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Volume 34


John J. Drummond, Mount Saint Mary's College

Editorial Board:

Elizabeth A. Behnke
David Carr, Emory University
Stephen Crowell, Rice University
Lester Embree, Florida Atlantic University
J. Claude Evans, Washington University
Jose Huertas-Jourda, Wilfrid Laurier University
Joseph J. Kockelmans., The Pennsylvania State University
William R. McKenna, Miami University
Algis Mickunas, Ohio University
J. N. Mohanty, Temple University
Tom Nenon, The University of Memphis
Thomas M. Seebohm, Johannes Gutenberg-Universitiit, Mainz
Gail Soffer, New School for Social Research, New York
Elisabeth Straker, Philosophisches Seminarium der Universitiit Koln
Richard M. Zaner, Vanderbilt University


The purpose of this series is to foster the development of phenomenological philosophy through
creative research. Contemporary issues in philosophy, other disciplines and in culture generally,
offer opportunities for the application of phenomenological methods that call for creative responses.
Although the work of several generations of thinkers has provided phenomenology with many results
with which to approach these challenges. a truly successful response to them will require building on
this work with new analyses and methodological innovations.

Central Topics in Phenomenology

edited by

University of Copenhagen,

Springer-Science+Business Media, B.Y.

A C.I.P. Catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

Printed on acid-free paper

ISBN 978-90-481-5031-1 ISBN 978-94-015-9078-5 (eBook)

Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition 1998
All Rights Reserved
1998 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
Originally published by Kluwer Academic Publishers in 1998.
No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or
utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and
retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner
Table of contents

Preface . . ........... , . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 7

Part I
The Self or the Cogito in Kinaesthesis
Yorihiro Yamagata . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 9
The Fracture in Self-Awareness
Dan Zahavi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 21
James and Husserl: Time-consciousness and the Intentionality of
Presence and Absence
Richard Cobb-Stevens .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 41
Intentionality, Phenomenality, and Light
James G. Hart ............................................ 59
Can I Anticipate Myself? Self-affection and Temporality
Natalie Depraz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 83
The Physis of Consciousness and Metaphysics
Torn Tani ................................................ 99
The Horizon of the Self: Husserl on Indexicals
Denis Fisette . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 119

Part II
My Time and the Time of the Other
Rudolf Bernet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 137
Temporality and the Point: The Origins and Crisis of Continental Philosophy
Anthony Steinbock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 151
The Shadow of the Other
Linda Fisher. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 169
The Ethos of Democracy from a Phenomenological Point of View
Klaus Held .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 193
The Foreignness of a Foreign Culture
Dieter Lohmar .... . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 207
Stromdichtung and Subjectivity in the later Heidegger
R. Philip Buckley ......................................... 223

Index .......................................................... 239

In December 1996 a conference entitled Self-awareness, temporality, and alterity
took place at the University of Copenhagen. The explicit aim of that conference was
to clarifY and discuss three issues very much at the center of current
phenomenological thinking-issues that were already central to Husserl, but which
have gained particular prominence through the writings of French phenomenologists
such as Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Henry, and Derrida.
This anthology is comprised of papers presented on that occasion. It has
been divided into two parts. The first part, containing papers by Yamagata, Zahavi,
Cobb-Stevens, Hart, Depraz, Tani, and Fisette, all address the three central topics
in a fairly direct way through analyses of kinaesthesis, self-affection, self-
manifestation, time-consciousness, intentionality, and indexicality. The second part
contains papers by Bernet, Steinbock, Fisher, Held, Lohmar, and Buckley. These
papers expand the focus to include areas like historicity, generativity,
interculturality, hermeneutics, ethics, and politics.
I am grateful to all of the contributors for their readiness to participate in
this common venture. The organization of the conference would not have been
possible without the support and advice from my colleagues at the University of
Copenhagen. I am particularly indebted to Joan Conrad, Peter Sandoe, Frederik
Tygstrup, and Frederik Stjernfelt. Financial support was provided by the Department
of Philosophy, Education, and Rhetoric, as well as by the Faculty of Humanities of
the University of Copenhagen. Finally, thanks are also due to John Drummond, the
editor of Contributions to Phenomenology, for his help with the preparation of the
The Self or the Cogito in Kinaesthesis

Y orihiro Yamagata
Osaka University-Japan

I. Merleau-Ponty's concept of flesh

The concept of flesh is capital in Merleau-Ponty's last works, L'(i/ et l'esprit and
Le visible et l'invisible. The author uses it to elaborate once more the concept of the
body he presented in Phenomenologie de la perception. In his last book, the flesh
signifies primarily our living body.
What is the flesh? The word is defined as the reversibility of the seer and
the visible, and generally speaking, of the sentient and the sensible. The body as
flesh is both sentient and sensible, and more particularly the seer and the visible
But what experience induced the author of Le visible et l'invisible to build
up a concept that allows the body to be seen from this angle of reversibility? As he
has asserted in Phenomenologie de la perception, it is the movement ofthe look
that can see an object. The look enfolds, touches, feels the visible; it moves "as
though it were in a relation of pre-established harmony with them, as though it
knew them before knowing them."! On what is based this relation between the seer
and the visible that Merleau-Ponty poetically describes as an "intimacy as close as
between the sea and the strand"(VI,130-131)? It lies in the simple fact that the body
is visible. If this seeing body can prepossess the visible so as to enter into a pre-
established harmonious relationship with it, this is because it is also a visible thing,
possessed by the visible, "is ofit"(VI, 135).
In order better to understand this prepossession of the visible by the seer,
one must reexamine a tactile experience. To see, for Merleau-Ponty, is to let the
look, by its movement, touch, and in this sense it is merely a variant of a tactile
experience. Vision is the look's touch. Tactile experiences involve the same type of
relationship as the eye's movement in relation to the visible, but in a more palpable
way, like the hand exploring a texture it will discover to be smooth or rough. This
agreement between touching and the information given by touching, says Merleau-

... can happen only if my hand, while it is felt from within, is also
accessible from without, itself tangible, for my other hand, for example,
if it takes its place among the things it touches, is in a sense one of them,
opens finally upon a tangible being of which it is also a part. (VI, 133)
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 9-19.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

The concept of flesh as the reversibility of the sentient and the sensible is
thus based on the banal tactile experience consisting of touching with the left hand
the right hand touching an object. But can one conclude that the reversibility of the
concept of flesh signifies the identity, or concordance, of the touching and the
touched, the seer and the seen? Does the concept offlesh imply that the seer and the
visible coincide, and consequently that the thinker finds himself in and by reflection
as a thought? No, the reversibility of the flesh never consists in the identity of the
touching and the touched; if they can be reversed, it is not because they are
identical. As Merleau-Ponty puts it,

to begin with, we spoke summarily of a reversibility of the seeing and

the visible, of the touching and the touched. It is time to emphasize that
it is a reversibility always imminent and never realized in fact. My left
hand is always on the verge of touching my right hand touching the
things, but I never reach coincidence; the coincidence eclipses at the
moment of realization, and one of two things always occurs: either my
right hand really passes over to the rank of touched, but then its hold on
the world is interrupted; or it retains its hold on the world, but then I do
not really touch it-my right hand touching, I palpate with my left hand
only its outer covering. (VI, 147-148)

We will therefore never be able to catch the movement of the look or the
hand at the exact moment it acts upon the sensory, whether touched or seen. For
Merleau-Ponty, who since Phenomenofogie de fa perception has been inclined to
look for the origins of reflection in the dual tactile sensation, should this everlasting
non-realization not imply the incapacity of reflection to reach reality, however one
defines the reality, whether as phenomenal body or transcendental SUbjectivity? By
no means, because, quite simply, it is in no way a failure, but rather a success in
failure. This failure has a positive meaning, "for," says Merleau-Ponty,

if these experiences never exactly overlap, if they slip away at the very
moment they are about to rejoin, ifthere is always a 'shift', a 'spread',
between them, this is precisely because my two hands are part of the
same body, because it moves itself in the world, because I hear myself
both from within and from without. I experience-and as often as I
wish-the transition and the metamorphosis of the one experience into
the other, and it is only as though the hinge between them, solid,
unshakable, remained irremediably hidden from me. (VI, 148)

This imminent but never realized superposition that I try to effect between
my touching and the touched hand reveals the existence of the something that
makes the transmutation of the touching into the touched possible. This something,
Yorihiro Yamagata 11

this "'element' ofBeing"(VI, 139) guarantees the reversibility of the touching and
the touched like a hinge. And this "element of Being" is precisely what Merleau-
Ponty calls flesh. The body's reflexivity that one experiences between touching and
touched indicates the existence of the flesh, their common texture. Or rather, what
is substantial is the flesh; touching and the touched, seeing and the visible are but
the verso and the recto of the same tissue of flesh.

II. Wahrnehmen and Sich bewegen

One might well compare Merleau-Ponty's analysis of the touching-touched

experience in the elaboration of the concept of flesh with Husserl's analysis of
Empfindnis, in which the problems of self-consciousness, of otherness and of
kinaesthesis are intertwined, as Dan Zahavi has pointed out in his fine paper, "Self-
awareness and affection."2 We will not go into this intertwining here, but content
ourselves with a few brief remarks on kinaesthesis and its reflexivity as they appear
in a direct reading of Le visible et l'invisible.
In his Notes de travail (VI,249), Merleau-Ponty stresses that the body, as
Sich bewegen, is endowed with reflexivity,

it [my body] is not one mobile or moving among the mobiles or

movings, I am not conscious of its movements as a distance taken by
relation to me, it bewegt sich whereas the things are moved. This means
a sort of 'reflectedness' (sich bewegen), it thereby constitutes itself in

Merleau-Ponty also equates the experience of self-moving with that of self-touching

or self-seeing. He thus understands the self of self-moving, of Sich bewegen,
through the self of self-touching. And the results of his analysis of the seeing and
the visible apply also to this self-touching's self:

To touch oneself, to see oneself, accordingly, is not to apprehend oneself

as an ob-ject, it is to be open to oneself, destined to oneself (narcissism)
[00']' Nor, therefore, is it to reach oneself, it is on the contrary to escape
oneself, to be ignorant of oneself, the self in question is by divergence
(d'ecart), is Unverborgenheit of the Verborgen as such, which
consequently does not cease to be hidden or latent [... ]. (VI,249)

What is this self he alludes to? It is the reverse of my tactile or visual


In fact I do not entirely succeed in touching myself touching, in seeing

myself seeing, the experience I have of myself perceiving does not go
beyond a sort of imminence, it terminates in the invisible, simply this
invisible is its invisible, i.e. the reverse of its specular perception, of the
concrete vision I have of my body in the mirror. The self-perception is
still a perception, i.e. it gives me a Nicht Urpriisentierbar (a non-visible,
myself), but this it gives me through an Urpriisentierbar (my tactile or
visual appearance) in transparency (i.e. as a latency)[ .. .]. (VI,249-2S0).

Why does the Sich bewegen only perceive itself as an absence of self, as
the reverse of its perception? It is precisely because

Wahmehmen and Sich bewegen are synonymous: it is for this reason that
the Wahmehmen never rejoins the Sich bewegen it wishes to apprehend:
it is another of the same. But, this failure, this invisible, precisely attests
that Wahmehmen is Sich bewegen, there is here a success in the failure.
Wahrnehmen fails to apprehend Sich bewegen (and I am for myself a
zero of movement even during movement, I do not move away from
myself) precisely because they are homogeneous, and this failure is the
proof of this homogeneity: Wahrnehmen and Sich bewegen emerge from
one another. A sort of reflection by Ec-stasy, they are the same tuft.

As perception and moving are homogenous, perception is by essence

incapable of retreating enough to see in relation to self-moving. This is the
fundamental presupposition on which the concept of flesh is based. Merleau-Ponty
expresses this presupposition by quoting Ma1ebranche in these words:

(Malebranche) it [my body] reads its own modifications [in the

things](because we have no idea of the soul, because the soul is a being
of which there is no idea, a being we are and do not see). The touching
oneself, seeing oneself, a 'knowing by sentiment'[ ... ]. (VI,249)

Is it true that perception and self-moving are homogeneous or

synonymous? Is the self-moving that Landgrebe will later identify with kinaesthesis
really reduced to perception? Is the perceptible the only and exclusive correlative
of kinaesthesis? Does kinaesthesis, self-moving, not have its own positive world,
a world different from that of perception, and is the visible world not derived from
this? Is it not possible that self-moving apprehends itself as such, not as the absence
of its self in the visible nor as the reverse of its appearance? We have just quoted
these words, "the touching oneself, seeing oneself, a 'knowing by sentiment' ." For
Yorihiro Yamagata 13

Malebranche, we, who cannot apprehend the soul, are endowed with its feelings.
So let us direct our search for the self of kinaesthesis in this direction.

III. Lebendige Gegenwart as kinaesthesis in Landgrebe

Professor Held has, in his memorable study on phenomenology, Lebendige

Gegenwart, clarified the fact that the way of being of the I who functions in the last
instance (Seinsweise des letztJungierenden Jch), which Husserl calls the Lebendige
Gegenwart, is an original fact (Urfaktum) which stays out of reach of
phenomenological reflection that consists by essence of seeing and apprehending
within temporization. Professor Held also shows the possibility of understanding
the transcendental I's enigmatic being through his concept of Selbstvergemein-
schaftung. He thinks the transcendental I flows in the absolute flux in the form of
a multiplicity of selves, and that this plurality of selves are unified in a specific
synthesis called Selbstvergemeinschaftung.
Astonished and fascinated by the work of his brilliant student Held,
Landgrebe himself set to work on the Urfaktum, but to try to prove the I's absolute
existence, he follows another path, that of kinaesthesis as Sich bewegen. Or rather,
let us say at once, as Claesges does, that for Landgrebe, living present and
kinaesthesis are one and the same. 3
Let us see how in his article entitled, Phtinomenologische Analyse und
Dialektik, he defends his theory.4 He starts from the meaning of the Urfaktum, of
the Lebendige Gegenwart: this designates the fact that I am, it refers to the cogito.
"I am" in everyday speech, namely, in the natural attitude, means I am here (Ich bin
da). This here, this da, is made up of those two moments: here (hier) and now
(jetzt). If then one applies the phenomenological reduction to this I-am-here, taken
naturally, one will find the transcendental cogito as transcendental I-am-here. It is
interesting to remark that this here (da) of the transcendental I-am-here has now lost
its ordinary meaning: it no longer indicates a here or a now one can pinpoint in this
world. On the contrary, being transcendental, it is this here (da) that makes up the
ordinary here and now as such. It is their transcendental homeland, an original
source from which this world's space and time spring up and come to light.
The transcendental I is thus the living source of time and space. But why
should this transcendental I be kinaesthesis? It is because, Landgrebe says,
kinaesthesis alone makes up time and space. How does it do so? According to
Landgrebe, kinaesthesis is powered by an original effort (Urstreben). It is the
original effort that makes of the body a self-moving. As an original effort
kinaesthesis is in essence teleologically oriented towards something. It is in itself
determined to tend towards or in direction of something, or else, on the contrary,

to tend to elude something: "Es sucht Befriedigung seines Strebens als

Beisichselbstsein und lebt in diesem Streben" (PAD, 83). But to tend towards, or to
elude, it is necessary for kinaesthesis to posit, by nature of its original effort, a gap
between itself which is moving and the target it aims at in its moving, and it is
necessary for kinaesthesis to bridge this gap. But for a finite being such as man, an
effort can never reach its goal immediately but must, to variable degrees, pursue,
prolong and renew itself before reaching and enjoying its goal. This extension, this
prolongation, induced ceaselessly by renewed efforts, constitutes our experience of
time and space. Thus kinaesthesis, as creator of time and space, is identified with
the transcendental I, its living source.
But here let us reconsider our question and see how Landgrebe explains
the cogito in kinaesthesis, kinaesthetic self. For kinaesthesis to merge with the
transcendental I-am-here, it has to take on the cogito's characteristic: for Landgrebe,
self-moving is a "relationship to oneself':

der sich Bewegende 'weill' seine Bewegung als die seine, aber nicht in
der Weise einer Reflexion. Es ist vielmehr eine unmittelbare GewiBheit
des Vollzugs im Vollzug und daher nicht wie die Reflexion ein
'Nachgewahren', als das sie von Husserl charaketerisiert wird. (PAD,

Furthermore, the relationship of self-moving to itself is equivalent to its

characteristic of "remaining in oneself in one's 'beyond oneself towards'"
(Beisichselbstbleiben im Uber-sich-hinaus-sein) in the thought of Landgrebe(pAD,
83). For to move oneself "es ist fiber das hinaus, was es schon hat, zu dem
Erstrebten, aber in diesem Uber-sich-hinaus doch bei sich selbst bleibend"(ibid).
Landgrebe used these terms-in relation to oneself, remaining in oneself, that is
also expressed by the "being in oneself' (Beisichsetbstsein, PAD, 79)-to try to
give a concrete description of kinaesthetic pre-reflexivity, that has always and
already accomplished a unity, a passive synthesis, before reflection.

IV. Immanence and subjective movement in Michel Henry

It is this same unity, or passive and prereflexive synthesis in kinaesthesis, that was
designated with the concept of immanence by Michel Henry, in his first work
L'Essence de ta manifestation. In this we read that,

to surpass oneself toward, in the sense oftranscendence, to relate oneself

to, is to be himself the surpassing, a surpassing which does not surpass
Yorihiro Yamagata 15

himself and which is possible as such, as that very thing which does not
surpass but remains rather in itself, as immanence. Thus, the act of
'surpassing itself toward' which defines the possibility of a relationship
in the transcendental sense finds its condition in the 'not surpassing
oneself which qualifies transcendence in its essence 5

The act of transcendence, always surpassing oneself towards, does not

overstep itself, but remains in itself Admittedly, when he talks of immanence in this
book, he nearly always means the original mode according to which is
accomplished the revelation of the transcendental act that unfolds the pure horizon
of Being as pure time. The transcendental act opens, and projects forward the pure
horizon of Being, which is simply the world's phenomenality. This ecstatic act
projects the luminous ontological horizon, in the light of which everything ordinary
appears visible. Nevertheless, according to Michel Henry's theory of immanence,
the original revelation of the transcendental act or, to put things briefly, of
transcendence itself, is never accomplished in transcendence. It never enters the
ecstatic horizon to claim its manifestation, its being. Transcendence itself takes
place in quite a different way, by and in immanence. It receives itself immediately,
without the intervention of the ecstatic temporal horizon, in a radical and original
receptivity in which the self-embracement of immanence occurs. The transcendence
that makes the being of the visible world possible manifests itself in immanence, in
absolute passivity, as feeling. The revelation of transcendence takes place in
immanence as affectivity, while the phenomenality of the visible world shines in a
transcendent externality as perceptibility.
Tomorrow Mrs. Natalie Depraz will examine Henry's concept of
immanence in much greater detail. So let us now consider the results Henry
obtained in his study of Maine de Biran by applying this concept to an
understanding of the movement of our body.
The principal point of Maine de Biran's philosophy consists in determining
the cogito as a force of production, or as a will, insofar as it is itself identical with
effort, with the living force, or, in Biranian terminology, with the hyperorganic
force. The ego's being is no longer determined as pure thought, but considered as
an action by which 1 continually modify the world. In short, "the ego is a power, the
cogito does not mean an 'I think' but an 'I can' ."6 Yet, as Henry points out, this is
not the true originality ofBiranian thought, as the Biranian cogito is never opposed
to the Cartesian cogito. There is no structural difference between the "I can" and
the "I think." Henry notes that ''the whole Biranian analysis of effort has as its sole
and essential result the determining of this effort as a mode of subjectivity
itself'(pPB, 55). The profoundness of Biranian philosophy lies, as Henry says, in

''the affirmation that the being of this movement, of this action and of this power
is precisely the being of a cogito"(pPB, 54).
The heart of the problem is to know how bodily movement takes on the
quality of subjectivity so as to appear as one of the cogito' s modes. It does so in a
modality of ap}X'M3l1Ce that Maine de Biran calls immediate apperception. By and
in this apperception, our voluntary living force, our voluntary movement, reveals
itself to us as a feeling of effort. According to Maine de Biran, in this feeling of
effort we perceive not only our self, our ipseity, but also and simultaneously the
outside world as a resistant continuum. Our experiences of self and the world are
two moments which make up the feeling of effort alone. Michel Henry has given
an account of the ontological mechanism of Biranian immediate apperception
through the operating modality of immanence, according to which living bodily
movement is received in absolute passivity and so appears as self and as such in the
feeling of effort.
Immediate apperception gives us movement as a mode of the cogito, as a
feeling, in immanence, immediately, without the intervention of transcendentally
deployed ecstatic time. As such, says Henry, "our body is an immediate knowledge
of self'(PPB, 92). We know our body's movement in immanence, not as an object
or a process in the world but, on the contrary, as conditions of possibility according
to which the world reveals itself to us. We feel our movement, for example our
hand's movement when it takes an object, to be our capability to grasp it. Our
original knowledge of the body is not empirical, but transcendental. Moreover, or
consequently, this transcendental knowledge of the act by which I now take a cup
of tea on the table is not the knowledge exclusively determined in the instantaneous
and individual act taking place here and now. It is also the knowledge of a general,
everlasting and permanent act, or more precisely, the knowledge of being able to
grasp something, anything.

V. The kinaesthetic cogito and Ich kann

Merleau-Ponty said that, as in moving we do not move away from ourselves, we

cannot perceive our movement, we cannot perceive ourselves moving. He thinks
kinaesthesis does not contain the self in itself in its own structure, but finds its self
in mediate fashion in its image, in the visible, insofar as it is composed of the same
texture and the same flesh as the visible. But Landgrebe saw in kinaesthetic
characteristic of not leaving itself, of always remaining in itself, an original and
radical pre-reflexivity, a primordial cogito. Michel Henry's commentary on the
Biranian concept of immediate apperception throws light on how kinaesthesis feels
Yorihiro Yamagata 17

itself to reach the experience of the cogito. For Henry's ontology of immanence,
every transcendental act manifests itself to itself as ego, by receiving itself in an
absolute passivity which determines the ontological function of immanence. Henry
shows, when he interprets the Cartesian cogito in his Geneafogie de fa
psychanafyse, that every cogito, that is to say every experience of self, consists in
the fact that the transcendental act or rather, more generally, the intentionality,
receives itself, without either leaving or going beyond itself. Kinaesthesis' essential
characteristic of remaining within itself expresses the original reflexivity that
kinaesthesis forms by receiving itself in immanence.
To conclude, let us consider the relationship that links kinaesthetic self and
power, in so far as kinaesthesis also includes the Ich kann. When we move, we
experience not only this movement but also, simultaneously, our capability to move.
What does this dual experience, proper to kinaesthesis, mean in terms of the
formation of the kinaesthetic self?
Let us turn to Maine de Biran again, and to his conception of reflection.
Reflection, according to him, "a son origine dans cette aperception interne de
l'effort ou des mouvements que la volonte determine."? "Mais cette conscience de
I' effort s'enveloppe dans les affections passives avec qui elle se trouve unie des
l'origine." "Ainsi nous nous regardons comme passifs dans des perceptions qui
resultent du deploiement de l'activire la plus expresse"(MB,477). The apperception
of movement merges with perception, with the visible, so that Merleau-Ponty
mistakenly thinks them synonymous or non-different. The task of reflection is to
uncover the apperception of movement or kinaesthesis that has been blotted out by
perception or perceptible consequences the movement has induced. It will therefore
be indispensable, so as to make reflection possible, for the apperception of
movement to be clearly distinguished from perception. In order to realize this
distinction, one only needs to apprehend movement as the cause of perception, and
to avoid mistaking it for its result: the perceptible.
Maine de Biran shows that there is in nature an organ fulfilling both these
conditions: the sense of hearing linked to voice: "Le sens de l'oule, considere dans
son union intime avec la voix, reunit aussi eminemment les deux fonctions sensitive
et mottice, mais ici elles se trouvent naturellement separees"(MB, 479). Let us take
a concrete example. When I speak, I hear my voice, I hear myself speaking. I know
it is I who am speaking, the voice I hear is mine, it is the voice I produce. My
articulatory movement is the cause of my voice, and my voice is the effect of this
movement. Why is this distinction obvious for the sense of hearing associated with
the organ of speech? It is firstly because the organ of speech on which the will acts
directly is separate from the organ of hearing that registers the effects of the action:
this separation in the disposition of the organs prevents the voluntary action from
merging with its effects. Secondly, it is because these two distinct organs unite in

a particularly intimate and close way: "L 'union du sens [de I' owe] avec son organe
mobile repetiteur est tout interieur et n'admet aucun intermediaire"(MB, 480).
Maine de Biran thinks that the experience of hearing oneself speak
represents the archtype of reflection. Descartes has already stated that "this
proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or
conceived in my mind."8 If to hear oneself speak is one of the cogi to's experiences,
it is because one hears one's own voice as one articulates the words. But how, then,
can one identify the voice one hears as one's own? Maine de Biran answers,

A chaque impression de son refi)ue par l'oule exterieure correspond une

determination motrice instantanee qui va mettre en jeu la touche
correspondante de l'instrument vocal : Ie son du dehors est imite,
redouble. Pendant que l'oule externe est frappee d'une sensation directe,
l'oule interieure est frappee d'une impression retlechie, comme par un
echo anime. (MB, 480)

Similarly, when I myself speak, the sound, the voice I hear is mentally imitated and
reduplicated by the organ of speech; I repeat what I hear. When I hear myself speak,
the movement of speaking and the movement of repeating coincide. How does this
coincidence come about? By comparing the two movements or by judgement? No.
It is a kinaesthetic identification, it is more ancient and more radical than
intellectual synthesis. It is based on the fact that speaking as self-moving is by
essence repetitive, and this repetitive characteristic is what determines the structure
of kinaesthesis. Every self-movement, every kinaesthesis manifests itself from the
start as capable of repetition, that is to say, as a habit. In this sense kinaesthesis is
identical to the Jch kann. We have now reached our conclusion. Kinaesthesis' self
and its Jch kann are one and the same. Insofar as the kinaesthetic cogito consists in
a repetitive movement, the Jch kann expresses the pre-reflexive self of kinaesthesis.


1. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans!. by Alphonso Lingis
(Northwestern University Press, 1968), 133. Hereafter referred to as VI.
2. Dan Zahavi, "Self-awareness and affection," Alterity and Facticity-New Perspectives on
Husserl, ed. Natalie Depraz and Dan Zahavi (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998).
3. Ulrich Claesges, "Zeit und kinaesthetisches BewuBtsein. Bemerkungen zu einer These
Ludwig Landgrebes," Phiinomenologische Forschungen 14 (1983), 138.
4. Ludwig Landgrebe, "Phiinomenologische Analyse und Dialektik," Phiinomenologische
Forschungen 10 (1980). Herafter referred to as PAD.
Yorihiro Yamagata 19

5. Michel Henry, The Essence of Manifestation, trans\. by Girard Etzkorn (The Hague:
Martinus Nijhoft: 1973),257.
6. Michel Henry, Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body, trans\. by Girard Etzkorn (The
Hague: Martinus Nijhotf, 1975), 53. Hereafter referred to as PPB.
7. Maine de Biran, (Euvres completes, VIII-lX (Geneve-Paris: Slatkine, 1982), 477.
Hereafter referred to as MB.
8. Descartes, The Philosophical Writings ofDescartes, trans\. by J. Cottingham, R. Stoothotf
and D. Murdoch (Cambridge University Press, 1984), vo\. II, 17.
The Fracture in Self-Awareness

Dan Zahavi
University of Copenhagen-Denmark

The detailed investigation of intentionality stands as a major achievement in 20th

Century philosophy. This focus upon the ability of subjectivity to be directed
toward and occupied with objects different from itself should, however, not obscure
the fact that it has another important, but apparently antithetical feature, namely
self-awareness. Obviously I can be aware of blooming trees, rainy mornings or the
cries of playing children, but I can also be aware that these are seen, smelled and
heard, that different perceptions are taking place, and that I am the one experiencing
them, just as I might be aware that I am hungry, tired or happy. 1
It is, however, one thing to realize that self-awareness exists, and
something quite different to understand exactly what it is. One traditional
suggestion has consisted in pointing to the contrast between intentionality, which
is characterized by its difference between the subject and the object of experience,
and self-awareness, which appears to imply some form of identity. Any convincing
theory of self-awareness has to be able to explain this contrast, and the most natural
explanation seems to be that self-awareness differs from ordinary intentional
awareness, exactly because it is an awareness, which has itself, rather than anything
else, as its object. This theory, stating that self-awareness is the result of
consciousness directing its "gaze" at itself, taking itself as its own object, and thus
becoming aware of itself, is commonly known as the reflection theory of self-
Although it seems at first sight obvious and unavoidable to say that self-
awareness is exactly characterized by the subject having itself, rather than anything
else, as its object, this approach ultimately generates such severe difficulties that it
must be abandoned. In recent years the most thorough demonstration of this fact can
be found in the writings of Manfred Frank. 2 I will not summarize all of his
arguments, but let me briefly spell out the most important one:
The reflection model of self-awareness operates with a duality of moments.
Whether it comes about by one act taking another act as its object, or one act taking
itself as its object, we are dealing with a kind of self-division, and have to
distinguish the reflecting from the reflected. Of course, the aim of reflection is then
to overcome or negate this difference and to posit both moments as
identical-otherwise we would not have a case of self-awareness. This strategy is,
however, confronted with fundamental problems. How can an awareness of
something different generate self-awareness (or vice versa, how can the act of
perception become self-aware by being the object of a different act), and how can
the identity of the two relata be certified without presupposing that which it is
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 21-40.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

meant to explain: namely, self-awareness?3 The reflection theory claims that self-
awareness is the result of a reflection, that is, that an act of perception, in order to
become self-aware (and not merely remain unconscious), must await its
objectivation by a subsequent act of reflection. In order to speak of self-awareness
it is, however, not sufficient that the act in question be reflexively thematized and
made into an object. It must be grasped as being identical with the act of reflection.
In order to be a case of self-awareness, it is not sufficient that A is conscious of B;
A must be conscious ofB as being identical with A. In other words: To count as a
case of self-awareness the act of perception must be grasped as being identical with
the act of reflection (and since a numerical identity is excluded in advance, the
identity in question must be that of belonging to the same subject or being part of
the same stream of consciousness). This poses a difficulty, however, for how can
the act of reflection (which lacks self-awareness) be in a position to realize that the
act of perception belongs to the same subjectivity as itself? If it is to encounter
something as itself, if it is to recognize or identify something as itself, it needs a
prior acquaintance with itself. Self-awareness cannot be the result of the encounter
between two unconscious acts. Consequently, the act of reflection must either await
a further act of reflection in order to become self-aware, in which case we are
confronted with a vicious infinite regress, or it must be admitted that it is itself
already in a state of self-awareness prior to reflection, and that would of course
involve us in a circular explanation, presupposing that which was meant to be
explained, and implicitly rejecting the thesis of the reflection model of self-
awareness: That all self-awareness is brought about by reflection. 4
In the light of this criticism it should be obvious that the attempt to
conceive of self-awareness primarily through the model of reflection, and
consequently to assign it a subject-object structure must be abandoned. More
generally, Frank warns against taking original self-awareness as a relation, be it a
relation between two acts or a relation between the act and itself. 5 Every relation
entails a distinction between two (or more) relata, and according to Frank it would
be impossible to account for the immediacy and infallibility of self-awareness
(particularly its so-called immunity to the error of misidentification), if it were in
any way a mediated process. Thus, self-awareness cannot be the result of reflection
understood as a procedure of introspective self-identification, since every
identification implies the possibility of misidentification, and self-awareness is not
prone to that error. If I am dizzy, I cannot be mistaken about who the subject of that
experience is, and it is nonsensical to ask whether I am sure that I am the one who
is dizzy, or to demand a specification of the criteria being used in determining
whether or not the felt dizziness is really mine.
Against this background Frank concludes that self-awareness cannot come
about as the result of a self-identification, a reflection, an inner vision or
Dan Zahavi 23

introspection, nor should it be conceived as a type of intentionality or as a

conceptually mediated propositional attitude, all of which entail the distinction
between two or more relata. The basic self-awareness of an experience is not
mediated by foreign elements such as concepts and classificatory criteria, nor by
any internal difference or distance. It is an immediate and direct self-acquaintance
which is characterized by being completely and absolutely irrelational (and
consequently best described as a purely immanent self-presence). 6
The criticism directed at the reflection theory has generally not been meant
to imply that reflective self-awareness and objectifying self-thematisation is
impossible, but merely that it always presupposes a prior unthematic and pre-
reflective self-awareness as its condition of possibility. We are not merely aware of
ourselves when we explicitly direct our attention at our conscious life. Thus, it is
necessary to distinguish pre-reflective self-awareness, which is an immediate,
implicit and irrelational, non-objectifying, non-conceptual and non-propositional
self-acquaintance, from reflective self-awareness, which is an explicit, conceptual
and objectifying thematisation of consciousness. 7

Frank's theory of self-awareness can hardly be called phenomenological.
On the contrary, he and the other members of the so-called Heidelberg School of
self-awareness, that is, Henrich, Cramer and Pothast, are markedly critical toward
phenomenology, which they ultimately accuse of never having managed to escape
the reflection-theoretical paradigm of self-awareness. 8 Their own theory is also
distinguished by its formalistic, regressive and negative character. Rather than
giving a positive description of the phenomenon of self-awareness, it focuses upon
the aporetica1 consequences of the reflection theory of self-awareness, and provides
an instructive and systematic analysis of how not to conceive of self-awareness.
Now, the crucial question is of course whether Frank's account is
convincing. As I will attempt to show shortly, there is in fact a discrepancy between
his characterization of the structure of self-awareness and the one to be found in for
instance Husserl, Sartre, Derrida and Merleau-Ponty. But interestingly enough,
there is also one phenomenologist who quite on his own has reached some
conclusions very similar to Frank's. Let me try to give a brief presentation of
Michel Henry's reflections, since they might provide us with further arguments in
support of Frank's central thesis: that self-awareness is strictly irrelational.
In his books L 'essence de la manifestation, Philosophie et
phenomenologie du corps and Phenomenologie materiel/e, Michel Henry has
developed a theory of self-awareness which to a certain extent represents a
surprising turn within phenomenology.9 Whereas post-Husserlian phenomenologists

have generally criticized Husserl for having disregarded genuine exteriority, Henry
accuses Husser! of never having analyzed the immanence and interiority of
subjectivity in a sufficiently radical and pure manner. 10
For Henry the true task of a radical phenomenology is not to describe the
phenomena in all their ontic diversity, but to examine their very phenomenality, and
its condition of possibility. As he says, the task of phenomenology is to disclose the
very essence of manifestation. 11 Given that the appearance of different objects, say
penknives and apples, has a condition of possibility, a classical problem, with which
already Kant was faced, has been whether this principle of revelation can itself be
brought to givenness. Can the condition of possibility for all manifestation manifest
itself? Can that which conditions all phenomena become a phenomenon itself?12
Whereas a traditional reply has been no-if the principle of revelation were to
become a phenomenon itself, it would no longer be that which conditions, but
something that would itselfbe conditioned-Henry's answer is different. According
to Henry, the entire history of Western thought has been dominated by what he calls
an ontological monism, that is, by the assumption that there is only one type of
manifestation. Thus it has been taken for granted that to be given, to appear, was
always to be given as an object. Needless to say, it is exactly this presupposition
which has been behind the persistent attempts to interpret self-awareness as a
reflection or an introspection, that is, to understand self-awareness as the result of
an objectifying, intentional activity, and to conceive of it as yet another object-
manifestation. 13
For Henry, this entire approach is fundamentally mistaken. According to
him, there are in fact two absolutely heterogeneous types of phenomenality, the
phenomenality of constituted objects, and the phenomenality of self-manifesting
subjectivity. And Henry claims that it is the latter which is the most fundamental
type of manifestation. It is self-awareness which is the ultimate principle of
revelation, it is self-awareness which permits, conditions and founds all object-
manifestation. 14
Henry's disclosure of this unconditioned self-manifestation is not to be
taken as a regressive deduction of a transcendental precondition, but as a
description of an actual and incontestable dimension in lived subjectivity. This is
clear from what might be Henry's central thesis, namely that the self-manifestation
of subjectivity is an immediate, non-objectifying and passive occurrence, and
therefore best described as a self-afJection. 15
As illustration, Henry calls attention to the way in which we are aware of
our feelings. When we are in pain, anxious, embarrassed, stubborn or happy, we do
not feel it through the intervention of a sense or an intentional act, but are
immediately aware of it. 16 There is no distance or separation between the feeling of
pain or happiness and our awareness (of) it, since it is given in and through itself.
Dan Zahavi 25

More generally, Henry conceives of self-affection as a purely interior and self-

sufficient occurrence involving no difference, distance or mediation between that
which affects and that which is affected. It is an event which is strictly non-
horizontal, non-ecstatic and non-temporal. 17 It is immediate, both in the sense that
the self-affection takes place without being mediated by the world, and also in the
sense that it is neither delayed nor retentionally mediated. 18
As this last remark indicates, Henry has certain reservations about
Husserl's position in Vorlesungen zur Phanomenologie des inneren
Zeitbewufitseins. Although in this work Husserl also operates with the notion of a
pre-reflective, impressional, self-manifestation,19 Henry accuses him of taking
impressionality to be a type of manifestation which is constituted in the temporal
flow. 2o That is, instead of taking impressionality as a truly immanent and non-
ecstatic self-manifestation, Husserl treats it as a givenness in inner time-
consciousness, that is, as a givenness which is intrinsically caught up in the ecstatic-
centered structure of primal impression-retention-protention. According to Henry,
however, this conception is ruinous to a correct understanding of impressionality.
It implies that basic self-manifestation is retentionally mediated, and it consequently
furnishes impressionality with a rupture and an exteriority which is completely
foreign to its nature:

Des ce moment, en eiTet, la donation extatique de I'impression dans la

conscience interne du temps a remplace son auto-donation dans
l'impressionalite et la question de l'impression est perdue de vue?!

Henry certainly acknowledges that the double intentionality of the retention is an

ecstatic happening which belongs to inner time-consciousness, but in contrast to
most other phenomenologists he does not take inner time-consciousness to be the
original self-manifestation of subjectivity, but understands it as the primary self-
objectivation. 22 Thus, Henry can reproach classical phenomenology for having been
so preoccupied with the analysis of the self-objectivation of transcendental life, that
it completely missed the truly fundamental level of self-manifestation. 23
To complicate matters somewhat, Henry has recently deviated from his
firm declaration that the self-manifestation of SUbjectivity is completely non-
temporal. As he admits, the very notion of self-affection is not a static, but a
dynamic notion. Self-affection understood as the process of affecting and being
affected is not the rigid self-identity of an object, but a subjective movement,24 and
this movement can best be described as the self-temporalisation of subjectivity. But,
as he then adds, we are still dealing with a unique form of temporalisation, which
is absolutely immanent, non-ecstatic and non-horizontal. 25

Thus, Henry remains convinced that subjectivity is absolute in the sense

of being completely self-sufficient in its radical interiority. It is immanent in the
sense that it manifests itself to itself without ever leaving itself, without
transcending itself, without producing or presupposing any kind of fracture or
alterity. Henry therefore insists that the originary self-manifestation of subjectivity
excludes all kinds of fracture, separation, alterity, difference, exteriority, and
opposition,26 and with words reminiscent of the position of the Heidelberg School,
he adds that it cannot in any way be conceived as a kind of relation. 27 The self-
givenness of consciousness does not imply any relation, for relationality has no
place in radical immanence-an immanence so saturated with self-manifestation
that it excludes the kind of lack which would necessarily accompany any kind of
fracture or internal distance. 28
The immediate and non-ecstatic self-manifestation is a unique type of
manifestation. But it is a type of manifestation which will remain concealed for a
type of thinking which adheres to the principle of ontological monism, and which
only conceives of manifestation in terms of horizon, transcendence and ecstasis.29
As Henry points out, the true essence of manifestation can neither reveal itself in
the world, nor be grasped by any category pertaining to the world. Since the essence
of manifestation cannot appear in the visibility of exteriority, it is called obscure
and invisible, and it is exactly at this point that the radicality of Henry's thought is
revealed: According to him, the phenomenality of absolute subjectivity must be
characterized as an invisible revelation. 30 Of course, this invisibility should not be
interpreted as a mode of non-manifestation. It is invisible, it does not reveal itself
in the light of the world, but it is not unconscious, nor the negation of all
phenomenality, but on the contrary the most fundamental type of manifestation. 31
Thus, Henry's project can be described as the ambitious attempt to develop a
phenomenology of the invisible. 32

Having now presented some central elements in Frank's and Henry's
theories of self-awareness, I would like to focus upon one single question: Is it
correct to describe original self-awareness as an immediate self-presence, which
excludes all types of alterity, difference and fracture?33 Basically, I wish to argue
that a consideration of the intentionality, temporality, intersubjectivity, corporeality,
and reflexiVity of subjectivity is bound to raise difficulties for this view. Let me try
briefly to sketch out the line of thought, using arguments to be found in Husserl,
Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Derrida. 34
Let me start with Merleau-Ponty, who has repeatedly insisted-correctly
I believe-that self-awareness should not be understood as a preoccupation with
Dan Zahavi 27

self that excludes or impedes the contact with transcendent being. On the contrary,
subjectivity is essentially oriented and open towards that which it is not, be it the
world or the Other, and it is exactly in this openness that it reveals itself to itself.
What is disclosed in the cogito is consequently not an enclosed immanence, a pure
interior self-presence, but an openness toward alterity, a movement of perpetual
self-transcendence. It is because we are present to the world that we are given to
ourselves. It is in our confrontation with that which we are not, that we are self-
aware. 35 A similar line of thought can be found in both Husserl and Sartre. Thus,
in his reflections concerning the relationship between self-awareness and hyletic
affection, Husserl unequivocally states that subjectivity is dependent upon and
penetrated by alterity.36 As it is formulated in the manuscript E III:

Innerhalb der Innerlichkeit das erste 'Ichfremde', dem puren Ich

vorgegeben, das Ich Affizierende (Reize Ausubende): das Hyletische 37

In Husserliana 14 he writes,

Dann hatten wir zu sagen, das konkrete Ich hat in seinem Leben als
Bewusstseinsleben bestiindig einen Kern von Hyle, von Nicht-Ich, aber
wesentlich ichzugehorig. Ohne ein Reich der Vorgegebenheiten, ein
Reich konstituierter Einheiten, konstituiert als Nicht-Ich, ist kein Ich

Thus Husserl makes it quite clear that the concrete ego cannot be thought
independently of its relation to that which is foreign to it,39 But of course, this was
already spelled out in his theory of intentionality:

Das Ich ist nicht denkbar ohne ein Nicht-Ich, auf das es sich intentional
bezieht. 40

What are Husserl's more precise arguments concerning the interdependency of self-
awareness and hetero-affection? On the one hand, it is well known that Husserl is
quite explicit in stating that inner time-consciousness taken on its own is a pure, but
abstractform.41 In concreto there can be no primal impression without hyletic data,
no inner time-consciousness, no pre-reflective self-awareness, without a temporal
content. 42 Thus, time-consciousness never appears in pure form, but always as a
pervasive sensibility, as the very sensing of the sensations. 43 As Husserl puts it in
Zur Phanomen%gie des inneren ZeitbewuJ3tseins: "Das Empfinden sehen wir an
als das ursprungliche ZeitbewuBtsein.,,44 Basically, this is the reason why Husserl

insists upon the inseparability of Quer- and Langsintentionalittit. The two are given
conjointly, and can only appear in this interdependent fashion. 45
On the other hand, we find a similar interdependence of self-affection and
hetero-affection when we turn to bodily self-awareness. When it comes to the
kinaesthetic sensations, which can be interpreted as constituting embodied
subjectivity in its most original fonn, they are only conscious in their correlation to
the perceptual (hyletic) sensations (Merkmalsempjindungen or Aspektdaten), and
more generally, Husserl would claim that the body cannot appear to itself
independently of its relation to that which is foreign to it. 46 To phrase it differently,
we are aware of perceptual objects,by being aware of our own body and how the
two interact, that is, we cannot perceive physical objects without having an
accompanying bodily self-awareness, be it thematic or unthematic. But ultimately
the reverse holds true as well: the bodyollIy appears to itself when it relates to
something else-or to itself as Other. The hand cannot touch without being touched
and thereby is brought to givenness itself,47 and it is only when the hand is affected
in this way that it is given for itself. As Husserl says, the touched and the touching
are constituted in the same process. 48 A particularly striking manifestation of this
interlacing can be found in the so-called double-sensation: When one hand touches
the other, the touching hand (the perceiving organ) has a series of sensations which
are objectified and interpreted as being properties of the touched hand (the
perceived organ). However, the decisive difference between touching one's own
body and everything else, be it inanimate objects or the body of Others, is exactly
that the relation between the touching and the touched is reversible, since the
touching is touched, and the touched is touching. 49 It is the very same (part of the)
body which is feeling and which is felt, which is a self and an Other. 50
That the body is only given to itself when it relates to something else or to
itself as Other is not to say that original bodily self-awareness should be taken as
a kind of object-intentionality, but merely that it is an intentional consciousness
which is self-aware. It is when we perceive that we are aware of ourselves, it is
when we are affected, that we appear to ourselves. Thus we find the same
conclusion as found in Husserl's reflections concerning the inseparability of Quer-
and Langsintentionalitat: Self-awareness presupposes hetero-affection, since the
subject only appears to itself across its affections, as an affected, exposed and self-
transgressing subject. 51 Every affection reveals both that which affects as well as
that which is affected (but not in the same way).
Insofar as self-awareness and hetero-affection are interdependent (and
naturally, it would be erroneous to start ascribing a kind of autonomy or primacy
to the hetero-affection), it seems untenable to characterize self-awareness as a pure
self-coinciding and self-sufficient irrelationality. lf the self-givenness of the touch
is inseparable from the manifestation of the touched, and if the self-affection of the
Dan Zahavi 29

lived body is always penetrated by the affection of the world, it seems impossible
to protect the autonomy of the self-givenness against contamination by alterity. The
egoic and the non-egoic dimension of experience can be distinguished, but not
separated. As manuscript C 16 has it:

Das Ich ist nicht etwas fUr sich und das Ichfremde ein vom Ich
Getrenntes und zwischen heiden ist kein Raum fUr ein Hinwenden.
Sondern untrennhar ist Ich und sein Ichfremdes. 52

Turning to Sartre, we find the view that consciousness can only be non-
positionally aware of itself if it is positionally aware of something; that it is self-
aware exactly insofar as it is conscious of a transcendent object. 53 The being of
intentional consciousness consists for Sartre in its revelation of and presence to
transcendent being. 54 To be conscious is to posit a transcendent object, that is, an
object which is different from oneself. It is to be confronted with something which
one is not, and it entails an awareness ofthis difference, i.e., a pre-reflective self-
awareness of oneself as not being that of which one is conscious. 55 Thus
consciousness is nothing apart from not being the transcendent object which it
reveals. And it is precisely in this strong sense that consciousness needs
intentionality, needs the confrontation with something different from itself, in order
to be self-aware, otherwise it would lose every determination and dissipate as pure
nothingness. 56

La negation est donc explicite et constitue Ie lien d'tre entre I'ohjet

peryu et Ie pour-soi. Le Pour-soi n'est rien de plus que ce Rien
translucide qui est negation de la chose peryue 57

[e]ar la conscience ne peut s'appara'itre it soi-mme que comme

neantisation d'en-soi 58

To use a striking formulation by Rosenberg, one might indeed say that

consciousness, according to Sartre, only gives itselfto itself through a sort of via
negativa. Original self-awareness is a pre-reflective awareness of not being the
object, of which it at the same time is intentionally conscious. 59
Sartre insists upon the interdependence of self-awareness and self-
transcendence. But he is not merely arguing that pre-reflective self-awareness
cannot be understood as self-sufficiency or self-preoccupation; he also claims that
self-awareness is incompatible with strict self-identity, and that the self-awareness
and being of subjectivity are dependent upon it being different from itself! Let me

attempt to clarify this enigmatic claim, since it ultimately concerns a fundamental

issue: The internal differentiation of pre-reflective self-awareness.
Sartre takes the notion of presence to imply duality and therefore at least
a virtual separation. 60 However, this does not only hold true for our knowledge of
transcendent objects but, claims Sartre, even for our pre-reflective self-awareness:

[L]a presence a soi suppose qu'une fissure impalpable s'est glissee dans
I'etre. S'il est present a soi, c'est qu'il n'est pas tout a fait soi. La
presence est une degradation immediate de la cOincidence, car elle
suppose la separation. 61

Whereas the being of the object is characterized by solidity, positivity,

self-sufficiency and self-identity-a table is purely and simply a table, neither more
nor less, it knows no alterity and cannot relate to that which is othef2-this is not
true for the being of subjectivity. My experience does not merely exist. It exists for-
itself, that is, it is self-aware. But to be aware of one's perception, even pre-
reflectively, is no longer simply and merely to perceive, but to withdraw, wrench
away from or transcend the perception. To be self-aware is to exist at a distance
from oneself. Self-awareness and self-identity are incompatible determinations,
therefore Sartre questions the validity of the law of identity when it comes to an
understanding of subjectivity, and writes that self-awareness presupposes a tiny
fissure, separation or even duality in the being of consciousness. 63 Already on the
pre-reflective level we find what Sartre calls "a pattern of duality," "a game of
reflections" or "a dyad," namely the one existing between intentionality and self-
awareness. Both moments of consciousness are strictly interdependent, but their
functions are not identical and they do not coincide absolutely. Each of the two
refers to the other, as that which it is not, but which it depends upon. They co-exist
in a troubled unity, as a duality which is a unity, and the life of consciousness takes
place in this perpetual cross-reference. 64
When Sartre speaks of a fissure or separation in the being of
consciousness, he is obviously not talking about consciousness being separated
from itself by some-thing, since the introduction of any substantial opacity would
split it in two, replacing its dyadic unity with the duality of two separated objects.
No, for Sartre consciousness is separated from itself by no-thing, that is, the
separation in question is properly speaking an internal differentiation. But Sartre
also claims that the nothing that separates consciousness from itself is at the root
of time, and his description of the structure of consciousness gains credibility the
moment we turn to temporality.
Any convincing theory of self-awareness has to take temporality into
consideration. Not only because it has to explain how I can remember a past
Dan Zahavi 31

experience as mine, but also because consciousness is so intrinsically temporal that

even a clarification of instantaneous self-awareness must take it into account. It is
not only possible to understand the petpetual self-differentiation, -distanciation, and
-transcendence of subjectivity in temporal terms, it is necessary, since temporality
constitutes the infrastructure of consciousness. It is inherently temporal and it is as
temporal that it is pre-reflectively aware of itself. To use Same's formulation:
Consciousness exists in the diasporatic form oftemporality. Spread out in all three
temporal dimensions, it is always existing at a distance from itself, its self-presence
is always permeated by absence, and this unique mode of being cannot be grasped
through the category of an irrelational, non-ecstatic self-presence. 65
Returning to Merleau-Ponty we find the argument that pre-reflective self-
awareness must be contaminated by alterity, otherwise intersubjectivity would be
impossible. Thus, Merleau-Ponty takes self-coincidence and the relation with an
Other to be mutually incompatible determinations. If subjectivity were in fact
characterized by a pure self-presence, if I were given to myself in an absolutely
unique way, I would lack the means of ever recognizing the embodied Other as
another subjectivity-and moreover lack the ability to recognize myself in the
mirror. As he says in Phenomenologie de la perception:

Si la seule experience du sujet est celie que j'obtiens en corncidant avec

lui, si l'esprit par definition se derobe au 'spectateur etranger' et ne peut
etre reconnu qu'interieurement, mon Cogito est par principe unique, il
n'est par 'participable' par un autre. Dira-t-on qu'il est 'transferable' aux
autres? Mais comment un tel transfert pourrait-il jamais etre motive?
Quel spectacle pourra jamais m'induire valablement a poser hors de
moi-meme ce mode d'existence dont Ie sens exige qu'il soit
int6rieurement saisi? Si je n' apprends pas en moi-meme a reconnat"tre la
jonction du pour soi et de l'en soi, aucune de ces mecaniques que sont
les autres corps ne pourra jamais s'animer, si je n'ai pas de dehors les
autres n'ont pas de dedans. La pluralire des consciences est impossible
sij'ai conscience absolue de moi-meme. 66

For Merleau-Ponty subjectivity is essentially incarnated. To exist

embodied is, however, neither to exist as pure subject, nor as pure object, but to
exist in a way that transcends the opposition between pour-soi and en-soi. It does
not entail losing self-awareness-on the contrary, self-awareness is intrinsically
embodied self-awareness-but it does entail a loss or perhaps rather, as Merleau-
Ponty would say, a release from transparency and purity, thereby permitting
intersubjectivity. To quote once more from Phenomenologie de la perception:

L'evidence d'autrui est possible parce que je ne suis pas transparent

pour rnoi-rnerne et que rna subjectivite tralne apres elle son corps67

Since intersubjectivity is in fact possible there must exist a bridge between my self-
awareness and my awareness of Others; my experience of my own subjectivity must
contain an anticipation of the Other, must contain the seeds of alterity. 68 When I
experience myself and when I experience an Other, there is in fact a common
denominator. In both cases I am dealing with incarnation, and one of the features
of my embodied self-awareness is that it by definition comprises an outside. To
touch oneself is a type of self-awareness that can best be described as a bodily
rejlection. 69 It is a thematic self-awareness mediated by difference and exteriority;
the single parts of the body remain separated, and they gain contact through a
surface which is exposed to the world. 70 When my left hand touches my right, I am
self-aware, but I am self-aware in a manner that anticipates both the way in which
an Other would experience me, and the way in which I would experience an Other.
The reason why I can experience Others is because I am never so close to myself
that the Other is completely and radically foreign and inaccessible. In my bodily
self-awareness, I am always already a stranger to myself, and therefore open to
Others. 71
Since pre-reflective self-awareness seems to be characterized by an inner
fracture, it is no wonder that a number of phenomenologists have chosen to speak
of the existence of a pre-temporal distance, absence, or even of a proto-rejlection
in the core of the pre-reflective self-awareness. Gerd Brand, for instance, describes
the perpetual self-affection in pre-reflective self-awareness as a "Reflexion-im-
Ansatz,,,n and Derrida has argued that a subjectivity defined by self-affection
cannot possibly be undifferentiated and self-enclosed, since the very concept of
self-affection necessarily entails a minimal self-differentiation and -division. 73 Self-
affection does promise absolute undivided self-proximity, but a closer look reveals
that it entails a minimal division or fracture in order to function. Self-affection
entails a structural difference between the affecting and the affected. As Derrida
puts it: This difference or relation to oneself as Other is the angle that enables one
to fold oneself upon oneself, but it is also the altering difference that forever
prevents one from fully coinciding with oneself. 74 Thus self-affection breaks the
self-enclosed interiority, and constitutes a fractured self. It is not only always
accompanied by hetero-affection, it is itself a hetero-affection. 75

Let me return to the question I raised earlier: Is it correct to describe
original self-awareness as an immediate self-presence, which excludes all types of
Dan Zahavi 33

alterity, difference and fracture? After my discussion of Merleau-Ponty, Sartre,

Husserl and Derrida one might assume that this question is purely rhetorical; that
the answer is obviously negative, but actually I believe that the conclusion is more
First of all, the claims advanced by the last group of phenomenologists are
not as similar as they might appear at first sight, and in fact they seem to diverge at
one crucial point and to argue in support of two different positions, a moderate and
a more radical one. Either it is claimed that it is in our confrontation with that which
we are not, that we are self-aware, or it is claimed that it is by being confronted with
that which we are not, that we gain self-awareness. Needless to say, there is a subtle
but decisive difference between claiming that my subjectivity is revealed to me in
its exploration of the world, and to claim that I am conscious of myself via the
world. In the first, weaker case, it is claimed that self-awareness and self-affection
never occur in isolation from hetero-affection. Self-manifestation is always
accompanied by and inseparable from hetero-manifestation, it cannot take place on
its own. Although this moderate thesis already presents a problem for any claim
concerning the self-sufficiency of self-awareness, it does not however justify the
conclusion that the structure of self-awareness contains a fracture, but only that it
is always accompanied by a fracture; namely the fracture between self and other,
between immanence and transcendence.
At this point, however, the more radical thesis asserts itself. It might
reasonably be asked whether self-awareness can really retain its purity, integrity and
autonomy if it never appears on its own. If auto-affection and hetero-affection are
inseparable, is this not an indication of the fact that they are intertwined,
interdependent, and perhaps ultimately even indistinguishable?76 Thus it has been
claimed that self-awareness is not only accompanied by alterity, but also
contaminated by it. And if alterity proves to be a structural presupposition for self-
awareness, self-awareness has to some extent to include a mediation, and to contain
a fracture in its very core. It might be tempting to opt for this latter radical position,
especially if one considers the phenomenon of double-sensation or the temporal
structure of consciousness, but one should not overlook the problems this raises. To
claim that self-awareness is not a manifestation sui generis, but the result of a
mediation, is basically to face all the problems of the reflection theory once again.
To go further and claim that self-affection is always already a hetero-affection, and
that self-awareness is a product of a decentered play of structural differences, is to
advocate a position which, instead of contributing to a clarification of self-
awareness, dissolves and eradicates the very phenomenon to be investigated.
But although some of the formulations are too excessive-it is not
surprising that Derrida has occasionally been accused of interpreting self-affection
as a form of object-intentionality77-there is still something to be said for the

radical thesis, or at least for a certain interpretation of it. After all, pre-reflective
self-awareness is not only always accompanied by hetero-manifestation, it also has
an inner articulation, a differentiated infrastructure. Thus one should not forget the
full ecstatic-centered structure of pre-reflective self-awareness: primal impression-
retention-protention. In the words of Sokolowski and Brough: The primal
impression is an opening towards multiple otherness: it is open to the hyletic
affection, it "geht der Zukunft entgegen, mit offenen Armen,"78 and it is
accompanied by a retention, which provides us with a direct and elementary
intuition of otherness in its most primitive form.79 To acknowledge the full impact
of this is not in itself to furnish self-awareness with the kind of fracture that exists
in reflective self-awareness, let alone in the so-called external types of reflexivity.
I discussed briefly above the difference between pre-reflective and
reflective self-awareness. It was pointed out that reflection operates with a duality
of moments. It involves a kind of self-fission. Now, even if it has been granted that
reflection cannot be the primary kind of self-awareness, it remains necessary to
explain how it can rise out of pre-reflective self-awareness. For as Sartre poignantly
reminds uS,the problem is not to find examples of the pre-reflective self-
awareness-they are everywhere-but to understand how one can pass from this
self-awareness which constitutes the being of consciousness, to the reflective
knowledge of self which is founded upon it. 80
Sartre is by no means trying to deny the difference between a reflective
and a pre-reflective self-awareness, but he nevertheless insists that the two modes
of self-awareness must share a certain affinity, a certain structural similarity.
Otherwise it would be impossible to explai:t:l how the pre-reflective cogito could
ever give rise to reflection. As Derrida puts it:

Sans cette non-identite a soi de la presence dite originaire, comment

expliquer que la possibilite de la reflexion et de la re-presentation
appartienne a l' essence de tout vecu?81

Needless to say, a theory of self-awareness which can only account for pre-
reflective self-awareness is as deficient as its counterpart, the reflection theory. To
phrase it differently, it is no coincidence that we do speak of a pre-reflective self-
awareness. The choice of words indicates that there remains a connection. 82 The
reason why reflection remains a permanent possibility is exactly that the reflexive
scissiparity exists already in nuce in the structure of the pre-reflective cogito. 83 In
fact reflection merely articulates the differentiated unity of the Living Present: its
ecstatic-centered structure of presencing, retaining, protending,84 a structure which
Husserl himself occasionally calls the inherent refleXiVity of consciousness. 85 As
Held formulates it:
Dan Zahavi 35

In dieser Nachtraglichkeit (Reflexionals 'Nachgewahren') erweist sich

dreierIei als immer schon vorausgesetzt: 1. die Unterschiedenheit des
VolIziehers von sich selbst, durch die er sich selbst iiberhaupt
thematisieren-oder wie HusserI sagt: 'ontifizieren' -kann, 2. die
Einheit seiner mit sich selbst, durch die er sich bei der
Selbstthematisierung mit sich identifizieren kann, und 3. die Bewegtheit
der Einheit-mit-sich-selbst im Sich-von-sich-selbst-Unterscheiden. 86

We consequently end up with the insight that pre-reflective self-awareness must be

conceived not as a simple, static and self-sufficient self-identity, but as a dynamic
and differentiated openness to alterity.

Let me conclude: When it comes to Frank's and Henry's central thesis, I
do believe it is faced with some decisive problems. Although one should not
overlook the subtle differences between their theories-and I have not really had
time to do justice to the richness of Henry's theory-both operate with the notion
of an absolutely self-sufficient, non-ecstatic, irrelational self-givenness, and they
never take into sufficient consideration the interdependency existing between self-
manifestation and hetero-manifestation. More specifically, they never manage to
explain how a subject essentially characterized by this type of complete self-
presence can simultaneously be in possession of an inner temporal articulation; how
it can simultaneously be directed intentionally toward something different from
itself; how it can be capable of recognizing other subjects (being acquainted with
subjectivity as it is through a completely unique self-presence); how it can be in
possession of a bodily exteriority; and finally how it can give rise to the self-
division found in reflection. Thus their analyses basically fail because they focus
on self-awareness in abstracto, rather than accounting for the self-awareness of the
self-transcending temporal, intentional, reflexive, corporeal and intersubjective
experiences; experiences which all contain a dimension of alterity.
On the other hand, it must also be concluded that although an accentuation
of the fracture and alterity in self-awareness might help us understand how
subjectivity can be self-transcending, and relate to that which is other, it also
threatens to reintroduce a duality in the core of self-awareness that makes it hard to
preserve the difference between auto-affection and hetero-affection, between Self
and Other. To deny the alterity in the self is to deny the possibility of
intersubjectivity. To exaggerate the moment of alterity, and to overlook the
difference between intra- and intersubjective alterity, is not only to deny self-
awareness, but ultimately intersubjectivity as well, since the difference between self
and Other, between the first-person and third-person perspective, would disappear.

And a theory of self-awareness that is incapable of preserving this difference would

certainly fail as well. 87


1. Let me emphasize that it is not only legitimate to speak of self-awareness when I realize
that I am perceiving a candle, but also when I am aware of my feeling of sorrow, or my
burning pain, or my perception of a candle, that is, whenever I am acquainted with an
experience in its first-personal mode of givenness. I am entitled to speak of self-awareness
the moment I am no longer simply conscious of a foreign object, but of my experience ofthe
object as well, for in this case my subjectivity reveals itselfto me.
2. Cf. M. Frank, Was ist Neostrukturalismus? (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1984); Die
Unhintergehbarkeit von Individualitiit (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1986); Das Sagbare
und das Unsagbare (Suhrkamp: Frankfurt am Main, 1989); ZeitbewuJ3tsein (pfullingen:
Neske, 1990); SelbstbewuJ3tsein und Selbsterkenntnis (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1991a);
SelbstbewuJ3tseinstheorien von Fichte bis Sartre (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991 b).
3. Frank 1984,357.
4. Frank 1991 b, 428,529.
5. Cf. D. Henrich, "Fichtes ursprungliche Einsicht," in D. Henrich & H. Wagner (eds):
Subjektivitiit und Metaphysik. Festschrift for Wolfgang Cramer (Frankfurt am Main:
Klostermann, 1966), 188-232; "SelbstbewuBtsein, kritische Einleitung in eine Theorie" in
Bubner, Cramer, Wiehl (eds.): Hermeneutik und Dialektik (Tiibingen, 1970),257-284; K.
Cramer, "'Erlebnis.' Thesen zu Hegels Theorie des SelbstbewuBtseins mit Riicksicht auf die
Aporien eines Grundbegriffs nachhegelscher Philosophie," in H.-G. Gadamer (ed.):
Stuttgarter Hegel-Tage 1970 (Bonn, 1974), 537-603; U. Pothast, Uber einige Fragen der
Selbstbeziehung (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klost~rmann, 1971).
6. Frank 1986,34,61, Frank 1991a, 71,405, Frank 1991b, 597. Actually Frank explicitly
denies that self-awareness is a "presence it soi," since he takes this expression to designate
a kind of self-presentification which is completely indebted to the reflection model (Frank
1989, 488, 1991 a, 24). However, it seems difficult to find a more perfect candidate for a pure
unmediated self-presence than the completely irrelational self-acquaintance described by
Frank, which is so close to itself that every kind of mediation is excluded.
7. Frank 1991a, 7, 161,Frank 1991b,438.
8. Cf Henrich 1966,231, Henrich 1970,261; Frank 1986,44-45,50, Frank 1991 b, 530, 536,
557,562; Cramer 1974,584,590,592.
9. M. Henry, L'essence de la manifestation (paris: P.u.F., 1963); Philosophie et
phenomenologie du corps (paris: P.U.F., 1965); "Le concept d'iime a-t-il un sens?" Revue
philosophique de Louvain 64 (1966), 5-33; "Philosophie et subjectivite," in Jacob (ed.):
Encyclopedie philosophique universelle, Bd.l.: L 'univers philosophique (Paris: P.U.F.,
1989), 46-56; Phenomenologie materielle (Paris: P.U.F., 1990); "Phenomenologie de la
naissance," Alter 2 (1994),295-312; C 'est moi la verite (paris: Seuil, 1996).
10. Henry 1989, 50.
11. Henry 1963, 14,32,64,67, Henry 1966, 5.
12. Henry 1963,36,50.
Dan Zahavi 37

13. Henry 1963,44,279,329,352, Henry 1966,22-23.

14. Henry 1963,47,52, 168-169, 173.
15. Henry 1963,288-292,301.
16. Henry 1963,578,580,590.
17. Henry 1963,576,349,858.
18. Henry 1990, 166, Henry 1966, 33, Henry 1965, 139.
19. Henry 1990, 33-34. Cf. Hua X, 89, 110-111, 119, XI, 337. Page references are to the
Husserliana edition. When referring to Husserl's unpublished manuscripts the last number
always refers to the original page in shorthand.
20. Henry 1990,32.
21. Henry 1990,49-50.
22. Henry 1990, 107.
23. Henry 1990, 130.
24. Cf. F.-D. Sebbah, "Aux limites de l'intentionnalit6: M. Henry et E. L6vinas lecteurs des
Le~ons sur la conscience intime du temps," Alter 2 (1994), 252.

25. Henry 1994,303-304,310, Henry 1996,201-202.

26. Henry 1990,72, Henry 1963,279-280,351,352,377,419.
27. Henry 1963,58,396, Henry 1990, 111.
28. Henry 1990,7.
29. Henry 1963,477.
30. Henry 1963, 53,480-482,490,549, Henry 1990, 125, 164.
31. Henry 1963, 53, 57, 550, 555.
32. This title evokes Heidegger's remark in Sein und Zeit concerning the necessity of
analyzing the phenomena which remain hidden from view, and when he says that it is exactly
Being which is the most concealed (Tiibingen: Max Niemeyer, 1986),35. Cf. 1-1. Marion,
Reduction et donation (paris: P.U.F., 1989),90-97.
33. I am not implying that alterity, difference and fracture are all one and the same. But each
ofthese notions constitutes problems for Frank's and Henry's theories.
34. J. Derrida, La voix et Ie phenomene (paris: P.U.F., 1967a); De la grammatologie (paris:
Les Editions de Minuit, 1967c); E. Husserl, Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser
Vortriige (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973); Ideen zu einer reinen Phiinomenologie und
phiinomenologischen Philosophie II (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1952); Erste Philosophie
II (1923-24) (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959); Phiinomenologische Psychologie (Den
Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962); Zur Phiinomenologie des inneren Zeitbewuj3tseins (1893-
1917) (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1966); Analysen zur passiven Synthesis (Den Haag:
Martinus Nijhoff, 1966); Zur Phiinomenologie der Intersubjektivitiit I (Den Haag: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1973); Zur Phiinomenologie der Intersubjektivitiit II (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff,
1973); Zur Phiinomenologie der Intersubjektivitiit III (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973);
Erfahrung und Urteil (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1985). M. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenologie
de la perception (paris: Editions Gallimard, 1945); Signes (paris: Editions Gallimard,
1960a); Les relations avec autrui chez l'enfant (paris: Centre de Documentation
Universitaire, 1960b); Le visible et l'invisible (Paris: Tel Gallimard, 1964); Sens et non-sens
(Paris: Les Editions Nagel, 1966); La prose du monde (paris: Tel Gallimard, 1969). 1-P.

Sartre, "Conscience de soi et connaissance de soi." Bulletin Soc. Fran y. de Philosophie XLll
(1948),49-91; La transcendance de ['ego (paris: J. Vrin, 193611988); L'etre et Ie miant
(paris: Tel Gallimard, 1943/1976).
35. Merleau-Ponty 1945,431-432,485,487,492, Merleau-Ponty 1966, 164-165. Cf. Sartre
1943,212, Sartre 1936,23-24.
36. Hua XV, 128,375, Xlll, 406, 459, XIV, 51-52, 337, IV, 356, Ms. E ill 2 5a, Ms. E ill
2 23a. I thank the director of the Husserl-Archives in Louvain, Belgium, Professor R. Bernet,
for permission to quote from Husserl's unpublished manuscripts.
37. Ms. E ill 2 22a. Cf. Ms. C 6 4b. Of course, it remains necessary to distinguish the alterity
of the hyletic material from the alterity of the Other, and it is important to counter the
suggestion that we are simply dealing with two different types or manifestations of one and
the same alterity. But in the present context, this separate problem can be put aside.
38. Hua XIV, 379.
39. Hua XIV, 14. Needless to say, this should not be interpreted in a realistic vein. That
which I am affected by is different from me, but it is not ontologically independent of me.
Quite to the contrary: When Husserl says that the hyle as the core of interpretations, sense-
formations, feelings and drives is inseparable from the ego, he is also saying that the hyle has
no place outside of subjectivity. Nevertheless the hyle remains foreign. It is a domain in me
which escapes my control, since it is pre-given without any active participation or
contribution by the ego (Hua Xlll, 427, XI 386). Husserl speaks of an interior non-egological
dimension, which surrounds and affects the ego (Ms. E ill 2 22b). It is an immanent type of
alterity which manifests itself directly in subjectivity, which belongs intrinsically to
subjectivity, and which subjectivity cannot do without. Both are, as Husserl says, inseparable,
both are irreducible structural moments in the process of constitution, in the process of
bringing to appearance. For a more detailed analysis of this aspect of Husserl's philosophy
see D. Zahavi, "Self-awareness and affection" in Depraz and Zahavi (eds.): Alterity and
Facticity. New Perspectives on Husserl (Dordrect: Kluwer, 1998).
40. HuaXIV, 245. Cf. HuaXlll, 92,170, XIV, 5l.
4l. Hua I, 28, Ms. L 115 3a, Husserll985, 76.
42. Hua XI, 137, Ms. A V 5 7a, Ms. L 117 9b, Ms. C 342a.
43. E. Levinas, En decouvrant l'existence avec Husserl et Heidegger (paris: Vrin, 1949),
44. HuaX, 107.
45. HuaX, 80, 83,117-118.
46. Hua IV, 58, Xlll, 386.
47. Hua IV, 147.
48. Hua XIV, 75, XV, 297,301.
49. Hua XIV, 75, Ms. D 12 ill 14, 19.
50. Hua XV, 300, XIV, 457, 462, IX, 197, Xill, 263. According to Husserl, it is this double-
appearance of the body, this remarkable interplay between ipseity and alterity characterizing
our bodily self-awareness, which enables us to recognize embodied Others as other subjects
(Hua vrn, 62).
5l. J. Benoist, Autour de Husserl (paris: Vrin, 1994),57,61; R. Bernet, La vie du sujet
(Paris: P.U.F., 1994),321; P. Ricoeur, Soi-meme comme un autre (paris: Editions du Seuil,
Dan Zahavi 39

52. Ms. C 16 68a. Cf. Ms. C 10 2b.

53. Sartre 1943,212,1936,23-24.
54. Sartre 1943,28.
55. Sartre 1943, 162.
56. Sartre 1943,27,214-215.
57. Sartre 1943, 179. Cf. Sartre 1943,213,258 and Sartre 1936,28.
58. Sartre 1943, 178.
59. J. Rosenberg, "Apperception and Sartre's Pre-Reflective Cogito," American Philoso-
phical Quarterly 18 (1981), 257.
60. Sartre 1943, 115.
61. Sartre 1943, 115-116.
62. Sartre 1943,33.
63. Sartre 1943, 115-116. Cf. Merleau-Ponty 1964,246.
64. Sartre 1943, 114, 117, Sartre 1947, 67. On the pre-reflective level consciousness is
characterized by the dyad reflet-rejletant, on the reflective level by the duality reflexif-
65. Sartre 1943, 116, 141, 144, 175-177, 182, 197,245, Sartre 1948,76. Despite his
emphasis on time, and despite taking the dyadic structure of pre-reflective self-awareness to
constitute the origin of temporality, Sartre nevertheless conceived of the structure itself as
being atemporal.
66. Merleau-Ponty 1945,427-428.
67. Merleau-Ponty 1945,405. Cf. Merleau-Ponty 1945,402.
68. Merleau-Ponty 1945,400-401,405,511.
69. Hua 1,128.
70. Derrida 1967a, 88, Bernet 1994, 173.
71. Merleau-Ponty 1945,406, Merleau-Ponty 1960a, 213, 215, 221, Merleau-Ponty 1960b,
35, Merleau-Ponty 1964,74,278, Merleau-Ponty 1969, 186, 188.
72. G. Brand, Welt, lchund Zeit (Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1955), 74. Cf. T. Seebohm,
Die Bedingungen der Moglichkeit der Tranzendental-Philosophie (Bouvier, 1962), 126-127);
J.G. Hart, "Constitution and reference in Husserl's phenomenology of phenomenology,"
Husserl Studies 6 (1989), 58; K. Held, "Phanomenologie der Zeit nach Husser!,"
Perspektiven der Philosophie 7 (1981), 192.
73. Derrida 1967a, 89, 92.
74. Derrida 1967c, 235.
75. Derrida 1967a, 92, Derrida 1967c, 221, 237.
76. Cf. R. Barbaras, "Le sens de l'auto-affection chez Michel Henry et Merleau-Ponty,"
Epokhe 2 (1991), 107.
77. Y. Yamagata, "Une autre lecture de L 'essence de la manifestation: immanence, present
vivant et alterite," Etudes philosophiques 2 (1991), 179.
78. HuaXV, 349.

79. R. Sokolowski, ''Ontological Possibilities in Phenomenology: The Dyad and the One,"
Review of Metaphysics XXlX (1976), 699; J.B. Brough, "The Emergence of an Absolute
Consciousness in Husserl's Early Writings on Time-Consciousness," Man and World 5
(1972), 326.
80. Sartre 1948, 63.
81. Derrida 1967a, 76.
82. It is interesting to note that Henry takes the distinction between the reflective and the pre-
reflective cogito to be equivocal, and he himself does not use the term "pre-reflective" as a
designation of the originary self-manifestation (Henry 1965,76). Presumably, this is because
the notion betrays a certain affiliation with the paradigm of reflection. To designate self-
awareness as pre-reflective indicates that reflective self-awareness is still the yardstick.
83. Sartre 1943, 113, 194.
84. Ms. C 3 69a.
85. Hua XV, 543-544.
86. Held 1981, 192.
87. For a large-scale analysis of the structure of pre-reflective self-awareness see my Self-
awareness and Alterity (forthcoming).
James and Husserl: Time-consciousness and the
Intentionality of Presence and Absence

Richard Cobb-Stevens
Boston College-USA

During one of his visits to Heidelberg, William James was impressed by Wilhelm
Wundt's efforts to determine experimentally the duration of our immediate
consciousness of unified clusters of successive musical notes and of differently
spaced monotonous clicks. Subjects were asked to indicate the point at which they
no longer enjoyed an intuitive grasp of the series of sounds as a present whole.
They were also asked not to attempt to count the successive notes or clicks, because
counting introduces linguistic expressions which carry us away from the immediate
context by permitting reference to identities across presence and absence. Counting
might thus incline the subjects to conflate their perceptions of a series as a present
whole with a series "whose beginnings have faded from our mind, and of whose
totality we retain no sensible impression at all.'" Wundt and his students concluded
that the duration of our immediate consciousness of successive impressions varies
from five to twelve seconds, depending on our manner of grouping the strokes and
on the length of the intervals between the successive components of the whole. 2
James took these conclusions as a confirmation of his theory of the "specious
present," an expression that he borrowed from the work of a little remembered
writer, E. R Clay, who had claimed that the experienced present" .. is really a part
of the past - a recent past given as being a time that intervenes between the
[obvious] past and the future".3 The experienced present is said to be "specious" in
contrast to the allegedly "real" present which had traditionally been construed as an
indivisible point or instant that is internally free of past and future. "Considered
relatively to human apprehension," Clay observes, the "real" present is in fact
non-existent, whereas the. delayed and extended "specious" present is our most
original experience of time. The fundamental unit of time, as James puts it, is not
a "knife-edge" present but a "duration-block" within which there occurs a constant
slippage into the past and a constant yielding to the future: "The unit of composition
of our perception of time is a duration, with a bow and stern, as it were, a rearward
and forward looking end.,,4 Our original sense of pastness derives from this
experienced slippage of our experiences and their contents into the past:

What is the original of our experience of pastness, from whence we get

the meaning of the term? ... we have a constant feeling sui generis of
pastness to which every one of our experiences in turn falls prey. To
think a thing as past is to think it amongst the objects or in the direction
of the objects which at the present moment appear affected by this
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 41-57.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

quality. This is the original of our notion of past time upon which
memory and history build their systems. s

James next distinguishes between the immediately experienced just-past and the
more remote past reproduced in memory:

Each of these [events], as it slips out, retains the power of being

reproduced; and when reproduced, is reproduced with the duration and
neighbors which it originally had. Please observe, however, that the
reproduction of an event, after it has once completely dropped out of the
rearward end of the specious present, is an entirely different psychic fact
from its direct perception in the specious present as a thing immediately
past. 6

He also distinguishes between the changing content of the specious present and its
unchanging structure:

Its content is a constant flux, "events" dawning into its forward end as
fast as they fade out of its rearward one, and each of them changing its
time coefficient from "not yet" or "not quite yet" to "just gone" or
"gone" as it passes by. Meanwhile, the specious present, the intuited
duration, stands permanent, like the rainbow on the waterfall, with its
own quality unchanged by the events that stream through it.?

James adds that although the fonn of the specious present always remains
unchanging, the specious present is nevertheless itself a flux, since the lapsing of
experiences along with their recuperation as lapsed continually repeats itself again
and again in a succession of assimilative recapitulations. He also criticizes the
tendency of the British Empiricists to explain duration by linking it to the
succession of our ideas, thus confusing the succession of mental happenings with
the awareness of that succession: "A succession of feelings, in and of itself, is not
a feeling of succession. And since, to our successive feelings, a feeling of their own
succession is added, that must be treated as an additional fact requiring its own
special elucidation ... "8 The perception of a succession occurs within a
duration-block that includes within its span the fading past and the incoming future:
"In short, the practically cognized present is no knife-edge, but a saddle-back, with
a certain breadth of its own on which we sit perched, and from which we look in
two directions into time."9 James argues that consciousness is able to reach out
beyond the content of its present focus to its immediately past and future fringes
precisely by reason of its consciousness of its own succeeding phases:
Richard Cobb-Stevens 43

Objects fade out of consciousness slowly. If the present thought is of

ABCDEFG, the next one will be of BCDEFGH, and the one after that
of CDEFGHI - the lingerings of the past dropping successively away,
and the incomings of the future making up the loss. These lingerings of
old objects, these incomings of new, are the germs of memory and
expectation, the retrospective and prospective sense of time. They give
that continuity to consciousness without which it could not be called a
stream. 10

According to James, the extended structure of the specious present (its

inclusion of the lingerings and incomings that generate the retrospective and
prospective sense of time) provides an adequate account of the unity and continuity
of consciousness. There is no need to postulate an accompanying transcendental
unity of apperception (Kant), or to appeal to an extrinsic bond of unity produced by
unconscious processes of association (Hume)Y Each passing pulse of
consciousness appropriates as its own the just-past pulse along with its content,
which includes its just-past pulse along with its content, which in tum includes
another just-past pulse along with its content. 12 James points out that there are two
quite different structural limitations to the self-awareness ofthe series. First, the
limits of the assimilative character of temporal experience are set by the ever
diminishing clarity of the fading fringes. Secondly, although the present pulse of
consciousness may be self-aware in some sense, its awareness is at best marginal:
"The present moment of consciousness is ... the darkest in the whole series. It may
feel its own immediate existence ... hard as it is by direct introspection to ascertain
the fact, but nothing can be known about it til it be dead and gone.,,13
Finally, in a later work James also describes the specious present as the
locus of difference and of the interplay between emptiness, fullness and identity:

The "passing moment" is ... the minimal fact, with the "apparition of
difference" inside of it as well as outside. If we do not feel both past and
present in one field of feeling, we feel them not at all ... In every
crescendo of sensation, in every effort to recall, in every progress
towards the satisfaction of desire, the succession of an emptiness and
fullness that have reference to each other and are one flesh is the essence
of the phenomenon. 14

Although Husser! acknowledges the influence of James' theory of fringes

upon his own thought, he does not explicitly mention James' account of
time-consciousness. 15 Indeed, we do not know whether or not he ever engaged in
a close reading of The Principles ofPsychology. At any rate, even if he did read the
relevant passages of that work carefully, he might well have been put offby James's

tendency to employ the methods of empirical psychology, introspective psychology,

and "phenomenological" description indiscriminately. My intention in citing the
above passages from James' works is twofold: 1) to make the point that the basic
ingredients of a genuine phenomenology of time-consciousness are present in
James' writings, and 2) to suggest that James' account of time-consciousness-and
especially the flaws in James' account-may serve as a foil for highlighting what
is genuinely innovative about HusserI's contribution to the history of philosophical
meditations on the nature of time. The effort to clarify what is more obviously
ambiguous in James may also help to resolve certain less obvious ambiguities in
Husserl. I therefore propose to consider three questions that, for the reader familiar
with Husserl's writings on time-consciousness, are immediately evoked by the
above cited passages from James:

I) What in Husserl's theory of time-consciousness corresponds to the role

played by the specious present in James' account?

2) What is the relationship between objective time and the temporality of

the specious present?

3) In what sense is each passing pulse of experience conscious or

unconscious unto itself?

I. The Specious Present and the Living Present

In what follows, I shall suggest that James' description of the "specious

present" corresponds closely to what Husserl referred to as the "living present."
Before developing this thesis, it will be helpful first to summarize the relevant
themes from Husserl's lectures on "inner" time-consciousness. Husserl's mature
writings on time-consciousness describe two closely interrelated presentations of
the flow of our experiences: I) the flow of intentional acts reflectively thematized
as identities in a manifold of temporal phases (now-phase, past-phase, and
coming-phase), and 2) the "absolute" flow of unthematized experience whose
phases (primal impression, retention, and protention) are the pre-reflective
awareness of our acts. 16 These two dimensions are not separate flows, but rather
different modes of presentation of one and the same flow of experience. The key
to their difference is the structure of reflection. Husserl points out that whereas
perception, memory, and reflection explicitly posit or thematize their objects, the
consciousness operative within the absolute flux precedes all objectification. 17 Our
intentional acts are directed towards objects but the self-awareness that
Richard Cobb-Stevens 45

accompanies these acts is not objectifying. Memory or reflection may subsequently

take prior intentional acts as objects but the remembering or reflecting acts do not
thereby take themselves as objects. All intentional acts are thus originally
experienced in a non-objectifying manner within the absolute flux. 18 The retentional
structure of the absolute flux makes possible the subsequent thematization of this
originally non-objectifying self-awareness. 19 The retentional intentionality of the
primal flux opemtes, so to speak, in two directions. In a "horizontal" direction, the
primal flux retains its own lapsing moments, and retains its retentions of lapsing
moments (e.g., the fading retention of a fading primal impression). In a "transverse"
direction, the primal flux indirectly retains its intentional correlates in a manifold
of temporal phases. Retention, says Husserl, is an intentional relationship between
phases of consciousness which are not themselves objects. 2o Retention is
immediately and nonthematically conscious of the just elapsed phase of the absolute
flow and indirectly conscious ofthe elapsed phases of the object.21 Moreover, the
retentional process is assimilative. As each primal impression is converted into a
retention of itself, this retention becomes a retention of itself, and so on. 22 The
horizontal intentionality thus accounts for the unity and continuity of the primal flux
itself, and the tmnsverse intentionality accounts both for the unity of the temporal
object in a manifold of temporal phases and also for its temporal location within the
flux of such objects. Note that the primal impression and the now-phase belong to
different dimensions. Primal impression, retention, and protention are
non-independent phases of the structure of the intending consciousness; now-phase,
past-phase, and coming-phase are phases of the temporal object. 23 Note also that
any segment or slice of the flow of the intending consciousness is at once primal
impression, retention and protention. Thus, primal impression, retention, and
protention are not related to one another as present, past, and future. Their
conjunction is what makes possible the senses of present, past, and future.
Husserl had considerable difficulty in achieving clarity regarding the
distinction between the flux of inner temporal objects and the absolute flux in
which the procession of inner temporal objects is experienced. He observes that
expressions such as "flux" and "succession"-whose senses are determined by our
experiences of concatenated strings of objective and subjective events-must be
used analogously when applied to this non-objectifiable and pre-subjective
presentational dimension. 24 Nevertheless, the structure of the temporal phases
provides a transcendental clue to the unity and continuity of the features of the
primal flux. Both are structured flows whose fundamental forms perpetually repeat
and reconstitute themselves. The primitive lapsing of the central impression into
retention and its recuperation in a new central impression is something like the
lapsing of the now-phase into the just-past phase, except that this primitive lapsing
is the condition of there being a distinction between impression and retention, and

a fortiori of there being a distinction between temporal phases of an objeceS

Husserl often refers to the abiding structure of the primal flux as the "living now"
or the "living present."26 This fundamental slice or segment of pre-reflexive
conscious life is comprised of primal impression, retention, and protention along
with the temporal phases made possible by their concatenation. As the ever renewed
"standing present," it is the locus of all manifestation and the ultimate source of
self-identity. 27
It is remarkable how many themes are common to the descriptions of the
present given by James and Husserl. Both agree that the present is extended rather
than point-like, that the present is a flux whose structure is characterized by
openness to new impressions and retention of fading impressions, and that the
lingering of the old and anticipation of the new are the conditions of time and
self-identity. James does not distinguish explicitly, as does Husserl, between the
flux of constituted temporal objects and the flux in which they are experienced. As
a result, he sometimes suggests that the experience of the just-past and the
just-coming is itself past and future with regard to the present "pulse" of
consciousness. For example, he offers the following description of the continuity
of conscious life: "Each pulse of cognitive consciousness, each thought, dies away
and is replaced by another. The other, among the things it knows, knows its own
predecessor, and finding it 'warm' ... greets it, saying, "Thou art mine, and part of
the same self with me. ",28 This passage gives the impression that the present pulse
of consciousness does not enjoy even a marginal and unthematic consciousness of
itself, and that later pulses of consciousness recognize earlier ones by reason of a
vague "warmth" that seems to arise from their very succession. But, as James
himself observes, a succession of events is a succession by reason of its being
perceived as such. In other passages, as we have seen, James does distinguish more
clearly between the "lingering" of a lapsing experience, which provides us with the
"feeling sui generis of pastness," and the thinking of the experience as being
"amongst the objects or in the direction of the objects which at the present moment
appear affected by this quality [of pastness]. "29 The latter description comes closer
to what Husserl meant by the interplay between longitudinal and transverse
intentionalities within the "successive" structure ofthe living present. Husserl's
more fully developed distinctions help us to recognize such ambiguities and to sort
out their implications.

II. Timing the Now

What are we to make of James' identification of the specious present with

the duration of the "now" clocked by Wundt and his students as typically lasting
Richard Cobb-Stevens 47

from five to twelve seconds? What in fact was Wundt timing? In Husserlian terms,
was it a segment of the flux of inner temporal objects, or was it a segment of the
living present, or was it something else entirely? Finally, is the project of relating
the "now" to objective time coherent or incoherent?
Let us first consider what it is precisely that we do when we time a motion
in the world. We will then be in a better position to determine whether or not it
makes sense to attempt to time the flux of conscious life. Robert Sokolowski points
out that the timing of any process or sequence requires that we hold two motions
together, a motion that is easily numbered (e.g., the sweep of the hand on a watch)
and the motion we wish to measure (e.g., a person running around a track). To
watch the motion of a clock is not in itself to time something: "For the motion to be
involved in clock timing, it has to be placed against some other motion, at least
against some vague, undifferentiated process. ,,30 Calendars, he observes, provide
a different sort of temporal measurement. Calendars assign discrete numbers to
determinate wholes (hour, days, months) which are represented as blank spaces.
These spaces invite the user to correlate the fixed or determinate wholes with
relatively indeterminate wholes (interviews, activities, meetings). Calendars may
thus be used as reminders of future events and appointments or as records of past
events and appointments. Note that the use of a calendar does not require the user
to relate one motion to another. This is because calendar timing reports on absent
motions, whereas clock timing occurs in the presence of the measuring motion and
the motion to be timed. As Sokolowski puts it, calendars relate events considered
as wholes to clocking motions that have been "deposited and settled into our
records.,,31 They do not re-present what happened in its very happening. This is the
task of memory which re-presents an expired now as then, within and in relation to
the living now. Calendars evoke absent "nows"; memory re-presents them.
In clock time, Sokolowski notes, "the present" is regarded as a
conventional unit of the clocking motion. As such, it functions in an adjectival
manner; it needs completion-as in the expression "the present sweep of the second
hand." When we are actually timing something, however, "the present" is used as
a noun rather than as an adjective. In this context, it seems that the present is neither
the precise clocking unit nor the less precise unit which is being measured (e. g., this
prolonged visit of relatives, this extended cold spell). The present seems rather to
be something that "floats ambiguously" between the determinate and indeterminate
units. 32 Sokolowski adds that philosophers have often tried to resolve this ambiguity
by attempting to relate the present to some more exact, more universal, and more
fundamental motion (e.g., atomic vibrations, the pure flow of time itself, or the
pulses of conscious life). Each of these attempts, he contends, fails to clarify what
is meant by the present. The invention of smaller unit of measurement has nothing
to do with an explanation of what measurement is or of how measurement is given

as "being now." The postulate of an absolute flow of time independent of any other
motion entails an unnecessary doubling of events and sequences, and also fails to
clarify the difference between a thing-like process and a presentational dimension
of things. Finally, the pulses of conscious life (considered as minimal units
analogous to atomic vibrations) cannot be the ultimate source of our sense of the
present because each pulse of consciousness is determined as a unit not only by its
own structure but also by what is presented in it. In short, neither external motions
(the sweep of a second hand or the pulse of an atomic clock) nor psychological
motions (the sweep of attention) determine what it is to be now, for they do not
clarify how the having of that motion is itself now. 33 This is because they fail to
describe accurately the mode of appearance of the now. The now does not appear
in the manner of things, nor does it appear as a component within an objective or
subjective succession. Indeed, as John Brough puts it, relative to the presence of
things and successions of things, the now itself might be said to be absent: "To say
that the now is absent is to say that it is not itself a thing, that it is not itself the sort
of thing that appears in a temporal perspective. It is not an absence in an absolute
sense, but an absence of a particular sort ofbeing."34 This way of describing the
now, Brough obseIVes, calls attention to its oneness and its hospitality. The now is
"one" in the sense that everything of which I am now conscious as present (sounds,
shapes, memories, desires, kinesthetic adjustments) shares the same now. The now
is "hospitable" in the sense that it is always open to the new. As Husser! puts it, the
now is the place where everything new and original is welcomed. 35 If the now were
structured like a thing, it could not simultaneously accommodate such a variety and
richness. Its hospitality is made possible by its presence as a mode of presentation
and its absence as a thing. 36 Aristotle makes a similar point when he obseIVes that
the soul is like the human hand. Although the hand has its own form, its malleability
is such that it can adjust to the form of anything that it grasps. Moreover, since the
hand cannot grasp its own form, it is in its functional status formless. In an
analogous sense, says Aristotle, the soul has no discernible shape. Unrestricted with
regard to the kinds of object it embmces, its mode of being is to be everything: "The
soul is somehow all things. ,,37
It would seem, therefore, that the differences in the modes of givenness of
each of the three dimensions oftemporality (the absolute flow, the flow of inner
objects, and the flow of objective time) are such that any attempt to situate them on
the same plane would effectively blur what they are. Each dimension is what it is
by contrast with the others. Husser! obseIVes, in this regard, that it would be
inappropriate to apply the ordinary sense of simultaneity to relationships between
the various dimensions of time. Although the notion of simultaneity has its ultimate
origin in the structure of living present whose openness embraces multiple
impressions within the same nowness, the term "simultaneity" ordinarily refers to
Richard Cobb-Stevens 49

the sharing by two events of an identical temporal station within some established
time-frame, either the subjective time of the stream of consciousness, or the
objective time within which transcendent happenings are related by mean of clocks
and calendars to regular and repetitive movements. 38 Husserl concludes that it
would be a mistake to describe the "togetherness" of primal impression and
retention as simultaneous with the now. As the condition of time, this primal
concatenation of phases is not in time: "The consciousness of the now is not itself
now.,,39 Husserl thus clearly suggests that the impressional consciousness of the
absolute flux cannot be coherently situated either within the procession of inner
temporal objects. And it would seem that it would be even more proposterous to
locate the consciousness of time of clocks and calendars. Sartre puts it succinctly:
"It would be absurd to say that it is nine o'clock the For-Itself.,,40
Let us return to one of the above mentioned questions concerning the
coherence of James' project of relating the now to objective time. What was it that
Wundt and his assistants had timed in their experiments, and why did James think
that they had successfully timed the specious present? It would be inaccurate, I
think, to claim that they were dealing with nothing more than a succession of
psychic happenings considered as empirical processes. It is true that they had no
first-person access to the experiences under investigation. Their investigations were
dependent upon the subjects' reports on their experiences of the duration of the
specious present. However, this aspect of the situation is not relevant to our
problem because there is no reason in principle why the subjects could not have
carried out the experiments on themselves (for example, with the aid of a stop-
watch). The experiments were clearly designed to measure the duration in objective
time of consciously lived experiences. As reported to the investigators, the results
were no doubt already objectified in the sense that the subjects described reflexively
thematized segments of their conscious lives. Hence, the results might best be
described as objectified descriptions of originally non-objectified experiences. On
this interpretation, the indeterminate unit that was measured against the determinate
units of objective time was not the specious present as originally experienced but
rather as objectified and as having its station within the constituted stream of
consciousness. In Husserlian terms, we might say that Wundt's experiments
correlated segments of the constituted flux, taken as relatively indeterminate
wholes, with conventionally established determinate units of objective time.
Husserl's description of how memory reproduces an earlier now within
actual now is instructive in this regard. We know that his account of the
intentionality of memory was for a long time dominated by the influence of the
theory that what is immediately grasped in memory is a present image or replica of
what is past, rather than the past content itself. This theory rests on the assumption
that the object of memory, precisely because it is past, is not available for direct

apprehension. Eventually, however, Husserl realized that memory is not a pictorial

consciousness requiring a present phantasm that would serve as a kind of picture
of the earlier event. Rather, within the present consciousness memory directly
reproduces an earlier consciousness. 41 Husserl also eventually realized that, like
memory, retention does not require the mediation of a datum representing elapsed
phases. Retention simply presents the just-past as such (i.e., in its very absence)
without the intermediary of a present datum. 42 As Brough puts it, " ... primary
memory [retention] presents the past while secondary memory re-presents it.,,43
Husserl also came to realize that memory does not intend the earlier consciousness
and its object in the same way. Memory ordinarily focuses principally on the object
of the earlier perception: "The perception is not meant and posited in the memory,
what is is meant and posited is the perception's object and the object's now, which,
in addition, is posited in relation to the actually present now.,,44 Nevertheless, since
memory intends its object as having been perceived, it implicitly intends the act of
perception through which the object was originally presented. In other words,
although memory is not immediately focused upon the earlier perception, we
nevertheless have the possibility of carrying out a reflection within the memory that
shifts the focus from the content of the earlier perception to the earlier perception
itself and thus thematizes what had originally been implicit. Husserl also points out
that memory implicitly re-presents not only the original act but also its temporal
context, i.e., its station within the constituted stream of consciousness. This too may
be similarly rendered thematic. Husserl concludes that memory is "... a part of
present experience in which a concrete part from the stream of the past experience
of the same subject is re-presented. ,,45 Brough points out that the logic of Husserl' s
position would seem to entail that memory also implicitly re-presents the flux in
which the original act was experienced: "If I am to return memorially to the same
act once experienced as now, then I must implicitly represent that segment of the
ultimate time-consciousness in which the act was first constituted ... to recall the
elapsed act without representing the flow through which I first experienced it,
would be tantamount to recalling an act which belonged to no one."46
Memory thus involves a threefold intentionality: 1) it re-presents
(thematically) the object of some past act; 2) it re-presents (implicitly) the past act
together with its temporal location within the flux of inner objects; 3) it re-presents
(implicitly) the flux in which the act and its temporal context were experienced. In
memory, we now remember ourselves as experiencing something then. Memory
presents a present once again. Memory thus re-produces not only an original
perceptual act, but also its original "being now." Sokolowski observes that by
relating its own now to a reproduced now, memory makes it possible for us to
appreciate the temporal form of "now and then" which is different from the
temporal form "past, present, future. ,,47 The re-presentation of a bygone present is
Richard Cobb-Stevens 51

what accounts for our sense that the reproduced past has a temporal10cation with
respect to the living now. Ifwe had no grasp of this mode of identity and difference,
it would not be possible for us to refer to another period in calendar time. 48
Calendars in tum help us to overcome to some extent the inevitable fading that
affects the retention of retentions. Of course, even with the aid of calendars, it
would be practically impossible to actualize all of the memories that might link the
past event to the living present.
Pennit me to offer a example taken from my own experience, in order to
illustrate how clocks and calendars facilitate memory's efforts to re-present a past
now. I remember vividly a moment a few years ago when my home was struck by
lightning. I was able to record the time at which this event took place with unusual
precision because the lightning bolt stopped all of the electric clocks in the house.
It also brought an abrupt end to a conversation on the telephone. I remember with
great clarity what I had just said to my interlocutor and even what I was about to
say. In addition to the expired and anticipated words just exchanged, I also recall
the very "lingering" of their retention in the seconds following the lighting bolt. For
insurance purposes I later noted in a calendar the date and exact time at which the
lightning struck, and I might well have noted that this intense experience of the
retentional/protentional flow occurred between 11 :03 a.m. (the moment the clocks
stopped) and approximately 11 :05 (when I looked at my watch and re-entered
objective time). Of course, it does not follow from this example that objective time
has a logical or ontological priority over the living present. However, the example
does illustrate how clocks and calendars contribute to memory's re-presentation of
a past now, and how that earlier now, objectified as a relatively indeterminate whole
abstracted from the constituted flux of my inner life, may be correlated with the
more determinate units of objective time.

III. Conscious Retention or Unconscious Trace

James' description of the specious present as "delayed" raises the question

of whether or not the initial pulse of consciousness is aware of itself as being now. 49
His comment that the "present" pulse of consciousness is dark unto itself (a pure
"sciousness" rather than a con-sciousness) suggests that it might enjoy a vague
feeling of itself but not a sense of being now. The sense of "now" would be given
only as the original occurrence passes into the just-past. The differentiation implicit
in this passage would then be the primary structure, and the sense of the now would
be derivative. On the other hand, James' claim that the present pulse of
consciousness recognizes and appropriates itself, as its lingering generates the sense

of just-past, suggests that it enjoys a self-awareness and a sense of the now "prior"
to its self-appropriation as just-past.
The same ambiguity also surfaces in Husserl's description of the passage
of primal impression into retention. Rudolf Bernet calls attention to passages from
Husserl's works which suggest that the elapsing of primal impression into retention
is a condition for the emergence of a full consciousness of the now. For example,
Husserl observes that the concept of the now remains incomplete without a
complementary concept of the past: "The whole now-point, the whole original
impression, undergoes the modification of the past; and only by means of this
modification have we exhausted the complete concept of the now, since it is a
relative concept and refers to a 'past' just as past refers to the 'now. ",50 Husserl thus
seems to leave open the possibility that the sense of the now emerges only in the
concatenation and differentiation of primal impression and retention. In another
passage, however, Husserl vigorously rejects the notion that consciousness ofthe
now is achieved only by retention, or that the beginning phase is unconscious:

The beginning-phase can become an object only after it has elapsed ...
by means of retention and reflection (or reproduction). But if it were
intended only by retention, then what confers on it the label "now"
would remain incomprehensible. At most, it would be distinguished
negatively from its modifications as that one phase that does not make
us retentionally conscious of any preceding phase; but the
beginning-phase is by all means characterized in consciousness in quite
positive fashion. It is just nonsense to talk about an "unconscious"
content that would subsequently become conscious. Consciousness is
necessarily consciousness in each of its phases. 51

Moreover, he goes on to make it clear that consciousness of the now-phase of an

immanent object is experienced as "being now" prior to its retention, and that this
original experience of the now is accessible to reflection:

Just as the retentional phase is conscious of the receding phase without

making it into an object, so too the primal datum is already intended -
specifically in the original form of the "now"-without its being
something objective. It is precisely this primal consciousness that passes
over into modification-which is then retention of the primal
consciousness itself and of the datum originally intended in it, since the
two are inseparably united. If the primal consciousness were not on
hand, no retention would be conceivable: retention of an unconscious
content is impossible. Moreover, the primal consciousness is not
something inferred on the basis of reasoning; it is rather something that
Richard Cobb-Stevens 53

can be seen as a constituting phase in reflection on the constituted

experiencing, exactly like the retentions 52

Brough points out that even in passages such as the above: " ... Husserl never says
that we are conscious of the actual phase [of absolute consciousness] through its
moment of primal impression, which he usually describes as the consciousness of
the now-phase of the immanent object, not of the absolute flow.,,53 Husser! does
refer enigmatically to an "ultimate consciousness" (das /etzte Bewusstsein) by
reason of which we would be conscious of the actual phase of the primal flux, and
then seems to reject such a consciousness on the grounds that it would be an
"unconscious consciousness."54 He thus seems to agree with James that the "actual"
phase of the living present is "the darkest unto itself." Finally, however, Husserl's
comments on how the possibility of reflection is guaranteed by the relationship
between non-objectifying and objectified modes of experience suggest that a
non-objectifying awareness pervades absolute consciousness at every level.
Consider the following decisive passage:

If one says that every content comes to consciousness only by means of

an act of apprehension directed towards it, then the question
immediately arises about the consciousness in which this act of
apprehension, which is surely a content itself, becomes conscious, and
an infinite regress is unavoidable. But if every "content" is "primarily
conscious" in itself and necessarily, the question about a further giving
consciousness becomes meaningless. Furthermore, every act of
apprehension is itself a constituted immanent duration-unity. While it is
being built up, that which is supposed to make it into an object is long
since past and would no longer be accessible to it at all - if we did not
already presuppose the whole play of primal consciousness and
retentions. The possibility exists in reflection of looking at the
constituted experience and at the constituting phases, and even of
grasping the distinction that obtains, for example, between the original
flow as it was intended in the primal consciousness and its retentional
modification. All of the objections that have been raised against the
method of reflection are explained on the basis of ignorance of the
essential constitution of consciousness. 55

I should like to conclude with two brief remarks concerning Derrida' s

reading of Husserl. First, if the consciousness that pervades the living present is
originally non-objectifying, then we may conclude that there is no reason to
suppose, as Derrida claims, that Husser! identified Being with objective presence. 56
By reason of its flowing character and its openness and hospitality, the "being now"
in which all manifestation occurs is itself presented as an absence of thing-like

presence. My second criticism has to do with Derrida's suggestion that Husserl's

phenomenological method was tacitly guided by the project of total
objectification. 57 Husserl' s description of how philosophical reflection clarifies the
difference between non-objectifying and objectified modes of experience suggests
that this reading is a misinterpretation. Qua experience, reflection enjoys a non-
objectifying awareness of itself and of what Husserl calls "the whole play of primal
consciousness and retentions."58 Qua intentional, reflection both retains and
objectifies the self-awareness of the prior act on which it reflects, thus constituting
a segment of the flux of inner objects. This situation permits a second-order
reflection which thematizes the difference between retentional and reflective modes
of access. Of course, the second-order reflection enjoys only non-objectifying
access to itself. According to Husserl, therefore, the very structure of reflection
exploits objectification against itself, so to speak. His goal is not to achieve total
objectification but rather to exhibit its limits.


1. William James, The Principles o/Psychology, eds. Frederick Burkhardt & Fredson Bowers
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981),577, note 8.
2. Principles, 577.
3. Principles, 574 ..
4. Principles, 574. The term "specious present" was sometimes associated by followers of
Wundt with the maximum duration within which successive events can be grasped as a
unified cluster, and sometimes with the minimal duration within which successive events may
be distinguished. In either case, the specious present was always described as a duration. For
a history of the notion of the specious present, see J. D. Mabbott, "Our Direct Experience of
Time," in Richard Gale (ed.), The Philosophy o/Time (London: McMillan, 1968),304-321.
5. Principles, 570.
6. Principles, 593.
7. Principles, 593.
8. Principles, 591.
9. Principles, 574.
10. Principles, 571-572.
11. Principles, 332-352.
12. Principles, 318-323.
13. Principles, 323.
14. William James, A Pluralistic Universe (New York: Longmans, Green, 1909), 282-283.
15. H ua X, 151. Page references are to the Husser!iana edition. Husser! also mentions that
"... James' brilliant observations in the field of descriptive psychology aided my
emancipation from the psychologistic position." Hua XIX/I, 211, note.
Richard Cobb-Stevens 55

16. HuaX, 80-83,118-120.

17. Hua X, 286. John Brough points out that, after 1909, Husser! tended to describe primal
impression, retention, and protention as modes of "impressional" consciousness, by which
he meant " ... the nonthematizing awareness of what is immanent to consciousness ... the
implicit self-consciousness that always attends my conscious life." Edmund Husserl, On the
Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917), translated by John
Barnett Brough (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991), Translator's Introduction, L. All translations of
Hua X will be taken from this work.
18. "Jeder Akt ist Bewusstsein von etwas, aber jeder Akt ist auch bewusst. Jedes Erlebnis ist
'empfunden', ist immanent 'wahrgenommen' (inneres Bewusstsein), wenn auch natorlich
nicht gesetzt, gemeint (wahrnehmen heisst hier nicht meinend-zugewendet-sein und
erfassen). Hua X, 126. See also Hua X, 290-291.
19. Hua X, 119-120.
20. Hua X, 333.
21. Brough makes this point clearly: "Since the elapsed phase originally intended a phase of
an object as now through its moment of primal impression, in retaining the just elapsed phase
of the flow retention also retains the just elapsed phase of the object correlated with it." On
the Phenomenology o/the Consciousness o/lnternal Time, Translator's Introduction, LIT.
22. Hua X, 81.
23. Hua X, 370-372.
24. Hua X, 75, 371.
25. HuaX, 84.
26. HuaX, 55,275. See aisoHuaXI, 125-128.
27. "Wirklich und konkret bin ich als stiindige Gegenwart, das ist mein konkretes Sein." Ms.
C, 7 I, pg. 5. See Hua X, 275. See also Robert Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations: How
Words Present Things (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 158-162; Klaus
Held, Lebendige Gegenwart (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1966), 118-122.
28. Principles, 322.
29. Principles, 570-571.
30. Robert Sokolowski, "Timing," in Pictures, Quotations, Distinctions: Fourteen Essays
In Phenomenology (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 1992), 113. This essay was
originally published in The Review o/Metaphysics, XXXV (1982), 687-714.
31. "Timing," 126.
32. "Timing," 118.
33. "Timing," 118-119. Sokolowski's criticism of approaches that look to the pulses of
conscious life or to the sweep of attention to uncover the nature of time does not apply, I
think, to James' account of the specious present. As we noted above, some passages in which
James refers to pulses of consciousness suggest that he construes such pulses as successive
events having no structural continuity that would account for their being presented as
successive. However, in other passages, James makes it clear that the "lingerings" and
"incomings" experienced within the span of the specious present are the ultimate sources of
our sense of time: "These lingerings of old objects, these incomings of new, are the germs
of memory and expectation, the retrospective and prospective sense of time. They give that
continuity to consciousness without which it could not be called a stream." Principles, 572.

34. Brough, "Husserl and the Deconstruction of Time," The Review 0/ Metaphysics, XLVI
35. HuaX, 69, 88.
36. "Husserl and the Deconstruction of Time," 513-514.
37. Aristotle, De Anima, 432a 2-3. See Stanley Rosen, "Thought and Touch: A Note on
Aristotle's De Anima," Phronesis, VI (1961), 127-137.
38. HuaX, 76-79,115.
39. Hua X, 333. See Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations, 134, 158.
40. Jean Paul Sartre, L 'etre et Ie neant (paris: Gallimard, 1943), 168.
41. Hua X, 178-184. See John Brough, "Husserl on Memory," The Monist, LXIX (1975),
46-52; Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations, 145-156.
42. Hua X, 311-312. See Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations, 152-153.
43. On the Phenomenology o/the Consciousness o/Internal Time, Translator's Introduction,
44. Hua X, 58. See Brough, "Husserl on Memory," 54-55.
45. Hua Xl, 353. Translation by John Brough. See Brough, "Husserl on Memory," 55.
46. Brough, "Husserl on Memory," 60.
47. Sokolowski, "Timing," 124-127.
48. "Timing," 127.
49. Principles, 573-574.
50. Hua X, 68. Rudolf Bernet, "Is the Present Ever Present? Phenomenology and the
Metaphysics of Presence," Research in Phenomenology, XII, 108: "If the now cannot be
phenomenologically defined in exclusive relation to its unmodified, perceptually intuitive
mode of givenness, neither can it function any longer as the 'primorial-source-point' of the
consciousness of time. One is even tempted to reverse the fundamental relationship and
derive the possibility of the consciousness of the present now from the possibility of the
post-factually, retentionally experienced consciousness of the past now." This, as Bernet
notes, is precisely the direction taken by Jacques Derrida. See Derrida, La voix et Ie
phenomime. Introduction au probleme du signe dans la phenomenologie de Husserl (Paris:
Presses Universitaires de France, 1967),73-76,93-95.
51. HuaX, 119.
52. HuaX, 119.
53. John Brough, Review of: Edmund Husserl, Texte zur Phiinomenologie des inneren
Zeitbewusstseins (1893-1917), herausgegenben und eingeleitet von Rudolf Bernet.
Philosophische Bibliothek 362 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1985), in Husserl Studies,
IV, 254-255.
54. Hua X, 382.
55. Hua X, 119-120. The content of this and similar passages is beautifully summarized by
a formulation from one ofHusserl's manuscripts from 1917: "Das letzte Bewusstsein ist nicht
anderes als der urspIiingliche Fluss, bevor sich ein reflektierendes Blick darauf richtet." Ms.
LI 2 16a. I am grateful to Dan Zahavi for calling this text to my attention, and more generally
for sharing his as yet unpublished manuscript devoted to phenomenological theories of
time-consciousness and self-awareness.
Richard Cobb-Stevens 57

56. Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl, L 'Origine de la geometrie (paris: Presses

Universitaires de France, 1962), 152-155.
57. Edmund Husserl, L 'Origine de la geometrie, 150-155.
58. HuaX, 119.
Intentionality, Phenomenality, and Light

James G. Hart
Indiana University-USA

The light metaphor seems inescapable in our description of the appearing of things
in the world. Indeed an elemental sense of things appearing is their coming forth
into the light or their becoming visible or luminous. Since ancient times this has
motivated an analogy between mind and light. In this paper I want to review some
of the issues, especially the special place self-consciousness has in a meditation on
appearings and light.

I. Light and Appearings

Let us begin with some simple observations. When the lights are out,
nothing is visible, nothing comes forth, nothing appears. Even if we are gazing
attentively but the source oflight is closed off, things remain mute. When the lights
are turned on things come forth, they appear, they disclose themselves. But, on the
other hand, if we are blind or our seeing is impaired, even if the light is radiant and
streaming in, things are not manifest, they do not appear in the open, they do not
come forth. Their manifestness will be through other forms of perception as will our
knowledge that the light is on. In which case we will be illuminated and will
illuminate in spite of the darkness of our surroundings.
In both cases, the luminosity ofthings, i.e., their power to come forth, be
visible, and disclose themselves, is dependent on several senses of light. The first
is the radiant light which propagates from things by reason of their being luminous
not in themselves but by reflecting the light emitted from sources of light which
themselves reflect or emit light. These latter, those which emit light, are the second
sense of light. A good case has been made (e.g., by James Gibson) that we never
see light itself but rather bodies or surfaces which reflect light. Furthermore, in
keeping with our visual-perceptual description, we might make use of Gibson's
notion of ambient light as a proper third sense. This is the light deriving from the
consideration that light is coming from every surface in the atmosphere and
therefore each point on every surface as well as in the air is a point of intersection
of rays of light coming from all directions. In this respect light would be
"environing" or ambient at every point. And each point mayor may not be occupied
with a creature with eyes. This consideration is of great importance for the
phenomenon of the field of perception because as Gibson notes "the field a/View
of an animal is the solid angle of the ambient light that can be registered by its
ocular system."l The fourth sense of light therefore is the problematic one of
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 59-82.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

registering this light not as reflected light, energy or stimulus but as an appearing
("information"). And this is the one that ancient and modern philosophers had in
mind when referring to, e.g., the light of agent intellect as in Aristotle or, as in
Husserl, the Lichtstrahl emanating from the I-pole. A ftfth sense of light is that of
Lichtung or the clearing, that space which must be made free or cleared in order for
things to be manifest or not, for the light to shine in or not to shine in, and for there
to be an interplay between presence and absence. These last considerations are of
special interest to more recent philosophy, through the writings ofHeidegger and
Fink. Unless there is a clearing achieved there is also a hindrance to things
becoming manifest. Unless there is a clearing nothing comes forth in the clear. For
Heidegger and his followers the clearing is more basic than standard senses of
subjectivity. The latter too becomes manifest only as a result of its being present
within or absent from the clearing.
However, a basic question for this paper is whether self-consciousness
finds a place somewhere in these five senses, or is it a sixth sense, or is it
necessarily excluded and therefore at odds with any light metaphor. It is, of course,
true that nothing comes forth, things are not luminous in the sense of appearing,
regardless of the radial, self-Iuminating, and ambient light, or regardless of a
clearing, if there is not the light of sensibility and/or intellect. (For Heidegger Sein
and Lichtung need Dasein.) As Hedwig Conrad-Martius once put it: "Light must
meet light in order that 'there be light. ",2 Yet the nature of this "coming forth" of
things in the world as tied to the "going forth" of the light of mind is not captured,
as Michel Henry has with seemingly inexhaustible ftnesse pointed out, if the
peculiar manifestation or luminosity of mind's inherent and non-reflective self-
presence is left out of the picture. But where does this luminousness fit among the
five senses of light just highlighted? Is, as Henry proposes, the light metaphor to be
banned from this most essential consideration? The weaknesses of the only pictures
I can conjure up support Michel Henry's view that the immanent luminousness of
non-reflective self-consciousness is incompatible with the light metaphoric/meta-
physic: a molten object where, for the observer, the luminosity is not outwardly
directed and illuminating the surroundings but rather abides intensively within even
though the surroundings remain dark; or a holograph where the source of light is
contained within solely for the immanent illumination of the features of the visible

II. Intentionality and Light

In the natural attitude we attend to things apart from their manifestation.

Things have properties; there are events; there are relations of dependence and
James G. Hart 61

independence between things and events. Here there is no langnage of appearings.

And the effort to arrange appearings into the context of physical things and
properties, such as thinking of the appearing of the red thing to me as a property of
the thing homogeneous to its being red and prickly, shows the inappropriateness.
As Husserl pointed out the burning tree as perceived does not bum and the being-
true of the tree's disease is not amenable to disease. Appearings are not things or
properties of things. But without them there would not be possible the knowledge
of things and their properties.
"The rose is red" makes no explicit reference to a mind. Only when the
being-red of the rose becomes a theme, or the implication that the author of the
sentence is making an epistemic claim, and that he/she therefore has evidence for
the claim, does the theme of appearings burgeon. Then "The rose is red" is present
as supposed, as something to be considered by us. In the transcendental attitude the
connectedness between what appears, its appearings, and intentional activity or
"consciousness" becomes a theme. Now the appearing of things, their presentation,
is inseparable from distinctive acts of presencing. The genitive of manifestation, the
appearings of something, are now evident as inseparable from acts ofpresencing,
and the appearings of.. are always appearings to the one presencing, what Thomas
Prufer has called the dative of manifestation. 3 Not only is this not a theme in the
natural attitude, some philosophers deny there is any such essential connection. See
We may properly think of mind as the presencing of things in their
presence or absence and having them through distinct articulations. This sense of
mind, as the directedness of mind, as its intentionality, is that it is ecstatically
among things articulating and disclosing them. As Sokolowski has observed,
although mind is evident by its presence among what it discloses, its achievements
are not facts in the world along with other facts. My seeing a fact, X isy, is not
alongside or a part of X is y. The truthfulness of X is y, is not to be regarded as an
event, in this case a psychological one, to be counted among the rain on the window
pane and my running nose. 4
In this view of mind, the way things appear, the "how" of their
manifestation as inseparable from their presentation, does not constitute a "mere"
appearance as a mediation, construction, obstacle or construct; nor are they
signifiers or Fregean senses. Rather they are simply the things's manifesting. Error
is to be understood as a possibility of manifestation inherent in beings, a possible
way of their being taken or manifesting themselves. In the transcendental attitude
things are inseparable from their manifestations, their looks, their eide. Mind's
ability to be an ecstatic articulation of things is also the ability to let things appear.
Thus mind is a kind of illumination and if it did not take place, the familiar natural
or artificial light would not do us much good. "Only because we are engaged in the

achievement ofletting things appear do we normally prefer light to darkness, and

there are also times when we achieve manifestation better in darkness than in
light. ,,5
Here, again, Aristotelian themes surface. Recall that for Aristotle the
intelligibility of things is a potentiality which the mind can actuate. The becoming
actual of what is possible requires an already actual basis; and what becomes actual
presupposes a realm of possibility or capacity which the actualizing principle
transforms into actuality. He says:

Mind is, on the one hand, something that can become everything; on the
other hand, it is something which as such effects everything as a kind of
circumstance rhexis], like the light. In a certain way even the light may
be said to make the potential colors to actual existing colors. (De Anima,
III. 5)

Thus for Aristotle, mind must be characterized by a property which enables it to

bring about this lookleidos in such a way that it is ecstatically one with the thing in
this very articulation. But this seemingly causal property is to be understood
differently from the way art is the causal basis of that which is produced by it. Art
as the originating effective principle is in possession already of the shape which is
impressed on the matter in the motion of the production. Art, as a habitus of the
artist, is already in possession ofthe lookleidos which it wants to create on that
which is to be produced. In the case of knowing and the work of mind as agent
intellect, the function of the originating principle is different, comparable to the
light as principle of the becoming actual of the potential colors. Mind does not
already contain the looks of things which it will bring about.
Light is, according to Aristotle, a circumstance, a hexis, of transparency
which constitutes its actuality. "Light is the actuality [Lason-Tancred: activity] of
the transparent as transparent." "That is transparent which is visible but not, to put
it simply, visible in itself, but through the color of something else." (De Anima
418b 1-10). Intellectual light or mind is the basis of the actuality of the manifestness
of things, e.g., the actuality ofthe colors. This light is not the explanatory ground
that this is red, that this is yellow, etc., but is the reason that the red, yellow, etc. are
visible, are manifest. The ground here does not contain, as with art, the lookleidos;
rather the looksleide are precisely that which are already potential, indeed they are
the actual morphe ofthings, but it makes ofthese forms an eidos, and brings the
potentiallooks/eide to actuality.
In the Husserlian-Sokolowskian view of mind, which I here endorse, we
are exhorted to think of the mind less as a substance with properties than an activity,
a sequence of presentations. Further we are encouraged to exorcise the mind of
James G. Hart 63

concepts and to rid ourselves of the temptation to think of intentionality as

providing a space in which forms may dwell in a non-natural way. 6 Mind is not a
container that waits for what is to enter it; nor is it an empty space in which the
presentations go about their business; nor a cage in which our thoughts are locked
up and from which they can escape. The very notion of "contents" of consciousness
borders on a failure to assume the properly philosophical attitude. And this is
suggested in the German word for consciousness, Bewusstsein, being-known. Here
being's being known is hinted at and mind is thought of as what enables being to
be on display and appear to me.
Aristotle's famous claim that knowing is the identity of knower and known
in the act of knowing, and that knowing becomes the known may thus be
understood as presupposing mind's power to present things, to let them appear, just
as light, the invisible medium, lets the colors appear. Therefore the necessary and
contingent features of things are not to be thought of as simply belonging to being
and having nothing to do with the presencing or manifestation of being. That
something has necessary and contingent properties is evident necessarily through
the acts of appropriate discernment. As Sokolowski notes, "being involves display"
and the manifestation of being in the multifarious forms of perceiving, picturing,
remembering, imagining, emoting, quoting, naming, predicating, nominalization,
formalization, etc. is not only a possibility of being but adds a new excellence to
beings. 7
The medieval-scholastic theory of intentionality as the achievement of the
transposition of the esse naturale ofthe form into an esse in mente, in spite of the
accompanying theory of intervening mental likenesses and mental space, strove to
wrestle with the problem of luminosity. It saw that luminosity, appearing,
phenomenality, etc. were not of the same order as the physical natural being, its
causality, and its properties; it saw also that there was a kind of unity or intimacy
achieved by knowing that was of a different order than the relationship between and
unity of natural or physical things. It saw that it is of the nature of mind to be in an
intimate relationship to other things, that knowledge as the sameness of knower and
known in the act of knowing involves that consciousness be an act of othering; and
it saw that in this othering other beings are brought in relationship to it. Yet its
theory of intervening entities and inner space creates well-known insurmountable
The revised Husserlian-Sokolowskian version of mind, instead of
harboring in a mental way a likeness of being, holds rather that mind's nature is to
be transcendent to being and in its proper agency to articulate being and thereby
uncover its aspects or eide. Yet this view, in and of itself, does not account for how
it is that being appears to me. It does not account for how it is that the acts of
articulations, as acts of letting-appear, themselves appear; as such it does not

address the issue of how it is that the ecstasy or transcendence itself is uniquely
manifest to itself so that the transcendence achieves phenomenality. The
phenomenological theory of intentionality as consciousness' being-directed
towards... moves beyond the view of in-esse of the mental species to an
understanding of mind as transcendence. This understanding of the notion of
intentionality as consciousness' being-directed towards ... rejects the temptation to
claim that intentionality is a having of appearings, noema, or senses as intervening
mental entities. But as the theme of the being-directed towards may not forget that
it is a conscious being-directed toward, so the theme of the being-directed toward
as an articulation or manifestation may not forget to account for what the conscious
being-directed toward is and what it presupposes, i.e., the phenomenality of being.
As we all know, for Husserl it is the reflection on inner-time consciousness which
makes phenomenality as such a theme.

III. Transcendence and Consciousness

Consciousness has a more elementary sense which need not encompass

intentionality or the minding of mind, i.e., it need not include discrete acts of
presencing, identity syntheses, the various forms of categorial display.
Consciousness conceivably might not be involved in such displays or might not
even be capable of such displays and yet involve one to whom there is an awareness
of the world in feeble identity syntheses, continuous manifolds and an absence of
discrete acts. This level of consciousness is not only a place of comparison with
non-human (animal) forms of mind but also is founding for the activity of mind.
(Later we will have to reflect on whether this level functioning alone, as an eidetic
possibility, involves self-consciousness in any sense.)
It is founding in a twofold but essentially connected sense: a) as that upon
which the acts of mind build and what they presuppose, and b) as what makes the
acts acts of consciousness and therefore acts of disclosure and presentation. The
first sense is the clear one of the way sensibility as what is constituted by passive
synthesis provides the stuff and elemental identities for the categorical and
judgmental disclosures. 8 The second is the obscure issue at the heart of the analysis
of inner time-consciousness and which I take to be the basic consideration for the
foundation of phenomenality.
Thus here we have a coincidence of two related themes: a) the primal
presencing as the absolute concretum, the transcendental phenomenological whole,
in which everything is founded; and b) the primal presencing as the founding
consideration for the phenomenality of all phenomena. Indeed, Husserl himself
refers to what the primal presencing makes present as the "primal phenomenon,"
James G. Hart 65

"phenomenon of all phenomena," i.e., that through which everything else appears
and by which everything manifests itself.9
Although in the C-MSS Husserl tends most often to speak of the living
present and the primal presencing, in the earlier writings he chose a term expressing
primal sensing for the same feature, namely, "the primal impression." Similarly the
achievement of passive synthesis is rooted in the elemental "sensing" or primal
presencing which is at the origin of consciousness. This means that when passive
synthesis is not functioning in connection with perceptual hyle, the condition for
intentionality as acts of disclosure is not fulfilled. We may also put this, the central
issue of this paper, in the following way. Let us think of mind as transcendence, as
ec-stasis, and thereby as being present among the features of the beings it
illuminates by its acts of presentation. In this sense transcendence must be thought
of as going beyond an aspect of itself. What it goes beyond may be thought of as
the immanence of the self-contained realm of mind which is sensibility. Yet there
is a sense of immanence, a basic sensibility, which, if "transcended," would rob
transcendence of its feature of intentional consciousness. In this sense
transcendence never leaves immanence behind. It never leaves immanence behind
because it is always based on sensibility; but it never leaves immanence behind also
because it is basic sensibility which makes its acts acts of consciousness and
In this connection we may note with Michel Henry that most discussions
of immanence versus transcendence tend to degrade the sense of "immanence" to
a deficient form of being, i.e., one which lacks the capacity for transcendence. But
if we take this non-reflective luminosity of the mind and its acts as the foundation
for what appears, and thereby acknowledge that it is as basic as transcendence-a
central thesis of this essay-we have reason to regard this immanence as a
transcendental or ontological category and not merely an ontic one which we
juxtapose to transcendence, i.e., where we arrange beings in a regional ontological
fashion according to whether they have the capacity to go consciously beyond their
substantial borders or whether they are confined to their borders. Rather, properly
understood, something is capable of transcendence because it is "immanent" and
it is not because something is "only" immanent (i.e., remains in itself) that it is
incapable of transcendence. 10
It seems to me Husserl is not so far removed from this position when in an
early text he noted:

We regard sensing [Empfinden] as the original time-consciousness; in

it is constituted the immanent unity, color or tone, the immanent unity,
wish, etc.... Sensing [Empfinden] is presencing time-consciousness

[Empjindung ist gegenwiirtigendes Zeitbewusstsein]. (Hua x, 107. Page

references are to the Husserliana edition)

A more familiar version involves the use of Erlebnis in an ambiguous way, once as
an intentional act and the other as the primal sensing. Thus

Every experience [Erlebnis] is "consciousness," and consciousness is

consciousness of... But every experience [Erlebnis] is itself experienced
[erlebt] and to that extent also "known" [bewusst]. The being-known
[Bewusst-sein] is consciousness of the experience. (Hua X, 291)

And a somewhat later text shows Husserl is not especially concerned about

Every act is conscious of something, but each act is also conscious.

Every experience is "sensed" [empjimden], is immanently "perceived"
(internal consciousness) although naturally not posited or meant
(perceiving here does not mean to grasp something and to be turned
toward it in an act of meaning). (Hua X, 126)

Thus at the basement of the transcendental phenomenological whole there is an

original sensing which has two basic properties: it constitutes the original temporal
unity of the immanent objects, the sensa and acts, and in so doing it gives to these
a unique kind ofluminosity. They can disclose objects because they themselves are
luminous. It is to this point that I will repeatedly return.

IV. Consciousness as a Medium: a Text from Husserl

The earlier talk of things coming into the light or light illuminating
surfaces or acts being directed towards or disclosing being presupposes the original
sensibility. Husserl once at least alluded to this problem when he referred to
consciousness as a medium. The context is the familiar one we have just reviewed.
Here Husserl observes that Erlebnis is a word which when applied to intentional
experiences expresses the Erlebtsein or being experienced which is always pre-
given. Every conscious having, as we also say, every experience of consciousness,
is itself again conscious, and all experiences of consciousness of an I are
encompassed by the unity of an inner consciousness and arrange themselves in the
unity of an immanent time as filling them in each time-phase with this or that
experience [Erlebnis] which has its object consciously and itself as experience
[Erlebnis] is conscious. (Hua XIV, 44-45)
James G. Hart 67

Husserl goes on to describe this unity of inner consciousness within which

perceptions, memories, etc. unfold and which themselves thereby contribute to this
unity. And then he goes on to say that the I, here understood as spontaneous
functioning, not the I of acts, produces sense-formations and thematic unities and
in this sense consciousness is prior to all active acts of constitution and production
[erzeugen]. In this sense 'T' is subject of a universal consciousness, i.e., ofthe unity
of consciousness of manifold intentional experiences, each of which is conscious;
but the I here is not an active, productive, interested I;

indeed it is not even a continuously affected 1. Rather it is the unity of

consciousness and the unity of the therein encompassed intentional
stream of experience, the medium [Husserl's emphasis] in which the I
lives; it is the medium of its active and passive participation ... If the I
sleeps, then that means it exercises no action and perhaps even it
experiences no stimuli from intentional contents. "It sleeps" then means
that it is not even passive if passivity means the being-affected, the
experiencing or undergoing of a stimulus from something which stands
in relief. (Hua XIV, 44-45)"

And a few pages down he notes that the I has a special place as center of relations
to "objects." An object is that which is known; it is that of which one is conscious;
but it itself is not self-conscious or known by itself. Then he notes that

everything which we name consciousness is the life-medium of the I in

the special sense of egological and subjective but also in the other sense
as doing and sutTering (being-affected). That which is objective is what
is the thrown-against [Gegenwwf, cf. ob-ject] of the I and thrown
against everything subjective, and still it is what is known in the
subjective dimension of consciousness and in this way of being the
intentional "correlate" and therefore in "relation" with the I consciously.

Here we see that in order for things to come forth, and therefore be objects, even
for the I to actively set about articulating being, and even before the I is affected,
there must be a medium constituted by the unity of the stream of immediate self-
awareness. There must be this wakeful medium without which phenomenality
cannot happen. If this medium is collapsed into, e.g., sleep, or if it is not
functioning, there is no light, no darkness, no presence, no absence, no phenomena.
The medium is the condition for phenomenality. In what follows we want to look
in more detail at this immediate self-awareness which is a unity encompassing all
oflife's more or less discrete engagements and which, nevertheless, is prior to all

of them and, at the same time, enables objects to be objects, i.e., manifestations to
us of being.

V. The Features of the Medium and/or Immanence

I earlier referred to this medium as original sensibility and as an

immanence which, if transcended, would rob transcendence of its proper feature of
intentionality as the manifestation of being. Consider Sir William Hamilton's
observation regarding the nature of conscious acts.

When I know, I must know that I know. When I feel I must know that I
feel. When I desire I must know that I desire. The knowledge, the
feeling, the desire, are possible only under the condition of being known,
and being known by me. For if! did not know that I knew, I would not
know,-and if! did not know that I felt I would not feel,-if! did not
know that I desired, I would not desire. 12

We might say that the passage reveals that Hamilton is burdened by what Michel
Henry has termed the "monistic" sense of manifestation, i.e., a reduction of all
senses of manifestation to the sense tied to intentionality's disclosure of objects. 13
This is supported by Hamilton's later criticism of Thomas Reid who held that
consciousness is only of things in the mind and not of external things. Reid
therefore held it was improper to say that I am conscious of the world or this thing.
Yet Hamilton had a right to be disquieted by Reid's position when Reid, although
claiming consciousness was a distinct "operation of the mind" at the same time
declared that perception and consciousness have different objects.14 In Henry's
terms, Reid too succumbed to the monistic prejudice.
In spite of these deficiencies the passage from Hamilton clearly points to
the functioning of the original sensibility as essential to an intentional act. It reveals
the deficiencies of an analysis of phenomenality in terms merely of act or
intentionality. Such an account leaves out this essential feature and offers an
analysis of act merely, e.g., in terms of a relation or nexus between an act's
intention and its proposition or between the mind's articulations and being's
properties. Again, the description of the intentional act as merely being-directed
towards ... presupposes and overlooks what there is in intentionality which makes
it a manifestation. In as much as the intentional act is a disclosing through
articulation, the philosophical reflection on what first of all brings about
phenomenality may not be indefinitely postponed.
James G. Hart 69

There is no phenomenality, no appearing, of objects without the

engagement of acts. But what is there about the acts which makes them
manifestations? As the Hamilton text points out, acts have an original unique kind
of self-presence or self-manifestation. Engagements with things and the world
which are without this original kind of self-manifestation are not disclosures, not
articulations of being. They may well be forms of relating, i.e., I, as this bodily
substance, may be directed toward, come into contact with, draw near, go inside,
destroy, transcend, etc., but all this can be done without my knowing it and without
there being any disclosure, without the world being "there" for me. The unique
phenomenality of the act is a condition for the phenomenality of whatever object
whatsoever. Not only is all consciousness of objects and the world accompanied by
a unique self-awareness but all object- and world- consciousness has as its
condition this unique self-awareness. 15 This is not to say that it is the sufficient
condition, but only that it is the necessary condition. Beings are bereft of looks,
eide, in the absence of wakeful mind; but their natural forms, their morphe, their
own inherent intelligibility is not accounted for by mind's inner luminosity. It does
not bestow or create natural kinds and forms. But their inherent intelligibility as
form or kind alone is not sufficient for manifestation. Light must meet light for
there to be light.
Again: The presence of X is always through my presencing and my
presencing of X is always a presencing of X and my presencing to me. Even when
I am taken up with X and when I am in no way a theme my being fully absorbed in
X itself is something of which I am immediately if non-reflectively aware. This is
evident in my remembering X: it is always a re-presentation of X and my perceiving
X. If I and my perceiving were totally unconscious in my being absorbed in X I
would not be able to account for how it is that my remembering of X involves a
represencing of me perceiving X.
X cannot be present unless I make it present, unless there is a presencing.
There is no presencing of X and therefore no presence of X unless my presencing
is something of which I am aware. And there is no presencing of which I am aware
unless the presencing is present to me. Yet the being present to me of the
presencing is there from the start, i.e., in each and every act. And the presencing of
what is present is different from the presence of the presencing. If I make something
present, there is an essential distance between me and what is present. In the
original presence of making present, the presence of this presencing, there is no
distance. 16
If intentionality involves the ecstasy of an act of othering, if the intentional
act is always othering, the immanent luminosity of this act is unothered; the pre-
reflective presence of intentionality is "an unothered act."l? Here we may say that
the ancient doctrine of Aristotle of the identity of knower and known in the act of

knowing receives an exemplary form. In the essential inner luminosity of acts all
otherness of knower and known is removed. 18
And if all intentional acts are characterized by a kind of teleology, a
tendency, a basic will or Sorge, then we must say that not only is the immanent
luminosity of acts without a directedness toward but also without any will or
teleology. 19
Again: For something to be present to me 1 must be "there" too along with
what is present, i.e., 1 cannot refer to anything nor can anything be "there" for me
unless my referring itself is self-present. There is no presence of X or the horizon
of X to me unless 1 am already self-present in some way. The dative of
manifestation is not only not ultimate; it makes no sense unless there is a more basic
To call this original self-presence a knowing, as does Hamilton, has a
legitimacy in the sense that it is inerrant in its reference. "I think, feel, see, etc."
may have endless ambiguities about whom precisely 1 mean when 1 refer with "I"
and what I refer to with the intentional verbs, yet the self-disclosure of "I" and its
intentional act does not misfire. 20 However Hamilton's calling it a knowing seems
out of place ifknowing has certain tmth-epistemic conditions, such as an intending
of something present as it was meant in its absence; or if knowing is only of
propositions; or if it involves judgment and/or reflection. Of course, the original
self-presence involves none of this.
Further, if the original being present is in any way equated with the
presence of X or my making X present, i.e., by a kind of direction of my mind
toward X, then it would seem to be just as accurate to say that phenomenality is
founded in a self-absence. But that won't do either because what is absent properly
is what is emptily intended or is what in principle can be made present, and the
original self-awareness is not something which in principle can be intended in its
absence or something that can made present. Moreover, in English, one can be
absent, as in "absent-minded" (in German one can be abwesend and "Weg") and
thereby one does not necessarily refer to not being originally self-conscious; on the
contrary, Thales's mind was so exceedingly active in its presencing of what was
absent from his perceptual surroundings that he fell in the well. And such acts, we
have seen, are necessarily acts wherein there is a self-awareness. Indeed one might
say that in the intensive actualization of some intentional acts the awareness of
oneself in such acts proportionately decreases as there is an increase in the self
being aware-just as in intense pain there is proportionately a decrease in the ability
to achieve concentrated intentional acts (the self-aware) with the increased
obtrusive awareness ofself.21
If, however, a mind is not "there," in the sense that it is in a coma, asleep
or dead, then things do not make an impression, they do not make a "dent," they are
James G. Hart 71

not "there." Sensibility is at a zero-point. The person, we say, has lost

consciousness or has not yet come to consciousness; and in the unique special sense
is not self-aware and a fortiori is not aware of himself. Before we turn to the
connection between wakefulness, original sensing/sensibility and the temporality
of the stream, we must face an objection.

VI. Castaneda on Externus

I wish to sketch a major challenge to this position raised by Hector-Neri

Castaneda, echoes of which we find also in Husserl. Castafieda proposes that we
think the hypothesis of "Externus" as a lower level of consciousness' integration
where we have a form of consciousness which is thoroughly diaphanous and in no
way pre-reflexively conscious. With Externus we have an egoless form of
consciousness which is so absorbed in what it is conscious of that it has no
consciousness of being conscious of anything. 22
Consider how (1) "There are many people in this room" may render a
possible sense of (2) "There seem to be many people in this room." Consider also
how (3) "There seem to me to be many people in this room" may be regarded as a
necessary implication of (2). For Husserl and Roderick Chisholm, from whom the
example is taken, (3) is a clear case of the view expressed by Hamilton that
believing p implies awareness of the belief that p. But if "There are many people
in this room" is permitted to translate (2), then (2) could be a form of consciousness
that could obtain without my knowing it. Castaneda believes that the indexical
reference which su:ffiJses most of our knowing of the world involves self-reference.
And it is his view that Chisholm's view is "nicely Fichtean in a moderate sense: all
consciousness is diffusely self-consciousness and all reference is tacit self-
reference. ,,23 Furthermore, according to Castaneda, Chisholm's view is adept at
handling Sartrean unreflective or4 egoless consciousness such as a child, Marybel,
attending an ant colony. She may attend to the antics of ants with no self-awareness.
And yet in her contemplation and demonstrative references in fact she is relating to
herself everything she is contemplating.

That ant is moving faster than this one; the ant over there! Coming out
of the big hive. It is running toward that one, it is stealing the load from

Castafieda gives another more striking example of an egoless non-reflective yet

indexical consciousness where the little girl Marybel is so stuck to what she is

experiencing that for a short while ever her bodily sensations appear to her as being
there in the world, as another realm of reality, not as unified as hers. She may think:

There on that leg is a little pain expanding down toward that foot, under
and along the movement of that ant. The itch of this knee is growing in
intensity. Now it is squashed by this finger... 25

We cannot pursue in detail here Chisholm's view or Castaneda's critique

of Chisholm. In sum Chisholm claims that our intentional acts of things in the
world, because they are self-presentingly and inerrently self-referential, require a
direct self-ascription of these acts as identical with ourselves And thus our
intentional reference to all other things is by way of a "direct attributional"
reference to ourselves. This, Castafieda believes, requires that in these acts the
thinker be explicitly singled out as one of the relata-something that is not
phenomenologically supported. 26 Castaneda goes on to say:

I have never required that. Nonetheless I concur that singular reference

to objects in the world is essentially to objects in one's world. This
provokes the question as to how this all-encompassing involvement of
self in one's acts of reference is to be conceived ... On the alternative
view I propose, the reference to oneself involved in the identification of
objects in one's world is primarily the implicit self-reference of
unreflective consciousness.

This is explained by a theory of hierarchical tiers of consciousness. Its basic result

is that

the implicit references to the thinker are not brought out every time she
identifies an object, but are holistically built into the contents of
experience. Indexicality and contexuality are, albeit different, closely
connected. 27

I think that the difference with Husserl here is rather thin. Yet whereas Husser!
would agree that the awareness of our acts and of ourselves is not always explicit
and that there is a holistic logical-semantic and contextual implicit reference to the
thinker made evident especially by indexicals, he would insist that there was still
the experiential self-presence ongoing in all the cognitive acts-and this is not just
a matter of elucidating the contextuality of the contents of experience and the
indexicality of the language of our experience. For our purposes, because we are
tying phenomenality to the unreflective self-consciousness, this is crucial. It seems
to me that for Castafieda self-awareness in the Marybel examples of Extemus, i.e.,
James G. Hart 73

the awareness derived from indexicals and contextuality, resembles more a logical
implicit reference than an experiential one (this is how I interpret his "implicit self-
awareness of unreflective consciousness"). The Marybel cases do indeed
demonstrate a Sartrean egoless form of consciousness; but these still for Sartre
involve the immanent luminous pre- or non-reflective form of self-awareness, not
awareness of oneself-and this is not an implication but rather non-reflectively
immanently lived. 28
Nevertheless there seems to be considerable agreement with Husserl
because Castaneda's final position points not merely to the holistic implicit self-
reference through indexicality and contextuality but also to the consideration that
Externus' undeniable place is with children and animals. Proper epistemic acts, the
higher forms on his hierarchy of tiers, not only involve implicit but also the explicit
self-reference. Yet it would seem that for the Husserlian little Marybel's
articulations would have to qualify as genuine intellectual or epistemic ones, i.e.,
the fruit of agens intellectus or egological acts (and not mere passive synthesis) and
therefore require the non-reflective or pre-reflective self-awareness, not merely a
consciousness that in no way was self-aware but was still an implicit self-awareness
because of the logic of, e.g., "there" requiring "here" and because of the holistic
nature of the field of indexical experience requiring the (implicit) references to the
thinker?9 In short, although Castafieda's implicit self-reference need not exclude the
immanent non-reflective self-awareness, it is not its equivalent.
Husserl himself encouraged Externus as an eidetic variation. In an
important MS he raises the issue in a variety of ways. For example he queries: "Is
there thinkable an immanent object of the first level [i.e., in the stream of acts and
sensa] without constituting itself as a temporal object, only constituting itself,
regardless of whether it is consciously apprehended or not?,,30 Again: "Can
immanent objects be without being perceived and where their esse is not the same
as their percipi?"
In these and many other such texts Husserl is sometimes asking at the same
time the question (of Dieter Henrich and Manfred Frank) of whether the stream of
consciousness, and in particular the temporality of the stream of consciousness, is
a result of an act of reflection. In all cases his answer is that the stream of
consciousness is a result of a primal process of consciousness which itself is not
strictly speaking an act of reflection nor is it due to an act of reflection. His
arguments cannot detain us here. In these formulations he seems to hold that the
ultimate primal presencing which constitutes the temporality of the stream of acts
and sensa must itselfbe conscious: "Es muss also jedes Erlebnis bewusst und auch
das Bewusstsein von ihm bewusst sein."

VII. The Primal Presencing and Phenomenality

One might well be inclined to equate the foundations of phenomenality

with wakefulness. That is, both the immanent self-awareness and wakefulness seem
to present us with the endless open field for what appears. Both are not realized by
any intentional acts but presupposed by all intentional acts. Both confront us with
the condition for appearings; when the condition is not fulfilled then there are no
appearings. If everyone were asleep in a dreamless sleep there would be no
appearings or manifest world. Thus it is not surprising that being asleep, as well as
being dead, are fundamental problems for transcendental phenomenology. They are
problems in the sense that they are evident for us in the world around us and
especially in relationship to others; but they resist being evident in the first-person
precisely because the evidence presupposes wakefulness. To put it simply, as one
cannot live through the event of death, so one cannot be watchful and take hold of
one's losing consciousness. I will not pursue these matters here except to say that
phenomenality and wakefulness may well be equated in so far as they may be
reduced to their condition in the foundations of time-consciousness. 31
We have said that I cannot make things present nor can things be present
unless I am already self-present. More basic than the dative of manifestation, indeed
a condition for this dative, is the dative's self-presence which we noted was also
called a primal sensing. Permit me to state the essentials here in a brief way. At the
basement of the world's appearing and our intending of it is a primal presencing
which presences a primal present which is the Now-phase of the stream of
consciousness. This phase is stretched to include the section of what has just now
passed and what is just about to come by reason of the primal presencing's
distending itself into retentions and protentions. The primal streaming is a self-
ontifying into the temporal (present, past, future) phases of the stream of
consciousness. That of which the transcendental I at this level is basically aware is
itself as ontified, Le., as the phases of its acts and sensa and itself as retained and
protended. Because, of course, the world is attached to this stream as affecting it
and is disclosed through the acts which interpret and respond to this affecting this
self-awareness of the primal presencing is always also an awareness of the
world-except when it is not affected, e.g., when it is asleep or dead. In any case
the ontifying of itself is inseparable from its affections, the worldly hyle; these in
turn already occasion self-affections of the primal presencing because the temporal
phases of the worldly affections and the acts informing them are the primal hyle of
the temporality of the stream of presencings.
Husserl's position, it seems to me, gives an account of what is almost a
basic axiom of phenomenology, namely, that one cannot have explicit, intentional
James G. Hart 75

and/or propositional reference to oneself unless there is a prior "familiarity"

(Manfred Frank) with oneself which is not of the same order as intentional acts.
Husserl seems to be at odds with himself when, on the one hand, he
maintains that the most fundamental phenomenological theme is immanent objects
wherein there are no spatial profiles and where there is an absolute givenness and
no possibility of error, and, on the other hand, when he holds that the most basic
consideration is meontic, i.e., something which itself does not appear, is not in the
flux, is not in time, not a (constituted) being, etc. (cf. below). This last indeed is
something which escapes all reflective gazing. But these positions are compatible
in so far as the immanent objects are always already essentially "erlebt," i.e.,
something of which we are pre-reflectively aware and which provide the basic field
of phenomenological work as the disclosure of the appearings of what appears. The
primal presencing (cf. below) itself does not appear and cannot become a theme in
the same way as the flow of immanent objects. The achievement of the primal
presencing as the primal occasioning or anonymous functioning ifungor) of the
presencing of the stream of presencings and the presencing of what is present in the
stream, as Thomas Prufer has said, "can be meant and manifested by acts in the
stream ... , but then the/ungar is not meant and manifested as an act." 32

The invariant across the difference between the achieving presencing

and the elapsed (and anticipated) presencings is an eidos which can be
meant and manifested by acts in the stream, but this eidos (primordial
occasionality) is not thefongor, the primordial occasion. 33

This stream ofpresencing acts can be appreciated in reflection as the same as what
before was pre-reflectively given and not reflectively given. As Prufer puts it: "The
reflecting and the reflected are each in the horizon of the other, the reflecting in the
protentional horizon of the reflected on and the reflected on in the retentional
horizon of the reflecting. ':34
Michel Henry has argued that because the reflected on as transcendent and
noema has a completely different character than the essentially non-transcendent
manifestation of intentional life prior to reflection, and because transcendental
reflection transforms the essentially invisible, self-affecting, self-giving, and
passively undergone nature of transcendental life into what is visible, an irreal
ideality, and a dead given, the character of sameness is only nominal and
transcendental phenomenology is hardly much more that a substitution of death for
life. 35 There are many intriguing, complex and provocative aspects to Henry's
profound reading ofHusserl which we here cannot address. But on this point, may
the reader not inquire whether Henry's claim of there not being a sameness between
life understood as the immanently lived stream of consciousness and the reflected-

on stream of consciousness itself does not involve a kind of identity synthesis so

that instead of saying X is the same throughout the profiles of a, b, c, etc. we are
saying X is the same throughout not-a, not-b, not-c, but only throughout 1, m, and
n. Is not Henry also required to see an eidos in order for him to make such claims
about what immanence is and is not. But this observation in no way interferes with
the basic agreement between Henry and Husserl that, as Prufer puts it, the primal
occasioning is meant and manifested through acts, but not as an act-how else
could it be the subject of such extensive analyses-and that the primal occasioning
itself is not an eidos even though for Husserl, and perhaps also for Henry, that
which it occasions, i.e., as "the invariant across the difference between the
achieving presencing [of acts] and the elapsed (and anticipated) presencings is an
As evident from the Prufer passages, we should think of Husserl 's living
present in its twofold sense of, on the one hand, what is primally present in the
stream, and thus the phenomenon of all phenomena wherein world is profiled and,
on the other, the constituting primal sourcing vitality ([ungor, "primordial
occasion," "primal streaming") which does not appear and is neither present, past,
nor future. Does this mean that the primal presencing itself is unconscious? and
what is manifest are only the phases it constitutes?
This is a great difficulty. Husserl clearly is uncomfortable with the notion
that self-awareness arises only through the retention. "But if it were conscious only
by retention, then what confers on it the label 'now' would be incomprehensible."
(Hua X, 119) But here in this passage Husserl does not separate the temporal phases
from the awareness of these phases. Rather he states that it is "not something
inferred on the basis of reasoning; it is rather something that can be seen in
reflection on the constituted experiencing as a constituting phase, just like a
retention." Nevertheless in order for the now-phase to be now requires that the
primal presencing be "in some sense" conscious even though it itself is not aware
of itself as now. He thus adds:

It is just nonsense to talk about an 'unconscious' content that would only

subsequently become conscious. Consciousness is necessarily
consciousness in each of its phases. (Hua X, 119)

How do we reconcile the claims that the primal presencing is not itself
present nor is it present to itself (requiring another dative of manifestation, and
therefore an infinite regress) and the claim that consciousness is thoroughly
conscious and that the primal present itself could not become conscious through
retention? How to avoid the claim that the heart of consciousness has a dark
James G. Hart 77

unconscious center and the clear recognition that if consciousness were not there
from the start no relation to another, e.g., retention of a phase, could bring it about?
Sokolowski and Prufer have proposed that we think of the primal
presencing as a primal shining or showing. 37 It shows or makes shining the phases
of the stream. It is not, in tum, shining or showing to anything else; rather its
shining/showing/presencing is the luminosity of the temporal phases. The original
self-awareness of the acts and sensa is precisely this shining of the temporal phases
as they are constituted or illuminated by the primal "flow."
But is the shining/showing in any way self-luminous? Or is it a form of
Extemus? Husserl wanted to reject the latter and defend the former position.
Consider his statement:

The flow of the immanent time-constituting consciousness does not

merely exist, but is of such a remarkable quality that there must be
within it a self-appearing of the flow and therefore the flow must itself
be graspable in its flowing. (Hua X, 382)

Of course, one might argue that he is not referring to the primal presencing or
Urimpression alone but to the entire slice and unity of the primal flow with its
retentions and protentions. Of course the primal presencing is distended to its
retentions and protentions and in this respect self-aware. And of course we can say
that the primal lor flow, not its abstract moment, the primal presencing, enjoys a
self-presence or is pre-reflectively self-present because the primal I is the whole
which includes the primal presencing, retentions and protentions, the acts and sensa,
and their temporal phases; and these acts and sensa are originally self-conscious
precisely in the sense that they are manifest to the dative of manifestation (the "to
me"). This, in tum, may be seen to be founded in the primal presencing and, as
such, ontifies itself in the acts and sensa as the temporal phases of the stream of
which they are the ingredients. But ultimately "in some way" the primal presencing
itself, the original shining/showing, must be self-luminous. 38

VIII. The End as a New Beginning: Henry's Critique of Husserl

This formulation of the ultimacy and primacy of the primal presencing

draws near to Heidegger and therefore is a synthesis of the fourth and fifth senses
of light mentioned earlier: Aristotle's and Husserl's agens intellectus and
Heidegger's clearing as the space within which presence and absence have an
interplay. But does it really accomodate our problematic sixth sense of the
immanent luminosity of subjectivity and intentional life? Here we cannot pursue the

basic issues dividing Husserl and Michel Henry. On the one hand Henry's
detennination of the "essence of manifestation" as the transcendental condition of
phenomenality in the original self-consciousness or self-manifestation argues that
the original self-manifestation is not a merely ontic matter, i.e., we do not have a
disclosure of a being among beings; but rather it is ontological because here is the
"original manifestation of Being to itself in consciousness in general [... ] the
original manifestation of Being which makes possible the manifestation of a
being.,,39 On the other hand, this is not to be taken as an appropriation of
Heidegger's light-metaphoric/metaphysic. On the contrary, the essence of
manifestation is founded not in intentionality, transcendence or a clearing but rather
in absolute immanence, which is an "auto-affection," "feeling," and a founding
sense of "life." Here there is nothing transcendent to the interior experience of self,
but only primal sensing or feeling sensing itself at all points of its being.

[H]erein also resides its transparency. The transparency of feeling is not

the fluid milieu of light; it is no immaterial, uncolored, evanescent
element, nor is it anything unreal like nothingness; it is the Being-given-
to-itself at all points of the Being, its being plunged in self, in its reality
making itself one with this reality. 40

At first glance, we seem to have something like the Appollonian

Husserlian light and form opposed to the Dionysian Henrian life and will.
Doubtless HusserI's primal presencing as a primal shining, if that interpretation be
permitted, assigns primacy to some sense of light. But does it thereby grant primacy
to transcendence to the neglect of immanence, self-affection, will, and life? Husserl,
after all, does approach Henry's claim of the coincidence of the self-affecting and
the self-affected:

The self-appearance of the flow does not require a second flow, on the
contrary, it constitutes itself as a phenomenon in itself. The constituting
and the constituted coincide, and yet naturally they cannot coincide in
every respect. (Hua X, 381-382)

But Henry is also right. Husserl often is inclined to think of the ultimate self-
appearing after the model of intentionality. Yet he also battles this inclination.
Consider, e.g., the final page ofHua X where he wants to account for the awareness
of the phase of internal consciousness by an ultimate consciousness, which would
necessarily be an ''unconscious'' consciousness in the sense that it would elude an
act of attending. (Rua X, 382)
In this connection we all have reason to look forward to the publication by
RudolfBemet and Dieter Lohmar of the Bernauer Manuscripts. Here, I believe, we
James G. Hart 79

have Husserl's most valiant wrestling with these issues. And it will be of great
value to read these texts with Henry's charge of the monist prejudice in mind, i.e.,
that the meaning of manifestation is improperly confined to reference and
intentionality. Repeatedly here Husserl tests the Extemus hypothesis of an
experiential process in which there is no awareness of this experience; and
repeatedly he moves to the desired, but not satisfactorily demonstrated, position that
"each experience must be conscious and also the consciousness of it must be
conscious." But to reach this position and to avoid the infinite regress there must
be an experiential process that is innerly self-aware in such a way that it is present
to itself without requiring new processes to account for it; such would be an
ultimate primal process "whose being would be consciousness and a consciousness
of itself and its temporality. But how is that possible?" (Ms. L I 21, 11 a-II b)


I. James J. Gibson, An Ecological Apprach to Visual Perception (HiIldale, New Jersey:

Lawrence Erlbaum Associatees, 1986) 47 ff., and 111 ff.
2. Hedwig Conrad-Marti us, Schriften zur Philosophie, ed. Eberhard Ave-Lallemant, Vol. III
(Munich: Kosel Verlag, 1965),261 ff.
3. See Thomas Prufer, Recapitulations (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of
America Press, 1993),57,65,75-76,84-89.
4. Robert Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations (Evanston: Northwestern University Press:
1974 and 1980), 120.
5. Robert Sokolowski, Pictures. Quotations. and Distinctions (Notre Dame, Indiana:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1992),3.
6. See Sokolowski, Presence and Absence (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976)
and Pictures. Quotations. and Distinctions, especially ch. 8 and Richard Cobb-Stevens,
Husserl and Analytic Philosophy (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1990).
7. Sokolowski, Pictures. Quotations. and Distinctions, 31.
8. See my "A gens Intellectus and Primal Sensibility in Husserl," in the volume on Ideas II,
ed. Tom Nenon and Lester Embree (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1996).
9. Ms. C 2 I, 1 ff; I wish to thank Prof. Samuel IJsseling, Head of the Husser! Archives in
Louvain, for permission to quote from the Nachlass texts.
10. Michel Henry, Essence of Manifestation, trans. Girard Etzkorn (The Hague: Martinus
Nijhoff: 1973; reissue: Dordrecht: Kluwer), 258-259; in the French original, 321-323. I am
indebted to Dan Zahavi for calling my attention not only to this discussion of Henry, but to
Henry's writings in general. Zahavi discusses all these matters with great precision and care
in his forthcoming habilitation on self-consciousness.
11. Cf. C 3 III, 26-29 where Husser! states that consciousness is a striving or tendency to that
of which we are conscious, so that consciousness itself is a transparent "through which"
(durch) what appears is striven for. Thus this transparent medium of striving is comprised of
modes of synthesis of tendencies as well as a unified tendency pervading a manifold of

12. Sir William Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics (New York: Sheldon and Company,
1883), 133. The ancients approached this insight. See Aristotle, De Anima, ill.2, 425b 12fT;
for an excellent general discussion leading up to Plotinus' very nuanced meditations, see H.-
R. Schwyzer, "'Bewusst' und 'Unbewusst' bei Plotin," in Entretiens, Vol. V, Les Sources
de Plotin, (Geneva: Vandoeuvres, 1957), 363 fT; also lM. Rist, The Road to Reality
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), ch. 4.
13. See Michel Henry, The Essence o/Manifestation, Kluwer), especially, Section I, 8-16.
14. Hamilton, Lectures on Metaphysics, 154.
15. Cf. Eugen Fink, Natur, Freiheit, Welt, ed. Franz A. Schwarz (Wilrzburg: Konigshausen
und Neumann, 1992), 115-127.
16. See Michel Henry, Essence o/Manifestation, 287; 357 ofthe original French.
17. I appropriate this expression from my collaboration with Thomas Prufer in a (1965)
Master's Dissertation at Catholic University of America on self-consciousness.
18. Cf. Roderick Chisholm for whom this immediate non-reflective awareness is the primary
form of reference and "direct attribution," requiring an identity between knower and known.
See his First Person (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981), 37.
19. See Henry, Essence o/Manifestation, 288; 358 of original French.
20. This ground has been deftly covered by Manfred Frank's distillation of recent analytic
philosophy, especially in his Selbstbewusstsein und Selbsterkenntnis (Stuttgart: Rec1am,
21. There is a seeming unanimity on this matter in the writings of Sartre, Wittgenstein, Rilke,
and others.
22. H.-N. Castaneda, "Philosophical Method and Direct Awareness of the Self," Grazer
philosophische Studien 7/9 (1979), 10.
23. H.-N. Castaneda, "Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and the Self-Ascription
View of Believing," Philosophical Perspectives 1, Metaphysics (1987), 426.
24. Clearly Castaneda equates unreflective consciousness with egoless consciousness in
Sartre-and perhaps in his own thought. But that equation poses a problem because for
Sartre even the egoless form of consciousness is a pre-reflective or non-reflective self-
awareness. I return to this in the text below.
25. Castaneda, "Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and Self-Ascription View of
Believing," 427.
26. Chisholm, however, explicitly maintains that his view does not require thinking of self-
consciousness as a kind of identifying relation; this is to confuse what he calls direct and
indirect attribution. See his The First Person, 36.
27. Castaneda, "Self-Consciousness, Demonstrative Reference, and Self-Ascription View of
Believing," 440-44l.
28. Here is a text which affirms a kind of Externus attitude but which also affirms the
immanently lived non-reflective self-awareness which is not an implication. "There is
consciousness of self with the 'of underlined in the case where we have reflective knowledge
of ourselves. If on the contrary, we consider that at the moment I do not know that I exist,
that I am so absorbed that when someone brings me out of my reading I ask myself where I
am, and if we may consider that perhaps my reading implies the consciousness of my reading,
the consciousness of my reading is not able to be posited as the consciousness of the book
James G. Hart 81

before me. We will say that it is a matter of a non-conditional or non-thetic consciousness ....
This non-thetic consciousness is attained without recourse to reasoning and implications ... "J.-
P. Sartre, "Conscience de soi et connaissance de soi, Bulletin de la Societe francaise de
philosophie, Vol. 42, Paris, 1948; reprinted in Selbstbewusstseintheorien von Fichte bis
Sartre, ed. Manfred Frank (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1993),381.
29. The point I am making here, i.e., that there is a distinction between the implicit non-
reflexive consciousness and the immanent awareness of wakeful consciousness which is at
the heart of all sensa and acts is made by Michel Henry against Heidegger's reading of
Descartes. Henry holds that for Heidegger's Descartes, "the ego is presupposed in every
representation, not a posteriori as the discovered ob-ject, but a priori as an intrinsic part of
the field where all discovery is made, insofar as such a field is constructed precisely as
thrown by ego, before it, in-front of it-because the retro-reference to the ego is identical to
the structure and opening of that field." But this view, "for which ipseity is tributary to and
comprehensible through the structure of representation," is quite different from Descartes'
basic insight that the self-immanence of affective determination ... constitutes the site of
absolute certitude and truth, which, as self-certainty and self-referential, self-legitimizing
truth, is precisely appearance's first appearing to and in itself. We can see that representation
has nothing to do with phenomenality's original upwelling, because sensation, pain, for
example-is entirely what it is in the immanence of its affectivity without first being posed
before itseU: in-front of itself." Michel Henry, The Genealogy of Psychoanalysis (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1993),74 and 76.
30. See Ms. LI 21, 9a117.
31. See my "Phenomenological Time: Its Religious Significance," in Religion and Time, ed.
AN. Baslev and J.N. Mohanty (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 17-45.
32. Thomas Prufer, Recapitulations (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America
Press, 1993), 53.
33. Prufer, Recapitulations, 53. This is a very difficult matter and a patient study of Husser!,
I believe, will bear out Prufer's interpretation. Yet in Cartesian Meditations, 18, he speaks
of the all encompassing inner-time consciousness as the basic form of universal synthesis
which makes possible all other syntheses of consciousness. But the issue, the phenomenology
of phenomenology, is only hinted at here. What counts as a form or eidos of the primal
streaming is what the phenomenological gaze constitutes as an identity with its own
necessities (prufer's "primal occasionality")-even though this gaze itself is being
constituted by the primal presencing which is the primal occasion. This latter is not therefore
a form or eidos but what constitutes it. That is the way I take the discussion in C II 1, 11 a ff.
Here we see that the living present is originally conscious and we are able to unpack its
marvellous structure. "Its basic essence is to constitute itself as the nunc stans of a unified
streaming through an anonymous continuity of intentional modifications of a primal mode,
which, in its regard (ihrerseits), is not fixed (starrseiende), but itself is streaming. In this
streaming there is constituted a standing and abiding primal now as the fixed form for a
content streaming through and as the primal source-point of all constituted modifications."
Husser! immediately goes on to speak of the Form of the primal-now as have a two-sided
continuity of rigid forms, those of the just having been and those of what is not yet. But I take
these forms to refer to Prufer's primal occasionality, not the primal occasion, which Husser!
here says "nicht starrseiende, sondern selbst stromende ist."
34. See Prufer, Recapitulations, 52.

35. Michel Henry, Phenomenologie materielle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France,

Epimethee, 1990), 125 ff.
36. Prufer, Recapitulations, 53; cf. Henry, Phenomenologie materielle, 105 ff.
37. See Sokolowski, Husserlian Meditations, especially 166 and Thomas Prufer,
Recapitulations, especially 76. Cf. my "Being and Mind," in The Truthfol and the Good:
Essays in Honor o/Robert Sokolowski, ed. John 1. Drummond and James G. Hart (Kluwer:
Dordrecht, 1996).
38. I wish to thank Dan Zahavi for helping me to think these matters over. I also want to
thank Rudolf Bernet, Director of the Husserl Archieves, for permission to quote from
Husserl's Nachlass. I also want to express my appreciation for J. Claude Evans' provocative
contribution to this discussion. It was he who first proposed that the field of consciousness
is centered around "a fundamental absence." See his "The Myth of Absolute Consciousness"
in Selected Studies in Phenomenology and Existentialism: Crises in Continental Thought,
ed. Arleeen B. Dallery and Charles Scott (Albany: SUNY, 1990), 35 ff. Evans' claim that
"the myth" of absolute consciousness "turns one's intentional experience of the world into
one's awareness of oneself as experiencing the world, rather than viewing one's self-
awareness as being marginal to one's experience of the world" (40) suggests that
transcendental phenomenology substitutes the transcendental attitude's discoveries for the
natural attitude's inherent disposition. In this paper there is an attempt to show how through
the transcendental attitude so-called absolute consciousness can be seen as the necessary
condition for phenomenality. But this is not to state that one's intentional experience of the
world is turned into one's awareness of oneself as experiencing the world. That is to miss the
key issue ofthe nature of this kind of awareness and what the fuss about time-consciousness
is about.
39. Michel Henry, The Essence o/Manifestation, 151 and 163; French original 183, 198-199.
When Henry more recently, in Phenomenologie materielle (Paris: Presses Universitaires de
France, 1990), 12-59, discussed Husserl he faulted the analysis of inner time-consciousness
with assigning phenomenality to what is constituted and claiming that what is constituting
itself remains anonymous and without phenomenality. This means in part that the entire
hyletic realm, the realm of affections and sensibility is sacrificed to the ecstatic-intentional
constituting act as the source of disclosure-thereby missing the original sensibility which
is prior to this realm of transcendence. For Henry Husserl offers a position which does not
merely "establish itself through coming forth in the light of ecstatic phenomenality," but
rather secures this coming forth by the primal presencing which itself does not show itself
in this coming forth. But for Henry this anonymity and non-presentness of the primal
presencing robs the primal sensibility of its genuine sensibility, i.e., its power to be
consciousness' self-manifestation. As I indicate in the text this is a genuine problem for
40. Essence o/Manifestation, 682; 858-859 of the French original.
Can I Anticipate Myself?
Self-Affection and Temporality

Natalie Depraz
Lycee J. Ferry (Conflans Sainte Honorine)-France

"Nee tamen invenitur, nee est possibile quod aliquid sit causa
effieiens sui ipsius ; quia sit esset prius se ipso"l-Thoughout
my paper I am going to be addressing this: "being prior to

It is a commonly shared opinion among phenomenologists that temporality is a

constitutive part of subjectivity. As living subjects, we are bound to time, but we
are able, as reflecting subjects, to alter or to change this external, objective time into
an immanent, lived one.
Since we can be conscious of the flowing of time at every moment of its
very flowing, insofar as we become attentive to (and thus, aware of) it, the question
is whether that attentive consciousness of the flowing of time remains a purely
active and lucid consciousness. My contention is that, even while engaged in the
process of becoming conscious, we are subject to the strains of affection. We have
to cope with elements of passive opacity and heavy obscurity which assault
consciousness but without which consciousness can not be constituted as attentive.
As a result, attention or mindfulness has to do with an opacity within consciousness
which has to be dealt with and which can not simply be gotten rid of in order not
to have to deal with it. Affection within ourselves has to be worked out in order to
get an attentive consciousness of it.
The problem can be formulated in terms of a questionable dichotomy: Is
our temporal consciousness simply accompanied and coloured by affection, or does
affection actually constitute us as temporal beings? Are we affected while living in
and through time, or is time-consciousness in itself deeply affective? In even more
drastic terms: Could affection be so powerful as to initiate or drive the lived flow
of time itself?2 And moreover, what kind of affection can do this? Should
"un-affectedness" not be considered as a species of affection? Or is it not, on the
contrary, eminently affective precisely because it permits an observation of the self
by the self at the very moment when the affection occurS?3 The most common and
immediate objection to that contention would be to say that in order to observe
affections I have to suppress them. Quite to the contrary, however: it is possible to
develop an attention to one's own affections that does not abolish them but makes
them become that much more effective.
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 83-97.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

In fact, my investigation is guided by a deepening of Husserl's late

analysis of time-consciousness: On the one side, the genetic method delivered by
the Riickfrage proceeds back from the constituted event-objects to the constituting
flow of consciousness itself, which shows up only through the event-objects. It
gives way to a process of pre-constitution (Vorkonstitution) which is also
determined as Vor-zeitigung and Vor-assoziation. Over and over again, this process
has been characterised by Husserl's most prominent readers 4 as a logical aporia
because of the circulus vitiosus it contains or because of the regressus in infinitum
which it entails. Nevertheless, what has been missed is the specifically phenomenal
temporality of that "vor," by taking account of which we might be able to get out
of this aporeticallogic and into a more embodied phenomenological temporality.
On the other hand, the early and on-going criticism of an originary hyletic
affection as a primal Uranstoft propelling time onward has been directed towards
its allegedly contradictory character. Because of its essentially mixed character,
both immanent (experienced) and transcendent (empirical)5, it is not able to deal
with the experience of an inner alteration [das Ichfremde im Jch], an experience
which bestows upon time an original alteration. Elucidating hyletic affection as a
primal inner alterity within consciousness is the concrete way6 I have adopted to
defend the analysis of time which is in question here.
To start with, I will show how time has been employed as a way of getting
at affection in previous phenomenological philosophies, especially those of
Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Secondly, I hope to bring to light the way in which
two different kinds of affection (auto-affection and hetero-affection) are capable of
accounting for the dynamic of time and, accordingly, the way in which time is
modified in its modes of appearance by these two types of affection. Here, I shall
rely largely on the analyses of Michel Henry and Levinas. Last but not least, I will
hint at the distinctive conception of time that arises from just such a constitutive
self-altering temporality, a temporality that I propose to call "self-altering-
anticipation. "

I. Temporality and self-affection

What reasons might one offer for according to time a leading role in the
analysis of affection itself? It is to Heidegger that we owe the earliest and best
known interpretation of affection as time based. Merleau-Ponty follows
Heidegger's lead by strengthening the motivating impulse conferred upon time by
Natalie Depraz 85

A. Time and affectedness

There are two main places where Heidegger deals with the way time is related to
affection. The first is his treatment of Bejindlichkeit in Sein und Zeit (1927); the
second is the ontological commentary conducted in his so-called Kant-Buch
(1929)-based upon Kant's contention that time and space always affect the
concept through which objects are represented.
In 1927, his analysis is developed at two different moments of the work:
First, Bejindlichkeit (affectednessf is presented as the first ofthree existential
characteristics of Dasein, alongside Verstehen and Reden ( 29). The ontological
dimension of these existentialia finds its ontic parallel in Stimmungen (affection,
mood). The difference between these two levels of experience is quite clearly
illustrated thanks to the distinction made between an ontological Angst, a
Grundstimmung ( 40) devoid of any object (giving way to Sorge as the Sein des
Daseins itself), and an ontic-psychological-Furcht (which matches our everyday
way of being affected by things or people). At this stage, we have to do with an
analysis of practical experience which bestows affectedness in a way that is
profoundly constitutive for Dasein itself. Dasein is only insofar as it is an affected
Nevertheless, this radical analysis of Dasein as affectedness is part of a
more general analysis whose main point is to interpret Dasein with regard to
temporality. If Zeit is to be the transcendental horizon of the question of Sein, then
the fundamental constitution of being will ultimately have to depend upon time. As
it is well-known, the first Part, at the end of which affectedness (and affection)
arises as a critical element in the constitution of being (as Sorge) as
being-in-the-world (In-der-Welt-sein), is only a preparation for that part in which
the principal interpretation of being through time is carried out, namely, the second
Therefore, both the ontological and the ontic dimensions of Bejindlichkeit
are eventually made to be dependent upon time. In Chapter III of the second Part,
temporality is said to be the ontological meaning of Sorge ( 64), and in Chapter
IV, affectedness is analyzed along with Verstehen and Reden as having its own
proper kind of temporality ( 68). Whereas Verstehen is initially grounded in the
future, Bejindlichkeit is initially temporalized with reference to a having-been ( 68
b). But a bit later in the same paragraph Heidegger makes another distinction
between Angst und Furcht with reference to their distinctive temporality:

Obzwar beide Modi der Befindlichkeit, Furcht und Angst, primar in

einer Gewesenheit grunden, so ist doch im Hinblick auf ihre je eigene
Zeitigung im Ganzen der Sorge ihr Ursprung verschieden. Die Angst

entspringt aus der Zukunft der Entschlossenheit, die Furcht aus der
verlorenen Gegenwart, die furchtsarn die Furcht beftirchtet, urn ihr so
erst recht zu verfallen.

Despite this thesis with respect to affectedness, time, in Sein und Zeit, still
appears to play the leading role with regard to the being of the one who is
concerned with the meaning of being. Although affectedness, as Sorge, is
interpreted as the Sein des Daseins, in the end, it is grounded in a more primary
structure, that, namely, of time.
Now we can go on to ask: what is at stake, two years later, in the
Kant-interpretation? How is the latter related to the basic thesis of Sein und Zeit?
Heidegger's contention that time is the pure affection of the self is based upon his
re-interpretation of Kant's statement:

Raurn und Zeit enthalten nun ein Mannigfaltiges der reinen Anschauung
a priori, gehoren aber gleichwohl zu den Bedingungen der Rezeptivitiit
unseres Gernuts, unter denen es allein Vorstellungen von Gegenstiinden
ernpfangen kann, die rnithin auch den BegritT derselben jederzeit
affizieren rnussen (A77 fB 102).

The goal ofthe whole of 34 of the Kant-Buch is to show 1) thatthe self is itself
temporal (against Kant's main contention that the transcendental I of pure
apperception is an a priori rational form), 2) that since, even for Kant himself,
conceptual rationality is affected by time (as also space), Ajfizieren might be a
excellent way of gaining access to the temporality of the self.
As a result, affection is uncovered as a unique way of undermining the
purity of the transcendental I (justifiable with reference to Kant's own text). But
Heidegger's main purpose remains the ontological disclosure of the temporal
character of the self. Pure self-affection can be the formal structure of the self
because time itself is nothing but pure self-affection. By now it should have become
clear that, if time is able to affect the self, affection must be more than just a
superficial coloration of time, a supplementary characteristic which merely
accompanies time without "affecting" in the depths of its very being. Affection is
bound to time in a stronger sense, so strong indeed as to be capable of modifying
time itself. This does not mean that affection does not enjoy its own mode of
temporalization. But the point is that affection can not be interpreted as merely
receiving its meaning from time.
Natalie Depraz 87

B. Time as self-affection

In the transition from Heidegger to Merleau-Ponty, we find a subtle shift

in the emphasis placed upon the following expression: time is a pure affection of
the self. This shift in emphasis can be summarized as follows: 1) our
representations, and therefore, ultimately, the self itself (Heidegger), are affected
by time; 2) time is the "affection de soi par soi" (Merleau-Ponty). In the passage
from the first to the second conception, time, while never ceasing to provide the
general frame within which affection takes place, gets more and more intrinsically
bound to affection. In the first case, time is not at all determined by affection, but
only uses it in order to temporalize the self; in the second case, time is defined in
terms of self-affection. Even in the relevant passage of Phenomenologie de la
perception (p. 469-495) where Merleau-Ponty's analysis is primarily concerned
with time, evidence is forthcoming for a much stronger and more complex
relationship between time and affection.
It is therefore clear that Heidegger's Kant-interpretation undergoes a
transformation at the hands of Merleau-Ponty. In this respect, the key-sentence in
the Kant-Buch is the following: "[ ... ] Zeit als reine Selbstaffektion [laBt] das reine
Nacheinander der Jetztfolge allerst entspringen [.. .]." Although the author of the
Phenomenologie de la perception does not quote this statement but another one
("Als reine Selbstaffektion bildet (die Zeit) urspriinglich die endliche Selbstheit
dergestalt daB das Selbst so etwas wie SelbstbewuBtsein sein kann," p. 487), the
point remains the same. In fact, the analysis of time reveals that consciousness is
in itself "rapport de soi it soi":

Si, en fait, meme nos retlexions les plus pures nous apparaissent
retrospectivement dans Ie temps, s'il y a insertion dans Ie flux de nos
reflexions sur Ie flux, c'est que la conscience la plus exacte dont nous
soyons capable se trouve toujours affectee par elle-meme ou donnee it
elle-meme, et que Ie mot conscience n 'a aucun sens hors de ceUe dualite
(p. 488, my italics).

Through, and thanks to, an analysis oftime which is supported by Husserl's and
Heidegger's own analysis, Merleau-Ponty comes to the conclusion that time reveals
the passivity of the temporalized self. Through time, we get an analysis of the
self-affection of the self itself.
Nevertheless, consciousness remains primarily a time-consciousness. As
a "rapport de soi it soi," consciousness is structured by the process of
temporalization : "[ ... ] I' explosion et la dehiscence du present vers un avenir est
l'archetype du rapport de soi a soi et dessine une interiorite ou une ipseite." (p.

487) Temporalization acts here as a model for self-consciousness. Now, time is

characterized as a "poussee indivise"(p. 484). And this word "poussee" is also used
for subjectivity itself :

Nous disons que Ie temps est queIqu'un, c'est-a-dire que Ies dimensions
temporeIles, en tant qu'elles se recouvrent perpetuellement, se
confirment l'une I' autre, ne font jamais qU'expIiciter ce qui etait
impIiquee en chacune, expriment toutes un seuI ecIatement ou une seuIe
poussee qui est Ia sUbjectivite elle-meme (p. 482-483).

If Merleau-Ponty is right in thinking: "il faut comprendre Ie temps comme sujet et

Ie sujet comme temps"(p. 483), it becomes difficult to go on claiming that time is
the only relevant model for self-consciousness. The dialectical process means that
the latter ends up having a similar structuring role. As self-affection, time then
bestows upon consciousness its own attributes:

Le temps (la conscience) est "affection de soi par soi" : ceIui qui affecte
est Ie temps (la conscience) comme poussee et passage vers un avenir ;
ceIui qui [est] affecte est Ie temps (la conscience) comme serie
deveIoppee des maintenants; I'affectant et l'affecte ne font qu'un, parce
que la poussee du temps (la conscience) n'est rien d'autre que Ia
transition d 'un present a un present (de soi a soi) (p. 487).

But the problem is that all through this quotation, time can be replaced by
consciousness and self.
How are we to understand this notion of self-affection? Is it immanent?
Does it preclude a form of transcendence? Is it a unity? Does it entail a duality?
Obviously, Merleau-Ponty's thought is still haunted by ambiguity: on the one hand,
time as "affection de soi par soi" is said to give rise to a strong form of unity:
"l'affectant et l'affecte ne font qu'un." On the other hand, we have already taken
note of a quoted passage in which time, as self-affection, is said to involve a duality
within consciousness. Furthermore, expressions like "rapport de soi it soi" or
"dehiscence" point to just such a dual functioning of consciousness. In another
passage, Merleau-Ponty's thinking becomes still sharper and clearer: "La
subjectivite n'est pas l'identite immobile avec soi: illui est, comme au temps,
essentiel, pour etre subjectivite, de s'ouvrir it un Autre et de sortir de soi."(p. 487)
If alterity is constitutive for both time and self-affection, is it still relevant 1) to
speak of time as a model for an affecting-affected consciousness, 2) to stick with
the word "self-affection" rather than, for instance, the expression "othered or
altered affection"?
Natalie Depraz 89

II. The Time between Auto- and Hetero-affection

What becomes obvious with Levinas, namely, that alterity can serve as a
clue for both time and subjectivity, was already implied in Merleau-Ponty's final
analysis. In this regard, keeping the tenn "auto-affection" (self-affection) ceases to
be relevant. If we are always affected by "something other" than ourselves, in
particular another self, or even "something alien" in ourself, then self-affection is
an "hetero-affection.,,8 The primacy of alterity modifies affection into an
hetero-affection and entails a new kind of temporality which appears to be fully
dependent on both alterity and affection.

A. Hetero-affection and time

Before we come to this new kind of temporality made possible by a

primary hetero-affection, it is necessary to recall Levinas' interpretation of the
Husserlian Urimpression. This is most certainly the first statement about a primarily
altering affection giving way to time itself:

[... ] la proto-impression est la non-idealite par excellence. La nouveaute

imprevisible de contenus qui surgissent dans cette source de toute
conscience et de tout etre---est creation originelle (Urzeugung), passage
du neant a i'etre (a un etre qui se modifiera en etre-pour-Ia conscience,
mais ne se perdrajamais), creation qui merite Ie nom d'activite absolue,
de genesis spontanea ; mais elle est a la [ois comblee au dela de toute
prevision, de toute attente, de tout germe et de toute continuite et, par
consequent, est toute passivite, receptivite d'un "autre" penetrant dans
Ie "meme" [... ].9

We will come back later in the third Part to the temporality which is
potentially indicated here as the emergence of radical novelty from a present that
is already past (just gone, namely, retention). The important thing for the moment
is the emphasis Levinas puts at the end of this quotation on the fact that
Urimpression, another word for UrafJektion (Urhy/e) in Husserl's later manuscripts
about time, is penetrated by a kind of passive alteration of itself.
Altering then becomes an interpretative clue for temporalization, as an
originary process that implies time without being itself temporal. But this does not
mean that time could tum out to be the sheer dis-implication of alteration. Rather
it is itself modified through the primacy of altering. It can no longer be understood
as a linear and non-reversing succession, along the lines of that succession which
still underlies the Husserlian and Heideggerian conceptions of time as composed

of two intentionalities, or ek-stases, grounded on the present. Like Merleau-Ponty,

Levinas sees the event of a "non-coIncidence" as the quintessence of time. Unlike
the former however, he shows how the impossibility of synchronization implies a
notion of alterity operative within time and constituting it. He calls this unique
phenomenal link connecting time and alterity "dia-chronie."lo
Furthermore, the primacy of otherness in Levinas' philosophy is guided
by the intuition of the .primacy of transcendence and of the origiruny distance it
implies. Through the expression "dia-chronie," Levinas endeavours to capture the
sense of this perpetual self-surpassing as an always waiting for and an always
tending toward: "Le temps signifie ce toujours de la non-coIncidence, mais aussi
ce toujours de la relation-de l'aspiration et de l'attente : fil plus tenu qu'une ligne
ideale et que la diachronie ne coupe pas [... ]"(p. 10). In Autrement qu 'eire ou au
dela de I 'essence, time is also clearly detehirined by alteration: the key-words for
it are "dephasage" and "diastase."ll In contrast with the Husserlian time opened up
by an Urimpression as a time of recovering, of catching up with the present,
Levinas (Derrida goes no further in the direction of that so-called Nachtraglichkeit)
stresses the origiruny alteration contained in a retention that turns out to be
impossible, except as an ideal:

[... ] differer dans I'identite, maintenir I'instant qui s'altere, c'est Ie

"pro-tenir" ou Ie "re-tenir" ! Differer dans l'identite, se modifier sans
changer-Ia conscience luit dans I'impression pour autant que
l'impression s'ecarte d'elle-meme : pour s'attendre encore ou deja se
recuperer. 12

In his later analysis of the Urimpression, Levinas thus comes back to his initial
intuition as expressed in the article entitled: "Intentionalite et sensation," with this
difference, that it is no longer an Husserlian interpretation. By now he has
developed his own concept of time as originary alteration.

B. Auto-affection and absolute previousness

Levinas' analysis of time is guided by a concept of alteration which

includes an element of passivity he calls "vulnerability." The I is an affected I, due
to the brittleness that inhabits it. All the same, affection is dependent upon the
concept of alterity, with the result that it has to be envisaged as a hetero-affection.
Although this concept of alterity seems to me quite correct as a description of
temporality (and consciousness as a whole), it is clear that Levinas tends to
Natalie Depraz 91

absolutize it. For this reason, the specific place accorded to alterity in the
description of time will also only be a relative one.
Moreover, the contrast with M. Henry's philosophy of auto-affection give
us grounds for such a restriction. The author of L 'essence de la manifestation
develops his intuition of life on the basis of a concept of immanence which involves
absolutely no distance, duality, alterity of any kind. Such a paradoxical life,
deprived of any extension or development, points in the direction of an absolute
self-coincidence whose model is, obviously, the absolute itself (whether divinely
inspired or not). Accordingly, M. Henry's analysis of self-affection as form of a
self-reference without any distance or difference of any kind is not able (and even
intentionally refuses) to take time into account.13 Time is placed outside the analysis
of immanence, just like language and otherness as a whole. Time is a minimal gap
or separation which M. Henry sets aside as a weakening of the structure of
Like Levinas, the author of Phenomenologie materielle l4 comes back to
the Husserlian Urimpression of the Time Lectures. Unlike him (indeed, in sharp
contrast with him), he sticks to the living present as an immanent self-coinciding
sphere and interprets retention as the first (unavoidable but unsuccessful) slippage
out of the originary impression. Both phenomenologists stress the loss that retention
entails. IS Their emphasis, however, is quite different: For Levinas, the description
of time is a description of precisely that originary loss which amounts to an
originary alteration. The reality of time is to be located in the trace it leaves behind
itself after its occurrence. For M. Henry, time has no reality within our immanent
life as self-affected beings. Suffering and desiring occur outside time.
There are advantages to sticking with a straightforward interpretation of
such a radically immanental philosophy. It would enable us to proceed back to the
very source of that well-known distinction between time and eternity which so
tormented Augustine. Still, we may be warned against such an interpretation by two
"little" difficulties which compel us to re-read M. Henry's experiential (and not
only sheerly metaphysical) analysis of immanence: First, immanence is a structure.
This means that it contains certain minimal kinds of articulation which disallow the
fiction of a pure and solid unity. 16 Second, if time is excluded from the philosophy
of self-affection in 1963, it appears under a new light in C'est moi, la verite. 17 The
correlated questions are then: 1) what is the kind of minimal gap immanence can
accept without resulting in its own dissolution as immanence? 2) what kind of
temporality results from such a minimally structured immanence? In his book about
christianity, M. Henry speaks of time as an "Avant absolu". He confronts the
theological difficulty of a time that would have to exist prior to itself, the very
impossibility Thomas noticed quite early on. But he evades the problem after having
taken note of it: First, he does not really consider: "Avant absolu" or "anteriorite

absolue" as really being time in the full sense of that word, although he does
repeatedly talk about anteriority. Second, he makes a distinction between two kinds
of self-affection: an originary one which remains timeless and simply consists of
an inner and reversible relationship between the Father and the Son within the
Plerome: at this first stage, non-duality is preserved and a kind a primary mobility
of superabundance emerges; a secondary self-affection involves a relationship
between that pleromic inner life and living beings affected through it. At this
second stage, time and hetero-affection are quite clearly operative. My conclusion
would be that, however convenient it might be to make such a distinction between
these two levels, the problem of time is not solved thereby.
If we remain at a logical level, we are obviously confronted with an aporia.
We are then entitled to talk of a circulus vitiosus or of a regressus in infinitum. This
was Thomas' conclusion. It is also the way most readers interpret the Husserlian
Urhy/e. I would like to suggest another path. Instead of questioning the primacy of
time against affection, or vice-versa, on the one hand, and instead of contrasting
alterity and self-coincidence, on the other, would it not be more fruitful to show
how time implies both a dimension of "previousness," with regard to the self, and
a character of absolute "unexpectedness," with regard to its occurring? To describe
temporality as a lived synthesis of previousness and unexpectedness involves three
other correlative elements: 1) affection, as a constitutive part of both temporal
phases; 2) attention, as a full feature of previousness; 3) alterity, which plays an
important role with regard to unexpectedness.

III. Time as a self-previousness of the unexpected 18

The experience which underlies the description of time I now want to

proceed to is the experience of the reduction itself. Something which is basic to the
very method of phenomenology seems to me to be a good enough phenomenolo-
gical criterium. Indeed, it might appear that our experience of time is particularly
concentrated and intensified in the phenomenological method itself, if it is really
experienced ofcourse, that is, ijit becomes more than a theoretical tool. So, while
taking the reduction in the Husserlian sense, I will also try to connect it with the
Heideggerian sense of affectedness. 19
First, I will endeavour to show that both sides, or, if you prefer, both
phases of that temporality (previousness/unexpectedness) are intimately linked and
to exhibit the nature of that link. Second, I will bring to light the constitutive part
which affection, attention and alterity each has to play in the overall dynamic
structure. By doing this, I hope to contribute to a re-interpretation of the concrete
and organic unity of retention and protention.
Natalie Depraz 93

A. The self-previousness of un-expectedness

How is it possible to foresee a totally unexpected event? Furthermore, how

is it possible when this event is nothing else than one's own self occurring as an
un-expected self? This logical difficulty can be removed only thanks to a concrete
analysis of both the temporal movements of consciousness and their organic link.
The first phase (self-previousness) refers to an unceasing and intensifying repetition
which gives way to a kind of superabundant mobility; the second phase (un-
expectedness) is the sudden emergence of surprise as something radically
Let us be more precise: the first phase is a phase where everything appears
to proceed quite slowly, where nothing seems to happen. One may even have the
impression of being at a standstill, especially if the repeated rhythm is not converted
into a moving reiterability. The main features of this first phase are the following:
1) continuity; 2) a dense fullness without any meaningful contrast; 3) repeated
reiterability. It may also be understood as a time of awaiting without any
particularly well-defined goal. As for the second phase, it is, as we said, sudden and
unexpected. It happens as a violent rupture within the so-called continuity of the
previous duration and it makes manifest a kind of open discrepancy in
consciousness. Nevertheless, it can only happen subsequent to the occurrence of the
first phase.
Let us now examine the organic link between both phases: 1) the second
one is obviously dependent on the first one. This means that the latter already
contains a passive consciousness, that is, a kind of continuous discontinuity which
can allow for the so-called sudden rupture within the flow of consciousness. Of
course, these previous, pre-conscious micro-gaps within consciousness are only
revealed as such at the very moment of the break inside consciousness. Nonetheless,
they prepare the way for it even in advance of its becoming apparent. If we become
self-aware of the novelty of the so-called event, it is due to the slow awaiting of
something we are not able to determine. Clearly, what is at issue here is the
phenomenal previousness of un-expectedness, as an experienced and embodied
structure of consciousness. 2) The second phase remains absolutely surprising.
Although the general form of the event may be embodied as a passive conscious
anticipation, its particular content remains totally unforeseeable.
The features of the second phase therefore are the following: 1) an
absolute discontinuity, creating the image of a break in consciousness; 2) a certain
instantaneousness as a kind of fulguration. The Sartrian contingency, as a token of
our absolute liberty, appears to be quite adequate to this second feature, though the
author of L 'eire et Ie neanfo never applied it directly to the analysis of time; 3) the
third feature refers to the affective impact of the unexpected event. It endows

affection (as violently coloured) with a leading-role (ifnot a constitutive role) in the
analysis of a previously foreseen unexpectedness. If affection in its violent
dimension plays such an important part in the second temporal phase, it is clear that
the first phase (on account of the previous organic link of both phases) is also
permeated by fluctuations of emotions, which are characterized by their lightness
and their fragility. I therefore suggest to call the manifest and fulgurant one
ajJection and the more fluctuant and therefore subtle one emotion.
At this point, we could say that the analysis of time we outlined previously
has many points in common with Heidegger's existential analysis of death in Sein
und Zeit: previousness/unexpectedness could be just another formulation for the
uncertain certainty of death: absolute un-expectedness is the specificity of death
itself, and in addition, this view of death is supported by the violence of the feelings
it arouses. The big difference, however, lies 1) in the everyday gradual and
emotional relevance we claim for this temporality: it can not be reduced to any such
single affective instance as death-no matter how mdical that instance might be. In
this respect, our possible experience of birth should also illustrate the same kind of
temporality, 2) the embodied dimension of it: to be able to foresee the unexpected.
In other words, to make the future become previous (as in the expression: "It will
have occurred"), requires a concrete, that is, embodied consciousness. To notice
this brings us to the second stage of our description. Only an analysis of the
concrete dimensions of affection, attention and alterity will enable us to transform
the present sketch into a still more concrete phenomenon.

B. Affection, attention and alterity

We have already mentioned the kind of affection that occurs when

something unexpected appears. Let us be more accurate before going on to analyze
the other kind of "affection," that is, the emotions to be found during the first phase.
The best image for the first affection is the shock of a hammer or a blow with a
stick: it is as sudden and as violent as that. It then can be endowed with either a
positive or a negative validation, either as something marvellous 21 or as something
traumatic. 22 In other words, its affective character lies in the ambivalence between
two mdica1ly opposed values, that is, between the wonder that entails astonishment
and the disaster that brings about commotion. As for the affective coloration of the
first phase, we could first think that it has much to do with Levinas' analysis of
neutral indifference in De I 'existence a I 'existant or-via Pascal-with Heidegger's
analysis of boredom. These features might of course be present during that time of
slow preparing and awaiting in which one is deprived of any certainty or precise
goal. My contention however, is that the affective colour of that first phase has
Natalie Depraz 95

more to do with our becoming ever more intensely conscious than with a complete
standstill. There might be moments oftotal immobility, but they are then followed
by another degree of intensity. Now, this kind of full mobility without any
conscious finality is the very structure of desire. H. Arendt has successfully
exhibited the intrinsic temporal dynamics of desire in the light of an analysis of
Augustine's concept of amor qua appetitus. 23 Even if desire also contains
breakdowns as constitutive elements, it is seen by Augustine as a force of expansion
similar to the dynamics of life itself. 24
Now, both kinds of affection are related to a particular mode of
consciousness. During the first temporal phase, we become more and more
conscious of something that might happen although we do not know what it is like.
We become more and more attentive to it, although we do not know exactly to what
we are supposed to be paying attention. In fact, we have to learn, and learn to
practice, the kind of non-directed attention which is in question here. All the same,
it is obviously an unfocussed attention. It is quite different from the perceptive
attention Husserl has to deal with when he is describing the horizonal structure of
perception. Since it cannot be a voluntary, active attention, it looks like a sort of
passive receptivity which, from the standpoint of Husserl's analysis of passive
synthesis, might well be interpreted as a progressive Weckung 25 : a uninterrupted
continuity of becoming conscious might be a good way to describe it.
As far as the second phase is concerned, we have to cope with a sudden
becoming aware. The unexpected event takes us by surprise, so that we are forced
both to concentrate upon it and to react immediately to it. The radical alteri ty of the
occurrence is the reason for such a rapid "putting oneselftogether." Whereas the
floating attentive consciousness of the first phase tries to catch the slow emergence
of something we do not know as such, the flashing self-awareness of the second
phase is immediately required if the self is to recover itself in the densest core of
itself, so as to be able to face the total alterity of the situation.
In conclusion, such an affected temporality could be summed up in the
expression: "It will have happened." The grammatical mode of the "future perfect"
is one way to try to capture this phenomenon in our language, that is, to try to
express (however briefly and inadequately) the phenomenon of an open synthesis
of previousness-unexpectedness, a synthesis composed of both attention and
It is clear that a huge discrepancy prevails between the grammatical level
and the level of the experience itself in its intuitive givenness. Let us therefore take
the future perfect as an invitation, however simplistic, to persevere in our efforts to
describe the thing itself.


1. "The second way is from the nature of efficient causes: In the world of sensible things we
find there is an order of efficient causes. There is no case known (neither it is, indeed,
possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself; for it would be prior to
itself, which is impossible" Thomas, Summa Theologica, I. q. 2, a. 3, The Summa
Theologica, Edited with an Introduction by Anton C. Pegis (New York: Modern Library
College Edition, The Modern Library, 1948).
2. Let me mention here the article where I give evidence for this interpretation of Husserl's
late analysis of time ; "Temporalite et affection dans les manuscrits tardifs sur la temporalite
(1929-1935) de Husserl," Alter 2 (1994), 63-86.
3. One idea that might well be able to capture this kind of affection is perhaps Eckhart's and
his concept of Abgeschiedenheit. A renewed (because embodied) version of Husserl's
unbeteiligten Zuschauers could also be fitted in.
4. G. Brand, Welt, Ich und Zeit, (Den Haag: M. Nijhoff, 1955), 13-14 (die Rejlexion im
Ansatz) et K. Held, Lebendige Gegenwart (Den Haag: M. Nijhoff, 1966), 94-126
(Selbstvergemeinschaftung). See also K Held, "Phiinomenologie der Zeit nach Husserl,"
Perspektiven der Phiinomenologie, Bd. 7 (1981), 199 ff.
5. l-P. Sartre, L 'etre et Ie neant (Paris: Gallimard, 1943) and Sokolowski, The Formation
ofHusserl's Concept ofConstitution (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1970).
6. Let me refer here to the concept of "self-aIterity" (alterite a soi) I used in a previous work
about intersubjectivity in Husserl (Transcendance et incarnation, Ie statut de
I'intersubjectivite comme aIterite a soi chez Edmund Husserl, Paris, Vrin, 1995) in order to
account for the genetic process of intersubjectivation.
7. H. Dreyfus (cf Being in the World, MIT Press, 1991, Introd., x) suggested translating
Befindlichkeit with "affectedness". See also the most recent translation of Sein und Zeit by
Joan Stambaugh (State University of New York Press, 1995). (Th. Kiesel's choice,
"disposedness" or Marcarrie's, "disposition" seem either awkward or a bit too plain.) I thank
F. Varela for giving me access to these different choices oftranslation.
8. R. Barbaras, "Le sens de I'auto-affection chez M. Henry et Merleau-Ponty", Epokhe 2,
(1991),91-113, especially 98.
9. E. Levinas, "Intentionalite et sensation," in En decouvrant ['existence avec Husserl et
Heidegger(Paris: Vrin, 1988), 155-156.
10. E. Levinas, Le temps et ['autre (1946-47) (Paris: P.U.F., 1985), Preface (1979), 9-11.
11. E. Levinas, Autrement qu 'etre ou au dela de ['essence (den Haag: M. Nijhoff, 1978),
12. Op. cit., 41.
13. M. Henry, L 'essence de la manifestation (1963), (paris: P.U.F., 1990),582-583.
14. M. Henry, Phenomenologie materielle (paris: P.U. F, 1990), first Part.
15. The ambivalence inherent in the concept of retention has been quite precisely shown by
R. Bernet in his articles "La presence du passe (Husserl)" and "La voix de son maitre
(Husserl et Derrida)," both recently published in La vie du sujet, Recherches sur
I'interpretation de Husserl dans la phenomenologie (paris: P.U.F., 1994).
Natalie Depraz 97

16. This has been vel)' well shown by Y. Yamagata in his article "Une autre lecture de
L .'essence de la manifestation: immanence, present vivant, alterite," Etudes philosophiques
2 (1991).
17. M. Henl)', C 'est moi, la verite, pour une philosophie du christianisme (paris: Seuil,
18. For all this, let me refer to the second Part ("Temporalite de I'auto-antecedance") of a
forthcoming book called Lucidite du corps. La chair transcendantale comme possibilite de
la phenomenologie. With regard to this point about time I am primarily endebted to F. Varela
and P. Vermersch. See N. Depraz, F. J. Varela, P. Vermersch, On becoming aware, steps
towards a phenomenological pragmatics (MIT Press, forthcoming).
19. As far as such a conception of reduction as a praxis is concerned let me refer to 1) "Das
Ethos der Reduktion als leibliche Einstellung," in Phanomenologische Ethik, ed. B.
Waldenfels (Miinchen: Fink Verlag, 1997); 2) "The phenomenological reduction as a praxis,"
Journal ofConsciousness Studies (1998).
20. J.-P. Sartre, L'etre et Ie neant (paris: Gallimard, 1943),538-612: "Liberte et facticite:
La Situation."
21. Heidegger spoke of the being of being as a wonder; just before dying, Husserl told his
wife that he had just seen something wonderful.
22. Fink mentions the reduction as a katastrophe; Levinas links the face-to-face relationship
with a timeless trauma.
23. H. Arendt, Der Liebesbegriff bei Augustin (Berlin: Springer, 1929).
24. As for such a description of that full mobility as a constitutive aspect of emotion in its
unceasing fluctuation, see my "Delimitation de i'emotion. Approche d'une phenomenologie
du creur," in Alter 7 (forthcoming).
25. Hua XI, especially the chapter about Erfollung. In The Embodied Mind (MIT Press,
1989), F. Varela (and al.) uses a vel)' well chosen word to account for this attentively passive
receptivity: he calls it "mindfulness." It was translated into French by "presence attentive."
The Physis of Consciousness and Metaphysics

Toru Tani
Josai International University-Japan


Heidegger once defined phenomenology as possibility. He says in Sein und Zeit:

"Higher than reality stands possibility. The understanding of phenomenology lies
solely in grasping it as possibility."l I think that this is the best possible definition
of phenomenology. It means that to "do phenomenology" is to construe it as a
possibility, and to develop that possibility. In this paper, I would like to develop the
possibility of phenomenology as a "metaphysics."
"Metaphysics" has many meanings. Here, I use it to mean the
"transcendental science of fact" in accordance with Husserl' s own use of the term
to designate a realm of science. However, we must be careful in dealing with this
definition of "metaphysics," since Husserl changes his position concerning the
relationship between the "transcendental science of fact" and "eidetic science." At
first, for Husserl, the transcendental science offact-or metaphysics-was based
upon eidetic science. In this case, the former becomes a "second philosophy"2 in
relation to the latter, which is the "first philosophy," since the latter, the science of
eidos or essence, must necessarily precede the former, which is the science of fact.
But in later years, Husserl came to regard the transcendental science of fact as the
science which questions such facts as precede the essence of the transcendental
subjectivity or consciousness which carries out the eidetic grounding itself. To be
more specific, it came to be understood as the science that deals with problems such
as the "fact" of the birth or death of the transcendental ego, the "fact" of the other,
the "fact" of history, and so on. Needless to say, when I speak of phenomenology
as a metaphysics, I am thinking of Husserl' s later conception of metaphysics as a
science that deals with the very origins of the transcendental SUbjectivity. The
problems of "self-awareness, temporality and alterity"-the common theme of this
conference--belong to this realm of metaphysics, and I think that the development
of this realm as one of the possibilities of phenomenology is a way to shed light on
these problems.
My paper today will be divided into four sections. The first section will
start with a consideration of temporality; the second will be a consideration of
Husserl's later conception of metaphysics; the third section will move on to the
relationship between alterity and self-awareness; and the fourth and final section
will deal shortly with the problem of historicity.
D. ZaluJvi (ed.), Selfawareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 99-117.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

I. Panta rhei

Panta rhei. This tenn appeared at the beginning of natural philosophy in

the West and has left an imprint on the whole history of Westem "metaphysical"
thinking. Everything flows away and disappears if we let it be. Husserlian
phenomenology also shares this heritage-it is part of a tradition that tries to grasp
that which flows away. For if everything were allowed to flow away and disappear
as soon as it appears, our experience would have no unity. Using melody as an
example, Husserl focused on the operation of consciousness as it retains the phases
of sound which flow away. This is the operation which is called "retention." Thanks
to retention, the consciousness is able to hold back that which ceaselessly flows
Now, my first question is this: Without the operation of retention, will
everything truly flow away and vanish?
I would like to begin my consideration of this problem by re-examining the
well-known theory of retention. Husser! regards retention as a kind of
"intentionality" and therefore refers to it also as "retentionality.,,3 Retentionality has
three important functions. First, it plays a vital role in the constitution of each
object. Husser! distinguishes Erlebnis (mental experience) from Wahrnehmung
(perception), and Erscheinungen (appearances) from Erscheinendes (that which
appears). What is mentally experienced in consciousness-or more precisely, in
intentional mental experience-is not that which appears in itself, but rather, its
appearances. That which appears is perceived through the mental experience of its
appearances. To rephrase this: that which appears is perceived, its appearances are
mentally experienced, and that which appears is perceived through its mentally
experienced appearances. However, the perception ofthat which appears need not
necessarily follow the mental experience of a/l its appearances. As soon as the first
appearance is mentally experienced, the consciousness, so to speak, "takes a
gamble" to perceive that which appears. In nonnal cases, the mentally experienced
appearances which follow confinn the gamble to have been correct, and the
preceding stake is rewarded with a more fulfilled perception. Husser!' s notion of
"teleology" signifies that our constitution of individual objects nonnally proceeds
in this manner.
Now, when perception takes place, various appearances are mentally
experienced in sequence, but the preceding experiences do not immediately flow
away and vanish. They are "retained." If they were to vanish entirely, the above-
mentioned teleology would make no sense, even if the gamble were rewarded. Just
as it would make no sense if horse race tickets were to vanish the moment they were
bought. But in fact, thanks to retentionality, preceding appearances durate in the
consciousness, and through them, that which appears nonnally gains in the
Toru Tani 101

determination of its meaning. This is possible because the consciousness has not
only Urimpressions (primal impressions), but is also able to retain earlier
impressions which would otherwise flow away and vanish immediately. And in the
opposite direction, consciousness has also the operation of protention, which
anticipates that which arrives. Retention, primal impression and protention together
make up the triadic structure of the present.
Retentionality makes possible the constitution of an individual object as
a unity-the unity of a melody, for example. But retentionality retains not only the
object. It also retains itself. This is its second function. Husser! calls this function
of self-retention "inner retention',4 or ''vertical intentionality,"5 and distinguishes it
from "outer retention" or "horizontal intentionality," which is retention of the
object. Consciousness retains itself thanks to "inner retention." This means that the
consciousness does not immediately flow away and vanish. It keeps itself. It
appears by itself to itself. Moreover, this self-retained and self-appearing
consciousness is gathered together in "constant concurrence and unity with itself. "6
During the years of his lectures on inner time-consciousness, Husser! did not refer
to this concurring and unified self of the consciousness as the ego. But later, he
said: "In myoid doctrine of inner time-consciousness, I treated the hereby presented
intentionality precisely as intentionality ... but I did not speak of the ego, nor did I
characterize it [intentionality] as being concerned with the ego (as being, in the
widest sense, a will-intentionality). Later I introduced the latter as an [ego-
concerned] intentionality, which is founded on an intentionality ("passivity") that
has no relation to the ego."7 Thus, speaking more precisely, the "self-appearance"g
of the consciousness in vertical intentionality and its "concurrence and unity with
itself' is also to be identified with the constitution of the unity of the ego. This
means that retentionality is that which makes the ego possible.
Retentionality plays a third important role in the constitution of objective
time. Preceding appearances and the appearing entity which corresponds to those
appearances are retained in the consciousness, but there is a limit to the power of
retention. The limit of retention is the limit of the present. Are the series of
retentions which go beyond the limit ofthe present completely lost in that case?
No-we can "recall" them. When we recall a series of retentions, it also possesses
the triadic structure of retention-primal impression-protention. If we recall a second
series which further precedes the first recalled series, this second series also has the
same triadic structure of retention-primal impression-protention. In this case, the
primal impressional portion of the subsequently recalled phase is identified with the
retentional portion of the formerly recalled phase. Ifwe further recall a third phase
which further precedes the secondly recalled phase, this thirdly recalled phase also
has the same triadic structure. This time, the primal impression of the thirdly
recalled phase is identified with the retentional part of the secondly recalled phase.

In this manner, we repeat a regressive step-by-step identification which Husserl

calls "Uberschiebung," which means the overlapping of retention and primal
impression. This is the way in which uni-linear objective time is constituted. There
is one and only one objective time. Any time-fragment which is constituted but not
merged into objective time becomes quasi-time.
The constitution of objective time engenders a more important effect.
Namely, objective time makes possible the determination of the "Being" of all
objects. Objects have three kinds of "Being": real Being, neutral Being and ideal
Being. Husserl equates real Being with the duration of an object from one time-
place to another in objective time. Husserl says: "Temporality is for us a sufficient
marker of reality. Real Being and temporal Being are indeed not identical, but they
are concepts with the same range. ... so one can define reality precisely through
temporality.,,9 This determination of reality is supported by the constitution of
objective time. The act of positing Being-which is the subjective correlate to the
determination of the Being of objects-also presupposes the constitution of
objective time. Initially, Husserl had no conception of quasi-time, but he later
developed this concept and came to equate neutral Being with the duration of an
object from one time-place to another in quasi-time. Thus, neutral Being is also
determined by temporality, although in this case as quasi-temporality, where the
constituted time-fragment is not merged into the one objective time. In contrast to
both real Being and neutral Being, ideal Being does not have a proper time-place
in either objective time or quasi-time, but it can appear in both. We must be careful
here. Ideal Being does indeed lack a proper time-place, but nevertheless, it can
appear only in either objective time or quasi-time. It cannot appear outside of time.
It necessarily relates to time. Therefore, ideal Being should not be referred to as "a-
temporality" or "supra-temporality"-it is more precise to call it "all-temporality."
In this way, the constitution of time is that which makes the determination
of the Being of objects possible. This way of thinking provides a guarantee for the
theory of the transcendental reduction, since the Being of objects is entirely
replaced by their way of belonging to time, which is an original product and
property of consciousness. Time in this sense is also referred to as "time-form."
How then should we understand space? I do not have time to go into a detailed
analysis of space, but let me say that in comparison to time, Husserl allots only a
secondary role to space. Nevertheless, space, together with time, makes up the
world. In this respect, both time and space are necessary components of the "world-
form" 10 which enables the determination of the Being of objects. The way of Being
of objects is determined by the way in which each object belongs to the world-form.
In this sense we can say that the world-form allows or makes the object to "be."
And there is one and only one objective world-form into which fragments of time
and space are combined.
Toru Tani 103

Now, if each object depends upon the world-fonn to receive its proper
determination of Being, does the world-fonn itself also receive the detennination
of Being from somewhere else? In order for the world-fonn to receive the
determination of Being, must it not belong to a larger world-fonn? But then, are two
objective world-fonns-a larger and a smaller-possible? No. Only one objective
world-fonn is possible. But the one world-fonn can grow larger-it can expand
itself. Subsequent to such an expansion, the previous smaller world-fonn is, strictly
speaking, no more the world-fonn. It is so to speak reified. Then, after such an
expansion, is it possible for the one and only world-fonn-the self-expanded larger
world-fonn-to receive the determination of Being? Does the world as world-fonn
"exist" in the sense of its being determined as Being? Or does it not "exist?" The
answer is that it exists, but that it has another kind of Being than that of objects. It
exists independently from the act of positing [Setzen], which is the act of making
something belong to the world-fonn. This different kind of Being is expressed by
the word "basis" or "ground" [Boden]Y The world is thus the "world-ground."12
Referring to this different manner of Being, Husserl says: "Consciousness of the
world is ... not gained ... by a deliberate act of positing Being in the context of
life."13 "There is a principal difference between the way of being conscious of the
world and being conscious of things, being conscious of objects ... " 14
Now, the world-fonn is not complete from the very beginning, but is
constituted gradually. Objective world-form, namely the objective fonn of time and
space, is constituted through an active operation of consciousness. Here I will speak
only of time. As I have already mentioned, objective time-fonn is constituted by
"recalling," which is an active operation. But this operation presupposes a passive
one-that of retentionality. It is now possible to take the question a step further.
Retentionality is already an intentionality that is concerned with the ego, as Husserl
acknowledged in his later years. Retentionality is indeed passive and it is the
presupposition for active operations. But is it the ultimate presupposition? Does not
even this passive intentionality have another presupposition? According to Husserl,
it does. For here, we encounter another passivity-"primal passivity" (Urpassivitat).
Husserl says that retentionality, the ego-related intentionality, "is founded on an
intentionality ("passivity") which has no relation to the ego ... " Here we must turn
our eyes to this special kind of passivity which Husserl frames in quotation marks.
That Husser! made a study ofthis special kind of passivity in the 1930's is well
known from the study by Professor Klaus Held. Husserl himself says:

The structural analysis of the primal present (the standing living flow)
leads us to the structure of the ego and to the underlying flow that has no
relation to the ego which founds the former structure, it leads back to

something that radically precedes the ego. 15


As this quotation suggests, this underlayer is characterized by the

ambiguity of both flowing and standing. The meaning of this ambiguity can only be
understood in comparison to the idea of panta rhei. According to the idea of panta
rhei, everything flows away unless the consciousness retains it. For this reason,
Husserl found the concept of retention to be necessary. And retentionality is in
itself an intentionality accompanied by the ego, since it has a double-structure of
outer and inner retention of which the latter constitutes the ego. But primal passivity
does not accompany an ego. In primal passivity, intentionality is at a minimum.
How can we express this kind of minimal "intentionality"? Perhaps as "pre-
intentionality" [Vorintentionalitat], although this term is probably inadequate. Does
everything in this underlayer of pre-intentionality flow away immediately, since
retentionality does not yet operate? But Husserl says something surprising, that
everything does not immediately flow away but also stands still. Thanks to this
standing, the primal present does not become something like an abstract geometrical
point. It has a minimal duration, which is the most primal form of time. This is
amazing from the point of view of panta rhei.
Husserl considers the miracle of this situation: "Now, however, I
deliberate carefully, and in reconsideration at last [I find] the primal structure [of
time-form and world-form] is generated in its change of primal hyle, etc. together
with primal kinesthese, primal sensations, and primal instincts. In accordance with
this is the fact that the primal material flows just so in a united form [as primal time-
form and world-form] and that this essential form precedes worldliness [which will
be constituted at a higher stage]. Thus, it appears that the constitution ofthe whole
world for me is already 'instinctively' prescribed, where the enabling functions [of
the constitution of objects, and therefore the function of world-form] themselves
possess beforehand an essential ABC, and essential grammar. Therefore it lies in
the fact that a teleology already is there."16
It seems to me that Husser!, in using the terms "primal structure," "united
form" and "the enabling functions," is expressing the primal form of time and world
which at a higher stage of constitution will later enable the determination of the
Being of objects. But who or what engenders this primal time-form and world-
form? Is it the ego? But here the ego does not yet exist. The unity of the primal
time-form and world-form is not constituted by the ego. It is a primal unity that
precedes the ego, that precedes the unity of the ego. It is a matter of "fact" that takes
place at the lowest stage of consciousness.
Is it then a consciousness without ego that constitutes the primal world-
form? But the essence of consciousness-which is intentionality-operates here at
a minimum. Thus it would be misleading to say that the consciousness constitutes
the primal world-form. It is better to speak of a "natural donation" or "gift." The
consciousness merely receives it, or better, the gift of nature allows itself to be
Toru Tani 105

received in consciousness. This receiving is probably the origin of consciousness

itself. Natural donation begets consciousness of this donation at the lowest stage.
The reception of the gift is not thematization as an operation of the consciousness.
The consciousness is merely given a fluctuating world-form without thematization.
The natural donation itself possesses a primal and therefore fragile and fluctuating
unity that makes possible the primal and fragile unity of the consciousness. The
latter merely receives the primal unity of the natural donation prior to inner
retention-thus, prior to self-awareness in the usual sense. The pre-stage of self-
awareness is somewhat parasitic. But if the primal world-form which gives unity
to consciousness were completely flat and homogeneous (or stood completely still),
consciousness would never become aware of it. On the other hand, if it flowed too
rapidly or had no breadth, in this case too, consciousness would not become aware
of it. Instead, the primal world-form offers a flowing-and-standing present. Thus,
the fragile and fluctuating (flowing) unity of the world-form simultaneously makes
possible the minimal unity of consciousness and a minimal "awareness," although
the double (outer and inner) functions of retentionality do not yet operate. This
"awareness" is something like a "breathing" that responds to the fluctuating
donation of the primal world-form.
But to say that this natural donation is a "gift from nature" may also be
misleading. The donation has no subject. "Natural" should be thought of rather as
an adjective or adverb. It is true that Husserl, following the traditions of Westem
philosophy, tends to look for a subject. But it is also possible to think of this
donation in another way. Professor Held has alr~ady shown us one possibility, in
using the concept of seiend. And in Oriental philosophy, the traditional tendency
has usually been to eradicate the subject, rather than to look for it. Professor Kah
Kyung Cho has made an interesting attempt to combine the ideas of phenomenology
with the thinking of Lao Tzu. I would also like to refer to Lao Tzu, but instead of
interpreting his views on the non-subject, I will refer to him in the matter of the
primal world-form.

The famous first verse of Lao Tzu says:

The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao

The name that can be named is not the eternal name
Nameless are the origins of heaven and earth

Tao-which is sometimes translated as the "Way" or "Path"-is the origin

of heaven and earth, and therefore of the constituted world. Tao is the primal world-
form. Lao Tzu says of Tao that it has no proper name, but in Verse Six, he also
speaks of it metaphorically as the "spirit of the valley."

Verse Six goes like this:

The valley spirit does not die

It is called the mystic female
Her gateway is said to be the roots of heaven and earth

The valley is the lowest place between mountains and it is the place where
water flows. In the Western tradition ofpanta rhei, the water is seen to be eternally
flowing away. But what the West did not look at is the valley, which stays in place.
Lao Tzu says that the valley spirit never dies. Even when neither man nor
consciousness operates, the valley always stands. Even when the water flows away,
the valley remains. This can be said to suggest the stability of the primal world-form
in contrast to the fluidity of the panta rhei.

In Verse Twenty-one, Lao Tzu says:

The Tao itself is like something

Vague and elusive
So elusive and vague
Yet in it are forms
Vague and elusive
Yet in it are things
That are deep and dark
In it are essences, subtle but real
Embedded in it is true belief.
From of old until now
The name has never passed away
It is the way to know the beginning of all things
How shall I know the beginning of all things?
By this!

Cho rephrases this in the following way: "It [Tao] is impossible to grasp,
impossible to know, yet it conceals form within itself. Impossible to grasp,
impossible to know, yet it encircles power."l7 The "form" concealed in the Tao is
the primal world-form. The "things" in it are not things such as trees or stones, but
things which can be experienced in contrast to those which are imaginary. The
"power" is the function which enables the determination of the Being of objects and
threfore allows the objects to "be." This power does not depend on man; therefore
it is pure. It makes possible not only the belief in Being but also all belief. It has in
itself the condition of possibility for all belief. But the stability of the Tao as primal
world-form is not so stable as the constituted objective world-form. The former is
transitional and fluctuating in comparison to the latter. It is, so to speak, very
Torn Tani 107

fragile. It lets the original things flow away. We are conscious of this situation,
because Tao allows itself immediately to be conscious by giving itself to the
The words of Verse Twenty-five, also very famous, are as follows: "There
was something, without order. It was born before the heaven and earth." These
words can be said to express the Oriental concept of the Creation. In the Taoist
universe first there is chaos before heaven and earth, yet within that chaos there is
a latent form which cannot be known and yet which is the origin of all knowable
things. The latent form, which can be called the primal world-form, is given from
the beginning of all things, but as something incomplete.
Verse Twenty-five goes on:

Pressed for a name

I would call it great
Great means passing away
Passing away means far-reaching
Far-reaching means return

"Great" means that the world-form can encompass all objects. "Passing
away" and "far-reaching" are also said to mean "return." This does not signify
eternal return, but in an ironical way, it means the opposite of flowing away:
It is a dangerous thing to draw parallels between ideas in Western and
Eastern thinking, since the two operate on very different concepts. I only want to
suggest here that both traditions, although from a different
perspective-specifically speaking, the panta rhei of Western philosophy and "the
valley spirit that never dies" in the writing of Lao Tzu-both point to the
metaphysical aspect of nature in the lowest dimension of our experience, where a
world is already given to us apart from any intentionality of the ego or operation of
the consciousness.

II. Metaphysics

The interpretation above leads to a new possibility for phenomenology.

Husserl did not acknowledge the possibility of either birth or death for the
transcendental ego. Why? He says:

The pure subject ... is not born and does not pass away .... If it is to make
sense to say that this ego is born or passes away, we must verify just this
possibility in pure presence, and we must be able to grasp the essential
possibility of being born and vanishing in pure intuition. But the

moment we attempt this, we are struck by the contradiction. The pure

ego of such an intuition itself, ... would live in one hand in the continuity
of this observation, as that which is identical to its duration, yet it must
simultaneously discover a stretch of time precisely within this duration
where it itself is not, and a point of beginning in which it itself first came
into Being. 18

Without going into the precise relationship between the pure ego and the
transcendental ego, let me just say that the pure ego is the essential aspect of the
transcendental ego which performs intuition. Now, a phenomenologically
meaningful statement must be rooted in intuition. In order for the intuition to be
possible, there must be an ego to perform that intuition. But before the birth of the
ego and after its death, there is no ego to perform the intuition. For this reason,
Husserl insists on "the immortality of the transcendental ego-the impossibility of
the birth of the transcendental ego."19
This was Husserl's "official" position on the birth and death of the
transcendental ego. But let us re-examine here the reason for Husserl's denial of
birth and death. If all constitution depends on the ego, its death will mean the
disappearance of the world itself. This does not merely mean that a thing would
vanish, or even that all things would vanish. If the world itself vanishes, it means
that the world-form which enables all objects to "be" will vanish. The very
condition of possibility of Being itself will vanish. This would be a most terrible
event for Western thinking. For this reason, Husserl "officially" attempts to deny
it. However, if the primal world-form is given before and independently of the
constitution of the ego, we are offered a new possibility to think about the "before"
and "after" of the ego and therefore about its birth and death, and furthermore,
about generativity.
As I said at the beginning of this paper, Husserl in his later years
conceived the idea of a "metaphysics" in a new sense, and attempted to consider the
possibility of the birth and death of the ego. As I also said, Husserl' s use of the
word "metaphysics" is not unequivocal. Sometimes he uses the word critically,
sometimes positively. The first instance in which he uses the word positively is
when he speaks of a science of facts that is based upon a science of essences. In this
case, metaphysics would be equivalent to what he calls a "second philosophy." But
in his last years, Husserl arrived at the consideration of a special type of fact-the
"primal fact" -that precedes even the essence of the transcendental ego itself.
Husserl's project of a "Seventh Cartesian Meditation" was never realized, but it was
conceived as a "metaphysics" that considers facts of this type. For in any case, it is
only when one acknowledges that the donation of the primal world-form is
Torn Tani 109

independent of the ego that one can consider such "metaphysical" problems as the
birth or death of the ego.
Indeed, Husserl' s project of "metaphysics" included the following
problems: the birth and death of the ego, and thus the '''fact' of the ego,"
"historicity,"20 "generativity," "temporalization," "community of monads," "the
uniqueness of the world,"21 and so on. Husserl's writings concerning these
problems are fragmentary. In the next section, I would like to consider them in the
context of this conference.

III. Community of monads

The primal world which is given to the ego cannot be the exclusive
possession of that ego. It is open. Metaphorically speaking, it is like the openness
of land before the institution of "private land." It is open land which nobody
thematizes as his own or as someone else's possession. It lies already and always
there, in silence. The primal home-world is non-thematically open and familiar to
everyone, and precedes the thematized home-world of each individual.
Here, we must consider the monadology of HusserI. In the formation of his
theory of the Other, Husserl was influenced by three philosophers: Theodor Lipps,
Wilhelm Dilthey and Leibniz. From Lipps, Husserl critically accepted the theory of
empathy, from Dilthey the theory of the historical and social community of subjects,
and from Leibniz, the theory of the monad.
What is a monad? As is often said, a monad is more concrete than an ego-
pole. A monad is possessed of habituality. Surely. But the theory of the monad has
another and more decisive aspect: that is, the monad has a world. Thus the
monadology is also a theory of the world. We should pay more attention to this
aspect of monadology. Furthermore, what is meant when we speak of a community
of monads? It means not only that many monads belong to one common world, but
also that the many world-forms of many monads are integrated into one world-form.
If the world-form of my monad and those of other monads coincide, a common and
unique world-form is easily formed. In this common and unique world-form, what
is real for me is also real for others, what is the past for me is also the past for
others. The constitution of the world would always be successful if this were the
But what happens when the world-form of each monad is different? In an
extreme case, what is neutral for me might appear to the other as reality; what is
past for me might appear to the other as present. In the worst case, even the terms
"for me" and "for the other" may become totally incomprehensible. A situation such

as this can be imagined in the case of schizophrenia. Usually the discordance is

much milder, such as is experienced in an encounter with an alien culture.
There are two types of discordant encounters with alien monads. First:
there is the type of experience where one and the same object has a different
meaning for me and for the other. For example, an object may have the meaning of
a "bottle" for me, but the meaning of a "club" for the other. In this case, the other
is one who constitutes a different meaning. This kind of experience is quite
common in our day-to-day lives.
But a second type of discordant encounter is also possible. First of all, in
order for myself and the other to be able to grasp an object as one and the same, we
need not only a common determination of meaning, but also a common
determination of its time-place and space-place. Even if we recognize the same
meaning, a difference of time-place and space-place would make identification of
the object impossible. So called "alibis" -in a murder case, for example-depend
upon this principle. This principle is valid only when we all recognize a common
integrated world-form. But if the other has a different world-form-and thus a
different time-form and space-form-no identification is possible at all. In this case,
the other is one who constitutes a different world-form.
In my opinion, Husserl recognized both types of experience in our
encounters with the other, but because his comments on this matter are very
fragmentary, I will attempt to put them in order from the perspective of the problem
of the world-form.
At the first stage of our world experience, the consciousness receives the
world so to speak as a "gift" with no knowledge or even suspicion of the existence
of any other worlds. The world presents not only a world-form but also its world-
material. 22 The world-material at this stage is given as something familiar and
minimally discordant, self-evident and non-thematical.
The world at this stage is "the world itself' in the sense that no other world
is known-not in the Kantian sense of "noumena." Any "interest" that occurs
always remains "inside" this world. The "interest" never goes-cannot
go--"outside," because at this stage, there is no "outside." And the "interest" at this
stage is not yet theoretical but only "practical interest." As Husserl says: "Practical
interest is in the inside." 23
Is the alien-world then entirely absent at this stage of constitution? In one
sense, yes. But it is not absent in the sense that the absence is verified, namely in
the sense of a thematical negation of Being. Husserl says something very subtle:
"The world itselfhas an outside that is open to all, unknown to all-an outside that
is 'in general' irrelevant...,,24
The world itself has an outside that is open, not yet determined, and
unknown and in general irrelevant. What does this mean---especially the word
Torn Tani 111

"irrelevant"? It relates to interest but it is different from a mere negation of interest.

Husserl deals with the concept of interest in Erfahrung und Urteil and Erste
Philosophie. Its most important meaning is "inter-esse," where it is regarded as a
relation to Being. 25 For example, let us say that I now have an interest in this book.
This means that I direct myself towards the book and insist on its Being as an
object. Even if the "turning toward" [Zuwendung] passes on to a new object, the
interest itself remains on the book, inasmuch as it continues to insist on its Being.
But the Being of an object is possible only when the object belongs to the world-
form. Thus, interest is possible only inside of the world. It is also the case with that
of the primal world, even if its world-form is not yet completed. From this stem
Husserl's words that "practical interest is in the inside."
Now, at this first stage of constitution, the world-form remains
insufficiently developed. The determination of Being and that of absence as the
thematical negation of Being are possible only within the world-form. Therefore,
concerning the outside of the world-form, neither a determination of Being nor its
thematical negation is possible. We cannot say that the outside "exists" or "does not
exist." We cannot determine its reality or neutrality or ideality. It is open und
unknown. So the primal world-form does acknowledge the outside in a way, as a
vague sense of openness and unknownness. The acknowledgement lies outside of
thematization, outside of the determination of Being-in other words, it is
"irrelevant." It is something like "otherwise than Being."
One tends to implicitly presuppose a big empty space and to think of this
space as the outside-world. But at this stage of constitution, the big empty space has
not yet been constituted. Here, the outside is beyond the world-form itself. The
turning toward or interest in Being does not go beyond the world-form. The outside
can be thematized only when it is encountered as an intrusion. Only when it "stands
out" in some way does the '''discovery' of the alien surrounding-world,,26 occur.
This is the second stage of constitution. But such a discovery cannot be grasped
beforehand by protention, because the alien-world lies beyond time-form and
because its standing out is totally independent of the operation of protention. Thus
the discovery of the alien-world is a sudden event that cannot be anticipated at all.
It is a fact which occurs with no essential necessity.
At the first moment of encounter with an alien world, the "outside"
appears to the consciousness as something completely incomprehensible. "The
alien, that now comes or is about to come into acquaintance for the first time, is not
immediately comprehensible according to its concrete style, ... Rather, the alien is
at first incomprehensibly alien.'>27 Something alien, something alien-worldly, is at
the moment of discovery simply incomprehensible. Or better, we might say that the
distinction between comprehensibility and incomprehensibility is the very criterion
for the distinction between home-worldliness and alien-worldliness. Husserl says:

"Home and alien express a distinction of understanding. ,,28 Something that is alien
and incomprehensible appears at first as something "un-heimlich" or "un-homely"
in its literal sense. But we seldom encounter an alienness which has a different
world-form supporting a difference of Being of the objects in it. On the other hand,
we do often encounter the alienness of a different world-material, supporting a
difference of meaning of the objects in it. It is the latter which Husserl primarily
speaks of.
At this second stage, where an alien world is encountered for the first time,
we can distinguish between three levels. At the first level, the home-Iy
consciousness attempts to understand the material or meaning of the alien. Husserl
says: "Genetically each of us must at first acquire knowledge of the alien
surrounding-world as something different from our own... ,,29 Such a recognition is
gained by searching for a common meaning between the home-Iy and the alien.
Then we realize: "To be sure, even the most alien, even the most incomprehensible
has a core offamiliarity, ... "30 "A core offamiliarity" means a common meaning for
both. By finding such a common meaning, "the transition from the
incomprehensibility of the alien to comprehensibility" occurs.
At the second level, the home-Iy consciousness attempts to understand its
own material. In Husserl's words: "Becoming acquainted with many alien nations
awakens an interest in the self-understanding of one's own national existence in
contrast to the peculiarities of the alien.,,31 Here the transition from self-evidence
[Selbstverstandlichkeit] to self-understanding [Selbstverstandnis] occurs. Self-
understanding is also self-determination. Such self-determination is possible only
through an encounter with alienness and in the presence of alienness. "The universe
in its first form as home-world comes into relief only when other home-worlds,
other nations are already there on the horizon."32 The other causes the home-Iy to
be thematized as the home-Iy, the proper as proper, the self as self.
But there is also a third level. In order for the home-Iy consciousness to
thematize both the alien-world and the home-world, it must constitute the large
world which encompasses both worlds-namely, "the one identical world."33 Only
when they are encompassed into a larger world-form can specific smaller worlds be
determined as being a Greek or German or Danish world, although the naming itself
is founded on some kind of reification of these worlds.
Now how about the large world itself? It cannot be thematized as such. In
order to thematize it, an even larger world-form must be constituted. Only then can
the larger world be determined, for example, as an European world. But the largest
outermost world itself remains non-thematized.
The world as world-form expands itself and always makes itself non-
thematical when we attempt to thematize it. It is non-thematically presupposed
when the home-world and the alien-world which belong to that self-expanding
Torn Tani 113

world-form are thematized. But without this non-thematical self-expanding world-

form no determination of Being is possible. Such a self-expanding world-form is
for thematization only "a regulative idea," for the determination of Being. The
teleology of the donation of the primal world-form prescribes the constitution of
this regulative idea, namely Weltall-which is the whole world, or universe.
Naturalism is the way of thinking that attempts to thematize the Weltall
(therefore to grasp it as a kind of object, as an ideal object), and for this purpose,
it utilizes the method of "idealization" [Idealisierung]. While in truth, the
constitution of the world-form is always underway, idealization of the Weitallieads
to the misunderstanding that the constitution is already completed and that the
world-form is a fixed and thematizable object. This is dangerous, especially from
the view point of the world-material. We have a tendency to constitute objects with
more homogeneity in their meaning when we totalize multiple objects: for example,
the European world is more homogeneous than the Greek or German world. But the
world is not a kind of object. The constitution of the world is always a process; it
is impossible to arrive at a complete homogeneity (as an ideal object). If we forget
the process-character of constitution, we easily mistake a relative (for example
European) homogeneity for an absolute one. We sometimes mistake our own ethnic
world-material as being universal and transplant it non-thematically into the world-
form. However, we are always underway in the constitution of the world. An
encounter with a new alien world often forces us to return to the process of
constitution, where we may learn from the new alien world-material and thematize
our own ethnic world-material for what it is, instead of mistaking it for a universal

IV. Historicity

Husserl in his later years became increasingly interested in the problem of

the historicity of the transcendental ego. As I have already mentioned, his
"metaphysics" also included the problem of historicity. This increase in interest was
most likely influenced by Dilthey, whose concept of the structure of mental
experience, expression and understanding Husserl reinterpreted
phenomenologically. In consciousness or mental experience, preceding
constitutions remain in memory, and are associated with the constitutions which
follow. In this sense the constitutions make up, metaphorically speaking, "layers"
or "sedimentations." Husserl regarded these as "inner historicity" [innere
Geschichtlichkeit]. We are able to constitute so-called history-that is, history as
a series of objective occurrences-as history, because we have an inner historicity
of mental experience or consciousness. "The historiographical world is obviously

at first given as a social-historical world. But it is historical only through the inner
historicity of each individual ... ". 34 So-called history, whose constitution is founded
on inner historicity, and the inner historicity itself are therefore analogous in
structure. In other words, it is because we have a mental experience of inner
historicity, and thus of world-constitution, that we are able to give the meaning of
"history" to our constituted world. Thus Husserl wrote at the beginning of Crisis:
"We attempt to break through the outer crust of the alienated 'historiographical
facts' of the history of philosophical thought, to question and demonstrate its inner
sense, its hidden teleology."35 It is easy to see here how Husserl developed
Dilthey's idea of mental experience, expression, and understanding in a
transcendental direction.
Husserl attempted to analyze inner historicity. But the analysis of inner
historicity is never complete, because inner historicity possesses a depth and
because our mental experience is always underway. On the other hand, if so-called
history-the historiography of facts--<:onceals within itself an inner meaning, that
meaning can be an index for the analysis of inner history. Husserl says: "Human
nature and history becomes the transcendental index of the unity of a transcendental
history ... "36 The analysis of inner historicity and that of so-called history are
therefore complementary. Phenomenology must work in a "zig-zag"37 to
accommodate this complementarity.
This approach towards so-called history is not motivated by a desire to
search for a "historiographical-factical truth." It is introduced as a method to
analyze the constitution of our whole life. For in our whole life, inner historicity
tends to teleologically constitute the Weltall-the whole world-as a regulative
idea. It is for this reason that Husserl sees a teleology at work within our so-called


Finally, let me summarize what I have been speaking about.

In his later years, Husserl discovered the problem of the primal passive
layer of consciousness, where the primal world is given. This givennness, or
donation, is independent of the operation of the consciousness or the ego. Here,
both the outer and inner intentionalities are primal-passive. Nevertheless, not
everything flows away immediately, but stands. In such a way is the primal world-
form given. This donation is natural and primal-factical. This is the presupposition
for the possibility of a new metaphysics.
I think that the unity of consciousness depends totally on this unity of the
world-form. Both operations of retentionality, both outer and inner retention, are
minimal. Therefore the consciousness does not yet have the power to organize
Toru Tani 115

itself. The unity of consciousness is somewhat parasitic. It cannot be independent

of the unity of the world-form. In this sense there is no more than a minimal
division between the consciousness and the world. The world at this stage is
maximally familiar, self-evident, intimate and innermost to the consciousness. It
gives itself to the consciousness as that which is minimally discordant and
minimally noticeable. As for the consciousness, it has no choice, because it knows
no other alternative. This situation is the pre-stage of self-awareness, but not self-
awareness itself, if"self-awareness" is taken to mean something that divides itself
from the world and also from the alien.
But in fact, the primal world and consciousness encounter the alien-world
and alien monads. The latter appear at first as something incomprehensible and un-
home-Iy. The consciousness attempts to thematize it-namely, to understand its
material or meaning. Then the consciousness goes on to thematize its own material.
Here, for the first time, the concept of home-liness in contrast to alienness and
alterity, is discovered, and the consciousness thematizes this and becomes aware of
its own distinctiveness in a leap to "self' -awareness. But at the same time, the
consciousness expands its world-form to encompass both alien-world and old
home-world, so that both are now included in an expanded larger world that is once
more non-thematical. It is impossible to thematize the larger world-form in a
complete way. The idea of an entirely thematized world is no more than a regulative
idea. The most active operation of consciousness attempts to idealize it, and this
movement towards idealization is that which underlies the project of the European
sciences. This in itself is neither good nor bad, and is in any case inevitable as part
of the process of thinking, but when the never-ending process-character of
constitution and its eternal status of being in process is forgotten, the idealization
may lead to the danger of ethnocentrism.
This chronicle of the consciousness makes up its inner historicity, which
is the presupposition for the constitution of so-called history and it is therefore also
the presupposition for the phenomenological interpretation of history. Husserl sees
in so-called history a teleology which is analogous to the structure of inner
historicity. So interpreted, history can be seen as a movement towards the unity of
all monads and their worlds. This unity must necessarily be formal in the sense of
its being a unique world-form which enables the Being of objects, and as such, it
excludes everything that is "otherwise than Being." But it does not (should not)
exclude the multiplicity and alterity of world-material.
Thus, constitution lives with and by the facts of the primal world and of
unpredictable encounters with the other. Phenomenology must also live with them,
and therefore as a metaphysics.


1. "Hoher als die Wirklichkeit steht die Moglichkeit. Das Verstiindnis der Phanomenologie
liegt einzig im Ergreifen ihrer als Moglichkeit."(Sein und Zeit (Max Niemeyer: Tubingen,
2. Hua IX, 298f. Page references are to the Husserliana edition.
3. Hua XI, 420.
4. HuaX, 118.
5. HuaX, 81.
6. HuaX, 81.
7. "In meiner alten Lehre yom inneren Zeitbewusstsein habe ich die hierbei aufgewiesene
Intentionalitat eben als Intentionalitiit, ... behandelt, aber nicht yom Ich gesprochen, nicht sie
als ichliche (im weitesten Sinn Willensintentionalitiit) charakterisiert. Spater habe ich die
letztere als in einer ichlosen ("Passivitiit'') fundierte eingeftihrt." (Hua XV, 594f).
8. HuaX, 83.
9. "Als charakteristisches Merkmal der Realitiit genugt uns die Zeitlichkeit. Reales Sein und
zeitliches Sein sind zwar nicht identische, aber umfangsgleiche Begriffe .... so definiere man
Realitat geradezu durch Zeitlichkeit." (Hua XIX/l, 129).
10. EU, 311.
11. EU, 24; Hua V, 148.
12. Hua VI, 153.
13. "WeltbewuBtsein ist .. , nicht durch einen im Lebenszusammenhang eigens auftretenden
Akt der Seinssetzung .. , erworben." (EU, 25).
14. "Es besteht aber ein grundsatzlicher Unterschied in der Weise des Weltbewulltseins und
des DingbewuBtseins, des ObjektbewuBtseins ... " (Hua VI, 146).
15. "Die Strukturanalyse der urtumlichen Gegenwart (das stehend lebendige Stromen) ftihrt
uns auf die Ichstruktur und die sie fundierende stiindige Unterschichte des ichlosen Stromens,
... auf das radikal Vor-Ichliche zuruckleitet."(Hua XV, 598).
16. "Nun bedenke ich aber, dass in der Ruckfrage sich schliesslich die Urstruktur ergibt in
ihrem Wandel der Urhyle etc. mit den Urkinasthesen, Urgeftihlen, Urinstinkten. Danach liegt
es im Faktum, dass das Urmaterial gerade so verlauft in einer Einheitsform, die Wesensform
ist vor der Weltlichkeit. Damit scheint schon "instinktiv" die Konstitution der ganzen Welt
fur mich vorgezeichnet, wobei die ermoglichenden Funktionen selbst ihr Wesens-ABC, ihre
Wesensgrammatik im voraus haben. Also im Faktum liegt es, dass im voraus eine Teleologie
statthat." (Hua XV, 385).
17. "Unfassbar und unerkennbar ist es (Tao), aber es birgt Formen in seinem Inneren.
Unerkennbar und unfassbar ist es, aber es umschliesst Kraft" (Kah Kyung Cho, Bewufltsein
und Natursein (FreiburgIMunchen: Karl Alber, 1987), 181).
18. " ... das reine Subjekt entsteht nicht und vergeht nicht, ... Hatte es nun einen Sinn zu
sagen, dieses Ich entstehe oder vergehe, so mussten wir eben diese Moglichkeit in der reinen
Gegebenheit bewahren, in reiner Intuition mussten wir die Wesensmoglichkeit von Entstehen
und Vergehen erfassen konnen. So wie wir aber daran gehen, springt der Widersinn in die
Augen. Das reine Ich solcher Intuition selbst, ... lebte einerseits in der Kontinuitiit dieses
Zusehens, als identisches der zugehorigen Dauer, und es musste zugleich in eben dieser
Torn Tani 117

Dauer eine Zeitstrecke finden, wo es selbst nicht ware, und einen Anfangspunkt, in dem es
allererst ins Sein triite." (Hua IV, 103).
19. HuaXI, 377.
20. DokW2, 3, 8f.; cf. HuaXV,XXXIX.
2l. Ronald Bruzina: "Die Notizen Eugen Finks zur Umarbeitung von Edmund Husserls
'Cartesianischen Meditationen"', Husserl Studies 6 (1989), 103fT.
22. I introduce the term "world-material" in contrast to "world-form," which is directly
adopted from Husserl. According to Husserl's analysis, the noema has three major
components: noematical sense or meaning, the character of Being and the character of time.
These components are supported by the substratum "x." While the latter two characters relate
to world-form (especially to time-form), the noematical sense or meaning relates to world-
material. The noematical sense or meaning as the "what" of an object is constituted from the
world-material as a potential content of the object. In this usage, world-form does not mean
the form or the formal as exemplified by mathematical objects or "x."
23. HuaXV,43l.
24. "Sie [die Welt schlechthin] hat aber flir alle ein offenes, flir aile unbekanntes und 'im
allegemein' irrelevantes Draussen ... ". (Hua XV, 431).
25. EU, 9l.
26. Hua XV, 436.
27. "Das Fremde, das jetzt in erste Kenntnisnahme kommt oder kommen soli, ist nicht ein
ohne weiteres dem konkreten Stil nach Verstiindliches, ... Vielmehr ist das Fremde zuniichst
unverstiindlich Fremdes." (Hua XV, 432).
28. Hua XXIX, 42.
29. "Genetisch muss jeder von uns sich die Kenntnis der fremden Umwelt als unterschieden
von der eigenen erst erwerben ... " (Hua XV, 437).
30. "Freilich, ails noch so Fremde, noch so Unverstiindliche hat einen Kern der Bekanntheit
... " (Hua XV, 432)
31. "Die vielen [remden Volker kennenlernend, ... erwiichst ein eigenes Interesse an dem
Selbstverstiindnis des eigenen nationalen Dasein gegenuber den Eigenheiten der Fremden."
(Hua XXIX, 388).
32. "Das Universum in erster Form als Heimwelt kommt nur zur Abhebung, wenn schon
andere Heimwelten, andere Volker mit im Horizont sind." (Hua XV, 176 fn.)
33. HuaXV,436.
34. "Die historische Welt ist freilich zuniichst vorgegeben als gesellschaftlich-geschichtliche
Welt. Aber geschichtlich ist sie nur durch die innere Geschichtlichkeit jeder Einzelnen,
... "(Hua VI, 381 fn.)
35. "Wir versuchen, durch die Kruste der veriiuBerlichten 'historischen Tatsachen' der
Philosophiegeschichte durchzustoBen, deren inneren Sinn, ihre verborgene Teleologie,
befragend, aufweisend." (Hua VI, 16)
36. "Menschliche Natur und Geschichte wird zum transzendentalen Index der Einheit einer
transzendentalen Geschichte ... " (Hua XV, 392).
37. Hua VI, 59.
The Horizon of the Self: Husserl on Indexicals

Denis Fisette
Universite du Quebec a Montreal-Canada

One of the questions raised by the conference's topic, in particular the relationship
between the self and the other, a matter much discussed since Merleau-Ponty's
death, is the question of husserlian phenomenology's cartesianism. Some believe
that despite his reservations towards cartesianism, Husserl never disavowed his
commitment to the Cartesian program of a first philosophy.l In his postscript to
Ideas I, he defines phenomenology as

die universale und im radikalen Sinne "strenge" Wissenschaft. Als das

ist sie Wissenschaft aus letzter Begriindung, oder, was gleich gilt, aus
letzter Sebstverantwortung, in der also keine pradikative oder
vorpradikative Selbstverstandlichkeit als unbefragter Erkenntnisboden
fungiert (Hua V, 139).

Descartes was pursuing the same objective with his philosophy: building a universal
science conceived as a discipline overlooking all of the sciences; founding this
universal science on an ultimate justification, which Descartes saw in the ego sum.
This thesis seems to be confirmed by the fact that Husserl credits Descartes with the
discovery of transcendental subjectivity and, for that reason, holds him responsible
for his phenomenology's transcendental turn. 2 Moreover, despite the reservations
expressed towards cartesianism at the time of the Cartesian Meditations,
reservations that, according to some, move towards a "departure from
cartesianism," it seems that Husserl slayed true to the spirit of cartesianism and has
thus inherited all its problems. That would be precisely what explains this
idealism's obsession with the questions of the relation to the other and of
inter subjectivity, issues that would remain an enigma for transcendental
That being said, to address this issue I choose a well known theme in
phenomenology, the meaning ofindexicals or what the Logical Investigations call
"essentially occasional expressions." As we know, indexicals raise an important
problem for the Logical Investigations' immanentalist theory of meaning. The
problem which lead phenomenology to give up its species theory of meaning, has
to do with the fact that the meaning of indexicals, just as empirical meaning in
general, seems to depend on the circumstances of their use, i.e. on the person, its
situation and the occasion or context of utterance. We can therefore say that this
problem is an instance of the general problem of transcendence and
intersubjectivity .
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 119-135.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

This issue is a favorite in the contemporary commentary on

phenomenology since it opposes two very different theories of meaning: the theory
of the Logical Investigations which we can characterize as ontological, and the
theory of Ideas I and subsequent works that is semantical. The first rests on the
concept of essence whereas the central concept of the second is noematic meaning.
Notwithstanding Husserl's reservations regarding the first theory, some, such as
Schuhmann and above all K. Mulligan and B. Smith, believe that

the Logical Investigations' theory of meaning is in general superior to

Husserl's own later theory, that his change of mind-his abandonment
of descriptive psychology as an end in itself and his adoption of a
Cartesian and "transcendentalist" metaphysics-are changes for the
worse 3

On the other hand, noematicians such as A. Gurwitsch and D. W. Smith and R.

McIntyre saw a solution to that problem in the concept of noema introduced after
the Logical Investigations. 4 The latter admit that their interpretation of noema as
fregean "Sinn" raises a peculiar problem in the case of indexicals if it is true that
the meaning of such expressions is in part determined by factors external to them.
That is why they supplement this concept with the idea of context. 5
The advocates of realist phenomenology saw in this move not only an
acknowledgment of failure, but Schuhmann argued that

the problem of indexicals might rather in part have been responsible for
the later Husserl' s failure to work out a theory of what would amount to
the transcendental constitution of the life-world, i.e., of the concrete
world of perception. 6

Instead oflooking for a solution to the problem of indexicals, I shall investigate the
kind of perpectives offered by phenomenology after the LI. From this perspective,
the problem is not one of choice, for instance between an ontological (noetic)
approach and a semantic (noematic) one since it can be shown that both contribute
to its "solution." The problem ofindexicals, and thus of the relation to the other,
is directly contingent on Husserl' s view on justification which, as we just said, is
one of the principles of the Cartesian program of first philosophy. It follows that
a solution to the problems related to the phenomenon of indexicals goes hand in
hand with Husserl' s late critique of the cartesian ideal of justification.
My paper, which is essentially exegetical, divides into four parts: I will
first summarize the problem of indexicals in the first Logical Investigations; I will
then examine Husserl' s arguments against the characterization of empirical
meaning as act's specie; I will then try to state the problem of indexicals from the
Denis Fisette 121

perspective of Ideas II, in emphasizing the role of the concepts of body and
motivation; I will end my paper with a reflection on Formal and Transcendental
Logic's famous passage where he attempts to solve the problem of indexicals with
his concept of horizon-intentionality.

I. The problem in the Logical Investigations

To properly understand the scope of the problem of indexicals, we can begin by

situating the import of Husserl's analyses in the context of the first Logical
Investigation. Let us recall that he is engaged in what he calls a "philosophical
logic" whose task it is to carry out the "groundwork" needed to bring out the proper
topic oflogic. This groundwork consists, firstly, in making explicit certain logical
concepts, starting from their phenomenological origins; and, secondly, the analysis
of meaning consists in extracting these concepts from their grammatical and
psychological ties. This preliminary work, engaged in extracting "the ideal
framework" of discourse, is necessary, claims Husserl, to the extent that logic,
starting with grammar, rests entirely on discourse (it is "thought that expresses itself
in language"). That is why this "analytical phenomenology" aims to circumscribe
the expressive function of signs, the correlates of logical meaning, by getting rid of
its dregs.
The demarcation is carried out in four steps:

A) Restricting the extension of the term "expression" [Ausdruck] to linguistic signs

(bracketing the everyday concept of expression which includes gestures, body
expressions, and so on).

B) Reducing the indicative function of signs. The indicative sign does not express
anything and thus has no meaning in the strict sense.

C) Reducing the physical face of signs (token). Husserl indeed comes to exclude
everything related to communication, i.e., the other and the world in general. The
soliloquy argument (8) precisely aimed to show the expression's independence for
the indicative function of signs and of tokens in general.

D) The fourth step consists in suspending everything that is subjective in language,

i.e., what he calls essentially occasional expressions which, as opposed to objective
expressions, "serve the practical needs of everyday life" (26).

The end result of the groundwork is the logical concept of meaning conceived as
the essence of an act, i.e. as the property or individual moment of an act. Meaning,
then, is an ideal entity defined as the generality of essence (of extension), i.e., as
that which all acts of meaning (positional and non-positional) have in common.
It is in this perspective that Husserl is interested in the meaning of
indexicals and the question is only whether they can threaten his views on meaning
and eventually force a restriction of its scope.

II. The characteristic features of this type of expressions

Many types of expressions fall under the concept of "essentially occasional

expression": personal pronouns, demonstnitives, adverbs of place and time, proper
names, along with all the expressions "of perceptions, convictions, doubts, wishes,
hopes, fears, command, and so on." They are defined as "occasional" since they can
only be understood when the circumstances of their utterance are taken into
account, i.e., depending on "the occasion, the speaker and the situation" (315). This
is especially the case for the use of expressions such as "in front of," "behind,"
"close," "far," and so on, whose meaning depends on the spatial position occupied
by the utterer and on the circumstances in which they are uttered. It is a fortiori the
case for the personal pronoun "I":

If we read the word [I] without knowing who wrote it, it is perhaps not
meaningless, but is at least estranged from its normal sense. (315)

These expressions look ambiguous from the outset since one and the same
expression, for instance a deictic, refers to one object at time x and another at time
z. That's why the relation to the object does not entirely depend on the indicative
function of that expression and why, for the hearer, understanding the meaning of
such expressions depends on external factors, i.e. on real and concrete
They are "essentially" occasional because, contrary to cases of
ambiguousness, we cannot, as does Frege, eliminate their relativity by arbitrary
conventions without affecting their meaning. 7 To explain the indeterminacy of this
kind of expression and their dependence on circumstances, Husserl introduces a
distinction between "anzeigende Bedeutung" (meaning function) and "angezeigte
Bedeutung" (which Gurwitsch translates as "specific meaning"). For instance, the
meaning function of the word "here" consists in "naming the spatial environment
of the speaker" whereas its meaning proper, adds Husserl, "is constituted only on
the basis of the representation variable for that place." The same is true of
Denis Fisette 123

sentences contalmng personal pronouns, whose meaning "includes the

representation of the person in front of the other"; of demonstratives, that can only
be fully understood on the basis ofthe representation "of that with which we are
objectively related," or of adverbs of place and time, that can only be understood
on the basis of the representation of the position and location of that person. In the
sixth Logical Investigation (5), adopting the point of view of the hearer, Husserl
associates the undetermined representation of that which is aimed at by a deictic to
a specific meaning. And he associates the meaning function to an act of indication
oriented in some determined way. This means that perception, as it has been
frequently observed, is not what confers meaning to an act that would otherwise be
devoid of it; its contribution to meaning proper consists only in specifying "its
determined relation to the meant objectivity," to give the act the determined
character of orientation towards an object, in the case of a deictic. This means, as
we shall see in a moment, that Husserl admits that his concept of meaning cannot
account for the determined relation to an object.

III. The 1908 Lectures and empirical meaning

Later indications show that Husserl came to recognize that indexicals jeopardize the
LI's conception of meaning. The first indication8 signals that the failure of the
Logical Investigations is first attributable to his conception oftruth-in-itself. It is
precisely this ideal that lead him to consider the meaning of indexicals as essences
of acts and to replace them by fixed and objective expressions, provided however
we can "maintain the intention of meaning." Husserl acknowledged that this
operation, even if it seems factually impossible, was justified by "the absence of
limits to objective reason." This is precisely what the 1908 Lectures on meaning
and other writings from the same period call into question.
These texts clearly show that the problem of indexicals is directly
responsible for his critique of (empirical) meaning as essence of an act. In a
nutshell, the distinctive character of empirical meaning, as opposed to pure
meaning, is that it can only be taken from non-modified positional acts (Hua XXVI,
209). For, as Husserl explains (Hua XXVI, 209, 213), in the passing through
itnagination, what's lost is not only the possibility to maintain the object's identity
but also the determined reference to empirical objectivity. In other words, the
concept of essence cannot account for, nor guarantee, reference to a determined
object, it "can never bring about the relation to a determined object" (Hua XXVI,
219). That's why he came to clearly distinguish what is common or general, in the
sense of extension or species ("redness" for instance), from the sameness aimed at
by many acts. Thus, when one and the same object is referred to by different

expressions, and when we are looking for meaning in the direction towards the
object (and not towards the act), it is necessary to distinguish the object referred to
(Was) from the object as referred to (Wie), what he also calls the "theme" (between
referent and reference). To take Husserl's example, the expressions "the
vanquished of Waterloo" and "the victor of Jena" certainly aim at the same object
but they say (besagen) something different. And it's precisely the phrase "a
different way of expressing" that is responsible for the fact that meaning is not only
reference to an object but reference to an object "in the very way [meaning]
prescribes it (as determined or undetermined)" (Hua XXVI, 182).
I won't insist here on the many arguments for distinguishing empirical
meaning from essence, nor on their direct consequences on the link between
phenomenology and ontology. What is important for my purpose is that the
Lectures' new concept of meaning, what he calls phenomenological meaning, must
at least satisfy the following two conditions: account for the conditions in which it
is possible to identify a determined object; be sensitive to the empirical and real
character of its referent, what Husserl expressed in the Logical Investigations in
terms of occasion, situation and the immediate surrounding of the speaker. That is
what the term "Gegebenheitsweise" also means.

IV. Self-critique

However, the concept of noematic meaning is not phenomenology's last word on

the problem of indexicals. For the critique of the concept of truth-in-itself directly
affects the empire of theoretical reason in the Logical Investigations and coincides
with the increasing role that practical and axiological reasons are called to play for
phenomenology. This critique bears directly on indexicals which serve practical
needs and which we can call, following M. Sommer, "lebensweltliche Ausdriicke.,,9
But there is more: the solution to the problem of indexicals goes hand in hand with
the revaluation of what had been discarded in the Logical Investigations in the
name of truth-in-itself; and so phenomenology finally came to definitively abandon
this conception of truth-in-itself together with its subjective correlate, adequate and
apodictic evidence. 10 We shall return to this point.
The solution to one of the problems related to occasional expressions also
stems from a critique of the Logical Investigation's conception oflanguage. 11 As
Husserl soon recognized, a result of this conception was to restrict the domain of
morphology all the way to the exclusion of communication relations, relations to
which he now ascribes "a proper a priori." This world of communication is the
surrounding world of Ideas II that is constituted "in experiencing others, in mutual
understanding and mutual agreement" (p.203). But it has rarely been noticed that
Denis Fisette 125

this self-critique coincides with a revaluation of the indicative function of signs.

The thing is, following the analyses of the first Logical Investigations, that, in
communication, every expression functions as "Anzeigen" (7) and has the
function of "Bekunden" (to make something known). The soliloquy argument
intended to show that "Ausdrucken" could function independently from
"Anzeigen" to the precise extent that its function in solitary discourse is not to
make anything known or to inform but uniquely to signify. Not only does Husserl
reject the very principle of this dissociation (between the two functions of signs),
but he ascribes the very origin of his constitutive phenomenology to the
interpretation of the Logical Investigation's indication phenomena. 12 This is the
well known concept of motivation in which Husserl first saw the essence of
indication and then, in the second book of Ideas, the structural law of mental life. 13
This concept opens a new dimension to phenomenology by giving it access to
structures underlying the intersubjective relations which seem presupposed by the
use of indexicals.

V. Indication and motivation

Let us take a closer look at this. I said that an expression is subjective and
essentially occasional when its meaning changes according to the occasion, the
person and her situation. The use of such expressions is therefore relative to
context. But how can this relativity and dependency be explained once it is
acknowledged that (empirical) meaning is not to be understood as the essence of
an act? The solution that Husserl proposes in his 1907 Lectures Ding und Raum
and the second book of Ideas is to understand them as a positive feature of
indexicals, as the sign of a reference system, and even before that as the sign of a
system of spatio-temporal coordinates. Indexicals must, as A. Gurwitsch suggests,
be understood as relational concepts that only exist in a mutual relationship inside
an invariant and formal system. 14 It is within this structure or reference system,
which is unchanging, that we can account for the relativity of indexicals. It is also
in this perspective that the idea of a "Leibkorper," which has been introduced to
answer the question of what is the "anchor point" around which this reference
system is organized, takes its full significance. Each and every direction in which
a member of the system is oriented depends on, and varies with, the position of a
central here borne by the body. It is in this sense that the body represents the "null
Punk!" of all these orientations. This way, each and every thing in the world of
perception gives itself as localized in the sense that its orientation depends on the
here of the proper body: close/far, highllow, left/right are directions that only make
sense relative to my own body.

But nothing we have said so far allows us to determine whether the various
relations occuring in this reference system must be understood in terms of causal
relations. The answer to this central question of Ideas 11 depends on the way we
characterize the proper body: whether as a "part of nature in the general context of
causality" (Rna IV, 247); or "as an expression of spiritual life," in which case the
body or organism will be understood as a "person." As a person, the kind of
relation borne with other members of the network, and generally with the
surrounding world at large, is not to be understood in terms of causality, but in
terms of motivation relations (Hua IV, 189).
Some remarks are necessary in view of the importance of this concept for
the reciprocity relations we talked about earlier. First, the relation to the other
presupposes this system of spatio-temporal coordinates, which means that the other
is given from the outset, or is constituted for me here and now, only as a "medium
oflocalized sensations." Thus, he has the mode of the over-there. This orientation
of the over-there is, thanks to my kinesthetic abilities, subject to free changes. For
by moving I can transform an over-there into a here and this rests on the possibility
that my body occupies some other place. By the movement, the modes of spatial
givenness are those I would have were I occupying that place. This does not mean
that the modes of spatial appearances that belong to my here are identical to those
of another, nor that it is possible to switch the here with the over-there. For then the
other would only be my replica. It only means that there is a mutual dependence
between the near and the far (and so on), and that the other's mode of givenness is
always mediated by the place he occupies in the reference system. 15
Only when we take this presupposition into account can we understand the
role of empathy in the relation to the other. As Husserl explains:

The first determinate content obviously must be formed by the

understanding of the other's organism and specifically organismal
conduct: the understanding of the members as hands groping or
functioning in pushing, as feet functioning in walking, as eyes
functioning in seeing, and so forth. C... ) It is quite comprehensible that,
as a further consequence, an "empathizing" of definite contents
belonging to the "higher psychic sphere" arises. Such contents too are
indicated somatically and in the conduct of the organism towards the
outside world-for example: as the outward conduct of someone who
is angry or cheerful, which I easily understand from my own conduct
under similar circumstances. 16

The difficulty here is precisely to grasp how the behavior ofthe other, that of the
angry for instance, can be understood in analogy to my own. How does empathy
(comprehension), the mediate and only mediate experience I can have ofthe other,
Denis Fisette 127

give me access to some of the "determined contents" of the angry agent? The
answer to this question must be found in the very definition of empathy as
understanding of the motivation.
In Ideas II, the concept of motivation first refers to the manner in which
a person is conditioned by her physical and social environment. For instance, the
room's foul air may prompt me to open the window; something reminds me of
something similar and that prompts a comparison; the room's noise irritates me, and
that gets me to move; and so on. My behavior is so conditioned: I tend to behave
in such and such a way because, in such and such circumstances, certain things
provoke excitations or arouse my interest. It is precisely the "because-then" of
motivation that the Logical Investigations understand in terms of causality and that
we shall consider here in the context of the relations to the other. For it is with this
concept that Husserl tries to account for the connection between the behavior of the
agent and his reasons to act.
As we know, Ideas II introduces the concept of motivation in the context
of the traditional debate between Geistes- and Naturwissenschaften. Husserl
contrasts two different attitudes and two ways of grasping one and the same object,
the behavior of the angry agent for instance: the one which characterizes the
naturalistic attitude, the physician's attitude for instance, and the personal attitude
[personale Einstellung], the attitude in which we find ourselves every time we are
engaged in everyday actions. The personal attitude, which Husserl also calls the
"motivation attitude" (p.267), also characterizes the mode of apprehension
[Auffassungsweise] in the human sciences. To these two modes of apprehension
correspond different objectivities: the correlate of the naturalistic attitude is
understood as a natural object, and the behavior of the angry agent is being
described as a simple body movement, description which opens the way to an
explanation in terms of physical causal laws. On the other hand, the correlate of the
personal attitude is the person which is understood, to quote Ideas II,

as subject of its personal and thingly surroundings, as related to other

persons by means of understanding and mutual understanding, as
member of a social nexus to which corresponds a unitary social
surrounding world, while at the same time each individual member has
his own environment bearing the stamp of subjectivity. (p.240)

The thing that stands out from the contrast between these two modes of
apprehension is the idea that one and the same behavior can be explained in many
ways and that the appropriate explanation directly depends on the way in which the
behavior is described. When described or grasped as nature, it lends itself to a

causal explanation. On the other hand, when described as an intentional behavior,

the human scientific explanation consists in specifying the motivations,

to make intelligible how the people in question "came to do it", came to

behave in such and such a way, which influences they underwent and
which ones they themselves exercised, what it was that determined them
in and towards the community of action, etc. (p.241)

Phenomenology grants ontological priority to the personal attitude,

emphasizing the artificial character of the naturalistic attitude, an attitude which
Husserl describes as "refined" insofar as it must, to constitute itself, abstract away
from all practical and axiological intentions.

In ordinary life, wrote Husserl, we have nothing whatever to do with

nature-objects. What we take as things are pictures, statues, gardens,
houses, tables, clothes, tools, etc. These are all value-Objects of various
kinds, use-Objects, practical Objects. They are not Objects which can be
found in natural science. (p.29)

That does not mean that phenomenology rejects the kind of explanation advocated
for the natural sciences. It only rejects the epistemological designs of positivism:
reducing every explanation to a causal explanation. The main argument of Ideas 11
for the non-reducibility of the personal mode of apprehension and of its correlate,
the life-world, essentially rests on the difference between intentional and causal
relations. The arguments of a causal relation are real (reale) objects whereas
motivation occurs between the subject and the noemata of things (Hua IV, 233).
The first relation depends on the existence of its terms whereas this is not the case
for an intentional relation. For a thing may only exercise motivation if it is given in
a certain way. Now, it is this mode of givenness that is responsible for the fact that
the thing provokes an "excitation," that it arouses an interest, and, by this interest,
a tendency to tum towards it (Hua IV, 216). Depending on whether an object is
given to me under some aspect or other, it can be pleasant or unpleasant and can
thus get me to act or not. For instance, a wine I deem excellent can get me to drink
it-whereas the same object considered only from the point of view of its physical
properties could not. This is another way of saying that this object has meaning for
me, a valued object with properties of value. The same is true for common objects,
for instance the corkscrew, and even the "sommelier."
The "because-then" of motivation thus means something other than natural
causality. Let us see how it functions in empathy towards the other. Empathy, in
Ideen 11 (Hua IV, 244), refers to this "apprehension that contains the meaning, i.e.,
that grasps the body in its meaning." In other words, there is empathy towards
Denis Fisette 129

another body only if it is grasped as a meaningful behavior. This apprehension can

arise from, and be justified by, the facial expression of the quick-tempered, for
instance. But to grasp the movement of another body as meaningful behavior also
means that I ascribe "conscious experiences," what Husserl calls, following
Aristotle, "reasons to act" to the agent. l ? Moreover, the "because-then" of
motivation must account for the connection between the agent's actions and his
reasons to act. It answers the why-question:

wenn wir nach dem "Weil", nach dem Grunde eines personlichen
Verhaltens fragen, so wollen wir nichts anderes als diesen
Zusammenhang kennen lernen (Hua IV, 229).

Husserl sometimes uses Aristotle's practical syllogism to explain this

connection. 18 We know that the practical syllogism was first conceived as a way to
account for the reasoning that leads to an action. But we often use it as a schema
for the explanation and description of intentional behavior. From the observer's
point of view, we must reverse the order of the syllogism and start by describing,
as intentional, the behavior appearing in the syllogism's conclusion. To grasp a
behavior as a rational action means ascribing, to the other, the reasons appearing
as the premises for his action. Now it is precisely the connection between premises
and conclusion, between actions and reasons to act, that the concept of motivation
is intended to account for. It is in that sense that Husserl wrote in Ideen II:

If I am able, by means of empathy, to ascertain this situation in another,

then I say "/ understand why he decided in that way, I understand why
he came to that judgement" (in view of what). (p.242)

Here is, continues Husserl, the way in which I usually grasp the others. The more
I know him, the more information I have on his preferences, his propensities, his
surrounding, an so on, the more chances I have to predict or anticipate the way he
will behave in such and such circumstances.
These few remarks around Ideen II and the concept of motivation show
in many ways how Husserl recognized what he called the a priori of
communication underlying the use of indexicals. We can find the first clue to this
recognition in the idea of a system of spatio-temporal coordinates. For even if the
body occupies its center, the network only finds its raison d'etre in the perspective
of reciprocity. We could show that the network does not reduce to spatial relations
but that it extends to all indexicals. 19 At a higher level, i.e., when the proper body
is described as a person, the motivation relations seem to testify to the mutual
belonging of the person and her surrounding world. The thing is that persons exert

what Husserl calls a "motivational force" on each other, so that we may speak of
"intersubjective motivation."
However, the descriptions around the concept of motivation in Ideas II are
essentially mundane and we can ask whether this topic is not, at that time, a side
issue for phenomenology. In any case, it is clear that these descriptions do not have
the impact the topic of Lebenswelt will have on phenomenology a few years later.

VI. The horizons of the self

However it may be, I would like, in closing, to return to the hypothesis that served
as a starting point: that the problem of indexicals, and of intersubjectivity in
general, directly springs from phenomenology's views on justification. We should
expect that a solution to our problem would require a (self-)critique of the
foundationalist bias inherited from the Cartesian tradition. I claim that this bias,
which made his way up until the late twenties, is directly related to one of the
fundamental principles of phenomenology. I mean the Cartesian principle of
indubitability, according to which only evidences that resist the epoche, the primary
evidences, can fulfill a justification function and thus sustain the whole of
philosophy. Two proposals of Husserl suggest that the target of this self-criticism
is precisely the conception of evidence in terms of apodicticity and adequation, a
conception that represents the Cartesian ideal of justification. Once we get rid of
what came to be understood as a bias, nothing prevents phenomenology to
appropriate the dimension of intersubjectivi~ studied in Ideen II and thus to
address, if not to resolve, the problem underlying the phenomenon of indexicals.
That would also explain why the investigation of this dimension now becomes one
of the primary tasks of phenomenology.
The two proposals I just mentioned occur in the context of the problem of
indexicals. The first, we recall, attributes the failure to the concept of truth-in-itself
of the Prolegomena. We saw that the 1908 Lectures on meaning renounce this idea
in the case of empirical meaning. The second remark, that we find in Formal and
Transcendental Logic (80), proposed a solution to the problem of indexicals based
on the idea of horizon-intentionality. Allow me to quote this passage once again:

Consider, for example, the vast [domain] (realm) of occasional

judgments, which, in spite of being occasional, have their intersubjective
truth and falsity. This truth-value obviously depends on the relatedness
of the single subject's and community's whole daily life to a typical
specific likeness among situations, such that any normal human being
who enters a particular situation has, by the very fact of being normal,
the situational horizons belonging to it and common to all. One can
Denis Fisette 131

explicate these horizons subsequently; but the constituting

horizon-intentionality, without which the surronding world of daily life
would not be an experienced world, is always prior to its explication by
someone who reflects. And it is the factor that essentially determines the
sense of occasional judgments - always, and far beyond what at any time
is, or can be, said expressly and determinately in the words themselves. 20

This famous passage is first and foremost remarkable for its generality. For, as long
as we have not circumscribed the function of the concept of horizon, it is extremely
difficult to understand in what way that concept brings a solution to the problem of
indexicals. There is of course the contrast between the scientific and pragmatic
concepts of truth, what Husserl calls "the situational truths," but this lead will not
carry us very far. But then what about their subjective correlates? And to begin
with, what about the subjective correlate oftruth-in-itself, which Husser! conceives
as apodictic and adequate evidence? It is in answer to this question that we can, I
believe, appreciate the entire scope of the concept of horizon-intentionality.
Thus, Husserl defines evidence in terms of intention and fulfilment. An
evident judgment, for instance, is a judgment that contains no component that is not
only aimed at by simple anticipation, that is not given in person or as such. This
ideal of evidence corresponds to what Ideas I called "absolute givenness," i.e., the
evidence which Husser! opposes to pre-scientific experiences, obscurity, confusion
in self-givenness or in the simple grasp by image, by presentiations or by any other
image or sign representation (EU 4 and FTL 59). Husser! distinguishes two types
of evidence. The first is "adequate evidence" which is the kind of evidence we have
when there are no more components of a meaning intention that are not yet filled
by a corresponding intention. The second is "apodictic evidence" which Husser!
defines as "the absolute unimaginableness (inconceivability) of their non-being, and
thus excluding in advance every doubt as "objectless," empty. ,,21 Apodictic
evidence consequently excludes any conceivable doubt. 22
It is precisely this conception of evidence that is the focus of his critique
of truth-in-itself3, a conception that he ascribes to the modern tradition from
Descartes onward or to what he calls "objectivism." But there is a different
interpretation of evidence, which forces itself to phenomenology at that time, one
that uses the concepts of "fungierende Intentionalitat" and horizon-intentionality
that rests on the concept of pre-predicative evidence. Note that this tension between
these two interpretations is not unrelated to his critique, during the same period, of
the Cartesian way of reduction. The Cartesian way, which guided Husser! in the
first book of Ideas, proceeds from a "critique of the experience of the world by
emphasizing the possibility of its non existence." (Hua VIII, 127 and 52). His
starting point is the knowledge of the "ego sum." On the other hand, following the

second path of reduction, the one that leads to the Lebenswelt, the issue is "the
question of inunediate evidence that [exists prior to] any science" (Hua VIII, 41).
There are many reasons to believe that Husserl came to favor the second way and
to adopt the interpretation of evidence in tenns of horizon-intentionality. According
to Husserl, this path has the advantage of providing a larger and more profound
understanding not only of sUbjectivity itself but also of its intersubjectivity (Hua
VIII, 164). Furthennore, he came to realize that the Cartesian path, and especially
the foundationalism associated with it, was only a bias (Vorurteil) and that it
transgressed the limits that phenomenology imposes on itself. In other words, that
this way was not phenomenological. 24
It is here that the concept of horizon-intentionality takes all its meaning.
For phenomenology wants to show, against the objectivist bias, that the world
"Seinsinn" is the work of pre-scientific life and that it gives itself originally to
consciousness as horizon. Husserl is more inclined to talk of a pre-givenness
[Vorgegebenheit], of the surrounding world as a "domain of what is pre-given,"
and he ascribes to pre-predicative experience a potential [latent] pre-knowledge
(Vorwissen) of the world, a "universal passive belief in the being of the world."
Correlatively, pre-predicative and pre-scientific evidence, what is always given to
consciousness, now represents "the domain of ultimate evidences" which have not
yet reached the exactness and idealization of physics and mathematics.
We understand now that phenomenological reduction, as Husserl clearly
explains at the beginning of the Meditations, never provides an apodictic evidence
of the existence of trancendental subjectivity. For, beyond what gives itself in
self-experience from the transcendental at~~ude, we only have a "presumptive
horizon" that we do not properly experience. It is precisely this presumptive
horizon, henceforth understood by Husserl as a positive feature of intentionality,
that confers its significance to the phenomenon of indexicals. To appreciate the
value of Husserl's solution, it is necessary to take into account the role of the
horizon-intentionality in his critique of foundationalist bias. The next step, that I
will not undertake here, would be to question the legitimacy of subordinating
phenomenology to the traditional ideal of a first philosophy. 25


1. The references to Husserl are to Husserliana, and to the following translations: Cartesian
Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology [CM], translated by D. Cairns (The Hague,
1977); Ideas Pertaining to a pure Phenomenology and to a phenomenological Philosophy,
Book II, Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution [Id.],translated by R. Rojcewicz and
A. Schuwer (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989); Formal and Transcendental Logic [FTL], translated
by D. Cairns, (the Hague, 1969); Logical Investigations (2 vols.) [U], translated by J.N.
Denis Fisette 133

Findlay (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977); Experience and Judgment: Investigations
to a Genealogy of Logic, translated by J.S. Churchill and K. Ameriks (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1973).
2. See Hua I, 43, 48 and Hua VIII, 4.
3. K. Mulligan and B. Smith, "A Husserlian Theory ofIndexicality," Grazer Philosophische
Studien, 28 (1986), 134; cf. K. Schuhmann, "Husserl's Theories of Indexicals," F.M.
Kirkland et al. (eds): Phenomenology - East and West (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1993), 111-127.
4. A. Gurwitsch, "Outlines of a Theory of 'Essentially Occasional Expressions,'" Readings
on Edmund Husserl's Logical Investigations, ed. J. N. Mohanty, (The Hague: M. Nijhoff,
1977), 112-127; D.W. Smith and R. McIntyre, Husserl and Intentionality (Dordrecht: D.
Reidel, 1982).
5. More recently, D. W. Smith used B. Russell's concept of acquaintance and argued that
consciousness, understood in that sense, could be construed as indexical: "Acquaintance is
thus an awareness of something in one's immediate presence, something in the immediate
context of one's experience, in contextual relation to oneself or one's experience. In this
sense, let us say, acquaintance is indexical awareness." Cf. D.W. Smith, The Circle of
Acquaintance: Perception, Consciousness, and Empathy (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989), 24.
6. Schuhmann 1993, 123. Schuhmann's skepticism is shared, for example, by Philipse. Cf.
H. Philipse, "The Problem of Occasional Expressions in Edmund Husserl's Logical
Investigations," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology 13 (1982), 182.
7. As Husserl explains: "Strike out the essentially occasional expressions from one's
language, try to describe any subjective experience in unambiguous, objectively fixed
fashion: such an attempt is always plainly vain." (322)
8. This first indication occurs in the foreword to the second edition ofthe LI. Speaking of the
first investigation, Husserl wrote: "The manner in which it deals with empirical meanings (to
which, however, in stictness, all empirical predications belong) is a tour de force~the
enforced consequence of the imperfect conception of the essence of "truth-in-itself' in the
Prolegomena." (48)
9. M. Sommer, "Husserls gottinger Lebenswelt", Introduction to E. Husser!: Die Konstitution
der geistigen Welt (Hamburg: Meiner, 1984), xiv.
10. R. Bernet argued that Husserl gave up the Logical Investigations' concept of truth in two
steps: first in 1908 for empirical meaning and around 1920 for abstract meaning. Cf. R.
Bernet, "Bedeutung und intentionales BewuBtsein. Husserls Begriff des
Bedeutungsphanomens," Phiinomenologische Forschungen 8 (1979), 50 ff.
11. In a note to the second edition of the fourth LI, he restricted considerably the scope of
his morphology: "In the first Edition I spoke of "pure grammar," a name concieved and
expressly devise to be analogous to Kant's "pure science of nature." Since it cannot,
however, be said that pure formal semantic theory comprehends the entire a priori of general
grammar~there is, e.g., a peculiar a priori governing relations of mutual understanding
among minded persons, relations very important for grammar~ta1k of pure logical grammar
is to be preferred." (527)
12. I have in mind here this passage of Experience and Judgment: "That association can
become a general theme of phenomenological description and not merely one of objective
psychology is due to the fact that the phenomenon of indication [Anzeige] is something
which can be exhibited from the point of view of phenomenology. (this insight, worked out
as early as the Logical Investigations, already constitutes there the nucleus of genetic

phenomenology) .... Association comes into question in this context exclusively as the purely
immanent connection of"this recalls that," "one calls attention to the other"."(74-75).
13. As we shall see, it is one and the same concept since "motivation," or its correlate, is
understood as "because" (certain things could or must exist because other things are given).
Husserl further agreed with A. Meinong in LI to dissociate motivation from causation. (273)
14. Gurwitsch 1950, 124.
15. I will not enter here into the question of self-identity in order to concentrate on otherness
and motivation. See J. Hart's careful analysis of the self in relation to indexicals and his
discussion with Castaneda in the third chapter of his book The person and the common Life
(Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1992), 155-172. See also D. W. Smith, "Mind and Guise: Castaneda's
Philosophy of Mind in the World order," Hector-Neri Castaneda, ed. J. E. Tomberlin,
(Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1986), 167-187, for a comparison of Castaneda's concept of "guise"
with Husserl's "noema."
16. CM, 120.
17. The notion "reason to act" also plays a crucial role in contemporary debates in the theory
of action. In fact, Husserl's approach in Ideas II is very similar to neo-wittgensteinians like
G. von Wright and E. Anscombe but also to D. Davidson. It would be interesting to evaluate
the contribution of a phenomenology of action to those debates. On that question, see M.
Merleau-Ponty, La structure du comportement (Paris: Presses universitaires de France,
1942/1990) and D. W. Smith, "Consciousness in Action," Synthese 90 (1992), 119-143.
18. For exemple, in the following passage of I deen II: "In allen diesen Beispielen tritt das
Wei! der Motivation auf. ( ... ) Ich als Subjekt der "Handlungspriimissen" fasse mich nicht
induktiv-real als Ursache des Ich als SUbjektes des "Handlungsschlusses", mit anderen
Worten, ich, der ich mich auf Grund der und der Motive entschlielle, fasse weder den
Entschlull als naturale Wirkung der Motive oder Motiverlebnisse, noch mich selbst als
Subjekt des Entschlusses, bewirkt durch das Ich als Subjekt der Motivierenden Erlebnisse.
( ... ) Wenn ich durch Einftlhlung diese Lage im Anderen festzustellen vermag, sage ich: "ich
verstehe, warum der Andere sich so entchlossen, warum er dieses Urteil geHillt hat" (worauf
hin). - Aile diese "Kausalitaten" sind voll anschaulich herauszustellen, da sie eben
Motivationen sind."(Hua IV, 230)
19. In Krisis (9), Husserl gives some insights for developing something like a
"Verweisungssystem." Such a system has been worked out by E. Tugendhat in his
Vorlesungen zur Einfiihrung in die sprachanalytische Philosophie (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp,
1976). On that question, see also J. Hart 1992, 165 fI.
20. FTL, 199.
21. CM, 16.
22. By those terminological remarks, one can appreciate what we can call the undoubtability
maxim which becomes for a phenomenology that defines itself as first philosophy the
principle of apodicticity: "Selbstgebung soil fUr uns Mall, und ihr absolutes Optimum das
letzte Mall sein, an dem wir aile Urteile, aile unsere Seinsmeinungen bewahren. 1m Grunde
liegt das im Sinn aile wissenschaftlichen Tuns, wir bringen es uns nur zum Bewulltsein und
machen daraus ein erstes Prinzip bewullt zwecktatiger Methode." (Hua VIII, 33). That does
not mean that evidence only belong to the sphere of jugdment since, according to the general
division of philosophy into the theoretical, the axiological and the practical, evidence also
occurs in the domain of sentiment and will. Not only does evidence exceeds the domain of
judgment, but we will see that predicative evidence only represent a derived mode of
Denis Fisette 135

23. On the dissociation of apodictic and adequate evidence, see CM 5, ED 4 and FTL 59.
24. In his Lectures on First Philosophy, Husserl decribes this new way to phenomenology
as "eine Phanomenologie der phanomenologischen Reduktion" (Hua vm, 164).
25. I would like to thank P. Poirier and P. Buckley for their technical help with the English
version of this paper. I would also like to thank R. Cobb-Stevens and J. Hart for the
discusions we had on an earlier version of this paper. Finally, the Conseil de Recherche en
Sciences Humaines du Canada made this research possible.
My Time and the Time of the Other

Rudolf Bernet
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven-Belgium

Speaking about time is difficult. Even Augustine, a former professor of oratory,

begins his account of time with a sigh of despair: "Quid est enim 'tempus'? Si nemo
ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio."J Where does this
difficulty come from? In the first place surely because speaking about time is itself
temporal, that is, it presupposes and requires time. One cannot make time the object
of an abstract study because one cannot raise oneself above time, cannot take up a
place from where one could observe time sub specie aetemitas. A second difficulty,
to which Augustine also alludes, has to do with a necessary connection between time
and forgetting. Knowing presupposes retention and recognition, while time is
something that passes away, disappears, never to return. Indeed, the advance oftime
not only makes us forget our previous experiences, time also makes us forget time
itself. Even and precisely when we succeed in remembering something from the
past, we continue to forget time. Even when we take time in hand, relate it to the
acts and aims of our life and thus set time into a personal story, time slips away from
With these observations on the difficulty or impossibility of a knowledge
of time, we have still not reached the deepest ground of Augustine's despair. For
there are many matters that we cannot grasp and that we, at least as long as we are
a bit reasonable, put aside in order to go on living in peace. Augustine sighs so
disconsolately because he believes he must understand time. He wishes once more
to run his former life past his inner eye in order to better understand what he did not
know at the time, namely that God's love, already before his conversion, watched
over him and his sinful life.
But why must we know what time is? Because, for example, we wish to
reflect together on our common future at the turn of the century. One cannot,
however, occupy oneself with the significance of the transition from the twentieth
to the twenty-first century without immediately becoming caught up in the most
difficult questions concerning the nature of time. Questions such as: what is it that
is so special about the present time that incites us to such a reflection? Can one learn
from time past something for afuture time? Should the transition from the one time
to the other be seen as a continuation or rather as a break? What is the time of the
responsibility for a future that is no longer mine, for a future that comes to pass
after my death?
It speaks for itself that in the short time available to us, we cannot deal
thoroughly with any of these questions. In what follows I will therefore concentrate
on the question of how we experience the time of our lives. Since the significance
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 137-149.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

of our lives does not depend merely and only on ourselves, we must also investigate
how other people co-determine our lives and thus alter the time of our lives. This
happens in at least two ways. Firstly, when our life inserts itself in the life of a
community that binds several generations together and turns our lifetime into an
historical time. Secondly, when we give to our life the sense of an ethical
responsibility for others that turns the time of our life into an ethical time. At the end
of our reflections we will return once more to the transition from the twentieth to the
twenty-first century and more specifically to the question of whether this transition,
besides its historical meaning, has not also an essentially ethical meaning. In making
the transition from the time of nature to the time of my life, from the time of my life
to the time of a historical and trans-generational community, and from historical
time to the ethical time of responsibility for the other and the stranger, we shall
again and again have to do with time as transition. Thus, once more it seems that
time as transition can only be clarified in the transition from one time to another.

I. The Time of My Life

Philosophers such as Bergson and Hussed see lifetime as a lived time and, as a
result, as a psychical or mental time. In so doing they assume that there is an
essential difference between the time of my life and the time that happens to the
things of physical nature. Unlike physical time, psychical time is, according to them,
something that contains no spatial movement and thus must be purified of all spatial
conceptions and modes of speaking. Since non-digital clocks operate with just such
a spatial representation of time, psychical time cannot be measured with such
clocks. What then of the increasing use of digital clocks? Did not Aristotle already
say that number and the psychical activity of counting is the real measure of
temporal movement? There can be no doubt, however, that if Bergson and Hussed
had known of our digital clocks they would have regarded them as just as unsuited
to the determination of psychical time as the gold watch that sat in their coat pocket.
Why? Because psychical time, unlike physical time, is not a discontinuous and
objective time. Digital clocks on the contrary, measure a time that is applicable to
everyone and everything and is divided into an infinite series of points that can can
only be distinguished from one another by the number that is attached to them. This
objective time with its scientific-objective indifference does not apply to the way in
which we experience the time of our lives. Happiness and sorrow have a duration,
but the manner of their duration cannot be measured with any clock.
Let us dwell for a moment on the two named properties of psychical time,
namely its continuity or unintenupted character and its exclusively SUbjective or
personal nature.
Rudolf Bernet 139

As far as the continuity of the psychical time of my life is concerned, it

must immediately be remarked that it is really only related to the manner in which
I live my life. By this remark one can mean something quite trivial; that a psychical
time that is not experienced by someone is an absurdity. Or one can mean that the
continuity only pertains to the manner in which I live the time of my life and thus
not to the manner in which another intervenes in my life and so alters the living of
my lifetime. Also the manner in which I experience the lifetime of another is not
necessarily characterized by continuity. Later, we will come back on this. For the
time being we will deal exclusively with the manner in which I live the continuity
of my life.
How then do I live this continuity of my life? A continuity between what
and what? The latter is quite clear: it is a matter of the continuity between my past,
my present, and my future life. With respect to the experience of this continuity,
Bergson, Hussed, Heidegger, and others are in agreement with Augustine's
supposition that what I now experience contains more than what is now present.
What I now do appears to me, for example, as a continuation of what I did yesterday
and as a preparation for what I will do tomorrow. In other words, the significance
of my present life appears to me as inextricably interwoven with (and thus
dependent on) the significance of my past and future life. Obviously this experience
of the continuity of my life in no way suggests that I always experience the same
thing. Even when I do something that is in conflict with what I did yesterday, my
present time still refers to my past time. The asserted continuity in the experience
of my lifetime thus does not necessarily suppose a continuity of the content of my
life. It is true that there is no time without content, no experience of the present,
without there being something that is now experienced. But the now itself is not
something, it is rather, as Heidegger says, a temporal horizon that allows a
something to appear as present. Time is difficult to understand because--despite not
itself being a content-it only appears together with the content of our experience.
Hence Kant claims that time is a form that the subject applies to a content, while
Heidegger identifies time with a Being that, though itself not a being, is still the
Being of beings.
Whatever the mode of Being of time might be, it is in any case clear that
in the present experience of my lifetime I also always experience together with my
present life, my previous and future life, at least partially. Also clear is that this
mutual interwoveness of present, past and future time lies at the origin of my
experience of the continuity of my life. We can make all of this clearer by going into
the nature of remembering and expectation, experiences in which the living of a
continuity and a unity of the time of my life comes to the fore especially strongly.
In remembering, I experience an episode from my previous life once again
in the present. This is a peculiar experience in that what I experience in

remembering does not occur now but belongs to the past. Remembering is thus
something other than a repetition in which I experience the same thing twice in
succession. When I remember something from my past, I do not really experience
it again, since now it is no longer there. What I now remember as belonging to the
past, is other than what I then experienced as present, precisely because I presently
experience it as something that is over. Remembering is thus a complex process and
it is not surprising that even those who do not hesitate to ascribe a memory to higher
sorts of animals, nevertheless doubt whether animals are capable of remembering.
What makes remembering so complex is the fact that it involves an experience of
time as time. The content of my present remembering being the same as the content
of my previous experience, the difference pertains only to its belonging to a present
or past time. Remembering is above all an especially complex form of time-
experience because it expressly relates two different times to each other. Unlike an
ordinary experience where the present time merely implies the past in the form of
a horizon, remembering directs itself explicitly to the past, makes it present in the
realization that it is past.
In remembering, we thus experience not only a present time that is
interwoven with the past and the future, but we experience time as the movement of
passing away. The great charm of this otherwise so complex and nostalgic
experience of the transitoriness of time has much to do with the realization that the
one who remembers somehow escapes time. Remembering thus insures not only that
there is a continuity of my lifetime, but also that there is an identity of myself
through time. The two experiences are so interwoven that it is difficult to decide if
continuity lies at the origin of my personal identity or the reverse, that personal
identity is already presupposed in the experience of the continuity of my lifetime.
In any case it is certain that remembering as an experience of the transitoriness of
time at once shows that the lost time of the past can once more be made present in
the present time. Proust's great novel A fa recherche du temps perdu, completely
dedicated to the problematic of remembering, significantly ends with a chapter that
bears the title "Le temps retrouw!." The experience of the continuity of my lifetime
and of the identity of my person through this time, is also due to the fact that
remembering does not merely occupy itself with the past from the perspective of the
present, but also occupies itself with the future from the perspective of the past. As
the work of Proust once more clearly shows, one always remembers with an eye to
the future. When Marcel remembers his past life as lost time, it is in order to finally
begin with the writing of his book and so to become the writer of which he had in
the past only dreamed of being. However, why remembering as a once again making
present of the past with an eye to a (better) future, why, for Proust and for us,
remembering as the experience of the continuity of life and the identity of one's own
personality should be such a happy experience of time, has so far remained
Rudolf Bernet 141

incomprehensible. One can suspect that this happiness has to do with an

overcoming. Where there is an overcoming there is necessarily a threat also.
Remembering is indeed an overcoming of the loss and the forgetting of the past and
thus of the disintegration of lifetime and of personal identity also. Remembering is
thus more than merely an affirmation of an already implicitly present knowledge
about time and ourselves, it is the site of a battle against the superiority of the
forgetting of the past and of the self-loss that is bound up with it. Time is, as was
already noted, as much a matter of retention as of forgetting and thus it is in no way
excluded that the remembering, as an overcoming of forgetting, implies' a new form
of forgetting. For one never remembers everything from the past and the
remembered past is otherwise than the original present. It seems then, that time,
although it determines our lives most deeply, remains nevertheless to some degree
strange for us in that we can never entirely appropriate it, never entirely control it.
If we now go over to the experience of time peculiar to expectation, it is
striking how much it has in common with remembering. Even in the present
bringing to presence of the future as future, we have an experience of the continuity
of our lifetime and of the identity of our personality. This is not really surprising.
For we have asserted that remembering of the past embraces also an expecting with
regard to our future. Conversely it also holds that the expectation of this future
assumes a remembering of my past. Even the reflection on how the twenty-first
century shall look for us necessarily makes an appeal to the remembrance of our
common past. As a result philosophers often have the tendency to see expectation
as a reversed remembering or even as a "remembering of the future."
It is, however, not quite correct that my future belongs to me in the same
way as my past. How my future life will go, depends not just on myself, while my
past life, although originally also co-determined by other people, has now become
entirely my own property. Remembering (Er-innerung) is then also, in the first
instance, something that takes place in the "interiority" of my consciousness or my
private life. Expectation on the other hand, assumes a going beyond my knowledge
of myself, a relatedness to the "externality" of another life and of the life of another.
With these remarks on the difference between expectation and
remembering we have, halfway through our reflections, also reached a turning point.
The turning point, namely, of the transition from my time to the time of the other.
My time is the time of my life insofar as it belongs to me. It is a time that in its
uninterrupted continuity confirms my personal identity, it is in other words a time
that is as much psychic as as it is subjective.
This subjective character of my time is, however, still susceptible to two
different intepretations. One can mean by it that I can "represent" the time of my life
by means of my consciousness. Or it can indicate that in my way of life and in the
way in which I give it an existential sense, I behave in a temporal manner. In both

cases however it is so that in the present I concern myself not merely with my
present life but also with my past and future life. The sUbjective character of the
experience of this extended and flowing time thus has to do not only with the fact
that it concerns the time of my life, but also with the fact that I do not need anyone
else in order to experience my lifetime. Given that what threatens the continuity of
my life comes from myself and not from another, i.e., comes from my forgetting of
the past and from my uncertainty about the future, it is evident that I have no need
of another in order to overcome this threat. I alone can master the time of my life.
However, this mastery that makes me independent of other people, also confmes me
in my own life. When I am the only one that determines the sense of my lifetime,
then likewise I must also bear the burden of this life alone. Otherwise said, the
intervention of the other in the determination of the sense of my lifetime indeed
makes me dependent, but it is also a liberation. Only when I take distance from the
lonely mastery of my life, can the time of my life take on a sense that is much richer
than anything I can come up with on my own or what I myself could will to make
of my life.
In what follows we will be occupied with two different ways in which the
concern with other people alters my lifetime: history and ethics. The time of history
implies an enlargement of the significance of my lifetime over the borders of my
life, and the time of ethics implies a responsibility that makes of my time a time for
the other. While the time of history does not threaten my lifetime, ethical
responsibility for the other interrupts and intrudes upon the experience of my
lifetime. The question of whether the twenty-first century must be seen as a
continuation or as a break with the twentieth century, is thus dependent on the
historical or ethical perspective in which one approaches this transition.

II. The Time of History

We have seen that psychic-subjective time, despite its continuity, does not exclude
forms of distance nor even a certain alienation. Although future time becomes
present time and present time becomes past time, this flowing transition from the
one time to the other implies an irreparable alteration. But this alteration still does
not make my time the time of the other. History, on the contrary, assumes an
involvement of my lifetime in the time of others who need not even be
contemporaries. It is rather the case that what happens in the same time as my
lifetime, to a great extent withdraws from historical consideration. In history, one
is occupied with the life of previous generations and, in the end, also the life of
future generations. Historical time is thus a trans-generational time. That is to say
history deals with the life of different generations of people and thus brings together
Rudolf Bernet 143

different generations with one another. History does something about the so-called
"gap" between the generations, and when there is no time for history then that gap
grows. The ever faster changing circumstances of life and the dwindling of historical
consciousness have the consequence that the generation gap threatens to become
ever wider.
From this rough description of the time of history we can conclude two
things. The first is that history has to do with the life of human communities; the
second is that history concerns itself with the continuity between communities that
live and have lived in different times.
What is a community? Briefly put: it is a multitude of people whose life is
determined by a feeling of belonging together. Someone who speaks in the name of
a community says neither "I" nor "they" but "we." Communities form themselves
on the basis of a process of exclusion and inclusion. One belongs to them or one
does not. Not everyone that lives in the same period belongs to the same
community. It is true that I belong to several communities, but many of my
contemporaries belong to none of the communities of which I am a part. These
contemporaries with whom I have nothing in common are for me "strangers." It is
thus anything but obvious that there exists-as history assumes-a community
between people that belong to different generations and thus also to different times.
Such a community, then, does not simply "exist," it is much more that it is
"instituted" by historical consideration. This institution of a trans-generational
community by history is thus a disavowal of the strangeness that I experience in the
face of the many people of my own generation and of previous generations. It is
however improbable that history could succeed in making an all-inclusive universal
community of all people of all times. It is not because we are all humans that we
also all belong to the same historical community; being human does not alone
suffice to give us a feeling of historical-temporal belonging together.
The historical communities established by history are temporally variable
communities and not essential communities as is the supra-historical idea of
humanity. Historical communities persist through temporal changes only by grace
of the continuity of a community life. What a historical community has in common
is something that perdures through history or, better said, that is carried over from
one generation to the next. The key concept of history then is "tradition." What is
handed down in tradition is ultimately less important than the fact that there is
tradition. It is also important to understand well that tradition is not a one-way
traffic. A community formed by tradition is not only taken up with the concern to
pass on something to following generations, but also feels itself to be the heir of
previous generations. It passes on what it has received and it is for the sake of its
respect for, and interest in, that heritage that it will pass it on to future generations.

The "something" that is handed down can be anything, on condition that

it is something communal and in addition is something to which one is attached.
There are traditions of modes of conduct and rituals, of ways of thinking, of
convictions and values, of language, of art and politics. These contents of tradition
receive a specifically historical meaning, not only through their being handed down
across generations, but also through their relation to a historical time. Which
historical time? Mostly the time of an original event or of a goal to be attained "at
the end of all time." The tradition of Christianity rests on the origin of Christ's
becoming man two thousand years ago and the tradition of Marxism rests on the aim
of a classless society that is still to be realized in the progress of history. The fIrst
tradition thus orients itself to an origin (arche) and supposes a archeological
determination of historical time; the second tradition is directed to a still to be
attained aim (telos) and implies a teleological conception of historical time. These
two concepts of history do not in fact exclude each other: Christianity, for example,
proclaims a "history of salvation" that connects the signifIcance of the origin with
an eschatological aim.
From all these characteristics of the time of history that we have cited,
there seems to be a great affinity with the time of remembering, and it is no surprise
that history has often been presented as a form of communal or collective
remembering. Just as individual memory confIrms the identity of my person through
the uninterrupted movement of time, so too, historical tradition creates a community
that through the succession of generations becomes ever stronger. As Hegel says,
there is a "sacred bond" that ties the different generations together and fuses them
into the unity of the same historical community. Remembering and historical
tradition overcome the threat of forgetting associated with the essence of time, of
the coming apart of the unity of the person and of the community, of the alienation
of one's own from the communal. It is true that historical tradition, unlike individual
remembering, appeals to other persons and to external aids such as the language of
a story and of writing, or the presence of traces and monuments. It is also true that
history as collective remembering is not merely a matter of conscious representation
but rather of the interpretation of documents and ritual communal activities. None
of this however takes away from the fact that history, just like remembering, appeals
to what is our own and what is proof against time. Remembering and historical
tradition aim at preserving the past for the future and thus have, in a literal and
fIgurative meaning, a "conservative" character. This conservative character is not
just a defence against forgetting but also against the strange, unexpected and
fundamentally new. All that which threatens the continuity of my personal life and
of our traditional community is overcome by remembering and historical tradition.
This glorifIcation of the continuity of subjective and historical time, this
confIrmation of one's own person and community, although conservative, need not
RudolfBernet 145

be unethical. Fidelity to prior generations and solidarity with future ones, testifies
rather to respect and moral concern. However, a philosopher such as Levinas would
remark that we are here still dealing with an ethical responsiblity for oneself and
one's own community. For him ethics has in the first instance nothing to do with the
concern for one's own but with a responsibility for the other and for the stranger.
According to Levinas this ethical responsibility has moreover its origin not in
myself but in the need and the suffering of the other; responsibility is thus a
response, an answer to the appeal of the other. Such a responsibility does not
exclude remembering but this remembering has an ethical character only insofar as
it is not directed upon one's own past and thus is not strictly a historical
An example of such a remembering of a foreign past out of ethical
responsibility is the commemoration of the "Shoah," the annihilation of millions of
Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War. At issue in the so-called
"Historikerstreit" in postwar Germany, was whether the Shoah could be reduced to
an object of regular historical research. Naturally, it is indispensib1e that the German
people should tum themselves to their dark past; the question is, however, whether
this is enough and whether it testifies to sufficient responsibility with regard to the
innocent victims of the extermination camps. For the remembering of these
atrocities committed by their own people makes them no more comprehensible and
does not deliver the Germans from their guilt. The commemoration of the Shoah has
thus an ethical significance that necessarily exceeds or "transcends" the historical
consciousness of a communal past of the German people.
If Levinas is right, then the ethical responsibility for future generations
cannot be fulfilled through historical tradition. For history cannot see the future
otherwise than as a continuation of the past and as the confirmation of an historical
community. In historical contemplation there is no place for a positive evaluation
of a breach in time and for a responsibility in regard to future generations that are
totally different from us. Put simply, history has a paternalistic view of the future;
it considers future generations as sons and heirs. History is blind for the otherness
offuture generations, it is deaf to its unforeseen needs, it is afraid of their new ways
of life. Such an historical approach to the future is, for all that, not irresponsible, but
its responsibility is conditional and thus in the view of Levinas, does not evidence
real ethical responsibility.

III. The Time of Ethics

Ethical responsibility, as Levinas understands it, supposes a new concept of time

that is irreducible to the time of remembering and history. The time of ethics is

neither my time nor our time, but another time; the time of the other as other. This
is not just to say that in my relations with the other I may not force my time-
consciousness upon the other, but also that the other penetrates my time-
consciousness and thus changes it, makes it into another consciousness. Ethical
responsibility, as a response to an appeal, proceeds not from me but from the other.
This other that cannot be reduced to the representation that I have of him or to the
expectations of our community, is, therefore, always a stranger. Since this strange
other penetrates into my life with his appeal, he also alienates me, makes me into
someone that is for myself strange and unfamiliar. I no longer recognize myself in
my reponsibility for the other precisely because this responsive responsibility is
grounded not in my self-consciousness but in the appeal of the other. What the other
asks of me is nothing less than that I sacrifice myself or my self in order to meet his
suffering and his need. For Levinas, real ethical responsibility is irreconcilable with
a conservative or a paternalistic attitude towards the other; ethics assumes a radical
break with all forms of egoistic self-reference and thus with a personal memory and
an historical tradition that confirms one's own identity.
Unlike the time of memory and of tradition, the time of ethics is thus not
a continuity but an interrupted time. What is an "interrupted time"? What is
interrupted and who interrupts it? The latter is immediately clear: it is the
intervention of the other under the form of an appeal that interrupts. And what he
interrupts is the belonging of time to myself. Interrupted time is a time that passes
with interruptions, a time in which the mutual interwoveness of the future, present,
and past is dissolved, a time in which also the future, present, and past of my life no
longer belong simply and solely to me. The most discussed form of such an
interruption of my lifetime is death. Death comes not from myself but from
somewhere else, it touches the deepest foundation of my life without belonging to
me. Which is why I can neither represent nor ap-propriate death. Nor can I really
experience it, in the sense of living through it; for where death is, life is lacking.
Consequently it is also problematic to talk of "my" death. Death comes "like a thief
in the night." This saying is not entirely correct in that a thief is someone, and death
is no-one. Death comes from elsewhere but not from another, it has no recognizable
form or face, it is anonymous. Death has an express relation to the other only in two
cases: in murder and in sacrifice. On the basis of what we have already said about
Levinas, it will surprise no-one that his ethical consideration of death addresses
itself especially to the prohibition of the murder of the other and to the sacrifice of
one's own life for another.
There are, however, other forms of the interruption of my lifetime in which
the intervention of the other, and thus also the ethical significance of the
interruption, is much clearer than in the case of death. These new forms have not
only a relation to the future but also to the past and the present time. One such
Rudolf Bernet 147

ethical interruption of my past time by the other is forgiveness. Forgiveness gives

a new meaning to my past, it releases me from the lonely and sometimes unbearable
burden of a mistake or sin that I have committed. This interruption of my
consciousness of guilt comes not only from outside myself, it must come from
another, and preferably from another in respect of whom I have incurred the guilt.
Forgiveness is a gift or grace upon which I cannot and may not count, it belongs
entirely to the other as other, and yet changes the whole of my life. Henceforth I
look at my past differently, my view is that of the other that has forgiven me, and
what I see is a life other than the one I originally experienced as my life.
The other can also change the way in which I look at my future life and
thus give this life a different ethical significance. This happens, for example, in the
case of hope. Hope is something other than an optimistic expectation. Expectations
suppose a continuation of the past and of the present time in the future and no
interrruption of the continuity of this time. Expectations, although related to a, in
some sense, uncertain future, are at home in subjective time or the time of history.
Hope, on the contrary, appeals to an ethical concept of time. Hope changes my life
and this change can only come from another. From myself I have only reasons to
doubt and to despair, not to hope. But the other that makes me hope is not another
whom I count upon to remedy the uncertainty of my future. Hope is thus, like
forgiveness, a gratuitous gift from the other that frees me from my all too
understandable anxiety for my future life. Hope presupposes an express or implicit
promise of the other that whatever might happen he will not let me down. There is
no hope where there is no confidence in another and my confidence is grounded in
the promise of the other-not to give me this or that, not to do this or that for
me-but to be there for me also in the future.
The intervention of the other also makes of my present time a new time
with an ethical significance. The present time of my life is the subjective egological
time par excellence, for it is the home port from which I venture out onto the stream
of time in the direction of the past or the future. I remember presently my past as a
previous present, I expect presently a future present, and for all this I have no need
of another. What I now experience is also the fulfillment of what I have expected
previously and the continuation of what I have done in the past. There is in this
lonely present little place for change, for something that is new, unexpected,
immemorial and strange. Only through the encounter with another can something
change in this situation. He allows or even forces me to begin a new life that is
entirely different from my previous life. This intervention of the other in my present
life is a gift or an appeal that also creates a new responsibility towards him. Once
another enters into my life I cannot simply go on living without taking him into
account in everything I do.

We must thus keep in sight that this other who breaks through into the
continuity of my egological time and makes an ethical time of it, changes me into
an other Of, more precisely, into a subject/or the other. The other that forgives me
for a mistake from my past, at the same time summons me thereby to more
responsibility in the future. In the commemoration of the Shoah we are asked to lend
our voices to the victims, or even out of respect for their inexpressible pain, to keep
silent. The other who interrupts my life and gives me the possibility to begin a new
life, demands also that in this new life I preserve a sensibility for him and for his
needs. The manner in which he affects me, must lead to a new ethical sensibility
characterized by vulnerability in place of defensiveness. The hope that has its origin
in a gratuitous gift of the other, also carries with it new obligations in regard to him.
One cannot hope and at the same time still reckon (whether on oneself or on the
other). Hope asks for sacrifices and self-sacrifice.
The coming tum of the century has a different meaning according to
whether the twenty-first century is conceived of as an historical or as an ethical
future. The two need in no way exclude each other.
History cannot see the twenty-first century otherwise than as a prolongation
of the twentieth century. In this manner it foresees the new challenges, and they will
surely have to do with an expansion of our historical community. The forms of
ethnocentrism and nationalism that still exist today must make way for forms of
multi-cultural society. The commonality that binds together the members of a
historical community, will no longer be an obvious and natural given, but something
that must be established by history. If history does not succeed in this then we will
indeed, as some thinkers today predict, experience the "end of history."
An ethical vision of the future of the twenty-first century requires less of
future generations and more of ourselves. It does not foresee how future generations
should act, but asks that we live differently now in order not to make the other life
of future generations impossible. The ethical attitude towards the future must lead
to hope, and this hope assumes an unconditional faith in future generations and the
sacrifice of our immediate pleasure. We do not know how the future generations of
the twenty-first century shall live nor do we know what their needs shall be.
Accordingly, we owe them not just something, but everything, our whole attention
and our whole life. Ethical time as time for the other begins with the end of the
natural preoccupation with our own posterity. Our life is however never merely
ethical or natural, it is a movement between the two. The time of our lives is the
time of this transition. 2

(Translated from the Dutch by Paul Crowe)

Rudolf Bernet 149


1. Confessions, lib. XI, cap. 14: "What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is provided
that nobody asks me; but if! am asked what it is and try to explain it, I am bamed."
2. Bibliography: G.W. Hegel, Introduction to the History ofPhilosophy (New York: Dover,
1956); M. Heidegger, Being and Time (Oxford: Blackwell, 1978); E. Husser!, On the
Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1991); E.
Levinas, Time and the Other (and additional essays) (pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press,
1994); E. Levinas, Totality and Infinity; An Essay on Exteriority (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1979).
Temporality and the Point:
The Origins and Crisis of Continental Philosophyl

Anthony Steinbock
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale-USA

To concern oneself with the founding concepts of the entire

history of philosophy, to de-constitute them, is not to
undertake the work of the philologist or of the classic
historian of philosophy. Despite appearances, it <a systematic
and historic questioning> is doubtless the most audacious way
of preparing a step outside of philosophy. The step "outside
philosophy" is much more difficult to conceive than is
generally imagined by those who believe they made it long
ago with cavalier ease, and who in general are swallowed up
in metaphysics in the entire body of discourse which they
claim to have disengaged from it.
Jacques Derrida2


Persuaded by the perspicacious critiques carried out by such figures as Jacques

Derrida, Michel Foucault, FranQois Lyotard, and a host of others, many theorists
belonging to that catch-all field known as "contemporary continental philosophy,"
have forcefully challenged the traditional notions of origin, foundation, the
absolute, teleology, essence, etc. This tendency is felt most poignantly today in the
discourse of "post-modernism."
Initially these challenges had an emancipatory function because they
liberated one from the illusion of a static beginning of things outside of time, from
a one-sided relation of foundation in the sphere of social relations that could justify
a politics of authoritarianism, from a fixed end to history where the outcome of
meaning is already determined in advance, and from an a-historical essentialism
that ultimately vitiates novelty and otherness. Such critiques are not only
understandable, but justified.
Yet when contemporary continental philosophy dismisses altogether the
role of origin, teleology, the absolute, etc., it is forsaking its own style of thinking.
When it does this, it is no longer capable of discerning crises of lived meaning or
of engaging in the generation and transformation of historical life. This denial
throws continental philosophy itself into a crisis and makes it unable to detect itself
as in crisis, and to do anything about it. While we speak quite liberally of a "crisis"
of continental philosophy, I suggest that this crisis is two-fold: There is a crisis of
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 151-167.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

continental philosophy in the sense that crisis is peculiar to its own style of
thinking, and there is a crisis of continental philosophy in the sense that it is in or
undergoing a crisis.
This paper address the nature of this crisis by (1) characterizing continental
philosophy as a particular style of thinking, namely, generative thinking, (II)
examining the meaning and origins of philosophical thinking by drawing, for
strategic reasons, on one of Jacques Derrida's essays, and (III) interpreting the
crisis within continental philosophy.

I. Continental Philosophy as a Generative Style of Thinking

What is continental philosophy such that it could undergo such crises?

How does one distinguish this distinctive type of philosophy, called continental
philosophy, from other philosophical approaches? Is continental philosophy really
all that distinctive?
It would be misleading to define continental philosophy merely by the
figures that it draws upon, by its subject matter, or by its geographical boundaries.
In the first place, although continental philosophy does claim a vast array of
thinkers, from Hegel to Freud, from de Beauvoir to Irigaray, from Marx to Lukacs,
from Scheler to Levinas, from Arendt to Derrida, it does share of a host of other
figures with other traditions like analytical philosophy and pragmatism: Kant,
Husserl, Wittgenstein, James, Santayana, and even Hegel, just to name a few. By
itself the figures upon which one draws are not sufficient to distinguish continental
philosophy from other philosophical traditions.
In the second instance, while continental philosophy is renowned for its
treatment of phenomenology, existentialism, critical theory, feminism, literary
criticism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, etc., it also overlaps with the content of
other areas. To choose just one example, if Michael Dummett is correct in claiming
that analytical philosophy is distinctive by holding that a philosophical account of
thought can only be achieved through a philosophical account of language, and that
a comprehensive account can only be achieved in this way/ then would one not
have to include here the later works ofHeidegger (after all language, he maintains,
is the "house of Being") and the majority of Derrida's work? Has not Habermas
mutatis mutandis also made a "linguistic turn" of sorts within critical theory,
requiring that he, likewise, be included here?
Finally, continental philosophy is defined even less by its geographical
borders, and I have in mind here, "the continent." The appellation, continental
philosophy, is misleading in some ways, for it really designates a movement that
took place in North America, a movement that was inspired by philosophies (such
Anthony Steinbock 153

as phenomenology and existentialism) and by thinkers like Husserl, Heidegger,

Scheler, Bergson, Kierkegaard, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Ortega y Gasset, etc., that
originated on "the continent." These philosophers, however, did not practice
continental philosophy (at least in this restrictive sense), they just did philosophy.4
It is not necessary to develop this line of thinking any further by surveying
still other countries on the continent and their philosophical leanings. Suffice it to
say that we will not gain anything more than a superficial understanding of
continental philosophy if we try to grasp its meaning by identifying it by its
geographical borders, its subject matter, or its figures, merely.
There is a simple but decisive reason for this. Continental philosophy is
distinctive not in terms of what and whom it treats, or where it is practiced, but in
terms of its style of approach. This style of approach has to do with an appeal to
experience, the rootedness of experiential meaning in a context, and the
commitment not only to detecting crises in meaning, but to addressing those crises,
contributing to the generation oflived meaning through the critical intervention in
the lifeworld. This style of approach I call generative thinking.
Generative thinking is a critical engagement with or the appropriation of
the generative structure of experience. The generative structure of experience has
three fundamental components: origin as the origin-originating of meaning,
normative teleology, and crisis within an experiential context. For reasons of space,
I cannot elaborate upon the generative structure of experience here. I only want to
make the following points:
First, the concept of origin taken dynamically means that "origin" cannot
be understood in a reductively simple manner, for the origin is always with us,
originating. That the origin is originating not only suggests that we can never return
to a simple origin, but equally important, we can never remove ourselves from it.
Phenomenologically speaking, that the origin is originating means that already in
the simple institution of meaning there is an excess that extends beyond the so-
called simple origin, surpassing it in such a way that the surplus over it retroactively
accomplishes the simple meaning and guides further experience. It motivates or
guides future experience in an orientated manner.
Second, the first pleasure, the first vision, etc., opens rather than closes
meaning in such a way that every other experience will be situated and orientated
by this originating. In its normative-teleological function, the origin-originating
guides experience according to its sense, without it having to be formulated
explicitly as a principle or without having to conclude rationally from it. Thus, the
dancer or choreographer can be led by the norms of his or her art without having
"to apply" these norms, and he or she can point out that a particular movement or
gesture is amiss in the experience itself without being able to identify the "right
way" to do it or without the meaning of the dance becoming an object of a separate

consciousness. Nevertheless, at the root of any such recognition or felt conflict is

the origin-originating that functions guidingly, in this case, the meaning of the
dance in its specific orientation (the normative teleology of meaning). 5
Accordingly, the origin-originating simultaneously insinuates beyond itself
a directedness or orientation from within the experience itself such that it guides,
motivates, or solicits future experiencing; in this way, there is a normative,
teleological structure endemic to meaning in its origination. Because the meaning
is still in excess of its historical determination (but originating with a directedness
in that determination), the implicit normative meaning can be deepened or
overcome through a new historical determination, being integrated into or even
instituting a new origin-originating and new teleological structure. 6
Finally, and related to the former point, because the origin of meaning is
originating with a directedness that promises more than it can actually fulfill, it
becomes susceptible to a crisis in that origination of meaning. The experience of
crisis not only presupposes that there is a directedness of meaning within a
historical context, but that the discrepancy is an occlusion or frustration in the
becoming of lived meaning. In fact, one cannot experience a crisis of lived meaning
if one were to import somehow an a-historical standard; it could not be seen as a
crisis in meaning, but only as a merely different meaning. Moreover, one could not
experience a crisis if the future were not open at all, and the totality of meaning had
been worked out (as is suggested by Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit). There is
only the possibility of crisis if there exist orientations of meaning that are not
random, and the possibility of generating new structures of meaning as guided by
an origin-originating. Accordingly, there is no possibility whatsoever of
experiencing a crisis without presupposing the generation of meaning in the
generative framework of origin-originating and normative teleology.
The critical edge of generative thinking that allows one to address and
redress a crisis in experiential meaning lies precisely in the difference between the
origin-originating/normative teleology of sense and the concrete historical reality.
Likewise, critique must somehow be both immanent to and beyond the present
context. (I will explain the nature of this "immanent" and "transcendent" critique
I have sketched the generative structure of experience to make this point:
Continental philosophy is a certain style of thinking called generative thinking; and
generative thinking is the critical assessment of the origin-originating and its
directedness as a normative teleology in relation to lived experience; it is thus able
to detect crises within lived experience and to articulate the ways in which it could
be or should be otherwise. Once the relation between the orientation ofthe origin-
originating of lived meaning is expressed as irreconcilable with the directedness of
the actual historical situation, this relation becomes susceptible to historical
Anthony Steinbock 155

transformation. Continental philosophy is such a style of thinking that is both

sensitive to the oriented origination of meaning and the critical assessment of

II. Getting the Point: Philosophical Thinking and the Origins of Meaning

Generative thinking is engaged in the generation of meaning through

critical, contextual analysis of experience; it not only presupposes the origin of
meaning as originating, which is to say, its teleology of sense, but identifies
discrepancies of meaning as crises in the direction of future transformation. If it is
correct to characterize continental philosophy as a style of generative thinking, then
continental philosophy cannot forsake the generative structure of experience.
While contemporary continental philosophy wants to embrace notions like
critique and crisis (and it does so when it describes continental philosophy as in
crisis), notions like "origin," "telos," and "norm" have fallen of late into disrepute. 7
And when understood statically, simplistically, there is good reason for it. But by
understanding them in a truncated sense and by summarily dismissing them, they
become affirmed in the very way in which they were opposed and result in a
reactionary relativism, "dogmatic anti-foundationalism," and mere play, which is
to say, implicitly nihilism. 8 Mere relativism and nihilism become, then, just other
forms of adhering to reductively simple origins and static essences. This uncritical
reaction within contemporary continental philosophy has left it unable to undertake
crisis thinking in any radical sense, since outside of the generative context I have
described, there is no possibility of experiencing or addressing crisis. The extent
to which continental philosophy is abandoning crisis thinking uncritically, which
is to say ultimately generative thinking, by denying the role of origin as originating
and normative teleology as the directedness or orientation of meaning that makes
a difference, and is not completely open or arbitrary, it is undergoing a crisis of its
own meaning. It is unable to grasp a crisis in principle and is therefore unable to
account for its own experiences of crisis.
In order to discuss the generative structure of experience in relation to
philosophy and to show in what sense continental philosophy is in crisis, I turn to
Jacques Derrida and in particular to his essay, "Cogito et histoire de la folie." I do
this for two reasons. First, the very question of "origins" in continental philosophy
(and thus of "telos," and by implication, "crisis") has come under fire through
various wide-spread, post-modern readings of Derrida. It will be suitable, then, to
take up the question concerning the origination of meaning through one of
Derrida's works. It will become clear that Derrida' s point of critique depends upon
a certain understanding of origin that I have called origin-originating within the

generative structure of experience. Second, Derrida addresses in an incisive manner

the questions concerning origins and thinking. This is important because an
investigation into the meaning of contemporary continental philosophy must grasp
the meaning of philosophical thinking.
Derrida's approach to the question of origins and thinking in "Cogito et
histoire de la folie" is a three page passage from Michel Foucault's hallmark work,
Folie et Deraison: Historie de fa folie a /'age classique. 9 In these three pages,
Derrida reads not only the difficulty of Foucault's whole work, but a difficulty
peculiar to "Western metaphysics" itself.
Derrida cites Foucault's project as an attempt to write a history of madness
itself, and not to write about madness from the objectifying perspective of
rationality, e.g., from the contemporary perspective of the rational philosopher or
the psychiatrist. Because Foucault's'projectalso implicitly concerns the advent of
reason (in opposition to madness), Derrida reads in it the problem of the very
source or origin of the meaning of reason.
Descartes and the Cartesian cogito, alleges Foucault, carried out the
expulsion of the possibility of madness from thought itself.lo By separating
madness from sensation and dreams in his first Meditation, denouncing madness
from the interiority of thought, Descartes excludes the possibility of madness by
decree, marking, according to Foucault, the "advent of a ratio."u This Cartesian act
is a sign of the classical event that separates madness and reason, and interns
madness by reason.
According to Foucault, classical reason reifies madness. On the one hand,
we have the language of (classical) reason, order, objectivity, rationality, expressed
in the jailer of unreason or the discipline of psychiatry, and on the other, there is
madness, which is to say, silence. 12 Wanting to escape the trap of classical reason
that strives to objectify madness, Foucault attempts to write a different kind of
history, an "archaeology of silence."
Derrida finds at least three major difficulties with Foucault's articulation
of the separation of reason and madness in the classical age and the problem
concerning the archaeology of silence. First, even though an archeology of silence
claims to circumvent the dangers of writing a classically rational history of
madness, all the same an archaeology is a logos, a logic, an organized language
such that an archaeology of silence could only repeat the act perpetuated against
madness. Second, the split between reason and madness in the classical age is not
originary but a subsequent, determined reason and determined madness; it cannot
account for the historicity of thinking through which a historically determinate
reason and madness are first articulated. Third, and related to the former point,
Foucault misunderstands a distinction between (1) the cogito as a determinate act
of reason set against madness in a natural phase of doubt, and (2) a critical,
Anthony Steinbock 157

hyperbolic Cogito, an inaugural thinking, that concerns the advent of meaning in

I would like to focus on the third of these objections, not as a commentary
on Foucault or his work, but in order to discern Derrida's insight into the origin of
meaning and in particular into the origination of the meaning of thinking. It is
important to do this because at issue is the meaning of contemporary thinking called
continental philosophy.
Because the silence whose archaeology Foucault wants to undertake "is
not an originary [originaire] muteness or nondiscourse, but a subsequent silence,"
a different project must be discerned behind the archaeology of silence. 13 This
posterior project, as it were, becomes the most anterior one of all since it seeks a
"source [source] of a reason more profound than the reason that issued forth during
the classical age."14 This more profound reason is not one that simply occurs earlier
in time, say, in the Middle Ages. Both classical and medieval divisions between
philosophy and non-philosophy remain superficial according to Derrida because
they stay on the surface of a reason divided against itself since the dawn of its
Greek origin. Both the classical and the medieval divisions between reason and
madness are still ruptures within a dialogue between a "determined reason" and a
"determined madness." Addressing this level alone, they remain superficial.
True, the separation and connection between reason and madness in the
Middle Ages is less determined, less elaborated than a subsequent, classical one
because the former has not had the occasion to appropriate its own determinations,
or for that matter, those of the Modem period or even those of the contemporary
period. 15 The question concerning origins, the question concerning the meaning of
meaning, must instead approach the "common root" of historical determinations,
or as Derrida also calls it, "this unitary foundation" [ce fondement unitaire] that is
much more ancient than the medieval period, more "ancient" because as a
"founding unity" [une unite fondatrice] it already carries within it the
determinations of the Middle Ages (and the Greek, the Modem, etc.). Being more
ancient in this way does not mean that it essentially occurred "before" the Middle
Ages-merely in the history of philosophy. Rather, all transformations that ensued
are "late and secondary" with respect to "the fundamental permanence of the
logico-philosophical heritage." 16 This permanence is the opening of meaning as
originating "behind" or with every historical determination of that meaning, but
without being reducible to it. This origin can happen at any time, is qualified by that
time, but is not equated with that time. 17
For Derrida, the investigation into reason and madness requires reaching
the origin of the creative act by which reason sheltered itself from madness,
constituting itself as a barrier against madness; it is a matter of reaching "this origin
from within a logos that preceded the split of reason and madness," a logos that

permitted a dialogue between what were later called reason and madness. "It is
therefore a matter of reaching the point at which the dialogue was broken off,
dividing itself into two soliloquies, what Foucault calls ... the Decision."
The Decision, writes Derrida, is both an originary act of order and a
schism through which reason and madness are linked and separated. He calls this
decision a "dissension" in order to emphasize the decisive activity of an
differentiation interior to meaning in general. 18
The act of Decision, the decisive act, is a creative emergence that has
developed this way peculiar to the West, and we have taken it up in such a way that
it puts us on the track that Derrida calls the history of Western metaphysics in
which-in this formulation of the situation-reason distinguishes itself from
madness, privileges itself over madness, and in its hegemonic appurtenance of
madness to reason, asserts itself as fixed (present); in so doing, it forgets the very
splitting which produced reason and madness. Foucault, on Derrida's view, risks
forgetting this splitting in his very archeology of madness, and thus risks
entrenching us even deeper in the history of Metaphysics. By tipping the scales in
the direction of a madness speaking for itself, Foucault's project appears
emancipatory. But in the excitement of the ostensible liberation of madness from
reason, one still presupposes with much more facility and insidiousness a madness
and a reason that are still subsequent and already determined, thus making it that
much easier to cover over the opening of reason and madness. Derrida:

In order to account simultaneously for the origin (or the possibility) of

the decision and for the origin (or the possibility) of its narration, it
might have been necessary to start by reflecting this originary logos [ee
logos originaire] in which the violence of the classical era played itself
out. The history of logos before the Middle Ages and before the classical
age is not ... a nocturnal and mute prehistory. 19

While decisive-because this is the way the history of Western thought

has unfolded and is the way its meaning has been manifest-the heritage of the
West was not decided in advance; the emergence could have gone in some other
direction without being separated into reason and madness. Nevertheless, for us,
the "decision" has been decisive, it is the ongoing historicity of Western thinking
itself. Derrida refers to this decisive act as a "point," though he later qualifies it not
as a point in time, but as a "temporal originality in general. ,,20
Derrida finds an exemplary expression of this point, this decisive act in the
critical, hyperbolic doubt of the cogito. Let me take up this exemplary act by
turning to Derrida's assessment of Descartes. In rereading Descartes, Derrida finds
in the first Meditation that Descartes has an absolutely hyperbolic moment which
Anthony Steinbock 159

gets us out of natural doubt and leads us to the hypothesis of the evil genius; we
move from a naive, natural phase of doubt, to a philosophical, critical phase of
doubt. 2I
In one respect, the hyperbolic Cogito is mad because it cannot be
encompassed by a subsequent reason, though it is presupposed by any rational or
mad act. This is why, writes Derrida, the Cogito is not human in the sense of
anthropological finitude, but playing on Descartes's metaphors, demonic. The
hyperbolic Cogito is super-human or iibermenchlich, to employ Nietzsche's
expression, because its effort consists in trying to grasp that which emerges in and
through humanity but which is simultaneously beyond human facticity; it wants-to-
say-the-hyperbole: the absolute opening, the historicity proper to philosophy, the
movement oftemporalization itself. Its madness is more rational than determinate
reason, for it is closer to the wellspring of sense, and by the same token, "Reason
in general" is madder than any determinate madness, because here reason is closer
to nonmeaning. 22 This Cogito is not a comforting resting point. Opening and
founding the world by exceeding it, "nothing is less reassuring than the Cogito at
its proper and inaugural moment. ,,23
Descartes's problem (and Derrida doubts whether this can ever be
completely avoided) was to have made the hyperbolic moment reassuring, in
Descartes's case, by reflecting the cogito through God; inaugural thinking is
mollified as onto-theo-Iogy: Thought, which at the height of its hyperbole,
announces itself to itself, frightens itself and reassures itself; the uneconomic,
energetic, absolute opening is taken over by economy and regulation. Such a
takeover becomes expressed historically as the determinate distinction between
controlling reason and controlled madness, which in tum leaves out of account the
"source point" as uneconomic opening. This interminable rhythm of awakening and
imprisoning Derrida understands not as an alteration in time, but as the very
movement oJtemporalization itself and perhaps the destiny ofphilosophy.24
Meaning-to-say-the-hyperbole, in any case, is a bold attempt to draw back
to a "point" in relation to which all determined oppositions between reason and
madness as actual historical structures can appear as relative, and in which meaning
and non-meaning have their common origin.25 But what does it mean to draw back
to or to return to this absolute zero-point which is temporal originality? It cannot
mean starting from zero, for this would imply ignoring temporal originality, the
process of generativity through which reason and madness have come to be for us
in this way and the way in which we, in tum, attempt to work back toward the
origin-originating as such. A total bracketing of history would always have to be
inadequate to the task because the more we try to approach the "origin," the more
the origin is originating through these actions, embroiling our efforts. Instead, it
must be a matter of how we take up the origin-originating, the style of reason,

thinking, or the style ofphilosophy through which we take "it" up. In his If on a
Winter's Night a Traveler, Italo Calvino expresses the effort in this way:

But every moment of my life brings with it an accumulation of new

facts, and each of these new facts brings with it its consequences; so the
more I seek to return to the zero moment from which I set out, the
further I move away from it: though my actions are bent on erasing the
consequences of previous actions and though I manage to achieve
appreciable results in this erasure, enough to open my heart to hopes of
immediate relief, I must, however, bear in mind that my every move to
erase previous events provokes a rain of new events, which complicate
the situation worse than before and which I will then, in their turn, have
to try to erase. Therefore I must calculate carefully every move so as to
achieve the maximum of erasure with the minimum of recomplication. 26

This erasing or this bracketing is still a way in which the origin is

originating. Given this structure of origin-originating, it was perhaps misleading for
Edmund Husserl to call the origin of philosophy a primordial institution
[Urstijiung]. Primordial could imply that something happens once and for all, and
is not in the unique process of originating. But it is nonetheless clear from his
analyses on the teleology of meaning, and of normality and abnormality, that in
order for something to function teleologically, guiding our actions, it has to be
appropriated in experience and made an origin and a telos. 27 For this reason it
would make more sense to adapt a term that appears frequently in Husserl' slater
writings within a generative context of phenomenology, namely, stamm.
Stamm-meaning among other things, root, stem, genealogical lineage,
place of return-is distinct from what is merely primordial or "ur." Stamm is
literally radical in the sense of radix; it implies not only that meaning "stems" or
originates from a decisive phase, that it has its "roots" there, serving as a "common
root," but that it is more than this particular, determinate historical phase. It is not
a simple origin, having taken place once and for all, it does not sketch out a
univocal, linear path from here to there, rather it is an originating-origin which
bears repeating; it is not only a stemming-from, but a returning-toward, a toward-
which that implies a teleological orientation. What we would call a Stammstiftung
would be an accomplishment of sense that needs to be returned-toward in order to
be what it is. 28
On the one hand, the task of thinking the origin-originating would entail,
as Calvino puts it, attempting to achieve the maximum of erasure with the minimum
ofrecomplication (what Husserl would call the reduction). On the other hand, there
is a sense in which this recomplication becomes historically meaningful; through
Anthony Steinbock 161

"careful calculation" we appropriate the origin-originating of meaning in general,

what we call history, and in particular, the history of Western metaphysics.
The returning, then, is not and cannot be a blanket return back to a simple
point, since the so-called "point" is temporal originality itself. Because temporal
originality is originating even in the returning to its teleological sense, the returning
must be nothing other than an appropriation of inaugural thinking. Descartes's
Modem idea of philosophy is, for example, such an appropriation of this thinking;
even though it ostensibly founds a new starting point for philosophy, a new
"simple" origin, it is, as Husserl writes really a "relative" primordial institution in
relation to the institution of philosophy; it is a transformed, appropriated institution
[UmslijiungV 9 In putting forth a sense of philosophy that is ostensibly "external"
to the origin, viewed generatively it co-creates the origin and the telos as telos
through the historical development. It returns to the origin by originating it,
"complicating the situation"; it could not be farther from the origin, but at the same
time could not be more intimate to it.

III. The Crisis in Continental Philosophy

What is the role of contemporary continental philosophy as generative

thinking? Of course, we could attempt to locate a simple origin of continental
philosophy in the early Twentieth century with Husserl and phenomenology, and
a host of other European thinkers and movements. Or, because they were simply
doing philosophy, and not "continental philosophy" as such, we might wish to
locate the origin of continental philosophy in the United States with the
determination of it as "other" from the perspective of the dominant discourse of
Anglo-American philosophy; or again more positively, we might wish to locate its
origin with the founding of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential
Philosophy (SPEP) in the early 1960s. In this case, continental philosophy would
be understood provisionally as a simple origin, or what Husserl calls a relative
primordial institution. But it is also an Umstijiung, historically transformative,
appropriative institution of the meaning of thinking. In doing this, continental
philosophy appropriates to itself an origin that extends beyond its simple origin. It
takes a stand with respect to the directedness of sense in appropriating Nietzsche,
Marx, Hegel, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Plato, etc., and they become part of the
tradition of continental philosophy, retroactively, through a kind of deferred action
or Nachtraglichkeil. As Husserl suggests in his late "Krisis" writings, Plato
becomes "our" Plato, Hegel "our" Hegel, etc. This first person plural possessive
does not imply exclusivity, but rather, expresses the process of taking up and
making the origin and teleological directedness of sense.

To speak precisely, there is not really a debate between continental

philosophy, analytical philosophy, pragmatism, etc., since ultimately they are all
styles or manners of taking up the origin-originating of thinking in general. The
crucial question concerns rather how they return ahead to the generation of
thinking, how they should both appropriate and become appropriate to the origin
of thinking in its present forms.
Derrida has suggested that the present form of thinking is Western
metaphysics. Western metaphysics not only generates binary oppositions (such as
reason/madness, presence/absence, interior/exterior, masculine/feminine,
speaking/writing, etc.,) but privileges one side as a manner of controlling the other;
this control results in and is sustained by a forgetting of the contribution of the
subordinated side to this very distinction, and is ultimately sustained by a forgetting
of the "point" (temporal originality) of the division itself. Derrida's "careful
calculation," or as he calls it, his "strategy" of appropriating and challenging the
history of Western metaphysics is formulated under the well-known expression of
"deconstruction." Deconstruction is not an attempt to escape Western metaphysics,
or to criticize it by importing a standard of measure from outside of Western
metaphysics. There is no choice but to inhabit metaphysics because we have no
language, syntax or lexicon that would be foreign to this history. 30 Decisive is how
or the style in which we inhabit it. He writes:

The movements of deconstruction do not destroy structures from the

outside. They are not possible and effective, nor can they take accurate
aim, except by inhabiting those structures. Inhabiting them in a certain
way, because one always inhabits, and all the more when one does not
suspect it. Operating necessarily from the inside, borrowing all the
strategic and economic resources of subversion from the old structure,
borrowing them structurally, that is to say without being able to isolate
their elements and atoms, the enterprise of deconstruction always in a
certain way falls prey to its own work. 31

But if we necessarily inhabit metaphysics, must there not be a space, play,

elbowroom, or leeway [Spielraum] for the critique of metaphysics within
metaphysics in order to say, as Derrida does say, that metaphysical thinking
provokes a crisis in thinking, a crisis in the meaning of meaning in general?
Without this leeway, Western metaphysics would have to be completely taken for
granted, without any possibility of detecting a crisis. How is the detection of crisis
possible, even for the deconstructionist who identifies the hegemony of
metaphysics over our thought? Some-"thing" must be guiding the critique and
disclosing metaphysics as a kind of crisis within thinking in general. Metaphysics,
Anthony Steinbock 163

while "decisive," in the sense I explained above, cannot be the ultimate context of
originating-origin. And Derrida, too, says as much:

Of course, the designation of that impossibility <of formulating the

movement of supplementarity within Western metaphysics, i.e., of
escaping the language of metaphysics> escapes the language of
metaphysics only by a hairsbreadth [pointe]. For the rest, it must borrow
its resources from the logic it deconstructs. And by doing so, find its
very foothold there. 32

The origin-originating of thinking is internal to Western metaphysics itself.

This is why one can undertake an immanent critique of metaphysics. But the origin-
originating is not reducible to metaphysics. The hairsbreadth or fine line [pointe]
itself is the interval between hyperbolic thinking or historicity and the history of
philosophy, the difference between Reason in general (which is the wellspring of
determined reason and madness) and already being-determined reason and
madness. And it is this point, this difference which both can and does function
guidingly for Derrida 's critique. This difference is not a remainder, it is not a third
thing, but opening, generativity, excess, surplus. Derrida explains:

By separating, within the Cogito, on the one hand, hyperbole (which I

maintain cannot be enclosed in a factual and determined historical
structure, for it is the project of exceeding every finite determined
totality), and, on the other hand, that in Descartes's philosophy (or in
the philosophy supporting the Augustinian Cogito or the Husserlian
Cogito as well) which belongs to a factual historical structure, I am not
proposing the separation of the wheat from the tares in every philosophy
in the name of some philosophia perennis .... The historicity proper to
philosophy is located and constituted in the transition, the dialogue
between hyperbole and the finite structure, between that which exceeds
the totality and the closed totality, in the difference between history and
historicity ... 33

By virtue of this generative difference between historicity and history,

which is immanent to/exterior to Western metaphysics, it is possible to discern an
originating and directedness of sense, and to detect in Western metaphysics a crisis
of thinking. This difference is at the very heart of the origination of philosophical
thinking, saturating determinate forms of reason and madness. Even Derrida's
deconstructive analysis must presuppose this generative structure of experience that
I elaborated above, and thinking as generative thinking. For in his analysis, it is the
difference between the origin-originating and our present reality, between
historicity and history, which is both immanent to and escapes the history of

Western metaphysics, that enables him to get his foothold for a critique of Western
metaphysics from within Western metaphysics.
We have already become acutely aware in contemporary continental
philosophy that it is a profound mistake to think that we could innocently return to
a fixed origin. But our situation is different today. Today the crucial mistake lies in
assuming that because the bracketing or erasure is never complete that we can
therefore never get back to "the origin" -with the result that all thinking can only
become cynicism, and all action only random play that merely "disrupts"
hegemonic discourses. Resulting statements and reactions like these paradoxically
still hold onto Western metaphysics by presupposing the origin to be something
static, eternal, or punctual, and do not understand origin dynamically as origin-
originating. Yet the very same extent to which and the very same reason that we
can never completely return to the "origin" is the very same extent to which and the
very same reason that the "origin" is always with us, originating; hence it is as
Derrida calls it, an "'originary presence," or "fundamental permanence." Hyperbolic
thinking did not just occur back then, but can always already occur at any time, with
Descartes or with us in the present. Likewise, the same extent to which we can
never "get back" to the origin is also the same extent to which we can never escape
the origin, either. Even if we wanted to.
When contemporary continental philosophy begins to reject any talk of
origin or telos in its challenge to essentialism, foundationalism, metaphysics of
presence, etc., it denies itself implicitly the possibility of any meaningful critique
and of crisis thinking. It can only pronounce "crisis" naively, which is to say,
entrench thinking deeper in what it seeks to eS.cape. Not because it denies a simple
origin and a fixed telos, but because it assumes them, and in taking them for
granted in this way, takes them up in the form of relativism and mere play. In the
final analysis, static origin and mere play are just two expressions of the same
objectivism. One is unable to challenge metaphysics from the difference between
historicity and history, and one risks becoming totalitarian rather than
emancipatory. To risk totalitarianism in this sense would amount to acceding the
movement of historicity, radical thinking, to history and a determinate reason,
closing the gap, attempting to encompass the "absolute opening" by a closed,
determined totality. Nothing could ever be in crisis, because there would be no
prospect for the generation of meaning and the determination of new historical
structures. There would be no "point" to crisis thinking, no "point" to historical
transformation. If this happens, and it is happening, then continental philosophy is
missing the point. It is in crisis.
To employ both Husserl's and Derrida's formulation, the crisis of
contemporary continental philosophy consists in a "forgetting of origins," not just
its simple origin in the Twentieth century, but is radical, root origin, the difference
Anthony Steinbock 165

between history and historicity; it is a forgetting of the generative structure of

experience. 34 It is true that the crisis affecting contemporary continental philosophy
does concern contemporary thinking, how we envision contemporary thought, and
how we will situate it in the history of philosophy. But this can be taken in a much
too narrow sense ifwe only mean by continental philosophy, a particular academic
discipline confined to the present, a field merely different from, say, analytical
philosophy. Continental philosophy is a style of thinking, an appropriation and
generation of origins. When origins is understood generatively as origin-
originating, continental philosophy necessarily goes beyond a thinking confined to
the Twentieth century, and appropriates the history of Western thinking, together
with its modes of domination and its crises. It appropriates the Decision-Western
metaphysics-but it also implicitly takes up the "absolute opening." And if this is
done critically, it will bear a responsibility to the difference between history and
historicity, i.e., generativity. This difference is only a point, a fine line, to be sure,
but it is a fine line that makes an infinite difference where generative thinking is
Generative thinking is not cynicism or an excuse for the way things are,
but a radical type of responsibility for origins-originating, a directing the
directedness, and unending task, a perpetual beginning (a "fundamental
permanence"), precisely because the "drawing back" or the "return" is never
complete, because originating is in process, because we are living in and through
generativity as we undertake and take up the task of thinking.
This generative thinking cannot merely be the thinking peculiar to Western
metaphysics which abstracts thought from our rootedness in the environing world;
it must also be the critical intervention in history transforming our socio-political
lifeworld. Accordingly, generative thinking is a style of living as well, and a unique
responsibility; it is a responsibility, ultimately, to the absolute opening.
I believe it is possible to characterize this absolute opening, this infinite
point, as the "Infinite" or the "Holy" without falling into theism or onto-theo-Iogy.
Continental philosophy as a mode of generative thinking would then find itself in
a revelatory relation to this Infinite difference; it would be-and dare I say, should
be-the "point" to its unique style of taking up origins-originating. 35


1. A slightly different version of this paper was published as "The origins and crisis of
continental philosophy," in Man and World 30/2 (1997).

2. Jacques Derrida, L 'ecriture et la difference (paris: Seuil, 1967),416; hereafter L 'ecriture.

Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1978), 284, translation slightly modified; hereafter Writing.
3. See Michael Dummett, Origins ofAnalytical Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard University
Press, 1994),4.
4. One might even wish to claim that today the continent is less engaged in "continental
philosophy" than, say, North America. Germany has made the "linguistic turn" in Dummett's
sense, and in a much more limited sense, to be sure, there is a movement in France by the
Centre de Recherche en Epistemologie Appliquee (CREA)---basically "analytical
philosophy"-which has been called in the French journal, Le Debat, "La philosophie qui
vienf'-''the philosophy of the future," or "the philosophy to come." See Le Debat,
Novembre-Decembre, 1992.
5. See Max Scheler, Vom Ewigen im Menschen Gesammelte Werke, Vol. 5, ed., Maria
Scheler (Bern: Francke, 1954), 198 fT. And see my Home and Beyond: Generative
Phenomenology after Husserl (Evanston: Northwestern Univesity Press, 1995), esp., Chapter
6. For a further clarification ofthis point, see Home and Beyond, chapter 9.
7. For just two examples, see Crises in Continental Philosophy, ed., Arleen B. Dallery and
Charles E. Scott (New York: SUNY Press, 1990), and Questioning Foundations:
Truth/Subjectivity/Culture, ed., Hugh Silverman (New York: Routledge, 1993).
8. I take the expression "dogmatic anti-foundationalism" from Steven Galt Crowell's
excellent article, "Dogmatic Anti-Foundationalism," Semiotica 100-3/4 (1996), 361-82.
In order to emphasize the significance of a generative phenomenology of and the
possibility of a transcendental phenomenology of the social world in contrast to Husserl's
Fifth Cartesian Meditation, I used, in Home and Beyond, the expression "non-foundational"
synonymously with "co-foundational." But given what I understand now as the current crisis
of continental philosophy, I would no longer use the expression "non-foundational" to
articulate the co-relative and axiologically asymmetrical generative structure of homeworld
and alienworld.
9. Michel Foucault, Folie et Deraison: Historie de la folie a /'age classique (paris: Pion,
10. Derrida,L'ecriture, 71; Writing, 45.
11. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 74; Writing, 47.
12. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 55-6; Writing, 33-4.
13. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 62; Writing, 38, my emphasis.
14. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 59; Writing, 36, translation slightly modified.
15. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 62-3; Writing, 39.
16. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 63; Writing, 39
17. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 62; Writing, 38.
18. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 62; Writing, 38.
19. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 63; Writing, 39.
20. "II s'agit mois d'un point que d'une originarite temporelle en general." Derrida,
L'ecriture, 86 fn. 1; Writing, 309, fn. 24.
Anthony Steinbock 167

21. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 78, 81; Writing, 50, 52. From this point of view the sleeper or the
dreamer would really be more mad then the mad, for the latter are not always wrong, while
for the dreamer, the totality of ideas becomes suspect. This moment within a natural doubt
is only relative and prepares the reader, according to Derrida, for an absolutely hyperbolic
moment. " ... everything previously set aside as insanity is now welcomed into the most
essential interiority ofthought." Derrida, L 'ecriture, 82; Writing, 53.
22. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 95-6; Writing, 62.
23. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 87; Writing, 56.
24. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 93-6; Writing, 60-2.
25. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 86; Writing, 56.
26. Italo Calvino, !fon a Winter's Night a Traveler, trans., William Weaver (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981), 15-16.
27. See my "Phenomenological Concepts of Normality and Abnormality," Man and World,
Vol. 28 (1995), 241-260. And see my "The New 'Crisis' Contribution: A Supplementary
Edition of Edmund Husserl's Crisis Texts," in Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 47, March,
(1994), 557-584.
28. See my Home and Beyond, 194-196.
29. Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europaischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale
Phanomenologie: Erganzungsband. Texte aus dem Nachlaj3 1934-1937, ed. Reinhold M.
Smid, Hua XXIX (Boston: Kluwer, 1993),399,417,419-420.
30. Jacques Derrida, De la grammatologie (Paris: Minuit, 1967), 148. And see L 'ecriture,
411-413; Writing, 280-281.
31. Derrida, De la grammatologie, 39; Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri
Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974),24.
32. Derrida, De la grammatologie, 442-443; Of Gramrna to logy, 314.
33. Derrida, L 'ecriture, 93-94; Writing, 60.
34. See for example, Derrida, L 'ecriture, 96-97; Writing, 62.
35. See my "Idolatry and the Phenomenology of the Holy: Reversing the Reversal,"
Phanomenologische Philosophie in Japan: Beitrage zur interkulturellen Gesprach, ed., T.
Ogawa, M. Lazarin, and G. Rappen, forthcoming, 1998.
The Shadow of the Other

Linda Fisher
University of Windsor-Canada

L'invisible est Ie relief et la profondeur du visible, et pas plus

que lui Ie visible ne comporte de positivite pure.
Merleau-Ponty, Signes, p. 29.


Towards the end of his essay "Marxism and Philosophy" in Sense and Non-Sense,
Merleau-Ponty embarks on a short and intriguing digression about Husser!. Tracing
a short discussion of the evolution of Husserl's thinking, Merleau-Ponty ends with
this passage, heavy with insinuation:

There is a story that in the last years of his life, when Husserl wanted to
go to Belgrade to give the lectures he had been forbidden to give in
Germany, the Gestapo was assigned the task of first reading his
manuscripts. Are we in turn going to look at philosophy through the
police chiefs glasses? Philosopher Husserl, we declare you suspected
of anti-Hegelianism, and have consequently placed you under
surveillance ... l

Continuing, Merleau-Ponty comments that certain interpreters (Naville and Herve)

apparently have "something other to do than master the texts of an untranslated and
two-thirds unpublished Husserl." In other words, a commentary on those inclined
to misinterpret and misrepresent Husserl, and not merely a gentle reprimand, but
an analogy with fascism; the irony being, of course, that what served to precipitate
the founding of the Husserl Archives at Louvain was the threat posed to the
manuscripts by the Nazis.
But this passage also contains a provocative point, at once philosophical
and hermeneutic, related to the manner of engagement of philosophy or a
philosopher: are we going to look at philosophy through the police chiefs glasses?
That is, do we confront philosophy and the philosopher as suspects, co-
conspirators, as virtual adversaries, where our relation to them takes the form of
placing them "under surveillance"; where being under surveillance denotes a
distanced, objectifying gaze-sur-veiller-and more fundamentally, is
characteristically one-sided, precluding any kind of equal interactive or reciprocal
Merleau-Ponty's own relation to Husserl is highly nuanced and
ambiguous. On the one hand he writes frequently and directly about Husserl, not
D. Zahavi (ed.), Selfawareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 169-192.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

only in tenns of his analyses of Husserl' s thought and accounts of the genesis and
development of phenomenology, but also in invoking Husserl positively in
discussions that are not first and foremost about phenomenology. His frequent
defenses of Husserl, particularly on the issue of interpretations which do not take
account of the unpublished work, along with his explicit and implicit
acknowledgements of Husserl, seem then one fairly clear aspect of his relation to
Husserl. As such, ofthe key trio of figures following Husserl-Heidegger, Sartre
and Merleau-Ponty-he is to a large extent the most Husserlian.
At the same time, we find throughout Merleau-Ponty's work various
pointed critiques of Husserl. Now it is possible of course to work within a certain
framework and still adopt critical attitudes towards aspects of that framework, but
some of the targets of Merleau-Ponty's criticism, such as his critique of the
reduction, implicate some of the most fundamental tenets of a Husserlian position.
So this would support the view that in the unfolding of his own thought, Merleau-
Ponty finds the weak links in Husserl's philosophy, and corrects, "refines" Husserl,
to use the term in a recent article comparing these two thinkers.2 Another view,
expressed frequently in the literature on Merleau-Ponty, sees a much more radical
break with the Husserlian framework. For many Merleau-Ponty scholars it is a
virtual given that Merleau-Ponty was not merely supplementing or even moving
beyond Husserl, but was breaking with him in a definitive manner. One problem
with this view from a hermeneutic standpoint would be how to render the frequent,
and not expressly negative, analyses of Husserl in Merleau-Ponty; if there is a break
from Husserl, it does not initially happen in an obvious manner. I suppose one
might argue that we always dwell on the ones we're about to leave-or simply that
it took time both for the divergences to manifest themselves, and for them to
manifest themselves to Merleau-Ponty himself.
However, once again, I think that the relation of Merleau-Ponty and
Husserl is much more complex and ambiguous than the simple tracing of a line of
influence or divergence, as the case may be. For while in one respect Merleau-
Ponty undertakes discussions of Husserl in keeping with the usual manner of
analyzing or commenting on another thinker, these discussions as well as the figure
of HusserI himself have a much broader symbolic and metaphorical function and
significance; and this broader significance serves to illuminate various complexities
of their relation. For example, ifwe consider once again the passage quoted earlier,
it is possible to unfold the multivalent symbolic personae that Husserl represents
simultaneously in that one invocation: Husserl the philosopher, Husserl the Jew,
Husserl the victim of political persecution, Husserl the Jewish philosophical victim
of persecution, Husserl the hermeneutic subject, author whose manuscripts are
read, Husserl the author of a Nachlass whose manuscripts are perhaps not read. The
Linda Fisher 171

point being, paradoxically-or perhaps all too obviously, given the nature of
surveillance-that in being placed under surveillance, Husserl is not seen.
More fundamentally, however, this passage is illustrative of the larger
metaphorical function that Husserl serves in Merleau-Ponty's thought. This story
is not merely an anecdote about a particular incident in Husserl' s life; it is clearly
a metaphor for how philosophy and the philosopher might be regarded. Husserl in
this case is not only the particular philosophical victim, but represents the potential
victimizing of philosophy; at issue is not only this particular encounter with
Husserl, but the manner in which philosophy in general is to be encountered and
engaged. In numerous places throughout Merleau-Ponty's texts, his discussions of
Husserl function as the occasion for an elaboration of the nature of philosophical
engagement: how the tradition and the history of philosophy are engaged, how the
individual philosopher is engaged, and how philosophy itself, in some sense more
fundamental than either its history or its philosophers, is engaged. Merleau-Ponty's
analyses of Husserl, seemingly operating to focus this question more acutely for
him, serve thus as the multi-layered metaphor for the engagement with philosophy,
and in this manner Merleau-Ponty's own relation to Husserl is clarified. That is, in
a dialectical movement which will be precisely characteristic of this engagement,
Merleau-Ponty's encounter with Husserl serves as the occasion to elucidate the
complex nature of philosophical engagement, while the nature of this engagement
is the framework for his encounter with Husserl.
As such, Merleau-Ponty articulates an account of how we read philosophy
and philosophers, in the widest sense possible of philosophical reading: in terms of
how we engage philosophy, and how the various moments of that activity interact
with the larger process of interpretation and reflection-that is, how philosophy
engages us. In this respect Merleau-Ponty's framework is in many ways a
hermeneutic one and his elaboration of the dynamics of these relations his
articulation of a hermeneutics of philosophical engagement. Such a hermeneutics
is at once resonant of more traditional formulations, yet is a distinctly Merleau-
Pontian hermeneutics of ambiguity, where the relation to philosophy and the history
of philosophy takes the complex and dialectical form of what could be called
construed tradition. This dialectic of construed tradition-not amended or
supplemented but construed, so that it is at once what it was and not what it
was-is indeed characteristic and demonstrative of the central insight of this
hermeneutics of engagement.
Finally, and most fundamentally for our interests at this gathering, the key
framework employed by Merleau-Ponty for exploring the dynamics of
philosophical engagement is the theme of alterity and intersubjectivity. The
problematic of the engagement with philosophy-in terms of the history of
philosophy, individual philosophers, and philosophy itself writ large-is framed as

an intersubjective relation, wherein multiple instances of alterity are encountered

and negotiated. Moreover, in keeping with the idea of his Husserl analysis as
exemplary framework, Merleau-Ponty unfolds and grounds his account of the
intersubjective relation, particularly in his essay "The Philosopher and His
Shadow," through a discussion ofHusserl's account of alterity and intersubjectivity
in Ideen II, thus once again instantiating the sense of philosophical engagement and
furnishing an instance of construed tradition. In this manner Merleau-Ponty
interrelates alterity in philosophy and alterity of philosophy-where, to be sure, the
elaboration of the alterity of philosophy is only possible by means of a
philosophical account of alterity.
To return to my initial point of departure, then, at issue on one level is the
interaction with the philosophical thinker, tradition and texts, and with philosophy
itself: philosophy as reflection and the particular engagement with this reflection
and the reflective process. These various aspects, unfolded through the discussion
of Husserl, all represent instances of philosophical alterity: the otherness and
alienation that a philosophical engagement seeks to navigate. While we do not wish
to confront philosophy, to look at philosophy "through the police chiefs glasses,"
the opacity and resistance we may encounter render some kind of theoretical and
hermeneutic initiative necessary.
At the same time, insofar as the discussion of Husserl functions to
illuminate these aspects of philosophical alterity, it serves also to elaborate a
phenomenological account of alterity and intersubjectivity. Merleau-Ponty
correlates a discussion of the hermeneutic issues implicit in philosophizing, using
the encounter with Husserl as an example, with a discussion of Husserl' s analysis
of intersubjectivity; two dimensions of alterity, one more hermeneutic, the other
more phenomenological, but each informing the other. Finally, focusing these
issues even further, there is a level which is the interface of Husserl the individual
philosopher and philosophical influence, and Merleau-Ponty himself, where
Merleau-Ponty's own sense of philosophical self-in its activity, evolution, and
self-perception-is intricately bound up with the other who is Husser!.


As suggested above, Merleau-Ponty's relation to Husserl is an ambiguous

one-a point often echoed in the Merleau-Ponty literature. But while some
commentators have characterized this ambiguity as problematic, suggesting that it
derives from an apparent confusion or indecisiveness on Merleau-Ponty's part, if
not constituting a misrepresentation ofHusserl/ I would contend that it is precisely
in keeping with and illustrative ofMerleau-Ponty's conception of the ambiguous
Linda Fisher 173

nature of philosophical engagement and, to be sure, his conception of philosophy

generally, which has often been characterized as a "philosophy of ambiguity."4
There has been nevertheless a persistent tendency to see the thought of
Husserl and Merleau-Ponty as significantly divergent if not opposed and,
particularly from the perspective of Merleau-Ponty scholars, to see Merleau-
Ponty's philosophy as amending and improving those aspects of Husserlian
philosophy considered questionable, while deepening and extending
phenomenology in ways previously neglected by Husserl. A case in point is the
suggestion, found for example in some feminist commentaries on Merleau-Ponty,
that a decisive factor in Merleau-Ponty's transformation of phenomenology from
transcendental to existential phenomenology is his innovation of embodiment and
incarnate consciousness. In this manner he is seen to be opening the way for
important analyses of corporeality, bodily perception, and the lived
world-analyses allegedly absent in previous phenomenological accounts. Iris
Young, for example, states: "Existential phenomenology made a revolutionary
move in philosophy by turning to the body as the locus of reflection on
experience."5 Now of course much turns on what Young means here by "locus" and
by "reflection"-elsewhere she suggests that the "unique contribution" of Merleau-
Ponty consists in locating consciousness and SUbjectivity in the body, which may
or may not be completely congruent with a Husserlian position. 6 Nonetheless, in
various accounts of phenomenology and embodiment by Young and others, the
phenomenological account invoked is that ofMerleau-Ponty, with a glaring silence
with respect to Husserl. This would suggest not only a failure to acknowledge the
fact that Husserl undertook analyses of corporeality and bodily perception, framing
them in some instances in formulations very compatible with (and ultimately
influential of) Merleau-Ponty's later accounts 7 ; but in addition it overlooks
Merleau-Ponty's own explicit nods to those analyses: "In this way he [Husserl],
more than anyone else, contributed to describing consciousness incarnate in an
environment of human objects and in a linguistic tradition.,,8
In large measure, however, the conception of Husserl and Merleau-Ponty
as clearly divergent is based on the notion that Merleau-Ponty's readings of Husserl
are at best selective, overly charitable projections and at worst glosses,
misrepresentative or peculiar interpretations. James Schmidt states, for example,

On the basis of this peculiar reading of Husserl, Merleau-Ponty went on

to relate phenomenology and the human sciences in a way which
diverged markedly from Husser\. Husserl's concern was to "purify"
phenomenology, to set it apart from "worldly" sciences which might
compromise its radicalism. MerIeau-Ponty sought instead to intertwine
phenomenology and the human sciences. 9

Another example of skepticism about MerIeau-Ponty's HusserI interpretation, this

time from the HusserI camp, concerns MerIeau-Ponty's well-known statement,
found throughout his texts, including in the preface to the Phenomenology of
Perception and the essay "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," that as
Husserl stated in his last years, "the last subjectivity, philosophical, ultimate, radical
subjectivity, which philosophers call transcendental, is an intersubjectivily. "10 This
claim, not footnoted in the later "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," but
listed in the Phenomenology ofPerception as being found in the then unpublished
Krisis der europtiischen Wissenschaften, section III, has prompted Husserl scholars
to question its textual accuracy-where exactly Husserl said this, or indeed whether
he said thisY
However, while both Merleau-Ponty and Husserl scholars have questioned
MerIeau-Ponty's interpretations of Husserl, it is often the Merleau-Ponty scholars
who are most skeptical of Merleau-Ponty's favourable presentations of Husserl,
attributing them in essence to an interpretive wishful thinking-a "wishful reading"
as it were. Gary Madison claims, for instance,

Whereas Mer!eau-Ponty thought he discerned an "existential

philosophy" in Husser!, all the evidence indicates that Husser! never
gave up his desire to raise philosophy to the level of an absolute
science .. .! do not mean to say that Mer!eau-Ponty completely
misunderstood Husser!ian philosophy... but only that he did not want or
could not believe that Husser! was nothing more than the idealist he

Such assessments, concisely summed up in one of Schmidt's chapter headings

("Merleau-Ponty's Husserl"), thus raise questions not only about possible
psychological motivations in MerIeau-Ponty's interpretation, but more
fundamentally questions concerning the real adequacy of Merleau-Ponty' s account
of Husserl.
I don't intend to undertake an evaluation of these critiques or a defense of
Merleau-Ponty's particular readings of Husserl. Indeed, while such questions are
hermeneutically important, their relevance in this case is necessarily conditioned
by the larger issue under examination here, that of Merleau-Ponty' s conception of
philosophical engagement. And while the various critics of Merleau-Ponty's
relation to Husserl are clearly aware of Merleau-Ponty's views on the dynamics of
reading a philosopher or the history of philosophy, they do not give those views,
I believe, a sufficient hearing. So in a sense I will undertake to defend, not Merleau-
Ponty's particular readings, but his hermeneutic framework which constitutes the
context of those readings. As I suggested above, it remains a question of an
Linda Fisher 175

inevitable ambiguity-now not just in the sense of an undecidability, but more

significantly in the sense of an intertwining of meaning where the line between
Merleau-Ponty and Husserl does become blurred; not due to any unforeseen
deficiency in the account, but self-consciously as the very condition and
consequence of interpretation.
What is decisive in this respect is Merleau-Ponty's dual sense that on the
one hand his thought is compatible with and in many ways grounded in and derived
from a Husserlian framework, and that Husserl' s thought, particularly as laid out
in later works and unpublished writings, is compatible with Merleau-Ponty's
thought and philosophical programme; and on the other hand, that the relation to
a philosopher or to the history of philosophy takes the form of what I termed
construed tradition. As such, the notion of construed tradition is deepened, by
unfolding the manner in which it stems from a fundamental similarity or kinship
which is yet not the same, but is construed in this or that respect. In terms of the
larger framework, this is the shape of alterity and intersubjectivity for Merleau-
Ponty, and his implementation of this analysis to elucidate the nature of
philosophical engagement will mean that his conception of intersubjectivity informs
the notion of philosophical engagement, but also, characteristically, the conception
of philosophical engagement informs his notion of intersubjectivity.
On one level, an important component will be several interpretative
considerations which have a bearing both on points raised by critics of Merleau-
Ponty's Husserl interpretation, as well as on the larger hermeneutic framework; and
these considerations interact further with the sense of the multiple representations
ofHusserl. For instance, to recall the example at the start of this paper, there is the
issue of the published and the unpublished Husserl. As is well known, Merleau-
Ponty visited the Husserl Archives at Louvain and studied many of the unpublished
manuscripts (H.L.Van Breda notes that Merleau-Ponty was actually the first
researcher from outside of Louvain to consult the archives. 13) References to
manuscripts he consulted, and the associated analyses or influences, are sprinkled
throughout Merleau-Ponty's work: the most significant example being, perhaps, his
study of the ldeen II manuscript and its analyses of the body and embodiment.
For Merleau-Ponty the existence of such extensive unpublished work is
key to a proper interpretation ofHusserl: at the least there is no reason to privilege
the published Husserl-certainly not without a more involved hermeneutics
justifying the priority of that which was already published. But given that the
Husserl encountered in the manuscripts was markedly different from the published
Husserl at the time, and in ways particularly salutary and suggestive for Merleau-
Ponty's interests and philosophical tendencies, it could lead Merleau-Ponty to claim
in a letter to Van Breda that " .. .Husserl' s philosophy is almost entirely contained
in the unpublished manuscripts.,,14 But while it has been suggested that the

juxtaposition of the published and unpublished Husserl produced certain tensions

in Merleau-Ponty's appraisal ofphenomenology,15 as manifested, for example, in
the famous passage in the preface of the Phenomenology of Perception
("Phenomenology is the study of essences ... But phenomenology is also a
philosophy which puts essences back into existence,,16), can it be said that what is
at issue in Merleau-Ponty's encounter with Husserl are perceived tensions in
phenomenology and "wishful readings" of Husserl? Or is it possible that in the
context of Merleau-Ponty's hermeneutics of engagement, this is an expression of
the complexities of phenomenology as he had come to understand them?
Related to the issue of the published and unpublished Husserl, particularly
as it makes possible the question of "different" Husserls, is the issue for Merleau-
Ponty of an earlier and later Husserl. Tied to the notions of the historicity of
thought and the historical progression of a thinker's development, Merleau-Ponty
argues that an examination of Husserl ' s thought discloses a progressive evolution,
where earlier concerns can be seen to be displaced by later developments. For
example, in the "Marxism and Philosophy" essay, in reference to certain criticisms
focussing on what are often perceived to be Husserl' s more questionable concepts,
such as the philosophy of essences, philosophy as a strict or absolute science, or
consciousness as transcendental and constituting activity, Merleau-Ponty
downplays their impact by framing these as Husserl's "oldest formulas" (in the
sense also ofthe most archaic: "Herve ... retains nothing of Husserl but his oldest
formulas"), going on to suggest that while Husserl did maintain these formulations
to the very end, his later perspective was more along the lines of philosophy as
"infinite meditation or dialogue.,,17 As such, Merleau-Ponty characterizes Husserl's
development as a progressive evolution, contending that "Husserl passed from
'philosophy as a strict science' to philosophy as pure interrogation"18-this last
notion connected obviously to Merleau-Ponty's own analysis of philosophy as
interrogation. Moreover, it is possible to see the formulations ofthe early Husserl
as crucial stepping stones to the later developments: 'Thus it was that, just because
he began by seeking absolute evidence, he arrived at the program of a philosophy
which describes the subject thrown into a natural and historical world, the horizon
of all his thoughts... having started with a 'static phenomenology,' he ended with a
'genetic phenomenology' and a theory of 'intentional history'-in other words, a
logic of history." 19 We cannot fault someone for not having grasped everything at
once, especially if we hold to the historicity of thought-someone has to think and
think through the early stages which make the later formulations possible. At any
rate, as Merleau-Ponty adds: "Philosophers take their own good time, and we have
no right to hold it against them."20
At the same time, while earlier concerns might evolve or be displaced, they
are not eliminated; Merleau-Ponty speaks of the sense in which Husserl retains
Linda Fisher 177

these concepts, continuing nevertheless to interrogate them: "What makes Husserl' s

career interesting is that he never ceased to question his demand for absolute
rationality and never stopped interrogating himself about the possibility, for
example, of that 'phenomenological reduction' which made him famous."21 In this
sense, these concepts may be "retained" but they are not preserved; interrogation
is a means of opening22 and in keeping these notions open, in interrogation, Husserl
passes beyond them.
Thus in a characteristic Merleau-Ponty formulation, the story of a thinker's
development is the story of concepts that evolve yet are somehow retained, that
remain as they are, yet progress. This conceptual enmeshing manifests the
fundamental ambiguity within a thinker's thought and development, just as there
is an ambiguity within the hermeneutic persona of Husserl-that is, the Husserl
who is to be intetpreted as the early and later, published and unpublished Husserl.
Moreover, this ambiguity of the persona of Husserl points to the play of alterity
which connects these various questions. In the hermeneutic conceptualization of
Husserl, we find a mutual constitution of self and other within the symbolic of
Husserl's philosophical self, where the alterity of the thinker or the thought which
must be negotiated in any philosophical engagement is in this case also within
Husserl himself: his earlier to his later philosophical self, his published to his
unpublished self, and the dialectic maintained by his central concepts. 23


Alterity resides at the core of any intetpretive endeavour. To the extent

that any intetpretive act consists in the attempt to interact with and grasp something
which stands in some distinction to the intetpreter, is separate from or to some
degree over against the intetpreter, there is an inevitable element of distanciation.
This hermeneutic distanciation-resonant of Merleau-Ponty's concept of
"6cart"-is revealing of the dimension of alterity in intetpretation: the otherness of
that which is being intetpreted, its transcendence and irreducibility. In the context
of Merleau-Ponty's engagement with Husserl, this alterity takes multiple and
interrelated forms. On one level, Husserl the thinker or the individual is the other
encountered by Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty breaks this down even further,
making a distinction on the basis of personal acquaintance with Husserl, or the lack
thereof Those who knew Husserl personally were able to encounter him in classes
or in conversation while those, like Merleau-Ponty, who did not meet him can only
initiate a direct encounter through his texts; in other words, Husserl encountered
primarily as author, where the alterity of the author is matched by the alterity of the
text, a doubled alterity, further complicated by the doubled alterity of the texts

themselves-the unpublished texts as the other to the published texts. This aiterity
of the author of texts is further deepened by historical distanciation-Husserl as
historical figure, as representative of the tradition-and thus we encounter the
alterity present in any interpretation of the history of philosophy.
Alterity in its various modes is what the interpretive act must confront, and
a large component of many hermeneutic theories consists precisely in formulating
strategies for, if not overcoming the aiterity, at least attempting to negotiate or
bridge it. The transcendence of this otherness is arguably such that the otherness
can never be entirely overcome, even when a relation is established such that the
interaction-the interpretive act-becomes possible. For while the alterity may be
negotiated, it will never be eliminated; insofar as the thought of the other is not
mine, and is in that sense alien to me, my attempt to engage that thought in
philosophical interpretation will never result in the exact coinciding of my thought
with that of the other.24 That is, there may be an interpretive interaction, and this
interaction may even take a stronger form of interweaving or interlacing, but the
elements retain their own distinctiveness in some measure, even if that
distinctiveness is difficult to articulate precisely. In slightly different language,
while commensurability may be possible, there is no identity of these elements.
How, then, does Merleau-Ponty propose to engage this alterity? In one
sense the ambiguity discussed above reveals an implicit aiterity: the fact that there
are distinctive, discrete elements within a relation, presenting an otherness within
the correlation, is precisely constitutive of the ambiguity. Yet as we saw above,
ambiguity for Merleau-Ponty is also played out in terms of various notions of
blending and interdependence-the ideas of interweaving and interlacing, blurred
boundaries and co-<ietermining elements. These notions relate in tum in significant
ways to Merleau-Ponty's analysis of intersubjectivity, and so the same character of
ambiguity that manifests alterity provides the possibility for its negotiation. In this
respect we could almost say that in unfolding both alterity and intersubjectivity, the
notion of ambiguity is itself ambiguous; however, this situation is more revealing
of the fundamental interrelationship between alterity and intersubjectivity for
Intersubjectivity seeks to articulate a relation whose aim is less the
avoidance of solipsism, and more the negotiation of alterity. In other words, given
our original and inescapable situatedness in the world of perceptual experience, a
world which we share with others and in which those others are immediately
present to us, the solus ipse is not the primary issue for Merleau-Ponty. The real
task, in recognition of the other and its transcendence, is to contend theoretically
with this otherness; in particular, to articulate the intersubjective relation that
captures the primary relationality that Merleau-Ponty sees at the heart of the
interaction with the other. This account does not seek to "constitute" the other, so
Linda Fisher 179

much as articulate the possibility of the access to the other, an access based on key
relational concepts such as encroachment and compresence.
Merleau-Ponty's account of intersubjectivity is thus grounded in his
perceptual phenomenology and in particular in his well-known analysis of
embodied consciousness and our primary relation to the world, by means of the
body as our situation in and perspective on that world. As such, the perceiving mind
is an incarnated mind and against "doctrines which treat perception as a simple
result of the action of external things on our body as well as against those which
insist on the autonomy of consciousness,"25 Merleau-Ponty seeks to emphasize the
insertion of the mind in corporeality, the roots of the mind in its body and in its
world and, characteristically, "the ambiguous relation which we entertain with our
body and, correlatively, with perceived things.,,26
Merleau-Ponty's discussion of intersubjectivity in "The Philosopher and
His Shadow" is especially relevant to the theme of philosophical engagement,
because not only does it furnish a particularly crystallized account but, as noted
earlier, this account takes place in the context of an analysis of Husserl' s account
of intersubjectivity in Ideen II. Ostensibly a reflection primarily on this text, it is
framed by a consideration of the nature of interpretive reflection and the larger
problematic of what I term philosophical engagement. Given that Husserl's and
Merleau-Ponty's accounts of intersubjectivity are in their closest proximity when
the text at issue is Ideen II (indeed, it is generally thought that Merleau-Ponty's
study of that text at the Archives constituted a major influence on his thinking about
intersubjectivity), and that in "The Philosopher and His Shadow" this account is
unfolded precisely in the context of a meditation on the thinker and tradition, the
philosopher and the philosopher's shadow, then Husserl's and Merleau-Ponty's
accounts will inevitably be interwoven, with the ambiguous character of intentional
reversibility and hermeneutic construal.
Noting that what Ideen II brought to light was a "network of implications
beneath the 'objective material thing, ",27 Merleau-Ponty underscores the
relationship between the body and things, and the grounding of this relationship in
the thingly character of the body and the body's immediate insinuation in the world.
The body is "if you wish, on the side of the subject; but it is not a stranger to the
locality of things."28 Pursuing the question of the body's relation to otherness,
Merleau-Ponty invokes the famous analysis ofthe touching hands. While when
touching the left hand, the right hand initially perceives it as a "thing," the left hand
is also perceiving the right, and the "thing" becomes animate.

Thus I touch myself touching; my body accomplishes "a sort of

reflection." In it, through it, there is not just the unidirectional
relationship of the one who perceives to what he perceives. The

relationship is reversed, the touched hand becomes the touching hand,

and I am obliged to say that the sense of touch here is diffused into the
body-that the body is a "perceiving thing," a "subject-object. ,,29

This sets the framework for a renewed articulation of the relation of the thing to the
world. The distinction between subject and object has become blurred in my body
(and additionally, Merleau-Ponty notes, the distinction between noesis and noema),
and as such it is also blurred in the thing, the pole of the body's operations, which
is thus "woven into the same intentional fabric as my body."30 The breakdown of
distinctions is the possibility for the blending and interlacing of elements; the
interrelation which is more than a mere interaction, but consists in an interchange
where each is articulated in terms of the other.
As such, just as my right hand was present when my left hand's sense of
touch was activated, the other's body becomes animate before me when I shake
someone's hand, or just look at him or her. 31 Denying that what is at issue here is
comparison, analogy, projection, or introjection, Merleau-Ponty states:

The reason why I have evidence of the other man's being-there when I
shake his hand is that his hand is substituted for my left hand, and my
body annexes the body of another person in that "sort of reflection" it
is paradoxically the seat of. My two hands "coexist" or are "compresent"
because they are one single body's hands. The other person appears
through an extension of that compresence 32

Initially I perceive a different "sensibility," then a different person and a different

thought. Merleau-Ponty quotes Husserl: "That an '1 think' springs forth 'within'
him, in that man over there, is a natural fact based upon the body and corporeal
events, and determined by the causal and substantial connection of Nature.,,33
Anticipating a question about how it is possible to extend the compresence of
bodies to minds, and whether it is not in effect a "turning back upon myself which
restores projection or introjection," Merleau-Ponty contends:

... this objection would ignore the very thing that Hussed wanted to say;
that is, that there is no constituting of a mind for a mind, but of a man
for a man. By the effect of a singular eloquence of the visible body,
Einfohlung goes from body to mind. 34

The other appears to me through an "intentional encroachment," and thus aiterity

is bridged. At the same time, however, the other retains its transcendence and
irreducibility; in the encroachment, alterity is not vitiated but negotiated.
Linda Fisher 181

I shall never in all strictness be able to think the other person's thought.
I can think that he thinks; I can construct, behind this mannequin, a
presence to self modeled on my own; but it is still my self that I put in
it, and it is then that there really is "introjection." On the other hand, I
know unquestionably that that man over there sees, that my sensible
world is also his, because I am present at his seeing, it is visible in his
eyes' grasp of the scene. And when 1 say 1 see that he sees, there is no
longer here (as there is in "1 think that he thinks") the interlocking of
two propositions but the mutual unfocusing of a "main" and a
"subordinate" viewing. A form that resembles me was there, but busy at
secret tasks, possessed by an unknown dream 35

Thus, Merleau-Ponty concludes, the negotiation of alterity is based on the corporeal

relation and differentiation; and furthermore, the articulation of a different
corporeality is effected without introjection: "The other person becomes actual
when a different comportment and a different gaze take possession of my things. ,,36
We can create the alter ego which "thought" cannot create, because we are
corporeally outside ourselves in a shared and co-experienced world, because we co-
exist and are co-present in that world, and finally because "one ek-stasis is
compossible with other ek-stases."37
Alterity is thus not the barrier to or adversary of intersubjectivity; while
its transcendence is not inconsequential, it is nevertheless negotiable, and the
negotiation is accomplished on the basis of a compresence which enables the
relation while not diminishing the difference. If anything, given that the situation
of being other contains within itself its own possibility for interrelation-by being
that which encroaches, is co-present and acknowledged, thus enabling the
interaction, if not to say meshing and the blurring ofboundaries-alterity can be
said to found intersubjectivity. In such a mutual and ambiguous enmeshing, the
other is just as "constitutive" of me as I am of the other.
This account, then, is the framework for Merleau-Ponty's hermeneutic of
philosophical engagement where, as we will see, the interlacing of alterity and
intersubjectivity, along with the fundamental ambiguity at the heart of interpretation
and reflection, shape the relation of one thinker to another, and of the thinker to the
philosophical tradition.


In several texts which focus on Husserl, most notably in "The Philosopher

and His Shadow," Merleau-Ponty's analysis serves several distinct yet related ends.
In a manner reminiscent of the approach of traditional hermeneutics, Merleau-Ponty

precedes his analysis of Husserl with a programmatic discussion of the nature of

historical interpretation and the historicity of thought, and the various
considerations involved in engaging and interpreting another thinker, and as such
the nature of philosophical activity generally. In effect, Merleau-Ponty articulates
a suggestive hermeneutics of his own that is at once theory of philosophical and
historical interpretation, and theory ofMerleau-Ponty interpretation-i.e., how best
to interpret Merleau-Ponty. And given that one of the central features is the
ambiguity of the relation to the other thinker, it functions indeed as a hermeneutics
of ambiguity, not inconsistent with several contemporary hermeneutic theories. 38
At issue for Merleau-Ponty is the nature of this philosophical engagement
as process-the character of philosophy, understood both as philosophical
reflection generally and as history of philosophy (and these are not easily separable
for Merleau-Ponty), his own particular positioning within the history of philosophy,
and the manner in which these aspects are reflected and realized in his specific
engagement with Husser!. As such, Husserl represents the various dimensions of
this process: Husserl the philosopher and phenomenologist whose work is engaged
and discussed, whose particular ideas or analyses are noted or appropriated. But as
philosophical predecessor and representative figure also, the interpretive
engagement with Husserl exemplifies the dimensions of engagement with the
phenomenological tradition and the history of philosophy-philosophizing within
a tradition and in an historical context. Finally, the engagement with Husserl
represents most fundamentally the engagement with philosophy. That is, there are
the dimensions of communicating with a thinker and communicating with his or her
works-and the historical dimensions associated with these-but the essence of
philosophical engagement goes beyond these aspects while constituting their
possibility, and in utilizing the discussions of Husserl to unfold and exemplity the
nature of philosophical reflection and discourse, Husserl represents for Merleau-
Ponty the situation of engagement with philosophy in the inseparable elements of
philosopher, tradition, and philosophical reflection.
In interpreting Husserl, there is not only the distanciation of the otherness
of Husserl to Merleau-Ponty as interpreter, but even in a figure as recent as Husserl,
there is historical distanciation, so Merleau-Ponty's reading of Husserl will also
constitute an historical interpretation. Here the dynamics of philosophical
interpretation are also the dynamics of historical interpretation-they share the
fundamental aspects of any interpretive endeavour and, additionally in this case, the
philosophical activity is also an historical activity. Philosophical interpretation
which is simultaneously historical interpretation constitutes history of philosophy;
philosophy in this case is also history of philosophy. But the reverse is also true:
history of philosophy is philosophy, and thus Merleau-Ponty states: "the history of
philosophy cannot be separated from philosophy."39 This is not merely due to a
Linda Fisher 183

simple reversibility where the history is philosophy and the philosophy history. In
"Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man" Merleau-Ponty writes:

The history of philosophy can never be the simple transcription of what

the philosophers have said or written. If this were the case, we would
have to replace the historical manuals of philosophy with the complete
works of all the philosophers. 4o

A simple transcription would be a chronicle of a philosopher's thought, but not

history of philosophy; insofar as any historical reading is interpretive and reflective,
a philosophical historical reading is therefore an instance of philosophical
reflection-that is, an instance of philosophical activity which goes beyond
historical chronicle as such and constitutes philosophizing on the part of the
Interpretation thus becomes indistinguishable from philosophizing. To
read and interpret another thinker is not merely to report on his/her thought or even
to "transmit" it interpretively; it is to engage that thought philosophically in an act
of philosophical reflection which as analysis and development is necessarily
transformative. As such, interpretation is an interactive engagement in which not
only the author's voice is heard, but the voice ofthe interpreter as well.
Merleau-Ponty invokes the notion of "intentional history" to designate the
particular form this will take. History of philosophy can only be understood as a
"dialectical history,"41 which is to say that " ... we shall not develop the ideas of the
phenomenologists merely according to the texts but according to their intentions."42
Note the phrase "we shall not develop." The interaction or dialectic is thereby
doubled: on the one hand, the relation of interpreter to thinker, but the latter's
thought is not restricted to the textual manifestation alone but includes the authorial
intention. Both aspects are properly the concern of the interpreter.
In describing the nature of an intentional reading, Merleau-Ponty plays on
several related yet distinct permutations. On one level, there is the sense of
considering a "given assemblage of texts" and in keeping with a traditional
hermeneutic aim, seeking to "discover their legitimate sense."43 Here the author's
intention can be understood as the thread of meaning-the intention of the author
that weaves throughout and binds the text, locating its significance. On another
level, however, following the intention of the author denotes unfolding the aims and
purposive activity of the author, going beyond the "express declarations" to
uncover the implicit or latent dimensions; not just the author's meaning, but what
the author meant to say. This particular aspect-the intention which is not explicit
yet is nevertheless there-is especially suggestive for Merleau-Ponty, invoking as
it does the dynamics of visible and invisible, presence and absence.

Yet at the same time, any interpretive act is also a matter of selection,
which aspects the interpreter chooses to highlight; these aspects are not arbitrarily
projected or invented, yet their unfolding, their manifestation, is dependent on the
interpreter's activity, is a matter of the interpreter's contribution. And this
contribution constitutes the voice of the interpreter; not just as a matter of choice,
but a choice dependent in turn on the interpreter's approach, his/her reflection and
creative input, and in this manner the interpreter's voice is inserted into the
interpretive activity. And thus a relation is established: Merleau-Ponty notes that
the interpreter takes the initiative, makes a choice-based on his/her particular
approach or way of encountering philosophy-but the initiative consists in singling
out the intention of the text. Philosophical interpretation consists of interpretation
as a grasping of the meaning, but it is also reflection as the process of
philosophizing; thus a reflective grasping is imminently a construal. There is a
quasi-constitutive activity on the part of the interpreter, but the interaction which
takes place is necessarily based on the particular givenness of the text's meaning.
As such we have moved from a notion of the author's intention, to an articulation
of the intentional relation.
In "The Philosopher and His Shadow," Merleau-Ponty formulates this
relation initially against the backdrop of the failed interpretive interaction. Speaking
from the position of attempting a commemoration of a philosopher-"The
Philosopher and His Shadow" was originally written for the commemorative
collection Edmund Husserl in 1959-Merleau-Ponty notes that in the intentional
self-other of interpreter to philosopher, it cannot be a matter of either doing the
thinker the "highly superfluous homage of our thoughts, as if we sought to gain
them a wholly unmerited warrant," or on the other hand reducing him "too strictly
to what he himself desired and said."44 In other words, philosophical engagement
will not consist in the overwhelming of the philosopher by the interpreter's thought
and projections on the one hand or "stingily" reducing her/him to what is
objectively certified on the other; neither a purely arbitrary reading---our thoughts
alone-nor a mere transcription-the author's voice alone. This opposition, framed
also as either "inevitable distortion" or "literal reproduction" is in both cases one-
sided and does not as such constitute the unfolding of philosophical thought.
Acknowledging immediately the intersubjective implications of these
formulations, Merleau-Ponty proceeds to characterize this situation as the problem
of communication between egos, noting that Husserl was well aware of these
difficulties and did not leave us to confront them without resources. That is, "I
borrow myself from others; I create others from my own thoughts. This is no failure
to perceive others; it is the perception of others. ,,45 While the relation is framed in
the terms of subjective philosophy-the standpoint in question is mine, as the
initiative belonged to the interpreter in the discussion of intentional
Linda Fisher 185

history-Merleau-Ponty is nevertheless concerned to underscore the transcendence

of the other: none of this would be possible if the others were not there to begin
with, and while like "different selves of our own," they still occupy "a region which
belongs to no one else but them.,,46 And while the standpoint and the explicit
creative impulse may be mine, so that the other is construed by me, at the same time
I am construed in terms of the other via an implicit creative issuing from the other.
As we saw above, this formulation is key to Merleau-Ponty's account of
intersubjectivity; or better, Merleau-Ponty's account of intersubjectivity, with its
basis in a co-presencing and co-constituting of subject and object, self and other,
shapes his account of interpretation and philosophical engagement. And given that
he develops his own account of intersubjectivity on the basis of his reading of
Husserl's account, in all the above senses of a construed reading, with the
givenness of the text interwoven with the voice of the interpreter-and that this
account is the framework for the interpretation of and philosophical engagement
with Husserl-there results a complex doubling of co-developed accounts and self-
grounding theory of interpretation. Merleau-Ponty reads Husserl in order to unfold
his account of intersubjectivity, and the account of intersubjectivity serves to
ground his manner of reading Husserl; and the sense of Merleau-Ponty's relation
of subject-object, where each is articulated in terms of the other, is exemplified
both in the accounts in question (intersubjectivity and interpretation) and in
Merleau-Ponty's own relationship to Husserl.
Returning to his interpretive either/or of inevitable distortion or literal
reproduction---either the interpreter's thought exclusively or the other's thought
exclusively, in mutual exclusion-Merleau-Ponty states:

Between an "objective" history of philosophy (which would rob the

great philosophers of what they have given others to think about) and a
meditation disguised as a dialogue (in which we would ask the questions
and give the answers) there must be a middle-ground on which the
philosopher we are speaking about and the philosopher who is speaking
are present together, although it is not possible even in principle to
decide at any given moment just what belongs to each.47

Merleau-Ponty suggests that the reason we tend to think that interpretation is

restricted to either inevitable distortion or literal reproduction is that we would want
the meaning of a thinker's works to be positive and "susceptible to an inventory
which sets forth what is and is not in those works. ,,48 This point can relate also to
the question of the unpublished manuscripts, and in a related formulation in the
essay "Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology," in reference to the Nachlass,
Merleau-Ponty claims:

But even when everything of Hussed is published, are we right to

assume that the "objective" method would restore to us "the thought" of
Husserl? Such an assumption would only be plausible if Hussed's
thought, or that of any other philosopher, were simply a system of neatly
defined concepts, arguments to perennial questions and replies in which
problems are permanently solved 49

Continuing, Merleau-Ponty writes:

But what if the act of reflection changes the meaning of the concepts it
employs and perhaps even the nature of its questions; what if its
conclusions are merely the overall direction of a search which was
transformed into a "work" by the ever premature interruption of a life's
work? Then we could not define a philosopher's thought solely in terms
of what he had achieved. We should have to take account of what until
the very end he was struggling to bring to reflection. Naturally, this
unfinished thought (impense) must be shown to be present through the
words which circumscribe and delimit it. But then these words must be
understood through their lateral implications as much as through their
manifest or frontal significance 50

We see here the sense of reflection as transformative, as construal, perhaps

rendered even more necessary by the "premature interruption of a life's
work" -obviously a reference to Husserl' s unfinished work, particularly in the
form of the manuscripts he had not yet published at his death, but also a poignant
premonition of Merleau-Ponty's own early death and what he too left unthought.
In a related passage in "The Philosopher and His Shadow," Merleau-Ponty quotes

"When we are considering a man's thought," Heidegger says in effect,

"the greater the work accomplished (and greatness is in no way
equivalent to the extent and number of writings) the richer the
unthought-of element in that work. That is, the richer is that which,
through this work and through it alone, comes toward us as never yet
thought of. ,,51

And in his own words,

At the end of Hussed's life there is an unthought-of element in his

works which is wholly his and yet opens out on something else. To think
is not to possess the objects of thought; it is to use them to mark out a
realm to think about which we therefore are not yet thinking about. 52
Linda Fisher 187

Thus philosophical engagement must necessarily take into account this impense,
understood in the dual related senses of unfinished and unthought-what the
philosopher was "struggling to bring to reflection." This relates also clearly to the
notion of the thinker's intention, as the implicit element, at once present and absent
in the thought. Moreover, the philosopher who is other to us, struggling once again
with the otherness of his own thought; now in terms of the implicit character of the
impense, at once elusive and accessible.
This groUl)ds, then, the aspect of construed tradition which I noted at the
very outset-now deepened in view of the dimensions of intersubjectivity,
historicity of thought, intentional reading, and finally the visible/invisible of the
impense-which constitutes the being of philosophical engagement. In another
essay from Signs, "On the Phenomenology of Language," Merleau-Ponty states:
"This problem [of language] ... permits us better than any other to question
phenomenology and not only to repeat Husserl but to continue his work, to take up
again the movement of his thought rather than to repeat his doctrines. ,,53 There is
a nice dialectic to this formulation of repeating Husserl, but carrying his work
forward, taking up the movement of his thought, rather than repeating his doctrines;
there is a repeating in the movement forward, but in the continuation of someone' s
thought, there is also no repetition. "Taking up the movement of his thought" -this
might support the commentators' claim of a less-than-accurate reading of Husserl,
so that it is really the "spirit" of Husserl more than Husserl himself, and that spirit
filtered through Merleau-Ponty's particular vision. But what is philosophizing if not
this? Repeating the doctrines constitutes part of the project of the carrying forward
of tradition, so that in one respect Merleau-Ponty is working from Husserl; he is
reading Husserl; but as he says in the first line of "The Philosopher and His
Shadow," "establishing a tradition means forgetting its origins, [the aging Husserl
used to say.]" In a typically subtle and brilliant touch, Merleau-Ponty attributes this
view (rightly or wrongly? "accurately" or "inaccurately"?) to Husserl, the "aging
Husserl" ["Ie demier Husserl"-the later Husserl?] But while repeating the
doctrines is a necessary component, it cannot merely be about repeating the
doctrines-this would not be philosophy, or history of philosophy, but
philosophical reportage; merely a transcription and not philosophizing. So Merleau-
Ponty is working from Husserl; he is reading Husserl. Consider once more
Merleau-Ponty's citation of Heidegger, quoted above: '''When we are considering
a man's thought,' Heidegger says in effect, 'the greater the work accomplished ... the
richer the unthought-of element in that work.",54 (italics mine). And Merleau-Ponty
footnotes this quotation. 55 But note that despite footnoting the passage and using
quotation marks, he still qualifies it with "Heidegger says in effect." Once again,
repeating the doctrine, but carrying it forward in such a way that the doctrine is

repeated, but not repeated-it is the same, but not the same doctrine. In other
words, it is the construal of philosophical engagement.
Finally, Merleau-Ponty says that "we should like to try to evoke this
unthought-of element in Husserl's thought in the margin of some old pages.,,56
Thought in the margins; the marginal thoughts in some old pages, some old
manuscripts, in an academic culture where something that is not published is not
thought-hence the apparent reluctance of Merleau-Ponty's contemporaries to
investigate the aspects of Husserl's thought represented by the manuscripts. The
hermeneutic middle-ground of philosophical engagement invoked earlier is
reframed spatially in terms of a marginal thought-the impense of the author, but
also the marginal observations, notations, and formulations of the interpreter, in the
interweaving and reversibility of thinkers and thought. The margin constitutes the
space of alterity; it is that which is outside and other to the text, yet clearly part of
and conditioning of the text. It is thus the constituting space. As such it is the sense
of the space between things which is significant; this will be the true sense ofthe
middle-ground, as the dialectic of invisible and visible. Drawing an analogy with
his perceptual analyses, Merleau-Ponty concludes:

Just as the perceived world endures only through the reflections,

shadows, levels, and horizons between things (which are not things and
are not nothing, but on the contrary mark out by themselves the fields
of possible variation in the same thing and the same world), so the
works and thought of a philosopher are also made of certain
articulations between things said. 57

The visible is conditioned by the invisible, which of course is never truly invisible;
as a conditioning shadow the invisible participates in visibility-and at any rate, as
we know, it is possible to see shadows.

Is there anything left to say, finally, about the Philosopher and the
Shadow? On one level, of course, Husserl is the Philosopher, and his shadow the
shadow cast by his philosophy. 58 On another level, as we have seen, the shadow is
philosophy, the other thinker, the philosophical tradition. Yet it is also the impense,
the unthought, which is not there, but is yet there-having in this case the
additional poignancy of two deaths that brought aspects of the unthought into relief,
as the unfinished thought-the thought that was not thought due to premature
departures. Because of a death that preempted the movement from unthought to
Linda Fisher 189

thought, the unthought is brought into relief and, given the nature of philosophical
engagement, this enables the unthought to be thought.
Husserl as seen and not-seen-Husserl placed under surveillance, yet not
seen; or seen within the framework of not being seen. But it is also the case that
Merleau-Ponty is the Philosopher and Husserl the Shadow-Husserl the other to
Merleau-Ponty, the representative of a tradition, an historical distanciation, and
hermeneutic alterity. Yet again, in this intersubjective hermeneutics, there is a co-
mingling where difference is sustained but not enshrined in the interrelated
reversibility of the repeated doctrine which is carried forward. In the fundamental
ambiguity and possibility of philosophical engagement, Husserl engages Merleau-
Ponty as Merleau-Ponty engages Husserl. As Merleau-Ponty says,

To reflect (Husserl said in ldeen J) is to unveil an unreflected dimension

which is at a distance because we are no longer it in a naive way, yet
which we cannot doubt that reflection attains, since it is through
reflection itself that we have an idea of it. So it is not the unreflected
which challenges reflection; it is reflection which challenges itself. 59

The impense is the shadow to the pense; it is there while not being there, absent in
its presence and present in its absence. In the same manner the pense is the shadow
to the impense; the explicit which is somehow less explicit than the implicit. It is,
finally, about being both shadow and not shadow in the gray ambiguity that
constitutes at once the rich and complex hermeneutic dimension and the ineluctable
character of philosophizing within a tradition.


1. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, "Marxism and Philosophy," in Sense and Non-Sense, trans.

Hubert L. Dreyfus & Patricia Allen Dreyfus (Evanston: Northwestern University Press,
1964), 135.
2. James Tuedio, "Merleau-Ponty's Refinement of Husserl," Philosophy Today (Summer
3. Gary Madison states, for example: "In my opinion, the trouble with the Phenomenology
of Perception stems precisely from the relation that Merleau-Ponty maintains in regard to
Husser!' This relation is the most ambiguous one possible." Gary Brent Madison, The
Phenomenology ofMerleau-Ponty (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1981),270.
4. Even this term has had dual connotations and thus expresses its own ambiguity.
Spiegelberg notes that "Merleau-Ponty's thought has been called a 'Philosophy of
Ambiguity.' This label, designed in 1947 by one of his best critics, Ferdinand Alquie, was
taken up by Alphonse de Waelhens in a positive sense." Herbert Spiegelberg, The
Phenomenological Movement, 3rd edition (The HaguelBostonlLondon: Martinus Nijhoff

Publishers, 1982), 544.

5. Iris M. Young, "Pregnant Subjectivity and the Limits of Existential Phenomenology," in
Descriptions, ed. Don Ihde and Hugh J. Silverman (Albany: State University of New York
Press, 1985), 25.
6. Iris M. Young, "Pregnant Embodiment: Subjectivity and Alienation," in Throwing Like
a Girl and Other Essays in Feminist Philosophy and Social Theory (Bloomington and
Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1990), 161.
7. In Ideen II, for example, Husserl states: "The Body is, in the first place, the medium of all
perception; it is the organ of perception and is necessarily involved in all perception."
Edmund Husserl, Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phenomenological
Philosophy. Second Book: Studies in the Phenomenology of Constitution, trans. Richard
Rojcewicz and Andre Schuwer (DordrechtIBostonlLondon: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
8. Merleau-Ponty, "Marxism and Philosophy," 135.
9. James Schmidt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Between Phenomenology and Structuralism
(HoundmillslBasingstokelHampshire: Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1985),44.
10. Merleau-Ponty, "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," in The Primacy of
Perception, ed. James M. Edie (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 51.
Merleau-Ponty makes the same point in the preface of the Phenomenology of Perception:
"The Cogito must reveal me in a situation, and it is on this condition alone that
transcendental subjectivity can, as Husserl puts it, be an intersubjectivity." Merleau-Ponty,
Phenomenology ofPerception, trans. Colin Smith (London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan
Paul, 1962), xiii. Merleau-Ponty gives the reference for this as being from Die Krisis der
europiiischen Wissenschaften, part ill (unpublished). "Phenomenology and the Sciences of
Man" is translated from "Les sciences de I'homme et la phenomenologie," from the series
Cours de Sorbonne (Paris, 1961). Note that in 1961 he does not footnote it while in the
earlier Phenomenology ofPerception (1945) he does.
11. Herbert Spiegelberg, for example, states: "Merleau-Ponty's references to Husserl's
unpublished MSS usually do not allow identifications in the texts as they have appeared since
in the Husserliana edition. Not all of these references should be taken at face value. Thus,
the repeated quotation of a Husserl statement to the effect that 'transcendental sUbjectivity
is an inter-subjectivity' ... supposedly contained in the unpublished sections of Husserl' s
Krisis articles, cannot be traced in this form in the text of Walter Biemel's edition in
Husserliana VI, and the passages that come closest to it (p. 175: 'Subjektivitiit ist nur in der
Intersubjektivitiit, was sie ist: konstitutiv fungierendes Ich ') clearly indicate the prerogative
of transcendental subjectivity over transcendental intersubjectivity." Spiegelberg, The
Phenomenological Movement, 580-81, n. 2.
12. Gary B. Madison, The Phenomenology ofMerleau-Ponty, 270-71.
13. H.L. Van Breda, "Merleau-Ponty and the Husserl Archives at Louvain," Appendix 2 in
Texts and Dialogues: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ed. Hugh J. Silverman and James Barry Jr.
(New JerseylLondon: Humanities Press, 1992), 151.
14. Letter to Van Breda dated June 1, 1942, reprinted in Texts and Dialogues: Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, ibid.
15. James Schmidt, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 35.
16. Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology ofPerception, vii.
Linda Fisher 191

17. "Marxism and Philosophy," 135. Interestingly, in the context of this point, Merleau-
Ponty states that Husserl "or his collaborator, E. Fink, introduced ... philosophy as 'infinite
meditation or dialogue.'" Clearly, the distinction between Husserl and Fink becomes blurred,
much as does that between Merleau-Ponty and Hussert. Indeed, Merleau-Ponty makes
numerous references to and acknowledgements of Fink; this point and earlier questions about
Merleau-Ponty's Husserl interpretation prompts Gary Madison to suggest that, to a large
extent, Merleau-Ponty reads Husserl through the eyes of Fink.
18. Merleau-Ponty, "Philosophy as Interrogation," [Themes from the Lectures at the College
de France, 1952-1960] in In Praise 0/ Philosophy and Other Essays, trans. John Wild and
James Edie, John O'Neill (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970), 173.
19. "Marxism and Philosophy," 135.
20. "Marxism and Philosophy," 135.
21. "Marxism and Philosophy," 135.
22. "Philosophy as Interrogation," 173.
23. It is also doubtless possible to make the case of this alterity with respect to Husserl's
personal life as well; for example, his conversion to Christianity.
24. In the context of Merleau-Ponty's later writings, a similar point is expressed with respect
to the relation to the visible wherein, he states, there is no coinciding of the seer with the
visible. Merleau-Ponty, The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1968),261.
25. "An Unpublished Text," in The Primacy o/Perception, 3-4.
26. "An Unpublished Text," 4.
27. Merleau-Ponty, "The Philosopher and His Shadow," in Signs, trans. Richard C.
McCleary (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 166. The original French
version of this essay can be found in Signes (Paris: Gallimard, 1960).
28. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 166.
29. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 166.
30. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 167.
31. -'The Philosopher and His Shadow," 168.
32. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 168.
33. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 168-69.
34. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 169.
35. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 169.
36. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 170.
37. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 170.
38. For another account of Merleau-Ponty's hermeneutics as a "hermeneutics of ambiguity,"
see Shaun Gallagher, "Introduction: The Hermeneutics of Ambiguity," in Merleau-Ponty,
Hermeneutics and Postrnodernism, ed. Thomas W. Busch and Shaun Gallagher (Albany:
SUNY Press, 1992),3-12.
39. "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," 46.
40. "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," 46.
41. "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," 45.

42. "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," 45.

43. "Phenomenology and the Sciences of Man," 45.
44. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 159.
45. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 159.
46. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 159.
47. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 159.
48. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 159-60.
49. "Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology," in In Praise o/Philosophy and Other Essays,
50. "Husserl at the Limits of Phenomenology," 181-82.
51. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 160.
52. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 160.
53. Quoted in James Edie's foreword to Consciousness and the Acquisition o/Language, xix.
Edie notes that this is his own translation of Merleau-Ponty's words. Merleau-Ponty,
Consciousness and the Acquisition 0/ Language, trans. Hugh J. Silverman (Evanston:
Northwestern University Press, 1973).
54. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 160.
55. The reference Merleau-Ponty gives is Der Satz vom Grund, 123-24.
56. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 160.
57. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 160.
58. In the introduction to his book, Interpreting Husserl, entitled "Husserl's Lengthening
Shadow: A Historical Introduction," David Carr makes note of Merleau-Ponty's essay,
adding that "the title was well chosen for paying homage to a philosopher who so often spoke
of the Abschattungen (shadings, profiles) through which perceived things present themselves
to us." David Carr, Interpreting Husserl: Critical and Comparative Studies
(DordrechtIBostonlLancaster: Martinus NijhoffPublishers, 1987), 1.
59. "The Philosopher and His Shadow," 161.
The Ethos of Democracy from a Phenomenological
Point of View l

Klaus Held
University of Wuppertal-Germany

What we understand today by the word democracy is not univocal. But one basis
of modern democracy, "human rights," is recognized worldwide, at least verbally.
One can, of course, dispute which rights are meant for particular situations, but
such a dispute would not be possible if the validity of one human right was not
considered self-evident: the right to the free expression of one's own opinion. This
right accords with the basic significance of freedom of speech already operating in
history's first democracy with the Greeks. According to Aristotle, humans are
meant to live together in a democratic polis because they possess the capacity to
reciprocally give accounts (AOYOV 8t86v(x,t) of their dealings, and these accounts
are carried out in speaking freely with one another. So one can say that since
antiquity, democracy is fundamentally founded on the respect for freedom of
Political opinions always refer to the way in which matters are to be
treated in a shared, political life-space. But because in this life-space decisions need
to be made, controversy can arise among opinions. This controversy, however, will
only be highlighted as controversy if the speakers do not talk past each other.
Therefore, in the controversy concerning possibilities for action, something
common or shared is needed so that one may meet another in speaking; one needs
a basis for mutual understanding. The only possible basis is that of shared standards
counted as unquestionably self-evident, for it is through these standards that it is
decided in advance which possibilities for action can at all appear as open to
discussion. Even when a fundamentally new possibility for action is championed,
this can only be justified in connection with those standards already accepted by all;
otherwise, one would at the outset fall upon deaf ears. Each involved party must be
allowed to justifiably assume that all others are convinced of the binding force of
shared standards; otherwise, controversy cannot occur.
But standards, the validity of which are formulated in the form of
opinions, cannot claim such a binding force; for, opinions as such are objects of
possible discussions, and for this reason there is no assurance that all participants
will concur with them. But standards for action can also possess binding force by
becoming, in a community, habituated codes of conduct, by rising to self-evidence
out of lived rules of conduct. The Greeks characterized this as ethos. Indeed, the
ethos includes standards for action for a community, but in distinction from what
is "moral," we are not aware of these standards as objectively represented
imperatives, commands, or duties. The ethos appears rather as what is pre-
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, and Alterity, 193-205.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

objectively entrusted to the members of the community as "custom" (Sitte), i.e., as

those codes of conduct praised since time immemorial and considered worthy of
According to Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, the ethos is borne by
apg'tal, virtues, which are esgt~-in English "dispositions," in German
"Haltungen," in Latin "habitus." eSt~ is, with respect to humans, an enduring
possession acquired through habituation, and in this sense, it is a "having" (Habe);
this word est~ is connected to ex,gtv, to have (haben), in the same way habitus is
connected to habere. Aristotle calls attention to the fact that the Greek word ~eo~,
which we have adopted in the concept "ethos," is formed through the stem-vowel
change in eeo~, and this word eeo~ means "habit" or "custom" (Gewohnheit).2 And
so the "ethos" can be defined as commonly shared, good custom.
The ethos attains self-evidence through habituation and therefore does not
become valid for a community without human assistance. Although it does not arise
out of "nature," it can give this impression because it has become a "second nature"
for humans, as Hegel fittingly formulated it in par. 151 of the Philosophy ofRight.
Because humans are already familiar with this second nature in a preobjective way,
the ethos is suited for forming the basis of mutual understanding without which
democratic controversy cannot occur. Thus, due to this connection between the
ethos and democratic controversy, it was no coincidence that just as the Greeks
paved the way for democracy, they simultaneously discovered the ethos as the
fundamental, prerequisite commonality for democracy.
But this discovery was already a response to the fact that, from the very
beginning, democracy was threatened by the danger of the ethos being undermined.
As lived, good custom, the ethos consists of standards not discussed as objectively
represented norms; in this way, they do not become a theme for controversy. In
order to be able to form the common basis of controversy, good custom itself
cannot be the theme. On the other hand, freedom for controversy yields the
possibility of bringing everything to language, and consequently, everything can
become a theme. The Greeks did not draw out the full extent of this consequence.
This first occurred when, in the time of modem democracy, the respect for freedom
was explicitly raised to a principle of the political world. This happened with the
"Declaration" of human rights, i.e., with the public proclamation of its obliging
The fundamental human right to controversy appears to command that
everything be subordinated to public controversy, and that includes the ethos. If, as
it happens today, everything in a democratic discussion can become a theme, this
must also extend to the standard for action experienced as custom. And it is just
when it becomes a theme that the ethos necessarily loses its binding force; for this
binding force holds for the ethos only when it is unthematically and habitually
Klaus Held 195

familiar to a community of humans. This development, then, is somewhat tragic:

just as controversy comes into its own completely in the modem era by emerging,
through the declared freedom of opinion, as the authentic basis of democracy, it is
progressively undermined by the loss of the ethos. The clearest symptom of this
development is the expectation prevailing today that all customs still considered
good are sooner or later condemned to be available for discussion. Freedom
develops into the right to emancipation from good custom.
This development was possible because the modem age grounded the
position of humans with respect to the world in the principle of sUbjectivity. The
declaration of human rights in the age of Enlightenment was the political
expression of this principle. Meanwhile, a deep discontent was spreading
worldwide in opposition to the Enlightenment's pathos of progress, i.e. of a
subjectivity unfolding itself ever more freely. Consequently, as a response to the
loss of the binding force of the ethos, totalitarianism and fundamentalism have
arisen in our century, and this recent development can be understood as the attempt
to produce or artificially restore an ethos. 3
This attempt, however, is contradictory in itself because it presumes an
ethos without democratic controversy and in this way misjudges the inner relation
between them; the ethos is not used so that controversy in the political can be
avoided, but rather so that this controversy can occur as controversy. One cannot
halt the inner erosion of democracy, conditioned by the decline of the ethos, by
revoking the principle of controversy in a totalitarian or fundamentalist fashion.
The only hope would be if the subjectivistic, unrestricted emancipation from good
custom turned out not to be the only possible interpretation of the freedom of
opinion. The decisive question, therefore, concerns whether there is a possible
nonsubjectivistic understanding of the right to freedom of opinion, and
consequently, of the meaning of the ethos for democracy.
To answer this question, we must tum to the first reflection on the ethos
beginning with the Greeks at the tum of the sixth century BC4 and
coinciding-although this was no coincidence-with the first transformation of a
polis, of the city Athens, into a democracy. This reflection-to take up an important
term from Edmund Husserl-operated within the context of the "primal institution"
(Urstiftung) of philosophy and science, which in the early time of the sixth century
BC still formed a unity given the name bno"ttlJ.!'l1 by Plato. With the primary
institution of episteme, the "natural attitude" -once more expressed in Husserl ' s
language-which until then had formed the basis of human life, was broken
through. Husserl renewed in our century the pathos of this breakthrough by
demanding from his own phenomenology that it fulfill the task of episteme in its
Greek, primal institution. In this sense, he recollected episteme as originally based
in the break with the "natural attitude."

Even though we possess an attitude that is "natural," that therefore arises

"from nature," this does not mean we are biologically programmed, but that a
particular kind of custom is at issue. There are the many customs adopted by us at
some time or another. They are characterized by the fact that our will has a certain
influence over their emergence; for, in order to adopt them, a more or less explicit
readiness is needed. In contrast to this, however, the natural attitude is the very
custom that one need not at all adopt because, at the outset, one lives in it: one may
call this a primal custom (Urgewohnhe i t). We are normally aware of our attitudes
because, as customs, they cannot emerge without our readiness. In the natural
attitude, on the other hand, we live before all resolutions through which such a
readiness arises.
This attitude, then, is in no way dependent on our will. It is so self-evident
that we are not all aware that it is even there. As long as we live in it, we do not
take notice of this attitude; and so, because it inhabits our life before the emergence
of episteme, the same can be said for this attitude as was for the ethos: it does not
become a theme for humans. The ethos is the commonly shared primal custom
found in the realm of action. It is indeed not the same as the natural attitude, the
attitude forming the basis for human life in all of its dimensions, and not just in this
realm. But what both fundamental customs have in common is that they are not
originally thematized. The natural attitude came to the fore for the first time as
primal custom with the primal institution of episteme. It was through this that the
ethos could also become a theme.
In this way, humans discovered themselves to be the ones who bear the
responsibility for their ethos and thus can give an account for the habitual
arrangements contained in the ethos by which one leads one's life, as was
mentioned at the beginning of this essay. Such an account, however, is to be found
in the call and response play with others, and this play becomes a democratic
controversy when it concerns living together in a community, in a polis. Democracy
becomes authentically possible only when one takes responsibility for one's ethos
by breaking with the natural attitude. Democracy, therefore, arose not only
historically in the same age and culture as episteme, but both belong close together
by virtue of the objective meaning of their primal institution. 5
Because the thematization of the ethos-and with this thematization looms
the decline of the ethos, from a distance--<;annot be separated from the break of
episteme with the natural attitude, one must more precisely ask in which sense one
can authentically speak of such a "break." Since the natural attitude has the
character of an originary custom, the so-called break cannot mean that one leaves
it or gives it up. If primal custom does not refer back to any resolutions, and is
therefore not dependent on our will, we cannot simply make up our mind to
abandon it; even when we give up a custom, the will exerts influence over the
Klaus Held 197

custom. The break with originary custom therefore cannot imply putting it aside or
replacing it with other customs, but can only entail robbing it of its self-evidence.
Since customs usually depend upon the will, in repealing the self-evidence
of this primal custom, we are lead to the presumption that there is a will possessing
the power to repeal the primal custom. But that is impossible, since primal custom
is not a matter of the will. The subjectivistic representation that one can emancipate
oneself from the ethos, from primal custom in the realm of action, is the modem
revolt in response to the unrepealability of primal custom. If a nonsubjectivistic
understanding of the right to freedom of opinion should be possible, it would be
possible only by reverting to the independence of primal custom from the will.
What follows is the attempt to develop such an understanding.
Every attitude is a relation-to-something; every attitude has a correlate.
The correlate to the natural attitude is the world, according to Husserl's
pathbreaking "fundamental consideration" in the first volume of his "Ideen zu einer
reinen Phtinomenologie." Because in the natural attitude it remains concealed from
us that we indeed inhabit an attitude, we are not explicitly aware of its correlate.
The natural attitude is defined by the fact that our attention is not directed to the
world as world; the world is not an object over against us that becomes a theme for
our thinking and speaking. Early Greek thinking begins with the thematization of
the world as cosmos because at this point primal custom steps out of its
The world is unthematically familiar to us in primal custom as the
background that lets each appearance approach us out of referential contexts. The
world is according to Husserl the horizon for all these horizons. In the natural
attitude we know "of' the one world as universal horizon because it is possible for
us to cross over from each horizon that respectively determines our thinking and
action to other horizons. But in this case, because we do not inquire into what
enables us to cross over, the world as such never becomes a "theme." With the
world concealed to us as the enabling-ground of the mobility between horizons, we
have the tendency to adhere to our own inhabited horizons; we orient ourselves in
our conduct-to coin a phrase from the late Husserl 6-within "particular worlds,"
each of which provide a measure for us, and we, so to speak, fade the other
horizons out.
Although this bias forms an essential feature of the natural attitude, we
know "of' other horizons beyond our own particular worlds, albeit in an
indeterminate way. Due to this knowing, we can in conversation qualify the validity
of our judgments through such humbling formulations as the English "it appears to
me," the German "mir scheint," or other phrases in other languages corresponding
to the Greek 80Ksl J.l.ot, to which the concept 86~a is related. With these phrases
we express our vague awareness of the horizons of others, which supersede our

own horizons for judging. Of course, as long as the natural attitude remains entirely
intact, we are not especially interested in visualizing these horizons. This disinterest
has the consequence that we constantly talk past one another and do not really listen
to one another. When this is the case, there is no real controversy.
But the natural attitude does not completely captivate us, for within the
natural attitude we still have the freedom to pass over from an unthematic
awareness (as expressed in the aforementioned humbling formulations) into an
explicit representation of the horizons of others. The possibility of this transition
is described in par. 40 of the Critique ofJudgment which concerns the "expanded
way of thinking" (enveiterte Denkungsart) by which one is able to overcome the
subjective, private conditions of judgment, "between which so many others are
caught."? Phenomenologically, one can interpret these private conditions as the
lived horizons that are one's own (Kant himself interprets this differently). As long
as we are "caught" in them, i.e. as long as the bias ofthe natural attitude has not
slackened, not even in a preliminary way, the possibility of moving back and forth
between our own and other horizons is known to us but not pursued.
This expanded way of thinking is already in place within the natural
attitude when, in forming a judgment (as Kant formulates it), "I put myself in the
place of every other," i.e. phenomenologically formulated, when I visualize to
myself the horizons that form the background for the judgments of others. I must
reflect upon the relation of my opinion to those of the others, so that this opinion
may be heard by the others; only then can I-as Kant puts it so nicely-suggest
(ansinnen) it to the others. Because in a genuine controversy the confrontation of
political opinions can occur only through a "self-consciousness" directed to the
"alterity" of others, that is, only through reflective judgment, Kant's insights have
far-reaching implications as well for the interpretation of political controversy.B It
was Hannah Arendt who first saw this clearly, although admittedly she would not
have used the phenomenological world- and horizon-concept for a deeper,
systematic understanding. 9
The expansion of one's way of thinking is the fundamental possibility by
which one can, already within the natural attitude, open oneself to the world.
Through democratic controversy conducted in the expanded way of thinking, the
world opens itself up as a political world. The opinions in this controversy relate
to the concerns common, and in this sense "universal," to all citizens. Only a
reflective use of judgment that does not remain biased by the particularity of
particular-world horizons, can do justice to this universality. It is not the case,
however, that this use of judgment could completely emancipate itself from its tie
to these particular horizons. If the judgments of those involved were not determined
by a particular-world heritage, the "expansion" of thinking would at the outset be
Klaus Held 199

unnecessary, and there would be no danger of talking past one another in political
The world that I share with others is concretely accessible to me only from
my own horizons. For this reason, I inevitably have the experience that I cannot be
acquainted with the horizons of others in advance; I must be prepared to be
surprised by them. Because foreign horizons are not accessible to me in the same
way as my own, I must make an effort to reflect on the judgments I form starting
with my own horizons, i.e. my opening horizons. I achieve this by getting involved
in the opening horizons of others and this, in turn, is achieved by visualizing their
judgments. In this moment of "alterity" in the reflective use of judgment,
democratic controversy remains imprinted, so to speak, by the tie back to the
particular-world opening horizons.
Due to this tie, there is always the temptation, with regard to the decisions
that must be made in a democracy, to push through possibilities of action that
appear to be the right ones from one's particular perspective, without opening
oneself in the expanded way of thinking to the horizons of others. Whoever gives
into this temptation is in principle prepared to be violent (Gewalt), which following
Hannah Arendt, should be distinguished from political power (Macht). 10 Power is
the potential of freely granted assent. Political controversy is a struggle for power,
i.e. a competition for the maximum claim' attainable for one's own opinions.
Whoever resorts to violence is capable of acting against others recklessly because
this person is not interested in opening up to the horizons of others. With violence,
the entirely intact natural attitude, the complete bias entailed in one's own particular
worlds, becomes a social reality. Striving for power has nothing to do with this
because such a striving is already rooted in the expansion of thinking, that is, in
first overcoming the bias of particular worlds.
Striving for power in democratic controversy presupposes an "emotional"
readiness to renounce violence against others. The Greeks named this feeling
exi8WC;, "awe." Aidos is a way of holding to one's own appearing in the world that
gives room to the appearing of others. In the political world, aidos becomes a
retreat with respect to the claim of others to judge and act starting with their own
horizons. Such a feeling cannot be engendered by humans but rather comes over
one; it is an experience of "passion" in the sense of passivity, expressed in Greek:
of 1t(x8oC;. The aidos, however, does not necessarily maintain this passive character.
One can also have this experience through an act by which one makes the effort to
ready oneself, in one's way of forming judgments, to continually cross over to the
expanded way of thinking. In this way, the pathos of awe becomes a habitus, a
ES tC;; it habitualizes itself as good custom, that is, as an element of the ethos.
Democratic controversy meant, for the Greeks, that the ethos of the polis
rested on the attitude of aidos. As pathos, awe maintains a contingent character: it

can remain limited to singular others and is not necessarily enduring. But when awe
becomes ethical habitus, it is valid for all involved in democratic controversy and,
indeed, for the duration. Consequently, it is through awe that the interest in a public
free-space arises. This is a space guaranteeing to all others the opportunity to
express the opinions stemming from their respective particular-world horizons at
any time, and this space effectively protects all from a possible violence thwarting
all of this. The institutionalization of this free-space and the ethical habitualization
of the pathos of awe, therefore, go hand in hand.
The ethos of awe secures a commonality in which controversy concerning
power can be peacefully carried out. This peace, however, should not be confused
with a lack of tension by which not only violence, but also controversy would be
forbidden. The open space for controversy must be held open as space, must be
achieved as dimension. Such a "spacing" (Dimensionierung) requires a tension
between conflicting moments, and these are the political opinions in the context at
hand. But prerequisite for the conflict between these opinions is the preservation
of their plurality.
What is said here should be understood in contrast to the controversy in
modern science. The controversy in modern science may be factically endless but
thought idea/iter, it can end because the particularity of the many horizons from
which various scientists come to form their opinions, loses all meaning when one
reaches insight into the scientific universal. The unity of this universal, in which
one finds harmony without difference and the disappearance of plurality, makes the
binding force of scientific knowledge possible. In contrast to this, the binding force
of political opinions is grounded, literally, in what "binds" citizens, namely in the
interest, based in awe, that judging does not cease its ties with the plurality of
opening horizons.
The modern understanding of democracy tends to measure political
discussion by the binding force of episteme. This notion is echoed today in the
assumed ideal "communication community" of Karl-Otto Apel and Jiirgen
Habermas. According to this ideal, discussion can be held until all differences of
opinion are dispelled. One can only consider this an ideal by assuming that the
harmony of political judgments free from the plurality of horizons-as one finds
in episteme-is desirable. This is a curious "communication," a communication that
is not interested in adhering to the plurality of those "communicating." The most
extreme escalation of the denial of plurality is the violent repression of controversy
for the sake of supposedly saving or newly establishing the ethos. Because the
democratic establishment of controversy is rooted in the habitualization of awe, it
is no coincidence that the totalitarian regimes of our century have cast off all awe
and have annihilated, like vermin, human groups deemed unpleasant.
Klaus Held 201

Husserl, in his last work "The Crisis of the European Sciences and the
Transcendental Phenomenology," diagnosed the complete denial, in modem
science, ofjudgment's tie to its opening horizons as the oblivion of the lifeworld.
But he did not see that such an oblivion also rules today's understanding of
democracy to a large extent. Consequently, a central task of phenomenology is to
show how the recollection of lifeworld horizons can also be fruitful for the
interpretation of the political world. But even Husserl' s own understanding of the
horizons was an obstacle to such a recollection. His attention was onesidedly
directed to the subjective character that the horizons have inasmuch as they are not
independent from our conduct.
As referential contexts, the horizons in fact open themselves up when we,
in thinking and acting, seize possibilities by which we follow the pre-scriptions
(Vorzeichnungen) that offer themselves out of the horizonal references. Such
possibilities are modes of our ability (Vermogen in the sense of Konnen), of a
potentiality (Mog/ichkeit) that belongs to us as subjects; for this reason, Husserl
fittingly characterizes them as "potentiabilities" ("Vermog/ichkeiten"). This
subjective character is confirmed through the fact that the capacity to transgress
every current, authoritative horizon belongs fundamentally, intimately to the
horizons. Our freedom, i.e. that which constitutes subjectivity, begins with this
mobility. Therefore, the freedom of citizens in a democracy is rooted in the
escalation ofthis mobility in controversy to the expanded way of thinking. Given
that the horizons are only at our disposal in that we freely seize potentiabilities, they
are-and to this extent, Husserl is correct-subjective possibilities for the
unfolding of our consciousness.
But although they senre as the subjective clearances of our potentiabilities,
the horizons are not unrestrictedly at our disposal. Because no conduct could take
place independent of all referential contexts, they are also always pregiven. No
conduct can emancipate itself from the fact that it is pregiven through horizonal
pre-scriptions; it is impossible to overtake this pregivenness. This pregivenness
does not cancel the subjective character of the horizons, but it does restrict the
freedom of our facultative potentiability. We experience this especially then when
we make use of freedom to transcend our current, authoritative horizons through
the reflective use of judgment. It is exactly at this point that we run up against
relational contexts that surprise us.
These surprises become possible through the way in which horizons form
themselves. The referential clearances we have for our conduct depends on which
potentiabilities we have become so used to, that they are there for us without having
to become a theme. We are concretely but unthematically aware of a horizon when
we, in our conduct, follow any of the pre-scriptions given in this horizon and
thereby adapt ourselves to a corresponding custom. Our horizons can change when

corresponding habitualities (Habitualitaten) accrue due to habituation. New or

transformed horizons do not open themselves up to us overnight, but through
"habitualization," subjective potentiabilities can tum into an enduring "having"
(Habe)-to a habitus-the unthematic, close correlate of which fonns a
corresponding horizon. Husserl exposed this interrelation as his thinking further
developed into "genetic phenomenology," the ground for which was already laid
at the time of Ideen I but first assumed a concrete fonn in the 1920's.
In distinction from the habitualities, from the customs through which
horizons are opened, the primal custom of the natural attitude, which includes the
primal action-related custom of the ethos, does not accrue for us through
habitualization due to its complete independence from the will. How can it then be
a custom at all? Included in the meaning of the concept "custom" is the notion of
a human condition that arises through habitualization; there is no custom without
habitualization (expressed in Gennan, there is no Gewohnheit without
Gewohnung). This must also be the case for primal custom. Something that has
developed in this way, however, is always exposed to the possibility of passing
away again. But this passing away is not a possibility for primal custom because it
cannot be retracted. How can habitualization, then, belong to primal custom without
primal custom being retractable due to this very habitualization? The answer can
be found in the fact that the correlate of primal custom, the world, is only given as
a horizon for the many single horizons. These single horizons fonn, conversely, the
correlate to customs that arise out of habitualization and can pass away through
"breaking the habit" ("Abgewohnung").
Primal custom can be characterized as custom because it unfolds itself
concretely in the habitualities that open up horizons. It is not there statically; its
being is rather a happening. It exists by always being renewed in the becoming of
habitualities. Through this happening, new horizons are pre given to us out of the
surrounding relational context ofthe world. This context is the pregivenness itself
due to the fact that it fonns the unthematic, close correlate of the natural attitude.
Since this attitude has the character of the primal custom, and we can only rob it of
its self-evidence but not willingly retract it, the pregivenness of the world likewise
cannot be retracted. Husserl' s thought experiment concerning the annihilation of
the world in Ideen I is an unphenomenologicallegacy of Cartesianism and of the
voluntarism implied in it. This is also the case for the attempt undertaken in the
same work, and also later again and again, to explain the being of the world as
"work of constitution" (Konstitutionsleistung); for every such explanation, if is not
to be a circulus vitiosus, must begin with the assumption that we could somehow
think of the world as nonexistent; but that is not possible because primal custom,
whose correlate is the world, would then be retracted.
Klaus Held 203

The unretractability of primal custom and its correlate manifests itself, on

the other hand, in an aspect of habitualization through which horizons open
themselves up to us. As mentioned, the genesis of the many customs in distinction
from primal custom is based on a certain readiness. This genesis thus does not
completely elude the influence of our will. This readiness, however, is but the
conditio sine qua non for the genesis of habitualities, not its sufficient ground. It
is not due to us that a process of habitualization begins and through this, opens up
horizons for our conduct. Habitualities accrue for us "from themselves" and in this
sense "from nature." Consequently, good custom can become for us-once more
recalling the Hegelian formulation-a "second nature."
"From itself' means negatively: not triggered and kept going by the
resolve of the free will. In this sense, habitualization is, as Husserl formulates it, a
"passive happening," i.e. a passion in the sense of passivity (Erleiden). To every
passion there corresponds an action, and the "actor" to which in habitualization our
will is subordinate, is time. Time is a power independent of our ability to set things
at our disposal because modes of comportment solidify themselves into customs
through time. That primal custom eludes the influence of our will is shown by the
subordination of habitualization to the power of time. Because habitualization is
conditioned by time, horizons have the double character of being not mere
subjective clearances for our potentiabilities subject to our freedom, but also of
being that which is pregiven and as such binds us in our conduct.
As that which is pregiven, every horizon can surprise us---every horizon
with which we get involved when we transcend the horizons defining us at any
given time. This is the case above all for the horizons of others. We must therefore
visualize these horizons in particular through the expansion of thinking in the use
of reflective judgment. The pathos of awe developed into ethical habitus, which
enables interest in the horizons of others, initiates this expansion. In this pathos, the
passion of the power of time assumes a concrete form referring to customs through
which the horizons of others open themselves up. We shy awayll from getting too
close to these customs, for they approach us in awe as something like offerings
granted to humans by the power of time through habitualization. We respond to the
grant of these offerings in awe as pathos, a response that presents itself "from
itself," that is, before every resolve of the will. Thus the connection between time
and the alterity of others, a connection rooted in the habitualization of the pathos
of awe, comes to light for the political world.
We still have some notion of awe today when we say that modern human
rights concern the protection of human dignity. This dignity does not let itself be
determined through any objective, distinctive features. But we do justice to it
without objectifying it, when we let the passion of awe come to playas habituated
interest in the sustenance of the particular-world horizons of all. In doing this, we
correspond to the fundamental human right to the freedom of opinion. With the
uncovering of this interrelation, the goal of these reflections has been reached: it
has turned out that a nonsubjectivistic interpretation of human rights is possible. It
is based on that fact that the declared respect for the dignity of persons, in the
original sense of democracy, is rooted in the pathos of awe and that the power of
time antlounces itself in the depth of this pathos. Because this habitualization is
dependent on this power, and not on the will, the modem subjectivistic revolt of the
will against primal custom finds its limits in encountering this power.
To interpret human rights nonsubjectively in such a way does not imply
lapsing back behind the modem discovery of subjectivity and anachronistically
returning to antiquity's ethos of the aidos. The insight which only first surfaced in
modern philosophy that the horizons, which open themselves up through
habitualization, are subjective clearances for potentiabilities, and that
habitualization is a subjective happening, cannot be relinquished. The power of
time overpowers the will not from outside but rather from within this subjective
happening. But when the issue is not the restoration of the Greek ethos, the
converse easily suggests itself, namely the demand that philosophy found a new
ethos of democracy for the future on the basis of a nonsubjectivistic interpreta~on
of human rights; for, given the insight that habitualization eludes the influence of
the will, one could assert that one would have to deduce a good custom for our
But this would also be a misunderstanding. Already the attempt to
philosophically found an ethos contradicts the awe before the intractability of
habitualization over against the will. It also operates in dubious proximity to the
fundamentalist tendency to produce or artificially restore an ethos, a tendency that
finds its end in totalitarianism. An ethos cannot be "produced," not even through
the philosophical ')ustification of norms," which has become fashionable today, but
which always comes too late. One can only hope for an ethos to arise "from itself'
through habitualization. But the question arises as to whether there is a basis for
such a hope, since an apparently unstoppable process of emancipation from every
"good custom" is sweeping everything along with it. If such hope is possible, then
it is so only on the basis of the experience of a pathos in which the old awe before
habituatedness announces itself.
Such a pathos can in fact today be observed worldwide: the horror and
indignation concerning the mistreatment of humans under totalitarian and
fundamentalist regimes. In this tremoring,12 the possibility of awe before humans
and their customs still announces itself ex negativo. If there is at all a chance for a
new ethos anchored in a nonsubjectivistic understanding of human rights, then this
chance lies in the old pathos of awe-in the form of its inversion into the
negative-coming to fruition in a new way. But we can only contribute to this
Klaus Held 205

happening without being deluded by the idea that the ethos can be produced, in that
we become ready for this chance, for this new way. This pathos cannot habitualize
itself as good custom without this readiness, which shows itself in two ways: in the
untiring rehearsal of the "expanded way of thinking," and in the intervention
against every instance of violence threatening democratic controversy.


1. I would like to express my thanks to Amy Morgenstern for translating this article.
2. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, 1103aI7-18.
3. Related to this, cf. from the author, "Authentic Existence and the Political World, in:
"Research in Phenomenology," Volume XXVI (1996).
4. Cf. above all the Heraclitean fragment "~SoC; <iVSp~7tOl oaillOlV" (DielslKranz B 119);
with respect to this, cf. from the same author, Heraklit, Parmenides und der Anfang von
Philosophie und Wissenschaft. Eine phiinomenologische Besinning (Berlin, 1980),447 fT.
S. It is thanks to the work of Christian Meier ("Die Entstehung des Politischen bei den
Griechen," Frankfurt a.M., 1983) that this interrelation has been shown in its fully historical
6. Hua VI, 459 fT.
7. "are caught": "eingeklemmt"; Kant says "eingeklammert," what in modern German means:
"put in brackets," "left aside"; but this is not what Kant has in mind.
8. Cf. from the author, "Die Zweideutigkeit der Doxa und die Verwirklichung des modernen
Rechtstaats" in Meinungsfreiheit. Grundgedanken und Geschichte in Europa und USA, eds.
J. Schwart1iinder and D. Willoweit (Kehl a. Rh., 1986), Tiibinger Universitiilsschriften, vol.
6, Forschungsproject Menschenrechte.
9. Cf. Hannah Arendt, Das Urteilen. Texte zu Kanis politischer Philosoph ie, ed. with an
essay by R. Beiner (Munchen/Zurich, 1985).
10. Cf. Hannah Arendt, Macht und Gewalt (Munchen, 1970).
11. Note from the translator: the German equivalent for "shy away" is "wir scheuen uns," an
expression that echoes the word "Scheu," the German translation for aidos.
12. Which, with Heidegger in mind, has the character ofa "basic mood" (Grundstimmung)
determining an entire epoch. To this, cf. from the author, "Intercultural Understanding and
the Role of Europe," in The Monist, January 1995, and "Fundamental Moods and Heidegger's
Critique of Contemporary Culture," in Reading Heidegger. Commemorations, ed. J. Sallis
(Bloomingtoniindianapolis, 1993).
The Foreignness of a Foreign Culture

Dieter Lohmar
University of Cologne-Germany

In this contribution I will analyze the specific experience of the foreignness of a

foreign culture. I attempt to understand in which way I can experience things,
actions and convictions in a foreign world "as foreign." But before we can answer
this question, we have to know how the cultural sense of things is constituted in our
own home-world. Thus we have to know how in our own home-world this cultural
sense is familiar and known-in-advance, how it is acquired and how it is fulfilled.
With this knowledge we are able to understand how and to what extent the cultural
sense shows itself in a foreign world. In this respect what is most interesting is how
the cultural sense shows itself as being-hidden-to-us. A hermeneutics of the cultural
sense has to make clear how in the experience of foreignness this sense can show
itself as precisely evading my understanding.
This task sounds paradoxical, but a hermeneutics of the cultural sense has
to show not only how we are able to overcome reciprocal misunderstandings but
also in which way we experience positively in the process of beginning to
understand the evasiveness of cultural sense in a foreign world. How does this
evasiveness present itself? A hermeneutics of the cultural sense must make clear
how simple non-understanding which is based on absent knowledge differs from
becoming aware of an unknown unity of sense. At the very beginning of
understanding we become aware of the cultural sense of the things in this foreign
world, but we experience this sense as something whose concrete content is
evasive, because it is a foreign sense. To make a paradoxical statement, we could
characterize this attempt as a clarification of how the fact of the non-showing of the
cultural sense shows itself.
The series of paradoxical statements about this strange fact might be
prolonged, but before stressing it too much we should remind ourselves of the fact
that even in our own home-world the cultural sense does not show itself in sensual
perception. Nevertheless, we know this sense. In everyday life it rarely "shows"
itself in explicit instructions. Our children absorb the cultural sense while being
educated. But the cultural sense is also "carried on" in the tacitly accepted opinions
of our home-world which are incorporated in the forms of social intercourse,
morality and institutions. In everyday communication, we usually speak about
ordinary things but at the same time we implicitly ensure reciprocally our common
convictions. In doing so, we sometimes correct each other and in this way we
steadily work on the web of our commonly shared opinions (our worldview).
Thus it can be seen that the specific experience of foreignness is not only
a deficient form of the experience of cultural sense in our own home-world. While
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, andAlterity, 207-221.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

dealing with everyday objects we "carry on" their cultural sense in our
apperception. Without being confirmed and improved in corresponding acts this
sense "lives" in our intentions. The corresponding explicit fulfillments of the
cultural senses are performed in acts of communication in which we show our
agreement. But this explicit affirmation by means of communicative acts occurs
rather seldom in everyday life. Nevertheless, the possibility of such an explicit
affirmation is a constant element of the cultural sense. In each and every case the
cultural sense is intended together with the object but it is affirmed explicitly only
in rare situations. It is precisely this character of self-evident validity in our
home-world that is mirrored in the fact that it does not have to be confirmed on
every occasion. Therefore, in the encounter with a foreign culture there must be
more than only non-fulfillment of these intentions because in most everyday
situations the intention of the cultural sense is also not fulfilled or only implicitly
In the first part, I explain the concepts of "home-world" and "foreign
world." In this context, I will work out the advantages of Husserl' s model of
oriented constitution in contrast to some alternative models of inquiry. In the
second part, I discuss Husserl' s analysis of the extension of a home-world to the
point of contact with a foreign world. In analyzing this movement, we will be able
to register the role of the "concrete typology" [konkrete Typik] in which we
apperceive the home-world-things. The multiple dimensions of expectations which
are elements of the "typus" open up a field of equally many possible
disappointments. An analysis of the disappointments (of our expectations) in the
encounter with a foreign world leads to the th~s that there is a specific experience
of the foreignness of a foreign culture. In the third part, I thematize the ultimate
common grounds of human communities which enable us to understand a foreign
world. In the fourth part, I analyze how the expectations of a cultural sense arise
and in which way disappointment must occur in the experience of foreignness. In
the last part, I anticipate some consequences of my investigations.

I. The Home-world and the encounter with a foreign world

The phenomenological concepts of "home-world" and "foreign world"

[Heimwelt und Fremdwelt] obviously have a sociological connotation, but Husserl
claims to be describing here primarily non-relative essential structures which hold
in every possible concrete surrounding. He uses both concepts to describe
substructures in the universal horizon of the world. I The elements of our
home-world are cognitively known and afIectively familiar to us. This familiarity
of typical knowledge is very concrete. We know about the use of things and the
Dieter Lohmar 209

aims of persons. Additional conditions of this familiarity are the same language, the
same gestures and even the same dialect. Our home-world is the community in
which we are born, grow up, and live our everyday life. Something which appears
as foreign because we do not know it can appear unfamiliar and perhaps even
threatening. In every home-world there are circles of closeness in practical and
emotional respects. My family is the most central circle. The next circle consists of
persons who are connected with us through everyday actions and communications. 2
In our home-world we know what is expected from us and what we could
reasonably expect from others. We know the moral standards, the ethos.
Husserl analyzes the process of extending my concrete surroundings with
the help of the model of "oriented constitution" [orientierte Konstitution], whose
center and starting point is my body.3 The result are concentric circles of
surroundings. Each relative surrounding indicates further experiences of the same
concrete style. It is this situation which makes the model of oriented constitution
appropriate to the question of the foreignness of foreign worlds. Foreignness can
only appear in the asymmetric "oriented constitution" which naively prefers one
element as the valid starting point.-Surely this model has to face possible
objections which present themselves as opposite models.
If we do not recognize the fact that our world-constitution starts from a
bounded point of view it might happen that the experience of foreignness becomes
unintelligible. If I choose the neutralized and functionalized point of view of the
structural anthropology of Levi-Strauss I might be able to view the unusual and
perhaps exotic characteristics of our own home-world as such. It might be possible,
as Merleau-Ponty suggests, for us to become "ethnologists (anthropologists) of our
own society."4 The point of view of such a structuralist insight is situated outside
of every home-world. In a certain, seemingly therapeutical, attitude of the
structuralist view there is "nothing human unfamiliar" ["ihm ist nichts
Menschliches fremd"). In this attitude-which is intentionally detached from all
convictions of our own society-all forms of symbolic exchange are placed in an
equal and abstract distance to the subject of ethnological experience. Thus the
abstractive ethnological attitude makes our real experience of foreignness
unintelligible. All forms of beliefs concerning world and subject are apprehended,
from a structuralist point of view, only abstractly as equivalently possible forms of
organizing the symbolic exchange. In this way, modem democracy, myths,
totemism, the belief in gods, and psychoanalysis have equal justification as methods
for understanding the world and organizing everyday life. Besides the advantages
of such a structuralist sight there is at least one major disadvantage, because we
loose the possibility of understanding foreignness as a dimension of our own
experience. The "view from nowhere," i.e., the subject without home-worldly and

individual bounds, is an artificial abstraction-and in any case a regulative idea

which functions as an ideal aim.
Another type of hermeneutical position explains the possibility of
understanding a foreign world with a factual joggling [Verschrankung] or
overlapping [lJberlappung] of different home-worlds. But this conception has also
the disadvantage that non-understanding becomes nearly unintelligible. B.
Waldenfels traces the possibility of understanding to an ever pregivenjoggling of
that which is "foreign" and of that which is "our own" ["Verschrankung von
Fremdem und Eigenem"]. 5In this connection, R. A. Mall points to the always and
everywhere pregiven overlapping of home-worlds. Considered merely empirically,
this supposition is obvious. Overlapping is factually given in the case of
neighbouring countries within one and the same cultural complex. 1. N. Mohanty
therefore extendeds and specifies this model of understanding on the basis of
empirical overlappings and jogglings of home-worlds which are more distant in
cultural and spatial respects. 6 In such cases of distant home-worlds Mohanty
postulates a series of "intermediate worlds" which are factually overlapping and
which in this way carry the intelligibility forward.
The basic presupposition of this hermeneutical position is that by historical
encounter, by war, by conquest, by voyages of discovery and trade, by migration
of nations, etc., there is always an overlapping and concrete joggling of
neighbouring home-worlds. This presupposition holds, as a matter of fact, for most
encounters of home-worlds but not for all. In the time of airplanes this could easily
be false and we do not have to mention an ethnograph's encounter with a
completely unknown tribe.
According to this conception, which always presupposes a factual joggling
or overlapping of home-worlds, the fundamental question as to how a foreign world
could be experienced as foreign is at least marginalized. We might express this
difficulty even more strongly and propose that even the question as to how
foreignness is experienced becomes nearly paradoxical. How could something
which is-via joggling or overlapping-always partly "our own" cultural sense
seem foreign to us? It is only on the conception of Mohanty that the question as to
how this experience of cultural foreignness is possible seems to be intelligible. On
Mohanty's conception, there is still the possibility of distant home-worlds which
have fewer or even no cultural elements in common. If we pose this argument more
universally, then it might be formulated in the following way: A theory of
understanding also has to treat and to render intelligible that understanding which
fails to occur ["Nicht-Verstehen"] and to analyze the experience of incipient,
temporary or transient and lasting foreignness.
Dieter Lohmar 211

II. Everyday experience of foreignness and the foreignness of a foreign culture

Considering this problem of alternative models, we will, for the present,

argue further within Husserl's conception of oriented constitution. An extension of
our familiar environment could take place in different styles. If we reach an
unknown area, then the horizon could expand in the usual concrete analogy which
is based on our former experiences. This analogy expects "the unknown in the
mode of the known" (Hua XV, 430). This signifies, for example, that persons act
and use things in the same way as in our home-world. And it is possible that these
expectations be fulfilled. It is "as expected."-But it may also happen that the
encounter with a foreign world disappoints my expectations. The specific style of
this disappointment has to be analyzed in order to understand the foreignness of a
foreign culture.
We might object that a disappointment of expectations is also possible
within the framework of the concrete, typical analogy of our home-world. The
disappointment of intentions is a regular element in our everyday experience and
it may even lead to situations which alienate us from others. In this "everyday
foreignness" (as Waldenfels names it), we can already register the emotional aspect
of alienation in the fact that we experience the situation as frightening. 7 But this
disappointment within our home-world usually does not lead to the experience of
the specific cultural foreignness. I will usually be able to understand this alienating
action of an appropriate person by learning about his motives.
All this should not suggest that there is no possibility of "alienation"
within one and the same home-world. We might think of the process of alienation
between generations concerning values that might diverge individually and
collectively until they conflict with each other. But this kind of everyday alienation
affects only a small segment of the commonly shared convictions and the whole of
our cultural senses. This kind of alienation is usually overcome by a gradual
alteration of both standpoints which leads to a compromise. This slow development
of values within a home-world cannot be compared with the foreignness of a
foreign culture. In the experience of cultural foreignness, the main characteristic of
a value-conflict within a home-world is missing. That is: the steady confrontation
in personal encounter within the innermost circle of our home-world together with
the necessity of living together quite harmoniously. We notice that only the
situation of immigration is comparable with the case mentioned. Using the fact of
a joggling of "that which is foreign" and of "that which is own" in every
home-world as the ultimate ground for a hermeneutics (as Waldenfels does) one
needs to distinguish the senses in which we speak of joggling "foreignness" or
"alienation." Depending on the respective aspect in which such a joggling is

considered, the weight of such a supposition for hermeneutic questions varies

Already the experience of everyday foreignness leads to a transitory
modification of our concrete typical expectations. The concrete analogy is flexible
in a characteristic way. Our concrete expectations of "what will come" are centered
hierarchically around a core of concretely determined expectations. But the order
of this hierarchy strongly depends on the situation. If I am in the middle of the day
on a crowded street and suddenly a person speaks to me then I expect that he wants
to know something but I do not expect him to be a robber. If the same thing
happens after midnight on a dark street in a twighlight surrounding then the order
of expectations is changed.
But this kind of temporary alteration of the concrete analogy can be
reversed at any time. But the encounter wIth a foreign home-world can disappoint
the typical expectations in a radical way. The concrete analogy is breached. If we
want to know what the experience of the foreignness is, then we have to analyze the
style of this disappointment.
From a phenomenological point of view, everyday experience is always
operative. It is a certain style of conflict-free interaction between concrete
expectations and successive fulfillments of them. Analogously, I expect real objects
or events, for example, walking along a street, I expect similar houses, courtyards,
then fields and meadows. In my home-world I know beforehand which motives
could lead persons to actions.
Corresponding to the multiple aspects which are included in the concrete
analogy, the analogy opens up a multidimensional field of expectations. In further
experience, these expectations are partially fulfilled and partially disappointed, and
sometimes they are even annulled or overwritten. All these processes take place
gradually. Therefore, the question from which degree of disappointment onwards
there is a certain "feeling" of disappointment seems to be merely empirical. It might
be an unknown dialect, different mimic art or even different stereotypes of consent
or rejection which evoke a vague feeling of foreignness. This can happen within the
different local forms of the same culture.
Within our own home-world we are certain that this foreignness will
withdraw in the near future. An unknown dialect is not so unintelligible that we
cannot dissolve this estrangement through further experience. Individual intelligible
words, the familiar melody of verbalisation, the style in which the products and
institutions appear in a foreign world, etc., indicate in advance the certainty of
understandability. Even with an unknown language which only "sounds" familiar,
that is, which still has the familiar sounding vowels and consonants, we induce
within the framework of the concrete analogy and believe in the possibility of
understanding. In this way, those people who are born and raised in a European city
Dieter Lohmar 213

generally feel "at home" in European cities. They expect a confirmation of the
commonly shared expectations of the cultural sense together with an enhancement
of communication.
Thus it seems hard to locate the source of foreignness of a foreign culture
in this multidimensional field of disappointment of the concrete analogy of the
home-world. Often we find only gradual alterations which do not enable us to
determine a clear frontier between familiarity and foreignness. There are minor
variants of home-worlds belonging to the same cultural circle which are very
difficult to distinguish. Thus it seems as if we could only speak of a "weak" form
offoreignness within the encounter of neighboring nations. Factual similarities and
overlappings could make it doubtful whether it is possible to give a clear and sharp
determination of the point from which on the experience of foreignness becomes
detectable. It seems as if there are only gradual differences. But even this does not
make a conceptual determination of this experience superfluous.
Therefore I will try to make clear the thesis that in the encounter with the
inMbitants of a foreign home-world the concrete analogy is breached in a special
way which allows us to speak of an experience of foreignness. The experimental
ground for this breach of the concrete analogy-which cannot be initiated by
everyday foreignness-lies in the process of incipient understanding. In the
encounter with a foreign world we loose a certain sense which every object bears
implicitly in the context of this foreign world. We notice that an unknown unity of
sense is mirrored in the sense of every single object. In this case K. Held speaks
very appropriately ofthe "Welthaltigkeit" of objects, which means that the sense
of single objects also contains, in a certain way, a complete view of the world. 8 Not
only are there single exotic objects or persons and their alienating actions, but we
also notice that the foreign persons understand the world and everything in it in a
way different from the way in which we do. In everyday life all real things are
conceived together with a cultural sense which could be different in our
home-world and in another. This cultural sense of objects is acquired by the subject
growing up in his home-world. 9
As long as we find only objects in nature which are unknown to us
because we have not yet seen such things, for example, trees, animals, and flowers,
we have not reached the specific cultural dimension of foreignness. The cultural
sense and even the conscious experience of missing this cultural sense cannot be
given on the level of sensuality alone.
Only in a personal meeting, in the encounter with persons of this foreign
world-and by observing their concrete use of things-do we conceive that on
many occasions we miss the cultural sense, i.e., the sense which everything draws
from the whole of the culture. This experience of missing the cultural sense is only
possible upon the foundation of conceiving the world-character of the foreign

world. I cannot conceive this world-character merely by observing things, but rather
only in understanding the gestures of consent and other signs of self-evident
agreement between the inhabitants of this foreign world. From a phenomenological
perspective, we can interpret their conflict-free collective acting in concert as a sign
of the intersubjective constitution of sense.
In this way, the apparent paradox of how something which evades my
observation can show itself is solved. Even prior to every communication on the
level of language I can understand that there is an intersubjective dimension of
sense which is commonly shared in this foreign world. In the gestures of consent
and their conflict-free cooperation I conceive the characteristic agreement of
intersubjective constitution. I conceive as well that I am missing the cultural
dimension of the things in this home-world because I do not know this world.
We are missing primarily the value of things and actions and the
interwovenness of their cultural sense with other senses. But the dimension of sense
which I am missing shows itself only indirectly. In this respect, there is no
difference between our home-world and this foreign world. In the direct contact
with others we sometimes overlook their sorrow, their animosity, their love, and
their lies, which might only be revealed in further behavior.

III. The necessary presupposition of a minimal acquaintance

In all concrete misunderstanding there must still be a core of familiarity

because without such an acquaintance we would not even be able to conceive the
foreign world as a world. At least we must be able to observe signs of an
intersubjective constitution of sense. But even the observation of an agreement
between the inhabitants of this foreign world presupposes some minimal
understanding and this understanding must be possible before my verbal
communication takes place. 10
One possibility to conceive such a minimal acquaintance is to propose like
Husserl the cultural independence of sensuality. But Husserl's postulate that
sensuality is immediately present and given for all humans in the same way is
controversial. If, alternatively, we regard the full cultural sense of objects as the
original mode of their givenness, then it is problematic to make abstractions from
this full mode of givenness. As Heidegger argues (in paragraphs 15 and 16 of
"Being and Time"), in everyday life objects are never given only as things in space
and time but as elements of a certain context of usage. Heidegger calls this primary
and founding way of being "equipment" [Zeug), i.e., things which are used in
certain contexts of usage [Zuhandenheit). Equipment always appears in a context
directed to a certain aim. The last aim is determined by the human being [Dasein).
Dieter Lohmar 215

A hammer presents itself as something which is employed in a certain use and with
a certain aim. But the modus of "being at hand" [Zuhandenheit] is not limited to
tools. Every object in our home-world is thought of in this way. The wood is
thought of as forest, the mountain as quarry, the river as waterway, the wind as
"wind in the sails" i.e., "fair wind" or "head wind". The idea of an object which
exists only in space and time is an artificial abstraction which springs from modem
natural science and technology.
It is not only Husserl who believes that there is a kind of presentation of
objects which is independent of the respective culture and in this way a common
basis of all human experience. Merleau-Ponty, too, presents a similar thesis in the
context of methodological considerations on the structural anthropology of C.
Levi-Strauss. If we are only interested in the universal structures of symbolic and
economic exchange which are common to persons of all different home-worlds,
then we have to find a common ground of all these worlds which guarantees their
comparability. This ground of comparability Merleau-Ponty finds in a "savage
region of myself' ["region sauvage de lui-meme"], that is, in a realm of experience
which is not yet embraced by our own culture and not yet interpreted by our
culturally determined and formed language. II Following Merleau-Ponty,
B. Waldenfels has taken up this thesis of a "region sauvage" as an ultimate ground
for understanding a foreign world. 12
All human beings have in common the fact that they act according to
regular needs like eating, drinking, sleeping, etc., which Husserl calls the
"arc-generative" [das Urgenerative, Hua XV, 433-436]. We understand this kind
of actions because we share the same organisation of our body. In addition, the
conflict-free acting in concert with its characteristic gestures of agreement, laughing
and seriousness, excitement and unexcited passing of everyday actions, provide the
first clues for understanding the cultural sense of objects in a foreign world. Prior
to all communication in language we are always already understanding each other
in our bodily performances. 13
Furthermore, all human beings have in common the fact that as inhabitants
of a home-world they are always and everywhere in a process of formation and
implicit education to gain the cultural sense of the things in their home-world. If
Husserl speaks of a process of "cultural formation" [Bildungsprozefi, Hua XV, 157
f, 227, 443] in this regard, we must not think of higher education-rather, what is
meant is that we just want "to have a say" in ordinary matters. As this kind of
formation is a presupposition for an active participation in social life, every human
being always strives for such a "formation."
The process of becoming familiar with a foreign world and its cultural
sense operates in a way similar to this formation which is striving to attain the
cultural sense in our own home-world. In each object of culture, for example, in a

piece of music, there are traditional and innovative forms, quotations, indications,
etc. In our own culture we learn this cultural sense of things from our parents or
teachers. Even in our own home-world it happens that we do not know, for
example, the full meaning of special ceremonies of our religion. We only know
indistinctly that there is such a sense and that we will in principle be able to acquire
this sense by asking the respective experts.
The cultural sense is not only communicated in explicit articulation but
also in an implicit way. For example, when we speak of a nearby woods then the
cultural sense of this concrete woods is always implicitly involved in a meaningful
way in our communication and behavior. We speak of the woods as a relaxation
promenade, as a useless thicket, as a component of trade or as a biotope. Without
explicitly mentioning the connected possible use and the context we are able to
grasp implicitly the meaning of the object mentioned. First and foremost we
encounter the cultural sense in this enigmatic, implicit form of communication.
Implicit communication is not in the first instance interested in explicit information.
In the fact that implicit communication trivially passes by and in the irritating fact
that precisely the cultural sense does not have to be mentioned explicitly, it shows
its intersubjective validity.

IV. The transfer of sense-structure to a foreign world

With this understanding of the process of formation and the function of

cultural sense in our home-world we are now able to move further in analyzing the
experience of cultural foreignness of foreign cultures. In the encounter with persons
of a foreign world I grasp the fact that they live and act in a meaningful world from
the conflict-free style of their acting in concert. They live, as I do, in a world which
gives everything its concrete cultural sense. We can find here a kind of analogical
apperception: Because in my home-world I always have the expectation of a
cultural sense, the same expectation is motivated in the unknown foreign world. 14
In the encounter with a foreign world we transfer analogically the
experience that even in our own home-world we sometimes understand that there
is a cultural sense but only vague and not distinct in every detail. In this encounter
we suppose that there is a cultural sense and at the same time we grasp signs which
indicate the intersubjective validity of this sense in the conflict-free cooperation of
the inhabitants. In the experience of the foreignness of a foreign culture we notice
that there is a unity of cultural sense but that it is not the same sense as in our
home-world because our concrete home-worldly expectation is breached.
Here are some examples: I usually expect that women will participate in
normal talk and everyday decisions. In an Islamic family this expectation might be
Dieter Lohmar 217

disappointed, and, even more, this expectation is nullified by the tacit agreement of
all the members of the family. -There are COlUltries in which I can immediately feel
resentment if I say that I would like to be alone. Here I am confronted with a
valuation that I could not expect in my own home-world.
Already in noticing this disappointment we see that we had expected the
same (or at least a similar) cultural sense as in our home-world. As in a negative
judgment, in a disappointment of more or less unconscious expectations I get to
know my habitual expectations. If we analyze carefully the genesis of a negative
judgment like "This door is not red," then we comprehend that such a judgment
expresses, on the one hand, the state of affairs which I had expected, i.e., the door
being red. On the other hand, the negative judgment expresses that it is not as
I-following my former experiences--did expect it to be. If we transfer this insight
to the encounter with a foreign home-world, then we reflexively comprehend that
our concrete expectation of the cultural sense is bound to our home-world. As in
the case of a negative judgment, it requires a reflective attitude to discover (from
this disappointment) the function of our own expectations according to the concrete
analogy of own home-world.

V. Two consequences of our analysis

In thematizing our individual and collective habitualities we reach a

dimension of analysis in which genetic phenomenology shows its strength. Thus I
would like to propose two consequences of my analysis. The first consequence
concerns the typical apperception with which we grasp the things in our world:
There are two levels thereof, which also have different styles of fulfillment. The
second consequence is that we have to distinguish two levels in understanding the
cultural sense of things and acts.
The first consequence concerns our habit of using familiar and well-known
patterns of thinking to understand new and unknown experiences. Husserl describes
the stYle of apperception in which we always "expect the unknown in the mode of
the known" (Hna XV, 430). In this paradoxical way, Husserl determines the typical
apperception according to the concrete analogy of the home-world as a universal
style of viewing the world. 15 This characteristic of experience suits, in the first
instance, sensual perception, but we can extend it to the cultural sense. 16 In a
foreign world there might be exotic things, for example, unknown animals, flowers
etc., which withstand the typical apperception already on the level of sensuality.
But this is not our theme. The cultural sense of things cannot appear in sensuality
even if it is contained in the "Typus."

The first level of typical apperception is directed towards the sensual

presentation of things, while the cultural sense is a kind of second level of typical
expectations. The layer of cultural meaning can only be fulfilled or disappointed in
the context of incipient communication with the inhabitants of a foreign
home-world. But I can only grasp the fact that it is a different cultural sense by
conceiving their intersubjective agreement.
As I mentioned above, the necessary minimal communication to
understand that there is a unity of sense can happen more or less on a level below
the communication by means oflanguage. It can rest totally on the understanding
of bodily signs like laughing, seriousness and calm normalcy. It can even touch the
dimension of language without being communication in language. If I am addressed
in an unknown language, the inhabitants of this foreign home-world can
communicate about the fact that I am not able to speak their language. And by this
speaking together they show me that they are talking about this fact and they
present to me their agreement about this.
The second consequence also concerns the habitual form of our
expectations. Our understanding of a foreign world has two levels which should be
distinguished. To understand this differentiation, we must have a look at the
process oflearning the cultural sense in our home-world: The components of this
cultural sense which I have already learned and absOlbed by personal formation had
undergone a certain metamorphosis. In the learning situation the cultural sense was
present in explicit form as knowledge and thereafter it slowly changed by repetition
and incarnation into the habitual form of expectations. Only in this habitual form
does the awakening of the cultural sense take p~ace in the same way as in our own
home-world. I can therefore overcome the foreignness of a foreign home-world in
two steps: First by explicit and active learning of the cultural senses-which is
already understanding!-and secondly by letting these senses become self-evident
and habitual for me, which is best done by living in this foreign home-world.
But it is always possible that the cognitively learned cultural senses
become habitual. And we have to accept that only in this self-evident form of
habitualized expectations are the cultural senses valid in the same way as the
cultural senses in our home-world. In this second level of understanding, we do not
only know of the cultural sense but it also becomes a part of our person, precisely
of our habitual expectations. We can name this incarnation because these contents
"went into our flesh and blood" ["in Fleisch und BIut iibergehen"]. Such an
alteration of my person should be called a metamorphosis [or better in German
"Anverwandlung"]. This alteration is possible because my personal habits of
expectations alter slowly in further experience and living, like all my habits. This
implies that, to reach this second level of understanding, I have to change. I, and
this means, in the first instance, that part of my person which incorporates my
Dieter Lohmar 219

habits to expect cultural senses, have to change. I must get familiar with this foreign
In several contributions B. Waldenfels has claimed a kind of "disowning
hermeneutics" for the encounter with a foreign home-world. It seems to me that he
wants to make precisely just the above mentioned personal change a criterium for
successful understanding. 17 Against the background of our analyses, we now
comprehend that his criterium, which is very impressive on first sight, exceeds the
limit of first level intellectual understanding towards the second level of personal
But with this second level of personal alteration we obviously exceed the
aim of understanding a foreign home-world and culture. On the second level of
understanding, I have already become mentally a civilian [geistiger Burger] of this
home-world. But, to understand the cultural sense of a foreign home-world, it is
enough to know cognitively about it and its interwovenness with other senses.
The experience of the foreignness of a foreign home-world consists in
grasping that there is a unity of sense in the intersubjective agreement of the
inhabitants of this foreign home-world. This occurs together with a breaching of my
concrete, analogical expectations concerning the cultural sense of things. But it is
still possible, nevertheless, to overcome this foreignness and to understand the
cultural sense.


1. Both concepts are introduced in Husserl's Manuscripts of 1931/32, which are found in
Husserliana vol. xv. All references to Husserl's works refer to the critical Edition of
Husserl's Works in the Husserliana. I mention some important articles for my theme: K.
Held, "Heimweit, Fremdwelt, die eine Welt," Phiin. Forschungen 24/25 (1991), 305-337,
and K. Held, "Husserls These von der Europiiisierung der Menschheit," Phiinomenoiogie im
Widerstreit, ed. Chr. Jamme and o. Poggeler (Frankfurt, 1989), 13-39. Cf. also the
contributions of B. Waldenfels, "Erfahrung des Fremden in Husserls Phiinomenologie,"
Phiin. Forschungen 22 (1989), 39-62 and L. Landgrebe, "Weit als phiinomenologisches
Problem," Der Weg der Phiinomenoiogie (Giitersloh, 1978), 50. In Hua XV we can find
other concepts of the world: nearworld (Nahwelt, Hua XV, 428), world of experience
(Erfahrungswelt, Hua XV, 196,217,229 fT.), personal world (personale Welt, Hua XV, 142),
cultural world (Kulturweit, Hua XV, 142,205,214), life-world (Lebensweit, Hua XV, 197,
205,215,411), surrounding life-world (Lebensumwelt, Hua XV, 215, 232), every-day-world
(Alltagsweit, Hua XV, 411).
2. Cf. Hua XV, 205, 221,428 fT., 627 f.
3. On the concept of oriented constitution cf. Husserl's investigations on the constitution of
other persons in my primordial sphere in the Cartesian Meditations (Hua I, 42-62) and
the observations of K. Held in: "Heimwelt, Fremdwelt, die eine Welt," and E. Tugendhat,
Der Wahrheitsbegriffbei Husseri und Heidegger (Berlin, 1970),224 fT.

4. Cf. M. Merleau-Ponty, "Von Levi-Strauss zu Marcel Mauss," Leibhaftige Vemunft, ed.

B. Waldenfels and A. Metraux (Munchen: Fink Verlag, 1986),20.
5. In German "das Eigene" is, in this context, a substantiation of the elements of culture
which are particular to our home-world. For this expression I choose "that which is our own"
as equivalent.
6. Cf. B. Waldenfels, "Verschrankung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt," Philosophisehe
Grundlagen der Interkulturalitiit, ed. MalllLohmar (Amsterdam, 1993),51-56, R. A. Mall,
Philosophie im Vergleieh der Kulturen (Darmstadt, 1995), 39-54, J. N. Mohanty, "Den
anderen verstehen," Philosophisehe Grundlagen der Interkulturalitiit, 121.
7. Cf. B. Waldenfels, "Verschrankung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt," Philosophisehe
Grundlagen der Interkulturalitiit, ed. MalllLohmar (Amsterdam, 1993), 59.
8. Cf. K. Held, "Heimwelt, Fremdwelt, die eine Welt," ibid. 309.
9. Husserl understands this cultural education as a presupposition for understanding foreign
cultures: "As I was educated as a child into my generative human world, if I am trying to
understand the Chinese and the Chinese world, I had to be educated into this world. Living
in it, I had to learn the apperceptions of this foreign world, how and in so far as it is possible
... " (Ms. A VII 9, Transkr. p.15). Sometimes Husserl compares this process of learning the
cultural sense with education in the sense of are-education (Selbstumbildung, cf. Hua
XXVII, 163).
10. In so far as Husser! disregards the role oflanguage in communication in this analysis, we
might understand the hermeneutical situation as the situation of an anthropologist facing a
completely unknown tribe. This is a very informative hermeneutical situation but we cannot
reduce Husserl's question to it. He tries to analyse a principal hermeneutical difficulty and
is not interested in this concrete problem.
11. Cf. M. Merleau-Ponty, "De Mauss a Claude Levi-Strauss," Signes (paris 1960), 151.
Concerning Merleau-Ponty's thesis ofa "region sauvage" cf. also the article ofL. Tengelyi,
"Das Eigene, das Fremde und das Wilde. Zur Phanomenologie der Intersubjektivitat und der
Interkulturalitat," Mesotes 4 (1994),423-432.
12. Cf. B. Waldenfels, "Verschrankung von Heimwelt und Fremdwelt," 62 and "Der Andere
und der Dritte," Ethik und Polilik aus interkultureller Sieht, ed. R. A. Mall! N. Schneider
(Amsterdam, 1996),79.
13. Cf. also the hints of E. Schutz "Uber Verstehen und Verstandigtsein," Zeitsehrijt for
wissensehaftliehe Piidagogik 57 (1981), 386-399.
14. This analogous apperception could be compared in some-but not in all-respects with
Hussed's solution to the problem ofthe other person in his Cartesian Meditations. But at this
moment I cannot treat the breaches of and difficulties with this complicated analogy.
15. Cf. E. Husser!, Erfahrung und Urteil (Hamburg, 1972), 34 f.
16. In the typical apperception the sensations of different fields of sensation are brought in
a synthetic connection and this connection allows me to perceive the sensuously given thing.
Perception demands a carefully aimed selection and coordination of different fields of
sensation. The empirical type ("Typus") of things guides this synthetical activity, which
yields the perceived thing. If I perceive something which stands out against the background
and I perceive it "as something," then a typical but movable expectation of the whole of this
thing arises which delineates the expected sensations which will present this thing. Therefore
the familiarity in which an unknown thing is apperceived is, at least in one sense, literary,
because the patterns of typical apperception arise out of former experiences. The details
Dieter Lohmar 221

which I expect typically are to be understood as "modifications of similarity" of concrete,

individual, already known things. In an other respect the expectations of the typical
apperception are very common. If! see a cow, then I expect its characteristic way of moving
without knowing where it will move. I expect it to moo without knowing whether it will be
loud or quiet. All these expectations lie within the realm of the typical expectation.
17. Cf. B. Waldenfels "Fremderfahrung zwischen Aneignung und Enteignung," Der Stachel
des Fremden (Frankfurt, 1990), 57-79 and also Waldenfels "Erfahrung des Fremden in
Husserls Phiinomenologie," Phiinomenologjsche Forschungen 22 (1989), 39-62.
Stromdichtung and subjectivity in the later Heidegger

R. Philip Buckley
McGill University-Canada

A not uncommon way to mark both the development of Heidegger' s thought and
the distinction between the so-called "early" and "later" Heidegger is to focus on
his philosophy of the subject. A frequently expressed view of Heidegger is that
while Sein und Zeit offers a profound critique of the Cartesian subject, the
existential analysis of Dasein still remains within the bounds of a traditional or
"modem" view of the subject. This latent, modem view of the subject is said not
only to be detectable within the language of "authenticity" and "resoluteness," but
also to rise to an unfortunate climax in the Rektoratsrede of 1933. Heidegger's
subsequent "tum" (Kehre) is hence linked to a dramatic self-realization about the
"subjectivist" nature of his early work and an effort to expunge this latent
philosophy of the subject from his later thought. This particular reading of
Heidegger, already present in the literature of the late 1940's, became rather
canonical, or at least, it became the passively understood framework from which
to understand the development of Heidegger's thought. Indeed, after William
Richardson's highly influential study of Heidegger, this reading not only became
the way to grasp the distinction between what Richardson named "Heidegger I" and
"Heidegger II," but as is implied by the title of his book-Martin Heidegger:
Through Phenomenology to Thought1-phenomenology itself is identified with a
subjectivist perspective.
This reading of the early Heidegger has enjoyed somewhat of a
reactivation in the past few years as a sort of defense mechanism within the context
of the debate about Heidegger and politics. From a particular "post-modem"
perspective, the early Heidegger becomes a subtle captive of a "modem" view of
the subject, and the unfortunate results of such captivity are present for all to see
in 1933. Fortunately, Heidegger is said to have seen the errors of his ways and this
insight pushes him to become the "later Heidegger." It is this "innocent" (or at
least, less guilty) later Heidegger who is then put forward as the genuine source for
a truly post-modem perspective. This reading might be called the "amputation"
approach for short--cut off the gangrenous, early Heidegger to save the later
Heidegger. Such a reading has obvious strategic advantages in debates about the
connection between Heidegger' s early thought and his involvement with National
Socialism. It also correctly identifies a link in Heidegger's work between an
analysis of individual Dasein and the possibility of political philosophy, or an
implicit acceptance in his work of the ancient Platonic analogy between an "I" and
a "We." In its surgical brutality, however, this reading does away with all the
phenomenological richness of Heidegger's description of the life of the subject in
D. Zahavi (ed.), Self-awareness, Temporality, andAlterity, 223-238.
1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Sein und Zeit. Moreover, it simultaneously implies a turn away from politics in
Heidegger's later thought, a political quietism and a withdrawal from speaking
about a "We" because the "I" which functions as its analogical base has been
rejected, or as Ricoeur puts it, has "faded" away. My contention in this paper is that
some recent publications in the Gesamtausgabe can be used to pointedly call such
a reading into question. I want to propose a different sort of approach, which
accentuates Heidegger's positive contribution to a philosophy of the subject
precisely by tracing through his on-going engagement with the question of the "I"
and the "We." In this way, I attempt from the perspective of the later Heidegger an
authentic recollection of the subjectivity of the subject in Being and Time, a
subjectivity characterized by its fluidity and its constant and paradoxical self-
displacement. In the first part of the paper, I outline the parameters of Heidegger' s
early view of the subject and how the question of the "I" is intimately linked to a
question about the "We." In the second part of the paper, I investigate the
connection of this linkage to National Socialism. In the final part of the paper, I
select a somewhat surprising perspective from which to consider Heidegger's
ongoing concern with a phenomenology of the subject and in particular his
phenomenology of a plural subject-of a "We". This perspective is found in his
lectures from 1934 and 1942 on Holderlin's hymns which exemplify what he calls
Stromdichtung-river poetry. I suggest that Heidegger's later thinking shows itself
not as a rejection of the philosophy of subjectivity of his early work, but as a deeper
understanding of the subject as fluctuating and self-displacing. Such a recollection
not only reveals that Heidegger's 1933 thinking is an aberration from his early
thought rather than a fatal culmination, but it also holds open the possibility of a
fruitful recollection of the Platonic analogy itself.

I. The "I" -"We" analogy in Heidegger's early thought

It may seem surprising to claim that the Platonic analogy between the
individual and community, between an "I" and a "We" is at work in Being and
Time. Indeed, if there is a phenomenologist who gives the analogy an apparently
more prominent role, it is Husserl, and it is useful to take him as a point of
departure. For Husserl, the analogy between the "I" and the "We" is clearly
traceable back to Plato but it is, he claims, "by no means the spirited invention of
an eccentric philosopher who soars beyond natural thinking." To the contrary, he
states that this tendency to think about a collectivity as an "individual writ large"
arises in everyday apperception. If there is a theory of community in Husserl it is
found in his treatment of this first person plural entity which he calls "personality
of higher-order." Different sorts of communities ranging from the family to the
R. Philip Buckley 225

state are understood as analogous to the individual "I." A community is a "multi-

headed ... yet connected subjectivity," and as such a subjectivity it too has a
"personality," displaying particular tendencies, moods, and traits such as
memory-indeed, many of the features usually attributed to individual existence.
Nonetheless, the community which possesses a personality is of a "higher-order."
It is different than the individuals who comprise it, and its personal features belong
to it "uniquely." That is, the personal features of the community are something
"new,"-they are not a mere conglomeration of individual features. It is here that
a first ambiguity or tension arises in Husserl's theory of community, but I think it
is a fruitful tension, or at least, a tension that has to do with Husserl's
phenomenological sharpeness. Husserl is trying to account for the real identity
which occurs within various types of communal existence without making
community some sort of pre-existent structure which has enveloped individual
existence and absolutely determines that individual existence. Conversely,
Husserl's notion of "personality of higher-order" tries to maintain the essential
aspects of individual existence, while still showing that something arises out of that
individual existence that is truly new and different-a community.2
Against this background, Heidegger's analysis of historical community in
chapter 5, Division II of Being and Time can be made more explicit. In
"historizing," that is, in the concrete working out of its temporality, Dasein is said
by Heidegger to enter into its own "fate" (Schicksal).3 The term "fate" is perhaps
a little unfortunate in English, insofar as it is heavily weighted with a connotation
of "necessity." In the discussion of Dasein's historicality, the emphasis is clearly
on "freedom," or that "finitude" which is the source of freedom. Heidegger claims
that Dasein is capable of choosing to be its own fate. As fate, Dasein hands itself
over to itself. There is a crucial two-sided aspect to this handing-over which
corresponds to the ecstatic temporality which by this point in the text has been
revealed as the ontological meaning of Dasein as Care; namely, what Dasein hands
over is both finitude and possibility. The choices that Dasein can make are clearly
limited by birth, death, tradition. The finitude of the future, death, throws Dasein
back upon the finitude of the past, which includes the determinate contingency of
birth and culture. Yet in resoluteness, this finitude can be chosen in freedom, and
appears as positive possibility.
Dasein is a being who is fundamentally with others, 4 and as a result, also
historizes with others. This co-historizing is called "destiny" (Geschick) by
Heidegger. 5 He quickly points out, in words that could be taken from any of
Husserl's reflections on "personality of higher order," that this co-historizing is no
mere collection ofthe fates ofindividuals. Destiny, says Heidegger, must somehow
be thought of as a common fate, which implies that it both functions analogously

to individual fate but is something more than a mere amalgamation or external

coincidence of individual "fates."
Now there are certainly difficulties and dangers involved in the conception
of this "higher-order" entity, and as we know, Heidegger ran into a number of them.
But it is important to confront them, for while some readers see the discussion of
community in chapter five as somewhat ancillary to the rest of the text, I think an
argument can be made that the appearance of the "I" -"We" analogy is by no means
sudden; it is in fact called for by the very method of Heidegger's ontological
inquiry. For we know that the recollection of the question towards the sense of
being itself requires a "two-fold" task, a Doppelaufgabe which consists of the
existential analytic of Dasein on the one hand, and the "de-structuring" of the
history of ontology on the other. This is nothing less than an investigation of the
two poles of the 'T' -"We" analogy thematized much later in the text. It is crucial,
therefore, to become clear about the type of "I" which functions as the analogical
base of the higher order entity. This is true both for Husserl and Heidegger; and it
is equally difficult in both cases. The view of the authentic "I" which has often
been attributed to Husserl is one of a subject which has insight into its activities,
which knows what it does and why it does it, that is willing to defend and justify
all its various "position-takings." The idea that to be authentically human involves
a will to know that encompasses both the theoretical realm and the realm of praxis
carries with it the sense that authentic human life is a constant struggle against
irrational impulses and irrational fate, against that which has not been chosen and
willed in a rational manner by the subject. In a manuscript of his lecture-course on
ethics from 1920, Husserl suggests that the desire for a fully rational life brings
about a splitting of the ego into the higher ego of reason and the lowly and sinful
ego of drifting along either in impulses or pre-given validities. Authentic human life
is a Kampfagainst both individual impulses, drives and social tendencies which run
contrary to the rational self-determination of the subject by the subject.
There is evidence to support this reading of Husserl which claims that
authenticity consists in the sovereignty of the rational, active self over the self of
passivity. The true self knows what it does and why it does what it does, and thus
is fully responsible for itself, truly "answerable" for its actions. According to this
line of interpretation, the best description of authenticity is self-responsibility, and
the ultimate characterization of Husserl's philosophy is one of absolute, rational
self-responsibility. This absoluteness belongs, it is said, to the "universalizing"
tendency of this type of rationality, and it is often portrayed as a monolithic and
homogenizing, if not totalizing and imperialistic, rationality. Within this view,
fragmentation within the self or within the community is taken to be a sign of
"crisis," an indication of the absence of proper rationality, the loss of an originary
and unified rational foundation. Such an intense desire for unity can certainly have
R. Philip Buckley 227

dramatic consequences on the communal level. It would seek such an intense being-
with-another (or as Husserl himself does put it strongly at places-"being-in-one-
another")6 that the ensuing unity is so complete it is hard to imagine difference. A
"We" corresponding to this type of "I" would seem to exclude the conflict and
struggle which characterizes, defines, and at times, enriches human life.
There are, however, many other possible readings of Husserl' s view of the
'T': an 'T' unthinkable without the "Not I"; the "I" which contains a foundational
layer of passivity (Urhyte) that cannot be reappropriated; an "I" penetrated by some
sort of "alterity"; an "I" for whom the "splitting" mentioned in the manuscript
above is the paradoxical condition of its own appearance; and hence an "I" for
whom the crisis of division can just as easily be considered a gift rather than a loss. 7
While the notion of this divided subject is evident in Husserl, it is in the subsequent
phenomenological tradition that it has been more clearly articulated. s Various
thinkers who are in many respects remarkably diverse-Heidegger, Sartre, Lacan,
Levinas, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida-seem to hold in common the view that whatever
the "crisis" of the subject might be, it is not the loss of the primordial unity or
identity which authenticity is traditionally thought to be. To the contrary, self-
identity is rooted in a fundamental division of the subject. A sense of self emerges
not out of an experience of unity, but out of the "dividedness" we encounter at
various levels of our being (e.g. temporal, linguistic, social). For these thinkers,
much of human activity consists of various ways of fleeing the vulnerable and
fragmented beings we are, and seeking a stable, fixed and unified self. To do so is
to flee the gift of one's own humanity.
In the early Heidegger, the sense of the divided self is expressed by the co-
constitutive nature of inauthenticity and authenticity, or an oscillation or being
thrown back and forth between these two modes of being which are equiprimordial
for Dasein. The co-constitutive or equiprimordial nature of authenticity and
inauthenticity leads to the paradoxical situation that forces Heidegger to speak in
apparent contradictions. At one point in Being and Time, Heidegger declares that
"inauthenticity is based on the possibility of authenticity." Taken by itself such a
statement would seem to suggest that there is a primordial authenticity upon which
the possibility of its loss is based, an original self-possession from which the self-
loss and self-separation of inauthenticity come about; a view that I am claiming his
early thought calls radically into question. At other times we read that authenticity
is itself a "modification" of inauthenticity.9 Putting these two assertions together,
the conclusion is that authenticity is both condition of possibility and modification
of inauthenticity. Rudolf Bernet summarizes wonderfully the paradoxical or
ambivalent nature of Dasein's life by saying: "This divided manner of existence
belongs irreducibly to the essence of Dasein; Dasein is its own dividedness. Having
a conscience is therefore also a fundamental form of self-experience because it

relates the two ways of existing to each other without annulling their difference. In
having a conscience, the authentic self addresses the anonymous self, but this latter
self does not recognize in this voice its own hidden self. On the other hand, it is
also true that the authentic self requires the opposition with the anonymous self in
order to begin the address. If Dasein were always nothing other than its own self,
then the subject would neither speak nor listen, neither gain nor lose, neither give
nor receive. Dasein experiences itself as a subject that is divided, that is, as a
subject that neither fully coincides with itself nor completely falls apart. Dasein is
neither its own self nor the anonymous self; it is both and yet not in the same
What do we end up with when, following the Platonic analogy, we extend
to a "We" this reconceptualized "I," or at least, the "I" which seems to have been
uncovered within the phenomenological movement. For certain, the dividedness,
foreignness or "otherness" in the individual subject radically alters our view of the
"personality of a higher order." I would go so far as to suggest that only on the
basis of such an "I" is the "I" -"We" analogy able to be salvaged. Or at the very
least, if we use such an analogy it is only on such a basis that a community can be
imagined that is genuinely pluralistic, non-homogenizing, open to the risk of
conflict and genuine debate within itself as constitutive of its own being. It would
be saying too much to imply that Heidegger achieves such an image in chapter five
of Being and Time; but I do think he pushes in that direction. A community
historizes in that it goes back to its own past as the ground of authentic possibility
for that community. Such communal historizing only takes place through
participation and struggle. Only by entering into conflict with the others who
nonetheless share a certain horizon can a community historize. The struggle to
escape from the clutch ofthe "das Man," to free oneself from the past as actuality
is the mark of a vibrant, living community, as well as the sign of an authentic, free
individual. Participation and struggle are able to be brought together in the notion
of "dialogue." Authentic dialogue requires listening, true engagement, a desire to
grasp what the other has to offer. But true dialogue also requires a reply, in honesty
and respect, a reply which considers what has been offered and which expresses not
what is "expected," but something which takes the topic in new directions, reveals
its possibilities. This dialogicality, often underplayed in readings of Heidegger, is
the best way to understand the destructuring of the tradition of ontology. The
tradition is both possibility and threat for Heidegger, the place to tum for the
reawakening of the question of Being and the greatest impediment to the posing of
that question. The tradition must be both entered into, and fought against.
In going back to the history of ontology, philosophy is certainly not trying
to cling to an old understanding of Being. Nor is philosophy trying to champion its
own "modem" viewpoint over the "ancient" viewpoint. Indeed, such comparisons
R. Philip Buckley 229

are judged as both impossible and fruitless by Heidegger. Rather, philosophy

attempts to understand that past as the ground of authentic possibility, in this case,
as the ground for raising anew the question towards the sense of Being. The going
back to the history of ontology must be a truly "thoughtful dialogue between
thinkers," a true listening to the tradition and an authentic responding to the
possibilities that are discovered in this listening. Within his reflections on
historicality, Heidegger does seem to envision some image of community as open
and pluralistic, and he does so on the basis of the type of subjectivity of Dasein
revealed earlier in the text-a subjectivity which is clearly not of the
"monological," "modem" sort.

II. Heidegger and the "We" of National Socialism: Or, what went wrong?

My stress on the duality or ambivalence of individual Dasein and its

extension to the community means that Heidegger's thought in the period of Being
and Time is tension-ridden, paradoxical, marked by ambiguities, or perhaps
characterized in many places by what is now called "undecidability." This
ambivalence or paradoxical nature does not put an end to questioning, but is the
source from which questioning arises and to which it must return. It is fully in line
with the nature of Heidegger's thinking that in Being and Time he quotes Count
Yorck approvingly: "you are acquainted with my liking for paradox, which I justify
by saying that paradoxicality is a mark of truth." Truth for Heidegger is aletheia,
and it is paradoxical because by its very essence this unconcealment that is truth is
intrinsically connected to concealment. What is perhaps most remarkable about
Heidegger's rectorial address then is the sudden loss of paradox, a loss which to
some extent marks a break with his thought previous to 1933. In Being and Time,
the forgetting by Dasein of the question of its own being and of Being in general
is a two-sided affair, a loss that also has something positive about it, a forgetting
that is necessarily connected to recollection, a "dispossession" by Dasein of itself
that, paradoxically, contributes intrinsically to a possession by Dasein of its own
true possibilities. However, what seemed essentially "undecidable" in the
Heidegger of the 1920's is now to be decided once and for all by that "plural"
Dasein called the German people.
In the rectorial address, therefore, the talk is clearly of Verfall, of a
moribund culture,l1 of an age of danger and distress. 12 In an attempt at self-
explanation, Heidegger says in a letter to the rector of Freiburg in 1945 that he
believed (in 1933) that his co-operation could "deepen" certain aspects of the
"movement" and thereby help to overcome the disintegrating situation in Europe
and heal the crisis of the Western spirit. 13 The decay, the slide from that original

Greek "science" which is the questioning of Being is so far advanced that it seems
that if it were not checked, it would simply drift to an end. 14 The only way to stop
this "drift," this self-evident decay, is to "decide" to stop it. Thus, the distance of
the rectorial address from Being and Time in terms of seeing the crisis solely as
decay is matched by its outspoken "decisionism," by what Karl Lowith calls its
"Promethean willing," or as Derrida has named it, its "massive voluntarism." In the
rectorial address, it is willing and decision-making which occupy centre-stage. All
that is great is associated with decision and resoluteness; a simple "letting things
happen" means decline. 15
How is one to account for this Verfallsgeschichte and massive voluntarism
in the rectorial address? No doubt, there is already a sense of decline in the
Heidegger of the 1920's, but it is a decline that is inevitable, necessary to the life
of Dasein and the tradition. It is a decline that nonetheless can be understood
positively. There is a sense in Being and Time that Dasein must actively struggle
to overcome the forgetfulness of Being which characterizes the decline, but the
actual recollecting comes about only through a fundamental affectivity; Dasein is
"taken over" by the anxiety which, if endured, reveals Dasein to itself as that being
with the potentiality to raise the question of Being. By isolating and highlighting
the elements of decline (solely as negative, as unfortunate loss) and willed, active
struggle (with little reference to affectivity) the Heidegger of 1933 gives a clear-cut,
unambiguous and non-paradoxical view of his epoch as one wherein the
forgetfulness of Being is increasing, and where only a decisive action will suffice
in overcoming this forgetfulness. Moreover, by isolating precisely these elements,
and subduing the aspects which render them paradoxical, Heidegger placed himself
in a line of thought which had essential similarities with National Socialism.
What might have perpetrated this shift, this loss of ambiguity, with such
dire results? What led Heidegger to see the situation so differently, that is, so
clearly in 1933? A possible response to the question just posed can be found
through an analysis of what Karl Lowith described very early on as the
"translation" of individual Dasein into national Dasein,16 that is, precisely the
movement from an "I" to a "We." Lowith seems to call into question the Platonic
analogy itself, suggesting that one cannot suddenly develop a theory of community
on the basis of the life of individual Dasein. From this standpoint, there is an
emphasis on the lack ofa theory of community in Being and Time, and it is due to
this lacuna that Heidegger fell prey to the type of "hasty" reflections found in the
Rektoratsrede. But there are other possible readings: could we not also say that it
is the analogy itself which is lacking in the rectorial address? Or perhaps more
precisely, that the analogy is not thought through properly, that Heidegger failed to
seize on the positive possibilities of his analysis of Dasein as the analogical base
for a thinking of a "we?" Let us examine these possibilities.
R. Philip Buckley 231

If we accept that the community may resemble the individual, it remains

crucial to keep in mind that it is also essentially different, in Husserlian language,
that it is founded on individuals. As we have seen in Being and Time, this
simultaneous similarity and difference seemed to be maintained through the
distinction between "fate" (Schicksal) and "destiny" (Geschick), and Heidegger is
very consistent in maintaining the distinction between the two: "fate" is only used
in reference to individual Dasein. In the rectorial address, despite a meticulous use
of his vocabulary in other respects, this distinction vanishes. Now the talk is of the
"fate" (Schicksal) of the German people. 17 Dasein, which was always said in the
first instance to be mine (je meines),18 is now spoken of primarily as "ours"
Heidegger's chief interest in the rectorial address is clearly not directed
towards authentically existing individual Dasein, but solely towards authentically
existing communal [German] Dasein. The question which must be raised is whether
a community could exist authentically in precisely the same manner as individual
Dasein. The answer would appear to be no. The reason for this reply is that the
most important aspect in the "achievement" of authenticity by individual Dasein is
something that does not seem to really function within communal life, namely, the
anxious realization of death. The death which is talked about in Being and Time is
always my death, it is the "owmnost" possibility of individually existing Dasein. It
is hard to imagine something that "affects" the community in the same way as
"death" affects the individual.
It is not surprising that in the absence of the fundamentally passive
experiences which lead to authenticity in the individual, the discussion of
authenticity of the community, and especially ofthe state, tends always to stress
activity, to be more voluntaristic. The authentic state is the one that decides and
wills for itself how it is to be; it is literally and legally self-constituted. Strangely
enough, the voluntarism which becomes evident in the discussion of the
authenticity of the state becomes even more pronounced when one disallows racial
or biological bases to statehood (and whatever Heidegger's faults, it is generally
admitted that he showed little enthusiasm for Nazi racial ideology).2o It is not
biological inheritance but rather a "willing" which makes a nation or a people to be
who they are (at least in this period of Heidegger's thought).21
The absence of the fundamental affectivity which in Being and Time
functions co-constitutively with activity to yield the authenticity of the individual
leads to an outspoken voluntarism when speaking of the authenticity of the state.
Moreover, it is clear that the active willing of the state or community must take on
a different form than the willing of the individual. What does it mean for a
community to will something? If this willing is something more than the mere
summation of individual wills, from where does it come? In Husserl, the authentic

community consists of a "unity of will," (Wil/enseinheit), but this unity is never

achieved from "above" but established from "below." For the Heidegger of 1933,
there are some elements of the notion of a unity of will arrived at from below, 22 but
there are more prominent elements of a willing from above: namely, a willing
which comes from a Fuhrer.
The suggestion being made here, therefore, is that Heidegger's thought is
neither necessarily fascist, nor that he simply succumbed to the political pressures
of his times. Rather, it is being claimed that his paradoxical thought in the period
of fundamental ontology contains elements which, when disassociated from the
further elements which render them paradoxical, tend to fit in rather well with
certain tenets of Nazi-ideology. This disassociation from a paradoxical context
occurred when Heidegger attempted to enunciate a theory of communal Dasein
which perhaps too closely paralleled the existence of individual Dasein, indeed,
which substituted the "We" for the "I" rather than thinking it analogously.
Heidegger's paradoxical "overcoming" of the crisis by recollection in his earlier
work becomes the willful attempt to master the crisis, an attempt orchestrated by
the FUhrer. Despite some efforts to make this sound less dictatorial than it is, the
FUhrer principle necessarily results in the establishing of a "we" from the top
down. 23 It is in and through the Fuhrer alone that the community can make a
decision like an individual, be resolute like an individual, assert "it-self' (Selbst-
behauptung) as an individual "self."
It could perhaps be argued that the desire for unity expressed in the
rectorial address24 does not fully exclude elements of "healthy" conflict. Those who
would maintain that Heidegger is not as "totalitarian" in his rectorial address as has
been suggested in the foregoing argument, would probably look to the notion of
"battle" or "struggle" (Kampf) as Heidegger's enunciation of a principle which
might counteract unity enforced from the top down. They would claim that
Heidegger does see an essential role for struggle within the community, a creative
role. Thus, the healthy, striving university is described as a "battle community"
(Kampfgemeinschaft).25 This is certainly the sort of positive interpretation which
the post-war Heidegger himself gave to the notion of Kampf, placing it in the
context of polemos of Heraclitus as creative principle. 26
This positive understanding of Kampf as creative conflict among the
members of a community is not implausible, but also not very convincing. Its
plausibility lies in a certain continuity with the idea of struggle mentioned briefly
above when discussing the struggle to appropriate the tradition that is enunciated
in Being and Time. However, there are certain aspects which render the notion of
Kampf in the rectorial address far less than benign. First, it is not so clear that
Kampfis meant as "conflict" within a community. Rather, it seems to refer more to
the "struggle" ofa community for a common ideal. A certain uniformity of purpose
R. Philip Buckley 233

and mind is already assumed. Those who do not wish to "reform" the German
university, or who perhaps had radically different ideas of possible reform seem to
have little place in Heidegger's Kampfgemeinschaft. Second, there is missing the
fundamentally positive approach to the past which constitutes the framework of
Being and Time. As was mentioned at the outset of this section, the portrayal
Heidegger gives of "recollection" in the rectorial address is one of complete
newness, of a new beginning which truly breaks with the past. Finally, this notion
of struggle is subsumed within the framework of the Fuhrer principle. It is not a
struggle between equals, but a struggle between those who lead and those who
follow. 27 Ultimately, Heidegger's notion of struggle in the rectorial address does not
seem to be the conflict among equal members attempting to appropriate the past as
possibility, but the struggle to see who has the will to lead.
There can be no downplaying the disturbing aspects of Heidegger's
adoption of a Fuhrer principle. And it does point to lacunae in his reflections on
community. Some might say that it reveals the weakness of the Platonic analogy in
the first place. Collectivities just are not to be thought of as "individual writ
large," -perhaps to think in such a way is what Ryle would call a category
mistake-a mistake with dramatic consequences. I have tried to suggest here that
quite to the contrary, what Heidegger lacks in 1933 is enough thought about an
analogy which may well be at work in all reflection about community. Moreover,
implicit in the discussion above is an argument against the view that the
Rektoratsrede reveals that the analogical terminus "I" is a totalitarian entity. I have
tried to suggest that in failing to think through the analogy properly, Heidegger
failed to seize upon the potentially positive components of his reflection on
community in Being and Time, and that he too quickly imported an unambiguous
view of Dasein to the communal level; in short, he failed to seize the subjectivity
of the subject as disclosed in his own early work as a possible analogical basis for
a view of the "we" which would oppose National Socialism. It remains true that the
considerations on communal destiny in Being and Time can only be considered
sketchy at best. But it is also interesting to note that rather than rejecting the
Platonic analogy as a result of the catastrophe of 1933, Heidegger immediately goes
about thinking seriously about the 'T' and the "We" in a new vein, and in doing so,
recaptures some of the paradoxical features of his own early thought.

III. Homeland and the poetics of the river

The horizon of the following reflections is formed by the texts of

Heidegger's "Wintersemester Vorlesung" of 1934/35 entitled Htilderlins Hymnen
"Germanien" und "der Rhein" and especially the 1942 lecture on Hoiderlins

Hymne "der Ister."28 In the earlier lecture, it becomes immediately clear that
Heidegger has not rejected political thinking even in the immediate aftermath of the
rectorial fiasco. Indeed, the quick tum to poetry reveals itself precisely as a thinking
of the political from a new angle. The historical life of a people arises out of
poetry,29 and the poetry of Holderlin is given particular pride of place for the
historical life of the German Volk. Though the gods have fled, HOlderlin hopes that
"Germanien" will be the land of the other day of the gods, and Heidegger says of
such poetry that "Wenn die Dichtung eine soIehe Macht ist, bedeutet die Frage, wie
ein Volk zu ihr steht, einfach die Frage: Wie steht es mit diesen Yolk selbst." One
can not only be struck by the rapidity with which Heidegger saw, in the wake of the
rectorial address, that "die Frage nach dem "Wir" ... " must be posed explicitly.
Moreover-such a question can receive no definitive answer. As Heidegger says,
"Wir wissen nicht, wer wir sind." Even though we discover later on that the
German Volk may know very well what it is, Heidegger is clear that to know" Was
wir siner is not to know "wer wir sind." I take this to be a direct criticism of his
reflection on the three services in the Rektoratsrede where the services formed a
definitive answer to the never properly posed question "wer sind wir?". Here,
Heidegger is almost derogatory with the identification of the "who" of one's being
with such activity: This person makes shoes and is thereby a shoemaker. Another
conducts lessons and education and is accordingly, what he does, teacher. Another
exercises the service of arms, and is then soldier. Another is busy with the putting
together of books which appear in the public index of book shops under the
"rubric" "Philosophie" and is therefore a "philosopher." Heidegger goes on to say:
Woran einer jeweils standig teilnimmt, was er betreibt, das bestimmt, was er ist.
Aber wenn wir wissen, was wir sind, wissen wir dann, wer wir sind? Nein. ,,30 It is
noteworthy that in Being and Time the phrase "sie sind das, was sie betreiben" is
a definition of the mode of encounter that is definitive of das Man. 31
The answer to the question regarding the "who" of a Volk is found in
poetry, and Heidegger reflects a long time on the nature of poetry, speaking of its
weaknesses, it swirling and shifting character, and eventually linking up the
prototypical poet-Holderlin-with the Heraclitian philosophy of flux. The
reflections on "Germanien" thus are linked to, and serve, as a general introduction
to the specific task performed by Stromdichtung. This poetry seems to be the most
essential poetry because its content reflects its form. It is only through this poetry
that wayward Germany may (re)appropriate what constitutes its proper heimisch
source and essence as a nation-that is, properly deal with the question "wer sind
wir." And yet, the image of the river as reflecting national identity yields a
completely different sense than the type of fixed and stable national identity
proposed in 1933. In a phrase from the 1942 lecture which best sums up what
Heidegger sees in the river, he says it "is place (Ortschaft) AND wandering
R. Philip Buckley 235

(Wanderschaft) at once."32 For Heidegger, the "Ister" (which is the Greek name for
the Danube, the Donau) is genuinely the river of "homecoming." And yet any
"homecoming" requires a setting forth, and that setting forth is just as essential to
the "homecoming" as the "home," the source (QueUe) which has been left. The
hymn "Der Ister" is about dwelling and journeying, a flowing forth and a fading
away, a leaving and a returning, an essential progression and regression. The river
is the "dwelling of journeying because it establishes the "there" where the
becoming at-home is established, yet from where, as becoming at-home, it also
takes its point of departure" ... and "yet the river now is just as essentially the
journeying of the dwelling place."33 A circling or doubling here that is highly
reminiscent of the self-circling temporality that is the ontological meaning of
Dasein in Being and Time. Indeed, in a line which is the perfect mirror of the
equiprimordiality, of the oscillation and co-constitutive relationship between
authenticity and inauthenticity in Being and Time: "The former place remains
preserved in the subsequent one, and the subsequent one has already determined the
former."34 Just as the river can become itself by both leaving the source and yet, as
Heidegger says, this "river as wandering can never forget the source,,35 so too
Dasein can only be itself by going forth in the world of das Man and also equally
experiencing itself as not merely wandering about in the mode of the "they" -self.
Heidegger is thinking of nothing less than the subjectivity of the subject in these
lectures, only here indeed it is the subjectivity of the first-person plural.
I have suggested here a positive recollection of Heidegger's view of the
subjectivity of subject in his earlier work precisely from the standpoint of his later
thought which is often claimed to reject such SUbjectivity. The Heraclitean image
of an identity through fluctuation which permeates his reading of Holderlin seems
to me to be an authentic recollection of the being of the subject as put forth in
Being and Time. From this standpoint, it can also be said that Heidegger has
thought through the underdeveloped "I" -"We" analogy present in his earliest work.
Perhaps too, we have thought the "reversal" in Heidegger's thought, moving from
the analogy of the "I" -"We" to an analogy of the "We" -"I" with the point of
departure being the "we" addressed in his reading of Holderlin's hymns. Taking the
idea of "reversal" seriously seems particularly appropriate in the context of
Heidegger's treatment of "Der Ister:" this river which in its going forth doubles
back to its source, indeed, this river which viewed from the standpoint of the poet
can itself can be taken as flowing "backwards."36 In thinking the Platonic analogy
either backwards or forwards, the "subject" does not disappear, but precisely
appears in and through its disappearance. The "subject," both first-person singular
and plural is determined by its essential fluctuation, by its doubling back, by being
something that issues from a source or origin in which it must abide but also to
which it can never completely return.

Despite this reading, which allows us to understand Heidegger' s rectorial

address as an inauthentic appropriation of his own earlier thought-one cannot help
but sound a cautionary voice, or perhaps, hear a troubling murmur beneath the
surface of his analysis of Stromdichtung. All paradox, even that of being in
becoming, remains open to one-sided resolution. That is, when Heidegger speaks
of the Rhine in the age of Gestell, or the upper Donau near his own place of origin,
can we not sense a deep, nostalgic yearning for a homeland, an origin, a place of
rest, which would be a "we" parallel to the stable "I" which Heidegger's thought
has done so much to undermine? More dramatically, when one reads the lecture
course on "der Ister" from 1942, another river cannot help but spring to mind. That
is, when a philosopher, in the midst ofthe planning of the Final Solution, ofthat
resolution to annihilate that "Other" in the midst of "Germanien," when a
philosopher in the midst of such horror speaks of remembering and recollecting
German nationhood through the poetry of the stream, might he not instead seem to
drowning in the river Lethe?


1. William Richardson, Through Phenomenology to Thought (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,

2. See especially the sections on "Gemeingeist" in Edmund Husserl, Zur Phiinomenologie
der Intersubjektivitiit. Texte aus dem Nachlass. Erster Teil (1905-1920). Zweiter Teil (1921-
1928). Driller Tei/ (1929-1935), hrsg. von Iso Kern, Hua Xill-XV (Den Haag: Martinus
Nijhoff, 1973); see also Hua XXVII, especially 21-23 and 43-59.
3. Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit (Tilbingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1979),384; Being and
Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and J. Robinson (New York: Harper and Row, 1962),435.
4. SZ, 118ff.; BT, 154fT.
5. SZ, 384-385; BT, 436.
6. "Wir leben nicht nur nebeneinander sondem ineinander, ... " Ms. F I 24176a. See as well,
Hua XIV, 179, where Husserl suggests that in true community, "die Ichheit des einen ist
nicht neben der des anderen, sondern lebt und wirkt in der anderen."
7. Important research in this direction has been conducted by Rudolf Bernet (see for example,
La vie du sujet:recherches sur ['interpretation de Husserl dans la phenomenolgie (paris:
8. See Rudolf Bernet, "The Other in Myself," in Tradition and Renewal. Philosophical
Essays Commemorating the Centennial ofLouvain 's Institute ofPhilosophy (Leuven, 1992),
9. SZ, 130; BT, 168.
10. Bernet, "The Other in Myself," 75.
R. Philip Buckley 237

11. Martin Heidegger, Die Selbstbehauptung der Deutschen Universitiit, Das Rektorat
1933/34 (Frankfurt a.M.: Vittorio Klostermann, 1983), 19; "The Self-Assertion of the
German University and the Rectorate 1933/34: Facts and Thoughts." Trans. Karsten Harries.
The Review a/Metaphysics 38 (March, 1985),479-480.
12.SB, 10, 15;SA,471,475.
13. "Aber ich war damals allerdings auch der Dberzeugung, dass durch selbststandige
Mitarbeit der Geistigen viele wesentlichen Ansiltze der "NS. Bewegung" vertieft und
gewandelt konnten, urn die Bewegung so in den Stand zu setzen, in ihrer Weise mitzuhelfen,
die verwirrte Lage Europas und die Krisis des abendlilndischen Geistes zu uberwinden."
Letter to the rectorate of Freiburg, November 4, 1945. Printed in the unpublished doctoral
thesis of Karl A. Moehling, "Martin Heidegger and the Nazi Party: An Examination," (Diss.,
Northern lllinois University, 1972),264-268. One is tempted to be sceptical of Heidegger's
concern for the health of the West: in his rectorial address, mention of the "West" is made
only once; for the rest, the crisis seems to have been a peculiarly "German" affair.
14. SB, 10-11; SA, 471.
16. Lowith,Mein Leben in Deutschland, 32ff.
17. "Schicksal des deutschen Volkes." SB, 9,10,15,16-17; SA, 470, 471, 475, 477.
18. SZ, 41-43; BT, 67-68.
19. SB, 11;SA,472.
20. Nevertheless, as Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe points out, a principled opposition to anti-
semitism did not prevent Heidegger from cooperating with a movement for which anti-
semitism was a principle issue. See Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, "La fiction du politique," in
Heidegger: Questions ouvertes, ed. 1. Derrida and E. Levinas (Paris: Osiris, 1988), 190. This
text is an extract of his full-length book, La fiction du politique (Paris: Christian Bourgois,
21. Of course, this is still Heidegger's belief that the German people have a "special" mission
as the heirs of Greek science; this leads leads Derrida to suggest that Heidegger's thought
displays a sort of "metaphysical racism." Derrida, De ['esprit, 118-119; O/Spirit, 74.
22. The most evident similarity with the "formation" from below which marks Husserl's use
of the "I"-"We" analogy is that Heidegger too sees the need for a middle step along the way
towards authentic community. For Husserl, this middle step is the community of
philosophers; for Heidegger, the university. For a reform of the German university to take
place, the German student-body must will it, decide it resolutely, determine the essence of
the university as the place where science, the questioning of Being, will take place. And as
the German university is the place where the "leaders and guardians ofthe fate of the German
people are educated and disciplined" (SB, 10; SA, 471), it is the decision taken within the
German university which lays the basis for the decision ofthe German nation.
23. On the one hand, the Fuhrer, says Heidegger, does not determine the willing of the
people, but is led by that willing (SB, 9; SA, 470.). On the other hand, the most damning
statement from Heidegger's involvement with National Socialism remains: "The Fuhrer alone
is the present and future German reality and its law." Cf. Martin Heidegger, "Aufruf an die
Deutschen Studenten" (3. Nov. 1933), printed in Martin Heidegger und das Dritte Reich, ed.
B. Martin, (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989), 177.

24. The desire for the unity ofthe university is seen in Heidegger's continuous attack on what
he sees as the artificial division of the sciences (SB, 13, 15, 17; SA, 473, 474, 478); the
subsequent desire for the unity of the German nation at large in the call for all the
"services"-"Labour Service (Arbeitsdienst), Armed Service (Wehrdienst), Knowledge
Service (Wissensdienst)-<to> primordially coalesce and become one formative force)" (SB,
18; SA, 479).
26. SB, 28-29; SA, 488-489.
27. SB, 18-19; SA, 479.
28. Martin Heidegger, Ho/derlins Hymnen "Germanien" und "der Rhein", ed. S. Ziegeler,
Gesamtausgabe 39 (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1989); Ho/derlins Hymne
"der Ister", ed. W. Biemel, Gesamtausgabe 53 (Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann,
29. GA 39, 20tT.
30. GA 39,57-58.
3I.BT, 163;SZ, 126.
32. GA 53, 178.
33. GA 53,41-42.
34. GA 53,42.
35. GA 53, 178.
36. GA 53,42-43.
Anscombe, G.E.M. 129 Di1they, W. 109, 113
Ape1, K.-O. 200 Dreyfus, H. 85
Arendt, H. 95, 152, 198, 199 Drummond, J. J. 77
Aristotle, 48, 62, 63, 68, 77, 129, 138, Dummett, M. 152
193, 194 Eckhart, 83
Augustine, 91, 95, 137, 139 Edie, J. 187
Barbaras, R. 33, 89 Evans, J. C. 77
Bas1ev, A.N. 74 Fink,E.60,69, 94,176
Beauvoir, S. de 152 Foucault, M. 151, 156-158
Benoist, J. 28 Frank,M. 21-23,26, 35, 70, 73, 75
Bergson, H. 138, 139, 153 Frege, G.F.L. 122
Bernet, R 28, 52, 53, 77, 78, 91, 124, Freud, S. 152
227 Gadamer, H.-G. 22
Biran, M. de 15-18 Gale, R 41
Brand, G. 32, 84 Gallagher, S. 182
Breda, H.L. van 175 Gibson, lJ. 59
Brough, J.B. 34, 44, 48, 50, 53 Gurwitsch, A. 120, 122, 125
Bruzina, R 109 Habermas, J. 152,200
Bubner, R 22 Hamilton, W. 68-70
Buckley, P. 132 Hart, J.G. 32, 77, 126, 132
Calvino, I. 160 Hegel, G.W.F. 144, 148, 152, 154,
Carr, D. 188 161, 194
Castaneda, H.N. 71-73,126 Heidegger, M. 26, 60, 77, 78, 84-87,
Chisholm, RM. 70-72 94, 99, 139, 148,
Cho, KK 105, 106 152, 153, 170, 186,
C1aesges, U. 13 187, 204, 214,
Clay, E.R 41 223-236
Cobb-Stevens, R. 132 Held, K. 13, 32, 34, 35, 46, 84, 103,
Conrad-Martius, H. 60 105,208,213
Cramer, K. 22, 23 Henrich, D. 22, 23, 73
Crowell, S. G. 155 Henry, M. 14-17, 23-26, 34, 35, 60,
Davidson, D. 129 65, 68, 75, 76, 78,
Depraz, N. 15, 92 84, 91
Derrida, J. 23, 26, 32, 33, 52-54, 90, Heraclitus, 195,232
151-152, 155-159, Holderlin, F. 224, 233-235
162-164, 227, 230, Husserl, E. 11, 13, 23-28, 33, 34,
231 43-46, 48-50, 52-54,
Descartes, R 18, 119, 131, 156, 158, 60,61,64-67, 71-73,
159, 161 75-79, 83, 84, 87,

89, 92, 95, 99-105, 169-189, 209, 215,

107-114, 119-132, 227
138, 139, 148, 152, Moehling, KA 229
153, 155, 160, 161, Mohanty, 1.N. 74, 210
164, 169-180, 182, Mulligan, K 120
184-189, 195, 197, Nietzsche, F. 159, 161
201-203, 208, 209, O'Neill,1. 176
213-215, 217, Ortega y Gasset, 1. 153
224-226,231,232 Pascal, B. 94
Irigaray, L. 152 Philipse, H. 120
James, W. 41-44, 46, 48, 49,51, 152 Plato, 161, 195,224
Kant, I. 24, 85-87, 139, 152, 161, 198 P1otinus, 68
Kierkegaard, S. 153 Poirier, P. 132
Kiesel, T. 85 Pothast, U. 22, 23
Lacan, 1. 227 Proust, M. 140
Lacoue-Labarthe, P. 231 Prufer, T. 61, 75-77
Landgrebe, L. 12-14, 16,208 Reid, T. 68
Lao Tzu, 105-107 Richardson, W. 223
Leibniz, G.W. 109 . Ricoeur, P. 28, 224
Levi-Strauss, C. 209, 215 Rilke, RM. 70
Levinas, E. 27, 84, 89-91, 94, 145, Rist, 1.M. 68
146,148,152,227 Rosen, S. 48
Lipps, T. 109 Rosenberg,1. 29
Lohmar, D. 78 Russell, B.AW. 120
Lowith, K. 230 Ry1e, G. 233
Lukacs, G. 152 Santayana, G. 152
Lyotard, 1.-F. 151 Sartre, J.-P. 23,26,27,29-31,33,34,
Mabbott, 1. D. 41 49, 70, 73, 84, 93,
Madison, G.B. 172, 174, 176 153,170,227
Malebranche, N. 12 Scheler, M. 152-154
Mall, R.A 210 Schmidt, 1. 173, 174
Marion, 1. -L. 26 Schuhmann, K 120
Marx, K 152, 161 SchUtz, A 215
McIntyre, R. 120 Schwyzer, H.-R 68
Meier, Ch. 196 Sebbah, F.-D. 25
Meinong, A 125 Seebohm, T. 32
Merleau-Ponty, M. 9-12, 16, 17, 23, Smith, B. 120
26,30-33,84, 87-90, Smith, D.W. 120, 126
119, 129, 153, Sokolowski, R 34, 46, 47, 49, 50, 61,

Sommer, M. 124
Spiegelberg, H. 173, 174
Tenge1yi, L. 215
Thomas Aquinas, 91, 92
Tuedio, J. 170
Tugendhat, E. 129, 209
Varela, F. 85, 92, 95
Vermersch, P. 92
Waelhens, A. de 173
Wagner, H. 22
Wa1denfels, B. 208, 210, 211, 215,
Wieh1, R. 22
Wittgenstein, L. 70, 152
Wollstonecraft, M. 161
Wright, G.H. von 129
Wundt, W. 41,46,47, 49
Yamagata, Y. 33,91
Yorck, P. 229
Young, I.M. 173
Zahavi, D. 11,27,53,65, 77
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