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The end of metaphysics, as recent decades have shown, brings with it the forceful return of the reli- gious and a new set of tools for legitimating this return. The world is inseparable from the subject, but from a subject which is nothing but a project of the world, and the subject is inseparable from the world, but from a world which the subject itself projects. Meillassoux specifies that the kind of correlationism defended by phenomenology is strong correlationism, by which he means the view that the in itself is neither knowable nor thinkable.

If Ameriks is right about Husserl, however, then the latter repre- sents a weak form of correlationism, or the Kantian view that. From this perspective, transcendence can only be evidenced within immanence, which means that absolute transcendence can never be affirmed by the phenomenologist for whom absolute transcendence is never given absolutely. They give themselves through their various appearances as transcen- dent unities, even though this unity is always only judged tran- scendent from within immanence.

Intentional objects gain both their mean- ing and their being from consciousness. Consciousness is never empty; it is always of something. Heidegger There is a palpable sense in which the early Heidegger abandons phenomenology, even prior to Being and Time , while at the same time endorsing it as the proper method of his funda- mental ontology.

That is, he is deliber- ate in casting phenomenology less as a technical device made up of a discrete set of practices, including the various reduc- tions, free imaginative variation, eidetic seeing, and so on, and more as the simple disposition proper to philosophical inquiry as such. One way of preventing, or at least mitigating distortion, is to first examine the instrument or means of access to truth. This is part and parcel of the transcendental project of Husserl and Heidegger as much as it is for Kant. Whereas Kant carries out a critique of reason, however, Husserl and Heidegger turn their attention to the structure of intentionality.

It has for a long time been disguised by metaphysics, which is to say, being has typically been understood as the supreme or ultimate entity God, substance, the One upon which all other entities depend. Ontology, in other words, has for the most part been an ontotheology.

Tom Sparrow, The End of Phenomenology: Metaphysics and the New Realism - PhilPapers

Luckily, phe- nomenology provides the means to disclose being and allow it to manifest itself truly, without the distortion of metaphysics or ontotheology. Phenomenology, after all, is supposed to be a pre- suppositionless science. It is distinctive, as we know, because it is the only entity whose existence or meaning is a question for it. That is, Dasein is the self-reflexive entity. Its understanding of itself and its world is always mediated by its history, never direct or unmediated.


Phenomenology is never merely a matter of description; it is always a problem of interpretation, or hermeneutics. The disclosure of being, otherwise called phenomeno- logical truth, is necessarily fused with a hermeneutic analysis of Dasein. Heidegger provides a substantial revision of phenomenology. Heidegger is unconcerned with the epistemological potential of phenomenology, its capacity to see or know the essence of objects. Importantly, the reduction is no longer central to phenomenology.

Heidegger gives up on the dream of philosophy without presuppositions and asserts instead the necessity of presuppositions. Ontology can only be carried out as phenomenology, which means that the meaning of being can only be disclosed insofar as it appears or manifests itself to the phenomenologist. Heidegger thus aligns himself with antirealism about being.

This is why Heidegger identifies phenomenology, the study of our experi- ence of the world, with ontology, the study of the world as it is, indeed, we can go ahead and say as it is in-itself. The turn is signaled by increased attention to the language used to express being, to poetry and the event of saying. The turn is interpreted, in James.

Would it not be more accurate to say that his fundamental ontology only nominally aligns itself with phenomenology, while engaging hermeneutics as a method more intensively? Are herme- neutics and phenomenology necessarily intertwined, as Gadamer, Ricoeur, and countless others seem to believe? Admittedly, in a certain respect Being and Time delineates the end of phenom- enology as a descriptive method, while carrying forward phenom- enology as a species of impure epistemology, or hermeneutics, which is fulfilled in the work of Gadamer.

Hermeneutics cannot be understood in ontologically neutral terms. Fundamental to his analysis of Dasein is the fact that birth and death absolutely resist phenomenologi- cal analysis. There is no possible phenomenology of birth, just as there is no phenomenology of death, only a phenomenology of being toward death. If they were, they would not be the realities they are.

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It is Dasein who understands the meaning and uncovers the truth of being. As Merleau-Ponty and Sartre emphasize after him, Heidegger clearly states that when we understand the world as an objective presence as a material or physical presence, for example , Dasein can only be regarded as arriving on the scene after the birth of the world, after being. This is the realist position on the external world, solidified in the mod- ern period by Descartes.

From this perspective there is no problem of knowing the external world because the world and Dasein are not external to one another, but rather two aspects of a single correlation, what Merleau-Ponty will call the subject-object dialogue. All access to such entities is founded ontologically upon the basic state of Dasein, Being-in-the- world; and this in turn has care as its even more primordial state of Being.

The world and its objects are always first encountered as there, just as Dasein always finds itself there, surrounded by other objects and hemmed in by its past and future. Following Dilthey and Scheler, Heidegger admits that the real- ity of the world can be apprehended directly through the phenom- enon of resistance, the way in which the brute materiality of things pushes back against our will.

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But he also qualifies this admission by reaffirming that resistance can only be met, interpreted, and understood on the basis of a more basic transcendental disclo- sure of the world. When Heidegger writes as though he is a realist, this is his way of describing phenomenologically how objects in the world present themselves as if they existed independent of their manifestation to Dasein.

Merleau-Ponty Merleau-Ponty, too, cites the resistance of things as evidence of their transcendence. This is why he con- cludes, with a decisiveness that has influenced many who follow him — notably, the philosophers of alterity and givenness, Levinas and Marion — that the lesson of the phenomenological reduction is that it cannot be completed, the world tenaciously and insis- tently resists reduction. That there is a world beyond appearances? That there is more to real- ity than meets the eye?

With his signature ambiguity, Merleau- Ponty answers both affirmatively and negatively. The sheer breadth of work that is called phenomenological today, and the informality that pervades so much of it, is evidence that phenomenology is more often taken to be a style of philosophy or qualitative research than a strict method. It may seem strange that this question has still to be asked half a century after the first works of Husserl. It sets the stage for the future reception and practice of phenomenology, particularly in the French context, while it avoids hitching phenomenology explicitly to any explicit method or metaphysics.

It is both idealist and realist. It is a method and it is not. He makes clear, following Husserl and Heidegger, that phenomenology is defined by its con- stant return to the question, What is phenomenology? Through his equivocal presentation of phenomenology, and despite himself, he confirms something that speaks directly to our present concern: phenomenology, whether interpreted as a method or a style, no matter how you slice it, is essentially correlationist. Their desire to philosophize about the concrete.

This is why Merleau-Ponty spends a substan- tial portion of his methodological introduction to the Phenom- enology tackling the question of whether or not phenomenology is a form of transcendental idealism. He argues that it is not. If it is a transcendental philosophy, it finds the conditions of experience in experience itself. The transcendental is immanent to the empirical. It begins from facticity and derives the essen- tial features of existence from existence itself, not from abstract a priori reflection.

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A number of things are signaled here. Second, phenomenology does not assume a detached per- spective on this field, but lives and investigates it from inside. This is what it means to be embodied. In other words, phenomenology does not merely result in knowledge of the world itself as it is mediated by phenomena as in Kant.

The phenom- enal world just is the world itself as in Hegel and Heidegger. Third, Merleau-Ponty marks a certain distance from idealism by asserting that the world is there before we arrive on the scene. It is not our inven- tion or fantasy. His double avoidance of idealism and realism is palpable in his quotation marks. As is typical in the phenomenological corpus, it does not, however, set up a symmetrical distance from, or worry that phenomenology might be mistaken for a brand of, realism.

On Dark Realism

While post-Husserlian phenomenologists are keen on breaking equally from the realist tradition as from the idealist, they do not signal their distance from realism as vehemently as they do their distance from ide- alism. This is because there is a marked desire for the real that runs throughout the phenomenological tradition. The exigency of this realism is heightened when the phenomenological lens is focused on God or the divine, for what would it mean to say that God exists only for us? As Tom Rock- more has argued,. This thesis is reflected in the further claim that any statement about the world as in some way independent of human beings presup- poses prescientific experience of it. His Hegelianism, as signaled by Rock- more, is evident in his insistence on the finitude of human know- ing, which is a feature of the primacy of perception thesis. The rejection of this view, as any reader of phenomenology knows, is fundamental to the phenomenologi- cal perspective. When exposing the meaning of the phenomenological reduction Merleau-Ponty fully realizes how simple it is to mistake it for the idealist maneuver that reduces the noumenal to the phenomenal.

Perception testifies to this immanence.

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  5. Imma- nence entails that the objects of perception present themselves as transcendent, opaque, and therefore resistant to our attempts to represent them completely. Take any perspective on an object and its back side will remain unperceived. This is the nature of perspective and, consequently, embodied perception. Everywhere we turn our finitude, and the limitations of the idealist position, are revealed to us. There is no disembodied knowledge. Our representations are always reflections, at least to some extent, of our being in the world.

    Or, to put the same point differently, we never go directly to experi- ence, but always do so on the basis of our prior experience. Merleau-Ponty affirms that yes, phenomenology is impossible, in two senses. First, it is impos- sible because it must infinitely return to and reflect on its begin- ning, which means that it can never actually begin. It is not surprising that Merleau-Ponty redefines the nature of phenomenology, since it would seem that it has no other option but to recast itself as a style of philosophy.

    This seems to be what Merleau-Ponty not only anticipates, but also establishes, quite decisively, in his preface to the Phenomenology.