Metaphysics as interpretation of conscious life: Some remarks on D. Henrich's and D. Kolak's thinking

Synthese 162 (3):425 - 438 (2008)
Abstract
In this article, I discuss the manner in which Dieter Henrich’s theory of subjectivity has emerged from the fundamental questions of German Idealism, and in what manner and to what extent this theory effects a reinstatement of metaphysics. In so doing, I shall argue that Henrich’s position represents a viable refutation of the attempt of the physicalist explanation of the world to prove the concept of the subject to be superfluous. Henrich’s metaphysics of subjectivity is primarily focused on the ‘ultimate questions’ which also compose “the deep levels of our subjectivity” and concern the factors that should promote stability in our emotional, moral and intellectual life. I argue with Henrich that the indisputable facticity of our conscious life is worthy of our special consideration and interpretation, explanation and clarification, just as the deeper meaning (the individual and collective subconscious structure) hidden beneath the layers of apparent comprehensibility calls for urgent investigation. Such interpretation and elucidation of life’s meaning has a tripartite character: first, it consists of clarification of the totality of human experience together with the realities playing a part in it; second, it builds on the process by which the contents of experience are cognized, and the knowledge thereof which results; thirdly, it embraces the transcendental precondition enabling each and every one of us to consciously lead our lives—for life, in a human sense, does not merely happen to one. Henrich’s metaphysical foundation of subjectivity is compared with Kolak‘s position, according to which individual consciousness is not insular, but integrated into the totality of overall unity that some have called “the Universal Self”, “the Noumenal Self”.
Keywords Subjectivity  Conscious life  Self-consciousness  Personal identity  Universal self  Ultimate questions
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