The Idealism-Realism Debate Among Edmund Husserl’s Early Followers and Critics is a multifaceted exploration of the historical context and ongoing influence of various epistemological, ontological, and methodological approaches to the problems of consciousness and reality. Part of Springer’s long-running Contributions to Phenomenology series, the essays in this collection complicate the conventional picture of idealist and realist phenomenology as two homogenous and warring camps through a number of close readings and re-interpretations of figures from this formative period of phenomenology.
In his introduction, editor Rodney K. B. Parker outlines two goals: first, to return Husserl’s early phenomenology to its historical context (4) and, second, “to understand the positions of the other early phenomenologists with respect to the idealism-realism debate.” (4) This is more than scholarly trivia. By drawing parallels between the idealism-realism debate of the early twentieth century and the current rivalry between phenomenology and speculative realism, (6) Parker makes a convincing case for the continued study of figures who left an indelible mark on the phenomenological landscape but for whom sustained engagement—especially in anglophone philosophy—has been elusive.
The structure of the work itself bolsters this conviction. Instead of a linear, chronological approach, the collection is divided into four sections. The two essays in the Part I provide background on Husserl’s philosophical development with a focus on his Logical Investigations. By dissecting the way his early work may have been interpreted as realist, they lay the foundation for the following chapters, the majority of which examine the philosophical conflict which erupted after the publication of Ideas I in 1913. Yet while there is a noticeable sense of progression, the collection withstands the procrustean temptation to place Husserl’s work on a rigid teleological timeline. Instead of proceeding chronologically, the collection revolves geographically around the loose constellation of philosophical schools that sprang up in Marburg (Part II), Munich (III), and Gottingen and Freiburg (IV).
By framing the idealism-realism debate around geography, which is necessarily imprecise and ambiguous, the contributors successfully tease out similarities and differences between positions and philosophers that have been historically understudied. Essays on Baltic, Russian, Spanish, and Japanese—as well as several female—philosophers serve to emphasize phenomenology’s cross-cultural appeal and socially inclusive character.
It comes as no surprise, then, that the portrait of Husserl offered by the collection is more of a mosaic than a picture. Yet it is not less useful for that. On the contrary, the variegated portrayal of Husserl challenges the conventional picture of the idealism-realism debate as a contest between two static, monolithic, and fundamentally hostile camps; readers receive a clear sense of the fluctuating philosophical milieu which phenomenology developed in and deeply influenced. Husserl’s philosophical positions and appropriations thereof were neither foregone conclusions nor incidental to phenomenology today. This volume sheds welcome light on a crucial and underappreciated period in philosophy.
This review largely follows the structure of the work, beginning with the introduction from the editor and reconstructing the arguments in the foundational first chapter on Husserl’s Logical Investigations before devoting the rest of the space—unfortunately not exhaustively—to several individual essays from the collection which serve as conceptual lodestones for thinkers and topics discussed elsewhere in the work.
Parker’s introduction clarifies the broad historical and philosophical context in which the idealism-realism debate among early phenomenologists arose. The core of the controversy centers on two distinct but closely related issues: first, “whether the ‘real’ world exists independent from the mind” (8) and second, whether the belief that the only object of knowledge is one’s subjective consciousness—epistemological idealism—necessarily entails metaphysical realism, or the belief “that nothing exists independently of the mind.” (6) Husserl’s early thought was characterized by a form of realism similar to Brentano’s descriptive psychology. However, after sustained engagement with Kant and disenchantment with psychologism, “Husserl’s project moved away from the descriptive psychology of the Logical Investigations and the account of intentionality presented therein toward a form of transcendental idealism.” (2) The position at which Husserl arrived, transcendental-phenomenological idealism, which “seeks to reconcile the empirical reality of the world with the dependence of that reality on consciousness,” (3) came as an unpleasant surprise to many of his followers and leading philosophical figures of the time.
Michele Averchi puts it succinctly in his article on Geiger: “We must ask ourselves: is Geiger’s reaction to Ideas I only worth exploring for the sake of historical completeness? Or does it contain some developed and original contribution to phenomenological thought?” (175)
The same could be asked, some may say, of Husserl—to say nothing of his less-famous interlocutors. Parker—and the work as a whole—is emphatic: Husserl and his fellow twentieth-century philosophers not only have much to contribute to contemporary debate today, but from a historical perspective, “if Husserl’s critics misunderstood his position, particularly with respect to idealism, then it is incumbent on Husserl scholars to clearly articulate how.” (12)
The two essays in Part I explore the intellectual heritage, Platonic underpinnings, and realist receptions and misconceptions of Husserl’s Logical Investigations. While both Fisette and Crespo conclude that a realist interpretation of Husserl is untenable, they also show that such an understanding is not historically inapposite.
Programs such as Fisette’s are normally nebulous, hinging on specious chronologies and dubious speculation. Fisette avoids these fatal pitfalls by staying scrupulously close to textual evidence, from Husserl’s correspondence and marginal notes (39) to the admittedly more ambiguous influence betrayed by the content of his work from that period. The centerpiece of Fisette’s essay is the close reading he performs on Husserl’s unpublished manuscript Mikrokosmos, which was itself a meticulous explication of Lotze’s Logic and was intended by Husserl to be published as an appendix to his Logical Investigations.
Fisette begins his robust intellectual genealogy of Husserl’s early philosophy by tracing the outline of Lotze’s influence. Though Lotze died in 1881, Fisette argues that he influenced Husserl in two ways: directly, through his work, and indirectly, through his students. Stumpf, for example, under whose tutelage Husserl completed his dissertation and habilitation (31), was a student of Lotze’s, as was Frege, whose withering critique of the ostensible psychologism contained in Husserl’s Philosophy of Arithmetic is often regarded as having provided the impetus for the anti-psychologism of Husserl’s Logical Investigations. This last point is particularly important, because Fisette attributes to Lotze, by way of Brentano and Stumpf, a good deal of credit for inspiring Husserl’s theory of relations as contained in his Philosophy of Arithmetic. (35, 40)
While he deplored Lotze’s “arguably strange view that arithmetic is only a relatively independent and since ancient times particularly sophisticated part of logic,” (38) in Mikrokosmos Husserl nevertheless “attributes to Lotze the merit of having stressed the decisive significance of the distinction between the subjective aspects of thought and the objective aspects of its propositional contents.” (39) In a letter to Brentano, Husserl declared that it was thanks to Lotze’s interpretation of Plato’s theory of Ideas (38) that he was able to articulate an understanding of consciousness as intentionally directed yet noetically distinct from both the subject and content of thought.
This is not to say Husserl blithely internalized Lotzean assumptions. On the contrary, he was deeply critical of Lotze. Husserl was dissatisfied with the descriptive approach inherited from Lotze, which rendered him unable to explain the mysteriously objective quality of subjective experience except by recourse to an empirical explanation. Since he received from Lotze no means by which to engage the transcendent qualities of consciousness without either immanentizing or mechanizing them, Husserl developed a critique of psychologism based on the ideality and objectivity of the laws of logic which he conceived in terms of Geltung and effectivity (Wirklichkeit). (40, 43)
Unlike Lotze, who muddled the division between the quality of judgment and “the propositional content of judgment” (42), Husserl argued that the meaning we intersubjectively imbue objects with is the basis for the existence of those objects independent of any mind. Far worse, according to Husserl, was the fact that Lotze distinguished “a representational world (Vorstellungswelt), which has merely human-subjective validity, from a metaphysical world of monads in-themselves” available only through ‘mysterious’ metaphysical methods, a situation Husserl dismissively called “inferior to novels.” (44) While in Husserl’s view it was perfectly valid to speak of logical laws as being ideal (47), he criticized psychologism for making that validity a function of psychological description and took pains to avoid the subjectivism to which Lotze fell victim when he created “a dependency between his Gedanken and the experiences of the knowing subject.” (43)
However, this leads to a problem: what exactly is being mediated if for Husserl “the function of the propositional content of a judgment is to mediate the relation of an act to its object”? (42) By strenuously opposing a Lotzean conception of ideality, Husserl inadvertently encouraged some interpreters to mistakenly impute to him a form of realism, as Mariano Crespo argues in the following chapter.
Analyzing the critiques of Spanish philosopher Antonio Millán-Puelles, Crespo suggests that in Husserl’s “effort to ground an autonomous logic freed from the threat of that particular form of empiricist phenomenalism that is logical psychologism, one can understand the initial impression of realism.” (56) Such an interpretation, Crespo suggests, turns on a failure to distinguish between the ontology of objects and the ontology of being.
Millán-Puelles makes his critique along three lines: first, “that the proof of ideality invoked by Husserl in the Second of his Logical Investigations is invalid” (57), second, that “conceiving the laws of logic as one conceives the laws of arithmetic” (64) leads to the mistaken belief that ‘universal natures’ correspond to ‘beings of reason’ (65), and, finally, the fact that Husserl transgresses the limits of phenomenology when he makes a jump “from the plane of propositions concerning universal objects to the ontological plane of ideal being.” (61)
These objections are made possible by the ambiguity that “for Husserl, universal objects present themselves, in their unity and ideal identity, in a special mode of consciousness.” (58) If phenomenology is the study of the structure and experience of consciousness, then by its very nature it privileges the operation of the mind over interaction with matter. Yet Husserl sometimes seems to assume the real, objective existence of objects, such as his defense of ideality in the Second Logical Investigation on the grounds that the objective existence of ideal objects presupposes the being of ideal objects. (62) For Millán-Puelles, there is little difference between the being of objects and their objective existence. More importantly, Millán-Puelles argued that “the use of terms such as “constitutive activity” or “genesis”…should not be interpreted in a psychologistic way, as though these objects remained absorbed by the reality of the mental processes they are made present by.” (55)
Like several critics covered elsewhere in the collection, Millán-Puelles focuses on ‘where’ or under what circumstances and conditions we ‘grasp’ ideal objects rather than considering their abstract nature. (58) This approach bears a certain resemblance to Husserl’s “phenomenological thesis of the constitution of objects present to consciousness.” (57) In effect, “Husserl’s defense of ideal beings would be more the affirmation of an unavoidable datum than the affirmation of a type or modality of being.” (66)
While Crespo ultimately considers Millán-Puelles’s realist critique to be based on a misunderstanding of “the distinction between the real genesis of the acts of the representation and the mere intentional genesis of irreal objects,” (68) Millán-Puelles’s work and interpretation of Husserl serve to clarify the plausibility of a realist interpretation and highlight persistent ambiguities in Husserl’s early phenomenological work, thereby setting the stage for parts II, III, and IV of the collection, which deal with the reception of Ideas I.
The two essays in Part II focus on the Marburg school, specifically Paul Natorp, Nicolai Hartmann, and Vasily Sesemann. However, after a minuscule sketch that frankly does not do justice to the essays of Part II, I am going to devote the next section and rest of the review to the first essay of Part III, which touches on several themes common to the collection as a whole.
Unlike those who focused on the theoretical underpinnings of Husserl’s phenomenology, Sesemann and Hartmann criticized Husserl for ignoring the importance of the practical context in which an actor’s intentionality is embedded. (114) Despite their differences, Jonkus points out that (somewhat like Millán-Puelles), Hartmann and Sesemann shared a conviction that Ideas I represented a return to idealism which elevated the experience of consciousness over the givenness of experience and thereby placed “the transcendent objects of the world…beyond the scope of phenomenological inquiry.” (113) It is this interplay of context, immanence, and intentionality that characterizes Susan Gottlöber’s essay on Max Scheler’s description of reality in terms of resistance. As a chronological outlier—the theories propounded by Scheler antedate but oppose the framework of Ideas I—her essay helps contextualize realist-inspired reactions to Husserl’s apparent turn toward idealism. Given the philosophical scope of Scheler’s critique, which encompassed methodology, epistemology, anthropology, psychology, and ontology, (122) Gottlöber’s essay also lends itself to comparisons with the critiques of other schools and thinkers discussed elsewhere in the collection.
According to Scheler, “consciousness is thus a necessary correlate of existence.” (123) Moreover, “the experience of resistance necessarily precedes consciousness.” (126) Gottlöber reads Scheler, contra Dilthey, as viewing the experience of resistance not as a conscious action of the will but an unconscious and even inevitable product of the interaction between “involuntary (unwillkürlich) drives” and the external world (Außenwelt) (126). Placing the operation of these drives in a realm comprised of the ‘spheres’ of personal perspective, perception of essences, the natural environment, and communal relationships (126-127) allows Scheler to “make an argument for both expanding the concept of reality beyond the external world…and, secondly, draw attention to the fact that the problem of the different spheres has to be treated separately from the problem of reality.” (127)
By focusing on the involuntary and experiential nature of existence, Scheler inverts the conventional idealist perspective of reality as a predicate of consciousness. Scheler’s approach bears a marked resemblance that of Hartmann (discussed by Jonkus), especially in their shared emphasis on how we are ‘grasped’ by objects. Like Scheler, “Hartmann argues for the priority of transcendent objects and focuses on ontology, which—for him—precedes epistemology.” (113) The ‘grasping’ nature of objects would become a crucial element in Scheler’s understanding of reality-as-resistance, and stands in stark contrast to Husserl’s approach, which privileged the objective and primordial purity of eidetic consciousness as well as the unitary nature of phenomenological methodology.
Gottlöber’s primary purpose in the essay, however, is to determine the extent to which Scheler successfully defended his assertion that being and essence do not, necessarily, entail questions of meaning, and the ramifications of his success (or lack thereof) for a realist rebuttal to Husserl. To do so Gottlöber focuses on the relationship between the drives and their connection to essence and meaning in Scheler’s posthumous 1928 essay Idealismus – Realismus. (121)
At first glance, creating ontological categories of ‘spheres’ and ‘drives’ seems misguided. Scheler himself conceded that an image theory of reality is indefensible, since claims that consciousness operates by corresponding to immanent objects “presupposes the cognition of both the image and the object as such.” (128) He also responded positively to Husserl’s claim that “what is not able to be effective is not real,” (128) which linked causality and reality in a formal relationship.
Yet Scheler felt, Gottlöber writes, that the “mistake made by both the idealists and the critical realists” was “the erroneous presupposition that essence and existence are inseparable from consciousness.” (131) Scheler attributes this misunderstanding to a mistaken belief that 1.) “all realities are unities of meaning” and 2.) that the experience of reality is meaningful in itself—that we do not experience objects, but meanings of objects. (130) In contrast, Scheler conceptualized reality as pre-given and meaningfully neutral resistance. He formulated the spheres as the manifold by which reality-as-resistance, through various attitudes of being, or drives, mediated meaning. In other words, “since resistance is accessible neither to consciousness nor to knowledge, but rather to the drives only, the relationship of the drives to resistance is not a relation to an essence (Sosein) or meaning (Sinn) but rather is characterized by being pre-conscious and pre-known.” (129) By denying reality innate meaning, Scheler “established a relationship between knowledge and consciousness on one side and the experience of resistance on the other without the latter being relativized in relation to the former…[R]esistance remains transcendental to consciousness at all times.” (130)
Yet such an interpretation entails several problems. One could ask, for example, how we know that resistance transcends consciousness. Or, if knowledge and meaning are formally extraneous to the experience of resistance, then how does consciousness arise and what are its qualities? (129) Scheler unpersuasively attempts to avoid an infinite regression by attributing “intentionality not to transcendental consciousness but to the experience of resistance with consequences for ‘ideal being’” (131) and reiterating the belief that “reality, rather than being constituted by consciousness, itself constitutes consciousness.” (131)
On one hand, Scheler’s interpretation is realistic insofar as it affirms reality to be a mutually constitutive process between consciousness and some external experience (in this case, resistance). However, by according consciousness a critical role in the instantiation of resistance by way of the spheres of experience, Scheler opens his arguments to accusations of question-begging and the very form of idealism he attempts to oppose. (As Gottlöber demonstrates in the chapter, Scheler’s conception of reality “is always transintelligible: only the what of existence is intelligible for us, never the existence of the what.” (131))
Despite these shortcomings, Scheler’s work—and Gottlöber’s analysis thereof—is valuable for the light it sheds on several realist critiques of transcendental phenomenology. For example, Scheler’s theorization of resistance as the ground of consciousness bears a striking resemblance to Hartmann’s realist and rhetorical comment wondering “Wo also ist das Phänomen des idealen Seins fassbar?” That is, the grasping of reality—or in Scheler’s case, the experience of resistance—precludes a phenomenology of pure consciousness. Such an assumption is corroborated by Scheler’s comment to the effect that phenomenology is less a delimited science than a new philosophical attitude (121)—a belief that corresponds strikingly with D. R. Sobota’s analysis of Daubert, and more explicitly in Michele Averchi’s essay on Geiger’s philosophy of “attitudes” (Einstellungen) and “stance” (Haltung). (175) Given the multidisciplinary nature of Scheler’s work, Gottlöber’s essay on him serves as a historical lodestone for the other realist philosophers discussed in this collection.
Yet not all of Husserl’s critics attacked him for his apparent idealism; the final paper, by Genki Uemura, explores the reactions of Satomi Takahashi and Tomoo Otaka to Husserl’s Ideas I and their contention that he had tried—but not successfully managed—to escape a realist philosophy. By concluding this way, the collection has come full circle, from the ostensibly realist origins of Husserl’s phenomenology in the philosophy of Lotze, Stumpf and Brentano to accusations by his later students that he never developed a fully idealist position at all.
Though it focuses on the European context of the idealism-realism debate and does not delve into international appropriations or influence, this volume draws from a wealth of diverse thinkers and makes a historically rich and philosophically compelling argument for the enduring significance of the idealism-realism debate among Edmund Husserl’s early followers and critics.
 Scheler, Max. 1995. « Idealismus–Realismus. » In Gesammelte Werke, vol. IX, ed. by Manfred Frings, 183–340. Bonn: Bouvier (186).
 Hartmann, N. 1965. Zur Grundlegung der Ontologie. Vierte Auflage. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter (22).
Aged 81, Jean-Luc Nancy passed away last year on 23rd of August 2021. As he remained prolific until his final months, he leaves behind a huge body of work that forms a significant contribution to philosophical, political, cultural, aesthetic and religious discourses. The Fragile Skin of the World, translated by Corey Stockwell, is a collection of essays, many of which were wrote in Nancy’s final years, that each embody the beauty of his writing, his poetic register and his philosophical flair. The essays contained centre around many of the most prominent and re-occurring themes throughout his works: finitude and finite thinking, politics, technology, the proliferation of globalized late-capitalism, the creation of the world and the exchange of sense. Additionally, the collection also includes interventions from Juan Manuel Garrido and Jean-Christophe Bailly, which provide both a counterpoint to and an extension of Nancy’s thinking on these topics.
Over the last two years, Nancy continued to provide an insightful commentary of the Covid-19 pandemic, including An All Too Human Virus (which Stockwell also contributed to the translation of) and his Libération article titled “Communovirus”. In this latter text, he considers the forms of collective effort and solidarity displayed in the early period of the pandemic in Europe as a possible juncture to a thinking of the question of the community, capable of disrupting the hyper-atomized mindset of late-capitalism. However, as Nancy warns that the omission of such a reckoning may mean that “we’ll end up at the same point” it seems interesting, now, to read the essays that make up Fragile Skin and to reflect upon the fact that the concerns that haunt and provoke their writing are those that have pre-dated and persisted through the pandemic. Though not exclusively, these seem to be the looming climate emergency, the enmeshment of technology with domination, imperialism and colonialism and the relentless exercise of forms of power, sovereignty and parochialism that perpetuate the mentalities policing our external national borders and geopolitical thinking. Under his diagnosis, these familiar concerns exemplify the forms of levelling inequalities to be overcome when Nancy, in his earlier text, calls for a “creation of the world”, entailing heterogeneous processes of struggle “for a world” which “must form the contrary of global injustice against the background of general equivalence.” Reverberating against this earlier call, Fragile Skin adds to this the suggestion that what also may be required is a temporality and a thinking of the “here and now” that enables such a creation.
As Nancy explains in the opening acknowledgements,
This book is born out of the desire to join to our worries for tomorrow a welcome for the present, by way of which we move towards tomorrow. Without this welcome, anxiety, and frenzy devastate us. [FSW: vi]
Fragile Skin is concerned precisely with this question of a finite interpretation of the “here and now”, which runs against those interpretations of the term which understand the present moment, as the dialectic exclusion of other possible “here and nows.” Rather, Nancy suggests a temporality of the “here and now” as the site of passage, a relation to the present which attests to our experience, that “time will come because time comes […] even if it all comes to nothing.” [FSW: x] The stakes of this re-evaluation are high, as he argues it is our very orientation to time which characterizes the nature of our contemporary anxieties. Pressed up against the seemingly insurmountable issues that define the unease of our present setting, Nancy suggests that it is the ghosts of our attempts to master time, which haunt us today, as he writes,
If we’re worried, disorientated, and troubled today, as indeed we are, it’s because we’ve become accustomed to the here and now perpetuating itself by excluding every possible elsewhere. Our future was right there, ready-made: a future of mastery and prosperity. And now everything is falling apart: climate, species, finance, energy, confidence, and ever the ability to calculate of which we felt so assured, and which seems doomed to exceed itself of its own accord. [FSW: x]
Pre-empting an argument that he will reiterate over the course of the essays¸ Nancy suggests that our attempts to master time, (as succession or as progress) are today disrupted by the fact that we are heading towards the point of catastrophe; and that the supposed promises which accompanied these transformations of temporality (perpetuated economic development, growth and rising living standards) are losing their ability to provide us clear view of the future. As though we are in the second act of a play, climbing towards the climactic point, it is difficult to see exactly how the form of life that we attribute to the success of this progress (the development of carbon based globalized late-capitalism) will survive beyond this horizon. Even though we already know many of the particular injustices that have been enacted in building to this point (centuries of colonial and imperial exploitation) and that the consequences of reaching certain irreversible limits will be felt (and are already been felt) in disparate and uneven ways, we seem unable to change the trajectory course of this arc. In order to address the peculiar tension and anxiety that we experience in this position, Nancy suggests that what may be required is a thinking of time, and in particular of the present, that embraces the contingency of the “here and now” as the site of the singular-plural unfolding of existence.
Of course, when Nancy reminds us “we ourselves are the time that comes” [FSW: x] such a description will recall the language deployed by Heidegger in his magnus opus. However it is important to note how the former’s descriptions also set out several key differences between his pre-occupation with “presence”. While both seek to pick apart the linear thinking of temporality that emerges from Aristotle, the key difference is that Heidegger seeks to replace our conception of “the now” with an account of time as an essential unity (housing the ecstasies of past, present an future), whereas Nancy sees these ecstasies as the singular-plural dissemination of experience. This means that the linear understanding of time is transposed through the concept of différance; each now is the singular moment that contains the plural explosion of possibilities that may come to be as time passes. On this basis, Nancy reminds us that “the time will come and without question it will be unforeseen: without the unforeseeable, nothing would come.” [FSW: x] One may even venture further with this comparison and propose that the figure of authentic temporality as discussed by Heidegger, is the one who realises that their experience is always subjected to this temporal unity. The heroine wins themselves back against their history and through reflecting upon their death as their ownmost possibility, comes to welcome their destiny [Schicksal] as their freedom. In contrast the silhouette traced by Nancy, is of the one (amongst the many) who sees the plural structure of this unity within the singularity of the present. Who recognises that their very participation (praxis) in this unity, is the condition that exposes them to the plural possibilities and contingency of the future. Nancy exceeds Heidegger, as the attempts to win one’s freedom through the reworking of time and denigration of plurality it entails, actually leaves Dasein prisoner, as authenticity is achieved through the enclosure of the future in one’s destiny. On the contrary, as will be set out further over the course of this review, Nancy’s diagnosis is that it is our efforts to master time which present a history of our attempts to close and control the passage of time. At stake in these two contrasting temporalities are two distinct attempts to give a finite interpretation of freedom.
The divergence between these two ontological undertakings is revealed further in ‘A Time to Come without Past or Future’, where Nancy weaves a narrative of how this sense of time grew with the West and how it has been exported around the globe. He suggests that our “sense of immobility or of hesitating suspension” is brought about by a focus on “’presentism’” which “has a theoretical meaning (the affirmation of the exclusive existence of the present) and a practical meaning”, exemplified in the call to “‘…focus on the present [as] the rest is out of our control’.” [FSW: 1] Referencing Aristotle, Nancy suggests that such an inheritance is symptomatic of a linear and teleological conception of history “linked to progress” concerned with “perfecting techniques with a view to a better life.” [FSW: 2] Against this, Nancy sets out his intentions to cultivate a sense of the present as the gift, as a site of withdrawal that constitutes of the passage of time. He explains this,
[I]s not a matter of installing oneself in the present. Its gift is not the gift of any kind of stance —of a stanza, of stability, of a stele. Perhaps it even steals away as it gives, and (like the present) essentially steals away in the coming of its own succession. In succeeding itself, it passes, and in passing it opens itself to succeed once more. It comes by losing itself; it receives itself as that which cannot be anticipated, like all coming. In a word, it is not a future. The future is a present represented as a certain or possible. [FSW: 2]
Following this passage, Nancy references Derrida for the first time in the book as he appeals to the descriptions of the “to-come” (as in democracy or justice “to-come”) to explain how the present is suspended between the interplay of presence and absence. Seeming to accord with Derrida, the present is always pregnant, it is always “pre-senting.” The present “does not come out of the possible” or the “impossible either: it is not, and in not being it exposes us to an absence, which will only give us a fugitive present in its approach and its coming about.” [FSW: 3]
This point is explained further in ‘Accident and Season’ where Nancy, suggests that an overreliance on the form of time as “succession”, has come to drown out the different temporal experiences that are explored in psychology, art and literature whereby “succession has allowed itself to be composed with the present […] only with difficulty.” [FSW: 69] Rephrasing the ontological stakes of his meditation on the present he writes, “within this final horizon, the present could only exacerbate the character of non-being that it had always had.” [FSW: 69-70] In order to set up the playful distinction that this essay centres on, Nancy draws a parallel with Aristotle’s usage of the term “accident” to characterise the present that “does not belong to the essence of time” which “consists precisely in not having a present, in being nothing but the dissipation of being-present.” [FSW: 70] Against this Nancy invites a thinking of the “seasonality” of the present which amounts to re-evaluating the logic of presencing that makes each moment a “now”. He writes, “presence is always a coming into presence […] When we say that someone ‘has presence’, we’re not speaking of something static, but of a dynamics of approach of imminence, of the encounter.” [FSW: 75] He links this to both Heidegger’s Anwesen and Derrida’s differance, as a counterpoint to the “chronophagic time of a strict causality, of progression, of capitalization, and of calculation.” [FSW: 75] In contrast to the rigidity of the present as accident, Nancy muses the contingency of the season which “designates the time in which an event […] takes on its flavour […] Always already […] in the process of being transformed – in the process of coming to pass.” [FSW: 78] These ontological reflections have important political significance, as Nancy believes it is our inability to think this “coming to pass” of time that paralyses us today. Our pretensions to the mastery of time have brought us into an age in which our predictions spell out catastrophe; they “predict programmed futures” which as “predicted” are “thus present before being so.” [FSW: 3] These predictions do not so much as spell out the future to come, but by projecting a future “now”, actually rebound back on the present, afflicting our condition. For example, when we, “forecast the exhaustion of non-renewable energy” it “is no longer to come” as “[w]hat is foreshadowed has already happened, and encumbers what is to come instead of opening it.” [FSW: 79] In contrast a thinking of the seasonality of the present may help us to look to the future differently and to see the opportunity that contingency brings, “to see” and “not to discern contours and distances” but “experience the faint allure of approach that is not yet determined.” [FSW: 79]
Returning to the essay ‘A Time to Come”, it is here that Nancy presents the main body of his historical analysis concerning temporality. As he looks back to the early history of the West, ancient Greece and Rome, he asserts his entropic commitment that,
The world is an emergence: not only does it emerge from the non-world, but it ceaselessly emerges to itself, from energy to deflagration, from gatherings to explosions […] What precedes has never seen the coming of what follows. The space-time of the world – indeed, of plural worlds – is at bottom nothing but an emergence, one that is infinitely more ancient than antiquity. [FSW: 4]
The difference he states between western antiquity and the ancient cultures of Russia, China and the Islamic world, is that these “civilizations envelop time in a permeance” whereas western thought “sought to master succession.” [FSW: 7] In particular in Rome, Nancy suggests, this idea of succession is transformed into the idea of progression, through a sense of enterprise as the “edification and elaboration of the work.” [FSW: 7] His argument relies on an interpretation of the imperial ambitions of Rome, which relied upon an understanding of time that identified it with the progressive expansion of the empire; a work that consists in it’s own production, its successive annexation of local and regional cultures. Nancy further suggests that this thinking of expansion through time draws upon Greek concepts, such as autonomy, in such a way that it “entirely detaches it from the local and popular identity, and opens it to an enterprise that for the first time merits, on its own scale, the name ‘globalization’.” [FSW: 8] He continues, “Rome collapsed beneath its own weight: beneath the weight of its own incapacity to locate the sense of its enterprise.” [FSW: 8] As the empire expanded, and as increasing issues emerged around the centralization of Rome’s administration, the conceptual apparatus it relied upon in order to centre and evaluate the efforts of its own project became harder to determine.
In the final sections of the essay, Nancy expands these points to look at the legacy that Christianity and capitalism cast over the West. Firstly, “Christianity at once diverts and galvanizes the energetic, achievement-orientated drive that the Roman mutation bore.” [FSW: 9] During the 14th century turn toward Protestantism the conceptual foundations for the development of capitalism crystallize, “technique, domination, and wealth arise” culminating in “the systematic development of” the principle of “investment.” [FSW: 10] Nancy suggests that the notion of investment is the extreme radicalisation of the same impulse towards time, as its meaning “is to surround, to envelop (to ‘vest’) a specific object in order to appropriate it.” [FSW: 10] From here, Christianity spills into capitalism as, the dominance of investment, “transforms social relations, to the point of dragging the greatest number into misery, reserving for an ever small majority an ever more insolent and powerful opulence.” Additionally, “it transforms the relations of subsistence between man and the rest of the world into a paralysis of such a nature that subsistence exhausts itself within it.” [FSW: 10-11] Nancy concludes, “what exhausts itself is the West itself […] this might be what is happening to us right now.” [FSW: 11] He suggests that “the investment underpinning the entire ensemble has begun to collapse” [FSW: 12] arguing that the “horizon of an endless expansion of technique and domination […] ends up in a complete self-exhaustion.” [FSW: 12] As the West cultivates the principle of investment, through transforming time as succession into progress, to enterprise and finally into investment and wealth, then we reach the point at which the logic of this transformation of temporality undercuts itself, as the pursuit of these ends prevents the future that we seek and we find ourselves unable to break from the temporal chain that spells out the catastrophe looming.
Nancy closes this essay, quoting the passage referenced earlier from the Creation of the World, in this context adding his thesis concerning temporality: a finite rethinking of the present which is open to the singular-plural contingent partage of existence. He muses,
Here, now, I am employed, used, called upon, exploited, enjoyed by an infinite that is neither a subject nor a scheme – that thus has nothing in store for me and makes no profit from me – but that is my very existence, […] this body, these words, […] are here now exposed, dedicated, abandoned to the infinitely more than themselves. [FSW: 15]
Echoing the calls presented in his other works this thinking of the present implies a thinking of freedom as existence which is both “a praxis and an ethos, a lived and living disposition that in a sense we are already familiar without even knowing.” [FSW: 15] Nancy’s approach to a finite interpretation of the present attempts to walk a tricky tightrope between acknowledging our inability to master the passage of time but which yet also retains an important active element, in which our experience of the present actively participates in the coming of the future. In proposing this he rejects existentialist accounts that claim the subject constantly projects themselves into the future, instead suggesting that the for of exposure which constitutes the passage of time, infinitely surpasses the category of subjectivity as the I is opened to the singular plurality of existence; it is therefore fundamentally un-masterable.
There are links in Nancy’s vocabulary here of being “employed”, “exploited” and “enjoyed” which link the discussion of finite temporality to his work on the nature of technology, or what he elsewhere refers to as “eco-technology.” This is the subject of the second full essay in the collection, ‘From Ontology to Technology’, where the focus switches slightly as Nancy traces the concept of automation through antiquity, Plato and Aristotle in particular, seeking to tie the history of western philosophy to this term, writing that “philosophy after automation would be nothing more than the fulfilment of philosophy.” [FSW: 25] What began as the endeavour to locate and perfect human autonomy, ends where,
[P]olitics becomes the self-regulation of an assemblage that slowly begins to transcend people […] the supposed autonomy of the Western subject finds itself challenged and overtaken by the autonomy of the technical and economic complex born of the development of techno-scientific and techno-economic mastery. [FSW: 25]
Nancy’s observation here is that many western democracies, which claim the liberal and enlightenment ideals as their foundations, are locked into a technological-economic complex, which despite being faced with insurmountable challenges, are unable to imagine an alternative. He suggests, these political philosophies which were intended to champion the autonomy of the individual and rational thought, are now cemented into a system predicated on the freedom of the market, which promised to enhance individual liberty but now holds a pervasive form of control over their lives. Though undoubtably Nancy may here invoke Marx in his critique of technological capitalism, he also suggests that the critique of autonomy stretches beyond the specific shape of the economy. He writes “this programme sometimes takes on the tint of ‘communism’ and sometimes of ‘social democracy’; it can make itself ‘anarcho-libertarian or indeed ultra-neoliberal; it can just as easily become national-conservative.” Rather, “what is at stake in all these forms […] is the consummation of a reasonably calculated well-being. Blind confidence in a certain know-how, a knowing-how-to-bring-oneself-about – as a self.” [FSW:26] For Nancy it is philosophy’s insistence on the thinking of subjectivity, as an autonomously operating being, that leads to the present relationship with technology, where the tools that were meant to increase human freedom, now call freedom into question.
Therefore the culmination of the essay proposes a rethinking of the relationship between technology, seen as the instrumental use and application of human autonomy to a more passive and malleable nature. Nancy explains,
Man is therefore the animal to whom nature gives the possibility of knowledge with a view to bringing about works that are prescribed neither by nature itself, nor by a virtuous disposition. […] This possibility arises from nature – from phusis […] Phusis gives man the capacity to go beyond merely doing what falls within the purview of phusis. In other words, the nature of man carries within it something that exceeds nature. [FSW: 31-2]
The point here that Nancy draws out is a refinement of his notion of eco-technology, with the specific emphasis being that “technique cannot be opposed to nature — indeed, it can only manifest itself as distorting or destroying nature from the standpoint of its natural provenance.” [FSW: 32] This does not amount to the mere collapsing of the distinction between the human and the natural, but rather to the fact that nature, as eco-technological contains its own surpassing and it’s own limits to be exceeded.  Therefore, the attempt to oppose nature and technology as something so clear as a binary distinction is problematic from the get go, firstly because to a degree, indeed the former is the condition of the latter (the artificial cannot be extracted from the natural) but secondly, that the latter emerges out of the former in a disclosive manner; our technological capacities are a gift precisely because nature does not pre-determine these capacities – this is what we traditionally understand as human ingenuity. Nancy explains that this means “nature, as the accomplishment of self by and through itself, escapes itself (and does in and of itself), steps outside of its own image” imposing us with “an allonomy that turns out to be more originary than autonomy.” [FSW: 36] Our pretension to technological liberation, to the mastery of natural and biological limitations, and autonomy turn out to be undermined by a thinking of nature which is itself technological; the dialectic of the technical and the natural will not hold in Nancy’s thought, “the real is as technical as the technical is real.” [FSW: 40]
Towards the close of the essay, Nancy returns to the political and ethical implications of his inquiry, calling for a “thought […] capable of subtracting itself from this framework” which “entrusts itself to a sense delivered from reasons and ends, exiting from nihilism by” acknowledging “the fundamental incompleteness of sense, of the world, and of existence.” [FSW: 42-3] Although this links the conversation concerning technology with the concept of world, it is not until the final two essays that we are introduced to Nancy’s references to the title of this collection. His usage of the term the “fragile skin” is interesting, firstly because it marks a novel way for him to describe his concept of world, one which as metaphorical, helps us to understand the complex interplay of interiority and exteriority in which our experience of the world consists. Like the largest organ of the human body, in our experience of the world, “everything that encounters my skin encounters me […] without my skin I would not encounter anything.” [FSW: 89] Additionally, neither does it “assure a function inside of an autonomous system” but rather “exposes […] this autonomy to all possible outsides.” [FSW: 88] Secondly, his appeal to the “fragile skin” of the world also helps to relate the discussion to his project to develop a materialist ontology, as set out in his earlier work Corpus. The world is not here to be considered in terms of a phenomenological concept, which risks being abstracted from the material; but rather the very site of the “effraction” of sense, of finite bodily experience which as Ian James describes, “discloses a world […] not in a return to itself, in a gathering of its own identity and self-identity, but in a movement of dispersal, of dissemination or passage.”
Following this tendency, the titular essay Nancy presents the disruptive features of this thinking of the world for any traditional concept of autonomy. His proposal of the skin of the world, is an attempt to oppose any hard binary between freedom and necessity, between an independently acting sphere and a mechanically determined background. The point is that freedom is experienced as the freedom of the world, not as something which is a characteristic possessed by a certain being in the world but as “the world” as “everything that passes between us […] everything that happens to us, everything that becomes of our contacts, our gazes, our breaths, our movements.” [FSW: 91] Through a rethinking of freedom as the freedom of existence, Nancy wants to assert the practical significance of this understanding of freedom, as he writes,
As long as it is ours, it is the act of an infinite emergence that is to itself all of its sense and all the sense there is: a sense that incessantly goes from skin to skin, that is itself never enveloped by anything. [FSW: 91-2]
It is a reiteration of Nancy’s strong claim that freedom is always relational, not only in the sense that it is necessarily reciprocal or mutually granted but rather that freedom is always only experience as a gift of our existence and it’s singular plural givenness. Any attempt to consider it otherwise risks losing this understanding, as the intricate plurality of the world is contracted.
This metaphor of the fragile skin carries over into the final essay, ‘Taking on Board (Of the World and of Singularity)’ where Nancy writes metaphorically of the sea and of the coasts, in order to invite such a re-thinking of the singular plurality of worldly existence. Similar to the way in which he wants us to think of the passage of the present, he also invites us to ask a similar form of question against the thinking of our national boundaries. Nancy contrasts the language of borders, “where the edge hardens and the limit closes” [FSW: 108] against the idea of “the shore […] the place one leaves from, the place one reaches […] a place that is not exactly limit or edge […] but passage.” [FSW: 106] Although he also discusses the obvious geological reality that our shores are always changing, subject to the processes of erosion and sedimentation which carve our coastlines, neither does he want to imply that the shore is a pure indifference, which draws no boundary and which envelops both shore and sea within a more amorphous overarching concept without distinction. Instead the fact that the shore serves as both the place of departure and arrival, seeks to enthuse the kind of boundary that it presents with a sense of wonder at the difference between one’s homeland and the foreign lands beyond it. Undoubtably, the language Nancy employs here has significant political connotations bringing to mind the inherent complexity involved with the conception of national borders and boundaries. In one sense Nancy’s intervention seems to be critical of the “Fortress Europe” stance taken by many nations in response to the so called migrant crisis, invoking a more basic anthropological assumption that “we have always wanted to depart and to cross over.” [FSW: 108] However at the same time, it is also of crucial significance that we remember that difference and distinction is also vitally important. Russia’s ongoing horrific invasion of Ukraine also reminds us of the importance of national identity for democratic politics; and of the sheer disregard for the people shown by the imperialist political powers seeking to expand or consolidate their influence.
Overall Fragile Skin constitutes a significant collection of Nancy’s work because its assemblage exposes the inherent link between his well known work on the struggle for the creation of the world and his critique of temporality. The motif of “passage” remains a key cornerstone throughout, whether this is applied to the here and now, or the border of a nation state, the stress of the term is important for comprehending Nancy’s interplay of identity and difference, how the experience of the limit is also that which exposes us to one another and incessantly to the in-common. Furthermore, there is a unique temporality to this experience of “passage” which may be useful to recall today. In the essay, ‘Right here in the Present’ Nancy positions his reflections philosophically in relation to other thinkers (perhaps amongst others Arendt, Foucault and Ranciere). He criticises how such accounts may, “so as to remain dynamic while mistrusting revolution” privilege “beginnings: the force and grace of the uprising, insurrection, the moment of indignation, the revolt that evaporates just as it risks being overturned.” [FSW: 64] His point here is that alongside the presentism that has arisen in philosophy, thinkers that criticise the present and the vulgar conception of time as a series of “nows” may still be trapped inside a form of thinking the present by projecting politics as a moment (which is notably not now) of sudden eruption or rupture. In contrast Nancy’s emphasis on the present, reflects the fact that the world and the stakes of this world, as Bailly has noted, have “little to do with the glimmering of a consumed past or with that of a dawn distended by an exuberant promise.” Rather, the strength and relevance of Nancy’s thought is that “what he continually sought to bring about […] was above all in the closest proximity to the present, in the low light of what the days delivered to him.” Of this, “he fully assumed his responsibility as a philosopher in the city.”
Bailly, Jean-Christophe, ‘Même l’ouvert Se Referme – Sur La Disparition de Jean-Luc Nancy’, AOC, 30 August 2021 <https://aoc.media/critique/2021/08/29/meme-louvert-se-referme-sur-la-disparition-de-jean-luc-nancy>
Hegel, G. W. F., Phenomenology of Spirit (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988)
Hörl, Erich, ‘The Artificial Intelligence of Sense – The History of Sense and Technology after Jean-Luc Nancy (By Way of Gilbert Simondon)’, trans. by Arne De Boever, Parrhesia, 17 (2013), 11–24
James, Ian, The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2006)
Nancy, Jean-Luc, ‘Communovirus’, Liberation, 24 March 2020 <https://www.liberation.fr/debats/2020/03/24/communovirus_1782922/> [accessed 5 February 2022]
———, Corpus, trans. by Richard A. Rand (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008)
———, The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. by Francois; Raffoul and David Pettigrew (New York: State University of New York Press, 2007)
———, The Experience of Freedom, trans. by Bridget McDonald (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993)
———, The Fragile Skin of the World, trans. by Corey Stockwell (Cambridge: Polity, 2021)
———, The Possibility of a World: Conversations with Pierre-Philippe Jandin, trans. by Travis Holloway and Flor Méchain (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017)
 Jean-Luc Nancy, The Fragile Skin of the World, trans. by Corey Stockwell (Cambridge: Polity, 2021). References to this text given in the main body in the following format [FSW: pg no].
 “…sinon nous nous retrouverons au même point ». See Jean-Luc Nancy, ‘Communovirus’, Liberation, 24 March 2020 <https://www.liberation.fr/debats/2020/03/24/communovirus_1782922/> [accessed 5 February 2022].
 Jean-Luc Nancy, The Creation of the World or Globalization, trans. by Francois; Raffoul and David Pettigrew (New York: State University of New York Press, 2007). P. 54
 When in the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel describes the process of pointing to the “the now that is”, he explores how each time this pointing occurs, the now that is pointed to is no longer; it is a “now that has been.” It takes a double negation (Hegel claims, first from “the now that is” to the “now that has been” and secondly, from “the now that has been” to the “now that is”) which he claims highlights that the very act of gesturing to present is not “something immediate and simple, but a movement which contains various moments.” See G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1988). P. 63. It is this staccato thinking of the present that Nancy is here picking apart, against a “now” which needs to receive its truth from the process of an exclusion, a play on the binary of being and non-being, he suggests a thinking of the here and now as the site of passage.
 Interestingly there may a double meaning of the term passage here which gets lost in the English translation of the term, something akin to Nancy’s usage of the word partage, to mean both a sharing and dividing of the sens of the world. The concerns of the book are the “passage” of time and this word can be utilized in two distinct senses which might be useful to think about here, firstly the notion that time passes or the “passage of time” (passage du temps) but secondly, also understanding time as the “passage”, as in the space through which one can move, (i.e. the corridor, the alleyway) or access a new location. Nancy’s appeal to the word “passage” to refer to the present moment, speaks to the temporal and spatial transformation that he wishes to pursue in this collection of essays. Against understanding the “here and now” as a isolated moment in a line of succession, Nancy wants to invite a thinking of the “here and now” as the opening , or site of passage between what we designate as the past and the future.
 Nancy notes, “Heidegger never stopped thinking […] something of ‘freedom’” he “was the first to take the measure of the radical insufficiency of our « freedoms » to think and open existence as freedom. But on the other hand, he still thought of « the free, » up to a certain point at least, in the terms and in the tones of « destiny » and « sovereignty. » See Jean-Luc Nancy, The Experience of Freedom, trans. by Bridget McDonald (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1993). p. 166
 As is known Nancy always maintained a distance between his usage “to-come” and Derrida’s appeal to the messianism of the West. In an interview Pierre-Phillippe Jandin, Nancy explains that he is concerned “whether this is always an intellectual exercise that’s feasible for the people constituting a certain elite.” Additionally, Nancy suggests certain differences between his and Heidegger’s usage of the term “surprise”, suggesting that his remarks overload “this notion too heavily, perhaps to the point making it sort of appeal, to make something come to pass [faire advenir], which can be something dangerous.” In both these critical points Nancy seems to be clear to carve out his own position regarding our orientation to the future “to-come.” Whilst he embraces the contingency of the term “surprise”, for instance when he talks about the “surprise of liberty”, he rejects the attempts to turn it into something quasi-religious, which he believes messianism also risks. In order to remain useful, Nancy seeks to establish a more practical openness to the contingency of the future. See Jean-Luc Nancy, The Possibility of a World: Conversations with Pierre-Philippe Jandin, trans. by Travis Holloway and Flor Méchain (New York: Fordham University Press, 2017). P.101 & 125.
 The point is that we live an age in which the sens of the world is given technologically, post what could be called the event [Ereignis] to technology. See Erich Hörl, ‘The Artificial Intelligence of Sense – The History of Sense and Technology after Jean-Luc Nancy (By Way of Gilbert Simondon)’, trans. by Arne De Boever, Parrhesia, 17 (2013), 11–24. As Nancy phrases this in Corpus “our world is the world of the “technical,” a world whose cosmos, nature, gods, entire system, is, in its inner joints, exposed as “technical”: the world of an ecotechnical. The ecotechnical functions with technical apparatuses, to which our every part is connected.” Nancy, Corpus, trans. by Richard A. Rand (New York: Fordham University Press, 2008). p. 89.
 Nancy, Corpus. p. 24.
 Ian James, The Fragmentary Demand: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Jean-Luc Nancy (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2006). p. 132
 Jean-Christophe Bailly, ‘Même l’ouvert Se Referme – Sur La Disparition de Jean-Luc Nancy’, AOC, 30 August 2021 <https://aoc.media/critique/2021/08/29/meme-louvert-se-referme-sur-la-disparition-de-jean-luc-nancy>.
Dans sa préface intitulée « L’énigme des valeurs » la traductrice Patricia Limido contextualise cet essai dans l’œuvre de Roman Ingarden et résume son raisonnement avant d’en proposer la première traduction française. Bien qu’il développe sa théorie des valeurs à partir et souvent à l’aide d’exemples tirés du domaine esthétique (une de ses premières œuvres majeures est L’œuvre d’art littéraire) elle s’attache à juste titre à montrer que le réel enjeu de recherche d’Ingarden est toujours d’ordre ontologique. En effet Roman Ingarden se propose de démontrer que les conditions de possibilité des valeurs – esthétiques, morales, intellectuelles – existent objectivement. Car des valeurs dépendent la responsabilité morale de l’homme et ses exigences. Avant de qualifier les valeurs plus avant, trois problèmes se posent à une théorie des valeurs qui expliquent le titre Ce que nous ne savons pas des valeurs. D’abord il faut identifier les différents domaines de valeur pour en dégager des rapports de hiérarchie ou de conditionnement, ensuite leur structure ontologique, sont-elles rattachées à des objets porteurs telles des propriétés, auquel cas les valeurs seraient objectivement fondées et sinon troisièmement sont-elles objectives ou subjectives, c’est-à-dire relatives. Limido regrette qu’Ingarden réduise finalement les valeurs à deux domaines : les valeurs vitales et culturelles. Dans cet essai il se limite même aux valeurs esthétiques et morales et cherche à déterminer leur forme, leur matière et leur mode d’être. En particulier les valeurs possèdent « une valence » (Wertigkeit) qui excède la forme et la matière, et qui fait que la valeur a une pertinence et n’est pas une illusion ou une apparence. À côté des limites de l’analyse ontologique, la valeur est exposée au jugement et à la reconnaissance subjective. C’est pourquoi il commence d’abord par essayer de les identifier, à qualifier plus avant leur mode d’être spécifique. Les valeurs ne sont pas des objets, « mais des « quelque chose » individuels, plutôt apparentés à l’ordre des qualités individuelles ». Pourtant elles ne sont pas des propriétés ni des caractéristiques, car elles sont inséparables d’un tout (unselbständig) qui rend possible leur survenance. Elles ne peuvent pas non plus être des propriétés dérivées, car c’est précisément sa nature ou son essence même qui en fait une valeur. Elles ne dépendent pas non plus des récepteurs, puisqu’elles valent en soi et pour soi. La valeur des yeux par exemple sera variable pour un musicien ou pour un automobiliste qui n’en font respectivement pas le même usage, pourtant la valeur des yeux est véritable. Ainsi y a-t-il des valeurs non perçues, mais qui conserve quand même leur réalité. Finalement il les qualifie de superstructure (Überbau), ni propriétés complètement indépendantes des objets, ni réductible à l’objet sensible lui-même. Elles apparaissent « sur la base d’un fondement dont elle dérive et qu’en même temps elle dépasse ». Patricia Limido rapproche ce concept ingardien des philosophes Donald Davidson pour la notion équivoque de survenance. Comme Ingarden le philosophe analytique Eddy Zemach a la volonté de fonder objectivement les valeurs et conclue que « les propriétés esthétiques surviennent ou émergent des propriétés non-esthétiques ». Elles sont donc réelles parce qu’elles dépendent de traits qui caractérisent objectivement des objets mais non réductibles à ceux-là. Le passage de la perception phénoménale au jugement esthétique ou moral s’opère par le désir ou tout autre relation intentionnelle telles les croyances et les émotions. Si les conditions d’observation sont les mêmes pour tous, alors cette relation intentionnelle est également objective pour Zemach. Ces conditions peuvent être l’apprentissage scientifique ou des connaissances spécifiques pour pouvoir juger d’une œuvre. Or Ingarden doute de cette relation invariante et attribue aux valeurs un mode d’être inédit.
Finalement c’est un rapport dialectique que Patricia Limido expose et souligne chez Ingarden : les valeurs sont des phénomènes observables, matériels et sont en même conditionné ontologiquement, des conditions de possibilité que nous constituons aussi, « la part d’activité et de passivité du récepteur ».
Ce que nous ne savons pas des valeurs
Dans son premier chapitre « multiplicité et contrariété des valeurs », Ingarden se pose le problème de la diversité des valeurs et choisit de les catégoriser en valeurs vitales et valeurs culturelles. Il soulève aussi dès le départ la difficulté de délimitation : une valeur morale comme le courage ou l’héroïsme peut être considérée une valeur esthétique et vice-versa. Il nous manque un principium divisionis qui nous permettrait de diviser les valeurs fondamentalement esthétiques de celles fondamentalement morales. C’est la détermination qualitative qui distingue généralement les valeurs. Intuitivement nous pouvons ordonner les valeurs apparentées, mais quant à ce qui constitue cette parenté, il est difficile d’en donner une définition conceptuelle. De plus, à l’intérieur même d’une qualité telle la « beauté », il existe différents types fondamentaux, telle la grâce ou la perfection et différentes significations. « Bon » n’a pas une signification morale dans tous les contextes. Les valeurs positives se délimitent aussi de leur corollaire négatif, qui a aussi une qualité spécifique. Ces contradictions font qu’il faut déterminer les conditions d’apparition des valeurs : un homme libre et psychiquement sain sont des conditions nécessaires mais pas suffisantes. Mais même si on arrivait à déterminer « la totalité des conditions nécessaires et éventuellement suffisantes pour la réalisation de telles valeurs » rien ne peut remplacer l’intuition selon Ingarden. « Rien ne peut nous libérer du devoir scientifique qui nous incombe d’exercer la vision intuitive [der intuitive Erschauung] de la spécificité des valeurs, tout comme de l’effort spirituel qui lui est lié ». Repérer la qualité d’une valeur est un moment indispensable, mais ne nous éclaire pas encore sur ce qui la détermine constitutivement. On peut encore chercher à déterminer les valeurs par rapport aux comportements qu’elle suscite, mais là aussi elle ne remplace pas l’appréhension conceptuelle d’une valeur. Car réduire une valeur à son vécu ou à l’attitude adoptée revient à dire qu’en réalité il n’existe que des ressentis subjectifs. C’est la conception des positivistes tel Leon Petrazycki qui n’autorisent aucune métaphysique des valeurs et rejette leur objectivité. Par rapport à une œuvre d’art par exemple il y aura autant d’états de plaisir que de récepteurs est pourtant la valeur unique de ce tableau existe bel et bien, indépendamment des admirateurs ou de ceux qui seront insensibles à sa beauté.
Malgré les difficultés donc Roman Ingarden refuse de capituler à définir les valeurs comme le fait Max Scheler par exemple et tient au contraire à en démontrer leur scientificité. Il retient donc pour ce premier chapitre que ce qui distingue les valeurs sont leur matière, moment qualitatif qui se laissent abstraire, dont il existe deux cas de figures : A est inséparable unilatéralement de B, alors A ne se rencontrera qu’en présence de B. Ou alors A est dépendant de B équivoquement et apparaîtra avec un apparenté de B, Bn. Toute valeur individuelle présentant une qualité Bn appartiendra à l’espèce de valeur A. Les moments abstraits d’une valeur peuvent donc servir de principe de répartition à la formation de ses types individuels. Mais un principe qui distingue les types fondamentaux de valeurs reste encore ouvert. La matière peut donc servir à différencier des types subordonnés de valeurs.
Quant à ce qui distingue les valeurs fondamentales, il semblerait que ce soit leur forme, dont traite le deuxième chapitre « La forme de la valeur ». Au premier abord il semble que la valeur soit la propriété d’un objet, elle est toujours valeur de l’objet auquel elle appartient. Cependant beaucoup d’objet, processus et choses physiques, ne sont pas doués de valeur, mais seulement de propriétés physiques, forme spatiale, densité etc… Il faut donc différencier les valeurs des « propriétés chosales de l’objet », leurs caractéristiques physiques. Il existe alors deux éventualités : soit la valeur est une propriété secondaire, soit elle provient de la relation entre l’objet et la personne qui entre en contact avec lui. C’est parce qu’une chose a une certaine forme qu’elle est belle : la valeur « belle » tient à sa propriété physique de la forme. Dans ce cas la valeur serait une propriété dérivée, secondaire de la première, qui est sa caractéristique physique. Une autre manière de déterminer la valeur d’un objet serait de l’organiser selon l’utilité, les sentiments ou les désirs qu’il suscite pour la personne. Encore faudrait-il pouvoir retenir les propriétés qui entrent en ligne de compte pour constituer la valeur : Ce n’est pas parce qu’une lampe a une lumière utile à l’homme que cette utilité constitue la valeur de la lampe. L’utilité serait à son tour dérivée d’une autre valeur, accomplir un travail à l’aide de la lumière par exemple. Une autre conception constitue à dire que l’objet n’a de valeur que lorsqu’il est reconnu comme tel par l’homme ou la communauté humaine. Or toutes les valeurs ne sont pas relatives à quelque chose, telle que la « maturité » ou la « grâce ». Que la valeur viendrait de la relation reste donc très obscure.
Ainsi toutes les tentatives de donner une forme a la valeur soulèvent des doutes et ne permettent pas de la définir positivement. La valence d’un objet est son essence et semble être un mode d’être complètement nouveau, incomparable à une caractéristique. Ingarden met donc en doute l’identité selon laquelle les valeurs seraient des propriétés des objets, car c’est la valence qui fait qu’on privilégie la réalisation d’une valeur plutôt qu’une autre. Sa forme, appelée objectité [Gegenstandlichkeit], est structurellement différente de l’objet. La valence excède la forme est la matière et constitue le mode d’être spécifique de la valeur. C’est elle qui exprime l’essence de la valeur et qui lui donne sa dignité. Elle n’est pas rajoutée de l’extérieur, sinon elle ne serait pas véritablement, authentiquement une valeur, mais émerge de l’objet auquel elle revient, elle est l’expression de son essence. Il appelle qualité-de-valeur ce qui détermine la hauteur, la négativité ou positivité et le mode d’être de la valeur.
Il va ensuite chercher à déterminer « le mode d’être de la valeur ». Les valeurs d’utilité et esthétique dépendent respectivement de l’outil et de l’œuvre d’art qui les portent. Le mode d’être des valeurs morales est complètement différent : elles n’existent pas réellement à la manière d’un événement ou d’un processus dans le temps, mais elles sont inséparables de leur porteur ou dérivées de leurs propriétés. Elles ne sont donc ni objet idéal, immuable, puisqu’elles peuvent se réaliser dans l’action d’un homme, ni objet réel, ni intentionnel. Les valeurs valent, c’est-à-dire qu’elles ont la forme du « devoir-être », qui peut ou non se réaliser. Quant aux critères des valeurs, lesquelles doivent ou non être, ceux-ci nécessitent un nouveau terrain de recherche. Ceci dépend en partie de la hauteur des valeurs.
Ce qu’Ingarden entend par « la hauteur » des valeurs signifie sa supériorité hiérarchique. Beardsley affirme qu’elle n’a de sens qu’à l’intérieur d’un type fondamental de valeur, à savoir qu’on ne peut comparer une valeur esthétique à une valeur morale, mais seulement des valeurs esthétiques entre elles par exemple. Qu’est-ce qui nous permet d’affirmer qu’une valeur morale est toujours plus haute qu’une valeur esthétique, même très haute ? Là aussi nous ne savons pas en quoi consiste exactement cette valeur, s’agit-il de son mode d’être, de sa qualité-de-valeur ou de son devoir-être. Les théories absolutistes affirment que la valeur d’un objet doit être strictement distinguée de son prix. « La hauteur de la valeur, au contraire, est déterminée de manière univoque et invariable par sa matière et seulement par elle, et elle reste indépendante des variations de prix ». La hauteur relative résulte de la comparaison des objets doués de valeur entre eux, mais présuppose la valeur absolue. Les théories relativistes affirment que la valeur d’un objet dépend des circonstances, de la loi de l’offre et de la demande comme des innovations sur le marché qui font qu’une valeur devient « plus mauvaise ». Il n’existe donc pas encore de « critère » bien défini de la hauteur de la valeur.
Dans le prochain chapitre il s’attaque au problème de « l’autonomie des valeurs ». Lorsqu’Ingarden parle d’autonomie, il entend par là la séparabilité des valeurs entre elles, puisqu’on a vu que les valeurs étaient inséparables des objets auxquels elles appartenaient. Si une valeur n’apparait sur un objet qu’en présence d’une autre valeur du même ou d’un autre type alors elle est « non-autonome ». Cette distinction entraîne aussi des conséquences sur la théorie de l’art, car pour nombre de théoricien et Platon lui-même l’Idée la plus haute est celle de l’identité du Bien, du Beau et du Vrai. C’est-à-dire qu’il ne suffit pas à une œuvre d’art d’être « belle », encore faut-il qu’elle serve des valeurs morales et la vérité soit en montrant des hommes moraux, soit au contraire en dépeignant des valeurs négatives comme le fait le courant réaliste. Ce formalisme repose justement sur le fait qu’il ne reconnaît pas, contrairement à la théorie de « l’art pour l’art », de valeurs esthétiques intrinsèques à l’art. Cette querelle est dû à l’insuffisance de distinction sur le caractère spécifique des valeurs. Une autre source de confusion entre les types de valeurs, leur dépendance ou indépendance sur un objet, est dû à notre expérience et sensibilité faussée. Ceci est dû aux modifications que les valeurs subissent mutuellement de manière bilatérale ou unilatérale. Dans une œuvre architecturale par exemple la symétrie peut apparaître sur fond d’asymétrie ou dans une œuvre littéraire le lyrique après le tragique. Ces valences peuvent s’harmoniser comme elles peuvent annuler leur effet et partant ne pas être perçues. C’est pour cela que l’étude de l’autonomie et de l’indépendance des valeurs est d’une grande importance pour l’analyse des objets esthétiques.
Le dernier chapitre « La fondation des valeurs » interroge le problème de l’objectivité des valeurs à proprement parler. Quelle est la relation entre la valeur et son objet et comment celle-ci est-elle fondée dans celui-là ? Il expose alors les deux positions opposées qu’il qualifie chacune de dogmatique. Soit on admet une coordination nécessaire des propriétés qui permettent l’apparition d’une valeur dans un objet, soit on la réfute et décide par-là que les valeurs se montrent de manière tout à fait contingente. Pourtant les valeurs se montrent sur le « visage » des œuvres d’art et on est porté à croire qu’il existe des fondements théoriques à une science de l’art, comme à une science de la morale.
En conclusion, Ingarden, on l’aura vu, définit les valeurs presque entièrement de manière négative, par ce qui nous manque et ce qui nous reste à savoir quant à leur nature, ce faisant déployant en même temps un vocabulaire susceptible d’en rendre compte et toujours mû par la conviction intrinsèque à son intuition, que les valeurs, ou leur possibilité, existent. C’est ce rappel justement qui, pour la traductrice, fait la « valence », pour reprendre ses termes, de cet essai aujourd’hui. Nous saluons la traduction française de cet essai, paru d’abord en polonais puis en allemand, pour avoir trouvé des équivalents adéquats à la terminologie très technique d’Ingarden et du courant phénoménologique en général.
 Roman Ingarden. 2021. Ce que nous ne savons pas des valeurs, préface et traduction française par Patricia Limido, p. 26. Sesto S. Giovanni: Editions Mimesis.
 Ibid, 32.
 Ibid, 35.
 Ibid, 43.
 Ibid, 58.
 Ibid, 60.
 Ibid, 66.
 Ibid, 74.
 Ibid, 81.
 Ibid, 116.
It is a unique quality shown in philosophical books, when they manage to treat topics which concern philosophy in a fundamental sense without falling prey to banal commonplaces or turmoil by endlessly adding relevant contexts. “A study in relation” (3), as Peter Hanly refers to his recent book Between Heidegger and Novalis, would precisely fulfil the criteria for such a topic. Yet, Hanly demonstrates stupendously well how to avoid said dilemma. His study is guided by a specific thinking of «between-ness» that “introduces a dynamic tension into the category of relation by conceiving it in terms of contradictory energies of separation, dispersion, pulling- apart, and gathering or converging” (3). Said between, as Hanly wants to show, comes from a heraclitean idea of harmonia which Heidegger and Novalis share as the common source for core elements of their thinking (7). The book is divided into two parts, eight chapters and an epilogue. Chapter transitions will be marked by the end of the paragraphs in the review at hand. Each part of Hanly’s study highlights an aspect of the between, the former its “Fertility” in Novalis and the latter “Pain” in Heidegger (16). Both parts explore these aspects in various philosophical areas, be they materialistic, idealistic, linguistic, or ontological, but also performative, rhetorical, or dramaturgical. Furthermore, by reconstructing historical and systematic contexts, Hanly gives insight into developments of both thinkers individually. In doing so, Hanly provides the reader not only with a vividly detailed depiction of each philosopher’s thinking regarding the question of between, but he also indirectly shows how the ambiguous relation of Heidegger and Novalis displays itself said between-ness. To outline the most important arguments of the book, I shall give a summary of both its parts followed by a few critical remarks at the end of the review.
Oftentimes, Novalis is neglected as an autonomous philosophical thinker. Heidegger, for example, illegitimately associates him with Hegel’s dialectical idealism (11) or merely uses him as authoritative reference (8). The first part of Hanly’s book makes it clear, among other things, that this view is not tenable. Quite the contrary, there is a highly original torsion of speculative philosophy and empirical naturalism in Novalis’ thinking.
The first context in which Hanly elaborates the notion of between is Novalis’ account on metaphor. Phrases such as “all is seed” (19) and the frequent use of terms like “dissolution”, “elasticity” or “fluidity” (22) demonstrate an affinity with the natural world that Novalis incorporates in his writings. For Novalis, however, metaphor is not simply an instrument that allows the illumination of abstract concepts. Much rather, it works as an “interweaving of registers such that a movement of exchange takes place, one in which the relations between concrete determination and ideational figuration seem to dissolve.” (24) Already here we find an implicit criticism of a hierarchical order between philosophy and poetry. Nonetheless, Hanly underlines that Novalis does not simply invert their relation. His understanding of metaphor derives itself from a philosophical endeavor, where philosophy becomes “the poem of the understanding” (26). To fully grasp the new fashion of this interpretation, one must trace back Novalis’ thinking to its roots in the early Fichte-Studies and, at the same time, not reduce his style of writing to an abstract ground (26). According to Hanly, the relation of I and not-I is the “crucible” (29) for Novalis. In Fichte there is the positing activity of the I which has already occurred in formalizations such as I = I or also I = not-I. This logic of activity or productivity becomes fragile for Novalis because the formalizations as such do not reveal any prioritization (29) and, counter to that, they explicitly stand for a limitation (33) that renders their relation less unilateral. While Fichte himself senses these problems, only Novalis shows the rigor to contest the recourse to an ultimate principle consequently. Instead, he keeps an “insistence on movement, on the motility of the exchange between I and not-I that governs their equivalence” (34). As Hanly underlines, abstraction from then on will be the transforming work of thought for Novalis, “effecting ‘logarithmic change’ upon both the obduracy of the sensible world and the ideality of the I” (36), where everything is unified or “chaos is transformed into a manifold world” (36) but unified only as free and self-determined beings. Novalis develops his very own “rigor of variation and combination” that he will retain throughout his oeuvre and most fully in his encyclopedic project Das Allgemeine Brouillon (59). Therein, abstraction becomes a specific task of the imagination. Other than just picturing things, imagination keeps various polarities in the state of hovering or, as Hanly puts it, of between (38).
The aforementioned philosophical consequence of Novalis becomes comprehensible if one understands where his thinking is initially situated. Reaching for a better understanding of the faculty of imagination and its hovering especially, Hanly addresses himself to Kant’s concept of «ideal» and Fichte’s «intellectual intuition» (39). Kant tries to understand the ideal as an Urbild without further instantiation that excludes any sort of oscillation which he then allocates to the so-called “schwebende Zeichnungen” (40). Whereas Fichte develops different models, circular and linear, to solve the problems of the oscillatory imagination that he himself recognizes. However, each of the models serves the purpose of banning the characteristic instability of the “hovering” by attributing a clear function to the faculty of imagination. It is only Novalis who unhinges the hovering of the between by revealing the inconsistencies of Fichte’s approach and by asking of the hovering: “What if we were really to take seriously its determinative instability, and orient our account around the effects that such an uncertainty introduces?” (47). Thus, I and not-I are not to be understood as “mutually determining poles, mediated by a “between” space” (50) but as markers, as words of coalescence which are the result of the perpetual movement of a between (52). But as Hanly carves out in several of Novalis’ writings, the overall approach goes further. By questioning why there are dichotomous oppositions everywhere (52), Novalis extends his criticism towards a primordiality of dichotomic relations in general. At last, this leads him to an “absolute sphere” of relation, of connectivity or of not-word (52) that synthesizes dichotomies (53). Based on this, the idea of an oscillatory movement between nodes (55) becomes predominant for Novalis. From “zones of visible and invisible, ideal and real” (56) or abstract and concrete, philosophy and poetry, Hanly lists the numerous nodes which are mutually exchangeable, involved in a constant reciprocal movement (56).
“Fragile and Fundamental” (56), as Hanly poses it, this between becomes the axis around which Novalis’ writing evolves. As an act of non-reductive mapping and intertwining, he ceaselessly advances to new territories. With his Encyclopaedia project, Novalis attempts a writing that abides by a “Combinationslehre” (62) about the scattering and dispersion of word-seeds and which at the same time gathers “into a totality” (61). In this regard, Hanly also finds Novalis’ “close involvement with the Schlegel brothers and with the sympraxis of the Athenaeum project” (68). But as demonstrated, he goes even one step further. In concordance with Blanchot’s criticism, Novalis does not only use the fragment in a way that the content works as “the mere illustration of a dynamics of the formal dance of writing.” (69) Much rather, he “pushes precisely towards a fusion of form and content” (70), where through the gathering of their between-space both mirror each other and dissolve their boundaries (72). As the overarching experience in the background of this phase, Hanly reconstructs the time Novalis spent at the Mining Academy under the influential presence of Abraham Gottlob Werner (74). Engaging with his studies, Novalis gains important insights in mineralogy and the natural sciences. For Werner, there is a “natural order” of description that “involves the coordination of a series of sensible traits with a certain kind of linguistic ordering” (75). While on the one hand Novalis shares the same kind of interest as Werner, he sharply criticizes him on the other. In analogy to his Fichte-Studies (79), Novalis spots a lack of engagement with the question of the between in Werner as he
fails to discern the possible transition — from the external characters to the inner constituents, or from symptomatics to chemistry, and yet this is the main approach for solving this problem. (78)
Just as minerals, stones and solid-state objects in general are exposed to transformative chemical processes, in his “Encyclopaedia” Novalis subjects the solidity of the word to liquefaction, to “fluid rhythms of gathering and dissolution” (80).
With that in mind, Hanly lastly turns to Novalis’ novel Die Lehrlinge von Saïs, which he says is best interpreted through the lens of Schelling’s First Outline of a System of the Philosophy of Nature (82). Other than Kant, who constructs nature as an interaction of active and passive forces, Schelling tries to abolish this dichotomy by grasping nature as “determining itself in and through its activity” (83) and as a force that dissolves everything (86). Drawing inspiration from here, Novalis wants to realize this nature of between at the level of writing (88) and planned, as noted in a letter to Tieck, great transformations of his project (89). He died the following year and so Die Lehrlinge von Saïs was left unrealized in that respect. Nonetheless, Hanly sees the written word as explicitly responsible for the rhythm of natural liquefication here, because
like Schelling’s natural object, but seemingly intimately bound up with writing: each figure, emerging from the play of gathering, seems to “belong to that great cipher- script” [Chiffernschrift ] that we “glimpse” everywhere (92).
The sense of lost plenitude, of dispersion (95), introduces a longing into the world and can only ever be restored “in the form of new ‘mixings’, new bindings— new configurations of connectivity” (96). At the end of the first part, Hanly requires us to ask for the resonance that Novalis’ thinking might have in our own. For Hanly, turning back to the very motif of his study, it is a “poetics of materiality: poetry names the word insofar as it emerges from and as a zone of relation between the human and the natural world. Poetry, thought thus, is relation” (98).
In the second part of his study, Hanly starts off with Heidegger’s reflections on Trakl. The primary intention of this second part is to map out the subject of pain as another facet of between. In this regard, pain is “the tension of a play of belonging such that what is kept apart is joined in that very separation, and what is joined is kept apart in its very joining” (103). However, with pain, the tensioned between-space we found at the core of Novalis’ thinking “is possessed of an entirely different affectivity” (104). Thus, Hanly follows the path of Heidegger’s thoughts on pain and its “semantic complex” (106) starting off from its most explosive appearance in the Bremen Lectures from 1949, then back to texts from the seynsgeschichtliche phase such as Das Ereignis, and to its later occurrence in Unterwegs zur Sprache (106). Pain in Heidegger is the rift “— a rending or tearing, an opening, a gap —” (108) as a central possibility of the human. As a rift it exceeds the limits of how the human being is construed. This results from an “’opening’, in which the differential structure that Heidegger calls ‘the fourfold’ emerges as such” (108), as a grounding structure of the world. However, leaving aside this notion for a moment, Hanly initially focuses on the concealment that suffering brings about pain which actually “is closer to us, more intimate” (109). It has the capacity to expose this danger of concealing, thereby acknowledging its own “hidden proximity” or “nearness” (109). Other than in Sein und Zeit (112), as Hanly mentions, nearness here is not to be understood in spatial terms. The positioning of a coffin, for example, implies a different nearness because “what is effected in this nearing is the determination of a world that gathers itself around an absence” (113). With Hanly’s elaborations on the first two of the Bremen Lectures, the coffin is much rather a “thing” than an “oppositionally objective” (114). It “draws together like a net” (115) the different interrelations of the world to let them eventuate and thus manifests the same dynamic of between around which Hanly’s study revolves (116). The consonances in which Heidegger expresses this dynamic such as «das Dingen des Dinges» are not merely rhetorical according to Hanly (117). Instead, “the rhythm of their sounding” (118) tends towards an «Einklang» (117) or a concordance of thing and world. This concordance could dissolve any sense of difference which is why Heidegger himself in the Appendix begins to suspect a “collapse of ’nearness’” (118).
As opposed to the «thing», pain as the rift and rending will be “the insistent reinscription of difference” in the third lecture. For Hanly, this contrast corresponds with a language of pain “that both considers pain and makes it manifest” (120), and for which he seeks out first signs in Das Ereignis but that “first comes clearly to the fore” (122) in the texts of the 1950s. As already indicated in the Beiträge, the between will no longer be the thread that connects structural elements of the world and that in so doing “remains subordinate to the poles it conjoins, […] fixing and reinforcing their complementarity” (125). Instead, it will “be given a kind of priority, to speak in a voice that does not defer to the complexes it separates” (125). The locus of said between will then be Dasein itself, not in a spatial sense but because it is the between more strictly (126), e.g., between men and God as elements of worldliness. Hanly investigates the experience of pain in Dasein along different aspects. He shows that while Heidegger rejects the tendency of Jünger to reify pain as the object of a relation (128), he resonates with the ideas of Nietzsche as he interprets pain as the erratic betweenness or oneness of terror and bliss (130, 135). Affiliate notions of pain are also identified by Hanly in Heidegger’s reading of Hölderlin. This especially concerns the Hyperion, where Hölderlin explores the subject of leave-taking both narratively and metaphorically (140) and what is then, as affective domain, brought into a connection with the thinking of difference or Unterschied by Heidegger (142). Furthermore, in this context, pain must be thought in its relation to Stimmung, that constitutes the possibility of «there» in Da-sein as it “hears the pain of its dislocation, and thus ‘accords’ with that pain” (133). As Stimmung belongs to Dasein, it is equally irreducible to oppositional poles and therefore to be understood as “a pulling-away from the stable orderings of sensible and intelligible and into the unstable domain of a between” (134). Having followed the path of Heidegger’s thinking through all these different stations, Hanly arrives at a question:
[W]hat, fundamentally, is the relation of pain and language […] The question, then, will be whether it is possible to hear in language the same tension of gathering and pulling apart, the same primal movement of a one always differentiated in itself that seemed to mark out the space of pain in Heidegger’s discourse (134).
The cited question is of major importance for the rest of his book but before arriving at this language of pain, Hanly wants to approach the subject of «inception» or «beginning». He does so in the so-called “seynsgeschichtlich project”, (144) which “is never far from the question of difference, of the pain of difference” (144). Apart from describing the «there» of Dasein as an “agonistic between-space” (145), Heidegger also offers another way to think it. In the seynsgeschichtlich treatises, “Dasein is the crisis between first and other beginnings” (145). But as Hanly underlines with regard to the Beiträge, the relation of «first» and «other» beginnings “must be seen to break out of the constraints a chronology would impose on them” (148). They are therefore beyond a metaphysical narrative of progression. The goal is to think another kind of confluence between being, event and inception, where «what is» no longer precedes «what occurs» (149). According to Hanly, the inception describing the there-ness of Dasein is a singularity which “must be given over to an original multiplicity.” This multiplicity consists in the fact that “in the ‘uniqueness of its incipience’, the inception is fractured, sundered” (152). Hanly then approaches this problem of inception from three different perspectives, “the thought of repetition, the thought of confrontation, and the thought of belonging” (153). Repetition signifies the inherent structure of inception. It means that inception is never just «the same», but it becomes itself by self-division, “it reaches ahead and thus encroaches differently each time on that which it itself initiates” (155). From the aspect of confrontation, it is important to note that neither are different inceptions opposed to one another in the sense of a counter-direction, nor does one of them sublate the other. Much rather, as Hanly puts it
Inception, we are told, is “assigned” or “allotted” (zugewiesen) to its other. The sense of this assignment seems to be that of an ineluctable and necessary gathering: Heidegger says indeed that the “other inception” “must be the only other” in relation to the uniqueness of the first beginning. (159)
Thirdly, the aspect of belonging is the other side of this specific form of non-oppositional negation. First and other belong together, because they are different, “but yet cannot be withdrawn from the fracture that binds them” and not resolved in the unicity of a whole (160). All three aspects undermine a logic of timely progression. In their light, and because of the multiple senses of the word «inception», Hanly says that “perhaps words themselves halt, reaching a kind of limit, a breaking-point in which a silence, a Sprachlosigkeit will come to dominance” (161).
For the last chapter of his book, Hanly elaborates more deeply on the relation of language and pain. To this end, Hanly argues for an “irruptive pain of the word” (163) that Heidegger foregrounds with a particular style of writing. A central influence here comes from Herder’s Treatise on the Origin of Language. In Herder’s thinking, it is crucial that human experience is unspecified, “his forces of soul [Seelenkräfte] are distributed over the world” (165). Hanly sketches out how this dispersion is linked to the origin of language, because “the word, for Herder, will be torn out of this dispersive field: a mark, scarring the indifferent surface of sensation” (165). However, this word or mark cannot simply be reduced to the acoustic. Hanly shows how, according to both Heidegger and Herder, there is a dimension of gathering between the multiplicity of the sensually given and the expressed sound. This dimension is the mark understood as hearing and thus hearing “is to be of the non-sonorous as much as of the sonorous” (168). Coming back to the subject of Dasein, the point is that it is itself the mark of hearing. The «there» of Dasein is thus a figure of between that avoids metaphysical opposition. It carries silence in and as breaking, in-between, being “precisely the index of this movement, the crossing that the mark effects” (169). Finally, this ambivalence of the mark, the word as joining and tearing apart becomes manifest in a new sense of system. With Heidegger’s view on Schelling’s Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom in mind, Hanly interprets the Beiträge as the execution of this systematicity. Hanly says that when Heidegger is writing “’a legitimate renunciation of system can only originate from an essential insight into it’ (GA 42: 46/24), what he is requiring of us is an experience that fully acknowledges the necessity of system before it can move beyond it” (172). Pursuant to the etymology of «sunistemi», which translates to “placing together”, system can mean two things: on the one hand, it merely means “accumulation and patchwork” of extrinsic, indiscriminate elements (173). On the other hand, it refers to the order, manner, or content according to which elements are intrinsically composed. What the Beiträge are purposefully exposing after Hanly is that at the very core, any gathering will produce both kinds of joinings, extrinsic and intrinsic (173). Regarding each gesture of thinking, Heidegger says that “they unfold, on the one hand, necessarily in sequence, each adding to the force, the urgency (Eindringlichkeit) of the others, while at the same time, each says always ‘the same of the same’” (174). This movement of thought in language is enabled by the fundamental attunement which is “in a tense relation with that “coming to word””(175), although there is no word for itself. The fundamental attunement hovers between verbal determinations, it is characterized by a principal namelessness, by a failing of the word which makes it “accessible only to a thinking that belongs in a primary way to silence” (175). Therefore, the style of this thinking is one of restraint, as only “Erschweigung, as Heidegger calls it, can play out fully the demands of the systematic” (176) as it circulates around silence, unfolding it each time anew. Only with this writing and its peculiar rigor the task of philosophy can be most fully realized.
In the epilogue, Hanly underlines for one last time the importance of the motif of harmonia in Heraclitus that guides his study time and time again. The join of harmonia appears in multiple different configurations, which explains the plenitude of contexts that Hanly references throughout his book (178). However, there is a danger that lurks precisely in this multiplicity, namely that the harmonia is “just another metaphysical structure, a form that underpins or overlays the multiple modes of its encounter: a schema, in other words” (178). But it implies a specific nothingness, as it is nothing but joining, only apparent in multiple concrete contexts without “coalescing into a uniform conceptual structure” (178). Also, Heidegger and Novalis are historical possibilities of its appearance and perhaps even the between of them, “the resonance of their work is best felt together, conjointly” (179). Through Hanly who, one could say, produces this resonance with his book, “it could be that, if we listen, we will hear it too” (181).
In conclusion, Hanly’s study is convincing in various respects. The abundance of the collected material, the depth of the connections made regarding the subject of between-ness and the original dramaturgy of the book as an indirect comparison being only some of them. From a critical perspective, there are nonetheless two objections that I want to raise in the following. The first concerns a programmatic issue. Although Hanly says that the relation between Novalis and Heidegger is itself manifold, he divides his book in respect of a very univocal claim towards their contrast (16). Novalis thinks the between as fertility, Heidegger thinks the between as pain. First and foremost, Hanly does not really treat fertility in Novalis as a concept of its own right, whereas regarding Heidegger he gives an in-depth reconstruction of an explicit line of thought that makes pain its subject, giving numerous explanations and references. This imbalance is further mirrored in the mere amount of mentions of “fertility” in the first part of the book on Novalis. Here, the reader finds the expression only three times (60, 98) and even the reason for its usage remains opaque. One time, Hanly links it to the motif of seed (60), which is used several times as a specific, non-reductive thought-image of the between (20, 36), and the other time he speaks of it is when it occurs together with notions such as generative force, increase, words that blossom, proliferation, germination, or explosion (96), appearing almost synonymously with them. Furthermore, the claimed divergence between fertility and pain does not really hold up to scrutiny. When I and not-I, for example, become the poles of a movement of exchange that is a “chaotic motility” (50) then it remains questionable why this chaotic character is particularly fertile and not equally well limiting or determining. The same applies when Hanly names the between a “zone of fragility” (56) that is characterized by “porosity” and “volatility” (56), or when he highlights the «word» as between-space that is “amid the fluid rhythms of gathering and dissolution” (80). All these aspects stand against the highlighting of the aspect of fertility because they speak just as much for the opposite side of pain. This is also true if we do not presuppose our own understanding of pain but that to which Hanly’s study itself relates to, namely Heidegger’s. Not only because Heidegger speaks of a “pain of inceptual separation” which is precisely between gathering and separation or fracture (136) but also vice versa, as the pain in Dasein always already implies bliss as well as it marks a point of transition in its «there» which hovers “between ‘recollective energies’ and the possibilities of an ‘other inception’” (174). Considering these things, the reader finds no clue why they are not exemplary aspects of fertility alike. For all these reasons, the claimed contrast between fertility and pain appears as if it would only serve dramaturgic purposes of the book and as a means of dividing it into parts, parts that by their content however deconstruct this very dramaturgy.
The second of my objections concerns a methodological problem. It appears repeatedly as if Hanly would presuppose the central thesis of his study as an implicit hermeneutic method. I will try to illuminate this by pointing out two examples, one concerning Novalis and one Heidegger. Firstly, while searching for the philosophical grounds of Novalis’ thinking, Hanly cites the fragment that goes: “like us, the stars hover alternatingly between illumination and darkening” (27). Without giving a reason in the same context, he says that this fragment must be seen as something different than just a poetic ornamentation of a philosophical ground. Afterwards, he suddenly generalizes the argument and says that regarding the thought of between, its philosophical ground is being forsaken and still must be considered (27). And then, lastly, from the same fragment it is said that it can be used as a passageway back to these philosophical grounds. Shortly after, the hovering of the fragment is itself the between and should moreover negotiate the relation of philosophy and poetry (37). Then, eventually, the hovering will be thematized all from Kant’s theory of drawing to Fichte’s thoughts on intellectual intuition and Novalis’ Fichte Studies. Here it turns out to be not just a passageway but the very core of Novalis’ speculations (55). My critique is not about right or wrong, but about the way in which Hanly creates his line of thought. He both gathers several contexts in which variations of his major thought appear and disjunctive as the steps therein are often mediated vaguely. With regard to Heidegger, one can perceive something similar. Heidegger says that inception retains a multiplicity of senses and only thereby keeps open its incipience, meaning the principal possibility of (new) inceptions. In the face of this, Hanly says that “perhaps words themselves halt” and that a speechlessness will be dominant (161). Although it is only ‘perhaps’ the case, Hanly proceeds to the next chapter of his book and assumes this premise categorically, so that he can now reflect on speechlessness. Then, referencing Heidegger who says “In the first inception: wonder. In the other inception: foreboding” (162), he links inceptions to fundamental attunements. Again, he leaps from ‘wonder’ and ‘foreboding’ to the gathering of terror and bliss (162) who are supposed to be analogous and map closely with each other. The reader does not find any other reason for this than the fact that Heidegger speaks of wonder and foreboding in terms of “recoil, of shock, of horror” (162). But neither is the analogy suitable, because bliss is not mentioned in this context at all, nor does speaking of something in the same words imply that the matter talked about is the same. Especially so, if the subject of gathering which is of central relevance for the relation of terror and bliss does not occur at all on the other side of the analogy. Nevertheless, this enables Hanly to move on to pain as a gathering of terror and bliss and finally to the question of a language of pain at which he aimed beforehand (134). Here, citing Heidegger’s saying that “pain has the word” (163), Hanly again categorically claims it would mean that the word itself is pain. He does not consider different interpretations, e.g., that pain has the word because as an attunement it discloses the understanding of the world in a certain manner. Hanly says that his remark is an iteration of an earlier passage, although he did not justify his interpretation even the first time (143). However, it allows him to equate pain with word and thereby proceed to the irruptive pain of the word that is “to be most clearly felt” (163) in the seynsgeschichtliche treatises. To put it briefly, oftentimes it seems as if Hanly would have his conclusion already in mind, whereupon he collects, not always justified, elements of Heidegger’s text that are suitable to arrive there. In other words, he conjuncts and separates textual material in the modus operandi of the very between-ness he wants to prove in these texts.