A Compilation of Bibliographical References on Aron Gurwitsch for the 50th Anniversary of his Passing (1973-2023)

by María Luz Pintos Peñaranda

The summer of 2023 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Aron Gurwitsch’s death in 1973. Our contribution here is to present all the bibliographical references and data of the events devoted to him between 1929 (which is when the first review of his first published text, his doctoral dissertation, appeared) and today, ending in the year 2023.

By gathering here all the material related to this philosopher, we are pursuing a twofold objective. The first aim is, above all, to keep Gurwitsch´s memory alive and pay him tribute in this anniversary. The second goal is to make it easier for researchers who are now or will later be interested in Aron Gurwitsch. To this end, two lists with different formats and contents are provided.

Continue reading A Compilation of Bibliographical References on Aron Gurwitsch for the 50th Anniversary of his Passing (1973-2023)

David Roberts: History of the Present: The Contemporary and its Culture






History of the Present: The Contemporary and its Culture Book Cover




History of the Present: The Contemporary and its Culture




Morality, Society and Culture





David Roberts





Routledge




2022




Paperback




152

Reviewed by: Moritz v. Kalckreuth

In current philosophical discussions, the concept of historicity is rather problematic: Most of analytical (and also some phenomenological) views do not mention history at all, assuming that an analysis of concepts or phenomena would automatically lead to universality. This seems rather odd, keeping in mind that there are many phenomena with a historical dimension, especially those related to culture. However, trying to grasp this dimension by referring to “causal powers” or to “functions” does not seem an extremely promising way for it suggests an analogy to physical and biological matters that is difficult to defend. On the other hand, there are influential traditions focused on the history and genealogy of modern society – for instance Critical Theory and different views often labelled as ‘postmodern thought’ or ‘French Theory’. Apart from the fact that these traditions come along with a vast field of research-literature and their own classical canon (what makes a reception from ‘outside’ quite difficult), they do also apply a horizon of key narratives such as ‘alienation’ and ‘objectification’ which many scholars – more interested in specific questions than in the deconstruction of modernity – would hesitate to accept.

In History of the Present, David Roberts discusses notions of the historicity of the present and how it is coined in literature, cultural practices and institutions (like the museum). Though being clearly influenced by the latter tradition (referring to thinkers like Walter Benjamin, György Márkus and Agnes Heller) his discussion is very focused on the problem in question, what makes it insightful and stimulating for readers who are interested in cultural theory and cultural philosophy, even though they might remain rather skeptical about critical movements and deconstructivist campaigns. According to Roberts, our current notion of the present as “the contemporary” is problematic because of isolating us from adequate relations to the past and the future (1): Whereas the reference to the past is primarily focused on the present itself recognizing only what fits into our current structure of needs, the relation to the future is characterized by seeing it as a threat that has to be avoided by lengthening the present (2).

Most chapters of the book do explore the change of our relation to present, past and future to a mere reduction of the present to the contemporary – a perspective that is called “presentism”. This critical analysis includes also the different consequences regarding various cultural phenomena. The first step of Roberts’ discussion is to provide an understanding of the consciousness of present, past and future corresponding to modernity. He argues that the modern approach to historicity is shaped by “scientization” (16), i. e. the expansion of a scientific attitude towards non-scientific forms of our lifeworld, then “aestheticization”, (16) by which is meant an understanding of relics and artefacts as artwork combined with a view on art as the new “absolute spirit” (22), and finally “musealization”, i. e. the creation of institutions that guard artworks and lore of the past (2, 16, 21). These features go along with a strong faith in progress and in the realization of universal ends in the future (18). Following thinkers like Lukács, however, Roberts does not hesitate to add that this modern perspective is in many ways problematic and suffers from alienation (16–21).

After that, he reconstructs the view of Walter Benjamin that (in the intellectually fruitful time after World War I) stands somehow between modernism and presentism by referring to the present as being pregnant of traumatic images of the past (33). Since Benjamin is strongly influenced by Marcel Proust and his famous figure of an involuntary experience of the past (29), Roberts discusses their relation over some pages. This chapter is clearly to be considered a highlight of the book, succeeding to explore the work of these quite enigmatic authors briefly and yet in an appropriate and informative way. At the very end of the book, he will return to some insights of Benjamin stressing their potential for an alternative view.

In the following chapters, Roberts explores how the modern view on the present, past and future is replaced by what is called “presentism” (22), pointing out the various implications that concern our cultural lifeworld. In presentism, the present is understood as “the contemporary” (23) which is no longer standing in historical traditions but does constantly repeat “the spectacle of […] the eternal return of the new” (21) looking at itself “as on history” (47). Roberts writes: “Precisely this loss of a historical relation to the past is the mirror of a present that celebrates itself in the endless now of a consumer society” (48). After formulating this general problem, he describes different phenomena that might be interpreted in the light of this problematic development. For the purpose of this review, I feel compelled to summarize his comprehensive analyses ‘in a nutshell’.

As regarding art, it is argued that there is no longer a ‘definition’ or self-understanding somehow connected to a (national or international) art history. Even the self-understanding of being progressive, that would still presuppose a relation to the past, is replaced by a multiplicity of styles and self-citations (101–103). Furthermore, art does no longer come to us from the past: In fact, anything may count as contemporary art, at least if its form of presentation fits with the need of “spectacle” and “experience” (53, 55). Another field that is explored is that of literature, which is discussed from different perspectives: First, it is analyzed how various novels after World War I begin to depict dystopian, threatening views on the present and the future, showing the danger of “anonymization in mass”, the “disintegration” of value-attachments and reason or a “imprisonment in the self” (65–70). Then, Roberts argues that the change from modernity to presentism includes the shift from “world literature” to “global ubiquity” (83). Here it is shown that the modern historicity is compatible with different views on literature: World literature does not necessarily mean that there is some sort of world-canon (a notion that is contaminated by the idea of a western domination), but as a “form of circulation”, making parts of different national literary history accessible to others by means of translation (91). The presentist perspective, though, does understand contemporary literature as “global”, which means that it is no longer part of literary history (87).

As pointed out above, one cultural phenomenon repeatedly emphasized by Roberts is the museum. According to him, the idea of an institution for the collection and preservation of relics and artwork from the past is clearly connected to modernity and universalism. The contemporary museum, however, has become a place of a spectacular “encounter” (107), in which fashion (109), everyday objects or digital simulations may become artwork (110), often presented in the context of new temporary exhibitions (110). Being globalist and “transhistorical”, a museum of contemporary art can be located everywhere and has no need to be connected to local history (108), but to tourism and cultural industry (54). A quite similar case is that of heritage: Roberts points out that the notion of heritage applied in presentism is post-historical by being limited to our experience in the present (48). As an example, he mentions the restoration of historical city centers, offering just facades meant to satisfy a certain demand of aesthetic experience in terms of a highly commercialized “heritage-industry” (51). To put it bluntly, the history of sites and monuments is not relevant, as long as they can be made fruitful for spectacle ore leisure, for instance as a setting for concerts, festivals or other events (51). Roberts’ claim, that the emergence of this whole industrial complex cannot simply be explained referring to “the cheapness of travel” (58), is very persuasive: Today, every bookshop provides numerous books that tell us which 999 places are worth a visit ‘before you die’ – not to mention podcasts, blogs and videos and reels on social media. One reason why the “culture industry” critically described by Roberts is so successful is its correspondence to a certain notion of a meaningful life: Today, leading a good and successful life means accumulating a remarkable quantity of experiences by having seen and visited this and that.

There are some categories that return more or less clearly in all of these mentioned fields: a problematic isolation of contemporary culture from its historical context, their potential for commercialization and finally their aestheticization. From a philosophical (and phenomenological) point of view, especially the last feature is interesting: In current neo-phenomenology (for instance the works of Gernot Böhme or Hermann Schmitz), there is a clear affirmation of our bodily experience of the present, which is taken to be the source of authentic life and self-understanding. Following Roberts, we may lay bare a weak point of such an argumentation: A philosophical account of our (cultural) life should be able to reflect the rather obvious possibility of manipulated experiences and the misuse of an aestheticization of the lifeworld.

On the last pages of the final chapter, Roberts sketches his own alternative to the problematic ‘presentism’ (and, of course, also to the forever blocked path back to the great narratives). Following a reading of Benjamin and Agnes Heller, he argues for a historical consciousness that performs a constantly repeated “discovery, recovery and revaluation of the past” (137). Although this past is partly “our creation”, it is a creation in the non-problematic (i. e. not self-centered) sense of an “outcome of endless labour of interpretation” (137). This historical consciousness has to be combined with the idea of “contemporaneity”, i. e. the “togetherness” of past, present and future from the perspective of an “absolute present”, that is “capable of integrating dynamic change and continuity (137). Instead of an arbitrary relation to heritage that is vulnerable to commercialist misuse, Roberts advocates  a notion of world heritage that is related to the idea of the freedom of mankind and civilization (138).

It is a good sign if a book does not simply provoke approval or disapproval (depending on the constellation of intellectual traditions of author and reader), but honest questions and reactions for a further discussion. In this sense, I would like to formulate some questions and comments. Firstly, I have asked myself if Roberts’ account could also provide an understanding for the historical consciousness of philosophy itself, though this topic is not clearly addressed in the book. In our current debates and systematics, there are many distinctions that are taken to be ‘timeless’ and universal, though they are an evident product of the development of different traditions – for instance the distinction of mental states and bodily feelings in the philosophy of mind, the reduction of practical philosophy to ethics (and thus to individual choices and their justification, ruling our political and social matters) and finally the distinction of doing either theoretical or practical philosophy. Then, analog to art and museums, mainstream-philosophy has become transnational, for it does not longer matter if an analytic philosopher works at a British, a German or a Brazilian university: the debates and the literature are mostly the same, while differences concern rather the funding and the e-literature packages that the institutional libraries may afford.

The second point does concern Roberts’ thoughts on heritage: Though I do fully accept his description of the problematic constellation of heritage, commercialization and tourism (in fact, I write this review being visiting-scholar in a city overrun by tourists after having gained the UNESCO-status), I am not sure if the concept of heritage itself is – so to speak – fatally contaminated by presentism. Actually, Roberts himself does imply that a non-problematic notion of heritage is possible, using the term “world heritage” at the end of his book. However, if we understand heritage as something that comes to us unbidden (!) from the past, that we cannot change but that we have to deal and live with, this does not seem to far from the notion of involuntary memory and remembrance proposed by Roberts referring to Benjamin. Putting it in that way, heritage may also provide a ground for a hermeneutical relation to history, interpreting why we have the heritage we have and how we should deal with it. Perhaps, this whole point does arise because of a certain lack of examples apart from the restoration of historical city centers for aesthetic purposes.

The last point concerns the range of theories discussed by Roberts: It is clear that the brevity and the very focused character of his book make it difficult to pay attention to all possibly relevant approaches. Nevertheless, since he does himself include some sort of “hermeneutics” in his view, it would be quite interesting to know how his position relates to the tradition of philosophical hermeneutics, that was (from Dilthey to Taylor) always concerned with historical relations and interpretation. The same applies for culture critique: Roberts is mostly inspired by Marxist and deconstructivist views, mentioning also conservative counter-positions like that of Ludwig Klages and Heidegger. Nevertheless, there seem to be various alternatives ‘in between’, for instance the approaches of Helmuth Plessner or Hannah Arendt, formulating critiques that are grounded on the idea that there are certain conditions of the possibility of personhood (including a historical dimension) that are challenged and thus have to be defended.

Putting into question our notion of the present and its relations to the past and the future, David Roberts elaborates a highly plausible background for the description and normative interpretation of various cultural phenomena and issues. The brief, but precise and focused chapters do also provide a remarkable overview on philosophical accounts on historicity and their reception in terms of cultural theory. Combining these two efforts, History of the Present is to consider an highly insightful and stimulating work for scholars of philosophy and cultural studies.

Veronica Cibotaru: Le problème de la signification dans les philosophies de Kant et Husserl






Le problème de la signification dans les philosophies de Kant et Husserl Book Cover




Le problème de la signification dans les philosophies de Kant et Husserl





Veronica Cibotaru





2023




Paperback




442

Reviewed by: Begüm Özuzun

In her book titled Le problème de la signification dans le philosophies de Kant et Husserl [The Problem of Signification in the Philosophies of Kant and Husserl] (2023) (hereafter abbreviated as PspKH), as the title suggests, Veronica Cibotaru addresses the issue of signification in the works of Kant and Husserl. Within this text, she highlights the similarity in Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) and Edmund Husserl’s (1859-1838) approaches to the problem of signification, both of whom engage with this issue in terms of a linguistic and logical semantic signification specific to an expression. Despite this similarity, it is necessary not to overlook the usage of signification in the sense of ‘meaning’ in Kant. That is why when we aim to examine the similarities and differences in their approaches by comparing Kant’s notion of signification with the problem of signification in Husserl, Cibotaru notes that the words Sinn [sense] and Bedeutung [reference] used by Kant are used interchangeably. However, for the sake of clarity in analysis, she distinguishes between sense and signification, suggesting that due to the linguistic and logical aspects of signification in Husserl, it is advisable to focus generally on places where the term Bedeutung appears in Kant’s writings (PspKH, p. 9). If we delve further into this choice, the word signification in French does not have a direct equivalent in German; hence, when the question of signification arises in Kant and Husserl, the German words Sinn and Bedeutung, meaning ‘sense’ and ‘reference,’ respectively, emerge. Bedeutung carries the connotation of ‘intended meaning’ distinct from Sinn. Hence, just as Sinn directs us to a general meaning, the focus on Bedeutung in Husserl indicates a semantic meaning of an expression, leading us toward a more accurate understanding (ibid.).

As previously mentioned, when discussing the problem of signification in Kant, it is necessary to expand our research beyond the instances where the term Bedeutung appears, because signification in Kant only sometimes entails an investigation and curiosity into the semantic meaning of an expression. Since Kant does not sharply distinguish between two meanings, it is suggested that we would predominantly encounter not the signification we associate with Sinn but rather the word Bedeutung (ibid., p. 10).

While these two philosophers diverge in their approaches to signification, whether focusing on a semantic expression or not, both emphasize the importance of consciousness for us to speak of signification, attributing a similar significance to consciousness (ibid.). The importance of consciousness in Husserl’s thought has always been noticed. This importance is evident in the significance attributed to signification, as early as in the Logical Investigations (1900) (ibid., p. 11).

However, a distinction can be drawn between the two philosophers; while in Kant, the issue lies in the relationship between consciousness and objects, Husserl focuses on this relational situation, radicalizing Kant’s thought by determining consciousness through the harmony it establishes with things. The intentional aspect of consciousness in Husserl also arises from this point (ibid.). This difference stems from a strategic difference between the two philosophers: namely, the motivations behind Kant’s focus on consciousness are not the same as those of Husserl. Kant, unlike Husserl, poses an epistemological question beyond the determination of an object from a phenomenological perspective; this question concerns the possibility of “a priori recognition of things” (ibid., p. 12).

While Kant’s discussion of signification may indeed have an epistemological motivation, the question pertains not to linguistic or logical aspects but rather to the connection between unity of consciousness in terms of concepts and representations of objects. Therefore, it is evident that this thought places importance on discussions of consciousness (ibid.).

In this regard, Cibotaru poses three main questions to address the problem of signification in both philosophers: 1) The question of consciousness as the giver of meaning (through this question, we will also address whether in Kant, in a Husserlian sense, consciousness is placed at the foundation of all meaning); 2) The question of separating signification from sense (through this question, we will ascertain whether in Kant, meaning can be understood as the apprehension of an object by a consciousness); 3) The question of signification within the harmony of consciousness and object (through this question, we will inquire whether in Kant, before Husserl, there is a consideration of consciousness conceptualized in terms of intentionality). This book shapes its research methodology around these three main questions (ibid., p. 13).

Following consciousness, another similarity between the two authors is their shared emphasis on intuition. However, while intuitions, a condition of our experience, serve as a fundamental question to answer the problem of signification in Kant, they will fill in the intentional content in Husserl. Although it may seem that the function of intuition has been set aside in Husserl, it will nonetheless facilitate the fulfillment of this aim via intuition via intentional content (ibid.).

This similarity also gives rise to a divergence. This distinction does not stem from the importance of intuition by the two philosophers but rather from the difference in the understanding of the role of intuition. From this perspective, we can question the applicability of Husserl’s concept of intentional content, which is attributed to intuition in Kantian philosophy. Particularly considering the difference between theoretical and practical significations in Kant, while theoretical signification is linked to our intuitions, our practical significations, deriving their essence from the noumenal realm, carry a meaning independent of our intuitions (ibid.). Regarding a Husserlian notion of signification, will these concepts, developed independently from our intuitions, be meaningless? Considering the different functions attributed to intuition, how successful are we in achieving our goal if we think both philosophers address signification in French with the words Sinn and Bedeutung? In other words, how legitimate is it to approach the problem of signification through the words Sinn and Bedeutung?

Faced with this problem, Cibotaru reformulates the three questions she previously posed: 1) What is the harmony between signification and consciousness? 2) What is the harmony between signification and intuitions? 3) Is there such a stark difference between theoretical and practical signification? (ibid., p. 14).

To answer these questions, Cibotaru presents us with the following method: She divides the study into two main parts, dedicating the first part entirely to the problem of signification in Kant, and in the second part, she reveals the extensions of the conclusions drawn in the first part within Husserlian phenomenology (ibid., p. 17). Thus, she seeks to find an answer to the question of whether the problem of signification can be addressed jointly by these two philosophers. She divides the first part into three main sections following Kant’s three Critiques, thereby addressing the problem of signification independently in each Critique and allowing for a comparison between the concepts of Sinn and Bedeutung (ibid.).

While addressing the first two Critiques, she examines the difference between theoretical and practical signification. When analyzing the Third Critique, she demonstrates how practical significations acquire meaning through the different status accorded to pure concepts such as God and Freedom (ibid.). In the second part, based on the conclusions drawn from the problem of signification in Kant, instead of approaching Husserl’s texts with key terms as in Kant’s texts, she focuses on what Husserl generally says about the connection between signification and consciousness, the connection between consciousness and intuition, and the distinction he makes between theoretical and practical significations (ibid., p. 19).

***

In the section where Cibotaru examines the First Critique, she presents three principal axes of inquiry. The first axis considers the significance of understanding concepts regarding the harmony between them and the object. However, this should not be perceived as a referential signification problem in an empirical sense, as it emphasizes that this harmony occurs not through the compatibility of the concept with the object but rather through the connection of signification to pure sensibility (ibid., p. 131). In the second axis of inquiry, she prefers to approach the problem of signification by examining how concepts are introduced in Kant’s logic lectures. In these logic lectures, concepts appear as a general representation of the modus operandi quality. According to this view, concepts are composed of essence and are not considered in terms of their conformity to reality. However, it is demonstrated that the logic theory in these lectures is based on the teachings of Georg Friedrich Meier (1718–1777), inspired by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s (1646-1716) theory of concepts. This contradicts Kant’s assertion in the First Critique that for signification to be possible, the object must be given, that is, perceptible. Thus, Cibotaru emphasizes the importance of perception in the problem of signification in Kant, in contrast to Leibniz’s theory of two worlds, and shows that Kant’s theory includes the problem of signification between the worlds of senses and reason (ibid., p. 132, 133). Next, Cibotaru examines the relationship between the problem of signification and the question of consciousness in the third axis of her research. She highlights the significance of Kant’s addressing this issue, considering it essential to establish a connection with Husserl’s texts, as it is a relationship often overlooked by Kant’s successors and contemporaries (ibid., p. 133).

From the analysis advancing along these three main axes, two conclusions emerge: 1) In the First Critique, Kant attributes the meaning of being a synthesis procedure of many different elements to the concept. Therefore, the concept always appears as the synthetic unity of consciousness, whether empirical or pure. This synthesis, in Kant, is adapted to our senses through transcendental schemata grounded a priori. 2) In Kant, although consciousness is not intentional in the Husserlian sense, how concepts acquire signification is defined, meaning that consciousness as the constitutive subject is also inherent and fundamental to signification. Thus, if a theory of signification were to be derived from Kant, he neither presents a conceptualist theory that eliminates the concept as a simple image of things nor proposes a nominalist theory that regards the concept as the abstract representation of many similar objects (ibid., p. 133, 134). What leads Kant away from this approach is his treatment of consciousness through its relation to objects, akin to Husserl.

***

In the second main section of the book, Cibotaru lists the sections in Kant’s Second Critique where the concept of Bedeutung is mentioned, this is because she wants to elucidate how Kant approaches the problem of signification in the Second Critique and how he arrives at the distinction between theoretical and practical signification with which arguments (or by what arguments) (ibid., p. 134).

While in the First Critique Cibotaru seeks to answer the problem of signification through the importance of the senses in determining concepts, in the Second Critique, she can develop a more direct method because the problem of signification is addressed more explicitly. She argues that Kant’s more explicit treatment of the problem of signification in the Second Critique is because moral thought is not confined to a single philosophical school and is universally relevant to everyone (ibid., p. 140). Hence, morality must possess a general signification. Additionally, while we do not experience a sense of responsibility for conformity to moral laws in our empirical experience, the justification of morality, which is a product of practical reason independent of the senses, is provided in the noumenal realm, leaving moral laws subject to a certain sense of meaninglessness. Kant endeavors to resolve this sense of meaninglessness.

As practical signification operates independently of the senses, Cibotaru continues to examine the Second Critique by focusing on the concept of Bedeutung rather than Sinn. This allows her to move away from the deficiency of the term “sens,” which remains tied to sensibility, and to explore concepts derived from linguistic practical signification (ibid., p. 140, 141). Indeed, Kant, even in the First Critique, prefers to approach signification linguistically rather than ontologically, as in Kantian thought, the function of the senses only emerges as a condition for signification, and questions such as the meaning of life are not discussed within this philosophy. Instead, the focus is primarily on the signification of concepts (ibid., p. 141).

In this context, Cibotaru focuses on the concept of freedom, which is given a separate status in Kant, and explains how, despite its lack of inherent meaning, it becomes part of the game of signification and emphasizes the difference between theoretical and practical signification, thereby demonstrating that we can still speak of signification. Then, she examines how signification operates in the Second Critique by addressing the idea of God, another pure concept in Kantian philosophy (ibid., p. 142).

Cibotaru asserts that the distinction between theoretical and practical signification is polemically introduced because it is based on a supposed moral assumption. She labels morality as “supposed” because practical signification cannot construct morality, as it is not grounded in morality. For something to have moral value, it must occur in the phenomenal realm where morality is experienced. It gains moral value to the extent that it occurs in the phenomenal realm. In this sense, when the distinction between practical and theoretical signification is initially proposed in the Second Critique, practical signification is not considered moral. Therefore, this distinction arises not initially to interpret our moral actions but rather to describe how we can approach objects of recognition within the framework of any action for specific purposes (ibid., p. 144).

Kant states in the second part of the first book “The analytic of pure practical reason” (Kant, 2015) that he is not concerned with theoretically knowing the nature of a being; for Kant, a being already appears as a pure will. A being must already adhere to causality to determine itself as a pure will (ibid., p. 146). Therefore, Kant excludes freedom from theoretical knowledge. By excluding freedom from theoretical knowledge, he expands the category of causality that depends on it because he demonstrates a practical domain of causality outside the realm of cognition (ibid.). How does Kant determine the special status that allows freedom to appear both as a pure idea and a practical concept, opening up a domain of practical signification distinct from the theoretical?

After the distinction between practical and theoretical signification becomes apparent through the concept of freedom, Kant develops the notion that the concepts of understanding in the First Critique cannot attain signification without recourse to the sensible realm. His argument suggests that while they cannot acquire theoretical signification without resorting to the sensible, they will acquire a different type of signification, namely practical significance, without recourse to the sensible. Thus, although freedom may establish itself as a pure idea in the noumenal realm, Kant demonstrates that it can also carry practical significance. Consequently, the distinct status of freedom does not pose a contradiction in signification, as it can bear both theoretical and practical significance without inconsistency (ibid., p. 147).

Due to freedom’s presence as a pure idea in the First Critique, morality maintains its necessity based on a command from the noumenal realm, even though it only occurs in the phenomenal realm. Even if we do not understand freedom, we must still enact it (ibid., p. 149). The exclusion of freedom from the realm of cognition does not imply that it cannot be thought; instead, I can assume it in the practical domain precisely because I can think it (ibid., p. 149, 150). In this sense, moral causality is not a domain where the concepts of understanding are simply applied to objects; instead, it is the realization of its object’s conformity through a kind of interpretation, through thought (ibid., p. 161).

Freedom, while operating within the framework of moral law in the phenomenal realm and being subject to a kind of causality due to its conformity to the law, demonstrates that members of the ethical community can consist only of rational beings. This is because freedom can only be exercised by agents who apply their will according to conditions and determine themselves. In this sense, individuals can be part of this ethical community to the extent that they can exercise reason; this necessitates an intersubjective moral consciousness in the phenomenal realm (ibid., p. 183).

Following this, Cibotaru addresses the issue of signification in the idea of God, which does not derive its source from the sensible realm but emerges as a pure idea. Although Kant touches upon the immortality of the soul, God, and Freedom as the three concepts of pure reason in the First Critique, in the Second Critique, while discussing God and Freedom as conditions of practical reason, he does not address the immortality of the soul (ibid., p. 195, 196). This underscores that God and freedom have a functional aspect beyond their theoretical significance in practical signification. For instance, Kant discusses the necessity of the idea of God for moral reason in the Second Critique. Kant speaks of an indirect necessity because although the moral law is obligatory, it is subjective rather than objective, and its subjectivity is realized only through an imagination of a good sovereign. Without the functionality of the idea of God, just as it would be without the objective nature, finite beings like us would not be able to fulfill it (ibid., p. 196). It’s essential to emphasize that the function of the idea of God lies not in the possibility of morality but in our ability, as finite beings, to actualize morality by acting under moral reasons. I feel the moral law within me without resorting to the idea of God in my experiences; I am immediately conscious of the moral laws (ibid., p. 197). Thus, although its origin is derived from a residue of thought in the noumenal realm because it is based on the assumption of a world of reason, God can manifest himself in the phenomenal world because of the subjectivity he gains. Through this idea, Kant ensures we can guide our actions within morality and happiness and govern our desires accordingly (ibid., p. 201). Thus, through this special status, God presents himself as the legislator of the ethical community, enabling the subject to govern according to these laws (ibid., p. 202).

Despite the difference between theoretical and practical signification, for instance, connecting practical significations with the phenomenal world through imagination, both signification theories lead to objective reality. The givenness of the sensible guarantees the connection with objective reality in the concepts of the mind. In contrast, in the ideas of pure practical reason, the connection with objective reality is ensured by the subjective necessity of the supreme good (ibid., p. 206).

***

Cibotaru points out that the signification issue is addressed in the three parts of the Third Critique. First, it is discussed in §50 of the “Analytic of the Sublime” section. In this paragraph, it is mentioned that without laws, freedom is merely absurd. The word absurde used in the French translation corresponds to Unsinn in German, meaning freedom lacks meaning without laws or, in other words, without moral causality (ibid., p. 215, 216). Second, in the final paragraph of the “Methodology of Teleological Power of Judgment,” in the section “General Remark on the Teleology,” the concept of Bedeutung, not Sinn, is used (Kant, 2000). Once again, the concept of God is discussed in terms of its limits, with a negative connotation (PspKH., p. 217). Finally, the signification issue is addressed at the end of the “Methodology of Teleological Power of Judgment” (Kant, 2000). Here, Kant also refers to the concept of Bedeutung, discussing signification in the context of the limits of our categories, stating that without these limitations, our categories would be meaningless (PspKH., p. 217).

The issue of signification, although less addressed in the Third Critique, has a broader scope than in the other two critiques. Cibotaru finds the explanation for this in the remarks of Alexis Philonenko (1932-2018), the French edition translator of Critique de la faculté de juger (2000). According to Philonenko, this book presents an intersubjective logic. Thus, Philonenko considers the Third Critique as a logic of signification (ibid., p. 241). Since the act of signification is also a form of communication, it always finds its essence in human encounters. To speak of a universal beauty in these encounters, one must delve into the depths of the issue of signification. Without delving into these issues, such an investigation into signification would not be possible (ibid.). In a sense, although Kant addresses signification in different contexts, he uses signification in meanings found in the assumptions of the First and Second Critiques without introducing a new definition of signification in the Third Critique.

***

Kant and Husserl both agree on the role of intuition in enabling signification. However, as previously mentioned, they attribute different roles to intuition. In the First Critique, Kant pursues pure intuitions to make signification possible, while Husserl defines signification as pure ideality in the Logical Investigations’ First Investigation. After defining signification as linguistically pure ideality, Husserl discusses intuitions’ function in intentional acts. Unlike Kant, he examines intuition not to reach the conceptual domain but to investigate intuition in the conceptual flow (ibid., p. 247). In other words, in the Logical Investigations, the problem of signification arises as a correlation problem between thought [signification] and intuition. At the same time, in the First Critique, Kant arrives at a duality between intuition and thought. This dichotomy, stemming from the radical distinction between the sensible and the intellectual, leads Kant, unlike Husserl, to the inability to conflate intuition and thought (ibid., p. 248).

Husserl proposes categorical intuitions to establish a correlation between intuition and thought. Thus, unlike sensory intuition, which perceives objects in their spatio-temporal extension, Husserl defines intuition as perceiving objects as general and non-temporal entities (ibid.). By giving intuition a categorical meaning, Husserl addresses the problem of synthesis between thought and the sensible world found in Kant (ibid., p. 249).

Linguistic expressions carry meaning through this function of intuition. Husserl distinguishes linguistic signs from indicators. Linguistic signs carry meaning inherently, not based on their relationship with something else; indicators, on the other hand, are part of a process of signification about something external to themselves. By addressing signification through the distinction between linguistic signs and indicators, Husserl elevates signification to an independent structure and ensures its definition as an ideal unity. This ideal unity distinguishes between linguistic expressions and physical phenomena in Husserl’s framework. Physical phenomena, lacking an ideal unity, do not enter into a signification game alone (ibid.). On the other hand, linguistic signs carry a different meaning because they always refer to a determined entity, even if it does not exist (ibid., p. 250).

In this sense, Cibotaru identifies a fundamental difference between the two thinkers. In contrast, Husserl sees signification not as the emergence of the sensory, as in Kant, but as an intentionality inherent in phenomena already carrying meaning (ibid.).

Husserlian thought manifests itself in two senses: Firstly, by distinguishing between physical phenomena and linguistic signs, and by extension, between Bedeutung and Sinn; secondly, by assigning a foundational role to intuition in signification. While Kant uses Bedeutung and Sinn interchangeably, Husserl’s theory assigns distinct meanings to both (ibid.).

Husserl does not directly reference Kant in his discussions on the problem of signification. However, significant Kantian references in Husserl’s texts indicate his stance. For instance, in §100 of Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), Husserl adopts a critical stance towards Kant’s formal logic. He directs this critique by praising its a priori nature against Humean conceptual understanding (ibid., p. 251, 252). This critique reveals Husserl’s views on formal logic. It reflects his opposition to Kant’s failure to acknowledge the presence of an objective ideal in formal logic within the problem of signification (ibid., p. 252).

The second reference comes from Husserl’s lectures on ethics delivered between 1920 and 1924. Here, Husserl highlights that in Kantian ethics, the phenomenological method is only applied through how words are understood, and he criticizes Kant for not focusing on acts that give meaning instead (ibid.).

The third reference is from an unpublished fragment of manuscript B IV 1, where Husserl draws a parallel between the theory of analytic judgments in his work and Kant’s theory of analytic judgments. This parallelism arises from both gaining their validity through simple significations, implying that in both thinkers, it is possible to establish a connection between simple signification and a simple concept (ibid.).

However, all these references do not provide us with enough material to develop a systematic theory of signification between the two thinkers. This is because Husserl only aligns with Kant on analytic judgments, which remain more within the realm of pure logic, theory of knowledge, and phenomenological methodology due to their applicability only to simple concepts. In other words, there is no parallelism between the two thinkers regarding signification.

***

Cibotaru aims not to examine systematically the moments when the term “signification” emerges or the passages in Husserl’s texts that refer to Kant. Instead, they seek to compare how the two thinkers respond to the question of signification by clinging to the similarity based on the importance given to consciousness and intuition by them.

In Kant, the connection between consciousness and signification is indirect. This connection is established to explain how concepts are possible. Without consciousness, speaking of concepts or any signification is impossible. Thus, Kant’s understanding of constitutive consciousness is similar to Husserl’s. However, Kant does not explicitly characterize consciousness as constitutive; for him, consciousness is seen merely as the field that unifies sensible multiplicity (ibid., p. 260).

Nevertheless, consciousness is a fundamental discussion of signification. On the other hand, Husserl emphasizes more directly in Logical Investigations that consciousness is necessary for all kinds of signification (ibid.). At this point, Cibotaru suggests examining the interconnectedness of consciousness and signification in Husserl’s Logical Investigations and Ideas (1913) texts.

Husserl distinguishes physical phenomena and linguistic expression in the ninth paragraph of First Investigation. He reaches a radical separation between the word and its object, defining the word as an ideal. According to this view, an object can only acquire meaning when a word is intended for it. In other words, when the intended object, targeted by linguistic expression, becomes intended towards the physical object. However, the object intended through consciousness already possesses signification because it comes from consciousness (ibid., p. 261).

Then, in the eleventh paragraph, he presents three reasons the intended object is ideal. Firstly, the intended object is ideal because it can never be reduced to a single word or group of words. In other words, the word itself cannot explain the object’s ideality. The second reason is that the ideal object is never reduced to the relationship between the object and consciousness. Therefore, this ideality cannot be reduced to subjective, ever-changing representations each time. Thirdly, the intended object is ideal because it never becomes identical to the actual object. The concept of ideality, for Husserl, renders the actual object insignificant in terms of the problem of signification, thus diminishing the importance of intuition compared to consciousness. While the intended object presents itself with signification as it is, the actual object only realizes signification in intuition. This indicates that the actual object is the body of the intended object, but to acquire meaning, the actual object does not require intuition afterward (ibid., p. 262). Husserl also states that complex significations combine these simple significations (ibid., p. 265).

Kant, unlike Husserl, does not perceive signification as an ideal objectivity. Still, he defines it based on the relationship between consciousness and an object or an objective reality, as Husserl does (ibid., p. 268). However, in the case of theoretical signification and practical signification, the object intended in Husserl’s theory, as opposed to Kant’s, would be categories rather than objective reality. Cibotaru offers an interpretation at this point: the difference between ideality in Husserl and reality in Kant arises from one being timeless and the other being spatio-temporal. Kant’s theory requires the precondition of pure sensory spatio-temporality for signification. However, according to Husserl, in a Kantian sense, space and time only provide an idealized perception of space-time. In other words, they are not objects perceived empirically (ibid., p. 269). From this perspective, although Kant’s philosophy may not seem to attribute a priori characteristics to reason beyond categories, it legitimizes all our experiences through an idealized space-time, providing us with a philosophy before orientation towards experience in a sense (ibid.).

***

In Husserl, as we ’ve shown, there’s less emphasis on intuition than in Kant. Therefore, Cibotaru turns to Husserl’s Sixth Investigation to compare the relationship between intuition and signification in the Kantian and Husserlian sense. In this book, Husserl investigates not directly signification but rather the possibilities of knowledge. In this sense, he demonstrates that intuitions are necessary not for signification but for knowing. An ideal object must already be presented to our intuitive consciousness for us to know. So, while intuition is not necessary for signification in this sense, it gains a fundamental function in recognizing an object, termed as Auffassungssinn. Through this definition, the function of intuition in the general process of object recognition expands, as it enables a Kantian-like extension of intuitive consciousness (ibid., p. 324), thereby allowing Kant to include the sensory in the realm of knowledge.

However, Husserl attributes a role to intuition quite different from Kant’s. While Kant shows our pure intuitions as conditions for our experience, he does not assign them an operational role in these conditions; if there were to be any operation, it would be performed by the understanding. Conversely, Husserl defines intuition as the meeting point between the ideal and actual objects, asserting that cognition occurs in this manner, thereby intertwining the realms of understanding and intuition. For instance, in Kantian thought, categories belong to the realm of understanding, whereas in Husserl, we can speak of categorical intuitions.

***

The exploration of the topic of signification between Husserl and Kant and its transformation from Kantian thought to phenomenological inquiry is one of the significant areas of inquiry due to its limited treatment and its influence on contemporary French philosophy. In this regard, two points stand out: 1) The frequent examination of the distinction between “sens” and “signification” in contemporary French philosophy (For instance, Jean-Luc Nancy attributes distinct importance to “sens” as opposed to other senses as the provider of externality (Derrida, 1998), while excluding “signification,” which denotes a more active, linguistically meaningful interpretation); 2) This distinction transforms “signification” from being something apprehensible to being an actively given element. From these perspectives, it can be said that this work occupies an essential place among current research endeavors.

While initially, it may seem possible to establish a parallel between Kant and Husserl by examining the roles attributed to consciousness and the practical significance of pure ideas in Kant and to interpret Husserl as a complement to Kantian idealism, it becomes evident that the positions they hold regarding intuition and signification diverge. Kant views intuitions not as where intentionality realizes, as Husserl does, but as conditions for apprehending objects. This indicates that, unlike Husserl’s phenomenological act, Kant does not speak of a general act of signification. With his persistent stance on Bedeutung, Husserl radically distinguishes between “sens” and “signification,” transforming the act of giving meaning into a phenomenological act mediated by intentional consciousness. In this regard, PspKH successfully reveals the fundamental differences between the two thinkers and can be characterized as a significant publication for contemporary research due to its systematic approach.

Martin Heidegger: On Inception.






On Inception Book Cover




On Inception





Martin Heidegger. Translated by Peter Hanly





Indiana University Press




2023




Paperback




194

Reviewed by: Shawn Loht (Delgado Community College, New Orleans, USA)

This edition marks the first English-language translation of Über Den Anfang (GA 70), an entry in Heidegger’s so-called “esoteric writings.”  These writings consist of private notebooks from the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, in which Heidegger tries out different approaches for describing the phenomenology of the origins of being and meaning.  Notably, none of these writings were available to the public during Heidegger’s lifetime, as he intentionally chose for them to become available only after his death.  Contributions to Philosophy (Beiträge zur Philosophie) (GA 65) is the most well-known of the esoteric writings, but other titles now familiar to Heidegger scholars include Mindfulness (Besinnung) (GA 66) and The Event (Das Ereignis) (GA 71).  As with these other texts, in On Inception Heidegger does not present a systematic or progressive exegesis.  Rather, the text is loosely organized according to general themes, with short sections that provide microstudies on specific topics.  On Inception is divided into six principal divisions, with the first two of these taking up more than half of the book.  Both of these first two divisions analyze at length the phenomenon of “inception,” while the remaining four study “event” and being-there, interpretation, the history of being/beyng, and Heidegger’s own work Being and Time, respectively.  In all instances, the numbered sections comprising these divisions of the text show significant repetition and thematic overlap.  One gets the sense in the course of reading that Heidegger is experimenting to find the words and locutions for what he wants to say, in a manner that no single statement or argument is meant to be authoritative.

In what follows, I will highlight some of the text’s key concepts and some of the notable positions Heidegger develops.  First and foremost, as he describes in the first division, the term “inception” (Anfang) signifies for Heidegger the dawn of being in the West, the moment in which being (Sein) takes hold and history eventuates.  Likewise, inception marks the moment at which the ontological difference comes to life, such that human thought begins to identify both “being” in general, and “beings” or specific things as such.  But “inception” does not denote a temporal unfolding.  It is not an event happening in time, and it does not mark a point between “before” and “after.”  Finding the right language to express this dimension poses a challenge.  “Inception” refers to the moment in which time comes to be, and in which “being” arrives as a meaningful concept.  (In the third division, Heidegger describes pre-inception reality as “the beingless” (98).)  Indeed, in most of the passages devoted to this theme, Heidegger uses the more archaic Seyn, or in the English translation, “beyng,” to indicate the primordial sway of being in terms of effecting an origin and destiny.  He often refers to beyng in terms of the entire historical epoch of the West, whereby “being” is instantiated as such.

Much of the account of inception involves describing the phenomenology bound up with such a beginning of being.  For instance, Heidegger characterizes inception as, on one hand, concomitant with a clearing or unconcealment, through which world and things first become ontologically conspicuous.  On the other hand, this clearing entails a concomitant “receding” (Untergang), whereby being withdraws further and further from view.  This latter phenomenon for Heidegger reaches its apex with the total abandonment of being in the epoch of twentieth-century technology.  Whereas Heidegger leaves many gaps in the explanation of this historical phenomenon in more popular writings like “The Question Concerning Technology” (GA 7) and An Introduction to Metaphysics (GA 40), the analyses in On Inception suggest that he regards receding as a definitive, necessary dimension of inception.  (“In the first inception the arche emerges, but incipience begins only in the intimacy of retreat” (12).  The moment of inception at the dawn of Western history immediately entails an unnoticed concealing, such that what is at first most illuminated is countered by a receding that becomes less conspicuous with the duration of history.  The clearing in which being comes to appearance is countered by its unseen groundlessness.  For Heidegger, this receding that counters the clearing is just as relevant at the end of beyng’s history as it is at the beginning.

As expressed in other writings from this period of Heidegger’s career, the “end” of inception’s initial reign at once makes the beginning fully apparent, and discloses hints of a second or “other” inception.  Here, however, Heidegger inclines toward describing the second inception as merely the next in a potentially infinite series.  This is to say, he uses less frequently the locution “other beginning” (andere Anfang) known from texts like Contributions to Philosophy and Basic Questions of Philosophy (Grundfragen der Philosophie) (GA 45), favoring a view in which inception has a cyclical character, though it need not manifest the same shape every time.  Similarly, a contrast with Contributions Philosophy’s better-known concept of “appropriation” (Ereignis) that one sees in Heidegger’s account of inception is an emphasis on inception’s atemporal character, out which space-time comes to be.  Whereas Heidegger’s accounts of Ereignis emphasize the twofold, appropriative correspondence of being with being-there occasioned in Ereignis, the account of inception places more focus on the very moment of inception itself, asking as it were, what it means to describe beyng purely as inception (Anfang), as having a beginning.  Heidegger often invokes the keyword “incipience” (das Änfangnis) to describe inception’s continuous, singular character, according to which it is constitutive of history.  For instance, Heidegger writes “Incipience determines and ‘is’ the essential unfolding of inception” (6).  Incipience signifies “a way whose scope and configuration is in inception’s being in itself the essence of history” (Ibid.).

Beyng (Seyn) is essentially bound up with describing inception.  In this text, beyng (Seyn) refers not simply to being (Sein), and definitely not to beings (Seiende).  Instead, the “question of being,” Heidegger suggests (echoing the scope of the Being and Time project), is more deeply the question after inception: “Being remains, always, what is said; however, the essence of beyng is not beyng, but is rather the incepting inception.  From this, and as this, beyng incepts (and that also means recedes) into its proper domain” (10).  In other words, we do not and cannot cease to live amongst beings, from which our reckoning with the question of the meaning of being is always determined.  Yet, to ask about the dawn or origin of being entails inquiring more deeply into the inception (Anfang), or literally, the taking-hold (An-fangen) of beyng.  Heidegger writes: “Incipience is the ground of the poetic character of beyng” (18).

The second division of the text, entitled “Inception and Inceptive – Thinking the Creative Thinking of Inception,” continues the themes of the first division while placing emphasis on a kind of meditative reflection.  In Section 72, Heidegger makes explicit that inception is a singular phenomenon but with multiple manifestations, that is, multiple inceptions.  Each subsequent inception is nonetheless a manifestation of the same underlying movement.  “Each inception is more inceptive than the first, and thus is this inception itself in its singular future” (71).  An appropriate intuition of an inception to come calls not for action but instead for a meditative waiting and thoughtfulness.  Although one cannot predict how inception will unfold, simply the ability to distinguish the name of “inception” and what it entails offers some preview of the impending epoch (87).  Referring to the historical moment at his time of writing, Heidegger observes that German culture in contrast has mistakenly pursued goal-setting, machination, and achievement, all of which only lead to destruction.  He echoes and recasts here the famous passage from An Introduction to Metaphysics that begins “All distances in space and time are shrinking…”, published just a few years before this writing, stating “No longer can it be asked: ‘To what end?’  The simple plight alone is to be knowingly accepted” (Ibid.).  He concludes that there is no sense in thinking of present history as having a human-directed “purpose” or destiny, because the destitution of the age is under the sway of beyng (Ibid.).  There is not some other historical trajectory that human beings can bring about by sheer force of will.  Thus, he gives a preview here of his later concept of Gelassenheit or “letting-be.”  In the following section, he draws this point out in observing that preparedness for inception will become manifest when language and images cease to yield food for thought (72).  This passage echoes statements from elsewhere in the esoteric writings to the effect that in a future time, thinking will become “imageless,” viz., that in this future guise, we discover a kind of thinking that does not rely on the affordances of sight or the outward look of things.  Whereas in the present, we are still under the way of being understood as idea, what is visible (75).

The fourth division of On Inception pivots from the earlier themes of the book, with a series of reflections on poetry and the legacy of Hölderlin.  One key theme is the appropriate understanding of “interpretation,” where this concept in its modern context is taken to mean correct “reading” of history and texts.  Heidegger takes issue with the proposition that interpretation involves “correct” or “objective” analysis, maintaining instead that interpretation involves hearing the inceptive word.  He writes: “For interpretation must first ground itself more inceptively from out of itself, surrendering to inception and to history, so that it might emerge more inceptively from its inception” (121).  In contrast, to talk of “escaping” the hermeneutical circle that is typically invoked in discussions of “objective” interpretation overlooks that the sway of beyng dictates the circle within which one moves.  Indeed, there is no escape, nor is there any such circle to be inside or outside of, aside from beyng (126).  Regarding Hölderlin, Heidegger goes on to state that this poet’s importance has nothing to do with seeking knowledge or founding truth.  Instead, the poet poetizes being, “naming therein the domain of historical decision in its own poetic essence” (132).  Here Heidegger describes that Hölderlin does not “think” the other inception, in the way that this is the subject matter of his work.  Rather, Hölderlin’s poetry provides clues about the other inception for those who are able to think ahead to the epochal decision the poems indicate (Ibid.).  For Heidegger, the futural phenomenon Hölderlin identifies is the “holy” (130).

The fifth division of the text, entitled “The History of Beyng,” finds Heidegger meditating on how to understand the time-instantiating dimension of beyng or “inceptive history” (144).  A central question concerns how to describe beyng as an occurrence that itself is not temporal.  Heidegger writes of this occurrence: “Nothing happens.  The event eventuates.  The evental appropriation takes on what it at the same time clears as its own: the clearing itself, which is the ownness of beyng” (143).  To seek for a whatness, something that can identify the history of beyng’s essence, misses the point, mistaking the history of beyng for a being proper.  The history of beyng is groundless; it “happens” as itself (Ibid.).  Consequently, the history of beyng cannot be studied or known as an object of historiography (Ibid.).  Similarly, other phenomena occasioned with the history of beyng, such as concealment, unconcealment, clearing, and being-there, are likewise irreducible to temporal moments (143, 145).  Instead, they comprise the inceptive, groundless ground in which the temporal can take hold at all.

Another theme receiving treatment in the fifth division (already peppered throughout the first four divisions) is the growing conspicuousness of inception (147), by virtue of its distance from the present.  While Heidegger observes that inception is essentially concealment, and moreover, concealment that becomes more and more hidden as history elapses, this concealment has a double effect of becoming more silently conspicuous over time as its absence becomes further pronounced.  For Heidegger, this progression is manifested in the history of metaphysics and its subsequent abandoning of being for the sake of beings, such that at the end of metaphysics, it becomes painfully obvious that being no longer has any meaning; being has become an empty notion (148).  Here and elsewhere, Heidegger is not much re-inventing the wheel or introducing new vocabulary.  But he is offering some deeper and more patient phenomenologies that fill in considerably many claims from the more well-known texts in his corpus.

In the final division of the text, Heidegger reflects on the relevance of the phenomenon of inception to the Being and Time project.  In Section 172, he comments that Being and Time reflects “onto-historical inceptive thinking,” viz. that the project of that work is essentially about inception in its scope (161).  Although, Heidegger’s implication is that his own writing of Being and Time did not sufficiently comprehend this fact.  Continuing, he writes, with a series of line breaks:

Being and time are the same.
Being is inception.
Time is inception.
The incipience of inception (Ibid.).

He concludes by remarking that “the age is not ripe” to engage in a full criticism of Being and Time vis-à-vis its relevance for the phenomenon of inception, because readers are too eager to interpret the work merely as a continuation of metaphysics.  The register of this statement implies that critics of Being and Time are unable to comprehend the broader phenomenological direction that work opened up.  (Here, we have to remember that, as Heidegger is writing this text a mere 12-15 years after Being and Time’s publication, most of Heidegger’s audience would have had no inkling of his concerns regarding inception, the appropriative event, or the history of beyng, and so forth.)  To similar effect, in Section 174 Heidegger invokes Kant and Hegel in order to contrast his own understanding of the Being and Time project with views of critics that Being and Time concerns only transcendental conditions for the possibility of experience.  Kant’s project, Heidegger remarks, only takes up conditions for experience regarded from knowledge of beings or objectivity.  Similarly, Hegel’s project purports to unravel the conditions for experience based on an “unconditioned”; however, like Kant, Hegel fails to realize that arriving at the unconditioned fundamentally differs from insight into beyng.  In this aspect, Hegel does not overcome the transcendental but only draws out its metaphysical implications.  Heidegger concludes “All conditioned is abysmally separated from appropriative event” (163).

In Section 175, communicating his own assessment of what Being and Time failed to achieve, Heidegger concludes:

Only one thing was already clear and fixed at that time; that the way into the truth of being headed toward something unasked and could no longer find support in what came before, as other pathways were to be investigated.

Initially, nonetheless, supports were borrowed from metaphysics, and something like an attempt at overcoming metaphysics through metaphysics was advanced.

[…] although the direction of the question has already leapt over all metaphysics (Ibid.)

Heidegger’s self-criticism here ostensibly centers in the notion that, while the Being and Time project began with metaphysics, any attempt to resolve the question of the meaning of being necessarily entails pressing the language of metaphysics to its limits.  This outcome enables one to envision what new language must arise next.
To conclude, On Inception offers many helpful explorations that supplement themes from Heidegger’s entire corpus.  In this way, the book has something for everybody among readers of Heidegger.  Nonetheless, its immediate audience will be very narrow, given that it is a private writing not originally conceived for publication.  Scholars who stand to benefit most from engaging with this book will be those studying Heidegger’s accounts of the history of being/beyng and the appropriative event (Ereignis).  The book’s value for providing insight into Heidegger’s actual thought will be somewhat more tenuous.  The experimental style of the book makes questionable whether the content represents positions Heidegger wishes to advance or whether Heidegger is simply trying out various ideas.  Current Heidegger scholars including Thomas Sheehan and David Kleinberg-Levin favor treating the esoteric writings as primary sources informative for comprehending Heidegger’s philosophy overall.  Yet, some care is surely called for in this approach.  In this regard, I suggest that caution may be in order if one is tempted to place On Inception on equal ground with books Heidegger published in his lifetime.

Claudio Rozzoni: The Phenomenological Image






The Phenomenological Image: A Husserlian Inquiry into Reality, Phantasy, and Aesthetic Experience Book Cover




The Phenomenological Image: A Husserlian Inquiry into Reality, Phantasy, and Aesthetic Experience





Claudio Rozzoni





De Gruyter




2024




Paperback




247

Reviewed by: Marina Christodoulou
(Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences)

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-5721-833X

Rozzoni’s book is a work of double value, as should any book of philosophy be about: at first it has the value of serving as a secondary literature text, that is, offering comments and references to its various primary sources, which include works mainly by Husserl, but also Merleau-Ponty, and others, and various other artistic works (paintings, photographs, films, installation pieces, etc.). However, being a secondary literature text, it has the unique capacity of not sustaining/conforming/limiting the reader between its 247 pages, but motivating one to visit the sources, that is, the primary texts it deals with. This is a virtue that only seldomly do works labelled as secondary literature possess. This is why, Rozzoni’s book gains a double-acquired value, which is that it can serve as a work that can be labelled primary literature as well, as it can also be read as a work that in itself offers an original approach to both philosophy, and especially aesthetics (in both its meanings, as a discourse on the senses and thus on perception and experience, but also as a discourse on artistic works/experiences), and also to art, literary theory, and film theory and criticism. It offers to both aesthetics and art/literary/film criticism a new perspective and even a new method or approach, through phenomenology, but also it offers to phenomenology a new aesthetic and artistic/literary/cinematographic dimension. At last, it also introduces, but profoundly so, a so far neglected work of Husserl, only translated in 2005, and, so far, not much studied or researched. The aforementioned work of Husserl are the Nachlass manuscripts on Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory, published in 1980 in Husserliana XXIII in German, based on his 1905 course in Göttingen.[2]

Thus, Rozzoni’s The Phenomenological Image: a Husserlian Inquiry into Reality, Phantasy, and Aesthetic Experience is a work of multiple values and uses. Firstly, as a study of Husserl’s so far unnoticed Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory. Secondly, as a philosophical commentary on Husserl’s phenomenology in general, and more specifically his aforementioned work, as well as a commentary on the of aesthetics and phenomenology, a study on phantasy and/in phenomenology and the different forms of experience in phenomenology. And thirdly, as an original work on phenomenological aesthetics, or even aesthetic phenomenology, and more specifically on new approaches to art, literature, and film theory and criticism. In other words, it is a source offering new (phenomenological) ways towards film theory and criticism.

It is an indispensable book for philosophers already working in phenomenology, or on experience, on phantasy, fiction, reality and other relevant subjects. It is, in general, an excellent book regarding a philosophy of experience (phenomenology’s major preoccupation is experience, but in this book, it becomes even clearer), and more specifically perceptual experience, aesthetic experience etc.

However, it can be read even by audiences that have no familiarity with phenomenology or even philosophy, since Rozzoni is doing a great job explaining in simple words every new term or concept that he is using (such as intentionality and many other), thus, every next page of the book is already prepared by the previous ones. Thus, it is an indispensable book for artists, art criticism and filmmakers and film theorists and critics, as well.

For that reason, it is a self-contained and self-sufficient work that offers both an introduction to phenomenology, but at the same time an advanced study of it with original insights spanning further than phenomenology or even philosophy itself. What can serve as an introduction to phenomenology can simultaneously function as a further redefinition of it, which is an important philosophical methodological trait, that is, that a philosopher always clarifies the definitions they are working with and makes no pre-suppositions. Thus, Rozzoni’s definitions and descriptions (as well as normative depictions) of phenomenology are important not only for their pragmatic function but predominantly for the meta-philosophical or rather meta-phenomenological one. I quote some passages so as to make my points clearer:

Phenomenological description must be capable of rendering a satisfactory account of the different modes in which our acts (and, correlatively, their objects) and our objects (and, correlatively, their acts) are given to consciousness. When we say our acts are intentional, it implies the necessary corollary that there can be no “consciousness” that is not a “consciousness of.” The relationship between consciousness and object manifests itself in different ways depending on the particular act involved—for example, perception of a tree, phantasy of a tree, etc.—and such relationships are “expressed by the little word ‘of’” (Hua XVI, p. 12; Hua I, p. 33). (Rozzoni 2024, 15)

He continues a bit later in clarifying the different “modes of consciousness” which are important both for understanding phenomenology (“phenomenology must…”), intentionality (which is core to phenomenology), Husserl, phantasy, image, and this book in general:

These initial considerations are enough to suggest that Husserl’s primary interest lies in discerning qualitative differences between our experiences, a question that drives him to seek out an essential distinction between what he calls “modes of consciousness.” Perception is only one such mode; objects are given to us in several other modes as well—such as when we see objects either through images or, as they say, “in our minds.” As indicated, phenomenology must be able to provide an account of the essential differences among these modes of consciousness as well as of the particular nature of each mode’s inherent intentionality—the essential correlation between its subjective and objective poles. After dedicating his efforts to the perceptual dimension in the first two parts of the course, Husserl uses the third part to attempt to define the eidetic differences that distinguish phantasy consciousness from perceptual consciousness. (Rozzoni 2024, 16)

When analyzing phantasy through a phenomenological lens, we are soon confronted with a phenomenon that will prove challenging: it seems that any description of the ways in which phantasy manifests itself must necessarily involve the notion of image. Indeed, it is in this context that Husserl comes to examine the issue of defining the particular type of manifestation pertaining to image and the related form of intentionality called “image consciousness.” In the third part of the Göttingen course, when seeking to define the nature of intentionality pertaining to phantasy acts, Husserl begins by describing this intentionality in terms of “pictorialization [Verbildlichung]” (see, for example, Hua XXIII, § 8). Let us remark that he had already adopted this approach in an 1898 text devoted to “phantasy and representation in image” (see Appendix 1 to Hua XXIII, pp. 117– 152)—a text that did, indeed, serve as a starting point for his later Göttingen analysis. (Rozzoni 2024, 17)

Moreover, the constant use of simple examples (e.g. the photograph of a friend) render the book even more accessible and the concepts and terms explored easier to understand.

Adding to the preciseness and clarity, Rozzoni systematically and precisely clarifies terms/concepts, as it is already shown, both in English and how terms have distinct meanings in German: for example, reality [positionality] – phantasy, fiction, phantasy [Phantasie] – imagination [Einbildung] – imaginatio, perception [Perzeption] – perceptio Wahrnehmung. For example, he writes concerning the latter distinction, and the different choices of words in the original (by Husserl), but also by Rozzoni in the English translation:

Perzeption is Wahrnehmung without belief, and, as Husserl says, any Wahrnehmung that does not take (nimmt) something as true (wahr) is no longer Wahrnehmung in the proper sense of the word. It is legitimate to say that an object given perceptually (wahrnehmungsmäßig) is also given as complying with perceptio (perzeptiv), but the converse is not true: we cannot state that what is given when complying with perceptio (perzeptiv) is automatically given perceptually (wahrnehmungsmäßig). Though these terms may overlap in some cases, this does not change the fact that such a distinction can be rightfully (and not pleonastically) introduced in the English translation, thus allowing the reader to feel the distinction between Wahrnehmung and Perzeption that plays a seminal role in these analyses. This is why Husserl’s references to illusion claiming the status of reality are not, in principle, cases of phantasy complying with perceptio (perzeptiv), but rather of perceptual (wahrnehmungsmäßig) illusions that, once discovered, become canceled perceptions (Wahrnehmungen)—canceled realities only apprehended après coup as perzeptive Phantasien. Accordingly, we can also think of perceptio as a genus encompassing the species of positional perceptio (or Wahrnehmung) and positionless perceptio (or perceptio in the strict sense). (Rozzoni 2024, 17, n. 11)

At last, in a further way to be precise and clear, Rozzoni makes sure that he prevents possible misconceptions and misunderstandings, as for example in the sub-chapter 1.7: A Potential Misunderstanding: The “Image-Theory”, concerning “the unction Husserl assigns to the image object”. (Rozzoni 2024, 28)

Rozzoni engages in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary dialogue with artists (painters, installation artists, cinematographers), literary writers (Proust, Kafka), and philosophers (Plato, Nietzsche, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze). It furthermore offers numerous references to scholars dealing with relevant subjects such as imagination, phantasy, film theory and criticism etc. In this way, Rozzoni’s book can also serve as a reference book towards further researching the main topics it discusses (image, phantasy, imagination, reality, fiction, film, experience, perception, belief, time consciousness, epoché, content-form/style, etc.).

It is a book one can read multiple times, each time focusing on a different subject/topic, and each time feeling that they are reading a new book, since new perspectives and connections are opened at each reading, depending on the shift of focus.

Chapter 1 focuses, as it is already evident from its title, on the “Phenomenology of Image and Phantasy”, by visiting concepts such as reality, perception, imagination, phantasy, images, consciousness of reality, consciousness of fiction, etc., and also re-setting their inter-connections.

Chapter 2 entitled “The Aesthetic Consciousness”, evidently focuses on the nature and qualitative originality of aesthetic experience and consciousness, while also “deepen[ing] the originary phenomenological distinctions elucidated in the first [chapter]”. (Rozzoni 2024, 3) In more detail, I quote:

The second chapter deepens the originary phenomenological distinctions elucidated in the first but with a specific focus on the nature of aesthetic experience. Too often, the type of consciousness associated with aesthetic experience is confused with other modalities of consciousness which, despite possibly overlapping with aesthetic experience in some ways, must nonetheless be kept distinct as regards their originary sense. Specifically, the term “aesthetic” is often used interchangeably with terms like “fictional,” “artistic,” or “iconic,” thereby creating confusion that can fundamentally undermine research outcomes. Through the Husserlian manuscripts, I attempt to trace the roots of the “aesthetic” back to a consciousness which, though it may indeed have seminal connections to the associated terms listed above, ultimately possesses its own qualitative originality that cannot be reduced to any of those terms. (Rozzoni 2024, 3)

Moreover, it expands Husserl’s phenomenological re-appropriation of Kant’s “aesthetic disinterest”, through a phenomenological inquiry into the nature of this disinterest, emphasizing, as did Kant, “the moment of the “how” rather than the “what” of a manifestation”. (Rozzoni 2024, 4):

Despite entailing disinterest in something’s existence in the general sense (in other words, disinterest in whether something actually exists or not), aesthetic experience does involve another form of interest: though “existentially disinterested,” it is “axiologically interested.” In aesthetic experience, axiological interest manifests itself through the sphere of feeling—we experience a particular value, an appreciation for the manner in which something is given, and it is necessarily given in a feeling interrelated with this value.

Clearly, talking about the “how” of manifestation, the manner of appearing, might carry the risk of reintroducing the dichotomy between content (what) and form (how) into the discussion of aesthetic experience. […] In aesthetic experience, even the most ordinary object can emerge in the value of its manifestation—and strictly speaking, all manifestations can be aesthetically “expressive” in principle: a “zero degree” of aestheticity is only a limit point. (Rozzoni 2024, 4)

In more detail, Rozzoni discusses in the subchapter 2.6: Constituting the “How”: Stylistic Manifestations (pp. 110-112), this habitual dichotomy between style/form (how) and content (what), which is unfairly conceived as a dichotomy or a binary, as well as content is unfairly conceived as of being hierarchically superior (I would name it as a certain hegemony of the “what” in philosophy, which takes the dimensions of essentializing the philosophical discipline to a “science” -not even, at least, an “art”-, of the content, and allocating to other sciences or arts the “burden” of occupying themselves with the “lesser” “how” of the style or form.) This intra-hegemony of content over form, is a reflection of the general (meta-)philosophical inter-hegemony and supra-hegemony on all other disciplines and forms-of-thinking, found in its most systematized depiction in François Laruelle’s Non-Philosophy.

As Rozzoni observes, “the distinguishing element in aesthetic experiences is the particular mode of manifestation in which the phenomenon is given (among many possible such modes).” Afterwards, he is talking about the “precise phenomenal modalities whose specific manner of appearance yields an aesthetic effect” (Rozzoni 2024, 110). These “precise phenomenal modalities”, in my understanding, are another formulation for style or form, since, in the following paragraph, he proceeds to give an example from a film, where the director makes “specific stylistic choices […] when depicting one man killing another allow[ing] us to feel not only the what— […] —but also the how”. (Rozzoni 2024, 110) He then mentions the notion of “rhythm”, which is an important stylistic element, on which he also has a reference to Merleau-Ponty, on the “relationship between the how (style, rhythm) and value in cinema”. (Rozzoni 2024, 110, n. 123)

I quote this extended passage since I think it touches on important points concerning the aesthetic experience and style:

To sum up, with belief-acts of each of these four types, we have an essential, eidetic option to transform them into (modified) phantasy acts, rendering them neutral in terms of possible reference to actual existence. Crucially, however, the resulting phantasies do not yet constitute aesthetic experiences merely by virtue of having left reality out of play; rather, the distinguishing element in aesthetic experiences is the particular mode of manifestation in which the phenomenon is given (among many possible such modes). To continue with Husserl’s example, an iconic phantasy of one man killing another may take the form of a mere iconic presentification of a quasi-fact—with no attention to its mode of manifestation—or it may employ precise phenomenal modalities whose specific manner of appearance yields an aesthetic effect. (Rozzoni 2024, 110)

For example, in the duel scene near the end of For a Few Dollars More (Per qualche dollaro in più, 1965), the specific stylistic choices Sergio Leone makes when depicting one man killing another allow us to feel not only the what—the quasi-occurrences on-screen that could just as easily be recounted through a purely iconic sequence, advancing the plot without artistic pretensions—but also the how, the value of this particular scene as it unfolds. Our aesthetic experience is affected by the fact that the different phases of the duel are depicted in this particular way, with this specific “rhythm.” Husserl rightly takes care to emphasize what may seem like an obvious point, namely that things are always given in accordance with a mode of manifestation (in the aesthetic sense just described), a mode that may or may not elicit aesthetic pleasure or displeasure—what we might describe as “positive” or “negative” aesthetic valence.

Further on, quoting from Husserl’s Text 15, he refers to phrases such as “object’s manner of appearing”, “mode of presentation [Darstellung]”, and “mode of manifestation”, which all put style, form, and in general the “how” of an object, in the spotlight, apart from its “objective position taking” and “the consciousness of an object as such” (the “what”). (Rozzoni 2024, 111, quoting Husserl in Hua XXIII)

Chapter 3, entitled “Toward Perspectival Images”, investigates “some of the ways that art can become a domain for broadening the notion of aesthetic experience to encompass the possibility of producing a perspective aesthetically (in a contemporary development of the Kantian notion of ‘aesthetic idea’).” Here the potential of art or artistic experience to “transform our conception of the world” (Rozzoni 2024, 4) is explored, “altering the perspectives in which we always live.” (Rozzoni 2024, 5) Thus, here, Rozzoni dares the intimate but neglected connection between art (artistic experience), ethics (how we live), and philosophy:

These transformations can be connoted either positively (by enlightening us to previously unknown facets of the world) or negatively (by concealing, anesthetizing, or speciously “spectacularizing” reality).

More fundamentally, I seek to demonstrate how, by acting upon sense as the foundational element of a (real or fictitious) world, art can operate in a dimension “refractory” to the distinction between documentary and fiction—sub specie sensus—and can even explore the thresholds between these two polarities in multiple directions; […]. Art recipients thus become participants in perspectives that force them to think at a cognitive-emotional-axiological level, whether or not they believe in the factuality of what they are seeing.

Artistic images can vary and deform reality— not so much to offer a diversion from it as to allow new essences to emerge and thereby create possibilities for expressing new perspectives.

The third chapter examines this concept in detail, specifically in relation to cinematographic images. (Rozzoni 2024, 5)

[…] If, as I propose, the condition of a world’s possibility for manifestation is the essential connection among narrative (perspective stricto sensu), values, and emotions, these authors think of cinematography as a privileged field that, though purely presentificational in nature, can create new perspectives directly affecting our perpetually perspectival comprehension of what we call “the world.”

In fact, cinematography can also provide an avenue through which to experiment with experiences we typically cannot or would not seek out in real life. (Rozzoni 2024, 6)

Proceeding to give some sample tastes of the possibilities of (attempting/essaying) thinking that it offers, à la Nietzsche’s sisyphean (saperesapio) method of philosophical thinking, that tastes over (thinking) possibilities, I will start from the first line of the Preface, which in a philosophical but mostly a psychoanalytical wording talks about a “return to […] the image”, in the same way that Lacan spoke of a return to Freud, or Aristotle of a visiting or a return to names (etymologies). This is the clear core purpose of the book “to promote a return to a description of the image that starts from its fundamental characteristics, its essential features.” (Rozzoni 2024, 1). Furthermore, “[t]he fundamental question that such lines of inquiry soon raise concerns whether there are structural differences between our image experiences and phantasy experiences—or, in phenomenological terms, between image conscious- ness and phantasy consciousness.” (Rozzoni 2024, 1) In the attempt to answer this Rozzoni takes different tastes of Husserl’s work, in discussion, as said, with commentators and scholars as well as other philosophers, artists, literary writers, filmmakers, etc. More specifically, to focus on Husserl, in his course from 1905 attempted to define the nature of image based on his inquiry on the nature of phantasy. Thus, it already becomes evident that in Husserl there is a direct correlation between imagery and phantasy. This is the key question here as Rozzoni locates it, “whether phantasy consciousness is ultimately founded upon image consciousness. […] In other words, does phantasy need images in order to represent absent objects, or is our ability to produce and see images instead grounded in phantasy consciousness?” (Rozzoni 2024, 2)

The Husserlian answer to this, which Rozzoni will keep analyzing, is a reversal of the hypothesis that “phantasy needs images”: I quote:

[…] his phenomenological inquiries yielded the result that phantasy need not necessarily be founded on the capacity to pro- duce mental images. In Husserl’s view, the capacity for phantasy (as an originary modality of consciousness) need not be grounded in images proper; rather, phantasy consciousness is what underlies the capacity to recognize and produce physical images. He determines that phantasizing is not projection of an image medium acting as a representative for an absent object but rather is perception in the as-if, quasi-perception carried out by a quasi-subject—hence the possibility of distinguishing between real and phantasy egos from a phenomenological standpoint. In this sense, phantasy is the originary mode of consciousness that, in more strict phenomenological terms, can be called presentification. We can then further distinguish between “private presentifications” (quasi-perceptions without images) and presentifications in image. (Rozzoni 2024, 2)

As part of his analysis, which involves further original questions inspired by this Husserlian answer, he is asking whether the usual distinction or even dichotomy between images pertaining to phantasy, and perception pertaining to reality, shall be further “tried” in terms of thinking: “in other words, that proper images (presentifications in image) are eo ipso considered nonreal, whereas perception involves things ‘in the flesh’ and thus taken as real.” (Rozzoni 2024, 2). This is the main inquiry of Chapter 1 entitled “Phenomenology of Image and Phantasy”:

[…] perception per se is no guarantee of reality, nor does the image per se guarantee unreality: it is possible for perceptual experiences (or, more precisely, experiences complying with perceptio) to pertain to phantasy and for image experiences to force associations with reality. Though the image in itself is “unreal” in the sense of its presentifying nature (it shows something not present in the flesh), this is not to say that the sujet— the thing or person we see by “looking into the image”—cannot or should not be considered real. In short, we can have phantasies in the flesh and images imbued with belief.

[…] The image in itself makes no absolute guarantees concerning belief or lack thereof: context is what motivates the emergence of a documentary or fictional consciousness in relation to any given image. The same can apply to perceptual, noniconic experiences: we can experience them either in a consciousness of reality (as occurs constantly in context of going about our everyday lives) or a consciousness of fiction (as is the case, to mention one paradigmatic example, when we watch events upon a theatrical stage, which represents one possible context in which fictional worlds can comply with perceptio). (Rozzoni 2024, 2-3)

Rozzoni’s methodological insights, appearing, apart from the Preface, in more detail under Chapter 1, Sub-chapter “Again and Again” (1.1) are interesting themselves. It seems to me that he is consciously or unconsciously following a Deleuzian methodological-creative approach regarding the definition of philosophy as a creation of concepts. I think that this creativity can only spring from a synthetic openness, a wide and broad variety of interests within a field, an interdisciplinary openness, and a personal passionate investment to the topic of the research, as much as a “diagnosis” of an issue that is critical for the spatiotemporal milieu of one’s living experience. Rozzoni’s project/book incorporates all of the aforementioned elements or criteria, which render it significant, and original. In more detail, the three criteria that Deleuze has set for the worth-writing book/work (“bon ouvrage”) are the following: at first, spotting an error in books on the same or neighbouring subject (polemical function), then adding something that you think was ignored or forgotten on that subject (inventive function), and, at last, creating a new concept (creative function).

Hence, Rozzoni starts by spotting an “error”, or rather an omission, concerning Husserl’s manuscripts, on which his study is rooted upon, which are the manuscripts on Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory, elaborated over a period of 20 years, and published in 1980 in Husserliana XXIII in German. Their importance according to Rozzoni is that they “serve as testimony to the father of Phenomenology’s style of work—evidence that is all the more significant because it concerns themes Husserl considered crucial to the destiny of the entire phenomenological project, despite having devoted comparatively little space to them in works published during his lifetime.” The fact that a manuscript is not published by a philosopher/writer shall “not mean that they are not of great importance: they offer valuable insights into published passages devoted to phantasy and image consciousness, offering beneficial context through which we can appreciate their relevance more fully.” (Rozzoni 2024, 10)

Thus, he is spotting an error in the research around these manuscripts and their corresponding thematic units and concepts (polemical function), and he is adding something that he thinks was ignored or forgotten on that subject (inventive function), which is the “underappreciated theme”, in Husserl’s corpus, of the phenomenology of (the) image (Rozzoni 2024, 11). The reasons for this underrepresentation and underappreciation are given as follows:

Whereas Husserl’s phenomenological analyses concerning theory of judgment, logic, perception, and time are well-known, his contributions toward a phenomenology of phantasy and image might be described as relatively unknown, or at least lesser known until recently. One reason for this is the aforementioned lack of space devoted to the topic in Husserl’s published works (see, for instance, Hua I; Husserl 1939, especially §§39–42), even though Husserl famously declared that “feigning [Fiktion],” exercised by our “free phantasy,” “makes up the vital element of phenomenology as of every other eidetic science” (Hua III/1, p. 160). Moreover, Husserliana XXIII, which collects the bulk of Husserl’s unpublished work on Phantasy and Image Consciousness (Hua XXIII), was only published in 1980, and John B. Brough’s English translation was not released until 2005. Now, however, several aspects previously overlooked or misunderstood by many contemporary theories of image can be addressed more thoroughly with the help of these richly complex writings, and these implicit potentialities are on the verge of finally taking their rightful place within philosophical debate on the subject (Brough 2012; Ferencz-Flatz/Hanich 2016; Wiesing 2005). (Rozzoni 2024, 11)

He continues by clearing up this lacuna (inventive function), and from the matrix of the lacuna to, then, proposing a new potential arising concept, or field of study, for new phenomena (of image) in phenomenology and in philosophy in general (aesthetic and other experiences), as well, as we will see in the following chapters, in art and in film. Thus, these phenomena pragmatically extend in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary ways, rendering them a concept:

[…] the Nachlass writings shed light on the specific (and difficult) genesis of some of the most significant results Husserl published within his lifetime, and even directly explore the complex (and problematic) nature of these processes of perpetual development. Another seminal aspect immediately relevant to our work is that these manuscripts on image and phantasy (and, more generally, on reality and unreality) invite others to embark upon their own explorations of these topics. (Rozzoni 2024, 10)

Though the Nachlass represents a corpus of posthumous manuscripts, it would be a mistake to discount the enormous potential within these pages for that reason alone. Rather than construing this as some insurmountable obstacle to the contemporary revival of such research, let us think of it as a precious—albeit complicated —opportunity to develop a new field of study concerning new types of descriptions for new phenomena. (Rozzoni 2024, 11)

The further pragmatic importance of studying these phenomena, apart from establishing a new field of study or a new concept (thus rendering this book a primary source), through which readers “embark upon investigative processes of their own” (Rozzoni 2024, 11), is that if we cast light on Husserl’s corpus, and read this book as a secondary source this time (as said, it has this double function), these unpublished philosophical manuscripts can have the value of revealing a “seminal role in shedding light on the genesis of an author’s published corpus and providing a treasure trove of new avenues through which to explore and develop the author’s thoughts.” (Rozzoni 2024, 11-12)

To emphasize it once more, as does Rozzoni, this does not mean that this study is limited to what I call its secondary function, namely, as commentary of the manuscripts of Husserl, thus merely opening up an horizon of study within Husserl’s scholarship, or what Husserl would also call a “regional ontology” or “ontological region”, but, and according to Husserl’s methodological insights on the phenomenological method, [thus studying these new horizons that these phenomena open up to, that is, the “essence of images”, based on Husserl’s phenomenological method; a cyclical meta-textual process, which constitutes another originality of this book], also opening “new horizons and descriptions such an approach could potentially reveal today, and how we might use Husserl’s legacy—which he encouraged others to test “again and again [immer wieder],” especially through variations—as a starting point for new inquiries.” (Rozzoni 2024, 11)

Such horizon-openings can be extended to phenomena which were not already there when Husserl was writing, but which are prominent nowadays (“phenomena that Husserl did not specifically describe”) (Rozzoni 2024, 10), that is on our own Umwelt, such as “image material found on the various electronic devices that have now become part of our everyday lives […].” (Rozzoni 2024, 10-11) If we were “to insist on subjecting any phenomena that Husserl did not specifically describe […] to static limits defined before such phenomena existed, it would betray the very spirit of phenomenology.” (Rozzoni 2024, 10-11)

Moreover, despite admitting that “[t]he present study does not pretend to be all-encompassing regarding the different ways in which such a task might be undertaken” (Rozzoni 2024, 12), that is, the different possibilities of horizons, a further horizon that Rozzoni’s book can achieve to open out is to “yield retrospective potential for new dialogues between Husserl and [these] philosophers, thereby opening up novel possibilities for interpretation, development, and critique that can and must serve as an avenue toward productive perspectives on our contemporary understanding of images.” (Rozzoni 2024, 12) This is due to the late publication of these Husserlian manuscripts in 1980, and the fact that philosophers that were influenced by Husserl, such as Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Deleuze and others, did not have access to it when forming their own concepts.

Such expansion of horizons and new conceptualizations (“paths”) “are never easy” as he admits, “and worse yet, they are perennially menaced by aporetical results.” (Rozzoni 2024, 10) This latter phrase, “perennially menaced by aporetical results”, I find to be a quintessential phenomenological but also philosophical “feeling” and disposition, or even a stylistic and a methodological philosophical act of epoché, dictated by the affirmation of aporia within a philosophical tendency and thinking, as it was also set to be in Ancient Philosophy, re-set by Friedrich Nietzsche’s method of ephexis, and systematized in François Laruelle’s non-philosophical methodology, abstaining from or suspending from arriving at a (final) decision, thus having the philosophical courage to stay and remain “menaced” by aporias; as much as posthuman feminists advocated on the virtue of “staying with the trouble”, against the totalitarian modern or positivistic (or “scientifistic” as I would prefer it) reflex or tendency (or rather obsessional or even psychotic tendency that in combination seek for a certainty-safety-trust nexus regarding an “unmovable earth” or ground of thinking, -to borrow Husserl’s phrase on the immovability of the earth-) of arriving at a final unmovable result. I quote from Rozzoni:

Such paths are never easy, of course—and worse yet, they are perennially menaced by aporetical results. Despite treading arduous ground, however, the material in these manuscripts offers us a unique opportunity to describe the iconic and imaginative dimension of our time in the spirit of phenomenology. Echoing a well-known Merleau-Ponty essay, this would mean striving to develop the “shadow” (Merleau-Ponty 1959) of Husserl’s legacy—a shadow that still looms large today, inviting us to take up the challenge and shed new light on these elusive domains (while simultaneously generating new and productive obscurities, as an essential counterpart of every process of clarification (Franzini 2009, pp. 37–47)). (Rozzoni 2024, 10)

At this point, I would like to raise three further points from this book which, I consider, at least from my own horizon/“regional-ontology”/“situated point of view”, as highlights that can motivate further thought.

The first, concerns what I would call the “Heideggerian colonization” of Continental Philosophy, and especially the “Heideggerian colonization” of the philosophers that Heidegger mostly deals with, as is the case of Husserl. Although Rozzoni does not either explicitly or implicitly make such a statement, I think this can be deducted as a comment, not only from various other instances of reading authors such as Plato, Schelling and others, from the point of view that Heidegger has read them, so that they become, in a way, more of a Heidegger’s Plato and a Heidegger’s Schelling than themselves as themselves, but in addition here from the fact that Heidegger happened to edit “the well-known ‘lectures on time consciousness’ in 1928 in Volume 9 of the Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung.” (Rozzoni 2024, 12-13) These lecturers are only the fourth part of the Principal Parts of the Phenomenology and Theory of Knowledge (Hauptstücke aus der Phänomenologie und Theorie der Erkenntnis), which is a course that Husserl taught in Göttingen in 1904/05. I think that it is not completely irrelevant that Heidegger edited the fourth part of these lectures into a published volume, and this same fourth part gained the most notoriety out of the three other parts, where the first and second were devoted on the phenomenology of perception and attention, and the third on “a phenomenological description of phantasy as he considered it a necessary and complementary step to its account of perception.” As Rozzoni further explains: “He set out to uncover the essential differences between perception and phantasy, eventually finding them to be two originary modes of manifestation marked by an irreducible temporal difference (hence his devotion of the fourth and final part of the course to seminal investigations of time consciousness).” (Rozzoni 2024, 1) Thus, Rozzoni’s book comes to fill this lacuna in Husserlian studies and re-emplace the importance of all four parts, but especially of part three (on phantasy), within Husserl’s experiential strata comprising his “science of knowledge” or gnoseology, and their respective forms of intentionality. Maybe this bias that was taken up by Heidegger, was already initiated by Husserl, who, as he

explains at the beginning of this seminal course, [he] initially intended to devote the lectures exclusively to “the superior intellectual acts, […] the sphere of the so-called ‘theory of judgment.’” Later, however, he felt compelled to instead conduct an analysis at a “lower level,” i.e., of “those phenomena that, under the somewhat vague titles of perception, sensation, phantasy representation, representational image, memory, are well known to everyone, yet have still undergone far too little scientific investigation” (Hua XXXVIII, p. 3). This testifies to Husserl’s belief that a “science of knowledge” would inherently entail analyzing the “aesthetic ways in which this knowledge is articulated” (Franzini 2002, p. XIV); in this sense, this third Hauptstück may provide a capital contribution to the study of aesthetics as gnoseologia inferior.

It is in this context of inquiry into the lower experiential strata that Husserl confronts the challenging task of providing an account of the concept of phantasy, which he considered a necessary counterpoint to the account of perception he gave in the first two parts of the course (see Hua XXIII, p. 1). This would ultimately prove crucial to defining the particular form of intentionality pertaining to phantasy and image consciousness under scrutiny in this book. (Rozzoni 2024, 13-14)

Despite the fact that Husserl, as a philosopher critical to himself, changed his mind and made a four-part lecture onto experience/gnoseology, his commentators and editors were still biased towards the “superior intellectual acts”, as did Philosophy for most of its history, and especially philosophers that made it to the (hegemonic) canon, such as Heidegger.

The second point that I would like to highlight, concerns a possible connection, which I formed based on Rozzoni’s writing, between phenomenological epoché and psychoanalysis. This is not a connection that Rozzoni implies in any sense, but through the way he describes the phenomenon of Ichspaltung (ego-splitting) (in 1.10: Phantasy Ego, pp. 38-44), based on Husserl’s Text no. 15, he paves a connection between it and phenomenological epoché, which if thought further, since Ichspaltung can also concern psychopathology and psychoanalysis, then it might be said that there is a possible connection between phenomenological epoché  and psychoanalysis to be additionally elaborated on. To further unveil this thought, towards a possible future elaboration, Rozzoni explains, starting from the aforementioned section, that “the phenomenon of Ichspaltung” is “the division of the ego into the real ego and the phantasy ego” (Rozzoni 2024, 38). The corresponding footnote is the piece of text which inspired this connection to me: “The phenomenon of ego-splitting (Ichspaltung) does not concern the relationship between real and phantasy experiences exclusively. It goes to the very heart of the possibility of the phenomenological epoché.” (Rozzoni 2024, 38, n. 38) If the Ichspaltung is a presupposition or a precondition for the phenomenological epoché, then how could we connect both non-pathological (construction of the phantasy experience/intentionality) and pathological cases of ego-splitting (such as psychosis) with the methodological act of epoché? And also, could there be a linkage between epoché and pictorial arts and film (since they are, in a way, a parastasis of the phantasy experience/intentionality)? Which new methodology can we derive from these, which new insights into phantasy and psychosis, as well as which new insights from phantasy and psychosis concerning each other as well as the phenomenological epoché? These will remain open questions for the moment.

A last, the third point to highlight concerns style/form (how) and content (what), as already aforementioned in the presentation of Chapter 2. Such a stylistic emphasis is rarely found in philosophy, especially within academia and secondary literature on philosophers-but it is nearly always found in the work of all philosophers, which consists a paradox-, and thus I think it is always important to highlight it when an author/philosopher reserves some lines or pages on philosophical stylistics or the aesthetics of philosophical style.

There are further innumerable both systematic but also aphoristic points that one can locate in Rozzoni’s The Phenomenological Image, thus rendering it a work that can be read at and from multiple “places” and multiple times, offering different perspectives to not only phenomenologists or philosophers, but also to artists, filmmakers, art and film theorists and critics, literary theorists, but also to anyone seeking to see, in action, how philosophy operates, since, in my view, it is a book concentrating some of the best philosophical methodologies and traits one can use, as demonstrated in this review.


[1] This paper is prepared as part of my postdoctoral research project “Ontological Exhaustion: Being-Tired, and Tired-of-Being: a philosophy of fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout” at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, implemented with the financial support of the National Programme “Early-stage and Postdoctoral researchers” – 2, Stage 1, 2022–2024.

[2] Husserl, Edmund (1980): Phantasie, Bildbewusstsein, Erinnerung. Zur Phänomenologie der anschaulichen Vergegenwärtigungen. Texte aus dem Nachlass (1898–1925). Ed. Marbach, Eduard. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff; – Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory (1898–1925). Eng. transl. ed. by Brough, J., Dordrecht: Springer, 2005.

Giulia Cabra: Il valore dell´altro. Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl






Il valore dell’altro: Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl Book Cover




Il valore dell’altro: Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl




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Giulia Cabra





Mimesis




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348

Reviewed by: Celia Cabrera (CONICET/ National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires)

Giulia Cabra’s book, Il valore dell’altro. Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl, proposes an insightful analysis of the intersection between two central themes of Husserlian phenomenology: Intersubjectivity and ethics. As indicated by the title, the guiding question that runs through the work concerns the value of the other, a topic of great relevance in phenomenological ethics. The question can be resumed as follows: How is the other given as a subject of value? More specifically: What conceptual elements of Husserl´s phenomenology provide the basis for recognizing the value of the other? Answering this question makes it necessary and justifies Cabra’s proposal for a complementary approach, insofar as it is a theme that besides being addressed at the axiological-ethical level must be anchored in the most basic foundations of Husserl´s theory of the experience of the other. Cabra´s book shows that this overlap of themes is fruitful in both directions: Ethical-axiological analyses expose the deeper meaning of some basic elements of Husserl´s transcendental theory of intersubjectivity (especially, with regard to his understanding of the lived body), and the transcendental theory of intersubjectivity lays the groundwork for an ethical account of alterity that goes beyond its own means (especially, through the analysis of love). In the author´s own words, the hypothesis that serves as a point of departure of the work is that “a synergistic reading of Husserl’s reflections on intersubjectivity and ethics allows for theoretically original and fruitful outcomes for the deepening of both realms within the author’s thought” (p. 307). Certainly, the task is not easy and requires a reading of a wide range of texts in which Husserl devoted himself to reflections on both intersubjectivity and ethics, at various stages of his philosophical production and with different methodological approaches. Cabra’s work proposes a journey through multiple writings of Husserl, tracing a thread that extends from the analyses of the experience of the other in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation to the research manuscripts on ethics from the Freiburg years, and which covers static, genetic, transcendental, personalist, and communitarian approaches.

In the process of laying the groundwork for addressing the question of the value of the other, the book delves into various topics in detail, many of which cannot be fully covered in this review. In the following sections, I will outline the main aspects developed in the book and delineate its broader argumentative strategy.

The book is divided into two main sections, each of which follows one of the two proposed paths: The first section follows the path through the lived body (Leib), while the second section follows the path through love (Liebe). Broadly speaking, the three chapters that make up the first section of the book (entitled La via del Leib: Individuazione, libertà, valore) aim to shed light on the fundamental elements that explain the constitution of the experience of alterity. This is accomplished by first delving into Husserl´s analyses of the sphere of owness and later going deeper into the intersubjectively shared world.

The first chapter is devoted to the transcendental theory of the experience of the other (Fremderfahrung) as developed by Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation and in related research manuscripts published in volumes XIII, XIV, and XV of Husserliana. The key question posed by the author there is whether such transcendental analysis contains elements that make it possible to highlight how the other subject is experienced as a subject of value (cf. p. 21). The chapter begins with a focus on the primordial sphere. Against this background, the author aims at showing the centrality of the lived body as an organ of perception (Wahrnehmungsorgan) and an organ of the will (Willensorgan). The role of corporeality in the constitution of perception, as developed by Husserl in the Dingvorlesungen (Hua XVI),  is addressed showing that the lived body is a system of passive and free kinesthesia, on which perception depends. In order to clarify how the passage from the perceptual level to the volitional level is motivated, Husserl´s analyses of the “I can” in Ideas II are considered. The result of these analyses is that the lived body is the primary form in which the “awake subjectivity” (wache Subjektivität) manifests itself. Moreover, the Leib is the place where the perceptual-sensory layer and the personal-spiritual layer intermingle, and where the freedom of the incarnated transcendental ego is established (cf. p. 310). 

Chapter 2 turns to the dynamics of the encounter with the other subject. A special analysis is devoted to the phenomenon of expression (Ausdruck), i.e., to the fact that the other appears always through an expressive body that manifests different degrees of will. It is by virtue of expression that the other appears as a subject of free movement, as a free subject. This chapter introduces one of the most important ideas of the work, namely, the freedom of the person which the author anchors on Husserl´s conception of the lived body. According to Cabra, given the conditions that make it possible for the other subject to be recognized as a transcendental subject, the same conditions also enable their recognition as a free subject. The Leib makes this transition possible and indicates the fundamental freedom of the other (cf. p. 313). This freedom is evidence of the fact that the person has a value of its own (Eigenwert). The proper value of the person is linked to their status of being a free individual, capable of being an ethical subject (as she will show later, this means responding to the categorical imperative). As she claims later on: “This confers upon it the predicate of the value of dignity (Würde): freedom makes the person different from every other worldly being and confirms the initial intuition of inviolability by the personal subject, already indicated by the identification of the Eigenheitssphäre” (p. 313). Bringing the themes of freedom and dignity to the fore is one of the merits of this book. To my knowledge, few works in the exegesis of Husserl´s writings address these themes, which remain in the background of his ethical account of the human person.

In this point, it is noticed that those elements of the experience which are the conditions of possibility of the intersubjective experience are not completely reducible to the primordial sphere, but refer to a personal intersubjective dimension of the Umwelt that only are disconnected from the Eigenheitsphäre by means of abstraction. This indicates the path taken in Chapter 3, which serves as a bridge to the second part of the book devoted to the axiological and ethical analyses. Cabra shifts there to the personalist perspective to consider intersubjective experience as a part of the surrounding world (Umwelt), which is a shared world. This shift of perspective to the personalist attitude is a crucial step to approaching the topic of the work: the comprehension of the other as a subject of value. As Cabra explains, “The encounter with the other, which is made possible because they appear through the Leib, is always inserted in a personal horizon. Only from this perspective is it possible to find the value of the other” (p. 159).

The second section of the work (La via della Liebe: Dovere e chiamata, empatia, prossimità), divided into four chapters, proceeds along the lines of the previously announced change of perspective, from the attitude focused on the sphere of owness to the personalist attitude. This section focuses on Husserl´s reflections on ethics from the Freiburg years, especially, on his analyses of love published in the fourth section of Husserliana XLII, Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie.

Having introduced the Husserlian approach to love in Chapter 1 of this section, in which the author highlights the intentional emotional nature of love and its normative dimension, Chapter 2 has the precise aim of elucidating its inherently intersubjective character. Love takes on various forms, one of which is love as a phenomenon between persons, distinct from love for an object, for science, nature, etcetera. According to the author, personal love is love in the original, primary, and fundamental sense (cf. p. 232) or, as she also points out, the “paradigm of love” in that, through the experience of love, the value of the other subject and the duty toward them are experienced. Love is, thus, the founding moment of ethics. Since the primary reference (Bezug) of love is the other person, “neighborly love” (Nächstenliebe) is characterized as the highest ethical form of love.

The consideration of love as inherently intersubjective calls for an elucidation of its intentional structure and fulfillment. This is the task of the third chapter which explores the relationship between love and empathy (Einfühlung). Love does not fully coincide with empathy, it is a special form of empathy and, in a certain sense, it transcends empathy (cf. p. 237).  In order to understand the connection between love and empathy, the double meaning of empathy, which goes back to Husserl´s manuscripts published in Hua XLII, is emphasized. On the one hand, empathy in a basic sense, which is analyzed by Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation, is a theoretical-cognitive form of grasping the other. This fundamental form of empathy is to be distinguished from empathy in an emotional sense, as a “participation in the life of the other” (p. 238) which enters into the individuality of the other person and is fulfilled through love. The introduction of the theme of individuality gives the reader a glimpse of the author´s aim: love grasps the other in their individuality, and this lays the grounds for grasping them as having a “value of uniqueness” (Einzigkeitswert). This aspect is developed in Chapter 4, which presents the guidelines for an axiology of love. I will discuss this final chapter in more detail since it introduces some complex ideas that deserve a deeper analysis, and it integrates the previous results of the investigation into its own argumentation.

While the previous chapters have reflected on the specific features of love as an intentional act -emphasizing its emotional and volitional character-, Chapter 4 aims to analyze the values of love (Liebeswerte). In other words, the focus now shifts from love as an act to what love is directed at. Among the aspects developed in this chapter, I would like to draw attention to three themes that hold a central place in the author´s line of reasoning: (1) The discussion of the subjectivity-objectivity of the values of love; (2) The comprehension of the relationship between the descriptive, axiological, and normative dimensions; (3) finally, the approach to the universality-singularity of the ought revealed through love. These aspects, which I separate only for the sake of exposition, are interrelated in the work.

With the first theme, Cabra addresses a classic problem of the philosophy of values: Is the value dependent upon the subject giving the value? And, if so, does this imply that the value is reducible to such act of giving? The question becomes more compelling when we consider that the focus of the work is the value of the other. That is, that the elucidation of the status of the values of love is a corollary to addressing the value of the other subject. In this context, the question can be reformulated as to whether the value of the other person is contingent upon the subjective turning towards in the act of valuing, or if it is an objective value “recognized” by the subject. In the author´s view, the values of love have both a subjective and an objective dimension. On the one hand, values of love are dependent upon the turning towards of the subject from her personal core, since they are connected to the innermost center of the person. In this regard, they possess a subjective dimension. On the other hand, love in a proper sense is directed toward that which holds value (cf. p. 271). In other words: Genuine love is love for what is worth loving. How is this dual character of values of love, both subjective and objective, to be understood? Cabra´s proposal can be summarized as follows: Values of love are objective values which have subjective relevance because they have a unique meaning for the singular person. In this way, the author seeks to illustrate the dynamics of constitution wherein something given as objective is apprehended through a subjective position taking. The textual foundation of her interpretation is to be found in the lecture Einleitung in die Philosophie from 1919/1920 where Husserl refers to values of love as “the same objective value as individual, subjective value of love” (Hua Mat IX, 146, note 1). In light of this, two implications can be drawn: (1) every value of love has an objective value and (2) every objective value can become a value of love (p. 266). With this, the author aims at distancing from the interpretations that “emphasize solely the subjective side of the constitution of the values of love without considering that subjective preference does not lack a fundamental objective level” (p. 267)

What is the outcome of this interpretation for the understanding of the value of the other? Applying the same dynamic between the subjective and objective dimensions, the conclusion is that the other subject is subjectively preferable (vorzüglich) and at the same time objectively endowed with value. The other is objectively a subject of value to the extent that they have a fundamental dignity as a person (p. 285).

At this point the work turns to the distinction between two forms of empathy developed in Chapter 3. The basis for recognizing the other as a subject of value is established by recognizing the other as a transcendental subject in empathy (in the first sense previously distinguished). What does love add to this level of recognition in empathy? The dimension of “exclusivity” and the “value of uniqueness” (Einzigkeitswert) of the other, which cannot be reduced to any of the previous levels of constitution (cf. p. 288). In the author´s words: “Love fulfills this first objective-formal level of personal valuation recognizing not only the `objective´ value of the other, that is, their being a transcendental subject with their individuality, but also considering them as a `unique´ subject, `subjectively preferable´ concerning other values, and deciding in their favor.” (p. 317) Interestingly, the general idea that the other is the primary value to be promoted, i.e., that love is primarily love for the other, which has been defended throughout the work, leads the author to an incisive proposal of a hierarchy of values of love, which could solve Husserl´s conclusion of a tragic “sacrifice” when confronted with the choice between values of love. Since, according to the author, each value of love derives from the value of the other, “the choice between different values of love would not have the character of a tragic conflict if it were a matter of Liebeswerte of different hierarchy according to different degrees to which love is realized as Nächstenliebe.” (p. 302)

With regard to the second point mentioned, although Cabra`s analyses in this chapter concentrate specifically on the values of love, her reflections also put forward a thesis regarding the broader question of the relationship between facts and values, broadly considered. In the author´s interpretation, Husserl´s theory of value responds to the demand to consider that facts and values are not opposing categories, and that there is no unbridgeable gap between the descriptive and normative moments (cf. p. 279). In fact, the idea that something has value because it is worth of value aims to express the close connection between empirical properties and value properties (although, as the author affirms, Husserl does not clarify the nature of this connection). This would bring Husserl´s position closer to that of Brentano and distance it from Schelerian axiology (cf. p. 277).

It is also interesting to note how the work thematizes the absolute ought (absolutes Sollen) that is manifested to the person through love. The values of love have a normative and motivational force that becomes a guiding principle for the person´s life. Because of its connection to values, it is argued that in love the absolute ought is manifested immediately to the person. This means that the normative level does not “supervene” or is superimposed, but is implicit in the axiological dimension (cf. p. 304). In this way, not only is the axiological level not extrinsic to the descriptive level but  also the  normative level is not extrinsic to the axiological level.

Finally, the transition from the axiological level of values of love to the normative level of the absolute ought provides the author with the opportunity to reflect on the special relationship between universality and singularity that love brings about: In the dynamics of love, the universal is manifested in the singular. The other subject is experienced as a value whose realization enables the fulfillment of the universal categorical imperative. In other words: Through love, the universal categorical imperative is unveiled to the singular individual. Thus, love and vocation represent the “singularized universal” ( p. 302) since it is only in the encounter with another subject that the person can respond to the call to act according to the categorical imperative.

A final aspect of this chapter that I would like to mention is that throughout the analyses devoted to Husserl´s phenomenology of values, the author offers a clarification of the meaning of concepts that can easily lead to ambiguities, and proposes its own interpretation regarding their distinction: Among other things, a special consideration is given to the use of the terms “value of love”, “personal value”, “subjective value”, and “individual value” (cf. pp. 267-270), and to the difference between “having value”, and “being a value” (cf. p. 271). These clarifications are important not only for the reader of this book but also for the reader of Husserl’s work, especially when dealing with texts on the emotional-evaluative sphere, which due to its elusive nature requires the use of a complex set of terminology for its description.

The work wraps up with a conclusion that summarizes how the two paths taken (Leib and Liebe) intersect and it offers a methodological reflection on how the static approach inherent in the analysis of the Fremderfahrung is complemented by the genetic perspective. According to this, love brings with it a revision of the static foundational model in that the other subject is immediately experienced as endowed with value, as a ‘phenomenological absolute’: “On the one hand, the analysis of the Fremderfahrung, and within it the primary role of the Leib, show the static conditions of possibility for recognizing the other subject as a subject of value, through the consideration of their freedom, expressed in the Leib. On the other hand, love as a gaze that reveals the genesis of the primary manifestation of the value of the other subject and the duty towards them, represents the place where intersubjectivity and ethics meet at its highest form” (p. 319).

Summing up, it is impossible not to notice that this book is the result of an extensive and meticulous research. In addition to the level of detail achieved in the analyses, and the careful interweaving of the different themes and methodological approaches in the construction of the work,  I would like to highlight the originality of Cabra’s proposal.  From the perspective of the precise question she aims to answer, she puts forward reading hypotheses on difficult aspects of Husserlian phenomenology of values that are still not settled by Husserl´s scholars. This is very fruitful in a context where Husserlian analyses of values are being rediscovered and increasingly debated, thanks to the publication of the Studien zur Struktur des Bewusstseins (Hua XLIII, 1-3). More generally, as the author affirms, with the exception of Janet Donohoe´s work Husserl on Ethics and Intersubjectivity from 2016,[1] the explicit connection between Husserl´s analyses of intersubjectivity and his ethical thinking has been missing in the critical literature on his work to date (cf. p. 5). Il valore dell`altro fills this gap through a deep study, documented in detail in Husserl’s texts that reveals to the reader a path to grasp the profound connection between these two themes. In addition to being a valuable tool for scholars, her work contributes to the understanding of the unity that permeates Husserl’s philosophical project, and to further promote the growing studies of Husserlian ethics and value theory.


[1]     Janet Donohoe. 2016. Husserl on Ethics and Intersubjectivity. From Static to Genetic Phenomenology. University of Toronto Press.

Hans-Jörg Rheinberger: Split and Splice: A Phenomenology of Experimentation






Split and Splice: A Phenomenology of Experimentation Book Cover




Split and Splice: A Phenomenology of Experimentation





Hans-Jörg Rheinberger





The University of Chicago Press




2023




Paperback $30.00




256

Reviewed by: Aloisia Moser (Katholische Privat-Universität Linz)

How to not cut nature at its joints or malapropisms in science

 

Those who have followed the discussions on metaphor and model may find it difficult to see what is new in Rheinberger’s book “Split and Splice.” His main claim being that in order to gain new knowledge there must be an unforeseen or rogue element in the research process. Metaphor specialists have made a similar claim about language and meaning. Max Black (Black 1955; 1981) and Mary Hesse (Hesse 1963) have proclaimed that what brings us to new meaning in metaphor and models is something that comes on top of using words to refer to something literally. Meaning, especially new meaning, comes from the way we constellate words in new and unforeseen ways, for example using a term that does not refer to a thing instead of another. They also pointed out that sometimes the very materiality of words, for example their sound, creates new meaning, especially but not only in poetry. Metaphor specialists like Hesse have compared the way metaphor works with how models work in science. Models in science must be represented or made visible in a similar way to how language refers to things that do not yet have a name. You cannot do that literally.

When we use language metaphorically, we are not following the theory that we share, we are going against it. “Juliet is the sun” is a sentence that is obviously not true according to how literal language works, but we get its meaning: that Juliet is bright and shining and warm and life-giving, just like the sun. Metaphor specialists tell us that by using language like this we learn something new about Juliet (and by juxtaposing it with Juliet, the sun becomes a little more like a woman called Juliet). If Rheinberger were simply to say that this is also true for scientific models, he would not be saying anything new.

But Rheinberger is not just saying that scientific theories or models are like metaphors – he goes one step further, as does Donald Davidson in his famous paper on malapropism. Davidson claims in this paper that we do not need to use language properly at all, we can basically make nonsensical propositions and they still bring out new meaning, namely through the materiality of the words strung together, through the sounds, or even through similarity of the letters in written language. Rheinberger calls this facet of randomness of the juxtaposition of words in their materiality as “serendipity” – it is malapropism inserted into the experiment. What Rheinberger is claiming is that the scientific method works like a malapropism, which is a much stronger claim than the one that says that models work like metaphors.

A malapropism is a use of language that is not literal and where there is no intention on the part of the author or speaker. With malapropism we are entering a different kind of territory, and Davidson struggled with this in his essay “A nice Derangement of Epitaphs”(Davidson 2005) because he had to explain how meaning could be created even though the speaker was not using words literally and her intentions were not aligned with the words that she used to say something. In fact, in some types of malapropism, the opposite of what is meant is being said and the meaning is still conveyed. Often in a malapropism the speaker makes a mistake, as in a Freudian slip. Or the speaker uses one word instead of another simply because it sounds similar and there was not enough time for the speaker to correct and use the correct word. Davidson goes on to explain that the listener can still deal with this. Whereas language theorists claim that the hearer must “shar[e][ing] a complex system or theory with the speaker” (Davidson 2005, 93), “an interpreter has, at any moment of a speech transaction, what I persist in calling a theory” (ibid. p. 100). But Davidson goes on to say that “as the speaker speaks his piece the interpreter changes his theory, enters hypotheses about new names, changes the interpretation of familiar predicates, and revises previous interpretations of particular utterances in the light of new evidence.” (Davidson, ibid.) So, the speaker starts with an initial theory of interpretation, that she thinks the interpreter shares with her. Then she can consciously dispense with it, and the interpreter must modify her initial theory into an incidental or passing theory. At the end of his paper on malapropism Davidson concludes that there is no such thing as language as philosophers have assumed. There is no clearly defined common structure. Nor is there communication by appeal to convention.

Rheinberger makes a point about scientific theories and methods in Split and Splice that is very similar to the one made about language and understanding in Davidson’s malapropism essay. We need to imagine that the ‘speaker’ in this model is that which we are investigating in a particular investigation, and how that presents itself to or affords itself to us. Things are not simply given. “Data” as Rheinberger aptly says in the first part of the book are not, as the word suggests, simply given, they are already configured from the traces, that the scientific investigator measures. Rheinberger’s point is that there is something rogue about the process of investigation in science, something akin to what happens in malapropism. The experiment is an event, and the scientific process is not literal and unambiguous, but fragmentary and subject to serendipity. And that this is the method by which we arrive at new knowledge.

In a text called Postscriptum (Rheinberger 2022) to the workshop and special issue On Epistemic Times: Writing History 25 Years after Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube Rheinberger writes not so much a conclusion, but an outlook on “Conjunctures, Traces and Fragments.” He points out that the title of his book Spalt und Fuge, English Split and Splice was chosen because spalten, to split and fügen, to splice are the two cardinal activities of experimentation and he deliberately avoids using the terms analysis and synthesis. The latter are the logical categories that he claims have been imported into the practice of experimentation. But they did not grow out of them, and they suggest too neat of a division and fusion. Rheinberger writes:

[…] experimentation, as a process of finding one’s way into the unknown, needs more practice-oriented categories in order to apprehend its moves. If you split a log, the wood resists, and the products of your wedging activity will show uneven faces, depending on the knots and inner structure of the trunk. The same holds true for the object of your experimental inquiry. Knowledge of these structures is of the utmost importance for experimental exploration. If you splice a rope or if you graft a twig onto your vine, the points of suture will remain visible as signs of a mutilation. So will the pieces of your experimental activity, if joined to form a whole again. And it is indeed of utmost epistemic importance for the ongoing experimental process not to forget that these sutures always are—and will have to be—provisional. The title of this phenomenology of experimentation, Split and Splice, aims at calling to mind these epistemic uncertainties, inherent in the life of epistemic things. (Rheinberger 2022, p. 517)

Rheinberger emphasizes the “movement of the aleatic” (p. 518), which allows us to see the unforeseen as materialized. A conjecture is triggered by something small but has great consequences. These events, or what Bachelard calls “life-worlds” as “cultures”, provide access to emergence. (Cf. Ibid.) And Rheinberger goes on to call this “serendipity,” like actors who claim that to have been in the right place at the right time. According to Robert K. Merton, serendipity becomes the term for the “eventfulness of the research process.” (Ibid.). In Split and Splice, such conjunctures are treated as grafting activities. They are generally concerned with the interface between instruments and the objects of research, epistemic things. Rheinberger argues that these interfaces are the main loci of resistance and surprise in the research process, which is what the constellation of words in their materiality/sound was in malapropism. He concludes the section on conjunctures with the phrase “Glückliche Fügungen“ – “Happy Splices” (this was the title of one of the papers presented at the workshop). Experiments are subject to happy splices, and we need them. At the end of Split and Splice, Rheinberger points out that the only way scientific experiments can produce new knowledge only if they pay attention to the splits and splices of their experiments and do not whitewash them into neat analyses and syntheses.

The book Split and Splice therefore aims to present a phenomenology of experimentation, which for Rheinberger means that we are looking at the “shapes and contours that scientific experimentation has acquired historically” (p. 1). Here we see the same focus on the materiality of the whole movement of experimentation, not just the individual experiment. It is particularly important for Rheinberger that experimentation is seen as a knowledge-generating process. The various facets of the shapes of the experience are examined both from an “infrascopic” and from a “suprascopic perspective” (ibid.) These shapes shape the form of the book, by looking below and beyond the threshold of perception.

1. The Infrascopic

In the first part of the book, called “the infrascopic” Rheinberger investigates the micrological aspects of experimentation, such as the production of traces, the construction of models, ways of making things visible, grafting and note-taking. These are aspects of the experimental infrastructure and its materialities. Central here is the difference between the experimental space of traces and that of data, as Rheinberger introduces it, the difference between “the order of the graphematic and the order of representation.” (p. 519). Traces that result from the interface between apparatus and target must be made permanent or stored in order to serve as data and to be manipulated in this space, outside of the temporal constraints of the experiment. “Here the traces undergo a change of medium”, Rheinberger writes, “from the medium of the experiment to a medium of a different grain and materiality, be it wire, paper, or the digital” (Ibid.). While he speaks of traces in the experiment, the French word “trace” also means track, path, or mark, and this is what must be kept in mind when reading “trace”. What the trace amounts to is that the meaning of a sign is generated by the difference it has from other signs, and this means that the sign also contains a trace of what it does not mean. In this sense, “trace” becomes a term for a “mark of the absence of a presence, an always already absent present.” (Of Grammatology, Spivak xvii). What then is the notion of trace in Rheinberger’s experiment? Like the meaning of the sign, the epistemic thing gradually gains significance and becomes reified step by step. The most pertinent observation here is that neither “the traditional epistemological conception of induction nor that of deduction will be of help to us” – indeed, Rheinberger thinks that even Charles Sanders Peirce’s notion of abduction will not do, even though it comes close and is usually credited with novelty in the process of scientific investigation. What we get is a notion that Rheinberger calls “subduction.” Abduction differs from deduction and induction in that it does not begin with a general from which the individual is deduced or from individuals which are generalized through induction, abduction is the assumption of a general hypothesis, usually from a singular, which leads to the truth through conjecture or guesswork. In subduction, finally “novelty can come about inadvertently, [that] the unprecedented can be made to happen.” (p. 11) And the space in which this happens is “between the agents of knowledge and their objects of their interest.” (ibid.).

Rheinberger starts with the notion that the original gesture of the modern sciences was to “try[ing] to make the invisible visible.” We try to reveal and make accessible to our senses things that cannot be observed immediately or unmediatedly. And here we see that an “instrumentally mediated disturbance” is needed to make contact with the material. Like the documentary filmmaker who tries to show how the life of a person “is,” she cannot help but interfere with that life through the camera. In the same way, we interfere with our scientific measurements through the instruments that we use and that lead us to new knowledge in the first place.

The point is that this media/technological landscape is the only way in which science exists, and more importantly, this landscape has emerged from the process of knowledge generation itself, Rheinberger writes. Traces are a form of “material manifestation—a form of palpability” (ibid.). They are more rudimentary than what we call a representation, their nature is indexical, it is the primary manifestation of an epistemic thing, and it predates the distinction between writing and imaging. Rheinberger adds here that writing and imaging are our traditional forms of representation, but the trace is their raw material, the raw material of the experimental semiosis. In this sense, the trace is asemic, it is not yet semantic, it does not yet have meaning. But this makes it a puzzle. A trace is a trace of something, but that something is always absent (ibid. p. 13). The trace convinced Derrida that there could be no simple origin. To put it in scientific terms, the supposed origin of the trace is absent “not only in the sense of no longer being here, but in a much stronger sense: it ever was before. We cannot catch the thing that generates the trace in flagrante. Were this possible, we could save ourselves the whole experimental effort” (p. 13.).

The central task is to reflect on the epistemic and technical constitution of trace-generating experimental systems and the experimental environments or landscapes that they form. And this is where Rheinberger’s harsh criticism of the sciences comes in: he argues that this has not found its place in the self-perception of the sciences. What counts for them is the result, the finding. Instead, Rheinberger focuses on the occurrences and events of the experiment. There is neither a knowing “I” nor completed knowledge, the book is positioned in between. And this in-between consists of the traces that are created. There are paths and trajectories in which this happens. Rheinberger points out that all experimentation moves along two different epistemic axes, “depending on whether it is about the exploration of spatial structure or the determination of temporal sequences” (p. 14). In short, what is too big must be miniaturized, what is too small must be enlarged. Processes must be sped up or slowed down. And these procedures are the instructions for generating traces and providing ways of transforming them into data., i.e. ordering and condensing them, so that patterns can emerge that give contours to the phenomenon under investigation. (Cf. Ibid.)

It is time to give an example of such a trace. Rheinberger chooses radioactive substances. Radioactive substances can be measured because they indicate the path they take through the body, and a small amount of the substance can indicate the whole. In short, the system produces and simultaneously registers the traces. But these sequence gels or other experimental traces are transient. They disappear after some time. To capture them, an additional manipulation is necessary, also to make visible what is happening. Here we make the change from medium to data. The invisible intensity pattern is transferred to a sensitive film. In this way, fleeting traces can be transformed into permanent data. Rheinberger uses a word play on data here: “unlike what the name suggests, nothing is “given”—it is all the result of a process. (p. 19).

This is what Rheinberger’s book is about: how experimentation can lead us to new knowledge. And it is the wilder and more material splitting and splicing rather than the controlled and intellectual analysis and synthesis that gets us there.

In the next chapter we come to the model as a figuration that originates in the space of data. In addition to models, we can have lists, filters, orders according to variable criteria, storage, curating, and so on. The data space is quite malleable, writes Rheinberger, because we no longer have to deal with “resistances of the materiality of the experimental process.” However, Rheinberger emphasizes that the data manipulation comes with its own set of complications. We have seen a growth in data space that has been unprecedented in the last half century. This brings with it a new dynamic, that makes it appear as a real space in its own right. Data space now has its own materiality and an inherent unruliness of its own practices. We need to pay attention to this, too, Rheinberger argues.

What makes models both strong and weak is the simplification they offer. Their weakness is that we can forget for a moment that they are illusions. and their strength is that they can be easily reconfigured even as the data changes. (Recently, an Internet meme showed about 10 different kinds of model possibilities for the same kind of data, one of which was the shape or outline of a gorilla). Rheinberger points out that we oscillate between models of and models for. While science is concerned with models of, models for are found in art and architecture. Models of can be divided into functional and structural models. The example of a model organism comes from molecular genetics, we look at ribosomes, which are model organisms. The term “model organism” did not appear until the second half of the 20thcentury and played a decisive role in the development of molecular biology. The ideal model organism has material consequences because of its ideality. Why is that? Because one has to intervene in order to standardize the organism (cf. p. 27). The model organism has been modified and this “determines their character as a research tool” (ibid.). In that the model organism embodies previously acquired knowledge and becomes less an object of investigation than a technical condition of the experimental system. The models served in such a way that a picture “could be grasped at first sight and that suggested further, experimentally accessible questions on the basis of these synoptic premises” (p. 32). Rheinberger argues that the models, in their pictoriality, have the character of affordances, a term we know well from actor network theory and neo-materialistic philosophies. The model as an image becomes a kind of actant. The connection of this production of an illusion or image is not a deficiency of the model, but instead Rheinberger shows that it is an advantage. This is where the English translator curiously called or translated the restriction as malapropism, which triggered the analogy I made at the beginning of this review and my comparison of what Rheinberger does with Donald Davidson’s essay on malapropism. It is all about the new meaning in the metaphor as well as the new meaning that comes from the experiment found in the model. Because of this imaginary fiction, it is easier to formulate expectations and to address them experimentally. We have entered fully into the circularity between model and experiment full on, Rheinberger writes: “The model serves as an indirect source for an iterative process of producing of new experimental traces that, when transformed into data, can be reexamined for their compatibility with the existing model.” Rheinberger goes on to quote Alan Badiou from his early book the Concept of Model, in which he argues that the model, as a transitory aid is destined to deconstruct itself in the scientific process. What Rheinberger wants to point out is that the model represents under a specific synopsis and neglects aspects that do not come into view under the given experimental conditions. But new questions are generated, and the attempted answers continually modify the model.

There is so much more Rheinberger has to say about models; when he distinguishes structural models from functional models, it turns out that the latter attempt to associate functional states with components or regions, while structural models operate away from primary traces or data collections to a mediated form at the level of synopsis. This leads to feedback not only between models and experimental data production, but also between models themselves that refer to the same epistemic object (cf. S. 39). We are not dealing with the question of what the model means and what its reference is, but with a relation between different representations. It is nice how Rheinberger invokes Frege’s distinction between sense and reference by noting that the model either makes sense or it does not. Structural models are thus determined by two main parameters underlying their construction: “the external shape in three-dimensional space” as well as the “Internal articulation and positioning of dozens of macromolecular components with respect to each other” (p. 37). They are not primarily representational models, but rather “a tool of further knowledge production” (p. 39).

Finally, Rheinberger looks at computer graphics models, the latest addition. Here, too, the potential for gaining knowledge lies in the comparison of different models that alternative visualization technologies give us using different data sets. The different technologies are indeed different interferences, since they require different preparation procedures for the probes. “Native, untouched particles, however, cannot be seen or made visible, which makes the manipulation of their stature unavoidable. The only possibility of gaining a robust assessment of their shape is a permanent triangulation between the different results of such manipulations” (p. 44).

Rheinberger concludes the chapter on models with a brief excursion into computer simulations. As epistemic entities they are qualitatively different from other models in that they do not result from experimental traces transformed into data, accompanied by the change of medium in the transformation to data. Simulations operate on self-generated data. This gives them the advantage of allowing us to visualize origins and futures that are inaccessible in real experiment. Since we have computers, simulations have opened up additional space for experimentation that now makes models themselves the object of research. At the end of the chapter, Rheinberger points out something quite fascinating: that we are used to the precession of the simulation type of model from the fields of art and architectures. There, the models are not models of, but models for. “Here, the relation between the model and the modeled is inverted from the start” (p. 45). What this means for the relationship between the sciences and the arts is unfortunately beyond the scope of Rheinberger’s book, but it is widely discussed today, especially since we have begun to talk about artistic research.[1]

Chapter 3 of Split and Splice is entirely devoted to the trope of “making visible.” We have been circling this since the beginning of the book when we talked about synopsis and the imagery of models. Rheinberger believes that making visible is “the fundamental gesture of the modern sciences in their entirety,” and that it speaks directly to the moment of making inherent in the process. But “visualization is always bound to variegated forms of intervening,” (p. 46), Rheinberger continues.

The trace marks the beginning of the process of making something visible and lives from its proximity to the material and its proximity to the tools that bring it into being. “It therefore precedes the critical distinction between image and writing” (Ibid.). Even the practice turn in sociology, history and the philosophy of science has not yet looked closely enough at “what goes on in the space between the knower and the object of knowledge.” Meanwhile Goethe considered contemplation important and pointed to the middle ground. In his study of Newton’s theory of color, he refused to let the mediated quality of knowledge simply evaporate and to pretend that there was direct or immediate transparency. The chapter discusses examples of forms of visualization in the laboratory. We have moved from models to the actual procedures of visual representation that underlie models and preparations. Rheinberger discusses “configurations,” which are procedures of spatial and temporal compression and expansion. The second are procedures of enforcement or enhancement, and the third are procedures of schematization, in order to draw up a typology of visualizations in the sciences.

An exemplary form of compression is the map. Another is the curve, which can synoptically represent a whole series of measurements of one or more variables. This makes patterns visible. Enhancement means that structures, and even processes are made visible by coloring or placing contrasts. The means of enhancement become part of what is to be represented. Deformations must be inherent to the process. This was the earlier example of radioactive marking. One type of enhancement is particularly interesting: biological agents that are introduced to expand. We do not see the bacteria and viruses, but the space occupied by the destroyed bacteria and multiplied viruses. This is certainly not representation by depiction, but it does make the processes in question accessible for further study (cf. p. 60). Finally, schematization is used when processes are too complex. The umbrella term for the schematization is “diagrammatic,” which has recently received a great deal of attention from cultural studies. A pictorial language is developed, a kind of „image regime“ (p. 61). Rheinberger quotes Hertz, a student of Helmholtz, who is said to have said that the sciences produce “internal simulacra” of the things of the world, making possible “different images of the same objects”. Admissible, correct, and useful are the three terms he uses to describe the technical side rather than the epistemological side of experimentation. It is about “the insertion of new apparatus or procedures in already existing experimental setups (p. 67).

Most systems are transformed by apposition. Since with Rheinberger we also are dealing with the translator of Jacques Derrida, who has used the concept of grafting dealing with writing, we find a subchapter on the “Graft of Writing” which beautifully makes the connection between the natural science and the humanities. If grafting is a process of manipulation in which a new connection is made between two separate entities, then we can compare it to nomadic movements as Isabelle Stengers has described them, prerequisites for illuminating the differences in cultural techniques. Derrida spoke of the transposition of linguistic particles from one discursive context to the other, which he called an “iteration”.

Dissemination and grafting characterize the heteroclite and heteronomous, which he considered a crucial feature of the cultural technique of writing. What he meant by this was that meaning spreads like a disease, erratically through the body. Meaning is not linear and cannot be accurately depicted. Grafting is the insertion of something foreign, something that does not emerge from the pre-existing structure. But it requires the pre-existing structure to articulate itself as this other (cf. p. 70) For Derrida, to write is necessarily to graft. Bachelard used the concept of graft in the context of poetic work and images of the elements. The graft adds something new, that cannot be derived from it in the sense of an imaginative derivation. It is “material imagination” as a result of an apposition. Interestingly, the graft is here not understood as a metaphor, he takes it at face value, Rheinberger argues, and it is a figure of “material imagination” (p. 71).

After the grafts come the interfaces, the sutures between the grafted new technology and the pre-exiting technologies. There is also hybridization, which merges two independently established into a new construct. Grafting and hybridization are crucial to the iteration of experimental systems.

The last chapter of Part One deals with the protocols that must be written as an integral part of every experiment. Why are these primary written notes and records important? Because they constantly accompany the experimenter. Notes convey the concrete processes of knowledge formation. They are not an authoritative voice that knows where to go, they are tentative. And that is why they are productive and mostly neglected. As Friedrich Kittler said: “A writing system is an indispensable space of notation for emergent knowledge” (p. 95).

2. The Supra-Scopic

The second part of Rheinberger’s book is as fascinating as the first, because it is about time, but not as time as an object of experimentation, but the temporal course that epistemic processes can take. George Kubler was an art historian, a thinker in terms of structures like Thomas Kuhn, and obsessed with material objects. And with Rheinberger, Kubler is aligned with Derrida as concerned with the “diachronic flow structures of the historical process and its conceptualization” (p. 100). Time is not a fow, but a structure composed of units, each of which carries its own temporality. He departs from the distinction between longue and courte duree of biology and the individual development. He wants to focus on the characters and properties of the objects of culture, the things with which the arts are concerned. In short, he is interested in “figures of temporal condensation of a medium range that he calls “shapes” (p. 101).He wants to see the processes common to art and science in the same historical perspective, without blurring the differences between artistic and scientific things. Utility and beauty are, after all, very different. But the genesis of epistemic things and works of art is not entirely different, since they share at least the trait of invention, change, and obsolescence at least. (Cf. Ibid.) No wonder Rheinberger is interested in Kubler, but not in returning to the “genius religion” of the great man-inventors. Novelty may be an idea, but the sudden inspiration of gifted brilliance is not the answer. Rather, it is the “unprecedented result of a retrojection,” Kubler suggests. Here is the example: An artist and a miner are digging for ore. They can assess the tunnels dug, still there is no guarantee what direction to take. Both artists and scientists move in a terrain of materiality. They are scarred by the paths that have been trodden before. They must confront the materials head on. Like Kuhn Kubler sees the arts as moving towards no goal. We move toward what we want to know. We seize the moment in the given circumstances of possibility. We create a series or a sequence.

Rheinberger then thinks about epistemic trajectories in terms of Kubler. He repeats what Fleck thought, namely that experiments tend to be “carried along by a system of earlier experiments and decisions,” recalling Kubler’s imagery of tunnels and shafts. Rheinberger then lists five kinds of trajectories or sequences that can be specified in the empirical sciences: frames for the production of experimental traces and data. To demonstrate this, he takes a model organism, the flour moth Ephestia kühnella, and shows us how it was used as an object of study to study its spread and learn how to eradicate it. But he also shows how it was eventually replaced by other model organisms because its genetics were too complicated to read.

Epistemic and artistic matters are therefore similar in that what we call the “ingenious ideas” are mainly the researchers who become aware of an option that such a system offers and usually through a new technique or a signal that surfaced in a hidden corner. Cultural novelty, Rheinberger concludes the chapter, is realized in history as the history of things and are closely tied to the materials and the options that emanate from them (cf. p. 114).

The second chapter of Part II is about experiential cultures, which are the specific forms of spatial expansion of experimental systems. Such systems may form ensembles or bundles, in which case they are called experimental cultures. Here we have an interesting glitch in the otherwise excellent translation. Rheinberger writes that the concept of “Sich-Teilen-in” is central, which means literally, “To-Divide-Oneself-Into.” But the translation uses the word “sharing,” which is not the best choice because it brings the meaning too close to the symbolic. Culture is usually tied to the symbolic, but Rheinberger wants to focus on the “materialities of the scientific work in process.” And this is why it is a self-splitting, not a sharing, a division that is material. Rheinberger says the Sich-Teilen-in contains the core of why we speak of cultures here. Aspects of experimentation that are similar are called styles of scientific thought or practice, as well as ways of knowing or doing. But the notion of culture underscores the aspect of material interrelation between experimental systems, a meaning that only emerges as these systems emerge.

Most importantly, Rheinberger does not want to discuss experimental cultures as part of a history of disciplines that looks at institutions. Instead, he wants to define scientific communities in terms of their shared paradigms, and to try to characterize them in terms of shared experimental life forms. This explains at least why the translator has chosen the term “sharing” earlier. Such a shared culture or life form of experimentation is then presented by looking at “in vitro” – the biological test tube culture. The transition from a living system to a test tube system was not simply a transition from biology to organic chemistry – but it was the replication of life under different conditions. The question is: “do we still see nature in the mirror?” In a chapter on culture as an epistemological concept, we get a discussion of the modern use of the term, the distinction between man-made and naturally occurring things (cf. p. 126).

Chapter 8 is called Knowing and Narrating. Reflection of modern science in its own activity. The metaphor of the legibility of the world is used here, and that the letters of the book of nature are inherent in nature and all we do is look for them to be revealed. The image tells us that the scientific discourse is transparent and unadulterated by the media through which it is represented. Against this background, Rheinberger asks: do scientific texts narrate or not? Or are they really descriptive or hypothetico-deductive as we would like to believe. He brings up the distinctions between explanation and understanding, nomothetic and idiographic, knowledge of nature and knowledge of history.

First comes the question of authorship, the question of narrative. Experimental systems embody and realize a narrative structure. Since the experimental order is in a constant state of reorientation, experimental systems not only tell stories, but also change them (p. 136).

This is how we arrive at the poetology of research. Polanyi’s ideas about the agency of things are introduced. What we see here to is that epistemological acts allow us to take the next step in given research situations and that it is the “unexpected impulses” that determine the “course of scientific development” (Polyani p. 141). An experiment must introduce unintended effects, or unexpected results. In a chapter on epistemicity and experimentality knowledge things are characterized as things that leave something to be desired. Their relationship to the world is a search for knowledge. Quoting Claude Bernard, Rheinberger suggests that experimenters arrange situations so that finding becomes possible. He writes “One could describe such searching as a game of eventuation. It is an engagement with the material world that requires, first, an intimate acquaintance with the things at hand, and second (and at the same time) a distancing, the ability to let things appear strange” (p. 143). At this point the term “Serendipity” comes up again, and it stands for the serendipity of research, the fact that a serendipitous byproduct has effects on a theory and produces questions that could not have been asked before. It is about an epistemology of the unprecedented (ibid.)

And finally, towards the end of the book Rheinberger comes to the fragment. Traditionally, the fragmentary has been regarded as a deficient state of things to be repaired by a view from the whole. I recently heard the Slovenian writer and Ingeborg Bachmann Price Winner Ana Marwan, reading from her latest book, Zabubljena, in German “Verpuppt” (Marwan 2023) make the same eulogy or declaration of love for the fragmentary. She said about her novel that she did not want to write a narrative, a whole story that makes sense, but to give priority to small pieces of life. To the momentary beauty of a fragment in time and constellation with other people, and not to the implementation of that piece into a larger whole of a life that makes sense. She argues that this is closer to the way life is and feels as lived, as fragmentary.

Rheinberger wants the fragmentary to be a driving force of the research process and believes that it characterizes “both the natural sciences and the historical humanities” (Postscriptum p. 520). Again, he distinguishes between the scientific activity of dissecting materials in order to gain knowledge of their fine structure and the relations between the parts, and the kind of dissection and fragmentation that for the historical humanists has always been done by time. The humanist finds her material already in a fragmented state and must reconstruct it. For the biological and physical sciences of the past, we have a similar fragmentation by time.

Both epistemic intervention and representation (a distinction made by Ian Hacking) are built on the fragmentary. Our mappings of the world are based on intelligent economy.” Rheinberger gives the example of Borges’ scientist who wanted to make a 1:1 map, without leaving anything out, he wanted to represent the whole, not just a fragment, but such a map would make no sense. Fragments allow for a “resistance to plenitude: gaps, leftovers, omissions” and especially the thing that is absent but left its imprint and is thus an absent presence “at the point of contact as an absent origin.” Here we clearly hear Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, the translator of Jacques Derrida.

In conclusion, Rheinberger presents a book on scientific method that deals in the first part with the spatial and in the second with the temporal problems of discovering any new epistemic object in science. Since we are finding our way into the unknown we need to take epistemic uncertainties as part of the process. Resistance and the influence of our experimental activity are part and parcel of the life of epistemic things.


[1] See the workshop Zufall und Einfall. Medien der Kreativität in Wissenschaft und Kunst. November 9-11, 2023 at KU Linz. The collected papers will be published with Transcript in 2024.

Eugen Fink: Fashion: Seductive Play






Fashion: Seductive Play Book Cover




Fashion: Seductive Play





Eugen Fink (Author) , Stefano Marino (Anthology Editor) , Giovanni Matteucci (Anthology Editor) , Ian Alexander Moore (Translator) , Christopher Turner (Translator)





Bloomsbury Publishing




2023




Paperback




138

Reviewed by: Chiara Tessariol

I.

Fashion: Seductive Play is a monograph originally written in German by Eugen Fink in 1969 that focuses on the significance of fashion as an object of study that is also worthy of philosophical consideration. The book has been translated into English in 2023 and published in a new edition that is also enriched by an original Introduction written by Stefano Marino and Giovanni Matteucci. Through a detailed and in-depth contextualization of Fink’s thought, Marino and Matteucci (editors of this book) succeed in highlighting its topicality by comprehensively outlining his discourse on fashion as a philosophical question, being highly controversial today.

With a pragmatic stance, Fink points to a number of deficiencies that can be blamed on a certain typical dichotomous attitude that has characterized Western thinking and has often led to heedless disqualification of the aesthetic validity of fashion. However, a redefinition of popular culture that has taken place in the last few decades has made it possible to critically rethink and overcome the traditional oppositional division between high culture and low culture. Hence, one of the aims of this project is to propose what we can define as the first instance of legitimization of fashion and its play of forms, analyzed with an approach derived from phenomenological philosophy.

In their introduction, Marino and Matteucci circumscribe the origin of Fink’s book to a precise context within his philosophical development, making reference to Simona Bertolini’s work (a great expert of Fink’s thought) who has traced a specific timeline in the evolution of Fink’s philosophy (p. 7). Throughout his studies, Fink tackles various stages of philosophical reflection, which gradually lead him to also embrace fields such as anthropology and pedagogy. Eventually, his interests culminate in a pronounced scrutiny of the relation between human beings and their environment, and how human beings interact with the world through play —  understood as a vital thrust. This final stage in the development of Fink’s thought is precisely the stage in which we can place his fashion book. Besides this, through Marino’s and Matteucci’s essay the reader is immediately introduced to the specificity of Fink’s phenomenological investigation by means of an analysis of the concepts of play, appeal, seduction, leadership, and body. In particular, the latter is investigated in a somehow dialectical way: on the one hand, there is the level of the “alienated” body, i.e. the body understood as an object. On the other hand, there is the level of the body recognized as an organism and as the “instrument” through which we can have our unique and real-life experience. Fink, thus, emphasizes in a new way the importance of the bodily dimension, which has been severely undermined and repudiated by the Western tradition which is in favor of the spiritual sphere. Following the steps of this same reasoning, a second implication becomes apparent: by covering our body with clothes (which is distinguished from that of other animals because of its nakedness), we somehow enter into a second dimension. This extra layer differentiates us from all other species, because this “second skin” is culturally chosen, and delineates human beings as socially, artistically and intellectually refined creatures. So, fashion becomes the civilized, established medium that marks the individuals from the outside world, a cultural phenomenon that is surely worthy of study.

Through a theoretical-conceptual approach, the cardinal principles of Fink’s investigation are examined in this book and compared to other currents, to broaden the articulation of his philosophical proposal regarding fashion, eventually revealing the anthropological implications intertwined with it. Heir to the questions of philosophers such as Husserl and Heidegger, Fink succeeds in reconstituting his own original investigation, in which he takes up a new line of inquiry that delves into the expressive ambiguity of clothing and, more generally, into the polysemous field of aesthetics, understood as a complex system of symbols of ambivalent nature. It acknowledges the beauty of appearance, and its noteworthiness is revealed by retracing some dimensions that are viscerally linked to human existence and cannot be minimized by being reduced to a mere consumerist discourse. So, it becomes evident that clothes are a sort of bridge that connects the individual to the outside world and, likewise, delimits his/her physical presence, separating the body from the rest, circumscribing the subject’s individuality and making known its meaningful interaction with other organisms. The meaning that human beings assign to their own image and aesthetics, hence, acquires an actual importance, and this emphasizes the practical-operational character of appearance, rather than its purely conceptual nature.

Ultimately, the originality of Fink’s philosophical thinking is recognized by Marino and Matteucci in their Introduction specifically for its anthropological roots, which find their raison d’être in his historical perspective. From the author’s critical point of view, fashion is understood as a sort of compensation for the decline of human beings’ primary instincts during its evolution. Clothing, together with other forms of interaction, is constituted as an alternative form of transformation and personification of human beings’ surroundings, thus identifying art forms as a different way of expressing one’s being. On account of this, through a socio-anthropological excursus, it is shown how clothes function, firstly, as a barrier to safeguard the body from the gazes of the world, as a sort of social connection between the wearer and the observer. Secondly, clothes function as an active interaction of performative symbols that acquire an explanatory connotation when worn in front of others. Through an elaborate proposal, Fink develops his own theory on fashion, acknowledged as a necessary practice for human being’s existence. The dialectical reconstruction of the fashion phenomenon here serves as a common thread, capable of grasping the essential continuity in the author’s perspective.

II.

The original version of the book was opened by a short Preface written by Walter Spengler (included also in this English edition) that makes another salient point. Although it is difficult to briefly define the concept of fashion because of its multifaceted nature, we cannot deny that it has a profound meaning for human beings. When we refer to “fashion”, we immediately tend to think of clothes; however, any aspect of the human experience, in principle, is fashionable. In its broadest sense, fashion can be applied to everyone — men, women, children — and everywhere — in architecture, in travel destinations, or even in ways of giving birth or dying. This human “fashion-ability” proves to be crucial, because when one misses its meaningfulness, one also risks to miss a whole set of values, symbols, and ideas that belong to that specific trend — given that, people can even be socially excluded when they do not possess fashionable features or do not follow certain biases. There is therefore a sort of unwritten rule that presses the human being in his/her appearance to be exposed to the judgment of others, who trivially can define him/her as “in” or “out” on the basis of tacit shared standards.

The first chapter of Fink’s book, after Spengler’s Preface, scrutinizes the roots of clothing, understood as a significant representational medium for humankind since its origins. Fink’s argumentation draws on a Kantian conception which reworks with elegant delicacy, the Biblical narration on how the human being became truly “human”. A dialectical traversal between Kant and Fink unfolds in many articulations that, although conditioned by the Kantian legacy, results in a series of genuine implications of thought. The main ideas about the anthropological “rise” of human beings are thereby retraced.

Initially, through the use of language, the human being enters into a thoughtful relationship with the world. Aware that he/she can make use of the light of reason, the human being is now also capable of rebelling against leadership and acquires, for the first time, the capacity to choose. The break between what we may call the pre-human condition and a properly human one (characterized by reason) is underscored by the Finkian reworking of this narration that stresses how individuals self-determine, refine themselves, and establish a leadership and a deeper relationship with the space they inhabit. People, uplifted from their primordial slavery condition, experience a freedom from which they will not return back. Secondly, Kant pointed out the difference in sexual drive and the concept of nudity that exists between non-human animals and human beings. While for the former, sexuality is dictated by the seasonal heat, the human being experiences his/her sexuality with greater constancy. Moreover, nudity is a concept peculiar only to the human experience of life, which, in fact, sees the use of fig leaf – an image laden with erotic symbolism – in covering one’s genitals. Fink takes up the reins of Kantian thought by admitting that the human being is adept at refining his/her drives and reworking his/her relationships in such a way as to give them an emotional and affective value. It follows a statement that postulates a dichotomy between a benign and a malevolent power of thought, which allows the individual to reflect on possible future scenarios, and yet, now aware of strains of life, has to deal with preoccupations that burden him/her. However, in this dialectical exchange Fink accentuates the concept of “care,” for which the capability of the human being to reflect on his/her past plays a central role and explains why he/she acts in favor of a better future, providing what is necessary for his/her existence, while recognizing that labor and pain are inescapable. To continue, the concept of human dominion over other animals, used as tools, is examined. There is, thus, a mutual respect between humans as co-rulers (p. 42), a kind of “self-proclamation” of human beings as a chosen species who live above all others, and whose freedom is only limited when the freedom of another human being begins. In this regard, Fink positively underlines that sociability is a covenant between humans that derives from reason and that our freedom is not limited by the other, but rather coexists with the other. Ultimately, an inherent reflection on freedom is provided: on the one hand, freedom offers us more choices; on the other hand, decision-making power forces us to face a situation to ponder and chart our own path. The human being, as creator of his/her own destiny, manages to give value to his/her own body, even with the use of material production.

In the Christian narrative, as opposed to the spirit, soul or mind (which elevate the individual), the body holds the individual in the earthly dimension, connoting it as a limitation to our proximity to a higher sphere. The body becomes the expedient that brings us closer to the animal realm and does not allow us to approach a divine existence. However, as the author stresses here, humans’ vital experience always takes place in an embodied manner; indeed, without the body, human beings could not open themselves to the world.

III.

In the second chapter of Fink’s book, human society is contextualized in its forms and organizations, and the concept of “fashion” is analyzed within existing divergences of the system. In a broader sense of the term, fashion reflects the Zeitgeist of our time, providing the means by which we identify ourselves with the actual historical context. In truth, fashion influences our lives so much that those who contradict the Zeitgeist by dressing differently, for example, paradoxically confirm the influence of fashion and emphasize how far it has spread to all the different layers of society. Or else, in the strictest sense of the term, the fleetingness of fashion is also affirmed, which, in its continuous evolution, is manifested in a short time span. Once again, an assessment of Western thinking with regard to the significance of fleetingness is made, whereby the human being deciphers the importance and worth of things on the basis of their durability and temporal stability. This gives rise to one of the main prejudices against fashion: because of its intrinsic nature, it is unstable and constantly changing over time, for which it is popularly considered to have no moral depth. Fashion, therefore, has been wrongly considered as frivolous and has been often portrayed as an unnecessary vice that people fall prey to – all victims of fashion businessmen who, for their own financial gain, induce people to buy more and more. While admitting the importance of the quality and durability of clothes that serve to cover the human body, Fink also foregrounds the aesthetic aspects of clothes, which are just as real as their functional features. Indeed, the human being lives in a reality that is manifested concretely, materially, and he/she is self-aware of his/her corporeality, through which he/she expresses a series of values and ideas that go beyond mere functionality, such as social status, personal taste, sexual desire, and so on. Fashion finds further social significance in its ability to scan time and place, by decoding who we are and what we do, by revealing gender, age, and a host of features that otherwise would not be expressible except through the language of clothes. Finally, considering fashion from an exquisitely economic point of view, Fink argues its validity by stressing that the current economy goes beyond production strictly related to primary needs, and in textile production there is also creative and artistic work that elevates a simple piece of cloth to an intangible, but no less important, value.

IV.

The third chapter of Fink’s book further explores the different meanings of the word “public” to which fashion is related. On the one hand, the notion of “public” can connote a political, state institution, linked to a system of laws and regulations. In addition, it can be used as the opposite of “private” or “familiar”, when we refer to all those social and work roles that lie outside our most intimate family sphere. Alongside the concept of public, we find the notion of “publicity”, which differs from the first term because it refers to a lifestyle that is not entirely subjugated by external constraints, i.e., how a person acts, speaks, and dresses is explained as a result of a primordial instinct to the emulation of others. In this context, garments, thus, become an intelligible element, a sort of frontier between publicity and singularity, reflecting both the individual’s taste and personality and, at the same time, the influence of external vogues. This sort of guidance from the surrounding arises from the work of the designer, who must be able to grasp what the consumer’s innermost and unconscious desires are, launch new ideas that challenge popular taste within an unpredictable fashion market, and finally translate them into their design. It is precisely this extravagance that makes people amazed and constantly breaks a temporary balance that allows them to create new ones. Designers propose new ways of thinking through their artworks, although the uniqueness of their creativity is soon lost because the industrial reproducibility of a garment is almost immediate. Conversely, a consumer experiments and plays with forms and contents, and is able to appreciate fashion in its infinite manifestations.

The aforementioned expressive capacity of clothing differentiates us from the animal world, where all kinds of enclosures have the mere function of protection, while human beings also entrust a cultural and meaningful symbolism to what they wear. Through his/her work the designer identifies the impulses proper to his/her contemporary era, which, in the 1960s (that is, the time when Fink’s book was first published in Germany), were already displaying greater freedom concerning sexual attraction and fluidity between the sexes. The designer, stripped of all taboos, interprets the impulses and desires dictated by sexual charge that are inherent in human beings and creates clothes that reflect these energies and drives. In doing so, for Fink there is a division between interpreting the image of the man and that of the woman. In the former case, the sexual symbolism of the man is much less pronounced and obvious: as a matter of fact, the attraction to him is reinterpreted in a more subtle way in the form of values such as masculinity, power, and physical prowess, to transmit the idea of security, strength, and protection. In the women’s case, what is pointed out are the most forbidding areas, to directly outline forms and shapes of the female body. Hence, women’s physicality is emphasized in a harmonious way, through an intriguing game of veiling and unveiling, covering and uncovering, playing with the accessible and the forbidden, in order to enhance her appeal.

V.

The fourth chapter of Fink’s book focuses on the notion of stimulus and how it works, even unconsciously, on human reactions, first at a biological level. Merely through a single detail, fashion manages to cause a response, a stimulus precisely, in the beholder. The human being, in his/her relationship with the other, is always subjected to new stimuli, which can give rise to different feelings such as sympathy or antipathy. Therefore, the relationship with the outside becomes meaningful, so that an interest can be aroused at different levels: it may derive from curiosity, from sexual interest or from an interest towards otherness, but anyway the totality of all those small reactions characterizes our interaction with the environment and form our cultural surroundings. Again, the role of the designer comes into play and takes part in the equation proposed by Fink. Appeal pervades human society and is cunningly read and interpreted by the designer with unobtrusive discretion, so as to elicit some reactions or emotions, almost on a subconscious level. There is, however, a political symbolism attached to appeal which can express a social status, or an erotic charge that manifests itself in different ways — according to the taste of the current Zeitgeist.

At any rate, it must be recognized that there is a fine line between what suggests a reaction and an interest in us and what overtly highlights certain parts of the human body. When physical characteristics are explicitly shown off, the opposite effect occurs, in which the naturalness of what one wants to show off is lost, hence mislaying that veiled je ne sais quoi that is typical of the fashion game of seeing-through. By analyzing the concept of appeal, a challenge is opened up to the reader whereby we no longer think of fashion as a mere game of concealing and revealing, as a way of exaggerating or hiding forms. Rather, we are now led to think of fashion as a true act of representing something deeper and more innate, which takes us back to the primordial human nature and our instincts: an innate response in the human being full of meaning that mediates with our deepest Self. So, when we judge clothing from a moral perspective, we miss the fact that attire remains in-between two opposed dimensions: one that refers to the idea of “civil”, that can be rationally understood and that aligns with socially accepted and promoted values, and another that is “natural”, that represents the physical tangible part of our body which is viscerally linked to the concept of nature — a blank canvas on which to express culturally established concepts.

VI.

So far, in examining Fink’s book, we have observed the world of fashion as a vehicle for certain values of appeal, status, or human artistic expression. However, in the fifth chapter of his book Fink shifts his attention to an understanding of fashion in relation to the question of human sociability. By analyzing leisure time, both on a philosophical level and from an economic-productive point of view, Fink shows the seriousness of both production time and leisure time, emphasizing the inability of the human being to make full use of the latter. Rest time and the need for sociability are phenomena that have always permeated humankind, although historically the possibility of enjoying spare time has been a prerogative of the élite, since the main part of the population was subjected for centuries to what we may call “dehumanizing working conditions”. Whilst anciently there were occurrences of participation and entertainment of the population, the dissonance between the more privileged and the less favored found a point of resolution that mainly coincided with the French Revolution, an historical moment that sanctioned an extended freedom for all social strata. Moreover, shortly before the publication of Fink’s book (originally appeared in 1969, as I said), we witnessed advances in the industrial sector, the affirmation of mass production, and the implementation of the assembly line as a productive organization. All these factors introduced and established tight rhythms in the working hours of men and women, who ultimately made this rhythmic progression of time their own. The notion of rhythm and organization of time turns out to be tricky: the human being, absorbed in this incessant tempo, is almost incapable of filling his/her free time spontaneously and creatively: somehow it seems that, once he/she acquired the coveted freedom, he/she became unable to enjoy it. The more society advances in its progress, the more urgent the need to structure leisure time is. Consequently, new industries are born to organize different activities for people, such as games, sports, and events which, although aimed at filling the people’s time in a creative, free and convivial manner, mirror and mimic the existing timing and dynamics of work and formal activities. So, in leisure time we witness a kind of performance in which the actors participate voluntarily where they dress with an established style, behave in a certain way, and create events and participate in a play for which they entertain themselves, but not without labels, behavioral patterns or tacitly agreed norms.

​​Fink, through an analysis of the human being’s daily splitting of time, highlights once again the limits of the dichotomous approach that has been typical of Western thought, according to which leisure time is less important than work time, since it neither produces nor is considered “serious”. As in the case of fashion, also in this case Fink succeeds in unhinging prejudices about what is popularly considered to be superfluous or less necessary to human existence, giving a demonstration of the validity of all the nuances of the beautiful and the pleasurable that human beings eventually wish to experience. Fink makes the investigation of beauty a cultural issue and evinces the adult’s intrinsic need to relate to the others in a playful context and how human beings manifest their sincere desire to show themselves to the others in so many ways, including through clothes. As follows, dress becomes a symbolic medium, a set of meaningful constructs that finds its own expression in leisure time, giving the person the opportunity to originally style his or her image.

Finally, the role of young people in the use of clothes is also theorized. As bearers of a new and often critical image of society, they challenge the taste and moral values of their time, in order to create new ones. It is precisely with them that fashion and, in general, aesthetic sensibility become a means of cultural redemption, demanding a pedagogical and societal responsibility to recognize, appreciate and enhance the beauty that accompanies human life in all its forms, both as artworks and as forms of design that adorn and embellish the play of the human being.

VII.

Thinking about fashion also means contextualizing it to different historical moments. As I have stated above, in the 1960s the transformation of the production industry was already evident. Mechanization enabled forms of reproducibility capable of responding to an ever-increasing demand for goods, finally allowing people, not only to meet their basic needs but also, to satisfy and enjoy their whims, reaching the less well-off social strata also (and not only) in matters of fashion. While the dichotomous approach between high culture and low culture has already been discussed above, in the sixth chapter of Fink’s book this precept again becomes indispensable in understanding the function of cultural industries which, in their multiplicity of ways of manifesting themselves, recognize the fundamental value of the free creativity of individuals.

Fink’s reflection investigates fashion as a cultural industry, disentangling it between the different accusations of being a constricting leadership or being a tempting seduction. If we interpret fashion as a coercive pressure, we admit that in every trend there is also a normative force that defines the most fashionable lines of the moment. Nonetheless, this drive mostly points in the direction of the current style, offering many different outfits from which a person can choose. In a broader context of analysis, there are several transformational leadership dynamics that stem from the experience of state authority or the pedagogical leadership of a teacher. Similarly, what is witnessed in fashion is a diktat that is proposed by a sort of unknown authority that shows us the next trends to follow to stay fashionable; for instance, in fashion newspapers the idea of “must have” often echoes between the pages. However, the human being, endowed with reason and awareness, accesses the phenomenon of dress in a process of self-determination, according to one’s cultivated taste. Thus, the aesthetic choice is an active stance by the individual, who freely plays with fashion and trends, relating to them more as suggestions than as despotic directives. Furthermore, referring to the concept of seduction, Fink illustrates the reasons why this concept must not be necessarily limited to a negative connotation, thus proposing a renewed consideration of aesthetics in virtue of its equally important positive attributes. The term “seduction”, as a matter of fact, has been traditionally used to indicate something sinful, something wrong, which can lead us into a trap. By contrast, for Fink there exists a pure, transparent and above all real beauty that individuals can discover and experience throughout their existence. The beauty of a design, whether from nature or man-made, brings a relief and, as Fink argues, a “positive illusion” (p. 109) that sustains the human being by alleviating the inevitable hard, tedious, sacrificial, and working experiences of life. Charme is necessary to save the human being from his/her situation of misery, whereas it provides a moment of contemplation, a consolation, at least apparent, from life’s hostilities.

VIII.

In the last chapter, Fink draws his conclusions by deliberating on a possible existential justification for fashion. If considered in purely economic terms, it is evident that there exist goods that are far more important and useful than clothes, i.e., necessities. It is equally true that, from a market perspective, any good or activity reflects the economic possibilities of people who have purchasing power that allows them to own those goods and access those activities. So, assuming that the individuals’ economic well-being is used to achieve a specific power, image or relevance within a certain social group, it follows that the value we place on material goods no longer determines a purely economic value, but also a political one. Moreover, the fact that fashion is seen as unnecessary gives it, a fortiori, a negative connotation since, in the Western polarized approach, there is a division between useful goods, which are positively received, and useless goods, from which we morally tend to distance ourselves. Therefore, it becomes possible to interpret the choices of sharing and exhibiting one’s closeness to fashion from a mere moralistic point of view, but in doing so, for Fink, we overlook its most authentic and original value: its aesthetic value. Fashion is actually neither useful nor necessary. In its irrationality and elusiveness, it is an artistic expression and ultimately even a symbolic and political statement; its nature is ambiguous, dialectical and polysemous, just like the human being’s identity, and, like the human being, it essentially exists as such. Besides this, fashion is also strictly linked to human nature because of its capacity to transform the human beings’ physical life experience. Due to the complex phenomenon of the fashion system, it would be erroneous to simply judge it as positive or negative, or as worthy of existence or not: in fact, nowadays fashion permeates our lives and its existential character is a certain phenomenon. In this way, the intentionality of Fink’s reasoning lies not as much in the moral or utilitarian argumentation of la mode, but rather on what is, in universal terms, justified for its very own existence. By all appearances, such a question denotes the superficiality of the accusations leveled at fashion; after all, as Fink observes, there is no supreme authority with the power to decide what, in this world, is justified to exist or not.

Fashion belongs to the human dimension and diversifies the human being from all nonhuman animals: it is a cultural product and a complex signifying organism. Its ambiguity makes it unique and capable to creatively play with the wearer who, conversely, gives to the clothes a personal meaning, without discarding the relationship with the surrounding environment, but eventually establishing a continuous dialectical relationship between being and appearing, private and public, wearer and beholder. Indeed, fashion plays between multiple branches, revealing and concealing, playing with sex appeal, demonstrating a power, a social status, the membership to a group, and differentiating male and female gender, or mixing them.

IX.

In the 1960s, when Fink’s book was written, great changes were taking place within society. That decade represented a moment of political and social transformation, it gave new impetus to industry and looked towards modernization, as it offered space to a new freedom of expression for a hitherto, non-existent precariousness of identity, and forcing the young generation to ask new questions that need to be answered.

It is precisely in this context of cultural ferment that Fashion: Seductive Play becomes an instrument of ideological struggle, acquiring a profoundly pioneering significance. Its publication, indeed, can be understood as the concretization of a blatant awareness on the part of philosophy, which admits its role in the construction of a prospective critique, applicable to a tangible reality that is inevitably subject to change. Fink’s text is, thus, a rare proof of philosophical exploration of fashion, aesthetics and the corporeal dimension; a sort of enterprising and compelling prelude that opens a new path for philosophical fashion studies. Its argumentative richness lies in Fink’s realist attitude that, thanks to his dialectical ability, unhinges the groundless accusations moved towards fashion. It eventually replies to some questions and prejudices that have widely characterized Western culture and challenges some of its limitations and fallacies. Thanks to the editors’ accurate Introduction, the English edition of Fink’s book is also enriched with new insights that reveal an urgent — and, now more than ever, topical — need for a confirmation, still uncertain in some ways, of fashion’s legitimacy as a research topic.

Indeed, many of the stereotypes to which — according to Fink’s critical analysis — fashion was subjected, are still alive and popularly shared. However, thanks to a cultural profiling of trivializing logics, Fink allows us to understand the essentiality of the fashion phenomenon from a cultural-pedagogical point of view. Firstly, recognizing the essential value of our physical dimension and then, consequently, the symbolic system we adhere to by dressing ourselves. Finally, the publication of Fink’s book in English translation, many years after its original publication in German, proves to be a precious rediscovery and appreciation of fashion issues noteworthy for its unconventional character, an overture that has opened a dialogical encounter between philosophy and fashion that is still ongoing.

Patrizia Breil: Körper in Phänomenologie und Bildungsphilosophie. Körperliche Entfremdung bei Merleau-Ponty, Waldenfels, Sartre und Beauvoir






Körper in Phänomenologie und Bildungsphilosophie: Körperliche Entfremdung bei Merleau-Ponty, Waldenfels, Sartre und Beauvoir Book Cover




Körper in Phänomenologie und Bildungsphilosophie: Körperliche Entfremdung bei Merleau-Ponty, Waldenfels, Sartre und Beauvoir




Wissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Philosophiedidaktik und Bildungsphilosophie





Patrizia Breil





Verlag Barbara Budrich




2021




Paperback




333

Reviewed by: Thomas Zingelmann (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena)

­­­Die 2021 erschienene Arbeit, welche eine leicht veränderte Fassung der Dissertation der Autorin ist, macht eine klare Diagnose: Trotz einer differenzierten Debatte über Leib und Körper verpasste die Phänomenologie in weiten Teilen bisher körperliche Entfremdungserfahrungen zu beschreiben. Besser gesagt: Breil konstatiert, dass die phänomenologischen Diskussionen über Leib und Körper vornehmlich durch die Rezeption Maurice Merleau-Pontys geprägt ist, wobei aber die Schriften Jean-Paul Sartres und Simone de Beauvoirs Phänomene aufgreifen, die sich mit der Traditionslinie Merleau-Pontys und Bernhard Waldenfels‘ nicht beschreiben lassen. Dem möchte die Autorin Abhilfe verschaffen, indem sie dieser Problematik aus einer existentialistisch-phänomenologischen Perspektive begegnet und sich darum bemüht den Boden für eine Beschreibung körperlicher Entfremdung zu bereiten. Abseits der Beseitigung einer Leerstelle in der Phänomenologie sieht Breil hier eine pragmatische Notwendigkeit: Die Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik haben keine passenden Konzepte für die Erfahrung der Heranwachsenden. Ihnen fehle das adäquate theoretische Instrumentarium, um beispielsweise Pubertäts- oder Gewalterfahrungen der Sache gemäß aufbereiten zu können. Insofern ist auch Breils erklärtes Ziel die existentialistischen Ansätze für Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik fruchtbar zu machen. Ihr Vorhaben ist klar: „Unter Bezug auf Phänomenologien, die den Körper in seiner Materialität thematisieren, wird eine Theorie des unverfügbaren Körpers skizziert, die eine notwendige Ergänzung von phänomenologischer Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik darstellt.“ (S. 163) Ihre Überlegungen werden durch die These getragen, dass körperliche „Unverfügbarkeit […] zentraler Aspekt des Menschseins“ sei. (S. 144)

Das Buch gliedert sich gleichmäßig in zwei Teile: Teil I behandelt „Pathologien des unverfügbaren Körpers“ in Auseinandersetzung mit Merleau-Ponty, Waldenfels, der phänomenologischen Erziehungswissenschaft und der Philosophiedidaktik. Teil II thematisiert „Unverfügbarkeit als Modus körperlicher Existenz“ in Auseinandersetzung mit Jean-Paul Sartre und Simone de Beauvoir, mit deren Hilfe Breil dann einen Ansatz für Lehrkonzepte in Aussicht stellt.

Breils Ausgangsbeobachtung ist, dass „der eigene Körper auffällig“ (S. 7) wird, und zwar in einer Weise, dass die bestehende oder sich verändernde Materialität des Körpers als unverfügbar, im Sinne von unkontrollierbar erfahren wird. Der Körper würde so in „Unabhängigkeit von dem leiblichen Gesamtzusammenhang“ (S. 9) erfahren. Darauf zielt auch die Rede von Entfremdung bei Breil ab, dass der Körper entweder als nicht dem Selbst zugehörig oder zumindest als widerständig erfahren würde. Der Körper, den man hat, wird als fremd und eigensinnig erfahren. Damit ist auch schon eine Dimension ihrer Arbeit angesprochen, die doch einen Mehrgewinn in der Debatte um Entfremdung darstellt. Denn ihr Ansatz ergänzt, wie Breil selbst anspricht, den sonst von der Gesellschaftstheorie dominierten Diskussionsbereich, in welchem der Gehalt der subjektiven Erfahrung von Entfremdung kaum eine Rolle spielt. Breil ist hier ganz deutlich: Ihr geht es um „die historisch unspezifische, individuelle Möglichkeit, den eigenen Körper als widerständiges und rein physisches Gegenüber zu erfahren, dessen Stellung zum Selbst in Frage steht.“ (S. 9) Im Raum steht nicht etwa die Frage, inwieweit polit-ökonomische Umstände, Strukturen und Bedingungen zur Erfahrung spezifischer körperlicher Entfremdung führen. Ihr Buch ist von der Frage geleitet, welches die Merkmale sind, die zu dieser Erfahrung überhaupt notwendigerweise gehören. Anders gesagt – und das ist typisch phänomenologisch: Es geht um die logisch-notwendigen Strukturen dieser Erfahrung, egal wer diese wann und wo macht. Hier stellt sich Breil die entscheidende Aufgabe klassische Begriffsarbeit zu leisten, da sie der Überzeugung ist, dass es überhaupt erst ein „geeignetes Vokabular“ (S. 9) bedürfe. Daran anschließend versucht sie für die Alltäglichkeit und entgegen der Pathologisierung – denn so erklärt sich auch die Überschrift von Teil I – dieser Erfahrung zu argumentieren: Sie ist unter Zuhilfenahme der Hegelschen Dialektik der Überzeugung, dass es der „zeitweisen Entfremdung“ (S. 10) bedarf, um Selbsterkenntnis zu erlangen. Diese These und Rezeption Hegels wird im philosophiedidaktischen Teil weiter ausgeführt: Die notwendige – das heißt hier unumgängliche – Erfahrung der Widerständigkeit des eigenen Körpers (wie etwa in der Pubertät), soll für die Bildung des Individuums zunutze gemacht werden, indem eine intensive reflektierte Auseinandersetzung ermöglicht wird (S. 288).

Breils Buch verfolgt also ein doppeltes Unterfangen: Sie versucht die Frage zu klären, was körperliche Entfremdung ist, indem sie Entfremdung als Erfahrung beschreibt. Ist dies einmal geklärt, soll die Rolle dieser Erfahrung für (Selbst-)Bildungsprozesse herausgestellt werden. Unerlässlich sei es, der Intersubjektivität für diesen Themenkreis eine fundamentale Rolle zuzuschreiben. Breil ist der Überzeugung, dass diese Dimension mit anerkennungstheoretischen Prämissen in Anschluss an Alexandre Kojève und Axel Honneth eingeholt werden könne – allerdings wird sie dies nicht weiter ausführen und lediglich in Aussicht stellen. Denn es verhalte sich so, dass Identität „nur über die Entäußerung und nur im vorgestellten oder realen Angesicht des Anderen erlangt werden kann.“ (S. 12) Insgesamt möchte Breil eine Perspektive auf die Entfremdungserfahrung eröffnen, die erst einmal nicht normativ, sondern rein deskriptiv ist. Wie gesagt: Breil versucht dieses Phänomen ganz nüchtern und unaufgeregt zu betrachten, weil es – zumindest was die Pubertät angeht – eh unumgänglich ist und man sich daher Gedanken machen muss, wie damit umzugehen sei.

Breils Ansatz besteht darin, zuerst zu klären „wie auf Basis dieser leibphänomenologischen Voraussetzungen ein Fremdwerden des Körpers theoretisch erfasst werden kann.“ (S. 14) Hier ist ihr Urteil eindeutig: Die wirkmächtige Traditionslinie von Merleau-Ponty, die sich in ihrer Rekonstruktion unteranderem über Waldenfels, Käte Meyer-Drawe und Wilfried Lippitz zieht, ist nicht dazu imstande diese Phänomene nicht pathologisierend zu beschreiben. Denn das ist Breil wichtig: Ihre Arbeit soll dazu verhelfen „einer Pathologisierung von Entfremdungserfahrungen entgegenzuwirken.“ (S. 296) Es sei wichtig „ein Vokabular aufzuarbeiten, das eine bessere Beschreibung der eigenen körperlichen Existenz ermöglicht.“ (S. 282)

Die Rekonstruktion Merleau-Pontys umspannt im Großen und Ganzen das Gesamtwerk mit besonderem Augenmerk für die Leib-Konzeption in der Phänomenologie der Wahrnehmung und der Theorie des Fleisches in seinem Spätwerk. Ihm hält sie insbesondere folgendes entgegen: „Dieses Hereinbrechen eines Körpers, der sich in seiner Bedeutungslosigkeit aufdrängt, kann mit dem Leibbegriff Merleau-Pontys nicht eingeholt werden.“ (S. 72) Warum dies nicht möglich sei, erklärt sie wie folgt: „Während Leiblichkeit vornehmlich als Grund des innerweltlichen Sinngeschehens thematisiert wird, präsentieren sich Erfahrungen körperlicher Objektivierung nachgerade sinnentleert.“ (S. 72) Es sei nicht nur so, dass er körperliche Entfremdung lediglich nicht thematisiere, Breil versucht darzulegen, dass er dies aufgrund „einer Theorielücke“ nicht könne. (S. 72) Weil dem Leib bei Merleau-Ponty eine bedeutungskonstituierende Dimension zugeschrieben wird, habe man es gleichzeitig mit einer Herabwürdigung des Sinnlosen und Kontingenten zu tun – was dann bei Jean-Paul Sartre positiv hervorgehoben werden wird.

Waldenfels, der wohl kaum wie ein anderer in der deutschen Phänomenologie das Werk Merleau-Pontys vertritt, als aber auch kritisch weiterentwickelt, wird von Breil ebenfalls einer genauen Prüfung unterzogen. Dies ergebe sich aus dem Umstand, dass beide für die phänomenologisch orientierte Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik eine ausschlaggebende Rolle spielen. Waldenfels‘ Werk wird entlang der Theoriebausteine Responsivität, Fremdheit und Ordnung rekonstruiert. Im Gegensatz zu Merleau-Ponty werden Phänomene körperlicher Entfremdung zwar denkbar und auch beschrieben, aber Breil wendet ein, dass die Beschreibungen nicht adäquat, weil pathologisierend seien: „Obwohl mit Waldenfels‘ Konzeptualisierungen die Weichen für eine umfassende Analyse leiblich-menschlicher Verletzlichkeit gestellt sind, verhindert doch bereits die sprachliche Seite der Theoriebildung eine angemessene Erfassung der zugrundeliegenden Erfahrungen.“ (S. 108) Oder anders gesagt: „In Waldenfels‘ Theorie der Responsivität bleibt die Körpererfahrung – obzwar durchaus möglich – ein Fehler im System.“ (S. 110) Hier erläutert Breil auch, was ihr an so einer Einschätzung missfällt: „Eine solche Einschätzung muss vor dem Hintergrund einer Pädagogik der Leiblichkeit, die sich an der Lebenswelt von Schüler*innen orientiert […], fatal erscheinen. Statt einer Stigmatisierung des Körpers muss es vor allem im Hinblick auf physische Veränderungen in der Pubertät eine Möglichkeit geben, körperliche Entfremdung sowie körperliche Bedeutungslosigkeit als mitunter alltägliche Form der Fremdheit zu verstehen.“ (S. 110)

Hieran anschließend versucht sie aufzuzeigen „inwiefern die dargestellten Defizite der phänomenologischen Theorien sich in die phänomenologische Erziehungswissenschaft vererben“. (S. 115) Dazu werden vornehmlich die Arbeiten Meyer-Drawes und Lippitz‘ rekonstruiert, wenn aber auch Exkurse zu Eugen Fink und Otto Friedrich Bollnow gemacht werden. Für die Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik kommt sie zu einem ähnlichen Urteil wie bei Merleau-Ponty: „Nennungen des Körpers sind lediglich einer Vereinfachung der Theoriebildung oder einer begrifflichen Ungenauigkeit zuzuschreiben, die den Körper zum Leib macht und Materialität so schließlich auch sprachlich jeder möglichen Theoretisierung entzieht.“ (S. 144) Anders gesagt: Es handelt sich „um eine fehlende Differenzierung der Begrifflichkeiten“. (S. 152) Alles in allem kommt sie zu dem Schluss, dass mit Merleau-Pontys schon ein Weichenstellung gestellt ist, die zu einer „Vergeistigung des Leibes“ (S. 158) führt. Deswegen ließe sich sagen, dass „eine anerkennende Theorie des unverfügbaren Körpers fehlt.“ (S. 162)

Wie weiter? Der zweite Teil „Unverfügbarkeit als Modus körperlicher Existenz“ lässt sich als Spiegelung zum ersten lesen. Breil schlägt vor die im Kontext von Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik „nicht in ausreichendem Maß“ (S. 163) beachteten Phänomenologien Sartres und Beauvoirs einzubeziehen. Dabei ist nicht ihr Anliegen, die bis hierhin untersuchten Phänomenologien zu verwerfen, sondern zu erweitern. Sartre als existenzialistischer Phänomenologie biete sich deswegen an, weil „Erfahrungen der eigenen Körperlichkeit im Sinne eines materiellen Selbstseins durchaus einen zentralen Bestandteil seiner Phänomenologie darstellen.“ (S. 202) Dreh- und Angelpunkt ist für Breil bei Sartre sein dreifaltiges Körper-Konzept fruchtbar zu machen: „„Der Körper-für-Andere ist kein Objekt-Körper, sondern er ist die leibliche Möglichkeit einer Erfahrung des Objekt-Körpers. Auf diese Weise ist es mit Sartre möglich, den eigenen Körper als Objekt zu empfinden, ohne selbst Objekt zu sein. So können schließlich dualistische Erfahrungen auf Basis einer nicht-dualistischen Körperlichkeit thematisiert werden, ohne dass die Erklärung ins Pathologische abdriftet.“ (S. 214) Denn, was sie im ersten Teil den rekonstruierten Autoren und Autorinnen vorhält, ist, dass diese zwar versuchen den Körper-Geist-Dualismus zu überwinden, aber einem neuen verfallen, und zwar einem Körper-Leib-Dualismus. Insofern wird mit Sartre also die theoretische Schnittstelle bereitgestellt, um phänomenologisch Erfahrungen körperlicher Entfremdung beschreiben zu können, also was der Ansicht Breils nach mit Merleau-Ponty nicht möglich war.

Wo Sartre das Gegenstück zu Merleau-Ponty ist, ist dies nun Beauvoir gegenüber zu Waldenfels: So ist Breil der Überzeugung, dass Waldenfels zwar Phänomene körperlicher Entfremdung beschreiben könne, dies aber nur pathologisierend. Mit Beauvoirs Theorie wird „der Rückgriff auf ein Vokabular ermöglicht, mit dem körperliche Existenz affirmativ beschrieben werden kann.“ (S. 270) Beauvoirs Werk zeichne sich durch die „konkrete Auseinandersetzung mit der eigenen Existenz, also auch mit der eigenen Unverfügbarkeit“ aus. (S. 270) Hierdurch würde eine „Ethik des Scheiterns“ (S. 270) ermöglicht, welche nach Breils Ansicht unabdingbar für das Geschäft phänomenologischer Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik sei. Denn das ist letztlich auch das Ziel von Breil: Die Zielgruppe der Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik ist diesen Erfahrungen ausgesetzt, sie selber aber haben ihrer Ansicht nach nicht die Mittel, diese Erfahrungen theoretisch einzuholen. Insofern geht es ihr weniger um eine dezidierte Phänomenologie körperlicher Entfremdung als mehr der Vorarbeit hierfür und wie diese Theoriebausteine für besagte Bereiche fruchtbar gemacht werden können. Sie fordert aus diesen Gründen ein „Weiterdenken des Bildungsplans in Richtung der auch körperlichen Existenz“. (S. 270) Die Rezeption von Sartre und Beauvoir ermöglicht es nach Breil, einerseits das Kontigente und Sinnlose überhaupt zu denken und andererseits diesen Erfahrungen ihre Legitimität zuzugestehen.

Im abschließenden Teil kritisiert Breil bisherige Bildungspläne in der Ethik vor dem Hintergrund der Erfahrung der Lernenden und plädiert dafür, das Thema körperlicher Unverfügbarkeit in den Lehrplan mitaufzunehmen. Denn „die Bezugnahme auf den Körper [zeichnet sich] durch eine fehlende Grundlagenreflexion aus, die sich nicht zuletzt in der undifferenzierten Verwendung der Begriffe Körper und Leib ausdrückt.“ (S. 282) Dies wird durch ihre Rekonstruktion begründet, die mit Sartre und Beauvoir zeigen sollte, wie Identität (auch) durch Entfremdungserfahrungen gestiftet wird: „Durch die vertiefte Kenntnis über Verfahren der Identitätskonstitution wird die Wichtigkeit von Entfremdungserfahrungen und Erfahrungen der Bedeutungslosigkeit für die Herausbildung eines authentischen und emanzipierten Selbst hervorgehoben.“ (S. 283) Insofern käme diesem Themenbereich eine „orientierende Funktion“ (S. 296) für die Lernenden zu.

Breil hat also versucht aufzuzeigen, dass das Phänomen körperlicher Entfremdung nicht nur eine Leerstelle in bestimmten Phänomenologien ist, sondern dass dieser Erfahrung auch eine identitätsstiftende Funktion zukommt, weswegen es begründet sei, diesem Themengebiet einen Platz im Bildungsplan einzuräumen. Sie charakterisiert ihre Ausführungen als Vorarbeit: „Diese Überlegungen stellen den theoretischen Unterbau eines noch weiter zu entwickelnden körper- und situationstheoretischen Ansatzes in der Philosophiedidaktik dar, der als Ergänzung zu bisherigen Ansätzen zu verstehen ist“. (S. 296)

Das Buch zeichnet sich durch eine enge Auseinandersetzung mit den genannten Autoren und Autorinnen aus. Es wird hier vornehmlich klassische Rekonstruktionsarbeit geleistet, denn eigene Phänomenbeschreibung geliefert. Anders gesagt: Die phänomenologische Tradition wird daraufhin überprüft, inwieweit sie das Phänomen körperlicher Entfremdung mitbedacht hat oder gar mit den je eigenen begrifflichen Mitteln denken kann. Das ist zugleich Stärke und Schwäche von Breils Arbeit: Sie kann begründet aufzeigen, dass das Phänomen körperlicher Entfremdung in den Diskussionen wenig bedacht ist und versucht anhand der Theoriebausteine Wege und Möglichkeiten zu finden, diese Erfahrung adäquat zu beschreiben. Zugleich bedeutet dies sehr viel Textdiskussion. Das ist insoweit eine verpasste Chance, als dass die wenigen Momente, in denen Breil selber als Phänomenologin in Erscheinung tritt, sehr vielversprechend sind.

Die Rekonstruktionen zeichnen sich durch eine enorme Belesenheit aus: Man kann mit Fug und Recht behaupten, dass sich Breil bei jedem der vier Autoren und Autorinnen nicht weniger als das Gesamtwerk zu eigen gemacht hat – und das umfasst in den Fällen Sartre und Beauvoir auch das literarische Werk. Insofern hat man es mit einer bedachten und sehr informierten Rekonstruktion zu tun. Diese bleibt allerdings auch immer diskutabel: Klopft Breil zwar jeweils das Gesamtwerk hinsichtlich ihres Themas ab, so liegt es in der Natur der Sache, dass jede Rekonstruktion einer tour de force gleicht. Hier wäre es womöglich besser gewesen entweder selektierter auf das Thema hin zu arbeiten und Voraussetzungen dann Voraussetzungen sein zu lassen oder aber mehr als Autorin und insbesondere Kommentatorin in Erscheinung zu treten, die sich deutlicher in den Diskussionen verortet. So wird zwar beispielsweise alles darangesetzt, das schwer verständliche Spätwerk Merleau-Pontys für ihr Thema nutzbar zu machen, aber eine Einordnung und Kommentierung dessen fehlt größtenteils. Man möchte wissen, wie sie zu dem steht, was sie da rekonstruiert – abseits der Engführung auf körperliche Entfremdung.

Ohnehin bewegen sich die Rekonstruktionen auf einem schmalen Grat zwischen thematischer Instrumentalisierung und einer Rekonstruktion des Gesamtwerks. Zwar ist die Gliederung jederzeit übersichtlich, indem Theoriebaustein nach Theoriebaustein dargelegt wird. Aber es gibt Passagen, wo nicht klar wird, wer hier der ideale Leser ist. Das kann für manchen Leser dazu führen, dass der Zugang verwehrt bleibt, weil die Rekonstruktionen zu viel voraussetzen oder aber es führt für andere hingegen dazu, dass sie sich hier mehr Tiefgang und Diskussion der einzelnen Argumente wünschen. Breil zeigt aber immer ihre tiefe Kenntnis der Materie, was sich zuletzt auch am Literaturapparat sehen lässt. In jeglicher Hinsicht ist der aktuelle Forschungsstand und die dazugehörigen Debatten miteingearbeitet und (in den Fußnoten) diskutiert. Das ist sicherlich auch eine Stärke ihrer Arbeit, die die breite Anschlussfähigkeit der Phänomenologie und den hier besprochenen Themen zeigt – andere mögen dann aber hier auch wieder Tiefgang vermissen, wenn beispielsweise über die „Digitalisierung der Lebenswelt“ gesprochen wird (S. 44 und 300).

Der Überzeugungskraft des ersten Teils wäre es entgegengekommen, wenn man zuerst die Defizite in der Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik aufgezeigt hätte und woraus sich diese eigentlich speisen. So erscheinen Merleau-Ponty und Waldenfels – überspitzt gesagt – als Wurzel allen Übels in diesen Bereichen – ohne dass man ihnen hier aber die Verantwortung geben könnte. Denn Breils Anliegen gemäß sieht sie ja vielmehr das Versäumnis in den beiden Bereichen, denn bei den Autoren. Anders gesagt: Das Problem besteht weniger bei Merleau-Ponty und Waldenfels, denn vielmehr was in Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik und wofür es rezipiert wird.

Für Breils These, dass Entfremdungserfahrungen identitätsstiftend sind, fragt man sich, warum dafür Hegel herangezogen werden muss, insbesondere vor dem Hintergrund, dass es sich ja um eine Arbeit im Bereich der Phänomenologie handelt. Denn dafür sind ja Sartre und Beauvoir geeignete Gesprächspartner – wie Breil ja selber zeigt. Hingegen kann eher noch angemerkt werden, dass Breil etwaige wichtige Gesprächspartner entgangen sind: Jens Bonnemann, Iris Marion Young und Susan Brison. Bonnemann versucht mit einer Phänomenologie des Widerfahrnis grundlegend die pathische Seite des Erlebens zu beschreiben[1]; Young unternimmt den Versuch sozialgenetische Erfahrungen körperlicher Unverfügbarkeit darzulegen[2]; Brison – zwar keine dezidierte Phänomenologin – beschreibt anhand ihrer erlebten Vergewaltigung und den Erfahrungen danach, was dies mit ihrer Identität macht.[3]

Breils Buch bietet für all diejenigen, die an der Leibphänomenologie interessiert sind einen guten Überblick über grundlegende Konzepte. Darüber hinaus besticht es durch weitumspannende Rekonstruktionen der genannten Autoren und Autorinnen. All dies wird entlang der Frage nach dem Verhältnis von Leib, Körper und Selbst entwickelt. Aufgrund dieser Charakteristika ist ihr Buch für all diejenigen empfehlenswert, die sich nur für bestimmte Teile interessieren. Die Kapitel sind in sich schlüssig und bieten einen guten Umfang, um einerseits einen Überblick zu bekommen, aber auch andererseits schon tiefer einzusteigen. Und aufgrund ihres interdisziplinären Ansatzes bietet es dann auch Anschlussmöglichkeiten für Erziehungswissenschaft und Philosophiedidaktik, hinsichtlich dieser Achse. Denn Breils Verdienst ist es Sartre und Beauvoir überhaupt in das Fachgespräch zu bringen. Beide sind bisher nämlich wenig rezipiert. Hier leistet Breil dann wichtige Vorarbeit, indem sie ausgehend von beiden Theorien einen körper- und situationstheoretischen Ansatz für die Lehre entwickelt.


[1] Jens Bonnemann. 2016. Das Widerfahrnis der Wahrnehmung. Eine Phänomenologie des Leib-Welt-Verhältnisses, Münster.

[2] Iris Marion Young. 2020 [1980]. Werfen wie ein Mädchen. Ein Essay über weibliches Körperbewusstsein, Stuttgart.

[3] Susan J. Brison. 2022. Aftermath.Violence and the Remaking of Self, Princeton.