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BOOK REVIEWS 131 Volume 19 of Dilthey's Gesammelte Schriften is an invaluable source, not only for those interested in Dilthey's early formulation of the Critique, but for anyone interested in the philosophy of history from a phenomenological perspective. JACOB OWENSSV Emory University Robert Denoon Cumming. Starting Point: An Introduction to the Dialectic of Existence. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979. Pp. xv + 579 $35 .oo. This is a book of the first importance. First, it is a daring attempt to rethink the existential dialectic practiced by Kierkegaard, Sartre, and Heidegger and it offers a rigorous and sustained reading of some of their major texts. Second, it is also an example of a dialectical approach to writing philosophical history. Cumming, in this book, is a dialectician who distinguishes his dialectic from Hegel's (as do the thinkers he discusses) by insisting that an existential dialectic is open-ended, involves elements of dislocation, and will never culminate in a final synthesis. Cumming's dialectic is also to be differentiated from the Hegelian by its rejection of the notion of an absolute starting point. So Starting Point does not begin with the sense-certainty of the Phenomenology or with the Sein of the Logic but with a consideration of what it means to identify something as a philosophical movement. Cumming stresses the personal, social, and ontological senses of movement; he dislocates the expectations conventionally raised by his title by denying that there is any starting point other than the personal, understood in a sense which includes Kierkegaard's "that individual" and early Heidegger's stress on the Jemeinigkeit of Dasein. But, in contrast to the popular understanding of existentialism (which can find some support in a text such as Sartre's "Existentialism is a Humanism"), Cumming makes it clear that the starting point is not immediately available or obvious. To be at any starting point is to have a specific history involving dislocation and a struggle with self-deception. Human existence is to be understood in Heidegger's sense of Wiederholung as a constant attempt to come to terms with one's own historicity. To do that is to become aware of the stages or levels of human existence, as in Kierkegaard's or Sartre's analyses. Since Cumming rejects not only foundationalism but also the typical Anglo-American assumption of a clearcut distinction between philosophical principles and philosophical examples, he proceeds not by abstracting from his authors but by means of a close reading of their texts which includes an awareness of how they read one another. Yet in a brief review it is impossible to capture the concreteness characteristic of Cumming's interrogation of particular texts and his assessments of individual thinkers. Among the distinctive themes which emerge, I will mention only two: spatiality and the confrontation with Hegel. Spatiality: One traditional way of understanding continental philosophy, and in fact of establishing it as a tradition, is to see it as either moving back and forth between or combining Kant's emphasis on the temporality of human experience with 132 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 22:1 JAN 1984 Hegel's insight into its historical character. Cumming is aware of the truth of this view, but he believes that an existential dialectic also involves the sense both of site and place and of dislocation and disjunction (see chapter 3, "The Dislocated World"). He quotes Heidegger: "Dasein takes up space, and this is to be understood literally" 003). In developing a spatial thematics Cumming himself juxtaposes (through what he called a topological method in his first book, Human Nature and History) such topoi as Heideggerian Entfernung, Sartre's elucidation of the distance between the self and the other, and Kierkegaard's adaptation of Trendelenburg's critique of Hegel on the starting point: it must be real movement in space, not the abstract movement of the concept. Perhaps Cumming would like to follow the existentialists in spatializing time in a certain sense; however this is not done in the spirit which Bergson attributed to the tradition but as a way of preserving both a sense of genuine change and of places or "stages on life's way." Those who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 131-133
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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