Publications

SINGLE-AUTHORED BOOKS: 

There has been a decades-long controversy over the actual allegiance of Heidegger’s first phase of thinking as regards the phenomenological movement in which his philosophy put down its early roots. Between this school of thought and its transformation by Heidegger come to light several threads holding both continuity and rupture and involving issues such as method, truth, finitism, interpretivism, temporality, transcendentalism and objectivism. The overall aim of this work, for that reason, consists in gauging and specifying the innovative thrust of Heidegger’s “fundamental ontology”.

A continual shift of philosophical priorities has predominantly characterized the thought of the last 100 years. Indeed a sort of unremitting “categorial slide”, involving confusion and upheaval, has steadily troubled the basic philosophical attitudes. The essays assembled in this volume attempt to elucidate the multiple determinants of this disharmonic but pervasive mutation and endeavor to ascertain its effects on the prevailing practices set up by current philosophical research.

The philosophical concepts push its roots in an array of assumptions about ways of analyzing and classifying both the natural and the cultural-social world. Every historiography of philosophy, therefore, and especially its thematic and methodological choices, is bound to theoretical preferences, its ideological persuasion notwithstanding. As a consequence, the philosophical past is pregnant with ideas, viewpoints and insights that have not yet come to light but which might be revealed (not unlike a photographic developer) if approached with an appropriate theoretical and conceptual mindset.

Methodological deceit, judgmental apathy and scarce problematization spoil a significant segment of contemporary historiography of thought. Philosophy has always been fascinated by its own past, but the need to elucidate this umbilical link has repeatedly clashed with an array of theoretical obstacles while having to cope with the difficulty of selecting a suitable Archimedean viewpoint. In consequence, “historical” and “philosophical” truths must be pitted against each other, and presentist, problematist, constructivist and heterological aspirations have to be gauged according to the views advanced, among others, by conceptual and semantic histories of thought.

Attempts to clarify the upheaval endured by the phenomenological way of thinking when the Heideggerian questioning of the autonomous, self-referential and self-constituting subject, alongside with the project-boundedness of a Dasein converted into the innovative Archimedean point for all thinking, collided head-on with the established Husserlian phenomenological heritage. It surveys as well the manifold link between the two positions, highlighting both its sharp discrepancies and its tacit agreements. And it brings to light the effect of these antagonisms (which form the contentious backbone of the phenomenological tradition) on chief currents of contemporary thought.

  • Merleau-Ponty. Una aproximación a su pensamiento  (in Spanish) [Merleau-Ponty. An approach to his thought] Barcelona: Anthropos 2005 ISBN 84-7658-724-4 [Review]

Suggests an account of Merleau-Ponty’s thought grounded both on a close reading of his published output and on the bulky net of interrelated but often differing interpretations that a world-wide array of specialists has been weaving in the half-century following the philosopher’s death. Seeking an always problematic balance between the successive periods of Merleau-Ponty’s thought, attempts an enlightening try dive in its compound themata and endeavors to render intelligible their sometimes baffling diversity.

Present-day philosophy of mind purports to research the nature of mental phenomena, properties, functions and processes, alongside with their connection both with the central nervous system and the multiple aspects of human behavior and the cultural and social environment. Accordingly, this book introduces, defines, relates to each other, explains in thorough detail and cautiously interprets the 100 most prominent concepts and doctrines which scaffold this fascinating discipline.

CONTRIBUTIONS TO MULTI-AUTHORED BOOKS (selection):

  • Merleau-Ponty i Bourdieu, entre fonamentació i facticitat” (in Catalan) [“Merleau-Ponty and Bourdieu: between grounding and facticity”] From p. 139 to p. 152 of: Fonamentació i facticitat en l’idealisme alemany i la fenomenologia, ed. by S. Turró. (Barcelona: SCF 2007) ISBN 84-7283-894-3

If Bourdieu’s notion of “habitus” inherits some of the chief concerns addressed by Merleau-Ponty, in its turn the fierce Merleau-Pontynian brand of anti-intellectualism not only helps to clarify Bourdieu’s general approach but also highlights some unfulfilled possibilities that dwell latent in his sociological thought.

The shortcomings of Merleau-Ponty’s crucial concept of “institution” led him into a turning point where the way out he selected was actually much inferior, as regards the prospects of fulfillment that were latent in his thought, to the alternative path he did not take.

  • El weberianismo de Merleau-Ponty” (in Spanish) [“Merleau-Ponty’s Weberianism”] From p. 211 to p. 247 of: La sombra de lo invisible. Merleau-Ponty 1961-2011, ed. by L. A. Falcón. (Madrid: Eutelequia 2011) ISBN 978-84-939443-3-9

Beyond some jarring differences regarding their philosophical concerns, Merleau-Ponty inherited from Max Weber not only a comparable methodological ambivalence but also a number of operative dispositions such as the necessity to impose meaning to an untamed background, a deft watchfulness to the all-pervading effects of culture, and a ground-breakingly constructivist, un-adequationist and thus possibilistic mindset.

The age-old controversy pitting explanation against understanding has amazingly mutated in our time because nowadays each of these procedures attempts to replicate and even occasionally mimetizes the features traditionally ascribed to the competing practice.

In his approach to political, historical and social issues, Merleau-Ponty devised three “special ontologies” which in fact tend to undo each other. Yet his thought virtually contains a vanishing point of “cultural” character which patently succeeds in conciliating them.

The universal aspirations placed by Merleau-Ponty’s on his “perceptivist” model for thought, and despite the confident diagnostic of the bulk of his followers, failed for the most part. In fact his operative innovations were only half-successful when confronting questions of historical agency or political performance and they floundered utterly when set to scrutinize the actual thought of some canonical authors.

Merleau-Ponty’s thought underwent circa 1957 a twofold change of orientation, which consisted in a shallow alteration embedded in a profound upheaval. While coincident with Merleau-Ponty’s involvement with Schelling’s philosophy of nature, only noticeable “externalist” determinants actually explain this two-faced transmutation.

  • Antysocjologiczne wyzwania wobec społecznego sprawstwa” (in Polish) [“The anti-sociological challenge to the notion of social agency”] Transl. by Justyna Kajta. From p. 76 to p. 88 of: Sprawstwo: teorie, metody, badania empiryczne w naukach społecznych [Agency: theories, methods and empirical research in the social sciences], ed. by A. Mrozowicki, I. Szlachcicowa and O. Nowaczyk. (Wrocław: Nomos 2013) ISBN 978-83-7688-118-8

A widespread anti-sociological discourse has developed both within and outside sociology, steering the course of social thought since more than a century. It maintains that “society” is only a reified totality lacking necessity and universality, and thus sociology appears as both un-scientific and impervious to agency. The anti-sociological discourse grown outside sociology (now split in the culturalist and historiographical branches) oscillates between altogether disregarding individual action and acknowledging an attenuated variety that might be named “paradoxical agency”.

Bourdieu’s theory of “fields” is displayed as an appropriate conceptual tool shedding light to the forces that govern the evolution of philosophy in modern Spain. Thus, its past appears as the slow, painful emergence of a would-be “field” out of a hollow but socially and culturally well-implanted “social game”. And its present state is shown to consist in a struggle for converting philosophical disciplines in a true (that is, a fully autonomous) “field”, an aspiration which has to face the heteronomic counter-forces which attempt to convert philosophy in a frivolous “domain of [social] services”.

Their heuristic value notwithstanding, Max Weber’s “ideal types” are to be handled with an extreme reflexive care, as the Habermasian notion of “public sphere” convincingly demonstrates. This manifest fragility is here brought to light by comparison to notions endowed with a more realistic bent, of which Bourdieu’s “fields” are a foremost instance, or by way of contrast with the ubiquitous concept of “discourse”. The gist of this reckoning is unexpectedly supplied by the work of the historian François Furet, of which is shown that his account of Tocqueville’s legacy prefigures Habermas’ thought, while his backing of Cochin’s bequest announces Bourdieu’s.

PAPERS IN PERIODICALS (selection):

Husserl’s difficulties when attempting to face the consequences of his own thought are quite well-known. This paper attempts, on the one hand, to account for his fluctuating interpretations of the “idealist turn” inaugurated by the Ideen, while on the other hand points out that the Husserlian wavering helps also to elucidate the origins of Heidegger’s “first” thought. Did it primordially re-vitalize ideas sedimented in the philosophical tradition, or was it born out of motives which in fact were rooted in the aporiae of phenomenological thought?

Two contrary attitudes are deftly merged by phenomenology. One of them is the genuinely phenomenological interest in a truthful, aseptic access to “the thing itself”, free of additives and interferences. The other is the interpretive enticement, unavoidably grounded on a troubling and disloyal “als”. By way of scrutinizing the procedures set up by Heidegger to accomplish a suitable conflation in his “fundamental ontology”, this paper seeks to throw light, retrospectively, into the ambiguous stance of Husserl regarding the hermeneutical ingredient that mars even the most purified thought.

Attempts to elucidate the tension between the finitist compromise and the ontological scaffolding in Heidegger’s early thought, while acknowledging that this twofold commitment entails a methodology of a bafflingly circular character. This pessimistic claim appears reinforced by the evidence that the grounding of “Being” upon “the beings” cannot exclude the “paradoxical grounding of Being” by “the beings” themselves.

Contends that Heideggerian “fundamental ontology” and Husserlian phenomenology, while linked by methodological affinities (hermeneutics would be the operational correlative to phenomenology’s transcendental embrace), are thematically incongruent. It also holds that the self-display of Being clashes with the un-methodical dimension assigned to immediacy by the phenomenological tradition. Through reshaping Husserl’s presentialist transcendentalism, Heidegger cast anew the methodology grounded upon “presentifying intuitiveness” and tailored it to an expanded notion of “phenomenon”.

Argues that Merleau-Ponty’s thought grounds itself on “non-coincidence” or, as he puts it, on “divergence or écart”, “non-transparence” or “non-adequacy”, since neither perception nor knowledge, in his view, actually conveys the things perceived or known. Reality comes up drenched in transcendence, and likewise thought has to span the “uncanny distance” that severs the subject from itself and every object from its own identity. Thus appear groundless an array of received views on the “reversibility” ascribed by Merleau-Ponty to the doublet “distance vs. immediacy”.

By affirming the “originary” and “unmotivated” character of nature and through the related attempt to refer science back to the natural world, pre-theoretical and ante-predicative, Merleau-Ponty fostered a new discipline of thought which could be named “science of the pre-science”. The main aim of this paradoxical “proto-science” is to indict “normal science’s” blindness towards primordial reality. The depth of our perceptual life, in brief, would have remained unheeded without Merleau-Ponty’s intrepid plunging.

Views Merleau-Ponty as a kind of “nomadic” philosopher (or bound to a “neolithic” mindset, in Lévi-Straussian parlance), because his trajectory of thought embraced disparate tracks and commitments. This paper attempts to make intelligible Merleau-Ponty’s repeated shifts and reorientations, starting from his complex attitude towards the Husserlian heritage (over which Merleau-Ponty’s, as he covertly suggested, believed to have brought a momentous improvement) and ending with his multiple efforts to level the phenomenic difference between thought and sentience.

Inquires whether the current search for a socio-centric account of philosophical knowledge, its militant rejection of reductionism notwithstanding, might have room for the reduction of ideas and doctrines to their presumptive social determinants. A critique of Martin Kusch’s “anomalous monism”, followed by an interpretation of Jaegwon Kim’s functionalist reductionism, leads in conclusion to a reading of Hans Blumenberg’s work. His attestation that philosophical concepts and ideas depend on fundamental metaphors, which being qualia-like seem to defy functionalization, suggests that a commitment to reduction will not solve the quandaries posed by the alleged “social determinants of thought”.

Contends that Merleau-Ponty’s doctrine of the “philosophical shadow” that went together with all eminent doctrines of the past and which he discloses as their chief (though concealed) operative resource and the main cause of their ground-breaking viewpoints, both synthesizes and transcends all precedent phenomenological attempts (Heidegger’s and Fink’s prominent among them) to solve the theoretical and methodological puzzles uncovered by philosophical historiography.

Intends a deeper understanding of Merleau-Ponty’s thought by way of analyzing a contemporary philosophical debate (the controversy between subjectivist or internalist viewpoints and objectivist or externalist approaches) in the light of his philosophical legacy. The doctrinal core of Merleau-Ponty’s thought, in other words, serves to work out the contemporary squabble between immanentist and contextualist standpoints.

This interview deals with an array of philosophical concerns: the social roots of thought, the analytical vs. continental divide, the litigious assortment of present-day philosophical approaches, the fruitfulness of both heterological or externalist and contextualist or internalist viewpoints, the current revival of both phenomenology and neokantianism, the magnetism stemming from all brands of “un-thought thought”, and the philosophical sense commanded by privative categories like loss, want, lack, failure and dearth.

Bourdieu’s “field theory” is brought to understand the peculiarities of Catalan philosophy. Its present concerns and future prospects appear steered by the manifold heteronomic constraints (political and cultural, with a centralist-castilianist, conservative bent) that have long determined its course. Yet in the last decades a noticeable weakening of this protracted heteronomic stifling hinted to a sort of “autonomic take-off” in, ostensibly leading to the formation of a proper “field” in Bourdieu’s sense. In the present time, however, some aspects of the secular heteronomic chocking seem to have been revitalized, while new-brand shackling forces have unexpectedly come out. Together, they threaten to quash the flimsy self-sufficiency attained by Catalan thought.

The phenomenological tradition tells apart “act intentionality” (the “propositional” or “thetic” ground for all acts of consciousness) from “operant” or “latent” intentionality (fungierende Intentionalität). It is the natural unifying agency both of the world and our lived experience, the ante-predicative ground that lurks behind our inner landscape (yearnings, judgments, plans, recollections) sharper than in any cognition, the nameless, obscure, unthinking and blind passivity which both buttresses and outlines intentional goings-on, and a testimony to the leading role of the body, which yet remains unseen while paving the way to objectivity. It developed in the work of Husserl and Fink, prevailed in Merleau-Ponty’s thought, and steered the “archaeological” rekindling of phenomenology.