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To Whom it May Concern:The Question of the Philosophic Interlocutor

  • José Huertas-Jourda
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Part of the Contributions to Phenomenology book series (CTPH, volume 25)

Abstract

§1. The theme of this essay presented itself to me as a consequence of the work I did preparing a computer-copy of Professor Aron Gurwitsch’s “Paris lectures” of 1937 for possible publication. This, the last remaining unpublished major manuscript of Prof. Gurwitsch’s was, needless to say, entirely new to me. And it is this unfamiliarity which led me to my theme, because, in the years intervening since these lectures were given, the tone and quality of philosophic discourse have changed so that the contrast between the text before me and that to which I was perforce accustomed brought home the question: “to whom are these widely different discourses addressed?” I shall attempt, in what follows to give textual excerpts in order to provide an experience of the contrast of which I speak. My aim is not polemical, merely illustrative, and this only in order to formulate more precisely the question with which these texts presented me, with the complementary aim of assessing what answer, if any, the Paris lectures provide to it. Let us begin by turning to what I take to be representative of the manner and quality of philosophic discourse today.

Keywords

Transcendental Phenomenology Impartial Spectator Husserlian Phenomenology Short Excerpt Textual Excerpt 
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References

  1. 1a.
    M. Heidegger, Plato’s Doctrine of Truth, John Barlow (Trans.), in Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology, Vol. III, with introductions by W. Barrett & H. D. Aiken (Eds.) (New York: Random House, 1962, p. 251)Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    M. Heidegger, Platons Lehre der Warheit. Mit einen Brief über den Humanismus, J. Barlow (Trans.), in Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology, Vol. III, with introductions by W. Barrett & H. D. Aiken (Eds.) (Bern: A. Francke, 1947, pp. 5–52).Google Scholar
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    A. Gurwitsch, Esquisse de la phénoménologie génétique, unpublished typescript lectures delivered in Paris, 1937, at the Institut des Sciences et des techniques of the University of Paris; Chapt. 1, Sec. 1, p. 8.Google Scholar
  4. 5a.
    I distinguish with P. Ricoeur, “‘two great schools of interpretation’, the one as recollection of meaning, the other as reduction of the illusions and the lies of consciousness…the school of suspicion…” [P. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, D. Savage (Trans.) (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970, p. 32)]. M. Sauvage goes on to say: [T4] “Suspicion does not come to join itself to meaning recollection, nor to complete it, it impugns, and substitutes itself to it; the reader has nothing to learn from the text, for whatever [the text] may hold of truth, the reader knows better than [the text]. Questioning is replaced by interrogation of the text, in a language that is not its own, and the putting of questions becomes a putting to the question: it is not a question of hearing an utterance but of extorting confessions. We are beginning to be used to this hermeneutical terrorism” [M. Sauvage, Parménide, Ou La Sagesse Impossible (Paris: P. D. Seghers, 1957, p. 9)].Google Scholar
  5. 5b.
    To be sure, the “three masters”of the school of suspicion Ricoeur has in mind are “Marx, Nietzsche, Freud” (P. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay On Interpretation, D. Savage (Trans.) (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970, p. 32), but the characterization given by M. Sauvage seems to me so apt for the tone and attitiude evinced by T1 that I could not resist to quote her here at length.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    M. Heidegger, Letter on Humanism, E. Lohner (Trans.), in Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology, Vol. III, with introductions by W. Barrett & H. D. Aiken (Eds.) (1962, p. 292). However, this disclaimer needs to be placed in the light of the following, which appears further down the page [T 6]: The thinking that runs counter to “values” does not state that all that one declares “values” — “culture,” “art,” “science,” “human dignity,” “world,” and “God” — is worthless. One should rather come to understand that it is exactly through the characterization of something as “value,” that it loses its dignity. This is to say that through the estimation of something as a value, one accepts what is evaluated only as a mere object for the appreciation of man. But what a thing is in its Being is not exhausted by its being an object, much less when the objectivity has the character of value. All valuing, even when it values positively, subjectivises the thing. It does not let beings be, but makes them valuable as the object of its action, (pp. 292–293)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. Gurwitsch, Esquisse de la phénoménologie génétique, unpublished typescript lectures delivered in Paris, 1937, at the Institut des Sciences et des techniques of the University of Paris; Chapt. 1, Sec. 1, p. 3.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Philosophers in Exile: The Correspondence of Alfred Schütz and Aron Gurwitsch, 1939–1959, R. Grathoff (Ed.), J. C. Evans (Trans.), foreword by M. Natanson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989, p. 31).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
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    E. Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy, David Carr (Trans.) (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970, p. 18). Concerning what Husserl may have meant by “the seriousness of a philosophic fate,” the following letters may be profitably consulted: Cf. (1) a letter to Dorion Cairns (21 Mar. 1930) in Edmund Husserl 1859–1959, Phenomenologica, 4 (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1959, pp.283-sqq.). Also refering to what we are considering, albeit in a different manner, are passages in the following letters: (2) to Aron Gurwitsch (1 Oct. 1932). In it, while recognizing in Gurwitsch a like-minded researcher, Husserl also pays hommage to the quality of Gurwitsch’s avocation for philosophy] in A. Gurwitsch, Human Encounters In the Social World, A. Métraux (Ed.), F. Kersten (Trans.) (Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press, 1979, p. x), T 11: I value your ability highly, and if your philosophical ethos will bear up, a significant future is in store for you. The new turn philosophy has taken by means of the discovery of the method and problems of phenomenology needs considerable effort to be worked out in its large design. It requires the exceptional personality which can incorporate into his will to live the radicalism of philosophical questioning and the philosophical integrity of work, and that is indeed truly the spirit of constitutive phenomenology, (my emphasis) (3) To Arnold Metzger (4 Apr. 1919) in Husserl, Shorter Works, P. McCormick and F. Elliston (Eds.) (University of Notre Dame Press, 1981, p. 360).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R. Descartes, Oeuvres Philosophiques, Vol. I, F. Alquié (Ed.) (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 1963, p. 568), my translation. Prof. Alquié comments in a note upon the ironical turn of this phrase and relates it to Kant’s critique of the transcendental illusion. We shall not enter into this here because, ironical or not, this statement marks for us the inauguration of the attitude by which a philosophic author places herself and her interlocutor on an equal footing of both respect and expectation, therewith inaugurating the genuine dialogue inter pares that is modern philosophy.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    M. Heidegger, Letter on Humanism, in Philosophy in the Twentieth Century: An Anthology, Vol. III, with introductions by W. Barrett & H. D. Aiken (Eds.) (New York: Random House, 1962, p. 291), T13: Because in all that has been said I have argued everywhere against what mankind values as high and holy, this philosophy therefore teaches an irresponsible and destructive “nihilism.” For what is more “logical” than that one who negates everywhere what is truly being places himself on the side of the non-being and with that advocates mere nothingness as the meaning of reality? What is happening here? One hears talk of “humanism,” of “logic,” of “values,” of “world,” of “God.” One hears talk of an opposition to these. One knows and takes these things as positive. What is expressed against them, one immediately takes as their negation and thus “negative” in a sense of the destructive. This is a question of what, in a certain part of Sein und Zeit, we called “the phenomenological destruction.” We cannot enter here on a discussion of the appropriatedness (or lack thereof) of this peculiar formulation, but instead refer the reader to Prof. J. C. Evans’ exhaustive and meticulous treatment of it in “Phenomenological Deconstruction: Husserl’s Method of ‘Abbau’,” Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, 21, 1, 1970/Jan.: 14–25. The nuance manifested by the difference in meaning between destruction and deconstruction speaks volumes here as it makes clear the distinction between the seriousness of a systematically carried out “retrospective or “regressive”) enquiry” and what one must recognize as something of a ‘fishing’ expedition.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    A. Gurwitsch, “On Contemporary Nihilism”, in Essays in Memory of Aron Gurwitsch, Lester Embree (Ed.) (Lanham, MD: University Presses of America, 1983, p. 549).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Philosophers in Exile: The Correspondence of Alfred Schütz and Aron Gurwitsch, 1939–1959, R. Grathoff (Ed.), J. C. Evans (Trans.), foreword by M. Natanson (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1989, p. 37), in a letter dated 26 April 1941, Schütz asks Gurwitsch: “Are you still enough of an optimist to believe that phenomenology will save itself out of the ruins of this world—as ‘philosophia aere perennius?’”Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Quoted in J. Huertas-Jourda, The Existentialism of Miguel de Unamuno (Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 1963, p. 55).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Huertas-Jourda
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Advanced Research in PhenomenologyWilfrid Laurier UniversityCanada

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