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Marion Romano

Marion Romano

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phenomenon of the middle
phenomenon of the middle

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Published by: flungers on Mar 09, 2010
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Phenomenality In The Middle
Marion, Romano and the Hermeneutics of the Event
Shane Mackinlay 
“The Reason of the Gift”
1
is part of Jean-Luc Marion’s broader phenomenology of givenness, which arises from his critique of the traces of a constituting subject retained byHusserl and Heidegger. While Marion’s phenomenology eliminates these traces, it only doesso by reducing the subject to the passive recipient on whom phenomena impose themselves.In contrast, Claude Romano (another contemporary French phenomenologist) responds to thesame concerns about Dasein’s subjective character, without limiting the subject to purereceptivity.
2
By comparing these two responses to the issue of a constituting subject, I willdraw attention to some of the limitations in Marion’s account, and highlight the importance of hermeneutics in phenomenology.Marion believes that neither Husserl nor Heidegger ever succeed in breaking awayfrom a Cartesian-Kantian approach in which phenomena are constituted as objects by and for a sovereign subject: “Metaphysical (in fact, Cartesian) egology is a paradigm that alwayshaunts the I, even reduced, even phenomenological” (BG
3
187/262
4
; cf., RG
5
chap. 1,
1
Jean-Luc Marion, “The Reason of the Gift” (published in this volume).
2
Romano’s major work is published in two complementary volumes:
 L’événement et le monde,
Épiméthée: essais philosophiques (Paris: PUF, 1998); and
 L’événement et le temps,
Épiméthée: essais philosophiques (Paris: PUF, 1999). Some of the key features of these volumes are sketched in an earlier essay,in the context of an analysis of aspects of Heidegger’s thought: “Le possible et l’événement,” 2 parts,
Philosophie
40 (Dec. 1993): 68-95 (part 1), and 41 (March 1994): 60-86 (part 2). A revised version of this essayappears in a collection of Romano’s essays:
 Il y a
, Épiméthée: essais philosophiques (Paris: PUF, 2003), 55-111.The text of Romano’s that I will draw on most often is
 L’événement et le monde
(Hereinafter: EM).
3
Jean-Luc Marion,
 Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Givenness,
trans. Jeffrey L. Kosky,Cultural Memory in the Present (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002); translation of 
Étant donné:Essai d’une phénoménologie de la donation
, 2nd ed., corrected, Épiméthée: essais philosophiques (Paris: PUF,1998 [1
st
ed., 1997]). Hereinafter: BG.
4
Where an English translation of a text exists, the English page reference is given first, followedimmediately by the original page reference.
5
Jean-Luc Marion,
 Reduction and Givenness: Investigations of Husserl, Heidegger, and Phenomenology,
trans. Thomas A. Carlson, North Western University Studies in Phenomenology and ExistentialPhilosophy (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1998); translation of 
 Réduction et donation: Recherches sur Husserl, Heidegger et la phénoménologie,
Épiméthée: essais philosophiques (Paris: PUF, 1989).Hereinafter: RG.
 
P
 HENOMENALITY 
 I 
 N 
 HE
 M 
 IDDLE
 – Shane Mackinlay 2
 
chaps. 3-4; BG §§1-3, §19, §25). Thus, in
 Being and Time
, Dasein’s projection and possibility take on an increasingly dominant position. As a result, the world is more acharacteristic of Dasein’s own self-projection than the referential totality in which Daseinfinds itself always already disposed and thrown (BT
6
§14, 92/64; cf., §18, 119/86, 121/88). In
 Reduction and Givenness,
Marion concludes that, while Dasein is in many respects a“destruction” of the ego, it depends on an implicit “I am” which is an “heir” of the cogito’s “Ithink” (RG 106/160; BG 261/360).Marion’s response to the shortcomings he sees in Husserl and Heidegger is to centrehis own phenomenology on the givenness of phenomena. He insists that phenomena must beseen as
given
rather than as constituted in any way, and consistently applies his principle of givenness to exclude any suggestion of phenomena appearing under conditions imposed onthem by a subject. Instead of the appearing of phenomena being conditioned, Marion assertsthat a phenomenon
gives itself 
of itself (BG 138/196), and appears by
imposing itself 
on arecipient (BG 201/282).Thus, in “The Reason of the Gift” Marion uses gifts as a paradigm for phenomena ingeneral, and argues that no reason can be given to account for a gift apart from the gift itself.If a gift is explained as the effect of a cause, then it is either given in response to somethingthat has been received, or given to achieve an end. In either case, it is no longer simplygratuitous; the gift is assigned a value in an economy and becomes an object of exchange.Marion maintains that a gift is only possible beyond the metaphysical domain that is ruled bythe principles of causality and of sufficient reason. His phenomenology of givenness sets outthis non-metaphysical domain, within which a phenomenon appears purely as given, and onits own horizon – the phenomenon reduced to givenness.At one point in
 Being Given
, Marion suggests that Dasein’s facticity should beunderstood in a “middle voice where I am neither the author nor the spectator of the
6
Martin Heidegger,
 Being and Time,
trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York:Harper-Collins, 1962); translation of 
Sein und Zeit,
18
th
ed. (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2001). Hereinafter: BT.
 
P
 HENOMENALITY 
 I 
 N 
 HE
 M 
 IDDLE
 – Shane Mackinlay 3
 
 phenomenon” (BG 147/207). Here, he is echoing the introduction to
 Being and Time
, whereHeidegger situates phenomenality in the context of the middle voiced verb ‘
φαίνεσθαι 
’,indicating that phenomena cannot be understood either as the activity of a subject nor as a purely passive experience of that which happens to us (BT §7, 51/29). Marion’s critique of the traces of subjectivity and agency retained in Dasein indicates a judgement that the subtlenuance of this middle voice eludes Heidegger (at least in
 Being and Time
). However, thesame assessment can be made of Marion himself – though in his case the emphasis is on the“self” of the phenomenon and therefore the passive voice dominates.In this paper, I highlight Marion’s failure to sustain a middle voice by comparing himwith Romano. Romano shares Marion’s concerns about Husserl and Heidegger, concludingthat consciousness has an “absolute priority” for Husserl,
7
and that because Dasein “remainsthe measure of all phenomenality” for Heidegger, it conserves “the prerogatives conferred onthe modern subject since Descartes” (EM 30). Romano responds to these concerns bydeveloping an account of the event, which is one of the phenomena also considered at length by Marion.
8
However, unlike Marion, whose account of the event marginalizes hermeneutics,Romano makes hermeneutics central to his account. I contend that Romano’s focus onhermeneutics allows him to describe the appearing of phenomena as a genuine encounter  between the perceiver and the perceived. That is to say, he comes closer to a ‘middle voice’than does Marion, although Romano himself does not describe his project in exactly theseterms.
7
Romano,
 Il y a
, 10.
8
In
 Being Given
(1997)
 ,
Marion proposes the event as the “ultimate determination” of the given phenomenon (BG §§17-18), and as the paradigm of phenomena which are saturated according to quantity(BG §23.3).
 In Excess
(2001) is a collection of occasional lectures, which Marion framed as a series of studiesof the types of saturated phenomena he had set out in
 Being Given
(IE xxii/vi-vii). Chapter 2 of 
 In Excess
(“TheEvent or the Happening Phenomenon”) deals with the event.

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