In “The Child’s Relations with Others,” Merleau-Ponty argues that certain early experiences are jointly owned in that they are numerically single experiences that are nevertheless given to more than one subject (e.g., the infant and caregiver). Call this the “joint ownership thesis” (JT). Drawing upon both Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological analysis, as well as studies of exogenous attention and mutual affect regulation in developmental psychology, I motivate the plausibility of JT. I argue that the phenomenological structure of some early infant–caregiver dyadic exchanges is best described as involving joint subjects. From birth, some experiences are constitutively social in that certain phenomenal states, such as the positive emotions that arise within these early exchanges, are jointly owned. Along the way, I consider a possible objection. I conclude by considering the explanatory significance of adopting JT.
In this article I consider whether and how Husserl’s transcendental phenomenological method can initiate a phenomenological way of life. The impetus for this investigation originates in a set of manuscripts written in 1926 (published in Zur phänomenologischen Reduktion) where Husserl suggests that the consistent commitment to and performance of phenomenological reflection can change one’s life to the point where a simple return to the life lived before this reflection is no longer possible. Husserl identifies this point of no return with becoming a transcendental idealist. I propose a way of understanding Husserl’s claim that transcendental idealism makes a simple return to life before phenomenological reflection impossible. I then suggest that a phenomenological way of life is characterized by an epistemic modesty that follows from Husserl’s transcendental idealism and consider whether and how such a phenomenological way of life is a life worth living.
Husserl's extensive analyses of image consciousness (Bildbewusstsein) and of the imagination (Phantasie) offer insightful and detailed structural explications. However, despite this careful work, Husserl's discussions fail to overcome the need to rely on a most problematic concept: mental images. The epistemological conundrums triggered by the conceptual framework of mental images are well known-we have only to remember the questions regarding knowledge acquisition that plagued British empiricism. Beyond these problems, however, a plethora of important questions arise from claiming that mental images are structural moments of imaging and imagining. Any attempt to clarify the structure and conditions for the possibility of aesthetic experience must first provide an unambiguous account of pictorial depiction-a task unattainable through the mental images discourse. Similarly, exposing the import of the imagination for theoretical scientific inquiries (be they positive or eidetic) requires an initial explication of the structure of this consciousness; this explication, however, must address our ability to imagine non-spatially determined objects-something the conceptual framework of mental images utterly fails to accomplish. In this paper I argue against Husserl's reliance on mental images in his phenomenological analyses of imaging and imagining and propose an alternative structural account for both. This account is free of this reliance and able to steer clear of its insidious implications for epistemology, aesthetics, and methodological reflections. By closely following the development of Husserl's account I suggest alternative descriptions while building on Husserl's important work.
Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language offers a challenge to theories of the subject in psychoanalysis, linguistic theory, and in philosophy. Central to that challenge is Kristeva’s conception of negativity. In this article, I trace the development of the concept of negativity in Revolution in Poetic Language from its root in Hegel, to rejection, which Kristeva develops out of Freud. Both are crucial to the development of the material dialectic between the semiotic and the symbolic that makes up Kristeva’s subject-in-process/on trial. I argue that a clearer understanding of Kristeva’s conception of negativity helps us to better appreciate the force of Kristeva’s challenge, both philosophically and politically. Finally I argue that Kristevan negativity also helps us to clarify the relation between the delimited space of politics and its conditions, laying the groundwork for constitutive exclusion as political critique and opening a space for the possibility of political re-constitutions.
How is our experience of the world affected by our experience of others? Such is the question I will be exploring in this paper. I will do so via the agoraphobic condition. In agoraphobia, we are rewarded with an enriched glimpse into the intersubjective formation of the world, and in particular to our embodied experience of that social space. I will be making two key claims. First, intersubjectivity is essentially an issue of intercorporeality, a point I shall explore with recourse to Merleau-Ponty’s account of the prepersonal body. The implication of this claim is that evading or withdrawing from the other remains structurally impossible so long as we remain bodily subjects. Second, the necessary relation with others defines our thematic and affective experience of the world. Far from a formal connection with others, the corporeal basis of intersubjectivity means that our lived experience of the world is mediated via our bodily relations with others. In this way, intercorporeality reveals the body as being dynamically receptive to social interactions with others. Each of these claims is demonstrated via a phenomenological analysis of the agoraphobe’s interaction with others. From this analysis, I conclude that our experience of the world is affected by our experience of others precisely because we are in a bodily relation with others. Such a relation is not causally linked, as though first there were a body, then a world, and then a subject that provided a thematic and affective context to that experience. Instead, body, other, and world are each intertwined in a single unity and cannot be considered apart.
This article takes up the work of Judith Butler in order to present a vision of ethics that avoids two common yet problematic positions: on the one hand, the skeptical position that ethical norms are so constitutive of who we are that they are ultimately impossible to assess and, on the other hand, the notion that we are justified in our commitment to any ethical norm that appears foundational to our identity. With particular attention to the trajectory of Butler’s project from The Psychic Life of Power to Giving an Account of Oneself, the article discusses the shortcomings of these two positions and the virtues of the alternative account that Butler develops during this period.
In his early essay on transcendence of the ego, Sartre attempted to follow Husserl’s Logical Investigations and to draw the consequences of his phenomenological criticism of subjectivity. Both authors have emphasized the elusiveness of the self as a result of intentionality of consciousness. However, Sartre’s analysis of ego led him quite far from Husserl’s philosophical project, insofar as it was somehow already raising the question about the moral nature of the self, and was thus establishing the basis of the conception of moral consciousness that has been displayed later in Being and Nothingness. This article stresses the importance of such a turn in Sartre’s philosophy, which reorients him from a strict description of consciousness toward a moral assessment of the structure of the self.
The paper takes as the starting point a dense and notorious quote by Lacan where he takes up in a single gesture three concepts of ancient philosophy, tyche, clinamen and den. The contention is that all three aim at the status of the object, although by different means and in different philosophical contexts, and the paper tries to spell out some crucial points concerning each. Tyche, usually translated as chance and put into an opposition with automaton, requires a reading of some passages of Aristotle’s Physics where Lacan took it from, and an account of the problem of repetition in psychoanalysis. Clinamen, the swerve, stemming from Epicure and Lucretius, requires a condensed reading of the tradition which took it up, from Cicero to Hegel, Marx, Deleuze and Badiou, pinpointing the dilemmas and contradictions of this tradition. Den, stemming from Democritus who coined this neologism, brings up an entity which is neither being nor nothing, neither one nor zero nor multiple. It is perhaps the best evocation, at the dawn of philosophy, of what Lacan would call object a, and it allows to sidestep the difficulties and the pitfalls presented by the other two notions. The paper tries to pin down the minimal requirement for the Lacanian theory with the irreducible and incommensurable (non)relation of ‘minus one’ and den.
This paper explores the political import of Husserl's critical discussion of the epistemic effects of the formalization of rational thinking. More specifically, it argues that this discussion is of direct relevance to make sense of the pervasive processes of 'technization', that is, of a mechanistic and superficial generation and use of knowledge, to be observed in current contexts of governance. Building upon Husserl's understanding of formalization as a symbolic technique for abstraction in the thinking with and about numbers, I argue that processes of technization, while being necessary and legitimate procedures for the reduction of complexities, also may give rise to politically unresponsive and ultimately dysfunctional 'economies of thinking.' This paper is structured in three parts. In the first part I outline Husserl's account of the formalization and technization of thought and knowledge. In the second part I make my case for the political import of this account, departing in this context from positions that (a) regard Husserl's discussions of formalization and its effects as merely epistemological, or that (b) try to mobilize Husserl for a one-sided critique of instrumental reason. In the final part I address a major shortcoming of Husserl's account, namely its neglect of the concrete and historically evolving technological infrastructures of processes of formalization/technization.
This paper argues that John McDowell’s conceptualism distorts a genuine phenomenological account of perception. Instead of the seemingly forced choice between conceptualism and non-conceptualism as to what accounts for perceptual and discursive meaning, I provide an argument that there is a preconceptual intelligibility already in the perceptual field. With the help of insights from certain nonconceptualists I sketch out an argument that there is a teleological directedness in the way in which latent order and structure can be discriminated at the level of perceptual content. This content can then be brought to discursive, conceptual clarity by understanding in such a way that it is guided by the order already discovered in perception. With the help of Husserlian phenomenology of perception, I argue that the fundamental roots of epistemic normativity lie in the discriminating intelligence or mindedness operative below the level of the explicitly conceptual. By preconceptual is meant the directedness of explication of the structures present in the sensory manifold toward fully explicit conceptual judgments.
This paper seeks to integrate analytic philosophy and phenomenology. It does so through an approach generated, specifically, in relation to imagination and its cognitive significance. As an Introduction, some reservations about existing phenomenological approaches to imagination—in the work of Sartre and Edward S. Casey—are considered. It is argued that their introspective psychological approach needs to be qualified through a more analytic orientation that determines essence, initially, on the basis of public discourse concerning the term ‘imagination.’ Part One then articulates this orientation through an ‘analytic reduction’ that identifies imagination’s essence in public discourse as thought in its quasi-sensory mode. Part Two offers a sustained phenomenological investigation of this essence, and identifies four major intrinsic features. On the basis of this, Part Three shows how imagination is implicated, centrally, in the capacity to acquire language. In Conclusion the proceeding arguments are defended against possible objections, and a final key summarizing argument is formulated to show that imagination must be regarded, also, as necessary to perception and its capacity to articulate a world. The paper ends with a few thoughts on the further potential of post-analytic phenomenology.
This essay examines how psychoanalytic conceptions of the subject and the object in the works of Freud and Lacan may contribute to a re-examination of the vexed issue of the subject–object relationship in science, philosophy and epistemology. For Freud, the ego is the essential subject, yet he regarded it as an always already objectified subject, which is objectively thinkable yet never subjectively knowable qua subject. Lacan conceptualised this Freudian principle of subjectivity with his notion of the divided (barred) subject, which he initially designated as an effect of the symbolic order of language. As to the object, both Freud and Lacan emphasized its constitutive partiality, which explains why no object is ever fully capable of providing full satisfaction and why each and every object is flawed and cracked, thus triggering desire. Extending Freud’s idea of the ‘shadow of the object,’ Lacan captured the fundamental inadequacy of the object with his concept of the object a. As such, for Freud and Lacan, the subject–object relationship is problematic, because it concerns a relationship between a divided subject and a non-object (object a). In this relationship, the subject is not purely object and the object is not merely subject (in the Kantian sense), nor is the Hegelian subject–object identity more than an idealist aspiration. For psychoanalysis, the subject is always traversed by the object, yet the object can never be fully integrated into a subjectified structure of knowledge. The only way to conceive of an adequate subject–object relationship is at the level of fantasy.
This essay argues for a reading of Levinas’ work which prioritizes the significance of the il y a over the personal Other. I buttress this reading by using the well-documented intersections between Levinas’ work and that of Maurice Blanchot. Said otherwise, I argue that Levinas’ relationship with Blanchot (a relationship that is very much across the notion of the il y a) calls scholars of the Levinasian corpus to place the conception of impersonal existence to the forefront. To do so is to take seriously the complex relationship between Levinas’ explicitly ethical account of the face, and his phenomenological account of impersonal existence. To approach Levinas in this way (by way of his relationship with Blanchot) is to not only recognize that the ethical import of the face lies in its being without determination or nomenclature, but it is to also fully acknowledge the underlying horror of a Levinasian rendition of the ethical encounter.
Heidegger’s 1938–1939 seminar on Nietzsche’s On the Utility and Liability of History for Life continues Heidegger’s grand interpretation of Nietzsche as a metaphysical thinker of presence. Nietzsche’s conceptions forgetting, memory, and even life itself, according to Heidegger, are all complicit in the privileging of presence. Simultaneous with his seminar, Heidegger is also compiling the notebook, Die Geschichte des Seyns (The History of Beyng), 1938–1940, wherein he sketches his own conception of history. Examining Heidegger’s criticisms of Nietzsche in the light of his contemporaneous notebook allows us to articulate Heidegger’s concern for history and for “what has-been” (das Gewesene) as a thinking of the “coming” of being. For Heidegger, to exist historically is to exist as something sent, something arriving, as something that “comes” to us. This coming of history is an ontological determination of all that is, no longer construed as present-at-hand objects, but as always arriving, relational beings. After presenting Heidegger’s view of the coming of history, I return to Nietzsche’s Utility and Liability of History to draw attention to an aspect of his text that is neglected by Heidegger, that of the political. The concluding sections of Nietzsche’s text confront the politics of the present, in both senses of the genitive, in order to rally against the closure of society. In the conclusion to the paper, I turn to the political dimension of Nietzsche’s thinking of history with an eye to how it might elude Heidegger’s interpretation.
This article attempts to bring together the life, situation, and philosophical work of the Czech phenomenologist Jan Patocka in order to present his conception of philosophy and sacrifice and to understand his action of dissent and his own sacrifice as spokesman for Charter 77 in light of these concepts. Patocka philosophized despite being barred from teaching under the German occupation and under the communist regime, even after he was forced to retire and banned from publication. He also refused the official philosophical categories of communism and, what is more, criticized the very manner in which its ideology allowed it to function. Against the destruction of moral and political life by communist and liberal regimes alike, he outlined the necessity of a "life in the idea" that would be responsive to the notion of sacrifice. Such a position of distance from the things of the world which remains anchored among them is meant to respond to dissatisfaction with the world as it is found and is the very movement of human freedom. Taken together, these three aspects of his philosophical practice made him a dissident, a role he took on more completely when, as part of the Charter 77 movement, he publicly opposed the state, in a course of action that led to his death.
This article attempts to bring together the life, situation, and philosophical work of the Czech phenomenologist Jan Patoka in order to present his conception of philosophy and sacrifice and to understand his action of dissent and his own sacrifice as spokesman for Charter 77 in light of these concepts. Patoka philosophized despite being barred from teaching under the German occupation and under the communist regime, even after he was forced to retire and banned from publication. He also refused the official philosophical categories of communism and, what is more, criticized the very manner in which its ideology allowed it to function. Against the destruction of moral and political life by communist and liberal regimes alike, he outlined the necessity of a "life in the idea" that would be responsive to the notion of sacrifice. Such a position of distance from the things of the world which remains anchored among them is meant to respond to dissatisfaction with the world as it is found and is the very movement of human freedom. Taken together, these three aspects of his philosophical practice made him a dissident, a role he took on more completely when, as part of the Charter 77 movement, he publicly opposed the state, in a course of action that led to his death.
This paper examines the evolution of Jacques Lacan’s concept of mourning from his treatment of Hamlet in Seminar 6, “Desire and Its Interpretation,” to its transformation in the tenth Seminar on “Anxiety.” It is a transformation that occurs in tandem with Lacan’s reconception of anxiety as lack of the lack and his reshaped conception of the objet a as object/cause of desire. The key point is the way that Lacan’s renovated conception upends the common sense notion of mourning, that which assumes that suffering the death of a loved one means accommodating oneself to an absence where there was previously a presence. On the contrary, says Lacan, part of what is most deeply to be mourned is the lack in the Other around which the love relation was constructed. The paper concludes by asking to what extent Lacan’s account of mourning should be distinguished from those of both Hegel and Freud.
One of the more superficially perplexing features of Lacan's notion of objet petit a is the fact that he simultaneously characterizes it as both non-specularizable (i.e., incapable of being captured in spatio-temporal representations) and specular (i.e., incarnated in visible avatars). This assignment of the apparently contradictory attributes of visibility and invisibility to object a is a reflection of this object's strange position at the intersection of transcendental and empirical dimensions. Indeed, this object, which Lacan holds up as his central psychoanalytic discovery, raises important philosophical questions about the transcendental-empirical distinction, arguably short-circuiting in interesting, productive ways this dichotomy and many of its permutations. This article seeks to achieve two aims: one, to clarify how and why Lacan situates object a between the specular and the non-specular; and, two, to extract from the results of this clarification a preliminary sketch of a post-Lacanian transcendentalism that is also thoroughly materialist.
This paper explores the political import of Husserl’s critical discussion of the epistemic effects of the formalization of rational thinking. More specifically, it argues that this discussion is of direct relevance to make sense of the pervasive processes of ‘technization’, that is, of a mechanistic and superficial generation and use of knowledge, to be observed in current contexts of governance. Building upon Husserl’s understanding of formalization as a symbolic technique for abstraction in the thinking with and about numbers, I argue that processes of technization, while being necessary and legitimate procedures for the reduction of complexities, also may give rise to politically unresponsive and ultimately dysfunctional ‘economies of thinking.’ This paper is structured in three parts. In the first part I outline Husserl’s account of the formalization and technization of thought and knowledge. In the second part I make my case for the political import of this account, departing in this context from positions that (a) regard Husserl’s discussions of formalization and its effects as merely epistemological, or that (b) try to mobilize Husserl for a one-sided critique of instrumental reason. In the final part I address a major shortcoming of Husserl’s account, namely its neglect of the concrete and historically evolving technological infrastructures of processes of formalization/technization.