I am not aware of any recent collection of pieces by Husserl scholars that includes so many of the most important names in the field. Hanne Jacobs has demonstrated an astonishing prowess at organizing not only the material within the text but also in choosing and arranging contributors for this compilation. The book has, in its substance, aspirations to be the definitive introduction to Husserl—and by implication to phenomenological philosophy—in the English language. As philosophers and good critical readers, we must assess these aspirations in light of the works we already have while attempting to bring Husserl to a wider readership within and outside of the academy.
Perhaps it’s appropriate to examine for a moment the question why one makes such a fuss over Husserl in the first place. There has been a line of discussion in phenomenology, and several “post”-phenomenological disciplines, that makes of Husserl a sort of spastic Cartesian, chastised by Frege for psychologism, flailing ineffectually between an outdated dualism, an outdated essentialism, and a metaphysics he dare not name. This sort of dismissal can be found among so-called analytic as well as continental philosophers, although the level and volubility of the attack tends to differ between the schools. Strong phenomenologists have published doubts of central Husserlian notions, including essence and the epoche. Others have attempted to refine or expand Husserl’s work into new domains of human experience. Still others have attempted to use parts of the phenomenological method to deepen work in adjacent disciplines, most notably the social sciences, psychology, and cognitive science. But the question of Husserl’s value remains, nonetheless. We can ask ourselves, as Adorno’s imagined interlocutor says of Hegel, “Why should I be interested in this?” Are there not many other philosophers, many other more contemporary dealers in concepts whose work will bring me closer to the intellectual promised land? The question is related intimately with the question why one does philosophy to begin with. The money’s no good and hardly anyone reads it. If J.K. Rowling or Stephen King wrote a text on transcendental epistemology, would anyone care to read it? Philosophers, as a group, have given weak answers to the question of the utility of philosophy. Socrates, in line 38a of Plato’s apology, famously says the unexamined life is not worth living. Wittgenstein seems to have thought sometimes that philosophy isn’t good for much at all. Philosophers like Schopenhauer see in philosophy the path to a kind of resignation to the dreariness of life. The existentialists give us angst and its attendant pleasures. And what of Husserl? How would he answer this question? And might we, if we tease out a possible answer for him, not see something penetrating about what it is that Husserl has to offer us today?
One of the problems with trying to catch hold of Husserl’s motivations for doing his philosophy—and by extension what he thought philosophy could do—is that Husserl wrote so much that had implications for so many disciplines. One need only glance at the list of works in Husserliana to get a sense of the dizzying and perhaps dismaying depth of Husserl’s Nachlass. What this means in practice is that one must always interpret Husserl with a certain air of humility. It is always possible that a new page, maniacally scribbled over in his modified shorthand, will be discovered, and one’s prize interpretation will be sent to pot. This difficulty has been noted before, and it haunts all scholars who choose to tangle with prolific thinkers. There is always the threat of another level or dimension in the work which one has not quite reached, an aspect of the work which, having remained obscure to you for years, comes into focus just in time to obliterate the paper you’re currently writing. If our Husserl presents himself as such a bottomless pit of philosophical insight, perhaps the power of philosophy was for him also bottomless. In which case, the answer to the question, what for Husserl, can philosophy do? would be exceedingly simple: everything.
Now, invocations of “everything” are not so common in good philosophy without adequate justification, and we certainly have not yet provided it. Further, if we take a step back and examine our aims in this little review, we will find a much more satisfying route toward the answer that we seek. It is not an undifferentiated omnipotence that Husserl saw in philosophy. What is more differentiated than the work of Edmund Husserl? Rather it is a multifarious form of experiential description, questioning, analysis and elaboration—according to a sharply defined method—that he sees in philosophy. The value of the activity and method we’ll say ever-so-few words about at the end of this text.
In the meantime, it would be nice to get straight about what it is philosophy can do by Husserl’s lights. It so happens the book currently being reviewed is beautifully structured to do just that. Jacobs’ collection is divided into seven parts: (1) Major works, (2) Phenomenological method, (3) Phenomenology of consciousness, (4) Epistemology, (5) Ethics and social and political philosophy, (6) Philosophy of science, (7) Metaphysics. A naive interpretation of the structure of the book would be that Husserl’s thought fits comprehensively within these categories. To the extent that it does, we can say the book captures the Husserlian mind, thereby living up to its title. Where such a set of categories misses Husserl, where he slips away, may mark territory where this collection refuses to follow him.
The book appropriately opens with an overview of Husserl’s major texts. Pierre-Jean Renaudie writes on the Logical Investigations, Nicolas de Warren on Ideas I, Sara Heinämaa on the Cartesian Meditations, Mirja Hartimo on Formal and Transcendental Logic, and Dermot Moran on The Crisis. We can see the logic in this selection of texts. We begin with Husserl’s first mature philosophical book and end with his last one. We have the lynchpin of the transcendental turn in Ideas I. Sara Heinämaa writes persuasively on Husserl’s egology in the Cartesian Meditations, as well as helping us to contextualize the extent to which Husserl can be called a Cartesian. Heinämaa writes, “Husserl presents Descartes’ doubt as a great methodological innovation which provided the possibility of reforming all philosophy. However, he immediately points out Descartes made a series of fundamental mistakes that blocked the entry to the transcendental field that radicalized doubt laid open” (p. 41). Heinämaa shows that Husserl is a Cartesian in a rather qualified sense, in the sense of having received a limited inspiration in the theme of Cartesian skepticism. The themes in Descartes that are most commonly attacked, most notably a rather untenable mind-body dualism, are not at all operant features of Husserl’s mature philosophy. Nicolas de Warren, in his contribution, tells us something illuminating of Husserl’s approach to doing philosophy. The title of his piece, “If I am to call myself a philosopher,” refers to a line from a 1906 writing in which Husserl, characteristically, sets himself a task in order to gain philosophy as such. While de Warren’s contribution is eminently useful as an elucidation of difficult phenomenological concepts like noesis and noema, the natural and naturalistic attitudes, and many others, perhaps the greatest insight it provides is given in this short quotation. Still in 1906, Husserl was writing things like “If I am to be…” He had not, on some level, settled into an image of himself. Or perhaps better, he was still challenging himself to develop in order to match the philosophical aspirations he held so dear.
When setting out a philosopher as prolific as Husserl’s “major works,” there will necessarily be some difficult omissions. Here, one might like to see a chapter on either the Analysis Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis or Experience and Judgment. In that way, with one or both represented, the importance of the theme of genesis, the technique of genetic phenomenology all told, would receive a fuller exposition. No text as comprehensive as this one can possibly avoid the genetic theme altogether, but it would be helpful to see one of the major genetic texts included with the ”major works.”
The second part of this book is, to my mind, the most important for young philosophers. The method of phenomenology must always be front and center because phenomenology is something philosophers do; it is not a list of conclusions other philosophers have already reached. Those who focus on and reiterate the method as Husserl’s major discovery enact a tradition of phenomenology that allows it to be a living, dynamic branch of philosophical practice as opposed to a stodgy cul-de-sac of philosophical history. In this collection, we have Dominique Pradelle discussing transcendental idealism, Andrea Staiti on the transcendental and the eidetic in Ideas I, Rochus Sowa on eidetic description, Jacob Rump on reduction and reflection, Jagna Brudzińska on the genetic turn, and Steven Crowell on Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. Pradelle’s text is absolutely essential for unlocking the association between Kant and Husserl, and the ways in which Husserl suffers under the Kantian influence. An under-appreciation of the nuances in both thinkers might tempt us to characterize the phenomenological reduction as merely a restatement of Kant’s Copernican revolution. Such a reading would see the Kantian transcendental and the Husserlian transcendental as one and the same; their differences, as philosophers, would be relegated to style and method. Pradelle writes that for Husserl, “Kant discovers the region of pure consciousness or subjectivity, which is not intra-worldly but supra-worldly, which is not objective but constitutes all objectivity, and which is not inserted in the spatio-temporality or causality of the world but is fundamentally different from any worldly entity” (77). But for Husserl, as a central feature of his philosophy, the Kantian thing in itself is inimical to consciousness, a strange exteriority to conscious life that can’t, in the end, have anything whatsoever to do with a philosophy grounded in the transcendental as a method as well as a theme.
Rochus Sowa and Andrea Staiti together help us to clarify the eidetic method as we see it in Husserl. Sowa takes us from Husserl’s insistence that descriptions are facts, due to the factual nature of experience, to an analysis of Husserl’s descriptive eidetic laws which Husserl needs to motivate a view of phenomenology as general enough to undergird other forms of human enquiry. Key to this generality of application is the distinction between empirical concepts and pure descriptive concepts, the latter of which apply to possible or ”thinkable” objects and states of affairs irrespective of their empirical instantiation. Sowa also helps us to see that in eidetic work, the examples brought before the mind, whether objects in the world as experienced or possibilities in phantasy, are not the theme of the analysis; the examples are there to help guide us to an essential relation or an eidetic law. It is against such precise considerations that we can read Andrea Staiti’s contribution on the relation between eidetics and the transcendental. Staiti points to a tendency in the literature to treat the suspension of the being of the world as an instant path to essential description, as if all one had to do was dunk one’s head in the transcendental waters to see the colorful essential fish. This idea is sharply incongruous with Husserl’s work ethic, with his almost superhuman drive to add, distinguish, complexify. At the same time, those who acknowledge the need for eidetic work can draw too sharp a distinction between the transcendental and the eidetic, the implication being that we can pick one or the other to motivate our phenomenology. Staiti concludes that the eidetic and transcendental are “inextricably linked’ (96). Although this may sound obvious, it has implications. Perhaps most importantly, it places rigorous limitations on the degree to which phenomenologists are doing phenomenology when they engage in interdisciplinary work. On Staiti’s view, phenomenologists may have much to say about case-specific, empirically oriented studies in the human sciences but their properly phenomenological contributions will be bound by the transcendental and characterized by the eidetic.
Jagna Brudzinska gives us a penetrating overview of Husserl’s turn to a genetic phenomenology, a development in his thinking that is increasingly seen as crucial for understanding his later works. Brudzinska points out that even today many phenomenologists view the eidetic method as purely static. If phenomenology is meant to be anything like a theory of subjectivity, however, a static methodology is bound to be inadequate. The experience of the subject is dynamic, flowing, changing in our awareness of time’s passage. Brudzinska gives us a quick historical overview, making the claim that the importance of the genetic theme was there for Husserl as far back as the Logical Investigations. From there, Brudzinska develops the expansion of the field of inquiry that the genetic method achieves. She says, “In this context, it becomes possible to take into account not only present and immediately intuitive experiences. In addition to consciousness of the past we also gain the possibility to consider alien and future consciousnesses.” (132). Phenomenology needs this breadth of enquiry if it is to become the philosophy of subjectivity, for experiencing subjects are constituted and constituting in time.
Steven Crowell’s contribution is in many ways a commentary on the other pieces in the methodology section. His aim is to further clarify Husserl’s phenomenology by examining his notion of the transcendental and distinguishing it from Kant’s.
Phenomenology of Consciousness
Although the papers on method are some of the most important in this collection for young philosophers, part three, on consciousness, will no doubt be of interest to many seasoned Husserl researchers. Christopher Erhard introduces us to Husserlian intentionality by exploring three questions, why intentionality matters philosophically, what intentionality is, and finally what the lasting impact of intentionality is. He develops, through a reading motivated by a tight logical style, a view of Husserl’s idealism that shows its fundamental differences from both Kant and Berkeley. Maxime Doyan works through the normative turn in intentionality, citing a normative theme in Husserl’s studies of intentionality that is seldom observed. Doyan identifies the most important norms for this discussion as identity and recognition, identifying them with noema and noesis respectively. This allows a discussion of illusion and hallucination to unfold alongside a Husserlian rejection of the conjunctivist/disjunctivist distinction. Doyan here sides with Zahavi and Staiti, claiming that from the Husserlian view the question whether perceptions, illusions and hallucinations are the same kind of experience hardly makes sense at all.
Lanei Rodemeyer’s work on inner time consciousness is required reading for anyone attempting to understand Husserl and his place in the literature today. In her contribution here, she provides an overview of Husserl’s phenomenology of internal time consciousness, displaying as ever her unique pedagogical powers. She reiterates Husserl’s claim that the phenomenology of time is the most difficult of philosophical topics. Indeed, getting the phenomenology of time in a digestible package is difficult for various reasons. Husserl changed his mind concerning the structure of inner time consciousness in at least one major way and his ideas on time are scattered throughout his works. Rodemeyer treats us to a general introduction to the problem in Husserl, discusses the place of content in inner time consciousness and describes levels of constitution in Husserl. There are few practitioners in contemporary phenomenology as helpful in introducing the reader to Husserl’s work on temporalization.
Chad Kidd, in his contribution, seeks to rescue the theme of judgment from philosophical obscurity. His approach outlines Husserl’s theory of judgment while avoiding a reiteration of the commonplace debates concerning psychologism. Roberto Walton provides us with an excellently researched elaboration of Husserl’s work on language as a ground of the common world. Among the piece’s many useful contents, it stresses the distinction between Wittgenstein’s insistence on language as a “proto-phenomenon” and Husserl’s understanding of prelinguistic modes of consciousness that “condition the general structure of predicative statements” (255). Walton’s work sets the stage beautifully for Phillip Walshes’s text on other minds. Walsh is keenly aware that one of the most common charges against phenomenology is that of solipsism, or even more—Cartesian methodological solipsism. Walsh notes that the problem of intersubjectivity, of the constitution of the other in consciousness, is a fundamental phenomenological problem to which Husserl returned again and again. Zahavi’s chapter on three types of ego is the last in the section on consciousness. Because of Zahavi’s extraordinary precision as a scholar and reader of Husserl, his papers on changes to phenomenology, false starts and complete reversals, are incredibly valuable. Here, he unveils the steps Husserl took from an almost absolute disinterest in the ego concept to placing it so prominently in later works like the Cartesian Meditations. The chapter has extraordinary pedagogical value, not least because Zahavi synthesizes Husserl’s complex egology into the three phases given in the title while at the same time going painstakingly over the important details in the body of the text.
Clinton Tolley’s is the first paper on epistemology in Husserl. Here, he helps us understand Husserl’s project as a clarifying of cognition. This task is placed in a Kantian shadow that Husserl labored in throughout his career. Many of his pages were filled with responses to neo-Kantians like Natorp, Cohen, and Rickert. The chapter helps bring into focus the extent to which Kant’s preoccupation with (human) reason is taken up by Husserl. Walter Hopp begins his work with a nod to the challenge posed by the philosophical zombie. He develops an argument whereby we come to see the notion of unconscious intentionality as absurd on its face. Philipp Berghofer’s seeks to establish the sources of knowledge available in phenomenological work. He provides a typology of knowlege that includes types of object, experience, givenness and evidence. Using these categories, we can better understand the range of knowledges available to philosophical discussion. In John Drummond’s contribution, Husserl’s concept of objectivity is explored. Here, we begin by rejecting any reliance on either subjectivism or objectivism. If these categories, as naive theoretical types, are cast aside, the question of what it is to be an object for consciousness remains. Drummond motivates his discussion with what he calls putative and intersubjective objectivity. Hanne Jacobs, the editor of the volume, makes her contribution by discussing Husserl on epistemic agency. Jacobs uses a reading of Husserl to challenge deflationary accounts of epistemic agency, accounts that would minimize the role of our active participation in the formation of beliefs. Husserl’s emphasis on the centrality of attention in our holding of any proposition to be true as epistemic agents. Jacobs takes the reading of Husserl to the realm of personal responsibility, arguing that, for Husserl, one can be responsible not only for positively held beliefs but also for what one does not believe, doesn’t know, or doesn’t want to know.
Ethics, Social, and Political Philosophy
The fifth division of the book collects chapters on ethics, social and political philosophy. One might fault this section for being a kind of grab bag of “social“ topics, but in reading the chapters here, one sees how they are inter-related as levels of exploration of the intersubjective theme in Husserl’s phenomenology. Inga Romer imagines Husserl’s history of ethics as a battlefield, pitting reason and feeling against one another. Romer’s text is a deep resource for understanding the works in philosophical history that informed Husserl’s development as an ethical thinker. The chapter also lays bare a tension in Husserl’s sometimes stated aims with respect to formal and material axiology and praxis as a science of ethics and the view of ethics toward which his late phenomenology pulled him. Mariano Crespo situates Husserl’s ethics among his contemporaries, including Lipps, Pfänder and Geiger. In the discussion, Crespo uncovers insights related to live issues in phenomenology, including especially the need for a phenomenology of the will. Sonja Rinofner-Kreidl writes about evaluative experience in prose whose grace is a relief after many turgid lines. Rinofner-Kreidl reminds us that Husserl does not hold that evaluative experiences infringe upon our rationality. The axiology Husserl develops is nonetheless complex, involving top-down formal axiology and formal praxis with bottom-up descriptions of associated experiences. We are even given an analysis of Husserl’s Kaizo articles and a discussion of the complex late ethics, culminating in a teleological view that grants us a universalism, as it were, from within. Sophie Loidolt writes on the fragility of the personal project. Loidolt moves from Husserl’s claim in Ideas II that motivation is the “basic law that governs the life of the person” (393) to a discussion of various topics guiding the debate on personhood and practical agency in Husserlian phenomenology. We end up with the claim that the person for Husserl is not defined as an achieved unity; the person is rather a fragile potential unity, ever missing its ultimate aim. Indeed, Loidolt ends with the rumination that it may only be through the support of others that our fragile projects of personhood can be maintained. Sean Petranovich takes us through Husserl’s work on social groups, exploring Husserl’s mereological work to draw attention to Husserl’s relevance to contemporary discussions regarding mereology and the social. The final chapter in this section of the book is by Esteban Marín-Ávila, discussing Husserl’s conception of philosophy as a rigorous science and its influence on his axiology and ethics. Marín-Ávila tackles the problem of Eurocentrism in Husserl with candor, refusing to dismiss it as an idle charge yet at the same time insisting that a Husserlian ethics, as elaborated in works like the Crisis, have much to say to non-European peoples. Husserl’s unfortunate writings on the impossibility of European peoples “Indianizing” themselves are referenced here, as well as his apparent belief that the achievements of Europe were such as to motivate a kind of rationally motivated mimicry in all other peoples of the world. Marín-Ávila ends with an affirmation of transcendental phenomenology that sees it as an already critical discipline capable of leading us toward a philosophy that matters.
Philosophy of Science
The sixth division of the text takes up Husserl’s work on the philosophy of science. We begin the division with Marco Cavallaro’s text which attempts to outline Husserl’s theory of science and posits a distinction between pure and transcendental phenomenology. Cavallaro sees ”pure” phenomenology as related to the project of a theory of science and transcendental phenomenology as related to ultimate epistemic foundations. Cavallaro is quick to point out this distinction is not made explicitly by Husserl. Jeff Yoshimi is the first in this collection to focus on the deepening field of phenomenological psychology. In this chapter we encounter Husserl’s main contemporary psychological influences (Wundt, Stumpf, Brentano, Dilthey). Yoshimi wants to link phenomenological psychology with transcendental phenomenology, phenomenological with empirical psychology and finally phenomenological psychology with philosophy of mind. One might misconstrue this as an effort to naturalize phenomenology, but it seems Yosimi is after a much more Husserlian move—establishing a transcendental dimension in the philosophies of mind and cognitive science. David Carr’s contribution looks to history as a science and its relation to phenomenology. This piece has pedagogical value as a general introduction to philosophy of history as well as an example of good Husserl scholarship. Carr helps us to see history as a study of the natural attitude in temporal development. Carr’s important Husserlian claim is that in the Crisis phenomenology takes on a decidedly historical character, for it is here that Husserl makes of philosophy as such a human endeavor with a history. The proper description for the historical a priori is something, Carr reminds us, Husserl struggled with until the very end. We are once again in full view of Husserl as a philosopher forever unsatisfied and unwilling to yield to his own limitations. The final contribution on the philosophy of science is Harald Wiltsche’s text on physics. Wiltsche quickly contextualizes the early twentieth century as a time of great upheaval in the sciences, noting above all others the arrival of relativity theory and quantum theory as fundamental disruptions to the way we view the world. He associates these shifts with changes in dominant philosophical discourses. Wiltsche shows that while Husserl himself may have demonstrated limited interest in the cutting edge physics of his day, in the person of a one-time student, Hermann Weyl, Husserlian ideas found their way into the scientific mainstream. Wiltsche also, rightly, points out that the discursive divide between analytic and continental philosophy is still far too robust today, despite our best efforts to pretend its dissolution a thing already achieved.
The final division of the text is devoted to metaphysics. We may find the inclusion of these chapters strange because, as Daniele De Santis points out, Husserl’s relationship to metaphysical philosophy is all-too-often taken for granted. If for no other reasons (and of course there are other reasons) the chapter is useful in that it contributes to the literature refuting the charge that Husserl is a naive metaphysician of presence. De Santis is a systematic thinker whose penetrating Husserl scholarship attempts to make the development of the metaphysical in Husserl something clear and useful for scholars. Claudio Majolino takes on the Herculean task of mapping Husserl’s ontology. The difficulty, as Majolino points out, is that Husserl is so vast and many of his works have ontological elements and implications. Majolino’s work here—using Burnyeat and Aristotle to seek out contours of Husserl’s ontology—is too original for a few lines in a review such as this. The chapter is worth serious study. Timo Miettinen’s contribution begins with a general introduction to the theme of teleology, moving quickly to a detailed exposition of the place of teleology in Husserl’s phenomenology. Miettinen notes the importance of genetic method in exploring the development of experiential structures demonstrating immanent teleological character. This means that early static analyses of teleology were not sufficient given the temporal requirements of goal-directed experience. Miettinen also, here, deepens our understanding of Husserl’s alleged Eurocentrism, responding to an accusation by Derrida that, Miettinen shows, relies on a crucial misreading. One unresolved question in the chapter is whether and how all of Husserl’s teleological descriptions can be subsumed under transcendental phenomenology. The final chapter of the final section of the book is Emiliano Trizio’s paper on teleology and theology. Trizio, more than any other scholar in this compilation, is concerned with Husserl’s investigations of the nature of God and what they can do to deepen our phenomenological understanding. For Trizio, God is a necessary theme of phenomenology. Trizio shows how theology fits within Husserl’s overall phenomenology. And, finally, Trizio develops a non-objectivist reading of Husserl’s most theological passages.
Having commented on these contributions, we are left dizzied by the depth and variety of Husserlian concern. Beginning this review, we confronted two basic questions. The first, Why Husserl?, asks us to assess Husserl as a thinker today. The second, What for Husserl can philosophy do?, is a refinement and extension of the first. What perhaps a collection like The Husserlian Mind gives us is the scope to determine, for ourselves, the answers to these questions. At the very least, we have within these pages the first lengths of many different paths one might take through the mind of Edmund Husserl and accordingly through philosophy as such. In so doing, we can discover for ourselves the value of great minds and the philosophies they make.
Adorno, Theodor W. 1993. Hegel: Three Studies. Translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen. MIT Press.
Husserl, Edmund. 2001. Analyses Concerning Passive and Active Synthesis: Lectures on Transcendental Logic. Translated by Anthony J. Steinbock. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
———. 1970. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Translated by David Carr. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.
———. 1973. Experience and Judgment. Translated by James Spencer Churchill and Karl Ameriks. Evanston, Ill: Northwestern University Press.
 Adorno (1993: 109).
Ian Angus’ Groundwork of Phenomenological Marxism: Crisis, Body, World is not a light book, both literally and figuratively, at 537 pages of dense analysis of two of the most discussed thinkers in the last few hundred years. Not many contemporary works have tried to integrate Marxism and Husserlian phenomenology. While perhaps everything in the life of the mind is ultimately connected, the project laid out by Husserl and that by Marx seem to point in quite different directions with very different methodologies. Subsequent works by famous thinkers who were influenced by both, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Herbert Marcuse, and Jan Patočka, did not seem to penetrate deeply into the scholarship of the side they are less famous for—that is, contemporary theorists of Marx do not go to Merleau-Ponty to discuss Marx, nor do phenomenologists routinely discuss Marcuse. Angus’ book truly does provide a groundwork to facilitate more work that does not neatly subsume the thoughts of one thinker under that of the other. While Angus notes his main textual supports will be Husserl’s Crisis and Marx’s Capital I, he also embraces a range of scholarship.
One generic challenge to phenomenology is that it struggles to critically engage with complex structures in our societies that exceed examination from the first-person perspective. Perhaps we are not just molded by our social, cultural, economic, and historical place in time, perhaps even what the idea of subjectivity is itself merely a momentary reverie and thus there is no ground from which to properly phenomenologize. A generic one to the Marx of Capital I-III is that the force of his understanding of capitalist logic creates a world in which things are happening with or without individual investment. We are all swept up in the force of history. Not only does the critic point out what Marx thought would come from capitalism has not transpired, but the idea of a self-enclosed system that will either end in ruin or revolution seems to ignore the manifold possibilities that have arisen, for better or worse, as capitalism spreads over the world. While both critiques can of course be argued against as misrepresntations, I bring up these challenges as a way to situate Angus’ impressive text as taking seriously both the analysis of capitalist logic as well as the importance of subjectivity. I read him as arguing that one can do a critical phenomenology in a capitalist world without reproducing bourgeois sentiment in a new form. In particular, his use of the idea of fecundity, ecological thinking, and Indigenous thought help explore places where capitalist logic fails to entirely dominate the lifeworld and places from which we might consider a robust contemporary phenomenological Marxism.
Overview of the Book
Part I: Phenomenology and the Crisis of Modern Reason & II: Objectivism and the Recovery of Subjectivity
In the first two chapters, Angus lays out the crisis of the modern sciences in order to set the ground for his later discussion of the lifeworld. The crisis of the sciences frames the entry into Husserl’s phenomenology and its relevance for the integration of Marx’s work. Husserl asserted that the crisis of the sciences is that they have become abstracted from their origin in human life, and thereby lost their meaning for humanity. The development of the modern sciences initiated the institution of the mathematization of nature. While mathematization of the modern sciences is not called into question as wrong, Angus notes that the issue becomes when the mathematization becomes “sedimented” and sciences assume “their validity has become an available tradition that further researchers use without investigating.” (43) Sciences thus use their symbolic systems, such as mathematization, as if it were full of human value even though it, by necessity, is abstract from human meaning. If we come to assume that only that which is objectively demonstrable by mathematization is “real,” then we are adrift in a world with reality devoid of meaning. The human world of intuition, tradition, sensuous nature, language, culture, and embodied experience cannot be mathematized. When objectivity found from abstract mathematization becomes “true” and subjectivity mere opinion, we find a crisis of reason. “This is the crisis: reasonproceeds without meaning for human life, while value loses its sustenance in reason.” (46) Angus says that the “healing power of phenomenology” is how phenomenology can uncover this historical sedimentation of mathematical reason and recover value.
Chapters three takes up the idea that one aspect of the crisis is the instrumentalization of the lifeworld. To begin, Angus uses Herbert Marcuse’s discussion of Husserl and deepens the manner in which the crisis of the sciences affects the lifeworld. Marcuse, like Husserl, is concerned with the manner in which instrumental reason cancels out the validity of subjective experience. What Angus draws out is how Marcuse draws attention toward the way in which the lifeworld becomes, under the reign of instrumentalism, merely a thing to be used by various techniques and technologies. It is natural to use technologies and associated technical practices to obtain ends; it is only when we have no other means to think of our lives that they become “emptied out.” “The emptying-out that treats a type as a formal ‘x’ removes the technical end from any relationship to other ends as experienced in the lifeworld and theorizes it strictly formally, that is to say, without any consideration if such an end is valid, good, or just.” (101) If human life is merely how we can as living objects use technologies and techniques to obtain certain pre-determined ends, say more money, more production, we merely become things. Moreover, we become things that cannot determine value ourselves since we are seen only as a means to a pre-determined end.
In chapter four, the discussion of technology is drawn into the 21st century. Angus considers how our contemporary digital technological culture is an extension of the instrumentalization of the lifeworld. While digital culture pervades our lives and determines the character of our self-understanding, we do not actually experience the digital itself. We receive information on our computers, tablets, and phone instantaneously (120). Here Angus develops briefly the idea about the importance of silence and delay which will be more developed in chapter nine. As digital culture transmits its information instantaneously, we have no space from which to take a pause from it given how quickly we are presented with new content. Yet, while the lack of any pause or delay can cover up the capacity for bracketing the digital, Angus states that “this absorption can never be complete” for the subject registers this information with a certain “intensity” or “valence” that is dependent upon other investments within the lifeworld (125). These other investments can produce a delay or lack of circularity of the system of digital culture and thus potentially ground a recovery of reason and value.
Chapters five develops further how value is both lost and potentially can be recovered and draws Marx into the picture to understand how abstract labor separates us from value. We do not encounter things in the lifeworld as value-free and then intellectually add value to them some x-value. Such a move would follow from the model that the instrumentalization of the lifeworld suggests. We have both social valuations that come from a determinate time and culture as well as subjectively personal valuations based on our own experience. Here Angus connects Marx and Husserl, reading both as concerned with the manner in which formal sign-systems are unable to address individual objects of value (139). In commodity fetishism, social relations are systematically concealed, similar to how in a “scientific” view of objectivity, one is unable to return to the value that grounds subjective experience. Moreover, because the system of exchange is hidden in object fetishism, self-knowledge is eluded. “This systematic absences of self-knowledge in social action is reproduced in an apologetic scientific form in political economy such that it produces a systematic lack in the social representation of value.” (143) Angus believes in the value of self-knowledge, but also importantly in the idea of a universalization that will permit escape from both a valueless scientific or economic system and from value being relative to particular cultures. In the fourth part of the book, this idea is sketched out more fully.
Part III: The Living Body and Ontology of Labor
Chapters six and seven productively develop stronger connections between the phenomenological project and the Marxist one. One the most developed discussions coming out of phenomenology’s approach to experience is developments that surround the consequences of understanding ourselves as first and foremost living bodies. We do not first consider the world consciously and then judge it, but are first born into a complex cultural, historical, and economic world and our embodied experiences with that world come to shape our judgements by sedimentation, not by conscious deliberation. Hence the lifeworld is not seen as “a” lifeworld, but simply what is, including the values and norms that our society has educated us in to see certain things as real or valuable when it might be just as conceivable that others things might be more deserving of value. The living-body is “the root-experience of the lifeworld” but we are always being with other beings; we are always part of a human, not just an individual, experience. (157) Angus separates out two features of our shared human experience: the positive “we-subjectivity,” the community in which we live, work, and commune with others, and the other and self as “objects” that either benefit or hinder any individual project (157).
Angus then turns toward Marx’s ontology of labor as the foundation of what it is to be human and what shapes human history. Certainly we need labor to live, but Marx argues that labor is also how we constitute our identity and the world in which we live (162). In Husserl’s work, the living body’s motility grounds subjectivity and Marx’s ontology of labor helps develop one way in which this subjectivity is formed. Angus agrees with Jan Patočka and Ludwig Landgrebe that early Marx’s view on labor lacked, unlike Husserl’s, a full account of subjectivity. However, as Angus will point out the Marx of Capital I presents us with a more complex view of labor. Here we see the sketch of much of the rest of the book—how an ontology of the lifeworld, in particular labor and its relationship to subjectivity, permits an understanding of the structures of that world. In order to connect the ontology of the lifeworld to a phenomenology of the living body, what Marx would call a critique, one must go beyond the “evident” nature of the lifeworld to question its current form and status.
Marx’s mature ideas of an ontology of labor as “a phenomenology of the role of human activity in nature” will shape much of the rest of the section’s discussion (180) While largely sympathetic with Marx’s focus on labor, Angus argues that Marx’s interest in technology as history determining cannot make sense without a better account of the surplus productivity of labor that allows such technology to form itself. I think it beyond the scope of this review to examine this critique—that is, is it really the case that Marx failed to understand the necessity of surplus productivity’s relation to nature?—but rather to take Angus at his word, and examine the interesting idea of fecundity that Angus will develop throughout the remainder of the text (187). The logic of capitalism of collecting commodities to be exchanged can appear to have circular and enclosed perspective. We work to produce things that can be sold to obtain money to buy or produce other things, ad infinitum. One can think here of Hannah Arendt’s dismissive view of labor as this endless need of human work to survive without the possibility of anything new coming from it, other than more survival and thus more labor. Angus writes that what actually happens, and what can be thought to perhaps undermine the capitalist project, is that labor exceeds what is needed to complete the next circuit—what is “the fecundity of nature.” (187) Here one is too reminded of Michel Foucault’s interesting ideas of how any regime of power/knowledge creates subjectivities that are not just docile, but also then have the means to creatively exceed that structure. Later Angus will develop the idea of fecundity to argue for an interesting ecological view of our current situation. Herbert Marcuse’s work helps underscore the emancipatory possibilities inherent in human activity outside its insertion merely into the logic of capitalism as labor. The event of any human activity is not subsumable entirely to the motivation that preceded it. One example is that the excess that labor can create produces not just things for survival, but culture as well. Culture then creates new forms of organization that exceed strict capitalist production.
Chapter eight is one of the densest chapters in the book. It takes up the idea of abstraction and its relevance for labor and value and concludes with how to revive value in the lifeworld. Abstraction in Marx’s theory is complex, there is the abstraction where individuals are only understood as significant insofar they play a role—say laborer or capitalist. Abstraction can also be where one analyzes the core features of capitalism and sets aside the actual concrete form. In this sense, abstraction comes close to a phenomenological reduction. Finally, there is abstraction in the sense of addition—“When we consider any only single factor, such as labor, there are a number of historical and imaginary, or logically possible, forms in which that labor could be organized: capitalist, trial, state, cooperative, etc.” (237) This groundwork lays the foundation for the most important abstraction in Marx’s text, to be later complemented by Angus’ formulation of abstract nature: abstract labor. Abstract labor is not illusory, it is real in the that is produced in the system of exchange of commodities. Workers, as individuals, are now just understood in abstraction as nothing but laborers qua commodities—things that can be bought. The commodity hides the relationship between humans, we do not encounter or know those whose products we purchase hence we tend to assume the value lies within the product—what is commodity fetishism. Laborers themselves becomes a thing as their labor-power is just another unit of exchange. Moreover, abstract labor operates as value—abstract labor has a certain value in the system of exchange and can be taken without consideration of the particular work the laborers are performing. As Husserl wrote about in the Crisis, one consequence of modern science has been the mistaking of the method of mathematization for actual truth and meaning. Marx’s understanding of the abstract labor likewise performs this move in a system of value (256). If only abstract labor is considered valuable, one has lost any footing the real world of humans, as individuals and also as communities in their culture and their history.
The lifeworld is able to recover reason as the place in which one can situate the historical nature of abstract labor and account for how its excess cannot be contained within capitalist reason. Excess productivity produces culture and also draws from the fecundity of nature which is never completely exhausted by capitalism. Nature, individuals, and communities produce excesses but given the particularities of the concrete spaces in which such productivity exists, there is no “unitary source” and thus they do not produce uniform products. Hence, “the proletariat has never acted as a unitary subject as Marxist politics has expected.” (277) Angus develops from this work on abstraction to an idea of abstract nature as critical to his phenomenological Marxism, pointing out that Marx, by not having a concept of abstract nature, is unable to explain just what abstract labor is to be performed upon. Briefly, Angus points toward ecology as a way exit the limitations of capitalist and modern scientific thinking and integrate nature and humanity. “The task of transformation would be to recover nature as the source of meaning and value, human labor as the giving of a specific form to that source.” (286) Ecology works from the connections between nature and cultures and can provide a method to get beyond our reductionistic thinking.
Technology is the theme of chapter nine which develops further the way in which the regime of capitalist value homogenizes production. While Marx and Marcuse’s views on technology are important to underline that there is no simple nature unchanged by humans nor humans apart from technical extension, it is Gilbert Simondon’s work permits us to consider our contemporary lifeworld more fully. Simondon is critical of Communist Party Marxism, arguing that the development of more technological societies with machines as central to production creates a particular kind of alienation where “both the worker and the industrial boss are alienated insofar as they are either above or below the machine.” (303) Hence, some Marxist views of technology as liberating are false. Angus draws our contemporary situation as another crisis because contemporary digital culture “approaches a pure transparency without delays or silences that could initiate emergent meaning” as discussed in chapter four (319). The speed of transmission of information and the lack of spaces in which to not be presented with such information reduces the capacity for the kind of productive excess that permits a possible exit from capitalist logic. One striking feature of our own society dominated by the capacity to share on the internet is how information is exploited much like physical labor. Cognitive capitalism is “neo-mercantilist” as a socio-economic form with the important element of “decay”—that is, the value of the digital form reduces over time (324). Thus, new digital products have a very short lifespan where they produce surplus profit and must be constantly produced by tech workers. As with his earlier discussion of technology, Angus argues that instead of transforming such digital spaces, “the struggles of the working class in such industries would not necessarily be to transform them as such, but to exist to become an independent, self-defining enterprise.” (324) Technology itself does not liberate workers if they do not have the means to define its value.
Chapter ten lays the groundwork for the recovery of the concrete grounds from which to critique the mathematization of science and the abstractions of capitalism. Husserl himself celebrated biology in its connection to the living body as a means to connect the lifeworld in experience and the sciences of life. However, Angus points out that, as Marx shows us, bodies can be abstracted in labor and creates a closed system of understanding bodies that does not permit a true phenomenological investigation. Angus’ idea of abstract nature is added to this critique in order to point out that it is not just labor, and thus humans, that are abstracted in capitalism, but nature as well. Angus writes, “abstract nature if the fundamental critical category of our phenomenological Marxism that can be counterposed to the discovery of natural fecundity as an excess that underlines all human productivity and culture.” (345) Again, Angus draws attention to ecology as a way of thinking since it considers the connections between life-forms and the worlds in which they live, something biology does not do. This is a concrete starting place instead of the abstraction required by the sciences or capitalism and can think of communities instead of only abstract systems.
Part IV: Transcendentality and the Constitution of Worlds
Chapter eleven and twelve deepen Angus’ ideas of the phenomenological project and the need for an intercultural self-responsible phenomenology. Emphasizing the intersubjective nature of any lifeworld and the plurality of them helps underline how the need for the phenomenological view to complement Marx’s work. In Marxist thought, there is the tendency to see subjectivity as rather uniform amongst classes. Angus takes up the question if Husserl’s commitment to seeing Europe as central makes phenomenology not just Eurocentric, which I would think is hard to deny, but also fundamentally invested in an implicit view of European superiority. Angus develops a fascinating perspective on America, here understood as the Americas, rather than simply the United States, as the kind of example that makes any kind of European view limited. America is not a repetition of Europe; America is shaped by the “conquest-disaster” of its origins as well as by the Indigenous traditions and thoughts that also continue to shape it. The conquest-disaster begins “an ongoing institution that remains with us to this day and points toward some sort of resolution of final goal (Endstiftung). We live within this institution and its assigns us a task.” (399) The task is to see this lifeworld as it is, not as Europe’s, but with its own shape and demands. Angus argues this broader view of the historical nature of cultures helps expose the need to respond not just to the scientific and economic crises, but also to our “planetary crisis.”
This planetary crisis refers to the reason understood as technology that is based on formal-mathematical science as the origination of crisis and phenomenological reason as the renewal of meaning and value through a recovery of relation to the lifeworld. Meaning and value must be generated, not simply from looking back to prior institutions, but from events constituted by the planetary encounter of culture-civilizations that motivate an appeal upward on step toward great universality. (403)
What is needed is intercultural-civilizational understanding that moves toward universality. This might seem a bit strange, after all typically calling for greater intercultural understanding can be seen to call for something particular and non-universal. Angus develops not a particular kind of universality, say something like “Europe,” that should be taken as the goal, but rather a certain kind of community living together. While we live in a world saturated by calls for cultural understanding, one might rightly see them as a kind of buffet model—a little of this one and a little of that. This can be seen as how scientific-technological civilization renders all traditions as local and particular to the universality of its enterprises, so culture becomes like a disposable addition upon “real” understanding which is of course that which can be reduced to either scientific models or capitalist logic. This can also be seen as expressed, in a much different fashion, in relativist philosophies where one can affirm the other, but is left in without any means of overcoming differences. Angus takes up an approach where what the phenomenological tradition can guide for intercultural understanding is by pursuing not a “truth” that then can add various cultural views, like clothing, nor a set of discrete truths which cannot communicate, but a center-periphery logic where different assumptions in culture-civilizations can be upended by each other in discourse and attention to practices. Angus looks to build:
A philosophy that would be ecological, in the sense that it would focus on the concrete relations that construct a Whole; that would be Marxist, in the sense that is would criticize a social representation of value that relies on commodity price; and that would be phenomenological, in that it would ground value in the lifeworld in action and intuition, is a possibility that would enact this hope. (441)
Chapter thirteen spells out just what intercultural-civilization phenomenology could be. By using place-based knowledge, such as Indigenous thought, we can displace the tendency of planetary technology and capitalism to homogenize by abstracting individuals and nature. Like ecological thinking, Indigenous thinking starts from relationships and from thinking from community instead of thinking of individuals first. Yet of course, any community might not be compatible with another, so in order to move from the value of community to the kind of universal investment needed to combat the crises of our age, Angus appeals in chapter fourteen to Charles Taylor’s notion that “each cultural group can find its own reasons for belonging in a higher unity, that the reasons do not have to be identical for each group.” (453). Hence, the intercultural dialogue would consider crises that face us all, but not require that each group form a new identity but rather that each group understand their share and investment in the problem. The final chapter of part IV considers how philosophy can work to restore the fecundity of nature, of human labor, and of community investment. Natural fecundity is found not “outside” human experience in the environment as a thing, but rather within a cultural heritage’s manner in which it takes up freedom. Indigenous thought and ecological thinking help show ways in which cultural heritage and cultural understanding are not limitations to “proper” science or economic systems, but important ways in which to understand relationships and value.
Part V: Self-Responsibility as Teleologically Given in Transcendental Phenomenology
The final section of the book develops the idea that philosophy in the manner outlined above cannot be first and foremost about rule-following. After all, if we are to take seriously intercultural dialogues and the heritage of communities, we cannot find a common set of ethical rules that must guide them all. Moreover, any lifeworld unexamined appears to us “how it is” and thus its “rules” are unexamined as they seem natural. The separation of meaning and value caused by the mathematization- mechanization of the world by the modern sciences and the forced abstraction of humans from their bodies and nature in capitalism requires both an analysis of its origins as well as a responsible call to action to try and guide a method for the renewal of meaning and value. Angus appeals to the idea of responsibility as a method of living by inquiring. “Self-responsibility is the ethic of philosophical inquiry and its practice in confronting the rule-following inherent in lifeworld practices.” (489) This is both a responsibility toward humanity and to the individual. Angus finds that Husserl remains too embedded in the tradition of knowledge “for its own sake” and thus remains unable to articulate a call to action. Instead, learning should be drawn into the strife of the world “with eyes wide open” and to search for justice. (499)
In the preface to the French edition of Capital I, Marx chides the “French public” who are “always impatient to come to a conclusion” that they might not wish to labor through the early chapters. However, he writes “There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.” While I have nothing to say about if this characterization of the French public of 1872 is deserved, I do want to qualify my comments below as that perhaps they are testimony more to my challenges with the book’s steepness than the text itself. No book can serve all possible audiences, but I did wish the book were more readable for someone who was versed in one or the other tradition and curious about the possible connections. As it is, I would find it quite challenging for someone to read who didn’t already have a good command of Husserl’s phenomenology and at least an understanding of the critique of capitalism in Marxist thought. While Angus does provide an extremely detailed discussion of the main points he wants to draw from each, and thus this could act as a kind of summary, he does not explain for the reader the general frame in which to understand these very detailed summaries. This is particularly so for the phenomenological discussions. I cannot see someone who was well-read in Marxist thought making much sense of the phenomenological project herein since the discussion assumes a certain understanding of phenomenology’s language. I could imagine a reader unfamiliar with Marxist thought, but familiar with phenomenology understanding better the discussion of abstract labor and nature, so central to the book, since capitalism so defines our current reality and even someone who has not read Marx would be familiar with the idea that there might be problems with capitalism.
I wonder if the book began not with Husserl’s thought, but instead with a shorter discussion of ecology that appears very late in the text. This would provide a kind of framework and directionality to the text in which to work through the crises of science and labor. While the ultimate longer analysis of ecology rightly should follow his analysis at the end of the book, any reader would be familiar with our current environmental crisis and could help understand that this book would help elucidate this crisis and provide some ideas for action. In addition, more framing of phenomenology’s method might aid in reaching a wider audience. I also wondered at the conclusion, so exclusively considered with phenomenology where it would have seemed to my mind obvious here to appeal to the call to action in Marxist thought. In the discussion of communities, one could also think not just of communities qua historical cultures, but also communities such as labor unions, political groups, and religious groups.
However, this is a “groundwork” not an introduction to phenomenological Marxism and as such perhaps it is a text that is rightly directed toward an audience who can follow its density and read further as need be. It is a welcome addition to our intellectual life and provides an important way in which to address the manifold contemporary crises our world faces. In particular, Angus presents a compelling model wherein we engage with Indigenous and community-based thinking not to simply affirm the “otherness” of this thought, but to see it as an important interlocutor with European phenomenology and Marxism. The crises we face are not culturally located, but planetary, and as such require a universalizing, but not totalizing, response.
 Karl Marx. 1976. Capital Volume I, 105. London: Penguin.
Paths in Heidegger’s Later Thought is a much-needed communication of ideas from German-educated scholars to their anglophone counterparts in other traditions. A compendium of excellence and creativity, it does indeed map paths that the 15 researchers have either pursued over lengthy careers or are just now discovering. While sometimes eclectic and rather expository, the book might be called mandatory reading for a precise overview of current global Heidegger scholarship.
This review will attempt to characterise the common traits shared between the authors’ approaches and give short descriptions of all articles for the benefit of the reader encountering these authors for the first time.
A few words on the book as a whole. The collection takes as its starting point the oft-cited motto of Heidegger’s Gesamtausgabe, “Ways, not works.” Moving from these ways of thought understood in a “metaphorical” sense towards a thinking that is indeed way-making in its character, it attempts to gather and map the recent and more penetrating paths that have been lain through the thickets of Heidegger’s body of thought.
And as the German background of the editors (and most contributors) suggests, the collection follows what we might attempt to generalise as the European approach to Heidegger. This approach focuses more on the later Heidegger, is more focused on congeniality than force of interpretation and aims towards a Heideggerisation of ideas rather than an appropriation in the opposite direction. That said, the collection does a decent job of consciously avoiding the common stumblings: falling from hermeneuticism to hermeticism or from introduction to reduction.
The editors phrase the endeavour of the collection thus: “to present a range of ways in which Heidegger can be read and a diversity of styles in which his thought can be continued. […] it is a hermeneutic endeavour, beginning with an interpretation of his writing” (Foreword, 1-2). This is a wonderful maxim and evidently helps to produce texts that are generally capable of the critical approach, but don’t bog down in open, nor hidden hostility towards a competing interpretation. Still, this variety does beg the question whether the book should be considered a whole at all or merely as a collection of individual texts.
Even more so – and this is not a jab at the editors’ careful work –, does this seemingly unpretentious “range” and “diversity”, a presupposed equality of ideas, perhaps not undercut the texts’ individual philosophical ambitions? Be how it may, the experiment with a plurality of critical interpretations merits even philosophical appreciation, since Heidegger’s own work suggests that authentic thought follows a non-linear or multistable character itself.
Thus, the essays seem to be grouped with regard to their shared paths of thought, intersections and common landmarks. The section titles attempt to reflect these commonalities to a degree but serve rather to facilitate readability. A general overview could here be refined by having a look at the indexes. Keywords like earth (Erde), event (Ereignis), gathering (Ver-/Sammlung), presence (Anwesenheit) and unconcealment (Unverborgenheit) are not left unmentioned for more than one or two essays, broadly speaking. Here, gathering and presence strike as the two most surprising keywords, since they are not exclusive to the later Heidegger and no essay deals with them centrally. On the other hand, care (Sorge), ecstasis (Ekstase), sense (Sinn), but also the turn (Kehre), National Socialism and building (Bauen) – they receive only sparse mentions.
Now, spelling out substantial common traits and ideas between the authors would be to try and formulate a school of Heideggerian research. This would be folly, but the individual authors do share that they are mostly Heideggerian in the sense, that they seem to be operating on an impulse received from reading Heidegger. In the sense of aspiring to go beyond a “mere” scholarly account of Heidegger and walking forward on paths he exposed.
This could be said about the contributions in a historical sense as well. Regardless of his prescient predictions, from a perspective of intellectual history, in many ways Heidegger envisioned a path different to what we see today. Here, the collection displays the throes of reconciling a Heideggerian new beginning and the world today. Perhaps indeed a less unitary and more diverging approach might hold the means to finally “making sense” of Heidegger’s thought.
Next, a quick look will be given at the contributions one-by-one, following the structure of the book. This is to serve also as a quick reference to locate the topic of interest for the reader.
The first section “Language, Logos, and Rhythm” is devoted to essays focused on Heidegger’s notions concerning language, broadly speaking. However, it is perhaps the most uneven section, comprising of works by Jeff Malpas, Markus Wild, Diego D’Angelo and Tristan Moyle.
Interestingly enough, one common theme in this section is explicitly specifying the mode of interpretation: “exegetical externalism” (Wild: 45-46), “immanent interpretation” (D’Angelo: 65-66) and “naturalistic interpretation” (Moyle: 85-86). What’s stunning is that although the three essays and authors differ to a great degree, the mode or methodology of interpretation is actually quite similar.
Even though authors show this conscious effort and also considerable skill in specifying their respective mode of interpretation, these modes tend to differ in mere nuance of exposition and seem to be specific to the question of interest each author addresses. Differences between the authors’ deliberations seem to stem from other sources than the stated mode of interpretation. Perhaps a larger problem in Heidegger scholarship is reflected here: the question of how to interpret Heidegger while differing to a great extent, has been shaped in a sort of tacit consensus, as indicated by some actual similarities of approaches, regardless of differences in stated methodology. To say the least, the search for an approach to Heidegger is ongoing.
The book sets out from home: Jeff Malpas’ “‘The House of Being’: Poetry, Language, Place” builds on his longstanding “topological interpretation” of Heidegger and contends with the problem of bridging language and a topology implied in Heidegger’s oft-quoted “Language is the house of being”. Asserting that in Heidegger the classic dichotomous concepts of spatiality collapse – that “the dimensional and relational are not separate but rather are two sides of the same” (p. 23)–, Malpas gives a delicate account of how this along with a more mature account of the poetic makes sense of Heidegger’s “turn” after Being and Time and also brings the later Heideggerian project to a clearer shape. This is accomplished by identifying poetry as where place and language intersect, where most prominently “saying is placing and placing is saying” (p. 34).
Influential among and well-known to anglophone speakers, Malpas’ essay demonstrates the continuity between anglophone and European scholarship. Markus Wild, known foremost as a philosopher of biology and animals in specific, however, undertakes an investigation into Heidegger’s often disregarded confrontation with Trakl in his “Heidegger and Trakl: Language Speaks in the Poet’s Poem”.
Wild occupies himself with a search for the site (Ort) of Trakl’s singular poem – “the poet’s poem”, a sort of fictional “centre of gravity” from and to which his poetry flows. Wild argues here that the value of Trakl for Heidegger is not, like other poets, liable to be subsumed under or merely opposed to what Heidegger’s treatments of Hölderlin uncover. To this end, he specifies his aforementioned mode of interpretation aimed at locating claims “in relation to other discussions while responding to clues and hints contained in Heidegger’s text” (p. 45). A laudable attempt, which might indeed account for lucidly conveying certain notorious Heideggerisms and also manages to integrate elements from classical rhetorics, speech act theory and psychology.
That said, Wild may well be suspected of walking only halfway down Heidegger’s path towards Trakl’s poetry. This is because Wild seems to, at points, conceptualise poetry in terms of its “ultimate purpose” (p. 60), which is reached and conceived in terms involving notions of empathy and imagination foreign to Heidegger – perhaps a psychologising analysis. In any case, the paper deserves to be followed by an even more “externalist exegesis”, which would connect or relate Heidegger’s analysis of Trakl with the other poets’ – a task little noticed so far.
D’Angelo gives a detailed account of how Heidegger approaches the phenomenon of greeting (Grüßen) in his writings on Hölderlin’s “Der Ister”. By and large, repeating what may be read in the relevant sections of “The Bloomsbury Companion to Heidegger”, D’Angelo’s article does go into necessary and enlightening detail.
Perhaps of most interest is his treatment of the semiotic, in particular a Heideggerian account of the sign (66-69), and how he weaves it into the more well-known account of greeting: a remembrance (Andenken) directed at the future and fundamentally stemming from the Holy (das Heilige).
Now, Moyle’s “Later Heidegger’s Naturalism” should perhaps be called “A Naturalistic Look at Later Heidegger” to reflect its contents more exactly. One of the essays that is only now discovering previously concealed pathways, naturalism is here a specifically McDowellian sort of “aesthetic naturalism” (see 85-87) and the main topic in later Heidegger is rhythm.
Although this is an interesting superimposition, there are clear problems with Moyle’s attempt to “domesticate Heidegger’s rhetoric” (p. 96). In particular, he seems to go against the very idea of a path-like webwork of thinking in Heidegger, by connecting ideas in Heidegger from different time periods and lines of thought – paths, which for specific reasons don’t seem to converge at the points he expects them to. This brings with it some problematic inferences and questionable conclusions. Also, Heidegger’s own translation of the Greek word as Fügung and the implications it involves are not considered.
That said, even when arguing that being itself should perhaps be thought of as rhythm – quite audacious to these ears – there are strong links being made, that merit further study and elaboration.
The second section is concerned with the Greek word physis and centres, with obvious scholarly informedness, on the seemingly paradoxical interplay of emerging and enclosing – the dynamics that Heidegger’s “Greek” physis carries. Here, different readings tend to rely on different sources and thus approach them with ostensibly non-concomitant perspectives, intersecting at uncomfortable angles. Still, this section is perhaps the most focused in terms of substance, including essays from Thomas Buchheim, Guang Yang, Claudia Baracchi and Damir Barbarić.
An interesting choice to include in the collection Buchheim’s essay on Heidegger’s physis as it develops in his thought, which is translated from the similar collection published in 2007, Heidegger und die Griechen, displaying a certain continuity between the publications. D’Angelo’s very readable translation makes it easy to grasp why the editors decided to publish a work older than a decade.
Utilising the arsenal that knowledge of classic philology provides, Buchheim first identifies two quite separate periods Heidegger deals with physis. Second, he gives a sharp overview of the first period physis becomes a topic of deep interest for Heidegger (starting from the 1920s). Then, in an answer to his titular question “Why is Heidegger Interested in Physis?”, Buchheim gives an account of Heidegger’s oft-criticised but piercing account of Aristotle’s physis as an echo of the original presocratic notion. Intensely focused and well-informed, the text makes a case for the presence of a concept of physis as a primordial withdrawal much earlier than is largely supposed. This is certainly one of the essays that gives the collection merit and depth.
One should perhaps approach Yang’s essay as intimating a novel approach, a work-in-progress. He doesn’t precisely reach what the title promises, “Being as Physis,” but instead gives a reading of rest and movement as it pertains to the notion of physis in a phenomenological sense. The two main areas being connected are Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle and his conception of art. A challenging read, the paper’s strength and potential failure lie in how it attempts to include a large portion of Heidegger’s writings that do touch on physis from different sides. A longer form would perhaps enable Yang to express the picture he is setting up with more graspable severity.
“The End of Philosophy and Unending Physis” is an alien text in this collection, but definitely impressive. In it Baracchi retells “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” in a nimble and alluring style. While not a standard scholarly piece on Heidegger, it makes a number of inspiring, if flimsy, intimations like “the end of philosophy is the task of thinking” (p. 155), most of them, of course, more intricate. Inspired by Heidegger and, it seems, a certain rage against the undying of the light of metaphysics, she has chosen a form of writing that should perhaps reflect the non-metaphysical sort of discussion a thinking might follow after it has surmounted metaphysics.
Another fine article, Barbarić’s “Thinking at the First Beginning” attempts to pave a way towards what the title names. Starting from the plausible assumption that in Heidegger physis “determines Being itself rather than a domain or realm of entities” (p. 165), the crux here is physis and its ontological depth (as opposed to surficity), which Heidegger sets up against the later concept of truth based on the Greek notion of idea, but which is also the source of the latter.
But Barbarić does more than tell the rather familiar story of the completion of Western thought and a need for a return to the first beginning. The intricacies can’t be discussed here without a terrible watering-down, and the reader should instead be directed to Barbarić’s Zum anderen Anfang. Studien zum Spätdenken Heideggers (2016, Karl Alber Verlag) for the whole picture.
The third section, “Phenomenology, the Thing, and the Fourfold”, features essays from Günter Figal, Jussi Backman, Nikola Mirković and Andrew J. Mitchell.
In a tiny masterpiece, Figal lays out the line of thought Heidegger’s philosophy seems to follow in the latter’s reading of Parmenides. Building from the “Seminar in Zähringen” (about this text, see 179-180), Figal takes a look at the neologistic tautophasis and “tautological thinking”, which Heidegger espoused at that point. Now, tautophasis stems from the realisation that phenomena appear or show (phainesthai is the ancient Greek verb). Both Greek words coming from the same root, the presencing of phenomena is thus a sort of self-showing or more aptly “saying-two-together” (Selbander-sage), which is Heidegger’s translation for tautophasis (see p. 183). The corresponding thinking is thus characterised as tautological.
Figal opens up tautological thinking in a way that allows him to venture his own thought: Heidegger failed to address the theme of the sign (semata) in Parmenides – and if he had, the idea of tautophasis (indeed an anti-dialectical attitude) would have perhaps seemed less feasible. Here oversimplified, Figal’s “Tautophasis: Heidegger and Parmenides” manages to keep up with Heidegger and is definitely worth reading, if one is interested in Heidegger’s relationship to the Presocratics.
Backman’s “Radical contextuality in Heidegger’s Postmetaphysics: The Singularity of Being and the Fourfold” approaches Heidegger from without, we might say in contrast to Figal. Backman starts to trace in Heidegger a “radical contextualism” (the definition should be found on p. 190), in a sense attributed to postmodernist and postmetaphysical thinking. He adheres to a Sheehanesque reading – meaning and intelligibility as the ultimate frontier for being, this reading supported by texts that allow for this reading – and finds a radical contextuality in Heidegger, centering around Being as the singular event (Ereignis): “Ereignis, the title for the basic dynamic character of Seyn, is the event or the ‘taking place’ of historical singularity in which meaningful presence ‘finds its place’ – in other words, is contextualised and situated within the ‘instantaneous site’ (Augenblicksstätte) of spatiotemporal situatedness (Zeit-Raum) furnished by Dasein.” (p. 195).
From this he proceeds to unfold the fourfold or “onefold of four” as parallel to Aristotle’s four causes, the difference being that instead of Aristotle’s concept of being as a situatedness, Heidegger conceives of being as “this event of instantiation as such” (p. 201). This strand of thought, as the entire essay, is admittedly inspired and fascinating – perhaps it would benefit in scope and succinctness if also made a comparison with the question of being and becoming in Heidegger.
Looking for a sense of being that bestows meaning like Backman, Mirković turns instead to Dreyfus’s and Kelly’s All Thing Shining. His first aim is to explore the background Heidegger might provide for Dreyfus and Kelly, but reaches something of a deeper nature in what the title succinctly names “The Phenomenon of Shining”.
He starts with the concept of beauty expressed in “The Origin of the Work of Art”: “Beauty is one way in which truth as unconcealment comes to presence” (p. 216) and connects this with the concept of shining in a way that should be familiar to Heidegger of that period. Then, by looking at how Heidegger handles Plato’s concept of beauty in “Nietzsche”, he points to a striking similarity between Plato and Heidegger, but also a sharp distinction: for Heidegger, beauty is related to the earth, but shining and radiance comes about “through its interplay with art and its integration into actual works of art” (p. 218). This is momentous because earth seems to here bestow both what we would call sensible and intelligible – meaningful, yet not limited to conceptual knowledge.
The second strand of the essay concerns history. Where Dreyfus and Kelly characterise modernity in terms of a general loss of meaning and nihilism – art, broadly speaking, included – they seem to be making an overstatement about the (being-)historical change, that has come to pass with the arrival of modernity. Mirković provides an example for this, the Staiger-correspondence on Mörike’s “On a Lamp”. In Heidegger’s interpretation of the poem, Mirković sees a clear inclusion of both social and practical circumstances in the analysis of the work. Now, one may doubt Mirković’s own interpretation here, but still have to admit that Heidegger’s knowledge of history extended well beyond the philosophical, and there is good reason to believe that the practical side of history is indeed incorporated into his deliberations on the topic.
In “A Brief History of Things: Heidegger and the Tradition” Mitchell provides a riveting account of just that, things – in the Heideggerian sense, of course. He starts from the place of a thing as its inherent distinction in Aristotle, proceeds to the intricate medieval system of natural and unnatural places and then to the break from this relational account to an objective account in Newton (this distinction was discussed in Malpas’ essay as well). Finally, he arrives at an ideal body that really exists nowhere, made transcendental from the viewpoint of the subject by Kant’s philosophy.
Done with the Heideggerian story, he turns to Heidegger himself, suggesting that we have to enter this between (Zwischen) that separates subject and object. Interestingly, Mitchell seems to view the between as a sort of rediscovering of the “inherently relational nature of existence” (p. 234). Aware that this claim is suspect, perhaps because a fundamental relationality seems to go against the Heideggerian intuition, he furthers and clarifies it by turning to Being and Time.
Taking an interesting turn here, he quickly makes the case, that Being and Time does not adhere to what we can elucidate as the aspects of a thing in the later Heidegger (p. 239) – “we cannot speak of any ‘things’ in Being and Time” (p. 238). Containing a wealth of new ideas, Mitchell’s proposal of a certain relationality in Heidegger could perhaps be supplemented with the latter’s treatment of Leibniz, one of the definitive modern metaphysical (and especially spatial) relationists.
The last section is titled “Ground, Non-ground, and Abyss”. A sort of show of force, the book ends with three accomplished authors: Hans Ruin, Sylvaine Gourdain and Tobias Keiling – the latter two belonging almost exclusively to the European-language tradition. However, the first two, touching on Leibniz and Schelling respectively, both suggest that the philosophical predecessors may have had a larger impact on Heidegger than previously thought. Keiling then closes the book with an insightful unravelling of the notion of Erklüftung, making this perhaps the most illuminating section for the anglophone reader.
Ruin’s “Heidegger, Leibniz, and the Abyss of Reason” takes a look at what Heidegger himself centres on when discussing Leibniz – the principle of reason or ground (Grund). Heidegger’s interpretations are here examined with penetrating but succinct means. Quite convincingly, where Heidegger seems to prima facie interpret with a deal of “violence”, Ruin identifies a hermeneutics that sheds light on Heidegger’s own development (see especially 249-251).
Giving first an overview of the writings on Leibniz “The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic” (1928) and “The Principle of Reason” (lectured 1955-56), Ruin makes explicit, and at the same time calls into question, the interpretation that the earlier text paves way for the Kehre and the latter treats Leibniz as a symbol of the history of merely rational, calculating thinking – as opposed to “meditative” thinking (Besinnung). Especially concerning this opposition, Ruin urges us to “question and learn to move across the strict borders that Heidegger creates in his own somewhat Manichean conception of the tradition” (p. 256). But in a broader sense, Ruin points at the structural similarity between Leibniz’s ultimately theological metaphysics, Leibniz’s God and Heidegger’s Being. This should motivate us, he asserts, to “refrain from becoming trapped in the dichotomous contrast between rationality and mysticism” (p. 256) and offers further reading and ides on the topic.
Another interesting and very capable essay, “Ground, Abyss, and Primordial Ground: Heidegger in the Wake of Schelling” recounts the influence of Schelling on Heidegger’s notion of ground, which he fully articulates only after Being and Time. Schelling’s Grund, a non-rational basis, is most similar to the Heideggerian notion of earth in terms of a withdrawing-providing nature. Gourdain attempts to also connect it with the notions of Ungrund, Ek-sistenz, clearing and tangentially even with Seyn.
The main comparison here is drawn from the relationships between Schelling’s ground and existent on the one hand and Heidegger’s earth and world on the other. The main similarity here is that Grund and earth both defy total intelligibility, they “each signal the withdrawal and resistance of materiality, which never exhausts itself within a definitive meaning” (p. 267), but still both provide the impenetrability or darkness that is necessary for any disclosing that their respective counterparts seem to encompass.
Heidegger’s deeper confrontation with Schelling occurs roughly simultaneously with the reworking period of “The Origin of the Work of Art” and the beginning of writing “Contributions to Philosophy” in the 1936 lecture course on Schelling’s famous essay on human freedom. This concurrency prompts Gourdain to offer a rather daring sketch of a sort of Schellingian later Heidegger.
This essay is especially welcome as an introduction to both Gourdain’s profound work on Heidegger and to the perspective on the later Heidegger, that’s intimately aware of German Idealism. This is certainly one of the core essays of the collection, one that should motivate further attempts at translation.
Such is the case also with Tobias Keiling’s “Erklüftung”. He approaches this German word, often translated as “sundering”, with a striking supposition. Namely, he follows Blumenberg’s works on the metaphor (see notes, p. 294) and instead of discounting the ultimate legitimacy of metaphors in philosophy, he embraces them wholeheartedly on the grounds, that metaphors or “linguistic images are ‘foundational elements’ of philosophical language” (p. 280) and that the opposite supposition would be Cartesian fancy of an entirely transparent language.
Moving on to a sort of genealogy of Erklüftung, Keiling first lays out the meaning the word had for the brothers Grimm and Goethe. He then gives an account of and relates to Erklüftung the notions of ground and projection, a few marvellous pages that deserve the absence of an inferior summary. Let us quote the final concern that Keiling raises after carefully enumerating and discussing the multitude of characters attributed to Erklüftung in the “Contributions”: “Heidegger’s overdetermination of the term, similar to the overdetermination of Entwerfen [projection] in Being and Time, calls into question the value of this metaphor as intuitive confirmation of a philosophical theory” (p. 291).
Now, admittedly, Keiling does not seem to have concerns that perhaps the problem with Erklüftung lies in the fact that, in treating it as an intuitively graspable metaphor, one can’t service the broadness of its significance. So, instead of dropping the supposition of metaphors as necessary elements, he posits that the term is a “speculative metaphor” and thus conceptual in the sense of being non-phenomenological (see 291-292). Now, even though the notion remains vital for a phenomenology of projecting and Dasein, Keiling asserts, that Erklüftung was sidelined foremost by the notion of the clearing.
Paths in Heidegger’s Later Thought lays out an intriguing trajectory across the later Heidegger’s oeuvre and touches on most key notions therewithin. Generally, the more accomplished authors offer a more substantial account of Heideggerian thought, but a few exceptions do stand out, as mentioned above. An inspiring read and a good overview of the European Heideggerians, the book’s usefulness to a professional reader still probably lies in specific essays of interest.