- Editors' Introduction
The articles in this special issue of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy were originally presented at the fifty-eighth annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 31 to November 2, 2019. The meeting was hosted by Duquesne University. It featured two outstanding plenary presentations that bear mentioning even though they are not reproduced in these pages: Susan Stryker's "How Being Trans Made Me a Philosopher!" and Robert Brandom's "Magnanimity, Heroism, and Agency: Recognition as Recollection." Stryker explained in her talk how she came to recognize and enact her identity as a trans woman, and to publish her pathbreaking paper, "My Words to Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix: Performing Transgender Rage." Brandom explained how Hegel's dialectic of confession and forgiveness synthesizes the ancient conception of heroic agency with the modern conception of individual responsibility. Though ostensibly quite different, the two talks converged on the focal points of narrative, self-determination, and collective responsibility. The other plenary presentation on the main SPEP program was [End Page 225] Andrew Cutrofello's Co-Director's Address, "'The Wind Began to Howl': Dylan's Antinomianism." With guitar in hand, Cutrofello reflected on philosophical aspects of the songwriting of Bob Dylan, whose first album was released shortly before the first SPEP meeting in October 1962. The published version of his presentation inaugurates this issue. The rest of the papers are grouped under three thematic headings: "Phenomenological and Experiential Challenges," "Decolonizing Affects and Politics," and "Problematizations of Language and Law."
The first article included in "Phenomenological and Experiential Challenges" is Lanei Rodemeyer's "Noesis, and Noema, and Gender—Oh My!" Rodemeyer argues that Edmund Husserl's distinction between noesis and noema—that is, between an act of conscious intentionality and its consciously intended content—provides an unexplored resource for thinking about gender and transgender identities. As Rodemeyer observes, many feminist phenomenologists have criticized this aspect of Husserlian phenomenology because it is grounded in the apparently disembodied—and desexualized—transcendental ego that comes into view through the transcendental reduction. But Rodemeyer argues that the radicality of the reduction makes it possible to see how gendered identities—both cis and trans—are first taken up in lived experience as possible ways of being embodied.
In "Merleau-Ponty, Moral Perception, and Metaethical Internalism," Bryan Lueck shows how Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology of perception can help to resolve two problems faced by virtue ethicists who claim that moral perceptions have motivational force. The first problem is that it isn't clear how a perception can function as both a belief and a desire. The second problem is that if in fact moral perceptions do have such a twofold structure, it isn't clear how their evaluative and motivational aspects could ever come apart, as seems to happen in cases when someone perceives a wrong without intervening to alleviate it. Lueck resolves the first of these two problems by appealing to Merleau-Ponty's thesis that some situational features can only be perceived by actively "gearing in" to them in the right way. He resolves the second by arguing that the failure to act on a moral perception can be due to mutually interfering perceptual gestalts.
In "Institution and Divergence: Toward a Phenomenology of Music," Caleb Faul argues that Merleau-Ponty's account of the way sense is instituted can help us understand how meaning is differentially expressed in unique musical performances. When a musical work is performed, Faul argues, the performers individually and collectively contribute to its sense. [End Page 226] He illustrates this point by considering the options that a pianist has when playing a single note in Liszt's "Dante Sonata," which involves sudden changes in pitch, tempo, and dynamics. He then considers how improvised music institutes sense in and through its evolving performance. By taking music to be embodied in performances rather than works, Faul manages to avoid distracting problems in the philosophy of music, such as whether works are abstract entities or concrete particulars.
In "Grief, Phantoms, and Re-membering Loss," Catherine Fullarton draws on Merleau-Ponty's account of habituation to explore structural parallels between...