Abstracts

Abstracts

The Trouble with Harmony: Patočka’s early conception of a “philosophy of amplitude” and its relation to “care of the soul”
Anthony Backhouse
(Murdoch University, Perth)

In this paper I focus on an article by Jan Patočka from 1939 entitled “Life in Balance, Life in Amplitude.” Within the article Patočka describes what he sees as a crystallisation of two opposing attitudes underlying modern philosophical conceptions of human life and also the role of philosophy therein. One understanding is characterised by external balance, harmony and practical resolution; the other, an inward and personal ascent to a philosophy of ‘amplitude’ characterised by a consistent questioning and problematising of the human condition. Patočka strongly criticises the moral ideal of ‘life in balance’ which sees human life and community as “being essentially founded harmoniously” and with the correlative philosophical motivation resting in the practical tuning and refinement of this very status. Advocating instead a philosophy of amplitude, which is both a “test of oneself and a protest”, Patočka here places the role of philosophy primarily in the cultivation of the ‘problematic’, ‘extreme’ and ‘unsteady’ currents of human existence that lay dormant beneath the surface of everyday practical affairs. Historically, Patočka sees the origins of such a philosophy of amplitude exemplified in the life of Socrates. My central concern, then, will be to understand Patočka’s thematisation of a philosophy of amplitude with respect to his understanding of the Socratic ‘care of the soul’. A philosophical practice which in dialogues such as the Republic is associated with ‘harmonising’ and ‘attuning’. With this tension in mind, my suggestion will be that the concept of ‘amplitude’ provides an insight into Patočka’s own unique reviving of care of the soul and its relevance today

Patočka’s philosophy of meaning in human life and history
Ivan Chvatík
(Charles University, Prague)

The attempt to add a historical dimension to the notion of Lebenswelt led Jan Patočka ultimately to formulate a phenomenological philosophy of history. In his last essay, he sketches out how the overall meaning of human life became an urgent problem after Kant and sets forth his own concept of the meaning of history, influenced by Heideggerian motifs. I present a short interpretation of his idea and take a critical position towards it.

The Whole Sociality? About Life in the Lifeworld
Lester Embree
(Florida Atlantic University) 

When epochē is performed on the socio-historical lifeworld and it is provisionally purified of its cultural characteristics, do we reach the physical substratum of nature or first the organic substratum? If living nature, then phenomenological  issues include the differences, if any, between plants and animals and the founding and grounding of biological science. And is animism and universal sociality any more preposterous than materialistic objectivism?

Quicquid cogitat. On the Uses and Disadvantages of Subjectivity
Ludger Hagedorn
(Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna)

“Life” is the magic word for decisive currents of modern philosophy. Much of the tone for this debate over the last century and a half has been set by Nietzsche. His early meditation on the “Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life” might be seen as one of its rhetorical starting points. From the very onset until its most recent developments, the reference to the lived experience was also a core issue and main concern of phenomenology. Husserl’s notion of the “Life-World” (or the Natural World in Patočka’s words) bears witness to this basic inspiration of phenomenology. The interpretation of the life-world, however, did find its primary setting within the confines of subjectivity. Despite of being confident of its validity, Patočka’s Natural World turns into a document for the dissolution of this subjectivist approach. Subjectivity itself becomes the ultimate explicans.

Temporality and the Alterity of Space
James Mensch
(Faculty of Humanities, Charles University)

Ever since philosophers began thinking about the nature of time, they have been confronted by paradoxes. A major one concerns the relation of inanimate to animate temporality. Animate temporality is teleological. For us, as for most organic life, the future is primary. Our actions are determined by the future that we want to accomplish. By contrast, the temporality that characterizes non-living beings. proceeds from the past to the present to the future. Rather than being goal oriented, the determining factor here is the past. What has happened determines what happens and this, in turn, determines what will happen. The paradox, then, is that of time supporting two different directions. How is this possible? In this paper, I argue that this paradox arises from our attempting to think of time apart from space. I am going to show that space is the alterity presupposed by time. It provides the common framework that unifies the temporalities of the animate and the inanimat

Ineinandersein and the Constitution of the ‘We-World’ (Wir-Welt) in Edmund Husserl
Dermot Moran
(University College Dublin)
In this paper I want to examine closely Husserl’s concept of the ‘intertwining’ (Verflechtung) of subjectivities in what he called the integrated being ‘within-one-another’ or ‘interpenetration (Ineinandersein) of intersubjective collective life, life lived in the plural (as Hannah Arendt puts it), the constitution of the intersubjective monadology, as Husserl himself puts it – borrowing from Leibniz. Husserl’s conception of ‘we-subjectivity’ (Wir-Subjektivität) will be critically interrogated.

Dasein, Mitsein and Authenticity
Mahon O’Brien
(University College Dublin)

Heidegger’s most explicit consideration of the possibility of authentic inter-subjectivity in Being and Time is rather truncated; this is often seen as a consequence of his failure to successfully accommodate the ‘other’ as part of his account of authentic existence. This ‘failure’ on Heidegger’s part is seen as issuing in an excessively subjectivist account of authenticity. But Heidegger does not preclude (nor indeed is his account inimical to) the possibility of authentic intersubjectivity. Indeed Heidegger openly indicates where his account would intersect with such a project and how it might proceed. In order to see how Heidegger conceives of or at least glosses this, one must unpack and flesh out precisely what he means by being-with and the concomitant notions of leaping-in for and leaping-ahead of. What one begins to see when looking at this skeletal, prospective account of intersubjectivity are a fascinating and compelling series of possibilities for authentic intersubjectivity which fit within the larger theoretical and thematic scheme of Being and Time. Nevertheless, we also see a series of difficulties in Heidegger’s account as a result of the tension which remains between the existential-ontological constitution of Dasein as being-with and the solipsistic characterizations of authentic Dasein.

Traces towards a theory of Intersubjectivity:
On Axel Honneth’s reconstruction of social philosophy

Danielle Petherbridge (University College Dublin)

In his reconstruction of social philosophy, Axel Honneth has developed a comprehensive theory of social action and a multidimensional account of intersubjectivity, which includes a consideration of both ontological and interpersonal dimensions. Through a critical engagement with the traditions of philosophical anthropology, German Idealism, historical materialism and phenomenology, Honneth’s project has been dedicated to reconstructing what might be termed ‘traces’ in a theory of intersubjectivity and to reworking the communicative paradigm by way of a theory of social recognition. Honneth develops what has been described as a two-level account of recognition, firstly, following Hegel by developing an account of three normative, interpersonal forms of recognition basic to subject-formation, and secondly, an ontological conception understood in terms of primary, affective relations to others and the world. In this paper, I consider not only Honneth’s contribution to a rethinking of the intersubjective paradigm in social philosophy but also ways in which his work offers a reflection upon alternative philosophical accounts, specifically identifying points of intersection or indeed difference with the phenomenological tradition.

A world of possibilities: The cosmological world in Jan Patočka
Inês Pereira Rodrigues
(IFP/University of Beira Interior)

For Jan Patočka, the world is not a collection of given entities, but rather a complex of possibilities. The world is an unfolding event. While this conception expresses a criticism directed to Husserl’s overly “ontic” conception of the life-world, in that it is still too focused on what is given as present, Patočka also criticizes Heidegger for still thinking of the complex possibilities from the perspective of an existential project. Despite efforts and affirmations otherwise, Heidegger’s world is still subjectively rooted.
To think of this opening of possibilities as given over to us by the world as its own opening is to conceive of the world cosmologically. Patočka wishes, to a certain extent, to recover the concept of physis. Physis is defined by movement. However, for Aristotle, the movement of physis had a fixed base; its possibility was in an unmoved mover. Patočka’s radicalization of movement with its removal of a stable substrate makes of the new conception of physis an ontological event in and of appearing itself.
Physis as the ontological conception of world includes two kinds of movements: the movement of individuation by which particular entities are separated from the whole and manifest themselves and, secondly, existence’s (Dasein) particular movement of individuation which is a relation of understanding to the world. The movement of existence is the realization of the possibility of understanding of the world, which can, in its most proper possibility, understand it as world, that is, as possibility.

Husserl and Reinach on Social Ontology: Divergences and Convergences
Alessandro Salice
(University of Vienna / University College Dublin)

In his Logical Investigations Edmund Husserl draws a distinction between formal and material ontology. Accordingly, formal ontology deals exclusively with the formal properties of the genus of object, whereas material ontologies explore single species of objects and the essential properties inherent in them. Ideally speaking, single material ontologies are grounded in every – sufficiently general – species of object. Against this background, social ontology can be (and has been) defined in phenomenological terms as that material ontology which investigates the species of social objects and their essential properties.
Husserl himself never developed a social ontology in extenso, the main promoters of this discipline being the philosophers of the Munich/Göttingen phenomenological circles. Their pioneer works converge on the strong anti-reductionist and essentialist approach: there are social objects and these objects instantiate essential properties. Roughly, the types of social objects which find particular consideration within phenomenological research are: (1) social acts; (2) social relations and (3) social groups.
In my talk I shall concentrate on Adolf Reinach’s theory of social acts and social relations. On the one hand, I will make clear how profoundly his investigations contribute to a phenomenologically inspired social ontology. In particular, I will tackle his non-conventionalist approach to promises. On the other, I will show that the results of his investigations decidedly diverge with some main assumptions that Husserl made in the Logical Investigations – especially with regard to the philosophy of language proposed there.

Husserl and Stein on Higher-Order Personality and Community
Thomas Szanto
(University College Dublin)

Scholarly work on Husserl’s transcendental conception of intersubjectivity as well as on Edith Stein’s advancement of the phenomenology of sociality in her theory of empathy abounds. What is less know, however, is that both Husserl and Stein have highly elaborate accounts of various types of communities, social groups, group persons and of collective consciousness. More generally, their works provide a sophisticated social ontology proper. In fact, there is much evidence that it was Husserl who originally coined the very phrase ‘social ontology’, a by now well-established research field within analytic philosophy.
The paper shall address this hitherto rather neglected aspect of their phenomenology. In particular, (1) I will focus on the conceptual trias ‘community’, ‘higher-order personality’, and ‘communal/collective consciousness’, point to the similarities and mark off the divergences in its being operative in Husserl and Stein. (2) I will then point to the merits and shortcomings of their respective accounts. More specifically, I shall argue that while Husserl’s construal of higher-order personality can well accommodate the functional, rational and quasi-personal features of the ‘mental life of communities’, it fails to properly distinguish between group personality and collective consciousness. Stein, on the other hand, carefully delineates these two sides of the ‘communal life’ yet fails to account for personal features of complex communities. (3) Finally, I shall show how a careful ‘synthesis’ of these two classical phenomenological accounts helps to clarify and ultimately provide ammunition for the much-contested group mind thesis, currently embraced by a growing number analytic social ontologists who argue for the existence of groups with practically and rationally integrated intentional centres and, what is more, ‘minds of their own’.

The Body of the Other
Intercorporeality and the Phenomenology of Agoraphobia

Dylan Trigg
(University College Dublin)

How is our experience of the world affected by our experience of others? Such is the question I will be exploring in this paper. I will do so via the agoraphobic condition. In agoraphobia, we are rewarded with an enriched glimpse into the intersubjective formation of the world, and in particular to our embodied experience of that social space. I will be making two key claims. First, intersubjectivity is essentially an issue of intercorporeality, a point I shall explore with recourse to Merleau-Ponty's account of the prepersonal body. The implication of this claim is that evading or withdrawing from the other remains structurally impossible so long as we remain bodily subjects. Second, the necessary relation with others defines our thematic and affective experience of the world. Far from a formal connection with others, the corporeal basis of intersubjectivity means that our lived experience of the world is mediated via our bodily relations with others. In this way, intercorporeality reveals the body as having being dynamically receptive to social interactions with others. Each of these claims is demonstrated via a phenomenological analysis of the agoraphobe's interaction with others. From this analysis, I conclude that our experience of the world is affected by our experience of others precisely because we are in a bodily relation with others. Such a relation is not causally linked, as though first there were a body, then a world, and then a subject that provided a thematic and affective context to that experience. Instead, body, other, and world are each intertwined in a single unity and cannot be considered apart.

Heretical Reading of Arendt: The Space of Thinking
Lubica Učník
(Murdoch University, Perth)

In this paper, I will briefly sketch Arendt’s phenomenological analysis of the human condition defined by her early stress on the vita activa, as well as her later, vita contemplativa, in order to suggest that her project is problematic. At the heart of Arendt’s project is the problem of time: the time in her analysis of thinking as nunc stans within the vita contemplativa as well as the historical time in her analysis of the vita activa. I will argue that the problematic nature of her analyses follows from her appropriation of Heidegger’s phenomenological project without also accepting Husserl’s analyses of inner time consciousness that Heidegger presupposes. To conclude, I will briefly point towards Patočka’s project to show a different way to address human existence.

The Elder Zosima's Secret: Patočka's Envisioned Community of ‘Active Love’ in The Brothers Karamazov
Nicolas de Warren
(KU Leuven, Belgium)

In one of his last writings (1976), an essay on the philosophy of religion in Masaryk, Patocka remarks that the lessons from the life of the Elder Zosima in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov may provide essential clues for responding to the contemporary crisis of Christianity and modern European Nihilism. What is striking about Patocka's pronouncement is his contention that this central episode in Dostoyevsky's novel promises a renewed consideration of religion (Christianity) and our relation to "being" in a manner that is both more radical and promising than Heidegger's quest for the meaning of "being." Patocka's own understanding of the Elder Zosima's wisdom remains, however, only implied in this essay. Much as with Alyosha in the presence of the Elder Zosima's stories, Patocka keeps silent in the presence of his own suggestion. What did Patocka understand as Elder's Zosima's philosophical secret? How does this implicit wisdom relate to the secret of Christianity discussed by Patocka in his Heretical Essays? In this paper, I shall critically explore the possible meanings of Patocka's insight by way of an interpretation of The Brothers Karamazov centered on the Elder Zosima's notion of "active love," the problem of evil and the resurrection of community with Alyosha's "The Speech at the Stone." 

The Thinking Brain? A Phenomenological Critique
Anita Williams
(Murdoch University, Perth)

The claim that we need no more than a brain to think covers over our engagement in the life-world and is fast becoming a modern truism. Yet, once reflected upon, the claim that the brain thinks becomes decidedly odd. Descartes claim that ‘I think therefore I am’ is fundamental to modern thought because it provides the self-sufficient ground of modern knowledge. Yet, if thinking depends upon neurons in the brain, then thinking is not a self-sufficient ground of knowledge. The absurdity at the heart of this claim echoes Husserl’s critique of psychologism and his elucidation of the modern problem of knowledge. Given the absurdity inherent in the claim that thinking is a result of neurons, how can we make sense of the growing acceptance of this claim? In this paper, in order to provide a preliminary answer to this question, I will explicate Heidegger’s claim that modern science is mathematical in the sense that it prefigures nature as “a uniformity of all bodies according to relations of space, time, and motion”. On this view, it is not surprising that thinking is explained in terms of the relations between neurons and the motion of electricity in the brain – it is not a fact ‘discovered’ by modern science, but an extension of the modern scientific conception of nature. The push to explain thinking according to the mathematical conception of nature is, not only problematic for modern knowledge, but also excludes from purview meaningful questions concerning the life-world.