Il volume curato da Nicola Ramazzotto raccoglie alcune relazioni presentate per la prima volta alla conferenza internazionale Pragmatist Aesthetics in Dialogue presso l’Università di Pisa, con l’esplicito intento di dare un rinnovato slancio alla complessità dell’estetica pragmatista. Gli otto contributi che compongono tale dialogo danno vita a un intreccio teorico per nulla estraneo all’essenza stessa del pragmatismo, proponendo un percorso capace di indagare in senso retrospettivo, parallelo e prospettivo la continuità tra diversi metodi e stili filosofici.
Attraverso un’indagine di tipo sinechista, atta a lavorare sulle analogie nelle differenze piuttosto che su rigide contrapposizioni, il primo contributo della raccolta, scritto da Rosa Calcaterra, approfondisce la questione della continuità epistemica e ontologica nell’estetica di John Dewey in relazione al trascendentalismo di Kant e all’empirismo di William James, fino a considerare la proposta di Linguistic Turn di Richard Rorty. Fin da subito viene messo in evidenza come Dewey, nelle pagine del suo celebre testo Art as Experience, tenti di evincere le funzioni antropologiche e storiche dell’esperienza artistica, un criterio metodologico che ricorda molto il punto di vista pragmatico dell’antropologia nel pensiero kantiano, soprattutto nell’utilizzo della locuzione Kunst. Foucault sottolinea come questa parola, frequentemente impiegata nell’Antropologia di Kant, diventi simbolo dell’ambiguità epistemica e ontologica dell’esistenza umana: si tratta di un’espressione che si fa carico di tutto l’enigma che costituisce la condizione dell’esistere, della sua essenza patica e al tempo stesso artefice, dove nulla si dà alla coscienza se non attraverso la libertà di cui essa gode e allo stesso tempo di cui essa stessa è vittima, nel momento in cui non riconosce i limiti delle proprie possibilità di attingere in modo inequivocabile alla verità. La Kunst, in tal senso, non intacca il principio ontologico della libertà umana, ma piuttosto ne evidenzia la natura mutevole in quanto potenzialità e possibilità da implementare (p. 11). Se Kant, però, aveva postulato l’esistenza di un mondo noumenico entro il quale operasse la libertà in quanto carattere distintivo della ragione in virtù di una supposta autonomia delle strutture razionali della mente umana, per l’empirismo naturalistico di Dewey la libertà costituisce un fattore che pervade a tutti gli effetti la sfera biologica, sensibile e fisico-naturale. Il metodo empirico, seguendo la scia jamesiana, non solo permette di approfondire aspetti ontologici della realtà, ma consente allo stesso tempo di indagare le fitte relazioni tra realtà fisica e realtà psichica, tra sensibilità e ragione. Appare dunque eloquente la posizione deweyana in merito alla valenza antropologica della produzione artistica, nonché il profondo legame che lega l’ontologia all’antropologia, là dove l’ordine non viene imposto dall’esterno, bensì sviluppa se stesso, coinvolgendo un numero sempre maggiore di cambiamenti e risignificazioni (p. 14). Al di là dell’impostazione trascendentale della conoscenza tipica di Kant, è dall’empirismo di William James che prende vita il progetto deweyano di dare rilievo alla ricchezza ontologica ed epistemica dell’esistenza umana. L’impatto jamesiano è palese anche nella considerazione del nesso tra piano dell’agire e piano del significato, un legame che non era sconosciuto nemmeno a Pierce. In tal senso, l’opera d’arte non è solo una risultante immaginativa, ma ha anche la possibilità di agire nel mondo concentrando e ampliando l’esperienza immediata in quanto comprova della complessità del vissuto (p. 17). Un aspetto altrettanto rilevante che compone l’indagine sulla costituzione del concetto di esperienza in Dewey arriva dall’attenta disamina di Rorty in merito all’utilizzo, da parte del filosofo pragmatista, di un vocabolario e un’epistemologia fortemente contaminati dalla corrente idealista. È proprio partendo da questa constatazione che, secondo Rorty, si rende necessaria un’indagine comparativa tra esperienza e linguaggio, approdando alla possibilità di un Linguistic Turn in ambito pragmatico. Ma ciò che principalmente si evince da questo tentativo è l’imprescindibilità della ricostruzione di un concetto di esperienza che abbracci le diverse interpretazioni fornite da Pierce, James e Dewey nelle loro rispettive filosofie, al di là di qualsiasi paradigma fondazionalista. Infatti, sebbene le metodologie d’indagine dei tre filosofi siano evidentemente differenti, attraverso il loro intreccio è possibile agire su fruttuosi punti di consonanza, cercando così di svilupparne le tracce più rappresentative.
Il secondo contributo, di Danilo Manca, tenta di far fronte a quella che possiamo definire una negligenza filosofica rispetto al mancato dialogo tra fenomenologia e pragmatismo nel corso del Novecento. Nel saggio di Manca vengono prese in esame, nello specifico, le posizioni di Husserl e Dewey, dapprima constatandone le analogie in virtù di una doppia implicazione tra esperienza estetica e vissuto quotidiano, per poi evidenziare le sfide che i due pensatori rispettivamente pongono alla filosofia rispetto a un concetto di esperienza artistica inscritta in una dimensione naturale. Per entrambi i pensatori, seppure partendo da presupposti alquanto differenti, il riferimento all’arte risulta imprescindibile per descrivere i caratteri emotivi e percettivi dell’esperienza umana, nonché per dare forma alla sfida che l’arte ha il compito di lanciare alla filosofia. Contro qualsiasi impostazione isolazionista, l’obiettivo di Dewey è di comprendere come il “quotidiano far cose” si riveli una “forma di fare genuinamente artistica”, come prova del fatto che l’essere umano abbia la capacità di dare coesione al senso, al bisogno, all’istinto e all’azione in quanto caratteristica della creatura vivente (p. 28). È inoltre evidente l’intreccio tra esperienza ed emozione in quanto fonte dell’arte: l’atto espressivo necessita la frequentazione di uno stato d’animo che orienti la percezione. In questo gioco di fare e subire che è l’esperienza, anche l’immaginazione occupa un ruolo imprescindibile in quanto adattamento tra nuovo e vecchio. Diversamente, Husserl considera la percezione e l’immaginazione come atti totalmente differenti: in tal senso, considerare la parte ignota di un oggetto rappresentato in un’immagine non porterebbe ad immaginarlo, bensì a co-intenzionarlo in quanto aspetto irriflessivamente saputo (p. 31). Tale dissonanza, però, trova il suo punto di risoluzione nella consapevolezza che tutto ciò che viene esperienziato può essere notevolmente arricchito dalla componente immaginativa. Rivolgendoci inoltre alla sfida posta alla filosofia di dover partire dall’esperienza estetica per comprendere davvero cosa sia l’esperienza, si scorge tra Dewey e Husserl un’ulteriore differenza che cela in sé, anche in questo caso, la possibilità di rendere questo incontro particolarmente proficuo: se per Dewey l’esperienza estetica va a costituirsi come sguardo privilegiato sul costante alternarsi di armonia e disordine che scandisce l’incontro tra organismo e ambiente del vissuto quotidiano, per Husserl esperire esteticamente comporta una rottura con il mondo ordinario, costituendosi come atto che porta a maturare su di esso uno sguardo da spettatore disinteressato. Sebbene si tratti di una differenza incontrovertibile, entrambi concordano sul fatto che il soggetto sia portato ad agire e vivere all’interno di un sostrato abituale che non consentirebbe di assumere una posizione adeguata rispetto al vissuto. È qui che per entrambi i pensatori si fa palese la necessità di un arricchimento estetico capace di aprire l’essere umano a un’effettiva capacità critica che conduce a un’integrazione tra dato di fatto e novità (p. 36). Il pregiudizio husserliano nei confronti del naturalismo, concepito come modo ordinario del vivere o in quanto conoscenza naturalistica del mondo, viene superato attraverso l’approccio filosofico di Merleau-Ponty che, lavorando su un terreno fenomenologico, si accorse della mancanza di Husserl nell’esplicitare che l’atteggiamento naturale presuppone metodicamente una preparazione fenomenologica (p. 40). L’indagine sulle potenzialità dell’esperienza estetica da un punto di vista pragmatico e fenomenologico approda alla consapevolezza che questo tipo di vissuto sia da intendersi come preparazione al rivolgimento filosofico in quanto esperienza attiva che porta alla luce aspetti della specie umana: in tal senso, la fenomenologia dovrebbe considerare, oltre al corpo vissuto e al corpo come oggetto, anche il corpo vivente studiato dalla biologia. Il corpo vivente preso in considerazione all’interno del dibattito estetico, inteso come intenzionalità incarnata e sede dell’esperienza, è il punto di contatto con l’alterità, con il mondo storico e sociale, nonché con la sua dimensione naturale. Risulta dunque fondamentale parlare di corpo, in quanto ciò consente di mettere al centro tutte le possibili interconnessioni del vivente.
Nel terzo capitolo si delinea il tentativo di Nicola Ramazzotto di dar vita a un dialogo tra pensiero angloamericano e pensiero continentale in merito al tema dell’esperienza estetica e della sua capacità di costituire nuovi orizzonti di significato. Tale incontro viene realizzato prendendo in esame le posizioni di Heidegger e Dewey, due pensatori apparentemente agli antipodi, che però nelle divergenze possono dar forma a un dialogo estetico quanto mai fruttuoso. Partendo dalla constatazione di una progressiva compartimentazione e musealizzazione dell’arte nel corso della modernità, entrambi i pensatori concordano sul fatto che ad oggi l’esperienza artistica non soddisfi più il nostro bisogno di significato (p. 47). Il mondo greco, al contrario, necessitava dell’arte per comprendere e rappresentare la natura e la storia. La realtà moderna e classica diventano dunque per Heidegger e Dewey due esemplificazioni del concetto di arte totalmente diverse: nel primo caso, infatti, si costituisce come mero piacere soggettivo, mentre nel secondo come vera e propria possibilità di significazione in relazione a una determinata realtà storica. Non si tratta di un ritorno al classicismo in senso nostalgico, ma si mira piuttosto a dimostrarne la portata in virtù di un’odierna possibile riconfigurazione del nostro rapporto con l’opera d’arte che tenga conto della sua intrinseca capacità di arricchimento onnicomprensivo, in contrasto con la concezione che sorregge la visione artistica nel mondo moderno (p. 48). Per quanto l’ermeneutica e il pragmatismo siano due correnti filosofiche essenzialmente distanti, vi si può scorgere un’inaspettata assonanza nel tentativo di rispondere alla crisi dell’esperienza estetica, riconoscendo la sua capacità di dare vita a nuovi orizzonti di senso. Significato e orizzonte diventano allora due parole chiave per approfondire il dialogo tra Dewey e Heidegger: per entrambi l’esperienza umana non è ricerca di una mera verità teoretica, ma di una verità che sia significativa, una situatività che può essere dispiegata solo in relazione a un determinato ambiente. Dunque, l’arte, in quanto azione significante, consiste proprio nel trasformare una situazione data in un qualcosa che abbia senso e valore (p. 50). Il significato non è mai l’unico possibile, ma è sempre il senso di una precisa situazione, dove per senso s’intende l’unità di significati nella formazione di una realtà condivisa (p. 51). Noi abitiamo, o meglio “in-abitiamo” il mondo grazie ai nostri habits che insieme danno forma all’ethos, propriamente il nostro in-abitare, e solamente un mondo abitato artisticamente può essere significativo. L’arte, afferma Heidegger, fa sì che le cose siano liberate dal loro semplice essere-cosa e possiede la capacità di creare significati in virtù della sua particolare modalità di prendersi cura delle cose. Ramazzotto evidenzia come sia per Dewey che per Heidegger l’abilità di un soggetto che crea sia artistica se mossa dall’amore, e come questo amare sia l’essenza autentica del potere, che non solo può far essere questa o quella cosa, ma può anche permettere alla cosa stessa di essere presente (p. 53). Il significato può dispiegarsi solo all’interno di un orizzonte, cioè la totalità dell’insieme di significati a partire da cui un evento può assumere senso. L’arte, dunque, non ha solo il compito di svelare la dimensione situazionale, orizzontale e spazio-temporale del vissuto umano, ma possiede anche un carattere operativo, stabilendo i differenti e sempre mutevoli orizzonti di verità e di senso per l’abitare umano – là dove per abitare s’intende l’assunzione di un atteggiamento di radicamento nel mondo e di ricezione in divenire del vissuto. Infatti, sia per Heidegger che per Dewey, l’arte è una peculiare modalità di apertura all’evento mettendo in discussione la totalità dei significati che lo animano in virtù di un dispiegamento di nuovi orizzonti di abitabilità (p. 57). Tuttavia, così come non è possibile riferirsi a un significato unico, in egual misura non è possibile parlare di un solo orizzonte, ma di una serie di orizzonti che si susseguono storicamente. Ne consegue che l’arte diventa mezzo privilegiato per una comunità storica per conoscere se stessa: la storicità, in tal senso, è da intendersi come inevitabile situatività che permette al vissuto di essere significativo nella composizione di una rete di credenze che permette all’essere umano di accadere in un mondo condiviso.
Il quarto contributo, firmato da Elena Romagnoli, indaga il rapporto tra opera d’arte e pubblico, prendendo in considerazione le posizioni di Hans-Georg Gadamer e John Dewey, rispettivamente operanti nelle correnti dell’ermeneutica e del pragmatismo. L’idea di conciliare la lettura estetica dei due pensatori nasce in virtù del loro modo d’intendere l’opera d’arte come vero e proprio processo d’interazione. Sul versante deweyano, l’indagine prende avvio dal ripensamento dell’esperienza in senso anti-cartesiano con un particolare focus sul legame tra la creatura vivente e l’ambiente in cui questa dispiega il proprio esistere. L’ambiente diventa motivo, non causa, per cui la vita è: nessuna creatura vive solo sotto la propria pelle, piuttosto è solo quando essa riesce a prendere parte alle relazioni ordinate nel suo ambiente che si garantisce la stabilità che è essenziale per vivere. Da ciò ne consegue l’imprescindibilità di un ripensamento dell’esperienza stessa da un punto di vista antropologico (p. 67). Occorre tuttavia chiarire che un’esperienza estetica si differenzia significativamente da un’esperienza ordinaria, proprio per la sua capacità di racchiudere in sé un insieme di significati altrimenti dislocati e inafferrabili. Come viene lucidamente chiarito da Romagnoli, non si tratta di una separazione netta, quanto di un rapporto processuale di continuo perfezionamento e arricchimento reciproco, tale da procurare una vitalità intensificata. Su un altro versante, attraverso un approccio squisitamente heideggeriano, Gadamer intende mostrare il carattere mutevole e trasformativo dell’esperienza a partire dalla centralità dell’esperienza estetica. Un ruolo fondamentale in virtù di questo obiettivo è svolto dal tema del gioco, un concetto capace di mettere in discussione una lettura dualistica che vedrebbe l’opera d’arte come mero oggetto contrapposto a un soggetto. Da un punto di vista antropologico, il gioco diviene momento di comune sperimentazione a patto che venga preso sul serio e abbia una compiutezza (p. 71). In uno scritto successivo a Verità e metodo, ovvero il saggio L’attualità del bello. Arte come gioco, simbolo e festa, Gadamer descrive il gioco come funzione elementare della vita umana, come fenomeno di eccedenza di autorappresentazione del vivente riscontrabile nella natura e in tutti gli animali, come movimento senza fini che nell’essere umano però acquisisce razionalità e consapevolezza (p. 72). Anche lo spettatore è invitato a prendere posto in questo continuo movimento in virtù della determinazione stessa del gioco, il quale presuppone sempre un “giocare insieme”. Questo aspetto mette in luce il ripensamento dell’esperienza estetica in senso processuale in contrapposizione a una lettura che la renderebbe priva di potenzialità estrinsecative e interattive. Dewey, in tal senso, evidenzia come un’opera, per essere davvero artistica, debba anche essere estetica, ossia “concepita per una percezione ricettiva della fruizione” (p. 74). Tale esperienza andrebbe così a costituirsi come una forma stessa di creazione e partecipazione all’opera. Come per Dewey, dunque, anche per Gadamer risulta necessaria una riformulazione del rapporto tra creatore e pubblico in virtù di una rinnovata considerazione dell’esperienza estetica. Il carattere interattivo dell’arte ne mostra il suo aspetto collettivo essenziale, nonché il suo costituirsi come fenomeno collettivo, anti-elitario e trasformativo.
Continuando sulla scia di un dialogo che ha per sfondo una lettura pragmatista dell’estetica, il quinto contributo, di Stefano Marino, si focalizza sulla questione della popular music (nella forma di una sfida estetica rivolta dall’arte popolare all’estetica tradizionale) e si muove tra pragmatismo e teoria critica. Partendo dalla considerazione del modo di indagare tipico del pensiero occidentale, il quale si costituirebbe nella forma di un “All or Nothing”, viene enfatizzata la necessità di un superamento di tale tendenza dicotomica a favore di un approccio maggiormente comprensivo, tipico della corrente pragmatista. Nella sua opera Estetica Pragmatista Richard Shusterman evidenzia in modo eloquente la negligenza filosofica nei confronti dell’arte popolare, la quale, quand’anche considerata, viene abitualmente declassata a mero prodotto privo di valore (p. 82). L’arte popolare in realtà è un ambito molto vasto e in continua espansione, così come la popular music, la quale contiene in sé numerosi generi e sottogeneri, anche legati alle odierne sottoculture. Tra alcuni filosofi contemporanei impegnati nel dibattito sulla popular music – e, come si vuole sottolineare nel caso specifico, sulla musica pop-rock – spicca la disamina di Alva Noë, il quale, seguendo una tendenza piuttosto tipica delle odierne critiche filosofiche, evidenzia come alcune forme della musica pop-rock siano perlopiù trainate dalla figura stessa dell’artista fomentato dalle masse. In tal senso, ciò che viene adornianamente definito come il “materiale musicale” costituirebbe solo un mezzo finalizzato ad attrarre tutta l’attenzione sul personaggio. Non si tratterebbe dunque di musica, ma piuttosto di mero fanatismo e culto della personalità. È evidente come questo tipo di impostazione filosofica non sia disposta ad ammettere l’esistenza delle numerose sfumature presenti nel mondo della musica pop-rock, prediligendo al contrario un’ottica che mira a porre delle pretese totalizzanti valide per tutto il genere, in linea con la succitata logica “Tutto o nulla”. Viene evidenziato però come, in modo alquanto interessante, Noë si smentisca nell’ammettere che alcuni fenomeni nel campo della musica pop-rock come i Radiohead possano occupare una sorta di “spazio intermedio”, posizionandosi nella sfera del genere pop-rock e al contempo creando una musica che richiede attenzione e che affascina in quanto musica (p. 86). Ciò comporta che non ci sia alcuna ragione per ignorare altri tipi di eccezionalità, altri “oggetti di consumo d’avanguardia”, come ad esempio i Nirvana, chiave di volta all’interno di questa indagine, oltretutto citati più volte nell’analisi critica di Noë per supportare la sua posizione in merito allo scarso valore significativo della musica pop-rock. Come evidenziato dal famoso pianista contemporaneo Brad Mehldau, per quanto sia indubbio che molte persone siano attratte all’ascolto di questa band per via del culto della personalità, è altrettanto evidente che fermarsi a queste considerazioni limiterebbe la possibilità di accogliere qualcosa di più sottile, come la capacità e la forza di Kurt Cobain di esprimere la propria vulnerabilità, nonché la fragilità di una generazione politicamente destabilizzata, un’abilità oltretutto supportata da un grande talento compositivo (p. 89). Al di là di qualsiasi pretesa generalizzante, Shusterman mette in luce come gran parte della popular music del nostro tempo pretenda di essere creativa e originale, e come questa originalità si possa raggiungere anche attraverso quella che potremmo definire un’appropriazione creativa del vecchio (p. 91). Dunque, attraverso un approccio adorniano “eterodosso” alla popular music (ossia, al di là di una dicotomia troppo ferrea tra musica leggera e musica seria) e attraverso le stimolanti intuizioni di filosofi impegnati nella valorizzazione dell’arte popolare come Shusterman, emerge la possibilità di sviluppare analisi maggiormente concrete delle varie arti e delle differenti forme della loro appropriazione (p. 93). Tale capacità, come chiaramente evidenziato nel capitolo qui presentato, può emergere in maniera decisiva grazie a un punto di vista estetico che sia pluralista e pragmatista, capace di donare rilievo e slancio a generi musicali come il pop-rock che, seppure segnati dai caratteri di mercificazione e feticismo, possono costituirsi come esperienze estetiche dalla grande ricchezza significativa.
Nel sesto contributo, firmato da Anita Merlini, l’intento è quello di mettere in luce gli sviluppi teorici sugli studi visuali e sulla Bildwissenschaft attraverso un’ottica critica squisitamente pragmatista. Entrambi gli ambiti nascono ufficialmente nel 1994: i primi con la pubblicazione del volume Picture Theory di William J.T. Mitchell, nel quale viene annunciata una “svolta figurativa”; i secondi con la pubblicazione dell’opera Was ist ein Bild? di Gottfried Boehm, nella quale viene presentata una “svolta iconica” (p. 99). Al di là delle modalità con cui si vogliano descrivere tali svolte, questi campi di studio si contraddistinguono per la promozione di un approccio interdisciplinare, il quale però rischia di risultare particolarmente destrutturato, soprattutto in mancanza di un assetto epistemologico ben definito. Innanzitutto, bisogna specificare che entrambe le correnti mirano al raggiungimento di uno statuto che consideri l’immagine come fenomeno a se stante, libera dall’imperante logocentrismo su cui il sapere in generale e gli studi sulle immagini in particolare tradizionalmente si poggiano (p. 100). Le posizioni teoretiche di Mitchell in merito allo statuto delle metapicture, cioè immagini capaci di fornire un discorso retrostante alla pura rappresentazione che ci dice qualcosa dell’immagine stessa, vengono contrapposte all’impostazione pragmatista e fenomenologica di Wiesing, il quale, nel volume Sehen Lassen, contesta tale descrizione dell’immagine, che tenderebbe a concepirla come una sorta di soggetto capace di agire (p. 104). Secondo Wiesing, infatti, non sono le immagini di per sé a mostrare un determinato stato di fatto, ma siamo noi, in quanto soggetti umani atti all’interpretazione, ad attribuire all’immagine una capacità significativa. L’immagine si costituirebbe così come un intreccio segnico sviscerabile solo da un ente interpretante. Il nodo problematico delle premesse di queste due correnti si muoverebbe attorno a una mancata distinzione tra visibilità e ostensione: se il primo concetto può essere inteso come un dato di fatto potenzialmente osservabile, il secondo va a configurarsi come una vera e propria azione mossa dall’intenzione. Risulta evidente, dunque, come la visibilità dell’immagine non sia metodicamente legata alla sua ostensione: la capacità ostensiva dell’immagine non rappresenta una sua caratteristica visibile, quanto piuttosto una sua disposizione attuabile solo grazie alla presenza umana. Così, l’approccio dei Visual Studies e della Bildwissenschaft, che tende a soggettivizzare le immagini in virtù di un approccio all’immagine fortemente animista, rischierebbe di trasformarsi in una nuova ideologia dell’immagine, minando i fondamenti di qualsiasi comprensione filosoficamente coerente capace di fornire un impianto epistemologico e metodologico alla base di tali approcci. L’indagine qui riportata mira, dunque, a risvegliare la presa di coscienza rispetto a tali rischi, promuovendo una riconfigurazione degli studi sull’immagine in virtù della possibile istituzione di una vera e propria disciplina, un’esigenza che risulta quanto mai necessaria.
Nel settimo capitolo, Alberto Siani focalizza la propria attenzione sul tema della valutazione del carattere di paesaggio, una nozione che fa la sua prima comparsa negli ultimi trent’anni in ambito anglosassone, diffondendosi rapidamente in altri contesti. La sua nascita è finalizzata alla tutela e alla gestione di un paesaggio sulla base delle sue caratteristiche, rispondendo a un’urgenza di tipo pratico e teorico. L’obiettivo qui proposto è quello di sottrarre il controllo dei criteri di valore del paesaggio al monopolio di pochi individui privilegiati, rendendo tale gestione libera dal paradigma modernista sotteso a operare tramite un dualismo di oggettività e soggettività. Il paesaggio sarebbe dunque inteso come un’entità oggettivamente data, in contrasto con l’esperienza profonda di chi lo abita. Ci si propone, dunque, di delineare una proposta di miglioramento ispirata alla corrente pragmatista che consideri il paesaggio come unità vivente e concretamente situata della nostra esperienza, in virtù di una riconsiderazione dei concetti di estetica e di esperienza (p. 120). L’oculocentrismo e l’essenzialismo che dominano gran parte della teoria e della pratica del paesaggio ostacolano l’obiettivo di transdisciplinarietà, che parrebbe almeno formalmente condiviso. L’ambito della valutazione paesaggistica, difatti, sembra essere guidato da metodi e prospettive di architetti e geografi, a discapito di altre discipline e altri ambiti altrettanto necessari in tale contesto. Il principale problema, secondo tale indagine, è sostanzialmente la vera e propria “scomparsa dell’estetico” e una ristretta concezione di esperienza (p. 118). Una prospettiva pragmatista, invece, favorirebbe la costituzione di un concetto di esperienza che riguarderebbe ogni singola interazione tra essere umano e ambiente, così come un concetto di estetica che agirebbe sulla qualità di tale interazione. Il paradigma dominante, che mira a considerare il paesaggio come un costrutto oggettivo parcellizzabile, dovrebbe al contrario considerare che il carattere di un paesaggio richiede la consapevolezza di un certo grado di arbitrarietà e instabilità, attraverso una prospettiva che dunque non dia nulla per scontato, ma sia anzi in grado di problematizzare (p. 121). In tal senso, la nozione di carattere dovrebbe render conto, per quanto possibile, di aspetti come la pluralità culturale, psicologica ed esperienziale di un determinato ambiente attraverso una rinegoziazione di esigenze, valori e punti di vista. La proposta qui presentata non mira certo alla fondazione di una prospettiva soggettivista e relativista dell’ambiente, quanto piuttosto all’apertura di uno spazio all’interno del quale sia possibile esplicitare una valutazione del carattere del paesaggio davvero includente, trasparente e partecipata, guidata da un approccio pragmatista dell’esperienza e dell’estetico.
L’ottavo contributo, firmato da Giovanni Matteucci, conclude il fruttuoso dialogo sin qui esposto proponendo di indagare la svolta pragmatista degli ultimi cento anni nell’ambito dell’estetica filosofica. Tale teoria estetica, rispetto alle altre, implica la revisione di strutture fondanti della stessa filosofia moderna, in virtù di una radicale rivalutazione teoretica in ambito estetico. Si tratta, dunque, non solo di una sfida filosofica all’estetica, ma anche di una sfida estetica alla filosofia (p. 125). L’intento del contributo di Matteucci è proprio quello di mettere in luce il senso di tale sfida: riprendendo alcune delle tesi dell’estetica moderna, si procede ad evidenziarne i punti critici attraverso una disamina diversiva di impianto pragmatista. Quello che ne risulta non è un sistema chiuso volto all’istituzione di principi fissi e immutabili, ma uno spazio entro il quale sono ravvisabili i principali impianti tematici di una reale rivoluzione pragmatista in ambito estetico. Una delle tesi di stampo modernista qui presentata descrive la disciplina estetica come finalizzata alla considerazione e alla valutazione dell’arte e dei suoi prodotti, una pretesa che, in un’ottica pragmatista, risulta di per sé essenzialista – in quanto tendente ad attribuire all’arte un’essenza valida per tutti i suoi prodotti – e giustificazionista – perché non in grado di accogliere fenomeni estetici inaspettati, che si costituirebbero al di là di ciò che viene in modo unanime ritenuto esistente. In tal senso, è necessario mettere in discussione la pretesa di istituire un principio che riconosca un prodotto perfetto come standard dell’estetico: l’opera d’arte, come evidenzia Dewey, non è un prodotto oggettivo assumibile come dato, ma mira piuttosto a dare risalto alla modalità dell’esperienza rispetto all’oggetto fattuale, coinvolgendo in un movimento unitario organismo e ambiente. L’estetico avrebbe dunque un’accezione oggettuale, addirittura avverbiale: l’interazione si costituisce esteticamente quando l’esperienza prende forma attraverso le variegate modalità d’interazione tra organismo e ambiente, dove per organismo s’intende un essere vivente di cui si riconosce pienamente la sua immanenza corporea. Un’ulteriore tesi di stampo modernista tenderebbe a rilegare l’estetico al di là dell’ambito percettivo, sublimando il sensibile nello spirituale. Al contrario, il pragmatismo invita a prendere sul serio il senso etimologico del concetto di aisthesis, che dunque non dovrebbe preoccuparsi del prodotto, quanto piuttosto del modo in cui soggetto e ambiente interagiscono intessendo un particolare costrutto esperienziale. In tale contesto, Dewey mette in luce come l’esperienza estetica, e dunque l’opera d’arte nella sua attualità, sia percezione (p. 129). Tale approccio antropologico alla teoria della percezione mette in secondo piano ogni partizione tra differenti facoltà sensoriali, in virtù di un’unità percettiva sinestetica e cinestetica. Inoltre, contrariamente alla teoria secondo cui l’esperienza estetica si costituirebbe a partire da ciò che di determinabile cognitivamente va a presentificarsi, il pragmatismo promuove un’esperienza pre-discorsiva, ponendosi in quello spazio liminale in cui il soggetto, non ancora completamente individualizzabile, costituisce un’unità simbiotica con l’ambiente in virtù di un’interazione immediata, intuitiva e contestuale (p. 133). Ciò non equivale ad escludere totalmente ogni contenuto cognitivo: un simbolo, ad esempio, configura automaticamente una presenza che non rinvia, bensì manifesta. La pregnanza significativa dell’estetico, con le parole di Dewey, non risiederebbe in una presunta funzione semiotica, quanto piuttosto in una relativa aspettualità espressiva. Si può allora parlare di giudizio estetico, ma solo come processo mutevole e mai esatto, mai concluso. Risulta interessante anche la posizione del pragmatismo in merito alla presunta mancanza di significato dell’esperienza estetica teorizzata dalle correnti moderniste: per quanto l’estetico in senso pragmatista escluda le dimensioni del significato in senso denotativo, ciò non implica che sia privo di una carica semantica. Tale carica espressiva, significativa ancor prima che significante (perché si vuole dare rilievo alla significatività immanente al campo, piuttosto che alla denotazione di senso), recupera l’effettiva qualità dell’esperienza nel suo invito a prender parte, nella sua dimensione relazionale (p. 135). La percezione, in tal senso, è da intendersi come prassi immanentemente dotata di orientamento, rilevanza e ricettività performativa, ben diversa dalla passività del riconoscimento fattuale (p. 136). Il pragmatismo non s’impegna a prendere in esame gli aspetti canonici di espressione, forma e contenuto: la nozione di esperienza messa qui in risalto rende giustizia alla pienezza dell’arte, collegando artista e pubblico in un processo di mutuo scambio. L’arte, nella sua creazione e nella sua fruizione, non si costituisce in un binomio soggetto/oggetto, nel senso che non c’è qualcuno che chiama e qualcuno che risponde, cioè non ci sono ruoli predefiniti senza possibilità di mobilità: c’è la partecipazione di un movimento magmatico creato da questa stessa partecipazione che, partecipando, crea lo stesso appello, crea la stessa chiamata.
Aurélien Djian’s monography with the title Husserl et l’horizon comme problème sets out to render a systematic account of the concept of the horizon in the framework of Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. It seeks to both show in what sense the horizon is crucial to such a transcendental phenomenology, which according to Djian is necessarily a constitutive phenomenology, and to describe the historical development of the horizon in its interplay with the general framework of this transcendental phenomenology. In this way the unity, the particularity and the importance of this concept in constitutive phenomenology will appear.
The work, published in 2021, is built upon the author’s doctoral thesis from 2017 with the title L’Horizon comme Problème. Within his doctoral thesis Dijan also refers to the concepts of horizon in Heidegger, Gadamer and French Phenomenology (Levinas, Henry, Marion), while the focus of this monography lies exclusively on Husserl. The relevance of such a study, analyzing exclusively Husserl’s understanding of the horizon, stems, as Djian notes in the introduction, from the general lack of large-scale systematic works attempting to understand the Husserlian horizon. The only exception Djian mentions is Salius Geniušas‘ The Origins of the Horizon in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Djian characterizes Geniušas’ book as one that attempts to show the compatibility between the Husserlian and the hermeneutic horizon, thus distinguishing it from his own endeavor. However, there is indeed one more systematic work on Husserl’s concept of the horizon to be found – namely, Roberto Walton’s Intencionalidad y Horizonticidad („Intentionality and Horizonality“). Most probably, Djian was unaware of this study as it was published in Spanish and has not been translated yet. Nonetheless, Djian’s work constitutes a long-needed complementation to the still underresearched topic of Husserl’s concept of the horizon, even without referring to Walton’s book.
As a whole, the book is divided in two parts: While the first part is dedicated to the first appearance of the concept of the horizon in Husserl’s writings, even independent of the term `horizon´ itself, and its subsequent generalization, the second part of the book investigates different interactions between the emergence of the horizon and several phenomenological operations, such as the phenomenological reduction, the eidetic variation and the intentional analysis. The two focal points of this study, the emergence of the concept of the horizon and its consequences regarding the main operations in phenomenology, allow Djian to reasonably and systematically limit the scope of the investigation: Within the introduction to the second part Dijan himself points out the need of further analyses, concerning every specific horizon that corresponds to each of the different constitutive correlations, that remain excluded from this study.
The author presents his main thesis in the introduction: Namely, that the concept of the horizon plays a central role in Husserl’s constitutive phenomenology, as it is necessary for the constitution of a synthetical unity of sense in a manifoldness (Djian speaks of multiplicité, the original Husserlian term is Mannigfaltigkeit) of consciousness. To characterize this constitutive phenomenology that implies the need for the horizon, Dijan takes the concept of phenomenon to be key, understanding phenomenology hence as „a universal eidetic science of the correlations of the phenomenon“ (16). As he acknowledges, such a conception of phenomenology excludes Husserl’s work before the so-called transcendental turn, marked by the systematic introduction of the phenomenological reduction and first developed publicly and systematically in The Idea of Phenomenology from 1907. That is, Djian presents the concept of the horizon as central to Husserl’s constitutive phenomenology, and its hypothetical role in any prior phenomenology remains excluded from his study.
Accordingly, he depicts to what extent it is possible to speak of a distinctly constitutive phenomenology within the first chapter. To this end, he maps out the central argument of The Idea of Phenomenology, which presents such a constitutive phenomenology for the first time. By means of this, the synthesis of a manifoldness of consciousness can be described, hence constituting the unity of sense of the intentional object. This is then the crucial innovation that will require the concept of the horizon.
However, the term `horizon´ does not appear in The Idea of Phenomenology, nor does it appear in Thing and Space, i.e. the lectures that were introduced by The Idea of Phenomenology. Still, Djian argues in chapter 2 that there are two other terms that already contain the concept of the horizon within Thing and Space: Namely, the concepts of improper apparition [Uneigentliche Erscheinung] and halo [Hof]. The improper apparition refers to the empty intention by which the subject means [meinen; viser] something more than is properly perceived, hence operating the intentional unity of the thing. Such an intentional unity is at the same time a temporal unity, given that this meaning intention includes that which just passed and that which is now to come. The halo, on the other hand, refers to the empty intention that describes the possible, motivated by the empirical types of the correlation between kinesthesia and perception. In this way, both halo and improper apparition are necessary to constitute the actual and possible identity of the thing, and manifest at the same time the surplus of empty intentions that qualifies any external perception as inadequate.
The notion of the horizon itself appears only in Ideas I. This is, however, not the only important event that Dijan describes in the third chapter. Rather, while the concept of the horizon only appeared locally in Thing and Space, as its validity was limited to external perception, that is, to the constitution of the thing, Djian argues that a generalization and a systematization of the horizon can be observed in Ideas I. The generalization consists of the elevation of the horizon to become a universal structure of pure consciousness. How exactly does this elevation manifest itself? First, by means of the horizon of temporality, in which it is the horizon that enables succession and simultaneity; and second, by means of the horizon of inactual (inaktuell; inactuel) intentionality. This leads to the systematization of the horizon, as every non-accomplished intentional lived experience [Erlebnis; vécu] is now grouped under the title `horizon´. In this way, any lived experience can become the horizon of any other cogito, given that they are connected horizonally in the same flux of experience. However, Dijan distinguishes this broader sense of the concept of horizon from a narrower sense, the functional horizon, which is limited to those horizons that belong to the same synthetic unity.
In the second part of the book, stretching from chapter 4 to 6, the author studies the methodological repercussions of such a generalization of the horizon. The first of these repercussions are the diverse interactions between horizon and reduction, studied in three parts in chapter 4. The first argument characterizes the horizon as that which motivates the critique of the Cartesian path to the phenomenological reduction, a critique which results in the psychological path from First Philosophy. Concretely, the problem lies in the horizonally implied habitual validities, which in their totality can be apprehended as the horizon of the world, given that they render a reduction in various steps, as in Ideas I, impossible: for in any partial reduction, some of these natural validities remain functional. Conversely, it is precisely the horizon that makes it possible to become conscious of the totality of my flux of consciousness, and hence to reduce it in its entirety. In a similar manner, the world as horizon is that which is reduced in the path through the lifeworld as developed in the Crisis. Subsequently, turning to the eidetic variation, Djian argues that in its genetic form, as described in Experience and Judgement, it is related in various ways to the horizon: First, the style of the object can only be seized thanks to the horizons that prescribe its system of possible variations. Second, the eidetic variation is an attempt to detach the pure possibilities of the eidos from its co-determining world horizon. Third, to intuit all those possible, but amongst each other incompatible, properties of the eidos is only possible thanks to horizonality.
Chapter 5 tries to establish the relation between horizon and intentional analysis, arguing that it is precisely the horizonal constitution of objectivities that prescribes the need for the intentional analysis. Hence such an intentional analysis, while not yet named as such, would already appear in Ideas I, namely to develop a classification of the sciences. This recognition is subsequently enlarged to also include the shared objective world.
Finally, in chapter 6, Djian argues that it is the generalization of the horizon that challenges the theory of the evidence of reflection from Ideas I. This theory was founded upon the idea that the sphere of consciousness was given adequately and hence apodictically. However, as the horizon is also functional in the case of immanent lived experiences, for they are given in a manifoldness of temporal phases, strictly speaking the sphere of consciousness is inadequately given too. Following the author, this recognition leads Husserl to amend his notion of apodicticity in the Cartesian Meditations: Rather than adequate evidence, it is the impossibility of thinking its non-existence that qualifies something as apodictical. In this way, apodicticity stops being the point of departure and becomes a telos, which is to be reached in infinity after having traversed the transcendental domain and having performed a critique of transcendental knowledge.
It is certainly well-justified to attempt to undertake a study like this: The Husserlian concept of the horizon is clearly underresearched, given its important role in Husserl’s phenomenology. In this context, Djian’s approach to the problematic is indeed reasonable: As within most other investigations of Husserl’s phenomenology, he had to face the impossibility of looking through all Husserlian manuscripts, due to their enormous number. In this sense, to limit the study by focusing on the relation between horizon and constitutive phenomenology was a good choice, and the secondary effects of this constitutive role of the horizon on different key operations of phenomenology are well-suited to underscore the relevance of the horizon. Therefore, Djian’s book has the merit of being a systematic and valuable study of the horizon, even without being all-encompassing.
Furthermore, this book is well-structured and clearly written. All important methodological choices are indicated and justified. In addition, it is easily accessible even to readers that are not very familiar with Husserl, which is by no means obvious: The relevant Husserlian concepts are explained and documented through references to the original texts, a decision that has, at the same time, the disadvantage of sometimes quite lengthy excurses into topics that are scarcely related to the horizon (for example, the precise explanation of how to distinguish pure, descriptive, material essences from all other kinds of essences in chapter 4).
In the context of this close reading of Husserl, one could, however, ask why there is so little discussion of secondary literature in this investigation. How can this approach be justified? First of all, as Djian indicates it himself, there has been comparatively little work on the concept of the horizon in Husserl’s phenomenology. Additionally, the literature that is available and accessible in English is at least included in the bibliography, with the possible exception of the work of Aron Gurwitsch, who mostly develops his own account in The Field of Consciousness, but does make some comments on Husserl too. In any case, the only in-depth discussion in the study relates to Geniušas’ The Origins of the Horizon in Husserl’s Phenomenology, which without doubt provides the most relevant available commentary.
Before scrutinizing that particular discussion, it is still necessary to examine further how well justified it is to use so little secondary literature: For there is a lot of more general research on Husserl that relates to the different topics addressed by Djian, even without referring specifically to the horizon. For example, Djian does not discuss Kern’s description of the ways into the reduction even though the horizon is identified as one of the factors leading to the abandonment of the Cartesian path. A possible answer could be that, as Djian indicates, the work is meant to be an internal study of the horizon; that is, a study limited to the way the concept develops in Husserl’s own thought. This justifies the exclusion of other philosophers that have worked on their own concept of the horizon. But it remains questionable if this legitimizes Djian’s preference of a close reading of Husserl, as opposed to an examination of secondary literature dedicated to Husserl: For of course, those approaches are not exclusive to one another. A further disadvantage of this omission of most of the secondary literature is a presentation of Husserl’s thought as too unambiguous: Rather than opening the space for different possible interpretations of Husserl and the reasons that led him to change his conceptual framework, Djian imposes the impression that everything relevant has been explained and that his is the only possible understanding; even though Djian’s reading of Husserl is reasonable, and I generally support it, it would have been preferable to show what issues are more or less contested within the relevant literature.
With regards to Djian’s discussion of Geniušas, there remain several issues. Djian is correct in giving it a prominent position, since Geniušas’ study is the only other attempt of an extended and systematic understanding of Husserl’s concept of the horizon that is accessible in English: Hence he discusses Geniušas‘ approach in both the introduction and the conclusion, in addition to a small content-related discussion at the end of chapter 3.
In the introduction, Djian mostly aims to show in which way his approach differs from Geniušas‘, so as to prove the relevance of his study. Djian claims here that the aim of Geniušas is to demonstrate the compatibility of the Husserlian and the hermeneutic horizon, as developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer in Truth and Method. He continues to argue that Geniušas‘ account is thus based on the introduction of a problem that actually remains extrinsic to Husserl’s phenomenology; in contrast, Djian’s own account would have the merit of investigating the question of the horizon intrinsically. This argumentation is continued in the conclusion of the book: There, Geniušas‘ supposed thesis, namely that hermeneutic and Husserlian horizon are compatible, is refuted. According to Djian, this is because the horizon in Husserl’s account depends on the framework of constitutive phenomenology, while Gadamer relegates the importance of any subjectivity. Djian concludes that Geniušas is only able to confirm his thesis because he assimilates the Husserlian horizon to the hermeneutical one, hence „only discovering in Husserl what one has put there“ (277).
This strong critique goes far beyond the necessity of justifying the difference of his own approach in regard to Geniušas‘ study. In addition, in my opinion, Djian’s account seems to misrepresent Geniušas argumentation. While it is true that Geniušas refers to Gadamer and the hermeneutic horizon, particularly to justify the relevance of his study, he does so in a reasonably critical manner: In Geniušas’ book, Gadamer is introduced because he is part of the general philosophical context in which the horizon appears. In addition, Geniušas attempts to put the Husserlian and the hermeneutic horizon in dialogue. This dialogue, mostly carried out in chapter 9 of The Origins of the Horizon in Husserl’s Phenomenology, confronts Husserl’s transcendental and genetic concept of the horizon with Gadamer’s, to finally not only distinguish them but to show how hermeneutics could be enriched by considering subjectivity, for in this way it would become possible to account for the origins of the horizons. In this way, instead of assimilating Husserl’s concept of the horizon to Gadamer’s, Geniušas is pointing out the specificity of the Husserlian horizon to criticize the narrowness of the hermeneutic concept. Now, it is true that following Geniušas, the specificity of Husserl’s horizon goes beyond its constitutive function for intentional objects: He argues that the horizon can only be understood properly as a genetic phenomenon and mostly aims at showing the crucial significance of the world-horizon, which he distinguishes from the horizons of objects. But such a thesis is not necessarily incompatible with Djian’s own project, and a direct discussion of these claims would have been very interesting – however, they remain unthematized, as Geniušas work is set aside too quickly. Similarly, both Geniušas and Djian put forward their own theses on the antecedents that led Husserl to the development of the concept of the horizon: As we have seen, Djian tries to show that the concept is already present in Thing and Space, while Geniušas traces its seeds back to the problem of indexicality in the Logical Investigations. This issue, too, is not addressed or discussed by Djian.
There is only one question of content which Djian does discuss in detail with Geniušas: Namely, how to interpret Husserl’s distinction between background and horizon in the case of the arithmetic world in §28 of Ideas I. Here, Djian quotes Geniušas as saying that Husserl does not provide an explanation of this distinction, in order to argue that this is why Geniušas introduces the extrinsic, “hermeneutic“ concept of the limit to establish a distinction between horizon and background. Djian then refutes Geniušas’ approach, arguing that „Husserl gives all the indications in this paragraph […] to allow the reader to propose a purely internal explanation of the distinction in question“ (122-123). Namely, he argues that it is the connection (connexion) between the objectivities of a same world – in this case, the arithmetic world – that justifies to speak of a horizon. This is how Djian justifies the distinction from the background which refers to other worlds that are only co-present to the extent that they appear to the same subject, without having any relation to each other if we abstracted from the subject. That is, according to Djian the concept of the horizon at play here is its strict, functional definition.
Now, comparing this argumentation with Geniušas‘, the actual differences between both approaches seem insignificant. When discussing §28 of Ideas I, Geniušas introduces the notion of the horizon as a limit in order to argue that the horizon is what is necessary for an objectivity to appear, while backgrounds and halos can be lost. This is true, as Geniušas argues here, because in Husserl the horizon has to be understood in its constitutive, functional, in its transcendental dimension: The horizon is the structure which co-determines the sense of the objectivity in question, in this case the arithmetic objectivities, and can hence be distinguished from background and halo. Thus, in both commentaries, the specific, functional relation between the arithmetic objectivity in question and its arithmetic world is highlighted in order to justify Husserl’s distinction between horizon and background. However, once more it remains questionable if Djian’s way of representing Geniušas‘ argumentation is reasonable; and additionally, the opportunity for a more interesting discussion of the specific similarities and differences between both approaches is missed again.
Having developed these two major points of critique, the little discussion of secondary literature, and the misleading representation and critique of Geniušas‘ The Origins of the Horizon in Husserls Phenomenology, there persist a few more, less relevant, remarks I would like to make before concluding this review. Rather than evaluating what Djian did write, these remarks point at topics which could have been addressed here in order to enrich the discussion. Therefore, they are in no way direct criticisms of Djian’s text; instead, they aim at showing the possible points of continuation of the study of the Husserlian horizon.
First of all, there is a series of analyses in Djian’s book that are very relevant, but that could have been further developed. This holds true, for example, for the claim in chapter 3 that the horizon as universal structure of pure consciousness makes reflection possible (107). This proposition is only developed very concisely in a footnote, and is not addressed further within chapter 6, which deals with the evidence of the reflection (whilst Roberto Walton dedicates a whole chapter to this question in Intencionalidad y Horizonticidad). Furthermore, it is possible to point out that within chapter 5, the specific mode of operation of the intentional analysis is not fully developed. While the role the horizon plays in the preparation of the intentional analysis becomes clear, it is not shown in detail how the intentional analysis can be understood as a clarification of the horizons. Finally, the very intriguing argument at the end of chapter 6, namely that the horizon works as one of the factors to transform the apodicticity of transcendental knowledge into a telos, could have been developed in more detail and particularly called for a discussion of secondary sources.
One more topic that could have been discussed in more depth is the relation between horizon and Husserl’s theory of intropathy [Einfühlung]. The book touches upon this relation twice: First, in the discussion of the different cases of intentional implication in chapter 4, and second, in the enlargement of the intentional analysis to the shared world at the end of chapter 5. In chapter 4, Djian presents the different cases of intentional implication as described by Husserl in First Philosophy, namely phantasia, memory, expectation, image-consciousness and intropathy, to then argue that the horizonal consciousness is a kind of intentional implication too. He distinguishes it from the other cases by arguing that the intentional implication is always actual [actuel; aktuell], with the exception of horizons and intropathy. Now, to differentiate these two cases, he states that while horizons are susceptible to be fulfilled, the acts of intropathy are not. Later, in chapter 5, the question of the constitution of the alter ego is presented: Djian repeats here that the appresentation of the alter ego is not a synthetic unity in a manifoldness of my lived experiences, and hence is not constituted by means of the horizon; for what is appresented with the other’s lived body is not susceptible to be fulfilled. It is only by implying the potentialities of perceiving the world from there rather than here, that the horizon plays some role in the associative function permitting to understand the alter ego as similar to me, thus enabling its constitution.
One can ask here if it really is that compelling that the constitution of the alter ego is not mediated by the horizon structure. To be sure, the appresented content of the other’s consciousness is indeed not susceptible to fulfilment. But while Husserl does not speak explicitly of horizons in the Fifth Cartesian Meditation (including the parts where he distinguishes the apperception of the thing from the apperception of the other), he does speak of the apperception of the alter ego: And how could the other be apperceived, if not as a unity in a manifoldness of actual and potential lived experiences – only with the particularity, that many of the potential lived experiences can never become actual if the other is to remain other? The point here is not to show that it is indeed necessary to speak of a horizonal apperception of the other; instead, it is enough to raise awareness to the fact that such an interpretation of Husserl seems possible and that Djian’s discussion of the question is not exhaustive.
Finally, there remains one last remark before concluding. The relation between the horizon as a possibly persistent secret link to the world and the two new paths into the phenomenological attitude is well developed in chapter 4 and highly relevant. However, one could have also taken a more critical perspective: For instance, Djian shows correctly how Husserl uses the horizon in the process of the psychological path in First Philosophy in order to be able to seize the totality of the ego’s stream of consciousness, and submit it to the epoché at once. But it remains unclear in Husserl, and equally in Djian, how the risk of still co-functioning hidden validities is averted: for a horizonal seizing of “the universe of all objectivities, which ever had validity for me” (Husserl 2019, 361) seems scarcely enough to discover, reflect on, and abstain from all the possible hidden validities. In a similar fashion, Husserl seems to simply claim the possibility of a universal epoché in the Crisis. Still, Dijans decision to refrain from a discussion of these critical questions is most likely justified by his methodological decision to give an internal account of Husserl’s thought, without adding his own critical perspective.
All in all, Djian’s study constitutes one more, valuable piece in the precise understanding of Husserl’s thought. Notwithstanding the lack of discussion with secondary sources, its analyses are well-justified and help to develop a more comprehensive and accurate notion of Husserl’s concept of the horizon, as well as of its influence on the development of Husserl’s thought. Furthermore, the accuracy of Dijan’s main thesis of the central role of the horizon in constitutive phenomenology can now be estimated: It has become clear, that the horizon is crucial for the constitution of objectivities and thus plays a major role in Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, hence underscoring the relevance of the concept for Husserl. However, the strong interpretation of this thesis, namely that Husserl’s concept of the horizon has to be understood as limited to the context of the constitution, excluding any other possible dimensions of the horizon, remains unproven: For such a task, it would have been necessary to discuss the different appearances of the term in different Husserlian texts in more detail to actually show how they all refer back to the constitutive role of the horizon.
Geniusas, Saulius. 2012. The Origins of the Horizon in Husserl’s Phenomenology. Contributions to Phenomenology 67. Dordrecht: Springer.
Gurwitsch, Aron. 2010. The Field of Consciousness: Theme, Thematic Field, and Margin. ed. Richard M. Zaner. 1st ed., Volume III. The Collected Works of Aron Gurwitsch (1901-1973). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands : Imprint Springer.
Husserl, Edmund. 2019. First Philosophy: Lectures 1923/24 and Related Texts from the Manuscripts (1920-1925). transl. Sebastian Luft and Thane M. Naberhaus. Collected Works / Husserl, Edmund, XIV. Dordrecht: Springer.
Walton, Roberto J. 2015. Intencionalidad y Horizonticidad. Bogotá: Aula de Humanidades.
The importance of the volume Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations. Commentary, Interpretation, Discussions can be found in its aim: providing a study of the Cartesian Meditations (henceforth CM) in its entirety. Against the tendency to reduce the CM to some of its parts – mostly intersubjectivity or transcendental idealism –, this Commentary attempts to offer a unified view of the text. As the editor De Santis in the Introduction recognizes, CM are not only »Husserl’s second attempt at systematizing his philosophy after the so-called »turn« to a transcendental form of thought« (p. 9) but are also the key to understanding Husserl’s late phenomenology. The editor states that the motivation of this book can be found in the necessity to seriously deal with the text in which Husserl highlights the importance of the »concrete ego«, which provides also a teleological-practical ontology. Regarding the goal of this book, it is important to notice that the three parts Commentary, Interpretation, and Discussion are bounded by each other’s, and it is possible to find some frameworks strictly related to the Commentary and also to the other sections. The development of the Commentary is completed and expanded in the following sections, Interpretation and Discussion, but these parts are not secondary to the others.
The volume is divided into three sections, as the title states. The first part, Commentary (§1-6) provides detailed analyses that stick to Husserl’s publication of the text. The latter two, Interpretation (§7-14) and Discussion (§15-20), intertwine both the commentary and the interpretation. The editor De Santis claims (p.16) that the first part can be regarded as a commentary only if we accept »commentary« in a broad sense. Starting from the CM, the authors develop reflections that go deeper than a simple reconstruction of Husserl’s passages. As is well known, one of the main problems of CM’s reception is the tendency to overlook most of the content of the text (p.12). While in Interpretation the authors emphasize how some philosophers have been dealing with CM, in Discussion the authors spotlight some core problems of Husserl’s CM and reflect on them with other frameworks of phenomenology. For this reason, Interpretation and Discussion both aim to compare CM with Husserl’s phenomenology and with Scholars’ reception of this text, as well as to investigate some of the themes of CM that are central to all Husserl’s phenomenology.
The goal of understanding CM as a whole can be found also in the internal links that can be found. Regarding this, it’s important to notice Daniele De Santis’ §4 on Fourth Meditation with Witold Płotka’s §8, Aurélien Djian’s commentary on Second Meditation with §9 written by Ignacio Quepons and §15 by Emanuela Carta and §5-6 on Fifth Meditation made by Sara Heinämaa (§5) and Alice Pugliese (§6) with Stefano Bancalari’s work on Levinas (§10) and Saulius Geniusas’ contribute on Paul Ricoeur. This allows both a mutual confrontation and a thematic deepening – although internal references are not always present in the text. But it is also possible to further interweave internal references and compare e.g. Landgrebe and Husserl on the account of the idea of Erste Philosophie – these topics are respectively discussed in §9 concerning Landgrebe’s remarks on CM and in §19 §20, specially here on Husserl’s »first« and » universal« and »second« and »last« philosophy. Thanks to the in-depth sections, it is therefore possible to compare the theoretical outcomes of the MC’s with Husserl’s latest phenomenology – e.g Andreea Smaranda Aldea in §17 claims that »Husserl’s emphatic call for a higher-order critique in the Cartesian Meditations as anticipating his Crisis call for radical self-reflection« (p. 453) and Alice Pugliese who compares the Fifth Meditation also with Husserl’s Grenzprobleme der Phänomenologie.
It is important to note that Interpretation and Discussion are not appendixes of the Commentary. Alongside a reading accompaniment, the authors shed light on issues that are often overlooked. For this reason, it seems to me that rather than exhausting the research, the importance of this volume is to be a forerunner for even more in-depth studies of MC. For example, Witold Płotka in §8 goes far beyond just a simple reconstruction of Roman Ingarden’s remarks on CM. Namely, even if these remarks »are an historical document of phenomenological movement« (p. 216), the author stresses the importance of Ingarden’s work also in respect to the Fourth Meditation and to some unjustified presuppositions. In this respect, also Danilo Manca researches in §7 the Hegelian motifs of MC which Fink highlights. Specifically, Manca focuses on the »transition from the natural to the transcendental attitude« (p.193), on the Gespaltung of the Ego after performing epochē and the thematization of unconscious dimension of constituting life which that phenomenological method makes possible. Based on Fink’s reflections and stressing Hegel’s use of »Aufheben« (p. 197), the author shows the continuity between the natural and transcendental attitude. Regarding MC, the author deals with Fink’s remarks on §32 – in which the ego in is understood as a »substrate of habitualities« and with the dialectic between the two I, the natural and the transcendental one. In a passage of Fourth Meditation, Husserl claims that his CM are for the »nascent philosopher the genuine introduction into a philosophy«. The same thing does not completely fit with Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations. Commentary, Interpretation, Discussions. In some parts the content discussed by the authors presupposes a good knowledge of Husserl’s philosophy – not just of MC – and for a non-specialist reader it might be difficult. Especially §14 Meditations on Purity: Edmund Husserl and Hans Kelsen wrote by Federico Lijoi and §18 Lavigne’s Objection to Phenomenologica Idealism: Critical Remarks with the Help of the Cartesian Meditations by Agustín Serrano de Haro are only fully clear to readers that already are familiar with the phenomenological milieu and, in the second case, with Logic Investigation. For this reason, the »broad sense« of the Commentary includes discussions of problems that are not limited to the text commented on here and investigate some core problems of Husserl’s phenomenology. Nevertheless, these chapters are certainly an opportunity to explore these issues.
Certainly, the Commentary’s part offers a detailed discussion. Claudio Majolino in the first part of Commentary (§1) clarifies the meaning of »Cartesian« and »Meditations« and he researches for the Motive – both in its German meanings (p. 27) – why Husserl took Descartes as a reference. This part is longer than the other and it deals both with Husserl’ Introduction and Fist Meditation. Since the earliest reviews many criticisms emerged against Husserl’s approach towards the figure of Descartes (p. 14-6), investigating this point is a good key to start. Claudio Majolino works on Husserl’s so-called Cartesianism and understands it in terms of »repetition and variation« (.p 22). Using some insights from Hua VII / VIII and Husserliana Materialen IX Claudio Majolino stresses the threefold meaning of Descartes’ Meditation recognized by Husserl: the eternal meaning, the importance of CM for the present and finally the meaning of Descartes’ Meditations for the present. The author approaches this problem by pointing out the way Husserl had already discussed Descartes (Socrates and Plato) in his previous Lectures. Regarding this point Claudio Majolino claims that “[Descartes] embedded the skepsis within the innermost core of genuine and radical philosophy itself” (p. 35). If on the one hand, Descartes took some arguments from Skepticism, on the other, on several occasions he points out the differences between his doubt and skepticism. The boundness between the grounded knowledge and responsibility, well discussed in §1, from another point of view, is also investigated by Leonard Ip (§20) using the distinction between »Second« and »Last« Philosophy in Husserl. The reference to Descartes allows Husserl to link knowledge to responsibility, but it also poses some problems: first and foremost, that of the route into phenomenology. In §16 Rosemary Jane Rizo and Patron de Lerner points that out and discusses Husserl’s Cartesian way to reduction. Starting from a discussion of Begründung and Fundierung (p. 405-10) two terms used by Husserl to describe the foundational problem, the A. than discusses the main theme regarding CM. It is important to notice that Rosemary Jane Rizo and Patron de Lerner highlight two antithetical demands in Husserl’s thoughts about science: the interest in a mathematical theoretical foundation and the interest in transcendental subjectivity, which is connected to the Lebenswelt and gives it a foundation. The focus on the Husserl-Descartes link finds another insight in §17. Here, Sergio Pérez-Gatica in his The Distinction between »First« and »Universal« Philosophy in Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations: On a Basic Precondition for the Trasformation of Philosophy into a Rigorous Science points out that while »philosophy« means »universal philosophy« – in terms of Platonic and Cartesian idea of universal science –, Husserl uses »first philosophy« in a technical way to stress the basic method for a rigorous philosophical knowledge. Considering the lack of rigor in philosophy at his time, Husserl uses the Cartesian path to draft the real goal for its phenomenology: providing a fundamental epistemology. (p. 483). In conclusion Sergio Pérez-Gatica highlights the connection between logical and ontological requirements in Husserl’s philosophy and the reflections contained in MC on the idea of rigorous grounding philosophy. Regarding Cartesian way, another insight comes from §9. Here Ignacio Quepons points out that Landgrebe stresses the same problem of the Cartesian way to reduction declared by Husserl itself in Crisis. It’s also important to observe that even if Husserl criticizes the Cartesian way, nevertheless, the other ways do not reject the first one, but complete it by revealing other possibilities (p. 239-40). Another attempt to focus also on Husserl’s so-called Cartesianism can be found in §13 Jan Patočka on Descartes and Husserl’s Cartesianism wrote by Hynek Janoušek and Wojciech Starzyński. The authors discuss Patočka on epochē and reduction from Husserl. While »Patočka accepts Husserl’s method of epochē as a major breakthrough in modern philosophy […], he rejects Husserl’s idea of reduction as leading to the unwarranted subjunctivization of the phenomenal field of appearances« (p. 344). This chapter seems to me to be successful because it relates Patočka with Descartes and Husserl.
Following the Commentary, in §2 Aurélien Djian points out how Husserl repeats and varies – using Caludio Majolino’s words – Descartes to introduce its own transcendental phenomenology. The author stresses specifically the horizon, synthesis, and intentionality notions. Aurélien Djian shows that transcendental subjectivity should not be conflated with the psychological ego because it only can be grasped through epochē (p. 68). The conclusion of §2 discusses a passage of MC §9 and it has a very specific purpose: showing the problems related to Husserl’s »ranking the horizon among the universal principles of phenomenology« (p. 88) and the need for apodicticity of the ego. In §3 Lilian Alweiss asks: how is it possible to do Ontology after Kant? To answer this question the author considers »two different ways of referring to non-being« picked up by phenomenological descriptions: one linked to »possibilities which have not yet been fulfilled, the other to possibilities which have been dashed« (p. 96). Then Lilian Alweiss traces a connection between Husserl and Kant regarding the answer to Hume’s circle. This passage is fundamental to understand why this chapter states that Husserl traces the limits of being from within, with the notion of evidence and through imagination. De Santis’ §4 investigates the role of transcendental idealism in MC, the only place where it has an »exoteric systematic presentation of this doctrine« (p. 115 mod). This comment connects the focus on Husserl’s idioms to the philosophical content in them. Namely, the author points out Husserl’s use of Unsinn, not just in MC but also in Ideas I, and compares it to the occurrences of Wiedersinn. The goal of this chapter is to show that each sense is grasped with respect to transcendental subjectivity, which must be regarded as a monad. De Santis claims also that the monad is »subjectivity constituted by the correlation between the surrounding world (or the world as it appears to me) and the »personal character« (p. 117). Since Husserl’s fifth meditation is longer than the others, the Commentary is divided into two sections: §5 written by Sara Heinämaa and §6 by Alice Pugliese. The first one deals with MC § §42-54, the second one with §55-64. Sara Heinämaa starts considering that »some forms of critique are thematic and reject Husserl’s descriptions of our experiences of other persons or other human beings, while other lines of critique are methodological and question the adequacy of the conceptual tools used in the analysis« (p.141). Then the author points out the role of these chapters within MC as a whole. As Sara Heinämaa states, »with the supposed failure of Fifth Meditation then, with the failure of its account of the constitution of the sense of another self, much, if not all, of Husserl’s phenomenological project would collapse« (p. 143). The main topic of this contribution is to explain the concepts of verification, analogical apperception, and empathy. This chapter faces the transfer of »sense problem« and stresses Husserl’s strategy already adopted in his previous texts. Namely, Husserl uses scientific and philosophic standard terms without their standard meaning – e.g Husserl’s »empathy« is different from Stein’s or Scheler’s use of the same word (p. 157). Alice Pugliese addresses the last part of MC »using one of the most consistent and ancient questions of metaphysics as a hermeneutical key: the dialectic of unity and multiplicity« (p. 171). More in detail, the author claims that the unity-multiplicity problem leads the empathy problem. This strategy completely fits MC, especially considering that »the monad is a unity that includes multiplicity« (p. 178). This reading is further confirmed if we consider »the core of the egological and monadic intuition« which stands for unity and the »the daily work of science and knowledge« as multiplicity (p. 186). The problems of Fifth CM discussed in the Commentary are taken again by Stefano Bancalari, who in §10 discuss The influence of the Cartesian Meditations on the thought of Emmanuel Levinas. If on the one hand, the 5th MC provided Levinas the intersubjective problem, central for his work, on the other, it determined the rupture with Husserl’s phenomenology (p. 260). Considering Levinas’ thought nearly in its entirety, Stefano Bancalari points out how Levinas used his »intersubjective reduction« to overcome the problems related to Husserl’s Cartesian way to reduction. Regarding the aim of this book this contribution is important because it thematizes Others’ constitution problem. Stefano Bancalari also shows why the lack of the Others’ gaze in the analogical apperception for Levinas is a problem (p. 271). Another perspective on the intersubjectivity problem comes from Jakub Čapek, who discusses Merleau-Ponty’s lecture of CM in §11. The author shows how from an initial critique to the ego Merleau-Ponty then uses Husserl’s analysis, and in particular the idea of appresentation, »to face the objection that his theory makes individual perspectives vanish into a monism of a supra-individual corporeity« (283). As Jakub Čapek recognizes, Merleau-Ponty goes further and in the end of Phenomenology of perception claims the return to the ego – albeit transformed. The author states that for Merleau-Ponty the main problem of Husserl’s account of intersubjectivity is the transposition from the I to the Other because it is based on the immediate self-knowledge. On the contrary, for Merleau-Ponty our self-knowledge is »a practical task yet to be accomplished« (284). Although in §11there is no reference to Merleau-Ponty’s receipt of Ideas II, this contribution further enriches some of the problems seen in the previous chapters. In §12 Saulius Geniusas in his Paul Ricoeur’s Husserlian Heresies: The Case of the Cartesian Meditations points out that MC are the core not only of Ricœur’s reading of Husserl, but also for his philosophy itself. The author approaches the topic using three questions: how Cartesian are Husserl’s MC? How descriptive is Husserl’s descriptive phenomenology? How egological is Husserl’s egology? Saulius Geniusas claims that »Husserl secularizes Descartes and interprets the Cartesian cogito as the transcendental subject, conceived of as the ultimate origin of all meaning« (p. 305). Additionally, if on the one hand, the author bounds both Descartes and Husserl on the problem, on the other he stresses that Husserl’s radicalization of Descartes does not address God. Regarding the second question, Saulius Geniusas stresses that »for Ricoeur, Husserl’s phenomenology is not sufficiently descriptive because it does not constrain its own descriptions from gliding into transcendental idealism» (315). It is important to notice that this chapter bounds itself both with Daniele De Santis’ §4 and Stefano Bancalari’s §10. Regarding the problem of evidence, Emanuela Carta in §15 reconstructs scholars’ discussion of Husserl’s evidence understood as Theory of justification (Standard View) and proposes a new interpretation of the theme where evidence justifies belief. Fallibilist Thesis claims »What is evidently given to one can be false« and it is related with The Corollary Thesis: »It is possible for one to have justification to believe a false proposition« (379). After criticizing the metaphysical realism of scholars, the author discusses Husserl’s notion of »idealism«. Here a footnote on De Santis’ work in this text could have been useful. Finally, Emanuela Carta provides an alternative to the Standard view, claiming the correlation between absolute truth- adequate evidence and relative truth-inadequate evidence (p 393). Thanks to that it is possible to reject both Fallibilist Thesis and The Corollary Thesis and to argue that evidence justifies belief because it shows what is true, even if in an open and perfectible way. A Discussion that shows the unity of the late Husserl’s thought is that of Andreea Smaranda Aldea, Self-Othering, Self-Transformation, and Theoretical Freedom: Self-Variation and Husserl’s Phenomenology as Radical Immanent Critique. Specifically on this topic the author links the self-critique of the self-variation with Crisis’ zig-zag method. Namely, self-variation clarifies both the goal of inquiries and itself. For this reason, if we consider the Besinnung as a Rückfrage, it is possible to regard self-variation »as methodological tool central to phenomenology as a whole« (p. 453). In his conclusion, following the sense of Besinnung, Andreea Smaranda Aldea claims that self-variation is not just a simple method related to self-constitution, but »a central method at the core of phenomenology itself functions as a necessary condition for the possibility of this radical self-critique« (455).
Before concluding this review, I would like to focus on another goal of the volume: if on the one hand the volume presents itself as a unique volume, on the other the richness of the contributions also allows a specific selection of some parts of it. This means that Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditation. Commentary, Interpretation, Discussions is not only aimed at specialists of Husserl, but also at all those who, across the board, have to deal with MC. In sum, this volume marks a notable achievement. The broad sense of the Commentary completely full fits the goal of the editor. Additionally, it should not be read merely as commentary. Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditation. Commentary, Interpretation, Discussions is a collection of contributions which gives a rich and broad view of the Cartesian Meditations as a whole. All the various parts move in different, often intertwined, directions and show the richness of Husserl’s work. The volume’s conspicuous number of pages proves how urgently an entire study dedicated to MCs was needed.
 Edmund Husserl, Cartesian meditations (translated by D. Cairns), p. 88.
 See René Descartes, Œuvres Complètes, vol. 12 (Vrin, 1996). Specially AT VI 29, AT X 512 and AT III 434.
The Crisis might be Husserl’s most widely read work, and within the Crisis, §9 on Galileo’s invention of modern science has captivated generations of readers. It raises a host of questions:
What does it mean that mathematized science offers only a method, not the true being of nature? How can science both be founded and contained in the pre-scientific lifeworld? How does Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology offer an alternative to Galileo’s conception of nature?
This critique of Galilean science comes from a mathematician-turned-philosopher, who staunchly defended the possibility of objective knowledge in the Prolegomena and sought to turn philosophy into a rigorous science. Husserl’s last work is as puzzling as fascinating, and it is easy to see why it remains one of the most popular entry points into Husserlian phenomenology and interpreters keep coming back to it.
Emiliano Trizio’s new monograph Philosophy’s Nature is a case in point, culminating in an extensive commentary on §9, where different threads of the book find together. The discussion of Galileo is embedded in, as the book’s subtitle announces, Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, natural science, and metaphysics. Trizio establishes this context not only by drawing on Husserl’s earliest writings from 1890s, but also the 19th century ignorabimus debate about the limits of scientific knowledge. Husserl is cast as offering an alternative to Mach’s phenomenalism and Helmholtz’ critical realism, which is a refreshing alternative to framing Husserl’s account in terms of the later scientific realism debate. When addressing classical questions about the relationship of lifeworld and natural science, Trizio emphasizes the role of teleology, and offers a carefully argued extrapolation from the Crisis fragment.
After presenting the book, I raise some questions: about mathematization and the sensible plena, Trizio’s distinction between causal and categorial inference in science, implications for empirical psychology, the aprioristic account of phenomenology, and the metaphysical status of correlationism.
2.1 The 19th Century Background
The first chapter sketches a background debate. Rather than beginning from contemporary standard debates about scientific realism, Trizio reaches back to the 19th century, when debates about the limits of physical knowledge were already in full swing. The mechanistic world picture led to the well-known thought experiment of the Laplacian demon. The original question was whether astronomers’ successful predictions could be expanded to the entire world, given enough knowledge and intellectual resources. DuBois-Reymond turned this into an argument about the limits of scientific knowledge: If the intrinsic nature of physical objects, or the origin of conscious experience from physiology were forever hidden from the Laplacian demon, must also remain hidden from human scientists. Thus, there must be an ignorabimus, a domain that “we will never know”.
Mach argues that DuBois-Reymond relies on metaphysical assumptions of the mechanistic world picture. That picture came under more and more pressure from electromagnetism and thermodynamics (before quantum mechanics and relativity theory upended classical physics altogether). Mach’s phenomenalism is an anti-metaphysical programme that requires a reinterpretation of what physical theories are about–rejecting things beyond their presentations in experience.
The critical realists need no such “dissolution” of the object of physics into series of experiences. Trizio focuses on Helmholtz and Planck, who take the thing of perception to be a “sign” that is distinct from, but lawfully related to the real, physical thing. This view is realist about the existence of the external world and our possibility of knowing about it. But it is critical rather than naïve for separating the thing of perception from the thing of physics.
This is the background for discussing how Husserl relates the external world, the world of physics, and world of sensory perception. But we have already seen that an important difference in the critical realist and phenomenalist responses to the ignorabimus is their different tolerance for metaphysics. The next chapter therefore discusses the disputed relation between metaphysics and epistemology in Husserl’s work.
2.2 Epistemology and Metaphysics
The role of metaphysics in phenomenology has long been disputed. Especially Husserl’s late work seems to discuss overtly metaphysical questions, such as whether the world could exist without an actual consciousness. But especially in the Logical Investigations, Husserl declares the metaphysical neutrality of his considerations. The reduction is also described as a way to shed the metaphysical prejudice of the natural attitude.
An easy way out would be to say that Husserl’s commitments change, but Trizio resists the narrative of separate periods and “turns” (this alone is an impressive achievement). He begins with a text about the nature of space from the 1890s where Husserl distinguishes between the Theory of Knowledge—asking “how is knowledge of the objective world is possible?”—and metaphysics—asking what the actual world is ultimately like. Depending on how we understand the possibility of knowledge, we end up with a different metaphysical picture of the world, e.g. a phenomenalist, rather than a critical realist account.
Trizio presents Husserl’s later metaphysics as a consistent expansion from this idea. The metaphysical commitments are a consequence of the adopted theory of knowledge. He grants that there is a shift of emphasis from the question “how knowledge is possible” to the question of the “sense of being” which is clarified in transcendental phenomenology. But while seeking the “sense of being” sounds like a metaphysical task, it can also be understood as: “what must be the sense of being, for knowledge of it to be possible?”, so the primacy of epistemology can be maintained (cf. 59f.).
With this clarified relationship between epistemology and metaphysics, we can now reconsider natural science. The natural sciences operate with the well-known presupposition of the natural attitude. The metaphysical clarification from phenomenology addresses not immediately whether particular theoretical terms like “electron” refer to unobservable objects, but investigates the sense of “natural world” that the empirical sciences presuppose. Via the phenomenological clarification, the natural sciences become a metaphysics of nature. Transcendental phenomenology provides the “a priori framework underlying all possible factual realities” (86), which provides the “ontological closure of the sciences”. This closure amounts to the rejection of any ignorabimus, or hyperphysical reality, that would lie beyond these sciences. Slightly later, Trizio summarizes this metaphysical picture as “the world is a unit of sense constituted in transcendental intersubjectivity and nothing beyond that”. (107) Once the ontological closure of the empirical sciences has been achieved, the room for metaphysics is exhausted.
2.3 Transcendental Phenomenology
What separates the empirical sciences from ultimate metaphysics is “a clarification of the sense of their fundamental assumptions, […] most important among them, the positing of the world.” (99) Chapter three therefore turns to the phänomenologische Fundamentalbetrachtung (consideration fundamental to phenomenology, §§27-62) of the Ideas I. Husserl here argues that consciousness is an absolute region of being, independent of the posit of the world.
The book remains focused on the relation between perception and the thing of physics. According to the distinction between primary and secondary qualities, only the primary qualities carry over from perceptual appearance to the thing of physics, whereas secondary qualities originate in the subject. But Husserl distinguishes between the intuitive space of perception and the ideal space of geometry. A drawn triangle exists in an intuitive space, but it only serves as a sign for an ideal triangle in the space of geometry. What mathematized science discloses are such idealized properties; therefore, they are not a subset of the perceivable properties. Applied to the relation between perceptual and physical thing, this means that even the intuition of spatial properties does not remain without a contribution from the subject (103f.). Neither Husserl nor Trizio put it this bluntly, but it seems like all perceptual qualities turn out to be secondary.
Without overlap between the properties of physics and perception, one might expect a form of critical realism, where the perceptual object is only a sign for the physical thing. But one of the most poignant passages in the Ideas I reads: “The physical thing which [the scientist] observes, with which he experiments, which [he puts] in the melting furnace: that physical thing, and no other, becomes the subject of the predicates ascribed in physics.” (Husserl  1982, §52, 120) Trizio takes this identification of physical and perceptual seriously and argues that it shows a rejection of critical realism; the perceptual thing is rather a “sign for itself” (114). The key is Husserl’s notion of the “empty X” as the bearer of all objective properties, whether they are disclosed in perception or in empirical science. The critical realist distinguishes an object X that bears the perceptual properties, and an object Y, which is determined by scientific theory. Husserl however argues that such a “hidden” cause leads to a regress. If we can know an object Y only inferentially, then a more competent observer could know Y on the basis of perception–but then for this observer, the appearances of Y would indicate an object Z, and so forth. (cf. 112)
This argument relies on the essential perceivability of all physical things which has led to an association between Husserl and anti-realist philosophers of science. A main feature of Trizio’s book is that it here steers a more realist line, according to which also scientific theories about unobservable entities can achieve a true, metaphysical insight into nature. The key is Trizio’s distinction between the causal inference that leads to the posit of observable things—say, a planet—and the inferences that lead to explanations in unobservable terms, like atoms (111). To treat the latter as causal inference to an unobservable world creates the “causal depth” of the critical realist picture, and the mentioned regress. The theoretical inferences of microphysics instead provide a categorial determination of the world of perception. The sense in which nature transcends our subjective experience has already been established at the level of perception, and scientific theories do not force us “to accept a different account of the ‘externality’ of the world” (115).
Once more emphasizing continuity through Husserl’s work, Trizio here relies on an account of categorial determination from the Sixh Logical Investigation. Pre-scientific judgements already contain meanings that do not allow for fulfilment in sensory intuition. “Just as the ‘and’, the ‘or’, and the ‘is’ cannot be painted, the physico-mathematical concepts cannot be ‘turned’ or ‘translated’ into sensuous determinations of whatever kind.” (122) Instead, the sense in which a microphysical theory is true has to be understood according to the truth of categorial determinations. These have nothing to do with our perceptual capacities and neither has the goal of scientific theory. “Accordingly, God’s physics would amount to the same true, complete mathematical physics that we human subjects strive to achieve, the one that describes matter as it is in itself, in its real, intrinsic nature, by means of categorial unities of thought”. This account of microphysical being is exegetically convincing, interesting, and sets Trizio’s account apart from other interpreters—I will comment on it below.
The rest of the chapter develops more critical responses to recent secondary literature, especially Harvey, Wiltsche and Hardy. Whereas the first two err on the side of instrumentalism, Hardy’s proposal aims to make transcendental idealism and metaphysical realism compatible, which for Trizio is a non-starter. The common error, so Trizio appears to say, is the imposition of “ready-made ‘philosophical problems’ as hermeneutical frameworks to interpret Husserl’s thought.” (138) Doing so “wreak[s] havoc on the internal articulation of a philosophy meant to generate its own task and method” (ibid.). The reader might want to consider for themselves: Can we approach Husserl with a philosophical topic or question, or must we let Husserl define the goal of philosophy? It is hard to see how an interpretation as comprehensive as Trizio’s could be achieved without granting Husserl to define the goals, and the complaint about ready-made philosophical problems is understandable. But one might equally worry that Trizio’s alternative stays confined by a philosophical edifice and its internal questions. Zahavi (2017, 184f.) for example appears less restrictive, and can point out interesting parallels, such as between Husserl’s correlationism and Putnam’s internal realism.
2.4 Ideas II
The fourth chapter focuses on the Ideas II, and the constitutional role of the lived body (Leib), intersubjectivity, and the relation between the natural, naturalistic, and personalistic attitude. Trizio here also refines the previous discussion of space, distinguishing between the subjective sensuous space, the objective perceptual space, and an idealized objective space. “The objective but not yet idealized space is the link between what is given to us in perception and the idealized language of physics” (161) Whereas the sensuous space is oriented around a perceiver’s body, the objective perceptual space has no such orientation. Intuition of objective perceptual space is only possible through founded acts: movements, rotations, and acts of empathy (ibid.). This is not an idealization, rather the objective perceptual space is constituted as “every-body’s space” (ibid.).
The chapter also discusses Rang and Ingarden, and thereby offers more detail about the interpretation of microphysics. While “it is true that concepts such as ‘atoms’ and ‘ions’ do not refer to ‘Dinglichkeiten an sich’, this is not because atoms and ions do not exist, but because they exist qua endpoints of the constitution of material nature in transcendental consciousness.” (170) Such endpoints are categorial determinations of the sensible world that also a divine physics would be compelled to. This is only one of several places where teleology features centrally.
Trizio now briefly returns to the challenge from DuBois-Reymond. That atoms cannot be the objects of experience does not mean that they comprise an ignorabimus: imperceivable atoms are still knowable as the ideal limit of categorially determining the perceivable world. The account of idealizations is what undermines DuBois-Reymond’s connection between the imperceivable and the unknowable (187f.).
Then, within five pages, Trizio discusses challenges from quantum mechanics and relativity theory. The discussion of quantum mechanics relies on a short appendix to the Crisis, one of very few places where Husserl ever talks about non-classical physics. Trizio argues that Husserl’s sees no conflict between quantum mechanics and the scientific goal of an objective description of nature. What quantum mechanics reveals is rather that some objects can only be studied as ensembles, not individually. This means that some idealizations stay tied to typical environments, and therefore particular scales. In turn, the relevant idealizations for our scientific descriptions can be scale-dependent (191f.), and there is no guarantee that we have a reductive basis for the idealizations of higher-level theories (such as physiology and biophysics). This is an interesting discussion, but stays at a very high level of generality.
The challenge from relativity theory is more obviously problematic. It undermines the idea that the “essence of space” could be studied a priori, independently of empirical theory. Trizio admits here that Husserl’s silence on the issue—despite the work of Weyl and Becker—is disappointing. In conclusion, Trizio thinks that relativity theory shows that intuitive and objective space are farther apart than we thought, but that this affects neither the rejection of critical realism nor the identity of perceptual and physical thing. I discuss below how relativity theory might require to rethink the relation between phenomenology and empirical science.
2.5 Life-World and Natural Science
The fifth chapter is by far the longest, running to almost a hundred pages. We now turn to the Crisis of European Sciences, and the discussion of Galileo in §9. Trizio further emphasizes the role of teleology, as in the account of categorial determination and in some earlier work (Trizio 2016). The crisis of the European sciences is explained as an “uncertainty and disorientation with respect to the essence inhabiting such a cultural formation [as empirical science] as its telos” (204) That the natural sciences have suffered a “loss of meaning” is a consequence of their separation from philosophy: as part of philosophy, empirical investigation had a context in which it was meaningful for life (206).
The chapter is comprehensive because part of its ambition is to discuss parts of the Crisis that remained a sketch: how spirit relates to nature, and the relationship between the objective spirit investigated in the human sciences, and the absolute spirit described in phenomenology (214f.) Trizio distinguishes three scientific endeavours: the natural sciences (naturalistic attitude), the positive sciences of objective spirit (personalistic attitude), and the phenomenological science of absolute spirit (transcendental attitude, 215). Natural and spiritual world have their own principles of unity, causal relations in the former, motivational relations in the latter case. (210) Natural and spiritual world are different aspects of the lifeworld, but since the entire lifeworld has been replaced by mathematized nature, the world of spirit has been forgotten (247, 250). This misinterpretation is spelled out in the central §9, which is honoured with 36 pages of reconstruction and discussion. For anyone interested in Husserl’s account of Galileo, this commentary alone is a good reason to consult this book.
After recovering the world of spirit, Trizio finds a priority of human sciences over natural sciences: “the naturalistic attitude is subordinate to the personalistic attitude because it is the personal Ego that performs the operations necessary to render nature thematic as the sphere of mere natural objectivities” (258). This relation between these theoretical endeavours also leads to an ontological relation between their domains. “If nature is an abstract stratum of the life-world, it cannot be ontologically prior to it. It is an abstract layer of what for us has meaning in terms of our aims, among which its scientific explication also finds a place.” (260f.) It seems easy to vacillate here between nature as a “Zweckgebilde” of natural science, and nature as the domain of empty Xs that bear perceptual and scientific determinations: a domain that is factually indeterminate, but already determinable (this seems to require at least that the “Zweckgebilde” of natural science does not change with scientific theories or political environments).
Trizio then addresses the classic question how a scientifically true world could both be grounded on and encompassed by the lifeworld. The offered solution again relies on teleology: “the mode of being of scientific nature is that of an end of a specific human praxis” (270). The lifeworld itself however is independent of any specific aims (268); it is in this sense prior to any scientifically disclosed worlds, because the motivation to begin a scientific endeavour begins from the lifeworld. However, the lifeworld has no “outside”: whatever turns out to exist has to exist as part of the very same world that we were already determining by the means of perception.
Trizio here disagrees with interpreters who distinguish the transcendental reduction from a preliminary “reduction to the lifeworld” which brackets scientific theory and practice but leaves the natural attitude intact (e.g. Bitbol 2020). What makes the lifeworld pre-scientific in Trizio’s account is not the absence of scientific culture, but the lack of a telos. Whereas the objective determination of nature is the telos that for the scientific world, the lifeworld has no such practical goal. But even though this allows to distinguish different worlds, the world of science still is an objectivation of the lifeworld, not an independently constructed scientific image. When we are bracketing scientific culture, this focuses our attention on a pure layer of the lifeworld, rather than revealing the lifeworld in its entirety (269).
En passant, Trizio again discusses competing anti-realist interpretations, leading to a clearer picture of his own account. Antirealism here is glossed as the claim that science can only arrive at correct prediction of appearances, but not at knowledge about true nature as it is in itself. If Husserl were an antirealist about scientific knowledge, no account of nature would be compatible with transcendental phenomenology. a) Husserl cannot be claim that the objective world does not exist (only that it is not a mathematical manifold) b) nature cannot be in principle unknowable, because that is incompatible with the principle of correlation, c) natural science is also not to be replaced by a new science of nature, d) agnosticism is like skepticism a “deadly enem[y] of philosophy”. (256f.) Since Husserl is not a metaphysical realist, this rejection of anti-realism is not a commitment to scientific realism in the standard contemporary sense. The condensed discussion again reveals importance of the principle of correlation: unknowable aspects of nature are excluded from the start.
In the last paragraphs, entitled “Nature as the correlate of Absolute Spirit”, Trizio edges towards some further metaphysical conclusions. The premise is that nature can only be constituted as an abstract core of the life-world, which is personal in character. (275) Therefore, nature can only appear through intentional acts that are abstract components of the concrete unity of constituting life. It is not possible to think of a constitution of nature that was not embedded in a constituting life, and such constituting life must know a personal attitude. Unfortunately, Trizio does not make explicit whether this means that he concurs with Husserl’s proof of idealism: that a world which never develops constituting forms of life is metaphysically impossible. (Husserl 2003)
It is clear that this is a work of serious scholarship. Trizio draws on an impressive range of sources, from before the Logical Investigations to the Crisis. Well known parts of Husserl’s work are central, such as the consideration fundamental to phenomenology, or §9 of the Crisis. But also the Ideas II and the less known 1917 treatise Phenomenology and Theory of Knowledge (Husserl et al. 1987, 125–205) are central points of reference. Framing Husserl in the ignorabimus debate is well done and sets up an interesting angle for the discussion.
The production quality of the digital edition is good. References and endnotes are listed per chapter, endnotes are conveniently two-way linked to the main text. There are a number of avoidable editorial oversights and Typos, especially in German quotations (e.g. 76, 258) and names (e.g. 122, 148), but the overall typesetting is pleasant. With these descriptive points out of the way, I can now turn to the content.
3.1 The Mathematization of Plena
One of Husserl’s main claims in §9 of the Crisis is that the “sensible plena” (sinnliche Füllen) cannot be directly mathematized, unlike the shapes of objects. Hence, Galileo has to make the hypothesis that all determinations of the plena will be implied by a completed account of the shapes—the plena will be indirectly mathematized. When Trizio reconstructs why the plena do not allow for mathematization, he connects this with the impossibility of finding a compositional basis to construct the plena. “There can be no analogue of the ruler in the case of a color, or of a warmth-property, no smaller standard that, via a certain method of composition, could “build” the original quality out of smaller parts, not even approximately, ‘with a rest’.” (232)
There is, however, no discussion of established practices for precise communication of colours. When colours are communicated as RGB or CMYK codes, they are specified exactly in terms of the combination of red, green and blue light (or the densities of standardized inks). Why does this not count as the construction of a colour-space from basic elements? It seems to me that the difference between shapes and plena is not so much in compositionality, but in the convergence to an ideal limit. Shapes can be put in line to approach a flat surface or a straight line or a sphere. This ideal reference point is never reached. A series of colour patches, however, does not approach an unintuitable “ideal red”: an orange patch can be more or less close to a red patch, but the limit remains intuitable. Colour similarity only compares to an intuitable limit that retains some indeterminacy. This is not the kind of convergence that we have in the case of geometry, where intuitive shapes can approach a precise, unintuitable ideal.
3.2 Causal inference and inference to categorial determinations
Trizio’s realism about scientific knowledge depends crucially on the distinction between two kinds of scientific inference. To reiterate, scientists sometimes make “causal” inferences, such as “there is a planet Neptune” which introduce new, in-principle observable entities. In the case of microphysics, however, their inference is a categorial determination of nature, and does not introduce new entities. I am not sure what the principled grounds are to declare scientific inferences to be one kind or another. It seems clear that we can sometimes infer that there are things we cannot perceive ourselves, for example after losing a sensory modality, or observing reactions of animals. Now, when we explain a disease through a virus, is this a causal inference, or a categorial determination? It is implausible that the limit of causal inference coincides with a contingent limit of human perception, and I would therefore expect that viruses would still be something where we can make causal inferences. But where does it stop? Trizio would presumably have to give an answer in terms of essential imperceivability—but it would be good to know what it is exactly.
3.3 Foundations of Psychology
It remains somewhat unclear whether Trizio advocates a revisionist programme for empirical sciences. He is explicit that he has no such intention for physics, but what about psychology? Is a main cost of forgetting the lifeworld a psychology that dehumanizes its subjects, because it starts from the naturalistic attitude? I take this to be Husserl’s ambition, but of course in view of the psychology of his time. If Trizio here departs from Husserl, this is not made explicit.
3.4 A priori knowledge of space and general relativity
Much of the book appears to work towards marrying two claims:
- Transcendental Phenomenology is the founding, universal science that is before all empirical science.
- Empirical sciences are capable of generating metaphysical knowledge.
What Trizio promises is nothing less than a First Philosophy that can do without instrumentalism about the empirical sciences. As Trizio admits, this comes to limits with the theory of relativity, where Husserl’s silence “is embarrassing” (193). Already in special relativity, temporal and spatial distances lose their independence. The death of two stars might appear simultaneous when observed from the earth, but their temporal order changes with the location of the observer. This is not just another fact that tells us more about which of the a priori possible worlds we inhabit, but it redefines the interaction between phenomenology and empirical theory. Throughout the book, Trizio gives phenomenology an authority over the commitments of empirical sciences: phenomenologists can point out when scientists “naïvely” rely on assumptions of the natural attitude. But in the case of relativity theory, physicists could retort that the phenomenologist is not so independent from theory after all. The assumption that space and time are independent might be one such assumption. It looks like a theory of physics can serve as a valid criticism of a distinction of transcendental phenomenology. But on what grounds could transcendental phenomenology then still be considered to be “before” empirical science?
Trizio points in a similar direction when he concedes that “the only way out is to use the theory of relativity as an indication that the phenomenological account of idealization must be revised” (193). But conceding such limits to first philosophy should also affect the relation to contemporary philosophy of science. Trizio is certainly right when he argues that Husserl’s account cannot simply be “placed” within an existing body of literature about scientific realism, because this debate takes the dominance of logical empiricism as its starting point.
Given Trizio’s emphasis on historical contextualization, one might have expected more optimism about this historical situation. The nascent logical empiricism and Husserlian phenomenology touched in the 1920s, when Carnap studied with Husserl, and Felix Kaufmann was part of both movements. By contrast, Husserl never actually writes about an ignorabimus. The historical arc to philosophy of science seems neither more ambitious nor less promising than the 19th century context which Trizio sets up. It would be too much to attempt both in the same book, and the 19th century context is a welcome addition, but why should an explication of Husserl’s account not be commensurable to debates in the philosophy of science?
One might of course worry that philosophers of science are too busy discussing the content of particular scientific theories, rather than less easily formalizable questions about the structure of thing-consciousness. But what is gained from playing out those philosophers who want to attend to the perceptual phenomena against those who emphasize scientific theory? Trizio’s take here is more negative than most recent literature in the general area (see especially Hardy 2013; Zahavi 2017; and essays in Wiltsche and Berghofer 2020) and from those who work closely with cognitive scientists. All these authors seem more open to two-way interaction between empirical theory and phenomenological clarification, or at least between phenomenology and philosophy of science.
A final point concerns the explication of metaphysical commitments. While the book contains much discussion of what metaphysics means for Husserl, and in what sense phenomenology is not deciding but undermining the metaphysical debates, it is not always clear what Trizio endorses. I already mentioned the question whether a world without a factually constituting consciousness is possible.
Husserl’s correlationism on the other hand is a commitment on which Trizio relies much more openly. The rejection of Husserl’s correlationism by speculative realists is now well known. (Meillassoux  2008) But also metaphysics in the tradition of analytic philosophy raises difficult questions. Husserl’s correlationism commits him to the knowability of all true propositions. But such a knowability is surprisingly difficult to spell out, as the debates around the Church-Fitch paradox and metaphysical anti-realism show. (Fitch 1963; Salerno 2009; Kinkaid 2020) Philosophy’s Nature focuses more on defending the account presented as the correct interpretation of Husserl than it does to raise and address general questions from semantics or metaphysics.
Trizio’s book is nothing short of impressive for the clarity and depth in which it discusses Husserl’s works from the 1890s to the 1936 Crisis and the 19th century context. The rejection of anti-realist readings of Husserl’s philosophy of science is forceful and a very welcome addition to the current debate.
Because of its dismissal of contemporary philosophy of science, however, it can occasionally seem like a book on Husserl for Husserlians. Given the complexity and range of literature discussed, this is not surprising, but there are places where a greater departure from internal questions would have been natural: most clearly, through a more extensive discussion of the lessons from relativistic physics, and by anticipating some questions about the distinction between causal and categorial inference. Husserl’s account is complex and disputed enough to warrant treatment through a book, and Trizio fills an important gap. Those who wish for a connection to contemporary philosophy of science, however, will see room for another.
Bitbol, Michel. 2020. ‘Is the Life-World Reduction Sufficient in Quantum Physics?’ Continental Philosophy Review, October. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11007-020-09515-8.
Fitch, Frederic B. 1963. ‘A Logical Analysis of Some Value Concepts’. The Journal of Symbolic Logic 28 (2): 135–42.
Hardy, Lee. 2013. Nature’s Suit: Husserl’s Phenomenological Philosophy of the Physical Sciences. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press.
Husserl, Edmund. (1913) 1982. Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy. First Book. General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology. Translated by Fred Kersten. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
———. 2003. Transzendentaler Idealismus: Texte Aus Dem Nachlass (1908-1921). Edited by R. D. Rollinger and Rochus Sowa. Husserliana 36. Dordrecht ; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Husserl, Edmund, Thomas Nenon, Hans Rainer Sepp, and Edmund Husserl. 1987. Aufsätze Und Vorträge: 1911-1921. Husserliana 25. Dordrecht ; Boston: M. Nijhoff.
Kinkaid, James. 2020. ‘Husserl, Ideal Verificationism, and the Knowability Paradox’. presented at the Boston Phenomenology Circle Workshop, Boston, MA, November 21.
Meillassoux, Quentin. (2006) 2008. After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Translated by Raymond Brassier. London: Continuum.
Salerno, Joe, ed. 2009. New Essays on the Knowability Paradox. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.
Trizio, Emiliano. 2016. ‘What Is the Crisis of Western Sciences?’ Husserl Studies 32 (3): 191–211. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10743-016-9194-8.
Wiltsche, Harald A, and Philipp Berghofer, eds. 2020. Phenomenological Approaches to Physics. Cham: Springer.
Zahavi, Dan. 2017. Husserl’s Legacy: Phenomenology, Metaphysics, and Transcendental Philosophy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
The fourteen essays in this volume are exercises in what the author terms “applied phenomenology” (ix) in contrast to the formal analyses found in his Presence and Absence: A Philosophical Investigation of Language and Being. The aim of both volumes is to recover the question of being by reclaiming the truth of appearances.
The essays in this book are attempts to describe various ways in which things can appear: as pictured, quoted, measured, distinguished, explained, meant, and referred to, and also as coming to light in moral conduct. The description of each of these forms is made more vivid and exact by being placed alongside the descriptions of the others. And because appearance always involves that which appears and the one to whom it appears, my essays are meant to be not only an analysis of appearance but also a venture into the question of being and a clarification of what we are. (xiii)
The fourteen essays, arranged in six parts, cover central topics of interest to students and specialists in phenomenology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, and ethics. Sokolowski exercises a sovereign philosophical voice that plainly and without fuss lays bare the being of things—and in doing so infectiously invites us to do the same.
In the first part on representations in image and in speech, Sokolowski explores ways of referring to absent things as well as to beliefs other than our own. Picturing requires a unique intentional relation that makes present something that is absent. Naming, by contrast, targets something whether present or absent without making it present in any way. Quoting allows us to target things as intended by others so that we can toggle between our own present articulation of things and those of others without, however, necessarily adopting others’ views as our own.
In the second part on coping with intelligibility, Sokolowski reflects on the explanatory power of strategically distinguishing one thing from another: making sense is not principally a matter of argument or dialectic; it is principally a matter of elucidation by identification with the appropriate kind. For example, pictures are other than quotations and sense is other than reference.
In the third part, Sokolowski details the part-whole structure of time and space and considers themes that arise in the ambit of science concerning the intentionality of timing and of measurement. He also includes a rewarding essay on the relation between the complex world in which we live and the exact one arrived at through the idealizations of science.
In the fourth part, Sokolowski turns explicitly to the philosophy of language and develops, in a phenomenological voice, the difference between sense and reference. He argues that we should “exorcise concepts” as nothing more than a baleful prejudice that, while explaining nothing, generates a host of intractable pseudo-problems. Philosophy’s habitual appeal to concepts comes from a continual failure of nerve, a continual failure to realize that we can and do refer to absent things without the mediation of some sort of present mental entity; in fact, the positing of such an entity is a matter of falling prey to what Sokolowski calls a “transcendental mirage,” a matter of thinking something is there when it is not. Instead, we can handle everything about the phenomenon of language by positing a speaker, speaking about something, to someone. The speaker presents something to someone by means of a “slant” on things. Positing concepts undermines the intentional relation to things; slant-talk reestablishes the fact that speaking is at bottom an issue of the presentation of something to someone. Sokolowski’s analysis of referring nicely displays the advantages of the phenomenological method for exploring the intentionality of naming; it defends both the integrity of ordinary ways of reference and the value of philosophical idealizations of the sort operative in mathematical logic.
In the fifth part, Sokolowski attends to the part-whole structure of sentences and images. Grammar signals not only the thoughtful activity of the speaker but also the need for the listener to undertake the same activity to achieve understanding. Despite a surface similarity between words and pictures, they present things with different conditions of satisfaction.
In the sixth and final part, Sokolowski presents a phenomenology of ethical performance, which develops themes from his Moral Action: A Phenomenological Study. Abstraction stands in the way of moral understanding, which is by nature embodied in the very behavior of morally good agents: “To be able to respond to the natural law—indeed to let it become actual as law, to show by one’s actions what can be done, and thus to make others see what should be done—is to be a certain kind of person: not one who simply conforms to things set down, but one who lets the good appear, to himself and to others, in what he does” (291).
With Sokolowski, the practice of philosophy may be fruitfully understood as a matter of explaining or exhibiting intelligibility by means of carefully distinguishing one thing from another, and of doing so for ourselves and each other together. Hypothesized mental entities only gum up our understanding of language and being; exorcising them allows language to spring again to life so that the wonder-inducing operation of presentation and articulation can once again be registered and appreciated. Those who wish to follow concrete paths into the heart of being could not do better than to pick up this illuminating collection. Highly recommended.