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  • Truth in Husserl, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School: Critical Retrieval by Lambert Zuidervaart
  • Christian Lotz
Lambert Zuidervaart. Truth in Husserl, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School: Critical Retrieval. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2017. Pp. xiv + 241. Cloth, $40.00.

In his new book, Lambert Zuidervaart argues that the concept of propositional truth remains one-dimensional and needs to be extended by and embedded in several versions of what the author calls “existential truth,” which he discusses in relation to phenomenology and critical theory. Zuidervaart focuses on key figures of twentieth-century German philosophy, such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, and Max Horkheimer. According to the author, his book “does not intend to be a historical narrative” (8); nor does it intend to present “a few nuggets of insights from continental writings” (9). Instead, Zuidervaart tries to reconstruct the primary material and immanently criticizes the aforementioned philosophers, using a method that he calls “critical retrieval.” Discussions of the existing secondary literature to a large extent remain sidelined. The book is divided into eight chapters, including the introduction and conclusion, some of which have been published during the last fifteen years in journals, revised here. Although the chapters show some internal progression and are framed by discussions of Husserl, overall they are only loosely connected to each other. For example, the Adorno discussions remain somewhat unsatisfactory in relation to the systematic approach that Zuidervaart presents in his book, insofar as Zuidervaart reduces his discussion of Adorno’s concept of truth and “emphatic experience” to the claim that Adorno cannot handle public authentication of truth (as we [End Page 379] find it in Habermas) (100). In addition, discussions of Alvin Plantinga (chapter 5) and Lee Hardy (chapter 6) do not fit the overall development of the book, though they might have played important functions in the original versions of the chapters. Finally, at times it is not clear whether the author really goes beyond reconstructions of the primary material via giving an immanent critique (i.e. by showing the inner limits and contradictions of systems of thought), or whether he simply replaces central concepts of each thinker. For example, Zuidervaart tries not only to expand Husserl’s concept of givenness by replacing it with pre-predicative disclosure, but also to replace the Heideggerian notion of disclosedness with what he calls “life-giving disclosure, as a historical process of opening up society” (70).

Zuidervaart begins and ends his book with a discussion of the early Husserl, which offers a refreshing perspective on the overall topic. According to Zuidervaart, we already find in Husserl a more complex concept of truth, insofar as his concept of intentionality does not allow us either to subjectivize or to objectivize the concept of truth. As a consequence, Husserl’s conception of truth forces us to see truth more dynamically within an analysis of signitive and intuitive acts and their relations. It is highly doubtful, however, whether Zuidervaart’s take on Husserl is successful. For, according to Zuidervaart, Husserl’s conception should be enlarged by including what Zuidervaart calls “inter-active coincidence . . . as an intersubjective process” (42, 138); however, the idea that the process of coincidence between acts can be interpreted intersubjectively is problematic, inasmuch as Zuidervaart’s proposal clashes not only with Husserl’s strong concept of intuition (which is non-communicative) but also with his concept of epoché, which leads Husserl to absolute consciousness as the “source” of all truth. Unfortunately, Zuidervaart does not discuss these issues because he (artificially) focuses on the early Husserl. Indeed, the best concept for what Zuidervaart has in mind is that which Husserl calls the “process of clarification” in Ideas I. One could also think about the process of philosophizing itself, which Husserl understood as a genuine social endeavor. Finally, one wonders whether Zuidervaart loses the phenomenological insight that he mentions right at the beginning of his chapter on Husserl, namely, that for Husserl all intentional acts are truth related. Accordingly, not only would including Husserl’s teleological understanding of “intentional life” amplify his theory, but also the important shifts in his concept of meaning, and the distinctions in his later works during the 1920s and...


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pp. 379-380
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