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PHENOMENOLOGICAL HERMENEUTICS AND HERMENEUTIC PHENOMENOLOGY

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THE INTERPRETIVE TURN IN PHENOMENOLOGY: A PHILOSOPHICAL HISTORY

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Gary B. Madison It is experience … still mute which we are concerned with leading to the pure expression of its own meaning.2 Experience is the experience of human finitude.3

Phenomenology and the Overcoming of Metaphysics Richard Rorty has said of phenomenology that it is “a form of philosophizing whose utility continues to escape me” and that “hermeneutic philosophy” is a “vague and unfruitful” notion.4 Remarks such as these should be of no surprise, coming as they do from someone who does not view philosophy as (as Hegel said) “serious business” -- i.e., as a reasoned and principled search for the truth of things -- but, rather, as a kind of “professional dilettantism” and who, accordingly, sees no difference between philosophy and literary criticism. It is hard to imagine two philosophers (if that’s the right term to apply to Rorty) standing in greater contrast than Richard Rorty and Edmund Husserl. Whereas in Rorty’s “neo-pragmatic” view philosophy can be nothing more than a kind of “culture chat” and, inasmuch as it may, just possibly, have some relevance to actual practice, a criterionless, unprincipled “kibitzing” and “muddling-through,” Husserl defended phenomenology because he saw it as a means at last for making of philosophy a “rigorous science,” one, moreover, which would be of supreme theoretical-critical relevance to the life of humanity.5 One thing Husserl meant by his programmatic remarks on this subject in his 1911 Logos article, “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,”6 is that a properly phenomenological philosophy would rigorously eschew idle metaphysical speculations of the traditional sort and seek, instead, to remain in close contact with “the things themselves (die Sachen selbst),” i.e., our actual lived experience.7 In the early twentieth century, dominated as it was by

This paper is dedicated to the memory of Franz Vandenbusche, S.J., of the University of Louvain (Leuven), who forty some years ago introduced me as a young graduate student to the phenomenology of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty and who was killed in a collision with a train in 1990. 2 This is Merleau-Ponty’s own rendering of a line in Husserl; see Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1968), 129, hereafter VI, and Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, trans. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1960), sec. 16, 38-39. 3 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2d rev. ed., trans. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1990), 320, hereafter TM. 4 See Carlos G. Prado, “A Conversation with Richard Rorty,” Symposium 7, no. 2 (Fall/Automne 2003): 228. 5 For a forceful statement on Husserl’s part of the responsibility as he saw it of philosophy for humanity, see his late, 1935 “Vienna Lecture” (“Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity,”) in Edmund Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, trans. David Carr (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1970); published also in Edmund Husserl, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, trans. Quentin Lauer (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965). 6 See Edmund Husserl, Philosophie als strenge Wissenschaft (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1965); English translation in idem, Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy, hereafter PRS. 7 Cf. the following remarks of Hans-Georg Gadamer, a pupil of Husserl’s at one time: “He [Husserl] regarded himself as a master and teacher of patient, descriptive, detailed work, and all rash combinations and clever constructions were an abomination to him. In his teaching, whenever he encountered the grand 3

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according to its own essential structure. wholly without warrant -. assumptions having to do with the relation that obtains between the cognizing subject and the objective world.” as Rorty has referred to it.: University of California Press. 16. It had the effect of a purgation. 4 . gentlemen. is the problem Descartes bequeathed to modernity and which came to be known as the problem of the “external world”: Is there a world “out there. Husserl takes a truly radical and unprecedented approach to this traditional problem: He does not seek to solve it. It saw that consciousness is by no means a self-enclosed sphere with its representations locked up in their own inner world. small change!’ This kind of work produced a peculiar fascination. already with objects. stand in need of being deconstructed. By means of the phenomenological reduction.” and. showing thereby how the modern problem of the “external world” is a pseudo-problem. by coming up with his own “proof” for the existence of the world. trans. a return to honesty. as well. know if I can ever really know. whose correspondence to things themselves it is the real problem of epistemology to guarantee. Calif. There are no representative images of objects in consciousness. it [phenomenology] aimed its attacks at the [metaphysical] construction that dominated epistemology.e. consciousness is. and he shows. he is able to show that the central epistemological problem of modern philosophy rests on certain metaphysical assumptions. William P. Philosophical Hermeneutics (Berkeley. On the contrary. When epistemological inquiry sought to answer the question of how the subject. the entire tradition of “epistemologically centered philosophy. indeed. By putting into play the phenomenological reduction. the basic discipline of the philosophy of the time. ‘Not always the big bills. therefore. 8 Edmund Husserl. knows the external world and can be certain of its reality. Alson and George Nakhnikian (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. hereafter PH. 131) assertions and arguments that are typical of beginning philosophers. but also that which they apprehend? How can I ever know that there is anything at all which could be set over against cognition as its object?”8 This. phenomenological) point of view. slogans. 1976). he used to say. Husserl’s phenomenology accomplishes a decisive overcoming of modern Theory of Knowledge (Erkenntnislehre) and. In his account of the phenomenological movement. which Husserl presents for the first time in these lectures. as any student of the history of philosophy will immediately recognize. Epistemology asserts a false priority of self-consciousness. Gadamer wrote: Above all. that these assumptions are. 132-33. from an experiential (i. these acts of cognizing.various forms of idealist philosophy. In a series of lectures in 1907 at the University of Göttingen (published subsequently in 1950 by Walter Biemel under the title Die Idee der Phänomenologie). as philosophers before him had. but to dissolve it. filled with its own representations. the phenomenological critique showed how pointless such a question is.and. small change.. a liberation from the opaqueness of the opinions. the phenomenological motto “Back to the things themselves!” was for a great many a revolutionary call which held out the promise of transforming philosophy into a genuinely “useful” and “fruitful” endeavor. 1964). The Idea of Phenomenology.” Hans-Georg Gadamer. (PH. Husserl presented a phenomenological response to the central problem which had bedeviled all of modern philosophy and which he stated thus: “How do I. and battle cries that circulated. The “problem of cognition” was one area in which Husserl sought to demonstrate the “utility” of a phenomenological approach to traditional philosophical problems. if so. that there exist not only my own mental processes. how can I know there is? In more technical terms: How can I transcend (get out of) my own subjectivity so as to make contact with something “objective”? In these lectures. the cognizing subject.

e. thing among things. a mode of being-in-the-world. even ourselves—outside. hereafter PP. you would be seized by a whirlwind and thrown outside. it is on the road.. 1:112n2. “Une idée fondamentale de la phénoménologie de Husserl: L’intentionalité. The realization that the essence of consciousness is intentionality represents an overcoming of the metaphysics of modernity. the world). in short. xvi. 12 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” (PP. 1962). an immediate. Husserl apparently possessed a reprint of this article as a gift from James himself -. If. 10 See the introduction by Alexandre Lowit to his French translation of Husserl’s Die Idee der Phänomenologie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. It is as clear as a strong wind.” sense impressions. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Colophon Books. as the See in this regard Martin Heidegger. in the midst of the crowd. It is not in I know not what inner retreat that we discover ourselves. The Phenomenological Movement. in the dust. in William James: Writings 1902-1910 (New York: Library of America. and endowing that contact with a philosophical status. For Merleau-Ponty. The subject/ object split is the fons et origo of modern philosophy. as Merleau-Ponty remarked.” It is nothing other than the outside of itself. as the “objective” correlation between “ideas” and “things. i. it becomes phenomenologically self-evident that consciousness is not a self-contained realm of “inner experiences” (subjective “states-of-mind”) but is.”12 By setting aside all mere constructions. the whole point of phenomenology as a mode of transcendental analysis was that of “re-awakening a direct and primitive contact with the world. “A World of Pure Experience” (Essays in Radical Empiricism). a slipping outside itself.What Gadamer is referring to in these remarks is the phenomenological doctrine of intentionality which. rather. Colin Smith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. vii) 5 9 . phenomenological “given. viz. Once we have performed the reduction and deconstructed the metaphysical presuppositions of modern philosophy -.” Sartre summed up phenomenology’s accomplishment in the following graphic way: Consciousness has been purified. and it is this absolute flight. 1977). rejecting the standard “copy theory” of knowledge. Phenomenology of Perception. The world is a primary “datum” of consciousness. 1960). trans. man among men. La transcendance de l’ego (Paris: J. the metaphysical assumption that there is an ontological gap or chasm between subject (consciousness) and object (the world). see William James.” since the world is precisely that of which consciousness is conscious. 1970). “ideas. “wonder whether we really perceive a world. i. conceived of not logically or epistemologically. in the world. per impossibile.10 What the reduction teaches us is..” in idem. 1966). 1165. Already in 1904 William James had sought to undermine the notion that there exists a “gap” between subject and object..9 and it was this “situation phénoménale du clivage” that it is the purpose of the reduction to deconstruct.the notions of an “external world” and an “inner subject” -. in the city.e. 11 Jean-Paul Sartre. “The Age of the World Picture. 113. For consciousness has no “inside. 2 vols. “representations”) but is always consciousness-of-something (i. Vrin.. amid others. a direct experience of the world itself. The world is that which consciousness intends. 111.11 Once the metaphysics of modernity has been overcome. to experience a world is precisely what it means to be conscious. something other than it.. viz.e. i. the phenomenological reduction opens up the field of truth.” but experientially. asserts that consciousness is never in the first instance mere self-consciousness (conscious only of what is “inside” it: its own cogitationes. 1984). There is no longer anything in it apart from a movement to flee from itself. trans.we need no longer.. The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. you were to enter “inside” a consciousness.e. this refusal to be substance that constitutes it as consciousness…[E]verything is outside. that the existence of the world does not need to be “proved. we must instead say: the world is what we perceive. next to the tree.” in idem.see Herbert Spiegelberg.

to purify consciousness. trans. “I have experienced them. is a “return to the phenomenologically given as such. phenomenology is. 1 (Spring 1997): 96.e. it deliberately refrains from making speculative. correlatively (since every act of consciousness [noesis] is always paired with an object [noema] which it “intends”).and is thus a form of inquiry that is resolutely transcendental. 197. 1953). as a philosophy of experience.”15 The overriding injunction of the phenomenological method -.Husserl called this “the principle of all principles” -. W.” as Gadamer says. as the field of lived meaning.” and in what exactly did this experience consist? David Michael Levin sums up the matter very nicely when he says that “the heart of phenomenology is a methodologically formulated respect for the integrity and validity of our experience just as we live it. of the various ways in which objects of all sorts (perceptual. it affords us access to what Husserl called the “realm of pure experience. 77. 146) To take the “transcendental turn” that the reduction calls for is to adopt a stance of self-critical responsibility in the examination of one’s own experience. and how is it that I know this? Or. it enables us to explore and describe our experience of the world precisely as we experience it. as Sartre says. like pragmatism which is also a philosophy of experience.R. to put it in a less epistemological manner. imaginary.” (PRS. “phenomenological research. 144-45) In other words. a text which made a profound and lasting impression on Heidegger and which was in part the basis for his own notion of truth as unconcealment (a-letheia). Essai sur l’évolution de l’idée de vérité chez Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. as Husserl says.“phenomenological method proceeds entirely through acts of reflexion”14 -. is in the first instance a theory of meaning and only secondarily a theory of truth --) proceeds entirely by means of reflexive acts -. sec. as Gadamer says.. ideal) come to be for consciousness. Que sais-je? What exactly is it that I can legitimately claim to know. 6 13 . What are those things of which I can say. i. which renounces all [mere] theory and metaphysical construction. and manifests itself cognitively as so being. the study of “what it means that objectivity is. 14 Edmund Husserl.self-givenness (Selbstgegebenheit) of the thing (Sache) itself. Phénoménologie et vérité. 15 David Michael Levin.13 The function of the reduction is.” Philosophy Today 41.phenomenology.” in “flesh and blood” (Evidenz) -.and thus. To say that phenomenology is a form of transcendental analysis means that. free from the distorting lenses of metaphysical prejudice (“pure experience” was also the term favored by William James). 90) This sort of “intentional analysis (intentionale Analyse)” (or “meaning analysis” -.. metaphysical assumptions about the ontological status of what it seeks to describe. “transcends in principle the opposition between object and subject and discovers the correlation of act and object as its own great field of study. no.is that one must always seek to describe what one experiences precisely as one experiences it without importing into this description suppositions which are not warranted by the experience (Gadamer refers to this as “the fundamental phenomenological principle that one should avoid all theoretical constructions and get See Alphonse De Waelhens.e. its presence to consciousness “in person. Husserlian phenomenology is the systematic attempt to explore the various ways consciousness has of “intending” objects and.” i.” (PH. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology. 1962). Boyce Gibson (New York: Collier Books. Husserl first developed his notion of Evidenz in the sixth of his Logical Investigations. as a reflexive analysis of our experience of the things of the world just exactly as we experience them. the phenomenological reduction. pursuing in a methodologically rigorous fashion Montaigne’s guiding question. “Liberating Experience from the Vice of Structuralism: The Methods of Merleau-Ponty and Nagarjuna.” (PH. at the most primordial level.

“Does ‘Consciousness’ Exist?” In a subsequent article of 1905. One thing that I cannot legitimately say that I know or claim to have experienced is what metaphysicians call “reality in itself. Since the essence of consciousness is intentionality. elles sont les choses mêmes en tant que les choses nous sont présentes. “transcendent” is the meaning we attach to certain objects of our experience (e. “in a world where experience and reality come to the same thing. 2 vols. The only thing that is genuinely real for us is our own experience of reality. as “the distinguished Husserl” would say. Once we make this transcendental move we can no longer conceive of consciousness.” “bracket. apart from my consciousness of it. 208.” 17 James. which continues to operate under the phenomenological reduction (i. 1956 [1890]).. 18 See Emmanuel Lévinas. “A World of Pure Experience. causal fashion (this.” reality as it exists (supposedly). Indeed.. 20 William James.. the maple tree outside my window).“the distinguished Husserl” is Peirce’s own expression (See Spiegelberg. strictly speaking. “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.” Both of these articles were subsequently published in James’s Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912).” James expressed thus the phenomenological notion of intentionality: “Nos sensations ne sont pas de petits duplicats intérieurs des choses. see James’s 1904 article. a notion that. In his Logical Investigations. we must “reduce. “absurd. is nevertheless one that it is impossible to think.” Or as James had said earlier on: “The way in which the ideas are combined is part of the inner constitution of the thought’s object or content. 22]). we live. does not exist.”17 This being so. Findlay (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. it is. an object for consciousness. The Principles of Psychology. For phenomenology. Phenomenology is indeed nothing other than a thoroughgoing and systematic attempt to cut through the metaphysical thicket of philosophical misunderstandings so as to get back to our lived experience of the things themselves. we do indeed experience a “transcendent” world.” totally “outside” of consciousness.had already pointed out in his ground-breaking article of 1878. “consciousness” is “the name of a nonentity” and.”16 The notion of an absolute “beingin-itself” is.”20 And as later hermeneutic phenomenology. there can be no This is something that Charles Sanders Peirce -.” 1168. 19 As William James said. 2:286. as James said.’” [RPJ. while it can be said. Being devoid of any real meaning. trans. as Emmanuel Lévinas remarked. “La notion de conscience. metaphysically or Cartesian-wise. 1970) Husserl expressed his indebtedness to James (1:420n). the relationship between consciousness and the world is “sui generis”. Théorie de l’intuition dans la phénoménologie de Husserl (Paris: Librairie J. as a kind of substance or thing (of a “mental” sort) standing in some kind of objectivistic relation with other things (of a “material” sort) and being acted upon by them in a quasi-mechanical. rather. Phenomenologically speaking.back ‘to the things themselves. 2 vols.” or “put out of play” the metaphysical notion of a world absolutely in-itself and focus instead on the objects of the world as we actually experience them. but this “real” world does not lie on the far side of the subject/object gap. to speak like William of Occam. what we call “reality” is. Consciousness itself (the “mind”) is not something “real” in the metaphysical sense of the term19. was “the great merit of the theory of the phenomenological reduction”18). 7 16 . John N.e. 1:18) -. something that comes to be constituted (as Husserl would say) as exactly what it is in accordance with the way in which it is “intended.g. (New York: Dover Publications. from a strictly phenomenological or experiential point of view the notion of a reality that would be totally “in itself. under the refusal to speculate on what anything is in any absolute sense of the term). it is not a “real” (causal) relationship but an intentional (“irreal”) one. Vrin. The Phenomenological Movement. is a notion devoid of any discernible meaning. would maintain. “transcendent” is not a metaphysical concept referring to something existing “beyond” our experience of it. 1963).

transcendental Ego. see Robert Sokolowski. Edward B. would say.J.such that the notion of a “realist” phenomenology is a contradiction in terms. Whatever is is either itself physical. The Field of Consciousness (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. Only a transcendental. as we shall see. uncritically) as ontologically valid the modern scientific concept of “nature. “Philosophy In the Conversation of Mankind. 79) The trouble with naturalism is that it is philosophically naïve. Embree (Evanston. As Husserl says. Rorty remained a prisoner of the metaphysical foundationalism 8 21 . naturalism is a philosophical-scientific stance arising out of the way modern. as an all-encompassing spatiotemporal whole (encompassing both the physical and the psychological). which is to say that it is univocally determined by rigid laws [of a mechanistic sort].. The naturalist…sees only nature. The Phenomenology of Husserl: Selected Critical Readings [Chicago: Quadrangle Books. nature is “simply there.25 For a detailed treatment of Husserl’s notion of constitution. daß Gegenständlichkeit sei”). there is in every act of consciousness an element which is simply irreducible to nature. 1970. as mere matterin-motion subject to determinable laws of a causal nature. in that for it. It is naïve in that (as is fully evident in the case of logical positivism) it accepts unquestioningly (i.” and modern. 1979) Rorty effected a “hermeneutic turn” and mounted a thoroughgoing critique of modern. Elveton. trans. a sympathetic critic.21 As a reflexive inventory-taking of the “field of consciousness. This we might call the basic intuition that set Husserl on the path to transcendental phenomenology.doubt that what humans (and realist philosophers) call “the world” is a constituted entity -although. One is inclined to wonder if Richard Rorty might not have discovered some “utility” in phenomenology had he taken the time to make a detailed study of Husserl. one of Husserl’s later assistants. 96). and primarily physical nature.” (PRS. N. or it is in fact psychical. natural science is itself naïve. 85) Modern science simply presupposes the existence of nature. thematic manner the question as to the meaning of the being of the world.” Whatever is belongs to psychophysical nature. belonging to the unified totality of physical nature. phenomenological analysis can hope to clarify this matter (“was besagt. Ballard and Lester E. The most insidious form of realism from a phenomenological point of view is the one Husserl singled out for criticism in his 1911 article: naturalism. 23 Paul Ricoeur. 1970]. It is as if. said of this work: “There is something fundamentally wrong with where Rorty leaves us” (Richard Bernstein. “epistemologically centered philosophy. 77).: Northwestern University Pres.” as Paul Ricoeur has noted23 -.” in Roy O. as knowing subjects) anything like nature at all.”22 phenomenology is thus necessarily a form of transcendental analysis -. hermeneutics also maintains that the constitutional activity by means of which the world becomes a world is not that of a sovereign.. 203.: University of Notre Dame Press.” in Robert Hollinger.24 (PRS. mechanistic science conceives of nature. see Aron Gurwitsch.“all phenomenology is transcendental. ed. the question as to “the origin of the world” (see Eugen Fink. Ill. it does not raise the question as to how it is that there can be (for us. Hermeneutics and Praxis [Notre Dame. 1964). Bernstein remarked. ed. As Richard Bernstein. As Husserl there notes.” (80n13) 25 Or as Eugen Fink. at best a secondary “parallel accompaniment. 1985]. but then merely as a variable dependent on the physical... 1967). Quentin Lauer remarks: “According to Husserl. 22 As an instance of analyses of this type. Ind. only an analysis of such a sort is capable of raising in a fully reflective. 24 Commenting on this passage. Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology. as Husserl said.” in the end he fell back into a crude form of materialistic behaviorism which had all the appearances of being a mere metaphysical opposite to the modernistic mentalism he had so effectively criticized. viz. “The Phenomenological Philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Contemporary Criticism. The Formation of Husserl’s Concept of Constitution (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. in the strict sense of the term.: Princeton University Press. Although in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton.e.

” Heidegger wrote in defense of Husserl’s transcendentalism.” in Richard Kearney. This widespread conception is based on a superficial understanding.g. the phenomenological reduction belongs to existential philosophy: Heidegger’s ‘being-in-the-world’ appears only against the background of the phenomenological reduction.” appears to have ignored the fact that one of the founders of American pragmatism. that which.: Indiana University Press. was a doctrine of objective being. hereafter BT.’” (BT. 178. their realist objections were off the mark. The Radical Empiricism of William James (New York: Anchor Books. by enabling us to set aside metaphysical constructions of whatever sort (realist or idealist).30 of which he was otherwise such a perceptive critic and was unable to see any meaningful alternative to it. 26 “Sous forme de phénoménologie. 43a. 251.. James M. as Merleau-Ponty perceptively remarked. 27 Martin Heidegger. William James and Phenomenology (Bloomington. Ind. PP. a procedure of idealistic philosophy. the “neo-pragmatist. one may be inclined to think. “If what the term ‘idealism’ says. the hallmark of an idealist philosophy. We must leave aside terms like ’subjective’ and ‘objective.’ ‘realistic’ and ‘idealistic.” 30 For a refreshingly clear description of the reduction and Husserl’s argumentative tactic in The Idea of Phenomenology.It should perhaps be noted that although phenomenology is inherently “antirealist” and although Husserl came to speak of transcendental phenomenology as being a “transcendental idealism.. 101) 28 See Husserl’s remarks on this subject in the Preface to Gibson’s translation of Husserl’s Ideas (this being a translation of Husserl’s 1930 Nachwort zu meinen Ideen). hereafter IM.a form of idealism that Husserl held to be as philosophically absurd as the naïve realism to which it stands opposed. 1930). “The Beginnings of Phenomenology: Husserl and His Predecessors.: Yale University Press. Being and Time. see for instance: Hans Linschoten. Aristotle was no less an idealist than Kant. rather. then idealism affords the only correct possibility for a philosophical problematic. trans.” Heidegger says: “This punctures the empty construction of Greek philosophy as a ‘realistic’ philosophy which. 1987).” Emmanuel Lévinas. Husserl’s critique of naturalism. On the Way Toward a Phenomenological Psychology: The Psychology of William James (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press. For Husserl’s “idealism” amounts to no more than maintaining (the phraseology is Heidegger’s but the idea is Husserl’s26) that one can never account properly for the being of the world merely in terms of real relations between real entities within the world (which is to say: the being of an entity is not itself an entity nor is it of an entitative [substantialist] nature). Continental Philosophy in the 20th Century. 1974). after stating that “Appearing [being a “phenomenon”] is the very essence of being. Roman Ingarden and members of the “Munich school”) reacted with dismay when Husserl began referring to the study of transcendental. John Wild. the transcendental-phenomenological reduction is not. In An Introduction of Metaphysics. Ralph Manheim (New Haven. and Richard Stevens. A number of Husserl’s early students (e. it is. sec. 1970). 1959). elle [la philosophie de Husserl] poursuit essentiellement des intérêts ontologiques. Théorie de l’intuition (Paris: Alcan. enables us to gain undistorted access to the most primordial phenomenon of all: our own everyday being-in-the-world. see also 218. Conn. Edie. as Heidegger sought to point out. xiv: “Far from being. Routledge History 9 . 29 Cf. purified consciousness as a transcendental idealism.”27 Antirealist though it unquestionably is. might just possibly have helped him to do so. It is in any event unfortunate that Rorty. as has been thought. unlike modern subjectivism. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row. William James. “amounts to the understanding that Being can never be explained by entities but is already that which is ‘transcendental’ for every entity. ed. trans. was himself an early defender of the phenomenological notion of intentionality (and actually exerted an influence on Husserl in this regard).28 Despite Husserl’s sometimes infelicitous manner of speaking (as when in the Ideas he talked about “the annihilation of the world”). see Richard Cobb-Stevens.” Husserl’s phenomenology is not for all that a form of idealism in any customary sense. Husserl’s “transcendental idealism” is in no way a Berkeleyan-type psychological idealism -. but.29 The only thing that is “idealist” about the phenomenological reduction is the language Husserl oftentimes used to describe it. 1968). James and Husserl: The Foundations of Meaning (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. If so. 1962).

” Referring to Husserl’s 1923-24 lecture course. in general. any kind of metaphysical dualism (self and world exist as what they themselves are only in the form of what Gadamer would call a reciprocal interplay). see Merleau-Ponty’s essay on Husserl in Signs. The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. between consciousness (self) and world.: Indiana University Press. Landgrebe speaks of how in this work “metaphysics takes its departure behind Husserl’s back. was denying that there exists. had sought to work out a strikingly different conceptual terminology32). It is therefore a moving document of an unprecedented struggle to express a content within the terminology of the traditions of modern thought that already forsakes this tradition and its alternatives and perspectives. in that Husserl.It must be admitted in this regard that Husserl’s way of presenting phenomenology and the phenomenological reduction. so to speak. Paul Ricoeur very rightly speaks in this regard of “Husserl’s opaque presentation of the famous phenomenological reduction.” He writes: A retrospective glance from the historical distance we have now achieved permits us to understand that there occurs within this text a departure from those traditions which are determinative for modern thought and a breaking into a new basis for reflection. which is to say. never able to fully free himself from it (which is perhaps one reason why he had so much difficulty understanding Heidegger who. ed. The Young Heidegger: Rumor of the Hidden King (Bloomington. see John Van Buren. 161-65. 32 For a detailed account of the early Heidegger’s attempt to strike out in a new direction.”31 The difficulty Husserl ran into in presenting the reduction in a non-idealist manner is in a way understandable. Husserl’s “idealist” way of proceeding can in fact be viewed as a kind of crude anticipation of existential phenomenology’s thesis to the effect that being-in-the-world is a unitary phenomenon of which self and world are. 10 . Unlike William James. 1995). Library of Living Philosophers. 1964). Richard C. McCleary (Evanston. to use Hegel’s terminology. Ill. The postmetaphysical significance of Husserl’s work is something that one of Husserl’s late assistants and the editor of his Experience and Judgment (1939). especially in the Ideas (Ideen I) and the Cartesian Meditations. was. “Intellectual Autobiography. significantly enough. and. who was much clearer on this score and who fully realized the postmetaphysical significance of his own phenomenological-pragmatic investigations. 1994). of Philosophy. 8 (London: Routledge. vol.. 18-19. 31 Paul Ricoeur. was doing. As regards the “contradictory” way in which Husserl presents the reduction. his “idealist” manner of speaking have the unfortunate effect of blurring the true significance of his work as a crucial overcoming of the metaphysics of modernity. Ind. “Husserl’s Departure from Cartesianism. early on. trans.” What in his own “idealist” fashion Husserl. born and brought up in the conceptuality or Begrifflichkeit of modern philosophy and as is often the case with pioneering innovators. Husserl presented his thought in a way which can easily mislead the unwary reader (who often comes away with the impression that the phenomenological reduction is but a version of Descartes’s doubt). 11. like the existential phenomenologists after him. vol. Hahn. The fact remains that it was precisely by means of this epistemological terminology that Husserl sought to effect a decisive break with modern epistemologism. 22 (Chicago: Open Court. nevertheless.: Northwestern University Press. with modern philosophy’s bifurcational way of viewing the world and our relation to it. Ludwig Landgrebe.” in Lewis E. noted in a 1962 article entitled. It is a reluctant departure insofar as Husserl had wished to complete and fulfill this tradition without knowing to what extent his attempt served to break up this tradition. hereafter IA. 1994). First Philosophy. hereafter S. two “moments.

1983). Ideas. the “truth” of it -. interpretive reflection on the “shipwreck” (as Landgrebe referred to it) of Husserl’s rationalist construal of the phenomenological project. 20. 78. 34 Paul Ricoeur. Reinhardt (New York: Frederick Ungar. metaphysics takes its departure behind Husserl’s back. sec. and..Husserl’s own idealist self-interpretation notwithstanding -. to state the matter as clearly as possible.”) Ludwig Landgrebe.what Husserl called the “natural attitude” -. “Husserl’s Departure from Cartesianism. Thus. 35 See Husserl. Major Problems in Contemporary European Philosophy: From Dilthey to Heidegger. that the experienced world exists altogether “independently” of our experiencing it -. 260-61. For the notion of modern philosophers.”35 so likewise -. a datum of “common sense” and is not what the “man (or woman) in the street” believes in his or her concernful dealings with a universe of things ready-tohand (zuhanden). Husserl’s idealist-logicist way of dealing with phenomenological issues began.to the exact degree that it is a “reversal” of the idealist formulation that Husserl attempted to impose on it.33 The interpretive turn in phenomenology. “On Interpretation.” in Elveton. ed. ed. as it is often presumed.reality (the “reality” of modern philosophy).In noting how in general the novelty of Husserl’s work is obscured by his own selfinterpretation of it. a metaphysical construct of modern philosophy. 27ff. in this work. In the view of some commentators (Ricoeur tending to be one of them). and it will still require a long and intensive struggle of interpretation and continuing thoughtful deliberation until we have experienced everything that here comes to an end. 11 33 . can be said to be a realization of Husserl’s phenomenology -. For further remarks by Landgrebe on “the contradiction between [Husserl’s] ‘program’ and that which is revealed unintentionally in his analyses.it too needs to be “reduced. one might say.” in Alan Montefiore. Kurt F. it is an invention. the “end of metaphysics” is spoken of as if with a certain obviousness. is not. Philosophy in France Today (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. thus. phenomenology is doing no more than attempting to bring our lived experience to the proper expression of its own meaning. neither Husserl nor those who were his students at the time were explicitly aware of this. to the degree that “common sense” supposes.” not in “the world. by putting out of play (“reducing”) the metaphysical notion of an initself. primarily as a result of Heidegger’s work. The Phenomenology of Husserl. We shall first properly understand the sense of such language if we follow closely how.one could say that a “transcendental idealism” which abstains from abstract theorizing and seeks to focus on the actual givenness of things is in fact the only genuine realism. and hermeneutic phenomenology. the reduction is a “suspension of belief. 1966). 191. To be sure.” see Ludwig Landgrebe. inaccessible -. (Of course.to be. trans. to self-destruct in his own later writings. as it were.” but in a particular philosophical-scientific (“Galilean”) theory about the world. Landgrebe remarks: Today. as Ricoeur has pointed out. indeed.. hereafter OI. is nothing other than a long and thoughtful.which is to say. in a somewhat contradictory fashion. noumenal -. that we are locked up inside our own heads and have no direct experience of the “real” world. One can state quite frankly that this work is the end of metaphysics in the sense that after it any further advance along the concepts and paths of thought from which metaphysics seeks forcefully to extract the most extreme possibilities is no longer possible.34 Just as in his riposte to logical positivism Husserl declared that it is “we [phenomenologists] who are the genuine positivists. Ordinary people do not ordinarily doubt that there is a world with which they are in direct contact.

1973). 38 Edmund Husserl.”37 To those critics of his who.” in Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Phenomenology. instead of running away. For a detailed discussion of this matter. It is not transcendental phenomenology that is idealist. 237. to be true to itself. Dorion Cairns (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff. fell back into an uncritical realism and who feared that a concern to explore the field of transcendental subjectivity must necessarily result in an outright subjectivism. Elliston and Peter McCormick.”40 was by See Gérard Granel. apodictic science of reality.” as Paul Ricoeur remarks. a “science which is alone [truly] science in the ancient Platonic and again in the Cartesian sense. it is the “realism” of modernist philosophers that is actually idealist. must culminate in an absolute.” as Gérard Granel always made a point of saying36) is nothing other than the thing itself as it shows itself. 1977). perhaps.. Le Sens du temps et de la perception chez E. 12 36 . Husserl’s transcendental idealism effects a decisive break with the most basic -.and. etc. as Nietzsche maintained. will prefer to fill the dark corner with light. ed.” in Frederick A. a kind of mathesis universalis or “science of the universe.) existing in (as Locke said) the “cabinet” of our minds? Husserl’s “difficult and original setting up of the problem of reality is. 95. of relativism. Ind. Husserl was unable to jettison one of the traditionally most metaphysical (or rationalist) of notions: the notion that philosophy.” and filling the dark corner of subjectivity with light was the task that Husserl’s existential and hermeneutic successors were to undertake -albeit in a manner that Husserl barely envisaged and certainly would never have endorsed. Husserl replied with the following words of admonition: For children in philosophy. 39 Edmund Husserl.” “the complete universe of the a priori. The true philosopher. the most pernicious -. By “bracketing” the so-called external world. 1968). 4th ed. 9. “Phenomenology. sec. of psychologism. (1927). Putnam’s Sons. reality itself insofar as it appears to us.”39 Husserl believed that the only way of achieving such an allembracing science of the a priori.” 68. Husserl: Expositions and Appraisals (Notre Dame.: University of Notre Dame Press. reluctant to follow him on his philosophical journey.38 Taking as their object of investigation the “I am” reflexive self-consciousness. see my “‘Phenomenology and Existentialism’: Husserl and the End of Idealism.. “phenomenology’s essential philosophical contribution. Husserl. Formal and Transcendental Logic. 17:67. reprinted (in a different translation) in Richard Zaner and Don Ihde. 37 Ricoeur. Husserl (Paris: Éditions Gallimard. ed. this may be the dark corner haunted by the spectres of solipsism and. of the all-encompassing unity of all that is. 40 Husserl. 1969).of metaphysical oppositions: that of reality versus appearance. For what could be more idealist than to maintain that we never have direct experience of the real world but only of “ideas” (sense impressions.It is crucial in this regard always to keep in mind that phenomenology is not a phenomenalism and that what phenomenology understands by “phenomenon” (“the phenomenon in the phenomenological sense of the word. of apodictically certain truths. as Heidegger sought to make clear in the second introductory chapter of his Being and Time. Phenomenology and Existentialism (New York: G.P. trans. which Husserl called the “wonder of wonders. From Transcendental to “Existential” Phenomenology Despite his aversion to speculative metaphysics and despite his resolute attempt to focus (by means of the phenomenological reduction) not on metaphysical constructions but on our lived experience.

2:549. Accordingly. “we need not be metaphysical at all. 43 Husserl. Husserl added to this sentence a footnote: “I have since managed to find it. as it were.such that each of us is guaranteed our own personal immortality? These kinds of obtuse -. following James. “hangs together” (der Zusammenhang eines Lebens). be an idealism in any usual. 1 (1984): 177. reflecting subject. “I must frankly confess. In the second.” 44 This apt expression is that of John D. he had said of the traditional notion of a transcendental (or “pure”) Ego (as the subjective center of relations for everything that is “in” consciousness but is not itself an object “for” consciousness) in the first (1900-01) edition of his Logical Investigations. is each and every one of us a transcendental Ego (agent intellect) in our own right -. necessary center of relations. The Principles of Psychology.. it is not at all clear just what exactly this transcendental Ego is and what relation obtains between it and the philosophizing. have learnt not to be led astray from a pure grasp of the given through corrupt forms of ego-metaphysic.: Northwestern University Press. Is there. see his “Husserl. Heidegger and the Question of a ‘Hermeneutic’ Phenomenology. 1:346. in both its conceptuality and its methodology. James.” Husserl Studies.” he there said. Studies in Phenomenology and Psychology (Evanston. Logical Investigations. 42 41 13 .”41 Most of Husserl’s phenomenological disciples42 would no doubt have preferred that he had been more faithful to the phenomenological “principle of all principles” and had stuck with what. as St Thomas subsequently argued.” later phenomenologists like Heidegger and MerleauPonty remained unconvinced.”44 In this. or. an “egology. From this point of view the world is a “subjective achievement” (Leistung) on the part of the transcendental Ego. of a dynamic. they were following in the footsteps of James who had argued that the unity of consciousness is not the product of a substantial and perduring Ego but is a matter. who studied with Husserl in the 1920s. For them the notion of a transcendental Ego as the linchpin of a Cartesian-like absolute science had no “phenomenological credentials. i. Husserl’s “transcendental idealism” may not.” From a purely phenomenological or descriptive point of view. just one transcendental Ego for all conscious beings. this primitive. The phenomena are enough. structures which prescribe in advance (a priori) the conditions of objectivity of any object whatsoever. however. “Transcendental subjectivity” is nothing other than a name for the way the “stream of consciousness” (Husserl’s rendering of James’s “stream of thought”). instead. and without knowing it. revised edition (1913) of this work. Caputo. In a timehonored fashion. retrospective self-appropriation on the part of a bodily subject. as Averroës (Ibn Rochd) said of Aristotle’s agent intellect (nous poetikos. See. as I have argued. on-going. vol. “that I am quite unable to find this ego.and forever unresolvable -questions have all the appearance of being the sort of metaphysical questions that a suitably thoroughgoing phenomenological reduction should be able to free us from. Aron Gurwitsch. in particular. 1966). in order properly to describe our lived experience. this absolute foundation.e.discovering an absolute. but to a large extent it is. for Husserl the being (or “origin”) of the world was to be accounted for in terms of the immanent and invariant structures of the transcendental Ego. As James had said in this connection. Ill.”43 Although Husserl subsequently chose to disregard James’s precept about not “going metaphysical” and claimed to have found this “central ego. in something standing behind. in its on-flowingness.” a “philosophy of consciousness” focused on the description of “mental processes. our immediate consciousness of the world: the transcendental Ego. intellectus agens). Husserl looked for this fundamentum inconcussum. unshakable grounding for all the evidences given to us in our experience (which is the task of a descriptive phenomenology to catalogue). metaphysical sense. in other words: temporality (lived time).

46 Cf. which is essentially constitutive for Dasein’s Being. and. sec. only one consciousness (or. observed that “malgré tout l’abîme qui la sépare de Husserl. viz.” for instance) out of itself or.e. there is. 7). Ricoeur: “it was through the theme of intentionality that Husserlian phenomenology became recognized in France. he did not question the priority of consciousness in the constitution of the world. Vrin. as the existentialists knew. 1981). Rather. i. two kinds of “consciousnesses” or egos. and cf.” For his part. Preface by Paul Ricoeur (Athens. 52.: The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty: A Search for the Limits of Consciousness.” (BT. Lévinas.. 88) To speak of “Dasein (existence)” and “being-already-alongside-the-world” is Heidegger’s way of articulating Husserl’s notion of intentionality while avoiding the terminology of a philosophy of consciousness. Accordingly. concerned with “the being of intentionality. in the title of this section of my paper. Gadamer who refers to the notion of the lifeworld as “the most powerful conceptual creation of the later Husserl. On MerleauPonty’s continued adherence to Husserl’s transcendentalism. better said.” Emmanuel Lévinas. as being “prior to” or primary over against the world as constituted).. To express the matter in yet another way. 138. our being-in-theworld.” Heidegger’s philosophy in Being and Time “demeure tributaire de la phénoménologie de Husserl. 1967). the philosophy of consciousness itself. otherwise expressed. Heidegger. The two most important notions that later phenomenologists took over from Husserl and which they sought to extricate from a questionable philosophy of consciousness are those of intentionality and the lifeworld. “Transcendental” must not be taken to mean “primary” (as when Husserl speaks of consciousness as constituting.46 As regards intentionality. a transcendental or pure consciousness and a mundane or worldly consciousness.and whose essential (eidetic) understanding of things is always hemmed in and limited by its worldliness or facticity.Although Husserl. self): a thoroughly worldly consciousness. “knowing” is in fact a derivative or “founded” mode of something more basic. 147) 14 45 . 148: “Being and Time…preserved the external form of an affiliation with the transcendental philosophy of his [Heidegger’s] master [Husserl]…. by means of the phenomenological reduction. However.” (PH. une recherche des limites de la conscience (Paris: Editions Klincksieck. there is more to our Being (Sein) than our being-conscious (Bewusstsein). It in fact represents. an “overthrow” of the primacy Husserl See PH. in order to make it the object of an ontological reflection and critique that takes an entirely different direction. 23. as Husserl tended to say. viz. which bestows meaning on the world through a sovereign act of meaninggiving (Sinngebung).” According to Heidegger. viz. a student of both Husserl and Heidegger. En découvrant l’existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (Paris: Librairie J. I have placed “existential” in scare quotes: existential phenomenology is still a form of transcendental phenomenology). may have “purified” consciousness of its naturalistic misportrayal. there are not. according to which consciousness is conceived of as “producing” meanings (the meaning “sensuous object..” (IA. English trans. Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty sought to overcome not just ego-metaphysics (“corrupt” or no) but also the overarching framework that dominated Husserl’s philosophizing.” sought to reconceptualize this notion in terms not of “consciousness” but of “existence.45 The crucial point to note in this regard is that a transcendental phenomenology need in no way be a “constitutive” phenomenology in the idealist or neoKantian sense of the term. as Ricoeur says. Ohio: Ohio University Press. chap. both Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty in their early writings did so without abandoning the transcendental turn and without falling back into any kind of naïve realism (which is why. “knowing” or “cognizing” (“intuiting”) the world is not the most basic relation we have to the world. but one which may nevertheless adopt a transcendental or reflexive attitude toward its own worldliness -. it presupposes the consistent carrying out of the transcendental thought in Husserl’s phenomenology — admittedly. 1973). see my La phénoménologie de MerleauPonty. as Aron Gurwitsch for one argued.. “Knowing is grounded beforehand in a Being-already-alongside-the-world. 1. Heidegger’s critique of Husserl…has nothing to do with ‘realistic’ softenings.

trans. while Husserl spoke of consciousness “intending” objects.e. 15 48 . 50 As Husserl said in his entry on “Phenomenology” in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. 129. as it were. but its primary kind of Being is such that it is always ‘outside’ alongside entities which it encounters and which belong to a world already discovered. Chris Dawson (New Haven. in his reformulation of the notion of intentionality. the significance of the notion of what Husserl was to call the lifeworld lay elsewhere. since what the discovery of the lifeworld signified for Heidegger was that all explicit understandings or theorizings.” is what the later Husserl called the lifeworld (Lebenswelt) -. and Heidegger’s “existence” is something decidedly more than Husserl’s “intuitional consciousness.: Yale University Press. “interpretation goes all the way 47 Paul Ricoeur. Heidegger.. “a science without bounds. Compare this formulation of the notion of intentionality with that of Sartre quoted above.” This is what Heidegger called the “hermeneutic situation.” as Gadamer said of it. scientific constructs are mere idealizations. sec. only because it is understandable in Dasein…” clearly indicates that the term “Dasein” is Heidegger’s functional equivalent of Husserl’s “consciousness. by virtue of our very existence. we possess what Heidegger called a “pre-ontological understanding” of the world (of “Being”). Indeed. even those of transcendental phenomenology.”50 i.” Thus. was to be the task of the most ultimate of all sciences.a “magic word. “Only because Being is ‘in consciousness’ — that is to say. BT. For Heidegger. 251 beginning thus. By means of this “archeology” of Western consciousness. is always to see or deal with it as this or that thing (this is what Heidegger referred to as the “existential-hermeneutic as. Dasein is simply “thrown. and thus never fully thematizable. This was not. Although this is hermeneutically incontestable. stated: “When Dasein directs itself towards something and grasps it.”48 (BT. it does not somehow first get out of an inner sphere in which it has been proximally encapsulated [Husserl’s egological “sphere of ownness”]. What the “pregivenness” (as Husserl would say) of the lifeworld means is that. 43a. 201]) For Heidegger all Being is in effect interpreted Being. 45. Conn. sec. To see or deal with something.” (Cf. 1978). sec. of course. a transcendental phenomenology which relates everything back to the constituting activity of a transcendental Ego. for instance. “ground. this always presupposed. Husserl nevertheless went on to insist that the natural sciences could be placed on a rigorous footing (and surmount their supposed “crisis”) only if the lifeworld itself could be scientifically accounted for. do no more than build on. and are interpretations of. 1998). that Husserl himself invented. however.” into which. This. 55. 275) Everything comes to us. abstractions from and interpretations of this prereflective world of immediate life (“a garb of ideas [Ideenkleid]” thrown over the lifeworld). as later hermeneuticians would say. the formula for an ultimate science of Being in Husserl’s sense. 33.” 49 See Hans-Georg Gadamer. Husserl was able to flesh out his earlier critique of naturalism by showing how the lifeworld is “the forgotten meaning-fundament [Sinnesfundament] of natural science. The sentence in BT. Main Trends in Philosophy (New York: Holmes and Meier. as Husserl again and again insisted. pre-interpreted (or pre-articulated). 89) This world which is “always already there. hereafter MTP.accorded to consciousness47 and a “deepening” of the notion of intentionality: “being-in” is a more primordial phenomenon that the subject-object (noesis-noema) relation.49 The notion of the lifeworld is one Husserl came upon in the course of the investigations he undertook later in his life into the origins of modern science. as it were.” [BT. Praise of Theory: Speeches and Essays.” The lifeworld is the prescientific world of lived experience on which all (natural) scientific constructs are based and which they necessarily presuppose.

but the ‘whence’ and the ‘wither’ remain in darkness. the function of anxiety or dread and the “call of conscience” is to lead the individual Dasein to “wrest” itself away. in a violent-like act of resolve (“anticipatory resoluteness”). interpretation is not just one mode of being-conscious. Alban John Krailsheimer (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. incapable of knowing anything. “thrown” (geworfen) into it. it supposes itself to know about its ‘whence.’ which. I take fright and am amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there. as it was for Husserl. presuppositionless (voraussetzungslos) science. the ultimate discovery of the reflecting subject (the ultimate phenomenological “given”) is not a transparent. McBride. 198. 173) Or as Heidegger also says: “Even if Dasein is ‘assured’ in its belief about its ‘whither. had written in his reflections on what. The “given” is always an interpreted given. without knowing who put him there. 175) These remarks of Heidegger’s are thoroughly “un-Husserlian” and are in fact fully in line with what that earlier critic of the Cartesian ideal. he referred to as the “human condition”: When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after. Schrag and the Task of Philosophy after Postmodernity (Evanston. and can be.” as Merleau-Ponty was later to say. For Heidegger. sec. 16 51 . Calvin O. such that there is. in rational enlightenment. therefore. For a discussion of Schrag’s contributions to phenomenology.” and the sheer. what will become of him when he dies. it is the all-embracing form of our awareness of the world (being).” (BT.. see Martin Beck Matustik and William L. In Heidegger’s treatment of anxiety (which owed more to Kierkegaard. now rather than then. Heidegger’s notion of Befindlichkeit (disposition) is meant to express a primordial characteristic of the lifeworld: the fact that we simply “find” ourselves in a world. 29. from its “fallenness” in the The phraseology is that of Schrag. Blaise Pascal. trans.52 The kind of existential anxiety (Angst) Pascal is describing was one of the major topics of Being and Time.: Northwestern University Press. and Kierkegaard’s morbid individualism and irrational decisionism.” (BT. like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island. Heidegger did not believe that the lifeworld could ever be transformed into the fully transparent object of an absolute. like subsequent existential writers. Who put me here? When I see the blind and wretched state of man. as such.”51 For Heidegger. 2002). Pensées. 1966). luminous transcendental Ego but. the “opacity of the fact. when I survey the whole universe in its dumbness and man left to himself with no light [no “science” of being]. what he has come to do. “Traces of Meaning and Reference: Phenomenological and Hermeneutical Explorations. 29. ed. brute facticity of our being-there blots out any apparent “why” or “wherefore” for this factual state-of-affairs: “The pure ‘that it is’ shows itself.” Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 73 (1992): 26. Unlike Husserl. as though lost in this corner of the universe. no such thing as a “pure” seeing. 52 Blaise Pascal. who wakes up quite lost and with no means of escape.’ or if. nos. rather.…the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me. We discover ourselves as “already there.’ all this counts for nothing as against the phenomenal facts of the case: for the mood [of attunedness to Dasein’s factual situation] brings Dasein before the ‘that-it-is’ of its ‘there.down and all the way back. Schrag. Ill. sec. 68. stares it in the face with the inexorability of an enigma. I am moved to terror. than to Pascal’s more sober assessment of the human condition). see Calvin O.

extremely one-sided (and thus phenomenologically unsound53). in going beyond the framework of Husserl’s philosophy of consciousness and in abandoning all talk of a transcendental Ego. 1:309n]. or existential “consequences” of Husserl’s intellectualistic “theory of knowledge”. the “authentic” self was a kind of heroic. concrete. “Being-as-such (des Seins als solchen). Heidegger sought to pursue further. this is because Heidegger has acted upon certain suggestions of Husserl. Théorie de l’intuition. in a kind of compensatory overreaction. For Heidegger. In any event. was dedicated to Husserl “in friendship and admiration”). turning away from transcendental philosophy and lapsing into a crude form of empiricism. one might say.”56 Some phenomenologists would argue that (appreciative) wonder is as basic (“equiprimordial”) a reaction to the “thrownness” of our existence as is Heidegger’s (dreadful) guilt. attempt to conceptualize “authentic selfhood” in a less “subjectivistic” manner and would seek to view the phenomenon of intersubjectivity (our Miteinandersein. upon emerging from a lecture of his. (Interesting in this connection is the story told by Karl Löwith of one of Heidegger’s students who. with the “necessary tools” provided by Husserl (cf. 218.”55 As John D. average everydayness of anonymous mass man. to turn away (in his famous “turning” or Kehre) from the human subject (Dasein) to concentrate more directly on Being itself. exploited certain resources in Husserl’s own method. Husserl’s 1931 Frankfurt lecture “Phänomenologie und Anthropologie” and Husserl to Alexander Pfänder (Jan. self-assertive. Heidegger continued along the way traced out by his teacher (maître). moved phenomenology in a direction which Husserl himself made possible. BT.discarding in the process not only Husserl’s “transcendental solipsism” but also Heidegger’s “existential ‘solipsism. 56 Caputo. In this book. Being and Time was the crowning work of Heidegger’s Existenzphilosophie and a foundational work for interpretive phenomenology. Husserl’s phenomenology is already in an important sense a “proto-hermeneutics. The Phenomenological Movement. indeed. radically individualized. If the phenomenology of Heidegger is explicitly hermeneutic. and it was indeed one which would later come back to haunt Heidegger in such a way as to lead him. instead. 40) This particular view of selfhood or subjectivity (which was to become greatly accentuated in the 1930s) was. one should not forget. Heidegger’s “resolve.54 However. in this regard. (See Lévinas. 75n. our being-in-the-world-with-others) in a much more positive light -.” abandoning in the process the very notion of subjectivity (which he came to equate with the unbridled. quasi-Promethean manner and for whom “the Dasein-with of Others” had nothing to offer. has no praxial relevance to the question of how we should act in the world of everyday existence (which Heidegger equated with inauthentic being). but in a more radical way. sec. and guilt-ridden “solus ipse” capable of achieving genuine selfhood only in a kind of voluntaristic. “Husserl.) 54 That Husserl was unable to appreciate the genuinely phenomenological significance of Heidegger’s work is another matter: see. as Caputo also points out in this article. in the eyes of many subsequent phenomenologists.impersonal. contrary to what many have said and what. 10. Husserl betrayed his own phenomenologicalhermeneutic insights by subordinating them in the end to the Cartesian ideal of an absolute science. modernistic Will to Power extolled by Nietzsche). so as to set itself on the path of authentic selfhood. what Heidegger essentially did was to draw out the deeper. (Cf. sec. However. the overcoming of metaphysics and modern epistemologism that Husserl had inaugurated (the book. into “anthropologism” and “irrationalism. BT. exclaimed: “I am resolved! Only I am not sure on what” [see Spiegelberg. Caputo rightly observed: If Being and Time practices a hermeneutic phenomenology.’” For all that. 1935). 17 53 . Heidegger and the Question of a ‘Hermeneutic’ Phenomenology. Husserl himself seems to have thought.x). in so doing. 55 According to Lévinas.” focused exclusively as it is on Non-Being (Nichts). 6. the “they” (das Man).” 158. 187. Heidegger was not. Later phenomenologists would not follow Heidegger down this path but would.

The very asking of this question is an entity’s mode of Being…. What this “phenomenological hermeneutics of facticity. See BT. 244: “The question of the meaning of Being becomes possible at all only if there is something like an understanding of Being.” of human being-in-the-world. 2. 43. as a matter of fact. a relation in which Dasein’s “ownmost potentiality-for-Being is an issue” (see BT. as Heidegger said. was to reveal.. The human being is a being which is always more than what it ever actually is. The human subject constitutes itself as a subject by means of its being essentially (“ecstatically”) related to futurity. it exists (ex-sists. we must first of all (“a priori”) conduct a thoroughgoing analysis of that being. (BT. sec.” this phenomenological explication (interpretation. the essential structures or basic traits. is care or concern (Sorge).Heidegger characterized his own project in Being and Time as that of a “fundamental ontology” and. 65. 241).” (IM. Sein und Zeit (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. yet maintained.obviously -.. was that the most basic meaning. viz. 39. we must make an entity—the inquirer—transparent in his own Being. 41. Understanding of Being belongs to the kind of Being which the entity called ‘Dasein’ possesses. 18 57 . 275). If we are to formulate our question explicitly and transparently.” 58 See Martin Heidegger. while ignoring Husserl’s transcendental Ego. 380. but in the dynamic mode of possibility or potentiality. Thus. the surer we are to attain our goal in the further course of working out the problem of fundamental ontology. of continual self-transcendence. Since the human being is that being for whom its being is always in question (until the day it is no more). it defines itself in terms of the existential-ecstatic temporality of human being-there [Dasein]. Auslegung) of the lifeworld disclosed. 18) The purpose of Heidegger’s “existential analytic” in Being and Time. 27) The phenomenological analysis of human being that Heidegger undertook in Being and Time was meant to furnish the “transcendental horizon” for raising the question as to the meaning of being. sec. the essence of human being is temporality (“der Sinn des Daseins ist die Zeitlichkeit”58). BT. cf. rather. It exists. The name Heidegger gave to this existentially-ontologically fundamental.57 That being is of course the human being. The more appropriately and primordially we have succeeded in explicating this entity. that being for whom its own being is itself a question. 62]). future-oriented (“ek-static”) relatedness of self to self and to world (the “intentional” relation). sec. if we wish to raise the question of the meaning of being. 331. in line with Husserl. we must first give a proper explication of an entity (Dasein) with regard to its Being. transcendentally (“Phenomenological truth [the disclosedness of Being] is veritas transcendentalis” [BT. “existentialia (Existenzialien).be no question). as Heidegger said in his 1935 lectures on metaphysics. stands out from itself) as an on-going process of self-interpretation and reinterpretation. by means of an eidetic analysis. This entity which each of us is himself and which includes inquiring as one of the possibilities of its Being. the basic relation of the self (Selbst) to itself and to the world is that of an concernful or “circumspective” understanding of itself. 7.e. i. sec. that ontology can responsibly be pursued only in the mode of phenomenology. not in the static mode of a thing (which is never more than what. it is). which itself raises the question of what it means to be (and without whom there would -. but. sec. we shall denote by the term “Dasein”. Dasein. 1967). As Heidegger the phenomenologist states: To work out the question of Being adequately. “the ‘transcendental’ there [in Being and Time] is not that of the subjective consciousness. sec. which was directed at “conceptualizing existentially [ontologically] what has already been disclosed in an ontico-existentiell [prereflective or “factical”] manner” (see BT.

Pascal went on to say: “but our whole foundation cracks and the earth opens up into the depth of the abyss. lasting base on which to build a tower rising up to infinity. 29. 63. was an ideal (or idol) that Husserl. scientific knowledge must be presuppositionless or “foundational.an understanding of what it means to be (Seinsverständnis) -. an inescapably circular relation. which is something we may or may not have.” This was a decisive move on Heidegger’s part in that it represented a truly radical break with modern metaphysics.” is itself interpretive in nature.” (BT. of course. sec. as James would say. “is a hermeneutic in the primordial significance of the word. sec. He showed how the “circle of understanding” is in fact rooted in the existential constitution of human being itself.” as Heidegger calls them) of our pre-ontological. Or as Heidegger says: “The Interpretation by which such an understanding gets developed [i. temporally “already ahead of itself. and to do so existentially [ontologically]. no.e. All understanding is of a circular nature in that all explicit understandings always presuppose a pregiven world of meaning. being “projective. scientific foundation for all human knowing and doing.Unlike knowledge. What Heidegger did was to have “ontologized” the hermeneutic circle. Pensées.an understanding which. 1935.” 60 Pascal. of phenomenological research. 362) The relation between the understanding that we are and the various ways in which this understanding. an ultimate. that is. Such Interpretation takes part in this disclosure only in order to raise to a conceptual level the phenomenal content of what has been disclosed. Heidegger transformed what traditional hermeneutics had called the “hermeneutic circle” which.in that it is an undefined or under-determined understanding of the possible ways in which we could be (of our “potentiality-for-being”).existing. Since the concernful understanding that we are is always future-oriented. March 11. let Dasein interpret itself. 19 59 . phenomenology] will let that which is to be interpreted put itself into words for the very first time. understanding -. on the “fringes” of consciousness -. This tacit (pre-ontological) understanding which is constitutive of our beingin-the-world is of a “horizonal” nature -. and can only be. See also BT. “The phenomenology of Dasein.” “worked-out”) in an articulated (philosophical or ontological) fashion is. 199. namely. meant that when interpreting a text one ought continually to interpret the parts in terms of the whole and the whole in terms of the parts.this search for apodictic certainty being expressive of what Pascal called the “[burning] desire to find a firm footing. cited in Spiegelberg. free-floating speculation but must be. “projective” understanding of things -. 7. the Cartesian ideal that dominated all of modern philosophy. where it designates [the] business of interpreting. could not bring himself to relinquish. 1:84. therefore. historically conditioned lifeworld into which we find ourselves “thrown. the notion. cannot be that of metaphysical.is what we most essentially and always are. as it were. 179: “Phenomenological Interpretation must make it possible for Dasein itself to disclose things primordially..” grounded upon some ultimate foundation -. 62) As regards the exigencies of philosophical method. a “kind of super-rationalist”61 ever concerned to discover a solid. itself gets interpreted (“developed. Indeed. it must. The Phenomenological Movement. sec.”59 (BT. to maintain that understanding is projective in nature means that the hermeneutic task of ontological interpretation. in this work. this being the everyday. one of the most significant accomplishments of Being and Time is the way in which. that genuine.” 61 See Husserl to Lévy-Bruhl.” it is essentially “projective” in nature (entwerfendes Verstehen). with. which is already interpretive (in a pre-ontological sort of way).”60 This.” Heidegger states. as a purely methodological rule. that of a patient and care-taking working-out and “appropriating” of the meaning-structures (“fore-structures.

Heidegger’s transcendental-existential analytic. i. go back into yourself. quoting St Augustine. timeless values” (PRS. man is in the world.62 provided the crucial impetus for the subsequent interpretive turn in phenomenology that was to come to fruition with Gadamer and Ricoeur. I find. there is no inner man. not a source of intrinsic truth.” (PP. “Do not wish to go out. presuppositionless starting point). xiv. struggling to work out his position vis-à-vis Descartes and Kant. as the sum total of reality. 136). had presented the phenomenological reduction as a means by which the reflecting subject could be led back (reducere = to lead back) to some kind of “inner” realm of pure experience. ix) In saying this. and only in the world does he know himself.” In order. Merleau-Ponty insisted that. and his phenomenology was nothing other than a sustained attempt to draw out the far-ranging philosophical implications that follow upon an unflinching recognition of human finitude.. truth inhabits the inner man. as a system of absolute being. 38) As would be the case with his hermeneutic successors. 20 62 .’ or more accurately. who as a philosopher lived in and for the Absolute. had sought to overcome the subject/object dichotomy of modern philosophy in such a way as to effect a return to lived experience. as well as in the way in which it managed to overcome the rationalistfoundational project of modernity running from Descartes through Husserl. Merleau-Ponty was reacting against the convoluted. 141]). but. and who in the very last lines of his Cartesian Meditations had stated. we have no access to the absolute. round-about way in which Husserl. 1963). and who held that humanity’s own highest vocation was to live in and for the Infinite (“For the sake of time we must not sacrifice eternity” [PRS. the transcendental. Merleau-Ponty flatly stated: “No philosophy can afford to be ignorant of the problem of finitude under pain of failing to understand itself as philosophy. When I return to myself from an excursion into the realm of dogmatic common sense or of science [“naturalism”]. beyond that.e. Also in response to Husserl who. as reflecting subjects. which he considered to be “a more faithful adherence to the principle of phenomenology” than Husserl’s own would-be science of being. however. as a reduction of everything that is to the “concrete ego” conceived of as the constituting source of all meaning and thus as omnitudo realitatis. In this way it laid the groundwork not only for hermeneutic phenomenology but also for the phenomenological philosophy of human finitude that Maurice Merleau-Ponty was to develop some fifteen years later. to counteract the manifestly idealistic and solipsistic implications of such a move (a move dictated by Husserl’s Cartesian quest for an absolute. Richardson. In contrast to Husserl who insisted that “science is a title standing for absolute. (PP. Husserl adopted the Leibnizian term “monad” to refer to this “inner man. self-enclosed field of all possible acts and objects outside of which (as he sometimes said) there is quite literally nothing (since for Husserl to be is to-be-an-object. Heidegger: Through Phenomenology to Thought (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.” Merleau-Ponty declared: Truth does not ‘inhabit’ only ‘the inner man. in his customary way. and being exists only for a consciousness which “intends” it). a meaning. Husserl’s general tactic in this regard was to present the reduction not only as a “bracketing” of the nonsensical (unsinnlich) notion of traditional realism of a “being-in-itself” (the phenomenological reduction is a “transcendental” reduction to the precise degree that it does this). and it did so by reason of the way in which it managed to “existentialize” Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology. but a subject destined to be in the world [voué au monde]. Along the way. Husserl would then typically go on to argue that this monad was not altogether See Heidegger’s 1962 letter to Richardson in William J.

this “universal self-knowledge -.. While.” (PP. the opposition between “inside” and “outside.but only eventually and as a kind of filling-in of the blanks -. “the unmotivated upsurge of the world.” and the “problem of the ‘meaning’ of history. In the Preface to his major work. i. objecting to the way in which Husserl had presented the reduction (as described in the preceding paragraph).” (PP. It is obvious that Husserl. the reduction was indispensable for overcoming the metaphysics of modernity and leading us back to our lived experience of the world. existential “problems of accidental factualness. And in rejecting Husserl’s “idealist” presentation of the reduction. Although Merleau-Ponty always tried to present Husserl in the best possible light. Émile Bréhier) “What is Phenomenology?” and in the course of which he presented his own existential reading of some of the major themes in Husserl’s phenomenology.64 Merleau-Ponty believed that the ultimate discovery of the reflecting subject is that of his or her own “thrownness” into the world.working to get at our experience of the world from.” he stated categorically and without hesitation. and cannot. the “horizon” of the Phenomenology of Perception is “nothing other than Heideggerian care and being-in-the-world. Merleau-Ponty was not calling into question the need for the reduction. which was intended as a kind of “inventory of the See Husserl. and can be for us. 407) Such. since the most important thing for him was to effect a decisive overcoming of that most basic conceptual opposition of the metaphysics of modernity.” monadic ego which would be the absolute source of all that is. is here trying to find a place in his own transcendental-idealist conceptual framework for Heidegger’s existential concerns. which was for him the most basic of all phenomenological facts. it does not.” “Inside and outside are inseparable. xiv) Accordingly. “The world is wholly inside and I am wholly outside myself.” (PP.self-enclosed but had “windows” through which it could make empathetic contact with other such monadic egos. Cartesian Meditations.” as Ricoeur has called it). 156. “The most important lesson which the reduction teaches us.e. He was not advocating any form of “realist” phenomenology but was. 21 63 . 64. and then intermonadic” was supposed to get around to dealing with the concrete.e. Phenomenology of Perception. for a conscientiously transcendental approach to the question as to the meaning of the being of the world. is “a consciousness of its own dependence on an unreflective life which is its initial situation.”65 (PP. xiv) In this much remarkedupon phrase. sec. Merleau-Ponty stated what he himself saw to be the most important lesson to be learned from putting into play the phenomenological reduction.”63 Such was the complex manner -. in a kind of afterthought. the top down and the inside out -in which Husserl sought to subvert or deconstruct the metaphysics of modernity. Eventually -. of the possibility of a ‘genuine’ human life. 65 This is what elsewhere Merleau-Ponty refers to as contingency. 11. instead. as it were. an absolute consciousness which would be coextensive with being itself. as Merleau-Ponty put it. perception.. xiv) The greater part of the Phenomenology of Perception was devoted to an exploration of this unreflective or prereflective life which underlies and supports that of the reflecting subject. what a genuinely transcendental or “radical” reflection amounts to. or. for Merleau-Ponty. for Merleau-Ponty. was the true meaning of phenomenology’s great discovery: intentionality. Like Heidegger.” he said. of death.first of all monadic.” IA. as it were. of fate. he said. afford us access to a “pure. “is the impossibility of a complete reduction. he was not prepared to grant any validity to this typically modernist way of proceeding (this “methodic idealism. unchanging. i. in which he sought to respond to the question (put to him by his thesis supervisor. In this work. Merleau-Ponty was also thereby ruling out the possibility of our ever achieving the kind of apodictically certain science of being that Husserl had dreamed of. given once and for all. 64 As Ricoeur observes.

of the word ‘exist’: one exists as a thing or else one exists as a consciousness. Busch and Shaun Gallagher.” Ibid. philosophically ambiguous sort of subject whose mode of being is neither that of the “in itself” (mere object) nor that of the “for itself” (pure subject).: SUNY Press. crucial insight that Merleau-Ponty took over from Gabriel Marcel’s existential phenomenology of embodiment (for his part. This is not the purely objective body that appears in the pages of anatomy textbooks and which is the body of nobody in particular.. as to criticize various objectivist theories of perception characteristic of the metaphysics of modernity.66 These theories were of two different sorts.” they are us68). as human subjects. William James had said that our bodies are not simply “ours.. to serve as the means for elucidating the unique mode of being of that being which. unreflective.is that body which. 198) This is. in our everyday. 69 Cf. Heidegger and the Question of a ’Hermeneutic” Phenomenology.”67 (PP. The subject which perceives a world -and which is capable of perceiving a world only to the degree that it is capable of acting and moving about bodily in this world (in lived space) -. perceptual lives we ourselves are. A subject it most definitely is. 37: “Everything that exists exists as a thing or as a consciousness.” 22 66 . Merleau-Ponty’s goal was to effect a “return to the phenomena..69 Heidegger had already pointed out that all higher-level knowledge of the world is founded on our “prepredicative” being-in-theworld. but a unique. Merleau-Ponty. Caputo. 93-94. As Sartre said. the perceiving subject is an embodied subject. I am a body -. a body-subject. In this essay I maintain that “if ‘perception’ is understood in its traditional sense. of course. as regards the overcoming of modern epistemologism. it is.Y. as naturalistic realism or materialist neuroscience would have it. Inasmuch. I do not merely “have” a body (as modernist philosophers tend to say).” to our actual lived experience (“the phenomenal field”). viz. so to speak. sought not so much to put forward a theory of his own as to the nature of perception. While the notions of the lived body (Leib) and action (motility -. ed. transparent subject of idealist philosophy (the pure spectator of its own bodily experiences).. 25). and there is no half-way house. N. one on which I cannot myself take a point of view as an outsider might. as essentially a kind of psychic phenomenon or “mental process” (a feature of Husserl’s way of approaching issues that Charles Sanders Peirce had objected to earlier on). Husserl’s habitual way of viewing intentionality from within the framework of a philosophy of consciousness. Merleau-Ponty. “Husserl. Hermeneutics.” in Thomas W. and in attempting to deconstruct this metaphysical assumption. le corps propre. that there are “two senses.” 68 See James. but it is also not the selfconscious. whereby what is ‘outside’ is duplicated ‘inside. as it were. as I am aware of the world.e. 1992). contrary to what is commonly thought. This “reduction” to lived experience was meant. in showing in a thoroughgoing way how all reflective consciousness rests upon See in this regard my “Did Merleau-Ponty Have a Theory of Perception. I exist my body. therefore.’ the concept ‘perception' does not figure in the Phenomenology.perceived world” (PP. a “subjective” or “lived” body.an often overlooked yet. and two only. This particular being -. realist (empiricist or materialist) and idealist (intellectualist or spiritualist).is not a mere thing-like object. The Principles of Psychology. 67 See also PP. and Postmodernism (Albany. The perceiving subject is one’s own body. but. the metaphysical assumption par excellence of modern philosophy constitutive of the subject/object split. Following up on clues provided by Husserl. my body is my unique point of view on the world. but they both rested on the same assumption. in turn. Merleau-Ponty felt that the true significance of those notions was obscured by Husserl’s overarching “mentalism” (or “psychism”).the perceiving subject -. as referring to some kind of reproductive. 1:291. Far from being a pure Ego.“I can”) were not absent from Husserl’s work. each and every one of us is. i. mirroring process.

Merleau-Ponty. 123: “This ambiguity is not some imperfection of consciousness or existence. 123: “If Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy is rightly referred to as a ‘philosophy of ambiguity. xviii-xix. Merleau-Ponty had no sympathy whatsoever for Husserl’s attempt to salvage modern. of the entire metaphysical tradition. “life would probably dissipate itself in ignorance of itself or in chaos. Merleau-Ponty (Louvain: Bibliothèque philosophique de Louvain. He was most certainly not advocating -. 19. One of the earliest published studies of Merleau-Ponty’s “philosophy of ambiguity” was De Waelhens’s Une philosophie de l'ambiguïté. and Postmodernism. Dillon.72 Contrary to the impression created in some early readers of his..) In pointing to the essentially ambiguous mode of being of the body-subject. Edie (Evanston. Merleau-Ponty. The Structure of Behavior. and PP.’ ‘to be climbed over. But in Being and Time one does not find thirty lines concerning the problem of perception.71 Merleau-Ponty was attempting to take seriously something that the mainline tradition in philosophy had always passed over in silence. observed: Heidegger always situates himself at a level of complexity which permits imagining that the problem which concerns us here is resolved.” he insisted. but the definition of them. 1951).: SUNY Press.” in Martin C.” in Maurice Merleau-Ponty. See also my “Between Phenomenology and (Post)Structuralism: Rereading Merleau-Ponty.and presupposes the unreflective life of our bodily or corporeal being.”73 Indeed. 441]) As Alphonse De Waelhens.” Merleau-Ponty said. ed. unchanging. i.: Northwestern University Press.” 72 See in this regard my “Merleau-Ponty’s Deconstruction of Logocentrism.” in Maurice Merleau-Ponty. 1963). “A Philosophy of the Ambiguous. ed. “without reflection.” 73 See Merleau-Ponty’s reply to his critics in his “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences. Merleau-Ponty went considerably beyond Heidegger in spelling out what it actually means to be in a world. James M. is “a collection of things which emerge from a background of formlessness by presenting themselves to our body as ‘to be touched. trans. given once and for all” was in no way intended as a celebration of the unreflected life. ed.’ it is because the central thrust of his thinking. hereafter SB. to have a world (a “world. self-conscious subject is dependent “on an unreflective life which is its initial situation.’ ‘to be taken. The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology. as a philosopher. Hermeneutics. hereafter PriP. 169: “Ambiguity is of the essence of human existence”. one does not find ten concerning that of the body. N.” in Busch and Gallagher. 23 70 .e.70 Indeed. History and Politics. L’existentialisme de M.that we renounce the reflective or philosophical life and seek to coincide with immediate experience. the Philosophy of Art. Merleau-Ponty’s attempt to show how the personal. epistemological philosophy’s notion of “sense data” [“sensualism”] by arguing that the meaningful objects of consciousness [noemata] are arrived at by means of intentional acts “animating” hyletic data existing within consciousness [as real. 1964). 71 Cf. PP. For it is at the level of perception and the sensible that the problem must receive its decisive treatment…. one of the outstanding merits of Merleau-Ponty’s work on perception was how.. Alden L.. and how all seeing is a hermeneutic seeing-as. 1991). he was able to elucidate in a concrete way the interpretive nature of perception and to show how there are no “pure sensations” (“Pure sensation…. lay in his attempt to overcome the discrete. (Like other French phenomenologists. this notion corresponds to nothing in our experience. one of MerleauPonty’s early defenders. was not particularly interested Alphonse De Waelhens. from beginning to end. Ill.as others have -.’” [PP. Fisher (Boston: Beacon Press.Y. indeed. 3]). oppositional categories of modern philosophy and. non-intentional parts thereof] and which are themselves uninterpreted and unmeaningful. with the aid of Gestalt psychology and the biological and behavioral sciences. however.” [PP. Merleau-Ponty Vivant (Albany.

” Reflections 1. Merleau-Ponty was not in any way (contrary to what is sometimes thought) endorsing traditional realist philosophy. sought to overcome the “dominance of subjectivity” by “leaving behind” not only modern subjectivism but also the very notion of subjectivity (“des metaphysischen Subjektivismus”). however.. PP.” Man and World 26 (1993): 19-44. The Ethics of Postmodernity: Current Trends in Continental Thinking (Evanston.” in Gary B. so to speak) traces of the philosophy of consciousness.: Humanity Books.. Art (Bloomington. as he subsequently realized. rather. in “perception. 3) In this he was not altogether successful. ed. 1992).”74 It is important to note.79 Merleau-Ponty reaffirmed those basic principles of the Enlightenment tradition of liberal democratic humanism -. was. he called the Cogito (the presence or “proximity” of the self to itself). 209. The whole point of effecting a “return” to perception was.: University of California Press. 78 As regards Heidegger’s Nazism and his hostility to liberal democracy and the values of the Enlightenment. 47: “The return to perceptual experience. to discern its “philosophical consequences” and to show how this “genealogy” of the conscious subject (“une généalogie de la vérité”) necessitates. On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley. In his later writings. the “forgetfulness” of Being). no. Politics. see my The Phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty: A Search for the Limits of Consciousness. in so far as it is a consequential and radical reform. something Merleau-Ponty criticized.” purely as such. 1999) (reprised in Duane H. “entirely in the service of a philosophy of finitude. in his political philosophy.75 Rather.e. all philosophies which leave consciousness and take as their datum one of its results. see Tom Rockmore. that in criticizing Husserl’s transcendental idealism. it may be noted. N. 168) his earlier phenomenological investigations into our bodily being-inthe-world and to reconfigure the notion of subjectivity in a much more radical way. rational subject. after Being and Time (in his famous “turning” or Kehre). 2001]). Madison and Marty Fairbairn. Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical development was quite different from that of Heidegger.civilization. Zivilisation -that Heidegger had rejected (he realized full well that if humanism and the notion of the Ricoeur. Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology. which Heidegger came to equate with metaphysics pure and simple. Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception and the body-subject was.. a resolute abandonment of the philosophy of consciousness and a thoroughgoing reconceptualization or refonte of what it means to be a self-conscious. as well as Michael E. for. puts out of court all forms of realism. 1 (Summer 1980). and “The Ethics and Politics of the Flesh. i. MerleauPonty’s Later Works and Their Practical Implications: The Dehiscence of Responsibility [Amherst.: Northwestern University Press. as he stated in his first book. the Phenomenology of Perception retains significant (residual. therefore.: Indiana University Press. ed. Heidegger’s attempt to overcome the very notion of subjectivity (as well as.Y. Zimmerman. Ill.76 In this regard. for Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty sought to “deepen and rectify” (VI. 1990). in line with the tradition of French reflexive philosophy.” 76 For a study of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophical development and his attempt to escape from the confines of a philosophy of consciousness. as Ricoeur noted. philosophy itself. see my “Heidegger’s Dialectic.77 Unlike Heidegger who. in fact. 77 For an overview of Heidegger’s work. Davis.in the unreflected. his goal was “to define transcendental philosophy anew. Merleau-Ponty remained committed to the notion of the subject and the tradition of Western humanism that Heidegger criticized in his Letter on Humanism (a criticism that was part of his attempt to come to terms with his earlier embrace of Nazism78).” (SB. 79 For a discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s political philosophy see the following articles of mine: “Merleau-Ponty Alive. Husserl. with reflective consciousness itself. The Structure of Behavior. Cf. his overriding concern was. Calif. that is to say. 75 74 24 . with what. on the part of a phenomenological philosophy. Ind.

in his later work. Beyond the Symbol Model: Reflections on the Representational Nature of Language (Albany. as modern philosophy had generally assumed. ed.Y. in his late work. Merleau-Ponty argued that both language and intersubjectivity are not. Gadamer was to take up and defend in his philosophical hermeneutics (despite Heidegger’s criticizing him for so doing).subject cannot be defended philosophically. Merleau-Ponty’s goal was to overcome modern metaphysics by reconceptualizing or reconstructing in a resolutely postmetaphysical and non-foundationalist fashion the modern notion of subjectivity. 276]). (PP. that words are not mere “signs”.according to which words or “verbal expressions” are “signs” whose referential function or “signification” is bestowed on them by mental acts of “intending” -. he referred to as the foundational (“le fondemental. like Frege and others at the time. not the least of which had to do with the emphasis he placed on the issues of linguality and intersubjectivity.” Given Heidegger’s one-sided view of modernity as the rise to prominence of instrumentalcalculative reason (the Will to Power or Will to Will) and nothing more. [W]hat is lived is lived-spoken…. il serait absurde que le sens ne précède pas…l'acte de langage dont la valeur propre sera toujours celle de l'expression. 183-84) Both Merleau-Ponty and Gadamer insisted. 321. sec. personal subject. thought itself. In his on-going battle with the philosophy of consciousness. in search of what.82 The thinking subject.81 Merleau-Ponty insisted in the Phenomenology on what Gadamer would later refer to as “the indissoluble connection between thinking and speaking.than Merleau-Ponty’s maintaining that speaking (signifying) is in the nature of a bodily gesture. Unlike the later Heidegger. N. Merleau-Ponty maintained that expression is productive of meaning. see my “Being and Speaking. 1962]. in fact. was fixated on the logic of signification (Bedeutungslehre) and who maintained in a very traditional manner that language (speaking) is a merely secondary phenomenon in relation to thought (the “stratum of expression—and this constitutes its peculiarity—…is not productive”). as has been said. instead. and. Ideas. are. 81 Husserl. Merleau-Ponty’s work was. 61): “Aux yeux de Husserl. a life-long attempt to explore subjectivity to its deepest depths. secondary phenomena but are. ‘structured as a language. since in his eyes both liberalism and totalitarianism were part and parcel of the modernist metaphysics of unbridled subjectivity and its project aiming at the technological domination of the earth.: SUNY Press. he rejected both Western liberal democracy and Eastern communism in favor of an idealized Nazism. absolutely central to what it means to be a thinking. To the end. he went so far as to maintain that language is coextensive with our very being (“Language is a life. for a discussion of the phenomenologicalhermeneutic view of language. neither can the idea of democracy80) and adhered to the age-old cosmopolitan ideal of humanitas -. without speech. in contrast with Heidegger also. 25) Rejecting Husserl’s “mentalism” (or “logicism”) and Husserl’s modernist way of separating off thought from expression (redolent of the metaphysical opposition between mind and body). The later Merleau-Ponty would have had no objections to Gadamer’s famous dictum: “Being that can be understood is language. Against Husserl who. 25 80 . is our life and the life of things…. as Jacques Derrida observed in his translation of Husserl’s L'origine de la géométrie [Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. against both Husserl and the logicians (logikous).’”).” [PP. he insisted.” in John Stewart. and in this Merleau-Ponty anticipated both Gadamer’s guiding notion of effective-history and Paul Ricoeur’s conscientious attempt at effecting a hermeneutic decentering and non-idealist retrieval of the notion of the subject.an ideal that. Throughout his work Merleau-Ponty anticipated the interpretive turn in phenomenology in a number of ways. 1996). 124. is none other than the speaking subject (there is no thought. properly speaking.. “inner experience…is meaningless.” 82 Nothing could be further from Husserl’s logicist approach to language -.” (RPJ.” a “transcendence within immanence”). he did not think that modern subjectivism (“anthropocentrism”) could be overcome simply by dissolving subjectivity and returning to a pre-Socratic age of ontological innocence before the advent of self-consciousness. [V]ision itself.

he said. “The Problem of Historical Consciousness. Ontology and Alterity in Merleau-Ponty (Evanston. an Other for itself and how.: University of California Press. with his notion of the “flesh. an intersubjectivity.Nor would Merleau-Ponty have had any trouble endorsing Gadamer’s assertion: “Only through others do we gain true knowledge of ourselves. his own work was.” the “primordial sphere”) overlooks. the issue of intersubjectivity (“other minds. Merleau-Ponty In Contemporary Perspective (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. Sullivan. Ill.” [TM. perhaps.: Northwestern University Press. Hermeneutic Phenomenology If Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology was already to a great extent hermeneutic. like Merleau-Ponty’s. A Century of Philosophy: A Conversation with Riccardo Dottori. as many have Hans-Georg Gadamer. From a Merleau-Pontyan point of view. as it were. and in his later work. 107. 127. here and now. Although Gadamer was not familiar with Merleau-Ponty’s work at the time he was preparing his magnum opus. as it undoubtedly was.” as modern philosophy referred to it) was never.” (PP. what is correct. solidly grounded in the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger. Oneself As Another. had experienced great procedural difficulties in dispelling the notion that his transcendentalism. as well as for the practical issue (one that Heidegger ignored86) of phronesis or prudentia (“the sense of what is feasible. we come upon a knowledge of the “Other. what is possible. Calif. has a distinctly Merleau-Pontyan ring to it (not surprisingly. is that what is “properly” one’s own is never just “one’s own”: “We are mixed up with [mêlés au] the world and others in an inextricable confusion.”83 For Merleau-Ponty. to “bypass” Heidegger’s ever more pronounced preoccupation with the Being-question (die Seinsfrage) (PHC. 454) Merleau-Ponty always insisted that subjectivity is. Interpretive Social Science: A Reader (Berkeley.” in Galen A.84 The title of Ricoeur’s 1990 revised Gifford lectures. within the realm of transcendental subjectivity (the “sphere of ownness”). leads to solipsism by trying to give an account of how. as he also said. ed. 2004). the Other is inscribed in. 106) -.85 the accomplishment of Hans-Georg Gadamer was to have transformed phenomenology into an explicitly hermeneutic discipline. ed. And it was this concern for the concrete. ed. a kind of after-thought as regards the constituting activity of a pure Ego.” in Paul Rabinow and William M. 1990).” i. the “phenomenological art of description” (“the fundamental phenomenological principle that one should avoid all theoretical constructions and get back ‘to the things themselves. is woven into.” for Merleau-Ponty the Other was from the outset a primordial given. Husserl’s praxis -. 105. what Husserl’s way of portraying the reduction as a reduction to one’s own ego (the “sphere of ownness.was. the very fabric of the subject’s own selfhood -. 84 See in this regard my “Flesh As Otherness.from. In contrast with Husserl who. like that of his Cartesian predecessor.culminating.. 26 83 . 1993).” he was able to show how the reflecting subject is already. in the fifth of his Cartesian Meditations...is part of its own flesh. as it was in modern philosophy. Johnson and Michael B. a sense for the “concrete. in a word. since for Ricoeur Merleau-Ponty was “the greatest of French phenomenologists”). 1979). that led him. hereafter PHC. What Gadamer learned from Husserl and Husserl’s aversion to idle metaphysical speculation -. xxxviii]).e. 113]). accordingly.” in Patrick Burke and Jan Van Der Veken. Smith.’” [RPJ.” Hans-Georg Gadamer. Truth and Method (first published in its original German version 1960).. at its most primordial level. trans. 85 See in this regard my “Merleau-Ponty In Retrospect. 86 In Gadamer’s opinion Heidegger “disregarded phronesis and raised the question of being in its place. Rod Coltman (New York: Continuum. just a marginal issue.

other people. 295) His intent. language “is the fundamental mode of operation of our beingin-the-world and the all-embracing form of the constitution of the world.” ones which had set the parameters for earlier hermeneuticians like Schleiermacher and Dilthey. as existing beings.” (PH. The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer.” 89 See in this regard my “Hermeneutics' Claim to Universality.and to focus directly on human understanding itself. With regard to hermeneutics. 3) -.whence See Hans-Georg Gadamer. and PH. Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics could appropriately be described as an exercise in fundamental phenomenological ontology. 88 See TM. it is not so much a theory of text-interpretation. Gadamer’s main thesis in this regard is that all human experience of the world is essentially lingual in nature.” in Hahn. but a reflective and interpretive transcendentalism (transcendental-phenomenological). in some ways. even before) becomes phenomenological. Because Gadamer’s concern was with the human lifeworld. as Husserl had earlier on.” so to speak). “Le défi herméneutique. 18). Gadamer’s transcendentalism is not a speculativedeductive transcendentalism à la Kant (transcendental-logical). indeed. as Heidegger had in his existential analytic in Being and Time. explicating just exactly what it means to maintain. that. but into its actual. but absolutely everything—because everything (in the world and out of it) is included in the realm of ‘understandings' and understandability in which we move. an understanding of being is what we most essentially are. 111]). xxx. with “all human experience of the world and human living. With Gadamer. in the manner of logical positivism) but phenomenological (descriptive). not into the logical “conditions of possibility” of understanding. as it is a general. he could rightly claim that the scope of hermeneutics so conceived is genuinely universal.” [RAS. Truth and Method is in this sense a transcendental (reflective) inquiry. ourselves (“what always happens whenever an interpretation is convincing and successful. Since it is an attempt to elucidate the nature of that understanding which. at bottom. was not epistemological (prescriptive. to have brought a phenomenological turn to this old discipline. ed.87 As Gadamer stated in the Foreword to the second edition (1965) of Truth and Method. My real concern was and is philosophic.89 Faithful to his mentor Heidegger. but with clarifying “the conditions in which understanding [itself] takes place. has occurred whenever we claim to have arrived at an understanding of things. xxxi). Because Gadamer’s hermeneutics is a reflective inquiry concerned with “our entire understanding of the world and thus all the various forms in which this understanding manifests itself” (PH.” 27 87 . we are.88 in that he was concerned with ascertaining what. xxviii) Gadamer’s hermeneutics is indeed “philosophic” in that he was concerned not with technical issues having to do with correctness (“objectivity”) in matters of text-interpretation. Gadamer’s accomplishment was. 465: “Fundamentally I am not proposing a method. so. He did. 25: “The phenomenon of understanding…shows the universality of human linguisticality as a limitless medium that carries everything within it—not only the 'culture' that has been handed down to us through language.” (TM. phenomenal make-up (its “conditions of actuality. in actual fact.” Revue internationale de philosophie 151 (1984): 334. all-inclusive philosophy or ontology of human existence.” (TM. in Truth and Method.” and because he wanted “to discover what is common to all modes of understanding” (TM. “I did not intend to produce an art or technique of understanding. but I am describing what is the case. in the manner of the earlier hermeneutics…. in a kind of Seinsmystik -.alleged. as was the case with Romantic hermeneutics.. phenomenology fully accomplishes its interpretive turn and also with him the long tradition of hermeneutic thought dating from the seventeenth century (and. by breaking with the preoccupations of the modern “era of epistemology [l’ère de la théorie de la connaissance]).

By way of forestalling a possible misunderstanding (a rather common one. to divest these notions of their metaphysical trappings by bringing them down to earth. Derrida. 389). and.” (TM.” as Rorty would say. language is not something of a “subjectivist” nature standing over against the world and barring us from access to it.” (TM. so also is it not “outside” of language.” as Derrida would imply (“Il n’y a rien hors du texte”). Just as the world is not “outside” of consciousness. Gadamer was most definitely not maintaining that language is a kind of “prison. language is the means by which our mute experience of the world is brought to the proper expression of its own meaning. Madison. for the relation between language and the world in Gadamer’s thought is of the same “intentional” nature as is the relation between consciousness and the world in classical phenomenology. language is the world itself insofar as it is present to us and inasmuch as we have meaningful experience of it (“what the world is is not different from the views [language] in which it presents itself. actually).” (MTP. Indeed. “things bring themselves to expression in language. 77: “Is not language more the language of things than the language of man?” For a more detailed treatment of Gadamer’s position in this regard vis-à-vis both Rorty and Derrida. or something we cannot “break out of. That is to say. the world is the “inner” meaning (verbum interius) of language itself. the notion that understanding (“knowledge”) consists in forming “inner representations. The important thing to note in this regard is that. Gadamer.91 What Gadamer’s emphasis on the linguality of our experience of the world clearly did contest is the modernist metaphysics of referentialist-representationalism. be brought to expression (can be interpreted) in language. for Gadamer.” [TM. 2001). to use two expressions “that for all intents and purposes mean the same thing. he was not seeking to call into question the very notions of “knowledge” and “truth” but was simply seeking. in principle.”90 (PH. rather. being what language “means” (intends). To maintain that “language is the universal medium in which understanding occurs” (TM.Gadamer’s oft-cited remark: “Being that can be understood is language. approvingly. As Gadamer remarks. amounts to maintaining that understanding is not “representational” but interpretive in nature: “All understanding is interpretation.” (PH. to think) defending a version of linguistic relativism. 296) See also PH. it should be noted that Gadamer’s linguality-thesis does not deny the meaningfulness of non-lingual modes of experience. 69) In short. 401). Neither of these interpretations hold. as Ricoeur says.or non-lingual could not be so interpreted. 126) Thus. The Politics of Postmodernity: Essays in Applied Hermeneutics (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. 81) To speak of “the nature of things” and of “the language of things” is. the language of phenomenology “is a language which expresses that which precedes language.” mental copies of an “external” in-itself reality (“philosophy as the mirror of nature”).” (TM. i.e. Unlike them. see my “Coping with Nietzsche’s Legacy: Rorty. if the pre. as he also says. 406]).” in Gary B. however. xxxiv) In putting forward this claim. it would be meaningless to speak of it as having any meaning at all. it affirms that meaningfulness. unlike the structuralists and poststructuralists who came upon the scene a short time later and who set themselves up as implacable foes of phenomenology and the phenomenological approach to language (and whose views on language Ricoeur would set himself the task of contesting). Gadamer was opening himself up to the criticism (coming from Habermas) that he was falling into a kind of linguistic idealism (Sprachidealismus) or was (as Rorty was. as Merleau-Ponty would say (see PriP. 389) And interpretation itself is never a merely reproductive activity but is always transformative of that which is to be interpreted: “[U]nderstanding is not merely reproductive but always a productive activity as well. by maintaining that such experience can always.. 91 90 28 . 13). “language has no independent life apart from the world that comes to language within it” (TM.

anticipating one of the main tenets of the hermeneutic theory of text-interpretation. see my “Eine Kritik an Hirschs Begriff der ‘Richtigkeit. the Lifeworld. 1978). the universal cannot in fact be separated from the particular. for it is only in applying what the text says to our own situation that we can be said to understand it. History. the act of reading is not. and Interpretation (Albany.which is not to say that in the matter of text-interpretation “anything goes” (this is what Gadamer referred to as “hermeneutic nihilism”). “that we have no way to understand the universal except from within the particular situation in which we happen to find ourselves. and the Universality of Reason (The Case of China). and we must steer this boat in such For a critique of Hirsch’s positivist-style version of hermeneutics from a Gadamerian point of view. 61. In opposition to this traditional. an act of “violence” but presupposes “good will” aiming at genuine dialogue. it “always involves something like applying the text to be understood to the interpreter’s present situation. on the basis of his detailed studies of textuality (Schriftlichkeit). viz. Gadamer insisted that the universal (e.M. has. 93 For a discussion of the hermeneutic notion of application. that it is the (universally) same text that we necessarily always understand in different ways. Speaking of the phenomenon of globalization (“the world-wide interwovenness of economies”). Understanding is always of an “applicational” nature93. see my “Hermeneutics. he was seeking to move beyond both objectivism and relativism.Y. Ind. Jr. the opposition between the universal (the timeless and invariant) and the particular (the local and merely contingent). 308) As Ricoeur would later show. 29 92 . a great deal of relevance to the global lifeworld that is now everywhere emerging. “it’s simply the case. (See S. In Praise of Theory. …bringing the universal and the individual together. “Hegel. English version in my The Hermeneutics of Postmodernity: Figures and Themes (Bloomington. it may be noted. somewhat paradoxically..g. 161. Hegel. 24) Gadamer’s rearticulation of the relation between understanding and application amounts to an overcoming of an age-old metaphysical opposition. one as pernicious as the opposition between mind and body or between reality and appearance. Hirsch. N. ed. and this is because. subtilitas explicandi) and “application” (subtilitas applicandi) cannot be separated.: Suhrkamp. Foucault.92).” Shaun Gallagher observes (invoking Gadamer’s notion of phronesis). 1997).’” in Hans-Georg Gadamer and Gottfried Boehm. Gadamer insisted that “understanding” (subtilitas intelligendi.. dichotomous way of viewing the matter.D. 96 Gadamer. as the earlier Heidegger claimed. Seminar: Die Hermeneutik und die Wissenschaften (Frankfurt a.94 The “meaning” of what is to be understood is inseparable from its “significance” for the subject in search of understanding. the meaning of a text) never exists fully defined in its own right but always only in its varying instanciations -.: Indiana University Press. 1988). the true meaning of a work is not necessarily the one intended by its author. From a strictly phenomenological point of view. 95 Shaun Gallagher. and Critical Hermeneutics. it is only in the act of reading that the meaning of the text itself is actualized.” in idem. The text is not an “absolute object” (as if it were something existing “in itself.”95 Gadamer’s way of reconceptualizing the age-old philosophical problem of the relation between universality and particularity by means of his notion of “application” (“application—that is.: SUNY Press.” in Madison. Gadamer highlighted the challenge confronting humanity when he stated: “Humanity today is sitting in a rowboat.. 94 For both Gadamer and Ricoeur.” like the “external world” of modern philosophy).. as it were. and in opposition to the objectivistic assumptions of traditional. as Merleau-Ponty had already observed. whose meaning one first grasps and then only subsequently “applies” to the situation at hand. Romantic hermeneutics (and to contemporary representatives of it like Emilio Betti and E.” (TM. ed.In regard to the more specific area of text-interpretation. When Gadamer said. The Politics of Postmodernity.”96).

that is to say. with a philosophical need for a common. in this context. hereafter BSS. (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic. while being universal.: Yale University Press. 2002). an ethic which. no. “if cultural roots are so different? No doubt this is one of the greatest problems of the end of this century and the next century. 1981). 1973). who. in other words: “solidarity.. 30 97 .”100 In stressing the role of “application. more “postmetaphysically. trans. see Busch’s entry “Marcel. global ethic of human values (human rights.” Both Gadamer’s defense of universalism and Schrag’s notion of transversalism are meant to contest the notion (promoted by Rorty and other relativistic postmodernists) that the various cultures of the world are “incommensurable. would nevertheless be respectful of cultural/historical differences.all of which is summed up in his key notion of historically-effective consciousness (das wirkungsgeschichliche Bewusstsein). and Memory: Two Conversations with Paul Ricoeur. belongs to and depends on that which affects it.98 One of the chief legacies of Gadamer’s “philosophy of conversation” undoubtedly lies in the way it can serve to promote. Phenomenology and Existentialism (New York: G. 2001).that of avoiding what some have referred to as a global “clash of civilizations” -. Thompson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.these presuppositions being what Alfred Schütz had called the “typical constructs” that are “the unquestioned but always questionable sum total of things taken for granted until further notice. Richard E.” Symposium 6.a way that we do not all crash into the rocks. 103 Alfred Schütz. 1 (1970): 13.” 100 See Tamás Tóth.is to a large extent a hermeneutic one. “The Power of Reason. in the realm of human finitude. Conn. effectivehistory (Wirkungsgeschichte) is “the massive and global fact whereby consciousness.” Gadamer was emphasizing the inescapable “situatedness” (as Marcel would say101) of understanding and the unavoidable role that presuppositions or prejudgments (“prejudices”) play in understanding.”102 Effective-history. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences. 299. ed. 11-12/2002. and.” in Richard M. Between Suspicion and Sympathy: Paul Ricoeur’s Unstable Equilibrium (Toronto: The Hermeneutic Press. not of “universalism. for a discussion of Ricoeur’s position in this matter. Zaner and Don Ihde. John B. 2003).”103 Like language itself..”97 This challenge -.” 101 As Thomas Busch has pointed out.P.” of “transversalism. the lifeworld reality of cultural diversity. “How can we attain some kind of universalism of reflection. As Ricoeur would later point out. Marcel’s notion of situatedness anticipates Gadamer’s hermeneutic theory. in particular). even before its awakening as such. no. has also been keenly aware of the interpretive need to reconcile ethical universalism (universal human rights) with cultural particularity. “Common-Sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action. It should be noted that Gadamer’s attempt to revise the notions of “universal” and “particular” has been greatly expanded upon by Calvin Schrag. 647. Lester Embree et al. hereafter HHS.” Dialogue and Humanism (Polish Academy of Sciences) 12. the hermeneutic-universalist ideals of “global dialogue (Weltgespräch)” and cross-cultural understanding. Gadamer in Conversation: Reflections and Commentary. ed. 81. is the action of cultural/historical tradition (“historicality” or what Ricoeur calls “traditionalité”) and is that which provides us with our “enabling” presuppositions -.” in Andrzej Wiercin ´ ski. “The Graft. the Residue. and thus also our unavoidable “belogingness” (Zugehörigkeit) to our own particular cultural/historical traditions -.” in Encyclopedia of Phenomenology. hereafter GOC.” i. it could be said. for a further discussion of this matter.” Ricoeur. it should be noted. ed. having to do with reconciling universality and particularity. see also in this volume my “Paul Ricoeur: Philosopher of Being-Human (Zuoren). ed. speaks.” Man and World 3.and can do so in a way which is decidedly “non-hegemonic. 74. perhaps wisely. Palmer (New Haven. 98 See in this regard my paper presented to the Chinese National Academy of Social Sciences. “China in a Globalizing World: Reconciling the Universal with the Particular. see my “Gadamer’s Legacy. 1997). no. effective-history is the onto- Hans-Georg Gadamer. “rational identification with a universal interest”99 -. 99 Hans-Georg Gadamer.” he asks. 102 Paul Ricoeur.e..” but. 2 (Fall. Putnam’s Sons.

from a phenomenological point of view the very notion of a “closed horizon” (and thus also the notion that different cultural lifeworlds are “incommensurable”) is. “Precisely through our finitude.” in Kearney.is not the isolated. move. What lies beyond one’s horizon at any given time is. in-itself world (adaequatio intellectus et res). a horizon always points beyond itself to. ed. horizons.105 Gadamer’s crucial insight. 304). and seeking -. socially constituted beings. 16) Just as Merleau-Ponty maintained that truth is nothing other than the experience of a “concordance” between ourselves and others. and have our being. see my “Hermeneutics: Gadamer and Ricoeur. as I mentioned above.” Indeed. For a discussion of this matter. To say that understanding is finite or situated. Thus.104 and thus. 105 104 31 . which is evident even in the variety of languages. a metaphysical construction without any basis in lived experience. is that there is. 269) “Between finitude and absolute knowledge. Gadamer’s hermeneutics effected a decisive break not only with modern epistemologism but also with the quasi-solipsism of Husserl’s philosophy of consciousness. 1999).” (PH. the particularity of our being.oftentimes painfully -. but it is not in principle unknowable.” in Richard H. Frederick G..” [TM.” Gadamer’s hermeneutics is grounded in Heidegger’s notion of “thrownness” (Geworfenheit). A Century of Philosophy. Lawrence (Cambridge.” On the contrary. as Gadamer accordingly insisted. as Gadamer says.” Ricoeur observes. Mass. no contradiction between “openness” and “belongingness” (between tradition and emancipation) -. however. 130. as understanding. “it is necessary to choose. invite exploration and allow us to move about in the world and make contact with what is distant and alien (the world itself being. as Ricoeur also makes clear. 74) Gadamer’s ontology of finitude is not.” (HHS. so likewise for Gadamer.“To exist historically means that knowledge of oneself can never be complete. 106 See Hans-Georg Gadamer.. a vast realm of “determinable indeterminacy. unknown. through a “merging of horizons (Horizontverschmelzung). the “horizon of all horizons”). as Husserl would say. for a more succinct overview of philosophical hermeneutics. a version of relativism. hereafter RAS. being mobile. but a horizon is not a wall or a barrier (an absolute limit) that closes us off from what is “other. 304]).106 In maintaining that the locus of truth -. cognizing subject and an objective. truth is not a matter of “adequation” between an isolated. the notion of effective-history means that we can never achieve a bird’s-eye overview of our historical situatedness in such a way as to realize the metaphysical ideal of an all-encompassing science -.: MIT Press. by definition. the concept of effective history belongs to an ontology of finitude.which is what allowed him to assert that there is “no higher principle of reason” with which to think our effective-history than that of freedom.” (TM. ed. one which dominates all of his work. see my “Hermeneutics: Gadamer and Ricoeur. The Columbia History of Western Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press. trans. monological subject of modern philosophy but the dialogical encounter between situated human beings. Reason in the Age of Science. we are able to encounter other people and other ways of life and to arrive in this way at mutual understandings and common agreements as to what is or ought to be the case. is to say that it is always bounded by horizons (“essential to the concept of situation is the concept of horizon. we “live.of reason (the logos) -. 9. or need be. 1981). “artificial” (see TM. the infinite dialogue is opened in the direction of the truth that we are. We are “in the truth” when. as Husserl said.” the “hermeneutic experience” par excellence. Continental Philosophy in the 20th Century.logical milieu in which. Merleau-Ponty had said that the “germ of universality” lies not in a transcendental See Gadamer. as well as of other basic themes in philosophical hermeneutics.a common understanding of things. Popkin. but is a matter of mutual agreement between actual human subjects freely engaged in dialogue.

was part of a larger.seem to undermine the primacy that a reflexive philosophy such as Ricoeur’s accords to the subject (“A reflexive philosophy considers the most radical problems to be those which concern the possibility of self-understanding as the subject of the operations of knowing. 10.” in Wiercin ´ ski. 26) Insofar as we hold ourselves open in this way (cf. 36) and is animated by an ethics of communicative rationality. he attempted to “graft hermeneutics onto phenomenology” and entered into an on-going debate with various disciplines or intellectual trends such as Freudianism and structuralism which -. chap. 643) What in this regard Ricoeur sought to do was to separate the phenomenological method from Husserl’s idealist interpretation of this method (“I attempted to dissociate what appeared to me to be the descriptive core of phenomenology from the idealist interpretation in which this core was wrapped. 1986).: Greenwood Press. “Creative Fidelity: Gabriel Marcel’s Influence on Paul Ricoeur. what as lingual. 188]). rational beings we most essentially are. we are open to the truth of things. like the world itself. and in conjunction with his “lingual turn” in the 1960s. Husserl.: Northwestern University Press. is. hereafter SNS.“I think” but in “the dialogue into which our experience of other people throws us. 108 For a detailed discussion of the hermeneutic notion of communicative rationality. Maurice Merleau-Ponty. never completed “grand project” on the Philosophy of the Will) were inspired by MerleauPonty’s magisterial work on perception.functioning as a kind of “hermeneutics of suspicion” -. language lives only in speech. for an analysis of the notions of communicative rationality and practical reasoning in both Gadamer and Ricoeur.. Dreyfus and Patricia Allen Dreyfus (Evanston. and its locus is the transsubjective and transcultural community of all reasonable beings. and the mystery of evil in the world. for an insightful discussion of Ricoeur’s relationship with Marcel. Ricoeur’s early writings on philosophical anthropology (the kind of philosophical anthropology that Heidegger dismissed but that Gadamer thought was called for by Husserl’s discovery of the lifeworld. Between Suspicion and Sympathy.” as Karl Jaspers referred to it). evaluating.108 he could rightly say that “there is no higher principle than this: holding oneself open to the conversation. for Gadamer. 93. Hubert L.” (RPJ. 11])..”107 Like Merleau-Ponty who equated rationality with communication and whose focus was on the speaking subject. Paul Ricoeur. for truth. trans. and Practical Judgment. is of a “horizonal” nature. 110 It would be a bit more correct to say that Ricoeur’s “starting point” was Gabriel Marcel’s existential philosophy of embodiment (Ricoeur dedicated his Philosophy of the Will to Marcel) as reinterpreted through the lens of Husserlian phenomenology. such that. Husserl’s “intellectualism” (as Lévinas referred to it) notwithstanding. and. as he says. frailty. as something universal. ed. Subsequently. willing. suffering. Conn. Paul Ricoeur (who discovered Gadamer in somewhat the same belated way that Gadamer discovered Merleau-Ponty) was no less sensitive to the finitude of the human condition than was Gadamer. Because Gadamer’s hermeneutics is a “philosophy of conversation” (RPJ. and in them he sought to extend the Husserlian method of eidetic analysis to a dimension of human existence that Husserl. ed. etc. and that.” [OI. as he always liked to say. as is amply attested to by his early work in the 1940s and 1950s on human fallibility. 221. it was Husserl’s transcendental philosophy of the subject which furnished Ricoeur with. 1964). see Paul Fairfield. passivity. Between Suspicion and Sympathy. in Ricoeur’s case. too. given his “cognitivist” preoccupations (or what Ricoeur calls “Husserl’s logicist prejudice”109).” in Wiercin ´ ski. his “starting point.”110 (BSS. see my The Logic of Liberty (Westport. truth is the realm of unrestricted openness (of “boundless communication. had largely passed over in silence: the whole non-cognitive domain of affectivity and volition. Sense and Non-Sense. 32 107 . Ill. see Boyd Blundell. Marcel’s notion of disponibilité). a conversation (Gespräch).” [IA. 109 Ricoeur. “Hans-Georg Gadamer.

that.”114 Ricoeur’s philosophical motivation in this regard is his fundamental belief that our existence is indeed meaningful. a philosophy. in Ricoeur’s words. hereafter CC.” (IA. Ricoeur’s basic concern. 114 Paul Ricoeur. there is a gradual progression in his work from a hermeneutics of the symbol through a confrontation with Freudian psychoanalysis and structural linguistics to a hermeneutics of the text.this belief in the expressibility or “sayability” (dicibilité) of experience corresponding to Gadamer’s thesis as to the linguality or “speakability” of the world (die Sprachlichkeit der Welt). see Paul Ricoeur. Ill. “There is no human experience that is not structured by language” (BSS. 17. Critique and Conviction: Conversations with François Azouvi and Marc de Launay.. notwithstanding the very real existence of unmeaning.” in Wiercin ´ ski. Kohak (Evanston. his philosophical development is extremely complex with many twists and turns along the way (one might say that Ricoeur’s “method” [methodos. 33 111 . trans. Erazim V. “of man’s recurrent protest against being reduced to the level of ideas and things.. 1966). 81-82. necessity (unfreedom). for a thematic overview of Ricoeur’s work.Ricoeur’s overriding concern throughout all of this having been the acting person (l’homme agissant). the way he followed in his thinking] is essentially one that proceeds continually by way of detours). 112 See Ricoeur’s translation of. and narrativity) and culminating (at the time of this writing) in a renewed concern with ethics and politics (with issues such as justice. he nevertheless always considered the heritage of Husserlian phenomenology to be “the unsurpassable presupposition of hermeneutics. and thus expressible (dicible) -. viz. responsibility. it was. has always been the reflexive-transcendental one of bringing our lived experience to the proper expression of its own meaning.112) Because the particular shape Ricoeur’s work has taken is the result of the debates he has engaged in on numerous different occasions with proponents of other views with which he felt he had to come to terms. 38) Subsequent to his early writings on the will.: Northwestern University Press. 113 For an account by Ricoeur of the piecemeal way in which he has handled philosophical problems. echoing as it were Merleau-Ponty. and evil. Ricoeur’s philosophizing has in this way always been a search for meaning and has throughout been guided by a “central intuition. an underlying continuity in terms of both method and motivation. like that of other phenomenologists. a concern which reflects his indebtedness to the personalist philosophy of Emmanuel Mounier.” or basic conviction.Ricoeur’s overall work follows a rather complicated trajectory and undergoes numerous shifts in direction. remembrance. Between Suspicion and Sympathy.113 There is nonetheless a kind of Ariadne’s thread running through it all. there is For an excellent survey of Ricoeur’s philosophical writings. and from there to a hermeneutics of action and intersubjectivity (passing by way of an analysis of metaphor. 36. the vocation of philosophy. was always highly critical of Husserl’s philosophy of consciousness or what he generally refers to as Husserl’s “idealism” (“transcendental subjectivism” might be a more appropriate term). Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary. 1998). as he sees it. Kathleen Blamey (New York: Columbia University Press. 356) Although Ricoeur. indeed. and phronesis or practical wisdom) -. Ricoeur’s early work as a translator and interpreter of Husserl that firmly established his academic credentials. Husserl’s Ideen I: Ideés directrices pour une phénoménologie (Paris: Gallimard. 2002). trans. 1950). Calif. like his phenomenological predecessors. a work that Merleau-Ponty used and cited in his lectures at the Sorbonne in the early 1950s. see Mark Muldoon. As he stated in an early work.” (IA.”111 (MTP.: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. 680). and commentary on. Methodologically speaking. On Ricoeur (Belmont. Ricoeur maintains. is “to clarify existence itself by use of concepts. “The Unity of Paul Ricoeur’s Work. time. see Domenico Jervolino. ed. all nevertheless “nesting one within the other.

” (OI. Ill. The Conflict of Interpretations. but. Experience can be said. and texts in which get expressed the human “effort to exist and desire to be. ed. 117 Paul Ricoeur.”115 The underlying presupposition in Ricoeur’s work is his “presupposition of meaning” (or “postulate of meaningfulness”). with regard to his presupposition of meaning.” (CI.” he has said.” in Hahn. (HHS. a distorted. accordingly.“I think-I am” -. proximally and for the most part. 188) And as he freely admits.” (CI. he rejected Heidegger’s “short cut (voie courte)” to an ontology of understanding and insisted that reflection must be “indirect” and that the passage from misunderstanding (“inauthenticity”) to understanding is not just a matter of willful self-assertion but must necessarily follow an arduous. In attempting to effect a “qualitative transformation” of reflexive consciousness. This is why. 18) For the phenomenological fact of the matter is that the consciousness of self is. Ricoeur was acutely aware of the “idealist” pitfalls that menace any reflexive philosophy of the subject. admittedly. “Reply to G. 115) It was. ed. human self. which he formulates thus: It must be supposed that experience in all its fullness…has an expressibility (dicibilité) in principle. “It is difficult. the truth of the Cogito -. as he says. he has stated that “these analyses continually presuppose the conviction that discourse never exists for its own sake.is a truth that is as empty as it is certain). for its own glory. of its acts. to formulate this presupposition in a nonidealist language. en hommage à Paul Ricoeur (Paris: Éditions du Seuil. 116 These two terms are ones that Ricoeur himself suggested as the title for the Festschrift in his honor that I edited on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday: Sens et existence. 196) Ricoeur’s dual concern with meaning and existence116 makes for an overarching thematic unity to his work. 1974).. which would make consciousness of self indubitable knowledge. it demands to be said. “a being-demanding-to-be-said (un être-à-dire) which precedes our actual saying. in order to counteract the idealist tendencies of reflexive philosophy that Ricoeur insisted that “a philosophy of reflection must be just the opposite of a philosophy of consciousness. as “a hermeneutics of the ‘I am.in existence a “super-abundance of meaning to the abundance of non-sense. B. hereafter CI. Madison. roundabout detour through a painstaking decipherment of the various cultural/historical signs. in articulating and developing it. The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur. but that in all of its uses it seeks to bring into language an experience. see also in this volume my “Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of the Subject. and. “carries with it the desire for absolute transparence.’” its focus has consistently been on the issues of subjectivity and self-understanding. 411. to make it become itself. Don Ihde (Evanston.” (OI. 18) It is only in this painstaking way that what at the outset is a bare ego can become a genuine. 115) In connection with his work on metaphor and narrative.” (CI. Ricoeur asserts. 93. “that is at stake throughout the whole of my work. Ricoeur insisted that there is no “originary” presence of the self to itself and that the notion of intuitive self-knowledge is an illusion (for Ricoeur. a perfect coincidence of the self with itself.: Northwestern University Press. 1975). as he remarks. false consciousness. a way of living in and of being-in-the-world which precedes it and which demands to be said.” 34 115 .”117 In pursuing his inquiry into the nature of selfhood. for the traditional idea of reflection. of its works. 18) The reflecting subject is a subject that is lost in the world and that must “recapture” itself “in the mirror of its objects. finally. To bring it to language is not to change it into something else.” There is always. “[I]t is indeed the fate of human subjectivity.” (HHS. symbols. The phenomenological subject Paul Ricoeur.

Subjectivism and objectivism were always Ricoeur’s twin foes. 113) On the other hand.” as Pascal called it). I don’t know what it is. at the end of which reflection would once again amount to intellectual intuition in the transparence to itself of an absolute subject.” 119 35 .is not a transcendental Ego that would be an absolute creator or dispenser of meaning.” (HHS.” (OI.”)119 As an existential-phenomenological hermeneutician. it is not a subject that is. moreover. at least they say it so well that their discourse can be subjected to a structuralist analysis. and in the name of a phenomenology of human finitude and “fallible man. On the one hand. The Savage Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. to understand ourselves better. Being of a “mediated” nature. maître de soi. and the contrary is not true. he had to contest all those disciplines and intellectual trends of an objectivistic or naturalistic sort which would make of subjectivity an illusion pure and simple. genuine self-understanding always involves a corrective critique of misunderstanding and can only be envisaged as a kind of “distant horizon”: “A hermeneutic philosophy is a philosophy which accepts all the demands of this long detour and which gives up the dream of a total mediation. meaning (signification) is always just a mere phenomenon (est toujours phénoménal).” he had to resist the idealist tendencies in traditional reflexive philosophy and in Husserl’s transcendentalism by. 322 (Novembre.” [HHS. In my perspective. as it were. Ricoeur’s frustration with this sort of objectivistic reductionism came to the fore when he said to Lévi-Strauss: “You despair of meaning. 246-47. 112]) “Subjectivity.” (What in that case it is. See the text of the debate in Esprit 31. For me. ultimately. as Ricoeur himself said. the stated goal of which (anticipating the “death of ‘man’” theme in French philosophy) was not to understand better that entity we call “man” but. are. to “dissolve” him. behind all meaning there is non-sense (un non-sens). a “reappropriated” subject that is both interpretive and interpreted. and in order to defend the very notion of the subject. questioning. no.”118 Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist reductionism (wanting to “study men as if they were ants”) extended even to the very notion of meaning. As he said to Ricoeur in the course of a famous debate: Meaning (le sens) is always the result of the combination of elements which are not meaningful (signifiant) in themselves…. as Descartes would say. “desubjectivizing” subjectivity (“phenomenology is always in danger of reducing itself to a transcendental subjectivism. In other words. 194) In his attempt to work out a hermeneutics of self-understanding. and what it means for us to be (the “human condition. Typical of his polemic with the latter was his dispute with the structuralist anthropology of Claude Lévi-Strauss. story-telling subject that is itself “given” to itself by means of a long drawnout process of semiosis. 1966). meaning is never a firstorder phenomenon.” A 118 See Claude Lévi-Strauss. quite simply.” he said in this regard. to reduce him to his “physicalchemical conditions. is “the admirable syntactical arrangement of a discourse which says nothing at all [qui ne dit rien]. our own selves which we seek to understand. but you save yourself by thinking that if people have nothing to say. His most powerful insight in this regard is that self-understanding is never a given but always a task. Ricoeur always had to do battle on two fronts. so to speak. but a speaking/listening. meaning is always reducible. “must be lost as radical origin if it is to be recovered in a more modest role. Ricoeur has always insisted that the point of all attempts at understanding the world around us (such as those evinced in Lévi-Strauss’s own anthropological research) is. and that. 1963). themselves products of our encounter with what is “outside” and what is “other. To remarks such as these Ricoeur repeatedly objected: “If meaning is not an element in self-understanding.

” “extensions” of hermeneutics to the domain of practice (philosophical hermeneutics. as philosophical hermeneutics maintains (akin in this way to Jamesian pragmatism). the portrayal of other ways of being-in-the-world that we encounter in our reading of texts... as he acknowledged.Heidegger’s belief to the contrary notwithstanding -. more meaningful self: “To understand oneself is to understand oneself as one confronts the text and to receive from it the conditions for a self other than that which first undertakes the reading. one that was of a decidedly creative nature. narrativity. the being-otherwise and being-more that are the objects of the effort to exist and the desire to be.” in the way it “applies” to concrete situations and practical affairs -. To a significant extent. to a great extent. the classical opposition between realism and idealism that continued to the end to plague Husserl’s presentation of phenomenology. the function of texts being that of calling into being or projecting “virtual” worlds. the various human sciences are nothing other than “applied hermeneutics. and we ourselves. as interpretive sciences (die verstehenden Wissenschaften). what has since become known as the “metaphysics of presence”). from this point of view.” (OI.e. being not a regional but a 36 . of how. imaginative ways of being-in-the-world. the world. Through its encounter with that “higher order referent” or “new reality” that Ricoeur calls “the world of the work” (a notion that he shares with Gadamer). which is to say.crucial “other” in our becoming who we are is the textual other.e. 193) The great lesson of Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology is that what we as human subjects most essentially are is what we can become.it is indeed possible to overcome modern subjectivism (i. which is to say. Ricoeur’s work.and is able to emerge with a “refigured. to the realm of praxis -.e. Viewed as a whole. i.” i. non-idealist or non-substantialist notion of subjectivity itself -. alternative. by fully accomplishing the interpretive turn in phenomenology.“imaginative variations of the ego” (HHS.. postmetaphysical phenomenology is to have shown how -. is itself a scientia practica (“hermeneutics is philosophy. provides an outstanding example of how post-Husserlian phenomenologists have struggled not only to break out of the philosophy of consciousness but also to overcome. 111]) To employ a Husserlian expression. 94) -. flawed though it may have been in its modernist version.i.e. as Gadamer always insisted. Ricoeur’s vital contribution to an interpretive. it is the function of the human sciences to bring general hermeneutic theory to bear on the different realms of human action and endeavor in an interpretive attempt to discern the meaning of human being-in-the-world that transpires in these various lifeworlds. are. the subject is exposed to other possible selves and ways of being -. and as philosophy it is practical philosophy.the domain of the human sciences could be said to reveal the true meaning of hermeneutics which. he thought it would nevertheless be folly to attempt simply to abolish (as if the notion of the subject [“man”] were nothing more than “a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea. come to be “constituted” as that which it. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences If. the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) can be viewed. in a decisive manner. as being so many “regional” hermeneutics. By means of his work on selfhood. non-idealist and non-metaphysical account of the “origin of the world. the meaning of any philosophical doctrine or theory lies in its “consequences. and creative expression (la poétique du possible).. while at the same time upholding a renewed. Paul Ricoeur has managed to provide a properly hermeneutic. through the creative work of interpretation. Montaigne being a key figure in this regard) and which.a notion which Merleau-Ponty viewed as one of the great discoveries of modern philosophy (albeit.” [RAS.” destined to be erased by it).” enlarged. and we.

one might say. in his later work. Just as Merleau-Ponty went further than Heidegger in the exploration of the bodily nature of our being-in-the-world. “meant the search for God. the reflective analysis of what is “at play in the practical experience of understanding.” In the last analysis. While.” (OI.” (CC. 121 As Gadamer observes. Ricoeur was here also. on the contrary. Gadamer’s way of opposing truth and method (the “and” in the title of Gadamer’s magnum opus functioning in fact as a kind of disjunctive) seemed to Ricoeur to have the unfortunate effect of continuing the “anti-methodological conclusions of Heideggerian philosophy. “The human sciences are not only a problem for philosophy. 122 See. one might say. in fact. to “think Being without regard See Paul Ricoeur. Main Trends in Philosophy. Unlike the later Heidegger who wanted to think Being directly.” (PHC. “as the theory of interpretation or explication. is theory “with practical intent. following in the footsteps of Merleau-Ponty. 73) According to Ricoeur.transcendental discipline).” with the Sein of Da-Sein.” in Encyclopaedia Universalis (1971). 9:780. 24) In attempting to work out a methodological hermeneutics in dialogue with the empirical sciences. He has always held the conviction that “philosophy cannot exist on its own” (BSS. as Gadamer says. as he once said.” (RAS. as he also says. “like Moses. he has “taken a certain distance. hermeneutics. Merleau-Ponty’s concern to explore the bodily nature of our being-in-the-world with the aid of the empirical sciences led him to devote a great deal of attention to the relation between phenomenology and the human sciences in his lectures at the Sorbonne in the early 1950s. linguistics. A Century of Philosophy.” in PriP. for instance. John Wild. 127. 196) Although Ricoeur fully subscribed to the basic ontological concerns of Heidegger and Gadamer. whose way of thinking represented a methodological alternative to Heidegger’s “ontologism. as it were. the speaking and reflecting subject can only glimpse this land before dying. so likewise Ricoeur has gone further than Gadamer in dealing with methodological issues confronting the human sciences and in entering into a full-fledged debate with various human disciplines such as psychoanalysis. he nonetheless felt that their preoccupation with fundamental ontology tended to hinder philosophical hermeneutics from entering into a productive dialogue with the more empirically oriented sciences. Ricoeur viewed his own endeavors as falling more under the heading of “methodological hermeneutics” than that of “ontological hermeneutics” and defined his own approach vis-à-vis both Heidegger and Gadamer as wanting to contribute “to this ontological vehemence an analytical precision which it would otherwise lack. the ultimate justification of hermeneutic theory.” trans. As Gadamer stated in this regard. Heidegger’s preoccupation with “Being. they represent a problem of philosophy.” (IA. in part. is in its very essence a philosophy of the human sciences. ontology may be the “promised land” of phenomenological reflection.” Gadamer. as “Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man. as he says.” (CI. and literary studies.122 And when. 268-69. 93) Hermeneutics.” (RAS. 37 120 . Hermeneutics is nothing other than. it “perishes if its dialogue with the sciences…were to be interrupted. 112) And thus. his way of doing so again contrasted with that of Heidegger. it is not just a theory. 39) He has in this regard voiced a criticism of Gadamer’s stance in relation to which. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s “Les sciences de l’homme et la phénoménologie. is its significance for practice. MerleauPonty turned his attention to explicitly ontological issues (under. He was a seeker of God his entire life. see also Ricoeur. 653) and that. 112) As the philosophical-theoretical “science” of the human lifeworld. 122. as a theory of practice. the theory of the practice of interpretation.”120 Thus.” Whereas Heidegger’s religious-like preoccupation with “Being”121 effectively precluded him from taking much of an interest in the social sciences and the more mundane realm of human affairs. the influence of the later Heidegger). historiography. “Langage (Philosophie).

as the science of linguistics clearly demonstrates. round about the same time. the initial cornerstone.”123 MerleauPonty thought that the only appropriate way of pursuing the Being-question was by means of a “methodological” ontology or what he called an “intra-ontology. On Time and Being. 1972).to its being grounded in terms of beings.in Nature and in the various realms of human expressivity conceived of as various “regions of Being” (“the mirrors of Being. “Explanation” forms one segment. Peter Winch.” 127 Ricoeur’s position contrasts in this regard with that of a disciple of the later Wittgenstein. 38 123 . While for Ricoeur (as for Gadamer) self-understanding is the ultimate goal of all attempts at understanding. its sphere of validity is not limited to the natural sciences. and. Joan Stambaugh (New York: Harper and Row. Merleau-Ponty sought to think Being indirectly and only insofar as it manifests itself in beings -. 22]).127 In the case of text-interpretation.”124 “the topology of being. purely explanatory procedures.. of what he calls the “hermeneutic arc. Central to Ricoeur’s own endeavors to develop a methodological hermeneutics was the way. The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. i. Ever the dialectical thinker. attempted to revive in an Anglo-Saxon format the Diltheyan dichotomy between the natural sciences and the social sciences. as Ricoeur says.” [S. 48) can -. inasmuch as it paralleled the clear-cut distinction he made between the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften) and the human sciences (Geisteswissenschaften).: Northwestern University Press. although “secondary in relation to understanding” (OI. who. 185). the “detour by way of objectification” (IA. 124 See Maurice Merleau-Ponty. one animated by the naïve desire for absolute trans- See Martin Heidegger. semiotic analysis of the text’s linguistic and structural features. 126 Cf. 1970). one must.” [PHC. explain more in order to understand better. Ill. For Ricoeur. but along the way it can be quite helpful to treat the text as a “worldless and authorless” object and to engage in a purely objective.” to “think Being without beings. John O’Neill (Evanston. and that.” which is ultimately grounded in our own lived experience. see Peter Winch. (See HHS. between (causal) explanation and (empathetic) understanding. Ricoeur sought to overcome Dilthey’s dichotomous distinction between explanation and understanding by arguing that “objective” explanation is not something purely and simply antithetical to “subjective” understanding. but not in the sense of a preliminary self-possession or of one finally and definitively achieved.126 it nevertheless remains. PH. that objective-type “explanation” has an important role to play in the overall understanding process.” (VI. for instance. Themes from the Lectures at the Collège de France 1952-1960.e. therefore. 179) Reminiscent in a way of Marcel’s “concrete approaches” to ontology. trans. 124]). Ricoeur argued. 55: “In the last analysis. 161-64) Not only.most importantly -help a reflexive-transcendental phenomenology to circumvent the pitfalls of a mere philosophy of consciousness. or to analyze the text in a strictly empirical manner by focusing on historical and philological factors (Ricoeur refers to this as “the statics of the text”). have nonetheless an altogether legitimate role to play in the overall interpretive process (in the “recovery of meaning”).125 he sought to overcome the classical hermeneutic distinction between “explanation” (Erklärung) and “understanding” (das Verstehen). 112. the ultimate goal is that of appreciatively entering into the particular world projected by the text in search of a meaning that we can “appropriate” for ourselves in such a way as to better understand ourselves. This distinction was the centerpiece of the earlier hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey. all understanding is self-understanding. Cartesian split between mind and nature (Gadamer speaks in this regard of Dilthey’s “latent Cartesianism. it reflected the modern. should “explanation” and “understanding” not be set at odds with one another. starting in the late 1960s. 125 Ricoeur’s key essay in this regard is his “What is a Text? Explanation and Understanding” (reprinted in HHS). trans. 2. 1958).

) Ricoeur’s key thesis in regard to the issue of action is that to the degree the social sciences seek.in terms of the hermeneutic theory of both Gadamer and Ricoeur -. “the text’s career escapes the finite horizon lived by its author” and embodies a meaning “that has broken its moorings to the psychology of the author. The Life of the Mind. to be anything but “unfruitful. while at the same time asserting that the only “true” action [das Tun] is something that is not action at all. always be “desubjectivized.” [HHS. Brace.. overall realm of the social sciences. Richard Rorty notwithstanding. the “second wave” having come several decades earlier. Heidegger. and nursing specialists have found in hermeneutic phenomenology an important source of support in their struggle to overcome the stifling and dehumanizing legacy of logical positivism in the human sciences. 39 128 . historians. hermeneutics could be said to constitute the most recent. the hermeneutic theory of Ricoeur and Gadamer has proven.” Human scientists as diverse as ethnographers. 2 vols. i. which he tended to reduce to mere technological busy-ness [“calculative thinking”].is that.parency and a perfect coincidence of the self with itself in the form of immediate and indubitable knowledge (Ricoeur refers to this as “the narcissistic ego. as Ricoeur sees it. in the eyes of numerous practitioners of the human sciences. 2:180.” The reason for this -.. By drawing out the methodological implications of Gadamer’s ontology of human understanding. 201) In going beyond the finite horizon of individual agents.and the quietist position he adopted in this regard [“Gelassenheit”] led him to ignore completely the notion of action [or practical thinking]. such as sociology or economics. the “meditative thinking” of Being. as it were) gets “sedimented” or “inscribed. unlike her mentor. to discern the meaning of human action.” This is obviously the case as regards human agency. 192]). and the “first wave” having originated in Husserl’s own phenomenology and the influences this exerted in the fields of psychology and sociology.” this “place” being what we call “history. and goals of his own. meaning cannot be reduced to the psychological intentions of the author/actor. since in the social realm “our deeds escape us and have effects which we did not intend. 129 Hannah Arendt. the “third wave.128 (Heidegger’s preoccupation with “Being” -.” (HHS.” A key work of Ricoeur’s in this regard was his 1971 essay.e. in the case of both text and action.his “ontological vehemence” -.” as a kind of “quasitext” or “text analogue. since individual action takes place in a cultural/institutional context and thus has an irreducibly social dimension to it. “no man can act alone.” (HHS. psychologists. passions. which are concerned primarily not with texts but with human action. it cannot properly be understood in terms of individual psychology alone (actors’s intentions). As Hannah Arendt. 1978). (New York: Harcourt. action itself can be viewed “on the model of the text. for achieving a less distorted self-understanding than the one we invariably start out with. In this connection. who. 206) The meaning of our deeds escapes us in the same way that. “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered As a Text” (reprinted in HHS). Ricoeur was able to extend the scope of hermeneutics from its traditional base in text-interpretation to the wider. to those sciences. was greatly concerned with the issue of action (the vita activa) said.”129 To the degree that human action is social in nature.” of influence and inspiration that phenomenology has had or visited upon on the human sciences. human acting and doing opens up a public space in which its meaning or significance (its significative effects. interpretively. desires. pursuant to the existential phenomenology of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. viz. meaning must. so to speak. even though his motives for action may be certain designs. as Ricoeur has argued in his theory of textinterpretation. The detour by way of methodic “distantiation” is the key to overcoming what William James called “vicious intellectualism” and is the means. communicologists. Jovanovich.

1986). Taking it to the limit. hereafter LIU. “mere contingency”). Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press.’ puts its mark. a text to be interpreted. 132 Paul Ricoeur discusses Geertz’s notion of “symbolic action” in his Lectures on Ideology and Utopia. Reagan. Thomas Mitchell.” in Charles E. This sort of pattern-analysis (the discernment of what Geertz calls “structures of significance”) is a form of eidetic analysis. The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books. is nothing other than the attempt to discern -.: Indiana University Press..”130 Thus. he stated that the need to proceed by way of essences (eidè) is simply a recognition of the fact that “our existence is too tightly held in the world to David Pellauer. chap.” [SNS. Clifford Geertz states: “Doing ethnography is like trying to read (in the sense of ‘construct a reading of’) a manuscript -foreign. For an exposition of what he calls “semiotic anthropology. as Rorty would say. 193). 10. Preface. effectively speaking. we must have recourse to essences or universals (individuum ineffabile est). 112. 65]). suspicious emendations. 1984). only humans. and. This is something Merleau-Ponty fully realized. in his application of Ricoeur’s reflections on the relation between textuality and action to the field of anthropology.) For phenomenology. as he said. ed. the realm of social action is thoroughly “symbolic” in its make-up.J. Although history unfolds chronologically. ed. and to interpret these as to their significance. and although events in the lifeworld are not. history (“social time”) is “the place of durable effects.. but written not in conventionalized graphs of sound but in transient examples of shaped behavior. Studies in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Athens. 1973).” these patterns becoming “the documents of human action.” (HHS. when we attempt to understand anything. history. have a history.amid what Kant called the seemingly “idiotic course of things human”134 -.” which is in effect fully hermeneutic. Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View. full of ellipses. for. nothing more than a haphazard listing of disparate events. 40 130 .133 As Ricoeur says.” as Ricoeur calls it (OI. strictly speaking. as both Geertz and Ricoeur maintain. The phenomenological fact of the matter is that history is not. history itself is not a mere chronology. 1979). incoherencies.” HHS. 109. and. History likewise has a certain logic to it. as Merleau-Ponty ever insisted (there is. is the “sediment” of human action). George H. as the “record” of human actions and transactions. faded. conceived of as the interpretation of history. as Alfred Schütz said. “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality. 206) Hermeneutics. as the empirically-minded English like to say. “just one damn thing after another” (nor is it.various patterns of action. the entirety of human existence becomes a text to be interpreted. history is the history of human agency (according to Merleau-Ponty. Ind. ed.132 Now. a “logic immanent in human experience. and tendentious commentaries. On Narrative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. which it is the business of text-interpretation to make evident. what makes a text a text in the proper sense of the term is that it has a certain logic or “inner dynamic. predictable.” in W. or persisting patterns. 207. As one commentator sums up the matter: “Hermeneutics is concerned with the interpretation of any expression of existence which can be preserved in a structure analogous to the structure of the text…. 1981). 133 See in this regard Hayden White. 15. history is. 131 Clifford Geertz. Ohio: Ohio University Press. Man’s Glassy Essence: Explorations in Semiotic Anthropology (Bloomington. “The Significance of the Text in Paul Ricoeur’s Hermeneutical Theory. see Milton Singer.”131 One “reads” the traces of human agency and behavior in much the same way as one reads a text. speaking of Husserl’s notion of essences. in the scientistic sense of the term. Patterns are “essences” of a sort.(“History is this quasi-‘thing’ on which human action leaves a ‘trace. 134 Immanuel Kant.

in light of a discernible pattern.”135 One must not. narration or story-telling. in order to be meaningful. 4. the essence of anything is not an object (of whatever sort) that can be “referred to” or “intuited”. i. the function of interpretation is precisely that of discerning. interpretive -. on the heuristic and cognitive function of metaphor. for that matter.which. theoretical or practical.136 In short. 10). 104. as Husserl thought in his quasi-Platonism. so conceived. see my The Politics of Postmodernity.”137 To allude to an ancient maxim (sapientia est ordinare). Essences are not things that can be “seen” or. 67) 136 Being semantic constructs. is quite likely to be in the future. things of an “ideal” sort. and they are “validated” not by logical demonstration but by rhetorical persuasion (on the intimate relation between hermeneutics and rhetoric. faute de mieux.” (PriP. Conn. as Hegel remarked.” (PriP. they are the means for revealing “the meaning of what otherwise would remain an unbearable sequence of sheer happenings. moreover. 1982]). Everything is always. inextricably. in rem.constructs of what has been and what.e. chap. to be sure. order or logic in things. 428ff]). their origin in the metaphorizing-analogizing imagination. Men in Dark Times (New York: Harcourt. would say. the “essences” we arrive at in this way are always (to use a Husserlian term) “inexact. on our part -. also. things (of a quasi-sort) that can be directly intuited by means of an “eidetic insight” (Wesenschau). “essences. we interpret them (for whatever purpose).is always a function of their usefulness. they are not mentalistic a priori (valid for all time) but are. and Jovanovich. an essence is nothing more than a function of the interpretive-definitional statements we may make in order to appease our desire for intelligibility by saying “what” something or other is. amid what is often a welter of confusing detail. the non-apparent. since such analyses. misconstrue the nature of this “ideality. 54-55 and passim) In this lecture course Merleau-Ponty states that “a knowledge of facts always implies a knowledge of essences. deduced. (The “correctness” of these points of view -.: Greenwood Press. Brace. as Hannah Arendt.” Essences are not “metaphysical entities” (see PriP. in retrospective hindsight. It should of course go without saying that. a student of both Heidegger and Karl Jaspers.which is to say. see my Understanding: A Phenomenological-Pragmatic Analysis [Westport. are they. rather. 41 135 . in leading us profitably from one resting-place in the stream of experience to another. being interpretive constructs. are never absolute but are always expressive of particular interests. which is to say (using the term “ideal” in a decidedly non-Husserlian sense) that they are semantic. as Alfred Schütz observed. part of a larger process.” like all concepts. it appears to the story-teller to have unfolded: Wesen ist was gewesen ist.” and are thus always revisable in the light of further experience. Platonic-wise.” in the empiricistic sense of the term.be able to know itself as such at the moment of its involvement. although these essences or eidè are not “metaphysical entities.” they are also not (as Husserl rightly observed) mere generalizations or “inductions.. they do not exist. have (as Gadamer pointed out [TM. by means of language. 137 Hannah Arendt.) The point I wish to stress in all this is that essences. as James would say. must always be interpreted in a suitable See also Merleau-Ponty’s remarks on Husserl’s notion of eidetic insight in his “Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man. and that it requires the field of ideality in order to become acquainted with and to prevail over its facticity. and that. imaginative -. and the essence of any historical course of events is simply the way (Sosein) in which. nor. yet essential. statistical analyses can never provide us with the essence of anything.” waiting to be discovered) are a function of the particular point of view with which we approach them. are the only means by which we can prevail over our facticity (our lostness in the everyday world) so as to think our own history. It should also be noted that. and the “essential relationships” (Wesenszusammenhänge) between things (that metaphysicians believe are simply “there. 1968). The “whatness” (quidditas) of things is thus a function of the way in which.

Phenomenology and Existentialism (New York: G.. “statistical significance” in pattern-analysis is no guarantee of real-world relevance and is not a reliable substitute for economic (interpretive) significance. 108) As any number of observers of the human condition (or folly. 1973). as Ricoeur would say. 139 For a discussion of Schütz’s attempt to extend Husserlian phenomenology to economic science and to work out a phenomenological grounding for Austrian economics. 1994). In any event. 140 Alfred Schütz. “To imagine that one might ever attain full illumination as to his motives or his interests. and the meaningful consequences of human action are often not the ones consciously intended by these actors.” in Peter J.” a “texture of meaning” (Sinnzusammenhang). the consciousness actors have of themselves is often a false consciousness. (Chicago: Henry Regnery. Boettke. by means of which we can grasp the logic of human affairs or discern meaningful patterns of human action (“the logic of everyday thinking. ed. see Deirdre McCloskey and Stephen Zilich. 42 138 . The Elgar Companion to Austrian Economics (Aldershot: Edward Elgar. 141 Gabriel Marcel.” in Richard M. as Gabriel Marcel indicated.” as Merleau-Ponty said [PP.139 For Schütz. and perhaps especially. “is to imagine something impossible. knowledge of the “subjective” meaning structures that guide and inform the action of individual agents.” these being “constructs of the second degree.” Journal of Socio-Economics (forthcoming).138 One could equally well in this context speak of “ideal types. Because we are not sovereign consciousnesses (“a pure consciousness is capable of anything except being ignorant of its intentions. we do not have full control over the meaning of what we do and are liable to be surprised (often unpleasantly so) by the consequences of our own actions. 18-21 and 82-85. as Erasmus called it) have remarked. 1960). as Geertz calls it. Zaner and Don Ihde. secs. “Common Sense and Scientific Interpretation of Human Action. namely constructs of the constructs made by actors on the social scene.e. ed.even. “The Standard Error of Regressions. “the informal logic of actual life”). and idem. depth psychology has sensitized us to the fact that we can never be altogether certain as to what our “real” intentions actually are.. whose behavior the scientist observes and tries to explain in accordance with the procedural rules of his science”140 -.” i.” or. the only way. who remained faithful to Husserl’s transcendental turn and for whom the social world was essentially a “nexus of significance. 293. Genuine self-understanding is always an arduous undertaking. Putnam’s Sons. is by means of what he called “typification.” a key notion in the phenomenology of the social lifeworld of Alfred Schütz that he took over from Max Weber.” Gadamer insists. see my entry “Economics” in the Encyclopedia of Phenomenology.”141 As economists Deirdre McCloskey and Stephen Zilich have shown. 2 vols. human beings seem to have an undeniable talent for duplicity -. as regards themselves. see also my “Phenomenology and Economics.” In attempting to understand the significance of what people do. intersubjectively verifiable. 440]). when he stated: “The task of the profoundest philosophic speculation is perhaps that of discovering the conditions (almost always disconcerting) under which the real balance-sheet [of one’s life] may occasionally emerge in a partial and temporary fashion from underneath the crooked figures that mask it.” (RAS. such as these. the most prominent school of economics at the time. 1:207. no.” Journal of Economic Literature 34. The reason why the social scientist must have recourse to second-order constructs. 1 (March 1996).” Schütz was building on Husserl’s analysis thereof in Experience and Judgment.manner (statistical or regression analyses can of course alert us to the existence of patterns that we might not otherwise have noticed).the assumption being that the function of the social sciences is that of attaining “objective. the social hermeneut must view the results of human agency through the lens of “ideal types.P. is because. “Size Matters: The Standard Error of Regressions in the American Economic Review. In his discussion of “the typicality of the world of daily life.. The Mystery of Being.

The darkness. in sociology and developmental studies. 665). in the case of each civilization.” The case is no different with regard to philosophy. towards Nature. we also know perfectly well what we mean when.143 It is always a matter. periodization. 690: “We do not know in what time we live. but that formula which sums up some unique manner of behaviour towards others. In the various spontaneous orders of human endeavor -.” as Gadamer put it. “modernization” has a well-defined meaning.” as Ricoeur would say) account of the past. Likewise. 648. discoverable by objective [objectivistic] thought. not a law of the physicomathematical type.” he said.”142 (BSS. as in the case of the evolution of language or morals (moeurs). to the degree that phenomenology effects a break with what Gadamer called the modern “era of epistemology. time and death: a certain way of patterning the world which the historian should be capable of seizing upon and making his own. the “epistemology problem. is nevertheless indispensable when we seek to provide a properly narrative (“emplotted.an “invisible hand” or structural logic is always at work and (for better or worse) produces its effects independently of actors’s intentions. after all. when he remarked that “every periodization is problematic” (BSS.” in Madison.” (PriP. And although Ricoeur was also right. the opaqueness of the present to itself seems to me completely fundamental. xviii) Given the hermeneutic difficulties alluded to above. We don’t know what is happening to us.However great the difficulties of achieving a genuine understanding of things may be.and to the degree that. the nature of the hermeneutic task as regards any historical/cultural community was nonetheless clearly stated by Merleau-Ponty. i.144 Human beings are.e. “of finding the Idea in the Hegelian sense. Ricoeur was assuredly right when he said that there is “nothing…more obscure than the present in which we live. 665) It is the function of ideal-type analysis to identify these trends.” In opposition to the anti-theory movement in recent philosophy (and to the stance taken by Richard Rorty in this regard). Thus. 1998). of discovering “in this unrolling of facts a spontaneous order. as Gadamer would say. “we are located so completely in it. there are “certain trends in the history of philosophy. The Politics of Postmodernity. 144 See in this regard my “The Practice of Theory/The Theory of Practice.. that is. it is not really all that difficult to know what the term “modern philosophy” means. see my The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights (London: Routledge. 660-61.” from an hermeneutic point of view. “that we can in a certain sense always say. 52) Despite Ricoeur’s aversion to terms like “modern” and “postmodern” (see BSS. we speak of “modernist” and “postmodern.” (BSS.” phenomenology can. in regard to architecture. Indeed.” one could never appreciate the true significance of phenomenology (and Ricoeur’s own place within it). 43 142 . although Ricoeur says that he doesn’t “know what ‘modernity’ is” (BSS. as Merleau-Ponty said.” as Gadamer says. an intrinsic truth. 648). rightly be said to be “postmodern. If one didn’t know that one of the essential characteristics of mainstream modern philosophy was its preoccupation with. hermeneutics staunchly defends the exercise of theory as described above. a meaning. though always a legitimate subject for debate. as Ricoeur does recognize. 36) But this is precisely why something like Schütz’s “typification” is indispensable if we are to understand anything at all. “theoretical beings. “It is a matter. an orientation of such a kind that the different events do not appear as a mere succession.” (RAS. as I sought to indicate in the first part of this paper. historical and sociological processes. these periodizing terms (whatever might be the personal reasons for Ricoeur’s aversion to them) are highly useful ways of viewing cultural and intellectual history. for. See also BSS.” 143 For a discussion of spontaneous orders and the “invisible hand. in this precise sense of the term. these orders are indeed spontaneous and not consciously designed and technocratically maintained -. 648) Because of the “effectivity” of history. 690).” (PP.

Were there no eidetic-type laws (“formulae. counter-productive results. “Interpretation and the Sciences of Man. 362]).”149 Although hermeneutics is fully in agreement with Kant on this score. on the other hand. we could not intervene -. 94]). not in people’s heads.” Lord Acton’s saying. that power tends to corrupt and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.e.” as Merleau-Ponty would say) discernible by means of theory in the way in which human events seem to unfold. amount to a gross Hans-Georg Gadamer. or what Geertz calls our “shaped behavior.“objective” in the sense that this logic is not the result of mere human willing and wanting. there would be no social science and thus no means for bringing reason to bear on human affairs in such a way as to ameliorate the life conditions of humanity. 36. we would have no well-formulated questions to put to our own mute experience that would allow us to bring it to the proper expression of its own meaning (“We cannot have experiences without asking questions” [TM. the operant presupposition of hermeneutic reflection is that there is always a kind of objective logic at work in human affairs -. or its sub-types. The logic at work in human affairs (Hegel referred to this as “objective spirit. on the one hand. so as to achieve total mastery over their own destiny (Ricoeur refers to this pathological form of utopianism as “the magic of thought”). etc. without an interpretive grasp of the structural logic of the various realms or orders of human agency. not just that of a tyrant or an absolute ruler. as Merleau-Ponty called it). 146 145 44 . pattern-analyses. in this way. without leading questions. 148 See Charles Taylor. see my “Between Theory and Practice: Hayek on the Logic of Cultural Dynamics. that is -.in a responsible manner. “In Praise of Theory. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Philosophy and the Human Sciences. 1985). and thus. Gadamer observed that “every form of power. as it were. renders vain the modernist.” Ellipsis 1. as Machiavelli called it) in human affairs. For a discussion of the role of hermeneutic theory in the understanding of social practices. a logic that is the result of human action but not of human design. expressive of an element of “necessity” (necessità. Sixth Thesis. of decreasing the chances of inadvertently producing undesirable. as Charles Taylor aptly remarks. nevertheless.) Without theory (the “field of ideality. periodizations. it would. without theory. counts as a universal law of a particular type (echoing Montesquieu. no. Laws of human behavior of the social-scientific sort can be formulated once the essence of any particular category.146 As the preceding remarks indicate. language/reason.” a notion that greatly fascinated Merleau-Ponty147) is objective in the sense also that the patterns of meaning with which the social sciences are concerned are not merely “subjective”. experience would be meaningless. has been (as Merleau-Ponty would say) “seized upon.” as Merleau-Ponty referred to it). “out there” in the intersubjective realm of social practices and cultural/political/economic institutions (the social/historical intermonde.” in idem. Without theory.145 The hermeneutic fact of the matter is that we cannot make sense of our practices. that great believer in the ability of enlightened humans to take their destiny in hand and better their condition. 1 (Spring 1990): 88. 1 (1990).” Cultural Dynamics 3. utopian idea that humans can arrange things however they see fit.. recognized that “from such crooked wood as humanity is made of nothing perfectly straight can be built.” without having recourse to theory (to typifications. of course to the vicissitudes of Fortuna) to make for genuine progress and the greater freedom of all. Moreover. is dedicated to increasing its own power” [In Praise of Theory. This logic is.in the empirical arrangement of things in such a way as.” i. they exist. but. Idea for a Universal History. there would be nothing for us to learn. no. 149 Kant. precisely because “humans are the beings who have the logos.and they are such. Even Kant.148 The fact that various such logics exist. Philosophical Papers. 147 A key factor in the development of French phenomenology was the “existentialized” Hegel of Jean Wahl and Alexandre Kojève. to enhance the likelihood of achieving the beneficial results we desire and. vol. Without theory. and is. we could never have any realistic hope of successfully making the kind of structural or institutional changes that are likely (subject.

to introduce into this or that order of human behavior new structural/institutional constraints or incentives (in the economic sense of the term) which operate not in a moralistic (“subjectivistic”) way through an appeal to people’s “good intentions” but in a thoroughly praxial manner.153 As Heidegger said. 209-220). In actuality. This has to do with what financier-philosopher George Soros calls the “reflexivity” of human behavior (George Soros. this is an extremely interesting phenomenon. alter the course of events in unanticipated ways. maintaining that there is no inherited presupposition that cannot. Or again. by means of a certain “power of initiative. also. Since we are not pure consciousnesses fully aware of our motives and intentions.” freely submitted to. “Our freedom does not destroy our situation. Through interpretation. for hermeneutics. ideal-type analysis. as beings who have the logos (language/reason). of which we know that it could just as well not be.” (SNS. a phenomenon that Ricoeur also talks about under the heading of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” (Ricoeur. social and personal. 151 150 45 . 3) 152 Arendt. but gears itself to it. Merleau-Ponty: “We are born into reason as into language. The “gift of freedom.” as Arendt observed. to allude to the title of one of Ricoeur’s early works) should not be viewed as metaphysical opposites. it is nevertheless always possible. human freedom is not the libertarian or anarchic (criterionless.”152 The crucial thing is that we exercise our limited freedom in a reflexively enlightened way. given the dynamics of a given state-of-affairs. is “the mental endowment we have for beginning something new. bringing about new beginnings.” as Merleau-Ponty called it (PP. 2:195. it is possible to become reflexively aware of these logics -. can significantly affect what that behavior turns out to be. unconstrained spontaneity. For. 439). Just as. humans can. Gadamer argued against the possibility of a total critique of “tradition” while. there is a kind of objective logic or necessity at work in the various human lifeworlds. it should be noted that the dynamics of social orders can be. Main Trends in Philosophy. in reply to Habermas. By acting on what is seemingly predictable. by directly affecting people’s behavior. for instance. human freedom is the freedom to create new habits and new constraints. and thus fully in control of the meaning of what we do. just in any way we please. 442) Human freedom is never absolute. The Life of the Mind. transformed or “short-circuited” in a totally unintended manner by human agents. in a piecemeal sort of way. by enabling us to realize what is “necessary” in human affairs. In both instances. be subjected to critique and revision. in response to Marx’s saying that philosophers have only See in this regard James’s superb chapter on habit. 1995]. unprincipled) freedom extolled by some poststructuralists (la liberté sauvage). enables us to realize what is genuinely possible.” (PP.but never in such a way as to be able to change them. by that very fact. in The Principles of Psychology. pure. Cf. 147-48). From a hermeneutic point of view. Predicting the behavior of the stock market. in that it highlights an essential difference between the human order of symbolic interaction and the natural order of deterministic cause and effect. through the creative power of the imagination. although the logic of things is beyond the ability of humans deliberately to control.misunderstanding of the hermeneutic position to think that it implies some kind of determinism and undermines the reality of human freedom. Soros on Soros: Staying Ahead of the Curve [New York: John Wiley and Sons. the not unhappy fact of the matter is that not just anything is possible at any moment. 153 In this regard. eidetic. Freedom and necessity (le volontaire et l’involontaire.151 of intervening judiciously in the course of events by interpreting necessity in a transformative way. the utopian. and often are. by the same token. thereby.150 As Merleau-Ponty pointed out in this regard. Human freedom is a function of the ability humans have. on occasion. revolutionist impulse notwithstanding. The same thing is true on the personal level. at the same time. nor is it merely “necessity understood. 72. thereby altering la force des choses and opening up new directions for our being-in-the-world. so likewise.

interpreted the world, and that the point is to change it, the fact is that if we want to change the world for the better, we must first interpret it in the appropriate way. Therein lies the essence of human freedom. History is never rigidly determined, but neither is it ever simply invented -- “out of whole cloth,” as Marx would say. Historical forces (necessity) are something to be interpreted, and, in being so interpreted, transformed. The important thing is to think well. As Pascal said in his famous pensée on “man, the thinking reed, the weakest thing in nature,” the uniqueness (grandeur) of human beings in regard to nature is that they are reflective, thinking beings who, as such, know full well the great, crushing advantage that natural forces have over them, whereas nature knows nothing of this -- from which he concluded that “all our dignity consists in thought” and that, accordingly, “to strive to think well; that is the basic principle of morality.”154 Because, as Heidegger said, the essence of Dasein lies in its existence (ex-sistence, i.e., transcendence), the essence of the human being -- the speaking, story-telling, selfinterpreting, questioning animal -- is in fact nothing other than freedom itself. Necessity notwithstanding, we are, ultimately, as Dostoyevski said, responsible for everything we do. The fact, however, that our freedom, though real, is finite and that we are not pure consciousnesses, fully aware of our own intentions and thus fully in control of the meaning of what we do, introduces an element of tragedy into the human condition. It is especially tragic when we have no other option but to choose, freely but with heavy responsibility, not between the good and the not-quite-so-good, but between what are manifest evils, in the hope that the evil we do choose is a lesser evil than the others. Because we are free, we are also necessarily guilty, to one degree or another.

Hermeneutics and the Limits of Meaning Hermeneutic phenomenology is the philosophical search for meaning, understanding. As such, and as is the case with all attempts at understanding, it is guided by certain presuppositions. The most important of these is what Ricoeur calls the “postulate of meaningfulness.” That our lived experience is indeed meaningful and can, accordingly, be brought to the proper expression of its own meaning, is a “prejudice” or, as Merleau-Ponty called it, a “presumption on the part of reason,” but this presumption is not at all of an idealist nature (having to do with an “idealism of meaning”) and does not presume that there exists some kind of pre-established harmony between the rational and the real, or even that the notion of total intelligibility is at all meaningful. Hermeneutics’s postulate of meaningfulness is not metaphysical but phenomenological in nature, in that it is grounded in our own lived experience and is nothing other than the articulation, on the level of reason or reflection, of what Merleau-Ponty called our “primordial faith” (Urdoxa) in the existence of the world, a “faith” which is constitutive of what, as perceiving beings, we essentially and inescapably are. As Merleau-Ponty said in this regard, the “ever-reiterated assertion” in our lives is: “‘There is a world,’ or rather, ‘There is the world.’” (PP, xvii) The postulate of meaningfulness, one might say, is a “working hypothesis” of hermeneutic reflection -- one, moreover, that is borne out or “validated” in actual experience, for it is a fact that we are always able, to some degree or other, to discern meaningful patterns in the traces of human life. It is, of course, also a fact that no interpretation can ever legitimately claim to be “final,” to be the definitive truth of things, the one and only correct interpretation, for, as we also know from experience, there is no interpretation that

Pascal, Pensées. no. 200; see also pensée no. 620: “Man is obviously made for thinking. Therein lies all his dignity and his merit; and his whole duty is to think as he ought.” 46

154

cannot be challenged and is not susceptible of being displaced by subsequent, more developed and sophisticated interpretations. Any given interpretation, no matter how satisfying, is only, as James said, a provisional resting-place. “The very idea of a definitive interpretation,” Gadamer insists, “seems to be intrinsically contradictory. Interpretation,” as he goes on to say, “is always on the way” -- such that “the word interpretation points to the finitude of human being and the finitude of human knowing.” (RAS, 105) It is, in short, the nature of experience and interpretation that there can be no such thing as “the last word.” (Cf. GOC, 60). As the phenomenological psychologist Eugene Gendlin has shown in a revealing study of the relation between experience and expression (based on his own clinical experience as a practicing psychologist), it is the very nature of experience that the “felt meaning” of any experience can always be articulated in ever more refined ways; one “vital characteristic of experiencing,” as Gendlin points out, is that “any datum of experiencing—any aspect of it, no matter how finely specified—can be symbolized and interpreted further and further.”155 Adding to Gendlin’s observations on this matter, David Michael Levin points out that “the relation between experience and the language of its articulation is an ongoing process of hermeneutic disclosure, whereby (1) language forms the experience it is articulating in the process of articulating it and (2) experience continues to talk back to the words that have been used to render it articulate.”156 The unavoidable incompleteness, of any attempt at bringing our lived experience to the proper expression of its own meaning, that Gendlin has highlighted, is itself, as it were, empirical confirmation of Ricoeur’s basic conviction that in human existence there is a super-abundance of meaning to the abundance of non-sense (there is no experience that cannot be interpreted and reinterpreted productively, “further and further”). In any event, what the phenomenology of perception -- that of both Merleau-Ponty and William James -has shown is that, at its most basic level, the “stream of consciousness” is not the chaotic jumble of discrete “sense data” that British empiricism took it to be (or as James said of Kant’s metaphysical epistemology, “There is no originally chaotic manifold to be reduced to order”157) but is, rather, from the very beginning, the lived experience of an ordered, meaningful world. And as Merleau-Ponty said, “Because we are in the world, we are condemned to meaning.” (PP, xix) “The sensible,” as he also said, “is, like life, a treasury ever full of things to say.” (VI, 252) This is, of course, something that poets and great novelists like Marcel Proust have always known.158 In an arresting image, Merleau-Ponty once provided this description of the human situation: “Instead of an intelligible world there are radiant nebulae separated by expanses of darkness.” (SNS, 4) And thus, as he also said: “The highest form of reason borders on (est voisine avec) unreason.” (SNS, 4) Hermeneutics’s postulate of meaningfulness does not preclude it from recognizing the existence of a kind of radical ignorance and uncertainty in human existence; there is, as Jean Grondin rightly observes, “no triumphalism of reason” to be found here.159 Hermeneutics’s presumption of meaning, though rational,
Eugene T. Gendlin, Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning: A Philosophical and Psychological Approach to the Subjective (Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1962), 16; see also idem, “Experiential Phenomenology,” in Maurice Natanson, ed., Phenomenology and the Social Sciences (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973). 156 Levin, “Liberating Experience from the Vice of Structuralism,” 96-7. 157 James, The Principles of Psychology, 1:363. 158 In his Recherche, Proust describes many experiences of this sort, such as the one occasioned by the church towers of Martinville which he glimpsed in the course of an automobile ride, or the three trees near Balbec that he once sighted; see Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu, 3 vols. (Paris: Éditions Gallimard, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, 1954), 1:180 and 1:717-19. 159 See Jean Grondin, “Gadamer on Humanism,” in Hahn, ed., The Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer, 167. 47
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is not rationalist or idealist in that it is not simply a version of Leibniz’s “principle of sufficient reason” (nihil est sine ratione). In human affairs there are many things which are without reason or are resistant to reason, such that there is, and can be, no ultima ratio to which human beings could have access and which would bring their search for meaning to a happy conclusion. Apart from the absolute or “apodictic,” but empty, certainty of the Ego cogito type, the only kind of certainty available to humans is of a strictly relative and conditional sort, the kind of certainty Husserl called “empirical” or “presumptive.”160 Hermeneutics, as Ricoeur says, echoing Merleau-Ponty, is thus “a philosophy without any absolute.” (IA, 13) The highest knowledge we can attain to is the knowledge that there are many things we do not know and likely cannot ever know, or even know that we don’t know. As Pascal remarked, reason is nothing if it does not go as far as to recognize that.161 At some point or another, reason always runs up against the “opacity of the fact” which, as such, stares it in the face “with the inexorability of an enigma.” Hermeneutic enlightenment is not philosophical gnosis; it is, rather, as Gadamer said, “sophia, a consciousness of not knowing…. [H]uman wisdom is…the awareness of not-knowing [das Wissen des Nichtwissens], docta ignorantia.” (RPJ, 31, 33) “There is,” as Gadamer also stated, “no claim of definitive knowledge with the exception of one: the acknowledgment of the finitude of human being in itself.”162 To be reasonable is “to know the limits of one’s own understanding.”163 To emphasize, as hermeneutic phenomenology does, the unsurpassable finitude of human being is not, for all that, to issue a call for resignation in the face of the unknown; it is, rather, a recognition of the need for, as Merleau-Ponty would say, “unremitting virtù (la virtù sans aucune résignation).” (S, 35) The search for meaning can never be anything other than a constant struggle for meaning, a struggle against our inveterate tendency to misunderstand things -- as well as against what James called “a certain blindness” as regards the Other, and to which we are all prone -- by keeping ourselves open to new experiences, to further expansions in our horizons. When Gadamer said that “Being that can be understood is language,” he was not making a metaphysical statement and was not claiming that being could ever be made fully intelligible or that our life-experience could ever be fully explicated. He was, rather, pointing to what is morally incumbent on any reflecting subject: “The principle of hermeneutics simply means that we should try to understand everything that can be understood.” (PH, 31) “A hermeneutically informed notion of truth,” as Calvin Schrag observes, is one “liberated from its traditional epistemological paradigm,”164 which is to say that, for hermeneutics, “truth” is not so much a cognitivist-epistemological concept as it is an existential-moral concept and refers to a way of living, a resolutely communicative mode of being-in-the-world. Truth, for hermeneutics, is always of a “processual” nature and is a matter of “openness.” “The truth,” as Ricoeur says, “is…the lighted place in which it is possible to continue to live and to think.”165 Or, as Gadamer said, “The truth of experience always implies an orientation toward new experience…. The dialectic of experience has its proper fulfillment not in

See Edmund Husserl, Experience and Judgment, trans. James S. Churchill and Karl Ameriks (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), sec. 77. 161 See Pascal, Pensées, no. 188: “Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it. It is merely feeble if it does not go as far as to realize that.” 162 Hans-Georg Gadamer, “The Science of the Life-World,” Analecta Husserliana 2 (1972): 184. 163 Gadamer, “The Power of Reason,” 14. 164 See Calvin O. Schrag, Communicative Praxis and the Space of Subjectivity (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1986), 187. 165 Paul Ricoeur, “Reply to My Friends and Critics,” in Reagan, ed., Studies in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, no page no. 48

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The most profound insight of Heidegger. There is. “Every question. just as the junzi [the “gentleman” or wise person] keeps on learning in order to discover the truth [to reach the utmost of the Way]. to a select number of general themes). 167 166 49 . Gabriel Marcel. “means to know how to wait. the Dao invoked by Heidegger (see Martin Heidegger.” (IM.” (VI. 19. always has the dual character of both revealing and concealing. nonetheless. On the Way to Language. 168 Confucius. and in whatever comes to understanding in our speaking of it there are always many things that necessarily remain unsaid. 169 See Mencius. 1971]. “Analysis of Historically Effected Consciousness. many commonalties binding them together.” manuscript (2003). the question as to the “meaning of being” -. 1:130. Hertz [New York: Harper and Row. Peter D. as is often done.dictated by the things themselves -. the question concerning the self is the question on which “all other questions hang. Merleau-Ponty maintained. is persistence in the asking of questions. See Marcel. had said earlier on. not surprisingly. Given the protean way in which phenomenology has developed.” The important thing. there are.. as he preferred later to say. as I hope to have shown in this “phenomenology of phenomenology” (limited. Analects. That being so. of “the Phenomenological Movement” (the Saulius Genusias. 7A1 and 7B33. is indirect.170 Postscript In this paper I have sought to cast a retrospective glance over some one hundred years of phenomenology.7. of “Daoism.was that the truth-process. i. human understanding is always only “on the way. 355) As a young Lithuanian phenomenologist has correctly observed. Being in the nature of a process. that which allows for a certain coherence and meaning in our lives. Despite significant differences between the leading figures I have considered (and despite the fact that some of them branched off in directions others declined to follow).e. as it necessarily has been. the advent of truth (unconcealment. indeed. 170 The Dao to which I have here alluded is the Dao of humanistic self-cultivation (Bildung) of the early Confucians and should not be confused with the mystical and anti-humanist Dao of Laozi. the self in search of self-understanding never experiences a “full” presence of itself to itself. trans.” which was. humanitas) and the moral life. “while for Hegel experience is overcome in the closure of absolute knowledge.”169 This is the Way (Dao) of understanding and the basis of humanness (ren.is what the Confucians called virtue (de). who pursued with determination always the same question.or. even a whole lifetime. is part of the central question that is ourselves. 104) Or. even that of simple cognition. The Mystery of Being.”166 All language. for as Merleau-Ponty remarked. which consists in “awaiting one’s destiny (ming)” in “steadfastness of purpose. 92). for Gadamer it is fulfilled in the openness to new experiences. even that of philosophy. taking as my theme the interpretive turn in phenomenology. The Mencius.” Heidegger said.”167 An ancient Chinese sage once said: “The various artisans dwell in their workshops in order to perfect their craft.”168 This persistence -. 206) -. it would undoubtedly be best to avoid speaking.in the way in which phenomenology has unfolded over the last many decades and during which time new themes and concerns have appeared at this or that moment and some older ones have faded away. a certain logic -.definitive knowledge but in that openness to experience that is made possible by experience itself. a-letheia).“To know how to question. the “truth of being” -.” (TM. as Ricoeur’s mentor.

rather. the political. hoped that his attempt at working out an ultimate science of being would be carried on after him by a dedicated group of researchers who would. there are grounds for being. but this is not to say that there is anything like a specific and commonly accepted “phenomenological method.can be expected to survive or even to flourish in this new century is another question. penetrate ever deeper into the field of pure subjectivity. In all these domains the supreme theoretical/practical task must be that of defending the claims of communicative or dialogical rationality (Vernüftigkeit) over the imperious demands and one-sidedness or “monologic” (as Gadamer called it) of merely instrumental or calculative rationality (Rationalität). 172 See in this regard my “Critical Theory and Hermeneutics: Some Outstanding Issues in the Debate. 171 At the present time. there exist some 117 phenomenological organizations world-wide.or even a phenomenological orthopraxy. as one might say. contact the web site of the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology (CARP) directed by Lester Embree <http://www. 190). multifaceted trend of thought but one having a well-defined “common core” (this.. but indicates.” in Lewis E. but. given the recent renewed interest in the leading figures of classical phenomenology. is something that. Not only was phenomenology never a “school” of philosophy (as Spiegelberg readily allowed). naturalistic tendency on the part of humans to reduce human beings to that which is purely objectifiable (and thus manipulable) about them. or “engineering” approach to things human. it was not even a Movement in Spiegelberg’s (capital-M) sense of the term.” Perhaps the most that can be said in a general way about phenomenology as it has unfolded over the course of the last century is that. But this was not to be. if not optimistic. there is a particular way of doing philosophy which is recognizably “phenomenological” and which makes for a definite set of “family resemblances” among its practitioners. both as a “pure” or general philosophy and in its “applications” to the different realms of the socio-cultural. I believe. and given also the significant number of new phenomenological organizations continually springing up. disinterested.. i. ed.this tradition -. By its very nature. to use a term of Merleau-Ponty’s. phenomenology is a certain “style” of thinking (expressive of a “phenomenological attitude”). Perspectives on Habermas (Chicago: Open Court.171 One thing that can be safely said. and patient search for “essences” by means of a direct. the truth of the phenomenological project can never be a “completed” truth (une vérité accomplie) but must remain always what Merleau-Ponty called vérité à faire.title Herbert Spiegelberg gave to his monumental history of phenomenology).phenomenologycenter. a general. there was never anything like a phenomenological orthodoxy -. in concerted teamwork. Hahn. as Spiegelberg says. intuitive grasp or “seeing” (Wesenschau) and faithful description of phenomena and their “modes of givenness” [to. is that there exists no better conceptual apparatus than that of existential-hermeneutic phenomenology for counteracting the everpresent and seemingly ineradicable. necessarily determined configurations. “hard core” being for Spiegelberg the disciplined.e. Certainly. as we know. anti-humanist. 2000). still has all of its life before it (see PriP. nothing is certain. as Merleau-Ponty would say.172 In this respect. and the economic lifeworlds. a priori. what remains one of the most crucial tasks of thinking and which. In the realm of human affairs. as such. at least hopeful in this regard.org>. the “essentials” of which are an unremitting aversion to all forms of metaphysical reductionism and an abiding concern for the integrity of our own lived experience of things both human and natural. For information on developments in phenomenology. The task of contesting this scientific-technocratic. and recalling humans to their own humanness remains the indispensable task of any phenomenologically-inspired philosophy. “our inner eye”]). Whether this particular style of thinking -. Husserl. mapping out ever more completely its essential. 50 . “phenomenology” is not just the name for a twentieth-century school of philosophy which may or may not have passed its zenith. In contrast to certain other trends in philosophy.

It is already taken as something past which is only recorded historically along with other schools of philosophy. in a late text.173 173 Heidegger. After remarking how in the last century phenomenology determined the spirit of an age. On Time and Being. leave the last word to Heidegger. Heidegger. it can disappear as a designation in favor of the matter of thinking whose manifestness remains a mystery. of corresponding to the claim of what is to be thought. But in what is most its own phenomenology is not a school. If phenomenology is thus experienced and retained. who was particularly attuned to what Marcel referred to as the “mystery of being” and who. went on to say: And today? The age of phenomenological philosophy seems to be over. 82. It is the possibility of thinking. nevertheless pursued the task of thinking with an uncommon steadfastness of purpose.I shall. however errant he may have been in some respects and however one-sided his “thinking of Being” may have been. at times changing and only thus persisting. 51 . however.

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TOWARD A TELOS OF SIGNIFYING COMPLETENESS: GABRIEL MARCEL AND PAUL RICOEUR .II.

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I think that a re-examination of some aspects of Marcel’s thought can help contemporary philosophy in setting out the boundary markers of this space. also for a reason of “topicality. I will try to answer a question: is it possible to speak of a “Marcellian hermeneutics”? Acknowledgment: part of this paper was written when I enjoyed the hospitality of Heythrop College. Then. because his thought does not imply a preceding Christian profession of faith. I will try to make the point about the relationship between Marcel and phenomenology.” in Giuseppe Nicolaci and Leonardo Samonà. thus it is rather a “philosophy of religion. other kinds of “existentialist” thought were preferred. it is instead particularly interesting to focus on Gabriel Marcel’s thought. not very wide. characterized by a loss of shared values and by the confrontation (if not conflict) between different cultures. These themes are reciprocally connected. the notion of existence and the notion of “secondary reflection” (or “second degree reflection”).together with a previous version -. University of London. “La dimensione dell’universalità e l’esperienza ermeneutica. 2 See Maurizio Pagano. On the one hand. the space granted to philosophy seems to be. L’universale ermeneutico (Genova: Tilgher. On the other hand. Michael Kirwan. when I will treat the problem of universality. “IF THERE IS A PLOT”: GABRIEL MARCEL AND SECOND DEGREE REFLECTION Paolo Diego Bubbio Introduction The thought of Gabriel Marcel presents an ambiguous but interesting philosophical challenge.1. In what follows. and Jean-Paul Sartre were among the many noted philosophers who attended these gatherings at one time or another..” The epoch in which we live. and I hope that the connection will be clear at the end of this paper. 47.” he associated with many of the prominent philosophers of his day: Paul Ricoeur. ed. 55 1 . and his thought has been almost forgotten. and which always hides the risk of a fall into complete aphasia).at the Philosophy Research Seminar (Heythrop College). at first sight. although he did not like to be labeled as an “existentialist. UK. seems to issue to philosophy the challenge of expressing itself on the possibility of a thought able to be shared and “usable. the same year in which Heidegger published Sein und Zeit on Husserl’s review Jahrbuch für Philosophie und phänomenologische Forschung. moreover. Jean Wahl. His philosophy was considered merely as a “religious philosophy” (and this was a mistake. Finally. Thanks to his hosting of the famous “Friday evenings. 2003). always hides within itself the risk of the assumption of a “violent” point of view) and the secular possibility of an absolute relativism (which renounces the search of a truly shareable sense. I will focus my attention on some central nuclei of Marcel’s thought: the notion of body.”2 Nevertheless. I would like also to thank Tom Michaud and Brendan Sweetman for their suggestions.” because his thought opens onto transcendence). and seminar participants are gratefully acknowledged.” referring to his own way of thinking as “Christian socratism. particularly if we accept a hermeneutic point of view which excludes the possibility of a return to traditional metaphysics (which cannot be easily considered as shareable by different cultures and which.” the label of “Christian existentialist” which was attributed to him did not help his fame. its importance for the development of the Existentialist movement is undeniable: the first edition of the Metaphysical Journal is published in 1927.1 In our opinion. Helpful comments from Peter Gallagher. and has been presented -. Emmanuel Levinas. but the early notes of Marcel’s Journal are dated 1914.

and partially thanks to the monumental work by Herbert Spiegelberg. “he remarked twice with approval that Husserlian phenomenology had developed the conception of consciousness as intentional. in his pioneering work entitled Phénoménologie et philosophie religieuse. At first I found them interesting. ed. 11 Jean Heing.” Gabriel Marcel. “Reply to Paul Ricoeur. and he often cited them in his works. The Phenomenological Movement. 495. The Phenomenological Movement (The Hague/Boston/London: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. 8 Spiegelberg. Henri Bergson was the only one whose thought and words took a sure and lasting hold on me.” in Paul Arthur Schilpp and Lewis Edwin Hahn.. but this problem has been already solved. when Husserl himself came to deliver them at the Sorbonne. The Phenomenological Movement. Gallagher. even if German phenomenology (to suppose the impossible) had remained unknown in France. Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. ed. 10 Kenneth T. on August 5 of the same year. i. nevertheless a phenomenology would have been constituted there. X. which contains the two series of Gifford Lectures given by Marcel in 1949 and 1950 at the University of Aberdeen. 5 Paul Ricoeur. 7 Gabriel Marcel. 4 Herbert Spiegelberg.”7 The year of Husserl’s Sorbonne lectures was 1929.. 471-494. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel (New York: Fordham University Press. where can we find a similarity between Marcel and phenomenology? We can find it in the philosophical approach and in the method of research..”6 On the contrary. he wrote: “I am barely acquainted with Husserl’s philosophy. 448.” later “Indeed.e.. 448. 448. partially thanks to some explicit considerations formulated by Marcel himself. which clearly shows his awareness of German phenomenology. The Phenomenological Movement. “An Autobiographical Essay. The Phenomenological Movement. 17.3 The second is British and American Idealism: Marcel studied deeply the thoughts of Coleridge. The possibility of an influence of the phenomenological school of Edmund Husserl could be considered a problem. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology.4 and the fundamental article by Paul Ricoeur. as referring to something other than itself.. he wrote an entry of his second Journal. It is not by chance that Marcel uses the word phenomenology in the title of a lecture given to the Philosophical Society of Lyon in November 1933. I had not yet read the Logical Investigations.”11 Thus. I remember reading the Ideen some months before the beginning of the First World War and not understanding a word of it. 56 3 . wrote: “We believe we may affirm that. then tiresome.” in Schilpp and Hahn. The first one is Henri Bergson.” in Schilpp and Hahn. Royce. who was Marcel’s teacher.8 And in The Mystery of Being. 1926).Phenomenology and Method In Marcel’s philosophical education we can note three interesting points of reference.: Open Court.”10 Jean Heing. I think I can say that. Bradley. in his Reply to Paul Ricoeur. and this. quoted in Spiegelberg. “Outlines of a Phenomenology of Having. 6 Spiegelberg. later published with the title Etre et avoir. ed. 450. among all those whose courses I took. would be due to the influence of Gabriel Marcel. Phénoménologie et philosophie religieuse: étude sur la théorie de la connaissance religieuse (Paris: Alcan. 9 Ibid. 1982). 446-469. 1984). to a large extent.5 Marcel “never claimed to be a phenomenologist. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel (La Salle. Ill.”9 But we cannot speak of an “influence” in any case: “the truth seems to be that he is a largely underivative thinker. 1962). Much later I listened to the first Cartesian Meditations.

”15 Marcel’s philosophical approach deals with the attention to the concrete experience rather than abstractions. thus unreal. 18 See Pietro Prini. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology.” 472-473. represented a stage in his search for a concrete philosophy and for concrete approaches to it and to the ‘ontological mystery. . .” in idem. Saggio di filosofia concreta (Roma: Città Nuova Editrice. which is essentially a concrete rather than an abstract approach. there is an undeniable similarity between “Marcel’s refusal of system and his avowal of discursivity” and the famous “‘zu den Sachen selbst’ of Husserl. He writes: I would like to make the point that for a philosophical approach like ours. is not merely an illustration of an idea which was fully in being even before it was illustrated. what places Husserl and Marcel in the same philosophical light.12 This work is cited by Ricoeur as evidence for the fact that “The refusal of system . 14 Ibid.16 The definition of his own thought as a “Christian socratism” is in fact linked with the attention to concrete experience and to the proceeding through examples. The use of examples is considered by Ricoeur as a point of contact between the Marcellian and the phenomenological method: “Again like Husserl. trans. . 13 Ricoeur.” in idem. in order to analyze deeply the relationship between Marcel and phenomenology and.”17 This approach explains the skeptical attitude which Ricoeur always assumes when he examines the attempts of the abstract reason to express itself about the concreteness of existence: the objective constitutes for me (with a meaningful overturning) what is only apparent. “Sketch of a Phenomenology of Having. 223-55.” 472. the use of examples is not merely an auxiliary process but. 19 Spiegelberg. idem. Marcel strives to decipher meanings on the basis of well-chosen examples and significant cases. Le mystère de l’être (Aubier: éd. for us. in order to understand whether his thought can really represent a fruitful contribution to contemporary hermeneutic philosophy and to the question of universality.”14 The refusal of the system led Marcel to become an unsystematic thinker. Georg S. introduction to Gabriel Marcel. 1949). . “His stake in phenomenology . Marcel makes constant use of examples. 15 Spiegelberg. . 457. it is necessary to focus our attention on the notion of body and then on the notion of existence. The Phenomenological Movement. Gabriel Marcel. . Dal rifiuto all’invocazione. In order to ground the philosophical ideas he is investigating.published in Being and Having. Fraser (London: The Harvill Press. on the contrary. Mystery of Being. is .’”19 Nevertheless. Montaigne. 1950). 57 12 . 460. 16 Gabriel Marcel. “Esquisse d’une phénoménologie de l’avoir. 1951). the problem of a proper method became “more and more urgent for Marcel. an essential part of our method of progressing. The Phenomenological Movement.”13 In other words. above all.18 From this point of view. and this implies that the essenceexample relationship is irreducible to any inductive generalization and consists in a direct reading of meaning in a singular fact. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. 17 Ricoeur.maybe he needs a method more than a systematic thinker. Gabriel Marcel e la filosofia del concreto. Being and Having (Westminster: Dacre Press. I. I find no other explanation for Marcel’s use of the word. An example. 1935). 1976). Être et avoir (Paris: Aubier. 116. idem. But even an unsystematic philosopher needs a method -. Thus. and which constitutes for Marcel the sphere of the problematic.

idem. because to develop a real analysis. like an irruption of otherness within the circle of sameness.”24 The next step should be to analyze our consciousness. trans. through my eyes. 22 Ibid. because the subject of this analysis is consciousness. we have to use the notion of Coenaesthesis.or. 23 Gabriel Marcel. First and fundamentally. Coenaesthesis is the internal sensation of one’s body: in fact. In fact.” Marcel explains: “the term ‘incarnation’ .”23 My body is the insuperable border which distinguishes me and the rest of the world. In order to clarify the relationship between me and my body. I can never “jump out of what I am. and considered in this way. .Body and Coenaesthesis The starting point of Marcel’s way of thinking.. 1921.the body which I am -.”22 If Coenaesthesis is the perception of my body as mine. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. . it is a fact indeed. 1: 51. according to Marcel.”26 It is the perception of the “rest of the world. . I understand that there is an “inside us” because there is an “outside us. is a reflection about body. If “I am my body. contemplated. I. how do we develop it? We develop it as we perceive that there is something outside us. . Journal métaphysique (Paris: Gallimard. In other words. The Mystery of Being. according to Marcel. better. But this is not possible.. 58 20 . incarnation is the consciousness that I cannot see the world but with my eyes. 101. we cannot use our “objective reason” to grasp it -. applies solely and exclusively in our present context to the situation of a being who appears to himself to be linked fundamentally and not accidentally to his or her body. As Ricoeur stresses.’ the very subject of phenomenology.20 What does constitute my identity? In other words. we cannot leave this out of consideration. an elementary form of bodily awareness. my world. 1935).’ . it seems necessary to understand “what connection my being – and by ‘my being’ I mean here just what I would mean by ‘my way of existence’ – has with what I call my body. 1998). if we want to be concrete. Metaphysical Journal.. 26 “The existence of the other appears then as that which transgresses the sphere of personal belonging.” in Franco Riva. broadly conceived.” 482. “Husserl’s first philosophical gesture is reduction.” Ricoeur. Marcel embarks on his itinerary by introducing the idea of ‘situation. for all this can only be an illusory advance. 24 Ricoeur. . Per un’etica dell’alterità. So.that allows me to understand that there is something Franco Riva. my experience. since it is an intrinsic quality of consciousness that it cannot be detached. Paul Ricoeur e Gabriel Marcel.”21 This connection is. 25 Marcel. 21 Marcel. . . 103.and on the other hand we develop consciousness. The Mystery of Being. constituted by the insular relation that I form with my vécu. the body is continuously perceived as one’s body by the person who lives it. “then existence is first of all incarnation. Marcel writes: “we must be wary of the tendency that leads us to place ourselves as it were outside consciousness in order to represent it to ourselves (here. 1927.” of all which is beyond my body -. ed. incarnation. This is not the case. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. 1952). It is clear that the starting point of Marcel’s way of thinking is very different from the phenomenological approach.” as Marcel writes. as a mirror). “Dall’autonomia alla disponibilità.”25 If on one hand we cannot understand our consciousness -. Marcel’s is diametrically opposed. being implied or involved excluded both the distance characteristic of reduction and the promotion of a ‘disinterested spectator. Coenaesthesis is the common sensation of general and immediate perception of our body. our consciousness should be more than what it wants to analyze.” 476. December 8. and the object is consciousness itself. Bernard Wall (Chicago: Henry Regnery Co. Sei colloqui (Roma: Edizioni Lavoro.

the question is: how can I conceive myself as a unique and unrepeatable existent and. it is interesting to note that a difference between the way in which I perceive myself as consciousness and the way in which I perceive other human beings as consciousnesses. Let us sum up: “The body that I call my body is in fact only one body among many others. a quite unique conception within Existentialism and within that Continental thought which Existentialism has generated. as tools which I can use. 454. is the foundation -. and all their connected disciplines). First I perceive a world outside me. I see nothing but other bodies around me. Nevertheless. I distinguish them by analogy. an indistinctive whole to which I am related but which is separate from me. indeed. 31 Gallagher. . “the first ontological position is neither I existing nor thou existing but the co-esse.” See Spiegelberg.the only foundation -. 1: 52.”27 It is important to note that to understand that there is something outside me and that I can be related to it only through my eyes does not yet mean that I perceive other “selves” provided with a consciousness. 29 Paul Ricoeur.”31 In other words. rather uncertain. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. Le volontaire et l’involontaire (Paris: Aubier. aim at a real sharing of judgment with other existents?33 Even if the first ontological position is the co-esse. it is the precondition of any sort of objectivity whatsoever. “argue from analogy” and grasp that the bodies of the other human beings hide a consciousness in the same way I hide it to their eyes. 1956). Virginia and Gordon Ringer (Chicago: Regnery. in relation to these other bodies. what we call self-consciousness. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. . how does this position legitimate the possibility of any universality whatsoever? Marcel.for my experience of existence. at the same time. in other words.” 484. once I have developed my consciousness. This is also the reason why a human being always runs the risk of considering others simply as bodies. 1950). Paul Ricoeur has spoken about an absolute “Copernican revolution” which “returns to the subjectivity its privilege. 30 Marcel. being on the contrary a derivative act whose essential nature is. It is not enough to say that this is objectively true. it is the foundation of all scientific knowledge (in the case [sic] we are thinking of anatomy.”32 At this point. 33 Marcel. 28 27 59 . 32 Ricoeur. as Royce’s Metaphysics. The Phenomenological Movement. In this regard.inside me which makes me able to relate to the world around me. of physiology.28 This conception of body is very important within Marcel’s thought and has a lot of consequences within his way of thinking. Only subsequently. This happens just because the perception of myself as a consciousness is immediate. The Mystery of Being. The Mystery of Being. Marcel gave Royce credit for having helped him in the “discovery” of the “Thou” as the necessary correlate of the “I. trans. It is interesting to note that in the Foreword to the English translation of his La Métaphysique de Josiah Royce. 1: 93.”30 From the other side: “The purely private self is an abstraction: the ego given in experience is a being-by-participation. in fact. always remains. for we shall see in the sequel how difficult it is to succeed in getting a direct glimpse of whatever it is that we mean by self. and thanks to the perception of this indistinctive world. Participation. I can.”29 This is. . Journal. whereas the perception of other human beings as consciousnesses is mediate. 33. I. XI. Philosophie de la volonté. so to speak. it has been endowed with no special privileges whatsoever. we cannot effectively divorce the self from that in which it participates. “Consciousness is above all consciousness of something which is other than itself. because it is only the participation which allows there to be a self. 127. as Ricoeur emphasizes.

”35 According to Marcel.We have seen that we do not originally perceive our body as “a body among many others. before we consider this kind of reflection as such. Ibid. means to surrender to the “spirit of abstraction. 1977). 37 See Gabriel Marcel. It is difficult.” or “second degree reflection” (réflexion seconde). of course. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. because we always have the temptation to keep outside the problem. indistinct sense of one’s total existence.” of this different kind of reflection is a “massive. myself. that it is fated in the end to undergo the same destruction. one could say that we have firstly to answer the question: “Do I exist? And if I do. we have to begin from that existent the existence of which I cannot deny in any sense.”38 However. we cannot forget the Coenaesthesis and the bond with my body. according to Marcel. the “fulcrum.” Marcel means something more than the simple presence of a biologically alive body. In a certain sense. some body or other. considered as just a body. 35 34 60 .” therefore. as the condition which makes the defining activity possible. two different kinds of reflection.” Existence Approaching the notion of existence.” The analysis of the notion of body seems to demonstrate. I am part of the problem that I am trying to analyze.”36 Our existence is incarnation. is simply. one could say that the fact that I exist is not so clear.37 It is important to resist this temptation. a sort of ‘that’. We read: If. For Marcel the questions of suicide and of death impose on the human relation to the world the fundamental characteristic of concern. Position et approches concrètes du mystère ontologique (Paris: Jean-Michel Place.” In order to answer the question “What is existence?. we have to clarify first what exactly Marcel means by “existence. it manifests itself rather by a refusal to treat primary reflection’s separation of this body. as any other body whatsoever”34. The Mystery of Being.” or the “springboard. which grounds my view of the world. it seems to be prior to all definition”). 38 Marcel. my denial of which entails the inconceivability of my asserting any other existence. and if I take the question as meaning ‘is’ Marcel. For Husserl this relation may be raised to the rank of spectacle for the disinterested eye of the meditating ego. ‘Do I exist?’ I take the ‘I’ separately and treat it as a sort of mental object that can be isolated. But. We cannot “define” it (“for. Marcel writes: “This centrally significant existence. in so far as I feel sure that I exist. It is evident that. with the expression “I exist. from the self that I am. the second “does not set out flatly to give the lie to these propositions. 1: 92. Thus. but we cannot in any way: this problem.” And here we can note the profound difference between Marcel’s and Husserl’s philosophical approaches: “it concerns the very relation of human beings and the world. that it is necessary to use two different approaches. in which sense do I use the verb ‘to exist’?” Marcel argues that the question is badly put. a sample body. The Mystery of Being. inevitably invades the whole scenario. On this point Marcel is incontestably closer to Heidegger than to Husserl.” The name given by Marcel to this kind of reasoning is “secondary reflection. in fact. in the question. we only try to give it a name and to locate it “as an existential center. as final.” 488. 36 Ricoeur. because to forget the bond with my body. that it is liable to suffer the same disorders. The first one argues that “this body has just some properties. 1: 88.

Marcel explains: “A problem is something which I meet. 42 See Entretiens Paul Ricoeur Gabriel Marcel (Paris: Éditions Aubier-Montaigne. we established that “I exist” and that existence is. The second point stressed by Marcel is that existence is not a predicate. and we argued that it is impossible to treat it correctly when using the traditional rational categories. that it was. in the Critique of Pure Reason.” Gabriel Marcel. in fact. L’Homme problématique. analyzing. a vicious question.42 It is interesting to note that Marcel adopts a “simpler” and “more concrete” solution than Heidegger’s one.or is not existence something that can be predicated of this ‘that’? the question does not seem to suggest any answer to itself. not even a negative answer. Marcel emphasizes the sum rather than the cogito. better. rather. in this argument. and it can therefore only be thought of as a sphere where the distinction between what is in me and what is before me loses its meaning and initial validity. isolating language.. I am talking about a concept. In which sense? As a matter of fact we cannot use a rational. 43 The relationship between Marcel and Heidegger is a very interesting topic. To be honest.in any case. The first one is that the I is not a that. if I consider the I as an object within this question.e. But this would prove simply that the question had been badly put. Position et approches concrètes. we are talking about the I as a mental object even in this moment.” because it refers to existence. In Being and Having. if I do this. we have to resort to a metaphor. This is also the reason why Marcel strongly criticizes Descartes and the argument of cogito.43 One could also Ibid. we have to say that Being is something which deals with the notion of existence. as a psychologist could do. about the relationship between Being and beings. See also Luigi Pareyson. In other words. What Marcel wants to emphasize is that if I ask the question “Do I exist?. 117. 40 39 61 . Having is the way to solve the problems I find in the world. but which I can therefore lay siege to and reduce. Heidegger] is without doubt the most profound of our time.. But a mystery is something in which I am myself involved. Marcel sees. but the least capable of formulating anything resembling clear directions which could orient effectively the youth that turns to him as a guide.or. so to say. it is not a “mental object. First of all. without my I -. dissecting. so we can say that Being is the light and beings are illuminated by this light. Studi sull’esistenzialismo (Milano: Mursia. 90. Marcel is not denying the possibility of thinking the I and treating it as an object. which I find completely before me. as Kant seems to have established once and for all. that it is the way to treat the mysteries I find in life. what I am doing is a mere fiction. 2002). Being and Having. we cannot dissect the affirmation “I am. It was vicious for two reasons: because the ‘I’ cannot in any case whatsoever be treated as a ‘that’. I am not talking about my I. when writing an essay about “psychological disorders of the I.” I cannot consider my I as an object and. [i. 264-5. but this does not seem to help very much.40 Therefore. if I may say so. I cannot conceive the existence without the I -. an “opaque datum.” for example. in a speculative way. and it would deserve a larger treatment.”41 Thus. the danger of a dissociation between the gnoseological subject. is that existence is not a problem: it is a mystery. as an organ of an objective knowledge. According to Marcel. Marcel. according to Marcel. “this difficult philosopher. 184. 1968). we cannot use the rational in a scientific sense instrument to analyze it. because the ‘I’ is the very negation of the ‘that’ whatsoever and also because existence is not a predicate. In other words. and the vital element in our being.39 Marcel stresses two points here.” The reason why.” Of course. But what is Being? We could answer. 41 Marcel.

because I see the world with my eyes. The Phenomenological Movement.“science does not speak about the real. he affirms that it cannot be demonstrated. it is not something which deals with the scenario of Having.”46 whereas the thought on Being does not speak but in the first person. 1979).’” Ricoeur. 147. quoted in Spiegelberg. Nevertheless. thanks to my self-consciousness. the recognition of the other is not a second step preceded by the certitude of the cogito. Moreover.Marcel says -. 449. About the relationship between Marcel and Heidegger. we can say that we can see the light only in beings.e. what Marcel demands of his hypothetical materialist interlocutor is to wonder if there are not concrete experiences which can lead one to consider the plausibility of a speech on Being. my existence is singular and unique because I am an historical being (Dasein). Heidegger. The Mystery of Being. within Marcel’s thought. but Marcel does not demonstrate it. Existence which deals with Being is something more. Journal. According to Heidegger. It is true that the metaphor of Light is classic within the Western philosophical tradition. but rather communication is constitutive of my very existence. speech in the third person is powerless to say «thou».45 In passing. scientific thought is universally valid just because -. attesting to the presence of the other depends on my degree of ‘defensiveness’ and therefore on my «unreadiness» or my ‘openness. Therefore. but not fundamental: my existence is singular and unique because I am I.” 484. 44 Marcel. 46 Marcel. from Plato onwards. Marcel confers on existence and consciousness a value which transcends the mere biological life and even the most complex psychic activity. a wager. the indispensable datum of every concrete philosophical reflection. A materialist surely will answer that it is. “There is no way in which we can conceive of being as something cut off from existence. Marcel does not distinguish between Existence and Being. 2: 33. The Phenomenological Movement. 1918. Being is “being in a situation. On the contrary.” and thus is always changing. 62 . in Gabriel Marcel et la pensée allemande. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. while expressing his reservations about Heidegger’s too “spatializing” conception of être-dans-le-monde (in-der-Welt-sein).47 In this sense. Finally. Our own mode of Being is being-in-the-world. 45 “Gabriel Marcel seems to have been the first to use the phrase être-au-monde in this sense. (Paris: Aubier. it is interesting to note that Marcel’s thought is similar to Heidegger’s from this point of view. see Dialogue sur l’espérance. it is necessary to find a philosophical strategy in order to formulate a thought which is concrete and nevertheless shareable. of all individuals. just because it is not a problem. whereas in Marcel’s view my historical collocation is important. 47 “Three ideas are condensed here. It is not an act of faith: it is. as he wants to apply to the sphere of Being a method of survey which is instead valid only within the sphere of Having. according to Marcel. Marcel probably retorts that the materialist is simply guilty of naivety. not merely subjective. Nietzsche. since the beginning of his philosophical work. which are illuminated by it. Second. of “having business with the world” (“avoir affaire au monde”). rather. This metaphor is used by classic metaphysical philosophers to explain that beings exist only because there is a Being conferring an ontological status on them. It is clear that. First.say that Marcel’s solution is more simplistic than Heidegger’s. i. Being is a kind of horizon formed by the existences of all beings. In other words. on the contrary. it cannot constitute the backbone of this reflection -otherwise philosophy could fall into vitalism or intuitionism. but in the third person. there is an element distinguishing Marcel’s use and the classic use of this metaphor. 1955).” Spiegelberg. in the meaning of the word that we have seen before. For his part..”44 Continuing to use our metaphor. but is different if we consider existence itself. 581. note 10. Ernst Bloch (Paris: Présence de Gabriel Marcel. But if existence becomes. Is this an act of faith? The answer depends on the point of view. July 23.

I necessarily enter into the object investigated. This is basically a phenomenological method. which I find complete before me.” “dependent.” This is the reason why I prefer to translate réflexion primaire and réflexion seconde with “first degree” or “first level” reflection and “second degree” or “second level” reflection.” These are not the meanings in the French term seconde. He does not use secondaire. but which I can reduce. in this kind of case. dissolving the unity of experience. But it must also be emphasized that this kind of reflection -. It is convenient to say something. is to ask oneself how such a break can have occurred. Experience transforms itself into reflection. 1: 79. In this act. operates on more than one level. Marcel writes: “there is primary reflection. Marcel calls them réflexion primaire and réflexion seconde. but the I. . 50 Ibid. produce verifiable solutions. .. It is clear that Marcel. because it is critical.” does not mean the body. The Mystery of Being. The Mystery of Being.”52 First degree reflection tends to break down the unity of experience. 51 Ibid.”51 Second degree reflection intervenes when I look back and realize that the “fixity” of the experience (derived from the work of first degree reflection) does not correspond anymore to the real. 1: 81. about the standard English translation of the two levels of reflection we are talking about. Reflection is the recall or re-examination of experience in order to understand or to comprehend it. Marcel gives a very concrete example of these dynamics: “A man who has been traveling on foot arrives at the edge of a river where the bridge has been carried away by a flood.. for “subject. here.”50 Second degree reflection occurs when we recognize a break in the continuity of our experience: “To reflect.” which is very far from being “subordinate” or “dependent. When an experience deals with my I. to the concrete.”48 What is first degree reflection? A problem is something I meet. 1: 83. according to Marcel.“breaks the unity of experience. In an example such as that which I have just cited. and this is the essence of the second degree reflection. in passing.” but which on the contrary remains anchored to the concrete. first degree reflection tends to analyze them. reflection does really play the part of the ferryman. He has no option but to call a ferryman. considering the English language more “concrete” and more close to the real. subjective selves. 1: 78. in principle. 1: 83.Reflection Philosophical thought is reflective. is cold: it not only puts a bridle on the vital impulses. It is interesting to note that Marcel himself. . But first degree reflection tends to ignore this. 63 48 .49 “Reflection. whereas second degree reflection tends to restore it: “Roughly. we can say that where primary reflection Marcel. the réflexion seconde is not subordinate to the réflexion primaire: it is sufficient to note that Marcel sometimes defines the réflexion seconde as “reflection to the power of two. I will continue to use “primary” and “secondary reflection” in the quotations. If we treat these experiences as problems. Reflection. a keeping distance from the immediate happens. We have to get sufficient distance from our own. in fact. which would translate perfectly into the English term secondary but means “subordinate. who often used English words or phrasal verbs in order to explain his thought better. 52 Ibid. I cannot go on just as if nothing had happened: there really is something that necessitates an act of readjustment on my part. and constitutes the condition of the possibility of thinking a conceptual universality which concedes nothing to the “spirit of abstraction. In French. Each problem can. often complained about English translations of his works.” as the subject does not enter into the object investigated.first degree reflection -.. and Marcel believes that it will drive man to the right position. 49 Marcel. and thus we can get a verifiable answer. and there is also what I shall call secondary reflection. in order to pose an objective problem. it freezes them.

but it is embedded in the concrete. There is not. One might assert indeed. it manifests itself rather by a refusal to treat primary reflection’s separation of this body. some body or other. seeking. an itinerant being. We have already seen an example of second degree reflection in Marcel’s discussion of man’s relationship to his body. from the self that I am. Ibid. in fact. a fiction which it is the duty of philosophic reflection to oppose with its strength. even when engaged in this 53 54 55 Ibid. the level of second degree reflection is the area of mystery because here we enter into the realm of the personal. According to Marcel. a sample body.. are. we properly make use of abstract thought. we have seen. First of all.” We have also already seen that the second degree reflection “does not set out flatly to give the lie to these propositions. we topple over into the gulf of nonsense – of nonsense in the strict philosophical sense. Ibid. In second degree reflection. there to rest for ever. that from the moment when we seek to transcend abstract thought’s proper limits and to arrive at a global abstraction.”54 In the same way.55 First degree reflection. taking one’s stand against that mirage of abstract. that is. it is important to underline that first degree reflection is a legitimate and very useful reasoning. Before continuing. 1: 83. But let us notice also that our itinerant condition is in no sense separable from the given circumstances. However. but there is nothing in the method of abstraction itself that has any note of the absolute about it. of words without assignable meaning. two complementary aspects of our condition.. in order to use them.” The second point: it is also important to emphasize that second degree reflection is indeed a reflection and does make use of concepts. it reconquers that unity. the function of secondary reflection is essentially recuperative. but we cannot use it to treat a “mystery” as a “problem. secondary reflection considers it a mystery to be revealed. a person has to ask a question regarding his own existence. because I am “on the move. who cannot come to absolute rest except by a fiction. it would be worthwhile emphasizing two points about second degree reflection.. We have to use it. But I cannot “freeze” the experience dealing with my existence. as it were. 64 . 1: 133-134.tends to dissolve the unity of experience which is first put before it. that of a wanderer. considered as just a body. absolute truth that has been thrown up by a certain type of intellectualism. to restore a semblance of unity to the elements which primary reflection has first severed.”53 It is important to note that second degree reflection does not go against the data of first degree reflection. for our condition in this world does remain. any global abstraction. from which in the case of each of us that condition borrows its special character. 1: 92-93. we have thus reached a point where we can lay it down that to be in a situation and to be on the move are modes of being that cannot be dissociated from each other. any final high terrace to which we can climb by means of abstract thought. “the body that I call my body is only one body among others. “freezes” experiences: it has to do this.” Marcel explains: To arrive at this or that determinate result. Second degree reflection “can only get to work on the processes to which primary reflection has itself had recourse. According to first degree reflection. in the last analysis. and there cannot be. but goes beyond it by refusing to accept the data of first degree reflection as final. if first degree reflection considers existence a problem to be solved.

but they are transformed. instead of calling the ultimate validity of these oppositions into question. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. Nevertheless. 1: 93. but it is also an ontological approach. 460. though on a higher level. not a problem. based on the centrality of the notion of time in the dynamic of second-degree reflection. can be found in the first part of Being and Having. as an attempt to develop second degree reflection itself. which is essentially a metaphysical or ontological approach. existence should be seen in this way. 460. in this light. 2005).60 In other words. because life is a mystery. 60 A confirmation of this interpretation. on the contrary. the reflective process would in reality still remain at the primary stage. second degree reflection can also be seen. Vigorito. had in the first instance postulated.” so to say. Time and Universality The conceptual space granted to second degree reflection is therefore a borderland. see also John V. and time has. paradoxically. if first degree reflection can partially be identified with the phenomenological method. 391-420. Il presente possibile (Napoli: Guida. And it means. They are not weakened. 57 56 65 .’ as he once contemplated doing. the plan becomes the “postponement of existence to later”: Ibid. time has passed.” According to Marcel. because the concepts used in the first degree reflection are still there in the second degree reflection. broadly conceived. About the notion of time.” Spiegelberg.. the “reflective intuition” does not overlap. between the thoughts which practice solely and exclusively first degree reflection and ignore the essence of man as a “being on the move.attempt at unification. eliminating its abstractness and recovering its concreteness. the existence which it should address. Evidence of the fact that Marcel never renounced the use of reason and of concepts is this: “he considered the very term ‘intuition’ too dangerous and too loaded to call his metaphysical reflection ‘reflective intuition. In this regard. “Marcel never identified phenomenology with his second reflection. in one way or another. nevertheless. in the concrete? It means that men have the task of going beyond the problematic. see the recent and illuminating work of Ugo Perone. at a deeper sight. 1929. For Marcel. From the instant in which first degree reflection applied to the real. ed. second degree reflection does not represent a flight into a kind of irrationalism or mysticism.”56 Therefore.” in Schilpp and Hahn. and particularly in the note dated March 6. with the “second degree reflection. time has produced an overturning of concept. at the same time. but these concepts are expressions of concrete experience and are not formulated as abstract solution strategies to problems.”59 Second degree reflection is indeed a return to the immediacy of lived experience on a higher level. 59 Ibid. since it would remain a prisoner in the hands of the very oppositions which it.. favoring the future always implies the risk that the plan “devours.” 58 Ibid. turn out in identifying the most authentic dimension of time in the future.”58 Therefore. to the instant in which I look back reflecting on that reflection. “On Time in the Philosophy of Marcel. Nevertheless.. they are more concrete.57 Second degree reflection makes use of concepts. even if they recognize the Geworfenheit. and those nihilistic thoughts which.” an existent who lives in time. “a return to the immediacy of lived experience. made the concept more concrete. the dimension of plan (Entwurf) must not be rejected. In this case. exactly as it has revealed its substantial fiction and fallibility. Problems are indeed problematic precisely because they arose from and remain within the “spirit of abstraction. The Phenomenological Movement. itself. But what does it mean.

64 See Josiah Royce. The World and the Individual (New York: MacMillan. can always be “immobilized” and “frozen.” Therefore. only if the interpreters.” but rather lived like “time on the move. 1900). An ontological aspect: as it is a relationship with Being. that is. In this sense. And it is important that this happen. also the present must not be “frozen. constitute a real and concrete community.” without any concrete relationship with reality. 62 Marcel. 1915. obviously. 1: 170. through the confrontation with my present. It is the “being on the move” of the present which allows second degree reflection. 1999). only if the object does not remain extraneous. here and now.. éd.64 Marcel makes use of Royce’s theory of interpretation. that feature of concreteness which allows me to plan myself authentically.: Vanderbilt University Press. the most authentic temporal dimension: “There is not and there cannot be other origin of time if not the present.”63 Only the present owns. because if the I who I am hic et nunc remains unconnected with everything which I have been and which leads me to be what I am.” and the more we immobilize the past. The past can be grasped in its profoundness only by linking it to the present. The profound memory of the past also allows a grasp. such dynamics constitute the starting point of second degree reflection.it means inviting a being to plan instead of living. but is participated in by the interpreters. The “prevalence of future” is one of Marcel’s criticisms of Heidegger. At this point. in fact. Journal. outlining a process of total alienation. The memories (i. I am.. it is important to note the relevance of Josiah Royce’s thought in Marcel’s development of this dynamic. my existence is a part See Gabriel Marcel. thanks to that past. 63 Marcel. while addressing them to my future I. 66 See Marcel. everything I have been) represent the object which my present I interprets. in the exercise of second degree reflection and in the interpretive process.e. In this preference there are. if it does not really participate in that heritage of memories. Tenn. whereas the past and the future have to be considered simply as a support and a reinforcement of it. Homo Viator (Paris: Aubier.” Only by planning a sense that begins from the present can we avoid the risk of nihilism. The past.62 Nevertheless.e. is ‘I am’ hic et nunc. then my future I will also be excluded from it. is an act of loyalty to this concreteness. according to Royce. Such a process. the more the future appears as a past ante litteram. i. to that I. and to accept it consciously. and it is always a time lag which allows for a reflection. 66 61 . Of course. neither the future nor the past are the truly authentic existential dimension. in fact. By using another notion introduced by Royce. no Romantic tones. 65 See Josiah Royce. To be “witness of concreteness” means precisely to recognize the second degree reflection and the fallibility of any concept which it shows. the communicating subjects. according to Marcel. but transfers it into a pure existentialist context. The penalty for a lack of loyalty to concreteness is the relapse into first degree reflection: the concept will “get cold” and will become again an “empty container. Philosophy of Loyalty (Nashville. therefore. a reflection which can be considered a process of interpretation. An interpretation is real.66 The freedom of accepting or refusing second degree reflection presents two inseparable aspects.65 he emphasizes that what is demanded. constantly happens in the personal intimacy of everyone. The present is.61 Marcel addresses his preferences to the past rather than to the future. especially if the interpretative process occurs in the intimacy of my I. the “prevalence of the future” is always a sign of nihilism. of my “being on the move. The Mystery of Being. but there is a consideration of the past as the whole of the existential experiences which constitute the being who. in its ambiguity. Montaigne. 1: 194-195. who. The Mystery of Being. a past for anticipation. September 15. 1945).

this concept is an “overturned” concept. as it has not an unique “center” -. restores the connection between existence and concept. Marcellian thinking attempts to escape from the choice between the universal and the particular by adopting an “intermediary level. to the point that it loses every abstractness and reconquers the concreteness lost in the abstraction -. the aesthetic experience is not limited to what is usually considered a “work of art. an interpretative act. the privilege of universality is peculiar also to philosophy.67 This is a clearly personal universal. And an ethical aspect: that relationship is also. which fulfills its epistemological function of final justification. can be identified with the pursuit of a theoretic space where it can be possible to conceive an universal clearly personal but not exclusively subjective. second degree reflection succeeds in grasping. For a general introduction of this topic. the experience of second degree reflection is an aesthetic experience. instead. in the Journal. If the subject must be the final foundation and if the subject must be singular. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. in “my” unique and unrepeatable look at the world. see Pagano. and springs from an element which precedes every experience and which is at the origin of it: that “new immediate” which. that there are as many centers as “existent looks. Through a keeping distance from the immediate.” Therefore. as we said. the concrete universal. is existence. It is the paradox that gave rise to the question of intersubjectivity. only intersubjectivity -a term which. 67-68.” 480-481.68 In his paper Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. such an ethical aspect of second degree reflection is linked with a constant attention to a theme which Marcel. Moreover.” In some way. particularly 171-172. The Mystery of Being. returning concreteness to concept. the original interpretation of the truth. an attempt of neither renouncing the concept -. without doubt. as it roots in “my” concrete and particular existence. There is. for Marcel. at the same time.guarantees that “convergence of looks” which constitutes the concrete universality. and a de facto singularity resulting from its thoroughly temporal constitution.thereof.69 Clearly. where time plays a fundamental role. which constitutes the aim of Marcel. historical and concrete experiences which actualize it.though. this universal can become visible only in these intersubjective. from the phenomenological movement -. 67 67 . Ricoeur writes: Thus for Husserl the concept of subjectivity is divided between a de jure universality. there remains only one possibility: a kind of collegial or ecumenical foundation in which the virtually unlimited community of subjects carries the weight of universality. Marcel assumes from Husserl or. precisely because it is.nor the possibility of the universality connected with the concept. or at least in having a look at what eludes first degree reflection: second degree reflection reaches its aim precisely when it shows us the failure of reason. Less concerned with founding the sciences than with justifying human existence. this universal is not exclusively subjective. later. La dimensione dell’universalità e l’esperienza ermeneutica. labeled “the question of totality” and which. 69 Ricoeur.we can say. Precisely for this reason. essentially. in Marcel. 68 See the Conclusion of Marcel. in any case. This is why Marcel introduces second degree reflection: whereas first degree reflection tends to “freeze” the universal beyond every concreteness deriving from existence.” which is illustrated by aesthetic experience. In this sense. especially in its failures.

Using second degree reflection means precisely to accept this wager. if it reduces the problem.” 491. What I ask myself. and it is now of water that I am thinking. for example.”74 In fact. “Reply to Paul Ricoeur. The Mystery of Being. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. 1: 55.” 489. 2: 66.and that this kind of experience opens us to transcendence. coincide with an aspiration towards a purer and purer mode of experience. will be led to acknowledge that it inevitably bases itself on something that is not itself. “If the ontological affirmation were in no way an intellectual act. it is distilled. In other words. for example. of characterization.” 495. Marcel thinks that there are experiences which are purer than others -. then it could not be elevated to philosophical discourse. that in certain cases.” It is true that Marcel. thus second degree reflection arises from the failure of first degree reflection. Second degree reflection. but this explanation. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. Marcel writes: “it may be that reflection. limit itself to a critique of objectivity. . The Mystery of Being. nevertheless. as Ricoeur stresses. Ibid. According to Ricoeur. it deals with transcendence. we can approach the transcendent through experiences. does not solve it.love. is whether the urgent inner need for transcendence might not.”76 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 Marcel. better. Ricoeur. Of course. Marcel uses another metaphor here: “One might say. “Gabriel Marcel and Phenomenology. something from which it has to draw its strength. And the problem was already emphasized by Marcel in Being and Having and sounds in this way: how can something which cannot be reduced to a problem actually be thought? The question profoundly implies the essence of an existential philosophy which. at the roots of every philosophy (or. this opposition “could not be established without immediately destroying the philosophical enterprise as such. the nothingness. It happens when first degree reflection reaches its limits.” 489. it is not an act of faith more than the opposite choice.” admits his own imprecision in the use of these terms.”73 A wager is not a shift to some fidéisme. or better. if Being is the “uncharacterizable. hope -. we have seen. that experience has varying degrees of purity. as we have seen. Marcel.”70 According to Marcel. Using second degree reflection. Ricoeur. that is. Ricoeur is right when he argues. Moreover. Ricoeur. and of the problematic. . it requires a wager.” rather. Marcel. transcendence is not something different from.”72 But. Marcel’s thought does not require an “act of faith. at this point. in his “Reply to Paul Ricoeur.” it risks becoming also “the pure indeterminate. on the contrary. 1: 38. and explains that “Instead of ‘uncharacterizable’ one should say ‘non-characterizing’”75. it is possible to look at what cannot be conceptualized. 68 . Marcel explains: “Thus one may see fairly clearly how secondary reflection while not yet being itself faith.” “the unqualified par excellence. friendships. is basically a kind of reasoning. “cannot . at the roots of every human existence) there is always a wager: we can wager for the sense or for the absence of sense. in its most fundamental nature..”71 As a conclusion. or separate from experiences. interrogating itself about its own essential nature. succeeds at least in preparing or fostering what I am ready to call the spiritual setting of faith. it must be supported by the determinations of thought and by conceptual work whose resources are exhausted neither by science nor by technology. threatened with a shift to a philosophico-religious fidéisme.Conclusion A reference to religion appears only at the end of Marcel’s typical way of thinking. it is worth examining Ricoeur’s shrewd criticism of Marcel’s opposition between mystery and problem.

492. seen from this point of view. constitutes the height of the failure of reason but. Gallagher stresses. second degree reflection. at its center. Thus Ricoeur was clearly unprepared to go to the full length of Marcel’s “mystic” antirationalism and tried to supplement it by the “rationality” of the Husserlian approach.”82 And Marcel argues: “I insist very firmly that all this must not be interpreted in an irrational sense: or rather.” 78 77 69 .” a fascinating notion never completely elaborated. Second degree reflection is indeed “a second naïveté”. In this sense. there is no doubt that this crisis can transform reason.but. 81 Ibid. Tilliette emphasizes the relationship between the Marcellian “blind intuition” with the Schellingian “ecstasy of reason.84 The passage from the former to the latter level of reflection is therefore characterized as an overturning of the conceptual activity. we can speak of a “Marcellian hermeneutics. Ibid. Marcel “accuses” Husserl’s phenomenological perspective and Heidegger’s “mystic” philosophy of the same gap: he does not see concrete existence at the center of their thoughts.” 497. the proposal of a solution? A possible answer can be that offered by Spiegelberg.”79 But is Marcel really an “anti-rationalist.” but a specification is necessary. 80 Marcel. “Foreword. at the same time. even if they were wrong in trying to fix it within immutable categories or within a dialectic that ultimately risks becoming tyrannical. the paradox of existence. there is no doubt for Marcel that the analytical and reducing reason. 82 Gallagher. The ‘blinded intuition. The Phenomenological Movement. inevitably fails -. XV.According to Ricoeur.. 84 See Xavier Tilliette. 590. that such an interpretation would postulate a degraded conception of reason which would amount to identifying it with understanding. and Marcel himself writes: “The incomparable merit of Kant and. it is not based on a phenomenological “epoché. “Schelling e Gabriel Marcel: un ‘compagno esaltante.”83 The consideration of concrete reality as paradoxical refers to another Marcellian notion: the “reflective intuition” or “blind intuition” or “blinded intuition. rather than destroy it. with a paradoxical movement. “Reply to Paul Ricoeur. that is. of Fichte as well was to be fully aware of the dynamic character of reason. When reason reaches its own Ibid. with ceases to proceed in the “traditional” and “rationalistic” way and becomes existential and practical.” a “mystic”? As we have said. in fact. holds a fundamental feature of the phenomenological dynamics. “The paradox is that this elusiveness is an essential constituent of his thought.”77 As a matter of fact. I might add. constitutes also an overturning of reason. concrete philosophy must always have. at the same time.” 79 Spiegelberg. an initial loss of naïveté. saying that his own philosophical thought is “essentially an opening on and toward drama and not at all.” but on a wager which rises from the paradox of existence and manifests itself as interpretation. But a real. clashing with existence. As Kenneth T. Ricoeur concludes: “This hard destiny is perhaps what distinguishes philosophy from poetry and faith. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. the capacity to reconquer “a second naïveté presupposing an initial critical revolution. IX. “It is here that Husserl’s work recovers its legitimacy. Marcel’s second degree reflection seems to be very far from every form of “mystic” intuition.”81 but this affirmation need not be considered as a way to keep distance from any form of reason whatsoever.” in Gallagher.’ which depends on second degree reflection.”78 What can be said of Ricoeur’s position. . which is a criticism and. 83 Gabriel Marcel. The Philosophy of Gabriel Marcel. 492. This is sufficient to explain why I will never allow myself to be called an irrationalist. .”80 Marcel keeps his distance from Husserl.’” Annuario Filosofico 3 (1987): 243-254. who explains: “Ricoeur makes it plain that he considers his epistemology “imperfect” .. like Husserl’s thought. an opening on and toward science.

Marcel is not very far from a certain part of contemporary hermeneutics. dominated on the one hand by the crisis in traditional metaphysics and.and here. Therefore. this demands an effort -.like love or friendship. This is the critical moment in which reason stops and is overturned. different from the rationality which has preceded it exactly because this “new” reason has its roots in the existential experience. alone. while forced to acknowledge its failure in front of the mystery of existence. better. he adds to the French expression the English sentence “if there is a plot. Marcel tries to set out the boundary markers of a new philosophical proceeding. 1948). we can always choose or. which is very topical from this point of view. whereas in the English edition we find an ellipse which inevitably damps the strength of the expression: “If life has a point – or as we would say here. it nevertheless approaches a deeper and richer reality.existential and philosophical at the same time -. 86 The French expression is “si la vie a un sens” (Marcel. not renouncing it to pursue the sense of existence. When Marcel uses the expression “If life has a point” in The Mystery of Being. 1995). starting from that “concrete approach” which. The very essence of Marcel’s thought.in order to attempt to understand existence. on the other hand. the incipit of another reason. a plot or a theme. See Paul Ricoeur. while at the same time remaining faithful to the concreteness of existence. Philosophie du mystère et philosophie du paradoxe (Paris: Editions du Temps Présent. helping to delineate suitable limits for a space of possible sharing (within universality). Gabriel Marcel et Karl Jaspers. a new language -. authentic reality. in the last analysis. Le mystère de l’être. But it also means that. not to break the metaphor.” Marcel. 1: 189). The Mystery of Being. it paradoxically reaches also its landing place. wager on sense or on nothingness. 70 85 .those which Marcel calls “concrete approaches” -. 1: 173. It is interesting to note that the English expression has been maintained in the French edition. if we wager on sense. in our opinion.. is his absolute determination in the pursuit of sense.85 The “surveillance” and the rigor of reason cannot consequently be detached from existence and concreteness. can indicate the directions. Introduzione alla filosofia della religione (Torino: UTET.limits. the perspective opened by Marcel’s thought can be fruitful for a philosophy which intends to re-appropriate its own speculative vocation. Marco Ravera.e. Questioning if life has a point. always a choice for non-sense). by the constant risk of an acceptance of the absence of sense (which is. Through second degree reflection. In the current context. though it can sometimes appear absurd.”86 This expression is more than a metaphor: it represents the aim of his whole thought. means properly to believe that there is a plot and that. blind intuition is also the beginning. and these cannot be detached from that flickering of sense which we can find in the fundamental human feelings -. 149f. i.

2.

HERMENEUTIC PHENOMENOLOGY AT THE BOUNDARY OF REASON: MEANINGFUL GRAFT OR SUBVERSIVE DEVIATION

Patrick L. Bourgeois

The conflation of phenomenology with the older tradition of hermeneutic produced some ambiguity in what emerges as hermeneutic phenomenology. One must still question whether this is the product of a fruitful graft or, rather, a subversion that requires more attention today. In this context there are two particularly relevant paths from phenomenology through hermeneutics to ontology that are of special interest, those of Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur. It is the thesis of this paper that these two quite different paths to ontology, directed by choices of method, require that we take a position between the two of them. The exclusions entailed in such a choice become exacerbated in light of further subversions produced by deconstructive enlightenment of recent postmodern thinking, the challenge of which is so fundamental that it threatens the entire project of any such philosophy. These developments away from the pure form of early phenomenology spring from certain realizations, which have been reinforced by recent postmodernists: that Husserlian intuition of presence contains an absence; that the living present contains alterity (retentions and protentions); and that the univocity of meaning gives way to the enigma and ambiguity of symbols, myths, or story. Hence, strict Husserlian intuition falls apart. Such alterity in the actual grafting of hermeneutics onto phenomenology, however, is not a stark otherness in sense and in the living present, but, rather, allows for continuity, richness and fluidity. This grafting of hermeneutics onto phenomenology is an attempt to read the deeper dimensions of the senses of existence beyond univocity, but without making the alterity too alien to the full sense of existence; and without making the living present a concatenation of discrete moments now. Thus, rather than a regression, this graft of hermeneutics onto the wild stock of phenomenology in the approach to existence preserves and extends the main gains of phenomenology: phenomenological primordiality in relation to lived experience, the priority of the holistic living present over a reduced discreteness in relation to its retentions and protentions and the priority of the semantic over the syntactic in language. Thus, I am defending the grafting of hermeneutics onto phenomenology as an extension of a method in the attempt to do greater justice to its ability to make sense out of experience, language, and Being. Rather than a subversion, this conflation of these two traditions reveals a recognition of early phenomenology’s myopic hope and weakness in over-playing the role of intuition, the cogito and the univocity of sense, especially as the developed method focuses on the complexities of human existence. Such a graft or conflation of hermeneutics and phenomenology cannot be allowed to confuse method and content, as Descartes and Husserl do. Any philosophical method, strictly as a method, while needing to be attuned and responsive to that which it interprets and explicates, cannot allow the very appropriation of method to predetermine the philosophical position. Such prejudiced appropriation of method must be considered to have forced Descartes into a mechanistic reading of nature and Husserl into idealism. In each case, metaphysical content was allowed at a pre-critical level to infiltrate the process of appropriating method: in Descartes’s case, presuming that nature is what the slanted perspective of a mathematical physicist sees -- mechanism; and in Husserl’s case, presuming that the transcendental as method has to be assumed in any derivation of a sense of Being -- the bringing about of a closure within the brackets of transcendental phenomenological method that sets the stage prior to any approach to ontology. Although it has been on the scene for some time now, hermeneutic phenomenology, as the welding and melding of two distinct traditions, can still be seen as having one of
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the most meaningful contemporary sweeps in addressing the sense of existence, even within the context of the postmodern situation. Perhaps one must at this point admit that the opening of phenomenology to hermeneutics cannot constitute the entirety of philosophy, but, rather, it is merely a necessary stage through which any serious contemporary effort passes for philosophical adequacy in any attempt to do justice to interpreting existence. Such a stage on the way toward a fuller philosophy, allows -- even forces -- any attempt at a more far-reaching reading and writing to avoid over-simplification and to do justice to the richness of existence without reducing it to a false unity or univocal sense. I believe that it is obvious to any serious scholar in contemporary thinking that such a grafting of hermeneutics onto phenomenology is not only viable but necessary. Yet there is more than one way for this to be worked out, and I believe that somewhere within the contrasting approaches of Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur lies a very viable way of actualizing this renewed method, and one which responds well to the challenge of deconstruction in its tendency to subvert sense or meaning and the living present. I consider the subversion of such deconstruction to lie in a simplistic dichotomy between the living present and its constitutive elements of retention and protention, and the closure entailed in any sense or meaning at which one arrives. While it may be the case that I am over-interpreting this dichotomy in deference to hermeneutic phenomenology’s reading of sense and the living present, it is clear from his texts that Derrida tends toward the extremes, even though these may be only latent. I have explored the extremes1 so that the gains of a middle way -that of hermeneutic phenomenology -- can be won, and the regressive move by deconstruction can be redirected.2 In order to prevent these extremes, the enlightening ways of such a graft by Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur can be invoked. The outcome of their expansion in relation to one another pushes to the fore a path for philosophy today that is open to the tradition both of the past as well as of the future as one aspect of the ongoing and living tradition unfolds. The stark contrast between their appropriations of hermeneutics and phenomenology must be clear in the effort to work out a unified and consistent method. The reciprocity that Ricoeur admits between phenomenology and hermeneutics, in acknowledging the influence of Husserl and at once that of the tradition of Biblical hermeneutics, must be considered in contrast to Heidegger’s attempt to develop phenomenology in such a way as to coordinate hermeneutics with the internal development of Dasein’s understanding, thus supposedly deepening the arc of hermeneutics to the point where the previously hidden pre-comprehension of Being emerges as the guideline for focusing on human existence in ontical terms. In his pivotal essay “Existence and Hermeneutics,” Ricoeur contrasts his own “longer way” to ontology to Heidegger’s “shorter way,” contending that he remains on the level of epistemology of interpretation and its conflicts of hermeneutic methods before moving too quickly to the ontology of understanding as Heidegger does. In doing so, he avoids a too quick move to interpreting a unity of human existence that is, for him, more an aim than a given, as for Heidegger. In addition, he avoids the facile and prejudiced interpretation of human existence as essentially constituted by finitude at the expense of the infinite. Thus, Ricoeur avoids the typically Heideggerian move to collapse reason to sensibility.

Patrick L. Bourgeois, Philosophy at the Boundary of Reason: Ethics and Postmodernity, Vol. 1 (New York: SUNY Press, 2001); idem, “Semiotics and the Deconstruction of Presence: A Ricoeurian Alternative,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly (1993): 261-279; idem, “Trace, Semiotics, and the Living Present: Derrida or Ricoeur,” Southwest Philosophy Review (1993): 43-63. 2 See Patrick L. Bourgeois, “Hermeneutics and Deconstruction: Paul Ricoeur in Postmodern Dialogue,” in Andrzej Wiercin ´ ski, ed., Between Suspicion and Sympathy: Paul Ricoeur’s Unstable Equilibrium (Toronto: The Hermeneutic Press, 2003), 333-350. 72

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Although there seems to be a wide gulf between the hermeneutics of Ricoeur and Heidegger, their views are close enough so that an encounter between them proves to be quite profitable for hermeneutics today in the postmodern situation. What will become clear is that each can learn a lesson from the other: the Heideggerian short way learns that there is an advantage to dwelling on the ontic level in order to resolve conflicts and to solve problems often overlooked in attempting to trace the most direct route to the question of Being; and the Ricoeurian long way learns that the short way must be questioned in terms of a vision of a certain existential neutrality. The ensuing discussion will first turn to Ricoeur’s critique of Heidegger’s short way in favor of his long way before entertaining the possibility of inverting a basic dimension of that criticism from Heidegger’s direction and before somewhat dissolving the radical antithesis between these two ways, thus providing a mutual enhancement of and a reciprocal gain for each way. One of Ricoeur’s basic objections to Heidegger’s short way is that it too quickly reaches a unity of Dasein, which Ricoeur considers not to be forthcoming, and which remains for him problematical in the sense that the unity of man can be considered only as a regulative idea rather than one which an ontology of Dasein should reveal. Heidegger, however, shows the advantage of a prior guidance from an originary level. For Heidegger, this is an ontology that provides a comprehensive and foundational unity below the torn existence which supports the conflict of the hermeneutics of existence that have preoccupied Ricoeur for so long. The question for us now is whether the Heideggerian short way provides a guidance to Ricoeur’s long way, or, rather, whether it subverts Ricoeur’s efforts to read various and conflicting aspects of existence. Thus the question must be confronted as to whether it is necessary to take Ricoeur’s long way without the Heideggerian pre-comprehension as guide. Which is more fundamental? This inevitably leads us to the question of the priority of the epistemic or ontological in this context. This will be seen to be a false question in that the epistemological and ontological are equi-foundational and are merely two possible methodological focuses on the same phenomenon. This point will not be easy to establish in any Heideggerian context, but Ricoeur’s emphasis is instructive in helping us expand on both his and Heidegger’s limited view of the problem. Ricoeur emphasizes the conflict of interpretations as revealing differing aspects of existence that ontically found various hermeneutic methods.3 Further, on this ontic level and in an extended ethics, he has focused pointedly upon the problem of the place of evil in freedom within human existence and upon the ontic relation of human existence to the Sacred, which is central to his whole philosophy. Thus, for Ricoeur, pausing to dwell on the ontic has fostered an integration or a dialectizing of the symbols which support a phenomenology of spirit and a psychoanalysis of desire, with their respective orientations to teleology and to archeology, both of which prepare for the relation to the Sacred within a phenomenology of religion and its eschatology. These advantages of the long way, for Ricoeur, militate against Heidegger’s short way. Although his myriad writings on the hermeneutics of existence and its conflict of interpretations in a philosophy of limits within the boundary of reason seem to entail a lengthy detour in dwelling on this ontic level before reaching the promised land of ontology, their resolution still indicates the advantage of dwelling on the ontic level further than Heidegger does. The fundamental justification of the long way over the short way to ontology is the underlying difference in the fore-comprehension of human existence. For Ricoeur the unity of man can only be a regulative idea, not achieved in existence and not easily accessible to an ontology worked out too quickly. He says: “Moreover, it is only in a conflict of

Paul Ricoeur, “Existence and Hermeneutics,” in idem, The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics, ed. Don Ihde, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 19. 73

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and freedom to the synthesis between the infinite and the finite as the existential structural place for the possibility of evil. In addition. In addition. It is here that the Heideggerian way needs expansion to include human existence as a synthesis of the finite and the infinite. The consequence of these adjustments is that the respective passages to ontology by Heidegger and Ricoeur become somewhat more compatible and reciprocally beneficial. at the very outset. is demanded by the exigencies of the fore-comprehension of concrete human existence reaching toward ontological understanding. as well as reason’s placing of a limit on experience. 45.rival hermeneutics that we perceive something of the being to be interpreted: a unified ontology is as inaccessible to our method as a separate ontology. This discussion will turn now to Ricoeur’s view of human existence as fallen in order to provide an adjustment which removes. It is also clear that Ricoeur’s view is in need of a partial adjustment. Ricoeur has challenged Heidegger’s view of care (Sorge) in a fundamental ontology emerging from an existential analysis of Dasein properly grasped in fore-comprehension. Paul Ricoeur. and the Heideggerian pre-comprehension must be instructed to see it. in terms of his own development of a view of the quasi transcending of this limit as boundary through indirect expressions such as symbols and metaphors. Heidegger does not share Ricoeur’s view of existence as fallen.”4 Thus. The adjustment.”5 and opposing any reduction of reflection to a simple critique or to a mere “justification of science and duty as a reappropriation of our effort to exist. This is a synthesis rather than a unity. an unnecessary limitation to existence and hence to its interpretation. militates against the quick move from the concrete existence of man to conditions of possibility of that everyday existence. and not done merely for the sake of rendering two disparate philosophies compatible. in part. Rather. however. the ontic aspects of which are far more complex than what can be revealed in a mere analysis of the everydayness of Dasein as the starting focus of the hermeneutics of Being. This pause is a necessary one. in every instance each hermeneutics discovers the aspect of existence which founds it as method. 5 4 74 . There is a difference. It is likewise from that view that the necessity for speculative philosophy and its condition of possibility arises from the innovation of meaning engendered by the productive imagination in affording schemata for the rules of understanding and the extension of this function. such a demand for totality in a philosophy of boundary requires that ethics be extended beyond the Kantian formal ethic of law and freedom to an ethics of the actualization of freedom in the act of existing. attempting to grasp the “effort to exist in its desire to be. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. Yet a delay or detour is needed before reaching it. This broadened ethics is understood as a philosophy that leads from alienation to freedom and beatitude. epistemology is only a part Ibid. in avoiding the ontologization of fault by placing evil in the disproportionate existential synthesis between the infinite and the finite. practical and affective levels. and at once mitigate the distance between the hermeneutics of existence and hermeneutic ontology. 1970). nor does he dwell on the founding in ontic existence of the conflicting interpretations and questions of method. It is from that view of evil in freedom and existence that the view of hope emerges. for Ricoeur. Such an extended ethics relocates the place of radical evil in existence. trans. Thus. Ricoeur’s philosophy recasts the Kantian view of the demand on the part of reason for totality. Such an exclusion challenges Heidegger’s fore-comprehension of the Being of Dasein in a unity that does not see the polemical synthesis of the infinite and finite on the cognitive. his view of the fallenness of human existence. Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press. a great contrast is evinced in the differing passages from existence to ontology by Ricoeur and by Heidegger. which arise from that conflict.

This has led him to accept. It is not our purpose here to explore the content of the symbols of evil or of the symbolics in general. within which Ricoeur begins his analysis of the ontic aspect of existence. and recreated can be seen to share the same existential structure. in a philosophic reflection. must accept some prior guidance from the ontological level. however. John Macquarrie & Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row. what is so pivotal for Heidegger is the fact that the capacity for understanding Being as such emerges as the phenomenon for bringing the entirety of Dasein’s Being into question. Dasein. in order to accentuate certain dimensions of human existence which are first encountered ontically. practical. Thus. made necessary to existence aspects which Heidegger has diligently avoided. trans. considered the locus of evil to stem from the disproportion in the synthesis between finitude and infinitude on the theoretical. Within that context radical evil must be extricated from its necessarily constitutive role in existential freedom.8 Heidegger frequently emphasizes that the definitive characteristics of the human are not at issue. in his ethical account of freedom in terms of evil. which initially aims at resolving the problems which the short way ignores. which must be further examined. Failing to accept such guidance. within the prejudice of his hermeneutic situation. so that existence as innocent. and especially affective levels which come to expression in the fullness of symbolic language. 74-75. a reciprocal implication between the inquiry into the meaning of Being and the being to whom this question is decisive. a somewhat religious overtone to his interpretation of radical evil as a necessary and constitutive aspect of existential freedom. but in no way mitigating the need and advantage of his long way to ontology or his distinction between the essential and the existential dimensions of the human synthesis of the finite and infinite in relation to evil. he has. He has. however. reflection on the ontic may result in exaggerating the importance of certain less essential aspects of the human condition. the positing of the self. to religious symbols and to their underlying meaning is not problematic in so far as a philosophic task is undertaken. Thus. while Ricoeur has avoided. In this context. religious content is not simply looked at but assumed. Heidegger’s hermeneutics of existence arises at the point of avoiding the option which Ricoeur exercises. By contrast. with Kant. requiring that human existence be fallen. This is clearly one place where Heidegger’s quick move to ontology precludes a certain necessary and beneficial investigation into concrete human being. in developing a philosophical anthropology. Being and Time. It is precisely this assumed stance.7 Ricoeur’s recourse. fallen. Martin Heidegger.of this broader task: we have to recover the act of existing. and precisely within his philosophy of freedom and evil. There is. But even within that reciprocity there is an even 6 7 Ibid. thus showing a fundamental prejudice toward reaching the ontological at the expense of a certain richness of the ontic accessible to methodological openness in another direction. does more than that by letting assumed religious content slip into the philosophical hermeneutic situation of his philosophical fore-comprehension. The pre-comprehension of existence that Ricoeur adopts requires an adjustment in order to liberate existence philosophically from its prejudice of a specific faith option. but instead the “understanding of Being” which is constitutive of it. within which his reflection operates. 75 8 . 1962). He.”6 Hence it can be seen that Ricoeur has corrected Kant’s view of the place of evil in freedom. to be sure. in all the density of its works. The question then becomes whether and to what extent Ricoeur’s own long way. It is from the symbols of evil that thought reaches the notion of the servile will or the will in bondage. the ontologizing of fault. The resultant moral neutrality of existence must liberate human existence from fallenness as its necessary constitution.

. 11 Ibid. 184-185. 257-261. The decisive challenge for Heidegger’s hermeneutics of existence hinges on clarifying this event of discoveredness in ontological terms.’”11 Upon coupling this factor with the most elemental feature of interpretation. History of the Concept of Time. in reflecting on the essential unity of understanding and existence. the clear and radical distinction between the essential and existential dimensions of the synthesis between the finite and infinite. preventing it from a certain pitfall of the level of existence.e. in such a way that the consideration of the phenomenon which at first seems most remote to the analysis (as a mere characteristic of understanding) will ultimately come to the forefront of the inquiry as encompassing Dasein’s Being (care). in addressing the presuppositions which govern any comprehension. and. This statement occurs in what is perhaps the most significant methodological discussion in Being and Time. Yet. trans. 76 9 .” hermeneutics succeeds in pealing back the successive layers of the fore-comprehension in order to arrive at Dasein’s thrownness into the “there. always press forward into possibilities? It is because the understanding has in itself the existential structure which we call ‘projection. by making an adjustment to accommodate the marginally intelligible character of its “everyday” comportment.. i. It likewise. 1985). the analysis of the “hermeneutical situation” encompassing the entire inquiry (section 63). we arrive at the distinctive direction for a hermeneutics of existence: to promote a “strategy” for wrestling forth the possibilities dormant in the fore-structure of understanding and thereby to initiate the radicalization of Dasein’s everyday self- Martin Heidegger. Indeed.. but also a definite intent to lay bare the phenomenon of everydayness in respect to its “intrinsic possibility” or to correlate it with specific ontological structures which are analyzable in their own right.. will in the end determine the theme of fundamental ontology. at first only vaguely accessible pre-conceptually and pre-ontologically. Theodore Kisiel (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. then distinguishing the structures that make everydayness possible. i. i. Da-sein’s fundamental disclosedness. Through this approach Heidegger not only betrays a certain preoccupation with finding the roots of ontology. in gauging the interchange between that which is “ontically closest” to Dasein and that which is “ontologically farthest.e. by moving immediately to ontology. Yet.more pronounced recoil whereby the dynamics of understanding (projection) display the constitution of Dasein’s Being as ex-istence. Dasein’s manner of uncoveredness. undifferentiated mode of Dasein’s existence. what comes under scrutiny as the essential unity of understanding and existence. As Heidegger observes in a passage from Being and Time. in deference to a quick move to ontology. the “potentiality to be” (the Seinkönnen). Being and Time.”10 Heidegger’s unique contribution lies in bringing forward the unexceptional. to face up to something essential to human being.e. to flesh out this insight. 359. “Why does the understanding . and the attempt to define existence as the way Dasein enters into communion with itself and other beings entails the disclosure of understanding. namely..9 According to Heidegger. Heidegger’s fore-comprehension can be instructive here for Ricoeur’s project. 10 Heidegger. This again shows Heidegger’s failure. fails to distinguish on this level of human existence the further abstraction of the essential dimensions. The overriding concern for what “makes possible” has made Heidegger subject to the critique of adapting or adjusting a Kantian transcendental philosophy to fit an inquiry into the more concrete and essentially finite dimension of being-in-the-world at the expense of the Kantian infinite and reason. the very possession of understanding exhibits the innermost dimension of human existence.. Let us continue our analysis of Heidegger’s view.

and falling -. the pre-comprehension of Dasein’s existentiality (precisely in contrast to interwordly beings) becomes a safety for insuring that assorted ways of misconceiving Dasein’s Being do not inadvertently slip into the analysis. 275-279. which must be considered if the place of evil in human experience is to be fleshed out: something to which Heidegger and Heideggerians should become more attuned. 14 Ibid.15 The latter consideration becomes particularly crucial insofar as the attempt to explicate the essential structures of care proceed from the projective understanding which is definitive of Dasein. it at once prevents a more enlightening detour to that very level of existence and too quickly forces a unity of human existence which is not there.the laying out of the horizon of intelligibility precisely as its originates from the “there” of Dasein. 212-225. Being and Time. Yet. facticity. Heidegger’s concentration on existence still requires addressing Dasein’s essence.may not seem to change much.” 77 12 . 255. 67. in such a way that its very execution converges on the dimension of human existence which is the internal root of interpretation -. while Heidegger’s way can afford an advantage to the longer way. indeed. Here Heidegger makes explicit that “understanding is a basic determination of existence. this approach involves appreciating the drastic switch from a concern for what Dasein is. Specifically. the integration of Cf. as possessing the feature of existentiality.”14 showing that Dasein finds itself in terms of a comportment in which it holds forth its own potential to be. The Basic Problems of Phenomenology. 1962). trans. grasping them in their fundamental unity. after all. Thus.. For hermeneutics. develops the pre-comprehension of care issuing from Dasein itself. To be sure. The proclamation from Being and Time states: The ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence”13 and later. trans. in Heidegger’s sense.and. James S. The implementation of the strategy constitutes hermeneutic phenomenology proper. On the other hand. Hermeneutics as an interpretation of human existence. Thus. While this move does prevent making certain aspects of human existence essential. Heidegger’s hermeneutics of existence aims at addressing the essential structures of care -.pursued intentionally apart from any interest in developing a philosophical anthropology -. Albert Hofstadter (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Herein lies the crux of Heidegger’s criticism of philosophical anthropology.. as one being among others.” Yet. Once again we see that the too quick move to the ontology of human existence misses too much of that existence. 15 Martin Heidegger. Heidegger himself traces the reflexive structure of interpretation and delineates its character as “self-interpretation. we must see that. in undoing Descartes’s misconception. Churchill (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. or the loss entailed in Heidegger’s way will infringe on the many rich advantages of the longer way to ontology. i. his nature. a casual reference to this phenomenon can provoke precisely the opposite connotations than those which are otherwise intended. to who it is.e. 1982).12 Yet this step has tremendous significance. including that of Ricoeur. Martin Heidegger. despite his reservation about characterizing the nature of man in the abstract. since.comprehension. on the one hand. Hermeneutic phenomenology addresses Dasein in all its concreteness as the being who is in each case mine. 13 Heidegger.existence. both for the task that Heidegger undertakes and for determining the direction of his own hermeneutics. and the recognition of this “can be” provides the clue for laying out the hidden facets of Dasein’s own understanding of its Being. as constituting a specific area of inquiry within the order of beings. then. the selection of a more phenomenologically direct approach to address man -. the “nature of man” remains in question. care must be taken not to give it too much play. “the substance of man is existence. is surely not an attempt on behalf of the interpreter to single himself out.

Thus. This ontological emphasis is further reinforced by the fact that any view of “language” is governed by the advance comprehension of existence in such a way that the analysis turns to address the constitution of Dasein in order to discover the capacity for speech. Heidegger’s short way prejudices the issue in favor of his own short way at the expense of clear advantages to the longer way. Note that Being is capitalized in the context of Heidegger’s reference to Dasein’s Being process. Thus. Being and Time. which is ontological at the expense of ontic aspects of existence.” understanding. 17 Heidegger. and if understanding is constitutive of his Being as Dasein. Interpretation. allows him to pass over. To address interpretation in this Heideggerian way as a phenomenon is to become responsive to a movement which already oversees the deeper integration of all the components of Dasein’s Being and brings to the forefront its own initial dependence on the advance comprehension of existence. The deepened inclusivity of Heidegger’s hermeneutics further emphasizes the importance of affirming the priority of the understanding of Being within the existential analytic. but that. Yet this detour to human existence can profit from Heidegger’s myopic view. to move quickly from. states of mind. The ontological focus for hermeneutics emerges simply by recalling that understanding is itself a primary component within the disclosedness of the “there. in distinguishing certain existential dimensions from essential aspects of human being.16 By dwelling on and emphasizing the statement in Being and Time: that “The ‘essence’ of Dasein lies in its existence. let us now turn to the further analysis of Heidegger’s shorter way to ontology through his brand of hermeneutics. this existence can still be looked at and analyzed from the point of view of its concreteness. disclosedness encompasses Dasein’s Being as care.”17 the longer way is precluded by this very stress on the essence as existence. and discourse. including itself. Ricoeur’s long way does not entail so much a denial of the existentiality or the ontology of Dasein as much as it is corrective by pausing in a detour to reflect on some existential aspects before indulging Heidegger’s prejudice toward the prior necessity of ontological reflection. For. and not for a more ontic aspect of the synthesis of the finite and infinite. But this short cut to ontology overlooks a possible distinction between the essential and existential aspects of man’s being as a synthesis of the finite and infinite. in order to set the stage for this gain from Heidegger’s way. 67. An opportunity is thereby created for arriving at the disclosedness of existence precisely as it takes shape in the interpreter him or herself. then. allows the self to relate directly to the possibilities which are housed in the forecomprehension. implicitly establishes the interpreter’s own entrance into the truth prior to any attempt at conceptualization. as mentioned before. which pauses to reflect on certain existential dimensions that are not essential to human being. 78 16 . namely. even if man’s essence or way of Being is to exist. Hence. the ontic to the ontological. those which are constitutive of the “there. as will be seen. this appropriative process. affords a great advantage in dealing with human evil. Implicitly.these structures throughout the whole of Dasein’s Being is not decisively comprehended until the existentialia are correlated with the structures that define Dasein’s comportment toward beings.” and that it is in the process of considering the existential constitution of the “there” that the issue of interpretation first emerges. Heidegger’s so-called critique of philosophical anthropology in favor of this quick move from the comprehension of the Being of Dasein to interpretation. This long way. interpretation involves articulating whatever has already been comprehended. thus taking the short cut to the ontology of Dasein. which is directed from the center of Dasein’s potentiality to be. From this hermeneutic situation arises the clue for discovering not only that interpretation is a radicalization of Dasein’s capacity for self-disclosure.

in Being and Time. Only by attending to the project of Heidegger’s hermeneutics is it possible to ensure that no extraneous considerations or excessive assumptions have inadvertently been adopted from the forestructure of understanding. leaves Ricoeur vulnerable to endorsing naively a certain religious profile that envisions human existence constituted by and predisposed to corruption and fault. Conversely. disclose it in its Being. To be sure. Thus steps are taken to avoid defining Dasein’s Being inappropriately in terms of such categories as that of substance. the initial hermeneutic situation is already ontological even in the fore-comprehension. so as to let be seen that which shows itself in the most direct way possible. His emphasis is on the various hermeneutics which capture a specific dimension of human existence and the integration of existence thus revealed. he refuses to risk missing aspects of human existence not coming into focus in a too quick move to direct ontological disclosure of Dasein’s Being. However.”18 The thematic of human existence then serves as testimony to Dasein’s own disclosedness.but the utterance into words of what is being interpreted proceeds from a pre-articulated level of and a predisposition toward comprehension which is grounded in Dasein’s everydayness. BeingThere.. The radicalization of this everyday comprehension. Only given this stance of neutrality does it becomes possible to appreciate the transformation occurring within the structures of everydayness which brings forth the extremity of Dasein’s thrownness into its situation (of which human corruption forms one side). and losing the advantages of. All of Ricoeur’s protracted analyses of the use and misuse of the will need to be tempered by an explication of the existential structures of everyday existence which recognizes a certain neutrality. i. The term Dasein and what it means. Hermeneutics originally belongs to phenomenology or is the vehicle for its concrete implementation. Yet. 362. he runs the risk of exaggerating certain aspects of human existence. involves bringing into speech the unification of the structures of care which are already enacted concretely in the individual’s existence. The arrival at this crucial juncture helps to establish that the analysis has traced the unification of Dasein’s Being back to a sufficiently original level. Ricoeur practices such a concrete hermeneutics. 79 . and which elects to spell out an exclusive set of ontic human problems. whether he has adequately taken into account the totality of presuppositions of the hermeneutic situation. there is a precaution that arises from the Heideggerian short way that may be relevant to a Ricoeurian analysis of the human that circumvents the too quick analysis of the understanding of the Being of Dasein. insofar as the latter is taken most primordially not as a mere “method” but as a re-enactment of the ancient experience of truth as Aletheia. of the synthesis of the finite and infinite. even on the existential level. a prolonged focus on the ontic and existential. thus moving away from. Yet.e. Being and Time. already bespeaks this prejudice in the initial hermeneutic situation. In this way. the existential analytic. 18 Heidegger. Heidegger questions in an ongoing way. as Heidegger emphasizes. Such an exaggeration is imminent when Ricoeur identifies a set of allegedly perennial and premier kinds of experiences pertaining to the human existential predicament and seeks to paint a holistic view of human nature. which is a task reserved to hermeneutics. non-essential dimensions of human being. Accordingly. to interpret means to gather together the presuppositions that make human existence comprehensible in its own right. abandoning this stance of neutrality which is a trademark of a more classical phenomenology. This precaution applies to the intrusion of terms which refer no deeper than the initial familiarity that everyday Dasein displays towards itself and that would artificially restrict the horizon of intelligiblity to what can show itself in terms of the ready-to-hand or the present-at-hand. occurs when interpretation becomes the forum whereby Dasein “can put itself into words for the very first time.

His enthusiastic openness to the sciences on the ontic level implicitly allows for a possible rapport with such philosophical reflection on the Sacred and on the religious dimensions of experience. This will bring to light the disproportion in the synthesis between the finite and infinite on the cognitive. For.By seeking a deeper unity of Dasein’s Being which is distinct from but not exclusive of all ontical considerations. in order to reflect further on human existence in its desire and spirit leading to the Sacred. In this context much of Ricoeur’s philosophical reflection on the religious realm of the Sacred and on evil is. As will be seen further. it likewise misses. We must try to flesh out a further presupposition that stands in need of correction if philosophical reflection on evil is to be further grounded. now taking into account human being as a synthesis of the finite and infinite. due to its lopping off of the infinite and its burying of reason in the finite. and regenerated existence. This altered view does not rule out of place the privileged place of the mythic of evil. fallen. rather. Heidegger’s hermeneutics is able to avoid some of the tendencies that stem from characterizing the nature of man primarily in terms of a preset extended ethical vision and thus of the existential power of volition. are merely two distinctively differing focuses on the same fundamental dimension of human ontological-epistemic existence. all without over-playing or over-interpreting its place in the philosophical analysis of human existence. as sometimes does Ricoeur. puts it on an equal footing with the mythic of innocence and of regeneration. what emerges is the view that the structures of human existence are. Ricoeur’s short way can be guided by an adjusted Heideggerian pre-comprehension and the attempt to get Dasein properly within the focus of forecomprehension of the hermeneutic method. Thus. and then a pause and detour become necessary precisely at this point. it is likewise true that the difference between the ontological and the epistemological focuses. however. equally foundational for innocent. Ricoeur’s philosophical reflection of the 80 . is some of the implication of this correction of Ricoeur’s long way to ontology in his grafting of hermeneutics onto phenomenology. but without an initial unwarranted prejudice. like the eidetic or essential structures. the short way misses the more complex ontic dimensions of human existence which should have some play in a more explicit ontological focus. a philosophical foundation must be provided to support the various levels of religious options which are operative in philosophical reflection on religious existence and which originate from the essential level of openness and prior disclosure of human existence. Heidegger does. practical and especially affectively levels of this synthesis. perhaps it is necessary to affirm a reciprocal guidance on one another of the long and short ways to ontology. a certain equi-primordiality of the epistemic and ontological at the fundamental level of human existence in being-in-the-world. philosophically ambiguous. chooses to bring the spirit or reason of man down to the finite and to assert the unity of care on the level of existence. however. fail to focus on the synthesis of the infinite and the finite in human existence. In this context. we can attempt to bring to light some of the insights for a philosophy that wants to inquire into human evil by looking at religious language and the experience that underlies it. In such an expansion. Now that we have established a neutrality on the level of human existence in this grafting process. In order to achieve this end. overcoming traditional restrictions and limitations. thus leading him to affirm the coincidence of Dasein’s existence and essence in contrast to Ricoeur. For. Far from foreclosing all “specific” analyses of aspects of concrete existence within the world. which is something to which Heideggerian analysis is totally oblivious. As will become evident shortly. but rather. for it is precisely existence which is neutral to all of these. but. What still needs to be determined. the project of hermeneutic phenomenology opens up precisely those avenues by illuminating beforehand the horizon for the understanding of human existence in the synthesis of the finite and infinite in human being. if it is so that the understanding and interpretation of its own being is so fundamental to human existence.

This is simply the other side of the required existential neutrality considered above. there is a certain continuity between hermeneutics of existence and a philosophical reflection on religious existence that leads to the expression of the Sacred in symbols and myths. These advantages of the “long way” militate against the Heideggerian “short way. in order to liberate existence philosophically from its prejudice of a specific religious tradition. although his pausing to reflect on the ontic level of existence and the conflict of interpretation delays his ontology. in spite of these serious advantages of proceeding via the long way to examine ontical dimensions of human existence. It is one such element in Ricoeur’s view of ontic religious existence that needs further clarification. but still operative. Ricoeur’s hermeneutics seems to allow specific religious content to enter into his own philosophical fore-comprehension of human existence. Ricoeur has focused pointedly upon the problem of the place of evil in freedom within human existence. Ricoeur might well regret Heidegger’s too quick move to the ontological origins of theology and epistemology. at a level below specific faith concerns. Ricoeur’s view of existence requires an adjustment beyond the neutrality of existence that liberates human existence from fallenness as its necessary constitution. the resolution of the conflict and the revelation of aspects of existence indicate the importance of considering the ontic level further than Heidegger does.” Ibid. Indeed. Ricoeur’s way becomes better attuned to a philosophically radicalized approach to the religious neutrality at the heart of human existence. as seen above.19 For. In contrast to Heidegger. The essential dimensions of this were seen above. Such an approach would seek in the self’s responsiveness to the Sacred the enactment of freedom which un- Ricoeur. this has fostered an epistemology of interpretation beneath the subject-object disjunction and has allowed for an integration or a dialectizing of the phenomenology of spirit with a psychoanalysis of desire. so that the faith options influencing his philosophical thought are brought to their proper explication in the depth of human existence. He has spent vast energies on the consideration of the conflict of interpretations in order to reveal what he calls differing aspects of existence that ontically found various hermeneutic methods. perhaps sometimes not heeding the need for its prior disclosure. For Ricoeur. a prior ontological disclosure could provide a beneficial preview for Ricoeur’s own ontic focus. This is something that has been seen to be corrected by means of a slight adjustment. or to the place of evil and fallenness in human existence. On this ontic level in an extended ethics. which is what gives too much play to radical evil as necessarily constitutive in existential freedom. There is a further need to explicate the faith option within which much of his philosophy of existence is developed. both of which prepare for the relation to the Sacred within a phenomenology of religion and its eschatology. allowing its reflection to transpire within a certain explicitly grasped. Perhaps by widening his initial hermeneutic situation to be somewhat broadened in the direction of Heidegger. It is thus that for Ricoeur. with their respective orientations to teleology and to archeology. which leads him away from the existential neutrality required above. 81 19 . which might well serve as a guide for his own analyses of ontic dimensions of religious existence and of expressions and interpretations of symbols and myths.. This tradition assumes the corruption at the heart of human existence. 23-24. element of his hermeneutic situation. “Existence and Hermeneutics. Ricoeur remains on the ontic level. 6. To accommodate the radicality implied in Heidegger’s approach. and upon the ontic relation of human existence to the Sacred that is central to his whole philosophy. when pausing to dwell on the ontic.” 13. Yet.Sacred must be expanded and deepened. 10-11. but the religious aspect needs to be explicitly dealt with.

Ricoeur’s treatment of the “already there” character of evil20 and the “necessarily corrupt nature of freedom. 435. 436. within the existential structures. 422. philosophically. Rather. all that these expressions say is that man is not determined and that freedom is capable of good as well as evil (or the lesser evil of errors and mere mistakes).. The Conflict of Interpretations. Ibid.folds a pre-given set of possibilities and which fosters a certain self-concern stemming directly from Dasein’s openness. for that matter. and thus must be actualized in the finite. or. 82 .”21 or “the prior captivity. Thus. 20 21 22 23 Ricoeur. For example. Ibid. a neutrality common to innocent. Ricoeur’s statement that “I claim that my freedom has already made itself non-free” means that freedom is already human. fallen.23 This reinterpretation recognizes.. reinterpreted. and recreated existence. which makes it so that I must do evil”22 can be replaced or put on a better philosophical basis than the Kantian notion of radical evil. any religious tradition that too quickly buys into a view of an essential corruption of human existence. Ibid.

On Ricoeur’s own self-interpretation. Kaplan At various stages throughout his career. Truth as approximation draws on Husserlian phenomenology. and. not to create systems in a more traditionally dialectical fashion. linking them together in a way that produces no theoretical resolution but only a practical one. a metaphor that suggests a mitigated version of mediation. in practice there is a way to proceed as if they were not. each is a part of a “practical whole” and needs the other to be complete. Such a model contains a much stronger theory of truth and validity than found in the hermeneutic philosophies of Heidegger and Gadamer. A hermeneutic arc. at the same time. Ricoeur repeatedly emphasizes the weakest. in so doing. and truth as argumentation. contrasts each theory as seen from the perspective of the other. Ricoeur manages to do precisely that: he exhibits the internal connections among phenomenology. is less absolute than Husserlian phenomenology and more interpretive and creative than Habermasian communicative rationality. Ricoeur has examined the nature and limits of phenomenology. drawn between antithetical positions. hermeneutics and structuralism. hermeneutics. Instead. in which truth is the presencing of being. There are three distinct yet related conceptions of truth operative in Ricoeur’s work. narrative theory. promising model of social inquiry. hermeneutics. In principle. interpretive narration. when he speaks of the world-disclosing character of literary reference in The Rule of Metaphor (1978) and Time and Narrative (1984). and discursive argumentation are dialectically related. Yet. Yet. there is no relation between these mediations: each one addresses a different problem. and communicative rationality. truth as argumentation draws on Habermasian pragmatics. These are the undeveloped elements in Ricoeur’s hermeneutic phenomenology that should be brought out to show that a much stronger conception of truth and validity can be gleaned from his scattered remarks on the subject. Ricoeur’s theories of metaphor and narrative extend this tradition. and the methodological technique of bracketing. Ricoeur claims only to draw a “hermeneutic arc” between opposites. Heideggerian conception of truth. Finally. narrative theory and communicative rationality. opposites remain unreconciled. He claims only to deal with particular problems. he suggests a single. in which truth is the fulfilling of an empty intentionality.3. while every object 83 . narrative. for some reason. PAUL RICOEUR’S THEORY OF TRUTH: FROM PHENOMENOLOGY TO COMMUNICATIVE ACTION David M. truth as manifestation. least adequate. and communicative rationality. it takes the form of a mediation that highlights and preserves differences between two positions without synthesizing a new unity. Building on the works of Ricoeur. in which truth is a rationally achieved consensus over a validity claim. and is limited in scope. Truth as manifestation draws on Heideggerian hermeneutics. Phenomenology Ricoeur retains from Husserl the central insight into the intentionality of consciousness. I want to argue that phenomenological description. The Heideggerian conception of truth as manifestation only complements the two stronger conceptions of truth and validity related to the Husserlian and Habermasian character of Ricoeur’s hermeneutics. They are truth as approximation. include those between phenomenology and hermeneutics. but. The well-known doctrine of intentionality asserts that all experience is directed toward some object of reference. developed in conjunction with different dialogue partners. Each time he addresses himself to a subject. Among the arcs Ricoeur has drawn.

or the phenomenological reductions. if the object is meant in presence or meant in absence. or assertion. thus as a meaning to be made explicit. What is experienced is always correlated with how it is experienced by someone. The meaning of such an intention is empty. absent intention is a remembered name. Willis Domingo et al. evidence involves the kind of experience that guarantees the reasonableness of the assertion. In all cases. 1974). 247.: Northwestern University Press. or an empty meaning. a remembered event. Evidence is nothing more than a particular kind of experience. The thing itself is given in itself to me. are rules for directing our attention toward experience. The validity basis for any form of evidence or argument stems from our direct perception of the matter in question. As he explains. and so on. The same object can be meant in an empty or filled way. Furthermore. for example. (Evanston. ed. Objectivity is given to a certain kind of consciousness in which the object corresponds with the act that intends it and bestows meaning upon it. or a meaning presenting itself to a consciousness. arguments. or validity claim in question. the reductions are geared toward uncovering essences. Ill. present intention is the experience of perceiving the name next to a picture in the high school year book. A scientific hypothesis is an empty Paul Ricoeur. we are treating all experience simply as given in consciousness as a phenomena. The goal of a phenomenological description is to explicate experience in terms of the intentional relationship to the world. it can only be fulfilled by a confrontation with the things that would satisfy the requirement of validity for that particular judgment. but experience that has been phenomenologically reduced. Something is given to consciousness objectively. a hypothesis. An unverified judgment is a mere opinion that has not been confronted by how things actually are. an empty. Such justification involves seeing proof with our own eyes. and the methodological principles of bracketing and the eidetic reduction. Various forms of evidence are possible. the condition for objectivity is that the object of consciousness must be given in such a way that nothing is missing from the lived experience of that object. Instead. an aesthetic judgment.not the experience of the natural attitude. 84 1 . for a claim about a material object. The Conflict of Interpretations: Essays in Hermeneutics. in and through reduction every being comes to be described as a phenomenon.”1 Implicit in the Husserlian conception of intentionality is the notion of evidence as a form of experience that satisfies or fulfills the conditions that guarantee certainty. but not by means of an idea. when the experience satisfies or fulfills an intention. object. Thus. trans. direct experience of whatever is required in order to have a clear grasp of the object in question. Ricoeur’s conception of phenomenology is much like it is for Husserl: a descriptive analysis based on the doctrine of intentionality. Truth is grounded in experience -. the fulfilled. or what is invariant in experience. deductions and inferences are derivative from what we perceive about the object or assertion. but rather the experiences that guarantee that an assertion is warranted. the difference is.” in idem. Intentionality is the fundamental. All proofs. The methodological technique of bracketing. or claim. Don Ihde. The evidence that would fill an intention would be different. A fulfilled intention is the relevant. For example. invariant. “The Question of the Subject: The Challenge of Semiology. The phenomenological conception of evidence is not a set of truth criteria.of experience is correlated to a particular experience. in phenomenology “our relation to the world becomes apparent as a result of reduction. the correct pronunciation of a word. or to theorize and explain rather than describe experience. as appearance. What we bracket is the temptation either to make judgments about the ontological status of an object of experience. According to Husserl. transcendental condition for the possibility of experience. depending on the type of object. evidence is a kind of seeing and intuiting that grasps things that present themselves in full clarity and evident intuition.

trans. Our “belonging” to the world is the condition for the possibility for any reflection on or discourse about the world. Instead. and absolute certainty can never be attained.2 Ricoeur devoted much of his early career to patient criticism and appropriation of Husserl. To decide is to anticipate the future based on my capability or power to execute that action.” seeks to give an account of experience solely in terms of brain function. the approximation of the meaning-giving intention to the presence of the object meant). Experience is never completely fulfilled. Ricoeur turns to phenomenology to develop a notion of the self that is fundamentally related to its surroundings and community. 1960). Truth is. trans. correct and fulfill such implicit intentionalities. Ricoeur again returns to phenomenology. implicit in every intentional act. This research program. and cloning machines. In Freedom and Nature (1950). but corporeal beings who inhabit the world and who have intrinsic. Ricoeur retains Husserl’s conception of the fulfillment of intentionality but applies it to a phenomenology of the will. A phenomenology of voluntary action shows that the realization of a decision is the fulfillment of a project or an intention-to-do something that is within my power. not mere extrinsic. The intentionality of a project is a thought. Ricoeur uses a typical phenomenological argument against Parfit.: Northwestern University Press. An action fulfills a decision somewhat like a perception fulfills an empty theoretical intention. in principle. In Oneself As Another (1990). He defines voluntary action in terms of a will that projects and decides the direction of an action to be done by me that is within my capabilities. Intentionality always intends beyond itself. Freedom and Nature: The Voluntary and the Involuntary. Erazim Kohak (Evanston. impossible to achieve. an experiment that confirms the hypothesis is a filled intention. Ill. There are always expectant and attendant meanings that mediate presence with absence. According to Husserl. memory transplantation. therefore. Adequate evidence is absolute self-givenness. because the very premise of connectionism is confused. but only the execution of a decision fulfills the intentionality of the project. full presence functions as a limit idea that guides the gradual fulfillment of intentions. Such evidence would be a completely fulfilled intention in which the object is self-given in an absolutely immediate seeing. Ricoeur replies that such thought experiments fail to appreciate that human beings are not merely their brains and bodies. Ricoeur believes such an endeavor is doomed to fail. the clear articulation of the experience of evident presence. In his exchange with neuroscientist Jean-Pierre Changeux in What Makes us Think? (2002).. There are always implicit. who questions the nature of our personal identity with examples of brain duplication. Dorion Cairns (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff. for example. The perspectival character of experience is evidence that things are never fully present in a complete and absolute manner. which is beyond question. Changeux hopes to find a “third discourse” that would reconcile mind and body and eventually lead to a “neuronal” link between scientific knowledge (of the brain) and the normative prescriptions (of human agency). His argument is vintage phenomenology. Cartesian Meditations.3 Phenomenology continues to play a role in Ricoeur’s recent major works. 85 2 . Complete fulfillment is an infinite task that could never be completed. Experience itself provides the clues for the further experiences that are necessary to confirm. known as “connectionism. co-present aspects of consciousness that form the inner and outer horizons of experience. this time to correct Changeux’s attempt to use biological explanations for all aspects of human experience. absolutely indubitable evidence would require full presence or adequate givenness. 135-197. that can never be completely accounted for. such absolute certainty is.intention. 46-64. All evidence is the fulfilling of an empty intention with the appropriate experience (i. However. 11-23. Yet a description of belonging is precisely what is ignored by personal identity thought experiments about cloning and brain duplication. the argument is based on an appeal to description. Third-person Edmund Husserl. relations to that world.e. 1966). There are always potentialities. 3 Paul Ricoeur.

: Princeton University Press. I experience the world through my experience of creative discourse. not through empirical techniques. and Forgetting (2004). it then considers the act of searching for a given memory. Together they comprise a reflection on the problem of representing the past. In The Rule of Metaphor. aletheia means “taking entities out of their hiddenness and letting them be seen in their unhiddenness (their uncoveredness).explanations of causal events in the brain are different from first-person reports about one’s experience. is the revelation and disclosure of hidden aspects of reality. of mistakes. trans. the basic unit of meaning is a narrative. What occurs in the brain may indeed correspond to my experience. but my experience cannot be reduced to what happens in the brain. 5 Paul Ricoeur. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. metaphors. which means bringing things out from concealment into the open. of anamnesis and recollection. allowing us to learn something about reality from fiction. What Makes Us Think? A Neuroscientist and a Philosopher Argue About Ethics. According to Heidegger. 2004). myths. and concludes with a “hermeneutics of the historical condition” that culminates on the phenomenon of forgetting and forgiveness. Ricoeur undertakes a (Husserlian) phenomenological analysis of memory. in Memory. Symbols. Forgetting. 1962). B. and fiction can capture experience in ways that ordinary.i. Ricoeur shares with Heidegger a conception of truth as aletheia. History. 6 Martin Heidegger. Among the investigations he conducts are a phenomenology of imagination. of perception. Ricoeur develops his thesis that the split-reference of creative discourse discloses a possible way of being-in-the-world that remains hidden from ordinary language and first-order reference. Being and Time. broadening our ability to express ourselves and understand ourselves. descriptive language cannot. 262. Memory. from memory as given and exercised.”6 Truth as manifestation. Phenomenological description -. DeBevoise (Princeton. The phenomenology of memory begins with an analysis of the objects of memory. A metaphor is an “heuristic fiction” that “redescribes” reality by referring to it in terms of something imaginative or fictional. trans. Reading creates a clearing that opens up new possibilities of being in the world. and of testimony. the memory-experiences one has before one’s mind. of recollection.is an inseparable part of historic understanding. trans.” meaning that such writing points to aspects of the world that can only be suggested and referred to indirectly.4 Most recently. All imaginative and creative uses of language improve our ability to express ourselves and extend our understanding of the world. M. finally. for Ricoeur. 86 4 . which occurs when we understand reference of creative discourses. Human Nature and the Brain. Ricoeur examines reflective memory. 33-69. 2000).e. One must investigate experience phenomenologically.5 Hermeneutics and Narrative Theory Closely related to the phenomenological account of truth as approximation is the hermeneutic conception of truth as manifestation. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row. N. It is Ricoeur’s most explicitly phenomenological work in years. 5-132. which is Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Pierre Changeux. In Time and Narrative. Ricoeur maintains that the reference of creative language is “divided” or “split. This phenomenology of memory grounds the successive studies on the epistemological nature of history and the activities of historians.. Creative language refers to such aspects of the world as if they were real and as if we could be there. or memory itself. evidence -.J. History. Heuristic fictions help us to perceive new relations and new connections among things.

in Oneself As Another.including the reasons. Ricoeur devoted most of his work of the 1970s-1980s toward developing a theory of truth as manifestation. There is no need to recount in detail all of the places it appeared and continues to appear in his work. and circumstances together into a coherent unity. and actions of characters -. Reading and hearing a creative discourse leads me to the (real or imaginary) reference through the sense of that discourse. 78. which itself never figures as the object of discourse. I experience the world through my experience of listening and reading. narratives disclose. A reader or hearer experiences a new way of seeing -. trans. For Habermas. relevant reasons for preferring one interpretation over another. sentences. Communicative Rationality Ricoeur follows Habermas far less than either Husserl or Heidegger. 87 7 . which is the ability of poetic discourse to bring to language hidden aspects of reality. and incorporates his theory of communication into a broader vision of hermeneutic philosophy and philosophical anthropology. Ricoeur appropriates from Habermas the transcendental-pragmatic presuppositions of discourse in which competent speakers can achieve understanding based on the recognition of validity claims. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. including sentences symbols. time into a unified whole that says something new and different than the sum of its parts. Discourse is the “reflective medium” or what Habermas sometimes calls the “court of appeal” where participants explicitly raise and contest the validity claims implicit in speech and action. integrates. Reference and horizon are correlative as are figure and ground. events. However. All experience both possesses a contour that circumscribes it and distinguishes it. and manifest something true. and narratives.with events. Acceptance of a valid proposition ought to motivate one to Paul Ricoeur. metaphors. the reader’s experience is mediated and transformed by it.as through the referential dimension -. accidents. As the reader grasps the sense and reference of the text. Time and Narrative. learns from him. A narrative truth is like a metaphorical truth. 1984). One must offer valid. reveal. external in the sense that the intended thing stands in potential relationships to everything else within the horizon of a total world. reaching understanding depends on knowing how to redeem implicit validity claims in speech. A plot synthesizes. vol. 1. but he reads him. and arises against a horizon of potentialities that constitutes at once an internal and an external horizon of experience: internal in the sense that it is always possible to give more details and be more precise about whatever is considered within some stable contour. and schematizes actions. Similarly. he begins to reduce the role of narratives (and hermeneutics. motives. The criteria for a narrative truth in literature are inadequate for less creative discourses like moral reasoning or legal interpretation. In this way.opened up by the use of creative language. ultimately. Ricoeur eventually argues that it needs to complemented by a stronger theory of truth as valid argumentation. He turns to Habermas for that. I experience the world through the unfolding of a narrative. and.constituted by its plot that unifies the elements of a story -. Although he never abandons a hermeneutic theory of truth.7 Narrative discourse refers to possible experiences one could have. in general) in order to affirm a stronger notion of the universal that would justify our epistemological and normative claims.

9 For Ricoeur's mediation of the Habermas-Gadamer debate. owing to the mutuality of rationally motivated conviction. vol. 1. consensus-bringing force of argumentative speech. which always permits participants to call one another into question. individuals coordinate action with one another thanks to the validity basis of communication.” so that “each may be asked to recognize the other.” 294-295.Y. 153-65. hermeneutics and the critique of ideology are unreconcilable. ed. Together. idem. for example. or sincere. there is no reason to create a third perspective that would reconcile. Ricoeur has an inconsistent take on Habermas. 1984). “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology. assure themselves of both the unity of the objective world and the intersubjectivity of their lifeworld. Sometimes he fully accepts and appropriates communicative rationality. 10. A true consensus is one that is achieved on argument and appeal.” in idem. 310-314. 2003). both terms. establishing conditions for achieving mutual understanding. Reason and the Rationalization of Society. For example. practical mediations are not. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press.” but rather. Lectures on Ideology and Utopia. David Stewart and Joseph Bien (Athens. ed. merely to show how “each speaks from a different place. and promoting social integration and cultural reproduction. establishing trust and good will. as opposed to false consensus which is achieved though coercion and domination. in which different participants overcome their merely subjective views and. In his mediations of the Habermas-Gadamer debates in the early 1970s. Where theoretical mediations are impossible. the very activity of recovering a tradition within the horizon of anticipated understanding achieves the practical aim of both. 270-307.accept one argument over another. Such communicative competence presupposes familiarity with the conditions under which the validity of a claim would be acceptable to another. see Paul Ricoeur. idem. “Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideology. From Text to Action.: SUNY Press. preserves what is valid in both positions. there are several places in Ricoeur’s works where he very explicitly incorporates a theory of communicative rationality into a hermeneutic philosophy. trans. In theory. Yet. Political and Social Essays. 249-253. Ricoeur’s methodological practice of drawing a hermeneutic arc that contrasts. and thereby suggests practical (not theoretical) ways to move beyond an opposition. For an analysis of Ricoeur's mediation of the Habermas-Gadamer debates.”11 For moral reasons. George Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press. the justification of which is attained by a rationally achieved consensus. By showing how each can recognize the validity of the other. 1986). Ricoeur claims only to juxtapose hermeneutics and the critique of ideology. Ricoeur takes great pains to respect the differences among the philosophies he brings together. see. 37-45. Ricoeur's Critical Theory (Albany. for Habermas.” in idem.”10 Olivier Abel calls this method of non-synthetic reconciliation Ricoeur’s “ethics of method. “Ricoeur's Ethics of Method. “Ethics and Culture. both of which function as regulative ideals. 10 Ricoeur. right. is a validity claim. relates.9 He claims he has no intention to “fuse them into a super-system that would compass both. and they must be committed to reaching agreement rationally before they can establish something as true. in the 1970s he described textual interpretation as a movement from guess to validation and from explanation to com- Jürgen Habermas. other times his endorsement is more conditional. see Olivier Abel. N. in practice. What determines rational discourse is the regulative ideal of unconstrained communication and the ideal speech situation. Communicative rationality refers to “the central experience of the unconstrained. hence eradicate. for example. Participants must know how to raise and test validity claims. creating (implicitly) the very mediation he claims is impossible. Instead. 88 8 . Ohio: Ohio University Press.”8 Truth. David M.” Philosophy Today (Spring 1993): 23-30. 1974). 11 For the ethical character of Ricoeur's method of mediation that respects differences. Theory of Communicative Action. unifying. Kaplan.

When so reinstalled in the horizon of expectation.12 An interpretation consists of a guess based on experiences resulting in explanations that must be validated by others.: Texas Christian University Press. The regulative ideal of unconstrained communication mediates our consciousness of effective-history. and particular interpretations. 226. orienting the concrete dialectic between our horizon of expectation and our space of experience. and rationally justifiable. claiming that “the question of criteria belongs to a certain kind of interpretation itself. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. has to been seen as already at work in the practice of communication. terminating in comprehension. in Time and Narrative. 1976). Ricoeur echoes Habermas. impartial. of course. substituting for it Paul Ricoeur. to a coming to an agreement between arguments. which. Ricoeur argues that a regulative ideal of communication is operative within communication. Taken as such. qualified. that is to say. it retains the central Kantian notion of autonomy but reinterpreted as “communicative autonomy.14 Ricoeur appropriates communicative rationality even more explicitly in Oneself As Another where he incorporates the ethics of communication as found in Habermas’s reinterpretation of the deontological tradition. 1996). the pure transcendental quite legitimately assumes the negative status of a limit-idea as regards many of our determined expectations as well as our hypostatized traditions. 104-105. He agrees with Habermas that any critique of tradition is mediated by a regulative ideal of unconstrained communication. Ricoeur is in full agreement with Habermas over the basic principles of communicative ethics -. Valid norms are discursively redeemable. the difference between argumentation on one hand. often conflicting and contradictory. Tex. So it presupposes a certain model of rationality where universality. 3.” which is the ability of speakers to express themselves freely to others. Ricoeur argues that argumentation itself is an interpretive practice that leads to a potentially universal practical judgment in a particular situation. As Ricoeur puts it in Oneself As Another. as Habermas does. 14 Paul Ricoeur. personal convictions. inasmuch as it is immediately a dialogical idea. His acceptance is. which is another name for understanding that is informed and enriched by an objective process of validation. verification. Time and Narrative. However. and so on are compelling. Determining which interpretations are more plausible than others requires that we argue for our descriptions and explanations by offering relevant reasons in order to convince an other of the superiority of one interpretation over another. Ricoeur agrees that communicative ethics provides a framework for resolving conflicts and reaching consensus regarding moral imperatives.that the very process of justifying normative claims presupposes that speakers have a shared understanding of what norms and reasons are and what they expect of us. this limit-idea has to become a regulative one.prehension. trans. in turn. The transcendence of the idea of truth. this dialogical idea cannot fail to rejoin those anticipations buried in tradition per se. Above all. and traditional conventions on the other. universal. remains historically situated in order to be applied in a particular context. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning (Fort Worth. at the risk of remaining alien to effective-history.”13 Again. vol. “Interview with Charles Reagan. 89 12 . “what has to be questioned is the antagonism between argumentation and convention.” in Paul Ricoeur: His Life and His Work (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1988). Given the range of interpretations. Rather than contrast. Communicative ethics preserves both the universal validity and impartiality of moral judgments. 13 Paul Ricoeur.

288. however. Ibid.”19 Claims like these strain the credibility of Ricoeur’s prior claim to avoid creating super-systems that would encompass them both. hence of needs marked by prevailing interpretations concerning their legitimacy. But we must also emphasize that the ideal can be inserted into the course of a discussion only if it is articulated on the basis of already public expressions of interests. 122.18 The relationship between facts and norms in general is a dialectic interpretation and argumentation. interpretive context.” in idem. The rules governing discussion go hand in hand with a prior meaning-giving context in which the interpretations of our needs and interests occur. In this sense. The path of the arc from phenomenology to hermeneutics is old route that does not need to be revisited here. Ricoeur’s theory of truth presupposes not only the prior interpretation of the subject of discussion within a broader. The ideal is not just anticipated. Ricoeur concurs with Habermas that the “thesis of a potential agreement at the level of an unlimited and unconstrained community” forms the horizon of universal consensus before which “we are to place the formal rules of every discussion claiming correctness. 119. The notion of an ideal discourse situation offers a horizon of correctness for all discourse where the participants seek to convince each other through argument. Ricoeur goes on to say that the principle of universalization. 2000). But unlike the universal pragmatics of Habermas. If we were to construct a model of truth and validity from Ricoeur’s scattered remarks on the subject. 16 15 90 . testimonial experiences that a consensus theory of truth forbids. Unlike the hermeneutic philosophies of Heidegger and Gadamer. we have a model of the interpretation and validation of claims raised about human actions involving evidence.”16 In The Just (2000). 18 Ibid. which has no theoretical outcome but only the practical outcome of the arbitration of moral judgment in situation. sometimes formalized. David Pellauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The Just. but instead is the “critical agency operating at the heart of convictions.”15 Argumentation is a particular. narrative. Ricoeur continues to advance a theory of interpretation and argumentation in the context of legal interpretation and decision-making. and argumentation.. Ricoeur’s theory of truth entails the argumentative vindication of claims under the presupposition of unconstrained communication. 19 Ibid. narration. “Interpretation and/or Argumentation.. anchored at the other end in communicative rationality. we could draw a hermeneutic arc that would have one end anchored in phenomenological experience. Narrative-Evidence and Communicative Rationality When Ricoeur’s reflections on truth are taken together. Argumentation never stands above our convictions or conventions. it is already at work. 1992). but also the prior experiences participants bring to discussion. The more interesting paths are those that connect an Paul Ricoeur. is dialectically related to interpretation. practice in which participants clarify their convictions in order to resolve conflicts and reach understanding. “only provides a check on the process of mutual adjustment between the interpreted norm and the interpreted fact. interpretation is not external to argumentation. It constitutes its organon. It includes the very descriptive.a subtle dialectic between argumentation and conviction.”17 Argumentation. passing through a narrative interpretation. Oneself As Another (Chicago: University of Chicago Press.. 17 Paul Ricoeur. 117. trans. 287.

In fact. The path linking Husserl to Habermas through Ricoeur is the more reconstructive of the two. the interpreter must “bring to mind” the reasons with which a speaker would defend its validity.: The MIT Press. In order to understand an expression. the consensus theory of truth entailed by the theory of communicative rationality lacks an adequate theory of evidence.” and “motivated” to reach understanding. who individually and collectively have learned how to communicate competently. Establishing truth is a function of the reasons I can offer to support my claim and the ideal conditions under which my claim is accepted. Nevertheless. defined in terms of the experience speakers and actors have when engaged in such discourse. Even though the theory defines truth in terms of the modes of argumentation competent speakers engage in together. So long as there is mutual. who are oriented to mutual recognition. Evidence is the gradual fulfillment of the intentionalities necessary to confirm a guess. Habermas recognizes the lacuna in a consensus theory of truth. Habermas’s theory of communicative competence presupposes the reflective awareness of the individual participants in communicative action to raise and test implicit validity claims. Achieving consensus by redeeming validity claims discursively presupposes that the participants achieve evident experience that they test. Mass. The idea of truth is transcendental and universally binding. communicative rationality is. What counts as a good reason is something that depends on standards about which it must be possible to argue.”20 If a theory of evidence is not incompatible with a consensus theory of truth. there is no way to mediate conflicting interpretations other than through further rational argumentation.” in idem. Thompson and David Held (Cambridge. 91 20 . 1982). There is little or no connection between the objectivity of experience and the truth of agreed-upon propositions. and who must be motivated to accept the force of the better argument. John B. “Reply to My Critics. if we recognize the necessity of the perspectives of the participants in discourse. Ricoeur’s model of textual interpretation as a movement from guess to validation and from explanation to comprehension traces the path from (individual) experience to (collective) argumentation. then perhaps it is possible to reconcile a phenomenological theory of evidence with a pragmatic theory of truth. validate and corroborate with one another. but claims that he is only specifying the ideal conditions that must be satisfied in order for there to be any rational agreement. Following Ricoeur and Habermas. Such subjective expressions and first-person descriptions are neither foreign nor inimical to communicative rationality. rational agreement. and if Habermas already acknowledges the legitimacy of reflective. The relevant subjective experience for the validation of a truth claim is the experience of evidence. it still makes reference to the perspectives of the participants in communication who reflectively thematize the validity claims of one another. He explains that the criteria of truth lie at a different level than the idea of redeeming validity-claims. 275. we must be “open.argumentative theory of truth as validity with a phenomenological theory of evidence and with a narrative theory of truth as manifestation. first-person descriptions of experience. Habermas: Critical Debates. From a phenomenological perspective. validate a claim Jürgen Habermas.” “committed. not to specify the criteria for ascertaining truth. But the formal procedures for reaching agreement in rational discourse say nothing about the content of the agreement. the content of truth is historical and contingent. who must be motivated to accept the better reason. In other words. It starts by noting that. then we can see how subjective experience contributes to intersubjective experience. Habermas claims only to specify the procedural conditions for establishing validity. ed. in part. Habermas confesses that he regards as “justified the admonition that I have hitherto not taken the evidential dimension of the concept of truth adequately into account.

it must be supported by both rational argument and appropriate evidence. Paul Ricoeur. whereas argumentation presupposes a narrative-interpretative framework that delimits a context of relevant facts to be subject to justification. in turn.21 Following his lead we can say that a narrative is an interpretation of events that raises claims of truth and normativity and thus presupposes the anticipation of consensus of universally binding reasons. we offer evidence from experience.or we come -. Establishing the validity of evident experience is something that requires intersubjective validation. 21 22 Ricoeur. The evidence we bring to discussion to argue for an interpretation unfolds in a narrative. It can occur by reading a book. Such fulfillment can occur alone or with others. judged and. Argumentation constitutes the “logical framework” and interpretation of the “inventive framework. The closer I come -. and to whom stories are told. consulting an authority. Argumentation requires narration to determine what the validity claim is about. to whom and what responsibility is attributed. “Interpretation and/or Argumentation. and to establish generalizable needs and vindicate normative judgments. remembered. or that the possibility of one interpretation is more probable than another. 153. believing a good argument. how events are organized and assigned significance. and so on. “Conscience and the Law. In turn. To do so. The relation of narrative to argumentation is even more clear. For a claim to be warranted. As filled intentions. use creative language to reveal and to show. determine what will be preserved. performing a test.” in idem. developed along the arc from phenomenology to narrative to communicative action. evident experience establishes the objectivity of a rationally achieved consensus. I believe. taken as true. To Ricoeur’s credit. as participants raise and test the implicit truth claims contained in an interpretation to reach consensus. Ricoeur himself makes the connection apparent on a number of occasions. and an approximate correlation between the object and its successive appearances. In short. Narration requires argumentation to redeem its validity claims to truth and normativity. is what is implied in Ricoeur’s theory of truth. “Narrative evidence” refers to the form of discourse we use to make truth claims about human actions.”22 The political implications of the dialectic of narrative evidence and argumentation cannot be overstated if an interpretation of history is a retelling of what happened: what stories are told.to having the appropriate evident experiences.” 109-126. they share a common structural relationship of presence and absence. warrants an assertion. in the absence of an overarching vantage point that everyone recognizes. 92 . how an event is placed under an explanatory rule. and rationally debate the implicit validity claims raised.or warrant an assertion. he has always insisted that one can argue for the relative superiority of a conflicting interpretation by showing how one interpretation is false or invalid. In turn.that would vindicate a validity claim -occurs. There are as many ways of fulfilling intentions as there are intentions. It is always possible to argue for one interpretation over another. narration and argumentation overlap. given the inadequacies in a model of narrative truth as manifestation. Narrativeevidence thus requires a principle of universalization in order to find a fair resolution to conflicting narratives. in part. The Just. achieved through a process or rational argumentation that approximates ideal speech. reaching understanding communicatively validates evidence. This. through narration. above all. the argumentative practice itself -. confirming by experience.

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