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Futurity in Phenomenology

Promise and Method in Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida

Neal DeRoo

Publication Year: 2013

From Husserl's account of protention to the recent turn to eschatology in "theological" phenomenology, the future has always been a key aspect of phenomenological theories of time. This book offers the first sustained reflection on the significance of futurity for the phenomenological method itself. In tracing the development of this theme, the author shows that only a proper understanding of the two-fold nature of the future (as constitution and as openness) can clarify the way in which phenomenology brings the subject and the world together. Futurity therefore points us to the centrality of the promise for phenomenology, recasting phenomenology as a promissory discipline.Clearly written and carefully argued, this book provides fresh insight into the phenomenological provenance of the "theological" turn and the phenomenological conclusions of Husserl, Levinas, and Derrida. Closely examining the themes of protention, eschatology, and the messianic, it will be essential reading for anyone interested in phenomenology, philosophy of religion, deconstruction, or philosophical theology.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

This book is indebted to a great number of people and to conversations that I have had over the years. I can mention only a few of them here, but know that the contributions from all those who have helped are greatly appreciated. I would like to thank the participants of the thirty- eighth and thirtyninth annual Husserl Circles for their comments on earlier versions of...


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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-10

The thesis of this book is that the very understanding of phenomenology itself is at stake in the question of futurity in phenomenology. If this claim seems overstated, this is because the true centrality of the future to the project of phenomenology has not yet been elaborated. Once a positive account of the future in phenomenology is clearly demonstrated, a positive...

PART I Futurity in the Constitution of Transcendental Subjectivity

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1 Protention as More than Inverse Retention

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pp. 13-27

To many philosophers, phenomenology cannot be understood apart from the activity of a transcendental, constituting subject. This notion of phenomenology as transcendental subjective constitution is elaborated most significantly in the work of Husserl, who makes the constitution of the internal time of the subject one of the most basic (and therefore simultaneously the most important and most difficult) of phenomenological problems. In...

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2 Expecting the World

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pp. 28-40

In developing his positive account of protention, Husserl is forced to alter his understanding not just of time- consciousness but also of transcendental subjective constitution itself. We encounter the world as always already constituted rather than as some raw content or hyletic data in need of subsequent apprehension. Th e potentially infi nite chain of subsequent constituting...

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3 Experience and the Essential Possibility of Anticipation

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pp. 41-54

Having now explained the distinct modes of relation to the future that are at work on the levels of absolute consciousness and passive association, the last aspect of our opening study on the role of futurity in phenomenology will be an explanation of the mode of futurity that applies to the level of active synthesis, that is, of active intentions of the ego. At this level, we find ...

PART II Futurity and the ‘Openness’ of the Intentional Subject

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4 Phenomenology, Openness, and Ethics as First Philosophy

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pp. 57-68

Th e suggestion that the constituting powers of the subject are in some way marked by the possibility of something fundamentally nonepistemological (provisionally called “ethics”) may seem surprising, but it should not be, at least to anyone familiar with the work of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas’s invocation of ethics constitutes a reinvigoration of Husserlian...

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5 From Eschatology to Awaiting

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pp. 69-85

We have seen that Levinas’s “ethical” philosophy can be considered a continuation of Husserl’s comments on the openness of futurity and constitution. While this may increase the acceptability of talk of “ethics” in phenomenology, it does not yet speak directly to our problem of the possibility of an essentially ethical aspect of phenomenology introduced by ...

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6 Levinas’s Unique Contribution to Futurity in Phenomenology

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pp. 86-96

At the end of part 1, our analysis of anticipation revealed that a sharp distinction of it from expectation— and thereby the preservation of the three levels of constituting consciousness that are necessary to establish phenomenology as a unique science— was possible only if we could find a way for the present to be affected by the future other than that of ...

PART III Futurity and Intentionality— The Promise of Relationship

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7 Genesis, Beginnings, and Futurity

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pp. 99-114

The purpose of this final section is to clarify the relationship between phenomenological futurity and the promise, and through this to clarify the other analogous parallel relationships that we have been discussing: between phenomenology and ethics, between constituting subjectivity and openness, between constituting futurity and futurity as surprise. In order ...

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8 From Deferring to Waiting (for the Messiah)

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pp. 115-128

Derrida’s notion of différance emerges from his study of phenomenological temporality. In regard to Husserl, this engagement seems, at least explicitly, to be premised mainly on the retentional aspects of time (cf. SP, 64– 67). If this is true, then Derrida’s later emphasis on the avenir (future) as àvenir (to- come) would mark an odd though perhaps interesting ...

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9 The Promise of the Future

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pp. 129-139

Seeing our explanation of the phenomenological notion of futurity culminate in the promise, it is tempting to move quickly to equate phenomenology with ethics: If futurity is an essential part of temporality (as I have tried to show), and promising is an essentially ethical act requiring trust between two or more people, then phenomenological temporality would ...

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pp. 140-154

The significance of futurity for phenomenology should be apparent by now: By connecting the phenomenological method essentially with the notion of promise, futurity shows phenomenology to be an essentially promissory discipline. In doing so, it opens phenomenology to a set of problems and questions that otherwise might seem to fall outside its scope....


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pp. 155-192


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pp. 193-206


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pp. 207-212

Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

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pp. 213-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250479
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823244645
Print-ISBN-10: 0823244644

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Text
Series Title: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy