Thomas Binder: Franz Brentano und sein philosophischer Nachlass, De Gruyter, 2019

Franz Brentano und sein philosophischer Nachlass Book Cover Franz Brentano und sein philosophischer Nachlass
Textologie 4
Thomas Binder
Walter de Gruyter
Hardback € 109.95

Cameron Bassiri: Ideas toward a Phenomenology of Interruptions, Lexington Books, 2018

Ideas toward a Phenomenology of Interruptions Book Cover Ideas toward a Phenomenology of Interruptions
Cameron Bassiri
Lexington Books
Hardback $90.00 / £60.00

Raffaele Pisano, Joseph Agassi and Daria Drozdova (Eds.): Hypotheses and Perspectives in the History and Philosophy of Science

Hypotheses and Perspectives in the History and Philosophy of Science: Homage to Alexandre Koyré 1892-1964 Book Cover Hypotheses and Perspectives in the History and Philosophy of Science: Homage to Alexandre Koyré 1892-1964
Raffaele Pisano, Joseph Agassi and Daria Drozdova (Eds.)
Hardcover 139,09 €

Reviewed by: Anita Williams (Murdoch University)

As the title suggests, this edited book showcases Alexandre Koyré’s contribution to the field of history of science. The volume makes a major contribution to this field by showing the breadth of Koyré’s work and illustrating its significance in reshaping our understanding of the history of modern science. For an English speaking audience, the book is particularly exciting because the authors discuss Koyré’s legacy in both Anglo-Saxon and European contexts as well as the full range of Koyré’s opus, written in English, French, German and Russian. As a result, the book fulfils its aim, as outlined by Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent: to ‘reconsider Koyré’s works in a broad international perspective’ (ix).

Given the edited books aim to pay homage to Koyré’s work as part of the Koyré anniversary project, it is not surprising that the majority of contributions focus on Koyré’s unsurpassed and trailblazing contribution to the history of science, which forms the overall narrative of the book. By way of introducing this review, I will start with a rather striking omission regarding the organisation of the book: the edited volume is put together in alphabetical order, rather than around themes, and the introduction mainly lists summaries of the papers, rather than providing an overall framework for making sense of this volume. The organisation of the book detracts from the overall high quality of this publication and the nuanced arguments between the authors on key themes in Koyré. Rather than being foregrounded, the central themes of the edited book are left for the reader to find. In this review, I will discuss the different papers around the book’s focal motifs, which are: (1) Koyré’s ground-breaking influence on the history of science and, most notably, his influence on Thomas Kuhn; (2) the unity of Koyré’s oeuvre; (3) Koyré’s discussion of Galileo’s experiments and the mathematical character of modern science; (4) studies that extend Koyré’s analysis of the central figures in the history of modern science; and (5) Koyré’s relationship to Edmund Husserl as well as phenomenology more generally. I will use these themes to structure this review.

Several authors outline that Koyré helped to establish a new historiographical approach in the field of history of science. Chiefly, many authors note that Koyré introduced the now widely used term ‘scientific revolutions’ and this term summarises the difference between Koyré and earlier historians of science. Koyré sees modern mathematical science as a radical disjuncture between ancient and medieval understandings of the world, on the one hand, and the modern conceptualisation of nature as mathematical, on the other. In brief, for Koyré, modern science is not the culmination of a linear progression of human thought, but, instead, should be acknowledged as a radical change in the way the world is understood. Famously, Koyré has summarised this change as a shift from the closed Cosmos to the open universe, a profound change that he states is only rivalled by ‘the invention of the Cosmos by Greek thought’ in the first place (Koyré 1968c, 16).

Joseph Agassi and Jean-François Stoffel tackle Koyré’s general contribution to the history of science and how Koyré changed this field. In chapter 1, Agassi proposes that Koyré’s greatest contribution to the history of science is to present a different way of reading foundational texts of modern science. He argues that Koyré reads these texts as akin to reading the classics of the arts and humanities. By doing so, Koyré is not only able to bridge the gap between the arts and humanities, on the one side, and the sciences, on the other, but also reveals the metaphysical basis of modern science. In chapter 20, Stoffel critically reviews Koyré’s reconceptualization of the Copernican revolution as the spiritual or ontological “revolution of the 17th century” (424). Stoffel outlines that an important abiding theme in Koyré’s work is the separation of the world of science from the world of life (430) and this provides the framework for Koyré’s discussion of the Copernican revolution. Stoffel concludes by suggesting that the Koyré’s claimed separation between the scientific and the living world is without historical foundation and, instead, may reflect ‘the turmoil of his era that Koyré was marvellously echoing’ (447). Both Agassi and Stoffel highlight that Koyré changed the way the history of modern science is understood, but disagree on what Koyré’s insights should mean for current historians of science, leaving the discussion for the reader to continue.

J. C. Pinto de Oliveira and Amelia Oliveira, John Schuster and Antonino Drago focus on showing Koyré’s impact on the history of science via his influence on Kuhn. Each author discusses the relationship between Koyré and Kuhn in a different light. In chapter 15, Pinto de Oliveira and Oliveira discuss the relationship between George Sarton, Kuhn and Koyré. The main focus of this paper is the relationship between Sarton and Kuhn. From the footnotes, the emphasis on the relationship between Kuhn and Sarton seems to stem from the authors’ suggestion that Kuhn extends Koyré, while Koyré retains sympathies for Sarton (footnote 2, 278) and ‘still has one foot in the “old” historiography’ (footnote 12, 284). However, the relationship between Koyré and Kuhn is not the main focus of the paper. Instead, the authors present the case study of William Harvey’s discovery of blood circulation to illustrate the benefits of a Kuhnian inspired historiography, over Sarton’s approach. In chapter 19, Schuster explicitly outlines how Kuhn extends from Koyré as well as suggesting some difficulties Kuhn faced, given his admiration of Koyré’s work. Schuster specifically focusses on Kuhn’s early work in the history of science. He argues that Kuhn pushes Koyré’s approach to speak directly to the importance of experiments and experimental equipment in modern science, illustrating the case through Kuhn’s engagement with classical and Baconian sciences, in particular his explanation of the Copernican revolution and the rise of new experimental sciences. Schuster argues that there remains a tension within Kuhn’s account of the rise of modern science that is visible by two incommensurate explanations that can be derived from Kuhn’s work: one approach suggests the beginning of modern science is best analysed through looking for points of rupture between the old and new sciences and another suggests that Baconian sciences are born from a ‘continuous process of scientificity’ (413). Schuster leaves this tension open for future thinkers in the areas of ‘sociology of knowledge and Scientific Revolution studies’ (418).

In chapter 7, Drago presents the counterargument and argues that Koyré’s contribution to history of science is more profound than Kuhn’s own contribution. Drago writes that ‘Koyré introduced into the historiography of science the account of a conflict, i.e. the conflict between ancient and modern science’, while ‘Kuhn presented a peaceful development of science over two centuries’ (134). Drago convincingly argues that, while Kuhn adopts the term scientific revolution from Koyré, what the two scholars mean by revolution significantly differs between them. Together, Pinto de Oliveira and Amelia Oliveira, John Schuster and Drago show that a nuanced analysis of the relationship between Koyré and Kuhn is still a fruitful area for further investigations.

In chapter 18, Marlon Salomon pays attention to the way in which Koyré, himself, understood his relationship to the history of modern science and how he differentiated his own approach. He summarises Koyré’s approach by separating between two ways of engaging with the past and, in so doing, Salomon shows that Koyré’s interest in history is to ‘critique’ and ‘denaturalization’ current scientific evidence (380). One approach to the past takes current scientific ideas as natural and factual and reads the history of science with an eye to discarding old and obsolete theories and to focusing on the theories that support the current scientific models and evidence. Such an approach renders the history of ideas as a ‘showcase of curiosities’ (380), at best, and irrelevant to present concerns, at worst. By contrast, as Salomon outlines, Koyré’s approach to the history of ideas is ‘to apprehend the old theories, not at the moment of their death agony but at the moment of their birth’ (382). Salomon drives home that Koyré’s interest in the history of ideas is to enable a critique of the contemporary modern scientific understanding of the world by concluding that ‘Koyré is a thinker of the limits’ (384).

Following on from Solomon, Charles Braverman and Daria Drozdova attend to another key topic: the question of what ties together Koyré’s oeuvre. In chapter 2, Braverman argues that Koyré’s central concern is showing how the notion of space changed with the rise of modern science: modern science conceptualises space as geometrical and this affects all domains of human endeavour, which shows the relevance of Koyré’s assertion of the unity of human thought. To demonstrate his point, Braverman examines the case of André-Marie Ampère in order to show the ‘value of Koyré’s methodology’ (37). In chapter 8, Drozdova suggests that Koyré’s characterisation of modern science is bifurcated and cannot be reduced to one central claim. Instead, according to Drozdova, Koyré shows that both the “destruction of the Cosmos” and “the geometrization of space” are equally important to understanding rise of modern science. Braverman and Drozdova both foreground the importance of the geometrization of space to Koyré’s conceptualisation of the modern scientific revolution.

The next major theme addressed by the volume is Koyré’s thorough examination of the work of Galileo Galilei. As the authors that talk to this theme seek to demonstrate, Koyré made two central and controversial claims about Galileo. First, Koyré outlines the importance of imaginary or thought experiments for Galileo (see Koyré 1968b). Second, Koyré argues that Galileo sides with Platonism (see Koyré 1968c). These two arguments are closely tied together because, as Koyré, himself, notes:

‘for the contemporaries and pupils of Galileo, as well as for Galileo himself, the dividing line between Aristotelianism and Platonism was perfectly clear…the opposition between these two philosophies was determined by a different appreciation of mathematics as science, and of its role for the constitution of the science of Nature…if…one claims for mathematics a superior value, and a commanding position in the study of things natural, one is a Platonist’ (Koyré 1968d, 15).

The authors in this volume, who address Koyré’s work on Galileo, importantly draw attention to the controversy regarding Koyré’s engagement with Galileo and the ways in which this debate has influence subsequent work in the history of science.

Francesco Crapanzano, Mario De Caro and Gérard Jorland all address the theme of Koyré’s account of Galileo’s experiments. In chapter 4, Crapanzano discusses the evidence for and against the factual existence of Galileo’s experiment on the law of falling bodies at the leaning tower of Pisa. He accents Vincenzio Viviani’s – Galileo’s biographer’s – role in documenting this experiment. Crapanzano suggests that Viviani may have used the description of Galileo’s experiment with literary flare: ‘to celebrate the grand master in the best way possible, that is, by corroborating his stance with an experiment that publicly disavowed Aristotelianism’ (82). However, Crapanzano also outlines that there were other experiments supporting the law of falling bodies carried out in this time period, hence, the role of the Pisa experiment is not decisive. He concludes that Koyré ‘disproving the experiment’ played a crucial part in ‘affirming’ Koyré’s ‘perspective on the genesis of scientific theories’, but, ultimately, highlighted ‘one of the first signs of [Koyré’s] prosperous and controversial thesis of Galileo’s Platonism’ (82). In chapter 12, Jorland addresses the evidence for and against the existence of Galileo’s experiments more generally. Jorland suggests that Koyré questions Galileo’s experiments ‘on two very different grounds’: (1) ‘whether Galileo had ever performed experiments’ and (2) ‘if he had, whether [Galileo] had obtained the experimental results that he claimed’ (210). Jorland covers the work of several historians – most notably Stillman Drake – after Koyré who scoured Galileo’s private notes for evidence that he performed experiments or tried to reconstruct Galileo’s experiments to show that it was possible for Galileo to have performed them. Jorland concludes that ‘Galileo did perform experiments, but their results were not precise enough to be reliable’ (220). In a similar vein, in chapter 10, Gaukroger argues that Galileo conducted real experiments and puts forward that Koyré overlooks the prominence that experiments played in the development of modern science due to his focus on the mathematical-idealised structure of science.

In chapter 5, De Caro agrees that Galileo performed experiments. However, in contrast to Crapanzano, Jorland and Gaukroger, De Caro defends Koyré’s view of reading Galileo as a mathematico-physico Platonist. As a result, De Caro spells out that ‘the “sensate esperienze” (“sensible experiences”) that Galileo mentions as crucial in his scientific method, are not the experiences of everyday life, as it was for Aristotelians, but the observations, experimentations, and thought experiments’ (99). De Caro concludes that Koyré correctly identifies that the scientific method ‘could fully flourish only if one assumed, as Galileo did, that the natural world has an inherently mathematical structure that we are endowed to grasp when we reason mathematically’ (102). Crapanzano, Jorland, Gaukroger and De Caro highlight the continued importance of discussing the relationship between the modern mathematical sciences and the experiment.

In a related theme, Mauro Condé and Diederick Raven specifically discuss Koyré’s claim that the foundation of modern science is mathematics. In chapter 3, Condé draws attention to Koyré’s early work on mathematics and shows how his training in mathematics is important to his later history of science and explains Koyré’s argument that metaphysics precedes technology. In chapter 17, Raven also foregrounds the importance of the mathematical foundations of modern science: he writes that for modern science ‘mathematics is the key to understanding the world created for us’ (354) because ‘God created the universe’ (355) and ‘the mind is for understanding quantities’ (355). Raven presents a fascinating comparative analysis, suggesting that it is important to consider the Christian roots of modern science. He argues that Christianity’s confrontation with Aristotle creates the seeds for the scientific revolution because there is a contradiction between the Christian creator and an Aristotelian understanding of the universe, which leads to nominalism. Condé and Raven agree that Koyré’s focus on the mathematical character of modern science is central to his approach, but Raven extends this further to argue for the importance of the Christian tradition in the development of modern science.

Another motif across the volume, which draws different together authors, is those authors who extend from Koyré’s analysis to investigate various scholars pertinent to the history of modern science. In chapter 6, Dominique Descotes starts from Koyré’s lecture on Pascal to reassess the importance of Pascal’s work to the history of modern science. In chapter 11, Glenn Hartz and Patrick Lewtas discuss the importance of Descartes’ voluntarism throughout his work. In chapter 13, Anna Maria Lombardi follows Koyré’s lead to examine Kepler, focusing on the importance of the relationship between music and the harmony of the world for Kepler. In chapter 16, Raffaele Pisano and Paulo Bussotti pay attention to Kepler’s notion of force. Kepler did not agree with the infinite universe, as they note: ‘if the size of the universe were infinite then it should have…a uniform geometrical-cosmological and well-defined structure’ (335). In addition, Kepler believed that ‘the infinite was unthinkable for a human being’ (335). Pisano and Bussotti agree with Koyré that Kepler is a thinker that dwells on the cusp of the closed Cosmos and the indefinite universe, but conclude that Koyré overestimates the influence of Aristotle on Kepler. Descotes, Hartz and Lewtas, Lombardi and Pisano and Bussotti all show that Koyré’s approach points the way to further investigations and re-examinations of premier modern scientific scholars.

The last theme that I will discuss is Koyré’s relationship to the phenomenological tradition, which is discussed by three authors: Massimo Ferrari, Rodney Parker and Anna Yampolskaya. In chapter 9, Ferrari talks to the similarities and differences between Koyré and Ernst Cassirer. Ferrari argues that Cassirer and Koyré need to be understood in light of their respective philosophical backgrounds: Marburg neo-Kantianism and Husserlian phenomenology, which explain two important differences identified by Ferrari. First, Cassirer presents a linear history, whereas Koyré looks for breaks in, and differences between, Ancient and Modern science. Second, Cassirer looks for a priori foundations of science, while Koyré looks for the essential structures of modern science and traces their origins. Similarly, in chapter 14, Rodney Parker argues that Koyré needs to be understood in relationship to Edmund Husserl and phenomenology. He explicates that Husserl’s rejection of Koyré’s dissertation is not a reason to consider Koyré without Husserl. He contends that the disruption to Koyré’s studies, and his subsequent move to France, should not be understood as a new beginning, but, rather, as a continuation of Koyré’s project of phenomenology aimed at explicating the historical a priori, which he adopts from Husserl, albeit in a unique way. The important theme that links Husserl and Koyré is their focus on Galileo and the mathematisation of nature: Husserl provided a starting point for Koyré’s nuanced and detailed engagement with the history of modern science. In chapter 21, Yampolskaya outlines the impact of Koyré’s work on studies in the history of religion, namely on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Michel Henry. Yampolskaya’s main focus is to review the exchange between Koyré and Levinas on the infinite and the finite as well as Henry’s extension of Koyré’s work on Jacob Böhme. However, during the course of the paper, Yampolskaya illustrates the relationship between Koyré and early French phenomenology and provides insightful commentary about the relationship between Koyré, Husserl and Heidegger. Yampolskaya concludes by suggesting that at the heart of the discussions between Koyré, Levinas and Henry is the ‘problem of truth’ (469) and that the ‘necessity of truth for the being of humans is a lesson of Koyré that French “theological” phenomenology would do well to retain’ (469). Ferrari, Parker and Yampolskaya expose the importance of understanding Koyré in light of the phenomenological tradition that was so influential upon him.

Outside Ferrari, Parker and Yampolskaya, the volume largely discusses Koyré outside of the phenomenological tradition and I would suggest that this is the main limitation of the volume. The book starts by outlining the impossibility of separating Koyré’s philosophy and history of science and, thereby, the importance of understanding Koyré’s work as a philosophy and history of science. On this point, Pisano quotes Koyré in his introduction to the edited work:

‘History of Science without philosophy of Science is blind…[and] philosophy of science without History of Science is empty’ (xx).

Yet, it is my contention, as I shall briefly outline, that without an appreciation of Koyré’s tie to Husserl and phenomenology more generally, the impossibility of splitting philosophy from the history of science cannot be fully appreciated.

The main source of disagreement throughout the edited volume seems to be Koyré’s characterisation of modern science as mathematical, rather than experiential. As Ferrari highlights, Koyré ‘strongly criticized the “virus of empiricist and positivist epistemology” which had also “infected” the history of science’ (159) and this also entails a reconsideration of the role of observation and experiment in modern science. Koyré’s critique of the empiricism and positivism inherent in modern science is not unique to him, but is rather a central characteristic of phenomenological philosophy, stemming and extending from Husserl.

For Koyré, modern science is not a triumph of observation over tradition and authority (Koyré 1972 [1950], 89–91). Instead, modern science is characterised by ‘an Archimedean world of geometry made real…in substituting for the world of the more-or-less of our daily life a universe of measurement and precision’ (Koyré 1968a, 91). Koyré’s point stems from and echoes Husserl’s own words: modern science surreptitiously substitutes ‘the mathematically substructured world of idealities for the only real world, the one that is…experienced and experienceable’ (Husserl 1970, §9, 48–49). As Parker in this volume notes, Husserl also addresses Galileo’s mathematisation of nature (265–269, also see Husserl 1970, §9, 23–59). Husserl names Galileo a revealing and concealing genius because he ‘discovers mathematical nature’ and ‘blazes the trail for the infinite number of physical discoveries and discoverers’, but in so doing he conceals the world as we experience it (Husserl 1970, §9, 51–52). Husserl sees modern science as permeated by a thoroughgoing confusion between the real and the ideal, where ‘what is acquired through scientific activity is not something real but something ideal’ (Husserl 1970, ‘The Vienna Lecture’, 278), but we mistake ‘for true being what is actually a method’ (Husserl 1970, §9, 51). Koyré concurs with Husserl’s identification of the confusion between the constructed world of the modern scientist and the tangible world of experience.

Additionally, Koyré’s philosophy of science cannot be separated from his history of science because he takes seriously the problem of the historical a priori that Husserl gestures towards. Husserl writes: ‘but we come back again to the fact that historical facts…are objective only on the basis of the a priori. Yet the a priori presupposes historical being’ (Husserl 1970, Objectivity and the World of Experience, 350; Parker also notes this, 247). In other words, the question of conceptual understanding cannot be separated from the supposedly objective facts and, furthermore, the question of the origin of concepts, theories and models is a question of tracing them back to the historical context in which they arose.

Husserl’s critique of the mathematisation of nature in Galileo, as well as the recognition of the problem of the historical a priori, form the background to Koyré’s own engagement with Galileo. Koyré does not merely reiterate what Husserl has said, but looks to the history of modern science in order to extend and assess Husserl’s claims about Galileo and the birth of modern science. When Koyré discusses the experiments of Galileo, it is precisely the distinction between the ideally constructed world of the scientist and the real world of our living that Koyré has in mind. Koyré’s claim is not simply that Galileo’s inferior equipment prevented him from preforming his experiments, but, more importantly, that it is ‘impossible in practice to produce a plane surface which is truly plane’ (Koyré 1968b, 45). A plane is a geometrical idea, not a real thing and, as Koyré writes, ‘perfection is not of this world: no doubt we can approach it, but we cannot attain it’ (Koyré 1968b, 45). For Koyré, ‘imaginary experiments’ or “thought experiments” step in where the real experiments end in order to bridge the gap between the world of more-or-less and the perfect world of geometry. He states that imagination ‘is not embarrassed by the limitations imposed on us by reality. It achieves the ideal, and even the impossible’ (Koyré 1968b, 45). According to Koyré, thought experiments play an important role in modern science because imagination can act as an intermediary between the mathematical and the real. Whether Galileo actually performed the experiments in question or not, does not affect the point that Koyré is making here: we cannot attain perfection in the real world.

Furthermore, the principle of inertia cannot be derived from experience because it is impossible to experience: nowhere can we actually see a body left to itself, uniformly moving in a straight line. Martin Heidegger aptly describes this point when he states:

‘modern science, in contrast to…medieval Scholasticism and science, is supposed to be based upon experience. Instead, it has [the law of inertia] at its apex. This law speaks of a thing that does not exist. It demands a fundamental representation of things which contradict the ordinary’ (Heidegger 1967, 89).

For Koyré, inertia is implicit in Galileo’s conception of motion, which will later be made explicit by Newton (Koyré 1968c, 19). As Koyré notes, ‘the Galilean concept of motion (as well as that of space) seems to us so “natural” that we even believe we have derived it from experience and observation’ (Koyré 1968d, 3), yet ‘for the Greeks as well as for the thinkers of the Middle Ages the idea that a body once put in motion will continue to more forever, appeared obviously and evidently false, and even absurd’ (Koyré 1968c, 19). As Koyré points out, it is the experiment, where we interrogate nature and force her to yield to our questions, that is decisive for modern science, not sensible experience (Koyré 1968c, 18).

The equivocation between experiment and experience is an ongoing problem for phenomenology and, therefore, worth reiterating here because the meaning of experience is at the heart of the difference between phenomenological philosophy and modern science. Yet, the meaning of experience is often left unclarified. The tradition of modern science leads to an understanding of human experience as unreliable and as reduced to a mere dependent copy of the, purportedly, external world. Modern science is not based upon unreliable experience, but upon experiments that are repeatable. The modern experiment presupposes that nature is mathematical, in other words, that nature can be measured and mapped with exactitude. On this account, the experiment allows us to move closer to the exact determination of nature by isolating ‘components’ and ‘variables’ and measuring them as well as the specific interactions between them. Phenomenology questions the mathematical conception of nature by suggesting that the scientific method operates by idealising and, then, formalising the things it investigates. Hence, what the scientists attains is not a better description of the tangible world, but a measurement of a mathematised or formalised ideal. Phenomenologists foreground this disjunction between the experimental basis of modern science and human experience as it is lived through. Furthermore, phenomenologists rethink the meaning of experience and problematise reducing experience to sensations as well as making experience equivalent to objectified repeatable data. Phenomenologists foreground that human experience is always meaningful which entails that we are able to see the same thing through different perspectives. However, this does not mean that human experience is perfectly replicable: our experience is typified, more-or-less the same, roughly similar, etc. On the other hand, human experience is not an accumulation of sensations because we always intend something whole, we always see more than we actually see. The meaning of experience is a central question for phenomenology as well as understanding modern mathematical science. I conclude by suggesting that it is important to read Koyré in light of the phenomenological critique of modern science that distinguishes the experiment from experience, brings into question the reduction of experience to sense-data and attempts to rethink experience as always intending something meaningful.

Works Cited

Heidegger, Martin. 1967. What is a Thing? Translated by W. B. Barton and Vera Dutsch. Boston: University Press of America.

Husserl, Edmund. 1970. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by David Carr. Evanston: Northwest University Press.

Koyré, Alexandre. 1968a. «An Experiment in Measurement.» In Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution, 89–117. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Koyré, Alexandre. 1968b. «Galileo’s Treatise De Motu Gravium: The Use and Abuse of Imaginary Experiments.» In Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution, 44–88. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Koyré, Alexandre. 1968c. «Galileo and Plato.» In Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution, 16–43. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Koyré, Alexandre. 1968d. «Galileo and the Scientific Revolution of the Seventeenth Century.» In Metaphysics and Measurement: Essays in Scientific Revolution, 1–15. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Koyré, Alexandre. 1972 [1950]. «Introduction.» In Descartes Philosophical Writings, edited by Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach, vii–xliv. London: Nelson’s University Paperbacks.

Dorothée Legrand, Dylan Trigg (Eds.): Unconsciousness Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis

Unconsciousness Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis Book Cover Unconsciousness Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis
Contributions To Phenomenology, Volume 88
Dorothée Legrand, Dylan Trigg (Eds.)
Hardback 106,99 €
XVII, 281

Reviewed by:  Philip Hoejme (University of Amsterdam)

The 88th volume in the series Contributions to Phenomenology — Unconsciousness Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis deals with the unconscious as a phenomenological concept. The volume, edited by Dorothée Legrand and Dylan Trigg, contributes to the discussion of how different interpretations within phenomenology deal with unconsciousness. The focus is on the manifestation of an unconscious within the phenomenological tradition, both explicit and implicit. This way of working with a psychoanalytic concept within phenomenology is described by the editors in the introduction as, “all authors let themselves be informed by psychoanalysis and are oriented by phenomenology.” (ix). The first chapter examines this from within the phenomenological framework developed by Husserl, while the second chapter does the same with phenomenology as developed by Merleau-Ponty. After these two chapters, the following chapters describe and examine the limits of phenomenology, together with what might lie beyond these limits. In the third chapter, questions concerning the status of the unconscious within the limits of phenomenology are dealt with; the fourth chapter starts to move beyond these limits. This chapter deals with topics such as anxiety, affect figurability, and non-linguistic modes of thinking. The fifth and last chapter briefly looks at what is beyond phenomenology, examining the notion of surprise as an unconscious phenomenological marker and the unconscious in both psychoanalysis and surrealism, relieving psychoanalysis of its insistence on interpretation.

In the first part, Within the Husserlian Framework, Dermot Moran and Alexander Schnell examine the unconscious within Husserlian phenomenology. Husserl is considered as dealing with an unconscious in the sense that, for him, “patterns of intentional behaviour that have ‘sunk down’, through habituation, so as to be unnoticed or ‘unremarked’ (unbewusst),” (15) evidently closely resemble Freud’s own description of the unconscious.

“Bernheim had given the injunction that five minutes after his [the patient] awakening in the ward he was to open an umbrella, and he had carried out this order on awakening [from hypnosis], but could give no motive for his so doing. We have exactly such facts in mind when we speak of the existence of unconscious psychological processes.” (Freud, 2012[1916-1917]: 234-235)

In addition to this, Moran writes that “Both [Freud and Husserl] have a conception of human life as the harmonization or balancing of conflicting forces”, (12) suggesting that there is an unconscious to be found, opposed to consciousness. For Husserl, as for Freud, unnoticed behaviours constitute how humans “saturate situations with meaning including imagined intonations and implications.” (22). This point is close to the psychoanalytical claim that we tend to instil meanings and desires on situations or people unconsciously. In these situations, psychoanalysis would, through analysis, come to make these unconscious processes part of our conscious experience. This means that psychoanalysis would often confront us with desires, wishes or fears we did not know we had, or that run counter to what we perceive. Schnell, in his text, takes the perspective that “if consciousness is defined by intentionality, the unconscious can only refer, in phenomenology, to a non-intentional dimension of consciousness.” (27). Thus, he links the conflicting forces to a difference between intention and non-intention.

Such an understanding seems to be in line with Moran’s notion that the similarity between Husserl’s and Freud’s views is their claim that life is filled with unconscious meaning. Schnell generalizes three kinds of phenomenological unconscious, based on the works of Husserl, Levinas and Richir. The first is an unconscious he describes as being constituted when moving beyond the “immanent sphere” (45). He calls this generative unconsciousness, signifying an unconscious that has “a surplus of meaning both beyond and below phenomenology’s descriptive framework” (25). The second kind of unconsciousness is hypostatic unconsciousness, which, according to Schnell, relates to genetic unconsciousness much as Freud’s death drive relates to the life drive. This is a relationship between a drive to be a self and a drive to be with the Other (viz. to be social). Freud, prior to postulating the death drive, had written only of the libidinal drive, but in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920), the death drive was added. The death and life drives relate to each other as creation and destruction, and in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), Freud again develops the death drive to explain the aggressiveness (the death drive) of some civilizations. The third kind of unconscious phenomenology is the reflective unconscious, reflecting not only on itself but also on the two other types of the unconscious. Hence, this third kind of unconscious brings with it a totality of all these variations of the unconscious.

The second part, From the Specific Perspective of Merleau-Ponty, elaborates on the unconscious in relation to the writings of this French philosopher. Emmanuel de Saint Aubert, in his essay, argues that the unconscious, as proposed by the late Merleau-Ponty, is not constituted by repressed representations. Instead, the unconscious is understood by Merleau-Ponty as cited by de Saint Aubert (50): “the fundamental structure of the psychological apparatus … [and as our] … primordial relationship to the world.” In this understanding of the unconsciousness, Merleau-Ponty posits the idea of “the body as mediator of being” (as cited by de Saint Aubert [52]). Such an understanding breaks with the classical Freudian notion of the unconscious. For Freud, the unconscious was composed of repressed representations, forbidden desires, and unfulfilled wishes. By breaking with this understanding, Merleau-Ponty reveals an interpretation of the unconscious that equates it to a bodily aspect of lived life. This is taken up by Timothy Mooney, who expands on the assertion that habits are modes of the unconscious, as already posited by Moran and Schnell in their essays on Husserlian phenomenology. In his essay, Mooney uses Merleau-Ponty’s examination of phantom limbs, where “a patient keeps trying to walk with his use-phantom leg and is not discouraged by repeated failure.” (63) This is an example of how bodily habits, in Merleau-Ponty, become unconscious. Hence, an amputee can attempt to move an amputated arm repeatedly because such an action has become habitual, even if the arm is no longer there.

By examining the way in which one’s past experiences shape bodily habits, and how these habits come to influence one’s future, Mooney argues that the unconscious nature of habitual bodily functions constitutes an unconsciousness that, at the very least, shares some similarities with unconsciousness in psychoanalysis. These are bodily (unconscious) habits: a “common embodiment” (xi) shared by all, meaning that we all have unconscious bodily habits. As examples of these, the fact that I am hardly aware of breathing, or that most of us use hand gestures when speaking, seem to be instances of such habits. However, this is a radically different notion of the unconscious from the one proposed by Freud, who claimed that the unconscious is created by a repressive culture that ties us together. Lastly, James Phillips examines the notion of a nonverbal unconsciousness in Merleau-Ponty. This understanding of the unconscious interprets it as being the nonverbal part of ordinary thoughts. Such an understanding of the unconscious is, however, a development of the Freudian concept of unconsciousness, which is more of a repression of desires and wishes.

The third part, At the Limit of Phenomenology, examines whether it is possible to talk of a phenomenological unconscious. Questions pertaining to this inquiry are dealt with over four essays. In the first essay, one of the editors of this volume, Legrand, examines both how the unconscious in psychoanalysis and phenomenology deal with revealing the/an unknown as a way to examine how the unconscious in psychoanalysis breaks the defined limits of phenomenology. Legrand, in her essay, clearly expands upon what was already stipulated by Schnell, for whom the unconscious in phenomenology constitutes those instances where habits have become second nature, i.e. unconscious. In Danish, there is an idiom: jeg gjorde det på rygraden (trans. I did it on my spine, viz. without a second thought.) This is an example of how we accept that some things come to us from an unconscious place, e.g. that we often do things without being aware of many of the underlying processes. However, Legrand argues that there are problems with relating phenomenology and psychoanalysis to each other. This problem becomes clearer in the essay by François Raffoul, who continues Legrand’s line of thought by examining Heidegger’s ‘Phenomenology of the inapparent’ and Levinas’ claim that ‘the face of the Other’, understood as a secret, an unknown, posits an ethical dimension that creates a limit for phenomenological inquiry.

In this essay, the limits of phenomenology are tested by Levinas’ claim that ethics is first philosophy. In Levinas, the face of the Other is an unknown: it cannot be reduced to an object by the conscious perceiver. This is the limit of phenomenology mentioned by Legard. By claiming that the Other is unknown, Levinas’ phenomenology brings up an ethical aspect in its phenomenological investigation; an ethical aspect that also constitutes an unconsciousness. In his introduction, Raffoul writes that “What the term ‘unconscious’ designates, perhaps improperly, is such an alterity escaping presentation, an alterity that frustrates any effort of presentation by a phenomenological disclosure.” (114) This alterity is what Levinas posits in the face of the Other, which comes to frustrate any further phenomenological disclosure because it is an inapparent, or unknown. Thus, if it is impossible to get rid of the unconsciousness in phenomenology, Joseph Cohen’s essay expands on this by seeking to answer the question of whether there could be an unconsciousness that will not let itself become conscious. Or, as Cohen poetically frames this question, is there a night which is not followed by a day? Husserl, Cohen posits, did not see this being a possibility, as for Husserl there “always lies the possibility of conversion … of transforming the unfamiliar into the familiar, the improper into the proper, the ‘un-world’ into the world.” (135) However, as Cohen explains, there is an unconscious in Husserl that precedes any self-consciousness: an unconsciousness of the night. Husserl claims that this awakes in the morning as a consciousness, but in Cohen, this conversion of the unconscious to consciousness does not happen.

Following Cohen down into the night, Drew M. Dalton, in line with de Saint Aubert, insists upon the unconscious nature of bodily experience. Thus, he comes to regard the body (the dead body, a corpse) as an entity that can be recognized by consciousness, without being a consciousness. A corpse, in this view, is “an inhuman asubjective unconsciousness,” (xiii) and the dead body comes to confront a subject with an ethical dilemma, namely its own vulnerability. This ethical dimension is similar to how the face of the Other, in Levinas, brings ethics into the phenomenological endeavour. Hence, the corpse comes to constitute an unconscious unknown to us, but which nonetheless fills us with dread: an experience of our own mortality. Following Freud’s claim that the corpse is the uncanny par excellence, Dalton, in concord with both Freud and Lacan, concludes that the face of the Other, and the corpse, constitute a traumatic presentation, captivating us, perhaps, much as a deer is captivated by a light rushing towards it.

The fourth partr, With Phenomenology and Beyond, begins with the second editor’s essay. Here, Trigg elaborates on the experience of not fully being ‘me’. By examining states of consciousness where this very fact, of being conscious, is ambiguous, Trigg examines unconscious bodily states. As an example of such an experience, Trigg offers up hypnagogia: a state wherein the subject might experience lucid dreams or sleep paralysis. In such a state, Trigg argues, one is simultaneously both conscious and unconscious. Trigg describes this in the following way: “the hypnagogic state is a liminal state, it occurs in-between dreaming and waking, such that there is an overlap between the two spheres.” (164). Consequently, hypnagogia is a bodily unconscious experience, similar to that already discussed by Cohen and Dalton. There seems to be a clear resemblance between a dead body (Dalton) and the body of someone experiencing sleep paralysis, since neither body, to any perceiver, constitutes a conscious subject. On this topic, Freud wrote that “The state of sleep is able to re-establish the likeness of mental life as it was before the recognition of reality.” (Freud, 1911: 219) Hence, in Freud’s own writings, we are also able to find a description of sleep that relates it to the realm of the unconscious, or the unreal. This interpretation is echoed by V. Hamilton, who, in her book Narcissus and Oedipus writes that “For Freud, the sleeplike state of withdrawal involved ‘a deliberate rejection of reality’” (Hamilton, 1982: 30). It is not only during sleep, or in hypnagogia, but also in actual sleep and in sleeplike states of (mental) withdrawal, that we reject reality in favour of something else. In all of these instances, Trigg argues, we encounter a phenomenon that might constitute an unconscious state of being within (and beyond) phenomenological inquiries. That this point is also found in Freud’s writings suggests that this unconscious, which Heidegger claimed could not be dispelled from phenomenology, is to be found in psychoanalysis. It should be added, however, that the unconscious for Freud is a mental process, and not, as it is here, an unconscious state or phenomenon.

Whereas the unconscious for Freud is created by culturally repressed drives, Thamy Ayouch posits an unconscious that is not created by the cultural repression of natural drives. Instead, Ayouch suggests an unconscious which is an instituted affectivity: “This notion bridges the gap between past and present, the self and the Other, activity and passivity, but also nature and culture.” (199). By reformulating the unconscious in this way, Ayouch deals with non-binary gender configurations far more convincingly than Freud, who thought that homosexuality and heterosexuality develop based on a child’s successful resolving of the Oedipal complex. An unconscious not understood as in a binary relationship with consciousness greatly differs from Freud’s perspective. This critique of Freud has also been put forward by others: an example of such can be found in works by Judith Butler (see, for example, Subjects of Desire, 1988, or Gender Trouble, 1999.) Ayouch writes that the concept of institutional affectivity, as taken from Merleau-Ponty, leads to the conclusion that “sleep would be only a content of the transcendental subject, the Unconscious only a refusal to be conscious, and memory only a consciousness of the past.” (200). This line of argument (refusing to be conscious) is taken up by Dieter Lohmar, who sets out to examine non-linguistic modes of thinking using the phenomenology of Husserl. One such mode of thinking is called scenic phantasma, or daydreams (211). These are modes of thinking that Lohmar describes as allowing a subject to play out different life scenarios. Thus, in such instances, “we are playing out possible solutions to a problem, mentally testing our options, their usefulness for a solution and their respective consequences.” (211) Daydreams are unconscious acts, and Freud saw these as an escape from reality. But for Lohmar they are also private, and therefore not located within the consciousness of anyone other than the person experiencing the daydream. Another kind of unconscious day-to-day experience is examined by Line Ryberg Ingerslev. In her essay, Ingerslev examines how many habits have become unconscious processes in our day-to-day lives (see: Moran, Schnell, and Mooney.) Habits, in this sense, are understood by Ingerslev as unconscious processes that prevent us gaining self-familiarity. Hence, habits allow us to ‘automate’ functions that relieve us of familiarity with ourselves, freeing up our mind for other tasks. Ingerslev argues that our lack of unified control over many aspects of our bodily life, constitutes breaks with a unified conscious experience of life. This, Ingerslev claims, is the effect of an unconscious phenomenon at work. As an example of this, one might think of riding a bike, or similar actions. During such feats of motor control, the subject is hardly aware of the minor adjustments being made unconsciously to maintain balance. We might also add that if one attempts to be conscious of this activity, it probably becomes even harder to cycle. This is not unlike the earlier claim by Mooney. Ingerslev concludes by positing that one does not consciously act, but instead responds to actions already instigated unconsciously by habits.

The fifth and last part, Beyond Phenomenology, concludes this volume by examining those experiences located beyond phenomenological inquiries. Both of the texts examine the notion of surprise, either as a biological response to outside stimuli, a response which can be measured, or as a way to create art within the surrealist art movement. Natalie Depraz argues that surprise constitutes a disturbance of one’s conscious life, which is both objective and measurable. As an example of this, she states that the pounding of the heart due to a shock might be a way to measure the unconscious, since this is an unconscious reaction to outside stimuli. This she relates to Freud’s notion of ‘slips of the tongue,’ a concept developed by Freud in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (1901[1904]). In this idea, the unconscious thought comes to reveal itself to the subject by (unconsciously) forcing its way into verbal language. A racing heart, according to Depraz, opens up the possibility of examining the unconscious as the cause of a bodily reaction. The beating of the heart is like a slip of the tongue in Freud’s example. Both are posited as measurable evidence of an unconscious, in the sense that the reaction is instigated unconsciously. But there are also differences between the two examples: the beating of the heart is an objectively measurable fact, whereas a slip of the tongue could (possibly) be a wilful act.

Another kind of unconscious is scrutinised by Alphonso Lingis, who examines artistic creation within the surrealist movement as a form off unconsciousness. Lingis begins by questioning the role of the unconscious in orthodox psychoanalysis, asking how the unconscious could function if freed from psychoanalysis’ insistence on using interpretations to root out the cause of the unconscious. Such an examination leads to an exposé of the surrealist movement, whose adherents, inspired by the theories of Freud, used the technique of automatic writing (among other techniques) to stimulate their production of art. Lingis writes that the technique of automatic writing is similar to Freud’s technique of free association, a technique grounded in the inquiries made by Freud and Bernheim in the early days of psychoanalysis. Freud and André Breton (a key figure from the surrealist movement Lingis focuses on) differ considerably regarding the importance of the latent content in dreams. While Freud was interested in this content, Breton was, on the other hand, “interested in the manifest images for their irrational and marvellous, poetic character.” (264) By focusing on the manifest content, Breton moved the focus from interpretation to experience, thus breaking with the orthodox psychoanalytic focus on the latent dream content and the primacy put on interpretation.

In conclusion, this volume succeeds in its aim of describing and examining the psychoanalytic unconscious from within, at the limits of, and beyond phenomenology. The authors and editors have written a contribution to the field of phenomenology that clearly examines what a phenomenological unconscious is, how one can think of an unconscious as a concept within phenomenological discourse, and how the notion of the unconscious can push beyond the limits of phenomenology. In particular, I would highlight the fourth chapter, as it deals with phenomena that are also central to psychoanalysis and the works of Freud. By connecting seminal works within phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Lavinas, and Merleau-Ponty) with different psychoanalytic works (particularly the works of Freud and Lacan) this volume brings these two disciplines into a fruitful relationship with each other. I do, however, wish to point out that the theoretical breadth of the psychoanalytic notion of an unconscious is dealt with in a limited fashion, but this is in line with the overall goal of this volume. Specifically, I would have liked to see more discussion of the differences between Freud’s and Jung’s conceptions of the unconscious. It would also have been interesting to incorporate an examination of the disagreement between Freud and Ferenczi: a difference of opinion relating to the technique of free association, or some discussion of the Rorschach test as a way of measuring unconscious processes. Notwithstanding these minor flaws, this volume is of interest to anyone concerned with either phenomenology or psychoanalysis (both clinical and theoretical), as it bridges the two disciplines over an impressive span of topics, without becoming trivial. The themes tackled might cover a broad spectrum, but what they all have in common is a questioning and engaging examination of how an unconscious might be found within, at the limits of, or beyond phenomenology. In addition, the volume is written in clear and accessible language, making it a useful starting point for anyone who might be interested in a phenomenological examination of the unconscious.


Freud, S. (2012). Eighteenth Lecture: Traumatic Fixation — the Unconscious. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (1916-1917), 231-242. Wordsworth Editions Limited.

Freud, S. (1911). Formulations on the Two Principles of Mental Functioning. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XII, Case History of Schreber, Papers on Technique and Other Works (1911-1913), 213-226. Hogarth Press.

Hamilton, V. (1982). Narcissus and Oedipus: The Children of Psychoanalysis. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Thomas Fuchs: Ecology of the Brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind

Ecology of the Brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind Book Cover Ecology of the Brain: The phenomenology and biology of the embodied mind
Thomas Fuchs
Oxford University Press
Hardback £34.99

Reviewed by: Valeria Bizzari (Clinic University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany)

“Embodiment theorists want to elevate the importance of the body in explaining cognitive activities. What is meant by ‘body’ here?” (A. Goldman, F. De Vignemont, 2009, 154).

All’interno del panorama filosofico e scientifico contemporaneo, la domanda posta da Goldman e De Vignemont solleva questioni quantomai spinose e attuali: Che cosa significa essere corporei? Qual è il ruolo del nostro cervello: strumentale o costitutivo della coscienza e del suo rapporto con il mondo? E’ possibile ridurre le attività del soggetto a sostrati neurali o è necessario tenere in considerazione altri elementi, in modo da non decontestualizzare e isolare la soggettività? In altre parole, in che senso è possibile oggi parlare di embodiment?

Nel nuovo libro del professor Thomas Fuchs, noto filosofo e psichiatra presso la Clinic University of Heidelberg, è possibile trovare esaurienti risposte a tali interrogativi. Ecology of the Brain, uscito nei primi mesi del 2018 ed edito dalla Oxford University Press, offre infatti una descrizione innovativa e accurata del cervello, ben lontana sia dai paradigmi neuroriduzionisti sia da quelli funzionalisti e emergentisti, ma ancorata ad un’immagine di soggetto come persona essenzialmente intersoggettiva e inserita in un mondo-della-vita che, a sua volta, ne condiziona lo sviluppo, in un processo circolare in cui cervello, organismo e ambiente hanno un ruolo egualmente fondante rispetto alla vita di coscienza.

Circolarità può essere considerata, in effetti, la parola chiave dell’intero libro: si parla di circolarità ontologica, nel definire lo status del cervello (non organo isolato, ma parte di un organismo vivente); di circolarità epistemologica (non è il cervello che conosce, ma la persona) e di circolarità eziologica (processi neurali e interazioni intersoggettive si condizionano a vicenda, plasmando il cervello e il rapporto soggetto-mondo).

I. Cervello, corpo e percezione

Nella prima parte del libro, Fuchs critica i paradigmi delle neuroscienze cognitive, secondo le quali il cervello è l’unico soggetto dell’azione e della percezione e il vero e proprio costruttore della conoscenza e del rapporto che l’individuo intrattiene con il mondo. Negli ultimi anni in particolare, complici le numerose scoperte neuroscientifiche che sono state fatte (basti pensare ai celeberrimi “neuroni specchio”, che sembrerebbero attivarsi durante la comprensione intersoggettiva) il corpo sta in effetti subendo una riabilitazione ontologica e cognitiva. Si parla sempre più spesso di “embodied cognition”, “embodied action” e “embodied emotions”. Tuttavia, come nota anche Fuchs, è necessario porre attenzione al modo in cui il corpo viene inteso, poichè la maggior parte delle teorie rimane ancorata a una concezione “meccanica”, di “corpo-cervello” del tutto scisso dalle attività di coscienza.

Le prospettive che, pur enfatizzando il suo ruolo, considerano l’embodiment qualcosa di puramente esterno alla percezione, e non costitutivo di essa, sono molteplici, e si possono schematizzare come segue:

  1. Minimal Embodiment: questo approccio, supportato in particolare da A. Goldman, sostiene che ogni cosa che abbia una benché minima importanza per la conoscenza umana avvenga nel cervello, “the seat of most, if not all, mental events” (A. Goldman, F. De Vigemont 2009, 154). Tuttavia Goldman, ponendosi in aperto contrasto con gli altri sostenitori dell’Embodied Cognition (EB), non considera il corpo (inteso come il fisico nella sua totalità) e l’ambiente elementi decisivi nel processo cognitivo. La priorità viene attribuita piuttosto a stati cerebrali, che il filosofo definisce Brain-formatted: ad esempio, nel contesto della cognizione sociale, gli stati cerebrali coinvolti saranno quelli localizzati nell’area dei neuroni specchio, secondo una logica che riduce l’embodiment a processi neurali. In quest’ottica, il cervello non si configura come una parte del corpo, ma, al contrario, il corpo è nel cervello, e le rappresentazioni “brain-formatted” sono “the most promising concept” per promuovere un approccio “embodied”. Questa prospettiva, che potremmo definire internalista e computazionale, ricorda un po’ l’esperimento del “cervello in una vasca”: paradossalmente, infatti, sembra sostenere un’immagine di cognizione disincarnata, in quanto la visione di corpo che supporta viene semplicemente ridotta a una simulazione di fattori corporei che avviene all’interno del cervello. Risulta difficile, quindi, considerare il minimal embodiment un’autentica versione dell’ EC: al contrario, ridurre la corporeità a meccanici processi cerebrali, sembra piuttosto una rielaborazione della classica prospettiva rappresentazionalista e computazionalista. In altre parole, pur fornendo numerose evidenze empiriche, la proposta di Goldman non sembra sufficiente a una descrizione esauriente del processo cognitivo. Tuttavia, come sottolinea Thomas Fuchs (ponendosi in continuità con la proposta di Louise Barrett (2011)), non è possibile concepire un cervello completamente scisso dal corpo, né tantomeno pensare a una priorità degli stati neurali. Al contrario, è necessario pensare al corpo nella sua totalità e nella sua connessione con l’ambiente;
  2. Biological Embodiment: In netto contrasto con il “minimal embodiment”, tale approccio (adottato da autori come Chiel e Beer, Shapiro e Straus) rivaluta il ruolo dell’anatomia e dei movimenti corporei considerandoli centrali all’interno del processo cognitivo, in quanto antecedenti qualsiasi operazione cerebrale di elaborazione delle informazioni. In tal senso, le strutture extra-neurali costituirebbero l’assetto a partire dal quale si modella la nostra esperienza cognitiva. Piuttosto che essere completamente determinate dall’attività neurale, le attività cognitive, così come i responsi motori, sembrano il risultato della nostra conformazione fisica: la flessibilità dei tendini, l’attività muscolare e il complesso funzionamento corporeo determinano infatti le attività “mentali” e Il movimento si configura così come una funzione decisiva per la percezione e l’azione. Le prove empiriche a favore di questa tesi sono molte: è stato dimostrato, infatti, che le vibrazioni producano patterns propriocettivi che inducono un cambiamento nella postura corporea, così come modificazioni della percezione dell’ambiente; allo stesso modo, variazioni ormonali possono condizionare processi cognitivi come la percezione, la memoria o l’attenzione. Nonostante tale approccio abbia dunque il merito di aver rivalutato il ruolo del corpo nella sua complessità, secondo un’ottica che si potrebbe definire gestaltica, il rischio è tuttavia quello di scadere in un mero riduzionismo biologico incapace di spiegare ciò che concerne la vita emotiva e morale del soggetto agente.
  3. Semantic Embodiment: Secondo tale prospettiva (che include, ad esempio, il lavoro di G. Lakoff e M. Johnson), il corpo, insieme alla sua postura e ai suoi movimenti, non solo determina il modo in cui facciamo esperienza del mondo, ma anche i significati che attraverso la percezione siamo in grado di cogliere. Rispetto alle proposte sopra descritte, tale modello di comprensione fa dunque un notevole passo in avanti attribuendo alla corporeità una responsabilità strutturale e contenutistica. In altre parole, la conformazione del corpo percipiente e le sue capacità motorie possono influenzare le valutazioni del soggetto a proposito dell’ambiente: ad esempio, grazie al fatto di avere le mani, percepiamo un oggetto come manipolabile, afferrabile e così via. Il contenuto della percezione sembra così direttamente provocato dall’ “essere corporeo” del soggetto. In particolare, a mediare tra esperienza corporea e rielaborazione concettuale sarebbe la metafora, intesa come il prodotto di schemi ricorrenti relativi all’immagine corporea (sopra-sotto, di fronte, a lato, dietro e così via). Il ruolo delle funzioni sensorio-motorie si rivela dunque la chiave del processo percettivo e cognitivo, così come la base del linguaggio condiviso. E’ interessante notare come il semantic embodiment possa essere assimilato dalla prospettiva della “cognitive linguistic”, di cui gli stessi Lokoff e Johson sono sostenitori: secondo tale approccio,  linguaggio e cognizione interagiscono costantemente, e la capacità linguistica non viene ascritta a un potenziale innato ma deriva dalle interazioni e dal contesto d’uso in cui le abilità linguistiche stesse si acquisiscono e si sviluppano. Sebbene rifiuti il rappresentazionalismo, tale corrente si pone comunque a metà tra una spiegazione fisicalista e un approccio che, invece, considera le relazioni tra organismo-ambiente come referenziali. Anche in questo caso, tuttavia, sembra che alcuni elementi della vita soggettiva, ad esempio l’affettività e tutto ciò che concerne la sfera del pre-riflessivo, non siano tenuti in considerazione, e che una spiegazione che si rifaccia alle tesi principali di questo genere di EC non renderebbe giustizia alla complessità e peculiarità di tali tematiche.
  4. Functionalist Embodiment: la versione più accreditata di tale modello di embodiment è quella definita “extended mind”, supportata da A. Clark e D. Chalmers. Secondo tali autori, considerare il processo cognitivo un’attività esclusivamente neurale costituisce un gravissimo errore. Essi suggeriscono, piuttosto, che la cognizione dipenda dall’azione incarnata di un sistema complesso, del quale possono far parte anche alcuni elementi ambientali. In quest’ottica, il ruolo del corpo non si risolve all’interno della disputa tra meccanismi neurali o corporeità intesa nella sua totalità, ma viene enfatizzata piuttosto la possibilità che il cervello e l’organismo vivente costituiscano un continuum con l’ambiente esterno: si ha dunque una visione di corpo come sistema esteso. Al fine di determinare cosa faccia effettivamente parte del processo cognitivo, Clark e Chalmers hanno elaborato una sorta di test, il Parity Principle, secondo il quale “If, as we confront some task, a part of the world functions as a process which, were it done in the head, we would have no hesitation in recognizing as part of the cognitive process, then that part of the world is part of the cognitive process” (A. Clark, D. Chalmers 1998, 8). In altre parole, secondo tale approccio, i meccanismi cognitivi non si trovano necessariamente ed esclusivamente all’interno della nostra mente. Nonostante, quindi, venga enfatizzata la necessità di una visione gestaltica del processo cognitivo, pare che, tuttavia, tale modello non dia priorità al soggetto inteso come corpo vivo, ma consideri l’organismo in senso meramente biologico, uniformando il suo ruolo all’interno della percezione a quello che, in certe occasioni, potrebbe assumere l’ambiente, in quanto entrambi possono ugualmente farsi latori di informazioni utili. Inoltre, la coscienza e l’esistenza corporea sono considerate come due elementi separati, caratteristica che rimanda al cognitivismo classico e che conferma una visione di fisico alla stregua del fisiologico.
  5. Enattivismo: la prospettiva enattiva sostiene la tesi secondo la quale il processo percettivo alla base della cognizione sia costituito dall’azione. Il più famoso esponente di un simile approccio è E. Thompson, che insieme a Varela e Rosch, nel testo The Embodied Mind riprende la fenomenologia merleau-pontiana e cerca di svilupparne alcuni concetti. Similmente alla “mente estesa” di Chalmers e Clark, anche in questo caso viene sottolineato il fatto che il processo cognitivo non si svolga esclusivamente nel cervello, ma sia distribuito tra corpo, ambiente e mente. Tuttavia, nel caso dell’enattivismo il corpo mantiene comunque la sua priorità, in quanto modella e influenza la percezione: gli aspetti biologici, infatti, incluse le emozioni e le caratteristiche meramente organiche, hanno effetto sulla cognizione, così come i processi sensorio-motori che regolano il rapporto tra individuo e ambiente. Alva Noë ha sviluppato un modello di cognizione enattiva ponendo in diretta correlazione le contingenze sensorio-motorie e le affordances ambientali, sostenendo la tesi secondo la quale “la cognizione è azione” e si baserebbe sull’ ”esplorazione” che il corpo fa dell’ambiente e sulle “structures of our biological embodiment” (F. J. Varela, E. Thompson, E. Rosch 1991, 149). Nonostante tale approccio enfatizzi, dunque, il ruolo del corpo inteso nella sua dinamica relazione con il mondo, ricordando alcune tesi del fenomenologo Merleau-Ponty, esso non chiarisce, tuttavia, in cosa consista il sistema cognitivo, né tantomeno offre una definizione univoca di esperienza cosciente. Non è inoltre chiarito a sufficienza in che senso il corpo possa avere una funzione costitutiva nel processo percettivo.

Combinando fenomenologia, neuroscienze, psicologia dello sviluppo e enattivismo, Fuchs propone dunque un modello alternativo, per il quale la percezione consiste in una relazione attiva tra soggetto incarnato e ambiente, e sostiene la tesi per cui la soggettività non è un epifenomeno di processi neurali, né tantomeno si possa identificare con il cervello. Le neuroscienze cognitive, infatti, commettono errori categoriali, che ricadono sotto il nome di fallacia mereologica e fallacia di localizzazione. La prima, identificata da Bennett e Hacker nel 2003, riguarda l’errore di identificare una parte con il tutto, in questo caso, considerando il cervello l’unico soggetto della percezione, quando invece è la persona nel suo complesso a farlo. La fallacia di localizzazione, invece, indica l’errore di attribuire specifiche esperienze fenomeniche a determinate aree del cervello. Tuttavia, come nota Fuchs, non è possibile localizzare le funzioni cerebrali, ma soltanto i loro disturbi. Inoltre, l’attivazione di un’area del cervello è condizione necessaria ma non sufficiente a una determinata funzione. In atre parole, la coscienza non è il cervello, nè tantomeno può essere considerata un prodotto del cervello. Vi sono numerosi altri fenomeni che vanno tenuti in considerazione, e che non fanno parte del mondo fisico, bensì del mondo-della-vita. La coscienza, infatti, emerge da integrazioni sensoriali-motorie del soggetto vivente con l’ambiente in uno spazio d’azione intermodale; è dotata di un’intenzionalità affettiva che la connota teleologicamente; è consapevole delle potenzialità del sé; integra varie esperienze nel tempo ed è capace di auto-esperirsi in relazione all’ambiente. Al livello neurobiologico è quindi necessario aggiungere il livello dell’esperienza intersoggettiva di sé. Enfatizzando la priorità del mondo-della-vita, Fuchs sottolinea la necessità, da parte delle neuroscienze, di divenire sociali e prendere in considerazione anche quegli aspetti esperienziali che di solito vengono considerati superflui. Il pericolo del rinnovato interesse nei confronti della corporeità è infatti quello di sfociare in una sorta di “neuromania” che consideri il cervello, e non la persona, il vero soggetto dell’esperienza.

Avvalersi di un approccio fenomenologico si rivela quindi adatto per descrivere al meglio la relazione chiasmatica che lega il soggetto al mondo. In particolare, la nozione di “corpo vivo” si rivela utile a tale scopo poiché implica un organismo psicofisico che, per mezzo delle sue capacità cinestetiche, e, quindi, del movimento, non solo riesce a fare esperienza dell’ambiente, ma anche di se stesso (autocostituzione del corpo vivo).

II. Un approccio fenomenologico alla percezione: l’importanza del corpo vivo

Secondo la prospettiva fenomenologica, sia il processo cognitivo che la stessa coscienza altro non sono che il prodotto del nostro essere incarnati. Il corpo costituisce il mezzo attraverso il quale il soggetto può vivere nel mondo e distinguersi dalle creature inanimate. Il corpo vivo, infatti, è caratterizzato dal fatto di essere intenzionalmente diretto verso l’esterno (ponendosi come punto di partenza per ogni tipo di conoscenza) e da un’auto-affezione che gli permette di essere consapevole di se stesso indipendentemente da qualsivoglia interazione con il mondo.

E’, in particolare, Merleau-Ponty a sostenere l’inseparabilità tra capacità corporee e coscienza: in altre parole, la nostra percezione del mondo dipende dagli aspetti strutturali della nostra esistenza corporea. Tale affermazione è confermata, ad esempio, dal caso dell’arto fantasma: pare, infatti, che i pazienti che abbiano sofferto dell’amputazione o della perdita di un arto continuino ad avere percezione dell’arto in questione, come se lo possedessero ancora. Secondo il fenomenologo francese questo caso dimostra in modo esplicito come l’intenzionalità motoria—pre-riflessiva e corporea- strutturi a fondo le esperienze, indipendentemente dalla situazione meramente biologica del soggetto. Il motivo per cui l’arto perduto viene esperito come “quasi-presente” consiste nel fatto che le strutture corporee continuano a fornire al soggetto la percezione del mondo esterno. L’arto fantasma è ancora “incorporato” e inserito nel mondo, che lo “invita” a interagire con esso e i suoi oggetti, nonostante il soggetto non sia più effettivamente in grado di farlo quando. In altre parole, nonostante l’evidente deficit, il mondo continua ad apparire come un luogo a cui l’ “io posso” del soggetto può ancora relazionarsi.

Il ruolo del corpo vissuto sembrerebbe, infatti, quello di strutturare l’esperienza percettiva e renderla significante. Tale tesi risulta evidente, ad esempio, al momento dell’acquisizione di una nuova abitudine: quest’operazione, infatti, non si configura affatto come il risultato di un’operazione meramente intellettiva che avviene per mezzo di rappresentazioni o inferenze, quanto piuttosto come un atto pre-riflessivo, involontario e corporeo. L’incontro tra corpo e mondo implica inoltre un rapporto dinamico e dialettico: la percezione, infatti, non si configura come una mera rappresentazione, ma lo stesso “corpo abituale” viene costantemente modificato dalla sua interazione con l’ambiente. Imparare a danzare, a suonare uno strumento o a scrivere a macchina comporta infatti un cambiamento delle affordances e della relazione intenzionale tra soggetto e mondo.

A partire da quest’immagine di percezione è possibile sostenere che il corpo vivo sia un elemento fondamentale dell’intero processo cognitivo, motivo per cui pare necessario riformulare il rapporto tra cognizione e coscienza e, piuttosto, pensare a un approccio embodied alternativo o comunque complementare a quelli precedentemente descritti.

All’interno di tale proposta il movimento assume una funzione fondamentale, poiché si configura come lo strumento principale attraverso il quale si forma la cognizione: attraverso i movimenti corporei, infatti, il soggetto esplora il mondo, percepisce le affordances e determina le sue abitudini (habit body). In altre parole, il processo cognitivo non è affatto plasmato da rappresentazioni, ma sembra piuttosto il risultato di una percezione essenzialmente incarnata, che avviene a partire da un corpo vivo. Le capacità corporee non sono quindi meri strumenti all’interno del processo cognitivo, ma costituiscono esse stesse la cognizione: seguendo queste tesi, potremmo addirittura affermare che la mente (intesa come l’insieme dei processi cognitivi) sia essa stessa il corpo.

Nella seconda parte del libro, Fuchs sviluppa quindi una visione di cervello compatibile con il mondo della vita esperienziale, e coerente con la dualità che caratterizza la soggettività, che è sì corpo fisico, ma anche corpo vivo, in perpetuo contatto con un mondo culturale e sociale che ne condiziona lo sviluppo.

E’ interessante notare come, in questo contesto, il processo cognitivo sembri avere caratteristiche affettive: il movimento si configura, ad esempio, come la prima risorsa comunicativa, fonte di concetti non linguistici e cinetici (spazio, tempo, forza..). Le attività motorie, così come le esperienze emotive, sembrano quindi gli strumenti principali per rapportarsi e conoscere il mondo, prima che subentrino capacità cognitive più complesse, il cui corretto funzionamento pare piuttosto derivare da esse. Lo sviluppo della percezione mondana sembra perciò dipendere da esperienze corporee complessive e irriflesse, il cui protagonista è il corpo vivo, il corpo che si muove.

Focalizzarsi sulle capacità cinestetiche e motorie, piuttosto che sui correlati neurali attivi durante la percezione, permette perciò di avviare un’indagine verso un percorso più promettente. In altre parole, la concezione gerarchica tra i vari elementi attivi nel processo percettivo deve essere ripensata. Sebbene, infatti, un corretto funzionamento neuro-fisiologico sia necessario, ancor più importanti ai fini di una corretta percezione sono il processo propriocettivo e le cinestesi dell’organismo percipiente: il risultato sarà una concezione olistica di soggetto, e una visione circolare di causalità. Fuchs parla infatti di causalità circolare verticale, che avviene tra cellule (livello base), organi (livello intermedio) e organismo complessivo; e causalità circolare orizzontale, che coinvolge percezione, movimento e ambiente. Causalità circolare orizzontale e verticale si condizionano poi a vicenda, in un meccanismo complesso e olistico che permette il ciclo di cognizione, percezione e movimento. In altre parole, esiste una risonanza costante tra organismo, cervello e ambiente, legame che un approccio riduzionista e fisicalista non è affatto in grado di spiegare  esaustivamente. Il corpo vivo si fa mediatore tra soggetto e mondo, e questo legame non può essere descritto in termini di “rappresentazione”, “mappe”, “simulazioni” o “rispecchiamenti”, ma come una vera e propria risonanza, un rimando continuo e pre-riflessivo tra qualità affettive, corpo, cervello e stimoli esterni.

Prendendo come esempio lo sviluppo della socialità, e descrivendo l’ intersoggettività primaria (ovvero il rapporto diadico tra neonato e madre, che si configura come la prima forma di sincronizzazione affettiva) e l’ intersoggettività secondaria (che implica lo sviluppo dell’attenzione condivisa e relazioni intersoggettive che comprendono l’uso di oggetti), Fuchs enfatizza come fin dalla nascita l’individuo sia, in effetti, pre-riflessivamente e corporalmente legato all’altro e al mondo: l’intenzionalità corporea e l’immediata consapevolezza delle proprie cinestesi caratterizzano il soggetto fin da subito.

L’azione corporea non sempre, quindi, è complementare alla cognizione, ma è possibile sostenere che essa stessa sia cognizione. La posizione di Fuchs è quindi coerente con ciò che afferma M. Johnstone: “The human mind is not contained in the body, but emerges from and co-evolves with the body… A human being is a body-mind, that is, an organic, continually developing process of events”(M. Johnson 2007, 279).

Grazie alle nostre capacità cinestetiche impariamo a rapportarci con il mondo, acquisiamo nuove abitudini, diveniamo in possesso di quel “saper fare”, la praktognosia, essenziale per il nostro ancoraggio al mondo in quanto presenze animate (e non come cervelli disincarnati e decontestualizzati).

L’esperienza non è un epifenomeno, ma ha un ruolo centrale per la comprensione della mente: è quindi necessario un ripensamento della comprensione dell’apparato cognitivo: la mente umana sembra infatti “incarnata” nell’organismo e “incorporata” nel mondo, perciò irriducibile a strutture cerebrali.

La nostra vita mentale sembra coinvolgere, inoltre, tre tipi di attività corporee interrelate tra loro: auto-regolazione, interazione intersoggettiva, percezione sensoriale-motoria. Un approccio che tenti di spiegare in modo esauriente tale sistema deve quindi tenere in considerazione non tanto la correlazione tra attivazioni neurali e stimoli esterni, quanto il rapporto dinamico tra soggetto e ambiente circostante. Di conseguenza, anche l’apparato neurofisiologico dovrà essere ripensato come qualcosa di plastico, attivo e in costante evoluzione. Il risultato è un’immagine di soggetto e mondo come elementi ugualmente coinvolti in un processo circolare e olistico incomprensibile da una prospettiva meramente rappresentazionalista: cognizione e coscienza (incarnata) sono quindi intimamente connesse.

Un ulteriore vantaggio dell’approccio fenomenologico adottato da Fuchs è inoltre quello di rendere giustizia alla corporeità nel suo complesso: il corpo vivo, infatti, implica qualcosa di più di un insieme di schemi sensoriali-motori funzionanti. Essendo un’entità essenzialmente psicofisica, il Leib include fattori pre-noetici che, tuttavia, hanno un ruolo attivo nella percezione, come, ad esempio, i fattori affettivi ed emozionali.

Come nota Gallagher (si veda, ad esempio, S. Gallagher, M. Bower 2014) infatti, gli elementi affettivi e passivi hanno un valore motivazionale che anima l’interazione tra soggetto e mondo: si pensi, ad esempio, al caso della fame, istinto in grado di condizionare e talvolta distorcere i giudizi cognitivi. Uno studio effettuato da Danzinger et al. nel 2011 ha infatti dimostrato che le decisioni dei giudici non sono mai totalmente il frutto della mera applicazione delle leggi: molto spesso, piuttosto, il loro stato psicosomatico gioca un ruolo fondamentale nell’emissione del verdetto. Allo stesso modo è stato dimostrato come le emozioni condizionino la percezione mondana e i processi cognitivi: questo ha fatto ipotizzare l’esistenza di una coscienza affettiva e incarnata la cui posizione all’interno dell’esperienza non sia del tutto passiva.

Tale descrizione di persona come organismo essenzialmente duale ha conseguenze importanti. Innanzitutto, il contributo di Fuchs permette di ripensare il cosiddetto “mind-body problem” in termini di interrelazioni tra mente e corpo, o meglio, tra organismo vivente e cervello. Si potrebbe sostenere che la sua sia una versione “forte” dell’emergentismo, che va tuttavia a dare priorità al tutto rispetto alle componenti, e a enfatizzare la reciprocità tra livello locale e livello globale (grazie al concetto di causalità circolare). Il peggior difetto delle teorie contemporanee a proposito del rapporto mente-corpo, infatti, è quello di escludere un concetto autonomo di vita, che Fuchs (con esplicito riferimento alla nozione di autopoiesi introdotta da Varela) prende invece in considerazione, convinto che non sia possibile parlare di soggetto, o mente, senza aver ben presente il fatto che questo sia essenzialmente un corpo vivo, dotato di e-mozioni e “gettato” fin da subito in un mondo tutt’altro che asettico e passivo.

III. Per una psichiatria diretta alla persona

Una simile concezione di soggetto ha inevitabili conseguenze anche in ambito psichiatrico: negli ultimi capitoli del libro, quindi, Fuchs affronta il tema della malattia mentale e dello statuto della psichiatria. Anche in questo caso la sua posizione risulta antagonista rispetto a antagonista a quegli approcci neurobiologici riduzionisti, secondo i quali la patologia mentale altro non è che un disturbo cerebrale. In tal modo, tali prospettive reificano il disordine psichico (infatti localizzano gli stati mentali in specifiche aree del cervello), e isolano il soggetto (in quanto considerano esclusivamente gli aspetti neurobiologici, indipendentemente dal contesto). Tuttavia, i disordini mentali non sono localizzati nel cervello, ma affliggono la persona e le sue relazioni con gli altri e con il mondo. Riprendendo il tema della circolarità, che funge da filo conduttore dell’intero libro, Fuchs sostiene che la malattia mentale stessa consista quindi in un processo circolare nel quale processi psicosociali (interazioni intersoggettive), interazioni tra cervello, organismo e ambiente, e processi neurali e molecolari all’interno del cervello si condizionano a vicenda. Oltre a una predisposizione genetica, nell’eziologia della psicopatologia hanno quindi un ruolo anche le prime interazioni sociali (che influenzano la maturazione epigenetica del cervello) e le influenze ambientali (quelle negative, ad esempio, comportano uno sviluppo deficiente delle capacità relazionali).

Di conseguenza, anche i trattamenti dovranno tenere in considerazione sia i processi neurali che quelli intenzionali interattivi. Alla farmacologia (che influenza l’andamento del disordine a livello neurale, modificando le attività cerebrali che, a loro volta, influiscono sull’esperienza soggettiva) si andrà quindi a sommare l’effetto di una terapia interattiva basata su uno scambio interpersonale che ha l’effetto di alterare gli schemi neurali. I trattamenti si configurano così come vere e proprie azioni, forme di comunicazione incarnata orientate alla persona nel suo complesso.

Come sosteneva Merleau-Ponty, infatti, “la malattia è una forma d’esistenza completa” (M. Merleau-Ponty 2003, 177), espressione di una particolare variazione dell’essere-al-mondo del soggetto colpito.

Cercando quindi di oltrepassare la mera interpretazione e catalogazione dei sintomi, l’approccio descritto da Fuchs sembra avere il merito di spiegare scientificamente in cosa consista la malattia e comprendere cosa significhi per il paziente l’esperienza psicotica. Enfatizzando la centralità degli aspetti pre-riflessivi dell’esperienza, una visione “circolare” di patologia riesce così a porre la dimensione pre-teorica, vissuta e emozionale al centro dell’indagine psichiatrica.

Risulta chiaro, quindi, come un approccio meramente riduzionista sia insufficiente a spiegare la complessità dell’esperienza della malattia: non è possibile localizzare la patologia in una specifica area del cervello, in quanto ciò che risulta compromesso è la soggettività nel suo complesso. La dualità enfatizzata all’inizio del volume, in cui il soggetto viene descritto come corpo fisico e corpo vivo, permette quindi di definire la psichiatria come una scienza che possiede un “soggetto-oggetto”, un orizzonte di significato che, come già aveva osservato Basaglia, necessita di un approccio integrativo, che oltrepassi il gap epistemologico tra un riduzionismo neurobiologista  e una psicologia che spiega i sintomi esclusivamente in termini di disordini interni alla mente. Mutuando un’espressione di Jaspers, è necessario un pluralismo metodologico che tenga in considerazione la complessità della coscienza, i suoi vissuti e il ruolo delle interazioni sociali.

Il libro di Fuchs riesce quindi ad offrire non solo una rinnovata immagine di soggetto, ma anche un’interessante e concreta proposta nel campo della psicopatologia: la circolarità descritta all’interno del libro non è perciò un concetto astratto, o una semplice metafora dell’interazione soggetto-mondo, ma una vera e propria direzione che le terapie dirette ai disturbi “mentali” (se così possiamo ancora definirli) dovrebbero assumere.

Ecology of the Brain permette quindi di trovare risposte soddisfacenti ai quesiti che ci si poneva all’inizio di tale recensione: embodiment non è un semplice attributo, ma un modo di essere del soggetto che va ben oltre i suoi sostrati neurali, poiché il corpo vivo si fa fin dalla nascita coscienza dinamica e intenzionale in cui processi vitali e fisici (Leben e Erleben) si intrecciano ontologicamente in modo inestricabile.

Bibliografia Essenziale

Barrett, Louise. 2011. Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds. Princeton University Press.

Bennett, Max, Hacker, P. 2003. Philosophical foundations of neuroscience. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Clark, Andy, Chalmers, David. 1998. The Extended Mind. In Analysis 58.

Danzinger, Shai, et al. 2011. Extraneous factors in judicial decisions. In Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the USA, a. CVIII, n. 17, pp. 6889-6892.

Gallagher, Shaun, Bower, Matthew. 2014. Making enactivism even more embodied. In Avant V No. 2/2014, pp. 232-247.

Goldman, Alvin, De Vignemont, Frederique. 2009. Is social cognition embodied?. In Trends in Cognitive Sciences 13 (4), pp. 154-159.

Jaspers, Karl. 1959. Allgemeine Psychopatologie. Springer, Berlin-Gottingen-Heidelberg; engl. transl. General Psychopathology. Chicago: Il, University of Chicago Press.

Johnson, Mark. 2007. The Meaning of the Body. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. 2003. Fenomenologia della Percezione. Bompiani Editore, Milano.

Varela, Francisco, Thompson, Evan, Rosch, Eleonor. 1991. The Embodied Mind. The Mit Press, Massachusetts.

Iulian Apostolescu, Anca Irina Ionescu (Eds.): Existență, responsabilitate, transcendență, UAIC Publishing House, 2018

Existență, responsabilitate, transcendență. Volum omagial Jan Patočka însoțit de Conferințele de la Louvain. Despre contribuţia Boemiei la idealul ştiinţei moderne, de Jan Patočka Book Cover Existență, responsabilitate, transcendență. Volum omagial Jan Patočka însoțit de Conferințele de la Louvain. Despre contribuţia Boemiei la idealul ştiinţei moderne, de Jan Patočka
Iulian Apostolescu, Anca Irina Ionescu (Eds.)
UAIC Publishing House

Sebastian Luft, Ruth Hagengruber (Eds.): Women Phenomenologists on Social Ontology: We-Experiences, Communal Life, and Joint Action, Springer, 2018

Women Phenomenologists on Social Ontology: We-Experiences, Communal Life, and Joint Action Book Cover Women Phenomenologists on Social Ontology: We-Experiences, Communal Life, and Joint Action
Women in the History of Philosophy and Sciences, Volume 1
Sebastian Luft, Ruth Hagengruber (Eds.)
Hardback $119.99
XXIV, 248

Thomas Hünefeldt, Annika Schlitte (Eds.): Situatedness and Place: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Spatio-temporal Contingency of Human Life, Springer, 2018

Situatedness and Place: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Spatio-temporal Contingency of Human Life Book Cover Situatedness and Place: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on the Spatio-temporal Contingency of Human Life
Contributions To Phenomenology, Volume 95
Thomas Hünefeldt, Annika Schlitte (Eds.)
Hardback 106,99 €
VII, 216

James Mensch: Selfhood and Appearing: The Intertwining, Brill, 2018

Selfhood and Appearing: The Intertwining Book Cover Selfhood and Appearing: The Intertwining
Studies in Contemporary Phenomenology, Volume: 17
James Mensch
Hardback €157.00
X, 342

John Panteleimon Manoussakis: The Ethics of Time: A Phenomenology and Hermeneutics of Change

The Ethics of Time: A Phenomenology and Hermeneutics of Change Book Cover The Ethics of Time: A Phenomenology and Hermeneutics of Change
Bloomsbury Studies in Continental Philosophy
John Panteleimon Manoussakis
Hardback $102.60

Reviewed by: Samuel D. Rocha (University of British Columbia, Canada)

Augustine’s Confessions is not a book. It has no title in the titular or thematic sense. It is simply what it is: confessions. What more could it be? A collection of thirteen small books? An evangelical memoir? A developmental prayer diary? A pre-modern work of speculative non-fiction? These are tedious questions. No one cares whether the Confessions is a book or not. Augustine does not seem to care. This reveals that, as with most things taken for granted, we do not know what books are when we address or review them as books. So what is the intellectual genre of Augustine’s Confessions? Jean-Luc Marion has remarked that the Patristic period of theological thought would have understood itself as philosophy, not theology, and thus scholastic theology begins after the end of theology.[i]

It is helpful to keep these opening remarks in mind if one seeks an encounter with John Panteleimon Manoussakis in The Ethics of Time. It is a book that cannot be read, even if one tries to read like a cow through rumination, as Nietzsche demands in his preface to Genealogy of Morals.[ii] The Ethics of Time must be encountered. Reading is certainly an encounter of a certain kind, but the kind of encounter this book demands goes much further than any other recent philosophical book I have read. This may be because our present mode of reading is detached from the type of reading we find in Ezekiel, where the prophet is fed a holy scroll, and I suspect that my suggested encounter beyond reading is in many respects nothing but a truer form of reading. Nonetheless, there is a distinction to be drawn between a literary encounter and the phenomenological encounter that Manoussakis’ book investigates (through desire) and demands (through ethics). (This distinction is carefully attended to by Manoussakis in the theological realities of the beginning, logos, and flesh throughout the book, but especially in chapter 7, “The Time of the Body.”)

To encounter something implies many things. The adversarial sense of an encounter is perhaps the most obvious. Manoussakis seems to suggest these terms of encounter in the book’s epigraph that quotes from Aeschylus’s Agamemnon: “It is a violent grace that gods set forth.”[iii] After all, to “encounter” is to be en contra. This may begin to explain why wresting and sex are hard to distinguish from each other en vivo. No one can deny that the one I lay with until the break of dawn is one I have encountered. When Jacob wrestles the angel of God in Genesis, it is not so different an erotic description from the one we read in the Song of Songs. This means that the encounter is not adversarial so much as it is erotic. Manoussakis seems to endorse this erotic notion of encounter in his analysis of the emptiness of the pouring jug, broken jar, and eucharistic chalice. He writes, “the body’s corporeality does not lie at all in the material of which it consists (the body as object), but in the void that holds (the body as flesh).”[iv] This account of incarnate emptiness, among many other passages, eventually repeats itself enough to demand an erotic encounter with Manoussakis. An encounter, as we will see, that ends in kenosis.

One might object that presenting ideas in a book is not the same thing as demanding them as the terms for a specific kind of encounter, but this takes us back to the reason why I insist that this book must be encountered as opposed to being read, however unsatisfying that opposition may be for philosophical logic-chopping (to use the Jamesian expression). More important for my purposes here, if I take the erotic terms for this encounter seriously, then this review must struggle and fail to break free from Manoussakis in the course of re-viewing his book. Perhaps he will break my hip as I beg him for a blessing. We will have to see, again and again. That is what it means to re-view something.

One might consider The Ethics of Time to be an eclectic book in light of its variety of sources. This would be a mistake. It is true that Manoussakis works from Ancient Greece and the Early Church to contemporary phenomenology and cinema. However, this seems to be more of a personal reflection of Manoussakis—more reasons for my insistence on an erotic encounter—than evidence of technical or systematic pyrotechnics. It may be hard to ignore the sheer volume of philological, theological, psychoanalytic, exegetical, and phenomenological resources put to use in this volume, touching equally upon ancient scriptures as recent films, but this quantified sense of eclecticism misses more than it hits. It mainly misses the book’s constant refrain: Augustine’s Confessions. Unlike Heidegger, who despite his occasional explicit turns to Augustine is in constant dialogue with him throughout the entirety of Being and Time, Manoussakis never pretends to stray from him. In other words, Manoussakis repeatedly draws upon the only other book I can think of that can to the same degree be misunderstood through its voluminous variety. Perhaps he is being vain in tempting this comparison? Or maybe he is too humble to admit it?

Beyond the constant presence of Augustine’s Confessions in the book as a musing refrain, Manoussakis just as constantly invents original interpretations of the classic text. Before I mention any of these insights, and immediately attract the philosopher’s skepticism, I would like to remark on how Manoussakis phrases his inventions. This is not a note on method in the sense of construction or composition; it is more a note on voice and style. If one would permit the expression, I would say this is a brief note on the musicality the book. For me this was the most philosophically challenging aspect of the book but also the most delightful.

“What we call life is a series of intervals from sleep to sleep.”[v] This line comes within a discussion of boredom and just before a deeper look into the radical implications of having “nothing to do.” Even without puzzling together the meaning of the line within its proper textual context, it serves as an example of the barrage of poetic impulses that assault the Academician and exhort the Artist. They often come in swift lines and fine-tuned associations. The urge to call them hasty is the desire to read, the desire to take Manoussakis at his word is the urge to encounter.

All of this is to say that there is an active wit in the book that is sharp and playful enough to verge on being unserious. But these risky moments of “Will and Grace”—anyone who misses this is too dull to understand this book—are contained with a form and structure where metaphors bear the mythopoetic weight of the book’s absent thesis. For instance, Manoussakis titles his Chapter 5, “After Evil,” hinting at the ethics of time where we move beyond evil without ventured beyond it entirely. This chapter features a stunningly clear and original rendition of Augustine’s account of the privation of evil—where evil is not simply metaphysically privitive of the good, but where sin becomes the ethical condition for the possibility of freedom—and reveals a powerful account of the book’s major preoccupations. The account does not so much make this preoccupation clear so much as it makes it serious enough, to the one willing to accept the terms of encounter, to see with eyes of faith.

For Manoussakis, the difference that lies in the interval between evil and goodness is only time. This difference is presented by Manoussakis through the two gardens of Eden and Gethsemane, which allude to his most steady companions, the Confessions and Christian scripture. These two gardens hold within them the capacity to re-present an ethics that is opposed to stasis; in other words, an ethics of time. This rendition of an ethics of time is central to the book’s unmet desire to address itself as a book titled The Ethics of Time.

A key feature of the above analysis is important to understand on its own terms, without too many distractions. Manoussakis makes this point plain, but rather than quote him directly, I would like to try and bend his words in my direction. Rather than resolve the apparent tension in sin or evil by positing a Manichean notion of the good, Manoussakis asserts the goodness of sin and evil revealed in time. This is not as radical as it may seem. I recently asked the question “What is an ethical way to teach ethics?” Socrates answers this question when Meno raises it by rejecting the assumption of the possibility of knowing what is ethical. In De Magistro, Augustine rejects the possibility of teaching entirely. Manoussakis, for his part, follows suit in a clever way. When we admit that we know not what we do, when sin admits to being sinful, when evil can encounter itself as evil, there we find the goodness and the ethics of time. The implications of this idea in moral theology and normative philosophical theories are interesting in their own right, but the phenomenological scope of this book takes us in another more scandalous direction.

The book ends with three scandals. The first two—evil and goodness—have been mentioned to some extent already. The third is grace but becomes more articulate as what Paul calls “the scandal of the cross.”[vi] Here the enigmatic and aphoristic wit of Manoussakis makes its last attempt to call the reader into encounter—the encounter of conversion. One may reject this encounter since it has now modulated from Manoussakis himself to Christ, but this raising of the pitch and register of the erotic appeal seems to be the entire point of the final scandal and, indeed, the book that exists beyond its title. In the cross we find the ultimate body, the broken body that survives the violence of resurrection. After all, Christ’s resurrected body was glorified with all five wounds sustained on the cross still intact and poor saints wear them as scandalous signs of grace. One cannot speak of open wounds as being good and no one can speak of these wounds as being evil. Within Manoussakis’ phenomenology of change presented as the ethics of time, I find a profound and moving meditation on the suffering, sacrifice, and salvation of wounds and woundedness.

Whatever ethics may be, I am fairly certain that it cannot afford to be entirely blind to the moral significance of things, especially the things that go beyond the recognizable the boundaries of moral significance. As we have seen, this would include a genuine ability to understand, as Augustine did and as Manoussakis clearly does, the evil of goodness and the goodness of evil within the interval of time.

Judging something to be morally important is not the same as seeing it as it is. There is a moral field of vision that goes well beyond judgement’s moral capacities. In at least this sense, phenomenology is fundamentally ethical. But this is not always true in practice. Phenomenology as well water is little more than a series of constructive historical notes and debates, on the one hand, and methodological squabbles, on the other. Phenomenology as living water is always opposed to every “ology” and “ism”—including phenomenology and constant opposition. In other words, as its rich history and methods suggest, phenomenology is fundamentally philosophical and this philosophical conception applies equally to phenomenology after the so-called “theological turn.” This turn would be a poor way to try and capture Manoussakis’ project, unless it is to show that every real turn is in some sense a theological one, preceded and anticipated in the Hellenistic tradition. The beginning chapters of The Ethics of Time bear this out in a series of preliminary meditations on movement but they only arrive at their fundamental insight as one allows time—not only the time of duration but above all the time of the interval, the sliding, wailing, and fretless interval—to work across the pages of the book to transform the reading into a dynamic encounter of time in the place of das Ding.

[i] In his Berkeley Center Lecture, “What Are the Roots of the Distinction Between Philosophy and Theology?”, delivered at Georgetown University on April 7, 2011.

[ii] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morailty, trans. Maudemarie Clark and Alan J. Swenson, (Indiannapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 1998), 7.

[iii] John Panteleimon Manoussakis, The Ethics of Time, (London and New York: 2017), front matter.

[iv] Ibid., 156.

[v] Ibid., 21.

[vi] Ibid., 161.