Rafael Winkler (Ed.): Identity and Difference: Contemporary Debates on the Self

Identity and Difference: Contemporary Debates on the Self Book Cover Identity and Difference: Contemporary Debates on the Self
Rafael Winkler (Ed.)
Palgrave Macmillan
Hardcover 96,29 €
XVI, 286

Reviewed by: Meghant Sudan (Colby College)

This collection of essays aims to show how questions about one’s identity (as a metaphysical entity, as a reflective knower, as a social-moral-political being) appear when difference is upheld as primary or fundamental. This approach is broadly characteristic of recent works in continental philosophy and through it the collection maintains a steady affiliation with phenomenological thought, although this is not its explicit focus. The reader is led through thoughtful explorations of topics such as how one’s self-conception is marked by a fundamental deception, or how a satisfying account of agency demands a thoroughgoing unity across my animal and my rational capacities, or how my being human and embodied entails my constitution through a dynamic of fragility. The collection contains eleven essays presented at a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, including many by local and younger scholars, and so represents philosophical work itself in a somewhat different setting.

In that very setting, the collection is timely too, since the issue of identity has recently inspired lively public debate and much soul-searching at prominent sites of the South African philosophical scene, some involving the editor and a few authors of our collection. The controversy originally arose over systemic racism many felt exists in the Philosophical Society of South Africa, and in part concerned an all-white panel on the topic of South African identity at its annual conference last year (the panellists include some authors in the present collection). The editor then broached the topic and responded to critics in opinion pieces in newspapers this year. The collection encourages several ways to think about one’s identity and deepens the debate that already took place in the newspaper columns but which naturally could go only as far as these allow. At the same time, the collection courts a like charge as that which embroiled the panel, since no anxiety about manifest tokens of racial representation seems to drive the contents of the volume, while the sole article attending to the question of South African identity argues expressly from the position of whiteness (a pressing conundrum regarding how white South Africans are to be white South Africans in a post-apartheid state). These issues of the personal and the political are truly large and urgent, and easily dwarf the fact, which I would also like to make transparent in the context of this review, that I am personally acquainted with the editor and we share philosophical interests.

It is fashionable to fret about the lack of unity in collections, especially one that is conference-based, where it is even more susceptible to such worries. I do not share these worries, and judging from the fact that Winkler’s brisk introduction does not invest great effort in imposing order on the proceedings, I do not think there was any worry about settling them either. The essays are organized along four themes: “Narrative Theory and Phenomenology,” “Politics, Authenticity, and Agency,” “Feminism,” and “Race and the Postcolonial,” but they often speak to each other beyond these divisions. For example, narrative theories of identity appear in the first section (as they must) but also substantively in the Feminism section; the formidable thought of Spivak reflecting on Irigaray reflecting on Levinas comes up in both the Feminism and the Race and The Postcolonial sections; an interest in philosophical skepticism emerges in the course of discussing Sartrean views of consciousness in the first section and leads into a historical discussion of skepticism in the next. Such conversations among the pieces are helpful and are highlighted below. An unevenness does dog the collection, however, and I will comment on this aspect in the end after briefly reviewing the individual contributions.

Dermot Moran surveys concepts of self, ego, personhood, and personality, as they travel through the history of western philosophy until their phenomenological treatments by Husserl, Heidegger, Max Scheler, and Edith Stein. After Locke, who gave the concept of personhood a strongly moral orientation, and Kant, who pressed the ego’s sensible-cum-rational entanglements as a problem, these founders of phenomenology strive in mutually responsive ways to articulate its complex and dynamic unity, and stress the following: its systematic and historical dimensions (Husserl and Heidegger), its moral and concrete individuality (Scheler), and its psychic and spiritual depth (Stein). While the essay succeeds several previous versions, it is clear that Moran’s practiced hand (the essay succeeds several previous versions) brings the various moments of this otherwise expansive sweep before us effortlessly and situates the chapters that follow.

Alfonso Muñoz-Corcuera enters debates about narrative theories of personal identity, which Moran touches on when closing his essay. Muñoz-Corcuera defends these theories against objections which disable easy transitions between literary characters and living persons, which hold that we neither understand ourselves through narratives nor is our identity in fact constituted through narrativization, and which raise concerns about diluting our practical exigencies by relying on strategies relevant elsewhere, such as writing fiction. These objections are shown to rest on a misunderstanding easily avoided by distinguishing diligently between literary and cognitive senses of “narrative,” where the latter indicates a mental framework for thinking of agency rather than formal features of sentences that count as literary narratives. The different positions in this debate are laid out in detail, but key points of Muñoz-Corcuera’s rejoinder are stated without explicit support even if they sound plausible enough, e.g., the claim that the cognitive sense somehow conditions how we construe the literary sense, or the claim that our own identity is constituted through the interaction between stories we tell about ourselves and stories others tell about us. Similarly, the formal-literary notion is a tad flat without an account of the material-historical conditions of that form itself, which would arrest misuse of that notion in thinking about ourselves.

David Mitchell makes a strong case for continuing the dialogue between phenomenological and narrative views of personal identity by examining Sartrean insights into how a dialectic of fiction and belief underwrites selfhood. It is hard to account for self-deception as a state of mind resistant to a Cartesian type of transparent self-consciousness. Freudian theories incur the paradox that the subject must be conscious of what it is to remain unconscious of in order to repress it and epistemological theories equating self-deception with ordinary adhesion to false beliefs in the face of countervailing evidence do not do justice to the distinctive features and deep conviction marking the former. Mitchell therefore appeals to Sartre’s quaintly charming psychological case-analyses, which show them as grounded in the structure of consciousness as elusive and in flight, and he offers an account of belief as essentially overcoming itself at a pre-reflective yet spontaneous level of awareness. I only wish that he set aside some of the time spent on the case-analyses to help readers learn more about the intriguing processes at work in the theory of mind according to this view.

Vincent Caudron reminds us that the desire for a seamless self, without gaps or distortions, overlooks discourses of authenticity, which dominated the early modern epoch and its tenor of religious and epistemological uncertainty, and which probed a radical incompleteness of the self. Caudron documents such views in Montaigne and Charron to show not only skepticism about a true self but also a constant pursuit of hypocrisy in oneself that drove a wedge within the self in the service of moral authenticity. Fortunately, we have a wealth of historical-philosophical literature available (elsewhere, in the area of early modern skepticism) that offers greater heft and nuance to the indications Caudron flags as important to consider.

Irene Bucelli, in the one chapter that engages analytic philosophy, proceeds in the other direction and wonders if the constitutivist views of agency championed by Korsgaard and Velleman create an untenable rift between animal-active and human-rational levels of selfhood and if an approach that synthesizes the two orders is not preferable instead. Bucelli believes that minimal self-awareness without higher reflective endorsement is not only necessary for being responsive to reasons for acting as her opponents grant, but also sometimes sufficient, which is evident in coping actions in which I am immersed. The evidence, so far as I see it developed here, draws from the more cohesive and permissive account of action that will eventually ensue from the proposed approach: cohesive inasmuch as various capacities can be integrated towards human action instead of attributing the latter exclusively to an autonomous rationality, which attribution is nonetheless supposed to depend on lower layers of mental awareness and ownership; permissive inasmuch as a continuum or spectrum of actions and mental states can fund an account of agency under more flexible circumstances than the sort that Kantian formalism permits.

Rockwell Clancy wants to deliver us from a more pernicious formalism he perceives in contemporary liberalism, which, in having freed itself from allegiance to natural law and human nature, has led, he feels, to conservative and fundamentalist reaction. He observes that disavowing political anthropology is neither possible, because the barest description of human agency is still one, nor is it desirable, because, as Clancy warns, this opens us up to vast dangers ranging from ISIS and David Cameron to Dawkins and Derrida (the warning is issued in the now recognizable style of holding postmodern playfulness responsible for the severe indifference to truth affecting public discourse today and thereby enabling whatever-you-fear-worst). In lieu of an abstract and exclusive universalism Cancy imagines an inclusive particularism that would approach human nature through a more fluid understanding of nature, which lets us collect everything needed to avoid said dangers from everyone from Mencius to Latour to build a better world (and a daunting bibliography).

Kathy Butterworth’s chapter outlines a program for conceiving a relative (she prefers “relational”) autonomy by using Ricouer’s narrative theory of personal identity, which allows for thinking of a subject, and its autonomy, as a process for permitting degrees of achievement and contextualization. We need such a concept because the post-structuralist critique of the subject, while it compellingly dismantles traditional notions of an invulnerable, all-or-nothing autonomy, thereby also imperils the resources it could provide for a post-identity subjectivity consonant with a broadly feminist perspective.

Louise du Toit eloquently argues for rethinking subjectivity through bodily vulnerability with the help of feminist legal philosophy and phenomenology. Rape, she says, is inadequately understood when we only consider its physical violence, or only its sexual side and exclusively under the concept of consent as a corollary thereof. Relying heavily on Debra Bergoffen’s work on international tribunals on war rapes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, du Toit explains, rather, that rape concerns a physically coded violation of dignity that places it on the same plane as other crimes against humanity such as torture and slavery. Comparative analysis of these enables a phenomenological interpretation inspired by Merleau-Ponty, which evokes the fundamental ambivalence of the embodied human as both object and subject and calls for a thinking in terms of our living sensuality and enmeshed erotics. The essay is laden with insights that await unpacking via critical confrontations with other feminist and phenomenological work touched on in passing or raised by suggestion.

Laura Roberts takes forward the question of erotics signalled by du Toit and frames a dialogue between Irigaray and Spivak (which is surprisingly helpful in clarifying their otherwise abstruse texts), in order to conceive a feminist ethics of solidarity that is synaptically global rather than universal in a way that subsumes the other under itself. Spivak finds in Irigaray’s concept of sexuate difference as an irreducible difference a point of departure for thinking of an ethical relation to another, and in the question of women’s pleasure an excess-within-difference that can develop it as a radically indeterminate moment moving bodies together (in love) and playing between discourses (in translation or teaching). This style of thought naturally resists straightforward exegesis, proceeds performatively, and baffles any mere spectator or reviewer, but may at the very least be taken as articulating the “sensible transcendental” conditions of possibility of a solidarity to come, if one were to press mundanely about the solidarity hereby made possible.

Sharli Paphitis and Lindsay-Ann Kelland broach the question of South African identity from the standpoint of white individuals and record their personal struggles with it. As it is avowedly a personal question, albeit posed in a collective and impersonal register, it could have occasioned reflection on the very decision to write together (along with others like the focus on their race and citizenship, rather than, for instance, their being women), even if one did not want (but why not?) to go to Spivakian lengths of autoanalysis. Paphitis and Kelland do reflect on their guilt and shame, taking these as two kinds of relationships determining identity, one with their forefathers (their word) and another with their black compatriots, and they find that, denials of history and denials of recognition respectively riddle their reflection. Yet, they refrain from using the analysis of this emotional experience to disclose any larger truths, say, about being and intersubjectivity, and accept that they have merely begun their journey of self-discovery.

Louis Blond closes the volume with a reluctant defense of Levinas against postcolonial criticism of the topic of alterity. The essay includes a useful genealogical sketch of this topic, thus bookending Moran’s own on identity, to lead us up to the basic framework of Levinasian thought and interventions by critics as well as sympathetic commentators. Although Levinas is celebrated for stressing the singularity of the other and ethical confrontations ensuing from it, critics object that this denies representational politics or repeats exclusionary gestures of a colonial extraction or they point to plain instances of bigotry. However, postcolonial thought is not always beyond reproach, especially in overstating the body’s passivity against the transcendent-spiritual orientation of Levinasian thought, while, Blond hopes, repairing blind spots in the latter can preserve its intrinsically valuable prioritization of the ethical and social relation.

As I hope to have shown, the collection is uneven: some chapters are stronger, some weaker, some are interpretive or analytical, while some are programmatically promissory or resolutely exegetical, some are dense and some lucid. Given the editorial decision to represent a variety of voices, this may even be welcome. An unevenness harder to specify, however, concerns their intended audience. For, a few chapters will appeal to philosophers searching for argumentative developments in their fields, while others speak to generalists looking for the big picture, and some to non-philosophers interested in introducing themselves to specific ideas and movements. The publisher’s blurb recognizes this and addresses itself to the humanities at large. Inasmuch as philosophers are accused of not doing so, the book corrects a fault and ably informs a diverse readership about the variety of debates prevalent today about identity, difference, and the self.


Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger: Correspondence 1949-1975

Correspondence 1949-1975 Book Cover Correspondence 1949-1975
New Heidegger Research
Martin Heidegger, Ernst Jünger. Translated by Timothy Sean Quinn
Rowman & Littfield International
Paperback £19.95

Reviewed by: Forrest Cole (Global Center for Advanced Studies)

Correspondence 1949-1975: Martin Heidegger and Ernst Jünger (2016) presents an intimate portrait of two influential German philosophers. The letters provide significant insight into Heidegger and Jünger’s philosophical minds, as well as the eras from post-WWII to the Cold War. The letters are an important collection, and while the correspondence can be found elsewhere, this version benefits from a fluid and intelligible translation. In addition, translator Timothy Sean Quinn, Philosophy Department Chair at Xavier University, has included Jünger’s essay “Über de Linie” or “Across the Line” at the end of the correspondence. This inclusion fits well, as mention of the essay appears in the early letters, written as a gift for Heidegger on his 60th birthday. “Across the Line” functions as bookends to the letters and provides the reader with a perspective of time, place, and philosophical theory that, perhaps, the letters alone could not perform.

As Quinn states in the “Translator’s Introduction,” Jünger never attained the level of popularity as Heidegger. However, he made a name for himself in Europe as a prolific novelist and also published numerous philosophical and critical texts. In 1930 and 1932, he published his well-known works “Total Mobilization” and The Worker, respectively. These texts attracted Heidegger’s attention, and would be the connection that brought the two together. Heidegger stated, “[It was] how they express an essential understanding of Nietzsche’s metaphysics, insofar as the history and the present of the Western world are seen and foreseen within the horizon of this metaphysics” (xii). Discussion of Nietzsche appears throughout the letters and the concluding essay, and his theory of nihilism inspired much debate between the two admirers. According to Quinn, “the core of their friendship . . . turns on their shared attitude toward modernity, and to the growing nihilism of the age” (xiii). The theme circulates in and out of the letters, and is most prominent in “Across the Line” where Jünger explores his own unease about the growth of nihilism in Europe and the loss of Christian values.

It is apparent in the letters that Jünger and Heidegger find companionship through the written word. They develop a strong friendship and admiration for each other’s views and writings. Though, at times, the correspondence feels like a one-sided intellectual love affair, as Jünger reveres Heidegger, often seeking guidance, understandably so, because of Heidegger’s popularity; however, the admiration went both ways. Heidegger was very much impressed with Jünger’s intellect and ideas. The two found camaraderie via their similar situation and philosophical interests.

Heidegger and Jünger both suffered through periods of discrimination as post-WWII Germans. In 1933, Heidegger was briefly a member of the Nazi Party, and, even though he often wrote against the party later in life, he was always criticised for this affiliation. In addition, in the years leading up to the Third Reich, the Nazi Party sought to recruit Jünger, but he rejected their advances. However, this did not clear him of suspicion of Nazi involvement. In a 1974 letter, Jünger expresses his feelings to Heidegger, “Today, there is nothing more shameful than honors. After being sent to the dogs, one ends up on a postage stamp” (58). Despite the prestige the two philosophers earned, undergoing such criticism created lasting anguish. In the letters, there is clearly a general tiresomeness of pervasive judgment, over which the two commiserated.

Most often, collections of correspondence run rampant with the quotidian and mundane, but these letters are ripe with philosophical discourse, as the pair critically contemplate the world around them. Heidegger and Jünger often discuss other philosophers and their work. Such as in December 1955 and January 1956, when Jünger mentions in a postscript, “I have now completed a work concerning [Antoine de] Rivarol. His maxims are in general crystal clear, although in places a bit orphic” (18). At the end of the postscript, he asks Heidegger for his opinion. Heidegger responds with a multi-page exegesis. He writes, “The consideration of the weaver, the back-and-forth between of the weaver’s shuttle, shows that Rivarol sees motion not as an emptying of the future into the past (“time passes”), but as the transition that moves back and forth between two things at rest” (20). The two traded opinions and ideas such as these many times over the years. These brief discussions are an enormous benefit to the reader or scholar interested in the inner workings of a philosopher’s mind.

Not every letter can be a philosophical tete-à-tete, and while there are letters that represent the daily or mundane, the majority of the them offer something of value. When the two aging but extremely busy men often wish or request a meeting with the other, they are regularly too busy with speaking events or previous engagements. Though not in person, they still find meaningful ways to share their lives with each other. Heidegger and Jünger find time to send books. Near the end of Heidegger’s life, he often only communicated through the gift of books. From December 1970 to March 1972, there are only two letters, both from Jünger, and in each, he thanks his older friend for Phenomenology and Theology and Schelling’s Treastise, respectively. At other times, they share the attributes and failures of other texts. Even in this seemingly quotidian act, Jünger and Heidegger offer the reader intelligent insight into their patterns of thought.

On May 26, 1976, Heidegger died, and after all the intimate letters the reader feels the pain of the loss, and the pain that Jünger surely experienced at the death of his influential and dear friend is palpable in the terseness of his words. He only writes one more letter: a brief response to Heidegger’s son Herman. Perhaps the most emotive moment comes in reading the letter from Heidegger’s wife to Jünger, which includes a Friedrich Hölderlin poem found in a bedside book that was addressed to family and close friends upon Heidegger’s death. To quote the poem here would debase the experience, but after finishing the letters, it is easy to imagine the tears that wet Jünger’s cheeks.

“Across the Line”

The inclusion of the essay at the end punctuates the impactful letters. “Across the Line” is written in short chapters, vignettes of thought that expound upon the state of nihilism in the world, and how Christian values are the key for emerging from the darkness. The loss of Christian values is a great blow to Jünger, and he believes strongly in the salvation of the church, but he admits that it cannot win against nihilism: “We must then establish that theology by no means finds itself in a condition capable of confronting nihilism” (92). Jünger spends many pages discussing Nietzsche’s description of nihilism, which he admits is difficult to define. He does mention that nihilism is corrosive to society and values, and that nihilism must be left behind in order to attain spiritual heights and purity. Jünger writes, “It is the theme of our age” (88). To him, nihilism has become omnipotent, used by the powerful so that they may invoke fear, which is remarkably more poignant considering that this essay was written in the years following the Third Reich.

In many ways Jünger appears to be caught in the very state of pessimism that he decries against; however, he offers a few ways that the individual can overcome this. He argues that love, art and poetry can liberate the mind and body from the pessimistic state. Jünger states, “The meaning of art cannot be to ignore the world in which we live—-and thus it has little serenity. Spiritual overcoming and command over the age will not reveal itself in the fact that perfect machines crown progress, but rather that the age gains a form in the work of art. In this way, the age is redeemed” (98). Art will set people free.

While the essay lacks a bit of coherence, the message is as relevant today as it was in the 1940s. Quinn’s publication comes at an interesting time in the world, a time that reflects the era in which Jünger and Heidegger were composing. Quinn’s translation reads smoothly, is intellectually stimulating, and poetically intriguing. Without a doubt this collection is a valuable addition to the canon of research for both Heidegger and Jünger.

Tobias Keiling: Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus. Eine Interpretation und Kritik von Heideggers Spätphilosophie

Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus. Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers Book Cover Seinsgeschichte und phänomenologischer Realismus. Eine Interpretation und Kritik der Spätphilosophie Heideggers
Philosophische Untersuchungen 37
Tobias Keiling
Mohr Siebeck
Paperback 69,00 €
X, 507

Reviewed by: Thomas Arnold (University of Heidelberg)

Breaking the Ontological Circle

Keiling’s study addresses the following problem: according to Heidegger, philosophy should become totally historical and should totally focus on things at the same time. How is that possible? Keiling provides an answer by developing what he calls “phenomenological realism” through a close reading of central texts from Heidegger’s late period. Phenomenological realism according to Keiling is a “context-sensitive category, asking to orient philosophy towards things” (289) by way of a “basal, pre-ontological, quasi metaphysically neutral reference” (293) to these very things. Phenomenological realism calls for a “thematisation of the real” (348), of res, i.e. things qua things irrespective of any ontological preconception. We will clarify what this entails in the following three sections. The first section gives a rough overview of the book, the second section highlights its central claims, which are discussed in the third section.

I. Overview

The book consists of three parts and an introduction. The fairly substantial introduction lays out the problem and clarifies certain hermeneutical issues regarding Heidegger’s late work. Rather than giving up on the later Heidegger’s texts as ‘mystical’ or otherwise unintelligible, Keiling sees them as legitimate philosophical engagements with the history of being and the thingness of things – two strands of Heidegger’s thought he contends are intimately, though not obviously connected. The introduction also provides a synopsis of the themes developed throughout the book and locates them in a wider systematic context.

The first part, “Phenomenology and Ontology” is in some sense negative as it consecutively disentangles the notions of phenomenology and ontology as well as metaphysics. Here, as elsewhere in the book, Keiling doesn’t proceed chronologically in his reading of Heidegger’s texts but aims to present a coherent argument drawing from sources after (and including) Being and Time. In §1 Keiling establishes Heidegger’s topological analysis of the “end of philosophy” as a meta-theory or “overview” (108) of philosophy, where the end of philosophy does not mean its dissolution but rather the point at which philosophy can look back on its history and uncover the historicity of ontology. Famously Heidegger holds that throughout the course of philosophical thought, being has been understood in different ways, where each specific way of understanding being, namely each ontology, constitutes an “epoch”; Descartes and Kant are prime examples of the epoch of the object or objectification, in which being is equal to being an object.

§2 accordingly contains a discussion of Heidegger’s notion of “epoch” and how it is related to Husserl’s notion of “epochê”. One result of the discussion is that while it is presupposed that different ontologies all conceptualise the same topic (being) or answer the same question in different ways, this assumption of a unitary common theme is in need of an argument without which “the unity of Being [across ontologies] remains speculative.” (123)

That issue leads Keiling to discuss different ways of posing the so-called “question of being” in §3. While what Heidegger calls the “guiding question” calls for a concrete, totalising answer of the form “being is …, therefore all beings are …”, which then constitutes an epoch in the history of being, the “basic question” opens up a pre-ontological, i.e. phenomenological discourse (137). Whenever we understand the question of being as a guiding question and accordingly supply an answer to it, we remain intra-epochal. Extra-epochal and therefore pre-ontological access to the appearance of things is possible only through the basic question, which does not require any answer in the sense of a concrete ontology but, reversely, makes it possible to translate different answers to the guiding question into a common language.

The relation between the basic question and phenomenological accounts of the subject matter of philosophy is the topic of §4. While earlier phenomenologists have simply predefined the “matter of thinking” (Sache des Denkens) by answering the guiding question, thus subscribing to a specific ontology, Heidegger leaves the matter of thinking open by posing the basic question. The basic question disallows philosophy to settle on any specific definition of being and it also prevents philosophy from any claims about being as a totality of beings. If we understand ontology as the business of defining being (or existence) and metaphysics as the effort to think the totality of being, the basic question uncouples philosophy from both ontology as well as metaphysics.

As Keiling writes in §5, phenomenology knows ontological totality only in the mode of questioning (179). This pre-ontological, pre-metaphysical stance turns out to be the expression or effect of a genuinely phenomenological freedom, namely the ability of bracketing ordinary thought (which Husserl achieves through the epochê) or stepping outside the history of being (an operation Heidegger calls the ‘step back’, Schritt zurück). As Keiling points out in §6, this step back is not “sigetic” (201), i.e. no lapse into mystical silence, but simply the stepping back from any ontological projection of an epochal understanding of being unto entities. The step back is the appropriate reaction to the basic question; it lets the open appear as condition of manifestation and within it the things qua things, yet it nevertheless structures this appearance propositionally (200), making it available to philosophical, though non-ontological, non-metaphysical discourse. This discourse is phenomenology, oriented towards the manifestation of things in an ontologically unprejudiced way; it reflects on and negates the bias induced by any epoch of the history of being to enable descriptions that are not ontologically naïve but allow for the ontological pluralism the history of being has established. In Heidegger’s terminology, the critical impact of phenomenology on ontology allows particulars to appear not as “objects” (Gegenstände) but as “things” (Dinge).

This progression from the end of philosophy through the reflection on the two ways the question of being might be conceived of, to a step back, can be construed in two different ways: first, it can be understood (macrologically) as the historical development of philosophy in general, Heidegger’s own philosophy in particular. Yet it can also serve as the (micrological) description of what needs to be done to de-ontologise any given discursive context: through the step back as radicalized epochê, the end of philosophy and the turn to phenomenological realism can be initiated at any moment within a philosophical conversation.

The second, positive part, “Phenomenological Realism”, constitutes a discussion of core issues of phenomenology, starting from a discussion of the canonical phenomenological understanding of the phenomenon in §7. Any appearance (phenomenon) is always of something, it contains presentational and representational elements, most importantly, according to Heidegger’s discussion in the introduction to Being and Time, it presupposes an identical point of reference to understand the very idea that a phenomenon can at first be covered (or not-yet-discovered, unentdeckt), then discovered (entdeckt) by phenomenology or covered over (verdeckt) again. The history of ontology is the history of the way the manifestation of things is covered over by different ontologies. These deliberations lead to a discussion about the nature of phenomenology itself in §8 where Keiling portrays Heidegger’s critique of thinking as representing (Vorstellen) in his reading of Hegel in “The Age of the World Picture” and post-war lectures. As opposed to Husserl, Hegel (according to Heidegger) loses both sight of the transcendence of the things qua things as well as his phenomenological freedom, due to his immanentism. Freedom for Hegel is just participation in or even just contemplation of the absolute process; this however is no the step back (269), but contains ontological determinations of the absolute, namely as of a will. Hegel therefore fails to achieve a proper phenomenological stance.

§9 then consists of a close reading of the end of Husserl’s Ideas I and “Mein Erlebnisstrom und Ich” from the Bernau Manuscripts. Keiling points out that things are paradigmatic objects even for Husserl; they are themselves Leitfäden for phenomenological investigations (314) and their dissolution into their constitutional levels impossible (316, 319). Husserl is himself a phenomenological realist in Keiling’s sense (309, 332). §10 sees Heidegger dealing with Kant as well as the late Heidegger dealing with the early Heidegger dealing with Kant. While the early interpretations lapse into (fundamental-)ontological reductionism, the later interpretations allow for a “pluriparadigmatic phenomenological ontology” (360). For, if “being is not a real predicate”, the reality of things can be discussed without a predefined ontology, including the temporal ontology of early Heidegger. The meaning of predicates is independent of a prior answer to the question of being. This raises the question of how such meaning is to be described. In §11, Keiling turns to language. It is in the variety of spoken and written language(s) that phenomenology finds a first freedom from ontological discourse (386). The experience of things itself is lingual and therefore open for hermeneutics; thus, Heidegger’s realism is hermeneutical realism (406). In light of this interpretation, Heidegger’s infamous linguistic speculations, rather than being absurd efforts at a form of mystical etymology, simply afford different ways of describing thing-ness (420).

The task of the third part, “A World of Things”, is to re-interpret three core-concepts of phenomenology from the perspective of phenomenological realism. Keiling accepts a realistic version of Husserlian horizonality in §12, according to which horizons belong primarily to the thing themselves, rather than our experience of them. Also, the horizonality of things is independent of any given ontology. Keiling identifies Husserl’s horizons with the late Heidegger’s topology and conceives of them as the place where experience takes place. Yet he sees Heidegger himself in danger of trying to reduce things to the metaphysical process of an unfolding of the “Gegnet” (438) or of truth. Similar concerns pertain to the notion of the world, voiced in §13, since Heidegger as well as Husserl stand to fall back into dogmatism or metaphysics when dealing with the world: either it is conceived of along the lines of subjectivist ontology (Husserl), the temporal ontology of Dasein (early Heidegger) or the ontology of the four-fold (late Heidegger). Against this reductionism, Keiling introduces Heidegger’s notion of “worlding” (das Welten) to describe the dynamic interplay of the horizons of things as opposed to the “world” as a unique, definite and static totality of things. In §14, Keiling then treats Heidegger’s topology in the same vain. While Heidegger himself tends to prioritise the spacing of space ontologically, thus degrading the appearance of the things to an “epiphenomenon” (462), Keiling argues that things remain “necessary descriptive factors [Beschreibungsgrößen]” (477) in all contexts of building, dwelling as well as thinking.

II. Central Issues

Throughout the dense and detailed study, two main themes emerge. The first revolves around phenomenology as meta-theory of ontology (a), the second concerns things as necessary descriptors (b).

a) As we have seen, phenomenological realism disentangles philosophy from ontology where ontology is identified as a way of answering the guiding question. Any such answer constitutes an epoch in the history of Being, but according to Keiling they necessarily fall prey to the “ontological circle” (35): starting from the question of Being, we choose one paradigmatic entity or a region of entities to start the investigation. We then – following the ontological difference – focus on the Being of this entity. Under the assumption that Being is Being no matter what entity we look at, we commit an act of “ontological generalisation” (33) through which we arrive at a dogmatic and overgeneralised account of what it means for all things to be. Since this account will break down in the face of entities that are very different from the one whose Being we have overgeneralised, we are forced to go back to raise the question of Being once again. As Keiling notes repeatedly (33, 81, 110, 129, 132), Heidegger himself falls prey to the logic of the ontological circle, firstly when he tries to establish a temporal ontology through his analysis of Dasein, as he simply overgeneralises the temporality of his chosen paradigmatic entity; secondly when he outlines his ontology of the fourfold.

Phenomenological realism avoids the ontological circle in two ways. It eschews overgeneralisation since it is not interested in providing a philosophical explanation of the totality of entities, and it does not try to give a definite answer to the guiding question. This is why, surprisingly, the absolute is still in play for phenomenological realism, although it does away with traditional ontology (and arguably metaphysics and even epistemology as well): the “un-thinged/un-conditioned (das Unbedingte)” (386) – as Kant puts it – is not something behind or above all entities, as onto-theology has it, but the reality of each thing itself. Taken this way, phenomenological realism remains a theory of the absolute, but not of the totality of entities.

This stance in turn enables phenomenology to investigate different totalising ontological claims from a non-internalist but also non-externalist viewpoint (288); it avoids the “encroachment of history” (379) on the appearance of things by simply focusing on how things appear in a given situation, without presupposing any specific ontological vocabulary. In this sense, phenomenological realism is still beholden to the idea of phenomenology as a descriptive rather than a speculative endeavour. For Keiling this also constitutes the difference between Speculative Realism as presented by Meillassoux and his own position developed in the reading of Heidegger, for while the speculative realist sees speculative realism as (just another, although) radical alternative to classical ontology, realist phenomenology can treat different ontologies as possible “patterns of descriptions” (64) of the appearance of things and integrate or reject them due to their respective descriptive plausibility. Phenomenological realism thus guards philosophy against empty speculation by tying all ontological theories back to the pre-ontological appearance of things. This is the central negative claim of phenomenological realism.

b) Things have thereby turned out to be meta-philosophically necessary descriptors: without reference to things as they appear we cannot judge any ontological effort. The main arguments for phenomenological realism proceed along similar (transcendental) lines, insofar as the reference to things and their appearances constitutes the condition of intelligibility for certain philosophical moves: “thingness is the focus of very different contexts” (397). This idea has at least two meanings: an intra-epochal sense and an extra-epochal sense.

Intra-epochal, the experience of things is the “condition of possibility of objectivity” (cf. 435). In things, space and time instantiate themselves. Also, units of validity (Geltung) can only be described if they are conceived of as based or centred around things of experience (210), which is why Husserl’s descriptions of the levels of the constitution of objects presuppose the appearance of the thing as the focal point of those very levels (319). In his reading of Husserl, Keiling goes as far as to state that only the reference to can stop the regress-problems surrounding the Ego (331). Even temporal (fundamental) ontology has to presuppose things in order to phenomenologically explicate different modes of Dasein (374), since things are always already present as that from which Dasein can understand itself authentically or inauthentically. Things are the starting point of most if not every ontological universalisation (376), as the ontological circle encompasses the move from a given thing, conceived of as an entity, towards its Being along the lines of the ontological difference.

Extra-epochal, epochs of Being can only be identified as different answers to the same question if the non-ontological phenomenology of the appearance of things is presupposed. For only the reference to things qua things allows to justify and differentiate ontological theories (336) as different descriptions of the very same things. They mediate phenomenological presence and representation as well as their shifts (397). The concept of the world can only be elucidated phenomenologically if things are presupposed (447). A real “why”-question is only possible for the phenomenological realist, since only the realist lets things appear before applying any given ontological framework (456); only the basic question allows to ask for a (final) ground of something without distorting the appearance of the thing in question.

III. Debate

The study primarily sets out to provide a comprehensive and systematic reinterpretation of the later writings of Heidegger. It achieves this admirably by developing the framework of phenomenological realism as a perspective that allows to read the texts of the later Heidegger as systematic efforts of understanding the appearance of things and its ontological-historical distortions. I will not engage in a comparison with competing readings, although these are discussed throughout the book. However, Keiling himself also locates phenomenological realism in regard to the “discussion about metaphysical and ontological realisms” (16) and therefore raises a claim to offer a systematic contribution to philosophy. As he argues in the introduction, any interpretation of philosophy at some point becomes a philosophical position that is itself susceptible to be checked against what it aims to describe. (5) So instead of engaging with the intricacies of Heidegger exegesis, I would like to conclude this review by pointing out one particularly pressing issue.

This issue is the identity of things. Supposedly things are “invariants of experience, the reference to which requires no identity-criteria” (52). But while it is true that in everyday life we do not need to know a sufficient and necessary set of attributes to reference a thing, Keiling himself points out that phenomenology needs to show that the things it deals with on a pre- or non-ontological level are the same as the objects of ontology (200). So, while it might sound intuitive to assume that one identical thing allows for very different appearances, how do we actually know that two phenomena are of the same thing? How do we know we can “carry over” a thing’s identity from one “explanatory and descriptive context to the next” if the “meaning of the thing” changes “radically” and different “truths” apply to it in different contexts (388)? Keiling seems to lean towards a foundationalist solution. With Heidegger, he stipulates a “definitive context of explication [maßgeblichen Explikationszusammenhang]” (388), a pure experience of things below all “epistemic paradigms” (388), i.e. an experience independent of ontological contamination. Since Keiling assumes with Heidegger that experience is in some sense tied to language (and language to things, 477), this pure experience cannot be conceived of as non-lingual, though it need not involve a strong notion of subjectivity. And as it is supposed to ground judgements about the descriptive quality of different ontologies (482), it should even be conceptual. Yet to substantiate these meta-philosophical claims of phenomenological realism, this foundational discourse needs to be fleshed out and put into critical use over and beyond what Keiling already presents in part 3 of his study.

To me this effort would include not only dealing with the issue of the identity of things, securing a foundation and showing how exactly it grounds judgements, but answering a few of the following questions. If phenomenological realism is not thing-fundamentalism, what other categories – apart from “thing”, “horizon”, “world”, “place” – could be in play in such foundational discourse? Is every thing embedded in a “universal horizon” (431) even in the weaker form of a ‘worlding’? Keiling himself notes that Heidegger’s descriptions are always threatened whenever he tries to establish the truth of universal processes without grounding his accounts in concrete phenomena (476), so the supposed universality of the world itself seems suspicious. Also, is the perspective of phenomenological realism available for all ontologies? Phrased differently: are all objects just things in ontological disguise? What about mathematical objects? Should we speak about mathematical things in opposition to mathematical objects? Or fictional things?

These remarks should not be understood as criticisms of Keiling’s book, since they go way beyond his main effort to re-read the later Heidegger. They rather show that to solve the problem of the identity of things and further develop phenomenological realism, we might need to turn to sources other than Heidegger. Keiling himself hints at the author whose work might be the most promising resource for phenomenological realism: Hans Blumenberg.


James Dodd: Phenomenology, Architecture and the Built World: Exercises in Philosophical Anthropology

Phenomenology, Architecture and the Built World: Exercises in Philosophical Anthropology Book Cover Phenomenology, Architecture and the Built World: Exercises in Philosophical Anthropology
Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology, 16
James Dodd
Hardback €110,00
viii, 298

Reviewed by: Kevin Berry (University of Pennsylvania)

James Dodd’s Phenomenology, Architecture and the Built World: Exercises in Philosophical Anthropology examines the built environment, as the artifactual composition of human involvement, from the perspective of phenomenological intentionality. From this perspective, “meaning,” as Dodd succinctly states, “is originally the accomplishment of the intentionality of lived experience” (57). Dodd’s formulation of the matter is most clearly expressed in chapter seven which directly explores, among other things, the topic of architectural meaning. The built environment is not a set of meanings inscribed upon buildings as if a “text to be deciphered,” but rather a series of existential paths open to inhabitants (199). As the material arrangement of human intentional involvements, the built environment is meaningful as “a sense of directedness” in “hodological form.” This seems to be the thesis of the text: an argument that phenomenology allows us to read the built environment’s meaning hodologically, rather than textually (215-216). In fact, that and how the world is given in meaningfulness is a large part of the “problematicity of knowledge,” the key issue in the text.

Though Dodd writes for philosophers, the text opens an equally important perspective for architectural historians. It points to the need to investigate architecture phenomenologically, a project which has suffered a legitimation crisis in the field of architecture since the late 80’s and early 90’s saw a rush of publications on the topic, the most notable being Questions of Perception. So many architectural theorists and historians in this tradition have used Heidegger, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, and Hannah Arendt (the four main characters of Dodd’s text) without full awareness of the ontological critique of Cartesian conception of worldhood at the base of phenomenology. Architects, evoking these phenomenologists’ names, still read architectural meaning as being first of all a visual, or textual, matter. Architecture is not something we look at, or read, though. It is something we live in and, more precisely, are involved in. This insight, which Dodd’s text points out, would help bolster future attempts in architecture to apply phenomenology to the concept of architecture, the city, or the built environment.

The text has eight chapters set between an introduction and conclusion. Chapter 1, “Knowledge and Building” examines “the kind of knowledge operative in the activity of building,” tracing a philosophical argument in the historical debate between the architect and engineer as two distinct kinds of builders. Subsequently, chapter 2, “Building and Phenomenon” examines “the built as something encountered in experience” (8-9). The elegance with which the chapter titles interlock is impressive. Each has two key terms, displaying to the reader the flow of the argument; this can be seen in the word “Building” in first and second chapter titles. The flow continues: chapter 3, “Phenomenon and World” leads from Phenomenon to world. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 interlock concepts of “World” and “Thing,” chapter 6 flows from “Thing and Built Space,” into chapter 7, “Built Space and Expression,” and finally, chapter 8, “Expression and Presence.”

The chapter titles and section headings, while they reveal the flow of the argument, dissolve into one another, literally and figuratively. To this reader, one downside to this otherwise elegant structure is that it caused the text to read too fluidly, making it difficult to discern the main conclusions and objects of study, which are both architectural objects and philosophical texts. It is well written and the prose holds an impressive stride. The argument flows from one point to the next, with the reader often being led through illustrations of foundational ideas in phenomenological methodology. It is certainly not an introductory text, as Dodd states, but it holds a desire to continually return to the base of each problem. In short, it reads as an extensive phenomenological meditation, returning to questions of method as often as it turns to its objects of study. Dodd’s text rewards a patient reader.

For instance, it is hard to know what to subsume, exactly, under the concept (or, more accurately, figure) of the ‘labyrinth’ introduced in chapter 3, especially when the figure of the labyrinth plays such a pivotal role throughout the next two chapters, and not just in the subsections which have the word in their title. Edward Casey, Bernard Tschumi, and Indra Kagis McEwen are all employed in discussions of the labyrinth. The dense fabric this organization weaves is as impressive as it is demanding. Its conceptual complexity is not a point to be criticized, of course. My criticism here is much more limited. I can only say that the book is truly dense; at points, it seems overpopulated with insights. Signposts are needed to help distinguish major and just minor conclusions, as there are so many woven into each chapter. Internal to the argument, there are just four points I find disagreement with.

First, distinctions need to be sustained more thoroughly between the built environment, artifact, and architecture. Is the built environment to be understood as a composition of artifacts in this text? Or is it something over and above this, a whole greater than its parts? What is the difference between artifact and tool, or the difference between Heidegger’s equipmental totality and the idea of an artifactual totality (or composition) as it appears in the text? There seem to be many different ways of conceptualizing these key terms given the many theorists referenced.

Second, the attempt to rehabilitate phenomenology by creating what Dodd calls “classical phenomenology” by synthesizing Husserl, Heidegger, and Arendt, especially for a text which already copes with the workload involved in straddling multiple fields. The unresolved and irresolvable tension between Husserl, Heidegger, and Arendt is most apparent in chapter five, which asks the reader to jump from Husserl’s world of Abschattungen (adumbrations) – a topic already discussed in a previous chapter – to Heidegger’s world of Sorge (care)., by way of Steven Holl’s notion of parallax and Duchamp’s nude. This ten page section is certainly an impressive composition, and the illustrations are engaging, but the technical nuances in which Dodd engages often reveal the distance between these thinkers at those points in which they seem most closely related. I am sure Dodd recognizes that classical phenomenology is no monolith, and never could be, but the methodology of the text betrays a desire for it to be, especially chapter five.

Third, there is a set of competing ends operating in the argument. For instance, the reader is informed that the investigation is ultimately seeking “the development of a descriptive vocabulary for the analysis of built space” (50), but also that it is focused on “the problematicity of knowledge.” In the end, the latter concern appears to win, but the reader is still left wondering if the problem is ethical, concerned with developing a philosophical understanding of the built environment’s contribution to the meaningfulness of human existence, or epistemological, as the text more explicitly claims.

Again, it seems the latter wins. That this text on the built world begins with a chapter on “knowledge” is no accident. Dodd, it seems, asks philosophers to turn to the built environment, but only so they may turn back to questions of epistemology. This becomes clearer as the reader moves into the middle chapters, which grow increasingly epistemological, concerned with rethinking key concepts of intentionality, constitution, the epoché, and perception in light of the built environment. The text reads as an epistemological investigation with a special concern for the perceptual structures of meaning in the built environment. This is especially true in his example of an experience in Café Hawelka in Vienna (87). Descriptive analyses of European cafés are a staple of architectural phenomenology, and so the reader expects to be pulled into the built world, into living experience, but this does not happen. Rather, Dodd asks of perceptual experience in the café, “What does this entail?” and turns to a thorough excursus on Husserl’s notion of Abschattungen (90). Dodd concludes chapter 3 by drawing the conclusion from this that “in living through an experience, I fully inhabit the whole of experience at once” (93). In a way, this is just the epistemological issue at stake, and shows why phenomenology so often seems to spill over from epistemology into ontology. The café will return in the conclusion, this time as Sartre’s missing Pierre in Being and Nothingness (263-265).

My final point of criticism is that this is not a book on architecture, which it claims to be. The examples are never fully architectural. The phenomenological analysis of the way in which a pebble, in its material shape, holds cognitive indications concerning its uses and intentional possibilities, for example, is insightful, but this moment of analysis – one of the more important in the text – does not concern the architectural. Figures such as Eisenman, Tschumi and Le Corbusier do make appearances, as do some famous monuments and ruins, but they are always there for the elucidation of a concept and are not objects of study themselves. This leads me to ask, does Dodd actually discuss architecture at all? Regardless of how one answers this, as I indicated at the outset, this is a text architectural writers interested in philosophy must understand.

Perhaps Dodd’s intended philosophical audience explains why architecture remains conspicuously absent from the book. The ideas of phenomenology remain strongly in the fore, and artifacts often illustrate these, but architecture nowhere fully appears. Dodd’s decision to explain his argument through more typical environmental situations — sitting at a library, reading in a café, enjoying the view of a valley on a park bench, etc. — makes sense, because Dodd’s aim is to study the built environment not by applying concepts of Husserl and Heidegger to architectural objects, but by determining where, in the unique ontological picture of phenomenology, the built world fits. After all, most works of architecture populating the “canon” of architecture are built as perceptual experiences for the trained eye of the designer, and composed more for the attitude of disinterested aesthetic contemplation than the average inhabitant of day-to-day involvement. Architecture seems to be at odds with the idea of the built environment as a cultural setting, in this sense, or at least seems to bear an ecstatic, to use Heidegger’s term, relationship to it.

The title of Dodd’s text thus points out an issue. There seem to be two conceptions of architecture which need to be distinguished more carefully by those operating within the philosophy of architecture today: architecture as defined by the profession, its objects, and the discrete acts of professional architects designing individual buildings; and, second, architecture as understood anthropologically, as the act of arranging “the material-cultural world in which we are enmeshed,” as Dodd says so well, into a purposive whole (29). This second, anthropological conception of architecture, as an ontological condition of human communal existence in the material world, is the “architecture” of Dodd’s investigation.

Examining architecture’s significance, the way in which architecture means something to inhabitants in everyday, circumspective activity is an important and remarkably overlooked issue. Too much of architecture theory has acted as if architectural meaning only existed when architecture was looked at as a signifier or as an aesthetic object of disinterested contemplation. Dodd’s attempt to think architectural meaning in the foreground of human life, in the immediacy of the practically and socially absorbed activity of the occupant, that mode of experience in which the building is usually experienced and, somehow, understood, is a welcome addition. It seems phenomenology might have something left to contribute to this project, showing how the built environment needs to be thought through not as a cultural “objectification,” as recent sociological investigations of architecture have thought it, but as a material conception of Husserlian operative intentionality or transcendental subjectivity. (For an instance of such a sociology of architecture, see Silke Steets, Der sinnhafte aufbau der Gebauten Welt: Eine Architektursoziologie. Suhrkamp, 2015.)

It is surprisingly how little attention has been given to the connection between this broad conception of architecture and phenomenology, a tradition which so often thought in spatial, if not explicitly architectural terms – think of Heidegger’s illustration of the equipmental totality constituting worldhood in section 16 of Being and Time, or of the issue of “ego orientation” (152), both of which Dodd himself points to. Dodd’s work shows how phenomenology might offer a framework for studying the built world as a “cultural expression” in more complex terms than has been done so far. Phenomenology, Dodd shows, offers a way of thinking subjects’ interaction with artifacts’ meaningful structures in terms of operative intentionality.


Kwok-Ying Lau: Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural Flesh

Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural Flesh Book Cover Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural Flesh
Contributions To Phenomenology, Volume 87
Kwok-Ying Lau
Springer International Publishing
Hardcover 106,99 €
XI, 256

Reviewed by: Daniel Regnier (St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan)

Phenomenology and Intercultural Understanding: Toward a New Cultural Flesh unites texts based on studies which Kwok-Ying Lau presented at conferences between 1996 and 2016.  Despite the fact that the volume is a collection of essays, it does read as a unified work particularly since the author took care to emphasize the studies treating what is indeed the most original contribution in this work, the notion of cultural flesh. He deals with the notion of cultural flesh both at the very beginning of the work and the end, that is, in Chapters, 1, 10 and 11.  In the intervening chapters the reader is lead through a variety of discussions of possibilities for intercultural understanding in light the work of mostly European phenomenological thinkers. Although his approach cannot really be characterized as post-colonial since he does not draw on post-colonial theory in any explicit manner, Kwok-Ying Lau reads and re-reads mostly 20th century thinkers – Hegel, Husserl, Lévi-Strauss, Merleau-Ponty, Patočka (and in a kind of appendix in the last chapter Lévinas, Deleuze, Michel Henry) – from an extra-European perspective in a critical and constructive manner with a view to understanding how their approaches might serve in intercultural understanding.

Merleau-Ponty represents Kwok-Ying Lau’s primary source of inspiration and in contrast to many other European thinkers addressed here, is revealed to have real intercultural sensitivities. Kwok-Ying Lau devotes two chapters to Jan Patočka whose significance for the Chinese community he underlines (Chapters 5 and 6).  In Chapter 5 Patočka is examined as a ‘Non-European Phenomenological Philosopher’ and the ‘Critical Consciousness of the Phenomenological Movement’.   Chapter six works with Patočka’s interpretation of the Platonic notion of care for the soul and compares it to Mencius theory of the ‘four roots.’  These chapters read very well and show how Patočka models certain possibilities for non-eurocentric (even post-european) approaches to Phenomenological research with applications to intercultural understanding.

Several chapters deal with some classical Chinese philosophy.  As already mentioned Kwok-Ying Lau refers to Mencius’ theory of the four beginnings in Chapter 6 (p. 99).  He comes back to this text in Chapter 8 (p. 134) while Chapter 3 is entitled ‘To What Extent Can Phenomenology Do Justice to Chinese Philosophy? A Phenomenological reading of Laozi.”  Kwok-Ying Lau also devotes a chapter to Buddhism and the manner in which it was viewed by Hegel and by Husserl.  Kwok-Ying Lau shows how, in spite of having enunciated a very Eurocentric conception of Philosophy, Husserl in fact demonstrated an appreciation of the philosophical (and even phenomenological) depth of early Buddhist writings, particularly in so far as they represent a philosophy of consciousness not without relation to Husserl’s.  Overall, although he does have some good insights into East-Asian thinkers, Kwok-Ying Lau seems more interested and familiar with the European authors he works on than the Chinese and Indian texts which he discusses in these chapters.

Chapter 8 ‘Self-Transformation and the Ethical Telos: Orientative Philosophy in Lao Sze-Kwang, Foucault and Husserl’ is devoted to demonstrating how Lao Sze-Kwang’s characterization of the nature of much East-Asian philosophical thought as ‘Orientative’ rather than a ‘purely cognitive and theoretical enterprise’ (p. 125).  Here Kwok-Ying Lau shows how certain developments in Foucault’s later thought inspired by Pierre Hadot’s work on Ancient philosophy as Spiritual Exercise go in the direction of Lao Sze-Kwang’s Orientative Philosophy.  Kwok-Ying Lau seem to suggest that the future of Phenomenological research will go in this direction which is more amenable to intercultural understanding.

In both Chapters 2 and 7 Kwok-Ying Lau sketches out what he takes to be the premises for doing intercultural philosophy.  His approach involves what he calls a double epoché of language.  He explains as follows:

The person in question must perform a double epoché  with regard to language used. First of all she must abandon her native language, at least temporarily, and speak an international language which in most cases is English … she must perform a second epoché  with respect to the philosophical language through which her thought is expressed (p. 23).

I have to admit that I am not entirely comfortable with Kwok-Ying Lau’s approach here.  Nor am I convinced by the argument unfolded in Chapter 7 which asserts that intercultural philosophy can only take place in a ‘Disenchanted World’.  In both, Chapters 2 and 7, in fact, Kwok-Ying Lau seems to embrace what many might take to be Eurocentric positions on universality, language and rationality, positions which are very controversial and have received much discussion by feminist and post-colonial thinkers. (It is particularly unfortunate that Kwok-Ying Lau takes a Palestinian suicide bomber as an example of someone who ‘lives under the domination’ of what he calls an ‘un-disenchanted world-view’ (p. 108), not only because of the rough handling of very sensitive political issues, but also since he more or less baldly asserts that anyone who believes in certain kinds of transcendence – including, it would seem, almost any practitioner of an Abrahamic religion – is disqualified from participation in intercultural thought!).

This reader was also somewhat disappointed by the absence of reference to other thinkers who work on intercultural philosophy.  One might mention the work of the likes Hall and Ames or the kind of scholarship which is published in the Journal Philosophy East and West.  The work of Francois Jullien is dismissed rather uncharitably in a footnote to page 213, while not single work of his is cited in the Bibliography.

In any case, with the notion of ‘cultural flesh’ Kwok-Ying Lau has forged a useful conceptual means to facilitate intercultural understanding, and even, I might add, intercultural philosophizing. (I would have liked to see the notion of cultural flesh elaborated in greater detail, since it is genuinely a novel concept but is only sketched out in this book. Perhaps this might be something Kwok-Ying Lau could deal with in a future monograph.)  More generally, Kwok-Ying Lau has made a valuable contribution to phenomenological research and intercultural philosophy with all of the studies which constitute this volume in so far as they re-evaluate Phenomenological thought from an extra-European perspective. This book will be of interest to those who seek to better understand what kind of resources Phenomenology can contribute to intercultural philosophy.

Luis Rabanaque, Antonio Zirión Quijano (Eds.): Horizonte y mundanidad. Homenaje a Roberto Walton

Horizonte y mundanidad. Homenaje a Roberto Walton Book Cover Horizonte y mundanidad. Homenaje a Roberto Walton
Luis Román Rabanaque & Antonio Zirión Quijano
Silla vacía editorial / Jitanjáfora Morelia Editorial

Reviewed by: Pablo Guiñez (Diego Portales University)

La figura de Roberto Walton es la figura de quien quizá debiese ser considerado como el filósofo latinoamericano más relevante en el desarrollo de la filosofía fenomenológica en el mundo hispanohablante. Esto último ha motivado la publicación de Horizonte y mundanidad, compilación hecha por Luis Rabanaque y Antonio Zirión Quijano a modo de homenaje para el ya mentado Walton (y es como de hecho reza el subtítulo: Homenaje a Roberto Walton).
El volumen concentra una serie de trabajos de una diversidad temática amplísima, aunque todos ellos bajo el ala más acotada de la filosofía fenomenológica. Los autores congregados allí son, en mayor o menor medida, filósofos que actualmente, al igual que Roberto Walton, desarrollan investigaciones de carácter fenomenológico de forma tanto exegética como sistemática. Creo, sin embargo, que la razón de la diversidad de temas que vemos en el libro sólo se explica si identificamos un motivo doble de Horizonte y mundanidad. Pues, por un lado, son evidentes las pretensiones de la obra de rendir justo homenaje a Roberto Walton, mas, por el otro lado, es claro el intento de recorrer el desarrollo de la filosofía de Walton a través de los artículos que integran el volumen.

Un lector descuidado podría quedar, en un primer vistazo, algo sorprendido, pues el hilo conductor de la obra no es inmediatamente inteligible. No, por lo menos, si se ignora en buena medida cómo ha sido el despliegue temático de las investigaciones de Walton. Esta injustificada sorpresa queda, empero, disipada, gracias a la valiosa información que nos provee la “Introducción” hecha por los compiladores, así como el trabajo de Javier San Martín dedicado exclusivamente a la obra de Roberto Walton.
Es de mi interés, aunque sea en unas breves líneas, intentar reconstruir el hilo conductor del libro editado por Rabanaque y Zirión Quijano, para luego sumergirme en la compilación, describiendo sus partes en líneas generales y prestando atención a algunos de sus trabajos.
En la primera contribución de Javier San Martín en el volumen, el filósofo español se embarca en la tarea de tomar la obra filosófica de Walton como un todo, identificando las principales tendencias y líneas investigativas en el desenvolvimiento de su trabajo fenomenológico. El autor asevera que, en lo que respecta a obra de Walton, hay “dos grupos claramente diferenciados, por un lado los múltiples trabajos referidos a la temática de los horizontes o la intencionalidad de horizonte y, en segundo lugar, los trabajos relacionados con la ética” (391). Mantenga el leexpuestactor esta caracterización general de los centros de gravedad de los problemas de la obra de Walton: los horizontes y la ética.
Por su parte, los editores en la “Introducción”, haciendo foco en esta indicación inicial, plantearán que en lo referente a la cuestión del horizonte hay, principalmente, “dos núcleosr de su de de problemas constitutivos” (7), por un lado la “tópica de la horizonticidad” y, por el otro, la “mundanidad”. Los editores afirman –y esto puede verse expuesto de forma prístina en trabajos del mismo Walton– que la tópica de la horizonticidad, al distinguirse los distintos niveles de análisis intencional posibles, puede caracterizarse abarcando los siguientes temas: 1) los problemas relativos a la fenomenología estática; 2) aquellos relativos a la fenomenología genética; luego, tenemos los problemas que traspasan el análisis egológico; son los problemas de una fenomenología no egológica (a veces llamada “generativa): 3) el problema de la protohistoria, 4) el problema de la historicidad y 5) el problema de la historicidad racional.

Desplegar, de este modo, la diversa pero concentrada índole de problemas trabajados por Roberto Walton a lo largo de su vida, permite hallar un hilo conductor más o menos bien definido a lo largo de toda la compilación. Como veremos, hay motivos bien fundados que orientan la articulación de esta obra si comprendemos que un modo de homenajear a Roberto Walton es, además de loar y comentar directamente su trabajo, recorrer los caminos que sus reflexiones, como las de otros –entre ellos, claro está, Husserl–, han recorrido.
Procedamos, ahora, a observar más detenidamente la compilación.

La Parte I del volumen lleva por título, como quizá no podría ser de otro modo, “Contribuciones a la cuestión del horizonte”. En esta sección se hallan trabajos directamente relacionados con el tópico de la horizonticidad y la intencionalidad de horizonte. Permítaseme detenerme brevemente en algunos trabajos presentes ahí para ilustrar de forma concreta cómo se realizan las indagaciones en torno a los estratos de la tópica de la horizonticidad.
Es de destacar particularmente el trabajo de María Dolores Illescas Nájera, titulado “Las historias, ‘la historia’ y la historiografía en la óptica de la fenomenología generativa de Edmund Husserl”. En este trabajo la autora se sumerge directamente en los temas de una fenomenología no egológica para distinguir con rigor cómo dos de los tres estratos ya mentados deben ser cuidosamente distinguidos. De este modo, la mayor parte del trabajo consiste . Pero esto no acaba aquí, pues las reflexiones filosóficas sobre la historia siempre pueden provocar la duda acerca de qué se propone entonces la ciencia histórica, la ciencia positiva, aquella que no es en ningún caso filosofía. Y ello motiva a Illescas Nájera a acabar su reflexión enfocándose en la cuestión de la ciencia historiográfica. De tal modo, todos los ámbitos concernientes a la historia (exceptuando la denominada protohistoria) han quedado abordados.

El artículo de Hans-Rainer Sepp, por otro lado, titulado “Los límites del horizonte”, intenta mostrar a partir de Husserl, Heidegger, Fink y Marion, que el desarrollo de los estudios en torno a la cuestión del horizonte en la fenomenología, al ser llevados a su límite, deben poner en cuestión la validez de la fenomenología, por lo menos en su sentido tradicional. De este modo, Sepp pretende en cada uno de los ya mentados autores, encontrar estos avances que nos sitúan en los límites del horizonte y que, también, nos sitúan en los límites de una fenomenología del horizonte. Así, es imposible no notar que un esfuerzo como el realizado por Sepp se vincula de modo estrechísimo con el trabajo de Walton en torno a la horizonticidad y la conciencia de horizonte. Tanto los trabajos de Sepp, como el de Illescas Nájera, así como los demás que integran la Parte I, son estudios paralelos y hermanados a los del homenajeado.

La compilación presenta en su Parte II, titulada “Estudios husserlianos”, una serie de diversos trabajos en torno a temas variopintos, pasando desde trabajos orientados más bien a cuestiones de lógica, significación, y ciencias eidéticas –como el trabajo de Luis Flores Hernández sobre las leyes de la formas de la significación en las Investigaciones lógicas y el trabajo de Rosemary Rizo-Patrón de Lerner sobre la naturaleza de los objetos matemáticos y su aplicación– hasta trabajos relacionados a la crítica husserliana a Descartes, como es el caso de la contribución de uno de los editores, Luis Román Rabanaque.
Me gustaría destacar, aunque brevemente, el trabajo de Julia Valentina Iribarne, “Tradición y renovación en el pensamiento de Husserl,” donde la autora desarrolla un aspecto fundamental de la ética husserliana como es la cuestión de la tradición y la cultura, en vistas de la renovación cultural anhelada por la fenomenología. Por otro lado, es de mi interés llamar la atención sobre el notable trabajo de Dieter Lohmar sobre la evolución del modelo de aprehensión-contenido en el pensamiento de Husserl. Creo que las contribuciones de la Parte II del libro más cercanas a las preocupaciones de Walton –el horizonte, por un lado, y la ética, por el otro– se encuentran en estos dos artículos.

La parte III de la obra se titula “Estudios metodológicos y críticos”. Considero que el mejor modo de entender lo que motiva la presencia de los trabajos aquí reunidos es la pretensión, nunca suficiente, de asentar los aspectos fundamentales de la metodología de la filosofía husserliana. De este modo, si las Partes I y II fueron desarrollos al interior de la fenomenología de Husserl (o, más bien, en sus lindes), la Parte III discute aspectos más fundamentales y, a la vez, presenta, en algunos casos, críticas a ciertos cuestionamientos hechos a la fenomenología.

No veo mejor manera de ilustrar estos distintos impulsos congregados en vistas de un solo motivo que mencionar, aunque de manera muy amplia, los temas de las distintas contribuciones de esta sección. Los trabajos de Lester Embree, Klaus Held y Sebastian Luft, son esclarecimientos de distintos aspectos de la fenomenología de Husserl. El primero pretende dar con el sentido de qué es la reflexión y qué significa el realizar un análisis reflexivo. El segundo ilustra de forma muy adecuada cuál es el sentido del concepto (tardío en la obra de Husserl) de “idealización”, el cual es fundamental para entender los temas ligados a obras como la Crisis. Esto último queda acentuado en la medida que Held vincula la cuestión de las distintas idealizaciones con la idea de Europa (como lo hizo el propio Husserl). Finalmente, el trabajo de Luft explora cuál es el sentido auténtico en que debe entenderse la idea de reducción en Husserl, y cómo ello da forma al concepto de constitución, cuestión fundamental para entender el auténtico sentido de la fenomenología. Por otro lado, los trabajos de Serrano de Haro y Vigo relacionan dichos de autores fenomenólogos con la obra de Husserl: el primero, abordando la mala comprensión hecha por Heidegger de la fenomenología husserliana, y, el segundo, mostrando el desarrollo de la filosofía de Scheler a partir de su contacto con la obra de Husserl.

La Parte IV del libro, “Semblanza filosófica”, consiste en dos trabajos de Javier San Martín. Esta sección es particularmente destacable porque realiza un homenaje explícito y directo a la obra de Walton, volviendo sobre gran parte de su obra con el fin de identificar los motivos, las preocupaciones, y los fines del desarrollo de su trabajo. En efecto, en el ya mentado “La obra filosófica de Roberto Walton” se explica no sólo en qué ha consistido toda la obra de Walton, así como su influencia e impacto, sino las vicisitudes que ha significado dar cuenta de esa obra, por su dispersión en libros, artículos, etc. El segundo trabajo, “Lista seguida de obras de Roberto Walton,” es un esfuerzo archivístico descomunal, donde es recogida una compilación de la mayoría (si no todos) los trabajos de Roberto Walton, especificando el lugar donde aparecen, su fecha de publicación, etc. Esta última contribución resulta de una gran importancia, pues facilita infinitamente el rastreo de fuentes bibliográficas que permitirán, eventualmente, que los investigadores den cuenta de la obra de Walton con menos dificultades.

Luego de esta breve revisión, me gustaría indicar, a modo de conclusión, que quizás nunca falten los momentos para loar y homenajear la obra de Roberto Walton. Es muy probable que la mayoría de quienes hemos crecido en un seno hispanohablante y nos hemos interesado por la fenomenología hayamos caído más de una vez en alguno de sus escritos. Por lo cual es claro que los homenajes a su persona son, y siempre serán, justificados. Por esto, es obvio que Horizonte y mundanidad no puede plenificar en su totalidad la, por decirlo de algún modo, exigencia de homenajear esta gran figura de la filosofía hispanohablante. Pero, al recorrer el desarrollo tanto de sus temas como de su trabajo concreto, este libro es una excelente manera de hacerlo.

Rabanaque, Luis Román y Antonio Zirión Quijano. Horizonte y mundanidad. Homenaje a Roberto Walton, Morelia, Silla vacía editorial / Jitanjáfora Morelia Editorial, 2016.
Walton, Roberto. “Egología y generatividad”, en Seminarios de filosofía, 17-18, 2004-2005, 257-283.
Walton, Roberto. «La razón y sus horizontes vitales en la fenomenología de Edmund Husserl”, en Escritos de Filosofía. Segunda serie, Nº 1, 2013, 245-269.
Walton, Roberto. “Tópica de la horizoncitidad”, en  Anales de la academia nacional de ciencias de Buenos Aires XLII, Nº 2, 2008.


Jörg Sternagel: Pathos des Leibes. Phänomenologie ästhetischer Praxis

Pathos des Leibes. Phänomenologie ästhetischer Praxis Book Cover Pathos des Leibes. Phänomenologie ästhetischer Praxis
Denkt Kunst!
Jörg Sternagel
Broschur € 18,00

Reviewed by: Martha Holewa (University of Potsdam)

In vierzehn, formal essayistisch verfassten, Kapiteln unternimmt der Autor den Versuch der, sowohl die inhaltliche Argumentation als auch den Schreibstil durchdringenden, Anbindung einer in erster Linie ästhetischen, leibgebunden und situativen Praxis an genuin theoretische, im Kontext der Leibphilosophie, Aisthesislehre und Filmphilosophie entwickelten, Implikationen. Bereits das erste, um die unhintergehbare Verschränkung der Trinität von Sichtbarkeit, Sichtbarmachung und Unsichtbarkeit kreisende Kapitel, hebt mit der auf Platon und die antike Philosophie zurückgehenden Dichotomie zwischen denkender und sinnlicher Erkenntnis an. Während die Welt, diejenige, die täglich vor unserem Auge erwacht, bei Platon lediglich zum Schein kulminiert und zugleich als arbiträres Abbild eines ihr vorausgehenden Urbildes sowie Ausgangspunkt ihrer auf den eigentlichen Grund des Seins hin zu übersteigenden, intelligiblen und bildlosen Horizonts fungiert, der nur über den Weg der denkenden Erkenntnis zu erreichen ist, stellt der Autor dem rein theoretischen Erkenntnisvermögen die Eigenheit der sichtbarmachenden und produktiven Kraft der Künste entgegen. In Anlehnung an den Begriff der Mimesis gelten Bilder an dieser Stelle gerade nicht als Reproduktion der erscheinenden Welt, als Erscheinen des bereits zuvor Erschienenen in Rückgriff an Platon, sondern als eigene gestalterische und schöpferische Orte der Sichtbarmachung von Unsichtbarem. Medienphilosophisch lassen sich Bilder somit weniger als Abbilder von Gegenständen begreifen, sondern als ein Medium, durch das wir sehen. Die doppelte Differenz zwischen Sichtbarem und Unsichtbarem bindet der Autor sowohl an den je individuellen, singulären Leib als Nullpunkt der Orientierung, der als fungierendes Element im Akt der Wahrnehmung selbst nicht zur Erscheinung gelangt und an die ikonische Differenz innerhalb der Bildlichkeit selbst, die, zwar selbst wiederum nicht sichtbar, das Bild als Bild in seiner Materialität, dasjenige, worin etwas erscheint, von demjenigen, was sich im Bild zeigt und darstellt, trennt. In letzter Konsequenz ist somit alles, was zur Sichtbarkeit gelangt –  hierin greift der Autor auf den Begriff des Fleisches (chair) bei Maurice Merleau-Ponty zurück – in eine unauflösbare und chiasmatische Zwiesprache zwischen dem Sehenden und dem Sichtbaren als das „Aufklaffen des Sehenden im Sichtbaren und des Sichtbaren im Sehenden“ verwoben. (S. 17). Diese Figur des Chiasmus taucht nicht nur auf der Ebene der Wahrnehmung auf, sondern durchdringt das Denken selbst, wenn es sich, in Anlehnung an Maurice Merleau-Ponty, als produktives Denken von einer rein logischen Operation unterscheidet.

Das zweite Kapitel, Responsivität des Leibes, übt in Rekurrenz auf die Alteritätsphilosophie von Bernhard Waldenfels und Emanuel Levinas, in dessen Zentrum die Frage nach einer nicht nur partiellen und relativen, sondern radikalen Fremdheit steht, Kritik an der abendländischen Subjektphilosophie, in der das Fremde einen nur vorläufigen, auf die Eigenheitssphäre rückführbaren und überwindbaren Charakter besitzt und dem Status einer autonomen, sich selbst durchsichtigen Subjektkategorie untergeordnet wird. Hier wird das Verhältnis zwischen dem Eigenen und Fremden im Zuge einer Inversion der Intentionalität nahezu umgekehrt und eine Erfahrungsdimension eröffnet, die dezidiert nicht beim Subjekt, sondern vom Anspruch des Anderen seinen Ausgang nimmt und das ich als zunächst Antwortendes zur Verantwortung zwingt. Dies geradezu in einem durchaus, noch vor jedweder in einem propositionalen Sinngehalt kulminierenden Antwort, an die Leiblichkeit und Affektivität gebundenen Sinnhorizont. Zur Veranschaulichung wählt der Autor den im Kontext der Philosophie von Bernhard Waldenfels in „Bruchlinien der Erfahrung“ entwickelten Begriff der Diastase, der etymologisch ein Auseinandertreten meint, den prozessuallen Charakter von Differenzen beschreibt und in letzter Konsequenz die Nachträglichkeit des Antwortens gegenüber der Vorgängigkeit dessen, was uns affiziert, herausstellt. In Anlehnung an Waldenfels wird an drei zentralen Merkmalen des Husserlschen Intentionalitätsbegriffes einschlägige Kritik geübt. Der erste Punkt betrifft die Hierarchisierung einer Beziehungskonstellation, in der das Eigene und Fremde nicht wechselseitig aufeinander verwiesen bleiben und sich gegenseitig bedingen, sondern das Fremde aus der einseitigen Konstitutionsleistung eines setzenden Bewusstseins resultiert. Diese Vorrausetzung hat zweitens zur Folge, dass der Andere nur innerhalb der Struktur des „apophantischen als“, in einer bestimmten Rolle zur Sichtbarkeit gelangt, die an ein Vorverständnis und die Erwartung des Subjekts gebunden bleibt. Dies hat wiederum drittens zur Folge, dass der Andere in ein Ordnungssystem gefügt wird, in dem er in seiner Einzigkeit und radikalen Andersheit nicht mehr vernommen wird. Mit Waldenfels appelliert der Autor an eine Ethik der Responsivität, die im Gegenzug zu einer normativen Ethik gerade keinen Mangel an Sinn, kein hermeneutisches Defizit bedeutet, sondern die Fremdheit über die Trennlinie zwischen dem Eigenen und Anderen hinausgehend mitten ins Herz desselben versetzt. Die zentrale These im Abschluss des Kapitels mündet somit in die Aussage, dass am Anfang nicht ein jemand steht, „der oder die von sich aus handelt, sondern jemand, dem oder der etwas geschieht. Am Anfang steht ein Patient und kein Akteur.“ (Sternagel, J. Pathos des Leibes. Phänomenologie ästhetischer Praxis, S.39). Inwiefern der Patient einer Antwort schuldig bleibt, durchaus auch in dem Sinn, dass er handlungsfähig bleibt, verantwortend handelt, und die Fremdheit, sowohl die Eigene als auch die des Anderen, zu verstehen lernt, bleibt an dieser Stelle offen und regt die Leserin zum Weiterdenken an.

Das dritte Kapitel, der Blick des Dichters, knüpft, zunächst, wohlgemerkt, ebenfalls an die Priorität des Anderen an und liefert bereits zu Anfang eine Möglichkeit der Antwort auf die zuvor gestellte Frage meinerseits. Da der Mensch als begehrendes Wesen seine Erfüllung nie in sich selber findet, findet er sich in der Übernahme von Verantwortung wieder, im Geben. An dieser Stelle geht die Einforderung von Gerechtigkeit jedoch einseitig vom Anderen aus, so dass sich insgesamt die Frage stellt, inwiefern dem Selbst hier noch Gerechtigkeit widerfährt, wenn es „vermöge der Alterität des Anderen nicht bei sich, sondern dem Anderen gegenüber immer schon im Rückstand ist.“ (S. 41). Die Vermittlung dieser beiden divergierenden Philosophien, einer tendenziell egologischen bzw. im Kontext eines Alteritätsdenkens beheimateten, mit ihren ganzen begrifflichen, häufig hierarchisch strukturierten und verfestigten Implikationen von Aktivität und Passivität, Sprechen und Schweigen, Handeln und Scheitern, Denken und Erfahren, Vorgängigkeit und Nachträglichkeit, Eigenheit und Fremdheit, gelingt dem Autor insbesondere durch die Betonung des performativen Charakters von Sprache gegenüber seinem konstativen Element als ein stätiger Prozess der Aushandlung zwischen dem Eigenen und Selben, Individuum und Gesellschaft, so dass er zu guter Letzt davor bewahrt bleibt, einem einseitigen Lob der Ohnmacht das Wort zu reden. Der ausgewiesene, zur Reflektion anregende Ort, an dem sich diese Prozesse beobachten, beschreiben, bewältigen lassen und mithin erst in den Fokus der Sichtbarkeit gelangen, ist wiederum die Kunst. Und hier versetzt uns der Autor mitten in die Dichtung von Paul Celan, indem er die Frage aufwirft: „Wäre hier die Begegnung mit dem Schreiben eines Dichters wie Paul Celan eine, die in den Zwischenraum führt, in dem Maurice Blanchot die poetische Bekräftigung dieses Dichters zu denken gibt?“ (S. 45) Zwei gegenwändige Gedichte Celans werden angeführt, die in einem doppelt scheidend geschiedenen Zwischenraum zwei Formen einer dialogischen Struktur erfahrbar machen. Während im Gedicht Sprachgitter von 1959, „Wär ich wie du. Wärst du wie ich. Standen wir nicht unter einem Passat? Wir sind Fremde“ die Hoffnung nach Nähe und Erreichbarkeit des Anderen der Wahrheit ihrer Unmöglichkeit weicht, ermöglicht das zweite Gedicht, Lob der Ferne, „ich bin du, wenn ich ich bin(S.45), entstanden 1948, Nähe gerade dadurch, dass das Ich nicht zugunsten des Anderen geopfert wird, seine Eigenheitssphäre und die notwendige Distanz wahrt, die erst zur Bedingung der Offenheit gegenüber dem Anderen wird.

Im vierten Kapitel, Sujet Komposition, Ausdruck, wird zunächst der entscheidende Moment der Aufnahme einer Fotografin festgehalten, die für eine britische Tageszeitung ein Porträtfoto des Regisseurs, Malers und Musikers David Lynch anfertigen soll. Hier gilt es den ersten Eindruck, das Ereignis des Gesichts, wie der Autor konstatiert, festzuhalten, was, in Anknüpfung an die Überlegungen Henri Cartier-Bressons drei wesentliche Faktoren zusammenführen muss: Das psychologische Gespür der Fotografin, den richtigen Kamerastandort und ein besonderes Bewusstsein für den entscheidenden ersten Eindruck des Gesichts. Zusätzlich muss das Modell die Kamera und den Fotografen vergessen. Diese künstlerische Situation regt den Autor an, den Blick auf menschliche und künstlerische Praktiken im Allgemeinen zu werfen und die Leiblichkeit als unhintergehbaren Standpunkt jeder situativen Praxis in den Fokus zu stellen. Im Rückgriff auf Edmund Husserl betont der Autor die wechselseitige Verschränkung von Habitualität und Aktualität im Prozess leiblicher Artikulationsvollzüge, so dass ein jeder, je aktueller Wahrnehmungs- und Handlungsvollzug die Geschichte seines eigenen geworden Seins implizit in sich trägt und somit jedes neue Erlernen von Praktiken ein Verlernen und mithin Vergessen impliziert. Dies veranschaulicht der Autor, Linkshänder von Geburt, am Beispiel seiner eigenen Biografie, wo er im Kindesalter gezwungen wurde mit der rechten Hand das Schreiben zu erlernen, was dazu geführt hat, dass er den vormals linkshändig eingeübten Umgang mit der Schere gerade durch das Erlernen des Schreibens verlor. Jeder Gegenstand und der Umgang mit ihm bekundet somit eine individuelle Geschichte, die, darüberhinausgehend, auf einen weiten Horizont einer Technik-, Werkzeug- und Produktionsgeschichte verweist.

Das fünfte Kapitel, Das Band zwischen Fleisch und Idee, greift den für Maurice Merleau-Ponty am schwierigsten zu erfassenden Punkt seines Denkweges auf und fragt nach dem Zwischenbereich von Welt und Bewusstsein. Hier existiert die Idee gerade nicht als das Gegenteil der sinnlichen Welt, sondern verleiht dieser gerade ihr Futter und ihre Tiefe. Umgekehrt bleibt jedes Denken an die vorobjektive, sinnliche Erfahrung gebunden, aus der es erst seine Inspiration bezieht. Zur Veranschaulichung dieses wechselseitigen Verhältnisses versetzt uns der Autor mitten in die Pariser Welt von Prousts Romanfigur Charles Swann und begleitet den Phänomenologen Maurice Merleau-Ponty, der widerum Proust begleitet, auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Zeit. In einer ungeheuren Dichte, im Erklingen einer fiktiven Sonate für Piano und Violine des von Proust eigens erdachten Komponisten Vinteuil, verschmilzt die in Swann aufsteigende, längst dem Vergessen anheim gegebene  Erinnerung an seine einstmalige Geliebte, die Kurtisanin Odette de Crecy, mit einem zärtlichen Gedanken an den zwar unbekannten, ihm jedoch im Geiste und im Schmerz verbundenen Komponisten und der Frage nach der Urquelle der schöpferischen Inspiration aus den Erfahrungen von Trauer, Verlust und Glück.

Die folgenden vier Kapitel versammeln Gedanken zur Medialität des Films, die das Verhältnis von Bewegung, Bild und Zeit und die Leiblichkeit im Film thematisieren. In Rückgriff auf das erste Kapitel wird das Bewegtbild als wirklichkeitskonstituierendes, welterschließendes und nicht reproduzierendes Faktum begriffen. Anhand zweier Werke von Bergson, Zeit und Freiheit sowie Materie und Gedächtnis erfolgt eine Abkehr vom physikalischen Raum- und Zeitverständnis, das sich im Nachdenken über kinematografische Verfahren besonders gut erschließen lässt. Mit Henri Bergson wird auf die Analogie zwischen einem abrollenden Film und dem Verhältnis des Verstandes zur Zeitlichkeit verwiesen. Im Gegenzug zum nur in Bewegung versetzten Bild, dessen schnelle Bewegungen wir im Film gerade nicht mehr zu vernehmen vermögen, vermittelt das Bewegtbild die Unmittelbarkeit von Bewegung selbst. Hierbei geht es jedoch nicht um die von außen wahrnehmbare Bewegung eines Körpers bzw. Gegenstandes im Raum, sondern die Verlagerung des Fokus auf die Prozessualität des Wirklichkeitsgeschehens selbst. Der Film macht somit, wie der Autor schreibt „vielfältige Existenzweisen und Bewusstseinsereignisse sichtbar, ohne Subjektivierungen oder Objektivierungen präferieren zu wollen.“ (S. 82) Mit Hilfe des Begriffs der von Raumanalogien befreiten reinen Dauer Henri Bergsons, in der sich die Zeit gerade nicht mehr in einzelne, diskrete Jetztpunkte zergliedern lässt, zeigt sich im Film der sonst unsichtbare Vollzug und die Prozessualität eines Wahrnehmungsvermögens, die zeitliche Genese der Wahrnehmung selbst.

Das weitere, mit Film-Philosophie betitelte Kapitel eröffnet einen Zusammenhang sowie Unterschied zwischen dem Film als einschlägig visuelles und der Philosophie als Medium des Denkens. Mit Filmphilosophie, einem 2006 von Daniel Frampton veröffentlichen Manifest, plädiert der Autor für ein „radikal neues Verständnis des Kinos“. (S. 93) Hier wird das Bewegungsbild zu einem Sinnbild affektiver Intelligenz, in dem sich Bezüge eines körperlichen Weltverhältnisses noch vor jedweder soziologischen, sprachlichen und narrativen Symbolisierungsleistung manifestieren und somit erst zur Sichtbarkeit gelangen. Demzufolge bietet das Kino einen eigens ausgewiesenen Ort zur Untersuchung und Analyse von Affekten. Darüber hinaus wird der Film in Rückbezug zu Hugo Münsterbergs psychologischen Studien zum Kino als ein „Simulationsraum für Bewusstseinsvorgänge beschrieben“ und als „einzige visuelle Kunst, in der das gesamte Reichtum unseres inneren Lebens, unsere Wahrnehmungen, unser Gedächtnis und unsere Phantasie, unsere Erwartung und unsere Aufmerksamkeit, in den äußeren Eindrücken selbst lebendig gemacht werden kann.“ (S. 96). Während sich bei Münsterberg der Film jedoch nur aus der Psychologie der einzelnen Figuren wie Autor, Schauspieler und Zuschauer erklären lässt, geht Framptons Filmosophie darüber hinaus. Durch diesen von Frampton generierten Neologismus, wird der Film nicht nur zu einem Ort des Denkens, sondern zu einem eigenständigen Schöpfer seiner selbst, film-beeing. Der Film als Subjekt ist immer mehr als die Summe seiner Teile. Er übersteigt die Intention des Autors, die technischen Möglichkeiten kinematographischer Verfahren, die Leistung der Schauspieler und die Position der Zuschauer, indem er selbst denkt und zum Betrachter wird. Einem Betrachter jedoch, dessen Blick-Punkt sich nicht mehr ausweisen lässt. Seine Sichtweise des Films als Subjekt stellt Frampton in Analogie zu Maurice Merleau-Pontys im Essay Das Kino und die neue Psychologie entwickelten Leibbegriff, indem er den Film selbst als Körper zu begreifen beginnt. Dies in seiner doppelten Funktion als sehend-sichtbarer Körper. Das Filmbild ist beides zugleich: Ausdruck einer Wahrnehmung und ihr Objekt. Mit Vivian Sobchack wird die filmische Textur als „Ausdruck von Erleben durch Erleben“ (S. 99) und „als ein quasi-subjektives und verkörpertes Auge, das eine eigenständige – wenn nicht eine gewöhnlich präpersonale und anonyme – Existenz hat.“ verglichen (S.100). Das filmische Material wird somit zu einem medialen Arrangement, an dem sich die, die Philosophie Pontys durchziehende Frage nach dem Verhältnis von Natur und Geist, Welt und Bewusstsein, Sehen und Sichtbarem in ihrer wechselseitigen Durchdringung studieren lässt. Mit Deleuze fragt der Autor weiterhin, was und der Film über das Verhältnis von Raum und Zeit offenbart, was uns weder andere Künste noch die Philosophie selbst zu denken geben.

Die weiteren vier Kapitel widmen sich dem Theater. Der Autor stellt zwei divergierende Konzepte und Typen des Schauspielers einander gegenüber. Den von Diderots präferierten intellektuellen Schauspieler, den dieser in Hippolyte Clairon, einer Darstellerin der Comedie-Francaise, beispielhaft verkörpert weiß und eine von Helmut Plessner entwickelte Anthropologie des Schauspielers. Mit der zweitgenannten Theorie versucht der Autor eine Korrektur an Diderots Thesen zum Paradox der Schauspielkunst vorzunehmen und übt Kritik an der einseitigen Kopflastigkeit seiner Thesen (S. 136). Während Diderot vom Schauspieler eine vom Verstand geleitete Distanzierung zu seinen leiblichen Regungen und Emotionen einfordert – „Nicht der erregte Mensch, der außer sich ist, kann uns mitreißen; das ist das Vorrecht des Menschen, der sich in Gewalt hat“ (S. 137) – entwickelt Sternagel mit Plessner eine dritte, die Leiblichkeit einbeziehende Theorie der Verkörperung, die über eine Verbindung beider Modelle sowohl die Reflexion und Kontrolle als auch die Natur, Sensibilität und Leidenschaft in ihr Recht setzt.

Unter der Überschrift Maske, Gesicht, Antlitz geht der Autor dem wechselseitigen Verweisungszusammenhang und der Bedeutung dieser Begriffe in unterschiedlichen kulturellen Kontexten nach. Das Wort Maske wird in Bezug zu Agamben mit Persona übersetzt und unterhält in ihrer moralischen, den juridischen und politischen Personenbegriff übersteigenden, Ausrichtung eine starke Affinität zum Theater, dem Verhältnis des Schauspielers zur Maske und ihrer paradoxalen Struktur. Die Entstehung der moralischen Person erfolgt durch die gleichzeitige „Zustimmung zur und das Abrücken von der Gesellschaftlichen Maske“ (S. 149). Im griechischen Begriff prosopon gelangen Maske und Gesicht zu einer ununterscheidbaren Einheit und bilden dasjenige, was sichtbar ist, sich, in wörtlicher Übersetzung, den Augen eines Gegenübers zeigt. Im christlichen Raum wiederum bedeutet Persona das Antlitz Jesu Christi, der durch seine Menschlichkeit die Maske Gottes trägt. Für Maurice Merleau-Ponty gilt das Gesicht als der ausgewiesene Träger einer Existenz, in dem sich in der unmittelbaren Wahrnehmung die Spur eines anderen Bewusstseins andeutet, das sich weder in Analogie zum eigenen Bewusstsein begreifen, noch durch eine gedankliche phänomenologische Deduktion ableiten lässt.  Für Emmanuel Levinas bedeutet das Antlitz (le visage) die erste Rede, indem es die reine Form des Gesichts durchstößt und in seiner ethischen Konsequenz, das Gebot „Du wirst keinen Mord begehen“ ausspricht (S. 154). Gilles Deleuze und Felix Guattari entwickeln in den Tausend Plateaus eine von ethischen Implikationen abweichende Vorstellung vom Gesicht. Mit Begriffen wie „Bunker Gesicht“ (S. 154) wird das Gesicht zu einer Kartographie, Landkarte und mithin zu einer reinen Oberfläche, die in eine abstrakte Maschinerie eines Machtgefüges verwoben ist. Innerhalb eines semiotischen Sinnzusammenhangs vielschichtiger Einschreibungen, dient das Gesicht lediglich als Projektionsfläche zur Kodierung und Dekodierung kultureller Machtverschiebungen, dem es für Deleuze und Guattari somit zu entkommen gilt. Das Gesicht von Greta Garbo wird im Film Queen Christina zur totalen Maske und einem „Archetypus des menschlichen Gesichts, aus dem nur noch die Augen verletzlich und verletzt herauszittern“ (S. 156). Den Abschluss des Kapitels bildet am Beispiel des Films Faceless die Frage nach dem Verlust des Gesichts durch biometrische Verfahren.

Unter der Überschrift Pathos des Schauspielers arbeitet der Autor eine der für den Schauspieler wichtigsten Eigenschaften, den Takt heraus. Der Schauspieler und die Zuschauer sehen nicht nur etwas, sie „sehen das Gesehene zugleich als Ausdruck eines Sehens“ (S. 162) Am Beispiel eines in der Neuen Rundschau 1964 eigens von Adorno veröffentlichten Schilderung seines persönlichen Treffens mit Charlie Chaplin in einer Villa in Malibu, fokussiert Sternagel wesentliche Eigenschaften eines Schauspielers anhand der Figur Charlie Chaplins. Adorno schildert hier folgende Begebenheit: Während Chaplin in unmittelbarer Nähe zu ihm stand, reichte er einem der Gäste, dem Hauptdarsteller aus einem kurz nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg berühmt gewordenen Film The Best Years of our Life von 1946 etwas geistesabwesend die Hand. Dabei zuckte er zunächst vor Schreck heftig zurück, als er bemerkte, dass der Abschiedsgruß von keiner echten Hand, sondern von einer Prothese aus Eisen erwidert wurde. Gleichzeitig spürte er jedoch, dass er seinen Schrecken, das unmittelbar in Beschämung überging, unter keinen Umständen spüren lassen durfte und verwandelte sich im Bruchteil einer Sekunde von einem Schreckgesicht zu einer verbindlichen Grimasse.  Kaum hatte sich der Schauspieler verabschiedet, schritt Chaplin rettend ein, indem er die Situation Adornos und seine Reaktion nachspielte, und diesem über einen Anstoß zur ironischen Selbstdistanzierung ein Lachen über sich selbst ermöglichte, welches die Situation immens entspannte und den Schrecken in Komik verwandelte. Das taktvolle, mimetische Vermögen Chaplins wird an dieser Stelle zum wesentlichen Garanten einer gelingenden schauspielerischen Praxis, die, über die Fähigkeit sich in andere hineinzuversetzen hinaus in „letzter, utopischer und alles verwandelnder Konsequenz von der Last des Man-selbst-Seins zu befreien“ gestattet. (S. 166). Mimesis bedeutet somit nicht nur Nachahmung, sondern verkörpert bereits Momente einer reflektorischen, distanzerzeugenden Leistung innerhalb eines asymmetrischen, responsiven Zwischengeschehens, die die Andersheit des Anderen nicht tilgt, sondern bewahrt. Der weitere argumentative Leitfaden des selbigen Kapitels liest sich nahezu konträr zu den vorangegangenen Überlegungen. Der Autor führt Grundgedanken zum Phänomen der Nacktheit und Scham aus einem Frühwerk von Levinas an, das 2005 unter dem Titel Ausweg aus dem Sein, erschienen ist. Ebenfalls in Rückbezug auf die Figur Charlie Chaplins im Film Lichter der Großstadt, entwickelt Levinas ein Verständnis von Nacktheit und Scham, das uns die „Unwiderrufbarkeit unserer Präsenz“ (S. 170) und die Unmöglichkeit der Flucht aus dieser drastisch vor Augen führt. Hier entfaltet sich die Existenz in einer unüberwindlichen, lastenden Dynamik eines Subjekts, das sich weder selbst genügt noch selbst zu setzen weiß, da es sich schon immer in den Anspruch des Anderen gestellt sieht. Die zunächst aus dem Anblick des Anderen resultierende Scham vor der eigenen Nacktheit wird zur Scham vor sich selbst, da für Levinas die Scham vom Wesen des Seins selbst abhängt, der „Unfähigkeit mit sich selbst zu brechen.“ (S. 172)

Das letzte Kapitel, Ethik der Ekstasis, ist eine Hommage an das weibliche Schreiben, in dessen Zentrum ein essayistisches Manifest von Helene Cixous aus dem Jahr 1975 steht: Das Lachen der Medusa. Cixous Appell an die Frauen zu schreiben, sich in und auf den Text zu bringen, mündet in einen Imperativ: „Schreibe!“ (S. 191). An dieser Stelle wird die Schrift zu einem doppelten politischen Instrument, das sowohl die Verdrängung der Frau von der geschichtlichen Bühne, ihr Fehlen im Text sichtbar macht, als auch ihr die Möglichkeit an die Hand gibt, patriarchale Strukturen dahingehend zu dekonstruieren, dass etwas Neues entstehen kann. Ein Neues mithin, das diskursives Denken und reales Genießen zu vereinen weiß.

Jörg Sternagel gewährt einen guten Einblick in Grundzüge medienphilosophischen Denkens und bietet einen variationsreichen Überblick zu sich mit leibphilosophischen, medienästhetischen und filmphilosophischen Fragen auseinandersetzenden Autoren, deren Grundanliegen er uns näherbringt. Herauszustellen ist seine Vermittlung ästhetischer und ethischer Imperative. Im Fokus seiner Auseinandersetzung mit philosophischen Theorien, die er im Durchgang durch unterschiedliche mediale Felder und im Zuge einer dichten Beschreibung einer eigens situativen ästhetischen Praxis an diese zurückbindet, steht die Frage nach pathischen Erfahrungsweisen menschlicher Existenz. Das, was wir erleiden, was uns unverhofft wiederfährt und zustößt, bildet den Kern einer den Körper einbeziehenden Philosophie, die sich von idealistischen Positionen absetzt.  Bei der Vielschichtigkeit der Thematiken, auf die der Autor zu sprechen kommt, wäre es an manchen Stellen hilfreich und wünschenswert, gewisse Begrifflichkeiten und Denkzusammenhänge pointierter herauszuarbeiten und sich selbst noch stärker in ein kritisches Verhältnis zu den ausgearbeiteten Theorien zu setzen.

Tanja Staehler: Hegel, Husserl and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds

Hegel, Husserl and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds Book Cover Hegel, Husserl and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds
Tanja Staehler
Rowman & Littlefield International
Hardback £80 / $120

Reviewed by: Marco Crosa (Sofia University)

Hegel, Husserl and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds by Tanja Staehler is an effort of integration between the phenomenological thinking of two of the most influential philosophers in the contemporary tradition: G.W.F. Hegel and Edmund Husserl. The author’s intention is to reframe a phenomenology of historical and cultural worlds by pursuing the potential of a mutual compenetration of the two German philosophers more than focusing on a static and sterile debate regarding what might make them two different thinkers. The main thesis here shows how Husserl’s phenomenology radicalizes Hegel’s by adding the character of infinite openness to the teleological development of historical Spirit, which afterwards will manifest itself as horizonally constituted. At the same time an Hegelian narrative applies to the entire “parabola” of Husserl’s thought, which the author describes as a progressive development from an abstract to a concrete phenomenology that finally emerges in his later studies and that, by an effort of recollection in the most Hegelian meaning, illustrates the phenomenological development with the motivations and explanations for his abstract beginning. Important to mention is how, within the tradition of Husserlian debate, Staehler takes the side of Derrida and Steinbock by defending the presence of a third phase in Husserl’s philosophy, alongside the static and the genetic, which she names historical. The three stages also serve as the methodological sections of the work.

Hegel and Husserl, in their different phenomenological traditions, both make clear that if philosophy wants to be recognized as a rigorous science it must be presuppositionless and thus, that a leap is required by consciousness in order to clarify what remains overshadowed by the immediacy (in Hegel) and naïveté (in Husserl) of our natural attitude toward the world. In this sense phenomenology takes the sceptical critique as its own starting standpoint by moving the focus of analyses from its directedness toward being, backward to the level of its appearance to consciousness. Scepticism then becomes a moment in the philosophical approach more than a simple school of thought (a point we credit to Hegel) and the very beginning of self-reflection. What for Hegel, however, is a thoroughgoing scepticism, simply “directed against the being of sense-certainty which takes its being as true as such,” and which points beyond the level of phenomena (although in a new mediate form), for Husserl the philosophical approach takes the shape of a refraining from positing the being in the world. We might say that while the teleological presupposition leads Hegel toward a pre-established pathway engaging in what the author calls a pedagogical dialectic between the natural attitude and philosophical consciousness, Husserl chooses the path to suspend the natural attitude itself and to assume a philosophy of a perpetual beginning. A difference in the perspective but not really in the ultimate goal, as the final idea is to have a rigorous discipline better able to disclose in a clearer way the interplay of the perception between the individual consciousness and the phenomenal world. Alongside the similarities and differences between Hegel and Husserl, Staehler lets us notice how a first problematic arises when we approach the beginning of philosophy in the form of a necessary sceptical attitude as it represents everything except a presuppositionless standpoint and which thus requires a given motivation and a contextual explanation. This is a question that remains open until the last part of the work where the encompassing Spirit (in Hegel) and the Lifeworld (in Husserl) will appear and will be able to give a context to the motivation by an effort of recollection.

Hegel describes the process that leads consciousness from the immediacy of sense-certainty to the understanding of itself as the one very constitutive agent of the perceptual activity in the first three chapters of the Phenomenology of Spirit. The possibility of self-certainty is triggered by a tension between the unity of the object and the multiplicity of its properties which leaves us the feeling of a phenomenal world characterized by an ungraspable double nature. However, as the author underlines, that uncanniness is only given as a consequence of a static point of view and that when a dynamic perspective is taken the contradiction is solved. The concept of force is probably the best image to show how the coexistence of unity and its unfolding multiplicity is easily graspable when framed within a process-oriented approach. Staehler sees here a common pattern with the Husserlian image of the apple tree and the changing of its determinations in the persistence of an identical bearer. Important to notice is how the possibility of the synthesis of the manifold of the modes of givenness into a phanto-matic unity is possible only by the mediation of time which in Husserl is constituted at the level of inner consciousness. From a static and descriptive methodology the analysis here starts to move slightly to a genetic and constitutive approach. However, while a dynamic-oriented philosophy might represent the possibility of a parallelism between the two philosophers, a basic difference between them remains in the attitude toward the nature of the unity beyond the phenomena. If Hegel, carried by his teleological impetus, does not show any refraining from positing the identity of the object, for Husserl its possibility can be given only when all its modes of appearance are taken into account, a possibility that lies in the infinite. As the author says, “the goal of the perceptual process thus cannot be the adequate givenness of the object, but the closer determination of the thing in the process itself.”

The fact that the absolute identity of the object might be attainable only by an ideal and infinite perspective does not mean that Husserl denies the possibility of knowledge. The author is clear on that point when she frames both philosophers in what she calls an idealistic realism. The tension between unity and manifold is a tension between the focus of the natural attitude on the identity of the phenomena and the relativity of kinaesthetic, individual and cultural horizons while the role of phenomenology is the achievement of a more balanced perspective. Objectivity in Husserl is always partial but anyway possible and progressively enriched not only at the level of internal consciousness but even through communication with others. The analysis on identity and differences (in Hegel) and unity and manifold (in Husserl) begins to show the emergence of the main thesis of this work, namely how the character of openness of Husserl’s phenomenology might radicalize Hegel’s historical development. In order to proceed to this new stage of analysis, however, it is necessary to enter into the debate regarding the interpretation of Husserl’s phenomenology which, following Staehler, has been often too quickly enclosed in an idealistic framework as a consequence of misunderstanding the Husserlian concept of solipsism. The genetic approach, especially the one developed in Ideas and Cartesian Meditations, actually poses the possibility of the otherness of the other and it establishes the basis for what the author calls the historical Husserl. Solipsism, from her point of view, is not to be interpreted in the classical way but as a phenomenological reduction, exactly as the concept of the epoché, in order to clarify the how of the possibility of otherness. At the end of the genetic phase it eventually “becomes accessible in its inaccessibility” allowing the possibility of the foundation of the realm of intersubjectivity to be posed.

Hegel describes the development of the social and cultural world in the fourth chapter of his Phenomenology of Spirit where the master and slave dialectic and the struggle for recognition are introduced. The contradiction is eventually resolved in a typical Hegelian movement by a process of sublation by which the two forces find a balance within a new encompassing level, allowing Spirit to emerge. One of the last chapters of the work is dedicated to the Hegelian interpretation of the Antigone where the dialectical process is again described at the level of an ethical development. Far from psychologizing the characters, Hegel is more interested in the invariant pattern that Antigone and Creon carry on. In the struggle between the divine law and the political law an impasse is reached where neither of the two loses or wins. A reconciliation is only possible at an encompassing level, where the two compenetrate each other. This is expressed by the Chorus. Nothing similar appears in Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity, which never thematizes the Lifeworld as encompassing realm. Staehler states however that Husserl in his later studies, specifically the ones figuring into the Crisis, shows a plexus of phenomenological approaches which stand apart from the transcendental-psychological way opened by the epoché and by which an ontology of a Lifeworld is posited. The concept of the crisis is openly disclosed and serves as a catalyst in a recollection of the entirety of Husserl’s philosophy.

European man in Husserl’s terms lives in a contextual crisis that is rooted in the forgetfulness of the subject and of the Lifeworld, which are overshadowed by objective and scientific thinking. The role of philosophy is to find again a balance by the re-establishment of the subject as a real active agent of history. The role of phenomenology and its motivation, which were left suspended at the beginning of the work, are now finally explained. If the psychological-transcendental way, following the author’s analyses, leads us to the threshold of the ontology, the ontological way by historical reflection shows us the necessity for a better understanding of our inner consciousness. The recovery of the active role of subjectivity and intersubjectivity allows Husserl to move from history as a pure objective science of facts to what he calls ideal-history and toward a more horizonal and culturally-constituted historical development.

Cultural worlds are described by the author as a plexus of products, norms and values and also as “a world of custom, laws and regulations which the individual needs to consider.” They manifest themselves with the double nature of being established (stiftung), re-established and changed by man but at the same time at work as contextual constraints. There is a kind of Hegelian process in this circularity of an endless creation of new institutions and their establishment as new habitualized norms. The modern crisis can be seen as a consequence of the scientific attitude which eventually led to the forgetting of the primordial philosophy of the Greeks. The possibility of “re-inventing” history makes clear how there is an inner teleology at work in the Husserlian ideal-history. Goals conceived as norms and values are continuously posited anew thus offering the possibility of an open historical development in contrast with the Hegelian absolute teleology.

Staehler’s work gives so many causes for reflection that it is really difficult to give a complete account of it. It is worth mentioning that her insight on the phenomenology of historical and cultural worlds is not reduced to the simple encounter between Hegel and Husserl’s phenomenology. Other authors are discussed. The concept of event by Derrida for example and Levinas’s idea of an ungraspable future as something Other in regard to the Sameness of the intentional consciousness introduce a more radicalized character of nonlinearity to the historical development. More, a postscript is entirely dedicated to Heidegger’s primacy of moods and Merleau-Ponty’s concept of reversibility and ambiguity in the dialectical process. Not to mention Eugen Fink’s different approach on the motivation for the beginning of philosophy.

George Kovacs: Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis)

Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) Book Cover Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis)
Heidegger Research
George Kovacs
Zeta Books
Paperback €28.00

Reviewed by: Stuart Grant (Centre for Theatre and Performance, Monash University)

How could a review of a commentary of Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis), be construed as anything other than a twice-removed betrayal of the intent of the original writing? To the uninitiated reader, this question, which would be clear to one acquainted with the work, requires some background explanation.

The publication of the Beiträge in 1989, fifty-three years after its writing, and the subsequent first translation into English, by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly in 1990, brought much controversy, and responses ranging from contemptuous ridicule as gibberish nonsense, to laudatory praise as Heidegger’s second magnum opus. Even among dedicated Heidegger scholars, the responses to these apparently fragmentary, obscure, and difficult writings veered from scorn to intrigue. Consequently, the last two and a half decades have also produced a number of how-to-read guides, interpretations, and companions-to. The controversy also gave rise to the perceived need for an alternative translation in 2012 by Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu. The book reviewed here, Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis), by George Kovacs, enters this fraught field.

Kovacs’ book belongs firmly in the camp that believes the Beiträge to be Heidegger’s second great work. To state my own position, before reviewing the book, I would affirm that I not only agree with Kovacs as to the importance of the work, but that I am tempted to go further and say that I believe, despite the inevitable unevenness of its success, that in its intent, in its philosophical gesture, and in the magnitude of its epochal sweep, the Beiträge is a more important moment in Heidegger’s work than Being and Time, which I understand as a mere prelude to the later work.

The problem of this review is the same problem of Kovacs’ book, and the problem of the Beiträge itself. Heidegger’s book, which he never thought of as a book, and which he consequently assiduously refrained from publishing in his lifetime, was not meant to be, “about something and representing something objective”, but rather attempted to enact a saying which “does not describe or explain, does not proclaim or teach…does not stand over against what is said…rather the saying itself is the ‘to be said’” (Heidegger 1999, 4). As such, the Beiträge is performative in its intent. It is not a series of assertions aimed at a correct correlation, description or analysis of a state of affairs, but the production of “being-historical-thinking”, of the event of the bringing forth of that which it says as it says it; and as such, it should be used as a directive towards an enjoinment to further action.

To be brief, Heidegger realised that Being and Time had only managed to outline the problem of the need for a new approach to the asking of the question of Being, which would require the “necessity of transforming our orientation of questioning, which entails our entering into this fundamental occurrence”. (Heidegger 1995, 360-361). Heidegger found that as soon as he began to talk about Being, he was no longer in Being, that the access to or participation in Being had become obscured by the mode of questioning, and in the consequent objectification, had become construed merely as a being, another being, rather than Being itself. This is the problem of ontological difference, between beings and Being. To approach Being in itself, it was necessary to find a new way of questioning; a new way of thinking which would escape the representational mode of Western metaphysics, grounded in its epistemology of subject and object, and guaranteed in assertions which could be assessed as more or less true or false. In a sense, Heidegger’s task would necessitate speaking forth Being from within. This, in his estimation, would require a complete revision of the concepts of truth, thinking, and knowing, and a radical new approach to language, which he attempts in the Beiträge, and which has led to the decades of controversy since its publication in 1989.

So, the question is whether the work of a book on the Beiträge should be assessed on how it attempts to interpret or clarify the meaning of Heidegger’s work, or whether it should ultimately be judged on what it does, how it takes up the “directive” (Heidegger 1999, 4), of the former work, and contributes to opening the way of thought that the Beiträge demands. If the latter were to be the case, the measure of Kovacs book would need to be assessed in terms of what it contributes to the possibility of the proposed rethinking. How does it move Heidegger’s project forward?

Before addressing Kovacs’ contribution, I would note that there are a number of fine commentaries on the Beiträge, most notably: Daniela Vallega-Neu’s Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: An Introduction (Vallega-Neu 2003); Richard Polt’s The Emergency of Being; On Heidegger’s ‘Contributions to Philosophy (Polt 2006); Parvis Emad’s On the Way to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (Emad 2007); and Companion to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy (Scott et al. 2001) , edited by Charles E. Scott, Susan Schoenbohm, Daniela Vallega-Neu, and Alejandro Vallega. These works have undeniably added clarity to the wider understanding of Heidegger’s intention in the Beiträge, and rendered its accomplishments available to a wider audience, but they remain commentaries and guides to the understanding of the work.

Kovacs, on the other hand, seeks to take up Heidegger’s directive, acknowledging “that it would be a mistake to simply reconceptualise and resystematize Heidegger’s insights, the open and free play of moves and ventures of his journey of thought” (Kovacs 2015, 67). Rather, he seeks to think “through and with” Heidegger’s work, taking a “’step back’ from the closure of metaphysics at the center of the philosophical tradition…and ‘step into’ the thinking of Be-ing as enowning from the closure of metaphysics” (67). For an avid reader of the Beiträge, this is an exciting prospect, and one that Kovacs’ book fulfils amply.

A primary value of Kovacs’ book is in the regathering of the main concepts and movements which are dispersed, repeated, varied, and counterpointed throughout the fugal structure of the Beiträge. Kovacs piles them up, rearranges them, and takes them to places Heidegger had not ventured. His emphasis, pertinent to the intent of the original work, is on what Heidegger is attempting to do, or more accurately, to prepare for what needs to be done to make the leap the new beginning of thinking. Rather than a secondary interpretation, this book, at its best, is an effective and illuminating activation of Heidegger’s intention.

An example of Kovacs picking up Heidegger’s intimations to open new ways into thinking the leap beyond metaphysics, can be found in the link between questioning and believing in a relationship of faith (116). One of the more provocative aspects of the Beiträge and other works by Heidegger in this period, is the redefinition of truth, not as correspondence or certainty, but as Being coming into its ownmost through the process of Be-ing. The definition of faith is rethought, from within the Turning (Die Kehre), the moment of its coming forth. Faith is defined through its relationship with knowing. From within its ownmost, knowing is understood in terms of enowning, one of the shades of meaning of ereignis, (in everyday German, event) as the play of coming into its own and withdrawing. Thus, the understanding of faith becomes holding for true what is completely withdrawn from any knowing (117). To understand this, the reader must have a familiarity with Heideggerian expressions such as “withdrawal”, “turning”, “enowning”, and “what is ownmost to truth”. Moreover, it is necessary to become accustomed to dwelling with radical redefinitions of everyday taken-for-granted terms such as “knowing”. The Beiträge requires a long slow apprenticeship and a patient stillness of thinking. Kovacs takes this course in his analysis of faith. To the uninitiated reader, the language of Kovacs’ book appears as repetitive, murky and apparently incomprehensible as Heidegger’s own. In a review of this length it is impossible to offer sufficient detail to the multiplicity of neologisms, redefinitions, and connotational complexity in this phase of Heidegger’s writings. To understand these concepts requires an attunement with the thinking of the Beiträge itself. Kovacs dwells in the relationships and definitions with the steady tread of someone who has spent time in the stilling silence demanded by this path of thinking.

The renovated idea of truth mentioned above relies on a rethinking of the relationship of language and Be-ing, in which truth is no longer about holding something for true, but of holding oneself in the truth. In the final chapter, “The Thinking of Being and Language”, Kovacs takes Heidegger’s observations on the need for a language of Be-ing which differs from the everyday “language of beings, from utilitarian, instrumentalized, machinational language”; and which also, more importantly, addresses the “need for restoring the full saying-power to language (416). Kovacs begins with the observation that “the thinker of Be-ing itself…runs up against the boundaries of the language of beings, of the system of metaphysics”, and finds himself with the question: “Is it possible to say ‘something’ of the unsayable. Of that which is not ‘something’ at all?” (413).

Kovacs claims to enact Heidegger’s understanding of language as the site of “the shock, the powerful shift in understanding of the ‘to be’”, which constitutes a “‘leaping into the essential unfolding of Be-ing’ in such a way that Be-ing itself unfolds its essential power as en-owning”, (Heidegger, cited in Kovacs 2015, 82). This occurs because, in the Beiträge, language is figured not as a semiotic or representational enterprise, but rather as the means of attunement of the thinker to Be-ing. “The human being, as speaking and thinking being, is ‘guardian…of the truth of Be-ing’, and both language and human being ‘belong equally originarily to Be-ing’”; thus, human being is “‘essential’ for determining what is ownmost to language’”.. (Heidegger, cited in Kovacs 2015, 451). “In Language…Being is coming to word; thinking listening to the voice of Be-ing” (Heidegger, cited in Kovacs 2015, 452).

This relation of human being, language, and Be-ing is central to the Beiträge, and central to the task of taking up the directives of the Beiträge. By entering the relation between human, language, and Be-ing, the thinker participates in the coming forth of Be-ing, rather than staying in the metaphysical representational function of language. Heidegger calls this enthinking, enowning, inceptual thinking. Kovacs seeks to enter this mode of thinking-saying-writing. According to Kovacs, the speaker here enters “the inner dynamics and the range of the saying, disclosing potential of language” and its “capacity to say the unsayable”. The key to this enterprise is the hermeneutic temporality of the human and language belonging “equally originarily” to Be-ing. (452).

At this moment of equal originariness, “knowing, i.e. what is ownmost to truth, is the clearing opening for the self-sheltering concealing of Be-ing. Knowing awareness is the holding oneself in this clearing” (117). This is the temporality of participation in the presencing of the moment of the coming forth, rather than the depicting of a past which has already occurred. This temporality allows a knowing, a truth, which is “not a mere representation of an encounter but a persevering within the breakthrough of a projected opening, which through enopening comes to know the very Abgrund that sustains it” (Heidegger 1999, 258).

For the purposes of my own sojourn with the thinking of the Beiträge, Kovacs’ venture into the question of the Abgrund, in “Chapter II, Rethinking Thinking”, takes me further into being underway than any previous account I have read. The most important moment, for me, in this section, is the relationship between questioning and the Abgrund. If one is in questioning, then one is not in certainty, one is in that which is withdrawing, the unknown. And then, to stay in the unknown, to stay in the questioning, to stay in that which is withdrawing, is to hold fast to what is ownmost to truth, the play of concealment and disclosure. Because questioning is precisely not knowing with certainty, but finding a way to dwell in the slow craft of that which is ownmost to thinking, the aforementioned clearing opening for the self-sheltering concealing.

Finding home, abiding, and thus truly being there in the course or movement (lived experience) of questioning, as Heidegger’s Beiträge and his other texts teach the attentive, listening reader, steak (sic) out the range and sense of direction, the worth and power (the ways and craft) of thinking, of essential, being-historical, and more and more mindful thinking (Kovacs 2015, 100)

Here, the sense of Kovacs’ appropriation of Heidegger’s concepts and use of language comes to life in taking up his own abode in thinking, to hear, respond, and listen to that which “calls us to think” (Kovacs 2015, 97). In this, I find clear evidence that, for me, as a baffled, hesitant, mostly silent wanderer on the path of thinking, Kovacs’ book succeeds in Heidegger’s task of the foray into the participation of the coming forth of the enowning and the preparation for the transition from metaphysical speculation to being-historical thinking. This is the great worth and excitement. of Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis).


Emad, Parvis. 2007. On the Way to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: University of Wisconsin Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1995. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Translated by William McNeill, Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press.

Heidegger, Martin. 1999. Contributions to Philosophy: (From Enowning). Translated by P. Emad and K. Maly, Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kovacs, George. 2015. Thinking and Be-ing in Heidegger’s Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis). Bucharest: Zeta Books.

Polt, Richard F. H. 2006. The Emergency of Being : On Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Scott, Charles E., Susan Schoenbohm, Daniela Vallega-Neu, and Alejandro Vallega. 2001. Companion to Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy, Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Vallega-Neu, Daniela. 2003. Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy: An Introduction, Studies in Continental thought. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

Havi Carel: Phenomenology of Illness

Phenomenology of Illness Book Cover Phenomenology of Illness
Havi Carel
Oxford University Press
Hardback £30.00

Reviewed by: Joseph Walsh (University College Dublin)

Illness, as Susan Sontag’s famous metaphor runs, is a kingdom for which we all possess a passport. It is an onerous citizenship that we lay aside, ignore, and turn our back on when in the land of the healthy. But each of us will enter that kingdom, some never to return, and it is this habitude of existence, illness, that forms the subject of Havi Carel’s book. In an innovative and at times moving study, she addresses what is involved in the passing through from health into illness. Doing so illuminates the lived-experience of the two sides of our lives: the normal, everyday Being-in-the-world, and the, as Carel holds, limited Being-in-the-world of illness. By examining illness in this way, Carel works to uncover the ‘meaning of both normal and pathological human experience’ by revealing the alterations that our Being-in-the-world undergo. Seen under this light, Carel’s assertion that ‘the study of illness is integral to a philosophical investigation of human existence’ (2) can hardly be denied; her bolder claim that illness has been ‘neglected by philosophers in general’ (1) gives her book an impetus of special moment. Some may disagree with the latter point, but this is by far the most in-depth and thorough study of the subject so far. While illness has received attention from the medical humanities, mainstream philosophy has dealt with illness in a perfunctory way, or else it has been co-opted, as with Plato’s Timaeus or Sartre’s brief discussions, into the agenda of a philosophical system. For this reason Carel calls for a ‘comprehensive philosophical exploration of the experience of illness’ (2), which is explicitly stated as the intention of her book (38). Her study, then, elucidates the importance of illness for philosophy, and the incisive account of illness that it provides takes us an important step forward in realising this.

Alongside contributing to philosophy, Carel’s book carries a second aim: to have her philosophical analysis bear on healthcare’s approach to illness. That approach largely understands illness as ‘a physiological process’ (1) of which, as a standalone interpretation, Carel is critical. It cannot grasp the ‘dramatic and intimate changes to one’s life and being’ that studying the experience reveals; illness, as a mode of existence, ‘affects one’s entire way of being’ (71). Only phenomenology can step up to this task: it reveals the full breadth and depth of the experience and so can ‘helpfully augment clinical medicine’ in its approach to illness. Phenomenology accounts for the features of illness that are not tangible objects of science: the meaninglessness and despair, for example, undergone by those suffering illness (4-5). This is to join forces with a longstanding criticism of mainstream healthcare, namely that a patient’s body is treated without consideration for his or her mental involvement in the affliction, which extends to the wider dispute between objective and subjective approaches in the field. Carel does not dwell on the history of this debate, even in her brief literature review (35-9), but it is what originally brought about the use of phenomenology by scholars of the healthcare disciplines during the 1980s. As such, Carel’s second aim implicitly seeks to close that debate, at least on the subject of illness. Her book certainly achieves much towards the aim of allying healthcare with phenomenology, but in doing so Carel does not reduce phenomenology to a handmaiden of the health sciences; rather, and she states, it is a philosophical work first that ‘can mutually inform and interact with scientific work while remaining independent of it’ (2). Philosophy is always in her sights, and she describes the goal of the book as twofold: ‘to contribute to the understanding of illness through the use of philosophy, and to demonstrate the importance of illness for philosophy.’

It should be stated here that what Carel demarcates as illness is not illness in its totality. Her book deals with ‘serious, chronic, and life changing ill health, as opposed to a cold or bout of tonsillitis’ (2). Moreover, she is primarily concerned with somatic illness rather than, say, depression or schizophrenia and other mental illnesses (19). This bodily species of illness must also be of a sort which ‘is not followed by a complete recovery in a short period of time’ (2). Those illnesses that do resolve themselves quickly are termed ‘minor ailments’, which ‘fit within, and hence do not disrupt, one’s being in the world’ (59; see also 93). Serious somatic illness, as Carel identifies her subject, is that which ‘modifies the ill person’s way of being’ and thus is of existential significance (62) and is life-altering (64). The ‘minor ailments’ and pure mental dimensions of illness receive mention, but Carel’s analysis does not illuminate their structure. For this reason, Carel’s claim that she offers a comprehensive account of illness cannot be upheld by her study; she recognizes as much, despite suggesting the opposite (see 38), in the opening pages of her book by stating that through assessing serious, somatic illness ‘we can identify changes in the global structure of experience that apply to many, or even all, illnesses’ (2). But those illnesses deemed to be minor ailments and purely psychological are excluded, as we have seen, from such a phenomenological structure, and so this position remains to be established by future studies. There is still work to be done, then, in order to gain a comprehensive account of the lived-experience of illness, but Carel’s study certainly leads us in this direction with her focus on serious and long-standing somatic illness.

The study begins by distinguishing illness from disease. The latter is a ‘biological dysfunction’, the object of medical science, which the subject does not necessarily need to be aware of (15-17; see also 47). The former, by contrast, is ‘the experience of disease’ through which ‘a complete transformation of one’s life’ occurs. The experience of disease is what constitutes illness. One can therefore be diseased and not ill, and vice versa. Such a view, of course, is difficult to align with mental illnesses that have no somatic root, which Carel recognizes but does not attempt to seriously resolve (17, fn. 4: ‘it may be that medical knowledge is currently unable to identify the disease’; see also 45), and with congenital illness, of which Carel, arguing more strongly, holds the illness to be the ‘gradual realisation of one’s different needs and abilities’ (74, fn. 2). Nonetheless, her focus on somatic illness does not require a deeper analysis into the relation between mental illness and disease. The disease-illness dichotomy Carel draws is a perceptive and firm basis on which she can establish the experiential dimension required for the following phenomenological analysis.

This analysis starts with, building on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty’s conceptions of embodiment (27-9), the distinction between the lived-body and the objective-body (46ff.). Carel determines that ‘it is on this level that illness, as opposed to disease, appears’ as the lived-body offers the experience of illness and the objective-body is the site of disease. That experience relates to the habitual activities of the lived-body in its everyday world: ‘The habitual body loses its expert performance skills and these have to be replaced or modified’ in illness. A person’s way of being is thus affected, and so the intentional arc in our relation to the world (33); thus, one’s ‘existential situation’ of Being-in-the-world is altered. The body becomes an obstacle for one’s everyday endeavours and makes it conspicuous to oneself, and so illness ‘reveals the difference between the objective body and the habitual [lived] body’ (49) because it ‘creates areas of dramatic resistance in the exchange between body and environment’ (58). In everyday experience, by contrast, the two are ‘aligned and harmonious’ (55) as part of a seamless interaction with the world. In view of this, Carel terms the healthy body ‘transparent’: it is not an object of attention in our everyday, healthy actions. In illness, with the schism that emerges between object- and lived-body, that transparency is lost once our attention is drawn to the body’s malfunction (56-7). The loss of transparency ‘takes over one’s way of being, constricting the range of possible actions and hence restricting choice’ which is to ‘delimit’ one’s Being-in-the-world (58-9). The experiential structure of one’s life is altered as the ‘opportunities, possibilities and openness’ of one’s life, activities, and goals are ‘closed down (68). Illness is thus life-altering on an existential plane (62) because it affects one’s Being-in-the-world.

The loss of transparency, with its accompanying freedoms, choices, and goals, is the root cause for the change in the experiential structure of the ill-life. It is the totality of what is lost in Toomb’s influential theory of the five losses (see 42-3: wholeness, certainty, control, agency, everyday-ness), a theory that Carel used to broach the rift between the healthy and the ill existences. Carel sought the singular ‘something’ that is ‘taken away’ and which ‘falls under these five broad types of losses’ (65). With this theorisation, Carel certainly does strike upon the underlying cause beneath Toomb’s account of illness, and she explains those five losses within her theory. This focus on loss does not, however, overlook the edifying factor that illness can have. In a later chapter Carel does come to consider that, but let us remain for the moment with the central notion that illness is a loss of the everyday, habitual lived-body’s seamless interaction with the world.

The everyday habits we had previously engaged in had constituted a meaningful world (31), and in the changed experience of the body’s abilities, which grounds the ill experience, that meaningful world is altered. It is, as Carel notes, a ‘practical source of meaningfulness’ rooted in the habitual activities that form our everyday experience of the world (29). In discussing meaning in the ill experience, Carel incorporates Heidegger’s tool analysis from Sein und Zeit. The concerned dimensions Heidegger theorised of ready-to-hand, present-at-hand, and unready-to-hand, ‘invites the analogy to illness’ (61). The ready-to-hand as inconspicuous is equated to the healthy body, and present-at-hand to a part of the body that has failed and been made conspicuous in its failing of an habitual, and so meaningful, activity. While assuring us that the analogy holds, Carel has to admit that they do not bear much of a similarity because ‘Our bodies cannot be replaced or repaired as readily as tools’ (62). That is certainly a correct view given Heidegger’s own gloss on the -to-hand conceptual framework not being applicable to the body: the ‘Leiblichkeit’ is a problem of its own not to be worked out in Sein und Zeit (1967, 108). Evidently something different would have to be conceptualised to account for the body without having to revise the text and its concepts; indeed, for the body to be present-at-hand it would have to be unmeaningful and so unintelligible for Dasein, which seems impossible on account of the fact that the body is part of Dasein’s own facticity. Nonetheless, the tool analogy bears no great importance in Carel’s study as it is only mentioned in passing once more (99) and the complications surrounding its applicability for the body play no further part in the study.

When Heidegger surfaces again, Carel does not recall the tool analysis. Instead she focuses on Dasein’s existential condition of Being-able-to-be (Seinkönnen). This condition is related to the loss that illness causes in one’s way of Being as an inability-to-be (80). It is an inability-to-be, Carel claims, because the freedom and openness of the world is closed down, and one no longer has the possibility of Being-able-to-be (84). Meaning hovers in the background of this discussion as that which is constituted by our habitual activities: the possibilities of our everyday Being-able-to-be. Carel, again, needs to alter Heidegger’s theorisation for her position; she does so by re-construing inability-to-be from its association with death in Heidegger (81). For Carel, ‘An inability to be is a modification of an ability to be that is lost’ (84) rather than the impossibility of Being-there that constitutes death for Heidegger. It is a position that I do not believe is or can be supported by Sein und Zeit. When Carel applies her conception to illness, it is made with the sense that one’s ability to be X has been compromised, and so one is unable to fulfil the goals and activities associated with being X: the ability to be this or that (see the discussion on being an athlete, 80-81). With this understanding, the inability to continue a practical engagement with the world as X is determined as an inability-to-be. This is a transitive reading of ability-to-be, or Seinkönnen, whereas the text suggests it is intransitive. Heidegger associates it with understanding (Verstehen), which we will return to later, and speaks of it as prior to the particular, transitive possibilities of Being that Dasein has gotten itself into (S&Z 1967, 144). Dasein’s ability-to-be is concomitant with the existentiale of Verstehen, and so is part of Dasein’s structure in its Being-in-the-world; Dasein in being Dasein always has the futurally orientated to be of its ability-to-be in its own structure as a Being that is always projecting on a world-disclosed understanding of Being. The point is that Dasein always exists with an intransitive ability to be. This is different to the transitive ability-to-be-X of a particular understanding that Dasein projects on as part of a towards-which, which Carel posits the loss of as an inability-to-be. Carel’s inability-to-be-X is the possibility of the non-possibility for an understanding of oneself as being X, and not the non-possibility of one’s intransitive to be in Being-there. Inability-to-be as the antonym of ability-to-be would operate on the same intransitive level, which is to say that it would be the impossibility of Dasein’s to be, which is to say: death, the futural not-Being-there of Heidegger.

The consequences of not distinguishing an inability-to-be-X from an intransitive inability-to-be do not have a huge impact on the development of Carel’s position. It does, however, create a small tension when she comes to discuss the ‘process of adaptation’ that occurs in the experience of well-being in illness (130). That process is evident in the fact that ‘we adapt to – and therefore cease to feel the impact of – changes to things that affect our hedonic state’ (135) and that we can ‘get used to radically different (and radically curtailed) forms of embodiment’ (145-6). It seems, then, that the habitual, everyday experience of our ability-to-be-X changes. The X of one’s to be in this process is certainly something other because illness ‘dramatically chang[es] the ways of being that are available to a person’ and thus prompts ‘them to modify their way of being’ (142). Carel, in an important point for our understanding of illness, explains the edifying effect that an experience of illness can have in the modification of one’s way of Being and the consequently changed priorities (viz. goals, values, meaning structures) and the strengthened relationships one can develop (see 140-47). However, if the habitual, everyday experience of the world changes and becomes possible for the ill person, then it suggests that there is a shift in one’s inability-to-be-X, the core of the ill-experience, to an ability-to-be-Y. That ability-to-be-Y affords Dasein with a new set of meanings in its practical engagement with the world. It is effectively saying that if this change can succeed then illness, as the experience of a transitive inability-to-be, has ended so long as one has before them a transitive ability-to-be. Carel, I believe and quite correctly, wants to maintain the inability-for-being-X once one’s way of Being, with its goals and priorities, has changed to an ability-to-be-Y but the schema needs to be elaborated further to achieve this. Dasein’s own Verstehen in its relation to the possibilities of its ways of Being needs to be considered to connect the possibilities and non-possibilities open to it in its relation to the world. This would result in meaning being tied to one’s understanding of Being, as I understand it in Sein und Zeit, instead of to the practical –to-hand of the worldhood of the world. Regardless of these particulars, the work Carel has done here makes an important link between adaptation and edification with a shift in habitual everyday experiences. It is an important denouement of the study and a great stride forward in our understanding of illness.

In a particularly engaging and thoughtful chapter, which has appeared outside of this volume, Carel works to demonstrate how illness contains within it bodily doubt, namely ‘A sense of doubt about a routine activity that pervades you’ (87). That routine activity is, of course, part of the habitual, lived-body of the everyday experience in our ability-to-be. Ordinarily we have an inexplicit ‘bodily certainty’, but the loss of our everyday ability-to-be brings about a doubt in our bodily capacities; we lose the ‘subtle feeling of “I can” that pervades our actions’ (90). That doubt renders an explicit awareness of our body that breaks the transparency that the body has in bodily certainty (88). The earlier schism between the lived body and objective body gives rise to this bodily doubt which forms part of one’s awareness of their inability-to-be what they are ordinarily able-to-be (91-2). Bodily doubt, then, is the experience of one’s inability-to-be-X as the experience of illness.

Part of being ill, in the serious cases of Carel’s study, is that death looms large in the experience. An entire chapter is quite rightly devoted this facet of illness. The connection between the pair is quickly boiled down to one’s inability-to-be: ‘If illness is characterized by a degree of “being unable to be” death can be seen as total inability to be, the closure of all existential possibilities’ (150). The pair are entwined in serious illness because illness ‘reveals that human life is finite’ of which death is the final determination (151). For this reason, the ill experience is posited as one of Being-towards-death. Just what death consists of concerns Carel, and of course any discussion on death within a Heideggerian framework demands an exploration of authenticity and inauthenticity. On this front Carel develops an interesting and engaging view of authenticity and Being-towards-death which does not divorce either from the everyday world and das Man; she endeavours not to have authenticity so highly individualised to the point of solitude as many have held Heidegger maintained. A distinction is drawn between the oft-discussed demise and death of Heidegger, with Carel making the case that they should be understood with respect to how we relate to them. Demise, she convincingly claims, is an inauthentic relation to death, whereby death is substituted for the fear of a future event (161). In doing this, death is ‘levelled down to an ontic event because it is not understood as an existentiale, a way to be’. Death, authentically understood, is instead ‘a new openness or ability to view oneself as a whole; it is a structural shift’ that catches sight of the temporal finitude underlying one’s everyday existence (176). It creates a ‘struggle and conflict with death and finitude’ that pervades our Being-alongside and Being-with in our everyday experience of the world (177). Under this reasoning, authenticity does not remove ‘all other points of view from a person’s self understanding’, while also implicitly maintaining the essential awareness of the mine-ness of one’s Being and death that Heidegger embeds in authenticity. The point of this is that the same struggle and conflict in one’s authentic relation to death, for Carel, constitutes an authentic relationship to illness as a way of Being that is one of Being-towards-death. What an authentic relationship to illness provides is ‘the possibility of accepting illness and existing with it without denial or fleeing’ and so ‘Our understanding of illness stands to gain’ (178). That gain presumably consists of the ‘more compassionate experience of illness and finitude’ which can occur between the ill and healthy once an authentic basis for a relation to illness has been established (177). The exciting analysis ends there, and one feels that it could have been brought further by discussing the possibility of there being a relationship between the edifying character of illness, discussed earlier, and an authentic relation to illness: does the emerging ‘self-understanding’ of one’s finite existence create the possibility for an edifying experience of illness?

The reader will not find an answer to that tantalising question because Carel’s study veers away from any focused discussion on Dasein’s understanding of Being (Verstehen) and its relation to the possibilities of Dasein’s ways of Being. The few mentions are isolated to the chapter on death (viz. ‘illness provides a view of mortality that can profoundly change one’s self-understanding’, 156) and allusions occur when discussing illness in relation to well-being and edification (viz. ‘This process is one of reflective shaping and guiding of one’s way of being’, 142). By addressing Verstehen directly, a deeper understanding of illness and its relation to one’s way of Being can be provided since Verstehen is what regulates one’s way of Being in the disclosure of the possibilities for Being. The restructuring under a different Verstehen of the goals, values, and meaning of one’s life (i.e. one’s priorities) in illness as the possibility for an edifying experience of illness could be linked with the new, as Carel terms it, self-understanding of one’s finitude in an authentic relation to illness. After all, both cases involve a shift in one’s understanding of Being as part of the ‘modified’ way, hence new possibility, of Being that is undergone. How one self-understands in illness can be further elaborated by reflecting on the conjunction between Verstehen and Seinkönnen, so that the way of Being that illness stands as can be further defined from one’s everyday experience and with regard to the adaptive process one can undergo in terms of both well-being and edification.

The penultimate chapter is an engaging and illuminating study on epistemic injustice in healthcare. It was co-written with Ian James Kidd and has appeared elsewhere, but its place in this study is well-suited as its builds somewhat on the previous chapter’s ‘gain’ of an authentic relation to illness, and endeavours to make a significant contribution, via phenomenology, to healthcare practice. Epistemic injustice is shown to consist of attitudes that ‘lead interlocutors to treat ill persons’ reports with unwarranted disbelief or dismissiveness’ (180). Those attitudes involve the clinician considering the patient to be ‘cognitively unreliable, emotionally compromised, or existentially unstable in ways that render their testimonies and interpretations suspect’ (182). There are, Carel recognises, some good reasons for the clinician to have this attitude, but the healthcare environment can lead to the clinician ‘denying [the patient] the role of a contributing epistemic agent’ which is ‘a distinct form of epistemic exclusion’. The specialised medical knowledge of the clinician is one reason for why the healthcare setting is particularly prone to epistemic exclusion’: it privileges the clinician ‘in ways that structurally disable’ the patient’s own testimony (183). This creates an ‘asymmetry in the relationship’ between clinician and patient in terms of the epistemic status of their testimonies, namely that the clinician’s carries more weight and so he or she is the more powerful figure (194). This ‘epistemic privilege’, as it is termed, is, in a particularly adroit argument, related back to the disease-illness dichotomy and the focus of medical practice centring on disease: ‘the goal of medicine is to repair physiological mechanisms’, and so under this impetus the patient’s own subjective, often emotional, testimony is secondary to the specialised knowledge of the clinician on physiological matters. To resolve this and bring the focus to bear on illness, Carel advocates a phenomenological toolkit as a ‘patient resource’ that is also ‘aimed at training clinicians’ (199). This toolkit appears to serve the purpose of creating a shared language between clinician and patient by helping them to articulate their experience to the clinician and to make the clinician more aware of the content articulated. Through bracketing and thematising, the patient and clinician can come to terms with illness in a ‘tentative, descriptive mode’ that attends to the emotive aspects of the experience (200-201). This allows for an understanding in the healthcare setting of ‘new way of Being in the world’ that illness comprises of (201), and which the other chapters had shown to be an inability-to-be. In this way, the ‘pervasive effects illness may have on one’s sense of place, interactions with the environment and with other people, meanings and norms,’ etc. can be dealt with. This is to treat illness as opposed to disease in the illness-disease dichotomy. The value of phenomenology for healthcare practice, then, has its case convincingly made in this section of the study.

The final chapter comes to consider what special benefit illness can provide philosophy with. This comes to centre on ‘illness as a mode of philosophizing’ (213) through the changed way of Being it brings about. The break with the habitual everyday way of Being stands as a particular type of epoché through which the everyday can be assessed and the change from the everyday as an alternative perspective can be understood (215-16). This ‘provides opportunities to uncover facets of existence that are not normally visible’ (216). In this way, illness can be both a tool to philosophise with and an object of philosophical investigation that can reveal an alternative perspective in the concepts we have developed within the everyday experience of the world.

In closing, Carel’s monograph provides a careful analysis of illness that demonstrates it to be a particular way of Being-in-the-world. The study makes many astute and sharp observations on the development of illness, the particular characteristics it contains, and how these relate to problems with its treatment in the healthcare environment. There are times in which the nature of the study makes for difficult reading due to its subject matter, and that is an indication of how well Carel has confronted the negative aspects surrounding illness. The study certainly opens one’s eyes to the difficulties undergone in the everyday activities of the ill-person, and the effect of the book will remain with the reader. On an academic level, it has made a convincing case for the use, indeed necessity, of phenomenology for healthcare practice in its treatment of illness as the experience extends far beyond being diseased. Within philosophy, it is the most valuable and detailed work on the subject so far, and while there are still avenues to pursue in constructing an all-embracing phenomenology of illness in its mental and non-critical dimensions, Carel’s study has mapped them out for us. That kingdom is no longer cloaked in darkness.