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Presentation – God in French Phenomenology

Presentation – God in French Phenomenology

Andreas Gonçalves Lind, Bruno Nobre, and João Carlos Onofre Pinto, “Presentation – God in French Phenomenology,” Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 76, no. 2–3 (2020): 521–26,

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Presentation – God in French Phenomenology

Type Journal Article
Author Andreas Gonçalves Lind
Author Bruno Nobre
Author João Carlos Onofre Pinto
Rights © 2020 Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
Volume 76
Issue 2-3
Pages 521-526
Publication Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia
ISSN 0870-5283
Date 2020
DOI 10.17990/RPF/2020_76_2_0521
Language English
Abstract Leaving aside the question concerning the existence of the external world, phenomenology focuses exclusively on the subjective experience. Having the raw phenomenon as its starting point, phenomenology attempts any kind of interpretation, privileging instead the description of the pure appearance inside the subjective consciousness. Phenomenology is not mainly concerned with what manifests itself to the subject, but rather with the pure manifestation as it is. This phenomenological notion of revelation as manifestation resonates with the theological notion of “divine revelation.” In this sense, a link between phenomenology and theology may be established, at least with respect to the essential lexicon that both disciplines share. Like theology, phenomenology gives primacy to “manifestation,” “revelation,” “appearance,” or “apparition” as fundamental notions. Given the fact that both disciplines share a similar vocabulary, although with meanings that do not completely overlap, phenomenology came to be regarded as a promising philosophical approach regarding the dialogue with theology. In this sense, it is not surprising that throughout the twentieth century until now, especially in the French context, some phenomenologists have approached the question of God in phenomenological terms. By refusing traditional metaphysics, which led, according to Heideggerian hermeneutics, to ontotheology, authors such as Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Louis Chrétien, Paul Ricœur, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion, and Emmanuel Falque, among others, abandoned the attempt to offer purely rational proofs of God’s existence. Such an approach entailed the risk of reducing God to a kind of Supreme Being whose essence would be understood basically in ontic terms. God would then be reduced to a concept or placed within an absolutely extra-phenomenal sphere, understood as the external foundation of the factic life. These contemporary authors interpret the very well-known Nietzschean assertion “God is dead” in the light of Heidegger’s hermeneutics, as the end of platonic metaphysics. Incarcerated in a kind of metaphysical bubble, there was the tendency, within the philosophical field, to reduce God to an intelligible concept that human conscience could grasp. This way of thinking seemed to presuppose that God was, in a certain way, subdued to human reason. Having been reduced to a rational concept, God would be removed from concrete subjective experience. Within this context, French phenomenologists understood the sentence “God is dead” as a kind of deconstruction or demolition of an idolatrous notion of God associated with ontotheology. Consequently, the death of the metaphysical God cleared the way for new approaches wherein phenomenology has sought to describe God’s own phenomenality. In other words, more than understanding God’s essence, or demanding a rational proof of God’s existence, authors such as Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Louis Chrétien, Paul Ricœur, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion, and Emmanuel Falque aim, above all, to describe the possible manifestation of God. In doing so, the description of the phenomenality proper to God’s manifestation, in particular, or to religious experience, in general, enters into the philosophical field. It is within this framework that one should understand the mutual influence between phenomenology and certain theologies of Judeo-Christian background that became common especially during the second half of the twentieth century to the present day, especially in the francophone atmosphere. On the one hand, phenomenology seems to offer a conceptual and methodological apparatus that allows to deepen and develop theological assertions, such the human being as capax Dei or God’s own suffering. On the other hand, the theological question concerning God’s revelation pushes phenomenology to its own limits. Therefore, phenomenology emerges as the possibility of a new encounter between philosophy and divine revelation. For this reason, it is not surprising that Dominique Janicaud criticized, at the beginning of the 1990s, the protagonists of these developments by accusing them of having operated the “theological turn in French phenomenology.” In short, Janicaud accused the new French phenomenologists of betraying phenomenology as a rigorous philosophical approach. The “theological turn” could be justified by an illegitimate grounding of pure phenomenological appearance by an extra-phenomenological foundation, such as God, which is not manifest to human experience. As such, while it may be true that this theological foundation renders intelligible the phenomenon accessible to the experience, as its condition of possibility, the “theological turn” corresponds also, according to Janicaud, to a “metaphysical turn” that undermines phenomenology. One may ask, however, whether it is indeed the case that the openness to the question of God results in the departure from the strict phenomenological domain or, rather, it is required for the full accomplishment of phenomenology itself. The debate is not yet over. In this context, it is the goal of the present issue to nourish the debate around the openness of French phenomenology to the problem of God and to the dialogue with religion, in general, and with the Christian tradition, in particular. This volume is divided into six different sections. The first one, under the title “Phenomenological Perspectives on the Question of God,” offers a kind of introduction to the theme. A series of articles written by Carla Canullo, Danielle Cohen-Levinas, Jérôme de Gramont, Antonio Di Chiro, Ricardo Mejía Fernández, and Alice de Rochechouart present an approach to the question of God within both classical phenomenology and post-Husserlian phenomenologies. These studies explore the impact of the question of God on both Husserl’s and Heidegger’s perspectives, opening up their philosophical reflection to the new approaches of their successors and critics. In doing so, a dialogue emerges between different phenomenologies associated with authors such as Merleau-Ponty, Levinas, Marion and even Derrida. Concerning the second section, “The Experience and the Celebration of the Sacred,” three articles continue to deepen the phenomenological analysis of the subjective experience of faith and of liturgical celebration. J. Aaron Simmons, Jeffrey Bloechl, and Manon Sanchis develop a dialogue between the first phenomenologies, such as Husserl’s and Heidegger’s, and the phenomenological approaches of French authors such as Jean-Louis Chrétien, Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Henry, Jean-Luc Marion and especially Jean-Yves Lacoste. The third section, “In Dialogue with the Phenomenology of Givenness,” gathers articles by Catherine Pickstock, Paul Gilbert, Francesca Peruzzotti, and Piotr Karpiński and deals mainly with the work of Jean-Luc Marion. Opening the section, Pickstock’s article addresses a new critique to Marion’s claim according to which the starting point of phenomenology is the first giving. This author of the Radical Orthodoxy movement explores the hypothesis according to which the appearance and receiving of a phenomenon should be understood within the context of a larger “hermeneutic process.” The remaining articles explore the notions of “God without being” and of “gift,” nourishing a fruitful dialogue between phenomenology and theology. As a result, God is no longer reduced to the metaphysical category of Being, but rather identified with Love. As such, human beings and their relationship with God, with the world and one another may be released from “causal and metaphysical bonds.” “Phenomenology of Life Challenged,” the fourth section, as the title suggests, gives the primacy to Michel Henry. Yves Meessen, Jean-Sébastien Strumia, Daniel Ferreira dos Santos, and Andrew Sackin-Poll give a significant contribution that updates Henry’s phenomenology of life. While some writers clarify the link between Michel Henry’s own phenomenology to the French Spiritualist legacy, others explore all the richness of the new Henryan approach, by expounding the “performativity” of its own phenomenology, the new possibilities opened with respect to biblical hermeneutics, and the description of a universal “experience,” making it immune to Janicaud’s critique. The fifth section is dedicated to the work of the contemporary French phenomenologist Emmanuel Falque. With the title “Emmanuel Falque: Crossing the Border between Philosophy and Theology,” this section opens with an article by Emmanuel Falque himself. In “Kénose trinitaire et limites de la phénoménologie,” the author engages on a dialogue with the Trinitarian Theology of Klaus Hemmerle. Falque appropriates this theology in his own way, as it combines the “circular Latin scheme” to the “linear Greek” one, in order to “distinguish the three persons of the Trinity in a new manner: a ‘God of the force’ in the person of the Holy Spirit, a ‘God of the body’ in the person of the Son, and a God of the chaos or the descent into the abyss in the person of the Father.” After Falque’s article, Martin Koci presents an assessment of the critiques that have been made to Falque’s project concerning his ambition to inhabit and cross the boundaries between philosophy and theology. Written by Andreas Lind and Bruno Nobre, the last article of this section proposes a dialogue between The Drama of Atheist Humanism of Henri de Lubac and Falque’s dedramatization of contemporary non-theism. The sixth section, “New Approaches beyond Classical Phenomenology,” presents four original articles by distinguished contemporary authors. Starting from the closeness to the “supreme mystery” that characterizes the human subject, Miguel García-Baró tries to identify the “main steps” that could guarantee phenomenological access to it. Michael Barber explores the Anatheism of Richard Kearney. This “philosophical theology” rethinks theist and atheist approaches criticizing every “dogmatism” and “violence” associated with them. The author entails a creative dialogue with Levinas’ philosophy, leading to a positive notion of “religious experience” that avoids any kind of “violence” and that can be described as “having a God one can dance before.” Emmanuel Gabellieri explores the kind of phenomenon that “interaction” and “mediation between beings” implies. In doing so, he is able to identify an immanent relationship that every single phenomenon has with respect to the transcendent being. Thus, theological notions such as “revelation” or “supernatural” are understood as not being “extrinsic” to the World’s phenomenality. Similar to Gabellieri’s approach (we could also mention Desmond), Emmanuel Tourpe argues that authentic phenomenology might be “based on mediation.” That is why the Husserlian principle of “so much appearance, so much being” should be combined with a new Tourpean principle: “so much manifestation, so much mediation.” The seventh and final section, “At the Margins of Phenomenology,” gathers three articles written by Dominique Lambert, Rolf Kühn, and Ciro Adinolfi. These contributions do not properly belong with phenomenological analysis. Lambert uses Maurice Blondel’s philosophy of action to criticize “some contemporary forms of scientific reductionism.” Kühn develops a dialogue between Michel Henry’s phenomenology of life and Freud’s and Lacan’s psychoanalysis. For his part, Adinolfi explores “the problem of God in Sartre’s philosophy.” In the section Varia, we present the article “Philosophie des Ökonomischen Menschenbilds,” by Bodo Herzog, which explores the new interdiciplinar field known as neuro-economics, attempting to show that the new behavioural model is rather similar to the longstanding economic prototype. We are also very pleased to publish a text in which Philippe Capelle-Dumont renders homage to the work and life of Jean-Louis Chrétien, who passed away about one year ago, on June 28, 2019. Given the international character of the present issue, which is made manifest by the significant variety of languages used by authors from different parts of the world, one may trust that both French phenomenology and the question of God are alive and well in the contemporary philosophical debate. It is our hope that this volume may be stimulating for all those interested in both phenomenology and the philosophical approach to God. Lastly, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to all the authors and to all those who, in several different ways, made this volume possible.
Date Added 7/28/2020, 10:04:04 PM
Modified 7/28/2020, 10:11:04 PM


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