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Luz Ascarate’s dissertation Imaginer selon Paul Ricœur is a thorough study of Ricœur’s philosophy of imagination. It will be well received by at least three groups of readers. (1) Ricœur scholars will find in Ascarate’s book a novel interpretation of Ricœur’s philosophical oeuvre. Not only propounding yet another reconstruction of Ricoeur’s take on imagination (Kearney 1988; Taylor 2006), Ascarate’s account presents imagination as the key concept of his thought, structuring both his early phenomenological writings and his later hermeneutic and social-ontological reflections. (2) Phenomenologists will be drawn to the way the book retraces Ricœur’s explication of the pivotal role of imagination in phenomenological methodology. While in Husserl imagination remains by and large an operative concept, Ricœur is the first to highlight the crucial “place of imagination in the philosophical method of foundation” (Ascarate 2022, 15), as Ascarate shows. (3) Social and political philosophers, finally, will be interested in Ascarate’s reconstruction of how Ricœur’s phenomenology of imagination may inform the critical analysis of (ideological and utopian) social imaginaries, thus launching a dialogue between phenomenology and critical theory.
Combining these three points of intervention, Ascarate’s general aim is to sketch, with Ricœur, the contours of a post-foundationalist social ontology that unveils both the constitutive and the subversive functions of imagination at the heart of social relations. Crucially, this endeavor is not framed as a timeless philosophical reflection but as a response to contemporary social challenges. In view of a new foundational crisis—similar to the one Husserl takes as his point of departure in his Krisis book—Ascarate holds that it is high time to resuscitate imagination as a radical social and political force. Reclaiming imagination and the imaginary as the primary resources of our (inter)subjective self-understanding is necessary to counter neoliberal reification and the infamous ideological belief that “there is no alternative.”
As Olivier Abel notes in his favorable preface, Ricœur is indeed a promising interlocutor in this regard. On the one hand, Ricœur recognizes the “emancipatory potential” of imagination and its ability to “enlarge the sense of the real” (8) by disclosing hidden possibilities. On the other hand, he does not fall prey to the idea of an imaginary “creatio ex nihilo” (Castoriadis 1975; Papadimitropoulos 2015) that reproduces the metaphysical illusion of the imagining subject as an absolute, autonomous origin. Following Ricœur, Ascarate stresses the productive power of imagination while at the same time recognizing the responsive condition of a human subject that never intervenes “out of nothing,” but inevitably acts within an already constituted socio-historical world.
The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, Ascarate reconstructs Ricoeur’s phenomenology of imagination in a roughly chronological manner, starting with (1) his “Husserlian heritage” and his early phenomenology of the will before proceeding to (2) the role of imagination in his hermeutics of symbols and to (3) his later reflections on ontology and anthropology. The second part deals with the import of Ricoeur’s thinking of imagination for social ontology. Here, Ascarate begins by (4) sketching the contemporary discourse in critical theory and post-foundationalist social philosophy before (5) outlining a phenomenology of utopias. In what follows, I trace the main steps in Ascarate’s argument before pointing out some problems and indicating how, in my view, critical reflection should proceed.
Ascarate does not confine herself to Ricœur’s published works but also takes into account his lecture courses (such as the important, yet still unpublished, Lectures on Imagination held in Chicago in 1976) as well as his translator’s notes on the early translation of Husserl’s Ideen I (Husserl 1950) done during the war. Right from the beginning, Ricœur construes imagination as the philosophical faculty par excellence. As Ascarate makes clear, we find the conviction that doing philosophy would not be possible without the imaginary suspension of factual reality already in his early work. Even more than that, according to Ricoeur, phenomenology as a method is not feasible without the faculty of imagination. What Husserl calls epoché, the bracketing of our natural attitude toward the world, requires the ability to neutralize the grip of reality. In this sense, “imagination can appear as the foundation of phenomenology” (41). It is precisely this neutralizing function of imagination that Ascarate focuses on throughout her book. Phenomenological research involves neutralizing or suspending reality—not in the sense of denying it, but in terms of disclosing the contingency of its factual conditions. In this vein, Ascarate also speaks of the “suspending function of imagination” (76).
Imagination is not, however, confined to facilitating the epoché. As Ascarate emphasizes, Ricœur also shows that and how the eidetic reduction requires imagination. The intentional varying of an object’s characteristics that is at the heart of this methodological device of classical phenomenology would be impossible without the faculty of imagination. In this way, imagination surpasses perception. While perception (Wahrnehmung) always involves ‘value-ception’ (Wertnehmung), as Scheler points out (Scheler 1980, 205), it remains bound to the order of facts—to the specific way, that is, in which objects are empirically organized in the world. In the eidetic reduction, by contrast, imagination “deterritorializes our perception” and “breaks the order of facts” (47) that perception reveals. In short, where perception only registers facts (the given empirical reality), imagination penetrates the realm of essences.
Imagination thus plays a double role in phenomenological methodology. On the one hand, it is what suspends the firmness of empirical reality under the epoché: “Ricœur appropriates Husserl’s conviction to break the kingdom of the empirical law by force of the liberty of imagination in order to access the field of the possible” (69). On the other hand, imagination makes possible the eidetic reduction by allowing us to transcend the contingent world of facts and push through to the world of essences. Writing about the “illustrative function of imagination,” Ricœur claims that “fiction is the true revealer of essence” (Ricoeur, in Husserl 1950, 24). It discloses precisely what cannot be otherwise: “imagination … reveals, by way of free variation, the true resistance of essence and its non-contingency” (Ricoeur, in Husserl 1950, 223).
Turning to Ascarate’s presentation of the role of imagination within Ricœur’s own philosophy of the will, imagination functions as the precondition of decision and action. Imagination presents possibilities for intervention, thus directing our will toward the future. There is no genuine decision without imagination. At the same time, imagination can render us passive and lure us away from action whenever the “charm of an unreal” prompts “an escape from reality” (80). That is to say, even as imagination is oriented toward the absent, the other, and the beyond, it needs to remain bound to the present and the conditions of reality, at least to some extent.
This, Ascarate suggests, becomes especially clear in Ricœur’s thinking about evil and human fallibility in Fallible Man (Ricœur 1986). To understand the human condition of moral fallibility, Ricœur argues, we must first come up with a notion of innocence. For without a preliminary and counterfactual understanding of innocence, some inclination or other could not even be identified as evil (see also Ascárate 2021). Because we are never truly innocent, however, we cannot perceive innocence in its purity. Again, imagination has to step in, furnishing an “imagination of innocence” (112). This imagination of innocence displays our own innocence as a (forever unrealized) possibility. This is not some Hegelian daydream in which I imagine myself as beautiful soul with a clean moral sheet. As Ricœur emphasizes, “this imagination is not a fanciful dream; it is an ‘imaginative variation’, to use a Husserlian term, which manifests the essence by breaking the prestige of the fact. In imagining another state of affairs …, I perceive the possible, and in the possible, the essential.” (Ricœur 1986, 112) Thus, the imagination of innocence discloses not so much a random possibility among others as my essential humanity, while at the same time always running the risk of regressing into self-righteous reverie.
Indeed, every philosophical discourse is to some degree a walk on a tightrope on the edge of deceptive imagination. As evidenced by his reflections on symbols and symbolism, Ricœur is well aware of this. The fact that all thought takes place within a specific language and within a specific symbolism and imaginary does not mean that the philosopher has to renounce the idea of beginning anew. However, there is no beginning anew without some presuppositions. Thinking in and with symbols is what gives our thoughts content, but at the same time symbolism “introduces radical contingency” (Ricoeur 2004, 399) into our discourse. Ascarate argues that “the symbol is the eidos from the point of view of its contingency, an eidos from the point of view of its imaginary foundation that cannot be fully explicated” (134). Acknowledging the imaginary foundation of essence in this way leads to the surprising conclusion that essence is not simply discovered but always to some degree invented. In this context, Ascarate cites the Lectures on Imagination, where “Ricœur argues … that the imaginary variations take on a productive and creative function, for instead of verifying a concept they create new concepts” (167). As it turns out, the eidetic reduction is, to speak with Kant, not so much a kind of reproductive imagination as a kind of productive imagination.
Indeed, as Ascarate’s study makes clear, concerning the classical distinction between reproductive and productive imagination, Ricœur proves to be a fierce advocate of the latter. Apparently, one of his most elaborate pleas for productive imagination is to be found in the soon-to-be-published Lectures on Imagination. Here, Ricœur argues that it is only in productive imagination that we get an unobstructed view of the phenomenon of imagination. For as long as it is conceived in terms of reproduction, imagination is held captive by perception, making the former but a second-rate compensation for, or maidservant of, the latter. (Ascarate mentions that Ricœur accuses Sartre and Ryle of reducing imagination to this reproductive role.) Productive imagination, by contrast, roams freely, evading the suffocating grip of perception.
To see imagination in all its productivity, it is necessary, Ricœur argues, to cut the cord tying it to the image. Conceiving of imagination in terms of an image (an image-portrait, a depiction of something that already exists) inevitably leads to neglecting imagination’s creative powers. While reproductive imagination is associated with this notion of an image-portrait, productive imagination, as Ricœur understands it, ought to be thought of in terms of fiction. Productive imagination has the power to “open our mind to new perspectives on the real” (165). This again foreshadows the emancipatory function of utopian narratives: “productive imagination has an ontological force,” Ascarate writes, “that consists in enlarging and producing new visions of the world and new ways of seeing things. Thus, it can change our way of being in the world” (166). In renouncing the pictorial function of image-portraits, productive imagination is thus closer to language than to the visual realm. As Ascarate shows, Ricœur gains this insight from Gaston Bachelard and his phenomenology of poetic imagination (Bachelard 1983). True poetry, as in the case of the living metaphor, constitutes an event in the most radical sense: the birth of new meaning (Ricœur 2003; see also Seitz and Posselt 2017; Flatscher and Seitz 2023). Metaphor is in this sense language in statu nascendi: “According to Ricœur, Bachelard makes a decisive step … by understanding the new as an event born in language and through it.” (169) Bachelard’s conception of poetic imagination supports the “hypothesis of another life” (169).
However, as Ascarate makes clear, Ricœur does not stop here but in fact goes beyond Bachelard, arguing that productive imagination is not restricted to poetic metaphors. Far from being confined to art, productive imagination is at work even in scientific discourse. In Ricœur’s view, scientific models are the result of productive imagination, too; what science comes up with is not merely a picture of the real. In poetry as well as in science, “imagining does not consist in making appear what is absent from perception, but rather in edifying an autonomous sense.” (Foessel 2014, 245) This interest in the possibility of the new, Ascarate notes, is what unites Kant’s, Husserl’s, and Ricœur’s reflections on imagination. (One could also add Arendt to the list, who locates productive imagination at the heart of political judgment, referring to Kant’s notion of enlarged mentality [erweiterte Denkungsart], see Arendt 1992; Zerilli 2016).
Against this background, Ascarate seeks to draw from her reconstruction of Ricœur’s thinking of productive imagination both ontological and anthropological consequences. On the ontological level, Ascarate sketches how Ricœur’s take on imagination may engender a new ontology, an “ontology of the possible (175) or an “ontology of hyperreality” (30). The concept of hyperreality, although rather underdeveloped throughout the book, points to a conception of reality that does not limit the real to what is factually given but includes the possible. The possible, then, is not a separate sphere neatly cut off from the real but forms an intrinsic part of reality. On the anthropological level, (productive) imagination is framed as a uniquely human faculty. In Ascarate’s words, “the human being is the one who imagines; or the human being is the one who creates new possibilities from the real” (181). In this sense, the “productive function of imagination” (187) is what makes the essence of the human being.
It is here that the therapeutic import of Ricœur’s philosophy of imagination comes in. Productive imagination, Ascarate hopes, may enables us to respond to the present “crisis of sense” (146). Philosophy must combat the hegemony of instrumental rationality in which reason has lost its emancipatory force. Resuscitating this force requires that we draw on human creative power as “the experience of a human being to suspend the given world and access the possible” (189). Imaginative creativity should then help us reacquaint ourselves with the possibility of bringing about new ways of living together, new social foundations, and new ways of forging the social bond. Ascarate even trusts the “phenomenology of fiction” to assume the role of “a first philosophy for times of crisis: it would be a thinking that searches for foundations in an epoch that has lost them; an opening toward new ways of thinking” (191).
To explicate the critical and social-ontological implications of Ricœur’s philosophy of imagination, Ascarate draws primarily on his Lectures on Ideology and Utopia (Ricoeur 1986). Her goal is to show the relevance of Ricœur’s conception of imagination for critical theory and post-foundational social philosophy. Ricœur’s phenomenological account of ideology and utopia could, Ascarate argues, open up a new perspective on the critique of ideology, thus bringing into dialogue phenomenology and the Frankfurt school.
In his analysis of the relation between ideology and utopia, Ricœur makes use of Karl Mannheim’s Ideologie und Utopie (Mannheim 2015). As Ascarate shows, Ricœur twines the phenomenological, hermeneutic, and anthropological strands of his thought together to give an account of the social and political imaginary in its various guises. Ricœur starts off by reformulating Mannheim’s distinction between ideology and utopia in Kantian terms: “utopia is the fiction of productive imagination and ideology is reproductive social imagination” (213). From a phenomenological perspective, then, utopia is a function of productive imagination. What is more, Ricœur explicitly associates utopia with Husserl’s idea of eidetic reduction. Utopia “is close to the imaginary variations around an essence as proposed by Husserl” (Ricoeur 1986, 36). (Which begs the question, of course, whether the assumption of an authentic essence runs the risk of blunting utopia’s critical edge.)
Ascarate also emphasizes that Ricœur does not simply pit utopia against ideology. Rather, he argues that both ideology and utopia have “constitutive as well as pathological dimensions” (214). Ideology’s constitutive function is social integration. It generates a sense of affiliation and belonging. In contrast to classical Marxian approaches, Ricœur renounces the idea of ideology as mere distortion of reality. As a form of social and political imagination, ideology does not primarily disguise material conditions but is constitutive of social cohesion. Utopia, for its part, can assume a pathological modality once it regresses into mere denial: “utopia is effectively pathological whenever it presents itself as a flight from reality” (253), causing us to lose ourselves in the passivity of fascination or reverie. Instead of dissolving reality, utopia has to reveal reality in a different way by providing an imaginary exterior standpoint. As Ascarate writes, “when utopia’s exterritoriality is turned toward reality, its constitutive, creative, and critical force is unleashed” (256).
Here, Ricœur distances his phenomenological account of ideology and utopia from Mannheim’s. Mannheim is concerned about the ways in which ideology and utopia attack the status of social facts. While ideology reifies facts, displaying them as unchanging, naturally given entities, utopia fails to recognize the binding character of facts, presenting them as arbitrarily changeable (Mannheim 2015). Ricœur, however, does not share Mannheim’s concern with regard to utopia: “Ricœur insists on the positive aspects of utopia, that is, on the constitutive or productive function of imagination” (231–2). Seen from this perspective, the pronounced distance to reality is not utopia’s weakness but its strength. Instructive in this respect is Ascarate’s mention of the different paradigms of utopia in Mannheim and Ricœur. In Mannheim, the paradigmatic utopia is Thomas Münzer’s anabaptism. Ricœur, by contrast, turns to Thomas More’s Utopia. Mannheim cherishes Münzer for his active desire and engagement to realize his utopia (in a religious revolution). For Ricœur, it is precisely utopia’s unrealizability that makes it a productive social and political force. The fact that utopia cannot turn its back on reality does not mean that the gap between reality and utopia should simply be closed. For this gap ensures society’s openness and non-totalization. In this sense, utopian thinking is necessary for any human community: “while it is possible to imagine a society without ideology, to think of a society without utopia amounts to creating a society without purpose: no longer exceeding reality would lead to a facticity that marks the ruin of human will” (237). In this view, exceeding factual reality is a matter of life and death for any genuinely human society. It is not the lack of congruence with reality that makes utopia constitutive of the social but the aspiration “to undermine the established order” (239).
Ascarate emphasizes that utopia unites imagination and emancipation. Imagination has to break with the past. Ricœur puts into question Marx’s distinction between interpretation and transformation. For utopian imagination at once interprets and transforms reality. This also points to the essentially antagonistic character of utopia that is already stressed by Mannheim. Every utopia implies an anti-utopianism launched against other utopian proposals: “in every utopia there is a counter-utopian aspect directed against another utopia. This antagonism dynamizes the relation between utopias” (235). The communist utopia, for example, denounces all other utopias as ideology, which also inhibits a clear-cut, ahistorical distinction of ideology and utopia. What seems utopian from one political perspective can appear ideological from another.
Despite its antagonistic character, Ricœur praises utopia for its potential of nonviolent transformation. In order to bring about something new, we have to break with the past, but this rupture should not be achieved by violence, Ricoeur argues, but by imagination: “instead of violence, imagination has to perform the break with the past” (Ricoeur 1986, 378). Ascarate notes that Ricœur’s role models in this context are Saint-Simon and Fourier. Utopian socialism favors imagination over violence. As Ricœur emphasizes with Fourier, utopia not only demands the possible but also that which, in a given situation, seems impossible. From this perspective, utopia seems to be the test case for the ontology Ascarate envisages in her reading of Ricœur—namely, a philosophy of hyperreality that conceives of reality not in terms of an abstraction from the possible but as a recognition of the manifold horizons of possibilities, even if they remain unacknowledged.
By way of conclusion, I raise some critical questions and mark points of departure for further reflection. These concern (1) the inner structure and articulation of the phenomenon of imagination, (2) the status of passivity in relation to the social imaginary, and (3) the search for foundations within a post-foundationalist framework.
First, let me note that, in my view, one of the merits of Ascarate’s book is the way it manages to capture the complexity of the phenomenon of imagination as well as its many dimensions. Note the long list of different functions of imagination that are discussed throughout the book. Needless to say, given that Ricœur “considers it the central function of imagination” (161), the function of neutralization or suspension looms large. However, reference is also made to an “emancipatory function” (8), a “practical function” (39), an “illustrative” and “exemplary function” (42), an “evasive” function (83), an “intermediary function” (97), a “productive function” (99), a “creative function” (125), an “integrative” and “distortive” function (of ideology, 213, 216), a “critical function” (of utopia, 229), and a “constitutive function” (232) of imagination. This list underscores imagination’s many faces. Ascarate does not, however, investigate how these different functions are interrelated. It remains unclear, for instance, whether some of them are mere synonyms or whether some are more fundamental or more primordial than others. Given that a phenomenology of imagination has to explicate the compossibility of imagination’s various functions, what we require is a more detailed and comprehensive cartography of its fault lines. This could also entail a less egological account of imagination, especially in regard to questions of political imagination. The attempt to render the phenomenology of imagination productive for social ontology can only succeed if it enables us to think of imagination in terms of collective acts and intersubjective processes (see Seitz 2022).
This becomes all the more urgent, second, in light of Ascarate’s/Ricœur’s aim to integrate imagination within an ontology of possibility and an anthropology of the capable subject. In this framework, the positive, productive, and creative aspects of imagination take center stage. Imagination’s productivity, its creative power, and its disclosing force always are presented as somehow ‘more essential’ than its deceptive, reproductive, and ideological aspects. This raises the question of how the coercive function of the social imaginary, the repressive function of ideology, and the fixating function of reproductive imagination are to be explicated within an approach that focuses primarily on human capabilities. For within such an approach, the passive aspects of our socio-political being come into view only as secondary, derivative, or pathological phenomena. On the other end of the spectrum of conceptualization, as Andreas Hetzel recently outlined with recourse to Bachelard, the contours of a different phenomenology of imagination come into relief—one that no longer thinks of imagination as the subject’s autonomous capability but as “a capability of the images themselves, the capability of presenting themselves before our eyes. Imagination would then be not so much the … capability of producing images as a consciously sought-out incapability, a readiness to be fascinated by the images … in their activity and waywardness” (Hetzel 2021, 112; see also Calin and Hetzel 2021). I bring this up to indicate the different routes theorization can take within the phenomenology of imagination—and to suggest that the problem of how to reconcile the intuition that imagination forms an essential part of human autonomy with the observation that imagination (or ‘the imaginary’) is all too often precisely what holds us firmly in its grip rather than what we command still remains to be solved.
This leads, third, to the question of autonomy or heteronomy in the context of the institution of social and political foundations. In my view, Ascarate remains rather vague in this respect. On the one hand, she inscribes Ricœur’s reflections on imagination into the discourse on post-foundationalist political philosophy, where the possibility of ultimate, transcendental foundations is rejected in favor of the need for contingent, historical foundations (Marchart 2018; Butler 1995). On the other hand, her diagnostics of crisis appears at times quite nostalgic, mourning the loss of an era where social foundations were not yet in question. Take, for instance, Ascarate’s description of the phenomenologist’s role in the present: “The phenomenologist is, for us, the one who still dreams of evidences in a world that has lost them; the one who” remains faithful to “those that search for foundations” (266). By contrast, we could ask whether it was not at times precisely the quest for strong foundations and infallible evidence that prevented us from genuinely dreaming. In other words, the nostalgic stance toward lost foundations seems incompatible with the post-foundationalist theory framework Ascarate claims to employ. Note, though, that such compatibility is not even desirable. As I see it, Ascarate has exemplarily shown how phenomenology can today proceed without continuing to be haunted by the specter of absolute evidence, which may also be one of the liberating powers of imagination in phenomenology.
I thank Matthias Flatscher and Anna Wieder for their helpful comments and remarks.
This work has been funded by the European Union (ERC, PREDEF, 101055015). Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Council Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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 That is not to say, of course, that the phenomenon of imagination eludes Husserl. As Julia Jansen points out, “[h]ardly any other philosopher in the history of philosophy has paid as much detailed attention to the nature of imagining and to the distinct characteristics of imagined objects as Husserl” (Jansen 2016, 69). Ascarate’s point is that though Husserl indeed calls imagination the “vital element” (Husserl 1983, 160) of phenomenology, he nonetheless privileges perception as the default form of intentionality.
 All translations from Ascarate’s book and other non-English sources are my own.
 The question of whether imagination is to be construed either as creation or as responsive productivity is at the center of the debate between Ricœur and Castoriadis (Adams 2017). Note, also, that Castoriadis repeatedly defends his account against this criticism, see (Castoriadis 1997).
 This conception seems close to Merleau-Ponty’s idea of “coherent deformation” (Merleau-Ponty 1969, 262).
 These lectures are currently edited by George Taylor and will be published in 2023.
 Ricœur’s attempt to rethink the social bond as constituted by the imaginary powers of ideology and utopia may, Ascarate argues, also resonate well with Oliver Marchart’s political ontology (Marchart 2019).
Reviewed by: R.A. Goodrich (ACHE Chapter of the Society for the History of Emotions – University of Melbourne & ADI Philosophy & History of Ideas – Deakin University)
At the Sources of the Twentieth-Century Analytical Movement is explicitly drawn from the 2016 Krakow-based Naroidowe Centrum Nauki research project headed by Jacek Jadacki on Kazimierz Twardowski’s place in Polish culture and European philosophy (see https://projekty.ncn.gov.pl/opisy/352223-en.pdf ). Notwithstanding the title and subtitle of this collection, virtually half its fourteen contributions focus upon Twardowski’s and his students’ role in Polish intellectual life and philosophical enquiry, initially in Lwów (also known as Lemberg and nowadays as Lviv) from 1895 and twenty years later in Warszawa (Warsaw).
Readers curious about the fate of philosophy in twentieth-century central Europe’s killing field will be amply rewarded. Seven chapters partly or wholly focus upon the formerly partitioned Poland onwards such as those by Jan Wolénski (66ff. & 143ff.), Mariusz Grygianiec (124ff.), Anna Brożek (156ff., 221ff. & 236ff.), Ryszard Kleszcz (212ff.), and Marcin Będkowski (250ff.) as well as Tadeusz Szubka’s “Opening Word” (5-11) and Part One of the co-editors’ “Closing Word” (267-306). Collectively, the treatment of Polish philosophers here demonstrates a marked departure from the first, frequently republished English-language monograph by Henryk Skolimowski (1964) which regards Polish philosophers described by him as analytical to be definable by their approach to language. He noticeably tends to sidestep not only their analyses of scientific knowledge, but also their application of techniques drawn from the logico-linguistic realm.
For non-Slavic readers, who at best may have some familiarity with, for example, Roman Ingarden or Jan Łukasiewicz in translation, might wonder why so many others included by the editors remain largely ignored outside Poland. Do they share the fate of so many Slavic-speaking intellectuals prone to neglect because, in the words of Norman Geschwind, their “important confirmed scientific observations,” and “in other fields as well,” “could almost be expunged” from the knowledge nowadays of contemporary scholars for relatively predictable reasons (1974: 19)? These include “neglect of work written in a foreign language, neglect of work done by someone in a different field, excessive reliance on the authority of certain towering individual figures” (1974: 19). Should Geschwind’s concern be considered exaggerated, the recent proliferation of works by and about Twardowski nonetheless warrants careful appraisal. As Gilbert Ryle concludes in the case of Twardowski’s teacher, Franz Brentano:
Ours is an age of posthumous literary magnification. Reprintings chase reprintings; commentaries chase commentaries; unpublished writings … are forever being assembled into … collected editions which publishers … unload on to libraries. (1976, p. 15)
Three overlapping issues repeatedly associated with Twardowski figure throughout the Brożek and Jadacki anthology under review. The first issue centres upon what Twardowski meant by “scientific” philosophy. The second concerns his seminal distinction between “actions” and “products” emanating from his 1894 thesis undertaken in Vienna. Whilst probing both issues, we will include the roles of psychology and logic Twardowski subsequently attributed to philosophical enquiries. Thereafter, we shall conclude by critically exploring the presumption that the twentieth century “analytical movement” to which Twardowski and his circle contributed is principally distinguished by its “general methodological attitudes” (274).
Szubka’s opening contribution immediately launches us into the theme of “scientific philosophy.” He includes different European views that emerged from the ’twenties and ’thirties. For example, Rudolf Carnap of the Vienna Circle is baldly summarised as seeing philosophy not as a way of conducting a (“natural”) science but of “elucidating” it by “investigating its language and logic” (5). Hans Reichenbach (1951) of the Berlin Society for Empirical (or Scientific) Philosophy construes scientific philosophy in terms of analysing the results of the physical sciences, the knowledge acquired falling short of certainties associated with the “principles of logic and mathematics” (13). Moreover, he believes that “scientific philosophy advances” by “performing logical analysis” and “avoiding metaphorical and pictorial language” (14). Yet, Szubka continues, Reichenbach remains wedded to “the verifiability theory of meaning” which reductively commits itself to “bare direct observation” and therefore cannot accommodate the interpretation of such evidence needed to develop a scientifically significant “body of systematic knowledge” (15).
Szubka confronts readers with the “startling” fact that Twardowski himself did not undertake “a detailed and systematic account” of scientific philosophy (6). Instead, he appears to “implement … those ideas of Brentano … he considered as undeniably correct” and pursuing them in clear and exact language as the “rigorous academic discipline” of scientific philosophy demands (7). Szubka locates four basic trajectories within Twardowski’s view of scientific philosophy:
[a] In his essay on Friedrich Nietzsche, Twardowski (1895, p. 380) concludes with the exhortation that “scientific philosophy will continue to demand severely and unrelentingly that the first condition of philosophical investigation is precision of expression.” In a later foray into philosophical discourse, Twardowski (1920, p. 258) claims that “our thought, especially when it is abstract, manifests itself from the beginning in verbal attire, having the most intimate connection with expressions of speech,” so that obscurity of expression is purportedly tantamount to obscurity of thought.
[b] In his essay probing psychology, physiology, and philosophy, Twardowski (1897, p. 60) declares that the “term ‘philosophy’ designates a group of sciences,” amongst which figure ontology, logic, and epistemology. In his later 1929 Polish Philosophical Society address, Twardowski (1931, p. 274) emphasizes that scientific (or “critical”) philosophy is opposed to metaphysical systems claiming to be “scientifically well-founded” and possessed of indubitable “objective status.”
[c] In his inaugural Polish Philosophical Society address, Twardowski (1904, p. 47) remarks that, “in the area of facts which is the subject matter of philosophy,” “continuous peer control is indispensable” amongst colleagues; indeed, their collaboration, by bringing different perspectives to bear upon the problem involved, needs “to occupy the foremost place.”
[d] The first trajectory above is recast in terms of fallacies besetting philosophers and scientists alike when Twardowski (1921, pp. 262 & 263) pinpoints the tendency to reify logical and mathematical symbols: “symbols and the operations performed on them, originally the means to an end, become … an end in itself,” ultimately ignoring what “the symbols (being the signs of things in the broadest sense of the term) symbolize.”
At this juncture, more questions emerge than answers. Has Twardowski provided us with an unequivocal account of “scientific” philosophy? Szubka concludes that the very notion of scientific philosophy is ambiguous, noticeably sliding between philosophy as “conforming to the general pattern of scientific investigations” and as engaging with “the results of the sciences themselves” (20). Is Twardowski’s fourfold trajectory above specifically applicable to “analytical” philosophy? Again, Szubka reminds us from the outset that, although the “idea” of the scientific and the analytical might well be “inextricably connected,” the self-description of individual philosophers and the various intellectual movements which they advocated were not always so bound (3; cf. 5-6). We shall examine some alternative conceptions of the analytical movement in our concluding section.
Twardowski’s action-product distinction, his most influential argument amongst analytical and phenomenological philosophers about the nature of judgement, receives repeated attention. Chapters by Maria van der Schaar (25ff.) and Sébastien Richard (79ff.) respectively re-examine the distinction’s relevance by considering not only its antecedents in the writings of Bernard Bolzano (1837) and Franz Brentano (1874), but also its re-interpretation by Friederike Moltmann in recent years who is fully familiar with Anglo-American analytical conceptions of propositional truths and cognitive acts. By contrast, another chapter by Jan Wolénski (50ff.) traces the successive modifications of Twardowski’s distinction before examining how Polish philosophers, especially Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Tadeusz Kotarbiński, and Alfred Tarski, applied them. Given limits upon length, we shall specifically focus upon the challenging critique mounted by van der Schaar. Before doing so, we shall briefly pinpoint Twardowski’s manner of conceptualising the distinction particularly but not exclusively in his 1912 “Actions and Products” paper.
Discriminating actions from products—czynności and wytwory in the Polish, fonctions and produits in the French, Funktionen and Gebilde in the German versions discussed by Wolénski (52-53)—has been crucial to the “sciences” Twardowski identifies as philosophy, especially those characterized as logical or epistemological. Moreover, according to Arianna Betti, “Actions and Products” neatly exemplifies “the method which has become now strongly associated with analytic philosophy” (2014, §3.2). Without fully summarising its classificatory details, two modes of analysis Twardowski only partly deployed are worth considering as regards the intersection of analytical and phenomenological enquiry. The first involves the syntactic-semantic analysis of language and the second, an analysis of the use and users of language.
Firstly, the distinction’s logical differences are supposedly demonstrated linguistically with verbs exemplifying mental (as well as physical and psychophysical) actions (1912, §10-12) and their corresponding nouns exemplifying the results (or products), demonstrated by “judge” and “judgement” or “think” and “thought” respectively (1912, §1; cf. §8-9). Judgement in the sense of an action is used in a psychological sense whereas judgement in the sense of the result or product of an action operates in a semantic if not logical sense (1912, §14). Without promoting an explicit actions-products distinction, Twardowski could well have remained trapped in the turn-of-century Psychologismus-Streit. It was a dispute that quickly engulfed Brentano in so far as he was seen to uphold psychologistic arguments of the following kind. If logic, for instance, is the theory of judgements and inferences, if judgements and inferences are mental categories, and if mental categories form the subject-matter of psychology, then logic is part of psychology. Or again, if psychology is defined as the science which investigates laws of thought and if logic is a discipline which investigates only a subset of laws of thought, then logic is part of psychology.
Secondly, in his 1894/1895 Vienna lectures on logic, when dealing with the mental or psychological actions being directed towards their objects, not their contents or subject-matter, Twardowski considers the difficulty arising when predicating judgements or propositions about mythical, imaginary or fictional objects or states-of-affairs. He consequently contends that all judgements can assume an existential (Existenziell) or a relational (Beziehungs-) form expressed positively or negatively (1894/1895, pp. 118ff.). A judgement exists as long as there is someone performing the corresponding act of judging which Twardowski identifies as “non-enduring” (1912, §23). So how can a set of judgements or propositions endure beyond the action producing them? They can endure when a spoken expression of them is materially transformed, for example, into writing, thereby no longer being an event, but becoming an independent thing or artefact (1912, §26-27). The spoken expression or utterance of the judgement counts as the sign of the judgement and the judgement counts as the meaning of the expression or utterance. This, of course, is by no means a singular phenomenon because spoken expressions or utterances cause other judgements either in another person or the same person at different times (1912, §32 & §34). Should we commit ourselves to a single meaning of a sign and not to a multiplicity of meanings affecting those upon whom it had acted, Twardowski assumes we have in effect entered a process of “abstraction performed on concrete mental products” (1912, §39). In other words, the process of abstraction results in a second-order psychological act focused upon the actual first-order mental activity before it. However, this raises a dilemma. Quoting van der Schaar, either the act of abstraction “presupposes an identical meaning that gives direction to our act of abstracting, or it is merely a psychological act” thwarting our capacity “to reach an identical meaning for different subjects on different occasions” (35). In short, “the relevant act of abstraction cannot occur without presupposing an abstract identity” (35).
Appealing to singular or unique meaning of expressions or utterances leads Twardowski to the imaginary (or “surrogate”) use of the language of judgements or propositions. In other words, not all judgements are produced by acts of actual judging; instead, they can result from actions of presenting. This, as Twardowski (1912, §43) acknowledges, is manifested by actors in wordless moments expressing emotions by means of gestures and postures in the context of drama which are no more than imaginary, mimicked or pretended (a point further elucidated by van der Schaar (34)). Admittedly, “Actions and Products” mainly targets the logical use of language. Following Twardowski (1912, §44), take, for example, the context of teaching patterns of reasoning in formally valid deductive arguments. We can present instances of false or fanciful judgements or propositions to demonstrate cases of affirming the antecedent (modus ponens) or denying the consequent (modus tollens):
If all hexagons are square, then all squares are circular [Cpq]
All hexagons are square [p]
Therefore, all squares are circular [q]
If all animals have vertebrae, then all vertebrae have purple indentations [Cpq]
Not all vertebrae have purple indentations [Nq]
Therefore, not all animals have vertebrae [Np]
Van der Schaar acknowledges how Moltmann’s recent essays, employing “ample linguistic evidence,” aim, like Twardowski, to portray that “the notion relevant to logic and philosophy in general is the product, not the act or the proposition” by giving “an account of semantics, propositional attitudes and truth” (36). But van der Schaar wishes to shift our attention to acts of inferring without invoking Twardowski’s problematic notion of abstract propositions. Nor does she wish to rely upon Moltmann’s appeal to propositional attitudes whose (attitudinal) objects are shared, whose properties “may have more than one instance” and hence “abstract,” and whose predication can apply to “more than one object” and hence “general” (39). “What Lucantonio feared was hoped for by Larisa” (cf. 38; a case overlooked by Moltmann (2017, pp. 274-275)) is not simply a proposition or judgement made, let alone an abstract one, but a proposition being true such as “that their cousin Alyssa will arrive next weekend.” Van der Schaar next probes whether we can, according to Twardowski and Moltmann, understand “judgements as bearers of truth or falsity” (40). Doubt emerges whenever we assert a judgement because “it seems more appropriate to call [it] correct or incorrect” (40). If our assertion, in response to the question of how we know, can be justified, then it is correct and such “an epistemic notion of correctness is one of the roles of truth” (40). The other notion can be found when explaining what makes a proposition true as distinct from merely valid as used in logical inferences (see our modus ponens and modus tollens examples above). If the “connectives” of objects and contexts are open to proof, then the “semantic role” of correctness comes to the fore as a bearer of truth (40).
Later, when reviewing theories of knowledge, Twardowski overtly claims that “Logic occupies itself with judgements as products” (1925, p. 186). Van der Schaar immediately questions the inferential relations based on prior judgements made and the judgement made in conclusion:
What are these inferential relations? Do they obtain independently of the judging agent? And what is the product of an act of inferring? … Can we give a unified account of logical inference for cases where we judge the premises … [and] where we merely take the premises as examples without them being judged? (41).
Aware that German distinguishes between schliessen (“to infer” (although also translatable in English as “to conclude … to connect … to deduce … to imply,” etc.)) and Schluss (“inference” or “conclusion”), van der Schaar identifies the act of inferring to be an epistemic act in which the act “has brought us from known premises, former judgements made, to a known conclusion, a new judgement made” (42). This, in turn, leads her to at least three crucial contentions in an effort to complete Twardowski’s act-product distinction regarding the concept of inference:
[a] Firstly, “former judgements made … function as a justification of the conclusion, but as such they are not part of the conclusion, that is, of the product of the act of inference in the strict sense” (42).
[b] Next, “we may also question the act of inference itself. Was the act in order? We distinguish valid from invalid inference schemata [sic] …. An inference rule such as Modus Ponens we know to be valid on the basis of our understanding of implication …. If it is not, if we have made a mistake in the application of the rule, we are not entitled to call it an act of inference: there is merely a purported act of inference … We thus see that implicit in our description of a mistake in inference the notion of rightness of the act …. We now see … a third role of truth: the rightness of the act …. [which] seems to capture the normative role of truth … (44).
[c] Thirdly, “Unlike truth and correctness, rightness does not have an equal conceptual counterpart, such as falsity or incorrectness. The opposite of rightness is APPEARANCE, a form of absence; here the contrast between appearance and reality is at stake …. Only when the act turns out not to be a true act of inference, we can say that it merely has a psychological value” (44-45).
Adapting a logico-linguistic critique of Ryle by Alan White (1971), let us end this second section by re-contextualising inference beyond its treatment by Twardowski and van der Schaar. To infer cannot be categorized as if it were identical with to judge or to think. It does not operate temporally as do the latter pair. Lucantonio could gradually or eventually come to think or judge something; he could ask Larisa or even himself to think or judge something and either of them may subsequently do so. Granted, Larisa may take a considerable time when subsequently thinking or judging whereas Lucantonio takes very little time to do so. But what Lucantonio cannot do is ask Larisa or himself to infer. In other words, to infer cannot be used within a first- or second-person imperative to issue a command or an instruction, an admonishment or a request.
Next, inference does not adhere to the same logical category as judgement or thought. It does not convey the same consequences as do the latter pair. Larisa can more or less explain Lucantonio’s actions, behaviour, or discourse by reference to his judgement or thought that something is (or is not) the case, but not because of his inference that something is or is not. Lucantonio can of course have the same thought or judgement repeatedly, but, just as he cannot repeat the same discovery, he cannot repeat the same inference. This holds although an inference, like a discovery, can be included as part of a reported theory. After all, reporting an inference is not an act of making an inference any more than repeating the report on various occasions is repeating the inference. In short, for Lucantonio to repeat his or another’s inference is not an act of inferring twice.
Although Larisa often infers from something previously or currently experienced, known, or perceived, an act of inferring is not the accomplishment or culmination of a task. She might vacillate between drawing inferences cautiously or rapidly yet often make them on justifiable grounds. For Lucantonio impatiently then to declare “You cannot infer that” is to deny her a logical right or to announce “You must not infer that” is to issue her a logical warning. But has he implicitly presumed here that to infer is a passage towards or a process of reaching a particular point of view? If so, he has misunderstood that to infer is to accept or adopt a point of view which seems to Larisa to explain past or present clues or evidence (but not argumentative premises) such that what she infers contrasts with what she already believes, experiences, or perceives. For example, we could envisage that Larisa might well say to Lucantonio, “From your continuing silence about Alyssa’s planned visit next weekend, I infer that you have no objections.” The reverse, by contrast, would not constitute an act of inferring, but rather an act of deducing a proposition or one of predicting an event: “From your lack of objections, I deduce—in fact, I predict—that you will remain silent.” Not all acts of reaching a conclusion are acts of inferring.
This final section begins with what contributors collectively understand by the third theme of the Brożek and Jadacki anthology, namely, the nature of the analytical movement. Consider Wolénski’s personal aside that his practice is “governed by analytic way[s] of doing philosophy” (51). This remark is made in the context of his realisation that “the majority of problems analyzed in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of language begin with a remark that, for example, we should distinguish science ([or] language) as an activity,” the “results and expressions” of which function “as products of related actions” (51). As summarised in the abstract to his third chapter, Richard pursues the problem of and alternatives to “two traditional conceptions of propositions in analytic philosophy” (79). Both conceptions postulate that propositions are “mind-independent entities,” and hence “intersubjectively sharable,” which operate as “the primary bearers of truth, the meanings of sentences and the objects of propositional attitudes” such as belief and doubt (79). Building an alternative principally based upon the theory of meaning promulgated by Roman Ingarden (1931 & 1937) (85-88; cf. Richard 2021, pp. 158-163), Richard concludes that it “should be confronted with the traditional problems faced by propositions” (91), leaving it open whether this invitation is mainly directed at analytical philosophers. Mariusz Grygianiec’s sixth chapter comprises an account of Tadeuz Czeżowski’s report in the early ‘fifties of how members of the Lvov-Warsaw School such as Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Tadeusz Kortarbiński, and Stanislaw Leśniewski understood “the issues of persistence and identity of objects through time” (125). Grygianiec’s investigation of the central debate over “the problem of internal change (whether qualitative or mereological)” makes only passing allusions to “analytical” philosophical references by Elizabeth Anscombe and Karl Popper in the ’fifties (131, n. 5 & 133, n. 7) and Roderick Chisholm and David Lewis in the ’seventies and ’eighties (125). On one interpretation of being “at the sources of the twentieth-century analytical movement,” none of the four represent the early movement in the ways, say, a Gottlob Frege, a Bertrand Russell or a Ludwig Wittgenstein did.
As hinted in our introduction, many contributions do not overtly explore the nature, let alone the sources, of the analytical movement. For example, the fourth chapter by Dariusz Łukasiewicz on Twardowski and methodological and ontological Psychologismus avoids labelling those discussed from Descartes onwards as analytical. Instead, he mentions “empiricist projects” and “German idealistic philosophy” (96 & 97), “phenomenologists” and “naturalists” (101 & 102). Arkadiusz Chrudzimski’s fifth chapter explores the formation of “idiogenetic” theories of emotions—that is, where emotion is regarded as a fundamental kind of mental phenomenon—in the thinking of Brentano and Anton Marty. Only when he draws comparisons with contemporary Anglo-American philosophers are “pragmatists and anti-realists” mentioned (116); Polish reception to different strands of pragmatic thinking associated with Charles Peirce and William James form the topic of Brożek’s eighth chapter (156ff.). The closing chapters—Ryszard Kleszcz on rationality (207ff.), Brożek again but selectively upon formal and informal logic amongst notable figures in the Lvov-Warsaw School (221ff.), and Marcin Będkowski on the pedagogical dimension connected with the latter—whilst discussing the role of logic and science do not explicitly examine the analytical movement as such.
The editors’ close their anthology with a lengthy appraisal of the significance of Twardowski in Poland and beyond. Before a bibliographical reckoning of Twardowski’s works and influence, their “Closing Word” begins by endorsing the opening paragraph of Betti (2014) (267). She ties Twardowski to Anglo-Germanic analytic philosophers in two ways. Firstly, the distinction in his 1894 thesis “between the content and the object of a presentation” within Brentano’s “theories of the intentionality of mental acts” is “a psychological, non-platonistic counterpart of Frege’s distinction between sense and reference.” Secondly, Twardowski “belonged to a tradition of non-idealistic German-language philosophy” originating with Bolzano and indirectly “influenced … Moore and Russell’s transition from idealism to analytic philosophy.” Subsequently, when rationalising membership of the Lvov-Warsaw “science school,” the editors quote a 2016 interview with Bogusław Wolniewicz, a politically controversial philosopher, who regards it as “determined by two factors”: an animating “common spirit” and an “‘apostolic succession’ … entered … only through contact with the master,” namely, Twardowski (276). What characterizes the analytical movement beyond any component schools adhering to it is left unsaid.
By now, the predominantly allusive character of contributors’ references summarised above suggests that “analytical movement” not only operated in highly heterogenous contexts. Possibly for that reason, it is also constantly attributed to individuals outside Poland such as Frege and Russell or, often more implicitly, to Polish individuals variably associated with the Lvov-Warsaw School such as Ajdukiewicz and Łukasiewicz. With that in mind, we might at first be tempted to resort etymologically to, say, the ancient Attic and Ionic Greek ἀνᾴλῠσις (an unloosening) or ᾀναλύω (to unloosen) in order to establish a commonality. Next, we may equally be tempted to collect lexical definitions of what “analysis” has typically come to signify no matter the domain of enquiry, for example, separating something into its component parts or tracing something to its source and thereby discovering the general principles underlying individual phenomena.
However, a more nuanced approach to dominant kinds of analysis beckons. When considering the formative years of analytical philosophy, especially debates in the early ‘thirties within the Cambridge School and the Vienna Circle, Michael Beany proposes that “three core modes of analysis” functioning singly or jointly can be discriminated (2000, p. 97). In chronological order of their deployment, the “regressive mode” aimed “to identify the ‘starting-points’ … by means of which something can be ‘explained’ or ‘generated’,” that is, a set of “first principles,” “premisses” or “causes” as the means of solving “a given problem (e.g. construct a particular geometrical figure, derive a particular conclusion or explain a particular fact)” (2000, p. 98). Secondly, the “decompositional mode” was “concerned to identify the components—as well as [logical] structure—of something” typically focused even nowadays upon the constituents of a concept or a proposition (2000, p. 98). Thirdly, the “interpretive mode,” which “emerges explicitly in the twentieth century,” is said to paraphrase or “‘translate’ something into a particular framework” (2000, p. 98). In other words, this mode of analysis “presupposes a particular framework of interpretation” and hence “preliminary work is done in interpreting what it is we are seeking to analyse … before we engage in other processes” leading us towards the “more fundamental” (2000, p. 98). Beany concludes:
there is an intricate and continually shifting web of conceptions of analysis involved here, which sometimes combine effectively and sometimes pull apart, and it is this complex and contested web that characterizes, and will continue to characterize, analytic philosophy. (2000, p. 114)
Perhaps this, in turn, underpins why Michael Potter amongst many others finds that “it is surprisingly hard to find a coherent cluster of views that would be subscribed to all those twentieth-century philosophers … taken to belong to the analytic tradition” (2008, p. 69).
Does the difficulty of unequivocally identifying a philosophical movement on the grounds of its pursuit of a distinctive set of topics, problems or methods lie elsewhere? The above-mentioned reaction against Germanic idealism, initially associated with Kant and Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, is one shared not only by the analytic and phenomenological movements, but also by the other two major philosophical movements pursued during the twentieth century, the marxist and the pragmatic. Nor are any of these philosophical movements confined to a specific location let alone a specific language. Occasionally, we find it convenient to talk of geographical and/or linguistic subsets of a movement such as Italian marxist philosophy; at other times, we label a movement by the name of the person initiating novel philosophical methods such as Descartes and his 1637 Discours de la méthode: Pour bien conduire sa raison, & chercher la verité dans les sciences.
That said, is it feasible to identify a philosophical movement by what it excludes rather than includes? Stephen Gaukroger, for example, nominates the failure to use history as a resource for philosophy when no longer “dealing with the pressing intellectual problems of the day—not least in science, religion, and politics” (2011, p. 423). He ends by mapping the twentieth-century terrain as follows:
philosophy, in both its analytic and phenomenological versions, has been shaped by a Kantian conception of philosophy as an a priori enterprise, exploring conceptual, by contrast with empirical, problems …. [T]he dominant view in the twentieth century has been that philosophy, at least in those areas considered to be its core, are self-contained …. And when it does engage with another discipline, such as science for example, it does it in the form of a ‘philosophy of science’, something that abstracts from and stands above the empirical content of science, and considers epistemological and methodological questions that are independent of whatever content the scientific theories have. (2011, pp. 423-424)
Also worth noting is that Gaukroger’s paper, not unlike Beany’s above, focuses upon homogenizing views that were particularly heightened entre-deux-guerres. The analytical movement, it seems, then decontextualised the content of past philosophy “as if the issues” predecessors engaged, “the reasons they had for raising them, the way they approached them, and the expected outcomes of philosophical enquiry, exactly matched modern concerns” (2011, pp. 407-408). Modern concerns were “considered timeless, deemed to have transcended the contingencies of their formulation,” and unhampered by “translation and transmission” (2011, p. 408). Whether all analytical and phenomenological projects, Twardowski’s included, can be similarly accused remains open to debate.
Finally, another kind of omission when accounting for twentieth-century philosophical movements is the role of institutional definitions. This has been overlooked by Brożek and Jadacki’s anthology, notwithstanding Twardowski’s third trajectory concerning intellectual collaboration and critique listed in our first section. Recognising, say, the analytical movement distinctively from an individual’s perspective might well prove problematic for someone being unaware that he or she had entered the terrain of that movement without a philosophical framework or theory to indicate it. Is part of the reason for this situation explicable by re-applying the stance taken by Arthur Danto (1964) before being reconceptualised by George Dickie (1974) with respect to the so-called “artworld”? Here, echoing Danto, the terrain is “constituted” as analytic by virtue of intentionally presented “theories” of or hypotheses about the analytical movement (1964, p. 572). That is, “one use of theories, in addition to helping us discriminate [the analytical] from the rest,” consists in making the analytical movement “possible” (1964, p. 572). Encountering a new class or category of topics, problems, or methods is “analogous to the discovery of a whole new class of facts anywhere, viz., as something for theoreticians to explain” (1964, p. 572). Indeed, the history of philosophical movements is marked by “conceptual” revolutions where a “widely credited theory is being threatened in such a way that all coherence goes” (1964, p. 573)—especially since evolving intellectual movements cannot be defined in terms of necessary and sufficient criteria. Theorists of philosophical movements have to relate their philosophical audience, community, or “world” to what the movement comprises by “an emphasis upon newly significant features” of what has previously been accepted and by providing “quite different accounts of their status” (1964, p. 573). It remains open to members of the philosophical audience, community or “world” to construe the theorist’s role historically or philosophically. To draw upon R.G. Collingwood’s familiar distinction, “In reading the historians, we ‘consult’ them” to cull knowledge we lack; when “reading the philosophers, we ‘follow’ them” to “understand what they think” and “reconstruct … the processes by which they have come to think it” (1933, p. 211). In other words, “What we demand of the historian is a product of his [or her] thought; what we demand of the philosopher is his [or her] thought itself” so that we commit ourselves to reconstructing “the same experience” the philosopher had intellectually engaged (1933, pp. 211-212).
Dickie mitigates Danto’s apparent circularity by reconstruing Danto’s appeal to a “world” as referring to “the broad social institution in which works … have their place” (1974, p. 29). This enables Dickie to accommodate the fact, also recognised by Gaukroger (2011), that the context of institutions varies, sometimes “associated” with “religion,” sometimes with “the state” (1974, p. 30). The expected roles of practitioners, audiences, and their venues are “defined by the traditions” developed within institutions “as an established way of doing and behaving” (1974, p. 30; cf. p. 36). So, whenever Dickie calls a “world” an institution, he is “saying that it is an established practice,” each of whose “systems has had its own origins and historical development” and “each of which furnishes an institutional background for the conferring of … status on objects within its domain” (1974, pp. 31 & 33). At least two conclusions relevant to philosophical movements follow. Firstly, there are no limits on the number of “systems” or traditions under a “generic conception” of philosophy; these, in turn, providing sufficient “elasticity” where “even the most radical” kind of “creativity … can be accommodated” (1974, p. 33). Secondly, the concept of “conferring status” need not be as clear as that within legal institutions “where procedures and lines of authority are explicitly defined and incorporated into law” (1974, p. 35). Counterparts in the “world” of philosophy “are nowhere codified,” yet “there is a practice and this defines a social institution” where “every person who sees [her- or] himself as a member … is thereby a member” who can potentially act on behalf of others (1974, pp. 35-36).
At the Sources of the Twentieth-Century Analytical Movement balances historical data and philosophical provocations for its Anglophone readership. Perhaps, apart from a thorough proofreading, a future re-issue of the collection would benefit by confronting what is meant by the notion of the “analytical movement.”
Beany, Michael. 2000. “Conceptions of Analysis in Early Analytic Philosophy.” Acta Analytica 15(25): 97-115.
Betti, Arianna. 2016. “Kazimiersz Twardowski” [17 May]. In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by E.N. Zalta, accessed at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/twardowski/.
Bolzano, Bernard. 1837. Wissenschaftslehre, Versuch einer ausführlichen und grössentheils neuen Darstellung der Logik / Theory of Science: An Attempt at a Detailed and Largely New Presentation of Logic. Selection edited & translated by Rolf George. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1972.
Brentano, Franz. 1874. Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte / Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint [2nd edn. 1924]. Edited by Oscar Kraus & Linda McAllister; translated by A.C. Rancurello, D.B. Terrell & L.L. McAllister. London & New York: Routledge, 1995.
Collingwood, R.G. 1933. An Essay on Philosophical Method. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Danto, Arthur. 1964. “The Artworld.” The Journal of Philosophy 61(19): 571-584.
Dickie, George. 1974. “What Is Art? An Institutional Analysis.” In Art and the Aesthetic: An Institutional Analysis, 19-52. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Gaukroger, Stephen. 2011. “What Does History Matter to the History of Philosophy?” Journal of the Philosophy of History 5(3): 406-424.
Geschwind, Norman. 1974. “Preface: Random Reports.” In Selected Papers on Language and the Brain, 18-19. Dordrecht & Boston: D. Reidel Publishing Co.
Ingarden, Roman. 1931. Das literarische Kunstwek / The Literary Work of Art. Translated by G.G. Grabowicz. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
——-. 1937. Vom Erkennen des literarischen Kunstwerks / The Cognition of the Literary Work of Art [rev. edn. 1968]. Translated by R.A. Crowley & K.R. Olson. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1973.
Moltmann, Friederike. 2017. “Cognitive Products and the Semantics of Attitude Verbs and Deontic Modals.” In Act-Based Conceptions of Propositional Content: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives. Edited by Friederike Moltmann & Mark Textor, 254-289. New York: Oxford University Press.
Potter, Michael. 2008. “The Birth of Analytic Philosophy.” In The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy. Edited by Dermot Moran, 43-75. London & New York: Routledge.
Reichenbach, Hans. 1951. The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Richard, Sébastian. 2021. “De Significatione: The Brentano-Ingarden Axis.” In Philosophy of Language in the Brentano School: Reassessing the Brentanian Legacy. Edited by Arnaud Dewalque, Charlotte Gauvry & Sébastian Richard, 143-167. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.
Ryle, Gilbert. 1976. “Disgusted Grandfather of Phenomenology.” The Times Higher Education Supplement No. 255, 10 September: 15.
Skolimowski, Henryk. 1964. Polish Analytical Philosophy: A Survey and a Comparison with British Analytical Philosophy. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Twardowski, Kazimierz. 1894/1895. Logik: Wiener Logikkolleg 1894/95 [= Logic: Vienna Lectures, 1894-1895]. Edited by Arianna Betti & Venanzio Raspa. Berlin & Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2016, accessed at: https://pure.uva.nl/ws/files/36582655/Twardowski.pdf
——-. 1895. “Friedrich Nietzsche.” In On Prejudices, Judgments and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited and translated by Anna Brożek & Jacek Jadacki, 369-380. Amsterdam & New York: Brill | Rodopi, 2014.
——-. 1897. “Psychology vs. Physiology and Philosophy.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 41-64. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
——-. 1904. “Address at the Inauguration of the Polish Philosophical Society in Lvov.” In On Prejudices, Judgments and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited and translated by Anna Brożek & Jacek Jadacki, 45-50. Amsterdam & New York: Brill | Rodopi, 2014.
——-. 1912. “Actions and Products: Some Remarks from the Borderline of Psychology, Grammar and Philosophy.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 103-132. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
——-. 1920. “On Clear and Unclear Philosophical Style.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 257-259. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
——-. 1921. “Symbolomania and Pragmatophobia.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 261-270. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
——-. 1925. “Theory of Knowledge: A Lecture Course.” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 181-239. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
——-. 1931. “Address at the 25th Anniversary Session of the Polish Philosophical Society .” In Kazimierz Twardowski on Actions, Products and Other Topics in Philosophy. Edited by Johannes Brandl & Jan Woleński; translated by Arthur Szylewicz, 271-276. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999.
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Reviewed by: Carlo Brentari (University of Trento, Italy)
This valuable essay by Moritz von Kalckreuth develops in the theoretical space left free by the gradual disappearance of any metaphysical notion of personhood and personal identity from modern and contemporary thought. The critique moved by the English empiricists to the alleged substantial solidity of personal identity—made definitive by the transcendental dialectic of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason—reveals the need to think of the person, no longer as a soul (or some other thing-like entity) but in new, more dynamic ways: as a function or a relation, as a process based on emergent properties, as a particular way of the human self-experience, or by adopting still other approaches. Von Kalckreuth’s text is not directly concerned with the historical reconstruction of the long-term process of overcoming metaphysics; rather, it explores the possibilities it allows in the context of twentieth-century German philosophy. In other terms, the dissolution of the Boethian concept of the person as substantia rationalis individua stands as a common, and sometimes unspoken, negative reference for subsequent, contemporary divergent lines of reflection on what it means to be a person.
Without pretending to exhaust the richness of the volume, I would like to focus on what is perhaps the main fracture line among the post-substantialist notions of the person it examines. It is the opposition between three German approaches on the one side (the phenomenological axiology of Max Scheler, the philosophical anthropology of Helmuth Plessner, and the Neue Ontologie developed by Nicolai Hartmann), and, on the other, some analytical theories of personhood (Peter Strawson, John Searle, Harry Frankfurt, David Olson, John McDowell). The time span of this opposition is the twentieth century, but behind the theses of the considered authors it is possible to guess debates of a much longer period. For example, how does one not perceive, behind Hartmann’s idea of the person as form of the objective spirit, a solid link with classical German philosophy? The choice criterion adopted by the author for the continental conceptions he focuses on is also significant. They are all, in different ways, Syntheseversuche; that is to say, attempts to develop a synthetic theory of personality. Scheler, Hartmann, and Plessner sketch the contours of personhood by inserting it in the context of human life and action (the organic, bodily, emotional, and super-individual dimensions). On the opposite pole, analytical philosophy proceeds by discussing single distinctive traits of personhood; typically, analytical philosophers aim at evaluating the significance of the personal traits through mental experiments (i.e., through fabricated situations specifically devised to isolate them under controlled conditions).
In von Kalckreuth’s book, the confrontation between synthetic and analytic approaches to personhood focuses on two key points. The first is the determination of what a person is, from an ontological point of view and with reference to other spheres of the anthropological reality (body, mind, emotional life, etc.). The second is the intersubjective, pragmatic phenomenon of the recognition of an individual as a person inside a given sociocultural context. In our discussion of Philosophie der Personalität, we will proceed by addressing the two key points separately, but without neglecting, when necessary, the links that keep them together as parts of a unitary enquiry.
The core of von Kalckreuth’s book is the critical exposition of three ways of ontological determination of personhood: the theories of Scheler, Hartmann, and Plessner, which are discussed—with extensive textual and critical references—in the central chapters. However, the author does not limit himself to a mere introduction; the very choice to position a reasoned and synthetic study on analytic philosophy before these central chapters provides the reader with a valuable access key to the three Syntheseversuche. If (with rare exceptions) the ontological theories of the person proposed by analytical philosophy remains within the framework of a fundamental individualism, the three continental approaches are, instead, clustered together by the idea that personhood is a diffuse form of life, a collective dimension. In different ways, Plessner, Scheler, and Hartmann keep the approach of the German classical philosophy alive, according to which, for a given entity, the relations with other entities are constitutive and, so to speak, push their effectiveness right into the inner sphere of the entity, co-determining its essence. This approach contrasts sharply with the idea (that prevails, instead, in analytical approaches) that entities have a separate subsistence and relate with each other only in a second phase; in the ways made possible by their different properties.
When applied to the case of personhood, the difference between the two ontological approaches emerges with particular clarity. The analytical authors on which von Kalckreuth dwells move from the common-sense idea that a person is primarily an individual organism, and then ask themselves what requirements this individual entity must fulfil to be considered a person. Following the line pioneered by Peter Strawson and Daniel Dennett, most of analytic philosophy includes, among these requirements, “the presence of mental states […] that are structured in a logical-conceptual way and based on representations” (31). Such mental properties embrace language and communication skills, cognitive self-awareness and ‘I’ centeredness (Lynne Baker), presence of a sense of responsibility and the ability to commit to a coherent line of action, presence of a ‘theory of mind’, or the ability to place oneself from the point of view of other rational subjects, anticipating their reactions and moral judgments. More recent authors, such as Harry Frankfurt, translate this approach in a theory of volition, adding to the distinctive properties of the person the presence of second-level volitions. A personal entity not only wants to be a good friend, but also wants to maintain this volition into the future. A lesser number of authors include, among the conditions of possibility of personhood, non-rational and unintentional forms of relationship with the world, such as the embedding in an umwelt and the presence of pre-rational ‘body pictures’ and ‘body schemas’ (as in the embodiment theory by Shaun Gallaghers). Here von Kalckreuth is very attentive to some recent developments in the analytic philosophy of the person attesting, among other things, that continental phenomenology is, indeed, exerting a valuable influence onto the analytic field.
Despite their variety, the analytical approaches remain unified by the common approach we have highlighted above: personhood is investigated as a property (sometimes, as an emergent property) of an individual entity whose subsistence and duration are ensured in other ways—as a single organism, or a human being. To this common approach, von Kalckreuth contrasts the ‘synthetic’ theories by Plessner, Hartmann, and Scheler, which (in different ways) explore the possibility that the person is, indeed, an entity endowed with ontological autonomy, but that the root of his autonomy is to be sought in its belonging to a collective dimension. The three authors develop this intuition in different ways, depending on their overall philosophies. In Plessner’s philosophical anthropology, personhood appears as a peculiar trait of a particular form of life, the ‘ex-centric positionality’ of the human being; that is, the double nature of human experience, both centred in the body and capable of assuming an external point of view ‘on the body’. The ex-centric position opens to the human being the possibility of seeing himself from the outside. The distance from the present self (with the related phenomena of memory and anticipation) becomes a basis component of the world experience. With reference to a theory of the person, the most relevant element of this form of life is that it allows—and, at the same time, requires—the “access to oneself from the perspective of the other” (93). Plessner calls this condition Mitweltlichkeit, the constitutive belonging of the person to the ‘common world’ of the mutual references to others.
Coming to Nicolai Hartmann’s stratified ontology, the collective sphere of which the person is part, and which substantiates his very existence, is that of the objective spirit. With this concept—clearly Hegelian in its origin, even if integrated in a non-idealistic ontology—Hartmann means the tangible cultural context in which human individuals lead their lives: natural language, traditions, institutions, the corpus of religious beliefs, and other forms of worldview. “For Hartmann, persons are spiritual individuals—that is, individuals who do not exist in isolation each for themselves but are connected to each other. It is the objective spirit that allows this connection, through the common belonging of the persons to it” (132; translation mine). In Hartmann’s ontology, however, the phenomenon whereby the entity-person draws its ontological specificity from the belonging to a super-individual sphere—while remaining rooted in individual organisms—receives a more precise determination. It is, in fact, described as a form of Überbauung, or ‘super-construction’. Überbauung is a relationship between entities belonging to different ontological layers, in which the higher-level entity ‘rests’ on the lower level one without necessarily re-proposing its characteristics, and thus enjoying a real ontological freedom. The person is, for Hartmann, an actual entity, which, although depending on the lower layers (inorganic matter, the body as an organism, and the individual psychic sphere) for its factual existence, enjoys, however, a wide operational freedom. This freedom makes possible the full variety of symbolic and cultural forms that can be found on Earth—real points of concretion and re-elaboration of the personal life in a given historical place and moment. At the same time, inasmuch as he thinks of the person’s freedom as a freedom ‘in situation’, Hartmann’s conception of the person also takes into account the limits placed on the individual action, the resistance opposed to change by languages, institutions, systems of values, and the other subdomains of the objective spirit.
In von Kalckreuth’s text, Plessner’s Mitwelt and Hartmann’s objective spirit are the first two forms of ‘collective’ ontological determination to be discussed. The largest space, a hundred pages altogether, is, however, dedicated to the Syntheseversuch proposed by Scheler. The main reason for this preponderance is explained by von Kalckreuth himself. If, in the works of Plessner and Hartmann, the explicit presence of the term ‘person’ is marginal, and the theses on personhood seem often interchangeable with those on the human being in general (an observation that is especially true for Plessner), Scheler proposes, instead, an articulated theory of the person. This theory varies in the course of his philosophical production, but some key features remain unchanged: the critique of rationalism (which, for Scheler, is an integral part of the rejection of Kant’s formalism), the decided anti-substantialism in relation to personal identity, and, finally, the original definition of the person as a concrete unity of individual acts. The reconstruction offered by Philosophie der Personalität highlights Scheler’s ability to investigate the person’s emotional and relational aspects with an approach that, while remaining phenomenological, knows how to grasp the deep interdependence between the different processes of the inner life. In Scheler’s view, the person is understood as the nucleus (Kern) of all possible emotional acts (of love, hate, attraction…) and decision-making processes of an individual human being. As reported by von Kalckreuth, the person is, for the inner and relational life of the single individual, what the “crystal formula” is for the concrete crystal. The metaphor, which stems from Scheler himself, comes from the natural world. Its applicability to the personal structure, however, is made possible by the fact that, in Scheler’s vitalistic world view, nature is permeated with spirit, so that the hidden teleology that guides the crystal formation can serve as an explanatory figure for the unfolding of the personal core in the individual concrete acts.
It is clear, and von Kalckreuth explains it well, that Scheler’s conception risks introducing a dangerous dualism into the theory of the person. On the one hand, there is the profound unity of the acts, that is the personal centre or nucleus; on the other, there is what Scheler calls the human person (die menschliche Person), the individual human being in his bodily singularity and in his capacity for agency. Incidentally said, neither of the two levels implies the existence of substantial entities—an assumption that would cause Scheler to fall into another, this one insoluble, form of dualism: person and concrete individual as two substances? The person as a substance and the concrete individual as an accident? Scheler tries to maintain his theory of the personal life within the limits of phenomenological evidence, but as far as the ‘core’ level is concerned, his phenomenological approach is constantly exposed to the risk of resorting to a kind of metaphysical intuition, to acts of ‘feeling’ more than of ‘seeing’.
As in the theories proposed by Plessner and Hartmann, also in Scheler’s thinking, the ontological discussion of the person is not limited to the investigation of an isolated individual entity but includes the recognition of the constitutive relationality of the person. This relationality takes the form of the belonging of the person to the “umfassende Persongemeinschaft [comprehensive personal community]”, or “Gesamtperson [general person]”. Gesamtpersonen are, for Scheler, national, cultural, or religious collective bodies supported by internal principles of solidarity and the adherence to a common axiological order (the modern phenomenon of mass society, therefore, hinders the formation of Gesamtpersonen). The admission of this kind of higher-level general persons is very problematic from the ontological point of view. Scheler, in fact, does not limit himself to affirming the personal character of the entities that make up the Gesamtperson, but seems to attribute personality and (to some extent) even responsibility and self-awareness directly to the collective body.
In von Kalckreuth’s discussion of the theories of the person by Plessner, Hartmann, and Scheler, the thought styles of the three thinkers emerge, so to speak, in filigree. Scheler appears as a passionate investigator of the person’s deep emotional life, but also as constantly exposed to the danger of falling into an elusive and hardly verifiable metaphysics of the profound; therefore, the solidity of his views is ultimately entrusted to the positive resonance effects aroused in the reader. Plessner and Hartmann, on the other hand, are representative of a non-reductionist naturalism, open to the possibility that the existence of personal beings does not break nature’s unity in any way. Personhood is, instead, an enrichment, respectively, of the organic life or the ontological reality. Hartmann’s approach, in particular, is an unceasing prompt to categorial precision and the sobriety of the enquiry—especially when it comes to sketching the different levels of reality co-existing around and inside the person.
Our presentation of Philosophie der Personalität has followed, so far, a possible hermeneutic line of the text: the search for the most convincing points of the continental theories of the person proposed by Scheler, Plessner, and Hartmann, in comparison with the analytic philosophies of the person. As mentioned above, this comparison pivots mainly on two key points: the ontological determination of the person (which we have just finished discussing) on the one side, and, on the other, the discussion of the intersubjective process of the recognition of an individual as person—with the strictly related issue of what happens when someone claims to be a person or vindicates for others the same status. It is this second point that we now need to address.
Most analytic approaches start from the assumption that the ontological determination of the person takes place on the individual level, while intersubjective processes intervene only at the later stage of the recognition or vindication of personhood seen as a social and juridical status. The continental theories of the person discussed in Philosophie der Personalität avoid this risk in a twofold way. First, as we have seen, they link the very ontological determination of the person to his belonging to a supra-individual sphere. Second, and more important with reference to our new issue, von Kalckreuth rejects the idea that the intersubjective recognition of an individual as a person could be a sort of screening (Überprufung) of his ontological requirements of personality—as if, at each new encounter, we would screen the rationality, linguistic ability, self-awareness, moral values, and sense of responsibility of entities prima facie indeterminate. Von Kalckreuth underlines how, on the contrary, the recognition of a person consists in the immediate grasping of a phenomenological primary meaning, and of a meaning that, among other things, arises as a condensation or reverberation on the individual entity of a widespread personal context (the Mitweltlichkeit in Plessner, the objective spirit in Hartmann, the Gesamtperson in Scheler).
Von Kalckreuth does not dwell on this possibility, but it is clear that his criticism to the thesis of personal recognition as Überprufung can be addressed not only to the analytic ontologies of the person (which, as we have seen, focus on the individual possession of language, reason, and self-awareness), but also to those continental ‘personalist’ ontologies that (still) base on hypothetical personal Gestalt or essences—uncertain heirs of the substantial soul of the metaphysical tradition. In this kind of personalism, too, the attribution of the status of person goes through a kind of screening phase, the assessment of the presence of the personal essence. Other than the analytical positions, the Überprüfung tends, here, to ascertain the presence of traits that are ‘essential’ for all human beings (but maintains a rigid exclusion stance towards non-human animals). Leaving aside its possible usage towards continental essentialist theories, however, von Kalckreuth’s criticism (supported by the authors he analyses) is very clear: when we are faced with a potential person, we do not evaluate requirements. There is no Überprüfung of originally impersonal entities. As human beings, we lead our life in a phenomenological space that is, so to speak, already predisposed to the emergence of something ‘personal’. This emergence process is spontaneous, unplanned, and takes place in every society. At the same time, this phenomenal space is open to historical variables; ‘filled’ with different historical values and contents. Among the latter, the author notes, there is also the possibility of the socio-political deprivation of the status of person for certain categories, which is, however, nothing but an ex post annihilation of a primary meaning.
The view on personal recognition by the author of Philosophie der Personalität differs not only from the analytic, individualistic theories of the person, but also from those which, in chapter 3 of the first part of the book, are grouped as “postmodern critical theories”. In these theories, personhood would be the mere outcome of performative linguistic acts (such as the claim of oneself as a person), and thus, an only “apparently ontological category” (75; here, von Kalckreuth refers to Judith Butler’s thesis). In other terms, according to the postmodern critical theories, the attribution of personhood would neither hide, nor rely on, any ontological, natural, or anthropological trait of the concerned entity, and the attribution of the status of person would depend exclusively on intersubjective recognition. The third position von Kalckreuth outlines, starting from his authors of reference (Scheler, Plessner, and Hartmann), is that the vindication of the status of person is completely independent by the recognition of individual requirements of any kind, but at the same time, does not rely only on pragmatic and performative acts (in this case, any subjectivity would be a person who, having the capacity to claim itself as such, actually does so). In the collective, ‘widespread’ ontological dimensions theorized by Plessner, Scheler and Hartmann, the processes of claiming and recognizing the individual as person does not happen in vacuo. Performative acts are, obviously, always possible, but their very sense and their outcome depend on the relational space from which they come and into which they fall, and from the resistance they meet in already consolidated institutions, values, and cultural dynamics. That’s why any new claim for personal dignity is effective only if it finds a way to adhere to the pre-existing obstacles, albeit to break them down.
From the phenomenological perspective adopted by Philosophie der Personalität, not every entity gives itself as personal. If, however, it is given in this way in the intersubjective sphere, then many discussions on its ‘ontological eligibility’ for the status of person turn out to be sterile. Consequently, the bioethical question of the status of foetuses, very young children, individuals in a vegetative state or affected by severe cognitive disabilities is also set differently—and differently not only with respect to the analytic theories of the person, but also (again) to the essentialist personalism of many continental bioethics (especially in the Italian context). In fact, it is not a question of verifying the absence or presence of individual personhood requirements, but of starting from the phenomenologically immediate understanding of the belonging of the individuals to a collective sphere of ‘widespread personhood’. In the authors discussed by von Kalckreuth, the Mitweltlichkeit, the objective spirit, and the Persongemeinschaft are primary backgrounds of meaning; quasi transcendental schemes for the phenomenal constitution of the person. What must be questioned is not the reality of these schemes, but their relevance for the case-by-case understanding of which line of conduct is most oriented to justice. Incidentally said, approaches of this kind are difficult to apply to non-human animals, which are, from the phenomenological point of view, an extremely variable set of entities. They convey at times a strong impression of alienity, coldness, and ‘impersonality’ (this is especially true for animals who are phylogenetically very distant from humans, such as reptiles and insects), and at other times a decided closeness to personal modalities of interaction (just think of the high level of individual differentiation of the interactions inside a group of primates, in front of which the researcher spontaneously resorts to expressions such as the ‘personal’ preference or aversion of one member to another).
Adopting the well-known definition of Norberto Bobbio, the person is the “individual raised to value”. If this is true, it is also true that this statement can be understood in two radically different ways, depending on how the elevation to value is understood. Is this process, which takes place through the vindication of oneself as a person and the recognition by others, due to the fact that the individual already has in himself, ontologically, a higher component or ‘essence’? or, on the contrary, is it possible precisely because it does not own anything similar, because it is axiologically neutral and, therefore, offers itself to historical and social processes of valorisation? Here the three authors examined by von Kalckreuth diverge. Plessner’s anthropology and, above all, Hartmann’s ontology lead in the second direction (the individual as a natural being is axiologically neutral, which is a prerequisite for the assumption of personal value). As for Scheler, instead, we can speak of a further enhancement of an original axiological datum. By exposing their different positions and establishing a fruitful comparison with analytical philosophy and postmodern political thought, von Kalckreuth’s text helps the reader to orient himself in the debate on personhood and the theoretical relationship between individual and person—both central questions of contemporary moral philosophy.
 As possessive adjective and pronoun for ‘the person’ or ‘the human being’ we chose respectively ‘his’ and ‘him’, to avoid the connotation of neutrality and impersonality of ‘its’, or ‘it’. A greater accuracy would be obtained through ‘his / her’ and ‘him / her’, but this choice would make the reading harder. In our intention, however, the female form is always included.
 Norberto Bobbio. 1944. La filosofia del decadentismo. Torino: Chiantore, p. 119
Reviewed by: Kenneth Novis (University of Edinburgh, MScR Philosophy)
Manuel DeLanda is best known by some due to the experimental films which he made before beginning his philosophical career; to others, he is known as one of the leading interpreters of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy; to others still, it is because of his association with the so-called speculative realist turn in continental philosophy that his name is recognisable. His latest book is likely to disappoint those familiar with his earlier contributions to continental philosophy. Indeed, Deleuze’s name appears a single time here (200-1n101) and DeLanda’s engagement with speculative realism continues only in the background of this book. Materialist Phenomenology sits more comfortably in the tradition of analytic philosophy of mind, alongside the works of Dennett and the Churchlands, with whom he substantially engages here. More notable is the absence of the many authors with whom DeLanda might be expected to have engaged due to his background in continental philosophy, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Trần Đức Thảo, Michel Henry, Jacques Derrida, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
The purpose of this book is to produce a non-reductive materialism, in opposition to the contemporary prominence of epiphenomenalist, panpsychist and eliminativist philosophies of mind. The leading motivation behind DeLanda’s own philosophy of mind is that, to paraphrase Deleuze, ‘modern neuroscience hasn’t found its metaphysics, the metaphysics it needs.’[i] Furthermore, DeLanda hopes to provide such a metaphysics by developing a novel theory of perception, drawing upon his close engagement with contemporary neuroscience, systems theory, and the science of artificial intelligence. One might be surprised to hear such grand intentions attributed to so brief a book. However, Materialist Phenomenology is extremely dense, requiring careful and deliberate navigation. For that reason, the largest part of this review is dedicated to laying out DeLanda’s arguments from each chapter, following which I will conclude by providing some brief, critical comments on the book.
The Contributions of the World
The first chapter of DeLanda’s book introduces the synthetic approach on which he will rely for the remainder of this work, as well as several key concepts for his theory of perception. However, the ponderous manner in which he navigates his subject matter here makes the overall trajectory of his argument sometimes difficult to discern. One might struggle, for instance, to see the relevance of his critique of Lewis and Kripke’s modal metaphysics on pages 23-4. Indeed, the explicit terms of DeLanda’s argument are not introduced until the conclusion of the chapter, where he clarifies that he is offering a “proof by construction” (38). I will briefly consider the relevance of such a proof and its meaning before proceeding. To begin, let us note that, to offer an account of perception, one option which lies open to philosophers (frequently adopted by phenomenologists) is to begin with the fact that we have a direct awareness of what perception is, as perceiving beings. But, after one has deduced the structures of perception from examining one’s own experience, it may remain a mystery how those structures emerged in the first place. Materialist Phenomenology pursues just such an explanation.
DeLanda’s argument proceeds via proof by construction. Such a proof, in this case, means simulating the origins of perception, and using this simulation to draw real lessons about the historical origins of consciousness. DeLanda calls his simulation the “Multi-Homuncular Model” [henceforth, MHM] (10). The name of this model follows from the method of construction on which DeLanda relies. This book pursues the possibility of modelling the origins of perception using “artificial neural nets” (10). Neural nets are artificial intelligences which, unlike other intelligences that are programmed by a human designer to possess certain capacities, can simply be fed information from which they develop associations autonomously. It may be objected that reliance on software developed by already-conscious beings cannot accurately simulate the origins of consciousness unless the existence of a designer, like the human software designer, is assumed.[ii] However, DeLanda does not consider this objection, and instead relies on a theory of natural signs, according to which the basic components of perception always-already exist in the external world (7-8).
To initiate the construction of MHM, DeLanda begins by providing what he terms a “job description” for perception. This job description names the features which any rudimentary cognitive agent must possess to have access to perception in our sense. For this purpose, DeLanda thinks that perception must possess a causal and intentional connection to the external world (9), create meanings usable by other cognitive agents (11), and emerge from evolution alongside other, similarly perceiving cognitive agents (13). This cannot be all, however. Not only does human perception possess the aforementioned features, it also emerged in a very specific, terrestrial environment which provided the basic form that we use to discern features of the external world. Our world is populated by solid surfaces which appear in consistent shapes (16). Additionally, things in our usual environment have tendencies to behave in one way rather than another, such as the tendency of gasses to maximally expand within a given container (22). Such facts about our material environment evolutionarily present us with a basic datum of what to detect and what to ignore. With this as his description of perception, DeLanda attempts to show that we can move from mere hypotheses about the origins of such perception to demonstrate these origins by simulating each feature using neural nets.
If we accept DeLanda’s use of neural nets as analogues for the origins of human perception, a radically different view of perception presents itself to us. Such a view of perception is at great odds with the classical image of the Cartesian Theatre. On this old image, perception operates by a kind of master-operator or homunculus which observes the visual field as would a viewer in a theatre. Contrary to this, MHM is a non-hierarchical conception which posits a multitude of homunculi, represented by different neural nets, operating autonomously to build up perception as we know it through their spontaneous cooperation. In this case, when sense stimuli are received, they are imagined to activate an array of corresponding data-processing units which “all broadcast their signs to whatever other agents are capable of making use of their content” (29). DeLanda concludes this chapter arguing for MHM’s use in contemporary debates around reductionism, for which mental phenomena “are nothing but physical phenomena” (29). Unlike other models of perception, MHM is emergentist, allowing both the origin of perception in the material world, and the causal efficacy of the mind upon the body, represented in the way in which a program, when implanted in an artificial body, can issue commands to that body making it move.
The Contributions of the Body
The second chapter provides a response to a possible criticism of MHM. MHM in chapter 1 conceives of perception as if it was done by disembodied minds whose sole occupation is the processing of input-data. However, to accurately mirror perception as it occurs in us, “the brain must command and control, not only represent” (39). An intuitive view of embodied artificial intelligence would have it that “when we raise our arm the brain must specify the exact angle that each different joint (shoulder, elbow, and wrist) must end up having, as well as the precise degree of contraction that the attached muscles must have once the target position is reached” (39). Embodiment understood in this way would be unrecognisable to human cognitive agents, and if MHM entailed endorsement of such a view of embodiment, the analogy between neural nets and human perceivers would fail. DeLanda’s argument is that this view of embodied perception does not accurately describe the operations of neural nets outfitted with artificial bodies: the way neural nets occupy bodies is in fact extremely similar to our own.
To show the similarity of embodied artificial intelligence to human embodied perception, DeLanda makes significant use of insights from systems theory. This use of systems theory has been a staple of his philosophical work throughout his career, but it is given a central place in Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. There, he uses the “theory of dynamical systems where the dimensions of a manifold are used to represent properties of a particular physical process or system, while the manifold itself becomes the space of possible states which the physical system can have.”[iii] Imagining the transformations a system can undergo as a space of possible states (a state space), some of those states (attractors) are more statistically likely ones for the system to move into. For instance, due to the elasticity of tendons in human hands, the natural state which they occupy when no other influence is causing them to be otherwise is with the fingers curled slightly towards the palm. However, when a new system is created, such as one including a hand and a box which it is involved in pushing, the hand might be attracted into a flat and stretched-out configuration.
Attractors within a state space also provide the parameters in which the system it represents operates. Continuing with our example, the same elasticity that gives resting fingers their natural state also entails their inoperability when bent too far backwards and broken. Instead of issuing abstract commands, detailing precise dimensions for movement as would the operator of a Taylorist factory, neural nets implanted in an artificial body learn to navigate their environment through the mediation of the parameters and capacities of the body that they occupy. For this reason, the neural net does not need to specify the exact parameters of its intended movement, as the intuitive view of embodied artificial intelligence above claimed. Rather, “much of the computational work would still be offloaded to the dynamics of the robot’s legs interacting with the ground” (40). DeLanda also extends this view of embodiment to a theory of embeddedness, in which “the dynamical system is simply an extension of the body” (43). Dynamic systems theory conceives of systems as open and reconfigurable as they enter into contact with other systems. Because of this, the environment in which a system functions in a very real sense enters into the functioning of that system as well by adding new attractors.
The above accounts only for how the body influences the commands issued by the mind; it is desirable as well to understand how the body is influenced by the structure of its environment. For this purpose, DeLanda introduces the concept of affordance, which describes features of the environment which are activated by the introduction of the right kind of system, such as “medium-sized elongated objects that afford wielding to a human hand” (45). Introducing the concept of affordance suggests the existence of an already well-structured environment in which only certain details become salient based on the kind of agent interacting with them. Summarising his use of affordance, DeLanda suggests that “[r]ather than thinking of the cook’s brain as containing a single unified model of the entire kitchen, and a detailed plan of the overall task we can think of multiple partial models each specific to a task, or even to a single stage in the task” (48). This addition further highlights the potential value of MHM: it removes the need to develop a single, complete cognitive agent to simulate perception, since the same job can be done by a team of only partially functional agents.
The remainder of this chapter returns to the inner sense of embodiment, before dealing at length with several objections to DeLanda’s account of embodiment and embeddedness, primarily those associated with what he calls the “enactive approach” and the “radical embodiment approach” (63). I will pass over the objections for the sake of this review. To explain the inner sense of embodiment, DeLanda focusses specifically on two kinds of internal perception: proprioception and interoception. While proprioception is responsible for the fact that I do not need to look at my hand to know it is raised above my head, interoception “keep[s] the brain informed about the current state of the body’s visceral environment in order to maintain its metabolic balance” (48). By accounting for both proprioception and interoception, DeLanda hopes to show how we also develop our “sense of ownership of our bodies [and] a sense of agency” (50). For this purpose, DeLanda once again relies on a constructivist approach. Internal representations of our body as situated in a three-dimensional environment, and as a complex system requiring biological regulation are “slowly developed as sensory experiences accumulate” (51). The body map built up through these sensory experiences is primarily a way of organising the “steady stream of signs from joints, muscles, tendons and viscera” (57), and this organisational map of internal perception gives “us a sense of ownership of our phenomenal experience” (57).
The Contributions of the Brain
The picture of perception which DeLanda has offered until this point intentionally avoids the question of how external signs become internal ones. The distinction between internal and external signs was explored in chapter 1 in the context of DeLanda’s attempt to offer a job description for internal signs. This job description required that internal signs be causally and intentionally connected to the external world, and that the intentional meaning of these signs be transmissible between cognitive agents who have undergone a similar process of evolution. The discussion of interoception at the end of chapter 2 adds a further condition to the success of DeLanda’s model, since here it is added that “interoceptive information, in turn, is transformed into lived hunger, thirst, and sexual arousal, or into a primordial feeling of anger, joy, sadness, or fear” (68). Now, MHM must not only be able to account for the communicable content of internal signs, but also their emotional content for the cognitive agent that produces them. In other words, the purpose of chapter 3 is to develop MHM to account for the change from signs that merely satisfy the job description in chapter 1, into signs that also have an emotional, lived significance.
To add this requisite complexity to his model, DeLanda begins by “removing, one at a time, the simplifying assumptions” (77) which allowed him to develop an initial, cogent articulation of MHM. This complexifying process begins by moving from hypothetical models of artificial cognitive agents to a “toy model of the brain” (76). Accordingly, this chapter marks a crucial shift in his argument. Until now, his proof by construction has only attempted to show that the qualities of perception with which we are familiar can be replicated with simulations involving artificial neural nets. This chapter “replace[s] artificial neural networks as our main example of a mindless cognitive agent with something more realistic” (79), that is, actual neuronal systems embedded in an organic brain and body. One simplification that DeLanda here discards imagines that the retina functions in a manner analogous to the optical array of a camera. Now, he stresses that the retina should be understood as “capturing not pictures resembling objects but an array of intensities isomorphic with the optical phenomena in the section” (80). This cunningly bypasses the classical problem of the correspondence between mental contents and the external world by acknowledging that the array of photoreceptors in the retina directly encode the external world in a form isomorphic to itself (although this description of mind-world correspondence is complicated again on page 90).
The greatest part of this chapter is devoted to explaining how the features of neural nets as already described apply in similar terms to specific regions of the brain. Assuming DeLanda’s understanding of contemporary neuroscience to be sound, this is an impressive addition indeed, since it decisively shifts the discussion from artificial neural nets to, not only organic systems in the abstract, but the neuronal structure of the human brain as it realises perception in fact. After a prolonged discussion of how the anterior intraparietal area and the premotor areas of the frontal lobe interact in a dynamic loop that allows affordances to exist within perception, DeLanda returns to considering “the role that the biological value system we discussed in the previous chapter plays in this process” (92). For this purpose, he introduces the contribution to perception of two “relay station[s]”, the first comprised of the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and hippocampus, and the second comprised of the brain stem, hypothalamus, and amygdala, although DeLanda does concede that “from the point of view of the neural basis of the biological value system, the amygdala is probably the most important component” (93-4).
It may be wondered at this stage just how a description of the structure of the brain will yield an understanding of the emotive content of internal signs. Furthermore, it is just this emotive content that DeLanda earlier claimed this chapter is meant to explain. However, after describing the neurobiology of emotions, DeLanda concedes that his argument at this stage must be left “deliberately vague” (96) due to the current state of the science. Despite promising to offer an account of the emotive content of internal signs in perception, DeLanda’s conclusion that neuroscience has yet to provide a satisfying account of this may confirm what critics of physicalism have long suspected: that, however much neuroscientific data we acquire on the biological structure of the brain, it will always be insufficient until we have at least discovered a bridge principle adequate for closing what Nagel called “the gap between subjective and objective”.[iv] Be that as it may, DeLanda’s suggestions, although not obviously providing a satisfactory bridge principle, may give suggestions concerning the form that such a bridge principle could take.
The standard approach to dealing with the hard problem of consciousness begins with the qualitative difference between mind and body, and provides a description of how the latter realises the former. DeLanda’s attempt to provide an account of the emergence of internal signs in their emotive aspect should be seen as a variant on the hard problem of consciousness, to the extent that he is trying to explain how the functions performed by the brain come to acquire a lived significance. However, he does not begin to deal with this problem as most do. His way of beginning is instead similar to Searle’s. Searle writes: “I believe that the key to solving the mind-body problem is to reject the system of Cartesian categories in which it has traditionally been posed. And the first step in that rejection is to see that ‘mental,’ naively construed, does not imply ‘non-physical’ and ‘physical’ does not imply ‘non-mental.’”[v] Likewise, DeLanda states that “given that we need consciousness and intentionality to emerge gradually, we must give up any model that includes only two levels, such as the brain and the mind” (96). Accordingly, DeLanda’s suggestion is that what might serve as a bridge principle “will involve introducing intermediate levels between the two” (98) which do not involve qualitative differences but greater degrees of systematic unity and coordination between a plethora of non-conscious, rudimentary cognitive agents.
The Contributions of the Mind
Operating within the limits imposed on his explanation by the current state of science, the last chapter of DeLanda’s book offers some final additions to MHM to help with overcoming the hard problem of consciousness. In this context, DeLanda’s humility is certainly appreciated. At the end of this chapter, he clarifies that “[i]ntroducing intermediate levels between the brain and a subject who can issue reports does not solve the hard problem but it does break it down into three more tractable problems. And it points to the direction we must follow to find the solution: a methodology that combines analysis and synthesis, starting from the bottom and moving upward” (139). What these three problems are will be seen in the following. DeLanda begins here, surprisingly, by attempting to show that at least three forms of perception (the perception of properties, objects, and situations) do not involve the use of concepts. Why this matters is not at all obvious; and, as another reviewer has noted, it goes against much of the received wisdom on the theory-ladenness of experience.[vi] An explanation of this decision is offered in the book’s introduction. It might be objected that a neurobiological account of perception is sufficient only for explaining perception in organisms less complex than we are. However, “[t]here is no deep discontinuity between animal and human visual experience, as there would be if linguistically expressed concepts shaped perception” (2-3).
If not by means of concepts, how does perception access the sense-data presented to the retina? Most of this chapter is devoted to developing DeLanda’s alternative, that it is instead preferable “to view the perception of properties as performing a measurement function, to view the perception of objects as performing the function of separating the perspectival from the factual, and the perception of situations as having the function of allowing qualitative judgements about the relations between objects” (113). His attempt to prove that none of these kinds of perception involve concepts is unlikely to convince anyone committed to the contrary view. Consider, for instance, how DeLanda deals with the perception of situations. After dubiously asserting that there is no need to depend upon concepts to ask the question “What is that?” (125), he proceeds by appealing to vervet monkeys, who can perform a variety of tasks related to attention and specification “without possessing any sortal concepts” (126). However, DeLanda makes his case here using a doctored understanding of what a concept is. He takes as intuitive the view that a prototype which “does not stand for an essence or abstract universal” (126) is not a concept. But what of the concept of a game? It is well established that such a concept would stand for neither an essence nor an abstract universal, encoding instead a variety of mere family resemblances, and being much closer to what DeLanda calls “a construct capturing statistical regularities in the objects actually used for training” (126).[vii]
The above concerns DeLanda’s attempt to deal with the “easy problems of consciousness, that is, the problems that can be tackled by cognitive psychology and the neurosciences” (129). From this point on, he tries to build a solution to the hard problem of consciousness, on the principle that “the brain monitoring its own activity is the key to the solution to the hard problem” (129). By this, DeLanda means the following. It is strictly incorrect to speak of perception as the perception of qualities in the external world. Instead, wherever there is perception, it is perception by the mind of the various neuronal circuits and the way they behave when subjected to certain kinds of stimulation of the retinal array. Thus, “[f]ar from being an input from the world, perception is more like an intermediate output, and the volition behind an action is not an output to the world but an intermediate input to the motor areas of the brain” (102). Allowing that perception is not perception of the external world, but perception of changes within the brain “eliminates the idea that the visual field is like a veil separating us from reality, as well as the idea that the transparency of this veil must be accounted for” (130).
Let’s see how DeLanda’s multilayer approach deals with the hard problem of consciousness. For this purpose, DeLanda distinguishes between four different senses of the word ‘consciousness’: arousal, alertness, flow, and selective awareness (137-8). In each case, he shows that MHM can simulate the different kinds of conscious phenomena in question. What is most surprising is that qualitative experiences, sometimes called qualia, enter into none of the senses of consciousness DeLanda defines. This begs an important question: in showing that, beginning with a multiplicity of mindless cognitive agents we can simulate arousal, alertness, flow, and selective awareness, has DeLanda shown how such systems realise consciousness? But there is no answer to the hard problem of consciousness which does not explain how it is possible for the operations of mindless things, even teams of mindless data-processing units, to produce conscious states. Along these lines, the three constitutive problems into which DeLanda analyses the hard problem concern the emergence through evolution of what he calls protoselves, core selves, and autobiographical selves. However, only the emergence of protoselves is analogous to the hard problem since the development of protoselves is the stage at which mindless systems “slowly get the ‘sentient’ part to emerge” (139). And the closest DeLanda comes to explaining how protoselves emerge is the following: “The emergence of protoselves in the course of evolution may be due to the fact that the internal milieu displays a greater degree of constancy than the body as a whole” (69).
With the core arguments of DeLanda’s book aside, I want to conclude by offering three considerations pertaining to the success and nature of his project. In the first case, consider the following. DeLanda’s book begins with the claim that “[t]raditionally, communication between philosophers of the materialist and phenomenological schools has been limited” (1). But this is not remotely true. It would be more correct to claim, as Derrida did, that attempts to synthesise materialism and phenomenology have consistently resulted in “impasse.”[viii] DeLanda’s attempt to bring materialism and phenomenology into dialogue with one another suffers from this same fault. However, his attempt does so differently than have many others. Rather than approaching this reconciliation through the mediation of social interaction and language, DeLanda decisively rejects the relevance of these “meso-scale” (143n4) phenomena for understanding consciousness itself. Instead of approaching the reconciliation of materialism and phenomenology through the highest order of material phenomena, social and economic factors, DeLanda’s approach begins from the lowest: the biological evolution of neuronal networks ultimately possessing rudimentary consciousness.
Secondly, for a work which purports to produce communication between materialism and phenomenology, it is remarkable that there are no discussions whatsoever of the core components of the phenomenological method, such as epoche or noesis. This calls into question the sincerity of the rapprochement being offered. DeLanda’s approach, apart from ignoring the work of actual phenomenologists, sides consistently with phenomenology’s critics. There is an unmistakable affinity between Dennett’s ‘hetero-phenomenology’ and DeLanda’s claim that the “tendency of the conscious mind to make sense of its decisions and actions, results in the fabrication of explanations after the fact” (97). Despite this, the book concludes by adding, “[a]nd this is why it is so important to adopt a materialist approach to phenomenology” (141). But the arguments of the book have nothing to do with adopting a materialist approach to the deduction of the transcendental categories of experience, as one might expect this closing statement to mean. Rather, DeLanda appears to mean ‘phenomenology’ in the sense in which it is more frequently used in analytic philosophy of mind, where it refers to the general quality of experiential states, instead of the rigorous study of experience which begins from within subjectivity itself.
Thirdly, a contrast should be made between the kind of account of perception that DeLanda attempts to provide, and the kind of account that he actually provides. He declares his theory to be a variety of “non-reductive materialism”, which for him means “first, that there are mental properties that are different from physical properties; second, that the existence of mental properties depends on the existence of physical properties; and third, that mental properties can confer causal powers on mental events” (1). However, MHM tries to solve the hard problem of consciousness by positing a continuum between the physical and the mental such that there are between the two “intermediate levels [which] implies a graded conception of both intentionality and consciousness” (134). This solution may be inconsistent with DeLanda’s commitment to a conception in which mental and physical properties really are different. Given some continuum, for instance between hot and cold, it can be granted that the properties lying at either end are really different in some sense. However, this kind of difference is not the kind that a non-reductive materialism requires. Representing differences along a continuum implies their representation as differing in terms of something continuous between the two, reducing the difference to a difference in degree. But the claim that between conscious and nonconscious things there is only a difference in degree is something that even reductive materialists can assent to. A truly nonreductive materialism must successfully maintain the difference in kind between minds and bodies, and since DeLanda’s theory does not offer this, it is perhaps incorrect to call it non-reductive.
The project behind Materialist Phenomenology is a highly ambitious one; and insofar as ambition and innovation themselves deserve praise, DeLanda’s work is clearly laudable. However, the careful reader of this book will inevitably discover many questionable inferences. I am greatly sympathetic to attempts to defend non-reductionism within materialism. I also agree with DeLanda’s initial premise that such a materialism must be brought about by cultivating communication between materialism and phenomenology. But, as with any worthwhile discussion, this communication must transpire among equals. This would mean taking seriously what phenomenologists have learned throughout the last century of their deliberations on the meaning and nature of consciousness. In Materialist Phenomenology, the materialist has been handed the megaphone, and the voice of the phenomenologist has been drowned out by the amplified orations of their interlocutor. Despite this, DeLanda must be applauded: even if the attempt to unify materialism and phenomenology has failed here (and, if Derrida is to be believed, may always fail), the attempt itself is something which unfortunately few philosophers today aspire to enact.
[i] Paraphrasing Deleuze, G. 2007. “Responses to a Series of Questions,” in Collapse, Volume III. London: MIT Press, p. 41.
[ii] For closer treatment of this objection, see Negarestani, R. 2018. Intelligence and Spirit. Falmouth: Urbanomic.
[iii] DeLanda, M. 2013. Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy. London: Bloomsbury, p. 5.
[iv] Nagel, T. 1974. “What is it like to be a Bat?” The Philosophical Review (83:4), p. 449.
[v] Searle, J. 1991. “Response: The Mind-Body Problem,” in John Searle and His Critics, ed. Lepore, E. and Van Gulick, R. Oxford: Blackwell, p. 141.
[vi] Richmond, S. 2022. Manuel DeLanda, “Materialist Phenomenology: A Philosophy of Perception”, Philosophy in Review (42:2).
[vii] Cf. Wittgenstein, L. 2009. Philosophical Investigations, trans, Anscombe, G.E.M., Hacker, P.M.S., and Schulte, J. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, §67.
[viii] Derrida, J. 1983. “The Time of a Thesis: Punctuations,” in Philosophy in France Today, ed. Montefiore, A. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.