In his introduction to this timely volume, Saulius Geniusas underscores the diverse ways in which the essays collected in this book address the concept of the productive imagination. By asking what this concept entails, Geniusas outlines the reach of the contributors’ various investigations into the history of this concept, the role of productive imagination in social and political life, and the various forms that it takes. Geniusas astutely points out that the meaning and significance of the productive imagination cannot be confined to the philosophical framework or frameworks in which it was conceived. Moreover, as Geniusas and several contributors points out, the power that Kant identified with the art of intuiting a unity of manifold sensible impressions was for Kant secreted away in the soul. As the faculty of synthesis, the workings of the productive imagination prove to be elusive, as the essays in this volume attest. While Kant was not the first philosopher to employ the concept of productive imagination (Geniusas explains that Wolff and Baumgarten had taken up this concept in their work), the central philosophical importance he accorded it vests the concept of the productive imagination with its transcendental significance. In his introduction, Geniusas accordingly provides an instructive summary of Kant’s conceptualization of the productive imagination in the Critique of Pure Reason and in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment.
Kant’s treatment of the productive imagination in the Critique of Pure Reason and the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment is the staging ground for post-Kantian engagements. Geniusas remarks that the transcendental function Kant identifies with imagination in the first Critique leads him to draw a distinction between the productive imagination as an empirical faculty and the imagination as the a priori condition for producing schemata of sensible concepts. Geniusas’s review of the role of the schema provides the reader with an introduction to Kant’s philosophical enterprise. According to Geniusas, Kant “identifies productive imagination as the power than enables consciousness to subsume intuition under the concept the understanding” (ix) by engendering schemata of substance or of a cause, for example. From this standpoint, experience is possible due to this act of subsumption. Hence, one could “qualify productive imagination as the power that shapes the field of phenomenality” (ix).
Conversely, the account Kant provides in the third Critique places the accent on the productive imagination’s creative function. Whereas in the first Critique the power of imagination is operative in subsuming an intuitive manifold under the categorical structure of a universal, in the third Critique the direction of subsumption is reversed. Hence, in aesthetic judgment the power of imagination is operative in the way that the individual case summons its rule. Conceptualizing the “experience of beauty as a feeling of pleasure that arises due to imagination’s capacity to display the harmonious interplay between reason and sensibility” (ix), as Kant does on Geniusas’ account, underscores the difference between determinative and reflective judgment. Geniusas here identifies the productive imagination’s conceptualization with its medial function within the framework of Kant’s philosophy. Furthermore, this medial function is at once both reconciliatory and procreative. By generating the schemata that provide images for concepts as in the first Critique, or by creating symbols that harmonize sensible appearances and the understanding as in the third Critique, the productive imagination “reconciles the antagonisms between different faculties by rendering the intuitive manifold fit for experience” (ix). Geniusas can therefore say that for Kant, the productive imagination acquires its transcendental significance by reason of the fact that this faculty of synthesis is the condition for the possibility of all phenomenal experience.
The several difficulties and drawbacks of Kant’s conception of the productive imagination that Geniusas subsequently identifies sets the tone for several of the chapters in this book. First, the concept of productive imagination as Kant employs it “appears [to be] too thin” (x) to accommodate post-Kantian philosophies in which the productive imagination figures. Second, one could object that Kant’s use of the term “productive imagination” in his various writings, including the first and third Critiques, differs in significant ways. Third, most post-Kantian thinkeoers, Geniusas emphasizes, do not subscribe to the ostensible dualisms of sensibility and understanding, phenomena and noumena, nature and freedom, and theoretical and practical reason that pervade Kant’s philosophical system. Post-Kantian philosophies, Geniusas therefore stresses, seek to capitalize on the productive imagination’s constitutive function while purifying it of its reconciliatory one. As such, the volume’s success in engaging with the Kantian concept of productive imagination while attending to this concept’s history in relation to the different philosophical frameworks in which it figures rests in part on the ways in which the contributing authors situate their analyses in relation to the broader themes set out in the editor’s introduction.
Günter Zöller’s study of the transcendental function of the productive imagination in Kant’s philosophy highlights the parallel treatment of reason and the understanding with regard to the imagination’s schematizing power. Charged with bridging the gap between sensibility and the understanding, the faculty of imagination assumes this transcendental function in order to account for the production of images that constitute cognitive counterparts to the sensible manifold of a priori pure intuitions. Zöller explains that as the source of these images, transcendental schemata provide the generative rules for placing particular intuitive manifolds under the appropriate concepts. As such, these transcendental schemata evince the extraordinary power of the productive imagination. The imagination’s medial role vis-à-vis sensibility and reason is no less extraordinary. Zöller subsequently emphasizes that Kant introduces the term “symbol” in order to differentiate between “a schema, as constitutively correlated with a category of the understanding, and its counterpart, essentially linked to an idea of reason” (13). Zöller concludes by remarking on the analogical significance of the natural order for the moral order in Kant’s practical philosophy. On Zöller’s account, a twin symbolism either “informed by the mechanism constitute of modern natures sciences … [or] shaped by the organicism of [the then] contemporary emerging biology” (16) thus give rise to different conceptions of political life in which normative distinctions between rival forms of governance take hold.
By emphasizing the formative-generative role of the imagination as Wilhelm Dilthey conceives it, Eric S. Nelson situates Dilthey’s revision of Kant’s critical paradigm in the broader context of Dilthey’s “postmetaphysical reconstruction” (26) of it. For Nelson, “Dilthey’s reliance on and elucidation of dynamic structural wholes of relations that constitute a nexus (Zusammenhang) is both a transformation of and an alternative to classical transcendental philosophy and philosophical idealism that relies on constitution through the subject” (26). Reconceived as historically emergent, structurally integral wholes, transcendental conditions that for Kant were given a priori are eschewed in favor of the primacy of experience conditioned by the relational nexuses of these dynamically emergent wholes. Since it “operates within an intersubjective nexus rather than produce it from out of itself” (28), the imagination is productive in that it generates images, types, and forms of experience that can be re-created in the process of understanding. Nelson here cites Dilthey: “all understanding involves a re-creation in my psyche …. [that is to be located] in an imaginative process (cited 32-33). According to Nelson, for Dilthey the imagination’s formative-generative role plays a seminal part in enacting a historically situated reason and in orienting the feeling of life rooted in specific socio-historical conditions and contexts. While Dilthey rejected aestheticism, poetry and art for him are nevertheless “closest to and most expressive of the self-presentation of life in its texture, fulness, and complexity” (38). Aesthetics consequently provides an exemplary model with regard to the human sciences’ “systematic study of historical expressions of life” (Dilthey, cited 39).
Claudio Majolino’s examination of the phenomenological turn reprises significant moments of the history of the concept of the productive imagination. Starting with Christian Wolf’s definitions of the facultas imaginandi and the facultas fingendi, Majolino follows the course of different philosophical accounts of the imagination’s productive character. Unlike Wolff’s definition, which stresses the imagination’s power to feign objects that in the case of phantasms have never been seen, Kant on Majolino’s account replaces the “idea of ‘producing perceptions of sensible absent things’ … with that of ‘intuiting even without the presence of the object’” (50). Kant’s insistence on the productive imagination’s a priori synthetic power consequently opens the door to a Heideggerian strand of phenomenology. According to Majolino, the productive imagination manifests its solidarity with the main issue of ontology as the source of the upwelling of truth. The stress Paul Ricoeur places on metaphor’s redescription of the real in light of a heuristic fiction and on fiction’s power to project a world that is unique to the work accentuates the productive imagination’s ontological significance and force in this regard. Ricoeur accordingly illustrates the “first ‘hermeneutical’ way in which PI [productive imagination] turns into a full-fledged phenomenological concept” (61). For Majolino, Husserl’s account of Kant’s concept of productive imagination opens a second way to phenomenology, which following this other path describes the eidetic features of a form of phantasy consciousness that in the case of poetic fictions are free of cognitive constraints. Majolino consequently asks whether the “eidetic possibility of the end of the world” (73), which he credits to the originality of free fantasies that in Husserl’s view mobilize emotions, offers a more fecund alternative to the course inaugurated by Heidegger.
Like Majolino, Quingjie James Wang credits Heidegger with singling out the productive imagination’s original ontological significance. According to Wang, Heidegger identifies two competing theses within Kant’s system: the “duality thesis,” for which the senses and the understanding are the two sources of cognition, and the “triad thesis,” for which an intuitive manifold, this manifold’s synthesis, and this synthesis’s unity are the conditions of possibility of all experience. For this latter thesis, the transcendental schema, which for Kant is the “medium of al synthetic judgments” (Kant, cited 83), constitutes the third term. On Wang’s account, Heidegger endorses the triad thesis by interpreting Kant’s concept of the transcendental power of imitation in terms of a “transcendental schematism, that is, as schematization of pure concepts within a transcendental horizon of temporality” (87). This transcendental schematism precedes, phenomenologically speaking, psychologists’ and anthropologists’ conception of the imagination’s power. Wang remarks that for Heidegger, the transcendental power of imagination is the existential and ontological root from which existence, life, as well as the phenomena amenable to phenomenological inquiry proceed. Wang accordingly concludes by stressing that for Heidegger, the “originality of the pure synthesis, i.e., its letting-spring-forth” (Heidegger, cited 88) reveals itself as the root of the imagination’s transcendental power.
Saulius Geniusas’s engagement with Miki Kiyoshi’s philosophy brings a transcultural dimension to this volume. Miki’s philosophy, Geniusas stresses, is one of productive imagination. Moreover, “[b]y kōsōryoku, Miki understands a power more original than reason, which is constitutive of the sociocultural world” (92). On this view, the productive imagination shapes our world-understanding through generating collective representations, symbols, and forms. Miki’s phenomenology, Geniusas accordingly explains, is Hegelian and Husserlian. Furthermore, for Miki, “imagination can only be understood within the standpoint of action” (94). Hence, only from this standpoint can one thematize the productive imagination’s transformative power. Contra Ricoeur, whose goal, Geniusas maintains, is to develop a typology of forms of the productive imagination, Miki aims to “ground productive imagination in the basic experience from which productive imagination as such arises” (96). According to Miki, the logic of action, which is equivalent to the logic of imagination, is rooted in group psychology. Geniusas remarks that Miki’s insistence that the logic of imagination differs from the logic of the intellect is difficult to understand. Accordingly, Geniusas’s account of the way that collective representations, symbols, and forms both shape our understandings and experiences and refashion the given order of existence ties the logic of productive imagination to the real’s formation, reformation, and transformation. For Geniusas, a “philosophy that grants primacy to imagination over reason and sensibility provides a viable alternative to rationalism and empiricism and a much more compelling account of the Japanese … 1940s than any rationalist or empiricist position could ever generate” (104-105). For such a philosophy, the notion that imagination plays a seminal role in the constitution of historical, socio-cultural worlds would seem to open the door to a further consideration of the nexus of reason and imagination vis-à-vis the initiatives historical actors take in response to the exigencies and demands of the situations in which they find themselves.
In order to attend to everyday experiences, Kathleen Lennon adopts the idea that imagination is operative in images that give shape and form to the world. By rejecting the concept derived from Hume that images are faint copies of sensory perceptions, she espouses a broader conception that she initially relates to Kant. Similar to several other authors in this volume, she remarks how Kant credits the synthesis of a manifold apprehended in a single intuition to the productive imagination. As such, she identifies the work of the productive imagination with the activity of schematizing this synthetic operation. Lennon stresses the relation between schema and image by citing Kant: “imagination has to bring the manifold of intuition in the form of an image” (115). From this standpoint, the activity of “seeing as,” which she points out has been emphasized by several writers including P. F. Strawson and Ludwig Wittgenstein, draws its force from the way that the image schematizes the unity drawn from a manifold of sensations. At the same time, for her, the “picture of a noumenal subject confronting a noumenal world” (118) in Kant’s second Critique haunts his account of the imagination. Unlike Kant, who Lennon maintains tied both reproductive and productive imagination to perception, Jean-Paul Sartre bifurcates perception and imagination. According to Lennon, on this account the act of imagining for Sartre evinces the ground of our freedom through negating the real. In contrast, Maurice Merleau-Ponty “introduces the terms visible and invisible” (120) in place of the distinctions drawn by Sartre between presence and absence, being and nothingness, and the imaginary and the real. Rather than impose a conceptual form on intuited matter, Lennon says that for Merleau-Ponty the synthesizing activity of the imagination is the “taking up or grasping of shape in the world we encounter” (123) as it emerges in relation to our bodies. Lennon rightly maintains that feelings are felt on things as they manifest themselves to us. For her, that both Sartre and Merleau-Ponty view the “imaginary as providing us with the affective depth of the experienced world” (125) is therefore constitutive of the ways that we respond to it.
The subversive power that Annabelle Dufourcq attributes to the field of the imaginary for her calls into question the pattern of the world based on a synthetic activity “concealed in the depth of the human soul” (Kant, cited 129). In her view, both Gaston Bachelard and Merleau-Ponty recognize the imaginary’s capacity both to distort the real and to render it in striking ways. Dufourcq accordingly searches out the ontological roots of the productive imagination in order to understand how, in contrast to the “arbitrary activity of a subjective faculty called my imagination” (130), the being of things makes images and fantasies possible. Following Husserl, who she maintains “rejects the idea that imagination is first and foremost a human faculty” (131), she adopts the notion that fantasies provide a more accurate model for thinking about images than do pictures. Unlike perceptions, in the case of fantasy, an imaginary world competes with the real in a way that it might even be said to supplant it. Hence for Dufourcq, reality itself become problematic in light of fantasy’s power to unseat the set of significations adumbrated within a limited perceptual field. Her assertation that “Cezanne’s paintings are integral part of the reality of the Mount Santie-Victorie [as] Merleau-Ponty claims in Eye and Mind” (136) resonates with Ricoeur’s claim that works iconically augment the real. Unlike Ricoeur, for whom the real’s mimetic refiguration of the real brings about an increase in being, Dufourcq maintains that Being lies “in the echo of itself. …. [as] the shimmering that … gives birth to beings” (138). How, she therefore asks, can an ontology of the imaginary escape the nihilism born from the belief that there is no reality beyond the imagery of its representation. In response to the question: “[H]ow can one know what the right action is?” (140), the ethics she espouses assigns a profound meaning to any “symbolic” action the value of which ostensibly will be recognized later by those who follow after.
Kwok-ying Lau’s defense of Sartre ostensibly offers a response to Ricoeur’s critique of the representative illusion and by extension of Ricoeur’s theory of mimesis. For Lau, as a writer of fiction, Sartre could hardly have been ignorant of the imagination’s productive power. Hence according to Lau, for Sartre the creative imagination’s essential condition consists in its capacity to produce the irreality of an image posited as the “nonexistence of an object” (152) presentified by it. Conceived as “nothingness,” the irreality of the imagined object is for Sartre an ontological category won through the imagination’s nihilating act. By insisting that fiction for Ricoeur is ontic, Lau overlooks Ricoeur’s insight into how a work’s mimetic refiguration of the real brings about an increase in being. Following Sartre, Lau instead insists that the production of image-fictions takes place in “a void, a nowhere” (153) outside or beyond the real without the need to refer to any existent things. The act of “irrealizing” the real is undoubtedly attributable to the productive imagination’s subversive force. Yet, one could ask whether by giving a “phenomenological and ontological explication of the absolute status of consciousness, whose freedom allows it to express and operate as … the constitutive origin of the world of reality” (153), Sartre in Lau’s reading of him supplants the model of the image-picture and the attendant metaphysics of presence with an aestheticizing idealization of the “[m]imesis of the imaginary” (159) that preserves intact the Platonic theory of imitation while seemingly reversing its direction.
The relation between reason and imagination figures prominently in Suzi Adams’s reflections on Cornelius Castoriadas’s theory of the radical imaginary. Adams stresses that for Castoriadas, the “radical imaginary is a dimension of society” (163). Like Merleau-Ponty, Castoriadas regards phenomenology as a means of interrogating the interplay between history, social formations, and creative impulse that, as the “‘other’ of reason in modernity” (167), unsettles philosophy. At the same time, unlike Merleau-Ponty, Castoriadas embraces the radicality of the social imaginary as instituting the particular set of significations that constitute the real. Adams emphasizes that for Castoriadas, the real is irreducible to functionalist determinations, since any functionalist approach to society “already presupposes the activity of the imaginary element” (171). Accordingly, Castoriadas sets out a tripartite structure in which functional, symbolic, and imaginary aspects of social institutions operate together. Overturning the long-received distinction between the imaginary and the real in this way brings to the fore the radical imaginary’s significance vis-à-vis the networks of symbolic significations that constitute reality for a particular society. For Castoriadas, “the imaginary institution of the real” (176) thus takes shape as a “new form created by the socio-historical out of nothing” (177)—that is, as a creatio ex nihilo that is irreducible to any prior antecedents. Adams remarks the Castoriadas’s turn to ontology and his “radicalization of creation to ex nihilo meant that he could no longer account for the world relation of ‘the meaning of meaning’” (161). From this standpoint, Castoriadas’s contribution to our understanding of the social imaginary opens an avenue for exploring the relation between the productive imagination, the rational, and the real.
Richard Kearney’s attention to the difference between phenomenological accounts that regard imagination as a special mode of vision and Paul Ricoeur’s turn to language underscores the ineluctable role of imagination in the production of meaning. Most philosophies of imagination, Kearney remarks, have failed to develop a hermeneutical account of the creation of meaning in language. Ricoeur’s tensive theory of metaphor redresses this failure by highlighting how a new meaning is drawn from the literal ruins of an initial semantic impertinence. The semantic innovation that in the case of metaphor leads to seeing a peace process as on the ropes, for example, owes its power to disclose aspects of reality that were previously hidden to the power of imagination. Kearney accordingly stresses that imagination is operative in the “act of responding to a demand for new meaning” (190) through suspending ordinary references in order to reveal new ways of inhering in the world. Kearney subsequently sets out Ricoeur’s treatments of the symbolic, oneiric, poetic, and utopian modalities of the imagination. The power of the imagination to open the “theater of one’s liberty, as a horizon of hope” (189) bears out the specifically human capacity to surpass the real from within. Kearney points out that “without the backward look a culture is deprived of its memory, without the forward look it is deprived of its dreams” (202). The dialectical rapprochement between imagination and reason made possible by a critical hermeneutics is thus a further staging ground for a philosophical reflection on the imagination’s operative role in the response to the demand for meaning, reason, and truth.
The two chapters that conclude this volume explore how the concept of productive imagination might apply to nonlinguistic thought and imaginary kinesthetic experiences. By claiming that scenic phantasma (which he equates with “social imaginary”) play out fantasies concerning complex social problems, Dieter Lohmar ostensibly extends the role played by the imagination to regions in which the symbolism at work subtends or supersedes language-based thinking. On Lohamr’s view, scenic phantasma draw their force from nonlinguistic systems of symbolic representations that he maintains are operative in human experience. At the same time, the narrative elements that he insists inhere in scenic phantasma vest the “series of scenic images” (207) that he likens to short and condensed video clips with an evaluative texture. According to Lohmar, “it is nearly impossible to represent the high complexity of social situations by means of language alone” (208). For him, the recourse to scenic phantasma offers a nonlinguistic alternative for representing these complex situations in an intuitive way. Weaving series of scenic representations together into a “kind of ‘story’” (209) redresses the apparently insurmountable problem of conceptualizing adequately real-life situations and calculating accurately the probabilities of possible outcomes. Scenic presentations of one’s attitudes and behavior in response to a personal or social problem or crisis thus supposedly provides a more reliable basis for judging the situation and making a decision as to how to act than linguistically mediated accounts of events. Lohmar insists that “[o]nly in the currency of feeling are we able to ‘calculate’” (212) possible outcomes through appraising competing factors in order to arrive at a decision. For him, this “‘calculation’ in the emotional dimension” (210) thus provides a greater surety with regard to one’s motives and convictions than propositional abstractions.
The theory of kinesthetic imagination that Gediminas Karoblis advances extends the concept of productive imagination to the corporeal reality of bodily movement. According to Karoblis, Ricoeur voids the corporeal moment of kinesthetic movement by ridding the imagination of the spell of the body in order to account for the productive imagination’s transformative power. In Karoblis’s view, Ricoeur insistence on fiction’s capacity to place the real in suspense accords with the idea that the “kinesthetic sphere in principle pulls us back to reality” (232). Similar to Lohmar, Karoblis sets kinesthetic phantasy against the linguistic domain. For him, contemporary virtual and augmented realities are as much phantasy worlds as are the worlds projected by narrative fictions. Kinesthetic phantasy, he therefore maintains, involves a phantasy body that is “positively imagined as free” (234) as, for example, in the case of flying. According to Lohmar, positing bodily movement as quasi-movement, as though the act of flying was physically enacted, fulfills the “necessary requirement of the irreality and the freedom applicable to any imagination’ (233). We might wonder whether a future in which kinesthetic experiences manipulated by designers of fully immersive computer games will be one that supplants fiction’s mimetic refiguration of the practical field of our everyday experiences. Conversely, the kinesthetic imagination’s role in figuring nonnarrative dance, for example, evinces its productive force through revealing the grace and power of bodies in motion.
The essays in this volume thus not only explore the enigmas and challenges posed by Kant’s conceptualization of the productive imagination, but they also broaden the scope of inquiries into the imagination’s operative role in various dimensions of our experiences. The sundry directions taken by post-Kantian critiques and appropriations of the concept of productive imagination is a testament both to this concept’s fecundity and to its continuing currency in contemporary philosophical thought. Furthermore, the degree to which the authors in this volume draw upon, and in some ways are inspired by, Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Castoriadas, and Ricoeur bear out the extent to which the work of these authors adds to, and augments, the history of this concept. We should therefore also recognize how, in these essays, philosophical imagination is at work. For, every question, difficulty, or challenge calling for an innovative response sets the imagination to work. Genius, Kant maintains, “is the talent … that gives the rule to art.” Correlatively, he insists that the products of genius must be exemplary. Phronesis, which according to Aristotle is a virtue that cannot be taught, has a corollary analogue in the power by reason of which of social and historical agents intervene in the course of the world’s affairs. The essays collected in this volume are indicative of the productive imagination’s ineluctable significance. As such, this volume broadens the scope of philosophical deliberations on the often highly-contested terrain of a concept the operative value of which is seemingly beyond dispute.
 See Paul Ricoeur, The Just, trans. David Pellauer (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2000). Ricoeur explains that by allowing for a “split within the idea of subsumption” (95), Kant reverses the direction of a determinative judgment, which consists in placing the particular case under a universal. Consequently, in aesthetic judgment, the individual case expresses the rule by exemplifying it.
 See Paul Ricoeur, Fallible Man, trans. Charles A. Kelbley (New York: Fordham University Press, 1986). Ricoeur emphasizes that is definitely intentional, in that a feeling is always a feeling of “something.” At the same time, feeling’s strange intentionality inheres in the way that the one hand, feeling “designates qualities felt on things, on persons, on the world, and on the other hand [it] manifests and reveals the way in which the self is inwardly affected” (84).
 Paul Ricoeur, A Ricoeur Reader: Reflection and Imagination, ed. Mario J. Valdés (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991), 130-133; Paul Ricoeur, François Azouvi, and Marc de Launay, Critique and Conviction: Conversations with François Azouvi and Marc de Launay, trans. Kathleen Blamey (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 179.
 Cf. Paul Ricoeur, Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary, trans. Erazim V. Kohák (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966).
 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1987), 174.
This study by junior scholar Anna Kouppanou proposes to recast Martin Heidegger’s conceptions of nearness, technology, and imagination in terms that show their interrelated phenomenological character as this speaks to the philosophy of education. Drawing substantially on the work of Bernard Stiegler, as well as Jacques Derrida, her method of analysis is less oriented in a Heidegger-studies approach per se, and more geared toward re-directing Heideggerian themes in service of specific questions. Kouppanou reads Heidegger from a persuasion such that the latter’s critique of technology is one-sided and negligent of considering how technology may overlap with other, more originary modes of being’s disclosure. She entertains a number of provocative theses. Among these theses are the following: nearness characterizes the event of truth and an essential aspect of education; technology affords nearness; imagination and temporality are co-constitutive; language, perception, and imagination are metaphorical; and the philosophy of education demands rethinking the interrelation of technology, imagination, language, and truth. All in all this project is an ambitious one, but Kouppanou gracefully weaves together a number of Heideggerian concepts and gives us new insights for understanding the scope of Heidegger’s notion of technology. I will say at the outset that I believe the study is actually much more effective on this score than it is on a philosophy of education front. To my mind this book’s most significant and groundbreaking contribution is its inventive interpolation of the connection between imagination, nearness, language, and technology in Heidegger’s philosophy. The concept of imagination in particular has historically been neglected in Heidegger studies, given Heidegger’s dismissal of imagination as a vestige of aesthetics and Cartesianism. Kouppanou’s book should broaden current understanding of imagination in Heidegger, especially in its positive sense.
Kouppanou prefaces the study in the Introduction by raising the question of how the concept of technology might be reconciled with Heidegger’s notion of authentic nearness. Kouppanou suggests that nearness ultimately concerns imagination, given that for something to be near entails that one sees it “as” this or that. Or vice versa, to see something in a particular aspect is to have it phenomenologically near. In other words, following Kant, the schematizing condition of perception is imaginative. This notion restates the hermeneutic turn in Heidegger, that any state of human understanding, any state of meaning, is always already interpretive. Kouppanou regards imagination (Einbildungskraft) as a core concept here because it unifies the schematization bound up in technology as Gestell with education conceived as Bildung (4). In this light there is a connection between technology’s enabling of nearness and education’s model of culturation; a guiding idea Kouppanou borrows from Véronique Fóti is that Heideggerian Gestell possesses a formative character similar to education. In other words, maybe there is not as sharp a distinction between Gestell and other, more originary manifestations of being as one may think.
The first chapter begins by addressing these issues further, taking up the concept of education from the critical standpoint of Heidegger’s concept of Gestell. Kouppanou highlights the current trend in education to demand measurement in terms of assessment, outcomes, research outputs, and so forth. The implicit notion is that, as “enframed” in a Heideggerian sense, education is removed of all freedom. The human subject in this situation is understood according to a pre-defined set of conditions, and her education is directed toward predetermined measures for future productivity. A text of focus for Kouppanou is Heidegger’s essay “Plato’s Doctrine of Truth,” particularly in its pertinence to Heidegger’s notion of education qua aletheia. As a reader of this essay would know, Heidegger interprets Plato’s Cave allegory in terms of the precedence of aletheia, truth as discovery, in paideia, education. According to this text, education means being brought into light from out of darkness. Kouppanou emphasizes the equally decisive presence here of “nearness.” The cave prisoners experience aletheia and enact paideia by being brought nearer to the real things they formerly saw in shadow form. As the story relates, education has its apex when one’s intellection attains nearness to the original sources of sight and being. Importantly in Kouppanou’s reading, this allegory introduces the distinction of truth as aletheia from truth as orthotes, or correct judgment, which is predicated on one being in the presence of the actual thing. As Heidegger holds, this moment is the advent of metaphysics, and likewise of knowledge conceived as adequate representation modelled after the actual thing (13). For Kouppanou, this distinction is emblematic of Heidegger’s accounts elsewhere of the epistemological commitments of “productionist metaphysics,” where the human being achieves knowledge by receiving and grasping the model. Pre-given standards are contained in the model, rather than discovered in the nearness afforded by aletheia. Another way to understand the phenomenon of nearness occurs in the later Heidegger, particularly in Heidegger’s accounts of the poetic image. These accounts concern production that is not derived metaphysically (16). This distinction is perhaps best borne out, as Kouppanou observes, in Heidegger’s notion of the work of art, where the work affords an originary instance of aletheia, not a mere copy of an externally existing thing (17). As Chapter One concludes, a principal question for Kouppanou becomes that of a middle ground between originary presencing and subjective imagination; that is, are there modes in which human beings can conjure or fashion images which nonetheless emerge from out of the originary presence of things? For Kouppanou, this is a question as to whether technologically-mediated images can afford nearness in a fashion akin to the nearness afforded by works of art (19). Kouppanou writes:
The distinction between poetic and non-poetic image opens up a whole new discussion concerning types of images (Bild), types of forming (Bilden), their relation to imagination (Ein-Bildungskraft) – as the one being affected in receiving and producing forms of imagining, and ultimately their connection with Bildung as the very process concerned with human formation (19).
Employing a more expansive notion of this concept than Heidegger, the author understands “nearness” as a mode of knowing and connectedness to the world that allows the human being to participate in the unfolding of life through formative procedures (19-20). Thus, she regards nearness as intimately bound up with education.
The second chapter explores these issues in relation to the dimensions of nearness afforded by Heidegger’s conception of phenomenology, especially the spirit of phenomenology’s dictum to allow the things to show themselves. For Kourannou, this overlaps with the phenomenon of authentic temporality, by which one allows the voice of conscience to be heard. This overlap is made evident in the temporal aspect in which everyday engagement with things derives from a temporal, historical origin. As Heidegger observes in Being and Time, perception is grounded in “seeing-as.” Nearness to things is predicated upon their presence “as” this or that. Our everyday world-involvement is already interpretive, and this interpretation is typically framed by the historical reception of the given (25). In other words, as Kouppanou describes, Heidegger’s brand of phenomenology “affirms an openness that lets beings be received” (25). This as-structure works forwards as well as backwards in time. Authentic temporality entails a seeing-as that frames what is to come, from out of the nearness of what is present. Language is likewise a mode for Heidegger through which the nearness of things is gathered. As Kouppanou highlights, a key distinction that emerges in Heidegger’s conception of language lay in language’s tie to phenomenology – language is the logos of the phaino. Kouppanou cites a passage from Being and Time according to which discourse or logos in the guise of spoken language allows for things to be “sighted,” in the Greek, phone meta phantasias. The term phantasia here is decisive for Kouppanou precisely because it at once entails the originary character of bona fide phenomena (through its root pha-, which refers to “appearing” and “showing”) while it also refers to the later Aristotelian notion of imagination, the more familiar brand of seeing-as (27-28). This later notion of phantasia as imagination characterizes the way something appears to one, as when a blip on the horizon of a desert landscape is “imagined,” seen as an oasis. The point Kouppanou leverages here is that the Greek conception of phantasia, understood as a microcosm for nearness and imaging, is at once passive and active. On one hand, it characterizes the human capacity for receiving appearances from outside oneself – of having appearances show up – in the form of images. On the other hand, phantasia is the capacity of image-formation, for imaginatively bringing an absent something near to one through one’s own constructive powers. The challenge is to understand how Heidegger can regard the active dimension of phantasia in terms other than the representational, when he holds at the same time that phantasia comprises the “sighting” of what appears. As Kouppanou describes this tension, the task for Heidegger is to “reimagine imagination in terms of a knowing that is transformative and yet responsive to things” (28). To resolve this dilemma, Kouppanou cites Heidegger’s own engagement with Kant on the question of imagination’s relation with subjectivity. The key to resolving the dilemma of phantasia conceived as representation versus phenomenological disclosure is the temporal nature of imagination, in the mould of Kant’s account in the first Critique. Imagination not only figures into Kant’s account of the conditions for the possibility of experience in the First Critique’s A-Deduction; imagination also drives Kant’s account of schematism, the subjective component of perception by which one forms images while also deriving such formation from things. Kouppanou cites John Sallis to emphasize that transcendental imagination is identical with originary time, writing “[i]magination thus lies at the heart of the unity of time, since temporality necessitates, above everything, connection and association” (32). Another way to describe this structure, Kouppanou continues, is to understand nearness as coextensive with temporal experience as Heidegger understands the latter. As Kouppanou puts it,
Taking this reorientation into account, image, formation, and imagination become indistinguishable from Heidegger’s temporality. For Heidegger, time is the result of synthesis, an originary association that allows past, present, and future to come together and give time. This original nearness of moments allows time consciousness and consciousness in general. Without this bringing-near of past and present, and presence and absence, time cannot be formed (32).
So in this light, imagination (Einbildungskraft), education (or “formation,” Bildung), and image (Bild) consciousness are co-constituted through temporality. Or what is the same, Heideggerian temporality is conditioned by the underlying synthesis or formation manifested in imagination, with nearness operating as a crucial component. A question that remains to be taken up in the third chapter concerns the nature of future-directed imagination, or what Kouppanou calls “in advance formation.” If imagination transcends mere subjective representation, then the question becomes one of how imagination’s future-oriented, schematizing mode avoids this limitation. The question she poses is whether there are other structures involved that make this possible – and in particular – what is language’s role, insofar as it plays into the formation of originary poetic images?
The third chapter explores these issues in greater depth. One aspect Kouppanou highlights in further analyzing the futural character of imagination is the moment of vision, the augenblick, as a poetic image. Here she invokes the three ecstatic modes underlying temporality in Heidegger’s account from Division II of Being and Time. The mode of futurity lay in Dasein’s character of being-ahead-of-itself, of projecting forward interpretively from one’s own factical state. Yet, Dasein’s futural orientation also possesses an imaginative aspect insofar as it can be influenced by Dasein’s authentic acknowledgement of the voice of conscience. Dasein’s potential for authentic temporality has its seat in allowing conscience to be heard and in wanting to respond to this voice. Imagination would seem to be a crucial component here in that Dasein’s responding to the voice of conscience is necessarily a seeing-as, a hermeneutic moment of vision that is poetically gathered for one and disclosed in image form by virtue of Dasein’s self-understanding through heeding its own death. Similarly, as was observed in the look at imagination in Kant, the notion is that the image-formation of authentic temporality does indeed stem from both a subjective foundation and one that responds to things. As Kouppanou summarizes this point, authentic temporality instantiated in one’s owning of death is a process of bringing-near, to make present what is absent (38-39). However, she also adds the rejoinder that nearness is not a concept that can be expressed propositionally. “[N]earing, just like the originary image, is less of a designation and more of a metaphor, an irony, and a paradox” (39). For “nearness” itself is a metaphorical idea. It does not refer to an objective orientation in space or a property neatly predicable in a sentence. Rather, it is an interpretive mode in which things appear to one. In this light, Kouppanou suggests that the linguistic origin of the notion of nearness qua metaphor merits further discussion. On one hand, metaphors are antithethical to Heidegger’s attempt to transcend metaphysics insofar as they postulate a divide between sensuous and nonsensuous reality. On the other hand, as Kouppanou suggests, Heidegger’s accounts of perception in various texts suggest that he understands sensation (aisthesis) as subject to metaphorical transformation in perception. This is to say, everyday human perception occurs through metaphorizing of sensation, given that all seeing is in fact seeing-as. Kouppanou writes: “The world as phenomenon, as Heidegger seems to argue, is perceived with the assistance of both aisthesis (the senses) and phantasia (imagination), or better yet: aisthesis perceives imaginatively and through the modification of sense data” (42). To say that perception metaphorizes the stuff of things is to regard perception as imaginative, as a kind of image formation. (An aside Kouppanou hints at here is that language’s metaphorical character is likewise imaginative, based in image-formation, similar to Nietzsche’s account of metaphor.) Kouppanou finishes out the chapter by again invoking the role of productive imagination by way of Kant. If one concedes that perception is imaginative, this assumes that perception requires “exterior images” (44). This is to say that, as concomitant with productive imagination, perception also engages the retentive aspect of time-consciousness by which images are frozen as schemas that inform future experience. In brief, perception is imaginative reproduction. In the chapter’s conclusion, the primary question asks whether nearness is confined to the relation of imaginative schematization and language, or whether there are other media in which nearness can occur.
Chapters Four, Five, and Six explore the concept of nearness according to its various treatments in the early, middle, and late periods of Heidegger’s thought, respectively. Chapter Four takes up nearness as it is implicated in the early Heidegger’s concept of things “ready-to-hand.” Chapter Five examines the role of nearness in Heidegger’s political thought, particularly as it pertains to Heidegger’s thought on homeland and native soil. Chapter Six focuses on Heidegger’s perhaps best-known discussions of nearness, from the later writings on poetic experience and the life of the “thing” (Das Ding), where nearness is conceived as an alternative mode of dwelling to modern technology. In what follows I will summarize these studies briefly before taking up the final two chapters of the book.
Chapter Four analyzes the early Heidegger’s account of nearness as revealed in things ready-to-hand (such as Being and Time’s tools) in order to better understand Heidegger’s attempt to “eliminate the technological aspects of being from his theorization of authentic time” (51). Kouppanou suggests that Heidegger’s avoidance of emphasizing aspects of existence such as “materiality, embodiment, spatiality, and prostheticity” (51) in his accounts of perception and world are reflective of his disinclination to include technology in the sphere of authentic temporality. Whereas, Kouppanou wants to suggest here that such a divide between the poetic or originary, and the technological, is artificial, given that technology is embedded in historicality. Technological being informs the imaginative character of perception no less than the rooted and homely in Heidegger’s early account of Dasein’s being-in-the-world.
Chapter Five examines Heidegger’s notion of nearness in its guise as a “political scheme.” The primary goal of Kouppanou’s focus here is to highlight Heidegger’s recasting of nearness into the political dimension of rootedness (76). Technology is to blame, according to Heidegger, for creating a false sense of nearness that results in rootlessness. Citing Stiegler, Kouppanou argues in contrast that technology does in fact have a constitutive role in the formation of the polis and the emergence of nearness; she emphasizes that “time cannot be a single destiny,” nor can time circumvent the mediation of technology (81). Simply put, authentic temporality cannot occur outside the sway of technology. Part of Heidegger’s error here, Kouppanou suggests, is to absolutize space as a metaphysical principle, whereas in Being and Time, he makes a stronger case that the nearness of space is a metaphor disclosed by Dasein. Kouppanou comments: “Heidegger’s return to space [in the critique of technology] coincides with the distortion of the very process that his thinking attempts to become: the poetic image. Instead of letting poetic imagery to be freely received, Heidegger imposes interpretations that temporalize space and emphasize the historicality of the homeland” (77).
Kouppanou transitions to Chapter Six by highlighting the later Heidegger’s move away from thinking nearness in terms of the futural, spiritual, and cultural. In particular, she emphasizes Heidegger’s remark in “The Origin of the Work of Art” that the poetic can no longer be understood from the standpoint of the imagination, but instead relies on a freely-received letting-be of the historical manifested in the interplay of world and earth (84-85). In other words, the later Heidegger seems to allow for historical being to occur as a disclosure of truth from without. However, Kouppanou suggests that the concept of imagination remains in play for Heidegger by virtue of informing his position on the relation of truth, language, and art. In particular, the function of metaphor as a proto-linguistic imaginative stuff underlying poetic experience suggests that imagination still figures into the primordial disclosures of being occasioned by art. Thus, poetic experience can still be regarded as imaginative in its foundations. In this vein Kouppanou writes:
While language is presented as the basic process that lets things be and affords nearness, Heidegger’s own metaphorical language says much more about the way nearness and the poetic realm unfold than his explicit argumentative language. What’s more, his discussion concerning the work of art, as a site for truth, emphasizes the spatiotemporal dimensions of revealing and accounts for the material and embodied aspects of its unfolding. This in turn provides us with an opportunity to reconsider poetic image as a mode of presencing that does not belong to language exclusively (90).
In the ending sections of Chapter Six, the final chapters of the book are previewed in some explorations of how Heidegger understands true nearness in the lived world of “things” (as in the essay “The Thing”) versus his view of the alienated state of being afforded by technology. Kouppanou highlights the primacy of the human hand for Heidegger in the creation of works fostering true nearness, as the hand is integral to both traditional handicraft and originary language conceived as gesture. Heidegger highlights this phenomenon when he contrasts the hand’s use in speaking and writing with the hand’s diminished capacity in these activities upon the advent of the typewriter. A pervasive ambiguity Kouppanou identifies here in Heidegger is the equal role of the hand in making use of differentiated, external being. It would be a mistake to claim, as Heidegger seems to suggest, that works of the hand constitute self-contained, holistic processes of creation. As Kouppanou suggests, there appears not to be a sharp underlying divide between Heidegger’s notion of the lived experience associated with tools and “things” of handicraft, which are derivative upon metaphorizing imagination, and robust manifestations of modern technology. Both make use of beings external to themselves in fostering their brands of nearness. It is not sufficient to claim that modern technology is problematic simply because it maximizes nearness and totally removes distance. The thrust of Kouppanou’s argumentation is that there seems not to be a fundamental difference between the imaginative disclosure afforded through, say, the hammer and the disclosure given through 21st-century computing.
The final two chapters of the book engage the findings of Chapters One through Six as they pertain to education and technology in current times. Of particular emphasis for Kouppanou is the type of nearness fostered by the imaginative schematization prevalent in the World Wide Web and social media. Kouppanou’s central argument in these final portions of the book rests on the claim that the nearness availed by modern technology is coextensive with Heidegger’s core assumptions about the relation of nearness, language, metaphor, and imagination. She writes that “technology is always already constitutive for our ways of seeing-as,” and “[a]ll technology participate in our hermeneutical processes” (119). In sum, “hermeneia is itself a material exterior and embodied metaphorical process unfolding through a twofold process of discretisation and synthesis instantiated through both language and technology” (Ibid.). For Kouppanou, this last view is decisive because it drives home the imaginative, metaphorical basis equally latent within “gestures, tools, words, and stories.” Metaphoricity is simply a constitutive element of things and their lived meaning (Ibid.). Kouppanou then grafts this reasoning onto the digital being of the contemporary computerized world. The digital world is not simply the alienated world of technology; for human Dasein the digital world is still being-in-the-world. (This view has been developed by other Heideggerian philosophers including Michael Eldred.) Online experience is coextensive with the worldhood of everyday, “real” experience. The metaphorized images of online being are equally meaningful as the “real” world of meaning (123). A core assumption of these passages is that the online experience fostered in media such as Facebook is always derivative from the meaning-structures embedded in intentionality.
In the final chapter, Kouppanou addresses these issues as they pertain to the philosophy of education. The primary question concerns whether modern technology’s current manifestation fundamentally alters the outlook for education conceived in its original guise as Bildung, formation through images. On one hand, she notes, the temporal form of “nowness” or constant immediacy created in online being would seem to encourage a pervasive lack of freedom. Online experience in this light is one of the individual perpetually being formed or educated from without (145). The danger Kouppanou sees here is the metaphorization or formation of the human latent in the pervasive reach of computing technology. For, technology, like handicraft is not merely metaphorized being in its own right; technology also leads its user to become metaphorized. This phenomenon has been documented in empirical science, as research has shown different types of media cause the human brain to rewire itself. Therefore, Kouppanou’s position here argues that technology’s power to completely metaphorize and rewire the educational process risks undermining the processes of discovery, scaffolded learning, and above all, hermeneutical freedom that are integral to education (150).
This book is a very impressive piece of scholarship for an early-career researcher. Its reassessment of Heidegger’s philosophy of technology in terms of the concepts of nearness and imagination is especially fruitful. Stylistically I believe the chapters proceed somewhat quickly at times, jumping from one dense source to another in often rapid fashion, when the author might in fact benefit from covering less material and proceeding more slowly. The connections between the chapter topics also sometimes suffer from a similar feeling of disjointedness, where the inclusion of certain topics and subtopics comes off as unmotivated and ad hoc. The fifth chapter on Heidegger’s political agenda struck me particularly strongly in this regard. The first four chapters of the book, along with Chapter Six, come across much more cohesively in contrast. However, these are all small caveats given the strong total contribution of the book. As I noted at the beginning, the book’s principal shortcoming may be that its conclusions vis-à-vis the philosophy of education are relatively lukewarm and prefatory. The final chapter in which education takes center stage reads somewhat more like an appendix, whereas the chapters dedicated to Heidegger are more focused on making sense of a complex line of inquiry in his thought.
This is the first in a series of three volumes of Gadamer’s essays. While many of Gadamer’s shorter writings have been translated and anthologized so far, this series aims to bring to the English reader the many that remained untranslated.[i] The translations in this volume are very readable and have a light touch about them, which also enhances access to Gadamer’s thought. By including several essays published well after Truth and Method (1960), the volume promises to make visible the nuances in his later reflections and deepen our insight into the earlier work. On the whole, it paints a portrait of Gadamer as an erudite historian of philosophy, a committed humanist (and staunch Europeanist), and a genial raconteur of his long, rich academic career.
These are mostly good things. While my review unavoidably considers Gadamer’s own views in these essays, I am more concerned even there with this edition as a self-standing volume and I will examine certain editorial and translation decisions to this end. The present volume contains 18 essays[ii] arranged in four parts, covering Gadamer’s reflections on (1) history in general, (2) Dilthey’s significance, (3) other critical encounters, and (4) Heidegger’s significance. A Preface by the translators outlines the goals and contents of the volume, stresses the nuance to be gained by reading Gadamer’s later writings, and situates Gadamer’s thought broadly with respect to its reception in both continental and analytic philosophy. An Introduction by the translators spells out some details of Gadamer’s thoughts on history, phenomenology, language, and practical philosophy, and encourages the beginner predisposed towards these thoughts.
Part 1 contains 6 essays, the oldest of which is from 1964 and the newest from 1991. This part considers the problem of history as a lived experience and as an existential question in the face of a prevailing naturalism. Part 2 contains 3 essays from the period 1984-1991, which attest to the enduring presence in Gadamer’s work of Dilthey’s conception of hermeneutics and historical consciousness. Part 3 contains 5 essays dating between 1974 and 1994, which situate Gadamer’s thought in relation to other figures in his firmament, Husserl, Sartre, Bourdieu, Habermas, and Derrida. While Heidegger looms large in in every piece, Part 4 contains 4 essays from 1985-6 focused on different aspects of Heidegger’s work as a researcher and as a teacher.
The essays on the first topic, “history,” vary greatly in style. Some are analytical and were intended as articles, while others are relatively lyrical, when not simply rambling, and come from “improvised”[iii] opening or closing remarks at conferences. The first essay “Is there a causality in history?” lays out the key idea. The concept of causality in the natural scientific attitude concerns a regular connection enabling prediction and planning ahead, whereas causality in history is rooted in the fundamental experience of an event as something that has already happened, something singular and surprising that entangles us in questions of freedom and necessity. To understand this experience, Gadamer unpacks the history of the concept through various philosophers and shows that the concept of causality is interwoven with fundamental ontological questions about human existence. Drawing up a term’s intellectual history[iv] and relating it to the structure of Dasein with Heidegger’s help is a common thread through several essays. The problem of history, then, invites us to think the question of being.
The other essays in this part develop this key idea different ways. I found it hard, however, to see how developing the idea differently also amounts to adding “nuance” to it, as the translators claim (viii-ix). The second essay is said (x) to newly re-engage Leo Strauss, but one finds in it just a passing mention of Strauss that clarifies very little.[v] Moreover, the essay’s thrust that the problem of historicism in recent philosophy has always been around since the ancient Greeks seems to de-historicize the issue itself. The third essay (from 1991) is really all over the place. In it, Gadamer returns to the contrast between the scientific and historical viewpoints, but we can scarcely take seriously the leaps he makes between the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe on the one hand, and Foucault, Homer, Galileo, and much else on the other.[vi] The essay eventually snowballs into dire warnings about the rise of technology and pious reminders about the value of the humanities. This might catch everything and still miss nuance.
To look for nuance in the fourth essay, which comes from “improvised” opening remarks, is futile. The last two essays in this part develop the concern for historical consciousness in a softer, reflective register, and ask about the experience of the old and the new and of dying. The nuance I find in the latter, however, is only an indirect one: while the conception of philosophy as a reflection on dying is somewhat familiar and remains interesting, Gadamer’s way of setting up this reflection via easy talk of the practices of dying in Christian, Islamic, and “the great East Asian cultures” (61) simultaneously underlines the need for a richer historical-sociological understanding of these topics and, in palpably betraying this need, Gadamer gives an honest account of the limits of his reflections on the question of death. In sum, while I celebrate the effort to make more of Gadamer’s corpus available to the English reader, I am left puzzled about how this also makes available a greater nuance.
Related worries appear in regard to the translation. As mentioned, it reads easily and captures the effortless flow of Gadamer’s travels through complex ideas and vast periods. The edition includes a general glossary of German, Latin, and Greek expressions at the end and helpful editorial endnotes to each essay guide the reader diligently. Yet, I am confused by some translation decisions. For example, it feels important to note Gadamer’s use of variants of both Geschichte and Historie in a volume taking its departure from the topic, but this is not done. It might very well be the case that Gadamer does not differentiate their senses, but, given his clear interest in linguistic and idiomatic trajectories as well as the Heideggerian background, it would have been useful to mark the verbal difference.
Had verbal differences been noted, essay 3 about the history of the universe and human historicity could have helped. Here, Gadamer seems to use Historie-variants for the professional discipline and Geschichte-variants for sites of deeper historical consciousness. Translating both with “history” and not marking the German term causes one to lose sight of this possible nuance.[vii] In the opposite direction, different words are given in place of one word. Gadamer consistently refers to a central concern in the essay on causality in history with the word Zusammenhang, but this is translated variously as “fabric,” “connection,” and “complex” on the first few pages (3-4).[viii] The same couple of pages also translate Freiheit once as “freedom” and then as “liberty,” but in this case it is possible to guess why two different words are used, for the editors may have wished to distinguish Gadamer’s own handling of “freedom” from Ranke’s technical term “scenes of liberty” (4).[ix]
A striking instance of the choice to translate the same word differently concerns another central concept featuring in comparisons of Dilthey and Husserl, which is itself a recurrent theme in the collection. In essay 7, “The Problem of Dilthey: Between Romanticism and Positivism,” Gadamer complicates a standard story about Dilthey’s work proceeding directly from psychology to hermeneutics, from conceiving the understanding as an inner process to its establishment as a general principle of the historical sciences. Rather, for Gadamer, Dilthey’s thought is initially inspired by Husserl’s anti-psychologism, which leads him to reformulate the account of an “inner process” through concepts of life and lived experience. Yet, unsatisfied with Husserl’s explorations of transcendental subjectivity, Dilthey combines both German Idealist and British empiricist influences to expand the theory of meaning and its grounding in life and, ultimately, to envision hermeneutics anew. The concept Bedeutung underlies this revised story, but this word is translated sometimes as “significance” and sometimes as “meaning,” apparently to distinguish Dilthey’s life-based conception from Husserl’s logical-ontological conception. While Gadamer himself consistently used one term for both conceptions, the terminological distinction added without notation by the translators may lead the anglophone reader astray.
The aforementioned essay is the first of three devoted to Dilthey’s contributions, making up part 2 of the volume. This part is stronger and more focused than the first. While the first essay (1984) sets out the central claims and turning points of Dilthey’s evolving work, the next essay (1985) pulls into its orbit Ortega y Gasset and Nietzsche, which, through their inclusion, broadens the debates on psychology in the period in which Dilthey worked out his position.[x] The translators probably had the third essay (1991) foremost in their minds when they noted that Gadamer, in comparison with his earlier critical rejection of Dilthey,[xi] “softens” his stance in the later essays (xxix). Here, Gadamer underlines that his earlier contrast between traditional hermeneutics (the line from Schleiermacher to Dilthey according to Gadamer) and philosophical hermeneutics (Gadamer’s self-representation) was not meant to separate, but to join the two in the demand for a reformed hermeneutics (107, 117). He admits that his earlier Schleiermacher critique was somewhat deficient, but he notes that that does not affect his Dilthey reading (105-6), and he appears to shift from his earlier, internal critique of Dilthey’s lamentable restriction to the concept of objectivity used in the natural sciences to taking it as a product of historical circumstance.[xii] The third essay was written in the context of new works on Dilthey’s thought and recent publication of posthumous materials, but it is still able to convey to us today the importance of re-examining the Dilthey-Gadamer encounter.[xiii]
Part 3 covers Gadamer’s other encounters (Husserl, Sartre, Bourdieu, Habermas, and Derrida) and is a bit of a mixed bag in terms of strength, but possibly justifies its inclusion in the volume due to the unfailing ability of Franco-German encounters to deliver satisfying entertainment, whether this takes place in a seminar room or on the football pitch. Essays 10 (1975) and 11 (1974) embody Gadamer’s reflections on Husserl. The former essay had been translated previously and I take it that it is recalled here as an introductory piece to situate the latter essay, which wades a little deeper into the issues. The former essay claims that appeals to intersubjectivity do not absolve Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology from its subjectivist trappings, nor is the concept of intersubjectivity lacking in Heidegger’s project in Being and Time, since the concept of being thrown into the world and the equiprimordiality of being-with and being-in-the-world include it. The latter essay analyzes the concept of the lifeworld and emphasizes that this is not a new development in Husserl’s thought. Rather, it marks a return to older questions about the thoroughness in bracketing the world, and, in fact, returns to yet older questions in German Idealism about thoroughness in setting up the foundations of transcendental philosophy (143). Gadamer locates his own turn to the movements of interpretation as an alternative to such issues of foundation, which have not been able to exit the sphere of the subject.
Essays 12 and 13 engage Sartre, Bourdieu, and Habermas, but they are not as strong as the Husserl treatments. Gadamer reminds us how novel Sartre’s joining together of Hegel with Husserl and Heidegger had appeared at the time and how this had to be squared with the characterization of Sartre as a French moralist. This concern with views from outside is also present in the review of Bourdieu’s The Political Ontology of Martin Heidegger, which is coupled with the short review mentioned earlier of Habermas’ Philosophical Discourse of Modernity. Gadamer cannot stomach Bourdieu’s sociological approach, which appears to him to reduce the highest questions of truth and thinking itself to mere posturing, and he suspects that Bourdieu’s analysis of academic sublimations of socio-economic structures and anxieties is driven by a misplaced animus against the German university system and by easy comparisons with the more public intellectual sphere in France (169).
The Habermas review is slightly more respectful, but in Gadamer’s eyes he too misunderstands Heidegger’s thought. This is due to his use of a French reception of Nietzsche to view Heidegger, whereas, while marred by reductionism, Bourdieu at least had the sociological orientation right. Part 2 closes as it began with another re-translation, this time of Gadamer’s 1994 reckoning with Derrida. Coming on the heels of the non-dialogue with Habermas and Bourdieu, this essay shows Gadamer practicing what he teaches as a theorist of dialogue, as he pursues one with deconstruction well after the Gadamer-Derrida exchange in the early 1980s had exhausted itself and which most had admitted to be of a “somewhat disjointed and non-dialogical character.”[xiv] Gadamer recounts here his problems with Derrida’s understanding of logos in the critique of logocentrism, the focus on writing but not reading, the asubjectivity in the concept of trace that ignores a fundamental dialogical unity, and he does not forget to remind us that Derrida is writing from a French tradition over a German one.[xv]
Part 4 brings us four essays on Heidegger from 1985-86, each replete with fond recollections of the master’s quips and quirks, but each playing a slightly different role in this part. The first (essay 15) combines an account of Heidegger’s formative influences with Gadamer’s own under his direction. Hagiography notwithstanding, Gadamer occasionally registers nuances that one looks for in his later work, which occur in the form of realizations that dawned upon him much later, although these are not worked out in detail. He mentions his “recent insight” (211) that a possible influence of American pragmatism through Emil Lask may have come Heidegger’s way, or how, only much later, Gadamer saw in Heidegger’s course (co-taught with Ebbinhaus [sic], 213) on Kant’s philosophy of religion the inner theological grounds of Heidegger’s critique of metaphysics, which informs several late essays, e.g. essay 2 in part 1.
Essay 16 touches on Heidegger’s turn from his early, theologically saturated phase to a later “flight into poetic concepts” (223), but the essay is too short to be informative. Essay 17 takes up Heidegger’s turn to the pre-Socratics and Gadamer again notes his late realization that this turn too was prefigured in the intensely religious and theological forces in Heidegger’s early thought (242). This essay is only as helpful as the large strokes it paints with, but it is for the same reason remarkable for its brazen declarations about “the Greeks,” the fulfillment of the destiny of the west, and the like, which surpass Heidegger-style declamations along these lines.[xvi]
Or, in another instance, which the translators single out to illustrate Gadamer’s historical approach to concepts,[xvii] Gadamer explains how illuminating Heideggerian etymology can be by telling us about the word ousia. Before its philosophical codification and sedimentation, ousia meant a sustaining relation to the land, or a piece of property in this relation, and this sense underlies Heidegger’s effort to re-think being through Anwesenheit. Strangely, however, Gadamer states that this old meaning persists timelessly and seeks to demonstrate this with the help of a problematic example of 20th century Greek displacements from war and genocide. “The Greeks” (237), who were pushed out to the countryside by external genocide and internal displacement in the 1920s are said to gain presence (Anwesenheit) because these refugees are “all of them housed in their own small houses.” What does this have to do with the ancient Greek term? Gadamer continues confidently:
“The Greek can say the same and can say it right up to the present. Whoever knows Athens can see this… Here, the word ousia manages to make the philosophical conceptual sense clearer in its relation to the original meaning of the word.” (ibid.)
The final essay 18 also revolves around Heidegger and “the Greeks,” but here Gadamer balances his endearingly self-deprecating reminiscences of the master as well as his protective gestures in the face of the latter’s “political ‘aberration’,” as he puts it (173), with a sharp account (257-268) of his differences with Heidegger over the question of approaching Plato mainly through Aristotle and thereby missing Plato’s own openness to an historical, dialogical questioning of being. Gadamer gathers evidence in support of his critique from close readings of Heidegger’s comments on Plato as well as various Platonic dialogues, which the reader will wholeheartedly welcome after the number of unsubstantiated, sweeping claims in earlier parts of the book. And although this is not Gadamer’s explicit intent, the style of his confrontation with Heidegger’s Plato hints at his proximity to the Tübingen school of Plato interpretation and to the shared background shaping the profound works on Plato by another student of Heidegger, Jacob Klein.
The end matter contains an index of names, an index of subjects, and a list of works cited by Gadamer.[xviii] In view of the express intent of the series to complete the task of translating Gadamer into the English through its selections, it would have been useful to include a list of existing English translations of Gadamer’s other works of the kind at the end of the Bernasconi edition of Gadamer’s Relevance of the Beautiful and Other Essays.
In sum, this collection of essays provides a convenient point of access into the main planks of Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics, despite some inscrutable editorial and translation decisions described above, which prevent it from fully serving further research needs. It presents a rounded picture of Gadamer’s thought situated against key themes and figures, despite the great variation in the quality of the texts, and, as we saw, the picture is revealing in unintended ways as well. Finally, it showcases Gadamer’s flair for the essay form. Reading his essays, then, renews faith in this dwindling rarity, but, also – and this might be one of the ways that the ability to revisit earlier ideas from later parts of a long life generates “nuance” – a collection of essays allows both the author and the reader to live through the experience of an object under varying conditions. Putting into words that well apply to a reading of his own writings, Gadamer denies an ideal of complete transparency and affirms the infinitely varied and fused shades of darkness and light “even during the course of one’s life, so that things in a changing light are illuminated in a changing manner and often fall completely into obscurity. There is no light of an enduring day that makes the true significance of everything appear.” (81)
[i] Thus, together with those that were translated earlier elsewhere (130 articles), the series (50 articles) helps assemble an English version of all the major essays in Gadamer’s Gesammelte Werke (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1986-95, 10 volumes).
[ii] Two essays in this selection had been previously translated into English by Gadamer scholars and translators Richard Palmer and David Vessey. These are both in the third part.
[iii] Essay 4 in this part, “A World Without History?” (1972), was an “improvised opening talk” at a conference (288n.1), and it reads as such. Essay 3, “The History of the Universe and the Historicity of Human Beings” (1988), was a concluding speech at another conference (286n.1) and also rushes through a bewildering number of topics. Essay 5, “The Old and the New” (1981), was an opening speech (288n.1).
[iv] Gadamer even formulates this at one point thus: “For a long time, I have followed the methodological principle of not undertaking any investigation without giving an account of the history of the concept.” (126) The translators’ introduction remarks on the richness of this method not without some enthusiasm, using Gadamer’s discussion of ousia as an example (xviii), to which I will return later.
[v] The sought nuance would pertain to the differences we might perceive between Gadamer and Strauss on the problem of historical consciousness, but all this comes to rest on one cryptic sentence: “Strauss could not see that a reflection on the temporality of our understanding and the historicity of our existence is not always already at play in this question.” (17). Which question? A few lines above Gadamer states that we are concerned with “the urgency of the Socratic question,” but there was no mention of Socrates up to this point. In another essay, Gadamer says that “[t]he Socratic question is a constant exhortation to remember, which sustains itself in all human reflection and in all human acts of giving an account of oneself, whether one may own such an account to oneself or to another.” (83) Presumably, Gadamer has this in mind, but neither he nor the editors help bring it before the reader.
[vi] Consider this passage, which continues the puzzling talk of the universe as evolving – Gadamer calls it a “theory of evolution,” no less (27) – from the Big Bang: “If there is indeed such an evolution, then it follows in fact that this evolution in always pressing onward somehow pulls the future of the totality into our speculation. Here Foucault comes to mind. This may exceed our cognitive capacities, but it is thought ‘scientifically’ and fundamentally promises a savoir pour prevoir. Now this situation is completely different in the case of history, as indicated by Jacob Burckhardt’s famous words about history…” (ibid.) No relief from the barrage of such associations comes until the essay ends.
[vii] The difference, at first pass, seems to be between, on the one hand, the textually received tradition of storytelling and its historical-phenomenological significance, and, on the other, the professional forms of studying the past beyond written records, involving archaeology and the pre-Greek past (28-29). The difference is missed in translating all instances with “history,” and made yet harder to see with other related decisions, like rendering Vorzeit as “pre-history” (240), Historie as “historiography” (49), etc. This contrasts with the attention given to Gadamer’s play with root forms of words, e.g. forms of stehen (51, 54), scheiden (52), schreiben (195), etc.
[viii] Or “context” in other places. Essay 7 mostly uses “connection” to translate Zusammenhang, except on p. 80, where, like p.100 in essay 8, the metaphysically loaded term “nexus” is used.
[ix] The editorial note 2 on pp.282-3 reminds the reader of Ranke’s conception, which suggests (without explicitly stating) that “liberty” was chosen to mark it off from Gadamer’s conception of “freedom.”
[x] The question of locating Nietzsche returns in essay 13’s talk of German and French receptions of Nietzsche in the context of a very short review of a Habermas text (174-8). Related to this ‘locating’ is Gadamer’s stress on claiming Ortega for German thought and as a consummate European: “[Ortega] is one of the essential figures of European thought… Today, Europe inquires into its tasks under the changed constellation of the declining century… At this time, it is very precious for us to have a Dilthey as a universal advocate for the historical tradition to which we belong, as well as the European Ortega, who drew his inspiration from the whole of the European history of thought.” (102)
[xi] See Gadamer, Truth and Method, revised trans. by Weinsheimer & Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1998), 173-242.
[xii] That Dilthey succumbed to the pressure of the times is expressed in essay 9 (109), but essay 7 (80) remarkably goes as far as to treat this as inevitable because Heidegger has shown that something of the order of the forgetting of being clouds modern metaphysics.
[xiii] The anglophone reader today has many texts of Dilthey on history and hermeneutics available in the English to enable their analysis as well as of Gadamer’s references to them. I’m especially thinking of Dilthey’s youthful, detailed treatise on hermeneutics, and other writings on history, hermeneutics, and human sciences published by Princeton University Press in the late 1980s. Truth and Method mentions but does not take up the earlier treatise by Dilthey, and the present volume encourages its re-examination. The volume rarely engages in close reading of texts, but does contain intriguing clues emphasizing the presence of German idealism in the constellation of influences and tendencies at work in both thinkers. This topic has recently received impetus from the work of Kristin Gjesdal (Gadamer and the Legacy of German Idealism  and her not unrelated Herder’s Hermeneutics ), for instance. In view of these areas of research, it would have been useful to include Gadamer’s essays on Hegel and other German Idealists as a more pressing matter than those covered in weaker pieces of the present selection.
[xiv] Fred Dallmayr, “Hermeneutics and Deconstruction: Gadamer and Derrida in Dialogue,” in Dialogue and Deconstruction: The Gadamer-Derrida Encounter, eds. Diane Michelfelder & Richard Palmer (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 75-92 (here, p.77).
[xv] “Even more strongly than [Stärker als] our idealistic and phenomenological tradition, to which Derrida belongs [an der Derrida teilhat], what appears essential in the works of Derrida is the French style of literary criticism.” (190). German in brackets added by reviewer.
[xvi] A sample: “When Heidegger speaks of the end of philosophy, we immediately understand that we can only talk like this from the Western perspective. Elsewhere, there was no philosophy that set itself apart so much from poetry or religion or science, neither in East Asia nor in India nor in the unknown parts of the earth. ‘Philosophy’ is an expression of the trajectory of Western destiny.” (229-230)
[xvii] See my footnote 4 above. The passage also elicits a long endnote by the translators (307 n.6), which focuses on the senses of Anwesen and steers clear of any comment on the disturbing example.
[xviii] Perhaps a sign of the times, but I note with some regret that I did not receive a hard copy of the book for review, which at least prevented me from seeing the back matter completely.