Post-cartesian Meditations: An Essay in Dialectical Phenomenology

Post-cartesian Meditations: An Essay in Dialectical Phenomenology

Post-cartesian Meditations: An Essay in Dialectical Phenomenology

Post-cartesian Meditations: An Essay in Dialectical Phenomenology


Although this book derives its inspiration from Descartes' Meditations and Husserl's Cartesian Meditations, it attempts to overcome Cartesianism conceived as individualistic, reflective, apodictic, pre-suppositionless self-recovery.


This is an essay in dialectical phenomenology in the tradition of such thinkers as Hegel and Marx, Husserl and Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre, Ricoeur and Gadamer, Paci and Kosík. the essay consciously situates itself in relation to Descartes' Meditations and Husserl Cartesian Meditations in taking up developments that have since occurred in phenomenology and philosophy generally. What would Descartes and Husserl write now if they were alive?

This essay began as a straightforward exercise in eidetic, descriptive phenomenology. However, because I found that I could not ignore the extent to which such phenomenology depends on and emerges from history, I had to affirm a backward-looking, hermeneutical moment of retrieval that complements the eidetic and descriptive. Moreover, I found not only that phenomenology and history stretch backward but that they stretch forward into the future. I found it necessary, therefore, to affirm a moment of suspicion or critique on a psychological and social level. Retrieval, description, and suspicion corresponding to the three temporal modalities of past, present, and future are essential to a fully adequate phenomenological method.

Such a conclusion seemed less outrageous when I reflected on the history of twentieth-century phenomenology, which has moved from the transcendental eidetics of Husserl through the existential phenomenology of Sartre, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Ricoeur to the hermeneutical phenomenology of Gadamer and the later Ricoeur. One could legitimately say that the history of phenomenology traces a path from suspension, present in Husserl's "bracketing" of all common-sense and scientific claims, to suspicion, present in Freudian, Nietzschean, and Marxian critiques of experience and incorporated by Ricoeur into his conception of phenomenology. This path from suspension to suspicion is the logical, phenomenological path of this book. in tracing such a path phenomenology logically and historically moves away from the abstract, Cartesian subject toward the concrete, historical subject. Phenomenology, though historically indebted to Cartesianism, is essentially oriented to overcoming it.

Such overcoming has several dimensions or aspects. the first is the "triumph of ambiguity," a move away from meaning conceived as abstract, universal, clear, exact, and apodictic to meaning conceived as concrete, pluralistic, contextualistic, implicit, and tentative. Both Merleau-Ponty and the later Wittgenstein make such moves, and it is from reflection on . . .

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