Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida

Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Futurity in Phenomenology: Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida
    Book Description:

    From Husserl's account of protention to the recent turn to eschatology in "theological" phenomenology, the future has always been a key aspect of phenomenological theories of time. This book offers the first sustained reflection on the significance of futurity for the phenomenological method itself. In tracing the development of this theme, the author shows that only a proper understanding of the two-fold nature of the future (as constitution and as openness) can clarify the way in which phenomenology brings the subject and the world together. Futurity therefore points us to the centrality of the promise for phenomenology, recasting phenomenology as a promissory discipline. Clearly written and carefully argued, this book provides fresh insight into the phenomenological provenance of the "theological" turn and the phenomenological conclusions of Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida. Closely examining the themes of protention, eschatology, and the messianic, it will be essential reading for anyone interested in phenomenology, philosophy of religion, deconstruction, or philosophical theology.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5047-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction: Futurity and Phenomenology
    (pp. 1-10)

    The thesis of this book is that the very understanding of phenomenology itself is at stake in the question of futurity in phenomenology. If this claim seems overstated, this is because the true centrality of the future to the project of phenomenology has not yet been elaborated. Once a positive account of the future in phenomenology is clearly demonstrated, a positive account of phenomenology also develops. A thorough understanding of the methodological significance of the future in phenomenology reveals that phenomenology is, at its core, an essentially promissory discipline.

    But before we can make sense of this claim, we must...

  7. Part I: Futurity in the Constitution of Transcendental Subjectivity
    • 1 Protention as More than Inverse Retention
      (pp. 13-27)

      To many philosophers, phenomenology cannot be understood apart from the activity of a transcendental, constituting subject. This notion of phenomenology as transcendental subjective constitution is elaborated most significantly in the work of Husserl, who makes the constitution of the internal time of the subject one of the most basic (and therefore simultaneously the most important and most difficult) of phenomenological problems. In his lectures on time-consciousness, Husserl elaborates his infamous tripartite account of both internal time (as retention-impression-protention) and constituting consciousness (as made up of three distinct levels of constitution: absolute consciousness, the constitution of immanent unities, and the constitution...

    • 2 Expecting the World
      (pp. 28-40)

      In developing his positive account of protention, Husserl is forced to alter his understanding not just of time-consciousness but also of transcendental subjective constitution itself. We encounter the world as always already constituted rather than as some raw content or hyletic data in need of subsequent apprehension. The potentially infinite chain of subsequent constituting acts of consciousness can be arrested only by the self-constituting nature of absolute consciousness. But as self-constituting, absolute consciousness seems to fail to open us onto the world, leaving us instead protending retentions and retaining previous protentions. Husserl’s account of transverse intentionality is supposed to get...

    • 3 Experience and the Essential Possibility of Anticipation
      (pp. 41-54)

      Having now explained the distinct modes of relation to the future that are at work on the levels of absolute consciousness and passive association, the last aspect of our opening study on the role of futurity in phenomenology will be an explanation of the mode of futurity that applies to the level of active synthesis, that is, of active intentions of the ego. At this level, we find all of the acts that are consciously taken up by the ego and that are founded on passive syntheses of association. That is, on this level we find a world that is...

  8. Part II: Futurity and the ‘Openness’ of the Intentional Subject
    • 4 Phenomenology, Openness, and Ethics as First Philosophy
      (pp. 57-68)

      The suggestion that the constituting powers of the subject are in some way marked by the possibility of something fundamentally nonepistemological (provisionally called “ethics”) may seem surprising, but it should not be, at least to anyone familiar with the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas’s invocation of ethics constitutes a reinvigoration of Husserlian phenomenology, a return to an ethical project already suggested, but not drawn out at length, in Husserl. This is the hypothesis that will serve as the foundation for part 2 of this work. In Levinas the ethical nature of the orientation to the future is shown to be...

    • 5 From Eschatology to Awaiting: Futurity in Levinas
      (pp. 69-85)

      We have seen that Levinas’s “ethical” philosophy can be considered a continuation of Husserl’s comments on the openness of futurity and constitution. While this may increase the acceptability of talk of “ethics” in phenomenology, it does not yet speak directly to our problem of the possibility of an essentially ethical aspect of phenomenology introduced by the notion of futurity. That is, while we have now come to understand a bit better the relationship between phenomenology and ethics, we do not yet understand the fundamental relationship between this “ethics” and futurity and to what extent this “ethics” is fundamentally nonepistemological¹ and...

    • 6 Levinas’s Unique Contribution to Futurity in Phenomenology
      (pp. 86-96)

      At the end of part 1, our analysis of anticipation revealed that a sharp distinction of it from expectation—and thereby the preservation of the three levels of constituting consciousness that are necessary to establish phenomenology as a unique science—was possible only if we could find a way for the present to be affected by the future other than that of subjective horizons of constitution. Doing so would suggest the possibility of a fundamentally nonepistemological account of phenomenology, which we provisionally deemed “ethics.” Levinas’s account of futurity, properly understood, helps clarify the issue of ethicality, but we are left...

  9. Part III: Futurity and Intentionality—The Promise of Relationship
    • 7 Genesis, Beginnings, and Futurity
      (pp. 99-114)

      The purpose of this final section is to clarify the relationship between phenomenological futurity and the promise, and through this to clarify the other analogous parallel relationships that we have been discussing: between phenomenology and ethics, between constituting subjectivity and openness, between constituting futurity and futurity as surprise. In order to properly understand the centrality of the promise to phenomenology, we must first reveal the origin of this discussion in a phenomenological wrestling with the question of time. Arguing that both Levinas’s and Husserl’s phenomenological analyses fail to adequately account for the centrality of genesis (though in very different ways),...

    • 8 From Deferring to Waiting (for the Messiah): Derrida’s Account of Futurity
      (pp. 115-128)

      Derrida’s notion ofdifféranceemerges from his study of phenomenological temporality. In regard to Husserl, this engagement seems, at least explicitly, to be premised mainly on the retentional aspects of time (cf. SP, 64–67). If this is true, then Derrida’s later emphasis on theavenir(future) asà-venir(to-come) would mark an odd though perhaps interesting departure from his earlier work. But in this chapter I hope to show that no such departure exists and that the messianicà-venirdevelops in continuity not just with Derrida’s early work ondifférancebut also with a broadly Husserlian phenomenological heritage.


    • 9 The Promise of the Future
      (pp. 129-139)

      Seeing our explanation of the phenomenological notion of futurity culminate in the promise, it is tempting to move quickly to equate phenomenology with ethics: If futurity is an essential part of temporality (as I have tried to show), and promising is an essentially ethical act requiring trust between two or more people, then phenomenological temporality would seem to have as one of its essential components an ethical act, and therefore phenomenology could be conceived of as itself essentially ethical. But we must not move too quickly here. There are three major assumptions that have yet to be proven: first, that...

  10. Conclusion: The Promissory Discipline
    (pp. 140-154)

    The significance of futurity for phenomenology should be apparent by now: By connecting the phenomenological method essentially with the notion of promise, futurity shows phenomenology to be an essentially promissory discipline. In doing so, it opens phenomenology to a set of problems and questions that otherwise might seem to fall outside its scope. It is only in examining these problems and questions that the full scope of the promissory nature of phenomenology comes to the fore. Thus we can see that what has been at stake in our discussion—and what remains at stake—is our understanding of phenomenology itself:...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 155-192)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-206)
  13. Index
    (pp. 207-212)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-220)