The Nonpresence of the Living Present: Husserl's Time Manuscripts

Southern Journal of Philosophy 38 (2):221-230 (2000)
Abstract
Derrida suggests in Speech a n d Phenomena that for Husserl subjectivity is constituted and entails no identity with itself at the level of the living present. He further suggests that Husserl’s understanding of absolute subjectivity is “as absolutely present and absolutely self-present being, only in its opposition to the object.”’ In making such claims, Derrida is not giving as much weight to Husserl’s manuscripts from the 1930s as those warrant. The manuscripts may serve to draw Derrida’s claims into question.2 They provide a n interesting look at the question of subjectivity in light of intersubjectivity and present the possibility of conceiving identity and alterity within the streaming living present. The ambiguity and complexity we find in Husserl’s manuscripts in particular suggests that Husserl was prepared t o address absence even at the most fundamental level of phenomenological discovery. In the following, I will explore several of Husserl’s manuscripts in order to indicate how he might escape Derrida’s ~ r i t i q u e . ~ This will raise several questions with respect to the phenomenological subject and its relation to the alterity of the other. Through such an investi- gation, we will see how it is possible to accept Derrida’s criticism of a metaphysics of presence, while recognizing that the criticism does not mean we must reject Husserlian phenom- enology as an example of such.
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