2006: Summaries

Contents (in Dutch)

Frank Baeyens
Summary: The Schneider Case. The Phenomenological Style in the Mirror
The article develops answers to three apparently disparate questions: 1. The epoché of sciences is integral to Husserls phenomenological method. What, however, is the status of scientific findings in the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty? (Part I) 2. In The Visible and the Invisible the phenomenon of reversibility is central. How does this reversibility shed new light on the Schneider case to which Merleau-Ponty devoted many pages in Phenomenology of Perception? (Part II and III) 3. If we read Merleau-Ponty’s texts consequentially — not only the ones mentioned above but also Les relations avec autrui chez l’enfant —, do we not end up with a convincing but self-willed reading of the mirror stage? (Part IV) The author not only intends to develop these questions and answers into insightful wholes. He also integrates these seemingly diverse questions in one paper to demonstrate that they are very much interrelated: the possibility of the epoché of sciences is inversely proportional to the possibility of the mirror stage. In the former case, one has to be able to free oneself from the sucking power of something external (texts and theories). In the latter case, one allows the sucking power (in particular of an image) to carry on. The question is, however, whether such a switch is possible. The Schneider case shows that some scepticism is justified (Part IV).

Arnold Burms
Summary: On Religion, Faith, and Taking it Literally
Two perspectives on religion are contrasted. From the internalist perspective religion is not in need of any neutral justification: its point is manifest within religious life itself, just as the point of morality is manifest within moral life. From the externalist perspective religious practices and attitudes are dependent on the truth of certain assumptions about supernatural realities. It is argued that there are good reasons for endorsing internalism and, consequently, for radically dissociating religion from belief: if religious discourse is non-literal (as the internalist claims) belief becomes dispensable. Finally, however, it is admitted that the internalist, by drawing a sharp line between literal and non-literal language, might miss an important truth about religion.

Herman De Dijn
Summary: Right Is Might. Authority Unmasked? A Short Introduction to Spinoza’s Political Philosophy
This paper is an interpretation of the precise meaning of Spinoza’s provocative theses that “right is might”; and that the real basis of political and other authority is power. The possibility condition of these radically modern theses — that imply the end of traditional theologico-political thinking, is a peculiar naturalistic theology. At the same time, this paper provides a brief, but thorough introduction to Spinoza’s political philosophy. Some aspects of it which are often neglected, such as the intricate relationship beween the law and the mores of the people, are given their due weight.

Frans De Wachter
Summary: Cosmopolitan Solidarity
As a consequence of recent discussions on globalization in the last decade, cosmopolitanism has reappeared as an important topic of philosophical debate. The purpose of this article is to explore the possibilities and the limitations of this concept by distinguishing two opposing senses of the term. In one connotation, cosmopolitanism means the tendency to realize a cosmopolis, i.e. a unified and rationalized system of culture, commerce and politics. It implements the ideal of an encompassing logos, as is obvious not only in stoicism, but in recent ideologies of technocratic globalism. On the other hand, cosmopolitanism can mean exactly the opposite: world citizenship as an attitude respectful of diversity and imperfection, and resisting all temptations of uniformity. It is shown that Kant’s idea of cosmopolitan right is based primarily on such a pluralistic view, expressing the conditions under which a plurality of humans can share a public space.
On the institutional level, recent ideas on a post-Westphalian world-order, implemented in theories of “cosmopolitan democracy”, mesh well with this pluralistic connotation. They imply that citizens escape from the all encompassing and massive sovereignty of traditional nation-states, not to stumble into an abstract universalism, but to reconfigure sovereignty into a plurality of concrete commitments that are also based on multi-layered trans-national associations of civil society. Potentialities and dangers of such proposals are studied.
On the cultural level as well, it can be shown that citizens transcend particular national cultures, not to enter an uprooted global culture, but to enter new forms of concrete cultural environments.

Kris Dierickx
Summary: The Conception of Disease and Health Viewed from a Normative Perspective
In classical speculation on medical matters health is conceived of as a bodily state which is in accordance with Nature. It is a state of natural balance in the mixture (complexio) of the primary qualities of the human body. Although few of the details in the ancient natural philosophy and the Galenic philosophy of health have survived, it is important to note that two of the ancient ideas still influence the thoughts: the idea of a balance between opposing elements or forces, and, in particular, the idea of a natural or normal state of the living organism. In the actual reflection there is a forceful attempt to formulate a conception of health and disease in terms of biological norms where the interpretation is unambiguous. According to this conception the biological norms are related to certain natural goals (f. inst. survival). These goals are not attributed to the body for the outside, but belong to the internal constitution of the body. In this paper the author wants to present the essential tenets and main merits of such a theory, more precisely the bio-statistical theory of the American philosopher Christopher Boorse. In a second phase he points out a critical assessment of this perspective, mainly focussing on the claims of a value-free scientific approach and of neutrality.

Günter Figal
Summary: Phenomenology and Hermeneutics
Hermeneutical philosophy as developed by Heidegger and Gadamer is not compatible with the classical phenomenological programme elaborated by Husserl. The hermeneutical stress on historicity as a necessary condition for understanding is unfamiliar to Husserl’s strictly theoretical approach. However, this does not mean that a hermeneutical philosophy as such cannot be conceived in a phenomenological sense. Whether or not hermeneutical philosophy is phenomenological depends on the paradigm chosen for hermeneutical explanation. A hermeneutics referring to the interpretation of texts may elucidate constitutional elements of phenomenology, e.g. phenomenological reduction and reflection. In this way it even can initiate a modification of phenomenology which, instead of being caught up in its subjective foundation, now appears as elucidating the openness of the correlation between intentional attitudes and their ‘objects’. For this correlation the interpretation is a pardigm, whereas the openness of the correlation can be explained in respect of freedom, language, and time.

Raimond Gaita
Summary: Torture: The Lesser Evil?
Although torture is prohibited by international law, a consequentialist justification of it has occasionally been executed on the basis of torture’s indispensable and even morally obligatory as an information-gathering device in so-called ‘ticking bomb’ situations. The author adheses the conviction that torture is an evil that could never justifiably be done. Objecting to the moral stand of consequentialism, he emphasizes the distinctive terribleness of torture, drawing attention to the victim’s infinite preciousness of ‘sacredness’, which even the concept of autonomy, or the concepts of democracy and civilization never can reach. Of course, some might call this a question of the heart, and not of the head, and affirm — with Kant, for one — that cognitive content should be separated from resonant form if thought is to survive distortion. To this there is no argument apart from the vital testimony of goodness and pure love, where understanding involves head and heart inseparably combined. This is not just an appeal to the supererogatory, which belongs to a different perspective, as a feat of moral character. Saintly love not only affirms human dignity, it actively reveals and makes visible a dignity that is inalienable from the victim’s humanity. Torture therefore never can fullfil the requirement that it be administered without degrading the intrinsic preciousness of each human being.

Georg Geismann
Summary: About the Relation between Kant’s Moral Philosophy, his Philosophy of History, and his Philosophy of Religion
Kant’s philosophy of history as well as his philosophy of religion are bound to his practical philosophy: both presuppose it and both belong to it as necessary supplementations. This fact, now, has time and again led to the attempt to interpret Kant’s philosophy of right and of history on the one hand and his philosophy of morals and of religion on the other hand as being bound together within one and the same doctrine of the highest good. This attempt must fail, and indeed from principal reasons, because the two fields never touch or, let alone, overlap each other. It actually is nothing other than confounding the world of phaenomena with the world of noumena, worldly matters with heavenly matters, the last end of nature with the final end of creation.

Tomas Geyskens
Summary: Gilles Deleuze on Sacher-Masoch. Literature as Symptomatology
This paper explores Deleuze’s conception of masochism in Présentation de Sacher-Masoch. The author investigates Deleuze’s ideas about the essential relation between the literary and the clinical as a way to disentangle the confusion between sadism and masochism, as it is found in psychoanalysis. By first focusing on the formal differences between Sade’s and Masoch’s writings, a more fundamental difference comes into view: while sadism is a rationalistic programme based on the destruction of the personal sphere and the promotion of a cold apathy produced by pure reason, masochism is the art of suspense and suggestion, aimed at a radical de-genitalization of sexuality and the production of a world without Other, where the pervert finds another sexuality, a photographic erotics of pure intensities.

Pieter Lemmens
Summary: The Uncanny Domestic Animal. Biotechnology and Bioethics in the Light of Sloterdijk’s Radical-Historical Anthropology
In 1999, Peter Sloterdijk gave a lecture on the future of humanism in which he ‘unmasked’ it as part of the ongoing process of self-domestication of the human animal by way of literary media, and speculated that, taking account of the steady decline of literary Bildung in our technocultures, genetic engineering might one day become the key anthropo-technology for the further domestication of mankind. This lecture evoked much controversy, especially in Germany, where Sloterdijk was accused by some journalists of having dangerous, nazi-eugenic sympathies, promoting the breeding of a new Herrenrasse. In this article, the author wants to show that these accusations are unjustified by putting his lecture in its proper context: Sloterdijk’s project of a new, radical-historical anthropology. Sloterdijk develops there a view on the ‘humanity of man’ as the product of a biocultural process of self-domestication of our proto-hominid ancestors. It is this para-natural evolutionary process, that has taken place within self-enclosed, selfmade ‘spheres’ under the influence of operative and symbolic ‘anthropo-technologies’, which, according to Sloterdijk, should guide our thinking on the possible uses of biotechnology on humans. Only when we know what homo sapiens in fact is, i.e., only when we know how he was made, can we meaningfully begin to think about his possible alteration through genetic engineering. Also discussed is Sloterdijk’s characterization of biotechnology as a homeo technology.

Donald Loose
Summary: A Constitutional World Order. The Historical Realization of a Sublime Idea of Practical Reason.
In Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals, Part I: The Doctrine of Right (in the last section of the Conclusion)1, cosmopolitan right takes the shape of international political right, rather than as the whole of civil rights of the world citizen. In a general instance the establishing of universal and lasting peace is the ultimate end of all international right. Perpetual peace is called a metaphysically sublimated idea of reason and remains incapable of realization (§ 61). In a manner, like the general idea of right, it does not qualify for direct empirical actualization. An indirect symbolic representation of this sublime idea of perpetual peace needs empirical instigation, as it applies the paradigm of power to the conceptualization of the idea of right. The construction of its concept is made by analogy with the possibility of free movement according to the law of equality of action and reaction. In the realm of international law a cosmopolitan constitution whose laws have power, obviously entails the establishment of mutual and equal coercion between interrelated states. This will lead to a continuous approximation of the highest political good: perpetual peace. However, the question must be asked how the compulsory character of law and the construction of the idea of right relate to practical reason (duty) as such and to natural necessity. In the end, does mechanical logic only elucidate practical reason, or should the idea of freedom be normative? It rather seems that neither of both can cancel the other. The sublime character of cosmopolitanism implies an abiding element of unrepresentability and therefore a permanent impracticability to this idea. “Man justly can conceive himself as citizen of a nation and at the same time as a full member of the cosmopolitan community. That is the most sublime idea which man can have about his destiny.” (Reflexionen 8077) In this permanent tension consists the sublime character of what by experience never can be confirmed as an established realm.

(1 Akademie Ausgabe VI, p. 355)

Karel Mom
Summary: How Not to Read ‘On Perpetual Peace’
The paper questions a predilection of some proponents of the ‘democratic peace thesis’ and of ‘democratic cosmopolitanism’ to base their peace policy recommendations on Kant’s peace treatise. It argues that the concepts ‘democracy’ and ‘cosmopolitanism’ which they employ are unfaithful to Kant’s republicanism, which entails strict state sovereignty, and hence, that their referral to Kant distorts the basic ideas that are exposed in his treatise. This applies in particular to their justification of humanitarian intervention and of pre-emptive action; practices to cope with imminent security threats and humanitarian catastrophes respectively. Though the reasonableness of such practises, the justification of which presuppose a limited concept of sovereignty, suggests a reading which does not take On Perpetual Peace exclusively as a set of policy recommendations, to give preference to its philosophical outlook, as some philosophical-minded scholars propose as an alternative, does not satisfy either. For this would neglect the peculiar oscillation between the philosophical and the political aspects of the treatise. Contrary to current concerns to update the conceptual framework of On Perpetual Peace, of ‘cosmopolitanism’ in particular, to accommodate a limited form of sovereignty without allowing for interventions to ward off putative security threats, its salient irony, which mediates between both aspects, is in this paper taken as a clue to an interpretation which seeks to account for both of them.

Vasti Roodt
Summary: Identity and Worldliness. Why Identity Politics Fail
The purpose of this paper is to engage in critical reflection on identity politics as a mode of resistance to the experience of oppression, marginalisation or social exclusion. I argue that the notion of an identity-driven politics springs from a fundamental disaffection with the world as it is given to us, and that this disaffection is reinforced in the very attempt to overcome it. In support of my criticism I then try to sketch an alternative conception of identity and politics that does not run aground on the same difficulties. My argument consists of three parts. First, I delineate the theoretical background to contemporary identity politics and point out a number of problematic assumptions that underlie such a conception of identity and politics. Second, I try to substantiate this initial critical assessment of identity politics by appealing to Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the interplay between identity and worldliness. The purpose here is to show that identity is bound up with the world that lies between us as opposed to being tied to an exclusive place one occupies within the world. In the third and last part of the article I relate this notion of worldliness to Arendt’s notion of amor mundi. I argue in this regard that amor mundi involves a reconciliation with the world as it has been given to us, which nevertheless finds expression in judgements about what ought to appear in this world rather than a passive acceptance of how we find it. On the basis of this insight, I eventually try to demonstrate that Arendt offers us the possibility of resisting marginalisation and oppression for the sake of the world we share with one another rather than for the sake of the affirmation of any pre-determined identity.

Guido Vanheeswijck
Summary: The Kantian Heritage of R.G. Collingwood and P.F. Strawson. Two Variants of ‘Reformed Metaphysics’
Given the fact that both R.G.Collingwood and P.F.Strawson introduced, inspired by Kant, a ‘reform of metaphysics’ and thereby used a strikingly similar terminology, the absence of an extensive article about the comparison between their concepts of a ‘reformed metaphysics’ is, to say the least, rather surprising. The first aim of this article is filling up this gap. But there is more at stake. Traditionally, a twofold connection is laid between their concepts of metaphysics. First, there is the fact that both authors consider metaphysics as a reflexion about the basic presuppositions of our thought and so subscribe to Kant’s ‘reform of metaphysics’. Subsequently, the central point of difference to be considered is that Strawson sees basic presuppositions as universal and invariable and so more directly leans against Kant than Collingwood who ascribes to these presuppositions a variable and cultural-historical character.
In this article — and that is its central aim — I would like to make some critical remarks to this interpretation. First, I try to show how the resemblances between their concepts of metaphysics originate from their adoption of both Kant’s ‘Copernican revolution’ and his repudiation of transcendent metaphysics. Furthermore, I want to point out the differences between both their concepts of metaphysics, starting from their respective interpretations of Kant’s transcendental idealism. While Strawson propounds an ‘anodyne’ interpretation of transcendental idealism, Collingwood proposes a ‘radicalization’ of transcendental idealism. Against the backdrop of these different interpretations, the contrast between the universal character of Strawson’s metaphysics and the so-called historical-relativist character of Collingwood’s metaphysics can be clarified. Finally, I will dwell on six repercussions of both their views of metaphysics.

Gerd Van Riel
Summary: ‘What Shall I Do?’ Aristotle on ‘Phronesis’ and Practical Intellect
Ethics of any kind basically assume that all human beings by nature aim at happiness. However, this general starting point has to be made concrete in order to be relevant for action, and hence suitable for moral appreciation. What does my happiness consist in? Contrary to what has often been taken for granted, the concrete aim is not instrumental or subsidiary to the overall aim of happiness. To me, my particular aim is rather identical with happiness. The choice I make — if choice it is — indeed constitutes my happiness, i.e. the overall aim that directs my existential choices.
This article is focused on the way Aristotelian ethics envisages the concreteness of this overall aim. This is not the concreteness of the means leading to the aim, which has often been discussed in Aristotelian scholarship, but happiness itself, taken as the specific but nevertheless universal aim that I seek to accomplish in my life. The main arguments are taken from Nicomachean Ethics VI and III. These texts, central to any discussion of Aristotle’s views on the role of choice and deliberation in acquiring happiness, are re-interpreted, avoiding the deadlock of a debate between intellectualists and non-intellectualists.

Ignace Verhack
Summary: Philosophy, the Conscience of Theology
The issue of philosophy’s contribution to theology is an old and much disputed one. This article posits philosophy as the ‘conscience’ of theology. It takes ‘conscience’ in the heideggerian sense of existential ‘being-aware-of’ and applies this to our finitude and the ultimate meaning of being. A living theology has therefore to be based on a successful encounter between our understanding of the issue of our existence and the Word of ‘revelation’ — as Western tradition calls it —, spoken to us ‘from elsewhere’.
This position is considered with reference to the theological thinking of Thomas Aquinas, and more specifically to his doctrine of human happiness and bliss, and the natural desire to see God. Attention is drawn to the fact that Thomas’ view on the supernatural is based on both a philosophical and a theological component.
To further illustrate the point, three statements are developed. The first concerns a possible abuse of Heidegger’s deconstruction of metaphysics in order to support a ‘pluralistic’ approach of religious truth. Here the objection is raised that this conception disowns the proper nature of religious and theological truth as distinguished from metaphysical truth. The second statement is about any possible coalescence of philosophy and theology: whereas metaphysical truths show a ‘representative’ character, the proper of religious and biblical truth appears to be ‘a way of liberation’. Between both a ‘mediation’ needs to be found. The author claims that such may surface in man’s inner belonging to ‘another dimension’, i.e., in an ‘immanent transcendence’. The third statement proposes to update the synthesis of philosophy and theology as presented by Aquinas. A dialectical elucidation of man’s craving for infinity still points to a possible way by revealing an essential aspect of human ‘conscience-awareness’.

Rudi Visker
Summary: Art and Junk. Heidegger and Levinas on Transition
In the first two drafts of The Origin of the Work of Art Heideggers introduces a distinction between an art-work and an art-object, the latter no longer being art in the proper sense of the term. An artwork has, in Heidegger’s understanding, a verbal meaning: a work ‘works’, it opens up a world of its own and sets off such a world against what he calls ‘earth’. The temple, for example, is the locus of such a strife between earth and world, and it stops being an artwork “when the God [who took it for abode] has fled”. At that point, it turns into a mere object, at best a testimony to a bygone age.
This analysis leads us to what we call the problem of transition: is the true locus of art not to be situated in the gap between what Heidegger calls artwork (true art) and art-object (the death of art)? An analysis of sections 16 and 47 of Being and Time reveals a similar take in Heidegger on transition — in both cases (the broken equipment, the corpse) he resorts to a ‘no longer/not yet’ that we compare with the ‘still (at work)/already (an object)’ in the case of art. In all three examples the moment of transition is a passage from one mode of being to another and as such precludes the possibility of a third position between these two poles. After having shown by way of an analysis of junk and the corpse, how one could make a case for such a ‘third’ whose status cannot be reduced to that of a mere in-between, we turn again to art and show how Levinas’ and Blanchot’s analyses of art rest on concepts (the ‘ il y a’, the ‘second night’ etc.) that disengage art from the ontologising function it had in Heidegger. Art extracts things from the perspective of the world and allows us an oblique glimpse on the materiality of a being without beings. The artwork enframes this being and forces it into a presentation (Darstellung) that Heidegger all too readily dismissed as re-presentation.

Gerard Visser
Summary: A Mind Only Touched by Deity. The Widening of the Affective in Meister Eckhart
The history of the relation between the rational and the affective in European philosophy still has to be written. This study highlights a small but far-reaching event in this history: the translation by Meister Eckhart of mens or animus with gemüete and his identification of the sparkle intellectus purus in human being with a leeres gemüete. This empty mind, leeres gemüete, shows a paradox. On the one side it is free from ideas and passions, Eckhart calls it dead and insensitive, on the other hand the pure intellect that remains still appears to be affective, so far as this intellect forms a radical receptiveness, that is filled by God’s love. We find the solution of the paradox in Eckhart’s doctrine of a duplex esse, in a distinction we have to make between the affective in the traditional ontic sense: being affected by beings, and the affective in a purely ontological sense: being embraced by being. This distinction corresponds with that between gott and gottheit, deus and deitas. The affective dimension of Eckhart’s leeres gemüete is an all embracing receptiveness, the width, wîte, of the gottheit, that calls and turns the mind, das gemüete, into its own ground. The joy of being rooted in the firm ground of deity isn’t an ontic passion or emotion; today Eckhart surely would have called it a Grundstimmung, a basic mood.

Liu Zhe
Summary: The Self-Consciousness of Pure Practical Reason. Hegel’s Dialogue with Kant in the Essay on Natural Law (1802/03)
This paper wants to investigate Hegel’s Natural Law essay in order to reexamine the ‘emptiness charge’ which Hegel brings out against Kant’s concept of the Moral Law. Rather than simply evaluating priorities the purpose is to reconstruct the critical dialogue of Hegel with Kant on the basis of their reciprocal arguments. It will be argued that Hegel’s criticism of Kant can be considered as an inadequate attempt to radically develop Kantian moral thinking by presupposing a standpoint of radical moral scepticism. In the Natural Law essay, Hegel’s justification of this radical scepticism is ultimately grounded on the possibility of the immediate self-consciousness of spirit (i.e. reason) which can only be established as fully elaborated indifference, identified as the ethical substance or the people (Volk). In contrast to Hegel, Kant (in the second Critique) does not presuppose the standpoint of radical scepticism but establishes the immediate self-consciousness of pure practical reason as noumenal existence. Since Hegel’s concept of the ethical substance eventually exceeds the constitutive moments of the immediate self-consciousness of spirit, Kant is able to reject Hegel’s justification of the standpoint of radical scepticism and thereby his criticism of Kant’s Moral Law. It can be concluded therefore that Hegel in the Natural Law essay did not succeed in radically developing Kant, though he has shown the direction of this development.