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Human Studies 23: 9197, 2000. BOOK REVIEW 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.


Book review

Objectivity from Subjectivity: A Review of Jan Patockas Introduction to Husserls Phenomenology

Jan Patocka, An Introduction to Husserls Phenomenology. Trans. Erazim Kohak, Ed. James Dodd. Chicago and La Salle, Illinois: Open Court. 195 pages including bibliographic references and annotated index, 1996. Jan Patockas work has only recently been translated, but the story of his life is perhaps familiar. The student of Husserl and Heidegger, a mentor of Vaclav Havel, Patocka was the leading Czech philosopher of his day and a dissident in the former Czechoslovakia. One of the founders of the Charta 77 movement, he died in custody after a long and brutal interrogation. His work covers a range of issues much like his Western European contemporary Maurice Merleau-Ponty the philosophy of history, politics, embodiment, and of course phenomenology itself. The translation and publication of his Introduction to Husserls Phenomenology gives us a closer view of his relation to phenomenology. However, the book is significant for more than just this; it is also of value on its own as a critical reflection on the meaning and limits of Husserlian phenomenology. Patocka views Husseris entire career as a meditation on objectivity in all senses: the objectivity of idealities like numbers and arithmetic principles, the objectivity of universal categories and classes, the thing whose objectivity is independent of my immanent, subjective awareness of it, and overarching all of these, objectivity as a basis for certitude that resilient nub of being which does not depend on my subjectivity to be the way it is. Patocka views this multi-faceted concern with objectivity as the ultimate meaning of Husserls belief that Phenomenology, and with it, philosophy as a whole, could be a science. Patocka also sustains, across an analysis that spans most of Husserls output, the fundamental wonder of Husserls seemingly paradoxical attempt to ground this objectivity and transcendence within subjectivity and immanence. He shows repeatedly that Husserl had the resources to face many of the problems this approach raised, and only in the end, after exhausting the analyses of time, the body, and the lifeworld, does Patocka push Husserls project to collapse in on itself. This final criticism may result from Patockas



tendency to view subjectivity and objectivity as more distinct than Husserl actually thought, but his is nonetheless a compelling vision of the vicissitudes of transcendental phenomenology. Since the question of objectivity is hardly new, Patocka begins by placing phenomenology at the nexus of long-standing problems in Western Philosophy. Seen as a whole, philosophy has been the attempt to understand the relation between two worlds in which we simultaneously find ourselves. On the one hand, Patocka claims, there is the world of concrete, particular things, viewed from an individual and subjective perspective, and an indeterminate relation of and so on which relates one experience and its object to the next experience and its object. This world does not stand apart from us; we are involved in it such that it is anterior to the distinction between subject and object. On the other hand, the vague relation of and so on implies that behind this indeterminate, experienced world lies another world universal, objective, and abstract which makes possible the indeterminate world of our experience, and where and so on is replaced with the identity of transcendent objectivities. Yet, even if this objective world is viewed as the condition of the world of experience, the paradoxical truth is that this objective world must be explicitly torn out of our own indeterminate experience by an act of idealizing abstraction. Modernity, for Patocka, is characterized by holding too close to the objective world, viewing it as a thing to be dominated by a subject separate from it. This cleavage is supposed to have been absent in the Greeks, to have developed with science and instrumental rationally, and to have culminated in Descartes and Kant. It is Hegel and Husserl, who try, each with a different phenomenological method, to put the pieces back together again. From a historical perspective, this is somewhat unconvincing. While the Greeks who were not unified in their outlook did not pose the problem in the matrix of subject and object as Descartes did, certainly Plato did pose the problem of the two worlds. It is also not clear that Husserl is trying to reunify subject and object, subjectivity and objectivity, in a fashion so similar to Hegel. Nonetheless, the historical perspective alerts the reader to both the difficulty of the problem that Husserl faced and the depths of its historical roots. Husserls project, in Patockas view, is nothing less than a culmination of modern philosophys attempt to understand the relation between the two worlds. The book leans towards Husserls early career. Following the historical introduction, it devotes five of its seven remaining chapters to works written before the first two volumes of Ideas, including the Philosophy of Arithmetic. Patocka addresses only one chapter to work written after Ideas. Consequently, there is almost no mention of Experience and Judgment or Formal and Transcendental Logic. Patockas focus on the early works suits his overall discussion, since he is interested in Husserls attempt to locate objectivity within subjectivity, and he views this methodological commitment as



originating in Husserls dual concern with nineteenth century psychologism (of which Patocka offers an excellent analysis) and with Brentanos psychology. Thus, the development from the Philosophy of Arithmetic to Ideas is key to understanding the entire project. In The Philosophy of Arithmetic Husserl sought the foundations of arithmetic in a project that Patocka views as equal parts logic and psychology. Husserl was led, under Brentanos influence, to found number on a psychic art of colligation in which the mind collects and unifies any number of objects without respect to the actual similarities between them. While this analysis resembles later constitutional analyses of universals, Patocka (like Frege) insists that it is still highly psychologistic and subjective. Nothing in principle separates his derivation of quantity from mere empirical generalization on the basis of introspected experience, so Husserl does not actually arrive at objective idealities as a foundation for arithmetic. Instead, Husserls foundation remains merely the contingent operation of the mind upon its contents. Nonetheless, this work and its critical reception set the stage for the later Husserls attempt to find ideal unities. In the Logical Investigations, Husserl eliminates his psychologistic tendencies by claiming that we can have an intuition of the universal or category itself. So, to use the example cited by Patocka, I can see the red object, but I can also have a categorical intuition of the redness. I can, in fact, have such intuitions of virtually all the universals, not only of properties like color but also of other idealities and logical relations. Patocka makes clear, against the criticisms of Adorno, that the perception of these universals is not an immediate and passive affair, such that the perception of the ideality is not genuinely of the universal. Instead, the categorical intuition, as a founded act, is the result of synthetic activity that depends upon the unifying of various perceptions and the imaginative variation among these perceptions in fantasy to find the essential commonality. Imagination is thus given an important role in the overall genesis of objectivity. On the basis of this synthetic act and its categorical intuition, Husserl could answer the criticisms made against Philosophy of Arithmetic. He could now claim that the ideality is not merely a subjective, empirical generalization, but the perceptual fulfillment of an empty intention by the ideality itself. Moreover, this allowed Husserl to broaden the inquiry beyond math to the structure and logic of language and theory itself. Since all theoretical thinking is based on expressive acts and couched in logical relations, Husserl hoped to clarify the formal structures in which theories were constructed. Furthermore, Patocka reads this synthetic activity of consciousness as the very meaning of intentionally in Husserls work. Unlike Brentano, for whom the phenomena was most closely identified with impressional moments so that intentionality was a mere consciousness of . . . an in-existing object in

the sense of a quality or impression, Husserl saw that the objects could



themselves be regarded as phenomena which are the result of transcending bare moments of impressions through intentional acts. This intentional activity is something of which we are typically unaware, and it requires a special attentiveness on the part of the phenomenologist to find it. Patocka claims, therefore, that with discovery of the synthetic activity of categorical intuition, which was meant as a response to psychologism, Husserl also discovered that worldly objects are the result of the synthetic activity of consciousness. This is why Patocka claims that in the Logical Investigations, Husserls inquiry already broadened from the objectivity of idealities to the objectivity of the world as a whole and led naturally to one of Husserls central innovations: the reduction.
Unfortunately, Patockas discussion of the reduction is somewhat difficult to follow, because he structures it as a contrast between Husserls early statement of the reduction in The Idea of Phenomenology and his more considered view in Ideas I. Patocka views the reduction as Janus-faced: it is meant to explain how consciousness can go beyond what is really immanent within consciousness (thereby explaining the genesis of transcendence from within subjectivity) by simultaneously restricting investigation to the pure immanence of consciousness. Working from the earlier Idea of Phenomenology allows Patocka to make useful distinctions between multiple senses of transcendence within Husserls texts. On the other hand, there is the transcendence of the object, state of affairs or ideality, as a self-standing entity independent of consciousness which contrasts to my immanent awareness of it a real transcendence. On the other hand, and from within this level of immanence itself, there is the immanent transcendence of a self-given impression: something resilient which consciousness does not choose but upon which it constructs real transcendence. This distinction leads Patocka to view the various levels within the reduction as the move from real transcendence to immanent transcendence, and then, through analyses of animating intentionality and eidetic intuition, leads to a reconstruction of real transcendence on the basis of this immanent transcendence. Patocka argues that this reduction differs from the later one in Ideas, where Husserl jettisons this notion of immanent transcendence and makes the constitution of transcendent objectivities solely the result of intentional activity within the immanent realm. In short, Patocka claims that the Husserl of Ideas becomes fully idealist in his approach. Patocka therefore reads the reduction as revealing an almost entirely ontological pairing between immanence and transcendence, rather than as an epistemological method for revealing the origin of the sense of objectivity. Patockas interpretation also contrasts with the interpretation of the reduction offered by French phenomenologists, like Ricoeur and Merleau-Ponty, who view it as more closely tied to an attitude with which we can discover the origins of objectivity within experience.



Once the reduction is in place, Patocka views Husserls ultimate discoveries to be found in the analysis of inner time consciousness. For objectivity, be it of either an ideality or merely a perceived thing, implies the transcendence of a particular subjective moment, so that temporal transcendence is essential to transcendence itself. Because of this, the analysis of time consciousness reveals that the objectivity of the object comes from its trailing behind it a series of retentions, with each succeeding retention itself containing a view of the retention which it supplants. Through this process the temporal transcendence of the object is built. Patocka points out that this activity is fundamentally intentional in Husserl: although passive, the creation of temporal unities out of the flux of absolute experience is the result of the smoothly flowing, passive synthesis. It is with the creation of temporal unities out of the absolute flux that a deep problem arises: Husserl wanted to find the origins of objectivity within subjectivity, but the inquiry seems to dead-end in the mysterious and invisible activity of an I that creates time out of a flux to which temporal predicates cannot even be applied. Patockas analysis of this problem within Husserls thought is admirable and patient. Relying on the supplements to the time lectures, Patocka shows that in a severe form of the reduction, Husserl thought we could experience, from within immanence itself, the I-in-the-now as that self-standing now point for every self-reflective act (the nunc stans or standing now). This I which is grasped is the same I as the I which is grasping or reflecting, yet the two can never be simultaneously experienced, since the reflecting I must already be at a distance from the objective I that is experienced. Moreover, since there is always this gap between the two aspects of the nunc stans, one can never have a full, complete clarity of experience to itself and the I and the reflective I always exist at a distance from each other. At the very heart of the phenomenological inquiry, therefore, Patocka argues that the attempt to achieve a complete reduction to subjectivity and therefore a complete account of the genesis of objectivity from within subjectivity founders on the fact that within subjectivity itself there is always a dark place which cannot, in principle, be known. Thus, at the heart of the analysis of time, we find the same claim which Merleau-Ponty made against Husserl, that the reduction teaches us precisely that it cannot be completed. It is through this critical lens that Patocka reads Husserls attempt to come to terms with the body, the lifeworld of everyday experience, and intersubjectivity. Patockas analysis of the place of the body in Husserls work makes clear the similarities to Merleau-Ponty in their view of the body and its role in constituting the world of experience. More importantly, Patocka claims that the body and the lifeworld represent a more full way of seeing the failure of the reduction. The body, for example, duplicates the paradox of the nunc stans: I find within my experience, at each moment, a subject-body that acts, and an object-body that is the object of my acts of reflection and even of the acts of my subjectbody. Since Husserl, according to Patocka, sees this pairing as integral to the



sense of intersubjectivity as well, this means that much of the lifeworld, my bodily experience, and my experience of others, cannot be fully traced back to subjective origins within consciousness. Indeed, at the moment in which Husserl attempts to reduce the sense of others from within the immanent sphere, we find out that the other, as itself a transcendental consciousness, cannot be fully reduced. Moreover, in Husserls last work he recognized the extent to which all objective inquiries, like science and philosophy, rest upon a lifeworld of assumptions and ideas. It is at this point that Patocka argues that the project as Husserl originally conceived it must be abandoned, for we find that it is not possible to fully reduce the body, others, and the world of everyday life to the actual constituting activity of immanent consciousness. Even on its own terms, this ideal collapses at the point when it should have victory: at the constitution of temporal transcendence. But, Patocka claims, once we move into an understanding that attempts to encompass ones own body and the other, we move into the realm of history itself, and we see the phenomenological inquiry itself as situated within the matrix of the lifeworld. This criticism of Husserlian phenomenology is not new, but Patocka shows its almost organic connection to the entire Husserlian problematic: the difficulty with the inquiry lies in Husserls simultaneous and exclusive conceptions of objectivity and subjectivity. On the one hand, objectivity is always the objectivity of science-philosophy. Husserl, carrying out the assumptions of his own lifeworld, assumed from the start that math and science are the model of knowledge and inquiry, rather than recognizing the plurality of human knowledge. On the other hand, Husserl sought an immanent subjectivity which could be wholly immanent, and was therefore unable to recognize that there is always an element of existence which might resist full, transparent reflection. Rather than seeing meaning as the result of the encounter between world and consciousness and other, Husserl always assumed it could be fully reduced and explained. Thus the book ends with the hope that phenomenology continue, but as an incomplete philosophy which begins anew at each problem and which is highly sensitive to the question of its own method. (p. 170) We can have a phenomenology which always recognizes the truth of phenomenological reflection as provisional and which begins with the diversity of human knowledge. Again, Patocka is not the first to make this assertion, but his work on Husserl places it within a charitable and convincing understanding of the limits of transcendental phenomenology itself, rather than making it as merely the facile assertion of suspicion about objective knowledge as such. Nonetheless, I doubt that Husserl ever had the conception of subjectivity which Patocka ultimately criticizes. To be sure, there is always a moment of transcendental idealism in Husserls thought, but there is also a close analysis and explanation of the natural attitude itself, one which does not view this attitude as mistaken or



muddled. If the reduction is, to use Merleau-Pontys term, an intensification of our everyday hold on the world, it does not have to make the assumption that immanence is ontologically prior to transcendence. It may well be that Husserl remained aware, throughout his career, that immanence never actually, fully eliminates transcendence, and that the ultimate meaning of intentionality is that the self always has a relation to a transcendent word. Patockas book itself argues this thought with great force, but possibly at the cost of misunderstanding its origins in Husserls own thought. William S. Wilkerson University of Alabama in Huntsville, U.S.A.



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