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The Hospitality of Presence: Problems of Otherness in Husserl's Phenomenology.

BIRNBAUM, Daniel. The Hospitality of Presence: Problems of Otherness in Husserl's Phenomenology. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wicksell International, 1998. 200 pp. Paper, $37.50--Birnbaum explores alterity in Husserl's phenomenology by analyzing Husserl's thoughts about the other and about temporality. The study is directed toward explicating Husserl's phenomenology of the "I' which reveals that the "I's" structure contains intersubjective influences and a relation to itself as another.

The Hospitality of Presence first describes Husserl's phenomenology as elucidating an "originary form of giveness" (p. 22). In this regard, findings on one's perceptions are more adequate than findings on necessarily perspectivable things. However, the ego can never be perceived apodictically, that is indubitable, because of the impossibility of complete (adequate) self-giveness of the ego to itself. According to Birnbaum's interpretation of Husserl's phenomenology, this gap within the ego is constituted by intersubjective influences upon the ego and the existence of a nonobjectifying consciousness, that is a prereflective consciousness.

According to Birnbaum, Husserl's fifth Cartesian Mediation explores intersubjectivity as condition for objectivity. The "other" requires another reduction (genetic reduction) on top of the first reduction (static reduction) to establish the world as phenomenon. This second reduction hinges on the distinction of lived body (Leib) and body (Korper). A body can be presented by the ego but not the lived body. The lived body can only be appresented, it never can be "reduced to my owness" (p. 57). The "other" thus can only be approached through empathy. The "other" remains an alter ego, who must be considered once we talk about objectivity.

The lived body is to be differentiated from the ego by being "the more primordial form of self-awareness" (p. 78). The lived body retains an autonomy that allows for a co-functioning with other lived bodies. This bodily intersubjectivity is partly explicated by Husserl's notion of "pairing" and "drive intentionality." Consequently, the ego, or the reflective attitude, is set in a pre-given world of habitualities. Birnbaum mentions the co-functioning bodies of a mother and a child as an example of "preobjective constitution" (p. 90). There is a clear link between psychoanalysis and phenomenology.

In this context, Husserl's theory of time-consciousness must be considered as well, because it is seen as the foundation of the ego. Husserl introduces retention and protention to explain the perception, of temporally extended objects in presentational consciousness. Once these objects become a past experience they only can be presented through recollection. This re-presentation combined with recognition forms objectivity. However, the now of impression, retention, protention (horizontal intentionality) and its representation are two levels of consciousness. Horizontal intentionality is not aware of its now--it is eternal in the sense of the presence of the present. Horizontal intentionality is also "reflectively unpresentable" (p. 137). In this regard, Birnbaum considers Husserl's ideas to be similar to Sartre's thoughts on prereflective self-consciousness. However, he admits that Husserl did not embrace the consequences due to Husserl's emphasis on objectification. Birnbaum then interprets the existence of a living present as an originary alterity that must be seen as preceding and being connected to the alter ego. The alter ego is also characterized by a living present which reconfirm its radical otherness. This implies that the alter ego can only be represented in so far as the ego's past experiences allow for it. Birnbaum then uses the late Husserl's conception of genetic phenomenology to argue for the intersubjective structure of the life-world. In Birnbaum's account, this life-world exists and is constituted by prereflective consciousness and the living present. Consequently, the ego is strongly influenced by traditions and the ego's historical context. The importance of the necessarily strange (fremd) alter ego for the intersubjective constitution of the ego reveals the hospitality of presence.

Throughout the treatise, Birnbaum points out that his reading of Husserl might not be covered by Husserl's programmatic explanations. He also provides for a good account of other Husserl interpreters whenever his own philosophical interpretation is close to their position. Birnbaum frequently uses German quotations that I find very helpful. The Hospitality of Presence must be seen as an interesting and novel interpretation of Husserl's thoughts. The book's discussion of alterity and presence strikes me to be very relevant for social and political philosophy.--Erich P. Schellhammer, University of Regina.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Schellhammer, Erich P.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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