This article clarifies Merleau-Ponty’s enigmatic, later concept of reversibility by showing how it is connected to the theme of the genesis of sense. The article first traces reversibility through “Eye and Mind” and The Visible and the Invisible, in ways that link reversibility to a theme of the earlier philosophy, namely an interrelation in which activity and passivity reverse to one another. This linkage is deepened through a detailed study of a passage on touch in the Phenomenology’s chapter on “Sensing,” which shows how reversibility is important to the genesis of sense, not from some already given origin, but through a creative operation within being, beyond the perceiver, wherein the field of perception internally diverges into active and passive moments. The article connects this point about the genesis of sense to themes in Merleau-Ponty’s lectures on institution and passivity. Altogether the article shows how reversibility is a sign of a divergence and thence of a sort of gap or excess in being that allows for a genesis of sense within being itself.
What does Husserlian phenomenology have to offer feminist theory? More specifically, can we find resources within Husserl's account of the living body (Leib) for the critical feminist project of rethinking embodiment beyond the dichotomies not only of mind/body but also of subject/object and activity/passivity? This essay begins by explicating the reasons for feminist hesitation with respect to Husserlian phenomenology. I then explore the resources that Husserl's phenomenology of touch and his account of sensings hold for feminist theory. My reading of Husserl proceeds by means of a comparison between his description of touch in Ideas II and Merleau-Ponty's early appropriation of this account in the Phenomenology of Perception, as well as through an unlikely rapprochement between Husserl and Irigaray on the question of touch. Moreover, by revisiting the limitations in Husserl's approach to the body-limitations of which any feminist appropriation must remain cognizant-I attempt to take Husserl's phenomenology of touch beyond its initial methodologically solipsistic frame and to ask whether and how it can contribute to thinking gendered and racialized bodies. The phenomenology of touch, I argue, can allow us to understand the interplay between subjective, felt embodiment and social-historical context. In opening up Husserl's account of touch to other dimensions-intersubjective and affective-sociality is revealed as residing within, and structuring of, touch. Such touch can allow us to think embodiment anew.
The paper explicates a politicized conception of reality with the help of Michel Foucault's critical project. I contend that Foucault's genealogies of power problematize the relationship between ontology and politics. His idea of productive power incorporates a radical, ontological claim about the nature of reality: Reality as we know it is the result of social practices and struggles over truth and objectivity. Rather than translating the true ontology into the right politics, he reverses the argument. The radicality of his method lies in showing how the ontological order of things is in itself the outcome of a political struggle: Ontology is politics that has forgotten itself. I argue that Foucault's thought accomplishes the politicization of ontology with two key theoretical moves. The first is the contestation and provocation of all given and necessary ontological foundations. He affirms the ontological view that there is a discontinuity between reality and all ontological schemas that order it, and a subsequent indeterminacy of reason in establishing ultimate truths or foundations. After this initial step whereby ontology is denaturalized-made arbitrary or at least historically contingent-the way is open for explanations that treat the alternative and competing ontological frameworks as resulting from historical, linguistic and social practices of power. The second key move is thus the exposure of power relations and their constitutive role in our conception of reality. I conclude by considering the implications of Foucault's politicization of ontology for our understanding of politics.
In modern continental thought, natural science is widely portrayed as an exclusively instrumental mode of reason. The breadth of this consensus has partly preempted the question of how it came to persuade. The process of persuasion, as it played out in Germany, can be explored by reconstructing the intellectual exchanges among three twentieth-century theorists of science, Heidegger, Habermas, and Werner Heisenberg. Taking an iconic Heisenberg as a kind of limiting case of “the scientist,” Heidegger and Habermas each found themselves driven to place new constraints on their previously more capacious assessments of science, especially its capacity to reflect on its method. Tracing how that happened, through archival and historical contextualization and close readings of their texts, lets us make visible Heidegger and Habermas’s intellectual affinities and argumentative parallels, which derived not only from their shared grounding in earlier reactions against positivism, but also from confrontation with contemporary events. The latter included, for Heidegger, the rise of a technically powerful science exemplified by nuclear physics, and for Habermas, post-World War II controversies over science, technology, and their socially critical possibilities.
A feminist phenomenological analysis of voice, rooted in both the feminist understanding of the role of voice in identity, agency, and the creation of meaning, and the phenomenological thematization and theorization of phenomenal, lived experience, leads to a deeper understanding of the importance of the materiality of the voices with which we speak, and their role in both subjective and intersubjective experience. Starting from an analysis of the intertwined associations and imageries of the feminine, voice, and embodiment, I discuss the denaturalization and abstraction of voice in standard narratives of voice and voice metaphorization, and the corresponding forgetting of the living, bodily voice. In looking to recall a re-naturalized and immanent corporeality and retrieve the material voice through an account of embodied vocality, I consider examples of the power and immediacy of the corporeal voice in the female operatic voice, and in contrast, the compromised agency and attenuated (inter)subjectivity which attends the impaired or lost physical voice. These vocal counterpoints of presence and absence are often separated by corporeal disturbance or limitation, underscoring the importance of corporeality and the material voice as intermediary between the individual and the social world. This sets the contours of a phenomenology of embodied voice and vocality, holding implications for accounts of identity and intersubjectivity, gendered vocality and expressive agency, and an intercorporeality mediated by the living material voice.
One unresolved dispute within Heidegger scholarship concerns the question of whether Dasein should be conceived in terms of narrative self-constitution. A survey of the current literature suggests two standard responses. The first correlates Heidegger’s talk of authentic historicality with that of self-authorship. To the alternative perspective, however, Heidegger’s talk of Dasein’s existentiality, with its emphasis on nullity and unattainability, is taken as evidence that Dasein is structurally and ontologically incapable of being completed via any life-project. Narrativity imports into Being and Time commitments concerning temporality, selfhood, and ethics, which Heidegger rejects. Although both positions find good exegetic support for their conclusions, they can’t both be right. In this article, I navigate a path between these two irreconcilable positions by applying insights derived from recent debates within Anglo-American literature on personal identity. I develop an alternative thesis to Narrativism, without rejecting it outright, by arguing that Dasein can be analysed in terms of what I call “narratability conditions.” These allow us to make sense of the prima facie paradoxical notion of “historicality without narrativity.” Indeed, rather than reconciling the two standard positions, I hold that the tension between them says something important about Dasein’s kind of existence. Thus I conclude that while the narrativist question “Who ought I to be?” is perfectly legitimate within limits, what the existential analysis of the limits on narratability reveals is that no answer to this question can ever be definitive.
In this article I rethink death and mortality on the basis of birth and natality, drawing on the work of the Italian feminist philosopher Adriana Cavarero. She understands birth to be the corporeal event whereby a unique person emerges from the mother’s body into the common world. On this basis Cavarero reconceives death as consisting in bodily dissolution and re-integration into cosmic life. This impersonal conception of death coheres badly with her view that birth is never exclusively material but always has ontological significance as the appearance of someone new and singular in the world of relations with others. This view of birth calls for a relational conception of death, which I develop in this article. On this conception, death is always collective, affecting all those with whom the one who dies has maintained relations: As such, our different deaths shade into one another. Moreover, because each person is unique in virtue of consisting of a unique web of relations with others, death always happens to persons as webs of relations. Death is relational in this way as a corporeal, and specifically biological, phenomenon, to which we are subject as bodily beings and as interdependent living organisms. I explore this with reference to Simone de Beauvoir’s memoir of her mother’s death from cancer. Finally I argue that, on this relational conception, death is something to be feared.
Does the Buddhist doctrine of no-self imply, simply put, no-other? Does this doctrine necessarily come into conflict with an ethics premised on the alterity of the other? This article explores these questions by situating Emmanuel Levinas’s ethics in the context of contemporary Japanese philosophy. The work of twentieth-century Japanese philosopher Watsuji Tetsurō provides a starting point from which to consider the ethics of the self-other relation in light of the Buddhist notion of emptiness. The philosophy of thirteenth-century Zen Master Dōgen casts doubt on Watsuji’s commitment to reciprocal self-other relationality, showing that the idea of self-emptiness disrupts any conventional understanding of reciprocity and promotes instead other-oriented compassion. Despite interesting similarities between the ethics of alterity and Buddhist compassion, a Buddhist-influenced understanding of alterity differs from Levinas on important points, by making possible the claim that all others—human, animal, plant, and mineral—are ethical others.
Whereas Phenomenology of Perception concludes with a puzzling turn to "heroism," this article examines the short essay "Man, the Hero" as a source of insight into Merleau-Ponty's thought in the early postwar period. In this essay, Merleau-Ponty presented a conception of heroism through which he expressed the attitude toward post-Hegelian philosophy of history that underwrote his efforts to reform Marxism along existential lines. Analyzing this conception of heroism by unpacking the implicit contrasts with KojSve, Aron, Caillois, and Bataille, I show that its philosophical rationale was to supply experiential evidence attesting to the latent presence of human universality. It is a mythic device intended to animate the faith necessary for Marxist politics by showing that universal sociality is possible, and that the historically transformative praxis needed to realize it does not imply sacrifice. This sheds considerable light on Merleau-Ponty's early postwar political thought. But inasmuch as the latter cannot be severed from his broader philosophical concerns, the prospect is raised that his entire phenomenological project in the early postwar period rested on a myth. Not necessarily a bad myth, but a myth nonetheless.
In various publications, Stanley Cavell and Stanley Rosen have emphasized the philosophical importance of what they both call "the ordinary." They both contrast their recovery of "the ordinary" with traditional philosophy, including the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl. In this paper, I address Rosen's claims in particular. I argue that Rosen turns the real situation on its head. Contra Rosen, it is not the case that the employment of Husserl's epoch, distorts the authentic voice of "the" ordinary-a voice that is clearly audible only from within everyday life. For (pace both Cavell and Rosen) there is no single "voice" of the ordinary: There are many such "voices," not all of which are to be relied upon. Therefore, if we want to achieve an adequate grasp of ordinary experience, and Rosen does want this, we precisely need the epoch, to curtail the misleading messages of certain other "voices of the ordinary." Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, this positive evaluation of the Husserlian epoch, finds support in Heidegger's writings from the twenties. I argue that Heidegger, too, believed that the epoch, was an indispensable tool for the philosophical attempt to capture ordinary experience.
An important shift occurs in Martin Heidegger's thinking one year after the publication of Being and Time, in the Appendix to the Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. The shift is from his project of fundamental ontology-which provides an existential analysis of human existence on an ontological level-to metontology. Metontology is a neologism that refers to the ontic sphere of human experience and to the regional ontologies that were excluded from Being and Time. It is within metontology, Heidegger states, that "the question of ethics may be raised for the first time." This paper makes explicit both Heidegger's argument for metontology, and the relation between metontology and ethics. In examining what he means by "the art of existing," the paper argues that there is an ethical dimension to Heidegger's thinking that corresponds to a moderate form of moral particularism. In order to justify this position, a comparative analysis is made between Heidegger, Aristotle, and Bernard Williams.
Until now post-structuralism and phenomenology are widely regarded as opposites. Contrary to this opinion, I am arguing that they have a lot in common. In order to make my argument, I concentrate on Judith Butler's poststructuralist concept of performativity to confront it with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological concept of expressivity. While Butler claims that phenomenological theories of expression are in danger of essentialism and thus must be replaced by non-essentialist theories of performativity, I hold that Merleau-Ponty's concept of expressivity must strictly be understood in anti-essentialist terms. Following this line of interpretation, "expressivity" and "performativity"aEuro"as well as phenomenology and post-structuralism-are not opposites but partners in the search for an anti-essentialist gender concept. Consequently, feminist phenomenology turns out to be a non-essentialist approach that combines phenomenological and post-structural insights.
This article builds on Arendt’s development of a Kantian politics from out of the conception of reflective judgment in the Critique of Judgment. Arendt looks to Kant’s analysis of the beautiful to explain how political thought can be conceived. And yet Arendt describes such Kantian reflection as an empirical undertaking that justifies itself only in relation to the abstract principle of the moral law. The problem for such an account is that the autonomy of the moral law appears to be at odds with the social cohesion of Kantian political life. The ensuing contradiction can be deemed the antinomy of political judgment. Kant’s conception of reflective judgment offers such an inquiry considerably more to work with than Arendt uncovers. In particular, the regulative principle of the purposiveness of nature that is shown to direct all reflection can be seen to offer the solution to this antinomy.
The ancient problem of whether our asymmetrical attitudes towards time are justified (or normatively required) remains a live one in contemporary philosophy. Drawing on themes in the work of McTaggart, Parfit, and Heidegger, I argue that this problem is also a key concern of Kierkegaard's Either/Or (1843). Part I of Either/Or presents the "aesthete" as living a temporally volatilized form of life, devoid of temporal location, sequence and direction. Like Parfit's character "Timeless," these aesthetes are indifferent to the direction of time and seemingly do not experience McTaggart's "A-Series" mode of temporality. The "ethical" conception of time that Judge William offers in Part II contains an attempt to normativize the direction of time, by re-orienting the aesthete towards an awareness of time's finitude. However, the form of life Judge William articulates gives time sequentiality but not necessarily the robust directionality necessary to justify (and make normative) our asymmetrical attitudes to time. Hence while Either/Or raises this problem it remains unanswered until The Concept of Anxiety (1844). Only with the eschatological understanding of time developed in The Concept of Anxiety does Kierkegaard answer the question of why directional and asymmetrical conative and affective attitudes towards time are normative.
In various publications, Stanley Cavell and Stanley Rosen have emphasized the philosophical importance of what they both call “the ordinary.” They both contrast their recovery of “the ordinary” with traditional philosophy, including the phenomenological philosophy of Edmund Husserl. In this paper, I address Rosen’s claims in particular. I argue that Rosen turns the real situation on its head. Contra Rosen, it is not the case that the employment of Husserl’s epoché distorts the authentic voice of “the” ordinary—a voice that is clearly audible only from within everyday life. For (pace both Cavell and Rosen) there is no single “voice” of the ordinary: There are many such “voices,” not all of which are to be relied upon. Therefore, if we want to achieve an adequate grasp of ordinary experience, and Rosen does want this, we precisely need the epoché to curtail the misleading messages of certain other “voices of the ordinary.” Moreover, and somewhat surprisingly, this positive evaluation of the Husserlian epoché finds support in Heidegger’s writings from the twenties. I argue that Heidegger, too, believed that the epoché was an indispensable tool for the philosophical attempt to capture ordinary experience.
The aim of this paper is to explore the uses made of the calculus by Gilles Deleuze and G. W. F. Hegel. I show how both Deleuze and Hegel see the calculus as providing a way of thinking outside of finite representation. For Hegel, this involves attempting to show that the foundations of the calculus cannot be thought by the finite understanding, and necessitate a move to the standpoint of infinite reason. I analyse Hegel’s justification for this introduction of dialectical reason by looking at his responses to Berkeley’s criticisms of the calculus. For Deleuze, instead, I show that the differential must be understood as escaping from both finite and infinite representation. By highlighting the sub-representational character of the differential in his system, I show how the differential is a key moment in Deleuze’s formulation of a transcendental empiricism. I conclude by dealing with some of the common misunderstandings that occur when Deleuze is read as endorsing a modern mathematical interpretation of the calculus.
The chapter on temporality in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, is situated in a section titled, “Being-for-Itself and Being-in-the-World.” As such, Merleau-Ponty’s task in the chapter on temporality is to bring these two positions together, in other words, to articulate the manner in which time links the cogito (Being-for-Itself) with freedom (Being-in-the-World). To accomplish this, Merleau-Ponty proposes a subject located at the junction of the for-itself and the in-itself, a subject which has an exterior that makes it possible for others to have an interior. This analysis will take Merleau-Ponty to an impasse where, on the one hand, there appears to be an objective world and the time of objects in that world, and on the other, there is the subject’s notion of events and the passing of time. Referring to Bergson’s notion of time, this essay proposes that there must be a temporal interval between perception, feeling and action in order for the subject to be “temporal by means of an inner necessity,” as Merleau-Ponty prescribes.
This paper argues that Michel Foucault explicitly rejected the model of critique by which he is often understood-by both his defenders and detractors. Rather than justifying norms that could be said to represent "the people;" judging institutions, norms, and practices accordingly; and creating programs for others to enact, he theorized and practiced an experimental social criticism in which specific intellectuals help people work through "intolerable" situations by multiplying the ways they can think about and act upon them. As Foucault's work with the prisons in France shows, one way intellectuals can be part of the experimental transformations social bodies carry out upon themselves is through genealogical work describing the ways problems have come to be identified-and can thus be transformed. This account of criticism undercuts the problem of justifying a standpoint of critique that has plagued philosophers and suggests a few concrete means of better aligning theory and practice.