ Although both these instances are not central to his argument, it is a dangerous and distasteful defence to bring into play.

[4]Cf., for example, GA 95: 97 (Überlegungen VIII, 5), trans. by Richard Polt in ‘References to Jews and Judaism in Martin Heidegger’s Black Notebooks, 1938-1948’, available at https://www.academia.edu/11943010/References_to_Jews_and_Judaism_in_Martin_Heidegger_s_Black_Notebooks_1938-1948 [last accessed 05/04/2017 at 15:39].

[5]One assumes that what O’Brien means by this is that Heidegger’s inability to reconcile his ‘garden-variety’ racism with his philosophy, one that could not so easily accept the prevalent ‘blood and soil’ ideology at the time, causes him to develop the ‘spiritual racism’ in his thinking that O’Brien does a decent job of unearthing. The problem is that this spiritual racism seems to me to be a far more profound and dangerous form of antisemitism than the more prevalent form of its time, and it is precisely the intellectuals of the era that gave credence to the horrific and base forms of prejudice (leading to the Holocaust) that were occurring, whether their versions of antisemitism or otherwise were aptly understood by the populace. As such, to dismiss Heidegger’s antisemitism as simply a ‘garden-variety’ gone astray comes too close to a Heideggerian apologetics for my taste. If we then accept that the version of antisemitism that Heidegger seems to have developed is deeply troubling, and perhaps more so than other variations of antisemitism, then an earlier defence O’Brien offers, that Heidegger criticized the philosophy of the German Conservative Revolutionary movement for its misappropriation of Nietzsche (66), becomes deeply troubling, for it is precisely this disagreement with their lack of philosophical insight and depth that leads him to develop a more profound form of antisemitism, one that he at least believed to be concurrent with his philosophical thought.

Lawrence Hatab: Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language, Volume I: Dwelling in Speech

Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language: Dwelling in Speech I Book Cover Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language: Dwelling in Speech I
New Heidegger Research
Lawrence J. Hatab
Rowman & Littlefield International
2017
Paperback £24.95
274

Reviewed by: Hayden Kee (Fordham University)

In Division I of Being and Time, Heidegger poses, but does not answer, the question concerning the nature of language (Heidegger 1927, 166). Lawrence Hatab’s new book, Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language, Volume I: Dwelling in Speech (2017) takes up this challenge. But if Hatab in many ways takes his lead from the early Heidegger’s phenomenology of being-in-the-world, he is not afraid to move beyond the limits of that project, both in terms of the scope of substantive issues he explores and methodological resources he employs in doing so. The book focuses on the presentational, disclosive nature of language as it is revealed in everyday, practical, and dialogical contexts of use, arguing for the primacy of these aspects of language over the more decontextualized, representational features that are made the focus of much work in the dominant traditions of linguistics and philosophy of language. Hatab’s approach to foundational issues in the philosophy of language – such as the primacy of language with respect to thought and experience, and the nature and role of convention in language – is informed by a wide range of resources from the cognitive sciences, linguistics, analytic philosophy, hermeneutics, and, of course, phenomenology. With this convergence of methods and insights, the work both draws upon and provides further suggestions for interdisciplinary work at the intersection of phenomenology, cognitive science, and philosophy of language.

Hatab baptizes his approach “proto-phenomenology”. This approach is largely Heideggerian in its bearings, focusing on everyday facticity and immersive, practical involvements as central to our “dwelling” in the lived world. Hatab sees this as distinctive of the early Heidegger’s work, as opposed to other approaches in phenomenology, Husserl’s in particular, that the author views as still burdened with reflective, representational, and cognitivist prejudices (4). Proto-phenomenological insights are enriched throughout the book by work in the cognitive sciences that takes an embodied, enactive approach to experience. Though Heidegger’s influence is ever-present, Hatab seeks a novel idiom for conveying proto-phenomenology, one that is supposed to be more faithful to Heidegger’s thought than some other interpretations, while at the same time being free of some of the grander ambitions of Heidegger’s project. One aspect of Heidegger’s method that is central to Hatab’s approach is the use of indicative concepts (14ff.). These direct our attention to aspects of our dwelling in the lived world, but they are meant to show rather than define. As such, they are meant to be more faithful both to our everyday understanding of the world, an understanding that we are wont to falsify through sophisticated philosophical concepts.

Chapter 1 provides a general introduction to Hatab’s proto-phenomenology through an exposition of the central, correlated notions of dwelling and the lived world. This amounts to a description of the pre-theoretical way in which we directly engage our lived world, a mode of engagement prior to the subject-object distinction. Hatab articulates the lived world into interwoven personal, environmental, and social dimensions. Chapter 2 continues this exposition, detailing our fundamental ways of attuning to and understanding the lived world and the further unfolding of these through interpretation. Hatab clarifies the relationship between the cognitive sciences and proto-phenomenology, a topic, he argues, that to some extent requires a special treatment that has not yet been provided by the existing discussions of the naturalization of phenomenology. In some respects, chapters 1 and 2 read as precis of Being and Time. But it would be unfair to characterize it as a mere rehash in a new jargon of Heidegger’s classic work. Hatab’s analyses are informed and enriched by both the ensuing decades of phenomenological research and an impressive range of recent work from the cognitive sciences. Along the way, Hatab situates his own views in relation to topical issues in both phenomenological and analytic philosophy, such as the nature of consciousness and the relation between know-how and propositional knowledge. Hatab also discusses essential aspects of dwelling and the lived world given short shrift by Heidegger, such as embodiment (61ff.), intersubjectivity and empathy (48ff.), and ethics (49f.) . He provides a compelling account of how the distanced reflection that we engage in when the flow of practical engagement has broken down comes to feed back into and restructure the field of practical comportment in constructive ways, such as through habit formation, a point sometimes neglected by exegetes of Heidegger’s early thought (24ff.). His methodological reflections on the nature of philosophy as an undertaking born of but also departing from the lived world provide a welcome extension of a theme implicit, but never adequately developed, in Being and Time (102ff.). In addition to extending and reworking themes from Heidegger and discussing considerations neglected by or unavailable to him, Hatab’s departure from Heidegger’s seminal work is also marked by what is absent from these opening chapters. There is only a brief discussion of authenticity, and no indication of an intent to subordinate the proto-phenomenology of dwelling and the lived world to fundamental ontology.

Chapter 3 extends the analyses of chapters 1 and 2 by revisiting the basic structures of dwelling and the lived world, this time showing how each of them is permeated by language. Hatab clarifies the sense of and defends the claim that language is “the most important component of the lived world and its meaningfulness” (109). This claim directs the chapter throughout and leads it to its climax, a discussion of the relationship between language and thinking (146ff.). The inquiry is guided by two interwoven questions: (1) Is language constitutive of thought, in the sense that linguistic operations fundamentally inform human cognition? And (2) if language is constitutive of thought, does this imply a sort of linguistic relativism in light of the cross-cultural diversity of languages (146)? Though claims earlier in the chapter concerning the “phenomenological priority of language” (118ff.) seemed to be pushing in the direction of linguistic idealism, Hatab attempts to develop a nuanced view between the extremes of the communicative view (language is just the clothing of thought) and the constitutive view (language is productive of thought). If Hatab’s own position is not always easy to pin down on this question, his critique of the terms of the existing debate is nonetheless poignant: both the constitutive and the communicative views are committed to a representationalist vision of language and thought. The very conceptuality which guides these theories, and hence the manner in which they operationalize terms for experiment, has already abstracted away from the functioning of language in the more phenomenologically basic, dialogical practice-field of speech that proto-phenomenology seeks to describe (151ff.). Hatab tells us that his own view of the interweaving of language and thinking is informed by how these two aspects of dwelling interact during development (147, 151). We can thus hope to see his view refined in Volume II of the present work, where he will turn to a more detailed treatment of development and language acquisition.

Chapter 4 explores truth in relation to the disclosive and constitutive role of language elaborated by proto-phenomenology. Hatab establishes the priority of presentational truth in “fitting discourse” (187) over derivative conceptions of truth, such as correspondence, which arise only in representational contexts. The mistake of theories that privilege the representational functions of language and operate with a correspondence notion of truth consists in beginning with derivative contexts and functions of language, which only occur when the presentative function of language in immersive discourse is disrupted. But this neglects the prior and more pervasive contexts of disclosive, presentational truth in which the question of correspondence does not arise. Such immersive contexts provide the background within which alone representational functions of language and the correspondence notion of truth make sense. On the basis of this disclosive, presentational conception of truth, Hatab discusses issues of objectivity, realism, and pluralism, defending a “modest and expanded notion” of realism that accords with our everyday intuitions while discrediting a metaphysical conception of objectivity (188). Whereas the representationalist view operates with an objectivist conception of truth conditions, Hatab offers a set of existential, or “inhabitive”, truth conditions suitable for the social, environed, meaningful lived world (191). These allow for varying standards of truth across different contexts. But since truth is still constrained by the real, environing features of the context and by the embodied, social perspective that discloses them, this pluralism does not degenerate into an unlimited relativism (207). The chapter concludes with an illustration of how the views on language and truth developed throughout can be applied to a classic problem in philosophy, the mind-body problem, to produce an original clarification and dissolution of the problem (207ff.).

Chapter 5 concludes Volume I of Hatab’s two-volume effort and transitions to Volume II, Language Acquisition, Orality, and Literature. Hatab states that arriving at a “baseline philosophical orientation” such as proto-phenomenology is not so much a matter of inferential demonstration as it is a question of finding our “existential bearings”. As such, no decisive considerations can ever be brought forth to render such a foundation unshakeable. However, Hatab sees considerations arising from the study of language acquisition, and the history of literacy as it develops out of orality, as providing a certain kind of tangible evidence in favor of the proto-phenomenological approach to language (224). Developmental studies in psychology can be clarified by proto-phenomenological analyses of the lived world, which wards off the imposition of representationalist assumptions and the subject-object ontology and epistemology that accompany them. In turn, evidence from such studies provides a sort of corroboration and enrichment of the overall account of the lived world provided by proto-phenomenology. Studies of infant imitation and sociality, for example, offer a degree of corroboration for proto-phenomenology’s description of the world-oriented nature of our most basic modes of dwelling (226f.). In literate cultures, learning to speak is usually followed by learning to read and write. Hatab outlines ten critical distinctions between orality and literacy, arguing that literacy is both a necessary condition for philosophy, while also making possible the kind of representationalist assumptions about language that conceal its more originary, presentational-disclosive function.

*

One challenge that readers will face is navigating the novel terminology Hatab employs to articulate his proto-phenomenology. Many of the terms he introduces are directly grounded in their counterparts from Being and Time, but Hatab fashions new coinages throughout. This liberates him to some extent from the acquired baggage of the established idiom, facilitating new connections and an original appropriation of Heidegger’s thought. It also allows the book to serve as a general introduction to proto-phenomenology, accessible to readers without a foundation in the classics of the phenomenological tradition. However, it also means that readers familiar with the tradition who would like to bring Hatab’s contribution into dialogue with the existing literature will have to set up translational paradigms, and it is not always clear that the new terms are more amenable than the available ones. Translating Geworfenheit with “projection” (51), for example, whatever other considerations might speak in favor of it, confuses matters considerably given that in the existing literature, Entwurf is generally translated as “projection”.

The book is ambitious, its scope vast. For one, it does double service as an introduction to proto-phenomenology (chapter 1 and 2) and a proto-phenomenological treatment of language (chapters 3 and 4). Further, it spans a broad array of issues in the phenomenology and philosophy of language and mind while engaging a vast literature from diverse domains. At times, it feels as though breadth is being favored over depth, and it is not always clear how some of the topics discussed, such as freedom and Platonism, pertain to the overarching theme, language. However, part of what is distinctive about the phenomenological approach to language is the insistence on the embeddedness of language within the lived world, and it could be argued that setting up this broader context of speech is necessary if we are to stay true to the phenomena. And the copious references and suggestions for further development certainly serve the author’s intention of building bridges and opening doors for further investigations (xiii).

Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language joins Charles Taylor’s The Language Animal (2016) and Andrew Inkpin’s Disclosing the World (2016) as the third book to appear in the last year of considerable interest for a phenomenological approach to the philosophy of language. There are many points of overlap and complementarity between these works, but one respect in which Hatab’s contribution is unique is in his constant awareness that the phenomenology of language has consequences for the language of phenomenology. The account of language that we develop in phenomenology must be consistent with the way in which we conduct phenomenological philosophy, as an endeavor that largely unfolds in language. Thus, Hatab is able to use his insights into the nature of language to clarify the terms of discourse surrounding classical philosophical questions, such as the mind-body problem, in what amounts to a sort of phenomenological ordinary language philosophy. He has also begun to explore insights for the nature of the philosophical endeavor as a whole, which is itself a particular way of taking up language that is founded in, if sometimes departing from, our everyday dwelling in the lived world. These insights will be developed further in Volume II, and Hatab has suggested that the most original work may be yet to come (6). That is surely something to look forward to, but with Volume I, we already possess a unique and provocative approach to phenomenology, and a stance on the nature of language that promises to stimulate new conversations and advance old ones.

Works Cited
Hatab, Lawrence J. 2017. Proto-Phenomenology and the Nature of Language: Dwelling in Speech I. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield International.
Heidegger, Martin. 1927. Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer.
Inkpin, Andrew. 2016. Disclosing the World: On the Phenomenology of Language. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.
Taylor, Charles. 2016. The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press.

Yuval Dolev, Michael Roubach (Eds.): Cosmological and Psychological Time

Cosmological and Psychological Time Book Cover Cosmological and Psychological Time
Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 285
Yuval Dolev, Michael Roubach (Eds.)
Springer International Publishing
2016
Hardcover $129.00
XIV, 218

Reviewed by: Esteban J. Beltrán Ulate (University of Costa Rica)

In their debut text Cosmological and Psychological Time, Yuval Dolev of Bar-Ilan University and Michael Roubach of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, guide readers through topics concerning Relativity Theory, Transience and Experience, Temporality and Phenomenology in an engaging series of 12 chapters. In this review, I outline the main ideas purported in each of the chapters with the aim of bringing the reader closer to the understanding the relevance of the chapters to the field of time and philosophy, without pretending to purport a total synthesis of the work.

The motivation of Dolev and Roubach’s text is described in the introduction, where the central character of time is captured, from two visions: continental and analytical. From the perspective of continental philosophy, which assumes that time is intimately bound up with the notions of consciousness and subject, an assumption exists that there is an independence between the mind and experience. In the middle of this bifurcation of continental and analytic philosophy, there is also a tension as to the conception of time as Presentism or Eternalism. Within the framework of this tension is a working group of representatives of both analytical and continental currents. From a series of academic meetings at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, the text is derived, in order to contribute to the discussion of time from a double glance.

In the first section, “Relativity Theory”, there are four studies: “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted by Special Relativity”, and “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”.

In “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, Denis Dieks assumes that the image of the Universal block is compatible with the human experience. By adopting this assumption, Dieks concludes that the human experience is detached from the critical view of the senses; thereby, breaking the sphere of experience as the way to reach information that will be confirmed by relativity. In this case, phenomenology is an intellectual tool that permits reflection and offers ideas that have been scientifically endorsed by relativity theorists. In sum, Dieks’s chapter is an analysis about A-Theory and B-Theory, the problems between both theories in relation to perception, and the dichotomy of understanding between how the naturalist-scientific and physic-psychological may converge. The author outlines several considerations about time from Newtonian physics and from relativity theory, with a special interest to the focus of flux time.

In “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, Yuval Dolev confronts Dieck’s ideas developed in “Physical Time and Experienced Time”. Therein, he assumes that any task of interpreting relativity, absent a phenomenological approach, is inappropriate. Therefore, a global tense and the passage of time are immovable from experience. Concurrently, a phenomenological analysis of passage time establishes a framework of relativity; whereby, the inclusion of experience forces the abandonment of both Theory A and Theory B of time. Dolev disagrees with Dieck’s phenomenological analysis, his thesis about the block universe, as well as his assessment of the tension existing between the block universe and experience. He further postulates that relationship between the conditions of the local observer and the distance of the event that happens is problematized, suggesting the impossibility of any strict simultaneity between the event and the experience of the same, “The experience takes place not where the flares are igniting, but where the observer is located” (p. 26). Finally, Dolev assumes the there is a possible compatibility between Global Now with the relativity theory only after reflecting on a series of challenges he took as reference to the Now of Andromeda.

In “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted By Special Relativity”, Yehiel Cohen presents a third way to respect relativity theory in confronting the idea of a relationship existing between presentism and relativity. He also proposes that e-Lorentz transformations assume the notion of absolute simultaneity. Therein, Cohen confronts both, the conventionality of simultaneity and the relativity of simultaneity. The first part of the chapter develops a refutation of presentism by special relativity, taking note of Putnam’s thesis that, “there are no privileged Observers” (p. 42). Cohen then explains the notion of Conventionality of Simultaneity, where he describes how Sklar refutes Putnam’s thesis, and rather argues for Reichenbach’s synchronization of two clocks.

Midway through the text, Cohen adheres to a language that echoes Hinchliff’s terminology, deepening the notion of Point Presentism and Cone Presentism. This adherence extends first from an analysis of R(point) and the problem of now, and second from a scrutiny that concludes the untenable character of R(bcone). In summary, both R(point) and R(bcone) are assessed as flimsy, as Cohen conceives, because both are constituted by separate space-like events. Cohen’s work factually illustrates how an e-Lorentz transformation might be sustained, and concludes that, “presentism is not refuted by special relativity!” (p. 50). Cohen then culminates his chapter by confronting the problem of the Now as an open question.

Jimena Canales concludes the first section with the chapter, “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”. Here, Canales focuses on the Bergson-Einstein controversy; whereby, both men held differing opinions as to the possibility of physical time and a separate human existing apart from physical time. While the article does address both views, it also questions how the future of the debate may be shaped. Canales relates the origin of the controversy by describing the meeting between Einstein-Bergson in 1922. She also offers a short list of authors that represent opposing views concerning time in XX century. The opposing views she addresses regard physical time and the others regards psychological, yet she finds that, “neither of these labels do justice to the contributions of each men” (p. 57). Instead, Canales shows how Bergson is differs from Einstein, by evidencing their contrast through a comparison of the differences arising from their journals and the Letters of Einstein, which were the center the attention in the CIC meeting in Geneva (25 July, 1924). She further notes that it was in Geneva that Bergson and Einstein continued their debate, and critics to Bergson amalgamated, because, “[When] Einstein offered his official response…Bergson had not understood the physics of relativity” (p. 59).

Conversely, Cannels notes Bergson’s assumption that Einstein could not comprehend him because his lack of philosophical training—a point given heed by Bergson based on his supposition that the German (Einstein) did not read his book Duration of Simultaneity. Canales finishes the chapter by describing a third way the two men differ, favoring neither Einstein nor Bergson. Instead, she centers her attention on notion of communication, “science is replete with rhetorical strategies of nondialogue” (p. 69), Canales’ goal with this chapter is show a need for the perpetuation of improved rhetorical, argumentative, and persuasive practices, so as to benefit scientific communication practices and to establish a normative ideal of investigations. By instituting these two practices, a higher plane of communicatory practices can be established, providing the linchpin for garnering more of a consensus by generalists and specialists alike.

The Second Section, “Transience and Experience”, begins with a chapter written by Barry Dainton titled “Some Cosmological Implications of Temporal Experience”. The chapter illustrates constraints existing between the cosmological and phenomenological tradition. Therein, Dainton focuses his attention on the implications of temporal experience in metaphysical theorization regarding time. Dainton also defends Existentialism from objections and discusses the relationship between Existentialism and Cosmological conception, via block universe, presentism et al. He then adopts the notion of “extended presentism” as the most promising option for cosmology.

After observing the implications of motion, that Zeno, Russell, Broad and Slezak have noted, Dainton then revels an alternative called the “Extensional model”. Dainton also considers the merits of the Retentional and Extensional models of temporal experience, using music examples (Successions C-D-E-F-G) whose results are favorable to the scholars, thereby giving reason to accept the Extensional alternative to the Retentional account. Dainton explains Overlap Presentism’s characteristics, and unveils the compatibility between Existentialism and Ovelap Presentism. Dainton finishes the chapter by analyzing Bolzmann Brains theory, incorporating some of the differences between Brentano and Husserl’s thesis about time and which gives Dainton pause to reason the necessity for new approaches.

In “From Physical time to human time”, Jenann Ismael offers thne possibility of non-contradiction between flow time and conceives the universe as a block as a strategy for linking time and space. Ismael also adopts the idea that events that are represented by temporal perspectives are invariant of Eternalism point of view, based on his belief of there being, “[a] gap between the time everyday experience and the time of physics” (p. 107). Ismael, also confronts the problem of time by suggesting that, “some of the most difficult unsolved problems are much closer to the human scale and have to do with reconciling the way that physics tells us universe is with that we experience it” (p. 107), Lastly, he considers that the problem between familiar time and Block Universe present echoes of Parmenides and Heraclitus’s debate.

Ismael does provide some arguments regarding the historical perspective of natural thought, describing it as a combination of contents of memory and perception within the epistemic asymmetries of time. However, he proposes that it is the task of the investigator to advance from thought inside time (natural thought of history) to a thought outside of time as way to reconcile the Parmenidean and Hereclitian vision of time, or A-series and B-series. Ismael’s chapter concludes by developing new questions about physics time.

Tamar Levanon’s “Relation, Action and the Continuity of Transition” inquires as to the problem that exists between temporal experience and internal variation. This particularly relates to the succession of moments, whereby Levanon scrutinizes William James and Alfred North Whitehead’s thesis by contrasting in with Bertrand Russell`s thoughts. Levanon goes on to present the negation of Russell and conforms it to being a transition to James` and Whitehead`s approach. However, this factor does not mean that both authors share the same ideas. On one hand, Whitehead replaces succession from causation, while James refuses the notion of abstract succession. On the other hand, Russell considers succession as immediate experience between parts of one sense datum. Levanon concludes with by an following enlightening thought, “The claim is that temporality is already immersed with in our phases inevitably brings us back to the passage of time itself” (p. 141).

Ulrich Meyer’s chapter “Consciousness and the Present” defends the thesis there being a non-existent connection between consciousness and presentness, Meyer rather conceives, “whether the phenomenon of consciousness allows us to make a principled distinction between the preset and other times” (p. 143). Meyer starts describing two issues of philosophers of time, first the tension of Analytics and Continental Philosophers in the problem of relationship between physical time and human time, and second with the status of present moment, throw the view of Eternalists and Presentists (including a growing block view).

After explaining the dearth of independence between the issues cited, Meyer confronts the initial question, and bifurcates how consciousness could mark present through proposing that: (1) consciousness generates presentness or that (2) presentness brings about consciousness. This analysis is settled by George Myro’s theory and concludes with a reflection that divides the connection between consciousness and presentness.

Meir Hemmo and Orly Shenker’s chapter “The Arrow of Time” assumes that temporal directionality cannot be derived from science. Instead, the authors start with two uncontroversial facts: “we experience a direction of time”, and that, “we experience a direction of processes relative to this direction of time” (p. 155). The thesis of their chapter directs that physics is not the singular mode for analyzing time and that there are other modes for comprehending the direction of time. To support their claim, Hemmo and Shenker discuss the direction of thermodynamics, analyzing the argumentative structure from two points of view: (1) how to predict the increase of entropy towards future, and (2) from a historical analysis that proposes that entropy in thermodynamic retrodiction that entropy. Yet, for their claim to be properly contextualized, the authors introduce the reader to the notion of Past-Hypothesis. Their chapter concludes with the their submission that, “current physics is not complete, and its lacuna is in a very central and conspicuous place in the empirical data” (p. 156).

The third and final section, “Temporality and Phenomenology”, begins with Michael Roubach’s chapter “Heidegger’s Primordial Temporality and Other Notions of Time”. Therein, Roubach examines the notion of Heidegger’s “primordial temporality”, and reflects on this notion as the most basic form of time that is understood. Roubach delivers on his promise to argue for Heidegger’s claim of the existence of an, “ordinary notion of time [that] presupposes primordial temporality” (p. 165). Methodologically, Roubach explores the notion of primordial temporality (ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit) in Being and Time, and assumes that some motivations arise to the problem or consciousness of time. In the middle of text, the authors invoke affinities between Heidegger and Brouwer’s intuitionism.

However, there are critics of Ricoeur and Blattner’s analysis of Heidegger’s thesis that  build an argument from Heidegger’s discussions of notion of time (futurity and finitude). Therein, a relationship between primordial temporality and consciousness of time and ordinary time is discovered. At the end of the text, Roubach rejects Ricoeur’s notion that “narrated time” precedes the Heideggerian perception of time, and rather considers the, “path [as] open for rethinking the relationship between conscious time and objective time” (p. 175), Roubach finishes evaluating the dichotomy between continental tradition and mathematical representation of time, and focuses on notion of primordial temporality as bridge between conscious and cosmological time.

The objective of Philip Turetzky’s “The Passive Syntheses of Time” is to describe Deleuze’s passive synthesis of time in order of its genesis. Turetzky’s chapter first compares lectures between how Husserl and Deleuze’s define and understand time, requiring a concurrent comparison from Hume’s influence. The text then discusses the idea of a non-unified field of the continental tradition based on a discussion of the Hursserlian topics of reductions, intentionality, genetic phenomenology and passivity. Turetzky’s then analyzes Deleuze’s three passive synthesis of time, concentrating on the third synthesis first, followed by the second and the first. Turetzky necessarily explains the notion of “caesura” and how it corresponds to Husserl’s notion of retention. Turetzky finishes his dense text by describing the project of Husserl in 1939 as “ground judgments in aesthetics” and demonstrating how the third synthesis is essential for second for Husserl’s conception of time (p. 201).

Dror Yinon concludes the text with his chapter “Change’s Order: On Deleuze’s Notion of Time”. Yinon’s chapter is based on the second chapter of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. He starts the chapter by analyzing the traditions that assume objective time is grounded on subjectivity and relating subjectivity with the transcendental structure of temporality. Yinon then deliberates about Deleuze’s three syntheses of time and focuses attention on Deleuze’s notion of change, concluding the chapter with McTaggart’s critique to time as change.

The ideas and underlying perceptions developed in Cosmological and Psychological Time denotes a great sum of learned reflection. Those scholars whose research concerns the nature of philosophy of time must access this text, as it brings a wide lens of analysis, and clarifies some important notions of the difficult topics discussed herein. In sum, I would submit that this text as a necessary addition to a researcher’s library, based on the depth it brings to the investigation of time and philosophy. The effort of the editors, Yuval Dolev and Michael Roubach, and all the contributors will, without a doubt, be recognized as relevant and timely.

Joeri Schrijvers: Between Faith and Belief: Toward a Contemporary Phenomenology of Religious Life

Between Faith and Belief: Toward a Contemporary Phenomenology of Religious Life Book Cover Between Faith and Belief: Toward a Contemporary Phenomenology of Religious Life
SUNY Series in Theology and Continental Thought
Joeri Schrijvers
SUNY Press
2016
Paperback $30.95
380

Reviewed by: Nicole Des Bouvrie (Research Fellow at Brighton University)

Searching for a way to answer Reiner Schürmann’s question “What is to be done at the end of metaphysics?” once “being” is unhinged from God, Joeri Schrijvers discusses perspectives of several thinkers that each considered this question in their own right. His overall goal is to establish how contemporary (and secular) phenomenology of religious life points us towards something that transcends mere finitude. He builds upon his previous work, ‘Ontotheological Turnings’ (2011), in which he showed how metaphysics and its “ontotheological constitution” (Heidegger) are inevitable. In three parts he questions how contemporary thought tries to come to a metaphysics without Christianity (part 1), and whether it can position itself, as John D. Caputo tries to accomplish, as between faith and belief – as a “religion without religion” (part 2). In the third and last part he takes up Heidegger’s legacy and explores how there is something beyond a nihilistic ‘anything goes’. Here he presents what seems the main point of the whole book, namely Ludwig Binswanger’s phenomenology of love as a criticism of Heidegger’s Being and Time and as an approach in which the theological element of a phenomenological approach to life comes to light.

In this book, Schrijvers takes up an important issue that is present in a lot of contemporary thought: How are we to understand atheism – as it cannot be understood as merely a secularisation of originally theological positions. How are we to understand the theological heritage of our present ideologies? To explore this issue he spends a large part of the book reiterating debates between Jean-Luc Nancy and Peter Sloterdijk, between Caputo and Martin Hägglund, and Jean-Luc Marion.

Binswanger on Love

Yet especially interesting is Schrijvers exploration of the infrequently studied work of Binswanger (1891–1966), and Schrijvers’ analysis next of Binswanger in comparison and reaction to the work of Heidegger, Levinas and Nancy. Binswanger was a Swiss psychiatrist who took on Heidegger’s claim of the coming about of being through the relationship with the finiteness of life, but was of the position that “this truth lacks love, the original being-together.” Phenomenology is taken up as not an elitist method of play, but the most faithful approach to being and experience of everyone:

“What Binswanger initiated then is not only a fundamentally egalitarian phenomenology but also and no less importantly an originary coram: an always already being turned toward otherness.” (227)

Schrijvers’ work is both rich by providing a context of contemporary thinkers such as Sloterdijk and Nancy, and their interpretations and positions on the work of Derrida, Levinas. But it seems his real contribution to that field is his inclusion of the philosophy of love as developed by Binswanger. Love is what conditions the possibility of every ontic encounter, which leads Binswanger to consider this phenomenon an example of an “ontology incarnate”. In this ontological encounter, there is a transcendentality that is presented through the passageway that starts with love. Schrijvers posits Binswanger’s theory as a way that is neither “too much nor too little” inclined towards religion – it is not dependent on religion, but does not exclude it.

Despite Schrijvers’ excellent review of contemporary thought and their dependency on canonical thinkers such as Heidegger and Derrida, in the end it is the theological aspect that remains the focus, and the relation of the phenomenology of love is looked at from the question of the task of theology.

Incarnational Thinking

Schrijvers looks for a philosophical approach to an ontological and metaphysical account of concepts that have been theologically understood – community, love, being. He traces the contemporary attempts to accomplish this – for instance in the work of Levinas and Nancy. His analysis of movements in the understanding of the Other are closest to the Binswanger, in that according to Schrijvers this understanding gives rise to an ‘incarnational thinking’, where the ontic experience has the capability to be understood as an incarnation of something transcendental.

What is remarkable in Schrijvers’ otherwise thorough work, is the manner in which his analysis is limited to specific authors and therefore working within assumptions that are not questioned. One of those is the reliance on the concept of the position of the Other. A central theme in his work, as in the search for an ontology of being, philosophers have focused on specific ontic encounters with the Other (the kiss, hospitality, giving) through which they attempt to formulate a post-secular understanding of transcendence in modern society. Schrijvers takes on the different positions of Levinas, Derrida and Caputo, and the way Binswanger and Heidegger are attempting to find a measure of the self and in which the phenomenological and anthropological encounter with the Other. But he never moves beyond these interpretations. For instance, he holds on to the underlying assumption of difference between self and the other. Contemporary attempts to answer his fundamental question that refuse to follow in the footsteps of Levinas and Derrida, such as in the work of Bracha Ettinger and Luce Irigaray, are not considered. Thus he falls prey to a rootedness in thinking through difference that is never questioned.

When we take his claim of a search for an answer to the question of the role of the transcendental in a post-secular world serious, we end up disappointed. Many leading contemporary thinkers who have contributed to this field, such Alain Badiou, Hans Jonas, Charles Taylor or Maurice Blanchot, remain untouched. Through this selective choice, Schrijvers takes a very specific and theology-oriented approach, and his work should therefore be seen as a perpetuation of the directions of thought laid out by a particular strand of thinkers.

When we consider his work an overview and reflection on the work of specific thinkers and on how the work of Binswanger expands their view, we can conclude Schrijvers’ work is well-written and thought provoking. He has written an important work tracing the influences and developments of a group of contemporary thinkers and their position on whether ontology can be understood without a theological origin. Is there a solution to the “uncanny poverty” that results from secularisation, and is can this solution be provided by a phenomenology as professed by Derrida, Levinas, Heidegger, and even Binswanger? Yet by putting the focus of his work on contemporary theologians and their relation to theory, his conclusions should be read as a work on these thinkers, and not as a work on the general question Schrijvers poses.

But this doesn’t mean that Schrijvers falls prey to his own remark, that much academic writing is concerned only with “a sterile piling up of publications that nobody really seems to read and that at any rate do not function as vectors for a contemporary debate or catalysts for thinking.” (3) His work is a insightful contribution to the existing literature on this contemporary topic, both as an expansion on the work of several influential thinkers, but also on their limits and their individually unique approaches to the same phenomenon – the quest for a transcendence and its relation to the ontological notion of being.

The Legacy of Phenomenology in Contemporary Thought

The strength of Schrijvers’ work lies in the careful consideration of the legacy of the phenomenological method through the approaches of Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida and the way these reverberate in what he determines to be the contemporary view, as laid out by the work of Nancy, Caputo and Binswanger. Taking phenomenology to be “a witness to the place and space where meaning originates”, he questions the way the empirical and the ontological are intertwined, and the quasi-transcendental dizziness this leads to. He contemplates the emptiness left by the ‘death of God’ and the prevailing anarchy, in which nothing is sovereign. And he concludes that it is possible to formulate a philosophy of incarnation, in which meaning arises out of matter, but that there remains a lack of meaning. “This is perhaps what needs to be done at the end of metaphysics: recognising that we know that we do not know and that we most often fail to love properly. The human being is a being in default: its ambition surpasses its ability. Coming to terms with such a being in default may be the adequate response to the end of metaphysics: it is to recognise that we all share in this default and this lack and that this “knowing of not knowing” is what turns philosophy, as the love of wisdom, into a wisdom of love: not to overcome the lack, but to love even the lack (of rationality, of ultimate meaning.” (304-305)

Thus Schrijvers follows in the footsteps of a long tradition, looking at the end of metaphysics as a call to start philosophy – as a saying born through and beginning with love, positing language as the domain in which the encounter takes place. His work can be seen as a good introduction and careful reflection on the different perspectives on this position, but his work does not leave the contours of the theory he investigates.

Fausto Fraisopi: Philosophie und Frage

Philosophie und Frage Book Cover Philosophie und Frage
Fausto Fraisopi
Karl Alber
2016
668

Reviewed by: Marco Cavallaro  (Department Member of the Husserl-Archive Cologne; Visiting Researcher at Boston College)

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Fausto Fraisopis neustes Werk gleicht dem ausgezeichneten Ergebnis einer ernsten philosophischen Untersuchung. Seine Stellung innerhalb der aktuellen Forschungslandschaft ist umso schwerer einzuschätzen, wenn man erkennt, dass das Buch auf eine originelle Offenlegung der Bedingungen der Möglichkeit jedes metaphilosophischen Nachfragens zustrebt. „Über Metaphilosophie“ lautet der Titel des ersten, kürzeren Bandes von Fraisopis Werk, in dem der Autor mit einem knappen und agilen Stil den Inhalt seines Unternehmens erläutert und den Leser bzw. die Leserin zum höheren Niveau der theoretischen Spekulation, die die ganze Abhandlung kennzeichnet, auf kleinen aber sicheren Schritten begleitet.

Fraisopis leitende Fragestellung bezieht sich nicht so sehr auf das, was Metaphilosophie ist, sondern darauf, welche Möglichkeiten die Metaphilosophie für das theoretische Denken und damit für die Philosophie überhaupt eröffnen kann. Diese Frage wird heute, nach dem Bankrott derjenigen metaphysischen Strebungen, die das Denken der abendländischen Kultur seit ihrer Geburt geleitet haben, höchst aktuell. Wie kann man sich noch heute auf die Notwendigkeit berufen, metaphilosophische Analysen durchzuführen und diese gar als das vitale Element des philosophischen Denkens auszuzeichnen? Das aus dieser Frage ausgehende Rechtfertigungsbedürfnis, das heute vor allem die Metaphilosophie betrifft, ist allgemeines Thema des ersten, einleitenden Bandes und erfährt im zweiten eine weitere Vertiefung.

Metaphilosophie lässt sich schlicht als „die Suche nach den Formen (oder den möglichen Formen) der Mathesis“ (S. 21) zusammenfassen. Als Ankerpunkt metaphilosophischer Untersuchungen dient Fraisopi seine phänomenologisch geprägte Frageanalyse – die man mit Recht als eine Alternative zu der hermeneutischen Stellung des Frageproblems in den einleitenden Kapiteln zu Martin Heideggers Sein und Zeit auffassen kann. „Die Frage“, so heißt es in der Einleitung zum ersten Band vom Fraisopis Werk, „ist das Moment, in dem das Denken sich zu dem Erfahrungshorizont in der Suche nach einer Antwort öffnet, und eo ipso muss die Frage der Anfangspunkt einer nicht metaphysischen Suche, einer Mathesis universalis, als universaler Wissenschaft sein“ (S. 17). Insbesondere das Kapitel II des ersten Teils des zweiten Bandes ist einer sorgfältigen „Logik und Phänomenologie der Frage“ gewidmet. Die Frage wird zunächst als Nach-Frage (petitio) bestimmt, was besagt, dass die Frage sich auf ein Objekt richtet, dessen Erfassung die Antwort zur Frage ermöglicht. Damit wird die Sättigung des in der Frage selbst enthaltenen Strebens, als ihr notwendiges Moment, ermöglicht. In Fraisopis Worten: „Das Ereignis der Frage zeigt uns einen völlig eigenen Modus der Intentionalität, der sein Noema, seinen Gegenstand, besitzt, der ihn jedoch nicht gemäß seinem Sein, seinem leibhaftigen Sein, sondern in der Offenheit des Möglichkeitsfeldes erfasst“ (S. 165).

Das ursprüngliche Thema der Nachfrage im Bereich des Spekulativen ist das, was jeden selbst zu allererst betrifft, nämlich das eigene Ich des jeweils Fragenden. Die ursprüngliche Frage ist dann: „Was/wer bin ich?“ Das Ich selbst stellt aber ein „extrem untypisches Deiktisches“ (S. 194) dar, zu dessen Erläuterung eine Bedeutungslehre im traditionellen Sinne nicht imstande ist. Der deiktische Charakter des Ich-Wortes bringt dann ein besonders „armes Phänomen“ (S. 203) im Mittelpunkt der fraisopischen „Meta-Egologie“ hervor, sodass diese aus einer diametral entgegengesetzten Perspektive zur metaphysischen Auffassung des Subjekts als res cogitans verstanden werden will. Denn die Frage selbst bereitet den Boden, aus dem heraus eine Schau des Ich erst möglich wird. In diesem Sinne, argumentiert Fraisopi, ist also nicht das Ich das Transzendentale, sondern die „Uröffnung, welche die Schau als psychologische Urdistanz begleitet und ihr vorausgreift“ (S. 227). Die von der Frage eröffnete spekulative Situation ermöglicht die „neutrale Festlegung der Schau“, d.h. die Auffassung der Schau und ihrer Bedingungen, unabhängig von jeder ontologischen Setzung und jeder ontologischen Vorinterpretation des anschaulich Gegebenen. Auf diese Weise entzieht sich die Meta-Egologie einer Ontologisierung des Ich sowie des psychischen und geistigen Lebens, die die traditionelle Metaphysik von Descartes her auszeichnet. Anstelle des metaphysischen Subjekts tritt deshalb der Begriff des Ich-Horizonts in den Vordergrund. Die Selbsterfassung des Ich zeigt sich in der Gestalt einer „Öffnung/Offenheit“. Denn „[d]as ‚Ich‘ ist nichts anderes als die Öffnung/Offenheit der Möglichkeit, das Gerichtet-Sein zu artikulieren. Besser gesagt: ‚Mein Ich‘ ist nicht zu unterscheiden von der ‚Öffnung/Offenheit-wohin‘ ich mein Gerichtet-Sein artikulieren kann“ (S. 238). Der Welthorizont, das Gegeben-Sein der weltlichen Gegenständlichkeiten in ihrem horizonthaften Charakter trägt nach dieser Auffassung die Bedeutung eines speculum, eines Sich-Widerspiegelns des Ich in der und durch die Welt. Die parusía der Welt ist gleichermaßen Selbstschau des Ich, Eröffnung jenes intentionalen Gerichtet-Seins, das sein Grundwesen ausmacht. Dieses Ich selbst stellt ein hybrides Wesen dar, sodass Fraisopi seine Selbstbeziehung als „hybride Selbstbeziehung“ bezeichnet. Der Gesamtbereich der intentionalen Akte macht eine modulare Mehrdimensionalität, ein „Multiversum“ aus, in dem die inflationäre Verbindung linearer Dimensionen und deren Faserung herrscht.

Der Frage nach dem Ich, die zur Meta-Egologie wird, folgt die Frage nach dem Wesenscharakter von dem, was man traditionell ‚Philosophie‘ genannt hat. „Was ist die Philosophie?“, fragt sich Fraisopi im zweiten Teil seines Werkes über die Meta-Theorie. Eine solche Fragestellung erweist sich umso dringender, nachdem die Unmöglichkeit der Metaphysik historisch sowie theoretisch geprüft wurde. Philosophie kann nicht mit der Metaphysik und ihren Problemen identifiziert werden. Im Gegenteil, sie versteht eine metatheoretische Dimension als einen Ort, wo Komplexe von Idealitäten (d.h. Theorien) als Gegenständlichkeiten aufgefasst werden können. Fraisopi befürwortet daher eine „Verflechtung zwischen dem Phänomenologischen und dem Metatheoretischen“ (S. 301), was letztendlich in diesem Werk den Stil seines Philosophierens auszeichnet. Das Wissen und seine Erwerbe, sprich die Theorien, werden aus dieser Perspektive als Gegenstände möglicher Erfahrung, und zwar theoretischer Erfahrung, aufgefasst. Die Meta-Theorie befasst sich mit der Form des Wissens überhaupt und folglich mit der Form der theoretischen Erfahrung. Das Originelle an Fraisopis Ansatz besteht unter anderen darin, die Mathesis selbst als eine weitere, hochrangige Form von Erfahrung zu kennzeichnen und die Meta-Theorie nicht als bloßes axiomatisches System von Regelungen für mögliche Verknüpfungen zwischen atomaren Wissenselementen, sondern in erster Linie als „eine Schau, eine Perspektive und nicht ein anderes Wissen, eine Theorie“ (S. 310) zu verstehen. Denn das Metatheoretische bestimmt sich als der Raum oder Ort, in dem die das Wissen selbst ermöglichende Öffnung stattfindet und in dem sich theoretische Strukturen (Theorien, Prinzipien, Gesetze, Axiome) als Gegenstände manifestieren können. Der Meta-Theorie entspricht eine neue Form der Anschaulichkeit, ein Theôrein, das kein „absolutes Schauen“ und kein „Blick von einem Nirgendwo“ darstellt, sondern dem „offenen Horizont einer reinen Schau“ (S. 335) näherkommt. Der metatheoretische Gegenstand bzw. der Gegenstand der metatheoretischen Anschauung, welche als solche toto caelo von der Anschauung des Wahrnehmungsdings verschieden ist, erweist keine ontologisch fixe morphologische Gestalt. Fraisopis Analyse der Form von Metagegenständen stützt sich vorwiegend auf Husserls phänomenologische Befunde bezüglich der Horizontalität der Gegenstandserfahrung sowie auf die ursprüngliche Idee der Mathesis universalis als Theorie von möglichen Theorienformen. Ein Meta-Gegenstand besitzt in diesem Sinne sowohl einen Innen- als auch einen Außenhorizont, welche zusammen die Gesamtheit der möglichen Bestimmungen seiner Selbstgegebenheit und der es umgebenden, miterfahrbaren Gegenständlichkeiten in der metatheoretischen Öffnung ausmachen. Fraisopi unterscheidet das Eidos des Meta-Gegenstandes als die morphologische Struktur seiner Erscheinung von seinem Logos, welcher seine Genese und die Entwicklungsgeschichte seiner sedimentierten Erfahrung widerspiegelt. Der originelle Gedanke dahinter ist nämlich die Einsicht, dass Theorien sowie theoretische Probleme „ein Eigenleben“ besitzen und keineswegs nicht-zeitlichen Entitäten eines platonischen Universums entsprechen (S. 358). Da aber Zukunft und Vergangenheit als solche lediglich einem Subjekt gegeben werden und dem Meta-Gegenstand an sich allein nicht inhärieren können, erweist sich einmal mehr die Notwendigkeit, die grundlegende Korrelation zwischen Subjekt und Objekt thematisieren zu müssen. Das aber soll mit dem Bewusstsein geschehen, dass Subjektivität eher einen Schauplatz darstellt, in dem Gegenständlichkeiten erscheinen und in dieser Erscheinung sich als solche konstituieren. Die Geschichte der Meta-Gegenständlichkeiten ist demgemäß in die Geschichte ihrer Schau für ein Subjekt eingeschrieben. Die Sedimentierung der Wissensformen korrespondiert und geht Hand in Hand mit einer Sedimentierung der Erfahrung auf einer subjektiven, noetischen Seite. Fraisopi geht von dem die Phänomenologie leitenden Prinzip aus, dass man „niemals das Wesen von ‚etwas‘ vollständig von der Erfahrung, die man davon macht, unterschieden erkennen kann“ (S. 378). Eine solche Perspektive eröffnet die „hermeneutische Dimensionalität“ (S. 369) des Meta-Gegenstandes und mithin der metatheoretischen Dimension, d.i. die „Strukturierung nach Beziehungen des Horizonts der metatheoretischen Erfahrung“ (S. 408). Eine solche Dimensionalität setzt den Meta-Gegenstand in Verbindung mit anderen Metagegenständen. Die Geschichte eines Meta-Gegenstandes kann sich auch aus der Umwandlung eines früheren Meta-Gegenstandes entwickeln und Gruppen von Metagegenständen können sich auf diese Weise etablieren. Das Metatheoretische als solches impliziert daher eine Mereologie, d.h. „die Auffassung jedes Erfahrungsgegenstandes innerhalb des metatheoretischen Horizonts, nach Verhältnissen von Ganzen und Teilen“ (S. 381). Gegenstände treten immer aus einem Feld oder einer „Region“ von Gegenständen heraus, die gemeinsame Wesensmerkmale aufweisen. Eine solche Sachlage erklärt sich aufgrund der „Regionalisierung der Strukturen“ von Gegenständen der Erfahrung, die dem Metatheoretischen eigen sind. Mereologie und Topologie vereinen sich, um damit eine „Mereotopologie“ zu formen.

Auch wenn das Metatheoretische kein Gegenstand ist, sondern eine kontextuelle Situation, d.h. eine Perspektive, schließt sich die Verbindung zwischen Meta-Theorie und Ontologie nicht völlig aus. Ein solches Verhältnis ähnelt laut Fraisopi dem, was bei zwei Figuren in einem Perspektiven- bzw. Gestaltwechsel vorkommt (vgl. S. 424). Die Gegenstandstheorie oder Ontologie als die Theorie des Gegenstandes überhaupt setzt einen metatheoretischen Horizont im Sinne einer thematischen Öffnung voraus. Die Ontologie verliert demnach jenen epistemischen Vorrang, den sie in der metaphysischen Tradition besaß. Aufgabe der Meta-Ontologie wird denn nicht eine Beschreibung der Gegenstandstheorie, sprich Ontologie, sondern vielmehr die, „zu erkennen, was genau die Gegenstandstheorie als Meta-Gegenstand entstehen lässt und bestimmt: die Grundfrage der Ontologie selbst“ (S. 440). Demzufolge wird die Ontologie als Meta-Gegenständlichkeit zu einem Relativen, das keine Letztbegründung durch sich selbst zulässt und daher eine absolute Bestimmung des Etwas grundsätzlich ausschließt. Diese ontologische Relativität besagt, dass zwischen den regionalen, materiellen und formalen Ontologien kein Vorrang und keine Hierarchie herrscht. Das führt nicht zu einem ontologischen Relativismus, sondern, wie Fraisopi argumentiert, nur zu einem „ontologischen Pluralismus als ontologischem Kontextualismus“ (S. 544, Anm. 6). Die Öffnung des metaontologischen Horizonts enthüllt also die „Ontologie als das, was sie ist, nämlich als einen kontextuellen Raum im Inneren, von dem es eine Deklination einer gewissen formalen Bestimmungsstruktur des ‚Etwas’ gibt“ (S. 519). Eine kontextuelle Ontologie dieser Art definiert die Kriterien, denen gemäß Individuationsprotokolle einzelner Gegenstände in einer vorgegebenen Region der Realität bestimmt werden können. Es besteht kein einseitiges Kriterium der Individuation und kein vorzüglicher Anschauungsmodus – in Fraisopis Worten: „Es gibt keine Individuationsmöglichkeit in der thematisch deskriptiven Öffnung der Metaontologie, kein metaphysisches Individuationskriterium, sondern nur ein kontextuelles (lokatives) Kriterium der Konkretheit“ (S. 532).

Der metatheoretische Gedanke der neuen Mathesis, die Fraisopi in diesen Seiten darlegt, prägt sich also grundsätzlich in einer „meta-metaphysische[n] Situation“, im Sinne einer „Situation der Neutralisierung von der Frage nach dem Realen“ (S. 546). Die Meta-Metaphysik ist also keine neue Metaphysik nach dem Austräumen vom Traum der traditionellen Metaphysik. Sie entspricht stattdessen der Sachlage, dass die Metaphysik „in ihrem Unsinn anerkannt und aufgehoben wird“ (ebd.). Diesem Zustand trägt ferner die metaontologische Modellierung der Systemformen der Individuation Rechnung, welche im letzten Abschnitt von Fraisopis Arbeit vorkommt. Die meta-ontologischen Modelle, d.i. die Modelle die sich im meta-ontologischen Raum zeigen, sind als topologische n-dimensionale Räume zu denken. Durch die Anwendung der Kategorientheorie zu den meta-ontologischen Modellen kann man die lebendige Interaktion, die Morphismen und die Transformationen zwischen solchen Gegenständen betrachten und streng deskriptiv beschreiben. Eine solche Modellierung ermöglicht, „die Konstruktionen und ihre Isomorphismen zu vergleichen, die zwischen den verschiedenen metaontologischen Strukturen der Metagegenstände fortbestehen“ (S. 606). Sie trägt daher zu einer holistischen Darstellung der Wesenszusammenhänge von Gegenständlichkeitsbestimmungskriterien bzw. Individuationsprotokollen bei. Eine solche Darstellung liefert den Schematismus einer Grammatik des Schauens, welche korrelativ eine Ontologie als Ordnungssystem der verschiedenen Gegenstandstypen und ihren Regionen ermöglicht. Darüber hinaus lehnt die metaontologische Modellierung die Rechtmäßigkeit der Schöpfung von einem Weltbild als einem einzigen Bild der phänomenalen Welt ab: „Es gibt kein Weltbild zu konstruieren, nur eine Topographie des Realen, sodass es durch die spiegelhafte (stets neumodellierbare) Beziehung zwischen den Wissensformen und ihren ontologischen Bildern hervortritt“ (S. 588). Ein solches Vorhaben wäre laut Fraisopi zum Scheitern verurteilt, da sich die Struktur der Welt als dynamisch und komplex charakterisiert und als solche die Basis jener monistischen und fixen Ontologie zerstört. Besonders an dieser Stelle ist, dass der Gedanke der Komplexität in Fraisopis Werk zentral wird. Die Komplexität und Dynamizität des Realen, welche uns die aktuellsten, wissenschaftlichen Erfindungen bezeugen, ziehen dem traditionellen metaphysischen Weltbild sozusagen den Boden unter der Füßen weg. Auf diese Weise rechtfertigt sich die Aufgabe einer Meta-Metaphysik und der korrelativen „konstruktivistischen Metaontologie“. „Der Skandal“, der, könnte man sagen, den fraisopischen Gedanken einer Meta-Philosophie ursprünglich provoziert hat, besteht darin, „dass die Ontologie noch an einen gewöhnlichen Charakter des Diskurses gebunden ist, der weder der Dimension der gewöhnlichen Erfahrung noch den komplexen und extrem raffinierten Modellierungen des Wissens zugehört, für die es nicht ausreicht, eine philosophische Wiederholung zu liefern, um ein profundes, spekulatives Verständnis davon zu bekommen“ (S. 601). Es handelt sich dabei auf keinen Fall um Einwendungen naturwissenschaftlicher Befunde in den philosophischen Diskurs. Denn das Denken der Komplexität lässt die Bestimmung dessen, was das Reale ist, grundsätzlich offen, und darin hebt es sich von dem Denken der traditionellen Wissenschaft, etwa der Galiläischen Naturwissenschaft, ab – welche übrigens metaphysische Voraussetzungen enthielt und sogleich aus solchen entstammte. Auf der Grundlage dieses ‚Offenlassens‘, das heißt, auf der Grundlage des intimen Bewusstseins der Unmöglichkeit einer letzten Antwort auf die Frage nach dem Wesen der Realität, kann sich die Mathesis im Sinne einer Öffnung der Dimension des Spekulatives als Schau präsentieren.

Fraisopis Werk zeigt sich ambitioniert. Seine Absicht ist es, den Leser oder die Leserin dazu zu bringen, nicht weniger als die gesamte Aufgabe des theoretischen Denkens neu aufzufassen und ihn oder sie auf die Notwendigkeit aufmerksam zu machen, eine Mathesis universalis für die Menschheit zu konstruieren. Wie alle großen Gedanken und Philosophien wird voraussichtlich auch für Fraisopis die Zeit den entscheidenden Faktor für den Erfolg seiner Arbeit darstellen. Zeit ist auch das, wonach der Leser oder die Leserin dieser mächtigen zweibändigen Arbeit gefragt wird. Nach unserer bescheidenen Überzeugung wird aber seine oder ihre Zeit exzellent investiert.