Martin Heidegger: On Inception.

On Inception Book Cover On Inception
Martin Heidegger. Translated by Peter Hanly
Indiana University Press
2023
Paperback
194

Reviewed by: Shawn Loht (Delgado Community College, New Orleans, USA)

This edition marks the first English-language translation of Über Den Anfang (GA 70), an entry in Heidegger’s so-called “esoteric writings.”  These writings consist of private notebooks from the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, in which Heidegger tries out different approaches for describing the phenomenology of the origins of being and meaning.  Notably, none of these writings were available to the public during Heidegger’s lifetime, as he intentionally chose for them to become available only after his death.  Contributions to Philosophy (Beiträge zur Philosophie) (GA 65) is the most well-known of the esoteric writings, but other titles now familiar to Heidegger scholars include Mindfulness (Besinnung) (GA 66) and The Event (Das Ereignis) (GA 71).  As with these other texts, in On Inception Heidegger does not present a systematic or progressive exegesis.  Rather, the text is loosely organized according to general themes, with short sections that provide microstudies on specific topics.  On Inception is divided into six principal divisions, with the first two of these taking up more than half of the book.  Both of these first two divisions analyze at length the phenomenon of “inception,” while the remaining four study “event” and being-there, interpretation, the history of being/beyng, and Heidegger’s own work Being and Time, respectively.  In all instances, the numbered sections comprising these divisions of the text show significant repetition and thematic overlap.  One gets the sense in the course of reading that Heidegger is experimenting to find the words and locutions for what he wants to say, in a manner that no single statement or argument is meant to be authoritative.

In what follows, I will highlight some of the text’s key concepts and some of the notable positions Heidegger develops.  First and foremost, as he describes in the first division, the term “inception” (Anfang) signifies for Heidegger the dawn of being in the West, the moment in which being (Sein) takes hold and history eventuates.  Likewise, inception marks the moment at which the ontological difference comes to life, such that human thought begins to identify both “being” in general, and “beings” or specific things as such.  But “inception” does not denote a temporal unfolding.  It is not an event happening in time, and it does not mark a point between “before” and “after.”  Finding the right language to express this dimension poses a challenge.  “Inception” refers to the moment in which time comes to be, and in which “being” arrives as a meaningful concept.  (In the third division, Heidegger describes pre-inception reality as “the beingless” (98).)  Indeed, in most of the passages devoted to this theme, Heidegger uses the more archaic Seyn, or in the English translation, “beyng,” to indicate the primordial sway of being in terms of effecting an origin and destiny.  He often refers to beyng in terms of the entire historical epoch of the West, whereby “being” is instantiated as such.

Much of the account of inception involves describing the phenomenology bound up with such a beginning of being.  For instance, Heidegger characterizes inception as, on one hand, concomitant with a clearing or unconcealment, through which world and things first become ontologically conspicuous.  On the other hand, this clearing entails a concomitant “receding” (Untergang), whereby being withdraws further and further from view.  This latter phenomenon for Heidegger reaches its apex with the total abandonment of being in the epoch of twentieth-century technology.  Whereas Heidegger leaves many gaps in the explanation of this historical phenomenon in more popular writings like “The Question Concerning Technology” (GA 7) and An Introduction to Metaphysics (GA 40), the analyses in On Inception suggest that he regards receding as a definitive, necessary dimension of inception.  (“In the first inception the arche emerges, but incipience begins only in the intimacy of retreat” (12).  The moment of inception at the dawn of Western history immediately entails an unnoticed concealing, such that what is at first most illuminated is countered by a receding that becomes less conspicuous with the duration of history.  The clearing in which being comes to appearance is countered by its unseen groundlessness.  For Heidegger, this receding that counters the clearing is just as relevant at the end of beyng’s history as it is at the beginning.

As expressed in other writings from this period of Heidegger’s career, the “end” of inception’s initial reign at once makes the beginning fully apparent, and discloses hints of a second or “other” inception.  Here, however, Heidegger inclines toward describing the second inception as merely the next in a potentially infinite series.  This is to say, he uses less frequently the locution “other beginning” (andere Anfang) known from texts like Contributions to Philosophy and Basic Questions of Philosophy (Grundfragen der Philosophie) (GA 45), favoring a view in which inception has a cyclical character, though it need not manifest the same shape every time.  Similarly, a contrast with Contributions Philosophy’s better-known concept of “appropriation” (Ereignis) that one sees in Heidegger’s account of inception is an emphasis on inception’s atemporal character, out which space-time comes to be.  Whereas Heidegger’s accounts of Ereignis emphasize the twofold, appropriative correspondence of being with being-there occasioned in Ereignis, the account of inception places more focus on the very moment of inception itself, asking as it were, what it means to describe beyng purely as inception (Anfang), as having a beginning.  Heidegger often invokes the keyword “incipience” (das Änfangnis) to describe inception’s continuous, singular character, according to which it is constitutive of history.  For instance, Heidegger writes “Incipience determines and ‘is’ the essential unfolding of inception” (6).  Incipience signifies “a way whose scope and configuration is in inception’s being in itself the essence of history” (Ibid.).

Beyng (Seyn) is essentially bound up with describing inception.  In this text, beyng (Seyn) refers not simply to being (Sein), and definitely not to beings (Seiende).  Instead, the “question of being,” Heidegger suggests (echoing the scope of the Being and Time project), is more deeply the question after inception: “Being remains, always, what is said; however, the essence of beyng is not beyng, but is rather the incepting inception.  From this, and as this, beyng incepts (and that also means recedes) into its proper domain” (10).  In other words, we do not and cannot cease to live amongst beings, from which our reckoning with the question of the meaning of being is always determined.  Yet, to ask about the dawn or origin of being entails inquiring more deeply into the inception (Anfang), or literally, the taking-hold (An-fangen) of beyng.  Heidegger writes: “Incipience is the ground of the poetic character of beyng” (18).

The second division of the text, entitled “Inception and Inceptive – Thinking the Creative Thinking of Inception,” continues the themes of the first division while placing emphasis on a kind of meditative reflection.  In Section 72, Heidegger makes explicit that inception is a singular phenomenon but with multiple manifestations, that is, multiple inceptions.  Each subsequent inception is nonetheless a manifestation of the same underlying movement.  “Each inception is more inceptive than the first, and thus is this inception itself in its singular future” (71).  An appropriate intuition of an inception to come calls not for action but instead for a meditative waiting and thoughtfulness.  Although one cannot predict how inception will unfold, simply the ability to distinguish the name of “inception” and what it entails offers some preview of the impending epoch (87).  Referring to the historical moment at his time of writing, Heidegger observes that German culture in contrast has mistakenly pursued goal-setting, machination, and achievement, all of which only lead to destruction.  He echoes and recasts here the famous passage from An Introduction to Metaphysics that begins “All distances in space and time are shrinking…”, published just a few years before this writing, stating “No longer can it be asked: ‘To what end?’  The simple plight alone is to be knowingly accepted” (Ibid.).  He concludes that there is no sense in thinking of present history as having a human-directed “purpose” or destiny, because the destitution of the age is under the sway of beyng (Ibid.).  There is not some other historical trajectory that human beings can bring about by sheer force of will.  Thus, he gives a preview here of his later concept of Gelassenheit or “letting-be.”  In the following section, he draws this point out in observing that preparedness for inception will become manifest when language and images cease to yield food for thought (72).  This passage echoes statements from elsewhere in the esoteric writings to the effect that in a future time, thinking will become “imageless,” viz., that in this future guise, we discover a kind of thinking that does not rely on the affordances of sight or the outward look of things.  Whereas in the present, we are still under the way of being understood as idea, what is visible (75).

The fourth division of On Inception pivots from the earlier themes of the book, with a series of reflections on poetry and the legacy of Hölderlin.  One key theme is the appropriate understanding of “interpretation,” where this concept in its modern context is taken to mean correct “reading” of history and texts.  Heidegger takes issue with the proposition that interpretation involves “correct” or “objective” analysis, maintaining instead that interpretation involves hearing the inceptive word.  He writes: “For interpretation must first ground itself more inceptively from out of itself, surrendering to inception and to history, so that it might emerge more inceptively from its inception” (121).  In contrast, to talk of “escaping” the hermeneutical circle that is typically invoked in discussions of “objective” interpretation overlooks that the sway of beyng dictates the circle within which one moves.  Indeed, there is no escape, nor is there any such circle to be inside or outside of, aside from beyng (126).  Regarding Hölderlin, Heidegger goes on to state that this poet’s importance has nothing to do with seeking knowledge or founding truth.  Instead, the poet poetizes being, “naming therein the domain of historical decision in its own poetic essence” (132).  Here Heidegger describes that Hölderlin does not “think” the other inception, in the way that this is the subject matter of his work.  Rather, Hölderlin’s poetry provides clues about the other inception for those who are able to think ahead to the epochal decision the poems indicate (Ibid.).  For Heidegger, the futural phenomenon Hölderlin identifies is the “holy” (130).

The fifth division of the text, entitled “The History of Beyng,” finds Heidegger meditating on how to understand the time-instantiating dimension of beyng or “inceptive history” (144).  A central question concerns how to describe beyng as an occurrence that itself is not temporal.  Heidegger writes of this occurrence: “Nothing happens.  The event eventuates.  The evental appropriation takes on what it at the same time clears as its own: the clearing itself, which is the ownness of beyng” (143).  To seek for a whatness, something that can identify the history of beyng’s essence, misses the point, mistaking the history of beyng for a being proper.  The history of beyng is groundless; it “happens” as itself (Ibid.).  Consequently, the history of beyng cannot be studied or known as an object of historiography (Ibid.).  Similarly, other phenomena occasioned with the history of beyng, such as concealment, unconcealment, clearing, and being-there, are likewise irreducible to temporal moments (143, 145).  Instead, they comprise the inceptive, groundless ground in which the temporal can take hold at all.

Another theme receiving treatment in the fifth division (already peppered throughout the first four divisions) is the growing conspicuousness of inception (147), by virtue of its distance from the present.  While Heidegger observes that inception is essentially concealment, and moreover, concealment that becomes more and more hidden as history elapses, this concealment has a double effect of becoming more silently conspicuous over time as its absence becomes further pronounced.  For Heidegger, this progression is manifested in the history of metaphysics and its subsequent abandoning of being for the sake of beings, such that at the end of metaphysics, it becomes painfully obvious that being no longer has any meaning; being has become an empty notion (148).  Here and elsewhere, Heidegger is not much re-inventing the wheel or introducing new vocabulary.  But he is offering some deeper and more patient phenomenologies that fill in considerably many claims from the more well-known texts in his corpus.

In the final division of the text, Heidegger reflects on the relevance of the phenomenon of inception to the Being and Time project.  In Section 172, he comments that Being and Time reflects “onto-historical inceptive thinking,” viz. that the project of that work is essentially about inception in its scope (161).  Although, Heidegger’s implication is that his own writing of Being and Time did not sufficiently comprehend this fact.  Continuing, he writes, with a series of line breaks:

Being and time are the same.
Being is inception.
Time is inception.
The incipience of inception (Ibid.).

He concludes by remarking that “the age is not ripe” to engage in a full criticism of Being and Time vis-à-vis its relevance for the phenomenon of inception, because readers are too eager to interpret the work merely as a continuation of metaphysics.  The register of this statement implies that critics of Being and Time are unable to comprehend the broader phenomenological direction that work opened up.  (Here, we have to remember that, as Heidegger is writing this text a mere 12-15 years after Being and Time’s publication, most of Heidegger’s audience would have had no inkling of his concerns regarding inception, the appropriative event, or the history of beyng, and so forth.)  To similar effect, in Section 174 Heidegger invokes Kant and Hegel in order to contrast his own understanding of the Being and Time project with views of critics that Being and Time concerns only transcendental conditions for the possibility of experience.  Kant’s project, Heidegger remarks, only takes up conditions for experience regarded from knowledge of beings or objectivity.  Similarly, Hegel’s project purports to unravel the conditions for experience based on an “unconditioned”; however, like Kant, Hegel fails to realize that arriving at the unconditioned fundamentally differs from insight into beyng.  In this aspect, Hegel does not overcome the transcendental but only draws out its metaphysical implications.  Heidegger concludes “All conditioned is abysmally separated from appropriative event” (163).

In Section 175, communicating his own assessment of what Being and Time failed to achieve, Heidegger concludes:

Only one thing was already clear and fixed at that time; that the way into the truth of being headed toward something unasked and could no longer find support in what came before, as other pathways were to be investigated.

Initially, nonetheless, supports were borrowed from metaphysics, and something like an attempt at overcoming metaphysics through metaphysics was advanced.

[…] although the direction of the question has already leapt over all metaphysics (Ibid.)

Heidegger’s self-criticism here ostensibly centers in the notion that, while the Being and Time project began with metaphysics, any attempt to resolve the question of the meaning of being necessarily entails pressing the language of metaphysics to its limits.  This outcome enables one to envision what new language must arise next.
To conclude, On Inception offers many helpful explorations that supplement themes from Heidegger’s entire corpus.  In this way, the book has something for everybody among readers of Heidegger.  Nonetheless, its immediate audience will be very narrow, given that it is a private writing not originally conceived for publication.  Scholars who stand to benefit most from engaging with this book will be those studying Heidegger’s accounts of the history of being/beyng and the appropriative event (Ereignis).  The book’s value for providing insight into Heidegger’s actual thought will be somewhat more tenuous.  The experimental style of the book makes questionable whether the content represents positions Heidegger wishes to advance or whether Heidegger is simply trying out various ideas.  Current Heidegger scholars including Thomas Sheehan and David Kleinberg-Levin favor treating the esoteric writings as primary sources informative for comprehending Heidegger’s philosophy overall.  Yet, some care is surely called for in this approach.  In this regard, I suggest that caution may be in order if one is tempted to place On Inception on equal ground with books Heidegger published in his lifetime.

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Giulia Cabra: Il valore dell´altro. Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl

Il valore dell’altro: Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl Book Cover Il valore dell’altro: Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl
Itinerari filosofici
Giulia Cabra
Mimesis
2023
Paperback
348

Reviewed by: Celia Cabrera (CONICET/ National Academy of Sciences of Buenos Aires)

Giulia Cabra’s book, Il valore dell’altro. Intersoggettività, amore ed etica in Edmund Husserl, proposes an insightful analysis of the intersection between two central themes of Husserlian phenomenology: Intersubjectivity and ethics. As indicated by the title, the guiding question that runs through the work concerns the value of the other, a topic of great relevance in phenomenological ethics. The question can be resumed as follows: How is the other given as a subject of value? More specifically: What conceptual elements of Husserl´s phenomenology provide the basis for recognizing the value of the other? Answering this question makes it necessary and justifies Cabra’s proposal for a complementary approach, insofar as it is a theme that besides being addressed at the axiological-ethical level must be anchored in the most basic foundations of Husserl´s theory of the experience of the other. Cabra´s book shows that this overlap of themes is fruitful in both directions: Ethical-axiological analyses expose the deeper meaning of some basic elements of Husserl´s transcendental theory of intersubjectivity (especially, with regard to his understanding of the lived body), and the transcendental theory of intersubjectivity lays the groundwork for an ethical account of alterity that goes beyond its own means (especially, through the analysis of love). In the author´s own words, the hypothesis that serves as a point of departure of the work is that «a synergistic reading of Husserl’s reflections on intersubjectivity and ethics allows for theoretically original and fruitful outcomes for the deepening of both realms within the author’s thought” (p. 307). Certainly, the task is not easy and requires a reading of a wide range of texts in which Husserl devoted himself to reflections on both intersubjectivity and ethics, at various stages of his philosophical production and with different methodological approaches. Cabra’s work proposes a journey through multiple writings of Husserl, tracing a thread that extends from the analyses of the experience of the other in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation to the research manuscripts on ethics from the Freiburg years, and which covers static, genetic, transcendental, personalist, and communitarian approaches.

In the process of laying the groundwork for addressing the question of the value of the other, the book delves into various topics in detail, many of which cannot be fully covered in this review. In the following sections, I will outline the main aspects developed in the book and delineate its broader argumentative strategy.

The book is divided into two main sections, each of which follows one of the two proposed paths: The first section follows the path through the lived body (Leib), while the second section follows the path through love (Liebe). Broadly speaking, the three chapters that make up the first section of the book (entitled La via del Leib: Individuazione, libertà, valore) aim to shed light on the fundamental elements that explain the constitution of the experience of alterity. This is accomplished by first delving into Husserl´s analyses of the sphere of owness and later going deeper into the intersubjectively shared world.

The first chapter is devoted to the transcendental theory of the experience of the other (Fremderfahrung) as developed by Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation and in related research manuscripts published in volumes XIII, XIV, and XV of Husserliana. The key question posed by the author there is whether such transcendental analysis contains elements that make it possible to highlight how the other subject is experienced as a subject of value (cf. p. 21). The chapter begins with a focus on the primordial sphere. Against this background, the author aims at showing the centrality of the lived body as an organ of perception (Wahrnehmungsorgan) and an organ of the will (Willensorgan). The role of corporeality in the constitution of perception, as developed by Husserl in the Dingvorlesungen (Hua XVI),  is addressed showing that the lived body is a system of passive and free kinesthesia, on which perception depends. In order to clarify how the passage from the perceptual level to the volitional level is motivated, Husserl´s analyses of the «I can» in Ideas II are considered. The result of these analyses is that the lived body is the primary form in which the «awake subjectivity» (wache Subjektivität) manifests itself. Moreover, the Leib is the place where the perceptual-sensory layer and the personal-spiritual layer intermingle, and where the freedom of the incarnated transcendental ego is established (cf. p. 310). 

Chapter 2 turns to the dynamics of the encounter with the other subject. A special analysis is devoted to the phenomenon of expression (Ausdruck), i.e., to the fact that the other appears always through an expressive body that manifests different degrees of will. It is by virtue of expression that the other appears as a subject of free movement, as a free subject. This chapter introduces one of the most important ideas of the work, namely, the freedom of the person which the author anchors on Husserl´s conception of the lived body. According to Cabra, given the conditions that make it possible for the other subject to be recognized as a transcendental subject, the same conditions also enable their recognition as a free subject. The Leib makes this transition possible and indicates the fundamental freedom of the other (cf. p. 313). This freedom is evidence of the fact that the person has a value of its own (Eigenwert). The proper value of the person is linked to their status of being a free individual, capable of being an ethical subject (as she will show later, this means responding to the categorical imperative). As she claims later on: «This confers upon it the predicate of the value of dignity (Würde): freedom makes the person different from every other worldly being and confirms the initial intuition of inviolability by the personal subject, already indicated by the identification of the Eigenheitssphäre» (p. 313). Bringing the themes of freedom and dignity to the fore is one of the merits of this book. To my knowledge, few works in the exegesis of Husserl´s writings address these themes, which remain in the background of his ethical account of the human person.

In this point, it is noticed that those elements of the experience which are the conditions of possibility of the intersubjective experience are not completely reducible to the primordial sphere, but refer to a personal intersubjective dimension of the Umwelt that only are disconnected from the Eigenheitsphäre by means of abstraction. This indicates the path taken in Chapter 3, which serves as a bridge to the second part of the book devoted to the axiological and ethical analyses. Cabra shifts there to the personalist perspective to consider intersubjective experience as a part of the surrounding world (Umwelt), which is a shared world. This shift of perspective to the personalist attitude is a crucial step to approaching the topic of the work: the comprehension of the other as a subject of value. As Cabra explains, «The encounter with the other, which is made possible because they appear through the Leib, is always inserted in a personal horizon. Only from this perspective is it possible to find the value of the other» (p. 159).

The second section of the work (La via della Liebe: Dovere e chiamata, empatia, prossimità), divided into four chapters, proceeds along the lines of the previously announced change of perspective, from the attitude focused on the sphere of owness to the personalist attitude. This section focuses on Husserl´s reflections on ethics from the Freiburg years, especially, on his analyses of love published in the fourth section of Husserliana XLII, Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie.

Having introduced the Husserlian approach to love in Chapter 1 of this section, in which the author highlights the intentional emotional nature of love and its normative dimension, Chapter 2 has the precise aim of elucidating its inherently intersubjective character. Love takes on various forms, one of which is love as a phenomenon between persons, distinct from love for an object, for science, nature, etcetera. According to the author, personal love is love in the original, primary, and fundamental sense (cf. p. 232) or, as she also points out, the «paradigm of love» in that, through the experience of love, the value of the other subject and the duty toward them are experienced. Love is, thus, the founding moment of ethics. Since the primary reference (Bezug) of love is the other person, «neighborly love» (Nächstenliebe) is characterized as the highest ethical form of love.

The consideration of love as inherently intersubjective calls for an elucidation of its intentional structure and fulfillment. This is the task of the third chapter which explores the relationship between love and empathy (Einfühlung). Love does not fully coincide with empathy, it is a special form of empathy and, in a certain sense, it transcends empathy (cf. p. 237).  In order to understand the connection between love and empathy, the double meaning of empathy, which goes back to Husserl´s manuscripts published in Hua XLII, is emphasized. On the one hand, empathy in a basic sense, which is analyzed by Husserl in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation, is a theoretical-cognitive form of grasping the other. This fundamental form of empathy is to be distinguished from empathy in an emotional sense, as a «participation in the life of the other» (p. 238) which enters into the individuality of the other person and is fulfilled through love. The introduction of the theme of individuality gives the reader a glimpse of the author´s aim: love grasps the other in their individuality, and this lays the grounds for grasping them as having a «value of uniqueness» (Einzigkeitswert). This aspect is developed in Chapter 4, which presents the guidelines for an axiology of love. I will discuss this final chapter in more detail since it introduces some complex ideas that deserve a deeper analysis, and it integrates the previous results of the investigation into its own argumentation.

While the previous chapters have reflected on the specific features of love as an intentional act -emphasizing its emotional and volitional character-, Chapter 4 aims to analyze the values of love (Liebeswerte). In other words, the focus now shifts from love as an act to what love is directed at. Among the aspects developed in this chapter, I would like to draw attention to three themes that hold a central place in the author´s line of reasoning: (1) The discussion of the subjectivity-objectivity of the values of love; (2) The comprehension of the relationship between the descriptive, axiological, and normative dimensions; (3) finally, the approach to the universality-singularity of the ought revealed through love. These aspects, which I separate only for the sake of exposition, are interrelated in the work.

With the first theme, Cabra addresses a classic problem of the philosophy of values: Is the value dependent upon the subject giving the value? And, if so, does this imply that the value is reducible to such act of giving? The question becomes more compelling when we consider that the focus of the work is the value of the other. That is, that the elucidation of the status of the values of love is a corollary to addressing the value of the other subject. In this context, the question can be reformulated as to whether the value of the other person is contingent upon the subjective turning towards in the act of valuing, or if it is an objective value «recognized» by the subject. In the author´s view, the values of love have both a subjective and an objective dimension. On the one hand, values of love are dependent upon the turning towards of the subject from her personal core, since they are connected to the innermost center of the person. In this regard, they possess a subjective dimension. On the other hand, love in a proper sense is directed toward that which holds value (cf. p. 271). In other words: Genuine love is love for what is worth loving. How is this dual character of values of love, both subjective and objective, to be understood? Cabra´s proposal can be summarized as follows: Values of love are objective values which have subjective relevance because they have a unique meaning for the singular person. In this way, the author seeks to illustrate the dynamics of constitution wherein something given as objective is apprehended through a subjective position taking. The textual foundation of her interpretation is to be found in the lecture Einleitung in die Philosophie from 1919/1920 where Husserl refers to values of love as «the same objective value as individual, subjective value of love» (Hua Mat IX, 146, note 1). In light of this, two implications can be drawn: (1) every value of love has an objective value and (2) every objective value can become a value of love (p. 266). With this, the author aims at distancing from the interpretations that «emphasize solely the subjective side of the constitution of the values of love without considering that subjective preference does not lack a fundamental objective level» (p. 267)

What is the outcome of this interpretation for the understanding of the value of the other? Applying the same dynamic between the subjective and objective dimensions, the conclusion is that the other subject is subjectively preferable (vorzüglich) and at the same time objectively endowed with value. The other is objectively a subject of value to the extent that they have a fundamental dignity as a person (p. 285).

At this point the work turns to the distinction between two forms of empathy developed in Chapter 3. The basis for recognizing the other as a subject of value is established by recognizing the other as a transcendental subject in empathy (in the first sense previously distinguished). What does love add to this level of recognition in empathy? The dimension of «exclusivity» and the «value of uniqueness» (Einzigkeitswert) of the other, which cannot be reduced to any of the previous levels of constitution (cf. p. 288). In the author´s words: «Love fulfills this first objective-formal level of personal valuation recognizing not only the `objective´ value of the other, that is, their being a transcendental subject with their individuality, but also considering them as a `unique´ subject, `subjectively preferable´ concerning other values, and deciding in their favor.» (p. 317) Interestingly, the general idea that the other is the primary value to be promoted, i.e., that love is primarily love for the other, which has been defended throughout the work, leads the author to an incisive proposal of a hierarchy of values of love, which could solve Husserl´s conclusion of a tragic «sacrifice» when confronted with the choice between values of love. Since, according to the author, each value of love derives from the value of the other, «the choice between different values of love would not have the character of a tragic conflict if it were a matter of Liebeswerte of different hierarchy according to different degrees to which love is realized as Nächstenliebe.» (p. 302)

With regard to the second point mentioned, although Cabra`s analyses in this chapter concentrate specifically on the values of love, her reflections also put forward a thesis regarding the broader question of the relationship between facts and values, broadly considered. In the author´s interpretation, Husserl´s theory of value responds to the demand to consider that facts and values are not opposing categories, and that there is no unbridgeable gap between the descriptive and normative moments (cf. p. 279). In fact, the idea that something has value because it is worth of value aims to express the close connection between empirical properties and value properties (although, as the author affirms, Husserl does not clarify the nature of this connection). This would bring Husserl´s position closer to that of Brentano and distance it from Schelerian axiology (cf. p. 277).

It is also interesting to note how the work thematizes the absolute ought (absolutes Sollen) that is manifested to the person through love. The values of love have a normative and motivational force that becomes a guiding principle for the person´s life. Because of its connection to values, it is argued that in love the absolute ought is manifested immediately to the person. This means that the normative level does not «supervene» or is superimposed, but is implicit in the axiological dimension (cf. p. 304). In this way, not only is the axiological level not extrinsic to the descriptive level but  also the  normative level is not extrinsic to the axiological level.

Finally, the transition from the axiological level of values of love to the normative level of the absolute ought provides the author with the opportunity to reflect on the special relationship between universality and singularity that love brings about: In the dynamics of love, the universal is manifested in the singular. The other subject is experienced as a value whose realization enables the fulfillment of the universal categorical imperative. In other words: Through love, the universal categorical imperative is unveiled to the singular individual. Thus, love and vocation represent the «singularized universal» ( p. 302) since it is only in the encounter with another subject that the person can respond to the call to act according to the categorical imperative.

A final aspect of this chapter that I would like to mention is that throughout the analyses devoted to Husserl´s phenomenology of values, the author offers a clarification of the meaning of concepts that can easily lead to ambiguities, and proposes its own interpretation regarding their distinction: Among other things, a special consideration is given to the use of the terms «value of love», «personal value», «subjective value», and «individual value» (cf. pp. 267-270), and to the difference between «having value», and «being a value» (cf. p. 271). These clarifications are important not only for the reader of this book but also for the reader of Husserl’s work, especially when dealing with texts on the emotional-evaluative sphere, which due to its elusive nature requires the use of a complex set of terminology for its description.

The work wraps up with a conclusion that summarizes how the two paths taken (Leib and Liebe) intersect and it offers a methodological reflection on how the static approach inherent in the analysis of the Fremderfahrung is complemented by the genetic perspective. According to this, love brings with it a revision of the static foundational model in that the other subject is immediately experienced as endowed with value, as a ‘phenomenological absolute’: «On the one hand, the analysis of the Fremderfahrung, and within it the primary role of the Leib, show the static conditions of possibility for recognizing the other subject as a subject of value, through the consideration of their freedom, expressed in the Leib. On the other hand, love as a gaze that reveals the genesis of the primary manifestation of the value of the other subject and the duty towards them, represents the place where intersubjectivity and ethics meet at its highest form» (p. 319).

Summing up, it is impossible not to notice that this book is the result of an extensive and meticulous research. In addition to the level of detail achieved in the analyses, and the careful interweaving of the different themes and methodological approaches in the construction of the work,  I would like to highlight the originality of Cabra’s proposal.  From the perspective of the precise question she aims to answer, she puts forward reading hypotheses on difficult aspects of Husserlian phenomenology of values that are still not settled by Husserl´s scholars. This is very fruitful in a context where Husserlian analyses of values are being rediscovered and increasingly debated, thanks to the publication of the Studien zur Struktur des Bewusstseins (Hua XLIII, 1-3). More generally, as the author affirms, with the exception of Janet Donohoe´s work Husserl on Ethics and Intersubjectivity from 2016,[1] the explicit connection between Husserl´s analyses of intersubjectivity and his ethical thinking has been missing in the critical literature on his work to date (cf. p. 5). Il valore dell`altro fills this gap through a deep study, documented in detail in Husserl’s texts that reveals to the reader a path to grasp the profound connection between these two themes. In addition to being a valuable tool for scholars, her work contributes to the understanding of the unity that permeates Husserl’s philosophical project, and to further promote the growing studies of Husserlian ethics and value theory.


[1]     Janet Donohoe. 2016. Husserl on Ethics and Intersubjectivity. From Static to Genetic Phenomenology. University of Toronto Press.

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