Phenomenology or Deconstruction? The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy

Phenomenology or Deconstruction? The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy

Phenomenology or Deconstruction? The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy

Phenomenology or Deconstruction? The Question of Ontology in Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricoeur and Jean-Luc Nancy

Synopsis

Phenomenology or Deconstruction? challenges traditional understandings of the relationship between phenomenology and deconstruction through new readings of the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Paul Ricur and Jean-Luc Nancy. A constant dialogue with Jacques Derrida's engagement with phenomenological themes provides the impetus to establishing a new understanding of 'being' and 'presence' that exposes significant blindspots inherent in traditional readings of both phenomenology and deconstruction. In reproducing neither a stock phenomenological reaction to deconstruction nor the routine deconstructive reading of phenomenology, Christopher Watkin provides a fresh assessment of the possibilities for the future of phenomenology, along with a new reading of the deconstructive legacy. Through detailed studies of the philosophy of Merleau-Ponty, Ricur and Nancy, he shows how a phenomenological tradition much wider and richer than Husserlian or Heideggerean thought alone can take account of Derrida's critique of ontology and yet still hold a commitment to the ontological.
This new reading of being and presence fundamentally re-draws our understanding of the relation of deconstruction and phenomenology, and provides the first sustained discussion of the possibilities and problems for any future 'deconstructive phenomenology'.

Excerpt

As a philosophical movement at the forefront of contemporary thought, phenomenology might be thought to have had its day. Since Edmund Husserl recast the term in his 1901 Logische Untersuchungen from earlier Hegelian and Kantian usage, it has come to be employed mainly as a yardstick against which to size up other features in the contemporary philosophical landscape, features that are themselves considered to be post-phenomenological. Terms such as ‘intuition’ and ‘reduction’ retain the faint nostalgic glow of a simpler age, when meaning was given to consciousness and the philosopher could go about her business secure in the knowledge that, if certain rigorous procedures were followed, the world and its contents would inexorably surrender their treasures to consciousness. Husserl himself is now very much a philosopher's philosopher, studied less in his own right and more as a figure whom it is necessary to have encountered if one is to grapple with more recent thinkers. Furthermore, the clutch of philosophers whose thought could be classed as ‘phenomenological’ – Heidegger, Sartre and MerleauPonty, to complete the quartet chosen for a recent multi-volume study – have, if not faded from view, then at least been eclipsed by the shooting stars of Foucault, Deleuze, Lacan and, above all, given his close engagement with phenomenological themes, Derrida, whose decisive contributions still dictate the terms of the debate.

Of all the claims to have upset the phenomenological applecart, Derridean deconstruction is hailed with the greatest fanfare. Studying phenomenology today is more often than not a means to the end of coming to grips with Derrida's reading of Husserl in early works such as his introduction to Husserl's Origin of Geometry, La Voix et le phénomène and L'Écriture et la différence. The subtitle of a recent introduction to Derrida's thought, From Phenomenology to Ethics, rather makes the point. Phenomenology is a staging post en route to . . .

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