Phenomenology and transcendental Idealism: 16 October 2021 (in person & online)

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First session coming soon of the Seminar for Doctoral Students and Young Researchers in Phenomenology, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Phenomenology and Transcendental Idealism
Seminar for Doctoral Students and Young Researchers in Phenomenology
(October 2021 – June 2022)
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne


Organisation :
Luz Ascarate
Circé Furtwängler
Quentin Gailhac

First session: Saturday 16th October 2021, 13:30-16:30
Salle D620, galerie Dumas, 14 rue Cujas, 75005 Paris

To attend the seminar, either in person or via Zoom, please register at the following address: [email protected]

Presentations by :
> Marco Dozzi
(University of Cagliari): “Sartre on ‘Transcendental Consciousness’ via Kant and Husserl in La transcendance de l’Ego”
> Conrad Hamilton (University of Paris 8): “The Ontic Conditions of Capital: Of Marx and Ingarden”
> Christos Kalpakidis (University of Bonn): “Realism and Freedom in J.P. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and F.W.J. Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift”

Abstracts :

Marco Dozzi (University of Cagliari)
“Sartre on ‘Transcendental Consciousness’ via Kant and Husserl in La transcendance de l’Ego”

At the beginning of La transcendance de l’Ego, Sartre draws a strong contrast between (so-called) “formal,” Kantian philosophy and “factual,” Husserlian phenomenology. Naturally, Kant and Husserl are also similar in their endorsement of the “transcendental,” despite that Sartre tends to only use this term as a modifier of “consciousness” or the “I.” Still, examining how Sartre discusses “transcendental consciousness” and the “transcendental I” in reference to both thinkers offers insight into his conception of the “transcendental” in general – as well as its potential difficulties.
Kant, he says, conceives of transcendental consciousness (or the “transcendental I”) only as a “totality of logical conditions for empirical consciousness” – in fact, being “formal,” it seems to hardly merit the term “consciousness.” He criticizes certain commentators of Kant for “hypostatizing” this totality, rendering it a “pre-empirical” (thus partly “factual”) unconscious. Sartre hints at a continuity between Kant’s and Husserl’s notions of “transcendental consciousness,” but focuses more upon differences. These reflect its (so-called) “factuality” in Husserl: it is said to constitute empirical consciousness and to be “accessible” via the “reduction.”
Neither Sartre nor Husserl seem to fully recognize that “constitution” and “accessibility” are notions that stand in tension. They each need to acknowledge the necessity of a radical distinction between the “transcendental” and the “empirical” which is inherent in what they take from Kant. “Constitution” entails a “factual” role of transcendental consciousness outside of the reduction. Sartre does not directly concede the “alienness” of constitution to “empirical” consciousness, although his explanations of experiential dissociation between (empirical) consciousness and “transcendental” consciousness via the “reduction” (and/or “angoisse”) show that he concedes its necessity in another context. The question is thus how he, or perhaps even Husserl, can avoid Sartre’s critique of Kant’s commentators – that is, thinking of transcendental consciousness as a “pre-empirical unconscious” – or even whether they should attempt to do so.

Conrad Hamilton (University of Paris 8)
“The Ontic Conditions of Capital: Of Marx and Ingarden”

In his 1967 essay “Sur Feuerbach,” Louis Althusser compares Feuerbach with a perhaps unexpected figure—that of Edmund Husserl. Characteristic of both Feuerbach and Husserl, for Althusser, is a thinking of tautology. With the thesis of existence suspended, with the method of eidetic reduction imposed, it is possible—for Feuerbach as for Husserl—to carry out an eidetic variation through the analysis of example, reaching the original nature of the signification. Althusser describes this, with a hint of derision, as a form of “transcendental biologism,” in which the “essence of a being (species”) = its objectified essence = its object” whereas “the object “emanates from its subject, and is nothing more than its objectification.”
Althusser’s motive for comparing Feuerbach and Husserl is obvious—to show that the phenomenological standpoint so popular in 1960s was one that must be eclipsed in order for Marxism to be truly posited at a scientific level. Yet is it not the case that, if Husserl’s could only locate the object from within the subject, that Althusser’s problem is that he cannot locate the “scientific object” at all? That, in other words, if all subjects are “subjects of ideology” that he does not explain how they can obtain access to forms of knowledge which are synchronic? In this context it may be helpful to return to the work of Roman Ingarden—one of Husserl’s early students, who rejected the encroaching mind-dependency of his later work. In “The Architectural Work” Ingarden characterizes cultural objects such as money, churches, or flags as purely intentional in so far as—while they may have a physical basis—they are dependent upon acts of consciousness for their creation and function. This already tells us, from a Marxist vantage point, something about bourgeois thought: for it attempts to treat these cultural objects as existentially autonomous rather than existentially heteronomous. Capital can be read along these lines: as an attempt to represent the way that the abstractions which we are “ruled by” under capitalism are both abstract and real, in the sense that they are purely intentional yet simultaneously index to “material relations.” Still, where Marx is more sophisticated than Ingarden is in his understanding that—if the conditions of ontic dependency of objects are conscious as well as physical—one must break out of the domain of philosophy in order to truly actualize it.

Christos Kalpakidis (University of Bonn)
“Realism and Freedom in J.P. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness and F.W.J. Schelling’s Freiheitsschrift”

It is difficult to deny that Jean-Paul Sartre is significantly influenced by the transcendental tradition. Even though he employs versions of transcendental argumentation throughout his work, he abstains from accepting transcendental idealism, which he equates mostly with phenomenalism, he critiques the necessity of the transcendental ego as well as the privilege of questions of knowledge over ontology. A concrete characterization of Sartre’s phenomenological ontology is not without difficulties, with interpretations reaching from ontologically non-committing readings to more robust ones, which see in Sartre a phenomenalist. Others continue to regard the so-called dualism of the “for-itself” and “initself” as a relapse into “transcendental realism”, which allegedly invites skepticism, for which Kant’s Copernican turn was supposed to be the answer in the first place. In order to substantiate Sartre as a transcendental philosopher and avoid reading his project as wholly descriptive and as eschewing questions of grounding, I will propose that Sartre’s transcendentalism, if it could be called such, follows from his attempt to ground freedom ontologically. To this end, Sartre is fortunately in good company with the classical German tradition. F.W. J. Schelling, a somewhat neglected figure during the steadily increasing interest in German Idealism, aspired, since his philosophical beginnings, to make freedom “the Α and Ω of all philosophy”. He also consistently insisted that ontology is prior to any other discipline of philosophy. From a strictly Kantian perspective, he can be taken to relapse into some form of pre-critical metaphysics which eschews questions of justification of our claims to knowledge. Furthermore, Schelling has been frequently deemed to be the first existentialist, but there are few systematic attempts in the literature to understand his relationship to Sartre’s philosophy. In my talk, I will try to make some steps into closing this gap and take a look at Schelling’s middle period text, the so-called Freiheitsschrift, which reveals some striking parallels to Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. One of Sartre’s and Schelling’s common basic insights can be taken to be that the right approach on the issue of freedom at the same time demands a solution to the question of how we can integrate consciousness and intentionality into reality without sacrificing either the independence of reality or the existence of the mental realm.