In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

390Philosophy and Literature Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger , Marx, and Freud, by Walter A. Davis; xi & 425 pp. Madison: University ofWisconsin Press, 1989, $45.00 cloth, $22.50 paper. The topics addressed in Walter Davis's Inwardness and Existence: Subjectivity in/and Hegel, Heidegger, Marx, and Freud unfold naturally from his goal of demonstrating the priority that theoretical inquiry should grant to the notion of a situated subjectivity that is dialectically established and maintained. Once this view of subjectivity has been fleshed out by way of the first chapter's discussion of Hegel's Phenomenology, subjectivity itself is interrogated dialectically in three chapters that each explore an importantchallenge to agent-centered subjectivity. Thus, existentialism acts as a prohibition against forgetting that the subject is not "an a priori identity within the order of thought" (p. Ill) but rather "that being whose very being is at issue" (p. 107); Marxism points to the delusion in hoping that we can "establish a principle of identity . . . that can be used to control or center our situatedness in a field of social forces" (p. 179); psychoanalysis recommends that we view subjectivity as an attempt to "enter the world of concrete relations with others" (p. 248) that must always be carried out in the face of a possible agency-disrupting return of the repressed. The aspect of the book that most engages is Davis's successful demonstration that these three traditions can themselves gain in methodological precision from engagement with the concept of a radically self-critical subject. To the illusory ease with which some participants in these traditions have announced the dissolution of the subject, Davis responds by calling for "a comprehensive understanding of our situatedness as the very condition that gives us our subjectivity" (p. 24). His book is praiseworthy because it grapples with the fundamental assumptions of these competing traditions, and does so with clarity and conviction. The confrontation with dialectical method that Davis constructs leaves one with a feeling of partial accomplishment, however. He relies throughout the book on the rigidity ofcontrasts between dialectical method and generalizations about "other ways ofthinking" (p. 320), the analytic tradition chiefamong them. These contrasts serve him asjustification for bracketing those ways of thinking which can be seen as offering dialectical method its greatest challenge. This neglect seems out of place in a book ostensibly constructed around a "hermeneutic of engagement" and, while it may arguably be necessary to the thematic structure Davis has chosen, results in a degree ofrhetorical straitjacketing that speaks against that structure. Moreover, his descriptions of these "other ways ofthinking" often seem oddly truncated and second-hand. It seems beside the point, for instance, to write that a dialectically understood subjectivity can help ethics shift "from a formalism ofcategorical imperatives—where a conflict of duties is a priori impossible—to a study of those situations in which values emerge out of the irreducible conflicts that define their possibility" (p. 321). Reviews391 Given the amount of scholarly ink that has been spilled of late by writers such as Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum, Thomas Nagel, and Harry Frankfurt, to name only a few examples, I'm inclined to say that the shift has already taken place, and that dialectic loses its revolutionary status in this regard. Another instance of this seeming inattentiveness to others' efforts is Davis's statement that "the analytic tradition is dominated by the question of how an essentially passive mind . . . comes to know Objects' and is shaped by them . . ." (p. 320). The statement ceases to be altogether accurate once we take into account the directions analytic philosophy has taken since the late work of Wittgenstein. The more global claims Davis makes in this book—from which all the names I've mentioned are conspicuously absent—would have gained depth from having engaged more fully with these "other ways of thinking " in the course of the self-criticism that he says dialectical thinking must continually undergo. Davis indicates that the book grew out of disagreements with the late Richard McKeon, R. S. Crane, and Robert Marsh over the value of dialectical method. This choice of interlocutors no doubt explains why this helpful book occasionally had me wondering why its...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 390-391
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.