- Edmund Husserl and Eugen Fink: Beginnings and Ends in Phenomenology, 1928–1938
Edmund Husserl defined a new field and method of philosophical research that required the employment of students in the pursuit of a rigorous and elusive science called transcendental phenomenology. Husserl's most famous student, Heidegger, quickly proved a disappointment to the phenomenological cause, and it is in the shadow of Heidegger's waywardness that Eugen Fink, known primarily as the author of spirited defenses of Husserl's thinking, developed a close intellectual relationship with Husserl as his assistant from 1928 until 1938. Fink's collaboration with Husserl and his metaphysical recasting of phenomenology are the principal themes of Bruzina's scrupulously researched study, largely based on Fink's unpublished writings.
A first chapter presents a narrative of Fink's significant influence on Husserl's thinking and writing. In chapter two, "Orientation I: Phenomenology Beyond the Preliminary," Bruzina details how Fink further developed Husserl's phenomenology in a systematic and self-critical direction. Whereas Husserl cautiously argued that the noetic-noematic schema "runs through all levels of constitution," including the seemingly intractable level of absolute time-consciousness, Fink—under the influence of Heidegger—rejects the universality of the "apriori-correlation" and its attending "philosophy of reflection." Working out the "being of transcendental subjectivity" and its distinctive temporality is, for Fink, the "remaining task of phenomenology." Bruzina pursues the confrontation between Husserl and Heidegger in Fink's thinking in chapter three, "Orientation II: Whose Phenomenology?" According to Fink, Husserl remains "blind to transcendence," yet Heidegger remains blind to "constitution" (132). What emerges from this chapter, however, is the significance of Hegel as Fink recasts the difference between Husserl and Heidegger into a difference between a philosophy of reflection and a philosophy of Being. Against this backdrop, Bruzina signals Fink's proposal to re-think the concept of origin in a speculative register of the "meontic," that is, as "non-being."
Before launching directly into Fink's "meontic" recasting of metaphysics, Bruzina presents three thematically defined chapters. In chapter four, "Fundamental Thematics I: The World," Bruzina discusses Fink's sublimation of Husserl's "natural attitude" into the concept of "world-captivation" and his charge that Husserl presupposes the horizon of the world as a whole. Chapter five, "Fundamental Thematics II: Time," examines Fink's writings on time-consciousness. A first set of writings speaks to the task of rendering Husserl's "Bernau Manuscripts" into a publishable form; a second set reflects Fink's intention to complete his own larger work on "Time and Temporalization." Both projects were abandoned, the later manuscript destroyed by Fink himself. Fink emphasizes the "special character of retention-protention intentionality as depresencing (Entgegenwärtigung), providing therein the basic consideration for addressing the question of finiteness in the stream of consciousness" (261). This insight allows Fink to propose a critique of Husserl's "presentialism" and his own thesis that "the Absolute is origin" in both a temporal and non-temporal sense, as the "excess/superabundance (Überschwang) of depresencing," further characterized the Plotinian idea of "emanation" (273). "Life" and "Spirit" are the final set of fundamental themes discussed by Bruzina in chapter six. For Fink, the essence of life is conceived as the "play of being," which he understands with a Nietzschean emphasis on "creation" (333). The "self-realization" of life in its creative self-performance delivers a "meontic" definition of the absolute; subjectivity is displaced (entstellt) in its self-performance such that it remains incomplete, a "metaphysical gap in the cosmos" (341).
In chapter seven, we arrive at the "critical-systematic core" of Fink's "meontic" speculations. Here, much of Fink's pronouncements are a heady mixture of Heidegger and Plotinus. Bruzina admits that Fink "freely draws" from the traditions of Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism; yet a quick attempt to distance Fink from his sources remains unconvincing. The "radical difference between the One of ultimate origin and all else" (448) that Bruzina takes as the exceptional focus of Fink's thinking is also of metaphysical concern in...