Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Henry asks, "Can the problem of alientation in fact be posited otherwise than in a philosophy of the first person? Is there any meaning whatever in saying that a stone is alienated?" (Philosophy and Phenomenology of the Body, p. 146). This has the makings of a paradox. Can the first person, strictly speaking, be alienated? Isn't that exactly the meaning of alienation, to be at once like a person and like a stone?

What exactly is the philosophical problem with switching voices? We do this all the time in our everyday speech, in inner speech as well as verbal discourse. For a phenomenologist like Henry, the problem is in moving from the certainty of the "I think" to the dubiousness of the existence of other entities. Would he say that it is philosophically wrong to reach an accomodation with dubiousness? What kind of life would that be, a life without dubiousness?

In this passage on alienation, Henry is at odds with the Freudian unconscious. Elsewhere he says that "the task of philosophy is not to denounce illusions but rather to justify them, at least by making apparent the foundation which makes them possible and the ontological structure from which they develop" (p. 115). I don't think Henry has made it his task to justify the unconscious, which he regards as illusory. I like phenomenology precisely because all of its realities are apparent, but I often wonder whether this is the whole story.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 11:43 AM.


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