Phenomenology and Metaphysics
Many of Heidegger’s writings in the decade after Sein und Zeit have the word “metaphysics” in their title; just think of Was ist Metaphysik, Kant und das Problem der Metaphysik, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik, and Einfiihrung in die Metaphysik. Some have even dubbed this period Heidegger’s “metaphysical decade”, and suggested that Heidegger turned to the language of metaphysics in order to complete the phenomenological project of Sein und Zeit (Crowell 2001, 225, 229). Later on, of course, Heidegger became far more critical towards metaphysics, and conceived of it as being characterized by a forgetfulness of Being. Metaphy sics investigates beings, it does not concern itself with Being qua Being (Heidegger 1978, 362). To put it differently, metaphysics consistently thinks of Being as a kind of ontic entity. This is why Heidegger eventually described metaphysics as a thinking of identity, that is, as a thinking that seeks to annul the ontological difference between Being and beings. Either metaphysics understands Being as the totality of beings, or (more frequently) Being is thought of as the ground of beings (be it in the form of logos, idea, energeia, substantiality, subjectivity, will, etc.). But to think of Being as the ground of beings is, according to Heidegger, still to think of it as something ontic, namely as the highest (or most fundamental) being. The clearest example of this can be found in the classical proofs of the existence of God, which is one of the reasons why Heidegger characterized metaphysics as onto-thea-logical. Ultimately, Heidegger would emphasize the need for substituting the conceptual apparatus of metaphysics for a more. authentic type of thinking (Heidegger 1978, 312, 315, 363).
In Totalité et infini, Levinas criticizes Heideggerian phenomenology for remaining too subservient to ontology. For Levinas, ontology is a totalizing enterprise. It is a philosophy of power characterized by a relentless movement of absorption and reduction. It absorbs the foreign and different into the familiar and identical. It reduces the Other to the Same (Lévinas 1990, 33, 38). In contrast, metaphysics is defined as an openness to Otherness, as an acknowledgment of the infinite. In fact, metaphysics is nothing but a movement of transcendence, namely the very relation to the absolute Other (Lévinas 1990, 32, 44). Given this alternative between ontology and metaphysics, the following question then arises: what has priority? Is, as Heidegger claims, the relation to the Other relative to an understanding of Being, or is it rather the relation to the Other that conditions the understanding of Being? In Totalité et infini, Levinas’ answer is unequivocal: “Ontology presupposes metaphysics” (Lévinas 1990, 39).
In the conclusion of L’être et le néant, Sartre discusses the metaphysical implications of his preceding analyses and defines metaphysics as “the study of individual processes which have given birth to this world as a concrete and particular totality. In this sense metaphysics is to ontology as history is to sociology” (Sartre 1943, 683). Whereas ontology describes the structure of a being, metaphysics seeks to explain an event, namely the upsurge of the foritself (Sartre 1943, 685).
As for Derrida, he, of course, is known for having argued that phenomenology, in spite of itself, remains a kind of metaphysics (Derrida 1972, 187). Despite its attempt at a new beginning, phenomenology uncritically took over a series of metaphysical core concepts and categories, and thereby remained caught in the very frame of thought that it sought to overcome. Among these concepts, the notion of presence looms large. Traditional metaphysics defined Being as identity in presence. Although Husserlian phenomenology attempted to move beyond this framework, it never really succeeded, but remained convinced that identity is more basic than difference, proximity more original than distance, and presence prior to every kind of absence and negativity (Derrida 1972, 36–37). This is not only clear from its use of the notion of evidence—the measure of truth and validity—which is defined as intuitive self-givenness, but also from its understanding of transcendental subjectivity, which (according to Derrida) is conceived of as pure self-presence, as a self-sufficient immanence, purified from all types of exteriority (Derrida 1972, 187, 207, 1967a, 9).1 As for the Heideggerian destruction of metaphysics, Derrida also has his doubts: “But all these destructive discourses and all their analogues are trapped in a kind of circle. This circle is unique. It describes the form of the relation between the history of metaphysics and the destruction of the history of metaphysics. There is no sense in doing without the concepts of metaphysics in order to shake metaphysics. We have no language—no syntax and no lexicon—which is foreign to this history; we can pronounce not a single destructive proposition that has not already had to slip into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations of precisely what it seeks to contest” (Derrida 1967b, 412). Ultimately, we will have to content ourselves with a perpetual problemati sation. A new beginning is not possible.
KeywordsIntentional Object Transcendental Phenomenology Metaphysical Question Transcendental Idealism Husserlian Phenomenology
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Benoist, J.: Phénoménologie, sémantique, ontologie. Paris: PUF, 1997.Google Scholar
- Carr, D.: The Paradox of Subjectivity: The Self in the Transcendental Tradition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
- Crowell, S.: Husserl, Heidegger and the Space of Meaning. Evanston: Northwestern, 2001.Google Scholar
- Derrida, J.: La voix et le phénomène. Paris: PUF, 1967a.Google Scholar
- Derrida, J.: L’écriture et la différence. Paris: Les éditions de minuit, 1967b; Writing and Difference, trans. by A. Bass. London: Routledge, 1978.Google Scholar
- Derrida, J.: Marges de la philosophie. Paris: Les éditions de minuit, 1972.Google Scholar
- Dreyfus, H.L.: “Husserl’s Perceptual Noema.” In H.L. Dreyfus & H. Hall (eds.): Husserl, Intentionality and Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982, 97–123.Google Scholar
- Fink, E.: “Das Problem der Phänomenologie Edmund Husserls.” Revue International de Philosophie) 1, 1939, 226–270.Google Scholar
- Fink, E.: VI. Cartesianische Meditation I. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1988.Google Scholar
- Gadamer, H.-G.: “Die phänomenologische Bewegung.” Kleine Schriften III. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1972, 150–189.Google Scholar
- Hart, J.G.: “A Precis of an Husserlian Philosophical Theology.” In S. Laycock & J. Hart (eds.): Essays in Philosophical Theology. Albany: SUNY Press, 1986, 89–168.Google Scholar
- Heidegger, M.: Wegmarken. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1978.Google Scholar
- Heidegger, M.: Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs. Gesamtausgabe Band 20. Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1979.Google Scholar
- Heidegger, M.: Sein und Zeit. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 1986.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Cartesianische Meditationen und Pariser Vorträge. Husserliana I. Ed. by S. Strasser. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973; The Paris Lectures, trans. by P. Koestenbaum. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie I. Husserliana III,1–2. Ed. by K. Schuhmann. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1976; Ideas Pertaining to a Pure Phenomenology and to a Phénoménological Philosophy. First Book. General Introduction to a Pure Phenomenology, trans. by F. Kersten. The Hague; Martinus Nijhoff, 1982.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie III. Husserliana V. Ed. by M. Biemel. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1971.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie. Husserliana VI. Ed. by W. Biemel. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Erste Philosophie II (1923-24). Husserliana VIII. Ed. by R. Boehm. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1959.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Phänomenologische Psychologie. Husserliana IX. Ed. by W. Biemel. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962; Psychological and Transcendental Phenomenology and the Confrontation with Heidegger (1927-1931). Ed. and trans. by T. Sheehan & R. E. Palmer. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Logische Untersuchungen. Erster Band. Prolegomena zur reinen Logik. Husserliana XVIII. Ed. by E. Holenstein. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Logische Untersuchungen II. Husserliana XIX/1-2. Ed. by U. Panzer. Den Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984.Google Scholar
- Husserl, E.: Einleitung in die Logik und Erkenntnistheorie. Vorlesungen 1906/07. Husserliana XXIV. Ed. U. Melle. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1984.Google Scholar
- Landgrebe, L.: Der Weg der Phänomenologie. Das Problem der ursprünglichen Erfahrung. Gütersloh: Gerd Mohn, 1963.Google Scholar
- Lévinas, E.: Totalité et infini. Paris: Livre de poche, 1990.Google Scholar
- Sartre, J.-P.: L’être et le néant. Paris: Tel Gallimard, 1943/1976; Being and Nothingness, trans. by H.E. Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956.Google Scholar
- McDowell, J.: Mind and World. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
- Mclntyre, R. “Intending and Referring.” In H.L. Dreyfus & H. Hall (eds.): Husserl, lntentionality and Cognitive Science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982, 215–231.Google Scholar
- Zahavi, D.: Self-Awareness and Alterity. A Phenomenological Investigation. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
- Zahavi, D.: “Metaphysical Neutrality in Logical Investigations.” In D. Zahavi & F. Stjernfelt (eds.): One Hundred Years of Phenomenology. Husserl’s Logical Investigations Revisited. Phaenomenologica 164. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, 93–108.Google Scholar
- Zahavi, D.: Husserl’s Phenomenology. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.Google Scholar