Adam Y. Wells: The Manifest and the Revealed: A Phenomenology of Kenōsis

The Manifest and the Revealed: A Phenomenology of Kenosis Book Cover The Manifest and the Revealed: A Phenomenology of Kenosis
SUNY series in Theology and Continental Thought
Adam Y. Wells. Foreword by Kevin Hart
SUNY Press
Hardback $80.00

Reviewed by: Nikolaas Deketelaere (Balliol College,  University of Oxford)

Radicalisation as Entmenschlichung

Notes on the credibility of a phenomenology of Scripture

Since the exegete exists historically and must hear the word of Scripture as spoken in his special historical situation, he will always understand the old word anew. Always anew it will tell him who he, man, is and who God is, and he will always have to express this word in a new conceptuality. Thus it is true also of Scripture that it only is what it is with its history and its future.

Rudolf Bultmann, ‘Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?’, 296.[1]

Adam Wells’ new book, The Manifest and the Revealed: A Phenomenology of Kenōsis, is a provocative one. With Husserl, it takes up once more the dream of phenomenology as an absolute science, that is to say, a presuppositionless science that as such is able to ground all positive sciences. In doing so, Wells sees an analogy between the phenomenological gesture of reduction and Paul’s so-called kenosis hymn (Philippians 2:5-11). Exploring this analogy by operating a kenotic reduction, he sets up a phenomenology of Scripture in which the phenomenological method and Scripture mutually clarify one another (97-117). It is in this phenomenology of Scripture that contemporary Biblical criticism ought to be grounded, according to Wells, because it alone does not let itself be restricted by dogmatic presuppositions that arbitrarily impose limits on how and to what extent the experience of Scripture enters the field of inquiry. Only this phenomenology would be presuppositionless, thus forming an absolute science of Scripture, that is able to ground the scientificity of positive Biblical criticism. The thrust of the book is then made up of an intriguing critique of contemporary Biblical criticism, the problem with which, Wells suggest, “is not that it is overly scientific, but that it is not scientific enough” (150).[2]

To those of us shaped by his most significant critics, Heidegger and Derrida, Husserl’s dream of an absolute science sounds more like the stuff of nightmares. Wells is all too aware of this and admits from the outset that there are very good reasons to be suspicious of the very idea of absolute science “as a modernist, metaphysical ideal” (1), pointing to the calamities of the twentieth century as an example. Yet, he says, entirely abandoning the dream of absolute science would amount to giving up “any ability to ground the sciences, to determine the boundaries of scientific inquiry, and to provide answers to meta-theoretical questions about the ethical status of the sciences. (…) For that, one needs absolute science; one needs a way to ground the sciences in the broader context of the life-world” (2). Returning us to the foundational need that was felt so urgently in the first decades of the last century—embodied philosophically by Husserl and theologically by Barth—, the “‘dream’ of absolute science is not a metaphysical ideal,” for Wells, “but a practical necessity” (2). Of course, this simply ignores the fact that said dream could very well be both a metaphysical ideal and a practical necessity at the same time: as it was for Kant, for whom the moral God is needed to make the scientific endeavour meaningful whilst remaining himself outside the scope of that endeavour, which secures the very nature of ethical reasoning as distinct from science and thus able to ask such questions about science.[3] Kant’s insight is precisely that even though something may be practically necessary, that does not make it theoretically possible; it is a question of making this impossibility into an asset rather than an obstacle (as Derrida knew all too well). Nevertheless, Wells intends “to dream Husserl’s dream again, to reopen the question of absolute science, navigating between the practical necessity of such a science and the temptation to universalize it” (2).

Aware of how this sounds, however, he is quick to note that both absolute and science will “lose their mundane imperial connotations when transformed phenomenologically” (7). The first half of the book executes that phenomenological transformation by spelling out what Wells means by absolute science. Throughout its three chapters, Wells tracks the radicalisation of phenomenology and its reduction from Husserl’s early static phenomenology, through his later genetic phenomenology, and up to the constructive phenomenology developed by Eugen Fink and Anthony Steinbock. This exposition perhaps contains little that would be new to anyone familiar with the basics of phenomenological philosophy and its transcendental method, but it is remarkably clear and—unlike much Husserl scholarship and to Wells’ great credit—avoids any self-indulgent revelling in the immense technical complexity of Husserl’s philosophy: like all good phenomenology, this is a constructive work.

The phenomenologically transformed conception of absolute science Wells ends up with is then the following. Starting with science, he says that whilst “mundane sciences are concerned with that which is given in the world; phenomenology is concerned with how the given becomes given” (60). In other words, unlike the positive sciences, phenomenology is not a science of innerwordly objects; as an absolute science, it considers the constitutive source of these objects as unities of meaning and is operative within the new ontological field that Husserl calls transcendental subjectivity, which is opened up by the reduction: “Absolute science must, therefore, be a science of transcendental subjectivity” (20), for “as the source of all objectivity,” it is “the proper subject matter of absolute science” (21). So far, so Husserlian. For his understanding of the absolute, then, Wells turns to Fink, who defines the absolute as the synthetic unity of the whole of transcendental life, not merely the constitution of objects, but also the transcendental act of phenomenologising itself. That is to say, phenomenology is absolute because it maintains itself in a circular self-referentiality: the transcendental reflection on the constitution of objects itself leads to a transcendental reflection on the phenomenological method, which then in turn renews the transcendental reflection on constitution. “In the phenomenological reduction,” as Wells puts it, “transcendental subjectivity investigates its own constituting activity. Consequently, if phenomenology is going to be complete, if it is going to investigate all aspects of transcendental subjectivity, then it must investigate its own investigation, in the form of a transcendental theory of method. (…) The ultimate ‘object’ of phenomenology is the transcendental subject” (57-58).

As such, Wells believes to have seen off the modernist imperialist connotations of the notion of absolute science: “Consequently, phenomenology is not a universal science even if it is an absolute science. As a scientific practice on the part of transcendental subjectivity, phenomenology is within the process of genesis even as it evaluates the generation of givenness. (…) Phenomenology has no right to the phrase ‘once and for all’” (46). Indeed, precisely because, as caught up in its own circular self-referentiality, phenomenology exists in an infinite hermeneutic circle that it cannot escape to define the absolute ‘once and for all’: since it is itself absolute, “phenomenology cannot transcend the Absolute in order to offer a final objective account of the absolute” (71). This is an impressive and sound argument. However, at the same time, if “phenomenology guarantees its absoluteness only to the extent that it is self-referential” (51), the conception of the absolute offered is merely a formal one that lacks any material content. Wells, as it were, gives us no entry into the hermeneutic circle.

Yet, this is entirely the point, for it is here that absolute science becomes an absolute science of Scripture, that phenomenology becomes a phenomenology of Scripture, which follows from the radicalisation of phenomenology as such. For, Wells remarks, “while Fink’s ‘theory of method’ goes a long way toward radicalizing Husserl’s concept of absolute science, it remains incomplete inasmuch as Fink never connects the theory of method to any particular phenomenal element. Fink never performs absolute science” (150). In virtue of phenomenology or absolute science’s circular structure, the absolute cannot be defined in advance, but only takes shape within the practice (the performance) of phenomenology, within the phenomenological analysis of phenomena: “absolute science only becomes absolute in concrete application. That is to say, the method of absolute science cannot be specified in advance; it must be derived from concrete engagement with phenomena” (2). The material element chosen by Wells to make the formal notion of absolute science substantive is Scripture: “the phenomenological idea of absolute science,” he says, “gains real content inasmuch as theoretical phenomenological reflection exists in a ‘synthetic unity’ with scripture itself” (156). That is to say, following Fink, Scripture is a positive phenomenal element, transcendental reflection on which leads inevitably to transcendental reflection on the phenomenological method itself and thus fleshes out that method (makes it leibhaftig). As such, it is indeed the case that “Scripture and phenomenology elucidate one another within the circular hermeneutic of absolute science” (3).  However, insofar as Wells seems to imply more generally that “if scripture requires phenomenological clarification,” it would be the case that “phenomenology requires scriptural clarification” (2), he seems to be taking this a bit too far: Scripture is but one possible material element amongst many capable of clarifying the formal method, even if phenomenological reduction and the kenosis hymn are analogous in structure.

Having made the bridge between phenomenology and Scripture—namely that, to be a properly absolute science, phenomenology must be performed or applied to particular phenomenal elements, in this case Scripture—, we can now consider how Wells performs phenomenology, how he develops his phenomenology of Scripture as an absolute science of Scripture in the second half of the book. He proceeds by reading the kenosis hymn phenomenologically in order to argue that it “operates as a type of phenomenological reduction—a kenotic reduction that is, in the end, far more radical than Husserl’s reduction” (97), which means, given the circular structure of phenomenology, that phenomenology is itself in the end kenotic. This kenotic reduction is a bold but perhaps flawed idea. Its original sin is perhaps that it is based on an extremely uncritical reprisal of Fink’s understanding of the reduction that links it to divine cognition, the formulation of which Wells repeatedly cites throughout the book: “already in German idealism,” Fink says, “there was the recognition that the traditional antithesis between ‘intellectus archetypus’ and ‘intellectus ectypus’, which constituted metaphysical difference between human and divine knowledge, in truth signified the antithesis between human and un-humanized (entmenscht) philosophical cognition,”[4] which would mean that “phenomenologizing is not a human possibility at all, but signifies precisely the un-humanizing of man, the passing of human existence (…) into the transcendental subject. (…) Before phenomenologizing is actually realized in carrying out the reduction there is no human possibility of cognizing phenomenologically (…). Just as man is the transcendental subject closed off to its own living depths, so too all human possibilities are closed off to the inner transcendentality of the subject. Man cannot as man phenomenologize, that is, the human mode of being cannot perdure through the actualization of phenomenological cognition. Performing the reduction means for man to rise beyond (to transcend) himself, it means to rise beyond himself in all his human possibilities.”[5] It is here, Wells says, that “the analogy between reduction and the kenosis hymn becomes clear. By bracketing the world, and all being in the world, the human ‘I’ of the natural attitude calls into question that which it fundamentally is. The human ‘I’ relinquishes its ties to the world, emptying itself of its own humanity” (104). Kenosis, for Wells, is thus not the divine emptying itself of its divinity and in doing so becoming human; but, somewhat bizarrely, the human being emptying itself of its own humanity (being-in-the-world) and in doing so achieving transcendental (un-worldly) consciousness, which is then identified with the divine: “what is ‘emptied’ is not Christ’s divinity, nor his status vis-à-vis God, but the status of the cosmos as the primary source of truth and value. The kenotic reduction opens up the possibility that worldly authority and value are not primary but derivative,” namely of transcendental, un-humanised, un-worldly, even divine (!) processes of constitution; indeed, “in the kenotic epochē, the cosmos is bracketed as the ground of truth and value, and the world is revealed as a new creation, which is renewed and sustained by God’s infinite love and power. Kenōsis, in this reduced sense, is not an ‘emptying out’ but an ‘overflowing’ of God’s love unto creation” (3).  The kenotic reduction, then, is a “reduction from cosmos to ‘new creation’” (107). The rest of the book is then spent outlining the structure of this ‘new creation’ through a critique of Husserl’s phenomenology of time-consciousness, which, by the standards of the kenotic reduction, Wells considers not yet fully reduced (131). By way of an eloquent discussion of Lacoste and Fink, he shows how “the kenotic reduction brackets the cosmos, and discloses a new creation, in which space-time is a horizon whose essential horizontality is [divine] represencing” (147).

However, Wells’ conceptualisation of both kenosis and reduction strikes me as problematic, precisely because of the uncritical way in which it assumes Fink’s conception of the reduction and the related primacy of transcendental subjectivity understood as a transcending of finite being-in-the-world. First of all, Husserl’s notion of transcendental subjectivity has received its fair share of criticism, even Wells himself calls it “problematic” (9). It is therefore odd that this further radicalisation of transcendental subjectivity as explicitly un-humanised is taken over by Wells without reflecting on it critically at all (even though, as I said, the quotation returns multiple times, giving him ample opportunity). What does it mean to say that in doing phenomenology we would somehow transcend our humanity as such? What could possibly be left of me, or of any consciousness, once I have transcended my humanity?[6] What comes to mind here is Kierkegaard’s constant mocking of the thinker who—in his attempt to be sub specie aeterni, in forgetting to think everything he thinks along with the fact that he exists—simply ends up thinking something unreal, illusionary and irrelevant. Not even reduction can lift us out of our humanity, for even the reduction must first surely be initiated by finite human beings existing in the world: even the phenomenologist as phenomenologist is finite; Husserl is dead. “When one has abstracted from everything, is it not the case then that, etc.,” Kierkegaard sighs, “Yes, when one has abstracted from everything. Let us be human beings.”[7] Perhaps Fink and Wells have a counter-argument that refutes this exasperation at such overzealous use of the reduction; however, if they do, it is never offered and the critique—which nevertheless seems somewhat obvious—is not pre-empted. In the absence of a persuasive reason for why I should un-humanise myself in order to do phenomenology, it seems more worthwhile to remember Kierkegaard’s warning that “one who exists is prohibited from wanting to forget that he exists.”[8]

This Entmenschlichung can also be questioned theologically, this time not in terms of the reduction, but in terms of what functions here as its analogue, namely kenosis and its incarnational character. As we know, for Wells, “what is ultimately emptied in the kenotic epochē is not Christ’s divinity (…), but the status of the cosmos as the ultimate ground of truth and value; Christ’s kenotic act—whether one emphasizes the incarnation or the cross—turns worldly hierarchies upside down. The very idea that one who is equal to God (…) would choose to become human and become crucified is completely at odds with worldly notions of divine power and authority. From the worldly standpoint, it makes little sense to forgo divine power in favour of human existence and slavish death. One would never choose to die like a slave when given the option to be Caesar; to do so would be inhuman” (105, see also 114). This, in my view, gets it precisely the wrong way around: that it is a human being doing something inhuman is precisely the point. If it were simply God who chose to die as a slave, would we really be all that bothered? After all, for God, all things are possible­. It is a human being, in which God has emptied himself of his divinity and taken on the full existential reality of the human being,[9] who chooses to do something in-human—precisely that is what makes up the scandal of the Christian story and its power: worldly hierarchies are turned upside down from within the world itself by an event that transforms the structure of the world, opening it up from within unto the kingdom that is coming. That God’s power is completely at odds with ‘worldly notions of divine power and authority’ is likewise precisely the point of his power, namely that it is, as John Caputo puts it, “madness from the point of view of the ‘world’.”[10] Indeed, Caputo’s weak theology, which thinks God’s power precisely as his weakness, forms a much needed nuance to the disconcertingly strong theology of power that seems to be underlying Wells’ phenomenology: the divine is not reached by way of the impossible, by transcending the human (what on earth would this even mean?); rather, it is a question of being able to entertain the im-possible humanity of the un-human, the im-possible possibility of the impossible (Derrida).[11]

If uncritically relying on an un-humanised transcendental subjectivity is problematic, it surely is even more so when this transcendental subjectivity is identified with God. Yet, this seems to be the final move in Wells’ formulation of the kenotic reduction: “In reduction, the transcendental subject achieves that which is impossible for human subjectivity, namely, un-humanized or ‘divine’ philosophical cognition of the world (…). In reduction, man rises above the world as the pre-given ground of truth and value, and therefore exceeds worldly possibilities. The world, the cosmos, is revealed as the end product of the constituting acts of transcendental subjectivity; or to put it theologically, the cosmos is created” (107). This extraordinary claim, which amounts to a theologisation of the reduction in which transcendental cognition is identified with divine cognition and the transcendental field itself with divine creative activity, strikes me as unprepared by the argument and therefore unwarranted phenomenologically (in spite of the language Fink uses). In other words, a theological leap is performed here that must be resisted by phenomenology precisely as phenomenology until its legitimacy can be established phenomenologically. Without this, I see again no reason to follow Wells in his expansion of Husserlian notions of transcendence and subjectivity “by integrating the transcendental subject into the divine life” (117).

The problem becomes particularly acute, I feel, when this kenotic phenomenology is applied to Scripture in Wells’ absolute science of Scripture: for reading Scripture “in a kenotically reduced way,” would mean heeding the kenotic reduction’s instruction “to bracket the cosmos as the source of truth, validity, and meaning. No language or mode of reason derived from the cosmos should predetermine our reading of scripture” (108). We have now thus achieved Wells’ absolute science (or phenomenology) of Scripture, in the sense of an inquiry that “places no dogmatic restrictions on the experiences and contexts of scripture; every mode of scriptural givenness is, in principle, open for phenomenological investigation” (25). Though Wells stresses that this absolute science does not negate but instead underlies empirical Biblical criticism (23), it is worth noting that this does nevertheless appear to lay waste to immense parts of the tradition of said criticism: “So, for instance, Heidegger’s Dasein, restricted as it is to a worldly conception of finitude, cannot determine our phenomenological hermeneutic in the way that it determined Rudolf Bultmann’s strategy of ‘demythologisation.’ More importantly, in bracketing worldly modes of reason and language, huge swaths of Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy (…) are ruled out” (108). When reflected back, in virtue of its circular or absolute character, on the phenomenological method itself, we find that there too a conceptual purification (reduction) should be performed: Husserl’s idea of monadicity, for example, is simply declared “not relevant here,” for “divine life is the source of infinitely overflowing power and love, while ‘monadicity’ is a concept derived from worldly finitude” (117).

Yet, after so much reduction, after such a thorough cleaning out of our conceptual apparatus, what remains when the dust has settled? Not much of interest to anyone actually living their life, Kierkegaard might answer, which should worry us. Indeed, according to Wells, we would be left with the unadulterated “experience of scripture” (24). Yet, at no point does he provide a description of what this experience might be. Though again, as I discussed, this is of course entirely the point: he does not provide us with an a priori entry into the hermeneutic circle in which this experience takes shape, precisely because it only takes shape within or as that circle. However, one wonders if Wells has not closed that circle in on itself to the point of the experience having no worldly subject, and thus being inaccessible to us as human beings (hence, perhaps, Nancy and Derrida’s emphasis on the ellipsis, rather than the circle, that all writing and thinking completes).[12] For in reducing, if we reduce too far, it is very possible to reduce away the very structures that make appearance possible (say, human finitude), thus causing appearance to disappear in its own impossibility. Here again, Wells’ account fails to address or at least to pre-empt a powerful objection that is easily raised by someone like Caputo: “the truth is gained not by approaching things without presuppositions—can you even imagine such a thing?—but by getting rid of inappropriate presuppositions (frame) and finding the appropriate ones, the very ones that give us access to the things in question. (…) ‘Absolute’ knowledge absolves itself of the very conditions under which knowledge is possible in the first place. Presupposing nothing results in knowing nothing.”[13] Note that this critique is directed against absolute, rather than universal knowledge: it is not a question of the scope of the epistemic domain, but of the conditions under which the judgement is valid. As Kant might have said, absolute anything is simply nothing. Wells is often quick, like Husserl, to dismiss “dogmatic restrictions” placed on the field of inquiry by presuppositions; however, like Fink, he never considers whether it is perhaps these presuppositions that might be what opens up that field of inquiry (as opposed to reduction), what provides an entry into the circle absolute science completes (and which reduction closes off), for us as human beings in the first place: precisely because we are finite human beings living in the world, we are limited; “but that limit also gives us an angle of entry, an approach, a perspective, an interpretation. God doesn’t need an angle, but we do. Having an angle is the way truths open up for us mortals.”[14] To pretend that we are anything but mortals, that we could somehow transcend our finitude and humanity, is to disregard the problems that confront us as such. If we continue radicalising phenomenology (be it with Husserl, Heidegger, Fink, Marion, or Henry), instead of practicing phenomenology, we risk losing sight of what show itself as such.[15]

This is not merely, it should be said—and this is particularly evident in the work of Lacoste—, an atheist humanism speaking the language of phenomenology; but equally entails a theological imperative: indeed, “it is necessary to read Lacoste,” Emmanuel Falque argues, “probably above anyone else, in order to see and to understand the degree to which theology itself actually insists upon and does not contradict finitude as such (understood as the limiting horizon of our existence).”[16] The seriousness of this problem should not be underestimated, for it essentially concerns the question of who the Bible is for, who it speaks to, who can access the experience of Scripture. A distinction, borrowed from Nancy, that Falque makes in relation to the Eucharist, might be helpful here as well: the Bible “is not only ‘believable’ (by giving faith), it is also ‘credible’ (with a universalisable rationality)—in which the present work maintains the pretention of addressing itself to all,” for the Christian message “is not simply one of conviction, but also one of ‘culture’, or of pure and simple humanity.”[17] Instead of being absolute but not universal, perhaps the phenomenology of Scripture should be universal but not absolute: addressing itself to all (opening itself up as universally credible)—and thus doing so in the language of the human and worldly finitude we all share (whether the message is believed or not)—, without the violent insistence of being true for everyone (absolutely). Indeed, if no language derived from the world can be used to read or make meaningful the Christian message as it is found in Scripture (108), that message shrivels up in itself and dies, for there is no other language available. Essentially, the distinction between the transcendental or absolute (phenomenological) and the empirical or positive (historical) science of Scripture is simply not tenable: “the science of history goes to work on all historical documents,” as Rudolf Bultmann argues, “there cannot be any exceptions in the case of biblical texts if the latter are at all to be understood historically. Nor can one object that the biblical writings do not intend to be historical documents, but rather affirmations of faith and proclamation. For however certain this may be, if they are ever to be understood as such, they must first of all be interpreted historically, inasmuch as they speak in a strange language in concepts of a faraway time, of a world-picture that is alien to us. Put quite simply, they must be translated, and translation is the task of historical science.”[18] Readings of Scripture are always predetermined by some presuppositions shared by a particular community, otherwise there simply could not be any reading (or experiencing). Falque summarises this nicely by saying that it is above all a question of culture: “It is incumbent on each of us to decide on this, and it is also a matter for all of humanity, at least in the doctrine and tradition of Western culture that we inherit. (…) My basic argument (…) is not put forward so as to convert or transform others. It comes down to an acceptance or recognition that Christianity has the cultural means, as well as the conceptual means, to touch the depths of our humanity.”[19] In other words, it is a matter of securing for Christianity its credibility, the means by which it can continue to be meaningful to us and today, universally yet not absolutely, to all but not therefore believable in just whatever situation: “the issue at stake in philosophy, but also in the theology of today, is to envisage the meaning, including the cultural one,” of Christianity, for it forms “the condition for God himself to continue to address himself to man.”[20]

Wells’ absolute though not universal science of Scripture, because it is a closed circular system (the absolute), cannot account for how God could still address himself (credibly) to man as man, how Scripture could speak across traditions, engage humanity as such in its community of being (universally): “This brand of radical phenomenology may well apply outside of the Christian context,” he says, “but only to the extent that there are concepts analogous to kenōsis operating in other traditions (as there surely are)” (157). What these analogous concepts would be, we are left to guess. Ironically, if this were indeed to be true—and hopefully it is—, it would detract from Wells’ argument: if different religious traditions all have analogous concepts, that means that those concepts themselves are not theological, but precisely concepts belonging to the world and originating in human finitude. Having rejected monadicity, different traditions (or phenomenological ‘homeworlds’) seem to function very much like Leibniz’s ‘monads without windows’ for Wells. Simultaneously, whilst Christianity, or at least its Scriptures, would lack the means to speak meaningfully to non-Christians (because the science of Scripture is not universally credible); it risks—and I say risks, because Wells is unclear about whether intra-Christian differentiation counts as different phenomenological homeworlds—suppressing all interpretative difference within the Christian tradition itself (because the science of Scripture is absolutely to-be-believed). However, precisely because, as Bultmann puts it, “historical knowledge is never a closed (…) knowledge,” to the degree that it maintains a reference to the knower’s ‘life-relation’—unlike Wells’ transcendental or absolute science which is circular and thus only self-referential—, it is better at avoiding the modernist pitfall: “For if the phenomena of history are not facts that can be neutrally observed, but rather open themselves in their meaning only to one who approaches them alive with questions, then they are always only understandable now in that they actually speak in the present situation. (…) It can definitively disclose itself only when history has come to an end.”[21] I am therefore not sure whether Wells is justified in concluding that “kenotically radicalised phenomenology brooks none of the modernist hope for universal science” (157), for his absolute but not universal science still has the distinct flavour of a localised modernity: believable, within a particular tradition, and perhaps even to-be-believed (absolutely valid or grounded within a particular homeworld); even if it is not universally credible, outside of that tradition, in the human community of being where it has lost all meaning because it has transcended what that community has in common—human finitude.

There is no virtue in radicalisation when it amounts to Entmenschlichung—perhaps only within the dry vocabulary of transcendental philosophy could these words somehow appear innocent. Simply observing that securing an absolute ground for the sciences is a practical necessity does not make it theoretically possible, which is a lesson we should finally learn after having witnessed one attempt after the other fail over the course of what is now more than a century since Husserl first articulated this ambition (though, of course, it predates him). Instead, we need a discourse that “learns to appreciate the groundlessness of what is happening”[22] (Caputo), making the best of it in a “practical conversion of the theoretically ‘impossible’” that has “the objective reality of the task (Aufgabe)”[23] (Nancy), to be performed in the world itself as world. We must avoid that this ever-continuing radicalisation of phenomenology turns Husserl’s dream into a nightmare, whilst the coextensive desire for a scientific (be it a phenomenological or theological) grounding of Biblical criticism obfuscates the outrageous and life-transforming message of Scripture, or at least its worldly direction and medium: the result of a phenomenology of Scripture cannot be that the message found therein loses its credibility.[24] 

[1] Rudolf Bultmann, ‘Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?’ in Existence and Faith: Shorter Writings of Rudolf Bultmann, trans. by Schubert M. Ogden (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1960), 289-296 (296).

[2] Wells also formulates this critique theologically, though less prominently, by saying that “modern biblical criticism (…) lacks a theological grounding” (81). In that sense, Wells’ phenomenological account of an absolute science of Scripture is similar to Darren Sarisky’s recent theological account of a theological reading of the Bible (published just two months after Wells’ volume) in that they both reject naturalistic readings of Scripture in an attempt to ground Biblical criticism. For Sarisky’s account, see his Reading the Bible Theologically (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

[3] This is also the experience taking shape in those critics of Husserl that are dismissed by some as ‘nihilists’ because they would somehow have done away with very notion of an absolute. However, in reality, the exact opposite is true. Derrida, for example, expresses this well when he says that “there is a want for truth (il faut la vérité)” (see Jacques Derrida, Positions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 58n32 (trans. modified)): there is a need or a want for truth, precisely because truth is lacking; deconstruction is indeed motivated by the absolute, namely by its presence as absence in its constant displacement, which forms the very movement of différance.

[4] Eugen Fink, Sixth Cartesian Meditation: The Idea of a Transcendental Theory of Method, trans. by Ronald Bruzina (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 77.

[5] Fink, Sixth Cartesian Meditation, 120.

[6] It should be pointed out that the human being for Fink (and Husserl) is probably not the same as what Heidegger calls Dasein, but rather refers to worldly or empirical consciousness whilst transcendental consciousness is constitutive of the world. On this, see: James McGuirk, ‘Phenomenological Reduction in Heidegger and Fink: On the Problem of the Way Back from the Transcendental to the Mundane Sphere’ in Philosophy Today, 53.3 (September 2009), 248-264.

[7] Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, trans. by Alastair Hannay (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 97.

[8] Kierkegaard, Postscript, 256.

[9] In kenosis understood along incarnational lines, God does not simply empty himself of his divinity in order to come into the flesh (Verleiblichung); but, by coming into the flesh, he also takes on the whole existential reality of man, namely his finitude and facticity (Menschwerdung). On this, see: Emmanuel Falque, ‘A Phenomenology of the Underground’ in The Loving Struggle: Phenomenological and Theological Debates, trans. by Bradley D. Onishi and Lucas McCracken (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018), 45-75; Emmanuel Falque, The Guide to Gethsemane: Anxiety, Suffering, Death (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018).

[10] John D. Caputo, The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 103.

[11] More generally, what one would not know from reading the book is that the theme of kenosis has gained remarkable currency within contemporary philosophy: not just in Caputo and Derrida, but also in Catherine Malabou, Gianni Vattimo, Jean-Luc Nancy and Emmanuel Falque. Though Wells has a chapter situating the kenosis hymn within contemporary Biblical criticism and theology, a philosophical consideration of the issue of kenosis is entirely absent. It seems wrong to me to identify the phenomenon of kenosis with Paul’s kenosis hymn. This is a missed opportunity and might lead one to wonder whether what this book provides is actually kenotic phenomenology of Scripture, rather than a phenomenology of kenosis.

[12] For more on this, see: Jacques Derrida, ‘Ellipsis’ in Writing and Difference, trans. by Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 294-300; Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘Elliptical Sense’, trans. by Jonathan Derbyshire in A Finite Thinking (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 92-111.

[13] John D. Caputo, Truth: The Search for Wisdom in the Postmodern Age (London: Penguin, 2013), 182.

[14] Caputo, Truth, 13.

[15] On this, see also Frédéric Seyler’s ‘Is Radical Phenomenology Too Radical? Paradoxes of Michel Henry’s Phenomenology of Life’ in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 27.3 (2013), 277-286.

[16] Emmanuel Falque, ‘The Visitation of Facticity’ in The Loving Struggle: Phenomenological and Theological Debates, trans. by Bradley D. Onishi and Lucas McCracken (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018), 195-219 (196). See also Jean-Yves Lacoste, Experience and the Absolute: Disputed Questions on the Humanity of Man, trans. by Mark Raftery-Skehan (New York: Fordham University Press, 2004), 194: “Man takes hold of what is most proper to him when he chooses to encounter God. This argument can now be made more specific: we can now assert that man says who he is most precisely when he accepts an existence in the image of a God who has taken humiliation upon himself—when he accepts a kenotic existence.”

[17] Emmanuel Falque, The Wedding Feast of the Lamb: Eros, the Body, and the Eucharist, trans. by George Hughes (New York: Fordham University Press, 2016), 43 (trans. modified).

[18] Bultmann, ‘Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?’, 292.

[19] Falque, The Wedding Feast of the Lamb, 10.

[20] Emmanuel Falque, ‘Spread Body and Exposed Body: Dialogue with Jean-Luc Nancy’, trans. by Nikolaas Deketelaere and Marie Chabbert in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, 26.4 (August 2021) (forthcoming).

[21] Bultmann, ‘Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?’, 294-295.

[22] John D. Caputo, The Insistence of God: A Theology of Perhaps (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013), 66.

[23] Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘Dies irae’ in La faculté de juger (Paris: Minuit, 1985), 9-54 (34).

[24] It is precisely this idea that forms the essential and lasting legacy of Bultmann’s work. David Congdon expresses it well in his ‘Is Bultmann a Heideggerian Theologian?’ in Scottish Journal of Theology, 70.1 (2017), 19-38 (38): “Translation is not the imperialistic removal of ideas from their native context; it is rather an act of intercultural communication. Translation is a dialogue between past and present that respects the cultural distinctiveness of both text and reader. It is actually the rejection of translation that is imperialistic, because that inevitably means denying the significance and value of some cultural context, whether ancient or modern.” Thus, even in asking valid and important questions like Wells does, “one must be careful not to criticise the act of translation as such, and thereby inadvertently undermine the capacity to facilitate genuine understanding across cultural barriers—thus undermining the possibility of theology itself.”

Guido Cusinato: Biosemiotica e Psicopatologia dell’Ordo Amoris. In Dialogo con Max Scheler

Biosemiotica e psicopatologia dell'«ordo amoris». In dialogo con Max Scheler Book Cover Biosemiotica e psicopatologia dell'«ordo amoris». In dialogo con Max Scheler
Filosofia. Etica e filosofia della persona
Guido Cusinato
Franco Angeli
Hardback, € 33.00

Reviewed by: Valeria Bizzari (Clinic University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany)

“… ogni modo d’esser della mia vita e della mia condotta, giusto o sbagliato, o completamente errato, sarà determinato dal fatto dell’esserci o meno di un ordine oggettivamente corretto di questi moti del mio amore e del mio odio, della mia propensione e avversione, del mio interesse multiforme per le cose di questo mondo, nonché dalla possibilità che ho di imprimere questo ‘ordo amoris’ nel mio animo”

(Max Scheler, Ordo amoris, p. 109)

La vita emozionale è da sempre un forte tema di dibattito per la filosofia. A partire dall’antichità fino ad arrivare alla filosofia moderna, le cosiddette “passioni” ed “emozioni” sono state considerate come forze completamente differenti e contrapposte alla razionalità, e i più importanti pensatori, quali Platone, Aristotele, gli Stoici e successivamente Cartesio, furono convinti sostenitori della necessità di una sorta di controllo della sfera sentimentale, affinché essa non disturbasse o compromettesse la razionalità e la vita morale. Nella filosofia contemporanea cade lo stereotipo del conflitto fra ragione e passioni, e viene rivalutata la capacità cognitiva delle emozioni: ne è un esempio l’opera di Nussbaum L’intelligenza delle emozioni, pubblicata nel 2001. Facendo un passo indietro in questa “riabilitazione” della vita emotiva in etica, ebbe indubbiamente un ruolo fondamentale Max Scheler (1874-1928), che, affidandosi al metodo fenomenologico, riuscì a fondare un’etica assiologica che salvaguardasse sia l’oggettività dei valori sia la struttura emotiva della persona. L’utilizzo del metodo fenomenologico permette a Scheler di parlare di intuizione immediata dei valori, e di intuizione immediata della persona.

L’ultimo libro del professor Cusinato sembra appunto riprendere la discussione dal punto in cui l’aveva lasciata Scheler, e inserisce sapientemente i più importanti concetti scheleriani— quali quello di persona intesa come Leib, e quello di ordo amoris—all’interno del dibattito filosofico contemporaneo. Il risultato non è soltanto un’originale proposta di biosemiotica del corpo vivo, ma anche una visione innovativa del sé come relazionale e assiologicamente connotato, al punto che è possibile rileggere il piano delle psicopatologie come “distorsioni” dell’ordo amoris stesso.

  1. Scheler, corpo vivo e ordo amoris

L’ intento principale del volume del professor Cusinato è quello di introdurre una biosemiotica del corpo vivo radicata nella dimensione dell’espressione e il cui ruolo sia fungere da fondamento dell’intercorporeità e della percezione dell’altro. In quest’ottica, la base per l’intersoggettività è costituita da una falda impersonale comune a tutti gli organismi, che sarebbero fin da subito sintonizzati con il piano espressivo della vita, attraverso un’affettività unipatica enattiva. Ogni essere vivente, infatti, possiede la capacità di interagire con il piano dell’espressione, ben prima di sviluppare la cosiddetta “intersoggettività primaria”, ovvero l’abilità innata di relazionarsi agli altri in modo espressivo fin dalla nascita, quando il bambino è in grado di imitare i movimenti altrui. Secondo Cusinato, la percezione dell’alterità sarebbe in realtà mediata da un tipo di percezione rappresentativa dei valori e della condivisione emozionale, e avverrebbe grazie ad un principio di selezione determinato dallo schema corporeo. E’ possibile quindi definire il corpo vivo come un a priori materiale; e il sentire stesso come una facoltà universale legata alla capacità di interagire con il piano dell’espressione.

Scheler, infatti, descriveva il Leib  nei termini di “una datità psicofisica indifferente: nell’intuizione interna si dà come Leibseele (fame/ esser sazi, benessere/ dolore) e in quella esterna come Leibkörper” (M. Scheler, 1999, p. 37). Ne Il formalismo nell’etica e l’etica materiale dei valori, egli definisce la corporeità propria “una particolare datità eidetico- materiale … atta a fungere in ogni percezione di fatto del proprio corpo da forma della percezione” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 492). Non è possibile, dunque, considerare il corpo proprio una mera datità, un mero oggetto percepibile da un punto di vista esterno o interno, in quanto, secondo Scheler, esiste una “rigorosa ed immediata unità d’identità” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 494) tra la coscienza interna (la consapevolezza che ciascuno ha di sé e del proprio corpo vivo) e la percezione esterna del corpo fisico, oggettuale.

La percezione del corpo proprio è anteriore a tutte le altre e non riducibile ad esse. Piuttosto, sono le sensazioni organiche a manifestarsi sempre in relazione a un corpo proprio, che va considerato concomitante ad esse, come una sorta di “sfondo”. La struttura motoria del corpo proprio accompagna dunque ogni atto dell’Io, ogni vissuto: “Il corpo proprio … non si manifesta quindi né come il “nostro proprio”, né come “sottomesso al nostro potere”, né come “semplicemente momentaneo”; esso è, o sembra essere, il nostro stesso io e contemporaneamente un qualcosa che compenetra il tempo oggettivo in modo stabile, duraturo, continuo e rispetto a cui la realtà psichica trascorre come un qualcosa di “passeggero” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 519). Il Leib è quindi qualcosa di irriducibile ad altro ed è essenziale, necessario per la costituzione della persona. Inoltre, grazie al Leib è possibile la natürliche Weltanschauung, ovvero “l’intervento sul modo degli oggetti pratici in funzione delle esigenze di carattere biologico” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 519): una delle funzioni del Leib è, dunque, anche quella di mediare tra l’Io e il mondo.

Cusinato non solo enfatizza la centralità del corpo vivo all’interno del processo percettivo, ma riserva un ruolo esplicitamente importante ai fenomeni espressivi, che per lui rappresentano un momento essenziale della vita di coscienza dell’individuo, specialmente nella percezione intersoggettiva. In questo modo egli si inserisce all’interno del dibattito contemporaneo: Gallagher e Zahavi, ad esempio, sostengono che gli stati affettivi “sono dati nei fenomeni espressivi, cioè sono espressi nei gesti e nelle azioni corporee e diventano perciò visibili agli altri.” (Gallagher e Zahavi, 2009, p. 277). In quest’ottica, corpo e psiche non sono due unità nettamente distinte e percepibili tramite procedure differenti, bensì costituiscono un’unità espressiva (Ausdruckseinheit). Estendendo la presenza dell’affettività alla sfera biologica, Cusinato si spinge oltre le interpretazioni già presenti, e ci mette di fronte a un’intenzionalità incarnata, pre-riflessiva e finalizzata a cogliere il valore dell’oggetto, e non la sua mera rappresentazione.

Enattività, espressività e affettività divengono quindi le componenti originarie del processo cognitivo, il quale andrà ripensato come un processo di tipo affettivo che lega i vari soggetti tramite un meccanismo di sintonizzazione o risonanza intercorporea presente già a livello biosemiotico. Questo non solo permette di considerare il soggetto come essenzialmente relazionale (ponendosi quindi in contrasto rispetto al “minimal self” descritto da Zahavi, che manterrebbe un nucleo puramente individuale); ma anche di oltrepassare le teorie dominanti all’interno del dibattito attuale, che si trova diviso tra teoria della teoria (secondo la quale l’intersoggettività si riduce a un processo di mentalizzazione); teoria della simulazione (per cui la percezione dell’altro equivale alla simulazione dei suoi vissuti) e teoria della percezione diretta, che, seppur enfatizzando la centralità del corpo e dell’espressività, circoscrive l’intuizione dell’alterità al mero incontro con l’altro. L’introduzione di un livello biosemiotico permette di spostare l’accento sul fatto che ogni essere è immerso sin da subito non solo in un contesto che condiziona e da cui è condizionato, ma anche in una relazione affettiva connotata assiologicamente, a partire dalla quale sarà possibile intraprendere dei rapporti con l’alterità.

I vari livelli di sintonizzazione e posizionamento dell’umano nel mondo sono descritti da Cusinato in modo accurato e chiaro, e ci permettono di capire in che modo tale sintonizzazione unipatica possa dischiudere molteplici possibilità (coerenti con le affordances gibsoniane) per il soggetto che  le vive, o, ancor meglio, sente. In una prima fase il soggetto è l’organismo che, attraverso lo schema corporeo, si sintonizza unipaticamente con gli altri (questo corrisponde, appunto, al livello biosemiotico); ciò permetterà all’organismo di svilupparsi come sè sociale che tramite il senso comune si sintonizza empaticamente con l’alterità; per poi infine farsi singolarità personale e sintonizzarsi solidaristicamente con il mondo grazie all’ordo amoris. Tale concetto viene sviluppato nella seconda parte del libro, in cui Cusinato si interroga non solo sul modo effettivo in cui l’ordo amoris ci permette di conoscere il mondo e l’altro, ma anche sulle possibili conseguenze di una sua distorsione. Il concetto di ordo amoris è, in effetti, uno dei più affascinanti della filosofia scheleriana, e il volume in esame riesce a offrirne un’interpretazione quantomai attuale.

Scheler lo introdusse nel testo inedito Ordo amoris (risalente al 1914-16), testo in cui risulta esplicito l’intento di liberarsi da una concezione dell’emozionale come un insieme di forze cieche (come invece è in uso nella psicologia associazionistica e nel meccanicismo naturale) a favore di una riscoperta dell’essere dell’esperienza in una logique du coeur. Il tema pascaliano è ripreso da Scheler per indicare una logica insita nell’Erlebnis,una logica che non appartiene al pensiero, ma al cuore. Anche la vita ha un’essenza, che non è attribuibile allo psichico, e tale essenza la dirige dall’interno. E’ l’amore che indirizza e struttura i processi psichici, non viceversa. Così, secondo questa logica dell’affettività, ai sentimenti corrisponde un termine assiologico di riferimento (ad esempio, la tristezza può essere legata a un valore spirituale, rappresentato dalla morte, oppure a un valore vitale, rappresentato dall’invecchiamento). Ogni stato emotivo è, al tempo stesso, un fatto reale, in quanto stato, e fenomenologico, poiché posto in una modalità intenzionale verso un oggetto di valore. Compito del fenomenologo è dunque quello di  attribuire finalmente alla vita emotiva l’ordine che sempre le è stato negato, ma che secondo Scheler le appartiene di diritto, poiché è ad essa immanente. Anche ai moti dell’anima appartiene tale ordine, finora ignorato e considerato parte della mera soggettività dell’individuo, irrazionale e perciò subordinato all’azione di dominio dell’intelletto.Il concetto di ordo amoris può avere due significati: uno personale e una sovraindividuale. Per quanto riguarda la prima accezione, essa é relativa alla gerarchia di valori specifica di una determinata persona: ogni persona ha infatti la sua propria gerarchia di valori che la orienta in ogni momento della sua vita, in ogni sua scelta, in ogni suo vissuto. Secondo l’accezione sovraindividuale, invece, l’amore governa il senso di ogni cosa, e, sebbene particolarizzate, le varie individualità dovrebbero tutte rifarsi a questo generale ordine di senso oggettivo: in tal modo avremmo dei retti ordo amoris, delle gerarchie assiologiche personali che rispecchiano quella universale. In caso contrario, potremmo trovarci di fronte a un ordo amoris distorto, deviato, ovvero a gerarchie di valori individuali che sovvertono l’ordo amoris generale e sovraindividuale. Esistono infatti vere e proprie perversioni del retto ordo amoris: un esempio può essere quello dell’amore relativo, chiamato da Scheler “innamoramento”, che si riscontra nell’amore verso un bene finito, che diventa idolo se considerato assoluto. Si ha una perversione dell’ordo amoris anche quando i valori della gerarchia personale di un dato individuo sono inferiori rispetto ai valori dati nel retto ordo amoris. L’ordo amoris, quindi, oltre a essere di carattere descrittivo, ha anche un’accezione implicitamente normativa, poiché, dicendoci l’ordine delle cose e il loro giusto posto, nondimeno richiede che tale ordine venga rispettato, ed è correttivo nei confronti di eventuali distorsioni. Nella nostra persona, quindi, è come se convergessero due modi di essere: uno, particolare, del qui-ora dell’esserci, sottoposto, appunto, alle variazioni spazio-temporali; e l’altro che trascende tale modalità, e riguarda invece ciò che di assolutamente eidetico e strutturale esiste, ovvero un ordine metastorico ed onnipresente, comunque capace di assumere diverse forme, cercando di portare il giusto ordine anche sotto forma di un sistema storicizzato. Contingente e assoluto si incontrano, determinando il divenire storico, in un movimento di reciprocità e apertura che vede i due momenti congiungersi fino  a formare un’ unità di senso. Oltre alla conoscenza, l’amore risveglia anche il volere di realizzazione da parte di un soggetto: è per questo che Scheler afferma, a ragione, che l’uomo, prima di essere un ens volens e un ens cogitans, è un ens amans. Scheler, infatti, definisce l’amore come “ la tendenza o-a seconda dei casi – l’atto che cerca di condurre ogni cosa verso la sua propria pienezza di valore, e conduce là, purchè non si frappongano impedimenti”[1].  L’ordo amoris stabilisce così per ogni uomo la sua facoltà di comprendere, la struttura e il contenuto della sua visione del mondo, sempre implicitamente proiettato alla conoscenza dell’essenza divina: ordo amoris particolare e ordo amoris universale trovano dunque una continuità di senso.

In che modo quindi Cusinato inserisce l’ordo amoris all’interno della sua prospettiva biosemiotica?

Possiamo sostenere che l’ordo amoris rappresenti la capacità di percepire il valore attraverso il sentire, e sia quindi implicito nella capacità di interagire a livello unipatico con il piano espressivo della vita. La conseguenza di tale caratterizzazione è molto forte, e l’ultima parte del libro dedica un ampio spazio ad una riflessione a proposito della compromissione di tale facoltà, definita in termini di vera e propria psicopatologia. Secondo Cusinato—e a mio avviso, questa è la tesi più forte  e innovativa dell’intero volume—la patologia psichica subentra appunto nel momento in cui l’ ordo amoris non riesce più a sintonizzarsi con il piano espressivo della vita e dell’alterità. Se la percezione dell’altro è già implicita a livello biosemiotico e dipende da una corretta sintonizzazione affettiva, un disturbo dell’affettività comporterà un errato sviluppo del soggetto stesso, il quale non sarà capace di passare dallo stato di organismo a quello di sè sociale e personalità individuale.

  1. Il case study: la schizofrenia come disordine dell’ordo amoris

Si può osservare la concretezza della tesi di Cusinato analizzando una psicopatologia in particolare: la schizofrenia. Nonostante, infatti, l’autore porti svariati esempi, credo che la schizofrenia sia il più calzante per descrivere la centralità dell’ordo amoris e cosa comporti la  sua perdita o distorsione.

Già Minkowski, nel testo La Schizophrénie, risalente al 1927, sosteneva l’impossibilità di comprendere tale malattia senza avere ben presente la struttura della soggettività: l’essenza della schizofrenia consisterebbe, in particolare, nell’incapacità di rapportarsi al mondo e di stabilire legami significativi con altri individui. Nonostante i disturbi psichici colpiscano principalmente tre sfere- l’autocoscienza, l’intenzionalità e l’intersoggettività- è proprio quest’ultima, infatti, ad essere maggiormente colpita. Il contatto con la realtà, inoltre, non viene perso solo da un punto di vista sociale, poiché ad andare smarrita è la stessa prospettiva in prima persona. Il sé e l’altro, infatti, non sono più mutualmente interrelati, ma divergono fino a divenire due realtà completamente separate. La soggettività esperisce così un senso di perdita dei propri confini, in concomitanza ad allucinazioni uditive e impossibilità di controllo delle proprie azioni: in un certo senso, sembrerebbe andato perso lo “schema corporeo” merleau-pontiano.

Le sfere coinvolte in tale processo di “de-sintonizzazione” con il mondo sono, nello specifico, le seguenti:

  • Capacità cognitive: il distacco dal reale e dalla dimensione soggettiva corporea comporta la perdita dei nessi significativi e la depersonalizzazione della coscienza, che cerca, attraverso l’iper-riflessività, di attribuire al mondo una nuova struttura organizzativa. Questo implica un’ipertolleranza alla complessità semantica: non comprendendo i significati impliciti nel senso comune, lo schizofrenico è portato ad attribuire infinite interpretazioni significative a oggetti in realtà molto semplici, espandendo in senso esponenziale gli orizzonti epistemologici;
  • Vita emotiva: il soggetto ha difficoltà nel sentire e spesso si dichiara incapace di farlo. Di conseguenza, anche le abilità nelle relazioni sociali diminuiscono notevolmente. Inoltre, tutto ciò che concerne l’alterità può spaventare il soggetto, che si dichiara incapace di affrontare il mondo sociale e teme di rimanerne “intrappolato” (tale fenomeno si può definire come vulnerabilità eteronomica);
  • Ontologia: se la consapevolezza corporea e il senso comune vengono persi, anche il sé risulta completamente distorto. Per questo motivo, spesso i pazienti sostengono non solo di sentirsi isolati dal resto del mondo, ma anche di essere letteralmente frammentati, di non essere, cioè, individui interi;
  • Etica: perdendo la consapevolezza di sé e il senso comune, lo schizofrenico assume molto spesso atteggiamenti bizzarri e, talvolta, al di là di ogni etica vigente, come se la sua personale assiologia divergesse completamente dalle norme del mondo sociale in cui vive. Tale eccentricità può sfociare in una vera e propria “ribellione” consapevole nei confronti dei valori comunemente adottati dalla società (antagonomia).

Il risultato è un totale distacco dal reale: “The […] schizophrenics” sostiene Bleuer, “who have no more contact with the outside world live in a world of their own. They have encased themselves with their desires and wishes […]; they have cut themselves off as much as possible from any contact with the external world. This detachment from reality with the relative and absolute predominance of the inner life, we term autism” (E. Bleuer, 1978, p. 30). Ciò che Bleuer non sembra enfatizzare a sufficienza, ma che nell’ultima parte del volume di Cusinato viene descritto, con l’ausilio di testi significativi, tra cui Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl (Sechehay, 1962), è la natura drammatica di un simile distacco, che coinvolge non solo la relazione tra il soggetto e l’alterità, ma dal quale sembrerebbe dipendere la stessa comprensione della realtà in generale. Il soggetto, il cui sé è frammentato e che non riesce a stabilire una relazione intersoggettiva, non riesce neppure ad “immergersi” nel mondo.

Tale perdita della conoscenza pre-riflessiva, così come la perdita del senso di sé, ha conseguenze a livello sensoriale, per quanto riguarda la percezione mondana e intersoggettiva; in ambito concettuale, laddove è possibile registrare fraintendimenti e incomprensioni di significati e intenzioni; e nella realtà attitudinale, che concerne la struttura assiologica individuale. Un’analisi fenomenologica si rivela utile al fine fornire una descrizione esauriente e una spiegazione olistica: in tal senso, la perdita del sé corporeo, associata alla distorsione della struttura assiologica del soggetto, sembra essere la caratteristica più significativa della schizofrenia. Tutte le sfere coinvolte dalla de-personalizzazione schizofrenica hanno infatti in comune una distorsione dell’ordo amoris, il cui ruolo è talmente importante che tutti i sintomi possono essere ricondotti a strategie compensatorie volte a ricostituire una struttura assiologica personale (seppur opposta a quella vigente nel senso comune, come è esplicito nel caso dell’antagonimia).

  1. Conclusione

Un’analisi accurata del concetto di ordo amoris ci permette di dedurre che tutta la nostra vita è rigorosamente guidata da un ordine, che nulla è dato al caso: anche la nostra emotività ha leggi specifiche e rigorose. C’è una legalità immanente agli atti d’amore, dovuta alle regole del preferire e del posporre, per cui l’animo umano non è più considerato un luogo di caos, ma un microcosmo del mondo dei valori. E’ quindi appropriato dire che il cuore ha le sue ragioni. Ovviamente non bisogna confondere questo tipo di razionalità con quella intellettuale: emozionale e razionale sono due ambiti completamente diversi, non riconducibili l’uno all’altro. Tuttavia, attribuire una logica soltanto alla sfera del giudizio intellettuale è sbagliato, in quanto il lato emotivo dell’uomo ha un funzionamento analogo a quello razionale e ugualmente fallibile. Dire che il cuore ha le sue ragioni ha un significato molto preciso: l’emozionale ha delle ragioni poiché possiede vedute evidenti di dati non accessibili all’intelletto, e sue proprio perché all’intelletto questo tipo di dati è precluso, e solo grazie all’atto d’amore siamo indirizzati a questo tipo di conoscenza. La logica del cuore è oggettiva, proprio come lo è la logica deduttiva, ed è dotata di una legalità autonoma e specifica. Tale legalità si esprime in modo diverso in ognuno di noi, ma essenzialmente rimane costante. La ripresa del concetto di ordo amoris da parte del professor Cusinato ha non solo il merito di riabilitare una nozione forse troppo sottovalutata nella storia della filosofia delle emozioni, ma anche quella di introdurla in un ambito apparentemente lontano dalla speculazione meramente filosofica: la psicopatologia. Ripensare il disordine mentale come un disordine dell’ordo amoris permette inoltre di interpretare la malattia mentale in termini non riduzionistici, senza tuttavia omettere l’importanza degli aspetti organici della coscienza, grazie all’introduzione del livello biosemiotico.

Bibliografia essenziale

Bleuler, Eugen. 1978. The Schizophrenic Disorders: Long Term Patient and Family Studies. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.

Minkowski, Eugène. 1927. La schizophrénie: psychopathologie des schizoides et des schizophrènes. Payot, Paris.

Nussbaum, Martha. 2001. Upheavels of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Scheler, Max. 1916. Der Formalismus in der Ethic und die materiale Werthethik, in “Jarbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung”, trad. it. 1996 Il formalismo nell’etica e l’etica materiale dei valori. Edizioni San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, Milano.

Scheler, Max. 1999. Il valore della vita emotiva. Guerini Studio editore, Milano.

Scheler, Max. 2008. Ordo amoris in Scritti sulla fenomenologia e l’amore, (a cura di Vittorio d’Anna), Franco Angeli Editore, Milano 2008, F. Bosinelli e V. d’Anna.

Sechehaye, Marguerite. 1962. Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl. Penguin, New York.

[1] Max Scheler, Ordo amoris, p. 118.

Martin Heidegger: Heraclitus

Heraclitus: The Inception of Occidental Thinking and Logic: Heraclitus’s Doctrine of the Logos Book Cover Heraclitus: The Inception of Occidental Thinking and Logic: Heraclitus’s Doctrine of the Logos
Martin Heidegger. Translators: Julia Goesser Assaiante, S. Montgomery Ewegen
Bloomsbury Academic
Paperback $39.59

Reviewed by: Zühtücan Soysal (METU Philosophy)

The English translation of Martin Heidegger’s 1943-44 Freiburg lectures on Heraclitus makes this important text available to a much broader audience than before. Appearing as the 55th volume of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe, the lectures exemplify his finest analytical vigor and philosophical insight. The work is particularly important for Heidegger research, as his understanding of the ancient Greek world and interpretation of pre-Platonic thinkers constitute the backbone of his oeuvre. Specifically, the book represents the concluding piece of Heidegger’s Freiburg lectures (1928-44), and thus presents a unique stylistic maturity. In addition, the range of covered issues and concepts is so vast that the lectures may shed light on both his earlier and later work. In terms of his prior work, the Heraclitus lectures might be seen as a fruit of endeavors that began with Beiträge zur Philosophie (GA 65) and the intensive Nietzsche readings of 1936-40, thereby in contrast to his thought preceding Beiträge. In relation to his later work, especially the second part of the book may be read as the foundation of his output for the late 1940s through the 1950s, and also as a springboard for his even later engagement with pre-Platonic thinking (cf. GA 15). What is even more noteworthy than the richness provided by the possibility of establishing such connections is the lectures‘ ability to teach the way of thinking and reading by which Heidegger brings the word of Heraclitus into immediate relevance with the historical situation of modern humanity. The task remains, however, that we interpret that way ever anew.

The book consists of two parts, corresponding to two lecture courses. The first part, entitled „The Inception of Occidental Thinking“ (1943 summer semester), is mostly concerned with getting a grasp of the ancient Greek experience of the terms φύσις (nature),[1] ζωή (life), δύνειν (submerging), and πῦρ (fire) through an attentive reading of ten of Heraclitus’s fragments, thereby demonstrating the proper mode of approach to his sayings. The second part of the book, titled „Logic: Heraclitus‘ Doctrine of the Logos“ (1944 summer semester), proceeds from that background and is centered around an elaborate elucidation of what it means for the human to be essentially characterized as ζῷον λόγον ἔχον (the living being having a logos) and an attendant justification of such characterization. No command of the Greek language is necessary to follow the courses, and the laudable translation of Julia Assaiante and Montgomery Ewegen captures the essence of the textual flow. I would also like to maintain that no prior knowledge of Heidegger’s thought is required either. However, Heidegger assumes that his audience has sufficient understanding of Hegel and Nietzsche, which makes it possible to put the confrontations with those thinkers into context.

At the very beginning, Heidegger makes it clear that when he says ‚philosophy‘, he means something which is essentially Occidental. The word translated as „Occidental“ is abendländischen (3),[2] which beckons a land of evening, that is, a region characterized by the sun’s having submerged. These expressions acquire sense as the book proceeds, but one does not find a definition for ‚Occident‘ in its relation to a supposed opposite, ‚Orient‘.[3] Instead, Heidegger wishes to direct the reader’s attention to what he considers to be more originary and essential. Unexpectedly, though, he begins with recounting two seemingly irrelevant stories about Heraclitus. In one of them, a group of people visit someone whom they think to be an „exceptional“ and „tantalizing“ philosopher, and surprised by seeing Heraclitus warm himself at an oven, upon which he says: „Here, too, the gods are present“ (6). In the other story, the thinker plays a dice game with children inside the temple of Artemis, and shouts at the crowd perplexed before the „inappropriate“ behavior of the thinker: „What are you gaping at, you scoundrels? Or is it not better to do this than to work with you on behalf of the πόλις [city-state]?“ (10). Far from being insignificant ornaments, the two stories define and constitute the inconspicuous central axis of the narrative, around which the rest of the lectures unfold. It would for now be enough to note that in both stories, Heraclitus baffles the crowd by challenging their presumptions about the relationship between the ordinary and the godly, for he seems to think that Artemis is closer to his everyday abode than she is to the temple bearing her own name. Moreover, just as he rejects conspicuous piety, he rejects conspicuous politics („working with you on behalf of the πόλις“). Heidegger remarks, at this point, that Heraclitus’s avoidance of ‚politics‘ cannot be interpreted as a kind of disinterested neutrality, and thus does not make him ‚apolitical‘. To the contrary, Heraclitus is political in the true sense of the word (11-12). This is the only place in the book where a direct mention of ‚politics‘ is made, and Heidegger points to fragment 121 as well as to his lecture course of the previous year, Parmenides (GA 54). It would here suffice to say that without a proper understanding of these references in regard to how πόλις is conceived and how its care is envisaged, any political inference would at best be incomplete. Returning to the stories, they also ground the book-long response to a widespread misunderstanding by which one is tempted to think that the issues taken up by Heidegger lie beyond the place where the urgencies of immediate reality reside. Despite the significance of the two stories, on the other hand, their nature is preparatory.

There is a particular difficulty in translating Heraclitus and getting a grasp of his word. That difficulty, which is experienced to its fullest extent through the course of Heidegger’s elucidations, stems from the millenia-old tradition of thinking which Heidegger simply calls ‚metaphysics‘. To explain by way of a rough outline of Heidegger’s account of the history of Occidental thinking, it should first be noted that it begins with the self-opening of the essence of truth, which precedes ancient Greek thought but which nevertheless finds its first decisive expression in the words of the „inceptual thinkers,“ namely, Anaximander, Parmenides, and Heraclitus. Metaphysics, although grounded in „inceptual thinking,“ is characterized as the „self-rigidifying essence“ which drives Occidental thinking away from its inception (31). Beginning with Plato until its consummation in Nietzsche’s thought, metaphysics not only transformed the word of Heraclitus through a series of interpretative translations but also determined, established, and secured the proper manner of approach to the fragments.

As a result, if one simply wishes to be „true to the word“ (cf. 37) of Heraclitus without the disturbances of the long-standing tradition of metaphysics, their path must harbor or at least be open to and ready for a transformation of the path itself. Such transformation is called „learning“ (cf. 190), which does not occur on a straight course of development. Rather, while approaching the sayings of Heraclitus through different angles, as if from afar to their essential core, Heidegger’s discourse also employs a stream of thought which turns toward the opposite direction, i.e., from core to afar. The spiraling of the two streams unfolds as a lasting encounter with the metaphysical tradition as every attempt at getting closer to the simplicity of the fragments is met with the voice of metaphysics, bending the discourse into its spiral course. What is learned as a result of this learning cannot be confined into any doctrinal content that replaces ‚false‘ translations of φύσις, ζωή, etc. with ‚correct‘ ones. Still, the manner and attitude of what Heidegger calls „essential thinking“ remains distinguishable from conventional attempts at the thinker’s word.

First of all, Heidegger distances his way of thinking from historiography, which is defined as „the calculating and fundamentally technical relation to history,“ whereby history is rendered as a sequence of bygone occurrences (69). As an example, the disciplines of anthropology and philology, on which an array of conventional interpretations of the world and the word of Heraclitus is based, are grounded in the historiographical manner of approach. Contrarily, Heidegger does not aim at lexicographical accuracy or etymological precision; he tries to reach a region of thought where the ‚decision‘ for such accuracy and precision has not yet been made. Accordingly, for instance, the two stories recounted in the first lecture, even if they never actually happened, are considered to be worth more than a stockpile of correct biographical findings.

The emphasis on the aspect of ‚decision‘ in translation might evoke the idea that words can take any meaning according to the ‚decisions‘ of the interpreter, which constitutes the second manner of approach that Heidegger rejects. This idea may result in what might today be called ‚post-truth translation‘, by which authority over meaning is surrendered to the arbitrariness of willing ‚decisions‘ and individual perspectives. To be sure, ‚decision‘ as understood by Heidegger in no way implies such a relativistic indifference to what the thinker’s word says. In fact, such a ‚post-truth translation‘ is possible only on the basis of a prior, determinative decision regarding the essence of words in general. In this case, the decision pertains to the contemporary reality in which „[t]he machinegun, the camera, the ‚word‘, and the billboard all have this same fundamental function of seizing and arresting the object“ (71). In Heidegger’s reading, this state of affairs corresponds to the consummation of Occidental metaphysics, and is marked by the thought of Nietzsche.

The third manner of approach that Heidegger distances himself from involves interpreting the thinker’s word metaphorically. Heidegger explains in various places that Heraclitus’s sayings do not point to anything except what they simply say. To illustrate, the word ζωή is customarily translated as ‚life‘, so ζῷον is taken to designate living beings in distinction to non-living beings. Therefore, if ζωή is somehow attributed to φύσις, it must be in a metaphorical way extrapolating the characteristics of living beings to the whole of beings. On this reading, Heraclitus may too easily be classified as a ‚primitive thinker‘ in whose thought the lack of formal clarity and conceptual rigor is patched with metaphors (292). Nevertheless, Heidegger demonstrates through the text that if we „think-after the inceptual word,“ there is a way to experience those words in their ‚inceptual sense‘, although from a distance (85). Thinking-after the inceptual senses of ζωή and φύσις makes it possible even for the modern human to experience both of the words, in their respective ways, as the emerging-forth by which every being—e.g., gods, wars, algorithms—comes to presence, and not as a group of beings in distinction to others. Henceforth, the relationship between the two terms acquires a new character on the face of which hasty classifications of conventional thinking, together with the mindless application of the concept of metaphor, fall short. Of course, with this commentary, only a little insight into what is achieved by Heidegger’s phenomenological odyssey through the word of the inceptual thinker can be hinted at. It is essential to think-after Heidegger’s thinking-after, so that what it means to experience a word above all becomes clear.

If the proper manner of approach to the fragments can depend neither on historiography nor on the unrestricted will of the beholder, and furthermore if we cannot either accept that the thinker says one thing and means another by way of metaphors, then conventional thinking resorts to the suspicion that „an empty sorcery with words is being practiced here“ (59). On that matter, Heidegger seems to be very well aware of the danger of falling into empty chatter, so he differentiates between „an empty play on words“ and „the concealed play of the word“ (138). How is this concealedness to be understood? Does the thinker’s word enclose a meaning in the same way a seed contains genetic information? These questions bring us to the fourth difference, which is also one of the central issues of the book, and which can be read as an encounter with „dialectical thinking.“ Dialectics is defined as „the thinking of opposites together in a higher unity,“ and is said to begin with Plato (34). Since being itself is determined as ἰδέα (appearance/look) by Plato, ‚truth‘ gained its metaphysical characterization as the actuation of appearing (φαίνεσθαι) in assertion (κατηγορία) in accordance with the thing. In other words, the true in the metaphysical sense consists in re-presenting that which presents itself manifestly (cf. 40, 255, 385). Taken in its dialectical history from Plato to Hegel, the re-presentation of what there is in its totality, i.e., of beings as a whole, moves from a murky self-externalization of Spirit into its deciphered union with itself from out of its will to appearance. Accordingly, understanding Heraclitus would consist in resolving the lack of clarity by comprehending his word with respect to this manifest history. This point of view, however complete its mastery over concepts is, comes to a „stand-still“ when it is confronted with what Heidegger calls the „irreconcilable“ (117), which consists in the idea that Heraclitus’s thought is „not incomprehensible because it is too complicated, but rather because it is too simple“ (149). ‚Simple obscurity‘, which not only describes Heraclitus’s fragments but also is itself a cardinal part of the original experience of many ancient Greek words, is irreconcilable with dialectics, because absolute cognition can cognize ‚obscurity‘ in its unity with ‚clarity‘ only after the two are essentially separated. In other words, dialectics is not capable of attributing obscurity to the „essence of things“ rather than to the „eyes of the human“ (140). Therefore, „the concealed play of the word“ is not in the sense that the word envelops a meaning to be unlocked, but instead it refers to the simple obscurity of the word concealed by the tradition of dialectics in general.

The fifth and last differentiation may be thought of as a continuation of the previous point. As the thinker’s word resists being viewed in terms of the metaphysical ideal of manifest explicitness, it becomes relevant to ask whether Heidegger’s way is akin to a kind of mysticism. However, that is not true either. It is clearly maintained that the truth in inceptual saying is “decisively divorced . . . from the hollow dizziness of a mystical profundity” (176). For Heidegger, it seems, the ‚mystical‘ is associated with the experiential reckoning of a futile darkness that can never be brought into word. Summing up,

[t]he true in the inceptual sense of the unconcealed does not have the nature of mere clarity of explication and explicability. To the same degree, the true is not the unclear in the sense of an inexplicable and ciphered profundity. The true is neither the one-dimensionality of mere arithmetic nor the ‘profound’ dimensions hidden behind a theatre’s curtain. (180)

Right after these renunciations, Heidegger gives his own account with a very compendious expression whose succinctness I will not adulterate by attempting to unravel: „The true is the unsaid that remains the unsaid only in what is strictly and properly said“ (Ibid.).

The above five points outline Heidegger’s manner of approach in a negative way, that is, by pointing at the inapparent, whereas indeed the progression of the lectures is principally driven by a positive exploration into the thinker’s sayings. In particular, it is the „foundational words“ (Grundwortes) which are thought-after, the words that define the domain of inceptual thinking. What is named by each of those words (‘emerging,‘ ’submerging,‘ ‚life,‘ ‚fire,‘ etc.) is also that which is named by „the foundational word of all thinking—namely, the word ‚being’“ (90-1). It must be noted, though, that in none of the elucidated fragments does Heraclitus explicitly ask „τί τὸ ὄν“ – “what is being?”  This shows, before everything, that Heidegger’s persistent prioritization of the question of being is not about making the name ‚being‘ explicit in inquiry, even less about research into linguistic copula. More importantly, this also shows that those words name the be-ing of beings in the ways that the words themselves open. As such, they cannot be thought of in terms of anything that comes before them, and it is in this way that they are inceptual.

What is more, this inception itself is brought into word by Heraclitus as πῦρ, which is delineated as the enflaming fire whose light makes possible all appearing, and also as the origin-creating, sudden strike of lightning which separates the light and the dark in the first place by flashing into the unlit (cf. 161-2). Such a lightning must have separated the Occident from its other and placed forth the two toward one another at the moment of inception in the original saying. It is here crucial to note that whatever comes thereafter, i.e., history, is not seen as a dialogue between two poles, but rather as an enduring conversation with the inception, ensuring that the decision regarding the inception remains both in having-been and in future. The proper characterization of the human’s standing within all these relations depends on how the human itself stands out among beings, which in turn depends on the inceptual sense of another foundational word, λόγος. The central achievement of the second part of the book comprises the elucidation of this term and its history from logos to ratio, reason, and finally, to will to power.

Like other foundational words, logos has undergone severe transformations throughout the history of Occidental thinking. In pre-Platonic thought, logos had not yet acquired its status as an object of inquiry. To be sure, this is not a lack whatsoever on logos’s part, for it was rather seen as the proper ground and region of every inquiry. Even then, logos meant ’speaking‘ and ’saying‘ along with ‚gathering‘ and ‚harvesting.‘ The most decisive determination of the term occurred with the beginning of metaphysics, where λόγος, φύσις, and ἦθος were taken as the three directions of inquiry into beings as a whole. Accordingly, logic, physics, and ethics, which correspond to those directions respectively, became the disciplines comprising philosophy. At that moment, philosophy was given its distinctive position in relation to other forms of knowledge—that of astronomy, mathematics, etc. To be more specific, by establishing itself as the highest science, philosophy has rendered itself a science among others, a science whose program of research is designated by the tripartite departmentalization of knowledge. In fact, an image of this three-fold division is visible even in today’s commonly accepted classification of scientific branches as formal, natural, and social sciences. Returning to logic, it defines logos as ‚assertion‘ or ‚judgment‘, and is by the same token defined as the doctrine of valid inference, which results in what Heidegger calls the „dominance of discipline over the matter“ (233) in the sense that the original richness of the inceptual word is first trimmed for the sake of researchability, and then the resulting research is given the authority over the meaning of the word in its entirety. In this way, „what is more originary than every kind of science,“ i.e., logos, is gauged by „what has first arisen from out of this origin“ (227), i.e., logic.

The history of logos after this decisive turning point gets more intricate with the development of Koine Greek, the emergence of Hellenistic Judaism, and the ecclesiastical determination of the term as ‚the Word‘ (Verbum), the second personage of the Christian deity. The resulting worldview, which was further modified by the Arabic influence, culminates in its conclusive form with the advent of modern metaphysics from Descartes to Nietzsche. Heidegger claims that in none of these transformations was Occidental thought able to return to its essential ground within the original unity of ἐπιστήμη. On the contrary, it continuously rigidified the metaphysical conception by generalizing its methodological apparatus according to an ideal of universality in order to gain technical mastery over its subject matter (cf. 74, 192, 209, 228, 331). In consideration of all these, it is ultimately critical to avoid accounting this history solely in terms of its intellectual component, as if the determination of logos was merely an issue that we happen to see in the books of logicians. What is at stake here is by no means confined to how ‚logos‘ as a technical term is defined. Rather, the conversation over logos is the one between the historical human and its history, however inconspicuously it takes place. In this conversation, ’subjectivity‘ is the final response of Christian theology to the question of the essence of the human, which paves the way for the modern restatement of this response as ratio and reason. When Heidegger implies—in 1944 in Freiburg—that it is the inability of Christian church to justify these responses which caused the two world wars (209), his discursive play reminds one of the dice game at the temple. It seems that both thinkers have a tendency to do „inappropriate things“ (11) when it comes to temples and churches.

In the end, what can be said about the pre-Platonic logos, and how do these lectures respond to its call? To begin with, according to fragment 50, one cannot attain „rigorous knowledge“ (σοφόν) by merely attending to the word of Heraclitus; rather, it is necessary that we turn toward that which already addresses us (259-60). ‚That which already addresses us‘ is called the Logos, and the human essence is characterized by having a logos responding to the Logos. Logos, as a foundational word, can be approached in as many ways as being itself. But the most straightforward way to think of it would be through its sense of ‚gathering‘. Accordingly, it is the gathering of beings, which shelters every doing and every saying along with every seeing and every listening. On the one hand, metaphysics interprets this gathering as the most universal of all beings, thereby at the same time retaining the godly as the „universal world-ground“ (cf. 13). The persistence of this interpretation harbors the danger of interpreting these lectures themselves from the Christian or anti-Christian perspective. The common denominator of all such perspectives is to ab-cise the godly from the earthly abode of this very thinking, and by the same stroke, to separate the discipline from the matter. On the other hand, in this very thinking, we are thinking after Heidegger, who says after Heraclitus’s sayings: Do not merely listen to these words, but rather attend to the originary Logos (325). In the thinkers’ pointing out our relation to the Logos, there appears to be a resistance against the „dominance of discipline over the matter,“ which compels us to ponder our decision between turning toward the script (i.e., merely toward the words) and turning toward the Logos itself.

In the former case, the script is considered strictly with regard to what is said in it. So, for instance, Heidegger’s warning against conceiving the Logos—“the One that unifies all beings” (292)—in terms of „any notions of Spirit, personhood, godhood, or providence“ (396) might get particularly important, because in this way the Logos is posited as yet another such concept in distinction to the others, making possible an entire area of research on the conceptual-structural relationships between the ‚One‘ of Heraclitus and those warned-against concepts. It may even be possible as a result to upgrade those concepts and have an even superior providence. Consequently, we might have multiple truths instead of the sole truth of the all-uniting One. However undeniable the significance of these possible attainments is, the danger persists as long as the human’s standing among those truths is left unexamined. Be that as it may, in the latter case, that is, when one turns toward the Logos itself, the issue is precisely the human’s standing among those truths. Because, as the gathering, the Logos is that which „for-gathers“ (cf. 364) all scripts and scriptures so that they greet the human with their claim, and it is also that which must have already addressed the human—the ‚you’—before any of those multiple truths and before any commandment. „The Λόγος is not the word: it is, as the foreword to any language, more originary than the word“ (383). In view of this, if one really has to employ the idea of commandment, one should not expect anything further than the command ‚be‘, as there is no doubt on Heidegger’s part that it is the address of being which precedes all (323).

Being, however, is not ’something‘ that lies hidden in some supersensory place and in the heights of some vast soaring speculation. As the little word ‚is‘ makes clear to us each time it appears, being ‚is‘ the nearest of the near. Yet, because the human being troubles himself first and foremost only with what comes next, he constantly avoids the nearest, particularly since he appears to know very little about the near and its essence. (103-4)

All in all, one will find in this book a rigorous restatement of the question of being on the basis of Heraclitus’s doctrine of the Logos, and Heidegger’s response to many possible ‚post-Heideggerian‘ approaches at ontotheology. To me, what is most valuable in the book lies in the fact that it somehow teaches, or at least attempts to teach, what one could expect from a lecture course on logic to teach—how to think. The discipline of logic, while setting out rules and methods of making correct use of reason, can hardly say a word on how to think. Here, on the other hand, how to approach a thinker’s word is demonstrated with authentic care toward what is cared by the thinker. Only by way of such care can we learn from the thinker, and only through authentic turning-towards can we remain in thinking.

[1] The parenthetical translations are provided only as labels and should not be assumed to convey the meaning of the Greek words.

[2] All page references are to GA 55. Pagination of the German text is used.

[3] Lin Ma’s Heidegger on East-West Dialogue: Anticipating the Event (Routledge, 2009) remains to be a scholarly gem in the field.

Edward S. Casey: The World on Edge

The World on Edge Book Cover The World on Edge
Edward S. Casey
Indiana University Press
Paperback $42.00

Reviewed by: Lance Gracy (The University of Texas-San Antonio)


Following his book on the phenomenology of borders, in Up Against the Wall: Re-imagining the U.S.-Mexico Border (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014), Edward Casey discusses relevant topics in, The World on Edge. Readers, in particular those readers sympathetic to peri-phenomenological methods to doing philosophy, are provided with refreshing insight into the world constituted by edges of metaphysical, ontological and phenomenological significance. In his book, Casey takes preoccupation with a description of the role of edges in the world. Indeed, what are edges? What is the significance of them? Casey’s pursues “the thesis that edges are constitutive not only of what we perceive, but also of what we think and of the places and events in which we are situated” (xiii). In this context, edges are not merely things worthy of storing, reflecting upon, or collecting; rather, they are “distinct presences” that are “essential to being a thing or thought” (xiii). According to Casey, edges play a dramatic role. As the drama of the world unfolds, edges “act” as a presence of being to “cut a dramatic figure” into not only our perception, but our thoughts as well (xiv). In the prelude to his book, Casey provides an image of an edge-of-presence, and by means of it we come to realize what Casey is after in his description of edges as “distinct presence.” In the given image, we see a mountain-edge cutting through light and darkness, along with a description of the edge, as if the edge itself had some poetic presence “to be light! And to thirst for the nightly!” (Nietzsche, 1999, 70-1). But Casey’s description of edges is more fundamental than poetics. He provides us with a description of edges as enantiodromia, Heraclitus’s word for the “sudden reversal into the opposite” (xvii). Accordingly, Casey gives us a description of enantiodromia as the “line of flight”, or in Deleuze and Guattari’s sense of the term, as a “quasi-linear structure that is inherently mobile rather than fixed” (xviii). Casey refers to this sort of edge as the “ultimate edge of our life”, which “bears up and bears out” what it edges (xv). At any rate, edges of this sort are related to dramatic experiences; that is to say, they compare and contrast world events, such as those of politics, or as Casey mentions specifically, the 2016 American presidential race, Tahrir square, and numerous other dramatic events—even our own death (xvii). As we see, reflect, perceive, and consider, we contemplate the “role of edges” as something of experienced dramatically “at every level” (xiii). What more is there to edges?


Casey is preoccupied with the question of “whether edges are something … or nothing—or perhaps next to nothing” (xvii). Assuming edges are something or next to nothing, what is the presence of an edge? How do we describe the presence of a world “on edge”? In relation to his primary thesis, Casey pursues “exact description of edges in four ways” (xviii). In part one, he examines “borders and boundaries”; he also examines “edges and limits, edges and surfaces, as well as distinctive sorts of edges that pertain to places and limits” (xix). In part two, he compares “naturally given and humanly constructed edges”, which are edges experienced in “wilderness” and “constructed environments” (ibid). In part three, Casey considers the edges of bodies “psychical rather than physical” (ibid). Taking the three descriptive ways into a phenomenological whole, Casey aims to describe edges pervading “our inner as well as our outer lives” and also “how they arise in the interaction between human beings and what surrounds them: in bodies and minds, things on the earth and sights in the sky” (ibid). Casey’s description of edges is a totalizing one; it takes into account the very nature of edges as that which is constitutive of our own phenomenological experience(s). In relation to Chalmers and others, Casey’s edges are constitutive presences, which are realized through description of them as a “pure phenomenal concept” and as essential to thoughts and things. According to Casey, this “pure phenomenal concept” is peri-phenomenological. His peri-phenomenology is a method of “exact description” of edges as a ‘being-around’ “ostensibly peripheral phenomena” (xix). Fair to say, Casey’s phenomenological approach to edges is one of “risk-taking.” Wondrously enough though, this risk-taking approach, or this peri-phenomenological approach, is precisely what one would experience if they were to “walk” the edge.

In chapter one, Casey introduces us to “borders and boundaries” concerning an exact description of edges. Casey’s description of edge as border and boundary amplifies the notion of Edith Stein’s “metaleptic communion” as the sense of unity and distinction between two concepts of being (even radically different concepts of being), such as that of ‚light‘ and ‚darkness‘ (Calcagno, 2009, 51). Invoking Husserl’s passage in Ideas I of “Descriptive and Exact Science”, Casey forms a synthetic idea about borders and borders through distinction of irregular and non-irregular (or eidetic) shapes (9). Here, the thought is that borders or boundaries (in relation to edges) constitute irregular shapes, and according to Husserl (and apparently Casey), these edges require a phenomenological description. In other words, because edges are not necessarily Euclidean, Casey calls for a peri-phenomenology of edges, as borders and boundaries, to describe the way in which we make sense of edges constituting some irregular shape or object. Walking us through a series of examples about the distinction between irregular (descriptive) and non-irregular (exact science) constitution, Casey states, “[B]oundaries, although nonlinear in their alliance with natural features, can be represented by linear means—where ‚represented‘ means literally given representation, as if delegated to do so” (14). In this context, the explicit non-linearness of edges as borders and boundaries can be represented in terms of linearality. Thus, even irregular borders and boundaries can be represented in linear means—thus a sense of mathematical functionality to them—thus a sense of rationality to them. At any rate, “Borders and boundaries possess a special force or power” and the edges essential to their force or power have a variety of distinct purposes (16-7). One such power or force is the way edges as borders and boundaries “intertangle” themselves in our own thinking because of the variety of expressions involved with them (23-4). For example, an edge bordering two univocal expressions of light might “intertangle” us into a contemplative state. Casey clues us in to how we can rid ourselves of such intertanglement, by stating, “[I]n descriptive fact, the matter is more complex and more interesting. To admit this [intertanglement] is not to descend into descriptive taxonomic chaos; [to admit this intertanglement] is to discern an abiding order in the midst of complexity. Even as embodying several sorts of edge, a given edge will as a rule exemplify one primary or most salient form of edge” (24, emphasis mine). Casey’s clue here is a road into the dramatic role of “borders and boundaries” because it gives us a key for understanding how two distinct, yet univocally related beings, are related to each other. He provides the key thus: two distinct, yet univocally related, beings are related to each by the “most salient form of edge” that provides an “abiding order in the midst of complexity.” One’s concern about how two distinct beings related to each other is more importantly set in the essential thought of their distinct relation: i.e., the salient edge, or form, between them.

In continuing the first part of his exact description of edges, Casey identifies “distinctive sorts of edges that pertain to places and limits” (xix). He provides us with a depiction of ‘edge’ in relation to surface, thing and place (40). After a thorough analysis of ‘surface’, Casey offers a proposition as follows, “The edge is all but the shadow of the surface” (43). Moreover, neither edge nor surface are substances in themselves, but rather expressions of the substance. The edge is essential to the substance, and the surface, as Merleau-Ponty wrote, is “the surface of a depth, [of] a cross section upon a massive being” (44). As we understand Casey, a distinctive edge, when ensconced in the meaning of ‘limit’, is that which is in relation to a depth-of-being, some thing, or some substance. Casey further writes that this distinctive edge is not “wholly immaterial or insubstantial”, and that it becomes a surface by relation to the surface (44). Similar to Husserl’s notion of ‘phantom’, distinctive edges becoming surfaces are often “left out of consideration” in their “capacity to exercise” causality (Sokolowski, 1974, 95-6). Furthermore, in section nine of chapter one, Casey offers a distinction of edge and limit. He states, “Edges are primus inter pares, first among what is otherwise equal in the playing field constituted by limits and edges … they are neither fully present nor strictly absent” (55-6). On the other hand, limits “exist elsewhere than in the immediately surrounding world of places to which we belong as sentient creatures” (55). Edges, as distinct from limits, “join the company of certain other phenomena that exhibit a like ambiguity of presence: [e.g.,] the human body (as Merleau-Ponty insists in his discussion of the phantom limb phenomenon), and the human face (emphasized in Levinas’s ethics)” but in contrast “limits are forever beyond ‚the bounds of sense,‘ whereas edges emerge from within these bounds and help to concretize and complicate what appears there, even as they also mark its very evanescence” (56). To summarize here: edges constitute beings, such as things or thoughts, by their presence, but they are not beings-in-themselves; and distinctive edges emerge from limits, and can be spoken of thus: as distinctive edges that help concretize and complicate beings (or substances). So although edges are themselves not concrete, by relation to concrete beings they can help concretize beings (or substances).

Continuing Casey’s “exact description”, we come to part two, in which he provides an analysis of “naturally given and humanly constructed edges”, which are edges experienced in “wilderness” and “constructed environments” (xix). Casey begins here with what he considers to be “intermediate edges” (184). Casey identifies intermediate edges as edges that are mixed in with the wild and “the cultivated and artifactual,” and are furthermore expressed through what Foucault called heterotopias; i.e., “other places” (185-6). Intermediate edges have a certain compresence within both inclusive environments (e.g., those of Carthusian monks) and exclusive environments (e.g., those of dog-parks) (187). Casey discusses the naturally-free and flowing structure or environmental identity of intermediate edges as settings which grant humans and animals a certain capacity to walk and move unrestricted, wherein is experienced a “balance of spirit and humility” (187-88). One of the grand settings Casey uses to exemplify a setting constituted by intermediate edges is Central Park. He describes Central Park as “a vast heterogeneous multiplicity whose constituent elements exist at many scales: human, more-than-human, other-than-human” as well as an environment that “would count as ‘a plane of consistency’,” which is what Deleuze and Guattari’s termed “a region whose considerable diversity is coherent despite all the differences in kind, level, and number” (190). Edges constituting spaces or settings like Central Park invite us to have “bold imagination,” or what the Greeks called “greatness of soul” (megalopsychia) (190). They also invite us to new life, vita nuova (191). In what could be a mighty recompense for the inactive days of post-industrial British poetic imagination, Casey actively describes the intelligence of environments constructed by both Mother Nature and human ingenuity. The intelligence is the edginess of the construct: Is this not itself an ‚edgy-idea‘ essential to Dasein?

Neighborhoods are also examples of what Casey has in mind about a description of “naturally given and humanly constructed edges” (xix). Neighborhoods give us a sense of community, especially if we understand how neighborhoods are places and/or communities constituted by edges. In reference to what Casey writes, neighborhoods are constituted by edged-places, which, according to Husserl, are each a “near-sphere”; or according to Heidegger, each is a “nearness” (195). On page 196, Casey gives us an image of a neighborhood as some kind of neural highway having various functions—various edged-places that are constitutive of an edged-boundary, which is, “the neighborhood” itself. Casey lists “meeting places”, “gateways”, and areas of “restricted access” as examples of these edged-places (196). According to Casey, the neighborhood is where the magic happens; it is essential to beings; beings get their thoughts and feeling about other beings from it (198-99). As such, we return to Casey’s notion of edges: they are essential to a thing or thought—in particular, the thing or thought of “neighborhood.” Casey concludes his discussion of intermediate edges, or edges naturally given as well as humanly constructed, by stating, “Each edge is transitional, none is ultimate. But taken together, all such edges constitute a city as anything but static—as an ever-evolving interplay of edges. In cities, the edge is where the action is … Every city is first and last—and at many points in between—an edge city” (204). We could do well to be denizens of such a city: a city “on edge.”

Casey’s penultimate part of his book, part three, “Edges of Body and Psyche, Earth and Sky” explores a whole phenomenology of “the world on edge.” It might well be described as a phenomenology of being as a bodily-boundary that lives within the bodily or non-bodily boundaries of the kosmos. He states, “My body is an earth body, and the earth is inhabited by living bodies, not only mine and not only human bodies but those of all other living beings as well” (298). One question that arouses much curiosity, which is really at the center of the philosophical task of his book, is, as Casey states, “whether there are specifically psychical edges—edges of states of mind, of moods, of feelings, of thoughts. Do they really exist?” (236). Casey provides an altogether practical case for the existence of psychical edges. He states as follows, “However tempting it is to regard exemplary cases of having an edge as physical, this does not preclude the possibility of genuinely psychical edges—that is, edges that belong to soul … in their own right. And more than just the possibility! Psychical edges are altogether actual insofar as they are feltfelt by us directly” (237). Suffice it to say that Casey is not alone in his general argument for psychical edges. We needn’t look further than Cartesian dualism or the Meinongian idea of mental content having qualia to realize that “psychical edges” have traction in the traditional philosophical canon. It is at the very least an entertaining notion that edges are not merely physical and purely literal, but also psychical and non-literal. And Casey goes further. He gives a two-fold distinction about psychical edges: (1) outer psychical edges and (2) inner psychical edges (240-41). Casey provides an explanation of the language we can use to discuss these aspects of psychical edges (e.g., language within the concept of “falling apart” during mental breakdowns, pp. 242-46). Notwithstanding, Casey tells us, that, “The self clearly has to have some minimal unity to be considered as split from itself” (257). From this idea we return to Edith Stein’s “metaleptic communion”: although edges are inside and outside, there is at the very least a minimal sense of unity between two aspects of ‘edge’. This brings us to one possible purpose of Casey’s description of edges in his penultimate part of the book: to reveal to us the grandeur of edges as that which constitute our life inside and outside; our life within and without. There is something worth critiquing about Casey’s analysis. Casey’s suggests that there is a need to distinguish the unitary from formal unity (260). He provides a few reasons as to why he thinks there is a need to distinguish the two: one reason is that formal unity is “fixed and static in character” and another reason is that, “Unlike formal unities, the psychically unitary cannot be quantified” (261). There are a few questions we can ask about this seemingly strange need to distinguish the unitary from formal unity. As to the first question, is formal unity “fixed and static in character” necessarily? It would seem formal unity is not “fixed and static in character” necessarily. As to the second question, why can’t the “psychically unitary” be quantified? It would seem the “psychically unitary” can be quantified somehow. We can imagine Casey has a response to these questions in his inner-psychical edge.

In the latter end of his penultimate section of The World on Edge, Casey provides us with a description of edges in relation to the earth and the kosmos. These sorts of edges are multitudinous: edges near and far from us; edges that lead into the underworld; found edges and edges of horizon and landscape; edges under our feet and edges above our heads (i.e., “comparative luminescence”); edges of the earth and the edge of the earth (278-284). In distinguishing between “edges of” and “the edge of” the earth, or what we can term particular-universals and the universal, Casey states as follows,

[S]everal of [the “edges of the earth”] we see directly, as determinate features of our environment. They are  already there, awaiting our discovery and perception and measurement. Unlike the horizon or the ground, they are always multiple, belonging to this protuberance here or that rill over there. Whether they are  sought out or not, they come forward into our experience as configuring the surface of the earth. By  contrast, the edge of the earth is fugitive and recessive. It is neither a thing nor an event; it is fundamental  yet intermittently experienced, sometimes confronting us but just as often eluding us…” (281).

And interestingly, “the edge of the earth” can be experienced as something quite elusive. It is, as Casey tells us, “a situation of elemental obscurum per obscurius, being made ‘obscure by the more obscure’;” yet, ironically, “edges of the earth” can be, according to Casey, “edges of unclearly presented entities [that] tend … to be unclear” (287). Do we wonder about the outermost edge? Are we like Heraclitus looking up into the Heavens at the cost of practical awareness? As we wonder, do we come up with an answer about this outermost edge? Casey gives us an interesting conundrum to try and solve our wondering of the outermost edge. Turning to the medieval conundrum of the javelin thrower, he asks, “Into what does he throw his spear, if he is himself situated on the outer-most edge of the known universe?” (288). Referencing Kant, Casey provides us with this sort of answer to the conundrum: “[T]hought without content is empty, and speculative thinking on its own ends in impasse” (289). In other words, the outer-most edge is not an empty thought, but speculative thinking only will only burden us more. So try, if you wish, to answer the conundrum, but know when to stop!

At any rate, Casey reaches his conclusive edge: the human being’s paradigmatic edge, their ultimate edge: Death, “beyond which there is no other” (343). Casey’s understanding of death constitutes paradoxical meanings about the psychical and psychical, such as his term “living death” (i.e., civic and social death), and “biological death” (344-45). In addition, Casey’s “ultimate edge of death” is one way of blending the psychical and psychical into one coherent meaning: “the final edge of life!” This edge is a border and boundary of the human condition, and it “cannot be reversed or crossed back over” (344). In this context, edges surely “cut a dramatic figure” into human existence, for edges “cut-around” the meaning of the body as it approaches its end, its “ultimate edge”, its autopsy (so to speak). Casey reveals to us that even though there are edges of thoughtful consideration, or those of pure speculation conducive to our curiosity, how much more curious and contemplative should we be about the ultimate “razor-edge” of our life: our very death! An old proverbial wisdom speaks keenly here: Indeed, the wise one thinks much of the Heavens, but they also they think much of death!

In summary, Casey calls his way of proceeding in his book “peri-phenomenology” (300). As Casey tells us, edges are precarious. Given that edges are associated with “risk”, peri-phenomenology is an apt way to go about edges carefully because peri-phenomenology does just that: it moves about contextual surroundings, which is, in certain cases, context-sensitive edges. What’s more: Casey appears to do exactly what he intended to do with his thesis through his peri-phenomenological approach: an “exact description” of edges. Peri-phenomenology is indeed the force from which Casey’s work appears outstanding. His thorough and rigorous exact description releases some precious nuggets of philosophical wisdom—wisdom beckoning to us take heed of the progressive revelations of our day. Surely, Casey’s book is a worthy testament to the burdensome undertaking of “edge-walking” amidst present-day global issues—in particular, the edge-walking amidst the pitfalls of political, societal, and even academic, issues. Casey’s understanding of “edge-walking” in this context is a precise sort of wisdom. He states as follows,

“What I have called the edge-world is not only a world composed of intricate patterns and permutations of edges; it is also a world that is itself on edge. As a consequence, each of us is pitched on a thousand edges—edges on which we shake and tremble even as we pretend to go about our lives undisturbed. Our equanimity is only skin-deep; underneath it the abysses gape open, not just at the far edge of the known world or at the base of a precipice. We are denizens of a world on edge, and we are ourselves creatures of exposed edges. This is not just a matter of being accident-prone or vulnerable as individuals. We carry risk to others, endangering their lives as well as our own. Whole populations of human beings have been decimated by their fellow humans. Many animal and bird species have been rendered extinct because of human actions in the Anthropocene. Now we are on the verge of making ourselves extinct if humanly induced climate change takes its full vengeance. There is no way to exist on earth, no alternative path, other than to follow the edges that guide us even as they expose us to risk at every turn. We must take such exposure into account, learning how to identify those edges that are likely to lead us astray: each of us exists on a perpetual visual cliff. Some edges bring us to an unwelcome fate for which we are not adequately prepared: on these I have focused in this epilogue. Instead of trying to forget them or merely regret them, we must think on them, reflecting on what they portend. Becoming wary of certain edges, we can come to trust other edges that will configure our life-worlds in ways that are both more constructive and more creative. These more auspicious edges point the way for us, incisively even if not infallibly. Thoughtfully traversed, they are able to liberate us, indicating directions with the potential to save us from our own destructive and self-destructive ventures” (351).

Able to liberate us, and able to give great meaning to life as well! Certainly, edges are essential to human beings, and they play a dramatic role. Of course, we can offer a critique of Casey’s work in the form of stating that there ought to be an answer as to why there is a “need to distinguish” formal unity from the unitary. Casey’s line of reasoning doesn’t seem to evince in us a sufficient reason as to why there is a need for such a distinction (as noted earlier in this review), but this critique doesn’t bear on the high performance and outstanding nature of Casey’s work. The critique is rather some pleasing outcome of Casey’s peri-phenomenological approach; and, in addition, it points out an interesting topic of discussion (e.g., formal unity vs. the unitary). In closing, I conclude by stating that Casey provides us with a refreshing and reinvigorating analysis of the world, The World on Edge. His book is a masterful ode to phenomenology, for it encourages phenomenologists to benefit from a seemingly neglected approach to phenomenology: peri-phenomenology. The methodology of it is a beneficial one, as it is capable of navigating numerous closely-related topics in “exact description.” With no serious doubt, Edward Casey has achieved something remarkable with his book, The World on Edge. Philosophers are hereby encouraged to read it, lest they lose their confidence to “walk the edge”!


Nietzsche, Friederich. 1999. Thus Spake Zarathustra. New York: Dover Publications: 70-1. Print. (Original published, 1883).

Sokolowski, Robert. 1974. Husserlian Meditations. US: Northwestern University Press: 95-6.  Print.

Calcagno, Antonio (2009). The Philosophy of Edith Stein. Pennsylvania: Duquesne University Press: 51. Print.

Marius Johan Geertsema: Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being

Heidegger's Poetic Projection of Being Book Cover Heidegger's Poetic Projection of Being
Marius Geertsema
Palgrave Macmillan
Hardback 93,59 €
VIII, 288

Reviewed by: BB Bieganski (University of South Florida)

In his 2018 book, Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being (henceforth HPPB) Marius Johan Geertsema demonstrates that in Heidegger’s oeuvre, Being is essentially dialogical with the poetic. The poetic is not to be understood as strictly tethered to poems, but as a type of thinking which contrasts the worrisome technocratic with thinking combatted by Adorno, Foucault, Ortega y Gasset, and Heidegger himself. The poetic refers to the intimation of the future that shapes human thought and behavior in light of our finitude. Geertsema’s reading of Heidegger describes Being as a relation to a sort of hermeneutical receptivity that is found in poetic thinking—that is, an attunement towards nature, ourselves, and each other.

HPPB divides into three sections: an overview and explication of Heidegger’s philosophy, followed by Geertsema’s argument for Heidegger’s onto-poetology, and last a conclusion and implication section.

The first section of HPPB is dedicated to a discussion of Heidegger’s corpus which includes all the juicy aspects for any serious Heidegger scholar. This includes an elucidation of both the early Heidegger (including work prior to the publication of Being and Time) and the late Heidegger, along with a discussion of the Kehre—Heidegger’s turn from Dasein toward Being. Geertsema recontextualizes each phase of Heidegger’s work in light of the others, and even though he subtly offers his interpretation of the rupture between the early and late Heidegger, the first section of HPPB is primarily focused on outlining the different philosophies of early, middle, and late Heidegger.

The next 150 pages or so of HPPB are Geertsema’s own analysis of how Heidegger treats poetry, and its important role in Heidegger’s philosophy. In this section, Geertsema discusses the relationship between Being (that is, the world of experience) and poetry, and how Heidegger illuminates the role of language in our understanding of the world. Geertsema does an excellent job of citing textual evidence for Heidegger’s analysis of the intricate relationship of language and thought. It’s not surprising then, that Geertsema thinks that Being and poetics are intimately linked and that the way we interpret the world will be enmeshed in the way we discourse.

Geertsema takes great care in combing through Heidegger’s work: even in the areas that seemingly contradict the relationship between language and thought, Geertsema finds textual evidence that the discrepancy between thought and language isn’t so wide. For example, in the postscript to What is Metaphysics? Heidegger mentions that the poet and the thinker live on separate peaks of two mountaintops, which seems as though he views philosophical and scientific thinking as inconsistent with poetry and art. But Geertsema points out that in Anaximander’s Saying, Heidegger asserts that thinking grounds poetry and poetry grounds thinking, suggesting that Heidegger doesn’t think them as strictly incommensurable. And even though it seems as though Heidegger is inconsistent on the topic, Geertsema finds a way to bridge these ideas into a consistent overarching narrative in Heidegger’s thought.

Another impressive aspect to note in this section is that Geertsema tackles the dreaded Fourfold that flummoxes even the most well-read Heideggerian scholars, arguing that the Fourfold is a projection of a realm of thought that only poets can think. The Fourfold, which has two poles—the earth-sky pole and the mortal-divinity pole—can only be comprehended by poets, or “demigods”: those who exist “between” humans and gods and are receptive to the world around them as they project a type of thinking that anticipates and prepares for the future. Because poets are receptive to the world while understanding the boundaries that shape their understanding, poetry, or poetical thinking is able to get out of calculative, instrumental thinking. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, are concerned solely with how to explain reality, which opens up the question of technocratic domination. Poetry is dwelling, says Geertsema’s Heidegger: a sort of becoming comfortable with one’s own situation and context, where humans must realize their place according to their own boundaries. Thus, as poetry constitutes dwelling, it is the poet rather than the metaphysicians who understands the Fourfold as mode of thinking which grants us a way of navigating and understanding the world.

The final section, which concludes and examines the implications of the thesis laid out by Geertsema, unfortunately lasts only 4 pages. Here Geertsema introduces his own thoughts on the matter, which is the most interesting part of the book. Geertsema points out several worries for Heidegger, if Being is tied to the poetic (for example, Geertsema questions why should poetry be privileged—can’t architecture or a ballet also unite a people the same way poetry does?). Moreover, here Geertsema also considers certain secondary figures who have problematized Heidegger’s affinity for poetry, whereas in the bulk of the text such secondary exegesis is absent. Perhaps in a future book Geertsema will unearth these implications more in detail, as his worries seem to be problematic for Heidegger, if not outright lethal.

 The greatest virtue of HPPB is that Geertsema has clearly done his homework. Every exegetical claim made in the book is backed up by a quote or citation from Heidegger. Moreover, Geertsema doesn’t examine only the early or the late Heidegger, but the whole of Heidegger’s work, including lectures and biographical anecdotes. Scholars who focus on one period of Heidegger’s thought might come away from Geertsema having a better grip of Heidegger’s entire project because of how well Geertsema integrates every Heidegger—early, middle, and late—into one cohesive text.

However, there are limits to HPPB. Anyone who has little to no experience with Heidegger will effectively drown in the Heideggerese that Geertsema presents. Take for example: “To put it simply, Being can, according to Heidegger, only be what it is, in as far as it is appropriate at all to assert that Being ‘is’, when Being grants the human being the experience of Being, not only as the presencing of Being, but also as concealment; that is, the oblivion of Being as oblivion yielding from Being” (p. 52). Anyone without a sufficient background in phenomenology or Heidegger would find this passage to be mere nonsense, or some kind of unfunny joke. On the opposite end, those who are well-researched Heideggerian specialists might find swaths of HPPB uninteresting, uninformative, or uninspired. Experts studying a particular epoch of Heidegger might pass over sections of HPPB in order to reach their own area of interest. Since Geertsema offers expositions of Heidegger’s philosophy rather than a radical or novel reinterpretation of it, there is a risk of such inquisitive experts coming away only to be empty-handed. The primary audience that might get the most out of HPPB would be those who have read Heidegger but don’t understand him well enough yet. In other words, to use Geertsema’s nomenclature, HPPB is a book for demi-Heideggarians.

Another odd aspect of HPPB is that some of Geertsema’s claims are either wrong or open to easy misinterpretation. For instance, Geertsema claims that “Heidegger never took an interest in poetry and literature incidentally” (p. 9), which is either wrong (Heidegger wrote several poems, most of which are clumsily bad), or oddly-worded (Geertsema actually quotes some of Heidegger’s poetry, calling it “ugly,” p. 110). Or, for another oddity: “We will therefore examine = now [sic] the truth of the Being in relation to the phenomenon” (p. 103). Is the equal symbol supposed to represent that the concept of the ‘now’ to be examined? Or is it a weird typo that was maybe overlooked in the proofreading process (there are a few throughout the book, such as ‘Being a Time’ instead of ‘Being and Time’, p. 50). Or, in one of the rare instances in which Geertsema invokes secondary literature on Heidegger, he cites Thomas Sheehan’s work, Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift (2015), asserting that Sheehan gripes about the translation of “Ereignis” as “event”, but we should “pay attention to the use of the term by an author [Heidegger], instead of assuming a rigid frame of reference of the reader [Sheehan]…” (p. 38). However, Sheehan points out in several places in which Heidegger himself refused the interpretation of Ereignis as an event (as early as page xvii in the foreword of Making Sense of Heidegger, and which Sheehan explicitly tackles in chapter 8). These issues are mostly just distracting, but if this book is being recommended to scholars who are interested in learning more about Heidegger but are not yet experts, more could be at stake than simply getting one or two tenets of Heidegger’s philosophy wrong.

Lastly, and most pedantically, Geertsema tries his hand at Heideggerian etymology which turns out merely decorative rather than argumentative or explanatory. Those of us who don’t find the etymology interesting or informative have to sit through Geertsema’s own attempt at it. For example, Geertsema proffers that every seeing is a saying, and points out that both the English word ‘saying’ and German word ‘sagen’ come from the Indo-European ‘seku’, which means to ‘scent’ or ‘smell’, meaning to follow the trace of something (in Latin, to ‘tell’ or to ‘sequence’ is a following, ‘inseque’), which is also where the English word ‘seeing’ and the German word ‘sehen’ come from (p. 113-4). Heidegger would often analyze etymology to make a point about the relatedness of two ideas, but Geertsema’s own analysis is hardly elucidating or argumentative.

Despite some issues, Geertsema’s HPPB is a fantastic resource for Heidegger scholars who are interested in getting a stronger handle on Heidegger’s own thought. And while Geertsema doesn’t offer much of his own thinking here, the ideas that he offers will be suggestive to anyone who has an interest in Heideggerian phenomenology or continental philosophy of language.



Geertsema, M. J. 2018. Heidegger’s Poetic Projection of Being. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sheehan, T. 2015. Making Sense of Heidegger: A Paradigm Shift. New York, NY: Rowman &   Littlefield International Ltd.

Claude Romano: Être soi-même: Une autre histoire de la philosophie

Être soi-même: Une autre histoire de la philosophie Book Cover Être soi-même: Une autre histoire de la philosophie
Folio essais, n° 648
Claude Romano
Paperback 15,90 €

Reviewed by: Grazia Grasso (University of Geneva)

Heureux qui comme Ulysse…

L’œuvre de Claude Romano qui vient de paraître chez Gallimard, consacré au thème de l’« être soi-même », est également « une autre histoire de la philosophie », comme il le dit dans le sous-titre ; à l’intention d’un large public, l’Auteur n’oublie pas la nécessité de définir les concepts philosophiques avec rigueur ; il ne s’adresse pas aux spécialistes, mais à quiconque s’est posé la question, dans quelques moments de sa vie, sur la signification d’être soi-même. Non pas, cependant, la question du sens de la vie en général, mais de sa propre existence particulière, de la direction qu’on lui a donnée, ou qu’elle-même a prise, comme souvent il arrive, sans qu’un choix vraiment conscient soit intervenu. Lorsque le bonheur que la société pousse à chercher dans un certain nombre de biens s’avère transitoire et illusoire, on se demande à qui l’on pourrait s’adresser afin qu’il soit plus durable et stable ; quelle attitude adopter : la première, qui émerge de cette œuvre, comme il est recommandé d’ailleurs dans la majeure partie des philosophies face aux illusionnes, c’est certainement celle de se détacher, de prendre de la distance par rapport au monde extérieur, et surtout à ses propres émotiones et illusions  ;  cette distance prise, il est nécessaire de chercher ce qui nous convient le mieux, mais sur la base de la connaissance de notre être personnel plus authentique, que l’Auteur indique comme notre « ipséité ». Dans cette recherche l’Auteur parcourt toute la philosophie occidentale, des classiques grecs à l’existentialisme, non sans quelques références aux philosophies de l’extrême orient, comme la doctrine zen, en passant par le concept de « nonchalance » en vogue à la Renaissance. Le mythe qui illustre bien le sujet est incarné par la figure emblématique d’Ulysse qui, ayant conclu la partie héroïque de sa vie, après avoir tout perdu, se présente comme « personne » devant Polyphème et regagne une identité propre seulement avec son retour à Ithaque. L’Auteur ne néglige pas de traiter le problème de la vérification de cette acquise authenticité qui,  si elle reste privée d’ancrage, ne devient qu’autoréférentielle et assujettie ainsi à de nouvelles erreurs et illusions. Après avoir introduit le thème d’Ulysse dans l’avant-propos, Claude Romano va cependant bien au-delà du schéma classique plotinien de l’exitus et du reditus qui a inspiré Augustin aussi bien que la théologie chrétienne, et dont l’ancrage est de nature divine.

Cette aspiration de l’homme à une « authenticité personnelle », à l’origine réservée à un nombre limité d’aristocrates, est devenue un phénomène de masse seulement en mai ’68 . Elle a finalement échappé au cercle restreint des penseurs, artistes, dirigeants politiques et ecclésiastiques, et s’est, pour ainsi dire, démocratisée. Cette étude est la première à en avoir cherché les racines les plus profondes – philosophiques, religieuses et esthétiques – et les origines les plus lointaines. Le rejet du mouvement de ’68 de vivre selon l’hypocrisie des coutumes, exigence déjà individuée par Rousseau, n’a pas trouvé qu’une réponse fragile et décevante chez les philosophes de l’existentialisme, dont l’Auteur expose et analyse tous les principaux courants de pensée, sans préjugés d’école philosophique ou d’orientation religieuse.

Rousseau, ou La révolution de l’authenticité qui donne le titre au premier des dix-sept chapitres du livre, est le philosophe qui le premier pose comme but primordial de l’homme d’être inconditionnellement soi-même et de lutter contre toute puissance d’oppression et d’aliénation ; car les regards des autres pèsent sur nous et nous réduisent en esclavage, préfigurant ainsi les célèbres analyses de Sartre. Critère de vérité n’est pas l’évidence, mais la sincérité du cœur, l’authenticité, la conviction subjective : l’idée d’une vérité purement subjective prend ainsi la place de celle objective et universelle ; cette distinction sera reprise, parmi d’autres, par Kierkegaard et Heidegger.

Après l’introduction, l’avant-propos et le chapitre sur la révolution de l’authenticité, la première partie de l’ouvrage porte le titre La vérité personnelle : sources antiques et tardo-antiques. Dans cette partie, composée des chapitres II-VI, l’Auteur trace une histoire du concept d’authenticité à partir du portrait qu’Aristote fourni du magnanime, première figure d’une vérité en personne et non en paroles, d’une vérité en actes et dans la vie elle-même. L’une des vertus principales du magnanime aristotélique est en effet l’être authekastos, c’est-à-dire sincère, franc, littéralement l’homme qui est lui-même et à qui la sincérité confère de l’estime et du respect de soi-même, condition de tout comportement vertueux. Le magnanime exerce cette qualité fondamentale d’une manière si naturelle et simple qu’elle lui donne une grâce et une distinction toute particulière : il n’aspire qu’à triompher dans l’ordre de la vertu négligeant ainsi soi-même.

L’Auteur ensuite décrit la magnanimité stoïque par rapport à l’aristotélique. L’idéal stoïque y est opposé à l’autonomie précaire du magnanime aristotélique, il consiste dans une maîtrise parfaite de soi, qui détache le sage des événements extérieurs. La stabilité du stoïque est liée à la nouvelle équivalence entre la vertu et le bonheur, sous l’influence d’un principe d’inspiration cynique. La magnanimité devient alors méprise du monde ; à la nonchalance et à la détente aristotéliques succède une présence constante à soi-même et une tension d’esprit continuelle sur soi-même et sur sa vie ; le bonheur est donc le fruit de ce travail sur soi et d’une ascèse : c’est-à-dire d’une stricte discipline non plus accessible seulement à un cercle restreint de sages, comme chez Aristote. Par rapport à l’être soi-même le magnanime cultive une complète sincérité car il ne dissimule rien : il est dans la vérité et dans la lumière ; un exemple d’un tel sage nous est offert par Marc Aurèle qui, dès son enfance était surnommé Verissimus. En philosophie, annote l’Auteur, il faudra attendre Rousseau, Kant et les pensées de l’authenticité pour retrouver des accents comparables. Après avoir complété le cadre de l’antiquité classique avec la pensée sur l’être soi-même de Cicéron, Quintilien et Fronton, l’Auteur examine la pensée chrétienne d’Ambroise et Augustin.

Ambroise soumet la rhétorique et la philosophie païennes à l’autorité des Écritures, en s’appuyant sur la conviction que les philosophes païens ont puisé, pour tracer le portait de leurs vertus, directement dans l’Ancien Testament, et il propose des exemples tirés des figures de Job, David, ou encore Abraham ; il ne s’agit donc pas tant de détourner des concepts païens vers une direction chrétienne, que de leur restituer leur sens d’origine. Ambroise définit l’idéal de sagesse en termes stoïciens : le but de toute vie éthique est d’arriver à vaincre les troubles de l’âme ; le modèle de cette tranquillité d’âme devient Abraham, obéissant sans se rebeller aux ordres de Dieu, avec une fermeté non différente de celle du stoïcisme. L’évêque de Milan donne aussi la première place à l’humilité et à la charité ; à la sincérité du stoïcien succède ainsi la simplicité chrétienne, vertu par excellence de Job et don de la grâce.

Avec Augustin la question de la vérité, qui avait été posée en termes généraux par Ambroise, est transposée sur le terrain des existences individuelles, et revêt ainsi le sens d’une vraie question existentielle. « Faire la vérité », comme le dit Augustin, consiste en premier lieu à cesser de nous flatter, à rompre avec l’amour propre et idolâtre de nous-même et à accepter de nous considérer dans notre nudité et notre misère ; et donc à confesser qu’on est pécheur et, par-là, à renoncer à l’orgueil, avec l’acte d’humilité de confesser nos péchés, acte par lequel l’homme se reconnaît faillible et reconnaît Dieu comme l’unique Bien. Pour devenir nous-même nous devons nous tourner vers Dieu. Nous sommes dans la vérité grâce à la confession à Dieu de nos péchés qui opère une transformation, où chacun peut expérimenter, pour ainsi dire, une sorte de seconde naissance. Cette conception trouve sa source dans le néo-platonisme, doctrine philosophique dont Augustin était imbibé avant sa conversion et son baptême et, notamment, dans la notion plotinienne de conversion, selon laquelle chaque être doit faire retour à la source d’où il procède ; cette conversion vers un Dieu qui n’est plus un être impersonnel, permet à l’homme de révéler en lui l’image de son créateur et de devenir par-là, authentiquement, celui qu’il est ; en se tournant vers Dieu l’homme reçoit de lui une illumination, de sorte que toutes ses œuvres en sont transformées ; il acquiert une stabilité existentielle car il réalise une pleine unité avec lui-même, sur le modèle de la simplicité divine, grâce au fait d’avoir retrouvé son centre de gravité, et donc son repos, en Dieu. C’est par la confiance en Dieu que chacun devient « lui-même » par excellence, ipse, comme Augustin le désigne.

Dans la deuxième partie intitulée L’être soi-même en tant que grâce, style et naturel à la Renaissance, composée des chapitres VII-X, l’Auteur introduit l’idée de « ipséité » en tant que grâce dans le sens mondain du terme, soutenue par Castiglione dans son Livre du Courtisan, grand succès dans les cours de la Renaissance italienne. Le courtisan de Castiglione incarne bien l’idéal renaissant de l’ « homme universel » par excellence, susceptible d’exceller dans tous les domaines avec une liberté nonchalante, car elle est le fruit de son détachement ; la qualité principale du courtisan doit être la grâce, qui harmonise son être intérieur et extérieur et lui permet de s’accorder avec soi-même, et par conséquence aux autres. La grâce reconduit l’homme à être soi véritablement, à une forme d’équilibre spirituel et existentiel ; elle est définie par l’auteur italien comme sprezzatura, expression de l’italien antique que Montaigne traduira avec nonchalance, et qui est opposé au studio, c’est à dire à l’application, au zèle ; la grâce est ainsi le contraire de l’affectation. Claudio Romano passe ensuite à appliquer le concept de grâce à l’art, où il correspond à l’aisance, à la facilité, à la simplicité et spontanéité du geste, enfin au style, qui ne peut pas être le produit direct d’une volonté. Voici la conception de l’ipséité : être soi, c’est ne rien faire pour l’être. L’Auteur procède alors à un intéressant excursus dans l’art de la Renaissance, en identifiant chez Raphaël et Titien de véritables exemples de style authentique.

Montaigne, continue l’Auteur, a sécularisé la notion de repos en Dieu d’Augustin ; il reprend ce concept dont l’exemple est l’assiette souple et aisée du chevalier, qui devient l’assiette de l’existence : c’est une assiette naturelle, qui se situe à l’opposé du rigide contrôle de soi des stoïciens, mais également différent du repos trop statique d’Augustin ; elle ne représente plus chez lui une qualité du courtisan, comme la grâce pour Castiglione, mais de l’homme en général. Montaigne appelle cette grâce, libérée de toute cérémonie et qu’il identifie à la simplicité et la vérité : le naturel ; et il propose Socrate comme modèle de simplicité de style dans les discours rapportés par Platon, dans lesquels s’exprime la simplicité de son être. Même si la simplicité de Montaigne présente souvent des nuances évangéliques, la source de son inspiration n’est pas la religion. C’est la question de l’unité avec soi qui prime chez Montaigne, et qui seule nous procure une assiette dans l’existence ; l’ipséité devient alors une forme de fidélité à soi et aux autres. La franchise s’exprime dans la liberté ; Claude Romano remarque combien cette union de nonchalance et de liberté chez Montaigne présente d’analogies avec la culture zen. Dans son fameux exemple de l’archer la tentative de contrôler consciemment le geste s’avère un obstacle au bon déroulement de l’action, tandis que le fait de laisser faire le corps se montre plus efficace.

Dans la troisième partie, Le déclin du naturel et l’essor de l’authenticité, chapitres XI-XVI, Claude Romano explique comment, à l’époque baroque, le naturel décline et la dissimulation devient alors un utile instrument d’auto-défense pour pouvoir survivre à la cour ; faudrait-il donc considérer licite toute sorte de dissimulation ? Le théâtre devient l’occupation préférée, appréciée aussi par Gracian, pour qui le paraître constitue l’être véritable et l’ostentation prend la place de la grâce chez Castiglione ; Gracian, jésuite casuiste, finit par plaider souvent pour le relativisme moral ; il sera apprécié par Nietzsche, pour qui les qualités d’acteur sont les caractéristiques des hommes de pouvoir. Dès le XVIIe siècle Gracian suscitera la violente réaction des jansénistes et, plus tard, celle de Rousseau.

Le jansénisme, avec son exigence de retour à l’orthodoxie, occupe une place importante dans l’œuvre de Claude Romano, car il fait action de démystification ; sa rigueur intransigeante va s’opposer au pragmatisme jésuite, finissant par gagner une large partie de France ; il va diffuser toute une sensibilité qui n’est plus favorable à la grande scène baroque et au théâtre. La vie intérieure prend la place du lustre et de l’ostentation. Fausseté et déguisement ne sont que tromperie pour Pascal ; la société humaine et ses institutions temporelles représentent la fausseté des vertus humaines et le jansénisme, selon la doctrine augustinienne des deux amours, demande de « haïr » soi-même pour aimer Dieu ; plusieurs traits la rapprochent du calvinisme. L’Auteur décrit ainsi, avec un soin tout particulier, les liens avec le jansénisme et les spécificités de la pensée de La Rochefoucault et de Mme de Lafayette.

Claude Romano ne quitte pas l’Âge classique sans avoir réfléchi à la contribution de Descartes qui propose sa propre conception de la magnanimité, appelée « générosité », dans des nuances néo-stoïciennes, surtout, avec son cogito ergo sum, qui traite du « moi ». Toutefois, ce sera seulement Locke qui fera de ce self l’objet d’une expérience interne qui n’est pas différente de celle des sens et qui ouvre la porte à toutes les égologies.

Rousseau considère que le guide et la source de toute bonté pour l’homme sont liés au problème de l’authenticité, qui se manifeste comme sentiment et témoignage intérieurs de sa propre conscience : idées chères au calvinisme ; la franchise et la totale transparence sont également une idée stoïque. Rousseau reprend ainsi les argumentations de Castellion et de Bayle sur le primat et l’obéissance à la conscience, et la peine pour ceux qui ne l’écoutent pas est le péché. C’est intéressant de remarquer comment pour Claude Romano cette attitude du philosophe genevois, qui n’hésite pas à dénoncer la fausseté de la société, peut être rapprochée en quelque sorte de celle du jansénisme ; toutefois, ajoutons-nous, la conviction que la malice de l’homme soit le fruit d’un système politique inique et d’une oppression économique, plutôt que la conséquence du péché originel n’est ni janséniste ni calviniste. Rousseau, remarque notre Auteur, est ici très proche du néo-protestantisme libéral qui se développe à Genève avec Turrettini, Vernet ou Vernes. Rousseau accuse la société d’hypocrisie et de mensonge, de conformisme et d’aliénation, où l’homme finit pour abdiquer à son être propre et, comme ce le sera pour Sartre, les regards que les uns portent sur les autres sont déjà servitude ; il conclut que l’essence de l’authenticité, et donc de la liberté, consiste dans l’autodétermination en vertu de laquelle chacun n’obéit plus qu’à la loi de sa conscience. La condition externe de cette liberté individuelle dépend d’un contrat social qui rétablit l’égalité des droits entre les citoyens. L’Auteur met en évidence les aspects utopiques et les contradictions de la pensée de Rousseau, mais il souligne aussi que l’authenticité de son paradigme a triomphé dans la philosophie moderne, au point de supplanter définitivement d’autres conceptions de la vérité personnelle.

L’Auteur s’emploie alors à exposer les pensées de Marivaux, Schiller et Kleist ; ces auteurs s’accordent dans la tentative de définir la naturalité du comportement humain faisant recours parfois à la grâce du geste involontaire et harmonieux, parfois « au se laisser aller » de la marionnette ou de l’animal. Il consacre enfin les derniers amples chapitres à l’exister en vérité de Kierkegaard et à l’authenticité radicale de Heidegger.

Pour le philosophe danois la vérité devient l’appropriation, l’intériorité et la subjectivité : la seule vérité sur laquelle une existence puisse se bâtir est celle que l’existant peut faire sienne ; ce n’est pas la vérité en soi et anonyme. La perspective de Kierkegaard est celle chrétienne d’une imitatio Christi ; il veut se rapprocher existentiellement de son idéal, en devenant un témoin de la vérité : car Christ est la vérité non comme une somme de propositions ou de concepts, mais comme une vie. On peut relever ici l’influence de Luther qui a souligné le caractère « subjectif » de la vérité du christianisme, en faisant de la sola fides le principe autour duquel se développe toute l’existence chrétienne ; mais Luther a été aussi, pour Kierkegaard celui qui a fait de la Réforme une institution, en trahissant le christianisme. Claude Romano explique ensuite la distinction des trois possibilités d’existence chez Kierkegaard :  l’existence esthétique, sous le signe de l’infinie possibilité et d’une vie sous un masque ; ensuite la vie éthique, symbolisée par l’engagement du mariage ; et enfin l’existence religieuse, selon le modèle du Christ. Dans le premier stade l’individu est enfermé dans une solitude désespérée qui présente des aspects « démoniaques » : il multiplie les conquêtes car il est incapable d’amour. Le stade éthique est représenté par la transformation de la fugacité de l’attrait pour une femme ou un homme dans un engagement éternel ; la valeur éthique de ce stade dépend d’un choix ferme et personnel, car la volonté est éveillée à soi-même et donne lieu à la personne morale. Dans le stade religieux l’homme est seul face à Dieu ; c’est la foi que lui permet, dans la crainte, dans le tremblement et dans l’angoisse de faire le saut vers la lumière : l’exemple est Abraham ; la subjectivité s’ouvre vers un Autre, elle trouve hors de soi un nouveau point d’appui : la vérité n’est plus à disposition du sujet. L’Auteur observe enfin que, pour Kierkegaard, le rapport avec Dieu est une relation personnelle, de seul à Seul : la foule déresponsabilise ; chacun doit donc éviter de se mêler aux autres, si non avec prudence.

Pour Heidegger enfin, l’angoisse de la solitude du Dasein devient l’équivalent d’un « solipsisme ». À Heidegger l’Auteur consacre autant de place qu’à Kierkegaard ; il observe immédiatement l’analogie de la pensée de Heidegger sur l’ « On », qui indique l’être impersonnel, avec la société des masques de Rousseau ; mais cet « On »  ne renvoie pas à la collectivité ou à la société humaine, mais à une manière d’être du Dasein, l’existant, lui-même ; l’aliénation, qui ne survient pas de l’extérieur mais du Dasein lui-même ne dérive pas d’une intention de tromper de manière volontaire, car la tentation de dissimulation et de déformation sont structurelles. Le Dasein s’aliène dans la foule pour échapper à l’angoisse existentielle et pour ne pas prendre de décision ; il s’appuie et se perd ainsi dans le « On » conformiste. L’être soi-même n’est qu’une modalité d’être du Dasein, comme l’est le Dasein perdu dans le « On » ; ainsi une structure triadique est créée : la différence entre les deux modalités du Dasein consiste dans le fait que dans le cas où il prend une décision, la modification dans son existence est produite de manière personnelle, par l’ipse et par conséquent elle est authentique ; dans le cas du « On » elle est produite de manière impersonnelle et inauthentique. Seulement face à l’angoisse de la mort le Dasein est finalement authentique, car il est seul.  Le concept de vérité de Heidegger devient alors, pour la première fois, radicalement subjectif, mais privé de tout contenu, car il est reconduit à une manière d’être, à la différence de Rousseau où le contenu consiste dans la sincérité envers soi-même, et de Kierkegaard, où le contenu est la foi. Chez Heidegger finalement c’est la volonté du Dasein de vouloir sa propre authenticité qui lui confère constance et fermeté ; ce sera ce rôle de la volonté qui permettra de mettre sa pensée au service de l’idéologie nazie.

Dans son court épilogue l’Auteur résume la question de l’adéquation à soi-même ou de l’être véritablement soi-même, qui n’est traitée que marginalement par la philosophie contemporaine, en deux tendances : dans la première, dont le stoïcisme est l’emblème, l’accord avec soi-même est réalisé par le moyen de la raison et de la maîtrise des passions de manière rigide ; dans la seconde, l’accord est obtenu par un mixte de contrôle et de laisser-aller négligent.

Dans l’apostille finale Claude Romano propose une sorte de monographie dans laquelle il suggère une série de pistes de réflexion et recherche au sujet du naturel ; par exemple : « Est-il possible de chercher à être naturel ? N’y aurait-il pas dans cet effort une contradiction avec la spontanéité liée à l’idée de naturel ? ».

En conclusion, le travail de Claude Romano est imposant et touche à une question peu traitée jusqu’à présent ; son style facilement accessible et ses descriptions claires le rendent un instrument indispensable pour tous ceux qui désirent lire ou relire l’histoire de la pensée occidentale concernant la recherche de l’authenticité.

Heureux qui comme Ulysse…

Alexander Schnell: Wirklichkeitsbilder

Wirklichkeitsbilder Book Cover Wirklichkeitsbilder
Philosophische Untersuchungen 40
Alexander Schnell
Mohr Siebeck
Paperback 54,00 €
XII, 223

Reviewed by: Fabian Erhardt (Bergische Universität Wuppertal)

Zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts haben zahlreiche Impulse der Phänomenologie in Theorien des Bewusstseins, der Kognition, der Emotion und der sozialen Koexistenz Einzug gehalten. Husserls explizites Programm, wonach Phänomenologie transzendentale Philosophie sei, erfährt meist eine tendenziell „stiefmütterliche“ Behandlung. So lange die Phänomenologie dank ihrer leistungsfähigen Deskriptionen zu einer präziseren Stilisierung unserer epistemischen Ausgangslage und ihrer Implikationen beiträgt, sehen auch „naturalistische“ Verwender ihres begrifflichen organon großzügig über ihre „idealistischen“ Vermessenheiten hinweg. Doch die Zeit einer Marginalisierung ihres erkenntnislegitimierenden Anspruchs scheint vorbei – das „Transzendentale“ ist wieder ein aktuelles Diskussionsthema in der Phänomenologie, das „spekulative Format der Philosophie“ noch nicht überall zugunsten einer „Sensibilität für sanfte commitments“ (Wolfram Hogrebe) oder reiner „Archäologien von Sinn- und Seinsverständnissen“ (Sophie Loidolt) verabschiedet. Statt wie zahlreiche PhänomenologInnen Zugeständnisse an die Kritiker der transzendentalen Ausrichtung der Phänomenologie zu machen, wählt Alexander Schnell zur Vorstellung seiner „generativen Phänomenologie“ eine offensive wie eigenständige Strategie: Gerade die Radikalisierung ihres transzendentalen Anspruchs am Leitfaden einer konsequenten Kritik der Allgemeingültigkeit der Aktintentionalität soll im Kontext gegenwärtiger Philosophie-Diskurse ihre argumentativen Ressourcen verdeutlichen.

Wie also „die Welt als konstituierten Sinn konkret verständlich zu machen“ (Hua I, 164)? Ausgangspunkt des Ansatzes ist eine doppelte Perspektivierung des Phänomenbegriffs. Gewöhnlich adressiert Husserl das Phänomen als „das reine Erleben als Tatsache“ (Hua XXXV, 77), also als das Faktum des Erscheinens von Gegebenheiten für das Bewusstsein, samt deren reflexiv aufweisbaren Implikationen (Abschattung, Apperzeption, Protention, Retention, Auffassung/Auffassungsinhalt, etc.). Er stößt aber – vor allem in den Manuskripten zum inneren Zeitbewusstsein und zur passiven Synthesis – auf „Tatsachen […], die sich nicht in einem anschaulichen konstitutiven Prozess aufzeigen lassen“ (5). Solche „Grenzfakten“ verweisen auf „fungierende Leistungen“, welche das Erscheinen von etwas im Bezugsrahmen einer intentionalen Korrelation aber überhaupt erst ermöglichen, und sich somit als Phänomen sui generis melden – ohne sich durch die „Positivität“ eines „in ihm“ Erscheinenden ontologisch zu stabilisieren. Beispiel: Wird ein Ton in der Perspektive des ersten Phänomenbegriffs als Zeitobjekt deskriptiv analysiert, können beispielsweise „Retention“ und „Urimpression“ als präreflexive Implikationen der Konstitution eben dieses Tons aufgewiesen werden. Der zweite Phänomenbegriff verschiebt den Fokus auf die Konstitution der Zeitlichkeit der Retention selbst: Ist diese „objektiv“ oder „subjektiv, „beides“, oder „weder noch“? Wie kann ein deskriptiv-anschaulich nicht weiter Erschließbares dennoch transzendentalphänomenologisch fundiert und ausgewiesen werden? Hier verstrickt sich die deskriptive Analyse in Antinomien, welchen Schnell zufolge nur durch eine „konstruktiv“ erweiterte Methodologie beizukommen ist, mit der sich Zugang zu den ursprünglich konstituierenden Phänomenen gewinnen lässt. Denn: Es „muss mit aller Schärfe betont werden, dass das Feld des Transzendentalen sich nicht auf das in einer anschaulichen Evidenz Gegebene reduzieren lässt“ (5). Ansonsten bleibt transzendentales Philosophieren auch in seinem phänomenologischen Vollzug in einen vitiösen Zirkel gesperrt, da das Zu-Legitimierende – das im Rahmen einer intentionalen Beziehung zwischen einer „subjektiven“ und einer „objektiven“ Instanz Erscheinende – seinerseits als Legitimationsgrundlage veranschlagt wird.

Mit dieser Einsicht einer notwendigen „»Heterogenität« zwischen Bedingendem und Bedingten“ (42) hebt die generative Phänomenologie an; sie stellt sich im Grunde als Versuch dar, diese Heterogenität zwischen Weisen der Gegebenheit und der Nicht-Gegebenheit methodisch zu operationalisieren. Dementsprechend bezeichnet „Generativität“ das „Hervorkommen und Aufbrechen eines Sinnüberschusses jenseits und diesseits des phänomenologisch Beschreibbaren“ (1). Für die „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ ist dabei „diesseits“ die leitende Präposition: Als ein transzendentalphilosophisch in Anspruch nehmbares „Diesseits“ der bipolaren Dichotomien wie Subjekt/Objekt oder Bewusstsein/Welt soll sich hier die Grunddimension enthüllen, welche die „Genesis des Sinns“ (1) erzeugt und selbigen als „Spielraum“ (5) jedes intentionalen Bezogensein-Könnens konstituiert. Eine solche Genesis kann nicht als „Vermögen“ eines „präexistierenden Subjekts“ (4) angesetzt werden – zur Disposition steht nicht die Sinngebung eines Bewusstseins, sondern die Sinnbildung selbst. Folgerichtig stellt auch nicht das „Subjekt“ den „Ausgangspunkt“ des vorgelegten phänomenologischen Verfahrens dar, sondern „die so unaufhörliche wie rätselhafte Erzeugung und Bildung des »Sinns«“ (82). Zwar weist diese eine „subjektive“ Dimension auf, doch um die „Kohärenz eines »sich bildenden Sinns«“ nachzuvollziehen, bedarf es der Thematisierung einer reflexiven und pulsierenden Architektur, in der „ideale“ (auf subjektive Aktivität rückführbare) und „reale“ (aus der objektiven Äußerlichkeit hervorgehende) Elemente sich als „gleichsam organisches Netzwerk von »Fungierungen«, »Leistungen« und […] »Begriffen«“ (83) manifestieren. Auf dieser genuin transzendentalen, weil für die Sinnbildung letztkonstitutiven Stufe ist das Objekt nie „reines“ Objekt, das Subjekt nie „reines“ Subjekt – deren architektonischer Einheit, nicht deren intentionalem Gegenübersein „entspringt“ Sinn. Damit kommt ein „präimmanentes“, wechselseitiges Vermittlungsverhältnis ins Spiel, in welchem sich die intentionale Korrelation in actu ausdifferenziert: Nicht als „ein Hin-und-Her zwischen zwei bloß formal herausgebildeten Polen“ (197), sondern als „»anonyme« Genesis des »sich bildenden Sinns«“ (83). Diese ereignet sich in einer „nicht aufzuhebenden Spannung“ (206) zwischen einer „subjektiven“ und einer „objektiven“ Instanz – und damit „diesseits“ dieser Unterscheidung.

Von zentraler methodologischer Bedeutung sind nun „die jedem Sinnphänomen innewohnenden genetisch-imaginativen Prozesse“ (2). Diese gehen „konstitutiv jeglicher realen und faktischen Fixierung“ (18) voraus und ermöglichen, dass Sinn sich als der Spielraum der Weltoffenheit je schon schematisiert hat; ein Spielraum wohlgemerkt, den „jede objektivierende Wahrnehmung“, ja „jedes objektivierende Bewusstsein überhaupt“ (43), voraussetzt: „Diese »Selbst-Schematisierung« ist das eigentliche und ureigene Werk der Einbildungskraft […].“ (196) Als terminus technicus der generativen Phänomenologie bezeichnet die Einbildungskraft nicht ein subjektives Vermögen, sondern ein transzendentales „Verfahren zur Darstellung des Wirklichen“ (64), welches unablässig die Horizonte möglicher Gegenstandsbezüge des intentionalen Bewusstseins dadurch generiert, dass es „sowohl de[m] Überschuss des »Wirklichen« gegenüber dem »Bewussten« als auch de[m] Überschuss des »Erlebens« gegenüber dem »Objektivieren«“ (64) Rechnung trägt. Das Bild ist die Art und Weise, „wie diese Darstellung sich konkret vollzieht“ (64), da in ihm „Ich“ und „Nicht-Ich“ in ein „innerliches“, produktives Verhältnis gebracht und gehalten werden. Schnell bezeichnet diesen Umstand als eine durch die Einbildungskraft geleistete „Endoexogenisierung“ (26) des phänomenalen Feldes, eine Figur der Subjektivität, die an Heideggers Begriff des „ausstehenden Innestehens“ anknüpft. In ihr zeigt sich die nie zu fixierende „»Zweideutigkeit« zwischen einem »anonymen« und einem bestimmten »subjektiven« Charakter“ der Sinnbildung, eine „Doppelbewegung“ des „Schwebens“ oder „Schwingens“ „zwischen einer »endogenen« (Immanenz, Innestehen) und einer »exogenen« Dimension (Transzendenz, Ausstehen)“ (206).

Zur Untersuchung der „Regeln und Gesetzmäßigkeiten“ (89) der Genesis des Sinns entwickelt Schnell die „phänomenologische Konstruktion“ als „methodologische[n] Grundbegriff der neu zu gründenden transzendentalen Phänomenologie“ (37). Mit ihrer Hilfe soll „jegliche Faktualität in Bewegung“ versetzt werden können, „erzittern“ (6), um Zugang zu einer Konstitutionsstufe „diesseits des »Gegebenen« und des »Wahrgenommenen«“ (2) zu eröffnen. Die phänomenologische Konstruktion ist dabei eine „»generative« Verfahrensweise“ (5) – genauer: deren drei –, welche die „»bildenden« Prozesse“ zu Tage fördert, die dem „Haben“ eines „Realen“ oder eines „Gegebenen“ vor jeder faktischen „Absetzung“ zugrunde liegen. Als „Entwurf“ unternimmt eine phänomenologische Konstruktion den Versuch, die – phänomenologisch aufgefassten – transzendentalen Bedingungen des vom Phänomen Geforderten zu genetisieren. Die Ausgangspunkte phänomenologischer Konstruktionen sind die Endpunkte der deskriptiven Analyse. In einer Art (generativer) »phänomenologischer Zickzack-Bewegung«“ (38) suchen sie zwischen den „deskriptiv nicht weiter erklärbaren Phänomenen und eben dem zu Konstruierenden hin und her“ (150) zu „schwingen“. So soll das „wechselseitige Bedingungsverhältnis von Genesis und Faktualität“ (107) in eine Erfahrung transponiert werden. Diese weist eine transzendentale Struktur auf, dergestalt, dass sie sich als Ermöglichung der Möglichkeit des Ausgangspunktes realisiert. Ontologisch handelt es sich bei dem Zu-Konstruierenden weder um ein im Voraus Gegebenes, noch um eine allererst Hervorzubringendes, sondern um etwas, das einem anderen „architektonischen Register“ als dem intuitiv Individuierbaren, schon Konstituierten angehört, und der Unterscheidung zwischen Erkenntnistheorie und Ontologie vorausliegt. Mit dem Erfassen des Status dieser Methode steht und fällt das Vorhaben der „Wirklichkeitsbilder“: Ihrer Darstellung und Exemplifikation ist der in zehn Kapitel gegliederte Text im Wesentlichen gewidmet. Während die ersten drei Kapitel – „Einleitung“, „Phänomen und Konstruktion“, „Die Einbildungskraft“ – eine ideengeschichtliche Verortung sowie eine systematische Grundlegung der methodologischen Optionen leisten, „erproben“ die sechs folgenden Kapitel – „Das phänomenologische Unbewusste“, „Die Realität“, „Die Wahrheit“, „Die Zeit“, „Der Raum“ und „Der Mensch“ – das phänomenologische Konstruieren in Einzelanalysen. Hierbei werden jeweils phänomenologische Konstruktionen „vorgeführt“: Zwei nicht aufeinander reduzierbare, aber unverzichtbare epistemische Zugänge zum jeweiligen Thema werden phänomenologisch-konstruktiv um eine generative Grunddimension erweitert, die als Ermöglichung ebendieser Zugänge einsichtig wird. Das letzte Kapitel ist einer abschließenden wie ausblickenden Reflexion der Perspektiven gewidmet, die sich im Rahmen einer generativen Phänomenologie eröffnen.

Im ersten Kapitel wird dargelegt, weshalb sich die generative Phänomenologie jedem Versuch entgegenstellt – Schnell referiert als zeitgenössische Beispiele die Theorien von Claude Romano und Jocelyn Benoist –, „den Sinn in einem vorausgesetzten Realen“ (19) zu verankern. Vielmehr gilt es, die „Möglichkeit der Notwendigkeit“ (20) eines sich als real Darstellenden zu „be- und hinterfragen“ (20). Damit gerät die Aufgabe in den Blick, „die Notwendigkeit auf ihre eigene Notwendigkeit hin zu untersuchen“ (20): Die Frage ist nicht, wie sich ein sowieso notwendig Reales phänomenal bekundet, sondern wie sich die Notwendigkeit eines hypothetisch Realen phänomenalisiert. Sobald eine subjektivierte oder objektivierte „Fundierung“ der Notwendigkeit des Realen in Anspruch genommen wird – ob anschaulich beschreibbar, ob logisch oder spekulativ deduzierbar –, ist diese genuin phänomenologische Aufgabe übersprungen und der Begriff der Realität – konträr zu den Ambitionen jedes „Realismus“ – um seine Sachhaltigkeit gebracht. Um dem zu entgehen, bedarf es „jede einseitig ontologisch oder erkenntnistheoretisch ausgerichtete Verfahrensweise aufzugeben“ (22). Vielmehr erfordert das Programm der generativen Phänomenologie die Auseinandersetzung mit konkreten phänomenalen Gehalten, um „»eine transzendentale Erfahrung herauszustellen« und vor allem ein transzendentales Feld zu begründen, das diesseits jeder »anschaulichen« Erfahrung angesiedelt“ (24) und imstande ist, eine einem jeweiligen phänomenalen Gehalt angemessene „Fundierung ohne Fundament“ (22) zu leisten. Die Erschließung dieses „»anonyme[n]«, »präimmanente[n]«, »präphänomenale[n]« Feld[es]“ (26) verlangt Schnell zufolge eben jene „phänomenologischen Konstruktionen“, die er im Rahmen des generativen Ansatzes mithilfe der Feinabstimmung eines „spekulativen Transzendentalismus“ und einer „konstruktiven Phänomenologie“ zu entwickeln sucht.

Das zweite Kapitel befasst sich mit den phänomen- und erkenntnistheoretischen Grundlagen der konstruktiven Methodologie. Leitend ist dabei ein „Phänomenalitäts“-Typus, der „diesseits der reinen Gegebenheit in der immanenten Sphäre des transzendentalen Bewusstseins zu verorten ist“ (30). Als Pointe von im Detail doch sehr unterschiedlichen Ansätzen – Husserl, Heidegger, Kant – destilliert Schnell, dass es ein Phänomenalitäts-ermöglichendes Nicht-Erscheinen im Phänomen selbst gibt, von dem her sich das Phänomen überhaupt erst als Phänomen und nicht lediglich als unmittelbares Erscheinen eines objektivierten Seienden thematisieren lässt. Hier erweist sich die genuin „transzendentale Dimension des Phänomens innerhalb der Phänomenalität“: Es handelt sich dabei um jene „dynamische Dimension des Erscheinens, die sich nicht auf einen stabilen ontologischen Grund stützen kann“ (32) – nicht einmal auf eine fixe zeitliche Bestimmung –, und selbst nie als „Seinspositivität“ gegeben ist. Diese als „generativ“ ausgezeichnete Dimension in der „präimmanenten Sphäre des Bewusstseins“ (37) bietet Schnell zufolge die „Möglichkeit der Legitimierung des Sinns des Erscheindenden“ (37), ohne das transzendentale Bedingungsverhältnis qua Homogenisierung von Bedingendem und Bedingtem in einem vitiösen Zirkel zu de-plausibilisieren. Hierzu werden drei Gattungen phänomenologischer Konstruktion konzipiert. Phänomenologische Konstruktionen erster Gattung beziehen sich als „Genetisierung“ von Tatsachen auf einen präzisen Gegenstandsbereich, der auf der Ebene der immanenten Bewusstseinssphäre widersprüchliche „Fakta“ zeitigt, deren mögliche vorgängige Einheit in der präimmanenten Bewusstseinssphäre qua Konstruktion konkret ausweisbar ist. Die phänomenologische Konstruktion zweiter Gattung entspinnt sich zwischen „dem sich in der immanenten Bewusstseinssphäre darstellenden Phänomen“ (39) und dem virtuellen Horizont seiner Phänomenalisierung. Ihren Fokus bildet somit das „Aufbrechen der Genesis“ als Wechselspiel zwischen Vernichtung und bildendem Erzeugen, das als einheitliches Prinzip der Phänomenalisierung die Differenz zwischen Erscheinen und Erscheinendem konkretisiert. Eine phänomenologische Konstruktion dritter Gattung zielt auf die „ermöglichende Verdopplung“ (40) seines transzendentalen Bedingungsverhältnisses, also auf das Möglichmachen der Möglichkeit selbst. Damit realisiert sie die Einsicht, dass auf der transzendentalen Stufe der letztursprünglichen Konstitution des Sinnes des Erscheinenden die bedingende Möglichkeit sich selbst in ihrem Vermögen erscheint, das, was möglich macht, ihrerseits möglich zu machen.

Schnell exemplifiziert diese Bestimmungen im Entwurf einer generativen „Phänomenologie der Erkenntnis“. Erkenntnis als Erkenntnis ist nicht an einen bestimmten Gegenstand gebunden; zudem ist Erkenntnis nie thematisch und explizit gegeben, erscheint also nicht zusätzlich zu dem Wie des Gegebenseins eines phänomenalen Gehalts in der immanenten Bewusstseinssphäre. Damit stellt die Erkenntnis den Prototyp eines „unscheinbaren“ Phänomens dar, dessen spezifischer Phänomenalitäts-Typus sich nun qua phänomenologischer Konstruktion dritter Gattung ausweisen soll. Zuerst bilden wir uns einen „noch völlig leeren Begriff“ (43) dessen, was eine Erkenntnis als Erkenntnis auszeichnet. Unabhängig davon, wie viel inhaltliche Konkretisierung wir diesem Begriff beilegen, kommt er nicht umhin, sich als „bloße Vorstellung“ (43) zu reflektieren, nicht als tatsächliche Auszeichnung der Erkenntnis als Erkenntnis, sondern als ein „ihr gegenüberstehender Begriff davon“ (43). Um zur Auszeichnung selbst zu gelangen, muss das soeben Entworfene vernichtet werden. Es stellt sich also parallel zu jeder bloß projizierten Vorstellung ein „reflexives Verfahren“ (44) ein, das Schnell als genetischen Prozess von Erzeugung und Vernichtung bezeichnet. Anders formuliert: Im Auseinandertreten von angepeilter Auszeichnung der Erkenntnis als Erkenntnis und bloßer Vorstellung reflektiert sich die intentionale Struktur des Bewusstseins selbst. Diese Autoreflexion der Bewusstseinskorrelation ist nun genau in dem Maße präintentionales Bewusstsein, in dem sie weder ontologisch stabilisierbar noch zeitlich fixierbar ist. Damit erweist sich dieser durch die phänomenologische Konstruktion aufgedeckte „präintentionale Setzungs- und Vernichtungsakt“ (44) als konkrete Bedingung der Möglichkeit der Phänomenalisierung der Intentionalität, die eben gerade dadurch bestimmt ist, „dass das in ihr Konstituierte nicht in einem ihm Zugrundeliegenden fundiert ist“ (44). Wie ist es aber zu erklären, dass diese „zweifache entgegengesetzte vorsubjektive (und »plastische«) »Tätigkeit« eines Setzens und Aufhebens“ sich nicht einfach als „rein mechanische »Tätigkeit«“ (44) vollzieht, sondern sich bemerkt? Nur dadurch, dass sich die Reflexion der Vorstellung wiederum reflektiert, diesmal eben nicht als Reflexion der Vorstellung, sondern als Reflexion der Reflexion. Damit erschließt sich „das Reflektieren in seiner Reflexionsgesetzmäßigkeit“ (44): Es bekundet sich als Feld des „reinen Ermöglichens“ (45), das an keinem „je schon objektiv Gegebenem“ (44) haftet – weder an einem vorgestellten Gehalt auf der Ebene des immanenten Bewusstseins, noch an der Reflexion dieses Gehalts als bloßer Vorstellung. Diese Reflexion der Reflexion ist das „Urphänomen“ der Phänomenologie der Erkenntnis:  Sie drückt qua „Sich-Erfassen als Sich-Erfassen“ das „reflexible »Grundprinzip« der Ermöglichung des Verstehens von…“ (46) aus – wodurch das Erkennen als Erkennen losgelöst von jedem konkreten Inhalt und damit als Phänomen sui generis auszeichnet wäre. Vor diesem Hintergrund formuliert Schnell das „transzendentale Reflexionsgesetz“, wonach „jedes transzendentale Bedingungsverhältnis seine eigene ermöglichende Verdopplung impliziert“. Die ermöglichende Verdopplung ist eine „produktiv-erzeugende Vernichtung“ (45): Sie vernichtet jede erfahrbare Positivität eines Bedingenden, und macht so ein Bedingtes möglich. Dergestalt weist das transzendentale Reflexionsgesetz nicht lediglich die Ermöglichung dieser oder jener konkreten Möglichkeit, sondern die Ermöglichung jeder Möglichkeit als Möglichkeit – und damit das „allgemeinste Prinzip“ jeder Erkenntnisbegründung – phänomenologisch aus.

Im dritten Kapitel steht die Einbildungskraft als Grundbegriff des transzendentalen Philosophierens im Mittelpunkt. Wie lässt sich am Leitfaden der Einbildungskraft und des Bildes „die Frage nach dem Status der intentionalen Korrelation“ (59) neu aufwerfen und beantworten? Zunächst ist die Korrelation keine „äußere“, die „Subjekt“ und „Objekt“ in ein Verhältnis „partes extra partes“ stellt, sondern sie zeichnet sich durch eine „apriorische Synthetizität“ ihrer Glieder aus. In der Korrelation werden „eine Dimension der »Innerlichkeit«, die dem wahrnehmenden Subjekt eigen ist, und eine Dimension der »Transzendenz«, die dem Wahrgenommenen zugehört, unzertrennlich zusammengehalten“ (62). Das Zugleich von Abstand und Verbindung zwischen Ich und Welt realisiert sich im Bild als „Vektor der transzendentalen Leistungen der Einbildungskraft“ (63). Anders als in der Wahrnehmung und im Urteil, wo stets etwas etwas „gegenüber“ steht, unterläuft die Einbildungskraft so die gängigen, bipolaren Beschreibungen der intentionalen Struktur wie Subjekt/Objekt oder Bewusstsein/Welt. Schnell formalisiert dies als den „doppelten Entwurf des »Anderen-für-das-Selbst« und des »Selbst-im-Anderen«“ (64). Die sich hier abzeichnende „Spannung zwischen einer Immanentisierung und einer radikalen Transzendenz“ (64) ist notwendige Bedingung des phänomenalen Feldes, da es bei Zusammenbruch dieser Spannung sofort implodieren würde – diese „Endo-Exogenisierung“ (64) ist für Schnell die basale Leistung der Einbildungskraft. Wie aber leistet das Bild die „Endo-Exogenisierung“ des phänomenalen Feldes? Durch eine „phänomenalisierende“, eine „fixierende“ und eine „generative“ Dimension. Das Bild lässt etwas „erscheinen“; hierzu muss es „die unendliche Beweglichkeit des »Seienden« »diesseits« seiner Phänomenalisierung“ (65) zugunsten einer relativen Stabilität fixieren, wobei es stets Gefahr läuft, lediglich Scheinbilder oder Simulakren zu erzeugen. „Generativ“ ist das Bild nun in diesem Sinne, dass es auf einer „höheren Stufe […] die Beweglichkeit des phänomenalisierten Seienden widerspiegelt“. In dieser „Verdopplung des Bildbewusstseins“ realisiert sich nicht lediglich eine nachträglich gestiftete Einheit von Phänomenalisierung und ontologischer Stabilisierung, sondern die „»reflexible« Dimension der Einbildungskraft“ (66), die den genuin produktiven Charakter des „Bildens“ über alles „Abbilden“ hinaus ausmacht. Auf dieser „ursprünglich konstitutiven Stufe der intentionalen Korrelation“ (67) sind die Fungierungen und Leistungen der Einbildungskraft „ein Grundbestandteil der Konstitution der Realität“ (67). Hierin liegt der Sinn der Rede von der „imaginären Konstitution der Realität“: Deren Pointe ist es gerade nicht, eine diffuse Kontaminierung des Realen durch das Imaginäre zu konstatieren, sondern umgekehrt das Imaginäre als conditio sine qua non der Bestimmbarkeit des Realen als Reales einsichtig zu machen. Selbstverständlich lassen sich eine Faktualität nackter Tatsachen sowie eine irreduzible Ereignishaftigkeit der Welt „registrieren“, und dennoch: „Sobald diese Realität aber auch nur auf ihre geringste Bestimmtheit hin betrachtet wird, kommt die Einbildungskraft ins Spiel“ (68).

Kapitel vier ist der Frage nach einem „phänomenologischen Unbewussten“ gewidmet. Das Unbewusste ist als ein „bildendes Vermögen“ (78) strukturiert. Schnell unterscheidet „drei Fungierungsarten der Einbildungskraft diesseits des immanenten Bewusstseins“ (84): das genetische phänomenologische Unbewusste, das hypostatische phänomenologische Unbewusste, sowie das reflexible phänomenologische Unbewusste. Das genetische phänomenologische Unbewusste bekundet sich dort, „wo die Sphäre einer »immanenten« Gegebenheit überschritten wird“ (74). Der prekäre Status des genetischen phänomenologischen Unbewussten besteht darin, dass sich „der »positive« – im eigentlichen Sinne »genetische« – Gehalt, der hier aufgedeckt wird, auf nichts »Gegebenes« stützen kann“; stattdessen arbeitet sich die Phänomenologie an einer „gewissermaßen »negative[n]« Dimension des phänomenalen Feldes“, also am „Schwanken“ und der „Flüchtigkeit“ diesseits der Stabilität der objektiven Wirklichkeit“ – der „Genesis“ (75) – ab. Das hypostatisch phänomenologische Unbewusste bezeichnet als zweiter Typus des phänomenologischen Unbewussten dagegen den „ersten Stabilisator aller intellektuellen Tätigkeit“ (76). Es gewinnt der „grundlegenden Tendenz“ der Genesis „zur Mobilität, zur Diversität und zum Wechsel“ (75) qua Einbildungskraft eine gewisse „Unbeweglichkeit und Starre“ (76) ab. Während das genetische phänomenologische Unbewusste grundsätzlich „unendlich variabel“ ist, akzentuiert das hypostatische phänomenologische Unbewusste je „denselben Aspekt des Phänomens“ (76). Als wesentlichsten Unterschied zwischen diesen beiden Typen des phänomenologischen Unbewussten veranschlagt Schnell, „dass das hypostatisch phänomenologische Unbewusste sich grundlegend auf die Realität […] bezieht, während das genetische phänomenologische Unbewusste eher zur Aufklärung einer gewissen Erkenntnisweise der Phänomene beiträgt“ (76f.). Dem dritten Typus des phänomenologischen Unbewussten – dem reflexiblen Unbewussten – obliegt darüber hinaus die Aufgabe, das konstituierende „Vermögen des phänomenologischen Diskurses selbst“ (77) einsichtig zu machen. Das „»Gesetz« des »Sichreflektierens« der Reflexion“ (78) entfaltet die Einbildungskraft in „all ihre[r] konstitutive[n] und reflektierende[n] Kraft“ (78) und „begründet“ damit „die »imaginäre Konstitution« der Realität“ (78).  Wie verhält sich ein derart bestimmtes Unbewusstes nun zum Selbstbewusstsein? Die These der generativen Phänomenologie lautet, dass „das Selbstbewusstsein im Gegenstandsbewusstsein […] sich nicht reflexiv erklären“ lässt, sondern einen „unmittelbaren Bezug“ voraussetzt, der „eben in den Bereich des Unbewussten“ (79) fällt. Dieser kann „nicht »phänomenologisch konstruiert«“ (80) werden, und unterscheidet sich so von den drei entwickelten Typen des phänomenologischen Unbewussten. Damit positioniert sich die generative Phänomenologie auf einer Linie mit Fichte in klarer Abgrenzung zu „reflexiven Explikationsmodellen des Selbstbewusstseins“ (80). Selbstbewusstsein gründet nicht auf einem Bewusstseinsakt höherer Stufe, der sich von einem erststufigen Bewusstseinsakt numerisch unterscheidet, sondern ist als eine „»präreflexive« Dimension“ (81) in die erststufige, gegenstandsgerichtete Intention „eingebildet“. Der „unbewusste“ Charakter des Selbstbewusstseins besteht demzufolge darin, dass „der Intentionalität (zumindest teilweise) eine Nicht-Intentionalität zugrunde liegt“ (81).

Welchen Beitrag kann ein generativer Ansatz transzendentalen Philosophierens nun zu den gegenwärtigen Kontroversen leisten, die von einem neuerdings erhobenen „realistischen“ Ton in der Philosophie geprägt sind? Ebendiesen legt Kapitel fünf dar. Primäres Ziel ist es, den Standpunkt des Korrelationismus zu präzisieren – „und zwar eben durch das Prisma der Bestimmung der Realität“. Somit gilt es sowohl zu verstehen, was „jedem intentionalen Akt »Realität« zukommen lässt“, als auch „welcher Status der »Realität« dem, was über das Bewusstsein »hinausreicht«, zuzuschreiben ist“ (90). Der Beitrag der generativen Phänomenologie erweist sich als komplexe wie nuancierte Ausarbeitung einer irreduziblen Multidimensionalität des Realitäts-Begriffs. Eines einseitigen Idealismus ist sie dabei deshalb völlig unverdächtig, weil die Grundkategorien der Phänomenalisierung für ihre „realitätsstiftenden Leistungen ein wechselseitiges Bedingungsverhältnis mit dem Konstituierten“ (108) implizieren. Transzendentale Konstitution kann sich nur als ontologische Fundierung realisieren, welche – einer Art fortwährenden „Epigenese“ nicht unähnlich – die Konstitution selbst kontaminiert. Was die generative Phänomenologie deutlich von gängigen Realismen abhebt, ist die Erarbeitung zahlreicher Aspekte der Nicht-Gegebenheit, die maßgeblich zur Sachhaltigkeit und Intelligibilität des Begriffs der Realität beitragen. Denn „[d]as Reale ist nicht das Gegebene“ (90): Hierfür sprechen die Rolle der Unscheinbarkeit und der Präreflexivität in der Phänomenalisierung, die Präimmanenz als „Milieu“ der Genesis, sowie die reflexive Vernichtung des Bewusstseins in jeder stabilisierten Bestimmung – „das Bewusstsein ist das Vehikel des Gegebenseins, die Realität ist das Zugrundegehen des Bewusstseins“ (91). Den „höchsten Punkt“ der generativen Realitätsproblematik bildet die „Identifikation von Realität und »Reflexion der Reflexion«“ (108), welche die Zusammengehörigkeit des transzendentalen und des ontologischen Status des in der Sinnbildung Eröffneten stiftet. Zu erwähnen ist zudem das den Ausführungen zur „Realität“ angestellte „anankologische Argument“, welches Schnell gegen die Angriffe des „spekulativen Realismus“ auf den „Korrelationismus“ bemüht. Zu Erinnerung: Eine anzestrale Aussage bezieht sich auf einen Sachverhalt, der vor jeglicher tatsächlichen Gegebenheit von Bewusstsein gültig gewesen sein soll, wodurch die angebliche Überflüssigkeit des Korrelationismus aufgezeigt sein soll. Wie aber dem anzestral Bedeuteten die Notwendigkeit objektiver Realität zuweisen? Ohne ein in die Sinnbildung einbehaltenes Bewusstsein kann nicht darüber befunden werden, welche anzestralen Propositionen der Wahrheit entsprechen, und welche nicht – die Möglichkeit, den Sinn einer solchen Proposition zu verstehen, wäre nicht gegeben: „Während beim klassischen ontologischen Argument die Hypothese des Denkens der Wesenheit des Absoluten die Existenz des Absoluten impliziert, schließt hier […] die Existenz der Anzestralität die Notwendigkeit der möglichen Gegebenheit für und durch das sinnbildende Bewusstsein“ (112) ein. Das heißt: Durch die wohlgegründete Behauptung der Anzestralität wird die „Generativität“ des Korrelationismus bewiesen. Dieser pocht im vorliegenden Fall ja gerade nicht auf ein konstituierendes Subjekt, das einem – letztlich nicht intelligiblen – Gegenstand gegenübersteht, sondern ist als jener Sinnbildungsprozess konzipiert, in dessen Genesis sich die notwendige Sachhaltigkeit respektive die Nicht-Halluziniertheit des anzestralen Gegenstandes überhaupt erst herauskristallisieren und stabilisieren konnte.

Kapitel fünf behandelt den Begriff der Wahrheit. Die Phänomenologie fragt nicht primär nach der Wahrheit der „Korrespondenz“ qua logischem oder sinnlichem Zusammenhang zwischen einem Aussagesatz und der ihm entsprechenden Realität, sondern danach, wie sich eine Welteröffnung vollzieht, im Rahmen derer sich etwas als etwas zeigen kann, und damit überhaupt erst „Korrespondenz“-fähig wird. Zentral ist demnach das „konstitutive Verhältnis zwischen der Korrespondenz-Wahrheit und der »ursprünglichen« Wahrheit“ (129). Drei Dimensionen der Wahrheit werden hier relevant: Die „phänomenalisierende Dimension der Wahrheit“ verweist darauf, dass „jegliche[r] »Gegenstand« der Wahrheit“ (129), auf irgendeine Weise zur Darstellung gelangen muss, womit die Entdeckung einer „Sache“ auf eine „konstitutive Weise in ihr Wahrsein“ eintritt. Die „phänomenalisierende Wahrheit“ ist als eine „Manifestierung für… (Erscheinung für…, Gegebenheit für…) einen »Zeugen de jure«“ (130) notwendige, aber keine hinreichende Bedingung jeder Wahrheit. Die zweite Dimension betrifft den „Entzugscharakter der Wahrheit“: In einem transzendentalen Bedingungsverhältnis realisiert sich die Objektivierung eines Bedingten durch den Entzug seines Bedingenden – ein Entzug, der als „negativer Bezug“ in „jede Manifestierung, Erscheinung oder Gegebenheit hineinspielt“ (131). Der Entzug kann sich nun aber als Selbstreflexion dieses „wechselseitigen Bedingungsverhältnisses“ genetisieren, dergestalt, dass er sich als „stetige[r] Wechsel zwischen einer »Präsenz« und einer »Nicht-Präsenz«“ (132) realisiert. Eine solche „Erfahrung“ des Transzendentalen impliziert, „dass das Bedingte auf das Bedingende zurückwirkt“ (131), was eben die Wahrheit „der Erscheinung bzw. der Gegebenheit selbst ausmacht“ (132). Der dritten, der „generativen Dimension der Wahrheit“, obliegt eine doppelte Aufgabe: Sie bestimmt den Entzugscharakter der Wahrheit auf positive Weise und macht verständlich, was genau die Wahrheitsdimension des konstruktiven Vorgehens kennzeichnet. Beides leistet sie als Reflexion der Reflexion: „Die Wahrheit ist die Reflexion der Reflexion […].“ (132) In einem ersten Schritt stellt sie einen Abstand her, in dem sich der Entzugscharakter spiegelt; in einem zweiten Schritt erweist sich die Wahrheit als „produktive Reflexivität“, als eine „erzeugende, schöpferische, d.h. generative Dimension“. Die Wahrheit ist die Dimension, in der sich das Transzendentale als reines Vermögen der Realisierung selbst realisiert: Ein Gegenstand wird reflexiv gesetzt, wodurch dessen Reflexionsgesetz allererst bedingt wird. Nur so entsteht überhaupt ein „Probierstein der Realität“ (133), dergestalt, dass ein Gegenstand nach Maßgabe der präimmanenten Binnendifferenzierung, in welcher sich die Ermöglichung seines So-Seins herausbildet, thematisierbar wird. Denn ein Gegenstand, der eine Aussage wahr macht, ist nicht selbst die Wahrheit; die Wahrheit ist die reflexive Bezugsdimension, eine Art intelligibler Holon, in welchem der Gegenstand als Einheit der Differenz von Reflexion der Reflexion und Realität appräsentierbar ist. Die logische Gestalt, in welcher sich dies zusammen denken lässt, ist die „kategorische Hypothetizität“ (134): Sie bezeichnet den Umschlag einer Möglichkeit in eine Notwendigkeit im Vollzug der Genetisierung einer nicht weiter deskriptiv analysierbaren Gegebenheit qua phänomenologischer Konstruktion – und damit einen Vorschlag zur Lösung der Frage, wie das Notwendige möglich ist. Dass ein solcher „Sprung im Register“ sich in actu realisiert und nicht „untergeschoben“ wird, befreit den generativen Wahrheitsbegriff aus den vitiösen Zirkeln, welche transzendentales und hermeneutisches Philosophieren bis heute prägen.

Das sechste Kapitel unternimmt eine Abhandlung des Problems der Zeit. Wenn die Zeit weder eine subjektive noch eine objektive „Form“, wenn ihre „Vorausgesetztheit“ nicht empirisch-real noch rein logisch ist, sie sowohl in ihrer transzendentalen „Idealität“ wie auch in ihrer empirischen „Realität“ zu denken ist: Wie kann die von Husserl eingeführte, genuin zeitkonstituierende Intentionalität bestimmt werden? „Aktiv-signitiver“ Art kann sie nicht sein, da es sich „um keinerlei bedeutungsstiftende Intentionalität“ (146) handelt; „passiv-intuitiver“ Art kann sie aber auch nicht sein – zwar ist sie sicherlich passiv in dem Sinne, dass sie nicht eigens hervorzubringen ist, aber Anschaulichkeit reicht nicht hin, um ihre präintentionale Konstitution verständlich zu machen. Es gilt also, qua phänomenologischer Konstruktion eine Form der Selbstgegebenheit aufzuzeigen, die weder „auf ein rein passives Vorliegen, noch auf eine Einbettung der Spontaneität in eine [bereits objektiv konstituierte, F.E.] zeitlich-sinnliche Dimension verweist“ (150). Hierzu unterscheidet Schnell zuerst zwei Arten der immanenten Zeitlichkeit, „erlebte Zeit“ und „gestiftete Zeit“: Die erlebte Zeit umfasst das volle Spektrum der Möglichkeiten von Erscheinungsweisen der Zeit – jedes Seiende hat seine ihm „ureigene Zeit“ (148). Spezifisch für die erlebte Zeit ist ihre enge Verflochtenheit mit der Erfahrung eines „Ich“: Sie erzeugt stets nicht-anonyme „Weisen der Horizonteröffnung, die zuallererst für uns selbst die Welt offenbar zu machen gestatten“. Des Weiteren zeichnet sie sich durch „radikale Reflexionslosigkeit“ (148) aus. Die gestiftete Zeit hingegen zielt auf Einheitlichkeit, auf einen Maßstab, der zur „Zeitmessung“ dienen kann. Dabei kommt es zu einem „Gegensatz zwischen der Vielfalt der Zeiten […] und der Einheit der gestifteten Zeit“ (149), sowie zu einer Aporie der Reflexion: Innerhalb der gestifteten Zeit wird ein absoluter Zeitrahmen vorausgesetzt, der „präempirisch und präreflexiv“ ist; die Einheitlichkeit ist aber ein Produkt der Reflexion. Die Reflexion ist demnach nicht das geeignete Mittel, „um die Konstitution der Zeit und des Zeitbewusstseins verständlich zu machen und zu rechtfertigen“ (149). Wie ist es also möglich, dem „Zeitcharakter der erlebten Zeit einerseits und der gestifteten Zeit andererseits phänomenologisch-konstruktiv […] auf die Spur zu kommen“ (150)?  Dargelegt werden muss, wie die Vermittlung von „Protentionalität“ und „Retentionalität“ zu plausibilisieren ist, ohne das Schema Auffassung/Auffassungsinhalt auf eine „rein hyletische Urimpression“ anzuwenden. Hier kommt eine dritte Art der Zeitlichkeit zum Tragen, die „präimmanente Zeit“. Diese stellt sich dar als ein die immanenten Zeitlichkeiten konstituierendes Phasenkontinuum, der „Urprozess“. Jede Phase dieses Kontinuums ist ein „»retentionales« und »protentionales« Ganzes“ (151), und besteht aus einem „Kern“ – auch als „Urphase“ bezeichnet – maximaler Erfüllung, sowie aus modifizierten Kernen, deren Erfüllung proportional zur Entfernung von der Urphase nach Null hin tendiert. Dergestalt eröffnet sich ein Feld von „Kernen“, die „im Ablauf ihrer Erfüllungen und Entleerungen eben die präimmanente Zeitlichkeit ausmachen“ (152), und als „Substrate“ der Noesis die Intentionalität strukturell konstituieren. Das „Selbsterscheinen“ (153) dieses Urprozesses am Schnittpunkt der jeweils diskreten „Kerne“ ermöglicht ineins die ursprüngliche Gegenwart des präreflexiven Selbstbewusstseins wie auch jede gestiftete und erlebte Zeit.

Die räumlichen Aspekte der generativen Phänomenologie sind Gegenstand des siebten Kapitels. Ziel ist es, die Konstitution der Räumlichkeit und des Räumlichkeitsbewusstseins zu erhellen. Grundlegende Beiträge liefern Husserl mit der Darstellung der Relevanz von „Leiblichkeit“ und „Einbildungskraft“ bei der Konstitution des Raumes, sowie Heidegger durch die Vorarbeiten zum Begriff einer Endo-Exogenisierung des phänomenologischen Feldes. Maßgeblich für den Ansatz der „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ sind jedoch die Analysen, die Marc Richir hinsichtlich der räumlichen Aspekte der Sinnbildung vorgelegt hat. Leitend sind dabei zwei Fragestellungen: Was ist die leibliche Dimension der Sinnbildung? Was sichert und ermöglicht den Bezug auf eine Äußerlichkeit, die es vermeidet, diese Sinnbildung durch ihre Immanentisierung in eine Tautologie verfallen zu lassen? An diese Perspektive anschließend sucht Schnell „Räumlichkeit“ als eine „grundlegende Dimension des Sinnbildungsprozesses“ (171) in den Blick zu bekommen. Hierzu wird eine dreifache Differenz angesetzt: Die räumliche Bestimmtheit der „scheinbaren Exogenität“ in natürlicher Einstellung – also die Erfahrung einer „Äußerlichkeit“, die als „präexistent“ oder „prästabilisiert“ angesehen wird –, verwischt die Notwendigkeit, diesseits der Unterscheidung von „Innen“ und „Außen“ ein diese Unterscheidung erst ermöglichendes „Vermittlungsverhältnis von Endogenität und Exogenität des phänomenologischen Feldes“ (172) zu konzipieren. Die „räumliche Dimension der Hypostase“ thematisiert den Umstand, dass trotz der Zusammengehörigkeit von Räumlichkeit und Zeitlichkeit als „Raumzeitlichkeit“ – der „Grundform der Phänomenalisierung“ (173) –, spezifische Unterschiede zwischen räumlichen und zeitlichen Bestimmungen bestehen. Während die Zeit grundlegend durch ein Fließen charakterisiert ist, erscheint der Raum hingegen „fix, stabil, unwandelbar“. „Hypostase“ als „transzendentaler Ausdruck“ dieser Stabilität ist qua phänomenologischer Konstruktion zweiter Gattung als produktive Vernichtung der Bewegung zu fassen, dahingehend, „dass hierdurch sowohl die räumliche Dimension des Verstehens als auch das, worin das Verstehen sich entfaltet, gedacht zu werden vermag“ (174). Als dritte räumliche Bestimmtheit werden die „räumlichen Implikationen der transzendierenden Reflexibilität“ entfaltet. Während die „transzendentale Reflexibilität“ als die Eigenschaft der Sinnbildung ausgemacht wurde, welche die „innerlichen Notwendigkeiten“ des phänomenalen Feldes aufdeckt, kommt es hier darauf an, die „transzendierende Reflexibilität“ als die Eigenschaft der Sinnbildung zu begreifen, welche die „äußerlichen Notwendigkeiten“ des phänomenalen Feldes zu erschließen gestattet. Ausschlaggebend ist dabei, dass diese nicht lediglich auf etwas Vorgängiges reflektiert, sondern „das Sich-erscheinen des (Sich-)reflektierens erfasst wird“. Ermöglicht ist dies durch eine „Identifikation zwischen dem Abstand von Alterität und Äußerlichkeit“ (175), sowie ein dem Sinnbildungs-Schematismus innewohnender Abstand zu sich selbst; beide Aspekte fungieren als basaler Bezugsrahmen jeder weiteren räumlichen Bestimmbarkeit.

Das achte Kapitel wendet sich der Konzeption einer neuen phänomenologischen Anthropologie zu, in deren Zentrum der Begriff des „homo imaginans“ steht. Bei der generativen Konturierung des Humanum steht nicht das Verhältnis von Anthropologie und Phänomenologie im Mittelpunkt, sondern diejenigen Bestimmungen, welches es ermöglichen, den „Status des Menschen diesseits der Unterscheidung von Erkenntnistheorie und Ontologie“ (187) offen zu legen. Jeder Bestimmung gehen genetisch-imaginative Prozesse voraus, welche die Intelligibilität einer möglichen Bestimmung erst gewährleisten. Um einer „vorausgesetzten Welt“ anzugehören, muss der Mensch immer schon dreifach „bildend“ tätig gewesen sein: qua Vorstellung, qua Reflexion, und qua Einbildung. Die „Vorstellung“ ist das Phänomen, „durch das wir uns ursprünglich auf die Welt beziehen“ (188). Sie lässt erscheinen, nach Maßgabe implizierter Verständnisse von „Welt“ und „Selbst“. In der „Reflexion“ wird das Bild als Bild thematisch, gerät in einen Abstand zu sich: Die Welt geht in ihrem Bild nicht auf. In der Vernichtung der „Kompaktheit und Geschlossenheit“ (191) des ersten Bildes wird das ihm implizite „Selbst“ als entwerfendes explizit; die im ersten Bild prätendierte Stabilität der Welt wird in eine irreduzible Abständigkeit von Bild und Welt transponiert, die selbstverständliche Unmittelbarkeit des Bildes wandelt sich in das reflexive Bewusstsein, durch ein Selbst geleistet worden zu sein – an die Stelle eines Bildes der Welt tritt ein Bild des Selbst. Der spezifisch menschliche – nicht mechanische! – Charakter der Reflexion wird aber erst mit der „Einbildung“ erfasst: Jedes Bewusstsein von etwas ist nicht nur „vorstellendes“ und „reflexives“ Bewusstsein, sondern auch „reflexibles“ Bewusstsein. Das, was es möglich macht, verdoppelt sich in „das, was das Möglich-Machen selbst möglich macht“ (192) – die „bedingende“ Möglichkeit erscheint selbst in ihrem Vermögen, das, was möglich macht, ihrerseits möglich zu machen. Anders formuliert: Das Sein-Können der Bild-Bildung erscheint in den zu diesem Können notwendigen Bedingungen. In der Reflexion auf die Reflexion der Vorstellung realisiert sich die transzendentale Struktur des Bewusstseins als die Ermöglichung ihrer selbst – diese „ist“ nur, insofern sie sich „bildet“. Nachdem die generative Verfahrensweise ihre Rechtmäßigkeit durch die Wohlgegründetheit – ohne „negativen“ Zirkel – ihrer Möglichkeit erwiesen hat, kommt als ihr Korrelat nur das Reale selbst in Frage. Die ontologischen Implikationen dieses Realen sind eben jene Bedingungen, die zur Realisierung des „ermöglichenden Vermögens“ (193) zu veranschlagen sind. Der Mensch ist „homo imaginans“ bedeutet dann: Jedes Bewusstsein, das sich als Einheit der Differenz von Selbstentwurf, Reflexivität und Reflexibilität selbst erscheint, ist humanes Bewusstsein.

Das letzte Kapitel dient einer Synopse der Grundlegung eines spekulativen Transzendentalismus in der Gestalt einer generativen Phänomenologie. Schnell hebt als Leitmotiv die „Endoexogenisierung des phänomenalen Feldes“ als neue, „auf die Transzendenz hinausweisende“ Dimension der Subjektivität hervor, die „den konstitutiven Vorrang der Einbildungskraft“ (195) als „Matrize der Subjektivität“ (198) sichtbar werden lässt. Die Pointe ist dabei, dass „die Transzendenz nicht bloß das »formale Andere« des konstitutiven Vermögens“ der Subjektivität ist, sondern diese „gleichsam selbst konstituiert“ (198). Vier Spielarten der Transzendenz bilden dabei den Möglichkeitsraum der Phänomenalisierung des Subjekts im Prozess der Sinnbildung: „Prinzip oder absolutes Ich“, „Welt“, „Radikale Alterität“, „Absolute Transzendenz“. Durch die Aufweisung eines „phänomenalisierenden“ Moments, eines „plastischen-vernichtenden und zugleich hypostatischen“ – und dank dieses Zusammenwirkens „reflexiven“ – Moments, sowie eines „reflexiblen“ Moments bekundet sich die Einbildungskraft als „ursprünglich bildendes Vermögen“ in phänomenologischen Konstruktionen, wobei keine epistemische oder ontologische Priorität eines dieser Momente festzustellen ist. Die qua phänomenologischer Konstruktion anvisierten „transzendentalen Erfahrungen“ konkretisieren sich in Auseinandersetzung mit jeweiligen „phänomenalen Gehalten“. Sie „gelingen“ als „Fundierung ohne Fundament“ (209), wenn die Genesis der Faktualität vollzogen werden kann, und die „Möglichkeit der Notwendigkeit“ am Zu-Genetisierenden verständlich wird.

Liest man die „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ im Kontext seiner bisherigen – mehrheitlich französischsprachigen – Forschungen, wird einsichtig, auf welchem Reflexionsniveau Schnell den transzendentalen Problemhorizont entwickelt. Verglichen mit dem Stand aktueller Literatur zum Thema ist der hier zum Einsatz kommende Begriff des Transzendentalen in seiner systematischen Prägnanz und historischen Tiefe beispiellos: Die von Kant angestrebte Erkenntnislegitimation wird unternommen, der spekulativ-imaginative Ansatz Fichtes in die Auseinandersetzung mit konkreten phänomenalen Gehalten gebracht, der von Schelling beschriebene Prozess der Selbst-Objektivierung der Natur in seinen architektonischen Implikationen als wechselseitiges Bedingungsverhältnis entfaltet, Husserls Überforderung der Anschauung in transzendentaler Perspektive mithilfe neu entwickelter Kriterien phänomenologischer Ausweisbarkeit zur Disposition gestellt, und schließlich Heideggers Figur der „Ermöglichung“ ausgestaltet. Die transzendentalphilosophische Gretchen-Frage, wie das Apriori selbst begründet werden kann, ist pointiert entwickelt und aufschlussreich beantwortet; die generative Plausibilisierung der Möglichkeit, wie durch apriorische Denkformen das Seiende in seiner Realität erfasst werden kann, ist erstrangig unter den bisherigen Versuchen der phänomenologisch-transzendentalen Tradition. Gerade für Skeptiker eines transzendentalen Philosophie-Stils wird es überraschend ein, dass der Begriff der Realität letztlich nur „gewinnt“: Keine einzige empirisch-inhaltliche Bestimmung des Realen wird in ihrer Gültigkeit desavouiert, sondern lediglich in einen Bezugsrahmen transponiert, der die Möglichkeit ihrer Wohlgegründetheit verständlich macht. Der vor allem gegen Fichte oft vorgebrachte Einwand, weshalb der Realismus erst auf einer „Meta-Stufe“ einsetzen sollte, verliert durch die Herausstellung der Einheit des transzendentalen und ontologischen Status des in der präimmanenten Sphäre Eröffneten an Wucht. Diese Einheit ist dabei keine De-Realisierung „objektiver“ Sachhaltigkeit, sondern eröffnet die Möglichkeit, eine Zusammengehörigkeit von Realitätsbestimmung und Erkenntnislegitimation so zu denken, dass einsehbar wird, wie Aussagen überhaupt Gegenstände „treffen“ können. So verwandelt sich der „Korrelationismus“ am Leitfaden seiner „Endo-Exogenisierung“ in eine philosophische Position mit einer Leistungsfähigkeit, sowohl der „Immanenz“ als auch der „Transzendenz“ Rechnung zu tragen, die ihm in diesem Ausmaß wohl selbst von seinen Verfechtern kaum mehr zugetraut wurde. Es bleibt abzuwarten, ob sich Realismen, die eine robuste Schlichtheit und Selbstverständlichkeit des Sich-Beziehen-Könnens auf Reales als besonders „realistisch“ inszenieren, sich der in der generativen Phänomenologie erschlossenen Komplexität des Zustandekommens eines nicht-trivialen, sachhaltig bestimmbaren Realitäts-Begriffs stellen. Geschieht dies nicht, befänden wir uns in einer für jeden „Realismus“ wenig schmeichelhaften ideengeschichtlichen Lage, in der ein phänomenologisch fundierter, aber nichtsdestotrotz spekulativer Transzendentalismus zum begrifflichen Kern seiner ureigenen Ambition wesentlich mehr beizutragen hätte als er selbst.

Auch das phänomenologische Pensum der „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ ist beachtlich. Schnell beherrscht die klassische Phänomenologie (Husserl, Heidegger, Fink) ebenso differenziert wie die französische Phänomenologie (vor allem Levinas und Richir). Besonders hervorzuheben ist dabei sein elaborierter Umgang mit zentralen Aspekten des Werks des hierzulande noch kaum erschlossenen belgischen Phänomenologen Marc Richir, dem der so zentrale Begriff eines Sich-bildenden-Sinns (sens se faisant) entlehnt ist. Und unabhängig davon, ob die konkrete methodische Verfahrensweise der phänomenologischen Konstruktion anerkannt und praktiziert wird, ist die Trias der Tatsachen, welche die generative Phänomenologie ausweist, unter allen Umständen ein bleibender Ertrag: An der Unterscheidung zwischen „Urtatsachen“ als Thema phänomenologischer Metaphysik, „Gegebenheits-Tatsachen“ plus präreflexiver Implikationen als Thema deskriptiver Phänomenologie und „präintentionalen Tatsachen“ als Thema konstruktiver Phänomenologie dürfte für jede zukünftige Phänomenologie kein Weg vorbei führen. Besonders verdient macht sich die generative Phänomenologie zudem um den Begriff der Intentionalität: Dieser droht zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts zunehmend zu einem metaphysischen Ausgangspunkt der philosophischen Theorie-Bildung zu gerinnen, dessen weiterer Erklärung es nicht mehr bedarf. Ein avancierter Bild-Begriff scheint dabei eine viel versprechende Herangehensweise, das Projekt einer „systematischen Enthüllung der konstituierenden Intentionalität selbst“ (Hua I, 164) als unabdingbare Aufgabe des Phänomenologisierens weiterhin ernst zu nehmen. In den „Wirklichkeitsbildern“ zeichnet sich ab, dass er durchaus über das nötige Potenzial verfügt, das oft übergangene, aber grundlegende Problem der Motivation und Begründetheit der „Leerintentionalität“ als pronominalem Bezug auf ein ens intentum tantum – ein „Alles“ ohne definierte Grenze – neu und äußerst erhellend aufzuwerfen. Hier könnte die generative Phänomenologie wichtige Fragen klären, die auch in der Sinnfeldontologie von Markus Gabriel aufkommen – Fragen, die allesamt um das Sein des Sinns kreisen –, dort aber bisher einer überzeugenden Lösung harren.

Wie es seitens des Phänomenologinnen allerdings aufgenommen werden wird, dass Schnell nicht das Transzendentale zugunsten des „Prinzips aller Prinzipien“ kippt, sondern umgekehrt dem „Prinzip aller Prinzipien“ zugunsten des Transzendentalen als methodologischer Grundlage eine dezidierte Absage erteilt, bleibt abzuwarten. Hier bedarf es wahrscheinlich noch weiterer Klärungs- und Darstellungsarbeit, um die spezifische Intuitivität der phänomenologischen Konstruktionen auch für SkeptikerInnen der Möglichkeit einer Imaginations-basierten „Fundierung ohne Fundament“ zu erschließen. Denn auch die „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ sind kraft ihres methodischen Anspruchs von dem mitunter quasi-weltanschaulich geführten Disput betroffen, ob es eine genuine phänomenologische Methodologie überhaupt gibt. Jedoch ist das Reflexionsniveau und das Rezeptionsspektrum der generativen Phänomenologie wesentlich höher zu veranschlagen als das von populären Bestreitungen der Möglichkeit phänomenologischer Methodologie, wie sie beispielsweise Tom Sparrow mit „The End of Phenomenology“ vorgelegt hat. In diesem Text werden weder die systematischen Verbindungslinien zwischen Phänomenologie und Transzendentalphilosophie noch die neuesten Entwicklungen der phänomenologischen Theorie-Bildung berücksichtigt, was die Ergebnisse entweder zur Glaubensfrage oder obsolet macht – eine Alternative, die doch gerade der Phänomenologie vorgeworfen wird. Die Herausforderung bleibt dennoch bestehen: Jede Phänomenologie, so binnendifferenziert sie auch sein mag, muss sich zusätzlich an der Möglichkeit messen lassen, ob sie über den Kreis derer, die sich schon für sie als Philosophie-Stil der Wahl entschieden haben, auf eine Weise rezipierbar ist, die ihr ein nachhaltiges Sich-Einschreiben in einen globalen Austausch des Philosophierens erlaubt. Dies kann und muss sie einerseits durch die Sachhaltigkeit ihrer Darstellungen, aber auch durch die Ernstnahme der zeitgenössischen hermeneutischen Situation leisten, die nach wie vor durch naturalistische und wieder durch metaphysische Grund-Orientierungen geprägt ist. Für einen Text mit methodologischem Anspruch wie die „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ könnte dies beispielsweise bedeuten, den Begriff der phänomenologischen Konstruktion und den Begriff der Abduktion als methodische Optionen mit jeweiligen epistemologischen und ontologischen Implikationen explizit zueinander in Beziehung zu setzen, um Ausgangspunkte für Diskussionen zu erzeugen, die Stil-unabhängig geführt werden können.

Abschließend bleibt zu erwähnen, dass sich der vorliegende Ansatz als äußerst wertvoll zur Re-Vitalisierung einer phänomenologischen Psychopathologie erweisen könnten. Einiges deutet darauf hin, dass die sich dort artikulierenden Blockierungen des Selbst- und Welt-Vollzugs stärker als bisher herausgestellt imaginativer Natur sind. In vielen pathologisch relevanten Fällen ist eine „Monotonie des Bildbildungsschemas“ (Blankenburg) auffällig, die bisher nicht systematisch als spezifische Modifikationen der Einbildungskraft identifizierbar werden, welche in einer ko-generativen Beziehung zum leichter ausweisbaren, veränderten Reflexions- und Affekt-Erleben stehen. Hier drängt sich die Frage auf, ob nicht „diesseits“ aller gängigen Unterscheidungen – Verstand / Gefühl / Leib / Gemeinschaft / Welt – bisher nicht explizit thematisierbare Weisen der Wieder-Intensivierung der imaginativen Ressourcen in den Blick kommen könnten. Dies wäre jedenfalls ab dem Moment möglich und sinnvoll, in dem die imaginäre Konstitution der Wirklichkeit auf grundbegrifflicher Ebene hinreichend plausibilisiert und ausgearbeitet wäre – hierzu sind die „Wirklichkeitsbilder“ ein gewaltiger und verdienstvoller Schritt.

Matthias Fritsch: Taking Turns with the Earth: Phenomenology, Deconstruction, and Intergenerational Justice

Taking Turns with the Earth: Phenomenology, Deconstruction, and Intergenerational Justice Book Cover Taking Turns with the Earth: Phenomenology, Deconstruction, and Intergenerational Justice
Matthias Fritsch
Stanford University Press
Paperback $27.95

Reviewed by: Christopher Black (Texas A&M University)


Taking Turns With the Earth offers to the reader a rich and incisive analysis of intergenerational justice, especially as it relates to issues pertaining to the environment.  With intergenerational ethics being relevant to so many issues that we face today, this book offers a timely theoretical analysis of the nature of our obligations to non-contemporary others.

This book makes clear that the theoretical nature of obligations to future generations is fraught and contested terrain, and Fritsch spends a sizable amount of time early in the text outlining the major ontological problems and methods in intergenerational justice (IGJ), of which there are multitudes. At times, especially in the early expository sections, so much theoretical matter is covered in such close succession that it becomes theoretically dense.  The multifarious forms of epistemic problems, interaction problems, world-constitution issues, and nonexistence challenges, and the various responses to each problem almost blur together into one mass.  But if taken slowly and deliberately, this expository portion is tremendously helpful towards understanding the state of the IGJ literature.  Within this section, too, certain portions – such as the discussion of the nonidentity problem (34) and the challenges it raises to common moral concepts such as autonomy and personhood – raise especially powerful challenges to IGJ in general, but also ones that Fritsch ably responds to.  Only after this expository portion do we get to Fritsch’s original contributions to the topic, which include his major claim and two models of intergenerational justice that follow from it.

He responds to the epistemic and ontological problems associated with intergenerational justice by promoting a social ontology that is attuned to what he calls the “ineluctability” of normativity, and which deals directly with “the relations among subjectivity, time, and generations.” Fritsch identifies a basis of normativity which he thinks need be recognized for an ontological account of IGJ to be adequately normatively sensitive. Specifically, he claims that both natality and mortality, or the fact that we are always already living in the time of birth and death, should be considered constitutive of moral subjectivity.  Moral subjectivity is a term which he thinks contains both moral status (being a legitimate object of moral concern) and moral agency (the capacity to freely choose a course of action). This moral subjectivity-constituting view of birth and death – which he expands upon further in chapter two – foregrounds the two models of IGJ which he introduces in chapters three and four, respectively. The first model of IGJ that Fritsch proposes is indirect reciprocity, which he elaborates further into his idea of asymmetrical reciprocity.  This model is meant to capture the role that indebtedness to previous others plays in giving to future others. The model is exemplified as follows: “A gives to B who ‘returns’ the gift to C (so for example, from past to future via the present.” (11) The second model of IGJ – which is outlined in chapter 4 – is the idea of “taking turns.” Fritsch argues this model is more appropriate for holistic or quasi-holistic objects (such as the earth or nature) because such holistic objects cannot be divided up and distributed like a cake. Whereas reciprocity depends upon substitutability, taking turns does not depends upon this principle.  Thus, the latter model is better equipped to deal with holistic, intergenerational, indivisible “objects” in a way that the former is not.


Now that I have quickly outlined the general structure of book I will undertake a more detailed summary, with an eye towards identifying the way of thinking about IGJ (i.e. the presentist view) that Taking Turns With the Earth resists, and then I will summarize the alternatives models to the presentist view that Fritsch offers in this book. Following that I will offer a few comments about the strengths and weakness of this book.

 The book starts out quickly with a series of salvos directed towards a certain set of people whom Fritsch refers to as “presentists.”  Presentists are those who exist as if they gave “birth to themselves.” Such people believe themselves to be self-standing individuals that are ontologically unrelated to past or future generations. Consequently, and critically, Fritsch (with continual reference to Stephen Gardiner) claims that because of this ontological short-sightedness presentists are subject to a form of “moral corruption.” Such corruption, it seems, is derived from a lack of social-ontological self-awareness, and results in a lack of care or adequate moral concern for noncontempories (both past and future, but especially future). Presentists’ lack of moral concern for noncontempories reveals itself most clearly on issues relating to the climate and non-renewable energy use. It is certainly true that conversations about these topics often reveal that there are many people who simply do not care about the welfare of individuals who will live, say, three or more generations down the line.  (This is the concept of “non-overlapping future people” illustrated on page 21.) The general nature of Fritsch’s indictment of presentism is compelling, and his concerns about intergeneration ethics are well warranted, but I think that it would be helpful if his idea of moral corruption (3) were given more explication, especially as many who participate in “presentist” practices (heavy dependence on fossil fuels by driving daily, for example) probably do so unreflectively or out of sense of perceived necessity.  Fritsch’ concept of moral corruption seems to imply a moral quality more active and malicious than this, though.  Instead, however, the indictment of moral corruption is given as just so.

Fritsch then argues that recently certain issues that are intergenerationally relevant, such as climate change, have come nearer to the center of public consciousness, and in doing so have made the topic of intergenerational justice more approachable. Notwithstanding these shifts in public approachability, he argues that there is still a prevailing – or at least a significant –  mythology of the temporally and historically isolated individual alive today, and he sets it as his task to debunk the myth of this kind of individualism in this book. In the introductory section he seems to come very close to claiming that those who hold to ideals such as individuality or autonomy, or perhaps even those who even believe that individuals exist at all, do not have the capacity to have care-filled relationship with contemporary or noncontemporary others. Surely it is the case that our identities are significantly extended through past and future, but it also seems that individuals are the kinds of being – and perhaps the only kinds of beings – that are capable of the capacity to care, be they a dog, a frog, or a friend. Crowds can’t care, only the individuals in them, at least if we are talking about the kind of care that can turn into moral corruption, not the kind of synergetic “care” that a superorganism (i.e. an ant colony or a coral reef) might be said to have for itself. But, to be clear, it seems that the idea of individuality that he is resisting is an idea of something like the liberal or the neo-liberal self, not an idea of selfhood like Heidegger’s authentic Dasein or Levinas’ other-constituted moral subject, and in the overarching scheme of this book this interpretation seems more sensible.  Indeed, later in the book Fritsch uses Heidegger’s “being-towards-death” as a stepping-stone (45/46) to get towards Levinas’ modified, intergenerationalized interpretation of self: being-for-beyond-my death (l’être-pour-au-delà-da-ma-mort). (67)  Upholding an intergenerational idea of self is critical to moving beyond a presentistic idea of self and, if Fritsch is right about presentism leading to moral corruption, then eschewing a presentistic idea of selfhood should lead us towards a better ontological alternative.  As the title of Chapter 1.4 states: “Ontological Problems Call for Ontological Approaches.”

To make the ontological adjustments that Fritsch argues that we need, the argument of the book turns towards an engagement with Levinas.  Fritsch specifically engages with the intersections of time, normativity, and sociality that can be found in Levinas’ thought.  Levinas offers a way of thinking about death, temporality, sociality, and normativity in a way that is helpful to Fritsch’ project of re-orienting IGJ. Fritsch seems to rely most heavily on Levinas’ thinking about temporality, and for good reason, because – as will soon be shown – this section adds strength to this book’s argument. Fritsch demonstrates that for Levinas death is not an isolating, individualizing event – as the existentialist pathos of Heidegger would have us believe – but that it is instead an inherently interpersonal, historical event.  Levinas agrees with Heidegger that meaning and agency depend of death, but contra Heidegger Levinas maintains that one’s own death is always inaccessible, and that it is only known in and through the experience of others.  For Levinas death is ever futural and never calculable; because of this, it is possible to psychically murder someone, but it is impossible to morally annihilate someone. (76)  Moral traces, vestiges, and memories of the moral other remain in a meaningful order beyond their physical death – even if the body is dead, there is no total annihilation of the other.

Levinas’ argument that a meaningful order exists beyond one’s death and his claim that death is a fundamentally interpersonal event, paired with Levinas’ assessment that our being is always already existing between the “immemorial past” and the infinite future, leads Fritsch towards his development of a model of ethical responsibility based upon Levinas’ idea of fecundity (fecondité).  Taking adequate precautions (86-91), Fritsch uses fecundity to argue that fecundity makes manifest the claim that relations with future people are not an afterthought but, instead, should be thought of as the exemplification of ethics in general. (88) It is the natal-mortal exposure to one’s child that both opens one up to a meaningful sense of time beyond one’s own life-span, but which also simultaneously hearkens back to the past, to previous generations – to those that gave birth to the parents, and the parents’ parents, and so on. At this nexus – in the fecund sense of time between birth and death – moral subjectivity emerges.  This fecund nexus demonstrates to us phenomenologically the kind of temporal being that we are, and also simultaneously infuses both the past and the future with ineluctable moral significance.

At this point, after having argued that we are the kinds of beings that exist as being-for-beyond-my-death and also always in relation to the past, Fritsch begins to turn the argument towards his reciprocity based model of IGJ, which is the first of the two models he proposes in this book.  Section 2.5 (“Intergenerational Reciprocities,” 91) introduces the language of reciprocity by stating: “If subjectivity can give birth to a fecund future only by owing to previous others, then its moral-ontological historicity can be captured by a Janus-faced form of reciprocity that refers both backward and forward.” Despite the wordiness of this passage – a regular trait in this book – the introduction of this concept is well-timed, and through its phenomenological descriptions this section does well to set up the normative argument for indirect reciprocity that Fritsch will soon move to.  But before doing this, and immediately after introducing the idea of reciprocity, Fritsch invokes Butler’s theory of cohabitation –  a theory which argues that Levinas’ distinction between my life and the lives of others is too strong – to gain support in order to help him begin his theory of indirect (or asymmetrical) reciprocity.  This interpretive reworking and clarification is needed because Levinas himself held a strongly negative view of the concept of reciprocity (92), and this caveat does well to demonstrate that Fritsch is well aware of the limitations of using Levinas to support his model  of reciprocity.

After introducing the basic idea of reciprocity in view of the ontological-normative claim that we exist fundamentally as past and future oriented (and constituted) beings, Fritsch expands the concept of reciprocity beyond its traditional mutualistic usage and argues that a tripartite understanding of reciprocity would better serve our ethical purposes.  That is, if we are to understand ourselves, ethically speaking, in terms of the concept of fecundity.  This tripartite usage of the concept of reciprocity a distinguishing factor that makes Fritsch’s model of indirect (asymmetrical) reciprocity distinctive. Indirect reciprocity is called “indirect” because the person that what I may owe is not limited exclusively to the person from whom I initially received something, but also to others. Traditional mutualistic ideas of reciprocity depend on the assumption that morally relevant parties will exist in a shared space of time and that the perspectives of morally relevant parties can be simply reversed.  They also depend upon the idea that the person who deserves reciprocity is the same person as the one who gave the first gift of exchange in the first place. However, Levinasian temporality and fecundity reveals this basic notion of reciprocity to be incomprehensive. Indirect reciprocity is a sense of reciprocity that cannot be distilled into a traditional form of simple, direct, presentist exchange, but instead extends beyond it. (94) This model of reciprocity calls for “giving back” to the future what is received from the past, even though the recipients of the gift are not the same as those who gave the gift in the first place.

Soon after these clarifications – and roughly halfway through the book – Fritsch introduces two major figures in the book: Derrida and Marcel Mauss.  Fritsch uses this middle portion to expound further on the idea of indirect reciprocity. He makes the case that because we are indebted to others from the past this should play a role in our giving to others in the future, even if the “gift” we give to future others is dramatically asymmetrical or altruistic.  Because of this second part, Fritsch argues that the notion of indirect reciprocity should be expanded into what he calls asymmetrical reciprocity. (107) Derrida’s critique of Levinas and The Gift by French sociologist Marcel Mauss figure heavily into this portion.

There are two critical elements to asymmetrical reciprocity that make it asymmetrical, and they form the bedrock of this distinctive way of thinking about IGJ. The traditional formulation of indirect reciprocity states that “(past) A gives to (present) B who ‘returns’ the gift to (future) C.” (108) Fritsch argues that this should be traditional formulation should be elaborated into asymmetrical reciprocity first because “if A’s gift is co-constitutive of B (i.e., is part of what allows B to be B), then B cannot ever fully repay the debt; full appropriation would amount to full self-annulment.  Thus, the gift remains inappropriable, excessive, and asymmetrical for B, who therefore must free herself from the debt in some way.” (108)  According to this argument one cannot fully repay a debt to the original donor without in some way substantially undermining or annulling their identity; the gift, and by extension the repayment, are inextricable from both the donor and the recipient. (Shades of the nonidentity problem appear here.)  The debt can only be repaid – in some way, shape, or form – to future others; other others than those who first gave the gift. The second element of asymmetrical reciprocity takes into consideration the excessive, overflowing characterr of this sort of debt.  Since this form of debt can never be fully returned to the original donor, this form of debt is always outstanding.  Thus, those in the present are always in the process of “giving back” to the future.  Thus, in this idea of continual future-oriented obligations constituting our normative being, we can see how this theory of asymmetrical reciprocity links up with Levinas’ of being as being-for-beyond-my-death.

Marcel Mauss is invoked in order to give a concrete sociocultural example of this sort of asymmetrical reciprocity standing at the center of a community’s ethos. Also Mauss is presumably used to suggest that since this sort of gift-receiving-and-giving can be witnessed in certain archaic cultures, then perhaps it can be used as a model of intergenerational relations for our modern world. In the cultures that Mauss studied the donor is not separable from the thing given, but also at the same time the donor is not taken to be the sole owner of the gift.  Instead the gift is understood to come from the clan, tribe, traditions, and ancestors. The recipient receives some of the donor’s spirit (in Maori hau or mana), and this spirit co-constitutes both donor and recipient. The obligation to reciprocate originates in the fact that in accepting the gift the recipient assimilates into themselves something that is fundamentally inassimilable (the mysterious elemental spirit of the gift), and thus it necessarily overflows them.  Because it overflows, it cannot but be passed on to future others, and in being passed on to the future it is in a sense returning to its own past.  This idea, as we can see, in many ways parallels the Levinasian structure of fecundity.  An ontological claim (that the gift itself is unassimilable) leads to a moral claim (that one should not try to make it theirs alone, but ought to pass it on.)  An example of this kind of gift would be food, for the food in one’s mouth – at least the kind of food that the cultures Mauss studies would eat – bespeaks the presence of ancestors; it would not come about without the gift inheritance of food-related gifts like tilled land, knowledge about farming, hunting, fishing, and so forth. (112) To account for the “return obligation,” that is, the obligation to pass the gift on, the gift is said to be imbued with an active spirit that wishes to return to its origin – to its clan, tribe, tradition, or ancestors. This model of socio-economy stands in marked contrast to the utility-maximizing agency that comprised the bedrock of Hobbes’ society, and indeed “the gift” offers an alternative model for the basis of the social contract.  For Mauss the foundation of society (at least in the one’s he reports on) is the gift that comes from the past and demands to be “returned” to future others.

Derrida is brought in to serve as a check on Mauss.  Derrida warns against Mauss’ “Rousseauist schema” which attempts to find an absolute bedrock of normativity in some far-off archaic origin.  Both Derrida and Mauss agree that there is an element of the “unpossessable” in the gift, but Derrida rejects Mauss’ foundationalism, and resists the idea that a singular normative origin can be found. Fritsch agrees that there is an issue with this sort of Rousseauism in Mauss – and that there is an issue in trying to identify a point of origin in normative life – but does not think it is sufficiently troublesome to motivate us to overlook the role that gifts play in intergenerational relations.  They allow us an opportunity to see a normativity that binds past generations to future generations, and thus are relevant to helping understand the nature of intergeneration normativity. Fritsch spends the rest of this chapter outlining more of Derrida’s thoughts about reciprocity and the gift, and defends his view against a variety of potential critiques.  He responds to the claim that asymmetrical reciprocity blurs the boundary between gift and exchange, and between private life and the world commerce, by suggesting (via Given Time) that this challenge – and challenges like this – presume the existence of utility-maximizing agents on the one hand, and the family one the other, whereas such a substantial distinction cannot be made.  (152).

The nuanced section on asymmetrical reciprocity nicely leads into the introduction of the second and final model of IGJ that Fritsch introduces: Turn-Taking.  While asymmetrical reciprocity is meant to show how the indebtedness to previous generations plays a role in our obligation to give to (and to care about the welfare of) future people, even if the gift is asymmetrical or altruistic, taking turns is meant to provide a model for intergenerational sharing of things that cannot be returned partially or incompletely.  That is, taking turns is concerned with holistic or quasi-holistic “objects” of sharing, such as the earth or nature.  Fritsch argues that there are three merits to the turn-taking model of IGJ. First, turn-taking demonstrates that there are ways other than the reciprocity of the gift that, normatively speaking, take into account the ontological presence of the dead and the unborn in our lives.  Secondly, turn-taking is better with respect to quasi-holistic and holistic object in a way that reciprocity is not, because reciprocity implies owing to the future an “equivalent among substitutables” and needs a “common metric to calculate such equivalents.” (155) Reciprocity is inadequate when discussing holistic objects such as the natural environment, the earth, or nature, because substitutability is not a principle that can easily applied to such totalizing entities. However, turn-taking can account for how to treat such holistic objects. Finally, taking turns better treats questions of intergenerational justice as inherently political questions. By citing Aristotle’s Politics Fritsch argues that this is so because a fundamental model of justice relies on the sharing of nonsubstitutable political offices. Turn-taking, Fritsch argues, is the model that free equals ought to take when attempting to share an object that is not divisible like a cake. (155) Fritsch notes this this basic idea of taking turns has received hardly any attention in the IGJ literature, and – in a very general way – this is surprising since this idea can be applied to a wide range of things, from political offices to the earth itself.  It is a model that provides a helpful way of thinking about IGJ in the context of holistic, indivisible, intergenerational objects, and for this reason it is a needed (and a very helpful) contribution to this book.

In a method not unlike that one found in the portion on asymmetrical reciprocity, which relied on the temporality of the “time of life and death” to reconceive of past-present-future obligations, in this chapter on turn-taking Fritsch invokes Derrida to deconstruct (“depresentify”) presentism, and to reconceptualize life as a matter of “lifedeath,” or even as “lifedeathbirth.” (161) This is meant to aid in understanding the ontologically connected, co-constitutive nature of the relation between living and nonliving generations.

After a few more forays through Derrida and Aristotle, Fritsch turns towards clarifying precisely what he means by turn-taking by laying out his model of “double turn-taking.” It has two components in its most general formulation: T1 and T2.  T1 is the turning of the self back towards itself over time.  “Given the noncoincidence of time, no identity is simply given.  Any self must, from the beginning, seek to return to itself, promising itself to its future self.” The second part of the turn is T2, which takes into account the differential contexts that the self passes through, but which are always constitutive of the self in the first place.  This is the turn toward the other: “To affirm oneself as oneself is to affirm the context without which one could not be what one is, and that means to welcome unconditionally the future to-come as an alterity within itself.” (167)  This two-step model of turn-taking can be applied specifically to intergenerational relations, but also to environment issues.  For the former, intergenerational relations, the attempted self-return would take place in and through birth from previous generations, and the turn towards the other takes place insofar as we turn towards the next generation.  For the latter, the environment, the attempted self-return takes place by the consumption of biospherical resources, and the turn towards the other is the turn towards the earth upon death and also through life’s continuous exchange with nature. (173)

In summary of this discussion of double turn-taking Fritsch says “saying yes to turn-taking means accepting that I receive power from previous others and will leave it to others.” (173)  In general the idea of turn-taking being an appropriate model for intergenerational sharing of holistic objects seems good and well-justified, however the level of theoretical detail and distinction-adding in this chapter seems unnecessary, and at times it seems to obfuscate the main point of turn-taking rather than clarifying it.

Final Comments

This general critique mentioned in the previous paragraph applies throughout this book.  In this book, as hopefully I have able to show in this review, there are many excellent, lucid, and compelling sections.  The early section on ontological problems in IGJ, the middle section on Levinas and fecundity, and the following section on Mauss and asymmetrical reciprocity were each particularly clear, well-argued, and engaging.  However, these rich and rewarding veins of thought are often buried beneath mounds of distinctions, caveats, and repetitions. Sometimes it gets hard to dig through, because the essential matter of the main argument is not always separated from additional theoretical matter. Moreover, the book tends to go on a bit longer than needed and to lose steam at the end. Chapter four – the section which introduces turn-taking as a model of IGJ – gives way to a chapter five.  This final chapter, while fascinating if standing on its own, seems primarily to turn around and rehash ideas previously covered in a way that is not terribly helpful to the overall experience of the book. This chapter concerns itself with life as lifedeath and the terrestrial claim over the corpse, both ideas which were previously covered. At this point I only have a few tiny, almost trifling critiques. First, there is a slight tendency to introduce very complex issues and then to simply say “I will not be able to discuss these interpretations here.” (115, for example) This leads to bit of expectation disappointment. Secondly, there is also a slight tendency to compile lists of “ists” and isms,” sometimes almost seemingly for its own sake. (212, for example.) This is certainly not a big deal, but just worth noting.

If the preponderance of critique that I offer about this book is in the form of writing critique, and anodyne critique at that, then that speaks to the strength of this book as a strong work philosophical scholarship.  Philosophically, I only suggested a concern about Fritsch’s use of “moral corruption” (which I mentioned in my 4th paragraph), and a concern about the idea of “self” that Fritsch is employing (which I mentioned in my 5th paragraph). This book is tremendously well-researched and takes pains to be sure that no theoretical stone goes unturned.  Appropriate sources are consulted at appropriate times, and the limitations of claims are clearly articulated.  More importantly, this book addresses a pressing ethical issue in our world today. What do we owe to future others, especially in view of our growing knowledge about climate issues?  If Fritsch is right, then we owe a lot, and certainly much more than many people take the time to consider that we do.  And we owe this to the future because of who, how, and, perhaps most importantly shown by this book, where we are.  Taking Turns With the Earth offers a vast reservoir of theoretical material to help us re-conceptualize the nature of our ontological and normative relation to both past and future noncontempories, and it demands that we pay attention to our status as interpersonal beings always living in the time of life and death. In doing so it calls for us to develop our ethical self-understanding, and this call is not just thrown out haphazardly.  Instead, this call is motivated and supported by astute philosophical argumentation.

Alexandre Kojève: The Religious Metaphysics of Vladimir Solovyov

The Religious Metaphysics of Vladimir Solovyov Book Cover The Religious Metaphysics of Vladimir Solovyov
Alexandre Kojève
Palgrave Macmillan
Hardback $69.99
VII, 81

Reviewed by: Thomas Nemeth (USA)

Kojève’s slim volume, a translation of a two-part article that originally appeared in 1934/35, while its author was conducting his famous seminars on Hegel in Paris, is itself an “adaptation,” as the translators’ put it, of a 1926 dissertation submitted as a dissertation in Heidelberg under the supervision of Karl Jaspers. This French-language article “La métaphysique religieuse de Vladimir Soloviev” was not Kojève’s first presentation of Solovyov’s ideas. He had previously published in 1930 a short piece entitled “Die Geschichtsphilosophie Wladimir Solowjews,” presumably also culled from his dissertation. Kojève was also not the first Russian to submit a dissertation to a German university on Solovyov. Fedor Stepun had already in 1910 – only a decade after Solovyov’s death – submitted a dissertation also with the title Die Geschichtsphilosophie Wladimir Solowjews to Heidelberg University.

Alexandre Kojève’s name needs little introduction to Western audiences familiar with secondary literature on Hegel. The notes from Kojève’s Parisian lectures at the École Pratique des Hautes Études on the Phenomenology of Spirit have long been available to English-speaking philosophy students. Kojève, born Aleksandr Kozhevnikov in Russia in 1902, had by all accounts a unique personality. In the same year that he completed his dissertation, he moved to Paris, where another well-known Russian émigré scholar/philosopher Alexandre Koyré happened to have established himself as early as 1912 after Husserl had rejected his dissertation. (Despite this, Koyré remained on quite friendly terms with his former mentor, who attended Koyré’s dissertation defense in Paris.) Later in life after World War II, Kojève worked in the French Ministry of Economics and from there was instrumental in establishing the European Common Market. Although a Marxist, at least of sorts, he was invited to Berlin in 1967 by radical students to whom he allegedly advised that they should turn their attention instead to learning ancient Greek!

Kojève’s book can be read from two distinct viewpoints. We can, on the one hand, comb the text for Kojève’s own positions at the time of its writing. Bearing in mind his later emphasis on the Hegelian dialectic and in particular on the master-slave riposte Kojève made famous in his reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology, we can attempt to see its anticipation here. Indeed, there are good grounds for doing just that, and we find within the pages of this book a considerable discussion of the Absolute vis-à-vis the Other. Within the framework of Kojève’s concern, this is both understandable and cannot be held to be inappropriate or incorrect. Kojève’s familiarity with Schelling and Hegel as well as with the German mystical tradition is clearly evident throughout his text. Whether Kojève’s emphasis on Solovyov’s debt to those German writers is excessive or not is for the reader to determine. No one has seriously questioned, however, that Solovyov owed a great debt to Hegel and the later Schelling, even though specific references to the latter in Solovyov’s writings are virtually non-existent.

On the other hand, one can read Kojève’s book apart from its author’s later writings, taking it as what it purports to be, namely, a secondary text on Vladimir Solovyov, which is how we shall approach the book here. Solovyov is likely to be a name less familiar to an English-speaking philosophical audience. Although generally regarded as the greatest Russian philosopher of the nineteenth century, his works are almost invariably classified as belonging to religious philosophy. We find in them, especially his early writings, hardly a trace of the concerns that would rivet either the budding German neo-Kantian movement or the logic of such figures as Bolzano, Frege, or Husserl. Solovyov, instead, was deeply religious in that his beliefs were carried over into his philosophical investigations, something that cannot be said about the other figures mentioned. Solovyov did seek to express his religious faith in the form of a philosophy employing his knowledge of both the history of philosophy and philosophical terminology, suitably adapted of course. Thus, a reader coming with contemporary analytic sensibilities will look in askance at such claims as that ideal Humanity, the Soul of the World (note the capitalizations) is an individual, free, and independent being (58). Kojève, especially in his later pages, is particularly prone to such statements without comment, let alone critical assessment. Solovyov, certainly, writes in such a manner. However, should a twentieth-century philosopher let such a claim pass freely? There are countless additional statements that Kojève affirms as Solovyov’s position and that the former fails to question or to clarify. To be sure, he offers a masterful paraphrase, but it is just that and no more than that.

We see, then, that Kojève is correct in seeing the starting point and the center of gravity of Solovyov’s thought lies in metaphysics. What Kojève does not make sufficiently clear is that his characterization applies most poignantly to the early Solovyov, but, arguably to be sure, not to his later works. Indeed, Kojève focuses almost exclusively on the early Solovyov, though he does reference from time to time Solovyov’s 1889 Russia and the Universal Church, which appeared originally in French and in some proffered periodizations belongs to Solovyov’s middle period.

As with most Solovyov-scholars, Kojève sees Solovyov’s literary activity falling into three distinct periods. Doing so is in keeping with Solovyov’s own fixation on triadic schemes. Kojève in his earlier German-language essay on Solovyov’s philosophy of history from 1930 found that the first period featured a philosophy of history under the influence of the Slavophiles. During a second period a Catholic influence predominated, and the third period or standpoint, which was also the briefest, was represented by just one writing, the three conversations known in English translation as War, Progress and the End of History from 1900. This appeared just a short time before Solovyov’s death. We could object to Kojève’s particular delimitations, but we should keep in mind that his concern in this early essay was with Solovyov’s philosophy of history, not his metaphysical system. Unfortunately, Kojève was noticeably silent on just when this supposed “Catholic period” in Solovyov’s thought began, but presumably it extended until the writing of the 1900 piece.

In the book under review here, Kojève offered a different periodization for Solovyov’s philosophical works, presumably owing to the book’s different orientation – but, nevertheless still three and only three periods. Kojève finds that the first one serves as a historical and critical introduction to Solovyov’s metaphysical system, a system that he had already in his mental possession by this time. Kojève, unfortunately, fails to demarcate how long this period extended. But it surely includes Solovyov’s first major writing, viz., his magister’s thesis The Crisis of Western Philosophy, for he there declares, as Kojève notes, that a definitive metaphysical system would emerge on Russian soil in the near future. Kojève is somewhat misleading in stating that this system would, in Solovyov’s eyes, be his own. The metaphysical system Solovyov had in mind at the time of writing his Crisis text was that presented by the Eastern Church Fathers. Contrary to Kojève’s claim, Solovyov had neither a fully formed system at this early date nor would he ever if by that we mean Solovyov had already conceived all the details. For example, when he published his major systematic work the Critique of Abstract Principles he had not yet, nor would he ever, have a hammered out comprehensive philosophy of art. Kojève characterizes the second period of Solovyov’s activity to be the shortest, and during this time he presented an outline of his metaphysics. It is from the works of this period that Kojève will draw much of his discussion. The third period is the longest. However, since Solovyov apparently at this time lost much of his interest in theoretical questions and in metaphysics proper, it is of little concern to Kojève. Indeed, the latter has little to say about the works stemming from this last phase in Solovyov’s thinking. What is hard to countenance is Kojève’s dismissal of those works on the grounds that by 1890 – and thus just after the publication of Russia and the Universal Church – Solovyov had completed the elaboration of his metaphysics and would not make any changes to it important enough to mention. In light of the fact that Solovyov explicitly rewrote his ethics resulting in The Justification of the Moral Good and started a revision of his “theoretical philosophy” immediately after doing so, it is hard to assent to Kojève’s claim.

Kojève draws his discussion of Solovyov’s metaphysics from three early works in addition to the 1889 one. Although Kojève recognizes that there are obscurities, inaccuracies, contradictions, and shortcomings in Solovyov’s works, these are not often carefully indicated. Kojève also charges Solovyov’s thinking with being often abstract and superficial, more religious than philosophical. Yet, Kojève avoids philosophical, i.e., rational, and secular criticism of that thinking. As have many other commentators on these writings, Kojève sees a marked inspiration from Schelling in Solovyov’s constructions. Kojève goes so far as to say that Schelling served almost exclusively as Solovyov’s model and that the German Idealist’s philosophy lay at the root of nearly all of the Russian’s metaphysical ideas. What Kojève does not point out is the fundamental differences between Schelling and Solovyov. One of the most striking, of course, is that for the former the “positive” reconstruction of Christianity is merely the first step on the road to a philosophical metaphysics, whereas for Solovyov his elaborations are meant as an expression of the truth of Christianity. Solovyov had no intention of replacing Christianity with philosophy of any sort.

Notwithstanding the alleged influence of Schelling, we cannot be surprised that Kojève sees as well a dialectic of the “Other” in Solovyov’s metaphysics, although he finds that dialectic to be the most obscure and most abstract part of it. Those interested in Kojève’s thought for its own sake can surely find much of interest here. Most curious, though, is that instead of seeing Solovyov’s discussion as drawn from Hegel’s Phenomenology, Kojève sees it as a “simplified and impoverished paraphrase” of the relevant speculations found in Schelling, who, in turn, is largely indebted to Jakob Böhme (23). In a sense, we cannot truly be surprised. Others even more recently, such as Zdenek David, have recognized the influence of the German mystic Böhme on Solovyov and Russian religious philosophy in general. Solovyov may have first turned to Böhme through the former’s philosophy professor at Moscow University Pamfil Jurkevich and the spiritualist circle around Ivan Lapshin, a civil servant, orientalist, and father of the St. Petersburg philosophy professor Ivan Ivanovich Lapshin. Kojève, in turn, may have been alerted to this German source of Solovyov’s own metaphysics through the 1929 book on Böhme by his friend Koyré.

Kojève, of course, recognizes that there is a certain “kinship” between the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and Neoplatonic teachings, but he finds that kinship to be extremely vague. What kinship there is between the Christian doctrine and Neoplatonism can be easily explained through the influence of Neoplatonism on early Christianity, when the latter was still in its formative stages. Solovyov himself gave neither any direct indication nor any evidence of the source or sources of his own conception of the Christian Trinity. We have no basis to hold that Solovyov was directly influenced by Plotinus or any of his disciples here. For Kojève, Solovyov saw his own version of the Trinitarian doctrine arising from his idea of the Absolute independently of the Christian tradition to which he otherwise expressed such allegiance. Solovyov’s conviction in his originality in this matter is illusory and shows the extent to which Solovyov thought was permeated by dogmatism. He believed that thinking through his religious experience he could deduce all dogmatic truths including that of the Trinity. In Kojève’s eyes, the speculations of the German Idealists, rather than the Neoplatonists, served as Solovyov’s more immediate source (28).

What we have seen thus far forms a section of the book that Kojève calls “The Doctrine of God.” The next section, “The Doctrine of World” is frankly more metaphysical, if that is imaginable. Kojève provides a faithful recounting of Solovyov’s early metaphysical position, but without extended critical reflection on it from the standpoint of concrete, empirical substantiation. Solovyov’s conception of Divine Humanity is above all the “culmination and crown” of his religious metaphysics (31). Whereas we can affirm that it is the crown of that doctrine, it strains logic to hold that it, in the same breath, is also the starting point of Solovyov’s doctrine of the world. How it can be both the culmination and starting point is unclear unless we distinguish in some ill-defined manner Divine Humanity from the world. Solovyov, after all, has precious little to say about the world apart from humanity. Even more egregious, though, is Kojève’s assertion that Solovyov’s idea of Divine Humanity, being the “keystone” of his metaphysics, is, for that reason, the pivot of his entire philosophical system. Such an assertion may be true on the face of it for Solovyov’s early writings, but it needs demonstration when affirmed of the writings stemming from the last decade of Solovyov’s life.

Kojève is on firmer grounds in claiming that the presentation of Sophia in Solovyov’s metaphysics and that in his alleged mystical experience is enormous. Since the manuscript material related to Sophia has now been widely available for some years, the reader can easily confirm Kojève’s statement that many of the elements in the mysticism associated with Sophia have equivalents in Solovyov’s early metaphysics. Yet, Kojève correctly recognizes that the Sophia depicted in that metaphysical doctrine cannot be the image he supposedly saw as a vision while sitting in the British Museum’s library and which directed him to proceed forthwith to Egypt.

Kojève holds that whereas Solovyov purports to analyze the dialectical notion of the Absolute deductively to obtain his doctrine of God, the doctrine of World employs an empirical method. It is to Kojève’s credit to recognize that Solovyov does not adhere rigorously to these two respective methods in their respective domains. In fact, Kojève is, if anything, too polite. In both doctrines, the assumptions made are staggering in number. Solovyov sees the entire doctrine of God as merely a rational deduction from what is contained in a mystical intuition of divine love. He makes no allowance for those who are unable to intuit this Godly presence, and the premises for his a posteriori, inductive doctrine of the World are similarly not ones with which everyone would agree. The early Solovyov has God doing this and that spelled out in language just as questionably appropriate as the general idea being expressed. On what basis Solovyov determines that God imparts freedom to his creation and then separates Himself from that creation is anyone’s guess. Kojève, following in Solovyov’s footsteps, apparently feels no trepidation in using the word “freedom” in conjunction with the Soul of the world, but Kojève provides no non-circular definition of the term. Indeed, even an idea itself can be characterized as free! Again to Kojève’s credit, he recognizes that Solovyov is indebted to others, particularly to Schelling, which can come as a surprise to no one. Immersed as he was in the metaphysical aspects of German Idealism, Kojève finds Schelling behind Solovyov’s formulations, with the general ideas and structure being similar (71).

There is little here in Kojève’s work that we can easily characterize as phenomenological, focusing as it does on the early metaphysics of Solovyov. Kojève makes no attempt to provide a non-metaphysical reading. Certainly, Solovyov himself understood his position as definitely, even defiantly, religious. But what we, as readers, can ask is why this work at this time. The translators in their introduction admirably discuss the difficult writing style Kojève employed. To their credit, were it not for their comments the reader would likely not realize the points they make. The English is generally smooth and flows as gently as one could wish given the abstruse subject matter. Knowing something about Kojève’s writing style might tell us something about Kojève, but it does little for our knowledge of Kojève’s thoughts on Solovyov. It would have been helpful if the translators had situated this work within Kojève’s corpus and at least have compared the ideas presented with those found in his work on Solovyov in German. Perhaps that was not their intention. But if we look at this extended essay as an intended contribution to scholarship on Solovyov, we can ask what its relationship was at the time of its original appearance to other works on Solovyov in general but particularly to those in the French-speaking world.

Unfortunately, the translators also do not inform us why they singled out this work for their efforts. Is it outstanding in some special manner compared to others? Were it not for the fact that Kojève later became widely known for his Hegel-interpretation would they have translated it nonetheless? Most regrettably, the translators do not situate Kojève’s work within the body of Solovyov-scholarship in recent years. They take no account of the vast literature in either Russia or the West that has appeared particularly since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Again, the question, then, arises: Why this work at this time? Is Kojève’s extended essay in some manner better than recent work on the same topic?

The translators’ references can be confusing or at least troublesome. Whereas the translators make the appropriate references to Solovyov’s works, these are to the now obsolete first edition of the collected works from the first decade of the 20th century instead of availing themselves of the far more accurate and detailed 21st century ongoing edition together with its detailed commentary. Additionally, the references given are always to the mentioned Russian edition even when an English-language translation exists. This poses an obstacle to anyone without knowledge of Russian but who wishes to pursue some idea further. It certainly would also have been helpful to mention the title of the individual work by Solovyov, rather than simply the volume and page number within the set of the collected works.

In conclusion, whereas the advanced student of Solovyov may find Kojève’s work unnecessary, those largely unacquainted with the ideas of the Russian religious philosopher will find this to be a splendid introduction as well as further evidence of the infiltration of German Idealism into Russia.

Hans Blumenberg: Rigorism of Truth: “Moses the Egyptian” and Other Writings on Freud and Arendt

"Moses the Egyptian" and Other Writings on Freud and Arendt Book Cover "Moses the Egyptian" and Other Writings on Freud and Arendt
signale|TRANSFER: German Theory in Translation
Hans Blumenberg. Edited by Ahlrich Meyer. Commentaries by Ahlrich Meyer. Afterword by Ahlrich Meyer. Translated by Joe Paul Kroll
Cornell University Press
Paperback $29.95

Reviewed by: Sebastian Müngersdorff (University of Antwerp)

This translation of Hans Blumenberg’s posthumously published text “Moses the Egyptian” offers the Anglophone world insight into a political aspect of Blumenberg’s thought that remains obscured within his other translated works. Blumenberg’s discussion of Freud’s Moses and Monotheism and Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem evinces a skeptical stance towards any rigid belief in the power and persuasiveness of truth. Blumenberg proves highly critical of Arendt’s assessment of the Eichmann trial. He disagrees with her analysis, arguing that it fails to discern the symbolic and mythical aspects of the trial. According to Blumenberg, the political core of the event was in fact a mythical act of state-founding, which Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann as a family man or buffoon neglects. Thus, according to Blumenberg, Arendt lacks the political vigor necessary for understanding what was taking place at that symbolic moment in history. Blumenberg’s own view, however, leads to the difficult question of whether the political use of myth can ever be legitimized at certain critical moments. He does not answer this question nor does he offer any tools or strategies by which to distinguish a rightful use of political myth from a harmful one.


It is difficult to imagine contemporary German academic life without the name Hans Blumenberg. This is not to say that Blumenberg has shaped the academic context or its institutions; rather, it refers to Blumenberg’s presence in current discussions. In contrast to his contemporaries such as Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno and Jacques Derrida, Blumenberg’s presence is a posthumous one. Although he had a central role in the group Poetik und Hermeneutik, gave lectures, contributed to newspapers and other publications and corresponded with Carl Schmitt, Jacob Taubes, Siegfried Kracauer, Hans Robert Jauss and other prominent figures, he was never a public intellectual. He distanced himself from public debates and avoided making pronouncements of his opinions. This public reticence was likely an important factor in the delayed reception of his work, especially in the Anglophone world. Unlike with Jürgen Habermas, for example, Blumenberg’s work has had to speak for itself, solely on its own terms. Nonetheless, Blumenberg’s work offers reasons not only for why his thought was undervalued during his lifetime but also for why it has become so enthusiastically received and engaged today.

First, Blumenberg’s work is characterized by a certain inaccessibility. His main works are bulky, with chapters that are often so erudite as to overwhelm an interested reader; moreover, his texts generally do not immediately identify what exactly is at stake, what question is being addressed or what central claim is being made. Readers of Blumenberg will find that they receive descriptions rather than definitions. His style is idiosyncratic and the implicit references within his texts are manifold. This renders him a philosopher who resists any quick or easy usability. Nonetheless, his work is rich and meticulously elaborated, thereby offering many leads to different traditions. Indeed, Blumenberg contributed to the fields of phenomenology, history, philosophy of technology and philosophical anthropology. He published on literature and aesthetics and developed a theory of metaphor; he remains an important voice in the debate concerning secularization and, in recent years, the political aspects of his thought have gained increasing attention. During the last years of his career, Blumenberg appears to have focused exclusively on the elaboration of his archive rather than on publishing finished texts. The image of an archive as a sort of rich, untapped mine of undiscovered gems has certainly helped to foster his present-day popularity. As Ahlrich Meyer notes, since “his death in 1996, more books have appeared under his name than he published between 1960 and 1989” (71-2).

Against this background, the translation of Blumenberg’s Rigorism of Truth finds its place. First published in German in 2015, Rigorismus der Wahrheit is one of Suhrkamp’s many posthumous Blumenberg publications. These publications generally share a comparable strategy: a contemporary Blumenberg scholar brings together particular texts or discovers notable fragments or unfinished texts in the Blumenberg archive in Marbach; these discoveries resonate with important aspects of Blumenberg’s thought, and the subsequent publication will include an extensive and elucidating afterword by the editor. Nicola Zambon, for example, brought together Blumenberg’s writings on phenomenology from the 1980s, Anselm Haverkamp compiled a volume of Blumenbergs aesthetic and metaphorologic writings, Ulrich von Bülow and Dorit Krusche collected unpublished fragments concerning central water metaphors such as ‘source’ and ‘stream’, Angus Nicholls and Felix Heidenreich published a chapter that Blumenberg had originally withheld from his Work on Myth and Alexander Schmitz and Bernd Stiegler presented an edition of Blumeberg’s writings on technology and re-published Blumenberg’s contributions on literature as well as unpublished essays and lectures. Ahlrich Meyer, who worked with Blumenberg in Münster, has done the same for Rigorism of Truth, collecting from the archive Blumenberg’s text “Moses the Egyptian” along with his preliminary studies and other thematically related texts.

Along with Nicholls and Heidenreich’s discovery of Blumenberg’s chapter on ‘prefiguration’, Rigorism of Truth has been received as a critically important text revealing Blumenberg’s political interests. It gives insight into certain more articulated political views that remained hidden during his lifetime. When Blumenberg published Arbeit am Mythos in 1979, the absence of any discussion of myth in political terms immediately stood out. Moreover, he has been criticized for the rehabilitation of myth and for his mainly literary understanding of culture. It is striking indeed that Blumenberg discussed myth in the aftermath of the Second World War, referring to Goethe, Kafka, Freud and many others without mentioning Hitler or the political dangers of myth. In contrast to Cassirer, Arendt and Adorno, Blumenberg appears not to have aspired to an understanding of ‘the relapse into myth’ during National Socialism. His book reads mostly as a defense of myth against the overly rigid distinction between mythos and logos. This is even more surprising given that Blumenberg himself was targeted by the Nazi regime. The revelations from the Nachlass, however, spurred researchers to study the subtext of Blumenberg’s work and bring out its implicit political meaning. As it is a general characteristic of Blumenberg’s style to remain at a distance, displaying a “sense of irony” (93) and embarking on various intellectual detours rather than addressing a topic directly, this approach has been fruitful in articulating the more hidden political aspects of Blumenberg’s work. The English translation of Rigorism of Truth opens this ‘political Blumenberg’ to the Anglophone world. In “Moses the Egyptian”, Blumenberg not only draws attention to the importance of myth in the realm of politics, but also directly addresses Judaism and Zionism. Angus Nicholls thus calls this text “without doubt one of the most personal and revealing texts to have emerged from the Blumenberg Nachlass” (Nicholls 2016, 31).

Moreover, the publication offers interesting insights into Blumenberg’s style and his method of working. Ahlrich Meyer’s elucidating footnotes indicate the range of materials that Blumenberg incorporates into his texts. “Moses the Egyptian” itself counts only 12 pages, but Meyer adds 100 footnotes tracing the text’s many sources. The first paragraph, for example, contains 15 footnotes. To be sure, continually turning to these notes and references can interfere with the work’s readability; nonetheless, they are valuable, as they provide necessary background information that both explicates several implicit references and contributes to a fuller understanding of the text.

Moreover, the excerpts and preliminary studies following “Moses the Egyptian” underscore the extensive work Blumenberg conducted before he condensed his findings into a single text. This sheds a light on how Blumenberg used the card-index files that he filled with citations, excerpts, comments, and reflections. At the end of his life these files contained over 24,000 cards. From this ‘treasury’ he compiled lectures, chapters and books. As Meyer remarks, “[a]ny reader wondering why these books often seem to make so many leaps and are full of unexpected connections, why their author largely dispenses with the linear development of his thoughts […] will learn […] that Blumenberg’s oeuvre is the product not least of the ingenious architecture of his card files” (72). Likewise, the picture of the first pages of Blumenberg’s reading log for 1978 sheds additional light on his way of working, as well as revealing his zest for work. It would appear that, between January 6 and March 5 of that year, Blumenberg read, or at least engaged with, no less than 31 books. Rigorism of Truth thus not only offers a more personal and political Blumenberg; it also gives his readers a look into his method.


What is central in Blumenberg’s “Moses the Egyptian” is a critical stance towards both Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism and Hannah Arendt’s famous discussion of the Eichmann trial in her Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. As the title Rigorism of Truth immediately suggests, Blumenberg recognizes a certain shared rigorism at work in the publication of these two books. Moses and Monotheism was published in 1939, shortly after the pogroms of 1938 and “at the apex of Hitler’s power”, during a period when “the number of Jews expelled from Germany and Austria rose sharply” (12). Freud himself had just been forced to flee Vienna for London, and it was at this crucial moment that he issued his analysis of Moses, “depriving the Jews, in their most dreadful hour, when everything was being taken from them, of their best man” (2). According to Freud, “Moses had in fact been an Egyptian, who had transmitted to the Jewish people the monotheistic cult of Akhenaten” (12), after which, in an act of patricide, the prince was killed. This led to Freud’s famous hypothesis that Moses was not actually a Hebrew but rather the Egyptian slain father of Judaism. Moreover, the memories of the Jewish people were “devised to cover up the murder of the cultural hero” and “became the source of a ritualized self-punishment, whose forms and obligations […] were to anticipate the singular organization of the art of survival that bestowed upon the Jews the ability to withstand all future desert and captivities” (4). Freud recognized the controversial potential of this hypothesis, even noting that he did not “like offending” his “own people” (12), but published the book nonetheless. Blumenberg, rather than looking for some suppressed or secret hatred against Freud’s “fellow men” (12), recognizes in him “no other motive to justify this publication but the absolutism of truth” (3). Despite the historical situation, Freud clung to science and his “love of truth”, “even when it was uncomfortable and unpleasant” (12). Moreover, in the psychoanalytic scheme concerning resistance, the anticipated inconvenience following from his study may have encouraged Freud’s endeavor, as the “general premise for resistance as a criterion might be [this]: what people gladly accept cannot be the truth” (59). And in light of the many conflicts and trials in the history of science it is understandable to think that “the power of truth” grows “stronger even in the face of resistance” (59).

For Blumenberg, Hannah Arendt’s book was the result of comparable convictions, not least as she published her controversial analysis at a symbolic moment as well, risking much in the name of truth. According to Blumenberg, “She believes in the truth – that is her truth, she can neither change nor prevent” (5). A critique of this rigorous belief in the truth is a first important argument in Blumenberg’s text. As he writes, “(n)othing is less certain than that the truth wishes to be loved, can be loved, should be loved” (3). Or put more sharply: “There is no love of truth. Maybe because there can be none” (5).

Throughout his career, Blumenberg contended with the question of ‘truth’. Mostly anti-Platonic, he defended a skeptical position that would be sensitive to the rhetorical efforts necessary to afford truth its privileged position. Already in 1957, Blumenberg published a text concerning ‘light’ as the metaphor of truth in Western thought. As the title Rigorism of Truth indicates, his distanced stance towards “the absolutism of truth” (3) is also present in his discussion of Freud and Arendt. Amongst the many ‘absolutisms’ opposed by Blumenberg’s philosophical analyses – including ‘reality’, ‘rules’, ‘the master’, ‘dreams and wishes’, ‘reason’, ‘institutions’, and ‘being’ – is the absolutism of truth. He works against what he describes as one of the most “intimate convictions of European history”, namely, “that the truth will triumph” (57). This critique corresponds with Blumenberg’s attention to myth, metaphor, and rhetoric. In his work, Blumenberg draws attention to other aspects of human culture which can serve a legitimizing function, carry a certain rationality or have laws of their own. In setting a Platonic trust in truth, these aspects can be neglected and become dangerous.

In contrast to what Arendt seems to suggest in her Truth and Politics, Blumenberg answers the question “Must one always tell the truth?” with “Surely not” (51). And this immediately is Blumenberg’s main concern as regards Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann: “What Hannah Arendt does not understand about the whole Eichmann trial is the veiled tendency to provide the Israeli state with a founding myth” (47). In other words, her determination to reveal the truth and the ‘real’ character of Eichmann leads her to ignore other, perhaps more important dimensions of the Eichmann process. The pre-occupation with (scientific) truth thereby becomes the opposite of what it proclaims to be (clear-sightedness, proof, right) and becomes the irrationality which it avows to eradicate. In this respect, Blumenberg’s text on Freud and Arendt can be read along familiar lines of his other work.

However, as he develops his central argument concerning the rigorism of truth, Blumenberg also adds several other notable ideas. Unlike in his discussion of Freud’s Moses, Blumenberg engages critically with Arendt’s Eichmann. He disapproves of Freud’s ‘love for truth’, his rigidity and his timing, yet does not criticize Freud’s hypothesis that Moses was an Egyptian, a hypothesis that challenges the origins of Judaism. In stark contrast, however, Blumenberg fundamentally calls into question Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann as a buffoon (Hanswurst). In the years since publication of her book, many have argued against Arendt’s characterization of Eichmann. Bettina Stangneth, in her Eichmann Before Jerusalem (2014), gathers information which convincingly shows that Arendt was misled. As Felix Heidenreich writes, “Eichmann was all but stupid; in contrast to Arendt’s analysis we now have good reasons to consider him a vicious murderer and liar” (Heidenreich 2015, 532). Blumenberg’s critique, however, is not an effort to undermine Arendt’s claim of the ‘banality of evil’ by showing that Eichmann was actually a sort of Iago or Macbeth, someone permeated by diabolic or demonic evil. On the contrary, as concerns Arendt’s characterization of Eichmann, Blumenberg seems to agree. He has “all respect for the rightness of such considerations” (8) and calls them “[h]istorically justified” (48). However, whereas Arendt seeks to reveal Eichmann as “the petit bourgeois run wild” (50), Blumenberg brackets Eichmann’s real character and points to the symbolic function of Eichmann as a “scapegoat” (51), labeling him Israel’s “negative founding figure” (50). Nonetheless, it is questionable whether Arendt was indeed insensitive to this dynamic and more likely that she decided to oppose it. Yet Blumenberg’s reproach is that she did not offer any account of the symbolic aspect of the trial, this “mythical necessity of archaic violence” (46). What was at stake politically in the Eichmann trial was precisely Eichmann’s “entering the national myth as the vanquished necessary enemy” (9). For Blumenberg, this proves that Arendt was “completely unsensitive to the political” (47). Herewith Blumenberg’s rhetoric comes into play. For example, he recalls that in her famous interview with Günter Gaus, Arendt proudly characterized herself as a political thinker, not a philosopher (6-7, 9, 46-47). Blumenberg goes on to claim that she missed the political core of the trial: “Hannah Arendt had completely failed to recognize the cathartic significance of the official act getting the man guilty of genocide” (45-46).

Moreover, according to Blumenberg, Arendt not only neglected what was happening politically – a mythical act of state legitimization – but also worked against it. It may be perfectly correct that Eichmann was a clown and buffoon; however, regardless of his actual character, in his political function of being transfigured into the “negative founder of the state” (10) he cannot at the same time also be turned into “a figure of ridicule” (11). As Blumenberg states, “[O]ne cannot have both at once: the analysis and the myth” (9).

As in his Work on Myth, Blumenberg’s text highlights the importance of mythical dimensions for the understanding of human existence. In this specific case, he argues that one cannot understand politics without acknowledging the mythical aspects that shape and legitimize it. He even goes a step further, suggesting that scientific truth and the attempt of objective analysis is often powerless against “what is necessary […] in a mythical sense” (8). This analysis immediately raises several questions. Does this mean that political myth is necessary and legitimized? Does this convert all politics into a post-truth politics? Does this eradicate the possibility of distinguishing between a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ political myth? Or does this mean that, in this specific case, at that specific moment of history, Blumenberg thought it was merely “a precarious nation-state” engaged “in the creation of its own political myth” (Nicholls 2016, 30)? Rigorism of Truth yields no answers here and it remains doubtful whether we can accurately deduce that Blumenberg thought it was right and just that Eichmann was used as a scapegoat. The text resists such direct interrogation. Blumenberg instead shows himself as a philosopher who prefers understanding over judging. He avers: “One may be fervently opposed to this ritual; but first one must have understood what it means to the others [i.e., the victims and witnesses] and to what insignificance this meaning condemns one’s criticism” (8). In this line, Blumenberg does not argue against Arendt in order to defend the Eichmann trial as a legitimate act of state-founding. Rather, he opposes Arendt because of his different analysis of the political situation. From this perspective, he does not particularly defend myth against the rigorism of truth via a position in the old tension between mythos and logos. Instead, he suggests that when we want to understand politics, we cannot let ourselves be blinded by rigid belief in the power of truth and science. We must take the symbolic and mythical side of things seriously.

Nonetheless, scholars have interpreted the text as being more personal than that. Although his politically charged chapter on Präfiguration clearly shows that Blumenberg cannot simply be read as an advocate for the political use of myth, Heidenreich, Nicholls and Meyer seem to suggest that, in this particular case, Blumenberg defends the political use of myth. As Heidenreich summarizes: “Exposed to imminent threat, questioned by many states in the region, desperately trying to integrate Jews coming from all the corners of the earth, the young nation of Israel needed a political myth, Blumenberg claims” (Heidenreich, 532). In this context, Ahlrich Meyer refers to Blumenberg’s being a Halbjude per “Nazi racial doctrine” and states that Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem “must have hurt him quite considerably” and that his text “Moses the Egyptian” reveals “that an interest in Judaism was a hidden constant in his life” (93). Nicholls calls the text “a life-expression in the deepest sense” (Nicholls 2016, 32). He writes that the themes “touched him personally as a German of Jewish ancestry” and that “Moses the Egyptian” raises the question of whether there are “exceptional circumstances – such as, for example, the need to create a Jewish homeland in the wake of the Shoah – under which the deployment of political myth is unavoidable and for that reason defensible” (Nicholls 2016, 10). Blumenberg indeed refers to ‘a state of exception’ from which legitimacy emerges, seemingly justifying the way in which the trial was addressed. Yet, when using that word, Blumenberg concludes that this ‘state of exception’ was called upon, instead of appealing to a state of exception himself (7). His assessment of “Moses the Egyptian” remains ambiguous. On the one hand, his argumentation need not be a defense or a theoretical legitimation. It can be read as an argument from within the mythical logic that was deployed in order to better understand the situation, without deciding in its favor. For this reason, one should be careful in equating the argumentation in “Moses the Egyptian” with Blumenberg’s own assessment of the situation. On the other hand, Blumenberg’s text draws attention to the mythical, which in this case is the perspective of ‘the young nation of Israel’. Thus, it is arguable that Blumenberg’s harshness and often pointedly ironical formulations show a concern which is in fact beyond philosophical analysis and understanding. Bajohr, for example, notes that Blumenberg’s judgement of Arendt “is so unfair that it can almost only be explained by a deep offence of his own identity” (Bajohr 2015, 55). He places Blumenberg next to other “mostly Jewish critics of Eichmann in Jerusalem”, arguing it is difficult to maintain Christian Vollers’s claim that Blumenberg “has probably never been a convinced Jew” (Bajohr 2015, 57). Yet biographical explanations – especially regarding an unpublished text of a thinker who is difficult to characterize – tend to remain suggestive and speculative. Moreover, beneath the central argument by which Blumenberg rejects Freud’s and Arendt’s rigorism is yet another argument complicating the issue.

In discussing Arendt and her findings that Eichmann’s knowledge of Judaism was derived from Theodor Herzl’s Judenstaat, Blumenberg states that “in Zionism”, Eichmann “found what he had sought to create by force” (5). He writes that the “extermination was, blasphemous though it may sound, only a variant forced by circumstance of the idea of relocation” (7). He mentions the Madagascar Plan (in which Germany would relocate the Jews of Europe to Madagascar) and Eichmann’s visit to Haifa in October 1937, implying an identity between Nazi and Zionist interests in which extermination became a more practical “remolding of the idea of expulsion” (52) – “a truth simply unbearable for the present generation” (53). The index card on which this paragraph is based is titled “Zionism Taken at Its Word”, suggesting that the Holocaust was a literal translation of the Zionist need “to firm ground under the feet of the Jews” (7). Only after reading Arendt’s name next to the exclamation “What odium!” (53) does it become clear that these sentences are a critical continuation of Arendt’s accusations of Zionism. However, whereas the previous alarming lines remain an elaboration of an Arendtian theme, at the end of his text Blumenberg makes a controversial move. That is to say, he brings Eichmann close to Moses. Nicholls mentions this only in passing, calling it “disorienting and shocking” (Nicholls 2016, 27). It now becomes clear why Blumenberg does not challenge Freud’s claim about Moses being an Egyptian. He needs Freud’s analysis in order to suggest that, “like Moses”, Eichmann had to “be killed” (5). This enfolding of Eichmann onto Moses forwards the claim that “[s]ome states are founded by their enemies” (5). Blumenberg draws this controversial similarity in “the irrealis mood” (11), imagining what Freud would have thought of the Eichmann trial. As Blumenberg writes, Freud “would have immediately recognized […] the mythical dimension of killing the negative hero of the state” (11). He continues: “Freud would, one hardly dares to think it, have projected onto Moses the Egyptian, who was barred from setting foot in the Promised Land, the monstrosity of Adolf Eichmann, whose ashes were more than that very country could bear” (12). Despite the veil of the subjunctive and an appeal to Freud’s logic, it is Blumenberg who makes the association. He even reads the scattering of Eichmann’s ashes over the Mediterranean Sea as “a last act of diaspora in the literal sense” (54). This demonstrates how seriously he understood Eichmann as the negative founder of Israel, an understanding completely in line with Freud’s analysis of an Egyptian Moses as the murdered “cultural hero” (4).

This highly provocative parallel and finishing note, which ‘one hardly dares to think’, blurs the understanding of Blumenberg’s “Moses the Egyptian”. In light of this conclusion, one wonders whether the text can be read as a defense of “the role played by the Eichmann trial in the formation of Israel’s national identity” (Nicholls 2016, 27). “As Freud took Moses the man from his people, so Hannah Arendt took Adolf Eichmann from the State of Israel” (5), Blumenberg writes as a critique; however, in the conclusion, he establishes an intrinsic and controversial connection between the two. Yet Blumenberg did not publish this text during his lifetime. Nicholls may be right when he concludes that “Blumenberg appears to have written ‘Moses der Ägypter’ primarily for himself” (33). Perhaps “this most personal of texts” is indeed “merely a case of private ‘working-through’ (durcharbeiten)” (Nicholls 2016, 32). However, I would suggest another conclusion, in which his choice not to publish the text is an important element of his central argument and becomes a symbolic stroke in which he moves away from the rigorism he criticized in Freud and Arendt. In the beginning of the text he writes: “In my turn prepared to court indignation, I am aghast at the deep-rooted similarities between Moses and Monotheism and Eichmann in Jerusalem” (5). At this point in the text it remains unclear how deep-rooted in the heart of Jewish history Blumenberg saw these similarities. Nonetheless, the first part of the sentence clearly indicates an outward intent on Blumenberg’s part to be willing to face possible outrage, as did Freud and Arendt. On February 10, 1988, however, Blumenberg wrote to Henning Ritter that for “many years”, he had “an essay, ‘Moses der Ägypter,’ under lock and key, which brings together the monstrous behind-the-back connivings [Hinterrücklichkeiten] of Freud and Arendt. Essentially, it was only my consideration for Hans Jonas that prevented me from allowing anybody to read it.”[1] Rather than being a document of personal working-through, it seems that Blumenberg re-enforces his argument against Freud and Arendt’s rigorism, by abandoning his own truth in favor of Hans Jonas – a mutual friend of Arendt and Blumenberg. Just like Freud and Arendt, Blumenberg made a controversial analysis and, like them, he recognized the potential for indignation. However, in contrast to Freud and Arendt, who, according to Blumenberg, could not keep their own truths for themselves by being mindful of an entire people in a precarious situation, for Blumenberg one friend sufficed to give up his own quest for truth. Thus, this posthumous publication shows that Blumenberg not only payed serious philosophical attention to symbolic dimensions of human existence, but also acted in accordance with it.

Cited Works: 

Angus Nicholls, “Hans Blumenberg on Political Myth: Recent Publications from the Nachlass,” Iyyun: The Jerusalem Philosophical Quarterly 65, (January 2016): 3 – 33.

Felix Heidenreich, “Political Aspects in Hans Blumenberg’s Philosophy,” Revista de Filosofia Aurora 27, no. 41 (2015): 523 – 539.

Hannes Bajohr, “Der Preis der Wahrheit. Hans Blumenberg über Hannah Arendts »Eichmann in Jerusalem«,” Merkur 69, no. 792 (May 2015): 52 – 59.

[1] Hans Blumenberg to Henning Ritter, 10 February 1988, Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, quoted in Hannes Bajohr, “Der Preis der Wahrheit: Hans Blumenberg über Hannah Arendts Eichmann in Jerusalem,“ Merkur 69 (2015) 5: 57. See aslo Nicholls, 32-3 and Heidenreich, 533.