Hegel, Husserl and the Phenomenology of Historical Worlds by Tanja Staehler is an effort of integration between the phenomenological thinking of two of the most influential philosophers in the contemporary tradition: G.W.F. Hegel and Edmund Husserl. The author’s intention is to reframe a phenomenology of historical and cultural worlds by pursuing the potential of a mutual compenetration of the two German philosophers more than focusing on a static and sterile debate regarding what might make them two different thinkers. The main thesis here shows how Husserl’s phenomenology radicalizes Hegel’s by adding the character of infinite openness to the teleological development of historical Spirit, which afterwards will manifest itself as horizonally constituted. At the same time an Hegelian narrative applies to the entire “parabola” of Husserl’s thought, which the author describes as a progressive development from an abstract to a concrete phenomenology that finally emerges in his later studies and that, by an effort of recollection in the most Hegelian meaning, illustrates the phenomenological development with the motivations and explanations for his abstract beginning. Important to mention is how, within the tradition of Husserlian debate, Staehler takes the side of Derrida and Steinbock by defending the presence of a third phase in Husserl’s philosophy, alongside the static and the genetic, which she names historical. The three stages also serve as the methodological sections of the work.
Hegel and Husserl, in their different phenomenological traditions, both make clear that if philosophy wants to be recognized as a rigorous science it must be presuppositionless and thus, that a leap is required by consciousness in order to clarify what remains overshadowed by the immediacy (in Hegel) and naïveté (in Husserl) of our natural attitude toward the world. In this sense phenomenology takes the sceptical critique as its own starting standpoint by moving the focus of analyses from its directedness toward being, backward to the level of its appearance to consciousness. Scepticism then becomes a moment in the philosophical approach more than a simple school of thought (a point we credit to Hegel) and the very beginning of self-reflection. What for Hegel, however, is a thoroughgoing scepticism, simply „directed against the being of sense-certainty which takes its being as true as such,“ and which points beyond the level of phenomena (although in a new mediate form), for Husserl the philosophical approach takes the shape of a refraining from positing the being in the world. We might say that while the teleological presupposition leads Hegel toward a pre-established pathway engaging in what the author calls a pedagogical dialectic between the natural attitude and philosophical consciousness, Husserl chooses the path to suspend the natural attitude itself and to assume a philosophy of a perpetual beginning. A difference in the perspective but not really in the ultimate goal, as the final idea is to have a rigorous discipline better able to disclose in a clearer way the interplay of the perception between the individual consciousness and the phenomenal world. Alongside the similarities and differences between Hegel and Husserl, Staehler lets us notice how a first problematic arises when we approach the beginning of philosophy in the form of a necessary sceptical attitude as it represents everything except a presuppositionless standpoint and which thus requires a given motivation and a contextual explanation. This is a question that remains open until the last part of the work where the encompassing Spirit (in Hegel) and the Lifeworld (in Husserl) will appear and will be able to give a context to the motivation by an effort of recollection.
Hegel describes the process that leads consciousness from the immediacy of sense-certainty to the understanding of itself as the one very constitutive agent of the perceptual activity in the first three chapters of the Phenomenology of Spirit. The possibility of self-certainty is triggered by a tension between the unity of the object and the multiplicity of its properties which leaves us the feeling of a phenomenal world characterized by an ungraspable double nature. However, as the author underlines, that uncanniness is only given as a consequence of a static point of view and that when a dynamic perspective is taken the contradiction is solved. The concept of force is probably the best image to show how the coexistence of unity and its unfolding multiplicity is easily graspable when framed within a process-oriented approach. Staehler sees here a common pattern with the Husserlian image of the apple tree and the changing of its determinations in the persistence of an identical bearer. Important to notice is how the possibility of the synthesis of the manifold of the modes of givenness into a phanto-matic unity is possible only by the mediation of time which in Husserl is constituted at the level of inner consciousness. From a static and descriptive methodology the analysis here starts to move slightly to a genetic and constitutive approach. However, while a dynamic-oriented philosophy might represent the possibility of a parallelism between the two philosophers, a basic difference between them remains in the attitude toward the nature of the unity beyond the phenomena. If Hegel, carried by his teleological impetus, does not show any refraining from positing the identity of the object, for Husserl its possibility can be given only when all its modes of appearance are taken into account, a possibility that lies in the infinite. As the author says, “the goal of the perceptual process thus cannot be the adequate givenness of the object, but the closer determination of the thing in the process itself.”
The fact that the absolute identity of the object might be attainable only by an ideal and infinite perspective does not mean that Husserl denies the possibility of knowledge. The author is clear on that point when she frames both philosophers in what she calls an idealistic realism. The tension between unity and manifold is a tension between the focus of the natural attitude on the identity of the phenomena and the relativity of kinaesthetic, individual and cultural horizons while the role of phenomenology is the achievement of a more balanced perspective. Objectivity in Husserl is always partial but anyway possible and progressively enriched not only at the level of internal consciousness but even through communication with others. The analysis on identity and differences (in Hegel) and unity and manifold (in Husserl) begins to show the emergence of the main thesis of this work, namely how the character of openness of Husserl’s phenomenology might radicalize Hegel’s historical development. In order to proceed to this new stage of analysis, however, it is necessary to enter into the debate regarding the interpretation of Husserl’s phenomenology which, following Staehler, has been often too quickly enclosed in an idealistic framework as a consequence of misunderstanding the Husserlian concept of solipsism. The genetic approach, especially the one developed in Ideas and Cartesian Meditations, actually poses the possibility of the otherness of the other and it establishes the basis for what the author calls the historical Husserl. Solipsism, from her point of view, is not to be interpreted in the classical way but as a phenomenological reduction, exactly as the concept of the epoché, in order to clarify the how of the possibility of otherness. At the end of the genetic phase it eventually “becomes accessible in its inaccessibility” allowing the possibility of the foundation of the realm of intersubjectivity to be posed.
Hegel describes the development of the social and cultural world in the fourth chapter of his Phenomenology of Spirit where the master and slave dialectic and the struggle for recognition are introduced. The contradiction is eventually resolved in a typical Hegelian movement by a process of sublation by which the two forces find a balance within a new encompassing level, allowing Spirit to emerge. One of the last chapters of the work is dedicated to the Hegelian interpretation of the Antigone where the dialectical process is again described at the level of an ethical development. Far from psychologizing the characters, Hegel is more interested in the invariant pattern that Antigone and Creon carry on. In the struggle between the divine law and the political law an impasse is reached where neither of the two loses or wins. A reconciliation is only possible at an encompassing level, where the two compenetrate each other. This is expressed by the Chorus. Nothing similar appears in Husserl’s phenomenology of intersubjectivity, which never thematizes the Lifeworld as encompassing realm. Staehler states however that Husserl in his later studies, specifically the ones figuring into the Crisis, shows a plexus of phenomenological approaches which stand apart from the transcendental-psychological way opened by the epoché and by which an ontology of a Lifeworld is posited. The concept of the crisis is openly disclosed and serves as a catalyst in a recollection of the entirety of Husserl’s philosophy.
European man in Husserl’s terms lives in a contextual crisis that is rooted in the forgetfulness of the subject and of the Lifeworld, which are overshadowed by objective and scientific thinking. The role of philosophy is to find again a balance by the re-establishment of the subject as a real active agent of history. The role of phenomenology and its motivation, which were left suspended at the beginning of the work, are now finally explained. If the psychological-transcendental way, following the author’s analyses, leads us to the threshold of the ontology, the ontological way by historical reflection shows us the necessity for a better understanding of our inner consciousness. The recovery of the active role of subjectivity and intersubjectivity allows Husserl to move from history as a pure objective science of facts to what he calls ideal-history and toward a more horizonal and culturally-constituted historical development.
Cultural worlds are described by the author as a plexus of products, norms and values and also as “a world of custom, laws and regulations which the individual needs to consider.” They manifest themselves with the double nature of being established (stiftung), re-established and changed by man but at the same time at work as contextual constraints. There is a kind of Hegelian process in this circularity of an endless creation of new institutions and their establishment as new habitualized norms. The modern crisis can be seen as a consequence of the scientific attitude which eventually led to the forgetting of the primordial philosophy of the Greeks. The possibility of “re-inventing” history makes clear how there is an inner teleology at work in the Husserlian ideal-history. Goals conceived as norms and values are continuously posited anew thus offering the possibility of an open historical development in contrast with the Hegelian absolute teleology.
Staehler’s work gives so many causes for reflection that it is really difficult to give a complete account of it. It is worth mentioning that her insight on the phenomenology of historical and cultural worlds is not reduced to the simple encounter between Hegel and Husserl’s phenomenology. Other authors are discussed. The concept of event by Derrida for example and Levinas’s idea of an ungraspable future as something Other in regard to the Sameness of the intentional consciousness introduce a more radicalized character of nonlinearity to the historical development. More, a postscript is entirely dedicated to Heidegger’s primacy of moods and Merleau-Ponty’s concept of reversibility and ambiguity in the dialectical process. Not to mention Eugen Fink’s different approach on the motivation for the beginning of philosophy.
Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Second Untimely Meditation (INM) is a translation by Ullrich Haase and Mark Sinclair of a seminar conducted by Martin Heidegger in Freiburg over the Winter Semester 1938-39. Originally published as GA 46, the text consists of a collection of lecture notes and diagrams that loosely correspond to the topical sections of Nietzsche’s essay. Throughout the course Heidegger deepens his critique of Nietzsche, revisits the question of animal life, offers a lengthy reflection on the connection between truth and justice, and extends his reflections on the unity of temporality, historicality, and Being.
The title describes the contents perfectly: these lectures record Heidegger’s thoughts on Nietzsche’s “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life.” Readers should be familiar with the latter work to get the most out of Heidegger’s text. Needless to say, readers will also want to know a fair bit of Heidegger, starting with Being and Time (BT), but The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude (FCM), and Contributions to Philosophy: From Enowning are also advised. While Nietzsche scholars may find some items of interest, and should take Heidegger’s overall critique seriously (more below), this text will be primarily of use for scholars and students of Heidegger.
These lectures appear at the tail end of Heidegger’s decade-long rumination on Nietzsche’s philosophy, a period also marked by Heidegger’s so-called Turn (Kehre). In Being and Time it’s clear that Dasein oscillates between authenticity and inauthenticity, but through the Turn Heidegger began to view these transitions historically through the destiny (Geschick) of Beyng (written so in order to accentuate the verbal, eventful meaning of the term). That history is punctuated by certain epochal figures, of which Nietzsche is the last, marking the transition from the ‘first’ to the ‘other’ beginning. The sort of considerations that guide Heidegger’s thinking through the turn are not the focus of this text but they are evident as background assumptions that shape certain lines of questioning. As Haase and Sinclair note in an insightful article that can be read as a companion piece to the book[i], Heidegger alters his approving evaluation of Nietzsche in Being and Time[ii] to a more confrontational mode in these lectures.
It’s refreshing, given the expansive nature of some of Heidegger’s other writing from the period, to find a text so focused on a single topic. While often repetitive and enigmatic, the text is content to take its cues from Nietzsche’s essay and simply to reflect on what is offered. Rather than itemize these all and run down a list, I’m going to review some of the most important themes so that readers get a sense for what the text at its best can offer.
Nietzsche begins his second Untimely Meditation (UM) famously envying the cattle in pasture for their incessant forgetfulness. These meager creatures with their uninspiring lives achieve an effortless happiness, while we, even in our most joyful moments, suffer the awareness that all moments necessarily pass. The cause of this melancholic existence is our inability to forget, which is why we are historical and animals unhistorical. This distinction marks Heidegger’s first major point of contention. It is incorrect to call animals unhistorical, he says. Just as only beings who exist essentially with others can be alone, and only beings who are essentially determined by speech can be silent, so Heidegger claims that only essentially historical beings can exist unhistorically: “only that which is historical can be unhistorical”.[iii] Rather than unhistorical, Nietzsche’s cattle lack history altogether, Heidegger says.[iv] This is not just a pedantic point, for important consequences follow.
Nietzsche’s analysis implies that humans and animals occupy distant points along a continuum, from total forgetting to total remembering (later in his essay Nietzsche worries about an oversaturation of historical knowledge). For Nietzsche, the key is not to settle at some sensible mid-point, but to acquire a horizon that let’s one retain just the proper amount of historical consciousness necessary for life.[v] Heidegger complains that this encourages us to think that the problem is one of how much or what sort of things to forget, whereas there is a kind of forgetfulness that characterizes Dasein’s inauthentic, unhistorical way of being that has nothing to do with the amount or kind of memories Dasein retains. In fact, Heidegger says, being unhistorical is itself a way of being historical, in parallel with (or as another way of framing) the relation between authentic and inauthentic existence. After the Turn, machination and reification take over the role played by inauthenticity, where rather than structural features of Dasein these are increasingly understood as being-historical tendencies in the destiny of Western metaphysics. These lectures explain that we ought to understand Dasein’s unhistorical being not as some nearer approximation to animal life but as contemporary Dasein’s inauthentic way of being historical.
This is important because contemporary Dasein is unhistorical despite a flood of historical information and historical awareness. The massive increase in historical knowledge—Heidegger and Nietzsche agree—is not the result of exogenous improvements in the technology for discovering and disseminating historical facts (quite the reverse actually) but due to contemporary Dasein’s dominant self-interpretation as historical. Contemporary Dasein has so much historical information because it seeks it out and interprets itself accordingly. The rise of historicism in the German academy only reflected the rise in historical consciousness through which Western Dasein increasingly came to understand itself over the course of the 19th century. Many of Heidegger’s and Nietzsche’s contemporaries believed that this increase in historical awareness and information resulted in a manner of conduct and self-evaluation showing unique historical sophistication, as if modern Dasein were more in touch with its history than its ancestors. Heidegger and Nietzsche both dispute this idea. For Heidegger, it is clear that our scientific mode of framing and retaining historical knowledge– not the amount or kind–paradoxically blinds us to our historical existence. We know ever more about the past but by this very mode of knowing turn away from it.
In Being and Time Heidegger believed that this mutual distrust of historical science indicated a deeper philosophical agreement with Nietzsche. He claims that Nietzsche’s distinction between three modes of history—monumental, antiquarian, and critical[vi]–shows that Nietzsche had achieved—though left unsaid—an insight into the original unity of authentic temporality. Nietzsche claimed that the historicism of his day overlooked the fact that history is in service to life, and Heidegger seemed to detect an affinity between this claim and his own warnings against scientism as the de-worlded representation of beings in the mode of the present-to-hand.
A decade later, these lectures show that Heidegger has substantially revised his understanding of Nietzsche’s project. Rather than revealing the ground of authentic historicality, Nietzsche now represents the final forgetting of Being. Specifically, Heidegger believes that, behind an ostensible critique of science and objective historiology, Nietzsche surreptiously announces the culmination of the scientific, technological enframing of Being.
The first sign of this re-evaluation is obvious in early sections of the text. Nietzsche argued that the proper approach to history should strive for the right balance of memory and forgetting. Specifically, historical memory ought to be measured by the life-affirming values it enhances in the present–via inspiration, reverence, and liberation, corresponding to the three modes of history. Heidegger reflects on different kinds of memory and forgetting–anticipating such distinctions as semantic, episodic, and observer memory–but the general conclusion is that Nietzsche only understands memory as ‘making present’ and thereby conceals its essence. Heidegger points as evidence to Nietzsche’s conflation of Historie with Geschichte. Historie for Heidegger is more than just the academic writing of history, and might better be described as telling history, something constitutive of any human community. In Being and Time he argues that it is important that such telling arise as an authentic expression of Dasein’s gechichtliches way of being grounded in ecstatic temporality. In these sections of INM Heidegger’s comments seem trade on a distinction familiar from Husserl. Husserl distinguished Gegenwärtigung from Vergegenwärtigung, the latter often translated by the somewhat clumsy ‘presentifying.’ Memory–or ‘recollection’–is a paradigmatic ‘presentifying’ act for Husserl, an act which presents its object as absent in its absence. Husserl was clear that presentifying acts presuppose and take as their content prior, original intuitive presentations, so recollective acts are founded on and take as their content direct, intuitive retentions. Heidegger, both here and in Being and Time, argues that a similar relation obtains between the telling of Historie and Dasein’s original, geschichtliches way of being. Heidegger does not mean of course that Historie is answerable to Geschichte in the way that propositions are answerable to facts. “Mere making present and remembering are fundamentally different,” he explains, later clarifying that to ‘make present’ is to ‘take up into the present,’ whereas ‘to remember’ is “placing oneself into that which has been and as belonging to it”.[vii] So unlike Husserl, who grounded recollective memory on intuitive perceptions, Heidegger’s Historie is grounded in Dasein’s ontological involvement with or (as he frequently puts it in this text) ‘belonging to’ the past. Nietzsche, by effectively writing Geschichte out of Historie, erases Dasein’s ontological foundation in the past. Whatever meaning the past has for Nietzsche is written back into it from the present, and whatever has no present use ought to be ‘forgotten.’[viii] There are parallels here (not coincidentally, given that these texts are composed in the same period) to the way that enframing in the mode of Gestell projects the being of beings as standing reserve for the will, so ‘making present’ in Nietzsche’s sense displays a similar enframing projection of the past.
There are more entries on life in this text than on any other topic. In Being and Time Heidegger implicitly associates Nietzsche’s thinking about history with Wilhelm Dilthey’s philosophy of life and defense of the originality of Geistwissenschaften, but especially following the rigorous analysis of life in FCM, Heidegger no longer thinks that life is an appropriate concept for understanding Dasein’s way of being and has concluded that Nietzsche’s thinking about life stands directly opposed to Dasein’s fundamental historicity. Many of the statements about life in this text repeat the analysis from a decade earlier. Animals are ‘captivated’ by their milieu (Umfeld) whereas Dasein understands its ‘environment’ (Umwelt). Animality, says Heidegger, is not grounded in any intrinsic property of organisms but by the ‘absorbtion’ and mutual determination of organism and environment. Although this should not be understood causally, animals are merely responsive to their environment whereas Dasein is in some sense free. Animals do not transcend their milieu and so are “bound to the moment”.[ix] By elevating life to the name of being as a whole, Nietzsche projects all of being through this totalizing presentism.
Heidegger’s claims about animality remain controversial and the focus of ongoing research.[x] Scholars will not find anything in this set of lectures to contradict or add nuance to claims about the ‘world-poor’ existence of animals. However, readers will acquire better insight into the kinds of considerations that motivated Heidegger to undertake those analyses in the first place and the context they occupy for him. Recent interest in Heidegger’s remarks about animality has been driven by growing contemporary attention to animal rights and a broader critique of anthropocentrism, but as this text makes clear, those are not part of the frame that Heidegger brings to these issues. Instead, this text shows that foremost in his mind is combatting–what Heidegger believed to be–the confusions and regressions of Lebensphilosophie, historicism, scientism, rationalism, and the technological projection of being. He is especially concerned to awaken an attunement to the existential potential of historically transcendent Dasein. Richard Polt, in a recent lecture at Emory University organized around the Black Notebooks, states that during this period Heidegger began to interpret the barbarism around him as a regression to a form of animality that formed the counterpart to the calculative rationality of enframing.[xi] This sentiment is consistent with what one finds in INM.
This text also covers ground familiar from Heidegger’s more famous writings on technology and earlier set of lectures on Nietzsche. Looking beneath the surface of Nietzsche’s frequent critique of consciousness, moral motivations, and objective truth, Heidegger claims to find an even purer expression of modern rationalism. As Heidegger would explain in the Question Concerning Technology (QCT), what defines technological rationalism is not consciousness per se but the projection of being as standing reserve for the encompassing presentism of the subjectum. Nietzsche’s ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ might undermine the epistemic self-certainty of consciousness but only to the effect of extinguishing any remaining resistance from beings themselves to ‘life’ and thus the erasure of being into nothing. Being itself is nothing but the projection of life. Thus “despite the enmity with Descartes,” Heidegger writes, Nietzsche “only replaces the cogito by a vivo and thereby raises the subjectum to the highest level of preeminence”.[xii] This story, as I’ve mentioned, will be familiar to readers of Heidegger’s other writings on Nietzsche and technology, but this text adds a specifically historical inflection to that critique.
That inflection sets the context for one of the more noteworthy sections of the text where we find Heidegger offering a sustained reflection on justice. The original connection–between life, truth, history, and justice–is not Heidegger’s but Nietzsche’s. In UM, Nietzsche describes, in his usual complex way, the drive for an austere objectivity in history as a kind of justice. Unlike other areas of science, we cannot remain indifferent to the results of history. (Feigned indifference, modeled on scientific dispassion or aesthetic indifference, always dissembles ulterior, self-aggrandizing motives, Nietzsche believes). I have no particular stake in the specific atomic weight of some element, but to discover that the revered founder of my country was a kleptocratic murderer, or that your friends have never really respected you, can be profoundly affecting. It requires a rare and special sort of fortitude, Nietzsche imagines, to look directly at historical truth nonetheless, calling that a kind of justice. Normally, Nietzsche assumes, we use the past for precedents and excuses, for scapegoats and reassurance, a tendency at both the individual and collective level. Those few who are not seduced by such drives possess what Nietzsche calls a “dreadful virtue” that confers the right to be a “regulating and punishing judge”.[xiii] But even this drive for justice must be wed to an artistic drive to create lest it undermine the very life it expresses. As Heidegger explains, Nietzsche’s notion of justice is not about what is or has been but about possibility, the ability to posit new goals and ideals.[xiv] Without such goals, this dreadful justice only destroys. Nietzsche points to the withering effects historical criticism had had on the spiritual power of religious figures like Jesus, and today we might point to contemporary histories that turn an unflinching eye toward the details of the oppressive and unjust legacies of our own past. When in service to a life-affirming ideal, the dreadful virtue of historical honesty can be creative, but most of us never achieve or even aspire to such historical virtue. Instead, we are motivated by “boredom, envy, vanity, the desire for amusement,” etc.[xv] Nietzsche mocks the careful historians of his day (and he could easily be talking about our own) for judging the deeds and opinions of the past by standards of the present and calling that ‘objectivity,’ work he derides as the attempt “to adapt the past to contemporary triviality”.[xvi]
In Being and Time Heidegger saw in this accusation of banal anachronism a connection to his own critique of publicness, but in these lectures he finds something else. The drive towards justice–even the austere, virtuous kind that Nietzsche admires (and would practice with his method of genealogy–belongs rather to life than truth. Nietzsche will persist using the word ‘truth’, but Heidegger argues that his failure to see past metaphysics nullifies his right to that term. Nietzsche’s claims to truth are a ruse: “The will to truth belongs to “life” and in this belonging it is precisely the will to untruth, to appearance.[xvii] Truth is really untruth, which is to say, no truth at all, only life.
For all of his criticisms of how philosophers talk about truth, the need for truth remains one of Heidegger’s deepest and most persistent commitments. It is a commitment Nietzsche cannot share because, Heidegger claims, Nietzsche continues to think of truth through the metaphysical opposition of being and becoming.
“What Nietzsche here grasps as “will to truth”—always from the perspective of the human being—is it not simply the will to the “true,” that is, to what is “fixed,” and therefore precisely not will to truth as an essential will to the question-worthiness of the essence of the true?”[xviii]
For all of his ability to see through the pretensions and self-deceptions of philosophy, Nietzsche still cannot see how that which changes—that which has a history—can be true, and so he rejects truth—and with it, being—for the sake of something he calls life. (Heidegger includes several interesting asides cataloguing the inconsistent ambiguities in Nietzsche’s use of that term in connect with similar ambiguities in his uses of ‘justice’ and ‘truth.’)
Heidegger scholars will find this text frequently fascinating if also enigmatic and frustrating. As this review illustrates, it stays for the most part on the level of critique. But a positive understanding of being-historical is intimated between the lines of this critique, and begins with the aforementioned notion of historical truth. Understood within the framework of traditional epistemology the very idea is barely intelligible. How could truth change? Historical relativism or some sort of temporally-indexed contextualism are insufficient. Either way, truth itself is not ‘historical’ but relativized into fixed frame or constantly shifting perspective. This suggests that we should look elsewhere than traditional epistemology to get a sense of what truth as historical might mean. The first step is to recognize that truth is a guiding, constitutive feature of Dasein’s existence—lived out more than known, enacted rather than objectively grasped. As Haase and Sinclair note, this is a sense of being-historical already laid out in 1919/20 in Phenomenology of Religious Life. As I write, my country—the United States—confronts a deep crisis about the kind of country it has been, is, and will be. And familiar arguments over our history have once again become public (Are we an immigrant nation or an ethnic one? A liberal and progressive nation or reactionary and conservative?) It is a mistake to assume that the past is fixed, or that history unfolds a fixed essence. But it is equally wrong to assume that there is no ‘truth’ to the matter or that historical truth is confined to the present. The past not is a set of facts, but one ground for the possibility of meaning, a possibility that also includes the present and the future. The meaning, for instance, of the Constitutional Convention is not found only in the facts of what occurred in Philadelphia in 1787, but in the meaning that those facts continue to have today for those of us responsible to them, and that meaning in turn is not just found in the present facts of today but in who we become in the future. We right now are aware of all this right now and thus our present is this responsibility towards our future by way of our past. The truth is not something we create, nor something we find, but something for which we are responsible. It is—and this is my final observation—this notion of responsibility that Heidegger implies is missing from Nietzsche’s philosophy. For Nietzsche the past and the future are consumed by a drive for power into a totalizing present: “‘life’ is posited in advance as life-intensification, as the consuming desire for victory, spoils, and power, which in and of itself means: always more power”.[xix] Is this a hint at Heidegger’s so-called subtle ‘resistance’ to National Socialism in his Nietzsche lectures? If so, it is an important datum for intellectual historians trying to gauge Heidegger’s precise sympathies, but all the same, must strike us now as pathetic and insufficient.
[i] Haase, Ullrich and Sinclair, Mark. “History and the Meaning of Life: On Heidegger’s Interpretations of Nietzsche’s 2nd Untimely Meditation.” Heidegger in the Twenty-First Century. Springer: 2015.
[ii] See especially BT, Division II, Ch. 5.
[iii] INM, 24.
[iv] “The animal is not unhistorical, but much rather without history [historielos] – and these are not the same.” (INM, 24). See also: “The human being is in its very essence characterized and distinguished by the historical. At the same time, the unhistorical has a primacy within human life.” (INM, 18)
[v] “A living thing can be healthy, strong, and fruitful only when bounded by a horizon.” (UM, 63). Heidegger questions why Nietzsche seems to equate the ‘horizon limitation’ with ‘being able to forget.’ (INM, 115)
[vi] See UM.
[vii] INM, 33. And elsewhere: “representing–bringing before oneself–derives from a mere making present (free and unrestrained) which is not carried and goverened by remembering (the being concerned by what has been, being affected by it)” (INM, 92).
[viii] “…for Nietzsche, ‘history’–when he does not simply equate it with historiology–is what first of all comes into being by means of objectification on the part of historiology” (INM, 78).
[ix] INM, 16.
[x] See Calarco, Matthew. Zoographies: The Question of the Animal from Heidegger to Derrida. New York: Columbia UP, 2008; Derrida, Jacques, Michel Lisse, Marie-Louise Mallet, and Geoffrey Bennington. The Beast & the Sovereign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011; Padui, Raoni. “From the Facticity of Dasein to the Facticity of Nature: Naturalism, Animality, and Metontology.” Gatherings. The Heidegger Circle Annual, 3 (2013): 50–75; Tanzer, Mark. “Heidegger on Animality and Anthropocentrism.” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 47.1 (2015): 18-32;
[xi] “Inception, Downfall, and the Broken World: Heidegger Above the Sea of Fog.” In Heidegger’s “Black Notebooks”: Responding to Anti-Semitism, ed. Andrew J. Mitchell and Peter Trawny. New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2017.
[xii] INM, 114.
[xiii] UM, 88.
[xiv] See INM, 144-5.
[xv] UM, 88.
[xvi] UM, 90.
[xvii] INM, 118.
[xviii] INM, 119.
[xix] INM, 178.
With the recent publication in English of the ‚Black Notebooks‘ (2014), much renewed attention has been paid to Heidegger the man, and particularly his association with Nazism and anti-Semitism. It is refreshing then to find the release of a work where political and biographical controversies take a back seat. Originally published in German in 2003 as volume 46 of the Gesamtausgabe (‘Complete edition’), ‚Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Second Untimely Meditation‘, is the translation of a series of seminar notes from the winter semester of 1938-39 in Freiburg. The content of these seminars, delivered eventually in the form of lectures by Heidegger, was the second of Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations: ‘On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life’ (1874) ((hereafter, when cited, UTM: 2)) . And this has been ably translated into English by Ullrich Haase and Mark Sinclair, who also provide a brief introduction and a post-script by the original German editor, Hans-Joachim Friedrich.
As said then, Haase and Sinclair render the German into a readable and fluent English. They make potentially clunky and jargon laden passages from the original seem natural, and also do a good job of dealing with the specific difficulties thrown up by this text. In particular, they confront well the problem of distinguishing between Historie, the study of the past, and Geschichte, which is the past in general, as it underpins reality. And they do this by translating the former as ‘historiology’ and the latter as ‘history’. Likewise, they deal effectively with the various German terms surrounding memory and forgetting. Specifically they render Erinnerung as ‘remembering,’ Gedächtnis as ‘memory’, Andenken as ‘remembrance,’ Vergegenwärtigung as ‘making present’, and Behalten as ‘retaining’. However, while providing some context, and flagging up issues of translation, they could do more in the way of guidance for the reader. That is to say, Haase and Sinclair could say more about how one should read the text. This is an issue precisely because as the translators acknowledge ‘Heidegger’s notes are for the most part schematic and fragmentary’ (xii). As such, read simply in themselves, large sections may come across as confusing or obscure, especially for those not versed in Heidegger or the work being interpreted. For this reason, a helpful suggestion might have been for the text to be read in conjunction with the second Untimely Meditation itself. Like the lectures originally therefore, The Interpretation would make more sense when it is read alongside the passages from Nietzsche under discussion. Indeed, given that the sections from Untimely Meditations analysed are relatively short, a prior reading of each before looking at the corresponding chapter in Heidegger is highly recommended.
The introduction might also do more regarding other relevant texts by the author. For instance, attention could be drawn to ‚The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics‘ (1929-30), the ‘Letter on Humanism’ (1947), and‘ What is Called Thinking‘ (1951-52), all of which touch on similar themes found in The Interpretation. In particular, Heidegger’s understanding of the distinction between the human and the animal, and critique of the ‘animal rationale’, is something developed in each of these works. In any case, looking to the text itself, we can say that the structure of the work is relatively straightforward. With the exception of a short introduction on the nature of interpretation and ‘thinking’, Heidegger’s twenty chapters by and large track the ideas and arguments raised in the first six sections of the second Untimely Meditation. These lettered major sections, from A to T, are typically direct discussions of what Nietzsche said in a particular section. And these are sometimes followed by more thematic chapters related to specific ideas raised there. As a result, after the ‘preliminary remarks’ he begins with an account of section one of Nietzsche’s text. This is focused on the nature of memory and forgetting, and the meaning of the historical and ‘unhistorical’. After this, Heidegger looks at section two of ‘Advantages and Disadvantages’, which deals with what Nietzsche calls ‘monumental history’. We then, in C, have an account of the antiquarian and critical modes of history found in that Untimely Meditation. Chapters E, F and G meanwhile represent thematic discussions concerning historiology. A discussion of section four of the ‘Advantages and Disadvantages’ follows, which deals with cultural critique. Barring thematic digressions, the rest of the text then looks at sections five and six of the second Meditation. This involves, respectively, a critique of the ‘historical man’, and an analysis of the pursuit of historical truth for its own sake. That is, it looks at what Nietzsche calls ‘truth that eventuates in nothing’ (UTM: 2, 6: 89). Heidegger then finishes The Interpretation with a lengthy thematic discussion of the concepts of truth and justice employed by Nietzsche in the later sections.
It is worth noting, before moving on, that Heidegger’s attention to each of these themes and sections is not necessarily commensurate with the emphasis given to them by Nietzsche. Sections one and six, for instance, receive much more attention than the others of similar length in the original, and the issues of truth and science are also stressed far more in Heidegger. It should further be observed that he does not address the final four sections of Nietzsche’s text, only the first six, and that the other three Untimely Meditations are not even mentioned. The reasons for such an omission are never really made clear. Although it is consistent with Heidegger’s predilection for minutiae in interpretation, this may be a source of frustration for anyone expecting a more definite reading of the Untimely Meditations as a whole.
Nevertheless, moving away from these more general considerations, there remains much of value in Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche here. Specifically, the discussion of memory and forgetting stands out as particularly thought provoking. This is because this issue constitutes the most sustained, and philosophically interesting, theme which Heidegger explores in relation to this work. This discussion also forms the kernel of what is illuminating about other aspects of Heidegger’s reading of this text, as well as how the two figures differ. That is, it also informs subsequent themes in the dialogue between Nietzsche and Heidegger. To explain briefly then, Nietzsche argues in the second Untimely Meditation that the human being is fundamentally just an animal that has acquired the ability to remember. That is, the human is an animal that has gained the ability to be aware of itself within, and stretched over, time. Or, put more precisely, we are an animal that has overcome that constant proclivity to ‘forget’ which traps other creatures in the perpetual present. And this is, for Nietzsche, what gives the human its distinguishing nature as ‘an imperfect tense that can never become a perfect one’ (UTM: 2, 1: 61)
Yet it is precisely this point of clarification regarding forgetting that Heidegger takes issue with. This is because, he believes, Nietzsche mistakes the order of logical priority pertaining to this capacity and that of memory. As he says, ‘The characterization of forgetting remains in Nietzsche underdetermined and contradictory, because he fails to clarify the essence of remembering and of making present.’ (40) And, continuing, this means that ‘Nietzsche does not determine forgetting as a variant of retaining (making present to oneself and remembering), but vice versa: “remembering” is a variant of forgetting as not being able to forget.’ (41) In other words, Nietzsche, according to Heidegger, fails to analyse remembrance properly. And this leads him to view memory as the suppression of forgetting, rather than seeing forgetting as something that is possible only once a memory has been established in the first place. Furthermore, this has consequences for of an understanding of the life of the animal. For Nietzsche, on this view, fails to make sense of a certain observable phenomenon in the natural world. This is what Heidegger describes when he says that,
‚the tit always finds its way back to its nest, and therefore must be able “to retain” its place and aspect. The robin waits every morning for the mealworm that has been put out for it. Migratory birds always return to the same region. The dog comes back to the buried bone.‘ (39)
Put another way, Nietzsche’s stress on the primacy of ‘forgetting’, and of the animal as in a state of constant forgetting, means he is unable to make sense of these more ambiguous instances. That is, wanting to determine the animal purely in terms of the ‘perpetual present’, he is forced to ignore those cases where they appear to possess something with certain inchoate similarities to human memory. Further this, for Heidegger, is merely symptomatic of a deeper misunderstanding and simplification of the world of the animal on Nietzsche’s part. And central to this, is an overlooking of what he calls ‘captivation.’ As he says then,
‚It is not that the animal retains something for itself in the mode of a constantly possible making present; rather the animal is held within its milieu as captivated by it, in such a way that, depending on the sort of animal it is, now this now that emerges in a withholding manner and then sinks back, again within the indeterminate contours of its milieu. This emerging and taking away and taking in happens in each case within a circle of relations that is not present as such.‘ (39)
In other words, we should not understand the animal in terms of an endless state of ‘being present’; trapped in series of perpetually static moments. Rather we should view it more in terms of a fluid, and temporally ambiguous, absorption, or captivation, in its world. Thus the animal is continually moving back and forth between a state of ‘being-taken-along-with’ (39), its interest held by some specific engaged relation to its environment, and a more passive ‘sinking back’ into the amorphous totality of its world. And critically it is this model, rather than that of ‘perpetual forgetting’ that for Heidegger can make sense of the problem cases described earlier. That is to say, it is this model, rather than Nietzsche’s, which can account for how certain animals, without having ‘memory’, nonetheless exhibit a more complex temporal relationship to their environment than perpetual presence.
However returning to an assessment of other parts of the book, this issue continues to play a role. The question of memory and forgetting, for a start, is for Nietzsche tied to the different kinds of history that may be practiced by a culture. So for example ‘monumental history’ involves a veneration of past great figures and actions so as to inspire the present. But this also necessarily involves a certain kind of wilful ‘forgetting’ of what may be limited or problematic about such figures and their ages. Conversely ‘critical history’ involves the effort to soberly ‘remember’ and critique the past as objectively as possible, regardless of its effect on the present. The danger of this approach though is that, as with the individual, an excess of memory may paralyse present action. Heidegger’s analyses of these different modes of history, and of the ‘antiquarian’ mode, are nevertheless for the most part uncontroversial. Since the advantages and disadvantages of these types of history are also relatively well known we will not dwell on this aspect of The Interpretation. That said, he does make an interesting point regarding the correspondence of these different modes to what he sees as the three essential comportments of human life. These are ‘life-intensification, life-preservation, life-liberation’ (75). Likewise these are said to correspond to the three temporal dimensions of the human: past, present, future.
In any case, we can say this theme of ‘memory’ also informs the ideas developed in subsequent chapters. Specifically, Heidegger’s discussion of sections IV and V of Nietzsche’s text, chapters H through K, on the topic of culture, is underscored by this basic concern. Here Heidegger provides a succinct analysis of how ‘the over-saturation by historiology’ (100), and hence a lack of forgetting, according to Nietzsche has ‘five noxious effects’ (Ibid). Again there is not space to go into all of these, but ‘the destruction of the “instincts”’(Ibid) and ‘the spread of a mood of “irony” and cynicism’ (Ibid) are two of them. And it should also be noted that Heidegger is actually very critical of this attack by Nietzsche on modern culture, describing it as ‘“polemical,” shallow, a rant’ (Ibid).
Moreover, the analysis of forgetting and remembrance in this text, as a final point on this, reveals a fundamental philosophical difference between Heidegger and Nietzsche. This concerns the distinction between the human and the animal, and is one of the most revealing aspects of Heidegger’s Interpretation. For Heidegger says that Nietzsche’s construal of the human being as essentially an animal with the capacity to remember leaves him trapped in a certain tradition of western metaphysics. This is the idea of ‘the essential determination of the human being as animal rationale.’ (134) And, put more exactly, it is a tradition which suggests that ‘The human being is a present-at-hand animal, and this animal has something like ratio—νοῦς—in the same way that a tree has branches.’ (134-135) Further, ‘The human being is endowed with this faculty and it uses it just like the hand uses a “tool”. (Ibid) A defence of Nietzsche on this point though could be proffered. For we might argue that to say the human is a type of animal does not necessarily commit one to the idea that it must therefore either be present-at-hand or exist as an animal in addition to some other capacity. Indeed, as also seen in The Genealogy of Morals, an animal that is divided against itself, and over time, does not have to exist as a substantial present-at-hand entity. Likewise, in so far as the human is an animal turned against its animal nature then what distinguishes it from other animals is not a specific attribute, but the radical transformation of its entire relationship to self and world.
Nevertheless, whoever is right, the present text sheds interesting light on this fundamental difference between the two. That is, it sheds light on Nietzsche’s naturalism in contrast to Heidegger’s belief in a more ‘abyssal’, to use a recurring term in the book, distinction between animal and human. Perhaps what is frustrating though is that Heidegger does not really spell out what this difference amounts to, or what an alternative to the human as a type of animal would look like. There are also, we should point out, other limitations with Heidegger’s engagement with Nietzsche in ‚The Interpretation‘. Principal amongst these is that he does not really delve into the philosophical problems associated with a selective attitude toward the truth or history. For how can one choose to forget more, and remember less? This is an issue that crosses over with problems raised by philosophical work on self-deception by Mele (2003) and others. In other words, how can we be wilfully selective about our view of a certain age, and toward a certain end, without in some ways engaging in distortions of what we know to be true? And Heidegger’s claim that Nietzsche’s ‘doctrine concerning truth should in no case be associated with a coarse and cheap American pragmatism’ (155) is obviously inadequate to answer these concerns. Similarly, Nietzsche’s own over-valorisation of the Greeks is something that goes unchallenged by Heidegger. For how can the ‘example’ of Greek culture really be an inspiration if we know that the ‘example’ is in many ways based on a myth?
All that said, ‚The Interpretation‘ as a whole doubtless has a lot to offer. It certainly will be of enduring worth to Nietzsche and Heidegger scholars. And this is particularly because we see here the latter’s sustained engagement with a specific published text, rather than the more familiar interpretation based on Nietzsche’s notebooks (‚Will to Power as Art‘, v.1 1936-39, v.2 1939-46). It is also of value for bringing to light an intriguing critical discussion of a key issue running throughout Nietzsche’s thought. That is, it sheds light on what is an important philosophical question in its own right: the nature of remembering and forgetting in connection to what separates the animal from the human. In this sense, this book will as well be of interest beyond Heidegger and Nietzsche scholarship. Arguably, as mentioned, Haase and Sinclair could do more to guide the reader regarding how to read the text. For it is doubtless best read in conjunction, and dialogue with, the Untimely Meditation it is interpreting. They may also have flagged up Heidegger’s somewhat polemic, and politically motivated, rejection of Nietzsche’s cultural critique. Yet there is still much to be applauded here. And, in conclusion, the effort in bringing ‚The Interpretation‘ to English speakers for the first time has certainly proved to be a worthy one.
Since 2008 the Cologne-Leuven Summer School for phenomenology has been a hallmark within the landscape of the phenomenological summer schools of philosophy. Moreover, it is the only school which deals specifically with Edmund Husserl, and, as such, it is a must for anybody interested in the founder of the phenomenological movement.
This year’s topic was genetic phenomenology. Related issues, such as pre-predicative experience, the lived body, the relation of phenomenology to psychology, the access to other persons, intersubjective constitution, history, phantasy and the life-world, were also touched upon by a series of presentations carried out by internationally renowned Husserl scholars.
In the morning sessions, professors and post-graduates presented accessible lectures which unraveled particular topics related to Husserl’s thought. The afternoon sessions were devoted to either textual discussions or presentations by graduate students.
Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Static and Genetic Phenomenology”
Dieter Lohmar’s talk during the first day of the summer school focused on the distinction between static and genetic phenomenology. His aim was to show the continuity rather than the discontinuity between these two methods of phenomenological investigation. Lohmar stressed the fact that, thanks to the new critical edition of Ideas II, we can now place the date of the beginning of the genetic phenomenology between 1912 and 1915, i.e. the time when Husserl was working on his drafts of the publication of Ideas II. According to Lohmar, both different topics as well as different methods distinguish genetic from static phenomenology. Static phenomenology takes into account the structure of isolated complex acts, whereas it does not investigate the dynamics of the experiential history, which is rather a characteristic topic for the late genetic phenomenology.
It is possible to mention at least two paradigms or dogmas that broadly characterize static phenomenology. Phenomenology generally starts as an investigation of the essential structures of consciousness. From the point of view of static phenomenology, we can pursue this investigation only by focusing on singular acts (Lohmar baptizes this trait, the “one-act-paradigm” of static phenomenology). Furthermore, static phenomenology relies on the so-called “one-way-foundation-paradigm” related to the general direction of constitutive effects: doing phenomenology, we have to start from the lowest levels of constitution and then work from the bottom up. In the Logical Investigations, Husserl understands the relation between acts primarily in terms of the notion of “foundation” (Fundierung). For instance, the act of feeling is regarded as a complex whole made out of two different acts. The founding act is an act intending a single object: in order to feel something, we need first to have a consciousness of the particular object of our feeling. On the other hand, the founded act is the feeling itself. High level objectivities like states of affair, essences are also grounded on a given cluster of simple acts. From this perspective, however, there is no room for a consideration of the constitutive effects that go the other way around, i.e. from the higher back to the lower levels of constitution. According to Lohmar, the latter is namely more a concern for genetic phenomenology, which focuses on the history of experience and the temporal succession and intertwining of multiple acts.
Diverse topics can be solved or addressed only by going into the genetic history of experience – for instance, the phenomena of language, consciousness, and especially the constitution of experiential “types”.
Types are regarded by Husserl as a product of the process that brings about the sedimentation of experience. They function actively in guiding and determining our perceptual as well as our practical life. Lohmar points out that any sedimented experience does not rest calmly and unknown in an alleged obscure soil, as the metaphor of sedimentation at first glance suggests; rather it influences our further perceptual and practical life. In fact, the term “sedimentation” should not be misunderstood: It does not imply that experiences are simply stocked and rest calm without effecting the life of consciousness; quite the opposite, they determine in a crucial way our experience of the present and likewise our expectations towards the future.
A characteristic example of genetic analysis is given by the experiential, pre-predicative origin of the sense of negation set forth in Experience and Judgment (cf. EU § 21). Husserl’s level of investigation here is well before full-blown cognition, that is, before the sphere of predicative judgment. The sense of negation needing to be addressed in the first place by the genetic phenomenologist belongs to the pre-predicative perceptual dynamics itself. Consider the perception of a tomato. At the beginning, I can just see the front-side of the tomato and notice that it is red. I am therefore motivated to make the experiential judgment that the tomato is red. However, I may afterwards turn the tomato in my hands and see the other side: I then realize that the other side is green. It is still one and the same tomato, but it is an unripe tomato that can no longer be considered fully red: my expectations on the level of perception have been disappointed, or more precisely, my expectation concerning the redness of the tomato was frustrated. This points to the fact that we have usual expectations concerning certain types of objects, but these expectations may undergo a complete or partial delusion. This experience of delusion is illustrated by Husserl with the model of a “fight” (Kampf) between evidences. A kind of evidence is already there before actual perception takes place: It is the evidence of expectation that I already have before I am going to directly perceive the object itself or the currently unperceived side of the object. The evidence of expectation “fights” with the evidence of perception. Yet, after the fight, the looser is still there, i.e. the evidence of anticipation is still alive and forceful, but its force undergoes now a modulation. Thus, a negation of the type “S is not p” is, in Lohmar’s own words, an “historiographic information”. I believed this object be red, but it revealed itself to be green. This information is sedimented in my experience, as “we are historical creatures”: everything that I experience speaks about what I was expecting before and, in this way, it speaks about me, my subjective view and attachment to the world with all its practical expectations, desires, values, etc.
Andrea Staiti (Cologne, Germany/Boston, USA): “The Late Conception of the Eidetic Method”
Andrea Staiti’s lecture focused on a further aspect of Husserl’s phenomenological method, namely eidetics. In the first part of his talk, Staiti investigated the notion of essence within Ideas I. Although Ideas offer the first substantial presentation of the notion of essence, anticipations of this method can be found in the Logical Investigations, for instance in the Second Investigation where Husserl introduces the concept of species or in the Sixth Investigation with the reference to the phenomenological structure of categorial intuition. In Ideas I, however, Husserl explicitly puts forth his theory of essences. Staiti noticed that the backdrop of the introduction of essences in Ideas I is “wissenschaftstheoretisch”. Husserl is introducing here a new kind of sciences, the so called Wesenswissenschaften as opposed to the Tatsachenwissenschaften. Essences fundamentally are the object of investigation for the first type of sciences, to which phenomenology also belongs.
In this way, Husserl is contrasting the idea that philosophy should be considered solely as a second order discipline that is a mere appendage of the empirical sciences. According to this view, philosophy does not have a subject matter, but is rather a reflection on the procedure of other sciences. This is the (Neo-Kantian) picture that Husserl precisely seeks to overcome in Ideas I.
The second part of Staiti’s talk dealt with the method of eidetic variation in Experience and Judgment. In this work, Husserl undertakes an analysis of the condition of possibility for experiencing and cognizing generalities. Staiti maintained that generality is already an ingredient of our direct experience of things, not a byproduct of intellectual procedures. We do in fact encounter a sort of generality in experience. However, this kind of generality is not the same generality of concepts or essences. This is a line of thought that goes back to Hermann Lotze, who introduces for the first time the notion of “first generality” (erste Allgemeinheit). Both Lotze and Husserl argue that this generality is grounded in the experience of similarity or syntheses of coincidence (Deckungssynthese): passive syntheses of associations which are at work in every experience without any active engagement or performance (Leistung) on the side of the subject. Anything we experience evokes certain expectations related to a generality called “type”. Types are, thus, a result of the fundamental cumulative aspect of our experience.
Staiti introduced then a fundamental distinction within the realm of generalities between essences, empirical concepts, and types. Empirical concepts, unlike types, do not depend on experience. An empirical concept opens up the extension of the type to infinity. It is not bound to that which I have seen. Differently from essences, however, empirical concepts are tied to the contingency of the world, since the method of attaining them does not get rid of the aspect of contingency and thus bounds the validity of the concept to the existence of the world. In order to purify our concepts, we need a different method, i.e. the method of free variation. This method enables us to discover, as Staiti put it, “what is not negotiable in the properties of an object in order for the object to count as that particular object”. This also means that we do not harvest essences which are already given in perception, but eidetic intuition or experience of essences is a process through which we try to get clear of our cognitive commitments. Staiti ultimately noticed a fundamental difference between type and stereotype. The latter may be characterized in terms of an upshot of the petrification of types. Experiential types, then, are intrinsically fluid and open to change and rectification on the basis of further experience.
Christian Ferentz-Flatz (Cologne, Germany/Bucharest, Romania): “Geschichte in der Sicht der genetischen Phänomenologie”
Christian Ferentz-FlaTZ’s talk developed in three sections. In the first part, he engaged with the objection concerning the absence of the historical dimension within the Husserlian phenomenology. This absence has been first justified with Husserl’s own critique of historicism in the Logos article of 1911, where Husserl was contraposing its biased method to the radical method of phenomenology based on direct intuition and the grasping of essences. This led many interpreters to consider phenomenology and history as fundamentally incompatible. The transcendental standpoint Husserl develops from the years in Göttingen onwards has also been regarded as a departure from the dimensions of historicity and facticity towards a focusing of the performances of a pure I completely bereft of any content and consequently of history. Furthermore, the eidetic method has been alleged to abstract from the dimension of history due to its prevailing interest on timeless eidetic truths (cf. especially Adorno’s critique of Husserl).
Especially two authors, Lembeck and Landgrebe, sought to provide an answer to this everlasting objection. They both pinpoint to the founding function that phenomenology, due to its eidetic method, can provide with respect to historical sciences.
Heidegger, on the other hand, sets forth with his own conception of phenomenology developed in lectures during the Twenties a new understanding of the relationship between systematic method and historicity. According to him, historicity does not necessarily imply the loss of objective, systematic knowledge. This is possible, however, only by adopting a hermeneutic standpoint, which Heidegger fundamentally misses in Husserl’s own methodology.
In the second part of the talk, Ferentz-Flatz considered a series of sources in which Husserl himself poses the question of historicity and its relationship to the phenomenological method. For example, in a letter to Cornelius from 1906 Husserl draws a distinction that he did not mention in the Logical Investigations: namely, the distinction between causal-explanatory psychology (kausal-erklärende Psychologie) and genetic psychology. The first type of psychology provides causal explanations by making reference to transcendent causes, whereby the second type opens up the possibility of a genetic consideration of experience which is not based upon external causation. Thus, Ferentz-Flatz concludes that a new concept of genesis begins to take hold in Husserl already during the 1910s.
The very breakthrough of the genetic phenomenology is however firstly documented in the appendix XLV of Husserliana XIII, which is dated 1916-17. Here Husserl provides four different meanings of the term “originality” (Ursprünglichkeit): 1) original givenness as opposed to indirect givenness, 2) founding as opposed to founded, 3) prior as opposed to posterior (temporal succession), 4) unmodified as opposed to modified (reproductive modification).
In Formal and Transcendental Logic (1929), Husserl will apply the genetic method in order to clarify the origin of judgments. This implies the consideration of the history of sense (Sinngeschichte) that pertains to each judgment as such as well as to each form of judgment. Further, Experience and Judgment (1939) purports to follow a similar undertaking, whereby the Cartesian Meditations contain a treatment of the experience of others that does not completely get rid of genetic explanations. Especially in this case, as Ferentz-Flatz underlined, Husserl makes a methodical use of the concept of genesis: he simulates a “fictive genesis” in order to discover new layers of experience – as when in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation one is requested to abstract from others and from any intentional implication that refers to others in order to discover a primordial sphere from which to begin the phenomenological analyses of the intersubjective experience. In this sense, a parallelism between genetic phenomenology and developmental psychology becomes evident. This is, however, only a parallelism, Ferentz-Flatz points out, since psychology has to do with empirical laws of the succession of stages of development, whereas phenomenology is concerned with eidetic laws of succession that strive for being universally valid.
The third and last section of Ferentz-Flatz‘s talk was devoted to a clarification of the third appendix of Husserl’s Crisis. His reading of the Husserlian reconstruction of the origin of geometry points to the fact that we are confronting here not a historical investigation devoted to rendering the objective truth about how things really happened. On the contrary, Husserl is here rather keen to show how things should have developed, how geometry should be born of conscious accomplishments. Genesis in this sense does not refer to the factual, objective history. As Rudolf Bernet points out in his preface to the German edition of the introduction to Husserl’s appendix written by Derrida, the history of consciousness has nothing to do with the factual history.
Emanuele Caminada (Cologne, Germany): “Lebenswelt in Ideen II”
Emanuele Caminada tackled the problem of tracing the historical genesis of the problem of the lifeworld in Husserl from Ideas II onward as well as engaged with its late systematic account in Husserl’s philosophy. At the core of Husserl’s idea there is the constitutive function of attitudes (Einstellungen). In Ideas II, Husserl distinguishes between the phenomenological attitude, the naïve attitude, the naturalistic attitude, the personalistic attitude, and the so called “geisteswissenschaftliche Einstellung”, i.e. the attitude proper to the humanities. Caminada characterized the notion of attitude in general as a form of perspectivity, a habit, a mindset.
Phenomenology defines itself in the first place as an attitude, namely the phenomenological attitude. In order to perform phenomenological analyses, one is required to adopt a new attitude that allow her to grasp phenomena in their richness beyond any scientific bias and prejudices. The natural attitude and the naturalistic are, according to Caminada, “absolute attitudes”: they provide us with a complete vision of the world. On the other hand, the attitude of the humanities and the personalistic attitude are attentive to the role that the fundamental correlation between subject and the world plays in every experience; these latter two are thus more committed to a form of relativism.
The phenomenological attitude can help us to distinguish the different attitudes, that is, it makes us sensitive towards the grasping of changes between attitudes. In fact, the phenomenological task is not only to pursue a classification of the different attitudes, but to investigate the correlation and transition from one attitude to another, as well as the way they interplay in concrete experience.
Jagna Brudzinska (Cologne, Germany/Warsaw, Poland): “Genetische Phänomenologie und Psychologie”
Jagna Brudzinska delves into the much debated question of the relation between phenomenology and psychology. Phenomenology characterizes itself as a descriptive science of experience and, under this perspective, it shares the descriptive character of its method with psychology. However, unlike empirical psychology phenomenology deals with eidetic laws and truths concerning the essential structures of experience. Its method is therefore not deductive and empirical, as in the case of psychology. Brudzisnka underlined further that one of Husserl’s main goals was to lay the foundations for a new kind of psychology as an a priori discipline. In this sense, one can speak of a parallel development of phenomenology and a pure, a priori psychology in Husserl’s thinking. The difference between the two derives from the transcendental character of the former, i.e. its attempt to unravel the constitution of being by the transcendental subject.
A topic further addressed by Brudzinska’s talk was the character of motivation as opposed to proper causation. According to her, it is important not to conflate motivation with a weak form of causality, as the former has a totally different structure of relation with respect to the latter.
The genetic turn in Husserl’s phenomenology means a turning point in the analysis of the life of consciousness. If in static phenomenology the singular act was the primary focus of the phenomenological investigation, with total abstraction from the temporal dimension of experience, genetic phenomenology instead points at illustrating the meaningful connections that join experiences together. One of these connections is the temporal succession which is far from being a mere “one-after-the-other” (Nacheinander), but which is more better described as a “one-upon-the-other” (Aufeinander) or “one-in-the-other” (Ineinander) relationship. Thus, there is a dynamic structure underlying the succession of experiences; one that cannot be seized upon by static phenomenology alone. The genetic method permits precisely the singling out of this structure and makes it the object of a phenomenological, a priori analysis.
Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Prepredicative Experience, Negation, Explication”
In his second talk, Lohmar tackled the topic of pre-predicative experience in the late Husserl by introducing a number of examples from everyday life. Pre-predicative experience is a knowledge each individual has about the properties and practical usefulness of determinate objects. This knowledge is not propositional; ratherit is founded in the past experiences the subject has of this or that object. Furthermore, the way that this specific kind of knowledge appears in phenomenological terms is a phantasmatic anticipation of the distinctive characteristics that individuate an object as that particular object. This phantasmatic anticipation is a form of evidence that Lohmar contrasts to impressive evidence. In the case of disappointment, a pre-predicative experience Husserl poses as the basis of the predicative form of negation, anticipative and impressive evidences clash together giving rise to a conflict of evidences in which impressive evidence usually has the upper hand.
According to Lohmar, pre-predicative experience functions primarily in an unconscious way. Whether the subject can find out what she already knew in advance depends on the particular situation in which she finds herself, and it is pre-predicatively functioning by shaping her experience of a determinate object and of the world in general. Methodically, we need to make a conscious repetition of the situation, and then we may gain insight into the knowledge and pieces of information that were operative in it.
Lohmar emphasized once more the fact that we have an historiographic knowledge of past experiences. Our present situation is informed by what we have lived in the past. This holds true also for predicative formations like negation, addition, and subject-object predication. They all have their origin in experience or, more specifically, in the history of experience. This is the main idea Husserl advocates, for instance, in Formal and Transcendental Logic, in which he argues that logic needs a theory of experience in order to become understandable and justified from a phenomenological perspective.
Sebastian Luft (Marquette University, USA/Padeborn, Germany): “Husserl’s Mature Phenomenology of the Life-World and His Critique of the Sciences”
Sebastian Luft offered a survey of Husserl’s phenomenology of the life-world from its beginnings in Ideas II to its extensive development in the Crisis-work. Husserl envisioned the task of describing the intuitive lifeworld in its concrete typicality especially in the lecture on Nature and Spirit from 1919. In Ideas I (1913), this project is not yet fully developed, although one can find there a description of the natural attitude, i.e. the way in which human beings naturally live and are conscious of a world that is intuitively given in experience. Therefore, Luft argues that the theme of the life-world was introduced in 1913 whereas the concept only in 1919. The first time both the theme and the concept were set forth in a published work was in the first volume of the Crisis in 1936. For this reason, the theme of the life-world was usually understood as a result of Heidegger’s influence on Husserl’s later work. This is, however, far from being true, as the unpublished Husserl’s reflections on this particular topic from the 1910s and 1920s unmistakably prove.
Luft discussed the concept of the natural attitude as the horizon within which the theme of the life-world gradually emerged in Husserl’s thought. The natural attitude is the normal attitude underpinning our everyday activities and opinions. Most importantly, we do not know that we are in the natural attitude as long as we are in it. The main thesis of the natural attitude is that the world exists and more precisely does so independently of any experiencing consciousness. Thus, according to Luft the correlation between the subject and the object of experience remains absolutely concealed in the natural attitude. Only phenomenology and its proper methodology can reveal that everything objectively existent is the correlate of a subjective “doing”. In this sense, science is deemed to be a specific doing guided by the intention of gaining objective (subject-independent) knowledge. This doing is further characterized by a proper form of attitude that Husserl calls “naturalistic attitude,” which distinguishes itself from the natural attitude through the epistemological goal informing its activity. This primarily consists in the task of de-perspectivizing the perspectival view on the world proper to the natural attitude and achieving thereby a “view from nowhere”. The world of the natural attitude is therefore prior to science and to the naturalistic world that is a product of the objectivizing and de-perspectivizing standpoint the natural sciences assume with respect to the given, intuitive world.
The world of the natural attitude, which Husserl lately baptizes as the life-world, is not a pre-linguistic world, but rather a world of opinions, musings, projects, and interests. Luft provided the following definition of the life-world: “The life-world is the product of constitution on the part of transcendental subjectivity, living in the mode of the natural attitude”.
In the Crisis Husserl explicitly carries out the project of a phenomenological description of the a priori of the life-world as it is given to us prior to science. This world is eminently a social world, and the naturalistic attitude of the positive sciences has concealed this fundamental worldly dimension by identifying the world with (material) nature. Hence, Husserl’s project amounts to the attempt to develop a science of the “despised doxa”, i.e. of the subjective-relative that characterizes the natural attitude and the experience within the original dimension of the life-world. This experience is at the same time the starting point of every scientific endeavor, and the life-world can thus lay the “meaning-foundation” of and for every kind of science. Sciences “cover up” the life-world with a “shroud of ideas” and take the result of this operation, which is the world according to the science, as the real world while relegating the life-world to an illusion. But this is the reverse of the truth, according to Husserl. Science reverses the natural order of things or, to put it in Cassirer’s terms, science is the one symbolic form of meaning that has become the measure of all others. This position characterizes the so-called naturalistic reductionism against which Husserl’s phenomenology of the life-world wants to take over. This implies the development of a new science able to describe and to conceptually fix the structure of a world that is most known and familiar to us, and in that way most distant. This world contains a material a priori structure – spatially, temporally, and genetically. A science of the life-world, Luft finally remarked, is precisely a transcendental science of the subjective, i.e. of the conditions of the possibility for the subjective access to the world.
Alice Pugliese (Palermo, Italy): “Intersubjectivity in Late Genetic Phenomenology”
Alice Pugliese provided in her talk an overview of Husserl’s understanding of intersubjectivity. In particular, she questioned the method through which Husserl intended to illustrate the experience of the other in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation. In this work, the analysis carried out by Husserl boosts a static account of intersubjectivity in which the individualities of the encountering subjects are already constituted and pre-given. Pugliese argues that this is certainly one aspect of the intersubjective encounter, but it does not exhaust all of the dimensions and facets in which intersubjectivity may appear. The face-to-face encounter that Husserl has in mind in describing intersubjectivity within the Fifth Meditation presupposes that each person has already a history of experiences that constitute her individuality and make her a full-blown subject. There may be, however, encounters with subjects at different levels of genetic development, for instance the relation between the mother and child, which has also been object of scrutiny in Husserl’s posthumously published manuscripts. According to Pugliese, it is precisely the static account characterizing Husserl’s most known theory of intersubjectivity that poses the problem of the accessibility of the other’s consciousness life. In this view, the subjects are mutually inaccessible, they are opaque to each other. This depends, at least partly, on the fact that the already constituted subjects do not share the same experiential history. This represents, however, both a term of differentiation as well as a term of continuity between the subjects. In fact, Pugliese stressed that the individuation of the subject through a lived history means that they are profoundly different, but this is at the same time the basis for their mutual recognition. A single experience is by definition not sharable; and, therefore, the other is given to me in this regard in the mode of the accessible inaccessibility. Yet, if one puts the single experience in the web of a continuous flow of experiences, the identification with the other subject can take place, since we both share the structure of a meaningful life spreading over a number of different, successive experiences. This general structure is what links us together and gives evidence of our commonality, which is then the basis for the mutual recognition of the other as a subject like me, that is as an alter ego.
Pugliese continued by saying that a specific kind of individuation takes place in the experience of the other. There is a process that Husserl labeled with the term “communalization” (Vergemeinschaftung) that means the process of becoming subjects within a given community of other subjects – what the sociologists nowadays probably would call “socialization”. Through this process of becoming intersubjectively recognized by other subjects, everyone achieves a characteristic individuation as a social subject. Everyone becomes an individual for a community and thus identifies herself with specific social roles and values.
Saulius Geniusas (Hong Kong, China): “Phantasy in Late Phenomenology”
Saulius Geniusas undertook a discussion of Husserl’s phenomenology of phantasy. He focused in particular on the question about productive imagination and sought to answer this on the basis of Husserl’s reflections on the phenomenon of phantasy. The issue regarding productive imagination is a critical one and concerns the alleged absence of a treatment of this phenomenon within the Husserlian phenomenology. According to Geniusas, this represents a bias of post-Husserlian phenomenologists, according to whom Husserl ultimately never recognizes productive imagination as a proper object of investigation. Geniusas’ talk provided an argument against this bias.
The talk was divided into four sections. First, Geniusas elucidated the meaning of the concept of “reproductive phantasy”, with which Husserlian phenomenology is particularly concerned. According to a widespread view, the reproductive character of phantasy derives from the fact that it replicates copies of actual objects given in actual experience. This however does not exhaust the meaning of the reproductive character in phantasy experiences. In addition to this Geniusas identifies two other forms of phantasy reproduction: namely, the reproduction of the experience (Erfahrung), e.g. the act of seeing Peter, and the reproduction of experiencing (Erlebnis), e.g. the act of seeing as such without its intentional object. This should allow us to draw a distinction between memory, as a reproduction of experience in the first sense, and phantasy, which has the freedom to reproduce the act of experiencing in isolation from the object of experience.
Second, Geniusas tackled the question of whether phantasy can be regarded as an immanent component of perception. With the help of the example of cross-modal illusions, he showed how the transfigurative function of phantasy does not go smoothly together with the fundamental capacity of perception for presentingthe given in its own pure givenness. Hence, phantasy cannot be taken to be an ingredient of the perceptual experience. This does not mean, however, that phantasy is completely disconnected from perception. As Geniusas pinpoints, in fact, the function of phantasy in perception has to be found on the objective side of the experience, i.e. in the internal and external horizon that surrounds the object as perceived. Every perception is, according to Husserl, an apperception. This entails that the perception of the front side of an object is always at the same time accompanied by the givenness of the back side and of the other objects that physically surround the first object. In this sense, Geniusas sees a function of phantasy in providing an experience of these horizons of the objects that cannot be grasped in immediate perception.
Third, Geniusas discussed three fundamental senses on which one can speak of productive phantasy in the framework of Husserl’s phenomenology. In the first place, productive phantasy may be intended as referring to the capacity to intend original fictive objects, such as centaurs, round squares, etc. Secondly, productive phantasy is associated with the activity of opening up the field of pure possibilities. This sense is employed by Husserl in his discussion of the eidetic method and the function of phantasy as one of its pre-conditions. Ultimately, productive phantasy intends configurations of sense in the sphere of inactuality with the practical purpose of transferring them into the sphere of actuality. This latter sense has been then the topic of the last part of Geniusas’ talk.
In the fourth section, Geniusas argued for an understanding of the constitution of the cultural world in terms of a product of phantasy. His argument began with addressing the question of meaning that is at the core of Husserl’s philosophical enterprise. Namely, all philosophical questions represent for Husserl questions of meaning. The actual reality, and in particular the reality of the cultural world, is in this view also a particular configuration of meaning. The problem of constituting a cultural world equals, therefore, the problem of constituting a new sphere of meaning that is shared by a plurality of subjects. The main question here amounts to asking how a subject can participate in and gain access to a particular cultural world. A first answer would be simply communication: the subject apprehends the culture in question through communication with the ones who belong to that particular cultural world. This, however, begs the initial question according to Geniusas. Communication does not make me intuitively present the sense that is communicated; rather, it points towards this sense and its correlative intuition. An empty intention of the sense and meaning contained in a cultural practice does not allow the actor to fully understand what she is doing while performing this or that practice. There must be an intuitive access to the content of sense conveyed by the cultural practice. Now, the question turns out to be, what kind of experience can provide us with an intuitive access to this content? Geniusas’ answer is that only phantasy can and must play a role here by furnishing an intuitive experience of a sense that would otherwise be inaccessible and concealed.
Dieter Lohmar (Cologne, Germany): “Kritik und Begründung von Wissenschaften im Spätwerk Husserls“
Lohmar’s last talk addressed the issue of Husserl’s foundation of sciences. Hereby, one intends three kinds of scientific inquiry: humanities, formal sciences (like mathematics and logic), and natural sciences. Husserl attempted, on the one hand, to provide a critique of those sciences as they are historically handed down by the Western tradition and, on the other hand, to found them on the basis of a phenomenological investigation into their a priori conditions. Probably taking up a concern which Dilthey expresse before him, Husserl especially aimed at establishing a foundation of the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften), and this is attested by a series of lectures he gave in 1913, 1915, 1919, and 1927 that bear the title “Natur und Geist” as well as the lectures on Phenomenological Psychology from 1925 and, ultimately, the Crisis (1936). Ideen II (1912-15) is also informed by this project, since is displays analyses concerning the intersubjective constitution of cultural sense as well as a consideration of the development of habitual, spiritual meaning and the “teleological” dynamics of sinking-down and re-actualization of cultural formations.
In the discussion of the constitution of a cultural world, the body (Leib) plays a prominent role. This is so, according to Lohmar, because the communication between subjects takes place first and foremost at a bodily level rather than a merely linguistic one. There is a huge number of conversational patterns that are possible and are actually performed only through body movements and behaviors. The body is an organ of communication and also is the principal path allowing us to discover the other as another subjectivity like us, as the well-known analyses of the experience of the other in the Cartesian Meditations suggest. The activity of interpreting or re-enacting (Nachvollziehen) in one’s mind what the other thinks, feels and judges relies on the direct experience of the other’s body in analogy with our own.
In the Crisis Husserl pinpoints the role played by the evidences of the life-world in laying the foundation for the natural sciences. He shows how everyday evidences supervise and ultimately render possible every step of the scientific inquiry, starting from the bare handling with experiment devices to the communication of scientific results within a community of trusted co-researchers.
Reviewed by: Marco Cavallaro (PhD Fellow at a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne; Department Member of the Husserl-Archive Cologne; Visiting Researcher at Boston College)