A rejection of the notion of substance, an emphasis on intraworldly experience and an incorporation of ideas from modern biology are just three of the distinctive features of Alfred North Whitehead’s process metaphysics or philosophy of organism. The last two features give his scheme a heavily naturalistic tinge, despite his positing of eternal objects or universal forms of definiteness, which - together with subjective aims or final causes - are instantiated in a divinity prior to worldly realization.1 Such a naturalism (...) might seem to preclude largely a comparison with the work of Jacques Derrida, with other differences between the two being left aside. Derrida began his career as a student of phenomenology and structuralism, and by far the greater number of his philosophical writings has been devoted to thinkers who are explicitly post-Kantian. Yet this does not mean that he is a transcendental philosopher who abandons experience and the empirical world in favour of language and consciousness. In this paper I argue that Derrida’s work - which has been shown to be heavily informed by systems theory and evolutionary biology - is not in fact shut off from the extra-conscious and extra-linguistic dimensions of actuality. I also suggest that his deconstructive approach is strikingly similar to Whitehead’s in rejecting essentialism, namely, the idea of fixed and determined essences that underlie accidental properties and changes. From a Derridean perspective, one might even see Whitehead’s alternative as insufficiently radical, since it seems to posit not just eternal objects and God, but a cosmology in which the most fundamental beings or “actual entities” undergo no essential changes or mutations in their respective histories. It is arguable, however, that the latter conclusion would only be consequent on a restrictive interpretation of the pathways of process possible in Whitehead’s metaphysics.. (shrink)
An attempt to compare the approaches of Alfred North Whitehead and Jacques Derrida might appear extremely unrewarding from the outset. Derrida has often been hailed (and reviled) as a figure who rejects many key concepts in the philosophical lexicon, amongst them those of subjectivity, rationality, creativity and progress. Whitehead, on the other hand, may seem to hold uncritically to the notion of a metaphysical system in which every element of our experience can be interpreted, so that everything of which we (...) are conscious ‘shall have the character of a particular instance of the general scheme’.1 In our modern world, furthermore, Whitehead argues that it is the business of philosophers and students and practical men ‘to recreate and re-enact a vision of the world...penetrated through and through with unflinching rationality’.2 In this article I wish to show that Whitehead’s understanding of philosophy converges with Derrida’s in certain significant respects, and that this clearly illustrated when we relate both of them to Edmund Husserl. I will begin with brief outlines of Derrida’s account of the philosophical tradition, of his deconstruction or delimitation of subjectivity, and of the way in which his understanding of philosophical openness is influenced by the work of Husserl. I will then proceed to show how many of the ideas found in Whitehead’s metaphysics resemble those of Derrida. Other aspects of this metaphysics would certainly be inimical to the latter, but need not be seen as fixed in stone. This is recognized by Whitehead himself, who has a fallibilistic and revisionary understanding of the philosophical enterprise that is akin to Husserl and Derrida. My conclusion, however, is that Whitehead is closer to Husserl in concentrating on the reconstructive side of philosophy, a side which Derrida has ultimately neglected. (shrink)
In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens gives us an account of Mrs. Gargery going into a rage that is as remarkable for its brevity as for its insight. ‘I must remark of my sister,’ says Pip, ‘that passion was no excuse for her, because it is undeniable that instead of lapsing into passion, she consciously and deliberately took extraordinary pains to force herself into it, and became blindly furious by regular stages.’1 What is remarkable about this passage is its descriptive richness, (...) that way it shows how many of our emotional reactions involve something more than spontaneity in their actual performance. All this we glean readily and grasp as true from being with others; the genius of Dickens is to carry what is so close to us unto the page. I suspect that in his own wry manner, Husserl too would have liked this passage. He held out for a method of describing concrete lived phenomena that would neither underinterpret nor over-interpret. Such a description would avoid the twin and complementary sins of stripping meaning away from the appearances and putting strangeness into them. Presupposing too little is just as erroneous as too much, and Husserl was acutely aware that ‘in the apprehension of a man very much is already included.’2 When the descriptive imperative is to the fore, Husserl’s studies of the other are notable for their rejection of psychophysical dualism. But when the Cartesian exclusion of contingent certainty triumphs, he adopts a methodological dualism that decomposes the ordinary and unitary experience of the Other. The criticisms of his Cartesian derivation the Other are by now quite familiar, and I will only rehearse them where they intersect with the main theses of this paper. What I would first like to establish is that Husserl’s Cartesian approach to the Other - beginning in Logical Investigations and culminating in the derivation of the alter ego from the monadic sphere of ownness - clashes with the account of bracketing and reduction in Ideas I.. (shrink)
Comparatively recent scholarship suggests that George Berkeley cannot be seen solely or even chiefly as a British empiricist who is reacting to the materialistic implications of Locke’s Essay on Human Understanding. C.J. McCracken has shown how Berkeley is influenced by Malebranche’s theses concerning the dependence of bodies on God, without himself doubting the evidence of the senses. McCracken also shows how Berkeley reconstructs and reapplies Malebranche’s fideism.1 Harry Bracken has argued, most notably, that Berkeley espouses certain theses that set him (...) out as an Irish Cartesian. Like Descartes, he takes the challenge of scepticism with regard to sense-experience seriously. He sees experience in general as made up of perceivers and the perceived, with the latter being ontologically dependent on minds. Minds are active and creative substances. They cannot be understood in materialist terms, and are in fact immaterial and immortal. The ultimate mind is God’s, and the divine intellect is responsible for the totality of ideas and notions in their existence, content and structure.2 In this essay I want to suggest, following my title, that Berkeley can also be regarded as a proto-phenomenologist. The term phenomenology will be understood chiefly, though not exclusively, in terms of the approach of Edmund Husserl. It has been argued in at least one study that Husserl’s transcendental philosophy is proximate to Berkeley’s supposed subjective idealism, for all of Husserl’s protestations to the contrary.3 A parallel is only drawn between the two at Berkeley’s expense. What I hope to show, by contrast, are the positive ways in which he anticipates ideas propounded by Husserl and other phenomenologists. In so doing I do not wish to fall into a hasty assimilation of the more recent thinkers to the earlier one, for there remain serious differences between them, most notably in the tasks they set themselves. (shrink)
In his seminal work Moral Notions , Julius Kovesi presents a novel account of concept formation. At the heart of this account is a distinction between what he terms the material element and the formal element of concepts. This paper elucidates his distinction in detail and contrasts it with other distinctions such as form-matter, universal-particular, genus-difference, necessary-sufficient, and open texture-closed texture. We situate Kovesi’s distinction within his general philosophical method, outlining his views on concept formation in general and explain how (...) his theory of concept formation is applied in moral philosophy. (shrink)
Merleau-Ponty’s explication of concrete or practical movement by way of the Schneider case could be read as ending up close to automatism, neglecting its flexibility and plasticity in the face of obstacles. It can be contended that he already goes off course in his explication of Schneider’s condition. Rasmus Jensen has argued that he assimilates a normal person’s motor intentionality to the patient’s, thereby generating a vacuity problem. I argue that Schneider’s difficulties with certain movements point to a means of (...) broadening Merleau-Ponty’s account of concrete movement, one that he broaches without exploiting. What could do more work is his recognition of a transposition capacity - and hence of a plasticity - in the healthy body’s skill schema. As well as avoiding vacuity, he could forestall the appearance of a dichotomy between practical coping and creativity. (shrink)
Richard Rorty’s muscular liberalism and pragmatic intolerance draw sustenance from Nietzsche as well as from the earlier American pragmatists. We set out the ways in which Rorty adopts and adapts their ideas. We go on to suggest that the cultural ethnocentrism that he advocates carries certain risks, and can be divorced all too easily from his own qualifications, particularly in the post-9-11 scenario. It is our contention that Isaiah Berlin’s case for a pluralist liberalism warrants serious consideration as an alternative.
Husserl’s Logical Investigations has undergone explicitly conceptualist and non-conceptualist interpretations. For Richard Cobb-Stevens, he has extended understanding into the domain of sensuous intuition, leaving no simple perceptions that are actually separated from higher-level understanding. According to Kevin Mulligan, Husserl does in fact sunder nominal and propositional seeing from the simple or straightforward—and yet interpretative—seeing of particulars. To see simply is not to exercise an individual meaning or a general concept. Arguing that Logical Investigations provides evidence for both views, I endeavour (...) to show that the account of perceptual consciousness in Husserl’s subsequent work is far more clear and consistent. It is one of growing beyond the situation portrayed by Mulligan and into the one explicated by Cobb-Stevens. Though they are notionally separable, pre-conceptual syntheses at the passive and noematic levels are inevitably interwoven with conceptual and categorial articulations in a developed consciousness. (shrink)
In 1979, neuroscientists Libet, Wright, Feinstein and Pearl introduced the “delay-and-antedating” hypothesis/paradox based on the results of an on-going series of experiments dating back to 1964 that measured the neural adequacy [brain wave activity] of “conscious sensory experience”. What is fascinating about the results of this experiment is the implication, especially when considered in the light of Merleau-Ponty’s notions of “intentionality” and the “pre-reflective life of human motility”, that the body, and hence not solely the mind, is a thinking thing. (...) The experiments and conclusions of Libet et al. have attracted considerable academic attention and have been used in the development of psychological theories on automotivism and the adaptive unconscious. Moreover, they have engendered a series of important considerations in respect of the question of free will. This paper outlines the connections between the findings of Libet et al. and Merleau-Ponty’s ontology as presented in the Phenomenology of Perception (1945/1962). It is not our intention to argue that the former amounts to new wine in old bottles, but rather to show counterfactually (since we offer no new scientific data and assume the conclusions of the experiments) that Merleau-Ponty’s ontology provides a theoretical framework which explains the experimental data obtained by Libet et al., and provides further speculative confirmation of the work stemming from neuro-physical research and emerging theories on the adaptive unconscious. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology , Volume 7, Edition 1 May 2007. (shrink)
This paper argues that human motility is essentially bound up in a pre-reflective being-in-the-world, and that contemporary science seems to bear out some of Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological explorations in this area.
Locke considers miracles to be crucial in establishing the credibility and reasonableness of Christian faith and revelation. The performance of miracles, he argues, is vital in establishing the “credit of the proposer” who makes any claim to providing a divine revelation. He accords reason a pivotal role in distinguishing spurious from genuine claims to divine revelation, including miracles. According to Locke, genuine miracles contain the hallmark of the divine such that pretend revelations become intuitively obvious. This paper argues that serious (...) tensions exist in Locke’s position regarding miracles, which impact on the reasonableness of the assent to Christianity which he presumes they provide. (shrink)
The Phenomenology Reader is the first comprehensive anthology of classic writings from phenomenology's major seminal thinkers. The carefully selected readings chart phenomenology's most famous thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Derrida as well as less well known figures such as Stein and Scheler. Each author and their writings is introduced and placed in philosophical context by the editors.
A major charge levelled against Derrida is that of textual idealism - he effectively closes his deconstructive approach off from the world of experience, the result being that it is incapable of being coherently applied to practical questions of ethics and politics. I argue that Derrida's writings on experience can in fact be reconstructed as an empirical realism in the Husserlian sense. I begin by outlining in very broad strokes Husserl's account of perception and his empirical realism. I then set (...) out some of the major criticisms of Derrida proffered by Dallas Willard and Peter Dews and counter them with evidence from Derrida's texts themselves. I conclude by presenting his account as a variant of Husserl's, which does not discernibly develop on or depart from the latter. Key Words: arche-writing • aspect • differance • empirical realism • horizon • middle voice • noema • representation • revisability • signification • signified • textuality • trace. (shrink)