Sarah Hammerschlag: Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion

Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion Book Cover Broken Tablets: Levinas, Derrida, and the Literary Afterlife of Religion
Sarah Hammerschlag
Columbia University Press
2016
Paperback $30.00
272

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

Sarah Hammerschlag en su obra Broken Tablets: Levinas Derrida and Literary Afterlife of Religion, editada por Columbia University Press, incursiona en el terreno de los estudios religiosos a partir de dos importantes referentes: Emmanuel Levinas y Jacques Derrida. El orden de la presente exposición será mediado por la estructura misma de la obra, esbozando una serie de consideraciones capitulares y finiquitando con breves consideraciones generales. El texto se compone de las siguientes secciones: Preface (0), What must a Jewish thinker be (1), Levinas, Literature and the run of the world (2), Between the Jew and writing (3), To lose one’s head: Literature and the democracy to come (4), Literature and the political-theological remains (5), Epilogue: There is not a pin to choose between us (6).

La sección Preface (0) nos enfrenta al objetivo del estudio: comprender la lectura de Derrida de la obra de Levinas y a la vez atender al significado de una lectura conjunta de Levinas y Derrida en el marco de los estudios de la religión. En Derrida son múltiples los ecos y reverberancias de la obra levinasiana, no solo como comentador e intérprete sino incluso como deformador. La obra de Sarah apunta a un recorrido de esos momentos cruciales en los que la traza de sus diálogos permite una lectura de categorías como religión y literatura. En este apartado se señalan tanto las diferencias como las consonancias de los autores y se explicita al lector el marco de referencia de la obra, aportando nuevos insumos para los estudios en filosofía de la religión.

El primer capítulo, What must a Jewish thinker be (1), procura una diferenciación entre la religión y la literatura, a partir de las proximidades de ambos autores, considerando sus implicaciones políticas. El corazón del capítulo y en general del libro se enfrenta a la pregunta: ¿cómo debe ser un pensador judío?

El apartado desarrolla los puntos de inicio del pensamiento de los autores -Levinas con el judaísmo y Derrida con la Literatura- así como el sentido en el cual ambos pensadores formulan su identidad judía. Hammerschlag despliega una descripción de diferentes aspectos abordados por Derrida en múltiples textos, en los que realiza tanto un interpretación de las tesis levinasianas (noción de paternidad, idea del tercero) como una re-lectura de los relatos de la tradición judía (sacrificio de Isaac). Para Derrida la literatura está ineludiblemente atada a los textos religiosos de la comunidad abrahámica. Posteriormente se desarrolla una dimensión particular de la ironía, como herramienta que mantiene y da sentido a la comunidad.

Las conexiones históricas entre Derrida y Levinas se presentan a lo largo del apartado, desde sus primeros encuentros hasta el proceso de madurez de “Violencia y metafísica”, prestando atención a “momentos/palabra” de resonancia, como Dieu. Aunado a esto la autora describe algunos pasajes donde se perfila el carácter de ironía, haciendo referencia a ciertos textos. En un apartado posterior se presenta un abordaje de la noción de Decir (Dire) en Levinas, y sus resonancias en Derrida, especialmente en la relación del acto de habla como manifestación de la relación del cara-a-cara (face-to-face).

Las proximidades entre los autores se descubren en el análisis de la significación de Husserl en Investigaciones Lógicas, así como en las relaciones entre Religión y Literatura, tema que es asumido de manera distinta por ambos filósofos. La autora hace mención puntal de los aspectos que llevan a Derrida a desarrollar un trabajo a partir de las fisuras de la obra levinasiana, construyendo así una filosofía desde la ruptura con la filosofía de Levinas, pero, a la vez, reconociéndolo como su fuente de inspiración. Como expresa Hammerschlag: “For Derrida this is indeed the promise of literature and the obligation that Derrida took up as a mens of expressing his fidelity to Levinas” (p. 34). El capítulo finaliza con el reconocimiento del legado de ambos autores que, más allá incluso del nivel filosófico y político, resuena a partir de las categorías de religión y literatura.

El capítulo, Levinas, Literature and the run of the world (2), se inclina por la contextualización, atendiendo a la postura de Levinas respecto a la Literatura. Inicia con una detallada descripción de la situación judía intelectual en Francia a comienzos del siglo XX, y marca el modo en que tanto Levinas como Derrida son herederos de ese contexto. Respecto a los inicios de Levinas en el contexto académico francés se refiere la relación con Kojève, con Wahl, así como su papel en la introducción de la fenomenología de Heidegger y Husserl en la esfera francesa. La autora encamina al lector por las principales fuentes de influencia y de contrastación literaria con las que interactuó Levinas, y a su vez como estas colaboraron en el diseño de la noción de ser judío.

Para Hammerschlag la sensibilidad en cuanto a la relación entre Filosofía, Religión y Literatura en Levinas se evidencia a partir del ensayo De l’évasion (1930). Afirma que: “The essay thus presents literature and religion as accomplices in this narrative of failed escape” (45). De igual manera encuentra momentos de encuentro entre literatura y religión en los textos del período de guerra -cerca de 1946- que posteriormente serán profundizados (en lo que respecta a la noción de metáfora) en los años 60`s durante su participación en Jean Wahl`s Collége Philosophique.

La autora hace una delicada mención al contexto literario que circula en las principales revistas con aportaciones de pensadores emergentes y en auge en el contexto de entreguerras, bajo el análisis de la esencia de la literatura y su relación con la filosofía, la ética y la política; los nombres de Sartre, Proust, Blanchot, Bataille, Heidegger serán constantes en estas relaciones y discrepancias con la mirada de Levinas. Se finaliza el capítulo haciendo una referencia a las cercanías del filósofo lituano con el movimiento personalista de Emmanuel Mounier, así como con los interlocutores de tradición católica, tales como Marcel, Jamkélévitch, Maritain, Minkowski.

El tercer capítulo, Between the Jew and writing (3), presenta la posición de Derrida sobre la literatura. Se inicia indicando el carácter inductivo que logra Ricoeur en Derrida para su introducción en la obra levinasiana, específicamente a partir de Totalité e Infini. El concepto de diferencia será la primera reflexión que Derrida asumirá en medio del estudio de la obra de Levinas.

La autora desarrolla el itinerario intelectual de Derrida, desde sus cercanías con Ricoeur, hasta el desarrollo de sus textos de la mano de las lecturas de la obra levinasiana, así como su acercamiento a la obra husserliana. La noción de misterio desarrollada por Marcel será un eje temático que asumirá Derrida en su crítica. En la obra se presenta la auto-caracterización que Derrida emite sobre su relación con lo griego y lo judío.

En la ruta de Derrida tendrá en común con Levinas, por un lado, los encuentros con la obra de Heidegger y Blanchot; y por otro, serán reconocidas las invocaciones a la literatura de Nietzsche (algo a lo que Levinas no era fiel). Las críticas y reinterpretaciones de Zarathustra por parte de Derrida serán expuestas por la autora, teniendo en mente las trazas de la mirada levinasiana. Categorías como metáfora y escatología estarán difuminadas en algunos momentos del proyecto de Derrida. En este sentido, señala que: “Eschatology is thus rethought through an alternative metaphor, not through la croix but throuhg le creux” (p. 90). Se expone la influencia de la obra de Mallarmé en Derrida cerca de 1960, por medio de Edmond Jabès.

Hammerschlag reconoce que en el texto Ellipses es donde se perfila de manera temprana la relación entre religión y literatura por parte de Derrida, de igual manera expone como por medio de la relación de Levinas con la tradición judía articula la dicotomía entre literatura y religión. Es notorio, dada la descripción de la autora del texto, como Derrida bebiendo de la fuente de Levinas procura nuevas ramificaciones en su pensamiento, a partir de la noción de libertad.

La lectura de Difícil Libertad por parte de Derrida, será fundamental en la re-investigación de su identidad judía. En este momento se presenta un interesante retrato a propósito de las diferencias entre los contextos judíos de ambos autores y de su situación entre-guerra y post-guerra. El capítulo finaliza retornando al momento del encuentro entre Levinas y Derrida en el marco del Coloquio de Intelectuales Judíos de lengua francesa, y exponiendo las tesis ético-políticas expuestas por Levinas y sus subsecuentes resonancias en Derrida.

En el capítulo To lose one’s head: Literature and the democracy to come (4), se analizan las repercusiones de la imbrincación entre el pensamiento de Levinas y el de Derrida. Inicia exponiendo ideas a propósito de las tesis de Derrida en un seminario titulado “Literature and Truth” en 1968, así como las líneas de su obra asumidas por los intérpretes de la obra derrideana. Para Hammerschlag la tarea llevada a cabo en el capítulo es mostrar cómo Derrida establece la literatura como un componente necesario y, a su vez, cómo por medio de la literatura se ejercen operaciones políticas relacionadas a la religión.

Es a partir de las lecturas de la obra de Levinas que Derrida formula sus propias categorías de trabajo. El apartado hace una transición de la lectura poética de Levinas a la lectura política a partir de una visión ética. Se afirma que: “Levinas describes the voice of the prophet, the escatological voice as the voice that interrupts history, that refuses to wait, that insists on a justice independent from teleology” (p. 123). Por su parte, se presenta la noción de “autoinmunidad” de Derrida, en contraste con las tesis de Levinas expuestas en Other wise than being. La autora también refiere la distinción entre la dicotomía del discurso científico (ciencia y medicina) y el disruptivo (profético y poético) por parte de Levinas en Other wise than being y por parte de Derrida en Faith and Knowledge.

A lo largo del apartado se sigue evidenciando el contraste entre las diversas categorías que se hallan en los autores, recargando tintas en la noción de religión, y explicando con gran detalle el carácter derrideano que se extiende más allá de la mirada levinasiana de lo “sacro” y “santo” a partir de la teorización que deviene de su reflexión desde la categoría de “marrano”. Con gran elocuencia Hammerschlag dice: “Levinas provides a kind of curriculum vitae in order to situate his work. Derrida, in contrast, introduces the reference to the Marrano to complicate the relation between his autobiography and his writings” (p.130).

El capítulo vuelve a dar un giro hacia lo político y se examina la mirada de Levinas a propósito del sioniosmo y la situación con Palestina, así como las reflexiones en orden a “el tercero” y “el otro” en el marco de la justicia. Por su parte se retoma la categoría de Derrida denominada como “Principio de Diseminación”. El apartado finaliza con la posición de Derrida a propósito de la mirada reflexiva de la noción de secreto -literatura del secreto- y la concepción de perdón -literatura del perdón-, ilustrando con fuentes como Kafka o relatos del Bereshit (Abraham, Noe). Frente a las concepciones de autores que apelan a retornar al sitio del misterio teológico o al modelo de religión como irrupción mesiánica de lo político, Derrida propone volver a la literatura. Como manifiesta la autora: “Derrida proposes literature as inheriting from all these traditions, but in a form that divest itself of authority, originality, exclusivity, or primacy” (p.150). Con gran astucia concluye elaborando una discusión respecto a la literatura y su carácter no-revolucionario, en contraposición a la soberanía de lo autónomo: una reflexión política abierta.

El capítulo quinto, Literature and the political-theological remains (5), se ubica en las implicaciones del modelo derrideano de teología política. La autora pone en discusión el proyecto de pensar la literatura como un legado religioso que debe ser necesariamente parte del imaginario dentro de un contexto democrático. En este sentido: “Literature can show us the opacity of the subject but without the necessity of invoking transcendence” (p. 157). El apartado presenta las críticas de Judith Butler respecto a las tesis tanto de Levinas como de Derrida, desde una lectura religiosa-política, lo que permite al lector contrastar a ambos autores y reconocer sus límites desde una lectura de un tercero (en este caso de Butler).

El apartado desarrolla una reflexión a propósito de la religión y la posibilidad de la literatura a partir de un diálogo entre Derrida y diversos autores, como Patocka, Kierkegaard, Baudelaire y Nietzsche, teniendo como categorías de discusión el cristianismo y el relato de Abraham e Isaac (sacrificio). Se expone también la relación entre literatura y terror, con la injerencia de Blanchot y Paulhan para acompasar las tesis de Derrida.

El capítulo finaliza retomando las nociones de literatura y secreto, una lectura a cuatro manos (Derrida y Levinas), reconociendo las distancias y cercanías de los autores, repensando el carácter pedagógico de la literatura que es capaz de exponer y ocultar el secreto por medio del lenguaje; así: “Literature would thus teach us to see language itself as simultaneously exposure and masking, yet it would also teach us how to recognize its features at play and how to reread religious text in light of them” (p. 177).

En la última sección intitulada Epilogue: There is not a pin to choose between us (6) la autora juega con diversos elementos de la literatura derrideana para colocar al lector frente a una pregunta que le inquieta retrospectivamente a la elaboración del libro y que, a su vez, enfrenta al lector con el mismo problema: “the last word” (p. 189).

Sarah Hammerschlag en su obra nos pone frente a un tejido de textos, cuyas fuentes rebosan de sentido. El delicado tratamiento de las fuentes y la elocuente mediación en las relaciones posibilitan el goce en los estudiosos que buscan ahondar en las cercanías y distancias entre Levinas y Derrida. Más allá de las discusiones y diálogos a propósito de los autores, se expone la literatura religiosa y su praxis por medio del actuar en el mundo. Las aberturas del tejido elaborado por la Profesora Hammerschlag llevan al lector constantemente a detener la lectura y re-pensar las categorías enfrentándose permanentemente al texto. En el libro son muchas las voces, el tratamiento discursivo resulta ser como un oleaje constante reventando en la costa de la conciencia del lector, avivando la llama del secreto y el misterio.

Jack Reynolds, Richard Sebold (Eds.): Phenomenology and Science: Confrontations and Convergences

Phenomenology and Science: Confrontations and Convergences Book Cover Phenomenology and Science: Confrontations and Convergences
Jack Reynolds, Richard Sebold (Eds.)
Palgrave Macmillan US
2016
Hardcover 107,00 €
XVI, 229

Reviewed by: Svetlana Sholokhova (Catholic University Louvain)

While the founding fathers of the phenomenological movement, Husserl and Heidegger, emphasized methodological differences between phenomenology and empirical sciences, successive generations of phenomenologists never ceased to question and challenge this basic presupposition. In the last decades, there has been a lot of discussion about whether the idea of phenomenological naturalism should be reassessed in the light of both advancements in empirical research, especially in cognitive sciences, and the progress in phenomenological investigations. Phenomenology and Science brings together the work of young researchers and experienced scholars in the fields of phenomenology, contemporary philosophy and cognitive sciences in order to address the question of the possibility of a productive dialogue between phenomenology and empirical sciences.

The volume opens with a study by Aaron Harrison that focuses on the interactions between the first wave of phenomenology (Gurwitsch, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre) and Gestalt psychology (Wertheimer, Koffka, Köhler and Stumpf). The interest of the latter for the question of the modes of mutual influence between phenomenology and sciences lies in its complex relation to empirical science (which was especially the case in the first half of the twentieth century, when the boundaries between psychology and philosophy were still not defined) as well as to phenomenology (which had, as Harrison shows, an important impact on the development of Gestalt psychology). According to Harrison, this peculiar situation of Gestalt psychology suggests the importance of attentive examination of the history of its intersections with phenomenology in order better to understand how the phenomenological approach could be situated with regards to experimental methodology.

In the second chapter, Jack Reynolds starts by questioning the “stark methodological distinction between phenomenology and science” and advocates considering phenomenology as a “more hybridic enterprise” (p. 24). By concentrating on the theme of intrinsic time, Reynolds aims to demonstrate how the phenomenological analysis of the temporal dimension of subjectivity proves to be useful for the latest discussions within empirical sciences on the irreducibility of the first-person perspective. The phenomenological account of the temporality that draws the connection between the “intrinsic temporality” and the pre-reflective dimensions that constitute the “minimal self” offers, according to Reynolds, a more consistent explanation of what “is resisting the objectivism” since it avoids the “view from nowhere” and gives access to a lived subjective experience. To see the minimal self “both phenomenologically and empirically” (p. 37) provides, then, a significantly richer account of subjectivity and presents an opportunity to explore the potential of what Reynolds, in Gallagher’s terms, the “mutual enlightenment” (p. 31) of phenomenology and science is.

A more skeptical view of the relationship between phenomenology and the sciences is expressed by Richard Sebold, who insists on the fact that the “naturalistic perspective has much more going for it than the phenomenologists are prone to admit” (p. 47). In order to see this, it is necessary to rigorously examine the anti-naturalistic claims made by Husserl and his successors, starting with distinguishing between three major types of phenomenological arguments: metaphysical (“there are some phenomena that are of a certain nature that it is inappropriate to investigate them via scientific methodology”, p. 48), semantic (“the very intelligibility of the scientific project depends upon the meaning of the pre-theoretical world”, p. 53) and methodological (“scientific methods <are> incomplete and unable to gain certain types of knowledge about the world”, p. 57). Sebold’s paper provides a comprehensive study of the assessments of empirical sciences by various phenomenologists; a study that proves to be crucial for addressing their criticism and, more importantly, for revealing the sources of phenomenology’s claim for possessing a distinct advantage over other disciplines.

In the fourth chapter, Marilyn Stendera raises the question of how one should approach the inevitable negotiations between different perspectives in interdisciplinary projects. The author’s goal is to show that such negotiations do not necessarily lead to conflict and can, instead, create a productive exchange between different approaches. For Stendera, this is the case for the collaboration between Heideggerian phenomenology and the enactivist approach to cognitive science. Beyond their historical connection, these two approaches prove to be fundamentally compatible, first of all, where the idea of the interdependent relationship between the subject and the world is concerned. By studying how the Heideggerian conception of temporality could be useful to address one of the key issues of cognitive sciences – that of the possibility to trace a distinction between various cognisers without failing to consider their continuity, – Stendera explores the benefits of interdisciplinary dialogue and tries to outline possibilities for future investigations.

With Michael Wheeler’s paper, we switch from a phenomenologically minded perspective to an explicitly naturalistic one, according to which the conflicts that can possibly arise from negotiations between philosophical and empirical accounts should be resolved following the idea that “philosophy should be continuous with empirical science” (p. 87). Wheeler claims that “it is the phenomenologist, and not the cognitive scientist, who should revisit her claims” (p. 87), because the first-person perspective – and the phenomenological approach in general – is fundamentally “untrustworthy” (p. 92) when it describes mental states, since the operation of cognitive systems depends largely on unconscious states that remain unreachable in the first-person attitude. At the same time, Wheeler agrees that the phenomenological analysis could not be limited to introspection and that, instead, it represents a transcendental enterprise. Nevertheless, for Wheeler, no transcendental approach could be “insulated” (p. 100) from the social world, which leaves to science – that constitutes a “part of our social world-making” – the final word in the philosophy-science controversy.

In David Morris’s paper, we find a diametrically opposite view that considers life as a “transcendental condition of science”: “that is, science is not simply an activity conducted by living beings, rather, our living, as inherently oriented by affect, provides us with a pre-scientific feel and criterion for the activity-passivity distinction, without which we could not grasp key issues in, e.g., biology and quantum mechanics” (pp. 103-104). This claim puts phenomenology, and in particular Merleau-Ponty’s reflections, in a privileged position with regards to empirical sciences. Phenomenology allows us to grasp this dimension of affectivity that is “crucial for sciences” (p. 116), the dimension in which all the processes of constitution of sense are grounded.

The importance of phenomenological analysis as a unique tool that allows grasping the foundational role of affectivity in organizing experience is also defended by Joel Krueger and Amanda Taylor Aiken. Their joint paper aims to demonstrate that emotions and affectivity should be studied not only as they are perceived through social cognitive processes, but also as they are actually “facilitating interpersonal relatedness”: affectivity and embodiment structure the spatiality of interpersonal relationships and thus contribute to the emergence of the “social world as social”, that is “affording different forms of sharing, connection and relatedness” (p. 121). This role becomes particularly visible when the capacities to inhabit the social space are altered, as it can be observed in the cases of Moebius syndrome and schizophrenia. It is by drawing upon the analysis of such cases that the authors hope to “reinforce phenomenological arguments for the foundational role that body and affect play in organizing social space” (p. 136).

Andrew Inkpin chooses language as his object of study, a topic that had been mostly relegated to the margins of the so called ‘4e’ tradition dominant in cognitive sciences, a tradition that emphasizes the embodied, embedded, enactive and extended nature of cognition. The turn to non-linguistic phenomena in cognitive sciences, that initially aimed “to correct the earlier overemphasis on language” (p. 141), created a void that, in Inkpin’s opinion, should be filled by a phenomenological approach, which “might and should complement systematic empirical theories in the 4e tradition” (p. 141). Would it mean that phenomenology should be naturalized? For Inkpin, this way of formulating the question is misleading because it misses the specificity of the phenomenological approach to language. The goal of his paper is, therefore, to show why ‘4e’ cognitive science needs a phenomenology of language and what it could gain from it.

In the ninth chapter of the volume, Shaun Gallagher aims to show how the debate between two theories about social cognition (simulation theory and interaction theory) influences the idea of science and raises the question “whether one can continue to do science as we have been doing it, or one has to do it differently” (p. 161). Without ignoring the discoveries made by simulation theory in the area of brain processes involved in social cognition (e.g. activation of mirror neurons), Gallagher insists on the necessity to interpret such processes with regards to the intercorporeal character of social interactions, i.e. the fact that “we are dynamically coupled to the other person in our intersubjective interaction, most of which take place in highly pragmatic and social situations”. Pragmatism here means that our actions aim primarily to give a response to a certain situation and that the brain-body activity (promoted by simulation theory) should rather be thought of as a part of a more complex system: “brain-body-environment” (p. 170). Such a holistic, enactivist and dynamic conception is, however, a “challenge for the science of social cognition” (p. 171), which has to respond with developing a new model of explanation that could take into account various dimensions (neuroscientific, psychological, phenomenological, social etc.) that could, according to Gallagher, be compared to what Sandra Mitchell has called an “integrative pluralism” (p. 175).

How could we explain the fact that our memories are sometimes in a ‘first-person’ or ‘own-eyes’ perspective and sometimes in a ‘third-person’ or ‘observer’ one? This question is at the center of attention of the joint paper by Christopher Jude McCaroll and John Sutton. Drawing upon Sartre’s theory of image, the authors propose an analysis of memory imagery based on the idea that the image is not something “inspected by consciousness” but actually is “the act of consciousness, or a way of thinking about an object or event” (p. 183). According to the authors, such a phenomenological account of our puzzling ability to have multiperspectival memory imagery could “elucidate some of the empirical findings” (p. 183) and help to provide an understanding “uniting phenomenological and scientific perspectives on memory imagery” (p. 197).

The final chapter is also focused on the question of imagination. In her study of pretense (more precisely, non-deceptive pretense), Michela Summa draws on phenomenology of imagination, inspired mostly by Husserl and Merleau-Ponty, and addresses two main problems: the epistemic functions of pretense, and its social nature. Starting with a critical analysis of Piaget’s remarks regarding the egoistic nature of pretense and its role of protector from reality in children’s development, Summa defends the idea that “imagination is a part of genuinely social experience” (p. 216) based on Vygotskij’s reflections on pretend play. While being “inherently subjective”, imagination participates in the construction of the we-perspective not just by assembling individual perspectives, but by creating a “form of sharing” and “cooperation of different subjects” enabled by “the cognitive value of pretense, of the perspectival flexibility that underlies pretense actions, and of the social meaningfulness of such actions” (p. 220).

The editors of the volume, Jack Reynolds and Richard Sebold, are explicit about their desire to put together a variety of opinions, positive as well as negative, regarding the future of the dialogue between science and phenomenology. And each of the eleven chapters of the collection allows in fact looking at the possibility of such a dialogue from a different point of view. Reynolds and Sebold’s joint work provides, then, a keen insight into the state-of-the-art of recent debates, and outlines directions for future discussions.

Ľubica Učník, Ivan Chvatík, Anita Williams (Eds.): The Phenomenological Critique of Mathematisation and the Question of Responsibility: Formalisation and the Life-World

The Phenomenological Critique of Mathematisation and the Question of Responsibility: Formalisation and the Life-World Book Cover The Phenomenological Critique of Mathematisation and the Question of Responsibility: Formalisation and the Life-World
Contributions to Phenomenology 76
Ľubica Učník, Ivan Chvatík, Anita Williams (Eds.)
Springer
2015
Hardcover 109,99 €
223

Reviewed by:  Philipp Berghofer (Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz)

Husserl’s last major work, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, is not only his main contribution to a phenomenological approach towards a philosophy of science, but also offers a new way to the transcendental reduction, namely the ontological one. This ontological way crucially depends on Husserl’s conception of the life-world. The life-world is also key in understanding Husserl’s discussion of modern science, as it is considered to be the meaning-giving foundation for all (non-phenomenological) sciences. Modern science, due to its formalised nature, seems to have forgotten this. However, it is important to point out that Husserl does not criticize science or the formalisations which take place in scientific investigations per se. So what precisely does Husserl criticize?

The Phenomenological Critique of Mathematisation and the Question of Responsibility: Formalisation and the Life-World has the important and ambitious objective not only to clarify what a phenomenological critique of mathematisation and formalisation consists in but also to reveal the relevance and actuality of such a critique. This means the aim is “to offer phenomenological accounts of the nature of self-responsibility as a critical, self-reflective and ethical practice, which is required in order to correct the increasingly value-free formalism of scientific knowledge.” (2)

The volume consists of four parts. The first part is a single paper of Patočka, namely his review of Husserl’s Crisis that has been translated by the editors especially for this volume. The second part is interpretive in nature, comprising five contributions devoted to “Patočka’s Phenomenological Philosophy.” The third part is also primarily interpretive, consisting of four contributions to “Husserl’s Phenomenology.” The fourth and final part, which unfortunately but tellingly is the shortest part, contains three contributions that aim at highlighting “The Continued Relevance of the Phenomenological Critique.”

In nuce, this volume succeeds in delivering interesting and high-quality individual analyses, but it has trouble meeting its self-imposed goal of clarifying the nature, genuineness, and relevance of a phenomenological critique of formalisation in modern science. More than half of the contributions do not even explicitly address “formalisation” or “mathematisation.”

The exception is Rosemary Lerner’s detailed and enlightening contribution “Mathesis Universalis and the Life-World: Finitude and Responsibility” that discusses Husserl’s critique. Rightly, she points out that “Formalism cannot per se be criticised – even when it is equated with the purely technical dimension of signs, calculative operations and their ‘game rules’.” (157) She moves on by clarifying that according to a Husserlian critique there are “three ways in which formalism conceals and forgets its meaning-foundation” (157). Of special importance is the third critique that “an ontological interpretation of forms replaces their merely methodological meaning,” which means that “modern physicalistic rationalism has forgotten its meaning-foundation in the life-world” (159).

Modern science is not aware of its own limitations anymore, and its successes led to “a nascent philosophical ‘naturalism’” (160). To be sure, Lerner makes it clear on more than one occasion that formalisation cannot and should not be criticized as such. Formalisation has positive aspects in the positive sciences (162 f.) and also “within objectively oriented philosophical research” (161). Aside from the fact that such formalisation is only applicable for some kinds of scientific research (while it should not be the role model for scientific investigation as such) the problem is that the practice and success of formalisation can conceal the difference between what is a method and what is reality. Mathematics and geometry are methods to describe reality; they are not the “true” reality lying behind what we can intuitively observe.

Lerner clarifies that according to Husserl,

“The ‘crisis of European sciences and humanity’ is due not to the ‘application’ of analytic geometry to the physical world but to the ‘shift in meaning’ whereby it is concealed and forgotten that mathematical disciplines are only powerful ‘methods’ and ingenious ‘hypotheses’ constructed by finite human beings, not ontological descriptions regarding a supposed reality ‘such as God sees it in itself’” (168).

This is why “Husserl’s aim in the Crisis – much as in Philosophy of Arithmetics – is to understand (and thus ‘recover’) the forgotten meaning-foundation of this mathematised natural science” (160), which also means that a “critical philosophy must attempt to clarify the question of the essential origin of every positive science, including formal logic.” (165) I absolutely agree with Lerner that precisely “[t]hese issues led Husserl in 1898 to the ‘universal a priori of correlation’ (Husserl 1970b: §46), and thus to the version of intentionality he developed in his transcendental phenomenology” (165).

In my opinion, Husserl holds that the life-world is the meaning-foundation for all positive sciences and that it is transcendental phenomenology that has to investigate and clarify the basic role the life-world plays. To be sure, transcendental phenomenology cannot deliver the basic axioms, principles or laws that occur in the “exact” sciences, but it can and has to clarify why axioms, principles or laws of such and such a type are appropriate for such and such a science. Transcendental phenomenology can do so as it is the only science that goes beyond the life-world. It goes beyond the life-world by adopting the transcendental attitude in which we are not directed towards the objects that occur in our everyday lives but towards the way in which these objects appear (cf. Husserliana VI, 155, 161 f.). In investigating how different types of objects can be given to us, i.e., investigating the correlation between consciousness and world, transcendental phenomenology has realized that the ultimate foundation of knowledge and science is not the life-world but subjectivity (cf. Husserliana VI, 70, 115). All objective knowledge is founded on subjectivity.

All knowledge is knowledge of an agent and in explaining how knowledge is possible, you ultimately have to turn away from objective states of affairs and focus on the subject’s consciousness. The ultimate evidence for my knowing that there is a table in front of me is not the existence of the table but my experiencing this table. My experiencing this table gets its justificatory force not from the reliability of my sensory apparatus but from the distinctive, originally presentive phenomenal character of this experience. What ultimate evidence is cannot be investigated objectively but only subjectively by turning to one’s experiences and to how these experiences can be described from a first-person perspective.

As transcendental phenomenology precisely is this science that investigates the structures of consciousness and experience from a first-person perspective, transcendental phenomenology is the ultimate science. Not because it can deliver the axioms, principles, laws or theorems of every or even any individual science, but because it is concerned with how the specific objects of investigations of any science can be given and what type of evidence is appropriate for what type of object.

The only worry I have with Lerner’s paper is that she does not focus on or even ignores this most fundamental role that subjectivity plays, especially as this is crucial for understanding why Husserl’s phenomenology is a transcendental phenomenology. She rightly mentions that for Husserl ultimate evidence is evidence of experience (169), but she does not deliver a more detailed analysis of precisely how phenomenology is the science that investigates from the first-person perspective what it is that gives experiences their justificatory force.

Be that as it may, Lerner’s paper is a great contribution that precisely fits the topic of this volume. The papers in this third part addressing “Husserl’s Phenomenology” are in general outstanding contributions, arguably the best of this volume. It is unfortunate, however, that this volume does not succeed in taking contributions like Lerner’s as a basis for discussing the actuality of a phenomenological critique by addressing questions like “Is Husserl’s critique best applicable to what he takes to be Galilean physics or is it equally applicable to physics in the 21st century?”, “What is Husserl’s stance on unobservable entities like electrons and quarks?” (cf. Wiltsche 2012), “What does Husserl’s critique mean for recently popular ontic scientific realism?” I will return to such missed opportunities below.

In “Everydayness, Historicity and the World of Science: Husserl’s Life-World Reconsidered” Dermot Moran provides an excellent discussion of Husserl’s conception of the life-world. Of course, one might question whether we really need another discussion of Husserl’s life-world. Anticipating this objection, Moran points out that, despite all the works on this topic, “the deep meaning and transcendental sense of Husserl’s concept of the life-world remains troublingly obscure” (110). Moran aims at presenting “a coherent exposition of this influential yet ambiguous concept” and at clarifying “how the life-world can function both as a universal ground (Grund, Boden) of all experience and as a potential horizon (Horizon) for experience” (110). One important aspect we have already touched on is the relationship between the life-world and subjectivity. Moran brings this into focus by quoting a passage where Husserl already around 1917-18 tells us: “Everything objective about the life-world is subjective givenness, our possession, mine, the other’s, and everyone’s together” (119; Husserl 1989, 375). Unfortunately, Moran does not discuss this transcendental character of Husserl’s doctrine in more detail. The central topic Moran wishes to shed light on is the relationship between science and life-world:

“The life-world, on the one hand, on Husserl’s conception, grounds and supports the world of science (which is essentially different from it); and, on the other hand, it also completely encompasses the world of science, since all scientists as human beings are themselves members of the life-world and scientific discoveries evolve in and are carried along by historical human communities and cultures” (121).

How is this possible? According to Moran, Husserl’s life-world can ground and encompass science at the same time as “the life-world is actually a horizon that stretches from indefinite past to indefinite future and includes all actualities and possibilities of experience and meaningfulness” (121 f.). The life-world as horizon and the life-world as ground can be reconciled if we “think of grounding in a new sense,” namely “as a constant ongoing contextualisation and re-contextualisation whereby meaning itself is secured through its horizonal connections with meanings lived through and established in the non-objectifiable world of living and acting” (126). Since such a grounding is not an objective but an “ultimately subjective” one (126), we, again, touch on the epistemic impact of subjectivity. While there is no doubt that Moran’s paper delivers a conception of Husserl’s life-world that is not only elegant and based on textual evidence but also sheds light on the relationship to the sciences, the precise relationship between science and life-world remains hazy and vague. We see in what way the life-world can ground and encompass science, but we still do not know how they can influence each other. What influence does science have on the life-world? Can science directly influence the life-world as culture does or only indirectly, for instance via influencing culture? What happens if there is a clash of science and life-world? Given Husserl’s criticism of modern science, one might be tempted to think that natural science cannot or at least should not “overrule” the life-world in the sense of shattering and shifting horizonal structures. This, of course, is not true. Our life-world is significantly different from the one of Ptolemy. When we observe the stars, planets or the sun what is originally given to us might be the same, but the horizonal structures of these experiences are clearly different simply in virtue of our scientific background beliefs.

The life-world is also the topic of Nicolas de Warren’s contribution “Husserl’s Hermeneutical Phenomenology of the Life-World as Culture Reconsidered.” Here the main target is Sebastian Luft’s recent Subjectivity and Lifeworld in Transcendental Phenomenology (Luft 2011) as De Warren forcefully argues against Luft’s thesis that Husserlian phenomenology “becomes a hermeneutical phenomenology of the correlational a priori of the world as historical world, as a world of culture, and of subjectivity as intersubjectivity, connected in a history and a tradition” (Luft 2011, 27). For De Warren, this interpretation and specifically the “identification of the life-world with a world of culture” is “untenable on the basis of Husserl’s own thinking” (135). De Warren’s contribution can be seen as a clash between two prominent and outstanding scholars, which naturally leads to a stimulating and controversial debate.

Before I turn to De Warren’s criticism in more detail, I briefly want to present Luft’s main points. When he presents his thoughts in the Introduction to his book, Luft begins with some basic but crucial Husserlian assumptions like “the only way to experience the world is from my own perspective,” (Luft 2011, 10); “it is impossible to leave the confines of our mind,” (Luft 2011, 12); and “[t]he Husserlian turn to transcendental idealism, by contrast [to Kant], is motivated by the factum of the world and its justification” (Luft 2011, 13). With respect to Husserl’s famous correlational a priori, which Luft calls the “One Structure,” Luft’s claim, then, is that “Husserl’s entire focus is on the thoroughgoing correlation of subjective and objective” (Luft 2011, 15). Luft considers this the main thesis of his book (cf. Luft 2011, 14).

I totally agree with these foregoing claims. Luft rightfully focuses on the correlational a priori and rightly declares this aspect the main core of Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Husserl does not aim at proving that there is objective knowledge and justification but at explaining how this is possible. In doing so, one has to focus on the subject, more precisely, on the structures of intentionality. By explicating my knowledge of objects and states of affairs, I have to investigate from the first-person perspective how these objects are given to me within my experiencing them. The aim, then, is gaining essential insights about the structures of intentionality, such as the essential feature of perception to have the phenomenal character of self-givenness or givenness in actuality (Husserliana XVI, 14) − what Husserl often but most notably in his “principle of all principles” calls originary givenness.

Having said this, the question, of course, is how does Luft determine this correlational a priori? What are the end points of this correlation? In the literature, most often, it is described as a correlation between subject and object, sometimes between subject and world. Luft makes clear that he does not view this correlation “as a thoroughgoing correlation of the One structure with its poles, I and world” but “as a balance between both poles in which they are ‘always already’ intertwined, interrelated, dancing a tango” (Luft 2011, 18). This world, for Luft, is the life-world, which is (and this is the “provocative” part of Luft’s analysis) the world of culture (Luft 2011, 27). My main issue with this portrayal is its narrow focus on how our culture and history shape our experiencing. Interpreted modestly, this means that already in Husserl you find claims like “There is no view from nowhere,” or “All experience is theory-laden” (Cf. Moran’s remark at p. 118). Interpreted strongly, this can lead to the implausible phenomenalist consequence that there is an ontological distinction between what we experience and the things in themselves. (De Warren accuses Luft of undermining a non-phenomenalist reading of Kant at p. 150.) Either way, this disguises what I take to be the most important insight of Husserl’s correlational apriori. Namely that,

Category of objectivity and category of evidence are perfect correlates. To every fundamental species of objectivities – as intentional unities maintainable throughout an intentional synthesis and, ultimately, as unities belonging to a possible ‘experience’ – a fundamental species of ‘experience’, of evidence, corresponds, and likewise a fundamental species of intentionally indicated evidential style in the possible enhancement of the perfection of the having of an objectivity itself” (Husserl 1969, 161).

This means that the type of object I experience determines the type of evidence that is available to me (e.g. adequate evidence for physical objects, apodictic evidence for mathematical truths, adequate evidence for my existence). As Heffernan puts it, “evidence is a function of the evident” (Heffernan 1998, 22). Husserl is interested in what it means to experience, for instance, a physical object, how such an object can be given within experience and what it means that in perception such an object is self-given, i.e., originally given. The answers to these questions are essential insights and independent from a subject’s culture or history.

Let us return to De Warren’s criticism of Luft’s identification of life-world and culture. Luft provides the following clarification:

“Culture, then, is the safe haven and our home, and nothing could be further from living an enlightened life than dwelling and feeling at home in the niches of subcultures, which deliberately depart from the ‘mainstream’. Subcultures, which consciously depart from the ‘grand discourse’ of Culture, are the enemy of culture” (Luft 2011, 356).

De Warren has two main objections against the claim that culture (in this sense) captures the idea of Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology.

  1. Husserl’s method of reduction is “diametrically opposed” to the claim that one should strive for “mainstream” (145). Referring to Patočka, De Warren insists that, contrary to Luft, “the phenomenological reduction can be understood as instituting a ‘break’ or ‘shattering’ of belonging to a human-made world of culture” (145).
  2. The life-world cannot be identified with the world of culture as “there are a multiplicity of irreducible worlds” and only some of them are culture but “most are not” (153). In this context, De Warren points out that it is misleading to call Husserl’s a priori correlation a “One Structure” as there is no uniform meaning to this correlation (153).

While this debate between Luft and De Warren is of fundamental importance for understanding Husserl and transcendental phenomenology in general, this does not tell us much about a phenomenological critique of mathematisation and formalisation. The same is true for Moran’s contribution and also for Thomas Nenon’s.

In part II, “Patočka’s Phenomenological Philosophy,” the contribution of Učník & Chvatík entitled “Patočka on Galileo” and Burt Hopkins’ “Nostalgia and Phenomenon: Husserl and Patočka on the End of the Ancient Cosmos” both more directly address the topic of mathematisation. Učník & Chvatík shed light on Patočka’s claims that “we cannot await moral answers from a mathematised nature” and that the source of such a deceptive expectation is “the assumption that if we can mathematise nature we can also mathematise human relations; and that mathematics can give us all the answers, in every sphere of our living, from physics to ethics” (49). My worry with this contribution and the second part of this volume in general is twofold: First, it is not clear to me in what ways Patočka is supposed to go beyond Husserl in complementing his phenomenological critique. Secondly, and this is true for the volume as such, while there are many topics mentioned that perfectly fit current debates in epistemology, philosophy of science and meta-ethics, it is hardly ever discussed how Husserl and Patočka could contribute to current debates. In the context of formalising ethics, for instance, one could mention the currently very popular method of reflective equilibrium and question that every moral intuition can be sacrificed for greater coherence of the belief-system (cf. Daniels 1996). I will return to such missed opportunities when discussing the final part.

Hopkins argues that Patočka not only “goes beyond Husserl’s fragmentary account of Galileo” but also that Patočka’s account “is informed by actual history” (59). But is it important that philosophy of science is informed by actual history? Can philosophy profit from integrating history? This is precisely the topic of the currently popular and widely discussed research field of “Integrated History and Philosophy of Science” (cf. Patton 2011). But neither in Hopkins’ contribution nor elsewhere in this volume are these connections discussed. This is worrisome as this volume has the self-imposed goal of revealing “the continued relevance of the phenomenological critique of formalism” (6).

In the light of this criticism, let us now turn to the final part of the book, “The Continued Relevance of the Phenomenological Critique.” This part only consists of three contributions. Broadly speaking, there are four interesting ways of arguing for a continued relevance of a phenomenological critique of formalism. 1. To show how technological progress has led to consequences Husserl and Patočka have warned about. 2. To point out that modern natural science is still interpreted (either by scientists or non-scientists) as revealing that the world we perceive is mere illusion and that the world’s true nature is captured by formalisations. 3. To reveal that modern natural science is still interpreted (either by scientists or non-scientists) as the role model for all scientific investigations (including philosophy). 4. To show that there are current philosophical debates that share the basic idea of Husserl’s and Patočka’s critique and could benefit from adopting (elements of) transcendental phenomenology.

In his “Formalisation and Responsibility” James Mensch touches on all four topics but none is elaborated upon in great detail. He begins with the example that

“During the Vietnam War, US bombing missions were set by a computer program that, based on field reports, calculated the probability of the Vietcong’s being in a particular location at a particular time. Such missions, with their use of napalm, were responsible for the destruction of much of the countryside. Who or what was responsible for this: the computer, the writers of its algorithms, the pilots flying the missions, the operations research analysts that worked to ‘rationalise’ these missions?” (188)

I take this example to capture well the basic idea of the relevance of a phenomenological critique along the lines of critique 1 specified above. Mensch, however, does not return to this example. He also briefly complains that by an electron a scientist understands “this formula for the probability-density of its position” (187) and that adopting a naturalist attitude has led to a “devaluation of consciousness” by philosophers like Daniel Dennett (192). The recurrent theme of his contribution is embodiment. This is a very important aspect of a phenomenological critique of formalisation as it takes place, for instance, in artificial intelligence research. In this volume, Mensch is the only one who aims at systematically developing the role of embodiment in a phenomenological critique, which I take to be his main accomplishment.

Anita Williams’ “Perceiving Sensible Things: Husserl and the Act of Perception” and Ivan Chvatík’s “Are We Still Afraid of Science?” both pursue very specific goals. This is especially true for Chvatík, who discusses Stephen Hawking’s and Leonard Mlodinow’s popular-science book The Grand Design in order to see how it exemplifies what Husserl and Patočka have criticized. The upshot is that it exemplifies pretty much all of what, according to a phenomenological critique, could be worrisome.

From the claim that M-theory [multiverse theory] will turn out to provide a complete and final theory of the universe, to the naturalisation of consciousness, including the denial of free will, to the statement that “philosophy is dead” as it “has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics” (Hawking and Mlodinow 2010, 5) there is not much left that could provoke a phenomenological critique. You can feel Chvatík’s discomfort when he tells that he “would not have believed that a position like this is still possible in the present day” (212). It should not come as a surprise, however, that in the vast field of sometimes genuinely provocative popular-science there are works to which a phenomenological critique can be perfectly applied. Also, it should be mentioned that The Grand Design has been harshly criticized not only by philosophers but also by physicists.

In her contribution, Williams questions the so-called neurocognitive model of perception in which, according to Williams, “sense is reduced to sensation and human sense-making is confined to the end point of a causal process.” (197) She argues against the assumption of neurocognitive researchers “that mind can be reduced to the functioning brain” (197 f.) and wants “to show that a brain-based model of perception does not resolve the mind-matter problem” (198). The basis of her critique is Husserl’s conception of sensuous and categorial intuition. This means that Williams aims at an extremely important task, namely exploring the relationship between cognitive neuroscience and Husserlian phenomenology. However, it is not clear to me why this relationship should be negative in the sense that cognitive neuroscience clashes with Husserlian phenomenology. Of course, if Williams is right in asserting that neurocognitive researchers claim to solve the mind-matter problem by reducing the mind to brain, then somebody should step in. But even if they do, it seems obvious to me that their research is not committed to such claims. In his Sixth Logical Investigation Husserl makes the following remark about the relationship between his phenomenological investigation of perception and a potential natural scientific one:

“In sense-perception, the ‘external’ thing appears ‘in one blow’, as soon as our glance falls upon it. The manner in which it makes the thing appear present is straightforward: it requires no apparatus of founding or founded acts. To what complex mental processes it may trace back its origin, and in what manner, is of course irrelevant here” (Husserl 2001, 283).

Of course, there is a lot of debate about whether phenomenology should take a more active stance, some even claiming that phenomenology should be naturalized (cf. Zahavi 2004). Still, I am not convinced by Williams’ conclusion that “Husserl provides a way to question the causal explanations of perception adopted by neurocognitive psychologists” (207) as I believe that such causal explanations are non-phenomenological but not anti-phenomenological at least as long as there is not the claim involved that such causal explanations tell us everything we can know about perception, rendering a phenomenological account obsolete.

In conclusion, this volume offers a number of high-quality papers on important and current topics, but it does not succeed in bringing this currency, the relevance of a phenomenological critique in the 21st century, to the forefront. There are many missed opportunities as there definitely is such a relevance, and while this volume manages to provide many stimulating and important first beginnings for exploiting the fruitfulness of a phenomenological critique, it does not really go beyond such first steps.

References

Daniels, Norman (1996): Justice and Justification, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hawking, Stephen & Mlodinow, Leonard (2010): The Grand Design, London: Bantam Press.

Heffernan, George (1998): “Miscellaneous Lucubrations on Husserl’s Answer to the Question ‘was die Evidenz sei’: A Contribution to the Phenomenology of Evidence on the Occasion of the Publication of Husserliana Volume XXX,” Husserl Studies 15, 1-75.

Husserl, Edmund (2001): Logical Investigations, transl. by J. N. Findlay, New York: Routledge.

Husserl, Edmund (1970): The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, transl. by David Carr, Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Husserl, Edmund (1969): Formal and Transcendental Logic, transl. by Dorion Cairns, The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

Luft, Sebastian (2011): Subjectivity and Lifeworld in Transcendental Phenomenology, Evanston: Northwestern University Press.

Patton, Lydia (ed.) (2014): Philosophy, Science, and History, New York: Routledge.

Wiltsche, Harald (2012): “What is Wrong with Husserl’s Scientific Anti-Realism?” Inquiry 55, 2, 105-130.

Zahavi, Dan (2004): “Phenomenology and the project of naturalization,” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 3, 331-347.

Charles Taylor: The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity

The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity Book Cover The Language Animal: The Full Shape of the Human Linguistic Capacity
Charles Taylor
Harvard University Press
2016
Hardback $35.00
368

Reviewed by: Norman Lillegard (The University of Tennessee at Martin)

In the preface of this sprawling work, Taylor informs us that “an important part of [his] task in this book has been to refute the remaining fragments of the legacy of the HLC, by developing insights out of the HHH” (p. ix). The letters refer to two broadly different understandings of the “human linguistic capacity,” namely the understanding more or less common to Hobbes/Locke/Condillac (HLC) on the one hand, and the understanding purportedly common to Hamann/Herder/Humboldt (HHH) on the other. The later names are artfully chosen, as it turns out. Though a good deal of the argumentation in favor of HHH can be found in Wittgenstein and Heidegger and in hermeneutical philosophy more generally, the links between HHH and the significance of Herder for romantic poetics are important to Taylor’s larger project, which includes a forthcoming companion volume on “post-romantic” poetics.

HLC provide us with an “enframing” theory, a way of thinking about language in which the “language animal” has no advantage in principle over animals that lack language (i.e. non-human animals, on Taylor’s view). Language may provide additional control over life, so that fearful events can be discussed and an orientation to them achieved apart from such events. It may also enable dealings with whole classes of objects, whereas the primary possibility was previously one-on-one dealings. Without language human animals might, as Hobbes averred, have “neither commonwealth, nor society, nor contract, nor peace…” In a sense these are “something new” that appear with language in human life. But such advantages are distinct, Taylor argues, from the genuinely new human possibilities accounted for by the views of HHH, which he dubs “constitutive.”

Before looking more closely at this basic claim, Taylor tries to show that the view that some non-human animals are also “linguistic” is mistaken. The claims made for the linguistic capacities of various species (chimps, birds, and the like) depend upon a failure to note the essential significance of correctness to genuine linguistic behaviour. The rat who learns to identify triangles painted on a door that leads to food may indeed distinguish triangles from, say, circles. However, the correctness of his identifications is task-relative, that is, what makes them correct is that they enable getting the food. The rat is responsive to features of the figure (bounded, three-sided), but the presence of those features is not what makes his response correct. In contrast, in genuine language use it is precisely the presence of those features that make the application of “triangle” correct. Correctness of this non-task-relative type is a normative notion, a kind of notion that plays no role in the life of non-linguistic (in fact non-human) animals, however impressive their various performances may be.

This normative character of linguistic performances is effectively not recognized by the HLC views. Moreover, those views tend to assume a kind of semantic atomism. The idea has often been that words could be learned one at a time by attaching them to objects (or ideas), thereby enabling descriptions of the world. But to know how to use the word “triangle” correctly is to grasp that a triangle is not a circle or that colour or size are irrelevant to triangularity, and thus it includes the ability to grasp its use in the larger “whole” of related sentences. Frege’s insistence on the sentence as semantically basic, Wittgenstein’s attack on ostensive definition, and his emphasis on the following of rules (the normative) make similar points. However, Taylor wants to stress something he finds in Humboldt and Herder—namely a strong departure from the notion that the main purpose of language is for describing (also clearly rejected by Wittgenstein). A continuing belief in the centrality of description tends to persist in much of the contemporary philosophy that has been influenced by Frege, thereby missing how language brings us to something qualitatively new.

The language for emotions illustrates how finding words for feelings, such as “indignation,” does not merely amount to finding a label for a previously existing and demarcated item. Recognizing that “indignation” is the right word for what I feel brings with it a new emotional capacity, an “articulateness” that adds focus and clarity to life where before there was darkness and confusion. Here, “rightness” is more than semantic. The continual emphasis on description as basic, or on some base level of linguistic practice from which other levels can be derived like theorems from axioms (the notion of ‘autonomous discursive practices’), entails a failure to recognize this creative and expressive role of language. It also constitutes the main “remaining fragment” of the HLC view in much contemporary philosophy of language that Taylor wants to excise. There is a qualification however; contemporary descendants of the HLC views are able to account for the descriptive aims of scientific discourse. Taylor admits that, but there is much that the “linguistic animal” does that cannot be accounted for in terms of expansions of descriptive resources for dealing with a value-neutral nature.

Indeed, the limitations of HLC show up already in the historical and social sciences, where, in order to:

…understand these [social] phenomena, we have to understand the meaning they have for the agents concerned, the significance the footings, ethical values, and other human meanings have for them. But these are only understandable against the background of the practices from which they arise, and the words and images by which they interpret these. To treat their action as we do other parts of self-standing nature is to gravely misunderstand them (p. 287).

Taylor is focusing here on the naturwissenschaft/geisteswissenschaft contrast that has shaped debates in the social sciences and figured prominently in philosophy for quite some time. For example, the idea of constitutive rules has been used to critique the fact/value distinction (cf. Searle, Winch, etc.) and to inform hermeneutical types of anthropological inquiry. Taylor’s distinction between a “designative semantic logic” and a “constitutive semantic logic” thus continues a well established critique of covering law conceptions and related conceptions in the social sciences.

However the heart of this book is in the further development of HHH that carries the reader beyond linguistic practice, in a narrow sense, to a consideration of representational powers in poetry and other literature, and in the visual arts and music. “Representation” may in fact be misleading. Better to think in terms of “enactments” and “portrayals.” A new meaning can be “enacted” in a style of behavior (Taylor’s example is the swagger of a biker) without achieving verbal articulation. The biker’s swagger does not mean something that can be independently indicated, although the swagger itself “means something.” One might think here of ballet, which Taylor never mentions, though it would be apt for his purposes. In literature and the visual arts the meanings that become available are more than what might be “represented” (and that is true for “representational art” also). Rather they become available through portrayals. In Poussin’s Adoration of the Golden Calf Taylor does not just observe represented dancing figures. Rather what comes to expression in the painting, and what cannot be rendered in other terms, is the foolishness of their idolatry.

The irreplaceability of artistic expressions can be understood as an extension of the search for the right word mentioned above. It is a feature of a broader “Cratylism,” i.e. the idea that certain expressions are right, not replaceable by any other expression. The Platonic Cratylus rejected the idea that the connection between a word and what it stood for was arbitrary. By way of contrast the arbitrariness of the word-object relation is an essential postulate of HLC accounts of language. We can see what this Cratylism of the HHH views comes to by reflecting on meaning in the arts, and music might provide the clearest case. The notion that all of the arts aspire to the condition of music may be understood in this way; in music it is quite obvious that nothing can replace the music itself. Written commentaries, gestures, (ballet again), formal analysis, may all aid a listener in trying to grasp “what the music is saying”, but the notion that they might replace the music itself is patently absurd:

…in one dimension of their being, portrayals offer another example, along with enactment, of meaning creation which can’t be understood simply on the model of sign and signified. A novel, a traditional painting, does represent something, but the full meaning of the work can’t be accounted for in this way. Of course, this nonrepresentational “excess” is often most obvious in music (p. 249).

In the various endeavors that could be described as “trying to get at the meaning,” questions about rightness are bound to arise. It is clear that they cannot all be answered in the straightforward way that we might answer the question whether a given use of “triangle” was right. The expansion of a discussion of linguistic capacity in the directions indicated here naturally raises the question of rightness and objectivity. Was it really indignation that I felt? Clearly it is not the case that whatever I feel is what I feel and is beyond challenge. I may come to understand what I felt as merely a kind of angry defensiveness. I can be wrong about what I feel. Similarly, I can be wrong about what was meant in a poem, a painting, or a piece of music. These possibilities of self-or-other correction imply a degree of objective rightness.

Such a fact is of particular importance where morality is concerned, where the sense that there is something beyond myself that can challenge my self-understanding seems to be essential. Sentimentalists (Hume) and rationalists seem to misconstrue what actually takes place in the struggle for moral clarity. There is no simple “approval” of benevolence, ala Hume for example. Nor is there some simple motivation called “sympathy.” Rather there is a struggle which is a response to the sense that a better life is possible, but the “emotional economy” of that struggle is complex, not reducible either to mere “surds” however strongly felt, nor to whatever motivation can arise from or be associated with an abstract principle, perhaps of a Kantian sort.

What then does motivate that struggle? Here, and elsewhere in this work, Taylor reprises some of his Sources of the Self (1989). We respond to the draw of the Platonic Good, or to the god of some religion, to a sense of a cosmic order (e.g. Stoicism), some high principle (universal respect) or to nature (Wordsworth) or to moral exemplars (Taylor mentions Nelson Mandela). These are our “moral sources.” But what provides strength for this struggle? Do these sources really impart strength, or are our “pro-attitudes” towards one or another sufficient to explain how we live and strive? Clearly, with respect to religious sources the former is believed to be the case. But even with nature some might sense, as did Wordsworth, “a motion and a spirit that . . .rolls through all things.” But what could justify such beliefs? Here, Taylor’s transcendental strategies come into play; what justifies them is the fact that without them we cannot make sense of ourselves. The more highly articulated sources (the religious ones for example) serve that purpose best. On the other hand the labors of the poet may involve a kind of struggle to make articulate, and thus more “objective,” those sources that seem on the surface to merely play on idiosyncratic sensitivities.

As in Taylor’s earlier works, there is a wealth of historical detail here that is passed over swiftly (some may think too swiftly). And some may think that the threat of historicism, or of some other kind of relativism or anti-realism is not averted by the transcendental moves. But whatever the misgivings, few will find a tour through this book unrewarding, and many will look forward to the greater specification of some of its themes in the forthcoming companion volume.

Hermann Schmitz: Ausgrabungen zum wirklichen Leben. Eine Bilanz

Ausgrabungen zum wirklichen Leben. Eine Bilanz. Book Cover Ausgrabungen zum wirklichen Leben. Eine Bilanz.
Hermann Schmitz
Karl Alber Verlag
2016
400

[en:]Reviewed by: Corinna Lagemann (Freie Universität Berlin)Rezension von: Corinna Lagemann (Freie Universität Berlin)

Der Kieler Philosoph Hermann Schmitz (geb. 1928 in Leipzig) nimmt sicherlich eine besondere Rolle in der Theoriebildung des 20. Jahrhunderts, insbesondere in der Phänomenologie ein. Angetreten in den späten 50. Jahren mit dem ausdrücklichen Ziel “den Menschen ihr wirkliches Leben begreiflich zu machen”, d.h. “nach Abbau geschichtlich geprägter Verkünstelungen die unwillkürliche Lebenserfahrung zusammenhängender Besinnung zugänglich zu machen”[i], blickt er nun auf ein reiches Werk von über 50 Monographien sowie über 150 Aufsätzen zurück. Als Ausgangspunkt für sein Schaffen nennt Schmitz immer wieder die Auswirkungen eines verhängnisvollen Paradigmenwechsels des menschlichen Welt- und Selbstverständnisses, den er in der griechischen Antike verortet und der in den noch heute teilweise vorherrschenden Leib-Seele-Dualismus geführt habe. Sein umfangreiches, teilweise schwer zugängliches Werk darf man als Projekt verstehen, mit diesen Auswirkungen aufzuräumen; hier sieht Schmitz ein entscheidendes Versäumnis der Phänomenologie, in deren direkter Nachfolge er sich sieht; er ist der Begründer der sogenannten Neuen Phänomenologie.

Das Ziel des vorliegenden Bandes ist es, so Schmitz, “einige Fronten aufzuzeigen, an denen sich mein Kampf gegen die überlieferten Verkrustungen vermeintlicher Selbstverständlichkeit abspielt, um die wichtigsten Stoßrichtungen meiner Ausgrabungen zum wirklichen Leben zu markieren”[ii]. Durch die angemessenen Verbesserungen und Präzisierungen verschiedener Punkte möge das Buch auch für Kenner des Frühwerks ergiebig sein; gleichzeitig beansprucht Schmitz, dass es eingängig sei und sich damit auch für neue Leser seiner Theorie eigne.

Im Verlauf seines Werks haben sich seit den sechziger Jahren vier Hauptlinien seiner Theorie herauskristallisiert, denen jeweils ein Hauptkapitel des Bandes gewidmet ist. Somit erfolgt eine Rekonstruktion und eine kritische Revision des Gesamtwerks entlang seiner Hauptachsen.

Die ersten beiden Kapitel – Subjektivität und Mannigfaltigkeit – stehen sachlich in einem engen Verhältnis; so ist das Kapitel zur Subjektivität auch sehr kurz gehalten. Es handelt sich um eines der frühesten und fundamentalen Konzepte des Schmitzschen Theoriegebäudes und mit Sicherheit auch um eines der komplexesten und am schwersten zugänglichen; so befasst sich der erste Band vom System der Philosophie (Die Gegenwart) (1964) mit diesem Thema. Hier wurden die meisten Korrekturen und Erneuerungen vorgenommen.  Mit seiner intuitiv nicht ganz eingängigen Rede von den verschiedenen Formen der Mannigfaltigkeit beschreibt Hermann Schmitz die unterschiedlichen Stadien des Erlebens gemäß ihres Abstraktionsgrads. Das Mannigfaltige ist das, was der Mensch vor der Individuation einzelner Gegenstände an und um sich selbst erfährt. So unterscheidet Schmitz das chaotische Mannigfaltige vom numerischen, wobei sich ersteres in diffus und konfus unterteilen lässt. Chaotische Mannigfaltigkeit ist ein Zustand ohne Identität und Verschiedenheit, d.h. ein reines gleichförmiges Durcheinander, innerhalb dessen der Mensch sich orientieren muss. Als Beispiel nennt Schmitz das Wasser, das einen Schwimmer umgibt oder den Zustand des Dösens, der die Umgebung verschwimmen lässt. Die Unterteilung in die Subtypen ‘konfus’ und ‘diffus’ wurde nach den Ausführungen im System vorgenommen; damit wird dem Umstand Rechnung getragen, dass es ein breites Spektrum dieser Art(en) von Mannigfaltigkeit gibt. So ist das Wasser, das den Schwimmer umgibt, homogen und entbehrt jeder Form von Identität und Verschiedenheit, was mit dem Begriff der konfusen Mannigfaltigkeit bezeichnet wird. Die spürbaren Körperbewegungen des Schwimmers, oder auch Kaubewegungen[iii] sind immer noch nicht vereinzelbar, jedoch verfügen diese über ein gewisses Maß an Verschiedenheit in der Form, dass sie sich spürbar vom Hintergrund abheben und bewusstgemacht werden können. Bei dem numerischen Mannigfaltigen – im Frühwerk zählbares Mannigfaltiges – handelt es sich um den (leibfernen) Bereich des Zählbaren und der Mathematik.

Allein durch die Unterteilung der chaotischen Mannigfaltigkeit in ihre Subtypen gewinnt die Analyse gegenüber der Ursprungsversion von 1964. Nach der Überwindung des erheblichen Lesewiderstands ermöglicht dieses Konzept eine genaue und treffende Beschreibung des Kontinuums menschlicher Verhaltungen, von den basalen Bewusstseinsschichten bis hin zu dem größtmöglichen Grad an Abstraktion.

Hier schließt die Theorie der Leiblichkeit an, eine weitere zentrale Säule in Schmitz’ Gesamtkonzeption, die im dritten Kapitel des Bandes entfaltet und umfassend gewürdigt wird. Im leiblichen Spüren liegt die Wurzel der Selbstzuschreibung, einem ersten rudimentären Selbstbewusstsein und die “Zündung der Subjektivität”. Über die identifizierbare Selbstzuschreibung, die im eigenleiblichen Spüren begründet liegt, können Identität und Verschiedenheit in die Mannigfaltigkeit gebracht werden, dergestalt, dass der Mensch (Schmitz: “Bewussthaber”) sich selbst als Zentrum seines Erlebens wahrnimmt und sich in der Welt verorten und sich zu ihr verhalten kann. Dies realisiert sich im affektiven Betroffensein (sic), wenn der Mensch etwas am eigenen Leibe spürt, sich ergriffen oder betroffen fühlt, “wenn der plötzliche Andrang des Neuen Dauer zerreißt, Gegenwart aus ihr abreißt und die zerrissene Dauer ins Vorbeisein entlässt (primitive Gegenwart (…)).”[iv] Hier wird bereits der zeitliche Aspekt von Leiblichkeit angedeutet, der in Schmitz’ Konzeption eine große Rolle spielt, in diesem Band allerdings erst im Zusammenhang mit Welt wieder aufgegriffen wird.

Die Leibkonzeption ist seit den Anfängen im zweiten Band des Systems (1965 und 66) weitgehend unverändert; im vorliegenden Band findet sich eine pointierte, gleichwohl umfassende Beschreibung der zentralen Begriffe (leibliche Dynamik, leibliche Kommunikation, etc.). Allein die Beispiele, die Schmitz wählt, etwa um die leibliche Dynamik zu charakterisieren, sind bisweilen problematisch und nicht ohne Weiteres nachvollziehbar. So ist etwa im Zusammenhang mit den leiblichen Regungen von der Angstlust die Rede, und von Menschen, die z.B. die Achterbahn als angsterregende Situation aufsuchen, um sexuelle Erregung zu spüren; auch die Erwähnung der mutmaßlich schmerzfreien Geburt ist im Zusammenhang mit der Gewichtsverschiebung im vitalen Antrieb fragwürdig. Hier beruft sich Schmitz auf den Mediziner G.D. Read und bescheinigt den „innerlich vollkommen vorbereiteten Frauen (…) nur sehr geringe oder gar keine Beschwerden“[v]. Allerdings hätten sie „ein gutes Stück schwerer Arbeit zu leisten. Ihr Ächzen und Stöhnen sei das eines Mannes, der mit Erfolg an einem Seil zieht “ (Ebd.). Diese Beschreibung ist ebenso spekulativ wie anmaßend und wird damit dem zu beschreibenden Aspekt nicht gerecht.

Im Zusammenhang mit der Leiblichkeit wird in einem extra Unterkapitel dem Bereich der Gefühle besondere Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt. In seiner Beschreibung der Gefühle als leiblich fundierte Atmosphären sieht Schmitz “ein jahrtausendealtes Missverständnis der Gefühle”[vi] überwunden, jenes Missverständnis nämlich, das die Gefühle einer privaten, unzugänglichen Innenwelt zuordnet. Indem er Gefühle als Atmosphären mit eigener räumlich-zeitlichen Struktur beschreibt, kann er sie als gleichsam in der Welt vorkommend, den Fühlenden übersteigend und intersubjektiv wirksame Mächte plausibel machen, die keinesfalls auf private Innenwelten beschränkt sein können. Sehr stark ist in diesem Kontext der Vergleich mit Wetter und Klima, ebenso wie seine sehr überzeugenden Beispiele, etwa die Wahnstimmung in der Schizophrenie, das Grauen, aber auch die Zufriedenheit und der ennui. Vor allem die Transformationsprozesse von reinen Stimmungen hin zu in einem bestimmten Gegenstand oder Sachverhalt zentrierten Gefühlen lassen sich so gut nachvollziehen.

Im vierten Kapitel öffnet sich der Fokus in Richtung Welt. Hermann Schmitz umreißt seinen Begriff der Welt als entfaltete Gegenwart, wie er dies in seinem Band Was ist die Welt? entwickelt hat; ein Konzept, das sich zwingend aus seiner Theorie ergibt und darin auch schon angelegt war, aber niemals explizit als ‘Welt’ dargelegt wurde. Die entfaltete Gegenwart ist gleichsam der Gegenbegriff zur bereits erwähnten primitiven Gegenwart. Stiftet diese nämlich im affektiven Betroffensein die Subjektivität, findet in der Entfaltung der Gegenwart nach Schmitz eine Abschälung jener Subjektivität statt und der Mensch gewinnt mehr und mehr Distanz zum Geschehen. Das Ergebnis der Entfaltung der Gegenwart ist die Welt: eine den Menschen übersteigende Ganzheit von Gegenständen, Sachverhalten und Möglichkeiten zur Vereinzelung. Dieses Konzept ergibt sich fast zwingend aus seinen bisherigen Überlegungen, expliziert wurde dieser Begriff erst kürzlich im Band Gibt es die Welt? (Alber 2014).

Der Band schließt mit einem vergleichsweise kurzen Kapitel zur Geistesgeschichte des Abendlandes ab; es schlägt den Bogen von dem heidnischen Altertum über das vorchristliche Jahrtausend hin zur Neuzeit. Dieses Kapitel kann als Rückblick auf die philosophiehistorischen Ausführungen verstanden werden, die Hermann Schmitz in verschiedenen Monographien, zuletzt in Der Weg der europäischen Philosophie (2009) ausführte. Gemessen an seinem inhaltlichen Umfang ist es mit 50 Seiten recht kurz und es schließt sachlich nicht an die vorangehenden Kapitel an. In den einleitenden Worten nennt Schmitz ‘Enthusiasmus und Melancholie’ als Triebfedern für dieses Kapitel, was einem bilanzierenden Alterswerk unbedingt zugestanden werden kann.

Was bleibt nun also als Bilanz? Die tatsächliche Überwindung der Mensch- und Weltspaltung? Die Relativierung eines einseitig akzentuierten Individualismus?[vii]

Immerhin kann man festhalten, dass Hermann Schmitz im Verlauf seines Werks ein entscheidender Beitrag zur phänomenologischen Forschung und auch zu zahlreichen anderen Disziplinen gelungen ist, für die seine (Wieder-)Entdeckung des Leibes und seine Auffassung der Gefühle als Atmosphären anschlussfähig und überaus fruchtbar waren, um nur zwei Beispiele herauszugreifen. So profitieren nicht nur Psychologie und Psychiatrie von seiner Theorie, auch für die Geographie, Sozial- und Rechtswissenschaften haben sich seine Analysen als anschlussfähig erwiesen. Mit den Ausgrabungen ist ein pointierter Rückblick auf ein äußerst ertragreiches Werk gelungen, der für Einsteiger und Kenner seines Werkes gleichermaßen empfehlenswert ist.

[i] Hermann Schmitz, Ausgrabungen zum wirklichen Leben. Eine Bilanz. Verlag Karl Alber, Freiburg i.Br. 2016. S.7.

[ii] Ebd., S.8.

[iii] Ebd., vgl. S.104.

[iv] Ebd., S.19.

[v] Ebd., S.170.

[vi] Ebd., S.225.

[vii] Ebd., S.368.

Eugen Fink: Play as Symbol of the World

Play as Symbol of the World and Other Writings Book Cover Play as Symbol of the World and Other Writings
Studies in Continental Thought
Eugen Fink. Translated by Ian Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner
Indiana University Press
2016
Hardcover
349

Reviewed by: Shawn Loht (Baton Rouge Community College, USA)

While his work has been the subject of extensive research in Germany in recent years, Eugen Fink has only ever received sparing exposure in English-language scholarship. Certainly much of this is due to the lack of English translations of his writings. The publication of Play as Symbol of the World (Spiel als Weltsymbol), considered by many to be Fink’s most important book, will hopefully give his work a wider audience outside of Germany and encourage the publication of more translations of his work.

Fink was a student and collaborator of Husserl during the 1920’s and 30’s. He was also a working associate of Heidegger during the latter decades of Heidegger’s career. The stature of these two no doubt overshadows Fink’s contributions to phenomenology and twentieth-century German philosophy. Fink’s work is best-known to English-speaking audiences through his seminar on Heraclitus, co-authored with Heidegger (available in English under the title Heraclitus Seminar), and through his book on Husserl’s Sixth Cartesian Meditation. Fink also authored a highly original book on Nietzsche’s philosophy which appeared in English translation through Continuum Press in 2003. In the 2000’s, the German publisher Karl Alber began issuing a complete critical edition of Fink’s writings, of which Spiel als Weltsymbol is the seventh volume. This English edition from Indiana University Press, translated by Ian Alexander Moore and Christopher Turner, presents all of the contents of the seventh volume in the Karl Alber critical edition. In addition to the title essay are included several shorter pieces of Fink’s on the topics of play and cosmology that he wrote between 1957 and 1975, the year of his death. Bookending the writings by Fink are an extended translators’ foreword and an afterword by the editors of the German text, the latter of which presents an extensive overview of Fink’s philosophical program as it relates to Play as Symbol of the World. All in all, these various items make for a very fine, comprehensive edition of Fink’s text.

In this review, I will focus on just the main, title work of the volume, as this portion will be of principal interest for most readers. The title Fink gives to this work, Play as Symbol of the World, requires some unpacking. As the book’s German editors note, Fink proceeds by attempting to describe, without prior assumptions, what connections obtain between the title’s main keywords: play, symbol, and world (303). One guiding thought for Fink is the oft-cited Fragment 52 of Heraclitus, which suggests that the cosmic aion is akin to the play of a child; the life cycle of the universe is a child moving pieces on a game board (77). (This fragment figures strongly into Nietzsche’s reading of Heraclitus, with which Fink was surely familiar.) Fink’s approach throughout is dialectical, somewhat Aristotelian even, as he works through the historical and conceptual puzzles bound up with the title’s theme. Scholars of Heidegger will notice a lot of similarity as well. Fink demonstrates a flair for deconstructing historical philosophical prejudice and dissecting the original meanings of terms. Much of Fink’s aim in the text is to arrive at a satisfactory phenomenological description of the relationship of play and world such that the book’s title can demonstrate any meaningful expression. What does it mean to call play a “symbol” of the world? Wherein lay the metaphorical similarity between play and world? And how is the notion of “world” to be understood? Why would one make such a comparison?

In addition to the Heraclitean paradigm of cosmic play, other significant cues from ancient thought inspire Fink’s analysis. Fink frequently engages the Platonic conception of imitation and its underlying ontological commitments as a foil for developing a phenomenological view of play. Moreover, the entire third chapter of Fink’s book focuses on the development of cults and the manifestation of play in cultic ritual. In Fink’s account, the anthropology of primitive cultures indicates that play originated historically as a primal, cultic practice rather than as a vehicle for mere amusement or entertainment.

The first of the book’s four chapters analyzes the concept of play systematically. Fink understands the term “play” (Spiel) in multiple guises; these correspond well to the common use of the word “play” in English. In English vernacular we often use the word “play” to refer to what children do when they amuse themselves. We tend to think of play as essential to a child’s healthy development. But “play” is also often used to describe engaging in a game (e.g. “I play chess”); or, more remotely, it names what we watch at the theatre as well as the “play-acting” performed by actors. In older locution for instance, actors were referred to as “players.” This older meaning reminds one that acting and theatrical performance were originally conceived as mimesis, or imitation. And of course, this is the Platonic critique of the performative arts: what they depict is not real, but rather a watered-down copy of a more original reality. Fink’s conception of play encompasses all of these aspects. He understands play as an imaginary, “non-actual” state of existence enacted on the foundation of the actual, lived world. Play is a mimetic, yet also freely-chosen world-bestowal. In terms of its ontological status, Fink gives play the Husserlian label “irreal,” in order to indicate its phenomenological quality of fostering a non-actual disclosure of meaning (95-96).

One might get the drift from this book’s title that play is the main subject, that the book comprises a work on the philosophy of sport. The opening title pitches the idea that play stands to symbolize world, that there is some illustrative relationship between the former and the latter. But in the end, Play as Symbol of the World is a cosmology, an account of world. In Heideggerian fashion, Fink by and large ends up in a very different spot than where he began the text.

“World” for Fink is to be understood in Heideggerian terms. Fink even uses a good amount of space in Chapter One citing Heidegger’s conception of world from Being and Time as he formulates his own position (66ff). World in Fink’s reading comprises the underlying background within which all phenomena appear for the human agent; world both individualizes and contextualizes. Yet world is not a thing, not a substance to which one can assign a definite article. It is not to be understood metaphysically, as the receptacle housing all things of the universe, nor is world the sum total of all beings. World disappears when we try to circumscribe it with a definition. In and of itself, world is meaningless and groundless, and lacking end or purpose outside of its very manner of givenness. In other words, world’s underlying function is simply to foster the appearance of things in general. It is thus a crucial counterpart to human existence insofar as all human life is “worldly” or world-oriented.

Another thought to Heidegger is apposite here, though it is not a subject to which Fink dedicates explicit attention. Whereas Heidegger tends to characterize being as the fundamental philosophical category, Fink sees world as filling this role. Fink’s rationale appears to be that world is the more immediate, yet also more elusive phenomenological underpinning of human existence. World is the more visceral, tacit background that cradles human life. Some contrast with Husserl is likewise visible on this score. Fink justifies his conception of world with much less attention to the primacy of the transcendental ego, instead taking world and human existence to be co-constituted at rock-bottom. (For a comparison, see Husserl, Cartesian Meditations §1, Section 7.)

The central position of this book, which Fink articulates in the fourth and final chapter, is that play’s uniqueness lay in its capacity to reveal world (206ff). This is because play (broadly construed as theatrical play-acting, games, sport, or cultic ritual) fundamentally enacts the irreal, groundless purposelessness of world; these features are what play itself is. Play in turn reveals the world-open character of human existence. In other words, Fink suggests, we play because we are open to world and are existentially co-constituted along with world. The hypnotic character of play is universally attractive to all people precisely because play allows us to enact and own world through independent means. Play functions as a unique mode of human existence in which we are empowered to exercise our freedom and realize it reflexively.Yet, these achievements remain irreal; they comprise moments of human existence that are at once non-actual. In this way, play comes to mirror the ontological status of world itself.

In the end, Fink does not endorse describing play as a symbol of world, at least in the guise of a metaphor for world’s ontological makeup. More deeply, Fink holds that play manifests a primal connection with world, as expressed in the Greek etymology for “symbol.” The sym- root, in the Greek sum, conveys a togetherness or commonality; the keyword sumballein denotes two or more essentially connected “fragments of being.” Thus symbols do not comprise mere metaphorical comparisons or representations (127). In this case, while play enacts world in an irreal fashion, world cannot be understood as play. At the most, Fink argues, to propose that world is itself an instance of play comprises an antinomy, or at least a problematic that can only be solved outside of metaphysical thought (215). Not only is world incomprehensible as a conceptual whole; even to make this comparison overlooks that human beings are those who play. It would be a contradiction in terms to hold (as Heraclitus suggests) that world plays.

This is a complex and challenging text, perhaps an essential primary source in the history of phenomenology. It is certainly noteworthy for exemplifying a unique crossroads in the legacies of Husserl and Heidegger. Fink’s writing style is occasionally pedantic and shows some repetition as the chapters proceed, but these drawbacks do not detract too much from the book’s accomplishments.

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails

At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails Book Cover At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails
Sarah Bakewell
Other Press
2016
Hardcover
439

Reviewed by: Anthony Clemons (Alma Mater Europaea/Global Center for Advanced Studies)

Nietzsche wrote that a philosophy is always the biography of the philosopher. However, a philosophy taken outside of the context of the philosopher’s life can make their ideas seem, at best, un-relatable and, at worst, inaccessible.

In her latest work At the Existentialist Café, Sarah Bakewell revisits the texts that defined her adolescence and adopts this premise, writing, “Ideas are interesting, but people are vastly more so” (p. 326) This feeds into her interest of investigating the lives of the seminal philosophers who re-appropriated German phenomenology into a redefined brand of continental philosophy known as existentialism. In doing so, Bakewell assumes the role of cultural tour guide and frames an ever-vivid and occasionally nostalgic milieu of love affairs, mentorships, rebellions, lifelong partnerships, and the fallings-out of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone De Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Richard Wright, Edmund Husserl, Jean Genet and other larger-than-life thinkers who defined the thinking and culture of the post-World-War II generation.

In the book’s opening pages, Bakewell encapsulates the depth of her scholarship and biographical pluck by encapsulating the birth of existentialism into a singular point, “near the turn of 1932-3 when three young philosophers were sitting in the Bec-de-Gaz bar on the rue du Montparnasse in Paris, catching up on gossip and drinking the house specialty, apricot cocktails” (p. 1). These burgeoning philosophers included a 27-year-old Sartre, his 25-year-old girlfriend Beauvoir as well as Raymond Aron, an academic colleague of Sartre’s who was visiting during winter break from his philosophical studies in Berlin.

Suffering from intellectual atrophy in their own careers, Sartre and Beauvoir were interested in the intellectual discoveries Aron had unearthed in Berlin. Aron was only happy to oblige by describing a new brand of philosophy purported by Martin Husserl and refined by Aron’s mentor, Edmund Heidegger. Using vivid prose, Bakewell richly describes the Husserlian word phenomenology,

[Aron] was now telling his friends about a philosophy he had discovered there with the sinuous name of phenomenology—a word so long yet elegantly balanced that, in French as in English, it makes a line of iambic trimester all by itself (p. 2).

Though well-educated in their own right, neither Sartre or Beauvoir found Heidegger’s treatise on phenomenology to be linguistically accessible. However, on this day, in this café, Bakewell describes the moment Sartre and Beauvoir jumped into the phenomenological abyss, arguably spurring the most influential cultural movement of the 20th-century. Speaking directly to Sartre, Aron said, “You see mon petit camarade…if you are a phenomenologist, you can talk about this cocktail and make philosophy out of it!” (p. 3).

Flying in the face of the analytic calculus in which they were formally trained, Beauvoir wrote that, “Sartre turned pale on hearing this” (p. 3). Similarly, Sartre would recall in an interview some 40 years later that moment “knocked me out”, because there was now a treatise for, “doing philosophy that reconnected it with [the] normal, lived experience” (p. 3). In fact, Bakewell’s rendering of just how much Aron piqued Sartre and Beauvoir’s curiosity gives her opening a flavor of France at that time; feverish, yet relaxed.

Ultimately, this new-fangled notion of phenomenology was the ingredient that both young philosophers needed to refine their own theories and a starting point for Bakewell to chronicle how their ideas fuse and infuse the European cultural scene.

Yet, a discussion of phenomenology and existentialism would be incomplete without considering the role of World-War II. Bakewell does this by recounting how even the celebrated minds of philosophy are sometimes thrust into the fray of reality. She illustrates her case with an account of Sartre being held as a German prisoner of war and his anti-climatic escape by making an ophthalmology appointment and leaving unattended, only to never return. Bakewell also parallel’s Sartre’s experience with the measures Beauvoir was taking to survive the rationing of food and other items in Nazi-controlled Paris.

Upon Sartre’s return to France, Bakewell sets the stage to evidence just how much reality can affect even the staunchest of pure practitioners, writing, “Beauvoir was briefly jubilant at seeing Sartre, then frankly pissed off by the way he began passing judgement on everything she had been doing to survive” (p. 143). Sartre’s confrontation with Beauvoir regarding her philosophical compromises would ultimately cause both philosophers to make an introspective inquiry as to how existentialism should now be defined, leading to Sartre’s seminal work Being and Nothingness (1943) and Beauvoir’s feminist treatise The Second Sex (1949).

Combined, these examples are the formative means that Bakewell uses to frame the case that phenomenology and existentialism are more than just a couple of philosophical theories. Rather, they are rather formative notions of the nature of living, suffused with the real experiences and personal sufferings of those who developed the ideas and lived their lives according to their dictates.

Early-on, Bakewell acknowledges the influence existentialism welded on her adolescent years and acknowledges the cherished the role it serves in her life today. She writes, “when reading Sartre on freedom, Beauvoir on the subtle mechanisms of oppression, Kierkegaard on anxiety, Albert Camus on rebellion, Heidegger on technology and Merleau-Ponty on cognitive science, one sometimes feels one is reading the latest news” (pp. 28-29). This is why Sartre, Heidegger, and especially Beauvoir would likely approve of Bakewell’s approach to telling the story of existentialism. As a storyteller, she reconnects their lived experiences with their contribution to the development of existentialism as a philosophy. She also pervades her storytelling with the mark of her own interdisciplinary education and experiences.

Born in England and raised in Australia, Bakewell is a polymath and self-reformed academic. She read philosophy at the University of Essex and eventually took a postgraduate degree in Artificial Intelligence. Professionally, she has worked as a factory worker on a tea-bag assembly-line, bookshop attendant, library cataloguer, and is now an award-winning full-time author and professor of Creative Writing at Kellogg College, Oxford, UK. These experiences have influenced Bakewell’s biographical style, giving rise to her willingness to ground the high-brow, biographical tone of her characters to their own story, while also intertwining her own lived experiences.

At the Existentialist Café offers a nostalgic and introspective look at the birth and development of pure existentialism through the eyes of the most notable philosophers of the movement and the author, whose experience with the philosophy provides grounded clarity. The book is also a refreshing glance at the mid-twentieth century ideas that led to the post-modern and deconstructionist philosophies that we continue to refine. Ms. Bakewell’s method of storytelling exudes a personal sense that is neither overreaching nor overtly critical. It is seemingly the result of a conversation between her, a historian, a philosopher, and a cultural critic, all draining Apricot cocktails along a bustling Parisian street, while reminiscing on an earlier period forgotten by most, remembered by some, but loved by all.

Jacques Derrida: Heidegger: The Question of Being and Historyd History (Trans. Geoffrey Bennington)

Heidegger: The Question of Being and History Book Cover Heidegger: The Question of Being and History
Jacques Derrida. Translated by Geoffrey Bennington
University of Chicago Press
2016
Cloth $40.00
288

Reviewed by: George Webster (University of Warwick)

In the academic year of 1964-65, Derrida taught two courses at the École Normale Supérieure: an agrégation course on ‘The Theory of Signification in the Logical Investigations and Ideen I’ and ‘Heidegger: The Question of Being and History’. Having fulfilled his curricular obligations with the former, it was Derrida’s own interests that governed the choosing and development of the latter. This volume, painstakingly transcribed and translated from Derrida’s own handwritten notes, therefore provides a glimpse into some of the earliest workings of Derrida’s thought.

Given through nine sessions, this lecture course is concerned with rendering apparent the essential link between being and history (referred to as ‘historicity,’ to avoid confusion with the academic discipline and actual world history) throughout Heidegger’s thought. As to it’s broad construction, sessions one-through-six of the lecture series constitutes an introduction to the titular concepts, Heidegger’s approach, and an account of the ways in which Heidegger breaks from two other prominent philosophical reflections on historicity – those of Hegel and Husserl. Sessions six-through-nine feature Derrida’s examination of the role of historicity in Being and Time (henceforth BT) as well as Heidegger’s corresponding critique of Western thought.

In his introductory session, Derrida focuses on the use of the word ‘being’ in his course title over that of ‘ontology’. He forwards the view that Heidegger’s destruction (Destruktion) of the history of ontology (initiated in BT) develops into the rejection of the very notion of ontology itself as Heidegger’s thought matures. This session also features the first of many comparisons with Hegel. Here Derrida clarifies Heidegger’s method of Destruktion by contrasting it with Hegelian dialectical refutation (Widerlegung). He demonstrates that whilst Hegelian Widerlegung gathers up and sublimates its previous elements in the process of producing a higher philosophy (3), Destruktion is a ‘deconstruction’ or ‘solicitation’ that reveals what is hidden within the structures of philosophical thought (9).

In his second lecture, Derrida turns to the place of the term ‘history’ in his course title. He explains that Heidegger is perhaps the first philosopher to identify an essential relation between being and history and highlights two basic ‘assurances’ (41) that betray the essential historicity of being. First, the fact that we are ‘always already’ linguistically familiar with the meaning of being in some preliminary fashion (42-3). Second, the fact that Dasein is the being that is interrogated (Befragtes) within the question of the meaning of being (46).

In session three, Derrida pauses to explore an implication of the first assurance just outlined: the connection between being and language. As he examines the role of metaphor in Heidegger’s thought, Derrida masterfully decodes the famous Heideggerian statement that ‘language is the house of being’ (57-9). Derrida suggests that, on Heidegger’s view, metaphor obscures the meaning of being and that a proper, poetic language capable of directly speaking being should eventually arise (62-3).

Session four opens with a lengthy analysis of Heidegger’s seemingly innocuous reference to the Befragtes as a text on which the meaning of being is to be read (77-84). Derrida then shifts back to focus on the second assurance of being’s historicity: the identification of Dasein as Befragtes. Derrida explicates the two principal reasons for this identification: first, the fact that Dasein is itself the being that poses the question of being (85); second, that through this questioning Dasein comes closer to its own essence (85-6). He then highlights the problem of the hermeneutic circle: the objection that we cannot identify Dasein as the being through which we will gain access to the meaning of being without first enjoying this access (86). Derrida argues that not only is this objection unproblematic, but that it emphasises the very historicity of being that Heidegger is working to reveal insofar as it demonstrates ‘the impossibility of a pure point of departure’ (90) for philosophical thought. This session closes with the beginning of a lengthy account of the differences between Hegel’s, Husserl’s, and Heidegger’s respective reflections on historicity. Here, Derrida contrasts Heidegger’s view that being is essentially historical with Hegel’s view that historicity depends on state, culture, memory, and consciousness (99-104).

Continuing this juxtaposition through session five, Derrida now brings in Husserl, who he suggests has a comparable account to Hegel’s insofar as they both assume a primary distinction between the historicity of culture and the non-historicity of nature (105). Derrida embarks on a perhaps unnecessary and tangential comparison of Hegel and Husserl (105-113) before beginning to account for the ways in which Heidegger breaks from the Husserlian account (114-126).

It is clear that Derrida struggled with timing toward the end of session five, leaving him to finish his survey of Heidegger’s breaks with Husserl in the sixth session (127-133). The most significant of these breaks is the fact that, for Heidegger, the Husserlian account constitutes a ‘worldview’ (129) – that is, a representation of the totality of beings. Derrida points out that, for Heidegger, the idea that philosophy offers such a worldview (Weltbild) has its origins in Plato. Heidegger therefore sees Husserl as part of the metaphysical tradition he is trying to deconstruct (130-1). Derrida now shifts to his analysis of BT, wherein he demonstrates that reflection on Dasein’s relation to its birth and death reveals the prejudice which has hitherto blocked any proper recognition of historicity: the privileging of presence and the present (137). Rejecting this prejudice, Heidegger suggests that birth and death are not events no longer or not yet present. Rather, they coexist in Dasein insofar as Dasein is the continuity (Erstreckung) between them (148).

In session seven, Derrida acknowledges the ‘running out of breath’  (153) of BT with respect to its analysis of historicity. He suggests that the thematic of temporality, as the origin of historicity, is what obscures any further results. Looking for clues as to the specific difficulties, Derrida exposits the later material of BT and identifies the terminology of (in)authenticity as something dropped in later works (168). Moreover, Derrida highlights Heidegger’s identification of the assumption that underlies various inadequate conceptions of historicity: the centrality of the human subject (170). Derrida makes clear that Heidegger is moving us away from the idea that there is a historical subject to whom events happen to the idea that subjectivity is supervenient upon already historical ek-sistence (175).

Not wanting to dismiss BT, in his eighth session Derrida explores its final chapters for any original concepts that might pertain to and differentiate historicity from its originating temporality. He examines the concepts of   ‘auto-transmission’ (Sichüberlieferung) (180), which describes temporality, ‘resoluteness’ (Entschlossenheit) (185), through which temporality and historicity become authentic, and ‘being-toward-death’ (188). This latter concept leads Derrida to an evaluation of Alexandre Kojève’s suggestion that there exists a relation of analogy between Heidegger and Hegel with respect to their reflections on freedom and death. Derrida is unsympathetic to this view, arguing that Hegel’s and Heidegger’s accounts are ultimately inconsonant because Hegel’s conception of temporality is, for Heidegger, inauthentic ‘intra-temporality’ (194-201). Finally, Derrida strikes upon what he believes to be a concept uniquely characteristic of historicity in BT: repetition (202).

In his final session, Derrida explicates Heidegger’s derivation of world history (Welt-Geschichte) and historical science from the historicity of Dasein (206-214). This involves a digress through Nietzsche and his relation to Hegel (215-221). Derrida then makes some conclusory remarks. He indicates the direction of Heidegger’s later thought and further emphasises the role of metaphor, suggesting again that, for Heidegger, the gradual deconstruction of metaphoricity will instigate a new language through which we could come into direct contact with being and in which the designation ‘being’ would itself be obsolete (223). Finally, in a comment that presages his own subsequent work, Derrida claims that the ultimate problematic for Heidegger will be that of difference (225).

It is evident that this course yields some of Derrida’s earliest reflections on ideas that would later come to define his mature thought: such as deconstruction, writing, trace, metaphysics of presence, binary opposites, and difference. Moreover, this is one of the most readable and accessible of Derrida’s works. He is clearly a gifted exegete, rendering much of Heidegger’s complex text transparent. His thoroughness as a scholar is also clear to see, given his numerous insightful comparisons with Hegel; not to mention the fact that only the first division of BT was available in French at the time of this course (and then only for a few months). As such, most of Derrida’s references to Heidegger were his own translations and this course likely provided an initial exposure amongst its attendees to much of Heidegger’s thought.

There are, however, some weaknesses that could be addressed. Although Derrida readily admits it (222), the tone of this course remains preparative throughout and the reader never feels as though they are getting to the heart of this essential relation between being and historicity. The transition between sessions five and six is awkward; it would also have been beneficial to see more on the distinction drawn between metaphor and poetry in session three – especially given the import Derrida assigns to it. Also, there are moments when the relevance of Derrida’s reflections on the relations of Husserl and Nietzsche to Hegel come into question. Finally, whilst there is the occasionally inconvenient ‘[illegible word]’ notation, this frustration more rightly serves as a testament to the immediacy of our access to Derrida’s thought and as a credit to the translators.

Stefano Marino: Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer

Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer Book Cover Aesthetics, Metaphysics, Language: Essays on Heidegger and Gadamer
Stefano Marino
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
2015
Hardback £41.99
155

Reviewed by: Diego D'Angelo (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

Sono pochi, forse pochissimi gli autori di lingua italiana in grado di muoversi agevolmente nel panorama filosofico internazionale. Molti si astengono persino dal provarci. Tanto più va lodato e apprezzato, allora, il riuscito tentativo di Stefano Marino di pubblicare anche in lingua inglese, come dimostra questo volume, uscito di recente per Cambridge Scholars Publishing, su estetica, metafisica e linguaggio in Heidegger e in Gadamer. Non si tratta peraltro della prima pubblicazione di Marino diretta ad un pubblico internazionale: ricordiamo qui il volume, risalente 2011, Gadamer and the Limits of the Modern Techno-Scientific Civilization (Peter Lang, Francoforte sul Meno), nonché il saggio in lingua tedesca Aufklärung in einer Krisenzeit: Ästhetik, Ethik und Metaphysik bei Theodor W. Adorno, pubblicato nel 2015 (Kovac Verlag, Amburgo).

La raccolta di saggi qui in questione continua dunque un discorso di apertura nei confronti della ricerca filosofica in lingue che non siano unicamente quella italiana. E si nota che, qui, Marino si muove con coerenza, affrontando soprattutto temi legati all’estetica e alla metafisica, rivolgendo la propria attenzione ad autori classici della tradizione tedesca del Novecento: Adorno, Heidegger e Gadamer, soprattutto, per quanto proprio questo volume contenga un’apertura anche verso il pensiero – diretto soprattutto alla politica – di Hannah Arendt, nonché al discorso anglofono di John McDowell e Richard Rorty. In questa recensione forniremo dunque alcune osservazioni contenutistiche a proposito dei cinque capitoli che costituiscono il volume, chiudendo poi con alcune osservazioni critiche di carattere generale. Tutti i testi tranne il primo, che è un contributo originale al volume, sono infatti rimaneggiamenti, a volte anche sostanziali, di articoli pubblicati in precedenza.

Il saggio di apertura, Gadamer and McDowell on Second Nature, World/Environment, and Language, cerca di ricostruire il debito, espressamente riconosciuto da McDowell stesso, che alcune posizioni di Mind and World – uno dei libri più dibattuti degli ultimi vent’anni – hanno nei confronti del pensiero di Hans-Georg Gadamer, e in particolare del suo capolavoro Wahrheit und Methode (Mohr Siebeck, Tubinga 1960). Nella ricostruzione di Marino, questo debito è individuabile soprattutto nei temi della seconda natura, del mondo (ambiente) e del linguaggio. Infatti, McDowell si riferisce espressamente a Gadamer, per il quale, nella lettura che ne dà il filosofo sudafricano, “the human experience of the world is verbal in nature” (p. 10; le indicazioni del numero di pagina in questo formato si riferiscono sempre, nel testo seguente, al libro preso in esame). Partendo da qui, Marino individua somiglianze e corrispondenze (cfr. p. 13) tra i due autori che ci consentono di vedere il discorso di entrambi sotto una luce nuova, in grado di chiarifica in particolare la genesi filosofica dei concetti di mondo e mondo ambiente: se è vero che McDowell si rifà a Gadamer per questi concetti, e che questo legame è riconosciuto dalla maggior parte degli studiosi, il merito di Marino sta nel connettere questo legame, a sua volta, agli autori cui Gadamer stesso si ispira per il suo concetto di mondo (cfr. p. 23), restituendo così al concetto tutta la sua complessità anche dal punto di vista della storiografia filosofica.

Un approccio simile, legato alla ricostruzione di punti precisi di storiografia filosofica, è perseguito anche nel secondo saggio, Gadamer on Heidegger: The History of Being as Philosophy of History. Se prima si trattava soprattutto di ricondurre concetti adoperati da McDowell alla loro fonte in Gadamer, e poi di vedere da dove Gadamer aveva a sua volta tratto certe linee del pensiero, ora è proprio questo secondo aspetto a venir enfatizzando, mostrando come Gadamer sia, nella sua filosofia della storia, debitore alla cosiddetta “storia dell’essere” di cui parla l’Heidegger degli anni ’30-’40. Eppure, questo “debito” è soprattutto di carattere negativo: secondo Marino, Gadamer recupera alcuni temi “particolari” della storia dell’essere, rigettandone l’impianto concettuale generale (cfr. p. 50). In particolare, Marino individua tre motivi. Il primo, di carattere filologico, è che la violenza con cui Heidegger interpreta altri filosofi per iscriverli nella sua storia dell’essere è, secondo Gadamer, un atto “barbarico” (cfr. p. 51). In secondo luogo, Gadamer rifiuta, secondo la lettura di Marino, l’esistenza, postulata da Heidegger, di un linguaggio unitario della metafisica che andrebbe superato (p. 52). In terzo luogo, legando Heidegger a Hegel, Gadamer è essenzialmente scettico nei confronti dell’unificazione forzata della storia della filosofia sotto l’egida della “dimenticanza dell’essere”: questo introduce una teleologia nella storia che Gadamer non può sostenere, secondo Marino. Discutendo anche alcune conseguenze che questa impostazione porta con sé per la questione estetica, cioè per la questione relativa al ruolo dell’arte nella contemporaneità, il saggio si chiude mettendo il luce come, forse, il debito di Gadamer nei confronti di Heidegger sia meno diretto di quanto si tenda comunemente a pensare (p. 63).

Il terzo saggio, Gadamer’s and Arendt’s Divergent Appropriations of Kant: Taste, Sensus Communis, and Judgment, ricostruisce un altro momento di questa critica ad una storiografia basata sui “debiti filosofici”, se si può dire così: Marino vuole, in effetti, anche in questo caso mettere in luce soprattutto le divergenze tra Arendt e Gadamer. Le loro letture della Critica del Giudizio, infatti, sarebbero addirittura “opposte” (p. 76): sintetizzando l’opposizione, spiega Marino, “Kant is praised by Arendt for having politicized some basic aesthetic concepts, but he is criticized by Gadamer for having depoliticized and aestheticized those same concepts!” (p. 77, corsivi ed enfasi nell’originale). Non si tratta, però, di semplici errori di interpretazione da parte dei due filosofi del Novecento: piuttosto, la storia delle ricezioni kantiane è una storia fatta di “productive misunderstandings” (p. 79), di cui il presente non è che un esempio.

Il quarto saggio presentato nel volume porta il titolo Gadamer’s Hermeneutical Aesthetics of Tragedy and the Tragic, ed è l’unico a non seguire già dal titolo la struttura del confronto tra due (o più) autori della storia della filosofia. Si tratta in questo caso, infatti, piuttosto di un’analisi concettuale in senso stretto: Marino si dedica ad una disamina del modo in cui Gadamer pensa e interpreta la tragedia e il tragico, un tema tradizionalmente poco esaminato (p. 85). Marino sposta il concetto di tragedia al centro del pensiero gadameriano, ricostruendone il ruolo giocato anche in Verità e Metodo: la tragedia, così la tesi dell’Autore, dimostra in maniera pregnante l’irriducibilità dell’esperienza umana all’approccio scientifico (p. 87). La tragedia sorge infatti dall’incontro/scontro tra l’umano e il divino (p. 88), ma non è riducibile unicamente a questa origine (p. 99), andando, nel suo sviluppo, al di là di essa. Gadamer ci consente, infatti, di riconoscere l’origine religiosa della tragedia senza negarne il valore estetico autonomo.

In conclusione, il volume ritorna alla struttura binomiale dei saggi precedenti, concentrandosi su Heidegger and Rorty: Philosophy and/as Poetry and Literature. Cerando di superare l’impasse che ha costituito buona parte dell’attrito tra filosofia analitica e filosofia continentale, ossia l’accusa rivolta dalla prima alla seconda di essere troppo vicina alla letteratura e poco al rigore scientifico, Marino decide di interrogare i massimi rappresentati di una filosofia contaminata con la letteratura: Heidegger perché nessun autore ha mai avvicinato così tanto poesia e filosofia (p. 107), e Rorty perché egli stesso vede la sua filosofia “come” letteratura (p. 108). Anche qui Marino ricostruisce il debito di Rorty nel confronti di Heidegger, concludendo però in modo fortemente critico: la lettura rortiana di Heidegger è – uso l’indicativo perché mi sembra difficile non concordare, specialmente alla luce delle ultime pubblicazioni e degli esiti della ricerca internazionale – “hermenutically careless and does not adhere to Heidegger’s own text” (p. 114). Purtroppo l’articolo si chiude, a mio parere, troppo presto, mancando di discutere se, effettivamente, da un punto di vista sistematico, l’idea di filosofia come letteratura sia davvero perseguibile.

In generale – sia detto in chiusura – l’approccio di Marino non vuole affrontare questioni di carattere teoretico-sistematico, ma solo fornire una disamina storiografica: egli stesso riconosce che si tratta di un “comparative approach” (p. 5). In tal senso, i limiti della lettura sono chiaramente definiti fin dall’inizio. Ciononostante, il lettore rimane con un certo amaro in bocca proprio per la mancanza di una discussione più approfondita di certi punti proprio in una prospettiva sistematica. Nel momento in cui, in effetti, l’Autore si ripromette di superare il “gap” tra analitico e sistematico, come afferma con chiarezza nell’Introduzione (p. 6), questo obiettivo sembra mancato: come si può, in effetti, istituire, da parte continentale, un discorso con la filosofia analitica – per altro, auspicabilissimo, se non addirittura necessario al giorno d’oggi – concentrandosi su questioni di storiografia? Certamente il tentativo sviluppato nel primo saggio di ricollegare espressamente John McDowell al pensiero di Gadamer è lodevole anche sotto questo punto di vista, ma non è forse abbastanza per rinfocolare un discorso tra due tradizioni. Lo stesso valga per l’ultimo saggio, riguardante appunto il problema della filosofia e/come letteratura, che lascia la questione in sospeso.

Al di là di questo limite, che è, come detto, intrinseco all’approccio esplicitamente adottato dall’autore, la “storiografica comparatistica” sviluppata qui da Marino ha grandi pregi: innanzitutto, la chiarezza espositiva; in secondo luogo: l’onestà intellettuale di restringere chiaramente a pochi concetti le proprie analisi, senza ricadere nella retorica roboante di certa letteratura; e infine, di presentare la tradizione filosofica italiana (buona parte dei contributi scientifici che Marino cita sono infatti di area italiana) al pubblico internazionale, un’impresa che, pur nei limiti accennati, non si può che lodare.

Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, Francesco Alfieri: Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni neri

Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni neri Book Cover Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni neri
Filosofia -Testi e Studi, n. 72
Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, Francesco Alfieri
Morcelliana
2016
Cloth € 35,00
464

Reviewed by: Laura Paulizzi (École Normale Supérieure, Paris)

L’intellettuale attuale si distingue da quello “antico” oltre che per il modo di fare ricerca, data la varietà odierna, qualitativa e quantitativa, di fonti a disposizione di tutti, anche per le diverse dinamiche e i diversi scopi di diffusione del sapere. È probabile che di uno scritto si affermi prima la sua fama, e che questa si sostituisca al suo contenuto ; infatti se normalmente ci si deve trattenere dal giudicare un libro dalla copertina, con il fenomeno “Martin Heidegger antisemita” viene da domandarsi se la moltitudine che ha espresso opinioni, giudizi e sentenze a riguardo, l’abbia almeno mai vista quella dei Quaderni neri. È molto facile, poi, arrivare ad erigere interpretazioni o indirizzi di pensiero partendo da estrapolazioni linguistiche ; con un qualsivoglia contenuto filosofico, questo lavoro di isolamento del particolare, della parte rispetto al tutto, risulta abbastanza semplice. Infatti, un enunciato filosofico, se non letto alla luce di un contesto, del suo proprio sorgere, può adagiarsi comodamente sulle più difformi opinioni. A questo punto, i frutti delle diverse letture interpretative, sorte dallo sradicamento di porzioni di pensiero e di affermazioni filosofiche singolari, possono imboccare strade certamente differenti : prendere piede in contesti scientifico-accademici, o essere accolte in circostanze meno elitarie, alla portata di tutti, come per esempio quelle mediatiche. Ora, se questo desumere dà vita ad un pensiero apparentemente organico che ha la fortuna di essere accolto favorevolmente da entrambi i contesti, accademici e mediatici, può accadere che altri intellettuali, di “vecchio stampo” potremmo dire, sentano il bisogno di far sorgere un nuovo flusso di pensieri che, pur non ponendosi come semplice risposta a questo sradicamento, ha il merito di far riemergere l’originarietà del pensiero preso di mira, i cui frammenti stavano costituendosi come opera a sé ; questi studiosi si sentono in dovere, in nome di quella ricerca non strumentalizzata, ovvero non mirante ad altro, di “riassestare” la sistematicità di un contenuto filosofico, il quale, essendo stato sottratto al suo contesto, al suo stesso sviluppo, non vede il suo senso solo alterarsi, bensì mutare radicalmente, assumere altri significati.

            È questo l’excursus che viene narrato in Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri, dal  Professor Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, ultimo assistente di Martin Heidegger, e dal Professor Francesco Alfieri. Quest’ultimo infatti, è invitato dal primo a leggere gli Schwarze Wachstuchhefte, ma non comprendendone il “senso e il nesso” – come egli stesso afferma in un’intervista curata da Elena Poletti dell’associazione ASIA -, si rivolge di nuovo a Von Herrmann e da questi primi scambi inizia una corrispondenza tra i due che si traduce in un lavoro costante di commento al testo. Le annotazioni heideggeriane vengono così fatte oggetto di uno studio filologico, che in seguito si configurerà come seconda parte del libro, dal titolo “Analisi storico-critica sine glossa”. Una terza figura significativa del progetto, pur non avendo contribuito direttamente ad esso, è Peter Trawny, fattosi portavoce di una incauta interpretazione, come vedremo,  che ha condotto al solido affermarsi dell’idea di un antisemitismo presente in tutto il pensiero di Martin Heidegger ; idea che ha assunto dimensioni importanti, fino a prendere su di sé i tratti di un vero e proprio indirizzo filosofico, detto “antisemitismo ontostorico”. Questa corrente di pensiero ha guadagnato terreno anche in Italia, dove è andata via via sviluppandosi come “antisemitismo metafisico” « che trova la sua origine nella filosofia tedesca, e precisamente in una serie di pensatori che da Kant giunge fino a Nietzsche, per poi trovare il suo culmine in Heidegger » (p. 14). Fatto inconsueto questo. Data infatti la difficoltà odierna del farsi strada di un dibattito filosofico di grande portata, lascia sorpresi come esso sia invece emerso proprio in seguito a un simile lavoro di estrazione che trova le sue fondamenta in una chiave di lettura dualistica, esoterico-essoterica, dell’intera opera heideggeriana. Ecco infatti la vera bizzarria della questione. Secondo gli autori di Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri isolando alcuni passi delle annotazioni heideggeriane e interpretandoli seguendo una direzione univoca, Trawny ha avuto un riscontro positivo coinvolgendo tuttavia il pensiero di Heidegger nella sua interezza. In altre parole, il fenomeno dell’antisemitismo heideggeriano rende manifesta la facilità con cui dalla trattazione di singoli passaggi, estraniati dalla loro rete concettuale, si traggono al contrario considerazioni di carattere generico.

           Questo spunto di riflessione nasce a partire da un’adeguata e disinteressata lettura del testo su Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri, a cui effettivamente esso si presta poiché viene alla luce proseguendo secondo lo stesso metodo, sospendendo il giudizio. Difatti, uno degli aspetti che lo rende più interessante  è il carattere non heideggeriano di Alfieri, il quale ha analizzato le annotazioni di Heidegger linguisticamente, filologicamente, per comprenderne in prima persona il senso. Nonostante poi, in un secondo momento i celebri taccuini fossero stati destinati alla pubblicazione dallo stesso Heidegger, ma solo alla fine dell’edizione delle sue opere complete, bisogna tenere costantemente a mente, e su questo il libro insiste, il fatto che si tratta di appunti su riflessioni private che Heidegger annotava anche durante la notte su dei pezzi di carta che, a questo scopo, teneva prontamente accanto al letto. Il vero lavoro per von Herrmann e Alfieri è stato dunque quello di costruire in itinere un percorso che ridesse sì, giustizia ad un pensiero caduto vittima di strumentalizzazioni anche mediatiche, ma che aiutasse loro in primis a comprendere una posizione poco chiara che poggiava su affermazioni effettivamente inusuali, soprattutto per il fatto di essere personali e private.

            Il testo sembra dunque presentare un duplice intento dettato certamente dalla primaria esigenza di restituire dignità speculativa al pensiero heideggeriano, sottoposto ad un dibattito non filosofico, sottraendo il contenuto degli Schwarze Hefte ad una qualsivoglia strumentalizzazione. Da una parte, in particolare da quella di  von Herrmann che lo esprime più che chiaramente, c’è il bisogno di « comprendere quale sia stato il reale coinvolgimento di Heidegger con il nazionalsocialismo e il perché egli abbia deciso di non volersi opporre pubblicamente ad esso » (p. 16). Questa parte introduttiva del e al testo infatti, ne costituisce la premessa contestuale, descrive il clima in cui matura l’idea stessa del progetto ; in queste pagine emerge in maniera più decisiva la necessità di porre l’accento sull’errata interpretazione che ha condotto all’unilateralità di giudizio sulle annotazioni di Heidegger, frutto del lavoro svolto da Trawny e ritenuto poco filosofico. In questo senso, l’autore considera diversi punti di partenza, in primo luogo un’adeguata comprensione del termine Selbstvernichtung che può essere approfondito, tuttavia, solo successivamente ad uno studio concernente i Beiträge. Grande scoglio certo, per il lettore che non ha questo tipo di bagaglio in quanto, già di per sé il linguaggio heideggeriano, come ogni utilizzo speculativo del linguaggio, rimanda a significati ulteriori, che non ristagnano sulla superficie della cosa, sui suoi significati immediati e ben noti, ma conducono alla profondità del concetto, all’essenza del contenuto ; d’altronde questo è il prezzo da pagare qualora si intraprenda lo studio del pensiero dei maestri della filosofia.

            Ora, nella contestualizzazione del dibattito intorno ai Quaderni neri, di cui von Herrmann tiene a sottolineare che « per il fatto che un concetto del pensiero storico dell’evento come il “pensiero calcolante” sia riferito all’elemento ebraico, il puro concetto storico-ontologico non diventa “antisemita” » (p. 24), non manca un tono di denuncia determinato da un coinvolgimento personale oltre che professionale. Difatti, il Professore e Peter Trawny si conoscevano molto bene in quanto Trawny è stato seguito ed aiutato da von Herrmann dalla fine del suo dottorato fino al momento in cui egli, giunto all’età di 51 anni, non aveva ancora ottenuto un posto di professore retribuito, ma aveva una famiglia da mantenere. Fu con questo intento che il suo nome è stato indicato come curatore dei volumi, ma « nei quarant’anni di storia dell’edizione completa delle opere heideggeriane non era mai successo che uno dei curatori, parallelamente all’apparizione del volume da lui curato, pubblicasse un libro[1] con pretese interpretative – cosa espressamente vietata da Martin Heidegger » (p. 27). La pretesa interpretativa di cui ci parla l’autore tuttavia, com’è già stato detto, ha riscontrato un ampio consenso dando vita ad un dibattito che ha sconfessato 46 anni di pensiero storico-ontologico heideggeriano. È alla logica del consenso dunque, che si rivolge principalmente il libro ; difatti, ancor prima di addentrarsi nella trattazione specifica del suo oggetto, esso risveglia un senso di giustizia speculativa che rimanda ad un’esigenza oggi quasi impercettibile, data la vastità delle pubblicazioni e la frammentarietà di un vero dibattito filosofico attuale. Una lotta contro la strumentalizzazione e la finalizzazione della filosofia, che traspira volontà di non sconsacrare un pensiero che, in ogni caso, ha contribuito in modo ineguagliabile a dar vita e spirito a tutta la filosofia del Novecento. Anche gli autori si distanziano dalle dichiarazioni di Martin Heidegger contenute in questi ormai celebri taccuini, « ma non a costo di sconfessare l’importantissima opera di un grande pensatore » (p. 27). La stessa Hannah Arendt trovandosi a difendere, o meglio, a cercar di far capire il suo studio sul caso Adolf Eichmann mostrò il grande abisso che allontana la comprensione di un fenomeno dalla giustificazione e dal perdono dello stesso ; il risultato fu la nozione di “banalità del male”, uno dei concetti più significativi ed universali del suo pensiero, nonché della filosofia, dato che ahimè, vede la sua attualità al di là di ogni tempo storico determinato. In altri termini, se i grandi filosofi avessero proceduto all’espressione del loro pensiero con il timore di essere poi in seguito etichettati anche dai “non addetti ai lavori”, se nel timore del giudizio i pensatori avessero posto dei limiti alla propria operosità razionale, siamo d’accordo nell’affermare che i quasi tremila anni di filosofia non avrebbero mai visto la luce.

            Von Herrmann non manca inoltre di sottolineare come « [i] 14 passaggi testuali che nei volumi 95, 96 e 97 della Gesamtausgabe si riferiscono agli ebrei o all’ebraismo mondiale costituiscono appena tre pagine formato A4 in confronto alle 1245 pagine complessive di questi volumi » (p. 17) ; affermazione questa che potrebbe tradursi in una discolpa dalle accuse di antisemitismo rivolte ad Heidegger, oppure nella dimostrazione dell’accessibile rischio di compromettere un intero e complesso sistema di pensiero basandosi su singoli passaggi, la  scelta dipende certamente dall’inclinazione del lettore. Nondimeno, l’incisiva presenza della critica heideggeriana, il tono di denuncia, lo stile destante, inseriscono i riferimenti  all’ebraismo in una più generale critica alla modernità, e la critica in Heidegger è sempre di tipo filosofico-speculativa, mai rivolta ad altro né tantomeno politicamente orientata ; al contrario, lo sviscerare con il sacro mezzo della parola, il domandarsi originario, la capacità di saper questionare, restano i veri intenti della sua riflessione. La purezza di tale linguaggio, che di certo non si lascia attraversare senza fatica, non può lasciarsi vincolare però altrettanto facilmente a fraintendimenti di carattere politico. E non è senza fatica, infatti, che von Hermann e Alfieri, nell’indagine sui Quaderni neri, si sono impegnati in un lavoro che innanzitutto ha coinvolto i testi e la stessa scrittura.

            Lo sforzo ermeneutico e filologico è particolarmente evidente in quella che si configura come seconda parte del testo Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri. Difatti, se la premessa introduttiva di Von Herrmann illustra le opere heideggeriane  nella loro complessità, richiamandone alla memoria la successione cronologica e filosofica, nell’interesse di far emergere lo scarto tra il lavoro di Heidegger, volto da sempre a questioni di carattere teorico-speculative, e le possibili interpretazioni che invece mancano di basi filosofiche, la seconda parte conduce nel vivo della parola e il maggior proposito che vi si pone è quello di « far emergere anzitutto la complessa stratificazione terminologica delle annotazioni heideggeriane tenendo conto del contesto in cui sono inserite » (p. 53). Ecco la problematica fondamentale cui hanno dovuto soccombere gli autori e a cui è stato sottratto lo stesso lettore in seguito al lavoro svolto da Trawny, la riabilitazione del contesto. Sebbene lo spirito che ispira il libro sia accompagnato da un intento apparentemente “personale”, tentativo di chiarificazione dei nodi aporetici che costituiscono un pensiero già di per sé difficilmente interpretabile, se non incomprensibile ad una lettura superficiale del testo, esso non costituisce nel contempo una manovra redentrice. Procedendo con la lettura dunque, ci si inoltra nel mirabile lavoro di Alfieri, il quale riportando effettivamente all’attenzione alcuni passaggi delle annotazioni heideggeriane, risveglia l’oggettività di un approccio disinteressato. Al lettore imparziale, infatti, il contenuto dei Quaderni neri, non può non suscitare quel coinvolgimento speculativo a cui la penna di Heidegger, rara tra poche, perviene. Di fronte ad un’analisi linguistica dei problematici passaggi, Alfieri, ben edotto della laboriosità dell’impresa, introduce a più riprese i passi affrontati con un lodevole auspicio, che il suo lavoro venga in ogni caso sottoposto « al proprio e altrui vaglio di una critica radicale» (p. 54).

            Ora, l’analisi linguistico-ermeneutica condotta da Alfieri permette al senso dei taccuini rilegati con tela cerata nera di emergere, sollecitando il lento mostrarsi  della loro verità ; una verità che, in Heidegger, è nel linguaggio, nell’Essere, nell’autentico domandare, nella critica ad una modernità che rischia di perdere, attraverso le sue stesse istituzioni, la purezza di un pensiero originario, e di sostituire la filosofia con una “pseudofilosofia”. Vale la pena a questo proposito di riportare uno dei passi heideggeriani più significativi preso in esame da Alfieri e che costituisce il paragrafo 134 delle Überlegungen V :

« Chi crede che la “filosofia” andrebbe abolita dalle università, che comunque sono morte, e che andrebbe sostituita con la “scienza politica”, in fondo ha pienamente ragione senza avere la minima idea di che cosa sta facendo e di che cosa vuole. In questo modo non si abolisce certo la Filosofia – questo è impossibile – ma si toglie di mezzo qualcosa che ha l’apparenza della filosofia – in un certo senso si salva da pericolo di essere sfigurata. Se si procedesse a tale abolizione, allora la filosofia sarebbe, da questo lato, assicurata “negativamente” – e in futuro sarebbe chiaro che i sostituti dei professori di filosofia non avrebbero nulla a che fare  con la filosofia, neanche con la sua parvenza – ammesso che quella sostituzione non sprofondi ancora più nella parvenza della filosofia. La filosofia sarebbe scomparsa dall’“interesse” pubblico e educativo. E questa condizione corrisponderebbe alla realtà – poiché qui non vi è traccia di filosofia – e proprio allora, quando essa è veramente ».

       L’iniziale bisogno di comprendere per poi illustrare il “reale” coinvolgimento di Heidegger con il nazionalsocialismo, in questa seconda parte del testo Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri viene in qualche modo licenziato dalla profondità speculativa di riflessioni di questo tipo – culla di un fondato itinere filosofico. I possibili scopi altri del libro si inseriscono, dunque, in una cornice di rimandi al nazionalsocialismo, all’ebraismo, a Hitler, etc., che intendono sicuramente far luce sul rapporto che il pensiero di Heidegger vi intrattiene, ma che tuttavia finiscono in secondo piano rispetto al fascino teoretico delle fondamentali nozioni di quel pensiero. Alfieri si inoltra infatti negli abissi del linguaggio, nella parola di Heidegger, per comprendere, o meglio, per non fraintendere i pensieri inestimabili che ne risultano, e che restano tali, anche in seguito all’adesione al partito nazionalsocialista ; adesione di cui in questa sede non si parlerà in modo esauriente, ma si invitano piuttosto i lettori a capirne l’origine e la motivazione. In particolare, successivamente alla pubblicazione dei Quaderni neri nel 2014, si è andata formando una letteratura che tratta questo tema, oltre allo già citato Trawny. Il problema  diviene qui al contrario, quello di cernere, all’interno di questa varietà di analisi, opinioni e interpretazioni, quelli che seguono il procedere filosofico heideggeriano rintracciandone la genuinità del senso dal “gossip” filosofico che si è venuto a inserire con estrema facilità, data forse l’abbordabilità del tema dell’antisemitismo, in questo dibattito.

            Corretta la scelta da parte dei Professori Von Herrmann e Alfieri di inserire un terzo capitolo nel libro dedicato ai Carteggi inediti di Friedrich-Wilhelm von Hermann che comprende gli scambi epistolari di Martin Heidegger con lo stesso von Hermann  e Hans-Georg Gadamer. Anche in questa parte del testo, curata con precisione da Alfieri, viene assicurato l’intento di far chiarezza sul contenuto dei Quaderni neri, di cui si fa riferimento in primo luogo al titolo che in effetti contribuisce, in particolare per coloro che non assumono un atteggiamento disinteressato, a creare intorno alle già discusse annotazioni un’idea di segretezza, come giustamente esplicita lo stesso Alfieri :

 « A nostro parere, già la semplice denominazione di Quaderni neri ha creato un alone di mistero che, seppur in modo inconsapevole, ha condotto i lettori a immaginare che essi contengano qualcosa che – per qualche inspiegabile motivo – è stato a lungo tenuto nascosto e che, con la loro pubblicazione, “l’uomo Heidegger” sarebbe finalmente venuto allo scoperto in modo da poter essere “conosciuto” da tutti. La loro uscita non ha tuttavia prodotto un’autentica conoscenza di quello che Heidegger vi aveva annotato. Ci siamo infatti resi conto che l’espressione Quaderni neri – che indica la loro classificazione non il loro contenuto – è stata purtroppo utilizzata per rendere ancor più misterioso e inaccessibile il percorso tracciato da Heidegger nei suoi taccuini. E se a questo si aggiunge che, volutamente, non sono stati fatti conoscere all’opinione alcuni passi significativi in essi contenuti, è facile dedurre che non c’era modo migliore per tessere la fitta tela della strumentalizzazione tuttora in atto (p. 329) ».

Insomma, l’idea di un esoterismo interno all’opera heideggeriana e la prontezza con cui si è sviluppata la nozione di antisemitismo ontostorico, che con altrettanta lestezza ha acquisito consensi perfino nella pubblica opinione, lasciano supporre che ci fossero delle teorie latenti su Heidegger che si sono poi viste comprovate a partire dalla prima interpretazione che ha dato loro voce. Il perché di questo, certamente rimane da comprendere.

     Illuminante è poi l’appendice che chiude il libro, dal titolo La strumentalizzazione mediatica in Italia dei Quaderni neri curato dalla giornalista Claudia Gualdana, che passa in rassegna tutto ciò che è stato scritto sui giornali italiani a proposito del rapporto tra Heidegger e il nazismo e, più in generale, sui Quaderni neri. Partendo dal libro di Donatella Di Cesare Heidegger e gli ebrei. I «Quaderni neri», si ripercorre quello che è stato da una parte il dibattito filosofico concernente la questione dell’antisemitismo heideggeriano e dall’altra la diatriba intorno ai Quaderni neri. In questa sezione i toni mutano e assumono una puntualizzazione polemica contro quella parte di studiosi e pensatori che concorda con la chiave di lettura di Trawny e della Di Cesare, richiamando alla memoria come già nel 1987 la controversia circa la suddetta questione si era avviata con Victor Farías ed era stata riproposta da Emmanuel Faye nel 2005. Vengono citati tra gli altri, consenzienti e non, il giornalista Antonio Gnoli, l’ex presidente della Martin Heidegger Gesellschaft Günter Figal, il filosofo Gianni Vattimo, Antonio Carioti, la fenomenologa Roberta de Monticelli, la giornalista Livia Profeti, Emanuele Severino, Giacomo Marramao, e tra i quotidiani La Repubblica, Il Corriere della Sera e Il Mattino ; un panorama complesso dunque anche dal punto di vista internazionale, che invita sicuramente ad un approfondimento del dibattito stesso, il quale secondo Gualdana in Italia si è sviluppato « a tratti in un dibattito pro o contro Di Cesare» (p. 414), ma che vale la pena approfondire ricorrendo direttamente ai testi di chi ne è coinvolto. Senza un rinvio alle fonti originali infatti, espressioni come quella della Di Cesare, che afferma come sia essenziale «studiare attentamente le pagine di Heidegger e guardare alla Shoah in una prospettiva inedita. Perché la Shoah non è solo una questione storica ma una questione filosofica che coinvolge direttamente la filosofia», restano enigmatiche, se non filosoficamente ingiustificate, proprio perché appunto, estratte dal loro contesto. Evitare di procedere come si è tentato di fare con il contenuto dei Quaderni neri di Heidegger, ovvero isolando dei passaggi per reinserirli in altri contesti a scopi interpretativi personali, resta dunque un metodo imparziale e filosofico per aprirsi ad una comprensione autentica dei concetti.

            Martin Heidegger. La verità sui Quaderni Neri nel complesso sottolinea una linea di demarcazione tra un tipo di approccio agli Schwarze Hefte che trascura lo scenario generale a cui appartengono, e un’analisi che invece si rivolge ad essi super partes. Uno spartiacque “naturale” dunque, segna la critica successiva alla pubblicazione dei taccuini neri, tra una visione disinteressata marcata dalla volontà di comprendere il testo, innanzitutto filologicamente, senza necessità di difendere alcuna idea, e il bisogno invece di assumere una posizione attraverso un’interpretazione degli stessi scritti per proporre un proprio pensiero o convalidare una tesi specifica ; a questo tipo di necessità aderiscono secondo Gualdana  le voci di chi «vuol far clamore a tutti i costi, cadendo così nell’approssimazione e nell’invettiva più sterile» (p. 414), mentre il primo approccio sembra appartenere a chi per esempio, arriva a leggere la critica di Heidegger nei confronti degli ebrei come una polemica rivolta alla modernità, in cui agli ebrei «sono imputati alcuni elementi negativi al pari che agli altri protagonisti della critica heideggeriana» come afferma nell’Epilogo del libro Leonardo Messinese, che vede nella definizione di antisemitismo ontostorico una «sorta di drammatizzazione  della questione ebraica in Heidegger» (p. 384).

            A prescindere dalla diversità di approccio al testo, di analisi ermeneutica o di metodo di studio, l’auspicio più importante è che tutte le voci che hanno espresso la loro – voci che in questo caso appartengono anche al non filosofo, al non specialista della materia, dato che la faccenda “Heidegger antisemita” ha assunto proporzioni mediatiche importanti – abbiano letto attentamente e lentamente gli Schwarze Hefte oltre che gli scritti fondamentali dell’opera heideggeriana. È questo che distingue la ricerca filosofica autentica, svincolata da scopi “altri”, dal procedere secondo vie e linguaggi che differiscono da quelli della ragione, che Heidegger stesso in Essere e Tempo definiva come facenti parte della dimensione della “chiacchiera”, quella dimensione in cui il Dasein è gettato, è già situato senza riflessione,  in altre parole senza scelta.


[1] Heidegger und der Mythos der jüdischen Weltverschwörung, tr. it. Heidegger e il mito della cospirazione ebraica, di C. Caradonna, Bompiani, Milano 2015.