Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn": The French Debate

Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn": The French Debate

Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn": The French Debate

Phenomenology and the "Theological Turn": The French Debate

Synopsis

Phenomenology and the Theological Turnbrings together the debate over Janicaud's critique of the theological turnrepresented by the works of Emmanuel Levinas, Paul Ricour, Jean-Luc Marion, Jean-Franois Courtine, Jean-Louis Chrtien, and Michel Henry.

Excerpt

Has there been a “turn toward the theological” in recent French phenomenology? Does it make sense to talk of a “theological phenomenology”? in his 1991 essay translated here, Dominique Janicaud affirms that there has indeed been such a turn, and argues against it that “phenomenology and theology make two.” He emphasizes, however, that his essay is not “a synoptic and systematic study of the relations between phenomenology and theology,” but instead a critique of and a polemic against what he takes to be perversions of the phenomenological method for explicit or implicit theological ends. Janicaud takes a stand on which way French philosophy ought to go, and it is not the way of Emmanuel Levinas, Jean–Luc Marion, Jean–Louis Chretien, and Michel Henry.

The purpose of the present introduction is to provide the reader with a context for understanding Janicaud’s essay and to show the way into the controversy its argument has aroused. Janicaud opens his essay by giving its background: “The present essay originated as a report [constat] made at the behest of the International Institute of Philosophy.” a “constat” is also, however, a legal term for the statement of the facts read by a court clerk at the opening of a proceeding. a “constat” reports the constants of a case: etymologically, how it stands with that case. What Janicaud does in what follows is to put Levinas, Marion, Chretien, and Henry on trial. Marion, Chretien, and Henry represent the “second generation” of French phenomenologists, also known as the “new phenomenologists.” Janicaud’s charge, simply put, is that the “new phenomenology” they practice is no longer phenome-

See Dominique Janicaud, “Rendre à nouveau raison?” in La philosophie en
Europe
(Paris: Gallimard, 1993), ed. Raymond Klibanksy and David Pears, pp.
156–93. in the sequel to The Theological Turn, La phénoménologie éclatée (Paris:
Editions de l’éclat, 1998), p. 7, n. 2, Janicaud records that he wrote this report
three years before its publication, that is, in 1990.

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