Vol. 25, No. 1 (Spring 2021)

Guest Editor: Donald A. Landes

DONALD A. LANDES, Introduction


As a descriptive philosophy, it might seem that the ethical nowhere has its place in phenomenology. And yet, phenomenology is everywhere shot through with normative concerns. This section includes articles from the 2018 conference Toward a Phenomenological Ethics, where two themes emerged regarding the elusive place of the ethical in phenomenology: first, research demonstrates that early phenomenology was indeed oriented by the ethical; second, Critical Phenomenology examines ethical questions in terms of intersubjectivity and oppression. In this introduction, I suggest that the place of the ethical in phenomenology implies a certain paradoxical logic of expression, and I consider the relationship between expression and encroachment. This points to a double responsibility for the cultivation of our own virtual and the virtual that we collectively sustain. I conclude with a brief reflection on how these ideas might help us to rethink our responsibilities in the age of COVID-19.

LAURENT PERREAU, L’éthique ultime de Husserl. De l’auto-méditation à l’auto-responsabilité


Husserl’s final writings develop a theory of the life-world that is made explicit in the Crisis (1936) and in the many unpublished texts that surround it. Even if this theory of the life-world does not, at first glance, come across as an ethics or as a theory of ethics (unlike the courses that Husserl gave on ethics and the theory of values), it nevertheless remains marked by an ethical preoccupation that ensures the unity of Husserl’s analyses. By returning in particular to the motif of auto-meditation (Selbstbesinnung), which Husserl establishes as the principle of individual and social responsibility, I aim in this paper to make clear the contours and the significance of Husserl’s late ethics.

RAWB LEON-CARLYLE, Love and the Shadow of Sacrifice: Husserl at the Limits of Relational Ethics


In this article, I foreground the role of relationality in Husserl’s later reflections on ethics and self-constitution, with a particular interest in Husserl’s account of sacrifice. I exposit how Husserl’s account of self-constitution and the conflict of absolute values between competing vocations offers a solution to Brentano’s rendering of the obligation to “choose the best among the ends attainable.” I explore the numerous instances in which Husserl uses the parent-child relation to illustrate the absolute value of our relation to an individual and how this absolute value triumphs over other seemingly rational maxims. Although problematic in several ways, Husserl’s account of motherhood grounds his notion of self-constitution in particular relations with others, rather than in a general category of nation or humanity. I conclude by considering how his emphasis on phenomenological constitution and his approach to value and sacrifice may inform future projects in phenomenological relational ethics.

MARIE-HÉLÈNE DESMEULES, Quelle(s) phénoménologie(s) pour l’éthique? Réactualisation éthique des descriptions des actes sociaux non-objectivants


The contribution of German phenomenology to ethics has often been limited to Husserl’s descriptions of axiological and emotional intentionalities or lived experiences. Moreover, this contribution has remained minimal insofar as Husserl first defined intentionality as our conscious relation to an object. In this paper, I propose an alternative pathway for thinking phenomenology’s contribution to ethics by examining the phenomenology of social acts developed by the Munich phenomenologists in response to Husserlian phenomenology. This phenomenology of social acts allows us to consider, evaluate, and critique, from an ethical point of view, the ways in which we enter into intentional relations not with ethical objects, but rather, with other persons. This article primarily explores ideas developed by Reinach, Pfänder, Daubert, and Scheler, with a particular emphasis on the intentional acts by which we address an imperative or an invitation to others.

ELLIE ANDERSON, Phenomenology and the Ethics of Love


Phenomenologists have long viewed love as a central form of intersubjective engagement. I show here that it is also of concern to phenomenological ethics. After establishing the relation of phenomenology to ethics, I show that both classical and existential phenomenology view love as an act of valuing the loved one. I argue that a second act of valuing is latent in phenomenology: valuing the relationship. These values are evident in the phenomenological distinction between true love, which generates a “perspective in difference,” and false love, which seeks union with the beloved manifesting in devotion and/or jealousy. Because culturally dominant heteronormative scripts incline individuals toward false love, lovers should create their own pacts for ethical relationships. I consider consensually non-monogamous relationships as an example.

MARIE-ANNE CASSELOT, Sur l’épuisement subjectif comme problème féministe


In this article, I explore how subjective exhaustion undermines an individual in their performance of the intentional acts of doubting, caring, planning, and, finally, self-protecting. These four intentional acts are intersubjective insofar as they are oriented towards others; that is, they represent a relationality imposed upon oppressed subjects (an “existing-for-others” that is detrimental to their “existing-for-oneself”). Subjective exhaustion is an individual phenomenon affecting subjectivity because it prevents individuals from undertaking their own existential projects. This imposed relationality weakens and even undermines a person’s individuality because they find themselves always oriented toward others. Phenomenological description helps us bring out these four largely invisible and unquantifiable acts, as well as how they influence a subject’s intentions and actions. I illustrate how subjective exhaustion is a negative phenomenon involving ethical, epistemic, existential, and emotional risks for oppressed subjects.



ALEX J. FELDMAN, The Real Effects of Rationality: Foucault’s Position in The Impossible Prison


Two critical reviews of Discipline and Punish inspired an exchange between Foucault and some prominent historians in 1978. In the texts from this exchange, Foucault addresses their criticism that, by focusing on unrealized plans and programs, such as Bentham’s Panopticon, his book lacks a sense of historical reality. Foucault replies, first, that the true aim of his book is to explore the emergence of a new type of penal rationality, not to insist that the Panopticon itself has been realized. Second, he holds that types of rationality can produce distinctive sorts of effects, regardless of whether the plans and programs to which they are attached are ever fully achieved. This paper seeks to clarify Foucault’s underlying account in these responses of rationality and its efficacy. It also takes up and develops Foucault’s suggestive distinction between two different types of effects: “effects in the real” and “reality effects.”

NORMAN AJARI, Les damnés du nomos de la terre. Carl Schmitt face à Lénine et le scandale de l’internationalisme


The article traces back references to Leninism throughout Carl Schmitt’s political philosophy. If Schmitt refers to several Marxist thinkers, Lenin is both the one he’s the most interested in, and the one he rejects in the most radical fashion. At first admired for his notion of Dictatorship of the proletariat, then feared for his conceptualization of the enemy, he is finally rejected for his scandalous radical internationalism, and its possible appropriation by colonized peoples. Thus, Schmittian critique will be used to reveal a new existential significance of the Marxist notion of internationalism.

KIMBERLY MATHESON, Points, Plasticity, and the Logic of Contraction in Alain Badiou and Catherine Malabou


This article presents Catherine Malabou and Alain Badiou as theorists of contraction (a kind of reduction or tightening that accompanies every process of transformation) and its related operations of self-reflexivity and infinite iteration. Trading on these commonalities, the article hopes to draw out Malabou’s and Badiou’s respective formalist commitments. On Badiou’s side, it sharpens the question of what is at stake in something as regulated as a “procedure”; on Malabou’s, it recognizes formal stakes to plasticity that often go unrecognized because of her penchant for biology. The article then concludes with a broad comparison of these two thinkers in terms of their accounts of potential and imagines the critiques each might leverage against the other. Where Malabou might well regard Badiou to be too tightly constraining the shape of the future, Badiou is likely to find in Malabou one more instance of a naïve democratic materialism.