Renaud Barbaras: L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique

L’appartenance: Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique Couverture du livre L’appartenance: Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique
Bibliothèque Philosophique de Louvain
Renaud Barbaras
Peeters
2019
Paperback 28,00 €
VI-111

Reviewed by: Luz Ascárate (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

« Dans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (René Char)

Renaud Barbaras intitule son dernier ouvrage L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique. Le texte est constitué des leçons données en mars 2019 à l’UCLouvain et reprises dans son cours de Master II du premier semestre de l’année académique 2019-2020 à l’Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Ce texte est une introduction au nouveau projet – qui occupera Barbaras pour les deux prochaines années comme il l’a avoué dans son cours de Master II du premier semestre de l’année 2020-2021 – d’une cosmologie phénoménologique. À vrai dire, nous nous retrouvons au seuil d’une nouvelle période de la philosophie de Barbaras. Dans ce nouvel ouvrage, en posant, tout d’abord, et à nouveau en phénoménologie, la question du corps et de la chair, pour délimiter ensuite la notion d’appartenance, il propose une unité fondamentale entre la capacité phénoménalisante et l’appartenance au monde. La formule ontologique, inspirée de Merleau-Ponty, qui se propose comme soubassement d’une telle unité fondamentale et comme événement originaire de l’étant est celle de la « déflagration », à partir de laquelle l’auteur esquisse une réponse aux problèmes génératifs propres à une cosmologie phénoménologique. Plusieurs problèmes se posent à cet égard. L’appartenance est-elle la notion légitime pour comprendre la phénoménalisation ? Une réponse rapide et négative à cette question pourrait se défendre à partir des critiques husserliennes de l’existentialisme. Si nous essayons de donner une réponse positive à une telle question, une deuxième question se pose. En quoi une ontologie de la déflagration continuerait à être phénoménologique ? Si nous sommes toutefois convaincus que la cosmologie phénoménologique ne trahit pas les motifs fondamentaux du mouvement phénoménologique, une troisième question se fait jour. En quoi consisterait l’originalité de cet ouvrage par rapport aux autres développements d’ontologie phénoménologique ? Afin de donner des réponses à ces questions, nous formulerons les hypothèses suivantes. La notion de déflagration, comme formule de l’arché (principe et origine) ontologique de la phénoménalisation, renouvelle, tout en demeurant fidèle aux fondements du mouvement phénoménologique, d’une part, une branche spécifique de la tradition phénoménologique – la branche proprement française –, et d’autre part, la branche ontologique en tant que telle. Mais par rapport à l’originalité et à la spécificité de la cosmologie barbarasienne, nous soutenons qu’à la différence d’autres ontologies phénoménologiques, la cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras ne surgit pas de la critique de la subjectivité transcendantale husserlienne (Fink et Patočka), ne finit pas par un négativisme de l’être (Sartre, Jaspers, Jonas), pas plus qu’il ne se subsume dans une onto-théologie phénoménologique (Heidegger, Lévinas et Marion). La cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras défend à la fois l’appartenance du sujet au monde et le caractère phénoménalisant du sujet. Le pouvoir phénoménalisant de l’étant n’est ainsi ni négatif ni neutralisant, sinon profondément vivant. Cette cosmologie trouverait ainsi à s’exprimer poétiquement, comme il l’a lui-même affirmé lors de son cours de Master II en 2019-2020 à Paris I, dans les vers suivants de René Char : « [d]ans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (Char, 1969, p. 153).

 I. L’ontologie dont la phénoménologie a besoin

Tout se passe comme si la cosmologie phénoménologique de l’appartenance donnait réponse à la question ouverte par Ricœur sur le type d’ontologie conséquente avec la phénoménologie (1990, p. 345-410). Selon celui-ci, la question de l’ontologie n’a pas été résolue dans la phénoménologie, étant donné qu’une telle solution finirait par dissoudre la catégorie de l’altérité. En effet, la cosmologie phénoménologique de Renaud Barbaras est la toute dernière formulation d’une question ontologique générale dont la réponse a été donnée, comme Ricœur semblait l’attester (1990, p. 410), depuis le commencement même de la philosophie, avec Parménide. Partant, nous sommes d’accord avec le jugement d’Etienne Gilson lorsqu’il écrit :

Il est évident que, tout élément du réel généralement concevable étant un être, les propriétés essentielles de l’être doivent appartenir à tout ce qui est. Lorsque Parménide d’Elée fit cette découverte, il atteignit une position métaphysique pure, c’est-à-dire infranchissable à toute pensée qui s’engagerait dans la même voie, mais il s’obligeait du même coup à dire ce qu’il entendait par « être » (Gilson, 1948, p. 24).

Parménide s’engage, selon Gilson, dans une voie métaphysique qui l’oblige à définir les termes de son ontologie. Si Ricœur ne va pas plus loin dans la question de l’ontologie, c’est parce qu’en suivant Husserl dans la mise entre parenthèses de l’ontologie, sans vouloir la nier, il la déplace dans le point d’arrivée promis qui, comme idée en sens kantien, guide, en son absence et sans faire partie de, la description phénoménologique. Précisément, par rapport à la crainte de l’ontologie que certains phénoménologues ont héritée de Husserl, Gilson remarque le contraste entre « le soin minutieux ou même le génie » des phénoménologues et « l’insouciance avec laquelle ils déblaient sommairement en quelques pages des problèmes métaphysiques dont les conclusions, acceptées par eux à la légère, compromettent parfois ensuite l’exactitude de leurs analyses et en faussent toujours l’interprétation » (Gilson, 1948, p. 22). Nous croyons toutefois qu’avec de telles sentences, Gilson n’adresse pas une critique de fond à la phénoménologie. A contrario, il félicite la rigueur phénoménologie tout en faisant une critique constructive de la méthode. Davantage, il admet l’urgence d’une phénoménologie réformée en avouant que notre temps a besoin « d’une métaphysique de l’être conçue comme prolégomènes à toute phénoménologie » (Gilson, 1948, p. 21). La cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras, dont le livre que nous commentons ici n’est qu’une introduction à un nouveau projet, promet, à notre avis, de prendre au sérieux les problèmes métaphysiques en nous offrant, finalement, l’ontologie que la phénoménologie, selon Gilson, a besoin. Ces problèmes nous conduisent au paradoxe, non résolu auparavant dans la tradition phénoménologique, que constituent notre appartenance au monde et la capacité de phénoménalisation de ce monde même.

Mais cette ontologie n’est possible que parce que le versant ontologique du mouvement phénoménologique, en dépit de Husserl lui-même, a posé à nouveau la question de l’ontologie sans en tirer toutes les conséquences. Ce versant commence, à juste titre, avec Max Scheler. Pour lui, la phénoménologie se réalise dans une ontologie qui pose la valeur (Wert-sein) comme être originaire de l’existant (Scheler, 2004). L’existence n’est pas ici mise entre parenthèses comme chez Husserl. Dans tous les cas, pour les deux, il y a une différence entre une attitude mondaine et une attitude phénoménologique. La corrélation intentionnelle serait l’évidence qui apparaît, pour chacun, dans l’attitude phénoménologique. C’est ici la découverte de l’intentionnalité par Brentano (Brentano, 2008, p. 102) qui inaugure le chemin vers une ontologie phénoménologique dans laquelle l’être sera considéré à partir de l’existence intentionnelle que la Modernité avait perdue. Pour Barbaras, l’intentionnalité est « l’envers centripète du mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration, la manière dont se réalise et se manifeste l’appartenance dynamique à l’événement originaire » (p. 80). Il souscrit ainsi à la position phénoménologique fondamentale qui rapproche Scheler de Husserl. Cependant, Barbaras fonde l’intentionnalité au seuil de l’être lui-même. Il ne s’agit pas d’une structure de la conscience dans les termes de Brentano, mais d’une structure ontologique fondamentale entre l’être et l’étant qui n’exprime que l’appartenance de l’étant à l’être est le caractère essentiel, non restrictif, de l’être se déployant dans l’étant.

Nous sommes convaincue que la phénoménologie est capable de révéler cet aspect intentionnel et foncier de l’existence parce qu’elle est elle-même une question qui prend la forme d’une réponse à une question dérivée : la question sur le comment (quomodo). La phénoménologie décrit le comment de la chose et en décrivant elle demande le quoi, le quid, un quid qui ne se donne jamais dans l’exercice de la méthode phénoménologique. La question sur le quid ne peut être résolue que par une ontologie, l’ontologie que Husserl a mise entre parenthèses, et que Heidegger, Lévinas et Marion diffusent dans une onto-théologie sans rendre assez compte de la capacité phénoménalisante du sujet, parfois subsumée dans une éthique. Pour sa part, Scheler place l’ontologie comme vrai fondement de la philosophie en incluant la catégorie de « monde » dans la dernière période de sa pensée. La capacité phénoménalisante du sujet semblerait toutefois se diffuser dans l’ordre des affectivités. Un versant criticiste de la phénoménologie fait dériver la question ontologique (quid) de la critique opératoire de la description phénoménologie (quomodo) tout en récupérant la catégorie de « monde ». Ce sont Fink et Patočka qui, en parcourant une voie criticiste, réintroduisent la question cosmologique déjà posée par Scheler. En tout cas, c’est cette même ontologie phénoménologique visée par l’ontologie négativiste de l’existentialisme, que Ricœur situe comme finalité promise par la méthode sans jamais y arriver (la voie longue), et dont la route est inaugurée par Merleau-Ponty sans pour autant être accomplie. Barbaras appartient sans doute au même mouvement phénoménologique qui pose la question du quid dans le même site originaire que la question sur le comment (quomodo). Nous pouvons affirmer à juste titre qu’il appartient au mouvement phénoménologique tout court.

Il y a néanmoins deux manières d’appartenir à un mouvement philosophique, lesquelles sont, corrélativement, deux manières de rendre possible la continuité et postérité de ce mouvement. La première est de rester fidèle à l’idée authentique du fondateur du mouvement en le défendant contre ses critiques et ses interprétations abusives, en montrant que sa pensée est encore importante dans un contexte philosophique toujours nouveau. Il s’agit de l’option exégétique du mouvement phénoménologique, qui continue à chercher, dans l’œuvre non publiée du fondateur, des réponses aux problèmes contemporains. La deuxième consiste à renouveler les fins qui ont mobilisé un tel mouvement philosophique à partir de nouvelles questions et de nouvelles réponses. Il s’agit de l’option créatrice qui implique toujours la formation de nouvelles branches. Les deux manières sont, d’une certaine manière, impliquées dialectiquement dans la pensée de Barbaras. Il est évident que l’apport de Barbaras n’est pas exégétique, mais sa proposition renouvelle cette tradition tout en y étant fidèle. Nous pouvons lire sa trajectoire philosophique à partir du geste phénoménologique dans la mesure où, en prenant comme point de départ les présupposés théoriques précédents (dans ses premiers ouvrages, voir par exemple, Barbaras, 1991 et 2004) pour les neutraliser et rendre possible la vision du phénomène (dans les ouvrages précédant ce dernier, voir par exemple, 2011a et 2016a), il amène, dans la toute dernière période de sa philosophie (2019), l’ontologie phénoménologique à sa formulation la plus radicale, en en tirant toutes les conséquences.

II. Le versant français de l’ontologie phénoménologique

La pierre de touche de L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique de Renaud Barbaras est indubitablement la notion de déflagration comme origine cosmologique de l’ontologie de l’appartenance. Il s’agit d’un concept qui permet de mettre l’accent sur le caractère vital, dynamique et spatial de cette ontologie. En ce sens, même si ce livre inaugure une nouvelle étape dans la philosophie de l’auteur, il est conséquent avec les découvertes de l’étape précédante de sa philosophie qui a été déployée depuis Dynamique de la manifestation  (2013) jusqu’à Métaphysique du sentiment (2016a) et Le Désir et le monde (2016b). Dans ces œuvres, nous trouvons un effort pour penser la radicalité de la corrélation d’une phénoménologie dépassée par une métaphysique. Dans L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique, c’est surtout la perspective cosmologique qui sera traitée comme la plus fondamentale et la plus originaire. Cette perspective met la catégorie de l’espace comme étant plus fondamentale que la catégorie du temps, bien que cette perspective, comme l’a fait remarqué Aurélien Deudon (2018), ait déjà redémarré dans les ouvrages antérieurs de l’auteur : « force est de conclure que le temps est la forme même de l’apparaître secondaire, tout comme l’espace était la forme de l’apparaître primaire » (Barbaras, 2013, p. 327).

L’importance donnée à l’espace nous permet de penser dans les termes avec lesquels Guy-Félix Duportail caractérise la phénoménologie française, comme traversant un moment topologique (2010). De ce fait, Benjamin (2018, p. 115) nous a averti de l’être spirituel (ein geistiges Wesen) transmis par tout usager d’un langage constitué au sein d’une culture. Ainsi, sans vouloir risquer un historicisme, nous pouvons postuler que chaque phénoménologue français déploie des traits propres aux différentes couches de sens que nous comprenons par philosophie française, si nous rapportons la tradition phénoménologique française à l’histoire plus générale de la philosophie française. Selon Camille Riquier (2011), la philosophie française trouve son origine dans la figure de Descartes. Il ne se réfère pas à cette origine dans des termes causaux ou ontologiques, mais comme un simple fait :

[I]l n’y a pas de philosophe français qui ne se soit retourné vers Descartes à un certain moment de son parcours, souvent décisif, pour éprouver sa pensée au contact de la sienne, ou pour reprendre un fil qu’il avait laissé interrompu, s’y rattacher et le prolonger. Le caractère fondateur qui lui a été reconnu de droit au regard de toute la philosophie moderne a masqué l’importance toute spéciale que les penseurs français lui ont toujours accordée, de fait, dans leur propre édification intellectuelle. En France, Descartes est un référent plus encore qu’une référence, qui fournit moins les idées que la trame qui servira à les ordonner, – ce qui n’est pas le cas ailleurs (Riquier, 2011, p. 3).

Riquier identifie trois voies cartésiennes suivies par les philosophes français, dont la première, où l’on peut situer les phénomènologues français, est celle du cogito. Ceux-ci auraient pu exploiter ses ressourses aux marges de la phénoménologie transcendantale uniquement « à la faveur du cogito de Descartes qui était là pour eux, derrière, plus large que celui de Husserl » (Riquier, 2011, p. 23). Les œuvres de Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur et Barbaras ne seraient que le prolongement, selon Riquier, du sentiment de l’union de l’âme et du corps avec lequel le cogito cartésien déborde celui de Husserl en lui contestant sa prétention d’auto-fondation absolue (Riquier, 2011, p. 23). Force est de dire que la phénoménologie de Husserl n’a pas été reçue sans des conditions pré-compréhensives par la philosophie française. Cela peut expliquer que, comme l’affirme Bernard Stevens, la tradition de la phénoménologie française ait sauté de manière trop rapide aux réflexions de la Krisis, justement le livre plus « ontologique » de Husserl. À cela s’ajoute l’importance des réflexions sur la chair présentes dans Ideen II, livre qui a été aussi bien reçu par l’école française de phénoménologie, à la différence des Méditations cartésiennes, livre accusé souvent de solipsisme par la même école. De plus, Frédéric Worms remarque l’avènement du moment du vivant (Worms, 2009, p. 560) vers la fin du XXe siècle dans la phénoménologie française. Même si ce vivant apparaît sous la forme d’un bergsonisme minimal, dont le côté maximal est apparu au début du siècle.

Renaud Barbaras renouvelle ces préoccupations que nous pouvons qualifier de « proprement françaises » : le point de départ de sa cosmologie phénoménologique est la reconsidération radicale du corps, tout en échappant à une manière idéaliste de penser la chair comme conséquence d’une perspective ontologique fondée sur la conscience. Ce point de départ est inspiré de Merleau-Ponty même si son ontologie de la chair délivre les coordonnées du problème plutôt que la solution (p. 12), en risquant un dualisme sous-jacent à la distinction entre la chair mienne et la chair du monde. En allant plus loin que Merleau-Ponty, Barbaras essaie de résoudre le problème du dualisme que pose toute phénoménologie de la chair, et du solipsisme que pose toute phénoménologie. Comme Barbaras le montre, dans le premier chapitre du livre intitulé « De la chair à l’appartenance » (p. 1-26), la réflexion philosophique a manqué l’expérience foncière du corps au moment où elle l’a identifiée. Bien qu’un certain type d’ontologie ait déjà réfléchi sur la question du corps, celle-ci n’a pas été prise radicalement, car, au lieu d’être question, le corps est assumé comme une réponse (p. 13) au cœur d’une ontologie déjà donnée. Barbaras réalise ainsi une épochè des ontologies, qui ont caché le corps, sédimentées dans l’attitude naturelle. L’une de ces ontologies est l’ontologie de la mort sédimentée dans la science contemporaine pensant le corps du point de vue de l’inertie. Ce qui apparaît dans l’effectuation de cette épochè est une expérience fondamentale : l’appartenance. Pour Barbaras, penser le corps comme problème fondamental n’est rien d’autre que de mettre en avant la dimension d’appartenance. Afin de comprendre cette dimension de manière ontologique, l’auteur exerce deux remaniements ontologiques radicaux : a) la conscience n’appartient pas au monde ; elle est une modalité, parmi d’autres, de cette appartenance (p. 16); b) le fondement ontologique premier est l’espace et non le temps, comme une certaine perspective ontologique et phénoménologique l’a présupposé en prenant l’espace comme un dérivé du temps (p. 21). Ces deux remaniements ontologiques sont strictement liés car apparaître consiste à déployer l’espace. C’est pourquoi, seulement en prenant comme point de départ l’espace, nous pourrions saisir le sens phénoménologiquement radical de cette appartenance. Ainsi, Barbaras se place, à la fois, dans le moment topologique de la phénoménologie française, tout en utilisant les outils de la phénoménologie (l’époché et la description de l’expérience) débordés par l’expérience de l’appartenance. Mais est-ce que l’appartenance est comparable au sentiment de l’union âme-corps que Riquier présume déployé par les phénoménologues français dans le but d’aller plus loin que Husserl, tout en retournant à Descartes ? Nous croyons, tout au contraire, que la notion d’appartenance prouve l’originalité de Barbaras face à la tradition française de la phénoménologie, comme nous le verrons par la suite. Il nous convient ici de poser la question sur le quomodo de l’appartenance. Comment un étant appartient au monde ?

 III. L’éclatement du monde

À notre avis, dans la clarification des modalités de cette appartenance, nous pourrons comprendre les conséquences inédites de cette ontologie face aux ontologies antérieures et à la tradition française de la phénoménologie. Précisément, dans le deuxième chapitre du livre intitulé « Les trois sens de l’appartenance » (p. 27-56), Barbaras propose une typologie sémantique. Du point de vue de l’usage français du mot appartenance, trois sens d’appartenance apparaissent : être dans le monde ou le site (être situé, position inhérente à l’étant) ; être du monde ou le sol (être pris dans son épaisseur, là d’où l’étant se nourrit et d’où provient son étantité), être au monde ou le lieu (la phénoménalisation, l’occuper activement, s’investir, une forme de possession du monde). Pour Barbaras, il y a un rapport d’identité entre les trois sens d’appartenance : l’inscription onto-topologique de tel étant dans le monde a pour envers la phénoménalisation du monde dans cet étant. Ces trois sens de l’appartenance ne font donc qu’un seul. L’inscription ontologique d’un sujet situé topologiquement dans le monde est aussi le déploiement de la phénoménalisation. Pour une partie de la tradition philosophique transcendantale, la phénoménalisation du monde est fondée sur la distanciation du monde. Barbaras renverse ce préjugé : plus un étant appartient au monde, plus il le fait apparaître. Le degré zéro de cette appartenance sera représenté par la pierre. L’appartenance de la pierre déploie un lieu, mais à contre-courant des autres êtres vivants : en se concentrant. La vie de la pierre se manifeste alors tout d’abord comme temporalité. Sa spatialité apparaît de manière dérivée et comme défaut : « le défaut de déploiement spatial est l’envers de l’installation dans une durée longue » (p. 32). La plante est, contrairement à l’animal, spatialisation, mobilité pure : « elle est tout entière à l’extérieur d’elle-même » (p. 36). L’animal, au contraire, occupe l’espace sans sortir de lui-même. Or, l’homme est un homo viator (p. 33). Il apparaît au monde dans le sens de la mobilité et c’est le désir de l’homme la raison même de la mobilité. Le rapport entre conscience et sol se pose ici autrement que dans le cartésianisme, de telle manière que le problème même du solipsisme ne se pose pas. Mais tout en demeurant dans le sol français qui contient sa philosophie, Barbaras dépasse Descartes – avec qui, selon Riquier, les phénoménologues français dépassent Husserl – avec Bergson. Dans l’un des moments les plus poétiques du livre, l’auteur s’aligne avec Bergson pour distinguer entre un corps minime et un corps immense. D’un point de vue solipsiste, notre corps serait la place minime que nous occupons, qui renfermerait la conscience. Du point de vue de Bergson, selon Barbaras, si je suis là où la conscience peut s’appliquer, mon corps va jusqu’aux étoiles. Plus radicalement, en dépassant Husserl et Descartes, pour Barbaras, « ce mode de déploiement du lieu qu’est ici la conscience des étoiles repose sur l’appartenance ontologique du sujet aux étoiles, sur le corps immense, et vient réduire la tension entre le site, à quoi correspond le corps minime et le sol, qui n’est autre que le cosmos lui même » (p. 55). Autrement dit, les étoiles deviennent lieu parce qu’elles sont d’abord sol. La conscience appartient premièrement à un corps pour être elle-même conscience, et au monde, ou aux étoiles, advient le caractère essentiel de pouvoir être phénoménalisé pour un sujet qui y appartient. La question du quomodo va se métamorphoser ici dans les termes du quid à des niveaux différents. Comment tout en étant différent des étoiles pour les percevoir, nous les faisons paraître en ce que nous appartenons à une continuité avec elles dans le sol ? Quelle ontologie fondamentale serait-elle capable d’expliquer, en répondant au quid de l’être, l’unité et la différence au sein de cette nouvelle manière de penser l’appartenance ? En d’autres termes, la question est de donner réponse à l’origine ontologique (quid) de la phénoménalité. Dans les mots de Barbaras avec lesquels commence le troisième chapitre du livre intitulé « Vers une cosmologie : la déflagration » (p. 57-80), où il essaie de répondre à ces questions, « [i]l s’agit de comprendre pourquoi ce faire singulier [que le mouvement des vivants est un mouvement phénoménologique] dont nous parlons, dont l’autre nom est le désir, ne peut être qu’un faire paraître » (p. 57-58).

Plus exactement, la question est de savoir comment le sol qui se sépare de lui-même par le site donne lieu au surgissement du lieu. Mais le surgissement de la phénoménalisation ne doit pas être compris dans le sens d’une téléologie. Le paraître de l’être est totalement contingent sans pour autant laisser d’être le paraître de l’être. De la réponse à cette question dépend la réponse à une question qui en est dérivée : la question de l’unité de l’appartenance. Il faut pouvoir expliquer comment le sol, en se séparant dans le site, n’est autre que le sol lui-même. En prenant en compte que le sol contient tous les étants en tant qu’il les fait être, cette appartenance est ontologique : les étants ne sont pas seulement situés dans le monde, il constitue leur source, il nourrit l’être de l’étant qui y est inscrit. Il s’agit d’une ontogénèse dynamique surabondante. Cette surpuissance n’a d’autre positivité que dans ce qu’elle fait naître (p. 61) ; elle ne peut avoir rien d’étant pour être la source de tout étant. Le sol est donc accessible uniquement dans l’étant qu’il dépose, étant l’acte de déposer. Il est le jaillissement comme être et non un être qui jaillit. Barbaras admet qu’il ne s’agit pas de la puissance aristotélicienne « toujours référée à une substance et ordonnée au telos de l’acte », mais plutôt de la puissance plotinienne qui est Acte, débordement de l’Un qui donne ce qu’il ne possède pas (p. 61). Mais cette surpuissance ontogénétique ne doit pas diffuser le caractère spatial de l’appartenance : si l’être n’a pas d’autre sens que l’appartenance, produire n’est qu’installer dans l’extériorité. La puissance onto-génétique disperse, donne un site. Le site s’inscrit ainsi dans une surpuissance expansive. Le sol, étant la surpuissance expansive, produit le multiple dans son être jaillissement. Plus que monde, l’être est Nature au sens d’une physis originaire. En suivant Dufrenne (1981, p. 165), Barbaras remarque que la Nature indique, d’un côté, l’extériorité et l’antériorité du monde comme précédence ontologique, et, d’un autre côté, l’énergie de l’être comme puissance ou productivité. Cette formule exprime le monde de l’appartenance à la fois comme totalité antérieure extériorisante et comme surpuissance productrice. À ce titre, la phénoménologie qui prend ce monde-Nature comme objet ne peut se réaliser que comme cosmologie.

Arrivé à ce point, Barbaras est capable d’expliquer la mobilité de l’étant, une autre voie pour comprendre la nature du sol. La raison du mouvement est la distance du site au sol. Mais le site est contenu dans le sol : « sa distance au sol est distance au sein du sol » (p. 65). La mobilité de l’étant provient alors du sol. L’étant ne produit pas la mobilité, il s’y insère. Dès lors, le mouvement des étants témoigne de la nature de son sol. Le sol serait, selon Barbaras, la mobilité même (archi-mobilité, pur jaillisement). À dire vrai, c’est le sol qui, en tant que puissance ontogénétique, essaie de se rejoindre à partir de ce qu’il produit : de revenir à lui au travers des étants en lesquels il se sépare. En s’inspirant de Louis Lavelle (1937), Barbaras affirme que la participation ne fait pas de l’étant une partie du Tout. L’être n’est pas préalablement réalisé, mais l’étant participe à un acte qui est en train de s’accomplir grâce à une opération qui oblige l’étant à la fois d’assumer sa propre existence et l’existence du Tout. Autrement dit, la puissance ontogénétique à laquelle appartient l’étant n’existe pas en dehors de ses produits « et leur doit en ce sens son être » (p. 68). L’étant rejoint son sol par un mouvement désirant parce qu’il s’insère dans l’acte onto-originaire qui est en train de s’accomplir et qui lui donne l’énergie qui lui permet de déployer un lieu au sein du même sol qu’il essaie de rejoindre. Cela peut évoquer une affirmation d’un autre livre de Lavelle (1939) publié en aval de celui cité par Barbaras : « Elle [la vie] est toujours un retour à la source. Elle fait de moi un être perpétuellement naissant » (Lavelle, 1939, p. 92).

En voulant éclairer cette source qui est le sol, Barbaras pose à nouveau la question de Leibniz dans Les Principes de la Nature et de la Grâce : « pourquoi il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien » (Leibniz, 1996, p. 228), dans des termes cosmologiques : « comment y a-t-il quelque chose plutôt que rien ? » (p. 68). Cependant, il ne s’aligne ni sur Sartre ni sur Husserl, qui donnent, soit à l’existence, soit à la conscience, une irréalité ou négativité métaphysique, seule capable de dépasser le réel, de le penser ou de le constituer. Pour Barbaras, la négativité se pose uniquement en des termes ontiques. La source est une et indivisible : elle produit le multiple parce qu’elle ne l’est pas (négativité ontique). Mais elle n’est pas non plus un néant. Il n’y a pas création ex-nihilo. Il y aurait une forme de précession métaphysique : « rien de moins que la surabondance qui sous-tend tout étant pour autant qu’il vient à l’être » (p. 70). Sa négativité ontique consiste en son excès métaphysique. Il faut alors la comprendre comme l’événement en tant que mondification qui est l’advenir même d’une multiplicité d’étants (avènement). C’est pour cette raison que Barbaras choisit de caractériser cet archi-événément, sens d’être ultime du sol, comme déflagration. La déflagration est éternelle, car l’étant est immobile dans son archi-mobilité et stable dans son instabilité constitutive (p. 72). Barbaras avoue qu’il identifie ici, dans le concept de déflagration, l’archi-mouvement et l’archi-événement qu’il avait distingués dans son œuvre précédente (voir Barbaras, 2013). Ce qui nous permet d’affirmer que nous nous trouvons, en effet, au début d’une nouvelle période de la philosophie de l’auteur.

La déflagration peut aussi répondre aux problèmes touchant l’advenir du multiple. La déflagration est dispersion originaire qui renvoie à une pluralité de sites ou, autrement dit, à des étants individués et différents. Il y a autant de multiplicité numérique, spatiale, que de multiplicité qualitative : différence. Cette différence n’est autre que la gradation inhérente à la déflagration. Les étants s’éloignent différemment de leur source, « de telle sorte que la déflagration est naissance de différences dans la différence » (p. 75). En empruntant des expressions avec lesquelles Bergson explique l’évolution de la vie (1908, p. 108), Barbaras caractérise la déflagration comme l’éclatement qui est gerbe ontologique créant des directions divergentes, ce qui donne lieu à l’individuation de l’étant. C’est l’événement même de la contingence comme fait de la différence renvoyant à la contingence absolue de l’avènement de la déflagration comme absolu. Les éclats que sont les étants sont retenus dans leur propre avènement. Ils sont maintenus dans leur source, l’écho de l’archi-événement les transit éternellement sous la forme de la mobilité. Les différences entre les étants s’expriment donc en termes dynamiques, et la mobilité n’exprime que la proximité avec la surpuissance originaire. Effectivement, René Char n’a jamais si bien expliqué – rétrospectivement et de manière aussi fidèle – l’intuition philosophique rapprochant Barbaras et Bergson : « les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (Char, 1969, p. 154).

Plus précisément, dans le cas des vivants, leur mobilité exprime leur proximité ou leur degré d’insertion dans la déflagration. A contrario, l’immobilité de la pierre exprime un éloignement de l’éclatement originaire. Dans le cas de l’étant humain, connaître son sol exprime sa proximité à son sol. En termes simples, tout mouvement de l’étant est mouvement vers le sol, « quête ontologique » (p. 79). Barbaras se situe à l’opposé du transcendantal husserlien ou du distancement intellectuel cher à la phénoménologie : la pensée, la donation du sens, la réflexion, et pourquoi pas, la description phénoménologique, auraient pour source et condition de possibilité une profonde inscription dans le sol. Malheureusement, Barbaras n’explique pas ici les conséquences épistémologiques de cette cosmologie déflagrationniste pour une théorie de la connaissance renouvelée.

La déflagration barbarasienne est, partant, l’ontogenèse dynamique, la puissance ontogénétique, l’archi-événement capable de produire le multiple sans déchirer l’unité fondamentale des étants, l’archi-mouvement stabilisant. L’inspiration merleau-pontienne de l’idée de la déflagration est évidente : « Tel est à nos yeux le sens véritable de ces mots que Merleau-Ponty ajoute à propos de cette ‘explosion stabilisée’ qu’est ‘absolu du sensible’ : ‘i.e. comportant retour’ » (p. 79). La déflagration doit se comprendre alors dans les termes d’une explosion qui ne cesse jamais d’exploser. Les étants ne se séparent jamais de cette déflagration ; ils sont au seuil même de sa puissance et « reviennent sans cesse à elle, mettent à profit la puissance dont ils héritent pour rejoindre l’origine, recoudre la déchirure » (p. 79). En amont, dans L’Œil et l’esprit (1964), Merleau-Ponty a caractérisé la recherche de Cézanne de la profondeur dans les termes de la déflagration de l’être :

La profondeur ainsi comprise est plutôt l’expérience de la réversibilité des dimensions, d’une « localité » globale où tout est à la fois, dont hauteur, largeur et distance sont abstraites, d’une voluminosité qu’on exprime d’un mot en disant qu’une chose est là. Quand Cézanne cherche la profondeur, c’est cette déflagration de l’Être qu’il cherche, et elle est dans tous les modes de l’espace, dans la forme aussi bien. (…) Elle (la couleur) est « l’endroit où notre cerveau et l’univers se rejoignent », dit-il dans cet admirable langage d’artisan de l’Être que Klee aimait à citer (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 65-66).

Pour Barbaras, la profondeur sera la manière dont le sol se phénoménalise comme tel, l’envers phénoménal de la déflagration. Mais celle-ci ne s’abolit pas au profit de ce qu’elle dépose, elle explose en comportant retour. Ceci ne veut pas dire qu’il y aurait deux mouvements : la retombée de l’étant est remontée. Le mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration dans l’étant est aussi le mouvement centripète de l’étant vers la déflagration. C’est dans ces termes qu’il faut comprendre que le site appartient au sol comme le multiple à la déflagration, de manière que le site n’est pas le sol mais n’est pas autre chose que le sol. L’intentionnalité comme déploiement d’un lieu à partir d’un site ne serait que la manifestation phénoménologique de l’inscription et du retour de l’étant vers son origine explosive. L’intentionnalité est donc la manifestation centripète du mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration, la réalisation de l’appartenance dynamique à l’événement originaire (p. 80). Le lieu est, enfin, la trace phénoménologique de la continuité ontologique qui demeure dans la séparation. La question de la phénoménologie se pose ici. Nous retournons à la question sur le comment : l’origine des lieux. Quelle serait la phénoménologie de la cosmologie de la déflagration ? Dans le quatrième chapitre intitulé « La genèse des mondes » (p. 82-109), Barbaras fera le point sur la phénoménologie d’où il vient (Merleau-Ponty, Husserl et Patočka) pour poser les termes de la phénoménologie vers laquelle il se dirige et qui demeure ici en état de promesse.

 IV. La phénoménologie que la cosmologie mérite

Au début du quatrième chapitre, Barbaras rappelle sa critique de l’ontologie phénoménologique de la chair de Merleau-Ponty. Cette conception présuppose une limitation que la cosmologie phénoménologique essaie de dépasser : « contrairement à ce que Merleau-Ponty affirme, que cette chair soit mienne, c’est-à-dire sentante, ne signifie d’aucune manière qu’elle se distingue de la chair du monde : c’est au contraire en tant que chair du monde, en tant par conséquent qu’elle lui appartient radicalement, qu’elle est mienne » (p. 81). La condition de la phénoménalisation est l’inscription phénoménologique dans le monde. La question classique de l’union de l’âme et du corps, qu’on a qualifié au début de cet article de purement française, est ici dépassée. Si ma chair est la chair du monde, j’ai une conscience signifie la même chose que j’ai un corps et inversement (p. 81). La distinction entre conscience et corps est une abstraction. Cela lui permet de répondre aussi à Husserl. C’est la profondeur de l’inscription dans le monde qui mesure la puissancce phénoménalisante et non l’inverse. Le faire paraître le monde n’implique pas une situation d’exception, mais une appartenance radicale à lui. Barbaras renverse ainsi également la qualité d’être éjecté du monde du Da-sein heidéggerien ou de l’être pour soi sartrien : « c’est pace que ce que nous nommons conscience est du monde en un sens plus radical que d’autres étants, qu’elle est précisément conscience, à savoir aptitude à le faire paraître » (p. 81). L’extériorité est inscrite au sein de cette nouvelle interprétation de la phénoménalité. En effet, l’ampleur du lieu n’est que la profondeur de l’inscription dans le monde. Un nouvel a priori universel de la corrélation, valide pour tout étant, apparaît : « autant d’appartenance, autant de phénoménalité ; autant de continuité ontologique, autant d’ipséité » (p. 82). Mais la question est de savoir comment comprendre le statut et l’origine de la phénoménalité. Afin de répondre à cette question, Barbaras montrera que la phénoménalisation consiste dans l’unité propre à la manière dont les étants remontent vers leur source.

Le début de sa démonstration est inspiré de la phénoménologie a-subjective de Patočka. Ce phénoménologue, auquel il a consacré deux livres auparavant (2007, 2011b), dépasse de manière définitive la phénoménologie transcendantale de Husserl – que Barbaras caractérise comme « la version orthodoxe de la phénoménologie » (p. 83) – en déliant la phénoménalité de l’étant de la référence à un sujet constituant. Cela ne veut pas signifier la perte absolue du sujet. Le sujet sera dérivé d’une conception non subjectiviste de la phénoménalité. Selon la critique de Patočka (1995) à laquelle Barbaras souscrit, Husserl n’aurait pas su respecter l’autonomie du champ phénoménal dévoilé par l’épochè phénoménologique. Plus précisément, il finirait par trahir l’épochè. En effet, l’attitude naturelle peut être comprise par l’intention de rendre compte de l’apparaître du monde à partir des lois du monde ou, dans d’autres termes, de tenter de rendre compte de l’apparaître à partir d’un apparaissant. Mais Husserl, tout en voulant suspendre l’attitude naturelle, fait reposer pourtant l’apparaître sur des vécus (un apparaissant). Il faut donc faire avec la conscience ce que Husserl fait avec la thèse du monde, la neutraliser, afin de pouvoir accéder à l’apparaître comme a priori ultime. Cet a priori ne sera pas distinct de celui des apparaissants mondains : l’apparaître est un et relève d’une même légalité. Pour Patočka, c’est le monde qui constituera ainsi l’a priori ultime de l’apparaître, étant le vrai point d’arrivée de l’épochè. C’est l’appartenance au monde le sens d’être ultime de l’étant. Le monde est l’apparaissant ultime : « la condition du donné est un archi-donné » (p. 87). Autrement dit, le monde est l’a priori de l’expérience du monde : l’empirique, ou plutôt l’ontologique, et le transcendantal coïncident. Il semblerait que Patočka finisse par faire dériver l’apparaître de l’apparaissant, comme il le reproche à Husserl. Cependant, selon Barbaras, ce n’est pas le cas si on comprend bien le sens de cet apparaissant qui est le grand Tout, qui est le monde. Pour s’expliquer, il reprend et renverse la détermination husserlienne de la perception comme donation par esquisses. La perception se déploie sous la forme d’un cours d’esquisses parce que l’on dispose par avance de la garantie de pouvoir parcourir la chose. Il a fallu que la continuabilité de cette expérience me soit donnée d’emblée : une chose ne paraît qu’au sein de son horizon. L’horizon n’est plus, comme pour Husserl, potentialité de la conscience. La présence intuitive doit se comprendre comme la cristallisation d’un horizon préalable. L’horizon sera le nom de l’être donné à la continuabilité de l’expérience : l’Un englobant. Dire d’une chose qu’elle apparaît signifie qu’elle s’inscrit dans une unité ouverte de toutes les apparitions possibles. L’expérience est ainsi en continuité avec toutes les autres l’expériences. À dire vrai, elle ne peut être qu’une : l’unité de l’expérience est ce qui commande son être d’expérience. La conscience n’est donc pas la condition de l’apparaître, elle serait la conséquence de l’apparaître : c’est dans la mesure où une chose apparaît dans une totalité englobante que l’unité peut se donner à une conscience et non l’inverse. S’il ne s’agit pas alors d’une conscience, la question qui se pose est celle du mode d’être de ce sujet capable d’accueillir cette unité.

Barbaras le confesse : « [l]es mots ici nous manquent (p. 92). Sans le deviner peut-être, il s’aligne sur les moments de description de phénoménologues qui, en voulant être fidèles à la description des aspects les plus mystérieux de l’expérience, rendent explicite les limitations du langage. C’est peut-être en ceci que réside la différence entre la phénoménologie et l’herméneutique, ou encore entre la phénoménologie et le structuralisme. Nous en trouvons l’un des exemples dans les descriptions husserliennes de la constitution de la conscience absolue du temps. Et c’est justement l’excédance du moyen de description par les faits phénoménologiques de la description même qui en dit le plus long sur la pratique fidèle de la phénoménologie et de la profondeur de la vision du phénoménologue. Scheler remarque précisément que la phénoménologie montre avec la parole ce qui doit être expérimenté par l’interlocuteur du phénoménologue, une expérience qui dépasse les moyens de l’expression de l’évidence (Scheler, 1954, p. 391). Dans tous les cas, il est aussi étonnant que compréhensible que les mots manquent quand Barbaras essaie d’éclairer le sens de l’être de ce sujet phénoménalisant. Selon Barbaras, ce sujet ne peut pas être constituant, mais il est requis par l’apparition qui le précède comme principe d’unification. Le sujet participe, dans l’unification de l’unité unifiante, de l’apparaître des choses sans les constituer. La réponse de Barbaras, en accord avec la cosmologie de la déflagration, est que le sens d’être de ce sujet consiste en un mouvement, « précisément celui qui constitue cette unité des apparitions que nous avons, pour notre part, nommée lieu » (p. 93). L’horizon des apparitions existe comme son propre déploiement dynamique indifférent au partage de la transcendance et de l’immanence. En suivant Patočka, Barbaras remarque que la pénétration dans le monde est l’envers d’une orientation qui implique que le sujet soit situé au sein de la totalité : « l’approche est toujours un ‘déloignement’ (Entfernung) » (p. 94). Mais c’est parce que l’approche constitue notre rapport originaire au monde dans un tout anticipateur, que nous voyons les choses ; le distancement n’est pas la condition de possibilité du voir. La phénoménalité est renvoyée, par Barbaras, à la mobilité. L’unité est effectuée par un sujet qui, appartenant au monde, s’avance vers son sol au sein de lui en déployant des lieux. Patočka a déjà mis l’accent, selon Barbaras, sur le caractère spatialisant de la phénoménalisation. Toutefois, le pas franchi par rapport à Patočka consiste à fonder cette dynamique spatialisante sur une appartenance ontologique et non topologique, « sur un défaut d’être qui ne peut avoir pour envers qu’une aspiration » (p. 95). Barbaras remet la question de la phénoménalisation dans les termes du lieu au sein de sa cosmologie, afin de donner à l’espace son importance constitutive. Au fond, l’indivisibilité de l’origine perdure sous la forme de la puissance unifiante qui habite chaque étant : son activité phénoménalisante (p. 97). L’unité est la trace d’une telle puissance indivise. La surpuissance de la déflagration demeure sous la forme des mouvements qui s’attestent dans une dimension unificatrice. L’étant poursuit cette unité dans le multiple et tente de la réaliser. La sortie de l’origine comme dispersion a une relation d’identité avec le retour à l’origine comme rassemblement. L’origine de la phénoménalité, l’origine des mondes, est ce qui apparaît de l’origine au sein du multiple, « la manière dont l’indivision de la puissance explosive se réfléchit au sein du fini » (p. 98). La forme est ainsi archè.

Mais si le monde est corrélat d’une appartenance, il y a alors trois sens du monde : le monde comme source (déflagration) qui renvoie au sol, le monde comme multiplicité ontique provenant de cet archi-événement qui renvoie au site, le monde comme forme ou sédimentation de l’origine au sein du multiple qui renvoie au lieu. Ils correspondent respectivement à l’appartenance ontologique, à l’appartenance ontique et à l’appartenance phénoménologique. Si l’étant va de son site vers son sol du point de vue phénoménologique, il y a un mouvement plus originaire par lequel la source explosive cherche à se rassembler dans sa dispersion. Le sujet véritable est le cosmos lui-même et sa vérité est celle d’une surpuissance originaire qui fait des mondes pour se faire être comme pure origine. Le monde proprement dit est, pour la phénoménologie de cette cosmologie, la trace de la puissance de l’origine au sein du multiple, la totalité comme sédimentation, le troisième sens du monde. Autrement dit, bien qu’il y a un cœur archi-événementiel (déflagration) du monde qui constitue son contenu (l’ensemble des étants), en donnant lieu à son contenu contingente, « l’archi-événement est archi-contingence » (p. 101). Il s’agit d’un néoplatonisme inversé, car la réalité de l’Un qui donne ce qu’il ne possède pas est cosmologique au lieu de métaphysique, elle est une réalité indéterminée et indivisible. De plus, si la pensée consiste dans un mouvement de séparation et de remontée (hypostase vers l’Un) qui produit le multiple, dans la perspective de Barbaras, le multiple manifeste originairement une séparation de l’origine, face à laquelle la remontée vers l’origine a le sens d’une unification.

Les lieux marquent la proximité de l’origine dans la distance. Si aucun monde ne peut s’approprier l’origine, il y a toutes sortes de mondes possibles, autant de mondes que d’étants dont l’amplitude se mesure à la profondeur de l’inscription dans le sol qui n’est que la proximité de l’origine. L’ampleur de la synthèse sur laquelle un monde se repose ou la puissance signifiante sera d’autant plus forte que l’étant sera moins loin de son origine (p. 104). Avec cette affirmation, Barbaras se situe à l’opposé de la phénoménologie qui caractérise le sujet comme étant un hors-monde. Pour la cosmologie phénoménologique, autant d’appartenance, autant d’intentionnalité ; autant d’intentionnalité, autant de subjectivité ; autant de proximité avec la déflagration, autant de puissance ; autant de puissance, autant de monde ; autant de monde, autant de subjectivité. C’est parce que nous sommes d’abord des êtres cosmologiques que nous sommes conscients et connaissants. Les degrés de subjectivation renvoient aux degrés d’appartenance. Barbaras avoue que Merleau-Ponty s’est dirigé dans cette direction mais qu’il n’a pas pu fonder son intuition parce qu’il prenait comme point de départ la chair sensible. La chair comme sentir est différente de la chair du monde qui est sentie en ce sentir même (p. 106).  Merleau-Ponty n’a pas pu fonder l’univocité dont il a pourtant eu l’intuition. Pour Barbaras, c’est parce que nous appartenons au sol ontologique du monde que nous sommes capables de le phénoménaliser. La subjectivité ne se distingue pas de la puissance phénoménalisante. Il ne s’agit pas de nier la différence, mais de ressaisir la différence, « nier qu’elle repose sur la séparation d’une entité subjective et d’un monde » (p. 107). Mais si la phénoménalisation ou la subjectivité a pour condition l’appartenance, elle n’a pas l’appartenance pour contenu. Le lieu n’est pas le sol, mais la manière dont le sol se donne à celui qui en est séparé au sein du sol. Le monde est la manifestation de l’archi-événement à celui qui en est un éclat. Partant, « le destin de l’origine est sa propre occultation dans le phénomène » (p. 108). En d’autres termes, la phénoménalisation implique une occultation. Le sol n’apparaît jamais comme sol et c’est pour cela qu’on peut dire qu’on est séparés en son sein. La dimension d’occultation s’accuse tandis que la phénoménalisation se fait plus ample. Le lieu que nous déployons est plus loin du sol. La profondeur de notre appartenance déclenche une puissance de phénoménalisation qui nous permet de déployer un lieu en ouvrant le monde lui-même. Ce monde se donne comme « objectif », détaché de l’activité phénoménalisante, et comme délivrant un sens de l’être. La plus grande appartenance débouche donc sur la séparation, car la phénoménalisation finit par nommer l’essence de ce qui est : « la puissance de l’origine débouche sur sa propre occultation » (p. 108). Nous avons alors plus de chances d’accéder à l’appartenance si l’on aborde les modes d’exister ou mondes où le lieu ne recouvre pas encore le sol. Le problème de la réduction phénoménologique se pose ici. Il faut admettre qu’au sein de la relation objective du monde de la vie, et malgré elle, le sol affleure. Il faut admettre que nous sommes d’une certaine manière initiés à notre sol d’appartenance au sein d’une existence qui nous en éloigne, pour transcender ce monde objectif à partir duquel on ne peut pas « exhiber sa propre condition de possibilité » (p. 109). Barbaras finit son livre alors par l’indication d’une réalité à définir qui serait celle de la profondeur, étant le mode sous lequel l’appartenance se phénoménalise dans le lieu. Pour y accéder, il ne faut pas suivre la voie de la subjectivité objectivante, mais celle d’une contestation interne à celle-ci : la voie du suspens de la puissance phénoménalisante. L’interrogation de la profondeur ne pourra s’accomplir, confesse Barbaras, que dans une esthétique. Il semblerait que la phénoménologie que mérite la cosmologie de la déflagration n’ait pas encore été déployée, et qu’elle serait peut-être une phénoménologie de la profondeur au titre d’une esthétique. Nous comprenons cette idée de profondeur dans la lignée de l’affirmation de Borges : « la musique, les états de bonheur, la mythologie, les visages travaillés par le temps, certains crépuscules et certains lieux, veulent nous dire quelque chose, ou quelque chose qu’ils ont dit que nous n’aurions pas dû perdre, ou ils sont sur le point de dire quelque chose. Cette imminence d’une révélation, qui ne se produit jamais, est peut-être le fait esthétique » (Borges, 1952). Cette profondeur ne serait que le mode sous lequel nous éprouvons la trace de la déflagration tout en essayant de donner monde sans pour autant recouvrir le sol au point de le nier. Et c’est pourquoi il nous faudrait ajouter aux vers de René Char avec lesquels nous avons commencé – « dans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (René Char, 158) –, les mots de Paul Veyne : « [i]ls s’abattent sur le monde, ils y reviennent, et ne chutent pas dans le néant » (Veyne, 1995, p. 516).

Références

Barbaras, Renaud. 1991. De l’être du phénomène : sur l’ontologie de Merleau-Ponty. Grenoble : Jérôme Millon.

—–. 2004. Introduction à la philosophie de Husserl. Paris : Éditions de la Transparence.

—–. 2007. Le mouvement de l’existence : études sur la phénoménologie de Jan Patočka. Paris :  Éditions de la Transparence.

—–. 2011a. La vie lacunaire. Paris, Vrin.

—–. 2011b. L’ouverture du monde : lecture de Jan Patočka. Paris : Éditions de la Transparence.

—–. 2013. Dynamique de la manifestation. Paris : Vrin.

—–. 2016a. Métaphysique du sentiment. Paris : Cerf.

—–. 2016b. Le Désir et le monde. Paris : Hermann.

Bergson, Henri. 1908. L’évolution créatrice. Paris : Félix Alcan.

Benjamin, Walter. 2018. « Über Sprache überhaupt und über die Sprache des Menschen », Ausgewählte Werke. Band III. Berlin : Suhrkamp Verlag, p. 114-131.

Borges, Jorge Luis. 1952. Otras inquisiciones. Buenos Aires : Sur.

Brentano, Franz. 2008. Psychologie du point de vue empirique, trad. de Gandillac, 2ème  édition revue par J. Fr. Courtine. Paris : Vrin.

Char, René. 1969. Les Matinaux suivi de La parole en archipiel. Paris : Gallimard.

Deudon, Aurélien. 2018. « Réflexions sur l’espace et le temps dans la phénoménologie de Renaud Barbaras », Alter, no. 26, p. 197-212.

Dufrenne, Mikel. 1981. L’inventaire des a priori. Paris : Christian Bourgois.

Duportail, Guy-Félix. 2010. « Le moment topologique de la phénoménologie française », Archives de philosophie, vol. 1, No. 73, p. 47-65.

Gilson, Etienne. 1948. L’être et l’essence. Paris : Vrin.

Lavelle, Louis. 1937. De l’acte. Paris : Aubier.

—–. 1939. L’erreur de Narcise. Paris : Bernard Grasset.

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm. 1996. Les Principes de la Nature et de la Grâce. Monadologie et autres textes (1703-1716-). Paris : Flammarion.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 1964. L’oeil et l’esprit. Paris : Gallimard.

Patočka, Jan. 1995. Papiers phénoménologiques, trad. Erika Abrams. Grenoble : Jérôme Millon.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1990. Soi-même comme un autre. Paris : Seuil.

Riquier, Camille. 2011. « Descartes et les trois voies de la philosophie française », Philosophie, vol. 2, No. 109, p. 21-42.

Scheler, Max. 2000. « Phänomenologie und Erkenntnistheorie », Schriften aus dem Nachlass. Band I. Zur Ethik und Erkenntnistheorie, Gesammelte Werke. Band 10. Bonn : Bouvier Verlag, p. 379-430.

—–. 2004. Der Formalismus in der Ethik und die materiale Wertethik: Neuer Versuch der Grundlegung eines ethischen Personalismus. Halle : Niemeyer.

Veyne, Paul. 1995. René Char et ses poèmes. Paris : Gallimard.

Worms, Frédéric. 2009. La philosophie en France au XXe siècle. Paris : Gallimard.

Peter Antich: Motivation and the Primacy of Perception, Ohio University Press, 2021

Motivation and the Primacy of Perception Couverture du livre Motivation and the Primacy of Perception
Series in Continental Thought, № 54
Peter Antich
Ohio University Press · Swallow Press
2021
Hardback $95.00
284

Iulian Apostolescu (Ed.): The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl

The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl Couverture du livre The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl
Contributions To Phenomenology, Vol. 108
Iulian Apostolescu (Ed.)
Springer
2020
Hardback 103,99 €
XIV, 380

Reviewed by: Luz Ascarate (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

We can think of the Husserlian phenomenological project and the history that surrounds it as the passage “from visible graces to secret graces”, borrowing the expression with which Alain Mérot (2015) describes Poussin’s artistic work. In Mérot’s words, the visible graces are those of rigour (diligentia), order and visual eloquence with which Poussin always sought to show the clarity he was voluntarily seeking in all things. These visible graces make possible, in Pousin’s work, the realization of “secret graces”, which are those inexplicable and never totally expressed graces that support the deep and dark unity of the world, inseparable from the delectation that his work offers. It is because of the transmission of hidden graces that Poussin, according to Mérot, is accessible only to those who are both intelligent and sensible. Moreover, it is precisely because of the transmission of these secret graces that his work needs, in order to exist in all its fullness, a community of chosen people to whom it can be addressed.

Like Poussin’s work, facing the path of making grace visible by combining various techniques from the history of painting, Husserl’s work is a work in progress, a work that is always preparatory: “Everything I have written so far is only preparatory work; it is only the setting down of methods” (Husserl, 2001a). We can say in this sense that, insofar as the contemplation of a painting by Poussin makes us participants in the grace made visible and not sufficiently expressed (secret), the methods of the phenomenological vision are put into practice by every reader of Husserl. In this way, everyone who sees through Husserl, irremediably leaves aside, in her or his reading, something that cannot be said. It is for this reason, perhaps, that phenomenology continues creating interpretative divergences even so many years after the method’s foundation. Nevertheless, this is the same reason why phenomenology must confront other traditions of thought (from positivism to structuralism, among others) in front of which it still has something to say.

This book presents us with the panorama of these divergences, establishing the center of the discussion in the semantic richness of the notion of “subject(s)”. Thus, we can understand this book as the discussion of the subject(s) as the main theme, or main themes, of phenomenology. But we can also understand this book as the discussion of whether the main theme of phenomenology – expressed in the imperative to go back to the “things themselves” – revolves around the notion of subjectivity (subject), although transcendental, or of the multiplicity of subjectivities (subjects). Moreover, the main interest of this book is that it is situated in the field of the most recent of Husserl’s readers, which allows us to question the relevance of the phenomenological method in front of the themes of contemporary philosophical debate: “The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl sets out to critically re-evaluate (and challenge) the predominant interpretations of Husserl’s philosophy, and to adapt phenomenology to the specific philosophical challenges and context of the twenty-first century” (viii). In this way, as we expect of every new book of phenomenology, this book puts in dialogue phenomenology with the most recent philosophical proposals in order to show the limits that this tradition must overcome, or at least identify, to defend its actuality. The presentation of these dialogues and limits is organised around three orientations, each of which is developed in one of the three parts of the book: 1) the logical field of phenomenology, 2) problems and applications of the phenomenological method, and 3) the extents of phenomenology.

Part I, which has five chapters, is entitled “The Phenomenological Project: Definition and Scope”. This section concentrates mainly on the logical and linguistic framework of the Husserlian project. The Logical Investigations (2001b and 2001c) are thus a constant reference in this part of the book.

In the first chapter, “An Analytic Phenomenology: Husserl’s Path to the Things Themselves” (3-15), Jean-Daniel Thumser presents the path of the Husserlian language to things themselves, a path which he calls, for the first time in phenomenological literature, an analytical phenomenology. This essay concentrates on Husserl’s methodological language, from logical investigations to his ‘late manuscripts’. Thumser opposes the Husserlian language to the common language and to the scientific language (3). Unlike these languages, the language of phenomenology, according to the author, responds to the objective of phenomenology, which is “describe the essence of the experiencing life by practicing the phenomenological reduction” (3). The author speaks in the terms of an analytical phenomenology as a way to understad how transcendental language can express lived experience. The aim of the author of this contribution is to show the unity of Husserlian thought from this particular method while showing its limits.

In the second chapter, entitled “Parts, Wholes, and Phenomenological Necessity” (17-30), Adam Konopka reconstructs the notion of Husserlian necessity from the early logic of Husserlian phenomenology referring to parts and wholes. This notion of necessity will be presented as the radicalization of the Kantian conception of the material a priori from the diversification of phenomenological a prioris: “Kant accounts for the necessity proper to the unity and organization of manifolds in a one-sided relation to the subjective accomplishments of the knower. In contrast, Husserl account (sic.) for necessary unities of sense in terms of a two-sided relation of intentionality that is inclusive of lateral unities of coincidence” (29). However, to the author, Kant and Husserl are both convinced that transcendental philosophy clarify the necessity of the lawful regularities in a contingent world by a reference to the necessary conditions of their knowability.

Simone Aurora, in “The Early Husserl Between Structuralism and Transcendental Philosophy” (31-43), establishes a dialogue between Husserlian phenomenology and structuralism. To this end, he must overcome the apparent opposition that, due to the problems of an interpretative caricature of both traditions, would make this dialogue impossible. The author seeks to show that both Husserl’s early philosophy and structuralism must be considered as part of the same transcendental tradition. He concentrates on the notion of Wissenschaftslehre and the mereology of the “Third Logical Investigation” to identify “original” structuralist elements in Husserl’s transcendental philosophy: “Husserl’s version of structuralism is, however, original in many respects. Indeed, unlike the various structuralist currents that have animated many scientific fields, the philosophical programme which underlies the Logical Investigations is by no means limited to a specific disciplinary domain” (39). In this way, the author sets the relevance of Husserlian broad and philosophical structuralism in comparison with other structuralisms.

In the fourth contribution, entitled “Transcendental Consciousness: Subject, Object, or Neither?” (45-56), Corijn van Mazijk problematizes the term “transcendental consciousness”. The author presents three different interpretations of this concept. The first type of reading is classified by the author as ‘subjectivist’. This reading “sees transcendental consciousness as a kind of too narrowly restricted, exclusively first-person reality” (46). The second is the analytic or representationalist one characteristic of the thinkers of the U.S. West Coast. According to these thinkers, Husserlian phenomenology is interested in the ways in which we acquire knowledge of things and says nothing about the being of these things. From this reading, consciousness and the things it apprehends are totally different entities. Phenomenology would then have its own region of objectivities. The third reading is proper to thinkers of the U.S. East Coast (including Dan Zahavi) which challenges the West Cost interpretation. “These scholars understand transcendental consciousness in a more world-encompassing sense” (47). The East Coast argues that transcendental consciousness is no different from its world and is above the subject-object distinction. In the face of this discussion, van Mazijk proposes that phenomenology refers to the entire reality: “phenomenology and natural science genuinely study one and the same reality, even though they have different themes” (52). What is at stake, in the author’s view, is a metaphysical commitment in Husserl’s thought. It should be noted that, to van Mazijk, “metaphysical here (as in its classic sense) refers to a positive claim about what all (actual and possible) being in its final sense amounts to” (50) and Husserl maintains precisely that the ontological region of the transcendental consciousness includes the totality of the being.

Vedran Grahovac’s paper, “Philosophy as an Exercise in Exaggeration: The Role of Circularity in Husserl’s Criticism of Logical Psychologism” (57-94), shows that Husserl develops, in his Logical Investigations, a circular strategy of analysis that allows him to take advantage of the circularity inherent in psychology for the logical framework of his analyses. Thus, Husserl’s criticism of psychology and empiricism would consist above all in showing a circularity that is presupposed in these theories. The advance of Husserl’s philosophy itself depends on these theories, which he overcomes by transforming his themes and his own philosophy in the mode of a circular process. Moreover, for the author,

The persistence of the critical relation of pure science of logic towards psychologism, as the exaggeration of the latter through the self-regulation of the former, secures, in fact, the fixity of its epistemological position. The emphasis on the conscious particularism of the logical claim for universality clearly remains a pivotal concern for Husserl in the 1905–1907 lectures on Logic (85).

Part II, entitled “The Unfolding of Phenomenological Philosophy”, develops different themes that are very present in the current debate of phenomenological tradition, such as the relevance of phenomenology for the social sciences, problems of the transcendental point of view, imagination, intersubjectivity, and passivity. We can say that the papers here are organized in such a way that they outline the passage from the themes of static phenomenology to those of genetic phenomenology.

In Victor Eugen Gelan’s contribution, entitled “Husserl’s Idea of Rigorous Science and Its Relevance for the Human and Social Sciences” (97-105), we see how Husserl’s idea of rigorous science constitutes a great contribution not only to the understanding of the idea of science in general, but above all to the scientific character of the human and social sciences. To this end, the author presents Alfred Schutz’s thought, which allows him to show both an applied phenomenological idea of rigorous science and Husserl’s influence on the social science tradition. Moreover, the author points out that there is a thematic convergence in both thinkers that make such a contribution possible: “Husserl understood that it was necessary to complete his analysis of transcendental intersubjectivity (in Ideas I) with an investigation of subjectivity at the level of the natural world and attitude (elaborated in Krisis), from which the positive sciences emerge. This is where Husserl and Schutz meet” (104). Gelan also shows the methodological aspects of phenomenology that are valuable for social sciences, such as phenomenological reduction and the theory of the constitution of sense, aspects that are inscribed in the Husserlian idea of rigorous science.

Marco Cavallaro’s essay, “Ego-Splitting and the Transcendental Subject. Kant’s Original Insight and Husserl’s Reappraisal” (107-133), puts Husserl and Kant in dialogue about being an “I”. To this end, Cavallaro defines being an I as self-identity and self-consciousness. Firstly, the text attempts to reconstruct Kant’s implicit thought on the problem of Ego-splitting, and secondly, the text presents the view of Husserlian phenomenology on this same problem. According to the author, Husserlian phenomenology considers Ego-splitting the foundation of all transcendental philosophy. Cavallaro maintains that all self-consciousness implies an Ego-splitting and “that this is at odds with the prerequisite of self-identity we generally attribute to every experienceable or solely thinkable object” (128). He thus concludes that the splitting is a eidetic necessary character of the Ego.

“What Is Productive Imagination? The Hidden Resources of Husserl’s Phenomenology of Phantasy” (135-153) by Saulius Geniusas reconstructs the concept of productive imagination from the Husserlian point of view. The author treats this concept in a relative way, as opposed to the concept of reproductive imagination, which he seeks to expose first through the concept of fantasy. Next, the author shows that fantasy cannot be conceived as an ingredient of perceptive consciousness. Memory and fantasy, according to him, generate patterns of meaning and can therefore be taken in the field of positional experience. This allows him to show the place of productive imagination in the cultural field: “One can thus say that the cultural worlds are indeed historical through and through: the systems of appearance through which they are constituted admit of almost endless corrections, transformations and variations” (151). Moreover, according to Geniusas, despite Husserl’s concerns about the Kantian concept of transcendental imagination, Husserlian phenomenology of fantasy allows us to make a re-appropriation of the Kantian concept of productive imagination and apply it to the cultural world.

Rodney K. B. Parker’s contribution “Does Husserl’s Phenomenological Idealism Lead to Pluralistic Solipsism? Assessing the Criticism by Theodor Celms” (155-184) establishes a dialogue between Husserl and Theodor Celms. The author reconstructs Celms’ critique of Husserl’s supposed solipsism in Der phänomenologische Idealismus Husserls (1928). This reconstruction allows him to rescue Celms’ contribution to the formulation of Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations under the assumption that Husserl read Celms’ book before writing the text of Cartesians Meditations. Parker defends Husserl’s transcendental idealism by pointing out that the theory of intersubjectivity present in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation can neutralize transcendental solipsism. In any case, according to Parker, if transcendental idealism leads to a solipsistic pluralism, this would not be problematic.

Matt E. M. Bower’s essay “Finding a Way Into Genetic Phenomenology” (185-200) questions the place of genetic phenomenology in Husserian thought. The author concentrates on the clarification of the method of reduction and on its different ways in order to show the limits of these in dealing with the genetic themes of phenomenology. In the face of this, the author seeks to propose a new way that can give an account of the genetic description without leaving the transcendental scope. For this, he is inspired by Husserl’s late reflections on abnormal forms of consciousness. The characteristic feature of this new path is the fact that it is indirect: “The way to genetic phenomenology is indirect, and is at least one step removed from the familiar ‘ways to the reduction’” (191).

In “The Allure of Passivity” (201-211), Randall Johnson puts in discussion Husserl and Merleau-Ponty on the subject of passivity. To present Husserl’s thought on this subject, the author takes as his main reference the passive synthesis lectures, which, according to the author, were not known to Merleau-Ponty: “Based on H. L. Van Breda’s account of Merleau-Ponty’s visit to the Husserl Archives in 1939 and documentation of which manuscripts were available to him while they were being housed in Paris from 1944 until 1948, as well as those he later borrowed, it seems unlikely that Merleau-Ponty was able to read the passive synthesis lectures” (207). Merleau-Ponty’s contribution to the phenomenology of passivity consists, according to Johnson, in the diaphragmatic self-relation of an ego that cannot sustain its fragments. It is precisely the fragmentary forms of Merleau-Ponty’s notes that represent this characterization of passivity, which have produced, in the author, a strong impression capable of inspiring a profound reflection on love, with which this paper ends.

Part III, entitled “At the Limits of Phenomenology:  Towards Phenomenology as Philosophy of Limits”, explores the challenges of the phenomenological method in different limit areas, which can be understood as different extensions of the Husserlian perspective of phenomenology. We can identify here four orientations of these explorations: time, expression, the social ground of the phenomenological method, and the reception of Husserl’s work by his French readers (heirs and critics).

The temporal orientation is explored by the first two papers. On the one hand, “Time and Oblivion: A Phenomenological Study on Oblivion” (215-229), by Benjamin Draxlbauer, is a phenomenological analysis of a time limit-case. The phenomenon of oblivion is treated as a limit-case arising in the description of time-consciousness in Husserlian terms. The author shows the passage from the early Husserlian thought on this subject, in relation to retention and intentional consciousness, to the reflections of Husserl’s later manuscripts. Husserl’s late perspective, according to Draxlbauer, calls into question his early thought on this subject by mobilizing the concepts of sedimentation and horizon. On the other hand, Christian Sternad, in “On the Verge of Subjectivity: Phenomenologies of Death” (231-243), explores various conceptions of the very different time limit-case that is death. What interests the author is to show how the conceptions of death of phenomenological thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, Scheler, Fink, Sartre, Lévinas or Derrida influence the conceptions of subjectivity of each of these thinkers. Moreover, Sternad understands death as the interruption of the correlation between subject and object. With it, “death” questions the fundamental premises of the phenomenological method as it ends the subject of the experience to describe. What puts this in relevance is the relation between the notions of death and intersubjectivity, as the author of this paper defends.

The second orientation of Part III puts Husserl in dialogue with Frege and Merleau-Ponty around the concept of expression. First, Neal DeRoo in “Spiritual Expression and the Promise of Phenomenology” (245-269) presents Husserl’s response to Frege’s theory of meaning, which makes Husserl’s thinking on expression possible. According to the autor, this concept allows Husserl, on the one hand, to situate meaning as the connection between subjective acts of meaning and objective meanings. On the other hand, this concept allows Husserl to develop his notion of spirit and the analysis of the « lifeworld ». Moreover, according to DeRoo, in the Husserlian intention of understanding the scientific knowledge on the basis of Husserl and Frege’s discussion, “expression” will constitute the promise of the phenomenology itself. Second, “Individuation, Affectivity and the World: Reframing Operative Intentionality (Merleau-Ponty)” (271-290) by Elodie Boublil, focuses on the notion of “coherent deformation” present in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of expression. The author argues that, through this notion, Merleau-Ponty understands the individuation of subjectivity from its creative and ontological aspect. With this, Merleau-Ponty manages to show the dynamics inherent in intentionality and its expressions. The paper reveals that in his discussion with Malraux, Merleau-Ponty develops a phenomenology “from within” that displays the metamorphoses of the subject in diverse works of expression such as those of literature and art.

The third orientation explores the limits of the social basis of the phenomenological method, either from the point of view of the socio-geographical limits highlighted by the non-European vision of the world, or from the point of view of the socio-political limits highlighted by the political demands that we can address to phenomenology. Firstly, Ian Angus, in “Husserl and America: Reflections on the Limits of Europe as the Ground of Meaning and Value for Phenomenology” (291-310), problematizes a point that is present in the “Vienna Lecture” and that will be extracted in the Crisis text. This is the moment when Husserl defines the spirit of Europe by discounting Papuan people, the Inuit, the Indigenous peoples, and the Romani, and including “America”. For Angus, “this discounting and inclusion cannot be simply dismissed or ignored but constitutes a fundamental gesture in his critique of the crisis into which European reason has fallen” (292). This gesture is analyzed through the concept of institution (Urstiftung) of the Crisis, so that the “discovery” of America will be understood as an event instituting the spirit of Europe. Thus, the author defends that phenomenology can only be fully realized if, going beyond its European limits, it becomes a comparative diagnosis of the planetary and universal crisis of reason. Secondly, “Politicising the Epokhé: Bernard Stiegler and the Politics of Epochal Suspension” (341-354) by Ben Turner exposes Stiegler’s political appropriation of Husser’s epoché method. This method will not be seen simply as access to the structures of transcendental consciousness by suspending the influence of the world. Rather, what will suspend the epokhé will be the existing social systems to allow a moment of critical unfolding of disruptive source, which will be the institution of a new epoch. The author shows that the understanding of Stiegler’s epokhé has been achieved through, on the one hand, Husserian phenomenological thinking about the internal consciousness of time and, on the other hand, reflections on the pharmacological point of view of certain techniques that are both poisonous and curative. The political point of view of the epokhé must, thus, fight against the poisonous aspects of the epoché.

Last but not least, the fourth orientation of Part III groups three contributions that present the French reception of Husserlian phenomenology from very different topics but that identify, each time, a limit theme of Husserlian phenomenology. Firstly, I would like to present the last text of the book, which shows the contribution of the French critics of Husserl to the phenomenological project. This text, “Not Phenomenology’s ‘Other’: Historical Epistemology’s Critique and Expansion of Phenomenology” (355-380) by David M. Peña-Guzmán, deals first with the tensions between the tradition of French epistemology and the tradition of Husserlian phenomenology. At the same time, the author seeks to defend that, beyond possible misunderstandings, both traditions have similar features. The central references of the essay are Jean Cavaillès and Gaston Bachelard. Peña-Guzmán proves that the critiques of phenomenology by these thinkers have made possible an expansion of the phenomenological Husserlian project in their heirs and readers. Thus, the author of this essay considers that French historical epistemology is the Other of phenomenology. Secondly, I introduce the contribution, “Phenomenological Crossings: Givenness and Event (327-339)” by Emre Şan, which shows an example of the reappropriation and development of phenomenology in the French tradition. This essay focuses on the post-Husserlian developments of Michel Henry, Merleau-Ponty, and Jean-Luc Marion. Şan shows that these authors exceed the limits of the given meaning of the phenomenological perspective of noetic-nematic correlation. This is accomplished with the modification of the phenomenon considered, by these authors, as the event of meaning. With it, they manage to extend the scope of phenomenality to subjects such as the invisible, totality, affectivity. Finally, Keith Whitmoyer, in his essay entitled “Husserl and His Shadows: Phenomenology After Merleau-Ponty” (311-326), reflects on the reading of Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, and Derrida of Husserlian phenomenology. With these authors, he conceives Husserl’s work as a work that should not be considered from a luminous pattern, but rather from a certain brilliance that shines through the paradoxical multiplicity and chiaroscuro of his path. In this way, Husserl’s phenomenology must be understood as the clarification of that which in us makes reduction possible and that which in us resists reduction.

This last idea allows us to return to the reflection with which we started this review. Mérot (2015) affirms about Poussin, in the same text we referred to at the beginning, that he shows the correspondences that sustain the “dark and deep unity” of the world on a certain visual elocution, which is an application, through visible graces, of secret graces. The same can be said of the Husserlian phenomenological project, which, many decades after its foundation, continues to cause the perplexity of that which, wanting to make visible, does not become visible without making visible in that same movement that involves simultaneous occultation. The subjects of phenomenology are thus variable, multiple, urgent, and undefined. Let it be permitted to us then, in front of the perplexity proper to the phenomenological path, to finish this review with a poem by Jaccottet (1977) that makes us think of the paradoxical light with which the phenomenological method seeks to illuminate things themselves: “mêlé au monde que nous traversons, / qu’il y ait, imprégnant ses moindres parcelles,/ de cela que la voix ne peut nommer, de cela /que rien ne mesure, afin qu’encore /il soit possible d’aimer la lumière/ ou seulement de la comprendre,/ ou simplement, encore, de la voir/ elle, comme la terre recueille,/et non pas rien que sa trace de cendre”.

References

Celms, Theodor. 1928. Der phänomenologische Idealismus Husserls. Riga: Acta Universitatis Latviensis.

Husserl, Edmund.  2001a. “O. Adelgundis Jaegerschmid: Conversations with Edmund Husserl, 1931–1938.” In: The New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, vol. 1, p. 336.

———. 2001b. Logical Investigations, Volume I. Trans. John Findlay. London: Routledge.

———. 2001c. Logical Investigations, Volume II. Trans. John Findlay. London: Routledge.

Jaccottet, Philippe. 1977. À la lumière d’hiver. Paris : Gallimard.

Mérot, Alain. 2015. Des grâces visibles aux grâces secrètes. dir. Nicolas Milovanovic et Mickaël Szanto. Poussin et Dieu, cat. expo. [Paris, musée du Louvre, 2 avril-29 juin 2015], Hazan/Éditions du musée du Louvre, pp. 76-83.

Iulian Apostolescu (Ed.): The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl

The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl Couverture du livre The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl
Contributions To Phenomenology, Vol. 108
Iulian Apostolescu (Ed.)
Springer
2020
Hardback 103,99 €
XIV, 380

Reviewed by: Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray (King’s University College-Western, London, ON Canada)

The introduction of The Subject(s) of Phenomenology: Rereading Husserl wastes no time getting down to the nitty gritty. Iulian Apostolescu begins the volume immediately by setting the stage with two of the most common and difficult problems that Husserl scholars must grapple with. First, while the main subject matter of Husserl’s phenomenology can be said to be the subject, this is understood to mean the pure field of transcendental subjectivity. (The precise nature of what this means and entails is very murky, and depending which phase of Husserl you read, the answer can change.) Gather several Husserlians in a room to represent the span of his early works through to the posthumous pieces, and you will get a variety of answers to the question, “What is the subject of phenomenology?” Husserl’s work covers such a wide variety of themes and ties into so many other figures and fields, that you get a rather stunning plurality of topics. Second, attempting to carry out Husserl’s famous demand that we must return to things themselves, proves to be not as simple as it sounds, and the phenomenological method he developed is not always the easiest tool to implement. And let us not forget the debates about the phenomenological reduction. Taking this all in, the reader quickly understands what this volume will be attempting to do: (1) inspire new discussion about what phenomenology is and what its subject is; (2) critically engage with, and at times pose challenges to, the predominant interpretations of Husserl that have great hold in philosophy; and finally, (3) extend phenomenology into the twenty-first century and see how it handles the issues that occupy contemporary scholars. No small feat, indeed.

Apostolescu has gathered a diverse group of authors from across the globe, both young and established phenomenology scholars, and this gives the volume a feeling of great breadth and weight. It is organized into three parts that set up a fantastic flow, taking the reader first through discussions dealing with the fundamentals (The Phenomenological Project: Definitions and Scope), and then onto specific aspects and issues of Husserl’s phenomenology (The Unfolding of Phenomenological Philosophy), and lastly to the outer limits, where it is applied to some new contexts (At the Limits of Phenomenology: Towards a Phenomenology as Philosophy of Limits). Each part is jam-packed with a variety of chapters that provide a unique moment to encounter Husserl but in a connected fashion that feels cohesive and grounded.

The chapter that drew me immediately was ‘Does Husserl’s Phenomenological Idealism Lead to Pluralistic Solipsism? Assessing the Criticism by Theodor Celms.’ Mainly, this is due to the fact that Celms is rather obscure, and his criticism of Husserl’s transcendental phenomenological idealism is so rarely discussed in literature (especially English scholarship). Parker does a masterful job of acquainting the reader with the context through which Celms’ critical writing emerges, beginning with the criticisms of Husserl’s idealism by his early students after Ideas (1913) was published, and then moving into the charges of solipsism that Husserl had to confront in the wake of this work. Along the way, he discusses debates in the interpretations of (and misinterpretations of) Husserl’s idealism, feelings about the phenomenological reduction, and his theory of constitution. The introduction to Celms and his critical comments about Husserl is excellent and clear, and he presents both men in discussion. Overall, this chapter is important for scholars to understand the critical thoughts of those who studied with Husserl and had interactions with him shortly after the publication of Ideas.

The second contribution that struck me was Corijn van Mazijk’s ‘Transcendental Consciousness: Subject, Object, or Neither?’. The reason for this is simply that he seeks to address the question: what is transcendental consciousness? A not so simple thing to do, and yet she takes this challenge head on telling the reader that her aim is to provide a new answer. For me, this was exciting. He offers up in a detailed and clear fashion three different interpretations of transcendental consciousness, complete with their consequences and critiques of where they fall short. Along the way, he brilliantly highlights the tensions created by Husserl’s own words that have led to these interpretations. It is a fantastic read that left me feeling validated with respect to any confusion I had experienced regarding the transcendental consciousness. For myself, an early phenomenology scholar, it was also helpful in acting as a kind of foothold to move through this difficult, somewhat unfamiliar discussion, and it allowed me to arrive at my own position on things with a greater degree of clarity.

Saulius Geniusas’ chapter ‘What is Productive Imagination? The Hidden Resources of Husserl’s Phenomenology of Phantasy’ is another one that caught my eye. I have always found the discussions of the structures of the mind to be incredibly intriguing and exciting, and the imagination is definitely one of my favourite topics. So, when I saw the title of this one, I thought – did Husserl talk about productive imagination? After the abstract, I was hooked. The heart of Geniusas’ piece is phantasy, an intriguing and important concept of Husserl’s, and he demonstrates how it can be a reproductive mode of consciousness. He brings memory into the discussion and shows how both it and phantasy produce patterns of meaning that ultimately can be transferred to and thus play a major role in shaping our subjective experience of others and the world around us. He has a compelling argument here for how phantasy can be understood as productive imagination, and it is one I will revisit later for further reflection. The Kantian side of me cannot deny a good structural analysis!

I should also mention Keith Whitmoyer’s ‘Husserl and His Shadows: Phenomenology After Merleau-Ponty.’ This article was incredibly helpful and fascinating, to me, and to anyone, I imagine, more ensconced in early phenomenology. I have a new appreciation for Levinas as well as Merleau-Ponty because of this chapter.

In summation, I highly recommend this book. I must say I have rarely encountered an introduction that sets the stage so well for what is to come. As an editor, Apostolescu has really done an excellent job with this volume. The chapters cover a vast array of Husserl’s topics and ideas, and that means a scholar of any phase of Husserl will find something inspiring or enlightening. This volume is definitely not intended for the inexperienced Husserl reader or a junior scholar, and that is a big part of its appeal. It is a thoroughly rigorous and intellectually stimulating work filled with articles for the researcher who knows Husserl well but leaves space for new ways of becoming acquainted with texts and his ideas. Many of the most difficult topics or perplexing concepts in Husserl are found here, and that makes for a challenging yet enjoyable read. And on that point, it is not an easy read by any means; it is not a volume to approach after several hours of Zoom lecturing and your attention span diminished or your eyes feeling as if on fire. Sometimes I felt very ‘mind-full’ after reading a chapter, and it was hard to move on to read anything more: I had to sit and toss around inside my head what was argued, and then often I would go dig up some Husserl volumes to further reflect and find my bearings and opinions. Some chapters had details about Husserl’s phenomenology I was only vaguely familiar with, and so they inspired me to turn that primary text for a further look [Note: my area of expertise is early Husserl and so anything after the 1920s is a very distant graduate student memory to me. This might change though after this book.] This is the first book in a long while that I couldn’t read quickly. I deeply enjoy books like this – they remind me why I became a scholar and what it means to truly critically read an article and have a dialogue with it. This book demands a high degree of attention, and it is hard to do that when your brain aches. Mind you, it is hard to read Husserl when your brain aches anyway. However, I am confident that dedicated Husserl and/or phenomenology scholars will thoroughly enjoy this volume, and this book will become a treasure in the collection.

Alfredo Ferrarin, Dermot Moran, Elisa Magri, Danilo Manca (Eds.): Hegel and Phenomenology

Hegel and Phenomenology Couverture du livre Hegel and Phenomenology
Contributions To Phenomenology, Vol. 102
Alfredo Ferrarin, Dermot Moran, Elisa Magri, Danilo Manca (Eds.)
Springer
2019
Hardback 103,99 €
XIII, 190

Reviewed by: Daniel Herbert (University of Sheffield)

While Hegel has long been acknowledged as an important influence upon several figures within the phenomenological tradition, the relation of his system to the movement’s founder, Husserl, has been largely overlooked. Husserl’s few, and – for the most part – unenthusiastic references to Hegel, together with the anti-Hegelian attitudes of his teacher, Brentano, have seemed, for most, to suggest that there is nothing to learn from comparing Husserl’s thought with Hegel’s, however much Hegelian and Husserlian themes are to be found combined in the works of subsequent phenomenologists. As such, the recent collection of essays, Hegel and Phenomenology, edited by Alfredo Ferrarin, Dermot Moran, Elisa Magrì and Danilo Manca, represents a most welcome contribution to current debates concerning Hegel’s legacy for Continental philosophy, and the affinities between Hegelian and Husserlian approaches. The collection leans very much towards Husserl, with eight of its eleven chapters centring upon Husserl’s relation to Hegel. Other members of the phenomenological tradition, customarily thought closer to Hegel, are less well-represented here, although there are very interesting chapters on Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Ricœur, each of which makes an original contribution to phenomenology scholarship while offering a distinct perspective from which to assess Hegel’s twentieth century legacy.

Although several of the contributors note significant agreements between Husserl and Hegel in earlier works, it is no surprise that the Hegelian motifs in Husserl’s project are most apparent in the posthumous Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology. Whether or not Husserl himself became conscious of his affinities with Hegel, his successors in the phenomenological tradition were not slow to appreciate the Hegelian implications contained within a post-Kantian philosophy of subjectivity once it has become sensitive to the importance of intersubjective and inherited historical factors conditioning the subject’s understanding of its experience. The first three chapters of the collection are therefore specifically devoted to interpreting Husserl’s Crisis text in the light of such Hegelian motifs. Chapters four and five compare methodological approaches in Hegel’s phenomenology, whereas chapters six, seven and eight make subjectivity their central theme. The remaining three chapters examine Hegel and Husserl by way of Adorno, Ricœur and Sellars.

The first chapter of the collection, by Dermot Moran, delivers a fascinating account of Hegel’s passage from disrepute to prestige during the early history of the phenomenological movement. As Moran explains, Hegel’s reputation suffered enormously in Germany during the second half of the nineteenth century, when the call for a return to Kant left Hegelian speculative idealism discredited as an extravagantly metaphysical position vulnerable to epistemic critique. Brentano typifies the anti-Hegelian attitudes of this period in German philosophy, identifying Hegel as part of an irrationalist wave terminating a cycle of philosophical progress. The monumentally influential lectures of Koyré, Kojève and Hyppolite notwithstanding, however, Moran shows Heidegger’s rehabilitation of Hegel to pre-date these developments in France, so that it is in Germany that Hegel’s journey to phenomenological respectability originates. Moran stresses the importance of Heidegger’s Freiburg lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit in restoring Hegel’s esteem amongst a new generation of phenomenologists, and devotes particular attention to Finks’s Hegelian inheritance and its possible influence upon the ultimate shape of Husserl’s Crisis text.

Husserl’s early disregard for Hegel aside, Moran clearly identifies deep affinities between Hegel’s treatment of subjectivity in terms of historically developing intersubjective Spirit and the concerns of the Crisis, examining possible sources of conscious or unconscious Hegelian influences upon this work. Moran’s assessment of the Hegel-Husserl relationship is compelling, original and productive, opening a route to significant re-evaluation of a pairing frequently regarded as fundamentally incompatible. Moran arguably overstates Hegel’s proximity to Husserl, however, on the crucial and much-contested issue of transcendental philosophy – a matter of decisive importance in assessing Hegel’s place in the post-Kantian tradition. Whereas Husserl never abandons his commitment to transcendental methods following his 1907 Kantian epiphany, Hegel’s consciously anti-Kantian methodology greatly complicates efforts to classify him as a transcendental philosopher in any straightforward, unqualified sense.

The complex relationship between Hegel’s system and Husserl’s later work is further examined in the second chapter of the collection, by Tanja Staehler, which addresses their respective treatments of history and teleology. Whereas, according to Staehler, both thinkers identify a purposiveness in European history, and an orientation towards a telos, Hegel takes the goal of history to have been prescribed in advance by the logic of the Absolute Idea, while Husserl allows for changes in historical trajectory owing to the revisability of its telos. In spite of a common teleological approach to historical understanding, Husserl and Hegel differ very significantly, according to Staehler, in their treatments of the future. For Staehler, Hegel’s omnivorous system struggles to accommodate genuine spontaneity into its grand design, which entails that the horizons of historical possibility completely fixed by a process which achieved maturation in the early nineteenth century. Husserl, however, is better able to acknowledge contingencies of time and culture not anticipated in the historical experience of any given community. As such, the future never loses its potential for radical novelty on Husserl’s account, according to Staehler, who takes Husserl to deny the possibility of an ‘absolute’ perspective from which all historically-conditioned limits of understanding are overcome.

Those who are sympathetic to Hegel shall no doubt take issue with Staehler’s familiar objection that there is no contingency or spontaneity worthy of the title in Hegel’s treatment of history. All the same, Staehler identifies a crucial point of disagreement between Hegel and Husserl, insofar as Husserl treats the telos of European history as originating within a specific historical life-world, whereas, for Hegel, teleology involves the realisation in space and time of a conceptual order originating elsewhere. As such, Staehler is well-supported in maintaining that Husserl’s historical teleology is more modest in its claims than Hegel’s.

Danilo Manca’s chapter – the third of the collection – compares Hegel’s and Husserl’s respective treatments of the history of philosophy, with particular focus upon their differing relations to Kant’s approach to the same topic. Beginning with a discussion of Kant’s position, Manca outlines the notion of a ‘philosophizing history of philosophy’ which Kant introduces to distinguish a narrative of specifically philosophical significance within the events leading from Thales to the Enlightenment. Although the first Critique presents the history of philosophy as a cyclical process of metaphysical indulgence and sceptical renunciation, Manca notes evidence from Kant’s posthumous documents suggesting a more progressive interpretation of the same events, whereby reason’s own nature entails its elaboration over time. According to Manca, Hegel and Husserl are Kant’s successors in the project of a philosophizing history of philosophy, each seeking for an underlying rationale and a generally progressive direction to the same historical sequence of events.

Manca’s contribution is the first of the collection to discuss in detail the shared Kantian inheritance to the Hegelian and phenomenological movements, and his comparison of Hegel’s and Husserl’s respective accounts of the history of philosophy neatly illustrates their points of departure from a common ancestor. Manca notes that, for Hegel, contingencies in the historically-situated articulations of the Absolute Idea are the result of the spatiotemporal medium in which reason strains to express itself, whereas Husserl understands the same contingency to originate in more mundane cultural differences. Ultimately, Manca concludes, Husserl remains closest to Kant, insofar as he interprets the history of philosophy as orbiting around a set of problems, rather than as the unidirectional process by which reason realises itself over an organic series of stages. Whereas, for Hegel, history articulates a conceptual structure outlined in the Science of Logic, Husserl recognises no such extra-historical standard informing history’s development.

Hegel’s critique of immediacy and its implications for Husserl’s foundationalist project provides the theme for Chapter Four, by Chong-Fuk Lau, in which it is argued that Husserl came ultimately to concede the impossibility of the very presuppositionless standpoint to which his epoché had been intended to facilitate access. As Lau notes, Hegel and Husserl are similarly committed to the possibility of a rigorously scientific and presuppositionless philosophy, differing principally over whether presuppositionlessness is the feature of a starting-point or a system taken as a whole. Lau is sympathetic to Hegel’s anti-foundationalism, which he takes to fatally undermine the pursuit of ultimate beginnings to which Husserl is committed in his transcendental phenomenology. According to Lau, whereas Hegel had shown that there is nothing altogether free of mediation, Husserl’s performance of the epoché is intended to facilitate a radical beginning from which all mediation has been expelled. For Lau, there is simply no room for compromise between Husserl and Hegel over this Cartesian methodological issue, and Husserl’s appearance of having moved closer to Hegel by the time of the Crisis is the result of his having abandoned his earlier foundationalist ideals.

Lau’s expert discussion of Hegel compellingly makes the case for a fundamental incompatibility between Hegel’s method and that of the Husserlian transcendental phenomenologist. Whereas, however, he is on secure ground in maintaining that Heidegger or Gadamer represent greater prospects for a phenomenological appropriation of Hegelian insights than is afforded by Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, his claim that the Crisis involves a complete reversal of earlier foundationalist aspirations is more questionable. The ideal of “European science” to which Husserl re-affirms his commitment in the Crisis does not significantly differ from that which he presents in the Cartesian Meditations, and Husserl does not suppose his greater attention to the life-world to undermine earlier aspirations.

Chapter Five, the first of the collection specifically to compare Hegel and Heidegger, is by Antoine Cantin-Brault and examines Hegel’s and Heidegger’s respective understandings of the Heraclitean logos. In its profounder sense, as the principle (arche) of nature (phusis), logos may, according to Cantin-Brault be understood either as (i) the dialectical and determinate truth of being, or as (ii) the unveiling of that which is concealed. Although Heraclitus does not, Cantin-Brault maintains, explicitly make any such distinction, Hegel interprets Heraclitean logos from the first perspective, whereas Heidegger’s interpretation emphasises the second. For Cantin-Brault, Heidegger’s approach to Heraclitus is mediated by a Hegelian interpretation which he tries, and ultimately fails, to overcome. As such, Cantin-Brault argues, Heidegger is unsuccessful in his attempt to understand Heraclitean logos apart from Hegelian dialectic. Hence, for Cantin-Brault, as for Hegel, Heraclitus is a dialectical thinker, in whose work a process of rational self-articulation is driven by the dynamic relation between certain fundamental concepts. Indeed, Cantin-Brault maintains, it was Heraclitus that first instituted a logos which provides Hegel’s philosophy with its central governing principle.

Heidegger’s changing approach to Heraclitean logos, and his disagreements with Hegel on this matter, are, according to Cantin-Brault, illustrative of differing understandings of the nature of ontology, and Heidegger engages differently with Heraclitus before and after his famous Kehre. Cantin-Brault’s chapter strikingly highlights the very different issues relevant to comparing Hegel with either Heidegger or Husserl, and marks quite a thematic departure from the previous, more Husserl-focussed contributions. This is apparent not only in the respectively epistemic and ontological priorities which distinguish Husserl and Heidegger, but also in their divergent attitudes towards the pre-Socratics. Although Plato marks a watershed for both Husserl and Heidegger, he is, for Husserl, the first true philosopher, and for Heidegger, the initial step to modernity’s ontological forgetfulness.

In Chapter Six, Andrea Altobrando compellingly makes the case that, from the time of his transcendental turn, Husserl came to share with Hegel a commitment to the pure ego as a necessary abstraction from the concrete self. After the initial Humean-Brentanian scepticism towards the unified self which he displays in the Logical Investigations, Husserl moves, according to Altobrando, in the contrary direction, acknowledging the pure ego as a necessary condition of any possible experience. Like Hegel, however, in the Phenomenology of Spirit and Philosophy of Mind, Husserl is not, Altobrando shows, committed to Cartesian substance dualism, but recognises the pure ego as an abstraction from a more concrete self, upon which it is therefore ontologically dependent. Both Hegel and Husserl, Altobrando maintains, recognise a demand to develop a more concrete understanding of one’s ontological identity which is not, therefore, merely abstract. For Hegel as well as Husserl, the pure ego, according to Altobrando, is entirely barren of content, simple, indeterminate and negative, without being unreal. Such an abstract pure ego is, Altobrando maintains, necessary for both Hegel and Husserl in order to accommodate the possibility of free agency and the intentionality of consciousness.

With this discussion of the pure ego, Altobrando highlights a feature of Husserl’s philosophy which might – in view of his well-known Cartesian inheritance – initially be thought to disqualify any prospect of overlap with Hegel, and shows that such impressions are unfounded. What is more, as Altobrando explicitly remarks, the comparison of Hegel’s and Husserl’s respective views concerning the pure ego represents a large and difficult project with very significant potential for re-assessing the prospects for dialogue between Husserlian and Hegelian traditions. As such, Altobrando’s contribution indicates the beginning of an exciting and promising larger project concerning the place of the pure ego in Husserl’s thought and Hegel’s.

Chapter Seven, by Alfredo Ferrarin, examines the much-neglected topic of Hegel’s and Husserl’s respective views concerning the imagination and, in so doing, identifies fascinating and unexpected points of agreement between the two thinkers, along with more predictable disagreements. According to Ferrarin, Hegel and Husserl share, first, a common Humean target, and, second, an understanding of the mind as stratified into layers of capacity which support and build upon one another. Unlike Hume, who recognises only a difference in degree of liveliness and vivacity between the ideas and impressions which furnish the contents of the mind, Hegel and Husserl recognise logically irreducible functional differences between the imagination and other subjective capacities. Such capacities are vertically ordered, for Hegel and Husserl, each of whom maintains that the capacity for sensible perception is conditional and grounded upon that of imagination.

Whereas, for Ferrarin, Hegel stresses the continuities between imagination and perception, Hegel emphasises their discontinuities, but both acknowledge a mutual dependence between the possible representation of the real and that of the unreal. In accordance with their contrasting methodological approaches, however, Hegel and Husserl differ very significantly, according to Ferrarin, in their assessments of the philosophical role of the imagination. Husserl’s eidetic discoveries are presented as the products of phantasy or imaginative variation, whereas Hegel understands the imagination as an intermediate stage on subjectivity’s self-propelling journey towards the pure Idea, wherein the sensible content of one’s representations is abstracted and their logical form laid bare to the contemplation of speculative intelligence. Since for Hegel it is the business of philosophy to transform representations into thoughts, the products of imagination are, in spite of their necessary contribution in facilitating the possibility of sensible knowledge and experience, part of what needs to be overcome in effecting the self-mediated transition from ordinary consciousness to philosophical science.

In her chapter – the eighth of the collection – Elisa Magrì argues that Hegel and Merleau-Ponty confront a similar paradox concerning expression, and pursue a common strategy in response. According to Magrì, the concept of expression occupies a central role in Hegel’s thought and Merleau-Ponty’s, but is in neither case to be understood in terms of the manifestation of a pre-existing logos. Beginning with Kant’s account of genius in the third Critique, Magrì shows that, for Kant, expression involves the spontaneous production of a representation which is communicable to others without having been generated according to a fixed procedure or rule. Expression takes on a broader systematic role for Hegel and Merleau-Ponty, Magrì maintains, both of whom employ genetic description to make sense of its pervasive significance in every aspect of thought and subjective experience. Magrì examines Hegel’s discussions of the concepts of expression and manifestation in the Science of Logic and identifies how their respective shortcomings contribute to the emergence of the self-conditioning concept which is the articulation of its own significance. Hegel’s account of expression in the Philosophy of Subjective Spirit is then explored in depth and its systematic connections with the argument of the Logic brought into view.

Merleau-Ponty is seen to agree with Hegel in treating expression properly understood as the origination of meaning, rather than the making publicly available of a privately originating significance. According to Magrì, expression depends, for Hegel and Merleau-Ponty, upon a complex dialectical interplay of activity and passivity, the importance of which for their respective post-Kantian approaches is difficult to overstate. Such a dialectic is particularly well-illustrated, Magrì suggests, in Hegel’s and Merleau-Ponty’s respective accounts of the processes by which the body becomes habituated to the expression of meaning – a series of developments involving moments of subjectivity and objectivity, interiority and exteriority.

Chapter Nine, by Giovanni Zanotti, represents something of a change in direction for the collection, with Hegel taking a step into the background and his place being filled by one of his most important twentieth century enthusiasts – Theodor Adorno. Zanotti examines Adorno’s Hegelian critique of Husserl’s commitment to a presuppositionless first philosophy grounded in the immediate deliverances of intuition. According to Zanotti, Adorno shows Husserl’s ambitious foundationalist project to fall victim to Hegel’s critique of pure immediacy, insofar as Husserl falsely assumes the possibility of an immediate foundation to knowledge which is yet able to mediate the transfer of epistemic support to propositions to which it must therefore stand in relations of mediation. Zanotti explicitly maintains that Adorno’s critique is effective specifically against such earlier Husserlian works as the Logical Investigations, leaving open the possibility that Husserl may be less vulnerable to such criticisms in the Crisis and related works of that period.

What is especially interesting about Zanotti’s admirably lucid and finely-crafted chapter is the way it explains Adorno’s discovery of an unintended dialectical tendency in Husserl’s work. According to Zanotti, Adorno shows that Husserl is led, in spite of himself but nonetheless through a kind of logic immanent within his position, to qualify the earlier Platonic realism of the Logical Investigations in recognition of a necessary subjective ground for the logical concepts he intends to elucidate without, however, sliding into the naïve psychologism which, Adorno maintains, Husserl was right to reject. As such, Zanotti’s chapter amplifies a theme recurrent throughout the collection – that in spite of his ignorance of and early antipathy to Hegel’s thought, the trajectory of Husserl’s philosophical development is towards increasingly greater proximity to Hegel. This is not to deny, however – as Adorno well-recognises – that the one-sidedness of Husserl’s earlier works indicates a genuine insight.

The penultimate chapter of the collection, by Gilles Marmasse, explores Ricœur’s ambivalent assessment of Hegel’s system and its legacy. According to Marmasse, Ricœur understands Hegel’s absolutist ambitions as a temptation which must be resisted, but the renunciation of which cannot be experienced without a sense of profound loss. For Ricœur, the events of the twentieth century have made it impossible to subscribe any longer to the self-grounding and totalising conception of philosophy which Hegel offers in reply to the finitude of the Kantian system, without having eliminated the appeal of such an ideal. The contemporary predicament is well-illustrated by the remarkable fascination which Hegel’s system retains, according to Ricœur, notwithstanding that it is no longer possible seriously to regard philosophy as party to anything else than a partial interpretation of the multifaceted cultural environment to which it belongs and by which it is conditioned.

Ricœur exaggerates Hegel’s dogmatic proclivities, according to Marmasse, who confronts Ricœur’s familiarly speculative interpretation of Hegel with a more deflationary approach which emphasises the Hegelian ambition to accommodate contingency and particularity within the system without annihilating their status as irreducible moments of a greater whole. Contrary to Ricœur’s inflationary reading, Hegel’s notion of Spirit does not, Marmasse maintains, commit him to any disembodied extra-human agency. All the same, according to Marmasse, Ricœur’s criticisms of Hegel retain, in spite of their shortcomings, a contemporary value and interest, especially in respect of their highlighting of authoritarian implications in Hegel’s theory of the state. Marmasse’s chapter is especially interesting in the way it exemplifies a phenomenon frequently remarked upon in the history of Hegel’s reception – namely, the peculiar allure of his system even for those seeking to identify its failings, and the apparent impossibility of ‘getting beyond’ Hegel – with whom it therefore seems necessary to remain in continued dialogue.

Daniele De Santis concludes the collection with a chapter defending Husserl against charges of the kind raised by Sellars’s monumentally influential critique of the myth of the Given. As De Santis remarks, Sellars’s Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind is often taken as the original source of a Hegel renaissance within analytic philosophy by which Cartesian approaches of the kind which Husserl advocates have been largely discredited. De Santis identifies three aspects of Sellars’s Hegelianism; (i) a ‘three-fold critique’ of givenness, comprising epistemological, metaphysical and genetic elements, (ii) a historical counter-account to a received view of Hegel’s relation to Cartesian philosophy, and (iii) a conceptual holism subsequently embraced by Brandom and McDowell. According to De Santis, Sellars intends for his initial attack against sense-datum theories to open a route towards the rejection of a general picture of givenness of which no philosopher has been altogether innocent. Sellars’s self-described Méditations Hégéliennes are intended to recall Husserl’s Méditations Cartésiennes, De Santis maintains, and therefore to implicate Husserl as complicit in the myth which Sellars means to unveil and dispel.

Identifying a problematic conception of evidence as the core of Sellars’s three-fold critique of givenness, De Santis proceeds to argue that performance of the transcendental-phenomenological reduction, or epoché, leads Husserl to reconceive of the intentional object as the product of acts of transcendental synthesis. Appearances are not mere isolated ‘givens’ according to Husserl, but originate within a normative network of combination-guiding principles which has more in common with Sellars’s conceptual holism than analytic Hegelians have yet to recognise. De Santis’s contribution carries the welcome implication that the so-called ‘Hegelian turn’ in recent analytic philosophy need not preclude productive engagement with phenomenology, any more than phenomenologists have been prevented from making significant contributions to Hegel scholarship or to contemporary understandings of Hegel’s current relevance.

The omission of chapters devoted specifically to Sartre, de Beauvoir and Gadamer and their respective responses to Hegel is perhaps surprising, although a volume addressing each of the major figures of the phenomenological movement would have significantly increased the length of the collection and shifted its focus away from the movement’s founder. Certainly other phenomenologists are more explicitly indebted to Hegel, and Husserl is one of the least obviously ‘Hegelian’ figures of the tradition, but the collection’s unusual attention to Husserl’s widely unacknowledged affinities with Hegel’s thought is, for this very reason, amongst its many virtues. Few other collections offer such thorough studies of the congruences and points of departure between Hegel’s ambitious project and the tradition of philosophical research originating with Husserl, without failing to respect the complex unity of the phenomenological movement as a venture of Husserlian origin. The essays in the present volume – the result of a conference on “Hegel and the Phenomenological Movement” held in Pisa in 2014 – collectively and compellingly make the case for a fresh approach to the relation between Hegelianism and phenomenology, which does not assume Husserl’s basic philosophical orientation to be antithetical to Hegel’s but sees both traditions as responses to a common Kantian heritage and capable of productive cross-fertilisation in the development of anti-naturalist strategies centring upon the meaning-constitutive priority of historical subjectivity. Such a re-evaluation – it might reasonably be hoped – shall be met with enthusiasm by an audience which has become impatient with dismissive treatments of Husserl as a naïve Cartesian, radical only in his uncompromising foundationalism and unmoved by the era-defining concerns which have, since the mid-twentieth century, made Hegel increasingly difficult to ignore for analytic as well as Continental philosophers. While the history of the phenomenological movement has typically been seen as one of successive heretical departures from an original Husserlian ideal of ‘philosophy as rigorous science’ and the greater acceptance of a hermeneutic and historicist approach antithetical to Husserl’s, the present collection invites readers to question such received wisdom by considering the Hegelian potential implicit in Husserl and re-examining his legacy from a perspective informed by Hegel.

Francesca Michelini, Kristian Köchy (Eds.): Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy, Routledge, 2019

Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy: Life, Environments, Anthropology Couverture du livre Jakob von Uexküll and Philosophy: Life, Environments, Anthropology
Francesca Michelini, Kristian Köchy (Eds.)
Routledge
2019
Hardback £96.00
266

Saulius Geniusas: The Phenomenology of Pain

The Phenomenology of Pain Couverture du livre The Phenomenology of Pain
Series in Continental Thought, № 53
Saulius Geniusas
Ohio University Press · Swallow Press
2020
Hardback $95.00
264

Reviewed by: Fredrik Svenaeus (Södertörn University, Sweden)

In his recently published study The Phenomenology of Pain Saulius Geniusas sets himself the task of developing precisely that – a phenomenology of pain – on the basis of Edmund Husserl’s philosophy. According to Geniusas, in Husserl’s work (including the posthumously published manuscripts) we find all the resources needed to develop such a phenomenology. Husserl took the first steps himself in developing a phenomenology of pain and by following in his footsteps, proceeding by way of the phenomenological method and concepts he developed, we can achieve this important goal. Why is it important to develop a phenomenology of pain? Apart from the general impetus of exploring all phenomena relevant to human life, we may in this case also point towards the mission of helping those who suffer from severe and chronic forms of bodily pain. Pain is from the experiential point of view generally something bad to have, even though it may guide our actions and call for changes of life style that are in some cases beneficial for us in the long run.

The definition that Geniusas develops in his book and defends in comparison with other suggestions and conceptions of what pain consists in is the following: “Pain is an aversive bodily feeling with a distinct experiential quality, which can be given only in original firsthand experience, either as a feeling-sensation or as an emotion” (8). The strategy of his investigation is the following. In the first chapter he presents Husserl’s phenomenology and method, he then in the second chapter turns to the way pain was viewed by Husserl and some other (proto) phenomenologists in the beginning of the 20th century, primarily Franz Brentano, Carl Stumpf and Max Scheler. With the exception of Jean-Paul Sartre, other major phenomenologists that have dealt with pain, such as Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Paul Ricoeur, are scarcely mentioned, even less brought into the analysis. In chapter three Geniusas tests his Husserlian theory by confronting it with rare disorders, which have been reported in the medical literature and have been elaborated upon by (mostly) analytical philosophers, in which pain is not perceived in standard ways. In chapter four he turns to the temporality of pain on the basis of Husserl’s theory of internal time consciousness. In a sense this is the high peak of the analysis where Geniusas enters the terrain of the transcendental stream of consciousness and the constitution of the ego. In chapter five, the author moves downwards from the transcendental peak exploring more mundane topics such as the lived body, which is obviously an important subject for a phenomenologist of pain. Chapter six introduces the notion of personhood and the idea of a personalistic in contrast to naturalistic view on pain. In this and the following chapter seven, dealing with pain and the life world, Geniusas aims to show how his Husserlian alternative can improve upon the philosophical anthropology at work in fields such as medical humanities, cultural psychopathology, psychoanalysis and psychosomatic medicine when it comes to pain. The main concepts he makes use of in the last two chapters, in addition to the ones found in his definition of pain, are depersonalization, re-personalization, somatization and psychologization.

In general I think the strategy of first developing a phenomenological point of view on a subject and/or in a field of research and/or practice (in this case pain research and treatment of pain patients) and then try show how this phenomenological angle can enlighten the researchers and practitioners in the field(s) is a good one. I am convinced that pain needs a phenomenological analysis to be fully understood as the personal experience it truly is. What makes me ambivalent about Geniusas’ book is that I am less convinced that Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology is the best, or, at least, only alternative to work with when it comes to developing a phenomenology of pain, and a bit disappointed that Geniusas does not acknowledge the works on pain that have been carried out in phenomenology of medicine and medical humanities already. The reason he omits, rejects or limits the discussion of such phenomenological efforts to the footnotes is no doubt that they proceed from phenomenological strategies and concepts that are rejected by the author because of deviating from Husserl’s basic set up. I am a bit worried that these two shortcomings (shortcomings at least to my mind) will make this review a bit more negative than I feel the author deserves. Geniusas is a fine philosopher and he certainly makes the most out of the cards that Husserl has dealt him when it comes to understanding pain. Researchers in the field of cognitive science and cultural anthropology will benefit greatly from reading this work and it will also be interesting to Husserl scholars. Phenomenologists of medicine could also learn a great deal from Geniusas’ consistent analysis although I think many of them will have objections similar to my own.

Geniusas distances his own definition of pain from the influential definition put forward by the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP): “Pain is an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage” (2). The reason for this is not only that Geniusas’ alternative is much more precise and comprehensive than IASP’s definition. Actually, the wording of “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience” comes quite close to the stratified phenomenology of pain that Geniusas wants to develop (“an aversive bodily feeling given as a feeling-sensation or emotion”) himself, but it is of vital importance for him to keep the first-person analysis clean of any third-person perspective involving the talk of tissue damage. This is phenomenologically spoken correct, of course, but I cannot help thinking that the cautious account of “actual or potential tissue damage” have been created by the IASP for the reason of prioritizing the point of view of the pain sufferer in comparison with the medical scientist, and I think this should be acknowledged rather than belittling the definition.

Geniusas states that he wants to keep a door open to enrich the phenomenology of pain with other perspectives, but the first impression in reading his book is that he is rather busy closing such doors to ensure that the phenomenology of pain will be “pure” in the sense of not resting on any “pain biology or pain sociology” (4). Many times in the book, the need to stay clear of naturalistic theories of pain is mentioned. At other points in his analysis the author questions the relevance of distinguishing between curing in contrast to healing and disease in contrast illness, distinctions standardly made in the philosophy of medicine (155-56). Geniusas’ reasons for this are no doubt to give privilege to the phenomenological (also called personalistic) perspective in health care in view of the dominance of medical science, but the phenomenological privilege-claim easily begins to sound a bit preposterous in the case of medicine. It is one thing to urge the medics to complement the third-person perspective with a first- (and second-) person perspective – this is greatly needed and called for in health care – but Geniusas appears to come close to a position in which phenomenology should replace other perspectives in the case of pain. This would, of course, be quite absurd in light of what medical science has achieved the last 70 years or so in understanding and treating pain. Most phenomenologists working with themes highlighted by illness and healing (including these two concepts) would be more humble than Geniusas when it comes to positioning their own work in relation to the research done by medical scientists, psychologists, sociologists, etc. Complementing is certainly different from replacing and although the phenomenologists would ultimately privilege the first-person perspective by understanding empirical science as a project originating in the life world, they could learn a lot of value for their own analyses by leaving the arm chair and inform themselves about what is happening not only in the everyday world but also in the world of empirical science, especially when it comes to themes such as pain.

Geniusas tries to keep such a door open to both medical science and the everyday world by the way he sets up and develops his Husserlian method. His elegant and promising idea is that what is known in phenomenology as eidetic variation can be used not only to imagine possible variations of a phenomenon but also to import examples found by way of everyday narratives and empirical science (27). Geniusas goes as far as calling this “dialogical phenomenology” but in order for his book to qualify as dialogical he would, to my mind, have needed to do more when it comes to learning from pain narratives and pain physiology, including brain science and current treatment programs for (especially) chronic pain. As it now stands the dialogue most often consists in showing other researchers of pain that they need to read more Husserlian phenomenology to even understand what they are dealing with. I think the third chapter of the book is indicative of this one-sidedness, this is the chapter in which we should have been taken through at least the basics of contemporary pain research, but what we get instead is a dialogue (or rather attempts to correct) various philosophers in the analytical tradition trying to define pain by taking account of various rare disorders, such as congenital insensitivity to pain, pain asymbolia and what is called pain affect without pain sensation. Do not get me wrong, I do think that these disorders are important to understand what pain truly is and they need to be brought into the analysis, but the way they are presented in this chapter, out of context, not taking into consideration all the interpretational difficulties created by the different historical time points and research traditions in which they have been gathered the last 100 years or so, makes it very hard to follow and critically evaluate the philosophical moves. This goes for phenomenologists, but also, and perhaps more importantly, for all sorts of people experiencing or working with people in pain. Geniusas perhaps succeeds in reaching through to the philosophers working in the field of cognitive science, but my guess is that he does so at the expense of losing many of the phenomenologists and researchers of pain on the way.

Chapter four, dealing with Husserl’s C-Manuscripts on how the living present opens up in and by the stream of consciousness, will probably do the job of scaring away the last remaining empiricist readers. Perhaps I am unfair to Geniusas at this point, after all it is perfectly possible to skip chapter three and four and move directly from the basic introduction of the Husserlian pain-theory outlined in chapter two to the discussions of pain and embodiment (chapter five), personhood (chapter six) and life world (chapter six). But I cannot help feeling there is something absurd about moving to the transcendental heights (or perhaps rather depths) of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology in a book on pain. How could the transcendental ego be in pain? The way I view Husserl’s analysis of transcendental consciousness and its underpinnings is as a methodological point of view for the phenomenologist, not as a piece of ontology per se.

This brings me back to Geniusas’ second chapter on the phenomenological method and what it means for him to do phenomenology. The author claims that for an investigation to qualify as phenomenological it is not enough to proceed from the first-person point of view in contrast to the third-person perspective; the moves performed by the phenomenologist must also include the well-known epoché paired with a phenomenological reduction including eidetic variation (12-20). As Dan Zahavi has recently pointed out, such demands will necessarily be rather off putting and unproductive for empirical researchers wanting to do phenomenology (Zahavi 2019). For a Husserlian – and Zahavi certainly qualifies as a such – it is better to distinguish between philosophers doing transcendental phenomenology – including the epoché and all steps of the phenomenological reduction – and empirical phenomenologists using phenomenological concepts in their research that have been developed by the philosophers (different types of intentionality, lived body, life world, etc.). I have issues with Zahavi concerning the understanding of what it means to perform the epoché – is a researcher not by default performing the epoché at least to some extent when making use of a phenomenological concept? – but when it comes to Husserl’s presentation of the phenomenological reduction I think Zahavi is perfectly right concerning empirically based phenomenologists not having to perform these moves. With Geniusas definition of phenomenology there will be very few remaining phenomenologists in the world except for philosophers like Zahavi, me and himself. From his point of view this may not be a problem, the empirical researchers working with first- and second-person accounts of and attitudes towards pain and persons in pain will just have to rechristen themselves; they can still go on with their work and ideally learn more and more about phenomenology by reading Husserl and Geniusas. At some point they may even become able of doing real phenomenology and earn the badge. To me, however, this sounds like a rather unilateral set up of phenomenology, not deserving the name of dialogical that Geniusas claims.

It is now about time to come back to Geniusas’ definition of pain that is stated early (already in the introduction) and then gradually explained, defended and repeated throughout the book: “Pain is an aversive bodily feeling with a distinct experiential quality, which can be given only in original firsthand experience, either as a feeling-sensation or as an emotion”. The author is commendably clear and pedagogical in the development of his phenomenological theory of pain even though he at some points walks through rather muddy terrains (muddy in the sense of hard to walk through, not in the sense of being obscure). That pain is given only in original firsthand experience is common sense, at least for a phenomenologist. We witness the pain of others and also to some extent feel their pain (it is called empathy and sympathy), but this pain is not a bodily feeling with the same experiential quality that pain in its original form has. That pain is aversive and, at least to some extent, distinct in contrast to other bodily sufferings is also, to my mind, phenomenologically correct. Some of the rather bizarre medical disorders mentioned above question the necessary aversiveness of pain, but I trust there are phenomenological explications of these cases that allow us to keep the aversiveness in the definition.

My quarrel with Geniusas regards the last part of his definition created by a combination of points found in Stumpf, Brentano and Husserl: that pain is given either as a feeling-sensation or as an emotion. The reason for my skepticism is that this appears to come rather close to what in the analytical tradition is known as a perceptual theory of pain (Svenaeus 2020). According to Geniusas, at the most basis level pain is a bodily sensation lacking meaning and content except for its aversively felt quality (Husserl calls these feelings “Empfindnisse”), but pain can also take on an object (the part of the body that hurts) and it then becomes an intentional feeling, what is known as an emotion in the philosophical literature. Inner perception is different from outer perception, Geniusas is quick to point out, but is not this difference an indication that we at this point need a different phenomenological conception of pain altogether? Emotions are standardly looked upon as feelings having objects by being about things in the world (say if you love or hate another person or a thing you have to do). The things emotions can be about admittedly includes one’s body (like when you love or hate your looks or the fact that you are, or are not, capable of running one mile in less than four minutes). But this is different from feeling your foot hurting when you trip on a stone or your chest hurting when you try to force yourself to run faster. Pain, also when it is recognized as “filling up” parts of one’s body, does not carry any cognitive content except the hurting feeling itself. Therefore it is to my mind misleading to call pain an intentional feeling (an emotion) if what is meant by this is merely that the feeling body has been brought to awareness of (parts) of itself. A better alternative is to talk about embodied moods or existential feelings that aside from making you aware of the body also opens up (and close down) various aspects of and possibilities in the surrounding world (Rattcliffe 2008). Geniusas mentions such pain moods (atmospheres) when briefly addressing Merleau-Ponty and Sartre in chapter two (48, 51, 60, 63) but he does not proceed with the concept in his own analysis. The reason for this, I think, is the way he looks upon the relationship between the subject (ego) and the lived body.

In chapter five, Geniusas finally arrives at the well-known phenomenological distinction between “Körper und Leib” introduced by Husserl himself and known in English as the distinction between the physical and the lived body. The lived body is no doubt a key concept for phenomenologists of pain but in Geniusas analysis it is developed in a different way than the standard more or less Merleau-Pontyian version. According to Geniusas, the lived body is not something I am, it is something I have constituted and consequently I exist separately from it (135, 142). This is in accordance with Husserl’s philosophy of transcendental consciousness, but such a position creates many difficulties when trying to give a phenomenological account of pain (and many other mundane matters). Geniusas claims that pain is necessarily “lived at a distance” (137 ff.) but the immediate question to such a position is: where is the conscious ego when it feels this distance between itself and the hurting knee or head (to just mention two examples)? In the head? Hardly. In the rest of the body that does not hurt? Definitely not. In transcendental space-time? Perhaps, but it is hard to even understand what this would mean in this case. Phenomenologists of pain and illness have most often worked with a more radical conception of the lived body according to which I am my own body but yet the this living body is also foreign to me because it has its own ways, which do not always fit with my ambitions and projects (when it hurts is a major example of this). Drew Leder is the most prominent phenomenologist in this tradition, he figures in the footnotes of Geniusas’ book but is never brought into the main analysis (Leder 1984-85, 1990).

In the last two chapters, the author enters into a discussion with philosophers of suffering and illness, such as Eric Cassell and Kay Toombs, and with cultural anthropologists, such as Laurence Kirmayer and Arthur Kleinman. His aim is to introduce the concepts of depersonalization, re-personalization, somatization and psychologization as pertinent for a phenomenology of chronic pain when it comes to understanding and helping patients. The concept of depersonalization is a bit surprising in this context given its standard meaning in psychiatry (a feature of psychotic experiences) but Geniusas aims to give it the meaning of being separated by way of pain from one’s body, one’s world, other people and, finally, one’s own personal being (148 ff.). Pain brings about a series of ruptures in human existence that makes one less of oneself. Having developed such a phenomenology of illness (including pain) since a long time by way of the keywords of bodily alienation and unhomelike being-in-the-world I cannot help feeling a bit hurt of not even being mentioned here (eg. Svenaeus 2000). The same goes for Geniusas’ praise of narratives as a way of better understanding experiences of pain and meeting with pain patients (157-162). What happened with the whole tradition of phenomenological hermeneutics as a way of articulating the understanding established by way of the clinical encounter? Hans-Georg Gadamer is just as absent as Martin Heidegger in this book and this may be perfectly fine concerning the phenomenology of pain – not every type of phenomenology can be made use of – but it is more than strange if you want to consider narratives in medicine and health care as a way of developing self-understanding (for patients) and clinical understanding (for physicians, nurses, psychotherapists and other medical professionals) (Gadamer 1996).

The terminology of somatization and psychologization employed by Geniusas in the last chapter fits nicely into the fields of cultural anthropology, psychosomatic medicine and psychoanalysis that he wants to connect with, but it also carries heavy dualistic cargo. The author is aware of this and assures us that the phenomenological perspective and attitude he is employing by way of his definition prevents us from ending up with any dualism. Nevertheless, I think it is hard to use this terminology without employing some form of at least minimal dualism and that there are better alternatives if you want to address medical professionals (including psychotherapists) trying to help persons suffering from chronic pain.

I want to end on a positive note by saying that even though I do not agree with some of the ideas concerning the basic set up and strategies for developing a phenomenology of pain in this book, I think the author shows admirable consequence and strength in pushing his Husserlian alternative through. Despite dealing with hard matters and making use of a very complex conceptual set up Geniusas is always lucid when arguing and stating his views. I hope the book gets many readers and would recommend skipping chapter three and four if you have any doubts or allergies concerning analytical philosophy of mind or Husserl’s theory of internal time-consciousness. If these are your preferences you will have no difficulties in getting through.

References:

Gadamer, H.-G. 1996. The Enigma of Health: The Art of Healing in a Scientific Age. Trans. J. Gaiger and N. Walker. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Leder, D. 1984-85. « Toward a Phenomenology of Pain. » Review of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry 19: 255–266.

Leder, D. 1990. The Absent Body. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ratcliffe, M. 2008. Feelings of Being: Phenomenology, Psychiatry and the Sense of Reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Svenaeus, F. 2000. The Hermeneutics of Medicine and the Phenomenology of Health: Steps towards a Philosophy of Medical Practice. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Svenaeus, F. 2020. « Pain. » In Routledge Handbook of Phenomenology of Emotions, eds. T. Szanto and H. Landweer. London: Routledge, 543-552.

Zahavi, D. 2019. « Applied Phenomenology: Why it is Safe to Ignore the Epoché. » Continental Philosophy Review (published online). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11007-019-09463-y

Olga Louchakova-Schwartz (Ed.): The Problem of Religious Experience

The Problem of Religious Experience: Case Studies in Phenomenology, with Reflections and Commentaries Couverture du livre The Problem of Religious Experience: Case Studies in Phenomenology, with Reflections and Commentaries
Contributions To Phenomenology, Vol. 103
Olga Louchakova-Schwartz (Ed.)
Springer
2019
Hardback 88,39 €
XXV, 339

Reviewed by: Jarrod Hyam (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)

The terms “mysticism” and “mystical experience” were commonly used in twentieth century scholarship, particularly in psychology of religion studies. These terms, highly loaded and ambiguous as they are, were gradually replaced by references to “religious experience” in English-language scholarship by the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. What is meant by “religious experience?” How is it distinguished from our other, everyday kinds of experiences – is it something that can be clearly separated from mundane experiences, and if so, how? Do such experiences vary cross-culturally, and are they conditioned by specific religious traditions? What of religious experiences that lie outside of institutional religious settings? These questions continue to cause controversy and lively debate from multidisciplinary perspectives. Applied phenomenology is particularly relevant for this ongoing mystery.

Related to these questions are the issues of context: what religious experience(s) are we referring to? How is this understood in theistic systems – and how might this appear in non-theistic traditions? is there such a thing as a universal human religious experience, or do these experiences differ cross-culturally and across world religious traditions?

The Problem of Religious Experience: Case Studies in Phenomenology, with Reflections and Commentaries, edited by Olga Louchakova-Schwartz, represents a massive, multivolume undertaking to address some of these contextual issues. An extensive study of the intersection of phenomenology and religious experience is much needed, and we are fortunate to be gifted such a voluminous work. The editor includes generous notes and reflections, including a detailed introduction, where she notes that this work stems from a collaborate research effort from the Society for the Phenomenology of Religious Experience. The editor is an extremely accomplished scholar who displays true expertise in the phenomenology of religious experience.  Professor Louchakova-Schwartz clearly states a foundational question regarding this research in the introduction: “a question of what exactly makes religious experience what it is – that is, gives it a specific quality distinguishing it, for its subject, from all other experiences – remained open” (3). Given over a century of robust phenomenological studies, the question of subjective experience generally and religious experience specifically continues to invoke confusion and mystery, and this ambitious work turns to various case studies and theorizing to respond to this confusion.

The introductory section effectively sets out a cohesive structure for this multivolume study. An initial confusion I encountered in the introduction is: what is the scope of the analysis here? The word “God” is referenced, and it is made clear that Abrahamic and South Asian religious studies are included, as well as both phenomenological theory and theologically-centered studies. However, what religions are specifically covered in the comparative analyses, and what, if any, constraints and issues were encountered when including cross-cultural studies?

Relatedly, having so much material in one book may prove to be daunting. This is split into two volumes with four parts: the first volume containing The Primeval Showing of Religious Experience while the second volume is explicitly theological, entitled Doxastic Perspectives in the Phenomenology of Religious Experience. I am concerned about such a broad spectrum of content lacking cohesion; fortunately, dividing the book into parts and respective case studies helped to preserve an overall cohesive structure. The notion of the concretum or concrete aspects of religious experience is invoked in the introduction. Yet quickly in the introductory sections, a nearly incomprehensible web of nested phenomenological jargon is spun – this is clearly a common feature of modern philosophical theory, also a feature in the many phenomenological subtraditions stemming from the master of incomprehensibly dense prose himself, Edmund Husserl. This caused another concern; after I turned to the first case study presented in Chapter Two, I wondered if non-specialists in this subject would be able to make sense of the material. As the subject of religious experience is multidisciplinary, this work may attract those who are not specialized in phenomenological technical terms, such as the various reductions. Nonetheless, Professor Louchakova-Schwartz is particularly clear in her writing and unpacks the incredible amount of debate and abstraction surrounding the phenomenology of religious experience with deftly precise prose. She includes helpful reflections at the conclusion of each Part, from Part I – IV.

Proceeding the critiques of Cartesian mind-body dualism and subsequent focus on embodiment found in the works of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and modern thinkers such as Natalie Depraz and Thomas Csordas, the notion of embodiment and embodied religious experience is germane to this research. It is encouraging to see this topic approached multiple times, including in Chapter II of Volume I, “Reconnecting the Self to the Divine: The Role of the Lived Body in Spontaneous Religious Experiences” by Shogo Tanaka. This first volume, The Primeval Showing of Religious Experience, sets out what is to be “presuppositionless” accounts of religious experience, contrasted with theological or “doxastic” approaches found in volume II – hence the “showing” of experiences mentioned in the title.

Tanaka presents the oft-neglected domain of “spontaneous” religious experiences – those experiences falling outside the purview of institutionally-structured traditions. Inspired by William James’ famous analysis of mysticism in The Varieties of Religious Experience, Tanaka focuses on the notion of mystical “passivity” and how this may lead to shifts in one’s sense of embodied experience, also referred to phenomenologically as “the lived body.”

Beginning primarily with Plato and Parmenides among ancient Greek thinkers, thriving throughout medieval European Scholasticism and culminating with Rene Descartes’ philosophy, the history of Western philosophy is that of dualistic tension: tension between the status of mind and matter, spirit and corporeality. Descartes’ famous formulation of res cogitans and res extensa formalized the ontological separation of spirit or mind from “mindless” matter. The directly visceral experience of living itself is consistently denied in the Western philosophical tradition, brushed aside as irrelevant compared to the power of reasoning. A critique of this dualistic orientation is found initially in Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological work, continued in the religious analyses of the “lived body” in Tanaka’s chapter. The role of embodiment is a crucial aspect within religious experience accounts that will hopefully continue to inspire future phenomenological religious studies.

Tanaka concludes his chapter with a critique of body-mind dualism and apt observations regarding a false dichotomy often posited in religious experience studies between “ordinary” and “nonordinary” states of consciousness: “. . . the distinction itself seems to reflect a tacit, dichotomous understanding of the sacred and the secular, the supernatural and the natural, the other world and this world, and the religious and the nonreligious. This dichotomy may foster the view that religious experiences are essentially different from ordinary experiences” (35). This essentializing of different modes of experience contrasts with Tanaka’s emphasis on spontaneous religious experiences, which may occur in perfectly mundane situations and contexts, outside any specifically institutional religious setting. One is reminded of the quotidian, simple imagery often employed in Zen Buddhist poetry and parables to refer to ultimate awakening – which is not fundamentally distinct from everyday experience.

One insightful aspect of this book is the clarification of phenomenological methods and key terms, including the often-invoked method of “reduction.” Espen Dahl defines and clarifies a few of these reductions in Chapter 4, “Preserving Wonder Through the Reduction: Husserl, Marion, and Merleau-Ponty.” These include Husserl’s Cartesian-influenced reduction, Marion’s reduction, and Merleau-Ponty’s method of reduction. Husserl’s notion of epoché, the “bracketing” of our presuppositions about what constitutes our universe, is described by Dahl as “the way inward” (60). This is certainly a fitting way to describe the process of bracketing, and it is a key feature that marks the unique orientation of Husserl’s innovative philosophy. Such an inward turning also parallels aspects of stilling the mind during certain meditation exercises, which is addressed in Chapter 5, written by Olga Louchakova-Schwartz. Louchakova-Schwartz focuses on the transmutation of emotion in numerous Buddhist meditation practices, what she refers to as “neo-Buddhist” practices. Processes underlying the emotional transformation in these practices are compared to numerous phenomenological methods, including the reductions and epoché. The array of comparative phenomenological studies is a particularly impressive feature of this anthology, and there is still much insightful cross-cultural analysis to be gained by applying the phenomenological methodologies to varied cultural religious practices.

Volume I continues with other nondoxastic approaches, focusing on themes of Lebenswelt or the “lifeworld,” intersubjectivity and transcendence. As previously stated, Volume II shifts the focus by including doxastic, explicitly theological frameworks. These by and large draw influence from Christian theistic perspectives and philosophers such as Kierkegaard, in addition to an intriguing analysis of Raimon Panikkar’s intercultural, pluralistic philosophies in Leonardo Marcato’s “Mystical Experience as Existential Knowledge in Raimon Pannikar’s Navasūtrāni.” The anthology is two hundred pages in by Volume II, and this book culminates with over three hundred pages. Despite this substantial amount of material and plethora of topics, the cohesively structured flow of thought is even more apparent by the end of Volume II. This is a particularly ambitious project to complete and subdividing the content into two main volumes helped to break the material into manageable sections, with clear demarcations in analytical foci.

I am quite impressed by the plurality of themes and lucid unpacking of densely abstruse phenomenological topics found within The Problem of Religious Experience: Case Studies in Phenomenology, with Reflections and Commentaries. Dr. Olga Louchakova-Schwartz’s commentary and original contributions greatly assist in making sense of this complex territory.  There is an impressive array of cross-cultural religious analyses explored. Again, this ambitious work may overwhelm readers who are not previously familiar with the many developments of phenomenology within the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Nonetheless, the various methods, reductions, and “bracketing” are clearly explicated in relation to the ongoing mysteries of religious experience. This anthology leaves us with further reflections on wonder, mystery, transcendence – even with silence, outside the conceptually symbolic constraints of language itself. At the crossroads of these conceptual fringes, the explanatory methods of phenomenology can effectively shed light on the enigmatic nature of cross-cultural descriptions of religious experience.

Judith Wambacq: Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty

Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty Couverture du livre Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty
Series in Continental Thought, № 51
Judith Wambacq
Ohio University Press · Swallow Press
2018
Hardback $95.00
296

Reviewed by: Alex de Campos Moura (University of São Paulo)

The Transcendental Project in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze

I. Introduction: The Question

Judith Wamback’s book, Thinking between Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty, proposes a highly original reading of two central authors from the 20th century, one that sheds new light on their most important insights.

According to the Wamback herself, she is reacting to a consensus that has been established about the relation between the two thinkers, a consensus that sees their respective works as being either alien or in opposition to each other. This reading of their relationship was championed not only by Foucault but also by Deleuze himself, in his few and mostly negative comments on Merleau-Ponty. As Wamback shows, Deleuze does not seem to recognize either in phenomenology in general or in Merleau-Ponty’s work in particular the main sources of his thought.

Against this interpretation, Wamback explicitly proposes to find a philosophical argument that legitimates bringing them into proximity. She is not, therefore, interested in reconstructing the common history of their reception or perhaps in uncovering a heretofore ignored biographical connection; on the contrary, what she seeks is to make explicit a conceptual connection between two thinkers that critics—including Deleuze himself—have become used to seeing as radically alien. This is the central motivation of this book, one that is also central in evaluating the relevance of its implications.

In order to bring this project to fruition, Wamback proposes a precise framework, which she herself describes as “metaphysically” bent, and which takes up a classical philosophical question, namely the question of the relation between being and thought. She investigates the way both thinkers understand this question, thus providing the ground for her attempted rapprochement.

Indeed, as the book progresses, this question becomes increasingly more precise, and the way Wamback frames and focuses her discussion, notable for its clarity, is one of the main strengths of the book. The debate about the status of thought is revealed as a discussion about the transcendental project behind each thinker’s work, highlighting the intrinsic relation between this project and what Wamback describes as a “philosophy of immanence.” This philosophy of immanence is, according to her, a central dimension of both philosophers’ thoughts, one that brings to the forefront the necessity of understanding the articulation between the transcendental and the immanence.

Wamback, therefore, centers her comparison on the idea that Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty both recognized an immanence between the condition and the conditioned, one that finds its privileged “place” in the notions of expression and simultaneity. This is the central thesis defended by this book, an original and unusual contribution when considered against the backdrop of most studies dedicated to this topic. Let us then examine the way Wamback organizes her book.

II. The Path

In order to accomplish her proposal, Wamback delineates five main steps, thus establishing a work method that is followed throughout the book and that structures the overall path of the investigation. First, a description of the highlighted concept as it is formulated by each of the authors. Second, a discussion about the relationship between the two topics or concepts. Third, a description of the way this articulation sheds light on each of them and, based on this, on the respective reflections in which they find themselves. Fourth, an attempt at finding an “equilibrium” or “balance” between the singularity of each work and its possible openness by way of this articulation. Fifth, the configuration of a new image of the history of philosophy to which these philosophies belong.

In fact, the fifth item is the broader horizon that frames Wamback’s discussion (5). She is not interested in creating a common narrative thread that would encompass both philosophers’ work—indeed, such a common thread may not even exist. Rather, by doing justice to the way each author relates to other thinkers, she intends to “anchor” the “resonances in their work to the history of philosophy”, thereby formulating an “alternative image of the philosophical alliances in French academia over the last two centuries” (5). Here the most ambitious facet of the project is revealed, namely to go beyond a book directed to a specialist audience by retracing kindred context or horizons, thus making explicit the way philosophy is built as a series of answers to the great questions posed by other philosophers (5). This implies the recognition of a historical dimension that is not exclusively factual—if it were possible to think of it in this way—, intrinsic to a specific philosophical debate, perhaps (in a first moment) even in a latent way, but which would even so still be affirmed in each of them. As Merleau-Ponty wrote in the fifties, this would be a kind of subterranean or indirect history, a history that is expressed in the facts without being reducible to them and without detaching itself from them.

In this sense, according to Wamback, the question about thought and being, which is as ancient as our most ancient sources on Western thought, is revealed as a privileged problematization axis, allowing her to trace out the way Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze pursue this classic problem in their respective philosophical reflections on the basis of their network of references and their theoretical frameworks. She is, therefore, able to uncover deeper and broader debates than those one would glean from a first reading, or even a reading that pays more attention to the schools and neglects the “secret” historicity that animates them. This is undoubtedly one of the most interesting aspects of Wamback’s work.

The book is organized around five main cores. I will first describe those cores in a general way, and then I will offer a more detailed analysis of each of them, following the way Wamback builds her argument.

The text is divided into seven chapters, each of which is further divided into topics. These chapters all follow a general methodology: first Wamback presents the position of one of the philosophers being analyzed, then the position of the other, and finally compares them. This methodological option greatly contributes to the clarity of the text and to the strength of her argumentation.

The first and the second chapters focus, according to Wamback herself, in a more direct discussion between the two authors. The idea is not to pit one against the other but to discuss the way each of them approaches similar questions in a kind of textual confrontation, one that is more intimately connected to the analysis of specific works and texts.

The first chapter is dedicated to the topic of thought, focusing on what Wamback describes as “original thought”, seeking to formulate what are, for each author, its nature and conditions. The main axis of the chapter is the argument that both authors think this notion as a way of distancing themselves from the representation model and its implications. This move demands an analysis of the objective and subjective dimensions that constitute this “original thought”, which leads us to the problem of the ontology therein implicit. This question is pursued in the second chapter, which seeks to understand in what sense the way both authors formulate the question about the status of thought—and its distance from the representation model—is grounded in an understanding of being. In particular, Wamback shows how this ontology recognizes being as unitary, even if it admits—indeed, demands—difference and indetermination.

The third chapter focuses on what Wamback considers a kind of epistemological or ontological “project” or even “decision” present in Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze’s philosophies, discussing the extent to which their paths (delineated by the first two chapters) are connected to an understanding of the sense of philosophical work, especially in the framing of its own field of investigation—which is connected to what Wamback describes as the “empirical”. She will here follow the way Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze absorb the much-debated “transcendental empiricism”, tracing out their divergences from Husserl and Kant. This absorption is, to Wamback, one of the main points of proximity between the two, a point to which I will return below.

This investigation is carried a step further by its incursion into the relationship between the condition and the conditioned, an examination that will be carried out in the fourth chapter, with its reference to Bergson. As is well known, the relation between Deleuze and Bergson is much more explicit than the relation between Merleau-Ponty and Bergson. However, more and more recent scholars have highlighted this last relation, and Wamback’s work is part of this recent trend in the scholarship, which presents a broad yet still unexplored horizon. In particular, Wamback’s reference to Bergson appears as a central element—both for Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze—in the understanding of the relation between the condition and the conditioned, especially in connection to the notion of “simultaneity”.

Chapters five and six focus then on this relation, particularly in its connection to the question of “expression”, a question central to both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze and which is organized precisely around the articulation between the “ground” and the grounded. To understand this question, the fifth chapter is dedicated to the description of its connection to literary experience—examining the reference to Proust, which is common to both and which is of undeniable relevance—, and the sixth chapter is dedicated to its connection to visual dimension—examining the also common and very important reference to Cézanne.

The seventh chapter also has recourse to a common denominator but now approaching the discussion from a different angle. According to Wamback, the previous chapters had as their goal to show, in different ways, the proximity between the two philosophers, by exploring how their common horizon is structured by the assertion of a unity between the condition and the conditioned, an inseparability of the ground and the grounded—a logic that is particularly notable in the notion of expression. The last chapter then attempts to shed new light on this logic, highlighting the way in which a differential dynamic operates inside this logic. The common denominator mentioned above is Saussure.

Wamback uses this reference to Saussure to explain how a “solid immanence requires a differential theory of how the condition generates the conditioned (which nevertheless determines it)” (7). She shows how this differential dynamic is to be found in both authors, especially in the way each of them appropriates Saussure’s thought, and how its constituting logic is marked by a tension between the condition and the conditioned.

Finally, the conclusion seeks to discuss the resonances and the divergences between the two philosophers, taking a stand on whether it is possible to establish a common horizon to them, or whether their distance from each other is so great that there would be no effective dialogue or convergence.

This finishes the general presentation of the book. Before continuing, it is still worth noting an important methodological option defended by Wamback, one responsible for the tight circumscription of her project. It is the option of not analyzing the relation between the two authors in terms of the notion of perception. According to her, the way each philosopher situates this notion is extremely different. In the case of Merleau-Ponty, the description of perception is carried out in an ontological or “epistemological” horizon, whereas Deleuze would think it as connected to an ethical discussion, conceived according to relations of force intensity. Such an observation is also helpful in understanding Wamback’s second methodological choice, which is connected to her first: the works on which she focuses. In Merleau-Ponty’s case, Wamback focuses primarily on The Visible and the Invisible, since—according to a widespread reading—his ontology would be the most developed at that point in his career. This would justify relegating The Phenomenology of Perception to the sidelines, since this work is considered by this line of interpretation to be “propaedeutic” to the ontology of his last work.

With this counterpoint as the horizon, it is possible to highlight the relevance and the originality of Wamback’s proposed framing, especially her option of discussing both authors from the point of view of their understanding of the status of thought. This point of view is the starting point of her proposed approximation and of her discussions, presenting an unusual take when considered against the backdrop of the most common studies about this relationship. Moreover, as I will discuss in the next section, this point of view culminates in a discussion about the sense that the “transcendental project” assumes in each philosopher. Wamback rests her argument especially in the recognition of “immanence” as an irresistible dimension, turning the articulation between the condition and the conditioned, between the ground and the grounded, into a central element in each author’s formulations. Let us, therefore, see in more detail how she builds her analysis.

III. The Book

Wamback bases her reading on the idea that there is, from the beginning, something in common to Deleuze and Merleau-Ponty: not only the fact that both reflected on the topic of thought but also the fact that they distinguished two types of thought. On the one hand, a properly original thought, and, on the other hand, a thought without any originality or expressiveness. The second type of thought is merely an application of given concepts, whereas the first type—which is the type that really intrigues the two philosophers—is a kind of “creative” dynamic. Recalling the distinction made by Merleau-Ponty between “speaking speech” and “spoken speech”, as well as the distinction between “thought” and “knowledge” as described by Deleuze, Wamback proposes a peculiar framework, extremely revealing of her reading: the distinction between a “thinking thought” and an expressive thought. “Thinking thought” is the type of thought which is central to both authors and which is the starting point of Wamback’s investigation, demanding an understanding of the way each author conceives of it. The first piece of evidence highlighted by Wamback is the way this notion figures in both as a refusal of the modern conception of “representation”.

Starting with Merleau-Ponty’s reflection, Wamback appeals to some of the central notions of the Phenomenology of Perception to circumscribe his notion of thought. She then briefly examines the way Merleau-Ponty understands the sense of perception, with special emphasis on his criticism of the intellectualist and empiricist theories and on his notion of “field”, showing how the perceptual dynamic is grounded on the “original intertwinement of body and world” (18). From this point on, the question becomes whether his notion of thought is grounded in the same articulation, being always in relation to something. To pursue this question, Wamback examines the notions of the cogito—especially its negative dimension—, of geometrical thought, and of linguistic expression.

At this point in her analysis, Wamback introduces the notion of Fundierung, proposed in the Phenomenology of Perception as a “two-way relation”, an alternative to the classical understanding of the ground and the grounded as sundered elements, since they are now defined as relational dimensions in reciprocal determination. While this is a central notion in Merleau-Ponty’s work, Wamback uses it here only to think the relation between “thought” and “language”. She defends that, in spite of all its implications, there is still in this notion an asymmetry: the expressed still has “ontological priority” (35), preserving a difference between the terms. On her reading, this asymmetry would only be dissolved later, with Merleau-Ponty’s introduction of the notion of “institution”. Nevertheless, Wamback highlights that the Fundierung relation already contained a central idea, namely “excess” as an indication of the “immanence of the ground that transcends itself in the expression” (26). Her conclusion is that, for Merleau-Ponty, thought is not a “mediating activity”, but is, rather, “familiar with the world”, “it has direct contact” with it and is “in a certain sense shaped by it” (30).

Wamback shows that something similar takes place in Deleuze’s thought. From the beginning, Deleuze proposes to understand thought by confronting the sign, refusing the idea of a natural inclination to the truth, and recognizing it as always characterized by “the singularity of the meeting”, in which signs appear as “enigmas” (31). Here, more than with Merleau-Ponty, the spotlight falls on the differential character of sign and sense. Wamback shows how these notions are thought of in order to move away from the most characteristic presuppositions of representational thought: on the one hand, the idea of identity and unity, and, on the other hand, the notions of nature and of affinity with the truth. Deleuze recognizes, under the eight postulates of representational thought, a “confusion of empirical and transcendental features” (47) that obscures the proper sense of thought.

Wamback proposes that, in this perspective, Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze are extremely close, meeting in this movement that she describes as a “transcendental examination of thought”(49), a discussion about its conditions and about the human capacity to think. One consequence of this proximity is that both authors recognize that the object of thought is characterized by a “certain exteriority” (50). This means that both authors recognize—and hold it in high esteem—the “grounded” dimension of thought, focusing on the description of the relation between the ground and the grounded as intrinsic or immanent (51). It is precisely this intrinsic or immanent relation that guarantees its creative genesis: “In sum, for both authors, the creative nature of thought is due to the necessary role of thought in the grounding relation”  (51).

After examining these conditions for the investigation of thought in each author—and the presence of a certain undeniable immanence—, Wamback focuses on describing their respective ontologies. As mentioned above, she holds that the way they understand thought, particularly their conception of thought as sustained by this intertwinement of immanence and transcendence, demands a description of the ontological ground therein implicit.

In Merleau-Ponty’s case, as described in the Introduction, Wamback focuses on the ontology of his last texts, notably The Visible and the Invisible. She emphasizes there the differential character that is central in his formulation, particularly through his notion of flesh—described by him in its originally dissonant and, simultaneously, unitary character (58), from which Wamback detaches the notion of “style” or “typicality” (59). She insists that it is not a matter of identity, but of a differential unity, which is connected to the notions of openness and constitution.

In Deleuze’s case, on the other hand, Wamback defends that the same dimensions present in Merleau-Ponty’s proposition can be found in the former’s ontology. The two authors supplant the distinction between the abstract and the concrete by reporting being to another level, which, in the case of Deleuze, is thought of as the virtual: like Merleau-Ponty’s flesh, the virtual is characterized by a nonidentical unity that cannot be divided into an inside and an outside; also like the flesh, the virtual is characterized by a fundamental openness, being also the condition of concrete things (65).

On the other hand, concerning the differences between them, Wamback holds that Deleuze devoted more time to the task of showing that unity and difference are not in opposition, that indetermination does not imply undifferentiation and that the constitutive nature of the virtual does not detach it from the things and concepts that are conditioned by it (65). In spite of this difference, she concludes that, for both, the object of thought—the flesh and the virtual—is not an identity: “The flesh and the virtual are disguised (VI, 150; DR, 133), displaced with respect to themselves” (79). The two notions combine unity and difference, acting as the condition of concepts and things, be they living or non-living (80). These dimensions are responsible for the individuation and crystallization processes, situated in the articulation between, on the one hand, the visible and the actual, and, on the other hand, the virtual and the invisible flesh, acting in the region between conservation and creation.

Supported by this discussion about the two philosophers’ ontologies—in their closeness and in their distance—, Wamback proceeds to study that which she describes as their “transcendental project”, seeking to situate their proposed investigation about the nature of thought in a broader framework:

“What is at stake, philosophically, when they refuse a representational account of thought, and prefer instead to situate the origin of thinking not in the thinking subject, but in the encounter with an exterior sign (Deleuze), or in the participation in a wild being (Merleau-Ponty)? Why do they both attack the representational account of thought?” (85).

She defends that they are brought close together by their affirmation of the non-exteriority between subject and object, between the one who thinks and what is thought—an affirmation that, according to her, is at the basis of what the two of them recognize as philosophically being “immanence” (85). Wamback defends that immanence is articulated with the idea of “difference”, even with all the distance that separates their respective ontologies.

Deleuze’s transcendental project is carefully presented by a confrontation with the Kantian project and by a discussion of a series of thinkers that heavily influenced him, especially Spinoza, Maimon, Leibniz, and Husserl. Merleau-Ponty’s project, in its turn, is presented through its confrontation with Husserl and, more generally speaking, with phenomenology, a relation characterized simultaneously by connection and distance. Wamback highlights that, beyond their idiosyncrasies, they have a common inspiration in their criticism of Husserl and his proposal of a return “to the things themselves”:

“A transcendental philosophy should look not for the conditions of possibility of experience but for its conditions of reality. For Merleau-Ponty as much as for Deleuze, this implies that the transcendental ground is to be situated in the empirical. The ground must be immanent to the grounded and thus possess a certain historicity that cannot be reconciled with the invariability of transcendent essences. Philosophy’s task, then, is defined as the explanation of how the empirical, the grounded, can be produced immanently. For both thinkers, philosophy is to be a philosophy of genesis.” (121)

There is also a resonance in what they reject from Husserl, especially his notion of a transcendental subject (122). According to Wamback, they both see in this notion an obstacle to a consistent transcendental project, since it prevents it from “becoming an immanent ontology” (123) and weakens its differential dimension.

After this more general perspective, it is now possible to return to what Wamback calls the dimension of “immanence”, present in the two authors’ respective transcendental project. To analyze this notion, it is worthwhile to focus especially on its differential dynamic—something that Wamback has worked on from the beginning by way of the relation between the ground and the grounded, the main axis that articulates her analyses.

Here one should mention a central element both for the two philosophers and for Wamback’s argument, namely the notion of expression, precisely as a way of understanding this articulation between the condition and the conditioned. The following chapters focus, each in their own way, on this notion, circumscribing it through diverse and correlate points of view: through its relation to the notion of simultaneity, through its connection to literary expression, and, finally, by discussing its visual dimension. In a word: by their relations to Bergson, Proust, and Cézanne.

The first step is their common reference to Bergson, which is circumscribed by Wamback through the notion of simultaneity. She seeks to understand how the appeal to Bergson helps Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze to build, each in their own way, a transcendental project that attempts to situate the transcendental in the empirical, the basis for what she considers the “philosophy of immanence” that is characteristic of both (125).

Wamback argues that Merleau-Ponty’s initial reading of Bergson, particularly in the Phenomenology of Perception, is “essentially unfair” (132), since he accuses Bergson of “not considering other kinds of spatiality in order to think time” (ibid). This diagnosis would be partially revised in The Visible and the Invisible, especially through the notion of “partial coincidence” and through his discussion of depth—both topics that are also to be found in Deleuze’s reading. Here the two meet each other again, since the two of them recognize depth not as a spatial but as a temporal dimension, connected to the idea of simultaneity—explicitly as a refusal of a notion of succession, recognizing the present as a “contraction of the past” (142). This formulation would lead them to similar consequences, especially the affirmation of an impossibility of directly accessing the past.

“These ressonances between Merleau-Ponty’s and Deleuze’s references to Bergson also reveals resonances at the most general level of their conception of the relation between the ground and the grounded. Both appeal to Bergson’s idea that the passing of time must be explained through the simultaneity of future, present, and past, because that offers a possible solution if your goal is to avoid referring, in the explanation, to an exterior or transcendent element. In other words, Bergson’s notion of simultaneity is a very good illustration of how one can keep the relation between the ground and the grounded immanent.” (143)

Wamback emphasizes the notion of simultaneity as a central element in their philosophies, a kind of “field” that articulates transcendence and immanence. The study about expression—about the way this relationship is realized and is inscribed in their respective transcendental projects—continues through an analysis of Proust and Cézanne.

The careful chapter devoted to Proust shows, on the one hand, that both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze find in the writer inspiration to understand an achronological, original time, composed of dimensions and not divided into successive moments, configured around a “centre of envelopment” (163). On the other hand, Wamback sustains that their respective readings diverge to the extent that, beyond this direct reference to time, Proust also contributed to Merleau-Ponty’s reflections on the body, something that did not occur with Deleuze.

The following chapter continues the discussion about the notion of expression, focusing now on its visual dimension and finding support in Cézanne’s presence, also common to the two philosophers. Wamback shows how both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze insist on the nonrepresentational character of art, which leads them both in the direction of a “nonimitative resemblance” (170). The guiding thread is the understanding—that brings them very close to each other—of the painting process and its nature (178).

Finally, the seventh chapter is devoted to a description of how Saussure figures in each author’s work. In the previous chapters, recall, Wamback strove to make explicit the way they tried to “ensure the immanence of their transcendental projects by characterizing the relationship between the ground and the grounded as one of simultaneity (chapter 4) and expression (chapters 5 and 6)” (189). Now, in the last chapter, she explores another central element of these transcendental projects, namely the idea of difference. Wamback argues that, in spite of some differences, both Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze are interested in the same ideas from Saussure, especially “his discovery of the genetic power of difference” (211).

After briefly retracing Wamback’s path, it is now possible to summarize, in a few lines, her main proposal. It seems to me that the central—and strongest—of her claims is her proposal of a convergence between the transcendental projects of Merleau-Ponty and Deleuze, especially due to the intrinsic relation between such projects and the field of immanence. According to Wamback, this immanence is an original articulation between the condition and the conditioned, formulated by the two authors through the notions of simultaneity and expression. Such a “philosophy of immanence” is on the horizon thanks to which a new sense of the transcendental could appear, bring the philosophers close together.

Such a similarity, however, does not erase their differences. Indeed, it illuminates these differences from a new perspective. This is what allows Wamback to finally conclude, without losing sight of their respective singularities, that there is still a “unity” among them, as a new horizon that does not reject dissonance, putting it into a new context and proposing it a new meaning. As she had proposed in the beginning, one of the main goals of her project was to retrace philosophical relations, to rethink more subterranean contexts, to reconfigure lines of influence and of exchange in a more general sense.

It is, therefore, a highly original proposal, resulting in an uncommon work among the current scholarship, one that is pursued with admirable care, clarity, and cohesion.

Éric Trémault: Structure et sensation, Vrin, 2020

Structure et sensation: Une critique de la psychologie de la forme Couverture du livre Structure et sensation: Une critique de la psychologie de la forme
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Éric Trémault
Vrin
2020
Paperback
196