Ian Angus: Groundwork of Phenomenological Marxism: Crisis, Body, World

Groundwork of Phenomenological Marxism: Crisis, Body, World Book Cover Groundwork of Phenomenological Marxism: Crisis, Body, World
Continental Philosophy and the History of Thought
Ian H. Angus
Lexington Books
Hardback $155.00 • £119.00

Reviewed by: Talia Welsh (University of Tennessee Chattanooga)


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.”[1] 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.

[1] Karl Marx. 1976. Capital Volume I, 105. London: Penguin.

Anja Jauernig: The World According to Kant

The World According to Kant: Appearances and Things in Themselves in Critical Idealism Book Cover The World According to Kant: Appearances and Things in Themselves in Critical Idealism
Anja Jauernig
Oxford University Press
Hardback £80.00

Reviewed by: Michael Blézy (University of Toronto)

The aim of Anja Jauernig’s project is to provide nothing less than a comprehensive interpretation of Kant’s critical idealism understood as an ontology. In The World According to Kant, Jauernig tackles Kant’s theoretical philosophy in particular, highlighting the ways in which Kant’s views on cognition, God, and, most importantly, the distinction between appearances and things in themselves, contribute to the establishment of Kant’s overall “ontological position” (xi; 1-2).

The first of two main studies (the second study, still forthcoming, will deal with the ontological implications of the practical philosophy), the book revolves around a number of issues regarding how it is Kant conceives of “the world.” From the outset, Jauernig flags that, at least in the Inaugural Dissertation and his lectures on metaphysics, Kant understands “the world” to be “a unified whole of substances that stand in mutual interactions” (16) – a description that technically only applies to what the Kant of the first Critique will call “outer appearances” (A24/B49; A106). Taken in a less strict sense, however, Jauernig argues that Kant can be interpreted as providing an ontology of “the world,” where “the world” is more generally understood to be the sum total of all that has realitas:

[The] book … is devoted to an examination of Kant’s critical idealism, understood as an ontological position. Less technically put, it is about Kant’s account of what there is in the world, understood as the sum total of everything that has reality, including, in particular, his account of appearances and things in themselves and their relation to one another. (xii; See also 25; 355)

From her initial depiction of “the world” understood in this more general sense, it is clear it refers to all existents that possess reality, both sensible, as well as supersensible:

Appearances and things in themselves are distinct existents … Kantian things in themselves [however] are supersensible and ground Kantian appearances. (27)

Although recognizing the Kantian twist given to metaphysical inquiry inaugurated by the Copernican revolution – and so the complications that metaphysical investigation faces once questions are posed about the conditions under which one could possibly come to possess knowledge, including the metaphysical – Jauernig’s account of Kant’s ontology thus proceeds in remarkedly traditional terms. This is especially true regarding the ontological status of things in themselves and their relation to appearances; the issue in the book she most thoroughly engages with.

One the one hand, Jauernig raises uniquely Kantian concerns with just how it is we might gain ontological knowledge of things in themselves. Granting that things in themselves, like the objects of traditional metaphysical inquiry, belong to the “supersensible realm” (38), she rightly wonders along with Kant: “In virtue of what can our concepts refer to [things in themselves]? How can we manage to cognitively access them through our thinking? What sort of cognition of them, if any, is possible for us?” (xi). On the other hand, Jauernig’s interpretation of Kant’s ontology sets out, in pre-Kantian fashion, to answer a number of questions about things in themselves conceived of as simply a subset of all that has reality:

[O]ne can take [the question about how to think things in themselves] as a broadly ontological question about Kant’s conception of things in themselves. What sort of things are they? What are their properties? What is their ontological status in Kant’s critical philosophy? (xi)

Of course, whether or not and to what extent answers can be given to these questions (about knowledge of supersensible things such as things in themselves, including their ontological status) will all be determined by the answers given to the first questions (about under what conditions and in virtue of what can we have knowledge, including metaphysical). Sure enough, things in themselves will play a decisive role in critical idealism and a proper account of it will require grappling with ontological questions in some sense. But just how it is that ontology, as first philosophy (one of two main branches of traditional metaphysis, mind you) is to be construed on the Kantian picture will be decided by how it is we understand the philosophical consequences of Kant’s theory of cognition and the revolution in metaphysics it initiated.

Fortunately, at least with regard to her account of how Kant reaches his position on the ontological status of things in themselves and their relation to appearances, Jauernig’s book is a model of clarity. Fully laying her cards on the table, Jauernig tells her readers right out of the gate exactly where her reading is heading. Outlining the core tenants of what she refers to as Kant’s “fundamental ontology” (39; 43; 44; 247), the book aims to defend six main theses regarding appearances and things in themselves (15-16):

(1) Appearances and things in themselves are not numerically identical, but are distinct existents

(2) Appearances and things in themselves are both “things,” although they are not the same things. Appearances and things in themselves in no way ontologically overlap, but they are closely related: appearances are grounded in things in themselves

(3) The distinction between appearances and things in themselves is an ontological  distinction

(4) Empirical objects are appearances

(5) Appearances and, hence, empirical objects are fully mind-dependent. This entails that Kant is a genuine idealist about empirical objects

(6) Things in themselves actually exist

Taken together, Jauernig claims these six theses add up to a new version of the “classical” two-world theory of appearances/things in themselves. Appearances, and hence empirical objects, are wholly mind-dependent existents in virtue of their being given under the formal conditions of sensibility, whereas things in themselves are the distinct, wholly mind-independent existents that provide the ground of these appearances. As this is an unabashedly, “ontological” reading of the distinction, Jauernig tells us, and so one of the main targets of the book is the two-aspect theories of appearances/ things in themselves (especially methodological, two-aspect theories) that have dominated Anglo-American Kant scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century (4-5). Indeed, methodological, two-aspect views in particular are either “unfathomably mysterious” insofar as they maintain “that the properties of things truly vary according to how we consider them” or “disappointingly modest,” insofar as they maintain “that considering things as they are in themselves amounts to no more than abstracting from some of their properties” (15n).

In order to establish her “classic,” two-world reading, Jauernig first offers an account of where she stands on some basic interpretive questions regarding Kant’s critical idealism. After outlining the basic tenants of Kant’s “fundamental ontology” in chapter one, chapter two relies principally on some well-known (and hotly debated) passages from the Critique (e.g., B59/A42; B164; A383) to make the case that, for Kant, “the world” is comprised of various “levels” of reality. Consider, for instance, B59/A42:

Thus we wanted to say: that all our intuition is nothing but the representation of Appearance … and that if we take away the subject or even merely the subjective quality of the senses in general, all quality, all relations of objects in space and time, indeed even space and time themselves, would disappear and can as appearances not exist in themselves but only in us.

On Jauernig’s account, appearances are identified with intentional objects of experience or the objects that make up the mind-dependent level of reality. Due to these appearances only existing “in” us or “in our representations” – even when passively given in perception, for instance – their “ontological ingredients” or properties and “modes of being” all presuppose the human mind. In contrast, things in themselves are to be identified with existents understood to be wholly apart from any human mind, and so make up the mind-independent “level” of reality (27). Things in themselves have “ontological ingredients” and “modes of being,” but these ingredients and modes are thus fully mind-independent (30-33; 42-50). What is more, if a mind represents anew given appearances through the power of imagination, it can bring into existence intentional objects, but, due to the flexibility of the mind’s representational capacities, these representations need not faithfully represent the objects as they have been originally given (say, once again, in perception). Some objects (for example, fictional creatures like dragons) have “pseudo-existence” insofar as they are intentional objects that exist in thought, but cannot be found anywhere in given experience (36-42).

Chapters three and four are primarily concerned with demonstrating that empirical objects, as appearances, are not things in themselves, but appear under certain a priori conditions (notably, the formal conditions of space and time). Although on the Kantian picture we are certainly able to distinguish between “inner” and “outer,” “subjective” and “objective,” and so Kant ought not be charged with reducing all objects of representation to our mind à la Berkeley, the notion that space and time are “nothing” but forms of sensibility entails that empirical objects are spatial-temporal existents that fully depend on the mind, and this further entails that Kant is a genuine idealist about such objects (129-141). Once again, that we are only acquainted with appearances, as representations “in” us and whose ontological ingredients and modes all presuppose our mind and its forms of sensibility, means that even passively given, spatial-temporal things and their sensible characteristics are mind-dependent (204-244).

Chapters five and six deal with Jauernig’s positive account of things in themselves. Skirting around long-standing issues regarding just how it is possible to achieve genuine knowledge of things that are wholly mind-independent (much less know for certain that they are), her interpretation takes its guidance primary from passages in which Kant claims that things in themselves “ground” appearances (B61/A44) and “affect” the mind (B522/A494). Jauernig is clear that the way things in themselves relate to appearances ought not be confused with the way in which an objective reality underlies and gives rise to our merely subjective (even potentially deceptive) experience of the world (248-256); nor with the way in primary qualities relate to secondary qualities (257-266). However, in some sense, things in themselves exist, ground our passively receiving representations in sensibility, and are genuinely affective. Indeed, Jauernig advances a version of what she calls “bold critical idealism” in which Kantian appearances are grounded on other, finite things that are “outside us” in a transcendental, and not merely spatial, sense. What is more, these finite things in themselves are genuinely affective, yet still mind-independent in that at least one such thing exists and is distinct from both the totality of human minds and even God (295-302).

Chapter five concludes with a discussion of how it is we can know things in themselves are in fact finite existents and sets the stage for the argument that things in themselves possess the various positive features Jauernig attributes to them (295-318). To my mind the most interesting section of the book, Jauernig provides the reader with a series of carefully laid out syllogisms that move from showing that we can go from the existence of empirical objects to the “existence” of things in themselves, by demonstrating that the passivity of sensibility and the unoriginality of thought and imagination require that there is something other than sensibility and thought.

Essentially outlining the way in which the Kantian “levels” of reality relate to and presuppose each other, Jaurenig’s argument takes a few key steps. First, she makes the case that, due to its essentially unoriginal nature, the imagination can produce pseudo-existents (e.g., intentional objects or representations of inner experience) only by reproducing and recombing sensations. Second, for their part, sensations, are passively delivered via sensibility and the forms of sensibility. Third, due to its passivity, sensibility can only deliver sensations by the mind being transcendentally affected by something other than the mind (namely, things in themselves). Fourth, we in fact have sensations and can think of pseudo-existents (as well as distinguish between them). From the first three premises it follows that these sensuous representations exist and are a response to the more fundamental things in themselves which exist and must affect us (313).

This argument requires that we extend the scope of Kant’s “fundamental ontology” given so far so as to include an ontology of the human mind – the very finite existent that the other finite existents and their “ontological ingredients” and “modes” presuppose (or do not presuppose). That is, unlike the divine intellect, which can bring about the existence of the object or create objects in virtue of its thinking (and so has an “intellectual intuition” of objects), the finite human being’s thought must passively receive sensible materials from without (in sensible intuition) to occasion the representing via thought that constitutes its experience of objects.

For simplicity sake, Jauernig calls the idea that, as essentially finite, the human mind is ontologically uncreative and thus, unlike the divine mind, incapable of originally generating the matter of its objects of representations “UNCREATIVITY” (314). This ontology of the human mind underlies and provides the fundamental support for drawing the conclusion that the existence of things in themselves follows from the fact that we have the material with which to think at all.

On Jauernig’s account of things we can rightly wonder, however, how it is that Kant arrives at and justifies this ontology. How, for instance, can we conclusively establish that it must be something finite that affects our mind and, as it were, kick cognition into gear. Indeed, are there not equally compelling accounts of how we come to have the material by which we think provided by other ontologies, equally as “fundamental”? For his part, Berkeley notoriously made the case that it is only God that can supply our representations with the totality of their matter – the so-called “material” world itself being an extraneous posit. This is not to say we should simply follow Berkeley here, but how exactly can Kant know for certain what supplies the mind with its matter? Indeed, to take another worry, how do we know for certain that is not we who create such matter – that is, that transcendental idealism does not ultimately collapse into idealism proper? Indeed, given that Kant grants the mind some creative power (such as when it represents to itself pseudo-existents) and argues that the a priori forms of the mind (as the very conditions of the possibility of experience) are not capable themselves of being derived from any experience of objects, how exactly does he justify drawing a solid line between passivity and reproduction, between constitutive a priori structuring and creation? As Jauernig puzzles:

[T]here is not much difference with respect to creative power between a mind that actively brings about the “matter” of empirical objects and a mind that brings about the “matter” of empirical objects by affecting itself … If my uncreativity is compatible with me constituting … without any assistance from things in themselves that are distinct from my transcendental mind, why would it not also be compatible with me constituting empirical objects without any assistance from things in themselves that are distinct from my transcendental mind? (316)

But why assume that this [Kantian] uncreativity manifests itself in that we are incapable of actively generating any “matter” for the objects of our representations? Why could it not manifest itself in that we cannot actively generate the “form” of the objects of our representations, or their “form” or their “matter”? (316n)

Jauernig’s response to these worries is not to tackle them head on. There is no attempt to locate the difference between reception and reproduction or formal structuring and creation by appealing to the distinctive characteristics of the various Kantian “representations” themselves (for instance, unlike the representations occasioned by imagination, sensible intuitions obey natural laws). Nor does she provide a Kantian-style argument (not unlike Descartes’ in the Mediations) that the human mind does not have enough creative power to bring about an entire world of objects. Somewhat surprisingly, Jauernig claims when philosophizing about fundamental ontology, there are some features and principles that are ultimately not capable of justification or further argumentation:

All versions of critical idealism … depend for their justification on UNCREATIVITY … It appears futile to attempt a justification for these basic commitments, commitments that one could characterize as being among critical idealism’s constitutive principles, so to speak … [however] the unjustifiability of [critical idealism’s] constitutive principles by further arguments is neither a special problem for critical idealism nor a real problem at all. All arguments for substantive views must start from some substantive assumptions. So, all philosophical positions must incorporate some basic commitments that are not justifiable by any further arguments. (318)

Now, Jauernig’s book has to be admired for its rigor and precision. At key points in her presentation of Kant’s ontology she provides arguments in concise, syllogistic form – no small accomplishment given the complexity of Kant’s thought and the obscurity of the issues tackled. Rigor and precision aside, however, there are many curious features of Jauernig’s account of Kant’s “fundamental ontology” – features that I think are highlighted by the position she arrives at in the passage above regarding basic ontological commitments and their inability to be justified.

What I find most puzzling about The World According to Kant is the very way Jauernig approaches the issue of ontology in Kant’s work. As I have been gesturing at, to frame the issue of Kant’s ontology in terms of a number of issues regarding the ontological status of the existents that populate “the world,” seems to attribute to Kant a traditional metaphysical approach that is – at least on the Kantian picture of knowledge – incapable of furnishing us with any genuine knowledge. To put it succinctly, to conceive of ontology as the investigation into “what there is” in “the world” (at least as Jauernig understands it) is an entirely unKantian move insofar as it disregards the way in which Kant’s revolution in metaphysics fundamentally transforms the ontological issues and shifts them into an entirely different (namely, transcendental) register.

My main concern with Jauernig’s presentation of Kant’s ontology is not simply that it ignores the way in which Kant’s critical system rethinks basic ontological notions such as “reality,” “category,” “being,” “mode,” etc. That being said, it is worth flagging that The World According to Kant gets into trouble with its loose use of ontological terms. For example, after the Copernican revolution inaugurated by the first Critique, “reality” comes to be one of the mathematical categories of the understanding (A70/B95; A161/B200). This category of is to be conceived of as an object’s “what-content” – the essential determinations that constitute or make an object the kind of thing it is. As a Kantian category, however, it is a concept that strictly belongs to the determinations of objects of possible experience. Insofar as “reality” no longer refers to the determinations of a thing (res) as such and in general, but to the determinations of appearances, there is no sense in which it can serve for Kant as a way to think of a general ontology that would include both of appearances and things in themselves. Far from being an innocent terminological move, approaching the distinction in this way suggests that both existents are somehow available to us to be the subject of philosophizing – a commitment that has direct philosophical consequences for how we construe things in themselves.

In a similar vein, being in general (what is to be something, as opposed to nothing) is not to be a member of “the world” in the sense of being an existing thing with reality. To be in general is rather to be posited by a judgment; to have a value relative to a judging cognizer. Hence Kant’s famously arguing that “being” is (1) not a real predicate (does not add anything to an object’s “what-content”), (2) does not add anything to the concept of a thing, and (3) is to be identified with the mere positing of a thing or of certain determinations in themselves (A599/B262). Whether what is posited is merely possible or exists (to be an “existent”) for Kant is a whole different matter.

That there is little to no discussion of the way in which Kant rethinks such notions as “reality” or “being” (much less a take on Kant’s theory of modality or his account of “nothing” as laid out in the table of “nothing” (A2902/B345-9)) in a book-length study of Kant’s ontology seems like an oversight. However, once again the most puzzling aspect of the book is not that it omits such a discussion. Rather, its most puzzling feature is that it does not deal with Kant’s revolution in metaphysics and the consequences this revolution has for the pursuit of traditional ontological knowledge.

We might expect that any attempt to give an account of Kant’s ontology should pay heed to the way in which Kant takes himself to have fundamentally transformed this branch of metaphysics. Consider his two clearest statements on the subject of ontology in the first Critique:

The Transcendental Analytic accordingly has this important result: That the  understanding can never accomplish a priori anything more than to anticipate the form of a possible experience in general, and, since that which is not appearance cannot  be an object of experience, it can never overstep the limits of sensibility, within which alone objects are given to us. Its principles are merely principles of the exposition of appearances, and the proud name of an ontology, which presumes to offer synthetic a priori cognitions of things in general in a systematic doctrine … must give way to one of a mere analytic of the pure understanding. (A247/B303)

[Metaphysics’] speculative part … considers everything insofar as it is … on the basis of a priori concepts, is divided in the following way … Metaphysics … consists of transcendental philosophy and the physiology of pure reason. The former considers  only the understanding and reason itself in a system of all concepts and principles, that are related to objects in general, without assuming objects that would be given (Ontologia); the latter considers nature, i.e., the sum total of given objects, and is therefore physiology (though only rationalis). (A845/B873)

As the first passage states, a key finding of the Transcendental Analytic – the transcendental investigation into the a priori contribution made on behalf of the understanding to the possibility of objects of experience – is that the move to consider objects as they appear under certain a priori conditions leads to us to give up the “proud name of an ontology.” By this, Kant means that insofar as objects are given under these intellectual conditions, the traditional attempt to straightforwardly provide an ontology gives way to two critical tasks. First, expounding transcendental conditions and the a priori knowledge of objects these conditions allow for (i.e., the a priori knowledge of objects generated by the anticipatory intellectual forms that structure our representation of any possible object of experience whatsoever). Second, as these transcendental contributions to our representation of objects (the source of our transcendental knowledge) simultaneously circumscribe what can possibly appear as an object of experience, and so expose the attempt to gain a priori knowledge of objects (including ontological knowledge of them) independently of these conditions (or in themselves) as unable to furnish us with any genuine knowledge.

The undermining of the traditional attempt to secure ontological knowledge is further expanded upon in the second passage, wherein Kant also shows that the faculty of reason – the faculty metaphysicians prior to Kant most heavy relied upon to supply them with a priori knowledge of objects that goes beyond what is made available by sensibility and understanding – also cannot assist us in our quest for traditional metaphysical knowledge. As Kant makes clear here, speculative metaphysics considers “everything insofar as it is” on the basis of reason alone and so according to a priori concepts. Utilizing “pure” reason or reason within which nothing empirical is mixed, we can achieve knowledge through both transcendental philosophy and what Kant calls the “physiology” of pure reason. The former allows for transcendental knowledge, i.e., a priori knowledge (of both understanding and reason) of “objects of in general … without assuming they would be given [in sensibility].” The latter gives us knowledge of objects through reason or rationalis alone, however, it deals strictly with the sum total of “given objects,” i.e., our purely rational, a priori knowledge of the objects (objects of experience) that make up “nature.”

Now, we might expect that a “physiology” of pure reason, insofar as it supplies us with knowledge of objects by way of reason alone, might be able to supply us with ontological knowledge of objects in themselves. However, as Kant makes clear, it is limited to the given objects of nature even when pure reason makes transcendental contributions, and so, in the end, merely gives us the system of the a priori concepts or ideas supplied by reason required to represent this given nature as nature (A846/B874).

Transcendental philosophy, both the kind made possible by the transcendental contributions of the understanding and reason, in contrast, deals with a priori knowledge of “everything insofar as it iswithout objects being “given” in sensibility and is itself explicitly identified by Kant as Ontologia or ontology. Notice, however, that this Kantian ontology is limited to possible (given) objects of experience as the very conditions of their appearing. Although transcendental philosophy does not depend on experience or any particular objects being given in order to establish its transcendental knowledge, it is limited, as the anticipatory forms that structure this experience, to the sphere of objects that can be possibly given in sensibility.

Indeed, after transcendental philosophy, genuine metaphysical knowledge – knowledge of objects achieved a priori, yet would extend our grasp of them and not simply analytically draw out their marks – comes to be transformed and limited to the knowledge of the transcendental sphere, namely, knowledge of the conditions of the possibility of objects of experience. The main idea is that the same “anticipated” form of the understanding and reason that lets objects appear also provides us with a new source of a priori knowledge (the “fundamental predicates” of objects insofar as they are represented under the categories) that enlarges our cognition of objects without turning to any particular experience (e.g., that objects appear as substances standing in community relations of cause and effect). Transforming metaphysics in this way enables it to take the secure course of a Kantian “science.” Metaphysics is no longer the attempt to gain knowledge of objects beyond all possible experience by way of the analysis of concepts alone, but a systematic body of knowledge that can ground its claims, like other sciences that contain an a priori component, on something over and above our concepts (namely, the very possibility of the intellect representing objects of experience).

Keeping this fundamental re-construal of metaphysics in mind, Jauernig’s presentation of critical philosophy as offering an “ontological,” “two-world” account of the appearance/ thing in itself distinction, as well as positively attributing characteristics to things-in-themselves, seems to attribute to Kant an ontological theory that would lapse back into the traditional metaphysical approach to knowledge that Kant sought to show can never result in genuine knowledge, at least in the theoretical sphere. Indeed, from what knowing perspective could make claims about the appearance/ thing in itself distinction or the way things in themselves are that would allow us to properly ground such claims? As claims about the very “relation” between the different kinds of existents that make up “the world” (those that appear under the mind’s transcendental conditions, those that do not), what resources can Jauernig draw upon to ground her knowledge of this very set up? From which relation to existents do we have access to such that this can be established knowledge? Kant reworks and limits genuine ontological knowledge to transcendental philosophy precisely in order to move beyond the antimonies and the seemingly endless “mock combat” that characterized metaphysical debates prior to his metaphysics as a science. Such debates seemed endless because they were groundless – deploying the mere resources of the intellect and their logical coherence, metaphysicians came up with competing, contradictory systems, with no way, no “touchstone,” to ultimately settle their metaphysical disputes.

As Jauernig’s ultimate worries about her reading of Kant’s “fundamental ontology” attests, there is no way to secure our claims about the basic, ontological set up of transcendental philosophy (at least on her reading) that can be justified by any of the criteria for the establishment of genuine knowledge within its own framework. There is no view from which, in other words, we can concretely establish how (or if) the mind passively receives its objects from without. This leads Jauernig to conclude that we ultimately cannot justify fundamentally ontology – indeed, Kant’s or any others – and so we ought simply, within the bounds of logic, to choose which basic assumptions or position seems most agreeable to us:

But unless we adopt the implausible epistemic norm that, under any circumstances,  only claims that can be justified by an argument of some kind are epistemically permissible, or reasonable, we are within our epistemic rights to choose the most basic assumptions on which to build our philosophical positions according to what seems most agreeable to us, provided these assumptions are internally consistent and cohere with the rest of all claims that we accept, all necessary truths, and the totality of the available empirical evidence. Whether to opt for timid critical idealism or bold critical idealism or a version whose strength lies somewhere between these extremes ultimately is a matter of taste. Kant seems to like bold critical idealism best, and I do not blame him. (318)

And at an earlier point she remarks:

Everybody is entitled to their own intuitions about what is plausible when it comes to matters of fundamental ontology. (31)

Taking this route, however, leads right back to the situation Kant wanted to remedy: contradictory metaphysical arguments with no grounding beyond logical coherence. Kant’s lesson is that what allows us to move forward is not to demonstrate that metaphysical claims are merely logically possible; much less does he think metaphysics is simply based on the necessary of conceptual truths or empirical evidence. Rather, he shows us that the only non-sensible a priori knowledge we can have of objects is limited to knowledge of the (non-sensible) transcendental conditions and that supersensible knowledge of objects apart from these conditions (objects as they are in themselves) is not possible. This would include knowledge of how it is the mind fundamentally, ontologically relates to the source of its cognitions’ material.

Jauernig’s pointing out that there is an entire “fundamental ontology” presupposed by Kant’s move of ontological issues into a transcendental register certainly puts a finger on a lasting problem with Kant’s philosophy. It is no surprise that thinkers from Hegel to Nietzsche, the Neo-Kantians to Heidegger, have all pursued the question of how it is the transcendental philosophy of the first Critique (including its reworking of the traditional ontological project) is itself possible. However, to lapse back into a pre-Kantian approach to metaphysical issues or to ignore Kant’s revolution in philosophy altogether does not seem like a promising approach.



Michel Foucault: Phénoménologie et Psychologie, Seuil, 2021

Phénoménologie et Psychologie Book Cover Phénoménologie et Psychologie
Hautes Etudes
Michel Foucault
Paperback 26.00 €

Karel Novotný: Welt und Leib. Zu einigen Grundmotiven der Phänomenologie

Welt und Leib. Zu einigen Grundmotiven der Phänomenologie Book Cover Welt und Leib. Zu einigen Grundmotiven der Phänomenologie
Orbis Phaenomenologicus Studien, Vol. 50
Karel Novotný
Königshausen & Neumann
Hardback 28.00 €

Reviewed by: Nikos Soueltzis (University of Crete)

World and the Lived-body: From the title of the book the author cares to prepare us for an encounter with two of phenomenology’s most prominent themes. Trivial as it may be this ascertainment is already an understatement of the complexities and shifts that have marked the history of their treatment within phenomenological tradition. Only the plural form in the subtitle (On Some Basic Motifs of Phenomenology) gives a hint of the challenges that await the reader. Thought-provoking and informative, Karel Novotný’s book discusses the work of philosophers who have voiced their objections against Husserl’s classic conception of the consciousness–world correlation.

It should be clarified from the start that Novotný’s book is not meant as an introduction to the phenomenological themes of the world and the lived-body. To appreciate the fineness of his analysis some degree of familiarity with the phenomenological tradition is clearly presupposed. Thus, the reader should be prepared for a close engagement with the text and indirectly with the broad corpus of texts Novotný discusses. We will briefly present the content of each chapter and then address a few points that caught our attention.

The book comprises three main parts each of which consisting of two chapters. In the first part, Novotný examines Eugen Fink’s and Renaud Barbaras’ attempts to initiate and carry out a cosmological turn from within phenomenology. In the second part, he discusses Jan Patočka’s and László Tengelyi’s transcendentally oriented phenomenological conceptions of the world. In the third part, the book focuses explicitly on what he calls the “margins” of the world/lived-body correlation. Patočka’s conceptions of movement and life, both in his late and early work, are given here special attention. Finally, after demarcating the “marginal” function of lived-corporeality in Husserl’s work, the book culminates in a concise exposition of Emmanuel Levinas’ and Hans Rainer Sepp’s original elaborations of it.

In the opening chapter of the book, Novotný introduces the problem of the world’s pregivenness by referring to some of Husserl’s classic texts and to the revisions it undergoes but also elicits in the hands of his major successors. For Husserl, the world is the open framework of all fields in which something that appears exerts an affection on the ego. The world’s transcendence is always given to a horizon-consciousness and phenomenologically explicating its constitution amounts to explicating the world’s horizon-structure. The Noesis-Noema correlation involves horizon-nexuses on both sides. But the world is not a horizon that correlates to a single act; it is the horizon of all horizons. Husserl’s description of the performance of epoché and phenomenological reduction in Ideas I reveals the fundamental function of the Generalthesis: the positing of the world as existing. The world is a sense-formation of a universally functioning subjectivity. Thus, subjectivity and world are tightly connected in this correlation that forms an absolute basis for Husserl’s phenomenology. But, according to Novotný, his theory of world-apperception carries with it a debatable implication much criticized by his successors. Namely, the tendency to understand world-apperception as prescribing that every real thing is determined in advance in its universal typicality. Met with suspicion, this implication led to two different currents of critisism. On the one hand, fearing that this typicality poses a threat to the openness of appearing, the line of Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion, and Marc Richir, dismisses the view that the world is the origin of appearing or that this appearing is tied to a total apperception (21). On the other hand, before this turning-away from the world, cosmological attempts were made to recover the world in its primordial pregivenness and establish it as the framework that makes possible every phenomenal correlation. Novotný briefly discusses the second line of thought characterizing it as a “cosmological turn” and names Fink as its main proponent. The latter grasps human relating to the world not on the ground of an intentional consciousness and its horizons but within a framework that already embraces them both. To do so, he moves away from Husserl’s model of horizon-gradations by reversing the direction of its openness. Instead of beginning from a subjective bearer that stands outwards (Hinausstehen) toward the openness of the horizon, we now follow the opposite direction and focus on the world’s emerging within (Hereinstehen) the horizon-system (23). Fink’s contribution rests in pointing out the fleeting dimension of the world beyond the bipolar appearing/withdrawing characterizing the ontological difference—i.e., Being’s withdrawal for the beings to appear, while remaining inseparable from them.

In the second chapter, Novotný discusses extensively Renaud Barbaras’ work. In broad strokes, he summarizes the latter’s project as an attempt to radically de-subjectivize appearing as such by being led back to the world’s own process of becoming. He distinguishes between two modes of appearing: “primary” and “secondary.” Primary manifestation is the world’s anonymous process of becoming. Secondary appearing, on the other hand, is the appearing that involves a subjective pole. The world itself exhibits an essential distance within its movement of primary manifestation, a dynamic depth. Thanks to the latter, living beings are characterized by the movement of an insatiable desire: they reach out to the world, always moving within its depth and being that movement. For Barbaras, herein lies the deepest structure of correlation. Secondary appearing emerges through this movement of desire once a peculiar event of rupture occurs. In his earlier texts, this event transpires within the world but does not stem from the world’s movement. Having placed at the core of this movement the productive force of physis, he characterizes this event of rupture as metaphysical to denote what Husserl calls the primary fact of subjectivity (34f.). But the “transformation” effectuated through the event of rupture is a mere prolongation of the world-movement and not a radical change or any kind of discontinuity. The significance of this event as well as the difficulties that follow from it become apparent if one considers the spatial dimension of appearing and the accompanying individuation of the living subjects in it through their lived-bodies.[i] Given his cosmological perspective, it is no surprise that Barbaras speaks of a proto-spatialization. Beings are spatially individuated prior to their embeddedness into any framework of orientation.

As Novotný points out, it is imperative to explain what the role of the event of rupture is in this proto-spatialization. The prolongation of primary manifestation into secondary appearing implies the emergence of the lived-bodily centrality and this must be somehow related to the event of rupture. Trying to delve deeper into the cosmological realm, Barbaras recently revised his initial conception. Focusing on proto-spatialization, he describes the world’s movement through a threefold articulation: (a) as ground (Boden, le sol), (b) as site (Sitz, le site), and (c) as place (Ort, le lieu) (39). Novotný tries to explain the complex ways in which these modes of spacing relate to each other, finally making possible the openness of subjectivity. Barbaras employs this threefold distinction to show that subjectivity’s intentional tendency rests on a more primal movement. Far from being an autonomous self-movement, the movement of phenomenalization is the world’s ultimate force returning to itself. To further explain the emergence of subjectivity within the world’s movement he claims that the world already exhibits a subjectivity of its own, one that differs from the self-relation peculiar to the experiencing of appearing yet attested to by the latter. All beings exhibit subjectivity in different degrees. Human subjectivity is inscribed deeper within world’s subjectivity, while subjectivity of lifeless things is inscribed in it in the most fleeting and volatile manner. Acknowledging world’s own subjectivity implies that lived-bodily subjectivity occurs as a movement within world’s own movement. In the same movement that bodies become individuated, the human living being takes hold of the world in its phenomenalization (43).

It is in the third chapter that Novotný moves away from the previous cosmological attempts. He discusses the similarities and differences between Patočka’s and Fink’s understanding of the world. Like Fink, Patočka does not subscribe to a world-conception based on thing-apperception: the world is not a mere extension of the objectifying intentionality into surrounding zones. However, the peculiarity of his approach rests on acknowledging that there is a deeper horizonal structure involved in thing-apperception that is intimately connected to the world and co-shapes its pre-givenness in a primordial manner. Thus, Patočka’s phenomenology places emphasis on the mutuality between the pre-givenness of the whole and the fact of its limitation: both permeate and sustain each other. He admits that the world-totality does not need the various subject-centers of appearing, but he acknowledges their interrelation as a fact that cannot be ignored. Thus, instead of relinquishing phenomenology altogether towards a speculative cosmology, he insists on the possibility of a phenomenology of the world-totality. Such a phenomenology cannot perform the metaphysical leap to a “real world” behind appearances. Instead, it tries to make accessible those appearances on the ground of the world-totality that is present in them. Novotný characterizes Patočka’s perspective at that time as “static,” provisionally setting aside the “genetic” access to the world-totality, a task taken up in his theory of the “movements of existence.”

Novotný then examines Patočka’s project of asubjective phenomenology. His discussion is initially limited to Patočka’s relevant published texts. He provides us with a brief presentation of his critical reconsiderations of Husserl’s phenomenology, based on the need to preserve the world’s irreducibility to the constituting life of consciousness. But the risk of ending up with a metaphysical enclosure of a cosmos that affords its own hypostatized mode of appearing is too high. He chooses to “focus on the openness of appearing itself, for which the world serves only as a respectively a priori form but not as a ground in the sense of source” (63). The world is an a priori form. But where is this a priori hinged on and how can we trace it? Patočka’s reply is that phenomenology’s proper theme of inquiry is the autonomous “field of appearance,” i.e., the sphere of the different modes of appearing that is independent both from the appearing objects as well as from the spontaneity of the acts of consciousness. Thus, it should not be subjectivized and reduced to the noetic-noematic distinction. The allegedly immanent components of appearing (e.g., sensation and apprehension) are in fact modes of appearance pertaining to the object (65). But how does this field appear and how does it relate to the appearing of the beings that appear in it? Patočka follows a specific methodological path that allows him to free the phenomenal sphere from all possible constraints and misinterpretations. While he employs Husserl’s phenomenological epoché, he dismisses the complementary move toward the immanence of consciousness, i.e., his phenomenological reduction. He characterizes this break as a radicalized epoché (66). In Patočka’s Nachlass Novotný traces significant contributions to an understanding of this asubjective world-a priori. He distinguishes its three structural moments: (a) the totality of “what” appears, (b) the “who” to which it appears, and (c) the “how” of the appearing (72). All these moments are themselves given within appearing as such. Even though Novotný leaves out of consideration Patočka’s relation to Heidegger, he adds that in his project of asubjective phenomenology Patočka is clearly inspired by the motif of the ontological difference (74). In any case, Patočka’s insistence on the primacy of the problem of appearing attests to a certain distancing from Heidegger’s path, albeit on occasions in an ambivalent manner.

Chapter four discusses the issue of world’s pregivenness in Tengelyi’s project of phenomenological metaphysics from his last book Welt und Unendlichkeit. The guiding theme is his investigation on the kind of “necessity” implied in the commonly held view of the world’s non-modalizability. Tengelyi grasps this necessity not as a priori but as a factical one (78). He draws attention to what he considers to be “primal facts” that can be phenomenally shown but are irreducible or non-inferable. In the three sections of this chapter Novotný focuses on three points from Tengelyi’s phenomenological metaphysics of the world: (a) the conception of world’s openness as its essence, (b) the world’s openness in relation to the event of appearing, and (c) the reality of the world. To address the theme of the world, Tengelyi employs what he calls the “diacritic” method and gradually differentiates between world-totality and infinity (83). Both poles are treated in their contrast but as necessarily belonging together (Tengelyi 2014, 301). His aim is to revise our familiar phenomenological conception of the total world-horizon as a mere correlate of consciousness. The world’s existence in experience presupposes an inner concordance that is not a priori guaranteed but only factually shown (cf. Tengelyi 2014, 323). Thus, our world-cognition entails a certain contingence. Starting from this, Novotný broaches the issue of the relation between the world’s openness and the appearing as event. This contingence of my world-cognition attests to an alterity that leaves its traces in the infinite system of possible experiences, it always threatens to disrupt it (85). To denote that, Tengelyi refers to the possibility of “unavailable” experiences, to wit, experiences that do not accord with the smooth sense-giving intentional streaming of consciousness. Appearing announces itself in experience as an event bearing the character of contingent facticity, namely, an event that can never be reduced to sense-giving. This alterity with its potentially disruptive effects is tightly connected to world’s reality. The latter exhibits an openness that is announced in our experience of the world through the potentially disruptive contingence. The fact that this contingence is experienced entails that the openness of the world can be phenomenologically exhibited (88). But Tengelyi also tries to phenomenologically clarify the belief in the existence of the world based on the primal fact of lived-bodiliness. The fact of the sensory appearing of the world that nurtures our world-belief, as Novotný very vividly says, points to the fact of our embodiment. Even though the latter is never implicated in the event of appearing, it shows itself as its factical condition (90).

In chapter five, Novotný examines the basic motif announced in the title: Of the world’s being anchored to a relation to lived-corporeality (Leib-Körper). The experience of the world is always centered around a lived-bodily zero-point of orientation and always bears the polarity “home-alien.” But the lived-body borders on what is alien to it in another peculiar manner. It is the corporeal aspect that attests to this bordering and inscribes certain gaps to the continuous pregivenness. Novotný discusses Patočka’s relevant positions beginning from his dismissal of the primal correlation as one between an objectifying experience and its object. Instead, he privileges the correlation between life and the pregiven world that confronts it with its alienness. To situate this correlation, Patočka will appeal to a third concept of lifeworld mediating between the world as universe of beings and the world in its ontological function. It is the world that correlates to the fundamental movements of human life and not to a traditionally conceived subject. But, as Novotný points out, substituting life-movements for the subject does not amount to an overall dissipation of subjectivity: it is neither a way of naturalizing consciousness nor a cosmological reduction. The movements of existence are forms of expression of a living inwardness. Focusing on the dimension of movement introduces us to a dynamic-genetic perspective that encompasses the static-phenomenological one. Novotný highlights the role of lived-corporeal life for Patočka’s phenomenology by discussing his broader theory of movement and zeroing in on what he defines as the first movement of existence, i.e., the movement of “anchoring.” This movement originally opens the world in a purely instinctive manner; it is the sensuous life that is externally stimulated to movement (105f.). But for Patočka lived-corporeality points to a plurality of life-centers that form the world as the medium of expression starting from their respective internality and in mutual contact. The first world-relating movement is individuated through an intersubjective connection between living interiorities. Thus, the movement of “anchoring” involves more than our organic world-embeddedness. It is also articulated by our being accepted in a community. This acceptance or non-acceptance colors the world respectively either with a welcoming warmth or with the threatening coldness of its vastness.

Novotný turns further to Patočka’s unpublished manuscripts to defend him against any allegations of a cosmological turn. The most challenging part is the one dedicated to Patočka’s early project of life-phenomenology. Novotný guides us through the bulk of untranslated texts from the 1940’s introducing the reader to its main elements (122ff.). From life’s “inwardness” to the appearing as expression of this “inwardness” and his peculiar account of aesthesis based on a polarity of indifferences, Patočka’s early project involves many radical revisions of familiar aspects of phenomenology. As an example, Novotný refers to Husserl’s “hyletic sphere” and how Patočka integrates it to his project. The hyletic sphere is a first externality but not a lifeless one. It must already contain that which enables the intention to turn the hyletic stratum into a bearer of expression (127). Thus, it is not only to the other person or living animal being that an “inwardness” is ascribed but to other beings in general. Hyle is already an externalization that expresses an “inner” life. Lived-corporeality plays here an essential role as the particular expression of human life that offers us the key to understand expression as a phenomenon of life in general (129).

In the last chapter, Novotný focuses explicitly on lived-corporeality and its phenomenological examination. His guiding assumption is that the lived-body (Leib) can only be the core of the self inseparably from corporeality (Körper) while the latter is experienced at the same time as a limit of subjectivity. What we are looking for is a primal lived-corporeal experiencing in which the inner and the outer are intimately connected. His itinerary starts with Husserl and his conception of the lived-body. The aim is to point out the ineradicable significance of the corporeal aspect (Körper) and the impossibility of a total abstraction from it. He does that by critically showing that in Husserl’s (especially later) work the lived-body is absorbed in the immanence of living-experiencing leaving no room for a differentiating singularization. It cannot account for the singularity of the self, i.e., for the singularity of the perceiving subjectivity in its factual distinction from any other. Thus, we should entertain the hypothesis that this is carried out by the twofold character of lived-corporeality. As Novotný says, living-experiencing is each time mine thanks to the “psycho-physical” lived-corporeality (136). Living-experiencing and the lived-body, according to him, are anonymous in their immanence and thus unable to singularize the self. This singularization is only possible through the anchoring of lived-corporeality (140). It is at this point that he will interpose Levinas’ theory about the position (or positing) of the body as corporeality (Körper) from his early text Existence and Existents.

According to Levinas, egoic living-experiencing cannot posit corporeality on its own, so it is posited through an event that escapes the custody of the subject. Levinas refers to a materiality that lies hidden within the objects of the surrounding world as an alterity. It is neither perceived nor thought of as it cannot be fixated within a system of sense-relations, but it is affectively given. This materiality attests to the fact of the anonymous existence, the there is that is revealed in the experience of horror with its depersonalizing effect (142). The emergence of consciousness is made possible by a positing that depends on corporeality and not on a pure ego or the flesh of the lived-body. It is a corporeality that does not point back to a constituting immanence. It is no object but the event of the positing of “here” and a precondition for any immanence. Translating it in the terms of his own model, Novotný claims that the position (or positing) of corporeality lies in the margins of the universal correlation.

Novotný’s last stop is Hans Rainer Sepp’s concept of the border-Leib (Grenzleib) drawn from his project of phenomenological ecology. Along with direction-Leib (Richtungsleib) and sense-Leib (Sinnleib), they form the three fundamental dimensions of lived-body.[ii] Border-Leib refers to the limit-experience of our lived-body in which the nakedness of the real is experienced prior to its articulation in a sense; direction-Leib refers to the movement of an embodied experiencing that is a reaching out to an exteriority by desiring it; the sense-Leib refers to a fixed framework of sense that structures a new lived-bodily dimension. Sepp starts with the acceptance that human subjectivity is an embodied subjectivity. Thus, we must understand how its relation to its environment and to itself is bodily formed in such a way that human beings participate to place-relations determined by their lived-body. To that extent, Sepp speaks of a primordial place as a limit or a border that delineates the singularity of life. It is a factical limitation in an absolute “here.” For Sepp this limit or border is a “living being-inside” (146). With respect to the subjective pole of the correlation, Novotný sees in Sepp’s idea of border-Leib an affinity with Levinas’ positing (or position) of corporeality. But he finds Sepp’s conception of the “real” as more fitting to describe the primal situation with respect to the non-subjective pole. He integrates Sepp’s as well as Levinas’ positions to his own model of the margins of the universal correlation. The former’s “real” and the latter’s anonymous “there is” lurk in the margins deprived of any sense-articulation.

As already mentioned at the beginning, Novotný’s book is a demanding read not due to its writing style but because it engages in a discussion of a wide range of authors and texts. To that extent, the reader’s effort is dictated by the material itself. That being said, the only traceable drawback is that at times Novotný inserts his own remarks and reconstructions without having previously provided a sufficient context. Unfortunately, sometimes this interrupts the reading flow and thus raising the suspicion that particular  sentences are packed with dense implications which are not properly fit in the context. To be fair, this is a recurring pattern only in the chapter on Barbaras’ cosmology.

A striking example can be found on page 34 where he refers to “appearing as such” as the core of his reconstruction without a clear indication as to its differentiation from “primary” and “secondary appearing.”[iii] Things would probably be much easier if a chapter on Patočka already preceded his discussion of Barbaras’ work. However, in the given occasion the lack of an explicit distinction incites confusion especially when Novotný transposes the “event” of rupture into the context of “appearing as such”: it is the latter that exhibits an essentially evental character. Trying to follow this transposition, one can ask: if the distinction between primary and secondary manifestation is something derivative from the point of view of “appearing as such,” why should there be any essential connection between its evental character and the event of rupture? It could even be misleading to employ it as a leading clue. The world’s obtaining its specific mode of appearing (its “how”) does not signify anything like a radical rupture since it is already a moment of the a priori of appearance. In fact, one could contend that there is no dimension of “appearing as such” that could accommodate the speculative demands of “primary manifestation.”

But let us make a more general interpretive suggestion based solely on Novotný’s analysis. Can we claim that in the present context switching from a cosmological to a phenomenological perspective and vice versa is a matter of subordinating interchangeably to each other two significant aspects of the event—its dynamic and its facticity? Can it be the case that Barbaras privileges spatialization by adopting the spatial-modal tripartition of the primary event (le sol, le site, le lieu) to compensate for tacitly ascribing a secondary function to the event’s facticity as opposed to its dynamic? To be sure, Barbaras’ turn to a metaphysical cosmology is not a matter of carefully blurring the limits of phenomenology. However, a close investigation of how he moves away from the latter is surely a productive endeavor. Novotný’s model of the “margins” of correlation admittedly provides us with a solid basis to carry it out.

From a broad perspective, the model of the “margins of correlation” that Novotný promotes in his book allows us to pinpoint and thematize an area of investigation that is quite elusive. He employs it with caution and with a specific aim. To that extent it is a rather useful instrument of analysis. Nevertheless, there is a risk of stretching the model considerably by trying to fit in everything that speculative thought defines as escaping phenomenology’s reach. Some precaution is perhaps necessary to avoid measuring up those margins against the criticized instances of arbitrary hypostatization and to maintain their reference to the correlation itself. This is already what Novotný has in mind when he describes them based on the “escaping appearing/conditioning appearing” dipole and this is probably why confronting Barbaras’ peculiar cosmology is so important for his project.

Apart from this general remark, many interesting points of discussion are raised from Novotný’s analysis. Indicatively, we will mention only two. Because of the varied contexts of the chapters, we will address them in the specific frameworks in which they emerge. The first is drawn from his reference to what Patocka calls the “first movement of existence.” Towards the end of section 5.1 he distinguishes two of its components: (a) our primary acceptance by the others and (b) the affective readiness of life (113). We believe that this is a very interesting issue that should draw our attention to the complex interrelations between these two components, i.e., how the one affects the other. But a more pressing question comes to mind: how does Patočka gain access to the phenomenality of their connection within the anchoring-movement? How is their structural balance on such a dynamic ground procured at a phenomenological level? Is it a matter of their intertwinement in a past that is irretrievable in its own terms or is the first movement of existence as such characterized by an ultimate actuality that sets the limits of any inquiry into the origins of its components? If the latter is the case, should we not acknowledge this actuality first as the phenomenological edge of human life in its polyphonous movement before we proceed to its characterization (as event, proto-facticity, etc.)?

The second remark refers to Sepp’s notion of border-Leib discussed in section 6.3. We mentioned earlier that Sepp considers the limit that delineates life’s singularity as a “living being-inside.” But Novotny traces a certain tension at this point: this absolute “here” where life is factically singularized is not a place where this life is opened up for itself in its singularity. How can Sepp claim that they coincide as a “living being-inside”? To accommodate both claims, Novotny suggests viewing them through the perspective of lived-corporeality. As corporeal, this singularity is posited as absolute “here” in a proto-factical manner. As lived-body, this factical limitation is identified with an “absolute being-inside.” The problem is how to understand the transition or contact between the two. According to Novotný, Sepp settles it by resorting to the perspective of the direction-Leib. It seems that it was probably Sepp’s reference to an “absolute ‘here’” that led Novotny to such a claim (146). Yet, Sepp elsewhere refers to the dimension of “Ausleben” to connect the two poles (cf. Sepp 2010, p. 134). Roughly translated, it is the living-out of the lived-body (here: at an organic level). Orientation and directedness are built on this tendency of “Ausleben” when this tendency itself encounters its limit as an obstacle. In short, the “Da” to which Sepp refers is meant to circumscribe the primary resistance of the naked real against the organic tendency of lived-bodily “Ausleben.” Novotný probably wants to connect this primal contact between lived-body and corporeality with an experiential dimension that does not run the risk of lapsing into a cosmological or naturalistic interpretation. It seems that appealing to direction-Leib as the broader perspective in which the two poles of border-Leib come in contact is what enables him to claim that border-Leib is a component of the margins of correlation.

Overall, Novotný’s book is an invaluable addition to the arsenal of phenomenological scholarship. Insightful and rigorous, Welt und Leib meets all the requirements: rich in content, organized, detailed, historically and systematically informing, and conversing with major contemporary phenomenological theories. In short, the reader can only benefit from it in so many ways.[iv]


Sepp, Hans Rainer. 2010. „Gabe und Gewalt. Gedanken zum Entwurf einer leibtheoretisch verankerten Anthropologie.“ Cornelius Zehetner, Hermann Rauchenschwandtner u. Birgit Zehetmayer (Hg.): Transformationen der kritischen Anthropologie. Für Michael Benedikt zum 80. Geburtstag. Wien: Löcker: 133-146.

Tengelyi, László. 2014. Welt und Unendlichkeit. Zum Problem phänomenologischer Metaphysik. Freiburg: Karl Alber.

[i] Novotný refers on purpose to the Leib-Körper compound and not just to Leib. He does so throughout the book, and it is important for his theory regarding the body’s primary role in the correlation to the world and its way of being situated in the “margins” of the correlation. Below, we will translate it as “lived-corporeality” to preserve a reference to both components.

[ii] Sepp develops this threefold distinction in Sepp (2010).

[iii] Another example is his abrupt reference to the “Earth” as the ground of all corporeality on page 47, while we first learn more about its role in Patočka’s philosophy on page 109.

[iv] This research is co-financed by Greece and the European Union (European Social Fund-ESF) through the Operational Programme “Human Resources Development, Education and Lifelong Learning” in the context of the project “Reinforcement of Postdoctoral Researchers – 2nd Cycle” (MIS-5033021), implemented by the State Scholarships Foundation (ΙΚΥ).

Hartmut Rosa: The Uncontrollability of the World

The Uncontrollability of the World Book Cover The Uncontrollability of the World
Hartmut Rosa. James Wagner (Translator)
Paperback €18.10

Reviewed by: Andrei-Valentin Bacrău (former graduate researcher at the University of Zurich)

Rosa’s “Uncontrollability of the World” is an accessible read, regardless of philosophical background and training. The minimal use of jargon and social analysis remain engaging through the text, while providing a fresh outlook towards what it means to be an individual in the 21st century, surrounded by constant notions of “progress”, which we do not sufficiently examine towards our well-being. As consumers of goods, we often engage with financially unreliable planning and aspirations. Simultaneously, even the notion and strategy of being a good parent is undergoing significant transitions (64-65). The growing concern of parents has changed from trying to offer children what is best, to at least ensuring that they are not falling behind in terms of financial security and professional success.

The initial German for “uncotrollability” is translated from “unverfügbar”. Rosa clearly acknowledges the peculiarities and minimal use in the German language of such concept. He begins the book with a nomological investigation about “unverfügbar”. Although the translation of “unpredictability” has also been considered, Rosa eventually defers to “uncontrollability”, for thematic reasons:

This is exactly what this book is about: modernity’s incessant desire to make the world engineerable, predictable, available, accessible, disposable (i.e. verfügbar) in all its aspects (viii).

Additionally, Rosa is also examining the extent to which we enjoy unpredictability and uncontrollability as well. If we look at sports or board games, it seems that part of the reason why we continuously practice and engage in these activities, is because we do not know who the winner is eventually going to be (3). The randomness involved in all combinatorial possibilities, strategies and moves by a team or individuals within a game, are unpredictable: and that is what instigates our curiosity and desire for continuous re-construction of such playful events.

Although the book is strictly discussing our modern age, these notions of predictability, engineering and disposability have been within the minds of Western Europeans since the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, respectively. The constant desire to manipulate nature, events and our social ecosystem has resulted in a change of how our families, work space and countries interact. Rosa does not specifically address the aforementioned events and their relationship to modernity. However, he does mention that our resultant modern ecosystem has been emerging for the past three centuries, due to our human nature’s disposition to expand relentlessly (8). Rosa’s transition into his central arguments is the position of a realist in political science: regardless of boundaries, walls and other political aspirations, the international world remains anarchic, uncontrollable and unpredictable (20).

Prior to explaining the five main theses of the book, there is a secondary, auxillary concept evoked almost as often as uncontrollability itself. The notoin of resonance plays a significant role in showing the instrumental limits of control, as well as how we socially cope with the uncontrollable aspects of our experiences in the world. “Resonance” itself does uptake multiple meanings, and in some points it could be as easily substituted with the use of “uncontrollability”. However, it seems that the primary role of “resonance” is to evidentiate what makes our experiences “uncontrollable”, and which features of these can become, eventually, within our reach and hence “semi-controllable” (44). Resonance is not as elusive as uncontrollability (4), so it rather behaves as some sort of intersubjective dynamic that enhances our experience of the world.

Gradually, the concept of resonance also uptakes an existentialist baggage. By evoking Merleau-Ponty (31), we as subjects mainly respond and react to experiences, others and events. Rosa further extends this responsiveness as an outcome of resonance. Resonance is a necessary precondition of experience, for an individual to have the reactionary capacity Merleau-Ponty is describing. Consequently, Rosa frames the notion of resonance as a “mode of relation”, which displays the following four features (32-36):

  1. Being Affected: Primarily explained as some inward, aesthetic experience- a song can have such capacity.
  2. Self-Efficacy: An emotoinal and outward movement or reaction. The exchanges of gaze, or a warm dialogue would satisfy such denotation.
  3. Adaptive Transformation: There are numerous examples illustrated under this particular denotation. In summary, it can have something to do either with the gap between expectations and satisfying one’s desires, or the typical imprint we think of when we are changed or influenced by someone.
  4. Uncontrollability: Rosa uptakes the rather conventional use of uncontrollability in this case. It is the dynamic itself of experiencing a change from knowing someone or a particular event. The uncontrollable aspect of it is not only epistemic, in the sense of often not knowing what the experiential outcome is of the transition, but also the difficulties and novelties of adjusting to the particular change.

There are segments, as exemplified by the fourth denotation, where it can be unclear whether or not Rosa evokes uncontrollability as a denotation of resonance or not. It seems that in most uses, “uncontrollability” is unexplainable without some entailment relationship to “resonance”. Both of these concepts, however interchangeable they might be through Rosa’s book, definitely attempt to guide us through the same social phenomena. The more we try to engage in meaningful discussions about predictions, control and the satisfaction of our desires (however these dispositions themselves might in turn be controlled by the invisible hand of the market), our experiences as consumers and beings in the world are not fully satisfied- simply said, unhappy. To further elucidate the relationship between “uncontrollability”, “resonance” and our human experience, Rosa advances five primary arguments through the book:

§1 The inherent uncontrollability of resonance and the fundamental controllability of things do not constitute a contradiction per se (41).

In this passage we can notice additional clarification between the two main concepts of the book. We have a human disposition to react towards what we are affected by, a sensorial experience which is mediated by resonance. Rosa argues that both other subjects, as well as objects (in themselves) have such embedded property of “somehow” projecting “resonance” towards us. Although it is not quite clear how or why other features of the world beyond us have this “resonance” to them, the conclusive remarks of the unit is that there is some sort of relationship towards an “inherent uncontrollability” both in ourselves, as well as in the external world. This thesis becomes slightly difficult to really grasp, especially since the verbatim of the first assertion is that there is no contradiction between the uncontrollability of resonance and the controllability of things. We may uncontrollably become attracted to a wonderful piece of music, wich we eventually resonate to. Afterwards, we can play the song whenever we desire, which does seem to be in our control. Hopefully this elucidates what Rosa was trying to convey with the first thesis.

§2 Things we can completely control in all four dimensions lose their resonant quality. Resonance thus implies semicontrollability (44).

Once we obtain some sense of controllability over what we resonate with, it becomes “semicontrollable”. This is quite a fascinating approach for balancing between the things that are and are not within our control. Therefore, the external world with subjects, objects and events, do possess this feature of resonating with us. Once we correctly internalize this experience and resonate with it, both the external manifestations, as well as resonance itself, becomes semicontrollable. According to Rosa, there are conditions for response from our own subjective side via the sensorial mediation of resonance, and once we have gained some mastery over these phenomena, resonance transforms its features from uncontrollable to semicontrollable. This outcome would also suggest that there is some feature of the external world and others, which will remain uncontrollable, despite any potential conditions of transforming resonance into something semicontrollable.

§3 Resonance demands a form of uncontrollability that “speaks,” that is more than just contingency (48).

Now Rosa is guiding us through the aspects of resonance which remain uncontrollable, despite any transformative conditions. Rosa himself admits this is the most difficult one to demonstrate. He further elaborates on some feeling that we establish towards a song or natural sight (49). The terms chose to describe such relationship, however unexplainable, include “harmony and beauty”. By deferring to Erich Fromm, during the contact phase with natural beauty, for example, the modes of existence shift from “being” to “having” (51).

§4 An attitude aimed at taking hold of a segment of world, mastering it, and making it controllable is incompatible with an orientation toward resonance. Such an attitude destroys any experience of resonance by paralyzing its intrinsic dynamism (52).

Although §2 was emphasizing that eventually, we can obtain some mastery over resonance which leads to a semicontrollable relationship to the external world, §4 has a normative reading to it. Firstly, Rosa introduces a mechanism through which this intrinsic dynamism happens: subjective dimension, object dimension and process dimension (53). This was surely an interest addition to his work, and it would have been helpful to understand what he had in mind with the dynamics of resonance, controllability and uncontrollability via this particular explanation. Rosa does guide us through some fundamentals. The subject dimension is our willingness (and perhaps, openness) to be touched or changed in unpredictable ways. This argument could have been further explored to understand what Rosa thought about the limits of our self-control and autonomy, in relationship to the extent to which we ourselves can transform the external uncontrollable circumstances into semicontrollable ones. At the same time, §4 suggests that once we do obtain that state of semicontrollability, resonance changes its functional applications and interaction with us, thus overall, the entire dynamic of mind and world experiences something else.

Additionally, resonance here is argued as “vulnerability and a willingness to make ourselves vulnerable” (53). We must exercise our autonomy in such a way that we allow ourselves to be opened to vulnerabilities and unpredictable, uncontrollable changes from the external world. The object process seems quite difficult to understand, though hopefully the readers see it as an invitation to further explore Rosa’s work for themselves:

On the object side, uncontrollability means that what we encounter must resist us in at least one of the four dimensions of calculation and control. There must be at least one “obstinate remainder” that has something to say to us, that is meaningful to us in the sense of a strong evaluation (53).

What makes resonance dynamic, is that we cannot control it either with our beliefs or desires. Wanting to be happy on Christmas, or excited for a first date, are not attitudes within our reach or control (56). Now we turn to the fifth thesis:

§5 Resonance requires a world that can be reached, not one that can be limitlessly controlled. The confusion between reachability and controllability lies at the root of the muting of the world in modernity (58).

For the rest of the book, this fifth thesis becomes the most significant one. Rosa argues that Hermann Dueser initially coined the term “Unverfügbarkeit(uncontrollability), by looking at Kierkegaard’s existential philosophy, while attempting to show an opposition to humanity’s complete technological takeover (58). The book continues to be filled with numerous sociological examples about the implications for resonance theory in our daily activities, work, family lives, and religion. The readers should also be wary that in the religious context, Rosa uses “uncontrollability” and “inaccessibility” interchangeably. Whereas inaccessibility can denote the same kind of “unreachability” or “unavailability” that “uncontrollability” does, “unreachability” could also denote that it is not resonant at all, since it is completly beyond our reach or comprehension. Two other significant examples are about modern medical and political practices. Our methodology to any disease is to control it, subdue it and overcome it as quickly as possible (76). In the political ecosystem, however, voters become quite surprised when policies do not go their way. We expect our institutions to control and correctly predict the outcome of political events, in such a way that there are not any unwanted surprises and everyone achieves their respective agenda (91).

The rest of the book is filled with daily, relatable examples of how these dynamics of resonance and uncontrollability affect aspects of our lives. I would highly suggest this book to anyone that wants to further understand some difficult predicaments about modernity, whether at the individual or collective level. The smoothness and approachable language of the text is quite clear and engaging.

Hartmut Rosa: The Uncontrollability of the World

The Uncontrollability of the World Book Cover The Uncontrollability of the World
Hartmut Rosa. James Wagner (Translator)
Paperback €18.10

Reviewed by: Rein Raud

This slim volume provides the Anglophone reader with a perfect introduction to Hartmut Rosa’s thought. Written in a lucid and engaging style, it summarizes much of what Rosa has been arguing at more length in his previous work, notably Social Acceleration (2013) and Resonance (2019), but also for those already familiar with it, he also adds a few new nuances.

Rosa’s point of departure is a precise and merciless diagnosis of the current state of affairs, or late modernity, which, according to him, compounds four strivings or attitudes (15-17): first, to make everything knowable and to map it, second, to make it reachable or accessible, third, to make it manageable, and finally, to put it to good use. These four strivings correspond to science, technology, economy and politics respectively: science provides the knowledge, technology the access, economy tackles the causal handles of the process and politics subjugates the entire domain to administrative procedures that are supposed to ensure that all that happens serves some articulated goals. This, Rosa says, has defined our relationship with the world as an ongoing mutual aggression, with all our daily actions atomized into goal-oriented miniprojects oriented towards certain goals and reduced to checkboxes on an ever-growing to-do list (6-7). Importantly, the endpoint of such activities is not a definable state of satisfaction, but merely “dynamic stability” (9), in which constant growth, acceleration and innovation are needed merely to maintain the status quo, and “what generates this will to escalation is not the promise of improvement in our quality of life, but the unbridled threat that we will lose what we have already attained” (ibid.). As a result, we perceive ourselves as embedded in a hostile reality, a world that threatens us and needs to be contained, countered, subdued, controlled, or else it will do this to us. But we will not prevail. In chapter 3 of the book, Rosa traces a common thread through the works of Marx, Weber, Simmel and Durkheim and onwards to Arendt, Camus and Beckett, deploring the effects of the loss of a meaningful relation with the world on the mind and a person as a whole. (One could easily add more names, beginning with Heidegger, on this list.)

One of the main contributions of Rosa’s work to contemporary debate is an original elaboration of how such a meaningful relation to the world could be described — his theory of “resonance”. “The basic mode of vibrant human existence consists not in exerting control over things but in resonating with them, making them respond to us—thus experiencing self-efficacy—and responding to them in turn,” he says (31, italics in the original). Resonance, as he defines it, has four basic characteristics (32-38): it results from something described as a “call” or “appeal”, a feeling of being affected by a thing or an aspect of the world; this needs to be followed by a response, a movement within us; we need to feel transformed by the encounter, this movement; we need to accept that this resonance is not something we can control, plan, or produce, or even predict what kind of transformation it will bring about in us. Therefore, for example, planning a “perfect evening” or 100% quality time will not necessarily result in the desired outcome, combined, as it often is, with stress about whether everything is going according to the plan — and even if nothing unpredictable has intervened, there is much less joy in the flawless execution of a plan than there might be in the jazz of circumstances and unexpected, yet pleasurable turns and twists along the way.

Next, Rosa proceeds to investigate the balance between our striving to control and our ability to resonate with the world, because, as he admits, “we are able to resonate with other people or things only when they are in a way “semicontrollable,” when they move between complete controllability and total uncontrollability” (40) — in other words, what is deplored is not any need to feel confident about things, but an excessive desire to control things in which things themselves are forgotten, their meaningfulness erased. What is therefore needed is a balance between control and uncontrollability. He presents five theses on the topic (41-59), evoking “a relation of dynamic openness” (52) as the precondition of “semicontrollability”, or reaching out to things without trying to subjugate them or incorporate them completely in one’s own schemes: the basic mistake of modernity, he says, is the confusion of reachability and controllability resulting in an effort to always convert the former into the latter (57).

The next two chapters test the theory by mapping it onto practical realities: chapter 6 is dedicated to what Rosa calls the six stages of life (birth, education, career-planning,  adulthood, aging and death), chapter 7 to institutional realities such as the optimization drive, bureaucracy, quantified accountability, legalistic procedures and so on, showing in all cases how the striving for excessive control may result in overregulation and the complete opposite of the goals initially proclaimed by the ideologues of control (common happiness, justice, responsibility and so on). The last two chapters are essays on the topics of how resonance relates to desire and on how excessive control produces more, not less uncontrollability into the lifeworlds of people in the late modern world.

All in all, this compact book provides a sound, insightful and sharp socio-philosophical theory that connects very well with the daily experience of the prospective readers of the book, and provides a succinct introduction to Rosa’s theory of resonance for those intimidated by the 576 pages of his principal book on the subject. It can therefore be wholeheartedly recommended for any reader interested in phenomenological social theory.

There are nonetheless a few questions that can be asked of Rosa’s theory. First, what is the actual target of Rosa’s critique? In the book he has used the words “modernity” and “capitalism” almost as if they were synonymous. Rosa makes the equation explicitly on page 10 and repeats it throughout the book, in particular, through highlighting the strategy of commodity capitalism to translate the thirst for resonance into the desire for the acquisition of objects (38, 78, 107). But such usage limits the range of validity for his observations quite remarkably (as well as unnecessarily), making it a bit of a first-world problem. Nonetheless, history also knows other forms of modernity than that of the liberal capitalist West. For example, the Bolshevik project in Russia and the Maoist project in China both manifest clear characteristics of the accelerationist time regime that Rosa has outlined in Social Acceleration: the cult of over-completing “the plan” in Soviet Russia on the one hand and Mao’s Great Leap Forward on the other are both efforts at imposing a voluntaristically constructed time regime on the fabric of society, and the tendency of both these regimes to control the minds of its subjectively atomized citizens and to outroot all kind of resonance with their inherited past have been, if anything, much more vicious and damaging to these societies than the anonymizing effects of commercializiation and the replacement of organically grown personal identities with factory-made lifestyles that capitalist market economy has been so successful at. It would thus help to clarify the issue by specifying which, if any, of the alienating processes are specifically caused by capitalism, which have possibly only been enhanced by it and which are generally characteristic of the modern time-regime and its intrinsic drive for acceleration.

Another question that remained with me throughout this book is that of the status of “resonance” — is this a characteristic of the way in which I would be experiencing my life-world if there would be nothing interfering with my relation with it, or is it a quality that my relation with it acquires in special cases, depending on both my own state of mind and the nature of the things I am interacting with? Is it something learned or something lost in life? There are passages in the book that suggest both. On page 31, he writes that the capacity for resonance is “in a way, the “essence” not only of human existence, but of all possible manners of relating to the world; it is the necessary precondition of our ability to place the world at a distance and bring it under our control”, which seems to indicate that resonating with the world is the primary core of any experience, and later in the book Rosa talks about losing capability for resonance as a pathological condition; on the other hand, he also talks about the axes of resonance (44ff.) implying that certain things, but not others, are able to evoke resonance in a particular person, and that certain circumstances may be necessary for resonance to occur (53). This may empirically be so (a heartless administrator may occasionally have a meaningful relationship with, and only with, their cactus), but, taken more generally, intoduces a (to my mind unnecessary) bifurcation into the theory, dividing the things of the world into the potentially resonant and the rest. Arguably the theory would gain in explanatory power, were it to credit the entire world with the potentiality to resonate ceaselessly, for example, in the mind of a child, and to look at how this capacity is diminished and potentially lost as a result of certain misconceived socio-cultural practices of modernity.

This leads us to the next question: Rosa seems to programmatically oppose anything synthetic and technological to the natural and organic aspects of our environment, so that seemingly only the latter are those we can successfully resonate with, while the former are the source of losing touch with the rhythms of reality and the resulting alienation. This is an important issue in need of more argument. For example, studies in social psychology have indeed indicated a correlation between too much screen time and mental and physical health problems, especially for younger people, but the question remains whether this is a unidirectional issue — it has also been suggested that only excessive screen time has negative effects, while a certain (controlled!) amount of it is actually beneficial, and that children are more likely to engage with gadgets are those already in risk groups according to other indicators. It is also often the case that bonding with others is technologically mediated, for example, in watching a film together.

Thus, though intuitively plausible and supported by the Heideggerian view of technology as the soulless enforcer of inauthentic relations with the environment, the opposition of the technological to the organic is not necessarily warranted and also not a cultural universal: for example, in Shintō, the Japanese traditional worldview, no such qualitative difference is made between natural and technological aspects of the environment and they can both be perceived as sacred. The problem lies with the perceiver: after all, it is quite possible to develop an alienated, utilitarian and profit-driven gaze of the organic environment as well. Therefore, the question that possibly needs to be asked is whether resonance is not, after all, a human capacity or talent that needs to be fostered and cherished, and while some clearly beautiful and awe-inspiring aspects of the world may have more potential for eliciting it from any given individual than others, we cannot generalize about these aspects and correlate them with the physical provenance of particular things — at least not without further argument.

All that said, “The Uncontrollability of the World” is a remarkable book, packing a lot of insightful theory as well as analyses of its practical validity into a slim volume that, I hope, will find its way to the reading lists of many courses on social philosophy as well as the tables of fellow academics throughout the world.

Renaud Barbaras: L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique

L’appartenance: Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique Book Cover L’appartenance: Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique
Bibliothèque Philosophique de Louvain
Renaud Barbaras
Paperback 28,00 €

Reviewed by: Luz Ascárate (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

« Dans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (René Char)

Renaud Barbaras intitule son dernier ouvrage L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique. Le texte est constitué des leçons données en mars 2019 à l’UCLouvain et reprises dans son cours de Master II du premier semestre de l’année académique 2019-2020 à l’Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne. Ce texte est une introduction au nouveau projet – qui occupera Barbaras pour les deux prochaines années comme il l’a avoué dans son cours de Master II du premier semestre de l’année 2020-2021 – d’une cosmologie phénoménologique. À vrai dire, nous nous retrouvons au seuil d’une nouvelle période de la philosophie de Barbaras. Dans ce nouvel ouvrage, en posant, tout d’abord, et à nouveau en phénoménologie, la question du corps et de la chair, pour délimiter ensuite la notion d’appartenance, il propose une unité fondamentale entre la capacité phénoménalisante et l’appartenance au monde. La formule ontologique, inspirée de Merleau-Ponty, qui se propose comme soubassement d’une telle unité fondamentale et comme événement originaire de l’étant est celle de la « déflagration », à partir de laquelle l’auteur esquisse une réponse aux problèmes génératifs propres à une cosmologie phénoménologique. Plusieurs problèmes se posent à cet égard. L’appartenance est-elle la notion légitime pour comprendre la phénoménalisation ? Une réponse rapide et négative à cette question pourrait se défendre à partir des critiques husserliennes de l’existentialisme. Si nous essayons de donner une réponse positive à une telle question, une deuxième question se pose. En quoi une ontologie de la déflagration continuerait à être phénoménologique ? Si nous sommes toutefois convaincus que la cosmologie phénoménologique ne trahit pas les motifs fondamentaux du mouvement phénoménologique, une troisième question se fait jour. En quoi consisterait l’originalité de cet ouvrage par rapport aux autres développements d’ontologie phénoménologique ? Afin de donner des réponses à ces questions, nous formulerons les hypothèses suivantes. La notion de déflagration, comme formule de l’arché (principe et origine) ontologique de la phénoménalisation, renouvelle, tout en demeurant fidèle aux fondements du mouvement phénoménologique, d’une part, une branche spécifique de la tradition phénoménologique – la branche proprement française –, et d’autre part, la branche ontologique en tant que telle. Mais par rapport à l’originalité et à la spécificité de la cosmologie barbarasienne, nous soutenons qu’à la différence d’autres ontologies phénoménologiques, la cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras ne surgit pas de la critique de la subjectivité transcendantale husserlienne (Fink et Patočka), ne finit pas par un négativisme de l’être (Sartre, Jaspers, Jonas), pas plus qu’il ne se subsume dans une onto-théologie phénoménologique (Heidegger, Lévinas et Marion). La cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras défend à la fois l’appartenance du sujet au monde et le caractère phénoménalisant du sujet. Le pouvoir phénoménalisant de l’étant n’est ainsi ni négatif ni neutralisant, sinon profondément vivant. Cette cosmologie trouverait ainsi à s’exprimer poétiquement, comme il l’a lui-même affirmé lors de son cours de Master II en 2019-2020 à Paris I, dans les vers suivants de René Char : « [d]ans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (Char, 1969, p. 153).

 I. L’ontologie dont la phénoménologie a besoin

Tout se passe comme si la cosmologie phénoménologique de l’appartenance donnait réponse à la question ouverte par Ricœur sur le type d’ontologie conséquente avec la phénoménologie (1990, p. 345-410). Selon celui-ci, la question de l’ontologie n’a pas été résolue dans la phénoménologie, étant donné qu’une telle solution finirait par dissoudre la catégorie de l’altérité. En effet, la cosmologie phénoménologique de Renaud Barbaras est la toute dernière formulation d’une question ontologique générale dont la réponse a été donnée, comme Ricœur semblait l’attester (1990, p. 410), depuis le commencement même de la philosophie, avec Parménide. Partant, nous sommes d’accord avec le jugement d’Etienne Gilson lorsqu’il écrit :

Il est évident que, tout élément du réel généralement concevable étant un être, les propriétés essentielles de l’être doivent appartenir à tout ce qui est. Lorsque Parménide d’Elée fit cette découverte, il atteignit une position métaphysique pure, c’est-à-dire infranchissable à toute pensée qui s’engagerait dans la même voie, mais il s’obligeait du même coup à dire ce qu’il entendait par « être » (Gilson, 1948, p. 24).

Parménide s’engage, selon Gilson, dans une voie métaphysique qui l’oblige à définir les termes de son ontologie. Si Ricœur ne va pas plus loin dans la question de l’ontologie, c’est parce qu’en suivant Husserl dans la mise entre parenthèses de l’ontologie, sans vouloir la nier, il la déplace dans le point d’arrivée promis qui, comme idée en sens kantien, guide, en son absence et sans faire partie de, la description phénoménologique. Précisément, par rapport à la crainte de l’ontologie que certains phénoménologues ont héritée de Husserl, Gilson remarque le contraste entre « le soin minutieux ou même le génie » des phénoménologues et « l’insouciance avec laquelle ils déblaient sommairement en quelques pages des problèmes métaphysiques dont les conclusions, acceptées par eux à la légère, compromettent parfois ensuite l’exactitude de leurs analyses et en faussent toujours l’interprétation » (Gilson, 1948, p. 22). Nous croyons toutefois qu’avec de telles sentences, Gilson n’adresse pas une critique de fond à la phénoménologie. A contrario, il félicite la rigueur phénoménologie tout en faisant une critique constructive de la méthode. Davantage, il admet l’urgence d’une phénoménologie réformée en avouant que notre temps a besoin « d’une métaphysique de l’être conçue comme prolégomènes à toute phénoménologie » (Gilson, 1948, p. 21). La cosmologie phénoménologique de Barbaras, dont le livre que nous commentons ici n’est qu’une introduction à un nouveau projet, promet, à notre avis, de prendre au sérieux les problèmes métaphysiques en nous offrant, finalement, l’ontologie que la phénoménologie, selon Gilson, a besoin. Ces problèmes nous conduisent au paradoxe, non résolu auparavant dans la tradition phénoménologique, que constituent notre appartenance au monde et la capacité de phénoménalisation de ce monde même.

Mais cette ontologie n’est possible que parce que le versant ontologique du mouvement phénoménologique, en dépit de Husserl lui-même, a posé à nouveau la question de l’ontologie sans en tirer toutes les conséquences. Ce versant commence, à juste titre, avec Max Scheler. Pour lui, la phénoménologie se réalise dans une ontologie qui pose la valeur (Wert-sein) comme être originaire de l’existant (Scheler, 2004). L’existence n’est pas ici mise entre parenthèses comme chez Husserl. Dans tous les cas, pour les deux, il y a une différence entre une attitude mondaine et une attitude phénoménologique. La corrélation intentionnelle serait l’évidence qui apparaît, pour chacun, dans l’attitude phénoménologique. C’est ici la découverte de l’intentionnalité par Brentano (Brentano, 2008, p. 102) qui inaugure le chemin vers une ontologie phénoménologique dans laquelle l’être sera considéré à partir de l’existence intentionnelle que la Modernité avait perdue. Pour Barbaras, l’intentionnalité est « l’envers centripète du mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration, la manière dont se réalise et se manifeste l’appartenance dynamique à l’événement originaire » (p. 80). Il souscrit ainsi à la position phénoménologique fondamentale qui rapproche Scheler de Husserl. Cependant, Barbaras fonde l’intentionnalité au seuil de l’être lui-même. Il ne s’agit pas d’une structure de la conscience dans les termes de Brentano, mais d’une structure ontologique fondamentale entre l’être et l’étant qui n’exprime que l’appartenance de l’étant à l’être est le caractère essentiel, non restrictif, de l’être se déployant dans l’étant.

Nous sommes convaincue que la phénoménologie est capable de révéler cet aspect intentionnel et foncier de l’existence parce qu’elle est elle-même une question qui prend la forme d’une réponse à une question dérivée : la question sur le comment (quomodo). La phénoménologie décrit le comment de la chose et en décrivant elle demande le quoi, le quid, un quid qui ne se donne jamais dans l’exercice de la méthode phénoménologique. La question sur le quid ne peut être résolue que par une ontologie, l’ontologie que Husserl a mise entre parenthèses, et que Heidegger, Lévinas et Marion diffusent dans une onto-théologie sans rendre assez compte de la capacité phénoménalisante du sujet, parfois subsumée dans une éthique. Pour sa part, Scheler place l’ontologie comme vrai fondement de la philosophie en incluant la catégorie de « monde » dans la dernière période de sa pensée. La capacité phénoménalisante du sujet semblerait toutefois se diffuser dans l’ordre des affectivités. Un versant criticiste de la phénoménologie fait dériver la question ontologique (quid) de la critique opératoire de la description phénoménologie (quomodo) tout en récupérant la catégorie de « monde ». Ce sont Fink et Patočka qui, en parcourant une voie criticiste, réintroduisent la question cosmologique déjà posée par Scheler. En tout cas, c’est cette même ontologie phénoménologique visée par l’ontologie négativiste de l’existentialisme, que Ricœur situe comme finalité promise par la méthode sans jamais y arriver (la voie longue), et dont la route est inaugurée par Merleau-Ponty sans pour autant être accomplie. Barbaras appartient sans doute au même mouvement phénoménologique qui pose la question du quid dans le même site originaire que la question sur le comment (quomodo). Nous pouvons affirmer à juste titre qu’il appartient au mouvement phénoménologique tout court.

Il y a néanmoins deux manières d’appartenir à un mouvement philosophique, lesquelles sont, corrélativement, deux manières de rendre possible la continuité et postérité de ce mouvement. La première est de rester fidèle à l’idée authentique du fondateur du mouvement en le défendant contre ses critiques et ses interprétations abusives, en montrant que sa pensée est encore importante dans un contexte philosophique toujours nouveau. Il s’agit de l’option exégétique du mouvement phénoménologique, qui continue à chercher, dans l’œuvre non publiée du fondateur, des réponses aux problèmes contemporains. La deuxième consiste à renouveler les fins qui ont mobilisé un tel mouvement philosophique à partir de nouvelles questions et de nouvelles réponses. Il s’agit de l’option créatrice qui implique toujours la formation de nouvelles branches. Les deux manières sont, d’une certaine manière, impliquées dialectiquement dans la pensée de Barbaras. Il est évident que l’apport de Barbaras n’est pas exégétique, mais sa proposition renouvelle cette tradition tout en y étant fidèle. Nous pouvons lire sa trajectoire philosophique à partir du geste phénoménologique dans la mesure où, en prenant comme point de départ les présupposés théoriques précédents (dans ses premiers ouvrages, voir par exemple, Barbaras, 1991 et 2004) pour les neutraliser et rendre possible la vision du phénomène (dans les ouvrages précédant ce dernier, voir par exemple, 2011a et 2016a), il amène, dans la toute dernière période de sa philosophie (2019), l’ontologie phénoménologique à sa formulation la plus radicale, en en tirant toutes les conséquences.

II. Le versant français de l’ontologie phénoménologique

La pierre de touche de L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique de Renaud Barbaras est indubitablement la notion de déflagration comme origine cosmologique de l’ontologie de l’appartenance. Il s’agit d’un concept qui permet de mettre l’accent sur le caractère vital, dynamique et spatial de cette ontologie. En ce sens, même si ce livre inaugure une nouvelle étape dans la philosophie de l’auteur, il est conséquent avec les découvertes de l’étape précédante de sa philosophie qui a été déployée depuis Dynamique de la manifestation  (2013) jusqu’à Métaphysique du sentiment (2016a) et Le Désir et le monde (2016b). Dans ces œuvres, nous trouvons un effort pour penser la radicalité de la corrélation d’une phénoménologie dépassée par une métaphysique. Dans L’appartenance. Vers une cosmologie phénoménologique, c’est surtout la perspective cosmologique qui sera traitée comme la plus fondamentale et la plus originaire. Cette perspective met la catégorie de l’espace comme étant plus fondamentale que la catégorie du temps, bien que cette perspective, comme l’a fait remarqué Aurélien Deudon (2018), ait déjà redémarré dans les ouvrages antérieurs de l’auteur : « force est de conclure que le temps est la forme même de l’apparaître secondaire, tout comme l’espace était la forme de l’apparaître primaire » (Barbaras, 2013, p. 327).

L’importance donnée à l’espace nous permet de penser dans les termes avec lesquels Guy-Félix Duportail caractérise la phénoménologie française, comme traversant un moment topologique (2010). De ce fait, Benjamin (2018, p. 115) nous a averti de l’être spirituel (ein geistiges Wesen) transmis par tout usager d’un langage constitué au sein d’une culture. Ainsi, sans vouloir risquer un historicisme, nous pouvons postuler que chaque phénoménologue français déploie des traits propres aux différentes couches de sens que nous comprenons par philosophie française, si nous rapportons la tradition phénoménologique française à l’histoire plus générale de la philosophie française. Selon Camille Riquier (2011), la philosophie française trouve son origine dans la figure de Descartes. Il ne se réfère pas à cette origine dans des termes causaux ou ontologiques, mais comme un simple fait :

[I]l n’y a pas de philosophe français qui ne se soit retourné vers Descartes à un certain moment de son parcours, souvent décisif, pour éprouver sa pensée au contact de la sienne, ou pour reprendre un fil qu’il avait laissé interrompu, s’y rattacher et le prolonger. Le caractère fondateur qui lui a été reconnu de droit au regard de toute la philosophie moderne a masqué l’importance toute spéciale que les penseurs français lui ont toujours accordée, de fait, dans leur propre édification intellectuelle. En France, Descartes est un référent plus encore qu’une référence, qui fournit moins les idées que la trame qui servira à les ordonner, – ce qui n’est pas le cas ailleurs (Riquier, 2011, p. 3).

Riquier identifie trois voies cartésiennes suivies par les philosophes français, dont la première, où l’on peut situer les phénomènologues français, est celle du cogito. Ceux-ci auraient pu exploiter ses ressourses aux marges de la phénoménologie transcendantale uniquement « à la faveur du cogito de Descartes qui était là pour eux, derrière, plus large que celui de Husserl » (Riquier, 2011, p. 23). Les œuvres de Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ricoeur et Barbaras ne seraient que le prolongement, selon Riquier, du sentiment de l’union de l’âme et du corps avec lequel le cogito cartésien déborde celui de Husserl en lui contestant sa prétention d’auto-fondation absolue (Riquier, 2011, p. 23). Force est de dire que la phénoménologie de Husserl n’a pas été reçue sans des conditions pré-compréhensives par la philosophie française. Cela peut expliquer que, comme l’affirme Bernard Stevens, la tradition de la phénoménologie française ait sauté de manière trop rapide aux réflexions de la Krisis, justement le livre plus « ontologique » de Husserl. À cela s’ajoute l’importance des réflexions sur la chair présentes dans Ideen II, livre qui a été aussi bien reçu par l’école française de phénoménologie, à la différence des Méditations cartésiennes, livre accusé souvent de solipsisme par la même école. De plus, Frédéric Worms remarque l’avènement du moment du vivant (Worms, 2009, p. 560) vers la fin du XXe siècle dans la phénoménologie française. Même si ce vivant apparaît sous la forme d’un bergsonisme minimal, dont le côté maximal est apparu au début du siècle.

Renaud Barbaras renouvelle ces préoccupations que nous pouvons qualifier de « proprement françaises » : le point de départ de sa cosmologie phénoménologique est la reconsidération radicale du corps, tout en échappant à une manière idéaliste de penser la chair comme conséquence d’une perspective ontologique fondée sur la conscience. Ce point de départ est inspiré de Merleau-Ponty même si son ontologie de la chair délivre les coordonnées du problème plutôt que la solution (p. 12), en risquant un dualisme sous-jacent à la distinction entre la chair mienne et la chair du monde. En allant plus loin que Merleau-Ponty, Barbaras essaie de résoudre le problème du dualisme que pose toute phénoménologie de la chair, et du solipsisme que pose toute phénoménologie. Comme Barbaras le montre, dans le premier chapitre du livre intitulé « De la chair à l’appartenance » (p. 1-26), la réflexion philosophique a manqué l’expérience foncière du corps au moment où elle l’a identifiée. Bien qu’un certain type d’ontologie ait déjà réfléchi sur la question du corps, celle-ci n’a pas été prise radicalement, car, au lieu d’être question, le corps est assumé comme une réponse (p. 13) au cœur d’une ontologie déjà donnée. Barbaras réalise ainsi une épochè des ontologies, qui ont caché le corps, sédimentées dans l’attitude naturelle. L’une de ces ontologies est l’ontologie de la mort sédimentée dans la science contemporaine pensant le corps du point de vue de l’inertie. Ce qui apparaît dans l’effectuation de cette épochè est une expérience fondamentale : l’appartenance. Pour Barbaras, penser le corps comme problème fondamental n’est rien d’autre que de mettre en avant la dimension d’appartenance. Afin de comprendre cette dimension de manière ontologique, l’auteur exerce deux remaniements ontologiques radicaux : a) la conscience n’appartient pas au monde ; elle est une modalité, parmi d’autres, de cette appartenance (p. 16); b) le fondement ontologique premier est l’espace et non le temps, comme une certaine perspective ontologique et phénoménologique l’a présupposé en prenant l’espace comme un dérivé du temps (p. 21). Ces deux remaniements ontologiques sont strictement liés car apparaître consiste à déployer l’espace. C’est pourquoi, seulement en prenant comme point de départ l’espace, nous pourrions saisir le sens phénoménologiquement radical de cette appartenance. Ainsi, Barbaras se place, à la fois, dans le moment topologique de la phénoménologie française, tout en utilisant les outils de la phénoménologie (l’époché et la description de l’expérience) débordés par l’expérience de l’appartenance. Mais est-ce que l’appartenance est comparable au sentiment de l’union âme-corps que Riquier présume déployé par les phénoménologues français dans le but d’aller plus loin que Husserl, tout en retournant à Descartes ? Nous croyons, tout au contraire, que la notion d’appartenance prouve l’originalité de Barbaras face à la tradition française de la phénoménologie, comme nous le verrons par la suite. Il nous convient ici de poser la question sur le quomodo de l’appartenance. Comment un étant appartient au monde ?

 III. L’éclatement du monde

À notre avis, dans la clarification des modalités de cette appartenance, nous pourrons comprendre les conséquences inédites de cette ontologie face aux ontologies antérieures et à la tradition française de la phénoménologie. Précisément, dans le deuxième chapitre du livre intitulé « Les trois sens de l’appartenance » (p. 27-56), Barbaras propose une typologie sémantique. Du point de vue de l’usage français du mot appartenance, trois sens d’appartenance apparaissent : être dans le monde ou le site (être situé, position inhérente à l’étant) ; être du monde ou le sol (être pris dans son épaisseur, là d’où l’étant se nourrit et d’où provient son étantité), être au monde ou le lieu (la phénoménalisation, l’occuper activement, s’investir, une forme de possession du monde). Pour Barbaras, il y a un rapport d’identité entre les trois sens d’appartenance : l’inscription onto-topologique de tel étant dans le monde a pour envers la phénoménalisation du monde dans cet étant. Ces trois sens de l’appartenance ne font donc qu’un seul. L’inscription ontologique d’un sujet situé topologiquement dans le monde est aussi le déploiement de la phénoménalisation. Pour une partie de la tradition philosophique transcendantale, la phénoménalisation du monde est fondée sur la distanciation du monde. Barbaras renverse ce préjugé : plus un étant appartient au monde, plus il le fait apparaître. Le degré zéro de cette appartenance sera représenté par la pierre. L’appartenance de la pierre déploie un lieu, mais à contre-courant des autres êtres vivants : en se concentrant. La vie de la pierre se manifeste alors tout d’abord comme temporalité. Sa spatialité apparaît de manière dérivée et comme défaut : « le défaut de déploiement spatial est l’envers de l’installation dans une durée longue » (p. 32). La plante est, contrairement à l’animal, spatialisation, mobilité pure : « elle est tout entière à l’extérieur d’elle-même » (p. 36). L’animal, au contraire, occupe l’espace sans sortir de lui-même. Or, l’homme est un homo viator (p. 33). Il apparaît au monde dans le sens de la mobilité et c’est le désir de l’homme la raison même de la mobilité. Le rapport entre conscience et sol se pose ici autrement que dans le cartésianisme, de telle manière que le problème même du solipsisme ne se pose pas. Mais tout en demeurant dans le sol français qui contient sa philosophie, Barbaras dépasse Descartes – avec qui, selon Riquier, les phénoménologues français dépassent Husserl – avec Bergson. Dans l’un des moments les plus poétiques du livre, l’auteur s’aligne avec Bergson pour distinguer entre un corps minime et un corps immense. D’un point de vue solipsiste, notre corps serait la place minime que nous occupons, qui renfermerait la conscience. Du point de vue de Bergson, selon Barbaras, si je suis là où la conscience peut s’appliquer, mon corps va jusqu’aux étoiles. Plus radicalement, en dépassant Husserl et Descartes, pour Barbaras, « ce mode de déploiement du lieu qu’est ici la conscience des étoiles repose sur l’appartenance ontologique du sujet aux étoiles, sur le corps immense, et vient réduire la tension entre le site, à quoi correspond le corps minime et le sol, qui n’est autre que le cosmos lui même » (p. 55). Autrement dit, les étoiles deviennent lieu parce qu’elles sont d’abord sol. La conscience appartient premièrement à un corps pour être elle-même conscience, et au monde, ou aux étoiles, advient le caractère essentiel de pouvoir être phénoménalisé pour un sujet qui y appartient. La question du quomodo va se métamorphoser ici dans les termes du quid à des niveaux différents. Comment tout en étant différent des étoiles pour les percevoir, nous les faisons paraître en ce que nous appartenons à une continuité avec elles dans le sol ? Quelle ontologie fondamentale serait-elle capable d’expliquer, en répondant au quid de l’être, l’unité et la différence au sein de cette nouvelle manière de penser l’appartenance ? En d’autres termes, la question est de donner réponse à l’origine ontologique (quid) de la phénoménalité. Dans les mots de Barbaras avec lesquels commence le troisième chapitre du livre intitulé « Vers une cosmologie : la déflagration » (p. 57-80), où il essaie de répondre à ces questions, « [i]l s’agit de comprendre pourquoi ce faire singulier [que le mouvement des vivants est un mouvement phénoménologique] dont nous parlons, dont l’autre nom est le désir, ne peut être qu’un faire paraître » (p. 57-58).

Plus exactement, la question est de savoir comment le sol qui se sépare de lui-même par le site donne lieu au surgissement du lieu. Mais le surgissement de la phénoménalisation ne doit pas être compris dans le sens d’une téléologie. Le paraître de l’être est totalement contingent sans pour autant laisser d’être le paraître de l’être. De la réponse à cette question dépend la réponse à une question qui en est dérivée : la question de l’unité de l’appartenance. Il faut pouvoir expliquer comment le sol, en se séparant dans le site, n’est autre que le sol lui-même. En prenant en compte que le sol contient tous les étants en tant qu’il les fait être, cette appartenance est ontologique : les étants ne sont pas seulement situés dans le monde, il constitue leur source, il nourrit l’être de l’étant qui y est inscrit. Il s’agit d’une ontogénèse dynamique surabondante. Cette surpuissance n’a d’autre positivité que dans ce qu’elle fait naître (p. 61) ; elle ne peut avoir rien d’étant pour être la source de tout étant. Le sol est donc accessible uniquement dans l’étant qu’il dépose, étant l’acte de déposer. Il est le jaillissement comme être et non un être qui jaillit. Barbaras admet qu’il ne s’agit pas de la puissance aristotélicienne « toujours référée à une substance et ordonnée au telos de l’acte », mais plutôt de la puissance plotinienne qui est Acte, débordement de l’Un qui donne ce qu’il ne possède pas (p. 61). Mais cette surpuissance ontogénétique ne doit pas diffuser le caractère spatial de l’appartenance : si l’être n’a pas d’autre sens que l’appartenance, produire n’est qu’installer dans l’extériorité. La puissance onto-génétique disperse, donne un site. Le site s’inscrit ainsi dans une surpuissance expansive. Le sol, étant la surpuissance expansive, produit le multiple dans son être jaillissement. Plus que monde, l’être est Nature au sens d’une physis originaire. En suivant Dufrenne (1981, p. 165), Barbaras remarque que la Nature indique, d’un côté, l’extériorité et l’antériorité du monde comme précédence ontologique, et, d’un autre côté, l’énergie de l’être comme puissance ou productivité. Cette formule exprime le monde de l’appartenance à la fois comme totalité antérieure extériorisante et comme surpuissance productrice. À ce titre, la phénoménologie qui prend ce monde-Nature comme objet ne peut se réaliser que comme cosmologie.

Arrivé à ce point, Barbaras est capable d’expliquer la mobilité de l’étant, une autre voie pour comprendre la nature du sol. La raison du mouvement est la distance du site au sol. Mais le site est contenu dans le sol : « sa distance au sol est distance au sein du sol » (p. 65). La mobilité de l’étant provient alors du sol. L’étant ne produit pas la mobilité, il s’y insère. Dès lors, le mouvement des étants témoigne de la nature de son sol. Le sol serait, selon Barbaras, la mobilité même (archi-mobilité, pur jaillisement). À dire vrai, c’est le sol qui, en tant que puissance ontogénétique, essaie de se rejoindre à partir de ce qu’il produit : de revenir à lui au travers des étants en lesquels il se sépare. En s’inspirant de Louis Lavelle (1937), Barbaras affirme que la participation ne fait pas de l’étant une partie du Tout. L’être n’est pas préalablement réalisé, mais l’étant participe à un acte qui est en train de s’accomplir grâce à une opération qui oblige l’étant à la fois d’assumer sa propre existence et l’existence du Tout. Autrement dit, la puissance ontogénétique à laquelle appartient l’étant n’existe pas en dehors de ses produits « et leur doit en ce sens son être » (p. 68). L’étant rejoint son sol par un mouvement désirant parce qu’il s’insère dans l’acte onto-originaire qui est en train de s’accomplir et qui lui donne l’énergie qui lui permet de déployer un lieu au sein du même sol qu’il essaie de rejoindre. Cela peut évoquer une affirmation d’un autre livre de Lavelle (1939) publié en aval de celui cité par Barbaras : « Elle [la vie] est toujours un retour à la source. Elle fait de moi un être perpétuellement naissant » (Lavelle, 1939, p. 92).

En voulant éclairer cette source qui est le sol, Barbaras pose à nouveau la question de Leibniz dans Les Principes de la Nature et de la Grâce : « pourquoi il y a plutôt quelque chose que rien » (Leibniz, 1996, p. 228), dans des termes cosmologiques : « comment y a-t-il quelque chose plutôt que rien ? » (p. 68). Cependant, il ne s’aligne ni sur Sartre ni sur Husserl, qui donnent, soit à l’existence, soit à la conscience, une irréalité ou négativité métaphysique, seule capable de dépasser le réel, de le penser ou de le constituer. Pour Barbaras, la négativité se pose uniquement en des termes ontiques. La source est une et indivisible : elle produit le multiple parce qu’elle ne l’est pas (négativité ontique). Mais elle n’est pas non plus un néant. Il n’y a pas création ex-nihilo. Il y aurait une forme de précession métaphysique : « rien de moins que la surabondance qui sous-tend tout étant pour autant qu’il vient à l’être » (p. 70). Sa négativité ontique consiste en son excès métaphysique. Il faut alors la comprendre comme l’événement en tant que mondification qui est l’advenir même d’une multiplicité d’étants (avènement). C’est pour cette raison que Barbaras choisit de caractériser cet archi-événément, sens d’être ultime du sol, comme déflagration. La déflagration est éternelle, car l’étant est immobile dans son archi-mobilité et stable dans son instabilité constitutive (p. 72). Barbaras avoue qu’il identifie ici, dans le concept de déflagration, l’archi-mouvement et l’archi-événement qu’il avait distingués dans son œuvre précédente (voir Barbaras, 2013). Ce qui nous permet d’affirmer que nous nous trouvons, en effet, au début d’une nouvelle période de la philosophie de l’auteur.

La déflagration peut aussi répondre aux problèmes touchant l’advenir du multiple. La déflagration est dispersion originaire qui renvoie à une pluralité de sites ou, autrement dit, à des étants individués et différents. Il y a autant de multiplicité numérique, spatiale, que de multiplicité qualitative : différence. Cette différence n’est autre que la gradation inhérente à la déflagration. Les étants s’éloignent différemment de leur source, « de telle sorte que la déflagration est naissance de différences dans la différence » (p. 75). En empruntant des expressions avec lesquelles Bergson explique l’évolution de la vie (1908, p. 108), Barbaras caractérise la déflagration comme l’éclatement qui est gerbe ontologique créant des directions divergentes, ce qui donne lieu à l’individuation de l’étant. C’est l’événement même de la contingence comme fait de la différence renvoyant à la contingence absolue de l’avènement de la déflagration comme absolu. Les éclats que sont les étants sont retenus dans leur propre avènement. Ils sont maintenus dans leur source, l’écho de l’archi-événement les transit éternellement sous la forme de la mobilité. Les différences entre les étants s’expriment donc en termes dynamiques, et la mobilité n’exprime que la proximité avec la surpuissance originaire. Effectivement, René Char n’a jamais si bien expliqué – rétrospectivement et de manière aussi fidèle – l’intuition philosophique rapprochant Barbaras et Bergson : « les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (Char, 1969, p. 154).

Plus précisément, dans le cas des vivants, leur mobilité exprime leur proximité ou leur degré d’insertion dans la déflagration. A contrario, l’immobilité de la pierre exprime un éloignement de l’éclatement originaire. Dans le cas de l’étant humain, connaître son sol exprime sa proximité à son sol. En termes simples, tout mouvement de l’étant est mouvement vers le sol, « quête ontologique » (p. 79). Barbaras se situe à l’opposé du transcendantal husserlien ou du distancement intellectuel cher à la phénoménologie : la pensée, la donation du sens, la réflexion, et pourquoi pas, la description phénoménologique, auraient pour source et condition de possibilité une profonde inscription dans le sol. Malheureusement, Barbaras n’explique pas ici les conséquences épistémologiques de cette cosmologie déflagrationniste pour une théorie de la connaissance renouvelée.

La déflagration barbarasienne est, partant, l’ontogenèse dynamique, la puissance ontogénétique, l’archi-événement capable de produire le multiple sans déchirer l’unité fondamentale des étants, l’archi-mouvement stabilisant. L’inspiration merleau-pontienne de l’idée de la déflagration est évidente : « Tel est à nos yeux le sens véritable de ces mots que Merleau-Ponty ajoute à propos de cette ‘explosion stabilisée’ qu’est ‘absolu du sensible’ : ‘i.e. comportant retour’ » (p. 79). La déflagration doit se comprendre alors dans les termes d’une explosion qui ne cesse jamais d’exploser. Les étants ne se séparent jamais de cette déflagration ; ils sont au seuil même de sa puissance et « reviennent sans cesse à elle, mettent à profit la puissance dont ils héritent pour rejoindre l’origine, recoudre la déchirure » (p. 79). En amont, dans L’Œil et l’esprit (1964), Merleau-Ponty a caractérisé la recherche de Cézanne de la profondeur dans les termes de la déflagration de l’être :

La profondeur ainsi comprise est plutôt l’expérience de la réversibilité des dimensions, d’une « localité » globale où tout est à la fois, dont hauteur, largeur et distance sont abstraites, d’une voluminosité qu’on exprime d’un mot en disant qu’une chose est là. Quand Cézanne cherche la profondeur, c’est cette déflagration de l’Être qu’il cherche, et elle est dans tous les modes de l’espace, dans la forme aussi bien. (…) Elle (la couleur) est « l’endroit où notre cerveau et l’univers se rejoignent », dit-il dans cet admirable langage d’artisan de l’Être que Klee aimait à citer (Merleau-Ponty, 1964, p. 65-66).

Pour Barbaras, la profondeur sera la manière dont le sol se phénoménalise comme tel, l’envers phénoménal de la déflagration. Mais celle-ci ne s’abolit pas au profit de ce qu’elle dépose, elle explose en comportant retour. Ceci ne veut pas dire qu’il y aurait deux mouvements : la retombée de l’étant est remontée. Le mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration dans l’étant est aussi le mouvement centripète de l’étant vers la déflagration. C’est dans ces termes qu’il faut comprendre que le site appartient au sol comme le multiple à la déflagration, de manière que le site n’est pas le sol mais n’est pas autre chose que le sol. L’intentionnalité comme déploiement d’un lieu à partir d’un site ne serait que la manifestation phénoménologique de l’inscription et du retour de l’étant vers son origine explosive. L’intentionnalité est donc la manifestation centripète du mouvement centrifuge de la déflagration, la réalisation de l’appartenance dynamique à l’événement originaire (p. 80). Le lieu est, enfin, la trace phénoménologique de la continuité ontologique qui demeure dans la séparation. La question de la phénoménologie se pose ici. Nous retournons à la question sur le comment : l’origine des lieux. Quelle serait la phénoménologie de la cosmologie de la déflagration ? Dans le quatrième chapitre intitulé « La genèse des mondes » (p. 82-109), Barbaras fera le point sur la phénoménologie d’où il vient (Merleau-Ponty, Husserl et Patočka) pour poser les termes de la phénoménologie vers laquelle il se dirige et qui demeure ici en état de promesse.

 IV. La phénoménologie que la cosmologie mérite

Au début du quatrième chapitre, Barbaras rappelle sa critique de l’ontologie phénoménologique de la chair de Merleau-Ponty. Cette conception présuppose une limitation que la cosmologie phénoménologique essaie de dépasser : « contrairement à ce que Merleau-Ponty affirme, que cette chair soit mienne, c’est-à-dire sentante, ne signifie d’aucune manière qu’elle se distingue de la chair du monde : c’est au contraire en tant que chair du monde, en tant par conséquent qu’elle lui appartient radicalement, qu’elle est mienne » (p. 81). La condition de la phénoménalisation est l’inscription phénoménologique dans le monde. La question classique de l’union de l’âme et du corps, qu’on a qualifié au début de cet article de purement française, est ici dépassée. Si ma chair est la chair du monde, j’ai une conscience signifie la même chose que j’ai un corps et inversement (p. 81). La distinction entre conscience et corps est une abstraction. Cela lui permet de répondre aussi à Husserl. C’est la profondeur de l’inscription dans le monde qui mesure la puissancce phénoménalisante et non l’inverse. Le faire paraître le monde n’implique pas une situation d’exception, mais une appartenance radicale à lui. Barbaras renverse ainsi également la qualité d’être éjecté du monde du Da-sein heidéggerien ou de l’être pour soi sartrien : « c’est pace que ce que nous nommons conscience est du monde en un sens plus radical que d’autres étants, qu’elle est précisément conscience, à savoir aptitude à le faire paraître » (p. 81). L’extériorité est inscrite au sein de cette nouvelle interprétation de la phénoménalité. En effet, l’ampleur du lieu n’est que la profondeur de l’inscription dans le monde. Un nouvel a priori universel de la corrélation, valide pour tout étant, apparaît : « autant d’appartenance, autant de phénoménalité ; autant de continuité ontologique, autant d’ipséité » (p. 82). Mais la question est de savoir comment comprendre le statut et l’origine de la phénoménalité. Afin de répondre à cette question, Barbaras montrera que la phénoménalisation consiste dans l’unité propre à la manière dont les étants remontent vers leur source.

Le début de sa démonstration est inspiré de la phénoménologie a-subjective de Patočka. Ce phénoménologue, auquel il a consacré deux livres auparavant (2007, 2011b), dépasse de manière définitive la phénoménologie transcendantale de Husserl – que Barbaras caractérise comme « la version orthodoxe de la phénoménologie » (p. 83) – en déliant la phénoménalité de l’étant de la référence à un sujet constituant. Cela ne veut pas signifier la perte absolue du sujet. Le sujet sera dérivé d’une conception non subjectiviste de la phénoménalité. Selon la critique de Patočka (1995) à laquelle Barbaras souscrit, Husserl n’aurait pas su respecter l’autonomie du champ phénoménal dévoilé par l’épochè phénoménologique. Plus précisément, il finirait par trahir l’épochè. En effet, l’attitude naturelle peut être comprise par l’intention de rendre compte de l’apparaître du monde à partir des lois du monde ou, dans d’autres termes, de tenter de rendre compte de l’apparaître à partir d’un apparaissant. Mais Husserl, tout en voulant suspendre l’attitude naturelle, fait reposer pourtant l’apparaître sur des vécus (un apparaissant). Il faut donc faire avec la conscience ce que Husserl fait avec la thèse du monde, la neutraliser, afin de pouvoir accéder à l’apparaître comme a priori ultime. Cet a priori ne sera pas distinct de celui des apparaissants mondains : l’apparaître est un et relève d’une même légalité. Pour Patočka, c’est le monde qui constituera ainsi l’a priori ultime de l’apparaître, étant le vrai point d’arrivée de l’épochè. C’est l’appartenance au monde le sens d’être ultime de l’étant. Le monde est l’apparaissant ultime : « la condition du donné est un archi-donné » (p. 87). Autrement dit, le monde est l’a priori de l’expérience du monde : l’empirique, ou plutôt l’ontologique, et le transcendantal coïncident. Il semblerait que Patočka finisse par faire dériver l’apparaître de l’apparaissant, comme il le reproche à Husserl. Cependant, selon Barbaras, ce n’est pas le cas si on comprend bien le sens de cet apparaissant qui est le grand Tout, qui est le monde. Pour s’expliquer, il reprend et renverse la détermination husserlienne de la perception comme donation par esquisses. La perception se déploie sous la forme d’un cours d’esquisses parce que l’on dispose par avance de la garantie de pouvoir parcourir la chose. Il a fallu que la continuabilité de cette expérience me soit donnée d’emblée : une chose ne paraît qu’au sein de son horizon. L’horizon n’est plus, comme pour Husserl, potentialité de la conscience. La présence intuitive doit se comprendre comme la cristallisation d’un horizon préalable. L’horizon sera le nom de l’être donné à la continuabilité de l’expérience : l’Un englobant. Dire d’une chose qu’elle apparaît signifie qu’elle s’inscrit dans une unité ouverte de toutes les apparitions possibles. L’expérience est ainsi en continuité avec toutes les autres l’expériences. À dire vrai, elle ne peut être qu’une : l’unité de l’expérience est ce qui commande son être d’expérience. La conscience n’est donc pas la condition de l’apparaître, elle serait la conséquence de l’apparaître : c’est dans la mesure où une chose apparaît dans une totalité englobante que l’unité peut se donner à une conscience et non l’inverse. S’il ne s’agit pas alors d’une conscience, la question qui se pose est celle du mode d’être de ce sujet capable d’accueillir cette unité.

Barbaras le confesse : « [l]es mots ici nous manquent (p. 92). Sans le deviner peut-être, il s’aligne sur les moments de description de phénoménologues qui, en voulant être fidèles à la description des aspects les plus mystérieux de l’expérience, rendent explicite les limitations du langage. C’est peut-être en ceci que réside la différence entre la phénoménologie et l’herméneutique, ou encore entre la phénoménologie et le structuralisme. Nous en trouvons l’un des exemples dans les descriptions husserliennes de la constitution de la conscience absolue du temps. Et c’est justement l’excédance du moyen de description par les faits phénoménologiques de la description même qui en dit le plus long sur la pratique fidèle de la phénoménologie et de la profondeur de la vision du phénoménologue. Scheler remarque précisément que la phénoménologie montre avec la parole ce qui doit être expérimenté par l’interlocuteur du phénoménologue, une expérience qui dépasse les moyens de l’expression de l’évidence (Scheler, 1954, p. 391). Dans tous les cas, il est aussi étonnant que compréhensible que les mots manquent quand Barbaras essaie d’éclairer le sens de l’être de ce sujet phénoménalisant. Selon Barbaras, ce sujet ne peut pas être constituant, mais il est requis par l’apparition qui le précède comme principe d’unification. Le sujet participe, dans l’unification de l’unité unifiante, de l’apparaître des choses sans les constituer. La réponse de Barbaras, en accord avec la cosmologie de la déflagration, est que le sens d’être de ce sujet consiste en un mouvement, « précisément celui qui constitue cette unité des apparitions que nous avons, pour notre part, nommée lieu » (p. 93). L’horizon des apparitions existe comme son propre déploiement dynamique indifférent au partage de la transcendance et de l’immanence. En suivant Patočka, Barbaras remarque que la pénétration dans le monde est l’envers d’une orientation qui implique que le sujet soit situé au sein de la totalité : « l’approche est toujours un ‘déloignement’ (Entfernung) » (p. 94). Mais c’est parce que l’approche constitue notre rapport originaire au monde dans un tout anticipateur, que nous voyons les choses ; le distancement n’est pas la condition de possibilité du voir. La phénoménalité est renvoyée, par Barbaras, à la mobilité. L’unité est effectuée par un sujet qui, appartenant au monde, s’avance vers son sol au sein de lui en déployant des lieux. Patočka a déjà mis l’accent, selon Barbaras, sur le caractère spatialisant de la phénoménalisation. Toutefois, le pas franchi par rapport à Patočka consiste à fonder cette dynamique spatialisante sur une appartenance ontologique et non topologique, « sur un défaut d’être qui ne peut avoir pour envers qu’une aspiration » (p. 95). Barbaras remet la question de la phénoménalisation dans les termes du lieu au sein de sa cosmologie, afin de donner à l’espace son importance constitutive. Au fond, l’indivisibilité de l’origine perdure sous la forme de la puissance unifiante qui habite chaque étant : son activité phénoménalisante (p. 97). L’unité est la trace d’une telle puissance indivise. La surpuissance de la déflagration demeure sous la forme des mouvements qui s’attestent dans une dimension unificatrice. L’étant poursuit cette unité dans le multiple et tente de la réaliser. La sortie de l’origine comme dispersion a une relation d’identité avec le retour à l’origine comme rassemblement. L’origine de la phénoménalité, l’origine des mondes, est ce qui apparaît de l’origine au sein du multiple, « la manière dont l’indivision de la puissance explosive se réfléchit au sein du fini » (p. 98). La forme est ainsi archè.

Mais si le monde est corrélat d’une appartenance, il y a alors trois sens du monde : le monde comme source (déflagration) qui renvoie au sol, le monde comme multiplicité ontique provenant de cet archi-événement qui renvoie au site, le monde comme forme ou sédimentation de l’origine au sein du multiple qui renvoie au lieu. Ils correspondent respectivement à l’appartenance ontologique, à l’appartenance ontique et à l’appartenance phénoménologique. Si l’étant va de son site vers son sol du point de vue phénoménologique, il y a un mouvement plus originaire par lequel la source explosive cherche à se rassembler dans sa dispersion. Le sujet véritable est le cosmos lui-même et sa vérité est celle d’une surpuissance originaire qui fait des mondes pour se faire être comme pure origine. Le monde proprement dit est, pour la phénoménologie de cette cosmologie, la trace de la puissance de l’origine au sein du multiple, la totalité comme sédimentation, le troisième sens du monde. Autrement dit, bien qu’il y a un cœur archi-événementiel (déflagration) du monde qui constitue son contenu (l’ensemble des étants), en donnant lieu à son contenu contingente, « l’archi-événement est archi-contingence » (p. 101). Il s’agit d’un néoplatonisme inversé, car la réalité de l’Un qui donne ce qu’il ne possède pas est cosmologique au lieu de métaphysique, elle est une réalité indéterminée et indivisible. De plus, si la pensée consiste dans un mouvement de séparation et de remontée (hypostase vers l’Un) qui produit le multiple, dans la perspective de Barbaras, le multiple manifeste originairement une séparation de l’origine, face à laquelle la remontée vers l’origine a le sens d’une unification.

Les lieux marquent la proximité de l’origine dans la distance. Si aucun monde ne peut s’approprier l’origine, il y a toutes sortes de mondes possibles, autant de mondes que d’étants dont l’amplitude se mesure à la profondeur de l’inscription dans le sol qui n’est que la proximité de l’origine. L’ampleur de la synthèse sur laquelle un monde se repose ou la puissance signifiante sera d’autant plus forte que l’étant sera moins loin de son origine (p. 104). Avec cette affirmation, Barbaras se situe à l’opposé de la phénoménologie qui caractérise le sujet comme étant un hors-monde. Pour la cosmologie phénoménologique, autant d’appartenance, autant d’intentionnalité ; autant d’intentionnalité, autant de subjectivité ; autant de proximité avec la déflagration, autant de puissance ; autant de puissance, autant de monde ; autant de monde, autant de subjectivité. C’est parce que nous sommes d’abord des êtres cosmologiques que nous sommes conscients et connaissants. Les degrés de subjectivation renvoient aux degrés d’appartenance. Barbaras avoue que Merleau-Ponty s’est dirigé dans cette direction mais qu’il n’a pas pu fonder son intuition parce qu’il prenait comme point de départ la chair sensible. La chair comme sentir est différente de la chair du monde qui est sentie en ce sentir même (p. 106).  Merleau-Ponty n’a pas pu fonder l’univocité dont il a pourtant eu l’intuition. Pour Barbaras, c’est parce que nous appartenons au sol ontologique du monde que nous sommes capables de le phénoménaliser. La subjectivité ne se distingue pas de la puissance phénoménalisante. Il ne s’agit pas de nier la différence, mais de ressaisir la différence, « nier qu’elle repose sur la séparation d’une entité subjective et d’un monde » (p. 107). Mais si la phénoménalisation ou la subjectivité a pour condition l’appartenance, elle n’a pas l’appartenance pour contenu. Le lieu n’est pas le sol, mais la manière dont le sol se donne à celui qui en est séparé au sein du sol. Le monde est la manifestation de l’archi-événement à celui qui en est un éclat. Partant, « le destin de l’origine est sa propre occultation dans le phénomène » (p. 108). En d’autres termes, la phénoménalisation implique une occultation. Le sol n’apparaît jamais comme sol et c’est pour cela qu’on peut dire qu’on est séparés en son sein. La dimension d’occultation s’accuse tandis que la phénoménalisation se fait plus ample. Le lieu que nous déployons est plus loin du sol. La profondeur de notre appartenance déclenche une puissance de phénoménalisation qui nous permet de déployer un lieu en ouvrant le monde lui-même. Ce monde se donne comme « objectif », détaché de l’activité phénoménalisante, et comme délivrant un sens de l’être. La plus grande appartenance débouche donc sur la séparation, car la phénoménalisation finit par nommer l’essence de ce qui est : « la puissance de l’origine débouche sur sa propre occultation » (p. 108). Nous avons alors plus de chances d’accéder à l’appartenance si l’on aborde les modes d’exister ou mondes où le lieu ne recouvre pas encore le sol. Le problème de la réduction phénoménologique se pose ici. Il faut admettre qu’au sein de la relation objective du monde de la vie, et malgré elle, le sol affleure. Il faut admettre que nous sommes d’une certaine manière initiés à notre sol d’appartenance au sein d’une existence qui nous en éloigne, pour transcender ce monde objectif à partir duquel on ne peut pas « exhiber sa propre condition de possibilité » (p. 109). Barbaras finit son livre alors par l’indication d’une réalité à définir qui serait celle de la profondeur, étant le mode sous lequel l’appartenance se phénoménalise dans le lieu. Pour y accéder, il ne faut pas suivre la voie de la subjectivité objectivante, mais celle d’une contestation interne à celle-ci : la voie du suspens de la puissance phénoménalisante. L’interrogation de la profondeur ne pourra s’accomplir, confesse Barbaras, que dans une esthétique. Il semblerait que la phénoménologie que mérite la cosmologie de la déflagration n’ait pas encore été déployée, et qu’elle serait peut-être une phénoménologie de la profondeur au titre d’une esthétique. Nous comprenons cette idée de profondeur dans la lignée de l’affirmation de Borges : « la musique, les états de bonheur, la mythologie, les visages travaillés par le temps, certains crépuscules et certains lieux, veulent nous dire quelque chose, ou quelque chose qu’ils ont dit que nous n’aurions pas dû perdre, ou ils sont sur le point de dire quelque chose. Cette imminence d’une révélation, qui ne se produit jamais, est peut-être le fait esthétique » (Borges, 1952). Cette profondeur ne serait que le mode sous lequel nous éprouvons la trace de la déflagration tout en essayant de donner monde sans pour autant recouvrir le sol au point de le nier. Et c’est pourquoi il nous faudrait ajouter aux vers de René Char avec lesquels nous avons commencé – « dans l’éclatement de l’univers que nous éprouvons, prodige ! les morceaux qui s’abattent sont vivants » (René Char, 158) –, les mots de Paul Veyne : « [i]ls s’abattent sur le monde, ils y reviennent, et ne chutent pas dans le néant » (Veyne, 1995, p. 516).


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Giovanni Jan Giubilato: Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946)

Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946) Book Cover Freiheit und Reduktion. Grundzüge einer phänomenologischen Meontik bei Eugen Fink (1927-1946)
Ad Fontes, Vol. 8
Giovanni Jan Giubilato
Verlag Traugott Bautz
Hardback 45,00 €

Reviewed by: Cathrin Nielsen (Frankfurt / Eugen-Fink-Zentrum Wuppertal – EFZW)

Die in der Reihe Ad Fontes vorgelegte herausragende Studie von Giovanni Jan Giubilato befasst sich mit der Freilegung und Ausbuchstabierung einer Zusammengehörigkeit, die bereits bei Husserl angelegt ist, jedoch erst im Denken seines Schülers und Assistenten Eugen Fink explizit in Erscheinung tritt: dem dialektischen Aufeinanderverwiesensein von Reduktion und Freiheit. Finks Grundgedanke besteht darin, dass der immer neu zu vollziehende Entwurf der menschlichen Freiheit den eigentlichen Kerngedanken der Phänomenologie markiere: die Reduktion als diejenige Bewegung, die uns von der natürlichen Einstellung befreit und ihre Beschränktheit überwinden lässt. Das originäre Telos der Philosophie ist somit die Freiheit des Menschen, nicht formal, sondern als „transzendentale“, absolute Dimension wie zugleich in existenzieller Je-Meinigkeit.

Giubilato entfaltet diesen Gedanken im Durchgang durch die frühe phänomenologische Meontik Finks, die in Form von zahllosen Notizen – durchgespielten, weiterverfolgten oder aber verworfenen Denkansätzen – seit 2006 in den von Ronald Bruzina im Rahmen der Eugen Fink-Gesamtausgabe edierten Bänden Phänomenologische Werkstatt (3.1 und 3.2) vorliegen. Dabei konzentriert sich Giubilato auf die Jahre der Zusammenarbeit mit Husserl und damit auf die Profilierung von Finks eigenem philosophischem Standpunkt. Zugleich hat er immer auch das Spätwerk im Blick und bahnt fruchtbare Schneisen in Finks Kosmologie. Gerade zu Klammer und Kontinuität zwischen Finks Denken vor und nach der Zäsur des Zweiten Weltkrieges gibt es bislang nahezu keine monografischen Arbeiten, so dass mit Giubilatos Dissertation ein unverzichtbarer Grundstein gelegt sein dürfte.

Im ersten Kapitel (Von der Transzendentalphilosophie zur Meontik) wird Finks in kritischer Auseinandersetzung mit dem transzendentalen Idealismus Husserls entwickelte Idee einer me-ontischen Philosophie entfaltet. Nach Fink ist diese bei Husserl bereits in Andeutungen vorhanden, ohne dass dieser jedoch den Schritt zur „meontischen Natur der absoluten Subjektivität“ zu Ende gehe. In ihr verschiebt sich die Frage nach der Selbstkonstitution eines absoluten Bewusstseins zu der nach dem Verhältnis zwischen dem nicht seienden Absoluten (me on) und der seienden Welt. Für Fink heißt dieses Verhältnis von Absolutem und seiner weltlichen Erscheinung „Freiheit“. Demzufolge sei die Idee einer me-ontischen Phänomenologie des Absoluten grundsätzlich eine „Lehre von der Freiheit“, deren Auslegung dann die zwei Hauptteile der Untersuchung gewidmet sind.

Warum Freiheit? Damit beschäftigt sich das zweite Kapitel (Der Anfang der Philosophie und die Freiheitsproblematik). Die Frage nach einem methodisch gesicherten Anfang der Philosophie, den Husserl im Blick auf das Ideal der Wissenschaft formulierte, wird bei Fink sukzessive aus seiner nach-cartesischen Verankerung im ego cogito herausgelöst und im Hinblick auf das Problem der Welt enggeführt. Welt erscheint nun nicht mehr als Korrelat einer transzendentalen Subjektivität, sondern als dasjenige, das uns zu einer Besinnung auf unseren Ort aufruft, unserer Verortung sowohl in der Entsprungenheit der binnenweltlichen Manifestation als auch im Unendlichen bzw. dem me-ontischen Ursprung von Welt selbst. Es ist diese Differenz zwischen Absolutem und Endlichem, welche die menschliche Situiertheit in der Welt ausmacht und zugleich die erste Motivation der Philosophie darstellt: als Besinnung auf das im Endlichen ,vergessene‘ Unendliche, das Apriori der Welt, das als me-ontisches nicht in Erscheinung tritt. Diese Besinnung ist im Vollzug Freiheit, da sie die natürliche Einstellung sprengt. Wodurch aber wird die Freiheit zu dieser ,Sprengung‘ motiviert? Mit dieser Frage befasst sich das dritte Kapitel (Die radikale Unmotiviertheit der Philosophie und die Freiheit). Im Horizont der wesenhaft geschlossenen natürlichen Einstellung gibt es nämlich „kein Problem, als dessen Beantwortung sich die Phänomenologie herausstellen könnte“. Das Übersteigen des Endlichen kann mit anderen Worten seinerseits nicht endlich motiviert sein, sondern markiert den Einbruch des Absoluten in die Welt: „Fink bestimmt die Besinnung auf die Weltsituation als eine Er-Innerung. Sie ist in der Tat eine recordatio, eine Anamnesis des vergessenen Weltapriori.“ Die ihr entsprechende Grundstimmung ist nach Fink das Staunen (thaumazein), wobei sich diese Stimmung der Verfügbarkeit menschlicher Freiheit entziehe – wir werden vom Staunen „ergriffen“.

Der zweite Teil der Studie befasst sich folglich mit dem Schlüsselbegriff der phänomenologischen „Meontik als Freiheitslehre“: der „Reduktion als Befreiung“. Im vierten Kapitel (Die Reduktion und ihre Situation) wird nach den Ausgangsbedingungen dieses Vollzuges der Befreiung gefragt, den Fink über eine Analyse der Medialität des Bildbewusstseins als einen medialen Akt für das Erscheinen des Absoluten begreift: In ihm öffnet sich gleichsam ein „Fenster ins Absolute“, das im Ausgang von der „mundanen Äußerungssituation“ in diese zurückstrahlt (und auf sie bezogen bleibt), also unauflösbar zwischen intramundaner Befreiung und Übersteigung der Endlichkeit oszilliert. Inwiefern die weltliche Situation der Reduktion eine wesenhaft unfreie ist, und in welchem Sinne die Reduktion genauer als Befreiung verstanden werden kann, untersucht das fünfte und letzte Kapitel (Weltbefangenheit und Befreiung). Ort der Manifestation des Absoluten, das über diese Manifestation hinaus wie gesagt nicht ist – „Nichts ,ist‘, me on“ –, ist wie gesagt die Welt. Insofern der Mensch als ein ens cosmologicum – ein Weltwesen –, wie der späte Fink sagen wird, existiert, verlangt die strukturelle Analyse den Aufweis einerseits des Weltapriori in der naiv-mundanen Existenz (dies wäre der Aufbruch der Freiheit) wie sie andererseits den radikalisierten Vollzug der Weltbewohnerschaft im Durchgang durch das ,Nichts‘ der Welt darlegt. Dies macht erforderlich, den Weg der Weltkonstitution und unseres Aufenthaltes in ihr als ,Mensch in der Welt‘ gleichsam mit Gewalt gegen das ,natürliche Leben‘ rückwärts zu gehen: Um die „Vermenschung“ des Absoluten zu verstehen, also eine „Ent-menschung“ zu vollziehen, eine periagogés tes psyches. Die Transzendenzbewegung, die im Vollzug der Reduktion erfolgt, habe dabei den Sinn einer „nicht ontischen Vernichtung der ,Maske der existenten Subjektivität‘, die nun durchsichtig geworden ist“.

Mit dem Terminus des „Instandes“ bzw. der „Instände“ (Geschichte, Geburt, Tod, Sein-bei, Schicksal) erarbeite sich Fink ein methodisches Handwerkszeug, um die „Selbstobjektivation des absoluten Lebens“, seine Mundanisierung oder „Ontifikation“ zu fassen. Die „Inständigkeit“ markiert den Ursprung des Dasein, sein Woher (hier arbeitet Giubilato wichtige Aspekte von Finks Auseinandersetzung mit der Fundamentalontologie Heideggers heraus). Ihr letztes Stadium erreicht der reduktive Rückstieg als „Entmenschung“ jedoch in der Befreiung auch von diesen Inständen, in denen sich das Absolute aus seiner radikalen Transzendenz in eine mundane „Stellung im Kosmos“ verendlicht. In der hier stattfindenden me-ontologischen Erkenntnis des Ontologischen (des Seins) können die Strukturen des „Weltsturzes“ (der Endlichkeit) auf eine „konstruktive“ (nicht analytische) Weise – Fink spricht auch von Spekulation – thematisch werden. Die phänomenologische Reduktion wird so zur „me-ontischen Ab-solution“, zur radikalen Loslösung aus der Welt-Befangenheit und Rückführung ins Ursprüngliche, die Welt-Unbefangenheit – nicht im Sinne eines methodischen Kunstgriffes, sondern als „Schmerz des Erwachens“, den sich „der absolute Geist selbst antut“ (Fink-Zitat). Erst als Absolution führt die Reduktion zur Freiheit im Sinne einer ekbasis, eines „Entkommens“.

Der ekbasis als „Ausgang“ aus der erscheinenden Welt korrespondiert umgekehrt die katabasis des Absoluten, seine Selbstentäußerungund emanative Verendlichung in die Welt. Die Idee einer me-ontischen Phänomenologie des Absoluten als Freiheitslehre vervollständigt sich, so Giubilato, „im Gegenspiel zwischen reduktiver ekbasis und konstitutiver katabasis“, zwischen Aufstieg in die Befreiung und Abstieg in die Entäußerung.

Die Entscheidung des Autors, Finks Idee einer me-ontischen Philosophie und Phänomenologie des Absoluten als Lehre von der Freiheit darzustellen, erweist sich als wohldurchdachter Glücktreffer. Mit seiner luziden Genauigkeit, Prägnanz und detaillierten Aufmerksamkeit gelingt es Giubilato nicht nur auf eine ebenso substanziell-gediegene wie faszinierende Weise, Finks ganz eigenen, im kritischen Dialog mit Husserl und Heidegger gebahnten Denkweg aus dem Dickicht tastender Versuche herauszuschälen und zu konturieren. Auch für das Spätwerk – Finks kosmologisches Denken – werden entscheidende Weichen gestellt, allem voran die Einsicht, dass wir „Weltwesen“ sind und bleiben, „Welt“ jedoch selbst durch ein Entzugsmoment charakterisiert ist, welches auf eine näher zu entfaltende Weise auf uns selbst als ,Fragmente‘ ihrer zwiefältigen Differenz zurückweist. Die Fülle miteinander verschränkter Analysen, die Originalität des Zugriffes, die sorgfältige Arbeit am Begriff sowie der Elan und die philosophische Tiefe der Durchführung weisen Giubilatos Untersuchung als einen Meilenstein der Auseinandersetzung mit einem Autor aus, der gerade dabei ist, mithilfe internationaler Unterstützung aus seiner Versenkung in der deutschen Forschungslandschaft herauszutreten.

Karel Novotný & Cathrin Nielsen (Hrsg.): Die Welt und das Reale, Verlag Traugott Bautz, 2020

Die Welt und das Reale Book Cover Die Welt und das Reale
libri nigri, Band 78
Karel Novotný & Cathrin Nielsen (Hrsg.)
Verlag Traugott Bautz
Paperback 35,00 €