Le livre récent de Patrick Flack Idée, expression, vécu : la question du sens entre phénoménologie et structuralisme, paru chez Hermann en 2018, réunit onze études en histoire des idées, mais la portée de ce recueil va bien au-delà du questionnement purement historique. Le formalisme russe comme source d’inspiration pour le structuralisme plus tardif, l’art en tant que mode singulier d’interrogation sur la réalité, la recherche d’un sens nouveau du sensible – telles sont des grandes lignes de cet ouvrage ambitieux et provocant. La combinaison de la recherche historique avec les études théoriques permet à Patrick Flack de repenser l’héritage du formalisme russe et de l’établir comme un courant de la pensée véritablement philosophique et non seulement littéraire. La question du signe comme lieu de l’articulation et la cristallisation du sens, le rôle cruciale de l’expressivité dans l’institution du sens de l’œuvre littéraire guident le développement du questionnement philosophique de ce livre.
Dans l’introduction l’auteur entre en polémique avec l’historiographie « occidentale » qui rejette l’existence d’une source commune au structuralisme et à la phénoménologie en les décrivant comme des traditions concurrentes et absolument disjointes. Ce débat lui fournira la base factographique nécessaire pour consolider ses intuitions théoriques. Ainsi, Patrick Flack propose de changer radicalement la perspective historiographique en rejetant le point de vue largement répandu selon lequel le structuralisme est né de deux parents français, à savoir Saussure et Lévi-Strauss. L’autre modèle historiographique, le modèle « Est-Ouest », souligne le rôle de l’école de linguistique pragoise aussi bien que des traditions allemandes dans le développement du structuralisme, ou plutôt des structuralismes. Bien que moins réductionniste que le premier, elle ne répond pas à la question concernant les relations entre ces deux structuralismes, pragois et français. Le troisième modèle, en intégrant les acquis conceptuels des deux premiers, cherche à montrer toute la richesse des racines intellectuelles germaniques et slaves du structuralisme en dépassant les abstractions méthodologiques propres aux modèles mentionnés ci-dessus, où plutôt à révéler leur caractère artificiel et contingent. C’est dans cette perspective que l’examen analytique et historique du formalisme russe apparaît comme une affaire de l’urgence philosophique.
La but de la première partie de cet ouvrage, Idée et forme : le projet épistémologique du formalisme russe, est de dévoiler toute la complexité de la situation historique aussi bien que théorique en rendant compte du rôle de figures apparemment secondaires du mouvement formaliste russe. Patrick Flack construit un cadre théorique général afin de décrire les relations compliquées qui se sont développées entre le formalisme russe, ses sources néokantiennes et son héritage structuraliste. Dans son premier chapitre, Le formalisme russe entre ferment néokantien et linguistique structurale, l’auteur montre que l’idée de la science littéraire en tant que science rigoureuse qui constitue le cœur de l’approche formaliste est génétiquement liée à l’influence néokantienne sur la pensée russe. Sa thèse dépasse l’affirmation courante selon laquelle la présence constante des idées néokantiennes a « façonné le contexte intellectuel » générale de l’époque. C’est l’épistémologie des écoles de Marbourg et de Bade, leur méthodisme étroit qui a servi comme un catalyseur pour la méthode du formalisme russe naissant et, subséquemment, pour la méthode de la linguistique structurale. La nouvelle science spécifique de la « littérarité », de la « poéticité » ne deviendrait une vraie science qu’à la condition que sa méthode soit adaptée à son objet ; dans cette thèse de Rickert, Flack reconnaît le fondement de l’épistémologie formaliste. C’est grâce à cette intuition initiale que les théoriciens russes ont réussi dans leur projet ambitieux. Le passage analogue du néokantisme à la théorie du langage se trouve dans l’itinéraire philosophique de Hendrik Pos, une autre figure presque oubliée par les historiens des idées ; la dette de l’école pragoise à ce penseur original est discutée en détail dans le septième chapitre de ce livre.
Le manque de références directes aux sources néokantiennes dans les ouvrages formalistes s’explique, selon Patrick Flack, par le climat politique des années 1920 ; par contre, des adversaires marxistes du formalisme, dont un certain Trotski, ont souligné la parenté du formalisme avec les courants « idéalistes ». Bien que l’existence même des persécutions marxistes ne puisse être récusée, l’hypothèse de Flack devrait, à mon avis, être précisée. Les noms mêmes de Natorp ou Rickert ne pouvaient certes pas apparaître dans les ouvrages publiés après 1924 dans un contexte positif, mais les références directes et indirectes à Husserl sont bien présentes dans les protocoles du Cercle Linguistique de Moscou du début des années 1920 ; toute une polémique a existé entre les « husserliens » comme Gustav Chpet et Grigorii Vinokur et leur adversaire, Boris Iarkho. Ce dernier était un partisan célèbre de la refondation méthodologique de la science de la littérature ; en prenant une posture critique envers Husserl tout comme envers Rickert et sa distinction entre les sciences de la culture et les sciences de la nature, il défendait l’idéal de la science rigoureuse mais l’interprétait à la manière positiviste et non néokantienne.
Cette petite excursion dans la querelle méthodologique qui eut lieu au sein de l’école formelle nous permet de relever la problématique ainsi que les vrais enjeux de cette thèse : une question apparemment purement historique concernant le rôle du néokantisme dans la genèse du structuralisme et du formalisme russe est tacitement inscrite dans la perspective épistémologique concernant la relation étroite qui existe entre la méthode d’une science et son objet. Est-ce l’objet qui détermine sa méthode, comme chez Heidegger ou les néokantiens, ou est-ce plutôt la méthode spécifique qui donne accès à l’objet, voire le fait paraître en tant qu’objet tout à fait nouveau ? Afin de consolider son approche, dans le chapitre suivant Patrick Flack nous propose une lecture méticuleuse de l’article célèbre d’André Biély, poète-symboliste et théoricien du vers, au sujet de l’héritage du linguiste ukrainien Alexandr Potebnia. Ce texte incontournable d’André Biély a été commenté plusieurs fois par divers spécialistes des études slaves ; l’interprétation qui nous est offerte ici sert à établir Biély en tant que figure-clé dans le passage du néokantisme au (proto)structuralisme. Dès lors, la percée de Biély est surtout méthodologique et épistémologique car il a réussi à purifier les intuitions géniales de Potebnia de son psychologisme démodé; cela permit à Biély de poser le fondement transcendantal d’une nouvelle science qui combinait linguistique et esthétique. Cette thèse de Flack fait écho à celle d’un autre adversaire des formalistes, Victor Jirmounski, selon laquelle le nœud du système de Potebnia est sa méthode même, qui consiste en un rapprochement théorique entre la poétique et la science générale du langage. Ici on ne saurait passer sous silence la polémique implicite entre Flack et Tzvetan Todorov. En radicalisant la position du formaliste Boris Eichenbaum, Todorov affirme que chez les formalistes russes il n’y avait pas de théorie, il n’y avait pas de méthode, mais seulement « une manière de construire l’objet d’études », et que c’est cette absence de méthode et une naïveté presque positiviste qui conduisit l’école formaliste à la crise interne et à sa dissolution postérieure. Ainsi la généalogie épistémologique ébauchée par Flack permet de réévaluer certaines présuppositions répandues sur la signification et le destin mêmes du mouvement formaliste.
Néanmoins, les formalistes ont été assez attentifs à certains aspects théoriques apportés par les approches psychologisantes, positivistes ou socio-historiques. Le troisième chapitre, intitulé Deux théories du vers et une typologie du rythme musical, discute l’influence des théoriciens de la phonologie, Sievers et Beckung, sur la théorie du vers de Roman Jakobson. Le désaccord théorique n’empêche pas Jakobson d’apprécier la technique superbe et la pénétration des chercheurs allemands et de reprendre leurs intuitions sur une base méthodologique différente. Flack souligne l’importance des études empiriques en général pour le développement de la méthode (proto)structuraliste de l’analyse du vers aussi bien que la nécessité de contextualiser la méthode formaliste dans un cadre international et multidisciplinaire. Les relations compliquées du formalisme avec le marxisme sont illustrées par l’exemple des travaux de Rosalia Shor. La transition subtile de cette chercheuse peu connue du formalisme au marxisme éclaire la tendance générale qui a existé dans les années 1920 quand les figures majeures de la science naissante du vers, dont Ossip Brik, Lev Iakubinski ou Lev Polivanov, se sont ouvertes à la problématique socio-culturelle incarnée dans la pensée marxiste. Si le formalisme classique a fait rompre le lien entre la signification et l’expression, l’insistance des « jeunes » formalistes sur le caractère intersubjectif et historique de la signification les amène au réexamen de la théorie de l’expression.
Dans la deuxième partie du livre, L’expression entre idée et vécu : phénoménologie et structuralisme à Prague, l’auteur discute la notion d’expression chez les phénoménologues et les proto-structuralistes. Dans le chapitre Le moment phénoménologique de la linguistique structurale, il introduit la lectrice dans le contexte général des discussions sur le rôle de la phénoménologie dans la pensée de Jakobson. En rejetant les deux positions extrêmes, celles de Elmar Holenstein et d’Aage Hansel-Löve, Flack cherche à développer une approche plus équilibrée : en accentuant l’influence du premier Husserl sur Jakobson, il renonce à considérer la théorie de ce dernier comme « structuralisme phénoménologique ». Le problème clé est celui de la réduction : étant donné que Jakobson n’a jamais travaillé sous la réduction eidétique et transcendantale prise à la lettre, il faut conclure qu’on ne peut pas le ranger parmi les adeptes de la doctrine husserlienne. Mais les ressources de la méthode phénoménologique ne se limitent pas à l’héritage de son fondateur. L’auteur ébauche une perspective méthodologique dans laquelle il sera possible de poser la question sur l’affinité interne entre la phénoménologie plus tardive (surtout Chpet et Merleau-Ponty) et la linguistique structurale (Jakobson, Pos). Les chapitres suivants contiennent des recherches détaillées sur l’interprétation de la notion d’expression chez Jakobson, Husserl et Merleau-Ponty (chapitre Ausdruck – Vyraženie – Expression) et chez Hendrik Pos (chapitre Hendrik Pos : une philosophie entre idée et vécu).
Le rapprochement productif entre Jakobson et la tradition phénoménologique dépasse le cadre étroit de la question : des « échos » de la réduction dans l’approche jakobsonien sont-ils suffisants pour l’inscrire dans l’histoire du mouvement phénoménologique ? Flack reformule la théorie jakobsonienne du langage poétique en termes phénoménologiques afin de montrer la « complémentarité » des positions structuraliste et phénoménologique. Si pour Husserl l’expression n’est qu’un « véhicule du sens logique déjà formé » , chez Jakobson comme chez Chklovski le processus de la perception de l’expression contribue à la formation même du sens. La visée de l’expression, caractérisant, selon Jakobson, la perception esthétique de l’œuvre d’art présuppose la valeur autonome de la perception du signe expressif. C’est la structure perceptive du signe qui rend possible sa participation au processus de l’institution du sens ; dès lors, le langage cesse d’être un pur moyen de communication de la pensée déjà faite, mais « un phénomène poétique de plein droit ». Mais il y a un prix à payer pour cette réélaboration de la relation entre langage et perception : le rôle du sujet transcendantal comme producteur et donateur du sens est remplacé par la structure poétique du langage en tant que structure essentiellement anonyme. L’auteur montre qu’un « compromis » entre cette deux positions se trouve dans la philosophie de Merleau-Ponty : sa conception d’un sujet incarné, impliqué dans l’acte de l’expression au niveau corporel et moteur, lui permet d’intégrer les découvertes principales de Husserl et de Jakobson.
Dans le chapitre suivant Patrick Flack nous offre une biographie intellectuelle du penseur hollandais Hendrik Pos. La signification de sa pensée très originale pour le développement de la phénoménologie, du néokantisme aussi bien que de la linguistique structurale, est souvent méconnue, bien que son rôle d’intermédiaire entre des camps philosophiques différents mérite une attention particulière. On ne peut que féliciter l’auteur qui a comblé cette lacune importante dans le domaine de l’histoire des idées.
La troisième partie de ce recueil, Vers le sens du vécu : perspectives esthétiques et littéraires, unit trois recherches sur les enchevêtrements entre la phénoménologie et l’expérience artistique. La première, De l’objet esthétique à la forme sensible : phénoménologie de l’avant-garde russe, contient une tentative méritoire de déduire une nouvelle théorie phénoménologique de la lecture de la poésie transmentale russe (zaum). Patrick Flack souligne que la phénoménologie esthétique « objectiviste » de Waldemar Conrad, Moritz Geiger et Emil Utitz, contemporains des Cubo-futuristes, des poètes de zaum et des expressionnistes allemands, n’était pas capable de relever le défi de l’art nouveau. Il fallait une « radicalisation » des conceptions phénoménologiques du sensible pour que la phénoménologie de l’art non-figuratif devienne possible. Mais la théorie de la défamiliarisation est aussi insuffisante pour cela, parce que chez Chklovski l’acte de perception garde encore la relation à « des unités de sens toujours déjà constituées » ; dans cette perspective l’art ne cherche qu’à « re-sensibiliser » aux choses, mais il reste tributaire à l’ordre du monde stable et déjà construit. Selon Patrick Flack, dans ce contexte on peut même parler de «conservatisme ontologique » de Chklovski. Une autre vision de l’expérience sensible se trouve dans la poésie transmentale. Flack nous propose une herméneutique phénoménologisante de deux poèmes de Velimir Khlebnikov et de Vasili Kamenski, qui fait écho à la lecture classique de ces auteurs par Jakobson et Vinokur. Les poèmes transmentaux « n’ont pas d’objet » ; selon la formule célèbre de Jakobson, « ce que Husserl appelle dinglicher Bezug est absent ». Pourtant ces poèmes ne sont pas dénués de sens ; la forme poétique est vécue en tant que phénomène autonome. La forme sensible concrète s’articule pour elle-même et non comme un signe référant à quelque chose d’autre. L’ébauche de la réflexion théorique sur ce sujet se trouve dans Fragments esthétiques de Gustav Chpet aussi bien que dans les écrits de Maxim Königsberg (comme l’avait déjà montré Maxim Šapir). Le chapitre suivant, Dans l’ombre du structuralisme : Chklovski, Merleau-Ponty et … Chpet ?, fournit plus de détail sur la phénoménologie chpetienne et sa relation avec les idées de Chklovski et de Merleau-Ponty.
Bien que plus court que les autres, cet essai est très riche en idées nouvelles et productives. L’auteur trace ici le destin du concept chklovskien de défamiliarisation entre formalisme russe, phénoménologie et structuralisme en proposant une interprétation « ontologisante » ou plutôt « onto-esthétisante » de ce concept. La défamiliarisation apparaît à la lectrice non comme un procédé esthétique, mais comme le mode privilégiée de la donation des objets perceptifs. Dans cette perspective la défamiliarisation devient une vraie méthode philosophique, analogue à celle de la phénoménologie génétique : le sens des objet déjà fait, compris en tant que pure présence à soi, est remplacé par le sens en formation, qui est ouvert à des transformations et des déformations. Chklovski lui-même ne semble pas avoir pris conscience de la portée ontologique de sa théorie ; son développement chez Jakobson représente la « réduction linguistique » de ce concept. Il est repris par Jakobson sous la forme de la fonction poétique du langage : dans la poésie le mot est perçu avant tout comme mot dans la concrétude de sa forme acoustique et sémantique et non comme simple substitut de la réalité externe. Dès lors, la travail même de la défamiliarisation se fait à l’intérieur du langage qui devient le « médium spécifique, possédant une phénoménalité propre qui conditionne son fonctionnement et son articulation ». Mais du point de vue du sens perceptif, la théorie de la fonction poétique n’est qu’un pas en arrière : chez Jakobson l’approche génétique au signe contraste avec la stance statique en ce qui concerne le sens de l’objet réel. Le sens de l’objet perceptif ne dépend pas de sa « structuration par le signe », insiste Patrick Flack. Selon lui, c’est chez Merleau-Ponty que la présence incomplète devient l’objet de l’analyse phénoménologique : le sens perceptif ne devient accessible qu’à la phénoménologie expressive. Pourtant, la pensée de Gustav Chpet constitue une autre voie d’accès à la plénitude du sens : c’est grâce à la « forme interne » que le sens perceptif peut être conçu comme une corrélation entre extériorité sensible et intériorité perceptive. La question du sens perceptif a besoin d’une « double approche », phénoménologique aussi bien que structuraliste, et ainsi le rôle de Chpet dans l’élaboration d’une conception de la perception « esthétique » qui ouvre essentiellement le monde, est très important.
Le dernier chapitre de l’ouvrage, Structures temporelles dans la poétique des formalistes russe : répétition, accord, rythme, série du vers, est consacré au travaux de Brik, Kouchner et Tynianov. Le but principal de cet essai est de montrer comment la dimension temporelle de la poésie a été interprétée dans la pensée (proto)structuraliste du formalisme russe. Bien que dans la plupart de textes formalistes l’analyse du temps semble être complètement absent, il y a un certain nombre d’études dans lesquelles il joue un rôle privilégié ; comme l’indique Patrick Flack, cela peut apporter un éclairage nouveau sur la différence entre formalisme russe et structuralisme français. L’auteur souligne le caractère processuel de la défamiliarisation qui réactive la sensation d’une chose comme « sensation en train de se faire et non pas déjà faite » ; cela signifie que la structure temporelle de la subjectivité est présupposée par le projet chklovskien. Mais c’est chez Ossip Brik dans ses Répétitions sonores (1917) que la problématique temporelle dans les études du vers a été introduite. La temporalité intrinsèque au rythme poétique a été étudiée par Boris Kouchner dans Les accords sonnants (1917) et encore par Brik dans Rythme et syntaxe, où Brik a de facto montré que le temps est un élément constructif et productif de la structure poétique. La démarche décisive se trouve dans Le problème de la langue du vers de Tynianov (1924), qui contient l’esquisse d’une conception dans laquelle la fonction constitutive du temps apparaît comme indispensable pour « l’ébranlement de la signification » composant le trait foncier de la structure du vers. L’auteur conclut que selon Tynianov le sens du vers dépend essentiellement de sa temporalité.
Le livre de Patrick Flack s’arrête ici, mais l’appétit intellectuel de la lectrice n’est pas satisfait, il n’est que stimulé par ce recueil si riche par les sujets historiques et philosophiques divers. Le formalisme russe y est décrit comme un mouvement de la pensée dont la signification ne peut être saisie que dans le contexte général de l’histoire de la philosophie européenne du XXe siècle. Ou plutôt, l’histoire intellectuelle de l’Europe ne peut pas être envisagé sans sa partie slave, si souvent oubliée ou négligée. En décrivant l’enracinement du formalisme russe dans la pensée allemande, surtout dans le néokantisme et la phénoménologie naissante, aussi bien que sa parenté avec la pensée française, Patrick Flack nous rappelle toute la complexité de l’aventure spirituelle européenne.
Felix Duque is arguably the most important living philosopher in the Spanish-speaking world. Remnants of Hegel is the first book translated into English. It is not a mere interpretation of Hegel, but rather a critical study that attempts to drive the aspects of its subject matter toward their ultimate consequences using Hegelian criteria. In other words, if Hegel’s philosophy is a critique of Kant’s critical philosophy, then Duque’s exposition is a critique of Hegelian philosophy. Furthermore, and just as Hegel develops Kantian categories in order to reveal a truth that goes beyond Kant, Duque develops Hegelian concepts in order to deduce a truth that transcends them. Indeed, Duque says that “The Hegelian system, impressive as it is, ultimately reveals itself as a miscarried attempt to reconcile nature and theory, individuality and collective praxis” (Duque, x).
Moreover, I should begin my review by noting that the book is clearly written for readers who are well acquainted with Hegel’s philosophy. In this respect, my review will attempt to overcome this difficulty by limiting itself to a reading that makes it accessible to those who are not conversant with this philosophy.
The book itself contains five chapters:
Chapter I: Substrate and Subject (Hegel in the aftermath of Aristotle). This chapter is concerned with the famous expression made in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit: “According to my view of things, which can be justified through the exposition of the system itself, everything depends on apprehending and expressing the true not as [nicht als] substance, but just as much [eben so sehr] as subject” (Duque, 17).
Chapter II: Hegel on the Death of Christ, is a discussion that seeks to analyze the transition from nature to society, or, rather, the transition from a natural human being to a historical being, and to a being having a second nature, which is the political life of man, a transition which is made possible by the understanding of society and politics as a higher level of self-consciousness.
Chapter III: Death Is a Gulp of Water. This chapter is concerned with terror in World History. More specifically, it is a critical exposition of Hegel’s idea of revolution and terror which primarily refers to the French Revolution. The politics of terror, the chapter argues, is the necessary result of trying to implement the revolution without mediations, that is, directly and as an abstract revolution (Duque, 83). Here Duque does not limit himself to an analysis of Hegel and his time, but also deals with its historical reception by the likes of Communism and Stalinism in the twentieth century. Such an idea of terror does much to radically undervalue the value of life and also makes us remember Hanna Arendt’s Banality of Evil. Indeed, terror is, paradoxically, a result of the French Revolution in its historical imagining of Napoleon, namely, the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity as mediated by his political force appearing as the opposite of those values’ true essence.
Chapter IV: Person, Freedom, and Community is an analysis of the last chapter of Hegel’s Science of Logic which is concerned with the notion of the absolute idea. It is an essential problem to understanding the book as a whole since Hegel begins and ends the book by praising this notion rather than explaining or developing it.
Chapter V: The Errancy of Reason. This chapter summarizes the previous chapters and engages in a holistic critical analysis of the topics discussed.
I would now wish to develop some ideas on Hegel inspired by reading Duque’s work and by my own understanding of Hegel’s philosophy.
Hegel’s logic is not normative. Unlike formal logic, which determines how we should think and not how we actually think, Hegel‘s Science of Logic, proceeds in the opposite direction by studying thought as it is as well as its development from the most abstract stage (the thought of pure being without further determinations) to the most concrete, this being the absolute idea as the unit of theoretical and practical thinking. Duque’s interpretation adopts this principle, and unlike the interpretations offered by Alexandre Kojève and many others, asserts that it should be taken literally, that is, by not trying to correct the author in order to understand him! Understanding by correcting makes the original a tabula rasa since it allows the interpreter to introduce any idea as it occurs to her or him to the work in the belief that it is an interpretation, while it is actually a creation of her or his own mind.
Hegel’s Logic is a reflective study of the concept. In Duque’s words, “the entire Logic is nothing but a relentless attempt to furnish a conscious and deliberate reconstruction of fugitive and fleeting linguistic forms and determinations.” (Duque, ix). The terms in his Logic do not have the fixity that they have in formal logic (both classical and modern), but their meaning varies according to the context, and especially according to the level in which the study is developed. Hegel perceives only the term, the word, as fixed, but not the concept or content that is expressed through words.
Hegel’s logic attempts to solve the classic problem of Aristotelian logic, in which “to say what something in the last instance really is, its ultimate logos, amounts to affirming all the affections, properties, and determinations of that thing” (Duque, 4). Hegel, however, is not successful in resolving this difficulty despite believing he is.
Hegel suggests that thought and reality, as well as mind and world, are inseparable in the sense that their meaning undergoes constant change and construction with respect to the conceptual level and context in which it takes place. A concept’s level of abstraction or concreteness thus simultaneously determines the degree of reality to which it refers. Put differently, this reading suggests that the Science of Logic ultimately serves as an ontological proof which not only proves the existence of God but also the existence of every concept subjected to actual thought. In other words, if I really believe in the concept of having a hundred thalers in my pocket, and not merely imagining them, then the hundred thalers become real and become part of my patrimony. I thus either have them in my pocket or, alternately, owe them and am obliged to pay them. This is not the case with Kant, since he merely imagines them, that is to say, recognizes from the very outset that they are not real thalers. This, in turn, is the difference between abstract and concrete concepts.
The process of concretion is clearly explained in the “logic of the judgment” discussion in the third part of Science of Logic, which is nothing but logic from the perspective of the relationship between the two essential components of judgment—subject and predicate. Thus, every judgment announces that the subject is the predicate. More explicitly, the subject of the judgment is the entity whose identity is being subjected to inquiry, and the answer is offered by all the predicates that refer to that subject. Each predicate thus changes the meaning of the subject, and, in reality, amplifies its meaning. In this respect, a subject is enriched by having more predicates attributed to it – as each of the latter forms another subject with other questions. In other words, to think is – formally – to pass from the subject, which functions as what is unknown and in need of becoming known, to the predicate, which functions as what is known and therefore as what bestows knowledge and meaning on the subject. It is thus a relation between a bearer of meaning (the subject) and a meaning (the predicate).
However, this relationship occurs within the frame of another relationship that occurs in the same intentional field. It is the relation (entirely unlike that of subject and predicate) between subject and object. Despite their difference, subject-predicate and subject-object relations cannot be separated but only distinguished. In effect, when the thought passes from the subject to the predicate, it does not consider the predicate (that is to say, it does not think about grammar) but its content, that is, the object or, rather, something that acquires the status of an object. The subject thus objectifies the target of though by means of predication. In the case of philosophy, that is to say, thinking about thinking, thought passes to something else, to what is being thought about, namely the object. And what is an object if not something that stands in front of the subject as a correlative to the subject? Hegel indeed argued that the object possesses nothing more than this relational character. The object is thus what was thought about by the subject. It is the entire universe existing insofar as it is the content of thought. There is no other universe. However, it is not the thought of my individual reflection. It is ultimately a universal reflection, and Hegel goes so far as to maintain that everything is Spirit (“There is nothing at hand that is wholly alien to spirit” (Hegel, Encyclopedia § 377, note, quoted by Duque, 38).
The Spirit is the objectification of subjectivity, the whole universe as thought of, a conceptualized universe, insofar as another does not replace it. But if something else remains, it is the task of thought to appropriate it, that is, as we said, to conceptualize it and thus imbue it with reality. This, in turn, is the secret of the coincidence of logic and metaphysics.
Thus, it turns out that the object is the complete expression of the subject. A strange reflection indeed. Fully aware of being a reflection and its denial at the same time—because it always returns to thinking about the object when it is supposed to be thinking about thinking about the object.
Hegel nonetheless moves backward. He rethinks the thought, concentrating not on content but on the fact of thinking about it. Hegel and his readers believed that they were thinking about Being when they were actually thinking about Essence; they thought they were thinking about Essence, and they were actually thinking about Concept! That is to say, Hegel was not concerned with a question of being but with the concept of being. It was not a question of essence but of the concept of essence, and it was not about concept but about the concept of concept. Hegel and his readers believed that they were thinking about substance when they were actually thinking about themselves—about the subject. Duque is therefore right in saying that all this does not mean we are solely concerned with thinking about substance, but also about the subject. This is because the substance is not even the truth, although it is a reflection, but this is a reflection that lacks reflection, or that does not know that it is a reflection. In other words, we are ultimately concerned with a subject thinking about itself.
The culmination of this backwards-advancing reflection is the Absolute Idea, which also serves as the culmination of subjectivity in the Subjective Logic (the third and last part of the Science of Logic). This must not be forgotten, as must the assertion that Hegel’s thought cannot migrate to another sphere, or does not enter it because Hegel does not need it, although he promises to explain something new, viz. the content of the Absolute Idea. But it is precisely here, at the end of the Science of Logic, that Hegel begins being poetic and stops being philosophical: he offers pure promises without any fulfillment. Such is the end of the great Science of Logic despite its colossality. Duque, in turn, ascribes a great deal of importance to this abrupt end in Hegel’s Logic. When the Absolute Idea is reached, according to Duque, “Everything else [Alles Übrige] is error, obscurity, struggle, caprice, and transience [Vergänglichkeit].” (Hegel, Science of Logic, quoted by Duque, 38). Is it not the case that everything should be included in the Absolute Spirit? Is the whole path unnecessary, as is the case of the ladder for the young Wittgenstein? This would go against the spirit of Hegel’s philosophy no less than his own assertion about error, obscurity, etc.
The Absolute Idea, then, does not fulfill Hegel’s intention. The universal absolute should deduce the individual in her or his singularity from itself because the individual is absolutely relational. It is a being that includes what is not her or him in itself, as well as what is other than itself, as the determinant of what it is. In other words, it is a concrete individuality understandable in its concrete universality. This is especially apparent when we think of the individual as a social being. If we take away all of the individual’s “environment” and context, namely, every socially shared issue and every general feature including language and clothing it will remain, contrary to what could be expected, an abstract individual: Just as when attempting to isolate the individual in order to understand it in her or his singularity, nothing remains and the very individual disappears. This, in turn, means that individuals are wholly social, that is, totally relational. This does not, however, imply that the individual is not individual, but that this is what it consists of: The more singular the individual, the more dependent she or he is on her or his network of relationships. Thus, the more relationships the individual has, the more individual she or he becomes.
When the individual denies her or his otherness, as in the case of the worker or the slave in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, she or he not only denies the other but it denies her or himself when alienating her or himself from her or his other because that other is her or his own other, not an abstract, isolated other. Thus, the more she or he is social, the more individual she or he becomes. The more she or he has relations to and dependencies on other individuals, the more she or he is a concrete singularity, a singularity determined by its relationships. This is entirely unlike the Aristotelian relations of genera and species, where the individual is obtained through isolation. The Aristotelian individual is obtained by excluding all difference. In Hegel the opposite is true: the more a thing includes the differentiated as differentiated in itself, the more individual it becomes. History is thus a process of socialization which is – in actual fact – a process of individuation. In Aristotelian logic, intension and extension are opposed: the greater the intension, the smaller the extension; the greater the definition, the smaller the subsumed individual(s). In Hegel, there is no such opposition. The individual is more social the more determined she or he is and the more she or he includes the other. Hegelian logic is not, however, intended as an alternative logic to Aristotelian logic, but rather as the self-consciousness of the Aristotelian logic as well as its inner development and evolution. Formal logic is thus a stage that the spirit must pass through in order to be finally be criticized by consciousness, as it is in the Logic of Essence, the second part of the Science of Logic, which engages in the critique of the “laws” of identity, non-contradiction, and the excluded middle.
I will now turn to the relationships between substance and subject. According to Aristotle, a substance is that which is neither said of a subject nor in a subject, namely, it is not a predicate as predicates are said about a substance (individuals, like this individual man or this statue). However, entities which say what a substance is are “secondary” substances, genera and species, that can be also subjects as well as predicates and are always general and never individual. However, saying what an individual is, has the genera and species as an answer, something that is not individual. The individual man belongs to a species, man, and an animal is a genus of that species. Thus, both man and animal are considered secondary substances. In this respect, Duque rightfully claims that the Aristotelian definition of substance as a negative definition arises from the impossibility of saying what it is without making it into something other than what it is. In other words, predicates will always betray their original intention since they cannot be individuals.
If there is something that is neither said of a subject nor exists in a subject, this is obviously because it is itself the subject, as Aristotle himself concedes: “All the other things are either said of the primary substances as subjects or in them as subjects” (Aristotle, Categories, 2a, 34–35, quoted by Duque, 6). Duque then proceeds to state:
Yet secondary substance does not exist of itself, unless it is given with primary substance. We are evidently confronted with a certain inversion here, with an irresolvable chiasmus: that which is first in the order of being is second in the order of logical discourse, and vice versa.” (Duque, 7)
The substance is for Aristotle the being of the being, and it is the fixed (permanent) side of change, something that does not change as things change. As a being of being it has a double function, meaning that it has two meanings in the sense that it is both the essence of the being and the being of the essence.
As the essence of being, the substance is the determinate being, the nature of the necessary being: the man as a two-legged animal. As the being of the essence it is the two-legged animal as this individual man.
This is a duality that Aristotle did not manage to resolve. When Aristotle says that the substance is expressed in the definition and that only the substance has a true definition, the substance is understood as the essence of the being, as that which reason can understand. But when, on the contrary, he declares that the essence is identical to determinate reality, as beauty exists only in what is beauty, Aristotle understands the substance as the being of the essence, and as a principle that offers necessary existence to the nature of a thing.
As the essence of being, the substance is the form of things and bestows unity on the elements that make up the whole where the whole is a distinct proper nature unlike its component elements. Aristotle refers to the form of material things as a species, and species is, therefore, its substance. As the being of the essence, the substance is the substrate: that about which any other thing is predicated but that cannot be a predicate of anything else. And as the substrate it is matter, a reality without any determination other than a potentiality. As the essence of being, the substance is the concept or logos that has neither generation nor corruption, that does not become but is this or that thing. As the being of essence, the substance is the composition, namely, the unity of concept (or form) with matter—the existing thing. In this sense, the substance comes to being and comes to its end.
As the essence of being, the substance is the principle of intelligibility of the being itself. In this sense, it is the stable and necessary element on which science is founded. According to Aristotle, there is no other science than that which is necessary, whereas the knowledge of what can or cannot be is rather an opinion. Substance is thus, objectively, the being of the essence and the necessary reality, and subjectively the essence of being, as necessary rationality. In short, the distinction Aristotle makes between primary substances (0ρώται οὐσίαι) and secondary substances (δεύτεραι οὐσίαι) consists of understanding the former as physical individuals and the latter as species (τά εἴδεα) and genera (τά γένη) of those individuals (Aristotle, Categories, 2a14).
In Hegel, on the other hand, the substance is the principle from which the individual is deduced. He argues for the primacy of the universal and the primacy of substance over the individual. Unlike with Aristotle, the universal is the principle of individuation, so that the individual has no meaning without the universal. This, in turn, is the basis on which his understanding of truth as substance but also as subject can be understood. Duque contends that “primary substance is entirely subsumed in secondary substance, or in universality. But this universality is indeed concrete since it bears and holds all particularity and all individuality within itself. It is concrete, but it does not yet know that it is.” (Duque, 2018, 24). Namely, it doesn’t know that it is also a subject.
The intentional character of the subject, as it is understood in self-consciousness, means the understanding of the subject as the one that externalizes itself and then internalizes what was rejected, that is, that understands that this is its way of acting. It also means that being is ultimately recognized in reflection as a first instance, that is, as thinking. Substance is itself thinking, though not recognized as such. Ultimately, therefore, subject is a synthesis of self-consciousness and objectivity.
In judgment, when the subject moves toward the predicate, when it is objectified and when, in subsequent reflection, discovers that it returns to itself (since the predicate is predicated from the subject), then the subject ends up enriched with what the predicate attributes to it.
This, in turn, allows us to understand the controversial and somehow obscure dictum in the 1806 preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit:
According to my view of things, which can be justified through the exposition of the system itself, everything depends on apprehending and expressing the true not as [nicht als] substance, but just as much [eben so sehr] as subject (quoted by Duque, 17)
Hegel therefore contends that self-consciousness is externalized and thus becomes an object. But this posited object is itself the very subject that has been placed as another, thus appearing as an opposite to itself: it knows itself knowing the other.
And this happens because that object is not, as it were, a natural object, a given, but an object created or engendered (like any object, according to Hegel) by self-consciousness. They are, then, two momenta, that of subjectivity (being-for-itself) and that of objectivity (being-in-itself). In reality, however, they are not merely two momenta, but a single reality split into two momenta that are only true in their opposition and in their unity. For subjectivity does not become true if it is not objective and true objectivity cannot be natural but only produced by human endeavor (in the broad sense of the word). This is why the fact that men, at one point in history, had subjected other men to work, to externalize themselves, to produce objects out of themselves, and thus transform a given natural environment into a human environment, is a necessary step in human development, as this is a human creation, an elevation above the natural.
A misreading, according to Duque, is to believe that the substance is not true as if the subject has nothing to do with the substance (or mutatis mutandis, a misreading that believes that freedom has nothing to do with necessity). Just as reason does not exist without understanding, subject does not exist without substance. The subject is thus the conceptual understanding of the substance and the consciousness of necessity. Put differently, it is a continuation of Spinozism taken to its logical extreme.
“… ogni modo d’esser della mia vita e della mia condotta, giusto o sbagliato, o completamente errato, sarà determinato dal fatto dell’esserci o meno di un ordine oggettivamente corretto di questi moti del mio amore e del mio odio, della mia propensione e avversione, del mio interesse multiforme per le cose di questo mondo, nonché dalla possibilità che ho di imprimere questo ‘ordo amoris’ nel mio animo”
(Max Scheler, Ordo amoris, p. 109)
La vita emozionale è da sempre un forte tema di dibattito per la filosofia. A partire dall’antichità fino ad arrivare alla filosofia moderna, le cosiddette “passioni” ed “emozioni” sono state considerate come forze completamente differenti e contrapposte alla razionalità, e i più importanti pensatori, quali Platone, Aristotele, gli Stoici e successivamente Cartesio, furono convinti sostenitori della necessità di una sorta di controllo della sfera sentimentale, affinché essa non disturbasse o compromettesse la razionalità e la vita morale. Nella filosofia contemporanea cade lo stereotipo del conflitto fra ragione e passioni, e viene rivalutata la capacità cognitiva delle emozioni: ne è un esempio l’opera di Nussbaum L’intelligenza delle emozioni, pubblicata nel 2001. Facendo un passo indietro in questa “riabilitazione” della vita emotiva in etica, ebbe indubbiamente un ruolo fondamentale Max Scheler (1874-1928), che, affidandosi al metodo fenomenologico, riuscì a fondare un’etica assiologica che salvaguardasse sia l’oggettività dei valori sia la struttura emotiva della persona. L’utilizzo del metodo fenomenologico permette a Scheler di parlare di intuizione immediata dei valori, e di intuizione immediata della persona.
L’ultimo libro del professor Cusinato sembra appunto riprendere la discussione dal punto in cui l’aveva lasciata Scheler, e inserisce sapientemente i più importanti concetti scheleriani— quali quello di persona intesa come Leib, e quello di ordo amoris—all’interno del dibattito filosofico contemporaneo. Il risultato non è soltanto un’originale proposta di biosemiotica del corpo vivo, ma anche una visione innovativa del sé come relazionale e assiologicamente connotato, al punto che è possibile rileggere il piano delle psicopatologie come “distorsioni” dell’ordo amoris stesso.
- Scheler, corpo vivo e ordo amoris
L’ intento principale del volume del professor Cusinato è quello di introdurre una biosemiotica del corpo vivo radicata nella dimensione dell’espressione e il cui ruolo sia fungere da fondamento dell’intercorporeità e della percezione dell’altro. In quest’ottica, la base per l’intersoggettività è costituita da una falda impersonale comune a tutti gli organismi, che sarebbero fin da subito sintonizzati con il piano espressivo della vita, attraverso un’affettività unipatica enattiva. Ogni essere vivente, infatti, possiede la capacità di interagire con il piano dell’espressione, ben prima di sviluppare la cosiddetta “intersoggettività primaria”, ovvero l’abilità innata di relazionarsi agli altri in modo espressivo fin dalla nascita, quando il bambino è in grado di imitare i movimenti altrui. Secondo Cusinato, la percezione dell’alterità sarebbe in realtà mediata da un tipo di percezione rappresentativa dei valori e della condivisione emozionale, e avverrebbe grazie ad un principio di selezione determinato dallo schema corporeo. E’ possibile quindi definire il corpo vivo come un a priori materiale; e il sentire stesso come una facoltà universale legata alla capacità di interagire con il piano dell’espressione.
Scheler, infatti, descriveva il Leib nei termini di “una datità psicofisica indifferente: nell’intuizione interna si dà come Leibseele (fame/ esser sazi, benessere/ dolore) e in quella esterna come Leibkörper” (M. Scheler, 1999, p. 37). Ne Il formalismo nell’etica e l’etica materiale dei valori, egli definisce la corporeità propria “una particolare datità eidetico- materiale … atta a fungere in ogni percezione di fatto del proprio corpo da forma della percezione” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 492). Non è possibile, dunque, considerare il corpo proprio una mera datità, un mero oggetto percepibile da un punto di vista esterno o interno, in quanto, secondo Scheler, esiste una “rigorosa ed immediata unità d’identità” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 494) tra la coscienza interna (la consapevolezza che ciascuno ha di sé e del proprio corpo vivo) e la percezione esterna del corpo fisico, oggettuale.
La percezione del corpo proprio è anteriore a tutte le altre e non riducibile ad esse. Piuttosto, sono le sensazioni organiche a manifestarsi sempre in relazione a un corpo proprio, che va considerato concomitante ad esse, come una sorta di “sfondo”. La struttura motoria del corpo proprio accompagna dunque ogni atto dell’Io, ogni vissuto: “Il corpo proprio … non si manifesta quindi né come il “nostro proprio”, né come “sottomesso al nostro potere”, né come “semplicemente momentaneo”; esso è, o sembra essere, il nostro stesso io e contemporaneamente un qualcosa che compenetra il tempo oggettivo in modo stabile, duraturo, continuo e rispetto a cui la realtà psichica trascorre come un qualcosa di “passeggero” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 519). Il Leib è quindi qualcosa di irriducibile ad altro ed è essenziale, necessario per la costituzione della persona. Inoltre, grazie al Leib è possibile la natürliche Weltanschauung, ovvero “l’intervento sul modo degli oggetti pratici in funzione delle esigenze di carattere biologico” (M. Scheler, 1996, p. 519): una delle funzioni del Leib è, dunque, anche quella di mediare tra l’Io e il mondo.
Cusinato non solo enfatizza la centralità del corpo vivo all’interno del processo percettivo, ma riserva un ruolo esplicitamente importante ai fenomeni espressivi, che per lui rappresentano un momento essenziale della vita di coscienza dell’individuo, specialmente nella percezione intersoggettiva. In questo modo egli si inserisce all’interno del dibattito contemporaneo: Gallagher e Zahavi, ad esempio, sostengono che gli stati affettivi “sono dati nei fenomeni espressivi, cioè sono espressi nei gesti e nelle azioni corporee e diventano perciò visibili agli altri.” (Gallagher e Zahavi, 2009, p. 277). In quest’ottica, corpo e psiche non sono due unità nettamente distinte e percepibili tramite procedure differenti, bensì costituiscono un’unità espressiva (Ausdruckseinheit). Estendendo la presenza dell’affettività alla sfera biologica, Cusinato si spinge oltre le interpretazioni già presenti, e ci mette di fronte a un’intenzionalità incarnata, pre-riflessiva e finalizzata a cogliere il valore dell’oggetto, e non la sua mera rappresentazione.
Enattività, espressività e affettività divengono quindi le componenti originarie del processo cognitivo, il quale andrà ripensato come un processo di tipo affettivo che lega i vari soggetti tramite un meccanismo di sintonizzazione o risonanza intercorporea presente già a livello biosemiotico. Questo non solo permette di considerare il soggetto come essenzialmente relazionale (ponendosi quindi in contrasto rispetto al “minimal self” descritto da Zahavi, che manterrebbe un nucleo puramente individuale); ma anche di oltrepassare le teorie dominanti all’interno del dibattito attuale, che si trova diviso tra teoria della teoria (secondo la quale l’intersoggettività si riduce a un processo di mentalizzazione); teoria della simulazione (per cui la percezione dell’altro equivale alla simulazione dei suoi vissuti) e teoria della percezione diretta, che, seppur enfatizzando la centralità del corpo e dell’espressività, circoscrive l’intuizione dell’alterità al mero incontro con l’altro. L’introduzione di un livello biosemiotico permette di spostare l’accento sul fatto che ogni essere è immerso sin da subito non solo in un contesto che condiziona e da cui è condizionato, ma anche in una relazione affettiva connotata assiologicamente, a partire dalla quale sarà possibile intraprendere dei rapporti con l’alterità.
I vari livelli di sintonizzazione e posizionamento dell’umano nel mondo sono descritti da Cusinato in modo accurato e chiaro, e ci permettono di capire in che modo tale sintonizzazione unipatica possa dischiudere molteplici possibilità (coerenti con le affordances gibsoniane) per il soggetto che le vive, o, ancor meglio, sente. In una prima fase il soggetto è l’organismo che, attraverso lo schema corporeo, si sintonizza unipaticamente con gli altri (questo corrisponde, appunto, al livello biosemiotico); ciò permetterà all’organismo di svilupparsi come sè sociale che tramite il senso comune si sintonizza empaticamente con l’alterità; per poi infine farsi singolarità personale e sintonizzarsi solidaristicamente con il mondo grazie all’ordo amoris. Tale concetto viene sviluppato nella seconda parte del libro, in cui Cusinato si interroga non solo sul modo effettivo in cui l’ordo amoris ci permette di conoscere il mondo e l’altro, ma anche sulle possibili conseguenze di una sua distorsione. Il concetto di ordo amoris è, in effetti, uno dei più affascinanti della filosofia scheleriana, e il volume in esame riesce a offrirne un’interpretazione quantomai attuale.
Scheler lo introdusse nel testo inedito Ordo amoris (risalente al 1914-16), testo in cui risulta esplicito l’intento di liberarsi da una concezione dell’emozionale come un insieme di forze cieche (come invece è in uso nella psicologia associazionistica e nel meccanicismo naturale) a favore di una riscoperta dell’essere dell’esperienza in una logique du coeur. Il tema pascaliano è ripreso da Scheler per indicare una logica insita nell’Erlebnis,una logica che non appartiene al pensiero, ma al cuore. Anche la vita ha un’essenza, che non è attribuibile allo psichico, e tale essenza la dirige dall’interno. E’ l’amore che indirizza e struttura i processi psichici, non viceversa. Così, secondo questa logica dell’affettività, ai sentimenti corrisponde un termine assiologico di riferimento (ad esempio, la tristezza può essere legata a un valore spirituale, rappresentato dalla morte, oppure a un valore vitale, rappresentato dall’invecchiamento). Ogni stato emotivo è, al tempo stesso, un fatto reale, in quanto stato, e fenomenologico, poiché posto in una modalità intenzionale verso un oggetto di valore. Compito del fenomenologo è dunque quello di attribuire finalmente alla vita emotiva l’ordine che sempre le è stato negato, ma che secondo Scheler le appartiene di diritto, poiché è ad essa immanente. Anche ai moti dell’anima appartiene tale ordine, finora ignorato e considerato parte della mera soggettività dell’individuo, irrazionale e perciò subordinato all’azione di dominio dell’intelletto.Il concetto di ordo amoris può avere due significati: uno personale e una sovraindividuale. Per quanto riguarda la prima accezione, essa é relativa alla gerarchia di valori specifica di una determinata persona: ogni persona ha infatti la sua propria gerarchia di valori che la orienta in ogni momento della sua vita, in ogni sua scelta, in ogni suo vissuto. Secondo l’accezione sovraindividuale, invece, l’amore governa il senso di ogni cosa, e, sebbene particolarizzate, le varie individualità dovrebbero tutte rifarsi a questo generale ordine di senso oggettivo: in tal modo avremmo dei retti ordo amoris, delle gerarchie assiologiche personali che rispecchiano quella universale. In caso contrario, potremmo trovarci di fronte a un ordo amoris distorto, deviato, ovvero a gerarchie di valori individuali che sovvertono l’ordo amoris generale e sovraindividuale. Esistono infatti vere e proprie perversioni del retto ordo amoris: un esempio può essere quello dell’amore relativo, chiamato da Scheler “innamoramento”, che si riscontra nell’amore verso un bene finito, che diventa idolo se considerato assoluto. Si ha una perversione dell’ordo amoris anche quando i valori della gerarchia personale di un dato individuo sono inferiori rispetto ai valori dati nel retto ordo amoris. L’ordo amoris, quindi, oltre a essere di carattere descrittivo, ha anche un’accezione implicitamente normativa, poiché, dicendoci l’ordine delle cose e il loro giusto posto, nondimeno richiede che tale ordine venga rispettato, ed è correttivo nei confronti di eventuali distorsioni. Nella nostra persona, quindi, è come se convergessero due modi di essere: uno, particolare, del qui-ora dell’esserci, sottoposto, appunto, alle variazioni spazio-temporali; e l’altro che trascende tale modalità, e riguarda invece ciò che di assolutamente eidetico e strutturale esiste, ovvero un ordine metastorico ed onnipresente, comunque capace di assumere diverse forme, cercando di portare il giusto ordine anche sotto forma di un sistema storicizzato. Contingente e assoluto si incontrano, determinando il divenire storico, in un movimento di reciprocità e apertura che vede i due momenti congiungersi fino a formare un’ unità di senso. Oltre alla conoscenza, l’amore risveglia anche il volere di realizzazione da parte di un soggetto: è per questo che Scheler afferma, a ragione, che l’uomo, prima di essere un ens volens e un ens cogitans, è un ens amans. Scheler, infatti, definisce l’amore come “ la tendenza o-a seconda dei casi – l’atto che cerca di condurre ogni cosa verso la sua propria pienezza di valore, e conduce là, purchè non si frappongano impedimenti”. L’ordo amoris stabilisce così per ogni uomo la sua facoltà di comprendere, la struttura e il contenuto della sua visione del mondo, sempre implicitamente proiettato alla conoscenza dell’essenza divina: ordo amoris particolare e ordo amoris universale trovano dunque una continuità di senso.
In che modo quindi Cusinato inserisce l’ordo amoris all’interno della sua prospettiva biosemiotica?
Possiamo sostenere che l’ordo amoris rappresenti la capacità di percepire il valore attraverso il sentire, e sia quindi implicito nella capacità di interagire a livello unipatico con il piano espressivo della vita. La conseguenza di tale caratterizzazione è molto forte, e l’ultima parte del libro dedica un ampio spazio ad una riflessione a proposito della compromissione di tale facoltà, definita in termini di vera e propria psicopatologia. Secondo Cusinato—e a mio avviso, questa è la tesi più forte e innovativa dell’intero volume—la patologia psichica subentra appunto nel momento in cui l’ ordo amoris non riesce più a sintonizzarsi con il piano espressivo della vita e dell’alterità. Se la percezione dell’altro è già implicita a livello biosemiotico e dipende da una corretta sintonizzazione affettiva, un disturbo dell’affettività comporterà un errato sviluppo del soggetto stesso, il quale non sarà capace di passare dallo stato di organismo a quello di sè sociale e personalità individuale.
- Il case study: la schizofrenia come disordine dell’ordo amoris
Si può osservare la concretezza della tesi di Cusinato analizzando una psicopatologia in particolare: la schizofrenia. Nonostante, infatti, l’autore porti svariati esempi, credo che la schizofrenia sia il più calzante per descrivere la centralità dell’ordo amoris e cosa comporti la sua perdita o distorsione.
Già Minkowski, nel testo La Schizophrénie, risalente al 1927, sosteneva l’impossibilità di comprendere tale malattia senza avere ben presente la struttura della soggettività: l’essenza della schizofrenia consisterebbe, in particolare, nell’incapacità di rapportarsi al mondo e di stabilire legami significativi con altri individui. Nonostante i disturbi psichici colpiscano principalmente tre sfere- l’autocoscienza, l’intenzionalità e l’intersoggettività- è proprio quest’ultima, infatti, ad essere maggiormente colpita. Il contatto con la realtà, inoltre, non viene perso solo da un punto di vista sociale, poiché ad andare smarrita è la stessa prospettiva in prima persona. Il sé e l’altro, infatti, non sono più mutualmente interrelati, ma divergono fino a divenire due realtà completamente separate. La soggettività esperisce così un senso di perdita dei propri confini, in concomitanza ad allucinazioni uditive e impossibilità di controllo delle proprie azioni: in un certo senso, sembrerebbe andato perso lo “schema corporeo” merleau-pontiano.
Le sfere coinvolte in tale processo di “de-sintonizzazione” con il mondo sono, nello specifico, le seguenti:
- Capacità cognitive: il distacco dal reale e dalla dimensione soggettiva corporea comporta la perdita dei nessi significativi e la depersonalizzazione della coscienza, che cerca, attraverso l’iper-riflessività, di attribuire al mondo una nuova struttura organizzativa. Questo implica un’ipertolleranza alla complessità semantica: non comprendendo i significati impliciti nel senso comune, lo schizofrenico è portato ad attribuire infinite interpretazioni significative a oggetti in realtà molto semplici, espandendo in senso esponenziale gli orizzonti epistemologici;
- Vita emotiva: il soggetto ha difficoltà nel sentire e spesso si dichiara incapace di farlo. Di conseguenza, anche le abilità nelle relazioni sociali diminuiscono notevolmente. Inoltre, tutto ciò che concerne l’alterità può spaventare il soggetto, che si dichiara incapace di affrontare il mondo sociale e teme di rimanerne “intrappolato” (tale fenomeno si può definire come vulnerabilità eteronomica);
- Ontologia: se la consapevolezza corporea e il senso comune vengono persi, anche il sé risulta completamente distorto. Per questo motivo, spesso i pazienti sostengono non solo di sentirsi isolati dal resto del mondo, ma anche di essere letteralmente frammentati, di non essere, cioè, individui interi;
- Etica: perdendo la consapevolezza di sé e il senso comune, lo schizofrenico assume molto spesso atteggiamenti bizzarri e, talvolta, al di là di ogni etica vigente, come se la sua personale assiologia divergesse completamente dalle norme del mondo sociale in cui vive. Tale eccentricità può sfociare in una vera e propria “ribellione” consapevole nei confronti dei valori comunemente adottati dalla società (antagonomia).
Il risultato è un totale distacco dal reale: “The […] schizophrenics” sostiene Bleuer, “who have no more contact with the outside world live in a world of their own. They have encased themselves with their desires and wishes […]; they have cut themselves off as much as possible from any contact with the external world. This detachment from reality with the relative and absolute predominance of the inner life, we term autism” (E. Bleuer, 1978, p. 30). Ciò che Bleuer non sembra enfatizzare a sufficienza, ma che nell’ultima parte del volume di Cusinato viene descritto, con l’ausilio di testi significativi, tra cui Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl (Sechehay, 1962), è la natura drammatica di un simile distacco, che coinvolge non solo la relazione tra il soggetto e l’alterità, ma dal quale sembrerebbe dipendere la stessa comprensione della realtà in generale. Il soggetto, il cui sé è frammentato e che non riesce a stabilire una relazione intersoggettiva, non riesce neppure ad “immergersi” nel mondo.
Tale perdita della conoscenza pre-riflessiva, così come la perdita del senso di sé, ha conseguenze a livello sensoriale, per quanto riguarda la percezione mondana e intersoggettiva; in ambito concettuale, laddove è possibile registrare fraintendimenti e incomprensioni di significati e intenzioni; e nella realtà attitudinale, che concerne la struttura assiologica individuale. Un’analisi fenomenologica si rivela utile al fine fornire una descrizione esauriente e una spiegazione olistica: in tal senso, la perdita del sé corporeo, associata alla distorsione della struttura assiologica del soggetto, sembra essere la caratteristica più significativa della schizofrenia. Tutte le sfere coinvolte dalla de-personalizzazione schizofrenica hanno infatti in comune una distorsione dell’ordo amoris, il cui ruolo è talmente importante che tutti i sintomi possono essere ricondotti a strategie compensatorie volte a ricostituire una struttura assiologica personale (seppur opposta a quella vigente nel senso comune, come è esplicito nel caso dell’antagonimia).
Un’analisi accurata del concetto di ordo amoris ci permette di dedurre che tutta la nostra vita è rigorosamente guidata da un ordine, che nulla è dato al caso: anche la nostra emotività ha leggi specifiche e rigorose. C’è una legalità immanente agli atti d’amore, dovuta alle regole del preferire e del posporre, per cui l’animo umano non è più considerato un luogo di caos, ma un microcosmo del mondo dei valori. E’ quindi appropriato dire che il cuore ha le sue ragioni. Ovviamente non bisogna confondere questo tipo di razionalità con quella intellettuale: emozionale e razionale sono due ambiti completamente diversi, non riconducibili l’uno all’altro. Tuttavia, attribuire una logica soltanto alla sfera del giudizio intellettuale è sbagliato, in quanto il lato emotivo dell’uomo ha un funzionamento analogo a quello razionale e ugualmente fallibile. Dire che il cuore ha le sue ragioni ha un significato molto preciso: l’emozionale ha delle ragioni poiché possiede vedute evidenti di dati non accessibili all’intelletto, e sue proprio perché all’intelletto questo tipo di dati è precluso, e solo grazie all’atto d’amore siamo indirizzati a questo tipo di conoscenza. La logica del cuore è oggettiva, proprio come lo è la logica deduttiva, ed è dotata di una legalità autonoma e specifica. Tale legalità si esprime in modo diverso in ognuno di noi, ma essenzialmente rimane costante. La ripresa del concetto di ordo amoris da parte del professor Cusinato ha non solo il merito di riabilitare una nozione forse troppo sottovalutata nella storia della filosofia delle emozioni, ma anche quella di introdurla in un ambito apparentemente lontano dalla speculazione meramente filosofica: la psicopatologia. Ripensare il disordine mentale come un disordine dell’ordo amoris permette inoltre di interpretare la malattia mentale in termini non riduzionistici, senza tuttavia omettere l’importanza degli aspetti organici della coscienza, grazie all’introduzione del livello biosemiotico.
Bleuler, Eugen. 1978. The Schizophrenic Disorders: Long Term Patient and Family Studies. Yale University Press, New Haven, CT.
Minkowski, Eugène. 1927. La schizophrénie: psychopathologie des schizoides et des schizophrènes. Payot, Paris.
Nussbaum, Martha. 2001. Upheavels of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Scheler, Max. 1916. Der Formalismus in der Ethic und die materiale Werthethik, in “Jarbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung”, trad. it. 1996 Il formalismo nell’etica e l’etica materiale dei valori. Edizioni San Paolo, Cinisello Balsamo, Milano.
Scheler, Max. 1999. Il valore della vita emotiva. Guerini Studio editore, Milano.
Scheler, Max. 2008. Ordo amoris in Scritti sulla fenomenologia e l’amore, (a cura di Vittorio d’Anna), Franco Angeli Editore, Milano 2008, tr.it. F. Bosinelli e V. d’Anna.
Sechehaye, Marguerite. 1962. Autobiography of a Schizophrenic Girl. Penguin, New York.
 Max Scheler, Ordo amoris, p. 118.
This text originates in a lecture course Heidegger gave at the University of Freiburg in the winter semester of 1941-42. This course preceded a second course, on Hölderlin’s “The Ister,” which Heidegger later gave in Summer 1942. As reported in the Editor’s Afterword, Heidegger originally conceived these courses as a single course covering the poetry of Hölderlin, but ended up using the entire winter 1941-42 semester to develop his reading of “Remembrance.” This work comes seven years after an earlier course Heidegger gave on Hölderlin, in winter 1934-35, on the hymns “Germania” and “The Rhine.” This very readable translation of Hölderlin’s Hymn “Remembrance” furnished by eminent Heidegger scholars McNeill and Ireland completes the English translation of the entirety of Heidegger’s Hölderlin courses, the others having appeared intermittently over the last several years.
The majority of this lecture course shows Heidegger providing a very close reading of Hölderlin’s important hymn “Remembrance,” often dissecting it line by line and word by word. However, equally important are the introductory sections, which comprise a significant portion of the course and which engage at length the correct mode of access for reading a poet such as Hölderlin. The correct way into understanding Hölderlin, Heidegger says, is not to focus on Hölderlin the person, or his life and times, or even his mental illness. Nor does the task involve getting a grip on the images or content of Hölderlin’s poetry, as if the primary obstacle is simply to understand what the poems are about. (Throughout the course, it will be clear to the reader that constructing a “correct” reading of the poem is not of significant interest for Heidegger.) He asks rhetorically on this note, are we sure that the content of the poem “coincides with what this poetizing poeticizes” (19)? Heidegger emphasizes instead that in order to comprehend Hölderlin’s poetry, one must “think into the poetizing word” (22) encountered in the poem. One cannot appropriate the meaning of Hölderlin’s poetry without entering into the proper hearing of what has come to language in the poet’s work. The task involves appreciating the poetized moments, the disclosures of being that were occasioned to the poet and which gave themselves to expression in words. In a way, then, Heidegger’s point here about comprehending what has been poeticized echoes the methodological claims one also finds in his writings on ancient thinkers such as Heraclitus and Parmenides from the same period, to wit, that there is no understanding to be gained of the thought at hand solely through an analysis of the philosopher’s words alone. Instead, the task calls for appreciating the matter of thought [das Zu-Denkende] – the disclosure under whose sway the thinker operates – or in the present case, the poeticizing of what has been poetized. Much of the territory explored in Heidegger’s reading of “Remembrance” has its focus in this approach.
On Heidegger’s reading of “Remembrance” proper: Heidegger suggests at the outset that Hölderlin’s hymn thematizes the concept of thinking [Denken] just as much as it connotes a notion of commemoration or memory. Heidegger highlights the root word at work in the poem’s title: “Remembrance” in German is An-denken. For Heidegger this entails an overlap in the notions of thinking and poetry; “thinking” [Denken] in the genuine sense involves tracing the poetic disclosure and movement of being. He says in a passage well into the text: “Poetizing and thinking is authentic seeking” (114), where seeking is questioning, with the poet’s vocation to question the holy.
While the ins and outs of Heidegger’s analysis of “Remembrance” are too complex for me to summarize in a short space, in what follows I will highlight some of the principal themes and contours of Heidegger’s reading. I begin at the end of the course, in view of his claim that the last lines of the hymn connect it with its beginning and reinforce its message. Overall, as Heidegger reads it, “Remembrance” is a description of the poet’s experience as a poet. The hymn’s last words read “Yet what remains the poets found” (18). As Heidegger reads this line, the poets preserve and keep alive the time-space of the historical being of the human, the things that have come to pass and those that remain to be borne (165). Heidegger interprets the hymn as poeticizing a narrative of the poet’s sojourn and homecoming, such that the hymn illustrates the poet’s experience as one of figuratively departing from one’s own land, and then returning to it. (On this score Heidegger observes the correspondence between the hymn’s travel narrative and Hölderlin’s own return to Germany, on foot, after a period in Bordeaux.) The poet is the one who can appropriate this very crossing from the foreign to the homely, recognizing the foreign and the homely in their own right. Heidegger highlights several images in the poem that articulate metaphorically the poet’s sojourn: the northeasterly wind’s promise of the sun’s return; the turning of the equinox; a footbridge crossing a narrow valley (from France to Germany, and more distantly, Germany to Greece); the Garonne river of France joining the Dordogne and spreading to the sea.
Heidegger does not spend much time in this lecture course discussing what the poem means. The reader should not expect that Heidegger’s analysis will enhance their understanding of what Hölderlin was trying to say, or of the metaphorical allusions Hölderlin gives to the various places and phenomena mentioned in the hymn. Heidegger’s interest is much more to isolate the poeticizing, historically significant moments that phenomenologically condition the poem’s principal images and overall composition. In other words, Heidegger attempts to highlight within specific concepts and themes of “Remembrance” the primordial disclosures that were poeticized for Hölderlin and which received some voice in his poetry. One such theme is that of the “festival” or “holiday,” and the relation of these to the more fundamental notion of the “holy.” As Heidegger describes it, the festival constitutes a commemoration of a momentous event in the past, a celebration of a god’s presence in and consecration of the human domain. In its original instantiation, “[t]he festival is the event in which gods and humans come to encounter one another” (62). For Heidegger, this commemorated moment originates with the dawn of history in Greece and the advent of the Greek gods. Accordingly, the festival and the holiday occasioning it are a reflection of the presence of the holy in the historical being of the present. Phenomenologically speaking, Heidegger’s meaning seems to be this: the existence of the festival as articulated by the poet is significant because the festival and its holiday illustrate the extraordinary quality of certain days and times by which they command celebration, revealing their own consecration. More broadly, Heidegger interprets the festival and holiday to commemorate historical being itself, including the circle of life to which human beings belong as the receivers of this being.
Another theme for which Heidegger gives a rather idiosyncratic, yet ostensibly phenomenological account is that of dreams. This treatment is noteworthy given that dreams are a subject that does not figure prominently in many other texts of Heidegger’s corpus. He takes up dreams here in the course of discussing the ending lines of the second strophe of “Remembrance.” These lines read “And over slow footbridges/Heavy with golden dreams/Lulling breezes draw.” In the wider context of this citation, Heidegger interprets this image as a reference to the poet crossing over to the homeland, where “golden dreams” convey the slumbering but still extant, “lulling” presence of ancient Greek culture (103ff). However, Heidegger gives a deeper analysis of how dreams are to be understood in their own right and outside the framework of modern psychology. He emphasizes that we should consider dreams “nonscientifically,” an approach that stands to be “more scientific” than traditional science by virtue of interpreting dreams outside of any standard point of reference. Heidegger offers a phenomenological description of dreams, citing for illustration two passages from the Greek poet Pindar, whom he identifies as an ancient counterpart of Hölderlin. In the first cited passage, taken from Pindar’s eighth “Pythian Ode,” the key phrase reads: “Shadows’ dream are human beings” (95). Human beings are the dream of shadows. Heidegger interprets this phrase to portray dreams as a vanishing within an appearing, but an appearing which itself is constituted by a darkening, a shadow-character. In Heidegger’s words:
Pindar wants to say that the dream is the way in which whatever is itself in a certain way already lightless, absences: the dream as the most extreme absencing into the lightless, and yet nevertheless not nothing, but in this way too still an appearing: this vanishing itself still an appearing, the appearing of a passing away into that which is altogether devoid of radiance, which no longer illuminates (98).
So Heidegger’s account of dreams sets about attempting to describe the underlying phenomenological character of dreaming, particularly as dreams are characterized by an evanescent but nonetheless definite, illuminating appearance from a hidden source. In claiming that he aims to give a nonscientific account, Heidegger’s emphasis seems to rest in the fact that dreams are first-person experiences. As such, the most one can provide in a genuinely philosophical reckoning must be formulated on the basis of how dreaming presents itself.
On the relation Pindar’s ode sketches between the dream and the human being (“Shadows’ dream are human beings”), Heidegger goes on to comment as follows:
The shadow’s dream is the fading presence of that which is faded, lightless; by no means a nothing; to the contrary, perhaps even that which is real – that which alone is admitted as real where the human being is stuck only with that which is constantly vanishing, the daily aspect of the everyday, insofar as the latter counts as the only thing that life knows as proximate and real (Ibid.).
Heidegger offers something profound here in his citation of Pindar. He casts dreams more broadly as reflecting the vanishing of the original illumination that constitutes the open of human being itself (100). Dreams echo the original, yet always withdrawn presence of being. The evanescent character of dreams simply is the character of the human experience of meaningful intelligibility, and of everyday human life. This observation yields at once a metaphysical sketch of everyday human being, and a cloaked criticism of modern culture, on the ground that every moment of life is a fleeting instantaneous juxtaposition of consciousness and forgetting. Heidegger concludes that dreams reflect the presence-in-absence constitutive of human being itself: “And so it is that what the human being is, as presencing in the manner of a shadow, he is not in the manner of mere presence and cropping up…. That which presences stretches itself as such…in accordance with its essence – into absencing” (100). In sum, to call human beings the dream of shadows is a way of sketching the temporally stretched, yet self-negating character of human existence. While this interpretation stands on its own and greatly fills in the opaque meaning of Pindar’s words, Heidegger also explains the significance of this excursus for Hölderlin’s mention of “golden dreams.” Here Heidegger cites a fragment from Hölderlin’s philosophical treatise “Becoming in Dissolution,” where Hölderlin describes the freedom realized in the creation of art as a terrifying yet divine dream, straddling the line between being and nonbeing, possible and real, and actual and ideal. Heidegger explains: “the dreamlike concerns the becoming real of the possible in the becoming ideal of the actual” (103). As Heidegger writes elsewhere in his own accounts of the origin of art, art’s creation articulates the interplay of one’s own place and time with the presence of the divine. Thus, the “golden dreams” of the “lulling breezes” blowing across the footbridge convey the historical presence of Greece’s golden age, which in turn also represents the dawn of historical meaning occasioned in the advent of art, poetry, and language. So while Heidegger provides an exhaustive hermeneutic analysis of dreams and their presence in human being, he also interprets Hölderlin’s lines regarding the lulling breeze crossing the footbridge to express at once the poet’s experience of straddling the homely and foreign, and more broadly, the essence and meaning of the existence of art.
On a related note, another example of Heidegger’s preoccupation with the phenomenological disclosure bound up with the birth of poetry and art is visible with his highlighting of Hölderlin’s emphases in “Remembrance” of phenomena as they occur to him. In the first strophe, Hölderlin describes the “northeasterly” as the most beloved of winds “to me” (16). A few lines after, he invites the reader to “go now and greet/The beautiful Garonne” (Ibid.). And in the second strophe, Hölderlin says “Still it thinks its way to me” [Noch denket das mir wohl] (17), suggesting a notion of being reminded, of having a thought occasioned from outside oneself. For Heidegger, Hölderlin’s use of these locutions indicates that the poetic experience involves heeding moments that disclose themselves, rather than actively seeking out words that describe experiences. In this light, the northeasterly wind, or the Garonne, are poeticized phenomena that self-present, as it were. They are not discovered by the human agent’s searching or cataloguing of geography or atmospheric patterns, or finding aesthetically pleasing ways to describe these.
What results from Heidegger’s often tangential explorations in this lecture course are as penetrating and exhaustive discussions as one will find in his oeuvre on the nature of poetry and particularly, what it means for disclosures of being to be “poeticized.” This book will make a fine companion to Heidegger’s other writings on poetry such as On the Way to Language, “Poetically Man Dwells,” and “The Origin of the Work of Art.” Also noteworthy in this volume, several early sections of the course address at length the biography and legacy of Norbert Von Hellingrath, the young Hölderlin scholar who, before his untimely death in the first World War, collected the edition of Hölderlin’s poems Heidegger deems essential. Although many of Heidegger’s other writings of this period, especially those on Hölderlin, exhibit a nationalistic streak, the presence of this dimension in Heidegger’s analysis of “Remembrance” is for the most part rather muted. In this vein, Heidegger primarily takes his cues from Hölderlin’s historical conceptions of Germania and does not develop much material from out of his own voice. These topics feature most prominently in Part Three of the text, which is entitled “The Search for the Free Use of One’s Own.” I do not believe this text will provide a major contribution for understanding themes of nationalism in Heidegger’s work.
I will finish by highlighting one last issue to which Heidegger gives attention in this lecture course that I believe is very interesting vis-à-vis his treatments of art and poetry elsewhere. Heidegger gives repeated attention to the concept of images [Bild], particularly in the context of the visual representations one experiences in reading and hearing poetry. In these passages, Heidegger emphasizes that the images evoked by poetry cannot function as a vehicle for understanding what is poeticized. Similarly, he argues that images are not simply the visible counterpart of an unspoken, invisible form or essence comprising the real truth of the poem, as if the poem were some kind of derivative, lesser version of a true reality not possible to capture in words (29-30). As Heidegger describes, images have this limitation because what is poeticized transcends the poem altogether. What is poeticized is not something the poem represents or symbolizes. Thus, the fact that a piece of poetry contributes to the formation of images in the hearer has no bearing on a poem’s meaning or the disclosure of being that occasioned the poem’s composition. Interestingly, Heidegger does not speak here of the actual ontology of images, or of the human capacity for image consciousness. Nor does he comment on the western tradition of privileging visual perception among the sources of knowledge, as he does more critically elsewhere in writings such as “The Age of the World Picture” and “The Origin of the Work of Art.” In those works, Heidegger’s position is that artworks (which, as he says, have their origin in poetry) do not merely represent; art in the genuine sense does not simply re-produce a subject by placing it in front of the viewer in the manner of a copy. Instead, artworks have the function of preserving the eventuation of historical truth for a particular time, place, and culture. Artworks wrest truth from oblivion and bring it into light, albeit not permanently. In view of his comments on images in the course on “Remembrance,” I believe one can take issue slightly with the dichotomy Heidegger draws between the images occasioned through poetry, and the question of whether such images represent a more original meaning or not. In other words, Heidegger’s suggestion that images are merely representative, and not reflective of a deeper disclosure, is perhaps overly restrictive. As Karen Gover has written on this topic, Heidegger perhaps ought to say that art and poetry do in fact represent their subjects (in the manner of re-presenting), but in a way that goes deeper than merely copying their subjects. Maybe the key is that they simply represent in a more originary way, and not that they do not represent at all. In the case of Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin’s “Remembrance,” Heidegger would seem to allow that the hymn re-enacts some trace of the primordial disclosure that was given to the poet; one simply needs to be in the correct mode of hearing to appreciate the offering of this disclosure. On the other hand, the equally decisive point emerging from Heidegger’s interpretive framework in the lecture course seems to be that the images Hölderlin’s hymn affords us must not distract us from the fact that poetry’s origins transcend both images and words; poetry (or poeticizing) is the moment of being coming into language. Understanding Hölderlin’s hymn therefore concerns heeding the eventuation of being that precedes both the poem and its images.
Gover, K. “The Overlooked Work of Art in ‘The Origin of the Work of Art.’” International Philosophical Quarterly 48 (2) (2008): 143-53.
Few articles in the recent history of philosophy have yielded as large, and confusing, a literature as has McTaggart’s 1908 the Unreality of Time. Whatever one thinks of the status of the argument contained in that paper—what has became known as McTaggart’s Paradox—there is no denying that it, and the distinctions McTaggart introduces in that paper, have shaped the philosophy of time in many and deep ways. Each of us working in the philosophy of time locates ourselves by appealing to McTaggart’s terminology of the A, B and C series, and by noting the ways in which we agree (and disagree) with McTaggart. Indeed, frequently philosophers’ preferred view in the philosophy of time is heavily influenced by the way they see McTaggart’s Paradox. Had McTaggart known what the future held, and had he, perchance, needed to complete an ‘Impact Statement’ for some kind of quality assessment metric, we can safely say his score would have been excellent. (Fortunately for McTaggart, he died before he ever had to turn his attention to Impact Statements). All of this makes Ingthorsson’s book length treatment of McTaggart’s Paradox in McTaggart’s Paradox, a valuable addition to the literature.
What makes the book of particular interest is that it carefully contextualises McTaggart’s arguments in his 1908 paper in terms of his overall metaphysical picture laid out in his two companion monographs The Nature of Existence I (1921) and The Nature of Existence II (1927). Ingthorsson’s book is a careful explication of McTaggart’s Paradox in the context of McTaggart’s broader metaphysical commitments. Indeed, Ingthorsson compellingly argues that failing to see the argument in these terms can, and has, led to various confusions. One of the many merits of the book is that not only does it present and interpret the argument in context, but, in so doing, provides an account of why the argument has been so very controversial, and why it remains so today. Ingthorsson argues that one of the primary causes of disagreement and confusion have been competing misinterpretations of the argument that have arisen due to viewing it as an entirely stand-alone argument that can be understood and evaluated in isolation from McTaggart’s broader commitments. Whether contemporary philosophers of time share those broader commitments or not, it is valuable to set the argument within the broader context and to see how various interpretations (or misinterpretations) of, and responses to, the argument, sit within that context. To that end, this is an important contribution.
The book is also valuable because it offers an historical overview of the various strands of responses to McTaggart’s Paradox. Ingthorsson carefully shows where contemporary responses have historical precursors, and what those are. That makes it an interesting piece in the history of philosophy. More than that, though, the book does a commendable job of categorizing the kinds of responses that have been made to McTaggart’s Paradox over the years. This is no small feat given the wealth of responses that the argument has garnered. It is much to be admired that someone has managed to sift through the various papers as they appeared from 1908 onwards, with a view to articulating and categorising those responses in a useful manner. This allows the reader to ignore the many small differences in approaches and instead focus on the important philosophical similarities between approaches. For anyone who wants to get to grips with the major threads of thought that developed in response to McTaggart, this is an invaluable resource.
While the book’s principal aim, at least as I read it, is to articulate McTaggart’s argument, place it in context, and then consider the ways in which the argument has been interpreted and responded to, the book certainly ought not be thought of as primarily about hermeneutics or history of philosophy. Ingthorsson has plenty to say, along the way, about where he thinks responses to McTaggart’s Paradox hit the mark, and where he thinks they do not. He also offers a number of positive arguments of his own about what he thinks the argument establishes, and what he does not. These are also valuable additions to the literature. So there is much that is interesting and rewarding about the book—too much to cover in this review. Instead, in what follows I will consider just two of the issues that jumped out at me as I read, and which I thought deserved particular attention.
In reading the book I was particularly interested in its explication of McTaggart’s account of how it is that it comes to appear to us as though there is a temporal dimension—the appearance as of there being a temporally ordered succession. (Here I suppose that successions have a direction, not merely an ordering, and so the appearance is as of there being a temporal ordering that runs from past, to future). Since McTaggart thinks there is no such ordering (no such temporal ordering that is) he incurs the explanatory burden of explaining why it seems to us as though there is. This is a burden that he takes up. McTaggart’s explanation of these seemings are of particular interest in the contemporary context, since the issue of why things seem the way they do to us, temporally speaking, is one that has become pressing over the last few decades. We find contemporary A-theorists arguing that because it appears to us as though there is an A-series—it appears to us as though events occur in a particular ordered succession and that time itself passes—we have reason (albeit defeasible) to suppose that this is the way things are, and that in fact some version of the A-theory is true. Or, put more strongly, such theorists argue that the best explanation for these appearances are that time is indeed this way. B-theorists, unsurprisingly, have responded in one of two ways. They have either argued that in fact things do not appear to us this way at all (though perhaps we mistakenly believe that things appear to us this way, or they have argued that things do indeed seem this way, but them seeming this way is an illusion. The latter have attempted to spell out how it is that we are subject to this illusion, the former have attempted to spell out how it is that we come to have such false beliefs about the way things seem.
In this regard, then, the B-theorist is in something like the same boat in which McTaggart found himself. To be sure, the B-theorist does not need to explain why it seems to us though there are temporal relations despite there not being said relations, since unlike McTaggart B-theorists think that the presence of B-relations in the absence of A-properties is sufficient for the existence of temporal relations. Yet the B-theorist does owe an explanation of why it appears to us as though there is an A-series (or why we falsely believe that it seems to us that way) and in this regard she shares a common explanatory burden with McTaggart. Moreover, in that, the B-theorist is not alone. The C-theorist, who thinks that it is sufficient for the existence of temporal relations that there exist C-relations in the absence of B-relations or A-properties, incurs all the explanatory burdens accruing to the B-theorist, and more still. For the C-theorist must, in addition, explain why it seems to us as though there is a B-series: that is, she must explain not only why there appears to be an ordered temporal sequence, but also, why that ordering appears to have a direction when, according to her, it does not. By contrast, since the B-theorist thinks the temporal ordering has a direction (but does not have any A-theoretic flow) she can explain this appearance as veridical. Finally, some contemporary physicists, in their desire to reconcile quantum mechanics with the general theory of relativity, have defended so-called timeless physical theories, according to which there is not even a C-series ordering of events. These theorists incur all of McTaggart’s explanatory burdens, since they need to explain why it seems to us as though there is a temporal ordering, when, in fact, there is none.
Given the extent to which contemporary theorists incur some, or all, of the explanatory burdens McTaggart incurred, the question of how McTaggart discharges that burden is of considerable interest. This is how Ingthorsson describes McTaggart’s approach:
McTaggart suggests that they [the terms in the C-series] are related in terms of being ‘included in’ and ‘inclusive of’ (S566 of NE). Very briefly, the only way he thinks we can explain the appearance of a series of entities related by the earlier than/later than each other is if we assume that, for any two terms in the series (except the first and last is there is a first and last) the one includes the other. The perception of a mental state that includes another can give rise to the misperception that the included content is a part of the content that includes it, and mutatis mutandis for mental states that are included in another. The relations of included in and inclusive of are asymmetric and transitive and so give a sense of direction, and are meant to be able to give rise to a false sense of change, and that in turn gives rise to a false sense of one term being earlier or later than another. (McTaggart’s Paradox pg 59).
Unsurprisingly, McTaggart appeals to the existence of the C-series, alongside certain features of our mental states, to explain the way things seem. This is important, since in doing so McTaggart appeals to the very same resources the C-theorist takes herself to have. So if his explanation is good (or at least, on the right track) then it is an explanation to which the C-theorist can avail herself. If I understand the proposal correctly, McTaggart’s explanation for the appearance as of succession (and with it, change) looks something like what have become known as retentionalist models of temporal experience. According to such models, roughly speaking, the mental state that obtains at one time can, as part of its content, include content from mental states that obtained at other times. So, in theory at least, mental states can have a nested structure, whereby one, as part of its content, includes the content of another mental state, which, in turn as part of its content, includes another mental state and so on. This complex nested structure is precisely the structure McTaggart supposes mental states to have. One might have attempted to explain this nested content in terms of the relations of earlier/later than, by noting that later mental states include content from earlier mental states (but not vice versa). But the proposal, here, would be to explain the appearance as of there being relations of earlier/later in terms of the nesting of mental states by suggesting that the appearance as of a directed succession is given by the existence of these nested states. In particular, since the relation of inclusion is itself asymmetric and transitive, then if mental states have that nested structure along the C-series ordering, then they are ordered by a relation that has the same formal features as the earlier/later than relation.
Indeed, something like this picture seems to be a precursor of contemporary C-theoretic explanations for the appearance as of temporal direction in terms of, inter alia, asymmetries of memory, knowledge, and deliberation. In fact, something very close to McTaggart’s proposal is to be found in the work of contemporary timeless theorists. Those theorists, of course, do not have recourse to the existence of a C-series as a partial explanation of the way things seem. So they appeal entirely to unordered (temporally unordered, that is) nested mental states to explain why it seems to us as though there is an ordering (the appearance of ordering is, as it were, the product of the nesting) as well as why that ordering appears to have a direction.
The explanation cannot, of course, end there. It might be right that this nested feature of our mental states gives rise to the appearance as of temporal succession where there is none. But there remains the question of why our mental states have this feature at all: why do some mental states include others? Given the rich resource of McTaggart’s thought, it would be of significant interest to pursue the question of what more he has to say about why mental states have these features. Of course, contemporary philosophers of time will typically point, at least in part, to features of increasing entropy to explain why mental states exhibit this ‘nesting asymmetry’; but it would be of interest to investigate McTaggart’s own views on this.
Interestingly, what all this tells us is that the gap between McTaggart and the C-theorist is, in fact, quite slender. McTaggart agrees with the C-theorist that what gives rise to the appearance as of a temporal succession is the existence of the C-series, combined with certain (asymmetric, transitive) relations (i.e. inclusion) that obtain between our mental states. Where they disagree is in whether the C-series, absent any B- or A-series, is properly called temporal or not. And there, of course, we come back to the issue of whether such a series can give rise to ‘genuine’ change. For the reason that McTaggart concludes that the C-series is not temporal is that in the absence of an A-series, there would be no genuine change, and genuine change is necessary for an ordering to be temporal. Thus neither a C-series nor a B-series, absent an A-series, could count as a temporal series. Both B-theorists and C-theorists reject the claim that there can be no genuine change in the absence of an A-series, and Ingthorsson takes up this issue in chapter 7. There, he argues that McTaggart was right in at least the following way: the B-theory is incompatible with genuine change, since genuine change requires enduring objects—objects that are wholly present at each time they exist rather than being merely partly present as are perduring objects—and the B-theory cannot accommodate such objects.
The reason endurantism is suppose to be the only view of persistence that captures genuine change, is that it entails that persisting objects are numerically identical over time, so that one and the same object exists at multiple times, and at those times instantiates different properties. Thus persisting objects endure through changes, rather than change being a matter of persisting objects having parts with different properties at different times (as per perdurantism). The idea that the B-theory is incompatible with endurance, then, is an interesting (and important) claim, and one that it is worth further consideration. For if time does require genuine change, and if genuine change requires endurance, then McTaggart was right all along: if all events, objects, and properties exist (if eternalism is true) then there exists a C-series and perduring objects, but there does not exist any temporal ordering of the objects in the C-series.
Let’s set aside the issue of whether genuine change requires endurance, and whether, if it does, genuine change is, in turn, required for an ordering to be temporal. Instead, let’s just focus on Ingthorsson’s contention that the B-theory is incompatible with endurance.
Ingthorsson argues that endurance requires temporal passage at least in the sense that enduring things have to move from one time, to another. But there is no way for them to do that given the B-theory. Another way to put this is that what it is to be wholly present is to be entirely at one time, and to be nowhen else (that’s why enduring objects move, being first at one time, and later at another). But B-theorists are committed to what Ingthorsson calls the temporal parity thesis—the view that all objects events and properties that ever did, do, or will, exist, exist simpliciter (i.e. co-exist). (The temporal parity thesis is the view that is sometimes known as eternalism). If that thesis is true then enduring things co-exist with themselves at many times. So in what sense are said objects wholly present, given that each of them exists not only at the time in question, but also outside of it. Ingthorsson writes that
…the very idea of an enduring particular, in the sense I initially described it, is as of a three-dimensional thing that exists wholly and exclusively at one time at a time i.e. not multiply located in time any more than a football that crosses the pitch is multiply located at all points of it spatial trajectory. (McTaggart’s Paradox, 102)
The idea is that just as the football sweeps across the field, and is at no time at multiple places on the field (but rather, at each in succession) somehow the same ought be true of enduring objects.
It is worth noting that this argument, if it succeeds, succeeds against views that accept something weaker than the temporal parity thesis. It succeeds against any view that says that there exist a least two times t and t*, such that whatever objects, properties and events exist at t, and whatever objects, properties and events exist at t*, all of those objects, properties and events co-exist (i.e. exist simpliciter). Presentism denies even this weak thesis, but other non B-theoretic views such as the growing block and moving spotlight theories do accept that weaker thesis. If the argument succeeds, then, it shows that every view of temporal ontology is incompatible with endurance (and hence, perhaps, with genuine change and with temporal relations) aside from presentism. That’s because Ingthorsson’s view about what it would take for an object to be wholly present, and hence to endure, requires that said object exists at only one time, and nowhen outside that time. But if any other times exist than the present one, then this would flout that requirement.
To be sure, if being wholly present means being at one time, and nowhere else, then it must be the case that endurance is incompatible with any view but presentism. But ought we think this is so? Of course, in the case of the moving football—what we might call the spatial case—what it is to move through space (very roughly, setting aside issues of relativity) is to exist at different spatial locations at different times. Hence at any one time one will see the football at a single position along its trajectory: we will see it at one place on the field, and at no other. But if one ‘sees’ all times, one will see that object at each location along its trajectory: that is, in fact, what a worldline is, in Minkowski space-time. So one sees a whole set of co-existing three-dimensional objects, each of which is the football at one time. Why should that be puzzling? Why should it show that the football is not, in any good sense, wholly present at each spatial location at which it is located at each time? What is the sense in which the ball is wholly present at each of those locations, given that, quite clearly, it is present at more than just one location? It is the sense in which at each time, what exists is all of the ball—all of the three-dimensional object that is the ball, as opposed to there existing some three-dimensional object that is a mere part of the ball.
To be sure, what we see when we look at the full four-dimensional representation of the ball’s movement across the field is that the ball fills a four-dimensional region of space-time (namely its four-dimensional trajectory through space-time). But that doesn’t make the ball four-dimensional, since one way of accomplishing this filling of space-time is for the ball to endure, and to fill that region by being wholly located at each of the three-dimensional regions. The ball moves across the field, and it does so by existing at different places at different times, not by existing only at a single time, and by different times themselves existing sequentially.
Ingthorsson is aware of such a view, noting that, many contemporary endurantists (those who think persisting objects endure) think that endurance is compatible with the temporal parity thesis. Such endurantists hold that we should understand what it is to be wholly present in terms of a multi-location thesis spelled out in terms of different location relations that objects bear to regions of spacetime.  To be sure, they say, the enduring ball is located at different times (all of which are equally real) but it endures nonetheless, since it is the very same, numerically identical, three-dimensional ball, that exists at each of those times.
Ingthorsson, however, thinks that such a view falls foul of the problem of temporary intrinsics. Does it? I don’t see why. If the ball is, indeed, multiply located then there is just one ball, located in many places. It doesn’t sweep through time, to be sure, but the entire ball is located at each time, and each such three-dimensional object is one and the same thing. That ball has a single complete set of properties—the properties that completely characterise the ball—which mention how it is at each of those times. One might worry, as Ingthorsson does, that this makes the instantiation of properties into disguised relations to times, since the ball must instantiate properties such as being dirty at one time, and being clean at another (let’s suppose the ball picks up dirt as it traverses the field). But it’s hard to feel the force of this worry, given the picture on offer. If it turns out that objects persist by being multiply located along the temporal axis, then they do so by bearing location relations to each of the three-dimensional regions they occupy. A single persisting ball bears a series of location relations to a series of such regions. But in that case one might expect that at each of such region, the ball will instantiate properties relative to that location. It’s not as if this is an ad hoc proposal borne of the need to reconcile change with Leibniz Law (a la the problem of temporary intrinsics); rather, it seems to be the natural thing to day for someone who endorses this picture. No doubt, however, there is much more to be said here, and McTaggart’s Paradox sews the seeds for such discussion.
Whatever one makes of the arguments, the book is a rich source of argumentation and discussion of a number of core issues in the philosophy of time, and for that reason is well worth a read.
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 See Baron et al (2015) for an articulation of such arguments.
 See for instance Braddon-Mitchell (2013); Hoerl (2014); Torrengo (forthcoming) and Latham et al (ms).
 See for instance Latham et al (ms).
 See for instance Paul (2010); Prosser (2012).
 See for instance Price (1996) as an example of a C-theorist.
 See Barbour (1999); for philosophical discussion see Baron and Miller (2014 and 2015).
 See for instance Kutach (2011).
 See Barbour (1999).
 Ingthorsson uses the term ‘A-view’ to pick out presentism exclusively, and uses A/B hybrid to pick out other views that include an A-series, such as the growing block and moving spotlight view which hold that some non-present objects exist.
See Parsons (2007); Gimore (2014) and Eagle (2010).