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The Problem of Difference

The Problem of Difference: Phenomenology and Poststructuralism

Jeffrey A. Bell
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 306
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  • Book Info
    The Problem of Difference
    Book Description:

    Jeffrey A. Bell here presents a finely constructed survey of the contemporary continental philosophers, focusing on how they have dealt with the problem of difference.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5977-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction: The Problem of Difference
    (pp. 3-14)

    In the history of philosophy, one finds many examples of a fundamental distinction forming the cornerstone of a philosophical theory. There is Plato’s distinction between knowledge (reality) and opinion (appearance); Aristotle’s form/matter distinction; Descartes’s mind/body distinction; and Kant’sa priori/a posterioridistinction. But the challenge of these theories, the problem that calls for the creativity and intellectual inventiveness of these thinkers, is to show how the two sides of the distinction are nevertheless related to and dependent upon each other. This is what I call the ‘problem of difference,’ and it is this problem which accounts for the most interesting...


    • I. The Linguistic and Perceptual Models
      (pp. 17-48)

      Husserl’s theory of truth is simultaneously a theory of objectivity – the theories are mutually interdependent. In this respect Husserl falls within the tradition of the natural sciences: truth is not relative to what each person might take it to be in a given circumstance, but is conditioned by the possibility that, given thesamecircumstances, it will be taken as thesametruth. It is this condition, that truth be grasped as the same by a multiplicity of scientists, which justifies both a scientific truth and its objectivity – they are mutually interdependent. Husserl, however, goes to great lengths...

    • II. The Perceptual Noema
      (pp. 49-88)

      In our discussions in chapter I, I have highlighted what Husserl believes to be an irreducible difference, a difference he continued to accept despite certain problematic consequences which he attempts to clarify through his analysis of time-consciousness. To illustrate this difference, Husserl used what we called the ‘linguistic’ and ‘perceptual’ models. By means of the linguistic model, Husserl demonstrates that what is experienced in attending to an expression is the sense or meaning of this expression, not the physical sounds or marks which carry this meaning. The experienced meaning (object) is given through physical means, but the meaning itself is...


    • III. The Middle Path
      (pp. 91-105)

      Husserl’s philosophic career was dominated, as he himself admits, by the attempt to elaborate the correlation between experienced objects and the manner in which these objects are given as intended objects.¹ For example, in speech one experiences the meanings that are intended, the sense of what is being said, but this experienced object (sense) depends upon its being given in some manner – that is, being given in an act of expression which intends this sense. Husserl will thus argue for what he believes to be a fundamental and irreducible difference between signitive acts (i.e., acts which intend or give...

    • IV. From Psychology to Phenomenology
      (pp. 106-123)

      Through a study of behaviour, Merleau-Ponty grapples with many of the problems we have been discussing. The two problems that are of particular concern for us are the problem of the other, or that independent object which is the condition for the fulfilment of objective knowledge (e.g., the other as the condition for objectivity, for the intersubjective objectivity of the scientific method), and the problem of the epistemological infinite regress, the regress which emerged in Husserl’s thought as he attempted to resolve the first problem. In chapter I, for example, we saw that Husserl’s efforts to explain the coincidence of...

    • V. Merleau-Ponty and the Transcendental Tradition
      (pp. 124-143)

      As we concluded our discussion of Merleau-Ponty’s first major work,The Structure of Behavior, we saw that Merleau-Ponty had not adequately accounted for the other, for the otherasOther. In order to give such an accounting, what was needed was an analysis of that event which made possible the perception of the other as Other; or, to put it another way, an analysis of that event whereby there is an experience of phenomena as phenomena. That is, Merleau-Ponty needed to do phenomenology.

      With Merleau-Ponty’s move to phenomenology, the nature of this event became clearer – it is perception itself...

    • VI. The Social Self
      (pp. 144-163)

      A theme that will remain constant throughout the period between the publication ofThe Phenomenology of Perceptionand Merleau-Ponty’s work onThe Visible and the Invisibleis that of paradox. For example, Merleau-Ponty will continue to claim that the fundamental identity and condition of thought is revealed only through difference, through the conditioned; or, as he also puts it, the originator is manifest only in the originated. And it was this paradox that led us, in chapter V, to say that we are condemned to difference and ambiguity. It seems we should also say, following Merleau-Ponty’s claim that the infinite...

    • VII. Untaming the Flesh
      (pp. 164-180)

      In his unfinished and posthumously published book,The Visible and the Invisible, Merleau-Ponty was unfortunately not able to address adequately many aspects of the ontological position he was working through. Merleau-Ponty anticipated writing long sections on Nature and Logos (the Logos of Being), but, when he died, he left behind only some notes which merely hint at what he might have said. However, he was able to express with some thoroughness a number of notions that allow us to understand more clearly the turn his thought took from his earlier phenomenological position. In particular, these notions elucidate the sense in...


    • VIII. Cinema Paradoxa
      (pp. 183-222)

      As we have seen, Merleau-Ponty ultimately turns towards an ontological grounding of paradox. That is, he argues that the paradox is a paradox of Being, a characteristic or trait of Being. It is this grounding of the paradox in Being that emerges as a pre-established harmony, as the return of Being to itself, or as the leaving of oneself that is a return to oneself. It is therefore not paradox, but the identity of Being, which conditions the absence that is presence, the leaving that is a return, and the visible that is invisible. In other words, paradox is understood...

  8. Conclusion: The Search for ‘Rosebud’
    (pp. 223-240)

    What is ‘rosebud’? What does ‘rosebud’ mean? With Kane’s dying word ‘rosebud,’ these two questions surface. The first question implies that there is some thing, person, or state of affairs in the world which the word ‘rosebud’ denotes. To answer this question, therefore, one needs simply to determine that which is being referred to or denoted. This is what the reporters proceed to do; however, even though ‘rosebud’ is sought as an objective fact, it is also thought to be a special fact, one that will give meaning to the whole of Kane’s life, or tell us what Kane’s life...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 241-278)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-286)
  11. Index
    (pp. 287-294)