Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Phenomenology Rediviva

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

Phenomenology Rediviva

Article excerpt

Steven Crowell's Normativity and Phenomenology in Husserl and Heidegger (Cambridge, 2013) is something of a manifesto-a wake-up call, a bracing tonic, a much-needed therapy for phenomenology in general and for Heidegger studies in particular, especially in North America. His earlier co-edited collection Transcendental Heidegger (Stanford University Press, 2007) already laid the groundwork for a revolution in Heidegger research, one that just might save that field from the self-congratulatory irrelevance towards which much of it seems to be stumbling. The latest book continues Crowell's efforts to draw connections between Husserl and Heidegger, those apparent antipodes, as it probes questions bearing on normativity. In what follows I focus only on the Heideggerian aspects of the book, and I do so in the form of a propaedeutic to Crowell's original rewriting of phenomenology as it might be (but mostly isn't) practiced by Heideggerians. This is a necessary propaedeutic, I argue, because as Crowell now moves into important issues of normativity, responsibility, ethics, and agency, this book presupposes crucial elements of his radical rewriting of phenomenology, elements that many Heideggerians either overlook or deny-or in any case have yet to take on board. I will thematize only two of those issues, but the two that constitute ground zero of Crowell's robust reinstatement of phenomenological method in Heidegger research: the phenomenological reduction and the transcendental reduction.

Unfortunately much of Heidegger scholarship today has leftphenomenology behind as it cuts its way through the dark thickets of his later texts. Or else it reduces that phenomenology to the quaint simplicity of "letting a thing show itself as it is in itself"-something that is impossible for two reasons. First of all, concerning "in itself": At least since Plotinus and Augustine, the in-itself-ness of an entity has been understood as the thing's noumenal status before an intellectually intuiting νο?ς,1 something that Kant placed decisively beyond the scope of human cognition. Secondly, Being and Time demonstrates that within Heidegger's phenomenology the so-called in-se-ity of a thing is that thing's current pro-me-ity within a specific world of interests and concerns.

The usefulness of a thing is the ontological-categorial determination of that thing as it is "in itself."

In our concernful use of a readily available thing we encounter that thing's specific and self-evident "in-itself-ness."2

In other words, in Heidegger's phenomenology the so-called in-itself-ness of a thing is not its ο?σiα or substance or "being," its stand-alone, unchanging essential structure, but rather its current (jeweilig) and very changeable significance to the person or persons engaged with that thing. Heidegger investigates entities not in terms of their status as out-there-now-real (Aristotle's ?ξω ?ν κα? χωριστoν and ?ξω [τ?ς διανοiας]),3 but only in terms of their Anwesenheit / Bedeutsamkeit, their current meaningfulness to ex-sistence (Dasein) within specific contexts of human concern. The key to all phenomenology, Heidegger's included, is the principle of correlation, and it applies equally to his investigations of propositional knowing-that and practical knowing-how.

But that notwithstanding, some Heidegger scholars (see note 18) claim that he refused the phenomenological reduction and focused not on the correlation between things and the acts and structures that constitute them as meaningful, but on the independent "being" of things in what amounts to a quasi-realist ontology. Throughout the history of Western philosophy, being (ε?ναι, ο?σiα, ε?δος, ?ν?ργεια, esse, Sein, and so on) has always been the proper object of metaphysics. But Heidegger himself confused matters (and misled three generations of scholars) by adopting the shopworn term "Sein" to name the proper object of his own meta-metaphysical thinking. He admitted his mistake in the early 1950s when Professor Tomio Tezuka of the Imperial University of Tokyo confronted him with "the confusion created by your ambiguous use of the word Sein. …

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