Agenda de la pensée contemporaine
(cet article est paru dans le N°20 - Sommaire printemps 2011 )
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N°20 - Summaries
ILLUSTRATING THE MYTHOLOGIES
The latest edition of the Mythologies is richly and impressively illustrated. However, Françoise Gaillard argues that illustrating the work with photographs from the period masks the original project, reducing the text to a chronicle of the 1950s. Doesn’t this mean missing an essential aspect of Barthes’s intention, which was to develop a critique of ideology by analysing the way myths offer themselves and produce meaning ?
RENAN AND THE HISTORY OF GREEK STUDIES
While Renan wielded a kind of intellectual sovereignty in his day, his heritage now seems reduced to a handful of clichés : he is seen as the father of an anti-clerical, anti-democratic, French style of republicanism, with racist overtones. A hitherto unpublished monumental study written when he was twenty-five, now available for the first time, sheds light on his undeniable contribution to the establishment of historical sciences. His study, combining philological and philosophical approaches, focuses on the study of Greek in Europe from the fifth to the fourteenth century. The work not only changes mainstream understandings of the medieval period, but also underlines the historical conditions behind the emergence of the Renaissance, at the origins of literature in the modern sense of the term. The study’s rigorous method – which will remain relevant for as long as the Greek source does not run dry – was part of a school of thought aiming to found a new kind of university by breaking away from the tradition represented by the Jesuits and the lycées. Renan remains equally relevant from this point of view.
PHILOSOPHISING IN THE ROUND : THE LIFE OF SHAPES AND SHAPES OF LIFE
Sloterdijkian anthropology begins with the sphere. The sphere, whether in the form of Bubbles, Globes, or Foam, offers a way of thinking of beings in their perpetual search for lost security. Sloterdijk focuses in turn on the various protective niches created by man – our material, concrete, daily surroundings and our social, economic, and political organisations – in the light of the “modern” district represented by globalisation. The sphere may be a uterine image for the masses running the risk of infantilisation, but for Sloterdijk it still represents the quietly ironic, subtle style of his thought : “The meta-tool of culture has, in its globality, the effect of an incubator in which a living creature can chronically enjoy the privilege of immaturity”. Sloterdijk’s work plays a part in these “cognitive self-hypnoses”, even as it provides an antidote with the humour that forms part of his “message”.
IN ONE PIECE OR THE NEW TRADE
Au cœur de la raison, la phénoménologie, Claude Romano’s new book, goes deep into the heart of phenomenology in order to renew its project. Through a close and novel confrontation with the philosophers of the linguistic turn inspired by Wittgenstein, this real tractatus logico-phenomonologicus goes along the big debates of the 20th century philosophy : the status and the nature of experience, the mystery of intentionality, the problem of the synthetical a priori, the relationship (if it is one) between language and experience, the meaning of essences, the definition of understanding. This project has to be faced in its radicalism : is there something like a phenomenological rationality which is independent from the linguistic dimension of logos ? How can we lend our ears to this “prose of the world” ?
« THE HEART OF REASON » : CLAUDE ROMANO’S PHENOMENOLOGICAL AND HERMENEUTIC CARDIOSCOPY
No phenomenologist can avoid the following questions : what is his/her idea of phenomenology ? Are some phenomena privileged over others ? What is the subject enveloped by his or her phenomenological project ? What history is it destined for ? Claude Romano does not intend to skirt around these questions, which is why he has written a new Krisis. Romano sites the issues at stake in phenomenology and his own place in the debate that his work is bound to spark, reviving Heidegger’s vigour in arguing against the “practice of landscaping” in phenomenology. The result is a cardioscopy of the reason of grand style, "which locates the heart of reason in the relationship between thought and the sensible".
THE EXPERIENCE TO DESCRIBE : A LOGIC OF THE SENSIBLE OR A SENSIBLE LOGIC ?
Claude Romano’s objective in Au cœur de la raison, la phénoménologie is threefold : formulating the phenomenological problem as clearly as possible ; defending the phenomenological thesis of the autonomy of the antepredicative experience ; and propounding a critical deconstruction of the received concept of experience. Élise Marrou argues that the three form one single project to replace an impoverished and impoverishing concept of experience with a concept that does full justice to the richness and variety of the grain of the sensible experience, particularly through a confrontation with Wittgenstein. While letting readers follow the thread of the article, the author reminds them of the terms of its conclusion, which welcomes Claude Romano’s masterful demonstration, shedding light on an autonomous antepredicative logic of the sensible, while at the same time underlining the close continuity that she identifies as uniting language-based intelligence with a pre-linguistic form of intelligence inherent in our experience of the world.
VARIETIES OF NON-CONCEPTUALITY. ON THE IDEA OF PRE-LINGUISTIC MEANING
Experience possesses a non-conceptual sense, while objects come under a legality that cannot a priori be reduced to a purely linguistic form. Claude Romano rightly brings phenomenology back into the general field of philosophical debate. The central thesis draws on a confrontation with the analytical philosophy of W. Sellars and J. MacDowell on the relationship between sensible data and understanding on the one hand, and Frege’s thinking on the non-linguistic, non-conceptual nature of the sense of interiority on the other. Denis Perrin comments on the debate, not to challenge Claude Romano’s stance, but to argue that an entire aspect of analytical philosophy also extends sense (thus the Fregean concept) beyond its linguistic use. He also argues that the perceptive mode of presentation discussed by Claude Romano has a number of conceptually important traits of similarity with what certain analytical philosophers mean by the same expression.
THE LIVED WORLD GETS ITS COLOUR BACK
As Rimbaud’s sonnet on vowels shows, a new form of objectivity arose at the dawn of the twentieth century, freeing poetry from any “serious” use of the magic of colours. Why ? Did the anti-symbolism openly displayed both here and elsewhere indicate that there was no longer held to be any relevant relationship between the physics of wavelengths and our sensory organs ? Claude Romano answers these questions in De la couleur, a series of lectures on three topics : the objectivity and subjectivity of colours, their logic and grammar, and thoughts on the materials used in art which connects with Merleau-Ponty’s analyses to conclude that colour is a modality of appearance of the world itself – the phenomenological world, the only one that deserves to be called a world.
MAY, MAO AND ME
“For either what we said about class war and the alliance between intellectuals and the working classes was a joke, a futile fantasy, an illusion, and we were fools, or it was true, and we should have drawn the consequences other than by maintaining our social position and remaining in the same comfortable imposture as everyone else. Basically, what we had then was a moment of truth : we might have been stupid, but at least we weren’t crooks.”